Make It: Grenadine // Semi-Homemade Tequila Sunrise

grenadinespoon-1About 8 or 9 years ago I finally had an apartment to myself, no roommates(!), and in celebration went to the closest liquor store and picked up a bottle of Tequila. OK, it was Jose Cuervo. I already had OJ in the fridge, and had picked up a bottle of grenadine at work. It was a time in my life where I thought it would be adult of me to have a small ‘bar’ at my place. This was fancy for me; I was in my early twenties. Having picked up my first cocktail recipe book, I had decided on making a Tequila Sunrise. This was a cocktail name I had heard before, it was less scary than some of the other recipes in the book and I knew all the ingredients (even if I had no idea what went into grenadine). You have to start somewhere.

The other day, flipping through one of the Bum’s cocktail books, I realized I had no grenadine in the house. That lone bottle I bought some 8 or 9 years ago had stayed with me through several more apartments, a couple boyfriends, and my own wedding. Its existence being extinguished at one of our Tiki parties two years ago. I hesitated to go buy a bottle. There are more bad reviews of grenadine out there than good, and I recently had been reading about just how easy it was to make it. There are two approaches one can make their own grenadine with: the cold method (pomegranate juice and sugar shaken together until the sugar is well incorporated), and the cooked method. I went with the cooked method. Taking inspiration from the SippitySup blog and the Imbibe site, I combined a method I was happy with. I wanted to keep it simple, and the addition of the orange flower water gives it just the subtlest floral hint without being too perfume-like.

2 cups of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice (or freshly squeezed if you have it on hand)
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp of Orange Flower Water
1/2 oz of Vodka (for a preservative), optional

Combine juice and sugar in a pan over high heat. Bring to a boil then leave at simmering until reduced by half (I ended up with about a cup and a half). This can take 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat, add the orange flower water and leave to cool. Once cool, stir in vodka and bottle.grenadine-2grenadine-4grenadine-1

Couple notes here: Why heat? Testing the cooked method, I enjoyed the more syrupy consistency of the end result. It also resulted in a more intense “berry” flavor. Does orange flower water taste like orange? No. Have you ever smelled fresh blooms on an orange or lime tree? It’s like that, floral, not citrus.grenadine-3

Reminiscing about the grenadine, I thought, for nostalgia reasons, I’d make a Tequila Sunrise to test out the final batch. With a couple of tweaks it was just as satisfying as I remembered drinking it standing in my ‘bar’ of that first studio apartment.This time around, I juiced my own oranges in a rather large batch (I am finding new uses for this juicer we just committed to buying), which, because of how sweet they are this season, I decided on adding a touch of lime juice. And to round the whole drink out, a few dashes of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters.tequilasr-1

2 oz. Avión Silver Tequila
2-1/2 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 dashes of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters
Splash of grenadine (house made if you got it!)

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, combine tequila, orange juice, lime juice and bitters. Shake well to combine and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the grenadine to the center of your drink so it drops to the bottom of the glass. Stir gently with a bar spoon and watch as the colors float up.

A touch of sweet earthiness from the grenadine floats throughout the drink. I know that in this case it’s mainly a beautiful way to add color, but the richness of the syrup cuts through some of the sweetness of the orange juice too. Those bitters provide a subtle balance to the drink, that tends to just be very citrus forward and not much else.

I hope this post shows just how easy it is to have this bar staple on hand! No need to buy, just shake or simmer…

The Bar Keeper Margarita

I’m not usually a big tequila drinker unless there is a plate of tacos and refried beans in front of me. It also helps if a Mariachi Band is playing 10 feet in front of me. This weekend the stars aligned. I had a craving for nachos earlier in the week but didn’t want to go out. So my husband picked up some fixings and chose the most expensive bottle of tequila he could find… at a Ralph’s supermarket. Which, actually, was kind of pricey at $40. So I made us margaritas based on Regan’s recipe and he made giant mounds of nachos.

Fast forward to a Saturday soon after and my bi-weekly visit to Bar Keeper in Silver Lake (if I lived walking distance to this place I’d go broke in a month). With a running list of ‘extras’ for our bar, I try and make one special purchase every time I’m at the shop while stocking up on the usually necessities. This time it was a bottle of Dry Orange Curaçao. I ended up in a conversation with the owner, Joe Keeper, and he begged me to try it just by itself, on ice, and I’d be blown away (which frankly was just fantastically delicious). And then proceeded to give me a rough recipe for a margarita using this Curaçao. The kicker? Atomizing some Vida Mezcal over the finished product. Nice touch, I just happened to have a bottle of that at home.

