A sure indication of a cocktail's fame is a international day of celebration. The first Saturday in February (this year Saturday the 2nd) is officially International Pisco Sour Day, perhaps the most famous drink in South America- maybe all the Americas.
Victor Vaughn Morris, an ex-patriot invented the drink in his Lima bar sometime before 1920, using Pisco (a grape spirit from the Peruvian town of the same name), sugar, lime juice- a take on the classic sour- Pisco for Whiskey, lime for lemon. However it wasn't until a few years later (middle 1920s) that Mario Bruiget, working in Morris' Bar, perfected the recipe by adding egg white and bitters, the version that continues to be popular today.
Like any great drink, controversy swirls, and many Chileans site evidence that, in fact they can claim its origins. Countries battling aside, historians seem to lean toward Peru, and as far as I can tell so do all bartenders that I know.
Where better to have a Pisco Sour than at the source, or at least as close as we can get in town? I headed over to the terrific Peruvian restaurant in Somerville's Union Square, Restaurante Turistico Machupicchu, a completely authentic, family operation owned by Rosy and Hugo Cerna. Between shifts can often be a pleasant down time for restaurant employees, I most likely would be the last person anyone would care to see. However, Carlos Yamo, from the western coastal town of Chiclayo, about 450 miles north of Lima, greeted me as warmly as an old friend. He poured the traditional version, adding some customers do like it sweeter and cinnamon can be added instead of bittters- which he gladly will accommodate. He made me a delicious version with Pisco Portón- the category equivalent quality of a fine single malt scotch. What a treat to have a traditional cocktail in a space where Boston seemingly drifted away- with a soccer match on in the background, a wonderful lighted picture box of Machu Picchu behind the bar and gracious, friendly service.
If you can't stop by this weekend, do so soon for live music, ceviche and of course a Pisco Sour. Salud!
Pisco Portón is a called a mosto verde pisco- distilled from partially fermented grape juice. Because of an incomplete fermentation, slightly higher sugar content remains. The resulting distillation creates a smooth, elegant, full bodied character. What this really means it's delicious straight too! Rich and malty, with tropical fruit flavors, 43% ABV, about $40.
Flaming an orange peel’s oil imparts a wonderful burnt orange character that enhances a variety of cocktails. Plus, it looks super cool.
The legendary Dale Degroff even flamed an orange peel over Madonna’s Cosmopolitan in the late 80’s at the Rainbow Room in New York- could this have been the start of our present cocktail revolution?
I guess I need some kind of disclaimer, like... professionals only (assuming I'm a professional in the first place). Here’s what you do: slice a quarter-sized peel off an orange without going deep and removing too much pith. Hold the circular sized peel with the outside rind facing the drink (the oil is on the exterior of the orange skin) between your thumb and index finger. An inch above your cocktail, light a match with your opposite hand and snap the orange peel near the flame by pressing your index finger and thumb together. This action sprays orange oil toward the match flame, catching briefly on fire and covering the cocktail with burnt orange.
If this seems too complicated here’s more fire fun (insert second declaimer here: fire is dangerous, even Beavis thinks so). Pour some Green Chartreuse onto the rim of your close friend’s Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Its high proof will allow it to catch flame and presto- hipster beer Pu-Pu Platter! Blow it out, don't get burned and enjoy.
Martinez 2 oz Gin, .75 oz Sweet Vermouth, .5 oz Maraschino Liqueur, 1 dash Angosura bitters (original recipe calls for orange bitters).
Stir ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Burnt orange peel garnish.
Robert "Rabbie" Burns (1759-1797) was a Scottish poet considered a pioneer in the Romantic movement and perhaps the most famous Scot. To this day, his birthday is cause for celebration worldwide, not just in his native Scotland- and it's this Friday, January 25th. While almost a month too late to sing his 'Auld Lang Syne,' have a Scotch or Bobby Burns cocktail this weekend and toast the old country and its Ploughman Poet:
"Nae man can tether time or tide."
"O thou, my muse! guid (good) auld Scotch drink!"
The Bobby Burns cocktail may have originated at the Waldorf Bar in the early 1930s as a take on the Rob Roy; Scotch, sweet vermouth with the addition of Absinthe and orange bitters. I personally am a fan of present cocktail guru Dale Degroff's version: 2 oz Highland Scotch, .75 oz sweet vermouth, .5 oz Benedictine (slightly sweet herbal liqueur), shortbread cookie on the side as garnish.
Without a doubt, though, if you ever find yourself down south (as I did this past weekend), the essential bar is Santa's Pub.
