Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer & Pisco Cocktail whole lotta goodness that tastes like cream soda

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis week I’m having a hard time pinning down exactly what I’d like to tell you guys about. I think it was a lot easier when there were less eyes on the page and I could ramble on about how using a jigger like a professional bartender just makes me look like an idiot (albeit I’ve improved slightly), or that I tried and failed, again, at growing an herb garden but I’ve got SO   MUCH  ROSEMARY I can’t give it away fast enough.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThere’s got to be some performance anxiety tied to having the site nominated for any kind of award. So I think now is the time to take a step back and reassess the story I’d like to share with you guys, that may or may not have to do with a cocktail I am making.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIn the meantime, I’d like to formally state that I’m totally not into this switch on the mac OS where IPhoto has gone away and I’m stuck having to use their new “Photos” program. Mainly I’m whining because it now means I really need to learn Lightroom better. So, if any of you guys out there have a good quick and dirty immersion “how to” so I can stop dragging my feet and just learn it already, I’d appreciate the feedback and suggestions.Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Also, I have this delightful cocktail I made for you guys that might seem like a Whoa! but really, it’s pretty easy to assemble and I sweetened my ice teas for the next week with the leftover syrup so it definitely has some stretching power. Plus, it’s rhubarb season and I’m sick of pies already (not really, but I’m sick of MAKING them!).Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup:

1 cup sugar
1 cup sliced (1/2-inch) rhubarb
1 cup water
1 Mexican Vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped (reserve pod)

  • Combine sugar, rhubarb, water, and vanilla seeds and pod in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain into an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 weeks.

For the Cocktail:

1-1/2 ounces Pisco
3/4 ounce Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup
3 ounces Scottish Ale, such as Ballast Point Piper Down
Vanilla bean, for garnish (optional)

  • In a rocks glass filled with ice, build the drink by adding pisco and rhubarb vanilla syrup. Gently add beer, stirring just to combine. Garnish with vanilla bean and serve immediately.

First off, this tastes like cream soda. Because of the viscosity of the Pisco, the mouthfeel is super creamy. The Scottish Ale provides some toasty, caramel notes that adds a richness to the drink, while the Pisco imparts some citrus and a touch of floral (Tahitian vanilla would tip this drink overboard in the floral direction, so make sure you use Mexican vanilla) along with that lovely viscosity. That small buzz you get afterward however would prove otherwise.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I originally created this recipe for Serious Eats!

9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch

9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.comHoliday season is punch season. Ok, well, holiday season means more punch at every party. Everyone wants a punch, but let’s be honest, most of them are pretty meh.

Holiday season also means that hosts are pulling out the good booze because, hey, they’re in the spirit of sharing right now. I see a lot of Scotch brought out. Good scotch. Sometimes so good I’m hesitant to tell the host they should hang on to it and not start passing it about willy nilly. But then I’m selfish and want to drink said scotch so I’m shutting up about it.

9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.comThis holiday season I decided to combine both. I also wanted to create a punch that people who turn their noses up at scotch would like… and I did it. In fact, I got to test this punch out on a pretty varied crowd before I posted it. Initially when I showed up with the punch, people would eagerly ask what was in it then inevitable scrunch their nose as I listed scotch as an ingredient. People who don’t usually drink scotch really tend to have strong opinions about what they assume it will taste like: gym socks, band aids, burnt…stuff… So they already have a negative opinion before they start.9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.com

But the thing about holiday parties is that you always end up staying longer than you thought, and by this point you’re drinking whatever is left. For these people, initially turning down the scotch punch, they begrudgingly took a glass after finding out someone had drank all the good champagne. And then they found themselves confounded: they really liked the punch made with scotch.

Color me amused when the same folks who seemed genuinely annoyed/disgusted/sad when told the giant bowl of punch was made with scotch later came up to me with giant grins asking again what was in that punch? Had I just made converts of this bunch?9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.com

It’s holiday time, the season of giving, so I hope you all will allow me this one time to toot my own horn and smirk just a little as person after person drank up a scotch punch they earlier swore they’d never touch. Curious about the name? If you know your holiday songs, then you’ve recognized this from the 12 Days of Christmas. My punch, with 9 integral ingredients, was for a party with this theme. The Table Set guys sure love a theme party.

