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 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: Watermelon Moonshine Shooter

Watermelon Moonshine Shooter

We’re celebrating independence, Boozers. Some days, the weight of responsibility can be crushing, as the gimlet-eyed gaze of a soulless COO leaves you wondering if you can survive another day in corporate America. And then you push through those gleaming glass doors into the hot sunshine of a late summer afternoon and you raise your arms to the clear blue sky and you scream, “I’m mad as hell — and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”

Or you just go to the corner and buy a bottle of moonshine.

Because at least you’ve got a three-day weekend ahead of you, and a hometown parade, and fireworks exploding in the darkness. And good friends who will share a shot — or two — and remind you that there’s always another way to get to the finish line. Grab your independence and run with it.

Watermelon Moonshine Shooter

Watermelon are a dime a dozen this time of year, whether in the garden or the farmers market, and, as you can imagine, they make a tasty drink on a hot day. We like to use a white whiskey — also known as moonshine — but it would be equally good with tequila.

1 cup fresh watermelon chunks

4 ounces white whiskey (we like Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, but support your local distillery)

1 fresh lime

a few dashes of citrus bitters (optional, but we like Hella Citrus)

Kosher salt

Put watermelon and whiskey into a blender and liquify. Strain the liquid, then squeeze fresh lime juice into it and add a few drops of bitters. Mix well and let chill for an hour. Stir again before pouring into shot glasses, and sprinkle a few grains of salt over the top before drinking it down.

 

 

The Garden Tipple: Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch

Midsummer Night's Beer Punch

We have had a most rare vision, dear Boozers. Sunlight slanting low and golden across quiet orderly rows of tomatoes, beans, and peppers, suddenly distorted by the higgledy-piggledy madness of raspberry canes, climbing every which way in tangled curls of green and crimson. Warmed by the late-day sunshine, the scent is intoxicating and you find your fingers and lips stained with their sweetness. Such is a midsummer night, when inhibitions are thrown out into the soft breeze and a magical stillness settles into a contented soul.

Midsummer is an important time in many cultures, as the longest day of the year arrives with great fanfare, only to be immediately followed by gradually shortening days that herald the inevitable coming of winter. Fueled by a sense of urgency, we feel the need to gather our friends and dance with abandon in the open air, surrounded by barbecues and beer cans as we chase our dreams through the shadows. We like to celebrate such folly with our Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch, a heady blend of raspberry-infused gin, limoncello-spiked lemonade, and crisp summer ale. Consider yourself forewarned: though she be but little, she is fierce.

Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch

Here in the U.S., we tend to come just a bit late to the party by celebrating midsummer on the Fourth of July, and this punch is just right for a crowd. The trick is to try to keep everything well-chilled until just before serving — go rustic by mixing the lemonade and gin together in a large mason jar, then add a couple of cold beers to the jar as your guests begin to arrive. To keep it extra cold, try throwing in a few beer cubes.

2 cups chilled lemonade with 3/4 cup limoncello added (we like our local Don Ciccio & Figli limoncello)

1 cup chilled gin infused with raspberries and lemongrass (recipe here)

3 chilled beers (we used a summery ale by our local DC Brau)

Several slices of fresh orange and lemon

Using a punch bowl or a large mason jar, add all ingredients and stir together well. Serve immediately and replenish as necessary. Garnish with fresh lemongrass stalks if you have it.

 

The Friday Tipple: The Good Friday

The Good Friday

TGIF, Boozers. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, an emphatic TGIF. For many people across the globe, this week also represents the observation of Passover and Easter, a time for reflection upon and appreciation of all that is both bitter and sweet.

We always find Fridays, in general, to be bittersweet, as we struggle to stay focused on the work necessary to pay the bills while already lamenting the scant few hours ahead that allow us to escape the daily grind. We find ourselves easily distracted, rushing headlong into the weekend and the joys of sleeping in because we sat up in the wee hours watching infomercials while munching on microwave pizza in bed.

For this particular Friday, it feels right to come home to a special cocktail that we’re calling, appropriately enough, The Good Friday. By turns bitter, sweet, celebratory, and slightly numbing, it could set the tone for your two days of respite – or simply give you a few moments of blissful ignorance.

The Good Friday

Most people think of Campari only in connection with club soda and a wedge of lime, but Campari adds a silky bittersweet note to many cocktails and is particularly nice when paired with flavors that are sweet, fruity, and botanical.

