Sugar, Spice and Citrus Play Nice Cocktail

Occasionally while I’m looking through cocktail books, I’ll make a list of liquors and ingredients I want to purchase to use in the future. Then I buy them. And they sit on my liquor shelf. For ever.

I picked up a bottle of Canton awhile back, but I wasn’t really head over heels in love with it when I tried it. I figured it was best mixed in to something, however I had some serious failures the first couple times until I hit upon this drink.

Remember those roasted oranges from last time? I put some brown sugar on a couple when I roasted them and decided to muddle them here.

1-1/2 oz. Broker’s Gin
3/4 oz. Domaine de Canton
3/4 oz. Aperol
3 slices of roasted brown sugar orange rounds (reserve the nicest for garnish)
3 dashes of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters

Muddle the orange slices with the Canton in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add ice to about half way up the glass, then add in the rest of the ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a twisted, brown sugar coated orange wheel.

The very syrupy Canton evens out here and the drink is quite light and refreshing. There is a nice bite from the ginger and aromatic bitters with subtle orange notes. The garnish also repeats the citrus nose with a wonderful sweetness and in the back somewhere a sharpness from the browned sugar.

Side note: I recently went nuts at Bar Keeper here in Los Angeles and picked up a bunch of bitters to play around with. It’s my goal to feature all of the bottles here in a recipe in the coming months. This bottle of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters I got in a sampler pack is quickly becoming an occasional substitute in Manhattans. It has a nice level of spice that works well if you are using Carpano Antica for sweet vermouth.

Variation on a Gimlet with Mint & Basil

I’m starting to amass a large collection of infused/flavored simple syrups. Partly it’s that I keep surprising myself with how much syrup is left after I make a batch for a sorbet. And because I always just mindlessly make a 1 cup to 1 cup ratio every time I do a syrup. So yeah,  a lot of these bottles.

To try and start using them up I’ve been picking my brain for new ways to use them. Mint lattes? Why not! Basil lattes? No. Nononono… Adding them in to cocktails that I already know how to make? Sure, yeah, I guess.

That basil syrup is sure a hard one to be clever with. However, going with flavor profiles I was familiar with, I decided on making a variant of a gimlet.

With the addition of some fresh mint, this drink becomes very fragrant. The notes of both herbs are quite strong, but not powerfully “herbal”. Staying true to a gimlet, it’s also sweet and tart. Together it’s a lovely flavor combination.

6 mint leaves
1/2 oz basil simple syrup (recipe found through here)
2 oz Gin (Hendrick’s)
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

Mint leaf for garnish

Muddle the mint and basil simple syrup together. Add gin,  lime juice and fill shaker 2/3 full with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with one mint leaf.

Make It: Mixed Berry Sorbet with Mint and Hendrick’s

This post has been staring at me for several days now. Recipes are backing up in the queue because this needs to go out. I want to share it, but for some reason it has seemed daunting writing it all down. There is no reason to shy away from it, it’s delicious and not that difficult to make. And the mint syrup gets used in a myriad of ways later on. So here it goes…

Tart, sweet and minty. Very minty depending on who you are talking to. I taste tested the recipe and found the mint here to be subtle, however my husband, who pretty much hates mint in desserts (I think he only finds mint tea acceptable) found it to be very strong. Keep this in mind while making the simple syrup. If you like a pretty subtle mint taste, maybe only a half cup of mint leaves will be best for you. And as always, try and get the ripest berries you can find. It creates a lovely sweetness and a heightened tartness that is enhanced by the addition of the lime.

Another note about this recipe. Using what I learned with the strawberry basil sorbet here, I increased the amount of alcohol to 2 ounces, making the consistency softer, even when frozen for 5+ hours. I actually prefer being able to scoop out the sorbet with little difficulty. And that Hendrick’s in there? You can totally taste it, in the background, adding a soft cucumber-gin flavor in both the smell and after-taste. Love it.

I made this over the course of a couple days, hence the crazy discrepancy in lighting. But also because I like to let the mixture sit and mingle for a day, letting the flavors come together.

First thing you need to do is make the Mint Simple Syrup.
1 cup of granulated cane sugar
1 cup of water
1 cup of mint leaves

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Swirl to combine. Add the mint leaves and push into the liquid. Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain out the leaves and leave mixture to chill, or at least bring to room temperature.Recipes yields about a cup and a half.

Second you need to make the berry mixture for the sorbet.
1 lb. of mixed berries ( I used 2:1 raspberries to blackberries)
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 oz. Hendrick’s Gin
3/4 cup of Mint Simple Syrup from recipe above

In a food processor, break up the berries and add the rest of the ingredients. Continue to process until smooth.

