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.

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The Friday Tipple: Smokey Sour

Smokey Sour

Fire up the grill, Boozers. It’s been too hot to cook indoors, so we’re livin’ large in the backyard, armed with charcoal, a pair of tongs, and a few toe-tapping R&B tunes. Of course, we see no reason to restrict our grilling glory to chunks of protein or marshmallows on a stick, so we decided to grill us up a cocktail. Welcome to the Smokey Sour.

Inspired by our own Whiskey Cherry Syrup, a jar of which now resides in the fridge from last Friday’s delectable Michigan Cherry Beer, we felt in the mood for riffing off a classic Whiskey Sour. A basic sour mix consists of fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, creating a lip-puckering base, but we mixed things up a little by throwing several different kinds of citrus straight onto the barbecue. Lightly charred, these lemons, limes, and oranges plump up with an intensified flavor that is fragrant with both smoke and sunshine. Should you be deprived of a backyard grill, don’t despair — an open flame of any kind will do the trick. Just crank up some Motown and get groovin’.

Smokey Sour

While this grilled sour base is a mix of citrus fruits, we prefer to keep it lemony with a hint of orange for sweetness, then we add our favorite local rye whiskey from Catoctin Creek to give it a peppery undertone — the result is a perfect combination of sweet, sour, spicy, and smoky.

6 large lemons, halved

3 limes, halved

1 orange, halved

Whiskey Cherry Syrup (click here to find the recipe)

2 ounces whiskey

a whisper of Grand Marnier (triple sec will work, too)

chilled lemon-lime soda (we love small-batch varieties like Maine Root)

slices of grilled lemon and orange for garnish (technically optional, but do it anyway)

Place citrus fruits flesh-side down onto a hot grill over a medium-high flame. Grill for a minute or two until the flesh just starts to blister and char, then place into a large heat-proof bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the fruit to cool. When cooled, juice the fruit, mix all the juices together, and discard the seeds. The juice may now be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

In a cocktail shaker, add 3 ounces of the juice, 2 teaspoons of the Whiskey Cherry Syrup, 2 ounces of whiskey, and the barest splash of Grand Marnier. Add several ice cubes, cover, and shake vigorously. Pour contents into a highball glass, add a few cherries from the Whiskey Cherry Syrup, and top with a generous splash of lemon-lime soda. Garnish with grilled citrus slices.

The Friday Tipple: Banana River Sunset

Banana River Sunset

It’s Spring Break somewhere, dear Boozers. Whether you’re lucky enough to be vacationing in Florida, the land of the endless summer or simply turning up the heat and walking around the rumpus room in a bikini in your basement in Minnesota, there’s never a bad time to enjoy a tasty libation as the sun sets in the western sky.

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: Bikini Shot

Bikini Shot

Bathing suit season is on the horizon, Boozers. Buxom babes are overtaking magazine covers, glowing with cocoa butter on far-flung tropical beaches. Whether you hope to be a buxom babe or merely to attract a buxom babe, the approach of Spring Break prompts us to ponder the winter flab so cleverly hidden by chunky sweaters. It’s time to detox.

While we could consider exercising a little more — or at all — we prefer to go the route of a desperate last-minute liquid diet in order to shed those unwanted pounds. Protein shakes, spinach smoothies, and lemon juice spiked with cayenne are all on the menu, but as happy hour approaches, we feel the need for a little special cocktail to reward ourselves for all that self-denial.

Our detox drink of choice is our Bikini Shot — combining the health benefits of kiwi fruit, laden with vitamin C and E and colon-cleansing dietary fiber, with a vodka-laced grapefruit granita. It starts off tart and cold and ends up sweet and smooth, not unlike easing yourself into a pool. The Bikini Shot may not actually make that saggy old Speedo fit any better, but it sure will make you feel like a million bucks. Go ahead — hit the beach. Hang ten!

Bikini Shot

granita is similar in texture to a shaved ice, made with fresh fruit juice, sugar, and, in this case, alcohol. We used Square One Cucumber Vodka for this recipe, as the cucumber essence adds a fresh note to the grapefruit, but it would work beautifully with gin. We’ve also had success with a blackberry granita made with Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit, which has a certain grappa-like quality that makes us feel like we are vacationing on the Amalfi coast.

One whole grapefruit, juiced and retaining some of the pulp

3 ounces vodka or gin

2 ripe kiwi fruits, peeled and cut into chunks

1 orange, juiced

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

To make the granita: combine the grapefruit juice, pulp, and vodka or gin and pour into a shallow freezer-safe dish (like a pie pan). Place uncovered in the freezer for an hour, then scrape with a spoon to loosen the ice crystals. Return to the freezer for another hour. It can be scraped into a freezer-safe container at this point and kept in the freezer until ready to use.

To make the kiwi fruit juice: Put kiwi, orange juice, and agave nectar in a blender and blend until smooth. Strain through a sieve to remove seeds (optional). Chill for 30 minutes.

Pour two ounces kiwi juice into a shot glass or aperitif glass; top with a spoonful of grapefruit granita. 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: Sorrento Spring Crush

Sorry to Spring Crush

We’re crushing, Boozers. Daffodils are gaily poking up through the snow and the March winds are carrying the swallows back to their roosts. Spring is in the air and we are ready to welcome it with open arms.

Our thoughts have turned to limoncello in our perennial late winter search for sunshine — when limoncello is done right, it has a bright tartness layered with rich caramel undertones. When it’s done wrong, it tastes like liquid saccharin dusted with powdered lemon. Limoncello aficionados prefer this liqueur only when made with Sorrento lemons, but many good limoncellos are made with more common varieties. It’s quite easy to make at home and many small distilleries are popping up around the country, so check your local area. Our Sorrento Spring Crush is an herbaceous love letter to spring: how do we love thee, let us count the ways…

Sorrento Spring Crush

We love the flavor combination of anise and lemon, especially in the springtime, when we turn our faces up to capture the fleeting warmth of weak sunshine. Hyssop is an herb that can often be found growing wild in spring but also can be found dried for tea consumption. It has a light licorice flavor and can be used as the base for a simple syrup, or reduced into a concentrate as we have done here to add a warm herbal undertone.

3 ounces chilled prosecco

1.5 ounces chilled limoncello (we are fortunate to have gorgeous Don Ciccio & Figli Limoncello in our local area — be jealous)

1 tablespoon reduced hyssop tea (brew a cup and simmer over a low flame until reduced by half, then cool completely)

lemon wedge

fresh fennel fronds

Put lemon wedge and fennel fronds in the base of a large wine glass and muddle thoroughly. Add a few ice cubes, hyssop tea, limoncello, and prosecco, and stir vigorously. Garnish with additional fennel and serve immediately.

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.

The Friday Tipple: Lincoln’s Oscar

Lincoln's Oscar

We’re heading back to the red carpet, Boozers. Last week we celebrated the excellent judging in at least one category at the Grammy Awards, and today we begin preparing for the Academy Awards. Oscar night should rightly be observed with glamorous gowns, trays of canapés, and a special cocktail. Or two.

Film aficionados seem to agree that Steven Spielberg’s monumental “Lincoln” will win big at the Oscars this year, which led us to wonder “What would Lincoln drink?”. People often characterize the 16th president as a teetotaler, but it is perhaps more accurate to say that he was not much interested in indulging in alcohol or tobacco, preferring to imbibe typhoid-inducing water. However, Lincoln was known to have spent a certain period of time drinking lager, which had been recommended to improve his health. Ah, how we love 19th-century medicine.

Lincoln’s Oscar is, therefore, a beer-tail that is an ode to a complex American born in a log cabin who loved to dance at balls — lager combined with liquor and elegantly served, red-carpet ready, in a coupe. And the winner is…

Lincoln’s Oscar

Lager has a light refreshing fizziness — the champagne of beers — that lends itself to festive cocktails. We chose to combine it with a rye-based gin, such as Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin and St. George Dry Rye Gin, because it has a certain bold peppery quality that we find quintessentially American, but it could work just as well with a more floral variety like Green Hat Gin or Dry Fly Dry Gin.

3 ounces chilled lager (we chose Flying Dog’s UnderDog Atlantic Lager, because Lincoln loved an underdog)

1 ounce gin

1 ounce reduced apple cider (instructions below)

1/2 ounce St. Germaine liqueur

few drops of celery bitters (yes, invest in this — perfect combination with the apple cider, and with gin in general)

one apple slice soaked in Leopold Bros. New York Apple Whiskey (apple brandy or calvados will also work)

Put one cup of apple cider in a small saucepan and simmer over very low heat until reduced by half. Cool completely before using. Soak the apple slice in an ounce or so of the apple whiskey or brandy for about 30 minutes.

In a cocktail shaker, mix together the gin, apple cider, and St. Germaine, then add the beer and stir briskly. Add the bitters (without stirring) and pour directly into a chilled coupe or a wide-mouthed wine glass. Float the apple slice on top and make your entrance.

The Friday Tipple: incidental musings on moonshine

incidental musings on moonshine

We’ve won a Grammy, Boozers. Well, strictly speaking, we are only related to a Grammy winner, but feel privileged to utter the phrase in appropriately hushed tones, touched as we are by greatness. Although it may be considered by some as “the category nobody cares about”, the Grammys do award honors — hours before the Black Keys and Beyoncé are anywhere in the vicinity — for classical music, and intelligently chose to bestow this distinction on Stephen Hartke for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, a somewhat hypnotic piece of chamber music titled “Meanwhile – Incidental music to imaginary puppet plays”, the title track to the album by eighth blackbird that also won a Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance . We at Good Booze could not be more proud of such familial talent.

As our own talent lies in the exploration of cocktail culture, we felt compelled to honor such an achievement — the music of “Meanwhile” inspired a can’t-tear-your-eyes-away short film, so why not a drink? Steeped in references to Asian theater, “Meanwhile” features startling percussive elements reminiscent of a surly nun slapping a ruler on the head of a sleepy sixth grader and pillowy clarinet interludes that lull the listener back into a false sense of security. The obvious answer for a cocktail was, of course, moonshine. Call it unaged whiskey if you like.

incidental musings on moonshine twists on the traditional martini by creating a smoky layer of pine (thank you, Top Chef finalist Sheldon for another brilliant idea) sharpened with notes of lemon. Mix it up, put on the headphones, and dive into the unknown.

incidental musings on moonshine

We literally coated our favorite moonshine — Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit — in saké for this music-inspired tipple — creating a sweet-and-sour contrast that hits just at the back of the throat, not unlike that nun with the ruler.

3 ounces unaged white whiskey (a.k.a. moonshine)

1/2 ounce chilled saké (learn more about saké here; we like something lightly floral and mildly acidic, such as Sho Chiku Bai Ginjo)

fresh lemon peel, about 1″ x 2.5″

6-inch piece of pine branch (steal it from your neighbor’s yard or the dog park if you don’t have your own pine tree)

Hold the pine branch over an open flame until the needles are lightly charred and it begins to smoke. Put it in a heat-safe bowl with the lemon peel, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it sit for five minutes. Remove the pine branch, place it in a cocktail shaker with the moonshine and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Put the saké in a chilled martini glass and swirl until the inside of the glass is completely coated. Pour the excess into the shaker, remove the pine branch, add a couple of ice cubes, and shake vigorously. Strain into glass and garnish with pine-smoked lemon peel.

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.