Tiki Cocktail Party

From time to time, we like to have little cocktail parties to try out our drinks on our friends. This time around, Jen had about enough of Winter, so we jumped seasons and went straight for Tiki. In addition to the Treasure Island and Under the Volcano that we already posted, we came up with another three of our own, as well as five established classics to anchor the whole thing.

While it was a bit more intense than the standard party (Tiki drinks have a LOT of ingredients and even more garnish), it was a lot of fun. We pulled a lot of our classics and syrup ideas from Beach Bum Berry Remixed, which we both highly recommend if you’re into this kind of thing. Having a good base of syrup seemed (at least to us) to be just as important as having a good selection of rum when putting these drinks together, so here are a couple recipes we used, in the event you’re interested in trying them out yourself. They do tend to be a bit more complex than your average syrup, but you can really taste the difference.

Recipes and more photos after the break!

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According to random.org, at number 45, our winner is Autumn! Congrats Autumn, and we hope you enjoy mixing up some drinks at home! Keep us updated on what you come up with!

Thanks to everyone else for entering and thanks for reading!

Friday Happy Hour

photo: Tub Gin

Need Friday plans? Our friends at TuB Gin are hosting a happy hour at Fergie’s Pub from 4:30-6pm and they’ll be mixing up $1 TuB G&Ts. Going along with their music & booze feel, local folk rockers John Train will be playing while you kick back. We’re told you can also stream the show on their Facebook page starting at 4:30. Unfortunately we can’t go because I’ll be trying to whip our apartment into shape for our Tiki cocktail party tonight, but I’ll definitely be drinking some gin drinks in their honor while I clean! What are your Friday night plans?

A Few Quick Notes

It’s been a pretty busy couple weeks for us trying to get ready for the Tiki party we’re throwing this weekend, but here’s a couple things that we wanted to pass along:

A Spirited Dinner at Ela
Next week (Tuesday, March 13th) at the recently-awarded Three Bell Ela, Executive Chef/Owner Jason Cichonski will be putting together a five course meal, paired with original cocktails featuring Art in the Age’s ROOT, SNAP and RHUBY. Take a look at the flyer above for more details about the event, but from what we’ve heard of the menu, it sounds great. Jen and I finally got around to checking out Ela this past Friday, and really enjoyed ourselves. Fantastic food, and the cocktails were delicious, too. In my humble opinion, this is definitely something worth checking out. For more info: elaphilly.com or artintheage.com.

Liquor Cabinet Updates
Not quite as exciting as having an award winning chef build a meal around spirits you love, but we finally got around to adding a few of our new bottles to the Liquor Cabinet.  Nothing enormous, but a couple whiskeys and some new rum to warm up for Tiki season.

The PLCB Introduces a New App
Our own PA Liquor Control Board has released an app to help you navigate Pennsylvania’s liquor stores with some pretty neat features. From real-time inventory and store locators, I’m really interested to give this thing a test drive. Read more about it from our friends over at DrinkPhilly.com.

Hop Sing Laundromat Is Now Serving Drinks…
…in moderation. Owner Lêe has been having tastings to get the word out about his own particular take on cocktails, and he’s doling out the invitations via twitter. Follow him at @HopSingLaundry for updates and a chance to be invited to try it out for yourself. Read about our visit here.

And Of Course…Our Home Bar Starter Kit Giveaway
Enter all week for a chance to win some of our favorite tools for making your own cocktails at home. A whole package of free bar stuff is never a bad thing!

As promised, we finally got it together to have a contest to give away a nice home bar starter kit. It’s got everything you need to kickstart some experimenting of your own (except the alcohol, you’re on your own with that one). The kit includes:

1 Oggi 26 oz Marilyn Cocktail Shaker
1 OXO Steel Double Jigger
1 OXO Steel Cocktail Strainer
1 11″ steel bar spoon
1 bottle of Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters
1 bottle of  Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters
1 bottle of HomeSpeakeasy Autumn Spice Bitters

To enter to win, comment on this post and tell us what you’d mix up first with your new home bar kit.

