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Cocktail of the Day: The Animalito

Last night I finally participated in TDN, Thursday Drink Night. Sheesh, it’s about time.

TDN is a weekly gathering at The Mixoloseum Bar, a chat room where cocktail webbloggers, readers, enthusiasts, authors and even spirits industry folk gather on Thursday nights from 4pm-midnight Pacific time to make original cocktails, talk about them, make fun of each other and stay up too late. There’s a theme each week, whether it’s a specific product or a general base spirit or something like last night’s theme, “Equal Proportions.”

Can you make a good drink using equal proportions of the ingredients? Well sure, it’s been done all the time in cocktail history. My favorite example of this is the Negroni, equal parts of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. The Sidecar began as an equally proportioned cocktail, of brandy, lemon juice and Cointreau. Thing is … that particular Sidecar doesn’t really taste balanced to me. I prefer it as 3:2:1, others at 2:1:1 (and some like the wacky Embury proportion of 8:2:1). Cocktails are all about balance, and when you’re constrained by a rule like this it can get tough to make a cocktail that’s properly balanced, and therein lay the challenge. The rules were to make an original cocktail using only equal proportions of your ingredients, with the exception being dashes of bitters or an egg white.

I was pretty happy with my entry, I must say. I started thinking about it on the way home, wanting to do something tequila-based and remembering something Misty Kalkofen of the bar Drink in Boston said recently, about how grapefruit bitters work well with yellow Chartreuse. DING! This one sprang fully-formed from my head, not unlike Athena. While I reserve the right to tweak the proportions later (e.g., the soda element won’t be constrained to the 3/4 ounce anymore, although I measured that amount in the original drink), I think it was pretty darn good as it was.

The grapefruit soda should be a high-quality one with a signifacant juice content. I thought that Ting, the Orangina-like grapefruit soda from Jamaica, would be ideal, but it’s not always easy to find. I couldn’t get to Galco’s before closing (and I knew they had some), so I ended up using IZZE Sparkling Grapefruit, which is 70% juices (grapefruit, apple, orange and white grape) with no added sugar. It had a terrific, fresh flavor and I think I’ll stick with this one, although I do want to try it with Ting. I wouldn’t use Fresca, but some of my bartender friends speak highly of Squirt, which I must confess I’ve never tried.

The name came from a rather infamous trip I took to Mexico back in college with some close friends. There were many adventures and inside jokes that survive until this day, and when I was trying to think of a name for a new tequila-based drink this one popped right out.

THE ANIMALITO

3/4 ounce añejo tequila (I used Partida).
3/4 ounce Laird’s bonded apple brandy.
3/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse.
3/4 ounce fresh lime juice.
2 dashes Bittermens Grapefruit Bitters (substitute Fee’s).
2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters (substitute any other orange bitters).
IZZE Sparkling Grapefruit or Ting Grapefruit soda.
Grapefruit peel.

Combine the firsts four ingredients with the bitters in an Old Fashioned glass. Add ice and stir for 15 seconds or so. Top with grapefruit soda and stir briefly. Garnish with grapefruit peel.

Tart and refreshing, with a nice little bitter edge! I liked this very much, and so did the folks in the Mixo Bar (thanks, y’all!). I may try making it shaken and up with half the bitters and no soda, just for kicks.

This drink is dedicated to Mr. John Norbutas. (“I want those goddamned Animalitos.” Long story.)

 

A digestivo to cure what ails you

Here’s one of many fantastic drinks I had during my first evening at Cure back home in New Orleans, finally getting there about four months after they opened.

I had had a little trouble remembering the details about the Mezcal Old Fashioned I had, which thanks to the magic of post-editing due to Maks reminding me in email the morning after I posted this I was able to remember. (“Of course! How could I forget that one!” Um, maybe because you had about seven drinks that night?) Fortunately, it was not lost to history.

However, my last drink of the night I remembered very well. Maks and I had been talking about my experience at Anvil in Houston, and how Bobby Heugel made me that wonderful room temperature cocktail from their menu called The Brave (smoky single-village mezcal, blanco sotol, amaro, Curaçao and bitters, merely swirled together in a wine glass with a flamed orange peel), plus the knockoff of that drink that I came up with for one of the Drink.Write sessions (more on that one later). He pondered, and came up with another room temperature digestivo cocktail that I enjoyed very much, and which I don’t think had a name. I decided it to name it after the bar, in Italian, but if Maks has kept making it and has another name for it by now, I’ll most certainly change it.

Digestivo"

Cura
(A most excellent digestivo whipped up on the spot
by Maks Pazuniak, Cure, New Orleans)

1 ounce rye whiskey.
1 ounce Aperol.
1 ounce Amaro Ramazotti.
3 barspoons Cointreau.
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters.
1 dash Regans’ orange bitters.

Combine in an Old Fashioned glass and swirl to mix.

That hit the spot.

The Art of Choke

Here’s one of many fantastic drinks I had during my first evening at Cure back home in New Orleans, finally getting there about four months after they opened.

