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 Friday Tipple: Fizzy Friday

Fizzy Friday

You’ve done it again, Boozers. You told yourself “I will not have a third helping of mashed potatoes” and you stuffed yourself on stuffing and then there were three kinds of pie. We know how you feel: bloated, bleary, and blubbery.

After sucking down a bottle of Grampa’s homemade dandelion wine and those shots of Wild Turkey with your cousin Gerry behind the garage, Black Friday is a bit of a blur. What you need to do is soothe your tum. Enter bitters. There are two types of bitters: digestive bitters and cocktail bitters. Both types are basically herbs and roots that are used to flavor alcohol, usually having a bitter or bittersweet taste. Cocktail bitters, like AngosturaBittermensFee Brothers, and Urban Moonshine, are generally used sparingly to flavor cocktails, much as you might add salt and pepper to your food. Digestive bitters, like CampariPimm’s No. 1, and Cynar, can be drunk straight up or on the rocks as well as in cocktails.

We like to make our own cocktail bitters and just finished up a batch of what we call Chocolate Stout Bitters (want a bottle of your own? drop us a line), featuring fresh hops, espresso beans, and cocoa nibs, but don’t be intimidated by our ingenuity. Drag yourself to the local liquor store and grab any bottle of either cocktail or digestive bitters, along with some tonic water or club soda. Down the Fizzy Friday in one go and you’ll be back in fine fettle before you can say “Alka Seltzer“. Cheers!

Fizzy Friday

There are as many ways to make a Fizzy Friday as there are recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers. You can choose to go the digestive route and pour a generous slug of Campari (our personal favorite) over ice and top it off with a splash of club soda. However, we’re going the other direction today, for reasons that will soon become clear.

Tonic water or club soda

Cocktail bitters (Bitters, Old Men Restorative Tonic is good here)

Gin (as always, we’ll be reaching for the Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

Fill a lowball glass with ice and add 4 ounces of tonic water or club soda. Add 20 drops of bitters — yes, that’s right, we said 20 — and drink it down quickly. Then fill the glass with more tonic or soda, throw in some gin, and you’re good to go. Great Aunt Joan’s waiting for you to drive her to Walmart.

The Friday Tipple: Burns-erac!

Burnserac

We’ve said it before, Boozers, and we’ll say it again: cocktails create community. Derek Brown, the hip mixologist of the Columbia Room in DC, waxes quite poetic about it, actually, and observes an old tradition when whipping up that classic cocktail, the Sazerac, requiring audience participation: a smidge of absinthe is poured into a chilled glass and the glass is thrown gently into the air, and, as the absinthe coats the inside of the glass during its flight, the assembled barflies all shout “Sazerac!”  just before the bartender snatches the glass from mid-air. Now that’s what we call community.

We were reminded of this again while greedily lapping up reruns of Ken Burns‘ documentary “Prohibition”. Clearly, alcohol can create community in myriad ways — everything from temperance unions to drinking clubs to inebriate asylums — and leave it to the ever-youthful Burns (we suspect he still gets carded) to make it all completely enthralling.

So, we salute Ken Burns this week with the Burns-erac: a whisper of whiskey (apparently an old favorite), chilled Prosecco (he told Liquor.com that it’s his current drink of choice), and a colorful nip of Peychaud’s Gomme Syrup (a simple syrup we made with Peychaud’s Bitters — the addition of gum arabic gives a lovely mouthfeel that you get right in the last sip). Gather together a group of friends while enjoying this cocktail salute, and don’t forget to shout out: “Burns-erac!”

Burns-erac

Chilled Prosecco

Whiskey (we’re particularly enjoy Catoctin Creek’s Roundstone Rye)

Peychaud’s Gomme Syrup (recipe below)

Lemon twist

Fill a champagne flute with ice and water and allow to chill for a few minutes. Empty the flute and pour in a small splash of whiskey, then swirl it around quickly to coat the inside of the glass (you can shout “Burns-erac” here if you like). Pour a 1/2 teaspoon of the Peychaud’s Gomme Syrup (recipe and an alternative below) in the bottom of the glass, then carefully fill the rest of the glass with Prosecco. Garnish with a lemon twist. Burnserac!

