Apple Elixir Cocktail

Apple Elixir Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis is quite possibly the most APPLE cocktail I’ve ever made. But it’s October so who cares! Let’s enjoy it!

I was bouncing ideas around with the Serious Eats people and decided on creating a multi-layered apple cocktail. One where you’re getting hit with apple flavor from all directions: apple cider concentrate, hard apple cider, apple brandy. Heck, I even threw on an apple chip garnish. You might be thinking to yourself…how one note this seems. But no! It’s super flavorful in unexpected ways, and if you don’t have the time you can even skip on the garnish.Apple Elixir Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Apple cider brings me back to my childhood in New England. Or rather, it brings me back to unrealistic longings of days gone by. It is true, you can’t seem to throw a rock without hitting an apple orchard there. Especially if you hail from Rhode Island, where you can’t throw a rock without hitting Massachusetts or Connecticut either (it’s a really small state). My grandparents lived near an orchard. My aunt and uncle HAVE an apple orchard. Cider was just synonymous with Fall. Now I have to deal with 90°F and over temps through October in Los Angeles. The only saving grace of it all is not having to deal with deicing my car come January anymore (please don’t throw rocks at me). Apple Elixir Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Being an adult means I’ll always have conflicting feelings about my childhood. All those sweet memories of riding around on the back of a wagon in a corn field, and there’s the actual reality of having to go to school and being told what to do and all the unpleasantness of being a kid that I tend to forget about. One thing that I don’t have any conflicting feelings about is making this cocktail. So let’s do that!

Apple Elixir Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor the Spiced Cider Concentrate:

4 cups fresh apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
4 allspice berries, whole
1 teaspoon cloves, whole
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, whole

In a medium saucepan, combine cider, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and black pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Keep at a simmer, uncovered, until reduced by 3/4, and consistency is viscous like maple syrup, about 2 hours. Strain and let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month.

*Note: you can also buy apple cider concentrate if you don’t have the time or if apple cider (*gasp*) is not available in your neck of the woods. Find some here!

For the Cocktail:

2 ounces Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1 ounce apple cider concentrate syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from about half a lemon
4 ounces hard cider such as Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider
Apple slice or apple chip for garnish (optional)

Combine apple brandy, spiced cider concentrate, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with hard cider. Garnish with apple slice or apple chip if desired.

A small amount of lemon juice not only brightens up the drink, but the acid helps meld the flavors and prevents a sensation of just apple after apple after apple. The result is refreshing, boozy, and a tad dry.

Apple Cider Rum Old Fashioned

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Intrigued by this? This week I teamed up with Dine X Design to create a Fall cocktail to take us from these long, hot Summer days into the (finally!) cooler ones of Fall. Ready to experience the magic of apple cider ice cubes?! Click on over for the full recipe!

A Diwali Cocktail

A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAll of you guys are about to get schooled in a holiday I’m pretty sure you had no idea existed. If you are Indian and are reading this, then, well, you know what holiday this is. If you’re not from Indian descent, I’m guessing you are trying to figure out how to pronounce that word. Diwali. The “W” is like a “V”, pretty easy. In case you are wondering, I am not of Indian descent. My heritage crosses most of Europe, stopping way up North with the Nordic culture, and then randomly zig-zags through the continent. My family even has some French Canadian and a probably unlikely history with the Native American community. That being an unconfirmed princess from some tribe that I think is just made up several generations ago.

So why India’s most major of holidays? I married into it. From first glance you would have no idea my husband was part Indian. The other half is Polish, and after living in Los Angeles for many years before meeting him, I thought he was Mexican when we first met. No offense to Mexican and South American cultures, I was very buzzed at that first meeting. But since being an active part in his Mother’s culture for almost 7 years now, I’ve started to take on some of these other holidays. Also, at his cousin’s request, relocating back to work in India this year, I owe the cousin and her husband a housewarming drink just in time for this holiday.

If you have been reading this blog for some time, you might recall the not-so-pleasant experience I had visiting that continent last year. However, you would note that an awesome drink DID spring up from that experience, and most notably, that country’s love of Gin. India does a decent Gin and Tonic folks.A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So for this year, on the festival of lights, I decided to tweak a recipe I encountered in the Washington Post on Indian beverages. The ingredients might seem a bit out there, but if you’re interested in new flavors, this would be a great place to start. The flavors of India are perfect for many cocktail creations, as they encompass sweet, salty and savory all at once and taste a lot more complex than cocktails you might be familiar with.

