Total Food Service Interview; I’m honored!

Warren Bobrow, better known as The Cocktail Whisperer, is the published author of four books in addition to his contributions as a writer to liquor.com, our own totalfood.com and countless others. He has also taught at the New School in New York City and at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine. His latest book is Cannabis Cocktails, Mocktails and Tonics that was released this past June through Fair Winds Press. Much more than just a collection of cocktail recipes, Warren’s new book explores the history of cannabis use in drinks, the over-politicized arguments over its legality and other pertinent topics.

Could you expand on your background and how you got to this point?

I am mostly a self-trained chef, I went to Johnson and Wales for a short time as well as the ACF apprenticeship program. I was working in the television business but that was not working. I went to work as a pot scrubber in restaurant and that set me on the path to become a chef. I am now an ACF-certified Chef and I love to cook. It is catharsis for me.

What were you doing before the Cocktail Whisperer blog and brand took off?

I was working as a chef in Charleston when I lost my business to Hurricane Hugo. Then I moved back to my home state in New Jersey and worked as a bank teller and in private bank for a long time. Then I started Cocktail Whisperer.

What inspired you to write this book?

Ever since I was a young man I have enjoyed the use of cannabis. I have seen cannabis cookbooks released and I wanted to raise the bar by taking cannabis and infusing it with the cocktail business that I am in. I love cocktails and I love cannabis. They are two things that I think “play well together in the sandbox”.

Is it difficult to get people past the stigma that cannabis is bad for you  or somehow wrong?

It is really tough, especially where I am. I grew up in Morristown, New Jersey which is a very conservative place. The mindset is not pro-cannabis. It is arrest, incarcerate and throw away the key. And it is unfortunate because there are valid health benefits to this much maligned plant. Drugs are not bad and people should keep an open mind. Especially those who drink or smoke cigarettes.

What was the process of researching for this book?

The research was done outside of the state of New Jersey, where cannabis is still illegal. I am used to experimenting with culinary ingredients and different flavors so I applied that same mentality to the book. Nothing had ever really been written about it before. I was in new territory. I was careful, my advice to anyone would be to experiment in a place where it is legal and just be careful and responsible.

Could you talk about the other elements of the book other than recipes?

I am constantly trying to destigmatize the use of cannabis. I give a robust history in the beginning with science and humor. This book is for anyone interested in cannabis or anyone who is unsure of how to use it. The introduction was written by Jerry Whiting. Him and I found each other quite organically. He is well extremely well-respected in the healing field which gives the text a lot of credibility from that end.

What advice would you offer people buying the book who will be making these cocktails?

Put it in the hands of your “budtender” to give you knowledge and fill your individual need. Remember that making cannabis cocktails is completely different from smoking cannabis. I give the cure to drinking a bit too much of a cannabis cocktail in the book.

Cannabis_Cocktails_Mezzrole
One of Warren’s creations. c/o Fair Winds Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My thoughts are follow the Thai food principle. You can always make something more spicy but you cannot make it less spicy. Start small and build up from there. Remember also that no one has ever died from a cannabis overdose but too much will make you feel awful.

How do you respond to critics who say you’re messing around and that this is your opinion, not fact?

It is fact. I researched this and studied the health and holistic healing benefits, both of which are immense. This book is not a recreational book and was not written as one. It is a way for people to discover new ways to enjoy themselves and to discover some new methods for holistic healing.

Was this an easy book to pitch to your publisher?

Of all the books I have pitched this was the easiest sell. I came up with the idea to write the book at a food show in New York City and when I told my publisher I wanted to write it they asked for a proposal to put in front of the board. The rest is history, they loved the idea since its was going to be the first book of its kind.

How has the response been to the book so far?

Writing this was not an easy thing to do. Many people have purchased the book and love it, however it has brought a certain amount of controversy into my life and anxiety that I did not necessarily want or need. But there is nothing I can do about it, I am just moving forward and surrounding myself with positive people who understand what I am trying to do. Most people love the book and the response has been terrific.

Did you consider that controversy when you were writing the text and did it give you any pause?

