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Jack Bettridge

Cocktailing with Elderflowers

Posted: Mar 25, 2007 2:33pm ET
How I got to this state on a Sunday afternoon:

About two weeks ago, arrives on my desk a bottle of St.-Germain, a liqueur made from elderflowers and packaged in an outrageously cool-looking bottle that looks like one of those spaceships rendered in cartoons before they had spaceships. I’ve been dying to try it since.

Today, it’s sitting there on the counter mocking me just as the clock strikes noon. The hour is now! Crack it open and take a whiff. Obviously, very flowery, but also sweet and a bit fruity, but not overpoweringly so—like pears or peaches—with the slightest nuttiness. The scent doesn’t disappoint on the tongue. It’s a classy little product, befitting Rob Cooper, known for Chambord, who developed it using fresh macerated Alpine elderflowers, wine eau de vie and some sugar.

This is made for a cocktail. But which? Go to the web for help. It’s pretty new stuff so I’m not finding a lot of suggestions. Then locate 14 recipes at this address, supplied by a Simon Diffords, who runs a cocktail site called Diffords Guides and is the UK brand manager for St.-Germain.

Scroll through the possibilities, eliminating them as I go along:

The St. Germain Cocktail—contains Sauvignon Blanc wine, out of the question
French 77—unwilling to crack a bottle of Champagne to make one cocktail
Left Bank—don’t have the requisite Plymouth gin
Right Bank—again Sauvignon Blanc
The Stig—calvados AND Sauvignon Blanc
Daisy Cutter Martini—sounds intriguing but contains Green Chartreuse
Saint Germain Sidecar—Almost drawn in, but then find, hidden at the end of the list, this:

Elderflower Manhattan

Glass: Martini
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The Red Rocker Sings Tequila

Posted: Mar 16, 2007 1:14pm ET
Time: March 13, 7 p.m.

Location: Back room of Dos Caminos Mexican restaurant and bar specializing in tequila, between 26th and 27th streets on New York’s Park Avenue.

Atmosphere: Hot, hot appetizers and hot blondes—rock’n’roll-groupie-caliber hot blondes—everywhere.

Enter Sammy Hagar, fresh from his Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame induction the night before. Most of the Van Halen standouts hadn’t deigned to show, but who cares about those nancies? The Red Rocker, along with bassist Michael Anthony, is here to work the crowd at the unveiling of the extension to his Cabo Wabo tequila line, Cabo Uno. In a candid frame of mind, he offers to someone curious about his legendary 10,000-bottle wine collection that he’ll “say anything, just ask.”

“What about the first time you got drunk on tequila? Will you talk about that”

“What about it?”

“Did they find you face down in a pool of vomit, not your own?”

“No, but I was 15 and you know that cheap tequila that came in the long thin bottle….?

“You ate the worm?”

“I damn near ate the whole bottle.”

OK, that’s a testimonial. But then he’s off. Hagar’s organoleptic standards have clearly changed in the ensuing 45 years. Tonight he’s rubbing elbows with pals Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali, chef at New York’s Babo Ristorante e Enoteca.

By the time Haggar reaches the back of the room it’s time to introduce the Cabo Uno, an extra anejo tequila, one the category’s newly designated spirits age more than three years. But first Sammy waxes vividly on his long relationship with tequila and—yes—his teenage impropriety and the resulting intimate relationship with a porcelain appliance.

Despite the incident, it seems the Red Rocker was undaunted and made a tequila journey that moved from rot gut to quality blanco tequilas to aged spirits. Along the way, he started Cabo Wabo (named when he witnessed a local in his beloved Cabo San Lucas, Mexico wobbling as he returned from a night of tequila in a cantina. Hagar dubbed it—and his brand—the Cabo Wabo.
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Discovering Flavored Vodka

Posted: Mar 12, 2007 9:37am ET
I’ve recently had an epiphany about a whole class of spirits.

I used to think that flavored vodkas were a scam. At best they were a crutch for people too lazy to squeeze a lemon or an orange into their drink. At worst they were a way to get you to fill your liquor cabinet with a lot of different bottles of essentially the same thing, just different flavors added. Why not just have a big bottle of one of vodka and then add pepper or vanilla or whatever from your cupboard if a cocktail called for it.

Then I tried the Grey Goose La Poire, a pear-flavored vodka. Aside from the fact that I found it delicious, it occurred to me that if I suddenly needed pear flavor for a cocktail I’d be out of luck. Who has essence of pear sitting around his kitchen? I’d be forced buy some pears, and peel, dice and crush them. I’ve have a lot of classic literature i haven't even gotten around to reading, so I’m not very likely to do that. But then here comes Grey Goose with this pear vodka that has this rich essence that you can almost feel on your tongue.

Now I’m thinking, what other great flavored vodkas am I missing out on out of pure prejudice? So I went to visit Claire Smith, who, in from the U.K. recently, is the head mixologist for Moet Hennessy, which owns Belvedere and Chopin Polish vodkas. She poured me a number of cocktails made with the Belvedere flavored vodkas, Pomarancza (mandarin orange) and Cytrus (lemon and lime). One was a Bloody Mary made with fresh cherry tomatoes, a sprig of basil and the Belvedere Cytrus. It blew my mind.

Claire went on to explain to me that the vodkas are so pungent and flavorful because of the care they take in macerating real fruit peels with spirits in a proprietary process, overseen by a flavor artist. I'll buy that. I left her bar converted.

When I got back to the office, what should be awaiting me but a package from Skyy vodka, including their melon, orange and berry vodkas. Coincidence? No, I think kismet.
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