Sunday, July 14, 2013

Locally sourced cocktail makings? Mais bien sur. This *is* Austin dontchaknow?

Warning - stream of consciousness post here:

The past month provided some experiences that have led to this post.  Specifically, a coffee old fashioned inspired by the drink at Lamberts called the Stumptown Fashioned.  But before we get to that, some background.

In June, we had the good fortune to visit Seattle, WA.  I went for a conference and stayed for the weather and food.  And cocktails.  We had a great time seeing old friends, checking out the darling corner markets and yes, sampling the coffee.  Now, we are no coffee newbies.  We brew and bring our own to brunch on weekends because we can't find restaurants that brew it strong enough.  So, maybe coffee snobs?  I wouldn't say that you were wrong if you called me that.  We buy our beans from Texas Coffee Traders in town, and the story behind our loyalty to that shop is a long one that starts in 1993.  More later.

In Seattle, we did see a lot of coffee purveyors proudly claiming they served Stumptown Coffee.  I felt like I had heard of this brand before, and was curious, because several barista types even made the comment "it's the Stumptown" when I paid a compliment to their cappuccino.  I have a feeling they were being modest.  But, when I delved into the Stumptown backstory, it seems as though it is a company going through some change.  Born in Portland, fair trade and fair wage coffee houses with artful baristas wearing skinny jeans, pork pie hats, waxing their handlebar moustaches daily before reporting to's a video to give you the idea

Anyways, apparently Stumptown has gone corporate, and is now owned by a company that also has owned spic n span, vitamin water, etc.  There was an outcry in the coffee world that things would change with Stumptown and what it seemed to stand for.  But the folks in Seattle sure liked it.  Me, I thought it was just fine, but was I willing to spend a bunch o bucks to import this Pac NW bean into my kitchen?  Nah.  I haven't found a bean or roaster I like better than RC and crew at Texas Coffee Traders.

Back in 1993 I did a semester abroad in the cloud forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica.  It was a formative experience in many ways.  Probably the most lasting ways are:  love of lizards and appreciation for Coop Santa Elena Monteverde Cloud Forest Coffee.  I bought tons when I was there and filled suitcases to bring back as gifts.  My dad loved it so much he tracked down the only importer of the stuff, Montana Coffee Roasters.  He had been ordering it all this time, until another roaster opened in Austin, TX called Texas Coffee Traders.  When I moved to Austin in 2006, the first place we went when he visited was on an expedition to find their warehouse.  I've been buying beans directly ever since.  They never disappoint.  Ever.  And anytime I venture out to try a new bean, even local beans, I always go back to Monteverde Dark Roast.

So, you can see where this is going, non?

We had dinner at Lamberts a few weeks ago, and my better half ordered the Stumptown Fashioned, as he loves a good old fashioned.  It was quite unique and delicious.  I made a mental note to look up how to make a coffee simple syrup and filed it away for when I had some free time.  This weekend was it.

I found the instructions I based my syrup on at Third Coast Cocktails blog.  Photo of my fixins here:

I used a dark roast Bolivian coffee because those were the beans in the grinder.  I used madagascar vanilla bean because that is what I had.  I omitted the cacao nibs recipe called for because I had none and I wasn't going to go get any today....

Syrup is dead easy to make.  Tasty on its own too, could use on ice cream or something.

Anyways, I just subbed the coffee syrup for the simple syrup in a standard Rye Old Fashioned

2 dashes Angostura
2 Dashes Peychauds
1/4-1/2 oz of coffee syrup
one drop of orange oil
1-2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

Stir with ice, strain over a large ice cube, garnish with orange zest/peel (mine was clementine because that is what I had on hand).  Enjoy!  Two vices in one!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bubbles bubbles everywhere

I have a thing for bubbles.  I love carbonated water, carbonated wine, carbonated beer, etc etc.  We were spending mucho dinero on topo chico, the most delicious mexican fizzy water you've ever tasted.  But buying and drinking fizzy water by the case gets pricey and also leaves a lot of empty glass bottles to be recycled.  Enter the sodastream.  I've known about them for years, but the price tag was a turn off.  Recently they've come out with tons of models that are less expensive, certainly still pricey, but less than half the $200 they once were. So, off to bed bath and beyond with my 20% off coupon and now I am a proud owner of a sodastream.  It is awesome.  Aside from the actual satisfaction of carbonating something, it tastes great, especially with a wedge of lime squeezed in, and it is so darn easy!  I don't know when the break even point will be but overall I am very pleased.  I only wish I could carbonate other things, such as cocktails with it.  But that would void the warranty and possibly break my new beloved gadget!  Soooooooo, enter the iSi soda siphon!
I splurged and bought one of those specifically to try to carbonate cocktails.  There is a system made for that purpose, called the Perlini.  As $250 a pop, plus CO2 cartridges, I figured I would try the less expensive approach first to see if I even liked a carbonated cocktail.
My first attempt was a carbonated Negroni.  I put the empty siphon bottle in the freezer overnight, then put in 1:1:1 ratio of gin, sweet vermouth and campari to fill probably half the bottle.  I shook it, put in one cartridge intially and tested.  It came out super fizzy but the fizz waned quickly.  It tasted basically like a Negroni.  I added another cartridge and tried again, still, the same thing.  I then placed it in the freezer for some time, and then the fridge.  Always the drink came out super fizzy but then lost its fizz quickly.  Good news is it kept for almost 2 weeks in the fridge, bad news is I haven't dialed in the carbonation quite right.  But a still Negroni is better than no Negroni!

Next stop is carbonated aviation station....I have filled the iSi siphon with gin, lemon, violette and Luxardo.....we shall see if the bubbles work better this time around.....

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I prefer Texas to NY.......

The sweaty, sultry summers are worth not having to shovel snow or slip on ice covered sidewalks.  I wasn't cut out for east coast living, and apparently I wasn't cut out for this drink, either.....

I tried a variation on the 5th avenue, published on their website.  I used the following:

Bombay London Dry Gin - 50 ml
Dolin blanc vermouth - 25 ml
capful of Yellow Chartreuse
3 drops of absinthe
3 dashes lemon bitters

I like all the ingredients, but overall found the drink too viscous and perfume-y.  I think a drink that is nothing but booze should probably be limited to 2 ingredients, three at most including bitters.  Even the addition of some carbonated water to make a longer drink couldn't save it in my opinion.  I did what I have not done in a looooong time....I poured an almost full drink down the drain.

It makes for a pretty picture, though: