Archive for the ‘Saf Restaurant’ Category

‘Prairie’ Home Companion

June 29, 2009

Dear PurSippers!

Good news– contrary to the nay-saying press and industry buffs who were constantly hinting that the ‘Organic Spirits Market’ is just a passing fad we are finding that now more than ever are brand new, organically produced and hand-crafted products are becoming available than ever before. My Saf Bar and Restaurant in London is lucky enough to be one of the few that gets to try these great products out and I’ve been blessed on a recent trip to the US to be able to try some fantastic products. Since many spirits buff don’t focus on organics as a big part of their collection I’ve been trying to champion these great products and have even been asked to compile a list of all the organics into a Difford-esque review.

One of my favourite new products in this organic-spirits-boom of late I’ve would have to be the venerable Prairie Organic Vodka. Hailing from the ultra-natural Heartland of Minnesota, Prairie offers a great example of what the best in organic spirits can be. Unlike the (equally exquisite) Square One Organic Vodka made from organic rye, Prairie is a corn-based spirit made from #2 yellow corn and without the dubious ‘organic representation’ of a certain -ahem- other ‘RAINed’ upon spirit, has fully organic and kosher certifications. They even work with the farmers directly to assure top quality for each bottle. Mazel Tov!

Other initiatives such as the use of every single bit of by-product from the corn and a revolutionary approach to business (here family owned Ed Philips & Sons who makes Prairie uses a profit sharing scheme for all employees and fair trade practices throughout) that reminds me of the forward-thinking of PurSip fan and Whole Foods founder John Mackey (PS- Whole Foods just recently had a regional meeting in Austin which I did the drinks for:

Watermelon-Basil Caipirinha
2 ounces Albelha Organic Cachaca
5-6 1-inch cubes of Seedless Watermelon
1 1/2 lime
2 bar spoons (a little less than a tablespoon) organic brown sugar
3 basil leaves
Shake all well together and empty all contents into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a slim piece of watermelon peel

but I digress….

back to Prairie my favourite thing about it (and there’s a lot–especially their sleek packaging and ad campaign) is the taste. The rich slightly melon-y character of the vodka is ultra-refreshing and provides a big contrast to a richer ‘mealy’ grain based vodka. This also means it mixes perfectly for all my favourite summertime cocktails. Here’s a few I’ve been slinging since trying Prairie:

Guilty Husband

25ml Hibiscus-infused Prairie Vodka*
15 ml Elderflower (Chase makes a great one in the UK or use St. Germain)
15 ml Creme de Violette (The Bitter Truth just launched a stunning one or use Rothman and Winter)
Dash of Orange Flower Water (Bitter Truth all the Way)
Rose Champagne (I use Fleury)

Stir the liquor. Strain. Top with Champagne. Garnish with a flower.

*just seep about 100 grams of dried hibiscus flowers in a bottle–you can’t over infuse

Pear, Lime and Thyme
40 mls Prairie Organic Vodka
20 mls Lime Juice
10 mls Thyme Simple Syrup
40 mls Pear Juice
Splash of Soda
Shake all ingredients except the soda and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a Thyme sprig.

Prairie and the Green Fairy
50 mls Prairie Organic Vodka
10 mls Maraschino (Maraska)
5 mls Absinthe (La Clandestine)
25 mls fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
20 mls Spicy Rhubarb Syrup (in a medium saucepan bring 2 cups diced rhubarb and 1 part sugar/1 part water to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat until the rhubarb breaks down. Remove and stir in 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger and 1 tablespoon ground coriander. Strain and store in a glass container.)
15 mls fresh lime juice.

Shake all ingredients and strain over fresh ice. Garnish with a Thyme sprig.

Let me know your thoughts if you try any of these out or send me over some other recipes you may come up with using the Prairie! That’s it for now!!

Keep sipping,

Joe McCanta


Spring and Summertime Cocktail Article

June 20, 2009

Hi All!

I’ve been asked to write an article for an upcoming mag– (can’t tell which one yet!)–and I thought i’d preview it to all the loyal PurSippers out there! As always, thanks for emailing me your comments and thoughts!

Lots more news to come but for now check out the article! Keep sipping!!


