Thursday, August 29, 2013

Impromptu - Bourbon and Aperol

Last night, I had a hankering for Bourbon and Aperol. Well, I've had an unsated hankering for whiskey all week, but rather than doing the Rumdood-suggested Sherman Cocktail, (which was my idea the night prior), I wanted bourbon and the Orange Crush-y notes of Aperol. But how to flesh out that drink?

There were a fair number of Bourbon-Aperol drinks on Kindred Cocktails to start*, but none quite met the picture in my head (A Clockwork Orange and The Lemony Pabla weren't too far-off, though). I was seeking something with the red and floral of Peychaud's bitters, which seemed like an interesting contrast to the Aperol. And some kind of wine to lengthen seemed appropriate. When all of a sudden, a new post came through from Bartending Notes on an Earl Grey MarTEAni.

*(the research always tends to take about an hour before I get a solid recipe in mind)

*ping!* Earl Grey-infused madeira. Verdelho for dryness, and a bit more body than Sercial (and exactly what I had on my counter that needed using up). 1 tea bag in 1/2 cup for 10 minutes (tops - keep tasting drops) works quite well. Make sure to wring out all the bergamot-y goodness.

Impromptu Bourbon & Aperol (& Earl Grey)
1 1/2 oz overproof Bourbon (Wild Turkey 101)
1 oz earl grey-infused verdelho madeira
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz Aperol
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
3 drops orange blossom water
orange zest

Stir all but the zest on ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Express an orange zest over the drink, rub around the rim, and discard.

The floral soft qualities are what you encounter first with a whiff of cherry and almost a lemon or citron edge on the palate, followed by a touch of sweetness and then drying bitterness from the tea and other bitter ingredients. You seriously need at least a 100-proof bourbon for this one. 90-proof Bulleit didn't quite hold up, but Wild Turkey 101 did the trick.

I added the dry vermouth for an extra herbal quality and some lengthening to better taste all the ingredients. The orange blossom water I stole from A Clockwork Orange: the more pronounced florals, the less the cocktail resembles a Boulevardier or Old Pal -- and it's a nice augmentation to the Peychaud's and bergamot.

As always with these impromptus, dear reader, if a name strikes you I'm all ears!

Impromptus - Gin and Tonics

I've realized of late that I've gotten to a point where I can rattle off ingredients off the top of my head and turn them into pretty decent cocktails. It doesn't always work out, but I would say my hit rate is still 50% or so. And I've also realized I don't document these recipes beyond TwitPic at times, to the detriment of the blog, purely because they weren't "planned" and fought-for ideas.

But some weekends or evenings, you just want to mix a few tasty ingredients with no deeper meaning. So this will be the start of a quick-and-dirty series of those impromptu recipes successful (enough) to merit spent words. ('cause the last time I wrote up an impromptu, it took me a fiddle-faddlin' month, just for the extra stuff! No more!)

Given these recipes are so off-the-cuff, I haven't given them formal names. And the first recipe here may not warrant it, unless you think it's distinct the way a Martini and a Gibson are distinct. If you have any ideas, I'm plenty open to them!

So, for this first set of impromptus, a couple months back on a hot lazy summer Saturday (July 5th to be exact) I was playing around with the light crispness of gin & tonics. I can never leave well enough alone: there always needs to be variety, and the chance to mold a drink in different ways. To that end, two rather dissimilar G&T's, whittling down a small bottle of tonic:

Impromptu G&T #1
2 oz Tanqueray
3 oz tonic water
1 tsp absinthe (Vieux Carré)
lemon twist

Gently stir all on ice in a rocks glass. Twist lemon over top and add. Enjoy.

A bracing and heightened-herbal G&T with my favorite gin. Bone-deep refreshing. Somehow I bet this mod is the least of what the Spanish have done with their Gin Tonicas.

Impromptu G&T #2
2 oz honeydew-infused Hendrick's gin
3 oz tonic water
2 dashes amaretto
1 dash rose water
3 dashes Teapot bitters
lemon twist & honeydew melon ball for garnish

Gently stir all on ice in a rocks glass. Skewer a zest-encased melon ball as garnish.

