Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mixology Monday: Cool as A...

Cool as A...

Mixology Monday
I was so excited about making shrubs for this month's Mixology Monday hosted by Mr. Muddle that I couldn't stop with just one. My garden is producing gigantic cucumbers faster than I can find ways to use them, so there was no way one of them wasn't going to end up in a shrub.


If you missed yesterday's post, check out the You Say Tomato for a little info on shrubs. These mixtures of fruit, sugar, and vinegar are deliciously tangy and make great additions to cocktails and mocktails. They're perfect for this month's theme of vinegar.

I felt like my tomato shrub came out a little too sweet, so I knew to use a bit less sugar for this cucumber shrub. I opted for champagne vinegar, which I thought would work well with the lighter flavor of the cucumbers. White wine vinegar would be another good option, but I don't recommend using regular white vinegar - its flavor is pretty harsh, and apparently it's not the best choice for shrubs.

It's important to taste your shrub as you go along, especially when adding the vinegar, so you don't overdo it. I think I nailed proportions with this one. It's sweet and tangy and refreshing. Shrubs are definitely going to be a regular addition to my cocktails from now on!

Cucumber Shrub

1 lb. cucumber, diced
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup champagne vinegar

Stir cucumber and sugar together in a bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let it sit on the counter for 48 hours, stirring once a day. The cucumbers will release a lot of water. After two days, strain the mixture into a cup measure. Mine made about 1 2/3 cup of syrup. I poured off the extra 2/3 of a cup and set it aside to adjust the final mixture. To the remaining 1 cup of syrup, add 1/4 cup champagne vinegar one tablespoon at a time, tasting as you go. If the shrub becomes too vinegary, add some more syrup.

Recipe adapted from Food52.


Cool as A...

As with the You Say Tomato, I wanted to keep this cocktail pretty simple and let the flavor of the shrub shine. I thought tequila and mint would work well with the tangy cucumber shrub. I was surprised by how much it blended with the other ingredients; whereas the tomato shrub in the You Say Tomato is front and center, in this recipe it more subtly enhances the cocktail with tart and savory notes. You can't go wrong with these flavors in the summertime. This is an utterly refreshing, completely delicious drink.

Cool as A...

1 1/2 oz. tequila blanco
1 oz. cucumber shrub
1/4 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. agave syrup
6 mint leaves
2 oz. club soda

Combine mint leaves and agave syrup in a shaker and muddle gently. Add tequila, cucumber shrub, and lime juice. Fill shaker with ice and shake the mixture until it's well chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and stir gently. Garnish with a cucumber ribbon and a sprig of mint.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mixology Monday: You Say Tomato

You Say Tomato


Mixology Monday After a summer away, Mixology Monday is back! This month's host is Mr. Muddle, and the theme is vinegar. I'm pretty excited about it. I've only used vinegar in my cocktails twice: for the Bufala Negra and the Strawberry Balsamic Smash, both of which use a bit of balsamic vinegar. But if you're into cocktails, you probably know that the most common use of vinegar in cocktail recipes is the shrub.


Shrubs, also called drinking vinegars, are mixtures of fruit, sugar, and vinegar that are usually consumed with club soda or included in a cocktail. Shrubs were popular in colonial times, when the vinegar was used as a preservative for fruits and berries. Like just about every other old-timey cocktail ingredient, they're making a comeback in modern mixology. And with good reason. There are few ingredients as positively flavorful as a shrub.

I've only attempted to make a shrub once before, a black peppercorn and cranberry shrub following this recipe from With Food & Love. It did not come out well - it was way too vinegary and was basically undrinkable. I definitely should have added the vinegar bit by bit and tasted it until it was perfect. That scared me off of making my own shrubs for a while, but now I have the perfect excuse to try again.

As I was trying to decide what kind of shrub to make, my eyes fell on the cucumbers and tomatoes I had just harvested from my garden. I remembered a wonderful cocktail I had at Eastern Standard made with tomato shrub and cava, and figured...why not?

I followed the instructions for a cold-process shrub from this Food52 article that MrMuddle kindly provided. It takes a couple of days, but it's a pretty hands-off process, and very easy. You can make a shrub. Trust me.

I did find Food52's suggestion of one cup of sugar for half a pound of tomato to be too sweet. I'd possibly even use half the sugar. I didn't use as much vinegar as they recommended, either. If there's one thing I'm learning about shrubs, it's that you've got to taste as you go and ad-lib a lot. But I am so glad Mixology Monday convinced me to give them another chance - I love the finished product. It's delicious.

As for those cucumbers... stay tuned!

Tomato Shrub

8-10 oz. tomato, chopped
1/2 cup to 1 cup sugar
~6 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Combine tomato and sugar in a bowl and stir to combine. (I mashed it, and I think this resulted in too much particulate matter floating in the shrub.) Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let sit on the counter for two days, stirring once a day. The tomatoes will release a lot of liquid. After 48 hours, strain the syrup into a measuring cup. I had about 1 cup of syrup, so if you've got more or less than that, adjust your vinegar accordingly. Stir in the vinegar one tablespoon at a time, tasting as you go. Consider setting aside half of your syrup before you add the vinegar, so you can even it out if you add too much.

Recipe adapted from Food52.

You Say Tomato


I don't remember the exact ingredients of the tomato shrub cocktail I had at Eastern Standard, but I liked the idea of mixing this shrub with some sparkling wine, so I decided to use it as my inspiration. I added gin, which went nicely with the shrub, and some grapefruit bitters to tone down the sweetness.

You Say Tomato

1 oz. gin
1 oz. tomato shrub
3 oz. prosecco
2 dashes grapefruit bitters

Combine gin, shrub, and bitters in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a champagne glass or coupe. Top with prosecco. Garnish with cherry tomatoes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Bottle Buy: Yellow Chartreuse

Yellow Chartreuse

Until I posted about Crème de Cacao a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't done a Bottle Buy post in quite a while. That was, quite simply, because I hadn't bought any new bottles. There's so much you can do with just a few spirits and liqueurs that I could probably never run out of drinks to make with what I've introduced so far. But there were still a few things on my wish list, and I finally went ahead and bought them. The first one I'll talk about is Yellow Chartreuse.

Yellow Chartreuse is the younger sibling of Green Chartreuse, which is probably the more popular of the two. Like Green Chartreuse, Yellow Chartreuse it is made by Catholic Carthusian monks in the Order of St. Bruno, also known as the Chartreuse Order. The Order has operated in the Chartreuse Mountains of France since 1084. In 1737 they made the excellent decision to start making booze. Their Green Chartreuse was initially sold to local villages as a health tonic, but people enjoyed drinking it for fun, so they reduced its alcohol content a bit and began selling it as a liquor. One hundred and one years later, they introduced Yellow Chartreuse.

Despite the fact that it hasn't been around as long, Yellow Chartreuse seems to appear in more classic cocktails than Green. Its yellow color comes from the addition of saffron. It's lighter and sweeter than Green Chartreuse, and also has a lower alcohol content (40% as opposed to 55%). Unfortunately it's only slightly cheaper - these are pricey liqueurs.

So, being a generally frugal cocktail blogger, I wondered: could you buy just one or the other, and use them interchangeably? And, if so, which one should you buy? In my mind, Yellow Chartreuse seems more versatile. It mixes well with anything - gin, whiskey, tequila, vodka, whatever. Whereas I feel a bit more squeamish about mixing Green Chartreuse with whiskey. I'm not sure why... maybe it's just the color? It doesn't seem right. But I wanted to know if there was any basis to my qualms. So I made two cocktails - the Last Word, which is usually made with Green Chartreuse, and the Greenpoint (recipe below), which is usually made with Yellow - following the original recipes, and then swapping the Chartreuses.

The short result is that neither cocktail seemed right with the other Chartreuse. The Last Word with Yellow Chartreuse tastes like a faint echo of the original cocktail. The flavors are there, but muted. It's too sweet and not complex enough. If you only had Yellow Chartreuse, you could make yourself a Last Word and get an idea of what the cocktail tastes like, but it wouldn't be the real thing. The Greenpoint with Green Chartreuse is a much better drink than I expected, but I don't feel like the flavors mesh as well. The Green Chartreuse is too overpowering. So I'm afraid you can't really get away with interchanging these two liqueurs. If you can only buy one, personally I'd still spring for Green first, because the Last Word is one of my all-time favorite cocktails, and I love the more intense flavor.

Yellow Chartreuse

Price: $50-60
Alcohol Content: 40%
Popular Cocktails: Greenpoint, Diamondback, Alaska, Widow's Kiss

The first cocktail I made with my Yellow Chartreuse was a Greenpoint. This is a variation on the Brooklyn cocktail, which is sort of a variation on the Manhattan (see more on this below). While Yellow Chartreuse doesn't exactly have a starring role in the Greenpoint, it's probably one of the best-known cocktails that makes use of it, and comparing the flavor to a traditional Manhattan will definitely help you see how the Chartreuse is working in the recipe. It makes the drink more sweet and herbal than a Manhattan, and the lemon twist and orange bitters provide a lovely hint of citrus.

