Let Your Freak Flag Fly

by Francine Cohen

It's unusual for me to pen something in the first person, but this time it is warranted; my public confession is at the heart of this week's column.   Here we go...I don't hate "Adult Chocolate Milk."

Now this isn't to say you're going to be invited to brunch at my apartment and sadly discover I've swapped out the Belvedere Bloody Mary for this chocolate milk-esque  and vodka concoction that was created by a Newport Beach, CA housewife. Things aren't about to get out of hand here.  Not to worry.  I've got a well-stocked bar and know how to use it.  But, I must admit, the stuff isnt vile.  In fact, its rather palatable.

Now mind you, its no Baileys Irish Cream (www.baileys.com), but despite grumbling about the product as I wrote about it last year for Beverage Industry News (www.binonline.net) I had to eat crow at the latest NY Bar Show after finally tasting it.  I'm sure their sales manager was thrilled to hear I had been skeptical.

But really who wouldn't be?  Let's be honest about this- the cocktail cocoon in which many of us revolve embraces the artisanal, handcrafted spirit.  It seems to be commonly accepted that the more extreme flavor a cocktail has, the more obscure the bitters, garnishes, and other ingredients a drink is made of, and the longer it takes to make the more we embrace it.  Quirky is king and plebeian spiked chocolate milk is only on this earth to be scoffed at.

Or is it?  David Ransom, Wine & Spirits Writer and Columnist: "Rocks Stars" on InsideFandB.com (www.insidefandb.com) says, "Adult Chocolate Milk is one of the exciting new spirit products of the year, whith a great backstory of personal triumph over adversity by the owner. It's like Yoohoo with a kick!  Should industry folks drink it? Yes, because they drink everything!  I think they should, because it's a great product, and industry insiders love great products and enjoy backing new things."

Okay David, I don't think everyone is going to jump on the bandwagon but perhaps at least your enthusiasm will serve to get some people to take a look at things before rushing to judgement.

That's exactly what Gaz Regan of Ardent Spirits (www.ardent spirits.com) did at the recent Berlin Bar Convent where he willingly tried a Negroni version in which the Campari was swapped out for Jäger. He notes, "It worked very well indeed.  I thought it might mask the gin and vermouth, but no, it danced nicely with them."

Regan's willingness to give it a whirl was due to the fact that he's Gaz Regan and he's going to drink whatever the heck he darn well pleases (though I suspect Mr.Regan might have put it more strongly).  There's no shame in drinking what you like, even when it's mocked by others.  Regan illuminates, Jägermeister has this bad rep, simply because lots of idiots use it to get drunk,  but the fact is that Jäger is a complex German liqueur that, if used judiciously, is an incredibly good cocktail ingredient."  He continues (with an awkward pause), "Yes, I like Jäger shooters, too."

Shots of often mocked spirits are generally not on the menu at the Spirited Dinners during Tales of the Cocktail (www.talesofthecocktail.com) but this year's festival did embrace some brands that until now haven't had a welcome place in the cocktail bartender's repertoire because they've had a much more mainstream appeal and that doesn't always jive with fancy cocktails.

But maybe it does and we just haven't given those spirits the proper attention they deserve.  We're slowly embracing frozen concoctions again; Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay feature a whole section of them on their menu at their new bar The Tippler (www.the tippler.com) and rumor has it that TJ Lynch and Richard Knapp are revving up their blender too at Mother's Ruin.

Over drinks at Audrey Saunders and Robert Hess's wedding reception this July (aka the Pernod Bartenders' Breakfast) Ethan Kelley mentioned having some outstanding cocktails made from Southern Comfort.

And at the Disaronno Spirited Dinner guests discovered that the lineup of cocktails was shockingly good; from Debbi Peek's welcome refresher, through to Willy Shine's entree pairing and all the way to dessert.  Who'da thunk it?  See those suave ads on television and you might turn your nose up; but if it mixes as well as this it  could be worth a second look at the liqueur that the brand's publicist, Jessica Rodriguez of Wagstaff Worldwide (www.wagstaffworldwide.com) describes as, "Disaronno is made from a secret recipe, which dates back to 1525 and features Almond aroma, Vanilla from Madagascar and pure caramelized sugar, and doesn’t actually doesn't contain any nuts and is not made from almonds. It is often assumed the word amaretto translated means almonds in Italian, but the word actually comes from the Italian 'amaro', which means bitter. It’s an Italian liqueur flavored with herbs and fruits soaked in apricot kernel oil."

Debbi Peek embraced it and won herself the title of 2011 US Winner of the Disaronno Mixing Star Global Bartending Competition.  Her cocktail (recipe below) is a modern day take on a throw back.  She explains, "My inspiration for the cocktail came from my mom actually... When I was a kid she would sometimes order an Amaretto Stone Sour if we were at a nice restaurant, so that was the first cocktail I ever tried and still love to this day. My cocktail was a twist on the Amaretto Stone Sour and the French 75.  I took the ingredients in both cocktails and put my twist on them by adding orange marmalade, blood orange and fresh rosemary. The name came from turning the French 75 into Italian 57 using Italian ingredients and changing the 75 to 57."

For Debbi, there's no guilt about embracing Disaronno.  And if you have the pleasure of tasting this drink you'll just feel guilty for not making enough for your fiends.  On the other hand, Rick Dobbs of Cocktail GoGo with his comment that, "Red Stag is my guilty pleasure.  Like midget porn.";  now that's a horse of a different color.

But really, who's to judge?

ITALIAN 57
1 oz DISARONNO® ORIGINALE
1/4 oz BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® GIN
1 oz  Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz PERFECT PUREE Blood Orange
1 bar spoon Orange Marmalade
1/4 oz MARTINI® ROSÉ SPARKLING WINE
8-10 Fresh Rosemary Needles

In a mixing glass muddle lemon juice, blood orange puree, marmalade and rosemary.  Add DISARONNO® ORIGINALE, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® GIN and ice. Shake, double strain into a cocktail glass or Champagne flute. Garnish with a blood orange wheel and a rosemary sprig.

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