Kitten-y soft, as my notes go. A very happy balance.

I had a small bottle of honeydew-infused Hendrick's gin for another recipe I was working on (delayed until next summer). Hendrick's doesn't take the best to infusion, probably because of the way the rose and cucumber essences are added post-distillation (they stick to the melon pieces, not the gin). Still, there were some mild ginny notes remaining and a light pale mint cotton candy-like flavor to the gin. The tonic's bitterness could prove balance to that sweetness. A few dashes of friendly notes here and there pushed it into cotton-y soft, but a bit less candy.

And, for a bonus, as I was snacking on guacamole while enjoying #2, I noticed how friendly rose water was to avocado. Not too long after, I had an impromptu recipe down for Fruited Guacamole (to which I've received raves from family & friends):

3 small avocados, diced
1 small yellow tomato (plum or otherwise), 1 shallot, 2 black plums* - broiled/grilled and diced
1/2 small cucumber, seeded & chopped
2 dates, seeded and chopped
2 packed tablespoons chopped spearmint
juice of 1 lemon
3 dashes rose water
pinch of salt

In a bowl, drizzle juice of 1/2 lemon over the diced avocado before heating/chopping the rest. Add rest of ingredients to the bowl and stir/mash to desired consistency. SCARF!

*apricots or pluots may also work nicely here

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mixology Monday LXXVI: FIRE! Round-Up!

Welcome back!

So by all accounts there was very little in the way of singed eyebrows. And for the great turn-out we had for the 76th edition of Mixology Monday, I'd call that an unqualified success! Seriously though, I'm scrolling down this list of cocktails and there is nothing but A-games. Kudos to everyone!

Also, goodnesses, half the people here must have stomachs of steel. The cocktails ranged from super-spicy to charred to smoky (but refreshing, all the same). Tiki and classic and coffee. We even had an elevated mocktail and boozy jellies, and (count'em) two videos this month! (and a couple of folks picked up on the George R.R. Martin reference in this #MxMo's announcement tweets and ran with it)

Let's get to it, shall we?

First out the gate like a bottle of wine smashed on a prow, Nick of The Straight Up was, quite fittingly, En Fuego. This cocktail is a kitchen sink of heat with serrano pepper, ginger liqueur, Hellfire Habanero shrub and mole bitters on a mezcal and Gosling's base, finished with a flamed lime twist. (whew! *passes around the hand-fans, 'cause we're just getting started*) He later followed up with the charcoal-aged Boulevardier, Smoke in the Woods, including many fiery flourishes such as a flamed spray of absinthe.

Next up, it's the return of Keith from
 theSpeakista! Keith brings us two cocktails, each utilizing a custom Fire Syrup made from cinnamon and red chili flake. The first, Setting Fire to the Rain, bears similarity to a spicy mezcal Sour, but lengthened with a light-to-medium lager. The In their defense... is a bourbon and multi-rum Old Fashioned with Fire and vanilla syrups and mole bitters.
Absolutely mouth-watering.

Over at The Shorter Straw, Raffaele crafts Charred Memories, a cocktail where virtually no ingredient is left untouched by flame. Grilled fruit juice, flamed absinthe and zests, burnt sugar syrup on a rhum agricole base. I admire how even the creole bitters finish plays into that aching and wistful presentation, and the anise and agricole pairing seem like they would carry that sentiment onto the palate as well.

Chris at A Bar Above, arrives with the first video of the session! Here he demonstrates how to make his pisco-apple sour, Apple of Discord. The fruit in question is a cinnamon-sweet bruléed apple globe.

Careful with this one. Give it to the wrong lady and before you know it you're halfway across the Pacific in a 1,000 ship flotilla without Chuck Heston or Henry Fonda as backup!

That said, methinks Tim Taylor might approve of the big gun. Jesse Ventura too.

