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Mouthing Off

By the Editors of Food & Wine Magazine

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Drink This Now

Spring Tease: Fennel Cocktails

Fennel Cocktails: The Archduke

The Archduke © Brent Herrig

Lightly sweet and fresh, fennel is the perfect bridge from winter to spring. Like a lot of chefs, many cocktail experts are fans of both fennel bulbs and the plant’s herbaceous fronds. At New York City’s The Third Man—Edi & The Wolf’s little, boozier sister—Austrian chef-partner Edi Frauneder uses fresh baby fennel juice in the Archduke. Frauneder first dehydrates fennel fronds with a quick blast of liquid nitrogen, then adds ice, Laird’s Apple Brandy, bittersweet Cynar, fresh fennel juice made from the delicate bulb and Peychaud’s bitters. He stirs the anise-scented cocktail, then strains it into a rocks glass with one large, hand-cut ice cube and garnishes it with a fresh fennel frond. Here, more fennel drinks that offer a taste of spring. »

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Sake Cocktails: No Lychees Allowed

Smallwares: The Sake

The Sake © Jannie Huang of Little Green Pickle

Sake has long been associated with dubious karaoke-bar offerings (sugary-sweet lycheetinis, Sapporo sake bombs), but the fermented rice drink has a lot more to give the mixology world. Pioneering bartenders are using high-quality sake to create superb new cocktails that showcase its range of flavors, from light and dry to full-bodied and mildly sweet. MORE >

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Pink Gin: Strong Enough for a Spy, Pretty Enough for a Lady

Pink Gin: Marrow 75

Marrow 75 Courtesy of The Marrow

Pink Gin—a term for gin mixed with Angostura bitters—was incredibly popular in England starting in the 19th century when the British navy used the concoction to combat seasickness. It was so ubiquitous that James Bond drinks one in Sir Ian Fleming's, The Man with the Golden Gun. His order: Beefeater with "plenty of bitters." The combination is now catching on in the U.S., where American bartenders are using bottled pink gin in Valentine's Day-perfect cocktails. MORE »

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Historical and Heretical Sazeracs

Sazerac Interpreted

Sazerac Interpreted Courtesy of Restaurant R'Evolution

With Mardi Gras approaching on February 12, cocktail obsessives can honor the holiday by trying a new variation on New Orleans’s famous Sazerac. The basic recipe features rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters and sugar, stirred and strained into a cold (but ice-free) rocks glass rinsed with absinthe. At French Quarter newcomer Restaurant R’evolution, wine and spirits director Molly Wismeier makes a Sazerac with brandy. MORE »

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Toasty Drinks for Winter Weather: Hot Toddies, Irish Coffee and Warm Punch

Hot Drinks: The Dead Rabbit

The Dead Rabby © Andrew Kist

New Yorkers looking for an antidote to the recent blast of frigid weather can take refuge at a new cocktail spot opening next week called the Dead Rabbit, which will offer several warming winter drinks. Located in an early-19th-century townhouse, the new venue is actually two bars in one: a cozy pub, which aims to have the largest Irish whiskey menu in the city, and an upstairs cocktail lounge. Downstairs, co-owners Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry will serve a classic hot toddy and Dale DeGroff’s Irish coffee recipe. But upstairs, among the 72 cocktails divided into 12 chapters, Muldoon and McGarry will employ very modern technology to prepare historically influenced drinks. MORE >

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Port: The Unsung Cocktail Ingredient

The Elk’s Own Port Cocktail

Courtesy of Barrelhouse Flat.

In a recent piece detailing the simple pleasures of sweet and rich after-dinner wines, F&W’s Ray Isle wrote that port is “arguably the world’s greatest sweet wine.” It’s also one of the greatest classic cocktail ingredients, especially for winter drinks, to which the fortified wine adds a luxurious texture and intense dark fruit flavors. “The tradition of port in cocktails is as old as mixing drinks,” says Greg Buttera, the creative director of Barrelhouse Flat in Chicago. Buttera’s menu features two historical port cocktails: the Coffee Cocktail and the Elk’s Own.

