The term hybrid has gone mainstream with mind-boggling advancements in technology, biology, linguistics, electronics or whatever.
Hybrid means the combination of two formerly non-combined entities, with the result, ideally, featuring the best of each. Hybrid cars, utilizing both electric and gas for power, are hot commodities. The first time I met a cock-a-poo dog I was not certain if the little beast had difficult sexual habits or bad bathroom techniques.
Then there’s the grape classification referred to as hybrids. You’ve probably heard of the South African mainstay grape, Pinotage, which is a combination of the Pinot Noir and Cinsault grape varietals. Vidal Blanc was bred for the wine industry in Cognac, so the main ingredient in the blend was the native Ugni Blanc, coupled with the Rayon d’Or, for the purpose of developing a better winter-hardy, longer growing season species of wine grape.
The Vidal Blanc mash-up has gone well and the grape is planted extensively in Canada. Most of the luscious ice-wine, acclaimed around the world, is actually Vidal Blanc.
And now we come to the term hybrid cocktail, or at least I come to the term, with the intent of describing a mixed drink for adults using both wine and spirits. This is not necessarily a new development as the essential Champagne Cocktail is still quite popular and has been for more than a hundred years.
1 sugar cube
2-3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
1.5 oz Brandy
In a Champagne flute, place sugar cube in bottom, add bitters and Brandy, fill with cold Champagne, garnish with citrus (lemon, lime, orange). Add maraschino cherry or fresh fruit (strawberry, blackberry, blueberry).
What set me on the path of hybrid cocktails was a news release from the gang (the BIG gang) at Gallo who have released a new line of wines with the joyous name of Refresh.
This comes from the Turning Leaf branch of the family (sorry, could not resist the arbor pun), and the wines emphasize the fruit flavors of pink, red and standard moscato, as well as crisp white, all with a “palate pleasing fizz.” (I’m quoting here from the Gallo/Turning Leaf news release since their marketing people have pretty much done the heavy lifting. Or at least I think they have.)
Then my inner self tells me that while I may not care for these wines, and many folks certainly will, this lineup could make a good base for a wide variety of cocktails. That little spritz factor means instead of adding sugar to the cocktail because the tonic water has no sweetness, these wines could step up and serve a drink’s sweetness needs well.
I’ve never tried these wines so I am flying a bit blind here, but on the surface I think here we have a product that normally staid and conservative wine lovers would walk away from, yet maybe all is not lost.
At about this point, no doubt, people who know me and truly professional wine and spirit writers are thinking I have logged off the farm. And I am probably in the worst position of any of you as to whether that would be a good call.
But once we lose our youthful or oldthful curiosity, once we keep doing the same thing over and over again without consideration for other actions, then maybe the joys of discovery will elude us to the end of our days. That would be sad.
Try experimenting with a few cocktails of your creation using Refresh, or just try the product on its own. Let me know how you do and what you think.
On another cocktail topic, Gaz Regan is one of the world’s foremost experts on bar operations and cocktail culture. He is a great guy to know and a visitor to New Orleans at least once a year for Tales of the Cocktail. He is one of the Mad Dogs and Englishmen who wilt in the New Orleans July sun.
Each year he puts together his compilation of the best 101 cocktails created in the past 12 months, and so far he has released about half the list for 2013.
For instance, last year Joel Clark of the bar, Sanctuaria, in St. Louis concocted "Between Piety and Desire," a cocktail inspired by a New Orleans friend of his who told him a memorable story about some incident that happened in that area.
Closer to home as far as drink creators go, Geoffrey Wilson of the chic bar Loa in the International House Hotel, fashioned a drink, number 32 on Gaz’s 2013 list, in homage to a local legendary bar master, Chris McMillian, who is currently behind the stick at Kingfish in the French Quarter. It’s a fitting and deserved tribute to a man who has taught and preserved the incredible New Orleans culture of hospitality and beverage service. One of Chris’ well-deserved claims to fame is that New Orleans Magazine named him Bartender of the Year in 2012.
By Geoffrey Wilson, Loa in the International Hotel, New Orleans
60 ml (2 oz) Rittenhouse rye whiskey
15 ml (.5 oz) orange curacao
15 ml (.5 oz) orgeat syrup
7.5 ml (.25 oz) Bénédictine
7.5 ml (.25 oz) fresh lemon juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
5 mint leaves (reserve 1 for garnish)
Combine all ingredients and muddle mint. Place into shaker with crushed ice. Shake and strain into a chilled glass (use a strainer and tea strainer). Add the garnish.