Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Blue Nectar Tequila. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Admittedly, I let a lot of the drink holidays pass me by. Especially when they’re not really something I feel like celebrating (vodka + red bull day I’m looking at you). But today is a very special day. Today is Margarita Day.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comI drink Margaritas every day of the year. I don’t wait for Taco Tuesday and happy hour at my local cantina. I break them out over brunch or on any given Sunday. But usually just a single serving or two. Today, because we’re celebrating, we’re going big and making a Margarita PUNCH.

Since we’re still deep in citrus season, my family just got back from picking our own grapefruits, lemons and whatever else was hanging on those fruit-laden trees. The grapefruits were so juicy and tart and delicious, that I perhaps got a little overzealous with the picking. To make sure they go to a good home, they’ll be the base of the punch today. Not only will we use some of the juice, but the zest will go into the oleo saccharum, and the whole punch will get garnished with sugared brûléed wheels of the fruit. An honorable way for these grapefruits to go.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comEven though I love those grapefruit, to balance out the citrus flavors and make the base more complex, I’m creating a oleo saccharum with lemon and lime zest in addition to a few grapefruit zests thrown in. Creating the base this way gives the punch a strong citrus backbone that won’t get watered down and lost once the grapefruit juice, tequila and ice are added in.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comTo sweeten everything up and to highlight some of the more floral characteristics of the citrus, I’ve combined Tahitian vanilla (which is the most floral of the vanilla varieties) and piloncillo. Not sure what piloncillo is? That’s ok, I’ve only just started using it over the last few years myself. Piloncillo is evaporated sugar cane juice from Mexico. It’s not as sweet as regular cane sugar, but it has a wonderfully rich taste, similar to brown sugar. Again, to make this a more concentrated flavor bomb for the punch, the vanilla and piloncillo get made into a syrup and then reduced into a rich, syrupy sweetener.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comThis wouldn’t be a Margarita without the tequila, right? For that I’m turning to Blue Nectar Silver Tequila for the perfect pairing to my grapefruit obsession. The clean vegetal flavor has just a touch of spiciness that balances out the sweetness of the citrus.

This is a versatile punch: serve it up with breakfast tacos or late in the afternoon all by itself; anytime really. But especially today, for the best drink holiday, Margarita Day.

For more information on Blue Nectar Tequila, please check out their website here!

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comMakes approximately 12 servings

For the oleo saccharum:

4.5 ounces sugar
zests from 2 limes
zests from 2 lemons
zests from 1 grapefruit

  • To make the oleo saccharum, peel zests from limes, lemons and grapefruit, trying to remove as little white pith as possible. Toss the peels with the sugar, muddle to express oils, and let sit 6 hours or up to overnight in a nonreactive bowl (I use glass or a cambro container), covered. Strain peels from the mixture, set liquid aside.

For the vanilla and piloncillo reduction:

1 cup piloncillo
1 cup water
2 Tahitian vanilla bean pods cut into 1” pieces

  • In a small saucepan over medium high heat, combine piloncillo, water, and vanilla pieces. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, until mixture is reduced by half. Strain vanilla pieces out and store in an airtight container until ready to use. Will keep refrigerated up to one month.

For the punch:

750 ml Blue Nectar Silver Tequila
12 ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit, preferably oro blanco grapefruits
oleo saccharum
4 ounces vanilla and piloncillo reduction
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces orange curacao, preferably Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao
1 large ruby red grapefruit, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 tablespoon piloncillo

  • To make the punch, combine Blue Nectar Silver Tequila, grapefruit juice, reserved liquid from oleo saccharum, vanilla and piloncillo reduction, lemon juice and dry orange curacao. Stir gently to combine. Chill mixture.
  • To make the brûléed grapefruit wheels, place sliced of grapefruit on a wire tray over a cookie sheet. Sprinkle them with piloncillo sugar. Place them under a broiler, or use a culinary blow torch to caramelize the sugar and wheels. Let cool. Once the wheels are cooled, reserve 3 wheels for the punch bowl garnish and slice the rest for garnishing individual cups.
  • To serve, pour mixture into a punch bowl and add a large block of ice. Garnish with large brûléed grapefruit wheels. Ladle into individual cups with wedges of brûléed grapefruit. Optionally sprinkle with sea salt crystals.