Located inside a trailer off Highway 81 and Brandsford Ave., open until 3am nightly, bottles and cans of beer only, this place is a spectacular dive (even if the website seems polished). PBR is $1.50, High Life is $2.00 and come ice cold out of a 1980s Sears white laminate fridge served by Santa himself- ok, a bad ass Tennessee old timer who looks the part but with southern hospitality. There's no specialty ice, bitters, booze even. Oh, but there is Karaoke, I felt like I was in some movie- great sound, and I'm telling you voices that would make Dolly herself proud. Smoking is still allowed, the old broken down 60s cigarette machine continues to seem right at home.
The point is, sometimes a high end drink is satisfying, so too is a cold can of beer. You can't fake a bar like this- or have a better time.
I originally was thinking about classic pairings. There are many in the wine world: Chablis and oysters, Bordeaux and lamb, and so on, but how about music and cocktails? Miles Davis for a Manhattan, Fugazi for a Last Word? Once again, if you've read any of my ramblings, at least I stop myself and consult a professional.
Bring in TJ Connelly, DJ to the stars.
TJ's resume is impressive, the man wears many hats; DJ for the Boston Red Sox, People's Karaoke, WFNX, onthebar, he's everywhere. Just follow him on twitter @senatorjohn to see what I mean. Even his twitter handle itself is fantastic, refering to the end of the movie Animal House where John Blutarski's character rides off into the sunset with the improbable future as a US Senator.
Years ago, TJ worked security at An Tua Nua and the B-Side Lounge, but his music adventure began the day he first walked into Charlie's Kitchen, as he says, "when I was 21 and a day." He tells me great stories of Tuesday late dance parties circa 2000- he still has many placements in their famous jukebox. TJ soon after had a regular night at River Gods, and people started to notice. Meanwhile he also did theater work at the Improv Asylum and honed his Fenway Park craft by playing 30 second breaks between acts. Now he's at virtually every major food and cocktail event or advising bars/restaurants by setting the tone with songs and playlists that we wish we could come up with.
"How do bars ignore sound? I just don't get it," he shakes his head. "Thought and expense go into every aspect, but somehow music can be an afterthought." I couldn't agree more, music sets the vibe in an establishment as importantly as lighting or how delicious the cocktail in front of you tastes. Sadly he laments the gone days of thoughtful jukeboxes, although there are still great ones at Highland Kitchen and Charlie's. One of TJ's old staples (mine too) was at JJ Foley's downtown, which has been replaced by an internet version.
A short list of TJ's favorite bar music around town in no particular order:
Thomas Tietjen, Trina's Starlite Lounge, All Album Tuesdays.
"A great idea, back to a day when the whole record mattered, not just a track." TJ even bartended one of these- the best ever was his version of a Ramos Gin Fizz- a Bud and shot of Fernet.
Andy Mcnees, Toro.
Early evening Latin background music reigns, later in the evening Andy takes over. "He manages to play the perfect thing, from Bowie to The Kink's 'Waterloo Sunset,' and mixes killer drinks."
Evan Harrison, Highland Kitchen, Brick and Mortar.
"This guy pays attention, get's the room. His closing song may be the best ever too- The Faces 'Ooh La La'."
Mike Emerman, Stump Trivia. "Not a bartender, but his playlist is killer, I go to his trivia nights to listen to him. I love stuff like his choice of the acoustic version of Berlin's 'Metro'.''
Kit Paschal, Eastern Standard. "He programs much of their music and I steal from him!" High praise, indeed.
John Gertsen and Will Thompson, Drink. "Again, they care: these guys get it and make it fun."
Misty Kalkofen, Brick & Mortar. They do a 'Spin the Bottle" Monday evening featuring various guest DJs, but he remembers fondly her brunch playlist at the B-Side Lounge. "The music was always familiar but slightly off mainstream, an excersice in lack of irony."
Look, listen and seek out these great bartenders and TJ, I hear their music will make your cocktail taste better.
Founder and host, Graham Wright guides The Opus Affair, a group of artists and friends, in a get together for the arts. This time is their second version of the
Punch Bowl Fund at Westbridge in Kendall Square, Tuesday January 22, at 6:00pm.
Here's the deal: contribute $5 cash and you get a drink ticket for a glass of punch and a ballot to vote for one of three featured arts organizations. The organization with the most votes will get a donation for the total amount raised- a charitable drinking game- awesome.
They'll go until the punch runs out, but the good news is Josh Taylor's bar will still be open for some of his delicious libations. At that point the music may even turn from Brahms to Rihanna; I'm just guessing of course.
Tag 10062005 Globe West 1,2,3
94 years ago, January 15, 1919, was a tragic day in the North End.
Back then, the area was heavily industrialized- packed with people and a 2.3 million gallon cast-iron tank fifty feet above street level was not out of place. The tank was full of molasses, often used as a sweetener, but in this case (and applicable to this blog), it had been slated by the United States Industrial Alcohol Company for rum production.
Unseasonably warm weather that day after near zero temperatures days before may have contributed to the disaster; just after lunch time the tank ruptured spilling the entire deadly, sticky stuff onto Commercial Street in a 30 foot wave- 21 people were killed, 150 injured.