Here’s a warning for this drink, not to scare you off, but one ingredient in here, the black salt, might be a bit too much for some of you out there. When you open your container, you will get hit with a great amount of sulphur. That is a flavor component that this adds. Smelly, smelly sulphur. However, if you eat Indian food, you will find this subtly in the background in many dishes, so you might have already tried it before. Here though, if you are terrified of ruining a decent cocktail, or just simply cannot get your hands on it, leave it out. I won’t tell.A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Also, the article suggests adding herbs and whole black peppercorns to your ice cubes the day before. This is optional and mainly a decorative element. When the ice cube starts to melt in the drink, be mindful that the peppercorns may be now floating in your beverage and you might unknowingly almost swallow one. I might have just done that. Twice.

Diwali Cocktail

Adapted from the Washington Post

Yields about 4 drinks

For paste base:
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons amchoor powder
1 teaspoons Indian Black Salt (make sure it is Indian and NOT anything else. No one else will have the same sulphur quality)
pinch kosher salt
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup water

For each serving:
3 to 4 oz. Q Ginger
1-1/2 oz. Old Bombay London Dry Gin

Garnish:
marigolds
lime wedges

  1. In a large mortar dish, add all paste ingredients except water and grind down until a paste forms. Add water and stir to combine. Consistency will be watery.
  2. In a double rocks glass or medium sized snifter, add a tablespoon and a half to the bottom of the glass. Add ice. Pour over gin, Q Ginger and squeeze 2 lime wedges in each glass. Top with marigolds.

At first sip this cocktail is almost shocking. So many flavors are going on in this drink and as you sip they meld together a bit and settle down. Cumin pepper, and the black salt dominate with their earthiness while the ginger, amchoor (which is dried mango powder by the way) and lime have a lovely sharp sweetness. If you would like more sweetness here, you can up the simple syrup or Q Ginger. The mint and cilantro give off some floral aromas as well. And the gin, well, it is sitting way at the back of the class here. It’s in there, but clearly being muscled out by the other spices. The marigolds are edible if you would like to try them although here their presence is symbolic of celebration in Indian culture. For the Hindi ceremony part of our wedding these little guys were EVERYWHERE.

Happy Diwali. If you do venture to make this, please let me know what you think!A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Make It: Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon

Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.comYou are either reading the first line of this after seeing the header and clicking to another page (possibly rolling your eyes), or you are salivating to find out more. This is the fate of bloggers during Fall who choose to go down the path of the pumpkin.

Thanks for sticking with me until the next paragraph. I am really into the idea of pumpkin flavor, but rarely do I do anything more than bake/eat a pumpkin pie during the season. This year though I started thinking about syrups for drinks and really wanted to incorporate more Fall flavors on the site. And now it’s November and I haven’t a clue where those last few weeks have gone. Whoops.

You’ll have to check in with me later for syrups, but what I do have for you now is some fantastic infused bourbon. And it’s the flavors of Fall, without all those gross artificial flavors you are probably accustomed to. Think pumpkin pie without the weird film that forms on the roof of your mouth from corn syrup.Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

You know what is great about making infused booze at home? It’s a lazy man’s project. You just need time (FYI, make a calendar reminder as soon as you start your infusion. No forgetting about it after you stash it in a cool, dark place!) This one might be a bit more involved, but you could also make some great spiced-infused bourbon if the cutting and gutting (is that the correct terminology?) of a pumpkin is not your thing. I understand; knives can be scary.

The recipe falls into two parts. Total time is about 2-3 weeks.Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

Part the First:

Dehydrate your pumpkin! Why? Dehydrating removes excess moisture from the squash and intensifies the “pumpkin” flavor.

1 organic sugar pumpkin, about 8″ diameter

  1. Heat your oven to 200°F.
  2. Cut your pumpkin in half from stem to bottom. Scoop out seeds (discard, or roast if that’s your thing. Personally I can’t stand them.) and slice into 1/2″ moons.
  3. Spread the slices on a baking sheet and move that to the oven. Wait six hours. Watch if you want occasionally. It’s like the Shrinky Dinks of my childhood.
  4. After 6 hours, turn the slices over. Bake another 6 hours. This will fully dry the slices out for infusion.
  5. Optionally, you can do this in a dehydrator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Part Deux:

Infusion Time!

