Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mixology Monday, July 2015: Ice, Ice Baby, part 2

Well, it's a bit late in the week to still be making with the wild-and-craziness (however much I might still feel it). It's not quite Mixology Monday, but that's ok, we're all in the middle of that straggler-pick-up period before the round-up post makes things official. Have I mentioned I'm hosting this month, with our theme being the delectable "Ice, Ice Baby"? Here's the part of the announcement I'm using today:
It doesn't even have to be pure H2O, either. Flavor it up! Teas, juices, liqueurs, bitters, other frozen edible objects serving as ice. Tell us the nuances of a properly-made Il Palio. Show us why a decorative approach takes your recipe to the next level. Whatever tickles your tastebuds and refreshes you this summer.
Would you believe the cocktail up above was actually a back-up draft idea after a separate frontrunner idea (using bittered ice) fell through on Saturday? And furthermore, this is one of those mamma bunny draft ideas that keeps spawning new ones, of which this is the second or third to see the light of day (Squeaky Frog being the first, impromptu honeydew-infused Hendrick's G&T the second) and it's still not exhausted.

The part of the idea being used today? I quote, "LILY-PAD-SHAPED-ICE?!?!?! Hibiscus flower garnish!". I must not have had enough coffee in me.

But while I'm doing some linking, I should note that this is a very crowded idea-pond already. Ginfluence lists a Lilly Pad with gin-pickled red onion, Richard Boccato has done a definitive Last Word-structured Water Lily, The Straight Up has a falernum-inflected Lily's Pad, Joel Finsel gave us the gingery Lotus, and our own Fred Yarm gave us the basil seed eye-popper Frog Pond.

In all, you see a lot of recurrent ideas: gin (especially Hendrick's), blanc vermouth, violette, maraschino, cucumber, mint, green tea, lemon juice. What's more, even if you step outside the pond, following violette recipes results in much of the same, mash-ups between the Aviation and the Last Word.

So how to do a lily pad ice cocktail while doing something original? Well, the ice is going to be original regardless, so to make it green like a lily pad, why not use mint-noted honeydew juice (because it infused poorly in the Hendrick's) and build from there? Something not-too-boozy felt right for the idea, and the above-linked Water Lily hit me with an idea - someone on Kindred Cocktails had remarked that it was a Corpse Reviver #2 variant, but that wasn't quite right since there was no Lillet-esque ingredient in it. But that exact structure didn't seem to be claimed yet.

With a bow to Claude Monet, I give you:

3/4 oz gin (Magellan)
3/4 oz bianco vermouth (M&R)*
3/4 oz crème de violette (R&W)
3/4 oz lime juice
Honeydew Lily Pad Ice

Shake. Strain. Add ice garnish. Let melt gently to begin infusion.

Light honeydew, citrus, faint vermouth herbs, and mint whisper to your nostrils.
To your mouth, you get honeydew mint ontop of citrus, with various gin/vermouth shadings underneath and a violet finish.
The honeydew is essential to the cocktail. 3/4 oz of lime juice is a heck of a lot, but the melon soothes that acidity to something much more bearable, while at the same time melon's weirdness gets reined in as well.
* Lillet was too sweet and untextured here, no matter how euphonious it would be in a Lily cocktail. Vanilla/blanc vermouth connected all the parts beautifully.

Honeydew Lily Pad Ice
Ingredients: 3/4 oz to 1 oz fresh honeydew juice, 1 jarred hibiscus flower cocktail garnish (rinsed) or other appropriate flower garnish

1. Start by making fresh honeydew juice. Half of a 3 lb melon, seeded and rind removed, yielded approximately 1 cup of juice for me after an initial press/puree and fine-strain. You do want to fine-strain to get the solid particles out, lest they affect the cocktail's texture.

2. Get a baking tray, doesn't have to be big. Layer some kind of paper like a paper towel or napkin and then a sheet of wax paper over it (the paper helps prevent ice formation beneath the wax paper, which will cause your ice pad to stick until it's too late). For an ice mold something simple, circular, and with minimal edges for ice to stick to is needed. It also needs to be an appropriate size for your cocktail serving glass. I used a biscuit/cookie cutter here.

3. To the mold, add an initial layer of honeydew juice, 1/4 to 1/2 oz. Just enough so that when it freezes, the bottom edge of the mold won't leak if more liquid is added. Also, it needs to be enough that your hibiscus flower won't automatically sink through.

