50 Shots of America: New York

Oh, man, New York, the Cocktail Capital of the World (okay, so the Web tells me that Tokyo is actually the cocktail capital of the world, but Hudson, NY, was the first place that the word cocktail can be c0nfirmed in use, so :P) comes in as the 11th state of the Union having ratified the Constitution on July 26, 1788. No pressure or anything, right?

Suddenly I’m thinking in TMBG lyrics:

just like old New York was once New Amsterdam

Of course we know why they changed it. Though originally settled by the Dutch and French, the Duke of York decided that Long Island just wasn’t enough for him and he took forceful possession of New Amsterdam in 1664.

I’ve been told that there is more to New York than just the island of Manhattan though, since I’ve not actually seen it myself (only been to the island for 2 days a few winters ago), I’ll have to take their word for it. Apparently those areas are great for apple orchards, cherries and a vast wine-producing segment as well as the largest cabbage production of the US. Maybe it should be called the Big Cabbage instead of the Big Apple?

But the Big Apple it is and, try as I might to avoid an apple drink I just couldn’t help myself when the following occurred to me:

Little Big Apple Dumpling

.75 oz Apple Pucker
.5 oz Apple Juice
.5 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
.25 oz Goldschlagger

Combine all in a small cocktail shaker over ice and give it a Bronx salute or two. Strain into a chilled double shot or cordial glass and think glittery apple thoughts.

I’m…  not even going to try and paint a picture of New York’s culinary landscapes. Books, entire websites, have been devoted to the subject, I’m not going to be able to do it justice in 5oo words. What I can do is share the menu I created for my American Regional class in Culinary School. I was assigned New York, obviously, and wanted to do something to highlight some of the more dominant cultures that the area represented. I figured there were 5 boroughs so I’d pick 5 cultures and serve 5 courses. This was our first opportunity to create a menu, play executive chef to our fellow students and actually have guests come to dine. We had to set the table/decorate, time the courses,  introduce and answer questions about each and deal with whatever came up. Crazy but fun is what I remember most from the evening. That and my salad guy not pitting the Kalamata olives for the Greek Salad (my mother had to ask our dean what the etiquette was on removing said pits from one’s mouth–oops!).

Appetizer (Jewish)
Potato Latkes w/Sour Cream & Applesauce
Soup Course (Russian)
Traditional Borscht
Entree (Irish)
Dingle Pie (lamb, parsnips & turnips), Creamed Mushrooms w/Chives
Salad Course (Greek)
Traditional Greek Salad
Dessert & Coffee (American-ish*)
New York Cheesecake

I don’t need to look it up (even though it was 10 years ago)–of course I got an A. I built a paper model of the top of the Chrysler Building for the centerpiece, for crying out loud (and can’t believe I finally threw it out during the last move–what was  I thinking?!). I also happened to have gone first, thankfully, as we lost a lot of students during that module.

*Cheesecake’s origin is technically from Greek cheese pie that was introduced to the rest of Europe by the Romans but bears very little resemblance to the cottage cheese pie immigrants made in early American days. Cheesecake, as we know it, is essentially an American invention with German and Jewish influences and new-world innovations like the graham cracker crust. We’ll just call it the ultimate melting pot dessert and enjoy it 🙂

Kirsch Me, I’m German

Kirsch (or kirschwasser) is one of those liqueurs that, if you you have it, you probably have it because you’ve made a Black Forest Cake (aka Kirschtorte) at some point in the not too distant past. This dry cherry brandy is strong! Definitely not something I would ever sip without it being heavily diluted with something very sweet.

But what to do with the bottle on my bar? I dug around through a couple of reliable cocktail books and found a few recipes for drinks that also called for other non-standard ingredients (like Chartreuse and Benedictine–not things I had on hand). Besides, I was looking for something along the comfort-food line and couldn’t stop thinking about that cake!

Black Forest Cake, in case you’ve never had the pleasure, is chocolate cake (I tend to make a genoise and then moisten it with a kirsch syrup), layered and topped with fresh whipped cream and cherries. A lot of bakeries tend to use maraschino cherries but I prefer the sour cherries, spiked with a bit of the kirsch for good measure. Then the sides are usually coated in chocolate shavings. It is a rich, decadent dessert and the last time I made one was for a good friend who’d spent many years serving in Germany; he was very appreciative.

So… cake vs. cocktail. Where shall the two meet? Also on my mind this week was the recent discovery of how lovely a Vanilla Cola was achieved with the addition of vanilla vodka. Since I cannot have caffeine, commercial vanilla cola is not an option as they don’t make a caffeine-free version (at least that’s not loaded with aspartame). Same goes for cherry cola… do you see where I’m going here?

CHF Black Forest Cola

1 oz Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
.5 oz Chocolate Liqueur
.5 oz Kirschwasser
6 oz Cola**

Combine the alcohols in an ice-filled shaker, shake it like it’s sliding down the Matterhorn*, and strain it into a tall glass 3/4 full of ice. Top with the soda and then give it a little swirl with a swizzle stick. Garnish with a cherry, if you like.

*yes, I know, the Matterhorn is actually part of the Swiss Alps but the name is German!

**I’m being very brand neutral here, but I prefer caffeine-free Coca Cola classic.

Now, a few things I found out while I was working on this recipe. Kirsch, as I already knew, is strong but Irish Cream smooths it out like you wouldn’t believe (at least at a 1:3 ratio). Notice that there’s no Irish Cream in the final recipe? Yeah, add cola to the list of things Irish Cream does not play well with (the list that includes Strawberry pucker and lime juice)–it started off with a foamy head like you get with a root beer float  which was fine (if necessitating the additional of a straw) but then the rest of the drink decided to behave like biscotti left in tea for too long. It tasted good but the texture was incredibly unappealing (though now I’m in the mood to make a batch of biscotti).

That’s when the butterscotch schnapps came in. Since I was wanting to suggest the tastes of a Black Forest Cake in the drink, the Irish Cream was my go-to for the whipped cream. As a ringer, the butterscotch served the smoothing purposes while also suggesting a bit of warm, baked cakey goodness that definitely made the drink more palatable.

If you search you may find other so-called Black Forest cocktails. But be wary, my friends, if it has not a stitch of cherry (much less Kirsch) inside. Cranberries and raspberries (and the latter’s liqueur) may be tasty and tart, but it does not a Kirschtorte–or Kirsch cocktail–make.