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 Garden Tipple: Watermelon Moonshine Shooter

Watermelon Moonshine Shooter

We’re celebrating independence, Boozers. Some days, the weight of responsibility can be crushing, as the gimlet-eyed gaze of a soulless COO leaves you wondering if you can survive another day in corporate America. And then you push through those gleaming glass doors into the hot sunshine of a late summer afternoon and you raise your arms to the clear blue sky and you scream, “I’m mad as hell — and I’m not gonna take it anymore!”

Or you just go to the corner and buy a bottle of moonshine.

Because at least you’ve got a three-day weekend ahead of you, and a hometown parade, and fireworks exploding in the darkness. And good friends who will share a shot — or two — and remind you that there’s always another way to get to the finish line. Grab your independence and run with it.

Watermelon Moonshine Shooter

Watermelon are a dime a dozen this time of year, whether in the garden or the farmers market, and, as you can imagine, they make a tasty drink on a hot day. We like to use a white whiskey — also known as moonshine — but it would be equally good with tequila.

1 cup fresh watermelon chunks

4 ounces white whiskey (we like Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, but support your local distillery)

1 fresh lime

a few dashes of citrus bitters (optional, but we like Hella Citrus)

Kosher salt

Put watermelon and whiskey into a blender and liquify. Strain the liquid, then squeeze fresh lime juice into it and add a few drops of bitters. Mix well and let chill for an hour. Stir again before pouring into shot glasses, and sprinkle a few grains of salt over the top before drinking it down.

 

 

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: Ruby Rhubarb ‘Rita

Ruby Rhubarb 'Rita

Hola, Boozers. Here in the old U.S. of A, we’ll take any excuse to have a margarita, which explains why Cinco de Mayo is more popular here than in its country of origin, and why most of the people partaking in the celebrations have likely never even traveled south of the border (unless you count a visit to Pedro’s highway oasis) or can speak nary a soupçon of Spanish. Whatever. It’s a margarita. Bring it on.

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 silver tequila (we’re loving the herbaceous Avión Tequila these days)

1/2 ounce triple sec

1/2 ounce white (unaged) 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 glass rimmed with coarse salt. Top with the clear whiskey, garnish with fresh rhubarb, and drink up.

 

The Friday Tipple: Sochi Dreams

Sochi Dreams

We’re feeling a little international, Boozers. There are those who say that sports transcend geographical borders, drawing people together from all parts of the globe to cheer on their favorite athletes in every sport imaginable, from ping-pong to diving to cricket to curling. Some sports place emphasis on the individual while others are all about team effort.

A cocktail, of course, is a team effort in which each individual must play its part to complete the whole. We’ve been honored to work with some tasty liqueurs by one of our hometown favorites, Don Ciccio & Figli, crafting several combinations that celebrate flavors from around the world. With the Winter Olympics approaching, we’ve decided to cozy up with our version of a White Russian, which we’re calling Sochi Dreams. Sip it whether you dream of Olympic glory or for greater equality everywhere. За любовь!

Sochi Dreams

For this particular cocktail, we combined Don Ciccio & Figli’s Concerto (a barley and espresso-based liqueur) with Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, a white whiskey that we think makes a great substitute for vodka. However, we enjoy vodka as much as the next person, so when we make this with vodka, we like Boyd & Blair potato vodka, which has a nice clean and crisp finish.

1 ounce Don Ciccio & Figli Concerto 
1 ounce white whiskey or vodka
2 ounces coconut milk (we used So Delicious Coconut Creamer)
1/2 ounce cinnamon tincture (Bittermen’s Hiver Amer works really well also)

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, shake thoroughly, and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe or martini glass. Dust with grated nutmeg (optional). For a variation, pour over ice into a rocks glass, preferably coffee ice cubes instead of just plain ice cubes.

The Friday Tipple: Swedish Margareta

Swedish Margareta

We’re feeling Scandinavian, Boozers. There’s something about the scent of pine trees and impending snow that makes us want to pull on a Nordic patterned sweater and dust off the cross-country skis, while a bottle of aquavit chills in a snowbank awaiting our return from the frozen countryside.

Although the Northern Lights are but a distant dream, we do at least have IKEA, and there, amidst the Swedish meatballs and umlauts, we found lingonberry juice. Similar to the cranberry, lingonberries are, by turns, both tart and sweet, conjuring up images of frosty drinks from warmer climes, namely, the margarita. And thus we bring you the Swedish Margareta, a salute to the Scandinavian warmth you can find in the depths of a chilled glass as your rosy cheeks thaw next to a roaring fire. Skål!

Swedish Margareta

We often like to offer cocktail recipes that allow for our dear Boozers to take some creative license. While we chose to use an unaged whiskey (AKA moonshine) and mandarinetto from two of our favorite local distillers for our version, you can easily substitute vodka, tequila, or, yes, aquavit, for the unaged whiskey, and triple sec or Grand Marnier for the mandarinetto. The key to success for this drink is that each ingredient and the glasses need to be frosty cold.

