Black Honey

Black Honey Cocktail: the anti-Valentine // stirandstrain.comAt this point in the day you’ve probably had a fair amount of Valentine’s Day stuff shoved into your eyeballs. Let this post be your relief. Consider this your anti-Valentine.

Yes, I had a lot of drinks geared towards flowers and chocolate boxes this month, but when developing those, I always had in mind creating a polar opposite. True to form around these parts, I had the drink name hanging around in my head looking for a recipe to be paired with first. And then a recipe idea for the Serious Drinks site gave the name a place. Black honey had to be sweet but bitter, a contradiction to perplex the palate. Cynar and Smith & Cross to the rescue!Black Honey Cocktail: the anti-Valentine // stirandstrain.com

For the honey-cinnamon syrup

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks, 2” long

In a small sauce pan over high heat, add ingredients and bring to just under a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain into an airtight container. Will keep for about one month refrigerated.

One tip for your syrup: heat your honey beforehand to make pouring a whole lot easier. 30 seconds in the microwave should do it.

And now the cocktail

2 ounces Cynar
1 ounce Smith & Cross Jamican Navy Strength Rum
3/4 ounce honey-cinnamon syrup (recipe above)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, from 1/2 a lime (Bearss lime used here)

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice and pour in all the ingredients. Stir for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

It’s a cocktail that confounds expectations. The initial funky aromas of rum, lime, and cinnamon suggest you’re about to have a fruity tiki drink. But your first sip is a mouthful of rich honey and rum’s smoky molasses-like flavor, before things drop swiftly into a forcefully bitter finish from the Cynar. You’ll continue to notice these three discrete periods of sensation every time you raise the glass for another gulp—it drives you to sip again and again.

The Chocolate Rye

Chocolate Rye Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFirst off, this month marks YEAR THREE  of the Stir & Strain website (I always forget). Woo-hoo! Let’s make a drink.

When coming up with ideas this month the one thing I was against was a chocolate cocktail a la the Chocotini. Why would you willingly drink that? I gag just thinking about it. It’s like poop…with alcohol.Chocolate Rye Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So instead I decided that I should somehow infuse cacao nibs into a cocktail and work with that. What I ended up making was a drink that was a riff on a box of chocolates: the smell of chocolate, toasted almonds and spices all infused within some rye whiskey. (You can read more on that over at the Serious Drinks site.)

The infusion is quick so if you start it today you can actually make this for Valentine’s Day if you wanted. This would more than likely earn you some brownie points since it means you thought ahead of time.

So let’s start cocktailing!Chocolate Rye Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Cacao Nib, Toasted Almond, and Spice Infused Rye

1/3 cup cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 allspice berries
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 2” long cinnamon sticks
1/2 inch cube ginger, peeled and sliced
1-1/2 cups rye whiskey, such as Redemption Rye

In an airtight container, combine all ingredients and swirl to combine. Let sit for 2 days then fine strain into a clean airtight container (you may need to strain a second time). Let sit an additional day or two to mellow. Infusion is now ready to use and will last indefinitely (best flavor within one year though).

Now the cocktail:

1-3/4 ounce cacao nib infused rye
3/4 ounce Oloroso Sherry
1/2 freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice, from 1/2 lemon
bar spoon luxardo cherry syrup from jar of cherries

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 full with ice. Add infused rye, sherry, lemon juice, and syrup from the cherry jar. Stir until well chilled, about 25 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry and serve.

The aroma from the infusion is intoxicating. Warm spices combined with a rich chocolate aroma followed by the nutty toasted almonds. And it gets better in the cocktail which is both bright and decadent. Let the drink sit for a minute after you’ve poured it, as that lets all the smells really open up as it looses it’s chill.

The Golden Hour Cocktail

I’m really trying to give rum a fighting chance outside of Tiki drinks in my house. For this cocktail, I wanted to try something more ‘stiff shirted’ if you will. I guess I only moved a hair over from something tropical, but it’s a start.

What this is though is delicious. I’ve gotten hooked on this Apricot liqueur, as I am finding it quite versatile in all manner of cocktails lately.

Named for the time of day lately when these start getting passed around in the house, they bring a lovely glow and just a little hint of warmth.

1-1/2 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse Barbados Rum
3/4 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup
2 dashes Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters

Combine all ingredients into a shaker 2/3 filled with ice. Shake well to combine and strain into a chilled coupe.

