was a dark and stormy night , the wind howled and waves leapt from the ocean muffling the sounds of the sirens as they tried to drag us onto the rocks. I grabbed my blanket closer round me, my stomach grumbling reminded me of my last supper before I left fair Nantucket Isle and how I wished I could be back on those distant shores, aside a fire , drink in hand. From below decks I could hear the clump clump as the Captain’s leg hit the wooden floor, the man was pacin, he was ready for the fight that lay ahead of him, preparing to meet his maker by way of the giant white jaws that lurked deep within the bowels of the sea below…..
I recently happened upon a thought as I lay in my bed reading myself to sleep, (no not of giant white jaws) I thought of so many books containing such rich and vivid stories , journeys of great explorers, tales of love lost and treasure found, so many books, so little time, how can I make time to read them and still get work done? My head is always stuck in a book searching for inspiration, flavor combinations, culinary techniques yet I rarely have the chance to sit and have a quiet moment with a story that sweeps me off my feet into its pages (I’m not a kindle reader), I love ink and paper, the feel , the smell of it is always the invitation to my journey of ravishing a book usually ten chapters at a time. I’ve been suffering from artists block for a few months, trying to find something interesting to write about has been a bit of a headache, I love writing and getting my ideas down in black and white so I thought rather than struggle, I’d take some time out over the summer to get back to reading the stack of neglected books that have been hovering in the corner like Boo Radley waiting to be noticed and loved. I realized as I was reading in my half asleep state that the book in my hands held a key to another journey of discovery, the book in question was Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”, it was peppered with scenes of drinking and eating, parties and mayhem, I can’t say I was armchair traveling since I was lying down , more like futon surfing vicariously through the story and then my lightbulb moment hit, how about exploring Hemingway’s Spain in the book through drink and flavors, the story as my muse. I scribbled the thought down and then swiftly drifted off to the land of bedfordshire.
So its taken me some time to get back to The Cup, my first task was finishing off that first book , the ideas came thick and fast all through it, Saffron gin & tonic, Jamon and sherry bloody mary, amongst a few others. Each month my aim is to complete a book and find flavor inspiration from it , I’m still tweaking those Spanish flavored drinks and they’ll be with you shortly but in the meantime I’ve charted the journey of Captain Ahab as he travels the oceans hell bent on destroying one giant fish, Moby Dick.
Captain’s Log: setting sail and on to battle; Nantucket/Cape Cod
Nantucket, known affectionately as the little grey lady of the seas was the capital of the whaling industry back in Melville’s day, its where the ill-fated Pequod’s journey begins. I imagine cobbled streets , gas lamps and dark, damp, fire lit inns , air thick with pipe smoke and tall tales of the one that got away ( fish that is). The classic Cape Codder cocktail is pretty much vodka and cranberry juice, refreshing and sweet enough to mask the burn of alcohol as it heads to yer belly , its pretty much a blank canvas that could do with a little enhancing. I eat cranberries once a year, Thanksgiving is pretty much it and when I think cranberry I usually associate stuffing (or is it dressing?) as its companion , thyme, sage, maybe some rosemary and isn’t there a little bit of spice usually in that cran jelly, like cloves and maybe orange?
The Little Grey Lady of the Sea
1 1/2 oz sage & thyme infused vodka
3/4 oz allspice dram
1/2 oz ginger syrup
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz Dolin dry vermouth
2 drops vanilla extract
3 dashes orange bitters
6 fresh cranberries
thyme twigs to garnish
Captain’s log: we spy palm trees and many a small island; Arroz Islands/ The Caribbean
So like any good drink smith the Caribbean conjures up quickly the thought of dark and spicy rum, Tiki drinks and Navy Grog. Navy grog was invented it is said by a British Admiral Edward Vernon,sometime in 1740, Navy strength rum was added to water to dilute it,sometimes mixed with lime and sometimes drank with gunpowder . The watering down of the rum prevented it from igniting the gunpowder aboard ships but it also improved the taste of the rancid water stored aboard ships on long journeys, the lime prevented scurvy and gave rise to the nickname of the British “Limeys”. Beachbum Berry ( bar tender Jeff Berry) invented his own “grog” back in the eighties inspired by the original but adding sweeter flavors taken from the Islands themselves, my own take on it below uses smokey mezcal adding earthiness to balance out all the sweetness.
