They say that variety is the spice of life. During a recent seminar at the Museum of the American Cocktail, Tad Carducci, a multi-award-winning bartender and founding partner of the beverage consulting firm Tippling Brothers, demonstrated how to use a variety of spices to give new life to some basic cocktails.
While many food enthusiasts are fervent about applying herbs and spices to various foods, Carducci is passionate about using spices to make unique and distinctive cocktails.
The seminar followed the use of spices, herbs and bitters from 2500 B.C. to the present. Carducci discussed the historical importance of spices and herbs as medicine, currency, foodstuffs and flavoring agents for spirits, liqueurs and cocktails.
Carducci mixed five different tipples, varying in flavor from sweet to sour to bitter to fiery hot. The most versatile and striking cocktail of the evening was the Fireside Sour.
Sours are a category of cocktails that consist of a base liquor, lemon (or lime) juice and a sweetener. Carducci’s creation follows this formula by combining Applejack liquor, lemon and tangerine, and a homemade simple sugar and spice syrup. Laird’s Applejack is one of the oldest domestic spirits in the United States, dating back to colonial times.
Carducci tracked the origins of the Fireside Sour back to original concept of punch, which was brought from India to England after colonization. Punch originally consisted of spirits, sugar, lemon, water and spices (often tea), 95 percent of which are grown in India, Carducci noted.
Before mixing the Fireside Sour, Carducci pulled a volunteer from the audience to demonstrate the ease of making the cocktail. The process began with juicing a fresh lemon and muddling tangerine slices for an extra citrus boost. Next, Carducci added his homemade spiced simple syrup and Laird’s Applejack before showing off his cocktail shaking technique.
The “secret” to the Fireside Sour was, without a doubt, Carducci’s spiced syrup, made from a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, ginger cloves and star anise.
The cocktail had several layers of flavor. At first sip, the tangerine provided a fresh and sweet smack, followed by a spiced apple pie flavor from the Applejack and spice syrup and finished off with a clear bite of cinnamon. Its taste resembled a bright and juicy version of mulled cider. While Carducci described it as a wintry drink that combined all his favorite flavors of Christmas, the sunny orange flavor makes this drink ideal for summertime.
2 ounces Laird’s Applejack (7 1/2 yr. preferred)
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 fresh tangerine, halved
1 oz. spice syrup (see recipe below)
Muddle tangerine. Add all remaining ingredients and shake. Double-strain into chilled glass. Garnish with floating tangerine wheel. Dust with cinnamon.
A simple variation on an Applejack Rabbit, this cocktail embodies all the flavors we associate with cold weather and the holidays and that we associate as being very American. They are actually very exotic.
1 quart simple syrup
3 cinnamon sticks
1 nutmeg seed
1 finger ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 whole star anise pods
2 tablespoons allspice berries
2 tablespoons whole cloves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
Laird’s Applejack is available at Dixie Liquor (3429 M St.) in Georgetown. For more information about upcoming events from the Museum of the American Cocktail, visit www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org.