Joel from Southern Ash blog recounts an epic Song of Ice and Fire with his The Dragon of Summer. Serrano-infused tequila, lightning-hot cinnamon whisky, and an icebound Sriracha-candied chili garnish.

Pause for a moment and consider that.

Sriracha. Candied. Chili. Garnish.

Just floating there, beguiling, daring you to take a bite out of that sucker. It looks so cool and refreshing with all that ice. Just mind the sign that says "Here there be dragonfire" before diving in!

Over at Cocktail Virgin Slut, Frederic delves into a long-classic technique of flaming drinking spirits inside spent citrus "cups", from Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars: 1903-1933. The bourbon-and-grapefruit Brown Derby-reminiscent, American Flambée, seems like the tip of the iceberg as far as this technique goes.

Imagine what modern bartenders could do with yuzu or sweet lime in drinks like this..

Across the state in DrinksBurgh, Mike shakes up the spiced rum Cuyahoga Fizz. As befits its oft-flaming namesake, the Cuyahoga River, the fizz is finished by torching an Angostura/brown sugar crust on top. (Amélie would gladly rap upon this with a spoon!)

Is it just me, or does anyone else want to kick back with one of these while relaxing to The Pretenders?

Elana gets her molecular mixology on at Stir and Strain with The Eyes of Angelique. The base of the aged gin cocktail gets some heat from a hot ginger shrub and is crowned by a luscious foam of pineapple, Campari and cayenne, plus a dusting of red glitter.

Then, she crafts sweet-bitter-hot Aperol and cayenne Kiss of Fire jellies. They look so adorable, you just wanna bite into one -- but then you nibble cautiously because you realize they'll bite back!

The Booze Nerds are at it again, grilling not just fruit but herbs too (I..I.. I didn't know you could do such things!).

Shaun creates a very green-vegetal The Pointilist with grilled lime and rosemary, and an intriguing hint of Branca Menta.

Christa muddles grilled nectarine (!) into the Bourbon Dawn. (nectarine's a personal fave of mine, and look at the color there!)

At Ginhound, Andrea offers up the savory Hot Rod, full of aquavit and wordplay. Bugs Bunny might be left flubbering a finger over his lips at this one: for the bright carrot juice coloring the cocktail, it hides a hidden snap from a certain spicy root. Go check it out to find out what it is, I'll bet you'll boggle to see it being added to a simple syrup too!

I like how Mike, of Grow. Eat. Mix. Drink., breaks down the ins and outs of a chili pepper infusion. Infusion times and pepper quantities can be quite deceptive in comparison to other sorts of infusions, and then mixing with different levels of heat also requires small adjustments. Discussion of this sort of thing can be immensely helpful to a neophyte wanting to avoid being burned.

To show off the infusion, Mike offers up a jalapeno-infused Paloma cocktail, the Jalapaloma.

Our second video of the event graces us from Measure & Stir. Joseph Tkach uses the format to better illustrate how to smoke a serving glass for his Lavender-Smoked Martini, fire and smoke being difficult to capture in static images. (I think I can smell the lavender through the screen, mm...)

This was a great first-time-out, and I hope you'll make more!

Next, we hop on over to Tartines to Tikis where FrogPrincesse, fresh from the festivities at Tiki Oasis in San Diego whips up a classic party-size Don the Beachcomber’s Volcano Bowl (complete with Hula Girl!). Four rums, including Lemon Hart 151 for the flame, on a base of grapefruit juice with a touch of maple syrup make this something I could enjoy sipping all autumn (especially without someone to share it with!).

The Tiki portion of our program continues at Rated R Cocktails where JFL serves up the Eruption: a flaming Pina Colada! While also a take on the Volcano Bowl, not only are flavors of pineapple and coconut added, but a healthy measure of Campari too.

While he does make note of the due caution necessary when working with flamed lime shells and overproof rum, somehow I can envision a stadium full of Tiki-philes lighting up these cocktails for a Manilow performance of One Voice. Also, Lady Liberty would probably like Tiki, wouldn't she?