The Hot Ward 8 Cocktail

hotward8I tend to go back and forth on bottled cocktails. Will the juice taste fresh enough? Should I even bother with juices or should it be all booze and bitters? Can I just drink this whole bottle and not share it?

The best thing about bottled cocktails though? The convenience factor. Batch up a couple to bring to a party and you’re fawned over like you invented cute puppies. But what if you need to take that cocktail on the road? And what if it’s freezing outside because some friend convinced you it would be an awesome idea to go camping? In winter…

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comLet me introduce you to your new best friend, the insulated thermos. Keeping your hot cocktails hot, and your sanity in check this winter.

When you’re making hot cocktails there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, you’ll be adding in hot water so you want to keep your juices to a minimum (if your cocktail requires them). Why water your cocktail down even more? I’ve found the best way to work around this is to make an oleo saccharum to ensure you have that bright zesty citrus flavor in concentrated form and none of the excess juice.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comSecond, you want to keep your cocktail hot. For my thermos cocktails, I use a Stanley Classic Vacuum thermos. It’s old school looking; like something my Dad would bring with him to work to keep his soup hot. And this guy keeps it hot for HOURS. At 1.1 quarts it also holds enough drinks for you and some friends so no one need go without a drink. But don’t just pour your drink into the thermos! If you preheat it while you’re making the cocktail it will prevent heat loss when you pour the drink in. So, to do that, just add boiling water and stick the cap on while you’re doing the mixing. Anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes is sufficient time to get that thermos nice and hot. When you’re ready to pour the finished cocktail in, dump out the water and you’re good to go.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThird, make a cocktail that actually tastes good hot. For my first venture with the thermos, I made a variation of a Hot Ward 8, Boston’s only real pre-prohibition contribution. I’d love to tell you the history on this but there is so much competing information out there as to its true origins that putting anything down in print seems like hearsay.

I chose this for a few reasons. I thought it would taste good hot, and it uses up some seasonally appropriate produce (Are your kitchen counters filling up with citrus yet? Mine are.). You could always go with some cocktails that are already served hot. Some nice Hot Toddies while you’re ice fishing, or some Irish Coffee while you’re out snow-shoeing, or whatever you do in the snow.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThe Ward 8 delivers a bit more complex flavor here with sweet and spicy rye and that bright citrus from the oleo saccharum. I also add in a touch more syrupy citrus sweetener with a dry orange curaçao and round out the drink with tart fresh pomegranate juice (the last of my season’s batch). For a spicy/bitter finish, a few dashes of Angostura are added in to the mix to keep it from getting too sweet.

There’s plenty of cold months ahead of us, so let’s start planning on a few hot cocktails to get us through. And don’t forget your thermos.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comFor the Oleo-Saccharum:

Zest from 2 lemons
Zest from 1 orange
4 1/2 ounces (130g) sugar

  • In a heatproof container with at least a 36-ounce capacity, toss together lemon and orange zests with sugar. Muddle for 30 seconds to release the oil from the zests. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 and up to 12 hours.

For the Cocktails:

8 ounces (235ml) boiling water, plus more for preheating thermos
16 ounces (475ml) rye whiskey, such as Bulleit 95
4 ounces (120ml) unsweetened pomegranate juice
2 ounces (60ml) dry orange curaçao, such as Pierre Ferrand
8 dashes Angostura bitters
8 lemon zest strips, for garnish (optional)

  • Pre-warm thermos by filling with water just off the boil and let stand. Meanwhile, pour rye whiskey, 8 ounces boiling water, pomegranate juice, orange curaçao, and bitters over the oleo-saccharum. Stir well until sugar is completely dissolved. (If you find you’d like your drink hotter, pour everything except the rye into a sauce pan and heat to desired temperature. Then add in rye and continue with the recipe)
  • Discard hot water from thermos, then carefully strain rye mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into thermos (a funnel can help avoid spills); discard spent zests. Seal thermos.
  • Optionally, when ready to drink, add new lemon zests to your cocktail, expressing the oils over the top first.

