Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Some Like It Hot

I was looking though my inbox today, and an update notice from Small Screen Network caught my eye by mentioning a classic drink that I had been researching quite recently, the Blue Blazer.  The Blue Blazer was actually a drink I had thought about using as the topic of my post for this month's Mixology Monday theme of forgotten cocktails.  Invented by 19th Century bartending master Jerry Thomas 150 plus years ago, and mentioned in a number of books discussing American cocktails particularly during the 1/2 century thereafter, it certainly qualifies (in the end, I went with a choice that was a bit less...perilous, just in case there were any readers looking to give it a try). 

Thomas' recipe is as follows:
Blue Blazer
1 wine glass (2 oz.) Scotch Whiskey
1 wine glass (2 oz.) boiling water
Using 2 large silver-plated mugs with handles, first add the whiskey and water to one of the mugs and then set it on fire.  Pour the blazing ingredients from mug to mug 4-5 times.  Add 1 tsp of pulverized sugar and serve in a bar tumbler with a lemon peel garnish (note: some subsequent variations add a sprinkling of nutmeg on top).
This technique creates the impressive effect of a blue trail of fire passing from mug to mug.  There is a drawing of the effect in Thomas' book that's somewhat of a hallmark of Thomas' work and classic bartending in general:



Now, actually getting this technique to work successfully is pretty challenging.  The initial concern, quite reasonably, might be not catching the room or oneself on fire.  It's actually getting the whiskey to ignite that's the first challenge, however.  Approximately 80 proof spirits have a hard time staying lit at room temperature.  The boiling water is thus no coincidence - heating the whiskey is actually part of what allows it catch fire more readily.  Having played around with it a little, I actually found that when trying to flame alcohol in this manner, I actually got the best results by 1)  first heating the vessel under hot water; 2) pouring the bulk of the spirits in the vessel; and 3) taking a metal spoon, pouring some of the alcohol in the  spoon, and then heating the spoon over a flame while holding it; 4) igniting the alcohol in the spoon while holding it over the vessel; and 5) pouring the flaming alcohol from the spoon into the vessel, which will then ignite the alcohol in the vessel.  Note:  as another potential challenge and hazard, I would also like to mention that once the alcohol is lit, it is not always the easiest to put out.  Letting it burn down some and/or putting it out by cutting off the oxygen may be necessary.  Also, it is extremely ill advised to try anything remotely resembling this in a glass container as it has a very high probability of shattering; metal and ceramic are the way to go, and even then, beware, they get hot!

**It goes without saying that this, and all of the flamed drink technique mentioned in this post are potentially very dangerous, and I encourage you to either leave it to experts and enjoy the show, or if you do attempt, take extreme extreme precautions**

Now, truth be told, the Blue Blazer is arguably more show than substance.  It's been derisively, if accurately, described as nothing more than heated whiskey with sugar water.  I actually find Jamie Boudreux's "hot toddy" variation from his Raising the Bar series much more interesting.  He uses bourbon, cognac, bitters, and some overproof rum (which should help with ignition) alongside some of his "old fashioned" simple syrup and cinnamon. 

Check out the episode below, and whatever you do, don't make yourself or your home into a blue blazer!

1 comment:

  1. And don't do it publicly in NYC w/o a license: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/01/dining/01Trummer.html?_r=1&ref=dining

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