Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sofa King: Earthy - "Morel Dilemma" Cocktail

Morel Dilemma
A recent business trip to Sacramento found me downtown looking for a place to entertain customers. I landed at Ella Dining Room and Bar. Great food, drinks and service. Highly recommended. If you like a little theater while you eat I recommend a seat at one of the two (large) chef's tables. Good times.

This post is not about my meal, but rather it is about a single cocktail that I ordered at the end of the meal. Pictured here, it's called the "Morel Dilemma" - Candy Cap Mushroom Infused Bourbon, Morel Syrup, Artichoke Amaro, Black Truffle.

I love Bourbon. I love morel mushrooms. I've never tried loving them at the same time however. Here was my chance.

No one reading this will be surprised that before I took my first sip I took a photo. I immediately cross-posted it to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Halfway through the drink I was already getting replies asking for more details.

Tasting notes: Earthy, smooth, subtly sweet. Did I mention earthy? 

Earthy is one of those descriptors that is sometimes used in Bourbon tastings (wine and cigars too for that matter) to describe the subtler notes of the whiskey. Here, it's full-on. And delicious. This is the mushrooms at work of course, but this cocktail is blended and balanced in a way that, close your eyes and you'll be thinking about a leafy forest floor after an autumn rain shower. Poetic, no?

Now, I live in Kansas City and most of my readers do too. As good as this cocktail is, I don't think it's quite worth the cost of airfare to the west coast. Unfortunately I'm not aware of anything similar being offered in KC either. So, I reached out to Ella's bartender Chris Dooley and asked him about this creation in the hope that I could make a close facsimile at home (or convince some of KC's finest bartenders to do it for me... hint, hint).

Here's what I learned:
First of all I wanted to know how he dreamt this thing up in the first place. Dooley explains, "The inspiration came in two parts. First, our restaurant specializes in utilizing local farms for fresh and seasonal products and a major theme we push is our Farm to Fork movement. We definitely are at the forefront in Sacramento in showcasing the accessibility of what our region produces and artistically putting together menus that follow this seasonal trend. (Recently) Josh, one of Ella's owners, happened to be finding beautiful local morel mushrooms and it occurred to me to use them in a cocktail. I was voicing this opinion one day when a co-worker thought the idea was terrible and now the challenge to do just that was born. I like to change peoples' perceptions of cocktails and using mushrooms and liquor seemed a perfect fit, especially since we were focusing on farmers markets. Some of the natural flavor notes on certain mushrooms complement whiskies very well. To me, it seemed a natural fit to pair these flavors together, balancing the sweet with bitter, and earthy with floral and vegetale."

See that? Earthy. Yum.

Dooley shared the secrets of the drink and here are some details that will get me (and you) started at home:

2 oz. Candy Cap Mushroom Infused Bourbon (see notes below)
3/4 oz Cynar Artichoke Amaro (see notes below)
3 dashes Aromatic Bitters
Morel Syrup (see notes below)
1 slice Black Truffle (optional)
  1. Stir first three ingredients in cocktail shaker.
  2. Rinse chilled martini glass with Morel Syrup.
  3. Strain shaker into martini glass.
  4. Garnish with truffle slice.
  • The base is candy cap mushroom infused Four Roses straight bourbon. Candy cap mushrooms are known for having a subtle sweetness. Sometimes maple syrup is called to mind when describing their flavor. Limit infusion time to about 24 hours - As Dooley pointed out, "Candy caps have a lot of richness and sweetness and don't take long to embark flavor". 
  • The morel mushroom syrup is made by sweating the morels with sea salt then adding them to homemade simple syrup. Do this while the syrup is cooling. 
  • Cynar Artichoke Amaro is a bitter Italian liqueur that while derived from artichokes, doesn't taste like artichokes.

1 comment:

  1. Nice cocktail, Kevin! I love the morel-infused bourbon, and will try it with a single-malt Scotch whisky.