Drink Em if Ya Got Em: Penicillin and Other Smoky Cocktails

Penicillin, with blended and single malt Scotch, lemon and honey is good medicine.
Penicillin, with blended and single malt Scotch, lemon and honey is good medicine.

“I don’t like smoky Scotch.”

That was me, about 10 minutes after I found my way into the new San Diego speakeasy Noble Experiment and was escorted to my spot at the bar. For a moment, I was one of those annoying patrons who arrives at the bar thinking they know exactly what the do and don’t like.

But even though I wasn’t a Scotch drinker, something drew me to the cocktail called Penicillin, a combination of ginger-honey syrup, lemon and both blended and single malt Scotch. Fortunately, Anthony had dealt with people of my ilk before. He promised that if I didn’t like the Penicillin – one of the cocktails star-tender Sam Ross of Milk & Honey in NYC created for Noble Experiment – he’d make me something else.

It was like taking a refreshing and slightly sweet sip of autumn, on a cool day. It reminded me of burning leaves or sitting in front of a wood-burning fire. Besides adding another dimension of flavor to sweet, sour, salty and bitter, a smoky cocktail instantly creates atmosphere. It stirs up recollections of summer barbecues, smoky rooms, beach bonfires.

Now I’m to reconsidering my thoughts on single-malt Scotch and other smoky spirits. So the next week on a visit to Cantina in San Francisco, I didn’t pause before ordering the Old Gringo, an evocatively named mix of Del Maguey Mezcal, Pimm’s, vermouth and a float of cava, the Spanish sparkling wine. Duggan McConnel shares his curiously creative Old Gringo recipe on the Del Maguey web site.

The Old Gringo at Cantina employs a curious blend of mezcal, Pimm's and sparkling wine.
The Old Gringo at Cantina employs a curious blend of mezcal, Pimm's and sparkling wine.

If these smoky cocktails make your mouth water, there are plenty of places to try one. Jonny Raglin of Dosa Fillmore in San Francisco is shaking things up with his Smoked Cup (Benesin organic Mezcal and smoked sea salt) while Julian Cox of Rivera in LA does a trippy cocktail called with Del Maguey mezcal, citrus and chapulin aka cricket salt. Watch Cox make the Donaji and get the recipe in a great LA cocktail piece on the LA Times web site. Sounds odd, but then again, I just might like it.

2 ounces blended Scotch
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce honey ginger syrup
1/4 ounce single-malt Islay Scotch
candied ginger, for garnish

Add the blended Scotch, lemon juice and honey-ginger syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled. Serve in a rocks glass with one large cube of ice. Mist or drizzle on the Islay Scotch. Garnish with the ginger.
By Sam Ross of Milk & Honey and Little Branch in NYC

Champagne & Tears: Drink a Black Velvet for St. Patrick’s Day

The Black Velvet starts with a stout beer, or in other words a Guinness. (Courtesy photo)
The Black Velvet starts with a stout beer, or in other words, a Guinness. (Courtesy photo)

I was at a little dinner party recently for someone who ambivalent about marking yet another birthday past 50. “It’s champagne or tears at a time like this!” one of the guests with a talent for bon mots rasped.

Champagne and mourning don’t seem to go together; in fact Salvador Dali called champagne and other sparklers the wines of frivolity in his book The Wines of Gala, which is artistic, trippy, insightful and sadly out of print. Yet those two sentiments do share a glass in the unique cocktail known as the Black Velvet.

The Black Velvet, a mix of  bittersweet chocolate-hued Guinness stout and golden champagne is a drink that’s on the menu of most Irish and English pubs, but it doesn’t seem to get much play outside of these outposts of British and Irish culture. But it’s a peculiarly pleasing drink that has a interesting tale attached to it.  And as St. Patrick’s Day approaches, you’ll be wantin’ an alternative to green beer and Irish Car Bombs.

Prince Albert was Queen Victoria's husband, chief advisor and friend. (Courtesy photo)
Prince Albert was Queen Victoria's husband, chief advisor and friend. (Courtesy photo)

Queen Victoria married her handsome second cousin Albert in a ceremony that has set the mold for a story-book wedding. According to an account on Love Tripper.com she wore an unfashionable white dress, a blue sapphire and a wreath of orange blossoms in her hair when they married on Feb. 10, 1840. Rather than being trapped in a dutiful royal marriage, Victoria and Albert were friends who shared a passionate romance and a professional relationship, along with nine children. Ten years after their wedding, Victoria wrote in her diary: “Often I feel surprised at being so loved, and tremble at my great happiness.”

