As a new year begins, many Washingtonians are still recovering from a holiday hangover. We make resolutions to diet following a season of rich foods. We give ourselves financial restrictions when our December credit card bills arrive, and we vow to cut back on drinking after indulging during too many holiday soirees. But the lucky folks who attended the Museum of the American Cocktail’s (MOTAC) holiday seminar are looking forward to enjoying a stretch of delightful winter cocktails. The event, held at PS7 in Chinatown, featured numerous cocktails guaranteed to warm up the long, cold season ahead. Guests were treated to potables mixed by PS7’s Gina Chersevani, Mr-Booze-com’s Jerry Lenoir and the MOTAC founding member Phil Greene. Derek Brown, of the Columbia Room, which was named by GQ magazine as one of the 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America, started the party with his recipe for glogg, a Scandinavian mulled wine. Mulled wine, popular in Europe, is made from usually red wine infused with spices and fruit flavors and served warm. It is a traditional drink during winter, especially around Christmas. Derek first tried glogg during a December visit to Demark where he was invited to a traditional Danish Christmas lunch. While a midday meal may sound harmless, Derek said these gatherings can turn into marathon drinking events, lasting over 10 hours. “They start out with glogg,” he says, “followed by Aquavit (a traditional Danish liqueur, flavored with caraway), Tuborg beer, then back to Aquavit and so on.” Impressed with the flavorful mulled wine he was served, Derek asked for the recipe from the 96-year-old lady who made the glogg. She declined his request, telling him it was a family secret. But after about seven shots of Aquavit, Derek said she was willing to share the classified information. He extracted the recipe from her with the help of an interpreter. While Derek’s recipe is simple to prepare, it does take time. After completing all the steps he recommends storing the mixture in the refrigerator overnight, before reheating it the next day. The flavors will continue to infuse and it will give the glogg a fuller flavor. In addition to wine and spices, Derek adds aquavit to his glogg to give it a rich spicy flavor. If you prefer, you may also add plain vodka for a less herbaceous version or omit the additional liquor for a drink with a lower alcoholic content. One immediate difference I notice in Derek’s Danish glogg, compared to other mulled wines I’ve tried, is the inclusion of raisins and almonds in the bottom of the glass. These gems provided a delectable finish. “Have a beautiful, warm mulled wine with raisins and almonds that have been soaked in alcohol,” Derek says. “ If you aren’t warm after you have your first glass, you will be by the time you eat the raisins and almonds.” Yule Glogg 1 1/2 bottles of full-bodied red wine (Derek used a nice, inexpensive Tempranillo) 1 cup Aquavit 1 tsp. crushed cardamom seeds 2 tsp. cloves ½ tsp. freshly grated ginger 2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest 4 cinnamon sticks 1 cup almonds – blanched 1 cup seedless raisins 1/2 cup brown sugar Bring wine to boil. Tie spices and zest in to a cheesecloth bag. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add in almonds, sugar and raisins; cook for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add in Aquavit. Stir and remove spices. Serve hot. Ingredients to make glogg may be purchased at Dixie Liquor, located at 3429 M Street in Georgetown. For more information about upcoming events visit: MuseumOfTheAmericanCocktail.org or Better-Drinking.com
Rum and Coke may conjure up memories of college fraternity parties or youthful nights sneaking drinks in your parents’ home. It was probably one of the first mixed drinks you tried, back in the day when Natty Boh and Milwaukee’s Best were your choice of beers. But if you head 90 miles south of Florida, the rum and Coke has a more romantic vibe. On Castro’s island, it’s called the Cuba Libre and includes the addition of lime juice. In Cuba, the rum and Coke can trace its earliest beginnings. While the exact circumstances of its birth are unclear, Wayne Curtis, author of “And a Bottle of Rum,” offers a plausible explanation involving Americans soldiers in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. A group of Americans and Cubans were gathered in a bar where the soldiers mixed rum and Coke and called out “Por Cuba libre!” – “To a free Cuba!” The drink migrated north. During Prohibition, Coke was an easy mixer used to mask the taste of bathtub alcohol, and during World War II, when rum was plentiful and whiskey scarce, its popularity increased further. But it was a popular song that blasted the drink into the apex of pop culture. In 1945 the Andrews Sisters’ song "Rum and Coca Cola” entered the charts, where it remained in the number one spot for 10 weeks. The song, which was based on a Calypso song from Trinidad, sold 7 million copies and made rum and