[Exotica] cocktails from the rosengartenreport.com

Lou Smith lousmith at pipeline.com
Thu May 6 15:39:41 MDT 2004

>From David Rosengarten's Tastings

The Mimosa 

   I've never warmed up to this combo of orange juice and sparkling wine. The orange juice that's served isn't usually top-notch and if it is, it unfortunately gets watered-down by the wine. The sparkling wine is never top-notch, and a little OJ could never disguise that. However, if it were top-notch--I'd never ever expose its subtleties to a dose of orange juice! The Mimosa was a lose-lose situation...until now. 

   Recently, I discovered that if you give up the orange juice entirely, but make your mimosa with Orangina instead, a light orange soda from France, you're half-way there to a logical Mimosa. The other half is a delicious, light, sparkling wine that doesn't taste fruity and cheap, and doesn't take itself too seriously...ecco, Prosecco! 

   Mionetto Prosecco is one of my favorite brands for this purpose, particularly their light and agreeable Mionetto Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Frizzante ($13), only about 11% alcohol. Orangina is available in grocery stores everywhere.

   So, to prepare your Prosecco/Orangina Mimosa: Chill the liquids. Pour 3 ounces of Orangina into the glass. Then, pouring from a height of a few inches above the rim of the glass, pour in 6 ounces of the Prosecco so that it foams up in the glass. (If you'd like a sweeter Mimosa, add more Orangina.) Serve immediately. 

   You may have to force a few snobs to give the formerly fuddy-duddy Mimosa another chance...but they'll end up happy that you did!
The Guavalini 

   I can't resist giving you one more sparkling wine and fruit juice combo for your brunch--one that I invented a few years back on a plane to Hawaii! The cabin crew was serving some indifferent sparkling wine from California, which I started to drink--until I noticed that, this being a Hawaiian flight, they were serving guava juice as well.

   Mixology at 30,000 feet, I discovered, can be highly rewarding! The two beverages together tasted much, much better than either one by itself.

   I have since refined this thing in my kitchen. Chill a decent bottle of dry sparkling wine from somewhere in the world--California, Spain, Italy, France, etc. But not good Champagne! Save that for another time. Chill a can or bottle of guava juice as well; Goya makes a decent one that is widely available.

   When ready to serve, pour 4 ounces of the sparkling wine into a Champagne flute, and vigorously stir in 3 ounces of guava juice. I hope you find, as I do, that a true rush of the Hawaiian Islands comes over you as you sniff and sip this drink. If not.....drink a little more!
The Perfect Gin & Tonic 

   Oh, yes, Champagne's a great way to start any evening's gastronomic activities. But I, on a warm summer's night, in the gathering twilight, on the verandah, wearing my crisply pressed white dinner jacket, chatting with Noel Coward about cricket, reach far more often for a gin & tonic, surely one of the most refreshing, palate-opening cocktails ever invented.

   Problem is, the state of gin-and-tonic-making is at perilously low levels. Whenever I order one (well, usually without a white dinner jacket, and usually discussing the Mets with some guys from Queens), some combination of the following problems crops up:

too much gin
not enough gin
gin that's too strong
tonic that's flavorless
tonic that's flat
too much ice
too little ice
too little lime

   So I got to work, attempting once and for all to standardize all that I love about G&T-ness. Here are the secrets:

1) The drink works best with a gin that's light, low in alcohol--otherwise the drink is bitter and hot. I recently compared the alcohol levels of gins on the market, and was amazed to find a range from 41.2% alcohol up to almost 50% alcohol!
The one that was 41.2% is Plymouth Gin, one of the lightest, loveliest gins you can buy, bursting with flavor (its recipe using juniper berries, coriander seeds, citrus peel and angelica root was first made in 1793), and certainly my favorite for the gin & tonic. 
It was a favorite of such luminaries as Ian Fleming (did Bond drink G&Ts?), Winston Churchill and FDR. The latter consumed it at Campobello because it used to be available in the American market, but has been off for decades--until its re-introduction this year. That's big news! I say grab it now, by all means, for the best G&T you've ever had.

2) The drink works best with the right tonic water--which is to say water that's very lively/bubbly, and water that has much of the traditional quinine flavor.
There are a number of tonic waters widely available but, for my money, the out-and-out leader in the field--the only one I'll use--is Schweppes. I like to buy it in small bottles so that it remains unopened and fresh; if you're buying large bottles, make sure you can use most of it right after you open it.

3) Lastly, the biggest secret of all: take your Schweppes water and pour it into an ice cube tray! A few hours later, your Tonic Ice Cubes will provide you with the tightest-tasting, most integrated G&T you can imagine--with no watery meltdown as your conversation with Noel gets heated.

The Frosty Plymouth Gin & Tonic
makes one gin & tonic

four Schweppes Tonic Water Ice Cubes (see NOTE)
3 ounces Plymouth Gin
4 ounces Schweppes Tonic Water
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
lime wedge for garnish

1. Place the ice cubes in a tall, narrow, chilled glass (the cubes should come near the top.) Add the gin, then the tonic water, then the lime juice, stirring well. Garnish with lime wedge, and serve immediately. White dinner jacket is optional.

NOTE: To make the ice cubes, simply fill an empty ice cube tray with Schweppes Tonic Water, and let the cubes freeze. It takes just a few hours. Covered well, the cubes will remain fresh-tasting in the freezer for at least a few weeks. 

Plymouth Original Dry Gin is imported by
Todhunter Imports Ltd.
West Palm Beach, FL
561 837-6300
561 832-4556 (fax)
sales at todhunter.com (e-mail)
Cajun Bloody Mary with Pickled Vegetables

This recipe is for a big party; feel free to make it in smaller quantities.
makes at least 3 dozen four-ounce Bloody Marys

four 28-ounce cans of whole tomatoes in thick tomato purée, chilled
6 cups tomato juice, chilled
2 tablespoons celery salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne (or to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco (or to taste)
1 1/2 cups chilled vodka
salt to taste
pickled vegetable garnishes (see Vegetable Garnish Note)

1. Working in batches, purée the canned tomatoes and their thick purée in a food processor. You will have a rich liquid, with no lumps.

2. In a large bowl, or pot, combine the purée with the tomato juice, and blend well.

3. Add the celery salt, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne, Tabasco, and vodka. Season to taste with salt; you may need more than you expect to bring up the flavor of the mix (canned tomatoes have less salt than tomato juice). Keep mixture cold.

4. When ready to serve, fill up an 8-ounce tumbler with ice cubes. Pour about 4 ounces of Bloody Mary mixture over the ice, which should almost fill the glass. Garnish with pickled vegetables, at least 3 pieces per glass.

Vegetable Garnish Note: Arrange at least 4 or 5 different kinds of pickled vegetables on 4 or 5 dishes; your guests will help themselves to the garnishes for their Bloody Marys. Generally speaking, "long " vegetables (such as pickled okra, pickled string beans, pickled asparagus spears work best as stirrers. But "short" vegetables (pickled cocktail onions, pimiento-stuffed olives, pickled "Tuscan" peppers) can work too, as long as you thread several of each one on a toothpick.  
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