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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.


The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show

November 1st, 2012

This event is always one of the special events on the calendar for me. It truly is a remarkable show with not only a staggering array of whiskies to sample, but a big emphasis on ones you may not have come across.

This included a host of world whiskies including the fantastic Amrut, Kavalan, Chichibu, Karuizawa and Corsair. Enough to warrant the ticket price in itself, along with the simply remarkable masterclasses. Dave’s ‘Tropical Fruits’ class from last year still sticks out with me as one of the most incredible selections of whiskies I’ve tried (and a serious danger to my wallet), and this year did very very well too. The ‘Unusual Islay’ put out such wonders as young Port Ellen, the first Lagavulin Distillers Edition (1979) and the mind-boggling Laphroaig 1974 Sherry Cask.

However, the real showcase of course was the selection of bars from Mr Lyan (www.facebook.com/MrLyan)! I worked with the cocktails last year at the show, but this year there was Lyan Bar collaborations in the form of five bars!

Jameson’s Select Reserve

The idea here was to allow people to customise their own serve. A simple presentation of a buck using Fevertree Ginger ale and the Select Reserve could be customised firstly with the addition of a bitters- including Adam Elmegirab’s Spanish and Aphrodite bitters and La Maison Fontaine Absinthe, Averna Amaro… and also a choice of Horse’s Neck from lemon, orange, grapefruit and mandarin. The combination allowed different sides of the whisky to shine through, allowing the drink to be enjoyed towards different tastes, or different occasions. A big hit

Buffalo Trace

Here the idea was to play on both the Americana imagery of the whiskey but also its versatility. Again with the option to customise, the guest was presented with the basis of a ‘Brooklyn’ called a “Brooklyn Burger” to which they could add sauces and seasoning to change the dimensions of the drink- be it to pull red berry notes from the whisky, bring out some of the rye spice or just to cut through and lighten it. Sauces of ketchup (Cocchi Americano), mustard (Gancia dry), salt (Angostura Orange) and pepper (Angostura) were on hand in squeezy bottles and salt shakers.

Glenfiddich

The idea was to allow people to interact with the well known 12yo in a new light. Through the choice of different ‘finishes’ they could allow the distillery character to shine through different interpretations. The whisky was mixed with cocktail ‘concentrates’ from different casks that reflected the types of barrel used at the distillery. This ran the gauntlet from rich (‘Sherry Oak’- Gonzalez Byass Oloroso, fig liqueur, Rare Tea Company Solera mixed black tea) through spicy (‘Rum Cask’- Havana Club 7yo, port reduction and chipotle chili) to mineralled and clean (‘New Oak’- Cocchi Americano, Jade 1901 Absinthe and peated mint), with the typical white chocolate and pear notes from Glenfiddich shining through each.

Talisker

A clean and bracing serve to reflect the whisky at the core. Talisker 10 was extra- aged in a fino seasoned cask, then mixed with Gancia dry vermouth. The cask was then ‘salt encrusted’ and baked to intensify the flavours and emphasising the maritime edge to the whisky. The salt crust insulated the barrel from the high temperatures and concentrated its contents. This was then mixed with more Talisker and Rare Tea Company Olive Leaf tea which gave a buttery mouthfeel and a saline quality. The drink showcased how even a big, elemental whisky like Talisker can also be drunk as an aperitif.

Nikka

The Nikka serve was termed “Stone’s Throw”. It was a combination of Nikka from the Barrel, plum liqueur, coconut and a stone distillate thrown together to lighten the drink and allow all the flavours to shine through. The plum was used to pick out the fruits from the whisky, and the coconut to do similar, whilst the stone distillate (river pebbles distilled in neutral spirit, mixed with some boiled in sugar) gave a clean, mineral finish. The drink was also served alongside a perfume of lavender, leather and sandalwood. Those walking into the space were taken into a different experience, and for many, along with the Talisker serve, this seemed to steal the show.

Overall, for a show where many are reluctant to see their whiskies mixed, there was a fantastic response. This reflected my view of cocktails- for some, it was a means of introducing them to the whiskies- showcasing them in a different light, and to others, it was a method to showcase a side to a whisky they knew and loved but may not have discovered by trying them neat.

