Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A Metropolitan, made by Andrew Winters at The Exhibition Room Long Beach
I'm excited about what I am about to discuss. I was talking with a friend of mine Benito QuiƱonez (he is a legend in the spirits industry, and a wonderful human being, I am proud to call him my friend) about Brandy and Sherry. We both had noticed that there was a surprising a lack of utilization of Brandy and Sherry in craft or cocktails classic cocktails in the US. Now I know, all of you who have done any research or study into the subject of classic cocktails know that the impetus and creation of what we understand to be cocktails hinges pretty squarely on Brandy and on Sherry (you could add rum to this also). Easily some of the most popular drinks that ever existed historically were created utilizing one or the other of these and most of the drinks that rose up afterward to join that historical pantheon were based on those same drinks. The Cobbler, the Flip, the Sour, the Daisy, the Crusta, Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs, etcetera, etcetera, et al. Before that, there were punches (which brings up the rum again) which also famously utilized Brand and Sherry in their structure. Today, when you go into a craft cocktail bar, it is surprising if they have more than one Brandy or one Sherry available and usually, it's an extensively aged or a higher-end that is more likely to be lost or greatly diminished by making a cocktail with it. I'll go so far as to say what is considered a beautiful aged spirit or a subtle/complex fortified wine will MORE OFTEN THAN NOT ruin a cocktail and simultaneously make it ridiculously cost prohibitive; rather than enlarged or beautified by being in the cocktail, it is broken, subdued or completely out of balance. So Benito and I were talking about this (you can see how easily I am caught up in this discussion). There are seriously magnificent cocktails that aren't being enjoyed because: a) the prohibitive cost of using aged Brandy or Fine Sherry. b) the appalling flavor conflict and lack of balance from using ancient spirits. and c) the agist or twee notion that Brandy and Sherry are to be sipped by the elderly or posh. Of course, if you factor in the reality that's something that has been aged, blended and produced specifically to be sipped on its own, is very likely not going to stand up to the pressures of complicated ingredients utilized in craft cocktails this all makes sense. For instance a very famous Brandy cocktail a Sidecar is basically lemon juice, orange liqueur, and Brandy; that's a strong acid, a sweet liqueur and a spirit that better be able to stand up for itself. I'm quite sure you recognize the 'recipe' formula already. Now if you take something like that and you make it with an aged spirit or Sherry it's going to be flabby, dusty, broken, uninteresting and it's going to convey all of the wrong things and none of the freshness or vitality necessary to be enjoyed as it is intended. Or, take another classic Brandy cocktail like the Metropolitan and you build it with an ancient Brandy and you'll see how easy it is overwhelmed by the vermouth and the bitters. In the countries where Brandy and Sherry are famously made and generously consumed you will notice something specific about how they are drunk. There'll be a younger Brandy or Sherry and it will be mixed with soda or tonic or fruit juice in a highball, the same way that we would take a rum, gin, whiskey or even vodka and make a casual drink, or elevate it into a craft cocktail. They will sip on a more aged brandy or a richer, more advanced/intricate sherry but make cocktails with younger brandy and fino or cream sherry because those ingredients can dance with the strong flavors instead of fighting. So for the next couple of inserts that I'm going to put into my blog, I'm going to address several inexpensive Brandy's that you can utilize in a cocktail very easily and each one of them I will try a couple of different ways so that those of you who are following along at home can get a really good sense of how to use Brandy's and what kind of recipes to use for cocktails. I will also, try to get some sherry and do the same thing
So until next week, I lift my glass to you in a toast my friends. Be good to one another, love one another, share your kindness, your sweetness, and possibly a beverage with someone!