Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Feisty old lady

This cocktail was devised by Maya Divack and Sarah Zarrow on the Cape in August. One of the motivations is that Sarah is allergic to juniper and cannot drink gin, often the strong spirit paired with sparkling wine in this kind of cocktail.  See for example, the Sybil, a Downton Abbey cocktail.  I associate gin and champagne-based cocktails with aristocratic young ladies with too much time on their hands.  With bourbon and a less expensive sparkler, I think it becomes a Feisty Old Lady instead.

There was some dispute about the name.  Maya wanted the Weasel, for reasons which need not be enumerated here.  The crowd consensus, however, was Feisty Old Lady.  In addition to the associations mentioned above,  Amy's cousin Cynthia recently published a mystery novel called Feisty Old Ladies.  So, this cocktail is a tribute to Cynthia as well.

Regarding the ingredients, use a bourbon that you like to drink, though it need not be a super expensive one.  St. Germain is a French elderflower liqueur. It requires a bit of an investment, but is worth it if you have any taste for aromatic cocktails.  Lavender syrup is simple to make, and lavender can be found in many spice and health food stores.  For sparkling wine, we usually use a dry cava or Prosecco;  you could use a French or Californian as well.  Unless your resources are infinite, drink Champagne straight.

I will give three variations:  one for a single drink, to be served in a Champagne flute that can easily be multiplied to serve two.  The other two will be for crowds of about 10 --  one to be served in individual flutes, the other as a pitcher drink, less elegant but far easier, and what is pictured here. 

Feisty Old Lady
For a single serving:

Stir with ice in a cocktail shaker for about 30 seconds (stirring rather than shaking has nothing to do with not bruising the spirits;  it results in less dilution, which is important when the cocktail will be cut with relatively low-alcohol sparkling wine):
  • 1.5 ounces bourbon
  • 1 ounce St Germain
  • 1.5  tablespoon  (=.75 ounce) lavender syrup
  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters (like Angostura or something better.
Strain into a champagne flute and top off with well-chilled sparkling wine, about 3-4 ounces depending on the size of your flute. A nice, but not essential touch, is to chill the flute in the freezer first.

For about 10 servings:

To serve in flutes:

Stir with ice in a large cocktail shaker or 1/2 gallon pitcher for about 1 minute:
  • 15 ounces bourbon
  • 10 ounces St Germain
  • 1 cup lavender syrup
  • 20 dashes bitters
Strain into another pitcher, and then distribute roughly equally between 10 champagne flutes.  Top off with well-chilled dry sparkling wine.  You will use about 1.5 bottles.

To serve as a pitcher drink:

In a large pitcher, about 1 gallon, stir the first 4 ingredients with plenty of ice for about 30 seconds.  Add 1.5 bottles of sparkling wine. Serve in rocks glasses over more ice.

To make lavender syrup:  Boil 1 cup of water in a small saucepan.  Add 3 tablespoons dried lavender.  Turn heat down and simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes.  Add 1 cup sugar and still until completely dissolved.  Turn off the heat and let cool.  Strain into a jar or bottle before using.  This will keep a few weeks, but will eventually get moldy.

A question of proportion:  This will make a floral, slightly sweet drink.  If it is too intense, add a little more wine.  If you want something stiffer, more bourbon.  If you want more sweetness and flowers, St Germain and/or lavender syrup.  If you are a laid back host, you will have the ingredients available and let the guests make any adjustments they want. 

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