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.

 

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The Halloween Tipple: Pumpkin Pimm’s

Pumpkin Pimms

Happy Halloween, Boo-zers! You knew we wouldn’t forget. Like J.K. Rowling, we felt that you deserved a treat on this special day, and so we resurrected our summertime favorite, Pimm’s No. 1, with a bit of a twist: pumpkin juice.

There are many recipes for pumpkin juice out there in the world of J.K. Rowling worshippers, and they are all pretty good, but we wanted something a little less sweet so that our Pumpkin Pimm’s would taste like a proper cocktail. Roasting a fresh sugar pumpkin (that’s the smallish variety that weigh just a few pounds, typically used for pies, not the big ones that are carved into jack-o-lanterns) did the trick, giving a slight smokiness to our housemade pumpkin juice.

Merlin’s Beard, that’s a good drink! Careful not to splinch yourself on the way home from that Hallowe’en Feast.

Pumpkin Pimm’s

It doesn’t take long to make your own pumpkin juice, but, if you’re desperate to try this drink before the Three Broomsticks fills up with tipsy witches, then mix a few tablespoons of canned pumpkin with the pear nectar and apple cider and strain — it should still give you a good flavor. 

2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1

1 ounce gin (as always, we recommend Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin)

3 ounces pumpkin juice (our recipe here)

small teaspoon of mashed pumpkin (reserved from juice recipe below)

toasted salted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional but worth it)

Place first four ingredients in cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a glass. Top with pumpkin seeds and enjoy.

 

The Garden Tipple: Sneaky Snally

Sneaky Snally

The beast is unleashed, Boozers. Here in the DC area, we’re preparing for a visit from the Snallygaster, a mythical creature that apparently once terrorized the region and now stops by once a year for a whole lotta beer. Seems reasonable.

The Snallygaster festival does have a whole lotta beer, but the one we’re most interested in this year is named for the festival itself and features a tasty little morsel that we’ve been growing in our cocktail garden this year: ground — or husk — cherries. Similar in appearance to yellow cherry tomatoes, these beauties grow in a paper husk like a tomatillo, and have a sweet pineapple-like flavor. To honor this year’s Snallygaster, we’ve gathered some of the ground cherries from our own garden and created a beer syrup for an end-of-summer cocktail that says “Bring it on,  you beast — bring it on.”

Sneaky Snally

We know, we’ve already frightened you off because you have no idea where you’ll find a ground cherry, and, admittedly, they are a bit of a specialty item. Be not disheartened, however; as we said, they taste very much like pineapple — which we also grew in the cocktail garden this year, even though we are hundreds of miles from the tropics — so we advise substituting a 1/2 cup of chopped pineapple when you make the syrup.

1 ounce Ground Cherry Beer Syrup with fruit

1.5 ounces chilled gin (we prefer Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin)

4 ounces chilled beer (we chose a summery, hoppy ale by DC Brau)

Several sprigs of fresh pineapple sage (regular sage or lemon balm also work nicely)

Put Ground Cherry Beer Syrup in the bottom of a tall chilled glass, being sure to include some fruit. Pour gin into the glass and stir well. Top with chilled beer and garnish with pineapple sage. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

The Garden Tipple: Pickled Summer Martini

Pickled Martini

We’re a bit pickled, Boozers. A bumper crop of adorable Mexican Sour Gherkins in the cocktail garden left us somewhat overwhelmed, until we decided to just pickle the little darlings. And, to make it a bit more fun, we pickled them in tequila, which they liked just fine, thank you very much, providing us with two excellent ingredients for a perfectly summery martini: a pickled cucumber garnish and a tasty brine to stand in for the vermouth.

The trick to a really good martini is to make sure that every ingredient is really cold — from the liquor to the garnish to the glass itself — and there’s kind of nothing more luscious on a sticky summer evening when you’ve dragged yourself home from work than to be presented with a perfectly chilled cocktail just as you open the front door, calling out “Lucy, I’m home!” Our Pickled Summer Martini will hit that spot.

Pickled Summer Martini

Some people like a gin martini, some like vodka, so the liquor you use here is really up to you. We chose to use our favorite Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin, which is rye-based, because we like its herbaceous bite, but we can enjoy it equally well with the smooth richness of Boyd & Blair’s Potato Vodka. Check out your local distilleries and give them some love.

2 ounces chilled gin or vodka

1 ounce fresh cucumber juice (recipe below – you’ll need a cucumber)

a few drops of pickle brine, preferably from our Tequila-Pickled Gherkins  (you could also substitute brine from a jar of cornichons)

Several pickled gherkins or cornichons, for garnish

First, make the cucumber juice. Take a fresh peeled cucumber, cut into chunks, and put it in a blender with a tablespoon or two of water. Blend on high until liquefied, then strain. Discard pulp and chill the remaining liquid thoroughly, at least 30 minutes.

