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Monday, January 23, 2017

Mixology Monday: Syracuse

Syracuse cocktail

Mixology MondayThis is the first time I've ever made a cocktail for Mixology Monday when I was the one who came up with the theme! The monthly cocktail challenge has been through 114 iterations at this point, and they've covered all sorts of topics and ingredients. I was a little surprised that chocolate wasn't already on the list. I can't wait to see what everyone does with what is quite possibly my all-time favorite food. If you missed it, check out the announcement post here.

I decided I wanted to use cacao nibs in my cocktail. I have a whole bag left over from my homemade Coffee Pecan Bitters and I've been itching to do something with them. They have this incredible dark chocolate scent that I wanted to impart into a cocktail without introducing the sweetness of chocolate in most of its other forms. I figured the best way to do this would be with an infusion. There are a couple of cocktails in the Death & Co book that use cacao nib infusions, and it's a quick and easy way to introduce the flavor of cacao nibs into a drink.

Cacao nibs

Cacao nibs are the seeds of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao. The seeds are removed from the fruit, fermented, dried, roasted, and cracked open, giving us cacao nibs. From here, the nibs have many uses. They can be ground up and mixed with milk and sugar to make chocolate, or the grinds can be used sort of like ground coffee to make traditional cocoa tea. Cocoa powder is made through a process that removes the fat, or cocoa butter, from the nibs, allowing them to be ground even finer and drier for baking or hot chocolate. The cocoa butter can be added to chocolate bars or used in lotions. Cacao nibs are amazing little things!

Death & Co provides recipes for cacao nib infused tequila blanco and Campari. I decided to try both of these, as well as some bourbon, sweet vermouth, and rum. For the rum I went with my new bottle of Rhum Clement, an agricole rhum from Martinique. The results were interesting. I found the tequila a bit strange and jarring, and the sweet vermouth smelled exactly like barbecue sauce - intriguing, but not really appealing to me. The bourbon, Campari, and rum were my favorites, and as I started experimenting with them in cocktails, I ultimately settled on the Rhum Clement.

Syracuse cocktail

I was also interested in introducing some Ramazzotti to the mix. I haven't talked about Ramazzotti yet, except briefly in my post on amari - my growing bar has outpaced my Bottle Buy posts, and I need to catch up! Ramazzotti is a thick, sweet, citrusy amaro. It's often described as having a "root beer" flavor, but it's the orange notes that I really pick up on. Right after I got a bottle I had a bit with some Godiva blood orange dark chocolate that we'd gotten for Christmas, and I thought it was the most perfect pairing imaginable. I wanted to capture some similar flavors in my cacao nib cocktail. I added some sweet and nutty East India Solera Sherry, another new purchase, as well as a bit of Cointreau to enhance the orange flavor. Finally, to blend it all together and amp up the cacao flavor, I included a dash of El Guapo Spiced Cocoa Tea bitters.

I really like this cocktail. The aroma is lovely: raisins, chocolate, and orange. It has flavors of bright citrus and rich sherry, with a hint of bitterness and deep dark chocolate notes. The orange flavor is the most intense, whereas the chocolate is a more subtle background note that really comes through at the end of your sip. This is exactly why I love Mixology Monday - I never would have come up with this combination otherwise.

Syracuse cocktail

Check back here for the roundup of everyone's chocolate cocktails! I hope to post it in a week, but I'll be doing some fieldwork in Texas until the end of the month, and I'm not sure what the internet situation will be. So don't be concerned if there's radio silence from me on the blog and social media. (Unless it lasts into February - then send a search party.) I can't wait to see what everyone else comes up with!

Syracuse

1 1/2 oz. cacao-nib infused rum (I used Rhum Clement)*
3/4 oz. East India Solera Sherry
1/2 oz. Ramazzotti
1/4 oz. Cointreau
1 dash El Guapo Spiced Cocoa Tea bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist.