Spring and summer are my favorite times of year and nothing is as exciting as a spring evening in the Capital. Packed patios usually neglected explode into veritable street parties as everyone sheds pounds so they can in turn shed clothing—and maybe even their decency! As if that’s not enough, spring offers the perfect opportunity to sip exotic-named, umbrella-laden, colorful and fresh-fruity cocktails. Whether it’s to cool your guests down at a BBQ, please at a poolside picnic, or spice up a night on the town, here are some essential tips to help you get the most out of the solstice months.

Joe McCanta’s Favourite Spring and Summertime Cocktails:

There are two routes to go when creating springtime cocktails. First is to stick with refreshing and innovative ingredients that create just the right mix of flavour and what I like to call the ‘cool down’ factor. But the most important factor for a well-made summer cocktail is ICE and lots of it. That being said, the cocktails that please the most are those which develop well while sitting in the hot sun being constantly diluted by melting ice. So many cocktails these days aren’t direct enough to actually open up with the addition of water/ice and my biggest rule of thumb with a summer drink has always been the first sip should be a tad tight or intense so that by the third or fourth you have a superbly balanced mouthful of cool. Also we use a variety of spices and especially berries that come to life during the summer months which include strawberries, mint and Here’s 3 great innovative pours we’ve been slinging all summer long to some great success.

Soho Negro—An interesting and intense blend of a little known Italian aperitif, Tequila and in-season British berries.
50 mls Ocho blanco tequila— if in the US go with the lovely 4 Copas! Which I was lucky enough to be sipping (or slugging) with the likes of the greats H. Joseph Ehrmann at his own SF Elixir as well as Dimitri Lezinska from Grey Goose
2 British Blackberries or Strawberries (black makes it a touch more bitter)
20 mls ounce Nardini Amaro (italian liqueur)
15 mls lemon juice
10 mls simple syrup
Top with Lambrusco

Muddle the berries with all other ingredients except the tequila and champagne. Add the tequila and shake. Double strain contents into a champagne flute or coupe and top with Lambrusco. Garnish with a half a strawberry or edible flower.

The Safia—Showcasing British strawberries beautifully against botanical gin and soft chamomile, this drink tastes like summer in a glass.
50 ml Juniper Green Organic Gin
4 quarters of Fresh Lime
20 ml Chamomile Syrup**
2 Fresh Strawberries
2 Fresh Basil Leaves
Splash of Soda
Dash of Angostura bitters

Muddle the strawberries, basil, syrup and lime. Add in the Angostura and gin and shake well. Strain over fresh ice and garnish with a basil flower and fresh sliced strawberry.

**Brew 1 Cup of Strong Chamomile Tea. Let cool and mis with 2 Cups of Agave. Store in a glass container refrigerated. Will last for several weeks.

Gooseberry Mojito—Gooseberries are a lovely seasonal treat that can add juiciness to any standard mojito.
50 ml White Raisin Infused Matraga Organic White Rum**
6-8 Gooseberries (remove the leaves)
4 Quarters of Fresh Lime
8-10 Fresh Mint Leaves
25 mls House Made Mint-Agave Syrup***
Soda Water

White Raising Rum
** Take about 150 grams of white raisins and infuse with 75 cls Rum for at least 2 nights. Can leave infusing for weeks.

*** Take 1 large bunch of mint and chop the tips of the stems off but leave the stalks attached. Wash the mint and then add it to100 ml Agave Syrup and Mix with 200ml water. Heat on medium for about 15 min or until the syrup turns a light olive color and smells fragrant. Transfer to a glass container and store refrigerated. Will last for 2-3 weeks.

In the metal half of a shaker, muddle the gooseberries, syrup, mint and lime. Add in the rum and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Empty contents over fresh ice and top with a splash of soda water

As if this bevy of spring and summertime organically-focused cocktails aren’t enough to whet your whistle, here is a list of pointers and ‘bar chef secrets’ that have worked for decades to keep your summer’s cool if not calm. Though not all tips are as ‘organic-focused’ as Saf, all are classic and follow age-honored and all-natural processes and ingredients.

