Mixology Monday: The Apple Stack

 

For this month’s Mixology Monday, “Garnish Grandiloquence” hosted by Joseph Tkach of Measure and Stir, I worked on a recipe I already had jotted down in my notebook for a seasonal cocktail. It read, “something about apple pie and cheddar cheese and maybe cider”. Baking a miniature pie and hovering it over a cocktail, while admirable, was not really an avenue I felt I would go down this time. Oh, also just to back this up a bit and explain. I’m originally from New England and there’s a tradition there of eating a piece of strong, sharp cheddar cheese (I prefer Vermont) with a piece of apple pie. Whether it’s on the side, or a sliver right on top of the crust is up to individual taste. This is a sentimental reminder of home for me this time of year and I thought I could do something with these flavors for a Fall cocktail.

I don’t know my way around a garnishing kit, and even sometimes a vegetable peeler scares me (and it would you too if you took off a piece of your nail once along with a potato peel). But I own a mandoline with a pretty heavy duty safety guard, so my mind went towards using some thin slices of apple, and a hunk of cheddar cheese. Now, one of the issues with taking photos of drinks is that it’s tough to want to start when there is a lot of light out, at say, 8am. So during the late Fall and Winter months, starting a drink requiring lots of photos late in the afternoon is just stupid. As most of your photos will need extra light, a tripod and will ultimately result in blurry photos if not done properly. Clearly this is a rant I am giving to myself. There are many steps to this garnish, requiring many photos. Most of which I am chucking because of light/sharpness issues so I’ll briefly explain here.

If you ever work with apple slices as a garnish do yourself a favor if you want them to stay pretty and white. Get a bowl, fill it with water, squeeze a lemon into it and dunk your apple slices in there. The lemon juice will slow down oxidation and instead of turning brown, your slices will stay fresher looking longer. For this garnish, I peeled one long ribbon of apple peel, and then cut an apple in half and from the center of the apple, sliced it on a mandoline at 1/4″. I cut those circles in half, trimmed the center so they were pretty much equal in size, and threw them in the lemon water to sit and wait.

For the cheese part, I chose a 1/2″ chunk of Carr Applewood Smoked Cheddar. Besides having the sharp flavor down, it has has a lovely smoky scent and taste that, if we’re feeling Fall here, adds to that ambiance. But mostly, it tastes pretty damn good. The peel was used as a ribbon garnish inside the glass, and the apple slices fanned out (pat them dry first), skewered and topped with the chunk of cheddar.

Initially I wanted to have two ribbons of apple peel wound around like a strand of DNA. I sketched it out even and it seemed possible, but real apple peel is not as pliable as one hopes so that idea was tossed. Another issue that was encountered was glass size to garnish ratio. When the first attempt at the garnish was completed, I realized that the drink size was just under 5 oz total, so a giant glass to hold the final garnish dwarfed the actual amount of liquid, so the garnish was cut down a bit to accommodate the actual drink.

And the drink here? That’s also important…

1-1/2 oz. High West Campfire Whiskey
1 oz. Laird’s Straight Bonded AppleJack Brandy
1/4 oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
2 oz. J.K’s Scrumpy Organic Hard Cider

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice. Stir and strain into a small chilled rock glass with apple ribbon. Garnish with apple and cheese fan.

This drink is wonderfully balanced, bordering on sweet and smoky. Usually the Campfire is the predominant flavor but here blends very well with the sharp kick of the Bonded AppleJack while the Allspice Dram adds that touch of ‘Fall’ with the clover and spice notes in the finish of the drink. The addition of the hard cider melds everything together and making the apple presence much more noticeable. The garnish provides one additional layer of smokiness in smell and flavor, while the apple slices provide visual appeal and lets you know what flavors you’re in for.

First go at the garnish before realizing it was too tall for the glass.

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Here’s the roundup post of this month’s MxMo!

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).

Hawaiian Black Eye

Sometimes I really want to mix up a tiki drink but realize that I’m missing a good deal of the ingredients to put into one. I usually have limes and lemons around the house, but rarely do I have oranges or grapefruit, or, seriously, passion fruit? Perhaps this means I’m missing variety in my diet? What I end up doing is just deciding to go out to my nearest tiki bar, which on my side of L.A. isn’t too difficult.

Today however I ended up with some very late in the season blackberries from the farmers market and was full determined to use them up. In a drink. A tiki drink.

Scrounging through the Beach Bum Berry Remixed book, throwing some Martin Denny on the turntable (trying to get into the mood, don’t laugh), I finally came across something I could adapt to what I had on hand- the Hawaiian Eye (created for the 1960’s show of the same name). I had some rum, falernum, limes… I just needed the “black eye” part, and those blackberries could fit in nicely.

