Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Grandeur of the Season Punch Royale

Dear readers, with your quiet forbearance of a long and not-productive-as-desired year, permit me a moment of last-minute cleverness. Y'know that bottled cocktail we did last week for Christmas, Grandeur of the Season? There was still a serving left in the bottle, no? Here's what we're going to do with it, for a fuss-free knock-your-socks-off New Year's Eve punch.

(mind you, I've been growing superstitious lately: enjoy the decadent red punch in the evening, but at the stroke of midnight do some clear or golden bubbles. It's a symbolic clean slate and could provide some healing for the he** 2014 has tended to be.)

Grandeur of the Season Punch Royale
5 parts bottled Grandeur of the Season mix
5 parts sparkling shiraz
2-3 parts blood orange juice
blood orange wheel for garnish

Combine bottled mix and blood orange juice and then stir to combine.
Gently add bubbly and stir.
Garnish with blood orange wheel(s).

A tropical punch, but with wine, melancholy, smoking jackets and a dry finish.

Based on your ingredients at hand, you may need to adjust the blood orange juice and bubbles to your desired sweetness levels.

If you can't find sparkling shiraz, substitute bubbles with an "extra-dry" rating: brut can throw off the sweetness and you may need to add a dash of Solerno or cassis to balance.

Thank goodness for David Wondrich: Punch and my favorite port web site were both very instructive in how to create a punch with bubbly AND ruby port. Essentially: equal parts spirits and bubbly, half a part of mixed sharp-sweet (shrub or equivocal citrus (e.g. orange, blood orange, pineapple, passion fruit syrup, etc..)) to round out the punch.

Just watch out: on spec alone this is nearly the equivalent kick of Chatham Artillery Punch, so mind your cups. Sois sage and don't get behind the 8-ball for 2015 by being in the hospital, in jail, dead or hurting anyone else, mmkay? Life's rough enough without bad decisions. (and I kinda want you drinking my new recipes, so there :P)

To 2015: our hearts' desires fulfilled and sustained, our cares lifted, a genuine laugh or smile every hour, and the best of food, drink and friends to drive the evil spirits away. Sláinte!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Grandeur of the Season

Herald trumpets,
Holly berries,
Pine needles,
Spice cake,
Bright Christmas oranges,
And glass jewels for the tree.

Grandeur of the Season
1 oz cognac
1 oz pear eau-de-vie
1 oz ruby port
1 tsp Solerno blood orange liqueur
1 tsp Campari
1 tsp crème de cassis
1 dash Pernod
2 dashes pimento bitters
festive aromatic ice sphere

Rolling ribbons and great globes of grape and orange and berry.
Anise accents.
Gentle emerging pine and spice.
Opulence for jubilant jovial occasions.

Step 1: Festive aromatic ice sphere.

Add water to an ice sphere mold.

Arrange ginger coins, cloves and rosemary sprig (a bit of orange zest and red currants also welcome).

Add top and freeze.

Step 2: Mix the cocktail

Three spirits, three liqueurs, three accents.

Batch and bottle in the fridge days ahead for parties and something even smoother.

Measure 3 1/2 ounces per serving (1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon).

Pour over ice sphere in large balloon glass.

Swirl, take in the aromas and let dilute for 5-10 minutes.


Step 3: ???

There's still some left in the bottle. What's next? New Year's!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cranberry Falernum: Red Plaid Flannel Pajamas

There are days like today when the world cries out for you to be checking off an alphabet-sized list of tasks and all you've got in you is an urge to sit with a good cup of coffee, feed the birds and watch the world go by. Welp, world, you can take a hike today after everything you've asked of me this year. The numbness needs a chance to dissipate and the juncos are reenacting Star Wars out on the fire escape*.

*the things they've picked up from Twitter and special editions of Angry Birds..

And what better accoutrement to the day's activities than a good snuggly pair of pajamas?

Quick-eyed readers may have caught wind of this already, or read last week's introduction to cranberry falernum (including falernum recipe) with its reference to a coffee cocktail and put two and two together. Indeed, the first cranberry falernum recipe that struck wasn't Red Plaid Wool Scarf but Red Plaid Flannel Pajamas.

As you might also be able to deduce, the name came first, followed by the ingredients (save the falernum) list writing itself. And yes, the resulting list is perhaps a little questionable on its face, but, somehow, perhaps with the right coffee and the right Scotch, it works especially well.

So, even if you have the misfortune to continue working up until Christmas, consider this a possible early present. The falernum needs between one and three days to infuse, so you have time. Get the ingredients tonight or tomorrow, put the finished syrup to bed Christmas eve and wake up (slowly) to a coffee cocktail with a big red bow on top (and that includes you, dear reader, who may not celebrate the actual holiday but still get a good peaceful day off from work).

Shout-out in the background to Main Line Coffee Roasters and the Head Nut in Ardmore, PA.
A mixologist gal's heaven.

Red Plaid Flannel Pajamas
6 oz coffee
1 oz blended scotch whisky
1/2 oz cranberry falernum
Whipped cream, for garnish
Ground cloves, for garnish

Heat coffee mug briefly with boiling water.
Discard water.
Add Scotch and falernum - stir.
Pour in coffee.
Dollop with whipped cream.
Sprinkle a pinch of cloves over top.
Sigh relief.

It's a coffee cocktail first, so don't expect it to taste like a Martini. Gentle sweetness with sweet cream, bitter chocolate notes, a woody clove nose, playful light spice with a ginger emphasis. The cranberry melds into the coffee and transforms into a coffee-bright red flavor, earthier now and even more Scotch-friendly. And the Scotch LOVES the cranberry. Granted, it may not be as robust as other whiskeys used in coffee cocktails, but the Scotch just feels proper - not quite stately but possessing rectitude not unlike a fresh set of monogrammed light flannel pajamas.

I recommend Kenya AA coffee because of its affinity for citrus and berries in general, including cranberries. Monkey Shoulder whisky is also works well here for its downplayed smoke/peat and heightened cereal and malt notes - think Irish Coffee.

Happy snuggling!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mixology Monday, December 2014: Apples!

Top of the morning to you MxMoers! (this is what I get for passing out while finishing the copy) This month's Mixology Monday theme comes courtesy of the grandmaster himself, the man with his ear to the drinksprings of Boston and beyond, Fred Yarm of cocktail virgin slut. The topic? The ever-friendly Apple!
Apples have been an American booze staple with Johnny Appleseed as its symbolic hero. John Chapman became that legend by planting apple tree nurseries across the northern Appalachia and the Midwest. He did not choose grafting techniques to reproduce sweet edible ones, but bred them to make sour apples perfect for cider and applejack. Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire proclaimed, "Really, what Johnny Appleseed was doing and the reason he was welcome in every cabin in Ohio and Indiana was he was bringing the gift of alcohol to the frontier. He was our American Dionysus." Apple products began to enter into the mixed drink literature in the 19th century with the Stone Fence appearing in Jerry Thomas' Bartender Guide and got quite refined by the end of the century such as the Widow's Kiss in George Kappeler's Modern American Drinks. Indeed, apples have found their way into modern cocktails via Calvados, applejack, sparkling and still cider, apple butter, and muddled apple.
When active, go check out this month's round-up post and tell the folks how much you like dem apples!

