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 Friday Tipple: Goin’ to a Go-Go

Goin' to a Go-Go

We’re bustin’ loose, Boozers. Here in our neck of the woods, we take our go-go music pretty seriously and today marks the passing of Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go, just two years ago. So we’re feeling the need to get a little funky.

Washington, DC, that geographical amalgamation of all peoples, does not have much that it can truly call its own. In fact, its indigenous culture extends to just three things: go-go, half-smokes, and political gridlock. After that, it’s pretty much Anytown, USA, albeit with a lot of cool monuments and free museums.

Goin’ to a Go-Go is funk in a glass — we happen to adore a beer simple syrup, particularly when made with some local brews from Chocolate City and DC Brau. We created a malty little treat from porter with a spicy undertone, which pairs well with whiskey, bourbon, and, in this case, brandy, but a lighter ale syrup is perfection with tequila.

Here’s a toast to you, Chuck Brown. Get, get, get, get on down.

Goin’ to a Go-Go

We used a local peach brandy from Catoctin Creek in this funky little nod to a Pisco Sour, and added some tart pickled cherries, which can be whipped up quickly and stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

2 pickled cherries

2 ounces brandy (a young or unaged brandy works best)

1/2 fresh orange

1/2 fresh lime

1 teaspoon Spicy Beer Syrup (recipe below)

dash bitters (a citrus-based variety like Scrappy’s Lime Bitters is good here)

Another cherry for garnish (optional)

Put two cherries in the bottom of a rocks glass and crush lightly with a spoon or muddling stick. Put a few ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and add brandy and beer syrup, then squeeze the orange and lime into the shaker. Cover and shake vigorously then pour it all into the glass, including the ice cubes. Add a dash of bitters and another pickled cherry for garnish and drink up.

Spicy Beer Syrup:

1 12-ounce beer

1 cup sugar

a few dashes of hot sauce (we used our local Uncle Brutha’s)

Pour the beer into a 2-quart saucepan and simmer over low heat until reduced by half; do not boil. Add sugar and hot sauce and stir to dissolve, continuing to simmer over low heat for another 5 or 10 minutes or until thickened. Allow to cool completely. Can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

The Friday Tipple: Tailgater’s Toddy

Tailgater's Toddy

Hang onto your helmets, Boozers. Yep, it’s time for that most hallowed of all American days: Super Bowl Sunday. Even as we write, tortilla chips are being crisped for homemade queso, pots of Mom’s secret chili are bubbling, and charcuterie enthusiasts are eagerly stuffing sausage casings. Let the games begin.

We’re pretty sure that you can’t enjoy football without a beer — or two — and a nice cold one can be tasty when you’re tucked up by the telly with a plate of nachos. But what if you’re tailgating in New Orleans with a portable barbecue brimming with gumbo? Time for a Tailgater’s Toddy, even if the temps are balmy by Baltimore standards.

If you’ve ever trekked through the frosty Eastern European countryside and stopped off at a roadside pub, then you’ll have encountered what can only be described as mulled beer — basically a strong beer that has been simmered with spices and is served warm in a large mug. The flavor is smooth and dark and brimming over with bone-warming richness; with the explosion of craft breweries across the United States, it’s easy to find a lovely local amber or brown ale or perhaps even a porter to serve as the base for this brew. We also add just a tot of brandy, although a bit of bourbon would do just as nicely — it helps ease the pain, just in case your team doesn’t grab that trophy. Touchdown!

Tailgater’s Toddy

We like to use a beer that is somewhat malty but with a bite of hops to it — basically providing a balance of bitter and sweet that melds with the fruit and spices. Check out your local brewery and pick up a growler or two to bring home — brewers love to talk about flavor profiles and can suggest which of their beers will work best in this recipe.

4 cups beer (49ers fans can try 21st Amendment, Ravens fans might go for Heavy Seas)

1 cinnamon stick

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 slice of fresh ginger, about an inch in diameter

2 wedges of apple, such as Granny Smith

1 small orange, sliced in half

2 TB honey (an orange blossom honey is nice if you have it)

1/4 cup brandy or bourbon (we used Catoctin Creek’s Pearousia Brandy for an extra kick of fruit)

Orange wedges for garnish (optional)

Put all ingredients except brandy into a 4-quart saucepan and simmer over very low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and add brandy just before serving in mugs or heat-proof glasses with a wedge of orange. Serves 2 – 4; okay, maybe just 1.

The Friday Tipple: Goin’ to a Go-Go

We’re bustin’ loose, Boozers. Here in our neck of the woods, we take our go-go music pretty seriously and, with the passing of Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go, earlier this week, we’re feeling the need to get a little funky.

