The Autumn Tipple: Occupy Whiskey

Occupy Whiskey

Remember rebellion, Boozers? We’ve been reminiscing about the Occupy Wall Street movement that happened just about this time three years ago, when Occupiers took over the parks of America and Tea Partiers stormed the Capitol. In a society marred by apathy, there is something refreshing about the lunatic fringe, no matter what side they are on. Moderation in everything, including moderation, that’s our motto.

And that deserves a drink. What we wanted was something quintessentially American — which, in our opinion, must include baseball, apple pie, and whiskey. America, some would say, was built on whiskey, and so it naturally becomes the basis for any truly patriotic cocktail. As whiskey often has what are called “grassy undertones”, we thought, obviously, of baseball, as the league championship playoffs take off this weekend. Luckily, we once read about an alfalfa-based cocktail that was purported to have a certain “vegetal” quality. Alfalfa in whiskey? That’s what we call American ingenuity at its finest.

Occupy Whiskey

You’ll know by now, dear Boozers, that we adore flavor profiles that provide interesting contrasts, so that each sip is uniquely different, leading the taste buds through a subtle progression of flavors. This a true sipping drink, perfect for after dinner on the front porch on a cool autumn evening: the alfalfa-infused whiskey provides a certain quality of a freshly-mowed outfield, leading to a tart apple finish laced with beer.

1 large tablespoon fresh Apple-Beer Syrup (so delicious — maybe two tablespoons; recipe below)

2 generous ounces whiskey (we use our local Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye for this, but use your local favorite, as always)

1/2 cup packed fresh alfalfa sprouts

To make the Apple-Beer Syrup: Put 1/2 cup of sugar, one cup of beer (choose a seasonal fall variety — we used Port City Brewing Company’s Oktoberfest), and 1/2 cup of freshly grated Granny Smith apple in a small saucepan and combine well. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until the syrup has thickened. Strain well and set aside to cool. Will keep refrigerated for two weeks.

To infuse the whiskey: Put four ounces of whiskey and the sprouts in a cocktail shaker. Muddle the sprouts lightly and set aside for at least 30 minutes and up to two hours. Strain completely before using.

To assemble the drink: Put 1 – 2 tablespoons of the apple-beer syrup in the bottom of a rocks glass. Pour the infused whiskey into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain over the apple-beer syrup and garnish with a slice of apple.

The Autumn Tipple: The Wild Card

The Wild Card

We’re heading into the last few days of September, loyal Boozers, and that means that the Hunt for Late October is on. In other words, a handful of baseball teams are vying to make it into the playoffs, with Kansas City and Oakland fans, particularly, right on the edge of their seats.

Hence, today’s Tipple, celebrating everything that is good about autumn: The Wild Card. Because we may need a stiff drink to get through the last few games, we’ve opted to riff on the Whiskey Sour, with a classic fall twist. On the side, we’re adding a shot of beer (we’re going seasonal with Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale) for every home run by our favorite team. But don’t worry — if you happen to be a Diamondbacks fan, you probably won’t even catch a buzz.

The Wild Card

This cocktail has a few fresh elements, but they are worth a small amount of effort in support of America’s pasttime. The Crackerjack Syrup makes the most of the last of the season’s fresh corn and adds another layer of creamy sweetness that perfectly compliments the spicy rye.

2 ounces rye whiskey (we like Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye)

1 tsp. Crackerjack Syrup

2 ounces Apple-Ginger Juice

Chilled club soda

Dash of bitters (we use our own house-made Indian Summer Bitters, but there are many excellent bitters on the market, including Bittermens and even the classic Angostura)

Put three or four ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and add the rye whiskey, Apple-Ginger Juice, and Crackerjack Syrup. Shake vigorously and pour into a glass (with or without ice, it’s up to you). Top with a splash of club soda and a dash of bitters. Enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Frosted Boilermaker

Frosted Boilermaker

We’re feeling adult, Boozers. And by “adult”, we mean, of course, that we’re in the mood for an adult milkshake. It’s been that kind of week.

