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Purple Agave’s & Negroni Damsel’s: A COCKTAIL ODYSSEY

Cocktailian Joe here: I would like to proudly introduce everybody to Two wonderful ladies that will be taking you through a cocktail odyssey through Athenian Bars, as well as giving you helpful guides to become a craft bartender while living on a budget! Oh, and to add some mystery, the two ladies keep their identities secret!

Hey, Purple Agave here! A 20-year old girl who apparently loves the color purple and since the cocktail world inexcusably lack of purple things decided to change the color of one of the most appreciated plants. Being a computer science student can fill many hours in the day, but doing fun things is always necessary. And is there a better way to have fun than experimenting with flavors? Since you are reading this I’ll take for granted that the answer is ΝΟ. Even though I grew up in a house without many spirits laying around, I was always fascinated by the variety of bottles at the liquor stores and wanted to try them all. So I grew up and decided that that’s what I wanted to do. Try as many as I can and try to combine all the different flavors. However, I got to love some flavors more than others. My absolute favorite spirit is  *drum rolls*……Gin! And now you are wondering what is wrong with her. To make things clear let me say that if Gin is my darling husband, Tequila is the irresistible hot guy with whom I am cheating on him. But on this journey of flavor discovering I am not alone. I go through my odyssey with my best friend, The Negroni Damsel. She also suggested that we should describe each other to close our paragraphs and I agreed since I couldn’t think of anything better. So if I had to describe her using five words I would say she is: Energetic, Inspired, Intuitive, Witty and Loud! 

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Hi, people of the booze world. I am the second half of the Cocktail Odyssey and the person behind the camera, the Negroni Damsel. I am 20 years old as well and I love expressing myself through my hobbies especially writing. The name comes from two things; the damsel part comes from the fact that I am a little dramatic and very expressive person; the Negroni part comes from my obsession with negronis. That being said I am a huge fan of gin and anything botanical based, mostly vermouth. That’s why the Negroni is my go to drink. I like to think of it as a nice warm hug. There isn’t any specific time that I got into the spirits world since I always remember myself being impressed by the people that could taste so many different things in one drink. If I could narrow it down to two moments that really made me fall in love with this somewhat weird hobby I would say watching the movie “Cocktail” at the age of 15 and the same year seeing a flair bartender practicing on the beach. Finally, since it was my idea the whole five-word description thing, here it goes. Purple agave is: Assembled, Quiet, Logical (a bit too much), Observing and Patient.
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The goal we are trying to achieve with our Instagram account (@acocktailodyssey) and our future blog posts is to push ourselves into creating cocktails that taste good but don’t drain a student’s budget! Oh, and also give you a taste of the great and advancing Athenian bar scene just in case you’ve ever wondered if our small country has high-end bars. We do and they all are top notch…follow us and you’ll see for yourselves. We hope you will accompany us in this adventurous journey… and as we say in Greek: “Yamas”!
Liqueur-Fernet-Branca

Fernet Branca

Looking for a digestif that’s perfect for imbibing after a hardy meal? Try this Bitter Italian Amaro, whether after a romantic meal, during a celebration with friends or while you take in a perfect sunset.

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My rating for Fernet Branca is a 7.5/10

I’d suggest you buy a bottling of Fernet Branca. Here’s what Your Taste “Bud” found out.

Summary

Fernet Branca has been in the business since 1845. They’ve been slowly crafting and perfecting this bitter liqueur. It’s perfect for shooting and can be a great mixer.

Fernet is an Italian digestive, and she is quite bitter. I’d suggest all you Negroni drinkers out there to add a few drops of this into your cocktail.

What’s Fernet

Let’s break it down quickly for you:

  1. Ingredients: Alcohol, unique blend of selected blossoms, aromatic herbs, and flowers.
  2.    Alcohol content: 39% (78° proof US)
  3. Presentation: Packaged in a traditional Fernet-Branca liqueur bottle. Very sleek with the embossed seal of Branca.
  4. How to drink it: Drink straight, on the rocks, or with a splash of mineral water. It is a wonderful bitter mixer. Traditionally considered an after dinner drink.