No AC- No Problem!
If there’s one thing to be learned from the Gatsby-era flappers of the ‘20s it’s how to stay cool. These glamorous socialites embraced NYC’s stifling city summers with no AC while donning sweaty gowns or suits and still somehow always looked snappy and polished. Their trick?—a simple stocked home bar complete with fresh juices, herbs, flavorings and mixers to create a slew of some of the coolest concoctions that bathtub liquor could yield. In the summertime I like to keep my drinks simple—one shouldn’t have to think too hard in the heat:

A Classically Stocked Bar
Spirits: Organic Vodka (UK5), Organic Gin (Juniper Green), Bourbon/Rye Whiskey (I use the lovely small batched Sazerac , Organic Rum (Papagayo Fair Traide)
Mixers: Sweet Vermouth, Dry Vermouth, Angostura Bitters, Cointreau (or Triple Sec), Simple Syrup**
Herbs: Fresh Mint (optional fresh sage, fresh tarragon)
Fresh Fruits/Juices: Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime (optional peaches, watermelon, apricots)
** just mix 1 part water and one part sugar. Dissolve the sugar over low heat for about ten minutes and transfer to a glass container. Store refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

You’d be amazed at how many deliciously refreshing drinks you can make with these simple items and a couple essential tips. First, only use fresh ingredients always—nothing is worse than a Mojito made with 3-day-old lime juice and wilted mint. The easiest thing is to keep a counter-top level juicer handy and press the fruit as you’re whipping up the drink. If you’re expecting guests you can make a ½ liter of each juice and store well-chilled in an air tight container. Secondly (and maybe most importantly), use tons and tons of ice—drinks need to be frosty to be refreshing and perfectly balanced, and the colder the drink, the less diluted it becomes as you sip. Large ice cubes work best and you can always crack them with a bar spoon in a towel to get smaller chunks for drinks like Daiquiris and Mint Juleps. Finally, try throwing in some fresh fruit to spice up any recipe.
Here’s a few breezy classic cocktails along with some easy variations to give them a modern twist:

Classic Mojito
60 ml Utkins Fair Trade White Rum
4-6 lime wedges
8 mint leaves
30 ml Simple Syrup
Dash Angostura Bitters
Splash of Soda
In a shaker muddle the mint, syrup, and bitters with a muddler or wooden spoon. Add the rum and ice and shake vigorously for 20 sec. Strain into a separate glass filled with ice. Top with a splash of soda and some fresh mint tips.
**also try adding 3 cubes of fresh watermelon to the shaker for a deliciously sweeter take. For a spicier version add in some fresh sage with the mint.

Classic Mint Julep
cracked ice cubes
4 sprigs of mint
15 ml Simple Syrup
(for more flavor let mint sit refrigerated in regular simple syrup overnight)
60 ml Bourbon (such as Saf’s house pour Buffalo Trace—made at the same distillery as Organic Rain Vodka amongst other fine products)

In the bottom of a heavy glass muddle the mint and syrup together. Add the cracked ice and stir well for 10 seconds. Then add the bourbon and stir again until the outside of the glass is frosty. Garnish with fresh mint sprinkled with a little confectioners’ sugar.
**I love throwing a whole pitted fresh peach into the glass as you’re muddling to give the julep a soft, fruity taste.

Gin or Vodka Rickey
(The simplest cocktail around, classically rickey’s are made with gin but vodka makes this sip too-easy-to-gulp down)
25 ml fresh lime juice
50 ml UK5s Organic Vodka or Junpier Green Gin
10ml Simple Syrup
Soda Water
Mix the vodka, lime and syrup in a glass filled with ice. Top with soda and stir again. Garnish with a lime wedge or cucumber slice.
**Try adding 3 fresh (and topped) strawberries along with 4 leaves of tarragon to all the ingredients except the soda and shake. Strain into a glass filled with ice and top with soda (or even prosecco!).

Bronx and Bitters
50 ml Junipero Gin
10 ml Vya Sweet Vermouth
10 ml Vya Dry vermouth
25 ml fresh squeezed organic orange juice
Dash of Bitter Truth Orange Bitters
Orange Peel
Shake all ingredients with plenty of ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with orange peel.
**For a great variation add 2 tablespoons whole cloves and 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger to your simple syrup as you heat it. Let the syrup sit for 10 minutes and then strain. Add 20 ml Ginger-Clove Simple Syrup to above recipe.

These drinks will get you by at home but some steamy nights it’s just too hot to work—and better to let someone else do the shaking for you—which we are happy to do at Saf.


Soho Rep!