2 ounces chilled lingonberry juice

1 ounce chilled unaged white whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit)

1 ounce chilled Kronan Swedish Punsch (cachaça is a good substitute, or even rum)

1/2 ounce chilled orange liqueur (we used Don Ciccio & Figgli Mandarinetto)

Salted Swedish Fish, for garnish

Put first four ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a frosted coupe and garnish with the Salted Swedish Fish.

 

 

The Friday Tipple: Wicked Cherry Pop

Wicked Cherry Pop

Sometimes life hands you lemons, Boozers. Or, in our case, cherries that were more sour than sweet, leaving us in a bit of a quandary. So we did the only thing we could think of in such a dire situation: threw them in a jar with some sugar and vinegar and forgot about them for a few days in the refrigerator. Voilà — pickled cherries. But more importantly, pickled cherry juice, a tasty base for a wicked summer cocktail.

We have fond childhood memories of cooling off in the July sunshine with an icy cold bottle of Cheerwine, the cultish cherry soda pop from North Carolina. Popping the top of the bottle brought a sudden spray of fizzy goodness that seemed to drop the outside temperature by 20 degrees. Nothing could be finer.

Our Wicked Cherry Pop starts off with a pickled cherry syrup, enhanced by pickled cherries muddled in unaged white whiskey. The effect, when topped off with carbonated water, is oh-so-wicked, a cherry pop for grown-ups that you may want to disguise in an old Cheerwine bottle while you’re flipping burgers at Grandma’s family picnic. It’ll be our little secret.

Wicked Cherry Pop

Unaged white whiskey is not your momma’s moonshine, but a good white whiskey has a smooth flavor with a bit of a kick and never leaves your throat raw; our personal local favorite is Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit, but there are many white whiskeys across the country now, including Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, Wasmund’s Rye Spirit, and Death’s Door White Whisky. We like to use it in place of tequila for a twist on a margarita, and it balances well with the pickled cherries here to provide a sweet-and-sour counterpoint.

2 tablespoons pickled cherry syrup (recipe below)

4 or 5 pickled cherries

fresh herb (you could use a few leaves of fresh mint — we used pineapple sage)

1.5 ounces unaged white whiskey

chilled club soda

Make the pickled cherry syrup: Okay, first you have to pickle the cherries, which, as we described above, is quite easy. Just halve about a cup of cherries, discarding the pits, throw them in a jar, add about a 1/4 cup of granulated sugar (more if you want it sweeter), and cover with vinegar (white, red wine, or apple cider vinegar will all work here). Cover and place in the refrigerator for a few days, shaking the jar occasionally. Then strain off the pickling juice into a small saucepan, add a 1/2 cup sugar, and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 30 minutes or so. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

To assemble the Wicked Cherry Pop: Put the pickled cherry syrup, pickled cherries, and a few leaves of fresh herb into the bottom of a Collins glass. Add the white whiskey and muddle lightly. Top with ice and chilled club soda and stir briskly before serving.

The Friday Tipple: Sequestration Sour

image

Tighten your belts, Boozers. The much-anticipated Sequester seems to be on its way, unless some eleventh hour deal is inked in the cozy confines of a Capitol Hill cloakroom. Our expectations are low, however, so we’ve decided that it’s time to cull 10% of the liquor cabinet. And, because such a sequester calls for neither rhyme nor reason, we’ve decided to throw any old thing into a cocktail shaker and make what we like to call a Sequestration Sour.

A basic Sour cocktail calls for liquor, simple syrup, citrus juice, and an egg white. To give it South American flair, add a few drops of bitters. Shake it with ice, strain it into a glass, and drink up. Sounds simple, right? Ah, if only those Congressional sourpusses sucked down some Sours and embraced bipartisan camaraderie, we might not be wondering if the air traffic controllers will be at work tonight. We think we’ll stay home in the meantime.

Sequestration Sour

Some people may be afraid of putting a raw egg white in a cocktail, conjuring images of Rocky in training. However, there’s little evidence to suggest that it’s not perfectly safe to drink a small amount, especially if you have reasonably fresh eggs that haven’t been sitting in your refrigerator for three months. You can make a sour without the egg white, but it simply won’t have the same creamy mouthfeel and that luscious foam that makes a simple cocktail seem decadent, even in the midst of a budgetary meltdown.

2 ounces of whatever alcohol needs to get the axe (we used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, but, honestly, use whatever you like — vodka, tequila, whiskey, Pisco, grappa, and Amaretto are all good candidates)

1 ounce simple syrup or agave nectar (even honey would work nicely for a bourbon-based sour)

1 ounce fresh citrus juice (we used a combination of lime and grapefruit juice, as that’s what we had on hand)

1 teaspoon egg white (basically, about half of an egg white — so we suggest doubling the above ingredients and using the whole egg white, allowing you to make a drink for a friend now rendered obsolete by the Sequester. Misery loves company.)

a few dashes of bitters

Place all ingredients except bitters in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Add a few ice cubes, shake again until well-chilled, and strain into a rocks glass. Add a few drops of bitters and serve immediately.

