The Thanksgiving Tipple: Cranberry Jelly Shot

Cranberry Jelly Shot

Ready for the big day, Boozers? With just under a week until the great Thanksgiving feast, our lists are made and the prep has begun. Naturally, we started with cocktails.

Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish, a blindingly bright pink concoction of cranberries and horseradish that has been the butt of many jokes on NPR for at least a couple of decades, was a surprising source of inspiration. As strange as it may seem, why could it not be the basis for a perfect palate cleanser during a heavy meal?

And so we present you with the Cranberry Jelly Shot. You may recall that we love a jam cocktail, as the pectin from the jam creates a lovely silky mouthfeel; we then pickled some cranberries with horseradish for a garnish, using the resulting liquid — essentially a shrub — to give the shot a bit of a kick. Sit back and give thanks.

Cranberry Jelly Shot

You can use your choice of alcohol for this shot, as it could work equally well with vodka, tequila, or gin, but we suggest an unaged whiskey, often known as moonshine, for its quintessentially American properties, which seem appropriate for Thanksgiving; our local favorite is Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit.

1 tablespoon cranberry jelly (homemade or storebought)

1 ounce white whiskey or other liquor of your choice

1 ounce cranberry-horseradish shrub (recipe below)

pickled cranberries, for garnish (recipe below)

Put first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with an ice cube and shake very vigorously so that the cranberry jelly dissolves into the liquid. If the liquid seems overly thick, dilute with a scant teaspoon of water. Strain into a shot glass and garnish with a few pickled cranberries on a toothpick. Can be shot down in one gulp or sipped, and is also delicious if served over ice in a rocks glass and topped off with chilled club soda.

Pickled Cranberries and Cranberry-Horseradish Shrub:

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 heaping tablespoons grated horseradish (from a jar is fine)

1 small cinnamon stick

Put all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, just until cranberries begin to pop. Reduce heat to quite low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool thoroughly. Remove cinnamon stick and put the cranberries and liquid (known as a shrub) into a food storage container and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

The Autumn Tipple: Tex Mex Cocoa

Tex Mex Cocoa

Brrr, Boozers. It may only be mid-November, but Old Man Winter has decided to pay an early visit, so we’re hunkering down. And when we hunker down, it only makes sense that we hunker down with tequila.

Yes, dust off those bottles of agave goodness — tequila need not be only a summer refresher, and, for goodness sake, don’t forget about the triple sec. The natural bite of tequila means that it is perfectly complemented by cinnamon and cocoa, and the triple sec provides a lightly sweet citrus note — combining together for a rich and spicy warmer on an early winter day.

Because we do like a little kick to our cocoa sometimes, we chose to add a few drops of hot sauce to the mix — our local favorite is UncleBrutha’s. It gives that extra little sizzle as you curl up next to a crackling fire, especially if it’s just a virtual log flickering on your television screen.

Tex Mex Cocoa

We make this with almond milk, which adds a nice nutty undertone to the cocoa. Use a good quality ground cocoa — it will add richness to the flavor.

1 heaping teaspoon ground cocoa

1 heaping teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

A few drops of hot sauce

1.5 ounces silver tequila

3 ounces hot (but not boiling) almond milk (unsweetened)

triple sec

Mix cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon in the bottom of a mug. Add tequila and hot sauce and stir together into a slurry, then mix in the hot almond milk until well-incorporated. Float a little triple sec across the top just before serving.

Published in: on November 14, 2014 at 10:40 am  Comments (1)  
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The Autumn Tipple: Lame Duck

lameduck

It was inevitable, Boozers. Whenever the party in power nears the end of its second term, the populace — those who bother voting, of course — becomes restless, embracing a “throw the bums out” mentality, regardless of what the long-term outcome may be. So be it, you reap what you sow — time to prepare for two years of filibusters, vetoes, and legislative inaction. Welcome to the world of the lame duck.

In the meantime, the inevitable olive branches are tenuously creeping out, with the president mildly suggesting sitting down over a bourbon with the incoming majority leader, who professes to like his bourbon in a Manhattan. Sacré bleu! A proper Manhattan is, of course, made with rye whiskey, but these are not times to quibble overmuch about being quite proper. There are deals to be made, cigars to be smoked, cloakrooms to be haunted. If the man wants bourbon in his Manhattan, let him have it.

We prefer to stick with the rye, however, and, in the spirit of  being rather improper, we decided to ditch the vermouth and add a dash of our Roasted Apple Shrub, while also eschewing sweet cherries for a couple of wedges of orange. Because, like republicans and democrats, we enjoy the tension created between apples and oranges, the pull-and-push between opposing ideals. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, but have a glass in your hand to help dull the pain.

Lame Duck

A shrub, of course, is a blending of fruit, vinegar, and sugar — perfectly tart and sweet all at once. Our Roasted Apple Shrub lends itself really well to the spicy kick of rye whiskey, but we would not recommend it with a bourbon, which tends to be sweeter and would create a syrupy mess. As a riff on a Manhattan, normally this would not include any ice cubes, but, with the addition of the shrub, this cocktail actually benefits from just a couple of ice cubes, which help to cut the acidity just slightly as you sip.

2 ounces rye whiskey (we prefer Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye)

1 ounce Roasted Apple Shrub

2 small orange wedges

2 dashes of bitters (you can use the classic Angostura; orange bitters are nice as well)

Fresh orange peel, for garnish

Put the two orange wedges in the bottom of a glass and muddle very lightly, just to break the skins open. Add two ice cubes and the whiskey, shrub, and bitters. Stir gently, twist the orange peel over the glass, and then add the orange peel as garnish. Serve immediately.

 

The Halloween Tipple: Pumpkin Pimm’s

Pumpkin Pimms

Happy Halloween, Boo-zers! You knew we wouldn’t forget. Like J.K. Rowling, we felt that you deserved a treat on this special day, and so we resurrected our summertime favorite, Pimm’s No. 1, with a bit of a twist: pumpkin juice.

There are many recipes for pumpkin juice out there in the world of J.K. Rowling worshippers, and they are all pretty good, but we wanted something a little less sweet so that our Pumpkin Pimm’s would taste like a proper cocktail. Roasting a fresh sugar pumpkin (that’s the smallish variety that weigh just a few pounds, typically used for pies, not the big ones that are carved into jack-o-lanterns) did the trick, giving a slight smokiness to our housemade pumpkin juice.

Merlin’s Beard, that’s a good drink! Careful not to splinch yourself on the way home from that Hallowe’en Feast.

Pumpkin Pimm’s

It doesn’t take long to make your own pumpkin juice, but, if you’re desperate to try this drink before the Three Broomsticks fills up with tipsy witches, then mix a few tablespoons of canned pumpkin with the pear nectar and apple cider and strain — it should still give you a good flavor. 

2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1

1 ounce gin (as always, we recommend Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin)

3 ounces pumpkin juice (our recipe here)

small teaspoon of mashed pumpkin (reserved from juice recipe below)

toasted salted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional but worth it)

Place first four ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a glass. Top with pumpkin seeds and enjoy.

 

The Autumn Tipple: Amaro Ammazzacaffè

Amaro Ammazzacaffè

Keep your voices down, Boozers. It’s possible that last night we took the “Thirsty Thursday” festivities a little too seriously, and we are suffering for it today. A little coffee and hair of the dog is in order, so we prefer to follow the example of the Italians and combine it all in our version of an ammazzacaffè, also known as a “coffee killer”, because the alcohol kills the bitter taste of the coffee. Bitter or not, we need help.

Because tequila was our drink of choice last night — forgive us, for we have sinned — we think we’ll have to toss that back in an effort to regain some equilibrium, but we’re adding some amaro, an Italian digestive, in an effort to settle our wonky tum just a bit. Either that or we’ll just be tipsy again, which may be the only way we’ll make it until happy hour. We’ll rack up a few more Hail Marys in the meantime.

Amaro Ammazzacaffè

If you aren’t familiar with amaro, then it’s time to become acquainted. They range from seriously bitter to lightly sweet, with a syrupy quality that coats the tongue. We are fortunate to have a domestic amaro made by a real Italian right here in the neighborhood, with undertones of autumnal sweet fennel, but some people like to start with an amaro with more of a caramel finish, which can be easier on an American palate.

3 ounces strong black coffee at room temperature

1 ounce amaro (we like Don Ciccio & Figli’s Amaro delle Sirene)

1 ounce tequila (we prefer a botanical silver variety like Avión )

1 teaspoon lemon simple syrup

fresh lemon peel for garnish

Mix the first four ingredients gently over ice, then strain into a glass. Twist the lemon peel over the liquid to release the essential oils and serve immediately. It’s best to drink this down quickly in a few big sips.

The Autumn Tipple: Royal Pear

Royal Pear

Happy anniversary, dear Boozers. Actually, it’s not our anniversary, nor may it be yours, but we are celebrating the 5th anniversary of one of our favorite local distillers, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, makers of distinctly delicious rye whisky, gin, and brandy. Founded by a charming pair, Becky and Scott Harris — she distills gorgeous liquor, he charms the public — they are the perfect example of what can happen when you throw caution to the wind and take the plunge to follow a dream. It’s an example we are pleased to follow, even on our darkest days.

In 2011, just as we began creating these little Tipples for your pleasure, Scott was kind enough to provide us with a bottle of Pearousia, their pear brandy, distilled from a pear wine made at Fabbioli Cellars, a Virginia vineyard. A brandy with just that fleeting sweet hint of pear, like a memory on the edge of your mind as you drift off to sleep at night, we’ve used it in several recipes over the years, but today we are saluting Becky and Scott with the Royal Pear — an uncomplicated cocktail that they can toast to each other with after a long day of delighting others. Cheers!

Royal Pear

Quite simply, we’ve paired beer and brandy with a soupçon of spicy sweetness. For the beer, we like to go out to the local breweries, see what’s fresh, and grab a growler. Look for something that is autumnal, if you can, but not a pumpkin ale — you’re looking for something that has undertones of spice without tasting like a cookie, yet is still light enough not to drown out the brandy. For our version, we looked to Mad Fox Brewing Company — keeping to today’s Virginia theme — and their Kölsch, which has a piney quality that complements the pear brandy quite well.

3 ounces autumnal ale

2 ounces pear brandy

1 tablespoon Wicked Ginger Syrup

Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and stir well. Pour into a chilled coupe, garnish with a slice of fresh or dried pear (optional), and enjoy.

That’s it. Boom.

The Autumn Tipple: Occupy Whiskey

Occupy Whiskey

Remember rebellion, Boozers? We’ve been reminiscing about the Occupy Wall Street movement that happened just about this time three years ago, when Occupiers took over the parks of America and Tea Partiers stormed the Capitol. In a society marred by apathy, there is something refreshing about the lunatic fringe, no matter what side they are on. Moderation in everything, including moderation, that’s our motto.

And that deserves a drink. What we wanted was something quintessentially American — which, in our opinion, must include baseball, apple pie, and whiskey. America, some would say, was built on whiskey, and so it naturally becomes the basis for any truly patriotic cocktail. As whiskey often has what are called “grassy undertones”, we thought, obviously, of baseball, as the league championship playoffs take off this weekend. Luckily, we once read about an alfalfa-based cocktail that was purported to have a certain “vegetal” quality. Alfalfa in whiskey? That’s what we call American ingenuity at its finest.

Occupy Whiskey

You’ll know by now, dear Boozers, that we adore flavor profiles that provide interesting contrasts, so that each sip is uniquely different, leading the taste buds through a subtle progression of flavors. This a true sipping drink, perfect for after dinner on the front porch on a cool autumn evening: the alfalfa-infused whiskey provides a certain quality of a freshly-mowed outfield, leading to a tart apple finish laced with beer.

1 large tablespoon fresh Apple-Beer Syrup (so delicious — maybe two tablespoons; recipe below)

2 generous ounces whiskey (we use our local Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye for this, but use your local favorite, as always)

1/2 cup packed fresh alfalfa sprouts

To make the Apple-Beer Syrup: Put 1/2 cup of sugar, one cup of beer (choose a seasonal fall variety — we used Port City Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest), and 1/2 cup of freshly grated Granny Smith apple in a small saucepan and combine well. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until the syrup has thickened. Strain well and set aside to cool. Will keep refrigerated for two weeks.

To infuse the whiskey: Put four ounces of whiskey and the sprouts in a cocktail shaker. Muddle the sprouts lightly and set aside for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours. Strain completely before using.

To assemble the drink: Put 1 – 2 tablespoons of the apple-beer syrup in the bottom of a rocks glass. Pour the infused whiskey into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain over the apple-beer syrup and garnish with a slice of apple.

The Autumn Tipple: Old Henry’s Constitutional

Old Henry's Constitutional

We’re feeling old, Boozers. It seems as if the world is shifting ever more toward the delights of youth and we find ourselves shaking our fists at the young’uns traipsing across the lawn in their neon-laced stacked booties, finding ourselves a sad parody of Grumpy Old Men. Yet then we were reminded of our celebrated ancestor, Old Henry Francisco, and knew that it was time for us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves. Old Henry is reputed to have lived to the ripe old age of 134, finally succumbing to a fever in 1820, having played the drum at Queen Anne’s coronation in 1702 as a young man before coming to America, where he later fought in both the French & Indian and Revolutionary Wars — the latter while in his 90s.

