A Little T&C

Necessity breeds imagination. Isn’t there a saying along those lines? This weekend we’ve holed up in the house for a couple reasons. One, work. Work work. My husband has a lot of it. 90% involving computer and programming and other things that make no sense to me. Second is also work. House work. Lots of dusting due to the start of what is to be a long, drawn out construction project that has already resulted in the loss of use of the downstairs bathroom. And a couple of fights with the home insurance agency. Third, the closure of the 405 freeway. For a short while now we’ve been warned by the transit authorities to STAY AWAY from the west side of town. Avoid the airport!! Avoid leaving your houses!! Better yet, just leave town until Monday morning. Last check all the freeways were green and I’m sure all those idiots who paid for expensive helicopter rides over what was supposed to be insane gridlock for 40 miles in every direction are kicking themselves right now. Deservedly so in my opinion.

Anyway, we bought some grill fixings and decided to just stay put for two days. No biggie. Except that we somehow forgot to stock up the liquor cabinet. It’s been slowing bleeding out for the last month or so. Company comes over and there goes that bottle of Buffalo Trace. And oddly a whole bottle of Jägermeister (how did that get in there?). And wasn’t there a bottle of Finlandia for Bloody Marys?

Surprisingly though we had a couple of almost depleted Tequila bottles. Enough to make some cocktails. But with no whole limes around the house either, a Margarita was out of the question. And I have just been informed by the husband that he really isn’t a fan of them anyway.

There was a whole bottle of Campari though. No gin- the Aviation got used up in some martinis two days ago. Home bartenders are hanging their heads at this sorry state of this liquor cabinet right now.

So a quick search on the internet for tequila and campari brought me to the A Dash of Bitters blog. And this post here. This recipe below is only a slight modification. I upped the Campari by a ¼ ounce to blow out the tequila and make the Campari stand out more (my reasoning was that I wanted this to taste like Campari, not just a slight bitter aftertaste). I also added a squeeze of lime. I felt it needed a touch of an acid. And tequila and lime, blah blah blah. So here you go! It’s slightly bitter and tangy and a hint of that rich reposado tequila is there in the background, which is where I wanted him to be.

2 oz. Cazadores Reposado Tequila
½ oz Campari
¼ oz French Dry Vermouth
¼ oz Fee Brothers Maraschino Cherry Syrup (finally broke into this!)
dash of Peychaud’s Bitters
Squeeze of a ¼ lime

Stir all of the ingredients together with ice. Strain into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with spent lime.

After I made this I glanced down at the comments and realized that others were also adding limes. I think I’d nix the Maraschino syrup next time because I don’t feel like it adds much. In fact, for the next round I made this with Aperol instead of Campari and left out the syrup. Then I subbed out some Castillian Bitters from Miracle Mile Bitters (a local, artisanal bitters company in L.A.) I thought it worked, but another taste tester, not being a fan of the Aperol, thought it tasted too medicinal. To each his own.

I will be enjoying this on the porch by my little lime tree that is slooooooowwwly growing me some new limes. The biggest about the size of my thumb.

Loose Ends/New Favorite Gin

The idea behind having a scratch pad blog is that you tell yourself you can go a month or two without having to write anything because nothing new has come to fruition. Which has been the case. Night after night of Angelas and Manhattans until one day picking up a bottle of Aviation Gin on a stock up trip at BevMo and realizing: this.is.my.new.favorite.gin.

I’m not really using this site as a review site. If something that I enjoy happens to be worth sharing, I will simply let you all know what that is. Why Aviation Gin? It just tastes fantastic. The anise in here really pops and I capital L love anise flavor. Currently there is a bottle and a martini glass living in my freezer…. I don’t think I need to spell this out folks. Can I name this drink the Lazy Man’s Martini?

Anyways, if you were following the Limoncello saga, you might want to strain it out of that bottle, stick it in a glass bottle with a nice stopper-top, and stick that kid in the freezer. It’s done.

