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.

 

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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 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 Garden Tipple: DMV Iced Tea

DMV Iced Tea

We’re feeling sweet, dear Boozers. Here in the DMV — and for the uninitiated, we’re referring to the DC-Maryland-Virginia vortex, not the Department of Motor Vehicles — we straddle, sometimes uncomfortably, that line that divides the North and the South. We have a certain Northern can-do entrepreneurial spirit coupled with a Southern take-your-time-and-do-it-right mentality which often leads to short bursts of frantic activity followed by long hours of intense reflection.

What we do like is our sweet tea on a hot summer day, but we tend to enjoy it half-and-half style, like the rest of our existence: not too sweet, not too plain. When presented with that perennial summer cocktail, the Long Island Iced Tea, we tut-tut at its lack of actual tea and emphasis on “more is more”. So we’ve created the DMV Iced Tea, a blend of energizing teas infused with fresh peaches and local brandy — a perfect sipper for those last days of summer lounging in the city parks dreaming of beach days gone by.

DMV Iced Tea

A combination of green tea and Earl Grey-infused vodka provide the tea base here, and, as it’s peach season here in the Almost South, we’re enjoying every juicy moment. A soupçon of lavender honey is all that’s needed to heighten the just-picked flavor of the peaches — any more would turn this into a Deep South Iced Tea.

4 ounces Fresh Peach Green Tea (see below)
1 ounce brandy (we like to use Catoctin Creek’s Peach Brandy, but DMV perennial favorites like Courvoisier and Hennessey will certainly do the trick)
1 ounce Earl Grey-infused vodka (recipe here)
fresh sliced peaches for garnish

Put a chunk or two of the tea-soaked peaches from the Fresh Peach Green Tea in the bottom of a tall glass. Add several ice cubes, then top with the chilled tea, brandy, and vodka. Stir briskly and garnish with a fresh peach slice — or two.

to make the Fresh Peach Green Tea:
1/2 cup fresh peaches, roughly chopped
4 cups freshly brewed green tea (we like a minty variety like Tazo Zen)
2 tablespoons lavender honey

Put the peaches in a pitcher and muddle lightly, then add green tea and honey. Stir well, then refrigerate for at least two hours or until well-chilled. Can be kept refrigerated for three or four days.

The Garden Tipple: Mary’s Cherry

Mary's Cherry

Get your minds out of the gutter, Boozers. It’s cherry tomato season and the little darlings are exploding in the garden these days, meaning that we are overrun with little red — and pink, and yellow — globules of goodness. So we decided that we needed a Bloody Mary.

While you can purchase Bloody Mary mixer in the store — and some of it can be quite tasty — it’s also a snap to make, especially this time of year when the tomato crop is obscene in its abundance. Cherry tomatoes make for a nice base, both sweet and tart at once, rather like our friend Mary. We’ve upped the ante on our version, Mary’s Cherry, by also marinating a handful of cherry tomatoes in vodka, which makes for a rather potent brunch cocktail. Collect the car keys at the door and settle in.

Mary’s Cherry

A classic Bloody Mary requires horseradish and Worcestershire Sauce to give it some kick, but don’t neglect other flavors to amp it up. Here in the mid-Atlantic, it’s popular to add Old Bay Seasoning to the mix, but curry powder, smoked paprika, ramps, and pickled hot peppers are other ingredients that you might try out to customize the flavor to your own tastebuds.

3 ounces Bloody Cherry Tomato Mix (recipe here)

2 ounces vodka (we like Boyd & Blair – you can also use the vodka from the Drunken Cherry Tomatoes)

4 Drunken Cherry Tomatoes (recipe here)

Cucumber and fresh parsley for garnish (optional — use whatever you like)

Place the Drunken Cherry Tomatoes in the bottom of a tall glass and muddle lightly to break the skins. Add a few ice cubes, then the vodka and Bloody Cherry Tomato Mix. Stir well and garnish. Serve immediately.

The Garden Tipple: Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch

Midsummer Night's Beer Punch

We have had a most rare vision, dear Boozers. Sunlight slanting low and golden across quiet orderly rows of tomatoes, beans, and peppers, suddenly distorted by the higgledy-piggledy madness of raspberry canes, climbing every which way in tangled curls of green and crimson. Warmed by the late-day sunshine, the scent is intoxicating and you find your fingers and lips stained with their sweetness. Such is a midsummer night, when inhibitions are thrown out into the soft breeze and a magical stillness settles into a contented soul.

Midsummer is an important time in many cultures, as the longest day of the year arrives with great fanfare, only to be immediately followed by gradually shortening days that herald the inevitable coming of winter. Fueled by a sense of urgency, we feel the need to gather our friends and dance with abandon in the open air, surrounded by barbecues and beer cans as we chase our dreams through the shadows. We like to celebrate such folly with our Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch, a heady blend of raspberry-infused gin, limoncello-spiked lemonade, and crisp summer ale. Consider yourself forewarned: though she be but little, she is fierce.

Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch

Here in the U.S., we tend to come just a bit late to the party by celebrating midsummer on the Fourth of July, and this punch is just right for a crowd. The trick is to try to keep everything well-chilled until just before serving — go rustic by mixing the lemonade and gin together in a large mason jar, then add a couple of cold beers to the jar as your guests begin to arrive. To keep it extra cold, try throwing in a few beer cubes.

