Chilcano

Proposed By: Jonathan

Reviewed By: David

The basis of the featured cocktail was a way to use up some of the different liquors I have accumulated. In the course of doing that though I found a cocktail that answered a nagging non-question and posed another. We will start with the cocktail and work towards the other two things.

The drink is The Chilcano which is a Pisco based drink. It is in the mule/buck style with a slight twist:

2 ounces Pisco
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/4 ounce fresh ginger juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
Ginger ale (I used 4 ounces)
Angostura bitters

Mix everything except the ginger ale, add ice, top with the ginger ale and garnish with a lime peel. The twist is the ginger juice,which you can buy in small bottles, that adds a real kick to the drink. The simple syrup seemed unnecessary so I left it out as many variations of Chilcano recipes do.

This blog has been an education with huge amounts of information to process both good and bad. One of my least favorites are the lists of in and out cocktails as if you should choose what to drink based on popularity or lack of it. Sometime around the new year I read an article that included expert bartender opinions about cocktails. One of those bartenders suggested that Moscow Mules have overstayed their welcome. His thought was that it did not matter if you liked them—they were over ordered and it was time to move on. So the non-question is whether someone else should tell you what to like. If you want to drink a Mule, do it. If you want a great variation, however, try this.

The other question posed by this drink comes from the name. In Peru, the home of Pisco, Chilcano can be a cocktail or a soup that is considered a cure for hangovers. Chilcano de Pescado is a Peruvian fish soup that traditionally starts with a fish head broth. The idea is that this soup should be consumed the morning after over-consumption to alleviate the ill effects. That made me wonder what folks thought were the most effective and the most odd hangover cures, so I did an informal poll.

The list of effective cures is not too surprising. Sleep, analgesics, and water were clearly at the top of the list. The other common ideas, none of which were fish head soup, included sugary drinks, exercise, and hair of the dog. I’m not sure drinking more is so much a cure as it is putting off the pain or crying for help.

There weren’t too many odd cures, but there were some very specific ones. One person insisted that Dr. Pepper before bed was the magic elixir, one suggested extreme hard labor, and another was just as sure a late night greasy meal was the trick.

Long ago when David would eat such things, he and I tried the latter method. He was living in Louisville and we followed a long night of beers with a stop at the local White Castle for sliders (mini-burgers for the uninitiated) to make sure we felt fine in the morning. I can’t remember if it worked but have tried or seen plenty of variations of that over the years. In college a Greek grilled cheese was a very common end to a night. If that didn’t work, one friend of mine was sure a quick meal of basic McDonald’s cheeseburgers the next day would.

David’s Review:

Clearly, Jonathan hasn’t been taking care of this spirits larder. For me, the pisco we bought oh-so-long-ago is gone… and I may have finished another bottle since then. I could account for my pisco deficit in several ways. First, I have replaced the gin in gin and tonics with pisco and experimented with it in other drinks. I even made a caipirinha with pisco, which was quite good. Second, I try not to buy a new bottle of anything until some other bottle gets empty (see #1). Third, I like pisco a lot. Four, maybe I should stop drinking altogether.

I’d say that, with the exception of the ginger elements, this drink struck me as being very like a caipirinha, but that might be a little like saying “with the exception of beef, beef stroganoff is very like a tofu stroganoff.” There’s an analogy I’m sure Jonathan will understand. The ginger is rather important and finding ginger juice was much more difficult than obtaining pisco. I settled on a “ginger shot,” a nutritional form of ginger juice I found at Whole Foods. Another choice, a bottle of squeezable ginger from our regular grocery, proved too pulpy and too sweet.

Sweetness has become one of my biggest bugaboos with mixology. It seems most drinks are too sweet to me now, and simple syrup—even the ginger-grapefruit simple syrup I made for an earlier recipe—is something (along with Jonathan) I’d skip. Pisco isn’t sweet, but, redolent of grapes, the fruity scent seems enough for me. Plus, the simple syrup seemed to interfere with the Angostura, and I like to taste my Angostura—or what’s it doing there?

Those caveats out of the way, I really liked this drink. While pisco isn’t that distinctive a spirit, it isn’t vodka, which to me is a big blank. But it isn’t like whiskey, scotch, or gin either, flavors that are instantly recognizable and thus a little more touchy to mix. If I had a friend looking to try some new spirit, in fact, I might recommend pisco as a safe bet for something he or she might like.

Oh, and for hangovers, by the way, I always recommend a punishing (and penitent) workout followed by Gatorade or coconut water.

David’s take: If Jonathan still hasn’t exhausted his pisco supply, I’m willing to buy another bottle to help him get to the bottom of it.

Jonathan’s take: Don’t listen to the experts listen to me, The Chilcano is excellent. At least the non-fish head version is.

Next Time (Proposed by David):

Our sister gave me a book for Christmas called Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State, and I’ve been dipping into it looking for our next cocktail. After much debate, I’ve chosen El Pepino, which is sort a tequila julep made with cucumbers in addition to the usual mint simple syrup. The recipe cites the drink as proof that tequila is a versatile spirit and not just for Margaritas. Plus, looking on the web, I discovered it’s Justin Timberlake’s favorite drink. So there.

