Proposed by: David
Reviewed by: Jonathan
Let me part the curtains and take you behind the scenes here at A Drink With My Brother (the Chicago end, anyway). I’m sure you wonder about the origins of these crazy selections.
Whether you do or not, however, picture this. It’s last Saturday afternoon, around two-thirty, and I’m wondering if I’ll look like a boozehound if I start the cocktail Jonathan has proposed, for which I believe I have all the ingredients. “By the time I gather the parts and set up the photograph,” I tell myself, “it will be nearly three.”
Then I discover a. my wife is still drinking tea and isn’t ready to let day slide into evening, b. hey, there’s supposed to be food, this isn’t just about knocking a couple back, you know, and c. actually, turns out, I have nearly all the ingredients.
A walk to a nearby grocery provides a delay for my wife to drink her tea and gives me time to consider this project Jonathan and I have undertaken. Once again I ask myself whether the whole remote cocktail club thing is really just an elaborate ruse to avoid facing a growing drinking problem.
“Nah,” I decide.
Then I turn to my next worry—what about next week?
I much prefer weeks, like this one, where I’m off the hook for choosing what’s next. I enjoy making Jonathan’s cocktails and tasting them, but not only does reviewing drinks tax my flavor vocabulary but also comes with the more nervous element for me, finding something that won’t make my brother (and other intrepid followers of this blog) howl.
Sometimes the spirit starts the search. Sometimes it’s an article in the Tribune describing—never specifically enough—a concoction at a local restaurant. Sometimes it’s a recently neglected spirit. Sometimes it’s the season, the situation, or a bottle gathering dust that really needs another use. Whatever it is, though, it’s hard. I usually decide and undecide about five times before finally screwing my courage to the sticking place and all that.
Back to last weekend: my walk takes me past almost bare trees and into those Chicago gusts that tell you clothes are actually permeable and little protection from the elements. I think of a warm drink, but that seems premature. Living in Chicago, I know I’ll need heat later. So I consider something spicy. Mezcal is out, as it’s in the The Great Calabaza, then I remember the smoked paprika from Istanbul one of my son’s friends, Joe Girton, gave us when he visited with my son last spring… and a weird cocktail calling for paprika.
I don’t recall the sage. I forget about the maple syrup. But that’s how I discover this week’s choice. Later, when I look online, I discover this description:
Smoke can be imparted in any number of ways. Some of the cool guy bartenders out there have taken to cold smoking their ice, while others infuse smoke directly into the cocktail using handheld smokers. The Medicine Man, a cocktail sold at San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch, uses paprika for a gently spiced and smoky rum drink that you’ve got to try to believe.
Perfect, I think… and pray it won’t be wretched.
Here’s the recipe (makes one cocktail):
2 ounces white rum
¾ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce maple syrup
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
4 sage leaves, divided
In a shaker, combine rum, lemon juice, maple syrup, paprika, and three sage leaves. Shake vigorously until cold. Strain into a chilled glass, and garnish with remaining sage leaf.
And Here’s Jonathan’s Review:
The whole idea of learning about tapping maple trees while growing up in La Marque, Texas amuses me. I completely understand that one should learn about things outside of your own world, but La Marque was almost as far from quaint New England as you could get. There are lots of trees (but not maples as far as I can remember) that include live oaks, the pecan trees that surrounded our second house and the invasive chinaberry tree. The latter is my favorite due to the eponymous berries that could be gathered for an impromptu pelting of friend or foe at any time.
There are plenty of maples where we live in North Carolina and this is the time of year that they are at their most spectacular.
Depending on variety they are turning yellow, red, and orange as we progress through fall. There are even folks who tap them, like the farmer that supplies our community supported agriculture (CSA). He does use recycled 2 liter bottles for collection instead of the classic pails that showed up in our grammar school books, but the small amount we get with our CSA is no less sweet and precious for the use of old coke containers.
Based on what I have written, it should be no surprise it was the maple that excited me most about this cocktail. It is different in that the maple is used straight instead of diluted into simple syrup, and there was no disappointment on that front as the syrup accentuated the sweetness and sugar cane base of the rum. What surprised me was how much the sage added to the drink. Sure, there are probably still small amounts stuck in my teeth from the vigorous shaking but the additional background taste was well worth it. The smoked paprika, on the other hand, was great in terms of taste, but difficult to deal with as a raw ground spice floating in the drink. Maybe a maple, sage and smoked paprika simple syrup that was strained through cheese cloth would be better, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as easy.
Jonathan’s take: It took me a while to find the smoked paprika so it got to do double duty as part of a salmon marinade. Worked better there.
David’s Take: Those Turks must like their spices hot. If I were drinking a Medicine Man again I’d give the sage more of a chance by reducing my paprika.
Next Week (Proposed by Jonathan):
We are still enjoying fall and the flavors that come with it. Since it has also been a while since we have added a sparkling ingredient, I am proposing a bourbon drink that combines pears in a cider form and apples in a sparkling form. This pear bourbon cider doesn’t have a memorable name so if the drink is good, we’ll have to come up with one.