Monday, July 28, 2014

The Hard Stuff: Amalthea


First of all, my apologies for the lack of posts last week, things have been a bit crazier around here for some reason, and my day job has distracted me from my blogging duties, but I am back and I have what I hope will be some fun content for you this week.

I can't think of anything more fun that starting the week with a cocktail, so I would like to introduce you to a new segment/column on the blog that is tentatively being called "The Hard Stuff," in which the shrubs that we make are incorporated in decidedly non-temperance friendly ways.

As some of you may know, the use of our delicious drinking vinegars began quite a while ago in this country, notably to mask the flavor of the rotgut rum that was being pumped out up and down the Eastern seaboard. Times, as well as the quality of distillation methods, have changed; rather than quell the more distasteful elements of our liquor in an attempt to stomach it in our collective attempts at inebriation, we now look to shrub as a shelf stable modifier that can add not only interesting flavors both in and out of season, but a pleasant acidity that could potentially take the place of a lemon or lime balancing the equation in your tin.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was looking for a new name for the plain raspberry shrub that I make, and I got some great suggestions. Ultimately, I went in a more mythological direction, naming the shrub Ida.

While this may seem like an unusual name, there is connection in the Greek myths in which a woman named Ida was picking berries for the infant Zeus(who was being hidden from his jerk of of a dad Cronus, who would have eaten him if given half a chance, but I digress...) when she pricked her finger staining white raspberries red, which is why raspberries have been that color ever since. If you're more of an astronomy buff, it's also the name of Jupiter's third moon. Either way, I dig it.

Keeping with this theme, I found that the cave Zeus was being hidden in was in a mountain called Mt. Ida, and it's next to a place called the Amari Valley, and it started me thinking about bitter liqueurs that would go well with raspberry; I knew that whatever I picked, there would need to be a flavorful, but fairly unobtrusive set of ingredients to slot in with these ingredients.

First things first: base spirit: Gin.

First and foremost, gin is one of my favorite base spirits and if you use a milder, more citrus forward gin like Plymouth, it can act as a really broad canvas to display a lot of other interesting flavors without clashing. Additionally, gin and raspberry have proven to have historically teamed up with excellent effects in drinks such as the Clover Club and the Albermarle Fizz. So gin was in.

My second pick was Aperol. To those who aren't familiar with it, Aperol is mild bitter liqueur; it's slightly bitter, only 11 percent alcohol by volume, and is a very exciting, but to some, slightly disturbing, hazard cone orange color. It's a little bitter, but not overly so and it seemed like a good balance to the jammy, sweet raspberry shrub.

Since it's summer, my mind turns to modifiers such as fortified and aromatized wines to sort of pad out the bolder flavors of the base and in this case, the slightly bitter liqueur. Nothing says summer gin to me in this regard quite as well as Lillet Blanc. Lillet is an aperitif wine that is a summer classic that can be enjoyed alone, but whose bright, slightly fruity nature works as a fantastic lengthening buffer here.

Finally, what would a shrub cocktail be without shrub? In this case, we are using the Ida from a couple of weeks ago. While this shrub is a bit sweeter and thicker due to the natural pectin in raspberries, it still has slight hints of sharpness from the naturally tart nature of raspberries and the white wine vinegar. This very mild acid takes the place of what one might have used citrus juice for.

I personally think this cocktail worked out best when it was stirred. Shaking was fine, but it did tend to make it seem a little cloudier to me. Stirring kept the lovely jewel tones and with a minimum of dilution, finally finished with an orange twist, which I dropped right into the glass.

But how does it taste?

Amalthea is kind of tricky to describe; the overall flavor is slightly fruity, with hints of mild bitterness, but due to the use of the Plymouth gin and the slightly bumped up amount of it, it makes the whole thing relatively dry and quite bracing without turning your tongue to sandpaper.

All in all, I would say it is an enjoyable little tipple, and one I hope you'll enjoy in these waning days of summer.


1.75 oz Plymouth gin
.75 oz Aperol
.5 oz Lillet Blanc
.5 oz Ida(raspberry shrub)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker, and add ice.

Stir until glass or tin frosts, strain into cocktail glass. Cut strip of orange peel and twist over the drink, rubbing peel over rim. Drop peel into the glass.



Anonymous said...

It is delicious! I do enjoy being your recipe tester for these endeavors. I feel like one lucky lady. - Mrs. Kern

Alexander Kern said...

Aw, thanks love!