Strain out the mixture through a fine sieve or through a cheesecloth. Note: if you use a chinoise, make sure you have the proper wooden dowel to push the solids. Otherwise you will be standing for at least 20 minutes trying to strain out the mixture wishing you had one.

Chill the mixture in the fridge for 24 hours. Also, if you are using a kitchen-aid ice cream maker, throw the bowl and all the parts into the freezer. You want everything to be really cold when you go to mix later.

When your mixture is thoroughly chilled and mingled, start your ice cream maker and throw in your mixture. Sorbet only needs about 15 minutes to set. After set, scoop into freezer safe containers and freeze until solid.

The Tres Palmas

Recently we spent a relaxing couple of days out in the wonderfully hot Palm Springs, it was for my birthday, but really, everyone needed some time to veg out. My husband is not a big fan of heat, sun, or swimming pools so he volunteered to be the cook and cocktail maker and give me a break (in the cocktail area, he’s still cook around the house). This meant he could stay indoors in air conditioning and not let on how much he was sampling the drinks; not like I can judge.

So there was lots of nachos and guacamole and the like, requiring lots of cilantro and hot pepper scraps to end up laying about doing nothing. In a moment of brilliance the husband tosses some of these scraps into a tumbler of gin and grapefruit juice topped with champagne and hands it to me upon request for a drink to have on my raft. Now, he tried to convince me that he’s had similar drinks before, but I hadn’t. So as far as I was concerned this was a groundbreaking flavor combination, possibly due to the extreme heat and sun exposure and the several morning cocktails we’d already had (read: vacation drinking).

Since we’ve been back I’ve been wanting to make this again, only I had some ideas to tweak it a bit. I finally got around to doing it and with a couple modifications, I was able to encapsulate exactly what I thought the drink should be.

First thing I did was try it with the champagne, and then again without. In the end the float of champagne wasn’t helping anyone so I tossed that out of the recipe. Second, I added some lime in for balance. Then, I decided it needed salt. I have no idea where this desire to constantly dump salt on everything is coming from. I seriously should just carry around a salt lick so I stop ruining perfectly good meals. However, I had some fancy smoked salt flakes from Maldon that did the trick.

Tres Palmas was the name of the house we stayed at (it belonged to Jack Lalanne at some point in his life); I thought it a fitting name for the drink.

2 oz Gin (Beefeater was used here)
3 oz Grapefruit Juice (we had fresh squeezed in a bottle when we were on the trip so I used the same here. Feel free to sub in your own freshly squeezed by hand)
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
4 Jalapeno rings
1/2 lime wedge

Garnish:
slice of lime
Maldon smoked salt flakes

Start with the salt rim. Use your lime garnish to coat a quarter section of the glass. Roll the outside edge in the salt, pressing hard to crack the larger flakes. Set aside. In a mixing glass, combine all other ingredients and shake vigorously with your metal tumbler (so rare I use the Boston Shaker on here). Pour unstrained into the rocks glass. Finish with the lime wedge garnish.

The drink has a nice balance of citrus that compliments the gin. However the cilantro leaves add unexpected flavor, in a good way, and the heat of the jalapenos gives it great punch. I love the nice bits of cilantro and jalapeno floating around in the drink. They’re awesome little flavor bites. And the smoked salt is just another unexpected layer to the drink that imparts a subtle smokiness, that, in all honesty, reminds me of a lovely salsa.

Note: Jalapenos can vary greatly in hotness and you should really decide how spicy you want to make this. One recipe I made I left the seeds in, and though it was VERY spicy (the way I like it), it was obnoxious to drink having all these small seeds. I’d suggest that if you want heat, leave a few of the seeds in. If you want less heat, scrape the seeds out altogether. No use making something you can’t drink.

Mixology Monday: Cola de Lagarto: Return of the Lizard (Tail)

I’m glad I checked into my google reader today. New mixology Monday post before the due date this time for me.

This month Jacob at the Liquidity Preference blog thought up Retro Redemption (full post here). The first drink that I thought could use a makeover was …shudder. The Cosmopolitan. That too sweet, chemical-bottled taste (obviously I’ve had some bad ones folks) of that 90’s staple (and for certain people I know still a staple) drink. But there’s no cranberry juice in the house and I’m not making a special run just for that.

So instead I opted to peruse Gourmet Magazine’s stockpile of drinks they’ve put into their magazine over the years. Did you know they’ve been around since 1941? What’s Gourmet? Never mind.

