THE COUNTRY COCKTAILIAN
The Country Cocktailian tries an Italian Margarita and Stephen Beaumont share some beer-tails.
By the time you read this, the 2004 series of
Cocktails in the Country will have started, but as I write, I’m just getting ready for the first class of the year. One of my jobs is to experiment with some of the products that are new to the program, and Pete and Sal Buttiglierri, the brothers who own Painters Tavern, the bar/restaurant/inn that hosts our classes, are kind enough to stock up on them in advance so that I can experiment with them, and get prepared for the classes.
Pernod and Ricard, both bottlings of anise-flavored pastis from France, are two of the latest sponsors to join the program, and other spirits new to Cocktails in the Country in 2004 are Cointreau, Galliano, Busnel Calvados, Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac, and Villa Massa Limoncello. Yesterday I popped over to Painters to play with Cointreau and Villa
Massa Limoncello, and I must admit that I had a preconceived notion in my head. I told Peter of my mission to make a Villa Massa Margarita. He just nodded and smiled. “Good luck,” he said, and he disappeared into the dining room, leaving me alone with my bottles in the Gallery bar.
I had problems with classic Margaritas for years – I just couldn’t seem to get the balance right. It wasn’t until about a decade ago when two friends gave me their formula that I finally saw the light. Anne and Larry Walker, authors of “Tequila: The Book,” told me, “It’s as easy as three, two, one, Gary. Three parts tequila, two parts Cointreau, and one part fresh lime juice.” I tried it. I was in heaven.
So, although I’m very comfortable with Cointreau – I also use it in my Sidecars, Cosmopolitans, and any other drink that call for triple sec – limoncello is a drink I usually sip straight from the freezer, neat, after dinner. Could I simply substitute limoncello for the Cointreau? I was about to find out.
To give myself a base to aim for, I first made a classic Margarita with Herradura Silver Tequila, Cointreau, and fresh lime juice. (At Painters, Pete makes them to the same recipe, but adds simple syrup to the drink if his customers have a sweet tooth.) Then, using fresh lemon juice instead of lime juice, I made a drink using three parts tequila, two parts Villa Massa Limoncello, and one part citrus juice. It wasn’t sweet enough. The fact is that most commercially produced limoncellos are overly sweet, but that isn’t the case with the Villa Massa bottling – it’s wonderfully tart, and tastes like it was homemade in an Italian kitchen.
I increased the limoncello a tad, and tried again. It still didn’t work. Neither did my third attempt or
my fourth. I was beginning to give up on this project. Perhaps it wouldn’t work after all. I’d gone through quite a lot of Painters’ stock by this time, too. Perhaps it was time to take a break.
I sat at the main bar at Painters, ordered a plate of pasta along with a Sam Smith’s Pale Ale to wash it down, and started to tell Peter that the Massa Margarita might not work after all. But Peter just shook his head and told me I should keep trying, so after lunch I went back to tackle the drink again.
In sheer desperation I made a cocktail using equal amounts of tequila and limoncello, with just a splash of fresh lemon juice. I shook the thing vigorously, determined to chill it down well, incorporating enough water from the ice to make it easy to drink. I strained it into a chilled champagne flute. It was perfect. Peter walked into the gallery bar to ask how it was going.
“I think I’ve got it,” I told him. “Here, try this.”
Peter took a sip from my glass and nodded. “That’s it,” he said. “I think you’ve figured it out.” He handed me a small piece of paper, and asked if the recipe I’d used was anything like the one he’d written down for me. Sure enough–it was the exact formula I’d ended up with.
“How the heck did you do this?” I asked him.
“You think someone with a name like Buttiglierri doesn’t know how to use limoncello?”
Peter grinned and left the bar. The Massa Margarita left with him.
Apply to attend Cocktails in the Country by visiting www.ardentspirits.com, and clicking on “Classes and Events.” Mention Cheers magazine in your application and receive a free signed copy of Gary Regan’s latest book, The Joy of Mixology, if you’re accepted into the program.
An Intensive Two-Day Course on the Craft of the Cocktailian Bartender
Recommended for newcomers to the craft, and seasoned professionals alike Scholarships Available
Successful applicants who mention Cheers magazine in their application will receive a signed copy of The Joy of Mixology when they attend the course
1 1/2 ounces Herradura Silver Tequila
1 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add all of the ingredients. Shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled, salt-rimmed (optional) cocktail glass.