April 29, 2009

Hi All-

My lovely friend Meghan Finn of the reputable SoHo Reperatory Theatre in NYC asked me to create some cocktails for their Gala event hosted by THE Edward Norton! I met “Ed” (as I like to call him) once at the Hollywood Bowl and he was every bit as nice as he seems whilst beating the shit out of people in Fight Club….just kidding! He’s actually one of my top 10 favorite actors and an amazingly humble and cool guy to boot! Glad he’ll be sipping my concoctions!

The great folks at 4 Copas–one of the finest Tequilas on the planet which just happens to be organic– are offering their sponsorship.

For vodka, I used the brand new and incredibly produced product Praire Organic Vodka. You’ll be hearing quite a bit about this fantastic hand-crafted vodka from Minnesota. Many, many thanks to the great folks at Ed Philips & Sons for their support for this event!!

And WHAT are those drinks you might ask?

Margarita Botanica                             Served in a Coupe
50 mls (2 oz) 4 Copas Organic Tequila
25 mls (1 oz) Lime Juice
20 mls ( ¾ oz) Lavender Syrup  (from Sonoma Syrup Co. or make your own*)
15 mls ( ½ oz ) Cointreau or Triple Sec
2 dashes of Green Chartreuse
Shake and tea strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime peel.

* Lavender syrup: Cook down 2 tablespoons of fresh lavender flowers, de-stemmed with 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water until sugar is diluted and the mixture is aromatic. Strain and reserve in a glass container.

Una Apretada                             Served in a Coupe

25 mls (1 oz) 4 Copas Organic Tequila
25 mls (1 oz) Lime Juice
25 mls (1 oz) Apricot Brandy (such as Giffard)–PS for an EXCELLENT blog about Apry click here
10 mls (2 tsp) Sweet Vermouth (such as Vya)
Dash of Cynar—Artichoke Liqueur
Shake and Strain.

Moroccan Martini                             Served in a Coupe
50 mls (2 oz) Prairie Vodka
20 mls (¾ oz) Thick Apricot Juice (alternatively use passion fruit)
10 mls (2 tsp) Simple Syrup
10 mls (2 tsp) Lemon Juice
Fresh Ginger    1 tsp
1 tsp of Spice Mix*
1 part ground fennel, 1 part ground star anise, 1 part cinnamon, 1 part cardamom

Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a whole star anise

*Spice Mix- equal parts ground cinnamon, ground fennel, ground star anise, cinnamon, cardamom– this blend is a nod to the AMAZING 7 Spice Rim that the incredible bartender Adam Seger gave me in Vail. If you don’t know Adam, you haven’t had a good drink! Check out the Lush Blog’s great interview with him.

50 mls (2 oz) Prairie Organic Vodka
25 mls ( 1 oz) Lavender Simple Syrup* see above
10 mls (2 tsp) Ceres Lychee juice
½ Lime     whole lime in 8ths
4 Tarragon Leaves
2 slices Cucumber
Shake     and empty into rocks glass. Garnish with fresh tarragon and shaved cucumber.

Extra, Extra…..

March 26, 2009

Hi PurSippers—
Hope you are well and apologies for being out of touch! But I am pleased to say that many exciting new items are in the works which has kept me busy. Just wanted to check in and also leave an update on some great new

News and Events:

  • I was announced as the winner of the Grey Goose Dream Bar Competition! This was a very innovative competition sponsored by the folks at Grey Goose in which a brief is created on the PERFECT Bar and the winning brief (along with a matching cocktail) gets the bar built as well as to keep it! So I am now the proud owner of a fully-sustainably built Green House Bar! That’s right, my bar will offer the freshest cocktails on the planet because we are building the bar with a Greenhouse format so that all herbs, garnishes and ingredients can be freshly picked–stay tuned for the launch date details of this exciting project and thanks to the genius Richard Vine who is helping consult for the planting part!

  • Heading to Vail, Colorado next week as I was lucky enough to be chosen for their Vail Mixology Summit. Whilst there I will be meeting with the nation’s top mixologists to discuss new industry trends and create some smashing new cocktails! I’m in Vail the 1st-8th so if you’re in town, swing in!