If you want a better chance to win, you can do the following for additional entries (please leave a separate comment for each one we can get an accurate count!):

  1. “Like” us on Facebook
  2. Share this contest with your friends on Facebook
  3. Follow us on Twitter
  4. Tweet the following: “I entered to win a @HomeSpeakeasy home bar starter kit at http://bit.ly/AwuH9H
  5. Follow us on Pinterest and re-pin something of ours
  6. Follow our Guide to Drinking in Philly on Foursquare

Remember to leave a separate comment for each thing you do so you’ll get credit!

Next Monday, we’ll make a list of our entries and pick a winner with a random number generator. If the winner doesn’t respond via email within 24 hours (or if they turn out to be some kind of bot), we’ll pick another the following day. US residents only, please.

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

On Friday, Lêe was kind enough to invite Jen and me back to Hop Sing again, but this time instead of updates on the bar space, we were actually able try a few drinks. Naturally, we graciously accepted and headed over to see what everyone else was fawning over.

When we got there, it looked as deserted as any other day in the past year we’ve driven past, but after ringing the bell and being buzzed in, it was pretty evident a few things had changed. The whole place, as promised, was lit by candle, and for reasons we couldn’t place, it smelled like a church. The tables were set in twos and fours, spread wide enough apart to pass between them without bumping anyone, and the chairs were all deep and comfortable. After a few minutes sitting at our table, that was the one thing I kept coming back to: it is really comfortable in here. This is a place I could relax and drink. Though the tables are on the larger side, it was interesting to both of us that we were able to have conversations at a normal speaking volume sitting back in our chairs, despite a mostly full dining room.

Once everyone was situated, the drinks started coming. First was a screwdriver, and as Foobooz noted earlier in the week, was exceptional for a screwdriver. By the time the second drink came out (delicious El Dorado 15 and grape juice), we started to notice a trend. Everything had a maximum of four ingredients, and seemed to be heavily based on fresh squeezed juice. By “fresh squeezed,” we mean they squeezed it pretty much into the glass from the fruit. By the time the third round came to the table (anejo tequila with pineapple and muddled strawberry, if foggy memory serves), we realized that Hop Sing isn’t quite what everyone seemed to be expecting. Even the last drink, which was something made of whiskey that Lêe refused to give me any information about, was delicious.

This isn’t a cocktail bar in the same style as Franklin Mortgage and other similar craft cocktail places here and in other cities. These aren’t the same type of drinks. While they both nod back to a different era in drinking, the two really have no more in common than a Tiki bar and a craft microbrew. Both clearly have a deep love for alcohol, but they go about expressing it differently.

I’m interested to check back in when Lêe is chugging along at full steam, but for now, he seems to have created a warm, inviting and comfortable place to enjoy his unique brand of cocktail.

More on how Hop Sing Laundromat evolved here and here.

Treasure Island

Treasure Island
1 oz Appleton Estate Reserve
0.5 oz Tullimore Dew Irish Whiskey
0.5 oz Brinley Gold Shipwreck Spiced Rum
0.5 oz Orange Curaçao
0.5 oz Pama liqueur
2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice

Muddle mango in the bottom of a hurricane glass. Add crushed ice. Shake all ingredients well with ice and strain over everything.

NOTES: As Jen said last week, we’ve started messing with tiki-themed drinks for a future party, and I have to say that this one came out surprisingly well. Irish whiskey is a consistently underrated liquor when it comes to mixing. It’s so smooth and mellow without the same sweet bite you get from American whiskeys. It went really nicely with the rums and gave it a little bit of a liquor edge that kept the drink from heading down that too-sweet road. The Shipwreck is quickly becoming a new staple for us as well. Neither of us have really been all that interested in spiced rum, but this one may make believers of us both. We were also a little dubious about the Pama, but it turns out I’m enjoying it as a grenadine substitute when I want something a little tangier.

Under the Volcano

Under the Volcano
1 oz Rhum Barbancourt
1 oz Brinley Gold Shipwreck Spiced Rum
0.5 oz Grenadine
2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
2 dashes Scrappy’s Lime bitters
0.5 oz Wray & Nephew Overproof rum float

Add crushed ice to a large tiki mug. Shake all ingredients except overproof rum well with ice and strain over the crushed ice. Pour overproof on top of cocktail and garnish with a pineapple leaf.

