Other fortifieds (the world outside sherry)

November 6th, 2012

I love sherry. Many of you will know that. I love the variety it provides too- ranging from fresh and bright Finos, via salty even smoky Manzanilla through the lovely nuttiness of Amontillado all the way through dry Oloroso to the richer, sweeter Olorosos and PXs.

Then there’s the other worldy goodness of Palo Cortado. The older ones are literally some of the most phenomenal products I’ve tasted. Ranging from salty to sweet, to dry to meaty. In one sip. They literally dance across your tongue and up through your nose in a manner that contradicts how products usually taste. Seriously wonderful stuff. Get them

Sherries also provide a wonderful cocktail ingredient; not only do they have the aforementioned flavour variety, but they last. This means that you can use them in the house or bar without them having the quick (open) shelf life of a beer or wine whilst still providing the benefits of this lower ABV category. In fact, once you reach amontillado, they’re pretty much bulletproof, but still drink them fresh.

I could wax on about sherries, but the truth is fortified wines tend to be more feasible ingredients than wines. Using a white wine is like using a good vodka, a real subtlety needs to be employed to let the flavours or textures shine and often the alcohol isn’t there to carry the flavour without overloading them with sugar (of course it can be done, and the drier drinks can work too). Red wines provide an interesting ingredient in the form of tannins, but again, the issue of practicality and shelf life come into play.

Fortifieds help with this by giving firstly a bit more sugar to carry flavour, but also a good enough dose to help extend the freshness- giving that extra window to ensure they can last to make it into a few drinks. I’ve had a good number of excellent Port cocktails (Tawny Port is also another oxidised wonder of the booze world).

On the back of this conversation, over a love of sherry,

Thanks Karen-o! (i think)

November 6th, 2012

Karen gets to enjoy the finer stuff. I know this as we’ve indulged here and abroad in it with Natasha being very much more than an instigator.

They both also have quite a sense of humour though, so it’s with this in mind that I think this bundle has landed in my lap. Either that, or they like testing the littlest brother. Not sure if this falls under the category of cocktails to mix at a poorly stocked house party/raiding the last of the liquor cabinet/holiday drinks but I can’t say that I’m filled with huge excitement towards any of the ingredients.

Anyway, I usually start by trying the base ingredients to try build a drink around them. Unusually, I’ve done no research on these. Here goes:

Bailoni ‘Kirschlikor’. I could decipher the cherry moniker but the luminous fruit adorning the label are a nice prompt. Not so turbo red as you’d expect. Deep, stewed cherries on the nose with hints of bark and marzipan. Pretty sweet, but not overly confected. I can still see too; Bonus!

Bailoni ‘Williams-Birnenschnaps’. Distinct eau-de-vie style nose. Not too estery/fruity though. Background of pear on the nose. Dry, pear and cinnamon on the palate. Actually quite tasty.

Gluckspilz ‘kiwi liqueur’. Toxic green and I can smell it as soon as the bottle opens. ‘watermelon’ jolly ranchers, overly ripe white pear and highly confected. Ghastly with a touch of sourness

Maraska ‘Pelinkovac’. Rich, deep purple/red. Nose of cooked berries, plums and cherries. Some Christmas spices and bitter notes. Palate starts sweet, then evens into a medicinal style bitterness.

Starbucks Coffee Liqueur. Stinks like old coffee grounds. As bad as the Gluckspilz

Sucre Coco. This might’ve come about as they know I’m currently loving coconut as a flavour to use. This is rubbish though.

I initially figured these would all be hideous novelty hooch. Not so, the Bailoni and the Pelinkovac were quite surprising. I’m not sure I’d have much use for them beyond these small bottles, but nonetheless a whole different league to the Kiwi and the Starbucks aberrations. The upshot? Karen and Natasha get special holiday booze cocktails!

single cask blend

November 5th, 2012

Avid Sipstir readers, or friends of mine will recall talk of my ‘ultra independent bottlings’. For a long time I’ve wanted to do this with foreign spirits. I asked Ben Carlotto back in 2006- a man who, at the time knew more about tequila than anyone else I knew- if he could get me tequila ‘white dog’; straight off the still, unaged, uncut spirit. I wanted to see how differently the product would mature in the climes of Scotland compared to that of Mexico.

The same thought process applied to many spirits- if I could get new make from Kentucky, India, Japan etc. it would be fascinating to see how it aged over here. I suppose you can try it to some degree with Early Landed Cognacs. Cognac is something I’ve not drunk a huge amount of, and really only with my close friend Barney. I grew up with Barney (there’s four days between us) and his dad doesn’t really drink. Thankfully for us, as a prized surgeon he is often gifted rare Cognac. This was a brilliant drinking partner for us when we were catching up playing chess or eating dim sum. We both noted that we loved the Early Landed versions (we’re gone through a good amount of vintage Hine) better than their domestically aged sisters- the ones aged in the UK often having lighter, brighter more floral notes. This is what I wanted to recreate with other spirits.

Alas, new make from abroad seemed out of my reach.

However, there might be changes afoot. Now you may recall me blending??Scottish new makes to age together. Well, after trying Sukhinder’s frankly mind blowing Lochside I thought about trying a single cask blend. Again, grain new make isn’t so hard to come by so I decided to link this with one of my other nuggets of an idea; Scotch blended with world whiskies.

My initial thought was a blend of Scottish and American. The flavoursome nutty notes from Scotch married with the sweet vanilla hues of a bourbon. Now, one of the great changes of late is the release of ‘white dogs’ from the US. I figured this would be a good stand in for the grain as it shares many of the characteristics.

So, the plan is to taste a host of white dog, perhaps blend a few, then match this with a blend of new makes and put into barrel and await some changes. Any suggestions, please get in touch.

Dry chocolate wine. alive!

November 5th, 2012

It’s been some time, but I’ve managed to re-kindle my experiments with living ingredients. Those who have been following some of my other writing, my work at The Whistling Shop or on here may have seen or tasted some of the results, but it was always a topic I wanted to explore more.

The opportunity to do so came up when I was put in touch with the supremely helpful Rachel Dutton- a Micro-biologist from Harvard- and a gentleman called Kevin Liu (whose blog [and a forthcoming book] is fascinating reading).

I had many different projects that I wanted to explore (there’s a plethora of microbes out there!), and I’ll post more details as they come up, but the conversations struck up provided a huge source of inspiration. As I’ve always said too, it’s necessary to defer to an expert and this was particularly the case as poisoning myself with bacteria and fungi wasn’t high on my agenda.

One of the questions I had for Rachel related to the fact that syrups tended to dry after they had been inhabited by various moulds floating around my kitchen. I had initially wanted to see whether some left over raspberry syrup would ferment if left unattended. Instead it was colonised by a mould leaving some furry outposts on top. Intrigued, I boiled the syrup to (hopefully!) kill off anything too damaging, and tasted it again. It was much drier and as with my other previous experiments, had a note to it that was quite unique. A quick question to Rachel confirmed that the mould would initially feed off the sugars, and perhaps an Aspergillus oryzae could be an interesting inoculant. A quick trip to find some unpasteurised miso and I now have my microbe source.

So what to try first? I’ve made Miso syrups before enjoying their sweet/savoury combination so wanted to create a base that would build well into this. I decided upon a chocolate wine I used to make, but decided to weight it towards being more of a syrup. A microwaved combination of sugar, red wine, chocolate, cocoa nibs and apple was cooled, strained and inoculated. I’ll let you know the results.

Edible Selby

November 1st, 2012

The very awesome Todd who I met through my super talented sister(s) is back! After his brilliant ‘The Selby is in Your Place” (buy it), he’s returning with a subject much closer to my heart – food and drink! “Edible Selby” is a beautifully documented, and playful insight into some of the most fantastic food and drink offerings from around the globe (seriously, if you’re reading this, you need to buy it).

Extra bonus- he’s a great dude with the best collection of t-shirts.