Black Honey

Black Honey Cocktail: the anti-Valentine // stirandstrain.comAt this point in the day you’ve probably had a fair amount of Valentine’s Day stuff shoved into your eyeballs. Let this post be your relief. Consider this your anti-Valentine.

Yes, I had a lot of drinks geared towards flowers and chocolate boxes this month, but when developing those, I always had in mind creating a polar opposite. True to form around these parts, I had the drink name hanging around in my head looking for a recipe to be paired with first. And then a recipe idea for the Serious Drinks site gave the name a place. Black honey had to be sweet but bitter, a contradiction to perplex the palate. Cynar and Smith & Cross to the rescue!Black Honey Cocktail: the anti-Valentine // stirandstrain.com

For the honey-cinnamon syrup

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks, 2” long

In a small sauce pan over high heat, add ingredients and bring to just under a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain into an airtight container. Will keep for about one month refrigerated.

One tip for your syrup: heat your honey beforehand to make pouring a whole lot easier. 30 seconds in the microwave should do it.

And now the cocktail

2 ounces Cynar
1 ounce Smith & Cross Jamican Navy Strength Rum
3/4 ounce honey-cinnamon syrup (recipe above)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, from 1/2 a lime (Bearss lime used here)

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice and pour in all the ingredients. Stir for about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

It’s a cocktail that confounds expectations. The initial funky aromas of rum, lime, and cinnamon suggest you’re about to have a fruity tiki drink. But your first sip is a mouthful of rich honey and rum’s smoky molasses-like flavor, before things drop swiftly into a forcefully bitter finish from the Cynar. You’ll continue to notice these three discrete periods of sensation every time you raise the glass for another gulp—it drives you to sip again and again.

Violet’s (Garden) Party

Violet's Garden Party Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis week I’m dialing it back a little with the ingredients. I’m sure you lot would love it if the drink recipe didn’t include a laundry list of items that would mean at least two separate store trips. And possibly an Amazon purchase. I get it; I want simple sometimes too. But let’s not get too lazy. One item I have in my bar at home that may seem odd but worth picking up is violet liqueur.

But it tastes like flowers. Well, no, not really. While its uniqueness does come from the floral aroma, it imparts a delicate sweetness as well when used in moderation. You’ve had an Aviation, right? Did it taste like you were choking down a garden? If it did it wasn’t made properly, and if you really want a good one, check out the Improved version.

So let’s just get this out there, you will need violet liqueur for this drink. But, everything else you should have on hand, or have a neighbor who could help out.

A short while ago I was sent a copy of The Best Craft Cocktails & Bartending with Flair which I’ve been perusing as of late. Besides a multitude of more complex cocktail recipes, which are projects I always love, there were also the smattering of more approachable recipes that one is drawn to since it can be done with ingredients you probably have on hand. Today’s drink stems from one of those.

There are just 3 key players in this drink, but the complexity of each ingredient transforms this into a much livelier concoction than expected. Also, it doesn’t hurt that this is an easy drinker and that here in Southern California it’s pretty dang hot outside still in January. Perhaps you should turn your heat up and make one of these while watching the Travel Channel’s island report show. I swear it will help combat any SAD symptoms you may be experiencing.Violet's Garden Party Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Adapted slightly from The Best Craft Cocktails & Bartending with Flair*
Yields two cocktails
3 oz. Partida Anejo Tequila*
1-1/4 oz. Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice, Bearss used here

lime wedge for garnish

Mix tequila, violet liqueur and lime juice in a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice to chill for about 20-25 seconds. Strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with the lime wedge.

The violet liqueur is one of those “a little goes a long way” ingredients and I believe is actually a good match for another strong character found in the Anejo. I actually cut back the violet a 1/4 ounce from the original recipe and upped the lime juice a 1/4 ounce to balance my own ingredients. The result was a refreshing drink that was both floral and bright, and really a good day drink for me. The tequila I found to be more prominent on the nose but blended nice and evenly once mixed.

Anyone have any other recipes with Violet Liqueur? I’d love to hear about them!

*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

The Sparkling Jungle Bird

Sparkling Jungle Bird #Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIt’s currently awful weather-wise in most of the country, except here in Los Angeles. I’m getting snow reports from my family while we skip about in light sweater cover ups. But don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll get another major earthquake  soon to even things out.