NOTES: My first real foray into making my own tiki-style drink and it turned out pretty damn tasty, in my opinion. I was worried that the pineapple juice might overpower everything, but I was pleasantly surprised that it was just a nice subtle note in the whole drink. The rums mixed very well together, making me a spiced rum convert (given the right drink combination) and giving the whole drink a nice rummy, slightly fruity taste. We attempted to make the drink flaming, hence the overproof rum float, but realized that 120 proof still wasn’t enough to light on fire. We then dug a small indent into a large ice cube and poured some Everclear in the crevice but the hole wasn’t deep enough to hold the amount of Everclear needed to light it on fire. We will definitely have to do some experimenting in making ice cones so that we can properly light our drinks on fire for our spring tiki party.

The Bitter Truth / Vacation

We were lucky enough to have The Bitter Truth send us a little care package of bitters and liqueurs to try out and review: A travel kit of bitters including Jerry Thomas, Aromatic, Creole, and Celery (sadly, the orange didn’t survive the trip from Germany, but if we had to lose one, at least it was the most common of the flavors!), and small bottles of their Violet, Apricot and Pimento Dram liqueurs.

Our friend Becky, Jen and I set them all out and gave everything a taste to see what we were working with, and overall, I’ve got to say we were pretty impressed. The Jerry Thomas bitters were spicy and woodsy, while the aromatic was in the same flavor neighborhood, but more subtle and complex. The creole bitters had some anise flavor to them, although in a milder way, almost like a mixture of red and black licorice. The celery bitters were in the same ballpark as other celery bitters we have tried, but less pungent and more savory with hints of citrus. The violet and apricot liqueurs were both really sweet and drinkable, but having bottles of Rothman & Winters in both of those flavors somewhat took the magic away. They were great, but not incredibly different from what we’ve tried. The Pimento Dram (the Caribbean use of pimento, meaning allspice rather than a pepper), on the other hand, was unlike anything that any of us had ever tasted. It had an intense, spicy flavor that struck all three of us similar to mulling spices; something that might go great with wine or cider.

It was that strong impression that made me want to try out the Pimento Dram in a cocktail, and I’ve got to say, it came out pretty damn well. Check it out after the break!

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Research: Tasting Our Gin

Spurned on by an article Jen was writing for The Drink Nation about gin, we decided it would be a good idea to pull all of ours out, line them up, and taste them in a row so we could compare the subtler differences of the — at a glance — similar spirits. We also invited over friend and gin-fan Becky to get another viewpoint.

The first thing we noticed was how surprised we were at the depth and breadth of flavor variations. I’ve always been a whiskey drinker and wrote off gin as “gin,” so this was a bit eye opening. Here’s the consensus as to what everything tasted like to the three of us (in the order we tried them):

1| New Amsterdam ($13.99, 80 Proof): This one was really sweet up front. It didn’t have a strong juniper or floral taste, but a lot of citrus. It smelled like rubbing alcohol, but it tasted surprisingly good for the price. We all agreed we wouldn’t use it in a drink set up to feature gin’s flavors, but this would probably be a great buy for someone that really loves their gin and tonics.

2| Bell Ringer ($15.99, 94 Proof): First thing we noticed was the strong rubbing alcohol smell. All hopes that this wouldn’t be indicative of the flavor were dashed the moment we sipped it. It was strong, without a lot of defining botanical character. It just tasted bad. Of the three of us, I was the only one that finished the tiny glass, and did so unhappily. As we should have been discussing the flavors, we were mostly preoccupied with what we would do with the rest of the bottle, because none of us ever wanted to drink it again.

3| Plymouth Dry Gin ($26.99, 82.4 Proof): Dry up front with a sweet finish, we all really loved the Plymouth. It had a ton of character and spice and a lot of good juniper flavor, and it just went down smooth. If you’re looking for a gin to really play as GIN in a cocktail (martini is obviously the first that came to mind), this is your man. As far as a gin tasting like you think gin tastes, this was one of our favorites of the day.

Five more after the break!

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