I have been looking forward to Group D ever since I envisioned this series, because it offered some of the most interesting possibilities for cocktails.
The cocktail selection hasn’t been static, either. As this group has played its matches in the World Cup, I’ve changed one of the cocktails based on the way its team has played. That team is Costa Rica, who have laughed at this so-called “group of death.” To be sure, it still is such; it is Costa Rica who is that Death.
Along those lines, I started to think about something celebratory for Los Ticos, something that also hearkened to their status as a harbinger of woe unto all other Group D teams. This brought me to sparkling wine, and champagne cocktails like the infamous Death in the Afternoon. Riffing off a couple such cocktails — the Old Cuban from Jeffrey Morganthaler, and the classic French 75 — we have a balanced, herbal drink that will surprise you after a couple games:
Los Ticos de la Muerte
1½ oz – Zhumir aguardiente (or rum)
¾ oz – simple syrup
½ oz – fresh lime juice
barspoon of absinthe
2 dashes of Bolivar bitters (or Angostura)
dry sparkling wine
Combine everything except the sparkling wine in a shaker. Add ice, shake until chilled, and pour into a champagne flute.* Top with sparkling wine, and garnish with and orange curl.
*Champagne flutes have different volumes; adjust proportions accordingly.
The base spirit here is guaro, or aguardiente, which is distilled from sugarcane (similar to cachaca and rum). I’ve specified Zhumir, as aguardiente can mean different things in different countries (in Colombia, for example, it’s a strong anise-flavored spirit). As mentioned before, a quality rum can stand in for this Latin & South American spirit.
While I’m in the re-imagining mood, it’s a perfect time to revisit the Pisco Sour from the Group B cocktails. If I wanted to turn the drink towards a Uruguayan style, I would look at where I can tweak it. The most obvious place would be to make an infusion either in the spirit or the simple syrup. What to infuse? The obvious choice would be the same think presented in those links: a popular tea-like beverage in Uruguay (and Paraguay & Argentina) known as yerba mate:
Mate Pisco Sour
3 oz – pisco
1 oz – yerba mate simple syrup
¾ oz – fresh lime juice
an egg white
Combine all ingredients except the bitters in a shaker. Shake vigorously WITHOUT ice, then add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled rocks glass, and garnish the foam atop the drink with a swirl of bitters.
For a quick syrup: add 2 tsp of loose yerba mate and ¼ cup of sugar to 2 oz of not-quite-boiling water, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Let steep for about ten minutes before straining out the mate. If you want more syrup, scale up the proportions and use a saucepan to heat & dissolve the sugar & steep the mate. In either case, make sure to let the syrup cool before mixing with it.
You can adjust the strength of the mate within the syrup to your taste, or use varieties of mate to create a unique cocktail. (For the drink above, I used a mate that contained candied papaya & dried pineapple.) The citrus element in this version is lime instead of lemon, as it matches well with the yerba mate I used in the syrup. You may find lemon more to your liking, and that’s perfectly okay.
Finally, we come to another cocktail decision that changed as the World Cup went on. Initially, I figured the obvious choice for an England and Italy cocktail would be the Negroni: London dry gin, Italian vermouth & amaro. Boom. Simple.
But I was too hasty in my decision. While I encourage everyone to have a Negroni at some point during World Cup 2014, I thought there may be another cocktail that ought to get its time in the spotlight. Something classic, with English and Italian ingredients, but a little off the beaten path. Then I remembered one of my absolute favorite cocktails: the Martinez.
1 oz – Old Tom gin
2 oz – sweet vermouth
bar spoon of Luxardo maraschino liqueur
couple dashes of Boker’s bitters
Combine all ingredients into a pint glass. Add ice, stir until nice & cold, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a swath of lemon or orange peel.
The Martinez is a cocktail that’s been around for a long time. It’s first mention is in cocktail books in the late 19th century, essentially a Manhattan with gin instead of whiskey. It’s thought to be the precursor to the modern dry Martini. Of these three, the Martinez is the least-known, and that is a damned shame.
This is luxurious cocktail whose thick taste lingers on the tongue. It is the opposite of a dry cocktail — Old Tom is the sweeter pappy of London dry gin, Italian vermouth is sweeter than its dry French cousin, and it adds a dash of liqueur. The Boker’s bitters transform the cocktail from simply amazing into something utterly epic. You could use some combination of Angostura, orange, and/or cardamom bitters, and the drink will not disappoint; using Boker’s will make it absolutely sing.
Join me next time for Group E, where I bring you absinthe, a hot cinnamon “tea” with aguardiente, and more rum!