Cherry Pisco Hot Chocolate

IMG_0528Proposed by: David

Reviewed by: Jonathan

Like any family, ours gathers familiar and funny memories and, while we don’t recall them exactly the same way, the disputes hardly matter. Each represents the joy we found in growing up together.

One of my favorite stories involves my father’s scheme for creating a Christmas more glorious than grand. He would drive all five children to a local five-and-dime store and then give each child six dollars with which to buy six presents. The store was small—it only had one toy aisle—and our shopping spree required stealth, speed, misdirection, and guile.

My strategy was to buy the same things for each person each year. One of my sisters would receive bath beads with dissolving skins, and, once the Christmas spirit passed, these became projectiles. My older brother received another plastic lizard… though he was already too old to play with them.

Jonathan was toughest, but I had faith anything related to sports would make him happy. Only… this store had nothing more sporty than super-balls… and what can you buy for a dollar? One year, I discovered a baseball with a stick in it—it was purely decorative, filled with cork, intended to be stuck into a flower arrangement—but I cut the stick off and claimed it was an regulation baseball. The first time Jonathan walloped it, the ball hooked a few feet into the infield and came to rest a new shape, flattened like a moon of Mars. “Wow,” I said, “you can really hit!”

The six-dollar experience hasn’t worn off altogether. Some few Christmases later, I learned Jonathan loved chocolate covered cherries and, on more than one holiday, bought him a box. This week’s cocktail is an adaptation designed to mimic those cherries… while also using some ingredients gathering on my liquor shelf. I worried Jonathan might be tired of chocolate cherries, but he assured me he wasn’t. I hope he wasn’t being nice, as he was after the destruction of the one-hit-wonder baseball.

The cherry flavor in this cocktail comes from Cherry Heering, and the original recipe suggests you can use rum as the primary spirit. Rum’s cane sugar profile makes sense with chocolate, I think. But, as the name of this cocktail suggests, it calls for Pisco, a Chilean (or Peruvian) brandy, which is not something I ever imagined being pared with chocolate. I’m sure I never had a Pisco-flavored chocolate covered cherry, which is at least some deviation from the usual.

Here’s the recipe… adapted:

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

pinch kosher salt

3 cups whole milk

4 ounces milk chocolate chips

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

3 ounces Cherry Heering

4 ounces pisco or rum

4 (2-inch) segments orange zest

Whipped cream and candied orange peel garnish
In medium saucepan, stir cocoa with sugar and salt. Stir in milk, milk chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate. Heat over medium heat until, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is hot. Gently whisk to completely homogenize mixture.

Add Cherry Heering and Pisco or rum. Divide into four serving cups. Rub rim of each cup with orange zest. Top with whipped cream, candied orange peel, and orange zest. Serve immediately.

Here’s Jonathan’s Review:

JBMMy sister-in-law’s memory is excellent. I did, and do, enjoy chocolate covered cherries. Those can range from the cheapest—I hope everyone knows that is defined by how many have broken and are stuck to the inner plastic—to the exotic. I am proud to say the higher end versions are where I lean, but not so proud to admit that I will eat any type. I am also not beyond the rationalization that the fruit, and dark chocolate in some cases, offers some measure of health food status to the confection. Do not attempt to dissuade on that either because it would ruin the whole fruit pie for breakfast deception too.

There is no way to review this cocktail without stating that it is chocolate. Cocoa powder, milk chocolate chips and bittersweet chocolate chips ensure that. The recipe calls for 4 ounces of each type of chip and whether that is volume or weight (my assumption), it exceeded the ability of the milk to completely dissolve. One of the tasters, we’ll call him Josh, described it as liquid candy bar and that is most apt. We tried more whipped cream to cut it, but it remained only slightly below chocolate fountain consistency.

The best part of the drink was the Cherry Heering, not surprisingly given my bias. I’m not sure where the Pisco went but am glad that it was there to help keep all of that chocolate from reconstituting as a solid. Since we decided to alter the recipe and use Heering instead of Cointreau, I skipped the orange zest and candied orange garnish but it would have been a nice touch. I wonder if they make chocolate covered cherries with candied orange? Might need to go look for that.

Jonathan’s take: I have to try this one again with much less chocolate for research purposes.

David’s take: I like chocolate, but I’d like less chocolate here.

Next week (proposed by Jonathan):

By now you should have made your list, checked it twice, and be completely confident you have determined the naughty/nice categories. There should be wrapped presents for all close family, trifles or better for the neighbors and a stock of end of year goodies to consume before the resolutions kick in. Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree, decked halls, and rum soaked fruit cake should complete the list. So what is left? Wassailing of course. Next week, we’ll be preparing a wassail with whatever recipe the maker chooses. The only requirement is that it contain enough spirit to stir the imbiber to share a few Christmas carols with friends and family.