Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mixology Monday, March 2014: Preserves, part 2

[Insert picture here when taken - this particular composition needs natural, morning light, and a very specific prop. It'll be up Wednesday morning. moving real slow this week -- The Management]

Welcome back to Mixology Monday here at Feu de Vie! We've got a second, much more classically-hewing recipe for this month's theme: Preserves. (Head on over to Craig Umpleby's A World of Drinks, where there will soon be a round-up post of all the delightful concoctions.)

One of the best things about being a cocktailian and someone who late-bloomed from being a picky eater is discovering the wide range of flavors and foods in the world at an age where it can best be appreciated. Even better, so many new fruit flavors and more can be explored within the relatively "safe" medium of a preserve. Heck, as soon as I moved out from home it was a bottle of currant jelly and a bottle of apricot preserves, and it was all downhill from there (with maybe a little tequila thrown in for good measure).

Following up on that initial impulse, visits to HomeGoods and other stores with obscure offerings are a regular occurrence now. And, despite the gigantic brand name (literally, just look at the lettering on any of the blue-and-yellow buildings), IKEA has been home to some can't-find-anywhere-else ingredients: gooseberry preserves, pear soda, the best price anywhere on lingonberries, and then, the very-new-to-me pièce de resistance: cloudberry jam.

Ethereal, floral, much like honey but fruitier and more floral again.

JAM SOUR. Full stop.

But before getting to the recipe to showcase these show-stoppers, first a little background on these rare delicacies. A drupe like raspberries and blackberries but bright golden orange with rosy undertones, cloudberries tend to grow at mostly northern latitudes comprising Scandinavia and the British Isles, Russia, Canada and Alaska, and go by other names like salmonberry and bakeapple. In Sweden, they are Hjortron (ready-made for a Jeff Bridges-meets-Dr. Seuss mash-up - and I'm not talking White Russians). In Finland, they are Lakka.

So to show off these little gems, a nice dry white spirit was in order. Having used tequila and rum of late, and gin being a bit of a flavor show-off itself, grape-spirited pisco with brandy's affinity for fruit flavors seemed the right way to go. Further, the honeyed aspect of the jam put in mind a number of other honey-sweetened sours like the Brown Derby, the Airmail, the Bee's Knees, etc.. The Brown Derby's grapefruit led me to the Seventh Heaven and the El Floridita, and then finally searching Kindred Cocktails for "pisco" and "grapefruit juice." A number of Pisco Sour riffs popped up, most hewing rather closely to the style of the Miraflores, the direct model I used here.

Ah, so the cloud-berries of Scandinavia and the towering heights of the Andes. Sounds like a recipe for climbing a beanstalk to the whimsical heights of the Mushroom Kingdom.

2 oz pisco
3/4 oz ruby red grapefruit juice
1/4 oz lime juice
(fat) 1/2 oz cloudberry jam
1 egg white
1 dash Teapot bitters
2 dashes Boker's bitters
garnishes: dropper of dark-colored (pimento) bitters for egg white art, 
unshelled lychee nuts or rambutan

Dry shake, wet shake, double-strain into a chilled coupe.
Garnish like you're 7 years old on summer vacation in the mid-'80s.

So it's not lychee or rambutan season, apparently, let alone would fresh cloudberries be available. *sigh* [the final pic will be worth it -- that is to say, substitute a fresh lychee or rambutan for the dried jujube hanging off the glass, and fresh cloudberries instead of raspberries for the Spinies]

A simple, happy sour, with or without garnish. The cloudberry features strongly, supported by the grapefruit juice (I also tried both white and pink grapefruit here - the bitterness of both detracted and stood out like a sore thumb), the hint of lime keeping the recipe bright and shapely. To mimic Miraflores' dual bitters, I selected a pair from Dr. Adam Elmegirab's collection (their rum base harmonizes well here): the strong/spicy Boker's to weight and whimsical Teapot to match the Nintendo attitude and further decorate the cloudberry. The pimento bitters for decoration also mimics the Peychaud's bitters' anise, while providing handy colorant for a certain image.

Cheers to Craig for a wonderful hosting job and a fun theme, and to Fred, as always for the cat wrangling - may you never be turned into a wolf and have to hunt down 20 cats in an abandoned one-street western town, just for a measly piece of heart.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mixology Monday, March 2014: Preserves, part 1

It's not easy, bein' green..