Also, I had the opportunity to sit in on a new Bitters vendor at work today and I have 8 new reasons to make some fantastic tasting drinks. Word is that the Cana Rum Bar and the Tar Pit already are using these. Hopefully soon I can let on who and where to buy them. The best news about these: no dyes. Sorry Fee Brothers, you just got bumped. Your Peach bitters is about to become shamefully shelved.

Lime Tree and a Daiquiri

Recently we invested in a lime tree. Or rather, I had one picked up and brought to the house and my husband came home and wondered when a lime tree had relocated itself next to the front door.

It smells amazing. I immediately had to make a drink out of it, and luckily I had an order for a drink. Stat!

I always associate limes with Daiquiris and I figured this was an easy jumping off point to really indulge in the flavor of the fruit. And it really does. It’s perfectly sour and sweet, and with just three ingredients and the right balance, all are identifiable yet harmonized.

This drink also packs a nice punch, which in part influenced my decision to serve over ice. I read up on a couple different versions, and figured if you want to sit and sip this, a couple of ice cubes help draw out the time you get to spend with your Daiquiri.

2 oz. 10 Cane Rum
1 oz. Freshly Squeeze Lime Juice
1 tsp Simple Syrup

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Give it a good shake and pour into a chilled champagne saucer filled 2/3 with ice. Contemplate the next fruit tree purchase.

Aperol G&T

I enjoy Gin and Tonics like some people enjoy water, or cocaine. They go down pretty easily and are light enough that I can have them with the heaviest of meals. Occasionally though they get quite dull and an extra oomph of something is needed. I like to think that many cocktails are given birth with that thought process. Foul, rancid water? Hey, let’s add some beer to that! And so forth.

So a week or so ago we went over to BevMo and stocked up on some more items for the bar. On a recommendation we found and picked up a bottle of Aperol. Aperol is another of those Italian aperitifs… slightly bitter, slightly sweet. This one tastes of oranges.

The syrupy nature of this liqueror made me think that it needed a couple of ingredients to cut that down.. and so I thought of a gin and tonic. And the conclusion? So. freaking. tasty. I need to make a barrel of my own tonic water because I think this concoction might just become my new summer drink.

2 oz Beefeater Gin
1 oz Aperol
Tonic water

Fill a Collins glass 2/3rds with ice and build up with gin and aperol. Top glass with tonic water.

The Awful Awful Mudslide

It’s with a fair amount of certainty that I say I’ve never had a Mudslide before. I cannot be fully sure because there are nights at bars where I’ve hung around a wee bit too long and have asked for all kinds of drinks or shots to be thrown my way. A Mudslide was definitely not what I had set out to make myself as I sat down at the computer ready to work, but I just happened upon a page that had it listed right there.. a fairly quick drink to make and an excuse to use up that gigantic bottle of Baileys-like alcohol in the fridge. Also I was in the mood for something a bit sweet and chocolaty tasting… well, what I really wanted was a mint chocolate chip awful awful (that’s a shake) from Newport Creamery, but since I am 1. on the wrong coast for that and 2. they filed for bankruptcy over a decade ago, that dream wasn’t exactly happening too soon.

So I decided on the next best option… I guess. Add some mint bitters to a mudslide and see what magic happens. Oh… disgusting yummyness indeed. I find it so bizarre when a bartender/mixologist/whathaveyou, can create something in cocktail form that so closely resembles the characteristics of something else. But dang, about 5-6 drops of Fee Brother’s Mint Bitters in there and it, somehow, hit the spot. If you feel so inclined, here’s the recipe:

2 oz Vodka
1oz Baileys
1oz Kaluha
5-6 drops of Fee Brother’s Mint Bitters

In a shaker filled with ice, combine all the ingredients and shake like crazy until WELL mixed. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Close your eyes and imagine you’re not drinking a Mudslide.