Actually, the term “adult milkshake” does seem a bit silly, sort of like referring to coq au vin as “adult chicken” simply because the recipe calls for wine, or implying that milkshakes are meant only to be enjoyed by children. However, we do enjoy an alcohol-enhanced frosted beverage as much as the next adult, so we decided to continue playing around with the Boilermaker, as we did last week with Dilbert’s Dilemma, and inspired by a brief encounter we had with a Guinness Float at Good Stuff Eatery on St. Patrick’s Day. We call it the Frosted Boilermaker, but call it “Dilbert’s Delight” if you wish, a perfect way to wallow at the end of another week of tedium and toil.

Frosted Boilermaker

We made a Beer Syrup for our Dilbert’s Dilemma cocktail, and it called to us piteously to use it again. Many milkshakes are made with chocolate, butterscotch, or strawberry syrups, so it seemed like a no-brainer to use a beer syrup in the same fashion. You can use ice cream, but we actually like the slightly tangy flavor that comes with a frozen yogurt, which complements the malty undertone of the beer syrup.

2 scoops of vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream

2 ounces whiskey (we used our favorite Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1 large tablespoon Beer Syrup

Splash of half-n-half (Coconut half-n-half is a nice touch)

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Whiskey-whipped cream (optional, but you’ll regret not doing this)

Nocello-glazed walnuts for garnish (also optional, but do it anyway)

Place first five ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with whipped cream and walnuts.

Whiskey-whipped cream: whip together one cup of chilled whipping cream, 1 ounce of whiskey, and 1 heaping teaspoon of brown sugar.

Nocello-glazed walnuts: put a small handful walnuts into a bowl with an ounce of Nocello liqueur (or whiskey or bourbon) and sprinkle with a little sugar. Mix together, then pour into a nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Allow to caramelize while stirring frequently, about 3 – 5 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool.

The Friday Tipple: Dilbert’s Dilemma

Dilbert's Dilemma

Feeling downtrodden, dear Boozers? We understand. In a world where there are those who delight in stepping on the backs of others to achieve their petty goals, it’s hard to be the guy who just wants to quietly punch the clock and pick up a paycheck. Not everyone cares about movin’ on up, but try telling that to the eager beaver who just assigned you a 200-page analysis of the efficacy of traditional paper clips versus mini binder clips, in the hopes that it will bump them up in the estimation of some pencil-pushing muckety-muck who never heard of paying overtime.

Sigh.

All this means that you’re really going to need a drink when you get home from a weary day of banging your head softly against the wall of your cubicle. A classic drink of the workingman is the Boilermaker — essentially just a beer and a shot of whiskey, clearly designed to take the pain away before the factory whistle has even finished blowing at the end of the workday. We call our version Dilbert’s Dilemma, a slightly more subtle combination that can be savored as you slump gratefully in the La-Z-Boy in front of a flickering screen. Don’t let The Man get you down.

Dilbert’s Dilemma

While a beer syrup forms the basis of this cocktail — a simple combination of beer, sugar, and some spices — it’s the simple act of coating the interior glass with a small amount of orange liqueur that creates a new depth of flavor.

2 ounces of whiskey (or 3 if it’s been a rough week; we like Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1/2 ounce Beer Syrup (recipe here)

1/4 ounce orange liqueur (Don Ciccio & Figli Mandarinetto, Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec will work)

orange peel for garnish

Pour the whiskey and beer syrup into a cocktail shaker and stir briskly to combine. Pour the orange liqueur into the glass and swirl it all around the inside of the glass to coat completely. Add the blended whiskey and beer syrup to the glass and garnish with orange peel. Drink up.

The Friday Tipple: Nutella Whiskey Dream

Nutella Whiskey Dream

We’ve found the new Dream Team, Boozers. Forget sports, we’re talking about a creamy liquid confection that will knock your socks off — although this week’s hot cocktail would be just about perfect to sip on the slopes while watching snowboarding in Sochi. We call it a Nutella Whiskey Dream — but don’t pinch yourself, because it’s real and ready for imbibing even as the Polar Vortex swirls around your ears.

Nutella, that lovely Italian hazelnut spread that French bébés love to slurp off their toasted baguettes before trooping off to school, was in the news a year ago because of a French tax on products that contain palm oil, thereby increasing the cost of Nutella to the French populace. Sacre bleu! Our advice to French senators: beware of renewed interest in the guillotine.

