Smoked Sugar Cubes and Another Take on an Old Fashioned

Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMy “to make” list is getting out of hand lately. And sometimes those late night scribbles have me scratching my head the next day as I’ve written down just single words like “cream” or “beer” and cannot recall what I was trying to reference. I think I need to keep a recorder by the bed. But then transcribing the next day might prove to be just as perplexing.Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Alas, there is nothing more straightforward than an Old Fashioned. Liquor, bitters, sugar, it’s all wrapped up neat for you and tastes good without all the extra foo-foo. Ok, so maybe a bartender is throwing on a flamed orange peel, or adding in a brandied cherry, or doing just a little bit of foo-foo-ness. But instead of adding on more, I thought I’d take a look at the base ingredients.

The Smoky Citrus Rum Old Fashioned was just the start of delving into looking at the Old Fashioned and seeing what new flavor combinations I could make work. This all stemmed, by the way, from another scribbled note for ideas that read “cleaned up old fashioneds with interesting bitters”. I mean, you could build 100 drinks off of that comment. And I just might do that. But for now I’m just giving you two.Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

And this one has a DIY project! Yay!Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

First, I realized that you all were going to get bored real quick if the only thing I was doing was changing up the bitters. Hell, I got bored with that idea after 2 minutes and moved on to the idea of homemade sugar cubes. So easy, right?! Wrong. Well, it’s going to be easy now because I spent the better part of a month trying out techniques and perfecting this. For you guys.Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Things to know about making your own sugar cubes:

  1. You must use superfine sugar, granulated sugar does not make for a solid cube.
  2. Don’t try and speed this up by microwaving. All these recipe how-to’s I read on making sugar cubes all reference the microwave and I think they are ALL LYING. All the microwave did was melt my sugar, even on low power.
  3. Mini ice cube trays are amazing for perfectly sized cubes. But not necessary. Your choice.

Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThese smoked sugar cubes taste amazing with sour cherry. Instead of doing that blasphemous thing where you muddle some neon cherries in a glass and call it and Old Fashioned, here I’ve combined sour cherry bitters from Miracle Mile with some tasty bourbon to compliment the heady smoked flavor of the cubes.

Smoked Sugar Cubes

1 cup superfine sugar
2 teaspoons smoke tincture
2 teaspoons water

  • Combine sugar, smoke tincture and water in a bowl. Mix until well combined, similar to the texture of wet sand. Pack sugar into a mini ice cube tray, tamping down each hole. Alternatively, you can spread mixture out in a 1/4 size sheet pan (you might want to double the recipe amount) pressing down hard. Let mixture sit out to dry overnight. When sugar has hardened, pop cubes out of the molds, or cut cubes to size. Store in an airtight container.

Smoked Sugar and Sour Cherry Old Fashioned

2-3 mini smoked sugar cubes
2 dashes Miracle Mile Sour Cherry Bitters
2 ounces bourbon, W.L. Weller used here
optional, blood orange peel for garnish

  • In a mixing glass, add sugar cubes then dash in bitters. Muddle to combine. Add ice 1/2 way up glass and pour in whiskey. Stir to combine about 20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with a single large ice cube or 2 smaller cubes. Express orange over the glass and add in peel.

The smoke lingers in the back but adds a strong backbone to the drink. Sour cherry bitters add just a touch of bitterness and some sweetness to the rich bourbon. I chose the blood orange for just a hint of citrus and mainly for aesthetics due to the lovely red speckling all over the orange peel.

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

MxMo LXXXV Roundup of Aw, Nuts!

Mixology Monday LogoWell, it looks like this month’s theme may have drove some of you..errr… nuts. Sorry about that. All of your nutty puns were much appreciated by this here goofball.

First, a big thanks to everyone who took up this challenge. We had some newbies, some regulars, and some of you dusting off a few cobwebs on your return back here. I appreciate you all for keeping this monthly gathering going. We had quite an interesting bunch of entries, from DIY infusions and syrups to hesitant scoops of Nutella to a handful of tasty liqueurs. You guys really got creative and now I need to go buy more bottles for more infusions (and seriously need to consider where the hell to store it all). But enough chatter from me, let’s get on to the roundup (after the jump)!