Ahh...see? I told ya (you? Someone. I told someone..) I'd be back in good form, posting in-time for Mixology Monday once the vernal equinox had passed. And frankly it feels quite good to be back in the swing of things, the creativity engine done rested and ready to get back to regular recipe-making. Many thanks to my dear Boomer for getting last month's post out, even if too late to the party; he does me proud -- though there are those rare times where I see him eying the Scorpion bowl while unstuffing his snorkel set from his pouch.. It's a good thing hamsters have oversized livers.

But anyways...

We've got a great theme this month. Craig of A World of Drinks, who blogs all the way over in China and offers an intriguing perspective on shaking the good shake in an ingredient/resource landscape a bit different than what you might find elsewhere, is our host this month. He brings us a theme that hits both the Easy and/or Crafty buttons simultaneously: Preserves.
For this month's challenge I would like to take us back to the humble beginnings of the cocktail bar, the days when bartenders didn't have the luxury of daily deliveries of ingredients from around the world. In these times bartenders would have been uncertain when they would again have the privilege to work with special ingredients so would naturally try to make the most of them. As a result of this restrictive access to many ingredients we today take for granted many methods used in home kitchens for years began to find their ways in to bars. Such methods of preservation such as syrups and preserves have been staple ingredients behind the bar ever since, while others such as shrubs and sherbets were relatively short lived.

The aim of the challenge is to go back to the days of the preserve, pick an ingredient, seasonal or not and treat it as if you won’t be seeing it again for quite some time. Syrups, sorbets, jam, shrubs and the like are all fair game, anything that will preserve the integral character of your favourite ingredient.
As always, dear reader, when active, this link will point you to the summary post of this month's festivities.

As seems usual anymore, it takes a little bit to get the old wheels a'spinnin when it comes to MxMo themes. But one morning as I was waking up and deciding to get down to brass tacks, running the ideas of jams, jellies, shrubs and all through my head...the lightning bolt (savory in flavor), of course, struck: PICKLE PUNCH!

There are plenty of preserved items out there, not all of them automatically considered cocktail ingredients, but if used in the right way, well, why not? And on that note, to add a personal meander, genuine musings and unintentional links galore: like I mentioned on the Aquamarine, spring perhaps brings me back around to a certain set of ingredients like Meyer lemon juice or Skinos or Hendrick's, moreso than any other season. Not only that, but it seems my mental palette with this recipe has expanded beyond mere flavors to MxMo themes and recipes: unlikely ingredients, condiments and even Bein' Green. Not much of a point to the list, but I figure it's good artistic practice to step back and note idea sources where it fits, my ideas or others'.

The aside aside, Pickle Punch brought up a recipe idea or two I was tinkering with for the last couple of years, but more for summer, dealing with lily-pad-like garnishes: one branching off into something tranquil and Monet-like, then another becoming much more funky, with the working name Frog Pond*.

*note: there's actually already a cocktail called Frog Pond by our/MxMo's own Fred Yarm and it is creatively OFF-THE-HOOK from the funky flavors to the perfect visuals. *bows down*

This one tastes like someone should be plucking a mouth harp in the muggy background while others shoot skeet - but in the best way possible!

The Squeaky Frog aka Pickle Punch
1 part homemade pickle brine
1 part Skinos mastiha liqueur 
2 parts Meyer lemon juice
2 parts Hendrick's gin
2 parts blanco tequila
4 parts strong green tea
homemade pickles or a delicate froggy gherkin tip resting on a thin slice of fresh cucumber

Shake all on light ice to chill, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass or punch cup. Garnish.**

**the above-pictured garnish may have been a cuke fluke. Having attempted to recreate later with an actual pickle and more fresh cuke slices, it appears that the one above may have floated due to being a slightly-dry end piece. Pre-dried slices (of the thin-but-still-sturdy category) might be the answer. Maybe dry the pickles like banana chips?

The Hendrick's and pickles' English cucumber come to the fore immediately, undergirded by a weird vegetal aspect from all the other ingredients. Pickle spice dances throughout, but isn't overwhelming. I like it for what it is: it does have a refreshing quality and a punch-like balance, all while creating this specific vibe of tepid, algae-covered bayou - yes I just described my own cocktail that way. Manhattan or even G&T perfection it ain't, but it might be worth trying (or batching) for a lark, just to experience a very precise achievement of flavor - which might then give you new ideas of your own!

Stay tuned for one more MxMo recipe, 1-UPs for your patience.

