Being Seasonal // Meyer Lemon Rosemary Sparkler

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Syrup // StirAndStrain.comOne of goals of this site was to integrate seasonally appropriate ingredients into cocktails. Sometimes I remember to do that… sometimes not so much. Right now, everyone is inundated with citrus, and has been for a couple months now. I just came back from visiting my in-laws who have Meyer lemons, Bears limes, key limes and tangerines at their house. Magically, anything planted there thrives beyond expectations and around January/February every year it seems I have BAGS of citrus laying about. Even at my own house this year my tangelo tree exploded with fruit. I wish my lime trees would do that though (they’re still recovering from those nasty wind we had in Los Angeles in December 2011).

So I thought I’d come up with a few seasonally appropriate posts that will hopefully help you use up what citrus fruits you have laying around. The first of which is a pretty simple Meyer Lemon simple syrup to which I’m adding rosemary (another plant that no matter how much I cut it back, my entire front yard is crawling with it). And then I’ll make a drink with it for you. Because I’m a nice host.

Let’s get to it.

meyer-lemon-rosemary-syrup-2

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 oz. freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
zest from 2 Meyer lemons
1 sprig of rosemary (about 6″ in length)

Combine sugar and water in a sauce pan over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Take off from the heat, add juice, zest and rosemary. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain out solids and let sit in a container (I used a bowl) until cool. Bottle. This will keep for a few weeks in the fridge. Add 1 oz. of vodka and it will keep for months in the fridge.

meyer-lemon-rosemary-syrup-3This syrup is so fragrant and I attribute the combination of zest and juice. The rosemary is subtle but noticeable. Together it’s a sweet and woodsy potion. Don’t want to use it in cocktails? Sweeten your tea with this and you’ll get a similar magic in your cup.

Now let’s make you a drink.

I’m keeping this simple so that the flavor of the syrup will shine through, but not so simple you can say I’m phoning it in. Ginger is a great pair for the flavors of the Meyer lemon, which is  sweeter and a less acidic lemony lemon, and the earthiness of the rosemary.

1-1/2 oz. Broker’s Gin
3/4 oz. Meyer lemon rosemary syrup
4-6 oz. Ginger Beer
sprig of rosemary for garnish

Build the drink in a Highball glass by adding ice, gin, syrup and topping with the ginger beer. Add a clean piece of rosemary for garnish.mlrs-bottleopener

The result is light and refreshing, which I find I want more lately than my usual heavy whiskey. The cocktail is not too sweet, but the syrup does cut through the sharp bite of the ginger beer.

I have a couple more of these citrus posts ready to roll out this week, so please check back!

What to do with Amaretto: Part Two, make whipped cream

amaretto-whipcream-1January always seems like a “hands off” month when it comes to any subject other than how to be healthy. People are waking up, shaking off a month and a half food and booze induced coma, swearing off all evils for at least a few weeks. February seemed a more proper month to post this. All of those resolutions are out the window right now and people need a reason to put whipped cream on everything.

Booze spiked hot cocoa really doesn’t need a recipe (add alcohol until satisfied). However, measurements might be needed for a topping. Yes, a topping. Not being much of a marshmallow lover, I always have enjoyed a rather large dollop of whipped cream on my hot cocoa. And in this scenario, I have a bottle of Amaretto that needs using up. So for the next installment of “What to do with that bottle of Amaretto“, we will spike some whipped cream with it. Mmmm….amaretto-whipcream-6

Have you seen those new bottles of already spiked alcoholic whipped cream? Are you as freaked out as I am? Why does this exist if it takes 10 minutes to make on your own? You don’t even need to put pants on.

amaretto-whipcream-2Let’s make some Amaretto Whipped Cream:

8 oz. of cold heavy whipping cream
1 oz. of Amaretto
2 tbsp of sugar (I am using granulated and it dissolved just fine)

  • Start whipping the cream and add in the Amaretto and sugar. Mix until medium/firm peaks form, around 5 to 7 minutes. For softer whipped cream, beat it less. The colder the environment, mixer, whisk, etc. is, the faster your whipped cream will whip up.
  • When desired consistency is achieved (and you’ve taste tested, and maybe tested a few more spoonfuls if no one is looking), use right away or store in an air-tight container. Whipped cream will last 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

amaretto-whipcream-3amaretto-whipcream-4amaretto-whipcream-5Concerned your whipped cream will taste too much of alcohol? Don’t fret, even with an ounce of Amaretto, this recipe yields more like 2 to 2-1/2 cups, and mixed throughout is more subtle than you think. Also, the cream and sugar help cut through the sting of alcohol to let more of the almond flavor of the Amaretto stand out. I added my whipped cream to a mug (an awesome Mayan tiki mug no less) of Mexican Hot Chocolate. The flavor of the Amaretto was a match for the earthy, spiciness of the drink. Adding a touch of nutmeg on top doesn’t hurt either. I imagine this would work just as well with Swiss Miss.

