The Golden Hour Cocktail

I’m really trying to give rum a fighting chance outside of Tiki drinks in my house. For this cocktail, I wanted to try something more ‘stiff shirted’ if you will. I guess I only moved a hair over from something tropical, but it’s a start.

What this is though is delicious. I’ve gotten hooked on this Apricot liqueur, as I am finding it quite versatile in all manner of cocktails lately.

Named for the time of day lately when these start getting passed around in the house, they bring a lovely glow and just a little hint of warmth.

1-1/2 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse Barbados Rum
3/4 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup
2 dashes Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters

Combine all ingredients into a shaker 2/3 filled with ice. Shake well to combine and strain into a chilled coupe.

This drink is quite dry. Sweet and tart are well balanced with the cinnamon and bitters lingering in the back adding a hint of spice.

The Bar Keeper Margarita

I’m not usually a big tequila drinker unless there is a plate of tacos and refried beans in front of me. It also helps if a Mariachi Band is playing 10 feet in front of me. This weekend the stars aligned. I had a craving for nachos earlier in the week but didn’t want to go out. So my husband picked up some fixings and chose the most expensive bottle of tequila he could find… at a Ralph’s supermarket. Which, actually, was kind of pricey at $40. So I made us margaritas based on Regan’s recipe and he made giant mounds of nachos.

Fast forward to a Saturday soon after and my bi-weekly visit to Bar Keeper in Silver Lake (if I lived walking distance to this place I’d go broke in a month). With a running list of ‘extras’ for our bar, I try and make one special purchase every time I’m at the shop while stocking up on the usually necessities. This time it was a bottle of Dry Orange Curaçao. I ended up in a conversation with the owner, Joe Keeper, and he begged me to try it just by itself, on ice, and I’d be blown away (which frankly was just fantastically delicious). And then proceeded to give me a rough recipe for a margarita using this Curaçao. The kicker? Atomizing some Vida Mezcal over the finished product. Nice touch, I just happened to have a bottle of that at home.

Immediately upon arriving home I was so smitten with this recipe that I broke out everything and then realized, well, an atomizer I did not have. Not even a spray bottle. The question then was just how much of the Mezcal should make its way into the drink? If one is just spritzing it over the top, then you don’t need that much to go into the drink. My first attempt was a 1/4 ounce, completely killing the drink. All smoke and no other flavors.

So on the next take I tried just rinsing the glass with the Mezcal. Perfection.

Just as described by Mr. Keeper, you first get hit with a smoky aroma from the Mezcal and then that wonderful sweet Curaçao, the tequila and a tangy citrus bite from the lime juice. It was really better than any margarita I’d had out with a Mariachi band and plate of tacos.

This drink I give all the credit to the folks over at Bar Keeper who constantly help fill up my liquor bucket list, and who are always as enthusiastic about cocktails as I am.

1-1/2 oz. Avión Silver Tequila
1 oz. Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch of smoked sea salt
Vida Mezcal for rinse
lime wedge

Rinse a chilled cocktail coupe with about 1/2 tsp of the Mezcal. Toss remaining liquid. Combine tequila, curaçao, lime juice and salt into a shaker half filled with ice. Shake well to combine and strain into coupe. Garnish with lime wedge.

Why is there no salt rim on this margarita? I find that a small pinch of the smoked sea salt shaken into the drink fulfills my need for salt without feeling like you are crunching on a salt lick, and it keeps the glass nice and clean. Granted, if you like crunching on a salt lick, by all means, rim away!

Bake It: Angostura Bitters & Luxardo Cherry Brownies

Sometimes we do this thing at my house where we’ve decided we want to be healthier and get rid of all the ‘unhealthy’ snacks in the house. So suddenly there is no more processed goodies about. We’re left with a container of unsweetened cocoa powder and a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips shoved in the back of the fridge. All you bakers out there are rolling your eyes and saying ‘yeah, and?‘ right about now. What I’m left with is two main ingredients to make a whole bunch of desserts and unhealthy foods. The challenge though, is to actually make something from scratch.

