A Friday the 13th 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 it as a time 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 peachy 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 peachy 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 peachy 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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The Black 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 Autumn Tipple: Lame Duck

lameduck

It was inevitable, Boozers. Whenever the party in power nears the end of its second term, the populace — those who bother voting, of course — becomes restless, embracing a “throw the bums out” mentality, regardless of what the long-term outcome may be. So be it, you reap what you sow — time to prepare for two years of filibusters, vetoes, and legislative inaction. Welcome to the world of the lame duck.

In the meantime, the inevitable olive branches are tenuously creeping out, with the president mildly suggesting sitting down over a bourbon with the incoming majority leader, who professes to like his bourbon in a Manhattan. Sacré bleu! A proper Manhattan is, of course, made with rye whiskey, but these are not times to quibble overmuch about being quite proper. There are deals to be made, cigars to be smoked, cloakrooms to be haunted. If the man wants bourbon in his Manhattan, let him have it.

We prefer to stick with the rye, however, and, in the spirit of  being rather improper, we decided to ditch the vermouth and add a dash of our Roasted Apple Shrub, while also eschewing sweet cherries for a couple of wedges of orange. Because, like republicans and democrats, we enjoy the tension created between apples and oranges, the pull-and-push between opposing ideals. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, but have a glass in your hand to help dull the pain.

Lame Duck

A shrub, of course, is a blending of fruit, vinegar, and sugar — perfectly tart and sweet all at once. Our Roasted Apple Shrub lends itself really well to the spicy kick of rye whiskey, but we would not recommend it with a bourbon, which tends to be sweeter and would create a syrupy mess. As a riff on a Manhattan, normally this would not include any ice cubes, but, with the addition of the shrub, this cocktail actually benefits from just a couple of ice cubes, which help to cut the acidity just slightly as you sip.

2 ounces rye whiskey (we prefer Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye)

1 ounce Roasted Apple Shrub

2 small orange wedges

2 dashes of bitters (you can use the classic Angostura; orange bitters are nice as well)

Fresh orange peel, for garnish

Put the two orange wedges in the bottom of a glass and muddle very lightly, just to break the skins open. Add two ice cubes and the whiskey, shrub, and bitters. Stir gently, twist the orange peel over the glass, and then add the orange peel as garnish. Serve immediately.

 

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 Autumn Tipple: The Wild Card

The Wild Card

We’re heading into the last few days of September, loyal Boozers, and that means that the Hunt for Late October is on. In other words, a handful of baseball teams are vying to make it into the playoffs, with Kansas City and Oakland fans, particularly, right on the edge of their seats.

Hence, today’s Tipple, celebrating everything that is good about autumn: The Wild Card. Because we may need a stiff drink to get through the last few games, we’ve opted to riff on the Whiskey Sour, with a classic fall twist. On the side, we’re adding a shot of beer (we’re going seasonal with Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale) for every home run by our favorite team. But don’t worry — if you happen to be a Diamondbacks fan, you probably won’t even catch a buzz.

The Wild Card

This cocktail has a few fresh elements, but they are worth a small amount of effort in support of America’s pasttime. The Crackerjack Syrup makes the most of the last of the season’s fresh corn and adds another layer of creamy sweetness that perfectly compliments the spicy rye.

2 ounces rye whiskey (we like Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye)

1 tsp. Crackerjack Syrup

2 ounces Apple-Ginger Juice

Chilled club soda

Dash of bitters (we use our own house-made Indian Summer Bitters, but there are many excellent bitters on the market, including Bittermens and even the classic Angostura)

Put three or four ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and add the rye whiskey, Apple-Ginger Juice, and Crackerjack Syrup. Shake vigorously and pour into a glass (with or without ice, it’s up to you). Top with a splash of club soda and a dash of bitters. Enjoy.

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 Garden Tipple: Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

We’re full of vim and vinegar this week, dear Boozers. It’s Negroni Week, when our favorite magazine teams up with our favorite Italian liqueur to encourage local watering holes to mix up negroni cocktails for charity. A classic negroni is simple and elegant with just three ingredients: gin, Campari, and vermouth, generally served with a twist of orange. What’s nice about it is that while it is just perfect as it is, it’s also easy to riff off of it for fun new variations.

And so we went out to the farmers market and picked up a whole lot of fresh early summer strawberries, since our own cocktail garden’s strawberry plants aren’t yet at peak production, and made a beautiful and slightly tart strawberry-basil drinking vinegar. A drinking vinegar serves much the same purpose as a bitter liqueur like Campari, working as an excellent digestive agent when mixed with club soda. But, hell, we just like it anyway, especially when mixed up in a cocktail. So go out and have a negroni for charity, then come home and have a Strawberry Vinegar Negroni with friends.

Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

We love the flavor of Campari and didn’t want to replace it entirely with the Strawberry-Basil Drinking Vinegar, so we chose to create a Campari candied orange garnish, which is as simple as putting a 1/2 cup of Campari, 1/4 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, and some fresh orange slices in a small saucepan and simmering over low heat until all that’s left is a really thick syrup coating the orange slices. Remove to a baking rack and let cool completely.

1 ounce gin (support your local distillery — we like Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

1 ounce sweet vermouth

1 ounce Strawberry-Basil Drinking Vinegar

chilled club soda

candied Campari orange slice for garnish (you can also just marinate orange slices in Campari for a couple of hours as an alternative garnish)

Put first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir vigorously. Pour into a glass with fresh ice, top with chilled club soda, and stir again. Garnish with candied Campari orange slice.

 

 

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: Shirley’s Valentine

Shirley's Valentine

We’re feeling nostalgic, Boozers. What with the passing of an American icon and our misty-eyed fondness for love in all its forms, we felt the need for a special cocktail today. The Shirley Temple, of course, is a sweet homage to the child star of the same name, perhaps most adored by generations of children for a typically generous garnish of maraschino cherries. Of course, as we age, we learn that love is, indeed, bittersweet, yet we still can delight in its moments of perfection.

Today we’ve gone slightly old-school with Shirley’s Valentine, a kind of Negroni with a twist or two, rather like the twists and turns of love. No matter who you spend your Valentine’s Day with, bring Shirley along for the ride and let love blossom.

Shirley’s Valentine

A classic Negroni is composed of gin, vermouth, and Campari; we like the idea of using gin in our grown-up version of a Shirley Temple because gin was the liquor of choice in the grown-up films of Miss Temple’s heyday, showing up in cocktails sipped by elegantly-dressed women in silk charmeuse and men in black tie. A house-made cherry-ginger soda and Luxardo maraschino liqueur give the whole thing a sweet bite.

1 ounce gin (we prefer Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin)

1 ounce Luxardo

1/2 ounce Campari

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

2 teaspoons maraschino cherry liquid (yes, from a jar of maraschino cherries)

chilled club soda

fresh orange peel (for garnish)

In a cocktail shaker, mix together the ginger, maraschino cherry liquid, and 2 ounces of the chilled club soda. Add a few ice cubes and then the gin and Luxardo; stir vigorously, then strain into a tall glass filled with ice (heart-shaped cubes are a nice touch). Add more club soda to fill glass almost to the rim, stirring again, then pour Campari over the top and garnish with fresh orange peel (twist over glass to release essential oils). Enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Highclere Highball

Highclere Highball

It’s the weekend, Boozers. And, unlike the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey, we know exactly what that is. We’ve worked our little fingers to the bone all week and we’re deserving of a cocktail. As devotees of what appears to be the most popular soap opera in the U.K. and the U.S., we enjoy imagining life above stairs, when Carson delivers a frosty drink to us in the drawing room at the end of the day as we warm our weary limbs by a crackling fire. First world problems, indeed.

The real Downton Abbey is, of course, Highclere Castle, which has quite the storied history of its own and whose owners saved it from financial ruin by hiring the estate out to the highest bidder, in the grand old tradition of land barons suddenly faced with taxation. It’s a tough row to hoe, lords and ladies, and the Highclere Highball rewards that hard labor with a spot of sherry, a slug of gin, and a touch of ginger beer mingling together for all the world like the chauffeur dallying with the daughter of the house. Drink up — Monday’s just around the corner.

Highclere Highball

Sherry cocktails are a long-standing tradition in the most elegant London watering holes but Americans have long eschewed sherry as a viable sipper until recently. There are several types of sherry beyond the amontillado made famous by our own Edgar Allen Poe; we prefer a dry sherry like a fino which takes well to being chilled.

2 ounces chilled dry sherry

1 ounce chilled gin (we prefer the spicy bite of Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

2 ounces chilled ginger beer

a few drops of citrus bitters (we like Hella Citrus Bitters)

1 blood orange, freshly juiced (you can use a standard orange if necessary)

slice of blood orange for garnish

Put first five ingredients in a tall (highball) glass filled with ice, stir briskly, and garnish with slice of blood orange. Serve immediately.