The Varnish Recipes

Mix This: The Varnish’s Warm Milk Punch with Max Seaman

January 2nd, 2014 — 1:13pm

Milk-Punch_Southern-Cocktails
Last winter we had a really great version of a Warm Milk Punch on the menu. This is adapted from a 1711 recipe by Mary Rockett, which was published in the wonderful book Punch, by David Wondrich (2010). According to Wondrich, it is “the oldest extant recipe for Milk Punch.” The story goes: punch was the mixed drink of choice in the 17th and 18th century. People drank so much of it that the sour nature started causing problems. Adding milk was probably an attempt to “smooth” out the citrus. Since this recipe originated in England, it stands to reason that the hot temperature of the drink helped them through cold winter nights. According to a conversation with Mr. Wondrich, Mary Rockett also happens to be the first commercially published author in Great Britain.

We have significantly modified the original recipe: we call for 2 parts demerara rum and one part cognac rather than all “brandy;” we make an “oleo-saccharum” rather than infusing the liquor with lemon peel; we modify the ratio of sweet and sour; and we increase the amount of milk rather than also adding a lot of water.

The Varnish Warm Milk Punch
-peel 6 lemons. Set aside the fruit for juicing and place the peels in a non-reactive bowl or container. Add 6 teaspoons of superfine sugar and muddle until the sugar starts to pull out the essential oil in the peels. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. After it sits the peels will shrivel and the oils and sugar will combine into a fragrant syrup which in historical punch jargon is called an oleo-saccharum.

In the container with the oleo-saccharum, add:
- 333ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 425ml turbinado simple syrup*
- 500ml Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac or other good FULL BODIED cognac, preferably 86-94 proof
- 1 liter El Dorado 5yr rum, or other dark, rich DEMERRARA rum

Stir to combine. Then add 1850ml of scalding whole milk. Preferably raw milk, but it HAS to be whole milk. If you are finicky about raw milk, scalding it will have the same effect as pasteurization.

Once you have added the scalding milk to the mixture, stir vigorously until the curds and whey have separated. Strain the whole mixture through cheesecloth or a very fine mesh strainer such as a “chinois.”

Taste for richness and intensity of alcohol. You may want to add a little bit of filtered water if it is too rich or boozy. You may also want to add more simple syrup if the punch is too tart, or to add richness. The amount of sugar the punch needs depends on the richness and sweetness of the milk.

At this point you can serve immediate while warm – just ladle into teacups and top with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. If you’d like to bottle it, let it sit covered in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight, until the remaining curds settle to the bottom. Siphon the liquid off the top and bottle. It can sit on the shelf at cellar temperature for a few months. From the bottle, pour into a saucepan, heat, and serve in teacups topped with nutmeg. Don’t over-heat, you will boil off the alcohol. (you can also serve it cold and it’s quite good) Refrigerate after opening.

*for turbinado simple syrup, dissolve 500g turbinado sugar (“sugar in the raw”) into 750ml hot water

Max Seaman, The Varnish, General Manager

Mix This: The Stay Up Late with Max Seaman of The Varnish

October 16th, 2013 — 12:21pm

Stay Up Late
Stay Up Late
Adapted from The Stork Club Bar Book by Lucius Beebe, 1946

This drink is a very simple variation on a Tom Collins. The Cognac adds just a bit of richness, and rounds out the botanical flavors of the gin. It is perfect for the summer or warm fall seasons we enjoy in Southern California.

- 1.5oz of London Dry Gin, such as Beefeater
- .5oz full bodied Cognac such as Pierre Ferrand 1840
- .75oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
- .75oz simple syrup (1lb super-fine sugar diluted into 22oz warm water)
- 2-3oz club soda
- Lemon wedge and maraschino cherry for garnish

Combine the first four ingredients in a shaking tin. Shake very quickly with a few small pieces of ice. Add 2-3oz of club soda to the tin and swirl to integrate. Strain into Collins glass filled with ice. Serve with a straw and garnish with lemon wedge and cherry.

Max Seaman, General Manager, The Varnish

Mix This: The Dry Martini (By Max Seaman, GM at The Varnish)

July 16th, 2013 — 11:28am


A dry Martini may be the ultimate drinker’s drink: strong crisp and clean without any sugars or liqueurs, you can drink them all night long without getting bogged down. The key to a good dry Martini: Dry gin, high quality vermouth, cold ice and perfect dilution.