To this, and it doesn't have to be a piece of rhubarb like I used here, add a little wedge of something that won't negatively affect the flavor of the ice while it freezes. It's an aesthetic tweak to help create the quasi-heart shape of a lily pad. A piece of honeydew melon would obviously be a good option.

4. Freeze the bottom layer in the freezer for at least a couple of hours. To help keep the liquid from leaking as it freezes, try weighting the mold down with something that will apply even weight. (I used a filled pre-frozen Tovolo ice cube tray)

Once the bottom layer is frozen, position your floral cocktail garnish near the center and add the remaining 1/4 to 3/4 oz of honeydew juice to the mold. Immediately move back to the freezer and let finish freezing for several hours.

5. Once fully-frozen, you may not wish to use the ice pad immediately, so try covering it with a small cup or plastic bowl until ready to use.

Once that moment arrives, remove from the freezer and either let sit a moment until the ice can be shifted across the wax paper or run a little water around the edges to help speed up the softening (make sure to pour off the water before removing the mold!).

6. Once the mold is removed, gently pry away the wedge to leave the ice pad intact.

If you have a hearty hibiscus flower like this, you can actually lift it by the petals into the cocktail to prevent melting and messy fingers.

And I'll let you in on a secret. You see in the final cocktail picture how the ice floats perfectly in the coupe, despite the flower being slightly off-center? I slipped a 1" plain water ice cube underneath to help balance it. Not only does it balance, but its added chilliness prevents the thin ice pad from melting too quickly. Don't let unwieldy cocktail flowers get you down!

A great big thanks to Fred for letting me host again and to everyone who participated! It's a blast to get to do this monthly cocktail jam session with everyone. On to the round-up post!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Mixology Monday, July 2015: Ice, Ice Baby, part 1

Er, yeah, kinda small..
All the better to see the pineappley bits inside.
Hello folks! For those just joining, Feu de Vie is hosting Mixology Monday this month, with a theme of Ice, Ice Baby. Anything frozen or ice-prominent goes. (go check out the round-up to see how everyone riffed on the theme)

So here's a quick little appetizer of a cocktail poptail while I finish up something a bit more proper-cocktail-y for Monday.

I'm a sucker for any kind of fuzzy little animal, but hedgehogs in particular because one time I did this spirit meditation thingy and these fuzz-bumpkins showed up. And then I saw these at a few kitchen stores in the mall ->

So I asked myself, if I licked a hedgehog, what would I taste?

The diminutive, woodsy hazelnut seemed like a good start. Pair it with a warm hickory-nut-noted Prichard's rum, or heck, any gold rum. And why not add in some pineapple (because, have you seen what pineapples look like these days?)? Naturally, a popsicle needs a non-alcoholic base in order to ensure freezing, and with this hodgepodge of ingredients coconut water seemed the right fit. Finally, some tiki-ish bitters and lime balance out all the sweetness going on.

Hedgehog Pops (makes 3-4 Zoku-sized (1.5-2oz) pops)
6 oz coconut water
3/4 oz gold rum (Prichard's)
1/4 oz hazelnut orgeat
1/4 oz lime juice
1 1/2 T small-chopped pineapple (thorn-like pieces)
3 dashes Bittercube Jamaican #1 bitters
popsicle molds

Your mileage may vary according to the size and type of your ice pop molds, so trust in their requirements first and scale up the recipe as needed.

Combine liquids, including bitters, and stir until well-incorporated.

Divide pineapple bits and then liquid cocktail equally amongst your popsicle molds.

Freeze/add popsicle sticks according to your mold's requirements.

An overnight freezing duration works ok here, the Zoku molds may only need 4 hours or so.

Unleash the popiscles and enjoy!

Nose: banana cream and deeper fruity notes, rum and spice

Palate: banana cream, rich rum brown sugar graham cracker pineapple tang, pineapple vanilla spice, wonderful lime-cinnamon accent on the finish.

Using rum named after a Pearl Jam song? That's your own bidness, tyvm.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Meyer Lemon Falernum: Telesto

Let's do some housekeeping here before I consider posting anything for July's Mixology Monday. First off, some love to Putney Farm, whose MxMo event, Hometown Hooch, I missed last month, even though I had the recipe and the pics cobbled together and everything (go check out the round-up showing off all manner of locally-made spirit/beverage cocktails). I fizzled out, and no matter how often I sat down to write, the words weren't coming. Afterwards, I realized that I couldn't give proper due or focus to a spirit producer while touting a new (potentially daring) falernum recipe I'd developed last winter-into-spring in the same post, and I was torn because the spirit in question added something interesting to the related cocktail recipe.