Coke an iconic drink for years to come. Its prevalence endured throughout the generic 50’s into the age of Wonder Bread and canned foods. The drink was simple to mix and required no exotic ingredients. Going back to its origins, a proper Cuba Libre, made with fresh squeezed lime, can be a refreshing elixir, especially in the muggy hot Cuban climate. However, while rum flows freely in Cuba, Coca Cola, thanks to the trade embargo, is not readily available everywhere. When your order a Cuba Libre, most bars will mix it with Fiesta Cola, a soft drink packaged in a red can with a white logo that looks suspiciously similar to Coke’s trademark script. A true Cuba Libre should be mixed with Cuban Rum, which is illegal in the states. Luckily, I found a pleasant alternative during a holiday in Nicaragua. While many Americans associate rum with the Caribbean islands, Flor De Cana rum is as ubiquitous in Nicaragua as Bacardi is now in Puerto Rico. Whether you are sitting at an open-air restaurant along the Pacific in San Juan del Sur, a colonial courtyard in Grenada, or at a reggae club on Corn Island, the liquor of choice across the country is Flor de Cana. Any bartender will mix you a “Nica Libre” with Flor de Cana, fresh lime and Latin Coca-Cola. In Latin America, Coke tastes slightly different than what is produced in the states; it’s made with real sugar instead of corn syrup. But there’s no real need to travel afar. This classic highball can be easily mixed at home. However, if you prefer going out (way, way out), I recommend seeking out Isaiah at the Best View Hotel on Big Corn Island. The Nica Libre 2 oz Flor de Cana rum Juice of ½ lime Coca Cola Lime wedge Add first two ingredients in a tall glass. Fill with ice and coke and stir. Garnish with lime wedge. Ingredients to make the Nica Libre may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown.
The Caribe Hilton is one of the most well established resorts in all of Puerto Rico. The hotel is set on the edge of San Juan on its own peninsula amid a lush tropical garden and private beach. It rose to prominence in the 1950s for its famous guests, including Gloria Swanson, Elizabeth Taylor and John Wayne. It even garnered a mention in Hunter S Thompson’s first novel, “The Rum Diaries.” The holiday spot has also earned its spot in cocktail history as the birthplace of the piña colada. Before my visit to San Juan, I learned from my Frommer’s guidebook that the piña colada was created in 1954 by bartender Ramon "Monchito" Marrero at the Hilton’s Beachcomber bar. Marrero spent three months mixing, tasting and discarding hundreds of combinations until he felt he had the right blend. It's been estimated that some 100 million piña coladas have been sipped around the world since then. The resort boasts two watering holes — a casual outdoor grill with a swim-up bar and the sleek and stylish Oasis Bar, complete with a floor-to-ceiling glass view of the churning Atlantic sea. However, I thought the most fitting way to sample the piña colada would be to have one delivered by a handsome cabana boy on my beach chair at the Hilton’s exclusive lagoon. The drink was frothy and sweet. It provided an ample antidote to the scorching Caribbean sun. For a girl who is accustomed to drinking martinis, the recipe was did not pack much of a punch, but its flavor was enhanced by the glamorous beauty surrounding me. Later in the week, as I wandered through the streets of Old San Juan, I came across the Barrachina restaurant with a plaque mounted outside, boldly stating “The House where the Piña Colada was created in 1963.” Intrigued, I headed inside to a bar in the garden courtyard and ordered one. According to the Barrachina, the piña colada was invented when the Barrachino’s owner met Spaniard Ramon Portas Mingot, who had worked in some of the finest bars in Buenos Aires, during a trip to South America. Mr. Barrachina hired Mingot as head bartender. While experimenting, Mingot mixed pineapple juice, coconut cream, condensed milk and ice in a blender, creating the drink known as the pina colada. I guess they’re always two sides to history. The drink at Barrachina was thicker and creamier. The lovely courtyard lined with tropical plants and wrought iron exuded a graceful ambiance that fit in with the charm of Old San Juan. Barrachina’s cocktail had more of a rum kick and the price was bit easier on my wallet. Given a choice between the two, I preferred Barrachina’s version. Still, there’s something to be said for having your cocktails delivered by a suave young man on a private beach. The Barrachina piña colada 48 ounces pineapple juice 15 ounces of coconut cream 10 ounces water Blend ingredients, but do not mix with ice. Instead, freeze the mix, stirring occasionally until it reaches a slushy consistency, or by using an ice cream maker. Pour rum to taste in individual glasses and add frozen mix. Decorate with cherry and pineapple. Ingredients to make a piña colada can be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown.
