Andrew takes our order. I ask for something Manhattan-y. He pours some booze into a beautiful mixing glass. Next, he proceeds to carve an ice ball the size of an orange. And then he takes out the coolest peeler I’ve seen (everyone needs one of these) and peels an orange in one strip, which he wraps around the ice ball. Seriously, it was the coolest thing I’ve seen. I loved that drink. This was a memorable day. CR and I drinking incredible cocktails in an empty Mistral Kitchen (turns out they closed from 1p-5p, but didn’t ask us to leave) talking cocktails with Andrew Bohrer. Best. New Years. Ever. And it turns out that our bar-mate was A.J. Rathbun, author of Dark Spirits. OK, I’m geeking out on this, and 99.73 % of you will be saying “so?” but I still talk about that day.
>Date night on Capitol Hill. CR and I decided to head to the hill to see what kind of trouble we could stir up (really, we’re just trying to find a parking space). Luck was seriously on our side as we found prime parking in the Pike/Pine corridor. Our first stop was The Tin Table. This was our first visit to The Tin Table and we loved the feel of this space. We were welcomed by cool blue light coming from a wall of various cocktail glasses. OK, we’re hooked.
We had tasty cocktails and dinner and fun conversation with the bartender. We’ll put The Tin Table on our list to visit again when we’re in the neighborhood. After snooping around the Century Ballroom (note to selves: sign up for dance lessons), which shares space with The Tin Table, we made our way out onto the streets of Capitol Hill looking for our next stop. Bar hopping on Capitol Hill….big night.
We had recently celebrated CR’s birthday at Needle and Thread, Tavern Law’s swank upstairs speakeasy. The evening was a brilliant cocktail experience and I suggest everyone put Needle and Thread on their list of cocktail bars to visit. [Pay attention as you ascend the stairs; the pictures flanking the staircase are a real treat]. Remembering that C&E and I had recently been wowed by the cocktails at Tavern Law, and CR had enjoyed the upstairs retreat, but not Tavern Law proper….the decision was easy. Off to Tavern Law we go.
We’re lucky and get two seats at the bar. Brian is our bartender, and he remembers us from CR’s birthday bash as he was working Needle and Thread that night. CR is a scotch drinker and Brian suggests the Morning Glory Fizz. This is a vintage cocktail dating back to the late 1800’s and contains absinthe. I am not a huge fan of anise flavor… actually, I really dislike it. Thus, the Libation Laboratory Inventory does not yet contain absinthe. However, I do recognize that many classic cocktails contain this ingredient, and as such, we need to procure a bottle. But which kind does one buy? Well, there we are with an expert right in front of us. We ask Brian which absinthe he prefers. He goes to the shelf and pulls down four (4!) different brands of absinthe and SURPRISE, absinthe tasting commences! We taste St. George, Pacifique, Mata Hari and Kubler.
|Absinthe Flight Participants|
Thank you Brian! We appreciate your knowledge and generosity. Being a virgin of absinthe I don’t feel qualified to critique and review the participants. This has been done very nicely elsewhere. Christopher Null over at Drinkhacker has great reviews on absinthe and the New York Times has also written a very nice absinthe review article worth reading. Suffice to say we thought the Mata Hari was weird, the Kubler was nice. We liked Pacifique (and it’s local), but St. George was the winner.
Off to the liquor store we go with visions of Sazeracs, Chrysanthemums and Monkey Glands in our heads. What other classic absinthe cocktails should we plan to mix?
I’ve been thinking about what this blog might look like for over a year now. I can recall my peeps at my previous job (Hello peeps!) encouraging me and providing input on blog names last Christmas (2009). I think I have an idea about how I want to start off. Being new to this field, I obviously need to continue my intensive research. I have no pretense that I have anything to teach. This is all about my learning and providing a narrative of that process. I trust that you will only read the content if it provides you with some level of entertainment. So don’t judge my crude writing and elementary methodology.
As I was saying…research. As a scientist tasked with learning a new protocol or method, I would first dive in to some background/reference reading. As such, I will do something similar here. Hopefully by the end of my research I might be slightly more versed at mixology. Stay tuned for more on this.
But first, I want to talk about (and mix) the cocktail that sealed the fate of my new hobby….The Champs Elysees (CE). When I first mixed this drink, I used the recipe from Drinks by Vincent Gasnier. And I really, really enjoyed it. Since then, I have acquired a few more books and I see that the recipe differs depending on the source. So let’s try two variations:
CE (Drinks) Recipe:
1.0 oz Cognac (Hennessy)
0.5 oz Green Chartreuse
1.0 oz Lemon Juice
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Shake, strain – cocktail or coupe
6 Jiggers Cognac (1.5 oz Hennessy)
2 Jiggers Yellow Chartreuse (0.5 oz)
2 Jiggers Lemon Juice (0.5 oz)
1 T Powdered Sugar (not sure here, so I went with 0.25 oz Simple Syrup)
1 dash Angostura Bitters (drop of bitters)
Though neither recipe called for it, I garnished both with a small lemon twist. They just seemed a little naked without a garnish.
The two are quite different drinks. Besides the significant difference in lemon juice volume, the Chartreuses are distinct in flavor profile and even proof, with Green coming in at 110 proof and Yellow at 80 proof. CE (Drinks) is much more tart and snappier with the Green. CE (TSBG) is mellower and sweeter, from the Yellow and added simple. I think I might like CE (TSBG) slightly better. As I made the decision to revisit the Champs Elysees for this post, I realized I can’t remember the last time I mixed this drink. It may have been two years ago when I mixed my first ‘real’ cocktail and was converted into a cocktail fan(atic).
I look forward to using both Green and Yellow Chartreuse in more cocktails. I wonder what favorite Chartreuse recipes others would recommend.
OK, so things are happening fast now. It was time to mix a ‘real’ cocktail. We had traveled to Paris the year before and had such a wonderful trip that we were still talking about it. I read a recipe for a cocktail called the Champs Elysées, a classic cocktail first referenced in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. Perfect. I had to mix this drink. Trip to kitchen store for cocktail shaker, check. Trip to liquor store for ingredients, check. Green Chartreuse, a secret recipe made by Carthusian Monks since the 1740s, with extracts from 132 plants and its coloring coming from chlorophyll…so beyond cool. Mix up two. Serve. Frakity Frak! That damn drink is good! Ok. I’m in; count me in. Extra time because of the snowstorm afforded me lots of play time for my new hobby. I discovered wonderful blogs all about cocktails. Hello Paul Clarke and Jay Hepburn. Please be my new BFFs. So many books written about my new hobby (bookstore within walking distance, check). There is an annual conference to celebrate my new hobby, a magazine devoted almost entirely to my new passion. And let’s not forget about a Guild, there’s even a Guild. Apparently, even I can be a member of the Washington State Bartenders Guild. I read of the different kinds of shiny, sparkly new bar tools I would need. Kid in a candy store….A Christmas Miracle.
Back to the hockey stick….we are racing up the handle, which is where we are today, 1-1-11. I’m not a writer, I haven’t traveled the world, and I just learned that cocktails can be tasty. But I’m compelled to write a blog about this new hobby of mine. CR dubbed it Libation Laboratory. She thinks it’s my outlet for being a frustrated scientist who doesn’t actually ‘do’ science anymore. If so, then what an appropriate name. Thus, two years after the self-discovery that cocktails are indeed tasty, I’m taking it to the next level. Welcome to the Libation Laboratory.