The Friday Tipple: Shirley’s Valentine

Shirley's Valentine

We’re waxing nostalgic, Boozers. Feeling the need for a special cocktail today, we’ve turned to a childhood classic: the Shirley Temple. A sweet homage to the child star of the same name, the drink is perhaps most adored by generations of children for a typically generous garnish of maraschino cherries more than anything else. 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.

 

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The Friday Tipple: Cinnamon Margarita

Cinnamon Margarita

The groundhog has spoken, Boozers. Winter will apparently continue to drag on for an additional six weeks, as summer winks at us insouciantly from a distance, teasing us with warm breezes and dining al fresco. And so, we’ve decided we need a margarita, perhaps with a bit of a wintry twist.

You may have encountered a Cinnamon Margarita before, but we find that they tend to be overly sweet, so our version includes cinnamon-infused tequila and a spicy ginger syrup, which combines to make a cocktail that recalls winter spice but promises of warm-weather adventures to come. ¡Salud!

Cinnamon Margarita

For this we’ve simply infused a bottle of tequila — we used Avion Silver, which we like for its clean bright flavor — with a few cinnamon sticks. This took nothing more than dropping the sticks in the bottle and setting it aside for a few days. However, if you are yearning for this margarita right now, then you can easily effect the same concept by adding a few drops of cinnamon extract to each individual portion of tequila; most grocery stores carry the extract in the baking aisle on the same shelf where you’d find vanilla and other extracts.

2 ounces cinnamon-infused tequila (or just tequila and a few drops of cinnamon extract as noted above)

2 ounces chilled club soda

1 tablespoon ginger simple syrup (recipe below)

a very light splash of triple sec

a squirt of fresh lime juice

fresh lime twist

Make the ginger simple syrup: put 3/4 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, and a couple of 1-inch pieces of fresh ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil and then simmer over low heat until reduced into a thick syrup. Remove ginger pieces and allow to cool completely. Can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Make the Cinnamon Margarita: Put tequila, club soda, ginger syrup, triple sec and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir well. This can be served with or without ice. Add a twist of lime over the top and enjoy.

 

The Winter Storm Tipple: Warm Drinks for Cold Weather

Hot Buttered Rum Toddy

Apparently a storm’s-a-comin’, Boozers, so while you’re frantically gathering bread, milk, and toilet paper, don’t forget to stock up at the liquor store. A snow storm is truly just an excuse to have a party with the neighbors, so prepare to help shovel each other out and then warm up with a toasty cocktail or two. Be careful out there.

An Epiphany

Daisy’s Cup

Earl’s Cup

Hot Buttered Rum Toddy

Lavender Lemonade with Hot Gin

Mexican Cocoa Martini with Drunken Fluff

Nutella Whiskey Dream

Parade Punsch

Potlikker Sangria

Sick Day

Sochi Dreams

Tailgater’s Toddy

Tex-Mex Cocoa

And, for those who are feeling a tad more adventurous:

Arctic Char

Blizzard Shot

Gin Mickey

incidental musings on moonshine

Robert Frost-ini

Sochi Dreams

The Thanksgiving Tipple: Cranberry Jelly Shot

Cranberry Jelly Shot

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.

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, was a surprising source of inspiration. As strange as it may seem, 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; our local favorite is Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit.

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 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 Halloween Tipple: Pumpkin Pimm’s

Pumpkin Pimms

Happy Halloween, Boo-zers! You knew we wouldn’t forget. Like J.K. Rowling, we felt that you deserved a treat on this special day, and so we resurrected our summertime favorite, Pimm’s No. 1, with a bit of a twist: pumpkin juice.

There are many recipes for pumpkin juice out there in the world of J.K. Rowling worshippers, and they are all pretty good, but we wanted something a little less sweet so that our Pumpkin Pimm’s would taste like a proper cocktail. Roasting a fresh sugar pumpkin (that’s the smallish variety that weigh just a few pounds, typically used for pies, not the big ones that are carved into jack-o-lanterns) did the trick, giving a slight smokiness to our housemade pumpkin juice.

Merlin’s Beard, that’s a good drink! Careful not to splinch yourself on the way home from that Hallowe’en Feast.

Pumpkin Pimm’s

It doesn’t take long to make your own pumpkin juice, but, if you’re desperate to try this drink before the Three Broomsticks fills up with tipsy witches, then mix a few tablespoons of canned pumpkin with the pear nectar and apple cider and strain — it should still give you a good flavor. 

2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1

1 ounce gin (as always, we recommend Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin)

3 ounces pumpkin juice (our recipe here)

small teaspoon of mashed pumpkin (reserved from juice recipe below)

toasted salted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional but worth it)

Place first four ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a glass. Top with pumpkin seeds and enjoy.

 

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: Royal Pear

Royal Pear

Happy anniversary, dear Boozers. Actually, it’s not our anniversary, nor may it be yours, but we are celebrating the 5th anniversary of one of our favorite local distillers, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, makers of distinctly delicious rye whisky, gin, and brandy. Founded by a charming pair, Becky and Scott Harris — she distills gorgeous liquor, he charms the public — they are the perfect example of what can happen when you throw caution to the wind and take the plunge to follow a dream. It’s an example we are pleased to follow, even on our darkest days.

