Make It: Holiday Spice Syrups

The hard ciders and glogg are starting to roll out. It’s Fall- hell, it’s almost Thanksgiving already. For me that means starting to plan for Christmas. My personality is such that I painfully start planning things much too far in advance, forget about them, and freak out at the last minute trying to get these plans into action.

A good chunk of gift giving is pretty easy actually when it comes to my friends. They all like booze. But really, putting a bow on a bottle of Jameson a couple years in a row starts to become too easy and predictable. Yes, you can step it up and maybe shell out for a bottle of Booker’s. However that becomes expensive when you multiply that by just 4 people.

When I started making my own infused syrups at home it occurred to me the potential these had for gift giving. One can make up a batch, pair it with a small bottle of something, and write up a little card with a drink recipe on it. For me, it’s a way of sharing an interest with my friends and getting them tipsy in the process. Win! Even better when you can open it together.

This year I’m expanding my usual arsenal of syrups to include some Fall spices that I want to try out. Adapting the clove syrup recipe from the PDT Cocktail Book, I’ve scaled that down and also worked up a cinnamon syrup too. Bottle these up and give away, or keep for yourself.

For this recipe, I made a master batch of simple syrup and then divided it to steep the cloves and cinnamon separately.

Master Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Combine water and sugar in a sauce pan. Swirl to combine and place over high heat until warmed through and transparent. Do not let it come to a boil. Once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat if using immediately for below or keep over a very low flame- you will need the syrup to be warm to infuse.

Clove Syrup

1/2 cup simple syrup
1/4 oz of cloves (I used a kitchen scale to weigh this out. It’s about 3 tablespoons if I were to eyeball it.)

Combine a half cup of the warm simple syrup with the cloves in a heat-proof container. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain into a bottle through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Let the mixture cool and store in the refrigerator.

Cinnamon Syrup

1 cup simple syrup
5 sticks of cinnamon, 2″ to 2-1/2″ in length

Combine a half cup of the warm simple syrup with the cinnamon sticks in a heat-proof container. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain into a bottle. Let the mixture cool and store in the refrigerator.

Syrups will keep approximately 1 month in the refrigerator (or at least they do in my house).

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.

Make It: Hibiscus Infused Tequila

I had scratched down an idea for a floral drink when the idea came up on Mixology Monday. And then I was out of town and forgot about it. I’m revisiting some ideas this week that I had left to the side and now have some time to actual try. For this recipe, keep in mind that Hibiscus is pretty astringent and this is not a liquor I’d knock back on its own. However, when mixed properly and sweetened, it’s delicious.

6 oz Tequila
1-1/2 Tablespoons Dried Hibiscus Flowers

Combine ingredients in a jar and seal. Refrigerate for 2 hours and then strain out the hibiscus and discard it. Or, if you’re like me and you forget it in the fridge for 24 hours, it’s also ok not ok. It gets too bitter. Stain it out immediately. Although it starts to move into the realm of bitter It’s so bitter, so taste it first after you’ve discarded the flowers.

Use immediately or store in the refrigerator indefinitely.

Make It: Limoncello Part Two

It’s been two weeks and it’s time for part two of making Limoncello.

First, take out that bag of lemon juice that’s been in the freezer. This was from the 4 lemons you zested two weeks ago… What? You forgot and threw them away? Fine, go squeeze 4 lemons and come back here.

Next thing you need to do is strain out the lemon zest that you’ve been shaking around everyday. You’ve been doing that, right? Good.

Depending on which way you went, you may have to strain twice. Since I used a combination of fine zest and strips of lemon peel, I had to do it twice. First strain went into a large pyrex measuring glass using a fine mesh strainer. I pushed down a bit on the zest to try and release as much liquid as possible. Then I decided to switch jars I was using, mainly because I could use this giant jar for another project (coming soon!). The second strain I used an extra-fine mesh strainer to make sure I got most of the floaty bits. While you’re doing this you should go ahead and start making the simple syrup.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Combine water and sugar in a sauce pan and put over low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. You might want to gently swish the pan around at first just to help with the dissolving. Then take the pan off the heat and allow to cool completely. Once cool, combine the simple syrup and lemon juice and pour into the vodka mixture. Now cover it tightly and let it sit for 6 weeks in a cool, dark place. In 6 weeks come back here for the exciting conclusion!

No wait! Come back all the time for drink recipes!

Yet another creation that looks like a big jar of pee...

Make It: Rosemary Lavender Simple Syrup

Rosemary Lavender Simple Syrup for use in the Springtime Gin Fizz.

2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar (I used organic golden sugarcane, but ehhhh… you can use white, it’s just what I had on hand)
4 sprigs of rosemary
1 teaspoon of lavender buds

Wash and dry your herbs. In a saucepan that seems much too large to hold such little liquid, throw in the water, sugar and herbs. Swish to combine. It’s not necessary to thoroughly dissolve the sugar. That will happen soon enough. Bring the mixture to a soft boil (not rolling), then turn down to simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Fine strain your mixture into a glass container. I prefer one with a spout (I usually just pour into a pyrex measuring glass) since I will transfer this into a couple different jars. One for a present, and then one bottle with a pour spout for drinks.

Note: There is so much debate over simple syrups (Cocktail Culture has a nicely compiled list of several arguments), and since I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this I am just using the same recipe I was following for the original recipe. It tastes good and worked for me with no problems. The original recipe says it will last up to one week in the fridge, but again, as with other syrups, I find that the boiling process does some kind of scientific mojo that lets it sit perfectly fine in my fridge for at least a month. However, this mix is going straight into the next drink recipe…here.

Make It: Cardamom, Vanilla, Muscovado Sugar Compound Butter

This is the recipe for the butter base in my Hot Buttered Warm Up drink (which should be the next post after this or links here).

½ cup (4oz) unsalted butter
2 T of muscovado sugar
4 large cardamom pods cracked and seeds ground finely
1 tsp of vanilla bean paste (Vanilla paste can quite pricey and is usually used by a. people who bake things in large quantities and need containers of paste or b. people who find the act of trying to slice open a single vanilla bean and scrape out its contents an utter pain in the ass. I am not a baker. I’m sure you could use vanilla extract here and get the same flavor, but I wanted pretty flecks of seeds in there.)

Cream the butter and the sugar together in a stand mixer. Add in next 2 ingredients, mix to incorporate. Scrape butter mixture into a dish, cover tightly and refrigerate.