Cocktail Hour: The Daiquiri

DSC_0856Our resident mixologist is back with the fascinating history of Hemingway’s favorite cocktail – the daiquiri.  We mixed up a batch  following Michael’s recipe and I promise you, this is not the boat drink you think it is.DSC_0860

The Daiquiri

This cocktail resides in same family as the most classic of cocktails: the Martini, the Manhattan, the Sazarac, and the Old Fashioned.  It’s history is over 100 years old, originating in pre-prohibition and prohibition era Cuba, when the country was open for tourism and its nightlife thrived.  The Tropicana club with its “Las Diosas de Carne” (translation Goddesses of the Flesh) burlesque dancers, the Buena Vista Social Club (from the popular Artisan Entertainment documentary), and the New Year’s scene from the Godfather II all reflect the environment in which the Daiquiri was conceived.

From historic sources: “The drink was created by Jennings Cox, an American engineer who managed the Cuban properties for two American companies (credit as co-creator is also often given to a Cuban engineer named Pagliuchi). With important guests on the way, and finding himself without a source of gin – the genteel spirit at the time – Cox worried that they would not find the local tipple palatable if served neat. He added lime juice and sugar to the island’s pure cane rum, and a classic was born.”

It is believed to have been the favorite cocktail of Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kennedy (ironic considering he is responsible for severing diplomatic ties with Cuba in 61….perhaps Bay of Pigs was really intended to oust Castro in an effort to save his beloved cocktail? – but I digress).  Ultimately, it was the United States Navy – specifically Admiral Lucius Johnson – that brought the cocktail to the mainland via the lounge at the Army and Navy Club on Connecticut Ave NW in Washington DC (of which I’m a proud member) where active and retired officers can still host happy hours (the lounge is now named for the cocktail).

Now that we’ve covered the historical commentary and, hopefully, established the Daiquiri’s historical bona fides – let us move on to some more technical aspects of mixing this cocktail.

Let’s start by stating what the Daiquiri is NOT:

1.  The Daiquiri is NOT a frozen drink.  Never should any respectable Daiquiri , like the Margarita, see the inside of the blender.
2.  The Daiquiri is NOT a frozen drink.
3.  The Daiquiri is NOT a frozen drink.  Hopefully you get the point.

Now lets talk about the principles set forth in my last post apply to the Daiquiri.

1.  The Daiquiri, like any great cocktail, consists of a base and a modifier.  In this case the base is light rum and the modifier is citrus (lime juice) and sweetner (simple syrup or substitute). The purpose of the modifier is not to mask the base liquor but, rather, to enhance its flavors on the palate.  The base liquor is ALWAYS the main event.  Never use premixed sweet and sour mix unless you are looking to have a substandard cocktail with 5 times the calories.
2.  The use of high quality ingredients will result in a high quality cocktail.

And so I give you my preferred Daiquiri recipe:

2 Oz Cruzan Light Rum:  Anyone who has spent time at a college kegger knows there exist many different types of rum (Captain Morgan Spiced, Malibu coconut, ect..).  I will say, IMHO, most are revolting.  There are two kinds of rum worth drinking – period.  Dark rum and light rum.  All distilled liquor is clear when it comes out of a still and only takes on its color after being aged in some type of wood barrel.  Light rum is, therefore, NOT aged.  There are a few good mixed drink recipes for a dark rum out there, but the Daiquiri is not one of them.  A high quality (read expensive and imported….sometimes illegally) aged dark rum is not for Daiquiris, but should be enjoyed simply over a large piece of clean ice with a squeeze of lime and sipped.  I am not as picky with my brands of light rum as I am with my Gin as Rum is distilled from sugar cane and lots more forgiving than Gin.  Cruzan makes a light rum I enjoy, and I recommend using something comparable provided it doesn’t give you a huge hangover.

1 Oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice:  As far as I know, Mother Nature has only one brand.  Don’t skimp on the fresh fruit, there are natural sugars resident even in tart citrus fruit that are lost in the stuff you’d buy off a shelf.  Remember fresh is always better.  I prefer my Daiquiris (like my margaritias) on the tart side.  This is personal preference so feel free to adjust your proportions between 1/2 – 1 oz to satisfy your taste.

1/2 Oz Luxardo Marashino Liquor:  This is a bit of substitution.  The classic Daiquiri calls for 1/2 – 3/4 oz simple syrup (super saturated sugar water – google it) to balance the tart from the lime juice.  The Marashino liquor does this job, plus adds a little more depth and complexity to the cocktail.

2 Drops Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters:  I am a bitters fanatic.  I think they bring so much more to a cocktail without burdening the ingredients with extra heavy modifiers.  They allow you to keep the cocktail simple in ingredients while enhancing the flavor palate simultaneously.  I came up with the grapefruit bitters while reading a recipe for the “Hemingway Daiquiri” which calls for the addition of grapefruit juice to the mix.  Instead of adding all the juice (and sugar), just put a few drops of the bitters in to get the same effect.

