Sometimes when the rain is coming down and the temperatures outside can't find their way out of the fifties, only certain cocktails seem appealing. Here in Seattle, that kind of weather is an inevitable part of spring. It's funny how the weather can so affect one's cravings. When the sun is shining, even if it is still only in the fifties, give me a bright sour, or something with grapefruit juice and color, or muddled basil. But with the rain and wind, I crave the warmth that only a nice boozy tipple with lots of backbone and flavor can provide. This is a job for whiskey. On such a Saturday, I was searching my favorite cocktail blogs looking for inspiration and came across this drink, the DuBoudreau, on Jamie Boudreau's blog. The drink was origianlly created by Jim Meehan of PDT in NYC. I had the Toronto Cocktail in the back of my head, and I am not completely sure why I didn't just make that delightful drink.  In any case, this drink spoke to me and I guess I just had a hankering for Fernet Branca. Alas, I have no regrets.

DuBoudreau Cocktail

2 ounces rye (Rittenhouse bonded)
3/4 ounce Dubonnet
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
1/4 ounce St. Germain

Stir ingredients in an ice-filled glass.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a lemon twist

The nose is dominated by the distinct, sharp herbal aroma of the Fernet. The lemon oils are present as well, but they seem to be acting as a sidekick. The drink opened with the distinct taste of rye mingling with the lemon oils on the surface. The Dubonnet and St. Germain mellow out the more robust flavors and add a touch of sweetness and a bright herbal complexity to the drink. The finish is long and pleasant with the combination of the spiciness of the rye and the mint and menthol flavors of the Fernet. This drink is complex, balanced, and very drinkable, which is a feat considering the powerful elements at play. The Fernet is tempered, the rye is mellowed, and the St. Germain's sweetness is kept in check. The result is a minty, refreshing drink that is reminiscent of a Toronto or a Manhattan but still very much an individual creation that can stand on its own.


Rhubarb Season: The Syrup

Every year Tracy and I eagerly await the sight of rhubarb at the farmer's market to herald in the spring. Those bright red stalks with their slightly webbed tops have become a beacon for the coming bounty of artichokes and asparagus to be followed, finally, by summer. Warmer temperatures and that trick of light that some call sunshine are surely on their way, though off somewhere in the distance. We both love rhubarb. Rhubarb crisp, rhubarb sorbet, rhubarb pickles, all things rhubarb are celebrated in our kitchen. This year, I am going to get in on the action, and as a generous coworker recently brought us an obscene amount of chopped rhubarb, three projects are in order. Phase one is rhubarb syrup. Making rhubarb syrup is actually much easier than some of the other syrups I have made. In fact, if someone has already broken down the rhubarb stalks into bite-size chunks, it is scandalously easy.

What you need:

• 1 3/4 cups chopped rhubarb* (1/2-inch chunks)
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 5 ounces water
• pinch of salt
• 1/2 ounce 80 proof vodka (optional)


Add rhubarb, water and sugar to a pan. Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 or 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, let cool (still covered). Strain through a fine sieve, using a spoon to extract as much of the liquid from the pulp as possible. Pour into a sealable bottle. Optional: add 1/2 oz vodka to stabilize the mixture for longer storage. Keep refrigerated.

(recipe adapted from cocktailvirgin's blog)
*Note: I like my rhubarb syrup to retain some of its characteristic tartness. If you like it sweeter, use less rhubarb or more sugar.  

The first cocktail that we tried using our syrup is also from cocktailvirgin's blog, called the Final Rhuse, which is a variation on the Last Word.

Final Rhuse

3/4 ounce pisco
3/4 ounce yellow chartreuse
3/4 ounce rhubarb syrup
3/4 ounce lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Wow is this drink pink—watermelon, pink flamingo pink. The aroma is very herbal, from the chartreuse, though there is a hint of the pisco's smokiness, too. The tanginess of the rhubarb comes across first, followed the lime flavors, which dominate most of the drink. The herbal character of the chartreuse reappears on the swallow while the grape flavors of the pisco and its funkiness linger on the palate. This drink is quite refreshing and a perfect summer cocktail. Tracy though that a thyme garnish would be an appropriate addition to really accentuate the herbal aromas.


Adventures in Tequila (part 2)

To continue our tequila exploration, the next night, we began with the Jaguar. I believe that this drink was created at Eastern Standard in Boston, though I first saw it on Paul Clarke's blog, Cocktail Chronicles. I have to say that so far this is my favorite as it uses two of my absolute favorite things, Amer Picon (I use Jamie Boudreau's recipe) and green chartreuse. And because it links tequila, a spirit that has recently sparked my interest, with not one but two herbal superpowers, this drink not only fit the menu, but also killed two birds with one stone.