Secondly, and more to the point, this is less one of those throw-down-the-gauntlet/best-this challenges than it is: oh Tiki cognoscenti far and wide, please have a look at the below Meyer lemon falernum recipe. This isn't a proper falernum as you might know it, only with Meyer lemon zests added instead of lime. This has a spice blend keyed to the nuances of the zest in question (and notably lacks nut oils). Does it still fit within the confines of what you consider to be "falernum"? What say you?

I'd be very intrigued to know your thoughts, and perhaps to develop a discussion on nomenclature as relates to extending traditional syrup structures such as falernum or orgeat into different flavor profiles. Do different flavor profiles break currently existing models - if you made the below syrup recipe, would you like it better than original lime falernum in a Saturn or a Zombie? What about, dare I ask, a Corn 'n Oil?

Meyer Lemon Falernum (small batch)
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
9 cloves
8 pink peppercorns, crushed lightly
3 petals star anise
3/4 pod black cardamom
1/8 tsp coriander, crushed
1/8 tsp allspice
1 T fresh Hawaiian ginger (julienned)
1 1/2 oz overproof white rum
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 oz water
Lightly toast and crush all dried spices.
Add dry spices to rum in a mason jar or other infusion vessel, let infuse half a day.
Add Meyer lemon zest and ginger to mixture, let infuse additional 1-3 days**.
Make cold process simple syrup with sugar and water. Add to infusion mixture and shake to blend.
Let infuse one more day then strain, bottle, refrigerate. Let rest one week.
Yields about half a cup of syrup.

**avoid overlong infusion. More than one day will help the spices cement and last longer. Longer than 3 days and the soapier qualities of the peppercorn and cardamom start coming through.

But now then, as of last week, I'm suddenly glad that this post was delayed - for cocktail virgin slut introduced me to the Golden Wave, a late 60's era Tiki ditty. For a cocktail recipe to take the new falernum recipe on a spin, I thought I had been riffing on the Saturn, with a little bit of Fogcutter spirit-mix influence (someone untrain my head please - I've got it fixed in there that "it's not really Tiki unless it has 3 spirits in it", when that just ain't so). No, with that mix of pineapple (subbed for Saturn's passionfruit syrup), lemon, falernum, and secondary sweetener, the Golden Wave is a close ringer for our falernum's featured cocktail recipe - albeit the blending instructions and the fact that it won a bartending association competition put it not that far off from the Saturn, either.

The thing that strikes me about Meyer lemon zest's oils in particular is a free-floating floral-yet-herbaceous quality. It's offbeat and seems to me to need similar counterparts in a cocktail recipe. To that end, gin seemed a natural, and strong funky cane-spirits counter-intuitive but agreeable all the same. Just be sure to use regular lemon juice instead of Meyer lemon juice here - Meyers have close to the acidity needed, but have a bit of sugar also, which throws off the balance. With the tiki Saturn as the prototype, one of the planet's moons, an ocean goddess, seemed only fitting to offer a name.

A suitably cosmic glass, no?
1 oz Barrel Reserve Bluecoat gin*
1/2 oz Wray & Nephew overproof rum*
1/2 oz Batavia arrack
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz pineapple juice
(fat) 1/4 oz Meyer lemon falernum
1/4 oz pistachio orgeat
mint + extras for garnish

Blend with 6 oz crushed ice for 5 seconds. Pour into serving vessel and garnish with fresh mint, spent lemon shell, pineapple fronds, Meyer lemon zest, orchids, whatever floats your boat.

*if lacking the aged Bluecoat and W&N, try aging-swapping in regular Bluecoat or Bombay Sapphire gin and then Smith & Cross rum. It's a touch sweeter, but it is Smith & Cross and all..

Spearmint on the nose, followed by soft nut-creamy citrus and faint juniper. On the tongue, the cocktail starts with juniper and pineapple flowing into Meyer lemon with pink peppercorn edges, and sinks into rum funk. As opposed to regular falernum, you get softer more floral/exotic edges with more indiscernible spice warmth and complexity, which elevates the gin and rum grass and funk here.

Depending on which version you enjoy, the Barrel-Aged Bluecoat variation trends towards leaner grassier tastes, pronouncing juniper, mint and pineapple - and late in the drink, the aromas warm up to an almondy meringue founded in Bluecoat's spirit base and citrus, the orgeat and the mint. The Smith & Cross version pronounces this spirit on the initial nose and trends a smidge warmer with pink peppercorn, ginger, cardamom and coriander emphasized.