*To infuse rum with cacao nibs, combine 1/2 tsp. of cacao nibs per 2 ounces of rum in a jar or bottle. Seal it and let it sit overnight, stirring or shaking occasionally. Strain out the cacao nibs.

Cacao nib infusion adapted from Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Mediterranean Gimlet

Mediterranean Gimlet


I'm quite excited that Nautical Gin asked me to be part of their Gimlet recipe contest! They've asked several bloggers from across the northeast to use Nautical Gin in an original Gimlet recipe. I'm always thrilled to try new spirits - particularly gin! - and experimenting with new cocktails is pretty much my favorite thing.


Nautical Gin


Nautical gin is a brand-new American gin made in Nashua, New Hampshire. It's made with some really unique botanicals, including Pacific kombu, a seaweed that gives it subtle flavors of sea salt and minerals - thus the name. The resulting gin is smooth, aromatic, and really great in cocktails. The gin is sold in a lovely seaglass-blue bottle with the motto "Inspired by Exploration."


Mediterranean Gimlet


Nautical challenged us to come up with a spin on the Gimlet. This is definitely one of my favorite classic cocktails. In its original form, it's incredibly simple - just gin and sweetened lime juice.*  It's a perfect cocktail for showcasing the unique qualities of a gin, and it's also simple enough that it's fun and easy to experiment with.


Mediterranean Gimlet


I've made one riff on a gimlet in the past, a Cucumber Basil Gimlet, which was pretty great - cucumber is perfection with gin and lime. So I decided to do a different cucumber-based spin this time, muddling in some fresh cilantro to bring out the coriander flavors and topping the cocktail with a bit of black pepper to enhance the flavor and compliment the pepper notes in the gin. If this sounds a bizarre to you, don't knock it till you've tried it - it's a great flavor enhancer and really gives this cocktail a little something special.


Mediterranean Gimlet

Keeping with the nautical theme, I call this a Mediterranean Gimlet. I think it tastes like something you'd sip on the shores of a Greek isle. But Cape Cod or Boston Harbor will work in a pinch!

If you like this recipe, please give it some love on the Nautical Gin Instagram and Facebook pages when it appears! And keep an eye on their feeds to see more Gimlet recipes crafted for the contest by other local bloggers. Cheers!

Mediterranean Gimlet

*Technically the original Gimlet was made with Rose's Lime Cordial, but if you've ever had Rose's you know that it's basically high-fructose corn syrup dyed green. Luckily some brands are now coming out with real lime cordials, like this one from El Guapo. A lime cordial is usually made by allowing sugar, lime juice, and lime peels to sit overnight or for several days. The peels introduce lots of additional oils and flavor. I've always been perfectly happy just using lime juice and simple syrup instead, but if you want to get technical, it's the cordial that makes a Gimlet - otherwise you're just making a gin sour.

But we don't want to get technical. Let's have a drink.

Mediterranean Gimlet

2 oz. gin (Nautical recommended)
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
4 slices cucumber
Handful of cilantro leaves
2 grinds of black pepper

Combine cucumber, cilantro and simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker and muddle well, until cilantro is bruised and cucumbers have released their juices. Add gin and lime juice. Fill shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled. Fine-strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice and a couple of grinds of black pepper.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Where to Work and Drink in Boston

The Last Hurrah

I've always enjoyed bringing my laptop to cafes when I need to get work done on the weekends. I tend to be more productive out of the house, and the promise of some good coffee makes the prospect of working when most people are off a little more bearable. So it follows that a beer or a cocktail would be even better. Obviously you don't want to get too terribly schnobbered when you're trying to get things accomplished, but slowly sipping a drink while crossing a few tasks off your to-do list can be really nice. Unfortunately, most bars aren't really good environments for working on a laptop. But over the last few years in Boston, I've slowly accumulated a list of places where you can have a drink and get some work done. I thought it was about time to share it with all of you!

