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How Should I Chill My Glassware?

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For most of us, chilling glasses and mugs should be easy: Throw them in the fridge for a few hours before the big party. But if you’ve ever left this task to the last minute, you know that it takes a while—even if they’re put in the freezer.

Chill Out

Cocktails reach their theoretical ideal temperature and dilution point when they’re poured out of the mixing vessel. Since they’re alcoholic, these drinks should be a bit colder than 32°F/0°C – the freezing point of water. Chilling the glass keeps the liquid inside cooler for longer. But don’t take it from me – Frederic Yarm has done extensive tests that demonstrated the difference.

Getting Cooler

The only real limit on methods to cool glassware is your imagination, but quite a few different approaches have been tried. Arguably the fastest (and most likely the priciest) is by using liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is extremely cold, as it’s a liquid only between -346°F and -320°F. At these temperatures, it cools glass down really, really fast. However, it won’t shatter the glass because a layer of nitrogen gas forms around the liquid and acts as an insulator.

The two methods that Yarm compared for making cups colder were to put a glass in the freezer and to fill another with ice and water. Though freezing the glass took about a minute longer to get to 32°F, it will continue to get colder afterwards.

Another possibility is to hold the glass in front of the fan in the freezer. Like a convection oven, this fan creates a simliar effect by circulating air and keeping the temperature steady throughout the chamber. By keeping a glass in front of the fan, the cold air in that area is constantly replaced by fresh, colder air. If your freezer’s fan doesn’t automatically turn on when you open the door, you can place a battery-operated fan in the freezer directed towards your glass.

Yet another way is to wrap each glass with a damp paper towel before throwing it in the freezer. This tactic cools glasses down approximately twice as fast as ice water. Since freezers tend to be very dry environments, water evaporates quickly. Simply misting glasses with water results in the liquid pooling inside, which causes it to evaporate much more slowly. Using a wrung out paper towel distributes this effect to the whole glass.

A final way to cool a glass is to chill vodka (or, if you’re throwing a cocktail party, whatever spirit you’re using for the drinks) in the freezer and then pour it into the glass. Booze left in this environment will chill down below the freezing point of water. After its use as a coolant, the spirit can be poured out of the glass for later consumption. Since booze isn’t perfectly flavorless, it will still leave hints of its taste in the glass.

Hit The Lab

If you doubt Yarm’s conclusion, set up your own experiment, either with a method we outlined or one of your own. If you want to see the effect of a chilled glass on the cocktail’s temperature, make a full cocktail and divide it between a chilled glass and a room temperature one. Keep sipping, and note differences in tasting notes and temperature over time.

New York Cocktail

This whiskey sour variation pairs whiskey with lime juice, simple syrup, and a touch of grenadine. It’s a strange combination, but the result is a beautiful cocktail with candied apple and spice notes.

1 tsp grenadine (equal parts Pom and white sugar)
1/2 oz simple syrup (equal parts hot water and white sugar)
3/4 oz lime juice
2 oz bold rye whiskey

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds or until chilled through. Strain into a cold coupe glass.

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What's the Right Way to Make a Sazerac?
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If you pronounce New Orleans "New Or-leens," or if you can’t get enough of those Big Ass Beers sold on Bourbon Street, you’re probably not actually from New Orleans. But if you’re feeling adventurous and missing the Big Easy, a Sazerac might be just what the doctor ordered. 

‘Tails and Stories

A few hundred years ago, you might have actually gotten a doctor’s order for a Sazerac. One of the drink's origin stories claims that it was invented by New Orleans apothecary Antoine Amedie Peychaud. According to this tale, Mr. Peychaud mixed up the drink with his eponymous bitters and served it in an egg coupe in his shop. 

A more likely origin story states that the drink was invented by a different New Orleans resident (though in the same neighborhood). Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar to Aaron Bird and went into the import business. One of his products happened to be Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils brandy. While Taylor was importing, Bird renamed his bar the Sazerac House and began serving a house cocktail that featured Taylor’s brandy and, as the story goes, bitters made by his neighborhood apothecary, Mr. Peychaud.

In the 1870s and 1880s, Europe's grape crops were decimated by an infestation of American aphids. In just four years, French wine production was cut by 67 percent, and even the most dedicated cognac drinkers switched to whiskey. For New Orleans, that meant switching to rye whiskey that was shipped to the city down the Ohio River and through the Mississippi. Thomas Handy, who owned the Sazerac Bar during that time period, likely switched the drink's main ingredient. This take on the signature cocktail is the one that found its way into the 1908 edition of The World's Drinks and How To Mix Them, with the recipe calling for "good whiskey," not Sazerac cognac. 