Dehydrated pumpkin slices (recipe above)
3 5″ cinnamon sticks
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 whole allspice
1 star anise
1/2 tsp cloves, whole (about 4)
2 cups Buffalo Trace Bourbon

  1. Place all ingredients in an airtight container, glass would be best.
  2. Give the container a good swirl to make sure all ingredients are covered with liquid. Stick the jar in a cool, dark place for two weeks.
  3. After two weeks, strain all material out of the liquid using cheese cloth over a fine mesh strainer into a storage container (I reused the Buffalo Trace bottle).
  4. Taste the infusion. You have two options now.
  5. First, you can use as is. Second, bottle and wait an additional week to mellow out the flavor (I prefer the later).

Why would you wait one more week? Right after discarding the solids the flavor of the infusion is quite sharp. Giving the infusion a week to sit let’s the flavors meld and mellow out. But this is entirely up to you. Like it sharp? Start using it now.Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

What to do with this infusion? Well, for one, you can drink it over ice. It’s pretty much a flavor bomb of Fall smells. The sugar pumpkin has enough sweetness in it that it creates a nice balance with the whiskey. For those of you who want something a little less Fall tasting than just drinking Pimento Dram, this is for you.

I’m going to play with this over the next week or so and see what I come up with for some cocktail suggestions. That gives you some time to start infusing. So get going!

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

Adding Aroma to Cocktails: Smoke Tincture

smoke tincture // stirandstrain.comA few weeks ago I attended just one of the many events at the LA Food and Wine Festival. Grant Achatz was presenting a cocktail demo with the head bartender at Chicago’s The Aviary, Charles Joly. There was lots of wowing the audience with juice stock and dry ice, but what stuck out for me the most was the idea of Aroma in cocktails. Their idea was to play on aroma and create a smell for some cocktails that when you tasted the drink, did not exist in it. Are you all following me?

So that got my nerd brain going with what aromas I’d like to accompany cocktails, but not necessarily put IN the drink.smoke tincture // stirandstrain.com

This month I’ve been playing around with ideas for Mixology Monday, the theme being SMOKE. This seemed like an interesting path to follow and see where it went. I am, in all honesty, still very much amateur status when it comes to all things behind the bar. I’ve definitely broadened my scope of these items over the past few years (like how to say Cynar correctly), but for awhile the idea of tinctures seemed mildly hazy to me. Aren’t these just infusions? Why a separate name?

Well, I read a bit for this post and pretty much what it came down to is that a tincture is the essence of the ingredient you steep in a neutral grain alcohol. It can be used in small amounts by itself, or added with more ingredients for compounds like bitters. Because it is steeped in a high proof alcohol, you don’t shoot it back in a giant gulp. It would also probably taste awful. With an infusion, you are also extracting the essence of what you are putting into the alcohol, but it is co-mingling with the base spirit for a new combined flavor. You might see sour cherry bourbon, lemon lavender gin, something along those lines.

When I think aroma, my mind naturally moves towards perfume. Now, before I lose all you men out there, check this article out from the New York Times last year. The Pegu Club, PDT, these big timers have been using aroma, perfume even, in cocktails for awhile now. Perhaps for us New Wave Cocktail Bloggers this is brand new, but treading into this territory we find the path already laid out for us. So, give perfume a try I guess.smoke tincture // stirandstrain.com

For this particular use of smoke in a cocktail, I didn’t want the drink to continue to be steeped in smoke. What I wanted here was for the initial smell to be a deep, meaty smoke aroma, and then when tasted, you were only getting the cocktail. This beautiful smoky aroma would make the drink a surprise for the person drinking it, hopefully a pleasant shock. The aroma would then dissipate as one continued to finish the drink. I chose a Boulevardier to accompany the smoke aroma.

First, the tincture:

1/2 cup grain alcohol (I have 151 proof everclear)
1/4 cup Lapsang Souchong Loose Tea

Combine the two ingredients in an airtight glass container. Let sit for two weeks in a cool, dark place. Gently shaking every few days. After two weeks, strain with a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth. You want to make sure you are getting all the tiny bits of tea out. If you still see residue, strain an additional time. Store in a dropper bottle.

