Spiced Gunpowder Guava Cocktail a sweet and savory libation with Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum

This post is brought to you by Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum. Recipes and ideas are my own.

I’ve decided I hate the term “binge watching” television. The term makes it sound like it’s a bad thing to watch a few hours of House Hunters International. And that, folks, is not a bad way to spend a few hours of relaxation time (i.e. kids are asleep).

The couples on that show are fantastic to watch. Either they are attempting to look into the camera and say something positive about this bungalow in the jungle with giant flying bugs because they are fulfilling some dumb dream when they spent two weeks there in college and now are realizing how difficult it will be dragging their whole family there… OR their significant other is making them get a second house and they are just seething on the inside while obviously trying not to look angry for a national audience. But we can tell!

At the end of the island episodes, the couple is always cheers-ing with some fantastic looking cocktails and they somehow look content with their decision to be the crazy Americans on that island. If they were in Puerto Rico, by the way, they probably were sipping on a cocktail made with Don Q rum.

Today’s recipe is in partnership with Don Q Rums and we’re featuring their newest rum offering the Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum. Don Q Rum has only been in the States a little over a decade, but has been a popular choice in Puerto Rico for 150 years, making it their #1 rum. This spiced rum packs a punch of flavor with vanilla and pepper and just enough sweetness for my palate. While you can definitely sip this rum, it’s also a great mixing rum to make unquestionably delicious cocktails. So that’s what we’re doing with it now!

With such strong flavors to start with in the rum, I decided to use some equally strong flavors to compliment that spiciness. When you think powerful, do you think about gunpowder? In cocktails?! I do, but this version of gunpowder comes in the form of tea. Gunpowder green tea to be exact. Teas are great options for giving subtle (and sometimes not so subtle. Hello lapsang souchong tea!) flavor to cocktails. I steeped this savory, smoky tea in a simple syrup to lend a savory note to the drink and to balance the sweetness of the other components. Thinking of Puerto Rico, I opted to add some guava nectar for tropical sweetness and a big squeeze of lime finished with a touch of orange curaçao. The drink starts sweet, but ends with a lingering earthiness. To give it a finishing kick, the glass is rimmed in a mixture of salt and cayenne.

Ok, so now that we have our tropical inspired drinks, we can get back to the tv watching. While these house hunters might make very questionable choices, make sure your cocktail is unquestionably delicious.

Spiced Gunpowder Guava Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum
3/4 ounce guava nectar
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from about 1 lime (reserve lime shell)
1/2 ounce gunpowder green tea syrup (recipe follows)
1/4 ounce orange curaçao
1 teaspoon kosher salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper for garnish

  • First, combine salt and cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl. Using your spent lime, moisten the outside of your cocktail glass by rubbing the rim with the lime. Rim the side of the cocktail glass in the salt and cayenne mixture.
  • Next, in a shaker ⅔ filled with ice, pour in Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum, guava nectar, lime juice, gunpowder green tea syrup, and orange curaçao. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into pre-rimmed cocktail glass.

Gunpowder Green Tea Syrup

Yields approximately 5 ounces
3 bags of gunpowder green tea (or two heaping tablespoons if you have loose tea)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in teabags (or loose tea if using). Steep for 10 minutes. Strain and use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one month.

For more information about Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum and all their exceptional rums, their commitment to sustainability and quality, and for additional drink & garnish ideas and proper glassware tips please visit their website at donq.com.

Spicy Melon Cocktail

Spicy Melon Cocktail // stirandstrain.comToday is one of those days where I’m really not sure what story I want to tell you guys. I originally posted this on Serious Eats last week and if you want, you could read what I wrote about street food vendors over there. I did edit it so that my roadside vendor food poisoning stories did not make an appearance in the article (didn’t seem fitting for the general public). But I still don’t see that as a fitting topic on here either. I guess I could just put up a bunch of photos and give you the recipe. You’d all be OK with that right? Or maybe we can talk about impulse grocery shopping?

Spicy Melon Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The base of this cocktail is the summer melon pictured above. I actually bought this little guy based solely on a photo I saw online. One great thing about living in a major city like Los Angeles is the sheer number of delivery services available to us. Did you guys see the Booze News where I mentioned you can get booze delivered by underwear models? Yeah, that’s a thing here. But not everything is pointless like that. We have so many farmer’s markets in all corners of the city that one would just assume that on every given day you could drive or bike or walk over to one of them, get your produce for the week and carry on. Somehow that just wasn’t working out for me. Work, unfortunately, was becoming a 7 day a week affair and breaking to get fresh, local produce was suddenly becoming a far away dream. Spicy Melon Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

In the past, we’ve used a few of the CSA delivery services. Which, for the most part are awesome and ensures we get fresh, local produce thrown at us every week. The problem was: it wasn’t always what we wanted to work with, or quantities were just wrong. For example, how the hell does one lemon suffice for a whole week? Answer: it doesn’t.

