Homemade Gin; Round 4.5, a check on the Juniper

 

Looking back at my past Gin making efforts I can honestly say I’ve learned a lot.  But I can also say that I’ve got a long way to go before I’ll be competing against Bombay, Tanqueray, and Hendrick’s.  Of course the big boys are (mostly) making their gin using a distillation process and I’m using the compound method.  So there’s no reason to expect one process to be the equal of the other.

 

But one can try.  And since it’s illegal for me to distill anything in my state I’ll stick to the, allegedly, inferior compounding.

 

When I first started out (I Made Gin!!) I simply used a recipe I found on line.  It was fun and educational but produced a rather harsh Gin.  I wanted to understand why.  My second round of Gin (Homemade Gin, Round #2) was slightly better, though hardly good.  By the third round I’d make progress by doing less (Homemade Gin, Round #3).  And round four (Homemade Gin; Round 4) was even better, to the point that it made an acceptable Martini.  Though probably better in a G&T.

 

In celebration I took a break to ponder my next move.  I’m still pondering, but also decided to do a little experiment.  Probably one of the biggest problems I’ve had is that there are just so many variables to manage!  So many botanicals to choose from.  Citrus or Herbal?  Floral?  Cardamon, Cloves, Cilantro, Celery?  How much of each?  Ground up or whole or chopped?  When to add to the Vodka?  At the start?  after 24 hours?  How long to let it all steep?  48 hours?

 

One of the many variables to manage is the starting Vodka.  I’ve been using New Amsterdam 100 proof Vodka or Absolut’s 100 proof.  There are a few others but those two seem to be the most available at the local liquor box store.  Which of course means I’m starting with different flavors, even if they are very subtly different.  Ideally of course I’d start with 190 proof food grade ethanol.  But I’m not there …. yet.  (5 gallons costs about $250, so it’s not out of the question by any means.)

 

Comparing the taste of these two it’s pretty clear that Absolut is the winner.  It’s cleaner with a very neutral taste and very smooth.  New Amsterdam is just not quite as clean with a mostly neutral taste but a very slight cocoa flavor!!??  So the choice has been made, I’m going with New Amsterdam from now on.  Why?  Because its roughly $25 for 1.75l and Absolut is approx $30 for 1l.  And it’s more readily available.

 

My next experiment is another case of back tracking and doing less with even less.  This time the goal is to establish a fundamental taste profile: Juniper.   So back to the kitchen laboratory for a small batch of Gin.

 

Here’s the ingredients and weights and times for this batch:
Day 0:
Juniper, 10gm (about 5 teaspoons) in 350 ml of New Amsterdam 100pf Vodka.

And nothing else.  Yup, simple pure Juniper with nothing to hide or hinder or enhance it’s taste.

 

Then 24 hours of infusing, straining, and finally tasting.   The results?  Well the first thing, thankfully, is that there is plenty of juniper flavor in the Gin.  On the nose, forward, and the finish.  The second thing, also thankfully, is that the juniper isn’t overpowering.  Yes, it’s a little like chewing on pine needles, but not at all like chewing on the whole branch.  Third, there wasn’t any other new flavors.

 

Most importantly from my point of view was comparing the Juniper only Gin with the source Vodka.  Yes I could still taste the underlying New Amsterdam subtle faint cocoa, but just barely and only because I knew it was there and could ‘look’ for  it.  I will have to account for that in the future.  At least I know where it’s coming from.

 

Now on to Homemade Gin, Round 5!   I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

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The Perfect Dinner Pairing to a Martini

So I’ve been asked many times, “What it the right dinner to go with a Martini?”.

 

Okay, so I’ve only been asked that a few times.  Well, maybe only once.

 

But it’s a good question.  After all, scores of erudite articles are written by self proclaimed wine connoisseurs in the most esteemed wine magazines about the finer subtleties of which wine goes best with Atlantic salmon as opposed to Pacific salmon.   Or Kobe beef vs. CAB.  Or uni vs ahi.  So it seems reasonable to ask what best pairs with a Martini?

 


My answer is always the same, Cheerios and Milk!!

 

Really!

 

Okay, maybe not, but there is a lot of Martini Tao in that answer and multiple layers to that onion.  And, truth be told, there have been occasions when I’ve had a Martini with cereal and milk.  Or left over pizza. Or a simple quesadilla.  And the Martini is always excellent and compliments whatever I’m eating.

 

In all fairness, I haven’t had a Martini with Mac ‘n Cheese.  But that’s a consequence of many nights as a college student when all I could afford was Kraft Man ‘n Cheese and a subsequent swearing off of that dish for all eternity.  But I’m sure it would be excellent.

 

Let me digress for a moment.  Starting with one of the most esteemed liquors in the known universe, and a personal favorite …. Cognac.  When was the last time you heard anyone ask “What pairs well with Cognac”.  The answer of course is “You moron, you savor Cognac by itself in all it’s delicate brilliance and decadence”.  The point being no one expects Cognac to be subjugated to any mere plate of food, no matter how stunningly prepared.

 

Similarly Scotch is not tied to a particular culinary preparation.  You savor Scotch for it’s own sake.  No discussion about venison vs Barramundi vs Pheasant.  Scotch is Scotch and an end to itself.

 

So why must one presume a Martini should be paired with a specific dish?  Well, because unlike Scotch and Cognac which are ‘after dinner drinks’ one usually has a Martini with dinner.  So the question is valid, though perhaps misguided; What meal pairs best with a Martini??

 

Unlike wine with it’s historic, if slightly outdated, adage of Red wine with steak and White wine with fish, a Martini transcends dinner variations.  I truly love my chilled Martini with a sizzling Rib Eye Steak, medium rare please.  But the same Martini compliments Chilean Sea-bass or Cioppino or the afore mentioned Venison as well.  In fact I can not think of anything a Martini doesn’t compliment.

 

Octupus?  Absolutely!

Sea Cucumber?  Why not!

Escargot?  I know personally that it does!

Durian?  Hmmm, I’d give it a try.

Sweet breads?  Required!

 

 

 

Of course when I’m at a Mexican restaurant I do order a Margarita.  A mojito at a Cuban place and a Caiparinha at a Churrascaria.  But not because a Martini wouldn’t pair well, only in deference to the ambiance.  Sort of a ‘When in Rome, do as the Roman’s do’ philosophy.

 

The bottom line?  A Martini is appropriate anywhere and compliments any meal.  Yes!, even Cheerios and milk.

 

I’m not talking a cup of cheap gin splashed over an ice cube. I’m talking satin, fire and ice; Fred Astaire in a glass; surgical cleanliness, insight, comfort; redemption and absolution. I’m talking MARTINI
Anonymous

 

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** BTW, For those wondering, CAB stands for Certified Angus Beef.

 

Random Martini Quote of the Day

A priest is sent to Alaska.  A bishop goes up to visit one year later.

The bishop asks, “How do you like it up here”?

The priest says, “If it wasn’t for my Rosary, and 2 martinis a day, I’d be lost.  Bishop, would you like a martini?” 

“Yes.”

“Rosary, get the bishop a martini!

Henny Youngman

 

Looking for more outstanding “Martini Quotes”?  I believe we have the best collection of Martini quotes anywhere!   If you haven’t checked it out recently you should, they’re always being updated!   Click the link: Martini Quotes.

There is also a page for Martini Jokes if you’re in the mood for something different.

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Homemade Gin, Round 3

Round 3 Homemade Gin!   And, yes, I am learning, albeit slowly.   This batch is significantly better than my two previous efforts!  (You can find my posts on those here:   “I made Gin!!”   and here:  “Homemade Gin, Round 2” .)

This time I backed up significantly, starting much simpler.  First of all I used just a very few botanicals.  Obviously Juniper is required so that goes in.  Coriander is very mild with a slight musty hay (think alfalfa) scent.  It doesn’t so much as add flavor as it seems to add some complexity to the flavor.  Then a very tiny bit of Cardamom, pepper, and lemon.

The second major change from previous batches was that I only steeped the botanicals for about 40 hours.  (I was going for 48 hours but sadly my real job got in the way and didn’t allow that.)

Here’s the process for this batch:
Day 0:  I assembled the following botanicals:
Juniper, 1 tablespoon
Coriander, 1 teaspoon
Cardamon, 1 Pod broken
Green peppercorn, 2 corns
All of these items I put into 375 ml of 100 proof Vodka.  Unlike previous batched I did not grind up any of these ingredients.

+24 hours:  I added the following.
Dried Lemon Peel,  Approx 1/2 tsp

I also tried the gin, just to see how it was going.  I was pleasantly surprised!  No bitterness at all and mild flavors.

+42 hours:   I strained all remains and remnants from the liquid.

At this point the Gin really tasted like ‘gin’!  A bit light on the juniper but overall mildly spicy with just a hint of lemon.  (Next time I’ll add a bit more citrus.)  As expected it is not clear having a nice mild amber tinge to the gin.  That’s easily fixable with an activated carbon filter (Brita, for example) but for the  moment I’m pleased with the gin ‘as is’.

Finally I let it sit for a couple of days in the pantry, just to let the flavors meld (?).   Then made a very cold, very welcome, Martini!  It was totally acceptable.  Certainly not worthy of even a single stem rating* of course, but a big step in the  right direction!

Keep your eyes out for the results of Batch 4 coming soon to a blog near you.

 

* If you’re curious about what one vs. two stems means,
I refer you to the following:
*****   Rating Definitions   ****

Random Martini Quote of the Day

“Have you seen the bologna that has the olives in it?  Who’s that for?  ‘I like my bologna like a martini.  With an olive.’  ‘I’ll have the bologna sandwich – dirty.’ ”
Jim Gaffigan

Looking for more outstanding “Martini Quotes”?  I believe we have the best collection of Martini quotes anywhere!   If you haven’t checked it out recently you should, they’re always being updated!   Click the link: Martini Quotes.

If you like these posts and want to be notified by email when they come in,
please subscribe to the blog…. over on the left column.     😉

Homemade Gin, Round #2

My hopes of being the next gin magnate have crashed.  My first batch of gin was not very good, as I’ve documented in “I made Gin!!”  I had hopes that this second batch would be much better.  Not so.  But fear not, I will persevere and am already planning my next batch.

To give you the run down, here is my ingredient list for Batch 2:

Day 0:  I assembled the following botanicals.
15 gms Juniper, 1/2 of which I ground
4 gms Coriander, ground
1 Cardomon Pod, ground
1/5 Star Anise (one petal), ground
2 gms, Allspice, ground
6 green peppercorn, ground
4 pink peppercorn, ground
1 1/2 inch Cinnamon Stick
All of these items I put into 375 ml of 100 proof Vodka.

+48 hours:  I added the following.
Orange zest.  Approx 1 tsp
Lemon zest, dried.  Approx 1 tsp

Day 5: Tasting.
WOW!!  Way to intense and horribly bitter.  The details:
The aroma that hits you isn’t really too bad, though it is pretty intense.  Lots of herbal notes sliding to the spicy side and hints of Juniper.
The first taste is very intense, nothing subtle here.  Again very heavy on the spice and herbs, with emphasis on the Allspice, and a bitter unde-rnote.
The finish is very bitter!!  So much that it totally ruins any early favorable tastes.

On the positive side, the overwhelming Anise of the first batch has been reduced.  Now there is just a hint of anise.

Unfortunately whatever positive elements there were, although intense, were overwhelmed by bitterness.  In trying to explain this bitterness I believe I have two possible culprits.  First, I wonder if I have too much botanical input!  I may have left the botanicals in too long (5 days).  Next time I think I’ll sieve them on day 3 and see if that eases the botanical impact!  I’m also rethinking my decision to grind all the botanicals or how much I grind them.  Perhaps just a short pulse on the grinder to break up the big pieces?

Second, I may have been overly exuberant with the citrus zest.  I’ve been informed that just a few quick passes of the orange or lemon on the zester is all you need.  I zested pretty much the  entire orange and lemon!

Going forward I think I need to back up a bit and start more slowly and simply.  I started with a recipe that I found on line and I think it was too big a leap.  I’m even considering just starting with juniper and very little, if anything, else.  Maybe just a hint of pepper or Cinnamon.

An interesting note for future reference:  I started with 375ml of Vodka.  After sieving the botanical remnants from the Gin, I was left with approximately 240ml.  So between the residual moisture in the ground botanicals and coffee filter used for the sieve and were then discarded and I lost about a third of the liquid.  I don’t recall that from batch #1, but I didn’t think to measure then.  I’ll remember to note volume lost in the future.

Keep your eyes out for the results of Batch 3 coming soon to a blog near you.

Random Martini Quote of the Day

“I should learn to crochet something I’ll actually use … like a martini.”
Maxine (John Wagner)

 

 

Looking for more outstanding “Martini Quotes”?  I believe we have the best collection of Martini quotes anywhere!   If you haven’t checked it out recently you should!   Click the link: Martini Quotes.

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please subscribe to the blog…. over on the left column.     😉

I Made Gin!!

Yes, it is Gin.  No, it really wasn’t that great.  In fact it was pretty poor, barely drinkable.

But it was a lot of fun and I learned a quite a bit.   The most important thing I learned is that some botanicals are really powerful!   For example a little anise goes a long way.  A lot of anise is way too much.

No, I’m not distilling my own spirits.  In fact I’m pretty sure that’s illegal in most states!  I’m creating gin by ‘infusion’.  The basic concept is pretty simple: Take a neutral spirit, typically vodka, and combine with the botanicals of your choice and let steep for 2-5 days.  Pretty simple really.


The only rule is that Gin must have Juniper, that’s what makes a spirit “Gin”.  If you’re wondering what other sorts of botanicals to use, google “Homemade Gin” and you’ll find quite a few recipes for guidance.   That’s how I started.   Also take a look at my “Botanical Elements of Gin” page to see what some commercial Gins use.

Here’s the process I used for this small, initial batch:

Day 0:  I assembled the following botanicals.
10 gms Juniper, 1/3 of which I ground
4 gms Coriander, ground
1 Cardomon Pod, ground
1 Star Anise, ground
2 gms, Allspice, ground
2 green peppercorn, ground
2 red peppercorn, ground
All of these items I put into 375 ml of 100 proof Vodka.

+24 hours:  I added the following.
Orange Peel dried, 6 inches thin
Lemon Peel dried, 6 inches thin

+72 hours:  First tasting!
First I sieved out the bits and pieces of the botanicals.  As expected the liquid was a nice caramel color. Then the first quick taste.  WOW, lots of Anise!!  Really a lot.   Reminiscent of Jagermeister, Ouzo, or Raki, but with out their subtlety and refinement.  There were also all the other flavors, but definitely in the background, except for a bit of bitterness that came through.  And overall it was a bit light on Juniper.

Day 5: Final tasting.
Still Lots of Anise!  Definitely too much.   Next time I’ll cut the Star Anise by 75%, at least!!  I might just skip it all together and focus on the more subtle flavors.

I should have added a photo of  this, but sometimes a picture isn’t really worth 1000 words.

For my next batch, and there will be another, I think I’ll use the following changes:
Cut, or eliminate, the Star Anise.
Use dried citrus zest instead of the dried thin citrus peels.
Just a couple more peppercorns to give it more pepper kick.
And more Juniper, probably bump it up by 50%.
Keep watching, I’ll let you know that turns out!

For my first effort I give my self one upside down Martini glass.   

 

If you’re curious about what one vs. two vs. upside down stems means,
I refer you to the following:
*****   Rating Definitions   ****

 

 

What Your Martini Says About You

Enjoying a Martini at Sunset overlooking the ocean.

A friend sent me the following link to “Wine Enthusiast” Magazine with the comment that they were not sure they agreed with the story’s conclusions.  And I would agree that I’m not sure I agreed either.

But it’s an interesting read and a short read.  I offer it up here to my readers so you may make your own judgement.

What Your Martini Says About You | Wine Enthusiast Magazine

 

I always welcome suggestions for stories or links to interesting “Martini” articles, so please don’t hesitate to contribute.

The Most Interesting Man in the World???

I don’t usually drink beer……

the-most-interesting-man-in-the-world

He once caught the Loch Ness Monster…with a cane pole, but threw it back

When I first heard the Dos Equis ad campaign with “The Most Interesting Man in the World” sometime around 2006 I was amazed.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  They were hilarious, outrageous, and preposterous.   The video commercials with their flashbacks were just as funny, flamboyant, and (almost) unbelievable.  The stunts were right at the far edge of ‘possible’.

His tears cure cancer, too bad he never cries.

The audio narration, either accompanying the videos or solo on the radio, was brilliant:  Creative, Imaginative, and Unbelievable!  But we all believed, or at least wanted to.  And we laughed uncontrollably.  When we heard a new line we couldn’t wait to get home and share it with family and friends.  And when it came on the radio or TV again we told everyone around to ‘be quiet and listen to this new line’.

He taught Chuck Norris martial arts

And that, I believe, is the first key to this phenomenon.   We wanted to believe everything about the MIMINTW.  Yes, it was all implausible, if not impossible.  But it sparked our imagination and our inner adventurer.  We thought or wished ‘if only’, I could do that!

His signature won a Pulitzer.

The second key to this campaign’s success was Jonathan Goldsmith, the REAL MIMINTW.  He looked and played the part perfectly.   He was sort of a mix of your rich, genial, great uncle, Ernest Hemingway, and a retired James Bond.  Young kids wanted to grow up to be him and us older folk wondered how we could catch up with his exploits.

Sharks have a week dedicated to him.

When he announced his impending one-way trip to Mars (i.e., retirement), I believed that the advertising campaign had reached a logical and honorable end.  And I was happy with that.  I didn’t feel any loss or sadness.  The end was natural and acceptable.

He once won the Tour-de-France, but was disqualified for riding a unicycle

Shows how much I know about advertising.  Apparently a 15% increase in sales was just too much incentive and now we have a new MIMINTW.   Except he’s NOT.

He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels

Maybe I’m a bit biased, or just pissed off that Dos Equis couldn’t just let this go gracefully, but this ad campaign sequel so far sucks.  I’m sure the actor (Augustin Legrand) is a fine person and, truth be told, if Dos Equis offered me the spot I’d jump on it without hesitation.  But 1) he doesn’t look the part and 2) the writing is just a pale imitation of the original.

He once parallel parked a freight train

I’m sorry, the new MIMINTW is just too young.  This character needs a certain ‘gravitas’ that comes from a life time of extraordinary achievements.   This new guy just doesn’t have it.  The beard is there, the weathered face, and a great voice.   But he needs a bit of grey and that look in his eyes that makes you believe you’re just getting the Reader’s Digest Abbreviated version of his life.  And that’s just not there, yet.

No less than 25 Mexican folk songs have been written about his beard

Finally, and most importantly, the new scripts are, IMHO, a bit lame.  Clearly the original writers have moved on to bigger and better things and that loss shows in the new commercials.  The new ads are indeed clever (Air-boat in the Sahara!).  But they don’t seem to have the almost impossible feel:
….. Air-boat in the Sahara?  Totally possible!!
….. Kicking a coconut?  Seems feasible, if painful.
….. Running through the streets of some Asian megalopolis with a piglet and a beautiful woman at your side?   Absolutely!  (Maybe not with the gun toting guy chasing me …. but maybe.)
….. Pulling a soccer ball out of a well?  Sure, I could do that tomorrow.

He is fluent in all languages, including three that he only speaks

And that’s the problem!  These feats need to be fanciful, fantastic, even fantasy!   On the boarder of impossible!   There should be nothing the MIMINTW does that leaves me with a shrug and the thought “Sure, I could do that tomorrow”.

When in Rome, they do as HE does

I do hope that Dos Equis improves their scripts and feats over the next few months.  I may never learn to accept the ‘new guy’ as the real MIMINTW but if Dos Equis gets back to the ‘implausible, nearly impossible’ lines it will at least be entertaining and funny.  Until that time its just NOT The Most Interesting Man in the World anymore but a pale imitator.

He has won the lifetime achievement award, twice.

….. but when I do, its a locally brewed craft beer.

For a few more quotes:
http://www.livin3.com/100-most-interesting-man-in-the-world-quotes