This is a drink from the book by Cure bartenders Kirk Estopinal and Maks Pazuniak [currently out of print but soon-to-be-reissued] which was created by Kyle Davidson from The Violet Hour in Chicago. It appears on Cure’s side menu, not the main one, and is a must-get. Again based on half-spirit, half-amaro, all the ingredients play off one another so well. It’s absolutely out of this world. It’s another one of those drinks that let the bitterness of the amaro be more assertive but still keep it in check (Cynar is relentlessly bitter, and one of the only amaros I don’t drink by itself). The description from the book tells you exactly what to expect:

Picture yourself in the limestone-walled courtyard of an Italian villa off the coast of the Riviera. You are surrounded by fragrant herbs and flowers, and the sea air is blowing gently. The sun is bright, but it’s not hot, and you have nothing to do all day but relax and savor the sensations all around you. Drinking this cocktail is kind of like that if somebody suddenly punched you in the stomach just as you were begining to doze off in the sun. In a good way.

Um … yeah you right.

The

THE ART OF CHOKE
(by Kyle Davidson, The Violet Hour, Chicago)

1 ounce white rum.
1 ounce Cynar.
1/8 ounce fresh lime juice.
1/8 ounce rich Demerara sugar syrup (2:1).
1/4 ounce green Chartreuse.
Sprig of mint.

Bruise the mint sprig with the other ingredients in a mixing glass. Stir with ice for half a minute, then strain over fresh ice into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with another mint sprig.

 

Nardini Flip

Here’s one of many fantastic drinks I had during my first evening at Cure back home in New Orleans, finally getting there about four months after they opened.

Cynar is but one of many amaros I saw on the shelf behind the bar, Cure’s wonderful wall of booze. They had all my favorites, most of the ones readily available in the States, in fact, and then I spotted one that I’ve been having a hard time finding. Nobody in L.A. seems to have Amaro Nardini, which is produced by a maker of grappas and grappa-based liqueurs. Amaro Nardini is a grappa-based amaro too, with a flavor profile that (according to what I’d read) featured bitter orange, gentian and a bit of peppermint. I told Kirk I’d been wanting to try that one, so he poured me a taste. I tasted all that, plus a bit of nutmeg and clove, cinnamon, anise, a hint of coffee and a little candy sweetness, almost like toffee. Hoo, yum! Then Kirk smiled and asked if he could make me a cocktail with it. That’s a silly question. He then proceeded to apply a 2×4 to the side of my head … again, in the gentlest and best possible way.

Nardini

NARDINI FLIP
(by Kirk Estopinal, Cure, New Orleans)

2-1/2 ounces Amaro Nardini.
1/4 – 1/2 ounces simple syrup (to taste).
1 whole egg.

Dry shake the egg for at least 20 seconds, then add the other ingredients with ice and shake hard. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass and add a single large ice cube.

A flip, containing nothing else but simple and amaro. I’d never thought of it, and I’m not entirely sure but I think Kirk made it up on the spot. It was fantastic — creamy and rich and spicy and sweet … there’s a magic, an alchemy that happens when an egg yolk goes into a cocktail, as Maks and Kirk talk about in their book when they show you two whole egg-bearing drinks, one of which I’ve had and the other I haven’t. The Coffee Cocktail (port, brandy, whole egg, simple and Angostura) is named for its color rather than its flavor, and the Chocolate Cocktail #2 (ruby port, yellow Chartreuse and whole egg), which apparently tastes something like chocolate (“a mindfuck cocktail,” they call it). Whole eggs in cocktails, folks. It’s a good thing. Drink more flips!

Growing Old and Dying Happy is a Hope, Not an Inevitability

Here’s one of many fantastic drinks I had during my first evening at Cure back home in New Orleans, finally getting there about four months after they opened.

Next came the drink that wins the award for the longest cocktail name I’ve ever encountered, which we had difficulty remembering even while sober. Maks apologized for the length of the name but very pointedly did not offer to change it.

Growing

GROWING OLD AND DYING HAPPY IS A HOPE,
NOT AN INEVITABILITY

(by Maks Pazuniak, Cure, New Orleans)

2 ounces Cynar.
1 ounce Rittenhouse 100 proof rye whiskey.
Pinch of salt.
2 pieces of lemon peel.
Herbsaint.

Combine the Cynar, rye and salt in a mixing glass and stir briefly to dissolve the salt. Express the oil from the lemon peels and drop into the mixing glass. Add ice and stir, then strain into an Herbsaint-rinsed cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

That said, he did admit that they tend to refer to it as “Growing Old” for short. This is sort of an inverse-Manhattan in which Cynar (“chee-NAHR,” an Italian bitters based on artichokes, in case you’re not familiar with it) is substituted for both the sweet vermouth and the bitters, with a really nice savory element added by the salt, which enhances the flavor of the amaro and gives it more balance. If you try this one at home, make sure you only use the barest pinch — you don’t want to make it taste salty, you want to make it taste seasoned. Both the salt and the lemon oil, as Maks reminded me later, help bring out the “artichokiness” of the flavors in the drink.

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