Appropriately chastised, we’ve now decided to follow in Old Henry’s footsteps and capture the secret to his longevity. After spending a lovely fall day in the orchards at Ridgefield Farm, we felt rejuvenated and knew just what to do. Back when he was Young Henry, our ancestor was known to enjoy his tipple, and as he aged, lived largely on baked apples and black tea. So we’ve created Old Henry’s Constitutional, a healthful mixture of brandy, mead, apples, and tea, specifically designed to get us into the 22nd century. Live long and prosper.

Old Henry’s Constitutional

You may think of mead, which is, at its most basic, a fermented honey water, as something only to be consumed at Ye Olde Renaissance Faire, but this libation can bring cocktails to new levels with its subtle yeastiness. You can use either a flat or carbonated mead, depending on your preference. Mead is not always as sweet as one might think and can be made with a variety of fruits and spices — many mead producers are popping up across the country, so find out what’s available in your area and invest in a bottle. No mead to be found? Try this with a hard cider instead.

2 ounces mead (we used Charm City Meadworks Original Dry)
2 ounces honey-sweetened black tea, at room temperature
1 ounce brandy (we used Catoctin Creek 1757 Virginia Brandy — Old Henry would have been just 71 back then)
Several chunks of roasted apple (directions below)

First, roast the apple: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Core an apple (choose sweet or tart, depending on the flavor you want) and cut the apple into hefty 1-inch chunks. Place chunks on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes; the chunks should still be firm at this point, so reserve a few pieces for garnish, then take the remainder and wrap them loosely in some aluminum foil, returning to the oven for 10 more minutes. At this point, they should be fairly soft, so remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

To assemble the drink: Put the completely softened apple pieces into the bottom of a cocktail shaker with the brandy and muddle thoroughly. Add mead and black tea and shake well. Strain into a glass, being sure to press all the juices out of the muddled apple. Garnish with reserved pieces of baked apple. May be served at room temperature or chilled, with or without ice.

The Autumn Tipple: The Wild Card

The Wild Card

We’re heading into the last few days of September, loyal Boozers, and that means that the Hunt for Late October is on. In other words, a handful of baseball teams are vying to make it into the playoffs, with Kansas City and Oakland fans, particularly, right on the edge of their seats.

Hence, today’s Tipple, celebrating everything that is good about autumn: The Wild Card. Because we may need a stiff drink to get through the last few games, we’ve opted to riff on the Whiskey Sour, with a classic fall twist. On the side, we’re adding a shot of beer (we’re going seasonal with Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale) for every home run by our favorite team. But don’t worry — if you happen to be a Diamondbacks fan, you probably won’t even catch a buzz.

The Wild Card

This cocktail has a few fresh elements, but they are worth a small amount of effort in support of America’s pasttime. The Crackerjack Syrup makes the most of the last of the season’s fresh corn and adds another layer of creamy sweetness that perfectly compliments the spicy rye.

2 ounces rye whiskey (we like Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye)

1 tsp. Crackerjack Syrup

2 ounces Apple-Ginger Juice

Chilled club soda

Dash of bitters (we use our own house-made Indian Summer Bitters, but there are many excellent bitters on the market, including Bittermens and even the classic Angostura)

Put three or four ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and add the rye whiskey, Apple-Ginger Juice, and Crackerjack Syrup. Shake vigorously and pour into a glass (with or without ice, it’s up to you). Top with a splash of club soda and a dash of bitters. Enjoy.

The Garden Tipple: Indian Summer Pimm’s

Indian Summer Pimms

Summer is gently drifting away, dear Boozers. The leaves are not yet starting to turn, but the evening breeze is cool as it floats through the open windows and squirrels can be seen scurrying about in a frenzy of nut-gathering. What we seek as the autumnal equinox arrives is to balance the seasons, and we find no better way than apples and Pimm’s. Whip up a batch, invite your chums over, and snuggle up on the front porch to welcome fall with open arms.

Indian Summer Pimm’s

Most people tuck the bottle of Pimm’s to the back of the liquor cabinet as summer recedes, but we know better. Apples are hitting the streets these days, traveling from backyard gardens and orchards to humble kitchens to be turned into pies, crumbles, and sauce — however, it’s also a snap to juice apples at home, creating a really crisp fresh flavor that brightens up a traditional Pimm’s Cup with an autumnal twist.

2 ounces Apple Ginger Juice (recipe here)

1 ounce Pimm’s No. 1

1 ounce gin (we used the pine-scented St. George Spirits Terroir Gin here, for an earthy undertone)

chilled club soda

thinly sliced apples for garnish

Put Apple Ginger Juice, Pimm’s, and gin in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well, then pour into a tall glass and top with club soda. Add a few thin slices of apple to the glass and stir gently. Serve immediately.

 

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