The tropical flavors carry through to Stewart from Putney Farm's entry, Special-Ti'. Is it a dessert cocktail or a cocktail that's really a dessert? Either way, I imagine you'll be floating on Cloud 9 after you get done dunking your caramelized pineapple/lime zest skewers in the aged rhum agricole Ti' Punch. My elbows are going weak just reading about it.

Dagreb, of Nihil Utopia, explores technique in making a flaming coffee cocktail, Roman-style: Café Nero. Roman-style of course indicating quite possibly the most dreamy liqueur ever to come out of Italy: Galliano!

Do not forget the little marshmallows! (I am so making this in the morning. It could pair quite well with Lucky Charms..)

If you're drinking along at home, here's a brief respite. Ceccotti from Bartending Notes takes the concept of burned wine to a whole new level, crafting a mocktail for us, Burnt Wine Lemonade. It uses a burnt sugar syrup on a non-alcoholic wine or dry grape juice base. If you're not careful though, it'll take all the Doom levels right out of you and then you'll have to start over from the beginning. Be sure to keep your Doom well-regulated!

Zach, The Venture Mixologist, gets crafty and concocts a habanero Jamaican Jerk tincture for a spicy rum-sipper, Disya. This is one of those drinks that makes you scratch your head wondering why it hadn't been done yet, it's so complete a realization of jerk flavor with every ingredient. It may be just me talking here, but I can imagine the depth and subtlety King's Ginger adds over something like Canton.

Fire and Blood

Next we go on walkabout to catch up with Rafa García Febles (sometimes known as DrunkLab), nomadic cocktail guru who can be  found on eGullet and BarNotes, as well as being a powerhouse recipe source on KindredCocktails. He brings us 3 cocktails that fit the theme: The Man Comes Around with mezcal, Spanish brandy and mole bitters; Spindletop Swizzle with funky rum, blackberry shrub, velvet falernum and a burning 151 Spindletop oil gusher garnish; and Fire and Blood, an amped Blood and Sand with cayenne tincture and a flamed blood orange twist.

Death to Sour Mix's Raul delivers the second Game of Thrones-themed cocktail, Wildfire, named after a virulent magical green weapon of war that means certain death if touched by a flame (you make me very glad to have gotten through the second book!). The cocktail itself is a riff on the Old Flame, a floral/herbal egg white sour. With pisco, *STREGA!*, and violette in the cocktail, the Wildfire comes into play via flaming absinthe floated on top the foam. Incredibly daring, that.
(and now you make me wonder what a flamed meringue foam cocktail would be like.. Strega meringue pie, much?)

Over at Concoctails, Todd makes with the intriguing by mixing an all-liqueur cocktail, Heathing, a flameful and wonderfully oblique Madeline Kahn reference from Clue: The Movie. For heat, Fire Eater cinnamon whiskey liqueur was used, along with a touch of ginger honey balsamic vinegar and ginger ale lengthener.

One sip and I'm sure I'll be left going "It's twue! It's twue!"

Slipping in with a few hours to spare late in the eve, Rowen of Fogged in Lounge delights with Voice of Temptation. With apple brandy, Lemon Hart and mezcal, this tipple's fire belongs to the rum-flamed-and-caramelized apple garnish and lovely photography. What a way to wind down in the evening.


Finally, for my (MoD's/Kate's) own fire-modest 
drinks, I did two split-spirit with ouzo cocktails. The Apollo's Arrow is a tequila-centric Corpse Reviver #2 riff, the sparks from the flamed orange zest bow the namesake (with the spirit combo intended as the effect of said arrow). Gin-based highball Wind Whisperer employs a fire-indirect method for smoking teas and tisanes for a serving glass and serves as the return of my tea-in-cocktails series Ti(n)sanity!

Many many many thanks to everyone who participated, to fearless leader Fred Yarm for indefatigable cat-wrangling, and founder Paul Clarke.

See y'all back at the partybus in a month! *rubs hands together* Now to dig in and try all these recipes. Cheers!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mixology Monday, August 2013: FIRE! part 2

'Cause it wouldn't be a MxMo if I weren't up late finishing a recipe..

