A quick recap…
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.
“Taste the Bright Lights” represents two things I love in the world – Gin and Vermouth. As you may know, I was on the edge of starting up my own vermouth company but things just didn’t pan out. I’ve been making vermouth since ’09 and have been perfecting the gentle art of bitter herbs, spices and fortification for the past five years. Before my tenure ended at my last gig, I had produced a lovely Muscadine Grape Vermouth that paired well with a solid Bols Genever Gin cocktail called “The Salton Sea”. A name I derived from one of Val Kilmer’s best films…one sick and strange ride…
“I am the Ocean”
I’m one of the biggest advocates of vermouth cocktails and I always order a “50/50 Gin Martini” with a dash of Orange Bitters – 1.5 oz of my favorite Gin / 1.5 oz of the proper Vermouth. The team at Gin Palace in NYC always work up the magic with Gin and Vermouth. For example, next time you are a decent bar with a solid Gin selection – order a Tanqueray Ten and Dolin Dry Vermouth cocktail. Equal parts with a dash of orange bitters and twist of lemon.
And make for DAMN FRAKIN’ SURE that the cocktail is stirred and served up.
For “Taste The Bright Lights”, I decided to bring together two of my favorite things with one of the NOLA Service Industry’s favorite things – Chartreuse!
Chartreuse is a wonderful French herbal liqueur that is produced by Carthusian monks in two forms – Yellow and Green – and it has a very long history as a health tonic to the lovely bottles that sit on the backbar of your favorite spot. I’ve always been partial to the Yellow Chartreuse for my cocktail builds but I’ve grown to appreciate the application of Green Chartreuse in cocktails. A “Last Word” is frakin’ awesome when built with a deft hand. Although, if you find yourself at “The Saint” late at night drinking Green Chartreuse with a bunch of degenerate bartenders – consider yourself blessed and damned at the exact same moment.
The next ingredient for the cocktail is my Mint and Verbena syrup. It’s a simple recipe utilizing fresh mint and dried verbena with a lime oleo saccharum.
1/2 cup fresh Mint – picked off the stem
1 tbsp Verbena
1 cup sugar / 2 limes – whole peels (combine for 4 hours minimum)
2 cup water
Boil water. Add mint and verbena. Return to boil and reduce to 1 cup water (10 min boil). Cover and steep for an additional 45 mins. Strain and combine with lime peel / sugar. Stir till sugar dissolves. Remove peels and store in refrigerator for 4-6 weeks.
Next up was the type of Gin to use for the drink. I love the team behind St. George Spirits. A company that truly represents the “craft” spirit movement with their expansive line of Gins, Liqueurs, Brandies and other wacky stuff including a stellar Agricole Rum bottling. I’m a serious fan of their Gins and their Terroir Gin is my favorite expression of the line. It always reminds me a rainy day in North California full of pine and freshness. The taste profile of the Terroir Gin married well with the herbal elements of Green Chartreuse and the mint and verbena of my syrup.
The last component for the cocktail is the name. The oh so important moniker that people will be able to remember after 1 or 4 cocktails during a night out on the town. For the name, I looked towards one of my teenage heroes who has fallen on such hard times that anything he touches these days is laughable at best. His name – Axel Rose – and his band – Guns N’ Roses.
When I was younger – later 80s / early 90s – Guns N’ Roses was the GREATEST BAND IN THE WORLD. Second only to Skid Row, Iron Maiden, Metallica and Slayer. I can remember back in 1991 when I biked ten miles from Exeter to the Visalia Mall to purchase “Use Your Illusion Part I and Part II”. The day was Tuesday September 17. All new releases debuted on Tuesday for some crazy reason. I tore back home and listen to each album for the rest of the ENTIRE DAY until my grandmother knocked on my door and asked me why a bunch of cats were screaming out of my headphones. She was such a “Golden Girl” and I miss her every day.