Straight from the guru’s themselves:

  • “It’s decisive tone is derived from the unique taste of its individual ingredients which results in an undeniable rich bitter that finishes with a delicately spiced aftertaste.
    Proudly bitter since its inception in 1845, Fernet-Branca has been produced according to the original recipe that has been handed down from generation to generation and continues to be the true Italian Bitter, truly the one and only Fernet.
  • “Fernet-Branca isn’t only a digestive bitter, it’s a true legend. With 27 herbs, roots and spices, it’s formula is one of the world’s best-kept secrets, so tightly kept, that since its origin even those who collect the spices do not know the exact quantities needed. Today, the only custodian of the Fernet-Branca secret formula is the President, Niccolò Branca, who personally measures out the spices during the production process. The recipe is the true pride of Fernet-Branca and demonstrates how a century-plus tradition and know-how are the secret to its success. When you choose Fernet-Branca, you embark on a journey of the discovery of places, scents, and flavors. It is the awareness of the superiority of its strong, intense and unique taste.”

So, we really don’t know what Fernet is. Essentially, it is a digestive, and the Italians are very proud of it. GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME.

History

Here is a history of Fernet, via The Straight Up

You gotta check out The Straight up blog as they are doing incredible things!

Fernet-Branca was invented in 1845 by bernardino branca in Milan. Another story claims that a woman named Maria Scala invented the amaro and later married into the Branca family, adopting the family’s name for her creation. However, it is more likely that while Scala did marry into the family, it was after Fernets creation by Bernardino. Regardless of who made it, Fernet-Branca was a hit, and in no time, was being distributed throughout Italy.

Fernet typically refers to the original, but it is also used with other Fernet-Branca like spirits, such as Luxardo Fernet or Fernet Cinzano, which represent their respective companies forays into this flavor profile.

You may be wondering were the “fernet” comes into Fernet-Branca. Shortly after it hit store shelves, a Dr. Fernet Svedese began publishing papers in scientific journals toting the many health benefits of Fernet-Branca. Branca’s creation was the cure for almost any ailment you could think of, from headaches to menstrual pains, to fever, even claiming his family lived into their 100s thanks to Fernet-Branca. Naturally, this built a lot of hype around the spirit. Not to be left behind on this wondrous concoction, other doctors began recommending Fernet to their patients.

Eventually it was discovered that Dr. Fernet, and his healthy old family, were nothing more than a fictitious, marketing ploy by Branca; however, the health claims continued to entrance customers with this bitter amaro. The word Fernet is actually said to have been made up by the Branca family.

The company’s success continued and by 1907, the Brancas began expanding worldwide, including the United States and Argentina. In fact in terms of consumption, Italy, Argentina and the US are the biggest consumers of Fernet-Branca worldwide.

Fernet3

In argentina, Fernet-Branca has become so celebrated, many consider it an official spirit. Argentina was populated by many Italian immigrants who brought Fernet-Branca with them in the late 1800s. Other boosts to its popularity in Argentina came from further Italian immigration during the world wars as well as from college students in the 1980s, during the Falklands War. This war was between the British and Argentinians over control of the Falklands islands off the coast of Argentina. During this conflict, many students boycotted British whiskeys, instead choosing Fernet because they felt it a national beverage. In contrast to the older  generation, who typically enjoyed their Fernet-Branca neat, this younger generation preferred it with Coca-cola, spurring the intensely popular fernet and coke. Currently, Argentina is the only country outside of Italy where Fernet-Branca is produced.

The eagle logo was created by Leopoldo Metlicovitz in 1895. It first appeared in Branca calendars but eventually became the company’s official logo.

In America, Fernet is also hugely popular, particularly in San Francisco. On a recent visit, literally every liquor store I passed had a bottle in clear view of the window. People drank it everywhere. In contrast to Argentina’s Fernet and Coke, San Francisco like to chase shots of fernet with ginger ale.

So what led to its popularity in the states? Chalk this one up to one of the only pluses of prohibition. Due to its many purported health benefits, Fernet-Branca was one of the few spirits still sold in US pharmacies during prohibition. People grew to love their Fernet and this carried through the repeal of Prohibition, particularly in San Francisco, where North Beach and its many Italian immigrants helped make Fernet-Branca a citywide staple.

My Take

Personally, I like Fernet because it’s very bitter, yet refreshing… they also have such a cool site. Fernet Branca‘s site can take awhile to load, but the graphics are well worth it. It’s also in Italian, but there is obvi an option to choose English.

As I said before, Fernet is the perfect shooter. I got a bottle for some friends and myself last weekend. My good friend, Trent, who complains often, said it tasted like cough syrup. He still slurped it down. My other friend, Sean, has acquired a taste for bitterness and so he liked it. He said, “Knowing that there are tons of herbs in this, I feel that it would be okay to do multiple shots of these.” It isn’t that healthy, but it tastes damn good.

