Monthly Archives: February 2013

Chasing the Green Fairy: Absinthe

Hello, fellow imbibers. This week at Six Drinks Too Many, we are sophisticated. Refined, even.

That’s because this week we’re drinking that infamous green spirit known as absinthe. Absinthe only became legal in the United States in 2007 after a ban that lasted nearly a century. You see, back in the day, it was believed that absinthe caused mental problems — it would ruin your life and make you insane. People believed that the wormwood in absinthe was to blame, and thus it was banned.

However, today we know that the mind-degrading effects of absinthe were most likely thanks to heavy metal poisoning resulting from poor distillation processes of mass-produced absinthe. It turns out that if it’s well-made, absinthe is no more dangerous than any other alcoholic beverage — luckily for aesthetic purposes, its dark reputation survives.

The Notorious Drink

The Notorious Drink

Today it’s possible to buy true absinthe in the United States. Well, sort of, anyway. Legally speaking, an absinthe sold in the United States must be free of thujone, a constituent of wormwood. Thujone was the chemical blamed for the psychoactive effects of absinthe — though it is an extremely unlikely culprit. However, because of this rule, some people will tell you that absinthe without thujone is not true absinthe. On the other hand, though, wormwood itself is a completely legal ingredient, and can be included without breaking the legal limit on thujone. Wormwood has even been added to some absinthe substitutes since the ban was lifted. Chances are that only absinthe connoisseurs will care about whether their drink has thujone or not, and even then, this law isn’t enforced very well.

For the record, I consider a product in the absinthe category to be a true absinthe if it is a distilled spirit (as opposed to a liqueur, as is the case with most absinthe substitutes), has a high alcohol content (preferably above 60%), and contains wormwood. But if you’re one of the ones that needs that thujone, more power to you.

For the record, for all of these cocktails you can use an absinthe substitute such as Pernod or Herbsaint. It really depends on what you can get — but using real absinthe certainly has a unique appeal.

So, without further ado, let’s start drinking already.

 

Absinthe Drip
-1 to 3 oz Absinthe
-4 to 6 oz Ice-Cold Water
-Sugar Cube

Absinthe Drip

Absinthe Drip

This is the classic absinthe drink, clothed in ceremony and surrounded by mystique. Many of history’s greatest creative minds have been known to indulge in this classic cocktail — and perhaps it even lead to the demise of a few of them. Or at least their ears.

If you want to taste absinthe, this is the way to do it, at least to start out. It capitalizes on the unique anise flavor of the spirit, but dilutes it in a way to make it palatable to most people. The mouth feel is also very interesting; it’s almost fuzzy, in a way. And the cloudy white appearance is elegant and beautiful. Drinking an Absinthe Drip is an experience unlike any other.
Speaking as someone who isn’t all that big on anise, this is really a fantastic drink if made with a quality spirit. Even if you’re skeptical, it’s worth giving it a try if you’re interested at all in absinthe. And chances are that if you drink, you’re interested in absinthe.

Start by putting the absinthe in an ornate chalice (any glass will do, actually, but something elegant and refined is more appropriate). Then lay a perforated absinthe spoon across the top of the glass (you could use a regular fork if can’t find the traditional spoon, but it might look like something so tacky even Lady Gaga wouldn’t wear it). Put the sugar cube on the spoon and slowly pour the water over it so that it dissolves and drips into the glass. When you’re done, remove the spoon and enjoy.

The sugar cube, by the way, is a relic of when liquors were poorly made and far too harsh to drink straight. If you prefer, you can skip it when using one of today’s quality absinthes. But the water is still a good idea. The alcohol content of absinthe can get as high as 75%, and diluting it makes it a better drink, at least when starting out.

Next drink!

 

Sazerac
-1/2 tsp Absinthe
-2 oz Rye Whiskey
-1 tsp Simple Syrup
-4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
-Lemon Twist

Sazerac

Sazerac

Here we have the New Orleans classic and cousin of the Old Fashioned. It’s interesting in that it uses absinthe more for its aroma rather than for its flavor. Of course, you also get a good amount of anise flavor from the bitters, along with some nice cherry and fruity notes.

Speaking of flavor, the rye does things that would not be possible with other whiskeys. It’s spicier, and almost scotch-like in this context. It’s not bad, but I think I’d prefer it with bourbon. However, tradition calls for rye, and so I use rye. But, perhaps I should also be doing away with tradition — I mean, slavery was tradition, too, and that wasn’t very cool.

This isn’t a drink for everyone. If you don’t like strong whiskey drinks, you won’t like this. If you do like strong whiskey drinks, though, then this can be a fantastic libation.

