A visit, a friend, a taste, a locality, cocktails and an old school liquor, all in one post. Read on...
A visit from a friend
Our friend Jure Andrijašević, a bartending professional passionate about all things related to spirits and cocktails, dropped by for a hangout and to try a few mixes with Luftbremzer Gin as a base. He is a professional strongly driven by locality and we have to say that cocktations he prepares convey the feel, culture and mindset of the environment they are made in. And really, before we even started mixing, we spent a decent amount of time just bouncing ideas on cocktails we could mix, and not only in terms of balancing the sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness and savouriness. If you think of it, it’s not that strange. In the end, what is taste after all?
What is taste?
Strictly scientifically, the gustatory system or sense of taste is the sensory system responsible for the perception of taste (flavour). Everything from chemical reaction of food components and taste buds on your tongue and in oral cavity, to trigeminal nerve stimulation and gustatory cortex, all is related to, basically, how something feels on a palate. And that biochemistry is crucial, because taste starts with it. Or does it really? If you look at taste strictly through that prism, then how the heck can a cookie taste like Christmas? How can something taste good or bad?
It's an experience
Taste isn’t just a flavour, it’s an experience. And literally everything can affect an experience. Taste experience can be influenced by the mood of the taster, the environment where the tasting is happening, people surrounding him/her, etc. The list of factors is long. Taste is also related to memory, so if you ate vanilla cookies for Christmas when you were a kid, then probably vanilla cookies taste like Christmas to you. You see, taste is highly individual and is deeply rooted into personal experience. That’s why there is no best gin in the world. Everyone has her/his own best gin. With that being said, let’s get back to Jure :)
A cocktail concept
When making a cocktail, it is essential that a broad spectre of people like it. A bartender is to make a drink that communicates in a fine way the whole taste experience to the sipper. From the looks, the story, the feeling, the mentality to aroma and scent. And here’s the twist. There is one drink our parents and their parents were drinking in this region. And it is still popular among our generation, also. So it’s kind of classic, and a majority of people from Zagreb have a feeling inscribed into their minds based on its taste; the one and only – Pelinkovac.
Initially produced by big spirits companies dating from Yugoslavia, Badel 1862 and Maraska, this wormwood forward herbal liqueur was and it still is one of the most popular Croatian hard spirits. Pelinkovac is best served cold as a digestive drink, with optional ice and a lemon slice. But we drink it in many combinations also, and in many occasions. Our parents enjoyed it in simple mixes with tonic or soda, whereas our grandparents still recommend it as a stomach ache remedy. We remember drinking it as shots in between rounds of beer as part of ‘preparation’ for a night out. So it’s a small wonder that Luftbremzers such as us decided to put it in a gin cocktail. Badel’s premium category pelinkovac, called Pelinkovac Antique is the drink we have worked with and it is by far the best pelinkovac available on the market. It is quite inexpensive and old school, just as we like it.
We started with Negroni, where Pelinkovac served as a nice substitute to Campari e.i. bitter, which doesn’t come as a surprise since Pelinkovac is a form of bitter. Its herbal bitterness ads up pretty nicely to the complex Luftbremzer taste, and along with sweet vermouth it delivers a strong and decent Negroni with a local twist. To a person that Pelinkovac (or Pelin short and from the heart) means something, the taste of Zagroni (a working name) cocktail communicates that regional mentality and feel, ant that is what taste is all about.
30 ml Luftbremzer Gin
30 ml white vermouth
15 ml Pelinkovac Antique
1 dash orange bitter
Garnish with orange peel or dehydrated orange slice
Make as you would make a classic Negroni. Be careful with Pelinkovac because it might overtake with its bitterness.
Another cocktail with Luftbremzer and Pelinkovac was a variation of a sour which is also nice and balanced. Sours are coming back in hype these days after a period of quiet time, so why not to introduce Pelinkovac in such a novel and trendy light. That sourness of orange and lemon blends in nicely with the bitterness and herbal notes of Pelinkovac, and egg white introduces that smoothness and silky feel. Not to mention the Luftbremzer’s nice body to encompass the taste in a genuine Zagreb afternoon moment. Here’s the recipe:
50 ml Luftbremzer Gin
20 ml Pelinkovac Antique
30 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
10 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
30 ml simple syrup
1 egg white
Pour all the ingredients in a shaker and dry shake well to make a foamy liquid. Add ice and shake a bit more. Strain into a tumbler glass filled with ice and garnish with dry orange peel.
A long drink
And for the end, Jure made a long drink based on Luftbremzer Gin and Pelinkovac. It comes very refreshing but with a dash or two of Angostura you can easily turn it into a winter version more suitable for these days. Sorry, we haven't
50 ml Luftbremzer Gin
20 ml Chartreuse Vert
Angostura, optional for the winter version
Shake the gin, Chartreuse, ice and orange peel in a shaker. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice, top up with ginger ale and garnish with orange peel.
Enjoy your Luftbremzer moment!