Luckily for Americans, our own senators don’t mind a bit if we want to liberally slather palm oil all over every morsel, so we feel compelled to enjoy Nutella at any moment. Of course, you can also prepare your own homemade version without that nasty palm oil, and thumb your nose at Big Government and Big Industry at the same time. A hipster coffee bistro in the Good Booze ‘hood specializes in a tasty Nutella latté, so naturally we wondered how we might riff off of this in the comfort of our own home. Say hello to the Nutella Whiskey Dream, a tasty little slice of heaven on those long winter evenings by the fire dreaming of Olympic glory. A votre santé!

Nutella Whiskey Dream

We like this with whiskey, cuz we’re ‘Merican, but if you’re feeling particularly Russian, you could try it with vodka (Boyd and Blair would be our choice then). Drink up.

4 ounces hot milk (cow, soy, coconut, whatever you like)

1.5 ounces whiskey (we prefer the spicy goodness of Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1 heaping tablespoon Nutella

Freshly whipped cream spiked with Frangelico liqueur (optional… no, really it isn’t. You need this.)

Powdered unsweetened cocoa, for dusting the whipped cream

Put the Nutella in the bottom of a mug or heat-safe glass; add 1/4 cup hot milk and mix thoroughly, then add the rest of the milk and the whiskey. Stir well, then top with whipped cream and dust with cocoa. Serve immediately.

The Friday Tipple: Fall Classic

Fall Classic

We’ve fallen and we can’t get up, dear Boozers. Autumn appears to have truly arrived, as leaves of every color are whipped around in a stiff wind and the storm windows are shut against the chill. And apples, apples are everywhere, stacked up in untidy piles on the kitchen counter, challenging us in their cheerful hues of red and green: “We dare you to do something with us besides make pie.”

Oh, we’ll take that challenge, and we’ll make a fresh apple shrub out of it. Some of you might call it a drinking vinegar, but the term “shrub” sounds weirdly sexier, in a Colonial sort of way, and we all know how Ben Franklin felt about apples. Not only that, it couldn’t be easier to make, because a shrub is little more than fruit, vinegar, and sugar, simmered into a lovely spicy syrup (there’s a cold-brew method as well, which we will detail below, but it was nippy in the kitchen and we wanted to warm up). When diluted with club soda, it’s a perfect mixer for a fall evening by the fireplace. Gather round it with your friends and boost the immune system at the same time. Cheers.

Fall Classic

It’s so easy to make a shrub that we decided to make a tasty garnish as well — a caraway seed brittle, to be precise. Brittles are not always as easy as they look, but basically it’s simply a cup of water, two cups of sugar, a small knob of butter, and a couple of tablespoons of caraway seeds cooked over medium heat until it becomes thick and syrupy (if you stop cooking too soon, you’ll end up with a caramel). Whisk in a teaspoon of baking soda, then spread it out onto an oiled baking sheet, sprinkle a little sea salt over the top, and let it harden. Voilà.

to make the fresh apple shrub:

3 apples, grated

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup sugar (we used maple sugar)

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

a pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain, pressing grated apple thoroughly to get out all the liquid. Cool completely; can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. To cold brew, simply place all the ingredients in a mason jar and put it in the fridge for 4 or 5 days, then strain as directed.

to make the Fall Classic:

1.5 ounces fresh apple shrub

2 ounces rye whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye)

1/2 ounce fennel or anise liqueur (we used Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto)

chilled club soda

caraway seed brittle for garnish (optional, but just right)

Combine first three ingredients in a tall glass with ice and stir well. Top with club soda, stir briskly, and garnish with caraway brittle.

Other options: While we like rye in this drink, it also works well with bourbon or rum. Some anise liqueurs that will work well include absinthe, galliano, ouzo, pastis, and sambuca.

The Friday Tipple: Burns-erac!

Burnserac

We’ve said it before, Boozers, and we’ll say it again: cocktails create community. Derek Brown, the hip mixologist of the Columbia Room in DC, waxes quite poetic about it, actually, and observes an old tradition when whipping up that classic cocktail, the Sazerac, requiring audience participation: a smidge of absinthe is poured into a chilled glass and the glass is thrown gently into the air, and, as the absinthe coats the inside of the glass during its flight, the assembled barflies all shout “Sazerac!”  just before the bartender snatches the glass from mid-air. Now that’s what we call community.

