Honey Vanilla Chai Toddy

Mainly due to losing that month in limbo in India and being sick, I’ve been finding it hard to believe that it’s Fall. Also, L.A. having 80+ temps lately isn’t helping. But a night of pumpkin carving, hot spiced apple cider and a smattering of Halloween-themed movies seems to have jolted my system back to normal. A post on a food blog I follow recently had this delicious toddy recipe that enlightened me to what some flavored teas can add to drinks. Maybe my mind is still lingering over some of the flavors of India as I decided a spiced chai toddy might do the trick for those chilly 70 degree gray L.A. days to come (I’m over apologizing to my east coast family that 68 is jacket and scarf weather. After 10 years here this is cold for me and warrants lighting the fire place).

So today I bring you a Honey Vanilla Chai Toddy. So easy you’ll want to double the batch and share. Or drink two really fast.

5 oz boiling water
1 teabag of honey vanilla chai (here I am using Celestial Seasonings, but you can also find just vanilla chai- in which case you’ll want to add a touch more Bärenjäger)
1/2 oz of Bärenjäger
1 oz of Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt Rye here)
1 cinnamon stick

Pour the boiling water over the tea bag in a smaller sized coffee mug or Irish coffee glass (I used a glass that holds around 7 oz of liquid). Steep the tea for 3 minutes and then remove the teabag. Pour in the Bärenjäger and Whiskey, stir gently to combine. Garnish with the cinnamon stick.

If you’re not familiar with it, Bärenjäger taste like the “cough syrup” my dad made for me as a child when my coughing kept him up and my mom was working second shift: honey and booze. I love how strong the honey flavor is, it’s almost like drinking it straight, just not as thick. This drink has many layers of flavors. The tea base has familiar chai flavors: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, black pepper with the addition of vanilla and honey. The honey though here is then heightened by the addition of the Bärenjäger. Mmmmm…. and also some sweetness from the Rye. The ‘alcohol’ layer adds some bite, but struggles to keep afloat with all the spice action. But that’s ok, more reason to have another.

And when you’re done taking photos, just shove that stick in the drink.

The Backsaw

Do you ever take a bunch of photos to later.. lose them? We’re talking about digital cameras, not, oh hey, I lost a book of photos.

I sat down with the intention of writing and posting about another Shrub recipe. One I was pleased with and wanted to share. However, the photos weren’t in iPhoto. And, well, not on the camera. I know I shot them. I remember looking at them.. but alas, no photos. I hate to admit that all signs seem to be pointing at the fact that I probably deleted them.

So take two. The Backsaw.

This is another of the Shrub-based cocktails that I’ve been playing with. This one was a winner for me. The Lemon Shrub bites through the rich sweetness of the Rye with a nice balance of sweet and sour. The smell of the shrub might be shocking for some on the nose at first but it mellows out once the drink sits for a bit.

No garnish is necessary, however candied lemon peel might quite well here.1-1/2 oz Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt is used here)
1 oz Extra Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Lemon Shrub
2 dahses of Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients over ice. Stir and strain into either a cocktail glass or wide rocks glass. Served up.

Mint Julep// justifying an ice crusher

This week I was bombarded with recipes for smashes. So much so that I couldn’t get the idea of purchasing an ice crusher out of my head. Then I found a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon in a pile of mail and figured I could justify spending $30 on one. I mean, it would be countless happy drinking moments this summer if I had one. Also, if it broke I’m not out a whole lot of money.

I excitedly got it home, out of the box and washed it. Opened up a bottle of liquor and…couldn’t get a smash recipe right to save my life. Everything tasted awful. Six tries later I gave up and poured myself some bourbon over ice. That at least didn’t disappoint. I think I’ll post a couple of the recipes and see if anyone has some suggestions; maybe it will help to talk it out.

For the moment I’m putting the idea of a smash off to the side and instead using crushed ice for a more solid drink recipe. One I’ve surprisingly never made before, simple in its ingredients yet satisfying in the end result. A mint julep.

I’m relying heavily on Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s recipe here. I find him an authority on this recipe, or at least his telling me he is makes me trust him. My only changes are that I switched out bourbon for rye whiskey. And also, I had mint simple syrup I just made so I used that instead of straight up regular simple syrup.

2 oz Rye Whiskey, such as FEW Spirits
1/4 oz mint simple syrup
12 mint leaves

One sprig of mint for garnish

In a wide double old fashioned glass muddle the mint leaves with the simple syrup. Mix in the rye (and it’s totally ok to lick the spoon after you stir the rye. You should taste for sweetness and also, it’s delicious). Mound the crushed ice in the glass and add the mint sprig garnish.

All the ice here with the addition of the mint makes drinking spicy rye quite refreshing. I use only a quarter ounce of the simple syrup because I find more than that is just too sweet for my palate. Also, the small handful of mint is really the perfect amount. Much as it would be in cooking, too much actually creates a bitter aftertaste while too little would be lost against the rye.

Ice crusher= totally worth it.

Bitters, Stocking Up and a Manhattan

I happen to work at a place that sells a lot of high end supplies and food and bar stuff here in Southern California. I own way more crap in my kitchen than I need due to the employee discount, however, it seems that I am lacking in the bar mixer ingredient department. Since I’ve set out now to become more active in learning about cocktails, I did a big stock up today. Falernum (how was I making Tiki Drinks without this stuff?), Fee Brothers: maraschino syrup, orange bitters, mint bitters, some luxardo cherries. Sweet! Now I have a couple more layers to work with here. Except.. what do I do with the bitters?

Well, I guess one should taste all of their ingredients first.

Unfortunately I tried the luxardo cherries first and decided I’d try the rest later as these were the most amazing things I’ve ever tasted. And I had to try a Manhattan with one of these little jewels resting in the bottom of my glass.

I am not 100% sure on the exact proportions of how much sweet vermouth really should go in here, but the recipe below is what I usually follow.

2 oz Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
2 Dashes of Peychaud’s Bitters

1 Luxardo Cherry for garnish

Add a the cherry to the bottom of a chilled cocktail glass. Stir ingredients in a mixing glass filled 2/3 way with ice. Strain into the cocktail glass.

This Rye has a lot of sweet nose to it but is surprisingly not as sweet as I expected when straight up. Luxardo cherries also are not as cloyingly rich as you would expect. Even though as you strain one out of that dark, luxurious syrup in the jar, all you can compare it to is those maraschino cherries on your ice cream until you taste it. This is restrained sweetness. I feel like the sweet vermouth is what adds all the …sweetness (really am at a loss for another word here) to the drink. With a bourbon I would use less sweet vermouth, but here the proportions balance out. And at the end you get a nice boozy cherry.