Cherry Sumac Swizzle

Cherry Sumac Swizzle Cocktail // stirandstrain.comI’m realizing that since it’s gotten warmer around these parts, I’ve been prone to make a lot of crushed ice recipes. Apologies if you do not own an ice crusher and have had to resort to a bag and rolling pin method. Unless that’s your de-stress time which concludes with a cocktail. Actually, that doesn’t sound half bad.

Before we get to today’s drink, I just wanted to let you guys know that I’ve been hopping all over the internet this week invading other people’s websites, like I sometimes do. Please check out the links for some drink recipes not found on this site! Especially tasty for summer!

Blog Links

dinexdesign freutcake

Now, onto the drink.

Cherries are just blowing up right now at the farmer’s market, so I keep using them. And also apparently crushed ice. But what I’m seriously, stupidly, into right now is spices. That might sound weird, so let me explain. In the same way that I will read cocktail books and make lists of all the ingredients I don’t have so that I can purchase at some point in time, I tend to read cookbooks and do the same with ingredients I’m unfamiliar with. After getting the Jerusalem Cookbook I started making lists of spices that I’d never heard of, or had seen before and hadn’t a clue as to what I should do with them. So now I have packs of za’atar, urfa pepper, ras el hanout and sumac crowding the shelves with 3 different kinds of cinnamon, pounds of multicolored peppercorns, and so much star anise I’m considering turning it into a wreath for Christmas this year (I’m never going to use it all). Clearly, I like to hoard spices (at least it’s not cats).Cherry Sumac Swizzle Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So I decided to use one of these unique spices to come up with a drink for the Serious Eats team: sumac. Sumac is awesome by the way. It has so much going on that it’s a pretty versatile spice to have on hand. Both sweet and savory, a little bitter, a bit more sour… it really can be used in place of lemon in a lot of dishes. But, since we’re talking cocktails here, I decided that those sweet summer cherries could use a little sourness to them. That and tons of ice.

Swizzles are serious drinks with a not so serious name. They can pack a punch on the booze side, and should be treated as a sipper, not a big gulp. Also, they require special tools. To make a proper swizzle one must use a swizzle stick that comes from the swizzlestick tree. Seriously, that’s its name. You can get by with a bar spoon too, so don’t feel like you need to go buy any special equipment. Although, if you’re already planning on doing that, I’ve picked out a couple things at the end of this post.Cherry Sumac Swizzle Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Now, some of you are probably properly trained in the ingredients of a swizzle, so allow me some liberties here as I tell you I left out the traditional lime juice so that the tartness from the sumac shines through. There’s some falernum added to justify that though too.

For the cherry-sumac syrup:

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and quartered
1 1/2 teaspoons dried sumac

For the cocktail:

2 ounces demerara rum (such as El Dorado 15 year)
1 1/4 ounces cherry-sumac syrup
1/2 ounce Velvet Falernum
Crushed ice
Dried sumac, for garnish

  • For the syrup: Combine sugar, water, cherries, and sumac in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, for 2 hours. Strain into an airtight container, reserving cherries for garnish. The syrup can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  • For the cocktail: In the bottom of a highball or pilsner glass, add rum, cherry-sumac syrup, and falernum, and fill glass with crushed ice. Throw in a couple of those reserved cherries left over from the syrup too. Using a swizzle stick or bar spoon, rapidly spin back and forth between your hands while also moving it up and down. Add more ice to fill the glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of sumac and several of the reserved cherry quarters from the syrup.

First, this is a pretty satisfying drink. The tangy sumac and cherry syrup balances the heady vanilla and spice flavors of the rum and falernum. Second, it’s not super boozy, but the rum is very much present.

Will you be seeing more crushed ice recipes on here in the coming months? Yeah, probably, so be prepared to whack that hammer.

