Mint Julep// justifying an ice crusher

This week I was bombarded with recipes for smashes. So much so that I couldn’t get the idea of purchasing an ice crusher out of my head. Then I found a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon in a pile of mail and figured I could justify spending $30 on one. I mean, it would be countless happy drinking moments this summer if I had one. Also, if it broke I’m not out a whole lot of money.

I excitedly got it home, out of the box and washed it. Opened up a bottle of liquor and…couldn’t get a smash recipe right to save my life. Everything tasted awful. Six tries later I gave up and poured myself some bourbon over ice. That at least didn’t disappoint. I think I’ll post a couple of the recipes and see if anyone has some suggestions; maybe it will help to talk it out.

For the moment I’m putting the idea of a smash off to the side and instead using crushed ice for a more solid drink recipe. One I’ve surprisingly never made before, simple in its ingredients yet satisfying in the end result. A mint julep.

I’m relying heavily on Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe here. I find him an authority on this recipe, or at least his telling me he is makes me trust him. My only changes are that I switched out bourbon for rye whiskey. And also, I had mint simple syrup I just made so I used that instead of straight up regular simple syrup.

2 oz Old Overholt Rye Whiskey
1/4 oz mint simple syrup
12 mint leaves

One sprig of mint for garnish

In a wide double old fashioned glass muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup. Mix in the rye (and it’s totally ok to lick the spoon after you stir the rye. You should taste for sweetness and also, it’s delicious). Mound the crushed ice in the glass and add the mint sprig garnish.

All the ice here with the addition of the mint makes drinking spicy rye quite refreshing. I use only a quarter ounce of the simple syrup because I find more than that is just too sweet for my palate. Also, the small handful of mint is really the perfect amount. Much as it would be in cooking, too much actually creates a bitter aftertaste while too little would be lost against the rye.

Ice crusher= totally worth it.

Le Tiki-Vert/ What to do all that Basil Liquor

So this is my tarragon plant.
But I’m sure all the other herb plants think of it as a blood thirsty killer. That pot used to house a dill plant. But the Tarragon killed it dead. This plant is growing at a rate I’ve never seen any of my plants succeed at doing and now I’m stuck with a lot of an herb I only use a tiny bit of. My natural inclination was to see how I could fit it into a drink.

I’ve mentioned on here that I have a couple of bottles of Shrubs I’ve been experimenting with for work cocktails. This drink was born out of the remnants of a chicken salad. Sorta. I saw my husband mixing up tarragon and lemon juice into his classic sandwich mix and I thought, Hey- I should stick those herbs in the lemon shrub and see what happens. It ended up being a pretty nice combination and I’m glad I risked possible salmonella to try it (I may or may not have grabbed some leftover tarragon leaves for the first version of this that were mingling with leftover chicken on a cutting board. Don’t judge.).

One thing I learned about this is that you can go heavy with the tarragon. It works here and you want the taste. Too little leaves and the flavor is just not present enough and lacks that nice grassy-ness. The only problem I ran into with this drink was trying to name it. Is it really necessary to name your drink? I read some blogs where ‘names’ are just a modified list of ingredients. Other times people go in crazy directions and name their drink a long string of words that are really meaningless to the drink. I guess it doesn’t matter; I’m guilty of doing both. Except that this is on a short list for the work drink, so I did have to spend some time back and forth thinking of a name. Le Tiki-Vert just came out of the color and the Tiki-tasting quality of the drink. It could change, but for now I’m keeping it.

2 tbsp tarragon leaves
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1-1/2 oz white rum (Oronoco here)
1/2 oz lemon shrub (Tait Family Farms)
1 oz grapefruit juice

Muddle leaves and lime juice together in a mixing glass. Add ice and the rest of the ingredients. Cover with metal shaker and shake well to combine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Bits of tarragon will be floating about.

The drink has a mellow, bitter fruit flavor that borders on the tropical side. Herbaceous notes from the tarragon sit on the back of your tongue, becoming stronger as the drink sits.

I made 3 of these and had a pleasant afternoon.

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One other project that I didn’t feel warranted an entire blog post but worth mentioning was my discovery that you can make sorbet with liquor. Maybe all sorbet is made like this, who knows! I’ve only made this one recipe.

