Eastern Europe: Zwack! Cocktail Hour and the Perfect Challah

zwack

Chris proved his chops as a Master Mixologist with a survey of Zwack liqueurs from Hungary.  Not satisfied with shots of each of the liqueurs in their pure forms, he also treated us to 3 masterfully mixed cocktails bringing out the unique fruity character of each.

For a little history, Chris found this information on drinkhacker.com:

Zwack Unicum Liqueur – This spirit, originally crafted from more than 40 herbs and spices in 1790. Very bitter, it’s a digestif for the Fernet fan, with sweetness a distant afterthought. Pushing past the initial shock of bitterness, Unicum offers a heavy cinnamon note character, with orange peel beneath. Secondary notes include licorice, dark chocolate, dried herbs, and some wood, driven by the six months Unicum spends in oak barrels before bottling. This is a solid alternative to Fernet, offering its own take on the bitter liqueur without reinventing the category.

Zwack Liqueur – Alternately known as “Unicum Next” internationally, this is Unicum’s lighter-colored and far sweeter take on Unicum, clearly designed for a younger, more sweet-toothed audience. Slightly syrupy, Zwack is quite fruity, driven as I noted in my original review by cherry notes — though these are more of the cherry jelly variety than the fresh fruit. It’s quite a different beast than Unicum, one which lends itself to drinking as a shot, using as a mixer, and generally appealing to a more novice drinker. That’s neither good nor bad… but it’s not Unicum.

Zwack Unicum Plum Liqueur  – Take Unicum and age it instead for six months in oak casks on a bed of dried plums (huge in Hungary) and you have Unicum Plum. The nose isn’t immediately distinguishable from Unicum, licorice and spice notes. The body is instantly familiar, but brings more fruit to the table — a Port-like prune character that helps to balance out some of Unicum’s overwhelming bitterness. If you’re looking for something somewhere in between Unicum and Zwack on the bitter to sweet spectrum, Unicum Plum may fit the bill, though I find the bitter Unicum more exciting.

zwack shots

 

Zwack Cocktails

cocktail

Adapted from recipe by Joaquín Simó, the New York City bartender best known for his work at Death and Co. and Pouring Ribbons. Unicum and Zwack are traditionally consumed as shots, but their herbal makeup gives you plenty to work with when mixing drinks.

Hungarian Orchard

1 ounce Zwack

1/2 ounce apple brandy

1 ounce fresh orange juice

Apple slices for garnish

Fresh grated cinnamon for garnish

Combine Zwack, apple brandy and orange juice into a cocktail with ice and shake vigorously. Strain contents into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with apple slices and fresh grated cinnamon.

Masked Man

1/2 ounce Unicum

1 ounce apple brandy

1/2 ounce pumpkin spice syrup

1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Grated nutmeg for garnish

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir well and strain contents into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Unicum Plum Cobbler

1 ounce Unicum Plum

1/2 ounce aperitif (I used apple brandy)

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

1/4 ounce simple syrup

1/2 tbsp strawberry preserves

3 dashes aromatic bitters

Lemon peel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake vigorously. Pour contents into a Nick & Nora glass (or a coupe). Garnish with lemon peel.

 

Both to serve as a warm and meaningful welcome, and to to ensure that the Spicebox Supperclubbers could make it through the meal, Dave presented us with a beautiful challah.

challah

Dave writes,

We were going for two different traditions with the bread:

Slavic tradition of welcoming distinguished guests with bread and salt.
http://www.adorableland.com/traditional-slavs-greeting-of-bread-and-salt/

and

Jewish tradition of serving challah with salt.
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/484194/jewish/Why-dip-in-salt.htm

From a culinary point of view, the salt provided a nice flavor contrast to the slight sweetness of the dough and the raisins.  The recipe from the challah comes from Zabar’s, that great New York deli, to which Dave’s family has a personal connection (almost could have been related!)

Simple Sweet Challah
from Andrea Watman

http://www.zabars.com/SIMPLE_SWEET_CHALLAH_PRINT.html

This is my favorite Challah recipe. It is easy to make – and the sweet taste of the bread is just wonderful. I serve it warm with honey on Rosh Hashanah. Growing up my Grandma Bertha made dinner every Friday night. She set a beautiful table with a Challah as the centerpiece. No, she didn’t bake it – she walked to 161st Street and Gerard Avenue in the Bronx – to The G & R Bakery. If you lived anywhere near Yankee Stadium The G & R Bakery was where you met on Friday’s. You had to go early in the day because there would always be a line. The Challah was so shiny that as I child I thought it was polished. For years I tried to bake Challah and could never master it. This recipe has never failed me – so I hope you’ll give it a try.