Lapsang Souchong tea has a heavy smoke aroma. When you open the box it’s like getting hit with a face full of wood smoke. As a tincture, the essence gets meatier (as in smoked meat).smoke tincture // stirandstrain.com

Ok, so, here is the part when you can decide whether getting an atomizer is worth it or not. I tried experimenting with the tincture in 3 ways. First, I rinsed the glass and added the cocktail. Second, I swapped a tincture soaked cotton ball around in inside of the glass after pouring the drink in. Third, I sprayed the tincture with an atomizer over the finished drink. Of the three I found the atomizer to have a stronger aroma over the final drink. Rinsing added too much of the smoke to the drink and was not the effect I wanted. The cotton ball didn’t create a strong enough smell for me. When I used the atomizer, I found I had more control over how much aroma went onto the finished cocktail and I appreciated being able to add more in small increments to achieve the final essence. So, if you are not one for unitaskers, then maybe an atomizer is not something you need taking up space in your bar drawer. I found a tiny atomizer that is under 3″, meant for perfume, but works great.

Next, the Boulevardier Cocktail with Smoke Aroma:

2 oz Bourbon (Black Ridge Small Batch was used for this cocktail)
1 oz Campari
1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
Smoke Tincture

Orange peel garnish

In a mixing glass 2/3 with ice, stir the first three ingredients about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass or goblet (you want some space for your nose to dip into; sounds gross but trust me). Garnish with an orange peel and over the top of the drink, spray about 3-4 sprays of the tincture.

As you move into the glass, there is the meaty smoke aroma followed by the sudden bittersweet richness of the Boulevardier. That first sip has the most smoke on it, while progressive sips become less and less potent, which lets you experience varying degrees of the aroma. If this is all a bit too much for you, have you had a Boulevardier cocktail yet? Go make one, it’s a great Fall cocktail.

Mixology Monday: The Apple Stack

 

For this month’s Mixology Monday, “Garnish Grandiloquence” hosted by Joseph Tkach of Measure and Stir, I worked on a recipe I already had jotted down in my notebook for a seasonal cocktail. It read, “something about apple pie and cheddar cheese and maybe cider”. Baking a miniature pie and hovering it over a cocktail, while admirable, was not really an avenue I felt I would go down this time. Oh, also just to back this up a bit and explain. I’m originally from New England and there’s a tradition there of eating a piece of strong, sharp cheddar cheese (I prefer Vermont) with a piece of apple pie. Whether it’s on the side, or a sliver right on top of the crust is up to individual taste. This is a sentimental reminder of home for me this time of year and I thought I could do something with these flavors for a Fall cocktail.

I don’t know my way around a garnishing kit, and even sometimes a vegetable peeler scares me (and it would you too if you took off a piece of your nail once along with a potato peel). But I own a mandoline with a pretty heavy duty safety guard, so my mind went towards using some thin slices of apple, and a hunk of cheddar cheese. Now, one of the issues with taking photos of drinks is that it’s tough to want to start when there is a lot of light out, at say, 8am. So during the late Fall and Winter months, starting a drink requiring lots of photos late in the afternoon is just stupid. As most of your photos will need extra light, a tripod and will ultimately result in blurry photos if not done properly. Clearly this is a rant I am giving to myself. There are many steps to this garnish, requiring many photos. Most of which I am chucking because of light/sharpness issues so I’ll briefly explain here.

If you ever work with apple slices as a garnish do yourself a favor if you want them to stay pretty and white. Get a bowl, fill it with water, squeeze a lemon into it and dunk your apple slices in there. The lemon juice will slow down oxidation and instead of turning brown, your slices will stay fresher looking longer. For this garnish, I peeled one long ribbon of apple peel, and then cut an apple in half and from the center of the apple, sliced it on a mandoline at 1/4″. I cut those circles in half, trimmed the center so they were pretty much equal in size, and threw them in the lemon water to sit and wait.

For the cheese part, I chose a 1/2″ chunk of Carr Applewood Smoked Cheddar. Besides having the sharp flavor down, it has has a lovely smoky scent and taste that, if we’re feeling Fall here, adds to that ambiance. But mostly, it tastes pretty damn good. The peel was used as a ribbon garnish inside the glass, and the apple slices fanned out (pat them dry first), skewered and topped with the chunk of cheddar.

Initially I wanted to have two ribbons of apple peel wound around like a strand of DNA. I sketched it out even and it seemed possible, but real apple peel is not as pliable as one hopes so that idea was tossed. Another issue that was encountered was glass size to garnish ratio. When the first attempt at the garnish was completed, I realized that the drink size was just under 5 oz total, so a giant glass to hold the final garnish dwarfed the actual amount of liquid, so the garnish was cut down a bit to accommodate the actual drink.

