Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The best wedding task ever!

One of the many chores of planning our wedding is selecting the appropriate "signature" his & hers cocktails. It ranks somewhere between stuffing boxes with fake grass and, um, well, it was a lot more fun than most of the wedding chores. And it continues to be...!

The process began a few months ago when Sarah exclaimed, "My drink is going to be a Watermelon Mojito! What's yours going to be?" Um, ah, hmmm, um...

Jason started his quest by picking up the January issue of San Francisco magazine, which was titled "Cocktail Heaven." (Ahh, if only...) Anyway, they reviewed a bunch of cocktails from local bars and restaurants, and he honed in on the cocktail featured on the cover, the Añejo daiquiri from Coco500 (yes, it's very manly with that little ~ above the "n," isn't it?). Although his brother balked at a "his" cocktail with the word "daiquiri" in it, he persevered.

But let's start at the beginning.

Jason is a Manhattan man. No, not the island. The drink. He likes bourbon. He once coordinated a guys weekend in Kentucky just so the boys could travel the bourbon trail - Kentucky's answer to Silverado Trail. But, would a Manhattan - all bourbon with a splash of sweet vermouth - be appropriate for an afternoon, outdoor wedding? Probably not, unless we wanted everyone sleeping by 6 PM. So he persevered.

How about a gimlet? That refreshing (nutritional?) combination of gin and lime juice. That's a good drink, but it has to be different. A plain gimlet as a "signature" cocktail isn't a signature at all. It's an "X" written in crayon. Pedantic. Pedestrian. What adds that "refreshing" quality to a drink? How about cucumber?

Jason started a science project in the kitchen to develop the best cucumber gimlet known to Pacifica, CA (OK, probably the only cucumber-based cocktail in Pacifica!).

There were three variations:
  1. gin, lime, sugar, and muddled cucumber
  2. gin, lime, sugar, and cucumber juice (puree cuke then strain)
  3. gin, lime, and cucumber-infused simple syrup
As you can imagine, the differences were massive. #1 was fine, but with little cucumber flavor transfer. #3 took way too long to make, and the cucumber simple syrup had a fuzzy crust of mold on top by day two, and although some of our friends could probably use the extra penicillin, we had second thoughts. #2, however (after four or five glasses) is now firmly planted in Jason's drink repertoire for all of eternity! It was fantastic! But, was it good enough for the big day? Unsure, Jason persevered.

When it comes to cocktails, Jason is also a martini man. (Well, a vodka martini man, which, in some circles, is better know as a martini woman.) There's nothing like a crisp, clean, cold shaken (shuck?) vodka martini on a warm summer's eve. But, a suitable wedding cocktail can't just be a plain old martini, especially when paired against a watermelon mojito. It needs some punch, some pizazz. So Jason persevered.

Currently festering on our kitchen counter is both lemongrass vodka and cucumber vodka. One recipe called for 48 hours of steeping, another called for three weeks! So, after about two weeks of steeping, you'll have to check back later to see the results of that experiment.

But let's get back to the daiquiri.

At first glance, Jason was smitten. (Kind of like he was with Sarah, only more so! How fitting for our wedding cocktail!) The aged rum is reminiscent of bourbon, but lighter and less alcohol-ish. The lime juice adds that summery tang, and the sugar sweetens it all up.

Now, we should let the record show that we didn't have ground evaporated cane sugar and had to substitute powdered sugar. But we did have freshly squeezed lime juice and 12-year-old rum!

Mmmmmmmm! Fantastic! But could it be better? Well, we just had to go to Coco500 and try the real thing. Yeah, we had to sit through asparagus salad, duck liver terrine, spice-rubbed pork tenderloin, and braised beef cheeks, but we persevered.

You know, it was disappointing, - like seeing the wizard behind the curtain. Coco500's version of their own drink wasn't as good as our homemade version. Hmmm. What kind of screwed-up Pittsburgh math is that? We're not sure, but maybe it's the rum, or maybe it's the Safeway powdered sugar vs. the ground evaporated cane sugar. Jason thinks that we need to test out another rum-bottle's worth at home, just to perfect it...

See the recipe below, straight from San Francisco mag. Click here for the full article, and 11 other Frisco cocktails (all worthy of experimentation, we're sure).

And we continue to persevere! Don't forget that we have some vodka infusions going strong. And, we had one basil gimlet that we felt was too close to a mojito, but which our buddy, Frank, highly recommended that we revisit. And there's always IC Light!

Ah, the lengths to which we go to make sure our wedding guest are happy... ;-)

Añejo daiquiri at Coco500

Bartender: Scott Baird

Inventor: Jennings Cox, Daiquiri, Cuba, 1896. Cox ran out of gin while hosting a group of prominent Americans, so he mixed rum with lime juice and sugar, creating the first daiquiri. Over the years, lighter rums have unquestionably been the rums of choice for the drink. Baird, in a smart leap of faith, altered over a cen­tury of tradition when he made his with aged rum.

1¾ ounces Pampero Aniversario rum
¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
4½ teaspoons ground organic evaporated cane sugar

To make ground sugar:grind organic raw sugar (avoid turbinado and other dark varieties) in a standard coffee grinder until it turns into a fine, soft powder.

Add sugar and lime to a mixing glass and stir with a bar spoon for approximately 20 revolutions. Add ice and rum and shake hard for 10 full seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lime wheel.

Tip: “When I say shake hard, I mean it,” says Baird. “Don’t throw your back out, but use two hands and give the cocktail a healthy mix.”