The Golden Hour Cocktail

I’m really trying to give rum a fighting chance outside of Tiki drinks in my house. For this cocktail, I wanted to try something more ‘stiff shirted’ if you will. I guess I only moved a hair over from something tropical, but it’s a start.

What this is though is delicious. I’ve gotten hooked on this Apricot liqueur, as I am finding it quite versatile in all manner of cocktails lately.

Named for the time of day lately when these start getting passed around in the house, they bring a lovely glow and just a little hint of warmth.

1-1/2 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse Barbados Rum
3/4 oz. Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. cinnamon syrup
2 dashes Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters

Combine all ingredients into a shaker 2/3 filled with ice. Shake well to combine and strain into a chilled coupe.

This drink is quite dry. Sweet and tart are well balanced with the cinnamon and bitters lingering in the back adding a hint of spice.

The Bar Keeper Margarita

I’m not usually a big tequila drinker unless there is a plate of tacos and refried beans in front of me. It also helps if a Mariachi Band is playing 10 feet in front of me. This weekend the stars aligned. I had a craving for nachos earlier in the week but didn’t want to go out. So my husband picked up some fixings and chose the most expensive bottle of tequila he could find… at a Ralph’s supermarket. Which, actually, was kind of pricey at . So I made us margaritas based on Regan’s recipe and he made giant mounds of nachos.

Fast forward to a Saturday soon after and my bi-weekly visit to Bar Keeper in Silver Lake (if I lived walking distance to this place I’d go broke in a month). With a running list of ‘extras’ for our bar, I try and make one special purchase every time I’m at the shop while stocking up on the usually necessities. This time it was a bottle of Dry Orange Curaçao. I ended up in a conversation with the owner, Joe Keeper, and he begged me to try it just by itself, on ice, and I’d be blown away (which frankly was just fantastically delicious). And then proceeded to give me a rough recipe for a margarita using this Curaçao. The kicker? Atomizing some Vida Mezcal over the finished product. Nice touch, I just happened to have a bottle of that at home.

Immediately upon arriving home I was so smitten with this recipe that I broke out everything and then realized, well, an atomizer I did not have. Not even a spray bottle. The question then was just how much of the Mezcal should make its way into the drink? If one is just spritzing it over the top, then you don’t need that much to go into the drink. My first attempt was a 1/4 ounce, completely killing the drink. All smoke and no other flavors.

So on the next take I tried just rinsing the glass with the Mezcal. Perfection.

Just as described by Mr. Keeper, you first get hit with a smoky aroma from the Mezcal and then that wonderful sweet Curaçao, the tequila and a tangy citrus bite from the lime juice. It was really better than any margarita I’d had out with a Mariachi band and plate of tacos.

This drink I give all the credit to the folks over at Bar Keeper who constantly help fill up my liquor bucket list, and who are always as enthusiastic about cocktails as I am.

1-1/2 oz. Avión Silver Tequila
1 oz. Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch of smoked sea salt
Vida Mezcal for rinse
lime wedge

Rinse a chilled cocktail coupe with about 1/2 tsp of the Mezcal. Toss remaining liquid. Combine tequila, curaçao, lime juice and salt into a shaker half filled with ice. Shake well to combine and strain into coupe. Garnish with lime wedge.

Why is there no salt rim on this margarita? I find that a small pinch of the smoked sea salt shaken into the drink fulfills my need for salt without feeling like you are crunching on a salt lick, and it keeps the glass nice and clean. Granted, if you like crunching on a salt lick, by all means, rim away!

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Texas Tea

Beer doesn’t find its way into my cabinet very often. I enjoy the occasional Michelada at a brunch, and even rarer I’ll go for a nice sour beer over at the Verdugo bar in my neighborhood. But I’ll never ask for it out anymore. There was a time when I’d get a Stone, or an oatmeal stout. Now I’d rather make a beer float, or seriously, beer mousse with that Young’s Chocolate stout. Oh man, so good.

However, there are times where you’re just going to have beer to deal with. This recipe actually stems from a house warming party about 5 years ago where my husband wanted ONE drink to be had at the party. I’d never heard of it before, but he insisted on something called Texas Tea. This was just around the time that PBR was making its way into every hipster joint in Los Angeles. Or at least it felt that way.

If you want cases of something at your party, PBR is the way to go. It’s cheap. You know what else is cheap, limes. Your #2 ingredient in this cocktail. In fact, it’s only two ingredients.