Washington, DC, that geographical amalgamation of all peoples, does not have much that it can truly call its own. In fact, its indigenous culture extends to just three things: go-go, half-smokes, and political gridlock. After that, it’s pretty much Anytown, USA, albeit with a lot of cool monuments and free museums.

Goin’ to a Go-Go is funk in a glass — we recently became intrigued with the concept of a beer simple syrup and felt compelled to try it out with some local brews from Chocolate City and DC Brau. We created a malty little treat from porter with a smoky undertone, which pairs well with whiskey, bourbon, and, in this case, brandy, but a lighter ale syrup is perfection with tequila.

Here’s a toast to you, Chuck Brown. Get, get, get, get on down.

Goin’ to a Go-Go

We used a local brandy from Catoctin Creek in this funky little nod to a Pisco Sour, and added some tart pickled cherries, which can be whipped up quickly and stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

2 pickled cherries

2 ounces brandy (a young or unaged brandy works best)

1/2 fresh orange

1/2 fresh lime

1 teaspoon beer simple syrup (recipe below)

dash bitters (a citrus-based variety like Scrappy’s Lime Bitters is good here)

Another cherry for garnish (optional)

Put two cherries in the bottom of a rocks glass and crush lightly with a spoon or muddling stick. Put a few ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and add brandy and beer syrup, then squeeze the orange and lime into the shaker. Cover and shake vigorously then pour it all into the glass, including the ice cubes. Add a dash of bitters and another pickled cherry for garnish and drink up.

How to make beer syrup:

1 12-ounce beer

1 cup sugar

a few dashes of hot sauce (we used our local Uncle Brutha’s)

Pour the beer into a 2-quart saucepan and simmer over low heat until reduced by half; do not boil. Add sugar and hot sauce and stir to dissolve, continuing to simmer over low heat for another 5 or 10 minutes or until thickened. Allow to cool completely. Can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Tipple d’Amour: Valentine Wine

Cupid’s arrow is aiming at you, Boozers. We all search for love on Valentine’s Day, whether we choose to admit it or not; some of us find it in the arms of a significant other, or in a cuddly mutt, or in a well-endowed cupcake and an evening spent watching the Millionaire Matchmaker marathon. Love is in the eye of the beholder.

If you’re a bit of a Valentine’s Day cheapskate still looking to sweep that Special Someone off his or her feet, then our Valentine Wine is for you. It combines inexpensive red wine with a high-quality whiskey for a loving cup that packs a bit of a punch — a perfect libation for spending the night in, perhaps with a gourmet selection of Chinese take-away. Add a Whitman’s Sampler and the double Snuggie: the rest is up to you.

Valentine Wine

As our loyal Boozers know, we’ve been having a bit of a love affair with Catoctin Creek’s Roundstone Rye and have found many uses for it — perhaps too many uses… There are several wine cocktails that incorporate rum, brandy, and whiskey, and we love the spicy flavor of rye with a rich red wine. You really can go for a $6.99 bottle of wine here if you like — read the label and pick the one that promises a hint of berries and chocolate.

Red wine (get what you like: a table red is good, as is a pinot noir or even a merlot)

Rye whiskey (yes, we like Catoctin Creek, but you knew that)

Fresh raspberries

Sugar

Place 3 or 4 raspberries in the bottom of a wine glass and sprinkle with a 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Top with 3/4 ounce rye whiskey (a single-malt whiskey like Wasmund’s is nice too, or a small-batch bourbon like Basil Hayden’s) and very lightly muddle the raspberries, but don’t mash them to pieces. Allow to macerate for 15 minutes, then top with red wine. Float an additional raspberry on top if you want to impress. Bon chance!

 

The Friday Tipple: Tailgater’s Toddy

Hang onto your helmets, Boozers. Yep, it’s time for that most hallowed of all American days: Super Bowl Sunday. Even as we write, tortilla chips are being crisped for homemade queso, pots of Mom’s secret chili are bubbling, and charcuterie enthusiasts are eagerly stuffing sausage casings. Let the games begin.

We’re pretty sure that you can’t enjoy football without a beer — or two — and a nice cold one can be tasty when you’re tucked up by the telly with a plate of nachos. But what if you’re tailgating in Indianapolis with a portable barbecue brimming with bratwurst? Time for a Tailgater’s Toddy.

If you’ve ever trekked through the frosty Eastern European countryside and stopped off at a roadside pub, then you’ll have encountered what can only be described as mulled beer — basically a strong beer that has been simmered with spices and is served warm in a large mug. The flavor is smooth and dark and brimming over with bone-warming richness; with the explosion of craft breweries across the United States, it’s easy to find a lovely local amber or brown ale or perhaps even a porter to serve as the base for this brew. We like to add just a tot of brandy, although a bit of bourbon would do just as nicely — it helps ease the pain, just in case your team doesn’t grab that trophy. Touchdown!

Tailgater’s Toddy

We like to use a beer that is somewhat malty but with a bite of hops to it — basically providing a balance of bitter and sweet that melds with the fruit and spices. Check out your local brewery and pick up a growler or two to bring home — brewers love to talk about flavor profiles and can suggest which of their beers will work best in this recipe.

4 cups beer (we like our local DC Brau, Port City, and Chocolate City)

1 cinnamon stick

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 slice of fresh ginger, about an inch in diameter

2 wedges of apple, such as Granny Smith

1 small orange, sliced in half

2 TB honey (an orange blossom honey is nice if you have it)

1/4 cup brandy or bourbon (we used Catoctin Creek’s Pearousia Brandy for an extra kick of fruit)

Orange wedges for garnish (optional)

Put all ingredients except brandy into a 4-quart saucepan and simmer over very low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and add brandy just before serving in mugs or heat-proof glasses with a wedge of orange. Serves 2 – 4; okay, maybe just 1.

The Friday Tipple: The Boxcar

We’re lucky bastards, Boozers. The nice folks at Catoctin Creek Distilling Company blessed us with an early sample of their 1757 Virginia Brandy — still young and not quite ready for prime time — and we’ve been contemplating it for several weeks.  Richly mellow and lightly fruity, brandy can truly elevate winter cocktails to a new level of warm delight.

There are several cocktails that feature brandy, such as the Brandy Alexander and the Vieux Carré, but we weren’t inspired until we decided to check out the Boxcar Tavern, a new establishment in our area. As always, we eagerly examined the signature cocktail menu, and, while we were intrigued by the nutmeg syrup used in the whiskey-based Warm Winter Night, we were surprised that a place called the Boxcar wouldn’t have a signature Sidecar. Just seems like a natural fit.

So we’ve created it ourselves: the Boxcar. A classic Sidecar features brandy (or cognac, and we’re sure you know that all cognac is brandy but not all brandy is cognac), Cointreau, and lemon juice. But that nutmeg syrup just begs for brandy, and, with images of boxcars trundling north through the swamps of central Florida piled high with citrus, we felt that fresh oranges were a natural complement. The result is a gorgeous little burst of winter spice with subtle notes of spring break sunshine. Santé!

Boxcar

As you know, we hate to see dusty bottles of so-called “seasonal” liquors languish in the cupboard, so we eschewed the Cointreau, generally used in a traditional Sidecar, in favor of triple sec. You may only think of triple sec as used in summer margaritas, but its softly bitter orange flavor works just as well as Cointreau in this application.

3/4 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice (we used a couple of clementines; mandarins and tangerines would also work quite well)

3/4 ounce triple sec

1.5 ounces brandy or cognac

Scant teaspoon nutmeg syrup (basically, just add a 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg to 1/4 cup of simple syrup)

Sugar and lemon, for coating the rim of the glass

Run a slice of lemon around the edge of a martini or cosmopolitan glass and dip in sugar. Put the orange juice, triple sec, brandy, and nutmeg syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into glass and enjoy.

 

Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur

In the past week, the Good Booze kitchen has made it through both an earthquake and a hurricane. Since bad things tend to come in threes, we think the last thing to threaten us will be… the end of summer. Labor Day is on the way and, with it, the end of juicy fresh raspberries, peaches, tomatoes, and cantaloupes. Don’t get us wrong, we’re looking forward to apples, pears, and pumpkins, but in this bittersweet time of year, we are holding on to summer with a vengeance even as it slips through our fingers.

The hurricane blew down a few plants in the old vegetable plot, leaving us with an assortment of peppers, both hot and sweet, that need to be consumed right away. Add to that the enormous piles of almost-overripe peaches being sold at rock-bottom prices at our local farmer’s market, and we knew what we needed to do: make an infusion for this Friday’s Tipple.

A lot of cocktail recipes call for really beautiful liqueurs; we often covet them at the local liquor emporium, where they beckon to us in their glistening bottles clad in designer labels. But making your own infusions gives you the chance to be really creative while using seasonal products — and it’s much less expensive. We still buy the occasional artisanal liqueur — in fact, we’re seeking out Catoctin Creek’s Pearousia right now, with autumn cocktails in mind — but, for now, we’re sealing our summer memories in a jar.

Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur

There are no rules to this, make what you like. Use any fruit, vegetable, or herb combination and use with brandy, vodka, gin, bourbon, or whatever. Here’s what we did, because we wanted to make something to specifically complement this Friday’s Tipple recipe:

One ripe peach, sliced

One hot Italian pepper, split

1 tablespoon lavender honey

Triple Sec

Place peach slices and whole pepper into a 12-ounce mason jar; cover with triple sec and let sit in a cool place for a few days, or even a few weeks. Add to cocktails to taste.

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