Thoughts on The Mixellany Guide to Vermouth and other Apéritifs by Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller

Mixellany Guide to Vermouth and Other Aperitifs

Thoughts:

The book is long-winded on people, places, years and book titles.  That said, it almost-criminally neglects Absintium Romanum (translated in the 1800’s as ‘Roman Vermouth,’ an aromatized wine recipe that is much like vermouth wine) in the seminal ancient Roman cooking text, De Re Coquinaria, attributed to Apicius.

The book is far-too brief on production methods for my liking.

The book contains a good list of botanical ingredients (with the failure to italicize their Latin binomial names).

It presents a fairly-extensive list of apéritif products – but without any sort of distinction being made between aromatized wines and grand bitters.

Tasting notes for the products are included, which may help those without direct experience of them before they buy.  The tasting notes for some of the products covered in the book are culled from other sources, such as the Wine Spectator.

The sourcing of the drink recipes at the end of the book, and the modern glosses on their mixology, are about what I expected them to be – no better, no worse.

Marsh Grapefruit at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market!

Just yesterday I picked up some delicious Marsh grapefruit from the Mud Creek Ranch people at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market.  Two weeks ago, I got some Marsh grapefruit from another vendor there.  It looks like the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers’ Market (not Saturday!) is the time and place to get this heirloom variety that was used in composing the best grapefruit-containing drinks of the 20th century.  Neither of the vendors come to the Saturday Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, so get there on a Wednesday.  It’s worth it.

The Mud Creek Ranch seems fairly committed to growing heirloom citrus (I recommended they get some Duncan grapefruit budwood).  I also bought a Tahitian pomelo (perhaps the best, most complex-tasting pomelo) and some Italian lemons from them.

The Elemental Mixology Citrus Farm

Elemental Mixology is now growing many types of citrus.  Some of the following are already fruiting.  As the fruits are available, they will be used in the courses.  The acquisition of other, especially-heirloom, varieties is underway – such as Citron, Tahitian Pomelo, Seville Bitter Orange, and more.  As of now, the following are established:

Citrus aurantiifolia – Bartender’s Lime (a.k.a. Key Lime or West Indian Lime) – 3 trees

Citrus australasica – Finger Lime (a.k.a. Caviar Lime) – 1 tree

Citrus hystrix – Kaffir Lime (a.k.a. Makrut or Thai Lime) – 1 tree

Citrus junos – Yuzu (a.k.a. Japanese Citron) – 1 tree (troubled)

Citrus latifolia – Persian Lime (a.k.a. Tahiti Lime or Common Lime) – 3 trees (2 as rootstock)

Citrus limon ‘Eureka’ – Eureka Lemon (a.k.a. Common Lemon) – 4 trees

Citrus limon ‘Femminello’ – Italian Santa Teresa Femminello Lemon – 1 tree

Citrus mitis – Calamondine (a.k.a. Panama Orange or Musk Lime) – 1 tree

Citrus paradisi ‘Duncan’ – Duncan Grapefruit – 3 seedlings (hopefully true to fruit)

Citrus paradisi ‘Rio Red’ – Rio Red Grapefruit – 1 tree (probably as rootstock)

Citrus ponderosa – Ponderosa (a.k.a. Ponderosa Lemon) – 1 tree

Citrus reticulata ‘Satsuma’ – Satsuma Mandarine – 1 tree

Citrus sinensis ‘Navel’ – Navel Sweet Orange – 1 tree

Citrus sinensis ‘Sanguinelli’ – Sanguinelli Blood Sweet Orange – 1 tree

Citrus sinensis ‘Valencia’ – Valencia Sweet Orange – 1 tree

The Paradise Theatre – An Elemental Mixology Alumni-run ‘Speakeasy’

I sometimes wonder what sort of trouble my students get into after completing my courses…

Paradise TheatreSingapore Fix

Just this evening, I received an e-mail from one of them, who with his friend (also an Elemental Mixology alumnus) are currently operating a real ‘speakeasy’ in Los Angeles.

I was flattered by the message, the subject line of which read “You created a monster!”  Some of the lines from the message were:

“As it turns out, we were so inspired by the class, and so excited about making drinks, that we decided to try our hand at converting our house in Silver Lake into an illegitimate speakeasy once a week.”