For me, the most important criterion for this list is that you don't feel awkward taking out a laptop at any of these places, or lingering for a little while. Wifi and access to outlets are big plusses but not 100% necessary for me. And while I'd love to find more spots that serve cocktails, that's also not a requirement - beer and wine are a-okay.

Just a note: for all of the bars below, I only recommend working during off-peak hours - afternoons, and early evenings Sunday - Thursday. I don't advocate showing up at any of these spots on a Saturday night and lingering with a laptop!

So here they are: my seven top spots for working and drinking in Boston.

Trident Booksellers and Cafe
Trident Booksellers and Cafe. Photo from Boston Brewin Blog.

Trident Booksellers and Cafe
Newbury Street

When it comes to working away from home, it's hard to beat Trident. Open from 8 am until midnight, the cafe inside Trident has an extensive menu serving just about anything you could want, including wine and beer. But it feels more like a cafe than a restaurant, a place where you feel comfortable lingering. I like to sit at the bar, where lots of people tend to have a book or a laptop out.

Cocktails: No
Free wifi: Yes, occasionally spotty
Free snacks: They usually give me a bowl of chips if I only order a beer
Other people drinking: Usually
Other people on laptops: Almost always


Jaho Coffee Roasters and Wine Bar
Jaho Coffee Roaster and Wine Bar. Photo from TripAdvisor.

Jaho Coffee Roaster & Wine Bar
Chinatown

This spot is relatively new, and I was pretty excited when it opened. Jaho is basically built for bringing a laptop and settling in over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. It's a gorgeous, high-ceilinged space with big windows and the usual quasi-industrial hip coffee shop decor. When I arrived at 4 pm, just about everyone was reading or on a laptop and sipping coffee. Over the next couple of hours, groups of people began to trickle in to order wine or beer, but there were still plenty of folks on their laptops - some, like me, trading their latte for a glass of wine.

Cocktails: Some coffee cocktails
Free wifi: Yes
Free snacks: No
Other people drinking: Few before 5-6 pm, then yes
Other people on laptops: Yes


Ula Cafe
Ula Cafe. Photo by Gustav Hoiland

Ula Cafe

Jamaica Plain

The only spot in my neighborhood on this list, Ula is a solid option for working remotely any time of day. They have reliable wifi and a nice menu of coffees and sandwiches, as well as a small selection of wines and local beers. It gets crowded on weekends, but I've always been able to find a seat. I don't often see other people drinking there, but no one will look at you askance if you sit down next to them with a beer instead of a cappuccino.

Cocktails: No
Free wifi: Yes
Free snacks: No
Other people drinking: Rarely
Other people on laptops: Always


Loyal Nine
Loyal Nine. Photo by Charles Cherney.

Loyal Nine
East Cambridge

I really like Loyal Nine. It's the kind of place that makes me wish I lived in Cambridge. The main restaurant serves delicious food and impeccable cocktails (by Frederic Yarm, the Cocktail Virgin Slut himself). The patio is huge, and decked out with vegetable gardens, string lights, and games. But, most importantly for our purposes, from 8 am - 4 pm their cafe serves amazing coffee, sandwiches, and salads, along with wine, beer, and Bloody Marys. And it's dog friendly, which is an incredible rarity in Boston.

Cocktails: Just Bloody Marys at the cafe
Free wifi: Yes
Free snacks: No
Other people drinking: One other person, every time I've been
Other people on laptops: Always


Backbar
Backbar. Photo by Yelp user David C.

Backbar
Union Square

Backbar is probably my favorite cocktail bar in Boston, so I can't believe it took me so long to check out their Genius Hour. From 4 - 5:30 pm daily, they have free wifi and encourage patrons to bring their laptops to the bar. I was a little doubtful that anybody would take them up on it, and it's a small place, so I didn't want to be the only one sitting there with a laptop. I was not, as it turned out - there was one other guy working when I was there, and only a couple of other people at the bar. They do reserve their high-top tables for larger parties, so you'll either be sitting at the bar or on one of the sofa-type seats with a low table. It was actually a great place to work, and I got to watch the bartenders experimenting with new cocktails as well. And of course the drinks are amazing.

