With a little bit of history and a lot of flavor, The Cocktail Club is a guide for connecting with your friends over the best-tasting therapy around—cocktails! Using a format reminiscent of your favorite book club, Maureen Christian-Petrosky highlights one specific spirit or drink type each month. Classic favorites like the martini and the old-fashioned, as well as new sips like the Mason Jar Basil Pisco Sour and Blueberry Lavender Vodka Spritzer, will inspire novices and enthusiasts alike to build up their bar vocabulary and taste outside their comfort zone. The book also offers a delicious selection of hors d’oeuvres pairings like Grilled Figs with Prosciutto and Rosemary Lemon Bars. So whether you’ve been curious about absinthe rinses or want to bone up on your bitters, The Cocktail Club gives you the perfect excuse to pull out your shaker and dip into the art of at-home mixology.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
More To It Than Tonic — Though That Works Too!
What better way to kick off your cocktail club than with the most famous cocktail of all — the Martini! At the heart of this mix is gin, glorious gin. From the bathtub all the way to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, this sip is well-loved by newbies and cocktail scenesters alike, making it a perfect pick for your first cocktail club meet-up.
Leave it to the Dutch to add finesse to the distillation process (that's what they call making a liquid into an alcoholic beverage) creating a spirit perfectly suited for sipping, stirring, and shaking with all sorts of delicious partners or enjoying straight up on its own. Rich in history, gin is a cocktail-menu staple, with concoctions ranging from serious drinks, like Martinis and Negronis, to fruitier sips like the Singapore Sling. Once primarily used as medicine to cure everything from belly aches to kidney problems, today it's used as a cure-all for creative blocks, broken hearts, and sullen men and women around the world.
The Gist of Gin
To help you find your way around gin, it's helpful to understand the different styles you'll find hanging around the shelves of your liquor store. Traditionally, gin is a neutral grain spirit flavored with juniper berries, but modern gin can include everything from orange peel to almonds. These plant, fruit, and herb add-ins are often referred to in booze circles as "botanicals." In the beginning, it might be hard to smell and taste past the alcohol fumes, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to identify lots of different aromas.
Modern gins can include spices such as cardamom and nutmeg as well as any of these botanicals: juniper berries, almond, apple, black currant, lemon peel, orange, angelica, licorice, lavender, and cassia bark (cinnamon).
As with every spirit we'll explore this year, there's more than just one style of gin, and the only way to learn the difference is to taste them side by side. Like winemakers, distillers each put their own signature spin on their spirits, so there are always little differences from brand to brand. Here's a guide to the most popular terms you may come across on labels while shopping:
London Dry Gin When you order a gin cocktail, expect to get London dry in your glass. "Dry" implies that it is not sweet. London dry is what's considered the typical English style, where the botanicals are distilled right into the gin, not added later. This creates a light and aromatic flavor, making this the perfect pick for cocktails. One other note: Gin in this style can come from all over the world; it doesn't have to come from London! When you're out shopping, some popular brands you'll find are: Beefeater, Bombay and Bombay Sapphire, Classic Tanqueray, Tanqueray 10, Van Gogh, Boodles, Gilbey's, Old Raj, Citadelle, and Magellan.
Old Tom Gin This is known as old-style gin and tends to be a little sweet. Once wildly popular, this type of gin may be difficult to locate now, as dry gins tend to be more pleasing to our modern palates. Call ahead to your local store before going on a wild gin chase. Famous brands include Hayman's and Ransom.
Plymouth Gin Just as Champagne can only legally come from Champagne, France, British law stipulates that Plymouth gin can only be produced in the city of Plymouth. Its flavors are similar to London dry gin, but amped up — Plymouth has more body, and more variety in aromas that can range from fruity to citrusy. It's also very dry. The only brand is simply Plymouth Gin.
Holland Gin or Genever Known as Dutch style, this has an uber-junipery finish. Like England's Old Tom gin, genever is distilled from malted grain, giving it a slight yellow tinge. While London dry is more similar to vodka, this style is more in line with a very light whiskey. In this category there are subcategories, including the jonge genever, which is a light-bodied young gin that contains more grain than malt wine, and korenwijn, which is wood aged.
