About a week ago, I spent a nice, quiet couple of hours at Barnes & Noble. Most of my time was, of course, spent in the cookbook section where I was pleased to be surrounded by books by Jaden, Zoe, and David. I’m constantly amazed at the talent and success of these brilliant people. Anyway, I was sitting on the floor in the cookbook section (yes, on the floor- I’m not ashamed) when I realized that I should be looking at books to help me learn more about cocktails. Knowledge is power, right? So, I hunkered down in front of the cocktail section and started making a pile of books that looked helpful and educational about crafting cocktails, describing various ingredients, and displayed an appreciation for cocktails beyond the blended, syrupy, gimicky cocktails that muck up the sexy appeal of a perfectly balanced work of art. I found all of this in a book entitled “The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics” by Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz.
From the moment I opened the book, I felt a 1940’s-vibe that is more than appropriate for classically-inspired cocktails. Hollinger and Schwartz are experience bartenders (both have worked at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar in San Francisco, CA) and they know and love what they are doing. From the elegant photos of each cocktail, to explaining the why’s and how’s behind making tasty and tasteful concoctions like the Lavendar Sidecar, Jitney Jumble and the Peaches & Herb.
To give you a taste of how great this book really is and the inspiration a well-done book can supply, I’ve included a recipe for my spin the Lavendar Sidecar. Basically, I had trouble finding dried lavendar, but I was able to find dried hibiscus. I said to myself, “Why wouldn’t this work?” …crickets… So, this is my Hibiscus Sidecar. It may have been born out of a grocery store stocking mishap, but it was brought to life nonetheless.
The concept is quite simple. The dried lavendar (or hibiscus in my case) is combined with honey and hot water. Allowing the dried hibiscus to steep in the honey-based syrup creates a slightly pink tint to the cocktail. The floral notes from the dried hibiscus (and the wild-flower honey I used) add a unique and summery twist to this classic cocktail. Perfectly classy and slightly modern. That’s how I like my cocktails. And my men. Wait…that’s not right. Or is it?
I already feel like I have learned a lot about making cocktails from this book and I look forward to learning even more through trying out the recipes and experiencing new flavor combinations. This is just the jump-start I needed when it comes to my Cocktail Friday creations! You can purchase this book on Amazon.com by clicking here.
Makes 1 cocktail
For the syrup:
1/4 cup dried hibiscus
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup hot water
Combine the ingredients and stir together. Allow to steep until the syrup is cool. Strain into an airtight container and keep for up to 2 weeks.
For the cocktail:
1 1/2 oz. Brandy
1/2 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Hibiscus syrup
Dash of orange bitters
Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until very cold and pour into a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass.