THE QUAFF: Ginger Cocktail Showdown

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Recently, I purchased the book Left Coast Libations, which proudly culls cocktail recipes from a wide swath of mixologists in Los Angeles (way too under-represented), San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. I absolutely loved the concept of the book — finally, I could emulate cocktails from The Roger Room here in LA or Bourbon and Branch up in SF. Too bad that nearly every recipe employs amazingly esoteric ingredients; so much so that for the past several months, the book has collected dust on my shelf, occasionally migrating to my coffee table where I would toy with the idea of making one of the recipes. Finally, this past weekend, I declared to my cohort Sly that we had to finally delve into Left Coast Libations. I ordered her to select a recipe, and after many minutes of leafing and perusing, she finally chose not one but two options, both ginger-centric. And so the ginger showdown was born.

Sly and I immediately tromped off to the supermarket to fetch supplies (including a flashy new bottle of Canton) and then an hour an a half later (we got sidetracked by an impromptu stop at a foot massage place), we were ready to go ginger crazy. Results after the jump…

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Our first cocktail: Fleur du Monde from San Francisco’s Jackie Patterson. It involves Don Julio blanco tequila, Riesling, and Canton ginger liqueur, which we purchased specifically for this drink. This better be good…

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Sly generously assists me as I fill the shaker up with ice.

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The setup: martini glasses, shaker, and a random slice of sourdough bread, leftover from Sly’s snack.

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First up, the tequila. One shot per drink.

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Sly once again fixates on our feet. A CB2 tote bag full of Farmer’s Market produce also joins the party.

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Opening the Canton. I remark about five times how much I like the bottle.

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Happy that the liqueur actually smells like ginger. Slightly less happy that we’ve already invested about forty-dollars (with the Riesling) into this drink.

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The inaugural Canton pour.

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Our fancy Riesling. Note that we’re hiding the label from the camera, lest our fanciness overwhelm you all. I mean, it’s not like we decided to compensate for the pricey Canton with a cheap Sutter Home Companion Riesling. Hahaha. That would be crazy…

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One ounce of VERY expensive Riesling, overflowing onto the counter.

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The three ingredients all go into the shaker. I then stir delicately with an appropriately-themed chopstick. It’s around this point that I realize this cocktail is pure alcohol.

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A new red table, courtesy of jash.

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A brief glimpse at my struggling herb garden. Rosemary: dead. Thyme: dying. Chives: gone. Parsley: oddly rebounding, but soon to die, I’m sure. Mint: alive, pitiful. Spider plant: alive, despite accidental murder attempt with pesticide.

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After thirty seconds of stirring, I pour the chilly cocktails.

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Clear and dangerous.

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Preparing for battle.

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Sly insisted that I looked too mourful; so here’s a smile to accurately reflect my enthusiasm.

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Flinching at the cocktail’s potency, but ultimately enjoying it.

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Eeees good!

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I should note that we neglected to include a grapefruit peel for garnish, as instructed.

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Round 1 of the ginger showdown has been lovely.

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Next up: the Laughing Buddha by Duggan McDonnell from Cantina in San Francisco. We start with fresh ginger; although, as can be noted from the green and blue streaks, we fail on this front.

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Luckily, I have some ginger in the freezer that will work perfectly well. Sly gets to work slicing it with a completely inappropriate knife. She’s a little drunk.

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Soon, we have ginger pieces.

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My garbage, which is incidentally also where I’ve accidentally tossed a Serrano chili that we need. Luckily, it is safe and sound in a plastic bag.

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Sly gets to work seeding the aforementioned chili. I don’t think this is totally necessary, but I for some reason keep this to myself. Memo to self: always speak up.

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A gratuitous but lofty shot of Sly slaving away.

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Ginger and Serrano chiles ready to be attacked by my muddler, known formally as Bette Muddler.

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Some lime juice.

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Bette Muddler gets to work. We almost lost Bette Muddler a few weeks ago when IndianJones thwacked her too aggressively against a bag of ice, causing her to momentarily be decapitated. Luckily, we got her back together.

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Me PROPERLY using Bette Muddler on a giant bag of ice.

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The recipe then calls for Five Spice-infused Agave Nectar. Now, I don’t have that, but I do have a marvelous Five Spice-Infused simple syrup that Sly and I made many months ago for our own concoction, The Castlemarre

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Time for Stoli.

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Sly gets to work shaking. We conclude that in this picture, she looks like a gay man in shorts.

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A more feminine angle.

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HALT! We have a special message. The bartender, Mr. McDonnell, notes that one must pour the cocktail into a glass simultaneously with ginger beer at this point. We are NOT to merely top off with ginger beer. Continue.

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Sly obediently follows orders.

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Time for the second glass.

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At last: the Laughing Buddha.

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“Oh it’s DELICIOUS.”

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The Laughing Buddha is so good that I reflexively hone my inner-Stretch Armstrong and extend my arm longer than it has ever extended before.

The Verdict? The Fleur du Monde was quite lovely, if potent. The ginger and the tequila are a fun pairing, and the Riesling keeps things light. However, the drink is surprisingly sweet, which may be thanks to the Canton. If I were to make it again, I’d maybe muddle some fresh ginger in there too, just to drive home the flavor. Still, as stiff cocktails go, we were quite happy.

And then came the Laughing Buddha. This one goes up there with some of the best we’ve made. Everything works: the refreshing ginger and the smokey chili are delicious on their own. But then that five spice syrup kicks in and adds a whole other layer of fun. Lime keeps things bright; vodka keeps thing fun; and the ginger beer keeps things fizzy. This is a cocktail we could have enjoyed for hours upon hours. Maybe we will. Definitely worth trying…

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