Drinks by the Gallon: Manhattans and Prairie Punch

As part of my Cocktails 101 series over at the cityhomeCOLLECTIVE blog, I recently wrote a history/rant on that gorgeous hit of rye, The Manhattan. For this very tough and hard-hitting bit of research, I spent an afternoon chatting and drinking with bartender extraordinaire Amy Eldridge at the classic Salt Lake watering hole, Bar X. Somebody’s gotta do it. Quite a few folks have been asking me lately about drinks by the pitcher or punch bowl for a crowd over the holidays, so here are a couple of my standards: one is for Manhattans pre-made in the freezer, the other for a citrusyManhattans at Bar X punch that you need to plan about a day of lead time for to make the classic oleo saccharum (“oil sugar”). Both with whiskey, of course!

Manhattans by the Gallon This edition of “How to get your family shitfaced in large batches” courtesy of Amy Eldridge. Perfect for the holidays!

1) Take a very large freezer-safe pitcher or hefty gallon jug, and fill it with:

one bottle sweet vermouth

two bottles rye whiskey

and the equivalent of one bottle filtered water

2) Put upright in the freezer for at least a couple of hours or overnight [it won’t freeze because of all of the alcohol, but may get a little slushy].

3) Portion out cocktails directly into chilled glasses as needed, with a couple of dashes of bitters dropped into each glass first, and a cherry garnish to finish. Or, fill a pretty glass pitcher with the booze and one of those wicked cool ice insert thingies so your Manhattans stay icy cold without getting diluted. Let your guests serve themselves until you call them a cab and boot their ass to the curb. Cheers!

High West Prairie Punch

Prairie Punch: perfect with cheese and savory snacksFinca’s bar man Scott Gardner resurrects the concept of an artisanal punch in this recipe, harkening back to the time when every bar or local watering hole worth its salt had a proprietary and exclusive house punch.   The traditional oleo saccharum (“oil sugar”) preparation takes some lead-time to assemble, but is worth the effort to create a well-blended traditional punch. Here’s his recipe, which makes A LOT (good for a party of 20 or more guests):

1) At least two hours, or up to one day ahead, prepare oleo saccarum by gently muddling 8 oz. granulated sugar and the peels of 6 lemons.

2) After the sugar has turned to a syrup/paste consistency, add 6 oz. lemon juice, stir to combine, and let sit for an additional 30 minutes.

3) Strain out the lemon peels from the mixture and discard

4) In a large punch bowl (or two pitchers), combine:

  • lemon sugar
  • 1 bottle (apprx 25 oz.) High West American Prairie Reserve bourbon
  • 40 oz. cold water
  • ½ oz. angostura bitters
  • Just before serving, add ice to chill your punch
  • Float 8 oz. brut cava on top of the punch
  • Garnish with lemon wheels and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg
  • Note from A Bourbon Gal: Lovely served in shallow ‘coupe’ stemmed glasses

For more punch recipes made the old, old fashioned way [um, not with 7up and floating sherbet], check out David Wondrich’s history of the flowing bowl, Punch [Penguin 2010].

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The Wasatch Mule: a pear-ginger white whiskey cocktail

The Wasatch Mule

The Wasatch Mule

After posting my call for bourbon cocktail requests in honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month I learned quite a bit about y’all via your feedback. Mostly that:

1) your time, storage space and/or desire to mix up a bunch of esoteric syrups, shrubs, and bitters is limited;

2) y’all don’t like to purchase or wash any more cocktail equipment than necessary; and

3) you are curious (dare I say suspicious?) about how I manage to make this shit happen on a regular basis in my tiny kitchen with all of those kids and dogs underfoot.

So, for the rest of this month at this here blog we’ll go through each of these concerns and talk it out. And drink some bad-ass cocktails. We’ll tackle the time/space issue this post.