Greenpoint

History: The Greenpoint was created in 2005 by Michael McIlroy at Milk & Honey in New York. But its history really goes back quite a bit farther.

In the early twentieth century, there were five popular cocktails named after New York City's five boroughs: the Manhattan (rye, sweet vermouth, bitters), the Bronx (rye, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, orange juice), the Brooklyn (rye, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, Amer Picon or bitters), the Queens (gin, dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, pineapple juice), and the Staten Island Ferry (rum, pineapple juice). For whatever reason, the Manhattan persisted in popularity and was elevated to classic cocktail status, while the other four fell somewhat into obscurity. As interest in pre-Prohibition cocktails was revived, so were these old recipes. The Brooklyn in particular has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, and bartenders began playing with the recipe and naming their new creations after Brooklyn neighborhoods: Slope, Prospect Park, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, BensonhurstRed Hook. And, of course, Greenpoint.

For more on these Brooklyn-themed cocktails, check out this article from Punch.

Greenpoint

2 oz. rye whiskey
1/2 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Recipe from Liquor.com.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Water Lily

Water Lily

One of the first things I bought for my bar was a bottle of crème de violette. I tried my first Aviation and I loved it so much that I splurged on both the crème de violette and Luxardo maraschino liqueur. The Luxardo turned out to be a brilliant purchase, and it ended up in many more cocktails. The crème de violette, on the other hand, hasn't really seen much use. So I was pretty excited to come across the Water Lily, which features it as a main ingredient.

With equal parts gin, crème de violette, Cointreau, and lemon juice, this cocktail is very sweet and tart, with flavors of orange and florals. It's reminiscent of the Aviation, but much sweeter - almost candy-flavored. But in a good way. It's surprisingly delicious.


Water Lily

History: The Water Lily was created by Richard Boccato at PDT in New York. According to The PDT Cocktail Book, he made it for a good friend of his whose middle name was Lily.

Water Lily

3/4 oz. gin
3/4 oz. Cointreau or triple sec
3/4 oz. crème de violette
3/4 oz. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Recipe from The PDT Cocktail Book.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Bésame

Bésame

Even though I've been blogging for over a year now, I think I still fly largely under the radar - while I've been able to connect with a lot of people through Instagram and Twitter, I don't get a ton of traffic or comments here on the blog. Maybe I should be strategizing a bit more about how to change that, but I didn't really start doing this to make money or create a brand - I just really like doing it. You know how they say "Dance like no one's watching?" Well, I think the internet analog to this is "Blog like everyone's watching." It's been fun with or without an audience.

That said, I do get excited when people notice and contact me, and so I was thrilled when Sukkah Hill Spirits asked if I wanted to taste their two products and try them out in some cocktails. I love trying new spirits and I really liked what their company was doing, so of course I said yes. They sent me a few little bottles of their two liqueurs: the sweet and citrusy Etrog and the spice-flavored Besamim. I'll definitely make something with the Etrog soon, but I wanted to experiment with the Besamim first.

Besamim

The Besamim is like autumn in a bottle. Flavored with vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, it would be delicious with just some bourbon or rye, or mixed with autumn flavors like maple syrup and apple cider. But it's still summer, and I decided the Besamim was begging to be made into a Tiki cocktail. While cinnamon and cloves probably evoke thoughts of pumpkin pie rather than Mai Tais for most people, ingredients like spiced rum, Allspice Dram, and cinnamon syrup regularly find their way into Tiki drinks, and the Besamim is perfect in this role.

I went with a pretty basic recipe using aged rum, lime and grapefruit juice, some demerara simple syrup, and Angostura bitters. If you can't get your hands on the Besamim (Oh but you can! Order it online or see here for retailers that carry it), Allspice Dram would be a good substitute, though you might have to tweak the recipe a bit to get it just right. You could also try throwing some spices into your demerara syrup for a similar effect.

I decided to call this drink the Bésame (Spanish for "kiss me") because that's what I kept thinking of every time I read the name of the liqueur. It's tart and tropical, with a beautiful spiced flavor from the Besamim. It's everything I want in a Tiki cocktail, and I think I'll drink it for the rest of the summer.

Bésame

Bésame

2 oz. aged rum (I used Barbancourt 4 year)
3/4 oz. Besamim liqueur
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
1/4 oz. demerara simple syrup*
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Top with more crushed ice and garnish with a mint sprig, a lime wheel, and a cinnamon stick. Mwah!

