You know what’s kinda sad? Listening to the radio this morning NPR was doing some snippets talking to various people who serve (or have served) here in the US and I was suddenly struck at how “Memorial Day” had no real meaning to me other than “it’s a 3 day weekend”. I can’t blame the wash of ridiculous food holidays that now exist and fill every single day, I can’t blame commercials where hot dogs march on a grill waiving flags (this might not exist but just be a dream I had), I can only blame my own self-absorption into my own affairs. Which shouldn’t be the case. My Dad served. Even though he doesn’t talk about it I know he did. My Dad also likes a stiff drink, or half a dozen beers (depends on the day), so this weekend I am being mindful of what the holiday means. I’m also offering up some suggestions for all the dads, the moms, the relatives, friends and those we don’t know, and for all of us taking the time to sit back and enjoy a drink with one another as we take some time off.
Also, I have this delightful cocktail I made for you guys that might seem like a Whoa! but really, it’s pretty easy to assemble and I sweetened my ice teas for the next week with the leftover syrup so it definitely has some stretching power. Plus, it’s rhubarb season and I’m sick of pies already (not really, but I’m sick of MAKING them!).
For the Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup sliced (1/2-inch) rhubarb
1 cup water
1 Mexican Vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped (reserve pod)
- Combine sugar, rhubarb, water, and vanilla seeds and pod in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain into an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 weeks.
For the Cocktail:
1-1/2 ounces Pisco
3/4 ounce Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup
3 ounces Scottish Ale, such as Ballast Point Piper Down
Vanilla bean, for garnish (optional)
- In a rocks glass filled with ice, build the drink by adding pisco and rhubarb vanilla syrup. Gently add beer, stirring just to combine. Garnish with vanilla bean and serve immediately.
First off, this tastes like cream soda. Because of the viscosity of the Pisco, the mouthfeel is super creamy. The Scottish Ale provides some toasty, caramel notes that adds a richness to the drink, while the Pisco imparts some citrus and a touch of floral (Tahitian vanilla would tip this drink overboard in the floral direction, so make sure you use Mexican vanilla) along with that lovely viscosity. That small buzz you get afterward however would prove otherwise.
I originally created this recipe for Serious Eats!
If we’re thinking about summer, we’re also thinking about refreshing drinks, and for a lot of you guys out there, beer. Beer and BBQ and hotdogs and maybe a few illegal fireworks. So, surprise! I’m putting beer in this cocktail too. Pineapples and beer and RUM.
Are you already picturing yourself running through a sprinkler and drinking this cocktail? Me too. Except let’s hold on to that thought and wait two weeks while this shrub brews and then we can get to the galavanting. At least this week is done.
1 medium pineapple, peeled, and cubed into 1” pieces
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
Place the pineapple cubes in a clean, sterilized container. Cover with the sugar and lightly crush the pineapples (I used a potato masher). Let sit, covered with a tea towel, in the open for 8 hours or overnight. Strain fruit and add apple cider vinegar. Cover and let sit unrefrigerated in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Shake the mixture every other day. In two weeks, filter into an airtight container and refrigerate. Will last up to 6 months. Yields approximately 3 cups.
For the cocktail
1 ounce white rum, SelvaRey used here
1 ounce pineapple shrub (see above)
1/4 ounce orgeat
4 ounces IPA beer, Stone IPA used here
In a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice, pour in rum, shrub and orgeat. Stir to chill 20 seconds and strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice. Top with beer.
The biting, tangy nature of the shrub is excellent paired with the beer as it provides a contrast to the bitterness that comes with an IPA. Just a touch of sweetness is needed and the sweet almond orgeat provides that along with the white rum. The shrub can be enjoyed all summer long here in this drink, or by itself with a splash of club soda.
I wish I could remember the first time I tried mezcal, or even heard of it. Although I’ve tried to rack my brain for that one time, it exists as if I somehow always knew about it. I wish I was that cool. Probably it was sometime over the past 5, maybe 7, years when we collectively started giving other liquors a chance to star in our drinks.