Don’t want hot chocolate? Sneaking a piece of cake during your bout of trying to be healthy? This is spectacular on spice cakes or just dipping cookies into. Or strawberries! Valentine’s Day is this week…

Make It: Grenadine // Semi-Homemade Tequila Sunrise

grenadinespoon-1About 8 or 9 years ago I finally had an apartment to myself, no roommates(!), and in celebration went to the closest liquor store and picked up a bottle of Tequila. OK, it was Jose Cuervo. I already had OJ in the fridge, and had picked up a bottle of grenadine at work. It was a time in my life where I thought it would be adult of me to have a small ‘bar’ at my place. This was fancy for me; I was in my early twenties. Having picked up my first cocktail recipe book, I had decided on making a Tequila Sunrise. This was a cocktail name I had heard before, it was less scary than some of the other recipes in the book and I knew all the ingredients (even if I had no idea what went into grenadine). You have to start somewhere.

The other day, flipping through one of the Bum’s cocktail books, I realized I had no grenadine in the house. That lone bottle I bought some 8 or 9 years ago had stayed with me through several more apartments, a couple boyfriends, and my own wedding. Its existence being extinguished at one of our Tiki parties two years ago. I hesitated to go buy a bottle. There are more bad reviews of grenadine out there than good, and I recently had been reading about just how easy it was to make it. There are two approaches one can make their own grenadine with: the cold method (pomegranate juice and sugar shaken together until the sugar is well incorporated), and the cooked method. I went with the cooked method. Taking inspiration from the SippitySup blog and the Imbibe site, I combined a method I was happy with. I wanted to keep it simple, and the addition of the orange flower water gives it just the subtlest floral hint without being too perfume-like.

2 cups of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice (or freshly squeezed if you have it on hand)
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp of Orange Flower Water
1/2 oz of Vodka (for a preservative), optional

Combine juice and sugar in a pan over high heat. Bring to a boil then leave at simmering until reduced by half (I ended up with about a cup and a half). This can take 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat, add the orange flower water and leave to cool. Once cool, stir in vodka and bottle.grenadine-2grenadine-4grenadine-1

Couple notes here: Why heat? Testing the cooked method, I enjoyed the more syrupy consistency of the end result. It also resulted in a more intense “berry” flavor. Does orange flower water taste like orange? No. Have you ever smelled fresh blooms on an orange or lime tree? It’s like that, floral, not citrus.grenadine-3

Reminiscing about the grenadine, I thought, for nostalgia reasons, I’d make a Tequila Sunrise to test out the final batch. With a couple of tweaks it was just as satisfying as I remembered drinking it standing in my ‘bar’ of that first studio apartment.This time around, I juiced my own oranges in a rather large batch (I am finding new uses for this juicer we just committed to buying), which, because of how sweet they are this season, I decided on adding a touch of lime juice. And to round the whole drink out, a few dashes of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters.tequilasr-1

2 oz. Avión Silver Tequila
2-1/2 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 dashes of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters
Splash of grenadine (house made if you got it!)

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, combine tequila, orange juice, lime juice and bitters. Shake well to combine and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the grenadine to the center of your drink so it drops to the bottom of the glass. Stir gently with a bar spoon and watch as the colors float up.

A touch of sweet earthiness from the grenadine floats throughout the drink. I know that in this case it’s mainly a beautiful way to add color, but the richness of the syrup cuts through some of the sweetness of the orange juice too. Those bitters provide a subtle balance to the drink, that tends to just be very citrus forward and not much else.

I hope this post shows just how easy it is to have this bar staple on hand! No need to buy, just shake or simmer…

Make It: Holiday Spice Syrups

The hard ciders and glogg are starting to roll out. It’s Fall- hell, it’s almost Thanksgiving already. For me that means starting to plan for Christmas. My personality is such that I painfully start planning things much too far in advance, forget about them, and freak out at the last minute trying to get these plans into action.

A good chunk of gift giving is pretty easy actually when it comes to my friends. They all like booze. But really, putting a bow on a bottle of Jameson a couple years in a row starts to become too easy and predictable. Yes, you can step it up and maybe shell out for a bottle of Booker’s. However that becomes expensive when you multiply that by just 4 people.

