Experiments in Mixology

I don’t have a lab, so my kitchen will have to do for now. Luckily, the results of my various experiments have (thus far) been delicious.

I recently finished reading “Boozehound: on the trail of the rare, the obscure, and the overrated in spirits, and have been in the mood to try my own hand at mixing drinks and creating new flavor combinations. I find brewing, distilling and mixing to be fascinating, however much this fascination makes me appear to be a drunkard. You can learn a lot about the history and culture of a place by the beverages they drink, just as you can learn by eating the local food, or listening to local music. Many liquors and liqueurs that are just coming into vogue have been staples for decades or centuries, or may even be regarded as “an old man’s drink” in their locale of origin. I’m doing my best to rediscover as many recipes as I can, and then putz around with the ingredients I accumulate.

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This drink calls for crème de violette or (if you can find/afford it) Crème Yvette. The latter is just a specific brand of violet-flavored liqueur, but one which was immensely popular in pre-Prohibition cocktails, and was common even after Prohibition up through the 1950s. By the 1960s though, you couldn’t really find it anymore, and for a while drinks like the Aviation ceased to make much sense. You see, without the violet liqueur, your drink would be mostly clear, perhaps a little cloudy from the lemon juice. With the liqueur, however, your drink would turn a beautiful shade of periwinkle or sky blue. Hence the name, Aviation. Luckily for us, Crème Yvette is now back in production as of 2010, and even more luckily for my wallet, you can get a crème de violette from Rothman & Winter for about $20.

  • 1.5 oz gin (aka a jigger)
  • 3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice (aka a pony)
  • 1/2 oz maraschino liqueur (NOT MARASCHINO CHERRY JUICE! This stuff is clear, and smells equal parts sweet and funky)
  • 1/4 oz crème de violette or Crème Yvette

Chill a cocktail glass (it looks particularly nice in a Martini glass, but you don’t want something too much bigger than 4 1/2 oz otherwise it’s going to warm up too fast). Fill a shaker halfway with ice, combine all ingredients, and shake vigorously for about a minute. Don’t bother buying a ShakeWeight, if you mix enough of these you’ll get toned. Strain the drink into the glass. If you’re feeling fancy, add a lemon twist, but I like it plain since it evokes clear blue skies.

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Violet Fizz

Now you know about violet liqueurs. Despite the “crème” in the name, it’s not a particularly creamy drink, so if you want something with more of a thick foamy profile (but still delicate and refreshing), I recommend a fizz. The key to making it creamy is a) use an egg white and b) mock shake. The first time I tried making this, I forgot to mock shake and while the drink was pleasant, it hardly had anything in common with the fizzes I’d enjoyed in the past. Mmmm, thinking about the Ramos’ gin fizz at the Court of the Two Sisters… ok, I’m back. Mock shaking, right. When mock shaking, you combine all the ingredients (minus any floats/garnishes/top-offs) in your shaker and left out the ice. Usually, you then add the ice and shake again, for realzies this time. Why bother mock shaking first if you’re just going to toss in the ice anyway? Well, if you’re making a fizz or a sour or any other drink that calls for an egg white, you want to give the egg a chance to get creamier and foamier. I’m not saying shake until you’ve made a merengue, but just enough to make the egg thicken. That way, it has some body to it before you add the ice, and your result is a smooth drink with a nice head.

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz crème de violette or Crème Yvette
  • 1 egg white
  • sparkling mineral water

Fill a collins glass with ice cubes or a big block. Combine the gin, lemon juice, creme de violette and egg white in your shaker, and mock shake for a little under a minute. Add half a shaker’s worth of ice, and shake again for a little under a minute, until the shaker is frosty on the outside. Strain into the collins glass, and top with mineral water. Feel free to garnish it with lemon. If you have a sweet tooth, add 1/2 tsp simple syrup to the mock shake.

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Tee Primavera Fizz

I wanted to try another fizz, but wasn’t feeling particularly gin-ny and also really wanted to try some of the Tuaca I had just bought for $10. Tuaca is a sweet citrus-vanilla liqueur from Tuscany. Apparently, though it’s from Italy, it’s rarely served there anymore, partly because only old men drink it, but mostly because nearly all the Tuaca made now gets exported to the States. The more you learn about liquors and liqueurs from around the world, the more you wonder why us whippersnappers don’t listen more to the old farts when it comes to alcohol. They know a thing about a thing. Anyway, back to Tuaca (which used to be called Tuaco, after the founders Tuonis and Canepas, but got changed sometime in the 1950s). The flavor is a bit more on the vanilla/sweet side than citrus-y, and for that reason I figured it would go pretty darn well with rum (because of the molasses and vanilla flavors) and lemon (because fresh lemon would bring out the citrus). This was the result.

  • 1.5 oz dark rum or spiced rum (I used Old New Orleans’ Cajun Spiced Rum)
  • 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz Tuaca
  • 1 egg white
  • sparkling mineral water
  • dash orange bitters
  • lemon zest

You’ll be making this one the same way as the Violet Fizz. At the end, put in 4 drops of orange bitters, and just a bit of lemon zest. The name’s a mix of creole and italian for “little spring”, since it’s like having a bit of the season in your glass – a little sweet, a little tart, and a warm sunny yellow.

Ti' Primavera Fizz

Ti' Primavera Fizz

One Thought on “Experiments in Mixology

  1. Zerah on April 8, 2012 at 10:27 pm said:

    Oh can’t wait until AAM……I expect some interesting bar orders 😉

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