Archive for December 2010

Check it

If you're putting on the big party this year, here's our little gift to you.


Below is a checklist that includes all the tools and implements you need when planning a killer cocktail party.


Just print it out and then all you have to do is buy the booze, fruits, mixers, etc. and you're set.

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the Algonquin

I have just discovered the cocktail the Algonquin, a drink made with rye, dry vermouth and pineapple juice.  The vermouth rounds this drink out and the pineapple brings out the sweeter notes in the rye and gives it a nice dry finish.  Because of the subtle flavors, balance is key in this cocktail.   Personally, I like my drinks with a little more bite.  A friend of mine altered the recipe by adding fresh squeezed lemon and a little simple syrup turning it into more of a sour cocktail.  We are offering them as a special at the restaurant and calling them the Off Season.  Pineapple is also what gives this drink its nice froth.  Deeeeelish!

The Algonquin
1 1/2 oz rye whiskey
3/4 oz dry vermouth
3/4 oz pineapple juice
Shake and strain into chilled rocks glass.

The Off Season
1 1/2 oz Deaths Door white whiskey
3/4 oz Cocchi Americano
3/4 oz pineapple juice
3/4 oz lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
Shake and strain into chilled rocks glass.  Top with Angostura bitters.



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Holiday Party Spirits

Here are some ideas for a delightful bottle to bring to that holiday gathering or, simply a fun addition to your liquor collection.  These are 10 spirits and liqueurs that are sure to break the ice and warm up a cold winter evening.   

1.  Cocchi Americano  An Italian aperitivo that is similar to Lillet, but with a nice bitter edge from the ingredient Cinchone bark.  This drink is great chilled with some citrus peel or, substitute it for Lillet in a drink like the corpse reviver #2.
2.  Luxardo Maraschino liqueur  A liqueur from Croatia made from the pits of the cherry Marasca giving it a distinct almond cherry flavor.  Used in the classic cocktail the Aviation.
3.  Koval Pear Brandy  A pear flavored brandy from Koval, a local Chicago distillery.  This brandy is a great sipper or would be lovely substitute for Cointreau in a sidecar.
4.  Bols Creme de Cacao  A clear chocolate liqueur, flavored from vanilla and the cacao seed. A staple ingredient in one of our favorite cocktails the 20th Century.
5.  St. Germaine  Made from Elderflower blossoms that are handpicked in the Alps.  With floral and stone fruit notes, this liqueur tastes great in just about everything.  Try it in sparkling wine.
6.  Chartreuse  An herbal liqueur with anise notes made by Monks in the Chartreuse mountains of France.  It comes in green and yellow.  The green bottle gets its color from the chlorophyll found in its secret blend of 130 herbs.  The yellow bottle gets its golden tint from saffron, is lower in alcohol and has a milder, sweeter flavor.
7.  North Shore Sirene Absinthe Verte  A 19th century spirit with a high alcohol content.  Absinthe is made with wormwood containing the notorious chemical Thujone, said to be a hallucinogenic when taken in large amounts.   It is now believed that these hallucinogenic properties were exaggerated and it is no more dangerous than other spirits when used in moderation.  Absinthe has an anise flavor with a nice bitter aftertaste.  Try it in a cocktail like Death in the Afternoon.
8.  Amaro Nonino  Amaro translates to bitter in Italian.  This is a light style Amaro with nice citrus notes.  Use Amaro instead of Campari in a Negroni to switch it up.
9.  Carpano Antica sweet vermouth  A high-end, sweet vermouth.  Because vermouth is a fortified wine, it can go bad quickly.  We recommend you keep it refrigerated.  This is great in a manhattan.
10.  Zirbenz stone pine liqueur  Made from Arolla Stone pine, handpicked in the Alps.  Substitute this liqueur for sugar in an old fashioned as a seasonal twist.   

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Ode to Plum

For the Eskell Holiday Party, we did two Asian themed cocktails. The first was a sake cocktail using plum (in season!) and pink peppercorns. The plums, when cooked down in their skin, give the cocktail a lovely pink and pink peppercorns give it a subtle bite.

Ode to Plum
2oz Sake
3/4 oz Plum Pink Peppercorn Syrup
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Gin

Shake above on ice and strain into a Collins glass. Garnish with a few pink peppercorns that you crush between your fingers.

Notes: We used Gekkeihan Sake, a mid-range, very drinkable sake that is widely available. It's also pretty inexpensive at either Mitsuwa or Joong Boo Market in Chicago.

We found the pink peppercorns at the Spice House. P.S. pink peppercorn are actually a dried berry grown in Peru, so don't be scared to eat the entire thing. They are much milder than real peppercorn and have some floral notes.

Don't forget to taste the syrup while you're making it as the plums may take awhile to impart an intense flavor. Also, feel free to decrease the amount of lemon juice when you are mixing the cocktail as some tasters found the cocktail too tart.

This would make a great punch because of its relatively low alcohol content, and it's pretty pink color. It's also a great introduction for those who are new to sake.

I'll leave you with a favorite poem that my dad taught me long ago...


This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

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Holiday Cocktail: Inspiration India

For the Dovetail Boutique holiday party we did a variation on the classic French 75 champagne cocktail using cardamom (a spice grown in India) and orange peel.