Adapted from Beach Bum Berry Remixed

5 Blackberries (reserve one for garnish)*
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz Fee Brother’s Falernum
1/2 oz simple syrup (1:1)
1/2 oz Kraken Black Spiced Rum
1 oz Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
3 dashes of Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters
8 oz ice (about a cup, I use my kitchen scale when it comes to ice)

To make the garnish, take your spent lime shell and cut small triangles around the edge. I attempted this with a paring knife first but found that kitchen shears worked much, much better. Pierce the center of the lime with a stainless or bamboo skewer. Thread a blackberry onto the skewer and then the lime shell. Set aside.

Blend all ingredients and pour into your favorite tiki mug, or a goblet if you have one on hand. Garnish with the blackberry hat.

*A note on blackberries. These guys have lots of SEEDS. First attempt at making this meant spitting out seeds with every sip. To avoid this, mash the blackberries through a fine mesh strainer catching the juice, but leaving the seeds behind. Pour into the blender and follow directions as above.

The drink becomes more of a ruby color than black. It’s not too sweet with a sharp tang from the lime and blackberries. The spice from the Kraken and the bitters is more in the finish than in the forward flavor. Oh, and careful, it goes down quick.

Smoky Manhattan

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Regan that the Manhattan is the “best cocktail on earth” (see Joy of Mixology). And while I thoroughly enjoy creating new, or (re)discovering old classics, sometimes I just want one. See today. I finally got to check out Bar Keeper in Los Angeles and as excited as I was to finally have the Mezcal from Del Maguey in my hands, I suddenly got a bit overwhelmed with what I wanted to make. Really, what I needed was a drink to have while perusing the PDT Cocktail Book I’d also just picked up. So my eyes went to the High West Campfire whiskey (a blend of rye, bourbon and a blended malt scotch whisky) and I thought to myself, why not a Manhattan with that?

On this gigantic shopping spree I went on in that tiny store, I also acquired a bottle of Carpano Antica. A lightly sweet and bitter Italian sweet vermouth that I see on just about every cocktail menu here in L.A. serving up a Manhattan. To balance out this drink I decided to stick with the Angostura bitters. I also upped the sweet vermouth since I found that the delicate nature of Carpano Antica was going to be competing with that Campfire whiskey. I’m thinking of trying this next time with a more assertive sweet vermouth so there would be less need to add extra.

2 oz. High West Campfire Whiskey
1-1/2 oz. Carpano Antica
3 dashes of Angostura bitters

1 Tillen Farms Bada Bing Cherry (or if you got them on hand, a Luxardo)

Drop the cherry into a chilled cocktail glass. In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add all the ingredients. Stir and strain into the glass.

The taste? A wonderful mouthful of smoke from the peated scotch whisky. The Carpano Antica rounds out the drink with its sweet and bitter notes, heightened with the spicy bitter of the Angostura.

It’s pretty powerful, and as such, not for everyone. The smokiness was too much for my husband at first (he’s not a scotch fan), although he’s coming around after another.

The White Russian: Happy Halloween from the Dude

This classic sprang about due to a Halloween party this past weekend. We knew about this party, a 90’s themed Halloween party, for at least a couple of weeks, but all the ideas for costumes seemed to be slipping by. Stuck for ideas my husband asked me to just read off the highlights from each year of VH1s I Love the 90s. Then I read off The Big Lebowski.

“Stop”, my husband said, “that’s it.”

Now, it took me a couple times to really get into this movie. Around the time I hit 10 years in L.A. I watched it again and finally had my ‘ah-ha’ moment. And actually liked the film. While I can’t rattle off quotes, I do know what drink the Dude prefers: White Russians.

This was a Friday night when the costume was decided, Saturday was the party. The following day it took a trip to Target, a Halloween store, and a stop at Ralph’s to complete the costume. This was done by 10:30 am.

Part of the costume was to be an empty Ralph’s container of milk, however they only had pints of half and half around. Instead of dumping out the milk when we got back, I can’t waste food, we poured it into some containers and I decided to put it to good use making some White Russians, for help getting “into character”.  

I had to consult The Joy of Mixology since this isn’t a drink I often consume. Or actually, have ever had. But we needed to be authentic for the costume. It’s only changed slightly in that I built it in the glass and stirred it, and subbed out 1/2 and 1/2 for the cream. I know, there’s dairy in there, it should be shaken. But the Dude doesn’t go for that fancy stuff.

