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Stunning Stockholm!

June 5, 2009

Hi All! Just returned from Dear Ol’ Stockholm where I was part of a beautiful new book that Absolut has created focused on mixology. The book is centered around their new campaign ‘In an Absolut World…“. For this, the premise is ‘In an Absolut World, Everyone is a Mixologist”! What a great concept and you could imagine such a better world if TGIF could make a stunning Sazerac or you could get a Trilby Cocktail to go at McDonalds! From my side of things, I developed some drinks and a photo shoot for the lovely Coffee-table sized book complete with flip book “movies” of how to shake drinks, muddle, etc.

Which cocktails? Well I thought you’d never ask….

The thing is I came up with Round 1 which I thought were quite lovely and I was lucky enough to have that confirmed by the members of Jessica 6 (Hercules and Love Affiar’s new amazing side project) who were in town to play Cargo last weekend. The quotes from the band were all I needed to feel confident about the drinks however, as is often the case, I got a little too caught up in what a ‘simple cocktail’ means. After submitting the drinks the folks at V & S asked me to simplify even further and the end result was a great exercise in learning how to make even the simplest of combinations still taste fresh and declious–so thanks to Absolut for that!

I can’t post the final cocktail until the book is published but have a gander at Round 1 and as always let me know your thoughts!

Keep Sipping….


Absolut Cocktail Book Cocktails

The Maldives
Representing the spicy and aromatic tropical character of the world’s smallest country.
4 Parts Absolut
3 cardamom pods
3 parts agave simple syrup
2 parts fresh lime juice
4 slices cucumber
2 sprigs of rosemary
Dash of orange bitters

Muddle the cardamom, rosemary, syrup, and cucumber. Add in the Absolut and orange bitters and shake well. Double strain into an ice cold martini glass. Garnish with a firm floating basil leaf and 3 cardamom seeds.

+For a Spicier Version Try with 2 parts Absolut Peppar and 2 parts Absolut Mandarine

+For a slightly more aromatic version add in 4 fresh basil leaves

A Night in Tunisia
Subtly spicy with all the timeless classiness of an old film
4 Parts Absolut
2 Parts Sweet Vermouth
1 part Apricot Brandy
2 parts Fresh Orange Juice
dash of Absinthe

Shake all ingredients well and strain into an ice cold martini glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel and a slight sprinkling of cinnamon.

+For a slightly sweeter and more rounded version substitute Pernod for the Absinthe

+For a crisper, cleaner version substitute Absolut Ruby Red  and lime instead of orange juice

The Victorian
Light, aromatic and botanical with fresh garden flavours
4 parts Absolut
8 fresh raspberries
3 parts Pomegranate juice
2 parts Lavender Syrup
1 part Maraschino Liqueur
6 quarters lime
1 garden-fresh violet

Muddle all the ingredients. Shake very hard and empty the entire contents (without straining) into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a rolled violet or 2 lavender sprigs.

+For a deeper and juicier version substitute Absolut Kurant and blackberries for raspberries.

+For a drier version eliminate the Lavender syrup and use 2 parts maraschino.

Mediterranean Exile
Fiesty, fragile and fruity with a luscious aromatic quality

5 parts Absolut
2 fresh Strawberries
2 parts Chamomile Syrup
1 pinch of White Pepper
2 leaves of fresh Basil
1 dash of White Balsamic reduction
4 quarters of lime

Muddle all ingredients except for the White Balsamic Reduction. Shake Well and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Float the dash of White Balsamic directly in the center and garnish with fresh basil and a few peppercorns.

+For a lovely softer version substitute Absolut Vanilia

+For a less layered flavour, leave out the chamomile syrup and white pepper and use 2 parts simple syrup

Eastern Orchards
Soft and centered but with a hint of mysterious  intrigue
5 parts Absolut
2 fresh lychees
1 quarter fresh peach muddled
2 parts Jasmine Green Tea Syrup
1 part fresh lemon juice
splash of pomegranate grenadine

Muddle the peach, lychees, and jasmine syrup then add the lemon and vodka and shake. Strain into an ice cold martini glass and add the dash of grenadine to the center of the drink. Garnish with a slice of fresh peach and lychee or alternatively 3 Jasmine Tea Pearls.

