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.

Frozen Banana Daiquiri- Now for Boys!

I’m a little apprehensive about writing this post. On the one hand, I was asked to make this drink- so the parties involved know that I would then later write about it. But on the other hand, it’s a frozen daiquiri. It’s someone’s secret indulgent drink. Not mine mind you- but another person living in this house.

Bananas aren’t even a favorite of mine. Sure, I will saute some and put them on waffles- when asked for a breakfast with bananas. And yes, I will buy banana ice cream- but only if asked specifically to pick it up cause we never have desserts in the house with bananas. I like them as is- maybe in cereal. But not as a dessert.

This was made for someone who loves bananas. As a dessert.

I find frozen daiquiris sort of a joke, but I will make one if asked to, and I will try very hard to not taste like monkey poo.

For this recipe I used dark rum, I wanted some spice in there. Also, I ended up putting more banana liqueur in there than expected because I was asked to put more in. The person in question enjoyed the heightened banana flavor that it provided. The result- not as sweet as one would expect with a frozen beverage- and that’s a good thing! Also, for someone who doesn’t really enjoy banana-anything, this wasn’t half bad. If you did want to add more sweetness to this, I’d add in a 1/4 teaspoon of rich sugar syrup, or more to taste. Hell, if you like you’re teeth zinging with sweetness that’s your choice. Also, I think it could stand for even more spice, and maybe next time (I’m sure I’ll be asked to whip up some more of these before the summer is over, we have two bags of frozen bananas in the freezer) I’d add in some Miracle Mile Gingerbread Bitters in. Stayed tuned for the “light rum” version of this.

2oz Trader Vic’s Dark Rum
1-1/2oz banana liqueur
1/2 juice of a lime
1 banana
Ice (I used a heaping handful, again, as usual, add to your desired consistency)

In a blender combine all of the above ingredients. Blend until smooth and pour into a chilled margarita/daiquiri glass. Yes, I have a pair of these.

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.

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.

Cherry Black-Stripe

This is now the third version of this post (although this is new to you all out there). I couldn’t get it right. For background, I had just finished the history chapter of the Joy of Mixology (I have already penciled-up the margins and written down a list of some interesting sounding cocktails). One in particular I thought I’d like to try, possible hot. Then it got really nice and spring-like around here and I put that to bed for a week.

Then I decided I should just try it as is. What struck me initially was the drink’s simplicity. Rum and molasses. I love molasses. One of my favorite things to eat as a child (and occasionally now) was cream of wheat and molasses. No. I did not grow up on the prairie. My mother didn’t allow us many sweets or processed foods. For the longest time starfruit and kiwis were considered top shelf sweets around the house. Until I hit grade school and was introduced to the peanut butter cup.

However there was no recipe for this. The drink, the Black-Stripe, was mentioned in passing as something that was drunk around the 1700s. And out of this loose basis for a cocktail recipe I thought I’d put something together.

The trick to this drink was balance. And then when I still couldn’t get that right, Luxardo cherry syrup. See what I’m doing here? If you’ve bought any of these items then you can reuse them in other drinks. The only molasses I had around the house was unsweetened black strap molasses. It’s a bittersweet flavor at best, very robust and rich but the problem was that along with the rum it wasn’t making the best tasting drink. That’s when I introduced the cherry syrup. That isn’t overwhelmingly sweet either but it added enough to give the drink some kick and flavor.

I had decided ahead of time that I wanted to layer this drink. Also, I thought it best to keep it on the small side. You can use a cordial glass or over-sized shot glass to make this.

1/2 Tbsp black strap molasses
1 oz 10 Cane Rum
2 tsp Luxardo cherry syrup

Slowly pour into the bottom of a cordial glass the molasses, then the rum. Over the back of a bar spoon slowly pour the syrup down the middle of the glass. The syrup should settle on top of the molasses creating a dark black to blood red stripe in the glass.

Now, as is, you might want to quickly shoot the cocktail to get it all down in one gulp, as the molasses quickly settles to the bottom of the glass and stays there. Otherwise, after you’ve admired the stripe you just created, use a stir stick to quickly mix all the ingredients in the glass together. This is not a light drink. It’s rich and flavorful, and for some might be too flavorful. Proceed with caution.

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.