Don't forget the bling.
Bengal 75
2oz gin
1oz cardamom orange simple syrup
1oz lemon juice
Champagne
Orange bitters

Shake above on ice and strain into a Collins glass with ice or into a champagne glass without ice. Top with about 4oz of champagne. Garnish with a few drops of orange bitters.

Notes: To make the syrup, using whole cardamom pods and crushing them with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder works best to impart the most flavor. Again, we bought ours at the Spice House in the Gold Coast, Chicago.

We used low-cost Gordon's Gin and J. Roget Brut sparkling wine because we were working with a really tight budget. But this cocktail worked wonderfully because the champagne was dry.

Also, don't skip the orange bitters on this one as they make a big difference.

Have a magical holiday.

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Holiday Guide: 11 suggestions for a gift that is sure to give back!


1.  Jupiter Juice Press.  Looks cool on your counter and makes a perfect gift for the entertainer who is constantly juicing lemons and limes in large quantities. 
2.  Mini angled measuring cup.  Helpful for measuring liquid ounces.
3.  Beaba lidded freezer tray.  Large ice cubes melt slower and are perfect for sipping drinks served on the rocks.  Tray cover prevents freezer burn...Genius!
4.  Olive wood juicer.  This juicer is sure to release all juices from the most stubborn of citrus.  Great for juicing in small batches.
5.  Channel knife.  Ideal for making twists.
6.  Solid wood muddler.  Useful for making drinks with fresh fruit and herbs.  Also makes a great ice cracker.
7.  Vintage cocktail glasses.  You can personalize your drinks with fun glasses.  Easy to find at local vintage stores or online.
8.  Bittercube bitters.  These bitters are made in the Midwest!   Bitters come in many flavors and are a great way to add depth to your cocktails.  Also consider fun spices, rose water, orange flower water, exotic sugars, honeys and bottled syrups.
9.  Hermetic glass bottles.  These come in many shapes and sizes and are great for storing homemade syrups, liquor infusions and freshly squeezed juices. 
10.  Great reads: 
"Jigger Beaker & and Glass, Drinking Around the World" by Charles H. Baker Jr.  
Originally written in 1939, this entertaining book is full of tales and recipes of a cocktail imbibers adventures around the world.  
"and a Bottle of Rum, the History of the New World in Ten Cocktails" by Wayne Curtis.  
This book is a fun read for history buffs and rum enthusiasts. 
"Raising the Bar, Better Drinks Better Entertaining" by Nick Mautone. 
This book is a great resource for making modern drinks with fresh ingredients.
11.  Wire mesh strainer.  Strains out pulp, seeds and herbs when you want a clean cocktail presentation. 

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Persephone's Fool

The second drink we served at UnaMae's was our take on a whiskey daisy, which we called Persephone's Fool in honor of the pomegranate in the drink and the impending winter. A daisy is a traditional cocktail made with a base spirit (usually whiskey or brandy), lemon juice, grenadine and sugar.


Persephone's Fool
2oz Whiskey
3/4oz grenadine
3/4oz lemon juice

Shake the above with ice into a Collins or old fashioned glass. Garnish with 3 to 4 drops of orange bitters.

Notes: Jim Beam might have a bad rep, but it's truly delicious in this cocktail and makes the cost less than a dollar a drink to make.

We recommend making your own grenadine because pomegranates are in season right now and the outcome is so much more satisfying than the bottled versions. See a detailed recipe here.

Orange bitters is now widely available as Angostura has brought theirs back and Fee Brothers bitters are being carried a lot more places. It's a great addition to your home bar. Try it in your Manhattans!

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The Cerberus

We made the Cerberus cocktail for UnaMae's Boutique party a couple of weeks ago and we're finally sharing the full recipe.


The Cerberus
(The mythical three-headed dog of the Underworld - read the history here)
1oz Chipotle-infused vodka
3oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Orange Liqueur

Strain over ice into a Collins glass filled with ice or a coupe glass with no ice. Garnish with a salted rim.

Notes: We used Smirinoff vodka, which is a good quality choice for the price. Take 2-3 de-stemmed chipotle peppers and add to the vodka for 2-3 days. Test everyday to make sure it doesn't get too spicy. Two days was fine for us. Chipotles are smoked, dried jalapenos so they impart a wonderful smoky flavor, but it's not for everyone. We received a lot of comments that guests tasted "bacon" or "meat" flavor.

This vodka also makes an awesome Bloody Mary.

For the grapefruit, use fresh squeezed juice whenever possible as the difference is palpable. The holiday season is a great time because citrus is in season and cheap.

Orange liqueur (we used Patron Citronge) was added to up the sweetness and balance the spiciness for an umami experience.

We got the chipotle peppers and Himalayan sea salt at the Spice House. Love that place.

Throughout this week, we'll be posting the recipe for four other drinks we've created from our recent events. Cheers!

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Eskell, an Asian Holiday Party

What a wonderful idea... Eskell's holiday party this Saturday has an Asian theme.


There's so much in season that works fantastically for this theme... like plums and pears. We'll be doing a champagne cocktail with pears and star anise that has me flipping out! We will also be doing a plum, pink peppercorn and sake cocktail that has me thinking "why don't we use sake more?"


Please join us at Eskell,1509 North Milwaukee Avenue, on Saturday December 4th from 6-11PM for cocktails, food and the musical stylings of DJ Dave (aka Substance D). Oh oh and word on the street is that you'll get to crack a cookie for a special discount.

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