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.