17 April 2009

News + The Manhattan Project

A couple of quick news items:

First up, frequent commenter and fellow wine blogger Samantha Dugan has moved her site from Yahoo back to Blogspot. The new address for Samantha Sans Dosage is http://sansdosage.blogspot.com/. While I'm mucking around with bean-stuffed potatoes and Serbian prune brandy, she's tasting great Champagne and fine Burgundy. I think you'll find the new site easier to read, and definitely easier for commenting. Stop by her new site and show some love for the west coast sister.

Secondly... I've got another online wine tasting coming up. Thursday, April 30th at 7:00 p.m. (Central Daylight Time). Again, this will be held over at Whining & Dining, a blog affiliated with my hometown newspaper The Commercial Appeal. This time it's fried chicken and sparkling wine. Get your bucket or box o' chicken, and pick up a bottle of the non-vintage Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noirs. Chill the wine ahead of time, chill the chicken if you prefer yours cold, and join us at 7:00 to chat about it. Just keep a napkin handy so your keyboard doesn't get greasy.

* * *

Now, about the Manhattan Project... My buddy Paul and I have been enjoying Manhattans as a nice pre-dinner beverage for the past year, and lately I've been mixing it up with different bitters. Since I have ten different bottles at home, I decided I needed to go through all of them. Note that this is not a review of which bitters are inherently good or bad, just which ones are best for this particular cocktail. Grapefruit didn't work so well, but would be great in a Sea Breeze or a traditional Margarita (i.e., not a green beverage mostly comprised of corn syrup).

For the sake of science, these were all tested over the course of a few weeks, using the following baseline recipe:

2 oz. Maker's Mark Bourbon
1 oz. Noilly Prat Sweet Red Vermouth
(stir the above in a cocktail shaker with ice)
1 maraschino cherry*
2 dashes of bitters

Here's the reviews of 10 Manhattans with 10 different bitters:

Commonly Available Bitters
  • Angostura: The baseline bitters found everywhere, turns it almost like cola or root beer
  • Peychaud's: Medicinal, bracing. Outside of a Sazerac it's hard to find a good use for Peychaud's. Inside of a Sazerac, it's too dark. With apologies to Groucho.
Fee Brothers Bitters
(see a previous post for more details)

  • Lemon: Too overpowering for a Manhattan; too bright and citric
  • West Indian Orange: Quite good, a decent standard
  • Old Fashion: A great standard like the West Indian Orange but with more spice and depth
  • Rhubarb: Too delicate for this cocktail, the Bourbon completely overwhelmed it
  • Grapefruit: Too tart and distracting, it throws off the entire balance of the cocktail
  • Mint: Oddly fun--it impacts the aroma more than the flavor, but it had its own crazy charm
  • Cherry: For this I omitted the cherry from the cocktail, but the bitters provided a great flavor without the syrup texture and sweet edge
  • Peach: The surprise winner of the group. Wow. Peach and cherry go together in dessert, but here they blend in a new and unexpected way. This is the one to use when you want to amaze your friends with the power of bitters.
*For additional fun, buy a jar of maraschino cherries and strain out all the red juice. Then pour your bourbon of choice over the cherries, and let sit. Over time the cherries take on a great flavor, and when you're done you've got a sweet Bourbon-Cherry syrup that you can use over ice cream or in some other dessert.


Samantha Dugan said...

Awesome tip on the cherries my friend, so gonna try that. Thank you so much for the shout out on my blog, very kind of you, (but what else is new right?)to do that. The new spot is getting easier for me to figure out but I still have the task of putting pictures in my older posts, so wish those would have moved with the posts...argh, but what are ya gonna do.
Thanks again my friend!

fredric koeppel said...

you are one wild and crazy guy.

Mike said...

Great post!

Benito said...

Quick note on the Cocktail Geek thing: sort of an inside joke with some of the folks at Fee Brothers. I slapped together a logo Thursday afternoon, it got some laughs on Facebook, thought I ought to post it here.

Mixology is part art and part science, and is definitely a fun application of simple math like proportions and unit conversion. The magic comes in fine tuning those ratios to get the most out of your ingredients.