Hi, Friends of Cocktails. Almost exactly 1 year ago I made a Martini cocktail inspired by Japan, specifically Spring and Hanami - the tradition of enjoying the beauty of the blooming cherry blossoms. This year I was inspired instead by a bottle of Chivas Mizunara, a marriage of Scottish craft and Japanese tradition. With honeyed floral notes and a subtle spice I thought it would be a great choice for a Penicillin cocktail, but not just the classic. I’ll make a special Cocktail Time twist using 3 different bee products, no ginger, and a float of Smokey Chartreuse, but first let’s make the classic Penicillin. It’s Cocktail Time!
The Penicillin Cocktail is a popular modern classic cocktail, created in the early 2000s by Sam Ross at the Milk & Honey in New York. Riffing on another Milk & Honey classic, the Gold Rush, Ross mixed blended scotch whisky, fresh lemon juice, a house-made ginger-honey syrup, and a float of peated scotch on top.
● 60ml (2oz) blended Scotch
● 22,5ml (0.75oz) lemon super juice
● 7,5ml (0.25oz) ginger syrup
● 15ml (0.5oz) honey syrup
● 1 barspoon Islay Scotch
● Candied ginger
Fill your big shaker tin with ice and place your smaller tin inside to chill. Then add all the ingredients, except for the Islay Scotch and candied ginger, and give it a hard shake. Now double strain your cocktail over a chilled rocks glass filled with ice and float the peaty scotch on top, followed by a garnish of candied ginger. This is the closest to a medicine you’ll come while enjoying a delicious cocktail, and with the original Penicillin being discovered by the Scot Alexander Fleming, it’s only right that 2 scotches are used in this cocktail. Cheers!
The Penicillin perfectly balances the sweetness of the honey with the smokiness of the Islay whisky. The ginger provides a spicy kick that complements the other ingredients, with scotch acting as the solid base needed for all of that - just delicious. Also, if you don’t have ginger to make the syrup, a great alternative is Liber&Co.’s Fiery Ginger syrup, made with Peruvian ginger root, gum arabic and pure cane sugar. It will provide the fiery flavor you want in a cocktail named after the famous antibiotic.
Now back onto the Penicillin. We’ve made a Clarified Penicillin for a Valentine’s episode in the past, and I used a few different ingredients produced by bee’s for the 24K Gold Rush cocktail. Since bees play a crucial role in our environment and food systems, their importance cannot be overstated. They are pollinating a significant portion of the world's food crops, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, but also wild plants and flowers, which provide food and habitat for other wildlife. But among other things they also produce 3 things we’ll use today: beeswax, honey & pollen.
I’ll use these to create a cocktail I named the Bee’s Prescription and it won’t be a hard drink to assemble, we just need to get some ingredients ready first, starting with beeswax-washed Mizunara Whisky.
Beeswax-washed Mizunara Whisky
● 300mL (10oz) Chivas Regal Mizunara
● 50g beeswax
I’ll be using the sous vide technique, which will make sure the wax doesn’t solidify too quickly so the whisky really has the best opportunity to pick up on the honeyed flavors and texture. Have it set to 75 °C or 165 °F for 2 hours, and remember to mix the bag a few times to help it along. Once done I’ll chill the bag slightly before placing it in the freezer for the wax to solidify completely, making it possible to strain out just our washed spirit. Do that by cutting open the bag and straining it through a coffee filter.
After the straining of the whisky is done, we are ready to move onto the next step, which will be the combination of ginger, honey and lemon juice - but without using any ginger, so let's say it’s ginger-esque. I did it with the help of the book The Art & Science of Foodpairing, which is a very useful tool for anyone interested in combining flavors and looking for a spark of inspiration, in mixology or gastronomy. That’s where I learned that ginger is in the same family - Zingiberaceace - as turmeric and cardamom.
Fresh ginger root has a lemony, spicy and subtle floral flavor profile, with components similar to lemon grass, makrut lime leaf, bitter orange, coriander, sichuan pepper and others. But now, let’s get the apron back on and mix those flavors with the sweet and sour components, making a wonderful cordial.
