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.

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The Friday Tipple: Strawberry Rose Mojito

Strawberry Rose Mojito

Mom needs a drink, Boozers. You may be the apple of her eye, but you’ve also put her through years of unintentional stress. She stayed up half the night finishing your third grade science fair project while you snuggled up with Bunny in bed. She got up at 5:30 on Saturday mornings to shower and dress before dragging you out of bed for that early hockey practice. She hemmed your prom dress — by hand, mind you — because you suddenly decided you had to be part of the hi-lo trend. She listened to countless hours of whining about boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, jobs, children (she told you so), home repairs, car repairs, weight loss, and destructive puppies — and all without telling you to shut up and get over yourself. Face it, the woman is a saint.

So here’s what you do. Pick her up, bring her back to your perfectly tidy house (because of course you cleaned up before Mom came over), and present her with a beautiful home-cooked brunch and a special cocktail made just in her honor. Because moms like handmade. It may be easier for you to take her out to some faceless restaurant, but listen carefully: Moms Like Handmade. They don’t care if it’s gourmet, if there are fine linens and crystal, or if there’s a guy walking around with a basket of plastic-wrapped single roses for $3 a pop. There is no substitute for making it yourself, and it’s the least you can do. Happy Mother’s Day.

Strawberry Rose Mojito

It will seem loopy, but this is made with strawberry jam rather than fresh strawberries. Jam cocktails are really charming, because the jam gives a lovely silky mouthfeel to the drink. If you are feeling enterprising, you could whip up a really simple Freezer Strawberry Jam the day before — meaning you can also present Mom with a beribboned jar as a nice handmade gift — or you can use a really high-quality strawberry jam. We used a strawberry balsamic jam made by our local Wisteria Gardens, which added another depth of flavor to an already sublime cocktail.

2 ounces light rum (we used Chairman’s Reserve)

2 heaping teaspoons of strawberry jam

1/2 teaspoon Rose Water (available in many markets)

several clean basil leaves (mint is traditional, but basil is perfect with strawberries)

chilled club soda

fresh strawberry for garnish

Put basil leaves in the bottom of a tall glass and muddle until they are broken down into smaller pieces. Add rum, jam and rose water , and mix thoroughly. Put several ice cubes in the glass, fill with club soda and stir together. Garnish with strawberry and serve immediately.

 

The Friday Tipple: Tequila Kiss

Tequila Kiss

Life can be complicated, Boozers. While we missed you dreadfully when we were on vacation last week, it felt good to strip away our responsibilities for a scant few days and dig our toes into the sand. Our new mantra since returning to the grownup world of deadlines, bills, and dirty dishes: Keep It Simple, Stupid, a.k.a. KISS.

While we trailed our fingers in the warm waters surrounding a drifting kayak, we sipped on tequila. There is something about tequila that just says “Let it all go”, and we were only too happy to comply. It didn’t hurt that we’d just recently read that tequila would help us lose weight, meaning that we could indulge in that extra slice of chocolate-raspberry cheesecake with mango coulis. No matter if we didn’t exactly return from vacation noticeably thinner, albeit much more relaxed.

As you dear Boozers know, we like a drink that is not overdone, especially at the end of a long week, so we made this drink simple and to the point — because sometimes we overlook the simplest solutions to life’s complexities. Enjoy.

Tequila Kiss

There are a lot of tequilas out there and a recent visit to New Mexico proved to us that there is a wide range of subtle flavors in the Tequila Canon. Use a clean silver tequila for this cocktail; we used Avión today because it has a light herbaceous quality with a citrusy undertone that suits our spring fever.

2 ounces silver or blanco tequila

3 ounces chilled club soda

1 fresh lime, halved

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

We weren’t joking when we said this was simple. Fill a glass with ice and pour in tequila and squeeze half of the lime into the bottom of the glass. Add club soda and agave nectar and stir briskly, then squeeze other lime half over the top. That’s it.

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.

Arr! Drink Like a Pirate Day!