As you might've noticed, falernum's really caught my fancy lately. Get me started on a homemade ingredient and suddenly I want to adapt its flavor profile all over the map. But the interesting stuff comes later.

This month's entry is pure second-run: the second-run recipe off my second-run falernum flavor profile idea, and a second-run idea for using apples for MxMo at that. So, it should actually be a bit better than the first-run ideas judging by the way I run things around here.

The first-run ideas will all see the light of day in due course - and the second of our feature falernum recipes drops later this week. But, given that one's a coffee cocktail (you read right - and not a flip!), I wanted to showcase the feature ingredient in something a bit closer to its native Tiki. Which is to say, a Sour.

Now, for some odd reason, the scotch is just a natural pairing with oh-so-seasonal cranberry falernum; but then, that it pairs well with lots of red fruit in a Blood and Sand, perhaps it's not so surprising. But a pure whisky cocktail just doesn't seem to highlight the best of what's going on in the syrup - it leaves all those spices out in the cold looking for a way to connect. Enter by a pure "heck, if I use this it turns into a drink for MxMo this month," the perfect ingredient: un esprit delicieux de Normandie, calvados.

Red Plaid Wool Scarf
1 oz blended Scotch (Monkey Shoulder)
1 oz calvados (Boulard VSOP)
1/2 oz cranberry falernum*
1/4 oz orange liqueur (Combier)
1/4 oz lime juice
apple peel horse's neck for garnish
Garnish. Shake. Strain.

On the nose you're going to be greeted prominently by the fresh apple zest, so that's why I recommend a good personable MacIntosh (what better accessory to a proper plaid scarf, neh?) or similar fall apple. The tough flexible skins these types of apples have also make taking the peel easier (as in: a little harder to accidentally cut short with a paring knife). The nose also features mild hints of malty scotch and orange sweetness, tempered by the bottles of whisky and liqueur you use.

And the palate? Well, as you might expect, it's somewhere between a Cosmo and a Sidecar, with a hint of malt and a generous undertone of spice. The Monkey Shoulder in this case brings a mild toffee-vanilla and the faintest hints of smoke (Famous Grouse would also be wonderful here) while the calvados brings an opulent fruitiness that makes the whole drink; when asked to choose between calvados and Applejack (and cognac, which frankly disappears in the drink), use the calvados by all means. At that, it's less jarring than the vanilla notes of gold rum you'd expect to to go well with falernum. To pair with that bright apple fruitiness goes a nudge of proper tart cranberry and shimmering ginger-heavy falernum pie spice. It ends with a clove finish. Depending on your sweetness preference, this cocktail would make an interesting tableaux for playing around with a dash or two of bitters.

Cranberry Falernum
This one's going to have to be purely homemade - it'll be difficult to do a cranberry add-on to pre-bottled falernum.

So, pick your favorite falernum recipe. I use Kaiser Penguin's recipe regularly, though only a quarter batch at a time (it's just li'l ol' me and Boomer here) given how the spices lose their punch after about a month.

Infuse the spices and zest per usual (and add the almond ingredients on this half of the process, or at the very end for almond extract, if including). Strain after desired infusion time.

For the syrup/sweetener half, once the spice/zest infusion is ready, make a hot process syrup. You want to use simmering-level heat only throughout, you're not making candy. Start by dissolving the sugar in the water, and once that's done throw in your fresh or frozen cranberries. Gently simmer the berries until they pop, begin to disintegrate and the syrup turns a cheerful holiday red. Let mostly cool, then fine-strain the liquid into your storage container, pressing all the lovely drops out with a spatula.

Add in your strained spice infusion to the storage container. Seal and shake to combine.

If making a quarter batch of Kaiser Penguin's recipe, use 1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries. (the 2:1 simple syrup, using 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water, prior to berries results in approximately 4.5 ounces of syrup) A full batch of the same recipe using 2 cups sugar and 1 cup water will require 5 cups of cranberries.

Big thanks our host, third-degree black belt catherder Frederic! A delicious theme and enjoyable challenge (with very pretty logos, natch!). Cheers and happy holidays everyone!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Falernum and Becherovka: Secret Message

And then, after all the talking yesterday, sometimes it's better to simplify, and then let the drink do the talking. Use this particular bourbon - seriously. Rye spice is overkill when what you want is smooth rippling undercurrent to our feature players. Too sweet? Hardly. A paper-dry finish.

Drink your Ovaltine!

Secret Message
2 oz Four Roses Small Batch bourbon
1/2 oz falernum
1/2 oz Becherovka

Shake. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with super-secret clove-lime decoder wheel.
If you use homemade Kaiser Penguin-style falernum like me, don't forget to add a splash of lime juice (just not too much).

NOTE (after the fact): the glass makes sense for the mix, but I would encourage using something more fluted to capture the glorious nose and ensure it isn't drowned out by ice chill or dissipation. The nose makes the cocktail.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Falernum and Becherovka: Rhythm of the Night

It started innocently enough as a near-end-of-work recipe idea jotted down on a post-it. Something a little on the lighter side with a spirit-mixer inversion. But then the accents? Oh the accents. The almost-too-obvious (or is that redundant?) accents that make it better than you could have considered on-paper. The other ingredients potentially drive the drink too sweet, but you see, this just gives the dry Becherovka room to work its magic. And the voodoo spice of falernum wedded to those bitter baking spices? Here's a combination that makes your cocktail come alive, man!

Furthermore, sometimes you find a magical combination that births a heck of a lot of recipe bunnies (and why haven't more recipes done this besides The Exporter, for that matter?). And then sometimes when you go and test some out again, the moment has already passed and they flop for one reason or another. So, in the spirit of being a muse, I'm going to give you two recipes - one today, one tomorrow - then the bunnies can invade your living room! Better be sure to stock up on alfalfa.

Rhythm of the Night
1 oz reposado tequila (Corralejo)
1 1/2 oz Dubonnet Rouge
1/4 oz (fat) falernum
1/4 oz Becherovka
2 dashes orange bitters (Angostura)
1 sprig thyme for garnish

Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. 
Garnish with thyme.

Nose: orange, faint berry/herbs and spice background. Agave-spice. Faint hint of celery herb.

Palate: LUSH. Busy, rich, dervish delight, despite the relatively lighter-proof. Big ginger-agave spice from the lowlands Corralejo. Berry undertone. Just dive in and taste it for yourself.

Why the thyme? I can't resist jerk seasoning pairings. And, it's an unexpected note that fits the music of the drink while not under or overemphasizing other notes.

When you're feeling around for a cocktail name, sometimes you gotta go with what hits your mind, no matter the kitsch. Granted, I was googling early 90s dance pop hits at the time and "Spark in the Night" had too many articles and prepositions for my taste (I know, right?). The colors involved, down to Corralejo's brilliant blue bottle, scream Corona's so-named song with its Christmas-light-colored blips and bleeps. But then some merry prankster's liable to come along, point out the tequila pushes it into the Latin rhythms of DeBarge's Rhythm of the Night and come back with some terrible Michelada knock-off to further cement the point, or worse, point out another song or twelve with the exact same name because it really is that generic.