Now I like to put mezcal in everything. And today’s drink is one from my ongoing “to make” list. Here my notes were: meaty, but refreshing. I’m guessing this was a late night scribbling where I had something particular in mind but what exactly is no longer clear. But I like these challenges. To make things even more interesting, bitters will play a unique supporting role in transforming the drink into two different sips. For a slightly savory cocktail, Angostura will be dashed in. And for a sweeter alternative, chocolate bitters will be used. All versions have Aperol there, an assertive liquor that stands up next to the flavors of mezcal without getting lost.
Now that I’m remembering that liquor store, I’m realizing that the other reason I liked going over there was that next door there was a Christian store that sold Bible action figures like Samson and Delilah. What a way to get kids thrilled about the Old Testament. When I was Catholic I was all in, until I wasn’t anymore.
Ok, enough about Bible Liquor stores. Let’s get to cocktail making!
1 ounce mezcal, Del Maguey Vida Organic used here
3/4 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
3 ounces club soda
2-3 dashes of either Angostura or Chocolate bitters, like Scrappy’s Chocolate Cocktail Bitters
lemon peel for garnish
- In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, add mezcal, Aperol, lemon juice and bitters of your choice. Shake to combine and then strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda and garnish with lemon peel.
I’m using the Vida mezcal here because it’s both a wonderful sipping liquor and it mixes well with others. It’s assertive without being aggressive. Aperol is not too bitter and not too sweet. (But it’s just the right amount of both that you don’t need to add another sweetener.) Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds in a touch of tartness, and the whole thing is topped off with a glug of club soda to mellow it out and give some effervescent pep. Angostura adds spice that compliments some of the cinnamon and earthy flavors found in the mezcal. Or you can change that up with a few dashes of chocolate bitters. The sweet, roasted chocolate flavors in the bitters play up the sweet and bitter orange in the Aperol and also some of the vanilla found in the mezcal. This makes the drink excellent for a slightly sweet digestif or a surprisingly refreshing nightcap.
For this cocktail I’ve also added back in a little bit of zest in the form of limes and lemons (I guess I needed some zestiness to get me through the soul crushing time known as tax season. Why haven’t I scanned any of my 2014 receipts yet?!?!) to make this a take on a sour. Juice + bitters + zest = just the right amount of punchy citrus.
I’m using vodka as a neutral base for the lemongrass flavor to shine in the infusion. There are two ways you can go about infusing a lemongrass vodka this weekend depending on how much time you want to spend. The longer, more traditional way, requires nothing but time. You chop and bruise the lemongrass, cover with vodka, and wait about 1 to 2 weeks to extract the full flavor. The second way is quite quick, seriously quick, but requires some equipment. An instantaneous infusion can be made with a whip cream canister and two N2O chargers. Extra equipment, sure, but a very immediate infusion.
Instantaneous infusions are a blessing… and a curse. There is only so much room in my home for all these infusions and I don’t think I can drink them fast enough. A sampling party may be in order soon…
For the lemongrass infusion:
4 lemongrass stalks
2 cups vodka
- Clean and remove the outer layer of the lemongrass stalks. Chop the stalks into 1 inch pieces and bruise them by crushing them with the side of your knife. Add the pieces to an airtight container and cover with the vodka. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 week up to 2 weeks. Shake daily. Taste after 1 week and continue to steep up to two weeks to desired flavor. Strain into an airtight container. Will last up to 6 months.
- Alternatively, to instantaneous infuse, take chopped lemongrass and add to a whip cream canister. Pour in vodka and seal. Charge with one N2O charger. Shake well. Charge a second time with a new N2O charger. Shake well and then discharge contents into a clean, airtight container over a strainer. Infusion will last up to 6 months.
For the cocktail:
2 ounces lemongrass infused vodka (recipe above)
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1 lime
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
3 dashes lemon bitters
lime zest strips for garnish
- In a shaker, add the lemongrass infused vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white. Dry shake (no ice yet) for about 30 seconds to incorporate the egg white. Add ice and then shake hard for another 30 seconds. Double strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with 3 drops of the lemon bitters topped with the lime zest.