Because genever, or Holland gins, are big on flavor, they're best served neat or on ice, as their flavors can be tricky when mixed in cocktails. This type is harder to find, but brands like Bols, Bokma, De Kuyper, and Anchor Genevieve are available.
Modern or New Western Gins In order to compete with the vodka craze of the eighties and nineties, some gin distillers started to mimic that style of aroma-free, neutral spirits. As the cocktail culture continues to boom, new styles of "botanical" driven gins are reemerging. These gins tend to have a more subtle flavor profile with a balanced botanical palate of flavors like vanilla and lavender, as opposed to the classic heavily juniper-flavored pours. Still made from neutral spirits, these gins are not necessarily grain based, and can include an array of flavorings from the area in which they are distilled. For example, Greyling Modern Dry Gin from Michigan uses local lavender. Other examples include Beefeater Wet, which is pear flavored; Hendrick's from Scotland, which features rose petals and cucumbers; and the creamy full-bodied American Aviation gin made with cardamom, lavender, Indian sarsaparilla, and anise.
What is Vermouth?
As you break into the world of cocktail making, you'll quickly see that bottles of both sweet and dry vermouth (pronounced ver-Mooth) are must-haves for your home bar. Vermouth is a fortified (meaning an alcohol like cognac or brandy is added) red or white wine that is flavored with botanicals. There are two main types, sweet or dry, but new lesser-known types like bianco, amber, and rose have been popping up on drink menus lately. Vermouth, like wine, is perishable. It used to have a bad rap in the states because we really didn't know what to do with it. Now we know that vermouth is surprisingly versatile, either sipped on its own as a delicate aperitif in the European style, or mixed up in cocktails.
Dry Vermouth is clear, bitter, and light-bodied, and is used to make the classic martini. Either the French brand Noilly Prat, considered the traditional pour, or the popular Italian Martini & Rossi are suitable for this drink. You may also find Gallo, Dolin, or Cinzano on the shelves.
Sweet Vermouth Typically a ruddy red color, this type of vermouth is full-bodied and sweetened with sugar syrup. You'd use this for cocktails like the Negroni or the Manhattan. The brands Noilly Prat, Dolin, and Martini & Rossi all make quality sweet vermouth.
The History of the Martini
Like most historical successes, the Martini's start is much disputed, with multiple sources claiming to be responsible for its creation. Feel free to choose whichever incarnation you like best, as long, of course, as you are pondering this over a nice cold martini.
There is an English claim to the cocktail dating back to the late 1800s, which pins its name to the famous firearm favored by the royal navy, called a Martini-Henry rifle. One was likened to the other because, allegedly, they both had a kick (though even English friends of mine believe the Martini cocktail was created in America, and they take their gin seriously).
Stateside, we have a few tales, too. Some say it was invented in the town of Martinez, California, by a bartender named Richelieu. In another story, the famed San Francisco "Professor" Jerry Thomas of the Occidental Hotel claimed he had created it for a miner headed to the town of Martinez.
On the other side of the country, New York's Knickerbocker hotel maintains that their bartender, Martini di Arma di Traggi, stirred it up in 1910 as a "Gin and French." Martini's method involved stirring his drink with lots of ice, straining it, and topping the whole thing with a lemon twist. It was his loyal bar patrons who are credited with changing the garnish to an olive, creating what we now consider the classic Martini cocktail.
Is That An Egg in Your Cocktail?
Maybe you're more of an adventurous imbiber, but for most, the idea of using raw eggs in cocktails may be intimidating. Aside from the common eggnog, there are whole categories of drinks containing this lovely little protein. Along with the nogs there are fizzes — like this month's Sloe Gin Fizz (this page) — sours, and flips. Sours and Fizzes can be made with or without the egg and typically they call for just the egg white. With Nogs and Flips, you get the whole egg or the egg yolk.
