Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mixology Monday, November 2012: Garnish Grandiloquence

Wait for meeeeeeee!!!!! *runs after the bus*

How could I possibly miss out on a truly awesome MxMo theme this month? Garnishes! Before I keel over from blushing pride and delight*, I'll let the prompt, from host Joseph Tkach of Measure & Stir, do the talking:
I’m always shocked by the way that an orange peel or a lemon peel can transform the experience of drinking a mixed drink from something mundane to something magical. In a similar vein, eating the olive in a martini will totally transform the imbiber’s perception of the drink. So this Mixology Monday, let’s really make a study of art of the garnish, by mixing up drinks where the garnish plays a central role in the experience of the drink. Of course, you don’t have to make a latticework out of orange peels, a pirate ship out of citrus, or a ferris wheel out of pineapple and squash, but it sure would warm my heart. This type of garnish is traditionally in the realm of tiki, but you could mix anything, so long as the garnish is the star of the show.

When active, this link will send you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

Uncanny that you mention the more out-there garnishes tend to fall with the realm of tiki. When I was researching tiki for the ferris wheel cocktail mentioned above, I came across this post from A Mountain of Crushed Ice discussing ice cones (note the suggested use of pilsner glass molds) among other crushed ice creations. What a stellar visual ripe with possibilities. A few ideas hit me at once (ow..), including one for Thanksgiving! The below is what I finally got to work after a few tries.

Art Deco Cranberry Ice Corn
Fresh cranberries
marble-sized crushed ice or mini ice cubes
dried Indian corn hulls

Shake ice and cranberries in a shaker briefly to jumble. Pour into a V-shaped glass (pilsner or perhaps smaller - anything where the rim won't hinder the ice from leaving the glass). Use a chopstick or similar to drill a center hole in the ice mixture and poke corn hulls down in to secure. Surround with more ice/cranberries if needed. Nearly cover the mixture with seltzer and place glass in the freezer to bind everything together. Once frozen and ready to use, remove from the freezer to thaw just enough to pry the ice corn free.

Initially I wanted to use cranberry juice and apple cider mini ice to make a true Indian corn ice cone, but it seems that juices, probably because of their sugar content, don't freeze as firmly as water-based ice, making it difficult to extract neat cubes from their molds. Perhaps next Thanksgiving I'll get closer to that mark.

Regular ice freezes much nicer, however, and you can see in the close-up above how that random arrangement creates a nice kernel-y texture, particularly once the cone starts to melt. The seltzer only aids that, dissolving faster and with a less solid color that prevents the mini cubes from being lost in the mix. The white-on-white look for some reason reminds me of Art Deco style.

As for the cocktail? Well, it was getting down to the wire and I'm noodling the many many many ways this drink could go, and, honestly, I didn't have it in me to do much testing. With that in mind I figured "if this MxMo challenge really is all about the garnish, then why not let the drink BE the garnish?"

There really are a lot of ways you can cocktail around the ice corn (thinking in Cobbler, Julep, or French 75 modes here).

If Julep-ing or Cobbler-ing, take a base spirit and 1/4-1/2 oz simple syrup, pre-mix, then pour over the garnish - possibly with accoutrements like muddled herbs or citrus. In keeping with the general New England Thanksgiving theme implied, I could see rum (America's first spirit) for the rum trade run through region, Plymouth gin, Yankee favorite rye whiskey, very Thanksgiving-friendly bourbon, or a classy cognac pairing well. My thoughts trend towards white or medium-aged spirits for this drink -- why mess with a well-aged spirit with this much ice? If you want to improve on that, sub an orange or cranberry liqueur for the simple syrup, possibly with a dash of allspicy Angostura or other bitters.

Also in the Cobbler mode, a maple-y or nutty sherry wine would make a nice visual pairing with the tart cranberries. Really, you could extend the wine selection to anything white you'd use as a Turkey Day aperitif (Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Vouvray..). Something ginger-y like Gewürztraminer or even Stone's Green Ginger Wine would be delightful. Or go the extra mile and break out the bubbly! You may or may not want to exclude the sweet element, it depends on the wine's sweetness itself.

And trailing off from the champagne or prosecco idea, if you really want to go the French 75 route (spirit, sour, sweet, bubbles), well, I leave that to your better judgement.

Or if you'd rather: make a mocktail with apple spritzer or ginger ale.

The little ditty you see pictured pairs brut sparkling wine with 1/2 oz homemade blueberry liqueur (cranberries and blueberries being 2 of the 3 fruits native to North America) and one dash each Angostura and lemon bitters. It's my way of bringing a personal sense of harvest, enjoying the fruits/labors of summer with the liqueur. Light, crisp, the blueberry trends the flavor from a gold bubbly to more of a dry rosé - a perfect aperitif.

The main point when doing the ice corn: don't let a li'l recipe idea like this drive you bonkers in addition to all your other Thanksgiving prep. Whip up a few batches of ice, fill your glasses, add tailfeathers, freeze -- and it should work well with most anything else you've already got planned. Cheers!

*and on a personal note, if any of these wacky cocktail ideas on Feu de Vie actually have any merit and inspire (!) drinks of your own, I'd love love love to hear about and have you show off your shiny drink! MoD's a sad panda hamster when she doesn't know she's being muse-ly.