The Friday Tipple: Back to School Shandy

Back to School Shandy

Our nest has emptied, Boozers. As the fledgling stood uncertainly on the edge, we gave a mighty shove right between the shoulder blades, calling behind the offspring’s flapping wings: “For God’s sake, if you must drink beer, at least make it good beer!”. Because there’s really nothing sadder than social media pictures of overeager freshmen clutching cans of Coors Light.

And so now it’s cocktails à deux, as these wayward parental units sit back and contemplate life without PTA meetings, smelly sports equipment, and teen angst. Taking it slowly as we ease into the unknown, we’re starting off with a classic shandy, with a bit of a twist: beer cubes. As our loyal Boozers know, we have a long love affair with cubes of all sorts, as they help change the character of a drink while they melt and meld. Cubes also have the added benefit of looking somewhat innocent at the start, slowly becoming more devious as time goes on — not unlike the fledgling now flapping off into the sunset.

Back to School Shandy

A sparkling lemonade creates the base for this little Tipple, which you can make yourself by making a strong lemonade and then topping it off with seltzer water. We actually used a tasty bottled variety called Spindrift, which was lightly sweet, somewhat tart, and filled with a bubbly effervescence — rather like the offspring.

5 ounces chilled sparkling lemonade
1 ounce limoncello (we like our local Don Ciccio & Figli)
3 – 4 beer cubes (recipe below)

Put all ingredients into a tall glass (or a classic red Solo cup, if you want to relive your college days), stir briskly, garnish with a slice of lemon, and enjoy.

Beer Cubes:

12-ounce can or bottle of beer (for God’s sake, make it good — we used Shift Lager this time)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup citrus juice (we used both orange and lime)

Put all ingredients into a bowl, whisk together, and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid, about 4 or 5 hours.

 

The Garden Tipple: Sugarbaby Daiquiri

Sugarbaby Daiquiri

We’re parched, Boozers. Gardening is hard work, and we’ve done enough tilling, weeding, watering, and harvesting in the height of summer to last a lifetime — and it’s not even August. The air-conditioned comfort of the grocery store’s produce section begins to look mighty good when you’re covered in sweat and compost while you battle aphids and whatever just chewed up half your tomatoes during the night. But then the sugarbabies arrived and things started to look up.

A Sugar Baby is a common variety of miniature watermelon, often found in farmers markets and grocery stores under the moniker “personal watermelon”. They are small, and sweet, and utterly hydrating on a hot summer day, especially when rum is involved. We don’t usually go in for frozen drinks, and we generally like our daiquiris Hemingway-style, but sometimes an adult slurpee is really the only way to go when the mercury is on the rise. Slurp it up and drink it down.

Sugarbaby Daiquiri

Most frozen drinks are made with ice cubes, but we turn our noses up at that when we have watermelon available. As you might imagine, watermelon is mostly water and so, when cut into cubes, they freeze perfectly. They also freeze fairly quickly, so you’ll be ready to whip up your daiquiris within a couple of hours of freezing.

One Sugar Baby watermelon, preferably seedless, cut into chunks

2 ounces rum, preferably a lighter variety such as silver or gold (we used Mount Gay this time)

1 ounce hibiscus liqueur (we used Don Ciccio & Figli; if you don’t have that available to you, use St. Germain elderflower liqueur to add a floral note, or even Maraschino liqueur, which is generally used in traditional daiquiris)

1 fresh lime

Place the watermelon chunks into a plastic Ziploc bag and freeze until solid, about an hour or two. To make a good-sized daiquiri, place one cup of frozen watermelon chunks in a blender with the rum, liqueur, and the juice of half a lime. Blend on high for a few seconds — it won’t take long to break down the cubes and you want them to maintain a perfectly drinkable frozen purée. Serve immediately.

The Garden Tipple: Iced Amalfi Americano

Iced Amalfi Americano

We’re preparing for deprivation, Boozers. Apparently there’s a coffee shortage looming, courtesy of drought and disease, so we feel the need to stock up while we can. With the temperatures rising, we began to crave Thai Iced Coffee, but a charming little Cinnamon Basil plant jauntily growing in the windowbox made us consider a more Mediterranean twist — logically bringing us to our friends at Don Ciccio & Figli and their tasty little Italian liqueur known as Concerto, brimming with the flavors of the Amalfi coast.

This summer, as we explore cocktails from the garden, we’re bringing you a Garden Tipple each week, with today’s offering, the Iced Amalfi Americano, featuring one of our favorite tricks: the cocktail cube. A few weeks back, we picked up a Cinnamon Basil plant from the local home improvement store for a couple of bucks, and we’re obsessed with its spicy cinnamon flavor, which adds a zingy essence when chopped up and added to an ice cube. As the cube melts into your drink, the flavors subtly shift and deepen — the easiest way to add new layers to what could be an otherwise ordinary drink. Try it with fresh mint for a mojito, thyme for a gin-and-lemonade, and even garlic chives for an amped-up Bloody Mary.

Iced Amalfi Americano

A confection made from barley and espresso, Concerto is just about perfection when used in a coffee-based cocktail, but another coffee-based liqueur will do just as well, such as a traditional Kahlua or Patron XO Cafe.