Weather really shouldn’t be a factor in what you’re drinking though. Sure, a nice Hot Toddy is fine by the fire, but so is an ostentatious Tiki drink. I’d sip that by the fire too. Today’s recipe is just that: a Tiki drink to sip regardless of where you’re sitting this winter. It’s the last in my series I did for the Serious Drinks site on sparkling cocktails. It will also get you hammered if you drink it on an empty stomach, so don’t do that.

You’ll need a few days to prep the infusion, but after that, you end up with some deliciously boozy pineapple chunks and a lovely, bright tropical fruit infused rum. Can’t complain about that hanging out in your fridge.

Sparkling Jungle Bird #Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor the Pineapple and Lime Infused Rum:

One medium pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced in 1-inch thick wheels
1 cup aged rum, such as Mt. Gay Eclipse
1 oz simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
Peeled zest of 3 limes, plus 1/2 cup juice from about 8 limes total

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place sliced pineapple on a foil-lined pan and roast until tender and starting to brown, about 30 minutes total, flipping halfway through. Let cool and chop roughly. Measure out 1 cup roasted pineapple for infusion.

Combine rum, 1 cup roasted pineapple, and simple syrup in an airtight container. Let sit for 2 days, agitating once a day. After two days, add lime zest and juice. Let sit one day. Strain and reserve pineapple chunks for garnish.Sparkling Jungle Bird #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Cocktail:

2 oz dark rum, such as Gosling’s Black Seal
2-1/2 oz Pineapple and Lime Infused Rum
1 oz Campari
4 oz chilled sparkling wine

For the Garnish:

Rum soaked pineapple chunk (reserved from infusion)
Pineapple leaf
Lime wedge
Luxardo cherry

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add dark rum, infused rum, and Campari. Top with sparkling wine and stir gently if desired. Garnish with a skewered pineapple chunk, lime wedge, pineapple leaf, and Luxardo cherry.

This drink is bright and bubbly with a touch of bitterness. And in true Tiki fashion, it’s super strong. There’s a lot of rum in there, but what’s a decent Tiki creation without a giant heaping helping of booze?

Drink up folks, and let your mind wander to something warm and tropical.

The Rusty Rickey // Happy Repeal Day!

The Rusty Rickey Cocktail // stirandstrain.comHappy Repeal Day folks!

What? You’re familiar with Repeal Day, right? Are you holding a drink/about to make a drink/going to go and have a drink? If you are, then you must remember that without this special day in history, you might be drinking grape juice right about now. Or maybe not even have been born! On December 5th, 1933, the U.S. repealed Prohibition making liquor once again a legal and delicious pastime for all citizens.

Today I’m making the Pre-Prohibition drink, the Gin Rickey, with a little spin on the ingredients. Not much mind you, switching the gin to a barrel-aged and adding a little freshly ground coriander because it is awesome. You can make this the good old fashioned way too if you don’t have these around; just cut back the lime juice by 1/2 an ounce.

2 oz. Rusty Blade Gin
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
4 oz. Q Club Soda
pinch of freshly ground coriander

In a highball glass filled with ice, build the drink by pouring in the gin and lime juice. Top with club soda. Add a pinch of the coriander on top and swirl with a straw gently to combine.

Cinnamon, spices and lime on the nose and the palate. Light effervescence from the club soda with a mild earthy finish.

If you’d like some additional reading on Repeal Day, please visit Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s site (who has multiple postings on the subject and pretty much is the reason we were all made aware of this holiday).

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

Mixology Monday: The Vegan Pisco Sour

Vegan Pisco Sour // stirandstrain.comMixology Monday LogoLately it seems that Mixology Monday is how I mark the passing of time. “Didn’t we just do this?”, I ask myself when I get the alert that there is a new challenge up on the site. Maybe it’s also because I hosted last month and I was neck-deep in it for a full week. This isn’t a complaint by the way. I love these challenges, and this month, Stewart from the Putney Farm blog has really created a doozy of a challenge for us all: make an “Intercontinental” cocktail. For the full run down, please visit his site here!

A geography lesson was needed as I started picking through what I had on hand. Trinidad is considered part of South America, even though it’s an island. Right, islands are still part of a continent. Admittedly I kept forgetting we only have 7 continents. Why does this feel like school?

However, even with all the map reading and consulting a globe, I actually had a recipe idea already in mind that I was just going to shoehorn into this month’s challenge. Last month I attended a cocktail event here in Los Angeles, Taste L.A. (which was actually cocktails and food but I only went to the cocktail-themed event), where there were some great demos that I took notes on and squirreled away for future post ideas. The demo I was looking forward to attend the most was one with bartender extraordinaire Matthew Biancaniello, who was awesome, but what I didn’t expect to be the most intrigued by was Brady Weise from the 1886 Bar (which I wrote about over here if you’re interested). He is known for his beer cocktails, and I am always on the lookout for those, but for his demo he showed us how to use  beer as an emulsifier to sub out using egg whites in cocktails. Science cocktails! By doing this, he effectively made a vegan cocktail. Yes, before anyone brings it up, many, many cocktails have no animal products in them whatsoever. However, if you notice, more bars now are using egg whites and whole eggs in their cocktails as they re-discover classics that call for these. If you are vegan, you are missing out. This post is for you guys.Vegan Pisco Sour // stirandstrain.com

Weise’s cocktail was a Pisco Sour and since this is my first time trying this out, I’m sticking, mostly, with his measurements. To get the right consistency, he suggests using a very wheat-y beer. There’s some scientific stuff about proteins and such that I have not provided for you to read. You can open a new tab if you’re really interested and have the internet tell you about it.

So which continents did I hit? Well, the limes were from Mexico (they’re not in season here right now) so there’s North America. The Pisco was from Peru, so there you have South America. Angostura Bitters are from Trinadad, but that’s still in the Americas (shoot!). The Hefe-Weizen’s Germany so we got Europe covered. And the added touch? Orange Flower Water, from Lebanon. So there’s Asia. BOOM! Four out of seven is not bad in my book.Vegan Pisco Sour // stirandstrain.com

Now that school is over, let’s make a drink!

Adapted from Brady Weise:
1-1/2 oz. Encanto Pisco
1-1/2 oz. Paulaner Hefe-Weizen Beer
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/4 tsp. Orange Flower Water
3-4 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Pour the Orange Flower Water in the bottom of a rocks glass. Swirl to coat the entire inside of the glass and pour out remaining liquid. In a mixing glass, add lime juice, simple syrup, pisco and–slowly–beer. Using a Boston Shaker, hard shake for about 30 seconds. Strain into your rocks glass and give a few hard shakes to get foam out of the shaker and into the glass. Top with a few dashes of Angostura Bitters.

The result is similar to a regular Pisco Sour, except this version has some wheat in the finish and a sweet orange, floral aroma and taste. Overall tart with sweet grape, but a balanced tartness due to the orange flower water (after trying without, I prefer this less mouth-puckering version) that also compliments the wheat from the Hefe-Weizen. The head is thick, foamy, and slowly dissipates, showing its structure.

Thanks to Stewart for hosting this month and to Frederic for keeping Mixology Monday up and running.

In Other News

If you didn’t click on the link for 1886, and that’s fine, no one is forcing you to, more of my writing can be found on the Serious Drinks site now. What kind of stuff? Reviews of some of my favorite places to drink in Los Angeles, and first looks at some new places. Heading to L.A. soon? Check it out!

The liquor shelf page was starting to get a bit crowded, so the bookshelf is getting it’s own page now!

Sudden Blush Cocktail

Sudden Blush Cocktail // stirandstrain.comOk folks, let’s shake off that sugar hangover from the last Low Rent Cocktail. Thank god those are only once a month! Now back to the class…

Can a cantaloupe be classy? I think so. No, wait. I KNOW so.

The last of the season’s melons had landed in my CSA basket and I stared them down thinking what to do with them. I’d made watermelon ice cubes, and a melon salad, but I wanted to showcase them in a cocktail. Last year I was all a-craze with this watermelon cocktail, the Salty Melon. I was making them by the pitcher with no shame what-so-ever and drinking them, mostly, all by myself. This year I decided on cantaloupe syrup. Surely I would find a cocktail to put it in…

But it sat next to the Dijon mustard for 3 weeks.

3 weeks and maybe a few days. Until a bottle of Dobel Tequila showed up on my doorstep.