The lemongrass is a more subdued flavor that doesn’t take over the drink or muddle the flavors but provides a subtle floral backdrop to the cocktail. There’s a nice bite from the lime juice and an egg white is added for some extra silky mouthfeel and to add a lightness to the drink. The foamy head created by dry shaking with an egg white suspends the lemon bitters above the cocktail, heightening the heavenly layers of citrus aroma.
You’ve heard it said, “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.” Well, I’m either one quarter or one eighth Irish, depending on which relative I consult, and I can tell you that, sadly, I don’t qualify as truly Irish on St. Patrick’s or any other day of the year. I’m not proud to say so, but it’s true. It’s not for lack of trying.
I went to an Irish Catholic school where several of the nuns were direct from Ireland, replete with charming accents– though the nuns themselves were rather sour. One of the nuns walked into my third grade classroom, declared that it was filthy, gave two boys a toothbrush, spat on the floor, and told the boys to start scrubbing. I sometimes think I might have known more Irish nuns than Irish families. The Irish families I did know lived in houses filled with crucifixes. I’m sure they must have had other decorative knick-knacks, but I only remember crucifixes. For me, everything Irish was a bit severe and austere– from the dour nuns to the simple cabbage and beef we ate on St. Patrick’s Day.
1 ounce Irish Whiskey, Bushmills 10 used here
1 ounce amaro, Averna used here
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 ounce demerara syrup
luxardo cherry garnish
Combine whiskey, amaro, lemon juice and syrup together in a shaker filled 2/3 with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry.
There’s a nice contrast between the light, floral whiskey and the spicy, rich amaro. It starts with a punch of sour flavor that immediately moves into sweetness, and the bite of the whiskey and the lasting bitterness of the amaro stay with you until the next sip. It’s a cocktail with a lot of character. Like those Irish nuns. And those Italian priests.
***This recipe was originally created for Serious Eats and appeared on the site this past week.
It’s not very often that I do a theme week around here, but I think we can all agree that brunch is definitely worth the effort. I hope you all enjoy some pineapple or a little pisco this weekend. But if you’d like some more options, here are a few below.
**Also, today is the last day to get your nominations in for the Saveur Best Blog awards. If you’d enjoyed the content on here, please consider Stir and Strain for best cocktail site!
Back in January I attended the second annual Golden State of Cocktails here in Los Angeles. Three days filled with seminars, demonstrations, booze, tacos, science, more booze, some bar crawls, educational booths, and so much more booze. While there were some fantastic seminars attended, the talk on the history of pisco stood out the most for me. It made me… really excited about pisco. I can’t say for certain what it was exactly that made this particular talk so great: the enthusiastic speakers? The bottled punch? The sample after sample of pisco? Whatever it was, I knew I was hooked on the spirit and had to start using it more. Hey, the title of the seminar was “The World’s Most Mixable Spirit”. (And if you’d like a little more history on it, I touched on a couple points in my Serious Eats post you can read.)
So obviously I needed to start mixing with it. Consider this your gateway cocktail into the world of pisco (that is if you are still on the fence about drinking a Pisco Sour due to the egg white. OH, hey. I made a vegan version of that you should try). Here I’ve paired the pisco with the very much in season grapefruits that I had accumulated over the last several weeks from the farmer’s market. Yes, sometimes my seasonal cocktails are just a reason to get rid of some fruit I’ve over-bought. Then I spiked it with a little thyme and a splash of lime.
For the Grapefruit Syrup:
Zest from one medium grapefruit
1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice from 2 to 3 grapefruits (see note above)
1 cup granulated sugar
- Combine grapefruit zest, juice, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Strain into an air-tight container. Refrigerate until ready to use or up to 1 week.
For the Bottled Cocktails:
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice from 3 limes
9 ounces pisco, such as Encanto
4 1/2 ounces Grapefruit Syrup
6 sprigs fresh thyme for garnish
- In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle together thyme and salt. Add lime juice and stir. Fine-strain into a 24-ounce carafe or swing-top bottle and then pour in grapefruit syrup and pisco. Cap and gently shake to combine. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
- For each cocktail, add one large ice cube to a double rocks glass. Pour in 2-3/4 ounces of the bottled cocktail. Gently stir and garnish with a sprig of thyme.