Preparation:  Measure and mix all ingredients in a graduated shot glass (for accuracy and consistency) and pour over ice in a cocktail shaker.  Shake vigorously.  Double strain (to remove pulp from the lime and ice shards) into a cocktail glass or coupe.

Garnish:  Take a wheel from the fresh lime you squeezed, slice and place on the rim.

Drink:  Close your eyes and imagine yourself dancing at the Tropicana on a caliente Havana night!

Cheers!

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Breakfast Bite: The Perfect Poached Egg

DSC_0794Hands-down the best way to have eggs, don’t you agree?  The best part is that it’s so fast and simple, but there are a few essential steps to achieving a plump white with a perfectly runny yolk rather than something resembling a Portuguese man-o-war with its egg-y tentacles floating around in the water.DSC_0806The Perfect Poached Egg

  1. The most important step: you must use the freshest eggs possible.  Egg whites thin as they age which is why older eggs spread all over the pan.  I bought the above organic eggs from the Alden Hills Farm stand at the Lake Bluff Farmers’ Market and they were beyond incredible.  Honestly, have you ever seen such deep golden yolks?
  2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add a splash of vinegar.  You will not taste it (scout’s honor!) and it will help keep the white in tact.
  3. Turn the heat down so your water is at a very low boil.  Crack your egg into a small bowl or ramekin, then gently ease it into the water.
  4. Three minutes.  Exactly three minutes!
  5. Remove egg from water with a slotted spoon and ease onto a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess water.
  6. For extra yumminess, serve over a piece of toast with ripe, smashed avocado and a sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.DSC_0793

Cocktail Hour: A Simple Crisp White + Smoked Whitefish Spread

DSC_0776Sometimes nothing is better than a crisp white on a warm summer evening.  Yesterday marked the summer solstice, and we spent it on our just finished stone terrace with chilled sauv blanc and this smoked whitefish spread.  I picked up the smoked whitefish fillets from a fisherman’s stand at the farmers’ market in Lake Bluff yesterday, and they were so delicious I’m going back for more at his stand in Lake Forest today!DSC_0779Smoked Whitefish Spread

serves 4 (though you might want to double – it disappears fast!)

  • 2 cups smoked whitefish, skinned, checked for bones, and broken into large flakes
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • the juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot or onion
  • 2 scant teaspoons capers, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worstershire
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  1. Place all ingredients except for the smoked whitefish in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Stir in the smoked whitefish flakes by hand just until combined.
  3. Chill.  Serve with crackers or salt and pepper kettle chips.

recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

Cocktail Hour: Fresh Strawberry Mojito

DSC_0313This cocktail is summer in a glass!  It’s my version of a mojito – light, refreshing, and just sweet enough, starring mint from the garden and the ripest, juiciest farmers’ market strawberries.  Dare I say it almost feels healthy?

Fresh Strawberry Mojito

serves 2

  • 2/3 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 8-10 mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup (or more, depending on the sweetness of your berries)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/3 cup light rum
  • 2 tablespoons Cointreau
  • ice
  • club soda
  • lime slices for garnish
  1. Place mint leaves and strawberries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle with the end of a wooden spoon until strawberries are crushed and mint leaves are fragrant.
  2. Add agave, lime juice, rum, Cointreau, and a big handful of ice cubes to the cocktail shaker.  Shake vigorously until combined and chilled.
  3. Strain into two ice-filled high ball glasses, top each glass with club soda, stir gently, and garnish with a lime wedge.

DSC_0188DSC_0252recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake + A Very Happy Birthday

DSC_0132Oh my, was this cake a labor of love!  My daughter Hannah requested a crepe cake for her birthday after seeing a picture of one on Pinterest (doesn’t she know 99.9% of pinned recipes are for viewing pleasure only?) and she asked that we make it together.  How hard could it be?  I thought to myself.  After all, we’d made crepes several times before.  All we needed to do was make a big batch (30 to be exact) along with some pastry creme and a little chocolate ganache.  Right?

DSC_0978DSC_0972  DSC_0987DSC_0984DSC_0033DSC_0025The original recipe (found here) comes from Martha Stewart Living and it is a recipe (cake) within a recipe (filling) within a recipe (glaze/ganache).  Our only modifications were that we:

  1. used plain crepes for our base (recipe here) rather than the chocolate crepes in the Martha recipe
  2. made half of the suggested amount of hazelnut filling as the Martha recipe made a whopping 8 cups
  3. substituted Nutella (slightly warmed in microwave to soften) for the hazelnut creme in the filling recipe, and
  4. decorated with 4 oz chopped hazelnuts (toasted in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes then cooled)

DSC_0060DSC_0064Did it take several hours?  Yes.  Was it worth it?  ABSOLUTELY.  The meringue based hazelnut filling was as fluffy as a cloud and the crunchy salty hazelnuts against the velvety chocolate ganache made for a heavenly match.  The best part was that I had Hannah all to myself for the afternoon, and she was so proud of what we created.  I had to laugh when I left the dinner table to fetch the cake and she asked me to please arrange her birthday candles in rainbow order.  The apple definitely does not fall far from the tree.

