Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Slanting Door

The Slanting Door
glass - chilled cocktail
method - shake & fine-strain
garnish - long, curled lime twist
1.5 oz. Rhum Barbancourt Blanc
.75 oz. fresh lime juice
small drops of Thai Chili Tincture, to taste
1 oz. house-made Slanting Door Syrup*
*a combination of coconut water, lemongrass, sugar, shredded coconut and lime peels

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sips & Pics, 2015

Cocktails crafted by Jay Crabb for Paula LeDuc Fine Catering. Photography by Josh Gruetzmacher.  Styling and staging by Paula LeDuc Fine Catering Design Dept.  Pictures shot on location at our venue Beaulieu Garden in Napa, California and the Paula LeDuc Fine Catering headquarters in Emeryville, California between April and October of 2015.

Sip. Savor. Repeat.


A Spirituous Occasion:  VS Cognac, Jamaican Rum, East India Solera Sherry, house-made "trifecta spice blend" cordial, aromatic bitters, amarena cherries

Rosa Eterna: raspberries, rose syrup, fresh pink grapefruit juice, Lillet Rosé, local gin, sparkling wine

The Menacing Mule:  spicy ginger cordial, pomegranate, lime, citrus vodka, club soda, dry ice

The Gold Standard:  amontillado sherry, baby golden beet juice, heirloom tomato syrup, fresh lemon, pimenton spice mix rim

Coco Sofisticado: rum blend, house-made coconut cream and pineapple cordial, fresh lime and orange juices, spiced bitters, nutmeg 

Il Nostro Sour: slivovitz, rhum agricole, apricot, lime, egg white, house-made aromatic bitters, edible flower petals

Apple Celery Julep: house-made celery cordial, Akvavit, fresh lemon juice, German apple liqueur, crushed ice, lemon thyme

The Best Man:  rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, amaro, maraschino liqueur, house-made orange bitters, amarena cherry; served over an ice sphere

Garden Gimlet:  Beaulieu Gardens fresh garden herb blend, local gin, house-made lime cordial

Blueberry Sonata: gin, fresh blueberries, lemon juice, honey syrup; topped with lemon-sage foam

Gustoso Bevanda: pisco quebranta, aperol, fresh red bell pepper juice, basil, salt, lemon

La Pina en Fuego: tequila blanco, carmelized pineapple, cilantro, lime, spicy mixed chili tincture

Il Cetriolo Amaro: beet-stained cucumbers, ginger beer, averna amaro, pimms liqueur, fresh lemon juice, california bay laurel

Daiquiri:  aged rum, fresh lime juice, rich cane syrup

1944 Mai Tai:  jamaican rum, house-made spiced rum, orgeat, dry curacao, fresh lime juice, with a  dark rum float inside of an inverted lime shell

Front Porch Cooler:  bourbon, mint, peach bitters, falernum, house-made "front porch" syrup, fresh lemon juice

Winter Old Fashioned:  apple brandy or bourbon, maple syrup, spiced bitters, orange peel, amarena cherry, large chunk of ice

Pisco Tropicale:  pisco, house-made aromatic bitters, apricot, pineapple, lime, brut sparkling wine

Paloma Picante:  carbonated cocktail with mezcal, aromatized wine, hot pepper blend, orange blossom honey, fresh pink grapefruit juice, lime, and black lava salt

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Feels Like The Holidays!

It's been Fall for a good month and a half now, but it hasn't felt much like it in the Bay Area.  After being out and about this weekend, it's finally beginning to feel like Autumn.  It even felt like (dare I say it) the Holiday season was amongst us.  But what can I say?  I love the Holidays!  I cherish this time of the year.  The cooler weather, the falling leaves, the rain (being in the midst of a long, never-ending drought, I vaguely remember what water falling from the sky is like).  And of course...the cocktails.  I was surprised to see one of my favorite Autumn/Winter cocktails on the menu at one my favorite East Bay restaurants yesterday.

I had the perfect meal at the Ramen Shop in Oakland last night, and enjoyed a wonderful pre-dinner Pan American Clipper.  Crisp and refreshing with aromas of baked apple, flavors of pomegranate, balanced acidity, and a tinge of botanical complexity from the's truly Fall in a glass.  The Pan Am Clipper--a venerable drink that spent far too long in the "lost and forgotten" category-- has been a favorite of mine for many years.  Back when I was behind the bar, the Pan Am always found a place on my Fall or Winter cocktail menus.  It dates back to at least 1939, when it appeared in Charles H. Baker's The Gentleman's Companion.

