Monday, September 12, 2011

One (or two) For The Road


It's been a fun couple of weeks for Dr. Bamboo's Mystical Traveling Bar and Road Show. For two consecutive Fridays I've loaded the Bamboo Wagon full of spirits, mixers, barware, ice and other drink-making paraphernalia in order to bring cocktails to the masses. It's a great way to evangelize good drinking and also field test which booze-hauling methods work best (initially documented here.

First up, I had the pleasure of spending a few hours making drinks for the thirsty crowd at Gallerie Chiz. The Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators celebrated the opening night of their cocktail-themed show "Drawing Under the Influence", and the group decided to supplement the usual beverage offerings with freshly-made cocktails. I was helped immeasurably by the efforts of Nathan Lutchansky, Pittsburgh-based spirits expert and proprietor of the PLCB User's Group site, which documents the ever-changing and seemingly logic-free universe of alcohol sales in Pennsylvania. Nathan graciously donated his Friday night to help keep the gallery goers well-lubricated by wielding both his considerable bartending knowledge and his Shaker of Ultimate Power, which is one of the largest pieces of drink-making equipment I've ever laid eyes on. I'd love to get one just like it, but I would have to call it something else, since two Shakers of Ultimate Power existing at the same time just doesn't sound right.

The event was a success, and I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the generous product donations from Hiram Walker and award-winning locally-made vodka Boyd & Blair that made our cocktail menu possible. Speaking of the cocktail menu, here's one of the drinks we served up, created by Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators member Gina Antognoli Scanlon:

Gina's Grapefruitini (as served at the DUI opening)

3 parts Freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
2 parts Boyd & Blair Vodka
1 part Rosemary simple syrup

Shake well with ice and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a small rosemary sprig

Rosemary syrup: Combine one cup water and one cup sugar with two sprigs of rosemary. Heat on stove on low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove rosemary and store in refrigerator until cool.

(if you want a more pronounced rosemary flavor, leave the sprigs to steep in the syrup for at least a half-hour before removing).

The second event was the "Quickie Cocktail Class", which takes place each month at the Pittsburgh Public Market. Chef and local-food enthusiast Elizabeth Schandelmeier Gilgunn invited me to help create and serve an array of cocktails showcasing local ingredients, and as luck would have it, the PPM was celebrating its 1st Birthday, so everyone was feeling festive (which is code for "in a drinkin' mood").

Despite temperatures in the 90's, we soldiered on and delivered cool, rejuvenating cocktails to the attendees. This one was a crowd favorite, and turned out to be an ideal choice for a wickedly hot and humid late Summer afternoon:

Watermelon SMASH

3 oz. Watermelon/lemon balm puree
2 oz. Boyd & Blair Vodka
.5 oz. Mint simple syrup

Shake well with ice and strain into a double old-fashioned glass filed with crushed ice. If you're feeling adventurous, take half a lime, scoop out the pulp, and place round-side down on top of the ice. Fill with a small amount of overproof liquor and light on fire.

Elizabeth offers up the following recipes to make this drink complete:

Watermelon puree:

One lovely baby watermelon, sweet and in season
A bunch of lemon balm or lemon verbena, leaves only

Peel and cut your watermelon into chunks (remove seeds, if you’ve got ‘em. Put watermelon and herbs into a food processor, pulse a few moments and then run on full speed until smooth.

Mint syrup:

1 cup sugar (I use raw)
1 cup water
Big bunch of mint (I used a variety called Kentucky Mint)

Add sugar and water to a big-enough pot and bring to a boil, stir until sugar dissolves. Lower heat to a slow simmer and reduce until desired consistency is achieved (this will depend on what you are doing with the syrup; thinner is better for things like candied fruit rinds, thicker is better for things like sweet cocktails). A thin syrup is ready after 10 minutes or so, a nice thick syrup is achieved after reducing approximately 45 minutes. (Oh yeah, don’t let this stuff burn! Remember, we are not making candy and burnt sugar STICKS!) When your syrup is ready, turn off heat and add your mint. Cool to room temperature. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. The longer the herbs sit in the syrup, the stronger the flavor. Strain syrup before using.

For additional drink recipes and info and photos, check out this post over at Elizabeth's site Let's Blog About Food.

Where will the mobile hooch stand turn up next? Only Dr. Bamboo knows for certain.


Sunny&Rummy said...

The Watermelon SMASH looks refreshing, but I think you might be missing a decimal on the mint simple syrup amount. Five ounces of simple might be just a tad on the sweet side :-)

Dr. Bamboo said...

Whoops! Thanks for the's been corrected. Maybe I should hire a proofreader (or drink less while I'm posting).