Halloween Cocktails with Niederegger Marzipan

A few weeks ago, I received an interesting e-mail from Niederegger Marzipan, advertising a game for Halloween (see below). I thought I’d take the opportunity to match some of the chocolate-covered marzipan from their Klassiker Range, which mixes liquors and marzipan, with some cocktails. I wanted to create a cocktail to complement each of the four flavours, whilst also giving the cocktails a somewhat autumnal twist; and no, there will be no Amaretto – that is just too easy.

Niederegger confectioners have been making tasty treats since 1806 in the German city of Lübeck. Today, they make a wide range of fine treats, including a host of different marzipans and nougats.

The Cocktails

#1) Normandy ‘75 with Calvados, accompanied by Calvados & Apple Marzipan
[1 sugar lump, 3–4 drops of orange bitters, 20ml of calvados, Champagne – Serve in a Champagne Flute]
Quite dry, given the Calvados and Champagne, with the red vermouth adding some herbal notes and, along with the sugar cube, some sweetness for balance. The fresh, fruity and sweet apple of the chocolate complements the dryer cocktail. Additionally, the marzipan’s smooth texture contrasts pleasantly with the intense bubbles of the Champagne.

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#2) Port & Starboard with Vodka and Port, accompanied by Vodka & Fig Marzipan.
[20ml Vodka, 20ml Port, 10ml Lemon Juice, 10ml Sugar Syrup (1tsp sugar) –  SHAKE]
A relatively tart drink with some deep, fruity, jammy notes from the port. If it’s a bit too tart, try adding a little sugar and stir. The marzipan has a lot more texture than the previous one, being almost crunchy, and is rich and sweet, going well with the tart dryness of the cocktail, which reminds me almost of a rich, dry sherry. Whilst these two might be too bitter/sweet on their own, together, they harmonise.

#3) Smoky Rob Roy, with Bowmore Mariner Scotch Whisky, accompanied by Mirabelle Brandy Marzipan.
[30ml Bowmore Mariner (or other Scotch), 20ml Red Vermouth – SHAKE]
The marzipan is light and more coconutty in texture, with a hint of orange coming through, too. In contrast, the cocktail is stronger in flavour, being very smoky and deliciously refreshing. The orange twist ensures that this pairing go together remarkably well. Although you wouldn’t necessarily think that smoky whisky would go well with marzipan, it really does – this is excellent and easily Mrs. B’s favourite.

#4) Rum Alexander with Spiced Rum, accompanied by Rum & Croquant Marzipan
[20ml Rum, 20ml Semi-skimmed Milk, 20ml Creme de Cacao – SHAKE]
This marzipan tastes richer and weightier than the previous ones, with its sweetness and rum notes coming through strongly. As such, the lighter cocktail is a very good accompaniment, tasting something akin to an adult’s version of chocolate milk. Coincidentally, the use of milk is much preferable to cream in this pairing, as the latter would create a far too heavy, sickly cocktail. As it is, the cocktail carries a lovely hint of rum that continues well into the finish, accompanied by lots of almond.

In Conclusion
This box of marzipan covers a whole range of interesting flavours, meaning that everyone – who likes marzipan! – should find a favourite in here; fortunately for us, we were evenly split, with Mrs. B. preferring the Vodka & Fig Chocolate and Smoky Rob Roy, and my favourites being the Apple & Calvados Chocolate and the Normandy ‘75.

In addition to being delicious on their own, I was impressed at how well they went with cocktails, each of which highlighted the flavours and textures of the sweets and often meant that the flavours lasted for longer. The sweetness of the marzipan also meant that we could experiment with stronger flavours (e.g. bitter or tart) that, when sampled on their own, were less palatable.

All in all, this was a tasty and entertaining experiment and I look forward to enjoying the rest of our box of marzipan in the game below…

The Halloween Game

Niederegger Roulette

This is:

“based on the lethal game of Russian roulette but with the additional fun elements of Harry Potter’s Bertie Bott’s every flavour beans but more sophisticated.”

You will need:

  • An assortment of different flavoured Niederegger marzipan treats that are either all the same style; e.g. mini loaves, sticks, or that have been cut into pieces that all look and feel similar;
  • A blindfold; and
  • Some willing participants.

