The experimental cocktail series entitled “This Might Work” was a successful push along the borders of the Cocktail Front during the Summer of 2014 in New Orleans. Over the course of three months, I created close to forty (40!) original cocktails. Everything from Amari to Cachaca to Scotch was combined with sweet peas, roasted bell peppers, wheatgrass and all of that crazy shit I’d pull out of my “Box of Magic” or from the walk-in refrigerator or from perusing the aisles of Hong Kong Market and/or personal research on farmers’ market/regional items of interest. It was a fun and extremely challenging endeavor to research, compose and build four new cocktails for every Tuesday night’s debut on the big stage.
The inspiration for “This Might Work” was born from bartender/magic man Maks Pazuniak. Maks spent time in NOLA during his college days and he spent time behind the stick as a bartender at CURE. I met Maks in Brooklyn during one of his experimental cocktail nights at “The Counting Room” in Brooklyn about three years ago. Every Monday, Maks would debut a new cocktail menu called “Something Like This…” at TCR’s downstairs bar. Monday nights served as a platform for Maks to work up new cocktails for TCR’s Main Cocktail Menu and he would tweak the builds with input from his fellow service industry brood during the nights. Although, advice was never needed because Maks’ drinks were pretty much dead-on every time we stopped by on Monday nights. All of the cocktails were $5. And Maks even used one of my Tea Concentrates in one of his experimental builds. It is one of the things I missed about my time in NYC since we left last year and I decided to adopt the idea down here in NOLA.
The term “This Might Work…” was a statement that I always tell my guests when I was asked to build a bespoke creations with the guest’s favorite spirit and style of cocktail. I would always push the drink towards the guest and start my description of the bespoke cocktail with those three words. I approached the ownership of my recent employment and they were keen on the idea. I drummed up a bit of press, set the menu to four items per week and we were off to the races!
This Might Work…. Tuesday 06.10.14
Gimme Three Steps
I am not ashamed to admit how much I love a white wine spritzer. And Martha has my back on this topic.
My love affair didn’t blossom until I served time behind the stick at No. 7 in Brooklyn during 2009-2011. During my tenure at No. 7, my boss and co-conspirator Matt Suchomski introduced me to his massive wine knowledge and the amazing combination of Vinho Verde and Club Soda with lemon wedges. I’m a born and bred West Coast dude and NYC’s summer soul-crushing humidity came close to breaking me during my first year in 2006. During the first years of my NYC residence, I developed a love for shandies, pilsner style beers and Tom Collins during the hot NYC summers. I expanded my roster of summer cocktails with white wine spitzers in honor of my love for the Golden Girls and bubbly imbibers.
In June of 2014, I was approached to create a pairing menu with Spirits and Cocktails for the Tasting Menu of the restaurant in which I worked. One of the dishes was a salad with sweet pea puree. I asked our Chef de Cuisine to produce a quart of the sweet pea puree minus the savory elements (garlic, etc) of the final product. With the light green quart of pea puree in front of me, my first thought was “well…let’s make a frakin’ spritzer out of it”. I pulled out my standard template for a cocktail build: 1.5 oz base modifier / .5 modifier / .5 modifier / .5 oz modifier; I had a honey syrup on hand; And I decided to just make it even weirder with a bianco vermouth for the base spirit. Yep….let’s do this.
1.5 oz Carpano Bianco Vermouth
.5 oz Honey Syrup (2 parts Honey: 1 part water)
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.5 oz Sweet Pea Puree (toss the sweet peas into a Vitamix and puree at high speed)
Shake all ingredients together and strain into a standard wine glass. Top with ice and Club Soda to the top. Garnish with a lemon peel – expressed.
All I need was a name for the drink. And for no particular reason, I thought of Lynyrd Skynyrd while I was imbibing in the cocktail testing portion of the experiment. The lyrics of “Gimme Three Steps” just seemed to work for the cocktail. I love Skynrd – the original band that tragically lost its lead singer and two members of the band in a plane crash in Mississippi in 1977 – and “Simple Man” is one of top ten favorite songs. My only link would be sweet peas are popular in the South and Skynrd is from Jacksonville, Fl – which is essential south Georgia? I know…I’m reaching here.