We were reminded of this again while greedily lapping up reruns of Ken Burns‘ documentary “Prohibition”. Clearly, alcohol can create community in myriad ways — everything from temperance unions to drinking clubs to inebriate asylums — and leave it to the ever-youthful Burns (we suspect he still gets carded) to make it all completely enthralling.

So, we salute Ken Burns this week with the Burns-erac: a whisper of whiskey (apparently an old favorite), chilled Prosecco (he told Liquor.com that it’s his current drink of choice), and a colorful nip of Peychaud’s Gomme Syrup (a simple syrup we made with Peychaud’s Bitters — the addition of gum arabic gives a lovely mouthfeel that you get right in the last sip). Gather together a group of friends while enjoying this cocktail salute, and don’t forget to shout out: “Burns-erac!”

Burns-erac

Chilled Prosecco

Whiskey (we’re particularly enjoy Catoctin Creek’s Roundstone Rye)

Peychaud’s Gomme Syrup (recipe below)

Lemon twist

Fill a champagne flute with ice and water and allow to chill for a few minutes. Empty the flute and pour in a small splash of whiskey, then swirl it around quickly to coat the inside of the glass (you can shout “Burns-erac” here if you like). Pour a 1/2 teaspoon of the Peychaud’s Gomme Syrup (recipe and an alternative below) in the bottom of the glass, then carefully fill the rest of the glass with Prosecco. Garnish with a lemon twist. Burnserac!

Peychaud’s Gomme Syrup: Heat 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water to boiling in a small saucepan, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Mix one tablespoon gum arabic with one tablespoon hot water and stir until dissolved into a sticky paste; add to sugar-water mixture and stir until dissolved. Add 2 tablespoons Peychaud’s Aromatic Cocktail Bitters and stir well. Allow to simmer over very low heat for another 15 minutes, still stirring occasionally. Cool completely before using.

No time to make this luscious syrup? Okay, then just place a teaspoon of simple syrup and several drops of Peychaud’s in the bottom of the champagne flute and mix together. Or use a sugar cube and soak it in the Peychaud’s, then loosen it with a cocktail spoon. It won’t have the same gorgeous mouthfeel as the Peychaud’s Gomme Syrup, but it will provide the right flavor.

The Friday Tipple: Shutdown Shandy

Shutdown Shandy

We’re shaking our heads, Boozers. In days of yore, political opponents secreted themselves away in wood-paneled cloakrooms with a bottle of bourbon, a box of cigars, and a fistful of favors, trading  barbs until a deal was done. This modern game of I’ll-hold-my-breath-until-my-face-turns-blue does not sit well with us, as the trash begins to pile up and valuable medical research is abandoned and firefighters are forced to cool their heels at home. We think it’s time for Congress to suck it up and suck one down.

And so we present the Shutdown Shandy for consideration. Because hot air is still hovering over the nation’s capital, in more ways than one, we’ve opted for a cold one, combining it with a hefty shot of whiskey for good measure. However, it’s the Melting Pot Simple Syrup that brings it all together, a melding of everything that makes America great – sweet, spicy, sour, salty – coming together for the common good. Mix one up, Congress, and get it together.

Shutdown Shandy

We love a good garnish, so for this Tipple we went for some oven-dried orange slices. Simply slice an orange into round disks, dust them with confectioner’s sugar, and place them on a baking sheet in a 200-degree oven for about two hours. Once they’re dried out with a brilliant orange hue, you can store them for a week or two in an airtight container.

12 ounces chilled lager or ale (we used DC Brau’s The Corruption)
1.5 ounces whiskey (support your local economy – we used Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)
1 large spoonful of Melting Pot Simple Syrup (recipe below)
Oven-dried orange wheel for garnish (optional, but you should do it)

Put first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker, stir briskly, strain into two rocks glasses (because this is not meant to drink alone), and spoon a dollop of the foam left in the shaker on top of each drink. Garnish and toast to your continued friendship and cooperation.