About a month ago we tried out a new service that combined both CSA boxes, single produce items and dairy and pantry staples. Pretty much like a virtual farmer’s market. With free delivery. That melon sat on the page, looking delicious and so more appealing than a regular cantaloupe (even if it was just, well, a cantaloupe). So I impulse bought it. In fact, I impulsively added a whole bunch of stuff into my cart. And then I saw the price. And then I slowly decided what to put back. I mean, part of being able to pick exactly what you want is also so that you’re not wasting food; I absolutely hate throwing anything uneaten in the trash. Spicy Melon Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

This post is in no way sponsored by this delivery service, which if you’re interested you can check out Good Eggs yourself. They have no idea how much time and effort they are saving me. I’m just admitting to you all how sometimes in life I like to throw money at my problems to try and make them go away. Eating local and seasonal seems like a reasonable cause to throw money at. That cilantro up there also came from them.Spicy Melon Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

OK, so let’s get to the cocktail.

There are a few components to this that are make ahead. You know how I love my projects! It’s probably why I can’t make it out to the farmer’s market. The first is that the melon gets steeped in gin for a few days; it’s so worth it. Next, cilantro gets chopped up and mixed into a simple syrup. Then everything is combined with some Dolin Blanc, lime juice and cayenne pepper. This whole concoction was really based on the fruit cart vendors I see all over Los Angeles. Another food item I used to impulsively buy until I learned just how simple it was to make at home.

For the Melon-Infused Gin:

1 cup London Dry gin, such as Ford’s
1 cup chopped skinned and seeded cantaloupe (about 1/2 melon)

Combine gin and cantaloupe in an airtight container; cantaloupe should be completely covered with gin. Let stand at room temperature for 3 days. Strain into a clean bottle. Refrigerate up to 6 months.

For the Cilantro Simple Syrup:

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup finely minced cilantro leaves and stems

Combine water with sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Add cilantro and let stand for 1 hour. Strain out cilantro. Cool before using. Simple syrup will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

For the Cocktail:

2 ounces Melon-Infused Gin
3/4 ounce Cilantro Simple Syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1 lime
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
Pinch cayenne pepper, plus more for garnish
Melon slice, for garnish

Combine melon-infused gin, cilantro simple syrup, lime, vermouth, and pinch cayenne pepper in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 25 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a melon slice sprinkled with additional cayenne and serve immediately.

A strong juniper palate, along with the herbal and citrus hints found in a London Dry gin style work really well to balance the sweetness of a melon like cantaloupe. Adding the element of grassy cilantro into the mix here gives the whole drink a touch more savoriness. A generous squeeze of lime juice and a big pinch of cayenne transforms the base into a juicy, fruity, spicy cocktail.

Make It: Kiss of Fire (Aperol and Cayenne Jellies)

Kiss of Fire Aperol Jellies // stirandstrain.comOverachiever. Two posts for Mixology Monday and you can start to attribute that to yourself. I’m not officially submitting this, since it’s an alcoholic dessert, but the FIRE theme this month is the reason why this post went up.

I’ve actually had this idea in my back pocket for awhile now. There was this recipe in the Los Angeles times online for Prosecco gelee and I knew I’d have to make them sometime with some liquor. The time had to be right, and the flavors needed to make sparks (otherwise it would just be a fancy jello shot).

Kiss of Fire Aperol Jellies // stirandstrain.com

In the Eyes of Angelique post, I started to play around with Campari and cayenne in a foam, and when that combination came together, I thought I would try a more straight on approach to the flavors, more concentrated, and Aperol and cayenne seemed like the duo to try. There is a touch of chipotle powder in there to bring an earthiness to the sweet, bitter and hot flavors.

This might seem like a project, but it’s really hands off, and the sugar coating is optional. In fact, here’s a tip with that. If you do go the way of sifting the jellies with sugar, coat them twice. There is an issue with something called ‘weeping’ that happens when the sugar starts to melt a bit (after they’ve sat for awhile). So if you do sugar them, coat twice and then eat immediately! Otherwise the unsugared jellies will stay firm in the fridge up to 4 days, covered.Kiss of Fire Aperol Jellies // stirandstrain.com

Recipe adapted from L.A. Times
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 water
12 oz. Aperol
3/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
9 sheets of gold gelatin

Combine sugar and water in a sauce pan. Bring to just about a boil and remove from heat. Soften gelatin sheets in a bowl of water for 2 minutes, ring water out and mix them into the sugar syrup. Stir until gelatin is dissolved. Add Aperol, cayenne and chipotle powders to the syrup and stir to combine. Line a 8″x8″ pan with plastic wrap and pour mixture into the pan. You can also pour into individual silicone molds. Refrigerate overnight to set. To serve, cut into squares.

