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.

Building a Home Bar: Part Two

We’re totally making progress here people!

If by progress we’re talking about taping off the space where the bar should go. In some respects this was actually a big step; both of us finally decided on the shape after going back and forth with charts and graphs of why the other person is wrong. I had much more grandiose ideas but two problems were staring back at me.

1. Our space for the bar is small. The room is big, but a giant portion of this is taken up by the pool table that we blew the budget on last year. It’s funny really. The room has a pool table, a tv, and half a couch right now. I feel like I’m in college when I’m in that room.

2. My husband still has to build the bar. So no rounded marble tops.

Yes. Those are Presidents of the United States dressed up as pimps on our cute little wine fridge.

And so now we just need to come up with wood types, learn to make dovetail joints, and buy a power sander (I’m actually looking forward to that) among other things.

I started a board on Pinterest to keep ideas in for the project. Unfortunately it’s just becoming a catch-all for awesome bottle openers and glasses I want. You can check that out here Follow My Bar on Pinterest

As always, stayed tuned for updates. I have some awesome cocktails with tarragon I’ve been drinking lately. And apparently, my husband poking his head over my shoulder, just mentioned that he’s not so sure about the measurements for the bar. So there’s that.

A Biting Strawberry

Warning. You’re going to see several, if not plenty, of drinks containing Shrubs in them coming up in the next few weeks. What’s a Shrub? A Shrub is a vinegar based fruit concentrate that dates back to Colonial Times. Sounds kind of gnarly huh? Vinegar? Gross. Well, actually, if combined with other appealing mixers and liquors it is quite pleasant. Really.

Why the onslaught of Shrub recipes? I recently became a slashie at work. Actually, I have no idea if I’m even using that correctly, but the long and short of it is that I was christened with the title of in-house Mixologist /slash/ creative director (slash a bunch of other titles. It’s a small company). I may have (completely) had something to do with this. But, we re-brought back in a line of Shrubs due to some popularity of them in cocktails and local bars and needed desperately to come up with some recipes so customers knew what to do with them. (That’s right, we had them for sale 4 years ago when no one gave a shit. Although, people are apparently still confused.)

So now I’m doing research, and taking notes, and really using this blog as a scratch pad for ideas. I think I’ve had some hits, and some misses. Here’s a hit. Mainly for people who either want a lighter cocktail, or just don’t want their cocktail tasting so much like alcohol (I need to hit a range of tastes here…).

3 strawberries quartered
1 lime wheel cut in half
1-1/2 oz white rum (I used Oronoco, a favorite for someone who is as confused about rum as someone reading smoke signals who doesn’t, understand.. smoke signals. You get my  analogy.)
3/4 oz Strawberry Shrub (Tait Farms)
1/2 oz Falernum

1 strawberry for garnish

Muddle the strawberries and lime wheels together in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add 4-5 ice cubes.  Pour in the rest of the ingredients and shake well. Pour un-strained into a rocks glass. Garnish with strawberry.

It’s a very summery drink. A bit on the sweet side, but not fake sugary sweetness. No sugar is needed as long as you are using strawberries that are in season and very ripe . There is a sharp note of ginger in the back, and the subtle touch of lime cuts the sweet strawberry taste back a notch. The rum takes a back seat here flavor-wise, which was why I noted that you can make and give this to someone who wants a cocktail but doesn’t like it to taste too strong.

Side note; this tastes amazing with milk chocolate FYI.

The Tres Palmas

Recently we spent a relaxing couple of days out in the wonderfully hot Palm Springs, it was for my birthday, but really, everyone needed some time to veg out. My husband is not a big fan of heat, sun, or swimming pools so he volunteered to be the cook and cocktail maker and give me a break (in the cocktail area, he’s still cook around the house). This meant he could stay indoors in air conditioning and not let on how much he was sampling the drinks; not like I can judge.

So there was lots of nachos and guacamole and the like, requiring lots of cilantro and hot pepper scraps to end up laying about doing nothing. In a moment of brilliance the husband tosses some of these scraps into a tumbler of gin and grapefruit juice topped with champagne and hands it to me upon request for a drink to have on my raft. Now, he tried to convince me that he’s had similar drinks before, but I hadn’t. So as far as I was concerned this was a groundbreaking flavor combination, possibly due to the extreme heat and sun exposure and the several morning cocktails we’d already had (read: vacation drinking).