Your move, merry prankster.

And, psst, stick around. There's one more recipe in this mode to come, but it's a Secret.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Not Quite Mixology Monday, November 2014: Shims!

Ah, 2014, what a hell of a year you've been. 2 months of missing the MxMo deadline due to work-related head-numbness, even the very generous one extended by for November's theme of Shims (btw, go read Dinah's work - she literally wrote the book on the subject!).
This month’s topic is near and dear to our hearts as it is our favorite type of lower-proof cocktails: shims! These drinks contain no more than half an ounce of strong spirits (i.e. those containing 40% ABV or above).

Heavy-hitters are fun to drink, sure, but it’s way too easy to over-consume and under-enjoy when you’re playing hardball. Let’s stretch out our evenings and get to sample a bigger variety by lowering the proof without lowering our standards. Shims don’t require giving up on flavor, complexity, or—interestingly enough—even your favorite ingredients. Get a new understanding of your favorite high-proof spirit by using just a half or quarter ounce of it along with a milder leading player. Or take a low-proof character actor that usually supplements the main show and see if it can take the lead.

This is a chance to get back in touch with the full spectrum of drink strength which defined mixed drinks in their first century or so. There’s a reason the Sherry Cobbler was insanely popular, dear friends. Or you can take this opportunity to invent new drinks in the latest style. Low-alcohol cocktails, particularly in restaurants, are still beginning their popularity climb this century. By their nature, lower alcohol drinks, especially those using wine-based main ingredients, are great choices for food pairings. If you’ve got the perfect accompaniment for your chosen cocktail, please share that with us too!

Still, I managed to squeeze in a mild tweet before the original deadline a couple Mondays ago, for an old unpublished standby I enjoy on occasion:

The food pairing in this case was a quick herbaceous dinner of grilled seasoned chicken, leftover chicken & herb couscous and green beans, but the cocktail's also a delicious cold-months aperitif, especially as we roll into winter citrus season and blood oranges become available. So here's the follow-up recipe:

Made with a proper blood orange.
Twitter-shim #1
1 1/2 oz Cynar
juice of a small blood orange
1/2 oz brandy
dash or two aromatic bitters
1 1/2 oz seltzer
full spiral/horse's neck peel of same blood orange for garnish

Cut garnish and wrap around a cocktail ice sphere, place in rocks glass.

Stir Cynar, juice, brandy and optional bitters on light ice.

Add seltzer to rocks glass. Strain cocktail over top.

Simple, bitter-rich, light and frankly nourishing and energizing. With a festive ruby hue taken from the blood orange juice. Amari and citrus will simply put you right with the world.

Usually I'll take it without the added brandy, but as an original recipe it seemed way too close to a simple recipe a spirit company might post on its website, hence a little complication while still retaining shim-itude. The Masson VSOP I used trended a bit too sweet here, so if using a sweet brandy, a touch of non-potable bitters should balance (Boker's would work well the Masson).

Cheers to everyone who participated, here's the round-up post.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


A bit of fortuitous happenstance - not only is today the last day of November, in that muddy interval between Thanksgiving and December holiday season proper (and a lazy Sunday to boot), it's also St. Andrew's Day! So have a lovely whisky tipple for an otherwise blah day. It may exactly fit the mood.

1 1/2 oz smoky blended scotch (Chivas 12)
3/4 oz SAGE
3/4 oz dry vermouth
6 drops walnut orgeat
6 drops coffee-bourbon tincture
1 bsp crème de cassis (sink)
dried, withered sprig sage

Stir, strain over ice sphere in rocks glass, sink cassis, garnish with sprig sage.

Depending on your orgeat, add only enough drops to create a louche effect and match with coffee-bourbon tincture. Over-dilution takes it out on the scotch, so beware.

This is an odd one to write about. My intent was to somehow evoke that gray overcast feel of November, away from any food-ular celebrations -- the vermouth's herbs, SAGE's tang and sharp herbs and scotch's mire-ly smoke all combine to do just that. The orgeat itself is meant to add a binding sweetness while also providing a faint louche/overcast quality (walnut being a more fitting flavor for the other ingredients than almond). The coffee-bourbon tincture helps modulate the sweetness while also providing a tad more flavor body to enunciate the scotch's smoke. And the cassis? That faint sink means twilight, which, thanks to its wonderful density, shifts as the glass is tilted -- nebulous shadows lingering on the outskirts, with a hit of berry right at the end.

If you don't have SAGE, Plymouth gin might do, though you'll lose that odd tang/flavor intensity, that weird disorientation of cold gray overcast days.

Coffee-bourbon tincture: 1/2 tablespoon of ground coffee in an ounce of bourbon. Stir and let soak 10 minutes. Coffee-filter away the grounds, bottle, store. Bourbon used to match the coffee's richness - that and it's what was ready at hand.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mixology Monday, October 2014: Perfect Symmetry

Good evening, lords and ladies. This month's Mixology Monday is upon us once again, and, before it gets any later, I'll turn things over to our host of the month, my Twitter bestie, the ever-dapper birthday gentleman Joel of Southern Ash blog (go visit and wish him well! And try the cassoulet!). He's back leading the charge for a month with the elegant theme Perfect Symmetry.
Perfect symmetry is your theme this month!  A “perfect” drink splits the liquor or liqueur evenly between two related ingredients.  The most common “perfect” drink is a Perfect Manhattan where the vermouth is split between sweet and dry to create an altogether different experience.  A perfect Old Fashioned splits the bourbon and rye are both used to create a singularly distinct experience. When done well, splitting the liquor lets each of the unique flavors and components of the shine through.  Because they share a background, they don’t war with each other but instead you get both the mellow sweetness of the bourbon with the spicy backbone of the rye in that Old Fashioned.  The dry vermouth can accentuate flavors in the Manhattan you might have missed. Why make a choice when you can have it all?!
To see what fearful symmetries (it is October after all!) the other cocktailers have divined, please click here when this link is active.

No matter how simple and straightforward a MxMo theme, there's always a kink to it. Sometimes you run out and get your ingredients only to taste your intended recipe crumble and muddle into fruit punch in your mouth, a victim of too much fruit juice, no matter how tart. Then there are those back-up recipes you kick around: oh what if you split the sloe gin with equally-tart cassis in this apple brandy or scotch duo cocktail? Only those ideas just don't wow and the ingredients seem dangerously close to not highlighting a real distinction, leaving you again back at square one.

But in spite of that, this month's theme has inspired gorgeous visuals, perhaps due to the Symmetry, and you start digging through the ol' cabinet, checking out the bottles you haven't touched in ages and could stand to use up before they go bad, realizing "hey, there's another bottle of red liqueur, and another, and that one's reddish too, oh and that one!". Then you realize you have too many bottles to do a proper BoozeNerds-style round robin investigation into the combinatorics and it's all the papers up in the air again!