How To Play

  1. Teams are formed and, each round, one player from each team dons the blindfold and chooses, at random, a piece of Niederegger.
  1. They must then write down what flavour they think they tasted on the team’s cards.
  1. This process is repeated through all the flavours that are available, ensuring that each team member has a go.

“With the options to choose between the innumerable concoction of different fruity flavours, orange, pineapple, strawberry, lemon; dark, milk and white chocolate toppings; more savoury fillings include pistachio and walnut filled; espresso, ginger, cream praline nougat as well as the liquor flavoured pieces such as Apple & Calvados, Mirabelle Brandy, Rum & Croquant, Vodka & Fig. Once everyone has been through all of the rounds then the host can reveal which sweets were which.”

“Try something fun and delicious this Halloween with Niederegger Roulette.”

A selection Niederegger Marzipan is available from Amazon, John Lewis, and Lakeland as well as many other shops.

Brandy Alexander I – Updated!

Many folks will be familiar with the creamy cocktail, the Brandy Alexander, but what about its ancestor, which was originally made with gin?

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The origins of the Alexander are not 100% clear, but the earliest written reference that I have found was in Recipes for Mixed Drinks by Hugo R. Ensslin from 1915, although I am reliably informed that in Harry Montague’s book from 1914 there is also a gin Alexander. Despite this, it is thought to have originated from bartender Troy Alexander of  Rector’s in New York. Legend has it that it was created as a “pure” cocktail for a party celebrating the advertising success of a character called Phoebe Snow, the mascot of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. Back at the turn of the 19th century, the railway engines of the vast continent of America would often shower their passengers with soot, no good for Mark Twain and the other white suit wearers. But DL&W used anthracite instead of coal, which meant that an individual could dress all in white, without fear of a blemish to their dress, and Phoebe Snow embodied this message by always dressing in white. This is why the cocktail had to be pure white and why, really, it should be left ungarnished.

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The Brandy Alexander (also known as the Panama or Alexander II) seems to have come later and the first written reference I have found is in Harry’s ABC (1922).

There is also some evidence pointing to it having been created to celebrate the wedding of Mary, Princess Royal (the only daughter of George V) and the Viscount Lascalles in 1922 but there is a cocktail later in Harry’s book called the Princess Mary Cocktail which consists of equal parts of Gin, Creme de Cacao and Fresh Cream and is accompanied by the following note: “This cocktail was introduced by myself in honour of Princess Mary’s wedding to Lord Lascelles, February, 1922″

This seems to somewhat debunk the idea that the Brandy Alexander was dedicated to them but it’s easy to see where the confusion could come from.

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So the Alexander can be made with brandy or gin, but there is also variance with regards to the Creme de Cacao, which is available in two varieties: brown and white. I can’t speak on behalf of all brands, but the varieties that I use, made by Giffard, taste distinctly different: the brown has a darker flavour, more reminiscent of cocoa or coffee beans, and the white has a lighter flavour, slightly reminiscent of white chocolate.

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My favourite here was certainly the Brandy Alexander with the Brown Cacao, it was the most balanced and was the most balanced, I also liked the bitter notes.

If you usually find these cocktail a little rich, may I suggest replacing the crème de cacao with Mozart Dry Chocolate Spirit; this works particularly well with the gin creating a drink with the dryness of a Martini and some cream and chocolate – unusual but certainly worth trying.

Replacing the gin or brandy with vodka creates an extra-clean Alexander worthy of the drinks original snow-white purity.

Is this all there is to say on the Alexander? Not at all, they’ll be plenty more in the future!*

*Such as The Alexander was a favourite of John Lennon between ’73 and ’75 during his “Lost and Found” period or his “Lost Weekend”.

A special note of thanks to Jeff from Cocktail Kingdom for his help with my research.

Ginger Ale Cocktails

With the approach of the Ginger Ale Tasting at Graphic on the 17th January, I thought that I would look at some other drinks, beyond the Gin Bump (or Buck), that use ginger ale as an ingredient. Of course, the Horse’s Neck is one of these, but I will skip over this, as it will be the subject of another post.

 

Clockwise from back left: White Horse,Ginger Daisy, Happy Thought, Brunswick Cooler, Sloe Gin Bump, Dog's Day, Postmaster.

