There’s that famous saying, emblazoned on kitchen wall decorations all over the world, bragging “I like to cook with alcohol. Sometimes I even use it in the recipe.”
You can stop slapping your knee right now. It’s not really that funny, or that obscure.
For those of us who enjoy taking adult delights, such as bourbon, rum or vodka, and incorporating those items into other uses, such as desserts, the sentiments expressed in the lame quote that started this column start to ring true. Last week’s Happy Hour
explored a few additional applications for bitters, those drop-by-drop additives that add other dimensions to our cocktails.
And so I had the thought, rare enough for me, that maybe we could look at some upscale, special-occasions-only beverages and move over to the let’s-party mode from the mundane wine observation approach, “Feet. I’m definitely getting the sense of the winemaker’s feet in this charming little Chianti.”
Take a decent and hearty grape, like Tempranillo or even Syrah, let it ripen in the usual way, harvest at the proper moment, and then begin the fermentation process. At some point during that last step, you add into the barely-wine a neutral grape spirit that is reasonably high in alcohol. At that point you have stopped the fermentation of the original wine, leaving a beverage that is still boasting a good bit of sugar that was not resolved during the interrupted and stopped fermentation. You now own alcohol from the original wine as well as the added spirit’s alcohol, and the sum of the parts is still showing characteristics of the original wine.
Port is a most versatile beverage, and you, no doubt, have already put it to many uses. It goes well as a digestive at the end of a big meal; can be enjoyed straight at any time of the day, even with the addition of a bit of ice to really chill it; makes for a most interesting ingredient in baking, like cakes and brownies; and is a versatile ingredient in cocktails.
A great benefit to Port is that you can open a bottle, use some of the contents for your nefarious purposes, and recork the bottle, placing it back in the refrigerator where it easily has a couple of days or more of life. Since Port is a fortified (alcohol added) wine, deterioration after opening is a lot slower than with regular wine.
Port takes its name from the northern Portuguese city of Oporto, which sits at the end of the Douro River, used to bring the Port wines to market from the Douro River Valley in the interior of Portugal where many Port-growing plantations are located. There are also some domestic Ports being produced in every wine region of America. The Port of New Orleans is a great name for a fine port product produced by Pontchartrain Vineyards on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain.
Two Port Cocktail recipes from David Wondrich, Esquire’s resident mixologist and great friend of New Orleans:
Shake well with ice
1 1/2 oz. good white rum
1/2 oz. Fonseca Bin 27 Port
1/2 oz. orange curaçao or Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
Strain into chilled cocktail glass
Bin 27 Martini
2 oz. Fonseca Bin 27 Ruby Port
1 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. cranberry juice
Combine all ingredients into an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Garnish with olives.
The beverage takes its name from the town in which it is born. Cognac is located in the western part of France just north of the Bordeaux region. The region even shares access to the Gironde River with the great Chateaux of the Medoc in Bordeaux. But the Cognac vineyards are decidedly east of Gironde and don’t have the same North Atlantic maritime influences as the great vineyards of the Medoc.
Cognac is a pleasant enough “company town” but here the companies are Hennessy, Remy-Martin, Hine, Courvoisier, Martell, Frapin and Pierre Ferrand. That fits my definition of an ideal industrial neighborhood.
In the manufacturing of Cognac, the beverage, grapes are made into wine in the usual fashion. The mainstay grape is the ugni blanc, a quite acidic white grape that does not make for fine wine. But the wine of the ugni blanc is double-distilled in pot stills, then stored for years in oak barrels, with the final result being incredibly rich, slightly sweet and layered. Figs and nut aromas and flavors are dominant, and after that you can pick up just about any good things you wish, including holiday spices, nutmeg, stone fruit, orange peels and Ten Lords a’Leaping.
Cognac is a polarizing beverage, with folks lined up into two camps: I love this stuff so much; or I hate the alcohol burn and it’s not worth the effort.
Maybe the creation of cocktails that use Cognac will help you appreciate the spirit more. Then again, you could do what I do and that’s simply sip, savoring every drop.
Special thanks to DrinksMixer.com.
1 oz. Mandarine Napoleon orange liqueur
1 oz. Cognac
1 tsp. Frangelico hazelnut liqueur
3 tsp. vanilla ice cream
Blend all ingredients briefly in a blender with half a glass of crushed ice. Garnish with orange slice and serve with straws.
Continental No. 2
1 1/2 oz. Hennessy Cognac
1 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier orange liqueur
1 oz. cranberry juice
1 oz. pineapple juice
Pour all ingredients over ice in highball glass. Stir and serve.