Our announcement post with our theme: FIRE! Our round-up post, once live.

Lesson re-learned on this cocktail: if you can't taste all the flavors, it's probably too sweet.

So I learned the hard way that ouzo is best regarded as a liqueur instead of a liquor, despite its proof. Still, while not a pure split-(down-the-middle)-spirit cocktail as originally intended, the final result was quite a happy one. I ended up borrowing the structure from The PDT Cocktail Book's Pearl Button, a dry-edged revelation whose overall tone I felt would be right for the impression I wanted to create.

Now why would that be, when the Pearl Button doesn't utilize anything fire-related? Well, this is something I've been noodling for awhile, it just needed the right opportunity to avail itself. Which is to say, I'm starting my Ti(n)sanity series, my exploration of all the different applications of tea in cocktails, back up after a long summer hiatus. Class is back in session with more advanced topics developing as schedules permit. Good old Professor MacGuffin, Celestial Seasoning's Tension Tamer tea, is back at the head of the class.

But how does this relate to fire?


We're smoking the tea tisane.

Wind Whisperer
2 oz Bombay Sapphire gin
3/4 oz Metaxa ouzo
1/2 oz lime juice
1/4 oz hazelnut orgeat
1 dash Teapot bitters
1 1/2 oz seltzer

1 Tension Tamer tea bag for smoking

Step 1: The Smoke

Start by smoking your serving glass, preferably a rocks/double old-fashioned for its wide mouth which will encourage the aromatics. One thing I found out quickly was that lighting a tea bag on fire won't actually set the herbs alight (for long enough to create vapors anyway) -- and for what vapors you got, they were masked by a burnt smell (*weak shrug* such is the delicacy of this tisane). Instead, you want to employ an indirect method of heating the tisane to create the right kind of vapors: those consisting primarily of essential oils and distinctly lacking char. You can probably use this for any kind of tea or dried herb of which you wish to get a clean expression, though it should be noted that char does emerge the more heat you apply and the longer it's applied.

I came across this method while researching how to burn frankincense for a recipe down the line. A specialty briquette would be nice to use, but a method a little closer to home worked in a pinch for me: I grabbed an aluminum take-out container (a tin pie plate would also work well) and went to work on the stove. Be careful with this, though: the aluminum conducts heat in a near-literal flash. With the tin on the burner (could be a hot plate also), rip open your tea bag and pour it slightly thick into the center of the tin and set the burner to the lowest temperature possible. Since you want to rest your serving glass over the tea bag contents being smoked, you should use some kind of non-conductive rests between the aluminum and the glass to protect from heat damage: in this case, a broken in half wooden chopstick.

Even on the lowest heat setting, you should soon notice light vapors filling the glass and delighting your nose as they slip out from underneath the sides. Let it go gently for a couple of minutes to make sure the scent sticks: you should be getting roughly the same scent as a fresh-brewed cup of tea, but obviously drier and denser. (and don't forget to turn off the burner when you're done!)

Step 2: Make the cocktail

In the meantime, shake all your ingredients (except seltzer) on ice. When your serving glass is ready, add large ice and your shaken drink, double-strained. Add the seltzer and gently stir to incorporate.

No garnish. Any kind of garnish would only detract from the other aromatics going on.

The tisane smoke greets you on the nose, with its base of lemon cake and vanilla-emergent herbals, undergirded by Bombay Sapphire's floral aromatics, a hint of anise, that hazelnut? is that rose? The palate does what I had hoped it would do, by being evanescent. Sure, there's a bit of tongue-pucker from the lime and a touch of anise emerging on the finish and lips...but oft-abrasive juniper here glides across the tongue and the experience is nose-focused.