When I started making my own infused syrups at home it occurred to me the potential these had for gift giving. One can make up a batch, pair it with a small bottle of something, and write up a little card with a drink recipe on it. For me, it’s a way of sharing an interest with my friends and getting them tipsy in the process. Win! Even better when you can open it together.

This year I’m expanding my usual arsenal of syrups to include some Fall spices that I want to try out. Adapting the clove syrup recipe from the PDT Cocktail Book, I’ve scaled that down and also worked up a cinnamon syrup too. Bottle these up and give away, or keep for yourself.

For this recipe, I made a master batch of simple syrup and then divided it to steep the cloves and cinnamon separately.

Master Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Combine water and sugar in a sauce pan. Swirl to combine and place over high heat until warmed through and transparent. Do not let it come to a boil. Once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat if using immediately for below or keep over a very low flame- you will need the syrup to be warm to infuse.

Clove Syrup

1/2 cup simple syrup
1/4 oz of cloves (I used a kitchen scale to weigh this out. It’s about 3 tablespoons if I were to eyeball it.)

Combine a half cup of the warm simple syrup with the cloves in a heat-proof container. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain into a bottle through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Let the mixture cool and store in the refrigerator.

Cinnamon Syrup

1 cup simple syrup
5 sticks of cinnamon, 2″ to 2-1/2″ in length

Combine a half cup of the warm simple syrup with the cinnamon sticks in a heat-proof container. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain into a bottle. Let the mixture cool and store in the refrigerator.

Syrups will keep approximately 1 month in the refrigerator (or at least they do in my house).

Make It: Mixed Berry Sorbet with Mint and Hendrick’s

This post has been staring at me for several days now. Recipes are backing up in the queue because this needs to go out. I want to share it, but for some reason it has seemed daunting writing it all down. There is no reason to shy away from it, it’s delicious and not that difficult to make. And the mint syrup gets used in a myriad of ways later on. So here it goes…

Tart, sweet and minty. Very minty depending on who you are talking to. I taste tested the recipe and found the mint here to be subtle, however my husband, who pretty much hates mint in desserts (I think he only finds mint tea acceptable) found it to be very strong. Keep this in mind while making the simple syrup. If you like a pretty subtle mint taste, maybe only a half cup of mint leaves will be best for you. And as always, try and get the ripest berries you can find. It creates a lovely sweetness and a heightened tartness that is enhanced by the addition of the lime.

Another note about this recipe. Using what I learned with the strawberry basil sorbet here, I increased the amount of alcohol to 2 ounces, making the consistency softer, even when frozen for 5+ hours. I actually prefer being able to scoop out the sorbet with little difficulty. And that Hendrick’s in there? You can totally taste it, in the background, adding a soft cucumber-gin flavor in both the smell and after-taste. Love it.

I made this over the course of a couple days, hence the crazy discrepancy in lighting. But also because I like to let the mixture sit and mingle for a day, letting the flavors come together.

First thing you need to do is make the Mint Simple Syrup.
1 cup of granulated cane sugar
1 cup of water
1 cup of mint leaves

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Swirl to combine. Add the mint leaves and push into the liquid. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain out the leaves and leave mixture to chill, or at least bring to room temperature.Recipes yields about a cup and a half.

Second you need to make the berry mixture for the sorbet.
1 lb. of mixed berries ( I used 2:1 raspberries to blackberries)
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 oz. Hendrick’s Gin
3/4 cup of Mint Simple Syrup from recipe above

In a food processor, break up the berries and add the rest of the ingredients. Continue to process until smooth.

Strain out the mixture through a fine sieve or through a cheesecloth. Note: if you use a chinoise, make sure you have the proper wooden dowel to push the solids. Otherwise you will be standing for at least 20 minutes trying to strain out the mixture wishing you had one.

Chill the mixture in the fridge for 24 hours. Also, if you are using a kitchen-aid ice cream maker, throw the bowl and all the parts into the freezer. You want everything to be really cold when you go to mix later.

When your mixture is thoroughly chilled and mingled, start your ice cream maker and throw in your mixture. Sorbet only needs about 15 minutes to set. After set, scoop into freezer safe containers and freeze until solid.

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.

Make It: Hibiscus Infused Tequila

I had scratched down an idea for a floral drink when the idea came up on Mixology Monday. And then I was out of town and forgot about it. I’m revisiting some ideas this week that I had left to the side and now have some time to actual try. For this recipe, keep in mind that Hibiscus is pretty astringent and this is not a liquor I’d knock back on its own. However, when mixed properly and sweetened, it’s delicious.

