A Springtime Tipple: Persephone’s Dream

Persephone's Dream

We’ve missed you, Boozers. As we finally stretch our limbs after our winter’s hibernation, we’re coated with a thin layer of pollen and immersed in the scents of wisteria on the vine. Dearest Persephone, it’s about time you came to call.

Spring was in full force last weekend in Raleigh, and the Carolinas could not have been more welcoming, cloaked in greenery, humidity, and sunshine, a glimpse of the summer ahead. A visit to the North Carolina State Farmers Market revealed a treasure trove of truly fresh spring produce we can still only dream of in more northern climes: asparagus, ramps, frost collards, and, best of all, spring strawberries.

The strawberries of springtime recall the bittersweet story of Persephone, who was forced to spend four months of each year in the underworld, dreaming of the world she’d left behind; spring could only arrive when she was able to return above ground to be reunited with her mother. Spring strawberries, like Persephone, return hesitantly but joyously to the garden each year, the lightly sweet cousins of their summertime counterparts, holding within them the promise of carefree days ahead.

Persephone’s Dream

Campari tends to be a summertime tipple, but there’s no reason not to enjoy it at any time, especially to provide a slightly bitter counterpoint to the sweetness of spring strawberries. We’ve added a floral note with a splash of creme de violette, but you can achieve a similar quality with elderflower, rose, or even maraschino liqueur — start with smaller quantities then add more to suit your own taste.

2 tablespoons fresh strawberry purée

1 ounce Creme Yvette (or any of the substitutions suggested above)

1/2 ounce Campari

2 ounces chilled seltzer water

Fresh lime twist

Make the purée by liquefying 1/2 cup fresh strawberries in a blender or food processor with 1 teaspoon of light agave syrup and 1 tablespoon of water.

To make the drink, put the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with an ice cube and shake well. Remove the lid, add the chilled seltzer and stir well, then strain into a coupe. Twist the lime over the top of the drink to release the essential oils then drop the twist into the drink. Enjoy immediately.

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.

 

The Garden Tipple: Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

We’re full of vim and vinegar this week, dear Boozers. It’s Negroni Week, when our favorite magazine teams up with our favorite Italian liqueur to encourage local watering holes to mix up negroni cocktails for charity. A classic negroni is simple and elegant with just three ingredients: gin, Campari, and vermouth, generally served with a twist of orange. What’s nice about it is that while it is just perfect as it is, it’s also easy to riff off of it for fun new variations.

And so we went out to the farmers market and picked up a whole lot of fresh early summer strawberries, since our own cocktail garden’s strawberry plants aren’t yet at peak production, and made a beautiful and slightly tart strawberry-basil drinking vinegar. A drinking vinegar serves much the same purpose as a bitter liqueur like Campari, working as an excellent digestive agent when mixed with club soda. But, hell, we just like it anyway, especially when mixed up in a cocktail. So go out and have a negroni for charity, then come home and have a Strawberry Vinegar Negroni with friends.

Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

We love the flavor of Campari and didn’t want to replace it entirely with the Strawberry-Basil Drinking Vinegar, so we chose to create a Campari candied orange garnish, which is as simple as putting a 1/2 cup of Campari, 1/4 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, and some fresh orange slices in a small saucepan and simmering over low heat until all that’s left is a really thick syrup coating the orange slices. Remove to a baking rack and let cool completely.

1 ounce gin (support your local distillery — we like Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

1 ounce sweet vermouth

1 ounce Strawberry-Basil Drinking Vinegar

chilled club soda

candied Campari orange slice for garnish (you can also just marinate orange slices in Campari for a couple of hours as an alternative garnish)

Put first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir vigorously. Pour into a glass with fresh ice, top with chilled club soda, and stir again. Garnish with candied Campari orange slice.

 

 

The Friday Tipple: The Good Friday

The Good Friday

TGIF, Boozers. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, an emphatic TGIF. For many people across the globe, this week also represents the observation of Passover and Easter, a time for reflection upon and appreciation of all that is both bitter and sweet.