In 2011, just as we began creating these little Tipples for your pleasure, Scott was kind enough to provide us with a bottle of Pearousia, their pear brandy, distilled from a pear wine made at Fabbioli Cellars, a Virginia vineyard. A brandy with just that fleeting sweet hint of pear, like a memory on the edge of your mind as you drift off to sleep at night, we’ve used it in several recipes over the years, but today we are saluting Becky and Scott with the Royal Pear — an uncomplicated cocktail that they can toast to each other with after a long day of delighting others. Cheers!

Royal Pear

Quite simply, we’ve paired beer and brandy with a soupçon of spicy sweetness. For the beer, we like to go out to the local breweries, see what’s fresh, and grab a growler. Look for something that is autumnal, if you can, but not a pumpkin ale — you’re looking for something that has undertones of spice without tasting like a cookie, yet is still light enough not to drown out the brandy. For our version, we looked to Mad Fox Brewing Company — keeping to today’s Virginia theme — and their Kölsch, which has a piney quality that complements the pear brandy quite well.

3 ounces autumnal ale

2 ounces pear brandy

1 tablespoon Wicked Ginger Syrup

Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and stir well. Pour into a chilled coupe, garnish with a slice of fresh or dried pear (optional), and enjoy.

That’s it. Boom.

The Autumn Tipple: Old Henry’s Constitutional

Old Henry's Constitutional

We’re feeling old, Boozers. It seems as if the world is shifting ever more toward the delights of youth and we find ourselves shaking our fists at the young’uns traipsing across the lawn in their neon-laced stacked booties, finding ourselves a sad parody of Grumpy Old Men. Yet then we were reminded of our celebrated ancestor, Old Henry Francisco, and knew that it was time for us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves. Old Henry is reputed to have lived to the ripe old age of 134, finally succumbing to a fever in 1820, having played the drum at Queen Anne’s coronation in 1702 as a young man before coming to America, where he later fought in both the French & Indian and Revolutionary Wars — the latter while in his 90s.

Appropriately chastised, we’ve now decided to follow in Old Henry’s footsteps and capture the secret to his longevity. After spending a lovely fall day in the orchards at Ridgefield Farm, we felt rejuvenated and knew just what to do. Back when he was Young Henry, our ancestor was known to enjoy his tipple, and as he aged, lived largely on baked apples and black tea. So we’ve created Old Henry’s Constitutional, a healthful mixture of brandy, mead, apples, and tea, specifically designed to get us into the 22nd century. Live long and prosper.

Old Henry’s Constitutional

You may think of mead, which is, at its most basic, a fermented honey water, as something only to be consumed at Ye Olde Renaissance Faire, but this libation can bring cocktails to new levels with its subtle yeastiness. You can use either a flat or carbonated mead, depending on your preference. Mead is not always as sweet as one might think and can be made with a variety of fruits and spices — many mead producers are popping up across the country, so find out what’s available in your area and invest in a bottle. No mead to be found? Try this with a hard cider instead.

2 ounces mead (we used Charm City Meadworks Original Dry)
2 ounces honey-sweetened black tea, at room temperature
1 ounce brandy (we used Catoctin Creek 1757 Virginia Brandy — Old Henry would have been just 71 back then)
Several chunks of roasted apple (directions below)

First, roast the apple: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Core an apple (choose sweet or tart, depending on the flavor you want) and cut the apple into hefty 1-inch chunks. Place chunks on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes; the chunks should still be firm at this point, so reserve a few pieces for garnish, then take the remainder and wrap them loosely in some aluminum foil, returning to the oven for 10 more minutes. At this point, they should be fairly soft, so remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

To assemble the drink: Put the completely softened apple pieces into the bottom of a cocktail shaker with the brandy and muddle thoroughly. Add mead and black tea and shake well. Strain into a glass, being sure to press all the juices out of the muddled apple. Garnish with reserved pieces of baked apple. May be served at room temperature or chilled, with or without ice.

The Garden Tipple: Indian Summer Pimm’s

Indian Summer Pimms

Summer is gently drifting away, dear Boozers. The leaves are not yet starting to turn, but the evening breeze is cool as it floats through the open windows and squirrels can be seen scurrying about in a frenzy of nut-gathering. What we seek as the autumnal equinox arrives is to balance the seasons, and we find no better way than apples and Pimm’s. Whip up a batch, invite your chums over, and snuggle up on the front porch to welcome fall with open arms.

Indian Summer Pimm’s

Most people tuck the bottle of Pimm’s to the back of the liquor cabinet as summer recedes, but we know better. Apples are hitting the streets these days, traveling from backyard gardens and orchards to humble kitchens to be turned into pies, crumbles, and sauce — however, it’s also a snap to juice apples at home, creating a really crisp fresh flavor that brightens up a traditional Pimm’s Cup with an autumnal twist.

2 ounces Apple Ginger Juice (recipe here)

1 ounce Pimm’s No. 1

1 ounce gin (we used the pine-scented St. George Spirits Terroir Gin here, for an earthy undertone)

chilled club soda

thinly sliced apples for garnish

Put Apple Ginger Juice, Pimm’s, and gin in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well, then pour into a tall glass and top with club soda. Add a few thin slices of apple to the glass and stir gently. Serve immediately.