I didn’t have any other ideas! It was all I could think of so no, it never crossed my mind. I just saw it as an opportunity to do something unique and interesting.

Diver Scallops With Cava (DrinkupNY)

Diver Scallops with Cava

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail WhispererCooking with the same wines as I drink is one of the hidden secrets of culinary arts.  But what about drinking and cooking with sparkling wines? These fizzy numbers are just marvelous when woven into dishes that call for the very best in the world.  The kind of fresh (never frozen) seafood like those sold at Metropolitan Seafood in Lebanon, New Jersey.  I bet that you’ve never tasted fish like this before and when washed down with a glass of theperfectly crystalline, fizzy wine, well there is magic in each and every sip.  If you are anywhere near this part of New Jersey on any given day, except for Sunday or Monday when the Hunt’s Point Fresh Seafood Market is open, well, it’s time to ice the bubbly!I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to spend a great deal of money on sparkling wine to enjoy a memorable bottle.  Take Spain for instance.  They make boatloads of passable fizzy wines in Spain.  However, very few are of excellent quality like the Cellar Vilafranca “Casteller” Cava Brut NV from Cataloniain Spain.  This lightly fizzy wine just screams out for thin slices of freshly harvested “Diver” Scallops that are seared in a stainless steel sauté panand then the pan is deglazed with a few splashes of the Cava and some shallots are added.  A bit of heavy cream can added be after the Cava reduces in volume. This thickness is added for depth and structure.  An ice-cold pat of butter will bring the flavors together, along with a tiny pinch of exotic saffron for color and character at the finish.

This dish is so gorgeous and opulent, it smacks of the ocean as it coats your tongue.  The charisma and the salinity of the flavors move gently down your throat and into your memories of the greatest meals of your life.  That added burst of the sparkling wine will bring you into the complexities of this dish- just how delicious it really is with wine of this quality.

Of course before I go much further, I must tell you how reasonably priced this wine is.  DrinkUpNY has it for just about fifteen dollars per bottle.  That is amazingly delicious, crisp- aromatic and very refreshing wine tastes as if lime and lemon zests have been injected into each sip.  There is salinity in the glass that gives the impressions of ocean-splashed stones and an added pinch of sea salt in every zippy sip.  Cooking with Cellar Vilafranca “Casteller” Cava is a joy because with the complex and assertive nature of the 40% Macabeo, 40% Parellada and 20% Xarello grapes, this is not your mom’s low-end “plonk” bottle of sparkling liquid that hurts you badly the next morning.

Cellar Vilafranca is really worth the few bucks you spend for something that tastes much more expensive.

Ingredients
Seared fresh, (never frozen) Diver Scallops with Saffron Sauce
1 pound Fresh Diver Scallops, Sliced into somewhat thin slices with a very sharp and narrow fish knife, you may want to put the scallops into the freezer for a few minutes for easier slicing
1-teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon dried Saffron in total  (A few precious Saffron threads per person are all you need)
1 teaspoon very thinly slices of shallot
¼ cup Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons Sweet Butter (I never cook with salted butter, you shouldn’t either)
Pinch of freshly ground Sea Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper
2 oz. Cellar Vilafranca Cava (per plate and definitely more for your glass!)
Stainless Steel (preferably with a copper core) pan

Preparation:
Heat your stainless steel pan to sizzling hot, drop a bit of water in the pan to test temperature, if it jumps around and beads, the pan is hot enough

Dribble the olive oil into the pan and slide the Diver Scallop slices into the sizzling hot oil

Do not touch for 1-2 minutes- and then flip with a stainless steel fish spatula and season with a touch of sea-salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Remove medallions of the Diver Scallops from the pan and keep warm and moist.  You may want to put a hot (clean) cloth that has been lightly spritzed with salted water on them and then into the oven at around 250 degrees.  Don’t cover them?  They’ll be like pencil erasers.  Hard rubber ones!

