THE MAILBAG

I get lots of mail and some of the questions are of general interest and the answers may of interest to a number of readers…here are some good questions from behind the bar by Jimmy.

Greetings Mr. DeGroff!!!! A few questions I have for you that I was hoping you could answer for me at your earliest convenience:

1.) How do you get/make watermelon juice for use in some creative cocktails? Do you just take out the seeds from a watermelon and then puree it in a blender? Can you buy watermelon juice?

No, you cannot buy watermelon juice, but it's easy enough to make. For a single drink prepare ½ cup watermelon balls and mash them in the bottom of the mixing glass with the sugar syrup until watery. Add your other ingredients and shake well with ice. Strain into a goblet filled with ice and garnish.

For bulk quantity: Cut the top third off a ripe round watermelon and hollow out the inside saving the melon and the shell. Be careful not to puncture the rind; you can use it to serve a punch made from the watermelon juice. Mash the melon through a large china-cap strainer to express the juice. I use a thick wire whisk , the stiffest gauge , to mash the melon. If you aren't in a professional kitchen and have never heard of a china cap you can use a metal colander and a potato masher.

2.) Should simple syrup be kept in the refrigerator during a shift? Does this change the taste or affect the drink?

I use syrup so quickly I never worry about it going bad. You don't really need to refrigerate it unless you plan to store it for an extended period…but that's seldom the case. Simple syrup adds both volume and sweetness to a drink. To make a liter or quart of syrup quickly for immediate use follow these instructions. Sugar will dissolve very nicely in cold water when agitated properly. Fill a liter bottle half way up with superfine sugar, the other half with water. Shake it until most of the sugar is dissolved- about a minute. Top it off with water and shake again, holding bottle alternately upside down and right side up. Within three minutes, you'll have a fresh cold liter of simple syrup. It will remain cloudy for five minutes. After it clears, shake it again briefly and you're ready to go.

3.) Should vermouth be kept refrigerated during a shift, or just overnight? If kept in the speed rack day and night (with a speed pourer on top), how long will the vermouths last before going bad?

Storing vermouth in the speed rack and popping it in the fridge at the end of the night is a good idea. It is after all, a wine product and will eventually oxidize. The brandy in vermouth will slow that process down, but for home use, I encourage people to buy the small bottles of vermouth and keep them refrigerated. When it starts to go, use it for cooking and buy a new bottle.

4.) What is the difference between blood orange juice, orange juice, and tangerine juice? Are some sweeter than others? Different colors?

When you cut open a Blood Orange, the inside is red and juicy. The juice has been described as a spicy berry orange. Blood orange is not as sweet as regular navel orange. It's delicious and becoming very popular here in the United States. If you stay in Rome, chances are your morning orange juice will be from Blood Oranges, red in color instead of yellow-orange. Tangerine juice has a deep orange color and is sweeter than orange juice.

5.) In your opinion, should a Long Island Iced Tea taste like Iced Tea? Following most standard LIT recipes I've used, they don't taste like ice tea.

Try the recipe below and I bet it does taste a bit more like ice tea. Notice I am not using sour mix but fresh juice and simple syrup…it is much better. The secret of this drink is not to drown it in alcohol…bartenders use whole ounces in many cases and it is way too strong and doesn't taste good, not to mention going against the rules responsible beverage service.

LONG ISLAND ICED TEA

1/2 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. Gin
1/2 oz. Rum
1/2 oz. Tequila
1/2 oz. Triple Sec
3/4 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz. Simple syrup
4 to 5 ounces Coca Cola

Combine all the ingredients except the Coca-Cola and stir. Top with Coca-Cola and serve and a collins glass. Garnish with a wedge of lemon.

6.) When flaming an orange peel or lemon peel, I've only been able to do it by cutting a fairly large piece of peel from the fruit. I basically break it in half over the match using thumb and index finger, and then it works, but the peel breaks into two pieces. What is the correct way to do it?

Flaming Flaming a peel over the drink is a dramatic presentation. You can take advantage of this unique quality by preparing citrus twists in the following way. · Always use firm, fresh fruit; the skin will have higher oil content. · Use large thick-skinned navel oranges and large lemons; ask your grocer for 95 count lemons (as opposed to juice lemons, which are 165 count). · Cutting uniform-sized, thin oval peels that flame up well takes control, concentration and practice. · First cut a half inch nub off each end or pole. · Place the fruit it on the cutting board with one of the poles resting on the board. Hold the fruit firmly down on the cutting board and, using the paring knife, cut thin oval shaped Twists ¾ by 1-½ inches long.

The peel should be thin enough that the yellow shows all around the circumference with just a small amount of white pith visible in the center. This type of peel will maximize the amount of oil expressed into the drink and minimize the amount of bitter white pith on the twist. · Cut twists in a downward motion from the middle of the fruit down to the bottom following the curve of the fruit and turning the fruit after each cut until you have circled the fruit completely. · Then turn the fruit over and perform the same operation on the other half. Navel oranges should yield twelve to fifteen twists and large lemons ten to twelve twists.

Flame the peel by holding the peel three inches above the glass (any closer and a black residue will be left on the surface of the drink) with the rind facing down into the drink. In the other hand, hold a lit match between the peel and the drink. Sharply squeeze the peel, spraying the orange oil through the lit match onto the surface of the drink. If you cut the peels correctly they should have very little pith. The yellow or orange of the skin should be visible all the way around the circumference of the peel when you look at it from the underside. When you pick up the peel to flame it you must handle it like an egg shell, if you bend it before flaming you will express most of the oil and it won't work. Always use fresh , firm thick skinned fruit., it flames the best.

Beverage Media April 2002
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Cocktail Corner by Dale DeGroff
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