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MxMo: Vegan Cashew Milkshake with Quick Infused Vanilla Bourbon

Vegan Cinnamon Cashew Milkshake with Quick Infused Vanilla Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

Mixology Monday LogoI was never a milkshake kinda kid. Also, cereal milk was vile to me. An ideal treat growing up was either bizarre exotic fruit (to which my mother “treated” us to starfruit and kiwis until we learned about processed sugary goodness) or peanut butter cups once I hit grade school. Now I feel I cheated myself out of half a lifetime of milkshake goodness. So naturally I am making up for missing out on them in full force, now that I can either drive myself to get one, or in this case, make one. One that is kinda unconventional, and well, has booze in it.

This month I hosted the online gathering of cocktail enthusiasts (in this case an all-inclusive term since we have everyone from the novice to the seasoned bartender here) called Mixology Monday and gave everyone the theme of NUTS. You can read the original post here for more info. Last time I hosted the overachiever in me kicked in and I came up with a couple of fun cocktail ideas. This time around, life threw me a curveball so you guys only get one entry. It’s not even a cocktail, but as you might have guessed from the intro and title, it’s an adult milkshake. But hey, I made the damn milk from scratch!Vegan Cinnamon Cashew Milkshake with Quick Infused Vanilla Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

Like many of my posts, this recipe has multiple steps and takes several days to do. So feel free to swap out the cashew milk for a milk of your choice, or better yet, an ice cream and milk of your choice. The vanilla bourbon though is too good to pass up, so just make a larger batch and keep it around for later use.Vegan Cinnamon Cashew Milkshake with Quick Infused Vanilla Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

Cashew-Oat-Cinnamon Milk

slightly adapted from Joy the Baker

1-1/2 cups raw cashews
3 cups of water for soaking
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups filtered water
3 tablespoons honey

  • Place raw cashews in a clean bowl and top with 3 cups of water. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight, or for 8 to 12 hours. Once soaked, drain the cashews and run under cool water until clean and the water runs clear. Set aside.
  • Grind oats in the spice grinder until oats turn into a fine powder. If you don’t have a spice grinder, you can also grind oats in the blender.
  • Combine oats, cinnamon, cashews, filtered water, and honey in the bowl of a blender. Cover tightly and blend on low speed, increasing to high speed, until smooth.
  • Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl lined with a single layer of cheese cloth. Pour half of the cashew mixture into the fine mesh strainer. With a spatula, work the liquid through the strainer. Continue to strain the milk until all of the liquid has passed through the strainer. Solids can be discarded.
  • Set milk aside if continuing, or transfer to an airtight container until ready to use.

The Milkshake

(makes 2)

2 cups cashew milk (recipe above)
4 ounces Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon
1 large Vanilla Bean, organic if possible
cinnamon and luxardo cherry for garnish

  • Measure out 1-1/2 cups of the cashew milk and freeze into cubes 4 hours up to overnight.
  • In a small sauce pan, combine the bourbon and vanilla over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to low, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and continue to steep for an hour. Strain mixture and set aside.
  • In a blender container, combine bourbon, frozen cashew milk and cold cashew milk. Blend well for one minute (more or less depending on the power of your blender) until the cubes are broken up and the consistency is slushy but not solid.
  • Transfer to two glass, top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a cherry.

Aroma of cinnamon and vanilla with hints of earthiness. Wonderfully nutty flavor with just a hint of the bourbon. I upped the sweetener from 2 tablespoons of agave to 3 of honey because I wanted an additional amount of sweetness here, but it’s still not overwhelmingly sweet. If you prefer this even more dessert-like, might I suggest some bourbon salted caramel sauce?

Can’t wait to see everyone’s submissions for this month! And as always, a big thanks to Fred for keeping MxMo going, and for letting me host again.

Holiday Gift Guide: Into the Woods

I don’t know about you, but when I think of “nature”, I think bear attacks and canned beans. If you find yourself stuck in one of those situations, only a good cocktail will help. And also running like hell.

Holiday Gift Guide: Into the Woods // stirandstrain.com

Wilderness doesn’t seem so daunting when a bear’s roaring mouth is helping you crack open a bottle of tonic water (thanks pal!). Or that fox just chilled your drink real nice. Just watch out for the wild turkeys; they might bite.