On the ingredients:
  • Bombay Sapphire has tended to be my gin-nemesis. I prefer a straight, classy, no-nonsense gin like Tanqueray, but here the floral curves and restraints meshed perfectly with the spirit of the cocktail.
  • After starting with lemon, I switched to lime because I realized I had already done a lemon juice Sour in Hit the Road to Dreamland, so a lime Sour would add some variety to this series. The lime also adds a delicate green tint, reminiscent of spring (and frankly, the lemon juice-color looked like it was trying too hard).
  • What can I say? I do love what a delicate anise can do. But the sneaky thing in the Metaxa ouzo isn't its most prominent aromatic: it's the hazelnut. Connected to and brought out by the orgeat and the Teapot bitters, it's a thread that invisibly ties the cocktail together.

Deep and many thanks to Fred Yarm for cat-herding and Paul Clarke for founding. It's been a blast and I'll see you all at the round-up post!

Previous Ti(n)sanity recipes:

Eire Light (irish whiskey)
Hit the Road to Dreamland (rum)
Lullaby Sangaree (madeira) and Insufferable Creole Minx (bourbon, gin, madeira)
T. T. Punch (rhum agricole)
Me-tea-orite (single malt scotch)
Introduction and eThéreal Toddy (grappa)

Disclaimer: this is a non-sponsored post. Also, I'm not looking to do sponsored posts. I just really like this tea, is all, and have a policy of happily and independently buying all my ingredients.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mixology Monday, August 2013: FIRE! part 1

It's time for Mixology Monday (number LXXVI if you're keeping count) once again! As host this month, I'll keep it simple this time around. The announcement post is here, just a few posts down, and our theme? FIRE! (round-up post here)

My inspiration this month? In addition to the Fire element, the concept of split-spirit cocktails has been bouncing around in my noggin' ever since the return of MxMo a year ago, with the Equal Parts theme -- I even considered making that the theme (but that seemed a bit too close on the heels of another cocktail structure challenge, Flip-Flop). Also? I just added my first bottle of ouzo (Metaxa) to my cabinet and I'm liking it quite a lot, so that's going in the hopper as well for both of my Fire cocktails.

This first cocktail keeps the flames neat and tidy, utilizing a flamed orange zest not just for finesse, but for
those tiny little sparks that make all the meaning*.

Apollo's Arrow
3/4 oz blanco tequila
3/4 oz ouzo
3/4 oz fino sherry
3/4 oz white grapefruit juice
dash Benedictine
flamed orange zest for garnish

Shake all but the zest on ice and double-strain into a chilled pillar-like flute glass.

Flame a bow of orange zest over the drink and shoot sparks on it.

Everything emerges on the nose, the flamed orange zest not so overpowering in that regard. On the palate, the ouzo is a smooth, rolling anise on a tequila-sherry base with grapefruit softening; the anise doesn't knock out your tongue in the process, nor do the zest oils or grapefruit bitterness. The Benedictine adds a slight herbal depth which develops with more time in the glass. It depends on your choice of spirits, but while intending for this to be a light, crisp and refreshing libation, the more time elapses you might get a trace of jamminess from the zest or the maple-like notes from the sherry might assert themselves.

As you can see from the structure of the drink, this is a riff on the grand old classic Corpse Reviver #2, but switching flavors to be tequila-focused. I had all my components assembled, so when it came time to mix this structure seemed like a good starting point...and ended up being a good finishing point too. You might also note the liqueurs are also switched up in that anise-noted ouzo is a larger component while sweeter Benedictine adds a grace note, all while not unbalancing the grapefruit. I should also mention there is an earlier, more pineappley, tequila riff on the recipe, Corpse Reviver #5 -- one of the fortunate things about working with ouzo is how it guarantees some toe-free step space!

Stayed tuned, one more cocktail for MxMo is yet to come! Where there's fire, there's smoke!

*[Updated to add: while not turning this into a book, if you get the Paglian imagery/references, bug me, will ya? I'm sure we could talk our ears off.]

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Made of Thorns & Blackberry Shrub

Made of Thorns
2 oz aged Jamaican rum (Appleton Reserve)
3/4 oz blackberry shrub
1/2 oz ROOT
2 tsp Fernet Branca
blackberries for garnish

Shake all on ice well and double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with blackberries.