This drink is quite dry. Sweet and tart are well balanced with the cinnamon and bitters lingering in the back adding a hint of spice.

Make It: Holiday Spice Syrups

Make It: Holiday Spice Syrups // stirandstrain.comThe hard ciders and Glogg are starting to roll out. It’s Fall- hell, it’s almost Thanksgiving already. For me that means starting to plan for Christmas. My personality is such that I painfully start planning things much too far in advance, forget about them, and freak out at the last minute trying to get these plans into action.

A good chunk of gift giving is pretty easy actually when it comes to my friends. They all like booze. But really, putting a bow on a bottle of Jameson a couple years in a row starts to become too easy and predictable. Yes, you can step it up and maybe shell out for a bottle of Booker’s. However that becomes expensive when you multiply that by just 4 people.

When I started making my own infused syrups at home it occurred to me the potential these had for gift giving. One can make up a batch, pair it with a small bottle of something, and write up a little card with a drink recipe on it. For me, it’s a way of sharing an interest with my friends and getting them tipsy in the process. Win! Even better when you can open it together.

This year I’m expanding my usual arsenal of syrups to include some Fall spices that I want to try out. Adapting the clove syrup recipe from the PDT Cocktail Book, I’ve scaled that down and also worked up a cinnamon syrup too. Bottle these up and give away, or keep for yourself.

For this recipe, I made a master batch of simple syrup and then divided it to steep the cloves and cinnamon separately.

Master Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Combine water and sugar in a sauce pan. Swirl to combine and place over high heat until warmed through and transparent. Do not let it come to a boil. Once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat if using immediately for below or keep over a very low flame- you will need the syrup to be warm to infuse.

Clove Syrup

1/2 cup simple syrup
1/4 oz of cloves (I used a kitchen scale to weigh this out. It’s about 3 tablespoons if I were to eyeball it.)

Combine a half cup of the warm simple syrup with the cloves in a heat-proof container. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain into a bottle through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Let the mixture cool and store in the refrigerator.

Cinnamon Syrup

1 cup simple syrup
5 sticks of cinnamon, 2″ to 2-1/2″ in length

Combine a half cup of the warm simple syrup with the cinnamon sticks in a heat-proof container. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain into a bottle. Let the mixture cool and store in the refrigerator.

Syrups will keep approximately 1 month in the refrigerator (or at least they do in my house).

Honey Vanilla Chai Toddy

Mainly due to losing that month in limbo in India and being sick, I’ve been finding it hard to believe that it’s Fall. Also, L.A. having 80+ temps lately isn’t helping. But a night of pumpkin carving, hot spiced apple cider and a smattering of Halloween-themed movies seems to have jolted my system back to normal. A post on a food blog I follow recently had this delicious toddy recipe that enlightened me to what some flavored teas can add to drinks. Maybe my mind is still lingering over some of the flavors of India as I decided a spiced chai toddy might do the trick for those chilly 70 degree gray L.A. days to come (I’m over apologizing to my east coast family that 68 is jacket and scarf weather. After 10 years here this is cold for me and warrants lighting the fire place).

So today I bring you a Honey Vanilla Chai Toddy. So easy you’ll want to double the batch and share. Or drink two really fast.

5 oz boiling water
1 teabag of honey vanilla chai (here I am using Celestial Seasonings, but you can also find just vanilla chai- in which case you’ll want to add a touch more Bärenjäger)
1/2 oz of Bärenjäger
1 oz of Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt Rye here)
1 cinnamon stick

Pour the boiling water over the tea bag in a smaller sized coffee mug or Irish coffee glass (I used a glass that holds around 7 oz of liquid). Steep the tea for 3 minutes and then remove the teabag. Pour in the Bärenjäger and Whiskey, stir gently to combine. Garnish with the cinnamon stick.

If you’re not familiar with it, Bärenjäger taste like the “cough syrup” my dad made for me as a child when my coughing kept him up and my mom was working second shift: honey and booze. I love how strong the honey flavor is, it’s almost like drinking it straight, just not as thick. This drink has many layers of flavors. The tea base has familiar chai flavors: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, black pepper with the addition of vanilla and honey. The honey though here is then heightened by the addition of the Bärenjäger. Mmmmm…. and also some sweetness from the Rye. The ‘alcohol’ layer adds some bite, but struggles to keep afloat with all the spice action. But that’s ok, more reason to have another.

And when you’re done taking photos, just shove that stick in the drink.