Now it’s your turn to try it. Please, be honest, and let me know if I’ve made you a convert too.

For the Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup:

4 (3- or 4-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

In a medium saucepan, combine cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean seeds and pod, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Strain. The syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

For the Chai Tea:

2 cups boiling water
3 chai tea bags

Combine boiling water and tea in a heatproof container. Let steep for 4 minutes. Discard tea bags and let tea cool to room temperature before adding to punch.

For the Punch:

1 (750 ml) bottle blended Scotch, such as Monkey Shoulder
2 1/4 cups Lustau East India Solera Sherry
3/4 cup fresh juice from about 6 lemons
1 1/2 cups Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup
2 cups Chai Tea
1/8 cup Angostura bitters
6 orange wheels, star anise, ice block*, for garnish

In a punch bowl or large container, combine Scotch, sherry, lemon juice, syrup, tea, and bitters. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for 5 hours or up to overnight. When ready to serve, add an ice block and garnish as desired.

*If you want to get really festive, you can add some decorative elements to your ice block. I added extra cranberries to mine. As the night progresses and the ice melts, they’ll start popping out and floating about. So make sure whatever you use is washed and makes sense with the rest of the ingredients!

So yes, scotch is definitely present. I chose Monkey Shoulder blended scotch, which offers a strong punch of malt, smoke, and baking spice flavors, perfect for a winter punch. Next I added in some chai tea just below full strength. The tea adds a wonderful assortment of appropriate flavors: cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom and black pepper all work beautifully with the whisky. Then I followed that up with Sherry for a little sweet nuttiness; Angostura for bitterness but also extra spice; and vanilla-laced cinnamon sugar syrup for a slightly floral and woodsy sweetness.

 

This recipe was originally posted on Serious Eats.

Bake It: Molasses, Cocoa Nib and Black Strap Rum Cookies

Molasses, Cocoa Nib & Black Strap Rum Cookies // stirandstrain.com
Santa gets cookies and a cocktail at our house.

Panic. Panic is setting in as I look at the calendar and realize that Christmas is in two weeks and I haven’t even sent out cards yet. But I did make a batch of holiday flavored cookies and my house smelt amazing the whole time. That should be all we need during the season, houses filled with the smells of cinnamon and ginger. And rum. Cookies should have rum in them too.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013

And I did that for my first time participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

Secret Ingredient: RUM
Secret Ingredient: RUM
Molasses, Cocoa Nib & Black Strap Rum Cookies // stirandstrain.com
More secret ingredients: cocoa nibs

But you’re a cocktail blog! I know! But sometimes there are food goodies on here and this was for charity and also: I love cookies.

Fresh grind your cardamom please.
Fresh grind your cardamom please.

Right from the beginning of this challenge I knew I wanted to make molasses cookies. They ship well and combined with Black Strap Rum they are filled with deep, dark, molasses-y goodness. So that’s what I sent. Of course there was a hiccup; the first batch accidentally got much more cardamom then they should have and ended up in the garbage. Seriously guys, a little cardamom goes a LONG way. The next batch however was perfect: nicely spiced, smelled divine, and they were edible. The 3 recipients also got a couple extra cookies thrown in because they ended up being smaller than first anticipated and I am nice like that.Molasses, Cocoa Nib & Black Strap Rum Cookies // stirandstrain.com

Let’s get to the baking!

Yields about 60 1″ cookies
Recipe inspired by Williams Sonoma

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1-1/2 tbsp. Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1/2 cup Valrhona Cocoa Nibs
1/2 cup white or clear sugar crystals

  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg. Then beat in molasses, vanilla and rum. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing until blended. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat an oven to 350° F.
  4. Cover 3 half sized sheet pans in parchment. Using a 100 size disher, scoop out cookie dough onto sheet pans. Once dough has been scooped, by hand round out scoops into balls, toss in a small bowl filled with the sugar crystals and flatten out the ball into discs about 1/4″ thick. Refrigerated for 20 minutes.
  5. Move the sheet pans directly from refrigerator into the pre-heated oven and bake for approximately 12 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool on sheets for about 10 minutes and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.
  7. Once cool, cookies can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to one week.
Molasses, Cocoa Nib & Black Strap Rum Cookies // stirandstrain.comThe rum here accentuates the already present molasses. These are pretty much what I think of/what I want in a holiday cookie. They are fragrant with spices, not too sugary and are small enough that I can eat a handful without thinking twice. I hope all my recipients enjoyed their batches, and I hope that you try a batch this year.Molasses, Cocoa Nib & Black Strap Rum Cookies // stirandstrain.com