1. Animal Print Cocktail Napkins 2. Fox Shaker 3. Animal Head Shot Glasses 4. Bear Bottle Opener 5. Giraffe Cocktail Stirrers 6. Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon 8. Zebra Coaster

Make It: Bourbon Vanilla Caramel Sauce

Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.comAbout this time every year I start mentally writing an inventory of things I should start making for Holiday gifts. I have to think about it this early because I usually forget until about a week before Christmas, freak out, and consult the list I made two months ago. This is just how I deal with life and presents.

I was totally that kid that baked for the holidays and passed out cookies and got my teacher a Valentine’s Day gift bag (admittedly only once for that. But she was a great teacher and it was an excuse to buy heart colored tissue paper.) and since starting this blog and just, well, making A LOT of stuff, I’ve been going full force at edible gifts for the Holiday season. Rewind back to a few weeks ago and you will find me wide-eyed in front of a steaming sauce pan of sugar and butter and other deliciousness. Myself and a friend decided to take a caramel making class, the selling point for me was the “Beer and Pretzel” caramels on the list of what we would make. Seriously. Beer reduction and pretzels and caramel living together in one bite-sized wrapper. Oh, but the wrappers. The only aspect I wasn’t prepared for in this class, after spending two or almost three hours making caramels, was the hour long process of individually wrapping each damn caramel I made. After an hour I was kinda done with caramels for the time being and I brought them all in to my office the next day. The beer ones being the surprise hit.

One of the last recipes we tackled that night was not actually a candy, but a sauce: caramel sauce (it was, after all, a caramel class). This sauce made its way into a cake about 3 days later. And now it is making its way here to the site. Why? Because I’ve decided to add some Bourbon and vanilla beans to it and make jars of it for presents this year. Friends, you are welcome. Try not to eat the whole jar in one sitting.

Are you thinking this is going to be too hard? It’s not. I had one hand holding a cell phone trying to pay attention to my mother while she went on about something for 45 minutes and started and finished this whole recipe by the time I got off the phone with her. That includes prep by the way.

Don’t want to give this as a gift? Ok, put it on ice cream, or sandwich it between cookies, or DO YOU REALLY NEED A REASON FOR CARAMEL SAUCE?!bourbon-caramel-3Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

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

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

The Eagle Rock

Read through any cocktail book and there are more recipes that start with ‘this is a variation on…’ then one realizes. Mad scientists behind the bar, a mixologist/bartender/whathaveyou finds themselves looking at a base recipe and seeing where it can take off.

This cocktail recipe is a riff, on a take, on a variation with its beginnings at the turn of the 20th century.

To explain further, the PDT Cocktail Book does a great job of briefly setting up some ingredients and ideas for seasonal cocktails, and in the ‘Fall’ category use the Newark as an example of a cocktail that lends itself well to multiple variations. The drink itself is based on the Brooklyn cocktail. So I went with my own variation, and named it after my neighborhood. Well, sort of my neighborhood. My actual neighborhood is so small that even people living in it don’t necessarily know it’s technically separate from Eagle Rock, or Glendale. So I’m naming it the Eagle Rock. (Apologies to everyone not in Los Angeles, for which this makes no sense. Now would be a fun time to go look at Google maps, or just continue reading).

The Players

2 oz. Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon
1 oz. Punt e Mes
1/2 oz. Maraska
1/2 oz. Fernet Branca

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled coupe.

The combination of Punt e Mes and Fernet Branca made me think of a more herbal variation on a Manhattan. The drink is dry, sharp and bitter with some sweetness from the Maraska and Punt e Mes, and a strong herbal undertone. And why the Wild Turkey Bourbon? It’s what I had on hand, and it added a nice layer of spice too.

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.

 

Elliot Gould Approved, Sorta

There’s a bottle of Jim Beam in the house. Not sure when it arrived but it’s there.

A friend of mine sent this image to me a while back.
Sometimes I think my husband reminds me of Elliot Gould. I think he’d rather not hear that. He also gets called Wolverine in public by 7-11 clerks. And drunk guys in Vegas.

Tonight we’re watching the Long Goodbye. A movie I swear up and down I’ve never seen, but one he swears I have seen. The movie made me think of this poster and that I should use Elliot Gould as an excuse to use up some of this Jim Beam.

