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.

Lime Tree and a Daiquiri

Recently we invested in a lime tree. Or rather, I had one picked up and brought to the house and my husband came home and wondered when a lime tree had relocated itself next to the front door.

It smells amazing. I immediately had to make a drink out of it, and luckily I had an order for a drink. Stat!

I always associate limes with Daiquiris and I figured this was an easy jumping off point to really indulge in the flavor of the fruit. And it really does. It’s perfectly sour and sweet, and with just three ingredients and the right balance, all are identifiable yet harmonized.

This drink also packs a nice punch, which in part influenced my decision to serve over ice. I read up on a couple different versions, and figured if you want to sit and sip this, a couple of ice cubes help draw out the time you get to spend with your Daiquiri.

2 oz. 10 Cane Rum
1 oz. Freshly Squeeze Lime Juice
1 tsp Simple Syrup

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Give it a good shake and pour into a chilled champagne saucer filled 2/3 with ice. Contemplate the next fruit tree purchase.

The Basil Simple

Here’s a little something green for this week. Just one of the handful of basil liqueur recipes I’ve been trying out lately. It’s pretty simple, but super flavorful. Do I need to add another sentence to make this look like a whole paragraph? Apparently so.

2 oz basil liqueur (recipe HERE)
1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lime juice, keep the limes handy
2 dashes of mint bitters

In a rocks glass with 3 large ice cubes, add the basil liqueur, lime juice and mint bitters. Add the spent limes as well. Stir together, squishing the limes into the mix with a bar spoon. Sip and slurp.

The mint bitters accent the subtle mint flavor of the basil liqueur and heighten them so they’re a bit more loud. Oh, so this also means I’ve gotten around to tasting the mint bitters. Boy are they strong. Just a tiny bit goes a long way. One thing that I hate though is that they have dye in them. I need to put making mint bitters on the to do list, but not for awhile. I’ve bought the bottle and I’m committed to using it.

One Tart Squirrel

The first time we had to stock up for a Tiki Party I was introduced to a whole new world of liqueurs and flavorings that I’d never heard of. One of the those items was Creme de Noyaux. It’s an almond “flavored” liqueur (as far as I know, no actually almonds are used, just pits from apricots) that pops up in a variety of drinks in the tiki world. After we actually started experimenting with it my husband became enamored with it and now we own two large bottles of the stuff. So… I’m trying to think up drinks that will use it up and make some space for other bottles. No need to crowd the shelves with TWO of these guys when a bottle of Stranahans could easily take its place.

Joining my ever growing collection of citrus at the house this week is a bag of tangelos we harvested out of our own backyard. Long thought of as a dead plant that needed to be removed, all the crazy rains Los Angeles received recently ignited the spark of life back into this thing and we have now got a tree heavy with fruit. I’d never tried a tangelo before, so being the cautious type.. I gave a bag of them to a friend as a ‘gift’ and told them to get back to me quickly on how they tasted. The most important thing was that they came back alive the next day and I had not produced a big ol’ tree of poison. The verdict was that they were really sour but very juicy, perfect they told me for marmalade. Well, sour is fantastic for drinks, not on my toast, and then I decided to try and marry this flavor with the Creme de Noyaux.

When I cut my tangelo open the first thing I realized was that my idea of sour and my friend’s idea of sour lived in two separate worlds. These were slightly sweet and slightly sour, and crazy juicy. Cutting one open just poured liquid out. Trying to formulate a drink recipe out of this took a couple turns, and I think that I might even candy some jalapeños next time and add to this, just because I think it could use some heat. But anyways, I think that I was able to make a combination of flavors that was light, refreshing, and used up some Creme de Noyaux (albeit not nearly enough).

2-1/2 oz of light rum
1/2 oz of Creme de Noyaux
4 tangelo slices (cut about 1/4″ thick)
1 tsp of honey (I used some local orange blossom honey)
2 dashes of bitters
1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lime juice

one tangelo wheel for garnish

Muddle together the tangelo slices and the honey. On top of the muddled mixture, fill mixing glass 2/3 way with ice and add rum, Creme de Noyaux, bitters and lime juice. Shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Run a lighter over both sides of the tangelo wheel and drop into the glass.

I know, RUM. Again! These are all mixed drinks though, not straight rum. I think I need to take one of the Rum education classes at the Cana Rum bar here in L.A. to really get to know and appreciate rum. And why the Squirrel name? Creme de Noyaux drinks I learned are referred to as pink squirrel drinks. I don’t necessarily know if this fits the category, but I like the name so I’ll stick with it.

Lime Fail

This is going to be a two-parter because I haven’t perfected this drink yet. A couple weeks ago when citrus season started around here.. does anyone else ever feel weirded out that such summery fruit as citrus are in season in the winter? Living in Southern California and it being 75 out today at the beginning of February while my parents are snowed in back in New England should probably make me feel less confused (it sure feels summery around here)… but I find myself surprised when my CSA basket arrives and there are a bunch of oranges rolling around on the bottom. Every year. It always gets me. So anyways, I got my first batch of oranges, and then a second batch and I just was not eating them fast enough so I decided perhaps I’ll use a bunch up in something that I will want to eat a lot of. Like cake. The recipe I followed (which you can read here) had one making what I thought at the time was really a LARGE amount of orange simple syrup. I was candying orange slices in it, but really, 3 cups sugar and 3 cups water is a lot of room for 2 small oranges. Fast forward to when the cake was done and I had to brush on the syrup. I felt I was being more than generous practically pouring it on there, but I was still left over with a tub of orange water with a couple left over slices in it. I thought to myself, well, I could definitely use this in something. And so it sat in my fridge for 3 weeks.

This past week I received a copy of The Grog Log in the mail. Very excited to try something in there, but realizing I am very low on resources on the shelf I looked over the book to try and find the simplest of recipes in there to use with a very nice bottle of rum someone brought as a gift during Christmas to the house. Side note here that I am not a fan of rum as is. I can remember being read a bedtime story and my mom leaving her glass of Rum&Coke by the bed for a second and being totally disgusted by the taste. I pretty much still have the same reaction to the drink now almost 30 years later. So, I like to mellow out the flavor in Tiki drinks by mixing it with about 6 other things. However, this rum was supposed to be far superior to the Puerto Rican stuff in a gallon sized jug that I don’t know what to do with. And that at least warranted mixing it with only a few ingredients. Because I am just not going to drink it plain. The simplest I could find was a combination of rum, lime juice and simple syrup. I switched out the simple syrup with the orange syrup and was pretty sure this would be a nice, refreshing drink on such a lovely day. Celebrations were in order what with it only reaching a high of 65 the previous day (it took a very brief period of time to adjust to living in this climate after living 20+ years in New England, and after 8 years my entire family has practically disowned me due to getting the shivers one November when I came back for Thanksgiving).

Ah, but one thing I didn’t count on was the large organic limes we bought would taste like utter crap. And that was the only fresh lime juice to be had. I also think I need to adjust the syrup to a slightly higher mix. ½ an ounce and you could barely taste the orange at all. It’s a nice delicate flavor, as I used extremely sweet, fragrant oranges that stood up after being simmered with sugar for an hour (this was for the purpose of candying the orange slices, no need to do it this long if you are making a simple syrup). Does anyone know how long a boiled sugar concoction like this lasts?

So this week I will try and pick up some different limes and try this again with the adjustments. Stay tuned.