Peychaud’s Gomme Syrup: Heat 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to boiling in a small saucepan, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Mix one tablespoon gum arabic with one tablespoon hot water and stir until dissolved into a sticky paste; add to sugar-water mixture and stir until dissolved. Add 2 tablespoons Peychaud’s Aromatic Cocktail Bitters and stir well. Allow to simmer over very low heat for another 15 minutes, still stirring occasionally. Cool completely before using.

No time to make this luscious syrup? Okay, then just place a teaspoon of simple syrup and several drops of Peychaud’s in the bottom of the champagne flute and mix together. Or use a sugar cube and soak it in the Peychaud’s, then loosen it with a cocktail spoon. It won’t have the same gorgeous mouthfeel as the Peychaud’s Gomme Syrup, but it will provide the right flavor.

The Friday Tipple: This Little Figgy

This Little Figgy

We’re feeling figgy, Boozers. The neighbors just dropped off a giant bag of fresh figs, because their tree is overflowing and it is, after all, fig season. You may have seen these funny little wonders in the farmer’s market and wondered what to do with them. Fig bars? Figgy pudding? Toasted under the broiler with gorgonzola? The list is endless, really.

We, of course, lean toward the cocktail. Figs lend themselves to cocktails quite well, actually — when added into alcohol, their texture provides a certain silky mouthfeel which makes any drink seem quite sexy. They also have a luscious sweetness which combines well with many other flavors. For our concoction, which we fondly call This Little Figgy, we like the addition of Finocchietto, a fennel liqueur made by one of our favorite local distillers, Don Ciccio & Figgli, but you could substitute another anise-based liqueur such as absinthe or even dust off that bottle of Galliano that you are never quite sure how to use. Get your fig on.

This Little Figgy

On a recent trip to the great state of New York, we were intrigued to discover Core Vodka, which is distilled from apples. The flavor is clean and crisp — this is not an apple-flavored vodka, but simply the essence of apples distilled into vodka. Paired with the fresh fall flavors of fennel and fig, This Little Figgy is like a bright September day poured into a glass.

2 fresh figs

3 ounces vodka

1 ounce Finocchietto or other anise liqueur

2 dashes orange or grapefruit bitters (The Bitter Truth has good varieties of each)

Cut the figs in half and use a spoon to remove the flesh from three of the halves, setting the final half aside for garnish. Put the fig flesh into a cocktail shaker and add the vodka, mashing together. Set aside for a few minutes, then add the Finocchietto, bitters, and a couple of ice cubes. Shake vigorously. Remove the larger pieces of fig (this makes it easier to strain) and strain into a cosmopolitan glass. Garnish with the remaining half of fig.

The Friday Tipple: DIY Craft Cocktail

DIY Craft Cocktail

We’re feeling crafty, Boozers. What with the upsurge of interest in barrel-aged cocktails and gin-and-tonics on tap, we began to yearn for a ready-made cocktail of our own. What could be nicer after wearily trudging home from a long week at the cube than being able to open up the fridge and find a tasty infused cocktail just waiting to be consumed?

Because we like to mix practicality into our cocktails, a mason jar seems to be a perfect vessel for both crafting and imbibing — no fuss, no muss. Our DIY Craft Cocktail can be set up before you leave for work and all you have to do is twist off the lid when you get home, add a few ice cubes, and drink up, straight out of the jar. Put together several jars and invite some friends over, or line them up next to the La-Z-Boy while you binge-watch “The Office”. It’s a Friday night made in heaven.