The steak and martini is a classic food and cocktail pairing. It’s something your grandfather would have ordered at an old boy’s club steakhouse, and it’s something you would feel comfortable ordering today with a cut of Japanese wagyu beef. So it was no surprise that the martini and its various incarnations were highlighted during a recent mixology seminar at Georgetown’s Bourbon Steak restaurant. Bourbon Steak’s bartender Duane Sylvestre taught the class, in which guests received a primer on basic bar techniques, an overview of various spirits and the history behind many cocktails. The martini, according to Sylvestre, is one of the most misunderstood cocktails. The classic martini consists of gin and dry vermouth, stirred and served with either olives or a lemon twist. But over the years, the drink has transformed into different things. The vodka martini, in particular, has evolved from its original form. While a traditional vodka martini should be made with vermouth, Sylvestre says that most vodka drinkers prefer theirs without. However, many people mistakenly order an extra dry vodka martini, believing that the term means “no vermouth,” when it actually means the opposite. A “dry” martini refers to the addition of dry vermouth. This term came into play years ago as a way to distinguish the martini from its forerunner, the Martinez, which was a gin and sweet vermouth mixture. Therefore, the term “dry” came to mean dry vermouth and extra dry came to signify extra vermouth. Even though James Bond has dictated the martinis should be shaken, not stirred, Sylvestre is a stickler for stirring. His rule is that any cocktails containing only alcoholic ingredients, such as gin and vermouth, should always be stirred, while drinks that include non-alcoholic mixers should be shaken. However, he makes an exception with vodka martinis. “Most vodka drinkers want their vodka cold and served straight up,” he says so he lets the market dictate how the drink is prepared. After making a vodka martini for the crowd, Duane mixed a classic gin martini with a twist using Plymouth gin, which he calls a mild and agreeable gin. “It’s going to add complexity, depth and character,” he said, “without the gin taking over the cocktail.” The choice of garnish — either an olive or lemon twist — is a simple matter of taste, unless you are ordering a dirty martini, which includes olive juice. Duane taught the class how to make a lemon garnish by using a vegetable peeler. After cutting the peel from the fruit, he stretched the skin around the rim of the glass in order to extract the citrus oils before dropping it into the martini. When I got a chance to sample the finished tipple I could see the citrus oils floating in the drink. The added hint of lemon provided a refreshing twang combined with the gin and vermouth. The timeless classic was an ideal balance of bitter, citrus, dry and sweet. Gin Martini 2 ounces Plymouth gin 1 ounce dry vermouth Stir well. Serve in a martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel or olives. Readers may sample the martini at Bourbon Steak restaurant, located in the Four Seasons Hotel at 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. Ingredients to make the martini may be purchased at Dixie Liquor, 3429 M St.
The Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC), along with Mr-Booze.com and Giramondo Wines Adventures, recently sponsored a “Cocktail Class for Beginners” at the Embassy Hilton in Washington. The event, hosted by MOTAC founding member Phil Greene, started off with a lecture about the history of cocktails. According to MOTAC, the word cocktail was first defined in 1806 in the Balance and Columbian Repository, a newspaper in upstate New York. The word cocktail was used in reference to an article about a recent election. At that time, politicians on the campaign trail would spend lots of money on alcohol, essentially buying votes by having a really good party. The newspaper published a tongue-in-cheek article about how much a particular candidate spent, even though he lost. This was the first recorded use of the word “cocktail,” and after this article was published, the editor felt compelled to define the word as “A stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters, it is vulgarly called a bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion inasmuch as it renders the heart stout at the same time fuddles the head. It is said also to be of great use to a democratic candidate because a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else.” For decades later, a cocktail was just that — a spirit and bitters diluted with water and sugar to take the edge off. This simple recipe may sound familiar to anyone who has enjoyed the cocktail known as the Old Fashioned. Originally, the name “Old Fashioned” referred to any old–fashioned style cocktail such as a martini or Manhattan. Some people believe that Colonel James E. Pepper, a bourbon distiller and bartender at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, KY, created the Old Fashioned cocktail. What is more likely, according to Greene, was that the term “Old Fashioned” was applied to the drink known as a “Whiskey Cocktail.” Next, Greene demonstrated the ease of making this primitive cocktail, which follows the same definition published in 1806 — liquor, sugar, water and Angostura bitters. While Phil used a muddler to ensure the sugar was fully dissolved, he also suggested substituting simple syrup. For an added flavor boost, Phil squeezed a lemon peel over the mixed drink, releasing its essential oils, before dropping it in as a garnish. He also noted that nowadays bartenders will sometimes muddle an orange slice or other fruit into the mixture. While many modern drinkers may see this potable as downright “old-fashioned,” perhaps this granddaddy of cocktails deserves a second look. Its rudimentary formula has served as a building block for numerous contemporary drinks. The Old Fashioned’s straightforward composition and uncomplicated taste make it a refreshing alternative to many of the overly sweet and convoluted concoctions we see on so many restaurant menus today. --- The Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail 1 sugar cube (1 teaspoon) 1 teaspoon water 2 dashes Angostura bitters 2 ounces rye (or bourbon) whiskey Muddle sugar, water and bitters together until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Fill glass with ice, then add whiskey. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel. For more information about upcoming seminars go to www.museumoftheamericancocktail.com or www.mr-booze.com. Ingredients to make the Old Fashioned cocktail may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.
What would you think if a man named Mr. Booze lived next door to you? Would you be concerned or curious? Or delighted, like the residents of Jerry Lenoir’s neighborhood? Jerry, along with his business partner Bill Flannery, is the man behind the super fun and retro-hip Mr-Booze Web site. Jerry’s home has turned into the local gathering spot. “I love making cocktails and entertaining guests” he gleamed, “I know all my neighbors .” The Mr-Booze Web site is a pleasant trip back in time when home bars were the norm and fashionable people enjoyed classic cocktails as soothing lounge music floated in the background. It pays tribute a time when martinis were martinis and drinks had names like the Old Fashioned and Singapore Sling. Jerry has become quite an expert on entertaining over the years. “I fell in love with home bars when he was 8-years-old, watching “Bewitched.” Darren would come home and Samantha would make an ice-cold pitcher of martinis.” His passion for cocktails