Rickeys, Vol. 1

I was surfing Internet Cocktail Database, and I discovered that there's a s***tload of recipes for rickeys.  I like lime juice, one of the principal ingredients in most rickeys, and the Rickey is a classic summertime cocktail, so I decided to start checking out some of these in between my bouts of Sauvignon Blanc.

I started with the simplest ones.  Both the Gin Rickey and the Rum Rickey call for 1 1/2 oz of the base spirit, 1/2 oz lime juice, and fill over ice with soda.  If you've just juiced your lime (as you should), leave half of a lime shell in the glass.

I liked the Gin Rickey (I used a London dry) better than the Rum (I used Tommy Bahama).  I've never been a big rum fan, though I really like 10 Cane, and I think gin brings more botanicals to the mix.  A little sugar would turn it into a limeade, but there's nothing wrong with that!

More Rickey recipes to come.

2009 Crossings Sauvignon Blanc

This 2009 Crossings Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand's Awatere Valley shows that a $15 bottle of wine can be better than a $25 one.

The owner of my local liquor mart, a nice older lady who I hadn't talked to before, recommended it to me when I told her I liked SBs.  She said she loves them and that this one is outstanding.

It's not the best SB I've drunk this summer, but it's very good and comes close.  Certainly more subtlety of flavors than the $25 bottle I drank last week.  The label lists stone fruits, passion fruit, melon, flinty finish, etc., but what jumped out at me was grapefruit.  I've always liked grapefruit juice, so maybe that's why the very pronounced grapefruit notes appealed to me.

The nose was a good blend too, not just the usual asparagus and grassy meadow.  A very nice, reasonable bottle of wine.

Peach Brandy Sangarees (3rd in a Series)

The last two, and final, cocktails I tried making with peach brandy were a letdown.  Both were "sangarees," meaning mainly that they call for a sprinkle of nutmeg.  One specified port floated, which is also often found in sangarees.

The first one was a Peach Sangaree:  2 ounces of peach brandy on ice, fill with soda (a double highball glass, or whatever you have that's about that size), sprinkle of nutmeg, and 3/4 oz port floated on top.

I am absolutely no good at floating anything or making pousse cafes; I ended up with as much port on the counter as I got in the glass, and I can't say that was floating.  But the cocktail had port in it.

Nothing to write home about:  the drink tasted like spiced watered-down peach brandy.

The second one is a Sangaree Comfort: equal parts (1 oz here) bourbon (I used Four Roses) and Southern Comfort, 1/4 oz each peach brandy and lemon juice, and a little sugar.  Shake on ice, strain, add ice, fill with lemon-lime soda/pop (I used Sprite).  I skipped the nutmeg; wasn't in the mood to wash the grater-thingee.

This just tastes like Sprite with bourbon.  Southern Comfort has peach flavors too, of course, but I didn't get much peach kick from either the SC or the peach brandy.  Not a bad drink, but I'd just doctor Sprite with SC and be done with it.

And that's what you can make with peach brandy.  Apricot brandy is a lot more versatile; this fall or winter I'll tackle some of those drinks.

2008 Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

This last week I drank a 2008 Whitehaven Marlborough Blanc.  Whitehaven is owned by Greg and Sue White, who have enlisted the expertise of Simon Waghorn to create SBs and Pinot Noirs on New Zealand's South Island. This was one of the most expensive SBs I've drunk this summer, running around $25.

Unfortunately it wasn't worth $25.  The nose was more interesting than the taste itself, which was lacking almost any interplay of flavors.  The last bottle I reviewed here was cheaper and much better than this.  The Whitehaven also was a little more acidic than my last few SBs.

The fact that the label notes don't describe any gooseberry or tropical fruits or the usual notes you find in SBs makes me wonder if this is a relatively young winery that isn't up to speed yet but thinks they can charge prices that compete with the better Marlboroughs as a marketing ploy. This 2008 isn't a bad wine, but it should be running $15 tops, not $25.

Peach Brandy Cocktails, Part 2

I tried a few more cocktails made with peach brandy this week.

The first two use both brandy and peach brandy.  The Brandy Melba calls for 1 1/2 oz brandy, 1/4 oz peach brandy, 1/4 oz grenadine, 1/2 oz lemon juice, and peach bitters.  I didn't have peach bitters so I left that out.

This would work well as a Manhattan substitute.  It isn't overly sweet, and the acidity is just right.  The peach brandy is subtle.  I wouldn't drink it every night but it's ok.

The next one is the Fish House Punch:  1 oz lemon juice, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1 oz Jamaican/dark rum, 1 oz brandy, 1 oz peach brandy.  Add ice, fill with soda.  Stir well (voice of experience).  I accidentally used a little more sugar.  Teaspoon, ounce: once you've seen one unit of measure you've seen 'em all.

This is a tad on the lemony side, but the extra sugar helped.  The spirits blend well: it doesn't taste overly rummy, and it doesn't taste like watered-down brandy.  A good summer patio cocktail.

As a wild card I tried something called a Green Dragon Variation:  build (bartending lingo in this case for mix) equal parts green Chartreuse and peach brandy.  The brandy cut the grassy flavor of the chartreuse, but it was still awfully sweet.  I didn't finish it.

Peach Brandy Cocktails

After drinking my way through various cocktails made with Parfait Amour, I looked around my liquor closet for another mixer than generally sits there gathering dust, and my eye fell on the bottle of peach brandy.  That's the only flavored brandy I have at the moment, and it doesn't get tipped very often.  And I thought it was a good question to investigate: What can you do with peach brandy?

The first two cocktails I made are sipping cousins.  The first is called a Bidou cocktail: 1 1/2 oz gin (I used Bombay), 1/2 oz dry vermouth, 1/2 oz PB.  (PB doesn't mean peanut butter.)  My notes say this drink was 'kinda blah'.  I wouldn't bother with it again.