So she was devastated, as were her subjects, when Albert died suddenly in 1861 at age 42. Laughter was forbidden in their home Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria refused to go out in public for a decade and she wore black for the rest of her life. In this context, it makes sense that someone who ordered champagne would still want to seem like they were mourning, just a little. A sentimental or patriotic bartender at Brook’s Club on St. James Street – a private men’s club in London founded in 1778 that still exists – is credited with mixing some Guinness with champagne.

This feature on Esquire.com explains the intricate steps involved with pouring a perfect Black Velvet (fill a Collins glass halfway with Guinness, top with champagne and stir.) Other methods, like this one described on The Greasy Spoon ,have you float the champagne over the back of a spoon, so you end of with a bi-colored drink. Either way, since you’ve probably mastered pouring by now, skip right down to David Wondrich’s historical dramatization of the moment when this drink was created back in 1861.

The Black Velvet is also known as a Bismark because German chancellor named Otto von Bismark supposedly loved the combination. If you’re on a bit of budget, there’s no shame in skipping the champagne and mixing your Guinness with hard apple or pear cider to make a Poor Man’s Black Velvet. It’s the thought that counts.
Original Black Velvet Drink on FoodistaOriginal Black Velvet Drink

Oscar Worthy Cocktail & Popcorn Recipes for That Academy Awards Party

golden glow small
Edible flecks of 24K gold add some dazzle to the Golden Glow, a perfect cocktail for Oscar-viewing parties.

Sorry to be posting this just hours before everyone starts strutting down the red carpet at the 82nd Academy Awards, but sometimes a blog is at the mercy of technology.

I’ve got some great recipes for a star-studded, sparkling cocktail called Golden Glow and delicious gourmet popcorn that will be the hit of your party. The night they hand out the golden statues called Oscars for the best work in movies this year has become a lesser national holiday, with people planning viewing parties, voting for winners and even creating costumes to match their favorite characters.( I’m still a little freaked out remembering the time a female co-worker showed up looking like Truman Capote’s long lost twin.)

Everyone knows it wouldn’t be an Oscar party without bubbly. While champagne and sparkling wine have the power to make any occasion even more special, for Academy Awards parties star chefs like Wolfgang Puck make it even more fabulous. Each year, cases of 24K edible gold leaf get shipped up to Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, to add sparkle to Oscar Party desserts and cocktails.

I created the Golden Glow sparkling cocktail, spiking a base of Iron Horse brut sparkling wine or brut champagne with Goldschläger – an Italian cinnamon flavored liqueur with edible gold flakes – and Bärenjäger a German honey liqueur. Both are easy to find at any well-stocked liquor store. And if you really want to give your party the Midas touch, Sur la Table cookware stores sell a little shaker of edible gold flakes for $26.

Edible 24K gold flakes like these from Sur la Table will be adding sparkling to drinks, desserts and other foods at Oscar parties this evening.
Edible 24K gold flakes like these from Sur la Table will be adding sparkling to drinks, desserts and other foods at Oscar parties this evening.

Golden Glow
1/2 ounce Goldschläger Cinnamon Liqueur
1/2 ounce Bärenjäger Honey Liqueur
4 ounces Iron Horse Brut sparkling wine
a dash of Angostura bitters

Shake up the Goldschläger bottle to mix up the edible
gold flecks in it then add 1/2 ounce to a champagne
flute. Add the Bärenjäger. Top with the chilled brut
champagne or sparkling wine. Finish with a dash of
Angostura bitters.
Makes 1 cocktail

Of course, popcorn is a must for watching a movie, so it makes sense that on a glitzy night like this to serve the ultimate in popcorn. Plus popcorn is very budget-friendly and your guests will love eating these buttery, crunchy kernels spiked with some special seasonings. The Recipes section on my web site www.thebubblygirl.com shares ideas for a few different ways to make what I call Posh Popcorn. The Spicy Popcorn and the one with Black Truffle Oil and Parmesan are two of my favorites. But with a slightly sweet cocktail like the Golden Glow, I’d go for the Five-Spice Popcorn which is drizzled with butter, brown sugar and warm spices.

For your Oscar Party, follow my recipes and dress up your popcorn with parmesan, truffle oil or Chinese Five Spice.
For your Oscar Party, follow my recipes and make Posh Popcorn with parmesan, truffle oil or Chinese Five Spice.