It’s a bright, delicious cocktail that you can easily have along whatever brunch-y dishes you might be cooking up. But still palatable for a pre-dinner drink too if that’s more your thing.
When you go to events like this, or any event really, where custom drinks are served up, do you ever stop and think about all the drinks that just couldn’t make it to the table that night? Nathan (who also makes drinks for the Coconut Club and who you will see behind the bar more than me) and myself spend countless hours alone and together mixing up possible drinks that we think our audience will love. As much as we’d like to serve them all, some need to get cut from the line up due to timing and to prevent you all from getting alcohol poisoning from over indulging. We have your best interests at heart.
This drink came about during one of my R&D days but realized we already had the Piscolada Shrimp Cocktail, a customer favorite, already on the menu and the ingredients were too close to justify serving it.
This recipe utilizes frozen pineapple juice cubes for two reasons:
1. I had a huge amount of excess pineapple juice leftover from another drink and I can’t bring myself to waste things so I froze the juice up instead.
2. Frozen pineapple juice cubes mean way less watering down of your drink.
Champagne, Veuve Clicquot used here
nutmeg for garnish
- In a blender, combine rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice cubes and bitters. Blend until well combined and no ice remains; consistency will be more like a thin soup, not a slush.
- Pour about 3 ounces into the coupes and top with champagne.
- Grate fresh nutmeg over the cocktails.
An interesting effect occurs when you top the base with champagne: the cream causes the drink to bubble and foam on top. It looks like a beautiful pillow of coconut cream that smells faintly of pineapple. While the cream and juice are quite sweet, as well as some sweetness from the rum, the champagne cuts right through offering some bitter and savory notes for balance. These particular bitters lend some notes of citrus and spice for further flavor enhancement. The cocktail is super light and easy drinking. Perfect for your next brunch, breakfast, or mid-week snack.
Lately I’ve been wanting to put a ban on having electronic devices on at certain times at home. But with both myself and Christopher working out of the house, attempts to do this have been eagerly thwarted. If your office is in the same structure that you sleep in, then you can pretty much count on a 7 day work week. Unless you have the amazing ability to do such a thing as limit screen time. You, then, are an enigma to me.
Regardless, there are always a few minutes in the day when neither one of us is holding on to a device. The best times are when we’re holding on to a cocktail glass and talking about not work things. Occasionally things get so busy around these parts that, to make things easy on ourselves, I batch up a cocktail and keep it in the fridge. It might be a Manhattan for later in the day (and yes, I might have made it at 9 that morning) or the base to something that can get perked up later on with something sparkling.
I had originally written this for Serious Eats as a more Valentine’s Day centered recipe, but I think the sentiment of taking a break from the internet to enjoy another real person’s company is even more fitting for the everyday.
For the Chamomile-Tangerine Syrup:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
4 chamomile tea bags
Zest of 2 tangerines, white pith removed
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangerine juice
Combine sugar and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a light simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and add tea bags, tangerine juice, and zests. Steep for 6 minutes, then discard tea bags. Cover and let stand an additional 30 minutes. Strain zest and keep syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 month.
For the Base:
4 ounces Chamomile-Tangerine Syrup
3 ounces white balsamic vinegar
4 ounces London Dry Gin, such as Tanqueray
Combine syrup, white balsamic, and gin in a swing-top bottle. Gently swirl to blend. Refrigerate until ready to use. Base will keep up to 4 days refrigerated.
For Each Cocktail:
5 ounces chilled dry sparkling wine, such as Cava
Measure out 2 3/4 ounces of the base into a Champagne flute or cocktail glass. Top with sparkling wine.
So yes, I ventured out into the land of floral ingredients here with the chamomile, but it’s subtle and mild. For a sweet note, I used the in-season tangerines, and combining their tangy juice and zest with a good dose of chamomile flowers gives a fragrant sweetness without being too perfume-y. It’s a fresh, tangy base with very subtle floral flavors in the background. To make it more zippy in flavor, white balsamic adds some needed acidity while a London Dry style gin adds another herbal layer with just a touch of juniper in the finish. While this base is tasty on its own, it really comes together when you top it off with some sparkling wine. I tried a few varieties and a dry cava brut is best to offset the syrupy base.