The Friday Tipple: Beetlejuice

Spring is in the air, Boozers. We hear that snow is falling across the Midwest, but, for today at least, it’s practically sultry in our neck of the woods. Daffodils are rearing their scrawny necks and ducks are eyeing each other amorously. The breeze is redolent with the scent of raw promise.

A box of fresh produce from Washington’s Green Grocers landed on the doorstep yesterday, inspiring us with some of its early spring offerings — namely, lovely little beets, bursting with rosy goodness. Their earthy sweetness is, we believe, a perfect complement to the bright woodsy notes found in gin, culminating in an infusion that recalls springtime hikes through primeval forests, where crocuses peep through the detritus of winter and toadstools beckon innocently from the shadows.

While we tend to think of vegetables as used only occasionally in more savory cocktails — the Bloody Mary, for instance — there are many that also lend a subtle sweetness to hand-crafted drinks. Our little box of produce also yielded several gorgeous watermelon radishes, which, with their sugary spiciness are sure to find themselves more intimately incorporated into an upcoming concoction, rather than only being relegated to a pretty garnish.

Throw off the confines of winter, Boozers — spring awaits.

Beetlejuice

Our housemade St. Germain-based lemon soda is a tasty complement to our beet-infused gin, which we think lends a floral undertone to our homage to spring. It’s incredibly easy to make, but you can substitute a commercial lemon soda if you prefer.

1 small raw beet, peeled and grated

1/2 cup gin (we prefer Catoctin Creek’s Organic Watershed Gin)

raw sugar (regular granulated sugar is fine as well)

juice of one fresh lemon

1 ounce St. Germain liqueur

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

3 ounces club soda or mineral water

To make the beet infusion: Put grated beets in a cup or jar with a large pinch of raw sugar. Top with gin and allow to sit, uncovered, for one or two hours. Strain and set aside.

To make the lemon soda: Put the lemon juice, St. Germain, agave nectar and club soda in a glass and stir vigorously until well-incorporated. Do this just before assembling the cocktail to maintain the carbonation.

Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the lemon soda. Pour 1.5 ounces of beet-infused gin over the top — do not stir, but leave it layered. Garnish with lemon, fresh herbs, or a slice of watermelon radish (optional). Drink up.

The Friday Tipple: Stormy Margarita

It’s Friday the 13th, Boozers. We’re not superstitious but a stiff drink on this gloomy winter day would certainly be most welcome. Our thoughts naturally turned to a Dark and Stormy, which is truly a season-less cocktail, but then we came across a rum punch recipe from Padma Lakshmi, the goddess of Top Chef, when she also commented about a salted lime juice popular in India. The rest, they say, is history.

The base of our Stormy Margarita is a lime-ginger soda that we quickly whipped up and topped off quite simply with a big shot of Gosling’s 151, a lovely dark rum that matches our mood. Astonshingly, the first sip seems to help the skies to clear, and, by the time you drain the last drop, you’ll be dancing across the rooftops in joyous abandon. Or singin’ in the rain.

There’s nothing like a stormy drink to put a little pep in your step. Dust off those tap shoes, Boozers.

Stormy Margarita

Fresh ginger and lime are key to the bold flavors of this drink. We made our soda with a slug of Stone’s Ginger Wine, which adds complexity, but we also think it would work well with a splash of dry sherry. We also used light agave nectar, because it is not cloyingly sweet, but you could substitute sugar or honey to taste.

1 fresh lime, juiced

1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

1 ounce Stone’s Ginger Wine (or dry sherry)

1 tablespoon light agave nectar (adjust to your taste)

large pinch of Kosher salt

1/4 cup club soda

2 ounces Gosling’s 151 Black Seal Rum

lime wheel for garnish

Place first five ingredients in a cocktail shaker and let sit for 10 minutes, then add ice and shake vigorously. Add club soda and swirl to combine, then strain into a glass over ice (this step removes some of the grated ginger so it doesn’t get caught in your teeth, but still leaves a strong ginger essence). Carefully pour rum over the top and garnish with lime. Cheers!

 

The complex simple syrup

You’ll find a lot of cocktail recipes often call for a “simple syrup” — basically a 1:1 mix of sugar and water cooked on the stove to boiling, then allowed to cool for a variety of uses when you need a liquid sweetener as opposed to granulated sugar.

The beauty of a really good cocktail is the layering of flavors, just as in any well-composed entrée or dessert. A really interesting cocktail may have some kind of a fruit element, a sweetener (honey, agave nectar, simple syrup, etc.), an alcohol (or two, or three…), a textural element (this could be anything from carbonated water to slices of fruit to muddled herbs), and some kind of finishing contrast, like bitters.

A simple syrup, like a good bitters, can be complex, thereby adding more depth to your drink. They are quick to make and can be kept on hand indefinitely in a jar or squeeze bottle; experiment with different flavors — a fennel-infused simple syrup could offer an interesting contrast to a throat-burning grappa, or a caramelized grapefruit simple syrup could help deepen the flavor of a whiskey sour. All it takes is a little sugar and water and your imagination.

Blackberry Lavender Simple Syrup

This nod to summer’s bounty bears the addition of black peppercorns and a pinch of salt — a bit unusual, perhaps, but it helps to bring the flavors together and adds to the overall complexity of the syrup. You’ll also find this to be an important element in our next Friday’s Tipple!

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup blackberries

3 stems dried lavender

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

pinch of salt

Place sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture is simmering briskly. Lower heat slightly, then add blackberries, smashing them gently with the back of a spoon to release the juices. Add lavender stems, peppercorns, and salt, and let simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, then strain liquid and store in a jar for future use.

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