Smoked Sugar Cubes and Another Take on an Old Fashioned

Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMy “to make” list is getting out of hand lately. And sometimes those late night scribbles have me scratching my head the next day as I’ve written down just single words like “cream” or “beer” and cannot recall what I was trying to reference. I think I need to keep a recorder by the bed. But then transcribing the next day might prove to be just as perplexing.Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Alas, there is nothing more straightforward than an Old Fashioned. Liquor, bitters, sugar, it’s all wrapped up neat for you and tastes good without all the extra foo-foo. Ok, so maybe a bartender is throwing on a flamed orange peel, or adding in a brandied cherry, or doing just a little bit of foo-foo-ness. But instead of adding on more, I thought I’d take a look at the base ingredients.

The Smoky Citrus Rum Old Fashioned was just the start of delving into looking at the Old Fashioned and seeing what new flavor combinations I could make work. This all stemmed, by the way, from another scribbled note for ideas that read “cleaned up old fashioneds with interesting bitters”. I mean, you could build 100 drinks off of that comment. And I just might do that. But for now I’m just giving you two.Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

And this one has a DIY project! Yay!Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

First, I realized that you all were going to get bored real quick if the only thing I was doing was changing up the bitters. Hell, I got bored with that idea after 2 minutes and moved on to the idea of homemade sugar cubes. So easy, right?! Wrong. Well, it’s going to be easy now because I spent the better part of a month trying out techniques and perfecting this. For you guys.Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Things to know about making your own sugar cubes:

  1. You must use superfine sugar, granulated sugar does not make for a solid cube.
  2. Don’t try and speed this up by microwaving. All these recipe how-to’s I read on making sugar cubes all reference the microwave and I think they are ALL LYING. All the microwave did was melt my sugar, even on low power.
  3. Mini ice cube trays are amazing for perfectly sized cubes. But not necessary. Your choice.

Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThese smoked sugar cubes taste amazing with sour cherry. Instead of doing that blasphemous thing where you muddle some neon cherries in a glass and call it and Old Fashioned, here I’ve combined sour cherry bitters from Miracle Mile with some tasty bourbon to compliment the heady smoked flavor of the cubes.

Smoked Sugar Cubes

1 cup superfine sugar
2 teaspoons smoke tincture
2 teaspoons water

  • Combine sugar, smoke tincture and water in a bowl. Mix until well combined, similar to the texture of wet sand. Pack sugar into a mini ice cube tray, tamping down each hole. Alternatively, you can spread mixture out in a 1/4 size sheet pan (you might want to double the recipe amount) pressing down hard. Let mixture sit out to dry overnight. When sugar has hardened, pop cubes out of the molds, or cut cubes to size. Store in an airtight container.

Smoked Sugar and Sour Cherry Old Fashioned

2-3 mini smoked sugar cubes
2 dashes Miracle Mile Sour Cherry Bitters
2 ounces bourbon, W.L. Weller used here
optional, blood orange peel for garnish

  • In a mixing glass, add sugar cubes then dash in bitters. Muddle to combine. Add ice 1/2 way up glass and pour in whiskey. Stir to combine about 20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with a single large ice cube or 2 smaller cubes. Express orange over the glass and add in peel.

The smoke lingers in the back but adds a strong backbone to the drink. Sour cherry bitters add just a touch of bitterness and some sweetness to the rich bourbon. I chose the blood orange for just a hint of citrus and mainly for aesthetics due to the lovely red speckling all over the orange peel.

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….

Orange-Pecan American Triology a.k.a. “The Clusterf*ck”

american-cluster-3Apologies are in order first, as these bitters used here you can’t actually buy anymore. Clusterf*uck bitters were named after a kitchen mishap from Miracle Mile Bitter’s owner Louis Anderman where he accidentally mixed a batch of pecan bitters with orange bitters creating this delicious one-off. I, of course, ran as fast as I could to a local shop to pick up a bottle before they sold out. Which they did. Quickly. But fear not, you can mix your own at home to pretty much replicate the same flavor. 2:1 pecan to orange bitters.

american-cluster-2Ok, now that the caveat is out of the way. Here’s the cocktail. It’s actually Anderman’s way of enjoying these bitters in a simple, straight-up cocktail, the American Trilogy. More apologies are in order I guess if you’ve read this far thinking I might start talking about the Elvis song. I’m not going to, except maybe to say it’s a decent song. And possibly wonder how far up the google ladder this post would have to climb in order for it to have some relevance to Elvis. Anyway, this recipe comes via the Looka! Blog, a fellow Los Angeles cocktail lover, and lover more so of all things New Orleans. Check him out.

Via Looka! via Caroline on Crack with respect to Miracle Mile Bitters
1 oz Rittenhouse 100 rye whiskey
1 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1 barspoon rich Demerara syrup
3 dashes Miracle Mile Clusterf*ck bitters (sub out 2 dashes pecan bitters and one dash orange bitters)
Orange peel for garnishamerican-cluster-1

Combine all ingredients except peel in a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Express orange oil from the peel over the drink and around the rim then drop it into the glass.

Fresh orange fills your nose as you get into the glass, while that first sip, expecting fire from the rye and applejack, is actually soft and nutty. There’s a touch of sweetness, but not overpowering. The rich syrup works well with the liquors to balance out. Lovely, simple and solid.