1 ounce silver tequila (we like Avion, which is rather herbaceous and gin-like with a bite)

1 ounce Campari

1/2 large fresh orange

chilled Prosecco or sparkling wine

Place tequila and Campari in a cocktail shaker and squeeze the orange into it thoroughly, including some pulp. Add an ice cube, stir briskly, and strain into a chilled coupe. Top with an ounce or so of Prosecco and enjoy.

 

The Friday Tipple: Frosted Boilermaker

Frosted Boilermaker

We’re feeling adult, Boozers. And by “adult”, we mean, of course, that we’re in the mood for an adult milkshake. It’s been that kind of week.

Actually, the term “adult milkshake” does seem a bit silly, sort of like referring to coq au vin as “adult chicken” simply because the recipe calls for wine, or implying that milkshakes are meant only to be enjoyed by children. However, we do enjoy an alcohol-enhanced frosted beverage as much as the next adult, so we decided to continue playing around with the Boilermaker, as we did last week with Dilbert’s Dilemma, and inspired by a brief encounter we had with a Guinness Float at Good Stuff Eatery on St. Patrick’s Day. We call it the Frosted Boilermaker, but call it “Dilbert’s Delight” if you wish, a perfect way to wallow at the end of another week of tedium and toil.

Frosted Boilermaker

We made a Beer Syrup for our Dilbert’s Dilemma cocktail, and it called to us piteously to use it again. Many milkshakes are made with chocolate, butterscotch, or strawberry syrups, so it seemed like a no-brainer to use a beer syrup in the same fashion. You can use ice cream, but we actually like the slightly tangy flavor that comes with a frozen yogurt, which complements the malty undertone of the beer syrup.

2 scoops of vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream

2 ounces whiskey (we used our favorite Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1 large tablespoon Beer Syrup

Splash of half-n-half (Coconut half-n-half is a nice touch)

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Whiskey-whipped cream (optional, but you’ll regret not doing this)

Nocello-glazed walnuts for garnish (also optional, but do it anyway)

Place first five ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with whipped cream and walnuts.

Whiskey-whipped cream: whip together one cup of chilled whipping cream, 1 ounce of whiskey, and 1 heaping teaspoon of brown sugar.

Nocello-glazed walnuts: put a small handful walnuts into a bowl with an ounce of Nocello liqueur (or whiskey or bourbon) and sprinkle with a little sugar. Mix together, then pour into a nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Allow to caramelize while stirring frequently, about 3 – 5 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool.

Beer Syrup

Beer Syrup

Simple syrups are generally just sugar and water reduced and thickened; you can play with these flavors by using different kinds of liquids, adding fruit or vegetables, and a variety of spices. A beer syrup is just what it sounds like — substituting beer for water to create an intensified sweet beer flavoring for cocktails, like our own Dilbert’s Dilemma, a new twist on the classic Boilermaker.

8 ounces of beer (we prefer a dark beer, and since it will be in a 12-ounce bottle or can, you can enjoy the remaining four ounces while you make the syrup)

1/2 cup raw sugar (use any sugar you like, of course)

a few whole cardamom pods

one small vanilla bean, split

Put all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a low boil, stirring gently. Reduce heat to low and allow to reduce by half, generally about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, remove cardamom pods and vanilla bean, and cool thoroughly. Can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Published in: on March 14, 2014 at 11:27 am  Comments (6)  
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The Friday Tipple: Dilbert’s Dilemma

Dilbert's Dilemma

Feeling downtrodden, dear Boozers? We understand. In a world where there are those who delight in stepping on the backs of others to achieve their petty goals, it’s hard to be the guy who just wants to quietly punch the clock and pick up a paycheck. Not everyone cares about movin’ on up, but try telling that to the eager beaver who just assigned you a 200-page analysis of the efficacy of traditional paper clips versus mini binder clips, in the hopes that it will bump them up in the estimation of some pencil-pushing muckety-muck who never heard of paying overtime.

Sigh.

All this means that you’re really going to need a drink when you get home from a weary day of banging your head softly against the wall of your cubicle. A classic drink of the workingman is the Boilermaker — essentially just a beer and a shot of whiskey, clearly designed to take the pain away before the factory whistle has even finished blowing at the end of the workday. We call our version Dilbert’s Dilemma, a slightly more subtle combination that can be savored as you slump gratefully in the La-Z-Boy in front of a flickering screen. Don’t let The Man get you down.