1 1/2 ounces blanco tequila
3/4 ounce Amer Boudreau
3/4 ounce green chartreuse
3 dashes orange bitters

Stir ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a flamed orange twist

The Amer Boudreau contributes its warm caramel color to the drink, which results in a nice contrast to the bright orange peel. (Again, I didn't flame the peel; I know, I know.) The aroma is full of the orange oils and the lingering smell of tequila. The herbs of the chartreuse combine with the orange notes at the beginning of the sip. The chartreuse even becomes more dominant as the drink progresses. But as the smokiness of the tequila is present throughout, the drink never sways out of balance. I am sure that the dry earthy flavors of the amer also help to keep the chartreuse from overtaking the cocktail. The amer's herbs and deep orange flavor come through on the swallow to create a pleasant dryness. This drink is dry and herbal, yet smoky and spicy, a very balanced and complex tipple. It sort of reminds me of a tequila Bijou. I do wonder how a reposado would work in this drink, with its even more complicated flavors. I guess further experimentation will be forthcoming.


Adventures in Tequila (part 1)

I used to be indifferent to tequila. Early in my drinking career , I couldn’t stand tequila and the lack of choices never really compelled me to change my mind. With the tequila shots, the tequila slammers and lackluster margaritas—watered down, over-salted monsters consisting of powdered sour mix and cheap, rough spirits—more often than not I just passed. A lot of things have changed since those days. A tequila slammer still doesn’t sound all that appetizing, but oh, how the landscape of options has changed. My relationship with tequila really began to change a couple of summers ago when Tracy and I went to a local Mexican restaurant. This restaurant has a substantial list of tequilas, and because of that they offer tequila flights. There is simply no better way to really explore a new spirit than to have a flight. I remember it was a Chinaco flight, blanco, reposado and anejo. Though my mouth wasn’t accustomed to the flavors, the experience was an eye-opener and I was determined to learn more. Now not only is tequila one of my favorite cocktail ingredients, I have also become enamored with mescal. Lucky for me, and everyone else as well, tequila has recently taken off in popularity in many craft cocktail bars. New tequila concoctions show up on bar menus and the Internet with regularity, and all of them push far beyond the classic margarita or paloma. Bartenders are pairing the different types of tequila with herbal liqueurs, bitter digestivos, and wine-based aperitifs to create new flavor combinations that are not only unexpected but also delicious. Last weekend Tracy and I focused our cocktail attention on some of those tequila cocktails that utilize some of those unusual ingredients. On Friday, we started with the Rosita.


1 1/2 ounce reposado tequila (Milagro)
1/2 ounce Dry Vermouth (Noilly Pratt)
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth (Martini & Rossi)
1/2 ounce Campari

In a mixing glass filled with ice, stir ingredients. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist (I used a Meyer)

This cocktail is beautiful, though I am sure the picture doesn’t do it justice. The Campari provides the bright red color and I am sure that the sweet vermouth just deepens it. The aroma is filled with the oils of the Meyer lemon twist, though I could also detect the faintest hint of tequila. Tracy didn’t find that the tequila stood out in the aroma, but instead she detected the familiar herbs of the Campari. As we dove in, the taste of the citrus was the first thing we noted. The bold flavors of the Campari and the reposado dominated soon thereafter, and remained potent even as the drink warmed up. I could only faintly detect the grape flavor of the vermouth in the aftertaste. Overall the drink was great, but we both thought it was a bit less complex than some others we have had. The flavors just didn’t evolve as much over the course of the cocktail—not that it wasn’t a tasty aperitif. The Rosita is a perfect aperitif, dry and refreshing, just what is needed in a preprandial. The combination of the smoky tequila, the bitterness of the Campari, and the spike of brightness from the citrus was exceptionally tasty.

The next drink we tried I found on Chuck Taggert's blog, Looka! The Broadway Theatre District Cocktail was a winner in a cocktail contest in Los Angeles where all of the entries were named for local neighborhoods. One of the more interesting contest rules was that the cocktails could not include citrus juice.

Broadway Theatre District Cocktail

2 ounces anejo tequila (Corralejo)
3/4 ounce bianco vermouth (Dolin)
1/4 ounce Benedictine
1 dash grapefruit bitters (Fee's)
1 dash Xocolatl bitters (Bittermens)

Stir ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Strain into an absinthe-rinsed cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

This cocktail has a translucent golden glow that reminds me of straw. The aroma is full of citrus, which makes sense since I can actually see the oils from the twist right on the surface. There is also the distinct smell of anise and the herbs from the Benedictine and vermouth. Tracy noted that she could also detect the cactus smell of the anejo. On first sip, the tequila dominates the flavors. The cocktail's creamy texture also stands out and it provides a rich, velvety mouth feel. The bianco vermouth and Benedictine combine with the tequila to produce a complex sweetness that is nowhere near cloying. In fact it is downright refreshing considering the potential for sweetness in those two elements. The anejo provides the backbone of the drink, and the orange oils and herbal notes are expertly layered on top of it. The mellow anise of the absinthe rinse and smoky tequila linger after each sip. We both thought this drink was complex and well-balanced, a definite winner. It is no surprise though that the tequila-Benedictine pairing worked so well after stumbling on the Nouveau Carré. This is just another tasty example. Now all I need to do is learn how to flame an orange peel and we will really be in business.