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.