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.

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The Friday Tipple: Sequestration Sour

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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: Champagne Creamsicle

Champagne CreamsicleWe’re feeling fancy, Boozers. During this festive season, we like to try out new recipes and a tasty Blood Orange Soup with Frozen Sabayon that we whipped up for Christmas dinner spawned a thought: wouldn’t this make a lovely cocktail, perhaps to ring in the New Year? Oh yes indeed.

And so the Champagne Creamsicle is born. Don’t be afraid of the sabayon, even as you ask yourself “What the heck is a sabayon anyway?”. Basically, it’s a custard, and, when you freeze it, it becomes a frozen custard. It’s luscious and creamy, yet, when paired with citrus, is perfectly balanced. If you’re looking for a way to inspire a new year that is rich, light, and fresh, then look no further than the Champagne Creamsicle. Happy New Year!

Champagne Creamsicle

The frozen sabayon can be made a day ahead and frozen, and will keep in the freezer for a week or two before it becomes a bit crumbly. We added sweet vermouth to provide some contrast in flavor, then created a citrus simple syrup for the champagne, lightly kissed with Bittermens Hiver Amer bitter orange liqueur. If you can’t find Hiver Amer (although we highly recommend it), you can use Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or Triple Sec instead — or even an orange-infused vodka.

4 ounces chilled champagne or sparkling wine

1.5 ounces Spiked Citrus Simple Syrup (recipe below)

1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice

1 large spoonful Frozen Sabayon (recipe below)

Stir first three ingredients together in a cocktail shaker and pour into a champagne coupe (or wide-mouthed wine glass). Top with spoonful of Frozen Sabayon and serve immediately.

Spiked Citrus Simple Syrup: Place a half of a grapefruit (chopped roughly) and a whole clementine (halved) into a small saucepan. Cover with water and add 2/3 cup granulated sugar. Simmer over low heat for at least 30 minutes or until liquid has thickened and reduced by half. Strain and cool, then add 3 ounces orange liqueur. Will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Frozen Sabayon with Sweet Vermouth

4 large egg yolks

2/3 cup sweet vermouth

5 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 cup heavy whipping cream

a few drops of lemon juice

Put the egg yolks, vermouth, and sugar in a heatproof bowl; bring a cup of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan and reduce heat to low. Place heatproof bowl over the saucepan and whisk until mixture becomes thick and creamy — this will only take a few minutes. When the custard is thick enough to hold its shape (i.e. you can pull the whisk through the custard and see a pattern), place the bowl in a bowl of ice water and continue whisking for another minute to cool it down.

In a stand mixer, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Fold the custard into the whipped cream until it is completely incorporated, and add a few drops of lemon juice. Put into a container and freeze for 8 hours before serving. Adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz.

The Friday Tipple: Gin Gone Viral

It’s that time of year, Boozers. Early autumn sniffles running rampant around the office and germ-covered darlings traipsing gaily all over the house after a day spent incubating viruses at school. No amount of hand sanitizer can save you from the scourge of the common cold.

And, so, we turn to gin. Generations of Brits can’t possibly be wrong: gin is the cure-all for what ails you, or, at the very least, it puts you to sleep until that nasty little virus has worked its way through your system. Luckily for those of us on this side of the pond, American artisanal gins are popping up across the country, so a local gin is likely close at hand.

Gin, like beer, is hardly a one-note alcohol — it benefits from different combinations of herbs, roots, and other ingredients that create unique flavor profiles in each variety. For our Gin Gone Viral, we were inspired by a newcomer in our local gin world, Green Hat Gin from New Columbia Distillers; its notes of citrus and lemongrass layered with traditional juniper make it an excellent candidate for sipping while tucked up in bed with a hot water bottle and a box of tissues. Gezundheit!

Gin Gone Viral

A hot lemongrass simple syrup warms up this tasty toddy; the syrup not only tastes luscious, but the lemongrass also provides natural antioxidants that are purported to combat colds and other unpleasant ailments.

