Thursday, 3 November 2011

Classic Cocktail of The Month: The Lion's Tail

One of the biggest challenges with recreating old cocktail recipes is tracking down hard to find -and some times extinct- cocktail ingredients.  It was not until recently that mixologists couldn't even create an Aviation, due to the absence of creme de violette.  Most of the classic tiki drinks call for things such as falnerum, pimento dram (or more commonly referred to as "allspice dram") and many other ingredients that have become misplaced in time.  Thanks to the work of outstanding companies like Bitter Truth, we are finally seeing a resurrection of these once deceased ingredients.  Much credit must also be given to Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh, author of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.  Without the publication of Mr. Haigh's book,  there would be nearly no demand for such obscure ingredients such as pimento dram.

With the winter months fast approaching, the mojitos and margaritas are slowly exiting center stage.  In their place, egg nog and hot toddys begin to fill the glasses of winter imbibers.  When we think winter drinks, we think of those typical holiday flavors, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, often dusted over the top of an egg nog or brandy alexander.  Nearly all of these winter drinks follow one of two paths, either hot or creamy; there seems to be no middle ground for those not whiling to fully except the cold reality of winter.

Taking a page from Ted Haigh's Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, I present, The Lions Tail.  The first publication of The Lion's Tail comes from CafĂ© Royal Cocktail book in 1937.

The Lion's Tail
- 2 oz Bourbon
- 0.75 oz Pimento Dram (Or less, to taste)
- 0.5 oz Lime Juice
- 1/2 Tablespoon Simple Syrup
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

- Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker
- Add ice and shake
- Double strain into chilled cocktail glass
- No garnish necessary

As you can see on a side note beside pimento dram, it mentions adding less, and I highly recommend doing so.  The pimento dram can easily over power this drink.  Trying using 1/2 ounce to begin with and adding from there.  It is also a personal preference of mine to increase the amount of lime juice to 3/4 ounce.

Even with these forgotten liqueurs finally coming back on the shelves, their distribution is fairly limited.  In BC we are still without a commercial allspice dram.  So what do you do?  Make your own of course!

The recipe is very simple, the hardest part is being patient.

Home Made Pimento Dram
Makes 1.5 L of liqueur

- 2 1/4 Cups 151 Proof Rum
- 1/2 Cup Dried Allspice Berries
- 3 Cups Water
- 3 Cups Brown Sugar

- Crush allspice berries to allow for maximum surface area
- Place allspice berries and rum in a sealed mason jar for a minimum of 10 days
- Strain rum, first through a fine mesh strainer, then through a coffee fitler
- Make 1:1 simple syrup with water and brown sugar
- Mix allspice infused rum and simple syrup together
- Bottle and allow to aged for a minimum of 1 month in bottle

Now get to it!  Make that pimento dram so it will be ready in time for the holidays.  And once finished, try out this month's variation on The Lion's Tail.

The Dragon's Den
- 2 oz Blended Scotch
- 0.5 oz Pimento Dram
- 0.75 oz Lemon Juice
- 1/2 Tablespoon Honey Syrup (1:1 Honey to Water)
- 2 Dashes Highland Bitters *

- Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker
- Add ice and shake
- Double strain into chilled cocktail glass
- No garnish necessary

I don't like to brag, but I find The Dragon's tail to be a great improvement on The Lion's Tail.  The lemon plays very well with the scotch, more so then bourbon and lime.  Also, the bourbon in the Lion's Tail does struggle to keep its head above water, while the scotch cuts through and plays well with the other ingredients.  The Dragon's Tail may just be is an obvious Scottish twist on a classic, but it is one of the better original libations I have concocted.  If you don't want to spend the time making highland bitters, just use angostura, the subtle changes will be negligible.

Highland Bitters *
- 25 Grams Gentian Root
- 14 Grams Coriander Seed
- 7 Grams Orange Peel
- 7 Grams Clove
- 3.5 Grams Camomile Flower
- 3.5 Grams Cinnamon Bark
- 375ml Highland Cask Strength Single Malt

- Add ingredients to sealed mason
- Allow to infuse for one month
- Strain bitters: first through a fine mesh strainer, then through a coffee filter
- Bottle into bitters bottle

If you took the time to make The Dragon's Den -and enjoyed it- be sure to return for future blog posts during November.  I'll be doing several posts revolving around scotch, as it is getting to that time of the year in which we need a real winter warmer.

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