I love to bake, but I don’t get to do it as much as I used to. Now I’m mainly focused on cocktails. Then I decided to marry the two.

When I realized there was nothing to snack on at the house I went in search for a quick and easy recipe I could throw together with not much effort but be satisfied with the end result. I remembered I’d seen on Shutterbean a pretty straightforward brownie recipe that would accomplish both goals. But I wanted to put my own spin on it. Also, I wanted something my husband would want to eat and that meant throwing some kind of fruit into it and getting the walnuts out (otherwise I’d be staring the pan down with no regrets). Lately he’d been on a cherry kick and as an afterthought, I figured I would stick a couple cherries on top. Then I spotted the bottle of Angostura bitters and I had an idea. My first batch had a 1/2 ounce, but I found I wanted the bitters to be stronger throughout the brownies. Then I threw in a whole ounce and it was magic.

(recipe adapted from Shutterbean.com)

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-¼ cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 oz. Angostura bitters
1 cup luxardo cherries (syrup drained off as much as possible)

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 8″ square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom and sides of the pan with parchment.

Mix flour, salt, cocoa powder & baking powder together in a bowl. Set aside.

Place butter and chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water; stir frequently, until almost melted. Remove from heat; stir until completely melted.

Whisk in sugar until smooth. Add bitters and stir to combine. Whisk in eggs. Fold in cherries. Gently whisk in flour mixture until smooth (do not overmix).

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached (they should form a ball when rolled between your fingers), 50 – 55 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

Use parchment paper to lift from pan; peel off and discard. Cut into squares (this is much easier to do with these brownies if you stick them in the freezer after they have cooled slightly for about 20 minutes).

I found that adding the bitters and the cherries made the batter a bit thicker and took more time to bake thoroughly. I would start checking on them at about the 50 minute mark and test every 5 minutes after. The end result is a fudgy brownie that has some super spicy notes from the bitters, and with the cherries, are reminiscent of chocolate covered cherry cordials. I decided to split the chocolate between semisweet and bittersweet to cut a bit back on the richness and try to highlight more of the spice. They really make a great holiday brownie too (I’ve now made this enough times over the past two weeks that I have the recipe memorized and could make them in my sleep).

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Texas Tea

Beer doesn’t find its way into my cabinet very often. I enjoy the occasional Michelada at a brunch, and even rarer I’ll go for a nice sour beer over at the Verdugo bar in my neighborhood. But I’ll never ask for it out anymore. There was a time when I’d get a Stone, or an oatmeal stout. Now I’d rather make a beer float, or seriously, beer mousse with that Young’s Chocolate stout. Oh man, so good.

However, there are times where you’re just going to have beer to deal with. This recipe actually stems from a house warming party about 5 years ago where my husband wanted ONE drink to be had at the party. I’d never heard of it before, but he insisted on something called Texas Tea. This was just around the time that PBR was making its way into every hipster joint in Los Angeles. Or at least it felt that way.

If you want cases of something at your party, PBR is the way to go. It’s cheap. You know what else is cheap, limes. Your #2 ingredient in this cocktail. In fact, it’s only two ingredients.

Even stranger, it’s really quite refreshing.

I tried actually doing some research here and seeing if I could find something along the recipe that we used that day, but mainly Texas Tea brings up a drink akin to a Long Island Iced Tea. And some rather crude non-drink related articles. This cocktail though really does not require that much thought. It can be tweaked according to your own tastes so the recipe is rather a set of guidelines for you to follow. It’s also now being dubbed Hipster Soda.

1-1/2 cans of PBR, or most of one tall boy (just how much can you fit in that stein of yours?)
2-3 limes
ice

Grab yourself a rather large beer stein. You know you have one. It’s in a box marked “college” somewhere. Squeeze the juice from two or three limes and add the spent shells to your stein. Add ice about 2/3 of the way up the glass and pour the PBR over the whole thing. Throw one back.

