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: Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Ruby Rhubarb 'Rita

Hola, Boozers. Here in the old U.S. of A, we’ll take any excuse to have a margarita, which explains why Cinco de Mayo is more popular here than in its country of origin, and why most of the people partaking in the celebrations have likely never even traveled south of the border (unless you count a visit to Pedro’s highway oasis) or can speak nary a soupçon of Spanish. Whatever. It’s a margarita. Bring it on.

The tart freshness of spring fruits lend themselves to margaritas that far surpass the standard variety made with overly sweet mixes. We went a little fancy this week by creating a base from ruby red grapefruit and rhubarb, but the result is well worth the small amount of effort it takes to make a more complex margarita. This is a drink not meant to be insulted with a bowl of Doritos and Cheez Whiz on the side, but would stand up perfectly to a fresh shrimp ceviche or an authentic pozole verde. Go ahead, put on that sombrero and live a little. Salud!

Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Rhubarb is a fruit, or a vegetable, depending upon who you ask, with a texture and flavor often likened to tart celery. Our Ruby Rhubarb syrup is layered with flavors that simply cried out for a layering of liquors; sticking with tradition, we used a silver tequila and a splash of triple sec, but then floated a little white whiskey over the top, our American nod to a fiery aguardiente.

for the Ruby Rhubarb syrup:

1 cup  rhubarb stems, roughly chopped

1 cup ruby red grapefruit juice with pulp, freshly squeezed

1 cup water

1 cup turbinado sugar

4 or 5 pineapple sage leaves (you can substitute with basil leaves)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for one hour, allowing the rhubarb to soften and break down. When the liquid has thickened slightly, remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Strain thoroughly through a fine-mesh sieve; can now be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Yield: about 1 cup.

to make the ‘Rita:

1 lime

2 – 3 tablespoons Ruby Rhubarb syrup (adjust to your taste)

2 ounces silver tequila (we’re loving the herbaceous Avión Tequila these days)

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce white (unaged) whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirits)

Fresh rhubarb, cut into a 4-inch stick for garnish (optional)

Cut the lime in half and squeeze all the juice into a cocktail shaker. Add the Ruby Rhubarb syrup, the tequila, the triple sec, and several ice cubes. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with coarse salt. Top with the clear whiskey, garnish with fresh rhubarb, and drink up.

 

The Friday Tipple: Mr. Collins

Mr. Collins

We adore a pompous fool, Boozers. In fact, if we are honest, we have strolled down that perilous path once or twice, only to have our balloon of self-admiration popped unceremoniously by a worthy opponent. It’s why we love Jane Austen, and also why we enjoy a tasty little concoction — once known as the official drink of summer — called a Tom Collins.

In the far-off years of our youth, we recall our first foray into a nightclub, armed with a fake i.d. and a few crumpled dollar bills stuffed into our spandex tights. As the hairy-chested bartender cocked a cynical eye at our underage attempt at sophisticated nonchalance, we stuttered out a request for a Tom Collins — clearly marking us as urbane world travelers.

Alas, what we didn’t realize was that we had immediately marked ourselves as more akin to the inimitable Mr. Collins, the silly social-climbing vicar in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Elizabeth Bennett had him pegged in five seconds flat, and would certainly never have accepted a watery Tom Collins made with a slug of cheap gin and a splash of sour mix, topped off with club soda and a maraschino cherry stabbed with a plastic sword. Just like Elizabeth, we now know we don’t have to settle for second-best.

So we’ve imagined Mr. Collins as he should be, if transformed into a refreshing cocktail: bright, fresh, lightly herbal, and blessed with a sparkling wit. Watch out, Mr. Darcy — there may be competition yet.

Mr. Collins

We’ve made a summery lemonade base for our Mr. Collins, sweetened with a pineapple sage simple syrup. If you don’t have this charming herb growing in your garden or on your windowsill, you can make a simple syrup with mint (especially a pineapple or orange mint), which will impart that sunny herbaceous quality.

4 or 5 lemons, freshly juiced

Pineapple sage simple syrup (see below for instructions)

Chilled club soda

2 ounces good quality gin (like Catoctin Creek’s Organic Watershed Gin)

Chilled Prosecco or sparkling wine

Orange wedge and sprig of sage or mint for garnish

Make the fizzy lemonade base by combining the fresh lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons of the simple syrup, and a 1/2 cup of the club soda. Stir vigorously and add more simple syrup if necessary. Fill a Collins (tall) glass with ice and pour in the gin and up to a 1/2 cup of lemonade. Top with an ounce or so of chilled Prosecco and garnish with orange and sage.

The simple syrup is a snap: one cup of water, one cup of sugar, and several sage (or mint) leaves cooked over low heat until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove sage leaves and cool; can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.

The Friday Tipple: Banana River Sunset

Summer is ebbing away, dear Boozers. The air is no longer thick with humidity and cool breezes waft through the windows at night. Except, of course, if you’re in Florida, the land of the endless summer (even winter there is like summer in, say, Minnesota), where it’s a time-honored tradition to train the little kiddies in the art of making their hard-working parents a tasty little libation to enjoy as they watch the sunset.

