Springtime isn’t just the time for cleaning our back-bar after a long winter, but it’s an excellent time for re-tuning our palates as well. The first flavors that come to mind are more in the pungent category, but with that said- I’m all about sour over sweet!
My friend Richie Fawcett who works his magic in Vietnam is my spiritual guide from afar in his use of vinegar in cocktails. All sorts of flavored vinegars make their way into his mixology, and I’m proud to say that his influence has pushed me to higher levels. Vinegar made with palm sugar as a base and fruit flavors make my tongue quiver and question the thought of just using foul tempered sour mixes from a package. If you have vinegar around, use it to make the perfect vinegar based sour mix. Here’s how.
Perfect Vinegar Based Sour Mix
- 1 cup white balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed and strained lime juice
- 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice
Combine and keep in fridge for up to a week
I’m quite fond of fresh herbs in my cocktails, but nothing disappoints me more than seeing an entire branch of rosemary in a drink. The rosemary is so fragrant and it has so much oil in each ‘leaf’ that just a couple needles of rosemary are enough for several drinks. An entire branch could influence a vat of punch and then some- so use less of this rather potent herb. Use less of it!
Smashed Rosemary Sour Julep
- 2-4 leaves of rosemary. That’s all. No whole flaming branches allowed, ever!
- 4 perfectly clean leaves of mint- I like spearmint… Kentucky Colonel style
- 2 oz. Barrell Bourbon Whiskey
- 1 oz. Vinegar Based Sour Mix (above)
- Muddle the rosemary and the mint together just to release their oils
- Add some ice
- Add some bourbon
- Add some Vinegar Sour
- Muddle.. just a bit
- Add some more bourbon, ice, sour
- Form a crown of ice
- Add some more bourbon
- Insert just a few leaves of mint and some finely chopped rosemary over the top. Quite thirst quenching really…
Another drink that speaks to me of the long (not so this year) cold winter is the whiskey smash. Nearly everyone does one form or another of this classic preppy drink. But think for a moment how this drink became so popular and why it is so delicious and yes, really easy to make. It’s a mixology drink that doesn’t act pretentious nor is it difficult to master because my smash has only a few ingredients in it. My way of making one is slightly different (did you expect it to be the same?) because I like to use an oven roasted citrus juice, like blood orange, because they are in season right now. The classic whiskey smash uses lemon juice- it’s ok- and you are welcome to use the lemon, but I would suggest in any case to roast the lemon first. Sprinkle some bar sugar on lemon wedges (or blood orange wedges) and roast in the oven at 350 degrees for ½ hour- let cool and use in this special smash. Named for a favorite street in New Orleans- where it gets pretty hot even in the springtime.
The Camp Street Smash
(Roast wedges of lemons and blood oranges at 350 for a ½ hour and cool)
- 3 oz. Barrell Bourbon Whiskey (the batch of your choice)
- 2-3 roasted wedges of blood orange and/lemons
- 1 oz. Dark Simple Syrup
- Fresh Mint (I like spearmint)
- Cocktail Bitters
- Smash down the blood orange and lemon wedges to release their secrets
- (And their juice!)
- Add the Simple Syrup
- Add the Bourbon Whiskey
- Add ice to a Boston Shaker
- Cap and Shake Hard for 10-15 seconds
- Slap the mint in your hand and add to the glass
- Dot with Bitters of your choice
These cocktails make it easy for you to do what you enjoy doing. That’s mixing carefully made drinks that are anything but difficult.
Also, may I suggest using good ice… And that means- no quarter cubes… A man may dream of a day when all quarter cube ice is relegated to that of water glasses and not cocktails that cost good money instead of drinking diluted drinks of an uncertain
To learn more cocktail recipes and insights to expand on the perfect vinegar based sour mix, visit Warren’s website.