It is no secret I have a healthy obsession with gin. It is the canvas I like to build most of my drinks on. But right after my obsession with gin is my obsession with aperitif wines/vermouth. In my humble opinion it is the least understood and most underutilized cocktail ingredient in our current cocktail rebirth. It is one of two ingredients in a Martini and one of three ingredients in a Manhattan, yet the majority of Americans and even many professional cocktail makers know very little about it and do not place importance on it.
There are three main reasons why Americans shy away from Vermouth. One, the famous haters such as Winston Churchill who declared that the way to make a martini correctly is extremely chilled gin and then bowing in the direction of France. Secondly, it is trendy to order a martini “dry”, although in my seven years experience behind the bar it is scary how many customers order a martini that way but do not really understand what they are asking…but it sounds correct! And finally, most do not realize that vermouth has a shelf life. And if you have ever had wine that has been opened for days/weeks that has oxidized it is horrible. The same thing happens to Vermouth (although it takes longer to turn). But if your first experience with the stuff is oxidized Vermouth, anyone sane drinker would want to keep it as far away from their lips as possible.
What is a reverse martini? Besides being the favored drink of Julia Child, it is a simple reverse in the ratio of gin and vermouth. It puts the vermouth/aperitif wine on stage and uses the gin for some body and a botanical subtle kick. Much lighter in proof than a standard Martini and yet much stronger than a glass of wine or beer. It may be the perfect drink for the individual who loves the elegance and flavor profile of a classic cocktail but whose tolerance level is not ready for the heat!
One combination that I recently came up with is the BLUE ROSE. The Cocchi Rosé is a new aperitif wine from Cocchi that has incredible depth and a nice layer of bitterness from the chinchona (ken-KEE-nah) bark that is added. BTW the “Americano” does not refer to American but to “Amer” or bitter.
THE BLUE ROSE
2.25 oz of Cocchi Americano Rosé Aperitif Wine
0.75 oz of BlueCoat Gin
dash of Orange bitters
I recommend stirring over the rocks than straining into a coup glass.
Optional Garnish: Orange Peel
**Tammy Taylor Manager and head bartender at Church & State in Washington, D.C.**
By Tammy Taylor
I have a confession to make. I am obsessed with liquor, and it’s not just a small obsession. It’s huge and not just with drinking it. Though, I do not deny that’s part of it. I’m obsessed with what I can do to make it different, well, better. So when presented with a recipe to make my own tonic at Church&State, I jumped on it.
Originally, tonic was used for medicinal purposes to ward off against malaria in South America and Africa. The “tonic” was made by soaking the bark from the South American cinchona (kenKEEnah) tree to extract quinine, a natural prophylactic against malaria, and then drinking it as a tea. The quinine tonic was so bitter that eventually the British added lime and gin to tame the bitterness of the drink…so the tonic came first and the gin was the mixer! Thus the beloved “gin and tonic” was born.
But the tonic we drink today is a far cry from what the British drank back then. The first commercial tonic was produced in Britain in the 1850s by adding soda water and sugar. In 1953, Schweppes Beverage Co. brought to the American market. The quinine in the American tonic is produced by a chemical extraction; not by soaking tree bark. It also contains a lot less quinine because the U.S Food and Drug Administration limits the amount of quinine to 83 parts per million. This dilution, along with the high fructose corn syrup that is added, makes it a lot less bitter. It can be argued that American tonic produced for bars on the rail is so far removed from the original formula that it shouldn’t even be called tonic water.
How awesome was it to find out that it was not only better, but easy to make. I found the cinchona bark online without much trouble so I bought it and began experimenting. The earthiness you get is amazing and I, a non-bitter drinker, don’t even mind how bitter and sour it tastes. I haven’t had a gin yet that hasn’t been complimented by my new obsession. I have since modified the recipe and created the “tonic of the month” for our bars. So far, I’ve steeped in lavender, rose hip and the current tonic is hibiscus.
4 cups water
3 cups pure cane sugar
3 Tbsp. quinine (powdered cinchona bark)
6 Tbsp. powdered citric acid
3 limes, zested and juiced
3 stalks lemongrass, roughly chopped
In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil until the sugar dissolves, then turn the heat down to low. Add the quinine, citric acid, lemongrass, lime zest and lime juice. Stir well and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the powders are dissolved and the syrup is thin and runny. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain out the large chunks through a colander, then filter through cheesecloth or coffee filters to refine. This step can take a while—and many filters—as the bark is a very fine powder, so be patient.