Smoky Sage Punch

Smoky Sage Punch // stirandstrain.comI hope you’re curled up on a couch right now watching movies. I hope that someone else is making you dinner and you’re only concern is how long can you wait before you seriously have to get up and use the bathroom.

Lazy days are the best, but this past year I’ve had a whole lot of trouble turning the internet off for a second to be able to do just that: be lazy. Starting a new business, starting a family, remembering to put out the trash so that you’re not going on TWO weeks of forgetting. All of this takes so much…TIME. But as we rapidly put a nail in 2014 and I try and remember to reflect on this past year, I can say I regret nothing about my choices this year, even forgetting to be lazy. Actually, especially that.Smoky Sage Punch // stirandstrain.com

I was considering putting this post up on Wednesday for Christmas Eve, but I figured you all were off doing bigger and better things and not sitting around looking at a cocktail blog. Or maybe you were here and were like, Why isn’t there a new recipe before Christmas?!?! I’m super sorry about that guys if that was you. I hope you decided instead to crack open that expensive bottle of whiskey and share it with everyone you hold dear.Smoky Sage Punch // stirandstrain.com

But now we’re going into the post-Christmas daze and we have to start thinking about NYE parties (because we just can’t rest until January 2nd) and we need something we can batch up and serve to people and just get through the night. I bring you all this punch.Smoky Sage Punch // stirandstrain.com

Don’t be scared! There’s a lot of steps but it’s worth it for the end result.

Yields 10 Servings
For the Sage Syrup:

1 cup (8 ounces) water
8 ounces (about 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
10 medium sage leaves

Combine sugar, water, and sage in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, remove from heat, and let sit 1 hour. Strain and store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

For the Oleo-Saccharum:

2 lemons
1 orange
4 ounces (about 4 1/2 tablespoons) sugar

Peel zests from lemons and orange, trying to remove as little white pith as possible. Reserve peeled fruit for another use. Toss the peels with the sugar, muddle, and let sit 6 hours or up to overnight in a nonreactive bowl, covered. Strain peels from the mixture, set liquid aside.

For the Lapsang Souchong Tea:

2 cups (16 ounces) boiling water
1 tablespoon lapsang souchong tea leaves

Pour boiling water over tea in a heat-proof container. Let steep 4 minutes. Strain and set brewed tea aside. Let cool completely before using.

For the Punch:

3 cups (24 ounces) New American style gin, such as Jack Rabbit from Beehive Distilling
1/2 cup (4 ounces) freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 4 lemons
3/4 cup (6 ounces) orange curacao, such as Pierre Ferrand
1/2 cup (4 ounces) sage syrup
2 cups (16 ounces) lapsang souchong tea
Orange rounds, lemon rounds, sage leaves for garnish

Combine gin, tea, oleo-saccarum, sage syrup, lemon juice, and orange curacao in a punch bowl or other serving piece. Stir to combine. Add orange wheels, lemon wheels and sage leaves for garnish. Serve with ladle into ice-filled punch or rocks glasses.

Smoky Sage Punch // stirandstrain.com

This punch is bright and flavorful, with earthy notes from the sage and unexpected smoky tea. The lapsang souchong doesn’t overwhelm with smoke, but instead adds that extra “something” that your guests will try and place all night as they gulp glass after glass. I opted to use a new American style gin for an added dose of botanicals. Jack Rabbit has lots of sage, coriander and rose flavors, but use whatever you have on hand if this isn’t available where you are.

*This post originally appeared on Serious Eats.

The Irish Derby Cocktail

Irish Derby Cocktail // stirandstrain.comI’m sure that this week every aspect of your social media accounts are being filled to the brim with green drinks and Irish whiskey recipes. Well, this cocktail isn’t green but it does use Irish whiskey.

