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Artisanal Cocktails

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Written by Carolyn Jung   

Image
Photography by Sara Remington
Hands down, the best cocktail I've ever sipped was the glam Autumn Apple served in a martini glass at the sumptuous Healdsburg restaurant, Cyrus.

At $12, it also was the priciest cocktail I've ever had.

It's the creation of celebrated mixologist Scott Beattie, who crafted this liquid masterpiece and many others before leaving the restaurant this year to embark on other projects.

You'll find the recipe for the Autumn Apple and other iconic libations in Beattie's new book, "Artisanal Cocktails.'' When you look at the recipe, you realize there's a reason why this cocktail, with its elegant fluff of apple foam floating on top, and a lovely dehydrated cinnamon-sugared apple chip perched on the rim of the glass, costs $12. Indeed, you start thinking it a veritable bargain.

I really, really wanted to try my hand at making my own Autumn Apple. It's incredibly smooth, without any sharp alcohol burn, unbelievably balanced, and tastes like the best grown-up apple cider around. But then I figured it would take three days off from work, and over $200 to do so. Yes, to make one cocktail!

OK, I'm exaggerating. But not by much.

You see, there's the Germain-Robin apple brandy I'd have to find, along with Nana Mae's Gravenstein apple juice, as well as leaf gelatin, and the essential oil of ginger (because regular fresh ginger root just won't do here). Not to mention the whipped cream dispenser equipped with nitrous oxide canisters that I'd have to buy if I wanted to make that beloved foam. Plus, the five hours it would take to dehydrate apple slices in my oven.

In the end, practicality won out. Can you blame me?

I chose to make the relatively simpler Waverly Place Echo instead. I say "relatively simpler,'' because this citrusy, winter cocktail still necessitated the purchase of pricey Hangar One Mandarin Orange Blossom vodka, plus the making of two garnishes - candied Meyer lemon peels, and five-spice marinated Mandarin orange segments.

Three saucepans, a spice grinder, a knife, one zester, and a few spoons later, my husband walked into the kitchen, and exclaimed, "All this for a cocktail?''

But what a cocktail.

In a shaker, I mixed the two different vodkas, seltzer, fresh Meyer lemon juice, candied peels, marinated Mandarin orange segments, slivers of Kaffir lime leaves, and five-spice syrup with ice cubes. Then, I poured it all into a glass. My husband and I each took a sip. We both had the same reaction: "Man, this is good!''

It's like sunshine in a glass, an instant mood lifter. It goes down easy, with its sweet, citrusy, spicy, slightly grassy flavors, and highly floral aroma. It would be killer with Asian food, especially Thai or Vietnamese dishes with their profusion of fresh herbs.

The Waverly Place Echo can be found in the chapter for "Winter'' drinks. Each season brings its own chapter of creative cocktails, including Rhubarbarella (with candied rhubarb) in spring, and Creole Watermelon (with chili powder, cilantro, and black pepper) in summer.

Of course, there are a couple recipes for super simple, classic drinks such as mint julep, and gin & tonic. But that's not where this book really shines. What this book really does is apply the principles of fine cooking to cocktails by incorporating artisan liquors, seasonal ingredients, heirloom produce, interesting herbs, and homemade garnishes that aren't there just to look pretty, but actually serve a real flavor purpose.

I won't kid you - many of these recipes are not easy, and require both a monetary and a time commitment. You could just pour a decent vodka into a martini glass, and call it a day instead. But when's the last time that elicited a "wow''? With one of Beattie's cocktails, that's all but guaranteed.

Read more about Carolyn's experience at Cyrus and with Beattie's cocktails on her blog.

Waverly Place Echo

Reprinted from Artisanal Cocktails: Drinks Inspired by the Seasons from the Bar at Cyrus by Scott Beattie. Published by Ten Speed Press, www.tenspeed.com. Photography: Sara Remington

Makes 1 cocktail

Waverly Place is my favorite alleyway in San Francisco's Chinatown, where late at night you can hear the loud   smacking of mah-jongg tiles echoing off the walls above the deserted street. The flavors in this drink are Chinese inspired, featuring hints of mandarin orange, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. These special peppercorns available at Asian markets-are actually not peppercorns at all. They come from the flowering sancho plant, and  when dried and toasted are flavorful and aromatic with hints of citrus zest and spice. The mandarin orange segments marinated in five-spice simple syrup are an extra treat to be snacked on while enjoying this refreshing cocktail. My good friend Bruce McConnell and his family grow Meyer lemons and satsuma mandarins for Cyrus throughout the winter (for which we trade restaurant credit). Bartering never tasted so good.