Including a whole raw egg, or even just the yolk or white, in your shaker creates a frothy top to your sip and a sultry feel as soon as it hits your mouth. If you like a creamy dreamy cocktail, you may just fall for an egg in your shaker.
Get Your Drink On!
Now it's time we jump into gin. Things to look for as you pour: First, be sure there are no foreign particles floating in your spirits. Gin should be crystal clear and free of any color, except if you are pouring up the bright blue Magellan gin. Some common aromas you'll find as you swirl include juniper, pine, eucalyptus, citrus peel, and even spices such as anise and clove. Remember to pay attention to how it feels in your mouth (the body) and if the finish leaves you wanting another sip.
From the smooth and elegant Martini and Negroni to the fun Sloe Gin Fizz and Grapefruit Gimlet Salty Dog, you're in for an unforgettable tasting.
Tips for This Month
All of this month's recipes are made with London Dry or American gins unless otherwise noted.
It's All in the Glass
For your tasters, be sure to have lots of shot glasses or smaller serving glasses. Make sure to have martini glasses, Collins or highball glasses, and old-fashioned or short glasses too, for the time when everyone decides on their favorite cocktail.
THE CLASSIC MARTINI
The original Martini recipe called for half London dry gin, half Noilly Prat dry French vermouth, and a dash of orange bitters, but the modern Martini is much drier. Some people swear by the vodka martini, but gin has and will always be the quintessential pour for this cocktail.
¼ cup (60 ml) gin
1 tablespoon dry vermouth Lemon twist or olive, for garnish
In a mixing glass or shaker filled with ice, stir the gin and vermouth until your shaker becomes frosty on the outside.
Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish. If you're going for the lemon peel garnish, run the outside of the peel (the yellow side) around the rim of the glass and then twist it, expressing the bitter oil into the gin, and drop it into the glass. Conversely, if you are going with an olive, just gently add it to the glass before you add your gin.
Note: For a dry Martini, reduce the vermouth to ½ ounce.
SHAKE IT UP
Swap your olive for a cocktail onion and you've got a Gibson.
SLOE GIN FIZZ
Sloe gin is not a brand, but rather a type of gin made from infusing ripe wild sloe berries in gin, along with some sugar, resulting in a rich, tart sip.
¼ cup (60 ml) sloe gin
1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup (this page)
3 to 4 ounces (90 to 120 ml) club soda Orange slice and cherry, for garnish (optional)
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the sloe gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Shake and strain them into a Collins or highball glass. Top with the club soda and garnish with the orange slice and cherry, if desired.
This drink is so posh, it has its own glassware, also known as a highball or tall glass.
¼ cup (60 ml) London dry gin
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar, or ½ teaspoons simple syrup (this page)
Club soda Lemon wheel, for garnish
In a Collins glass or any tall glass filled with ice, add the gin, lemon juice, and sugar. Stir and top with club soda. Garnish with the lemon wheel and, if you're feeling fancy, serve with a swizzle stick.
Talk about medicinal — this drink was conceived to fight off scurvy. The gin and lime juice combination was named thegimlet after the tool sailors used to tap into lime juice kegs onboard. The key ingredient here is Rose's lime juice (you can find it at almost any grocery or liquor store), and the classic recipe from the Savoy hotel bar is half gin to half Rose's. If you can't find it, you can substitute fresh lime juice and add a teaspoon of sugar or simple syrup.
1¼ ounces gin
1¼ ounces Rose's lime juice Lime wedge, for garnish
Stir the gin and Rose's lime juice in a shaker full of ice. Strain them into a chilled cocktail glass. Squeeze in a wedge of lime and serve.
This is one of my favorite cocktails, boasting a rich ruby red hue that's perfect for toasting with friends.
1 ounce gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 to 3 ounces (60 to 90 ml) chilled club soda (optional)
Orange slice, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the gin, Campari, and vermouth. Shake and strain them into a rocks glass filled with ice and top with the club soda, if you choose. Garnish with an orange slice.
