“While I sat in Meauxbar at the crossroads of silliness and sophistication, diners at neighboring tables turned to look at the spectacle unfolding as my server began to gingerly pour a stream of Herbsaint through the bone into my mouth.”
Steven Liles: “A blend of amaro, gently blended together in gravy boat, and elegantly delivered via the rustic beauty of animal bone”
Trevor Easter: “You snooze, you luge!”
As if by kismet, this month’s Mixology Monday falls during Dungeness crab season. So we loaded our mashtun with Court Bouillon and a dozen crabs, partook of a feast, then set about creating a cocktail to luge.
The theme was “Inverted,” so we inverted as many things as possible. A partial list:
– We’ve inverted land and sea, using a crab shell instead of a cow bone.
– The base ingredient is a fortified wine.
– It’s a Flip!
– We created a glucose and fructose aqueous solution via sucrose hydrolysis, more commonly known as invert sugar.
– And of course, it’s a Layback!
Keeping with the spirit of the Bone Luge, this cocktail wasn’t just an isolated event. Rather, it was an integral course of our revelry. The recipe:
1 cooked crab shell with hole cut in end
1 whole egg
2 oz amontillado sherry (Lustau Solera Reserva Los Arcos)
1 oz Amaro CioCiaro
1/2 oz invert sugar (recipe follows)
1/4 oz rich crab stock (recipe follows)
Add all ingredients (except the shell!) to a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Double strain into a spouted vessel. Layback. Luge.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 oz lemon juice
Simmer for 20 minutes, cool.
1 dozen crab shells
2 gallons water
1 head fennel, roughly chopped
1 head celery with leaves, roughly chopped
4 carrots, roughly chopped
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup crushed peppercorns
2 tbl coriander seeds
2 tbl sea salt
5 sprigs thyme
5 large bay leafs
1 whole lemon, quartered
Boil all ingredients for 1 hour, strain, and reduce to half a gallon.
First we were mentioned on all the national food blogs like Tasting Table, GrubStreet, and Eater. Then there was mainstream cred by being featured on VH1. Then there was intellectual cred by being mentioned on NPR. Then there was foodie cred by being mentioned by Bourdain. Now we have geek cred by being mentioned on Gizmodo. What a crazy ride.
When looking to Bone Luge, a few key factors emerge:
Balanced alcohol and residual marrow pairing — If the chosen accompaniment is too bitter, hot or sweet, you’ll mask the residual marrow flavor.
Mid palette density — The luge experience will last upwards of 10-20 seconds. Too flat in the middle, you won’t savor your luge during the luge.
Extended finish — Once you’ve luged, your friends are going to ask how it was. Did you enjoy it? Choose an alcohol without an extended finish and you’ll just be contemplating what was instead of what’s developing.
OK at room temp — The bone will be warm, so chilled cocktails are out. Also, ice dilutes and who wants that?
Bonus points: aided by oxygenation — The process of luging adds oxygen to the shot, so we look for places where aeration improves aromatics -— fundamentally why sherry’s our first love. Simply, there are more aromatics in sherry than any other wine (c.f. Tastebuds and Molecules, Francois Chartier)
Based on these guidelines, we set out to design a Luge-worthy cocktail for the virtual cocktail party known as Mixology Monday (MxMo). The rules this time: Emphasize fortified wines such as sherry or port and presumably Chinato, vermouth, and Bonal too.
Originally, we thought to play on the salinity of a Manzanilla sherry by substituting it for a scotch in a classic cocktail such as a Rob Roy or a Bobby Burns. Manzanilla is the place-designated fino sherry from Sanlucar de Barrameda. It has an extra thick yeast cap during aging which protects it from oxidizing too early. This freshness is balanced by aging the casks in caves near the Mediterranean. As the seasons expand and contract the casks, they accept some of the sea breeze and you get the signature salinity of Islay or Campbelltown scotch.
Playing with combinations, starting with the Hidalgo La Gitana (really the benchmark example of Manzanilla) as a base, we tried adding small bits of sweeter things like maraschino or late harvest wine. We quickly learned that Manzanilla is far too delicate to sub straight for Scotch. You’ll need to dial down the adjuncts considerably if you don’t want to overwhelm the sherry. Certainly cocktails like the Blood and Sand or the aggressive Black Diamond Flip were out.
Next we considered adding more aromatic and bitter ingredients. We decided on Bonal as the gentian gave the sherry a fascinating nose without interfering with the extended finish that’s sherry’s hallmark (it develops as it aerates in your mouth). This increased heft, however, left the mid-palate a bit flat, so we added a bar spoon of PX sherry. Too much! Dialing it back to a scant bar spoon of PX, we nearly had it perfected. A single dash of a very bright orange bitters such as Bitter Truth brightened it all up.*
2 ¼ oz. Manzanilla Sherry
¼ oz. Bonal
1 scant bar spoon PX Sherry
1 scant dash Orange Bitters (such as Bitter Truth)
Build in glass** and gently stir. Luge.
* We love Gaz Reagan but his orange bitters are too spicy here
** Yes, there’s no ice here. Your sherry and Bonal were refrigerated, right?! You didn’t want them to go bad and your luge is warm so there’s no need for an ice cold, diluted cocktail.
Anthony Bourdain doing a Bone Luge at Black Hoof in Toronto.
@ThirstyInLA & I launched the inaugural @BoneLuge at @bestiadtla tonight. pic.twitter.com/EbDZKcut
First bone luge for the editor of The Drink Nation websites was enjoyed this June at Riffle in Portland.
After arriving in Portland for the first time over 5 days ago for work training, I was taken to The Little Bird for the “Bone Luge Experience.” I am currently parked on an uncomfortable airport seat thinking about my luge virgin experience. I can still taste the whiskey thick with flavor and the cheers from my fellow luge-ers. My search for places near San Francisco begins. Way to good too not do again.