Optional sugar coating:
Pour a 1/2 cup of granulated sugar into a bowl. Add jellies a few at a time to coat. Shake off excess and coat a second time. Serve immediately.

Each little square has the sweet bitter flavor of the Aperol, but with an earthy fire from the powders. That cayenne heats hits the back of your throat for a nice spicy bite. You do not need to sugar coat them, but if you do, you could pass them off as elegant candies.

Mixology Monday: The Eyes of Angelique

The Angelique Cocktail // stirandstrain.com
mxmologo

Confession time. Or maybe rather, here’s some facts about me you didn’t know. One: I could have gone to college, full ride, on a Chemistry scholarship. Instead I chose art and am still paying off the TWO bachelor degrees that I am barely using right now. Two: I’m a giant nerd for the original Dark Shadows television program. I don’t go to the fan shows because I hate crowds, but I was overcome with sadness when Jonathan Frid, aka Barnabus Collins, passed away last year and I never got to geek out on him and tell him how much I enjoyed his melodramatic, line forgetting, over-the-top acting on the show. I am always going to regret that.

Why am I making you read that above paragraph? Because for this month’s Mixology Monday the Muse of Doom, writer of the blog Feu de Vie, decided that this month’s theme was FIRE. Immediately I started humming the chorus to Arthur Brown’s FIRE, and then while watching an episode of Dark Shadows decided that I wanted to name it after the lady always staring into the fire and being a badass, Angelique. I am, for the fourth time in my life, rewatching the series in its entirety, so, you know, it’s on the brain lately.The Angelique Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The name came first, as is sometimes the case. So taking that cue, I decided I wanted a drink both potent and spicy, and also with a touch of femininity. And that’s when I broke out the chemicals. I feel like nationally the molecular gastronomy movement has come, hit a crazy frenzy, and then gone back to the people who have really made it their shtick; José Andrés, Grant Achatz, Ferran Adrià, Wylie Dufresne. I have many of these chemicals available at hand from my day job and have been itching for a reason to use them. Recently I’ve been catching up on older episodes of the Dinner Party Download when the bartender at the SLS hotel (where José Andrés has his restaurant) was asked to make a Andy Warhol inspired cocktail. His cocktail, not surprisingly, had a ‘bubble bath’ that sat upon the top. This intrigued me since all I needed to perform this task was one chemical: Lecithin. Lecithin is an emulsifier, soy based (there is also egg based), that makes stable foam out of most liquids. You can read more on the chemical over here.

My thinking, after listening to the interview, was that I could create a fire-like mound upon on the drink using this chemical. Maybe add some extra oomph with edible red dust. And I did just that, sort of.

I’m not one to shy away from heat in my drink. I love it. Have you seen my Satan’s Breath or the Tres Palmas? If it makes me tear up, the better. I’m sure this sheds some kind of light onto my character, but this is a cocktail site, not a therapy session so we’ll leave that for my late-night marathon tweeting. I opted not to add heat in the form of peppers this time and instead made a spicy combo using a barrel-aged gin and ginger shrub. And topping it all off was a fiery cayenne laced Campari and Pineapple foam. The Angelique Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The lecithin was tricky. This was the first time using it and have learned a couple things I will try next time. One is that make sure you get the powdered form, the liquid does not work with juices/alcohol, it’s more for chocolates and food usage. Two is that you need a container with tall sides as using a hand blender will make this splatter all over the place if it’s a small sided vessel. You better believe my workspace is a sticky mess right now. I’ll clean it later.The Angelique Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

2 oz. Barrel Aged Rusty Blade Gin
1 oz. Shrub & Co. Ginger Shrub
1/2 oz. Rose Water
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, add all of the above ingredients. Stir and strain into a chilled champagne saucer.

For the Bubbles:
2 oz. Pineapple Juice
2 oz. Campari
1/2 tsp cayenne (1/4 tsp if you’re not wanting too much fire)
1/2 tsp Lecithin

Edible red glitter for garnish

Combine ingredients in a flat bottomed container with tall sides. Gently stir to dissolve lecithin. Using a hand blender, whip contents until a foam begins. You will have to do several batches depending on the surface area of your container. Gently spoon foam on top of drink. Garnish with fiery red edible glitter.

Fire is up there when describing this cocktail. I may not have been able to create the fiery mound for the drink but that cayenne laced foam added a secondary punch after the first hit of the ginger shrub creating dynamic layers. Sweet, sharp and spicy all sing out beautifully here. Shrub & Co’s Ginger shrub and the Rusty Blade gin give the drink a lot of spice and heat, while the sweetness of the foam is just enough to balance out the tart notes. The rose water has a subtle layer of floral sweetness that is there in the background. Careful, the fire of the cayenne builds as you drink, settling down also at the bottom of the glass, making that last gulp a mouth of fire.