Now I am a pretty good cook– but like most of us I read recipes to get inspired. Good recipes are like good books, they’re hard to put down. I particularly like recipes so magical that they transport me to exciting locations, rich with possibility. These are the recipes that excite me. These are the recipes I turn to on special occasions. But I’ll tell you something. IRL, I don’t always use recipes.
There are all sorts of reasons why I don’t use recipes everyday. Sometimes I make a dish so many times that a recipe is just redundant. Other times I feel like getting my creative game on so I follow my instincts, just to see how good they are.
None of that means I think recipes are irrelevant IRL (in real life). If I thought that there would be very little room for this blog, any of the other blogs I read or even the 8 shelves of cookbooks that tower over each end of the desk where I peck away at this keyboard.
There are exceptions however. Too many to go into. Baking is often an exception. I usually follow pastry recipes or make only small (logical??) adaptations to them. I can’t make good ice cream to save my life, unless I follow a recipe word for word and then make it twice. I blame that strict bugaboo known as science. It’s always lurking– just hoping I lose the logarithm or invert the integers.
But cocktails can be an exception too. I often turn to my bartenders guide IRL even when making something as simple and familiar as a Manhattan. And I’m not sure why.
Baking, sure– that’s science. But mixology. That’s more like alchemy. There is plenty of room for magic when it comes to mixing a cocktail. I don’t want to brag, but magic has always been one of my specialties. How do you think I made it through 7th grade without getting pulverized. Magic!
So why do I continuously turn to the “old school” classic recipes? Why do I trust the tried and true, instead of the magic in my wand?
Well partly because people have definite expectations when it comes to a good cocktail. They say. “Make me an Old-Fashioned” and you realize they have a preconceived notion of what that cocktail is gonna look and taste like. I may be magic, but I am still enough of a nerd to fear a disappointed frown from one of my drunkard friends. So, rather than push myself or pour something risky I find myself turning to page 363 in my Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich– muddler in hand.
But dammit. I’m magic. I should be conjuring my own enchanted potions. Right?
So I am starting this New Year out with a promise. I am going to concoct a few original cocktails this year, and spring them on you.
Of course original is a pretty loose term. Nothing comes from nothing, especially inspiration. So I’ll let you in on the invocation method I follow when whipping up a magic potion. There are certain categories of drinks. I usually pick one and adjust the expectations in some manner. Take today’s drink. I am calling it Port of Call (thanks Linda Bankit-Jacobs for the name). It’s styled after a classic group of cocktails known as Daisies.
Daisies are a type of drink developed in America about 1850. Making it one of the earliest cocktail styles. At it’s simplest a Daisy is a base spirit, augmented with fruit juice or grenadine. Sometimes splashed with seltzer. A whole lot of modern cocktails evolved from this simple concept, including an Old-Fashioned. So I figure there is room for one more.
This one is made with port which I fortified with some aged rum. Choose something on the darker side of gold. But not a full fledged dark rum. I like Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva. Depth is added to this cocktail with plenty of lemon juice and the sour is balanced with sugar. I chose palm sugar for its dark, earthy sweetness, and the exotic allure I associated with all “ports of call”. But dark brown sugar and a drop of molasses could substitute as well. And since the magic of this drink is the fact that it is an updated Daisy, don’t forget the grenadine. Not all grenadines are created equal, so spend a few bucks and get a good one. Better yet, make your own. GREG This cocktail is part of Eight Nights of Hanukkah Cocktails on This American Bite
The inspiration for this cocktail comes from the Savoy hotel in London
- 2 oz ruby port
- 1 oz aged gold rum (like diplomatico reserva exclusiva)
- 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 t palm sugar (substitute dark brown sugar)
- 1/2 t grenadine
- 1 orange twist
Half fill a cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Add all the ingredients except the orange twist. Sake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange twist.
Greg Henry writes the food blog Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food, and contributes the Friday column on entertaining for The Back Burner at Key Ingredient. He’s active in the food blogging community, and a popular speaker at IFBC, Food Buzz Festival and Camp Blogaway. He’s led cooking demonstrations in Panama & Costa Rica, and has traveled as far and wide as Norway to promote culinary travel. He’s been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, The Today Show Online and Saveur’s Best of the Web. Greg also co-hosts The Table Set podcast which can be downloaded on iTunes or at Homefries Podcast Network.
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