It’s Black Friday. You have a lot of choices when it comes to impulse buying for the holidays. Thank you for visiting Stir and Strain.
Let the Holiday Guides Begin…
It IS beginning to look like cocktails. So let’s make some. Break out the vodka tonics for Mom and Dad. And don’t forget the coasters. Still stuffed from all that turkey? Muddle up something with fruit and tell yourself it will make you feel better. And then go shopping, just not at 5am.
This post is brought to you by Everclear. Recipes and ideas are my own.
Figs were never eaten around my house growing up. Unless you count that ubiquitous yellow box of cookies that I feel every 80’s parent was forcing on their kid because it might be seen as healthy. Fig Newtons were so weird. They had those crunchy bits and they weren’t that sweet, and yet they were called cookies. I probably couldn’t recognize a fig until I reached my twenties when I started working for a company that imported gourmet food. And then came the chocolate covered figs at holiday time. OH man–SO many people calling asking for those. The figs were not just covered in chocolate, they were enrobed. Which somehow just that word made them the most sexiest thing on the shelf. Enrobed in chocolate… I’d like to be enrobed in chocolate.
So, one word of marketing and suddenly figs were a delicacy, not an unidentifiable fruit. Now they’re a common farmer’s market item. They’ve lost a little of their sultry shine but I still find them a touch exotic. And this past week I received a whole basket of them in our CSA box and decided they were ripe for a cocktail.
Today I’m mixing up this cocktail with Everclear as part of their Make It Your Own campaign. We’ve been using Everclear on the site for years to make everything from infusions to liqueurs to tinctures. And now we’re using it to make cocktails too! Let’s be clear, Everclear on its own is 190 proof, but when you mix it with non-proof ingredients like syrup and water, then the final proof will significantly reduce. Here we’re only looking at a total of 27 to 32 proof depending on how much tonic water you desire–the less tonic the higher the proof.
Why mix with Everclear? Because I wanted to taste the ingredients and not so much another liquor flavor in the cocktail this time. It also makes for a stronger cocktail that doesn’t get watered down from the tonic. And what a complex tasting cocktail this is!
Letting the muddled figs steep in the Everclear for a bit makes the honeyed juice more prominent. Then to complement the figgy flavor, I created a vanilla syrup that gets some extra warming spice from black pepper, green cardamom, star anise and cloves. The vanilla really comes through but is much more complex in flavor from this spice blend. To offset some of the sweetness, a good dose of tonic water incorporates some bitterness into the cocktail while its effervescent bubbles distribute the flavors and bring out some aroma to your nose. The resulting cocktail is complex and yet clean tasting, refreshing and packs a punch. Ready to try one out?
In the bottom of a shaker, muddle Everclear and figs. Let steep for 5 minutes. Add syrup and ice and shake for 20 seconds. Strain into a collins glass filled with fresh ice. Top with tonic water. Garnish with fig slice.
Spiced Vanilla Syrup
2 vanilla beans cut into 2″ pieces
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 star anise
4 whole cloves
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
Scrape seeds from the vanilla pieces and add to a small sauce pan. Then add in the vanilla pieces, peppercorns, cardamom pods, star anise, cloves, sugar and water. Stir to combine and turn heat to high. Bring to just a boil and lower heat to a simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, strain syrup into an airtight container. Syrup will keep up to one month in the refrigerator.
Hey guys! We’ve been enjoying a summer break around these parts (read: preparing for termite tenting and urging my husband to dispose of years of saved New Yorker magazines). But now we’re back with you today with a cocktail AND some awesome news!
First up, the awesome news.
Stir and Strain is a finalist AGAIN this year for Saveur’s Best Blog awards in the Drinks Coverage category. We are now up against some beer and wine folks and not just cocktails. Third time’s a charm? Or always a bridesmaid never a bride? We’ll see in September. For now, if you want to vote for Stir and Strain to win, you can do that today (and actually, they are allowing you to do that every day until August 31st. But I won’t pressure you guys either way.).
And now here’s a cocktail.