+You can substitute Absolut Apeach and leave out the fresh peach for a cleaner version.

+ For a less floral version substitute simple syrup for Jasmine Tea Syrup

Le Mistral
The light wind that rolls through Europe, warming and agitating the hills at the same time
3 parts Absolut
1 part Pernod
2 parts fresh lemon juice
3 parts simple syrup
3 fresh Tarragon leaves
8 fresh blueberries
Dash of Angostura Bitters

Muddle the tarragon, simple syrup and blueberries with the Pernod. Add in the lemon, bitters and vodka and shake. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass and garnish with 3 blueberries speared through a Tarragon sprig and a lemon spiral.

+For a different take, substitute red currant for raspberries and basil and mint for tarragon

+Try with Absolut Pears for a divinely subtle version

Spice Bazaar
Seductively spicy and always willing to negotiate

5 parts Absolut
3 parts Passion fruit juice
8 mint leaves
2 parts agave simple syrup
1 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
1 pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp of ground ginger

Muddle the spices and ginger with the mint, syrup and passion fruit.  Add the vodka and shake. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass  and garnish with mint and a whole star anise.

+For an intriguingly spicy version use 2 parts Peppar and 3 parts Mandarin.

+For a more tropical version use 2 parts Absolut Mango and 3 parts your favourite White Rum

Southern Hospitality
Harmoniously bringing together all the flavours and aromas of a trip down the Mississippi
5 Parts Absolut
6 1-inch cubes of fresh watermelon
2 fresh basil leaves
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
6 1/8ths of fresh lime
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar

Place all ingredients in a shaker and shake. Empty entire contents into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a vanilla pod or the rind of the watermelon finely sliced.

+For a drier version leave out the vanilla sugar and substitute 3 parts Absolut Raspberrie and 2 Parts Absolut Vanilia

+Try leaving out the Cayenne and experimenting with your favourite melons such as Honey Dew or Cantaloupe.

Baja Bocana
Taste the rolling hills surrounding the secluded rivers beaches reaching out to the Pacific
5 parts Absolut
3 parts Pineapple Juice
3 sage leaves
1 part peach liqueur
2 parts orange liqueur
splash of lime

Place all ingredients in a shaker and shake. Double strain into an ice cold martini glass. Garnish with fresh sage and a slice of pineapple.

+Try substituting cranberry juice for pineapple for a crisper more Autumnal version.

+ For an earthy margarita substitute 2 parts Absolut Mandarin and 3 parts your favourite Reposado tequila.

The Norseman
Pure, clean and wildly fresh with an intense and lasting depth
5 parts Absolut
1 part dry vermouth
½ part Maraschino liqueur
1 part cherry brandy
2 dashes orange blossom water
dash of Orange bitters
1 lime twist

Twist the lime into the bottom glass half of a shaker. Place all ingredients in the glass half of the shaker and stir slowly. Strain into an ice-cold martini glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

+For a slightly richer version add in 1 part of sweet vermouth.

+For a refreshing take, add in 2 parts lime juice and substitute 5 parts Absolut Pears—shake don’t stir.


Just in Time for Summer: Joe McCanta’s Top 10 Ways to Avoid a Hangover!!

April 30, 2009
never again.....

never again.....

All it takes is a stroll through solarium-tanned, sunglass-donning crowds swarming the tulip booths and steamed-corn vendors in the city to know that summer is indeed descending upon us. As more and more of the dark warm corner clubs that got us through winter empty out in favor of the mass migration to the sunnier spots, it’s easy to fuel the celebration of spring with some indulgence–or over-indulgence as the case may be. Many of these impromptu tributes to ‘yaz geldi’ as the Turks call it start off harmless enough but end up as late-night causes to bleary eyes and headaches the next day, along with the myriad of hangover cures that everyone from your boss to the overly helpful taxi driver will recommend. But as the saying goes ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ so why not welcome this season with a resolution to think ahead and keep those nasty ‘never-doing-that-again’ mornings at bay? Apart from avoiding alcohol altogether here’s how to cheat paying for what you get:

