TUESDAY, MAY 20, 2014
I was living out in California in Venice Beach and seemingly overnight a new wave of brightly flavored and textured cooking erupted on the scene. The usually gloppy, overly sweetened and excessively oily pan-Asian style foods were suddenly replaced by crisp, aromatic and intensely spicy flavors that I’d never experienced prior. This occurred around 1980 so the phrase “California Cuisine” had not been invented yet. But Thai food had just arrived on the West Coast and it blew open my palate like nothing ever had prior.
What I enjoy most about Thai food is the depth of the spice, the clarity of the heat and the intense simplicity of the spices and herbs used in the cooking.
One strikingly potent ingredient is called the Kaffir Lime leaf. This leaf, used in Thai and Laotian curry pastes gives foods an sour, astringent and bitter flavor that works perfectly against the sweeter elements of palm sugar and the heat of the spices.
I love Kaffir Lime leaf in my food and my drink. Sometimes I cut a Kaffir Lime leaf in half and drop it into a glass of seltzer water. It’s drinking a trip to Thailand without the expensive plane ticket.
This would stand to reason from my passion for spicy Thai food, that I would enjoy Kaffir Lime leaf in my vodka as well. Not an insipidly sweet chemical plant, processed liqueur, but a richly flavored, lush and intensely elegant vodka that is remarkably restrained and aromatic. Hanger 1 is producing something so unusual that I would say safely that I’ve tasted nothing so mesmeric in my life- other than Thai curry. And I’ve just learned that the Kaffir Lime leaf when sprayed on a bug makes an excellent insecticide. But I don’t recommend rooting out bugs infestations with such rare and lovely vodka.
What I recommend doing with it is mixing with it!
Recently I received a gorgeous bottle of vermouth from Italy by way of a friend in NYC. Carpano Bianco is
the name of the vermouth. If you love the traditionally red Carpano Antica Formula and couldn’t imagine using anything else in a Negroni, please indulge my sense of balance in a cocktail. You should try the new Bianco (white) version. Carpano Bianco is opulent across the tongue, velvety and packed full of aromatic herbs, secret spices and roots. In a tip of the hat to the Negroni cocktail, I would suggest using the Bianco, instead of the deeply red colored Antica for a lighter, change of pace. To describe the opulence of Carpano you must first throw out those bottle of vermouth that are over a few years old. You haven’t been refrigerating them? Shame! Do you store them in a cool cellar? No???
If you have been stashing your vermouth on top of the fridge or in a hot closet- throw your bottles out immediately! Vermouth needs care- not too much care, but it should be treated like Port or Sherry. (Both fortified wines) Eventually vermouth will turn vinegary and will fail to please you- and that’s the rub because most people are still drinking the less expensive brands that start off sour or vinegary, like Martini and Rossi or Cinzano. These are industrial brands with venerable, historic names- that’s about it. So if vermouth has injected a bad taste in your cocktail- it is not necessarily the quality that is bringing your drink down, it’s because your vermouth has soured!
As with all great things in life, the quality of a product is not necessarily dictated by the price, but I do think an artisanal product such as Carpano is not going to come inexpensively. That is a fact of life in a consumer driven society. Where there is high demand and limited supply comes price and Carpano Bianco is not inexpensive. But what you have of it is truly gorgeous and you need to buy a bottle from DrinkupNY and try it with the Hanger 1 Kaffir Lime leaf vodka.
To make this cocktail really sing, I stumbled across a bottle of Bitter Truth Grapefruit bitters. To me, the addition of the unrestrainedly bitter oils of the grapefruit zest encapsulated in the bitters, added to this craft cocktail with both Carpano Bianco and Hanger 1 Kaffir Lime leaf just says the heart of darkness.
Mysterious, beguiling and very sensual is just the beginning of this drink that I call, the Heart of Darkness Swizzle.
(You do have a Swizzle Stick, right?)
The Heart of Darkness Swizzle
Add all ingredients except for your seltzer- to a tall Collins glass with crushed ice
Insert the Swizzle Stick and move it between your palms and with an up and down motion- like a Mixmaster Blender!
Add the seltzer and the bitters with a bit more ice and garnish with the mint…
YUM and simple!
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!
Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.