Then, take a martini glass and rinse the outside of it lightly in cold water, shaking off the excess. Then add a few drops of pickle brine to the glass and coat the glass well with the brine, pouring off any excess. Put a few pickled gherkins on a cocktail skewer and place in the glass, then put the whole thing in the freezer for 15 minutes. Chilling the garnish this way helps keep that martini really cold when you serve it.

When the cucumber juice and martini glass with the garnish are sufficiently chilled, pour the cucumber juice and gin or vodka into a cocktail shaker with a few ice cubes. Shake vigorously, then strain into the chilled martini glass with garnish. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

The Friday Tipple: La Primavera

La Primavera

We’re back on the spring bandwagon, Boozers. It keeps creeping ever closer, little by little, and we’re not about to argue. Flowers are blossoming, bees are buzzing, and the farmers markets are starting to feature fresh vegetables that did not grow under the ground — not that we don’t enjoy a good root vegetable as much as the next person. What we’re crushing on this week are those little darlings of spring, fresh sweet peas.

Before you recoil in horror, let us say that these are not cafeteria peas, cooked down to mush with a color that can only be described as, well, pea green. These are those charmingly cherubic spheres that are the brightest hue of spring green, like a new blade of grass and just as sweet. And, yes, they make a lovely cocktail. We know it’s hard to fathom, but open your minds, just like you are opening your windows to a soft spring breeze — if you must drink your vegetables, then this is surely the way to do it.

La Primavera

We created this recipe for Don Ciccio & Figli, an absolutely wonderful distiller of seriously hand-made Italian liqueurs in Washington, DC. Each flavor is like a jewel-toned work of art; this particular drink features limoncello, and a good limoncello should be a clear lemon-yellow color (not day-glo yellow, which likely means artificial colors have been added) and you should be overwhelmed with the scent of fresh lemons when you open the bottle — if it smells like Country Time Lemonade, then something has gone seriously wrong.

1 ounce fresh pea juice
2 ounces limoncello
1 ounce gin (we always use Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin; please support your local distiller)
chilled club soda (optional — see below)

Make the fresh pea juice: take 1/2 cup clean peas (you can use frozen peas if fresh are not available, just defrost them first) and put them in a blender with 1/2 cup water. Purée thoroughly, then strain completely so that you have just a clear green liquid. Can be refrigerated for up to two days.

Place first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake thoroughly. At this point, you have two options: strain into a cosmopolitan glass and drink it as is, or pour into a tall glass filled with ice and top with chilled club soda. It’s preferable to garnish with early spring strawberries, sweet cherry tomatoes, or a few fresh pea shoots, but a lemon wedge will do just as well.

 

The Friday Tipple: Brighter Than Sunshine

Brighter Than Sunshine

We’re waving the white flag, Boozers. Faced with another frigid day on a dreary winter landscape, we’re dreaming of summer and sunshine, even as we know we’ll regret those dreams on a muggy August midnight. No matter, as we cry “Uncle” repeatedly… Whither are thou, o Persephone, goddess of spring?

While we generally embrace the locavore mindset, even we have to give in every so often and search for products that can only be found in some far-off clime in that other hemisphere, where they are reveling in the glories of summer as we shiver here in the frozen north. And so we gravitated toward a box of luscious ruby-red raspberries, beckoning to us with their plump cheeriness, sweetly tart and sparking long-ago memories of rustling barefoot through the raspberry canes in the mid-summer sunshine, fingers and lips stained red with their juice, an Aqualung tune providing a wistfully appropriate soundtrack.

To those weighed down by a long winter, we present you with Brighter Than Sunshine. You deserve it.

Brighter Than Sunshine

We are so desperate for a shot of sunshine that we won’t waste time by waxing poetic any longer. Stop on the way home tonight for a box of raspberries, a couple of lemons, club soda, gin and limoncello, and you’ll be good to go.

2 ounces gin (yes, vodka is fine too. We just happen to like Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin. A lot.)

1 ounce limoncello (we use our local Don Ciccio and Figli)

1 tablespoon simple syrup

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

6 fresh raspberries

chilled club soda

sugared lemon wheel for garnish

Place raspberries in the bottom of a tall glass and lightly crush with a bar spoon. Add simple syrup, lemon juice, and gin and stir together; top with several ice cubes and fill glass with club soda, stirring to combine. Pour limoncello over the top and garnish with sugared lemon wheel. Serve immediately.

 

 

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: The Resolution

The Resolution

Ah, Boozers, we know how you feel. You rang in the new year with boisterous joy, then resolved to undo all the damage of the holiday season — Grandma’s butter cookies, those three fruitcakes, and a pound or two of chocolate snowmen. Yet here we are, just two weeks into the new year and your good intentions are already a dream deferred.

Our philosophy is to turn any resolution into an excuse for happy hour. Go to the gym, then finish up that final push-up at happy hour. Eat a salad, go to happy hour. Throw out the Christmas tree… well, you get it. It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere.

