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.

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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: 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 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: Mexican Cocoa Martini with Drunken Fluff

Mexican Cocoa Martini

We’re snow-weary, Boozers. Winter seems to be hanging on with a vengeance and we feel the need to burrow down until spring, so we set out in search of sweet salvation. Believe us, one sip of our Mexican Cocoa Martini and that Doppler radar will be just a distant memory.

And, as if that weren’t enough, we had to top the whole thing off with a dollop of our Drunken Fluff, which, admittedly, is a bit over the top, but we know you’ll agree that it’s as necessary as a shiny red bow on a beautifully-wrapped box. In fact, we predict that you’ll be looking for excuses to add it to waffles, ice cream sundaes, and your morning cup o’ joe.

Mexican Cocoa Martini with Drunken Fluff

This little cocktail packs a powerful punch, so eat a snack before you suck it down. The Drunken Fluff can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the freezer — it won’t freeze solid, and can be scooped out whenever you need a little boozy puff of happiness.

2 ounces vodka (we like Boyd & Blair, but please support your own local distillery)

1 ounce Kahlua

Splash of Creme de Cacao

1 teaspoon cocoa powder mixed with  1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 large spoonful Drunken Fluff (recipe below)

Put vodka, Kahlua, and Creme de Cacao in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and cinnamon until it is thoroughly blended and the liquid is hot but not boiling. Warm the martini glass slightly and pour in the Mexican Cocoa; top with the Drunken Fluff.

to make the Drunken Fluff:

3 egg whites at room temperature

1 cup castor sugar

1 cup corn syrup

1 vanilla bean, split

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye — you could also use bourbon, rum, or whatever strikes your fancy)

First, make the whiskey sugar syrup. Put the sugar, corn syrup, water, whiskey, and vanilla bean into a saucepan and heat slowly over low heat, stirring constantly for a few minutes. Bring to a low simmer and check the temperature with a candy thermometer — you want to heat it to 220 degrees Fahrenheit, but not any higher than that. Remove the vanilla bean.

While the syrup is coming up to temperature, whip the egg whites for about 5 minutes in an electric mixer, until they form soft peaks. Add the hot syrup slowly in a continuous stream with the mixer running at a medium speed, then increase the speed to high for several minutes until the mixture has a consistent creamy and fluffy texture. Allow to cool and then store in an airtight container in the freezer.

The Friday Tipple: Robert Frost-ini

Robert Frost-ini

We’re waxing poetic, Boozers. As we cozy up into the holiday season and the darkest days of winter, we yearn for snowy woods and horse-drawn sleighs, even as some profess a preference for global warming. There is something about the chill stillness of a December night that unites us all to transcend the boundaries of religion, geography, and culture.

And so we bring you the Robert Frost-ini. His poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” inspired us to create this December night in a glass, by combining our quick rosemary-infused vodka (we enjoy Boyd & Blair) with a splash of Catoctin Creek’s Pearousia pear brandy. At the bottom of the glass, like a bright red cardinal perched on the snowy branch of a birch tree, is a soupçon of cranberry simple syrup, beckoning to you with its lip-puckering tartness.

Though your friends and family may be flung far and wide, you can all share in the welcoming darkness of December, as the days slowly begin to lengthen again into the promise of spring. Enjoy the moment.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep/But I have promises to keep/And miles to go before I sleep/And miles to go before I sleep.

The Robert Frost-ini

2 ounces rosemary-infused vodka (recipe here)

1/2 ounce Pearousia or pear brandy

a few drops of Italian sweet vermouth

scant teaspoon cranberry simple syrup (recipe below)

reserved cranberries

Put vodka, Pearousia and vermouth in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Pour cranberry simple syrup and a single cranberry into the bottom of a chilled martini glass. Strain the contents of the cocktail shaker into the glass and enjoy.

To make cranberry simple syrup:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup frozen cranberries

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 teaspoon gum arabic mixed with 1 teaspoon water (optional)

Combine first four ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens into a syrup*. Reserve cranberries and strain the syrup, then allow to cool.

* Optional: at this point, you can take the pan off the heat and mix in gum arabic paste, which will make the syrup thicker. Not necessary, but it has a nice texture.

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: Carrot Top… Revisited

Carrot Top

Spontaneity is the spice of life, Boozers. We had plans for a fascinating foray into the world of fresh turmeric this week, but ended up with several pounds of fresh carrots instead. No matter, we like to go with the flow, and we’ll explore the turmeric next week – so consider yourselves warned. But a boatload of carrots brought us back to one of our favorite Tipples: the Carrot Top.

Carrots make a perfect base for a cocktail, especially in the spring. They have a lovely fresh sweetness and can be infused quickly into a variety of liquors. The color is gorgeous also, so you end up with a cocktail that just makes you happy. And at the end of a long week, what else really matters?

Carrot Top… Revisited

Our first exploration into carrot-infused liquor centered on rye whiskey, but it works equally well with vodka (as  discovered by Boozed+Infused), and we’ve chosen today to match it with a sunny gin from Catoctin Creek Distilling Company. Yes, you really can do a quick infusion in just a couple of hours – we think it creates a really fresh flavor, as the gin is just kissed by the carrots, giving it a lighter, less earthy, quality.

to make the infused gin:

1 fresh carrot, grated

1/2 cup gin

1-inch chunk fresh ginger

1 teaspoon lavender honey

Place all ingredients in a jar and stir well. Cover and set aside for a couple of hours, then strain. Will keep for up to weeks.

to make a lovely and refreshing cocktail:

2 ounces carrot-infused gin

1 ounce ginger juice (often found at health food stores)

2 ounces chilled tonic water

wedge of fresh lemon

Put first three ingredients in a tall glass filled with ice, stir briskly, and garnish with lemon.

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.

The Friday Tipple: Breakfast Bellini

Breakfast Bellini

We feel like celebrating, Boozers. Whether it’s for the holidays or the end of the world as we know it (the day is still young), sometimes you just want a glass of bubbly. And, as we want it for breakfast, we like to make it easy: we are not at our most alert early in the day.

Enter the cube, which, loyal Boozers, we like to employ whenever we can, as cubes of fresh juice or fruit can be made in advance and stored in the freezer for use at any time. Our Breakfast Bellini needs some peach, but you could use any berries or citrus that you like. So whip up some cubes and pop the cork — take a moment to celebrate whatever your heart desires.

Breakfast Bellini

Some people put a shot of peach schnapps into a Bellini, which ain’t bad at all, but this is also a great time to break out that special bottle of peach brandy — we’re lucky enough to have some from Catoctin Creek on hand — for an extra little kick of goodness.

One peach cube

4 ounces chilled champagne or sparkling wine

1 ounce peach schnapps or peach brandy

To make the cube: you can do this two ways, either by filling an ice cube tray with peach nectar or by pureeing some peaches in a blender and then freezing into cubes. As fresh peaches are not in season, you can use thawed frozen peaches, canned peaches (preferably in their own juice, not a syrup), or even some lovely preserved peaches if you are fortunate enough to have some.

Place a peach cube in a champagne flute, top with champagne, and float some peach schnapps or brandy over the top.