Tiki Month is over but here’s a Planter’s Punch

planterspunch-6Did you know that this month was Tiki month? According to the Pegu Blog it was. My last Tiki post went up at the end of January- close enough, and I thought I’d squeeze one more in since my other drink recipe that was going to be sitting here went south real quick when I caught the garnishes on fire and burnt the syrup. Here’s a tip: when dealing with boiling sugar, try not to get distracted and walk away for even a minute. As soon as you leave the stove all holy hell will be up in your kitchen.The Players

There are names of cocktails in the Canon of Tiki drinks that everyone is aware of, albeit they probably don’t know what goes in it or what it’s supposed to taste like. One such drink that I know I’ve had before but couldn’t remember anything at all about it was the Planter’s Punch cocktail. To be honest, grenadine is one of the ingredients and I wanted something I could use the syrup in as well.Angostura drops

Planter’s Punch, in my memory, was on the menu of every Polynesian restaurant that my family went to growing up back east. Polynesian also subbing in as a Chinese restaurant; I lived in Rhode Island, it’s a small state and had to be as compact as possible. This drink should also come with no less than 5 pieces of fruit as a garnish and at least one flower. Today we’ll have to suffice with a Tiki mug and my attempts at using a zester to make a lime peel garnish (still needs some work).planterspunch-2

planterspunch-4Drink Recipe adapted slightly via Beach Bum Berry Remixed
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz Appleton Estates gold Jamaican rum
1/2 oz Trader Vic’s Dark rum
1 oz Mt. Gay Eclipse gold rum
1/2 tsp homemade grenadine
1/2 tsp falernum
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
6 oz crushed ice

1 carved lime leaf for garnish*

Put everything in the blender and blend for 5 seconds. Pour unstrained into a tiki mug and garnish with carved lime ‘leaf’.

*To make a carved lime ‘leaf’, use a zester to carve lines into the outside of a lime. Use a pairing knife to cut out a lime shape from the peel, pull the segment out, peeling off the inside of the flesh. Voila! (For this garnish, my limes are a bit yellow. A darker green might have helped this pop more.)planterspunch-5

Planter’s Punch is a sweet and strong drink. A tad too sweet for my tastes, but a nice spiciness from the dark rum and the bitters. The amount of syrups added in would account for the sweet nature of the punch (sugar, grenadine, falernum). However, if you eat something along with this that is very savory, say a steak sandwich, that savoriness cuts right through the sweet making it a pleasing combo. Next time around I’d cut the syrups back and add more juice. Maybe get a little better with the zester too before throwing it out to the public.

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.

A Biting Strawberry

Warning. You’re going to see several, if not plenty, of drinks containing Shrubs in them coming up in the next few weeks. What’s a Shrub? A Shrub is a vinegar based fruit concentrate that dates back to Colonial Times. Sounds kind of gnarly huh? Vinegar? Gross. Well, actually, if combined with other appealing mixers and liquors it is quite pleasant. Really.

Why the onslaught of Shrub recipes? I recently became a slashie at work. Actually, I have no idea if I’m even using that correctly, but the long and short of it is that I was christened with the title of in-house Mixologist /slash/ creative director (slash a bunch of other titles. It’s a small company). I may have (completely) had something to do with this. But, we re-brought back in a line of Shrubs due to some popularity of them in cocktails and local bars and needed desperately to come up with some recipes so customers knew what to do with them. (That’s right, we had them for sale 4 years ago when no one gave a shit. Although, people are apparently still confused.)

So now I’m doing research, and taking notes, and really using this blog as a scratch pad for ideas. I think I’ve had some hits, and some misses. Here’s a hit. Mainly for people who either want a lighter cocktail, or just don’t want their cocktail tasting so much like alcohol (I need to hit a range of tastes here…).

3 strawberries quartered
1 lime wheel cut in half
1-1/2 oz white rum (I used Oronoco, a favorite for someone who is as confused about rum as someone reading smoke signals who doesn’t, understand.. smoke signals. You get my  analogy.)
3/4 oz Strawberry Shrub (Tait Farms)
1/2 oz Falernum

1 strawberry for garnish

Muddle the strawberries and lime wheels together in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add 4-5 ice cubes.  Pour in the rest of the ingredients and shake well. Pour un-strained into a rocks glass. Garnish with strawberry.

It’s a very summery drink. A bit on the sweet side, but not fake sugary sweetness. No sugar is needed as long as you are using strawberries that are in season and very ripe . There is a sharp note of ginger in the back, and the subtle touch of lime cuts the sweet strawberry taste back a notch. The rum takes a back seat here flavor-wise, which was why I noted that you can make and give this to someone who wants a cocktail but doesn’t like it to taste too strong.

Side note; this tastes amazing with milk chocolate FYI.