But the visuals keep lingering, dancing, twinkling jewel-toned gimlets in the mind's eye, tempting, tantalizing until you jump out over the abyss Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade-like 'cause you just have to know, theme or no theme. Would this recipe WORK?! Why make a choice when I really CAN have it all?!

(later this week I'll share with you one of my other non-perfect non-symmetrical recipes I generated in the process of finding this month's answer to the MxMo challenge)

Now you might look at all the ingredients, and perhaps before your head explodes you might wonder if it references anything. With the amari it's not too far off from a Negroni, for instance, or gin and sloe or gin and Yvette are natural pairings. More than that, it's somewhat of a riff on the classic Parisian cocktail, special to me because it was my first-ever gin cocktail....maybe not the best intro, but I got over that bump in the road. However, besides the two linked Parisian recipes, the cassis does tend to get downplayed in a lot of internet versions of the recipe to a mere few dashes. So this recipe aims to invert, nay explode, that sensibility.

1 oz gin
1 oz dry vermouth
1/4 oz Campari
1/4 oz Nonino
1/4 oz sloe gin (the good stuff)
1/4 oz crème de cassis (the good stuff)
1/4 oz grenadine (the good stuff)
1/4 oz Sorel
1/4 oz Crème Yvette
pomegranate arils or a cocktail cherry* to garnish

Stir. Strain. Up. Garnish.


*consider an unflavored or herbal-seasoned cocktail cherry rather than the regular baking spice notes. I used a cachaça, lime zest, ginger, and peppermint cherry here.

**I know, I know. No sweet vermouth? No ruby port?! Dryness is your friend, cacao-and-menthe little one.

I think the ratios above are probably the break-even point for the drink. With all the liqueurs (yes, nearly 2 ounces), there's inevitably a sugar-in-body sweetness. Whether it's too much for you or not over-the-top enough, that's up to you. My take is it could be a bit more over-the-top. Just say the hell with it, already, and drop down the gin and vermouth so the liqueurs can be explored in all their glory (in which case, shrink the size of the cocktail and do 1/2 oz each gin and vermouth and 1 tsp of each of the liqueurs). If you think it's too much, perhaps hold the gin and vermouth steady while diminishing the liqueurs to 1 tsp or 1 bsp each.

But consider something: apart from the grenadine (which, natch, in this case is pomegranate homemade with hibiscus and orange blossom water thrown in - I just happened to have a very convenient empty bottle) or perhaps the Yvette, none of the liqueurs are really all that sickly-sweet as the catch-phrase tends to get wantonly thrown around. Consider the bitter, sharp, herbal, dry and floral characteristics each brings to the party, and then further how the gin and vermouth act on them. Campari's a big gun, and its bitter lingers on the tongue after each sip, enhanced by the sloe which develops a flinty red berry note through earthy cassis to bold pomegranate-exotic grenadine. Nonino's soft herbs provide a structure on the nose and as the first drops reach your palate. Sorel's spices bring a soft zing on the underside of your tongue and the front roof of your mouth, a respite from the intensity of the other liqueurs. Yvette ties a bow to the proceedings, a bouncy just-so attitude on grenadine's springboard (while nowhere near eclipsing the bitterness).

Aside from all those details, without even having all that much time to play around with the components, to me it somehow matches my concept of what rubies should taste like, just from their visual aspect and perhaps even their smell. And it seems only fitting to keep the jewel theme going after Aquamarine this year, with a similar list of ingredients too!

As for the perfect symmetry? Call it an original recipe, with one really big 1 3/4 oz part split radially into a mystical seven.

Thanks to Joel for hosting a delicious theme - I can't wait to read what everyone else came up with as this one seems like it'll bring out the deep-noodling. Thanks also to cat-herder-in-chief Fred Yarm of cocktail virgin - way to keep coordinating the mojo month after month! It's real joy and honor to be part of this community. 'Night all!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Mixology Monday, September 2014: The Unknown

Welcome back, peeps! Mixology Monday has rolled around yet again and it seems like between today's recipe and last week's HAL 9000 Goes South for the Winter in a Pink Tutu, this is the month to Remember the Hell Kitten (you'll see), 2 years from its origin at MxMo 65, the first under the auspices of head kitty wrangler Fred Yarm.

This month our fine host is Chris of A Bar Above, an inexhaustible source for cocktail know-how, with the theme, The Unknown.
(Cue dramatic music)

Ok, ok… It’s not quite as dramatic as I make it out to be.

Basically the idea is to try something new, an ingredient or technique that you’ve never had experience with before and create a cocktail around it.
Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
  • Use a spirit that you’ve never used before. It could be a base spirit, modifier or that Belgian Ale that rings in at 15% alcohol.
  • Use an ingredient that has always captured your imagination in the supermarket. Maybe that weird looking fruit that you always walk by at Whole Foods, or that unusual looking vegetable that you can’t even pronounce.
  • Use a new technique that you’ve never tried, but have always wanted to. Have you been dying to make your own vermouth, amaro, or martini glass made completely out of flavored sugar.
Scamper down the rabbit hole when this link is active to know The Unknown. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Friday night, MoD's lair, planning session

MoD: Ok, my little research buddy, what've you got for me?
Boomer: You need to give me more walnuts. And mulled cider, yeah that's the ticket.
..because it's fall, or..?
Lady, have you taken a look at your ingredients rollcall lately? Have you perhaps considered doing tamer recipes for a year instead of something new and adventurous at every turn? Maybe cut down on the special orders of clitoria from Thailand?
Well I have to learn somehow.... Running into difficulties with ideas?
Let me put it this way: I've compiled a short list of things you haven't done yet.
Ok, this ought to be interesting. Shoot.
Not really a fan of shrooms..
Ok. Mustard.
Ooh, that's one I really wanna do. Just don't know if the idea's there yet.
Vodka?! In this house?!
(have you seen the liquor cabinet?) No, potatoes. Fry us up some!
Let's get serious, babe.
Gefilte fish.
Twitter already ruled that one out for MxMo Preserves.
Dish soap.
Uh, honey..
Just making sure you were paying attention. Marmite and/or Vegemite.
That's more for sandwiches.
You're a fruitcake.
Oh I am!? Isn't that marvellous? Studded with candied fruit they could stop-motion CGI me.. I'd like to thank the academy..
You are indeed, little one.
Ok, the piece de resistance, you know this one would kick tail: fish eyeball!
*facepalm* Morimoto-san has a restaurant right in town, hon. It'd steal his thunder.
Well ok then, here. Try seeing things from my perspective.
Your seed mix? I don't think distilled millet would go over. Oh Boomer..

Sunday night, MoD's returned from the grocery store

Boomer: Any luck at the store?
MoD: Eh, nothing really called out to me. We've got cassoulet ingredients,
but I guess I'll have to come up with something around here.
Dang it. Sounds like an all-nighter. Did you at least re-up on salsa?
Alas, no. Selection was weak and the only thing that sounded interesting was a peach-pineapple salsa.
But you don't like peach.
Right, so I got a pomegranate for a red-fruit contrast and some other things: make it fresh and all.
Ooh, n.......
*eyes meet*
I'll get the shaker.

