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Coconut Ginger Caipirinha

This was one of the cocktails served by Audrey Saunders and Dale DeGroff at their Spirited Dinner at Commander’s Palace during Tales of the Cocktail 2007. Well, sort of.

The original recipe was a Coconut Water and Ginger Caipiroska, being made with Absolut vodka rather than cachaça. Still a good drink, but when I make them at home I swap out the vodka for cachaça. If you want to try the exact drink we had at the dinner (which was full of stunning cocktails and stunning food), just use Absolut and change the name to a Caipiroska.

Second Cocktail: Coconut Water and Ginger Caipiroska

Coconut Water and Ginger Caipirinha

1-1/2 ounces cachaça
4 eighths lime
1 ounce coconut water
1 piece of ginger, peeled, the size of a fingernail
1 ounce agave nectar or aloe vera nectar

Muddle the coconut water together with the ginger. Add the limes and the syrup and muddle again. Using the Old Fashioned glass the drnk will be served in measure a glass of ice into the shaker glass and shake well. Pour the entire contents of the glass back into the Old Fashioned glass.

This was one of the two best pairings of the evening, and a drink we’ve made at home since. I love coconut water (which is what sloshes around inside ripe and especially young coconuts, which we buy for a buck each at the nearby Filipino market, hacking off the top, drinking the glassful of water it contains and scooping out the tender, creamy flesh with a spoon), and I love to see it used in a cocktail instead of the thick, overly sweet cream of coconut you see all the time. The ginger’s peppery counterpoint to that was wonderful, and the mysterious element added by muddling the ginger with agave nectar instead of sugar as the sweetener was genius.

I was a little baffled by the use of vodka instead of rum, though, and I suspect it had to do with certain requirements that sponsors’ products be used throughout the event. I understand — events like this could not take place without the support of the sponsoring liquor companies, and bartenders and consultants often make a big chunk of their living creating cocktails on commission from spirits companies. That said, my personal taste runs toward having little to no use for vodka in cocktails, I think I’d definitely use a nice cachaça or white rum.

The brilliance of this drink particularly came through once the course was served:

Second Course: Rum Butter-Poached Lobster Calaloo

Rum Butter-Poached Lobster Calaloo, with Caribbean curry, ginger, okra, taro, sweet potato and house-distilled roasted coconut liqueur. Oh my Gawd.

Calaloo is sort of the Caribbean version of gumbo, often thickened with okra, usually containing a mixture of greens, and like gumbo can be done a zillion different ways. This one was a stew rather than a soup, featuring that beautiful, beautiful lobster. I learned the technique of poaching lobster in butter from Chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry after reading his book (and eating the dish), and next time I do it you can be damned certain that I’ll be adding rum to the butter, and serving this drink with it.

 

Peruvian Elder-Sour

Gary Regan’s most recent Chronicle column is out as well, with the Professor’s substitute bartender Jake filling in. Jake gets an email from the Professor with the recipe for today’s cocktail, a close relative of the Cocktail of the Day above. This sounded fantastic, and it was — we made them last night . We sure do love St. Germain (and its pretty bottle), and it’s always a pleasure to use pisco in something other than the ubiquitous Pisco Sour.

The classic proportions are in effect.

The Peruvian Elder-Sour

The Peruvian Elder-Sour

2 ounces pisco.
1 ounce St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur.
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice.

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wheel.

I’m gonna start playing with St. Germain and silver tequila next, probably just swapping out the pisco, but I’m sure someone’s already thought of that.

 

Brandy Daisy

This true classic, dating back to Professor Jerry Thomas in the mid-19th Century, was served at Tales of the Cocktail 2007 at a seminar entitled “The Cocktail’s Family Tree,” a look at how the cocktail used to be just one particular kind of drink — specifically, it meant a spirit of any kind with water, sugar and bitters, and was not a catch-all term for all mixed alcoholic drinks.