Even stranger, it’s really quite refreshing.

I tried actually doing some research here and seeing if I could find something along the recipe that we used that day, but mainly Texas Tea brings up a drink akin to a Long Island Iced Tea. And some rather crude non-drink related articles. This cocktail though really does not require that much thought. It can be tweaked according to your own tastes so the recipe is rather a set of guidelines for you to follow. It’s also now being dubbed Hipster Soda.

1-1/2 cans of PBR, or most of one tall boy (just how much can you fit in that stein of yours?)
2-3 limes
ice

Grab yourself a rather large beer stein. You know you have one. It’s in a box marked “college” somewhere. Squeeze the juice from two or three limes and add the spent shells to your stein. Add ice about 2/3 of the way up the glass and pour the PBR over the whole thing. Throw one back.

Why so many limes? For me it makes it more palatable. For your drunken college kid, you’re making a real cocktail here. Enjoy.

Hawaiian Black Eye

Sometimes I really want to mix up a tiki drink but realize that I’m missing a good deal of the ingredients to put into one. I usually have limes and lemons around the house, but rarely do I have oranges or grapefruit, or, seriously, passion fruit? Perhaps this means I’m missing variety in my diet? What I end up doing is just deciding to go out to my nearest tiki bar, which on my side of L.A. isn’t too difficult.

Today however I ended up with some very late in the season blackberries from the farmers market and was full determined to use them up. In a drink. A tiki drink.

Scrounging through the Beach Bum Berry Remixed book, throwing some Martin Denny on the turntable (trying to get into the mood, don’t laugh), I finally came across something I could adapt to what I had on hand- the Hawaiian Eye (created for the 1960’s show of the same name). I had some rum, falernum, limes… I just needed the “black eye” part, and those blackberries could fit in nicely.

Adapted from Beach Bum Berry Remixed

5 Blackberries (reserve one for garnish)*
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz Fee Brother’s Falernum
1/2 oz simple syrup (1:1)
1/2 oz Kraken Black Spiced Rum
1 oz Mount Gay Eclipse Rum
3 dashes of Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters
8 oz ice (about a cup, I use my kitchen scale when it comes to ice)

To make the garnish, take your spent lime shell and cut small triangles around the edge. I attempted this with a paring knife first but found that kitchen shears worked much, much better. Pierce the center of the lime with a stainless or bamboo skewer. Thread a blackberry onto the skewer and then the lime shell. Set aside.

Blend all ingredients and pour into your favorite tiki mug, or a goblet if you have one on hand. Garnish with the blackberry hat.

*A note on blackberries. These guys have lots of SEEDS. First attempt at making this meant spitting out seeds with every sip. To avoid this, mash the blackberries through a fine mesh strainer catching the juice, but leaving the seeds behind. Pour into the blender and follow directions as above.

The drink becomes more of a ruby color than black. It’s not too sweet with a sharp tang from the lime and blackberries. The spice from the Kraken and the bitters is more in the finish than in the forward flavor. Oh, and careful, it goes down quick.