What's that? Salsa? In a cocktail? Wait, what fresh hell is this?

Pineapple-Pomegranate Salsa (inspired by this recipe)
1 cup fine diced plum or cherry tomatoes
1 cup chopped pineapple
3/4 cup pomegranate arils
1/2 cup small dice green bell pepper
2 T minced red onion
1-2 minced serrano peppers
1 t minced fresh spearmint
1 t minced fresh ginger
1/8 t ground cloves
2 T white balsamic vinegar
1 T lime juice
1/8 t sea salt

Combine all, cover, let rest in the fridge overnight.

Ok, right. But how do you put it in a cocktail? Like this!

Maria Dances to Tito Puente
4 oz (liquid) juiced pomegranate-pineapple salsa
1 oz habanero-infused blanco tequila
1 dash orange bitters (Angostura)

Shake all without ice to combine, then pour into a Collins glass with a few cubes of ice. Garnish wildly with salsa ingredients - mint is especially nice.

Despite the smaller ratio of the tomatoes, you still get a good tomato-ey body and flavor, just with lots of other flavors poking through. Bright pineapple to start, with a tinge of citrus, vegetal green to keep things savory, ginger rounding and a fabulous mint nose with delectable heat on the back of your tongue. You can almost taste the corn chips with which you would scoop the salsa. The bitters also add a savory dimension (kinda like Worcestershire sauce) which helps your palate recognize the drink as being in the Bloody Mary family.

Now granted, you could just skip the salsa step and go straight to juicing the ingredients for a large batch, but it is interesting to taste how a fresh salsa could be transmuted into a Bloody Mary style cocktail.

Boomer: Wait wait wait, so what was the new thing? You've done tomatoes before (even if one was ketchup). The tequila's not new. And you know you've done similar compote-y stuff already.

MoD: Right, but one was cooked and and I never put the fruited guacamole in a drink.

Boomer: But what then?

MoD: Pomegranate, salsa, Bloody Mary style. That should be enough for one night.

G'night everyone! Thanks to Chris for hosting a devious devious theme and to Fred for rounding up all the hellcats and hellchillins - mind the spicy tequila - woo doggy!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

HAL 9000 Goes South for the Winter in a Pink Tutu

Hello Dave.

*waits for the collective 72-car pile-up of whiplash to subside*

Yes, here I am with a new recipe and it's not Mixology Monday. I gots me energy back! Woohoo! (Remember kids, get your zinc. Cheeseburgers are good for you and rev your metabolism!)

There's no accounting for cravings. Late last winter/early spring (TwitPic of a later tester version) I had a rough day at work and all I knew was I wanted to throw an impromptu cocktail together that would function as a targeted aerial strike while not thinking too much and maybe getting to throw in a few leftover ingredients to help use them up.

I knew I wanted the rare bite of anise and caraway (and that's how you know something deeper was talking) of Krogstad, the only aquavit I've yet tried. Gin and juniper in this case would be far too mild.

To that -- and this is clearly the craving again -- well, remember the Hell Kitten way back when, with its strawberry and hibiscus ice cubes (each flavor in separate cubes)? A fridge defrost happened between then and previous then, leaving me with refrozen strawberry-hibiscus cubes: all the density and tart-sweetness of homemade strawberry juice with the astringent flavor-rich balancing quality of hibiscus tea.

I suppose (and please pardon the mixed metaphors, my mild synethesia makes me see flavors as colors), as the other ingredients reveal themselves here, you could say that I'm not a fan of easy straight-down-the-line pale-flavored ingredient cocktail recipes. By that I mean those recipes that don't take any chances: white spirits, paired with green tea, a little lemon, cucumber, light herbs, and so on and so forth. Those sorts of recipes just seem sedate, if not downright dour, and leave me cold - the exact opposite remedy for rough days. Ok, so I have a BIG white spirit ingredient and I end up layering that on golden ginger beer: let's make a painting. Potent brown-black down deep, a trickle of green between, all resting on an orange sun. And these soft red ice cubes, fluttering on high off to the right, that round the drink to which they're added? Warms me right up.

But but but...caraway and strawberry? I know, I know. And those do end up being predominant flavors. The rest of the cocktail ends up being a study in bridging elements, starting with the fact that there wasn't nearly enough savory spice in it yet. That led to the clove-heavy bottle of falernum in the fridge and much tinkering into an acceptable degree of drinkability and interest that night, but gee let's just get to the recipe already.

HAL 9000 Goes South for the Winter in a Pink Tutu
1 1/2 oz Krogstad aquavit
3/4 oz Plantation 5 Star rum
3/4 oz falernum*
1/2 oz Benedictine
2 dashes orange bitters (Angostura and Fee's are a good combo)
2 ounce-sized strawberry-hibiscus ice cubes** (plus 2 ounce-sized water ice cubes)
2 oz ginger beer

Ahead of time, add specified ice cubes to your serving glass and set in freezer to chill.

Shake first 5 ingredients on light ice.

Add ginger beer to your serving glass.

Strain shaken drink into your serving glass and stir to get the ingredients combined, the ice beginning to melt and color the cocktail.

Garnish ingrediently and Tiki-ly. For the above garnish: cut the nose off a strawberry and down-skewer it, attaching a thin curlicue of lime zest for arms beneath, then an upside-down hibiscus tutu. Stud strawberry robotically with cloves.

* if like me, you do a Kaiser Penguin-style juiceless falernum, remember to add 1 part fresh lime juice to every 2 parts falernum syrup (so, 1/4 oz lime juice to 1/2 oz falernum syrup for this recipe). Plus, when whipping up the falernum, make sure that your simple syrup is fully cooled before adding to your infusion, lest you nuke the clove notes. Demerara sugar syrup also makes for a great richness if you don't have access to Lemon Hart or similar.

**Strawberry-hibiscus ice cubes: juice a pint of strawberries (give an adequate chance to rest to let air content subside) and combine with an equal amount (liquid-wise) of strong hibiscus tea. Freeze in 1-ounce ice cube molds (Tovolo 1" cube molds work great here).

Give ol' Hal a swirlie to mix the ice. Whee!
(just use a more regular-shaped glass for evenness)
The star anise in the Krogstad facilitates a bridge to the baking spices of the falernum and the cinnamon in the Benedictine, while the caraway finds an unlikely ally in the particular bitter orange note of the Fee bitters (whose barrel-promoted fruity note makes fast friends with the strawberry) and hibiscus' astringency. Plantation 5 Star rum happens to be from Barbados, so it was a natural support element for the Bajan falernum while its big orange note linked up with Benedictine (the latter introduced some subtler spice to help round the profile); the two remain mostly in the background, but they add a smooth body that stops the seesawing between more intense elements and you can still pick up on the liqueur's bright holy note (have a Vieux Carre, see what I mean). The bitters further amplified these orange notes.

