Sunday, May 27, 2012

Grapefruit: Cocktail Companion

In last week’s post I mentioned that I have been making cocktails for the first time in decades. I had grown up knowing how to make a whiskey sour—my parents’ cocktail of choice—but naturally felt that I should learn more, perhaps something to make with gin, which I like, but something other than a martini, which I don’t like.  Quickly jumping to the conclusion that I needed a recipe book—any excuse to add to my cookbook collection—I ordered two books, trusting to my friends on egullet, who appear to be astounding drinkers judging by the number of threads about drinks and there being an entire category on spirits and libations. The two I chose were one that has been around a while, and one that is new and trendy, in keeping with the cocktail resurgence:  respectively, Esquire Drinks and The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan. The PDT, as it is known, is beautifully designed and illustrated, workmanlike (that’s a compliment), and contains classic as well as contemporary/new-age bartender recipes, seasonal recommendations, bar food recipes, and a bibliography of further reading. It’s fault is its trim size and heavy weight: I see compromise at work here, the author maybe wanting a traditional bartender handbook trim, the book designer and acquisitions editor not getting that it should not be a hardcover but rather a soft, leatherlike and flexible volume. And the closest thing to what I consider a whiskey sour is the Shiso Malt Sour—which actually makes me wonder, is this what made whiskey sours so popular after the war (WWII)? Ah well, the recipes are good and, as I said, the book is serious.  The Esquire book is badly written and opinionated (I just noticed that it actually admits to being opinionated in its subtitle)—this from someone with many opinions, but who believes those should be well-situated within a proper argument. But it has a focus on classic cocktails, which I did seek out, and seems OK, although the whiskey sour recipe seems all wrong and there is, of course, no excuse for the bad writing.

One thing I learned when reading these books is that grapefruit is as accepted and common as lemon and lime in cocktails—an essential. Who knew? Since I am widely known as having a perfect palate (there are some things that are just statements of fact, and cannot be considered boasting), I had to conclude that I had never had a cocktail made with grapefruit before. The challenge arose, and so when I saw these Arizona grapefruit at the farmer’s market, I immediately knew to what useful end they would be put.

These grapefruit were smallish but full of sweet/sour juice. I perused my newly acquired books and lit on the Swiss Mist, the beginning of my week of shaken cocktails with egg whites that yielded the surfeit of egg yolks that went into last week’s ice cream.

Swiss Mist Without the Absinthe

 This is very good on a hot day. Serves 1.

2 oz gin (I used Bombay Sapphire)
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz grapefruit syrup (see Note)
1 large egg white

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake without ice. Add crushed ice, shake again, vigorously, until very cold, and strain into a chilled stemmed glass such as a coupe or, my preference, martini glass.

Note: To make the grapefruit syrup, make simple syrup by heating 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water, stirring occasionally and brushing down the sugar crystals until they are all dissolved. Cool. Zest one grapefruit and add to the syrup in a canning jar. Seal and turn several time; let steep for 10 minutes. Strain and store in the refrigerator. Makes about 1 cup, enough for 5 or more cocktails, depending on the recipe.


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