1/4 asian pear, cubed
3 whole green cardamom pods, pods discarded and seeds lightly crushed
1/2 oz lemon juice
1-1/2 oz Chopin Rye Vodka*
3/4 oz J Vineyards Pear Liqueur
1/4 oz Clear Creek Distillery Douglas Fir Eau de Vie
Combine pear cubes and cardamom seeds in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add lemon juice and muddle well to full combine and break down the pear. Next add in ice about 2/3 up the way of the mixing glass. Pour in vodka, pear and fir eau de vie. Shake to fully combine about 20 seconds. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with a pear wheel skewered with the rosemary sprig.
Strong rosemary and cardamom nose with sweet, lemony notes. Flavor is juicy pear with a nice balance of tartness from the lemon. The presence of the fir is not subtle, as it stands out next to the pear, but it also compliments the sweetness by offering an unexpected earthiness and woodsy layer to the drink.
Thanks to the Booze Nerds for this month’s MxMo challenge and for making me break into this bottle, it was a delicious experiment and kinda like drinking a Christmas Tree.
*This bottle of Chopin was generously given gratis and appears here because I like drinking it. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.
Probably every year about this time I start feeling uneasy and mumble to myself, “I’m not ready yet”. Purity jokes aside, it usually means I’m all a fuss about the upcoming holiday season. I mean, it’s 80 outside. It sure doesn’t feel like Santa is hiding in my chimney, ready to come down and scold me for not baking enough cookies this year.
But just because I’m a bumbling mess doesn’t mean YOU have to be. This year I’m trying to be more proactive and bring you, readers, timely gift guides. Not like those I threw out in March, even though, well, St. Patrick’s Day is also a relative holiday in my field.
Today we’re going to ease into just thinking about fun gifts for those cocktail lovers/enthusiasts/entertainers in your life. Or you can make a list for yourself! Who cares?! I don’t; you should see my “to buy” list, many items of which will actually be appearing here in the next few weeks.
Since it is still pretty balmy out here in Southern California, I’m taking you on a boat trip – with boozy gifts.
You’ll need a good Navy Strength Rum on this boat, and a couple of shatter-resistant glasses (for when it gets rough). Who wants to carry a bunch of full size products when you can have mini bitters on board? Adult ice pops? Yes. Just don’t forget the ice bucket!
Recently I was browsing online and came across the phrase ‘amaro highballs’. There weren’t any recipes or guidelines, just the phrase, which was all I needed to start me thinking about what would fall under that category.
Amaro is Italian for bitter, and for this post I am specifically focusing on Italian Amari. So Amer Picon and Becherovka have to sit out this round (but not to worry, they’ll be back on here soon!). Usually used as a digestif (after dinner to help aid in digestion), these bitter liqueurs also make for great bases in cocktails. They range from mildly bitter to the insane, cough-syrupy varieties and may take some getting used to. Use this as a gateway to explore and add one to your liquor cabinet; it’s worth it.
I also wanted to focus on some lower alcohol content drinks for the Holiday season. I don’t know about you, but my normal intake of cocktails in a night somehow skyrockets during the holiday season (stress??) and I find that if I make myself a drink with a lower ABV I can convince myself it’s just like drinking water… flavorful water.
Not all Amari though have a low alcohol content, so read your bottles! You can always adjust to your liking and below I have two choices under 40ABV (although just marginally on the second recipe).
2 oz. Averna (29% ABV)
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4-1/2 oz. Q-Ginger
2 dashes ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters
In a highball glass, build your drink by adding ice, then the Averna, lemon juice, bitters and then Q-Ginger. Express lemon peel oil over the drink and garnish on glass. Straw optional.
Averna is sweet and slightly syrupy, a gateway amaro with less bitterness, and here the sharpness of the ginger cuts through the sweetness to balance it out. The tiki bitters bring out more of the spice that is there while the lemon adds citrus to the nose and lingers in the background of the drink.
Fernet Branca Highball
1-3/4 oz. Fernet Branca (39% ABV)
3/4 oz. Orgeat
4-1/2 oz. Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water
In a highball glass, build your drink by adding ice, then the Fernet Branca, orgeat, and tonic water. Express grapefruit peel oil over the drink and garnish on glass. Straw optional.