Cocktails: Yes
Free wifi: From 4:00 - 5:30 daily
Free snacks: A teacup of spicy-sweet popcorn
Other people drinking: Always!
Other people on laptops: Sometimes


The Last Hurrah
The Last Hurrah. Photo from Omni Hotels.

The Last Hurrah
Downtown

Hotel bars are always a good option for whipping out a laptop, because they're often frequented by travelers who need to be working away from the office. That said, Boston's hotels tend to buck the trend of the traditional "hotel bar," which is great if you're looking for a craft cocktail but not so good if you wanted an uncrowded spot to work. The Last Hurrah is a surprising exception to this rule. A historical bar in the Omni Parker House, it's a gorgeous place to have a drink, and it's rarely crowded, so pulling out a laptop is perfectly acceptable. The only negative is the lack of wifi, so bring a hot spot or download what you need before you go.

Cocktails: Yes
Free wifi: No
Free snacks: Mixed nuts
Other people drinking: Yes
Other people on laptops: No


Cambridge Brewing Company
Cambridge Brewing Company. Photo from CambridgeUSA.

Cambridge Brewing Company
Kendall Square

When I searched online for bars to work at, I was really surprised to see Cambridge Brewing Company recommended on Reddit, Quora, and Epicurious. It's got more of a restaurant vibe than the other places on this list, and whenever I'd been there in the past, it was packed. I went to check it out on a Tuesday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised. I told the host I planned to use a laptop and he sat me at a table near an outlet. The place was mostly empty, and I didn't feel awkward at all. And of course, the beer is awesome and incredibly affordable.

Cocktails: No
Free wifi: Yes
Free snacks: No
Other people drinking: Yes
Other people on laptops: One guy at the bar when I was there


So are there any other good places to work and drink in Boston that I missed? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Spicy Blood Orange Margarita

Spicy Blood Orange Margarita

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for limoncello. I think my husband first introduced me to it. He spent a summer in Europe when we were in college, right after we started dating. He enjoyed the Italian tradition of having a little limoncello after a meal, and introduced me to it when he got back. That was when I wasn't much of a drinker and couldn't stomach anything that wasn't positively saccharine. But limoncello manages to be very sweet and drinkable while still being quite sophisticated.

Spicy Blood Orange Margarita

So when Fabrizia Spirits offered to send me some of their limoncello and blood orange liqueur, of course I said yes. I haven't had limoncello in a really long time - probably five years, when we moved to Boston's North End and bought a bottle because it seemed like a thoroughly Italian thing to do. That was before we had anything in our bar. It lived in our freezer and we would occasionally have dainty little glasses after dinner. I'm quite pleased to have a bottle again!

But to be honest, it was the blood orange liqueur that I was really excited about. It's something new and different for me, and who doesn't love blood orange? It's a delicious liqueur, vibrantly flavored and wonderfully drinkable. I knew right away that I was going to make a cocktail with it. After all, blood orange liqueur means blood orange garnishes, and who can resist that?

Spicy Blood Orange Margarita

After we cracked open the bottles of Fabrizia (pre-chilled by the wintry cold), I asked my husband what spirit I should pair the blood orange with in a cocktail, and he immediately said "tequila." Genius. I used the liqueur where triple sec or cointreau would usually be in a margarita, and it was perfection. But to spice it up a little more, I added some Ancho Reyes chili liqueur. The result is absolutely fantastic - the perfect margarita.

Be sure to check out Fabrizia! I particularly enjoyed reading the story of how the company got started.