We always find Fridays, in general, to be bittersweet, as we struggle to stay focused on the work necessary to pay the bills while already lamenting the scant few hours ahead that allow us to escape the daily grind. We find ourselves easily distracted, rushing headlong into the weekend and the joys of sleeping in because we sat up in the wee hours watching infomercials while munching on microwave pizza in bed.

For this particular Friday, it feels right to come home to a special cocktail that we’re calling, appropriately enough, The Good Friday. By turns bitter, sweet, celebratory, and slightly numbing, it could set the tone for your two days of respite – or simply give you a few moments of blissful ignorance.

The Good Friday

Most people think of Campari only in connection with club soda and a wedge of lime, but Campari adds a silky bittersweet note to many cocktails and is particularly nice when paired with flavors that are sweet, fruity, and botanical.

1 ounce silver tequila (we like Avion, which is rather herbaceous and gin-like with a bite)

1 ounce Campari

1/2 large fresh orange

chilled Prosecco or sparkling wine

Place tequila and Campari in a cocktail shaker and squeeze the orange into it thoroughly, including some pulp. Add an ice cube, stir briskly, and strain into a chilled coupe. Top with an ounce or so of Prosecco and enjoy.

 

The Friday Tipple: Shirley’s Valentine

Shirley's Valentine

We’re feeling nostalgic, Boozers. What with the passing of an American icon and our misty-eyed fondness for love in all its forms, we felt the need for a special cocktail today. The Shirley Temple, of course, is a sweet homage to the child star of the same name, perhaps most adored by generations of children for a typically generous garnish of maraschino cherries. 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.

The 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 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: 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 Friday Tipple: Banana River Sunset

Summer is ebbing away, dear Boozers. The air is no longer thick with humidity and cool breezes waft through the windows at night. Except, of course, if you’re in Florida, the land of the endless summer (even winter there is like summer in, say, Minnesota), where it’s a time-honored tradition to train the little kiddies in the art of making their hard-working parents a tasty little libation to enjoy as they watch the sunset.

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: A Walk on the Beach

Remember Sex on the Beach, Boozers? So do we. Of course, we’re referring to those sickly sweet cocktails that were all the rage in the 80s, a cheap one-night stand in a rocks glass. The kind of thing Tom Cruise would have whipped up on screen, accompanied by sly innuendoes and a suggestive smirk.

But here’s the thing — a drink with such a name can only conjure up images of illicit fondling and sand in all the wrong places, hardly a recipe for romance. But a Walk on the Beach with the true object of your desire… that’s the real deal. Fingers intertwined, the salty tang of the evening breeze, skin tingling from the last rays of the setting sun, two sets of footprints lapped by warm waves. A perfect prelude to a night full of promise.

Back at the beach house, prop your feet up on the deck railing with this lovely summer nightcap — subtly sweet, lightly bitter, a perfect representation of this crazy little thing called love. Embrace it.

A Walk on the Beach

The original Sex on the Beach featured peach schnapps, but this modern update is based on a fresh peach and vodka purée that highlights our favorite summer fruit and makes us long for just-out-of-the-oven peach pie from Grandy Farm Market on the Outer Banks… but we digress. This is the next best thing, and if you can’t walk on the beach, then take a romantic stroll down to the corner.

3 chopped fresh peaches, pits removed

6 ounces vodka (we like Boyd & Blair for this, especially when infused with a vanilla bean)

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

1 fresh orange

1/2 ounce Campari

To make the peach-vodka purée: Put chopped peaches, agave nectar, and vodka in a blender and blend on high until liquefied. Strain through a sieve; can be kept in a jar and refrigerated for up to a week.

To assemble the drink: Put two ounces of the peach-vodka purée into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and squeeze in all the juice from the orange. Shake vigorously and pour the contents into a chilled glass. Pour Campari over the top and enjoy.

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