Friday, July 30, 2010

Exhibit #37: Ode to Obscurity

August 1 & 8, 9pm-close, at the bar
(pictured: The Blue Bouquet)

This week's drinks all feature the obscure ingredient Swedish Punsch. Although still bottled commercially in Sweden, it is only imported into a few states in the US. Undeterred, your curator has tracked down a traditional recipe and the necessary, almost as obscure, ingredients to make our own. It begins with Batavian Arrack from Java, not to be confused with the anise-flavored Arak of the Middle East. Arrack is related to rum, as it is also a sugarcane-based spirit, but in Java the fermentation process is jump-started with fermented red rice and pot distilled. The resulting spirit is earthy, full of funk and smoke, and usually clocks in at a higher proof than most rums. To make Swedish Punsch, lemon slices are steeped for 8 hours in a blend of Arrack and higher-grade Caribbean rums, filtered, then combined with a black tea syrup spiced with white cardamom. In Scandanavia the beverage is often drunk straight, on the rocks, or in winter is served warm, traditionally with a bowl of pea soup. Personally I find it too sweet and thick to drink alone, but it does make for a fine, albeit unusual, cocktail ingredient. Of course, given its obscurity, the drinks that employ it are few, and often of European lineage. Most of these drinks come from the Cafe Royal cocktail book, published by the UK Bartenders' Guild nearly 100 years ago. Traditionally served up, but given the strong flavors they can stand up well to ice, so it's perfectly acceptable to order them on the rocks instead.

After Dinner Special $6.50
Two parts Swedish Punsch to one part each Heering cherry liqueur and lime juice, up. A battle to the death between the sweet and tart. Earthy and deep.

Blue Bouquet $5
(pictured) It looks like something you'd take for an upset stomach. Or dandruff shampoo. While not awful, this is not an easy cocktail by any stretch, but is just too wonderfully bizarre to not offer: equal parts dry gin, blue curacao, and cream, with a bit of Punsch, up.

Boomerang Cocktail $6
Equal parts rye whiskey, Punsch, and dry vermouth, with dashes of lemon juice and Angostura, up. Semi-dry and a flavor profile more in line with classic American cocktails, kinda like a bizarro world Manhattan. Rye whiskey dances well with the Punsch.

C.F.H. Cocktail $7

Along with the Doctor Cocktail below, one of the most approachable of the Punsch cocktails: two parts dry gin to one part each Punsch, Calvados, lemon juice, and pomegranate syrup, up. CFH was no doubt a Cafe Royal patron, but his or her identity has been lost to the mists of time.

Devil's Leap $6
Equal parts Punsch, light rum, and applejack, up. Boozy! There are a whole group of drinks with these same ingredients in slightly different proportions and with similarly dire nomenclature: the Roulette, the Six Feet Under, and... the Yo Ho Ho Cocktail.

Doctor Cocktail $7
Two parts Jamaican rum (Smith & Cross trad pot still, navy strength) to one part each Punsch and lime juice. Essentially a Daiquiri with Punsch stepping in for the sugar. This drink made me glad I went to the trouble of making the Punsch... delicious and smoky.

Tangier Nights $7
Cognac and Punsch with a bit of creme de menthe, up. The brandy makes for a nice contrast here.

Volstead Cocktail $6
Rye whiskey, Punsch, orange juice, pomegranate syrup and Brizard anisette liqueur. Sweet, but compelling and complex.

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