Immediately upon arriving home I was so smitten with this recipe that I broke out everything and then realized, well, an atomizer I did not have. Not even a spray bottle. The question then was just how much of the Mezcal should make its way into the drink? If one is just spritzing it over the top, then you don’t need that much to go into the drink. My first attempt was a 1/4 ounce, completely killing the drink. All smoke and no other flavors.

So on the next take I tried just rinsing the glass with the Mezcal. Perfection.

Just as described by Mr. Keeper, you first get hit with a smoky aroma from the Mezcal and then that wonderful sweet Curaçao, the tequila and a tangy citrus bite from the lime juice. It was really better than any margarita I’d had out with a Mariachi band and plate of tacos.

This drink I give all the credit to the folks over at Bar Keeper who constantly help fill up my liquor bucket list, and who are always as enthusiastic about cocktails as I am.

1-1/2 oz. Avión Silver Tequila
1 oz. Ferrand Dry Orange Curaçao
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch of smoked sea salt
Vida Mezcal for rinse
lime wedge

Rinse a chilled cocktail coupe with about 1/2 tsp of the Mezcal. Toss remaining liquid. Combine tequila, curaçao, lime juice and salt into a shaker half filled with ice. Shake well to combine and strain into coupe. Garnish with lime wedge.

Why is there no salt rim on this margarita? I find that a small pinch of the smoked sea salt shaken into the drink fulfills my need for salt without feeling like you are crunching on a salt lick, and it keeps the glass nice and clean. Granted, if you like crunching on a salt lick, by all means, rim away!

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: throw some tequila in it

For reasons I cannot fathom, because it’s not like they were the best of times in my life, I was reminiscing over my high school days and what we used to drink. While many kids start ‘experimenting’ in college, when I was 16 my parents moved us from the city, where I could amuse myself with all sorts of culturally stimulating activities due to a public transportation system that took me places, and plopped us out to the country. Where I was smacked with the realization that going out to a quarry to get drunk and light an abandoned car on fire was about as good as it was going to get (I sincerely hope I am not offending anyone that I know who did/still does this. We’re adults and can ponder this tragic comedy of circumstances). This new set of stimulating activities caused me to experiment on pretty much a weekly basis. Heavily.

During this heyday of debauchery in my early years came my early starts in amateur ‘mixology’. This was due to an intense dislike of beer that necessitated moving straight up to hard liquor pretty quick. And the sweeter it tasted, the better. I remember a dozen or so concoctions that I came up with and pounded down because I couldn’t help thinking, and proclaiming, this stuff tastes AWESOME.

The thought of reliving these recipes now makes me gag a bit. However, I still find the idea of these low brow concoctions fun in a sort of ironic way, I just couldn’t think of any reason to put them on here. Until now.

When my husband was in college he had a weekly ‘column’ (I guess it would be considered a column) where he came up with the ‘Low Rent Cocktail of the Week’. Perfect. He quite willingly relinquished the name for me to use here, I told him he can guest post of he wanted to. And so now I can bring you guys some quirky, kinda ridiculous, concoctions.

First up is just a random ‘fix’ to an incorrect drink from Starbucks for my husband. I have been told to stress here that an iced green tea was ordered and what was incorrectly delivered was a passion iced tea. I guess the fruity purple drink was just not cutting it, so it was thrust into my hand with the direction to ‘fix it. Maybe throw some tequila in it’. He could have just poured some tequila in, but seemed convinced that I could make it more palatable. I gave it a shot.

1 grande sized iced passion tea, unsweetened
2 oz of tequila (on hand was Partida Reposado, but whatever you got is fine)
juice of 1/2 a small lime

lime wedge for garnish (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in your cup on hand. If you’re feeling the need to garnish, a slice of lime will do. It’s sweet and tangy, and will do in a pinch for a summer cocktail.

So, here is the first of a probably semi-monthly exploration. I have never touched Boone Farms, so you will not see that here. I have heard of Strawberry Wine, but I hated wine too until I was around 22. I do think though that I need to unearth some Rumplemintz, my bottle of choice when I was 17. And red bull in anything should certainly have a place in this category.

