Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Favorite Things: Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings

Sometimes these recipes write themselves.

Perhaps one of the best principles for creating a good cocktail is simply asking yourself: what would I want to drink? In this case, I saved this particular recipe name in the My Favorite Things series for my birth month, April. Who wouldn't want presents?! But, with my b-day otherwise occupied with tax-completing, I had to put off my indulgences for a little bit, which was beneficial.

This past week was nerve-wracking enough for anyone in the US, but especially those in Boston -- little did I realize that when I put in a supply order the Friday prior. As we all know now, all's well that ends well in greater things and small: my order, including a bottle of passionfruit syrup, came in -- maybe a little later than initially expected, but still quite timely in light of events -- many thanks to the fine folks at the Boston Shaker.

Now, passionfruit is quite possibly my favorite fruit: exotic and subtle, with hints of vanilla. It's just very soothing and mellow, even when concentrated. What's more, Aprils always seemed to have a monthly color of yellow, all the better for the fruit to fit.

In the meanwhile, my initial thoughts for indulgence trended towards Bourbon, accented with my homemade Vanilla Lace bitters. I haven't done a recipe with the bitters since January, and though I think they work fabulous in almost any recipe, I've wanted to be judicious in using them in recipe posts. Combine the bourbon and bitters with vanilla-hinted passion fruit syrup (and a serious one from B.G. Reynolds at that, much better than I could make at home) and you've got the fixings for a mighty tasty drink.

But something seemed missing. I mentioned before how a Yankee Candle series partially inspired this cocktail series, and here reminisces of lily scents and the very clean orderly notes of brown wrapping paper itself came to the fore: if not lily, perhaps almond to round out the cocktail? Not amaretto-almond, either, but something understated and milky without being thick, lest the nuances of bourbon and bitters be lost. Almond water? Or...or maybe I'll treat myself to a soda carbonating machine and get a bit fancy (nevermind the other plans I have for it later on..). If the ingredients aren't brown themselves, they do indeed come in brown paper packages!

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings
2 oz bourbon
1 tsp passionfruit syrup
3 oz unsweetened almond soda

Stir the first three ingredients dry in a rocks or highball glass, then add ice cubes and almond soda. 
Finish with an extra dash or two of Vanilla Lace bitters.

Somewhat a cross between a Tiki Old Fashioned and a highball. As good as the recipe reads, and even more ethereal.

A few weeks back I was at Whole Foods when I came across Victoria's Kitchen Almond Water. It seemed an interesting cocktail ingredient, so of course I bought it. It's quite delish, but it's difficult to work with because it comes pre-sweetened. So what's a girl to do but attempt to make her own, despite there being a general dearth of online recipes on almond water. (there are Chinese almond tea recipes, however, which is more of a dessert recipe thickened with rice starch)

My general impression on how to make this is: make orgeat, leave out the sugar.

Unsweetened almond soda
100g blanched almonds
3 cups water

rose water

Making almond whey.
In a food processor, finely blend the almonds and water (perhaps as little as a cup if your blender is small, adding the rest of the water post-blending). Let this mixture rest an hour or so, then, as if you were making orgeat, strain through cheesecloth, wringing out the chopped almond. Bring the extracted liquid to a boil on a pot on the stove, then add back in the wrung-out chopped almond to continue extracting almond oil. As soon as you add the almonds back, remove from the heat, cover, and let rest until cool. You want to avoid using the stove to cook the almonds because that results in a starchy cooked-almond flavor.

Making almond clotted cream.
Once cool, strain the liquid through cheesecloth and a fine strainer a few more times to get the large particles out. Then, strain the liquid through a coffee filter. "Almond milk" really isn't a misnomer: the liquid tends to separate into curds and whey, the purified whey being what we're after. Let the liquid rest in the fridge until you're ready to use it; if more particles clump, coffee filter strain again (there's no over-straining this almond whey, all the better to carbonate).

Once you've obtained the whey (my batch resulted in a little over 2 cups of liquid when all was said and done), mix as follows to prepare the almond soda.

Per 1 cup of almond whey add 1 cup water, 1/2 tsp rose water and (post-carbonation) 2 tsp Lactart. (Gently!) carbonate using your device of choice; depending, this may go against your warranty, so cocktailer beware.

The soda is ready for use in the cocktail as-is. Add some simple syrup if you'd like to enjoy it by itself.

Also? Happy milestone, Feu de Vie. Post #50 and still going strong!