Two things were imperative to tonight’s drink. 1. I had to be actually interested in trying/drinking the cocktail. 2. I had to have the ingredients on hand (this is after all a short notice posting for me since it’s due tomorrow). After weighing my options, and being grossed out by many more, I decided to try the Cola de Lagarto (tail of the lizard). This is from a 1974 cocktail recipe via Gourmet. Here’s their description:

This drink is probably called “tail of the lizard” because of its green color—not because, like a tail that falls off and grows back, it’s easy to have another, and another. Wine cocktails have been unfairly tainted by their association with overly sweet wine coolers, but the renewed interest in classic cocktails has also brought this category back from the brink of disaster. The ingredients in this version may seem a bit strange, but they actually go together quite nicely.

In a shaker combine 3/4 cup dry white wine, 1/3 cup vodka, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon each of fine granulated sugar and green crème de menthe, and 4 ice cubes. Shake the mixture vigorously for a few seconds and strain it into a chilled tall glass. Makes 1 drink.

Ok, first off, with the amount of liquor that they’re pouring into this thing, if you had several you’d be dead from alcohol poisoning by the fourth (maybe not dead, but DAMN). The recipe measures in cup sizes, which should have been a warning. It’s considered a ‘wine cocktail’, but 3 oz of hard alcohol in there too makes this awfully potent. Anyway, I’m killing two birds with one stone in this post as I am subbing out the dry white wine with Lillet Blanc (checking off another bottle this week from the ‘forgottens’), and I’m getting a Mixology Monday post done. Gold star.

Ok, so I’m taking a lot of liberties here by subbing or leaving out ingredients. But all for this drink’s redemption. I’m saying goodbye to vodka, fine granulated sugar and green crème de menthe, and adding in gin and Fee Brother’s Mint Bitters. Although, yes, technically there IS a green dye in the bitters (looking for another bitters as you read this), it is nowhere close to that alarming green color that was in the original article. But to play on the drink’s original name, I added a lime peel spiral inside the drink for the ‘lizard’s tail’. I made two versions of the drink, with the first using closer proportions to the original. However it made a huge drink with left overs in the shaker. It tasted really strong too (this, also, was the version my husband preferred because it ‘tasted strong’). I tweaked the second, reducing the proportions of the main two ingredients and adding in 1/2 oz of unsweetened pineapple juice. Overall it’s a bit tart and definitely tastes wine-like. And those mint bitters? Well, like the original recipe, the mint works here. Albeit very subtle, those bitters just add the right touch of a finishing note. Here’s my updated version:

4 oz Lillet Blanc
2 oz Bombay Dry Gin
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz unsweetened pineapple juice (this one came from a can)
3 dashes Fee Brother’s Mint Bitters

Garnish:
lime peel spiral (to make, use a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife and peel a spiral from a large-ish sized lime. It’s best to start from the pointed end and work your way around. Be careful that your peeler/knife is sharp as this makes cutting the lime easier, as well as your finger. Ouch.)

In a shaker filled with ice, combined all ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled Collins glass with a lime spiral fitted around the inside of the glass.

This was a fun post idea. It makes me wish I could stumble upon a dusty old pile of cocktails books with secret ingredients like herring and jello that call for a touch of nutmeg. Can’t wait to see what everyone else came up with.

Grapefruit’s Last Hoorah

Why are there grapefruits still around at the farmer’s market? That’s what I’d like to know. Wasn’t I told by a reliable source that citrus is a winter fruit? Something to do with a long, drawn-out rainy season. And the unseasonable cold temperatures we had in California. But here they are, grapefruits.

On occasion I’m requested to mix the odd Greyhound here at the house. But ugh. So boring sometimes. One needs a little something extra. Some oomph. Oh, yeah- and something not vodka.

I have a couple of recipes using grapefruit, but I want to keep them to the side for other specific recipes. So going on the hunch that Noilly Prat French Dry Vermouth is good in everything (obviously not everything, but was really quite tasty in some baked ziti dish I made the other day- very unexpected), I added some in here.

2oz Broker’s Gin
1-1/2oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2oz of Noilly Prat Dry French Vermouth
2-3 dashes of Miracle Mile Orange Bitters

In a shaker filled 2/3 with ice, add all of the ingredients. Shake well to mix and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

It just works. The bitters give a nice spicy quality, and overall it’s a touch sweet and fragrant. And more exciting then a greyhound. However, with one last note. I did make a version with vodka. It’s a little less exciting. The gin adds that little oomph.

Sleepy Pink Flamingo

Sometimes you need to make a drink quickly. You flip through a cocktail book until you land on something you’re pretty sure you have all the ingredients to. And then it turns out you don’t. A short while ago I was politely asked by my husband if he could pretty much have the upstairs to himself for a work phone conference. On a Sunday. Groan. I had been lingering over some books deciding on trying something out when I found myself in a panic and just grabbed the first cocktail book within reach. The Grog Log. Flipping through I stopped at the Cruzana. Perfect, there was just a hair shy of 2oz of grapefruit juice left from a defrosted bag from some Blanco Oro’s I’d squeezed awhile back. And surely there was a bit of Gold Rum left. I can see a bottle in the way back of the liquor cabinet.

