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.

 

 

 

The Garden Tipple: Mary’s Cherry

Mary's Cherry

Get your minds out of the gutter, Boozers. It’s cherry tomato season and the little darlings are exploding in the garden these days, meaning that we are overrun with little red — and pink, and yellow — globules of goodness. So we decided that we needed a Bloody Mary.

While you can purchase Bloody Mary mixer in the store — and some of it can be quite tasty — it’s also a snap to make, especially this time of year when the tomato crop is obscene in its abundance. Cherry tomatoes make for a nice base, both sweet and tart at once, rather like our friend Mary. We’ve upped the ante on our version, Mary’s Cherry, by also marinating a handful of cherry tomatoes in vodka, which makes for a rather potent brunch cocktail. Collect the car keys at the door and settle in.

Mary’s Cherry

A classic Bloody Mary requires horseradish and Worcestershire Sauce to give it some kick, but don’t neglect other flavors to amp it up. Here in the mid-Atlantic, it’s popular to add Old Bay Seasoning to the mix, but curry powder, smoked paprika, ramps, and pickled hot peppers are other ingredients that you might try out to customize the flavor to your own tastebuds.

3 ounces Bloody Cherry Tomato Mix (recipe here)

2 ounces vodka (we like Boyd & Blair – you can also use the vodka from the Drunken Cherry Tomatoes)

4 Drunken Cherry Tomatoes (recipe here)

Cucumber and fresh parsley for garnish (optional — use whatever you like)

Place the Drunken Cherry Tomatoes in the bottom of a tall glass and muddle lightly to break the skins. Add a few ice cubes, then the vodka and Bloody Cherry Tomato Mix. Stir well and garnish. Serve immediately.

The Garden Tipple: Sugarbaby Daiquiri

Sugarbaby Daiquiri

We’re parched, Boozers. Gardening is hard work, and we’ve done enough tilling, weeding, watering, and harvesting in the height of summer to last a lifetime — and it’s not even August. The air-conditioned comfort of the grocery store’s produce section begins to look mighty good when you’re covered in sweat and compost while you battle aphids and whatever just chewed up half your tomatoes during the night. But then the sugarbabies arrived and things started to look up.

A Sugar Baby is a common variety of miniature watermelon, often found in farmers markets and grocery stores under the moniker “personal watermelon”. They are small, and sweet, and utterly hydrating on a hot summer day, especially when rum is involved. We don’t usually go in for frozen drinks, and we generally like our daiquiris Hemingway-style, but sometimes an adult slurpee is really the only way to go when the mercury is on the rise. Slurp it up and drink it down.

Sugarbaby Daiquiri

Most frozen drinks are made with ice cubes, but we turn our noses up at that when we have watermelon available. As you might imagine, watermelon is mostly water and so, when cut into cubes, they freeze perfectly. They also freeze fairly quickly, so you’ll be ready to whip up your daiquiris within a couple of hours of freezing.

One Sugar Baby watermelon, preferably seedless, cut into chunks

2 ounces rum, preferably a lighter variety such as silver or gold (we used Mount Gay this time)

1 ounce hibiscus liqueur (we used Don Ciccio & Figli; if you don’t have that available to you, use St. Germain elderflower liqueur to add a floral note, or even Maraschino liqueur, which is generally used in traditional daiquiris)

1 fresh lime

Place the watermelon chunks into a plastic Ziploc bag and freeze until solid, about an hour or two. To make a good-sized daiquiri, place one cup of frozen watermelon chunks in a blender with the rum, liqueur, and the juice of half a lime. Blend on high for a few seconds — it won’t take long to break down the cubes and you want them to maintain a perfectly drinkable frozen purée. Serve immediately.

The Garden Tipple: Fresh Currant Cobbler

 

Fresh Currant Cobbler

We’re feeling jaunty, Boozers. A slight break in humidity has brought on a perfect imitation of a glorious New England summer day and a batch of fresh currants has only intensified the joy. There is something old-fashioned and charming about fresh currants, a fruity throwback to a bygone era, which brought us, of course, to thinking about the pleasures of sherry.

We know, you thought we had turned to baking when you saw that today’s tipple was called a Fresh Currant Cobbler… but no. A cocktail known as a Sherry Cobbler was once all the rage, perhaps 150 years ago, an agreeable combination of sherry, sugar, a bit of fruit, and ice. Some aficionados say a straw is necessary as well, so we like to go with tradition. It’s extraordinarily refreshing on a pleasantly warm July evening as you sit at an outdoor table taking in the sights and sounds of a town just as the sun edges past the yardarm, and you’ll feel a bit like donning a seersucker suit and a Panama hat, just to get the full effect. Go find your inner dandy.

Fresh Currant Cobbler

People tend to be a bit afraid of sherry, but don’t be judgmental simply because it’s what Great-Grandmama Stella drank out of a tiny crystal glass just before the dinner gong sounded. Ranging from dry to sweet in flavor, sherry is basically aged wine with a bit of a kick. We like to make this cobbler with a slightly sweet Amontillado, which contrasts nicely against the tartness of the fresh currants, but it could work with a Manzanilla as well.

4 ounces chilled Amontillado sherry

1/2 a fresh orange

1 ounce Fresh Currant Syrup with berries

Frozen currants on the stem (optional, but a fun garnish — just throw a stemful of fresh currants into the freezer for an hour before serving)

Put sherry in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice, then squeeze the orange into it thoroughly. Shake well. Put the Fresh Currant Syrup into the bottom of a tall glass, then pour the contents of the cocktail shaker over it. Garnish with fresh frozen currants and serve immediately — with a straw, of course.

 

 

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