*Gintender’s drunken wisdom*
If you are a fan of gin and tonics and you are sipping a super premium gin opt for a better tonic. It makes a dramatic difference! Schweppes is a solid choice as are artesian products such as Fevertree or Q tonic out of Brooklyn. If you are in a bar and have no options other then harsh rail tonic, consider choosing a heavier juniper London dry style gin versus a “New Western style” softer juniper spirit, that will be able to stand up to the tonic.
Why genever (Juh-nee-vur)? It is the precursor of Gin and has a flavor profile that has been described as a mix between gin, whiskey, and vodka. Before prohibition in 1920, Americans were drinking up to 7 times more genever than gin and today the spirit is almost completely unknown in the States.
It is free to enter, and if your recipe is accepted you will have a chance to win some great prizes including bar and restaurant tabs!
Every Sunday starting this Sunday (June 9th) you can visit Wisdom to try free samples of Diep9 old and young genever. Just tell the bartender you are interested in the competition. All recipes must be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday July 12th.
The nitty-gritty details:
Diep 9 Official Cocktail Competition Rules, Hints & Tips
1. Two entries per person maximum
2. Entries must be in the form of a long or short drink, not a shot and be a maximum of 4oz
3. Entries should be submitted by email to email@example.com but are not officially accepted until email notice of acceptance is sent by the organizers.
4. Drinks must not contain more than seven ingredients, including fruit juices, syrups, drops or dashes. Solid garnishes are not considered ingredients. It is acceptable to additionally spray a citrus fruit zest over the drink if specified as a garnish. With a few exceptions it is the simple drinks that have gone on to become ‘classics’, and due to this the judges will be instructed to favor simple drinks with fewer ingredients.
5. Hot ingredients, premixes of any kind or home preparations are forbidden without advance written authority of the competition organizers. Competitors wishing to use these should submit their request at least 5 days before the day of competition but are advised to seek permission as soon as possible.
6. Recipes which can be easily replicated are preferred so unless judges give advanced written authority (rule 5 above) ingredients must be readily/widely available proprietary products, fruit and commonly found bar products.
7. Recipes must contain a minimum of 1.5 oz of Diep 9 Old genever or Young genever
8. Ingredients may be measured using a jigger or similar measure or freely poured.
9. Recipes entered must be the original creation of the competitor and if a competitor is thought to have plagiarized a known, existing cocktail they will be disqualified.
10. Recipes entered must be expressed in ounces or with the use of ‘dashes’ and/or ‘drops’ limited to bitters, hot pepper sauce and the like. Fruit juice quantities must also be stipulated, e.g. “squeeze of lime” is unacceptable.
Drinks & Preparation
11. Drinks must be assembled in front of the judges.
12. Drinks may be hand stirred, hand shaken or blended in an electric mixer.
13. Competitors must supply their own bartending utensils (shaker, bar spoon, strainer etc.). An electric blender will be provided by the organizers.
14. Cocktails may be presented in any shape of glass, cup or other hygienic and safe receptacle. The organizer will supply limited basic glassware but competitors are advised to bring their own. Note, points are awarded for presentation. No brand name or logo other than the regular discrete mark of the glassware manufacturer should be visible (sponsoring brand excepted).
15. The organizers will supply ice
16. Drinks may be served hot (with organizer’s written consent), straight-up, or over cubed, cracked or crushed ice.
17. Each competitor must make at least two identical drinks for the judges to sample.
18. Competitors must be able to prepare drinks within a maximum of 5 minutes but will additionally be given a further 5 minutes, prior to making their drink, to familiarize themselves with the bar area and prepare equipment and ingredients.
19. Competitors serving drinks which appear inedible or working with unhygienic methods will be disqualified and their drinks discarded without being sampled.
20. Garnishes must be edible but may be mounted on sticks, skewers, straws, forks or other such common bar accessories. Use of edible fruits, herbs, leaves and spices my include sprigs, peels, barks, fruit shells etc. Any flowers and petals used must be of an edible variety.
