The Autumn Tipple: Amaro Ammazzacaffè

Amaro Ammazzacaffè

Keep your voices down, Boozers. It’s possible that last night we took the “Thirsty Thursday” festivities a little too seriously, and we are suffering for it today. A little coffee and hair of the dog is in order, so we prefer to follow the example of the Italians and combine it all in our version of an ammazzacaffè, also known as a “coffee killer”, because the alcohol kills the bitter taste of the coffee. Bitter or not, we need help.

Because tequila was our drink of choice last night — forgive us, for we have sinned — we think we’ll have to toss that back in an effort to regain some equilibrium, but we’re adding some amaro, an Italian digestive, in an effort to settle our wonky tum just a bit. Either that or we’ll just be tipsy again, which may be the only way we’ll make it until happy hour. We’ll rack up a few more Hail Marys in the meantime.

Amaro Ammazzacaffè

If you aren’t familiar with amaro, then it’s time to become acquainted. They range from seriously bitter to lightly sweet, with a syrupy quality that coats the tongue. We are fortunate to have a domestic amaro made by a real Italian right here in the neighborhood, with undertones of autumnal sweet fennel, but some people like to start with an amaro with more of a caramel finish, which can be easier on an American palate.

3 ounces strong black coffee at room temperature

1 ounce amaro (we like Don Ciccio & Figli’s Amaro delle Sirene)

1 ounce tequila (we prefer a botanical silver variety like Avión )

1 teaspoon lemon simple syrup

fresh lemon peel for garnish

Mix the first four ingredients gently over ice, then strain into a glass. Twist the lemon peel over the liquid to release the essential oils and serve immediately. It’s best to drink this down quickly in a few big sips.

The Garden Tipple: Cantaloupe Cantina Cooler

Cantaloupe Cantina

It’s tequila time, Boozers. After a long week slogging away in a grown-up world of trading gossip by the water cooler, listening to the C-suite droning away about budgetary propriety, and spending yet another morning commute stuck in a tunnel on a disabled subway car, you’ve earned every precious drop.

If your paycheck doesn’t seem to be commensurate with the amount of overtime you put in every week, then you’re probably looking for ways to stretch your cocktail budget. We understand this all too well, so our advice is to spend as much as you can afford on a good bottle of tequila (we like Avión Silver, which is smooth and herbaceous with a pleasant kick, yet reasonably priced) and then head to the farmers market at the end of the day. Why? Because this is the time when farmers try to lighten their load by actually giving away the produce they haven’t sold yet.

We picked up two rather overlarge cantaloupes this way this week and immediately thought of making cantaloupe juice, an embarrassingly easy little job. Until our summer cocktail garden fills in, we’ve been rejoicing in the beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables to be found at the farmers market, where the farmers have a jump on the rest of us by growing their products in greenhouses during the cooler spring months. The cantaloupes right now have that fresh early summer brightness that matches just about perfectly with tequila.

So finish up that really important report for the boss, then hit the farmers’ line around 5 to see what you can score, without having to resort to dumpster diving. You deserve a drink.

Cantaloupe Cantina Cooler

We said it was embarrassingly easy to make cantaloupe juice and we weren’t kidding. Scoop out the flesh of a ripe cantaloupe and throw it into a blender. Blend on high until liquified, then strain through a coffee filter until you have a beautiful clear liquid. At this point, we like to add the juice of one fresh lime and about 2 teaspoons of light agave nectar. Can be stored for up to two days in the refrigerator, but best if used immediately.

3 ounces fresh cantaloupe juice

1.5 ounces tequila

1 ounce prickly pear liqueur (we love this, especially from our local maker Don Ciccio & Figli, and it adds something special to tequila, but go ahead and use triple sec if you can’t find prickly pear liqueur at your liquor store)

Chilled club soda

2 wedges of lime

Put first four ingredients into a cocktail shaker and stir well, then pour over a tall glass filled with ice. Squeeze one wedge of lime into the drink, then garnish with an additional wedge of lime.

 

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: 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: Tequila Kiss

Tequila Kiss

Life can be complicated, Boozers. While we missed you dreadfully when we were on vacation last week, it felt good to strip away our responsibilities for a scant few days and dig our toes into the sand. Our new mantra since returning to the grownup world of deadlines, bills, and dirty dishes: Keep It Simple, Stupid, a.k.a. KISS.

While we trailed our fingers in the warm waters surrounding a drifting kayak, we sipped on tequila. There is something about tequila that just says “Let it all go”, and we were only too happy to comply. It didn’t hurt that we’d just recently read that tequila would help us lose weight, meaning that we could indulge in that extra slice of chocolate-raspberry cheesecake with mango coulis. No matter if we didn’t exactly return from vacation noticeably thinner, albeit much more relaxed.

As you dear Boozers know, we like a drink that is not overdone, especially at the end of a long week, so we made this drink simple and to the point — because sometimes we overlook the simplest solutions to life’s complexities. Enjoy.

Tequila Kiss

There are a lot of tequilas out there and a recent visit to New Mexico proved to us that there is a wide range of subtle flavors in the Tequila Canon. Use a clean silver tequila for this cocktail; we used Avión today because it has a light herbaceous quality with a citrusy undertone that suits our spring fever.

2 ounces silver or blanco tequila

3 ounces chilled club soda

1 fresh lime, halved

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

We weren’t joking when we said this was simple. Fill a glass with ice and pour in tequila and squeeze half of the lime into the bottom of the glass. Add club soda and agave nectar and stir briskly, then squeeze other lime half over the top. That’s it.

The Friday Tipple: Tex Mex Cocoa

Tex Mex Cocoa

Brrr, Boozers. The end of November may have been unseasonably warm for some of us, but December is quickly making up for lost time. As we bundle up in our Snuggies, our thoughts naturally turn to… tequila.

Yes, dust off those bottles of agave goodness — tequila need not be only a summer refresher, and don’t forget about the triple sec. The natural bite of tequila means that it is perfectly complemented by cinnamon and cocoa, and the triple sec provides a lightly sweet citrus note — combining together for a rich and spicy winter warmer.

Because we do like a little kick to our cocoa sometimes, we chose to add a few drops of hot sauce to the mix — our local favorite is Uncle Brutha’s. It gives that extra little sizzle as you curl up next to a crackling fire. We’re also pretty sure that Tex Mex Cocoa would be the drink of choice for a midnight visitor on Christmas Eve — Santa gets a little tired of milk and cookies.

Tex Mex Cocoa

We make this with almond milk, which adds a nice nutty undertone to the cocoa. Use a good quality ground cocoa — it will add richness to the flavor.

1 heaping teaspoon ground cocoa

1 heaping teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

A few drops of hot sauce

1.5 ounces silver tequila

3 ounces hot (but not boiling) almond milk (unsweetened)

triple sec

Mix cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon in the bottom of a mug. Add tequila and hot sauce and stir together into a slurry, then mix in the hot almond milk until well-incorporated. Float a little triple sec across the top. Now that’s what we call holiday cheer!

The Friday Tipple: Cranberry Jelly Shot

Cranberry Jelly Shot

Are you ready for the big day, Boozers? With just under a week until the great Thanksgiving feast, our lists are made and the prep has begun. Naturally, we started with cocktails.

This year, of course, there’s the added pressure of the first night of Hanukkah falling on the same day, creating the hybrid festive day of Thanksgivukkah. This posed a cocktail conundrum until we remembered Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish, a blindingly bright pink concoction of cranberries and horseradish that has been the butt of many jokes on NPR for at least a couple of decades. But we thought… why could it not be the basis for a perfect palate cleanser during a heavy meal?

And so we present you with the Cranberry Jelly Shot. You may recall that we love a jam cocktail, as the pectin from the jam creates a lovely silky mouthfeel; we then pickled some cranberries with horseradish for a garnish, using the resulting liquid — essentially a shrub — to give the shot a bit of a kick. Sit back and give thanks.

Cranberry Jelly Shot

You can use your choice of alcohol for this shot, as it could work equally well with vodka, tequila, or gin, but we suggest an unaged whiskey, often known as moonshine, for its quintessentially American properties, which seem appropriate for Thanksgiving. To give it a Thanksgivukkah twist, try using Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, a certified Kosher white whiskey.

1 tablespoon cranberry jelly (homemade or storebought)

1 ounce white whiskey or other liquor of your choice

1 ounce cranberry-horseradish shrub (recipe below)

pickled cranberries, for garnish (recipe below)

Put first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with an ice cube and shake very vigorously so that the cranberry jelly dissolves into the liquid. If the liquid seems overly thick, dilute with a scant teaspoon of water. Strain into a shot glass and garnish with a few pickled cranberries on a toothpick. Can be shot down in one gulp or sipped, and is also delicious if served over ice in a rocks glass and topped off with chilled club soda.

Pickled Cranberries and Cranberry-Horseradish Shrub:

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 heaping tablespoons grated horseradish (from a jar is fine)

1 small cinnamon stick

Put all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, just until cranberries begin to pop. Reduce heat to quite low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool thoroughly. Remove cinnamon stick and put the cranberries and liquid (known as a shrub) into a food storage container and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

 

The Friday Tipple: Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Ruby Rhubarb 'Rita

We’re on a rhubarb kick, Boozers, and also sorely in need of tequila. In moments such as these, we ache for margaritas, winking at us insouciantly from a salt-rimmed glass. It is Friday, after all – and, somewhere in the world, it’s already happy hour.

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 tequila (try an excellent American tequila – or we also like New Holland’s barley-laced Hopquila)

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 or margarita glass rimmed with coarse salt. Top with the clear whiskey, garnish with fresh rhubarb, and drink up.

The Friday Tipple: Masala Moonshine

Masala Moonshine

We’re spicing things up, Boozers. An interesting ingredient recently came our way and we simply couldn’t resist the idea of incorporating it into a cocktail: turmeric. To be precise, fresh turmeric root, which looks a bit like a fingerling potato until you cut it open to reveal its bright marigold interior and get hit with its lovely fresh scent, which has a certain earthy ginger quality.

What we did with it was to make a turmeric juice, purported to have amazing health benefits for people with arthritis or diabetes, among many other ailments. While fresh turmeric is best for this recipe (and can be found at many ethnic markets, so we suggest a road trip), we’ve also included a way to make it with ground turmeric powder, which is readily available at any grocery store. Because turmeric has a strong flavor, we decided to turn up the volume when creating our Masala Moonshine — this is no time to be shy. Instead, we included the flavors of lime, bitter orange, fresh mint, and a healthy dose of unaged whiskey, or moonshine, to create a cocktail that really packs a punch. And, if you’re getting ready for Cinco de Mayo, you can easily turn this into a Masala Margarita by substituting tequila for the moonshine. Go global.

Masala Moonshine

As our dear Boozers know, we love to use a flavored ice cube to shake things up — what better way to add a new layer of flavor to a drink than with an ice cube that deepens the essence of the cocktail as it melts into the glass? For this particular recipe, we made a lavender honey and ginger cube for an added kick of spice.

2 ounces fresh turmeric juice (recipe below)

2 ounces unaged whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirits)

1/2 ounce Triple Sec

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 ounces chilled club soda

several fresh mint leaves

wedge of fresh lime and fresh mint for garnish

3 – 4 honey-ginger ice cubes (recipe below)

Put first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Place mint leaves in bottom of a tall glass, lightly bruising, and add honey-ginger cubes. Pour turmeric juice-whiskey blend into glass, top with chilled club soda, and stir thoroughly with a bar spoon. Garnish with fresh lime and mint.

Turmeric Juice:

Peel several small turmeric root* and place into a small saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer over low heat. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes or until turmeric is soft and liquid has reduced by about half. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Put the turmeric and liquid into a blender, add 1 cup cold water and 1/4 cup light agave nectar. Blend on high until completely liquified. Add more sweetener to taste. Strain liquid several times through a sieve until you get a smooth liquid. Can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

* note: if you can’t find fresh turmeric root, you can create a similar liquid by substituting two tablespoons of ground turmeric for the fresh ingredient — add the first tablespoon and mix up the liquid, then add the remaining tablespoon a little at a time until you get a flavor that is gingery but not overpowering.

Honey-ginger cubes

1/4 cup freshly grated ginger

2 tablespoons lavender honey (or sweetener of your choice)

1/2 cup hot water

1/2 cup cold water

Mix first three ingredients together in a small bowl until well-blended, then add cold water and blend again. Pour into ice cube tray and freeze until solid.

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.

 

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