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.

 

The Garden Tipple: Sneaky Snally

Sneaky Snally

The beast is unleashed, Boozers. Here in the DC area, we’re preparing for a visit from the Snallygaster, a mythical creature that apparently once terrorized the region and now stops by once a year for a whole lotta beer. Seems reasonable.

The Snallygaster festival does have a whole lotta beer, but the one we’re most interested in this year is named for the festival itself and features a tasty little morsel that we’ve been growing in our cocktail garden this year: ground — or husk — cherries. Similar in appearance to yellow cherry tomatoes, these beauties grow in a paper husk like a tomatillo, and have a sweet pineapple-like flavor. To honor this year’s Snallygaster, we’ve gathered some of the ground cherries from our own garden and created a beer syrup for an end-of-summer cocktail that says “Bring it on,  you beast — bring it on.”

Sneaky Snally

We know, we’ve already frightened you off because you have no idea where you’ll find a ground cherry, and, admittedly, they are a bit of a specialty item. Be not disheartened, however; as we said, they taste very much like pineapple — which we also grew in the cocktail garden this year, even though we are hundreds of miles from the tropics — so we advise substituting a 1/2 cup of chopped pineapple when you make the syrup.

1 ounce Ground Cherry Beer Syrup with fruit

1.5 ounces chilled gin (we prefer Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin)

4 ounces chilled beer (we chose a summery, hoppy ale by DC Brau)

Several sprigs of fresh pineapple sage (regular sage or lemon balm also work nicely)

Put Ground Cherry Beer Syrup in the bottom of a tall chilled glass, being sure to include some fruit. Pour gin into the glass and stir well. Top with chilled beer and garnish with pineapple sage. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

The Friday Tipple: Back to School Shandy

Back to School Shandy

Our nest has emptied, Boozers. As the fledgling stood uncertainly on the edge, we gave a mighty shove right between the shoulder blades, calling behind the offspring’s flapping wings: “For God’s sake, if you must drink beer, at least make it good beer!”. Because there’s really nothing sadder than social media pictures of overeager freshmen clutching cans of Coors Light.

And so now it’s cocktails à deux, as these wayward parental units sit back and contemplate life without PTA meetings, smelly sports equipment, and teen angst. Taking it slowly as we ease into the unknown, we’re starting off with a classic shandy, with a bit of a twist: beer cubes. As our loyal Boozers know, we have a long love affair with cubes of all sorts, as they help change the character of a drink while they melt and meld. Cubes also have the added benefit of looking somewhat innocent at the start, slowly becoming more devious as time goes on — not unlike the fledgling now flapping off into the sunset.

Back to School Shandy

A sparkling lemonade creates the base for this little Tipple, which you can make yourself by making a strong lemonade and then topping it off with seltzer water. We actually used a tasty bottled variety called Spindrift, which was lightly sweet, somewhat tart, and filled with a bubbly effervescence — rather like the offspring.

5 ounces chilled sparkling lemonade
1 ounce limoncello (we like our local Don Ciccio & Figli)
3 – 4 beer cubes (recipe below)

Put all ingredients into a tall glass (or a classic red Solo cup, if you want to relive your college days), stir briskly, garnish with a slice of lemon, and enjoy.

Beer Cubes:

12-ounce can or bottle of beer (for God’s sake, make it good — we used Shift Lager this time)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup citrus juice (we used both orange and lime)

Put all ingredients into a bowl, whisk together, and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid, about 4 or 5 hours.

 

The Garden Tipple: Meemaw’s Mojito

Meemaw's Mojito

We’re plumb tuckered out, Boozers. Having left the Big City for a little rest and relaxation, we now find ourselves settin’ on the front porch with Meemaw, gently perspiring in the sticky heat of a small-town August and in dire need of a Southern-style sweet tea. Meemaw would normally just break out the Luzianne tea bags, but she’s the epitome of Southern hospitality and indulges us with something just a bit more refined: a refreshingly minty green tea, of the type we might use in our DMV Iced Tea.

Of course, Meemaw likes a little nip now and then, and when the faint breeze is barely stirring the weeping willows that droop across the creek, she feels the need to unlock the liquor cabinet, wisely noting “Ain’t no point in waitin’ for sundown. It’s five o’clock somewhere, I ‘spect.”

We like to call this tasty concoction Meemaw’s Mojito, even though she’s far too modest to allow all that fuss. Mix it up and drink it down is her philosophy. We’d be well advised to follow her wisdom.

Meemaw’s Mojito

Mint has overtaken the garden now, entangling itself with the cucumbers and tomatoes and filling the air with its heady scent. We like to make a lemony simple syrup just to intensify the flavors of the mint, and then add a strong tot of rum to give the tea a real bite. 