I’ve been digging Montenegro Amaro for a few months now, but mainly just as a digestif. It’s not new–it’s been around since 1885, but it was new to my line up this year and I couldn’t be happier. Looking for a new way to enjoy this but still keeping it at a low ABV, I thought about that kooky combination of cold brew coffee and tonic water I heard about last year. I don’t keep up with coffee trends, but I do enjoy putting coffeeinto mycocktails.
So I decided to pair Montenegro, with its super flavorful and wonderfully bittersweet taste, with a robust coffee and slightly bitter tonic. I finished the cocktail with a touch of grapefruit oil in the garnish–don’t skip that folks, it makes the drink with a light floral aroma. It’s hard to nail down exactly all the flavors you get with Montenegro, but there’s citrus and dried cherry and gentian root and just a lot of herbal notes. It provides enough sweetness along with the tonic water so there is no need to add any further sweetener.
You could have this as your digestif, or maybe a Sunday early afternoon drink. Up to your preference. I’ve been enjoying them in the late afternoon when I need a pick-me-up, but also, you know, want a little cocktail too.
Inspiration came from an unlikely place this time in the form of online dating. Yes, if you’ve been a loyal (or even semi-loyal) reader on here you know I am attached, so I wasn’t out looking, but Match.com came looking for me! In collaboration with the site, they asked me to come up with a London-inspired cocktail. Something that you’d want to order on your first date. You know, the date where you’re trying to impress the other person with your knowledge of fine spirits and interesting ingredients…. that “showing off” I try to impress all of you readers with every week.
For me, when I think of what Londoners are drinking, my mind goes to sophistication. Classy, gin-based cocktails (I’m picturing the American Bar at the Savoy), and then, perhaps, closely followed by beer (I mean, there’s a lot of pubs around town). But all of that tends to start to seem mundane when you suddenly have to impress someone on a first date. And first impressions are everything. So, I’ve come up with a London-inspired cocktail that is still sophisticated, but much more interesting than your run of the mill gin and tonic. Looking for your ice breaker? Here you go…
What was my inspiration behind this cocktail? Tony Conigliaro, whose imaginative cocktails are inspiring to myself and many others way across the pond, and curry. No, seriously, curry too. When I think of the flavors of London, I immediately go to the fragrant and spicy dishes found everywhere in town. An amalgam of cultures, London lets you cherry pick the best flavors found all over the planet. But for today, my mind went to curry.
Or, more specifically, the turmeric found in curry. Turmeric’s bright yellow color not only provides a beautiful color for the cocktail, but its peppery flavor profile gives it a nice earthy, warm kick too. Oh, and if you’re looking for some banter, it also has numerous health benefits, lots of which you can wiki when you have a moment (just not during your date please).
And there I got my warming cocktail, with turmeric. A couple dashes of lapsang souchong tea tincture gave the drink not only some heft, but an unexpected smoky flavor coming from such a brightly colored cocktail. Rounding out the ingredients, orange flower was added as a finishing touch calling out some of the Middle Eastern influence also found around town. Orange was used instead of lime for the much needed citrus element for this take on a Gin and Tonic.
2 ounces London Dry Gin, Beefeater used here
3/4 ounce Turmeric syrup (recipe below)
3-4 drops Lapsang Souchong tea tincutre
4 ounces tonic water, Fever-Tree used here
2 sprays orange flower water (use an atomizer to disperse)
orange peel for garnish
Build the drink by adding a large ice cube to a double rocks glass. Pour in syrup and then add drops of tincture. Pour in gin, top with tonic and then spray orange flower water over glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh turmeric root, cleaned and roughly chopped
Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 2 hours. Strain into an airtight container. Store for up to one month.
Strong orange oil on the nose and the hint of quinine. The first sip is both sweet and immediately hits you with savory from the tea tincture; it’s an unexpected twist. Next layer of flavors you get are more earthy from the turmeric syrup which balances the sweetness of the syrup and tonic against the strong, smoky lapsang suchong. In the end there is still a crisp bite from the gin that reminds you, at its core, it’s just a tarted up Gin & Tonic.