DIY Craft Cocktail

This drink is a model of infusion — by putting all the ingredients, including the mixer, into the jar, you end up with a cocktail where the flavors have begun to meld together, but the shorter infusion time allows for some of the specific characteristics to remain freshly distinct. Whatever. It tastes good. Drink up.

2 ounces gin (our local Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin or Green Hat Gin are generally at the top of our list, but go local wherever you are, of course)

1 ounce freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice

2 ounces club soda

2 wedges fresh grapefruit

1 – 2 tablespoons orange blossom honey (adjust to your taste)

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1 sprig of fresh thyme (optional, but nice if you have it)

1 quassia chip (also 0ptional — we keep them on hand for making bitters — otherwise, just add a couple of dashes of your favorite bitters)

Place all ingredients into a 12-ounce mason jar, stir vigorously, and then put the lid on tightly. Put in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. To drink, remove the lid, fish out the quassia chip (and grapefruit wedges, if you wish), stir well, add a few ice cubes, and enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Margarita Memory

margarita

The Ides of March is upon us, dear Boozers. Historically speaking, it marks the day that Caesar was assassinated — “Et tu, Brute?” — although the term “Ides” simply refers to either the 13th or the 15th day of the month, as the Romans couldn’t make anything simple. We like to use this day to lift a glass in memory of friends and loved ones — and as our dear ones all seem to have had a penchant for margaritas, that most communal of libations — we are celebrating today with a Margarita Memory.

A margarita is really a classic blend of sweet and sour, to which we like to add notes of spice — creating a perfect representation of a life well-lived. It can be made with a variety of citrus, from traditional lime to blood oranges, mandarins, and grapefruit, and its flavor can be subtly altered by the type of tequila you use — blanco, mixto, reposado, and so forth — or you could even substitute with an unaged whiskey (we’ve done this often with Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit with excellent *hic* results) or even a smoky mezcal. Most importantly, to make a Margarita Memory really sing, choose ingredients that really reflect the person you are remembering — sweet, smooth, fresh, rich, perky, snarky, optimistic — and then savor every drop.

Margarita Memory

Our version today contains some muddled peach and a blend of lime and orange juice, because it reminds us of happy days drinking margaritas on the beach with special people. We added a pink peppercorn syrup to pack a bit of punch  — because peaches are not in season now, we actually used the syrup from canned peaches as our base.

2 ounces silver tequila

1 ounce Cointreau

1/2 ounce Amaretto

2 ounces fresh lime and orange juice

Slice or two of peach (canned is fine if peaches are out of season)

1 tablespoon pink peppercorn syrup, or to taste (recipe below)

dash of citrus bitters (such as Urban Moonshine or even Bitter Ends Thai Bitters)

Wedge of lime or other citrus for garnish

Muddle a couple of slices of peach in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add tequila, cointreau, citrus juices, syrup, and bitters; add a few ice cubes and shake vigorously. Strain into a margarita glass (salt optional) filled with ice and float a little Amaretto over the top. Garnish with lime and serve immediately.

To make pink peppercorn syrup: Strain syrup from canned peaches into a small saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of whole pink peppercorns and simmer over very low heat for about 30 minutes. Cool completely, then strain and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

 

The Friday Tipple: Sequestration Sour

image

Tighten your belts, Boozers. The much-anticipated Sequester seems to be on its way, unless some eleventh hour deal is inked in the cozy confines of a Capitol Hill cloakroom. Our expectations are low, however, so we’ve decided that it’s time to cull 10% of the liquor cabinet. And, because such a sequester calls for neither rhyme nor reason, we’ve decided to throw any old thing into a cocktail shaker and make what we like to call a Sequestration Sour.

A basic Sour cocktail calls for liquor, simple syrup, citrus juice, and an egg white. To give it South American flair, add a few drops of bitters. Shake it with ice, strain it into a glass, and drink up. Sounds simple, right? Ah, if only those Congressional sourpusses sucked down some Sours and embraced bipartisan camaraderie, we might not be wondering if the air traffic controllers will be at work tonight. We think we’ll stay home in the meantime.

Sequestration Sour

Some people may be afraid of putting a raw egg white in a cocktail, conjuring images of Rocky in training. However, there’s little evidence to suggest that it’s not perfectly safe to drink a small amount, especially if you have reasonably fresh eggs that haven’t been sitting in your refrigerator for three months. You can make a sour without the egg white, but it simply won’t have the same creamy mouthfeel and that luscious foam that makes a simple cocktail seem decadent, even in the midst of a budgetary meltdown.

2 ounces of whatever alcohol needs to get the axe (we used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, but, honestly, use whatever you like — vodka, tequila, whiskey, Pisco, grappa, and Amaretto are all good candidates)

1 ounce simple syrup or agave nectar (even honey would work nicely for a bourbon-based sour)

1 ounce fresh citrus juice (we used a combination of lime and grapefruit juice, as that’s what we had on hand)

1 teaspoon egg white (basically, about half of an egg white — so we suggest doubling the above ingredients and using the whole egg white, allowing you to make a drink for a friend now rendered obsolete by the Sequester. Misery loves company.)

a few dashes of bitters

Place all ingredients except bitters in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Add a few ice cubes, shake again until well-chilled, and strain into a rocks glass. Add a few drops of bitters and serve immediately.

Fat Tuesday Tipple: Creole Coffee Cocktail

Creole Coffee Cocktail

Laissez le bon temps rouler, Boozers. Beads are flying in New Orleans even as you read this, but most of us are sadly bereft of a true Mardi Gras experience, so we turn instead to the Shrove Tuesday alternative: pancakes.

In the Protestant tradition, pancakes are the preferred meal on the night before Lent, dripping with butter and sugar before 40 days of denial. And, whatever your spiritual beliefs, or non-beliefs, who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner? Even if you don’t participate in a Pancake Race, this is the time to break out your favorite recipe — buckwheat, blueberry, chocolate chip — and load up those carbohydrates.

As excess is the word of the day, a proper cocktail needs to accompany such a treat, something bitter, subtly sweet, and complex enough to balance out the full-fat decadence of a stack of hotcakes. The Creole Coffee Cocktail hits the spot here — we like to use a chicory-based coffee to enhance the nutty flavor, but any dark roast will do. We like to think that this little shot of caffeine will truly help keep the good times rolling until Ash Wednesday sobers us up. Keep your shirts on, Boozers — or not. Carpe Diem!

Creole Coffee Cocktail

2 ounces strong black coffee, cooled

1.5 ounces rye whiskey (we like Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1/2 ounce Nocello walnut liqueur (Frangelico, Kahana Royale, Amaretto, or even Kahlua will work as a substitute)

Dash of Peychaud’s bitters

1/2 a small orange, peeled

orange twist, for garnish

Put the orange in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle; add a couple of ice cubes and the coffee, rye whiskey, Nocello, and bitters, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with the orange twist.

The Friday Tipple: Arctic Char

Arctic Char

It’s time for a reality check, Boozers. Reality television, that is. We enjoy curling up on the couch on a cold winter night to watch the sordid machinations of complete strangers trapped together in an alternate reality. Who’s in, who’s out, who came up with the snarkiest comment about a fellow castmate. Ah, guilty pleasures.

This week, we were captivated, as always, by Top Chef, and particularly intrigued by the burnt lemon garnish whipped up by the kindly and unassuming Sheldon for the Quick Fire Challenge. Pulverized into dust, he claimed it would have a concentrated smoky essence of lemon. How could we resist?

Turns out, “citrus charcoal” is an ingredient found in the Mid East and Asia, and, as you can imagine, is pretty easy to make, and, when mixed with agave nectar, has exactly the same flavor as the lovely charred skin of roasted marshmallows, with a lightly citrus undertone. Inspired by the recent snowfall in our area, we wanted to create a cocktail that was both bright and smoky, able to combat the frosty chill: the Arctic Char. Because life is a reality show, Boozers. Drink up.