Let's raise a glass to the Holidays, and to enjoying lots of good times with family and friends,

Pan Am Clipper
glass - coupe
method - shake and fine-strain
garnish - lime twist
1.75 oz. apple brandy (Lairds Straight Apple Brandy is fantastic)
.5 oz (plus one full bar spoon) of fresh lime juice
.5 oz. home-made pomegranate grenadine*
3 dashes Absinthe
1 dash baked apple bitters (optional...I prefer it)

* I make grenadine using POM brand pomegranate juice, pomegranate molases, orange flower water, and sugar.  

Another seasonal favorite of mine is the Cranberry Arbuste.  It's a super simple 3-ingredient cocktail packed full of flavor.  You can use apple brandy or bourbon.  Both work quite well.  This cocktail calls for a shrub (also known as drinking vinegars): at their most basic, a simple mixture of fresh fruit, vinegar, and sugar,  Think tangy, refreshing, and oh-so delicious.  The shrub in this particular cocktail spices things up for the holidays with fresh cranberries, gravenstein apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, star anise, orange peels, and allspice.

Cranberry Arbuste
glass - nick & nora
method - shake and fine-strain
garnish - orange peel with a small sprig of rosemary inside the peel
1.75 oz. apple brandy or bourbon
.75 oz. spiced cranberry shrub
.25 oz. frsh lemon juice


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Garden Cup

I love the combination of celery and apple...they have such an affinity for each other!  Here, both flavors combine in a fun and unique gin-based cocktail that's perfect for summer.  Cheers!

Garden Cup
glass - small footed glass
method - shake and strain
garnish - 2 very thin granny smith apple slices (use a meat slicer) folded in half and placed on each side of the julep cup so they are just above the rim; 1 large sprig of slapped lemon thyme.  Too much work?  The tip of a celery stalk with those beautiful leaves works just fine!

Beefeater Gin
Berentzen German Apple Liqueur
celery cordial*
lemon juice
several dashes of verjus**

*Celery Cordial:  a combination of fresh celery juice, celery seed, sugar, water, a pinch of salt, akvavit

**Verjus:  check out this great article for some awesome verjus cocktail applications and ideas

The Gold Standard Cocktail

Golden beets, heirloom tomato, sherry?  Let's make a drink!

This low ABV cocktail goes by the name of the Gold Standard, and features Amontillado Sherry, raw golden beet juice, an heirloom tomato water simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice.  It's shaken with ice until well chilled, and then strained into a chilled cocktail glass with a Pimenton spice mix on the rim.  It's a crisp, savory, immensely drinkable low-alcohol cocktail crafted in the culinary style (food pairings abound). Cheers!

The Gold Standard
glass - chilled cocktail glass; pimenton spice mix on the rim*
method - shake and fine-strain
garnish - none

Amontillado Sherry
raw, baby golden beet juice
golden heirloom tomato water simple syrup (1:1  sugar to tomato water)
fresh lemon juice
pinch of sea salt

*Pimenton Spice Mix for rim

toasted, sliced almonds

black peppercorns

Spanish Pimenton or smoked paprika

coarse sea salt

Using a spice grinder, pulse almonds and peppercorns a few times. Add pimenton and salt. Pulse to desired texture. The almonds should be ground fine, but not powdery; you want them to retain some texture.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The 3-Ingredient Challenge

I make a lot of culinary-inspired, produce-driven cocktails, and I enjoy drinking them too.  They certainly have their place on a balanced cocktail menu, especially here in the Bay Area where we have access to such a vast array of fresh ingredients.  But I'm a bigger fan of simple, delicious, spirit-driven libations.  Even better if it's a 3-ingredient production.  I'm also a proponent of batching cocktails for service in a busy bar/restaurant setting, and cocktails like this are a breeze to batch ahead of time.  You grab one bottle, measure out 2.5 ounces of the batched drink, stir, strain, garnish, done!  It's a win/win for both the bartender and the guest.

Developed by Kansas City bartender Ryan Maybee, the Pendergast (named after the 1920's and '30s Kansas City political boss) has quickly become a contemporary classic.  Simple, sophisticated, delicious.

glass - chilled rocks glass
method - stir and strain
garnish - lemon or orange twist

1.5 oz. Bourbon*
.75 oz. Punt e Mes
.25 oz. Benedictine
1 healthy dash of Angostura bitters

*for this particular cocktail, I prefer a bolder, spicier bourbon, so I reach for one with a higher rye content and elevated proof: Old Grand Dad 100 proof.  The Old Grand Dad (part of the Jim Beam portfolio) also happens to come in at a nice price, perfect for mixing. 

