Saturday, February 21, 2015


The name Sakura means cherry blossom or cherry blossom tree. Naturally the name has been used in many an anime. There are characters named Sakura in Naruto, Get Backers, Street Fighter, Pokemon, and many other manga and films. There's even a popular anime called Cardcaptor Sakura, and a slightly less popular one simply called Sakura. The name tends to symbolize blooming and maturing with time. They can symbolize clouds. They bloom quickly and suddenly and die a quick death. Partly for this reason, in World War II, the image of a cherry blossom was used as national propaganda to instill Japanese pride. They were even painted on the sides of kamikaze planes. 

1 oz. Gin
1 oz. Sake
1/2 oz. Lemon juice
1/4 oz. Grenadine
1/4 oz. Cherry Heering
2 dashes cherry bitters

Add all the ingredients to a mixing tin with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry or an edible flower.

I had in my head a flavor profile I wanted to try to create. I wanted a botanical feel as well as a sweetness of a light berry. I tinkered and tinkered with different ingredients. I tried Creme Yvette, acai liqueur, shochu, soju, flavored vodka, and everything felt too dominant or tart. I decided that gin alone created a good floral feel to the drink, but the proof was too high to make it a really dominant ingredient. In the liqueur store, I saw a gorgeous bottle of sake in a lovely pink hue that reminded me of the flowers. All that was left was the berry sweetness and color. Cherry Heering added the berry note but wasn't quite sweet enough and the color was a bit dark. Most people think grenadine is cherry juice anyway and it did add just the right touch of sweetness. 

This was just a cocktail I decided to make up. There are actually several signature cocktails around the globe that take the name sakura, or cherry blossom, like this, this, this, and this.

"I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees."
- Pablo Neruda

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Glassware: Beer Glasses

This is part of my series I'll be doing on different glassware and their functionality. Not only do different glasses naturally have their unique visual appeal but it's important that people know why these glasses have their shape so when people start creating their own drinks and cocktails they know the best vessel to keep the integrity of the drink intact or at least can understand how the drink might change due to the nature of the glass. 

Mug 6-35oz.

Steins, tankards, and mugs are the staple of all-day beer drinking. In German beer gardens and beer halls, a handled mug is a tradition. They hold a large amount of liquid and are great for walking around with. Beer vessels are traditionally made of glass, many mugs are ceramic. Stein translated roughly means stone. Traditional German steins are often made from pewter, porcelain, or even silver. Steins feature a pewter lid to keep insects out with a thumb handle for one-handed opening and drinking. Adding a handle or stem to a glass also allows the drink to remain colder as your body heat is not in as direct contact with the liquid. Most mugs and steins are adorned with decorations such as family crests and humorous slogans or images. Mugs are typically used with lighter beers like golden colored Oktoberfest beers.

Stange 6.5-10oz.
The stange or stangen glass is what some people call the purest beer glass. They are tall straight cylinders. This means that they more or less have the least influence on a beer's state. There are no engravings or curves to affect the smell or taste. They are used to bring out the flavors of the most delicate beers. It's said to amplify the malt and hops flavors. Many people will simply substitute this for a collins glass.

Pint Glass 16oz.

The conical pint glass is probably the most common type of glass found behind a bar, except for maybe wine glasses in some bars. These glasses are simple and multipurpose. These are also the type of glasses that fit best in a Boston shaker. They are often called mixing glasses. For this reason, the dimensions are very standardized. There's really nothing special about these glasses that best match any particular style of beer, but they certainly aren't the worst option for any style. Typically heavier beers don't receive the 16oz. portion size though. 

English Pub Glass (Nonic) 20oz.
These glasses are naturally a bit more popular in European-style bars and with European style beers. These glasses have slightly thinner glass than mixing glasses. They also feature a slight bulge an inch or two below the rim. This minor bulge does not affect the beer in any real discernible way. The main function is to make the glasses easily stackable even when slightly wet. Mixing glasses tend to suction and stick to each other when stacked. The bulge also helps the drinker grip the glass. Supposedly it also reduced the chances of the glass chipping around the rim. Again these glasses can be used for pretty much any style of beer.

Wheat Beer Glass (Weizen) 16-23oz.

