Art of a cocktail

Published 10:06 pm Thursday, November 3, 2011

There is an art to the perfect cocktail.
The glass, the ingredients, the twist is what defines who you are. And old fashioned is classic and unpretentious. The martini is varied and a scotch stands alone.
The same goes for crafting the perfect cocktail to fit the season. Something warm and waiting after shaking the snow off the coat, slightly sweet or rich and creamy.
It’s time to embrace the cocktails being served up this holiday season.
From the sweetness of the state’s signature fruit and warm spiked ciders to a 200-year-old recipe for a Christmastime staple, area drink masters are presenting their seasonal best.
Enjoy them on your next night out or serve them up at your next cocktail party.

Club LaSalle
egg nog

Stashed above its sister restaurant, Club LaSalle is a throwback to those classic and quintessential clubs where the

Club LaSalle's eggnog

lights are soft, the scent of cigars hangs in the air and the drinks are made by expert craftsmen.
The theme of exclusivity is revisited here as it abounds in this club which is just a few short flights of stairs away from the popular restaurant downstairs, where the clientele know their liquors and know quality when they taste it.
During the fall and winter months, when the leaves fall from the trees and the snow eventually blankets downtown South Bend, club manager Chris Ferrer and his crew warm the spirits of their patrons with a few potent and carefully prepared concoctions including: an egg nog the club is known for, made from a 200-year-old recipe so potent there’s a limit on them, a traditional hot toddy and for the sweeter drinkers, a cool, peppermint stick martini.
When it comes to cocktails, the connoisseurs are getting back to basics and reveling in time-honored cocktails like manhattans and old fashioneds.
“We’ve noticed, like one of the trends in general is people have started falling back, they’re getting away from the sugary sweet, frous frous martinis and getting back to some of the old school recipes and we’ve got some of our cocktail list devoted to those,” Ferrer said.
“Seasonally we do a hot toddy which actually, people go nuts for. It was popular back in the ’50s and ’60s, sort of the hey day of that.
“You know, you party all night with the Rat Pack, you start your day off with a hot toddy.
“But it’s a great winter drink, you know, it just warms you up from the inside. It’s one of those brandy based drinks that just warms you from the inside out.”
Another one of Club LaSalle’s cocktails to warm you up from the inside out: the club’s 200-year-old egg nog. The egg nog is one of the bar’s best sellers during the holiday season for one very specific reason, Ferrer says. It’s exceptionally good.
Ferrer said typically Club LaSalle adds their seasonal drinks to the bar’s cocktail list right around Thanksgiving. So you’ll have to wait until then. The recipe is also off limits – but Ferrer gave a quick run down of the process.
“When we make the egg nog it takes three weeks to ferment, to let it steep,” he says.
To start, 144 eggs are separated by hand. Sugar is added to the yolks while milk and half and half are added to the egg whites and both are beaten separately before they’re recombined and the liquor is added. Several liquors, as a matter of fact. The egg nog is so strong, Ferrer said there is a two drink minimum.
Careful not to give away the recipe, Ferrer describes that addition as a “proprietary concotion composed of everything from brandy to rum to bourbon to cherry, harvey’s Bristol cream… it’ll get you to the moon. It’s rocket fuel.”
Club LaSalle also makes its own, fresh whipped cream, the crowning element to the wintertime drink.
It is a favorite of guests but also a time-honored tradition that resonates.
“I think it is just the traditional thing, it’s something that you know, when we were kids we would drink the nonalcoholic version of it but your parents drank it,” Ferrer said.
“And it’s something that reminds you of your family and friends. In some sense it’s a reminder, it’s something you don’t drink all the rest of the year so the memories and the season are all sort of wrapped up in it.”
As for the version served up at the club, Ferrer said he did some heavy research in looking for a recipe for the egg nog and this one has quickly become a favorite since they started serving it four years ago.
“We take our cocktails very seriously here and whenever possible we try to go back to the original. We do a lot of research, we always try to be authentic as possible,” he said.

Leahy’s ‘The Irish Intimidator’

In South Bend, fall means one thing: football season.
There is energy in the air that comes with the first practice on the field and around here, it’s pretty hard to ignore.
At Leahy’s, located inside the Morris Inn on the campus at the University of Notre Dame, director of beverage supervisor Penny Stankiewicz and longtime bartender Patrick ‘Murf’ Murphy are serving a handcrafted cocktail as quintessential as the time-honored tradition of the spray painting of the Notre Dame helmets before each game.
And it’s just as golden.
The ingredients behind the ‘Irish Intimidaor,’ which Stankiewicz put together to celebrate the 2010-2011 football season, are under wraps.
All she will dare to tell is the concoction is what she would consider a vodka drink but blends a few liquors and juices for a soft fruity flavor.
The restricted recipe only adds to the idea of exclusivity – a feeling that has lived in the legend of Leahy’s, from the days when it was tough to get a ticket to see the Fighting Irish take the field.
What is not off limits is the experience of grabbing a cocktail at a bar legendary not only for its patrons but its bartender as well.
On his first day bussing tables, Murphy says he walked in to find a young Ronald Regan, fresh off of filming “Rockne” sitting with Pat O’Brien.
He’s been collecting stories ever since.