-Pleased to say that on January 29th, 2009 the venerable (and almost-holy) Oprah Winfrey was celebrating her birthday PurSip Cocktail in hand! That’s right, the O wanted to ring in another year with the freshest cocktails on the planet and I was pleased to be a part!! What cocktails, you might ask?? Well after reading that her faves are the Pomegranate Martini and the Lemon Drop I developed my own takes on the drinks:

Moroccan Lemon drop
50 ml (2 oz) Apricot-Anise Organic Vodka**
25 ml (1 oz) Agave Simple Syrup***
15 ml ( ½ – ¾ oz) Fresh Lemon Juice
1 thin slice of fresh ginger
OPT: Garnish with1 tablespoon Citrus Sugar*

If using the citrus sugar, take a lemon wedge and rub around the rim of a chilled martini glass. Lean the outside of the rim only against a plate of citrus sugar and rim the glass about 2 cm thick making sure that none of the sugar gets inside the glass. Combine Vodka, Ginger, Lemon and Simple Syrup in a shaker. Shake vigorously for a slow ten count and straining contents through a tea strainer into glass. Garnish with either an edible flower or a thin orange spiral & halved vodka-soaked apricot.

*2 parts fine sugar to one part lemon zest—dehydrate over night and blend to a very fine consistency in a Vitamix machine or Cuisinart

** Infuse a 75cl bottle of Organic Vodka (UK5 Utkins or Square One) with ½ kg of Sulfur-Free (brown) dried apricots and 3 Whole Anise Pods for 1-5 days. May infuse longer but dilute mixture to keep a balanced flavor.

***Agave Simple Syrup: Mix 1 part Agave Syrup with 2 Parts Water. Shake Well and refrigerate stored in a glass container.

For 10 cocktails:
300ml simple syrup
225ml Fresh Lemon Juice
½ cup Fresh Ginger 100ml
50 ml of mix to 60 ml Vodka and shake. Follow instructions above.

This builds off the standard flavours of the lemon drop with the addition of some delicious eastern spices and a slight natural sweetness from the Apricot infusion. Of course, no refined sugars are used to preserve the purity of the drink.

Himalayan Blossom
50 mls (2 oz) Goji-Orange Organic Vodka*
10 mls (2 tsp) Cherry Heering Cherry Brandy
10 mls (2 tsp) Pomegranate Juice
10 mls (2 tsp) Cointreau
20 mls (3/4 oz) Fresh Blood Orange Juice
3 tarragon leaves

Shake all ingredients and tea strain into a martini glass. Garnish with cherries or goji berries and a flamed orange twist.

*Combine the peel of 1 orange with about 60 grams Goji berries and infuse a bottle of Organic Vodka (Utkins 5 or Square One) overnight

This is the PurSip take on the drink, using fresh pomegranate juice but mixing it with seasonal Blood Oranges and a hint of softness from Tarragon. Of course, the main focus of the drink is the Goji-Orange Vodka, with Goji’s replacing pomegranates as one of the world’s top super foods and creating a very innovative flavour.

  • I’ve teamed up with a very interesting new product Camitz Sparkling Vodka–an all-natural and fully-sparkling (80 proof) vodka just released out of Stockholm! The folks at Camitz are truly thinking out of the box and the fact that they use organic winter wheat and 1000 year old protected water for their product makes it as PURE as it is dangerously POTABLE! Stop by Saf London to try our new cocktails or give it a go yourself with a couple recipes:

Orchard and Spices

50 mls Camitz
Juice of 1 Green Apple
10 mls Lemon
20 mls Rosemary-Kumquat Liqueur
teaspoon Ginger
Stir and top with a little Camitz on the rocks

4 eighths of lime
4 cucumber wheels
25 mls Mint Syrup
25 mls Pear-Apple Juice
10-12 fresh tarragon leaves
Shake all contents and empty Caipirinha style into a Double Old Fashioned glass
Top with 50 mls Camitz, stir and serve

Dark Passions
4 Raspberries
1 Shiso Leaf
Juice of 1 Quarter Lime
20 mls Simple Syrup
20 mls Passion fruit
Shake and double strain into a martini glass
Top with Camitz

The Guilty Husband (Episode #2)
10 mls Creme de Violette
25 mls St. Germain Elderflower
3 dashes Bitter Truth Orange Flower Water
50 mls Camitz
Stir and strain into a martini glass.
Garnish with edible flower

The Heart Martini
1 Violet Leaf
3 Fresh Blackberries
10 mls Lemon Juice
10 mls Apricot Brandy
20 mls Chamomile Syrup
Shake and Double Strain
Top with Camitz and serve

So as you see…it’s been a busy couple weeks. And best of all, there’s even more news to come that’s just in the final stages, so stay tuned and keep sipping!!!!

