Have you had your fill of pies? No? Me either. But there needs to be a time when you tell yourself to stop. My teeth have been singing from the overindulging of pecan pie and I think I’ve reached that point when I need to put my fork down. I *might* have eaten 5 pieces. Oh my gosh…. the sugar…
Now, I’ll admit it, the whole “alternative sugars” thing was something I wrinkled my nose at. While I won’t touch any of those chemically created sugars (don’t they make you run to the bathroom??), I really couldn’t be bothered with all those other “natural” sweeteners. Agave, date syrup, rice syrup… why couldn’t I just have plain old natural cane sugar? That is until recently, when I realized how you could get some very unique flavors while not using plain old evaporated cane sugar.
It started with some baking, and then, naturally, into my cocktails. I recently started experimenting with date syrup since I had been making my way through 3 of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks and found that instead of dropping some cash on the pre-made stuff, I could make my own (also, we are spending a LOT more time out in the Palm Springs area with family making the move that way. There’s quite a lot of dates out here). Making your own date syrup results in a slightly lighter syrup than the store bought kind and while that wasn’t always what I wanted for my baked goods, the lighter syrup resulted in a nice substitute for simple syrup in a few cocktails. The one I bring to you today, that I originally posted on Serious Eats, is for a Date Martinez.
The Martinez cocktail is a classic cocktail. Classic as in pre-1900. You can read about its history somewhere else, for right now, let’s get down to its remake.
You have a choice here. You can make your own date syrup, and not only use it for this cocktail, but sweeten up your oatmeal, or bake with it, or I don’t know, make a face scrub. Or if you’re short on time and can pick up store bought, go do that. But keep in mind, you’ll need LESS of the store bought to sweeten the drink. If you do a 1:1 swap this will turn out too sweet.
Note: I found and made my date syrup recipe from Oh, Lady Cakes. Since I didn’t ask her about reprinting her recipe, you can find that link in the recipe below.
1-1/2 ounces amontillado dry sherry, such as Lustau
1-1/2 ounces gin, such as Ford’s
3/4 ounce date syrup, homemade (recipe link here!)
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Orange peel, for garnish
Fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice, then pour in sherry, gin and date syrup. Add the dashes of Peychaud’s and stir 20 seconds to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist orange peel over top of drink to release oils and garnish drink with peel.
The syrup’s rich, deep date flavor pairs wonderfully with a nutty but dry amontillado sherry. Here, my fall-inspired riff on the Martinez mixes the sherry with equal parts gin to dry out the drink and lend some contrasting juniper and pine flavors. The cocktail gets a sweet and spicy kick from a few dashes of Peychaud’s bitter, and is brightened up with a twisted orange peel that doubles as a garnish.
I’m also talking about the Negroni cocktail today because next week is Negroni Week! It’s not just an excuse to drink this cocktail, but there’s also a great cause behind it. You can read all about that right here.
Last year I switched out the gin with mezcal, but this year we’re keeping the gin but adding in some extra flavor goodness. Like coconut. And coffee.
St. George Spirits put out this NOLA Coffee Liqueur a little while ago and I’ve been obsessed with getting a bottle. I could drink this stuff straight, but today I’m using the liqueur in lieu of sweet vermouth in the first Negroni variation. This Negroni combines that bittersweet, robust coffee liqueur with toasted coconut infused gin and a touch of Campari (and don’t worry, if you feel you haven’t the time for another cocktail project I’ve got a pretty simple variation below too). It’s more of an after-dinner drink, or actually, a pretty amazing weekend brunch cocktail (or breakfast cocktail if you prefer).
Coconut Coffee Negroni
Toasted Coconut Gin
1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup Martin Miller’s Gin
Set your oven to 350°F. On a cookie sheet, spread out the coconut flakes in an even layer. Place in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes. Let cool and move to an airtight container (I used a wide mouth canning jar). Cover with the gin, seal, and let sit out overnight. The next day strain through a coffee filter into a new, clean airtight container (I often use old liquor bottles).
1 ounce coconut infused gin
1 ounce St. George Spirits NOLA Coffee Liqueur
3/4 ounce Campari
In a double rocks glass with a large ice cube, pour in coconut infused gin, coffee liqueur, and Campari. Stir 15 seconds to chill and serve.
Now, for those of you who’d like something with a little fewer steps, I give you this Negroni variation. Basically I ran out of most of the ingredients one might need to make one and ended up with this. It’s still got a nice bite and the Zucca does the double duty of being both semi-sweet and bitter with a little more orange-y bitterness from the orange bitters.
The Moorish Dance
1-3/4 ounce gin, Ford’s used here
1-3/4 ounce Zucca
2 dashes orange bitters, Regan’s No.6 used here
orange peel for garnish
In a double rocks glass with a large ice cube, pour in the gin and Zucca. Add the dashes of bitters, stir 15 seconds to chill and express the oils from the orange peel over the drink. Add the zest for garnish.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now, please stay with me on this. First, shake off your assumptions that suddenly the lofty Negroni has gone the way of the 7/11 slurpee machine: believe me, this is nothing like that. Gone are the teeth-tinglingly sweet frozen drinks you’re used to downing in the summer. The wasted calories of footlong, electric blue “adult” slushies that have about a thimble of alcohol in them and more corn syrup than anything else. These frozen versions of the Negroni take the actual, delicious drink, and whiz it up with ice for all of the bittersweet flavor, only now you sip it through a straw.