Back in the Days of Yore there were cobblers and daisys and fixes and flips and sangarees and punches and shrubs and lots more. Going through all this was moderator David Wondrich of Esquire magazine and many other publications (boy, what a gig he’s got), bartenders John Myers from Portland, Maine and Jim Meehan of PDT in New York, and Ryan Magarian, mixologist and one of the developers of Aviaton Gin. The only drawback to a panel like this is that you can’t possibly fit all the history into a 75-minute seminar; we’d need to spend a week drinking our way through the development of the cocktail with all its fellow drinks for the last couple of hundred years (and how much fun would that be?). The guys all did a great job though, and it was fun and fascinating.

We also got to sample two drinks from the cocktail’s family tree, one daisy and one fizz, the latter near and dear to the heart of New Orleanians (a Ramos, of course). The daisy, a forerunner to drinks like the Sidecar or what Gary Regan classifies as a “New Orleans Sour,” generally was a spirit with fresh lemon juice, sugar, a bit of Curaçao and sometimes grenadine. No grenadine in this one, and the Curaçao is a damned good one. Here’s the modern version:

Brandy Daisy

2 ounces brandy.
1/2 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice.
1/4 ounce Grand Marnier.
1 teaspoon rich simple syrup.

Strain into a chilled rocks glass and add 1 ounce chilled seltzer water or soda. Twist a thin-cut lemon peel over the top and drop in for garnish.

For comparison, here’s Professor Jerry Thomas’ version from his 1862 classic The Bartender’s Guide, or How to Mix Drinks:

Brandy Daisy
(from Jerry Thomas, 1862)

3 or 4 dashes gum syrup
2 or 3 dashes of Curacoa cordial
The juice of half a small lemon
1 small wine-glass of brandy
2 dashes of Jamaica rum

Fill glass one-third full of shaved ice. Shake well, strain into a large cocktail glass, and fill up with Seltzer water from a syphon.

A daisy can be made with any base spirit — bourbon, rye, gin, genever, even tequila, although such a thing was unheard of in Jerry Thomas’ day. In fact, it’s been surmised that the Margarita was really just a tequila Daisy, in spite of all the stories about its origin, and who the lady Margarita, its apparent namesake, really was.

The biggest clue? Well, other than the near-identical recipe? The Spanish word for “daisy” is … margarita!

By the by, here’s an appropriately fuzzy picture of Wes and me with Gaz Regan and Dave Wondrich, taken after we’d quaffed our daisies and fizzes at the seminar.

Wes, Gary Regan, me and Dave Wondrich

Ah, but we hadn’t yet even begun to drink …

 

Les Coulisses

This cocktail was served by bartenders Darcy O’Neil and Paul Clarke at The Delachaise in New Orleans during the Spirited Dinner at Tales of the Cocktail 2007.

As this was happening, I over in the Garden District at Commander’s Palace for a different Spirited Dinner, and it was an agonizing choice. I have no regrets — it was a fantastic meal at Commander’s — but I’m still kicking myself for not having Darcy and Paul’s wonderful drinks with the wonderful dishes of Chef Chris DeBarr (now at his own restaurant, The Green Goddess). He’s one of the best, most creative and innovative chefs in the city. Read Paul’s account of the dinner for more details.

This cocktail was originally developed by Murray Stenson of the Zig Zag Café in Seattle.

Les Coulisses Cocktail

2 ounces Plymouth gin.
1/4 ounce Cynar.
1/8 ounce green Chartreuse.
2 dashes Fee Brothers orange bitters.

Stir well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a curl of lemon peel.

This is what drives me so nuts about the Spirited Dinners. All those great dinners and drinks on the same night, gaah!

 

Donga Punch

This was served by bartenders Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Wayne Curtis at the Spirited Dinner at the Palace Café in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail 2007.

Donga Punch
(Adapted by Jeff Berry from Don the Beachcomber’s 1937 recipe)

1 ounce Rhum Clément VSOP.
1 ounce Cruzan Estate dark rum.
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice.
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/2 ounce cinnamon-infused simple syrup (such as Trader Tiki’s).

Put everything tino a cocktail shaker half-filled with crushed ice. Shake well. Pour into a tall glass. If necessary, add more crushed ice to fill.

The dish they paired it with: Red Curry Glazed Duck with Avocado Corn Relish.

 

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