Joe McCanta

New….well, uh, news!

December 14, 2008

Hi everyone!

Thanks for all the comments and emails about the UKTV appearance on ‘Market Kitchen’ this Friday! To be honest, they meant a ton because I was where I belong whilst the show aired–behind the stick mixing drinks–so I never saw it! Here’s hoping one of my more techno-savvy colleagues TIVO-ed it and either way I believe the good folks at ‘Market Kitchen‘ will continue airing it, so maybe 25 years from now when I’m all settled down I can watch a re-run right after an ‘Obama: The Greatest President Who Ever Lived’ special starring one of Will Smith’s kids.

In the meantime I’m traveling a bit right now and just wanted to keep you up to date.

I’m heading to Istanbul this week for an amazing event:

Gap and Apple have teamed up to present fashion that matches each Ipod Nano Chromatic–and I’ve been fortunate enough to get the exciting chance to create a cocktail to match each Ipod as well! I’ve never worked solely on a colour-basis for cocktails so this is quite a fun challenge. I’ll be posting the cocktails I’ve created in the next few weeks, but in the meantime check out the website here to see the campaign.

One more quick news item was a wonderful feature from Danny Ronen and Jenn Faringdon of the Tasting Panel magazine that just was forwarded on to me. The Tasting Panel is by far the top industry magazine for all-things-bar and I’m humbled for a feature in their Trends:London issue. Best of all, half way through the interview Danny and I realised we attended the same high school! Nice one! Check it out here.

Following this, I’ll be in the US and San Francisco–one of my favorite bar towns–and up to the lovely (and confirmed spiritual vortex of) Mt. Shasta, California. No, not to find myself…but to mix up some drinks for a very special group of folks in the wild-er-ness of Northern Cal. Should be quite a time!

More to come but just wanted to check in on a chilly London day. Cheers and happy pre-holiday madness to all!!

Keeping Myself Honest

October 31, 2008

To all the good folks who so kindly have sent me emails and are reading this new attempt at reaching the google-sphere THANKS! And especially thanks for your patience. As many of you know if you’re in the industry, this time of year is absolutely crazy and it seems the credit crisis has only had a positive effect on those of us who provide the much needed booze to drown sorrows in.

It’s due to this rush that I’ve been so lacking in my updates. But that’s not all–I think I get a little carried away with all the writing. Anyone who’s met me in person knows that I can talk…and talk…and talk….and talk…and oh, talk! It seems this same loquaciousness comes out in my blog entries but as some good friends recently put it to me: “Blog’s aren’t exactly novels…keep it simple, keep it informative, and most of all keep it short and to the point!”

Well put. So to keep myself honest I’m going to try an experiment. 1 cocktail recipe a day. That’s it. 1 a day that I’ve NEVER before created. Some may be rubbish (although hopefully not) and some may be a bit lame…but I’ve never challenged myself to invent every single day. Usually I work in bouts of creativity…such as yesterday’s meeting with the folks at Buffalo Trace where I inadvertenly created about 8 new recipes. I’m a big believer in being prolific with the hypothesis that 1 out of every few things you write, invent or dream up will be brilliant. So let’s have it a go. Today’s cocktail:

A Date to Remember

Garnish with a 3 brandied cherries on a rosemary skewer.

There you have it…easy and simple. And a great autumn creation to boot. We’re serving it tonight at Saf and Chef Chad Sarno’s already getting loopy on them…well not quite, but soon.

Please tell me your thoughts on these cocktails and any ingredients I use. Also if you make at home, let me know how it turns out.

Cheers to all!

Egg (less) Nog?

