Flavor vs Aesthetic
My focus is flavor first. I've never been one to faun over cool-looking drinks if they still taste like garbage, so aesthetic is always second to the mix.
But just as great cooks work to expand their expertise to include pristine plating, mixologists expand their craft to include interesting looking drinks that also happen to taste good. Unfortunately, in my experience, it seems that many bartenders have perfected the look well before taking the time to ensure that it tastes like anything other than spoiled orange juice. Just sayin'.
Where I tend to struggle is in what to add or subtract to create a pleasing visual without sacrificing the flavor. Because at the end of the day, the flavor is my guiding star. Who cares if it looks a little weird if it still goes down your throat and offers a pleasant drinking experience.
I decided to stretch outside my comfort zone and craft something that not only tastes lovely, but looks neat too. :)
Theme and Taste
I've been stuck on Rangers lately. Something about the earthy aesthetic; a natural warden and accomplished tracker.
So earth tones. Deep greens, umbral browns, golden or silver clasps.
Initial knowledge leads me straight to Midori, or melon liqueur. Vibrant color, fruity and powerful tones.
So let's use that as our Base. Next, what goes well with melon tones?
Since Midori's tone is powerful on its own, a simple answer is Vodka. It won't fight for flavor dominance, and it's your entry point to make this a truly alcoholic beverage. It's also clear, and therefore won't change the aesthetic of GREEN. So we'll hold onto that one.
The obvious answers are forms of sweet and sour tones to imbalance the deep MELON already happening. We find those in lemon and lime juices, and often the classic Whiskey Sour mix. However, TART is not where I'm going with this. But let's pluck from that the Whiskey and think on it.
Bourbon, Midori, and Sprite is a thing I know, but we're not quite there yet. And, for this one at least, I'm going to avoid the soda route.
If I go down the train of my most recent hits...I might come up short. Cinnamon Whiskey and Melon sounds like a terrible idea, but I've been surprised before...
And I stand surprised. A cinnamon melon is not only delicious, but pushes the color toward a golden green.
Other iterations of learning:
Honey Jack + Midori ... Not great, not bad. Not quite memorable. In fact, I'd wager that you could hide Honey Jack in a dose of Midori without losing any sweetness. So it works, but it doesn't. That's a pass for now.
Amaretto + Midori ... Creates a Shirley Temple. Seriously. That is the most cherry that ever cherry'd on Cherry Mountain in Cherrytown.
Bourbon + Midori ... Is surprising. And really it's a testament to the strength of the flavor found in Midori. In most other drinks, my Four Roses Small Batch bourbon WRECKS the palette. It overpowers everything if you're not careful, hence when I use it it's often 1/4 - 1/3 the strength of everything else around it. It's a multiplier of its own acidity, and yet, with Midori in the mix...it is mitigated. The harsh edge is at the onset, but isn't strong enough to matter. Huh.
Vanilla Vodka + Midori ... is a mountain of yuck. No thank you. Plus, no color change.
Rum + Midori ... ... ... It's too hot for this. It works. A little smokey, mostly melon. I need more ingredients.
The Quest Continues...
So by now I'm having a rough time, but for "good" reasons. Initial tests went BETTER than expected, meaning more things go with Midori than I thought, or are hidden with Midori in the mix, but I'm left with the same dilemma. Choice.
With so much to work with, and some choice points I didn't expect, I suppose this might be the best opportunity to explore Aesthetic.
I've got a few more points to hit (before I devote myself to 1000 pushups and a 10 mile run to work through this last round of "data mining").
Two ingredients is too little for the Aesthetic AND the Flavor. Both challenge and original focus have not achieved success. Oops. And by now I've consumed enough fermented melon to kill a horse.
But all is not lost! We've got...a lot of ambers to work with. I'm going to avoid the vodka for now. That's boring. Instead, we'll test out amounts.
Midori remains the Base, so we're thinking around 3 oz. Everything else is in comparison to this measurement, tones and notes augmented with their own chemistry. Amaretto is too much on its own, now that we know the CHERRY EFFECT. So instead, I'll parcel in a Whiskey bomb, and some bitters to even it out. And then, of course, I'll TRY IT.
3 oz Midori
2 oz Fireball (Cinnamon Whiskey)
1 oz 151 Rum
1 oz Jack Honey
1/2 oz Four Roses Bourbon
3-6 dashes Aromatic Bitters
The tones that waft from the rim of this glass unlock old memories. Times when I was a young, religious boy away at Christian camp. On the last day we'd always make our own bread; an assortment of simple seasoning and old traditional tent baking. Every year, it was delicious, and long after I left the faith, the memory of that bread that we made ourselves lingers in the joyous parts of my spirit. Fermenting yeast and pressed wood with dough.
This drink is no joke. Put it on ice and sip it slow.
After long weeks on the road hunting, tracking, and trapping, fighting off beast and brigand alike, this is a drink that a Ranger enjoys in the safety of their homely tavern. A warm bed and a safe blade at their side. Do not imbibe too much, dear traveler, though weary you are, for one too many and you may be slow to awaken and face the next day.
Do imbibe responsibly, dear trackers.
See you at the table.
Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, amateur bartender, and aspiring fiction author.
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