Add the Cellar Vilafranca Cava wine to the hot pan that you just cooked the scallop slices.  It’s going to sizzle like crazy, so now would be a good time to throw in those shallot slices.  Also add the Saffron threads at this time and sweat a bit in the liquid them to reveal their inner secrets.

Add the Heavy Cream- reduce until it looks “scary” I’m telling you as a cook now, you’ll think it’s reduced enough, but please, do it some more… you’ll know when it takes on a caramelized color, the heavy cream’s sugars cooking with the shallot and the saffron. It’s one of life’s simple pleasures right here.  But it’s not done yet, take a sip of your brilliantly made Spanish Cava and contemplate.  Do I feel lucky with this sauce?  Did it break?  (I hope not)

Add the Ice Cold Butter now and whisk it in small pieces- right into the hot cream sauce… there is a term for this… but I forget what it’s called, montes? Montay? oh well.  I was once a saucier in the restaurant business a few decades ago.  I trained my entire career to learn about soups, stocks and sauces.  They used to sayin New Orleans, your sauce is supposed to coat the back of a spoon.  And I, in my infinite wisdom would say, what kind of spoon?  A soup spoon?  A wooden spoon? What?  Metal?  Silver?  Uh?  No wonder I didn’t become a better cook.  I wanted to know which one.  Any one!

Reduce a bit more and pour the sauce over the warmed Diver Scallop Medallions, you could scatter some scallion threads over the top for a white, red and green motif. If desired of course.. … get some nice crusty bread for dipping that fragrant sauce, redolent with the saline punch of the scallops with the mysterious sweetness of the saffron and the warmth of the heavy cream.  Yum is correct.

Serve on a pre-heated dish and garnish with pinwheels of lemon

Serve with an ice-cold glass of the Cellar Vilafranca Cava, open another one and chill a third, you’re going to need it to wash down this brilliant seafood and stimulate conversation…

I’m REALLY Passionate about ICE. (Foodista)

http://www.foodista.com/blog/2014/11/16/really-great-ice-arctic-chill

Really Great Ice (Arctic Chill)

November 16, 2014
I’m really passionate about ice in my cocktails.  Bring me a drink with 1/4 cube ice and you fail.  Just like that.

A drink should speak clearly of the quality of the ingredients.  Chipped ice that turns to water the moment the liquor or “bottled-possibly concentrated from a powder” mixers hit it.

Cheap ice is a cheap experience.  And at a time when consumers and that includes drinkers want better “Craft” spirits in their glass, why are bars still using crappy ice?  Even at home, do you you have an ice program?

Or are you still using the ice that your freezer pumps out, day in and day out with that satisfying thunk.  This ice from your freezer, is in polite terms, not even worth your water glass.

Have you even noticed that festering container of garlic pasta that your housemate stashed in the fridge.  You might as well be making ice out of it.  Why?  Because until your fridge gets a good vinegar and water cleaning, everything that enters the fridge is going to taste…. AND most importantly smell like that putrified garlic pasta.

So, here’s what I propose.  Clean out the fridge.  Wash it out with white vinegar and water.  Do the freezer too.  I’ll bet you’ll be shocked by what you find in there.  Let it dry off well.

During the day or so that it takes to do a great job on your fridge and freezer, may I suggest placing an order for a most carefully made ice ball maker that I’ve played with in recent memory.

The company name is Arctic Chill Products.  They make a really great ice ball maker that works really well for just about any bar application.

The mold is made of up two sides.  When they close, they make a really tight seal.  There is a little hole in the top.  You will it with liquid through this opening.  Experiment with all different liquids but do not put them in the dishwasher.  They’ll be ruined.  Just listen!

The company says that the mold is airtight on their label.  I couldn’t verify that but I’ll take their word for it.  This mold makes really nice ice in a 2.5 inch round.

I believe that ice is the most important thing in cocktails, at least the drinks that call for it.

Ice can make or break your experience.  And if the ice is clear and hard in the glass, this is a thing of rare beauty.  When you’re pouring expensive spirits doesn’t it just make sense to use the very best products that money can buy?

I think the Arctic Chill Ice Ball Maker is one of the finest products of its kind on the market. I’m very impressed!