This post is in collaboration with Match.com. For more information on their city guides, please visit them here!
Another nice fact about pitcher drinks: they can mostly be assembled beforehand and topped off before the party starts. Less stress this summer; you are welcome.
Note: my pitcher is on the small side, serving about 6. If yours is much larger this can easily be doubled (or hell, tripled). And be careful with the hibiscus! This little flower goes from tangy to bitter super fast so don’t walk away and forget about it when you’re steeping.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 dried hibiscus flowers
zest from one lime
2 ounces lime juice from 2-3 limes
Over medium-high heat, bring sugar and water to just under a boil. Remove from heat and add hibiscus and lime zest. Stir, cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain, let cool and add lime juice.
For the drinks:
1 lime, sliced thin
1 cup hibiscus-lime syrup (recipe above)
1 cup tequila, Herradura Tequila Silver used here
2 cups tonic water, chilled
For the drink: In a pitcher, add lime slices, syrup and tequila. If not using right away, store in refrigerator. Otherwise, add tonic water and stir to combine. Serve over ice with lime wedges.
Tart and tangy, the hibiscus-lime mixture provides a lift to the vegetal nature of the tequila. The tonic gives a hint of bitter and sweetness to the final drink, along with a nice effervescence. If tonic is too overpowering for you, club soda can be substituted.
This month’s Mixology Monday cocktail challenge is an interesting one because, well, there is NO alcohol in the drinks. Scott of Shake, Strain, & Sip has themed this month “Temperance”, and you guessed it, it’s a Teetotaler’s delight around these parts.
With the warmer months approaching, I’ve been craving light, fruit-based drinks lately. And maybe the occasional spritz or two. With the baskets of berries pouring into the farmer’s markets (pretty much my favorite time of year), I decided to make the base of this drink with juicy, local strawberries.
Farmers markets here are pretty diverse. I’ve been introduced to multiple varieties of strawberries, and one of my favorites is the Seascape kind. Sweet, but not too much so; it’s my ideal strawberry flavor. That said, here you’ll need to taste for sweetness. There is some from the strawberries and tonic, and a sweet and savory note from the orgeat, but if you like your drinks even sweeter, then feel free to add a drop of simple syrup.
3 medium sized strawberries, hulled and quartered
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice (or white grapefruit juice)
1/4 ounce orgeat
4 ounces Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water
strawberry slice for garnish
In the bottom of a highball glass, muddle strawberries, juice and orgeat. Add ice 2/3 up the glass and top with tonic. Stir gently to combine and garnish glass with strawberry slice.
Uniquely both sweet and savory with lots of fruit forward bubbles. A straw in this case is optional as you might find the chunks of strawberries get caught up in it. The almond from the orgeat has a slight bitter edge that contrasts nicely with the sweet fruit flavors. It’s a needed element here to round out the drink.
Thanks to Scott for hosting this month and Fred for keeping this party going.
Update: it has come to light that some precautions must be taken with making your own tonic at home using cinchona bark. Remember to TRIPLE filter until no solids are left. Please read this article if you are new to making tonics at home.
It feels so good to check something off my “To Make” list. And thanks to Mixology Monday, I got to do that today. Some time ago I happened upon an article about making your own tonic syrup. I forget where now, but I immediately added it to my ever fluctuating list of projects I assign myself. Making the syrup seemed the obvious choice this month as HIGHBALLS! was the assigned theme by Joel over at the Southern Ash blog. What is Mixology Monday you might be asking yourself (if you are new around this site)? Well, every month a group of cocktail (and food bloggers…we’re not picky) get together and face a challenge presented by whoever is “hosting” this online cocktail party that month. To check out what we did last year, please check out the archives over on the MxMo site, there were quite a few epic drinks. Everyone submits by the deadline and we eagerly await the roundup to see what everyone came up with, and secretly friend-hate on those that did a better job than you. It’s all about community.