Make It: Bourbon Vanilla Caramel Sauce

Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.comAbout this time every year I start mentally writing an inventory of things I should start making for Holiday gifts. I have to think about it this early because I usually forget until about a week before Christmas, freak out, and consult the list I made two months ago. This is just how I deal with life and presents.

I was totally that kid that baked for the holidays and passed out cookies and got my teacher a Valentine’s Day gift bag (admittedly only once for that. But she was a great teacher and it was an excuse to buy heart colored tissue paper.) and since starting this blog and just, well, making A LOT of stuff, I’ve been going full force at edible gifts for the Holiday season. Rewind back to a few weeks ago and you will find me wide-eyed in front of a steaming sauce pan of sugar and butter and other deliciousness. Myself and a friend decided to take a caramel making class, the selling point for me was the “Beer and Pretzel” caramels on the list of what we would make. Seriously. Beer reduction and pretzels and caramel living together in one bite-sized wrapper. Oh, but the wrappers. The only aspect I wasn’t prepared for in this class, after spending two or almost three hours making caramels, was the hour long process of individually wrapping each damn caramel I made. After an hour I was kinda done with caramels for the time being and I brought them all in to my office the next day. The beer ones being the surprise hit.

One of the last recipes we tackled that night was not actually a candy, but a sauce: caramel sauce (it was, after all, a caramel class). This sauce made its way into a cake about 3 days later. And now it is making its way here to the site. Why? Because I’ve decided to add some Bourbon and vanilla beans to it and make jars of it for presents this year. Friends, you are welcome. Try not to eat the whole jar in one sitting.

Are you thinking this is going to be too hard? It’s not. I had one hand holding a cell phone trying to pay attention to my mother while she went on about something for 45 minutes and started and finished this whole recipe by the time I got off the phone with her. That includes prep by the way.

Don’t want to give this as a gift? Ok, put it on ice cream, or sandwich it between cookies, or DO YOU REALLY NEED A REASON FOR CARAMEL SAUCE?!bourbon-caramel-3Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

Caramel is boiling sugar. The recipe moves quickly so get all your ingredients together before you start and please, try not to spill it on yourself, it will hurt like hell.

Adapted recipe from The Gourmandise School
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, Plugra is awesome and used here
1 cup heavy cream, room temp
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp fleur de sel, Murray River used here
1 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Seeds from one vanilla bean, or 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste

  1. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine sugar, water, vanilla seeds (or paste), and lemon juice. Stir once to combine. On medium high heat, cook until sugar dissolves, brushing the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush if sugar crystals stick to the sides. Bring to a boil, undisturbed (do NOT STIR), until sugar reaches a dark amber color. (This can take anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t leave the pan. It will almost always burn if you step away.)
  2. Carefully add the cream. It will bubble and hiss like crazy, but this is normal. Bring back to a boil, then add in butter, salt and bourbon. Stir to combine and until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Let cool and then jar up.

Here’s a few notes:

  • Your sauce is going to look watery at first. Don’t keep cooking it. If you pull a spoon out of the sauce and it leaves a layer, your sauce is thickened. As it cools it will thicken up much more. And once you stick it in the fridge, the next day it’s even more thick.
  • DO NOT STIR IT WHILE IT COOKS. Just don’t, it will create crystals and it will be grainy and gross.
  • The bourbon is added at the end, so you will taste it. That is the point of adding it to the sauce. Don’t like bourbon? You can add an aged rum if you like. Or just leave out the booze too if you have to.
  • Besides the lovely bourbon taste, mainly you are going to get a buttery, salted caramel with hints of vanilla. And you will keep telling yourself, One more spoonful, until there is nothing left.Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

Mixology Monday: El Jardín de mi Abuela

longmargarita-4
mxmologoMixology Monday time again; how quickly this year is flying. This month’s host is Stewart Putney of Putney Farm who has asked us to “invert” our cocktail ingredients.

