Watermelon Rose

…Watermelon Rose
Raise my rent and take off all your clothes
With trench coats, magazines, a bottle full of rum…

If I don’t commemorate it, I will forget. That’s how infrequently I create new cocktails.

The Watermelon Rose is a simple rum sour with some infusions in the mix. I don’t like watermelon, see, and when one arrived in my CSA I just looked balefully at it for a few weeks until the 11th hour. Compost or consume? I decided to drink it.

Threw cubed watermelon into a mix of rum (mostly Kirkland with enough Smith & Cross to make it funky).

While it steeped I decided to use up some dried cranberries in muffins. For more tender fruit, I soaked them for a day in Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao (80%) and Luxardo Maraschino (20%). This left me with a sweet fruit liqueur.

Gomme syrup adds mouthfeel, orgeat adds flavor. Add fresh citrus and baby, you got a sour going.

After days of puttering around the house chanting “watermelon rum” in my best Tom Waits growl, I actually looked up the lyrics I thought I was singing. Bother! He doesn’t sing “watermelon rum,” he sings “Watermelon Rose” and “bottle full of rum.” And so my drink found its name.

Watermelon Rose

2 oz. watermelon infused rum
.75 oz fresh lime (lemon is pretty good, too)
.25 oz orgeat (I like Small Hands)
.25 oz gum syrup (again, Small Hands is perfect)
.25 oz cranberry-infused curacao and maraschino mix

Shake with ice and serve.

Sour Flower Power Shaddock

Playing around with my signature cocktail, the Shaddock, resulted in this Sour Flower Power Shaddock.

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Sour floral Shaddock. Equal parts St. Germain, Aperol, gin, and fresh citrus juice (usually lemon). Tonight I added a touch of acid phosphate to play up the grapefruit notes of the drink.

I wanted to taste what happened with fresh citrus plus a few drops of acid phosphate. To soar above that sour punch, I used Geranium Gin for its strong geranium distillate.

Et voila! The Sour Flower Power twist on a shaddock.

Sour Flower Power Shaddock
.75 oz Aperol
.75 oz St. Germain
.75 oz Geranium Gin
.75 oz lemon juice

(I know, I know: better to shake than stir. But the mixing glass was at hand while the shaker was entire feet away.

Time Out Bar Awards Finale and the best spritz yet

The low-ABV trend stirs nothing more in me than polite disinterest. Brunchtime day drinking elicits a shrug. Frankly, I thought no spritz could move me. But at Time Out’s Bar Awards Finale at the Chapel in San Francisco, I found the lesson I needed to make me a spritz believer.

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Spicewood Spritz from Firehouse Lounge in Austin, TX. I don’t like spritzes. I loved this spritz.

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Evolution of the Walker Inn: an enthusiast’s perspective

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Kumquat toddies off Walker Inn’s Winter Citrus menu, served with dry spices and tinctures of cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise for a personalized cocktail. The foreground sunken ice bar chills juices and garnishes.

Writing about Los Angeles’ Walker Inn has been, since this blog began, both an imperative and an impossibility.

The Koreatown bar’s menus, themes, and approach to cocktails are of history-making importance in West Coast drinking. (As far as this amateur is concerned, they are California’s Aviary. Let more knowledgeable drinkers dispute that.) Writing about the Walker Inn, like drinking there, is obligatory.

But my three visits differed so wildly that I abandoned my unfinished story every time. What I loved about my first time at that unique bar was miles away from what mattered on the third visit.

Recently, Walker Inn staff themselves provided the key to finishing this story. Their “Bar Indepth: The Walker Inn, USA” seminar at Tales of the Cocktail laid out details from architectural design to lab equipment to income. Missing pieces fell into place as they explained the service evolution that allows them to serve more cocktails to the ideal number of drinkers at a pace that shows off their carefully planned menu and exquisite presentation.

In return, I know what the consumer gains and loses in this service evolution.

It turns out that the story I wanted to write — the loving paean to the place that gave me my benchmark for superlative hospitality — is an ode to a place that no longer exists. The Walker Inn still exemplifies theme, scientific creativity, and spectacle like nowhere else west of the Mississippi, and my admiration is largely unchanged.

But I have one critique.