Ginger-esque Honey Cordial
● 340g water
● 60mL (2oz) lemon juice
● 10g lemon peel
● 4.5g orange peel
● 1g makrut lime leaf
● 6g rice vinegar
● 124g sugar
● 60g honey (floral)
● 5g white pepper
● 6g sichuan pepper
● 6g long pepper
● 3g honey pollen
● 0.8g coriander
● 0.6g turmeric
● 6.7g citric acid
● 3.3g malic acid
● 1g agar agar
Begin by adding all the ingredients except the agar to a blender, and blend this mixture on high speed for 30 seconds or more. Then you’ll leave this to sit for at least half an hour, for the flavors and spiciness to infuse the cordial, since we’ll lose a bit of that with clarification. We’ll again use agar agar for that, which needs heat to dissolve. So pour about a quarter of the whole batch into a pan, add 1 gram of agar agar and slowly bring the mixture to a simmer, while constantly stirring.
Once it’s there turn off the heat and pour in the rest of the liquid, again stirring to mix everything. Place the mixture into an ice bath or a freezer, because this needs to cool completely for agar to gel the solids, which is what makes the clarification possible. Once you’ve reached this point it’s time to strain our cordial through a cloth filter. If the first liquid coming through isn’t clear enough just refilter it, once agar forms an additional filter.
To speed up the final part of the filtration you can also use a potato ricer and squeeze out our clarified cordial, but be really careful not to force the particles out as well. After this you’ll then end up with a delicious honey cordial with a subtle, ginger-like heat, but why go through all of that if you can just use ginger? Well you can think of the cocktail being a canvas and the flavors you use are colors, which you can just paint with or mix them together to get something new and interesting - it’s also just fun and exciting, if you ask me - but now for the last part, the Smoky Chartreuse.
● 30mL (1oz) Yellow Chartreuse
● Oak chips
Pour the nectar of the french monks into a small bottle, mine is 11 oz or 330 ml, then add the wood chips to your smoker and torch it up, filling the bottle with the smoke. Now close the bottle, give a shake and leave for the smoke to settle, then it’s ready to be used as a float on our cocktail, meaning we’re finally ready to make the Bee's Prescription.
● 45mL (1.5oz) Beeswax Mizunara
● 15mL (0.5oz) Sochu
● 37,5mL (1.25oz) Ginger-esque Honey Cordial
● 2 drops saline solution
● 1 barspoon Smoky Chartreuse
Since all ingredients are clear there’s no point in shaking the cocktail, but I still want some aeration, body and texture that you simply can’t get from stirring, so I’ll throw it. This is an age-old technique that isn’t as common nowadays, but it’s gaining in popularity again, so add ice to the small tin this time and ingredients into the large one, except for the Yellow Chartreuse. Then comes the fun part - throwing the cocktail from one tin to the other. But really it’s just pouring from the bigger to the smaller tin, then letting it drop back into the bigger one.
Once you get a hang of it you can increase the height. You’ll feel the bottom shaker getting cold and see the volume of the liquid increase, meaning the cocktail is chilled and diluted. Before you strain it over a clear ice block make sure it’s tempered and give it a stamp of approval for a little extra flair. That little indent can then also be used for our last ingredient and the final step in the preparation - a float of our Smokey Yellow Chartreuse on top. And that’s the Bee's Prescription. Cheers!
On the nose the smoky Yellow Chartreuse is providing the classic Penicillin smoky aroma with added herbal notes. With the first sip you get a nicely rounded and balanced cocktail with the velvety Scotch and shochu coming into the forefront. The ginger-honey combination isn’t as upfront as in the original, but there’s enough spice and sweetness to keep it in the Penicillin family. I hope you enjoy exploring new flavors too and I love reading about your cocktail experiments as well so drop them in the comments below.
If you want to see another Penicillin twist, check out the Valentine’s episode I mentioned before. Otherwise I’ll see you next week, cheers!