1.    The 1 to 1 Rule.

The number one cause for next-morning agony is dehydration. This is because alcohol causes your liver to run in overtime and as your body gets starved for water to keep the factory running it starts recruiting it from anywhere it can—especially the brain. You can prevent this the next time you’re out by committing yourself to drinking one glass of water with every drink you have, be it a shot, beer, or bright pink umbrella-laden fishbowl of hooch. If you know enough a ahead of time that you will be going out you can also stock up on water throughout the day or even blend a couple pieces of ultra-hydrating watermelon with water and drink it down—too much is never enough and your head will thank you for it.
2.    Don’t Ride the Bull!

Stay away from artificially sweetened mixers and soft drinks—especially the much toted but lethal Red Bull. The caffeine and processed sugar present in Red Bull help to accelerate your body’s dehydration and pumps you full of short-term energy, making you feel invincible for a couple of hours but then nose-diving you back to earth at the end of the night. Likewise, drinks that are brighter than the neon bar sign out front tend to be made from processed syrups filled with cornstarch and harmful preservatives. The best thing to do is sip a base spirit mixed with ice and water or soda (which also helps you follow Rule # 1). Or try mixing with fresh citrus juice—not only will this keep you hydrated but it will fill you with the Vitamin C your body needs to clean you back out.Or if you really can’t give up on the good ‘ol Bull try their brand new Cola— it’s 100% all natural, caffeine-free and actually one of the best colas I’ve tried. At Saf in London we make a drink called the:

Cuba Natural
40 mls Vanilla Infused Fairt Trade Organic Papagayo Spiced Rum

1/2 Lime-Juiced

agave syrup to taste
Shake and serve on the rocks topped with Red Bull Natural cola

3.    Drinking Clear for a Clearer Head.

Another main cause of hangovers is congeners (toxins formed during the fermentation process). These little head-splitting wonders are particularly potent in darker spirits such as whiskey, aged rum, cordials (did someone say Jager-monster?), and red wine. By sticking with spirits you can see through (even if you’re seeing double) you can avoid congeners and the morning-after torment they induce.
4.    Be Loyal.

Drinking is a lot like dating: constantly switching back and forth and running from commitment just ends you up drunk, desperate, and alone at 4.a.m. in a dingy dive bar how you don’t need anything in life but your shoes. If you start with a spirit it is best to commit to it for the rest of the night rather than mixing it up—not only does it make it a little easier for your body to handle but you’re less likely to drink as much than if you are constantly trying new tastes.  As you get over-saturated with the spirit you’re having, your body signals you to head home.
5.    Don’t Be Cheap.

Sure you want to squeeze in 5 drinks for the price of one but what good are those extra 4 drinks when they come back up the next morning? Producers save money to make these spirits cheap by not spending as much time filtering and fining the product, creating a very unclean raw material filled with impurities.  By splurging on 1 really quality drink rather than a few made from the cheap stuff you can actually appreciate what you’re drinking too, which will slow down your overall consumption.
6.    Eat Up and Eat Well.

If you know you’re going to be out for a night on the town, give your body the fuel it needs to be prepared for the onslaught. Eat foods rich in nutrients and especially Vitamin’s C and B (that your body loses as you drink) to help be prepared. Spinach, carrots, red peppers, and beans or legumes can all stock your system up while carbohydrate-rich foods especially those made from whole grains help slow the absorption of alcohol into your blood-stream.  Also, the fuller you are on nutrient-rich foods, the less likely you are to binge on a burger at midnight.
7.    Keep a Tab.

One of the best ways to prevent drinking too much is to keep a running tab of what you drink throughout the night. Your body burns alcohol at the rate of about 3 cl an hour. Something as simple as a napkin with slash marks on it can keep you aware of how far along you are even as your newest best friend at the bar tries to buy you another shot. 9 times out of 10 people drink too much because they drink too fast to be aware of how many they’ve had and by writing your drinks down you can pace yourself much easier.
8.    Work it Out.

