The Final Word

A friend passed along a simple recipe composed of four ingredients last week. I shook a couple over the weekend and found another keeper for my cocktails shortlist.

The drink is The Final Word, based on gin and incorporating a new ingredient for me, green Chartreuse. I’m no stranger to gin cocktails; it’s become my favorite base spirit. It helps that gin goes with darn near everything, but it’s also refreshing on the palate, making it the base of many warm-weather pleasers.

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A sip of green Chartreuse puts me in the mind of absinthe, not only for its vivid color but also for its complexity of flavor.

 This liqueur is made by aging over a hundred herbs, plants, and flowers in neutral spirit, then bottled at a sturdy 110-proof. Where absinthe is light on the palate, Chartreuse is heavy, but not cloyingly so.

According to its Wikipedia entry, Chartreuse is one of the few liqueurs that continue aging in the bottle, which is good because I’ll probably have this one around for a while.

The recipe is simple: equal parts London Dry gin—a juniper-forward spirit works best—plus green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice. Shake with large cubes and double-strain into a chilled glass. Double-straining removes small ice shards from the finished cocktail. A chilled glass, well, that looks pretty and keeps your drink as cold as possible for as long as possible.

I recommend The Final Word to anyone who enjoys gin-based cocktails, herbal concoctions, and anise.

#cocktails #ginDrinks #theFinalWord

∴ Drinks, dinner

A quote I thought too good to let pass:

Cocktails with dinner is uncouth. Before dinner, or after dinner. Draining the last of a pre-meal drink, sure. But a purposeful cocktail with dinner is for the unwashed.

The quoted shall go nameless to protect the wise.

#cocktails #dining

∴ Old Manhattan

Old Manhattan
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We had guests at Andrew’s Bar and Kelly’s Kitchen and Rest this week. My sister, Pam, and her family paid us a visit from Illinois. As part of our hospitality, I laid in an assortment of local craft beer and opened the bar for cocktail experimentation. We ended up with a new drink.

Pam is fond of bourbon and bourbon cocktails. An echo of our mom’s younger days, she enjoys an Old Fashioned. I’m partial to Manhattans, a close cousin to the Old Fashioned. With a little tweaking she was pleased to enjoy what I’m calling an Old Manhattan. It’s a simple riff on both drinks, incorporating the sugar-sweetened bourbon of an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan’s rich undertone of quality vermouth/amaro, tied together with orange and cherry bark-vanilla bitters. To wit:

  • two ounces good bourbon. I used Hudson Baby Bourbon from Tuthilltown Spirits.
  • one ounce Carpano Antica Formula amaro
  • ¼ ounce agave syrup
  • 1½ dash (12 drops) orange bitters. Mine are from Bittercube.
  • ½ dash (4 drops) cherry bark-vanilla bitters
  • 1 bing cocktail cherry
  • a large, thin slice of orange peal

Stir the liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice for thirty seconds. Drop a bing cherry garnish into a cocktail tumbler, followed by one large ice cube. Do not use refrigerator ice maker cubes. Aspire to greatness and buy yourself a cube mold or spherical mold and make big cubes.

Pour the chilled cocktail over the cube, then garnish with a large, thin orange slice. Use a Y-handle peeler, not a blade on a stick.

In Pam’s words, “this is really good.” High praise.

The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous

Gabrielle Glaser—The Atlantic:

The 12 steps are so deeply ingrained in the United States that many people, including doctors and therapists, believe attending meetings, earning one’s sobriety chips, and never taking another sip of alcohol is the only way to get better. Hospitals, outpatient clinics, and rehab centers use the 12 steps as the basis for treatment. But although few people seem to realize it, there are alternatives, including prescription drugs and therapies that aim to help patients learn to drink in moderation. Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, these methods are based on modern science and have been proved, in randomized, controlled studies, to work.

This excerpt from a fascinating article about an alternative alcoholism treatment points to Americans’ white-knuckled grasp on the eighty-year old AA twelve-step program and its attendant dismal results.

Finnish therapists use a science-based approach that provides a high success rate by blocking opiate receptors in the brain. The result is reduced interest in alcohol as the comfort it provides evaporates. Conditioned craving ebbs.

The opioid antagonists used are naltrexone and a more contemporary drug, nalmefene:

Among other effects, alcohol increases the amount of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a chemical that slows down activity in the nervous system, and decreases the flow of glutamate, which activates the nervous system. (This is why drinking can make you relax, shed inhibitions, and forget your worries.) Alcohol also prompts the brain to release dopamine, a chemical associated with pleasure.