In the old days, this concoction was likely a Tequila Sunrise, as Floridians like their citrus liberally laced with alcohol, but it seems somehow backwards to drink a sunrise-themed drink at the end of the day. Hence, the Banana River Sunset, a cocktail that pays homage to last rays of the day as they stretch out across one of the Sunshine State’s prettiest lagoons, home to manatees and dolphins and the occasional ‘gator. It’s a drink that’s lightly bitter at the start with a sweet finish, a perfect way to end the day in the subtropics — or Minnesota. Dive in.

Banana River Sunset

This drink packs a lot of citrus punch, from orange blossom honey to a gin-laced grapefruit granita. Squeeze the orange juice fresh if you can, as it will become laced with fresh oils from the rind, which enhances the bitterness of the Campari.

1 teaspoon orange blossom honey

5 or 6 pineapple sage leaves (you can substitute fresh mint or basil)

2 large tablespoons grapefruit-gin granita

3 ounces freshly-squeezed orange juice

1 ounce Campari

Pour the honey in the bottom of a tall chilled glass. Muddle the pineapple sage leaves into the honey until lightly crushed, then add the grapefruit-gin granita on top. Quickly shake the orange juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and strain into the glass. Float the Campari over the juice and enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Wicked Cherry Pop

Wicked Cherry Pop

Sometimes life hands you lemons, Boozers. Or, in our case, cherries that were more sour than sweet, leaving us in a bit of a quandary. So we did the only thing we could think of in such a dire situation: threw them in a jar with some sugar and vinegar and forgot about them for a few days in the refrigerator. Voilà — pickled cherries. But more importantly, pickled cherry juice, a tasty base for a wicked summer cocktail.

We have fond childhood memories of cooling off in the July sunshine with an icy cold bottle of Cheerwine, the cultish cherry soda pop from North Carolina. Popping the top of the bottle brought a sudden spray of fizzy goodness that seemed to drop the outside temperature by 20 degrees. Nothing could be finer.

Our Wicked Cherry Pop starts off with a pickled cherry syrup, enhanced by pickled cherries muddled in unaged white whiskey. The effect, when topped off with carbonated water, is oh-so-wicked, a cherry pop for grown-ups that you may want to disguise in an old Cheerwine bottle while you’re flipping burgers at Grandma’s family picnic. It’ll be our little secret.

Wicked Cherry Pop

Unaged white whiskey is not your momma’s moonshine, but a good white whiskey has a smooth flavor with a bit of a kick and never leaves your throat raw; our personal local favorite is Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit, but there are many white whiskeys across the country now, including Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, Wasmund’s Rye Spirit, and Death’s Door White Whisky. We like to use it in place of tequila for a twist on a margarita, and it balances well with the pickled cherries here to provide a sweet-and-sour counterpoint.

2 tablespoons pickled cherry syrup (recipe below)

4 or 5 pickled cherries

fresh herb (you could use a few leaves of fresh mint — we used pineapple sage)

1.5 ounces unaged white whiskey

chilled club soda

Make the pickled cherry syrup: Okay, first you have to pickle the cherries, which, as we described above, is quite easy. Just halve about a cup of cherries, discarding the pits, throw them in a jar, add about a 1/4 cup of granulated sugar (more if you want it sweeter), and cover with vinegar (white, red wine, or apple cider vinegar will all work here). Cover and place in the refrigerator for a few days, shaking the jar occasionally. Then strain off the pickling juice into a small saucepan, add a 1/2 cup sugar, and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 30 minutes or so. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

To assemble the Wicked Cherry Pop: Put the pickled cherry syrup, pickled cherries, and a few leaves of fresh herb into the bottom of a Collins glass. Add the white whiskey and muddle lightly. Top with ice and chilled club soda and stir briskly before serving.

The Friday Tipple: Flashback Cooler

Consider the wine cooler, Boozers. Remember the 80s, when the summer beaches were full of bikini-clad babes swilling popsicle-flavored bottles of Bartles & Jaymes, with Duran Duran wailing on the portable cassette deck? Good times.

The thing is, a wine cooler really is a perfect summer beverage — it’s fruity, refreshing, slightly acidic, and a little fizzy. It’s just enough alcohol to make you feel relaxed while you work on your tan, but not quite enough to have you baring it all for a spontaneous game of Naked Beach Volleyball.

So make a batch for a crowd,  sync “Purple Rain” to your iPod, and party like it’s 1985. But keep your suit on.

Flashback Cooler

Waste not, want not, we always say. We recently made a really tasty Pineapple Sage Simple Syrup for our version of a Tom Collins, so we used that again here. If you aren’t up to the task, then you can substitute some orange blossom honey or even the syrup from a can of peaches. Just throw the peaches onto the compost heap.

1 bottle white or rosé wine (chilled)

2 large oranges

3/4 cup Pineapple Sage Simple Syrup

1/2 cup triple sec or Cointreau

1 cup chilled club soda

sliced fruit or berries for garnish

Pour the wine, simple syrup, and triple sec or Cointreau into a large pitcher and squeeze in the juice from the two oranges. Throw the juiced oranges in and refrigerate for one hour. Then remove the orange halves and stir in the club soda. Serve immediately in wine glasses over ice, with fruit garnish.

The Friday Tipple: Mr. Collins

We adore a pompous fool, Boozers. In fact, if we are honest, we have strolled down that perilous path once or twice, only to have our balloon of self-admiration popped unceremoniously by a worthy opponent. It’s why we love Jane Austen, and also why we enjoy a tasty little concoction — once known as the official drink of summer — called a Tom Collins.

In the far-off years of our youth, we recall our first foray into a nightclub, armed with a fake i.d. and a few crumpled dollar bills stuffed into our spandex tights. As the hairy-chested bartender cocked a cynical eye at our underage attempt at sophisticated nonchalance, we stuttered out a request for a Tom Collins — clearly marking us as urbane world travelers.

Alas, what we didn’t realize was that we had immediately marked ourselves as more akin to the inimitable Mr. Collins, the silly social-climbing vicar in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Elizabeth Bennett had him pegged in five seconds flat, and would certainly never have accepted a watery Tom Collins made with a slug of cheap gin and a splash of sour mix, topped off with club soda and a maraschino cherry stabbed with a plastic sword. Just like Elizabeth, we now know we don’t have to settle for second-best.

So we’ve imagined Mr. Collins as he should be, if transformed into a refreshing cocktail: bright, fresh, lightly herbal, and blessed with a sparkling wit. Watch out, Mr. Darcy — there may be competition yet.

Mr. Collins

We’ve made a summery lemonade base for our Mr. Collins, sweetened with a pineapple sage simple syrup. If you don’t have this charming herb growing in your garden or on your windowsill, you can make a simple syrup with mint (especially a pineapple or orange mint), which will impart that sunny herbaceous quality.

4 or 5 lemons, freshly juiced

Pineapple sage simple syrup (see below for instructions)

Chilled club soda

2 ounces good quality gin (like Catoctin Creek’s Organic Watershed Gin)

Chilled Prosecco or sparkling wine

Orange wedge and sprig of sage or mint for garnish

Make the fizzy lemonade base by combining the fresh lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons of the simple syrup, and a 1/2 cup of the club soda. Stir vigorously and add more simple syrup if necessary. Fill a Collins (tall) glass with ice and pour in the gin and up to a 1/2 cup of lemonade. Top with an ounce or so of chilled Prosecco and garnish with orange and sage.

The simple syrup is a snap: one cup of water, one cup of sugar, and several sage (or mint) leaves cooked over low heat until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove sage leaves and cool; can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.

The Friday Tipple: Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Hola, Boozers. Here in the old U.S. of A, we’ll take any excuse to have a margarita, which explains why Cinco de Mayo is more popular here than in its country of origin, and why most of the people partaking in the celebrations have likely never even traveled south of the border (unless you count a visit to Pedro’s highway oasis) or can speak nary a soupçon of Spanish. Whatever. It’s a margarita. Bring it on.

The tart freshness of spring fruits lend themselves to margaritas that far surpass the standard variety made with overly sweet mixes. We went a little fancy this week by creating a base from ruby red grapefruit and rhubarb, but the result is well worth the small amount of effort it takes to make a more complex margarita. This is a drink not meant to be insulted with a bowl of Doritos and Cheez Whiz on the side, but would stand up perfectly to a fresh shrimp ceviche or an authentic pozole verde. Go ahead, put on that sombrero and live a little. Salud!

Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Rhubarb is a fruit, or a vegetable, depending upon who you ask, with a texture and flavor often likened to tart celery. Our Ruby Rhubarb syrup is layered with flavors that simply cried out for a layering of liquors; sticking with tradition, we used a silver tequila and a splash of triple sec, but then floated a little white whiskey over the top, our American nod to a fiery aguardiente.

for the Ruby Rhubarb syrup:

1 cup  rhubarb stems, roughly chopped

1 cup ruby red grapefruit juice with pulp, freshly squeezed

1 cup water

1 cup turbinado sugar

4 or 5 pineapple sage leaves (you can substitute with basil leaves)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for one hour, allowing the rhubarb to soften and break down. When the liquid has thickened slightly, remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Strain thoroughly through a fine-mesh sieve; can now be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Yield: about 1 cup.

to make the ‘Rita:

1 lime

2 – 3 tablespoons Ruby Rhubarb syrup (adjust to your taste)

2 ounces silver tequila

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce clear whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirits)

Fresh rhubarb, cut into a 4-inch stick for garnish (optional)

Cut the lime in half and squeeze all the juice into a cocktail shaker. Add the Ruby Rhubarb syrup, the tequila, the triple sec, and several ice cubes. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with coarse salt. Top with the clear whiskey, garnish with fresh rhubarb, and drink up.

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