Anyways, last week my husband and I trekked out to a local farmer’s market (we recently, sadly, discontinued our CSA baskets for the main reason that we wanted to go and be active in our community and support local farms and have a bit more say in what we’re getting from where. So far we’re doing it every week. Or I am going during the week on my lunch.) and we picked up 3 pints of strawberries with me proclaiming all kinds of recipe ideas I was going to make with them. With only one drink under my belt and 2-3/4 pints left, I decided to look up a recipe where I could use a lot of them in one go. Browsing a favorite food blog, Sassy Radish (who, if I can wax poetic for a sec, is really a great, unpretentious, awesome food blog that anything I make from there always comes out perfect. And on the subject of food, I really should add a food blog section under the blogs I am reading. I’ll just make a mental note to do that), I came across this recipe for her Strawberry Basil Sorbet. Ah, also I forgot to mention I had harvested the last of my basil plant and needed to use that up STAT too. So I noticed that she had added a bit of vodka to her recipe in order to keep it smooth. Fireworks went off in my head when I remembered I didn’t have vodka, but I sure had some Basil Liquor made with Everclear in the freezer. I could totally sub that out and make this a super basil sorbet.

Anyways, so tweaking her recipe I used 2 tablespoons of the basil liquor and using the ice cream bowl attachment for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, whipped that up and had some sorbet. The basil is definitely there, but not as strong as I was expecting. Since I haven’t tested it against a recipe NOT made with the basil liquor, I have no idea how pronounced it really should be. But there you go. Basil liquor for ice cream treats. You’re welcome.

One last note. Cumin in savory cocktails. I was out two weeks ago at a bar in downtown L.A. and had one and my mind has been blown. I need to get on this bandwagon. So, hopefully I can make something drinkable with cumin. If not, you’ll hear about it either way.

Building a Home Bar: Part Two

We’re totally making progress here people!

If by progress we’re talking about taping off the space where the bar should go. In some respects this was actually a big step; both of us finally decided on the shape after going back and forth with charts and graphs of why the other person is wrong. I had much more grandiose ideas but two problems were staring back at me.

1. Our space for the bar is small. The room is big, but a giant portion of this is taken up by the pool table that we blew the budget on last year. It’s funny really. The room has a pool table, a tv, and half a couch right now. I feel like I’m in college when I’m in that room.

2. My husband still has to build the bar. So no rounded marble tops.

Yes. Those are Presidents of the United States dressed up as pimps on our cute little wine fridge.

And so now we just need to come up with wood types, learn to make dovetail joints, and buy a power sander (I’m actually looking forward to that) among other things.

I started a board on Pinterest to keep ideas in for the project. Unfortunately it’s just becoming a catch-all for awesome bottle openers and glasses I want. You can check that out here Follow My Bar on Pinterest

As always, stayed tuned for updates. I have some awesome cocktails with tarragon I’ve been drinking lately. And apparently, my husband poking his head over my shoulder, just mentioned that he’s not so sure about the measurements for the bar. So there’s that.

A Biting Strawberry

Warning. You’re going to see several, if not plenty, of drinks containing Shrubs in them coming up in the next few weeks. What’s a Shrub? A Shrub is a vinegar based fruit concentrate that dates back to Colonial Times. Sounds kind of gnarly huh? Vinegar? Gross. Well, actually, if combined with other appealing mixers and liquors it is quite pleasant. Really.

Why the onslaught of Shrub recipes? I recently became a slashie at work. Actually, I have no idea if I’m even using that correctly, but the long and short of it is that I was christened with the title of in-house Mixologist /slash/ creative director (slash a bunch of other titles. It’s a small company). I may have (completely) had something to do with this. But, we re-brought back in a line of Shrubs due to some popularity of them in cocktails and local bars and needed desperately to come up with some recipes so customers knew what to do with them. (That’s right, we had them for sale 4 years ago when no one gave a shit. Although, people are apparently still confused.)

So now I’m doing research, and taking notes, and really using this blog as a scratch pad for ideas. I think I’ve had some hits, and some misses. Here’s a hit. Mainly for people who either want a lighter cocktail, or just don’t want their cocktail tasting so much like alcohol (I need to hit a range of tastes here…).

3 strawberries quartered
1 lime wheel cut in half
1-1/2 oz white rum (I used Oronoco, a favorite for someone who is as confused about rum as someone reading smoke signals who doesn’t, understand.. smoke signals. You get my  analogy.)
3/4 oz Strawberry Shrub (Tait Farms)
1/2 oz Falernum

1 strawberry for garnish

Muddle the strawberries and lime wheels together in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add 4-5 ice cubes.  Pour in the rest of the ingredients and shake well. Pour un-strained into a rocks glass. Garnish with strawberry.

It’s a very summery drink. A bit on the sweet side, but not fake sugary sweetness. No sugar is needed as long as you are using strawberries that are in season and very ripe . There is a sharp note of ginger in the back, and the subtle touch of lime cuts the sweet strawberry taste back a notch. The rum takes a back seat here flavor-wise, which was why I noted that you can make and give this to someone who wants a cocktail but doesn’t like it to taste too strong.

Side note; this tastes amazing with milk chocolate FYI.

