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…

Mixology Monday: Cola de Lagarto: Return of the Lizard (Tail)

I’m glad I checked into my google reader today. New mixology Monday post before the due date this time for me.

This month Jacob at the Liquidity Preference blog thought up Retro Redemption (full post here). The first drink that I thought could use a makeover was …shudder. The Cosmopolitan. That too sweet, chemical-bottled taste (obviously I’ve had some bad ones folks) of that 90’s staple (and for certain people I know still a staple) drink. But there’s no cranberry juice in the house and I’m not making a special run just for that.

So instead I opted to peruse Gourmet Magazine’s stockpile of drinks they’ve put into their magazine over the years. Did you know they’ve been around since 1941? What’s Gourmet? Never mind.

Two things were imperative to tonight’s drink. 1. I had to be actually interested in trying/drinking the cocktail. 2. I had to have the ingredients on hand (this is after all a short notice posting for me since it’s due tomorrow). After weighing my options, and being grossed out by many more, I decided to try the Cola de Lagarto (tail of the lizard). This is from a 1974 cocktail recipe via Gourmet. Here’s their description:

This drink is probably called “tail of the lizard” because of its green color—not because, like a tail that falls off and grows back, it’s easy to have another, and another. Wine cocktails have been unfairly tainted by their association with overly sweet wine coolers, but the renewed interest in classic cocktails has also brought this category back from the brink of disaster. The ingredients in this version may seem a bit strange, but they actually go together quite nicely.

In a shaker combine 3/4 cup dry white wine, 1/3 cup vodka, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon each of fine granulated sugar and green crème de menthe, and 4 ice cubes. Shake the mixture vigorously for a few seconds and strain it into a chilled tall glass. Makes 1 drink.

Ok, first off, with the amount of liquor that they’re pouring into this thing, if you had several you’d be dead from alcohol poisoning by the fourth (maybe not dead, but DAMN). The recipe measures in cup sizes, which should have been a warning. It’s considered a ‘wine cocktail’, but 3 oz of hard alcohol in there too makes this awfully potent. Anyway, I’m killing two birds with one stone in this post as I am subbing out the dry white wine with Lillet Blanc (checking off another bottle this week from the ‘forgottens’), and I’m getting a Mixology Monday post done. Gold star.

Ok, so I’m taking a lot of liberties here by subbing or leaving out ingredients. But all for this drink’s redemption. I’m saying goodbye to vodka, fine granulated sugar and green crème de menthe, and adding in gin and Fee Brother’s Mint Bitters. Although, yes, technically there IS a green dye in the bitters (looking for another bitters as you read this), it is nowhere close to that alarming green color that was in the original article. But to play on the drink’s original name, I added a lime peel spiral inside the drink for the ‘lizard’s tail’. I made two versions of the drink, with the first using closer proportions to the original. However it made a huge drink with left overs in the shaker. It tasted really strong too (this, also, was the version my husband preferred because it ‘tasted strong’). I tweaked the second, reducing the proportions of the main two ingredients and adding in 1/2 oz of unsweetened pineapple juice. Overall it’s a bit tart and definitely tastes wine-like. And those mint bitters? Well, like the original recipe, the mint works here. Albeit very subtle, those bitters just add the right touch of a finishing note. Here’s my updated version:

4 oz Lillet Blanc
2 oz Bombay Dry Gin
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice (this one came from a can)
3 dashes Fee Brother’s Mint Bitters

Garnish:
lime peel spiral (to make, use a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife and peel a spiral from a large-ish sized lime. It’s best to start from the pointed end and work your way around. Be careful that your peeler/knife is sharp as this makes cutting the lime easier, as well as your finger. Ouch.)

In a shaker filled with ice, combined all ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled Collins glass with a lime spiral fitted around the inside of the glass.

This was a fun post idea. It makes me wish I could stumble upon a dusty old pile of cocktails books with secret ingredients like herring and jello that call for a touch of nutmeg. Can’t wait to see what everyone else came up with.

The Aquavit Solution

I’m starting to amass a collection a liqueurs that I don’t know what to do with. Part of the problem is that for months now I’ve wanted nothing more to drink than champagne and Manhattan’s night after night. That tends to leave bottles of things like Aquavit lying around looking sad. But today I couldn’t take that sad little Scandinavian face any longer and decided to try it. Hey, I’m half Scandinavian myself and caraway and I go way back.

A bit stumped I looked at all the other bottles hanging out with it and decided just to think about flavors and smells. There’s a lot going on in the flavor department with Aquavit, but at the same time I thought it could use a little sweet and citrus. So I grabbed Aperol. And rounded out the spice with Angostura.

When using any kind of bitter aperitif like Aperol, a little goes along way. But I like that smack of bitterness you get, so I use more. If you’re not a huge lover, just add less. You should enjoy what you’re drinking after all.

1-1/2 oz Aquavit
1 oz Aperol
2 dashes Angostura bitters

In a mixing glass filled with ice combine all of the ingredients. Stir to chill and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Even though this is a cold drink, there is something very warming about all the spiciness you get from it. Underneath the Aperol, the Aquavit provides layers of fennel and caraway.

I think that I might just go through all the weirdo random bottles I have accumulated in the past two years. Half a bottle of Ouzo? Check. Goldschläger? Really? Check. Be prepared folks.

How ‘Bout An Old Fashioned?

It occurred to me today I’ve never made an Old Fashioned. Drank many of them, but never actually made any. And with the arrival of a GIANT bottle of Angostura bitters in the house (do they make a small bottle even?) now is the time for making one. Apparently there is a lot of hub-bub on how to properly make one. In my opinion, the less you mess with a classic the better it is.

1 sugar cube (La Perruche is in the house)
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
2-3 drops of water
2-1/2oz Bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)
1 lemon peel

Drop the sugar cube in an Old Fashioned glass. On top of that sugar cube drop the water and the bitters, muddle together. Add the bourbon and stir together to mix. Add 2 ice cubes. If you can successfully ignite a lemon peel (or orange peel- I would have chosen the orange but alas, none in the house), spark it and drop into the glass. If you’re like me, and have been shown by the bartender at Bigfoot West about 30 times now how to do this, but immediately forget once home- maybe consider muddling the peel with the sugar, or just giving it a good twist and dropping it in the glass. Tip back.

No notes. Just enjoyed some bourbon with aromatics.

Try 30- still not a success.

 

Grapefruit’s Last Hoorah

Why are there grapefruits still around at the farmer’s market? That’s what I’d like to know. Wasn’t I told by a reliable source that citrus is a winter fruit? Something to do with a long, drawn-out rainy season. And the unseasonable cold temperatures we had in California. But here they are, grapefruits.

On occasion I’m requested to mix the odd Greyhound here at the house. But ugh. So boring sometimes. One needs a little something extra. Some oomph. Oh, yeah- and something not vodka.

I have a couple of recipes using grapefruit, but I want to keep them to the side for other specific recipes. So going on the hunch that Noilly Prat French Dry Vermouth is good in everything (obviously not everything, but was really quite tasty in some baked ziti dish I made the other day- very unexpected), I added some in here.

2oz Broker’s Gin
1-1/2oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2oz of Noilly Prat Dry French Vermouth
2-3 dashes of Miracle Mile Orange Bitters

In a shaker filled 2/3 with ice, add all of the ingredients. Shake well to mix and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

It just works. The bitters give a nice spicy quality, and overall it’s a touch sweet and fragrant. And more exciting then a greyhound. However, with one last note. I did make a version with vodka. It’s a little less exciting. The gin adds that little oomph.