When making it, start by rimming an old fashioned glass with the lemon twist, and then set the twist aside. Then rinse the glass with the absinthe. To do this, put the absinthe in the glass and slowly turn the glass around so that the absinthe coats the inside. Discard any excess absinthe and put the glass in the freezer.

Then stir the rye, syrup, and bitters with ice until cold, and then strain into the prepared glass. Twist the lemon peel over the drink and drop it in.
Moving on!

 

Corpse Reviver
-3/4 oz Gin
-3/4 oz Lillet Blanc
-3/4 oz Cointreau
-3/4 oz Lemon Juice
-1 dash Absinthe

Corpse Reviver

Corpse Reviver

Corpse Revivers are a group of drinks that were invented because of the (incredibly stupid) idea that you can cure a hangover with more alcohol. There are a lot of different drinks that claim the name, many of which have been lost to history. This is one of the ones that has survived. This is also one which happens to use absinthe, so here we are!

In keeping with the name, this drink is surprisingly refreshing if you chill it well enough. And even though it might seem like something that some enterprising and misguided college freshman might mix together with whatever liquors they managed to get their hands on, the ingredients actually work quite well together. The gin an Lillet make a nice, martini-like base, while the absinthe creates an interesting dynamic with the orange and lemon flavors. This drink is surely unique and worth a try. Plus, the name is reminiscent of zombies, and that’s pretty cool. Cooler than whatever that college freshman would call it, anyway.

By the way, it might seem like a small amount of absinthe, but keep in mind that anise is one of those incredibly strong flavors that will overpower all of the other flavors in a drink if you let it. Really, a dash will do you.

So, stir the ingredients with ice and strain it into a martini glass. Be on the look out for zombies and other ghouls while you drink it.

Now, in honor of every college freshman, let’s drink something with nothing but alcoholic ingredients in it.

 

Earthquake
-1/2 oz Whiskey
-1/2 oz Absinthe
-1/2 oz Gin

Earthquake

Earthquake

According to The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), this cocktail is “so-called because if there should happen to be an earthquake when you are drinking it, it won’t matter.” That is both a wonderful and terrible endorsement for a cocktail.

I’ll be honest — I’ not so sure I would make this drink again. It’s not that bad, but it’s not that special, either. I mean, how special can a few liquors thrown together really be? If you really want to get drunk that fast, you should just do shots.

There’s such a high proportion of absinthe in this that you’ll notice the anise more than anything else. However, if you pay attention, you’ll notice the robust flavor of the whiskey at the beginning of the drink, and then the more subtle notes of the gin as you swallow the liquid. And, of course, you’ll taste that heavy licorice taste throughout.

Making it is simple enough, anyway. Just shake the ingredients with ice and strain it into a martini glass. The type of whiskey isn’t specified, by the way. I used bourbon, because that’s the most common whiskey in cocktails, and it worked out well. Another good starting point would be Canadian whisky, as its smoothness and unobtrusiveness lends itself well to cocktails.

Now let’s get a little immature.

 

Monkey Gland
-2 oz Gin
-1 oz Orange Juice
-2 dashes Grenadine
-1 dash Absinthe

Monkey Gland

Monkey Gland

This is another old school cocktail, but its origins are a lot more amusing than most others. You see, there used to be this doctor. Dr. Serge Voronoff, we called him. Old Voronoff had an idea — an idea unlike any other. You see, Voronoff liked to graft monkey testicles onto the testicles of living, breathing, human men. Why? To combat the effects of aging, of course!

However, people were quick to turn this into an aphrodisiac, though Voronoff denied that the procedure had such effects — apparently he really knew his science when it came to monkey balls. Before long, severely misguided men were lining up around the block (think Phantom Menace lines) to put some monkey balls onto their own set to make them better lovers.

So, fellas, if you’ve ever felt insecure about your junk, don’t worry. I’m sure you’ve never felt so bad that you’ve wanted to graft monkey nuts onto your berries. And if you have, well, you clearly haven’t had enough to drink.

In any case, this long-forgotten cocktail commemorated this unfortunate spree of surgeries, and, truth be told, it’s not terrible. The grenadine provides a nice sweet counterpart to the anise flavor, all the while dancing on the flavorful citrus backdrop provided by the orange juice. Unfortunately though, the gin is all but unnoticeable. I might try this drink again in the future with vodka instead of gin to see if it makes much of a difference, but for now I think that the gin is irrelevant. I don’t taste it at all, not even as an aftertaste. That being said, the flavor is quite nice. I just think the more neutral vodka might be more appropriate than gin.

In any case, to make this just shake the ingredients with ice and strain it into a martini glass. Try not to make any obscene decisions while you drink it.