Usually, Jameson or Redbreast is drunk by itself in this household. Very rarely does it make its way into a cocktail, although there have been a few off nights when I’ve desperately wanted a Manhattan and used it as the base when there was not a drop of Rye to be found. So this week’s challenge to me over on the Serious Drinks site was to make a cocktail that uses Irish whiskey as the base and go from there. Initially I was at a blank until I started sifting through my new copy of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh. Although at times I find myself pouring over the vintage Ads more than the words, the recipes collected here are a good history lesson for those of us interested in the world of cocktails; you need to know your beginnings.

Looking through here one realizes that many recipes are ready made for substitutions. I just had to find one for Irish whiskey, and in particular, Redbreast. The Derby cocktail stood out as one that might work, and after adjusting for tastes (woo there was a bit too much lime juice in here), it did. The original cocktail was bourbon based but utilized sweet vermouth, dry orange curaçao and lime juice. I upped the whiskey, downed the lime and added Angostura to balance it all out. What resulted was a light, slightly zingy cocktail where the whiskey played more of a supporting actor role.

1-1/2 ounces Irish Whiskey, such as Redbreast
1/2 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry orange curaçao (can sub with Cointreau)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1/2 lime
2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 long lime zest for garnish

First, peel the zest from the lime using a channel knife, or use a sharp paring knife to curl a long continuous piece of peel from the lime. Set aside. Next, fill a shaker 2/3 with ice and add all ingredients. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime peel.

Strong essence of orange oil and sweet florals from the lime on the nose. The Redbreast is mellowed out by the sweetness from the angostura and curaçao, while the Angostura adds just a touch of bitterness that completes the drinks. Not your usual Irish drink.

Mixology Monday: El Jardín de mi Abuela

longmargarita-4
mxmologoMixology Monday time again; how quickly this year is flying. This month’s host is Stewart Putney of Putney Farm who has asked us to “invert” our cocktail ingredients.

When I first read the announcement I was all on board for busting out some of my crazy chemicals and turning liquids into solids, etc… until real life got in the way and I had to abandon those ideas real fast. Some day you’ll see some posts on that, some day.

Instead I liked the idea of turning a cocktail into a ‘long drink’ and having a new batch of hibiscus infused tequila on hand I opted to make one from a Margarita recipe. Not just stopping at switching the proportions of the tequila and lime juice around, I added some extra touches to turn the other ingredients on their heads. Lime wedges encased in ice? Yes. Dry Orange Curacao syrup? Why not. Vanilla salt?! Let’s do that too!

Sometimes I want a project to work on, and this particular cocktail seems to be just that. However, once you make a couple of the ingredients that go into this, you can use them in lots of other ways. That vanilla salt is going atop some dark chocolate cookies soon. And the limeade is perfect without the booze in it too.

Let’s build this.

2 oz. Hibiscus Infused Tequila (recipe on this post)
1/2 oz. Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao Syrup (recipe below)
6 oz. Limeade (recipe below)
3 drop of Bitter Tears’ “Hina” hibiscus and rose bitters
pinch of vanilla salt (recipe below)

lime wedge ice cubes (add lime slices to ice cube tray and freeze)

longmargarita-1

Build the drink by adding lime wedge ice cubes to a Collins glass. Pour in tequila, syrup and limeade. Add the bitters and pinch of salt and stir with a straw gently to combine.longmargarita-3

Limeade Recipe

3 cups of water
1 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 cup of sugar

Heat all three ingredients over medium heat and stir to combine. Cool and transfer to a pitcher. (Those may look like lemons, but the Bears limes from my in-laws trees are more yellow than green this year).longmargarita-2

Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao Syrup

1/2 cup of Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao

Simmer the curacao over medium heat until reduced in half. This can take about 10-12 minutes. Cool and bottle.