Spicy Blood Orange Margarita

Spicy Blood Orange Margarita

1 1/2 oz. tequila blanco
1 oz. blood orange liqueur (Fabrizia recommended)
1/4-1/2 oz. Ancho Reyes (1/4 for a hint of spice, 1/2 for a real bite)
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup

If you'd like to salt the glasses, mix some kosher salt with a bit of ground chipotle pepper. Rub a slice of lime around the rim of a rocks glass and roll it in the salt. Half the rim is a good compromise. Fill glasses with ice. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and strain into the prepared glasses. Garnish with fresh or dried blood orange slices.*

*To make dried blood orange slices, I used a dehydrator. You can also lay the slices on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven for several hours at the lowest possible temperature.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Naked & Famous

Naked & Famous

Equal parts cocktails can be a lot of fun. They're incredibly easy to make and remember - all you need to know is the ingredients, and you're good to go. Some of the most iconic cocktails are made in equal parts: the Negroni, the Brandy Alexander, the Corpse Reviver #2... the list goes on. Equal parts cocktails are having a bit of a moment thanks to Kara Newman's recent book Shake. Stir. Sip., a compendium of cocktails made in equal parts from the classics to newer recipes.

It's tricky to find ingredients that harmonize together in equal parts, especially when you get up to four or five in a drink. And yet when it works, it's magic. Some of my all-time favorite cocktails are equal-parts drinks, like the Last Word and the Paper Plane. So I was bound to love the Naked & Famous, a mashup of the two made deliciously smoky with the addition of mezcal. This is a recipe for the all-time favorites list. If you haven't tried it, you definitely should. Smoky and citrusy, it's deliciously complex and perfectly balanced. It's amazing what equal parts can do.

History: The Naked & Famous was created by Joaquín Simó at Death & Company in New York in 2011. In the book he writes: This cocktail is the bastard child born out of an illicit Oaxacan love affair between the classic Last Word and the Paper Plane. Aptly put.

Naked & Famous

3/4 oz. mezcal
3/4 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz. Aperol
3/4 oz. lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. No garnish.

Recipe from Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Mixology Monday CXV: Chocolate

Well, the holidays may be over, but the good news is it’s Mixology Monday time again! If you’re not familiar with Mixology Monday, it’s basically a monthly online cocktail party. Each month a host blogger chooses a theme, and anyone who would like to participate can mix up a cocktail based on that theme and share it.

I’m very excited to start off the new year by hosting my first Mixology Monday challenge. And I’m sorry to sabotage your well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions to cut back on the booze and eat fewer sweets, but this month’s theme is… chocolate.

Augustus Gloop

When I think of chocolate and cocktails together, my mind still automatically conjures the image of a chocolate martini with a syrupy drizzle and a dollop of whipped cream, plucked right from the photo-laden menu of a classy establishment like Chili’s or The Cheesecake Factory. (As a kid I considered this the ultimate drink, the paragon of all cocktails, and it baffled me that adults did not drink them more. Why would you have something as utterly disgusting as a beer or a glass of Scotch when you could be drinking chocolate?)

My tastes have since evolved, and so has the role of chocolate in cocktails. Instead of creamy sugar bombs, bars are serving up crème de cacao classics like the 20th Century and Brandy Alexander, Boulevardiers made with cacao-nib infused Campari, and Oaxaca Old Fashioneds with mole bitters. Chocolate has found its way into serious cocktails, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Matilda Chocolate Cake

So this month, give in to your sweet tooth (or not) and see what you can do with a little chocolate! Chocolate liqueur, crème de cacao, chocolate bitters, cacao nibs, cocoa powder, cocoa tea… if it comes from the cacao plant, it’s fair game.

Here’s how to participate:

  • Find or create a cocktail recipe that incorporates chocolate in some way.
  • Make the drink and post the recipe, a photo, and your thoughts on your blog, Tumblr, or website or on the eGullet Spirits and Cocktails forum.
  • Be sure to include the Mixology Monday logo in your post, and links back to Mixology Monday and Garnish. Once the round-up is posted, a link to the summary post would be appreciated.
  • Provide a link to your submission in the comment section here, tweet to @garnishblog, or send an email to garnishgirl@garnishblog.com.