Wine-like berry, with mint chocolate and spice sliding into tawny notes of root beer melded to barrel notes and back around to berry again, with a touch of vanilla on the backside. The shrub's vinegar transforms the two herbal liqueurs into something much more savory on first sip.

This may well be an excellent use of Appleton Reserve, that halfway point between gold and seriously aged Jamaican rums. Its minor hogo works well with the other ingredients and that "halfway point" becomes functionality: more golden would be too limpid, more aged would be too soft.

Back in June, with the bounty of summer fruit at hand at the farmers' market, I figured my shrub of the summer would be a blackberry one, a near polar opposite to my apricot-Meyer lemon shrub of last year (a mini-bottle of which I still have - and quite good at that!). (and let's face it, sometimes a girl wants to chug anthocyanins, y'know?) As a matter of course, the shrub would surely wend its way into a cocktail recipe or two, but the first few weeks after the shrub was finished the vinegar still needed to tame itself. I left it in the fridge, forgot about it for awhile and before long the syrup was bursting with fresh-muddled berry flavor. But how to use it?

Meanwhile, sometimes I get recipe ideas while at work, in which case I become very single-minded until I can get home and work on it. ROOT and Fernet and blackberries. But would my homemade blackberry liqueur hold up? Turns out not. Ok, how about blackberry brandy? Ehhh.. blends in too much. (what about the shrub?) (Too tart, too sugary) Maybe a base spirit, dry it out and give it a foundation. Eh, still sweet. Maybe lime? Too sharp.

It took a night or two away before the shrub started making sense: less sweet, less sharp, helps pare down the number of ingredients. Best blackberry flavor of the bunch, and more backbone than muddled blackberries. A slight ratio tweak from the original tester hit upon a true revelation of balance -- while too complex to be a good shrub-demonstrator, there's some kind of kismet happening in Made of Thorns.

I should also note, it bears some resemblance to the Dirt 'n Diesel and the Swagger Rite.

Blackberry shrub
16 oz blackberries (roughly 327g overall)
equal amounts white and demerara sugar
balsamic vinegar
half a bunch of fresh mint (peppermint if possible)
1 tsp crushed allspice berries

  1. Measure the weight of your fruit to determine how much sugar and vinegar you'll need; that is, you'll need a weight of sugar equal to the fruit and a weight of vinegar equal to the fruit.
  2. Gently muddle the mint in your infuse-bowl with the sugar for 1-2 hours.
  3. Add the allspice and berries, muddling all, emphasis on crushing the berries. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 24 hours, stirring or shaking occasionally to help everything combine.
  4. Remove the mint, wringing out the syrup.
  5. Measure your vinegar by weight into a pot on the stove. Bring the vinegar to a quick near-boil on the stove and pour over your blackberry mixture, stirring to dissolve and meld.
  6. Cover, let cool at room temp, then store the covered bowl in the fridge for 2 weeks. You'll get the best flavor from the blackberries this way.
  7. Strain the final shrub syrup, pressing/wringing through cheesecloth to get all the liquid.
  8. Bottle and store in the fridge. Let rest at least 2 weeks before using. Shake well before pouring.
  9. Makes about 3 cups.
Shrubs are simply equal parts by weight of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Here I used fresh mint and crushed allspice to enhance the blackberry notes. I divided the sugar into 2 types: white for brightness and demerara for earthiness and a touch of smoke. After finding something like champagne vinegar rather sharp in my apricot-Meyer lemon shrub, I opted for smooth and mellow balsamic, the better to sink into the background and bring the fruit to the fore.

Intensely drinkable mixed with seltzer.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Mixology Monday LXXVI Announcement: FIRE!

Huh. So 76 editions of MxMo, and a full 12 months under the new leadership of CVS's Fred Yarm as of the start of this month's challenge. You could ask where the time went, but this past year seems quite rich for all the wild, inventive and delicious cocktail recipes on offer month after month. We have an old guard participating and anchoring us to that sense of continuity, while every month a handful of new faces rise up to answer the challenge -- many of whom are becoming old hands themselves already.