Quick homemade bread & butter refrigerator pickles
1 cup 1/4" sliced English cucumber rounds
3/4 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 T mustard seeds
1/2 T coriander seeds
1 t allspice berries
tiny pinch tumeric
even tinier pinch red chili flake

Add your cucumber slices to a colander and lightly toss with salt to coat. Set the colander over a bowl and cover, letting rest an hour or more. Once the slices are adequately drained of excess water, rinse away the salt, pat dry, and add to an adequately-sized sterile mason jar (not too big, you want the brine to cover the slices).

Meanwhile, in a pot on the stove, add the remaining ingredients. Bring the ingredients to a boil, dissolving the sugar, then turn the heat off and let cool. Once cool, add to the mason jar and cover the slices. Put the lid on tight and set in the fridge to work its magic for at least four hours, preferably overnight. Eat within 2 weeks - they might be lucky to see Day 2.

I basically combined these two recipes into a happy medium, wanting to keep the sugar and vinegar equally-balanced as you would do in a shrub.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Impromptu: The Blade Hopper

The Blade Hopper
1 cup chocolate milk
1 shot Fernet Branca

Shake chocolate milk (or component parts) plus Fernet Branca with a cube of ice or two. Strain over large cube(s) in a rocks glass.

(as you might notice, I added a generous pinch of cocoa powder to ramp up the chocolate in mine and keep the sweetness from the chocolate syrup better balanced)

Rich chocolate and bitter menthol go together in a refreshing dream.

Quite possibly the world's best post-workout/hangover cure/I-ate-too-much-but-still-want-a-bit-of-dolce/grown-up Grasshopper/helluvalot-easier-than that-other-St.-Paddy's-Day-cocktail-I-posted-today drink.


1 1/2 oz Irish whiskey
3/4 oz bianco vermouth
1/2 oz rhum agricole blanc
1/2 oz green chartreuse
1/4 oz tequila blanco
1 bsp pear eau-de-vie
1 bsp blue curacao
2 dashes rhubarb bitters
2 dashes Bittercube Jamaican #2 bitters

Stir. Strain. No garnish.

For all the March birthdays out there, especially the Pisces. Still, I'm sorry: somehow, it tastes like a more-richly-vegetal-but-clear Shamrock Shake. Yes, I'm telling you you'll taste mint and cream, despite (because of?) the ingredients. And it's both delicious and complex!

For a long while I'd had a draft post with only the title, Aquamarine. Similarly, I've wanted to devise an Irish whiskey/cachaça recipe because the high school percussionist in me adores how Brazilian rosewood marimbas often accent Irish folk music - though that's a recipe better realized at another time. Given how I generally prefer a good rhum agricole blanc to something like Leblon, I figured I give that combo a whirl while pulling in some of my favorite early spring cocktail ingredients (fast become a trend for me): bianco vermouth, pear eau-de-vie and rhubarb bitters (in addition to Irish whiskey and rhum agricole being stars of some Ti(n)sanity posts from this time last year). Plus, some elements simply demanded inclusion, if only because of the name and that St. Paddy's Day draws nigh.

Now, I'm sure you're looking at all the ingredients above and shaking your head, because it is an obnoxious list (which would probably run you close to $200 plus a week's time for potential mail-order if you wanted to collect-bottles-from-scratch). But, I have tasted the recipe if you broke it down to base parts of whiskey, vermouth, rhum, chartreuse and rhubarb bitters - and it's only 66% there. The other small ingredients truly give a proper rounding and depth - the tequila, eau-de-vie and curacao (yes, the curacao has a flavor, it ain't vodka) add extra vegetal and fruity notes with their sweetness taming the heat from both the chartreuse and rhum, while the bitters balance out the added sweetness. And...well, there's more, but it's better developed at the next Ombudsman session.

Suffice it to say, to hell with current attitudes: elegance rocks and generally produces greatness (and the Manhattan is a supreme muse-rich cocktail, despite it being untrendy in some quarters), but a muse has gotta do what a muse has gotta do, whether it's neophyte (or even cognoscenti)-friendly or not.

For those brazen hearts who wish to take up the challenge of this drink, some notes on ingredients:
  • Tullamore Dew 12 years - a dry Irish whiskey like this sets the cocktail up for success.
  • Martini & Rossi - aggressive vegetality is a plus.
  • Neisson - the rough, funky 100pf doesn't get lost.
  • Azul - a blanco with vegetal notes is again what's best.
  • Schladerer - it's an eau-de-vie we're after, not a brandy or a liqueur. Dry, but so flavor-intense it becomes sweet. Anyone else using an eau-de-vie like this for a rounding accent? I'd be happy to give a shout-out.
  • Eyeball the curacao - you know what an aquamarine gem look like, so use that as your final color target.