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Jan 19, 2018
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By the Book: Matt Seiter’s Blue Steel

February 5th 04:02pm, 2013

Call me a cheater, but this week, I didn’t prepare recipes for By the Book in a home kitchen. I did them on location at Sanctuaria; its cocktail program is the subject of its bar manager Matt Seiter’s new cocktail book Sanctuaria: The Dive Bar of Cocktail BarsI chose to prepare Blue Steel, a gin-based cocktail brightened with two flavors of citrus juice, scented with cinnamon syrup and a garnish of flaming Green Chartreuse.

There are a number of reasons why I decided to shake things up behind Sanctuaria’s bar instead of at home. And these same reasons are likely to crop up for the reader with an average-stocked bar who wants to read Seiter’s book for the drink recipes (rather than just for the witty backstories about recipe development). First, if you want to make Blue Steel, you’ve got to have all the ingredients on hand. I lacked not just particular brands of spirits but even some house-made syrups. (You can substitute spirits labels, but Seiter prescribes particular brands, and I wanted to follow that course.) Second, you need an understanding of how to prepare the drink. I wanted a seasoned bartender on-hand to correct missteps. Sanctuaria assistant bar manager Tim Rabior agreeably came to my aid.

The recipes in this book are divided into three main sections: Libations of our Creation (original recipes); Old Timers (classics); and Home Cooking (syrups, infused spirits and tinctures that are used as ingredients in some of the cocktails).

Before making Blue Steel, I did a bartending warm-up by preparing a simple, four-ingredient drink served up (in a cocktail glass) called the 501. I then prepared a rum-based long drink (in a Collins glass) called .38 Special. The practice rounds taught me a number of things, including: For shaken drinks, fill the shaker all the way to the top with ice until you can’t fit in any more cubes. As for how hard to shake: Don’t be gentle; you want to wake things up. How long? Rabior mentioned two signs to watch for: Condensation should form on the outside of the metal tin, and the tin should get cold enough to chill your hand. Lastly, for drinks served up, it’s preferable to double strain (use the Hawthorn strainer that fits snug atop the Boston shaker and, in your other hand, hold a tea strainer – a small, fine-mesh strainer – above the serving glass) so that unsightly ice crystals don’t float in the drink.

Mixing a Blue Steel meant playing with fire. Rabior demonstrated how to make a flaming ribbon of Green Chartreuse, the garnish of this cocktail: Fill a brandy glass with an ounce or so of Green Chartreuse. Tilt the glass toward the flame to ignite the liqueur, then roll the glass, still tilted, around gently so that the liquid heats up but the flame doesn’t extinguish.

Finally, gently but decidedly, pour the flaming liquid from a height of about eight inches (more if you dare) into the cocktail glass using an up-down motion of the hand. It took me twice to get it right.

Without Rabior’s guidance, I wonder whether I could have made the drinks – Blue Steel in particular – properly. That’s because the procedure for every recipe is written almost in shorthand with just three steps outlined: method, glass and garnish.

How can the average reader get his or her drink to look and taste like a cocktail prepared by Seiter and his bartending crew? First, read through the initial pages of the book to get a grasp of the general bartending methodology at Sanctuaria. Second, put a sticky note on pages 29 and 30 where key terms like “shake,”  “stir” or “rock” are defined, as well as a brief explanation on garnishing. Finally, get ready to spend some cash when you stock up on quality spirits, and while you’re at it, load up on fresh citrus and put aside a few minutes to make syrups. These drinks require all of that, but they are worth it.

Blue Steel
Serves 1

1.5 oz. Hayman’s Old Tom Gin
.75 oz. lemon juice
.75 oz. pineapple juice
.25 oz. cinnamon syrup (recipe follows)
.25 oz. Green Chartreuse

Method: Mix all of the ingredients over ice except the Chartreuse and shake.
Glass: cocktail
Garnish: flaming ribbon of Green Chartreuse

Cinnamon syrup
Makes about 5½ cups

Half a vanilla bean
Half the seeds from a vanilla bean
4 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. dried orange peel
10 large cinnamon sticks
5 cups water
4 oz. Calvados*

*The original cinnamon syrup recipe calls for 2 ounces of Pommeau and 2 ounces of brandy or cognac. Due to the current scarcity of Pommeau, Seiter stated that Calvados can be substituted for the Pommeau and brandy.)

• Split a vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds. Reserve half the bean and half the seeds.
• In a medium-sized pot, bring the sugar, orange peel, cinnamon, water, vanilla bean and vanilla bean seeds to a boil, and then lower the heat down to a simmer.
• Simmer for 30 minutes, then remove the mixture from the heat. Let steep for another 20 minutes. Add the Calvados (or Pommeau and brandy or cognac), and let sit another 10 minutes.
• Strain the mixture through chinois, then dampened cheesecloth.

What’s the most difficult cocktail you have ever (successfully) made? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Sanctuaria: The Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Charlotte whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions. Charlotte, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

— photos by Michelle Volansky

By Ligaya Figueras

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3 Responses to “By the Book: Matt Seiter’s Blue Steel”

  1. Jason Meyers Says:
    February 5th, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    The most difficult drink I have ever made was one I had to come up with the recipe for – I had a large supply of Cherry Moonshine that I needed to get rid of. Thus was born the Johnny Washington:

    2 oz Apple Jack
    1 oz Cherry Moonshine
    1/2 oz lemon juice
    1/4 oz grenadine
    1 drop Pernod
    2 drops Rhubarb bitters

    Shake over ice, serve with lemon twist. Enjoy!

  2. Emily Barklage Says:
    February 5th, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    I made key lime mojitos. Juicing all those little limes took me forever!

  3. Hugh Says:
    February 5th, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    I like to stretch myself with cocktails sometimes, and one of the more involved recipes I made was a carbonated margarita with agar-clarified lime juice. That or a bunch of tiki drinks, where I went through the trouble of making homemade falernum, orgeat, grenadine and cinnamon syrup. At the end of the day, though, I have to admit that I generally return to and prefer the simple classics.

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