More to come soon- check www.facebook.com/MrLyan and sign up for exclusives.


salt and microwaves

October 21st, 2012

There are several things I try to pass onto those I’m training up on the bar. I think the most paramount one for me is that it doesn’t really matter about the drink; Ultimately, bars (and their drinks as a vehicle) are about people having a good time. You can serve someone a mediocre drink as long as you make them feel great.

That being said, there are several practical techniques I’ve worked with along the way that I’ve tried to pass on. Practicality is a big play for me. Bars should be a pleasure to work, and no-one wants to wait 30minutes for a drink no matter how good it tastes or looks. This is why I’ve implemented a regimented back of house operation within all the cocktail programs I’ve designed.

Two of my favourites amongst this are quite simple, yet quite surprisingly effective.

I was invited down by Ian McLaren to take part in the Bacardi Brown Forman Training Team’s Hub during London Cocktail Week. Ian has been a huge inspiration and fountain of knowledge for me over the years so it was an honour to be asked. On discussing a subject matter, I suggested the humble titular combination.

A brief summary:

Now I’m not a chemist or a physicist although I have some interest in them, and a background in biology helps me with some of the basics, but all of this came from the results my experiments yielded. As means of demonstration, we went with a good old Jason Scott style Pepsi Challenge. The audience was presented with two samples with and without salt, and also some nuked samples to taste and compare.

Salt

Salt is one of the oldest flavour enhancers and preservatives. Much akin to sugar, our tastes (basic- as apposed to flavour) attract us to these as sources of carbohydrates. In the current days of non-scarcity, modern tastes somewhat rebel against this – it’s often seen almost as crude to seek very sweet or salty food – but they still form an effective enhancer.

I first started using salt in cocktails around 2005. My mum was a pastry chef and used salt and flavoured salt (I’ve taken her vanilla salt- a vanilla pod simply infused in Maldon salt- to many countries with a great response) in sweet dishes to ping the flavour. After applying this technique to my drinks I was amazed by how much it lifted the flavours. It was no surprise to me (and I doubt her) when the spate of salted caramel everythings came about.

The key is to use it almost sub-strata though. The idea is not to taste salt, so my recommendation was to make a salt solution and put it in a dasher bottle. This meant it could be used like a bitters in dashes and drops giving a careful and consistent dose. Other ingredients work amazingly in this substrata manner too (the aforementioned vanilla), but salt seems to have a magic touch.

Looking at the old model of the tongue and tastes too, salt is good for balancing bitterness. This means in sour drinks, it takes away some of the bitter notes leaving a better balance between the sharp and the sweet, and with creamy drinks it cuts through lifting the sweetness.

Salt also does interesting things in distillation, but a rotovap and the like aren’t in every bar. If anyone has any questions, drop me a line.

Microwaves

Not everyone’s favourite piece of kit, and one a few in the audience confessed to thinking were evil. Microwaves aren’t great for food (except for tempering chocolate!), but their use in the bar is fantastic.

Microwaves heat??using??non-ionizing radiation (not gamma radiation as I’ve overheard)- between radio and infa-red. The rotating fields spin dipolar molecules- this in turn creates the heating. The benefit of this is that it is quick. As with rotovaps, sous vide… the idea is to have low heat impact to prevent damaging and losing subtle flavours. By exposing this in a short burst, there is little heat impact, and unlike a hob, when the timer stops, so does the heat. This means you can leave them in the bar and go prep something else, without the worry of burning (no Maillard reactions!), heat damage or over cooking.

However, there are flipsides to this low temperature aspect. Fats don’t behave well in the microwave hence why they’re not favourites for food. The triglycerides absorb microwaves and can reach particularly high temperatures. Not good. It can also induce thermal runways (a sort of temperature positive feedback)- which I’m told can lead to interesting consequences such as clear ceramics, and also lava(!). Interestingly though, microwaves in this high temperature vein can also super-heat. In contrast to the idea of low heat impact, the effects of high temperatures can be explored with positive results.

As means of demonstration I made a two-minute ‘vermouth’, zapping an infusion of wine with herbs, sweetening and fortifying agent. Not precise, but a means of demonstration.

Both simple additions to a bartending repertoire, but ones I find greet hesitation- until people actually try them.


Diageo Special Release 2012

October 20th, 2012

Whisky has been my drink love since moving to Scotland some 8 years ago. The sheer range of flavours baffles me and no other category comes close in terms of variety.