  • 3/4 ounce Hangar One mandarin orange
  • blossom vodka
  • 3/4 ounce vodka
  • 6 Five-Spice Marinated Mandarin Orange Segments (see recipe)
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 5 to 6 Candied Meyer Lemon Peels (see recipe)
  • 1/2 ounce Chinese Five-Spice Syrup (see recipe)
  • 3 Kaffir lime leaves, cut into long chiffonade
  • 3/4 ounce seltzer

In a mixing glass, combine the vodkas, mandarin segments, lemon juice, candied peels, syrup, lime leaves, and seltzer. Stir everything around a bit, add a full measure of ice, and shake a few times. Pour the contents into a tall collins glass to serve.

Chinese Five-Spice Syrup

Reprinted from Artisanal Cocktails: Drinks Inspired by the Seasons from the Bar at Cyrus by Scott Beattie. Published by Ten Speed Press, www.tenspeed.com. Photography: Sara Remington

Makes 2 2/3 cups (enough for about 25 cocktails and 30 marinated mandarin orange segments)   

  • 5 whole star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick, broken into pieces

To make the syrup, process the spices to a coarse powder in a spice or coffee grinder. Heat a stainless steel pot over medium heat, add the spices, and follow the instructions on page 20 to toast the spices. Once fragrant, add the simple syrup to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the honey. Simmer for 5 minutes to infuse the syrup mixture with the flavor of the spices, then remove from the heat. Let the mixture cool to at least room temperature, then strain it through a fine-mesh strainer or chinois to remove any solids. The syrup will keep for up to 1 month if refrigerated in an airtight container.

Five-Spice Marinated Mandarin Orange Segments

Reprinted from Artisanal Cocktails: Drinks Inspired by the Seasons from the Bar at Cyrus by Scott Beattie. Published by Ten Speed Press, www.tenspeed.com. Photography: Sara Remington

Makes 30 segments (enough for 5 cocktails)

  • 5 satsuma mandarins
  • 1 cup Chinese Five-Spice Syrup (see recipe), at room temperature

Remove the outer peel of the mandarin and any white stringy matter clinging to the fruit. Separate the segments and place them in a bowl with the syrup. Let them marinate for at least 15 minutes before using. The segments will last for about 1 week if kept refrigerated in an airtight container.

Candied Meyer Lemon Peels

Reprinted from Artisanal Cocktails: Drinks Inspired by the Seasons from the Bar at Cyrus by Scott Beattie. Published by Ten Speed Press, www.tenspeed.com. Photography: Sara Remington

Makes about 5 peels (enough for 1 cocktail)

  • 1 large Meyer lemon
  • 1?2 cup simple syrup

Using a potato peeler or a sharp paring knife, remove the zest from the lemon in long, wide pieces from the top of the lemon to the bottom; I usually get about five pieces of peel per lemon, but be aware that Meyer lemons can vary quite a bit in size. Avoid the white bitter pith as much as possible. Use the lemon for the freshly squeezed juice called for above. Heat the simple syrup in a stainless steel pan over high heat until it boils. Add the peels, bring the syrup back up to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Let the syrup and peels cool to at least room temperature before using. The peels will last for up to 1 week stored in the syrup in an airtight container and refrigerated.

About Artisanal Cocktails

ImageInspired by the bounty of Sonoma County's organic farms and local distilleries, Scott Beattie shakes up the cocktail world with his extreme twists on classic bar fare. In ARTISANAL COCKTAILS, Beattie reveals his intense attention to detail and technique with a collection of visually stunning and astonishingly tasty drinks made with top-shelf spirits, fresh-squeezed juices, and just-picked herbs and flowers. In creatively named recipes such as Meyer Beautiful (My, You're Beautiful), Hot Indian Date, and the Grapes of Roth, Beattie combines flavors and aesthetics as meticulously as a chef to produce party-worthy concoctions guests won't soon forget.

Available at Amazon.com

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.

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