Guns N’ Roses were responsible for two of the most amazing music videos ever produced….
And my observations….
0:06 – Popping pills in the dark as the rain cascades outside….Axel is such a rock star.
0:22 – An orchestra makes simple metal songs complex – just ask Metallica
0:33 – Axel gently enters his “Elton John” phase
0:46 – The first official sighting of Jesus
1:02 – Duff McKagan is here to start the party.
1:12 – The scene needs more Bonnie Tyler drapery!
1:19 – The SECOND sighting of Jesus.
1:29 – Where is Ron Burgundy with his jazz flute?
1:35 – A THIRD Jesus reference!
1:47 – Axel’s real-life girlfriend / model Stephanie Seymour. She would sue Axel for $100K after their break-up.
2:00 – Lyric: “Nothing lasts forever and we both know hearts can change”. Irony is Axel’s hair conditioner of choice.
2:03 – Axel was apparently the inspiration for Seinfeld’s pirate shirt.
2:11 – Slash has no idea what is going on here. Why do we need a string section?
2:30 – Smoking in bars in California. Such a 90s thing.
2:45 – Just a bunch of rockers and chicks hanging out and fooling around.
3:00 – Goddamnit – we need more frakin’ CRANE shots in the video. Now.
3:09 – Duff always saves the day.
3:23 – Sweet “Dark Crystal” ring.
3:34 – Axel prefers open mouthing kissing.
3:40 – Slash apparently has decided to just bounce out. Smooth move.
4:06 – Slash has apparently drifted over to a County Western music video. And he doesn’t practice the art of buttoning shirts.
4:12 – Slash’s EPIC GUITAR SOLO in front of wind machine with a soaring helicopter overhead capturing his relentless strumming.
4:49 – Even without his trademark hat, Slash hides his face as well as his emotions. His guitar is his voice.
5:12 – The guys to the right of the shot must be Guns N’ Roses accounting team.
5:31 – EPIC Sunset Guitar SOLO!
5:46 – For Christ’s sake…this video needs MORE crane shots.
6:07 – A wedding reception always needs a wardrobe change.
6:11 – Who the hell let Riki Rachtman sit at the main table?
6:52 – I’m lost here. It is just rain. It’s not acid pouring from the sky. You won’t die from it.
6:57 – At this point – you can just forget about your deposit on glassware from the local catering company.
6:59 – Why the fuck did you decide the best course of action to avoid a slight rain storm was to jump right into the wedding cake?
7:08 – FOURTH Jesus sighting.
7:11 – Stephanie Seymour is now dead? From a poison wedding cake? Does that explain the dude jumping right into it?
7:19 – Axel asked the set designer for the biggest bowtie that was available from the clown shop down the street.
7:25 – EPIC GUITAR SOLO on top of grand piano.
7:53 – Hipster sunglasses. Available at Urban Outfitters.
8:24 – Why aren’t people scattering in terror with this rain storm? And where’s that damn cake?
9:02 – I give up. That’s it. Plus Axel is sad now.
The second video…another epic video that makes no damn sense. Just jump to the 6:50 mark.
Ok – one comment. Axel swims with dolphins. WTF.
And now, we are left with a collective memory of what Axel Rose was and what Axel Rose has become. That awkward “Dad” who forgot to renew his gym membership in his late 30s and still clings to a past life like a bloated Uncle Rico.
Anyhoo let’s get back to the cocktail name. It’s a lyric from Guns N’ Roses’ infamous song “Welcome to the Jungle”. Here’s the build:
2 oz St. George Terroir Gin
.75 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
.50 Mint + Verbena syrup
.25 oz Green Chartreuse
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Add all ingredients (sans bitters) and stir for 40-50 revolutions. Strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with 1 dash Angostura Bitters and a smacked mint leaf.
Wow. That was fun. We’ll do it again real soon. And yes – I did listen to “Use Your Illusion Part 2” while I wrote this entry.