And the drink here? That’s also important…

1-1/2 oz. High West Campfire Whiskey
1 oz. Laird’s Straight Bonded AppleJack Brandy
1/4 oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
2 oz. J.K’s Scrumpy Organic Hard Cider

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice. Stir and strain into a small chilled rock glass with apple ribbon. Garnish with apple and cheese fan.

This drink is wonderfully balanced, bordering on sweet and smoky. Usually the Campfire is the predominant flavor but here blends very well with the sharp kick of the Bonded AppleJack while the Allspice Dram adds that touch of ‘Fall’ with the clover and spice notes in the finish of the drink. The addition of the hard cider melds everything together and making the apple presence much more noticeable. The garnish provides one additional layer of smokiness in smell and flavor, while the apple slices provide visual appeal and lets you know what flavors you’re in for.

First go at the garnish before realizing it was too tall for the glass.

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Here’s the roundup post of this month’s MxMo!

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).

Smoky Manhattan

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Regan that the Manhattan is the “best cocktail on earth” (see Joy of Mixology). And while I thoroughly enjoy creating new, or (re)discovering old classics, sometimes I just want one. See today. I finally got to check out Bar Keeper in Los Angeles and as excited as I was to finally have the Mezcal from Del Maguey in my hands, I suddenly got a bit overwhelmed with what I wanted to make. Really, what I needed was a drink to have while perusing the PDT Cocktail Book I’d also just picked up. So my eyes went to the High West Campfire whiskey (a blend of rye, bourbon and a blended malt scotch whisky) and I thought to myself, why not a Manhattan with that?

On this gigantic shopping spree I went on in that tiny store, I also acquired a bottle of Carpano Antica. A lightly sweet and bitter Italian sweet vermouth that I see on just about every cocktail menu here in L.A. serving up a Manhattan. To balance out this drink I decided to stick with the Angostura bitters. I also upped the sweet vermouth since I found that the delicate nature of Carpano Antica was going to be competing with that Campfire whiskey. I’m thinking of trying this next time with a more assertive sweet vermouth so there would be less need to add extra.

2 oz. High West Campfire Whiskey
1-1/2 oz. Carpano Antica
3 dashes of Angostura bitters

1 Tillen Farms Bada Bing Cherry (or if you got them on hand, a Luxardo)

Drop the cherry into a chilled cocktail glass. In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add all the ingredients. Stir and strain into the glass.

The taste? A wonderful mouthful of smoke from the peated scotch whisky. The Carpano Antica rounds out the drink with its sweet and bitter notes, heightened with the spicy bitter of the Angostura.

It’s pretty powerful, and as such, not for everyone. The smokiness was too much for my husband at first (he’s not a scotch fan), although he’s coming around after another.

The White Russian: Happy Halloween from the Dude

This classic sprang about due to a Halloween party this past weekend. We knew about this party, a 90’s themed Halloween party, for at least a couple of weeks, but all the ideas for costumes seemed to be slipping by. Stuck for ideas my husband asked me to just read off the highlights from each year of VH1s I Love the 90s. Then I read off The Big Lebowski.

“Stop”, my husband said, “that’s it.”

Now, it took me a couple times to really get into this movie. Around the time I hit 10 years in L.A. I watched it again and finally had my ‘ah-ha’ moment. And actually liked the film. While I can’t rattle off quotes, I do know what drink the Dude prefers: White Russians.

This was a Friday night when the costume was decided, Saturday was the party. The following day it took a trip to Target, a Halloween store, and a stop at Ralph’s to complete the costume. This was done by 10:30 am.

Part of the costume was to be an empty Ralph’s container of milk, however they only had pints of half and half around. Instead of dumping out the milk when we got back, I can’t waste food, we poured it into some containers and I decided to put it to good use making some White Russians, for help getting “into character”.  

I had to consult The Joy of Mixology since this isn’t a drink I often consume. Or actually, have ever had. But we needed to be authentic for the costume. It’s only changed slightly in that I built it in the glass and stirred it, and subbed out 1/2 and 1/2 for the cream. I know, there’s dairy in there, it should be shaken. But the Dude doesn’t go for that fancy stuff.

2 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Kahlua
1 oz. 1/2 and 1/2

Build ingredients in a rocks glass. Give it a good stir to combine. Try not to get it all up in your mustache.

What’s it taste like? Sort of like sweet, spiked coffee. It’s rich, and I can’t fathom how one could continually throw these back. But to each his own.

Happy Halloween folks, from me and the Dude.