Shots aren’t the only use Fernet has. It is also a good cocktail ingredient. It pairs well with a variety of spirits. Wanna mix Fernet?

Let’s take a look at the Brandy Manhattan, courtesy of Fernet Branca. If you want to know How To Make A Perfect Manhattan, check last week’s post.

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Brandy Manhattan

Recipe

2 oz. of Stravecchio Branca (Instead of Whisky)
1 oz. Carpano Antica Formula (DA best Vermouth)
A couple drops of Fernet-Branca (No Angostura? Cool)

Preparation

Pour all the ingredients into a mixing glass, stir for a few seconds, then pour the mixture into a glass, filtering out the ice.

Garnish: Orange peel and a Cocktail Cherry

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If you’re into everything cocktail, sign up for the Curious Cocktailian Email List and we’ll send you the new posts right when they come out. That’s the only thing we use the list for – Don’t worry about getting tons of spam or other nonsense!

• • •

More Curious Cocktailian

If you want to understand Liqueurs better, check out these posts:

Yellow Chartreuse

And here’s the cocktail basics that every bartender needs to know:

An Easy Guide To Bar Tools

The Ultimate Guide To Making The Perfect Manhattan

• • •

Shaken Jamaican Create cocktails Cocktail

The “Shaken Jamaican” Cocktail

Recipe

Plantation Jamaican Rum 2 oz. | Overproof Rum – a splash | Yellow Chartreuse 3/4 oz. | Grenadine 1/2 oz. | Orgeade 1/2 oz. | Lime Juice 1 1/4 oz. | Creme de Violette – Splash or teaspoon | Jamaican #1 bitters 3 dashes

How-To

Pour in Ingredients / Fill with ice / Shake like crazy / Double-strain into a martini glass

Cocktail Cosmopolitan Shaken Jamaican

Story

Caution: this story is filled with many woes.

I started at a very easy place. I looked at one cocktail recipe that I was inspired by and loved: The Daiquiri. Eventually, I also looked at the Mai Tai, because I love my tiki drinks.

So, right off the bat, I kind of knew what I wanted.

Two things happened next: I decided which spirit I’d used and a few ingredients I wanted to mix the drink with AND I got an idea from a brilliant bartender I work with (We’ll call him Mr. Savage).

I knew the drink was going to be rum-based because the Daiquiri and the Mai-Tai are rum-based. I also knew that Orgeade/Orgeat was going to play a part, as it does in most tiki/tropical drinks.

Lime juice had to make an appearance, for dem citrus notes. And lastly, yellow chartreuse, which oddly does wonders with rum (Courtesy of Mr. Savage).

Now, Mr. Savage filled his highball glass with crushed ice and sprinkled the top with Peychaud’s bitters. I took that idea and one of my own and compared:

Cocktails experimental

The left is akin to Mr. Savage’s drink, and the right is mine. I used grenadine, instead of the Peychaud’s bitters, seen on left. Unfortunately, and predictably, the grenadine sank to the bottom.

I wanted to have three layers: yellow on the bottom (shaken part of the drink), Peychauds, or Grenadine (which, as you can see, did not work out), and a purple layer – Creme de Violette – on top.

This part of the process was a disaster and just did not go as planned. I was disheartened and felt defeated – especially because I had lied in bed at 4 in the morning imagining how brilliant this cocktail would be.

The next day, I wrote the story of the cocktail, which was named, “The Sun Also Sets”:

This is “The Sun Also Sets”. Firstly, the cocktail pays homage to Ernest Hemingway and his first book, The Sun Also Rises, and secondly, is visually appealing and quenches any person’s thirst. This cocktail is the tongue-in-cheek answer to Hem’s masterpiece.

Pretty fun, right? I was really into it. 🙁

Anyways, after some time, I was just like, “Screw it. Let’s shake em’ up altogether.”

So, I had the rum, yellow chartreuse, lime, orgeade, and the Creme de Violette (for oomph), and slammed em’ together. The result was incredible.

Cocktail beautiful Martini glass

After a few more tweaks, I had the style of rum, Jamaican #1 bitters and the exact measurements I wanted and needed.

My drink, the Shaken Jamaican, was finally ready to be consumed.