Over time, though, the brain of a heavy drinker adjusts to the steady flow of alcohol by producing less GABA and more glutamate, resulting in anxiety and irritability. Dopamine production also slows, and the person gets less pleasure out of everyday things. Combined, these changes gradually bring about a crucial shift: instead of drinking to feel good, the person ends up drinking to avoid feeling bad.

Sinclair theorized that if you could stop the endorphins from reaching their target, the brain’s opiate receptors, you could gradually weaken the [alcohol-strengthened] synapses, and the cravings would subside. To test this hypothesis, he administered opioid antagonists—drugs that block opiate receptors—to specially bred alcohol-loving rats. He found that if the rats took the medication each time they were given alcohol, they gradually drank less and less. He published his findings in peer-reviewed journals beginning in the 1980s.

Subsequent studies found that an opioid antagonist called naltrexone was safe and effective for humans.

This was a good long read about an aspect of substance abuse that’s always around us: recovery. The upshot is that for most patients this drug therapy provides potentially life-long benefit. The only thing standing in the way of applying this promising therapy is America’s infatuation with twelve-step programs, specifically AA.

Maybe we should use science to combat addiction, rather than misplaced faith.

#alcoholAbuse #substanceAbuse #sobriety #scientific #evidenceBased

∴ John J. Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon

A bottle of JOhn J. Bowman single barrel bourbonWhat seems like a long time ago Kelly and I visited Smith Bowman’s Fredericksburg distillery, where John J. Bowman bourbon is made, with my mom during one of her last trips to Virginia. The tour revealed a true small batch, handmade whiskey process at work not far from our home. The bourbon was good, but not, on my palate, great.

Fast forward to 2017, when John J. Bowman was named “Best Whiskey in the World” by Whisky Magazine. Hmm. I filed that away at the back of my ‘try again’ list and moved on.

Feeling mildly disconcerted today, and hearing from a pal that a favorite rye whiskey selection was newly available at the Warrenton ABC, I stopped by to see what was on the shelf. Our favorite rye had been wiped out in less than a day. That’s not nearly as surprising as the ABC’s failure to make Rittenhouse Rye regular inventory stock, but whatever. I pulled that ‘try again’ out of my noggin and wandered back into the whiskeys. A bottle of John J. followed me home.

I’m utterly stunned. The first scent and flavor on my tongue is fruit, followed by a mild oakiness. The liquor is mellow and completely devoid of harshness, a sweet elixir despite its 100-proof strength and unblended, single barrel nature. What a lovely bourbon.

Though Bowman doesn’t divulge their bourbon’s pedigree, rumor claims that it comes from a double-distillation of their parent company Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace mash bill #1. If so, that makes it a close relative to Eagle Rare and Buffalo Trace, two well-decorated bourbons.

The liquor is distilled once more in Virginia and laid up in American oak for nine to ten years. Despite their similar beginnings, Buffalo Trace and John J. Bowman are distinct in their finish. Must be the Virginia air.

Pappy, someday. Until then, Bowman has made the big time.

#JohnJBowman #bourbon #BuffaloTrace #whiskey

∴ The Annual Sappfest Mix-off

A table full of competing cocktail samplesOur friends Shannon and Jeffrey Sapp throw a holiday party every year at around this time. A highlight of this shindig is the holiday mix-off, in which a handful of would-be mixologists compete with original recipe cocktails, served in mini tasting cups. We’re headed to the party tonight, but in advance of it I’ll let this year’s cat out of the bag. Herewith, my entry for the 2017 Mix-off.

What could be more comforting on a cold winter’s night, particularly after a day’s festivities are complete, than a craft cocktail? The spicy seduction of fine rye whiskey, the warm embrace of chile liqueur, and the sweet kiss of dark cherry liqueur combined with a hint of chocolate bitters produce the sublime concoction I’ve christened ‘Silent Night.’ It will warm you from tongue to toes, and it’s my Christmas gift to each of you.

To wit:

  • 2 parts Rittenhouse rye whiskey
  • ¼ part Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur
  • ½ part Cherry Heering dark cherry liqueur
  • 2 dashes Bittermens chocolate mole bitters 

Stir over ice until very cold, serve in a chilled coupe with dark cherry garnish. Makes one three-ounce drink.

#cocktails #silentNight #holidayMixOff #sappfest