Fernet Branca is on the crazier side of the amaro scale with a very strong and distinct flavor. There’s some minty, bittery… gosh, I dunno, there’s a lot going on with that liqueur and although it’s clearly the star flavor, it’s cut back a bit by the almond-sweet orgeat and mellowed with the tonic. The effervescent nature of the tonic works incredibly well with the Fernet Branca and it disperses the grapefruit oil through out offering a slightly citrusy bitterness to the drink. It’s layers of bitter and sweetness in this glass.
One aspect that makes both these drinks versatile is that they work in warm and cold weather. They are both refreshing when it’s hot out, but also have a lot of spice that works well when it’s cold. If you venture to try one of these, let me know what you think. First time with an amaro? Awesome! Welcome to the club.
So for this year, on the festival of lights, I decided to tweak a recipe I encountered in the Washington Post on Indian beverages. The ingredients might seem a bit out there, but if you’re interested in new flavors, this would be a great place to start. The flavors of India are perfect for many cocktail creations, as they encompass sweet, salty and savory all at once and taste a lot more complex than cocktails you might be familiar with.
Here’s a warning for this drink, not to scare you off, but one ingredient in here, the black salt, might be a bit too much for some of you out there. When you open your container, you will get hit with a great amount of sulphur. That is a flavor component that this adds. Smelly, smelly sulphur. However, if you eat Indian food, you will find this subtly in the background in many dishes, so you might have already tried it before. Here though, if you are terrified of ruining a decent cocktail, or just simply cannot get your hands on it, leave it out. I won’t tell.
Also, the article suggests adding herbs and whole black peppercorns to your ice cubes the day before. This is optional and mainly a decorative element. When the ice cube starts to melt in the drink, be mindful that the peppercorns may be now floating in your beverage and you might unknowingly almost swallow one. I might have just done that. Twice.
You know what is great about making infused booze at home? It’s a lazy man’s project. You just need time (FYI, make a calendar reminder as soon as you start your infusion. No forgetting about it after you stash it in a cool, dark place!) This one might be a bit more involved, but you could also make some great spiced-infused bourbon if the cutting and gutting (is that the correct terminology?) of a pumpkin is not your thing. I understand; knives can be scary.
The recipe falls into two parts. Total time is about 2-3 weeks.
Part the First:
Dehydrate your pumpkin! Why? Dehydrating removes excess moisture from the squash and intensifies the “pumpkin” flavor.
1 organic sugar pumpkin, about 8″ diameter
Heat your oven to 200°F.
Cut your pumpkin in half from stem to bottom. Scoop out seeds (discard, or roast if that’s your thing. Personally I can’t stand them.) and slice into 1/2″ moons.
Spread the slices on a baking sheet and move that to the oven. Wait six hours. Watch if you want occasionally. It’s like the Shrinky Dinks of my childhood.
After 6 hours, turn the slices over. Bake another 6 hours. This will fully dry the slices out for infusion.
Optionally, you can do this in a dehydrator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Give the container a good swirl to make sure all ingredients are covered with liquid. Stick the jar in a cool, dark place for two weeks.
After two weeks, strain all material out of the liquid using cheese cloth over a fine mesh strainer into a storage container (I reused the Buffalo Trace bottle).
Taste the infusion. You have two options now.
First, you can use as is. Second, bottle and wait an additional week to mellow out the flavor (I prefer the later).
Why would you wait one more week? Right after discarding the solids the flavor of the infusion is quite sharp. Giving the infusion a week to sit let’s the flavors meld and mellow out. But this is entirely up to you. Like it sharp? Start using it now.
What to do with this infusion? Well, for one, you can drink it over ice. It’s pretty much a flavor bomb of Fall smells. The sugar pumpkin has enough sweetness in it that it creates a nice balance with the whiskey. For those of you who want something a little less Fall tasting than just drinking Pimento Dram, this is for you.