Just one.
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Top 5 cocktails at Tales of the Cocktail

Over the course of one week at Tales of the Cocktail I sampled approximately 100 cocktails/spirits. (Why so few? I was a volunteer as well as an attendee, which meant no drinking for 15 total crucial conference hours.)

Acknowledging that every attendee’s list will differ, here are the cocktails that struck me most deeply:

#1 : Dale DeGroff’s Abeja Limeña

Event: Make It, Eat It, Drink It from the Trade Commission of Peru in Miami

Abeja Limena

This take on a pisco sour highlights the torontel grape’s aromatic notes against just the right citrus zing. Aromatic pisco (brand unknown, possibly Founding Farmers but I think DeGroff said it was a single-grape pisco), honey syrup, lime, yuzu, and a red shiso garnish. My goal in the next six months (hell, I may be haunted my whole life) is to find the right pisco and the right proportions of other ingredients to recreate this memory.
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Taste-testing tonics

tonics2Gin is my spirit of choice. I am therefore thrown into the proximity of many tonics. My go-to tonics are Fever-tree‘s Mediterranean or Elderflower tonics but I’m always looking for new flavors. Recently I did a taste test with some new tonics available at my local Emporium of Alcoholic Wonders (a.k.a. Berkeley’s Ledger Liquors).

Indi Strawberry tonic paired with Wollersheim’s Garden Gate Gin. The sodalike, quinine-light tonic offers strong fresh strawberry flavors (thankfully not a hint of artificial flavor), so I thought the fruit and herbs of the gin would play well with the strawberry. It was a summery combination but some heavy botanical in the combination didn’t quite suit.

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The Shaddock

Before research taught me that a shaddock is an archaic name for grapefruit or pomelo, I disdained the cocktail name and simply called this one “My Favorite.”

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“Let’s have My Favorite tonight.”
  • .75 oz gin
  • .75 oz Aperol
  • .75 oz fresh lemon juice
  • .75 oz St. Germain

Shake with ice, strain, serve.

In addition to its bright citrus burst, the Shaddock offers a uniquely grapefruity flavor that is present in no single ingredient but miraculously appears when Aperol and St. Germain join forces. (The Humble Garnish pointed out that grapefruit magic with their Apparent Sour.)
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Thematic cocktail menus worth traveling for

Please send airfare. I’m firing up Kayak.com right now to balance the cost of a San Fransisco/D.C./Twin Cities jaunt against my burning need to experience these menus.

San Francisco: Drink your art with Trick Dog’s mural project

Trick Dog‘s blisteringly creative menus are among the very best the industry has to offer (a curious juxtaposition with its aesthetically cold echo chamber of a space, surely one of the least comfortable the industry has to offer).

Their current menu debuted January 8. Drinks are based on Bay Area local artists, each of whom created a mural in San Francisco for the project. The hard-copy menu at Trick Dog seems to be a printed book of photos, the sale of which benefits non-profits, so you can have your art and drink it, too.

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Sirron Norris mural photo by Sonya Yu via SFGate

The above mural by Sirron Norris (a friend of a friend of Coupe Tales, though we’ve never met) accompanies his namesake cocktail: Calle 23 blanco tequila, Cardamaro, fig, chamomile, cinnamon, and lime.

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Smoke ’em if you got ’em

A glance at my scotch or mezcal collections should tip you off to my love of smoky flavors. Though those liquors are typically my go-to building blocks for a smoky glass at home, I’ve long marveled at the actual smoke employed to create some of my most memorable cocktails when dining out.

The full smoke

The formative moment of my smoky cocktail-sipping career, and the standard to which I hold all others, is this Vanilla Hickory Smoked Manhattan from Barchef in Toronto.

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Vanilla hickory smoked Manhattan, Barchef, July 2012

Crown Royal Cask 16, housemade cherry vanilla bitters, hickory-smoked syrup, vanilla cognac (also housemade, I believe), set in an antique cloche to pull in the flavors of smoking hickory chips and vanilla pods.

Once removed from the smoking bell jar the Manhattan and its hand-chipped ice sphere provided me with the longest, smokiest finish I’d yet experienced (at the time, I was not yet a scotch fan). By fully smoking the drink in its glass, the ice, glassware, and your very hand become part of the immersive experience.

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Barchef’s smoked Manhattan, out of the cloche and into my heart

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