As I have been desperately clinging on to daylight as it starts to get cooler here in Los Angeles, one reminder of summer, besides taco trucks, is melon gazpacho. There is something SO refreshing gulping down this sweet and savory soup. I like mine with a little heat, go figure, and a sprinkling of cilantro. So why not spike this melon syrup with a bit of tequila?

1-1/2 oz. Dobel Tequila*
1/2 oz. Cantaloupe Melon Syrup (recipe below)
1/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
3 slices of serrano pepper with seeds removed, adjust according to your desired heat levels

cilantro sprig for garnish

In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle the pepper slices with lime juice. Add ice, then add in syrup and tequila. Stir for about 30 seconds and then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.

For this cocktail, I wanted to keep the heat to just a flavor and tiny bit of fire. Overpowering the cocktail with too much spice kills the delicate cantaloupe flavors and in turn ruins the drink. The cilantro gives a nice aroma and you can decide whether to drop it in you drink or not. I almost always want more cilantro on everything, personal preference. The drink is well balanced between the earthiness of the tequila, the just-sweet-enough melon syrup, tart lime and touch of spice. The sudden blush refers to the color the drink takes as you pour it, turning a cloudy silver to a peachy blush color with tiny specs of red from the pepper (yours might have tiny green, orange or yellow depending on your pepper).

One word on the garnish. I think the cilantro looks dainty and fragile, Christopher says it looked sad. I think that if we were looking at a bunch of a Ballerinas I would think they looked dainty and he would probably think they were all sad statues.

 

Sudden Blush Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Cantaloupe Syrup

1/2 cantaloupe, orange flesh only cut into cubes
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

In a nonreactive medium sized sauce pan, combine sugar and water over medium heat. Throw the cantaloupe chunks into the pan and with a potato masher or large fork, crush the melon, breaking it down into the sugar water. You want it to resemble the consistency of a thick soup, with no visible large melon chunks. Bring mixture to a boil and then let simmer over low heat for a half hour. Stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let cool completely. Fine strain mixture into an airtight bottle. Add 1/2 ounce of vodka if not using entire syrup completely. Refrigerate until ready to use.

*This bottle of Dobel was generously given gratis and appears here because I like drinking it. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page

Mixology Monday: The Royal Affliction

The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMixology Monday LogoWhen one hosts a month of Mixology Monday, I think there is a knee-jerk reaction to do as much as you can. You’re the host; you need to show off a little bit, right? But dammit if I didn’t think ahead a bit more and pump out all the other ideas I had. There is a smoker sitting on my porch right now, unused since two Thanksgivings ago when we smoked a turkey. I’m OK with that though. For this third and last post, I still got a hell of a lot of smoke into this drink. And my kitchen. And my clothes. Lots of delicious, rosemary infused smoke.

Last month, the company that does the PR for the Black Grouse invited me out to try their product at two Los Angeles bars where the bartenders would be showcasing the way they would serve this Scotch Whisky. They also generously provided me with my own bottle that I am using here. At the first bar, Sassafras, I learned that you can smoke rosemary for a drink using only a tea candle and a snifter glass. The simplicity and genius of this bar trick stayed with me. I knew at some point I would have to try this, and this month was the perfect opportunity to do so.The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Here’s the thing about smoking herbs: use organic, and if possible, from your own garden (that’s where mine came from). Not sure if your grocery store has organic you can trust? Go to a farmer’s market and ask the person selling the herbs if they use pesticides or chemicals on their herbs. Why go through all the trouble? Because crap in crap out. The smoke from this drink will be IN your drink and you are going to ingest it. Do you want weird unknown substances being brought to high temperatures and those fumes entering your mouth? You don’t care? You like huffing sharpies? Fine, you’ve been warned.

The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The blackberries here in Southern California are starting to go tart, so for this cocktail, I wanted to use them up in a syrup, as they would not give enough sweetness just muddling them into the drink. FYI, this syrup is super thick. If you’re not sure what to do with the leftover syrup, there is only one way to go: PANCAKES.The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Rich Blackberry Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
heaping 1/2 cup of blackberries

Bring all the ingredients to a boil then simmer for a half hour; gently mash blackberries down while the mixture cooks. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, strain and bottle syrup. If not using all right away, add 1/2 ounce of vodka to mixture and keep refrigerated up to 3 months. (I refer to this as ‘rich’ due to the viscous nature of the final syrup. This is not a true ‘rich’ simple syrup, since I am still using a 1:1 sugar water ratio.)The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