continued throughout adulthood. “ In college while everyone else was drinking Natty Boh I was whipping up gin martinis,“ he recollected. “I found an apple crate and created a bar. Girls would come over. It was neat.” The trend continued until he and his wife bought their current home. “I was getting depressed looking at houses, until I walked into the basement of one home and saw the built-in bar. I knew this was our house!” Mr-Booze.com, along with the Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC), recently hosted a seminar at the Occidental Grill on how to set up a home bar. While Phil Greene, a founding member of MOTAC, covered the basics such as proper barware, liquors and mixers, Jerry focused how to make your personal watering hole into an enjoyable place to relax and socialize. “Your home bar should be an oasis for you,” Jerry says, “a place where time stands still.” The Mr-Booze Web site is dedicated to teaching people how to create that classic cocktail vibe through décor, music, and lighting. It features information about where to find bar accessories. Jerry recommends scouring eBay, antique shops, thrift stores and estate sales for items. His basement refuge is brimming with kitschy decorations, stemware, celebrity photos, cocktail menus and books. “Good cocktails lead to good conversation, Jerry says, “and good talk can often erupt from the bric-a-brac, souvenirs and what-nots that you have around your set-up.” And because a drink enjoyed with a beautiful tune simply tastes better, Jerry’s Web site features reviews and recommendations for stimulating cocktail melodies. Most obviously, Mr-Booze.com is overflowing recipes, from cocktail classics to updates on old favorites. During the seminar, Jerry fixed one of his favorite tipples, the Stone Fence — a fruity mixture of apple brandy, cider and angostura bitters. Jerry discovered the drink in a 1912 recipe book and says it’s spiced apple flavor makes it a perfect elixir an for upcoming fall day. Mix one for yourself or make a large batch and invite your neighbors. The Stone Fence 3 oz Lairds Applejack 3-4 dashes Angostura bitters Apple Cider Fill tall glass or mug with ice, add Applejack and bitters and stir. Fill glass with cider. Dust with nutmeg and serve with a swizzle stick. For more information visit www.mr-booze.com or www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org. Ingredients to make the Stone Fence may be purchased at Dixie Liquor (3429 M St.) in Georgetown.
Root beer conjures up pleasant childhood memories for most people. Whether it’s thoughts of a simpler time and a tall frothy mug at a soda fountain café or a creamy root beer float on a hot summer day, many of these remembrances take us back to our younger days. While liquor companies have tried to corner the adult market for root beer with sugary schnapps and cloying sweet vodkas, it wasn’t until recently that a truly mature twist on this youthful treat was available. The same company who revolutionized the gin world with their multi-layered botanical rich Hendrick’s gin has created Root liqueur, which is based on the historical recipe for root beer. According to Root’s website, ArtInTheAge.com, root beer can trace its origins back to the 1700’s. Back then it was called root tea, a folk recipe made with birch bark, wintergreen and other wild roots and herbs. The recipe was passed from the Native Americans to the colonial settlers. As the years went on, it grew in potency and complexity especially in Pennsylvania where the ingredients grew naturally in abundance. Root beer did not become commercially successful until it was discovered by Charles Hires, a Philadelphia pharmacist, who tried root tea while on his honeymoon in New Jersey in 1875. Hires worked in his laboratory to improve the flavor and remove the alcohol, and then reduced it to a powdery concentrate that could be mixed in drug stores. He began serving his beverage cold, instead of hot. Have you ever wondered have why root beer is called “beer?” According to Art in the Age, Hires called his beverage root “beer” so that hard working Pennsylvania coal miners and steel workers would enjoy the beverage in place of an alcoholic one. Hires’ root beer made its debut at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876, where it was touted as “the greatest health-giving beverage in the world.” Sales took off. By the 1890’s Hires began selling the concoction in pre-mixed bottles.