2 cups chilled lemonade with 3/4 cup limoncello added (we like our local Don Ciccio & Figli limoncello)

1 cup chilled gin infused with raspberries and lemongrass (recipe here)

3 chilled beers (we used a summery ale by our local DC Brau)

Several slices of fresh orange and lemon

Using a punch bowl or a large mason jar, add all ingredients and stir together well. Serve immediately and replenish as necessary. Garnish with fresh lemongrass stalks if you have it.

 

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: Fresh Strawberry Ale

Fresh Strawberry Ale

Summer breezes are blowing, Boozers. With Memorial Day just around the corner and farmers markets bursting at the seams with spring fruit, we’re flushed with that heady anticipation of early summer delights, before the humidity settles in to dampen our enthusiasm. “Grab it while it lasts” is our mantra.

For the next few months, we’ll be offering up a series of cocktail recipes we like to call Good Booze in the Garden, and today we’re giving you a bit of a preview. Strawberries are growing in our cocktail garden right now, sweet little morsels of sunshine beckoning to us with their insouciant freshness. Recently, we noticed an advertisement for a commercial brand of strawberry ale and thought how nice it would be if our own favorite local brews had a bit of a strawberry twist. It was only a tiny little leap for us to realize that we had everything we needed for our own Fresh Strawberry Ale — literally in our own backyard.

It’s embarrassingly simple, but let that be our little secret. Enjoy.

Fresh Strawberry Ale

You don’t have to grow your own strawberries to make this treat — pick them up at the farmers market, steal them from your neighbor’s garden, visit a pick-your-own farm, or just get them at the grocery store. However, we strongly advise that you procure locally-grown strawberries simply because they will have the sweetest and freshest flavor now that they are in season.

1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh strawberries

1 chilled 12-ounce beer of your choice (support your local brewer — we used DC Brau’s The Public, a citrusy pale ale which complements the strawberries nicely)

Yes, that’s it.

Place strawberries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle with a wooden spoon until the juice begins to run out — they shouldn’t be pulverized, but slightly mashed. Pour in the beer and stir gently. Let sit for a few minutes, then strain into a glass.

The Friday Tipple: La Violette

La Violette

Spring has sprung, Boozers. Bees are buzzing, flowers are blooming, and all appears to be right with the world. At least until summer humidity arrives.

Standard garden-variety flowers make lovely cocktails, if only you know what to do with them. It’s simple enough: grab a handful of petals — after determining, of course, that they are not poisonous — and then throw them into a simple syrup or use them to infuse some vodka, gin, or white wine. For us, the essence of spring is the precious little violet, peeping shyly from the new green grass in exotic hues of purple and yellow; its flavor is soft and slightly woodsy, giving a fresh essence to a spring cocktail, along with a delicate violet color. Vive le printemps.

La Violette

Infused simple syrups are, of course, wildly easy to make, and our Violet Simple Syrup is no exception. The color will be a deep green, but, when added to liquid, it will become a charming shade of pale violet. There is the barest soupçon of Chartreuse in this recipe, but you can skip it entirely if you don’t have a bottle at home, or feel free to substitute a few drops of St. Germain if you have a bottle of that on hand.

1.5 ounces gin or vodka (we prefer Boyd & Blair Vodka or Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

3 drops Chartreuse or St. Germain (optional, but definitely no more than 3 drops)

Chilled club soda

large teaspoon Violet Simple Syrup

Violet for garnish (try dipping it briefly in simple syrup then let it air dry)

small wedge of fresh lemon

Fill a glass with ice and add the gin or vodka and a few drops of the Chartreuse or St. Germain. Top with the chilled club soda and the Violet Simple Syrup and stir well. Garnish with the candied or fresh violet and add a tiny squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving (discard the lemon, do not serve with the cocktail itself).

 

 

 

The Friday Tipple: Dilbert’s Dilemma

Dilbert's Dilemma

Feeling downtrodden, dear Boozers? We understand. In a world where there are those who delight in stepping on the backs of others to achieve their petty goals, it’s hard to be the guy who just wants to quietly punch the clock and pick up a paycheck. Not everyone cares about movin’ on up, but try telling that to the eager beaver who just assigned you a 200-page analysis of the efficacy of traditional paper clips versus mini binder clips, in the hopes that it will bump them up in the estimation of some pencil-pushing muckety-muck who never heard of paying overtime.

Sigh.

All this means that you’re really going to need a drink when you get home from a weary day of banging your head softly against the wall of your cubicle. A classic drink of the workingman is the Boilermaker — essentially just a beer and a shot of whiskey, clearly designed to take the pain away before the factory whistle has even finished blowing at the end of the workday. We call our version Dilbert’s Dilemma, a slightly more subtle combination that can be savored as you slump gratefully in the La-Z-Boy in front of a flickering screen. Don’t let The Man get you down.

Dilbert’s Dilemma

While a beer syrup forms the basis of this cocktail — a simple combination of beer, sugar, and some spices — it’s the simple act of coating the interior glass with a small amount of orange liqueur that creates a new depth of flavor.

2 ounces of whiskey (or 3 if it’s been a rough week; we like Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1/2 ounce Beer Syrup (recipe here)

1/4 ounce orange liqueur (Don Ciccio & Figli Mandarinetto, Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec will work)

orange peel for garnish

Pour the whiskey and beer syrup into a cocktail shaker and stir briskly to combine. Pour the orange liqueur into the glass and swirl it all around the inside of the glass to coat completely. Add the blended whiskey and beer syrup to the glass and garnish with orange peel. Drink up.