The Tres Palmas

Recently we spent a relaxing couple of days out in the wonderfully hot Palm Springs, it was for my birthday, but really, everyone needed some time to veg out. My husband is not a big fan of heat, sun, or swimming pools so he volunteered to be the cook and cocktail maker and give me a break (in the cocktail area, he’s still cook around the house). This meant he could stay indoors in air conditioning and not let on how much he was sampling the drinks; not like I can judge.

So there was lots of nachos and guacamole and the like, requiring lots of cilantro and hot pepper scraps to end up laying about doing nothing. In a moment of brilliance the husband tosses some of these scraps into a tumbler of gin and grapefruit juice topped with champagne and hands it to me upon request for a drink to have on my raft. Now, he tried to convince me that he’s had similar drinks before, but I hadn’t. So as far as I was concerned this was a groundbreaking flavor combination, possibly due to the extreme heat and sun exposure and the several morning cocktails we’d already had (read: vacation drinking).

Since we’ve been back I’ve been wanting to make this again, only I had some ideas to tweak it a bit. I finally got around to doing it and with a couple modifications, I was able to encapsulate exactly what I thought the drink should be.

First thing I did was try it with the champagne, and then again without. In the end the float of champagne wasn’t helping anyone so I tossed that out of the recipe. Second, I added some lime in for balance. Then, I decided it needed salt. I have no idea where this desire to constantly dump salt on everything is coming from. I seriously should just carry around a salt lick so I stop ruining perfectly good meals. However, I had some fancy smoked salt flakes from Maldon that did the trick.

Tres Palmas was the name of the house we stayed at (it belonged to Jack Lalanne at some point in his life); I thought it a fitting name for the drink.

2 oz Gin (Beefeater was used here)
3 oz Grapefruit Juice (we had fresh squeezed in a bottle when we were on the trip so I used the same here. Feel free to sub in your own freshly squeezed by hand)
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
4 Jalapeno rings
1/2 lime wedge

Garnish:
slice of lime
Maldon smoked salt flakes

Start with the salt rim. Use your lime garnish to coat a quarter section of the glass. Roll the outside edge in the salt, pressing hard to crack the larger flakes. Set aside. In a mixing glass, combine all other ingredients and shake vigorously with your metal tumbler (so rare I use the Boston Shaker on here). Pour unstrained into the rocks glass. Finish with the lime wedge garnish.

The drink has a nice balance of citrus that compliments the gin. However the cilantro leaves add unexpected flavor, in a good way, and the heat of the jalapenos gives it great punch. I love the nice bits of cilantro and jalapeno floating around in the drink. They’re awesome little flavor bites. And the smoked salt is just another unexpected layer to the drink that imparts a subtle smokiness, that, in all honesty, reminds me of a lovely salsa.

Note: Jalapenos can vary greatly in hotness and you should really decide how spicy you want to make this. One recipe I made I left the seeds in, and though it was VERY spicy (the way I like it), it was obnoxious to drink having all these small seeds. I’d suggest that if you want heat, leave a few of the seeds in. If you want less heat, scrape the seeds out altogether. No use making something you can’t drink.

Building a Home Bar: The Prequel

I’m just going to go ahead and file this under the “Clever Ideas” category.

Let me roll back a year and fill everyone in on how this came about. Last year we had some awful rains in L.A. and we noticed that there were some bubbles forming in the walls on one side of the house. And then we had more rain. And then suddenly the windows looked like they were going to fall out. This wasn’t a slow progression either. This was, on Monday there were a couple of bubbles in the plaster and on Wednesday THE FUCKING WINDOWS ARE GOING TO FALL OUT OF THE WALL CALL THE HOME INSURANCE NOW. Turns out part of our roof had flown off and water had been leaking in and 2 months later we gutted the entire downstairs and now we decided hey let’s put a bar down in there.

Present day. That was November when we finished up putting the flooring in and after having nonstop construction guys in our house from 6am to 7pm at night. We needed a break. Apparently that break was going to last for 7 months. And then my husband spoke up out of the blue that we could do it ourselves the other day. Part of the reason for building a bar ourselves is that there was nothing on the market we liked, and also, prices wildly shot off into areas neither of us could comprehend spending any money on. Both of us consider ourselves to be pretty handy. My dad does/makes cabinetry for a living and I have 4 years of a fine arts education behind me, long behind me but still visible in that distance. And also, I can use a bandsaw. This Old House was, and still is, a favorite show of mine.

So here is the space. To any of our friends who haven’t been downstairs since the construction, this used to be the kitchenette area. And yes, we still need to get a 5th bulb for that light.

Maybe putting this out here will kick start us into plowing full speed into the project. Or it will be a reminder a year from now that we broke down and spent money on a bar and boy, what the hell were we thinking….

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