Fall Cocktail Roundup

For those few of you who have a job that gives you a 3 day weekend starting today, lucky you. I’m pretty sure that last time I had that Monday off I was in college… a long time ago in college. But let’s not focus on that for now. Even if your weekend is only two days long, or even one, I’ll also give you guys an excuse to drink a good cocktail. Here’s a roundup of my Fall favorites.

The Private Club Cocktail // stirandstrain.comPrivate Club Cocktail

The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Royal Affliction

Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

Pumpkin Spiced Bourbon

The Golden Hour Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThe Golden Hour

Honey Vanilla Hot Toddy // stirandstrain.com

Honey Vanilla Chai Hot Toddy

Mixology Monday: Classic Blackberry Shrub

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com
Mixology Monday LogoOk, first off guys, I am well aware it’s not Monday despite the name of the post. However, I wanted to get this up before the Monday deadline. What deadline? What are you talking about? Mixology Monday for you newbies here is the once a month “cocktail party” where internet people like to show off with a drink they made based on a theme by whoever “hosts” this month. Please read up on it here and see past entries on the MxMo site. This month, Craig from “A World of Drinks” gave us the theme of “Preserves” (and yes, there’s a lot of quotation marks happening in this paragraph). It took me a second to realize that I was already planning on making a shrub this month, and since making shrubs was an old school way of preserving fruit, I was ready to publish a double duty post this month.

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com

Blackberries. I love the taste of them, but, truth be told, I hate eating them. Those little seeds! They always get stuck in my teeth and half the time they seem like too much of a bother to eat. Anyone with me on this or am I crazy? Last week my husband was out getting some food and I had asked him to pick up some blueberries. Apparently the store was out and he figured I just wanted a berry that was close enough to blue to eat. So he picked up blackberries instead. After scrunching up my face at them and letting them sit there for a few days, the overwhelming urge not to waste food made me cave in. What to do with them?

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.comA shrub! If I made them into a shrub I was just going to extract their juices and all those annoying little seeds would stay in the strainer. I might have patted myself on the back there for thoughtfulness.

Shrubs are a bit well known now, more so than say, a year ago. I see them a lot more on cocktail menus and on the shelves of my local liquor suppliers. Shrubs are also pretty simple to make yourself; let me show you how.

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com

Classic Blackberry Shrub

1 cup whole blackberries, rinsed
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  1. Combine blackberries and sugar in a bowl. Lightly crush the blackberries to release their juices (I used a potato masher, but a fork would suffice). Cover and let sit 8 hours or overnight. Shake the bowl every once in awhile to make sure the sugar is incorporating into the juice. Half way through, stir the mixture and re-cover.
  2. Next, strain the mixture through a fine strainer into an airtight container. Add the vinegar and shake well (if any sugar has remained, shake hard to dissolve here). Store the container in the refrigerator for 6 days.
  3. After 6 days give it a taste. Usually, by day 6 the sharpness of the vinegar has started to pull back and let the sweetness from the sugar and fruit stand out more. Keep in mind, this is a vinegar base: it will ALWAYS taste like vinegar. The vinegar will mellow more as it sits but its zing is what is wanted in a shrub.

For this shrub, there is a nice sweet and sour balance from the ingredients. The blackberries produce a tartness that is heightened from the vinegar while the sugar cuts through to keep your mouth from puckering. Strong nose of vinegar with subtle berry.

Sparkling Blackberry Shrub (no booze)

1/2 ounce blackberry shrub (recipe above)
6 ounces sparkling water
1 lime wedge

Fill a rocks glass with the water and pour the shrub down the center. Stir to combine. Squeeze a wedge of lime and add spent lime to the glass.

And here’s Christopher’s cocktail recipe with the shrub he’s been making:

2 ounces 4 Roses Bourbon Yellow Label
1 ounce Blackberry Shrub (recipe above)
1/4 ounce maple syrup

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice. Add all ingredients and stir to chill. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Thanks to Craig for hosting this month and Fred for keeping MxMo up and alive!

Mixology Monday: The Royal Affliction

The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMixology Monday LogoWhen one hosts a month of Mixology Monday, I think there is a knee-jerk reaction to do as much as you can. You’re the host; you need to show off a little bit, right? But dammit if I didn’t think ahead a bit more and pump out all the other ideas I had. There is a smoker sitting on my porch right now, unused since two Thanksgivings ago when we smoked a turkey. I’m OK with that though. For this third and last post, I still got a hell of a lot of smoke into this drink. And my kitchen. And my clothes. Lots of delicious, rosemary infused smoke.

Last month, the company that does the PR for the Black Grouse invited me out to try their product at two Los Angeles bars where the bartenders would be showcasing the way they would serve this Scotch Whisky. They also generously provided me with my own bottle that I am using here. At the first bar, Sassafras, I learned that you can smoke rosemary for a drink using only a tea candle and a snifter glass. The simplicity and genius of this bar trick stayed with me. I knew at some point I would have to try this, and this month was the perfect opportunity to do so.The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Here’s the thing about smoking herbs: use organic, and if possible, from your own garden (that’s where mine came from). Not sure if your grocery store has organic you can trust? Go to a farmer’s market and ask the person selling the herbs if they use pesticides or chemicals on their herbs. Why go through all the trouble? Because crap in crap out. The smoke from this drink will be IN your drink and you are going to ingest it. Do you want weird unknown substances being brought to high temperatures and those fumes entering your mouth? You don’t care? You like huffing sharpies? Fine, you’ve been warned.