Originally found in the Savoy Cocktail Book, the Opera cocktail is one of those lost and forgotten classics that doesn't get much attention these days.  Using a Navy Strength gin and being generous with the bitters brings to life this forgotten gem; certainly worthy of a place on more cocktail menus.   
glass - coupe
method - stir and strain
garnish - oil from an orange or lemon peel; discard the peel

1.75 oz. Navy Strength Gin
.5 oz. Dubonnet Rouge
.25 oz.  Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
2 healthy dashes orange bitters

What about a citrus-driven 3-ingredient cocktail?  Here's a recipe for the classic Daiquiri, one of my all-time favorites:

glass -coupe
method - shake & fine-strain
garnish - thin lime wheel

2.5 oz. Banks 5 Island Rum
.75 oz. lime juice
.5 oz. rich simple syrup (2:1, sugar to water)


Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Little Funk Is A-OK

Jamaican rums are known for their funk.  We're talking about big, bold flavors, the result of special and unique yeast strains, longer fermentation periods that incorporate dunder (yeast-rich foam leftovers from a previous batch of rum), and in many cases, the use of retorts (copper vessels attached to the pot still that contain the leftover high and low wines from a previous distillation, creating additional flavor compounds). Each of these elements contribute to rich, ester-laden rums that truly sing when mixed in a cocktail. 

Jamaican rums are actually classified by their ester levels (esters are volatile/acetic compounds that can lend fruity notes to a spirit), and they basically break down into these 4 levels:

- Low ester rums are called Common Cleans.  Think delicate and slightly floral.  

- Plummers have a bit more going on.  Now we're getting into light tropical fruit aromas and flavors,

- Wedderburn are fuller, with deeper fruit, more body, and increased pungency and lift.

- At the top of the scale lies Continental Flavored, also known as High Ester.  When sipped neat, these rums are the most pungent, the most powerful.  Some would even say it reminds them of nail polish remover.  Sound appealing?  Don't be scared.  Because when diluted with a little water, or properly mixed in a balanced cocktail, that nose-burning intensity is replaced with concentrated aromas of pineapple and very ripe banana.  

So what kind of a cocktail lets these high ester rums shine?  I'm currently serving the Bebita Caribe in the home bar: a blend of Appleton VX and Smith and Cross rums, St Liz Allspice Dram, fresh lime juice, house-made raw ginger solution, and home-made ginger beer.  Funky tropical fruit and baking spices, citrus, and a little fizz from the ginger beer combine in this bold yet refreshing rum cocktail.  Cheers!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Cocktail and The Bar

The Cocktail:  "It should stimulate the mind as well as the appetite. The well made cocktail is one of the most gracious of drinks. It pleases the senses. The shared delight of those who partake in common of this refreshing nectar breaks the ice of formal reserve. Taut nerves relax, taut muscles relax, tired eyes brighten, tongues loosen, friendships deepen, the whole world becomes a better place in which to live.”
- The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. (1948) David A. Embury

The Bar:  It fosters a convivial community of compatriots…camaraderie with the staff and fellow regulars.  A great bar gives you a sense of belonging; it welcomes you with open arms and becomes an integral part of the neighborhood.  A great bar has the ability to become that "third place" or "third space."  It's not work and it's not home, bur rather that all important social space that's important for a civil society, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of "sense of place."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rum For Everyone

6500 San Pablo
glass - coupe
method - shake and fine-strain
garnish - long lime twist wrapped around a skewered, marinated pineapple chunk

1.25 oz. Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey
.25 oz. Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum
.5 oz. Trader Vic's Macadamia Nut Liqueur
.75 oz. fresh lime juice
.75 oz. Pineapple Gum Syrup
2 healthy dashes Angostura bitters

Cheers to you Mr. Bergeron, cheers to you.

Minimum Order
glass - large rocks glass; hand-carved ice ball
method - stir and strain
garnish - brandied cherry
1.5 oz. Banks 7 Island Rum
.5 oz. dry Amontillado sherry
.5 oz. home-made grapefruit cordial
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir well with ice
Strain over hand-carved ice ball in large rocks glass
Express oils from grapefruit peel over drink; discard peel
Brandied cherry for garnish

Rum is commonly thought of as the spirit of choice for fruity, juice-laced tropical cocktails.  But I'll let you in on a little secret:  rum shines in spirit-forward libations.  Think outside of the box, and next time you're reaching for that bottle of rye whiskey or gin to act as the base in your spirit-driven creation, stop, think about how a rum might work in that cocktail, and then give it a try.  Whether a bone-dry white rum (Brugal is a favorite), a rich and layered aged rum (Zacapa is beautiful) or a grassy, funky Rhum Agricole (yes, some of them are over the top, but the brand Batiste is quite mixable), there's a lot to choose from in the world of rum.