The origins of the Sazerac’s name is vague. It’s possible that it was a nod to the fact that it was the bar's house cocktail, but it’s also possible that it’s a reference to the brand of brandy. In those days, “cocktail” referred to a specific alcoholic drink format. As put forth by The Balance and Columbian Repository in 1806, a “cock-tail” is “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” If you wanted this type of drink with whiskey in it, you would ask for a Whiskey Cocktail. If you wanted Sazerac brandy (until the aphid plague, at least), you'd ask for a Sazerac cocktail.

Hit the Lab

Sazerac Recipe:

2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
.25 oz simple syrup (or a sugar cube)
2 oz good rye whiskey (use the good stuff)
lemon peel for garnish

Place the sugar cube into an absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Dash the bitters onto the cube and muddle. Add whiskey and one large ice cube and stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

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What’s the Right Way to Make a Caipirinha?
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The Rio Olympics start in just a few weeks, and all eyes are on Brazil. To celebrate, we decided to focus on the country’s most famous cocktail creation: the Caipirinha.

In form, the Caipirinha is pretty much a Brazilian Daiquiri. It’s made from sugar, lime, and cachaça. Cachaça could be considered a cousin to rum, but it is altogether unique. While most rum is made from molasses, cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice.

Unlike rum, which can be made anywhere, cachaça can only be made in Brazil. Though it’s often sold unaged, it is usually matured in woods that are native to Brazil, like peanut and balm. As with wine, beer, and whiskey, different kinds of wood affect the product inside differently.

The classifications of cachaça aren’t based on the type of cask in which it’s aged. It can get a bit confusing: Spirit that is not stored in wood or is kept in stainless steel vats before it’s bottled is often called branca (white). But cachaça aged in wood that doesn’t color the liquor may also be labeled as branca. This category goes under several other names, including prata (silver) and clássica (classic).

Cachaça that’s stored or aged in wood is usually labeled as amarela (yellow), in reference to its color. These may also be labeled as ouro (gold). Envelhecida (aged) cachaça, a subtype of amarela, is a bit more involved: it’s considered aged if more than 50 percent of the content of the bottle has been aged for at least a year in a barrel that’s 700 liters or smaller.

Cachaça is the “third most produced distilled drink in the world,” according to Alcohol In Latin America: A Social and Cultural History. Though more than 5000 brands existed in 2008, it was relatively ignored outside of Brazil until the recent resurgence of craft cocktails. In fact, until 2013, it had to be labeled “Brazilian rum” to be imported into the U.S. As a result, it’s often mistaken by many people for being a type of rum.

Unfortunately, we don’t really know anything definite about the origins of the Caipirinha. Like the Mojito and the Old Fashioned, the formula was perhaps first used in folk medicine. Carlos Lima, the executive director of IBRAC (the Brazilian Institute of Cachaça) told Casa e Jardim that a mix of lime, garlic, and honey with a pour of cachaça was probably used in São Paulo around 1918 as a remedy for the Spanish Flu.

As the story goes, someone eventually decided to skip the garlic and honey. Then, to balance the acidity of the lime, sugar was added. Over time, the drink spread into bars, ice entered the equation, and it became the Caipirinha we know today.

HIT THE LAB

Like the Mojito, the classic Caipirinha recipe is quite simple, but it’s also been the subject of many, many variations. We’ve included the International Bartenders Association (IBA) recipe as well as a modern take on the drink.

Caipirinha
Modified from the IBA website.

2 ounces Cachaça
1/2 of a lime
1 tablespoon sugar

Muddle lime and sugar in an Old Fashioned glass. Fill with ice and pour cachaça over it. Stir and enjoy.

Prata B. (Puerto Rico Asta Ah Brazil)
Recipe by Luis Ramos, bar manager of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco.

1 3/4 ounces Avua Prata Cachaça
3/4 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce pineapple gomme syrup
1/2 ounce Pedro Ximenez sherry
1/4 ounce Punt e Mes
Grated nutmeg, lime zest, lime wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass. Add crushed ice and stir until glass frosts. Top glass with grated nutmeg, lime zest, and lime wheel.

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