Oh, and when I say versions, I mean you get TWO variations for this frozen cocktail: classic and a fruit-forward twist on a white negroni: watermelon. The watermelon version is inspired by a drink I just had at a friend’s wedding which was, essentially, a White Negroni whose vermouth had been infused with watermelon. The idea was playful and it was delicious and I knew I needed to make something like that for the site. Lately, I’ve been enjoying a bit more whimsy in my cocktails, I still enjoy the classics, but when you’re recipe developing all the time, your brain wants to go in warped places. At least mine does.
Anyways, the idea was great, but I wanted some flexibility with the recipe. And since I wanted something a bit more versatile that I could use in multiple drinks, I infused the gin instead. It’s a short infusion, just two days, and you could always start tasting after day 1 if you don’t want a super-watermelon-y flavor and strain when you think it’s ready. Hint: if you want something over ice, instead of something made of ice, try the watermelon gin with some tonic; the sweet and bitter work well together.
OK! So let’s stop taking ourselves SO seriously, at least for today, and enjoy some frozen cocktails.
4-1/2 ounces gin, such as G’Vine or Fords
2-1/2 ounces Campari
2-1/2 ounces Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
3 cups ice (for a thicker drink, add an additional 1/2 cup ice to each batch)
Orange slices, for garnish
Combine gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in an airtight container. Place in freezer and freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
When ready to serve, add chilled alcohol and ice to blender. Blend on high speed until uniform and smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour into rocks glasses or small wine glass. Garnish with an orange slice and serve immediately.
Frozen Watermelon White Negroni
1/2 cup cubed watermelon
1-1/2 cups gin, such as Broker’s or St. George Botanivore
4-1/2 ounces watermelon gin (see recipe below, line 1)
2-1/2 ounces Cocchi Americano
2-1/4 ounces Dolin Dry Vermouth
3 cups ice (for a thicker drink, add an additional 1/2 cup ice to each batch)
Watermelon and orange slices, for garnish
For the watermelon gin: In an airtight container, combine gin and watermelon. Keep in a cool, dark place for 48 hours. Strain into a clean, airtight container until ready to use. Will keep up to one year.
For the Watermelon White Negroni Slushie: Combine watermelon gin, Cocchi Americano, and vermouth in an airtight container and freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
When ready to serve, add frozen alcohol to a blender with ice. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Split between rocks glasses or small wine glasses. Garnish each glass with a watermelon.
First, drink these with an ounce of caution; they kinda go straight to your head if you sip them up quickly. Second, the chilling overnight is so your mixture does not dilute the ice too quickly while you blend (this step is optional). The classic Negroni tastes pretty much like what you’d get in its natural state. Even though the bitterness is still very present, with this icy state it’s lovely and the citrus notes are quite present. And not watered down tasting! The watermelon on the other hand is delicate with only a hint at the bitterness from the Cocchi Americano. While the fruity watermelon is present, it doesn’t overpower the drink as a whole – it’s a nice accent.
So choose one, or both, to make this weekend. I choose both.
Two weeks flew by around these parts and in that time a new cocktail was born. Well, the base you all will be familiar with, but the flavor profile? Totally new.
In the first post, I proposed the question to you all, What cocktail should get barrel aged (without a real barrel)? In this post I found that most of you would rather respond on every other form of social media except the post’s page. So I rounded up all of your responses, gave it a thought, and decided the cocktail would be…
A Hanky Panky!
First, thanks to you guys who gave up a lot more info on this process than I had in the instruction manual. All of your comments were super helpful in this process and tuned me in to the fact that I needed to taste daily. And you know what? After four days this baby was done aging with the stave. It did, however, require several more days of chilling out in the bottle before the taste was to my liking.
The jar holds 375ml, so count on about 3 full cocktails, or several small sipping shots.
6 oz. gin, Ford’s works well here
3 oz. sweet vermouth, Martini & Rossi used here
1 oz. Fernet Branca
6 dashes of orange bitters,Regan’s used here
Add the stave to the jar. Using a funnel, pour all ingredients into the barrel and seal.
Taste starting a day or two into aging. After 4 days I found that I was happy with the taste.
Strain mixture through cheesecloth, remove the stave from the jar, rinse the jar, and pour strained mixture back into the bottle. Cap and let sit for about 5 days in a cool, dark place.
After 5 days your Hanky Panky is ready to drink. Pour with ice into a strainer to chill, or sip straight out of the bottle too! Both work.
The flavor definitely has that “barrel aged” quality to it with a sweet, smokiness. On the nose there are hints of molasses, vanilla, raisins, pepper, honey, and smoke; not your typical Hanky Panky. The sweet vermouth is more pronounced while the Fernet Branca has softened considerably. In the barrel it’s been transformed into a richer, moodier version of a Hanky Panky.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s make the tincture first.
1/2 cup grain alcohol (151 proof)
1/2 cup rosemary leaves, cleaned and de-stemmed
Combine alcohol and rosemary in an airtight container. Let sit for 7 days in a cool, dark place, gently agitating once a day. Filter leaves out of the liquid through a fine strainer. Bottle into dropper bottles, or in an airtight container.
*Note: although the color of the tincture will start out bright green, it will naturally settle into a brownish color. Albeit, not as nice, but the aroma will still be present.
2-1/2 oz. gin, Fords Gin used here
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1-2 drops rosemary tincture (recipe above)
In a chilled cocktail glass, add rosemary tincture and rise glass, pouring off excess. In a mixing glass filled with ice, stir gin and vermouth for about 20 seconds. Strain into prepared cocktail glass.
Here the subtle rosemary is a great companion for the juniper and citrus notes in the gin. It’s a pretty bright martini and that woodsy accent helps round out the drink.