Wheat beers tend to produce a lot of head, even when poured professionally. These glasses were designed to help with heady beer. Bubbles always start at the bottom of a glass. Head of course forms at the top of the glass. By creating a smaller bottom and wider mouth, it limits the height of the head. The rim bows inward to help trap the head making it nice and dense. The small base is necessary for bars so you don't have to keep stopping and starting your pour waiting for the head to settle. It also means that the beer will stay carbonated longer.

Pilsner Glass 10-23oz.
Weizen glasses and Pilsner glasses are often confused due to their very similar style and size. Pilsner glasses are often a bit more straight-edged in shape rather than curved. They also don't bow inward at the rim. This is to let the aroma out. Wheat beers tend to already have a potent smell. Pilsners are a bit more subtle and the outward flare helps the nose. Many smaller pilsner glasses have a foot to them, rather than a wider bottom. This is to again reduce the amount of head but maintain the balance of the glass.

Porter / Stout Glass / Goblet / Chalice 12-15oz.
These are typically smaller sizes than the traditional 16oz pour. This is because they tend to feature darker colored beer, which is often higher in proof and flavor. The elevated bowl creates a lovely visual presentation for observing the rich colors. They bow inward to create that dense creamy head. Many home drinkers will opt to use a brandy snifter in place of a dedicated goblet.

Tulip / Thistle Glass 13-18oz.
These are sort of the reverse of the Weizen glasses. Thistle glasses pinch in a bit lower on the glass. They resemble Scotland's national flower and are thus used for scotch type ales. The pinch helps concentrate the aroma and the flared rim allows for a concentrated head. The stem also helps to keep the beer colder. They are very good all-purpose glasses for almost any craft beer. Tulip glasses are used predominantly for Belgian style beers.  

Ein Zwei Drei Vier. Lift your stein and drink your beer. 

Photo Credit: Pikist, pikrepo, pxfuel, Wikimedia, needpix

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Glassware: Wine Glasses

This is my first installment in a series I'll be doing on different glassware and their functionality. Not only do different glasses naturally have their unique visual appeal but it's important that people know why these glasses have their shape so when people start creating their own drinks and cocktails they know the best vessel to keep the integrity of the drink intact or at least can understand how the drink might change due to the nature of the glass. 

White wine glasses are the staple that you will find in most restaurants and homes. These are the icons. They are the most common, arguably the most versatile, and best known. These glasses have a slight bowl shape but are generally more straight than a red wine glass. White wine glasses are generally more about the visual appeal of the wine rather than, say, aroma. The slightly straighter walls also seem to help with the wine's "legs" or "tears". When a wine is swirled around a glass some of it clings to the walls of the glass even after the majority of the liquid has settled. The liquid bunches up like beads of sweat and drips down. With practice, by observing these lines you can get an impression of the alcohol and sugar content of the wine before it even touches your lips. 

A red wine glass has a wider body more for the way that it is exposed to the air. The large bowl shape resembles that of a brandy snifter. This allows the wine to breathe or oxidize. You've probably seen wine decanters with an incredibly wide base. The air actually changes the flavor of the wine. If you've ever done a wine tasting or dealt with a wine enthusiast you've probably tasted a glass or wine and then been made to wait a half hour while it breathes and note the differences. Another note about the shape of red wine glasses is the sharp beveling in at the rim of the glass. This is to trap the aroma. an open or flared lip would allow all the aroma to escape out, which can be helpful with stronger alcohols. the inward bowl makes it much easier to smell the wine. White wine being chilled places much less emphasis on aroma.

The champagne coupe has a very long history and these days the style of glass is used for a number of cocktails, often in place of a martini glass. There's a very humorous story of the original shape of the coupe being modeled after Marie Antoinette's breast. This was disproved by some researcher with a bit too much time who estimated that Marie was a large C cup, and a coupe is not a large C. Some said it was Madame de Pompadour. The glass most likely originated in the mid 17th century a century before these women were born, though they were avid champagne drinkers. Aristocracy and royalty were obsessed with champagne; it's fabulous for parties. The glass is ideal for stacking so one can make a champagne tower. 

The champagne flute is very traditional for when you are sipping champagne. The wider bodied coupe was sort of designed to cause the champagne to go flat. Bubbles form on the bottom of a glass. The wider the glass the more bubbles are released. Champagne in a coupe will go flat faster than it would in a flute. Coupes were partly popular at parties because they reduced the amount of belching from the carbonation. These days flutes have really become the norm due to the most consistent nature of the drink as you drink it and the beautiful visual effect of bubbles rising through the tall glass. 