Vanilla Salt (this recipe is adapted ever so slightly from The Chocolate of Meats website)

1/2 Tahitian vanilla bean
1/4 cup of kosher salt

Combine the salt and vanilla bean and shake vigorously. Let sit for a few hours before use to allow the vanilla bean scent to permeate the salt. Store in an airtight container.

The result? Instead of a strong tequila forward/ sweet and sour mix, this cocktail becomes a softer, lighter version that is both fruity and floral, with a bite of citrus at the finish. Hibiscus and lime are a wonderful pair, and with a pinch of the vanilla salt, this drink is well balanced. I purposely made the limeade not too sweet so that I could control that with the orange curacao syrup. That syrup’s sweet orange contrasts quite well with the tart lime, creating a more dynamic version of a sweet and sour mix. The drink also has strong floral notes from the hibiscus tequila that are pushed forward more from the bitters and from the vanilla salt due to the Tahitian vanilla bean. Tahitian vanilla is more floral than Mexican or Madagascar vanilla beans. Don’t worry though, this doesn’t taste like perfume.

The name? It translates to the garden of my grandmother. And that came about because the rose scent and the hibiscus flowers reminded me of her garden. Why in Spanish? It’s a riff on a Margarita. I couldn’t just name it in English.longmargarita-5

Thanks to Frederic for keeping Mixology Monday alive and to this month’s host Stewart. Cheers!

I’m trying to be better about posting the roundup post for MxMo. Here’s this month’s!

The Bar Keeper Margarita

I’m not usually a big tequila drinker unless there is a plate of tacos and refried beans in front of me. It also helps if a Mariachi Band is playing 10 feet in front of me. This weekend the stars aligned. I had a craving for nachos earlier in the week but didn’t want to go out. So my husband picked up some fixings and chose the most expensive bottle of tequila he could find… at a Ralph’s supermarket. Which, actually, was kind of pricey at $40. So I made us margaritas based on Regan’s recipe and he made giant mounds of nachos.

Fast forward to a Saturday soon after and my bi-weekly visit to Bar Keeper in Silver Lake (if I lived walking distance to this place I’d go broke in a month). With a running list of ‘extras’ for our bar, I try and make one special purchase every time I’m at the shop while stocking up on the usually necessities. This time it was a bottle of Dry Orange Curaçao. I ended up in a conversation with the owner, Joe Keeper, and he begged me to try it just by itself, on ice, and I’d be blown away (which frankly was just fantastically delicious). And then proceeded to give me a rough recipe for a margarita using this Curaçao. The kicker? Atomizing some Vida Mezcal over the finished product. Nice touch, I just happened to have a bottle of that at home.

Immediately upon arriving home I was so smitten with this recipe that I broke out everything and then realized, well, an atomizer I did not have. Not even a spray bottle. The question then was just how much of the Mezcal should make its way into the drink? If one is just spritzing it over the top, then you don’t need that much to go into the drink. My first attempt was a 1/4 ounce, completely killing the drink. All smoke and no other flavors.

So on the next take I tried just rinsing the glass with the Mezcal. Perfection.

Just as described by Mr. Keeper, you first get hit with a smoky aroma from the Mezcal and then that wonderful sweet Curaçao, the tequila and a tangy citrus bite from the lime juice. It was really better than any margarita I’d had out with a Mariachi band and plate of tacos.

This drink I give all the credit to the folks over at Bar Keeper who constantly help fill up my liquor bucket list, and who are always as enthusiastic about cocktails as I am.

1-1/2 oz. Avión Silver Tequila
1 oz. Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch of smoked sea salt
Vida Mezcal for rinse
lime wedge

Rinse a chilled cocktail coupe with about 1/2 tsp of the Mezcal. Toss remaining liquid. Combine tequila, curaçao, lime juice and salt into a shaker half filled with ice. Shake well to combine and strain into coupe. Garnish with lime wedge.

Why is there no salt rim on this margarita? I find that a small pinch of the smoked sea salt shaken into the drink fulfills my need for salt without feeling like you are crunching on a salt lick, and it keeps the glass nice and clean. Granted, if you like crunching on a salt lick, by all means, rim away!