The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The blackberries here in Southern California are starting to go tart, so for this cocktail, I wanted to use them up in a syrup, as they would not give enough sweetness just muddling them into the drink. FYI, this syrup is super thick. If you’re not sure what to do with the leftover syrup, there is only one way to go: PANCAKES.The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Rich Blackberry Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
heaping 1/2 cup of blackberries

Bring all the ingredients to a boil then simmer for a half hour; gently mash blackberries down while the mixture cooks. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, strain and bottle syrup. If not using all right away, add 1/2 ounce of vodka to mixture and keep refrigerated up to 3 months. (I refer to this as ‘rich’ due to the viscous nature of the final syrup. This is not a true ‘rich’ simple syrup, since I am still using a 1:1 sugar water ratio.)The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

And now the drink:

2 oz The Black Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky
3/4 oz Blackberry Syrup (recipe above)
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
3 dashes Scrappy’s Celery Bitters
2 cleaned sprigs of rosemary, approximately 5″-6″ long

tea candle and holder (I found a jam jar worked great for keeping distance between the flame and the rosemary. You want at least 3 inches of clearance between the two.)
piece of card stock larger than the diameter of your glass
brandy snifterThe Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

IMPORTANT: get everything ready before you begin, this will move fast. Light the tea candle and place the rosemary across the top on the jam jar/candle holder. This will take a minute to warm up and start smoking. It’s best if your rosemary has not dried completely from cleaning (not wet, but not bone dry). In a shaker filled 2/3 with ice, add the first four ingredients and shake well until chilled. Set aside. Once the rosemary starts to smoke, place a snifter glass over the top so that the smoke fills the glass completely. Using the card stock, slide it over the top of the glass to “hold” the smoke inside until you pour your drink in. Remove the rosemary from the candle. When you are ready, quickly remove the card stock and strain the contents of the shaker into the glass.The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Woodsy, rosemary tinged smoke fills the glass. Those notes infuse through the lightly sweetened berry flavor with tart background highlights. The Black Grouse is mellowed out and given an almost honey quality, while also heightening the smoky flavor. Even when you no longer can see the smoke, it stays with the drink from first to last sip.

On the celery bitters: these you CANNOT leave out. You will not taste celery, but what they do is provide an amazing amount of balance. Without them, the drink is both too sharply tart and too sweet. A few drops and it balances everything out. Kinda amazing how bitters do that.

Burnt Sage and Blackberry Sangria for Two

sage blackberry sangriaCocktails are rarely a solitary experience in my household. Many of the cocktails you find on this site are created in duplicate because they are shared among two or more people in one sitting. Which got me thinking, why don’t I have more cocktails for two on here? So, I’m going to try and have more of those around in the next few months.

First up, Sangria. Except, this is way more complex of a Sangria than I thought I would be able to get out of it. This is due to an extreme case of being flustered, tired, and combatting a cold. To sum it up, I was too lazy to check in on it after the first day and just let it sit for two days in the fridge. Result: a sangria for cocktail lovers.

Sangria holds a special place in my memory. I remember the first time I drank it. At the office going away party that was thrown for me when I turned 21 and moved out to Los Angeles. Let’s get our story straight though; turning 21 had nothing to do with moving West. It was a passing fancy when a friend of mine decided to move out here and I decided I would too. It was a last minute decision. Rarely did I make well thought-out decisions at that age. Anyway, since there was a table of us, and technically, we were at lunch and people would be returning to the office, a pitcher of Sangria was ordered. At 21 this seemed exotic and fancy, the same way that seeing someone bring out a flaming bowl of liquor at a Chinese restaurant was exotic 10 years prior. I don’t remember how it tasted, only that it was red Sangria. Since then, I’ve been spectacularly disappointed by this drink many a time.

But now something in me wanted to make this again, and make it good. Thankfully procrastination made this work in my favor.sageblackberrysangria-1

Burnt sage? YES. Just lightly torch the edges, don’t try and burn up the whole leaf. If you find you’ve charred it too much, just break that part off. This was also an excuse to use more of the black pepper syrup I have stored up in the fridge, it’s really much more versatile than I thought and adds a peppery bite to the syrupy blackberries and wine.sageblackberrysangria-2

This drink is for two but can easily be adapted into a larger batch. If you have a third of a bottle laying around it’s a good way to use that up.

4-1/2 oz Red Wine (Malbec used here)
3 oz Four Roses Bourbon
1 oz black pepper syrup (recipe here)
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
4-5 burnt sage leaves
8 blackberries

4 slices of blood orange

Burn the edges of the sage leaves and let cool for a few seconds. Add the leaves to the bottom of a mixing glass, add syrup and lime juice. Lightly muddle. Add blackberries and crush, leaving some pieces more intact than others. Pour in wine and whiskey, add orange slices, stir to combine and cover (I used the other half of the Boston Strainer for a cover). Let sit for two days refrigerated to steep. After two days, stir gently. Fill two rocks glasses with ice cubes. Carefully pour the contents of the mixing glass between the two glasses.sageblackberrysangria-3

Don’t be afraid of the overpowering smell of whiskey you will have when you first make this. It needs to sit and steep. What you get at the end of two days is a sweet and sharp elixir.  On the nose are orange and berry followed by more berry on the palate with subtle layers of tart and pepper with an earthy undertone. It’s rich, which is the one characteristic that I find lacking in most Sangrias. There is a heavier body that the whiskey contributes to overall making this seem almost more like a rather large cocktail than just a ‘wine’ drink.

Now I somehow need to do this with a white wine. Wish me luck.

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.