The first incarnation of this was so wrong. I had to cut down on the lemon juice and up the marmalade for added sweetness. This version though I’m pretty happy with. The drink has the right balance of sweet and sour, with really bright notes from the citrus. Also the citrus and the cherry elements play well off each other.

 

The Long Gould-night Sour
2-1/2oz Jim Beam
1/4 oz Lemon Juice
1/4 oz Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon of Mixed Citrus Chunky Marmalade (Considering this was a home made gift from a friend I do not have a recipe. However, I would suggest looking for a smoky concoction. Better even if it’s mixed with cherries. If you are using a fine cut marmalade, go less than a tablespoon- or rather, just do it to taste.)
3-4 dashes of Miracle Mile Sour Cherry Bitters
Luxardo Cherry garnish

In a shaker filled with ice, build up all of the ingredients sans cherry. Shake vigorously for at least 20-30 seconds to breakdown the marmalade as much as possible. There is going to be a lot o peel left in the shaker, but you’ll also get a lot of bits into your glass which is totally fine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass containing one luxardo cherry at the bottom.

Mixology Monday: Some Like It Hot- Hot Buttered Warm Up Drink!

Hot alcoholic drinks bring me back to being sick as a kid and having a dad who was extraordinarily inept when it came to dealing with these things. I guess he was just doing what his mom did to him when he was sick and a kid.. passing down old world traditions of giving hot whiskey and honey to a coughing child. Occasionally I still will mix one up when the temperature in L.A. drops down below 50, which it has been doing lately. Waking up the other morning and looking out to see a palm tree in the foreground and a snow covered mountain in the background made me take a second glance. And then a third. And then I broke out the camera and emailed a photo to my parents back east to prove we do have weather out here. Oh but you came here for a drink recipe! Let’s talk about that!

This post is my entry into this month’s Mixology Monday. It’s my first, which may not be so shocking since there are only a handful of posts on this here site (the blog may be new, but my interest in cocktails goes back a-ways). And it is hosted over at The Backyard Bartender. Hosted virtually. The drink is a Hot Buttered Warm Up. It doesn’t really indicated anything about the drink except there may be some butter in it and it’s hot. Part of the titling is that warm drinks go down easy and after several I can’t remember what they’re really called and default to calling them ‘Warm Ups’. Cause they do that to you.

1 T of Cardamom, Vanilla, and Muscovado Sugar Compound Butter (recipe is in this post)
1 bay leaf
5 oz of strong black tea (I used PG Tips)
2 oz of bourbon
1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz of amaretto
lemon peel for garnish

Drop the tablespoon of butter mixture into your serving cup (a glass coffee mug, regular coffee mug.. something that can take some heat). Meanwhile, make the tea: pour boiling water over one tea bag and the bay leaf in a separate mug (you could quadruple this recipe and make a whole pot of tea if you were serving for company. It would probably make you feel better than having to waste two coffee mugs on this.). Let sit and brew for 6 minutes. Strain the tea onto your butter mixture, you want to use anywhere between 5 to 6 ounces of tea here (one small coffee mug is about right- but since mugs vary greatly in size and capacity, you might want to measure it all out ahead of time). Add the bourbon and lemon juice. Stir to combine the mixture (and break up the butter a bit if it’s been hanging out in the fridge until now). Float the amaretto on top and garnish with the lemon peel.

Even though you have sugar and vanilla in the butter, it mellows out here and is not very sweet. That said, if you love your drinks sweet I’d adjust the butter mixture to your own tastes. This was perfect for me. Originally I had this without the lemon juice but once I tasted the drink it was screaming for some acid. I particularly wanted to use bourbon in this, but next time I might try it with some dark rum to see where that goes (my never ending quest to become pals with rum). If the temperature stay the same around here you might see some more hot drinks coming soon.

***The inspiration behind this was in part me marrying into a half-Indian family last year and eating much more cardamom. I learned that I like it, and there’s a whole new world of bizarre flavor combinations that I want to make into drinks thanks to them. This is one of them. The other part is that hot whiskey is the only cure I can think of when I look outside and there are palm trees and snow.