For those interested in knowing a little more about the on-trend innovation that is barrel-aged gin, Bluecoat in particular, I haven't had the original unaged Bluecoat in years now, but tasting the aged version brings immediate recollection of the citrusy and juniper-forward original. As regards the wood influence on the spirit, I want to say there's a malty quality to it but that might just be the collision of the juniper and the vanilla/toffee aging notes.

Pistachio Orgeat
2 oz pistachio nuts
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup demerara sugar
2 dashes rose water

Cold process: Blend pistachios and water, let rest 2 hours. Wring only once because it's a very rich nut milk. Add sugar and cold process-shake until dissolved. Add rose water and a bit of vodka to preserve.

This may be what almond orgeat aspires to be, the exotic qualities running on all cylinders. A perfect match for the Meyer lemon zest notes.

Finally, stay tuned later on (aka, after I get back from some super-secret spywork) for another recipe (tequila-based) utilizing the Meyer lemon falernum. It proved in testing to be, perhaps, an even stronger/simpler recipe - provided I don't go mucking it up with even more wacky ingredients. We shall see.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mixology Monday XCIX: Ice, Ice Baby

It's that time again... Can you believe we're up to Mixology Monday 99, folks? And in all this time there hasn't once been a theme dedicated to that undersung-yet-essential part of nearly any cocktail: ICE.

The word says it all. Big ice cubes for Old Fashioneds, pellet ice for juleps and cobblers, shaved ice for adult snowcones, crushed ice molded into a cone for a classic Navy Grog. The art of the blender. Tell us why your selected or invented cocktail needs this particular ice usage. Show us how to make perfectly clear ice at home or what you get to work with as a professional drink-slinger.

It doesn't even have to be pure H2O, either. Flavor it up! Teas, juices, liqueurs, bitters, other frozen edible objects serving as ice. Tell us the nuances of a properly-made Il Palio. Show us why a decorative approach takes your recipe to the next level. Whatever tickles your tastebuds and refreshes you this summer.

As you can tell, scaffas are right out the window this time around. Spirits named Van Winkle, Larceny, or actual vanilla ice cubes are pure bonus.

Here's are the specs:
  • Pick or develop a cocktail that shows off the ice usage, 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, July 27th, though I'll keep an eye out for stragglers 'til August starts (afterwards, it's best just to let it go). We be chill like that.
  Many thanks again to Fred at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping MxMo alive, and to founder Paul Clarke!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

From Rio with Love and Cachaça Cherries

Squeaking this one in on a Sunday to officially have a Cachaça Week here on Feu de Vie (check out Tuesday's rye-cachaça Chimaera for the other entry in the festivities). This was a recipe I originally developed last summer and it was good enough that it was worth publishing for this year's cherry season.

Is it just me or have you dear reader also had difficulty finding a good, simple DIY cocktail cherry recipe? Don't get me wrong, there are several good recipes out there - I've tried Dr. Adam's recipe with good results, for instance - but many have a level of culinary process involved that can daunt one from even starting. And sometimes you really need cocktail cherries, STAT.

So with the criteria in mind of good-but-simple I came across this recipe from Michael Dietsch over at Serious Eats, with a notable openness to variation. (and seriously, go check out the crew over at Serious Eats in general if you haven't already. In particular, Mr. Dietsch is a master of Shrubs and Marcia Simmons has a slew of great DIY cocktail anything recipes)

3 jars of cocktail cherries (brandied, sherried - yes, sherry cherries - and cachaça) and an hour or so later, I was a happy camper. Sherried cherries I may write-up at another point, but I noticed recently the more-unique cachaça cherries have been cropping up in my recipes, so deserved a decent write-up.

Ever come across a white spirit cocktail recipe that calls for a cherry garnish? Kinda rare, to be honest -  red cherry juice could spoil an otherwise clean-pure cocktail, and who wants baking spice flavors coupling with grass notes or green herbs for that matter? But what if the latter weren't necessarily so, and you didn't have to rely on cherries' seasonality to get a fresh flavor?

Enter cachaça cherries, bursting with a fresh bite and brio, perfect for white bases such as tequila, cane spirits, and even gin.

