Cocktails


Vinegared Gin SlingAt the instigation of a friend of mine I recently tried making something called posca (or, perhaps more accurately, something similar to something called posca). Posca was a traditional Roman drink composed mostly of watered down sour wine, often flavored with herbs or spices and sweetened. It was, in effect, the equivalent of lemonade only with vinegar instead of lemon juice. At this point I imagine whoever is reading this may have a slightly skeptical look on his or her face, but this look is not entirely warranted. In fact, having made something roughly equivalent I can assure you this is very tasty.

The real trick here is to track down as nice a vinegar as possible. After all, you’ll be drinking it. I used Sadaf brand vinegar which I purchased at the local middle eastern grocery store mostly because it’s the normal brand that I use in cooking. You can use any brand and probably any sort of vinegar in doing this, though I prefer cider or red wine vinegar. What is essential is that it is not distilled or quickly brewed: you want the subtle complex sourness that the longer process creates rather than the overpowering smell of acetic acid that you get otherwise. Neither of the vinegars that I used in trying out variations on this smelled the slightest bit like distilled vinegar.

The easiest thing to do is to make a concentrate of sweetened vinegar. Unlike lemon juice vinegar doesn’t lose flavor over time so you can do this in large quantity ahead of time and just leave it in the fridge. I like a ratio of around three cups of vinegar to one cup of sugar – in the pictured version I’ve mixed brown and white sugar which is why it’s darker, but this was only because of necessity and not taste. Heat the vinegar and dissolve the sugar in it as if you were making a simple syrup. Then add whatever spices you want. Coriander is especially nice (essential, really, for what I’m going to suggest), but I’ve also put anise seed and a little bit of fresh nutmeg in as well to good effect. Then bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook for a minute or two before turning off the heat and letting it steep for a bit. When it is cool enough to handle strain it and pour into a jar or bottle for safekeeping.

At this point if you want to make posca all you need to do is pour an ounce or two of the vinegar mixture into a tall glass and fill the rest of the way with water. You can use cold water, and add ice if you like. I find that unlike lemonade and most other drinks I actually find posca more refreshing when it’s sitting around room temperature, though, so it’s as least worth trying this.

This is a little boring, though, and as suggested in the title my first instinct was to go ahead and add gin to the drink. Luckily this works out pretty well: remember, one of the main flavors in the mixture is coriander, which is also a common botanical used in gins. It could probably be made more complex with the addition of a bitters (I have a bitters made with Rue that complements the fruitiness of the vinegar nicely, as it turns out). But honestly it’s pretty tasty as it is and adding a recipe for bitters to this post would be recommending and unreasonable amount of work when it comes to trying things out. Since the effect overall of adding gin is to make the drink a watered down and mildly sweetened gin with some vinegar mixed in there I’ve called it a vinegared sling. (It was easier than inventing a fancy name, at any rate.)

This is as much of a recipe as it makes sense to give for something as simple as this. But don’t be fooled: it really is delicious. As a side note I’ll add that the proportions here are entirely speculative. What actually tastes best will depend pretty substantially on what sort of vinegar you use, and how strong it is. So start with roughly equal quantities and then just experiment around until you get a nice balance.

Recipe

1 1/2 oz Posca concentrate
1 1/2 oz Gin

Pour into tall glass, fill with flat water.

Posca Concentrate

3 Cups high quality vinegar
1 Cup white sugar
– or –
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
– or –
equivalent quantity of honey

Add sugar to vinegar and heat to dissolve. Add

Coriander seed, other spices to taste.

Bring to a boil until everything is neatly dissolved and smells fragrant. Take off heat and let cool. Strain and bottle.

Summer has come to Minneapolis. Now that our backyards are free for use again, and the produce is starting to look a little less depressing, I start to get the feeling for fresh crisp tasting drinks. A good Tom Collins is always nice, but the other night I was feeling like something a little less rote. Enter the Self-Starter.

I was flipping through my copy of the Savoy Cocktail book, and stumbled upon this little gem: gin, lillet blanc, apricot brandy, and a little absinthe. I have been looking for excuses to use some apricot brandy since I got the bottle, but every time I found a recipe with it and tried it, I was disappointed. Trader Tiki, in last month’s Mixology Monday, mentioned that St. Germain wasn’t something that he could easily get a handle on mixing with. Apricot brandy is in that same space for me. It just never seems to do what I expect it to in a cocktail. So, after a little while I gave up.

Self-Starter Cocktail

1/2 Gin
3/8 Lillet Blanc
1/4 Apricot Brandy
2 Dashes Absinthe

Shake and strain.

Now, with the actual sizes not given, I found myself going a little light on the absinthe. I think that was probably wise. Absinthe is so strong that it takes over a drink in no time. With just one dash worth, against a very large drink mixed as 2 oz., 1.5 oz, and .5 oz, it slid right in with the lillet and gin, sneaking out at different points in the drink, and generally acting mischievous. The apricot kept things from tasting too dry, but it wasn’t very aggressive. It was there, but far in the background. I don’t have a very good apricot brandy, so it might have more backbone when others mix it. I also stirred the drink, as there was not enough absinthe to make it cloudy, and it worked wonderfully. I’d say ignore the Savoy on that front.

Having tried it, I thought it was too good to have been missed, someone else must have been blogging about this cocktail, and I was right. Bunnyhugs used it for Raiders of the Lost Cocktail in February. It’s a slightly different formulation, which I will have to check out.

Alright. Well, now that I’ve gotten that little rant out of my system, lets get back to the good stuff. I’ve got one more post about homemade hooch before I dig into some more conventional stuff. I’m taking a week off from booze, to cleanse the palate so to speak. In the meantime though, I’ve got another infusion for you. The last one was very clean and fresh, and this one is a great deal more earthy. I don’t think I’m stepping out on much of a limb when I say that it’s a bit of an acquired taste.
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I live in Minneapolis, that I will have to move away in a few short months makes me very sad. I love the city, I love the museums, I love the theaters, I even love the libraries when the damn municipality can get it together to pay people to staff them more than four days a week.

There is one thing I do not like. The drinks scene. Oh, it’s fair enough if you do your own mixing. There are good liquor stores with fine selections, but saving money is not the only reason I don’t go out to bars much. Probably the peak moment for me, the defining one that got me to stick to beer at Minneapolis bars, was when I ordered a gimlet and it came with two hazelnuts in it. They stared up at me from within their clear (and sadly watery) grave, little brown dots distorted by ice floating in my glass.
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Mixology Monday

When I first laid hands on a bottle of St. Germain, causabon dropped by. We tried out a few of the cocktails that had popped up at the time, but the thing that seemed most interesting was when causabon noted that it reminded him of passion fruit syrup. That little fact fell by the wayside until today, when he and I were trying to decide what to do for Mixology Monday, hosted this week over at Trader Tiki, which may just have the coolest banner in all of cocktail blogging.
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A few years ago cuasabon and I, along with our erstwhile co-imbiber Mr. MoosyFate (I don’t know what his stance is on his name and how public it should be.) got very into infusing vodka. We had almost as many bottles going under he bar as there were commercial products on the top. Like all experiments there were winners and losers. None of the sun dried tomato trials worked very well as I recall. A few rose above the heap and still sit in my bar to this day.
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When last you saw a cocktail post on this site… well, that was last week. It’s also the last post. There was a second post promised at the end.
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