So as these Mixology Mondays and their themes accrue, it does get a little daunting choosing a fresh theme: something to invigorate the mind and tastebuds, and inspire a sense of adventure. I feel, perhaps it's only a matter of looking within, seeing if there's something you love or tickles your mind. Or there's an aspect of your blog which could offer up a new spin.

With that in mind, this here Muse of Doom is pleased to proffer the new periodic particular of peril: FIRE!

Tiki-philes have their flaming spent lime shells and scorpion bowls. Classic cocktailers have the magic of a flamed orange zest. Molecular mixologists have their Smoking Guns. (and yes, frat boys have their flaming shots.) Even brunchtime drinkers have spicy Bloody Marys.

You don't have to go full Blue Blazer, not nearly -- heck, you could go full Fireball Whiskey! (or Fire Rock Pale Ale, etc..) You could riff on the Old Flame or come up with an inventive name of your own. You could even use a good firewater or burned wine. (and if you're grilling fruit, save some for me, will ya?)

In essence, bring the heat! Bring the Fire! Bring your inspiration!

On a serious note: remember that lass in Britain who lost her stomach because the mixologists weren't in control of the dangerous elements they were using in a cocktail? Let's have none of that here, huh? There's a lot more to Fire than just the electrochemical reactions happening on the end of a lit match. Stay safe and trust your gut about what you're comfortable doing. We're all here to have fun.

Here's are the specs:
  • Find and/or develop a recipe that incorporates Fire, then post the recipe, including a photo and your remarks, on your blog or on eGullet's Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  • Include the MxMo logo in your post, plus links back to the Mixology Monday site, Feu de Vie, and the round-up post when that goes up.
  • Post a link to your submission in the comment section of this post, tweet me @MuseOfDoom, or send an email to muse at museofdoom dot com with "MxMo" in the subject.
  • Entries should be submitted by the end of Monday, August 19th*. Some late stragglers may also be accepted but no promises.
*I'm inclined to use the turn of Tuesday at the International Date Line for a final cut-off (7am EDT, to spare you a search engine hunt)

Many thanks again to Fred at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping MxMo alive, and to founder Paul Clarke!

Flame ON!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Aunt Jean

This little ditty goes out to a special lady, my great-aunt Jean - who recently turned 89.

From my early memories of visiting her urbane and well-appointed condo with family at times, Aunt Jean knew how to live. She introduced me to exotic things like Orangina, and exuded culture, whether it was crossword puzzles, taking my cousin and me to see a local production of The Nutcracker or a Christmas present of Note-Ability, that board game which had a miniature electronic grand piano and you had to pick out the melody for others to guess.

I come from a substantial family heritage of cooks, be it Mom or my grandmas who worked in church kitchens; Aunt Jean rose even higher, working in test kitchens in the Big City for products like Hellman's mayonnaise and Karo syrup (an assistant director of the department at that, at minimum, for as much as I know). Her chocolate-peppermint patty cookie sandwiches remain the best Christmas cookie EVER. Full stop.

She's since retired to beautiful Florida, ever enjoying the sights, food and entertainment.

Now, as Aunt Jean would tell you, she was a teetotaler. But that doesn't at all preclude combining the flavors of her life into a satisfying libation. So in that light, I'm happy to bring you FdV's first mocktail!

Aunt Jean
3 oz Orangina
2 oz Earl Grey tea
1 T cream of coconut (Coco Lopez preferred)
nutmeg for garnish

Brew a cup of Earl Grey tea until lukewarm; this will make the tea rather potent and astringent, but that's all to the good as it will help the flavor hold up and add a touch of bitterness to balance the sweetness.

In your serving glass (a highball or rocks glass) dissolve the cream of coconut in 2 oz of the tea. Add ice to mostly fill the glass. Top with the Orangina and gently stir. Add a dash or two of nutmeg for garnish.

With love,