The A section of The Complete World Bartender Guide has 113 cocktail recipes, 8 liquors, and 7 punches for a grand total of 134 beverages we need to make and consume. Not every session can be cocktails and fun. Some days we need to make the liquors and punches. This week we have decided to tackle a liqueur from the book, ANISETTE DE BORDEAUX. Along with the ANISETTE we need to make FORBIDDEN FRUIT. We plan to taste the CRÈME DE MENTHE we made previously, but first we need to fix a little issue.
It seems like we always have issues. First there was the issue of mold on the A-1 mixture. Now rogue gardeners have sabotaged us. During the last session we made the two different meads. We covered the jars with cheesecloth to keep out debris but still allow naturally occurring yeast in the air to come in contact with the honey mixture. It never occurred to us that there would be high-powered leaf blowers near our concoctions.
Using a small soup skimmer, it’s easy to sift the debris out of the mead with the 4:1 water to honey mixture. It reminds me of when I was a kid and my parents made me clean the pool. I am more into fixing the mead than I ever was with the pool. The 5:1 honey to water mixture is much harder to sift because of the viscous nature of all the honey. I get out as much as I can, but we decide to boil it to kill anything that would still be in there. Looking back, we probably should have boiled the other mead as well, but we were too anxious to get on with the session.
On to the CRÈME DE MENTHE which we started during the previous Rituals session. The recipe states that you need to let the mint and vodka steep for 12 hours. Eric was not present for the next part of the recipe seeing as it was simple enough for even me to complete. I strained the mint from the vodka and set the vodka aside, then made simple syrup and mixed it with the infused vodka. I added another half cup of mint leaves to the mixture, shook it, and let it steep for another 10 hours. Ten hours later I strained the mint leaves from the vodka simple syrup mixture and bottled it.
Before I brought the CRÈME DE MENTHE to Eric’s house I just had to taste it for myself. It definitely has that sugar syrup liqueur texture to it and it is minty, but not too minty. I actually think that it’s a great liqueur for mixing. I always feel bad buying these kinds of liqueurs at the liquor store knowing full well I can make them at home. I know that some of them are harder than others to make at home but this was a breeze.
I bring out the jar and Eric instantly asks, “Is it really minty?” As usual, there is a lingering pessimism in his voice, to which I reply, “Not that much.” Eric takes a sip. “It’s really minty,” he says, “but it’s good.” And with this general acceptance of crème de menthe, it is deemed satisfactory for our needs.
Now we set out to make some more booze. When I say make some booze, I don’t mean that we are distilling actual alcohol. The laws in California are such that you cannot own a still for use in distilling alcohol without a commercial license unless it is for laboratory use or for distilling water. Since we are an infusion there is no need for us to get a license. Here is the recipe from the book:
ANISETTE DE BORDEAUX
7 oz. whole, green anise seeds
3 oz. star anise seeds
1.5 oz. fine tea
1 tbs. apiece ground coriander and fennel
10 pints sugar
3.5 gallons cooking alcohol
Pound the anise seeds into a powder; combine with the remaining spices and steep in the alcohol for two weeks. Strain. Boil the sugar in enough water to make a thick syrup; mix with anisette. Bottle and store in a cool place until fermented. Strain and re-bottle for future use.
We have a couple of concerns with this recipe. For one, the quantity is way too much; we only need a little of this stuff for cocktails so we will pare it down. Secondly: Cooking alcohol—notwithstanding the fact that its three and a half gallons of it—what is it? Is it sherry? Is it brandy? Is it vodka? Is it grain alcohol? Or is it just cooking alcohol? Here is another question that even the Internet can’t answer. I look up some other anisette recipes on the Interwebs and find that some people use vodka while others use brandy. Now that we have some idea we decide to make two batches: a vodka batch and a brandy batch.
We begin by “pounding anise seeds into a powder.” We try this manually at first and quickly resort to using a coffee bean grinder. We do this with the fennel as well. The coriander was pre-ground. After splitting spices into two jars, we pour the vodka in one and the brandy in another. And that’s it until two weeks from now. I can already tell though that this is a more natural anisette because it has a brown hue to it, unlike the the clear stuff you get at the store. (Rule #9 for the Rituals states “Organic (preferably homemade) ingredients must be used when possible.”)
