Friday, January 23, 2009
Whole Grain Mixology
After relentless pressure from some of my fellow cocktail enthusiasts, I’ve finally pulled together my first batch of homemade falernum. Over the past year or so I’ve made many batches of various syrups, but this is my first dance with the Big F.
Like many who have gone before me, I decided to use Paul Clarke's venerable "#8" recipe. This particular recipe seems to have become the go-to blueprint for first-time falernum-makers, so who am I to buck a trend? (Actually, I buck trends pretty frequently, but anyway…) I’ll paste it here, but I strongly suggest you zip over to Paul’s site and check out the original post to get the full scoop and read the comments.
- 6 ounces Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum
- zest of 9 medium limes, removed with a microplane grater or sharp vegetable peeler, with no traces of white pith
- 40 whole cloves (buy fresh ones — not the cloves that have been in your spice rack since last Christmas)
- 1 1/2 ounce, by weight, peeled, julienned fresh ginger
Combine these ingredients in a jar and seal, letting the mixture soak for 24 hours. Then, strain through moistened cheesecloth, squeezing the solids to extract the last, flavorful bits of liquid.
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 14 ounces cold process 2:1 simple syrup (two parts sugar to one part water, shaken in a jar or bottle WITHOUT HEAT until all the sugar is dissolved)
- 4 1/2 ounces fresh, strained lime juice
Shake it all together and serve.
Normally I’m a “learn the rules before you break them“ kinda guy, but in this case I took a couple teeny liberties right out of the gate:
~ I didn’t use cold-process simple syrup
~ I didn’t use fresh cloves (but I did “rejuvenate” them with a light grind in a mortar & pestle)
These slight deviations didn’t seem to louse anything up. The final product ended up being wonderfully bright-tasting, citrusy, sweet and spicy. Just to satisfy my curiosity, I did a side-by-side taste test with a bottled brand, and the difference is shocking. The homemade stuff is profoundly better in so many ways, and given how easy it is to make, I’m pretty sure I’ll be opting for it over store-bought most of the time.
~ Rather than using cheesecloth, I used a flat-bottomed tea strainer. This allowed me to use a muddler to really mash the daylights out of the solids and get virtually 100% of the liquid loose.
Granted, I’m not distilling my own spirits or growing my own garnishes yet, but this is a step in the right direction. I’ve been observing other booze nerds concocting their own ingredients for awhile now, and I have to say I can see the appeal now that I’ve done likewise. I have an affinity for handmade, artisinal stuff, and cocktail crafting is clearly an arena where that approach really pays big dividends.
And now that I had a decent amount of a nifty-tasting, just-made cocktail ingredient, I immediately began casting around for a fun way to use it. Here’s something I came up with that I liked pretty well:
2 oz. sake (I used Momokawa Diamond)
1 oz. homemade falernum
.25 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Shake well w/ ice and strain into ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish w/ slice of honeydew melon.
It’s my understanding that shima means “island” in Japanese, so I figure the name is appropriate given the two main ingredients. Sake and falernum may seem like an odd combo, but the Diamond is on the drier end of the spectrum and has noticeable fruit tones, (particularly melon) so I think it pairs well with the falernum. It’s also easy to calibrate to your taste- if you want the sake to come through a bit more, just pull back on the falernum...and vice-versa if you want it a bit sweeter.
Next time…hemp underwear!