Happy mixing.  Cheers!  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Oaxacan Monk

Oaxacan Monk
glass - chilled cocktail glass
method - dry shake; shake & fine-strain
garnish - orange peel

1.25 oz. Cimmaron Tequila Blanco
.25 oz. Don Amado Anejo Mezcal
.5 oz. Aperol
.5 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
.5 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
.5 oz. Fresh Orange Juice
.25 oz. chili-citrus syrup
.5 oz. Egg White
Dry shake for 30 seconds
Add ice
Shake again for 10 seconds, fine-strain into a cocktail glass coated with oil from a large grapefruit peel.  Discard the GF peel.  Garnish with an orange peel.

What a wonderful, delightful cocktail. Lots of ingredients, so I recommend batching the alcoholic ingredients in advance so you're not reaching for so many bottles when making these.*  Everything works quite well together, resulting in a balanced, delicious cocktail. The blanco tequila sets the stage; the dash of mezcal adds a subtle smokey quality that stands up strong to the delicate herbaceous qualities of the seductively sweet Yellow Chartreuse, and the semi-bitter notes of Aperol. The lime/orange juice combo gives it some nice (and needed) acidity, while the grapefruit and orange peel oils round everything out in perfect harmony. And the egg white? It lends texture. A beautiful, airy quality, as only egg white in a cocktail can do. The Oaxacan Monk is my new favorite.

Sip, savor, repeat.  Cheers!

* a note on batching in a bar/restaurant setting:  when I had this cocktail on a menu, we batched all of the alcoholic ingredients (tequila, mezcal, aperol, chartreuse) ahead of time, enough to make 50 cocktails.  This was done in a large plastic bin, whisked together to blend all of the ingredients, and then poured into 750ml bottles.  We also had small squeeze bottles in the well containing equal parts lime and orange juice.  So when the bartender got a call for this cocktail, he reached for the bottle containing the OJ/Lime blend, measuring out 1 oz.  He then added the syrup and egg white from their respective bottles in the well, ending with a 2.5 ounce pour from the bottle containing the batched alcoholic ingredients.  We turned this into a cocktail where the bartender only had to pick up 4 bottles instead of 8.  Not bad!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chamomile and Coconut

After enjoying a few Bees Knees cocktails (2 oz. gin, 3/4 honey syrup, 3/4 oz. lemon juice, shaken with ice and served up in a chilled cocktail glass) I began playing around with those same ratios, but subbing ingredients.  Just another case of experimenting and playing with new & different flavor combinations.  I made a very basic coconut simple syrup on the stove using shredded coconut, sugar and water.  Instead of gin, I used Novo Fogo Cachaca, but I think a mixable Rhum Agricole, perhaps a brand like Batiste, could work just as well.  I mixed these with lemon juice, and a tasty new cocktail was born.  I wanted to add another layer of flavor to the mix, but was trying to keep the cocktail at 3 ingredients.  So I heated up my coconut simple syrup, added two chamomile tea bags to it, and let it steep for about 10 minutes.  Chamomile and Coconut?  I remembered eating a chamomile/coconut pana cotta years ago, and those flavors worked quite well together in that dessert.  Would it work in a crisp, citrus-driven cocktail?  It works!  Enjoyable?  Very much so, but probably not a "mass appeal" cocktail, but you never know.  The funky, floral, and grassy notes in Cachaca paired nicely with the chamomile.  The fresh sugarcane notes present in the Cachaca works in harmony with coconut, creating a new, unique flavor profile.  A healthy dose of fresh lemon juice adds the needed acidity, lending balance and crispness to the drink. 

I'm also playing around with a chai-coconut syrup, mixed into a cocktail with bourbon!

Chamomile & Coconut
glass - chilled coupe
method - shake and fine-strain
garnish - lemon wheel

1.5 oz. Cachaca or Rhum Agricole Blanc*
.75oz. - 1 oz. coconut/chamomile syrup**
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice***
Shake with ice
Fine-strain into chilled coupe glass
Garnish with the lemon wheel & serve
Sip, savor, repeat

* 2 ounces of Cachaca dominated the cocktail and threw off its balance, while 1.5 ounces worked out much better

**I prefer .75 oz of syrup, but 1 oz. of syrup might be preferred.  It's easy enough to adjust the sour-to-sweet balance of this drink based on your guests taste preferences

***I haven't tried it, but I'm curious how this tastes with lime juice instead of lemon