Thursday, 13 June 2013

Practice makes perfect punch

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a lot to learn when it comes to the art of mixing great cocktails. I’ve only made one phenomenal libation off the top of my head, and that occurred three days ago, when I combined st germain (elderflower liqueur), Bulliet rye whiskey and lime juice. The balance was just right.

I’ve learned something from making this punch: Follow the recipe. I tried Jen Aggs version from the great book How to Host a Dinner Party by Corey Mintz. I should have put myself entirely in her hands, since Agg is the mastermind behind the Black Hoof’s cocktail menu and has years of experience as a bartender and restauranter. Instead, I was lazy about getting all the ingredients I needed and just went ahead and made a few substitutions. Needless to say, it didn’t work at all! The liquor was sickeningly sweet, and the citrus too sour. It was a headache in a glass.

In the St Germain bartending booklet that came with the bottle, they wrote, “Truly impressive cocktail making is anchored by the art of balancing flavors and subtleties. Take the time to measure each and every ingredient. Exactement! Your guests will pay notice, to be sure. Free your mind, not your pour.” Agg also wrote in the recipe, “Once you’ve got the hang of this, you can experiment with the ingredients, so long as you stick to the ratios. What you could do is take out the mint or the spiced rum, or have all gin and no rum or you could switch out the citrus. You could just do lemon and orange. You can take anything out so long and you replace it with something that adds the same character.” This is where I went wrong.

Punch has always seemed so easy to me. Just pour a bunch of stuff in a bowl and voila! I’ve learned that making punch taste seamless involves “exactement”, since punch recipes can involve the mingling of 10-15 different elements.

Here is the original recipe with my substitutions in brackets (Serves 4)

1 lemon, zest of
1 orange, zest of (I used tangerines ughh)
2 oz gin
3 oz rum (I used a maple spiced rum – extra sweet)
2 oz spiced rum (I used Grand Marnier)
2 sprigs of mint
1 oz Crème de Casis (or simple syrup, fruit puree, maple syrup – I used maple syrup)
4 oz ginger ale
4 oz club soda
2 oz lemon juice
2 oz lime juice
4 oz of orange juice (I didn’t have oranges so I just used more grapefruit juice)
4 oz of grapefruit juice
5 dashes Pechauds Bitters (I used Fee Brothers Peach Bitters)
6 oz of Sparkling wine.

In a mason jar, combine all the liquor and zest and let sit in the fridge for 1-3 days. Strain.
Have all the ingredients chilled to start. Rub the inside of the jar with the mint sprigs. Pour the liquors in. Add the crème de casis, the sodas, and the juices. Stir.
To finish add the bitter and sparkling wine. Stir and top with fresh mint.

I’ll let you know how my next batch of punch goes!

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