1 1/2 oz mezcal
1/2 oz dark rum
1/2 oz pineapple gomme ( I used Liebers, really tasty and rich)
1/2 oz orgeat (Wilks & Wilson do a really nice floral version)
1 oz lime juice
3/4 oz Lustau East India Solera sherry ( dont skimp, find this , its heady and raisiny and full of delicious spicy fruit)
1 oz egg white
3 dashes Miracle Mile chocolate chili bitters
dust of mole powder for garnish ( recipe follows)
Mole Powder recipe
1 /2 cup slivered almonds toasted on a dry skillet
1/2 cup black sesame seeds also toasted on a dry skillet
1 cup Dutch Process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon guajillo chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ancho chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground star anise
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground Vietnamese cinnamon
Let your almonds and sesame seeds cool a bit then blitz them in a food processor pulsing until not quite complete powder. Add the cocoa powder and spices and pulse again just to incorporate everything together. Store in an airtight jar , works well on drinks as well as ice cream.
For the drink:
add everything to your shaker except for garnish plus 1 small ice cube, whip shake for about 10 seconds to wake up the strands of egg white and get them nice and frisky . Add 3-4 more ice cubes and shake for about 20 seconds more. Stain into a chilled vessel of choice and dust over mole powder .
Captain’s Log: we round Cape Horn and onto the bitter Atlantic ocean
Situated at the southern most tip of Chile, Cape Horn is the last point of land that a ship will see before heading off into the vast Atlantic, the East Indies and Africa. The National drink of Chile is the grape based Pisco, there is much debate as to where Pisco originated, Chileans and Peruvians claim its invention. Chile also produces some beautiful wines, earthy and peppery. The drink below is inspired by the classic Jack Rose cocktail which uses AppleJack ( a type of apple brandy) and grenadine and the flavors of Chilean grapes.
1 1/2 oz Alta Del Carmen Chilean Pisco
1 oz Chilean red wine such as a Syrah
3/4 oz grenadine ( I used Wilks & Wilson)
3/4 oz lime juice
drop of rosewater
drop of vanilla extract
3 dashes peychauds bitters
1 oz egg white
black pepper and strawberry lambic to garnish
Dry shake all of your ingredients except for pepper and ale in your tin (that is without ice) for 20 seconds, add 4 ice cubes and shake again for a further 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled vessel of your choice , top with a splash of the lambic ale and a couple of turns of fresh black pepper.
Captain’s Log:We spy land this fair mornin. We head for The Cape of Good Hope in search of vittles .
After leaving the Americas and sailing east across the Atlantic the next bit of land the doomed Pequod would have hit would be South Africa, and the Cape of Good Hope that stretches out into the ocean like the claw of an eagle readying itself to pick up prey. Part of Cape Town, the Hope just like the Horn in Chile is a marker on most sea farers maps, a milestone of the seas. South Africa and in particular Cape Town is known for its great wines ,its love of Barbecue and smoked meats. For me there’s no better partner to BBQ than beer and whiskey, in particular Bourbon. Bourbon is often added to BBQ sauce to add vanilla and woody spices and beer used as a marinade to tenderize steak. I figured I would use both for this Capetonian inspired Old Fashioned . Here it is hidden in the jungle waiting to pounce on your thirst !