Last drink! Get excited!

 

Absinthe Kangaroo (Absinthe Martini)
-2 oz Vodka
-1 oz Absinthe
-Lime Twist

Absinthe Kangaroo

Absinthe Kangaroo

Kangaroo is another name for a Vodka Martini. Martini aficionados would no doubt prefer that you use it instead of “Martini,” which they would reserve to refer to their holy grail of gin and vermouth. Out of respect, I chose the term Kangaroo for this cocktail, though it certainly is very much inspired by the Martini blueprint — even though it contains neither gin nor vermouth.

This is a very elegant and simple drink. The absinthe really shines here, and the vodka provides a smooth backdrop to add to the overall feeling of the drink. If you think you can take the sheer amount of booze in this drink, by all means, go for it.

Simply shake the liquid ingredients with ice and strain it into a martini glass. Twist the lime peel over the drink and drop it in. Isn’t that pretty?

 

Denouement

What have we learned? Well, I learned that despite my sophomoric intoxicated tendencies, I can be classy too. Sometimes, that knowledge is all you need to make it through the day.


Why your grandfather is so angry all the time: Whiskey Sour

Oh my, it’s been too long, hasn’t it? It’s been more than a month since my last post, and February is fading fast. I couldn’t let this month go by without making a post, so here I am, all of you functional alcoholics. Sorry it’s taken so long. It won’t happen again.

In any case, let’s get right to it. This week I’m drinking Whiskey Sours. If you’re interested, “sour” refers to a class of drinks that follow the blueprint of a base spirit, a sweetening agent, and a souring agent (usually lemon or lime juice). This means that drinks like the Margarita or Cosmopolitan are sours. However, the Whiskey Sour is the ultimate sour drink.

With Whiskey Sours, the basic blueprint is whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar (I use syrup, because it’s a little easier and faster). And lemon juice, by the way, means fresh lemon juice. For reference, a medium sized lemon at room temperature (cold citrus fruits don’t give as much juice) will give about an ounce and a half of juice, give or take. So, for most of these recipes, which call for three quarters of an ounce of lemon juice, I’m juicing half a lemon.

Now let’s get to it.

 

Whiskey Sour
-2 oz Bourbon (or other whiskey)
-3/4 oz Lemon Juice
-1/2 oz Simple Syrup
-Maraschino Cherry
-Orange Slice

Whiskey Sour

Whiskey Sour

This is it. Adult lemonade right here. The classic Whiskey Sour is just that: classic, and for good reason. It’s really good. Like, FOX bringing back Firefly for another season good. (But with Wash still alive, of course. You just don’t kill Alan Tudyk.) This is a great refresher, and it goes down easy while still capitalizing on the whiskey flavor.

The key to a good Whiskey Sour is balance. Too much whiskey, and it’ll be too strong and gross. Too much lemon juice and it’ll be too sour. Too much sugar and it’ll be so cloying you won’t be able to stand it.

However, if it isn’t to your taste, you can always add more of any of the ingredients to balance it out. This is one of the reason why you should NEVER USE SOUR MIXES. Sour mix, or sweet and sour mix, or bar mix, is just sweetened citrus juice. Use fresh ingredients instead, and you can find the balance that you prefer.

To make this tasty drink, shake the liquid ingredients with ice and strain the mixture into either a sour glass or an ice-filled old fashioned glass. I don’t happen to have any sour glasses, so I’ll be using old fashioned glasses all night. Finally, garnish with the fruit.

By the way, there is one exception with using sour mix: Lynchburg Lemonade. Perhaps I’ll make that the subject of a post one day. But it is not this day.

Moving on.

 

Boston Sour
-2 oz Bourbon (or other whiskey)
-3/4 oz Lemon Juice
-1/2 oz Simple Syrup
-1 Egg White
-Maraschino Cherry
-Orange Slice

Boston Sour

Boston Sour

This drink is pretty much a regular Whiskey Sour, but frothier and thicker, and if the actresses in certain Internet films I may or may not have seen are to be believed, then thicker is always better.

But I’ll let you decide for yourself if thicker is better. The egg white really doesn’t change the flavor. The difference between the Whiskey Sour and the Boston Sour is in texture and cosmetics. In other disciplines, these attributes would not be as important. But in mixology, presentation is half of the goal. So think about what aesthetics you want, and decide which version is right for you.

By the way, whenever you see egg white in a drink recipe, you can omit it if you don’t want to bother breaking an egg and separating the white and yolk. The texture of the drink will be different, but the taste will be mostly untouched. However, if it calls for egg yolk or the whole egg, then the taste will be greatly affected by an omission.