One of my favorite Highball drinks is a Gin & Tonic (also Amaro Highballs but we’ve already covered that on here), and what better way to feature this drink than with an amazing homemade tonic syrup? What is your go-to Tonic Water? Do you like some of the more exotic ones like Fever-Tree or Q-Tonic? Or do you go with plain ol’ Canada Dry? No judgement here; I’ve had them all. Before I became aware that you can actually MAKE your own, I was a big fan (still am) of Fever-Tree’s Indian Tonic Water. It had more character than I had experienced in other tonic waters and added a nice, spicy flavor profile to a G&T. In making my own, I wanted to capture some of that spiciness, but also introduce more bolder flavors into the mix. The tonic ingredients moved away from what I thought of mostly as “Indian” spices (cardamom, coriander) and moved more into the broader category of “Southeast Asian” (kaffir lime leaves, ginger).
Since this was my first time venturing down the path of this DIY project I sought out someone who I trust implicitly with these homemade concoctions: Morgenthaler. (You can read his original recipe with the link below.) Ingredients were tweaked from his original to include other’s favorites and whatever I had in my spice cabinet that I thought would be interesting. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty interesting. Also, tasty.
4 cups water
2-3 dried Kaffir Lime Leaves
4 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp. whole allspice berries
1/2 whole star anise
1/4 tsp. whole white peppercorns, lightly crushed
1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1″ knob of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped 1/4 cup cinchona bark powder (update: cut this back to 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup citric acid
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
zest and juice from one lime
zest and juice from one lemon
zest and juice from one orange
7 oz. sugar
1 oz. vodka, optional
Combine all ingredients except sugar in a medium sauce pan. Stir to combine (a slight skin may form over the top, don’t worry, that will dissipate once the boil starts). Heat over high heat until a rolling boil is reached. Reduce to low and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine strainer and cheesecloth. Strain a second time through a coffee filter to remove any remaining sediment and a third time if solids are still left. You DO NOT want any remaining solids in your final product. Pour strained mixture back into a clean sauce pan over medium heat, after mixture warms, about 3-5 minutes, add sugar and stir to combine. Once sugar has fully melted, about 7-9 mintues, remove from heat. Let cool and then transfer to an airtight container. If not using right away, add one ounce vodka to syrup.
Gin and Southeast Asian Tonic
2 oz. tonic syrup (recipe above)
2-1/2 oz. carbonated water
2 oz. Gin, Hendrick’s used here
Build the cocktail by adding all three ingredients to a highball (or double rocks if you’d like one large ice cube) glass filled with ice. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with a small lime wedge.
Holy flavor bomb Batman! This syrup has a lot of spice and tartness going on, but one ingredients does not overpower the other. The citrus element here is very strong in the tonic and I found that adding lime wedges, which I usually squeeze in, were not needed. If you close your eyes and slowly taste, you can definitely point out the pepper, the coriander, etc. But it’s so refreshing and delicious you’re just going to want to gulp it down.
**If you have a hard time sourcing herbs in your neighborhood, Dandelion Botanical Company is a great online resource (and where I get the majority of mine).
Thanks to the Southern Ash blog for hosting this month and to Fred for keeping the dream alive. Check back here next week for the round up of everyone’s submissions.
Recently I was browsing online and came across the phrase ‘amaro highballs’. There weren’t any recipes or guidelines, just the phrase, which was all I needed to start me thinking about what would fall under that category.
Amaro is Italian for bitter, and for this post I am specifically focusing on Italian Amari. So Amer Picon and Becherovka have to sit out this round (but not to worry, they’ll be back on here soon!). Usually used as a digestif (after dinner to help aid in digestion), these bitter liqueurs also make for great bases in cocktails. They range from mildly bitter to the insane, cough-syrupy varieties and may take some getting used to. Use this as a gateway to explore and add one to your liquor cabinet; it’s worth it.
I also wanted to focus on some lower alcohol content drinks for the Holiday season. I don’t know about you, but my normal intake of cocktails in a night somehow skyrockets during the holiday season (stress??) and I find that if I make myself a drink with a lower ABV I can convince myself it’s just like drinking water… flavorful water.
Not all Amari though have a low alcohol content, so read your bottles! You can always adjust to your liking and below I have two choices under 40ABV (although just marginally on the second recipe).