Generous handful of fresh clean mint leaves

2+ tablespoons lemon simple syrup (recipe below)

2 ounces rum (we like our local Lyon Distilling Company Rum)

Chilled green tea (try something with undertones of lemongrass and mint)

Fresh stalk of lemongrass (optional)

Mint sprig, for garnish

to make the lemon simple syrup: Combine 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice. 1/2 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat and then let simmer gently for about 30 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half and thickened. Cool completely; can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

To make Meemaw’s Mojito: Place mint leaves and lemon simple syrup in the bottom of a tall glass and crush the mint leaves lightly. Add the rum and then top with plenty of ice and chilled green tea. Stir briskly — with a fresh stalk of lemongrass if you have it, which adds another spicy-citrus note to the drink — and then garnish with more mint.

 

 

The Garden Tipple: DMV Iced Tea

DMV Iced Tea

We’re feeling sweet, dear Boozers. Here in the DMV — and for the uninitiated, we’re referring to the DC-Maryland-Virginia vortex, not the Department of Motor Vehicles — we straddle, sometimes uncomfortably, that line that divides the North and the South. We have a certain Northern can-do entrepreneurial spirit coupled with a Southern take-your-time-and-do-it-right mentality which often leads to short bursts of frantic activity followed by long hours of intense reflection.

What we do like is our sweet tea on a hot summer day, but we tend to enjoy it half-and-half style, like the rest of our existence: not too sweet, not too plain. When presented with that perennial summer cocktail, the Long Island Iced Tea, we tut-tut at its lack of actual tea and emphasis on “more is more”. So we’ve created the DMV Iced Tea, a blend of energizing teas infused with fresh peaches and local brandy — a perfect sipper for those last days of summer lounging in the city parks dreaming of beach days gone by.

DMV Iced Tea

A combination of green tea and Earl Grey-infused vodka provide the tea base here, and, as it’s peach season here in the Almost South, we’re enjoying every juicy moment. A soupçon of lavender honey is all that’s needed to heighten the just-picked flavor of the peaches — any more would turn this into a Deep South Iced Tea.

4 ounces Fresh Peach Green Tea (see below)
1 ounce brandy (we like to use Catoctin Creek’s Peach Brandy, but DMV perennial favorites like Courvoisier and Hennessey will certainly do the trick)
1 ounce Earl Grey-infused vodka (recipe here)
fresh sliced peaches for garnish

Put a chunk or two of the tea-soaked peaches from the Fresh Peach Green Tea in the bottom of a tall glass. Add several ice cubes, then top with the chilled tea, brandy, and vodka. Stir briskly and garnish with a fresh peach slice — or two.

to make the Fresh Peach Green Tea:
1/2 cup fresh peaches, roughly chopped
4 cups freshly brewed green tea (we like a minty variety like Tazo Zen)
2 tablespoons lavender honey

Put the peaches in a pitcher and muddle lightly, then add green tea and honey. Stir well, then refrigerate for at least two hours or until well-chilled. Can be kept refrigerated for three or four days.

The Garden Tipple: Pickled Summer Martini

Pickled Martini

We’re a bit pickled, Boozers. A bumper crop of adorable Mexican Sour Gherkins in the cocktail garden left us somewhat overwhelmed, until we decided to just pickle the little darlings. And, to make it a bit more fun, we pickled them in tequila, which they liked just fine, thank you very much, providing us with two excellent ingredients for a perfectly summery martini: a pickled cucumber garnish and a tasty brine to stand in for the vermouth.

The trick to a really good martini is to make sure that every ingredient is really cold — from the liquor to the garnish to the glass itself — and there’s kind of nothing more luscious on a sticky summer evening when you’ve dragged yourself home from work than to be presented with a perfectly chilled cocktail just as you open the front door, calling out “Lucy, I’m home!” Our Pickled Summer Martini will hit that spot.

Pickled Summer Martini

Some people like a gin martini, some like vodka, so the liquor you use here is really up to you. We chose to use our favorite Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin, which is rye-based, because we like its herbaceous bite, but we can enjoy it equally well with the smooth richness of Boyd & Blair’s Potato Vodka. Check out your local distilleries and give them some love.

2 ounces chilled gin or vodka

1 ounce fresh cucumber juice (recipe below – you’ll need a cucumber)

a few drops of pickle brine, preferably from our Tequila-Pickled Gherkins  (you could also substitute brine from a jar of cornichons)

Several pickled gherkins or cornichons, for garnish

First, make the cucumber juice. Take a fresh peeled cucumber, cut into chunks, and put it in a blender with a tablespoon or two of water. Blend on high until liquefied, then strain. Discard pulp and chill the remaining liquid thoroughly, at least 30 minutes.

Then, take a martini glass and rinse the outside of it lightly in cold water, shaking off the excess. Then add a few drops of pickle brine to the glass and coat the glass well with the brine, pouring off any excess. Put a few pickled gherkins on a cocktail skewer and place in the glass, then put the whole thing in the freezer for 15 minutes. Chilling the garnish this way helps keep that martini really cold when you serve it.

When the cucumber juice and martini glass with the garnish are sufficiently chilled, pour the cucumber juice and gin or vodka into a cocktail shaker with a few ice cubes. Shake vigorously, then strain into the chilled martini glass with garnish. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

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