Lucy Chocolate Factory

Submissions are due by Monday, January 23rd. That gives you two weeks to get mixing. I can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bottle Buy: Cynar

Cynar and the Presbyterian Revenge

I am way behind on my bottle buy posts. It used to be such a rare thing when I would buy a new ingredient for my bar, but lately I've been doing it pretty frequently - probably far more frequently than I should! There's just so much great stuff out there. And while some of the best of it is quite pricey - I'm looking at you, Green Chartreuse and Amaro Nonino! - there are a lot of great bottles that are very affordable. One of these is Cynar.

If you're on a tight budget and can only buy a couple of new things for your bar, I think Cynar should be on your list. Cynar (pronounced "chee-NAHR") is an amaro flavored with artichoke and 12 other herbs and plants. It's different from anything else you've got in your bar, it's extremely versatile, and it's very cheap - around $20 for a one liter bottle. That's my kind of booze.

Vintage Cynar Advertisement

Cynar was created in 1952 by a Venetian named Angelo Dalle Molle. He sounds like pretty interesting guy. He's described as a philanthropist and entrepreneur who believed that technology would lead to a utopian world. Later in life, he invested heavily in research on artificial intelligence, setting up four research institutes in Switzerland. He died in 2001, over 90 years old.

Cynar is named after the genus of the artichoke, Cynar scolymus. It gained rapid popularity after it was introduced through a marketing campaign featuring Italian actor Ernesto Calindri with the slogan "Contro il logorio della vita moderna" or "Against the stress of modern life." In one TV spot, he was pictured sipping Cynar in the middle of traffic in Milan:




If an artichoke-flavored liquor doesn't sound up your alley, I encourage you to try a Cynar cocktail before you write it off. It doesn't really taste like artichoke. If anything, it tastes a bit like Campari, though sweeter and more vegetal. Like most amari, it's quite nice on its own as a digestif. But I also find it particularly versatile in cocktails.

Cynar

Cynar

Price: $20 for 1 liter
Alcohol Content: 16.5%
Popular Cocktails: Presbyterian Revenge, Cynar Sour, Cynar & Soda, Little Italy

It seems like everybody likes to drink Cynar differently: straight as a digestif, on the rocks with soda or tonic, up with aged rum or tequila, with orange juice, a dash in a martini or Manhattan, or swapped out for another amaro in a favorite cocktail recipe. It's a liquor that's really fun to play around with.

While there are a ton of recipes out there that call for Cynar, few seem to be as widely known as the Presbyterian Revenge. It's a riff on a classic Scotch cocktail called the Presbyterian (Scotch, ginger ale, and club soda, so named because Scotland is largely Presbyterian). It's a good intro to a very vegetal and bitter spirit, as it's extremely drinkable while still showcasing Cynar's unique flavor. Refreshing and bitter, it makes a great summer cocktail, especially for Scotch lovers. It makes me think of a boozier, more bitter, whiskey-fied Aperol Spritz.

Presbyterian Revenge

When you're making yours, don't skip the grapefruit twist! It really contributes a lot of flavor to the cocktail. If you don't have fresh grapefruit, try adding a dash of grapefruit bitters instead.

History: The Presbyterian Revenge was created by John McCarthy of Highlands in New York City. Here's a video of him making the cocktail.

Presbyterian Revenge

1 1/2 oz. blended Scotch (Black Grouse recommended)
3/4 oz. Cynar
1/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup
Splash of club soda

Combine Scotch, Cynar, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a grapefruit twist (I used a "nest" of grapefruit peel). Stir gently before sipping. Full disclosure: the cocktail pictured is a recipe and a half.

Recipe from Serious Eats.