The Friday Tipple: incidental musings on moonshine

incidental musings on moonshine

We’ve won a Grammy, Boozers. Well, strictly speaking, we are only related to a Grammy winner, but feel privileged to utter the phrase in appropriately hushed tones, touched as we are by greatness. Although it may be considered by some as “the category nobody cares about”, the Grammys do award honors — hours before the Black Keys and Beyoncé are anywhere in the vicinity — for classical music, and intelligently chose to bestow this distinction on Stephen Hartke for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, a somewhat hypnotic piece of chamber music titled “Meanwhile – Incidental music to imaginary puppet plays”, the title track to the album by eighth blackbird that also won a Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance . We at Good Booze could not be more proud of such familial talent.

As our own talent lies in the exploration of cocktail culture, we felt compelled to honor such an achievement — the music of “Meanwhile” inspired a can’t-tear-your-eyes-away short film, so why not a drink? Steeped in references to Asian theater, “Meanwhile” features startling percussive elements reminiscent of a surly nun slapping a ruler on the head of a sleepy sixth grader and pillowy clarinet interludes that lull the listener back into a false sense of security. The obvious answer for a cocktail was, of course, moonshine. Call it unaged whiskey if you like.

incidental musings on moonshine twists on the traditional martini by creating a smoky layer of pine (thank you, Top Chef finalist Sheldon for another brilliant idea) sharpened with notes of lemon. Mix it up, put on the headphones, and dive into the unknown.

incidental musings on moonshine

We literally coated our favorite moonshine — Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit — in saké for this music-inspired tipple — creating a sweet-and-sour contrast that hits just at the back of the throat, not unlike that nun with the ruler.

3 ounces unaged white whiskey (a.k.a. moonshine)

1/2 ounce chilled saké (learn more about saké here; we like something lightly floral and mildly acidic, such as Sho Chiku Bai Ginjo)

fresh lemon peel, about 1″ x 2.5″

6-inch piece of pine branch (steal it from your neighbor’s yard or the dog park if you don’t have your own pine tree)

Hold the pine branch over an open flame until the needles are lightly charred and it begins to smoke. Put it in a heat-safe bowl with the lemon peel, cover with a kitchen towel, and let it sit for five minutes. Remove the pine branch, place it in a cocktail shaker with the moonshine and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Put the saké in a chilled martini glass and swirl until the inside of the glass is completely coated. Pour the excess into the shaker, remove the pine branch, add a couple of ice cubes, and shake vigorously. Strain into glass and garnish with pine-smoked lemon peel.

The Friday Tipple: Arctic Char

Arctic Char

It’s time for a reality check, Boozers. Reality television, that is. We enjoy curling up on the couch on a cold winter night to watch the sordid machinations of complete strangers trapped together in an alternate reality. Who’s in, who’s out, who came up with the snarkiest comment about a fellow castmate. Ah, guilty pleasures.

This week, we were captivated, as always, by Top Chef, and particularly intrigued by the burnt lemon garnish whipped up by the kindly and unassuming Sheldon for the Quick Fire Challenge. Pulverized into dust, he claimed it would have a concentrated smoky essence of lemon. How could we resist?

Turns out, “citrus charcoal” is an ingredient found in the Mid East and Asia, and, as you can imagine, is pretty easy to make, and, when mixed with agave nectar, has exactly the same flavor as the lovely charred skin of roasted marshmallows, with a lightly citrus undertone. Inspired by the recent snowfall in our area, we wanted to create a cocktail that was both bright and smoky, able to combat the frosty chill: the Arctic Char. Because life is a reality show, Boozers. Drink up.

Arctic Char

To add to the smokiness of this cocktail, we roasted several pieces of orange over an open flame. We used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, an unaged whisky: its warm bite provides the right counterpoint to the sweetness of fresh orange, and unaged whisky, or moonshine, is readily available these days from small distilleries across the country. 

3 ounces smoked orange juice (technique below)

1/2 ounce triple sec or Cointreau

1.5 ounces unaged or white whisky

2 – 3 drops of bitters (The Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters adds a nice dimension)

1/4 teaspoon orange charcoal (technique below)

1/2 teaspoon light agave nectar

Wheel of roasted orange for garnish (just quickly roast over open flame)

Put the smoked orange juice in a cocktail shaker with the triple sec and set aside for 15 minutes. In the meantime, mix the orange charcoal and agave nectar together into a paste and put in the bottom of a cocktail glass. Put the strained juice, whisky, and bitters into a clean cocktail shaker with a single ice cube, stir, and strain into the glass. Garnish with a wheel of roasted orange.

Orange Charcoal: You guessed it: Citrus charcoal is made by burning citrus peel (we used orange, but lemon, grapefruit, etc. will also work). This can be done fairly quickly by holding pieces of the peel with a pair of tongs over a flame; the peel will spark slightly as the natural oils in the skin heat up. As you burn each piece to a crisp, set it aside to cool slightly, then pulverize the pieces in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle until fine.

Smoked Orange Juice: Peel an orange and hold each section over an open flame for 15 seconds per side or until it begins to lightly char. Put warm sections into a glass or cocktail shaker and muddle thoroughly. Add the fresh juice of another orange and set aside for 30 minutes before straining thoroughly (you may want to use cheesecloth).