6 oz Tequila
1-1/2 Tablespoons Dried Hibiscus Flowers

Combine ingredients in a jar and seal. Refrigerate for 2 hours and then strain out the hibiscus and discard it. Or, if you’re like me and you forget it in the fridge for 24 hours, it’s also ok not ok. It gets too bitter. Stain it out immediately. Although it starts to move into the realm of bitter It’s so bitter, so taste it first after you’ve discarded the flowers.

Use immediately or store in the refrigerator indefinitely.

Make It: Limoncello Part Two

It’s been two weeks and it’s time for part two of making Limoncello.

First, take out that bag of lemon juice that’s been in the freezer. This was from the 4 lemons you zested two weeks ago… What? You forgot and threw them away? Fine, go squeeze 4 lemons and come back here.

Next thing you need to do is strain out the lemon zest that you’ve been shaking around everyday. You’ve been doing that, right? Good.

Depending on which way you went, you may have to strain twice. Since I used a combination of fine zest and strips of lemon peel, I had to do it twice. First strain went into a large pyrex measuring glass using a fine mesh strainer. I pushed down a bit on the zest to try and release as much liquid as possible. Then I decided to switch jars I was using, mainly because I could use this giant jar for another project (coming soon!). The second strain I used an extra-fine mesh strainer to make sure I got most of the floaty bits. While you’re doing this you should go ahead and start making the simple syrup.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Combine water and sugar in a sauce pan and put over low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. You might want to gently swish the pan around at first just to help with the dissolving. Then take the pan off the heat and allow to cool completely. Once cool, combine the simple syrup and lemon juice and pour into the vodka mixture. Now cover it tightly and let it sit for 6 weeks in a cool, dark place. In 6 weeks come back here for the exciting conclusion!

No wait! Come back all the time for drink recipes!

Yet another creation that looks like a big jar of pee...

Make It: Basil Liqueur

Apologies if I am incorrectly naming this delicious bottled beverage. Not sure what to call it once you add the simple sugar to the … tincture? Eh, someone someday will correct me on this.

This recipe comes from my friend John the moonlighting landscapist. It was a Christmas gift for me and my husband. Booze. Can’t give me a more enjoyable gift. Well, there may be a couple items that top higher, but we don’t need to go into those right now.

If the idea of drinking BASIL puts you off, you shouldn’t worry. The taste is not basil smacking you upside the head. It’s gentle and sweet and you can almost taste some citrus in the back there. It’s great on its own straight out of the freezer, or as you will see THIS WEEK, it is also tasty in mixed drinks. Here’s how to make it:

750 ml everclear (this was made from some bathtub hooch that John got up in Montana- a family recipe I believe. I suggest a very high proof vodka or if you can get it straight grain alcohol.)
basil leaves (enough to pack the bottle)

Pack the everclear with as much of the basil leaves that will fit in there and recap the bottle. Let them sit together in a cool, dark place for 4 days, shaking the bottle every day. Strain the liquid through a double layer of cheese cloth into a clean container for storing. You can toss out the basil leaves… I can’t think of anything you could do with them. If you do, let me know!

Next you need to make a half strength simple syrup. To do this, take 750 ml of water, combine with 350 grams of sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat, stir the mixture to dissolve any remaining sugar crystals and leave to cool to room temperature. Combine the simple sugar mixture to the basil liquid, cap it and stick it in the freezer.

Make It: Rosemary Lavender Simple Syrup

Rosemary Lavender Simple Syrup for use in the Springtime Gin Fizz.

2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar (I used organic golden sugarcane, but ehhhh… you can use white, it’s just what I had on hand)
4 sprigs of rosemary
1 teaspoon of lavender buds

Wash and dry your herbs. In a saucepan that seems much too large to hold such little liquid, throw in the water, sugar and herbs. Swish to combine. It’s not necessary to thoroughly dissolve the sugar. That will happen soon enough. Bring the mixture to a soft boil (not rolling), then turn down to simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Fine strain your mixture into a glass container. I prefer one with a spout (I usually just pour into a pyrex measuring glass) since I will transfer this into a couple different jars. One for a present, and then one bottle with a pour spout for drinks.

Note: There is so much debate over simple syrups (Cocktail Culture has a nicely compiled list of several arguments), and since I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this I am just using the same recipe I was following for the original recipe. It tastes good and worked for me with no problems. The original recipe says it will last up to one week in the fridge, but again, as with other syrups, I find that the boiling process does some kind of scientific mojo that lets it sit perfectly fine in my fridge for at least a month. However, this mix is going straight into the next drink recipe…here.