If you want crystal clear ice, try using distilled water.  My water is on a well, no matter what I do, it always turns out milky colored.  But no matter, it’s still really nice looking!

 

Yesterday I was doing some further experimentation with a marvelous bourbon by the name of Barrell Bourbon.  In this case the 003 edition.  

If you haven’t heard of it yet, hurry to DrinkUpNY and order some, because they don’t make much- and what they do make disappears REALLY FAST.  So Xmas is coming up and you DON’T have a bottle yet?

Hurry.

 

Please buy my second book, Whiskey Cocktails.  Thank you very kindly!  wb

From Liquor.com and DrinkupNY.com (The Negroni as illustrated)

The Negroni.. As Illustrated…

From Cocktail Whisperer on Dec 31, 2013

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Friday, May 17, 2013

The Negroni

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I love the drink named the Negroni. It’s bright, refreshing and quenches the thirst, unlike many cocktails. It never leaves me feeling drab, nor does it take away my appetite like some other cocktails do when sipped before a meal.

In my upcoming book, Apothecary Cocktails, Restoratives from Yesterday and Today, I discuss the correlation of the digestive tract and healing, by using liquors mixed with fresh herbs. If only the pharmacists from years back had known about the Negroni as a healing curative! Well, in a way they did.

The Negroni was invented back in 1919 in Florence, Italy – purposively built to heal what ails you. Orson Wells famously said in 1947 that, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.” I don’t know about you, but I think gin is good for you. Perhaps Mr. Wells had it altogether incorrect. The entire drink is good for you. Gin, after all, was used during the Middle Ages as a curative for the Black Plague. And Vermouth has long been held as a curative for many internal battles surrounding the digestive glands.

The history of the Negroni involves a base spirit, like gin, plus bitters and vermouth. I enjoy my Negroni Cocktail with the powerfully intoxicating Caorunn Gin from Scotland. Distilled with a healthy smack of the juniper berry and woven into a backdrop of citrus with a hefty punch of alcohol, the Caorunn Gin just tempts me to have another. Combined with the syrupy and complex Carpano Antica Vermouth and the historically correct Campari Bitters from Italy, the Negroni speaks very clearly of getting buzzed with the minimum of effort. I just sipped my Negroni down and absolutely feel no pain. And why would I, with the application of my finger to stir this magnificent cocktail?

My friend Gary Regan stirs his with his finger so why shouldn’t I?

Well the reasons are numerous why you should not stir your cocktail with your finger. Cleanliness has something to do with this. But I suppose if you dipped your finger in your tri-sink filled with disinfectants and cleansers, you’d really have nothing to worry about as long as you were in your own home. I always use a cocktail spoon when working behind the bar so not to upset my customers! The drink shown was mixed with my own finger… far away from any paying customers!

The best Negroni is also the simplest one to make. I do only a couple of things differently:

1. Wash glass out inside and out with cool water.
2. Dry carefully with a soft towel.
3. Pack with ice and water.
4. Carefully measure out your ingredients, pour out the bar ice and water.

I also use a couple large hand-cut cubes of ice from the Williams Sonoma silicone ice cube tray. But most importantly, I filter my water first with ice made from from my Mavea “Inspired Water” filter. With this magical device, my ice nearly freezes crystal clear. A far cry from the ice that comes out of the ice machine in the fridge.

The Negroni Cocktail

Ingredients:
• 1 oz. Campari
• 1 oz. Carpano Antica
• 1 oz. Caorunn Gin
• 2 dashes of The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters

Preparation:

1. Add Campari.
2. Add Sweet Vermouth – I ALWAYS USE Carpano Antica for the second step.

3. Add your choice of Gin. In this case I used Caorunn Gin from Scotland. Caorunn is liberally flecked with citrus fruit woven around the haunting elegance of the moors at night.

4. Add The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters.
5. Add ice.
6. Stir all ingredients together… (And no, you don’t have to use your finger!!!)