Ingredients:
2 packages dry yeast
2/3 Cup Warm Water (110 degrees)
5 Egg Yolks – Lightly Beaten
3 Whole Eggs – Lightly Beaten
7 Tablespoons Corn Oil
½ Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Salt
4 ½ Cups Flour
1 Cup Raisins (Optional)
1 Egg Yolk – Beaten
Poppy Seeds (optional)

Preparation:
1. In cup or small bowl dissolve Yeast in the warm water with approx 1 tablespoon of sugar. After just a few minutes the yeast should begin to “bloom”. It will become foamy and it will give off a sweet smell. If your yeast is not fresh this will not happen – do not go any further – start over with fresh yeast.

2. In a large bowl mix Egg Yolks, Eggs, Oil, remaining Sugar, Salt and Yeast mixture.

3. Add enough flour to form stiff but sticky dough (you can do this in a stand mixer – using the dough hook attachment).

4. Then turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (adding more flour if needed) – about 6 minutes – work in raisins as kneading.

5. Form a ball and place in a greased bowl and turn dough so all sides are greased. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and place in warm area to double in bulk – about two hours.

6. Punch down and knead briefly.

7. Roll dough into a 24” long rope. Create a spiral round loaf. (Sometimes I divide the dough into three parts, then I make three smaller ropes and braid them – then I form a circle from with the braid).

8. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment.

9. Brush loaf with beaten egg yolk, sprinkle top with poppy seeds (if desired), and allow too rise until dough doubles in size – about 45 minutes.

10. Bake until golden brown in a pre-heated 375 degree oven – 35 to 40 minutes.

11. Allow to cool before slicing and enjoy!

 

Did you enjoy this sample of Eastern European food and drink? Visit the overview of our menu and come back next week for the delightful first course.  Thanks for coming by!

Advertisements

Trini Carnival: Introducing the Spicebox Cocktail

images-1

Leave it to Dave (creative, precise, also dashing and witty) to not only create a new cocktail worthy of being the Spicebox Supperclub’s signature cocktail, but to make his own infused spirits! This cocktail had it all– mango (one of Trinidad’s best fruits), Indian spices, Trinidad’s Angostura bitters, and the use of the insider-hip ingredient, a shrub (drinking vinegar).  While each of these ingredients has a strong individual personality, Dave’s expert mixing melded them together beautifully and subtly, with the capstone being fresh curry leaves, which added both flavor and garnish.  This cocktail is a winner.

Unknown

Spicebox Cocktail

1 oz Cardamom and ginger infused rum (see below)
1 oz mango juice
1/2 oz peach shrub
Juice from 1/2 lime
Splash of simple syrup
Dash angostura bitters
Garnish: curry leaf pressed into palm or folded to release aroma and turbanado sugar for rim.
Put all ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice and stir for 20 seconds (do no shake).
Sugar rim by running lime around rim and dipping glass into sugar.  Garnish with curry leaf.
Pour in chilled cocktail glass up, or over ice in rocks glass.
Nalin Spicebox Cocktail
Cheers, Nalin!
—–
Cardamom and ginger infused rum (enough for party; can be scaled down)
3 cups silver/light rum
20 green cardamom pods cracked
20 1/8 inch slices of ginger

Combine in mason jar.  Swirl daily.  Week should do though no harm in letting it marry for longer.  Strain (I used a funnel with cheese cloth and pressed the ginger with wooden spoon handle, which gave the rum a slightly yellow and cloudy look but much stronger ginger flavor).

nnsxtoa6bo5ncz33ciabbdm92l_gmhiqmblluzoxn6m9m3vxc6rmutpjhcvdxjfo9hhalqbk_szwsly-spe2gk

Linda, Peter and a pile of mangoes in Trinidad

Come back next week for (finally) some food!

Asian Mash-Up: Lychee-Plum Soju Sorbet

lychee

This fruity sorbet was served as a palate cleanser before the main course.  The soju, or Korean distilled grain alcohol, used to spike this was difficult to detect.  Chef Nalin later revealed its potency:

For the lychee-plum ‘sorbet’, it couldn’t be easier. Fragrant, soft, fruits do well with this treatment. I peeled some plums (both yellow and red), diced them, and then cut up some lychee. I froze the fruit pieces and then when it was time, blended them along with fridge-cold Korean soju (about 2:1 ratio of fruit to soju). For a previous dinner, I cut up some peeled grapes, froze those and blended them with white wine, which was also nice. This time, I wanted to use soju because I haven’t used it before, and I fit with the theme. Also, its 20% ABV(!), which may have contributed to the general merriment around that time of the evening.

The soju, which turned this from a palate cleaner into a boozy interlude, was also a Proustian madeleine for the chef, for whom it recalled the ill-fitting powder-blue suit jacket he was forced to wear in an elegant, “jackets required” restaurant at the tender and vulnerable age of 16.