Saint Mark’s Square, The Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge are must-see sights for visitors to Venice, Italy. Another top attraction for foodies, literary types and cocktail lovers is Harry’s Bar. Many know the famed watering hole as a hangout for celebrities including Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen. Harry’s made also its mark in the culinary word when they invented carpaccio, a dish of thinly sliced raw beef. But Harry’s most enduring gastronomical contribution may be the Bellini, a bubbly cocktail fashioned from white peach puree and Prosecco, a dry Italian sparkling wine. According to their website, HarrysBarVenezia.com, the landmark bar was opened in 1931 by Giuseppe Cipriani, a bartender at Venice’s Hotel Europa, after he received financial assistance from a rich, young American named Harry Pickering. Cipriani named his famous tipple after Giovanni Bellini, the fifteenth century Venetian artist, because the color of the drink resembled the pink glow in one of Bellini’s paintings. Arrigo Cipriani, Guiseppe’s son, discusses his father’s innovation in his book "Harry's Bar: The Life and Times of the Legendary Venice Landmark." “Peaches are in abundance throughout Italy from June through September, and my father had a predilection for the white ones. He experimented by puréeing small white peaches and adding Prosecco,” he writes. “Those who tested this new concoction gave it rave reviews.” Since then, this evanescent sipper has become an elegant brunch staple across the globe. The general rule for mixing a Bellini is to use one part peach puree to three parts Prosecco. While it’s best to use fresh white peaches, commercially prepared brands are acceptable. If you are making your own puree, Harry’s website advises not to use a food processor because it aerates the fruit. They recommend shredding the peaches with a cheese grater and using a strainer to collect the maximum amount of juice. If the peach mixture is too sour, add a splash of simple syrup or sugar. Harry’s is perched on the water, a quick stroll from St Mark’s. When my mother and I made our cocktail pilgrimage there, we arrived in the evening as a golden light streamed though the decorative windows. The crowded bar was small and decorated in wood and butterscotch hues. While there was a certain austerity about the place, it was teeming full of tourists, guidebooks in hand. The room was filled and mom and I seemed to get lost among the other patrons. When we finally received our Bellinis, they were served in simple juice glasses, not the fancy flutes that usually hold champagne cocktails. The elixir was light with a refreshing simplicity. Its balance of dry and sweet made for a lovely aperitif. While I enjoyed sampling the original, it didn’t taste any more special than the Bellinis, I have enjoyed at Paparazzi or Brasserie Beck back home in D.C. However when the bill arrived, I realized the high price for my sip of history. Each Bellini cost 18 Euro or about $52 for two after the conversion. While I wasn’t expecting “happy hour” pricing in notoriously expensive Venice, mom and I decided to put our next $50 toward a nice bottle of wine and dinner at less famous, less crowded and quiet restaurant. The Bellini 1.5 oz White Peach Puree 4.5 oz Prosecco Add puree to glass. Slowly add Prosecco, gently blending with long spoon. Dixie Liquor, 3429 M Street NW sells a variety of Proseccos.
A perfectly crafted cocktail can be considered a work of art. But what about a tipple inspired by a work of art? At Café Atlántico, already known as one of the premier spots in Washington for handmade cocktails, the “The Daisy If You Do” was sparked by Frederic Remington’s sculpture ”Off the Range (Coming Through the Rye).” The drink, conceived by lead bartender Owen Thomson, was created for an annual competition held at the Corcoran gallery. The city-wide cocktail competition, poetically named Artini, called on area mixologists to invent a potable inspired by a piece in the Corcoran’s collection. Thomason was assigned Remington’s sculpture. The piece is an animated representation of the Old West, consisting of four rowdy cowboys shooting off their guns while rollicking their way on horseback. The sculpture invokes the rugged, bronco-busting spirit of adventure and wrangler masculinity. Thomson’s coordinating cocktail does not disappoint. The ingredient list is one of carefully calculated vision – leather-infused tequila, 16-year-old single malt Scotch, lemon, and St. Germain elderflower liqueur flavored with toasted rye. When Thomson first examined the sculpture, he immediately thought of crafting a drink with either leather or gunpowder. He decided leather would be a fun flavor to work with because it is often used a descriptive term for tasting wines or liquors. However the difficult part, it turned out, was not finding a way to infuse the leather flavor into liquor but finding the actual leather. According to Thomson, most commercial methods of tanning are chemically based, but originally, leather was made using vegetable oils. Thomson had to track down a saddle-maker in Tennessee who still tans hides using this traditional method. Once he acquired the food-safe leather he steeped it in tequila overnight to impart a smoldering woody flavor that combines beautifully with the smoky agave. The drink is formulated after the classic daisy cocktail - which is essentially a basic sour (liquor, citrus and sweeter,) topped with soda water. The “Daisy If You Do” moniker is borrowed from a line from the legendary gunslinger Doc Holliday. For the citrus portion of the drink Thomson uses fresh lemon juice, and for the sweetener, St Germaine elderflower liquor. In order to match Remington’s sculpture title of “Coming through the Rye,” Thomson, toasts rye berries then soaks them in the liqueur for three days. While St Germain normally has a cloying honeysuckle flavor the rye infusion tempers the liqueur with toasty orange-like nuance. Thomson finishes his work with a dash of Lagavulin 16-year Scotch which yields rich peaty finish. While the name Daisy sounds delicate, this is definitely a drink worthy of a beefy cowboy. Thomson’s piece boasts a multi-layered, slightly sweet, yet deep smoky flavor without becoming heavy. It has the substance to stand up to a Texas-size steak, but light enough to be refreshing in the summer heat. Daisy If You Do 1 1/2 oz Leather infused tequila 3/4 oz. St Germain infused with toasted rye ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice Dash of Lagavulin 16-year-old Scotch Soda water. Combine first four ingredients in a tall glass, top with soda water, and garnish with a lemon twist. Readers may try the Daisy If You Do at Café Atlantic located at 405 8th Street NW Washington DC. Tequila, St Germaine and Lagavulin Scotch may be purchased at Dixie Liquor in Georgetown.