Since we’ve been back I’ve been wanting to make this again, only I had some ideas to tweak it a bit. I finally got around to doing it and with a couple modifications, I was able to encapsulate exactly what I thought the drink should be.

First thing I did was try it with the champagne, and then again without. In the end the float of champagne wasn’t helping anyone so I tossed that out of the recipe. Second, I added some lime in for balance. Then, I decided it needed salt. I have no idea where this desire to constantly dump salt on everything is coming from. I seriously should just carry around a salt lick so I stop ruining perfectly good meals. However, I had some fancy smoked salt flakes from Maldon that did the trick.

Tres Palmas was the name of the house we stayed at (it belonged to Jack Lalanne at some point in his life); I thought it a fitting name for the drink.

2 oz Gin (Beefeater was used here)
3 oz Grapefruit Juice (we had fresh squeezed in a bottle when we were on the trip so I used the same here. Feel free to sub in your own freshly squeezed by hand)
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
4 Jalapeno rings
1/2 lime wedge

Garnish:
slice of lime
Maldon smoked salt flakes

Start with the salt rim. Use your lime garnish to coat a quarter section of the glass. Roll the outside edge in the salt, pressing hard to crack the larger flakes. Set aside. In a mixing glass, combine all other ingredients and shake vigorously with your metal tumbler (so rare I use the Boston Shaker on here). Pour unstrained into the rocks glass. Finish with the lime wedge garnish.

The drink has a nice balance of citrus that compliments the gin. However the cilantro leaves add unexpected flavor, in a good way, and the heat of the jalapenos gives it great punch. I love the nice bits of cilantro and jalapeno floating around in the drink. They’re awesome little flavor bites. And the smoked salt is just another unexpected layer to the drink that imparts a subtle smokiness, that, in all honesty, reminds me of a lovely salsa.

Note: Jalapenos can vary greatly in hotness and you should really decide how spicy you want to make this. One recipe I made I left the seeds in, and though it was VERY spicy (the way I like it), it was obnoxious to drink having all these small seeds. I’d suggest that if you want heat, leave a few of the seeds in. If you want less heat, scrape the seeds out altogether. No use making something you can’t drink.

Building a Home Bar: The Prequel

I’m just going to go ahead and file this under the “Clever Ideas” category.

Let me roll back a year and fill everyone in on how this came about. Last year we had some awful rains in L.A. and we noticed that there were some bubbles forming in the walls on one side of the house. And then we had more rain. And then suddenly the windows looked like they were going to fall out. This wasn’t a slow progression either. This was, on Monday there were a couple of bubbles in the plaster and on Wednesday THE FUCKING WINDOWS ARE GOING TO FALL OUT OF THE WALL CALL THE HOME INSURANCE NOW. Turns out part of our roof had flown off and water had been leaking in and 2 months later we gutted the entire downstairs and now we decided hey let’s put a bar down in there.

Present day. That was November when we finished up putting the flooring in and after having nonstop construction guys in our house from 6am to 7pm at night. We needed a break. Apparently that break was going to last for 7 months. And then my husband spoke up out of the blue that we could do it ourselves the other day. Part of the reason for building a bar ourselves is that there was nothing on the market we liked, and also, prices wildly shot off into areas neither of us could comprehend spending any money on. Both of us consider ourselves to be pretty handy. My dad does/makes cabinetry for a living and I have 4 years of a fine arts education behind me, long behind me but still visible in that distance. And also, I can use a bandsaw. This Old House was, and still is, a favorite show of mine.

So here is the space. To any of our friends who haven’t been downstairs since the construction, this used to be the kitchenette area. And yes, we still need to get a 5th bulb for that light.

Maybe putting this out here will kick start us into plowing full speed into the project. Or it will be a reminder a year from now that we broke down and spent money on a bar and boy, what the hell were we thinking….

Cocktail Quickie: Yuzu Lemon Sparkler

A cocktail does not need to be complicated. It does not need to contain 7 ingredients. It doesn’t need herbs freshly harvested from my backyard. Sometimes a cocktail is something you threw together in 2 minutes. Sometimes it looks like this.