Keep Calm and Carry Rum

Avast, me hearties, it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day while tomorrow is, ironically, National Rum Punch Day — so we like to think of today as Drink Like a Pirate Day. With the autumn equinox just around the corner, what could be better than sucking down a little Caribbean delight as summer gently slips away? Now, we are inclined to stroll to the local market and grab some late summer berries — strawberries and raspberries are still running rampant in many parts of the country — which we can throw into a blender with a little freshly-squeezed orange juice to make a great mixer. To that, we’d add a lime-infused simple syrup (or even our own Blackberry Lavender Simple Syrup) and, our old favorite, Mount Gay Rum (ah, Barbados…), topping it all off with a sprinkle of Bittermens Orange Cream Citrate, a little fresh nutmeg, and maybe some fresh fruit impaled on one of those little pink plastic swords. Perfection!

However, if you want to go a little more traditional, or don’t feel like hunting down fresh fruit, then check this out for the next best thing: Mount Gay Rum Punch.

Yo ho ho!

The Friday Tipple: Chia Sangria

Chia Sangria

We’re feeling trendy, Boozers. You can hardly walk down the street these days without tripping over a pile of chia seeds, and we had no idea they had a purpose other than to provide a living sculpture to grace an otherwise boring desk. Apparently these little wonders impart good health, and we love a healthy cocktail, as it allows us to feel good even as we are behaving badly.

You often find chia seeds made into a juice with fresh fruits, which led us to think that they’d work perfectly in wine – our favorite kind of juice. Our Chia Sangria is a lovely pitcher of summer goodness, chock full of fresh berries, cheap wine, and maybe a smidge of rum. Oh, and chia seeds, because this is actually a health drink. Drink up.

Chia Sangria

Because we are always looking for a way to camouflage a cocktail as healthy, thereby reducing our own guilt, we sometimes employ the use of the lowly ice cube. For today’s Tipple, we made cubes of lemon juice and sparkling mineral water, thereby adding both vitamins and minerals to our Chia Sangria. Because every little bit helps.

1 bottle red wine (we used an $8.99 bottle of Spanish Monastrell with a lot of tannins)
1/2 cup rum (we used Gosling’s Black Seal 151 proof)
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1 fresh orange
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, quartered
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup fresh blackberries
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup lavender honey
1/8 cup whole chia seeds
A few fresh basil leaves

Put berries, rum, and Grand Marnier in bottom of pitcher and let macerate at room temperature for an hour or two. Cut orange in half and squeeze juice in pitcher, then throw the orange in as well. Add honey, chia seeds, and wine and stir well. Add basil leaves, cover, and place in refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Serve in large glasses with lemon-mineral water cubes. It’s also tasty when topped with an ounce of chilled Lambrusco, for a little fizzy red wine kick.

The Friday Tipple: Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Ruby Rhubarb 'Rita

We’re on a rhubarb kick, Boozers, and also sorely in need of tequila. In moments such as these, we ache for margaritas, winking at us insouciantly from a salt-rimmed glass. It is Friday, after all – and, somewhere in the world, it’s already happy hour.

The tart freshness of spring fruits lend themselves to margaritas that far surpass the standard variety made with overly sweet mixes. We went a little fancy this week by creating a base from ruby red grapefruit and rhubarb, but the result is well worth the small amount of effort it takes to make a more complex margarita. This is a drink not meant to be insulted with a bowl of Doritos and Cheez Whiz on the side, but would stand up perfectly to a fresh shrimp ceviche or an authentic pozole verde. Go ahead, put on that sombrero and live a little. Salud!

Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Rhubarb is a fruit, or a vegetable, depending upon who you ask, with a texture and flavor often likened to tart celery. Our Ruby Rhubarb syrup is layered with flavors that simply cried out for a layering of liquors; sticking with tradition, we used a silver tequila and a splash of triple sec, but then floated a little white whiskey over the top, our American nod to a fiery aguardiente.

for the Ruby Rhubarb syrup:

1 cup rhubarb stems, roughly chopped

1 cup ruby red grapefruit juice with pulp, freshly squeezed

1 cup water

1 cup turbinado sugar

4 or 5 pineapple sage leaves (you can substitute with basil leaves)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for one hour, allowing the rhubarb to soften and break down. When the liquid has thickened slightly, remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Strain thoroughly through a fine-mesh sieve; can now be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Yield: about 1 cup.

to make the ‘Rita:

1 lime

2 – 3 tablespoons Ruby Rhubarb syrup (adjust to your taste)

2 ounces tequila (try an excellent American tequila – or we also like New Holland’s barley-laced Hopquila)

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce clear whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirits)

Fresh rhubarb, cut into a 4-inch stick for garnish (optional)

Cut the lime in half and squeeze all the juice into a cocktail shaker. Add the Ruby Rhubarb syrup, the tequila, the triple sec, and several ice cubes. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini or margarita glass rimmed with coarse salt. Top with the clear whiskey, garnish with fresh rhubarb, and drink up.

The Friday Tipple: Masala Moonshine

Masala Moonshine

We’re spicing things up, Boozers. An interesting ingredient recently came our way and we simply couldn’t resist the idea of incorporating it into a cocktail: turmeric. To be precise, fresh turmeric root, which looks a bit like a fingerling potato until you cut it open to reveal its bright marigold interior and get hit with its lovely fresh scent, which has a certain earthy ginger quality.

What we did with it was to make a turmeric juice, purported to have amazing health benefits for people with arthritis or diabetes, among many other ailments. While fresh turmeric is best for this recipe (and can be found at many ethnic markets, so we suggest a road trip), we’ve also included a way to make it with ground turmeric powder, which is readily available at any grocery store. Because turmeric has a strong flavor, we decided to turn up the volume when creating our Masala Moonshine — this is no time to be shy. Instead, we included the flavors of lime, bitter orange, fresh mint, and a healthy dose of unaged whiskey, or moonshine, to create a cocktail that really packs a punch. And, if you’re getting ready for Cinco de Mayo, you can easily turn this into a Masala Margarita by substituting tequila for the moonshine. Go global.

Masala Moonshine

As our dear Boozers know, we love to use a flavored ice cube to shake things up — what better way to add a new layer of flavor to a drink than with an ice cube that deepens the essence of the cocktail as it melts into the glass? For this particular recipe, we made a lavender honey and ginger cube for an added kick of spice.

2 ounces fresh turmeric juice (recipe below)

2 ounces unaged whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirits)

1/2 ounce Triple Sec

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 ounces chilled club soda

several fresh mint leaves

wedge of fresh lime and fresh mint for garnish

3 – 4 honey-ginger ice cubes (recipe below)

Put first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Place mint leaves in bottom of a tall glass, lightly bruising, and add honey-ginger cubes. Pour turmeric juice-whiskey blend into glass, top with chilled club soda, and stir thoroughly with a bar spoon. Garnish with fresh lime and mint.

Turmeric Juice:

Peel several small turmeric root* and place into a small saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer over low heat. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes or until turmeric is soft and liquid has reduced by about half. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Put the turmeric and liquid into a blender, add 1 cup cold water and 1/4 cup light agave nectar. Blend on high until completely liquified. Add more sweetener to taste. Strain liquid several times through a sieve until you get a smooth liquid. Can be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

* note: if you can’t find fresh turmeric root, you can create a similar liquid by substituting two tablespoons of ground turmeric for the fresh ingredient — add the first tablespoon and mix up the liquid, then add the remaining tablespoon a little at a time until you get a flavor that is gingery but not overpowering.

Honey-ginger cubes

1/4 cup freshly grated ginger

2 tablespoons lavender honey (or sweetener of your choice)

1/2 cup hot water

1/2 cup cold water

Mix first three ingredients together in a small bowl until well-blended, then add cold water and blend again. Pour into ice cube tray and freeze until solid.

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.