Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Although eggnog is a favorite during the holiday season, the classic rum and whisky-laden crème and eggs tend to make me feel a little bloated. And I’ll never turn down a flute of Champagne, however, I prefer to wait until the New Year to do my uncorking. Of course, we could always celebrate with crafted cocktails, which are good any time of year!
In the old days, you would go to a bar where the bartender/sympathetic friend served you drinks while listening to your woes. Now known as “mixologists,” they are on the same podium as celebrity chefs at food and wine festivals. And they sling more than just draft beer. To achieve the perfect cocktail, they create signature “bitters and shrubs” (drinkable vinegars) and infuse vodka, gin and whiskies with a variety of flavors. But mixologists aren’t the only people who can create these libations — you can make them in your kitchen!
Variations of the French 75
The French 75, created by barkeep Harry MacElhone in 1915 at the New York Bar in Paris (later renamed Harry’s New York Bar), is one of my favorites. The standard recipe contains one part lemon juice, two parts gin and four parts Champagne with two dashes of simple syrup (equal parts of sugar dissolved in water). Allegedly, the drink gave such a kick that drinking it felt like being shelled by a French 75 mm field gun.
It is similar to one of my recipes from a previous column, the Hawaii 2.5, which uses Maui Lokelani Rose sparkling wine, Kai lychee vodka and lychee and ginger liqueur.
To make the French 75, mix any sparkling wine as the base with citrus flavor or sour sensation (citrus juice, citrus based liqueur or flavored shrub), and add a touch of sweetness to balance the flavors.
Other variations include: Hana raspberry sake, raspberry liqueur and any type of sparkling wine garnished with fresh raspberries; or Cointreau (bitter orange liqueur), orange juice and simple syrup topped with sparkling wine and garnished with a twist of orange peel; or even a Japanese version with umeshu (sweetened plum wine), shiso shrub (R. Fields sells a pre-bottled version) topped with Sho Chiku Bai MIO sparkling sake!
Ryan’s “Lower” Manhattan
The Manhattan cocktail has several theoretic origin stories, but the most popular one says Dr. Iain Marshall created it at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the 1880s for a party thrown by Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, in the honor of a presidential candidate.
The Manhattan cocktail is made with whisky, sweet vermouth and bitters, stirred, then strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a maraschino cherry. Though it was originally created with rye whisky, today, it commonly employs bourbon whiskies. And there are no mixers involved, so it is a strong cocktail that I associate with steakhouses. Be careful, drinking too many might lead you to dance on the table with a lampshade on your head.
My modern version of the Manhattan uses a cola mixer to tame the alcohol “bite” in the original version. I call it the “Lower” Manhattan since it is lower in alcohol.
6 ounces rye whiskey
1 ½ ounces sweet vermouth
1 tablespoon maraschino liqueur
12 dashes orange bitters
8 ounces Q Kola
3 to 4 maraschino cherries for garnish
First, mix the first four ingredients then carefully add the Q Kola. Next, pour over ice in a cocktail glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry. Makes three to four drinks.
Why I use Q Mixers
Several years ago, I came across Q Tonic Water. Since tonic water is comprised of 60 to 70 percent tonic water, I thought the quality of the tonic water should be equal to the quality of the forty-dollar-gin used in a cocktail.
Jordan Silbert, founder of Q Drinks, thought the same thing while sipping a gin and tonic, and in 2004, he launched Q Tonic Water, made with Peruvian cinchona and agave syrup. In comparison, I found Schweppes or Canada Dry overly sweet (probably from the added corn syrup). If your favorite gin is Seagram’s, Gilbey’s or Gordon’s, then Schweppes or Canada Dry will do. However, I’m willing to ante up the extra cash for Q Tonic. And now, they also make Q Kola and other cocktail mixers.
The Asian Grace Cocktail
Years ago, a friend hosted a dinner party and asked me to create a pre-meal cocktail. I formulated three cocktails, and paired each one with an appetizer. One popular pairing included Asian Dolmas (mochi rice mixed with lup cheong, shiitake and bamboo shoots then rolled in grape leaves and baked) and the Asian Grace cocktail.
3 ounces of St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 1/2 ounces of Soho Lychee Liqueur
½ ounce of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
10 ounces of Q Tonic
Lemongrass “swizzle” stick (optional)
Mix the three liquors and the Q Tonic. Pour into a highball glass filled with ice. Decorate with the lemongrass “swizzle” stick. Makes three to four drinks.
Almost on Vacation
Finally, the Mrs. prefers lighter drinks with a touch of sweetness and she doesn’t like an alcoholic “bite.” So I created this simple cocktail just for her.
2 ounces elderflower tonic water
2 ounces Dolin Blanc Vermouth (available at Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors)
Fill a whisky glass with ice then pour both liquids and mix. Sit in a reclining chair, put on a Panama hat and sip with your eyes closed and imagine you are on vacation.
Ryan Tatsumoto is a clinical pharmacist by day. In his off-hours, however, he and his wife enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet.”