I’ve been going through those watermelon chunks like crazy and came to a point where I ran out but still had half a bottle of OK champagne in the fridge. Ah dilemma. I could have gone the Champagne Cocktail route, but I’m trying to get through that bottle of Limoncello because I need that bottle to make a new batch soon. So this became a marriage of convenience (of ingredients).

I like the idea of sometimes having something in my brain Rolodex that I can throw together quickly without having to think too much on it (like after a grueling day at work). This is one of them, and may possibly be a new vein of recipes on here: the quickies.

1-1/2 oz Limoncello (homemade if you got it)
2 dashes of Miracle Mile Yuzu Bitters
3-4 oz of Champagne

Pour limoncello and bitters in a chilled Champagne flute. Swirl gently to mix. Pour in champagne. Bottoms up.

I love the heightened citrus and woodsy notes that the Yuzu bitters adds to the mix (DO go and find these bitters. So worth it.). Can you drink champagne without any extras? Yes. But if you want an extra punch to the drink, this quick fix will do you right.

Salty Melon


Watermelon is a wonderful fruit if you’re the type of person who loves to break down fruits and veg. Pineapples also fall into this category. Thank god my local grocery store caters to us lazy kitchen skills people to give us these fruits already broken down and cut into chunks. Awesome, thanks Fresh & Easy.

It’s been hot in LA for the last week or so. Summer hot. The rising temps tricked my inner self into thinking it was already time for tropical fruit drinks on the patio and I found myself seeking out fresh pineapple chunks at the grocery store and for kicks threw in a pack of watermelon chunks too. I had started out thinking I was going to make some kind of tropical sangria. Until I remembered the whole pouring it into a pitcher (which I need to buy), and also hey, you can’t drink this for 24 hours. So that will have to wait for another time. But I had champagne and something sparkling seemed the right thing to make. And suddenly I wanted watermelons.

My mint plant has been out of control lately with this new plant food I’m giving it, so pretty much I’ve been throwing it into everything. No exception here.

In the first version of this drink, I found that I wanted…salt. So on the next round I added a bit more mint and a pinch of salt and OH YUM. Hello new summer drink. It was so tasty I made two more.

It’s a bit of work, but if you’re reading the this and enjoy making cocktails then this isn’t all that much. Note: with the desire to drink several of these I thought I’d try this as a blender drink (minus the champagne). Don’t do it. The beautiful pink color you get from the muddled melon disappears with the addition of the blended mint leaves. Also, it’s a lot more on the watery side when you do it this way. I would just advise making it by the glass.

1 oz Limoncello (homemade if you got it!)
2 sprigs of mint
3-4 chunks of watermelon about 1-1/2″ in size
pinch of salt
2-3 oz of champagne (decent quality. but since you’re mixing it, don’t use up the really good stuff)
1 sprig of mint for garnish

In a Mixing Glass, muddles the mint with the limoncello. Add the pinch of salt and muddle just enough to mix it in. Add the watermelons to the glass and muddle until smooth (this may take a few minutes). Strain through a medium-fine strainer into a rocks glass. You’ll need to use the back of a spoon to push the solids through to help get the remaining liquid in your glass. Add the champagne and garnish with a mint sprig.

This drink is a great balance of flavors with the addition of salt (just like in baking). The watermelon is present, but not overpowering to make it too sweet. That champagne cuts through to help aid in that as well. And in the background there is a nice herbal-citrus note that finishes well. I was really happy with this, and I hope you can enjoy it too.

UPDATE: instead of using the strainer to get the last bits in, you can mix and muddle your ingredients in a bar shaker and then flip it over into the glass and push solids through the top. Less dishes and mess.

…and we’re back

If you happened to pop over here and, well, couldn’t. That’s because the site got kinda lost for a bit. BUT! It’s back! With some recipes this week too. One of which I think I’ll be drinking all summer long.

 

Stay tuned!

The Jungle Bird

I picked up a copy of Remixed by Beachbum Berry. I own, and have made many a drink from the Grog Log, but when shopping at Oceanic Arts for this year’s Tiki Party back in August I spotted and decided it’s worth having this too. Besides another cocktail book in there, I also just love browsing through all the photos and art.

Whenever I find myself with a half a jar of pineapple juice, or a nearly empty can of coconut cream, I consider it Tiki time in the house. Today it’s pineapple juice.

