From The Bartender’s Gin Compendium by Gary Regan
2 oz Leopold’s Gin (Plymouth specified)
0.75 oz Hibiscus Syrup (see below)
0.75 oz Lemon Juice
White of One Egg
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and shake without ice
Add large ice and shake again
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a lime twist
* * *
First and foremost, Mr. Regan, we owe you an apology. We’re not even three drinks into our salute to your life’s work, and we, boorish Americans that we are, bring up tea (Gary is English). Over the course of your career, you’ve achieved so much, but still you find yourself reduced to a portrait painted by the narrow and stereotype-laden brush of some Yank bloggers. Yes, we apologize – but that won’t stop us from talking tea. And hamburgers – because, again, we’re Americans.
For a couple of years of my life, I had the good fortune to have two offices – a main one in Los Angeles and a satellite office in Manhattan. As circumstances worked themselves out, I found myself managing the New York office, which meant that once a month, I was a resident of the Big Apple for 4 or 5 days – a resident with an expense account, mind you. While there are tales aplenty from that period of my life, only one is germane to subject at hand: the DB Burger.
DB Bistro Moderne is a hip, upscale “modern bistro” (if you hadn’t guessed) from New York-based chef supreme Daniel Boulud (one of the finest and kindest chefs in the world). As the early portion of my trips frequently placed me at the Paramount Hotel in New York’s Theatre District, DB Bistro Moderne was on my short list of nearby places to visit (nearby is key if you’re a California boy in New York in January). What drew me to DB was its famous burger. Although he is French-born, Daniel Boulud is as much a New Yorker as any man. He loves his burgers and hotdogs, and at some point, he decided to create the “ultimate” burger. Boulud’s definition of ultimate: a sirloin burger stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffles piled atop a parmesan bun. It costs about $32, with a “Royale” version featuring extra truffle running $75 and a “Royale Double Truffle” going for $120. And, it is, quite frankly, life changing.
And, so is the tea. See, I went for the burger but fell equally in love with the hibiscus iced tea served at DB Bistro. If you haven’t had the pleasure, hibiscus is a flower that, when dried, produces an amazing black cherry colored, fragrant, tangy tea. It really is a wonder of nature. And, being an iced tea man whenever I’m not a cocktail man, it was, at DB, simply iced tea that I ordered and surprisingly hibiscus tea that I received. Delicious. So, some years later now, it was with great delight that I stumbled upon the Bar Club Press in Gary Regan’s Bartender’s Gin Compendium. Not only is Regan’s recipe an adaptation of one from the Daniel Boulud family (having been created by Xavier Herit at the flagship Daniel restaurant), it also incorporates my beloved hibiscus.
Having not made hibiscus syrup before, I initially turned to my rote syrup making techniques. I knew that I needed to rehydrate the dried hibiscus flowers to coax their goodness from them, so I used my traditional “hot” syrup infusion method. The problem I’ve had with that method is moisture loss during boiling, which produces syrup that is far too thick and often ready to turn solid. Such was the case here (I’ve modified the technique, omitting the prolonged boil). Next, I tried the cold method – pouring syrup over the hibiscus flowers and leaving it sit overnight. The problem here is lack of rehydration and little to no infusion. Then, the obvious solution slapped me across the face – tea.
Rather than fumbling around with a syrup base, I’d start with a hibiscus tea base and use it as the liquid in the syrup making process. I’m sure the true mixologists and cooks out there are laughing at me right now, but I really had overlooked the simplest, most obvious process: get the core flavor you want first, then sweeten it. Now, we have a third method of making infused syrups to add to our list – if the flavor ingredient is dried, try making a tea from it, then using the tea in your syrup making.
Finally, seven paragraphs in, we can talk about the drink. It’s gorgeous – just look at it up there. The salmon color, the snowy egg white head, the lime twist – it reminds me of a house drink at some private club during the height of the Deco age. Regan specifies Plymouth Gin, and we have no problem with that. The citrus-forward profile of the Leopold’s works beautifully here, however, and any nice Dry Gin should suit things just fine. If you like the Ramos Gin Fizz, you’ll find a familiar profile here, which is soft enough to please even the staunchest cocktail-phobes.
If we’ve done our job and convinced you that the Bar Club Press is your next cocktail, you’ll need, of course, to acquire the requisite dried hibiscus flowers. In Los Angeles, Surfas carries them. Otherwise, try the dried, bagged spice section of your local market, Cost Plus, or the closest Mexican market. Should all else fail, I’ve added them to our Amazon store (although the shipping costs are pretty steep). It’s worth seeking them out in order to make the Bar Club Press, but don’t forget, of course, to try the tea on its own:
Cover 0.5 Cup loosely packed Dried Hibiscus Flowers with 4 Cups boiling water
Brew for 7 minutes, then strain out the flowers
Combine 1 part warm Hibiscus Tea with 2 parts Sugar
Stir until the Sugar is completely dissolved