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

– See more at: http://drinkwire.liquor.com/post/the-negroni-as-illustrated#sthash.na0iK3hA.HuSc6QGl.dpuf

To Charles Baxter (DrinkupNY)

Monday, August 11, 2014

To Charles Baxter

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

When I contemplate a refreshing cocktail for the hot weather there should be a cooling element that is included.  Sweat is one of those cooling elements that come to mind, that veneer of moisture on your skin and a bit a air blowing over it gives the impression of coolness.  Or so it should be when it’s hot without air conditioning.

I suppose I don’t like to be overly hot.  That’s why the summer months are a drag for me- but don’t despair!  This drink has some spiciness to it, leading to that sweat on your skin and the final element is so refreshing that you’ll want another one, right after the first one.

I’ve always been fond of day drinking and this hand held cooling system works because it doesn’t contain that much alcohol.  That makes for a few drinks before lunch and a few more in the afternoon.  Of course you can bring up the rear by having them all in the evening, but then you wouldn’t understand why this drink is so pleasurable during the daytime hours.  It requires the sun over your toes to understand why.

Byejoe is a relatively new product from China made from Sorghum.  Sorghum accounts for most of the ingredients in the Dragon Fire version, along with tropical fruits and hot chili peppers for a sweat inducing finish.  That’s good for cooling your body from the inside out.  In typical fashion, I’ve concocted a sort of Shandy for the Byejoe and Doc’s Hard Pear Cider.  They just mix well together, especially with an ounce or two of Royal Rose Saffron Syrup.  I like the exotic element of Saffron along with sparkling cider and the potent finish of the Byejoe Dragon Fire- made of Dragon Fruit and hot chilies.

Combined together, shaken hard and served over crushed ice, this is your new go/to for day-drinking.   Of course you’ll need some freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice to bring this drink a fever pitch of amusement as it slides down your gullet.   And if it isn’t too many steps, may I suggest freezing some of the Pear Cider into your ice cube tray?

This adds a concentration that water ice alone can never do alone.  It needs awareness.   Another way to increase this sense of potency is to add Grapefruit Bitters from The Bitter Truth directly into the ice cube trays made with 50% hard pear cider and 50% water.  I’d use about 10 drops for a standard ice cube tray- more or less as desired.  As the ice melts the drink expands in cooling and strength.

The first time I tasted Byejoe with the Dragon Fruit and hot chilies the depth of flavor more than took me.  This is not your typical flavored vodka nor ill-tempered Moonshine.  What Byejoe is escapes reason because you have never tasted anything like it?  Lucky you!  DrinkupNY carries both varieties of Byejoe, the plain- yet highly flavor driven and the Dragon Fire, redolent of exotic spices and fruit.

Now there are no more excuses to not taste this extremely cooling beverage.  While it’s true that Byejoe is strongly flavored, there are reasons why you’ll fall in love with Byejoe.  First of all it’s different than vodka or gin.  There is nothing like it on the market.  Secondly, Byejoe is extremely well made.  Sorghum, as the main ingredient produces a smoothly textured liquor that rolls over your tongue and makes for a perfectly potent beginning or invigorating end to your day.

The Doc’s Pear Cider is the essential foil against the fire of Byejoe.  The pear element is crisp and thirst quenching.  It makes you thirsty for more!   Saffron lends a sweet and sultry element to the cocktail and the cane sugar syrup base melts across your tongue.  The fizz of the pear cider weaves its way into your dreams and the Byejoe makes it a memory you won’t soon forget.   Tangerine is the last element in this cocktail and perhaps the most essential.  There is something indescribable about Fruitations and the deft hand shown in the citrus world.  Tangerine and Saffron along with hot peppers and dragon fruit with a fizzy pear laced finish?

Say it isn’t so?

Are you ordering a bottle yet?  Yes?  The bitters and the cider too, absolutely.