Coming out of the Intoxica! section, and because there’s Campari in it, I’m trying out and altering very slightly, the Jungle Bird.

3/4 oz Campari
1/2 oz Freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz sugar syrup (I always make mine 1:1)
4 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1-1/2 oz dark Cruzan rum

Garnish:
lime wedge
pineapple chunk

Combine all of the ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Add garnish.

The original cocktail recipe calls from dark Jamaican rum. I substituted Cruzan Dark rum instead, honestly I am very green when it comes to rum and couldn’t tell you what the differences are. So for differences and Rum love, check out these blogs here and here. I also changed the garnish from an orchid, and a cocktail cherry, lemon, and orange wheel to the lime wedge and pineapple. Generally I like the garnish to either be a hint of what’s in the drink or to complement it somehow. Also, I didn’t have any orchids in my possession at the time. Tasty notes on this: the Campari mellows way out in here (I’d even consider upping it to 1 oz next time to try), while the fruit juices make it sweet and tangy. While the rum has to be playing a role here, it takes a back seat as far as flavor. One last note- don’t be generous with the ice. I used an unusually large (well, at least for me) rocks glass here and filled 2/3 with ice. Once that ice started to melt it began to wash the flavor out a bit. Don’t let that happen to you! Use less ice or tip that baby back quick!

The Pimm’s Cup

About 6 years ago I decided I wasn’t watching Netflix enough to warrant keeping my subscription so  I decided to put it on hold. For awhile. When I moved in with my husband (that sounds weird… before we were married), we decided to get a subscription again so I just reinstated mine. Apparently they kept my queue. For three years. I never really bothered checking on it, just kept adding things, or adding things to the top, so that occasionally when I’m not paying attention, strange things I no longer care about show up in the mail. Like random British documentaries. I still watch them though.

 

One thing I did notice throughout some of my watching. Have you ever looked in a British person’s liquor cabinet? Everyone has a bottle of Pimm’s. I watched a documentary on Windsor Castle a couple weeks ago and you know what? Bottles of Pimm’s everywhere!! The Pimm’s Cup cocktail was unheard of to me until a couple years ago, and I only learned of its existence because it was on a menu of drinks I could have when I got my nails done at this British salon I frequented. So I picked up a bottle of Pimm’s with the intention of trying out the cocktail and then it sat next to that bottle of Aquavit being sad friends together on the liquor shelf. Until today.

There are SO many versions of the Pimm’s Cup. All of them calling themselves ‘classic’. The recipe on the bottle is to just pour it into a glass with lemon-lime soda and add a lemon wheel. That was a bit too basic for me. So I muddled together a couple of ideas and came up with the recipe below (borrowing the use of cucumbers from Bon Appetit online). One thing a lot of the recipes alluded to was that this was a ‘summer drink’, and was very ‘refreshing’. But isn’t summer in England like, 60 degrees? That’s close enough to my ‘winter’ here in L.A. And I enjoy a refreshing drink regardless of the weather.

 

1-1/2 oz Pimm’s No. 1 Cup Liqueur
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 1/2″ cucumber rounds
1 sprig of mint
Ginger Beer (I used Reed’s)

Garnish:
1 rosemary sprig
1 cucumber peel sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler

I always start with my garnishes first. So, peel off the dark green skin of a cucumber and, using a vegetable peeler, thinly slice off longways a piece of cucumber. Thread that in an O- or S-shape through a toothpick. Work the toothpick around a little to open the hole and remove the toothpick and thread the peel onto a clean sprig of rosemary. Next, in the glass half of a Boston shaker, muddle together the cucumber rounds and the mint. Pour in the Pimm’s and the lemon juice and fill the glass 2/3 with ice. Shake and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top off with ginger beer (around 2 to 3 oz). Add garnish. Repeat some lines from Mary Poppins.

It really is refreshing. I had to agree with everyone on this. It’s fruity and spicy, but I love that the cucumber flavor is also there mingling with the flavors. It somehow prevents it from being too sweet tasting. I’d add way more mint next time as I could barely taste it. Also, the rosemary adds a nice nose to the whole drink when you’re down in there taking a sip. Now onto finding other uses for Pimm’s…