The higher your metabolism is the easier for your body to process the toxins found in alcohol. Getting exercise prior to a night out can help you boost your metabolism and also helps you burn through the empty calories found in booze. This works that night too–even if you don’t usually exercise. Something as simple as moderate dancing (breaking a sweat) for 30 minutes or walking home rather than hopping the train at the end of the night will help you heal quicker in the morning.
9.    Give Yourself an Allowance.

This is a great trick I picked up from wise parents worldwide. Treat yourself like a teen and limit the amount of money you can spend, bringing only a pre-determined amount of cash (with no credit cards) for the entire night. Most people have that ‘one-drink-too-many’ late at night when they appreciate it the least and it can do the most harm.  By financially limiting yourself you can reason a little better when temptation strikes—unless of course you resort to hawking your Rolex for another Gibson.
10.    Don’t Smoke.

I know, I know, just one more offence to add to the list for cigarettes. But the truth is when you smoke your liver puts the cigarette first on its list to detox, leaving the alcohol to slowly sit untouched in your system which in turn leaves more of the booze in your bloodstream and more pain the next morning. The next time your out and feel the urge promise yourself if you can wait for 60 minutes you can have a smoke. Chances are in the next hour the urge will pass and you’ll either change location or mindset making it easier.


November 1, 2008

Wet, soggy and everything I was told London would be today….brrrr! Time to warm up with a couple new cocktails.

The Grandaddy

  • 25mls Apple Jack
  • 30 mls Woodford Reserve Bourbon
  • Baked Apple Puree**
  • 10 mls Cointreau
  • pinch of fresh nutmeg
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • dash of Angostura bitters

**Baked Apple Puree
Core and cut 4 apples into thin wheels and cover with brown sugar and Mesquite meal on either side. Hand crush whole cloves and star anise and sprinkle on as well. Back at 350 Degrees for 20 mins or until golden brown and the sugar caramelizes. Set aside and cool. Remove large spice chunks and blend in a vitamix blender with 50 mls Cognac and blend until smooth. Will last 4 days.

Fragile and Lacey….

October 1, 2008

I’m feeling a bit dark tonight due to the departure of my very good friend Lacey Langston from good ol’ London town. Miss Langston is not only one of the inspirations for a drink of mine (which you’ll be happy to find towards the end of this blog) but also is the sole reason for my neglecting this posting board for the last few days. Having flown in with her beau from Sunny San Diego, I felt it my duty to give Miss Langston the imbiber tour of London–one that is oh so easy to give. We’ve hit all my favourites by now including the Hawksmoor, Lonsdale, Babylon, Casita, Sosho, and Montgomery Place. Best of all we hit some of my favourite food spots as well and even had an enlightening if all-too-pretentious meal at a certain Mr. Blumenthal’s establishment.
I would say more but I’m currently working on an article about the whole experience for a small newspaper….
Anyways, back to Miss Langston…she definitely was pivotal in helping me witness London in a new light–from a novice perspective as it were but what a perspective. It’s so easy some times to be caught up in the day to day–but look at all the Capital has to offer: a scene, sophistication, access to products good ol’ NYC bartenders would be dying to get their hands on (Jensen Old Tom Gin, perhps..). Such is London, and no wonder I feel so inspired every time I’m here…I mean here is a bar culture that outstretched the pettiness one is normally usd to and just focused on great drinks, made timely and consistantly. Indeed, that’s what Jerry Thomas was about…not going crazy with exotic gastro-pub flavours or deconstructions, but just making great food that catches as much the imagination as the pallate. I think this has most definitely been accomplished.

Here’s Miss Langston in all of her glory:

20 ml Fresh Pear Juice
40 ml Fresh Green Apple Juice
Albet I Noya Organic Cava
Splash of Organic Framboise

Make sure juices are very cold. In a mixing glass, stir with the Cava until slightly frothy. Empty into a champagne flute and drizzle the framboise in the center of the drink to add a splash of color. Garnish with 3 fresh raspberries floating in the center.