To Charles Baxter
Ingredients:
2 oz. Byejoe Dragon Fire
3 oz. Doc’s Pear Cider
½ oz. Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Saffron
½ oz. Fruitations Tangerine Soda and Cocktail Syrup
Pear/Grapefruit Bitter Truth Bitters ice… freeze 50/50 with about 10 shakes of Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters over the top
Freshly picked spearmint
Lime pinwheel

Preparation:
Fill a large Old Fashioned glass with ice made from Pear Cider and filtered water frozen together 50/50 blend

To a Boston Shaker, fill ¾ with regular bar ice
Add the Dragon Fire and the Pear Cider (yes it’s sparkling, so shake softly)
Add the Saffron syrup and the Tangerine syrup
Cap and shake gently to combine and cool

Pour over the infused ice and garnish with fresh mint and a lime pinwheel.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

 

My second book, Whiskey Cocktails is now in pre-sale!  click for more information!  Thank You!

 

Sæmundur: The Knowledgeable- DrinkupNY

Sæmundur: The Knowledgeable 

TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2014

Sæmundur: The Knowledgeable

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

I was poking around in the liquor cabinet the other day finding some nearly forgotten gems like the American Fruits Sour Cherry Cordial that was lurking in the periphery.  I hadn’t worked with this fabulous, flavor packed product in some time and upon discovering the slender bottle hiding behind some Rhum Agricole– it brought an immediate smile to my face.  I smiled because the tart, sumptuous flavors encapsulated in the bottle would be “just what the doctor ordered” for the combination of sweet to the savory in my glass.

Usually I serve the Sour Cherry Cordial over crushed ice with a mint simple syrup and seltzer but today I’ve discovered something altogether unexpected.  Today is different because of the product named Aquavit.

What is Aquavit?  Aside from the literal translation of Aqua Vit or water of life, Aquavit is distilled from either grain or potatoes and the predominant flavor is that of caraway seeds along with lemon peel, fennel cardamom, cumin, anise and other fruit oils depending on the region and style desired.  Some Aquavit is aged in the barrel but most Aquavit is bottled after blending down to 40% ABV.

It is still a very potent slurp.

I chose Brennivin Icelandic Aquavit because it is from Iceland.  Icelandic water is one of the purest sources of water on the planet.  Martin Miller Gin is also made with this soft, lightly mineral water source.

I think that the spirits that use Icelandic water are absolutely smashing and you should taste them just as soon as you are able.
When you mix this grain and potato based Aquavit with Sour Cherry Cordial everything tastes better around you.  Especially if you are eating foods like pickled herring or smoked salmon, Aquavit is just a natural with the sugar, salt and spicy flavors from the northern part of Europe.

You see, foods from the Scandinavian countries are just perfectly pared with Aquavit and strangely enough with American Sour Cherry Cordial.

This combination of flavors reminds me of a visit to Amsterdam about twenty years ago.  I was just mesmerized by Belgian beer; especially the tart varieties of Cherry infused Lambic Ales.  I’ve grown to crave the warm aromatics of aged cherries in my glass and on the plate.  There is nothing more alluring than a roasted pork loin cooked with sour cherries or a medallion of Brook Trout enrobed in brown butter, hazelnuts and finished with Lambic-soaked cherry flavored Ale.

Mixing Sour Cherries and Aquavit is perhaps the most interesting recipe in my current toolkit of cocktail whisperer inspired recipes.  Aquavit was certainly used as a curative in the early apothecary so it becomes an essential ingredient in the struggle to determine the fine line of good health over intoxication!

I say drink what you like and all will be well.

The American Fruits Sour Cherry Cordial makes for a perfect “Day Drink” because you can decide exactly how mind numbing you want this cocktail to be. If you want to numb your entire body, use more Aquavit.  If you want a perfectly lovely day drink, use more Sour Cherry Cordial and some more mint simple syrup.  Whichever way you choose to make it, I offer the stronger of the two ways for your perusal and hopefully your whole-hearted approval.

Sæmundur: The Knowledgeable
You can make this strong like an Icelandic warrior.
This is the way that I think you should have it.

Ingredients:
2 oz.  Brennivin Icelandic Aquavit
½ oz. American Fruits Sour Cherry Cordial
1 oz. Mint Simple Syrup
1 oz. seltzer water
Lemon Bitters from Bitter Truth
Hand cut ice (essential!)