THE GIN: Make sure to use a good London Dry style gin. We prefer classics like Beefeater or Plymouth, but there are many great brands on the market. DO NOT use a modern-style gin like Hendrick’s. These types of gin are intended to be consumed on their own instead of mixed, and they do not “play well with others.” Hendrick’s, for example, is very sweet with a strong rose-water flavor that will clash with the vermouth and create an odd flavor. A London Dry style gin will integrate with the vermouth for a whole flavor greater than the sum of it’s parts.

THE VERMOUTH: We love Dolin Vermouth de Chambéry Dry, but there are other good dry vermouths out there. Try some out and see what you like.

THE RATIO: For whatever reason, many modern drinkers have become afraid of the taste of vermouth. We think a real Martini needs a strong dose of vermouth. We like a ratio of 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, but some people prefer 3 to 1 or even 5 to 1. However, we recommend against the “Winston Churchill” school of drinking a straight glass of gin while looking at a bottle of vermouth from across the room.

THE ICE: Make sure to use ice straight from the freezer. Remember, your freezer is set to a temperature below 32 degrees, and the colder the starting point of the ice, the colder your Martini. Also keep in mind that ice may pick up flavors of whatever is in your freezer. We also recommend chilling your glassware in the freezer, as this will keep your Martini colder longer. Freeze both the mixing glass and your coupe or Martini glass.

STIR, NEVER SHAKE. Shaking adds air bubbles and will create a cloudy, watery mess of a Martini. James Bond was a great secret agent but didn’t know much about cocktails. Make sure to fill the mixing glass all the way to the top with ice – the more ice you use the colder the drink. Stir gently – the idea is to chill the drink and also add just the right amount of water – enough to mellow and integrate the flavors, but not enough so that the drink is a watery mess.

THE GARNISH: An olive vs. a twist is completely up to the drinker. (no shame in asking for both!) A lemon twist adds aroma and a touch of bitterness. An olive adds a tasty snack.

If garnishing with a twist, cut a small strip of lemon peel with as little white pith as possible. Hold with your forefingers high above the glass with the outside of the peel facing down. Gently squeeze out the essential oils, and try to “rain” them down evenly over the liquid. If you hold it too close to the glass, the Martini will be harsh and bitter. After you’ve squeezed the oils, gently brush the rim of the glass with the peel. If you like your Martini a bit more bitter, drop the peel into the glass. If not, set it aside.

If garnishing with an olive, be creative: no need to be limited by those olives stuffed with pimento. There are many delicious olive varieties in world. We like to use cerignola olives from Italy.

THE VARNISH RECIPE:
-2oz Beefeater Gin
-1oz Dolin Dry Vermouth.

Place ingredients in a frozen 16oz pint glass. Fill with very cold ice and stir gently until the ice has given up about .75-1oz water. Strain into a frozen coupe or Martini glass. Garnish with an olive or a lemon twist. (or both!)

Max Seaman, The Varnish, GM

Scotch Breakfast

June 28th, 2012 — 12:15pm

Bacon, lemon, and whisky for breakfast anyone? Bartender Eric Alperin mixes the perfect morning fix for WSJ’s Deborah Kan — a Scotch Breakfast.

Ingredients
Brown sugar
1/2 bar spoon of maple syrup
Angostura bitters
Soda water
16 mL Yamazaki 12-year whisky
Lemon + orange peel

How to Fat Wash
3 pieces of cooked bacon
Put gristle and angostura bitters into a container
Sit in room temperature for a few hours
Freeze it for 24 hours

Mix This: The Hillside Cocktail with Chris Bostick of The Varnish

November 8th, 2011 — 1:37pm

The Hillside Cocktail

1.5oz  Junipero Gin
.75oz  Amaro Nonino
.75oz  Dolin Dry Vermouth
2-3 dashes Elixir Vegetal de la Grande Chartreuse

Stir all ingredients with hand cracked ice.  Strain into chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon peel.

See how it’s done from the man himself!

Chris Bostick, General Manager, The Varnish