I’m going to play with this over the next week or so and see what I come up with for some cocktail suggestions. That gives you some time to start infusing. So get going!
Hey kids! This months Low Rent Cocktail is a layup. That Halloween party you threw Saturday night? You’re going to have one rager of a hangover Sunday morning. The solution: more booze. And candy. Candy is always the answer. Just before you passed out into oblivion I bet you tossed a bunch of candy corn into an almost empty solo cup of vodka. Well, that sat overnight and turned into a magical elixir… of candy corn syrup… that you can shoot back and start your day. Ok, first you need to take off that Vampira makeup. Or are you still in your Teen Wolf costume? Either way, this drink is going to put things back into perspective.
Maybe next you should go find a chili dog.
2 oz. of Vodka or any clear spirit
small handful of candy corn
Toss the candy corn into the vodka and let that sit overnight, or at least 4 hours. The candy should have broken down at this point, so give it a stir, and toss it back.
It’s a thick, syrupy, candy corn flavored elixir. Unless you plopped your candy corn in some rum, then it’s going to be rum and candy corn flavored. You get the idea.
Happy Halloween everyone! If you need some monster-inspired music, check out the #songaday selections on my Twitter.
Caramel is boiling sugar. The recipe moves quickly so get all your ingredients together before you start and please, try not to spill it on yourself, it will hurt like hell.
Adapted recipe from The Gourmandise School
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, Plugra is awesome and used here
1 cup heavy cream, room temp
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp fleur de sel, Murray River used here
1 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Seeds from one vanilla bean, or 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine sugar, water, vanilla seeds (or paste), and lemon juice. Stir once to combine. On medium high heat, cook until sugar dissolves, brushing the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush if sugar crystals stick to the sides. Bring to a boil, undisturbed (do NOT STIR), until sugar reaches a dark amber color. (This can take anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t leave the pan. It will almost always burn if you step away.)
Carefully add the cream. It will bubble and hiss like crazy, but this is normal. Bring back to a boil, then add in butter, salt and bourbon. Stir to combine and until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
Let cool and then jar up.
Here’s a few notes:
Your sauce is going to look watery at first. Don’t keep cooking it. If you pull a spoon out of the sauce and it leaves a layer, your sauce is thickened. As it cools it will thicken up much more. And once you stick it in the fridge, the next day it’s even more thick.
DO NOT STIR IT WHILE IT COOKS. Just don’t, it will create crystals and it will be grainy and gross.
The bourbon is added at the end, so you will taste it. That is the point of adding it to the sauce. Don’t like bourbon? You can add an aged rum if you like. Or just leave out the booze too if you have to.
Besides the lovely bourbon taste, mainly you are going to get a buttery, salted caramel with hints of vanilla. And you will keep telling yourself, One more spoonful, until there is nothing left.
Weise’s cocktail was a Pisco Sour and since this is my first time trying this out, I’m sticking, mostly, with his measurements. To get the right consistency, he suggests using a very wheat-y beer. There’s some scientific stuff about proteins and such that I have not provided for you to read. You can open a new tab if you’re really interested and have the internet tell you about it.
So which continents did I hit? Well, the limes were from Mexico (they’re not in season here right now) so there’s North America. The Pisco was from Peru, so there you have South America. Angostura Bitters are from Trinadad, but that’s still in the Americas (shoot!). The Hefe-Weizen’s Germany so we got Europe covered. And the added touch? Orange Flower Water, from Lebanon. So there’s Asia. BOOM! Four out of seven is not bad in my book.
Now that school is over, let’s make a drink!
Adapted from Brady Weise:
1-1/2 oz. Encanto Pisco
1-1/2 oz. Paulaner Hefe-Weizen Beer
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/4 tsp. Orange Flower Water
3-4 dashes of Angostura Bitters
Pour the Orange Flower Water in the bottom of a rocks glass. Swirl to coat the entire inside of the glass and pour out remaining liquid. In a mixing glass, add lime juice, simple syrup, pisco and–slowly–beer. Using a Boston Shaker, hard shake for about 30 seconds. Strain into your rocks glass and give a few hard shakes to get foam out of the shaker and into the glass. Top with a few dashes of Angostura Bitters.