For those of you who live with someone who puts empty bottles back instead of throwing them away… You can guess at my frustration level right about now. But since I was in hurry to grab ingredients and make a mad dash downstairs to mix this drink, I thought I could sub out some gin instead. I happen to like gin and grapefruit sometimes and thought maybe there’s a chance this would work.

2oz grapefruit juice (I used Blanco Oros which produce a bit more sweet juice than your run of the mill grapefruit)
3/4oz Fee Brother’s Maraschino Cherry Syrup (I’d do this to taste depending on your juice- this stuff is sweet)
2oz Broker’s Gin

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and build ingredients. Shake and pour all into a chilled collins glass. (the chilling may not be necessary but it’s a hot one out today and this just tastes better with a really cold glass)

Was this a success with the gin? Well, a couple factors that I would change next time. First, since the grapefruit juice is sweet already, I’d down that syrup to 1/2 an ounce. As is it’s just a tad too sweet for me at 3/4oz in this drink. Second, perhaps this is a drink that could stand a strong base spirit as the gold rum. Something to consider for next time when we do a rum stock up. But overall this worked for me. Mainly sweet with a hint of tart- the gin mellows way out into the background with only subtle notes.

Loose Ends/New Favorite Gin

The idea behind having a scratch pad blog is that you tell yourself you can go a month or two without having to write anything because nothing new has come to fruition. Which has been the case. Night after night of Angelas and Manhattans until one day picking up a bottle of Aviation Gin on a stock up trip at BevMo and realizing: this.is.my.new.favorite.gin.

I’m not really using this site as a review site. If something that I enjoy happens to be worth sharing, I will simply let you all know what that is. Why Aviation Gin? It just tastes fantastic. The anise in here really pops and I capital L love anise flavor. Currently there is a bottle and a martini glass living in my freezer…. I don’t think I need to spell this out folks. Can I name this drink the Lazy Man’s Martini?

Anyways, if you were following the Limoncello saga, you might want to strain it out of that bottle, stick it in a glass bottle with a nice stopper-top, and stick that kid in the freezer. It’s done.

Also, I had the opportunity to sit in on a new Bitters vendor at work today and I have 8 new reasons to make some fantastic tasting drinks. Word is that the Cana Rum Bar and the Tar Pit already are using these. Hopefully soon I can let on who and where to buy them. The best news about these: no dyes. Sorry Fee Brothers, you just got bumped. Your Peach bitters is about to become shamefully shelved.

Aperol G&T

I enjoy Gin and Tonics like some people enjoy water, or cocaine. They go down pretty easily and are light enough that I can have them with the heaviest of meals. Occasionally though they get quite dull and an extra oomph of something is needed. I like to think that many cocktails are given birth with that thought process. Foul, rancid water? Hey, let’s add some beer to that! And so forth.

So a week or so ago we went over to BevMo and stocked up on some more items for the bar. On a recommendation we found and picked up a bottle of Aperol. Aperol is another of those Italian aperitifs… slightly bitter, slightly sweet. This one tastes of oranges.

The syrupy nature of this liqueror made me think that it needed a couple of ingredients to cut that down.. and so I thought of a gin and tonic. And the conclusion? So. freaking. tasty. I need to make a barrel of my own tonic water because I think this concoction might just become my new summer drink.

2 oz Beefeater Gin
1 oz Aperol
Tonic water

Fill a Collins glass 2/3rds with ice and build up with gin and aperol. Top glass with tonic water.

We Forgot About the Italians!! The Negroni

We all know a certain “holiday” is tomorrow, however I grew up in a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood (I even speak Italian, albeit I’m pretty rusty now, but I did study it for 7 years and can basically read it still) and two days before after St. Patrick’s day is St. Joseph’s Day. Now, as I have been without religion going on almost 20 years, I really don’t know (remember) much about the man, or what the holiday is about, not unlike St. Patrick as well (snakes and stuff, right?), but since I know that the 19th was another “holiday” or saint’s day or… there’s a lot of specific information that is becoming increasingly apparent to myself, and to you, that I am oblivious of… anyways, let’s make a drink to commemorate the oft-overlooked saint with a classic “Italian” (I’m sure this is disputed somewhere) drink, the Negroni. Hey, this means TWO celebratory reasons to drink this week. You’re welcome.

1 oz Campari
1 oz Gin
1 oz Sweet Vermouth

orange slice for garnish

In a rocks glass with ice combine all 3 ingredients. Garnish with the orange slice. Salute!