2 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Kahlua
1 oz. 1/2 and 1/2

Build ingredients in a rocks glass. Give it a good stir to combine. Try not to get it all up in your mustache.

What’s it taste like? Sort of like sweet, spiked coffee. It’s rich, and I can’t fathom how one could continually throw these back. But to each his own.

Happy Halloween folks, from me and the Dude.

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Overnight Adult Slushie, in green

Do you like to get girl drink drunk?

Let’s acknowledge that these drinks are not for people who enjoy drinks. It’s that spoon full of sugar… For kids on spring break, or those yard-long plastic glasses mainly filled with sugar and a thimble of alcohol. You like those drinks? This one is for you.

I’ve seen ‘adult’ frozen beverages done well. There seemed to be a surge of adult popsicles and the like this summer. This is not that. This is a drink you throw together when picking up after a party on a hot night, throw it in the freezer, and enjoy all over again the next day. And now, just when I was breaking out the sweaters and scarves, DAMMIT, it got hot again in L.A. This drink would have come around early September, but didn’t get a chance. So now for your sugary, neon buzzing pleasure– I give you your Low Rent Cocktail of the Month.

One night at a party someone brings you as a mixer a brightly colored soda. Let’s say it’s Watermelon Kiwi. And then you throw some vodka in and call it a night.

Right before you pass out, you empty the rest of the vodka into the last third of that soda. And since you’ve run out of ice cubes you toss it in the freezer.

In the morning, you re-discover this concoction in there and in lieu of a cup (none are clean anyway), you cut off the top and stick a straw in. Or two. Hey, that random person still in the house might like a cold drink as well.

1 cup vodka
3 cups of a fruity, all sugar, soda pop (save the bottle)

The flavor will all depend on what your base is. Or what mixers you had the night before. In this case, it tasted like Pop Rocks!

Chocolate Chili, Mint and Vodka Fizz Cocktail

A couple months back I had more mint syrup sitting in my fridge than I could ever use. I really stretched it out into as many drinks as possible, but still found that its volume was decreasing ever so slightly. Browsing on Foodgawker I caught sight of this drink on there. I filed it as a possibility and then forgot about it, and the mint syrup, until this week. Well, the mint syrup was in bad shape and had to get tossed out. But I still had an idea of reworking this recipe with the chocolate chili bitters I had from Miracle Mile bitters, and I had a bunch of fresh mint hanging around. It could still work, and in the end it did.

The drink came out smooth, minty and flavorful with a subtle kick from the chili in the bitters. The fresh mint and simple syrup were a fine stand in for mint syrup. Why did I keep it as a vodka base? Well, I had a bottle around the house and sometimes I need to come up with drinks for people who only drink vodka. This is one to file away for such a time.

I used a small rocks glass for this drink. It’s really almost a juice glass. But the smallness keeps the flavors vibrant without allowing too much space for melting ice, or for overfilling with club soda.

1-1/2 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
6 medium sized mint leaves
2-3 dashes of Miracle Mile Chocolate Chili Bitters
2-3 oz. Q-Club club soda
sprig of mint

In the bottom of a rocks glass, muddle the mint leaves and simple syrup together gently just until a minty smell is released. Add the dashes of bitters, a few ice cubes and add vodka. Stir a few times to combine and top with club soda. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Honey Vanilla Chai Toddy

Mainly due to losing that month in limbo in India and being sick, I’ve been finding it hard to believe that it’s Fall. Also, L.A. having 80+ temps lately isn’t helping. But a night of pumpkin carving, hot spiced apple cider and a smattering of Halloween-themed movies seems to have jolted my system back to normal. A post on a food blog I follow recently had this delicious toddy recipe that enlightened me to what some flavored teas can add to drinks. Maybe my mind is still lingering over some of the flavors of India as I decided a spiced chai toddy might do the trick for those chilly 70 degree gray L.A. days to come (I’m over apologizing to my east coast family that 68 is jacket and scarf weather. After 10 years here this is cold for me and warrants lighting the fire place).

So today I bring you a Honey Vanilla Chai Toddy. So easy you’ll want to double the batch and share. Or drink two really fast.

5 oz boiling water
1 teabag of honey vanilla chai (here I am using Celestial Seasonings, but you can also find just vanilla chai- in which case you’ll want to add a touch more Bärenjäger)
1/2 oz of Bärenjäger
1 oz of Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt Rye here)
1 cinnamon stick

Pour the boiling water over the tea bag in a smaller sized coffee mug or Irish coffee glass (I used a glass that holds around 7 oz of liquid). Steep the tea for 3 minutes and then remove the teabag. Pour in the Bärenjäger and Whiskey, stir gently to combine. Garnish with the cinnamon stick.