2 oz. Averna (29% ABV)
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4-1/2 oz. Q-Ginger
2 dashes ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters
In a highball glass, build your drink by adding ice, then the Averna, lemon juice, bitters and then Q-Ginger. Express lemon peel oil over the drink and garnish on glass. Straw optional.
Averna is sweet and slightly syrupy, a gateway amaro with less bitterness, and here the sharpness of the ginger cuts through the sweetness to balance it out. The tiki bitters bring out more of the spice that is there while the lemon adds citrus to the nose and lingers in the background of the drink.
Fernet Branca Highball
1-3/4 oz. Fernet Branca (39% ABV)
3/4 oz. Orgeat
4-1/2 oz. Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water
In a highball glass, build your drink by adding ice, then the Fernet Branca, orgeat, and tonic water. Express grapefruit peel oil over the drink and garnish on glass. Straw optional.
Fernet Branca is on the crazier side of the amaro scale with a very strong and distinct flavor. There’s some minty, bittery… gosh, I dunno, there’s a lot going on with that liqueur and although it’s clearly the star flavor, it’s cut back a bit by the almond-sweet orgeat and mellowed with the tonic. The effervescent nature of the tonic works incredibly well with the Fernet Branca and it disperses the grapefruit oil through out offering a slightly citrusy bitterness to the drink. It’s layers of bitter and sweetness in this glass.
One aspect that makes both these drinks versatile is that they work in warm and cold weather. They are both refreshing when it’s hot out, but also have a lot of spice that works well when it’s cold. If you venture to try one of these, let me know what you think. First time with an amaro? Awesome! Welcome to the club.
Every month I feel like the deadline for Mixology Monday creeps up on me faster and faster. And just like that, it’s time once again for a post. This month, Mark at Cardiff Cocktails has given us the theme of “Witches’ Garden”. For the full announcement post, please click here.
Here’s the back story for my submission this month…
I’ve had this bottle of Sake taking up room in my fridge for months. Possibly more than five. Looking for an excuse for using it up, I thought I would try something a little lighter in the ABV, as this bottle clocks in at around 15-16%. Shirakabe Gura Tokubetsu Junmai is a dry-ish sake that has a light melon/pear taste, but not much body. I figured it could use some bulking up via a cocktail.
My herb of choice for this drink was Rosemary. I have so much growing around my house that I filled up two green bins when just ‘trimming’ it last month. If you ask me for some, I will gladly hand over a shopping bag filled to the brim to you, which you will silently curse me for, wondering how in the hell you will use all of it. So, any time I can stick it in a drink, I will. Rosemary gets closeted into winter-time drinks much too much. It’s woodsy profile though pairs really well with citrus, and, as I have discovered this week, passion fruit.
So I married those two with a hint of grapefruit and came up with this low-alcohol cocktail. The final ingredient is tonic. The drink had the right flavors when I first tried it, but fell flat in my mouth. The tonic perked the whole thing up, giving it a much needed lightness and fizz.
3 oz Shirakabe Gura Tokubetsu Junmai Sake
1/2 oz Passion Fruit syrup (recipe here)
1 sprig of rosemary, about 5″ long
3 dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters
2 oz Fever-Tree Premium Indian Tonic Water
sprig of rosemary and grapefruit slice for garnish
In a mixing glass, place the sprig of rosemary in the bottom, add syrup and muddle gently, just enough to release the oils. Do not crush or tear the herb (5-7 presses with a muddler should do). Add ice 2/3 of the way up the glass, then pour in sake and bitters. Stir to combine. Fill a highball glass with ice and strain liquids over the ice. Top with Tonic water. Gently stir to combine. Garnish with rosemary sprig and grapefruit slice. A straw is also a welcome addition.
As I stated earlier, the rosemary and passion fruit are a great combo, earthy and tart. The grapefruit bitters offer a citrus nose and a sweet and bitter layer to the drink. The sake itself is pretty mild tasting, and I found it a nice canvas to play off of here. Overall clean and refreshing.