Fresh Lime Soda Sweet, Salty and Boozy

What happened to September around here you ask? Well, I took my first trip to India. And then came home with a little India in my lower intestines and was horribly sick for WEEKS. Weeks. I’m not a fan of India, apologies to those of you who are. A friend of mine was there in February and had a fine time. Every day of our trip something went wrong. I landed and was sick for 4 days. An accident on a two lane road made a 3 hour trip into an 8 hour trip. A nation-wide protest delayed our stay in New Delhi due to a man lighting his truck on fire on a highway we needed to take. A drunk motorcyclist tried to drag our driver out of our car and beat him up. My Mother-In-Law got Dengue Fever, along with two other relatives. And I learned a baby can cry for 16 straight hours on a plane. The sickness I developed while back in the states put me on a medication that would make my blood toxic if I had any alcohol of any kind, even mouthwash! So that put the brakes on the blog for awhile. But I’m putting all that behind me now and getting back to normal around here. One wonderful thing about India was a drink that my Husband’s mom has been talking about for years that she used to drink growing up in India: Fresh Lime Soda Sweet and Salty. She couldn’t really remember what went into it, so as soon as we got into India, she ordered up a glass and I was impressed. Especially the garnish. I’d never seen olives and maraschino cherries dancing together in a glass before. One sip of this and I took notes and told myself to make this a boozy beverage when we got back to the states. I had this served several ways while in India. Most times everything was made and served to you in a glass, but with a small pitcher on the side of simple syrup to make it even sweeter if you wanted. Indians love the sweet stuff. Another time it was served up sweet with a salt shaker next to the glass. The last time I had it, I was served lime juice in a glass, with a bottle of club soda, a small pitcher of simple syrup, a bowl of salt, and an ice bucket of ice. It was great to make it exactly how I wanted it. And I encourage that here. I had to try a couple times to get the right amounts for my taste here. The idea is to balance the sweet and the salt. Do you like it more sweet? Less sweet? A salt lick? Go ahead and taste as you make this. 1-1/2 oz Vodka 2-1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lime juice 3/4 oz of simple syrup (as always around here I make a 1:1 ratio syrup, not a rich syrup) 1/4 tsp of kosher salt 2 – 3oz Q-Club Soda Garnish: lime wedge maraschino cherry (I used Bada Bing Cherries. An impulse buy,  but mostly because there is no red dye involved. I just can’t bring myself to buy those anymore.) Green Olive stuffed with Pimento (or not stuffed if you prefer) In the mixing glass of a Boston Shaker, fill with ice and pour in vodka, lime juice, simple syrup and salt. Shake well to combine. Strain into a Highball glass with several ice cubes (3-4 large cubes) and top with club soda. Spear the olive, cherry and lime wedge and garnish the glass. Add some festive elephants to remind you of those walking around the streets in India.

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.

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: throw some tequila in it

For reasons I cannot fathom, because it’s not like they were the best of times in my life, I was reminiscing over my high school days and what we used to drink. While many kids start ‘experimenting’ in college, when I was 16 my parents moved us from the city, where I could amuse myself with all sorts of culturally stimulating activities due to a public transportation system that took me places, and plopped us out to the country. Where I was smacked with the realization that going out to a quarry to get drunk and light an abandoned car on fire was about as good as it was going to get (I sincerely hope I am not offending anyone that I know who did/still does this. We’re adults and can ponder this tragic comedy of circumstances). This new set of stimulating activities caused me to experiment on pretty much a weekly basis. Heavily.

During this heyday of debauchery in my early years came my early starts in amateur ‘mixology’. This was due to an intense dislike of beer that necessitated moving straight up to hard liquor pretty quick. And the sweeter it tasted, the better. I remember a dozen or so concoctions that I came up with and pounded down because I couldn’t help thinking, and proclaiming, this stuff tastes AWESOME.

The thought of reliving these recipes now makes me gag a bit. However, I still find the idea of these low brow concoctions fun in a sort of ironic way, I just couldn’t think of any reason to put them on here. Until now.

When my husband was in college he had a weekly ‘column’ (I guess it would be considered a column) where he came up with the ‘Low Rent Cocktail of the Week’. Perfect. He quite willingly relinquished the name for me to use here, I told him he can guest post of he wanted to. And so now I can bring you guys some quirky, kinda ridiculous, concoctions.

First up is just a random ‘fix’ to an incorrect drink from Starbucks for my husband. I have been told to stress here that an iced green tea was ordered and what was incorrectly delivered was a passion iced tea. I guess the fruity purple drink was just not cutting it, so it was thrust into my hand with the direction to ‘fix it. Maybe throw some tequila in it’. He could have just poured some tequila in, but seemed convinced that I could make it more palatable. I gave it a shot.

1 grande sized iced passion tea, unsweetened
2 oz of tequila (on hand was Partida Reposado, but whatever you got is fine)
juice of 1/2 a small lime

lime wedge for garnish (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in your cup on hand. If you’re feeling the need to garnish, a slice of lime will do. It’s sweet and tangy, and will do in a pinch for a summer cocktail.

So, here is the first of a probably semi-monthly exploration. I have never touched Boone Farms, so you will not see that here. I have heard of Strawberry Wine, but I hated wine too until I was around 22. I do think though that I need to unearth some Rumplemintz, my bottle of choice when I was 17. And red bull in anything should certainly have a place in this category.

What filth were you swigging in your tender young years? I’d love to hear about it…

A Biting Strawberry

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

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

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

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

1 strawberry for garnish

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

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

Side note; this tastes amazing with milk chocolate FYI.

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.