A formative or traumatizing experience– you decide.

This was part of the Spicebox Supperclub’s Asian Mash-Up menu.

Asian Mash-Up: The Original Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling

220px-Singapore_Sling

image via Wikipedia

We started the party with the perfect cocktail for our “Asian Mash-Up” theme: the Singapore Sling.  This drink was created in the storied Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, long a favorite of British Colonials in the era of Somerset Maugham.  None of us had had one before, though one of us had made an attempt (see below).

Thanks to the internet, we found a recipe that involved many liqueurs, but ended up tropical, fruity and bright, without excess sweetness.

_____________________________________________________________________

And now for the story, from Spicebox Travels:

The story behind this is the tale my husband has heard thousands of times over the last almost twenty years, the one during the telling of which he actually will cover up his ears, even in the company of people we might want to impress, or at least not scare away. I refrained from sharing it in the company of the new Spicebox Supperclub, lest it dampen the mood.

In 1991, I was a student (i.e. poor) from a liberal university (i.e. a little bohemian), and it was hot (definitely no stockings for me, regardless of the dress code). I had been living as a study abroad student in Singapore for at least four months at this point, and while I was no longer dripping sweat constantly, I could not wear the sweaters and tights that the local girls could, as if they were in merry old England. There was a lot of excitement surrounding the grand re-opening of the famed Raffles Hotel, which had undergone its first major renovation in the years prior to my arrival. This is the place that invented the Singapore Sling and the former hangout of Somerset Maugham, in the days that tigers might have still been found roaming the streets of this former jungle. It was the archetype of British colonial architecture and society. As such, “she” was considered a venerable institution, to be respected.

So I combed my hair, which went crazy wild in that humidity, put on a neat outfit of a top and shorts, and excitedly walked inside, where I saw lots of other tourists milling about, in similar or even more casual attire. I gazed at the beautifully restored woodwork, and made my way back towards the famed Long Bar to have a taste of the Singapore Sling, at its birthplace. But I didn’t quite make it there. I was stopped by a uniformed employee, who gently directed me outside. “No shorts are allowed. This is an expensive hotel.”

“Pardon me?” I asked. “What about all those other people?” I gestured to the scruffy long-haired Australians in their board shorts and flip-flops, lounging casually and having a raucous good time.

“They are guests here.”

I was embarrassed, but wondered what made me look like someone who could not possibly be a guest at “an expensive hotel.” It wasn’t my clothing that made me stand out. In fact, I suspected that my welcome was because I didn’t stand out– I looked like a “local.”

I discussed the incident back in the hostel’s canteen (dorm cafeteria) with my local friends. They immediately and unanimously concluded that it was the customary discrimination against locals, while pandering to Western (appearing) tourists. They shrugged it off, it was such a commonplance occurrence to them. But I was enraged, on my own behalf but also theirs.

I wrote my first ever letter to the editor to The Straits Times, the local/National newspaper (it’s a very small country), in which I implied that the hotel had race-based double standards. I kept the clippings from my letter, which I think still emanates heat almost thirty years later. In it, I concluded, “It reminded me of what the glorious Raffles must have been like in colonial times– attentive Asian staff catering to every caprice of their esteemed Western guests. Perhaps the newly renovated Raffles hotel should also update her thinking.”

Like a harbinger of blog posts gone viral, this letter generated a month of responses. A few sadly sympathized that there were post-colonial attitudes, but the vast majority threw insults at me, someone they had never met or seen. I was called “scruffy and sloppy.” The best insult was “Raffles hotel is no place for… scruffy or unkempt visitors. For these people, there are lots of coffee houses, beer lounges, karaoke joints and perhaps even hawker centres.” The Sunday Times had a full editorial dedicated to the subject of… Me. And the major tabloid did an investigative report where they sent two journalists, separately, to re-enact my actions. One was Caucasian, one was a local Singaporean Chinese. They were both dressed in bike shorts (I would never!), and each went in the lobby, as I had done. In the end, both were thrown out, though the Chinese one by a good ten minutes earlier. The conclusion was that there was no discrimination. Yes, these were my fifteen minutes of infamy.

________________________________________________________________________

So, decades later, I was overjoyed to finally have a chance to enjoy a Singapore Sling, in the comfort of the Spicebox Supperclub.  And now you can, too.  No dress code.

Cheers!

The Original Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling

Recipe from chinese.food.com

Ingredients

1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce cherry heering
1/4 ounce Cointreau liqueur
1/4 ounce benedictine
4 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/3 ounce grenadine
1 dash Angostura bitters

Method

1.  Shake with ice.

2.  Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass

3.  Garnish with pineapple and a Maraschino cherry

Thanks for coming by! To see the rest of the Asian Mash-Up menu, read here.  Check back next week for another recipe from the menu.