We tend not to forget in Boston; some say on warm days in the North End you can still smell molasses.
The Hawthorne, first, is the epitome of elegant design. I always feel a little like a friend and I have snuck into the family's modern, chic Park Avenue apartment and his parents are out of town. I love it here- friendly customer service, impeccable drinks, an oasis from the hustle of urban life and an answer for winter blues.
I stopped by to visit Dan Lynch the other night, and probably against his better judgement (honestly- what do I know?), he let me direct my first cocktail- the Old Pal. The drink originally appeared in Harry MacElhone's 1922 ABC of Mixing Cocktails- invented by an editor at The New York Herald in Paris. Much like a Negroni, just substituting Canadian whiskey for gin, and dry vermouth for sweet. 1 part rye, 1 part dry vermouth, 1 part Campari.
My version, via Dan, subs Aperol for Campari, making the drink lighter and less bitter (not that bitter is bad, of course!).
Old Pal variation: 1.5oz Rittenhouse rye, .75 Dolin dry Vermouth, .75 Aperol.
Dan graciously roped me into one more drink before I had to leave, aptly suggesting a second version from Harry's famous bar in Paris- the Boulevardier cocktail. By 1927, Mr. MacElhone no longer included the Old Pal; his book Barflies and Cocktails varies the drink yet again, this time Bourbon for rye, and sweet vermouth for dry. A simple drink, yet a lot for me to keep straight.
Boulevardier: 1.5 oz Elijah Craig 12 year Bourbon, .75 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, .75 oz Campari. Rich, spicy vanilla from the aged whiskey, caramel and bitter orange from the vermouth and Campari- leaving me ready to brave the cold outside.
Dan's shift drink after dealing with me?
A bottle of High & Mighty's Beer of the Gods and a shot of Siete Leguas reposado Tequila. Now that sounds elegant, fitting and well deserved. Cheers my friend.
Picon, or Amer Picon, is a French caramel colored bitter aperitif made from dried orange, gentian root, and quinquina. Slightly off-dry and with the orange component dominating, it is sipped before dinner on ice with an orange peel or often consumed with a beer. In fact, the bottle I have is also labeled Biere, there is a Picon Club version which while similar, is more focused on use in cocktails and with white wine.
Invented during the mid-1800s and originally produced in Algeria, Gaetan Picon founded the first French factory (still in operation) outside Marseille. The original recipe was at 40% ABV, and has slowly been reduced to the 18% it is today. Perhaps it may be a shadow of its former self, but it's really quite good, even simply on the rocks.
Approximately $20 in a European supermarket, it is unavailable in the US, I luckily received a bottle from a kind friend returning from Paris. Pretty fun for a bartender, I could actually make a true Brooklyn cocktail 1.5 oz rye, .75 oz dry vermouth, .5 oz Picon, .25 oz maraschino liqueur, orange peel. This drink can very closely be approximated by using the Italian Amaro, Amaro Montenegro, as a substitute, and makes a fine spicy-citus and bittersweet winter warmer. In other words, maybe think of Picon as Bridget Bardot and Amaro Montenegro as Sophia Lauren.
I additionally tried a take on a Hearst cocktail 2 oz gin, 1 oz Picon, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters (because of the orange in Picon I omitted the normal addition of orange bitters). A citrus heavy gin- like Beefeater- works well with the orange flavors, creating a nuanced, flavorful cold weather drink for martini lovers. Also delicious was an ounce of Picon with a short pour of Ipswich winter ale and an orange peel. Clove and orange flavors pleasantly mix with rich maltiness, a perfect winter beer cocktail.
The French 75 is one of my favorite drinks- citrusy, a hint of sweetness, juniper and effervescent - delicious. In 1915 Harry MacElhone created a mix of gin, Champagne, lemon juice and sugar behind the stick at his famous Parisian Harry's New York Bar. The 'kick' of the drink was likened to being shelled by the French 75mm field artillery gun, and the name stuck. Original printed recipes use gin, but there is some debate that the drink is Cognac based (I'm sticking with the 1930 version printed first in the Savoy Cocktail Book).
Great cocktails are all around us, and not just at the very visible well regarded bars. It's certainly a great time to be drinking in Boston. Surprising places, that fly under the radar, have commitment to fresh ingredients and care in their drinks. So, speaking of the French 75, Haru restaurant on Huntington Avenue is celebrating the New Year with a Japanese-French hybrid, their Yuzu French 75. Best part? They will be pouring it through February for only $7- now that's an alliance I can get behind.
Yuzu French 75 1.5 oz Bombay Sapphire, .5 oz lemon juice, .5 oz simple syrup, .25 oz pure yuzu juice (East Asian citrus akin to sour mandarin- looks a bit like a small grapefruit), Champagne float, lemon peel garnish.