1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 whole star anise pod
1 (6-inch) cinnamon stick or 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
Toast Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, and fennel in a dry medium skillet over medium heat, tossing and stirring frequently until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cinnamon stick, sugar, and water and place over medium high heat. Cook, stirring, until just starting to boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let rest for 2 hours. Strain into an airtight container. Five-spice syrup will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
For 4 Cocktails:
6 ounces bourbon, such as 4 Roses Yellow Label
3 ounces Five-Spice Syrup (see above)
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 to 3 limes
8 ounces club soda
Lime wedges for garnish
In a pitcher, combine bourbon, 3 ounces Five-spice syrup, and lime juice. Stir well. Add club soda and stir gently. To serve, fill rocks glasses with ice, pour in 4-3/4 ounces of the cocktail and top with lime wedges.
The sweet, savory, and pungent flavors of the Five Spice Syrup are an excellent pair to the rich, slightly sweet bourbon. And when you add in the lime juice and club soda, the whole cocktail gets loosened up a bit and really is quite refreshing.
1 small (“tall”) vanilla or coconut blended beverage (get whipped cream and stir that into the drink too)
2-3 ounces of light rum, such as 10 Cane Rum
handful of Gummy Blue Sharks
Your choice: throw the rum into your plastic cup and add the sharks, or if you’re feeling fancy, pour it all into an oversized Margarita glass and have your sharks swim on top.
The Low Rent Cocktail series is an occasional column on Stir and Strain where the boundaries of “good taste” are pushed to the limit, or more often than not, pushed out the window. Enjoy at your own risk.
I’m also talking about the Negroni cocktail today because next week is Negroni Week! It’s not just an excuse to drink this cocktail, but there’s also a great cause behind it. You can read all about that right here.
Last year I switched out the gin with mezcal, but this year we’re keeping the gin but adding in some extra flavor goodness. Like coconut. And coffee.
St. George Spirits put out this NOLA Coffee Liqueur a little while ago and I’ve been obsessed with getting a bottle. I could drink this stuff straight, but today I’m using the liqueur in lieu of sweet vermouth in the first Negroni variation. This Negroni combines that bittersweet, robust coffee liqueur with toasted coconut infused gin and a touch of Campari (and don’t worry, if you feel you haven’t the time for another cocktail project I’ve got a pretty simple variation below too). It’s more of an after-dinner drink, or actually, a pretty amazing weekend brunch cocktail (or breakfast cocktail if you prefer).
Coconut Coffee Negroni
Toasted Coconut Gin
1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup Martin Miller’s Gin
Set your oven to 350°F. On a cookie sheet, spread out the coconut flakes in an even layer. Place in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes. Let cool and move to an airtight container (I used a wide mouth canning jar). Cover with the gin, seal, and let sit out overnight. The next day strain through a coffee filter into a new, clean airtight container (I often use old liquor bottles).
1 ounce coconut infused gin
1 ounce St. George Spirits NOLA Coffee Liqueur
3/4 ounce Campari
In a double rocks glass with a large ice cube, pour in coconut infused gin, coffee liqueur, and Campari. Stir 15 seconds to chill and serve.
Now, for those of you who’d like something with a little fewer steps, I give you this Negroni variation. Basically I ran out of most of the ingredients one might need to make one and ended up with this. It’s still got a nice bite and the Zucca does the double duty of being both semi-sweet and bitter with a little more orange-y bitterness from the orange bitters.
The Moorish Dance
1-3/4 ounce gin, Ford’s used here
1-3/4 ounce Zucca
2 dashes orange bitters, Regan’s No.6 used here
orange peel for garnish
In a double rocks glass with a large ice cube, pour in the gin and Zucca. Add the dashes of bitters, stir 15 seconds to chill and express the oils from the orange peel over the drink. Add the zest for garnish.
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.
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.
It’s kind of a choose your own adventure cocktail.
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…
OK! Let’s welcome in spring with some booze.
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.