There’s also a host of distilleries both closed and operational that create their own snapshots of their surroundings. Trust me, I could wax lyrical about the wonders of the fine spirit for many an hour…

With this in mind I was very excited to taste a preview of the forthcoming special editions from Diageo; The group holds the largest number of Scottish distilleries with many of my favourites amongst the herd. Each year they release a limited batch of gems that lie outside the usual range. This is not because they wouldn’t have wider appeal, it’s simply that there’s usually not much of them available- be it from closed distilleries or from old (and therefore scarce) stock. I’ve not managed to try that many so my reference points for comparison aren’t huge- in fact some distilleries I’ve only tried a clutch of whiskies from despite my best efforts.

So what were they?:

Auchroisk 30 y o (54.7%) – Actually didn’t try this one (oops- distracted by friends and gems) and I’ve only tried two Auchroisks ever. I heard it was a restrained, elegant one though- shame to have missed it.

Brora 35 y o (48.1%) – One that gets the cognoscenti frothing at the mouth, and in my experience, with good reason. This was the most ‘Clynelish-y’ Brora I’ve tried. Huge on wax, luxuriously soft with a surprising absence of bigger peat or farm notes- with flecks of fruit and bitter orange. An absolute wonder nonetheless.

Caol Ila 14 y o (59.3%) – The next instalment of the unpeated editions, and the first to be sherried. I loved the previous editions but this one didn’t work for me- full of green spice, with a background of raisins and a bit out of whack.

Dalwhinnie 25 y o (52.1%) – Usually a light aperitif style whisky. Diageo are great for letting the distillery character shine through, but in this extra aged edition, I found the wood dominated. Red fruits and bubblegum on the nose were overtaken by dry nutty wood.

Lagavulin 12 y o (56.1%) – These have always been excellent in my opinion- from one of my favourite distilleries. Green banana, papaya, toast, char-grilled meat, custard and all in all a lovely younger edition again. Win

Lagavulin 21 y o (52%) – This was probably, with the Talisker, the ones that excited me the most. I adore the 16 so was wondering how it would be extra aged (especially given the reputation of the previous 21yo). However, again, I found the wood dominated. It was dry on gentian, coffee grains albeit with herbs and dried fruit. Bit of shame for me

Port Ellen 32 y o (52.5%) – I’ve only tried at clutch of PEs but they’ve all been great (including a wonderful 10yo at TWE Whisky Show- more to come on that soon). This was no different- a bit closed on the nose, chocolate, lemon malt- then a huge palate full of red fruits, lavender and a bit of brine. Stunning

Talisker 35 y o (54.6%) – As with the Lagavulin, the standard release (in this case 10yo) is one of my favourites and I’ve not tried too many extra aged versions. This certainly didn’t disappoint. Instantly Talisker on the nose with maritime notes, then rich honey and cooked oranges. With water more peat and more seaside. Really stunning- my pick of the bunch.

So wood was definitely a theme for these releases, more so than the standard Diageo profile of the distillery character shining through- but with the majority, my that’s good wood. The Talisker and the Port Ellen would be my purchases if I could. Pricey, but there’s not much else you can buy for this money that delivers flavours like this. I’ve found similar in older whiskies (of vintage not of age) but they draw in ??even bigger sums. If you fancy buying me a bottle, let me know!


Hiatus

October 3rd, 2012

Apologies for the recent lack of posts, a brief technical issue and I’m back.

You may have seen my new position writing about Cocktails and drinks at home over at The Huffington Post (well, if you haven’t here it is:??http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ryan-cheti/artisan-drinks_b_1893654.html), but my on-trade musings will be focussed here.

On Thursday 11th, I’ll be doing a talk with one of my many bar mentors- Mr Ian McLaren and the Bacardi Training Team on ‘Salt and Microwaves’. Unexpected items in the world of bartending, but some of the things I have passed on to my bartenders, and wonderful additions to a repertoire I feel.

 

Before that though, please join me this weekend for the launch of London Cocktail Week for the Whisky Exchange Whisky Show. Lots of wonderful whiskies, and exclusive whisk(e)y cocktails from Mr Lyan

see more at www.facebook.com/MrLyan

or

www.whisky-show.com/

 

 


Savvy Friends

April 29th, 2012

Please join me at??http://www.savvyfriends.com/cocktails where I will be exploring cocktails that you can make in your home.

An incredible and exciting concept I’m very proud and honoured to be part of.