Anyhoo – the drink turned out to be whiz-bang odd and refreshing. A cocktail with sweet peas and vermouth with a bubbly finish. Let that roll around in your noggin for a bit. A Sweet Pea and Vermouth cocktail was finally checked off my bucket list.
One of my favorite examples of TV censorship…
I could write an entire novella on my love for White Russians. During my days in San Francisco, I thought it was so damn cool to order one in a bar and if the bartender didn’t have any milk products, I would run across the street to the bodega and grab a pint of milk. Oh my twenties were a difficult and ridiculous time. One infamous time, I went to a midnight screening of “The Big Lebowski” at the Clay Theatre and participated in a chugging contest with quarts of half and half. I won a pyrrhic victory on stage that evening but spent a better part during the run of the movie attempting to remove said liquids from my clothing and internal organs. Oh my twenties were a fantastic train wreck of beautiful victories and passionate defeats.
A few years back, I read up about all of this stuff called “Molecular Mixology” when Booker and Dax in NYC and The Aviary in Chicago started creating wonderment cocktails out of acids and science stuff that never stuck to me during my high school days. I was intrigued but I never applied any of the knowledge I scooped up in blogs and books I acquired over the years to my cocktail recipes/builds. Fast forward to June 2014. I had dabbled a bit with citric acids to maintain freshness of syrups and did a bit of a slow dance with liquid nitrogen at my previous place of employment. My good friend Andie Ferman with St. George Spirits (CA) had told me about a new coffee liqueur that was set for launch in NOLA in a few months that was a combination of chicory and other spices called “St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur”. I was one of the first people to get my hands on it and I decided that the liqueur would be a perfect fit for the next level of a White Russian I was working up. I had read years back about milk-washing vodka for a cocktail concocted by Booker and Dax and I was intrigued. I decided to whip up a batch of milk-washed vodka with citric acid and give it a go with the new St. George NOLA Liqueur. The process of “milk-washing” basically curdles the fat from the milk and leave the whey proteins behind in the booze. Long short story is the vodka has a creamy mouth feel without the heaviness of the milk fat.
Milk Washed Vodka
1 bottle Vodka – I used Sobieski
2 tsp Citric Acid
1 cup Whole Milk
Add all ingredients to non-reactive glass jar. Cover and let sit in refrigerator for 72 hours. Strain out all milk-solids with a cheese cloth and strainer. Repeat process (4) times. Seal and keep in refrigerator for 1 month.
To make things even more adventurous, I decided to turn everything on its side and make a White Russian-style snowball. I whipped up a Vanilla Syrup and the acid level of the milk-wash vodka was substantial for the tartness of the cocktail. For the Vanilla Syrup, I made a simple syrup (1 part white sugar: 1 part hot water) and “scored” a vanilla bean down the middle. With the syrup at a slow boil on the stove, I added the vanilla bean and covered the pot. I lowered the heat to simmer and let it ride for 1 hour. The syrup cooled and I poured everything into a small amber jar with the bean. In front of me was the vanilla syrup, the milk-washed vodka and the NOLA Coffee Liqueur. The last ingredient was Cocchi de Torino – an excellent sweet vermouth that holds a fair amount of spice and suppleness.
1.5 oz Milk-Washed Vodka
.75 oz Vanilla Syrup
.50 oz Cocchi di Torino
.75 oz St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur
Add all ingredients (minus NOLA Coffee Liqueur) to cocktail tin and shake without ice for 5-10 seconds. Crush up a fair amount of ice with a food processor. Pour contents of shaker tin into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Top with crushed ice. Pour St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur on top of ice in a circular motion. Garnish with brandied cherry and two straws.
Stay turned for the next installment of “This Might Work…” And go to the following sites and throw me the love and support for the continuous fight along the Cocktail Front!