Spirit. Sugar. Bitters.
The building blocks of the classic cocktail.
This month’s Mixology Monday hosted by Sass & Gin is a back to basics with a twist. We start with the venerable Old Fashioned. Perhaps the drink that most defines or even originates the concept of a cocktail. My preferred version is made with 1 sugar cube muddled with 2 dashes Angostura, 1 dash Orange Bitters, and a barspoon of water. Then firmly press in a large orange peel and pour in 2.5 ounces of Rye. Add a large sphere or cube of ice and stir until well chilled.
Sass & Gin has tasked us to take that classic and push it outside the box.
Here it goes.
Since we are all feeling a little Irish this time of year, I thought it fitting to offer up an old fashioned cocktail with one of the world’s oldest spirits: Poitin (say potcheen) derived from the Gaelic word for little pots, as in pot-stills. Early records apparently report distilling in Ireland way back in the year 584 by Irish monks. Traditionally made with malted barely, potatoes, and sugar beets, poitin is typically an un-aged Irish moonshine. It was “outlawed” (or prohibitively taxed) in 1661 by King Charles forcing distillers to ply their craft in hiding, evading the excise men, for the next several hundred years. So, in a way, you could say that Poitin is the spirited distillate of Irish independence.
The Glendalough mountain-strength Poitin I’m using is rather intense. It’s got some burn, but it also has a pleasant woody quality with a grape-like fruitiness, maybe a bit of green apple peels and a touch of lime. A pinch of spice, clove? My first attempts at this drink used straight-up, mountain-strength. And well, it was too much…too much to achieve proper balance that is. So, I backed it off and ‘gasp,’ diluted it a bit. In the future, I will purchase either the regular strength or the sherry cask finished version rather than the mountain.
Now for the sugar. I tried a bunch of options. Molasses was overbearing. Maple didn’t jive. Simple syrup was too simple. Demerara syrup could work. However, it was a 1:1 honey syrup made with a fall honey that we got from a friend that made it sing. During the fall, the bees feast on the aster flowers and the resulting honey has a vivacious floral, herbal aroma along with a deep amber color and a heavier flavor than that of, say a spring honey.
Bitters… I really wanted this drink to have some exotic bitters in it, but in the end, I liked the Angostura and Orange bitters best.
Here you have it:
The Connemara Te (pronounced tay)
1.5 oz Poitin, Mountain-Strength
.5 oz Cold Water
.5 tsp Honey Syrup
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 dash Orange Bitters
4 drops Orange Blossom Water
Combine the honey syrup, bitters, and orange peel in the bottom of an old fashioned glass. Use a muddler to press out the citrus oils. Add the water and give it a swirl or two with the muddler. Then add the poitin, the orange blossom water, and ice. Stir with a barspoon until well chilled.
Note: I suspect that if I were to use a lesser proof of poitin, I would find this drink quite agreeable using 2oz of spirit and only a barspoon of water. However, I’ll have to confirm that some other time.
Other Note: Connemara Te is a reference to the song The Hills of Connemara, which is about Irish moonshiners. In the song they refer to the ‘shine as mountain te. ‘Te’ is the gaelic word for tea.
To see a round-up of all the great contributions to this month’s Mixology Monday click here.
Happy Saint Patty’s Day!