Dilbert’s Dilemma

While a beer syrup forms the basis of this cocktail — a simple combination of beer, sugar, and some spices — it’s the simple act of coating the interior glass with a small amount of orange liqueur that creates a new depth of flavor.

2 ounces of whiskey (or 3 if it’s been a rough week; we like Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1/2 ounce Beer Syrup (recipe here)

1/4 ounce orange liqueur (Don Ciccio & Figli Mandarinetto, Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec will work)

orange peel for garnish

Pour the whiskey and beer syrup into a cocktail shaker and stir briskly to combine. Pour the orange liqueur into the glass and swirl it all around the inside of the glass to coat completely. Add the blended whiskey and beer syrup to the glass and garnish with orange peel. Drink up.

The Friday Tipple: The Resolution

The Resolution

Ah, Boozers, we know how you feel. You rang in the new year with boisterous joy, then resolved to undo all the damage of the holiday season — Grandma’s butter cookies, those three fruitcakes, and a pound or two of chocolate snowmen. Yet here we are, just two weeks into the new year and your good intentions are already a dream deferred.

Our philosophy is to turn any resolution into an excuse for happy hour. Go to the gym, then finish up that final push-up at happy hour. Eat a salad, go to happy hour. Throw out the Christmas tree… well, you get it. It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere.

So we’ve decided this week to kill two birds with one stone and turn a health drink into our happy hour cocktail of choice. Kombucha, a kind of carbonated tea drink, is popping up everywhere these days, purportedly chock full of probiotics and other healthy junk, and makes a great base for a cocktail. You can even make it at home, although, as it takes a few weeks to properly ferment, you may want to just buy some at the health food store tonight on your way home. Add a slug of good-for-you gin (it’s full of herbs, right?) and you’re good to go. Resolutions be damned.

The Resolution

Kombucha has a lovely vinegary fizzy quality somewhat akin to fermented cider and it pairs really well with a variety of herbs and spices. If you make your own, you can experiment with different ingredients, and if you use a store-bought variety, you can still add some flavors to make it uniquely your own. As to liquor, you can really use whatever you like, but we prefer the herbaceous qualities of gin here.

1 fresh orange

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1.5 ounces gin (we enjoy our local Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin, which is organic and so, of course, extra healthy)

1 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur

chilled Kombucha (when we use store-bought, we like our local Capital Kombucha)

fresh orange peel for garnish

Squeeze the orange directly into the bottom of a tall glass, add the cinnamon and stir well to combine. Add several ice cubes, then gin, St. Germaine, and top off with Kombucha. Stir briskly, garnish with orange peel, and drink to your good health.

The Friday Tipple: Robert Frost-ini

Robert Frost-ini

We’re waxing poetic, Boozers. As we cozy up into the holiday season and the darkest days of winter, we yearn for snowy woods and horse-drawn sleighs, even as some profess a preference for global warming. There is something about the chill stillness of a December night that unites us all to transcend the boundaries of religion, geography, and culture.

And so we bring you the Robert Frost-ini. His poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” inspired us to create this December night in a glass, by combining our quick rosemary-infused vodka (we enjoy Boyd & Blair) with a splash of Catoctin Creek’s Pearousia pear brandy. At the bottom of the glass, like a bright red cardinal perched on the snowy branch of a birch tree, is a soupçon of cranberry simple syrup, beckoning to you with its lip-puckering tartness.

Though your friends and family may be flung far and wide, you can all share in the welcoming darkness of December, as the days slowly begin to lengthen again into the promise of spring. Enjoy the moment.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep.

The Robert Frost-ini

2 ounces rosemary-infused vodka (recipe here)

1/2 ounce Pearousia or pear brandy

a few drops of Italian sweet vermouth

scant teaspoon cranberry simple syrup (recipe below)

reserved cranberries

Put vodka, Pearousia and vermouth in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Pour cranberry simple syrup and a single cranberry into the bottom of a chilled martini glass. Strain the contents of the cocktail shaker into the glass and enjoy.

To make cranberry simple syrup:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup frozen cranberries

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 teaspoon gum arabic mixed with 1 teaspoon water (optional)

Combine first four ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens into a syrup*. Reserve cranberries and strain the syrup, then allow to cool.

* Optional: at this point, you can take the pan off the heat and mix in gum arabic paste, which will make the syrup thicker. Not necessary, but it has a nice texture.

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