21. Fruit for garnishes may be peeled in advance, but not sliced, wedged or pre-cut in any other way. Garnishes must be assembled within the five minute allotted drinks preparation time.
22. By entering this competition, competitors agree to assign copyright of their recipe and drink name to the competition organizers.
23. Competitors and drinks presented during the competition may be photographed (still or motion picture) by the organizers and copyright of these images for any use, including advertising, will be retained by the competition organizers.
24. Drink names including rude, lurid, sexual words, or words associated with narcotics or motor vehicles are prohibited.
25. Competitors are encouraged to talk to the judges while making their drink. Points will be awarded for general presentation and working methods.
26. Competitors using rude or swear words will be disqualified.
27. The competition organizers reserve the right to have the final decision on any matter relating to the judging of the competition.
28. The competition organizers will appoint the panel of judges and reserve the right to replace or appoint new judges before or during the competition.
29. The judges must remain impartial and declare any vested interest they may have in the competition or competitors. They must judge each competitor on their competition presentation and drink alone.
30. While every reasonable effort will be made, the competition organizers cannot guarantee the safe return of glassware, equipment or any product supplied by a competitor. Therefore competitors are advised to house their tools and product in bags/boxes which enable them to efficiently gather and hold their equipment and ingredients immediately after competing.
31. Competitors considered by the organizer to be practicing or promoting any form of irresponsible drinking, including ‘shots’ will be disqualified and may be asked to leave the venue.
32. Competitors must conduct themselves in a safe manner and any action considered by the organizers to endanger fellow competitors, judges or spectators will result in instant disqualification and possible ejection from the venue.
Our good friend Veronique Beittel of Diep 9 has a brand new book out all about Genever that we highly recommend. If you’re a true Genever lover (like we are) you’ll want to pick this one up as soon as possible.
Distilled from grain nurtured in the soil of Belgium and the Netherlands, genever embodies the spirit, creativity, and resiliency of the culture that created it. Surviving five centuries of wars and prohibitions, genever was perfected and spread across the world. During its evolution, genever inspired the creation of gin and secured a place at America’s early cocktail bars. Whether you are a spirit and cocktail connoisseur or a burgeoning mixologist, Genever: 500 Years of History in a Bottle provides an enlightening review of genever’s colorful past and offers tempting options for making it part of your future.
While you’re at it, check out Veronique’s last visit to Wisdom.
The Wisdom Book Club will meet the last Sunday of each month. Stop by and enjoy a few cocktails while we discuss the book of the month!
For April 7:
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo
Description: “My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky.” Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.”
The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert to a fateful encounter with the alchemist.
The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories have done, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.
For April 28:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon
Pulitzer Prize winner, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a triumph of originality, imagination, and storytelling, an exuberant, irresistible novel that begins in New York City in 1939. A young escape artist and budding magician named Joe Kavalier arrives on the doorstep of his cousin, Sammy Clay. While the long shadow of Hitler falls across Europe, America is happily in thrall to the Golden Age of comic books, and in a distant corner of Brooklyn, Sammy is looking for a way to cash in on the craze. He finds the ideal partner in the aloof, artistically gifted Joe, and together they embark on an adventure that takes them deep into the heart of Manhattan, and the heart of old-fashioned American ambition. From the shared fears, dreams, and desires of two teenage boys, they spin comic book tales of the heroic, fascist-fighting Escapist and the beautiful, mysterious Luna Moth, otherworldly mistress of the night. Climbing from the streets of Brooklyn to the top of the Empire State Building, Joe and Sammy carve out lives, and careers, as vivid as cyan and magenta ink.
Celebrate New Years in style at Church & State.
Pre-purchase your New Years Eve tickets now which includes a decadent course of Five house-special cocktails. Choose between Clear Spirits (Silver) or Dark Spirits (Onyx) and forget about the stress of New Year’s Party planning!
Featuring a Choice of Two Courses:
A Five Cocktail Course Featuring All Premium Brown Spirits, Light Fare, and a Champagne Toast
A Five Cocktail Course Featuring All Premium White Spirits, Light Fare, and a Champagne Toast
Both Courses Include Access To Atlas Arcade.