Melting Pot Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 fresh lemon
1 tablespoon freshly chopped ginger
1/2 cup fresh clean basil leaves (we used Thai Basil for an extra spicy note)
Big pinch of Kosher salt

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Squeeze lemon into the pan, then drop in the lemon and add the ginger, basil, and salt. Stir to combine and bring to a rolling simmer. Reduce heat to very low and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. Can be strained and stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

The Friday Tipple: Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

The school year is in full swing, Boozers. We’ve seen hordes of little ones marching off in search of naptime and enlightenment, armed with shiny new backpacks and toothy grins. The sight has harkened us back to an earlier time when we drooped soporifically at the school bus stop in the pre-dawn hours, sipping from a styrofoam cup of Carnation Instant Breakfast Drink. Ah, we can almost taste the powdered chocolatey goodness.

The appearance of the “adult milkshake” on many menus has given barflies a chance to relive their favorite childhood flavors with a grown-up twist, like the Dirty Girlscout and the Bailey’s Caramel Macchiato. So we started to think, what if a classic breakfast drink were reimagined as a creamy cocktail? Hence, the Breakfast of Champions. We might not actually recommend it for breakfast if you’ve got an 8 a.m. meeting scheduled with the boss, but it could be a tasty way to start off the weekend.

Breakfast of Champions

For our homage to liquid breakfast nutrition, we chose to combine a nutty soy or almond milk with a smooth rye whiskey for a truly eye-opening brunch cocktail. To provide a little contrast, and to aid digestion, we opted to toss in some bitters — in this case, The Bitter Truth’s Chocolate Bitters or Cocktail Kingdom’s Coffee Bitters provide just the right counterpoint.

1/2 cup chilled almond or soy milk (plain, unsweetened)

1 heaping tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

2 ounces rye whiskey (we like Catoctin Creek’s Organic Roundstone Rye)

2 tablespoons light agave nectar (add more or less to your taste)

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee

chocolate or coffee bitters

3 ice cubes

Make a slurry of the cocoa powder, rye whiskey, agave nectar, and instant coffee, mixing until well-combined. Pour the slurry and the almond or soy milk into a blender, then add the ice cubes and blend on high for a minute or two until the ice cubes are completely incorporated (no large chunks). Stir in a few dashes of bitters and pour into a chilled glass.

The Friday Tipple: Smokey Sour

Smokey Sour

Fire up the grill, Boozers. It’s been too hot to cook indoors, so we’re livin’ large in the backyard, armed with charcoal, a pair of tongs, and a few toe-tapping R&B tunes. Of course, we see no reason to restrict our grilling glory to chunks of protein or marshmallows on a stick, so we decided to grill us up a cocktail. Welcome to the Smokey Sour.

Inspired by our own Whiskey Cherry Syrup, a jar of which now resides in the fridge from last Friday’s delectable Michigan Cherry Beer, we felt in the mood for riffing off a classic Whiskey Sour. A basic sour mix consists of fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, creating a lip-puckering base, but we mixed things up a little by throwing several different kinds of citrus straight onto the barbecue. Lightly charred, these lemons, limes, and oranges plump up with an intensified flavor that is fragrant with both smoke and sunshine. Should you be deprived of a backyard grill, don’t despair — an open flame of any kind will do the trick. Just crank up some Motown and get groovin’.

Smokey Sour

While this grilled sour base is a mix of citrus fruits, we prefer to keep it lemony with a hint of orange for sweetness, then we add our favorite local rye whiskey from Catoctin Creek to give it a peppery undertone — the result is a perfect combination of sweet, sour, spicy, and smoky.

6 large lemons, halved

3 limes, halved

1 orange, halved

Whiskey Cherry Syrup (click here to find the recipe)

2 ounces whiskey

a whisper of Grand Marnier (triple sec will work, too)

chilled lemon-lime soda (we love small-batch varieties like Maine Root)

slices of grilled lemon and orange for garnish (technically optional, but do it anyway)

Place citrus fruits flesh-side down onto a hot grill over a medium-high flame. Grill for a minute or two until the flesh just starts to blister and char, then place into a large heat-proof bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the fruit to cool. When cooled, juice the fruit, mix all the juices together, and discard the seeds. The juice may now be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

In a cocktail shaker, add 3 ounces of the juice, 2 teaspoons of the Whiskey Cherry Syrup, 2 ounces of whiskey, and the barest splash of Grand Marnier. Add several ice cubes, cover, and shake vigorously. Pour contents into a highball glass, add a few cherries from the Whiskey Cherry Syrup, and top with a generous splash of lemon-lime soda. Garnish with grilled citrus slices.