Homemade Cocktails — Experiments, Critiques & Travels
Well, my mixology-minded friends…I’m finally back, and it’s been too long (how many blog posts have started out that way, I wonder?). Anyway, as I sit here waiting for Winter Storm Juno to kick into gear, I have a little dose of sunshine — in cocktail form — to keep me company. You see, Andrea, over at Ginhound, has selected “Blue” as the theme of our cocktailian endeavors this month. Blue, we’ve been told, can refer to the color of the drink, one of the ingredients, or, perhaps, the mood or atmosphere brought on by said drink. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough melancholia to last for a while…and the New York winters aren’t helping. So I’ve turned to the bright, sunny South and some soulful tuneage for inspiration…
- 3/4 ounce Ivy Mountain Georgia Peach Brandy
- 3/4 ounce Queen’s Courage Gin
- 1/2 ounce Lemon Juice
- 1/4 ounce Cointreau
- 1/4 ounce Rothman & Winter Crème de Violette
Shake and strain into a chilled coupe. Dig those guitar licks and dream of sunnier days.
If you’re aiming for a cocktail that is blue in color — and one that avoids the dogmatically dangerous, artificially-colored blue curaçao — one of the obvious places to start is the Aviation cocktail. True, the Aviation is not a stark cerulean blue (more of a gentle periwinkle), but it has an ethereal cloudiness to it that ensures its appearance is in keeping with its moniker. The Blue Sky shares the Aviation’s coloration, but is quite different in terms of flavor: the emphasis here lies on the woody fruit of the peach brandy, which is boosted by the floral soapiness of the violette. I added the gin for a much-needed dose of honeyed, lemony spice and a touch of sweetness (I always add a dash of simple syrup to my Aviation), and as a great compliment to the Cointreau.
Actually, two of the moves in this drink are inspired by Last Word variations I’ve sampled at my favorite local watering hole. The first riff is simply a Last Word that swaps triple sec for maraschino liqueur (this is remarkably tasty — and so obvious that it’s a wonder I haven’t tried it before). The second drink is a greater deviation from the Last Word formula — I won’t go into details, but sufficed to say it has a mixed base of scotch and unaged Greek brandy, which adds that great, funky, unidentifiable woodsiness that is characteristic of all young brandies and eaux de vie. So…swap out the sharp, domineering maraschino for a clear, orange liqueur? Check. Use a mixed base of higher-proof spirit with “cut” and a funky, unaged brandy? Double check. Combine those two moves with an Aviation formula and you have the Blue Sky.
As always, I’ll close with the nomenclature: the drink is named after the eponymous Allman Brothers song, pure and simple. The Allman Brothers, along with a number of other southern rock and soul bands, published a great deal of their music through Capricorn records, which was based in Macon, Georgia, and the band members had close ties with the state. And, as Gregg Allman has said, they’ve always had remarkable success holding concerts in New York City — funny how that works. So, given the Georgia-New York ties of the band and my own personal history, the blend of Southern and Northern spirits, the color, the theme, and the base formula, it’s only natural to name this concoction the Blue Sky. If you’re lucky enough — as I am — to have these local highlights on hand, give the recipe a whirl. If not, take the Aviation and Blue Sky formulas for an experimental spin using your own local spirits — you might be pleasantly surprised.
P.S. I tried out a number of gins in the Blue Sky — and while Queens Courage won out (there’s a bit of honey and pepper that really pulls everything together), I was also very pleased when using Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin, which is very rye-forward and grain-heavy for its type.
P.P.S. Also, try adding an egg white into the drink. I think it might round things out a little too much, but it could be a nice touch.
Photos & Text by Ian J. Lauer