A Night of Top NOLA Chefs, Hennessy, Hibiscus + Earl Grey

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Tuesday night – April 8th – I joined the festivities behind the bar at the American Culinary Federation’s “2014 Best Chef of Louisiana”. The event is a fundraiser-focused smorgasbord of meats and mudbugs and all things yummy in NOLA. The previous Sunday night, I was asked by Star H – Glazer’s LA Mixologist – if I was interested in building drinks with Hennessy and Grand Marnier for the event. My answer was “Hell Yes”. But Max (in my best Ricky Henderson impression) – Hennessy? WTF?

I always believe that a good bartender / cocktail dude can make solid drinks out of basically anything in front of them. Second thing was my recent adventures with Hennessy at 2013 Portland Cocktail Week. During my recent visit to the PDXCW 2013, my “track” was Brand Consulting and Liquor Ambassador – a series of classes held during PDXCW focused on brand consulting, spirit education and the role of brand ambassadors in the service/liquor industry. Our dinner for the “track” was sponsored by Hennessy. And my first thought was Hennessy? Um – that’s an odd duck to have as a sponsor because I never considered Hennessy on the radar of craft-focused bartenders or why Hennessy would make the time (and money) to consider the brand for cocktail menus, etc.

I was dead wrong in my assessment of Hennessy.

The dinner was a solid affairs with generous amounts of food but the highlights were the Hennessy cocktails built by Jordan Bushell – Hennessy’s National Education and Mixology dude. His “Vieux Carre” was so rock and roll and the other tipplers had me at “Oh hello there”. Nice job in turning my nose down on enjoying excellent dranks with a product that carries little to no wait at high-end cocktail joints.

Star had originally asked me to build one drink but I decided to just whip up two drinks in 48 hours. Not a big deal. I wanted to build a big and boozy concoction on ice and another floral and bright served up with bitters.

First up….

The Napoleonic Code

Tea concentrates are so so my jam for the past few years. It’s a great way to build a modifier – a supporting player in a cocktail – with a big ol’ punch-up that matches the intense nature of brown spirits including whiskies and cognacs. Earl Grey was a perfect choice to sort through the long finish of cognac. The tea concentrate is accented with cassis, wild cherry bark and cardamom pods and carries a slight lemon-focused finish with the incorporation of a lemon peel olio sacchrum. AND – try to avoid using Earl Grey tea bags. Tea bags usually have a lower grade of tea and you usually miss out on that big “Earl Grey” finish.

Earl Grey Tea Concentrate

2 lemon peels
2 cups white sugar

Add all ingredients to non-reactive bowl. Let sit on the counter for 4 hours. Shift sugar with spatula every hour. At the 3:15 mark – start up on your tea portion of the recipe.

3 cups water
2 tbsp Earl Grey Tea – loose
1/4 tsp cassis (or 1/2 cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon)
3 cardamom pods (or 1/4 tsp ground cardamom)
1/4 tsp white peppercorns (crushed)

Bring water to boil. Add all remaining ingredients to water and return to boil. Remove from heat and cover. Steep for 45 minutes.

Strain with cheesecloth or paper towel with colander. Add to Lemon Olio Sacchrum and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove lemon peels. Label, bottle and store in refrigerator for 2 weeks.

You can use the Tea Concentrate as a bubbly sweet tea by add 1 oz of syrup with a squeeze of a lemon wedge to either 8 oz carbonated or flat water.

The Cocktail:
1.5 oz Hennessy V.S Cognac
.75 oz Earl Grey Tea Concentrate
.50 oz Lemon Juice
.50 oz Grand Marnier

Add all ingredients to cocktail tin. Shake it up like Donna Summer at the Disco and double strain over fresh ice in a rocks or Old Fashioned glass. Express a lemon peel over the glass and place in glass with flesh facing inwards.

Second up….

Electric Pink

I’m a big fan of The Promise Ring – an early 90s emo band from Milwaukee WI. Not that bullshit SCREAMO crap that the kids now listen to on their fancy iPods but more along the lines of Fugazi, Sunny Day Real Estate and Jawbreaker. And Hibiscus is always a HUGE winner winner chicken dinner with the masses. So – let’s make it dance with Hennessy and grapefruit juice!

Hibiscus and Pink Peppercorn Syrup

Hibiscus is a fun flower for syrup production due to its odd dry finish with high tannic notes. To amp up the floral focus of the syrup, I decided to use Pink Peppercorns and Coriander to provide a good spice balance. Pink Peppercorns – great story in Serious Eats about these little monsters – add a deeper heat to the syrup coupled with seeds of cilantro plans – coriander. OH YEAH!

First thing – make your Olio Sacchrum with grapefruit peels to match the grapefruit juice in the cocktail.

2 grapefruit peels
2 cups white sugar

Add all ingredients to non-reactive bowl. Let sit on the counter for 4 hours. Shift sugar with spatula every hour. At the 2:30 mark – start up on your Hibiscus portion of the recipe.

2 cups water
2 tbsp Hibiscus flowers – dried
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp pink peppercorns (crushed)

Bring water to boil. Add all remaining ingredients to water and return to boil. Remove from heat and cover. Steep for 90  minutes.

Strain with cheesecloth or paper towel with colander. Add to grapefruit Olio Sacchrum and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove peels. Label, bottle and store in refrigerator for 2 weeks.

You can use the Hibiscus syrup as a bubbly sweet tea by add 1 oz of syrup with a squeeze of a lemon wedge to either 8 oz carbonated or flat water.

The Cocktail:
1.5 oz Hennessy V.S Cognac
.75 oz Earl Grey Tea Concentrate
.75 oz Grapefruit Juice
2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters

Add all ingredients to cocktail tin. Shake it up like Axel Rose twisting and turning to “Sweet Child of Mine” and double strain into a chilled rocks or Old Fashioned glass. Add two dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters. Express a grapefruit peel over the glass and discard.

Make both these drinks and turn up the volume on this excellent Kayne West cover by Parts and Labor.

 

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