Proposed By: Jonathan
Reviewed By: David
I have an ever expanding print and digital library of cocktail books at my disposal. The first few were quick resources I picked up when we first started the blog. Soon enough, the gift books began to trickle in and then, as my obsession factor increased, I was delving into some of the minutiae of ingredients and methods.
The first group of books could be classified as history. Dave Wondrich’s Imbibe is the true history of cocktails. There are times reading it when you wonder if you really need to know that much just to mix a drink and the rest of the time you are sure you don’t. But if you want to be savvy you have to have a little background. The other book in this class is Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh. It’s a great book with recipes that, for the most part, are easy to follow and the ingredients available. The history is a bonus.
The minutiae I mentioned is typified by two other books both of which I bought in digital versions and still go back to search. The Drunken Botanist covers the world of distilled spirits and additives on the basis of the plants from which they are produced. Amy Stewart presents all of this in a concise way that makes it easier to understand, at least for me, why things go together. Brad Thomas’ Parson’s Bitters is an extensive and intensive exploration of the cocktails’ smallest portions. I haven’t made my own bitters, but it did inspire us to try a number of infusions.
The final grouping led to this week’s cocktail proposal. Bar owners like to write books and I am a sucker to read them. The best of the group, in my opinion, is The Art of the Bar from the owners of Absinthe Brasserie and Bar Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz. It is well organized, beautifully illustrated and the recipes are useful and within reach of a home bartender. The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan is similar. It includes great advice on building a home bar from spirits to glassware plus recipes that are well within the reach of an amateur and others that offer obtainable challenges.
My latest purchase was Death & Co.: Modern Classic Cocktails. This entry is from a renowned bar in New York written by David Kaplan, Nick Fauchald and Alex Day. Their cocktails must be wonderful and unique, but I would recommend going to their bar to try them. Almost every one includes an ingredient that is either hard to find or has limited use beyond a few cocktails. They use a lot of infused liquors that the average home bartender may never use up. Fortunately, the other parts of the book include ideas that are more useful. One of those is splitting the base liquor such that the standard 1.5 ounce of spirit might be 1 ounce of one spirit and .5 of another. They also delve into batching cocktails which seems intuitive (just multiply and make a lot) but is more complicated when you consider factors like how ice/water dilution affects a drink. A final idea I took from this book is tweaking a cocktail by making seemingly minor variations such as swapping Demerara syrup for simple syrup.
That was a lot of introduction for a cocktail that is pretty simple at its roots and was really intended to compare two sugar cane rums – Cachaça and Rhum Agricole. We made the Brazil 66 and this the recipe I ultimately used (and batched). That was after comparing versions of the basic drink with the only variation being Cachaça versus Rhum Agricole the week before. Just for research purposes of course.
1 ounce Leblon Cachaça
.5 ounce Barbancourt Rhum Agricole
.5 ounce Patron Citronge (an orange liqueur)
.5 ounce fresh orange juice
.5 ounce fresh lime juice
.3 ounce cane sugar simple syrup
Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and strain over ice in an old fashioned glass and garnish with orange or lime slice.
Here’s David’s Review:
Chicago is, despite these strange times, a sinful city… for which, this week, I’m thankful. Jonathan texted me mid-week to ask if I was having trouble finding rhum agricole and for just a minute I worried. Then I checked online and discovered my favorite liquor store only had 15 varieties. Finding them on the shelves was a bit more challenging, but I settled on the only variety from Guadeloupe, not the traditional versions, most of which hail from St. Martinique.
Not that I could tell the difference… I just like to go a different way. My perverse streak may be familial, as Jonathan—at least when we were growing up—also stubbornly resisted what everyone else thought was so great. No going to the must-see movies (no ET for him) and listening to the bands everyone else touted (forget The Eagles). Maybe that impulse contributes to this cocktail as well. Every recipe of the Brazil 66 I could find asked for cachaça. Only Jonathan’s book dictated this more specialized rhum. Essentially a caipirinha that substitutes rhum agricole, this Brazil 66 seems doubly perverse in that it eschews cachaça and adds orange in addition to lime.
My research online turned up some interesting descriptions of why one spirit is different from the other. Both rums come from fresh pressed sugar cane juice (unlike rum, which ferments molasses), so both are fruitier and less spicy. But, according to Wonderich, Cachaça is “gentler” than rhum agricole and “cleaner in flavor than most molasses rums.” I get that, though my personal research suggests that cachaça is, not to put to fine a point on it, “funkier.” It’s a funky I appreciate, but I agree with Jason Elliott, general manager at Philadelphia’s The Franklin, who tastes a more “delicate vegetal flavor” in rhum agricole. For that reason, he says, “It works best in cocktails with more complex flavor profiles.”
Me, I like rum of all varieties and from most locales (a rum made in Finland, maybe not), and all types seem to love citrus. We’ve been having hot weather in Chicago like the rest of the nation. Something bright and sweet arises seems necessary now. I did not mix rhum with cachaça as Jonathan’s recipe suggests, and I think rhum agricole plays nice in a way that cachaça might not.. Traditional rum can sometimes taste “cooked,” the more immediate taste of rhum agricole promises a more novel experience. The introduction of orange juice adds. Which is to say, I liked this cocktail and, as always, I’m appreciative of Jonathan’s finding another way.
Jonathan’s take: I followed one of those lessons I cited as useful. The last tweak was to add a couple of ounces of seltzer to the drink once it was strained into the glass. The original was good but the bubbly version even better.
David’s take: This cocktail will go on my top ten list… as long as I can obtain rhum agricole.
Next: We will revisit the classic French 75. It’s another opportunity to try other versions which have become very popular lately.