Fedallah’s Old Fashioned
2 oz smoked Bourbon ( I used a smoking gun but you can add a couple of drops of liquid smoke instead, just don’t get heavy handed with it)
3/4 oz lager simple syrup ( reduce a bottle of good lager beer down to half then add equal parts cane sugar for a spin on simple syrup)
3 dashes MIracle Mile Red Eye bitters ( as the name suggests its strong coffee with a bacon fat wash to finish it)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
flamed orange peel to garnish
In a chilled rocks glass muddle lager syrup and bitters together , add whiskey and stir a little more before adding your cracked ice. Stir for about 10 seconds, I like my Old Fashioned’s served hot , pretty much meaning slightly diluted allowing the dilution to continue as you drink the cocktail. Peel off strips of orange peel and spritz their oils over a match or lighter allowing the flamed oils to drop onto your drink. Rub the zest on the rim of your glass and pop into the cocktail for added aroma.
Captain’s Log: We follow the coast of the East Indies, the air full of salt, spice and fruit.
The East Indies is a term used to describe the swath of lands from South to Southeast Asia, including India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia, all countries that create some of the most flavorful and aromatic foods. By this time on Ahab’s journey I would Imagine him needing somewhat of a strong and long drink to kill the pains that ail him, from his phantom leg to the bitterness and anger in his heart. Its also here that the giant Moby Dick makes his home , Ahab so close to his Nemesis but still out of reach. The Painkiller cocktail is my starting point for this coconut laced drink.
Garnish based on ceremonial Temple offerings and the Southeast Asian jungle.
Temple of Solace (Ahab’s Advil)
(if these portions seem large to you , bear in mind that its being poured into this Thai Coconut shell which yields around 12 oz of liquid, if not using the coconut shell the drink can be split between two drinking vessels)
2 oz toasted coconut infused white rum ( toast 500 grams of desiccated coconut in your oven, add to 1 750 ml bottle of white rum and infuse for 2-3 days, strain before using)
1/2 oz blackstrap molasses rum ( such as Cruzan)
1/2 oz Jamaican rum such as Smith & Cross
1 oz passion fruit pulp
1 oz orgeat ( I used Wilks & Wilson)
1/2 oz St.Elizabeth allspice dram,
1 oz lime
1 oz madeira
2 oz coconut milk,
1 oz coconut water
1/4 teaspoon Tahitian Vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
Prepare your Thai young coconut by lopping off the top and draining out its guts, mostly coconut water and some coconut meat, carve a large enough hole to place the end of a funnel into.
To make the drink , toss everything into a large tin shaker with 6 ice cubes and shake for about 25 seconds , strain into the funnel/coconut. Top with leaves and flowers of your choice and present with incense and smoked cinnamon sticks if you like.
Captain’s Log: The Beast is spied in the Japan Sea
Ahab and his crew finally meet Moby Dick in the Seas off Japan, it is here that both their and Melville’s journey ends. I could not decide which one of these drinks would be a fitting companion to the end of the story so am using both, the first based on a sherry cobbler and the second my take on a filthy, dirty, briny martini that I imagine Melville diving into once he puts his pen down. Both drinks star some lovely provisions that I picked up at my local Japanese market.
The Kyoho Cobbler
1 oz manzanilla sherry ( I know, not Japanese)
1 1/2 oz Junmai sake
3/4 oz Avua aged cachaca ( not Japanese either bit works really well with the grapes and shiso)
1 oz martini bianco
1/2 oz gomme syrup such as Liber & Co.
3/4 oz lemon juice
4 shiso leaves
6 Kyoho grapes plus mor for garnish
Muddle 2 of the shiso leaves with 6 grapes and the gomme syrup for about 5 seconds, add the rest of your ingredients and 5-6 ice cubes and shake for about 20 seconds, dump into a chilled wine glass that has been lined with the remaining 2 shiso leaves, garnish with an abundance of Kyoho grapes for maximum drama.
1 1/2 oz Ford’s gin
1 1/2 oz dry sake
1/4 oz Umeboshe vinegar
3 dashes Mircale Mile celery bitters
2-3 Umeboshe plums for garnish
In a mixing glass add all of your ingredients plus 6-7 cracked ice cubes, stir for 30 seconds then strain into a chilled coupe glass, garnish with Umebsohe plums in the bottom of your glass.