I really shot myself in the foot this month for Mixology Monday. Kidding around thinking Midori would be a fantastic ingredient for this month’s theme: From Crass to Craft – hosted by Scott Diaz of Shake, Strain & Sip, I soon discovered I was having quite the time trying to actually make a ‘craft’ drink I could proudly show off.
In my mind there is a strong memory of Midori being one of the first liqueurs I ‘made cocktails’ with. Sophomore year of high-school there was one memorable night where a friend’s parents had gone away and several of my girlfriends and I showed up and raided the liquor cabinet. I don’t recall how I knew of the recipe, but I do remember there being a drink of orange juice and Midori. Perhaps its pretty colors, perhaps there not being much on hand, I remember drinking those until I was quite possibly intoxicated. No, wait. I’m also remembering a bottle of Rumple Minze too. Regardless, I don’t think I’ve touched a bottle since then and there was a small part of me that wanted to try it again for the first time as an adult. And really, it’s quite a crass one with it’s ‘melon’ bubblegum smell and OH-SO-SWEETNESS hiding there under a lovely shade of emerald. But dang, OJ and Midori was not going to cut it for “Craft”.
Let’s talk about procrastination shall we? As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve become fascinated/kinda obsessed with dehydrating liquors and finding ways of using them. So before I even came up with an inkling of a recipe, I shoved a tray of Midori in the oven and let her go. I had much better success this time around than with the Baileys. After 24 hours the Midori formed these neon crystals that looked like crumbled rock candy. But alas, I still couldn’t think of a recipe to go with them.
Until now. Part of the fun of thinking up new cocktail recipes is just going through lists in your head of flavor combinations (well, it’s fun for me). Sometimes when I have an ingredient I want to use, but not sure how to, I turn to flavors in cooking (or baking) I would use with it. This usually helps me through a roadblock. In this case I also had a black pepper syrup that I had been dying to try out in something and thought “melon and black pepper”- hey, they could work!
Altering the recipe for a Tom Collins, I was able to work in both the Midori and the black pepper syrup into something I really *gasp* liked.
2 oz Old Tom Gin
1 oz freshly squeezed Meyer Lemon juice
1/2 oz black pepper syrup (see recipe below)
1/4 oz Midori liqueur
1-1/2 to 2 oz tonic water
dehydrated Midori (see recipe below) lemon slice
In a Collins glass 2/3 filled with ice, build your drink by adding the gin, Meyer lemon juice, black pepper syrup and Midori. Stir gently and top with tonic water. Garnish with a lemon slice rolled in dehydrated Midori.
Admittedly I did find this refreshing. It leans on the side of sweet with a sharp tart tang while the black pepper syrup grounds it with a subtle earthy layer. The melon is mellowed out by the sweet acidity of the Meyer lemon juice while the tonic helps the ingredients move throughout the drink. I probably wouldn’t have two right after another, but just the one drink worked out in the end for me!
Done. I haven’t sweated over an assignment this bad since college. Thanks to Scott for hosting this month!
Black Pepper Syrup
(based loosely on this recipefound at the bottom of that page)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup black peppercorns, about half lightly cracked
Heat all the ingredients until boiling. Remove from heat and let steep 15-20 minutes. Strain peppercorns out and allow to cool. Once cool, fine strain and bottle. Keep refrigerated for up to a month*.
*Since I didn’t see myself using this daily, I also added a 1/4 oz of vodka to the mixture and refrigerated it. This will probably keep it safe in there for at least 3 months.
Dehydrated Midori Crystals
1/4 cup Midori
Set oven to 170°. In a silicone container (I only had on hand a silicone Madeleine pan), evenly spread out the Midori. A baking sheet underneath will help keep it steady going in and out of the oven. Place in oven. At the 17 hour mark, take Midori out and break up chunks in the container by squeezing the container around to expose any wet spots. Place back in oven and continue to heat until a full 24 hours has been reached. After 24 hours, take the sheet out of the oven and break up pieces again and allow to cool to room temperature. Remove crystals and either place in an airtight container in the fridge, or grind with a mortar and pestle if using immediately.