GRAPEFRUIT GIMLET SALTY DOG
I first tasted this lovely cold cocktail on a trip to the Greek isle of Mykonos with my brother. A salty dog is traditionally made with vodka, but here we substitute gin and add Rose's lime juice to create a gimlet-style salty dog. If you stick with vodka and skip the salt rim, you're drinking a Greyhound.
Lime wedge Coarse salt, for rimming the glass Ice cubes
¼ cup (60 ml) gin
1½ teaspoons Rose's lime juice
½ cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Use the lime wedge to wet the rim of an old-fashioned glass. Lightly dip the rim in the salt. Fill the glass with ice and add the gin, Rose's lime juice, and grapefruit juice and stir.
This month, our snacks play up the best gin has to offer. The cucumber kabobs are awesome alongside a Gimlet, while the goat cheese spread has a vibrant tang suited to nibbling alongside a solid chilled Martini. Our two types of bruschetta are suited to any of our cocktails, and sure to satisfy a healthy appetite.
CUCUMBER, MELON, AND MINT KEBABS WITH CHILI-LIME DIPPING SAUCE
SERVES 10 TO 12
½ honeydew melon, seeded
¼ cup (30 g) roasted peanuts, rough-chopped
½ cup (120 ml) sweet Thai chili sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
24 fresh mint leaves
1 cucumber, cut into ¼-inch (6-mm) slices
Using a melon baller, scoop the melon into 24 balls and set them aside.
In a separate small bowl, combine the chili sauce and the lime juice to make the dipping sauce. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top.
Using a long toothpick or short skewer, thread one mint leaf, one melon ball, and one slice of cucumber. Serve with the dipping sauce and chopped peanuts.
BRUSCHETTA TWO WAYS
EACH SERVES 10 TO 12
1 baguette, about 22 inches (55 cm) long, sliced on the bias into ½- to ¾-
inch (12-mm to 2-cm) slices
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the tuna and capers:
1 (5-ounce/140-g) can water-packed tuna, drained
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
½ lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon minced shallot or red onion
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest Fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon capers, roughly chopped
For the apple and cheddar:
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced, skin on
½ lemon, juiced
6 ounces (170 g) aged yellow cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
1 to 2 tablespoons honey Fresh ground pepper
Preheat the broiler and position a rack 5 to 6 inches (12 to 15 cm) from the broiler. Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush them with the oil. Broil and toast them until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. (Times will vary as all broilers have different strengths, so keep an eye on them.)
Make the tuna and capers: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tuna, mayonnaise, lemon juice, shallot, oil, zest, and pepper and pulse a few times until thoroughly combined. Top half of the toasted baguette slices with heaping teaspoons of tuna and sprinkle with a pinch of the capers.
Make the apple and cheddar: Toss the apple slices with the lemon juice to prevent them from browning. Place 1 to 2 slices of cheddar and 1 apple slice on each of the remaining baguette slices. Drizzle with honey and top with fresh-ground pepper.
GOAT CHEESE SPREAD
SERVES 8 TO 10
7 to 8 ounces (200 to 225 g) plain soft goat cheese, at room temperature
1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, plus more for garnish Salt (optional)
1 or 2 crusty French baguettes (depending on size)
In a medium bowl, soften the cheese with the back of a wooden spoon. Add in the chives, parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix until evenly combined. Sprinkle on the pepper and season with a pinch of salt, if desired.
To serve, break off pieces of the bread and smear them with the goat cheese. Garnish with cracked pepper.
Note: Although I like to just rip pieces from the untoasted baguette, you can also slice and toast the bread in a 350°F (175°C) oven for 5 to 10 minutes.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Cocktail Club"
Copyright © 2014 Maureen Christian-Petrosky.
Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 January Gin,
2 February Hot Cocktails,
3 March Brandy,
4 April Vodka,
5 May Whiskey,
6 June Tequila,
7 July Frozen Drinks,
8 August Rum,
9 September Sangria & Pitcher Drinks,
10 October Beer-Tails,
11 November Liqueurs & Other Spirits,
12 December Bubbly Cocktails,
Index of Searchable Terms,