While most drinkers are familiar with beer, wine and spirits, sake, a rice-based alcoholic beverage of Japanese origin, has an aura of mystery about it. Pronounced Sah-KAY, many view it as an exotic and foreign elixir. Known as “The Drink of the Gods,” sake is the national spirit of Japan and has been consumed for over 4,000 years. Sake is often referred to as rice wine. However, it is made through a brewing process similar to the way beer is made. Many people are first exposed to sake in a sushi bar or Japanese restaurant, and never try it elsewhere. The most common sake served is Futsu-Shu, which would be equivalent of table wine. But like wine, sake comes in a variety of premium categories. These types are distinguished by the degree to which the rice has been polished and the added percentage of brewer's alcohol or the absence of such additives. More and more of these sake styles are breaking into the US market. According to Imbibe magazine in 2007, for the first time ever the dollar figure for sales of premium sake in the US exceeded that of generic Futsu-Shu. As the popularity of sake increases, it has begun to appear on cocktail menus as bartenders and mixologist discover its versatility. Market Watch magazine reports in April 2011 that bartenders are combining sake with distilled spirits in cocktails as a way of enhancing their flavor profiles. Todd Richman, corporate mixologist for Sidney Frank Importing Co., which markets the Gekkeikan portfolio, sees sake cocktails as an emerging category. “It has a lot of finesse,” he says. Richman believes that sakes fit well with the handcrafted cocktail movement, which touts fresh-squeezed juices and house-made ingredients. A spattering of Washington restaurants serve sake cocktails. A popular item at Zentan is the Spicy Thai Martini made with Nigori unfiltered sake, chili infused Russian Standard vodka, St. Germaine and a splash of cranberry. At Poste Brasserie, the Plum Blossom is a cherry-infused sake cocktail finished with plum soda. Another popular trend is using sake in place of the base spirit in familiar cocktails. For example, in a Saketini, the classic martini is given a new twist when sake is substituted for vermouth and mixed with gin. A sake screwdriver and Zipang mimosa combine sake and sparkling sake respectively with orange juice. These reinvented cocktails are popping up on menus not just at Asians spots, but steakhouses, tapas bars and conventional restaurants as well. According to Market Watch, Ruby Tuesday is one of Gekkeikan’s largest customers due the chain’s use of Gekkeikan sake in their sangrias. One of my favorite sake libations is an updated version of the Sex and the City favorite, the Cosmopolitan. The Sake Cosmo replaces limejuice with sake. I like the way the acidity of sake blends with the tart flavor of cranberry. The orange sweetness is highlighted with a touch of earthiness. It’s just enough difference to give this fading favorite a breath of new life. Sake Cosmo 1 oz Vodka 1 oz sake 1 oz orange liqueur 1 oz cranberry Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Pour into a martini glass. Different styles of sake may be purchased at Dixie Liquor (3429 M Street in Georgetown)