October 11, 2008

“How the hell do you make eggnog without the eggs?!” my incredulous bar manager asked me in our discussion for revamping our Saf London bar list to include some good ol’ standby Christmas cocktails.
I don’t blame him at all. One of the biggest challenges I face in our Vegan/Vegetarian spot here in the heart of London’s ethically (and alcoholically)- minded Shoreditch is recapturing the taste and even more so the texture of eggs which bring so much to the classic cocktails.
Imagine a Ramos Gin Fizz without the frothiness from the egg whites? How about a Brandy Flip without the flip!?
Originally introduced to take the edge of some of the questionable spirits floating around the early 1900s, eggs were used to smooth out and brighten up cocktails. Fizzes quickly caught on and became a bit of a global phenomena– even referenced in songs, books and movies of the time.
But no where was an egg used best than in the winter-warming Christmas cocktail category–which is crowned by one of the most delicious mixes of the bunch: the Tom & Jerry. The blend of eggs, sugar, brandy, rum and boiling hot water pretty much equates to happiness and holiday cheer in a glass–or mug rather. The T&J isn’t called too much at bars these days and, with but a few exceptions, if it was called most bar men would stare blankly or not have the necessary components to make it–mine included. But Egg Nog is a seasonal mix that comes out every year right around November and for all intents and purposes is pretty similar depending on who makes it. The packaged stuff is rubbish, but with some a little searching there are hundreds of great takes on a ‘Nog’ recipe that is as rich and rounded as can be. There’s even an entire website dedicated to the subject.

Sadly the few ‘Vegan Egg Nog’ recipes that pop up on the google-sphere I find to be a bit lacking to say the least. That is until now with my ‘Eggless Nog’ recipe below. Why is mine better than the rest?

The first thing to know is that a good nog must be thick enough to balance the brandy, bourbon, or whatever hooch you want to throw in (Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey has been a surprising favourite of mine lately–especially since it comes in a mason jar!). To get the richness I use a Brazil Nut Milk. Easy to make–the nut milk actually adds another element of flavour that regular cream misses out on. A touch of Soy Lecithin acts as the froth-forming ‘egg’ and using a rich Demerara Sugar rounds out the batter in an amazingly lovely way. So, for all those who don’t think that utilizing yokes is an appropriate yuletide use–give the Vegan Nog a go!

Eggless Nog

4 parts Batter**
2 parts Heaven Hill Bourbon
1/2 part Skipper Demerara Rum

**The night before soak 2 cups of Organic Brazil Nuts in water with 1 vanilla pod cut open to release the black seeds. The next day strain out the water and remove the vanilla pod but keep as many of the seeds as possible. Next, blend the soaked nuts with a about 1 1/2 cups of water very finely. Strain through a cheesecloth and reserve.
In a pan over med. heat caramelize 1 cup of Demerara sugar with a little water. Add in the Brazil Nut milk softly so that it doesn’t curdle. Sprinkle in some fresh nutmeg and cinnamon and slowly add the Bourbon and Rum. Heat a little further and serve garnished with a cinnamon stick and some more fresh nutmeg ground directly on top. Serve in a mug or if you’re a fan of Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation serve in holiday Reindeer-head glasses whose handles are the antlers! Enjoy!

Reviving Corpses

September 28, 2008

I love this time of year in London. It’s on the cusp of slipping into fall but still warm and sunny enough to remind us of the summer we’re slowly saying goodbye to. It’s an odd time for making drinks and leaves us always a little bit bewildered….do I go with a bright, citrusy, summer cocktail or a more savoury ‘welcome to fall’ cocktail–is it white rum or golden Calvados? Lime juice or blood orange? etc. etc. in the world of the bar. I’m happy to say that tonight our packed joint was plumb full of cocktail revelers all wondering the same questions and luckily we were able to supply them as needed with what I think were some good on the cusp options. We launched a seasonal menu change (1 of 3 to get us into Autumn full blown) and people seemed happy, if not a little legless as they left.
The best of the new list? Well I’ll be slowly divulging but my vote goes for two slurps: the Classic Corpse Reviver (#2) with it’s slightly savoury but oh so balanced and strangely autumnal blend of Cointreau, Lemon, Lillet, Junipero Gin, and a slightest dash of Absinthe (le Clandestine)….as well as the El Pecadoro which is a little number I came up with featuring Ocho Blanco Tequila, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Tarragon-Thyme-Chili, Agave, and Grapefruit Bitters. I must say we had a lot of people wondering if it was really gonna work but I think they seemed quite turned around by the end of the evening. The trick is the sour (based off the traditional use of Tequila and Grapefruit Soda we go with Grapefruit) and the savoury….the savoury notes of Tarragon and Thyme. The notes match right up with the earthy and floral scents of the Ocho in a way you might not expect.
I think the main thing is, if you supply the highlights of the season but mix them with the tastes of summer (using the citrus perhaps, the aromas of lime with something like Rhubarb or Persimmon) you get the best of both worlds. That is, at least until we’re full on into Fall. Or falling over.