1 1/2 ounces Herradura Silver Tequila
1 1/2 ounces Villa Massa Limoncello
1/4 – 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add all of the ingredients. Shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Chain, Chain, Chain
Does your company offer the best beer program in the U.S.? Are your cocktail sales driving your business? Is your wine program your pride and joy? Do your customers rave about your non-alcohol offerings? Then it’s time to start planning your submission for the 2004 Cheers Awards for Beverage Excellence, which will be presented at the Cheers Beverage Conference next February at the Hyatt Regency Irvine, Irvine, CA.
There’s nationwide competition in eight categories open only to chains. Categories are Best Chain Beer Program, Best Chain Wine Program, Best Chain Spirit Program, Best Chain Non-Alcohol Program, Best Chain Overall Beverage Program, Best Beverage Menu, Best Beverage Merchandising Program and Best Signature Drink.
Operations may enter in multiple categories but may only win in one category (excluding overall program) in any given year. There is NO entry fee, and all entries will be judged by a distinguished panel of experts in the beverage, bar and restaurant business. See the entry form elsewhere in this issue.
CREATING A BLEND
BEER DRINKERS CAN HAVE A MIXED DRINK CHOICE
BY STEPHEN BEAUMONT
I forget the exact name of the Parisian beer bar I was sitting in when I first noticed the new beer from the Brasserie Duyck, the northern French brewery best known for their Jenlain biére de garde, but the ale itself certainly caught my attention. Packaged in a slick, silver and green aluminium bottle and emblazoned with a catchy logo, it advertised itself as a blonde ale flavoured with absinthe. I decided to give it a try.
Despite its obvious positioning as a competitor in the alcopop/club kid market, J Absinthe is a worthy brew, one which beer snobs ignore to their own detriment. True, it’s not built on a backbone of the most characterful blonde ale around, but I felt the addition of the absinthe gave it a very pleasing aniseed flavor that blended well with the sweet maltiness of the base brew. All in all, I’d have to declare it a fairly successful packaging of a beer cocktail.
Of course, perhaps I’m also suffering from a bit of bias in this regard, since beer cocktails have been very much on my mind of late. That’s because one of the jobs I’ve assigned myself at beerbistro, the downtown Toronto beer cuisine restaurant and bar in which I’m a partner, is the creation of the beer cocktail list, which made its debut with the second printing of the beer menu and is being elaborated upon in the current third edition.
The first time out, we featured a mix of basic beer blends like the Coffee and a Smoke, which was a mix of two porters, one flavored with coffee beans and the other brewed with a portion of peat-smoked malt, and beer and spirits combos, like the Drill Sergeant, which topped up a 300 ml glass of hoppy Sergeant Major IPA with an ounce of Cuban amber rum. The most ambitious cocktail, and one of the most popular, was the Bourbon Black & Tan, a 300 ml blend of oatmeal stout and brown ale fortified with a shot of Maker’s Mark Bourbon.
For the summer, we have gone alternately lighter and more intense. For the patio, we have pitchers of Beer Sangria, which is made with a full bottle of Canadian brewer Unibroue’s spiced cherry ale, Quelque Chose, and a shot each of two secret spirits, topped with fresh fruit and soda, while for late night we’re offering the profound flavours of Any Port in a Storm, which blends a full bottle of Victory Brewing’s Storm King Imperial Stout with two ounces of late vintage port. (And thanks to the denizens of the Burgundian Babble Belt at www.babblebelt.com for the inspiration to create the latter drink.)
If all of this sounds completely foreign to you, then chances are that you haven’t been in a beer bar in France for some time. For the French, such cocktails are second nature, although admittedly they don’t tend to get quite so elaborate in their preparations. Still, walk into any bar or brasserie with a decent beer list and chances are very good that you’ll find a separate listing of beer cocktails.
It’s pretty obvious at this point that I’m a big believer in the art of the beer cocktail, but only so long as the integrity of the component beer or beers is kept in mind when the blend is created. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the brewer’s art and would never dream of belittling the flavor and character of a great beer. But if a wonderful cheese can be equally enjoyed on its own or as a component of a marvellous gastronomic creation, then I can see no reason why the same should not be true of a spiced ale or IPA, whether in the kitchen or at the bar.
If you’re still skeptical, then I suggest you find yourself a rich, roasty imperial stout and blend it with a couple of ounces of good port to make your own Any Port in a Storm. Trust me when I say that it’s the kind of cocktail that will make a believer out of almost anyone.