And,

“Flash forward a few months, and I’m proud to report that our little project has become quite a hit.  It’s called the Paradise Theatre…”

And,

“Folks come because they like the Styx theming, and because they love the drinks – something we owe very much to you!  We’ve gotten especially busy in the past few weeks, and it’s just been amazing.  It’s even become a bit of a regular hangout for a good deal of local bartenders after hours, who have even said they can’t get drinks like we serve anywhere else.  Our menu and method of making the drinks is largely inspired by your course, and we really couldn’t have done anything without you.”

But, enough about me!  If you are in Los Angeles, you still have a few weeks to check out the Paradise Theatre.

Here is their Instagram page: http://instagram.com/paradisetheatre

Here is an article written about them: http://2sense-la.com/article.php?id=360

Sweetness in Simplicity

O’ sugar – a major driving force in the history of empire, war, conquest, colonialism, slavery, rum, and the creation of the concept of ‘white’ and ‘black’ ethnicity.  Yes, before the 1500’s there is no record that anyone simplified ethnicity down to ‘white’ and ‘black.’  If you don’t believe it, read “Sugar in the Blood” by Andrea Stuart.

O’ pure water – the industrial revolution made it so plentiful that almost all salable spirits slipped under proof.  Its plentitude also allowed London-style gin to be made ‘dry’ without adding any sugar (leaving the older, sweetened version to be called ‘old tom’ after its old-fashioned-ness and the tom-cat it had been sold from).  Cheap, pure water also made it common for bartenders to use it to pre-dissolve sugar in.  The industrial freezing of water made ice cheap enough to count its use per drink in scoops rather than in lumps.   Those changes led to true cocktails (such as the Whiskey Cocktail) being made with simple syrup and plenty of ice (to stir it in before straining).  That left a Whiskey Cocktail made the old way with dry sugar and relatively-little water or ice to become called the Old-fashioned Whiskey Cocktail.

Sugar and water dissolved together is simple syrup – one of the useful consequences of global and industrial realities.

Plain, refined sugar (sucrose) is used to sweeten other ingredients without otherwise changing their flavor.  Simple syrup is simply refined sugar dissolved into water, and nothing else.  It is used in drinks to quickly and evenly distribute sugar throughout other liquids.

The following chart compares the flavor and sweetness of refined sugar (and simple syrup) to other sweeteners derived of sugar cane, such as cane nectar (or syrup), also golden syrup (essentially ultra-light molasses) and the various grades of treacle or true molasses – including light molasses (a.k.a. Barbados molasses), medium molasses (a.k.a. black strap molasses), and heavy molasses (a.k.a. black treacle or robust molasses).

Sugar & Cane & Molasses

If flavorless gum – such as acacia gum (a.k.a. gum Arabic) or guar gum – is added to thicken simple syrup, it is called gum syrup, or gomme syrup.

If simple syrup contains so much sugar that sugar crystals form rock candy at the bottom of the container (or on string suspended in it), it is called rock candy syrup.

It has become thoughtlessly-fashionable to call all ‘home-made’ syrup made of refined sugar, ‘simple syrup.’  But so-called ‘cinnamon simple syrup’ (as just one example) is really cinnamon-flavored syrup.  It is not simple syrup – a simple solution of highly refined, relatively-flavorless sugar in relatively-pure water.  In short, simple syrup plus other ingredients is no longer simple.

I believe that one should consider the amount of sugar desired in a drink, and then calculate how much simple syrup will contain that amount of sugar.  For this, the use of one-to-one (1:1) sugar syrup is advised.

If one makes 1:1 simple syrup from a cup of granulated sugar (not superfine) and a cup of water, the yield will be almost exactly 1½ cups of syrup.  That means that the cup of sugar is spread out into the volume of 1½ cups of syrup.  That means that if you know the amount of sugar that you want in a drink, but are using 1:1 simple syrup, multiply the sugar amount by 1.5.  Click on the image below to read it more clearly.

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Heat decomposes sucrose into other sugars (glucose and fructose), and further heating will decompose even those until the result is caramel.  For this reason, if I am making simple syrup in order to more-easily get sugar (sucrose) into other ingredients, I never use heat to make it.  Here is a recipe from the syrup fabrication section of my own book.

SS003