Sunday, August 24, 2014

MxMo: The Bankhead and Entropic Thunder

Hello, welcome to my first nervous foray into the monthly blog party known as Mixology Monday, in which a kind fellow drinks blogger plays willing host to a house full of cocktail creatives and supplies a theme for those folks to riff off of.

After narrowly missing the window for last month's Smash theme, I vowed to jump into August's theme with wild abandon. As it happens, our host this month is Rated R Cocktails with an intriguing theme: coconuts.

As some of my old readers might recall, my last adventure with coconut as a shrub ingredient was equal parts amusing and mediocre, so rather than digging that old skeleton out of the closet, I thought I should perhaps think outside the box.

While coconut immediately lends itself to more traditional uses in cocktails, I knew it would be a challenge to work shrub in somehow. I was stuck until my brilliant wife finally screwed in the light bulb that had been flickering rather dimly over my head.

"Since your pineapple shrub is mostly made up of coconut vinegar, wouldn't that count?"

Why, yes. Yes, it would.

The brand of coconut vinegar that I use is made from the sap of coconut trees, which is aged until it ferments and eventually becomes vinegar over nearly a year's time. What can seem particularly misleading about this type of coconut vinegar is that it smells and tastes almost nothing like coconut, in fact taking on a slightly gamey, fermented note reminiscent of the hogo of some funkier rums.

When mixed with pineapple, habenero and turbinado sugar, the resulting shrub is spicy, sharp, and effectively has an almost butterscotch like funk to it. Here's how to make it.

Don Whoa!
12 oz raw coconut vinegar
4 oz white wine vinegar
16 oz pineapple, roughly chopped
12 oz Sugar In The Raw
1-3 habanero peppers, halved, seeded and membranes removed depending on desired heat level

Cut peppers in half, optionally seeding and removing membranes to reduce heat level. Set aside.

Pour white wine vinegar into Pyrex measuring cup and microwave until hot but not boiling. Gently immerse hot peppers into hot vinegar and cover with lid, plate, cling wrap or other means of holding in heat. 

Agitate gently, and check every 15-20 minutes to see if desired spice level has been reached. Remove peppers and any seeds that may have become loosened during steeping process. Set steeped vinegar aside.

Remove top, bottom, and outer skin of pineapple, slicing into rough chunks, until there are 16 ounces of pineapple chunks. You may macerate the pineapple with 12 ounces of Sugar In The Raw by either placing pineapple and sugar in the jar you will be making shrub in and muddling or using immersion blender until a syrupy pulp forms, or alternatively blending pineapple and raw sugar in Vita-Mix and pouring blended results into the glass jar. In either case, put jar of pineapple/sugar mixture into refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or up to 5.

Remove jar from refrigerator and add both coconut and chile infused white wine vinegar to pineapple/sugar mixture. Agitate vigorously and place back in refrigerator for 1 week.

At the end of one week, place two strainers over a large Pyrex measuring cup. Carefully pour contents from the jar into the strainer, occasionally pausing to press on solids to squeeze out excess liquid. Discard solids. 

To bottle, situate tea strainer in funnel, and gently pour shrub through tea strainer into clean bottle. Refrigerate. Shrub should keep bottled in refrigerator for at least six months and likely up to 1 year or more.

Depending on fruit, may yield 16-24 ounces of shrub.
In any event, it got me thinking about one of the request in this month's MxMo post in which the host mentioned it might be nice to see something done in the pre-prohibition mold. 

I examined the DNA of two well known-ish drinks from drinking's Golden Age that share pineapple juice in common, and figured I would use my Pineapple/Coconut Vinegar shrub to split the difference.

Borrowing the rye and dry vermouth elements from The Algonquin, and maraschino liqueur from the Mary Pickford and a couple of dashes of Regan's Orange bitters for good measure, may I present: The Bankhead, named for actress and Algonquin Round Table member Taullulah Bankhead.