2 ounces gin, room temperature or even barely warm

1 teaspoon lemongrass simple syrup (recipe below)

1 fresh sage leaf (we used a pineapple sage variety, but any will do)

to make the lemongrass simple syrup: Take a lemongrass stalk and whack it against a table or countertop, to help release the oils. Then chop it into 3-inch pieces. Put a half-cup of granulated sugar and a half-cup of water in a small saucepan and place over low heat. Stir so that the sugar begins to dissolve and add the lemongrass pieces. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until reduced and thickened. Discard lemongrass pieces.

to assemble the Gin Gone Viral: Lightly bruise a fresh sage leaf in the bottom of a glass. Heat the lemongrass syrup until quite hot, then place about a teaspoonful in the glass. Top with gin and drink immediately.

 

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: The Boxcar

We’re lucky bastards, Boozers. The nice folks at Catoctin Creek Distilling Company blessed us with an early sample of their 1757 Virginia Brandy — still young and not quite ready for prime time — and we’ve been contemplating it for several weeks.  Richly mellow and lightly fruity, brandy can truly elevate winter cocktails to a new level of warm delight.

There are several cocktails that feature brandy, such as the Brandy Alexander and the Vieux Carré, but we weren’t inspired until we decided to check out the Boxcar Tavern, a new establishment in our area. As always, we eagerly examined the signature cocktail menu, and, while we were intrigued by the nutmeg syrup used in the whiskey-based Warm Winter Night, we were surprised that a place called the Boxcar wouldn’t have a signature Sidecar. Just seems like a natural fit.

So we’ve created it ourselves: the Boxcar. A classic Sidecar features brandy (or cognac, and we’re sure you know that all cognac is brandy but not all brandy is cognac), Cointreau, and lemon juice. But that nutmeg syrup just begs for brandy, and, with images of boxcars trundling north through the swamps of central Florida piled high with citrus, we felt that fresh oranges were a natural complement. The result is a gorgeous little burst of winter spice with subtle notes of spring break sunshine. Santé!

Boxcar

As you know, we hate to see dusty bottles of so-called “seasonal” liquors languish in the cupboard, so we eschewed the Cointreau, generally used in a traditional Sidecar, in favor of triple sec. You may only think of triple sec as used in summer margaritas, but its softly bitter orange flavor works just as well as Cointreau in this application.

3/4 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice (we used a couple of clementines; mandarins and tangerines would also work quite well)

3/4 ounce triple sec

1.5 ounces brandy or cognac

Scant teaspoon nutmeg syrup (basically, just add a 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg to 1/4 cup of simple syrup)

Sugar and lemon, for coating the rim of the glass

Run a slice of lemon around the edge of a martini or cosmopolitan glass and dip in sugar. Put the orange juice, triple sec, brandy, and nutmeg syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into glass and enjoy.

 

The Friday Tipple: An Epiphany

Christmas is over, Boozers. Yes, the twelve drummers played their last tune yesterday and those dried-out old trees have been booted to the curb by the purists who waited until Twelfth Night to strip them bare. It’s time for an Epiphany.

Many people think they’ve had an epiphany in the new year, but we think it’s really just a resolution in disguise. However, resolutions tend to get broken while epiphanies can actually stir action. Some epiphanies are sudden revelations, and others steal upon us softly, as if we are waking from a dream. This week’s Tipple is the latter kind — based on a traditional wassail popularized in the Middle Ages known as Lamb’s Wool — and garnished with a lemon “crown”, a nod to the gold paper crowns found on Epiphany cakes in France.

This warm little drink is spicy and not too sweet, with a citrus undertone, and we’re pretty sure that if you drink enough of it, in the company of good friends, you’ll have an epiphany. Cheers!

An Epiphany

For this winter warmer, we trotted out Leopold Bros. truly gorgeous New York Apple Whiskey, added in some Meyer lemons, left over from last week’s Tipple, and dusted off a bottle of Stone’s Ginger Wine, a fortified wine made with ginger and raisins popular in the UK. It’s not hard to find and is actually a nice addition to your cocktail cabinet to splash into a variety of tasty libations.