And now the drink:

2 oz The Black Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky
3/4 oz Blackberry Syrup (recipe above)
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
3 dashes Scrappy’s Celery Bitters
2 cleaned sprigs of rosemary, approximately 5″-6″ long

tea candle and holder (I found a jam jar worked great for keeping distance between the flame and the rosemary. You want at least 3 inches of clearance between the two.)
piece of card stock larger than the diameter of your glass
brandy snifterThe Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

IMPORTANT: get everything ready before you begin, this will move fast. Light the tea candle and place the rosemary across the top on the jam jar/candle holder. This will take a minute to warm up and start smoking. It’s best if your rosemary has not dried completely from cleaning (not wet, but not bone dry). In a shaker filled 2/3 with ice, add the first four ingredients and shake well until chilled. Set aside. Once the rosemary starts to smoke, place a snifter glass over the top so that the smoke fills the glass completely. Using the card stock, slide it over the top of the glass to “hold” the smoke inside until you pour your drink in. Remove the rosemary from the candle. When you are ready, quickly remove the card stock and strain the contents of the shaker into the glass.The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Woodsy, rosemary tinged smoke fills the glass. Those notes infuse through the lightly sweetened berry flavor with tart background highlights. The Black Grouse is mellowed out and given an almost honey quality, while also heightening the smoky flavor. Even when you no longer can see the smoke, it stays with the drink from first to last sip.

On the celery bitters: these you CANNOT leave out. You will not taste celery, but what they do is provide an amazing amount of balance. Without them, the drink is both too sharply tart and too sweet. A few drops and it balances everything out. Kinda amazing how bitters do that.

Electric Pink Fields

Electric Pink Fields Cocktail // stirandstrain.comWhen I was young and trying to be fancy on the weekend, I’d order a Kir Royale at brunch. At 21, even brunch seemed like a novel idea at the time. Drinking at breakfast? Other than seeing my father mix himself a Bloody Mary while frying up some eggs on a Sunday, drinking before 3pm was unheard of growing up. Now, occasionally the odd Kir Royal pops up, usually it is at my in-laws and we’re doctoring up a bottle of champagne someone has given them as a gift. A bottle of champagne that clearly has been re-gifted because the original recipient also knew it was crap. An ancient bottle of Creme de Cassis sits at the back of their fridge just for these occasions. So why did I pick up a bottle recently? It was on my ‘to get’ list. I’d seen it listed in a particularly tasty cocktail someplace and I was reminded it would be a great ingredient in drinks other than the sweet covering up some bad bubbly.

My husband was on a liquor run for himself and had called to ask me if I needed anything, knowing probably there was something I wanted. I told him Creme de Cassis and without missing a beat he said Ok, he’d go look for some. When he was back he proudly showed me a handsome bottle acknowledging that he bought it because it’s price point suggested it was good stuff. “And look at the label!” he said, totally fancy pants.Electric Pink Fields Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I think this happened close to 4 months ago. To which, at least every few weeks, he turns to me asks when I’m going to make something with it.

A serious of unfortunate incidents led me to finally cracking it open the other night. First, my cantaloupe I was going to use had gone bad. Then my cherry syrup shattered. I found myself staring down at a bunch of bottles and just huffing to myself. And then I saw the Creme de Cassis and shrugged. I could use this; it’s fruity. I would sub this in for simple syrup.

The liqueur ended up being a very happy incident. So, working on a daiquiri variation, the first pass was too sharply tart. Bringing the lime juice down to 3/4 ounces on the next pass then rendered it not tart enough. It also felt it was lacking a missing flavor. Tarragon! I know that for some of you, this herb is scary, and completely useless in your kitchen. But really you need to give this herb some love, so, put it in a cocktail at least.Electric Pink Fields Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Adding tarragon not only gave it a lovely aroma, it toned the tartness down just enough so that it found balance.