*Demerara simple syrup is just simple syrup made with demerara sugar, a brown, partially refined cane sugar from Guyana. Combine equal parts of the sugar and water and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Let the syrup cool before using it. You can substitute regular simple syrup, but it won't be as rich as the demerara.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Guide: Cocktail Picks

I've always thought there weren't enough cool cocktail picks out there. Using a pick for your garnish makes such a great visual statement in a cocktail, but I see the same ones in a lot of photos. It's sort of hard find anything unique unless you get lucky at a thrift store or vintage shop. I usually just go with a bamboo toothpick myself, although I'm definitely looking to upgrade. I decided to go on the hunt for some stylish cocktail picks to elevate your garnish. Here are my picks for great picks!


Cocktail Picks


1. Cocktail Picks from Crate & Barrel - You can't go wrong with these simple and sophisticated stainless steel picks. $7 for a set of six.

2. Cocktail Picks from Cocktail Kingdom - Sleek and classic, these copper-plated picks also come in gold and stainless steel finishes. $18 for a set of 12.

3. Torre & Tagus Sword Picks, available at Amazon and other retailers - The sword-shaped cocktail pick is a classic. So why not ditch your multicolored plastic for some stainless steel? If you're more of a pacifist, check out their Anchor and Owl designs. $30 plus shipping for six.

4. Essential Barware Arrow Cocktail Picks from West Elm - Perhaps my favorite of the bunch, these arrow-shaped picks make it look like Robin Hood had a go at your Luxardo cherries. They are positively gorgeous laid on top of a glass. $19 for a set of six.

5. Branch and Twig Cocktail Picks from Anthropologie - I love the organic shape of these silver and gold picks. I wish there were more with this kind of design! $18 for a set of four.

6. Martini Picks from Sur La Table - These simple ball-tipped stainless steel picks will never go out of style and won't upstage your garnish. $12 for six.

7. Kikkerland Grass Cocktail Picks from ModCloth and other retailers - These whimsical plastic picks look like individual blades of grass. They look surprisingly sleek for plastic, and definitely make a fun statement for cocktails or appetizers. $12 for 10 picks and a white holder.

8. American Chateau Bird Picks - I'm pretty crazy about anything with birds on it (insert Portlandia joke here), so I like these cute bird-topped cocktail picks. Unfortunately the white ones pictured here have been discontinued, but you can still nab some in green on sale for $12 per four picks. I'm also keeping an eye on these guys at One King's Lane.

9. Prodyne Bar Birds Martini Picks from Amazon and other retailers - Speaking of birds, I got these for Christmas from my parents, and I'm obsessed with them. These stainless steel picks are topped with beautifully detailed parrots, flamingos, and toucans. They're also very well-priced at only $10 for six picks. Or you can go with swizzle sticks instead.

10. Wentworth Cocktail Picks from Ralph Lauren - These pricey silver-plated brass picks are probably not going to find their way onto my bar, but I do think the stirrup design is subtle and pretty cool. $150 for six.

So that's my list! What are your favorite cocktail picks?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Flushing - Main Street

Flushing - Main Street

As I mentioned in my post about Crème de Cacao, the Flushing - Main Street from Tiger Mama was the cocktail that made me decide I needed to buy a bottle. I'd never seen chocolate liqueur in a cocktail with ingredients like Blanc Vermouth and Green Chartreuse, and I certainly didn't expect it to taste so good. While it is sweet, it's extremely well-balanced with nice hints of bitterness and citrus. If I didn't know there was crème de cacao in this cocktail, I'm not sure I would even guess it, but the chocolatey notes are definitely there once you look for them.

Though I did buy the crème de cacao, I had to make a couple of other substitutions in this recipe. It calls for Akasi White Oak Japanese Whiskey and Dolin Blanc vermouth, neither of which I own. For the whiskey, I subbed in a blended Scotch, and I used dry vermouth instead of blanc. I hope neither substitution is too egregious; I still find the cocktail very good. From what I've read about the flavor of the Akasi, my version is probably lighter and less smoky. There's definitely a color difference. And the dry vermouth is less sweet than the blanc, which actually suits me just fine, as this is already a pretty sweet cocktail.

History: The Flushing - Main Street comes from Tiger Mama in Boston's Fenway area. I got the recipe from Fred Yarm's blog Cocktail Virgin Slut. He says it's actually a Manhattan variation, and the name comes from a train station in Queens. The recipe was (probably) developed by Charles Coykendall, the bar manager at Tiger Mama. Here's a brief interview with him about his work there.

Flushing - Main Street

2 oz. Akashi White Oak Japanese Whiskey (I used blended Scotch)
1/2 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth (I used Dolin Dry)
1/4 oz. Green Chartreuse
1/4 oz. Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a flamed lemon twist.

Recipe from Cocktail Virgin Slut.