1.5 cups apple cider

1 cup hard apple cider (we like Crispin’s)

1/2 cup Stone’s Original Green Ginger Wine

1/2 cup Leopold Bros. Apple Whiskey (although another good whiskey will still do the trick)

1/2 lemon (a Meyer lemon is nice if you have it)

1/4 teaspoon each: ground cardamom, nutmeg, and allspice

In a two-quart saucepan, add the apple cider, Stone’s Ginger Wine, and the spices, then squeeze in the lemon and drop the lemon into the pot, stirring together until combined. Simmer over very low heat for 45 minutes. Then add the hard apple cider and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the whiskey. Pour into heat-safe glasses, garnish with a slice of lemon, and wait for your epiphany. Serves 4.

The Friday Tipple: Tex-Mex Cocoa

Brrr, Boozers. The end of November may have been unseasonably warm for many of us, but December is quickly making up for lost time. As we bundle up in our Snuggies, our thoughts naturally turn to… tequila.

Yes, dust off those bottles of agave goodness — tequila need not be only a summer refresher, and don’t forget about the triple sec. The natural bite of tequila means that it is perfectly complemented by cinnamon and cocoa, and the triple sec provides a lightly sweet citrus note — combining together for a rich and spicy winter warmer.

Because we do like a little kick to our cocoa sometimes, we chose to add a few drops of hot sauce to the mix — our local favorite is Uncle Brutha’s. It gives that extra little sizzle as you curl up next to a crackling fire. We’re also pretty sure that Tex Mex Cocoa would be the drink of choice for a midnight visitor on Christmas Eve — Santa gets a little tired of milk and cookies.

Tex Mex Cocoa

We make this with almond milk, which adds a nice nutty undertone to the cocoa. Use a good quality ground cocoa — it will add richness to the flavor.

1 heaping teaspoon ground cocoa

1 heaping teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

A few drops of hot sauce

1.5 ounces silver tequila

3 ounces hot (but not boiling) almond milk (unsweetened)

triple sec

Mix cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon in the bottom of a mug. Add tequila and hot sauce and stir together into a slurry, then mix in the hot almond milk until well-incorporated. Float a little triple sec across the top. Now that’s what we call holiday cheer!

The Friday Tipple: Pear & Pimm’s

Somewhere in the world, loyal Boozers, it’s Pimm’s O’Clock. “What?”, you shriek in disbelief, “Surely not! We have packed away our summer whites and Wimbledon is only a faint memory.” True, the bloom of summer is fading here in the northern hemisphere, but we see no reason why we have to give up on Pimm’s; with its subtle notes of citrus and spice, it is a perfect accompaniment to fall flavors. This week, we’ve decided to pair it with pear.

Because we are overachievers in the Good Booze kitchen, we made our own pear nectar lightly infused with cardamom and lavender honey, but you can easily purchase pear nectar in the store — some common brands are Goya and Looza. However, should you choose to give it a go, it is embarrassingly easy to make, so you’ll have to remember to smile modestly when you are showered with accolades from impressed friends, saying “No, really it was nothing. Only too pleased to work my fingers to the bone for you.”

The lush and fruity Pimm’s can actually be drunk straight up as it is without any mixer, so it is important to have a light hand when using it in a cocktail — the pear should not overwhelm. We added in some extra gin (try the Juniper Green Organic if you want to keep it all strictly British, but we also enjoy Catoctin Creek’s Organic Watershed Gin). Draw your chair up closer to the electric fire, nibble a warm scone with clotted cream, and sip on your Pear & Pimm’s. Lucky blighter.

Pear & Pimm’s

1 ounce Pimm’s No. 1

1 ounce gin (we like Juniper Green or Catoctin Creek)

2 ounces pear nectar

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an apple chip (optional, but delicious). Cheerio!