Stemless wine glasses have been on the rise over the last few years. Stems are ideal for keeping wine at the desired temperature. Aside from most red wines, Wine is served chilled and should stay chilled as long as possible. If you're wrapping your warm, meaty hands around the bowl of the glass it's going to heat up a lot more than if you hold it by the stem. It really is a fashion choice, however. The correct way to drink is in whatever way makes you happiest.

"Whenever I get a bottle of wine, I open it up and let it breathe. If it's not breathing I give it mouth to mouth."

Photo Credit: Pxfuel

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Vodka 401: Evolution of a Cocktail: The Cosmopolitan

The Cosmopolitan has a crazy history building up to the drink we know today.

The Cape Codder could be called a jumping off point for the Cosmopolitan. The Cape Codder was just a highball with vodka and cranberry with a lime wedge. It was made in 1945 as a promotion for Ocean Spray cranberry juice. The elements are clearly there for a Cosmo to come about, but the style still had a way to go.

The Harpoon seems to be the successor of the Cape Codder and a precursor to the Cosmopolitan. Some served it as a highball but for many it was 1 1/2 oz. Russian Vodka, 2 oz. Cranberry Juice, 1/4 oz. Lime Juice, and was shaken and served in a cocktail glass. The Harpoon was one of the first serious American vodka cocktails. Vodka really didn't start coming over to the States until the forties, after The Second World War. The Harpoon was first made in the 60's. You can see by the recipe, it's 3 out of 4 of the ingredients of a staple Cosmo. It's certainly a lot tarter and less sweet. But the style is there. The drink is shaken with the fresh lime juice so it has that presentation. the slightly opaque pink hue in a sexy glass. And that's really what the Cosmopolitan really is, it's an icon.

The Kamikaze is another drink that's sort of three-quarters the way to the modern Cosmo. It's vodka, triple sec, and lime. Throw in a little cranberry and there you have it. The Kamikaze has been served all sorts of ways, up, on the rocks, and namely as a shot these days. Neal Murray is one of many to claim to have invented the Cosmopolitan. He reportedly added some cranberry to a Kamikaze and one of his customers remarked, "How Cosmopolitan." This was back in '75. 

The exact origins of the cosmopolitan, as we know it, are a bit up to speculation. A drink named the cosmopolitan did exist in the 1930's, but it used gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, and raspberry syrup. The base Cosmo as we know it probably came around in the mid to late 70's. There are numerous claims as to who first made it up. Toby Cecchini might have made up the current recipe at the Odeon in '88. The cosmopolitan with flavored vodka came about when Absolut was testing out Citron in Miami and a bartender by the name of Cheryl Cook in the mid-80's. Another story of its origin comes from Miami, this one from 1989 again as a plug for Absolut. There are also numerous murmurs of it being created in the 70's by the gay community in Provincetown Massachusetts, coincidentally where I used to vacation every summer, and probably spread to San Francisco or vice versa. Reportedly, however, the Cosmo of the gay bars was a ghastly drink with well vodka and Rose's lime and grenadine. In its later iterations, it began using fresh juice and more premium ingredients. 

I pay much respect to Dale Degroff, aka King Cocktail, for breathing new life into this classic cocktail, though he was certainly not its true inventor. He was the owner of Rainbow Room in New York atop Rockefeller Center. His recipe is 1 1/2 oz Citrus Vodka (Ketel One Citroen or Absolut Citron), 3/4 oz Cointreau, 1 oz cranberry juice, 1/4 oz fresh lime juice. I like the use of fresh lime juice rather than Rose's. This makes the drink a gorgeous opaque pink. If you think of a Cosmo as a sweet transparent red drink, you've not had a fresh one. The true flair he added was the garnish, a flamed orange peel. That sharp burst of fire drew quite a crowd. Even Madonna was photographed drinking it which spread the word of the drink around the world and probably led to it being featured on Sex and the City where is got a second burst of popularity. 

Miranda Hobbes: [at a bar, drinking Cosmopolitans] "Why did we ever stop drinking these?"
Carrie Bradshaw: "Because everyone else started!"

Photo Credit: Wikimedia