I'm not sure the cocktail is about "flavor" or "flavors" per se. It's bracing, biting, bitter, deeply fruity, fizzy-spicy, and refreshing to the bone. Could be that strawberry and ginger/spice is one of my favorite flavor pairings, a theme previously explored in Acrasia's Bower. (and similar recipes herehere, and here, for instance) You could probably break it down to nutritional details and geographical affinities to explain why your body is getting a 1-2-3 punch in a supremely envivening way. But when you have another rough day at work 5 months later and you're craving the exact same crazy recipe, you know there's something to it. (warning: you may get a buzz from this cocktail, but it might actually keep you up at night too. Mayhaps this calls for the right occasion and a lack of caffeine consumption prior to imbibing.) 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mixology Monday, August 2014: Coconuts!

*bong... bong...* It must be Mixology Monday midnight!

Welcome back, everybody, to the greatest cocktail party on the planet, or at least the blogosphere. We're rockin', we're rollin', and celebrating as the MxMo summer of Pina Colada gets its fitting bookend. In June we had Pineapple, so now we have Coconut. Let our host, JFL of Rated R Cocktails, keeping us Tiki-fied 24/7/365 give us the deets:
Ah the Coconut, so round, so firm, so fully packed…with flavor. You know back in March I seem to remember going on a regular madcap romance with this tropical icon. Infact I think I used coconut in just about every form I could. After all that you’d think I’d have had enough, and you’d be dead wrong. Coconut is versatile, coconut is magical, not only is it edible but it can be made into scores of products. However this month you need only concern yourself with the liquid variety as I unveil MxMo Coconut.

Yes friends it is my sincere belief the coconut does not get the love, nay the respect it so richly deserves. Because this easy going tropical seed had it’s heyday in the Tiki era it’s happily associated with the same fun loving drinks. Infact this ingredient is well within the Tiki wheelhouse yours truly occupies. Despite all the great Tiki drinks coconut appear in most people are down on the humble seed because of the Pina Colada. Friends this need not be so, I say we take this delicious ingredient and show it can yield a tasty, well balanced cocktail. It doesn’t have to be tropical necessarily. I’d really love to see some of my friends more classically minded come up with a cocktail more befitting a pre-prohibition mindset.
Check back in: when this link is active you can see what everyone did with our lovely bunch of coconuts.

Sometimes puns hit you with all the force of an unladen swallow at maximum airspeed velocity.

But then for some reason there can be a serious turn. Back in June I had been looking for some precedents to latch a recipe onto (there's MxMo Maestro Fred's Bikini Atoll, for instance) and then began delving into the history of the Marshall Islands. Maybe I misremembered from history class, or it was post-WW2 material that got rushed, but I had been under the impression that the site of nuclear testing was deserted -- and not that the inhabitants had been relocated. Or that the site remains radioactive and not very inhabitable, though environmental rehabilitation efforts have been and are still under way.

Beyond-words downer, I know. So, instead of a cheeky angle on this recipe, despite the cheeky name, that bit of knowledge made me want to create an atole riff reflective and respectful of Marshall Islands culture and the general region.

For those who haven't heard of atole (ah-TOE-lay) before, it's a popular Mexican hot beverage combining milk and sugar, thickened with masa harina into a creamy custard-like sipper. Basic atole can be flavored with vanilla and cinnamon, though the sky's the limit with a broad range of fruit flavors and of course chocolate. Even on hot summer nights this virgin beverage soothes down deep.

So then, off to the islands of the South Pacific and thereabouts - keep an eye out for Java, Ceylon, Tahiti, and of course, the Marshall Islands, where copra, aka our theme ingredient, Coconut, is a staple and important source of income for the islanders.

Bikini Atole*
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup milk
1 strip lime zest (length of lime, 1" wide)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 T coconut palm sugar
4 t masa harina flour (fine-milled)
1/4 oz passionfruit syrup
1 1/2 oz Batavia Arrack
1/2 oz vanilla-infused cognac liqueur**
toasted coconut and cinnamon dust for garnish

Add Batavia Arrack to your serving mug in preparation.

Add the regular milk, zest, cinnamon stick, and sugar to a small pot on the stove and gently bring to a simmer while stirring, helping the accents infuse, about 10 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and masa harina, bringing to a boil and whisking briskly throughout (boiling brings out masa's thickening magic).

Reduce to a simmer and keep stirring until desired thickness is reached, then whisk in passionfruit syrup and vanilla cognac liqueur.

Strain your atole into your serving mug, whisking to incorporate the arrack (bottom-up incorporates better than top-down).

Garnish with toasted coconut flakes and fresh grated cinnamon.

*no relation to Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini Punch, albeit my apricot brandy and vanilla cognac liqueur are Remy half-bottle brethren.

**vanilla cognac liqueur: 2 vanilla beans in a half-bottle of cognac for 3 days. To this, add 1/2 part 2:1 rich simple syrup.

Nose: coconut, cinnamon, corn.

Sip: a house party. Lime dances with vanilla then switches to brandy. Cinnamon and corn chat cattily from the sidelines. Coconut and arrack swirl underneath it all tilting the cocktail in exotic directions with some additional chocolate notes. But, it remains warm, creamy, comforting atole.

The coconut milk in this recipe made the balance a little difficult to pin down. I had a great version at first, but it was too sweet. When I removed some ingredients, though, it wound up collapsing into indistinct mildness. Adding the passionfruit syrup back in, with its equally sweet and sour nature, similar to orange and pineapple juice, was the key: just a bit of acidity to delineate flavors, without inspiring the milks to curdle. The lime zest, normally too strong and bitter when used as a garnish or otherwise in spirit-forward cocktails, likewise brightens what the dairy would otherwise dampen.

Cheers to JFL for a fab theme and challenge. I'd never worked with coconut milk before and it was a great learning experience. If you're interested in everything you can do with coconut, folks, go check out his site: he's done a full month-long series on all the applications of coconut in cocktails, in addition to other theme months. Thanks also to Fred for keepin' them crazy cats reciting poetry in cafes.

'Night everybody!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Mixology Monday, July 2014: The Smash

Ooga chaka!
Ooga chaka!
Ooga ooga ooga chaka!
Iii-iiii-iii'm mixin' on Monday..

So who here's in a party mood tonight? I hope you are because we're in the last hour of this month's edition of the best cocktail party on the web, Mixology Monday. This time around we're celebrating the Smash, that particular bracing cocktail formula that, well, I'll let the vivacious eponymous-blogging Stacy Markow, our hostess for the month, take it away:
I’m proud to announce that July’s theme is all about the Smash, those ice-laden, refreshing concoctions designed to celebrate my favorite things about life: stiff drinks and warm weather.
It’s no surprise that in 1862 Jerry Thomas was the first to declare that “the Smash is simply a julep on a small plan.” The drink originally gets its name from the way mint was smashed up in the shaking process.
Fast forward twenty-five or so years later and barman Harry Johnson addresses the Smash as a separate cocktail from the julep entirely and expands the components to include “fruits in season.”
What little was originally written about the Smash can lead most to believe it wasn’t a terribly popular beverage, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. According to David Wondrich, the author of Imbibe!
“From it’s first appearance in the mid 1840′s until after the Civil War, the Smash was just about the most popular thing going. In the 1850′s, at the height of the Smash’s popularity, all the “pert young men, ” the Broadway dandies, San Francisco swells, and junior New Orleans grandissimes, seemed to spend the warm months of the year with a Smash glued to one hand and a “segar” to the other. In fact, the Smash rather became an icon of dissipation”
Johnson’s smashes resemble many modern interpretations found on cocktail menus today. With that said, the basic elements of the drink have remained the same over the years: they always include a spirit base, lots of ice, fresh herbs (the most popular being mint), sugar, and seasonal fruit.
Let’s get ultra creative, smash things, and then drown them in alcohol and ice. Allow your creativity take flight and concoct sweet and/or savory combos to remember using any fruit or herbs you can get your hands on.
When active, follow this link to see what everyone smashed together!