Postmaster
This cocktail is quite similar to a Gin Bump, although it less tart, without the citrus. For that reason, for me, it has a little edge on the Bump. I think it is important when making a Postmaster (or a Bump) to use a gin of moderate strength, around 42%, and one that isn’t too over-powering.

Happy Thought
A rather different non-alcoholic cocktail, this is a good take on an iced tea. We found the extra fizz from the ginger ale quite pleasant. Mrs. B got a lot of gingerbread flavours from this drink, found it quite yummy and thus it was her favourite.

Dog’s Day
Rather reminiscent of a rum and soda to start, with a slight smokiness from the whisky on the finish. The orange adds a little spritz of freshness to the drink.

Sloe Gin Bump
The sloe gin that I used, a home-made variety, was deliberately dryer than most, so it was interesting how the ginger ale brought out the sweetness in the gin. But it was still quite tasty; typically, I prefer my sloe gin with ginger ale to tonic water, with my ultimate preference being bitter lemon.

White Horse
A very tasty cooler; the ginger, Scotch and orange blend well together. I found this most refreshing, although Mrs. B thought it could use a touch more flavour; perhaps another splash of bitters was in order?

Ginger Daisy
To be to the point, this tasted very much like a brandy and ginger ale, but took a good deal more effort to make. Given the minimal improvement to the flavours of the simpler version, I’m not convinced that this is worth the bother. I was also surprised at how little the gin came through.

Brunswick Cooler
A lovely, simple cooler. This was so cooling that the cold went down my throat and chilled it like a good whisky warms it. Most unexpected; I have only ever had this twice before, both times  with Martinis (and one was made using liquid nitrogen). It still eludes me as to what exactly caused it, but a great drink nonetheless.

In conclusion:
It seems clear that ginger ale is a particularly good ingredient in non-alcoholic cocktails, as it was included in some of the best I have ever tasted. When mixed with alcohol, it seems that the simple cocktails are the better ones; good examples of this being the Postmaster, Dog’s Day and Sloe Bump.

Top Alcoholic Cocktail recommendation: Postmaster
Top Non-Alcoholic Cocktail recommendation: Happy Thought

Barroom Bookshelf #2 – Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes

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Barroom Bookshelf #2:
Burke’s Complete Cocktail and Tastybite Recipes

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The front cover of Burke's Complete Cocktail & Tastybite Recipes

I do not recall exactly when or where I got my copy of Burke’s Complete Cocktail & Tastybite Recipes, but I am sure that the term “tastybite” was a major factor in acquiring it.

Written in 1936 by Herman “Barney” Burke, this 8” book endeavours to detail the etiquette of mixing, serving and drinking beverages, with a  selection of cocktail foodbits recipes thrown in.

The author believes food and drink to be brothers and proclaims that, in consideration of their health, the wise drinker (and I’m not sure how many of those I have met) will accompany their cocktails with tastybites before, during & after the drink.

So it is clear that Mr. Burke certainly has his opinions and these are not restricted to the present; he has his views of the future too. Here are two of his predictions:

1) (The) cocktail period will probably pass to make way for (people) learning and enjoying drinks as connoisseurs.

2) US wine will (one day) be the best in the world.

Interestingly, you could definitely argue that the first one has come to pass; as for the second, well, I’ve had some nice Californian wines, but I’m far off making a definitive decision.

Burke’s is famous for containing one of the first written recipe of the Brandy Alexander but in addition to this the book contains recipes that I have not been able to find elsewhere (at least not without reference to this volume) so, in the name of experimentation, I tried a couple out:

Thunderbolt & Harvard Brandy Cocktail recipes – CLICK TO ENLARGE

1) Thunderbolt
Boom! This is a Thunderbolt. This golden, aptly named drink packs a punch, but its shaking means it’s got a little less edge than you might expect. I mixed this with Seagram’s Gin, Seagram’s Whisky and Brandy. It has a strong flavour but, like The Vesper, you’d only need one before dinner.

The Thunderbolt Cocktail

2) Harvard Brandy Cocktail
This has a sophisticated feel with a full flavour: a balance of herbs and spices. As this is stirred, it makes the drink that bit smoother and I think it makes a charming alternative to a Manhattan. The brandy and vermouth mix well, with the sugar syrup off-setting any bitterness, and the Angostura Bitters binds the drink together in its usual fashion.