What filth were you swigging in your tender young years? I’d love to hear about it…

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.

A Little T&C

Necessity breeds imagination. Isn’t there a saying along those lines? This weekend we’ve holed up in the house for a couple reasons. One, work. Work work. My husband has a lot of it. 90% involving computer and programming and other things that make no sense to me. Second is also work. House work. Lots of dusting due to the start of what is to be a long, drawn out construction project that has already resulted in the loss of use of the downstairs bathroom. And a couple of fights with the home insurance agency. Third, the closure of the 405 freeway. For a short while now we’ve been warned by the transit authorities to STAY AWAY from the west side of town. Avoid the airport!! Avoid leaving your houses!! Better yet, just leave town until Monday morning. Last check all the freeways were green and I’m sure all those idiots who paid for expensive helicopter rides over what was supposed to be insane gridlock for 40 miles in every direction are kicking themselves right now. Deservedly so in my opinion.

Anyway, we bought some grill fixings and decided to just stay put for two days. No biggie. Except that we somehow forgot to stock up the liquor cabinet. It’s been slowing bleeding out for the last month or so. Company comes over and there goes that bottle of Buffalo Trace. And oddly a whole bottle of Jägermeister (how did that get in there?). And wasn’t there a bottle of Finlandia for Bloody Marys?

Surprisingly though we had a couple of almost depleted Tequila bottles. Enough to make some cocktails. But with no whole limes around the house either, a Margarita was out of the question. And I have just been informed by the husband that he really isn’t a fan of them anyway.

There was a whole bottle of Campari though. No gin- the Aviation got used up in some martinis two days ago. Home bartenders are hanging their heads at this sorry state of this liquor cabinet right now.

So a quick search on the internet for tequila and campari brought me to the A Dash of Bitters blog. And this post here. This recipe below is only a slight modification. I upped the Campari by a ¼ ounce to blow out the tequila and make the Campari stand out more (my reasoning was that I wanted this to taste like Campari, not just a slight bitter aftertaste). I also added a squeeze of lime. I felt it needed a touch of an acid. And tequila and lime, blah blah blah. So here you go! It’s slightly bitter and tangy and a hint of that rich reposado tequila is there in the background, which is where I wanted him to be.

2 oz. Cazadores Reposado Tequila
½ oz Campari
¼ oz French Dry Vermouth
¼ oz Fee Brothers Maraschino Cherry Syrup (finally broke into this!)
dash of Peychaud’s Bitters
Squeeze of a ¼ lime

Stir all of the ingredients together with ice. Strain into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with spent lime.

After I made this I glanced down at the comments and realized that others were also adding limes. I think I’d nix the Maraschino syrup next time because I don’t feel like it adds much. In fact, for the next round I made this with Aperol instead of Campari and left out the syrup. Then I subbed out some Castillian Bitters from Miracle Mile Bitters (a local, artisanal bitters company in L.A.) I thought it worked, but another taste tester, not being a fan of the Aperol, thought it tasted too medicinal. To each his own.

I will be enjoying this on the porch by my little lime tree that is slooooooowwwly growing me some new limes. The biggest about the size of my thumb.

Fancy Hombre

Admittedly I really had no idea what St. Germaine was until their clever marketing campaign of old timey postcards of scantily clad women came across my way. A framed woman from the 20’s stands nonchalantly with a croquet bat (bat? Not sure what they are really called at the moment) in the master bath at the house, sans clothes, grandfathered in from my husband’s bachelor days. There is some draw to these photos.. oh but we should be moving on to the drink here. Anyways, I picked up a bottle after trying a cocktail out where they had slipped some in with gin and tonic water. It was just enough to give the G&T an extra layer of flavor without being overwhelmingly sweet (which you can do if you pour too much in. Which I have done and wasted a drink over.). Then came the day when I was out of tonic, and gin, and still had this HUGE BOTTLE of elderflower liquor sitting on the shelf getting dusty. I slightly modified a drink on the St. Germain site and came up with this:

2-1/2 oz Tequila
1 oz St. Germain
Dash of Dry Vermouth

I’ve had it both stirred with ice and strained into a chilled cocktail glass, or just mixed and kept over ice. However if you drink it too slow over ice it dulls the flavors and washes it out a bit. So I would just stir it gently with ice and strain. Or would that be stirred?