Archive for the ‘Gin’ Category

Sloe Gin Revival

Most of us in the United States have never had the pleasure of tasting real Sloe Gin. Sure there’s the ubiquitous dusty bottle of something of questionable origin labeled “Sloe Gin” in every bar and dark corner of the liquor store in the country, but these are always artificially flavored and colored, cotton candy sweet swill that have never even seen a real sloe berry.

Ripe Sloe Berries

Real sloe berries are the fruit of the Blackthorn bush and are native to Europe and western Asia. The plant grows wild all over England, it flowers late in the spring and will produce ripe fruit usually in late October or early November. The fruit of the Blackthorn is similar to Damsons or plums but taste quite a bit more astringent.

In Britain, it is popular to use the berries to make jams and jellies. What’s left over is destined to be made into Sloe Gin, a traditional wintertime drink in the UK. Sloe Gin in Europe is an infusion of sloe berries, spices like clove and cinnamon, a little sugar and of course, gin.

Most quality sloe gin is of the homemade variety; thus, leaving us poor blackthorn-less Americans to make due with the poor quality commercial brands.

But that was true only until recently. Plymouth began importing small batches of its authentic sloe gin to the U.S. a couple of years ago, initially only a 1000 cases a year were bought in and were greedily snapped up by bartenders everywhere (by ‘everywhere’ I mean New York City). The number of cases imported has grown steadily and it is in regular supply now in most major markets. Another option will hopefully be coming to market soon as the New York gin distiller, DH Krahn, is developing a damson gin which was making its rounds in New Orleans at the cocktail superfest Tales of the Cocktail this year.

A couple of months ago I purchased a bottle of the Plymouth Sloe Gin, but didn’t do anything with it until recently when I randomly decided to try it in a Sloe Gin Fizz. The fizz was once a wildly popular drink (late 1800s to the 1940s) and was a natural evolution of the sour consisting of spirit, sugar, citrus and a bit of soda off the siphon. During Prohibition, American bartenders who had traveled to Europe to ply their trade began adding a dash of egg white to their sours to give them a silkier mouthfeel. This practice made the jump back to the United States after the Noble Experiment ended in 1933. The Sloe Gin Fizz, as far as I can tell, was first mixed up in the early 1940s; thus, we can conclude that a touch of egg white in this drink would be appropriate.

Sloe Gin Fizz

Fizzy Goodness

1 1/2 oz. Plymouth Sloe Gin

3/4 oz. Gin (Blue Coat)

3/4 oz. Lemon Juice

1 tsp. Superfine Sugar

1 small egg white

-Combine all ingredients in a shaker, without ice, and dry shake for 10-15 seconds to emulsify the egg. Add ice and shake a further 15 seconds to chill. Strain into a collins glass and top with soda. Garnish with an orange wheel and cherry if you like.

One quick note: fizzes and sours were designed as ‘short’ drinks, meaning they were served in a glass without ice and are intended to be consumed swiftly. ‘Long’ drinks are served on ice as to keep them chilled over an extended time as you sip them.

There are an awful lot of Sloe Gin Fizzes in a bottle of sloe gin. So to help break up the monotony, here are a few great bonus cocktail recipes to help you along:

Charlie Chaplin

1 oz Plymouth Sloe Gin

1 oz. Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur

1 oz. Lime Juice

– Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Savoy Tango

1 1/2 oz. Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy

1 1/2 oz. Plymouth Sloe Gin

– Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry

The Wibble

1 oz. Gin

1 oz. Plymouth Sloe Gin

1 oz. Grapefruit Juice

1/2 oz. Lemon Juice

1/2 oz. Blackberry Liqueur

-Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.


Read Full Post »

The Doctor Is In..

Let us take a few moments of our day and reflect on the life and times of Dr. Franciscus de la Boe, or Dr. Sylvius as he was also known. Having spent his life during the 16th century practicing medicine, chemistry and teaching at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, he made some great discoveries that greatly advanced medicine. Dr. Sylvius is credited for proving that blood circulates through the body and he studied the human brain rather extensively as well (Sylvian Fissure anyone?).

His greatest achievement came in the formulation of an inexpensive general health tonic he developed by infusing korenbrandwijn (distilled malt wine) with select roots, herbs and berries deemed to have medicinal properties. He called his medicine ‘genever’ after the main ingredient found in it, juniper berries. Genever quickly gained popularity as a cure-all in the Netherlands, being prescribed for everything from arthritis, to gout to acne to ADHD (you never know).

By the 17th century, many of the people taking Dr. Sylvius’ magic medicine had acquired a taste for the juniper as well as the effects the alcohol had and genever made the jump from medical applications to the realm of recreational use. Sales of the spirit were brisk, then the British caught wind of it.

Brittish soldiers traveling through Europe fighting the numerous wars of the era discovered genever and bought the stuff back home where its popularity exploded. At one point, the per capital consumption of gin (the English corruption of the word ‘genever’) was in the 2.5- 3 gallon/yr range causing all kinds of social problems for the Empire. The government eventually regulated the production of gin and got consumption under control.

Gin sure got popular!

Genever can be broken down into 3 classifications:

Oude: Not really a reference to an aged spirit, but to the way the spirit is produced- in the old style. Contained 15-50% korenwijn blended with 50-85% neutral spirit and may be slightly sweetened. Rich and malty

Jonge: Reference to the “modern” production techniques used, no more than 15% korenwijn and 85+% neutral spirit results in a very dry spirit        and probably put in production to compete with the growing popularity of London Dry Gin

Korenbrandwijn: Very rare in todays market, 50-85% korenwijn and usually (but not always) aged in wood for a full-bodied malty glass of deliciousness

I highly recommend that you give genever a try sometime soon, as its truly an exceptional spirit and you will also be able to experience a lot of great new cocktails like this one:

The Improved Holland Gin Cocktail

2 oz. Genever (Anchor Genevieve)

1 barspoon maraschino (Luxardo)

1-2 barspoon simple syrup (1:1)

1 dash of absinthe

2 dashes of Angostura bitters

– Stir everything together with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a strip of lemon peel

The Improved Holland Gin Cocktail

Read Full Post »

Raising The Dead

There was a time when cocktails were breakfast drinks and medicinal tonics to lift the spirit and cure ailments. The Corpse Reviver series of drinks (1, 2 & 3) were considered a great “hair of the dog” type of hangover cure, and it has been said that one or two of these cocktails taken in quick succession would revive the poor hungover soul- while 3 or 4 taken similarly would unrevive the corpse again.

The most popular of them all (thank you Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh!) is the Corpse Reviver no. 2, and was once a staple on every cocktail menu in New York City before it slid into obscurity in the late 1930s.

Corpse Reviver no. 2

3/4 oz gin

3/4 oz Cointreau

3/4 oz Lillet Blanc

3/4 oz Fresh lemon juice

dash (4 drops) absinthe or pastis

– Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake as if to wake the dead and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a blood red cherry.

For gin I used Blue Coat from Philadelphia Distilling as it’s new in Houston and have wanted to give it a try for some time now and I must say that I’m thoroughly impressed with it. Blue Coat is exceptionally smooth and is distilled in copper pots using organic American juniper berries that lend a more spicy, earthy flavor profile vs. the “pinetree” flavors found in some other gins; also, a welcome mix of orange and other citrus peel is used in the distillation that works beautifully to balance out the juniper.

Read Full Post »