When I first read the announcement I was all on board for busting out some of my crazy chemicals and turning liquids into solids, etc… until real life got in the way and I had to abandon those ideas real fast. Some day you’ll see some posts on that, some day.

Instead I liked the idea of turning a cocktail into a ‘long drink’ and having a new batch of hibiscus infused tequila on hand I opted to make one from a Margarita recipe. Not just stopping at switching the proportions of the tequila and lime juice around, I added some extra touches to turn the other ingredients on their heads. Lime wedges encased in ice? Yes. Dry Orange Curacao syrup? Why not. Vanilla salt?! Let’s do that too!

Sometimes I want a project to work on, and this particular cocktail seems to be just that. However, once you make a couple of the ingredients that go into this, you can use them in lots of other ways. That vanilla salt is going atop some dark chocolate cookies soon. And the limeade is perfect without the booze in it too.

Let’s build this.

2 oz. Hibiscus Infused Tequila (recipe on this post)
1/2 oz. Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao Syrup (recipe below)
6 oz. Limeade (recipe below)
3 drop of Bitter Tears’ “Hina” hibiscus and rose bitters
pinch of vanilla salt (recipe below)

lime wedge ice cubes (add lime slices to ice cube tray and freeze)

longmargarita-1

Build the drink by adding lime wedge ice cubes to a Collins glass. Pour in tequila, syrup and limeade. Add the bitters and pinch of salt and stir with a straw gently to combine.longmargarita-3

Limeade Recipe

3 cups of water
1 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 cup of sugar

Heat all three ingredients over medium heat and stir to combine. Cool and transfer to a pitcher. (Those may look like lemons, but the Bears limes from my in-laws trees are more yellow than green this year).longmargarita-2

Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao Syrup

1/2 cup of Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao

Simmer the curacao over medium heat until reduced in half. This can take about 10-12 minutes. Cool and bottle.

Vanilla Salt (this recipe is adapted ever so slightly from The Chocolate of Meats website)

1/2 Tahitian vanilla bean
1/4 cup of kosher salt

Combine the salt and vanilla bean and shake vigorously. Let sit for a few hours before use to allow the vanilla bean scent to permeate the salt. Store in an airtight container.

The result? Instead of a strong tequila forward/ sweet and sour mix, this cocktail becomes a softer, lighter version that is both fruity and floral, with a bite of citrus at the finish. Hibiscus and lime are a wonderful pair, and with a pinch of the vanilla salt, this drink is well balanced. I purposely made the limeade not too sweet so that I could control that with the orange curacao syrup. That syrup’s sweet orange contrasts quite well with the tart lime, creating a more dynamic version of a sweet and sour mix. The drink also has strong floral notes from the hibiscus tequila that are pushed forward more from the bitters and from the vanilla salt due to the Tahitian vanilla bean. Tahitian vanilla is more floral than Mexican or Madagascar vanilla beans. Don’t worry though, this doesn’t taste like perfume.

The name? It translates to the garden of my grandmother. And that came about because the rose scent and the hibiscus flowers reminded me of her garden. Why in Spanish? It’s a riff on a Margarita. I couldn’t just name it in English.longmargarita-5

Thanks to Frederic for keeping Mixology Monday alive and to this month’s host Stewart. Cheers!

I’m trying to be better about posting the roundup post for MxMo. Here’s this month’s!

Make It: Cardamom, Vanilla, Muscovado Sugar Compound Butter

This is the recipe for the butter base in my Hot Buttered Warm Up drink (which should be the next post after this or links here).

½ cup (4oz) unsalted butter
2 T of muscovado sugar
4 large cardamom pods cracked and seeds ground finely
1 tsp of vanilla bean paste (Vanilla paste can quite pricey and is usually used by a. people who bake things in large quantities and need containers of paste or b. people who find the act of trying to slice open a single vanilla bean and scrape out its contents an utter pain in the ass. I am not a baker. I’m sure you could use vanilla extract here and get the same flavor, but I wanted pretty flecks of seeds in there.)

Cream the butter and the sugar together in a stand mixer. Add in next 2 ingredients, mix to incorporate. Scrape butter mixture into a dish, cover tightly and refrigerate.