So we’ve decided this week to kill two birds with one stone and turn a health drink into our happy hour cocktail of choice. Kombucha, a kind of carbonated tea drink, is popping up everywhere these days, purportedly chock full of probiotics and other healthy junk, and makes a great base for a cocktail. You can even make it at home, although, as it takes a few weeks to properly ferment, you may want to just buy some at the health food store tonight on your way home. Add a slug of good-for-you gin (it’s full of herbs, right?) and you’re good to go. Resolutions be damned.

The Resolution

Kombucha has a lovely vinegary fizzy quality somewhat akin to fermented cider and it pairs really well with a variety of herbs and spices. If you make your own, you can experiment with different ingredients, and if you use a store-bought variety, you can still add some flavors to make it uniquely your own. As to liquor, you can really use whatever you like, but we prefer the herbaceous qualities of gin here.

1 fresh orange

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1.5 ounces gin (we enjoy our local Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin, which is organic and so, of course, extra healthy)

1 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur

chilled Kombucha (when we use store-bought, we like our local Capital Kombucha)

fresh orange peel for garnish

Squeeze the orange directly into the bottom of a tall glass, add the cinnamon and stir well to combine. Add several ice cubes, then gin, St. Germaine, and top off with Kombucha. Stir briskly, garnish with orange peel, and drink to your good health.

The Friday Tipple: Highclere Highball

Highclere Highball

It’s the weekend, Boozers. And, unlike the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey, we know exactly what that is. We’ve worked our little fingers to the bone all week and we’re deserving of a cocktail. As devotees of what appears to be the most popular soap opera in the U.K. and the U.S., we enjoy imagining life above stairs, when Carson delivers a frosty drink to us in the drawing room at the end of the day as we warm our weary limbs by a crackling fire. First world problems, indeed.

The real Downton Abbey is, of course, Highclere Castle, which has quite the storied history of its own and whose owners saved it from financial ruin by hiring the estate out to the highest bidder, in the grand old tradition of land barons suddenly faced with taxation. It’s a tough row to hoe, lords and ladies, and the Highclere Highball rewards that hard labor with a spot of sherry, a slug of gin, and a touch of ginger beer mingling together for all the world like the chauffeur dallying with the daughter of the house. Drink up — Monday’s just around the corner.

Highclere Highball

Sherry cocktails are a long-standing tradition in the most elegant London watering holes but Americans have long eschewed sherry as a viable sipper until recently. There are several types of sherry beyond the amontillado made famous by our own Edgar Allen Poe; we prefer a dry sherry like a fino which takes well to being chilled.

2 ounces chilled dry sherry

1 ounce chilled gin (we prefer the spicy bite of Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

2 ounces chilled ginger beer

a few drops of citrus bitters (we like Hella Citrus Bitters)

1 blood orange, freshly juiced (you can use a standard orange if necessary)

slice of blood orange for garnish

Put first five ingredients in a tall (highball) glass filled with ice, stir briskly, and garnish with slice of blood orange. Serve immediately.

The Friday Tipple: Swedish 75

Swedish 75

It’s a snow day, Boozers. An unexpected snowfall means that our frosty breath hangs in the air as we tramp through mounds of the fluffy stuff, imagining that we are traversing through the Scandinavian countryside. If we were truly of Nordic blood, we’d laugh at this paltry little showing of Mother Nature, but  instead we are as excited as schoolchildren. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

During the recent holiday celebrations, we were lucky enough to be gifted with a tantalizing pine-based gin from St. George Spirits which perfectly suits a wintry day. Prior to that, we were already fascinated by pine syrup, which you can purchase online or simply make yourself (this is how we prefer to recycle a Christmas tree); additionally, you can infuse any gin (like Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin, our local favorite) with clean pine needles to get the same fresh woodsy flavor.

And so today we bring you the Swedish 75, a Scandinavian twist on the French 75 that truly should be imbibed while sitting in a hot tub on a frosty winter evening. Gott Nytt År!

Swedish 75

For this happy little cocktail, we like to use a splash of lingonberry juice for a truly Swedish flair, but if you can’t find lingonberry juice, then you can substitute cranberry juice — just be sure to use a light hand with it, because cranberries have a somewhat stronger flavor than lingonberries.

1 ounce gin, preferably pine-infused*

1 ounce lingonberry juice

a few drops of orange bitters

2 ounces sparkling wine, champagne, or Prosecco

fresh orange peel

Combine first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir briskly. Strain into a champagne coupe (you can also serve in a tall glass over crushed ice) and top with the sparkling wine. Twist orange peel over the glass to release the oils and drop into the drink. Serve immediately.

* If you don’t have a pine-infused gin, do not fret. You can also create a quick pine-infused simple syrup and add a teaspoon of it to your cocktail to create a similar effect.