Why so many limes? For me it makes it more palatable. For your drunken college kid, you’re making a real cocktail here. Enjoy.

The Eagle Rock

Read through any cocktail book and there are more recipes that start with ‘this is a variation on…’ then one realizes. Mad scientists behind the bar, a mixologist/bartender/whathaveyou finds themselves looking at a base recipe and seeing where it can take off.

This cocktail recipe is a riff, on a take, on a variation with its beginnings at the turn of the 20th century.

To explain further, the PDT Cocktail Book does a great job of briefly setting up some ingredients and ideas for seasonal cocktails, and in the ‘Fall’ category use the Newark as an example of a cocktail that lends itself well to multiple variations. The drink itself is based on the Brooklyn cocktail. So I went with my own variation, and named it after my neighborhood. Well, sort of my neighborhood. My actual neighborhood is so small that even people living in it don’t necessarily know it’s technically separate from Eagle Rock, or Glendale. So I’m naming it the Eagle Rock. (Apologies to everyone not in Los Angeles, for which this makes no sense. Now would be a fun time to go look at Google maps, or just continue reading).

The Players

2 oz. Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon
1 oz. Punt e Mes
1/2 oz. Maraska
1/2 oz. Fernet Branca

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled coupe.

The combination of Punt e Mes and Fernet Branca made me think of a more herbal variation on a Manhattan. The drink is dry, sharp and bitter with some sweetness from the Maraska and Punt e Mes, and a strong herbal undertone. And why the Wild Turkey Bourbon? It’s what I had on hand, and it added a nice layer of spice too.

What to do with Amaretto: Part One, make a sour

For a couple years I’ve been slowly adding to my liquor cabinet, and then recently I’ve just gone nutso and been buying carts full of stuff to try. Unfortunately this means that the tidy little nook that was housing all the liquor is now being turned back into the wine rack it really is. The sideboard is now starting to groan under the weight until we get around to finishing the bar (and with a now tentative plan of late January for this year’s Tiki Party, that really needs to happen ASAP).

While cleaning out the wine nook, I came across a couple bottles that have not seen the light of day for quite some time. One being an ‘ok’ bottle of Amaretto. I believe this was bought around the time of the first Tiki Party four years ago, and hasn’t been cracked open since this post. Needless to say it was quite dusty.

I figured it was time to give it a second chance when it occurred to me… what to do with a bottle of Amaretto? An Amaretto Sour? I don’t think I’d even tried one before. And while I wasn’t about to compete with Mr. Morgenthaler on how to make one (who can while he is making that face?… I kid, I’m sure it’s delicious.) I wanted to just make it as basic as possible and to just try it on for size. Just two ingredients.

And in the end, head-scratchingly good.

I guess I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the taste of almonds. That is, after all, the defining characteristic of Amaretto. Mixing it with lemon made it one of the most delicious, almond-spiked (albeit maybe the only almond-spiked) lemon-aides I’ve ever had. I was very surprised with how much I enjoyed the drink. The sharp lemon was cut perfectly with the overly sweet amaretto, omitting the need for sweetener entirely and blending just two ingredients into a well-balanced cocktail.

I could see this working at brunch.

2 oz. Amaretto
1 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
sugar crystals for garnish
optional: nutmeg

Add liquids to a shaker 1/2 filled with ice. Shake and strain into a sour glass garnished with a sugar rim.

Note on the sugar rim: while pretty to look at, completely covering the entire rim resulted in WAY too much sugar. I’d suggest half the rim dipped in sugar, or just leave it off completely if you’re by yourself and don’t feel the need to garnish.

I also did one take with a slight dusting of nutmeg. It gave the whole drink a lovely woodsy aroma and I found it enhanced the almond flavor; add if you want to get fancy like that.

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