Ever since, Murphy has acquired a priceless library of stories. With the ease and familiarity of an old friend telling a few favorite stories, Murphy recounts serving famous fans like Joe Montana, Regis Philbin, Mary Hart, Martin Short and Tim Russert. He can remember the Special Olympics bringing in former president Gerald Ford, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Edward Kennedy, Carolyn Kennedy-Schlosser and John F. Kennedy Jr.
Ralph McInerny was a regular.
“You’d see him writing and people would say ‘oh – I wonder if it was bad or good,’” wondering if it would end up in a book, Murphy said. And no matter who is up at the bar, when it nears the end of the fourth quarter, drinks are served during commercials – the rest will have to wait until the final score.
In terms of Leahy’s charm also lies in its location. To get there, take the Eddy Street entrance, the slow ride is absolutely picturesque as the Golden Dome sits right before you, rows of trees standing at attention and framing the drive up.
“It’s kind of a secret,” Murphy says of the bar. But that’s not the way he and Stankiewicz want to keep it.
“They’re here for the love of Notre Dame,” Murphy says of his patrons. But he assures Leahy’s is a “safe zone” for all fans – even those of the opposing team.

Casey’s Bar & Grill
Apple Dumpling Martini
& Cinnamon Toast

Located just off Lake Michigan, in New Buffalo, Casey’s Bar and Grill knows the lake lifestyle and it knows the lakeside winters.
Using the flavor of Michigan’s famous fruit, bartender Harry Pagels came up with two deliciously sweet cocktails straight from Michgian’s apple orchards.
“We get fresh apple cider,” he says. It is the key ingredient to both of the seasonal cocktails Pagels says he’ll serve up throughout the fall season.
The bar prides itself on its cocktails and martinis and developing something new for patrons is a way to satisfy their desire to get a taste of something different.
“People like to experiment,” he said. “To try different stuff.”
Bringing out the flavors of Michigan apples, Pagels created an Apple Dumpling Martini that is sweet but not overpowering. A refined taste made even better by the graham cracker crumbs that rim the glass.
The key to what he calls his Cinnamon Toast – adding spiced rum to warmed apple cider. The heated cider warms the insides while the spiced rum gently cuts the sweetness of the apples.

Apple Dumpling Martini

Apple cider
Graham cracker crumbs
Bartender’s choice of vodka
43 Cuarenta Y Tres Vanilla Liquor
Butterscotch Schnapps

In a shaker, pour one shot vodka, a half shot of the Cuarenta Y Tres vanilla liquor, about a quarter shot of butterscotch schnapps, apple cider and cinnamon to taste over ice.

Take a martini glass and dip the rim into apple cider that has been set aside, then quickly into the graham cracker crumbs. Pour and serve

Cinnamon Toast

Cinnamon sugar
Bartender’s choice of spiced rum
Warmed apple cider

Take a cocktail glass and dust the rim with the cinnamon sugar, using some reserved apple cider.

Pour in a generous amount of warmed apple cider and add a shot of spiced rum, then serve.

Bentwood Tavern
Autumn Orchard Martini

Here’s the mark of a good cocktail: it takes exceptional effort.
That’s exactly what bartender Cody Allen put into his Autumn Orchard Martini, which he’ll be serving at Bentwood Tavern likely through November.
When thinking about the season, Allen said inspiration came with the flavor of Michigan apples.
So he built his cocktail around the distinct flavor of Michigan grown, honeycrisp apples.
Allen takes honey crisp apples, cuts them into small pieces and then takes extra time and care to muddle them with sugar, cinnamon and water.
“Honeycrisps are really good right now,” Allen said. And in choosing the right variation for this cocktail, they’re not overwhelmingly sweet. For those attempting to make the cocktail at home, Allen suggests sticking to the honeycrisp for a light but flavorful taste.
“I didn’t want it to be too overpowering,” he said.
It’s through the muddling process that Allen says he’s able to extract the natural flavor of the apple.
“Really just working the apples, if you can chop up the apples and muddle them up, let them sit, let the juice come out of them. Even for a couple of days,” Allen says, the better.
Before it gets to the shaker, Allen strains the juice from the muddled apples.
As a complement, he uses an elderflower liquor which he describes as having a floral element to the taste. Finding local honey, used when muddling to create a syrup with the muddled apple juice, is a plus, Allen said, as it incorporates a local honey flavor into the martini.
Every season has its seasonal favorites, said Allen but when the fall and winter months roll around, people want what warms them up.
“Stuff you can sip on,” he said.
The Autumn Orchard Martini is perfectly sippable. For those who steer clear of sugary sweet drinks, this is the perfect alternative – a unique cocktail that doesn’t overwhelm you but invite you back for more. The liquor is also kept leveled and not too strong.
Garnished with a twisted piece of apple peel and beautifully golden in color, this is the perfect cocktail to accompany a season of warmth and joy.

Autumn Orchard Martini

1.5 oz. Ketel One Vodka
.75 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liquor
2 oz Honey Apple Syrup
Shake with ice, strain into Martini glass

Honey Apple Syrup

1 oz. honey
1 oz. water
6 oz. fresh Honey Crisp apple juice
Pinch of cinnamon and sugar

Cut three Honey Crisp apples into small pieces, the smaller the better. Place in a closeable container with cinnamon, sugar and water. Muddle apples until mashed and juicy. Strain juice and dispose of leftovers. Add honey, close the top and shake until mixed.