Before I call y’all out as the laziest bunch of sorry cocktail geeks I’ve ever known, I’ll make some of excuses on your behalf. In fact, they’re excuses I use for myself, all the time. Rare ingredients and random specialty booze like that 12-year-old crusty Blue Curaçao bottle with only 3-4 oz. used up take up a lot of space, and if you live in a 1940’s Sugarhouse cottage like mine, that’s at a premium. We were lucky enough to buy a house that the previous owner had obviously fitted with some SERIOUS food storage/hoarding capabilities, which my boys promptly filled with Legos in various stages of completion. Also, most syrups and some shrubs experiments require refrigeration, and if you are an infrequent cocktail mixer this seems like a waste of space that could be used for cheap white wine, expensive beer, and your Costco-sized bag of lettuce. I get it, so I’m gonna go full disclosure on y’all so you don’t get all frustrated about the physical and emotional space you are in.

The booze: You know why bars have that huge shelf of hundreds of bottles behind them? Because a bar needs them to serve the whim of folks who wouldn’t ever use Fernet or Aperol (both of which are next to impossible to source for the home consumer in Utah) for in a cocktail at home, but like to order the most complicated cocktails ever made when they’re out. A good barkeep will also have a wide price and flavor range within a booze category, e.g. several kinds of gin, bourbon, etc. Unless you are having outrageous cocktail parties every weekend or write a booze blog you don’t need all that shit at your house. Figure out what you like, and just keep that on hand. If you don’t know what you like, go to a very good bar early on a not-very-busy night and talk to your bartender. They’ll be happy to help you find your groove – most mixologists love to share their knowledge and recipes. Only buy the random stuff when you have a big party and want to make a signature cocktail, then at the end of the night give a guest who loved it (and whom you love) the random bottle(s). You get your space back, and make a friend for life. Win-win.

The mixers: I started out making my own shrubs, syrups, and bitters because when I first moved to Utah years ago there wasn’t much of a cocktail scene here and these things were hard to come by for the average home consumer. Thanks to Amazon.com, Etsy, and great local small-batch producers all over the country, it’s getting easier every day to source great ingredients. For instance, here in Salt Lake, you can buy Sugarhouse Libations cocktail syrups at the Downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, or order their delicious syrups online. No, they didn’t pay me to say this, I just like their stuff. And the packaging and recipes that come with the heavy sexy bottle are feckin’ killing it. Get some. Then make this with it:

The Wasatch Mule

This cocktail is a play on the Moscow Mule, which you’ve seen served in pretty metal cups. To make it Utah Wasatch Mountains style, I used High West Distillery Silver Oat Whiskey instead of vodka, and Sugarhouse Libations Pear-Ginger syrup, and mix up the whole thing in a pint Mason jar. Yes, you can make your own pear liqueur (which, yes, I do, and it’s the BOMB), but you can also find it at big liquor stores.

5-6 leaves mint, spanked
2 oz. Silver Whiskey (or moonshine)
1 oz. pear liqueur
4 oz. pear-ginger syrup
2 oz. club soda

Spank the mint between your palms, as if clapping. Throw it in the bottom of a pint Mason jar. Add the whiskey, pear liqueur, and pear-ginger syrup. Fill almost to the top with ice. Close up with the jar lid and shake like crazy. Uncap the jar and add club soda. Replace the lid and gently tilt to combine ingredients –don’t shake it or that shit will explode all over you! This can also be made in a traditional cocktail shaker (minus the club soda—again with the exploding) and poured into a mule cup or julep cup with a floater of club soda swizzled in.

Field Trip: Finca’s High West Distillery Whiskey pairing dinner

finca_cheese_punch

Finca’s cheese & charcuterie plate, paired with High West Prairie Punch

Last night Salt Lake City experienced a small but powerful bit of wonder that I couldn’t have envisioned ten– maybe even five– years ago:  60+ guests gleefully paid for the opportunity to sample Utah-made whiskeys paired with a delightful small-plates tasting menu.

At a neighborhood restaurant.

On a Wednesday night.

With just a couple of weeks of social-media savvy forward lead time.

