Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mixology Monday, April 2013: Drink Your Vegetables

Welcome back to April's Mixology Monday event, the 72nd by Pan-Galactic Reckoning. Rowen of Fogged In Lounge, home of elegant gourmet morsels of cocktail blog reading, is our host for this go-round. The theme? Drink Your Vegetables.
Want to get more vegetables but you’re always eating on the run? Maybe you hate vegetables but feel you should get more of them? Well then, how about a vegetable cocktail? No, not that nice little glass of red stuff Grandma put at each place setting—we’re talking something with a kick in it. You can definitely start with the little glass of red stuff and expand it to a Red Snapper-style drink like a Bloody Mary. Or how about a cucumber-scented cooler like a Pimm’s Cup, or maybe a cocktail featuring a vegetable-based ingredient like Cardamaro or celery bitters? Maybe you’ve been wondering if you can get more mileage out of that juice extractor before consigning it to the garage sale. However you get them in that glass, be prepared for the most fun with vegetables ever.
 When active, this link will send you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

So I'm home late last night, checking on my red cabbage shrub for MxMo: it just doesn't have enough cabbage-y flavor. And as I'm standing there playing with it, removing the now-pickled cabbage to add in fresh plus a little sugar to turn it into a proper shrub, I'm munching on a very late dinner of McNuggets while racking my brain for an alternative in case it doesn't work out.

Huh, well ketchup's a vegetable right? [depends on who you ask]

*explosion* [because added explosions are excellent ways to jazz up re-tellings]

I eyeball my McNugget, covered in thick bright red sauce. I eyeball my berry-bright shrub in its mason jar.

Aside from the salt, ketchup's basically a tomato shrub, right?

You look at the label: tomatoes, vinegar, sugar corn syrup, various spices. It's everything I was doing with my cabbage, albeit I wasn't pureeing that vegetable into the final result.

Ha, well I laugh to myself: but what on earth would you pair it with? Potato vodka? Tequila, in some sort of riff on a Bloody Maria? Mezcal? Nyeeeeah.. I'm not feelin' it, and not just because I'd have to run out and get a bottle of mezcal.

But the Bloody Mary riff doesn't quite lose its grip, and the ketchup visual right in front of me, is, well, blood-like.

Blood and Sand..

Hah, but how would I work that in? Would it sub for the cherry or the orange? ...


I'm not feeling the mezcal, but suddenly there are visions of peaty barbecue in my head and a good weighty blended scotch could definitely hold its own against the dense tomato.

I sleep on this, do a little googling this morning for food pairings and start drifting in a North African direction: if we're playing on some savory elements, let's dig deep.

I Stubbed My Toe on the Way to the Arena
3/4 oz blended scotch
3/4 oz bianco vermouth
3/4 oz orange juice
1/2 oz brandy
1/4 oz ketchup
1/2 tsp fresh crushed coriander
Cherry tomatoes (or bacon) for garnish

Shake the ingredients on ice and double strain into a chilled coupe.

Garnish with skewered cherry tomatoes or perhaps a nice crispy, smokey piece of bacon.

It's very much similar in taste to a Blood and Sand, but for what you gain in body, you lose in subtle nuance via the Cherry Heering to ketchup switch. The ketchup I used, Heinz, you probably get a very salty vinegar-y taste sensation when thinking about it, but when working with it tonight it came off mellow with lactic acid. With any major brand you can probably be guaranteed that the food scientists and statisticians have honed the formula to something intense in flavor, but never-overmuch in any aspect. The saltiness doesn't cause a problem, either: you know how it's recommended to use a pinch of salt in drinks with citrus? Same principle here.

The ketchup flavor doesn't come on strong at these proportions (at 1/2 oz, it would), but it's a subtle savory fruitiness in the background, while the general Blood and Sand dynamics happen. It's hard to overdo the intensity of scotch in the recipe, given what it's up against, so go bold! I find bianco vermouth, though very similar to rosso, to be a bit more aggressive, herbal and savory - in most cases it'll dominate my drinks, but here it holds its own without overdoing. Beyond that, the brandy keeps the overall proof up to expected levels (because a full part of ketchup, er...) and orange juice's brightness offers a sensory respite from the heavy ingredients. The coriander I included to help bridge the ketchup to the more complex ingredients while upping the smokey and savory qualities that much more.

Many thanks to Rowen for hosting with another wonderful challenge, and Fred of Cocktail Virgin Slut for herding us crazy cats for yet another month!