“The Elk’s Own first shows up in The Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930,” says Buttera. “The drink evolved a little bit but the original was called the Elk’s Fizz—it was the 1901 Police Gazette cocktail of the year.” Buttera begins with Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond, an intense 100-proof whiskey that provides a strong backbone for the drink. “It’s not a whiskey you would slowly sip while you pour over a leather-bound volume of Melville,” Buttera warns. He mixes the whiskey with ruby port, fresh lemon juice, Angostura bitters, simple syrup and an egg white for volume and a velvety consistency. The cocktail is shaken vigorously and served in a rocks glass. “It’s a nice cold weather cocktail,” Buttera says. “But it has much brighter fruit and more acidity than a lot of whiskey drinks.”

The Coffee Cocktail, which neither contains nor tastes like coffee but does somewhat resemble a frothy café au lait when mixed properly, dates to 1887 when it appeared in the third edition of Jerry Thomas’s The Bar-tender’s Guide. For his version, Buttera mixes equal parts of light, fruity Maison Surrenne Petite Champagne Cognac and ruby port with a touch of simple syrup and a whole egg. Buttera gives the mix a quick dry shake before adding ice and shakes again, just enough to chill the drink. He strains the creamy result into a brandy snifter and tops it with nutmeg. “The port has a silky texture inherently,” Buttera says. “Then the fat from the egg yolk integrates and creates a nice mouthfeel. It goes down very easy.” Here, more bars serving terrific port cocktails.

BAR GUIDE

Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, Portland, Oregon
Among the bar’s exquisitely crafted early-19th-century cocktails is the Chicago Fizz, which dates to 1930. Bartenders use an ounce of house-blended rum as the base: a mix of polished, tropical Plantation Grande Reserve 5-year, appley Flor de Caña and vegetal Novo Fogo Cachaça. To that, they add ruby port, lemon juice, rich demerara syrup and egg white. The rosy shaken cocktail is strained into a glass filled with a couple of ounces of club soda for a lightly fizzy, creamy drink. teardroplounge.com

Sylvain, New Orleans
Even though winter in New Orleans isn’t the chilliest, bartender Darrin Ylisto thought the seasonal menu at Sylvain could use a cozy, robust port cocktail. For the Dead Man’s Wallet, Ylisto mixes Rittenhouse rye with lemon juice, cinnamon syrup, ruby port and Angostura bitters. Ylisto shakes the spiced, fruity cocktail and serves it on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass. sylvainnola.com

Ace, Denver
A massive former garage, Ace now houses an Asian restaurant, a ping-pong hall and a bar, which features both original creations inspired by the cult movie Big Trouble in Little China—like the Girl with the Green Eyes, named for Kim Cattrall’s character—and new takes on classic cocktails like the Ship Song, a fruity twist on an old-fashioned. To make the Ship Song, bartenders muddle orange peel with sugar and Angostura bitters, add Guatemalan rum and ruby port, and stir it until it’s chilled. The dark, baking-spice-inflected cocktail is strained over one large ice cube and garnished with an orange peel. acedenver.com

South Water Kitchen, Chicago
Head bartender Sarah Mengoni just updated the cocktail menu at this recently redesigned restaurant. One of the new seasonal drinks is the Boardwalk Braggadocio: vodka, Laird’s Bonded Applejack, nutty tawny port, fresh lime juice, simple syrup and Angostura bitters, shaken, strained into a coupe and garnished with a mint leaf. “It’s almost like a fruitcake,” Mengoni says. “Fresh—not the one that has been passed around your family for the past 10 years.” southwaterkitchen.com

Related: 50 Best Bars in America
Best New Cocktails Trends for 2013

Editor Picks

Studying the Nuances of Cocktails in DC

Cocktail Cartoon

Cocktail Cartoon by Adam Bernbach.

Most people who order a cocktail just by its name might not realize they’re being pretty vague. “I’ll have a Manhattan,” we’ll say, then go back to our conversation, leaving the nuances of each drink up to the person behind the bar. Bourbon? Rye? Dolin vermouth? Angostura bitters? That’s handing over a lot of decision-making power to the bartender. At the spectacular cocktail spot Proof, in Washington, DC, bar manager Adam Bernbach is helping guests discover exactly how different a drink can be, depending on the answers to these sorts of questions.

