July 25, 2012

Would you like bacon in that Single Malt?

   In Town and Out July 2012 - cocktails by GrapeScot
Savoury cocktails are not new. Mixologists and bartenders have been shaking, stirring and dabbling with olives, eggs, onions, salts, spices, herbs and bitters for hundreds of years, with a  big spike in the 1940's and 50's, and an even bigger spike in the last 10 years. The love affair with martinis continues, with almost anything that can be consumed in liquid format finding its way into signature cocktails in bars and restaurants everywhere.
Recently, Michael Bhardwaj, from CBC Radio 1 In Town and Out, invited me in to the studio to chat about savoury summer cocktails, and I felt inspired to experiment with meat! First, I fried up some good quality double smoked bacon, let it cool and then chopped it up and dumped it into a couple of ounces of my favourite of the moment Ardbeg Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky - Alligator. This is a cask strength smoky whisky and a thing of beauty. I thought - smoky bacon, smoky whisky - might work, right?
After a day in the fridge to allow some flavour marrying, I extracted the meat, then put the liquid in the freezer for a while, then filtered out the meat/fat, leaving a somewhat cloudy, strange smelling liquid behind. Both the aroma and flavour of the left over liquid from this experiment were, to be kind, atrocious beyond belief. It was as if some bad chemical reaction had taken place to produce and indescribably painful liquid and a sadly diminished Alligator bottle.

Savoury and spicy 
At the same time, however, I tried the same experiment with some vodka and the result, while still odd, was far less offensive - even interesting. I used the bacon-infused vodka in a fabulous summer savoury Caesar, courtesy of Benjamin Anderson, no relation, from the Hintonburg Public House. Apart from all the fantastic additions like horseradish, olive brine, sriracha hot sauce, wine and more, the highlight of this cocktail is the cocktail stick loaded up with goodies like sour pickled onion, pimento stuffed olive wrapped in bacon, cherry tomato and lime; not to mention the thick sliced, double smoked, cooked and cooled bacon which firms up as a swizzle stick. Delish! (Recipe below). I actually made this with the bacon-infused vodka and regular vodka and, to be honest, the difference was too subtle to justify all that weird stuff lying around in my fridge and freezer. I also made a martini with the infused vodka and some olive brine - a dirty martini with bacon. That was - interesting!
I feel like I want to experiment with chewy beers and beef jerky next, or spicy sausage and bourbon. Alternatively, and I recommend this for those of you bored by sweet and sour, there are gazillions of meaty, savoury, herbaceous and downright odd cocktail recipes out there to Google and enjoy.

Refreshingly sour
When I was down in Chile earlier this year I fell in love with Pisco Sours, (as does pretty much everyone). You can buy Pisco in the LCBO, but I decided to concoct a variation using Greek Metaxa Brandy, which I dubbed The Olympic, and plan to sip while viewing superhuman beings doing very fast and strong things over the next few weeks. (Recipe also below).

Ginger spice and refreshing lime 
Almost the first cocktail I ever tasted was a Whisky Mac - blended whisky and Green Ginger Wine. Back in the late 60's, ice was rarely seen in bars in Scotland so the drink was kind of warm and gingery and OK. My own version likes a tall glass filled with ice, a shot of Famous Grouse or some other blended whisky of choice, about the same amount of green ginger wine (find it at the LCBO), lots of fresh lime juice, a little simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water simmered for 5 minutes then cooled), and a slice or two of lime. Very refreshing, very delicious!
Happy Summer, drink wisely, stay cool. Check back soon for the link to the CBC interview after it airs on Saturday 28 July.


Hintonburg Caesar (modified by Andersons!)
1.5oz vodka, bacon infused or not!
Red wine
Fresh Horseradish
Clamato Juice
Celery Salt
Bar Olives, or pimento stuffed olives, wrapped in bacon (optional)
Sour Pearl Onions
Cherry Tomato
Salt and Black Pepper

Pour the celery salt into a bowl or small plate.
Use a lime wedge to juice the rim of a highball glass and press the glass into the celery salt.
Fill up your glass with ice, add a dash of Worcestershire (about 1/4oz) and add Sriracha to taste (Mild, Medium, Hot, or Insane)
Add in a pinch of salt, and a dash of olive brine.
Pour in Clamato until just a little below the celery salt line.
Add a splash of red wine, something with body like a Cab Sauv or a Shiraz.
Grate some fresh horseradish and a little black pepper onto the surface of the drink, use a cocktail skewer to skewer an olive, an onion, and a cherry tomato, and stick this skewer through a lime wedge, resting the lime wedge on the edge of the glass.
For an extra addition, cook up some thick cut, double smoked bacon ahead of time, crispy, so it stays straight, and use this instead of a swizzle stick to stir the drink, leaving it in afterwards to enjoy.
The celery salt rim is meant for taste and not just decoration, so serve this drink without straws.

The Olympic
Rim a champagne flute with lime and dip in sugar. Shake off excess.
In a cocktail shaker, add ice, 1 1/2 oz Metaxa Brandy (the higher the star rating the better), 1/4 oz orange liqueur, a bit of orange zest, juice of half a  lemon or more, 1/2 oz simple syrup, a few shakes of angostura bitters, a fresh egg white. Shake vigorously and pour into flute. Add 2 drops of angostura bitters on top. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Smash (courtesy of Benjamin Anderson, Hintonburg Public House)
1 1/2oz Bourbon
3 Lemon Wedges
4 Mint Leaves
1oz Rhubarb Syrup
3 Strawberries

Muddle lemon, mint, strawberries and syrup in a shaker.
Add ice and bourbon, and shake.
Strain into a highball glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a whole strawberry, stem intact, and a mint sprig.

Rhubarb Syrup
4 Rhubarb stalks
1/2 vanilla bean
4 cups water

Wash rhubarb, trim the ends and cut into half inch pieces.
Place in a pot with the water. Scrape off the seeds of the vanilla bean into the pot and drop in the rest of the bean.
Bring water to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat, allow to cool, and then strain with a mesh strainer do that only the syrup remains.