Archive for April, 2008

Experimenting with Pineau des Charentes

Saturday, April 26th, 2008


Pineau Experiment No. 6 was perhaps the best of the bunch. . .

The next step was to try mixing some drinks of my own using Pineau des Charentes.

Pineau turned out to slightly awkward stuff to mix with, probably on account of it having such a mild taste. My natural inclination was try substituting pineau in recipes that traditionally call for other aperitif wines (i.e. following well worn patterns like Manhattans and Martinis). This approach did not work well.

While I did not come up with anything truly exceptional, several experiments yielded one or two promising results. (more…)

Pineau des Charentes: an overlooked cocktail ingredient?

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Retrospective photograph of my bottle of pineau - it looked nicer full

It looked better full. . .

Pineau des Charentes is an interesting aperitif from France that I have only recently tried. It seems to be relatively unknown outside of France. Pineau des Charentes is generally drunk straight rather than being used used in cocktails. However, since I am interested in aperitif wines as cocktail ingredients I picked a bottle up to try it out. (more…)

Mixology Monday: China Blue

Monday, April 14th, 2008

So Mixology Monday has suddenly arrived again, and I am completely unprepared. The month is hosted by Anita at Morels and Musings and the theme is fruit liqueurs. I was thinking of making something with crème de cassis, but then my eye fell upon my bottle of Kuai Fei lychee liqueur. Lychee liqueur deserves a little more respect than it gets, so why not give it an outing? I realized I had a grapefruit in the fridge. Then I remembered there was a Japanese (?) drink I had been meaning to write up for a while, the China Blue.



Briottet Crème de Violette and the Classic Aviation

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

I finally tracked down a bottle of crème de violette in Auckland today*. This ingredient has been eluding me for a long time now. Some years ago I sampled the Benoit Serres version in Shanghai. It was never actually sold there, but Mr. Benoit Serres attended a Shanghai food and wine show seeking an importer and I was able to sample the stuff and have a chat with him. Besides his crème de violette he also makes a couple of interesting herbal and nut infused liqueurs – I seem to remember an unusual almond infused cognac.

Today I came across a crème de violette from Briottet. The Briottet version seems fuller flavored then how I remember the Benoit Serres. The Benoit Serres had a subtle (i.e. diluted) cognac base with a violet overlay, and may have been relatively high proof (25%?). The Briottet seems more like intense violet on a base of lowish proof (18%) neutral alcohol. It has a strong aroma, happily more reminiscent of a flower shop (or maybe potpourri) than a soap factory. On tasting you get a rich, smooth, fairly deep violet taste that lingers on the tongue. The finish is really quite long, and somehow never turns to soap. While I cannot taste anything besides violet, I still would not call the taste one dimensional.

I am hardly a crème de violette expert. I have only ever tasted two brands, and those several years apart. I may completely wrong about this comparison. Both Briottet and Benoit Serres seem to be good products. However, I think Briottet may pack a little more power and be more suited to mixed drinks. Most drinks using creme de violette require only small quantities, so you want to use a reasonably intense product.



After tasting some of the liqueur straight the obvious thing to do was to make an original recipe Aviation. (more…)

Appleton Estate Rum Tasting

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008



On Tuesday night I got the chance to attend a tasting organized by Appleton Estate, the famous Jamaican rum producer. The tasting was led by Joy Spence, master blender at Wray & Nephew (producers of Appleton Estate). Joy was an interesting character. She had a fun and not-too-serious approach to rum, but the look of concern on her face when she described how the Hilton was using her 21 year old rum to mix cocktails indicated that her easygoing demeanor only extended so far. There was no doubt she was serious about her work. Tickets were fully booked by the time I realized this tasting was happening, but Jak Jakicevich of Glengarry Wines kindly managed to squeeze me in after a last minute cancellation. The tasting was more action-packed than any other I have been to, adding up to a very entertaining evening. I was glad to be able to make it. (more…)

Bunnyhugs Heads to New Orleans

Monday, April 7th, 2008


“It has been said that a Scotchman has not seen the world until he has seen Edinburgh; and I think that I may say that an American has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi-Gras in New Orleans.” (Mark Twain, Letter to Pamela Moffett, March 1859)


New Orleans has always been the part of the United States I have most wanted to see. I will finally be seeing it when I attend Tales of the Cocktail in July. The trip will be a great chance to learn more about cocktails, see a city that has long interested me, meet some people, and generally have some fun.


Thus far my first hand experience of the United States has been limited to a couple of childhood visits to Disneyland. As a child I was dimly aware that Disneyland was but an imperfect representation of American reality. Adulthood has made this awareness stronger. My understanding of America is thus limited, and even my knowledge of Disneyland has become outdated. This being the case, I am expecting my trip to be highly educational – and not just for the locals.


Chinese nationalist protesters and Chinese online media in New Zealand: the saga continuies

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

There is nothing about cocktails here, so skip this post unless you are having trouble sleeping. . .

Following up on my earlier post on the Chinese protests in relation to Tibet, there have been some further developments in the whole Chinese protesters and Chinese online media saga. (more…)

Passion Fruit Cocktails III: Rum and Rhum

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Having tried passion fruit with pisco, my next experiment was to try it with rum. Ed Hamilton mentioned that one of his favorite drinks was rhum agricole, mixed with passion fruit, lime and a little cane syrup. So rhum agricole was my starting point. . .




Passion Fruit Cocktails II: Breaking out the Pisco

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

My initial round of experimentation with passion fruit showed how aromatic it is. Therefore I decided to partner it with pisco, an aromatic spirit. The obvious starting point was the pisco sour.