So at first I was noodling, maybe going a particular culinary flavor profile direction, make the drink all fancy, but that petered out before it really got started. Instead, it hit me that I had a recipe idea that I've been saving since even before Feu de Vie was incepted. Oh, I had been planing on starting up the blog since perhaps autumn 2011 and was slowly coming up with ideas for posts, but coming up with the blog's name took forever (and most services won't let you even start without the name in place).

This recipe was born out of my torrid love affair with cachaca that summer, the kind of magic that was made in a simple Caipirinha, and my own (wry) observations on the cocktail blog/tweetsphere and their own torrid love affair with rye whiskey (not a lot's changed, I know).

But, as I got into the swing of things, the plot bunnies of recipe ideas took off and this particular recipe got shelved until perhaps a more seasonally appropriate time during the summer. Then I ran out of an ingredient and couldn't find it again. So the recipe got shelved right next to the Ark of the Covenant, Jimmy Hoffa, and that book I'll be writing til I die in the burbling volcanic Doom Caverns of Developing Ideas.

But, no more! Here, finally, was the perfect time to bring it out into the light! Except it wasn't quite a Smash. It had spirit, sugar, citrus..but it lacked an herb.

Oh, hey, peppermint you say? ...that could work.

Who says brown spirits are for the cold months? In the spirit of the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, I give you..

The Gussied-Up Rye-pirinha
3 oz rye whiskey
1/2 tablespoon demerara sugar
1/4 lemon, cut into muddling pieces
6-8 blueberries
1 sprig peppermint, for muddling
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 sprig peppermint, for garnish

As in a Caipirinha, muddle the blueberries, lemon and Angostura in your serving glass (rocks/double old-fashioned) with the demerara sugar; the sugar crystals will provide great friction for muddling in general and for abrading the lemon peel to help extract its oils.

Add in the mint sprig for muddling, pressing gently on the stem where most of the plant's oils are kept while otherwise going easy on the leaves.

Add in the rye and medium-size serving ice. Seal a shaker tin over top of the glass, invert, and give a few good shakes to thoroughly mix, chill, and start the ice dilution.

Invert again so the mixed drink sits in the serving glass and remove the shaker. Garnish with another sprig of peppermint.


The spirit greets you on the nose with faint sugar and berry lingering under the garnish's icy menthol. Further nosing reveals an orange/lemon note. Tasting, spice tickles across your tongue from the rye, mint and bitters. As the drink dilutes, lemon's astringency steps up while not completely overpowering a sugary berry note. A bit earthy and moody for a Smash, a cocktail structure that generally implies brightness and a lift from even dark spirits.

Make sure to use a good punchy rye - the always-potent peppermint needs a worthy match (and, I tend to think: spearmint with bourbon and peppermint with rye). For this Gussied-Up version, I used Dad's Hat Vermouth Barrel-Aged Rye, which threw me for a wallop the first time I tried it. It was off the charts in menthol and spice that I'm sure it picked up in the barrel-aging process and a certain "red" quasi-berry attribute in color and taste as well -- beyond their basic aged expression profile, which was also notable on the palate.
The Rye-pirinha (original) circa early 2012:
omit the peppermint and garnish with

Also, demerara, demerara, demerara. It may seem counter-intuitive when you consider how white sugar perks up the blueberry, lemon and peppermint, but the rye (and Ango) loves how the smoky brown sugar brings everything together with depth. White sugar's brightness just wouldn't be the thing here, and in fact, lack of demerara is what made me push off this recipe for years until I finally found it again.

Finally, special thanks to the folks at Herrcastle Farms in Holtwood, PA, who have a stand at the Lancaster County Farmer's Market - one of my fave ingredient hot spots. I was able to request a bunch of peppermint this past Friday afternoon (just as they were staging for the next's day's shipment, natch) for the next day - no mean feat since peppermint tends to be infrequently purchased and the market is only open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. My blueberries for the recipe also came from them.

Big thanks to Stacy for an ideal theme for the season and to Fred for the cat-wrangling - I can only imagine the mischief and mayhem they're getting up to with a theme like this.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mixology Monday, June 2014: Pineapple!

Greetings one and all, it's Mixology Monday time (which, as you might've figured out by now in my twisted timeframes is always too close to the deadlines for any comfort whatsoever). Thiago of Bartending Notes is our host this month, with a theme perfect for the summer months or for dreams of the summer months: Pineapple!
Let’s bring the king of fruits back! After being canned, mixed with all sorts of sugary liquids and blended into guilty pleasures not to be named some 80s dreadful cocktails, the pineapple needs more respect!

Once a symbol of hospitality, the King of fruits might be know misunderstood. One of the greatest non-citrus souring agents, used for crazy garnish ideas, infusions, old gum syrup flavoring, the pineapple is a fruit to be reckoned.

Be in a tiki cocktails, an old school classic like the Algonquin, a crazy flavor pairing or just mixed in a delicious Verdita, get creative and make a cocktail using any part of this delicious, juicy fruit or share you favorite pineapple cocktail with us!
When active, follow this link to see what pineappley goodness everyone concocted!

So what pairs with pineapple? Besides the usual rum, coconut, vanilla, baking spices, lime?


I know, I know, let's not let the suspense linger any further.

Island Laurel
1 1/2 oz dry white rum (Brugal Extra Dry)
3/4 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 tsp Becherovka liqueur
2-3 sprigs fresh oregano + oregano garland for garnish

In a rocks glass, lightly press the sprigs of oregano in the rum.

Add pineapple juice, Becherovka and ice (crushed would be nice here).

Stir briefly to chill and dilute.

Garnish with an oregano garland for fresh aroma.

Yes, fresh oregano in a cocktail, and it's not meant to smell/taste like pizza. The thing I really like about this herb when fresh is its almost-floral-yet-resinous quality. You just don't get that from a shaker of dried leaves.

I picked up my bottle of Brugal Extra Dry recently on clearance, since I needed a white rum in stock. Excellent bottle and very cocktail-friendly. When I first opened, nosed, tasted, with a partial mind to this month's pineapple theme, the first thing that cried out at me was fresh oregano of all things (yes, in combination with the rum and pineapple). Probably some kind of unholy vanilla, passionfruit, dry vermouth flavor association going on.

So, after melodramatically throwing up my hands and giving up one too many times with too many other ideas -- and struggling with pineapple's sour yet also quite sweet aspect throwing off the balance of sweeter-oriented cocktails -- I turned back to the original dry-oriented flavor combination. Yeah, it's an odd way to use pineapple, but I like its understated yet very present turn in this drink. A lilting floral quality on the tongue, like a slightly-sweet Martini.