Prep:
To a Boston Shaker filled ¾ with bar ice, add the Aquavit, the Sour Cherry Cordial and the mint simple syrup

Shake hard for 15 seconds
Pour over the hand cut ice into a tall Collins glass
Add a splash of seltzer water and 2-3 drops of the lemon bitters
Garnish with a sour cherry pierced by a long straw

Mint Simple Syrup:
(Crush 1-cup spearmint and add to 1 cup Demerara Sugar and 1 cup spring water, bring to a simmer in a non reactive saucepan for at least 20 minutes and reduce to desired thickness, strain out the mint with a cheesecloth. Reduce some more for extra good luck in battle)

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.

Heart of Darkness Swizzle

TUESDAY, MAY 20, 2014

The Heart of Darkness Swizzle

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail WhispererI remember vividly the first time that I tasted the unmistakable flavor of Thai food.  It just was electrifying.  The flavors were intensely spicy and they crackled over my tongue in a way that Americanized Chinese food was incapable of doing.

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

Ingredients:
2 oz. Hanger 1 Kaffir Lime leaf Vodka
½ oz. Carpano Bianco Vermouth
2-3 shakes Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters
1 oz. Seltzer Water
Fresh mint

Prep:
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.

Drink up NY

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Martin Miller and his Gin

By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer

Martin Miller recently passed away after a battle with cancer.  He was far too young to be claimed by such a deadly disease.

Martin for all you who don’t know was the founder of the highly individualistic gin company by the same name.  His gin set the stage for many of the micro distilled brands of gin that we see on the market today.

Martin Miller’s gin was: “born of love, obsession and some degree of madness,” according to the website and I tend to agree.  You have to be obsessed to make gin in England.  Most of the London Dry styled gin is flavorless at best, mere whispers against the more assertive “botanical” styles.   I prefer botanical gins like Martin Miller’s because the juniper takes a back seat to the citrus flavors inherent in the final mix.  They also use Icelandic glacial water to do the blending.  According to the website again, “Sparkling bright, pure and unpolluted we draw water from our own spring. This is water like no other, icy cold and alive. It emerges into daylight for the first time in maybe 800 years, rising from the depths of the Basalt Mountains that frame the skyline of this sleepy village.
So, spirit into spirit, for Icelander’s truly believe their water to be a living entity, Martin Miller’s is delicately blended with pure Icelandic spring water creating a marriage of rare softness, clarity of taste and appearance.
It is simply bottled magic.”
The distillate is produced using juniper, coriander, angelica, and Florentine Iris- coupled with the more unusual cassia, cinnamon bark, and anise, are blended with Seville orange peel and lime.  It also uses cucumber as an ingredient, like Hendrick’s and a couple of other brands on the market.   This is a very sophisticated slurp rolling in at just over 90 proof.  I’m a HUGE fan of Martin Miller’s gin in a somewhat twisted Gin and Tonic.  For the tonic component I’m very fond of the tonic syrup from Tom.  Tom Richter is the owner of this company that makes just about the best tonic syrup I’ve ever tasted.  I also add some Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters to the usual tonic syrup and fizzy water.  I’m rather partial to Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water in Pink Grapefruit.  I think it works beautifully against the spicy elements of the tonic syrup and the haunting aromatics of Martin Miller’s Gin.

The Martin Miller’s Gin & Twisted Tonic 

Ingredients:
2 oz. martin miller’s gin
1 oz. Tomr Tonic Syrup
Grapefruit peel
4 oz. Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water (pink grapefruit)
2-3 dashes Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters
Hand cut ice (freeze Tupperware 1 gallon trays with triple boiled distilled water overnight, cut to size for each drink)

Preparation:
Rub the grapefruit peel on the inside of each Collins glass, first burning it slightly against a match to bring out the natural oils

Add the hand cut ice to the glass
Add the tonic syrup and the gin over the top of the syrup
Add the Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
Top with the Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters and serve immediately after stirring with a long colorful straw!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys