Welcome once again to Mixology Monday – the monthly online cocktail party! Dry cocktails are the theme this month, and this was certainly something that can be a lot of fun. I am a fan of the more bitter, herbal, and dry flavors in cocktails – too much added sugar isn’t really my thing. As described by our host, Nick, at Booze Baron:
Then it hit me, maybe it’s not the poor guy’s fault, maybe we as mixing maestro’s don’t actually consider the whole palate in our industry. Try to name a famous dry cocktail other than the Martini…
We don’t make enough of them, nor write about them. With a world that’s slowly waking up to the fact that excess sugar is probably one of the worst things we put in our diet it’s something we all should probably take a look at.
Name a famous dry cocktail other than the Martini…
Not just making stevia syrup but actually remembering there’s an entire section of the human sensory experience that enjoys things like dry wines, dry sherries, dry cider, crisp pilsners, dry lambics, gin with soda not tonic and neat spirits. Aperitifs are supposed to avoid sugar so as to not fatigue the tastebuds but swanky restaurants seem to think an old fashioned or a hurricane is good enough.
With that in mind I announce the
Dry Cocktails Challenge for Mixology Monday 109.
Your mission is to create an awesome dry cocktail that excites, entices and above all refreshes.
A maximum 10% of the entire beverage can be as sweetener such as liqueur, sugar, syrups (including orgeat and honey you sneaky buggers) or juice.
A further 10% is allowed for sweet vermouth and other sweet fortified wines (so 20% all up if no other sweeteners are involved).
Your sweetened spirits and flavoured spirits (including sipping rums, spiced rums and honey whiskies) all count as a sweetener so once again no more than 10% of the drink.
I have often returned to a classic as a font of inspiration – the Negroni. I think that the combination is a good starting off point this month. The Negroni, if you recall, is a souped up version of the Americano. The Americano is a combination of Campari, Sweet Vermouth, and some club soda for effervescence. As Legend goes, the rake or ne’e’r-do-well Count Negroni asked his bartender for an Americano with more oomph, and so a shot of gin was added to created the drink purportedly named after the good Count. This story is most likely apocryphal, but we cocktalians do love a good story.
One of the fun variations on a Negroni is a Negroni Sbagliato, or broken Negroni. Here, the effervescence of the original Americano returns but with a prosecco replacing the gin. This combination of an amaro or amaro-like product with a sparkling component makes a lot of sense. The slightly bitter drinks, the dry drinks, are often more refreshing than the sweetened drinks while the bubbles in effervescent drinks lighten the beverage further. We have the start of something to create our Dry cocktail for Mixology Monday.
Campari, for all of its bitter qualities, hides a lot of sugar in the formula, so I am opting for the related Aperol instead. This provides a similar flavor profile, though less bitter and also less sweetness. I wanted to balance some of these herbal qualities in the drink since I am using a smaller amount of the Aperol, so I decided to try a Perfect variation here with both Sweet and Dry Vermouth. We are now up to our maximum “sweet” components of the drink but I have two more things to add.
Instead of regular gin, I made a home-barrel aged gin. Our local distillery does limited edition barrel-aged gin every year, but I didn’t want to crack one of those bottles. Instead, I used a home-aging kit that is often used for cocktails to just age the gin.
Because of the small volume and ample surface area of the stave inside the jar, the barrel-aging process took only 4-5 Days before reaching this beautiful golden result. The gin itself had the edges nicely rounded off, as one would expect, with a deeper oaken flavor that muted some of the more subtle components but let the juniper and citrus come forward with remarkable clarity.
Finally, in the tradition of sparkling aperitifs, and completely buying into the current trend of beer cocktails, I’m topping this with a locally brewed saison beer. A saison beer is usually a highly carbonated ale with lots of fruit and spice notes meant to be enjoyed in the summer. They are also some of my favorite beers. Specifically, this is the Saison of Sin from Rebel Kettle Brewing.
My first attempt was … unsuccessful. The Aged Gin had interacted a bit strangely and while dry it was not an entirely pleasant cocktail so I needed to go back to tweaking what I had available. The creosote-like flavors seemed to come through too much in this combination. I split the Aged Gin with regular gin and went with the more assertive Campari replacing its sub, Aperol. The Orange bitters came out for a different kind of flavor highlight and we were good to go for round two.
Before we get to the actual recipe, we must return to the question of naming. This drink went through a few iterations to find something that I thought others might want to drink. It is “corrected” as it were. It is certainly inspired by the Americano, and here I have added an Arkansas beer to the mix. Accordingly, for lack of proper creativity, this shall be deemed the “Arkansano Corretto”!
- .75oz Aged Gin
- .5oz Gin
- .75oz Dry Vermouth
- .25oz Sweet Vermouth
- .25oz Campari
- 2-3 Dashes Orange Bitters
- Saison beer to top
- Orange Slice to Garnish
- In a highball glass filled with ice, add the first five ingredients.
- Add the bitters
- Top with Saison beer
- Garnish with the orange slice
The first thing that comes across in this corrected form is the bitter orange flavors from the Campari, heightened by the Orange Bitters. The dryness comes through at the end with a long lingering finish leaving you wanting another sip or two. There is an intriguing roundness to the drink in the middle tastes bridging the initial Orange flavors and the scintillating dryness where the herbal flavors predominate and the aged gin comes into its own.
A big thank you to Nick at Booze Baron for this challenging theme to work with, Fred Yarm at Cocktail Virgin for keeping the lights on, and Paul Clarke at The Cocktail Chronicles for starting this wild MxMO ride.