The result is similar to a regular Pisco Sour, except this version has some wheat in the finish and a sweet orange, floral aroma and taste. Overall tart with sweet grape, but a balanced tartness due to the orange flower water (after trying without, I prefer this less mouth-puckering version) that also compliments the wheat from the Hefe-Weizen. The head is thick, foamy, and slowly dissipates, showing its structure.
Thanks to Stewart for hosting this month and to Frederic for keeping Mixology Monday up and running.
In Other News
If you didn’t click on the link for 1886, and that’s fine, no one is forcing you to, more of my writing can be found on the Serious Drinks sitenow. What kind of stuff? Reviews of some of my favorite places to drink in Los Angeles, and first looks at some new places. Heading to L.A. soon? Check it out!
1/2 cantaloupe, orange flesh only cut into cubes
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
In a nonreactive medium sized sauce pan, combine sugar and water over medium heat. Throw the cantaloupe chunks into the pan and with a potato masher or large fork, crush the melon, breaking it down into the sugar water. You want it to resemble the consistency of a thick soup, with no visible large melon chunks. Bring mixture to a boil and then let simmer over low heat for a half hour. Stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let cool completely. Fine strain mixture into an airtight bottle. Add 1/2 ounce of vodka if not using entire syrup completely. Refrigerate until ready to use.
*This bottle of Dobel was generously given gratis and appears here because I like drinking it. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.
Recently Raul over at the Death to Sour Mix blog gave us 3 drinks he enjoyed this summer. That reminded me I wanted to throw up a couple of drinks that have been in regular (heavy) rotation around this house lately.
First, my husband, Christopher, who no longer would like to be referred to by ‘husband’ here but by his own name (maybe should have thought twice before he put a ring on it) is not one to turn down a drink. He leafs through all the cocktail books I bring in (never telling me I’ve bought too many. Thank god.) and, in addition to being my test monkey, he very often makes up his own drinks or makes a recipe that appeals to him. Lately it’s been the Hanky Panky via the PDT cocktail book. But not just your run of the mill HP. For the Gin, he uses the very assertive Terroir from St. George Spirits. Quite possibly his favorite gin ever. For me, this completely changes the drink and it’s totally something else, in a good way. Like when you put an onion in a martini and get to call it a Gibson. Be warned, this is like a pine forest took up camp in your cup, which you will either love, or not. NO in-betweens here!
Hanky Panky in a Forrest
2 oz. St. George Spirits Terroir Gin
1-1/2 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz. Fernet Branca
Stir all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled coupe.
For me, it’s all about this Negroni variation suggested by Michael Dietsch via his Serious Drinks article found here. I mean…dang! Smith and Cross was always a bit too powerful to the point I sometimes was unsure of what to do with it. But with Carpano and Campari it tames that wild beast of a rum into delectable smoothness. At first my only addition was adding a grapefruit peel garnish. I’m a bit sad to think about how many grapefruits I peeled to death and then forgot to eat the inside of. I need to learn to supreme citrus already! And then it happened, I ran out of Carpano. Playing my own game of swapping out the liquor I turned to Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and it worked in this drink’s favor. So much so I decided I’d even name this one.
1-1/2 oz. Smith and Cross Jamaican Rum
3/4 oz. Campari
3/4 oz. Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
grapefruit peel for garnish
In a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice, add first three ingredients. Stir for 30 seconds and pour into a chilled double rocks glass. Cut a peel of grapefruit about 3 inches long. Express the oil over the drink, swab the inside of the glass with the oil and drop the peel into the glass.
Why a double rocks glass for that small amount of liquid? It’s all about getting that grapefruit aroma in there and up your nose. When I added that grapefruit peel the first time I tried this variation, bells went off; it was pretty darn perfect for me. And the rest of the drink? Velvet texture. The sharpness of the Smith and Cross is but by the syrupy Vermouth and bitter-sweetness of Campari. Powerful, and yet so easy to drink.
So what are you guys drinking at home? Is it your favorite classic cocktail? Or maybe it’s just a good beer. Let me know!