The Bankhead 

1.75 oz rye whiskey(I used Bulleit)
.75 oz Don Whoa!(see above)
.5 oz dry vermouth
.25 oz maraschino liqueur(Luxardo)
2 dashes orange bitters(Regan's No. 6)

Combine ingredients in mixing glass or tin, stir with ice, 

Strain, up, into cocktail glass.

The Bankhead seems to get around one of the complaints I often hear about The Algonquin, which is that it is generally too dry and not particularly worth doing again. However, The Bankhead incorporates this shrub and its wild, rich tangle of sweetness, subtle heat from the pepper, and undefinable but manageable gaminess from the coconut vinegar, which melds very well with the rye and builds a bridge that closes the gap between it and the herbaceous notes of the dry vermouth.

I guess from a more modern standpoint, one might argue this is kind of like a Bensonhurst with a high dose of pineapple shrub in place of Cynar.

As tasty as that is, I kind of feel like I owe everyone something with a more traditional coconut ingredient: coconut milk.

While my first reaction was to think of Pineapples and Coconuts dancing in a conga line or something of the sort, I thought if I am already doing cocktails with shrubs, I had better go for broke and do something really, really crazy. Cacao nib balsamic shrub, anyone?

Before we get to the cocktail, we need to make this shrub, which I have nicknamed Time's Arrow.

Time's Arrow(Cacao nib balsamic shrub)

16 oz Balsamic Vinegar
8 oz cacao nibs
5 oz turbinado sugar
1/2 vanilla bean

In a sealable, non-reactive container, combine cacao nibs, balsamic vinegar, and vanilla bean. 

Store in refrigerator for 2-3 days, then strain solids. Add 5 oz turbinado sugar to mixture, combine stirring until sugar dissolves. Strain shrub into bottles with a canning funnel. 

Refrigerate. Shrub should remain good for 1 year or so.

If you are a fan of dark chocolate, you're going to dig this. The syrupy body and pronounced sharpness of balsamic vinegar coupled with unsweetened cacao nibs give the impression of a very dark high percentage cacao chocolate bar, just barely sweetened with earthy turbinado sugar and a bit of vanilla bean.

Now that you have cacao nib shrub, let's make this cocktail, which I call Eddington On The Beach.

After a few failed attempts with other base spirits, it became apparent that rum was the spirit for the job. Aged rum was a decent choice, but wasn't really clicking with the cacao shrub/coconut milk combination. I needed heavier body, and there are few heavier than our friend Cruzan Black Strap Rum. I needed a couple of other flavors to round things out, so I bought in Amer Picon which has worked well with this cacao nib shrub before matching it in both body and it's complementary orange flavor which would work with both chocolate and coconut. Rounding the whole thing out was a little bit of turbinado simple syrup. Like so:

Entropic Thunder

2 oz Cruzan Blackstrap Rum
.5 oz Amer Picon
.5 oz Time's Arrow(cacao shrub, see above)
.5 oz turbinado simple syrup
.25 oz coconut milk

Combine ingredients in mixing tin, shake without ice, then with. 

Strain into Old Fashioned glass over rocks

The result was quite nice in a cocktail geek meets tropical dessert drink kind of way. The light hand with the coconut milk got the flavor across without smoothing off the edges of the spirits to the point they were flat, while also blending with the cacao nib shrub and the pitch black rum in a way that reminded me of a Mounds bar if it had a pack of Lucky Strikes rolled up in its wrapper. It was sweet, but not cloying. Smooth, without being boring. One could jazz it up even further if one were inclined with a little bit of Mole bitters or some such thing.

Hell, if you really want to go full vacation mode, you could blend the thing with ice and really go crazy. That said, I think I would recommend the above recipe for weeknights and less whimsical moments. 

As for the name, it is a nod to the phrase Tropic Thunder and a nod to Time's Arrow itself.

I'd like to extend my thanks once more to JFL for hosting this crazy coconut themed shindig and letting me do my inaugural MxMo post on such an interesting and fun topic. 


Mrs. Kern said...

I appreciate that one of my moments of brilliance will forever be on the internet. I also appreciated being a recipe tester...that was fun.

Alexander Kern said...

Thanks, it is always a pleasure getting your input on my works, especially when they are in their formative stages.