FORBIDDEN FRUIT is a now-defunct cocktail. The liqueur has been off the market since the 70s. There are multiple sites about the long history of this liqueur, so I won’t go into that, but what I will tell you is that no one really knows the recipe. Some say pomelos, while others say grapefruit or shaddock as the main ingredient of the liqueur. People still have bottles of the stuff. Some people have tasted it but the liqueur is so old that it has lost some of its flavor. There are multiple recipes online, but which one is most true to the original?
We discover one recipe on the blog Savoy Stomp. At first we are inclined to use this recipe, but as we read the first comment we find a better recipe. The comment was made by someone named Anna who claims to have tasted the FORBIDDEN FRUIT. She states, “I actually was lucky enough to get a few drops of the real thing in an old bottle I bought. It’s actually surprisingly light and bitter, and not spiced at all…While star fruit is not actually an ingredient, its flavor is mild and provides a quick fix on the correct bitterness, without having to guess using the pomelo peel.”
We’ve found what we hope is the closest to the real thing. Here is Anna’s recipe:
Macerate the flesh of 1 star fruit & half of a pomelo in 2:1 vodka: brandy blend for about two weeks. Strain and add honey (and, if desired, agave nectar at 1:1) to reach a liquor: sweetener ratio of about 3:1. It should be a light golden color with the consistency of a thick syrup.
Eric picked up a pomelo earlier and then went on a trek to Little Saigon in Orange County to find star fruit. I’ve never peeled a star fruit. Eric hasn’t either, so we check out YouTube for the answer. The first video we watch is so annoying we decide to just peel it as best we can. Once the star fruit is done I start work on the pomelo. Pomelos are half fruit and half seeds. I’ve never seen this many seeds inside of a citrus fruit. I macerate the flesh in a bowl, and then dump the fruit and 2:1 vodka brandy blend into a jar. And that is that for two weeks as well. Later Eric’s wife mocks us for our unorthodox pomelo deseeding technique and tells us there is an easier way, but her helpful advice is way too late.
We’ve had a very productive day so far. We’re a little upset we haven’t gotten to a cocktail so we decide to make the next cocktail we can. That drink is the Ace.
.75 oz. gin (Plymouth)
.25 oz. grenadine (Jack Rudy)
2 tsp. cream
.5 egg white
Shake with ice, pour, sprinkle nutmeg, and serve.
Hands down this is not a good cocktail. Eric picks up on this right away. I, however, don’t really taste the drink and just slug back a mouthful. My second sip is much different because I swish it in my mouth to really taste it. The grenadine is a weird finish to a gin and cream cocktail. Both Eric and I agree that this is another loser.
Eric: “This is just foamy gin.”
Brian: “It’s not bad if you drink it without tasting it. But once you swirl it around in your mouth, it’s terrible.”
SCORES: Brian gives it a mediocre 2. Eric, a strong 1.
Never to be outdone we decide to have another drink. Eric choosing to use ingredients we have on hand from this session he makes a couple grasshoppers, using Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao.
1 oz. green crème de menthe (Rituals DIY)
1 oz. white crème de cacao (Tempus Fugit)
1 oz. heavy cream
Combine with ice, shake well. Strain straight up.
I like the grasshopper. Eric thinks it needs some chocolate bitters. Not too sure about that, but we can’t try it anyway because he doesn’t have any chocolate bitters.
And with that our session comes to an end. We are both looking forward to tasting our hopefully wonderful concoctions in two weeks. Until then keep the Rituals alive and make yourself a cocktail.
-Eric: “It has to be the Ace, because that’s the only book drink we made. But I refuse to vote for it.”
Session 3 loser:
-Brian: “Clearly the Ace.”
-Eric: The Ace
-Bokbunja Korean Raspberry Wine
-More A-1 PICK-ME-UP
-CRÈME DE MENTHE
-Snacks Eric acquired from a job
-A lot of discussion on the Forbidden Fruit Liqueur
-How to get a free iPad from a car dealer
-Naturally occurring yeast
-Eric’s NYE drink menu