The Scent of a Barman

September 24, 2008

This morning I attended a very interesting workshop with Mixologist extraordinaire Tony Conigliaro at the Boutique Bar Show near London Bridge. Thought billed as a Molecular Mixology workshop the event actually focused much more on the infinitely interesting subject of aroma. As many barmen, sommeliers and rubbish collectors know their is nothing more essential to the human condition as aroma–especially when it comes to taste. Indeed so much of what we actually think is taste ends up being a perception of what we are smelling (and if you doubt that just try tasting anything the next time you have a cold–onions and apples couldn’t be closer in texture without the pungent smell that the latter puts off.) Indeed, my absolute favourite place in the world when I’m in NYC is to go to my friend Christopher’s CB I Hate Perfume–a veritable PLAYGROUND of scents with colognes created to smell like everything from Wet Pavement, to Porcelain to Rubber Cement.

What struck me the most about the workshop was Tony’s concepts that a cocktail (and indeed I feel ALL gastronomic endevours) should really send a message to the brain of a ‘scene’. Case in point is some of the work Audrey Saunders is doing to create a stage for classic tropical cocktails by enhancing the aromas of a drink with beach smells or perfumed fresh indigenous Thai flowers and Ginger Blossoms, or my attempts at using fresh Jasmine flower and Soy scents with Eastern cocktails based on sake, lotus root and the essence of a Tokyo subway.
In discussing his by-now-famous Tobacco and Leather Old Fashioned, Congiliaro made the point that the hydrosols of tobacco and leather he used to give the essence of a large old chair didn’t in fact control the cocktail but rather enhanced the flavours of the bitters, bourbon (he didn’t specify which was used), sugar and orange zest. In some ways I may agree that there are so many opportunities to help customers come across smells within their cocktails in a new way, yet in some ways (as I brought up today) I feel that it is downplaying the essence of a perfectly crated (and for my purposes NATURAL) spirit. My favourite bourbons don’t need to be perfumed with tobacco, leather, vanilla, or musty cedar box scents because it’s all there and for the seeking drinker can be explored in every sip so long as the spirit is presented in such a way to assure the mixers don’t get in the way. I’m excited to play more with molecules of scent and will no doubt be a convert in the next 6 months but as I discussed with my Dynamic Wines rep today following the conference, “it’s like spraying ‘fresh cut grass’ perfume into a less-than-perfect Sancerre–why??”.
I hope my cocktails create the ‘scene’ on their own. I hope one can close their eyes and just by virtue of the mix alone have enough happy or nostalgic memories to order 1-2-3-7 more! That’s the point in my eyes.

Shrub it off 2

September 20, 2008

Okay…so now the moment we’ve been waiting for. The cocktail that got me through my long journey back into the craziness of London was none other than a delicious Raspberry Shrub! I was reading the incredibly delightful Eric Felten book “How’s Your Drink?” and learned a lot more about this colonial cocktail which I’ve been a fan of for years and it just struck me…why don’t you make yourself a Shrub? Though there are great versions for sale such as the Old English Shrub from Fareham Wine Cellar, it’s an easy thing to make yourself and not too different from a simple syrup. It’s easy and oh so refreshing–and for any of you cocktailians out there it’s a nice change to swap out the usually-from-citrus tartness in a cocktail with the bright and lively vinegar that is called for in the Shrub! Also, anything that Alexander Hamilton or better yet Harry Croswell could have been caught drinking is good enough for me. Check out my recipe adapted from the Felten published version:

Dandelion Shrub by. Joe McCanta

50 mls Dark or Golden Rum
25 mls Raspberry Shrub*
10 mls Cointreau
100 mls Fentimans (venerable) Dandelion & Burdock

* 2 pints Raspberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 ½-2 cups Sherry vinegar

Make with any seasonal berry and/or vinegar.

In a saucepan whisk together sugar and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the raspberries and wait about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add in the vinegar and bring to a boil for 2 min. Strain into a glass bottle and store.

“There never was any liquor so good as rum shrub” William Makepeace Thackeray of the amazing shrub and it’s easy to see why–especially at a time before ice made it’s way into our drinks, the shrub has a certain balance that can stand on it’s own.

I used the Trios Rivieres 1998 Single Missouri Cask and it was an amazing match to the rich raspberry flavours! Also Fentimans’ great Dandelion & Burdock which is usually too medicially sweet by itself rounded off the drink wonderfully! It’s a great new addition to the list!

Hello world!

September 4, 2008

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