2 oz. Oronoco white rum
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. G.E. Massenez Creme de Cassis
8 tarragon leaves

In the bottom of your shaker, add the tarragon leaves and lime juice. Lightly crush with a muddler. Add ice 2/3 up the shaker. Pour in rum and creme de cassis. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Magenta in color with flecks of tarragon throughout. The nose is berry and tarragon, or rather a subtle licorice smell if you’re unfamiliar with this herb. The cocktail itself is tart and sweet. More berry on the palate with a grassy aftertaste. Dry in the mouth but flavor profile is refreshing.Electric Pink Fields Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Red Ruth Cocktail

Red Ruth Cocktail // Stirandstrain.comLos Angeles over the past few years has become laden with some of the best craft cocktail bars in the country (deal with it New York). But where will you find me come Happy Hour on a Tuesday? Probably bar-side at the Tonga Hut out in the Valley. A darkly lit Tiki Bar nestled in-between a model train shop and a store front bridal “boutique”, this place sees my face almost weekly. Why? Currently I am trying to complete the Grog Log along with fellow drink/food blogger Nathan Hazard so that after completing the imbibing of all 90-something drinks on the list (within one year), a plaque with my name will be placed on the wall of this darkly lit Valley bar. But still, why bother you ask? I love having goals. But really, it’s a great way to become VERY familiar with Tiki drinks and all the ways the flavors come into play. This bar does a lot of in-house mixes and syrups and the woman running the beverage program, Marie, takes it all to heart and is adamant about making Tiki drinks taste the way they were meant to taste from way back in the heyday of Tiki days. I appreciate it. If you’ve trolled around my blog long enough now, you would see that I share the same sentiments when it comes to cocktails. Even tiki cocktails can be craft.

So why am I writing about this? Besides needing something to write about for an intro, I was over at the Tonga Hut the other night completing my list and tasted the Cruzana cocktail. Its ingredients were modest: grapefruit, maraschino syrup, rum. It was not very sweet, and had a lovely bitter quality to it that I enjoy in cocktails, which got me thinking… how could I expand on this? Twist it into something my non-Tiki drinking friends would like to have? Take the rum out and make a syrup!

And so I did just that.

Let’s ignore the beige walls and countertop in the photo. This was perfected over the 4th Holiday at my in-laws, who love beige. Let’s just focus on how tasty and refreshing this drink is when temps are soaring over 90 lately.
cherry-syrup //stirandstrain.com

The first ingredient I sought to improve upon was the cherry syrup, or rather, the dredges from the kool-aid colored cherries. Cherries are in season right now, why not make a super-tasty syrup from them? It barely takes any effort other than pitting them. But that’s what a cherry pitter is for. Bam, done in two minutes.

Fresh Cherry Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup pitted cherries
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 oz. freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice
1/2 oz. grenadine (home made is best!)

Combine first three ingredients in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for two hours. Strain solids from liquids and add next three ingredients to mix. Stir to combine. If not using immediately, add 1/2 ounce of vodka to mix, or leave out vodka if using within 2 weeks.redruth-cherry

The syrup produces a fresh cherry flavor with light syrup. It’s more juicy than syrupy. The citrus and grenadine balances the syrup out from being too subtle in flavor. They act almost like bitters in that it rounds it out to a fuller flavor. And on a side note, I could totally pour this all over some pancakes. Just FYI.

And then there was the drink.

2 oz. St. George Botanivore Gin
2 oz. freshly squeezed white grapefruit juice
3/4 oz. home made cherry syrup (recipe above)
2 drops of Miracle Mile Chocolate Chile Bitters

3 Luxardo cherries for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, shake and pour unstrained into a Collins glass. Garnish with Luxardo Cherries.

Like I said, I took the rum out, and the flavor profile completely changed. That sweetness and spice from the rum took a backseat in the cherry syrup, and a more botanical, herbaceous flavor moved to the front. The bitters tone down the sweet just enough. Citrus flavors are complimented by the bright, herbaceous gin. I specifically used this gin from St. George spirits to create a more interesting layer with the fruits and in the end, a refreshing summer drink that moves away from the realm of Tiki.

This past weekend I was asked “what makes a drink tiki?”, and admittedly, I was stumped to have a concrete answer. Is it a drink with rum? Well, no. There are drinks in the Grog Log with vodka, whiskey and gin. Is it the tropical flavors? Again, not necessarily. And at that point I realized I couldn’t give a concrete answer. Maybe it’s all in the garnish, the presentation…the state of mind! Regardless, here, by switching out the gold rum with a gin, and having some softer fruit flavors, the cocktail no longer is a tropical drink and more in line with just something for summer. Thoughts are always welcome on this subject….