Arctic Char

To add to the smokiness of this cocktail, we roasted several pieces of orange over an open flame. We used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, an unaged whisky: its warm bite provides the right counterpoint to the sweetness of fresh orange, and unaged whisky, or moonshine, is readily available these days from small distilleries across the country. 

3 ounces smoked orange juice (technique below)

1/2 ounce triple sec or Cointreau

1.5 ounces unaged or white whisky

2 – 3 drops of bitters (The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters adds a nice dimension)

1/4 teaspoon orange charcoal (technique below)

1/2 teaspoon light agave nectar

Wheel of roasted orange for garnish (just quickly roast over open flame)

Put the smoked orange juice in a cocktail shaker with the triple sec and set aside for 15 minutes. In the meantime, mix the orange charcoal and agave nectar together into a paste and put in the bottom of a cocktail glass. Put the strained juice, whisky, and bitters into a clean cocktail shaker with a single ice cube, stir, and strain into the glass. Garnish with a wheel of roasted orange.

Orange Charcoal: You guessed it: Citrus charcoal is made by burning citrus peel (we used orange, but lemon, grapefruit, etc. will also work). This can be done fairly quickly by holding pieces of the peel with a pair of tongs over a flame; the peel will spark slightly as the natural oils in the skin heat up. As you burn each piece to a crisp, set it aside to cool slightly, then pulverize the pieces in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle until fine.

Smoked Orange Juice: Peel an orange and hold each section over an open flame for 15 seconds per side or until it begins to lightly char. Put warm sections into a glass or cocktail shaker and muddle thoroughly. Add the fresh juice of another orange and set aside for 30 minutes before straining thoroughly (you may want to use cheesecloth).

The Friday Tipple: Fizzy Friday

You’ve done it again, Boozers. You told yourself “I will not have a third helping of mashed potatoes” and you stuffed yourself on stuffing and then there were three kinds of pie. We know how you feel: bloated, bleary, and blubbery.

After sucking down a bottle of Grampa’s homemade dandelion wine and those shots of Wild Turkey with your cousin Gerry behind the garage, Black Friday is a bit of a blur. What you need to do is soothe your tum. Enter bitters. There are two types of bitters: digestive bitters and cocktail bitters. Both types are basically herbs and roots that are used to flavor alcohol, usually having a bitter or bittersweet taste. Cocktail bitters, like AngosturaBittermensFee Brothers, and Urban Moonshine, are generally used sparingly to flavor cocktails, much as you might add salt and pepper to your food. Digestive bitters, like CampariPimm’s No. 1, and Cynar, can be drunk straight up or on the rocks as well as in cocktails.

We like to make our own cocktail bitters and just finished up a batch of what we call Chocolate Stout Bitters (want a bottle of your own? drop us a line), featuring fresh hops, espresso beans, and cocoa nibs, but don’t be intimidated by our ingenuity. Drag yourself to the local liquor store and grab any bottle of either cocktail or digestive bitters, along with some tonic water or club soda. Down the Fizzy Friday in one go and you’ll be back in fine fettle before you can say “Alka Seltzer“. Cheers!

Fizzy Friday

There are as many ways to make a Fizzy Friday as there are recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers. You can choose to go the digestive route and pour a generous slug of Campari (our personal favorite) over ice and top it off with a splash of club soda. However, we’re going the other direction today, for reasons that will soon become clear.

Tonic water or club soda

Cocktail bitters (Bitters, Old Men Restorative Tonic is good here)

Gin (as always, we’ll be reaching for the Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

Fill a lowball glass with ice and add 4 ounces of tonic water or club soda. Add 20 drops of bitters — yes, that’s right, we said 20 — and drink it down quickly. Then fill the glass with more tonic or soda, throw in some gin, and you’re good to go. Great Aunt Joan’s waiting for you to drive her to Walmart.

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