“There’s a certain handwriting to cocktails,” Bernbach says. “Your handwriting is slanted in a certain direction, your L’s curl a little more than somebody else’s, your P’s are a little straighter than others. In the same way, when you’re making a daiquiri, maybe you choose to use a South American rum and you might add a touch more lime juice because your preference is for something a little bit more tart.”

This month, Bernbach is exploring this mixology philosophy during his weekly Remastered Editions. For each Sunday (aside from the 20th, because of Inauguration Day insanity) he’s selected a classic cocktail and is presenting it using four different recipes. Last week, he did a study of the Manhattan. The fan favorites that night were the ones made with Eagle Rare bourbon, Cocchi vermouth and Angostura bitters; and another with Templeton rye, Carpano Antica and a combination of Angostura and Regan’s Orange bitters. On Sunday, January 13, daiquiris are in the spotlight. The varying styles of rum—Spanish, English, rhum agricole from the French West Indies—and the vast assortments of sweeteners that can be used in the classic, from Demerara syrup to simple syrup to plain sugar, give Bernbach a lot of flexibility. “I think the sweet, herb, spice quality of the rhum agricole will be very visible to guests. And I think the funkiness of the Jamaican Blackwell rum will be really obvious.”

To drive home this idea of the personalized nature of these cocktails, Bernbach has handwritten each of the menus and even made a little drawing (above) for each week. For the final installment of Remastered Editions, Bernbach will tackle the whiskey sour—including one drink that involves a whole egg yolk and that intriguingly tastes like, in Bernbach’s words, “lemony nut cake.” Perhaps it’s time to book a seat on the Acela, destination: Washington, DC.

Related: 50 Best Bars in America

Drink This Now

The Hottest New Chile Cocktails

Mucho Humo

Courtesy of Florida Cookery at The James Royal Palm

From mild anchos to seriously hot Scotch bonnets, chile peppers add nuanced flavors and, at times, lip-numbing sensations to cocktails. MORE >

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The Rise of Lighter Cocktails

OAK at fourteenth's Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road © Phoebe Trotta.

While boozy, brown drinks still rule in pre-Prohibition-style bars, bartenders who take inspiration from Europe are now popularizing aperitif-like cocktails that are flavorful and low in alcohol. In F&W's series of cocktail predictions for 2013, Bryan Dayton, owner of OAK at fourteenth in Boulder, Colorado, championed low alcohol drinks as the future of mixology. "European cultures have always promoted light aperitifs," Dayton says. "Whether it's cider in Normandy or Aperol spritzes in Italy." MORE »

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Editor Picks

PDTs Brand-New Mission Chinese Dog

PDT's Mapo Tofu-Topped Mission Chinese Dog.

PDT's Mapo Tofu-Topped Mission Chinese Dog; Photo © Nick Brown.

“Mapo tofu and I have quite a history,” says Mission Chinese Food’s Danny Bowien. “It’s the inspiration behind the whole MCF project.” I consider it the perfect dish; the only thing I’ve wished for is a supersonic cocktail to wash it down with. Lucky me: MCF in Manhattan now has a sparkling new liquor license and a team set on perfecting the most perfect version of Sex on the Beach.

Now there’s more great booze-and-tofu news: the exceptional bar PDT has just put the Mission Chinese Dog on their menu. It’s an all-beef hot dog covered with Bowien’s exhilarating, Szechuan peppercorn-packed tofu, plus onions, cilantro and American cheese sauce. The Mission Chinese Dog is spicy and messy and requires a knife and fork. And, of course, a cocktail. PDT’s Jim Meehan recommends the Alambic Fizz, a mix of Cognac, lemon juice, Landy's 5-Year-Old Bual Madeira and pimento bitters. It’s also got peach lambic. Peach schnapps is key to Sex on the Beach; I expect this drink is as close as I'll get to having the Spring Break staple at PDT.

Related: Cocktail Party Tips from Jim Meehan
Best Hot Dog Recipes
22 Classic Cocktails

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