Cachaça Cherries  

(adapted from a recipe for 1lb cherries, down to 6oz (weight) cherries, then scaled back to up to 1lb cherries)
1 pound cherries
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup cherry juice or water
1 cup white cachaça*
pinch salt
1 1/2 to 2 sprigs fresh or 1 1/2 tsp dried peppermint
3 T julienned ginger
zest of half a large lime (strips)

*if lacking cachaça proper, try using a white rhum agricole or even Batavia arrack.

The instructions are effectively the same as the original brandied cherries recipe I used (gently heat sugar, juice/water, salt until dissolved; add spirit; bathe cherries in warm spirit-syrup and bottle).

Because fresh ingredients are being used, I wouldn't add these when preparing the syrup itself, as heat will diminish the flavor. Instead, layer these in the jar amid the cherries and pour the warm spirit-syrup over top. Then seal the jar and shake to ensure thorough syrup-coverage over the cherries.

I strongly urge using fresh peppermint (maybe half a sprig per 8-12oz jar). It's less messy and profoundly more robust/green a flavor than dried. Dried will work though, if you don't have access to fresh; this you would want to infuse in the syrup as you're cooking it, but be sure to strain it out prior to adding to the cherries.

The brandied cherries recipe indicates that the cherries will be ready for use after an overnight in the fridge, and it's true that the flavor transfer does happen in that short a time frame. But I encourage longer resting (perhaps a week, initially) for deeper balanced flavors (peppermint + cherry + cachaça = dark chocolate) and a more thorough curing. How long do they last? I'm still working through my summer 2014 batch, and they're still pretty decent.

The above seasonings are good for a fresher, brighter take on the cocktail cherry, though if you're looking for some darker notes to anchor, a fresh chopped rosemary needle or two (literally, needles, not a whole sprig - it's way too powerful infusing over the long term otherwise) or a small bit of sage leaf or cacao nib might not be untoward.

To take these cherries for a spin, try out this little ditty, that not only treats you to three juicy flavorful cachaça cherries, but a bit of the jar syrup as well.

From Rio with Love
1 1/2 oz white cachaça (Pitu)
1 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz Strega
1/2 oz lime juice
1 dash lemon bitters
dash or two of cachaça cherry syrup
3 skewered cachaça cherries for garnish

Shake. Strain. Garnish. 
Turn in the appropriate directions and salute Brazil; Campania, Italy; 
and NOLA where the maestro of Strega cocktails plies his trade.

Briny citrus with a hint of herbs, saffron and spirit-swiss chocolate funk on the nose.
Cachaça brine, lime-activated sweetness influenced by peppermint-juniper then chocolate, but still crisp on the tongue. A bite of cherry warms and fills the mouth, spiced by mint.

A sweetheart of a cocktail

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


This little ditty was a work-in-progress ever since I got my first bottle of Dubonnet Rouge for Bucentaure development back in 2012. The thought-process behind this one was simple, but tricky: pick a spirit from random locales around the world that wouldn't automatically be thought-of together -- then make them work. Is it a Manhattan? A Caipirinha? A genetic freak? Something more? A Man-pirin-tan? A Cai-hat-ha? A Cai-Ma-rinha?

3/4 oz rye whiskey (Rittenhouse)
3/4 oz cachaça (51)
3/4 oz Dubonnet Rouge
1/4 oz Drambuie
1/4 oz lime juice (fat)
3 dashes Fernet Branca
kumquat garnish

Shake. Strain. Garnish.

Golden herbs, bitter zesty roots, fresh cherries, and perhaps a touch of grass/petrol or chocolate waft from the glass.

On the tongue, one finds rye spice and cachaça petrol in equal measure, fruitiness with lime and Dubonnet, and swirling smoke underneath menthol-like grass. A golden Caipi, with undercurrents of Manhattan.

One thing I discovered while developing Secret Agent Manhattan is that Rittenhouse Rye (100pf) is its own unique beast, and it's tricky to do substitutions for it. Chimaera was developed with Rittenhouse but in coming back to it this year (inspired by MxMo Manhattan, at that) I wanted to bolster the recipe by seeing what different ryes would do. In this drink's case, say you swap in High West Double Rye (92pf) - you'll want to add an extra quarter ounce plus an extra quarter ounce of cachaça to keep the spiritous balance. I imagine this would be the same for any sub-100pf rye you swap in. As for the cachaça? My own preference is for the rough industrial kind like 51 or Pitu, the darker petrol notes add to the randomness yet work all the same (probably transmute to dark chocolate thanks to the lime and pair with the Fernet). Something sweet-bodied like Leblon would throw the wheels off, methinks.