The Becherovka I threw in just to balance the sweetness, and it's a great pairing with pineapple in general, like I found out with Giganta. Though, yes, I was trepidatious about pairing its baking spice goodness with the oregano. Turns out oregano pairs well with cinnamon, however -- whoda thunk?

Mega thanks to our host Thiago for offering to accept this way past due. Pineapple sure was beguiling as a theme, but surprising too. Can't wait to see what everyone else came up with.

Big thanks to Fred Yarm of cocktail virgin slut for lifting the MxMo torch high so we herd of cats know which direction to look.

Thanks also to Mixology Monday founder Paul Clarke for starting one of the best institutions on the web.

Saúde & cin cin!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mixology Monday, May 2014: Aw, Nuts!

*sigh* Hi there, everybody. Boomer here. I suppose MoD does this whenever MxMo threatens to get a but nutty, but she's had issues of late (I'll let her do that talk at some point) and I guess that's why I'm being brought out again.

*scampers up the grandfather clock* Anyway, to start things off in the right position..

It's Mixology Monday time!!! This month's host is the vivacious Elana of Stir and Strain, with the daring, politically incorrect, non-hypoallergenic theme: Aw, Nuts! (we're a bunch of rebels, sister, I tell ya -- and I like it! *shows off pouches distorted and stuffed with walnut halves*)
Nuts? Yes! A few months back I tried, and was wowed by, a peanut-y take on an Old Fashioned at a bar here in L.A. They had infused peanuts in bourbon and with a touch of honey had made magic. Nuts of all sorts make it into cocktails now. Some black walnut bitters here, the sweet almond flavor of orgeat there… circus peanuts. Your challenge is to utilize nuts (and since we’re NOT adhering to the strict rules of what are nuts, peanuts and walnuts both count) in any way you see fit to create a cocktail. Infusions, bitters, almond tinctures are all game. Amaretto, homemade nocino, Frangelico too. Go nuts! (…sorry)
When active, this link will point you to the round-up of nutty funstuffs.

Now to the story of the real nut of the party, MoD for deciding to take on the magic of hickory nuts of all things. (why God, why? why did you make such precious delicious nuts so hard? I have no teeth left!)

The idea was certainly a late-breaking one, yet it happened with just enough time to spare to put in for a special order of rum, picked up this evening (ain't no dickorying around in the system, that's for sure). The hickories had actually been for another idea, possibly with RC Cola, but development's moved slow of late. With some additional research the basic orgeat blossomed into 3 different recipes to try (one on loan). You may hear about the others soon enough, but tonight's cocktail eschews the basic orgeat (with rose water) for the loaner Hickory Syrup, as linked but with some cocktailian-minded mods.

But hickory nuts? Honey, buy them pre-shelled because they iz a bitch. The fortunate thing is that the frustration of shelling them is balanced by the joy of hitting things with hammers! Hickory nuts are closely related to the pecan, same squiggly brain-shape you find with them or walnuts, but so very intractable to remove from the adamantium-like shell.

A few tips that we picked up along the way, gleaned from practice and various spots around the web that I can't quite find (so don't go praising for flights of genius or anything):

1) Pre-soak your nuts for half an hour in room-temp water. As much as it might be a concern that the nut oils might leach before you can make a syrup with them, the shells are so thick that the water doesn't come close to those precious-precious oils. Instead, the shell becomes more shock-absorbent, making hammer blows that much more likely to hit the mark.

2) I read on an historical site that hickory nuts used to be quite a staple of some Native American tribes, and to crack the issue of mass-processing, the entire nut, shell and all, was pounded into a nut-flour using a mortar and pestle, about the size of a butter churn, thereabouts. Well, no butter churn at home, but we did have a marble mortar and pestle for spice grinding. It wound up being perfect for positioning a single nut in the mortar, balancing the pestle on a pressure point, then hitting the pestle with my blunt hammer (rubber and plastic ends instead of a regular metal hammer head). Even with the gentler hammer, the pestle did chip slightly against the nut shells.

3) No need to hammer incessantly on a nut. There's a small seam that runs from the nut-end to the stem-end. Position your pestle on the seam perhaps 1/3rd of the way from the nut-end and hit the pestle until you hear a distinct shell-crack. It may not cleave the nut in two, but at that point you only need gentle taps to complete the cleaving - no need to have the nut explode on you. The same aural technique is also helpful when breaking down the nut further (because the nut meat tends to squiggle into the shell in narrow passageways that grow wider again, hence much more whacking).

4) I've also heard that vises may be useful for these nuts, so kudos if you have one!

But now then: have you heard the one about Bugs Bunny the Bartender explaining to a patron the substitution made on his regular rum-hazelnut cocktail? "'s a hickory daiquiri, doc!" I'm somehow disturbed that I can't find anyone who's made this cocktail before. Really people, it's 2014 already.

Hickory Daiquiri
2 oz dark/aged rum (Prichard's)
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz hickory syrup
Lime and/or hickory nuts for garnish

Shake. Double-strain. Garnish with lime and/or hickory nuts as is your wont. Waft off to NeverNeverLand as you sip.

To make a Hickory Daiquiri D.O.C., use a mildly-aged rhum agricole and speak Italian instead of French while you make it. :)

Warm sugar and toffee on the nose with a hickory je ne sais quoi and lime notes from the garnish. The rum brings a potent depth on the tongue, the lime's acid rising as it nears the throat, with a creamy/musky hickory overlay that demands slow sipping and exploration.

Though never having tried the rum before, Prichard's seemed the perfect choice, simply for having been produced in the old New England way -- in Tennessee, natch. (seriously, how many hickory trees do you find in the Caribbean?) The rum's aged qualities defeated the regular hickory orgeat: there's a warm, buttery toffee Mother's Milk quality to the orgeat, and it was drowned out by similar notes in the rum. The dark spirit needed something more potent to match (evidently the orgeat needs a white spirit; a light whisky may serve for the smoked orgeat).

Hickory Syrup - follow the recipe for Hickory Syrup here, but:
1) Change the sugar from brown to demerara for a finer taste.
2) Let the nuts steep as you like, adding more water if you feel it reduces too fast or too much.
3) Measure the final liquid quantity at the end of steeping and alter the amount of sugar from 3/4 part of the nuts to equal amounts with the final liquid to create a cocktail-friendly 1:1 syrup.
4) Avoid the corn starch, you don't need it in your drink and once the syrup is cooled it'll be a fine consistency for mixing as-is.

Stay tuned for more hickory and otherwise nutty goodness in the coming days and weeks: MoD didn't spend whole weekends shelling nuts and making syrups just to have them go to waste!

Many thanks to Elana for hosting and yet another brilliant theme [JotJ will be coming 'round the mountain soon, just slow-paced], and to Fred for a brilliant job coordinating some great themes month after month after month.

*bong!* *the clock strikes one* G'night folks! *climbs down the clock*

Hickory Dickory Dock.