I love savory cocktails the way Miss Piggy loves Kermit: it is a deep affection that borders on obsession. Savory cocktails are brilliant with food, and also break up the monotony of the sugary concoctions which seem to dominate the holiday cocktail landscape (don’t get me wrong here, they’re popular because they’re damn delicious!). It’s just always nice when you can give your guests a different experience from the dozens of other parties they’ll be attending during the holidays. Admittedly, I’m biased toward today’s cocktail recipe because it contains two ingredients that I’m particularly enamored of – okay, obsessed with – fennel and Dolin Blanc. Fennel has such bold flavor, and though it seems like a strange ingredient to want to put in a cocktail, trust me when I say I include it every chance I can get. I also love this recipe because it uses the part of the fennel you would normally discard, and I always appreciate when I can utilize an entire ingredient. Respect, ya know? Now if you’ve never had Dolin Blanc, well, you’re welcome sunshine because your day is about to get a whole lot brighter. Dolin is a lighter style French vermouth made from wines and botanicals found in the Alpine region above Chambery. Blanc is sweetened to the same level as sweet vermouth, but without first caramelizing the sugars thus allowing the fresh, crisp flavor profile to shine through. It is so elegant on the palette. Think of it as if dry vermouth is a croissant and blanc vermouth is a chocolate soufflé. I know when we’re building a menu at Metropole and we’re throwing out suggestions and I say “Dolin Blanc”or “fennel”, I can feel my co-workers rolling their eyes and thinking, “really, again?” Bless them. I do try to mix it up, but if I’ve learned anything from the many (I mean MANY) cocktail mistakes I’ve made, it’s that when it’s good, it’s good.
FENNEL SIMPLE SYRUP:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
½ cup chopped fennel fronds
1 star anise
METHOD: In a medium sized sauce pan over medium high heat add sugar and water. Once sugar has dissolved add fennel fronds and star anise. Bring up to a boil and then bring heat down to low. Simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, strain syrup then refrigerate in a covered container.
THE HANS YOLO
GARNISH: fennel frond
1 oz tequila
1 oz Dolin Blanc
½ oz fennel simple syrup
3 oz grapefruit juice
Build in a shaker tin, add all ingredients add ice and shake. Strain contents into a coupe or martini glass.
PARTY TIP: If serving for a large group, make into a punch. You can also add all ingredients to a large pot then add ice and whisk mixture together to the point that it’s diluted. Then, using a funnel, pour the cocktail mixture into bottles. Keep bottles chilled and pour to order. If you’re having a small dinner party and want to serve this cocktail from a batch, just shake two or three cocktails at a time as your guest arrive and then switch to an easier cocktail that doesn’t require as much work for later in the party.
LIKE A VIRGIN: The grapefruit juice and fennel syrup makes a crazy good breakfast beverage.
WITH A TWIST: Swap out the tequila for vodka, gin or bourbon. Don’t even think about swapping out the Dolin Blanc. But okay, fine, if you want to miss out the awesomeness that is Dolin Blanc, or you just don’t have time to make a run to the liquor store with all the bow tying and caroling you’re doing, this cocktail will still be delightful without it. And no, this was not sponsored by Dolin Blanc. I just love when something is my favorite!
Cheers, and remember life is too short not to have favorites,
Your neighborhood bartender,