BOOM.

After bookings for the originally-conceived 18 seat tasting filled within hours of the High West Distillery pairing dinner announcement, Finca owner Scott Evans realized he could easily fill his joint for an exclusive event.  The draw?  Oh, let’s just look at the line-up, shall we?  The talented palate and vision of Pago-founder Scott Evans.  Finca’s locally-sourced Spanish-inspired tapas created by executive chef Phelix Gardner.  Four varieties of High West Distillery booze, presented by the distillery’s passionate proprietor, David Perkins.   And mixing it all together, the man behind Finca’s bar, Scott Gardner.  Who also just happens to be named Salt Lake Magazine’s “Best Mixologist” for 2013.  Done, and done, my friends.  [Don’t worry – if you didn’t get in to this dinner, more food/beverage pairing menus are planned through the next few months, including a Spanish wine tasting menu for March].

finca_flatbread_

Locally-sourced mushroom Spanish-style flatbread, paired with High West Campfire whiskey. Sorry, the potatoes were all gone before I could take a photo.

The folks from High West brought four whiskeys to the dinner:  their American Prairie Reserve Bourbon, Son of Bourye (a bourbon-rye blend), Campfire Whiskey (a rye-bourbon-scotch – yes, I know, SCOTCH) blend, and the award-winning Rendezvous Rye.  Scott Gardener introduced guests to the Prairie Reserve in the form of an old-fashioned whiskey punch (recipe, below), which the chef paired with a cheese and charcuterie plate.  The remaining whiskeys were all served neat in scant 1 oz. pours, with plates intended to complement the layered flavors of whiskey –sweet, savory, mellow, smoky – in the form of roasted carrots, mushroom-topped flatbreads, and local beef sliders with house made pickles.  All exquisite.

I’m not going to lie, I expected to be underwhelmed by the Frankensteinian hybrid Campfire Whiskey, one of the few High West products I’d not yet tried. “Dubious” understates my apprehensions about adding scotch to a rye-bourbon blend.  Married to a long-time scotch purist, I was prepared for both of us to be disappointed by the pour.   I couldn’t have been more wrong:  in the midst of all of this food and whiskey fabulousness, we both moaned over an unassuming-looking plate of fried paprika-dusted potatoes with a tangy garlic aioli paired perfectly with the complexity of the smoky blended Campfire whiskey. This combo stole the show.  It also introduced us to our new favorite hunting-camp compromise whiskey.  We no longer need to bring a bottle each of bourbon and scotch:  now, we’ll be bringing a bottle of High West Campfire.

High West Prairie Punch:

Finca’s bar man Scott Gardner resurrects the concept of an artisanal punch in this recipe, harkening back to the time when every bar or local watering hole worth its salt had a proprietary and exclusive house punch.   The traditional oleo saccharum (“oil sugar”) preparation takes some lead-time to assemble, but is worth the effort to create a well-blended traditional punch.  Here’s his recipe, which makes A LOT (good for a party of 20 or more guests):

1)      At least two hours, or up to one day ahead, prepare oleo saccarum by gently muddling 8 oz. granulated sugar and the peels of 6 lemons.

finca_scott_gardner_mixologist

Finca’s Scott Gardner (second from left) supervising the carefully-metered pouring of a lot of whiskey.

2)      After the sugar has turned to a syrup/paste consistency, add 6 oz. lemon juice, stir to combine, and let sit for an additional 30 minutes.

3)      Strain out the lemon peels from the mixture and discard

4)      In a large punch bowl (or two pitchers), combine:

–          lemon sugar

–          1 bottle (apprx 25 oz.) High West American Prairie Reserve bourbon

–          40 oz. cold water  

–          ½ oz. angostura bitters

5)      Just before serving, add ice to chill your punch

6)      Float 8 oz. brut cava on top of the punch

7)      Garnish with lemon wheels and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg

8)      Note from A Bourbon Gal:  Lovely served in shallow ‘coupe’ stemmed glasses