I was really enjoying the summer weather that arrived a few weeks ago. But alas, just as I was getting used to it, it vanished and now we are back to proper springtime weather (which I love as well, it reminds me of summer in Cork!). And while my fridge still has a few bottles of big hardy stouts and porters in it, I am gearing up for the good weather by getting my home bar stocked and ready for action. Delicious cool cocktails will be the order of the day when the mercury rises a little bit more. But if you need some practice with a muddler and shaker then keep reading, now is a good time to hone your skills. Below are a few new spirits that might be good to have on hand!
Cynar Artichoke Liqueur ($25.99 for 1 Liter)
Yes, you are reading that correctly. Artichokes aren’t just for eating anymore, folks!
Actually this bottle has been on many people’s wish lists and has been requested for years at Vine & Table. It just became available to us and it is literally flying out the door. Many people use bitters’/amaro’s (an herbal liqueur) for their medicinal properties. In its home country of Italy, Cynar (CHEE-nar) is most often drunk neat after a meal. The combination of 13 different herbs, vegetables, bark and alcohol greatly helps with digestion.
In the US however many people use amaro’s as a mixer and in cocktails. Cynar is dark brown in color, fairly sweet and comes in at a very manageable 16.5%ABV. It tastes like buttery honey with notes of tobacco and has a sweet vegetal finish. Kyle Davidson of Chicago’s Violet Hour Cocktail Bar came up with the following. I have not tried this as yet but the weekend is calling me!
THE ART OF CHOKE
1 ounce white rum (Prichard’s White Rum or Rhum Barbancourt White Rum)
1 ounce Cynar
1/8 ounce fresh lime juice
1/8 ounce rich Demerara sugar syrup (you could also use Petite Canne Sugar Cane Syrup)
1/4 ounce green Chartreuse
Sprig of mint
Bruise the mint sprig with the other ingredients in a mixing glass. Stir with ice for half a minute, then strain over fresh ice into a tumbler. Garnish with another mint sprig.
Berentzen Pear Schnapps ($21.99 for 750ml)
My first encounter with Berentzen was many moons ago when my sister Oonagh (Ooo-na for the non Irish who might happen to be reading this!) arrived home from a trip to Germany with a bottle of Berentzen Apfel Korn Schnapps. That possibly was my aha moment with distilled spirits. I remember very well the rich apple taste, sweet but not cloying like some liqueurs, distinctive but also very smooth.
After a lapse of a few years, Berentzen is back, thanks to our good friends at Crossroad Vintners. But this time there is a new marque, Pear! And Oh Lord is it good. I am not usually one for shots, but here I make the exception. Low sugar content coupled with low alcohol (only 15%ABV); make this fun without the post party side effects! Alternatively you could just mix it with Q Tonic Water for a delicious long drink. But the cocktail that I really like is the Prickly Pear.
Fill a tumbler with ice
Add 2oz Berentzen Pear
Add 1 ½ oz Silver Tequila (La Cava del Mayoral 100% Agave is good)
Add a splash of cranberry juice
Bittermens Bitters ($18.99 for 4oz)
Now as the cocktail movement goes from strength to strength there is an increased focus by bartenders on all of the ingredients used in a drink, right down to the ice! And as a result people are starting to realize that a cocktail is just a drink if no bitters are added. But by just adding a few drops of this highly aromatized alcohol to a mix then it goes from being just another drink to a cocktail with all of the bells and whistles.
We just brought in the complete line of Bittermans Bitters as they are all wonderful (that and the fact that we couldn’t all agree which was the best). The most popular bitters worldwide are Angostura and Peychauds, and while they are excellent it is hard to resist the temptation to use bitters such as, Hopped Grapefruit, Hellfire Habanero and Xocolatl Mole and take your drink to a whole new level. The one thing we love about Bittermans is that each bottle comes with an eye dropper in which to measure out your drops so that you can be guaranteed that you will have consistency from cocktail to cocktail.