Tasting Notes: Atsby Armadillo Cake

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIf I handed you an aperitif that started out with cardamom, cinnamon, and caramel notes, followed by a slightly astringent spice tea-like quality in the mid-palate, with a long, citrusy finish, would you think it was vermouth? Probably not. I’ve been testing Atsby Armadillo Cake out on friends, and not one has guessed that it was a vermouth. Which might be a good thing.

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Ode to Vermouth

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Collage by Poul Lange, © 2013

If you’re not familiar with the illustrator of Storied Sips (coming out on October 8), you should be. Poul Lange is a brilliant, award-winning collage artist whose work is whimsical yet refined. I feel truly lucky to have collaborated on this book with him. As you can surmise from this image, we’re both big fans of vintage–and vermouth. I think that message comes through loud and clear with this latest illustration. Enjoy!

What is a pousse-cafe?

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From Jerry Thomas’ 1862 book, How to Mix Drinks

Popularized in the mid-1800s, a poussé cafe is a multicolored, layered drink taken as a coffee chaser. In French, poussé literally means “to push,” as in, to push down the coffee. The differing specific gravities of each liqueur keeps the layers separate, though you have to be careful to pour slowly over the back of a spoon to achieve the Missoni-like layered look. At some point, these concoctions must have been popular.

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Tasting Notes: Martin Miller’s Gin

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Martin Miller’s Gin

Newer gins seem to be taking a divergent path from the juniper-dominated London Dry style. It’s almost an “anything goes” attitude, responsible for turning out some interesting, feminine, floral gins like G’Vine, Hendrick’s, and now Martin Miller’s Gin. The first thing you notice about the latter is its fresh citrus notes (bitter orange peel, lemon, lime). On the palate, there’s some boozy heat and spiciness from the cinnamon and coriander, with a great, long finish of lemon, lime, and licorice.

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The Case for the Small Cocktail

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These aperitif glasses from a 1929 book on etiquette hold 3 ounces.

In bygone times (as recently as, say, yesterday evening), some imbibers would be caught kvetching as they inspected the cocktail in front of them. “Do those glasses seem small?” “Hmm, not so generous on the pour.” Those comments irk me, and here’s why. A new generation of bartenders at quality-focused and Prohibition-style bars has realized that bigger is not better. In that regard, they’re actually doing us a favor. Truly, who hasn’t cringed at the prospect of choking down those last few ounces of a lukewarm Martini or Margarita. Not so tasty.

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New American Vermouths Breaking Ground

From a 1907 Italian book on how to make vermouth

From a 1907 Italian book on how to make vermouth

I think it’s fair to say that many cocktail enthusiasts have never even tasted vermouth on its own–even a tiny sip. People must have visions of pickle juice and olive brine stuck in their minds when they cringe at the thought of trying it, which is too bad. A good vermouth is really good. Alone. Over ice. With a bit of soda. But offer it to friends and they’ll turn up their noses. That’s why I like to trick my guests (in a nice way!) by offering them an aperitif when they come to my house for dinner. Only once they give an opinion about the spicy, herbal, delicious drink they’re quaffing do I reveal that the mystery brew is vermouth.

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