The Harvard Brandy Cocktail

In Conclusion
Burke’s provides an extensive selection of cocktails and, more unusually, tastybite recipes. I haven’t focused on the latter so much, but the five types of caviar canapes are not to be missed. I also enjoyed Barney Burke’s insights and soothsaying of the bar world past, present and future, and the pages at the end for “Your own recipes” is a really nice touch.
Is the book essential for a fledgling vintage barroom bookshelf? No, but I am very glad it’s on mine.

A reprint of Burke’s Complete Cocktail & Tastybite Recipes is available from Createspace and Amazon and is currently priced, rather reasonably, under £10.

OR here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/35834544/1934-Burke-s-Complete-Cocktail-and-Tastybite-Recipe-by-Harman-Burney-Burke

Score: 3 stars

The East India Cocktail

The East India Cocktail

And its various variations


It was the name that first attracted me to The East India Cocktail; indeed, it seems that it is the unusual name that has kept this cocktail alive for so many years.
The drink has been around since the 19th Century and is mentioned by Harry Johnson in 1882 as being a favourite of the English living in various parts of East Africa. It is likely that the East India (also known as the Bengal) was created by an American bartender in one of the many American bars in one of the many grand hotels of the area.

From left to right: Recipe #1,#2, #3 and the Sloppy Joe.

 

But it is the many variations of this cocktail created over the years that truly holds my interest. In the following paragraphs, I shall look at four of these recipes in turn.

Recipe #1: Harry Johnson’s 1882 New and Improved Bartenders Manual – Stirred
1 tsp Red Curacao – (Hard to find, so I used clear)
1 tsp Pineapple Syrup
2 or 3 dashes of Boker’s Bitters (Again, hard to find, so I used Angostura)
2 dashes Maraschino
1 Wineglass of Brandy
STIR

This drink has a mellow smoothness with a sweetness that matches the rest of the drink and isn’t over-powering. All of the ingredients in the drink can be tasted, even the Maraschino. In comparison to the other variations, the golden clarity of this, because it isn’t shaken, reminds me more of the orient.

Recipe #2: Mr. Boston’s Mixed Drinks (1940) – Shaken
1 1/2 oz Brandy
1/2 tsp Pineapple Juice
1/2 tsp Curacao
1 tsp Jamaican Rum
1 dash Bitters

Notable differences are the transition to pineapple juice and the addition of Jamaican Rum. This drink was the least satisfying of the four, although shaking makes this drink very cold. This version is not as smooth as the first and is less sweet; but, really, it just lacks flavour.

Recipe #3: Vintage Cocktails & Spirits (2004) – Shaken
3 oz Brandy
1/2 oz Raspberry syrup
1 dash of Angostura Bitters
1 tsp Curacao
1 tsp Maraschino

A rather sweet and complex concoction, there really is a lot more going on in this recipe; it substitutes pineapple syrup for raspberry syrup, which changes the drink somewhat. It is more drinkable than the others and the raspberry and maraschino complement each other nicely. Despite all of this, I can’t help but have a nagging feeling whilst drinking it that I’m not being true to the original.

Recipe #4: Sloppy Joe from The Art of Mixing Drinks (1948) – Shaken
1 oz Port
1oz Cognac
2 oz Pineapple
1 dash of Grenadine & Curacao

I would be a terrible liar if I said that I was looking forward to this. Although not, in truth, an East India Cocktail, it shares some characteristics with it. Also, due to the high ratio of pineapple juice, David Embury suggests this may not actually be a cocktail, but I shall not wade into semantics.

Shaking the pineapple juice gives the drink an incredibly foamy head; surprisingly, the port and the pineapple work rather well together (never thought I’d say that!), but the brandy is lost. This is a very smooth drink and very, very different, but, with its creamy finish, is actually quite tasty. I wouldn’t advise using your best cognac, though.

The Future

There are some avenues of the East India Cocktail that I have not explored as of yet: the likes of the East India #2 and the West India Cocktail will have to wait for another day. In addition, with no olives to hand, I wasn’t able to try one of those as an alternative garnish in Johnson recipe; all of this will require further investigation, so watch this space…

If you enjoyed this article perhaps you might like Part Two.