Its relation is the Judgette cocktail:  equal parts gin (Bombay again), dry vermouth, and PB, with 1/3 as much lime juice (e.g., 1/4 oz if each of the others is 3/4 oz).  The first time I made it I was out of limes, so I used Rose's.  This is better than the Bidou, considerably stronger, and the Rose's adds sweetness.  Too much for me.

I bought some limes, and the second attempt using the real stuff was an improvement: not as sweet, and the lime is actually pretty subtle--it doesn't make the drink overly acidic or overpower the other ingredients.  Not a bad cocktail.

Cocktail #3 was the Bacardi Peach cocktail, though I used Tommy Bahama light rum instead of Bacardi: 2 to 1 light rum to PB (I started with 1 1/2 oz rum), 1/2 oz lemon juice and 1/2 tablespoon sugar, shaken, strained, etc.  This one was pretty good.  It doesn't taste overly rummy; the rum and PB play well together.  The 1/2 oz (1 Tb) lemon juice made this a tad on the tart side though; using half as much would make this a better cocktail. 

Last was the Hotel Bristol Special cocktail: equal parts cointreau and PB shaken on ice, then strained over shaved/crushed ice in a cocktail glass.  This tastes like a snow cone with a buzz.  As an alternative, I tried PB with Mandarin Napoleon, and it was even better:  more orangey than the cointreau, and it blends well with the peach.  I bet using apricot brandy would work well for this too.  A nice summertime cocktail.

2009 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

The last couple days I've been drinking a 2009 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand's Marlborough region.

This bottle ran me in the $22 range, more than I usually pay for a SB but the price reflects the higher quality in this case.

The nose wasn't anything out of the ordinary, it smelled like your usual SB.  The taste is what makes the difference.  The flavors are much more subtle and multidimensional than in the $10-20 range SBs.  The bottle label lists notes of gooseberry and 'ripe tropical aromas'.  I got vanilla, I think, as well as a hit of citrus on the back of my throat.

The label also boasts of a long finish.  This is one of the few I've drunk where I can say I got that.  I try not to keep a partial bottle in the fridge very long (especially at this price point), but this SB held up well overnight.  It didn't taste like a $10 bottle the next day.

A very nice SB; I'd buy it again for a special dinner or occasion.

More Parfait Amour Cocktails

Finishing up my quick survey of a few cocktails made with the very purple liqueur Parfait Amour, today I'm reporting on three.

A little more info on Parfait Amour first.  As I've said, it's very purple.  The main flavor I get is an almost cloyingly sweet vanilla.  (My bottle is Marie Brizard.)  Wikipedia says it's usually made with a Curacao orange base; I don't get the orange at all.  Bols, who created it, use orange peel, vanilla pods, rose petals, and almonds.  De Kuyper supposedly use lemon, coriander, and violets in theirs.  Mme. Brizard herself/itself just lists sweet Spanish oranges, orange blossoms, and vanilla.

The first is the 'Tryst' cocktail, also called a Trilby Variation.  It's a mix of equal parts sweet vermouth, Scotch (I used Dewar's), and PA, with a little pastis (I used Ricard) and a dash of orange bitters.  Orange bitters aren't available locally, so I used angostura.  (One liquor store here only had Peychaud's, which I bet means they know nothing about bitters!)

This is very sweet.  You don't get a strong sweet vermouth kick (which suits me just fine), and the Scotch and the Ricard are both subtle, especially the Ricard.  The color is off-putting, but the drink is the best of the three today.

The second one is the 'Passenger List' cocktail:  equal parts brandy (I used Hennessy), gin (Bombay), 2/3 as much each PA and yellow Chartreuse, and a dash of pastis (Ricard again).  You don't find many recipes that call for yellow Chartreuse.

This one is mainly just sweet, and though I just drizzled in a little Ricard, it's very anisy.  That combined with the Chartreuse, it's like drinking a Provencal meadow smoothie.

The last one is a 'Barnacle Bill' cocktail.  No idea where the name came from.  This one is equal parts PA, yellow Chartreuse, and pastis/Ricard.

Another very sweet one, though the color is more purple and less off-putting than some of the other PAs.  It's also very anisy/herbal like the last one.  You might as well sip Ricard with a little water and get pretty much the same effect but not so cloyingly sweet.

And thus endeth my survey of Parfait Amour cocktails.  Glad that's over with.

2009 Araucano and 2008 Bonterra Sauvignon Blancs

This last week I worked my way through two very different bottles of Sauvignon Blanc.

The first was another Chilean, a 2009 Hacienda Araucano Reserve from Chile's Central Valley.  I think I found it at Whole Foods in the $10-12 range.

I picked up a citrusy note in the nose, but it wasn't the usual SB citrus.  I couldn't quite place it.  I also got the usual grassy overtones. (Is that a mixed metaphor, having overtones in an odor?)

The flavor was very 'grapey' and citrusy, perhaps a little more on the acidic side.  There weren't great subtleties of flavor, but it wasn't a bad wine.

The second one is a 2009 Boneterra Vineyards made with 54% organic grapes from Lake County, CA, and 46% from Mendocino County.  I guess if you use organic grapes, you can get your percentages more precise.

I didn't make any notes while I was drinking this, but it seemed to be more 'full bodied' than most of the SBs I've drunk this summer.  One or two of them have been pretty close to water on my tongue; this one was closer to a lighter red wine.

The notes in the wine were just average, nothing particularly outstanding although the flavors were good.  I did pick up a note that reminded me of lemongrass.  The label says gooseberry, kiwi, and honeydew, so I was close, I think.  I haven't been blown over by the California SBs I've drunk this summer, but this is one to try.