Anyway, start by shaking the bourbon, lemon juice, syrup, and egg white with ice. Shake it a bit more vigorously than you would normally. You want to make sure to break up the egg white and blend it with the rest of the drink. Some people will even recommend dry-shaking the egg white for a little bit before adding the ice and other ingredients. Whichever method you use, once it’s well-shaken, strain it into a sour glass or an ice-filled old-fashioned glass and garnish with the fruit.

Now let’s start playing with the flavors.

 

Double Standard Sour
-3/4 oz Bourbon (or other whiskey)
-3/4 oz Gin
-3/4 oz Lemon Juice
-1/2 oz Simple Syrup
-1 dash Grenadine
-Maraschino Cherry
-Orange Slice

Double Standard Sour

Double Standard Sour

I’ve never actually mixed gin and whiskey before. Probably because it sounds really gross. Oddly enough though, they work pretty well together here. The whiskey lends its strong, robust flavor, and the gin lends its nice, light aroma and taste.

I think the sweeteners really pull this drink together. You don’t want to overdo it, because too much syrup will make your drink taste the way Katy Perry songs sound, but the syrup (or sugar if you prefer) and grenadine are essential here, and help mellow the gin and whiskey to work together instead of clashing.

Shake the liquid ingredients with ice and strain into a sour glass or ice-filled old fashioned glass. Garnish as you’ve garnished all of them so far.

 

New York Sour
-2 oz Bourbon (or other whiskey)
-3/4 oz Lemon Juice
-1/2 oz Simple Syrup
-1/2 oz Dry Red Wine
-Lemon Slice

New York Sour

New York Sour

This is a pretty tasty variation. The wine really lends a lot of flavor, and is enhanced itself by the sweet-and-sour dynamic of the drink. The wine here becomes an interesting canvas where its own flavors are played with by the traditional ingredients of the sour.

To be sure, I don’t like red wine that much. It’s not my drink. But this drink makes red wine work, sister. It makes it fucking dance and sing. It makes red wine its bitch and it’s damn good.

A note though: do use a DRY red wine. Sweet won’t cut it here. It won’t dance in the same way, and you risk it being too sweet (which is obviously not something you want for a sour). A dry red wine will be a little bit more neutral, and therefore a much better blending ingredient. If you’re curious, I used a cheap Merlot (no need to empty your wallet for this). Make your own decision about what wine to use.

To make it, shake the bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice and strain it into a sour glass (note that I’m not recommending an ice-filled old fashioned glass here). Since I don’t have a sour glass, I used a white wine glass. It’s the closest thing I have to sour glass, but it is bigger, and the shape goes in more at the top.

Once you’ve strained it, float the red wine on top. As you’ll probably see in the picture, I did a thoroughly mediocre job of floating the wine. Part of this was my poor skill. Seriously, I suck. But the other part of it was the glass choice. Because wine glasses go in so much at the top, it can make it hard to float an ingredient on the top of a drink, especially when there’s only about three ounces of liquid of the glass. A better alternative might have been a champagne coupe or a martini glass, but neither of those would have preserved the aroma of the wine as well. Make your own choice about the glass.

Finally, garnish with the lemon slice. Damn, that might be the most instructions I’ve ever written for one drink.

Let’s try another, shall we?

 

Park Lane
-2 oz Bourbon (or other whiskey)
-1/2 oz Sloe Gin
-3/4 oz Lemon Juice
-1/2 oz Simple Syrup
-Maraschino Cherry
-Orange Slice

Park Lane

Park Lane

Sloe gin is weird. That’s really all I can say about it. It’s not bad. It’s not particularly good. It’s just weird.

That being said, the flavor doesn’t come out that much here — which is really a good thing. You don’t want to ruin your whiskey with a cloying liqueur. But since the flavor itself is downplayed here, it makes this drink a bit hard to describe. It’s sweeter, it’s a bit fruitier, and it’s not as good as regular whiskey sour.

If you have sloe gin on hand, you might as well give this a try. If you don’t, I don’t see much of a reason to make this drink. If you really feel a need to make the Whiskey Sour fruitier, or if you particularly like sloe berries, then maybe. Otherwise, let it go. If you must make your Whiskey Sour fruitier, I suggest watching a Nathan Lane movie while drinking it.

In any case, shake the liquid ingredients with ice and strain into a sour glass or ice-filled old fashioned glass, and garnish with the cherry and orange. Don’t overdo it with the sloe gin. Simple enough, right?

Next one!

 

Southern Comfort Sour
-2 oz Southern Comfort
-3/4 oz Lemon Juice
-1/2 oz Orange Juice
-1/2 oz Simple Syrup
-Maraschino Cherry
-Orange Slice

Southern Comfort Sour

Southern Comfort Sour

And here we have the first drink of the night I cannot, in good conscience, recommend, under any circumstances. Why is that? It’s because Southern Comfort might just be the worst alcoholic beverage of modern times. Yes, even worse then Jägermeister. No one, under any circumstances, should drink Southern Comfort.

So why did I drink it? Well, why did Rihanna get back together with Chris Brown? Why do I know anything about Rihanna and Chris Brown? These are all questions we’ll never know the answers to.

A probable answer to the first question, though, is that I commit to my part. I found this variation, thought it might be interesting, and committed to trying it out and reviewing it for you, my dear readers.

So here’s my review: cough syrup. This drink tastes like cough syrup. Worse than that, though, it tastes like bad grape cough syrup.

Surely you remember being a kid, and getting sick. Inevitably, you needed to take medicine. Having taken medicine before, you knew which artificial flavors tasted awesome, and which tasted like ass. Cherry cough syrup, for example, came straight from Hell to punish sick toddlers for their youth.

But then there was artificial grape. It tasted nothing like grape and everything like Heaven. Surely it was a gift from the gods to reward us for diligently eating of our vegetables and not pooping our pants. Artificial grape is the best flavor. If you disagree, you are objectively wrong.

But then the beast reared its ugly head. You asked for grape cough syrup, but your mom got the wrong brand. Something was off about it. It didn’t taste the way it was supposed to. Instead, it tasted like Satan playing a cruel joke on a young kid just for the fun of it. It was wrong and disgusting.

That’s what this drink tastes like.

So, if you, for whatever insane reason, like Southern Comfort, you make it like all the rest of these drinks: Shake the liquid ingredients with ice and strain it into a sour glass or ice-filled old fashioned glass, and garnish with the fruit. I suppose it does taste better than straight Southern Comfort, but that’s really not a hard feat to accomplish. If you do make this drink, do not skip the orange juice (and use fresh orange juice if you can). The tartness goes a long way in balancing out the utterly gross sweetness of the SoCo.

Now, let us move on. Thankfully.

 

Stinger Sour
-2 oz Bourbon (or other whiskey)
-1 dash Peppermint Schnapps
-3/4 oz Lemon Juice
-1/2 oz Simple Syrup
-Mint Sprig

Stinger Sour

Stinger Sour

Oh, here’s something interesting. Generally, I’m not that big of a fan of mint. However, it tends to work really well in cocktails. This drink is no exception.

This is an incredibly good libation, with a similar sour-sweet-mint dynamic that you might find in a Mojito. Of course, this isn’t as sweet, and whiskey is a helluva lot different than rum, so the comparison isn’t perfect. But the dynamic and the complexity is there. This is a good drink, you guys.

To be fair, though, I don’t quite see why you’d go with this instead of a Mint Julep, other than the fact that you don’t have to muddle anything with this drink. Since peppermint schnapps is so strong, even if you add only a dash, this drink comes down to bourbon versus mint, with a little bit of sweet-and-sour going on in the background. That’s not a bad thing, but a Mint Julep is a much simpler way to get a similar effect.

Your call, though. This isn’t a bad drink at all.

Shake the liquid ingredients with ice, strain it it into either the sour glass or the ice-filled old fashioned glass, and garnish with the mint sprig. Enjoy.

Last drink.

 

Ward Eight
-2 oz Bourbon
-1 oz Lemon Juice
-1 oz Orange Juice
-1 dash Grenadine
-Maraschino Cherry
-Orange Slice

Ward Eight

Ward Eight

To finish with, here we have the drink that departs most with the common Whiskey Sour formula, but it definitely qualifies as a variation. Coincidentally, it’s also probably the most well-known of any of the drinks listed here other than the basic Whiskey Sour, with the possible exception of the Boston Sour. The Ward Eight is a drink on its own, and that in itself deserves some respect.

This drink has about the same dynamic of sweet versus sour, but with a lot more fruitiness. Scratch the Nathan Lane idea, and ditch the sloe gin; if you want a fruitier Whiskey Sour, try this drink. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (or cup of liquor, I suppose), but it does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and it does it well.

Shake the liquid ingredients with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the cherry and orange, and enjoy.

 

Denouement
So, what have we learned? First off, we learned that I’m a lazy asshole and need to start posting again. Second, we learned that sour mix is best left in the grocery store. Third, we learned that Southern Comfort is probably just fermented grape cough syrup. Please don’t drink it.

That’s all, guys. Please drink responsibly.

Cheers!


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