If you’re not familiar with it, Bärenjäger taste like the “cough syrup” my dad made for me as a child when my coughing kept him up and my mom was working second shift: honey and booze. I love how strong the honey flavor is, it’s almost like drinking it straight, just not as thick. This drink has many layers of flavors. The tea base has familiar chai flavors: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, black pepper with the addition of vanilla and honey. The honey though here is then heightened by the addition of the Bärenjäger. Mmmmm…. and also some sweetness from the Rye. The ‘alcohol’ layer adds some bite, but struggles to keep afloat with all the spice action. But that’s ok, more reason to have another.

And when you’re done taking photos, just shove that stick in the drink.

Fresh Lime Soda Sweet, Salty and Boozy

What happened to September around here you ask? Well, I took my first trip to India. And then came home with a little India in my lower intestines and was horribly sick for WEEKS. Weeks. I’m not a fan of India, apologies to those of you who are. A friend of mine was there in February and had a fine time. Every day of our trip something went wrong. I landed and was sick for 4 days. An accident on a two lane road made a 3 hour trip into an 8 hour trip. A nation-wide protest delayed our stay in New Delhi due to a man lighting his truck on fire on a highway we needed to take. A drunk motorcyclist tried to drag our driver out of our car and beat him up. My Mother-In-Law got Dengue Fever, along with two other relatives. And I learned a baby can cry for 16 straight hours on a plane. The sickness I developed while back in the states put me on a medication that would make my blood toxic if I had any alcohol of any kind, even mouthwash! So that put the brakes on the blog for awhile. But I’m putting all that behind me now and getting back to normal around here. One wonderful thing about India was a drink that my Husband’s mom has been talking about for years that she used to drink growing up in India: Fresh Lime Soda Sweet and Salty. She couldn’t really remember what went into it, so as soon as we got into India, she ordered up a glass and I was impressed. Especially the garnish. I’d never seen olives and maraschino cherries dancing together in a glass before. One sip of this and I took notes and told myself to make this a boozy beverage when we got back to the states. I had this served several ways while in India. Most times everything was made and served to you in a glass, but with a small pitcher on the side of simple syrup to make it even sweeter if you wanted. Indians love the sweet stuff. Another time it was served up sweet with a salt shaker next to the glass. The last time I had it, I was served lime juice in a glass, with a bottle of club soda, a small pitcher of simple syrup, a bowl of salt, and an ice bucket of ice. It was great to make it exactly how I wanted it. And I encourage that here. I had to try a couple times to get the right amounts for my taste here. The idea is to balance the sweet and the salt. Do you like it more sweet? Less sweet? A salt lick? Go ahead and taste as you make this. 1-1/2 oz Vodka 2-1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lime juice 3/4 oz of simple syrup (as always around here I make a 1:1 ratio syrup, not a rich syrup) 1/4 tsp of kosher salt 2 – 3oz Q-Club Soda Garnish: lime wedge maraschino cherry (I used Bada Bing Cherries. An impulse buy,  but mostly because there is no red dye involved. I just can’t bring myself to buy those anymore.) Green Olive stuffed with Pimento (or not stuffed if you prefer) In the mixing glass of a Boston Shaker, fill with ice and pour in vodka, lime juice, simple syrup and salt. Shake well to combine. Strain into a Highball glass with several ice cubes (3-4 large cubes) and top with club soda. Spear the olive, cherry and lime wedge and garnish the glass. Add some festive elephants to remind you of those walking around the streets in India.

The Backsaw

Do you ever take a bunch of photos to later.. lose them? We’re talking about digital cameras, not, oh hey, I lost a book of photos.

I sat down with the intention of writing and posting about another Shrub recipe. One I was pleased with and wanted to share. However, the photos weren’t in iPhoto. And, well, not on the camera. I know I shot them. I remember looking at them.. but alas, no photos. I hate to admit that all signs seem to be pointing at the fact that I probably deleted them.

So take two. The Backsaw.

This is another of the Shrub-based cocktails that I’ve been playing with. This one was a winner for me. The Lemon Shrub bites through the rich sweetness of the Rye with a nice balance of sweet and sour. The smell of the shrub might be shocking for some on the nose at first but it mellows out once the drink sits for a bit.

No garnish is necessary, however candied lemon peel might quite well here.1-1/2 oz Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt is used here)
1 oz Extra Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Lemon Shrub
2 dahses of Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients over ice. Stir and strain into either a cocktail glass or wide rocks glass. Served up.