Rhubarb – perfect for Dessert and for Drinks

By Brian Mitchell, Corporate Beverage Director, Max Restaurant Group

Rhubarb is an early spring ripening plant in the northeast US, and it has been a favorite addition in desserts for many years, especially this time of year where it is often found paired with the seasonal strawberries.  With its slightly tart side, it works especially well with sweet berry flavors in pastry desserts such as pies.  

Technically classified in 1947, by the US Government as a fruit, as this is how it predominantly used, rhubarb is a plant that grows around the world in moderate climates.  Because it is an early ripening perennial it is often ready to eat just about the time strawberries are in season, adding to the close association of the two foods.  We make use of the petioles, which are the stem-like parts that hold the large leaves.  These look like large stalks and are usually sliced up or pureed to be used in cooking.

This past Friday night (June 14th), I made a cocktail using some rhubarb and other ingredients.  This drink was a featured cocktail at the first Chef to Farm Dinner at Rosedale Farm in Simsbury, CT., and was served alongside the amuse course.  It is a light and refreshing drink with a sweet/tart component plus that added floral component from the gin.  I received so many requests for the recipe that I am listing it here.  

Rhubarb Botanical (this was served in a Mason jar, so the overall size is about 16oz)

1.5 ounces rhubarb syrup/puree (see below)

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

1.5 ounces Cold River Gin (Maine)

dash of home-made Meyer lemon bitters (or similar)

2-3 ounces tonic water

mix everything in Mason jar or highball glass except tonic, fill with ice and then top with tonic

Garnish with sliced strawberries

Rhubarb Syrup

1-2 stalks of rhubarb in a quart of simple syrup (1:1 water and sugar)

let soak 24-48 hours, puree some or all of the rhubarb for added texture

Cocktail Trivia – Derby Day & The Mint Julep

With Derby Day upon us, I thought I would take a moment to discuss the history of a category of drinks that are popular this time of year, namely the SMASH, of which a Julep is one variation.  Traditionally a smash would have been a drink with ample crushed ice, mint, a strong base such as whiskey, and some fruit for added sweetness.   The Mint Julep first appeared sometime around 1800 (or maybe earlier), and was a drink that was one of a number of variations on the smash theme.  In fact, these drinks may not have always included Bourbon, but any spirit such as brandy or rum.  Along the way the smash and the julep parted ways so that now the smash is relatively unknown and juleps are mainly known for the minted styles.  The little problem is that juleps are really only thought of around this time of year as they have been associated with the Kentucky Derby since 1938, when Churchill Down’s began selling it as a signature drink in a souvenir cup – it sold for $.75 a drink.  Today, the Kentucky Derby serves more than 80,000 juleps over the two-day event. At Max’s, by making the most of quality fresh ingredients, plus mint, which almost everyone can enjoy, we can offer a quick, delicious and refreshing warm weather drink option that can be enjoyed anytime of the year, not just the first Saturday in May.


This year, three Max locations will be featuring the Mint Julep as part of Derby Day specials.  Max Downtown (Hartford), Max’s Oyster Bar (West Hartford) and Max’s Tavern (Springfield) will each be hosting Derby Parties for those who love the races and want a touch of Southern refreshment while watching the races.

 

For the perfect Mint Julep you will need some fresh mint, crushed ice, a good bourbon (Woodford Reserve or Wild Turkey are suggested), and some simple syrup.  A julep cup is classic for this drink as it holds the coldness from the ice very well and gets all frosty when you stir the drink.

2 oz. Bourbon of choice

1 oz. Simple Syrup

1 Fistful of Mint

Muddle the mint in the simple syrup in your julep cup or a regular low-ball glass, add bourbon, fill with crushed ice and stir till the outside of the cup/glass get frosty.  Garnish with a ‘spanked’ mint sprig.

The simple syrup can be made with plain sugar (2:1 water to sugar ratio), or can be made as a mint syrup (just simmer some fresh mint in the water for 15 minutes before straining and adding the sugar).

 

 

 

Max Downtown Adds Two Limited Production Whisk(e)y

This week at Max Downtown, two new Whisk(e)y were added to the library offering of specialty spirits.   I say Whisk(e)y with the (e) because one of these products comes from the USA – High West Distillery from Park City, Utah, and the other comes from Scotland – the Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland.  The practice for spelling whiskey without an “e” is common in Scotland and some of the Commonwealth regions, so we must adhere to this.  It just helps to tell them apart a bit easier.

The first product from High West is the fourth whiskey we have from this unique and quite frankly compelling producer in Utah.   This product is the American Prairie Reserve Whiskey, which is a blend of two whiskies; the first of which is aged about six years and is composed of about 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley, while the other portion is from ten year old whiskey, which is composed of 60% corn, 35% rye and 5% malted barley.  You will not see an age statement on the label of this whiskey, as it is illegal to do so when there are blended ages such as this, but you will find a truly balanced and deeply flavored whisky that hits the palate with rich flavors of sweet oak and grains, with a smoky and soft finish.  Really one of the finest that we have tasted from this distillery to date.  Available for a limited time. basically while supplies last, which is usually not very long as aged whiskies are becoming more and more of a challenge to acquire.

The second whisky that was acquired by Max Downtown this week is the Glenmorangie Ealanta.  This Scotch is a beautiful whisky that is part of a very limited production range called the Private Edition.   It isa 19 year aged whiskey that has spent its time in virginAmerican oak casks sourced primarily from Missouri.  The affect of this style with so much age is an ultra-smooth, richly flavored whisky with deep flavors of orange peel, brown sugar and roasted almonds.  The expression is almost unique in the world of Scotch, or whiskies in general.  Extremely limited production, this whisky will go quickly and be gone forever.

 

 

Introducing Our Newest Team Member!

Both sexy and sophisticated, this team member will go a long way in seducing guests and helping to improve our image. Showcasing lovely curves and a graceful smile. Durable, strong and fun to hold. Sometimes shimmering with exotic spices. Sometimes classically dressed for a night on the town. And sometimes just lazing away the afternoon on one of our patios. I hope this team member is seen all over (and everyone wants to be seen with them). We interviewed a lot of candidates, but in the end we had to go with this choice; everyone loved the look, everyone loved the feel, and everyone loved the charm. Introduce this member to anyone and everyone, they really have a great spirit for the job…Our new coupe cocktail glass: Cardinal #794278 Continue reading “Introducing Our Newest Team Member!”

Barrel-Aged Cocktails Begin at Max Fish

While it will take about 3 months for the cocktail to finish, we started to make it this week.  Yes, that’s a 3 month window of production.  Sounds like a long time to wait for a drink? Not really once you taste the results.

The Barrel-Aged Cocktail has been making it way around the country and is now firmly in Connecticut at the Max Restaurant Group.  We started this week with a variation on the Manhattan by blending Hudson White Corn Whiskey from New York’s Hudson Valley with Doling Dry Vermouth from France and just a touch of Regan’s Orange Bitters from Louisiana.  We didn’t make just one drink, though – we made a barrel full of it – 5 gallons to be precise.  This mixture is taking its time mellowing and coming together in an oak barrel that previously held whiskey from Hudson Distillery.  The idea is that over the next few months the cocktail’s elements will have the opportunity to really meld with each other, pickup some color and sweet vanilla flavors from the barrel and be affected by the slow integration of oxygen – an element typically not found in cocktails.

The end result will be a smooth and mellow Manhattan that is easy to drink and delicious to sip.  We plan to make it available early to mid-June, or when the drink is ready.

We will be expanding this concept at Max Fish, as well as introducing it at Trumbull Kitchen and Max Oyster Bar.  We are planning on doing a tasting event featuring all the variations we mix up sometime in June. Perhaps you can let us know which are the best combinations??

 

Big Cocktail Dinner Tonight at Max Fish

Maxologist Dave Bouchard Building the Cocktails

Tonight Dave Bouchard and Dave Sellers presented a great dinner featuring some innovative cocktails based on classic styles and food pairings to match.  Despite (slightly off)weather we had over 40 people venture out to experience this dinner and enjoy the creative process happening at Fish.  Dave Bouchard has created a serious craft cocktail culture with his staff and they are creating delicious cocktails, as was on display for dinner tonight.  Here is the lineup that we featured:

Chef Dave Sellers Doing What He Does Best

Aperitif

Gougeres / Trout mousse / caviar

Kir Royal-classic sparkler with a twist

Massenez de Dijon, fresh orange, Prosecco, lemon oil

Daiquiri

Cuban Wedding shrimp / Jumbo shrimp / myers rum / orange juice / jalapeño

Lemon Thyme-the original daiquiri, elevated; savory and refreshing

Puerto Rican white rum, lemon-thyme syrup, citrus, Jamaican dark rum

Martini

Thai steamed red snapper / tamarind / ginger / lemongrass

Tamarind Kiss-exotic but familiar; each sip invites another

Ginger infusion, tamarind and citrus, notes of vanilla

Manhattan

Rye glazed “bacon” / roast pork tenderloin / stone ground grits

Green Point-smooth, spicy and convincing

Old Overholt rye, Yellow Chartreuse, Punt e Mes

Flip

Marcona almond cake / sherry sabayon

Pedro Ximinez-rich, creamy and complex

Pedro Ximinez sherry, orgeat, egg, nutmeg

Ilegal Mezcal Now at Max Fish

We tasted the Ilegal Mezcals this week and decided that these were must haves for our bar.  The style of the mezcal is much different than its cousin Tequila as the agave is usually roasted in stone lined pits where the smoke from the charcoal is allowed to mingle and add to the flavor of the final beverage.  Ilegal is a great brand and we will be offering the three styles (Blanco, Reposado and Anejo) either individually or in a flight of three.

Check the atatched video for a great discussion and explanation on the Ilegal Mezcals.

Special Valentine’s Day Cocktails at Max’s

All of our MAXologists have been working hard to create new and innovative cocktails to feature over the next few days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Each cocktail has a unique style created by the local bartenders at each of our locations, and most of them will be featuring Mionetto Prosecco, a lovely sparkling wine from Italy, as the main ingredient. Loads of fresh ingredients from raspberries to edible orchids are being used. Make your reservations today or just stop by one of our taverns for a great, original cocktail, such as Mike Mills’ “Downtown Love” from Max Downtown in Hartford.