Monday, March 17, 2008

Identity Crisis



I’ve noticed a fine tradition among many boozebloggers is to try a recipe and then tinker with it to suit their personal taste. I’ve done this occasionally, but more often than not, I tend to be happy with the initial results yielded by most recipes. I take this to mean one of two things:

1) I’m fairly lucky when selecting a particular recipe
2) I’ve got pretty low standards

Regardless, when I was looking for a high-octane drink to try out for this month’s MxMo (kindly hosted by Rick over at Kaiser Penguin), I figured I wouldn’t have too much difficulty finding something tasty and interesting. I scrounged up a candidate in Alex Barker’s 1001 Cocktails, and here’s the recipe exactly as it appears in the book:

Indian Summer

1 measure vodka
2 measures Kahlua
1 measure gin
2 measures pineapple
tonic water

1) Shake the first four ingredients well over ice until frosted.
2) Strain into a medium cocktail glass or wine glass and top up with tonic water to taste.

(I took “measure” to mean “ounce” in order to satisfy the minimum alcohol content requirement)

The tinkering began immediately. I felt that instead of straining it into a cocktail/wine glass, this drink needed to be served over crushed ice in a double-rocks glass (if for no other reason than a double-rocks would be able to hold more). Other than that, I prepared it as indicated.

It was, well, okay. Tasty? Sort of. Interesting? Not terribly. The Kahlua and pineapple completely dominated. It was also too sweet for my liking, so I wanted to get some tartness happening. I knocked a half-ounce off the Kahlua & pineapple juice, upped the gin to 1 1/2 ounces and added ¾ ounce of lime juice, resulting in this:

Something Like The Indian Summer

1 oz. vodka
1 1/2 Kahlua
1 1/2 oz. gin
1 1/2 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
¾ oz. lime juice
tonic water

Again, I shook everything and poured it over crushed ice in a double-rocks glass, topping with tonic water. This time around the balance was better, but it still tasted primarily of Kahlua & pineapple. An improvement, but it still wasn’t doing much for me overall.

Here’s where I kinda went off the rails and realized my obsessive fiddling would be taking this drink somewhere it never intended to be. First, the tonic water seemed unnecessary- it really didn’t add anything, and it just seemed to thin the flavors, so I left that out. Second, I scaled the Kahlua back another half-ounce. Third, I eliminated the vodka and substituted one ounce of rum.

The rum I chose was Brugal anejo. I’ve had a bottle for while now, and I have yet to use it in something where I’ve liked it much. To me, it has a bit of a harsh bite that I have a tough time getting past…but bite was exactly what this drink was lacking. I also threw in a couple dashes of Angostura bitters to pull things together.

So now I had this:

Something That Really Isn’t The Indian Summer Anymore

1 ½ oz. gin
1 oz. rum (Brugal anejo)
1 oz. Kahlua
1 ½ oz unsweetened pineapple juice
¾ oz. lime juice
2 hearty dashes of Angostura bitters

I shook it all and once more used the trusty double-rocks/crushed ice combo. And I actually didn’t think it turned out too bad. The rum and bitters give it some decent spice, and the ingredients seem to level out much better. It’s got some depth, and I like it.

Keen-eyed readers will of course notice this haphazard concoction is seriously verging on tiki territory (if it isn’t already there). For all I know, there may be actually be a tiki-style drink that uses this exact combination of ingredients- I’ll have to check that out sometime. Either way, I don’t think I’m quite done fiddling yet. Perhaps a few drops of mint bitters might be in order…


Blair, aka Trader Tiki said...

Maybe you can make another one called the "Indian Somewhat".

Looks good, I'll have to give that last one a shot!

Colonel Tiki said...

Nifty! I find that the sweetness of kahlua really needs the balance of some sour for tiki drinks. I love the bottom long note and finish that a coffee adds to tiki: I'll usualy make an espresso syrup which I use in a few drinks.

I particulary like lime+pineapple+coffee (+ vanilla modifyer) together with a mix of balancing rums.

Doug Winship said...

First of all, bravo on the illustration. Every post you make, I get jealous of what you can do!

Secondly, what does this look like? And do the Indian Summer, and Really Not an Indian Summer look alike?

Dr. Bamboo said...

Blair- I like "Indian Somewhat". It's cryptic...and appropriate!

Craig- Great suggestion on adding vanilla to the equation. I just bought a bottle of Licor 43 to make a Silver Lining (recipe over at Keith Waldbauer's site), so I'm armed and ready.

Doug- Thanks for the kind words...who knew making booze-centric pictures could be so fun?

From what I remember, the color for these drinks falls somewhere in the deep amber range (think Mai Tai, but a couple shades darker).

keith waldbauer said...

substituting vodka for ANYTHING is generally a good move... i'd think you'd be on the right track... the flavors, at least intellectually, sound appealing together...

nerdling said...

You're a braver man than I, Dr. B—Kahlua and pineapple would've turned my head in the opposite direction!

Dr. Bamboo said...

Keith- like you, I often look at recipes that call for vodka and think, "Hmmmm...there's got to something more interesting I can use here!"

Marleigh- Kahlua & pineapple is actually not a bad flavor combo (IMHO). You just need to be judicious with the respective amounts and work in something to cut the sweetness.

Anonymous said...

I just picked up some Brugal and have been looking for something to use it in. I'll have to give the last version a try.