Will Foster, proprietor of Casita Bar in East London's Shoreditch District and the man who turned Embury onto The Verdita, was recently in Florida at the same time as I was in Key West, so he and Mrs. Foster came down for a visit. Naturally, we had to have a little drinks get-together. Will had some pretty grand ambitions that were amended due to lack of availability of a couple of key ingredients, and his ability to change it up and adapt is instructive to the home bartender who doesn't have access to all ingredients under the sun. Will and I had been chatting about bourbon since his arrival and when I asked him what we might serve at the party he ruminated on it over the next 24 hours. He arrived on a riff on the Bossavelha, a cachaça based drink he'd created for Sagatiba Velha:
50ml Sagatiba Velha
20ml Creme de Peche,
25ml lemon juice
1 bar spoon accacia honey
3 quarters of a peach,
Muddle the peach, cachaça and honey add the rest, shake very hard and strain into a coupe. W.F.
Will planned to adapt it to a bourbon base, and was dead set on Buffalo Trace: "Buffalo lends itself well to cocktails because of its deep flavour and smoothness - one can still taste it through mixers and other elements." Will asked for fresh peaches, creme de peche, lemon and white honey, and while he and Mrs. Foster were out enjoying the Key West sunset our host Haven and I were driving all around town trying to source the ingredients. Key West is one of the great drinking towns but that's great in the volume sense, not in quality or variety. After hitting almost every liquor store in town with no luck, at our last stop we did find the Trace, and big bottles too. No creme de peche was to be found, but there was some peach brandy, situated next to racks of the peach schnappes Will had explicitly warned against, and after some soul searching I grabbed it. So the key ingredient was covered-or was it? Three grocery stores later and there were no fresh peaches to be found. So we hit the frozen aisle and grabbed bags of frozen peaches.
Back at Haven's we rendezvoused with the Fosters and brought him up to date on the near misses, a bit hesitant-the man's an artist behind the bar and you want an artist to have his weapons of choice. No fear. As Will wrote to me later, "When winging it, it is always essential to remember that there's always a way and the show must go on!" So a muddled drink became a frozen one, as the peaches would only work that way, really, and the peach brandy was in fact an acceptable substitute in our pinch.
THE BOSSY BUFFALO
50 ml Buffalo Trace
20 ml peach brandy
1 teaspoon honey
25 ml lemon juice
4 frozen peach slices,
3 ice cubes, blended
Of course, these proportions were quadrupled by Will as he made blender-size batches of the Bossy Buffalo, and it all worked out perfectly.
Mr. and Mrs. Foster picking mint for the batch of Mint Juleps they served.
Some guests were a little taken aback by how strong they were: essentially just bourbon, mint and sugar, and crushed ice. As they chill up in the glass and the ice melts they become much more manageable for the bourbon novice. Will advises infusing the bourbon with the mint at least overnight to achieve a very saturated flavor. Our resident Kentuck native Jenny (left) approved of the Juleps, which was doubly nice as the mint came from her garden. J.R.
And everyone was quite happy at the end of the party.