The Yale Special

Recently a copy of The Savoy Cocktail book arrived in the mail. It was a belated Valentine’s Day gift from my husband. Belated not because of him, but because Amazon couldn’t decide if they wanted to ship it to us or not. Emails kept popping up in the inbox saying things like, click this link if you’re really certain you want us to send this to you whenever it comes in stock; the outlook was grim that this would ever arrive. But then it did.

I’ve been trying to find drink recipes to use up the bitters I bought and I thought the earlier cocktail recipe books could help in that category since they were dropping them in to all sorts of drinks back then. Scanning the book I came across the Yale Cocktail. However, I realized that I would immediately have to make a couple changes as I have still not bought any Angostura bitters (I know… I know…). Also, the recipes are coming directly from the original book and the measurements are kind of all over the place. Sometimes there are just fractions and other times it just says to put in a wine glass full of something or in this recipe, a glass of Gin. Now, my idea of a glass of gin and Harry Craddock’s idea could be on opposite sides of the room. I’m sure out there somewhere someone has compiled the measurement translations… but why make it easy on myself?

Well, all I had in the house was Hendrick’s and for this cocktail, it just wasn’t working. So then I remembered that I had a 2oz bottle of Finlandia Tangerine Fusion (it came with a much larger bottle of regular Finlandia) and thought maybe that I would use it here. It worked! I had to up the amount of orange bitters to really give it the extra flavor I was looking for, and I went with 1/2 the juice of a tangelo instead of a squeeze of lemon. The end result: spicy and then fruity, which was the right combination for me. Next I need to work on proportioning glasses to the drinks.. I always seem to come up with too much room in the glass.

2 oz Finlandia Tangerine Fusion
6-8 dashes of Fee Brother’s West Indian Orange Bitters (original recipe called for 3 but the flavor was just not there)
2 dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters
1/2 juice of a tangelo
club soda to top

In a mixing glass with ice combine all the ingredients except for the club soda. Stir to combine, and strain into a small chilled cocktail glass. Top with club soda.

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...

We Forgot About the Italians!! The Negroni

We all know a certain “holiday” is tomorrow, however I grew up in a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood (I even speak Italian, albeit I’m pretty rusty now, but I did study it for 7 years and can basically read it still) and two days before after St. Patrick’s day is St. Joseph’s Day. Now, as I have been without religion going on almost 20 years, I really don’t know (remember) much about the man, or what the holiday is about, not unlike St. Patrick as well (snakes and stuff, right?), but since I know that the 19th was another “holiday” or saint’s day or… there’s a lot of specific information that is becoming increasingly apparent to myself, and to you, that I am oblivious of… anyways, let’s make a drink to commemorate the oft-overlooked saint with a classic “Italian” (I’m sure this is disputed somewhere) drink, the Negroni. Hey, this means TWO celebratory reasons to drink this week. You’re welcome.

1 oz Campari
1 oz Gin
1 oz Sweet Vermouth

orange slice for garnish

In a rocks glass with ice combine all 3 ingredients. Garnish with the orange slice. Salute!

The Basil Simple

Here’s a little something green for this week. Just one of the handful of basil liqueur recipes I’ve been trying out lately. It’s pretty simple, but super flavorful. Do I need to add another sentence to make this look like a whole paragraph? Apparently so.

2 oz basil liqueur (recipe HERE)
1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lime juice, keep the limes handy
2 dashes of mint bitters

In a rocks glass with 3 large ice cubes, add the basil liqueur, lime juice and mint bitters. Add the spent limes as well. Stir together, squishing the limes into the mix with a bar spoon. Sip and slurp.

The mint bitters accent the subtle mint flavor of the basil liqueur and heighten them so they’re a bit more loud. Oh, so this also means I’ve gotten around to tasting the mint bitters. Boy are they strong. Just a tiny bit goes a long way. One thing that I hate though is that they have dye in them. I need to put making mint bitters on the to do list, but not for awhile. I’ve bought the bottle and I’m committed to using it.

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.