3 ounces cold-brewed coffee with a pinch of dried cardamom

1.5 ounces espresso-based liqueur

2 ounces coconut milk half-n-half (we like So Delicious; you can use regular half-n-half)

1 ounce unaged whiskey (this is optional, but we strongly suggest it; we used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit)

4 cinnamon basil ice cubes

We like to make sure that every element of this cocktail is well-chilled, so it’s nice to put together some of the elements in advance and put them back in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or so before serving — or mix up enough for four or five drinks and leave it in the refrigerator for up to a week, ready to drink when you are.

First, make the cubes. You’ll need several clean cinnamon basil leaves (other varieties of basil work well also, such as Thai basil), cut into a fine chiffonade. Put the basil leaves and about half a cup of water into a blender and blend on high until the leaves are pulverized and the water is green. Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid.

Next, mix together the coffee and espresso liqueur and put in the refrigerator to chill, then mix together the half-n-half and the unaged whiskey and put that into the refrigerator to chill.

To assemble the drink: Pour the chilled half-n-half mixture into the bottom of a tall glass. Add several of the basil cubes and then pour the coffee mixture into the glass. Enjoy.

 

The Friday Tipple: Frosted Boilermaker

Frosted Boilermaker

We’re feeling adult, Boozers. And by “adult”, we mean, of course, that we’re in the mood for an adult milkshake. It’s been that kind of week.

Actually, the term “adult milkshake” does seem a bit silly, sort of like referring to coq au vin as “adult chicken” simply because the recipe calls for wine, or implying that milkshakes are meant only to be enjoyed by children. However, we do enjoy an alcohol-enhanced frosted beverage as much as the next adult, so we decided to continue playing around with the Boilermaker, as we did last week with Dilbert’s Dilemma, and inspired by a brief encounter we had with a Guinness Float at Good Stuff Eatery on St. Patrick’s Day. We call it the Frosted Boilermaker, but call it “Dilbert’s Delight” if you wish, a perfect way to wallow at the end of another week of tedium and toil.

Frosted Boilermaker

We made a Beer Syrup for our Dilbert’s Dilemma cocktail, and it called to us piteously to use it again. Many milkshakes are made with chocolate, butterscotch, or strawberry syrups, so it seemed like a no-brainer to use a beer syrup in the same fashion. You can use ice cream, but we actually like the slightly tangy flavor that comes with a frozen yogurt, which complements the malty undertone of the beer syrup.

2 scoops of vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream

2 ounces whiskey (we used our favorite Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1 large tablespoon Beer Syrup

Splash of half-n-half (Coconut half-n-half is a nice touch)

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Whiskey-whipped cream (optional, but you’ll regret not doing this)

Nocello-glazed walnuts for garnish (also optional, but do it anyway)

Place first five ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with whipped cream and walnuts.

Whiskey-whipped cream: whip together one cup of chilled whipping cream, 1 ounce of whiskey, and 1 heaping teaspoon of brown sugar.

Nocello-glazed walnuts: put a small handful walnuts into a bowl with an ounce of Nocello liqueur (or whiskey or bourbon) and sprinkle with a little sugar. Mix together, then pour into a nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Allow to caramelize while stirring frequently, about 3 – 5 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool.

The Friday Tipple: Et Tu, Brutus?

Et Tu, Brutus?

We’re feeling nostalgic again, Boozers. A common winter ailment has left us craving vitamin C, which caused us to reminisce fondly about that childhood food court staple, the Orange Julius. Frothy and delicious, creamy and orange, there was no treat more prized when dragged to the mall in search of new snow boots or Power Rangers underwear. The promise of it served to make the torture of waiting for Mother to purchase the perfect pocket squares for Dad almost bearable.

While an Orange Julius has next to nothing to do with the Roman emperor of the same name, we find ourselves thinking of togas and chariot races nonetheless, and Italy is, of course, simply dripping with fresh oranges, so we don’t think it such a stretch to imagine that Caesar would have enjoyed a refreshing frozen orange concoction to help him while away a long hot afternoon at the baths. Et Tu, Brutus? is our version, just kicked up a notch or two. Enjoy it as you plan your next conquest.

Et Tu, Brutus?

Vanilla-laced vodka and mandarinetto – basically limoncello made with oranges – are a lovely combination for this grown-up treat. If you can, infuse a good vodka with a couple of split vanilla beans for a week or two; otherwise you can use a good vodka and scrape a vanilla bean into the mixture or simply add a good quality pure vanilla extract. Most homemade versions of the Orange Julius will tell you to use defrosted orange juice concentrate and ice cubes, but we prefer to make ours with frozen orange juice cubes – simply pour fresh orange juice into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid, about two hours.

4 frozen orange juice cubes

1 ounce vodka (we prefer Boyd & Blair)

1 ounce Mandarinetto (our favorite is Don Ciccio & Figli – you can use another orange liqueur like Grand Marnier if necessary)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or scrape one vanilla bean)

2 ounces coconut milk or cream (we like So Delicious Coconut Milk Half-n-Half)

1 teaspoon orange blossom honey or other sweetener

1/2 teaspoon baking soda (this counteracts the acidity of the orange juice)

additional ice cubes and fresh orange juice as needed

orange wedge for garnish

Put first seven ingredients in a blender and blend until well-combined, thick, and frothy. Add additional ice cubes if too liquid, add orange juice if too frozen. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with orange wedge and a straw; serve immediately.