Choosing Ingredients And Measurements

So, as you know, I had my basic ingredients from the two recipes…

The Daiquiri and the Mai-Tai… which were Rum, Lime, and Orgeade/Orgeat.

I also had the idea of using Yellow Chartreuse and Peychauds bitters from Mr. Savage.

After some frustrating variation tests, I decided to use grenadine as a sweetener, instead of the bitter Peychauds.

It still wasn’t enough. It needed some EXCITEMENT. Fate led me to Creme de Violette.

After the failed “The Sun Also Sets” experiment, I shook everything together, and I shook them hard.

Once I had nailed down my basic recipe, I was ready to start fine-tuning.

Fine-tuning 

This part is essential. Once you reach this stage, you can’t give up and just throw together whatever portions.

The exact opposite needs to be done: this drink requires your obsessive tendencies to reach perfection!

And this is exactly what I did.

I found the perfect kind of rum: Plantation Jamaican Rum (I was using Plantation Pineapple – so good).

Then I added Jamaican #1 Bitters, which paired really well with the Jamaican rum. (It has allspice, ginger, and black pepper notes. Mhm).

To get the exact measurements was challenging.

What the bartender is trying to accomplish is making a cocktail that can be deemed delicious by enthusiasts, connoisseurs, and regular ol’ beer-drinkers. The bartender is also trying to find balance.

First, I sought balance. I balanced the citrus to the sweetness. When I felt that was right…

Second, I had taste-testings. I had bartender buddies try them, for their expertise. I had my dad try one, for his, ahem, beer-drinking expertise.

I made one for my girlfriend, who is not a drinker and offered a unique perspective. Finally, I made some for two of my friends who like drinking all kinds of things.

I took all of their suggestions and altered my measurements yet again – until I was happy.

Taste is so subjective. Not one person tastes the exact same. So, making drinks that everybody will love is hard. And unfortunately, it isn’t going to please everyone.

But I feel pretty damn confident that this drink is going to be (mostly) loved.

Make It

If you don’t know what kind of tools to make, check my other post on bar tools.

Let me walk you through this little doozy. Here, hold my hand.

Cocktail-process

Yeah, I made a fancy picture for this blog post.

First, we pour all of our ingredients (with the help of our jiggs) into a mixing glass or a smaller Boston-tin. Then we fill that mixing glass two-thirds full with fresh ice/the smaller Boston-tin to the top.

Then, I shake everything up – to dilute the cocktail a bit and to cool it down.

I double-strain that sum-na-beech into a chilled martini glass:

Cocktail-bartender-strain-straining-cocktail-hawthorn-strainer-double-strain

Double-straining that sum-na-beech

Finally, I drink the hell out of it.

Naming the Cocktail 

I had a particularly difficult time naming this cocktail, especially since it used to be a layered drink:

Cocktail-sun-also-sets-hemingway

This drink, which is now the “Shaken Jamaican”, used to be called “The Sun Also Sets” because it looked like a sunset (I wanted to layer the purple Creme De Violette on top of the red, but it didn’t work out).  I decided to forgo the layering of the red grenadine/Peychauds on top of the drink and to instead mix up the ingredients. The conclusion was satisfying, to say the least.

I decided to forgo the layering of the red grenadine/Peychauds on top of the drink and to instead mix up the ingredients. The conclusion was satisfying, to say the least.

So, now I had a new drink with a name that didn’t fit.

I loved all of the other tiki drinks, like the Bahama Mama, Mai Tai, in that they had great rhymes and were all super tasty and palatable. I wanted the same thing for my drink.

Here’s a short list of other potential names…

-Destination Jamaica

-Jamaican Destination

-The Flaming Joe

They were pretty depressing names and my unoriginality made me give up for awhile. Then the name just came to me.

I’m sure you guys are going to have a ton of questions. I don’t mind answering them – leave a comment below, or email me if you’d like!

• • •

Glad You Could Join[themify_icon icon=”fa-glass” link=”http://curiouscocktailian.com” style=”Large”]

• • •

If you’re into everything cocktail, sign up for the Curious Cocktailian Email List and we’ll send you the new posts right when they come out. That’s the only thing we use the list for – Don’t worry about getting tons of spam or other nonsense!

• • •

More Curious Cocktailian

If you want to understand Liqueurs better, check out these posts:

Fernet Branca

Yellow Chartreuse

And here’s the cocktail basics that every bartender needs to know:

An Easy Guide To Bar Tools

The Ultimate Guide To Making The Perfect Manhattan

• • •