DSC_0121DSC_0106all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

Cocktail Hour: The Martini

I’m thrilled to introduce a new weekend feature just in time for summer, Cocktail HourMichael, my almost brother-in-law and the most talented mixologist I’ve ever known (this is not hyperbole), has graciously agreed to share his knowledge and his recipes during the month of June here at a & d.  And in true Michael fashion, he’s kicking off Cocktail Hour with a classic.Image 2

The Martini.

A few basic principles.  First, using only liquors of the highest quality will result in a good Martini.  This applies for all ingredients.  Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a high quality Gin with cheap Vermouth will not taste good.  Most people don’t like Martinis because they use bad liquor.

Second, the basic principle of mixing cocktails is to find the blend of ingredients (modifiers) that compliment the Base.  Without the modifier, a base will never be more than chilled liquor – not a cocktail.

According to Embury’s “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks” (put down the Mr. Bostons….this is the best book on cocktails out there), “most of the present generation learned to drink and most of the present-day bartenders learned their profession during the past 37 years.  The first 14 years of this period were devoted to the famous ‘experiment, noble in purpose,’ and the remaining years have not yet been sufficient to erase wholly the ignoble effects of that era.”

Paying mind to the above principles, the Martini is the most elegant of drinks.  In its purest form, the martini has one base (Gin or Vodka) and one modifier (Vermouth).  It is, in essence, the Hydrogen of the Cocktail Periodic Table.  Many people prefer Vodka to Gin, and I will not judge them.  I will, however, offer the reasons why I prefer Gin.  First, it is the liquor originally intended for the Martini – which was also known as the Martinez.  Second, a good Gin has a depth and viscosity that Vodka does not – Gin really is Vodka infused with juniper and other botanicals.  Last, Vodka is a soul-less liquor (by definition, has no color, smell, or taste) which makes it the ideal liquor for people who like being drunk but don’t like the taste of liquor.

That being said, the proportions of Gin to Vermouth is largely left to the taste of the imbiber.  I do discourage, however, the notion of just “washing the glass” or “adding a few drops” of Vermouth.  This practice negates its role as a modifier and, as stated above, leave one with only a chilled glass of liquor.  People largely don’t like vermouth in their gin because they are adding substandard (read Martini and Rossi) Vermouth.  A good Vermouth will negate all the bad things in straight Gin.  It will reduce the volatility (reduces vapor temp) which eliminates the burn so often associated with a bad Gin and leaves the delightful, smooth flavor of the distillers botanicals behind.

And so:  I give you my favorite recipe for a martini.

2 oz Smooth Ambler Gin.  We stumbled upon the Smooth Ambler at one of the better liquor stores in the area and bought a bottle because it was made in West Virginia.  Who would’ve guessed it was to be the best Gin we’ve ever tasted.  The viscosity and botanicals are perfect.  It is made in small batch pot stills (as opposed to larger column/continuous stills used by large companies) using organic ingredients and it was rated at 94 points by Wine Enthusiast magazine.  If you don’t trust Wine magazines to judge your liquor, the Gin won bronze this past May at the San Fransisco World Spirits competition.  Folks, this is good stuff…..don’t knock it before you’ve tried it.

1 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth.  This is the Vermouth being poured by most high-end craft cocktail bars in the country and for good reason.  I’d also recommend Lillet as a suitable alternative.

2 drops Bittermens Boston Bittahs.  I didn’t discuss bitters at all before, but the original Martini recipe called for a dash of Orange Bitters.  These amazing ingredients are the spice rack of any serious barstock.  Would one try cooking or baking with no salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon ect??  Of course not.  Start experimenting with different bitters and they will take your drinking habit to the next level.  The Bittermens here will round out the cocktail and add the slightest hint of citrus to your “just about perfect cocktail”.

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A note about mixing.

I prefer mixing all ingredients in a small graduated shot glass.  I then add to the shaker with ice.  Shake vigorously.  And the secret is to double strain by pouring it through a small fine sieve or strainer (see my equipment below).  This frees the cocktail from extraneous ice shards (they will collect like slush in the strainer) and gives the drink that clean mouthfeel.

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Garnish.  For this summer martini, garnish with a lemon twist.  Be sure to twist your lemon peel to express the oils before wiping the glass rim with it and dropping it in the drink.  Cheers!

Thank you, Michael!  We can’t wait to hear what’s in your cocktail shaker next week.  Now, if I could just talk the two of you into moving in next door…