The Friday Tipple: Mr. Collins

We adore a pompous fool, Boozers. In fact, if we are honest, we have strolled down that perilous path once or twice, only to have our balloon of self-admiration popped unceremoniously by a worthy opponent. It’s why we love Jane Austen, and also why we enjoy a tasty little concoction — once known as the official drink of summer — called a Tom Collins.

In the far-off years of our youth, we recall our first foray into a nightclub, armed with a fake i.d. and a few crumpled dollar bills stuffed into our spandex tights. As the hairy-chested bartender cocked a cynical eye at our underage attempt at sophisticated nonchalance, we stuttered out a request for a Tom Collins — clearly marking us as urbane world travelers.

Alas, what we didn’t realize was that we had immediately marked ourselves as more akin to the inimitable Mr. Collins, the silly social-climbing vicar in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Elizabeth Bennett had him pegged in five seconds flat, and would certainly never have accepted a watery Tom Collins made with a slug of cheap gin and a splash of sour mix, topped off with club soda and a maraschino cherry stabbed with a plastic sword. Just like Elizabeth, we now know we don’t have to settle for second-best.

So we’ve imagined Mr. Collins as he should be, if transformed into a refreshing cocktail: bright, fresh, lightly herbal, and blessed with a sparkling wit. Watch out, Mr. Darcy — there may be competition yet.

Mr. Collins

We’ve made a summery lemonade base for our Mr. Collins, sweetened with a pineapple sage simple syrup. If you don’t have this charming herb growing in your garden or on your windowsill, you can make a simple syrup with mint (especially a pineapple or orange mint), which will impart that sunny herbaceous quality.

4 or 5 lemons, freshly juiced

Pineapple sage simple syrup (see below for instructions)

Chilled club soda

2 ounces good quality gin (like Catoctin Creek’s Organic Watershed Gin)

Chilled Prosecco or sparkling wine

Orange wedge and sprig of sage or mint for garnish

Make the fizzy lemonade base by combining the fresh lemon juice, about 2 tablespoons of the simple syrup, and a 1/2 cup of the club soda. Stir vigorously and add more simple syrup if necessary. Fill a Collins (tall) glass with ice and pour in the gin and up to a 1/2 cup of lemonade. Top with an ounce or so of chilled Prosecco and garnish with orange and sage.

The simple syrup is a snap: one cup of water, one cup of sugar, and several sage (or mint) leaves cooked over low heat until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove sage leaves and cool; can be stored in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.

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The Friday Tipple: Global Warming Gin Fizz

It’s bloody hot, Boozers. And it’s only April, so we have decided that we may as well accept the inevitable and jump right into summer cocktails. What with the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster last week and Earth Day looming this weekend, we sometimes feel like we are on a sinking ship, environmentally speaking, as polar bears sunbathe on renegade icebergs bobbing along the Gulf Stream.

The spring flowers have already spent their blooms by now and we find ourselves in premature possession of our favorite mid-summer treat: fresh local blueberries. So we shrugged our shoulders, saying “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” while reaching for a bottle of Campari. As Mother likes to say, “Dress for the weather, not for the season”, and we think this applies to happy hour as well. Why deny ourselves a refreshing libation simply because the calendar is not in compliance with the barometer? Stretch out on a deck chair with drink in hand — that’s what they did on the Titanic.

Global Warming Gin Fizz

In observance of Earth Day, we went as local and organic as we could in this tasty tipple, utilizing our favorite Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin, early blueberries, and wild lavender honey. Forage in your own area this weekend by supporting local distillers and farmers when mixing up a celebratory cocktail or two.

2 ounces gin

1/4 cup fresh blueberries

2 teaspoons local honey (try something floral to deepen the flavor)

1/2 of a fresh orange

chilled club soda

1/2 ounce Campari

orange wedge for garnish

Crush the blueberries in the bottom of a glass, add the gin and honey, and mix well. Set aside for one hour.

After an hour, squeeze the fresh orange over the blueberry-gin mixture and stir. Add a few ice cubes, top with chilled club soda, then float Campari over the top. Garnish with an orange wedge and enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Gin Mickey

Holy Salchow, Boozers. We’ve flipped for the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships, taking place right now in Bensenville, Illinois. What we particularly like about this event is its equal-opportunity vibe, as the skaters range from former ballerinas who can pull off a Biellmann Spin to, well, Mickey Bolek.

Mickey is our local hero — a super nice guy with a hair salon down the street from the Good Booze digs — and he picked up a pair of skates seven years ago to fulfill his childhood fantasy of gliding across the ice like Peggy Fleming, maybe with Dick Button doing a little cackling commentary on the sidelines. He’s made DC proud, the ultimate feel-good story about following your dreams at mid-life, a Julia Child moment in sparkly spandex.

Later today, Mickey will step onto the rink for his first national competition and we think that deserves a special cocktail. As DC is the home of the celebrated Gin Rickey, we thought it only fitting to reinterpret it today as the Gin Mickey — an icy scoop of frozen gin and lime topped off with fizzy club soda. We’ll be swigging it to the tune of “I’m Too Sexy” as Mickey shimmies his way to skating glory — at least his own version of it. Spin it, baby.

Gin Mickey

You know we loves us a granita, so we whipped one up for this Tipple out of lime juice, superfine sugar, and Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin. Granitas can be finicky sometimes, so if it’s not setting up the way you like, add a little more fresh juice and check it every hour or so in the freezer. In a pinch, you can throw a soft granita mixture into a blender with a couple of ice cubes, whiz it up, and then refreeze, which actually gives the granita a pleasing sorbet-like quality.

1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice

1/4 cup gin

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (we used superfine, which dissolves well)

1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest

Chilled club soda

Mix together the first four ingredients in a bowl (taste to adjust sweetness if too tart) and pour into a shallow baking pan. Place in freezer and check every hour or so; as it begins to freeze, stir gently with a fork or spoon and put back in freezer. This process can take from 4 to 8 hours until it reaches a frozen consistency, then can be stored in the freezer until you are ready to use.

Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop a large ball of the granita, about two or three inches in diameter, and put into a chilled martini or cosmopolitan glass. Top with about two ounces of the chilled club soda and enjoy immediately.

The Friday Tipple: Queen Anne’s Reward

Arr, Boozers. We’ve been plundering the Carolina coast this week, following in the legendary footsteps of Blackbeard. The folks are mighty friendly, especially the bartenders, so it’s no wonder that a pirate might stick his pegleg in the sand here and swill a cup or two of grog before sailing off in search of more booty.

You know how we feel about communing with the locals, and the fine inhabitants of Beaufort, North Carolina (not to be confused with Beaufort, South Carolina, which is surely a tasty watering hole itself) are the picture of hospitality. No wonder it was recently named The Coolest Small Town in America. We particularly enjoyed listening to the lore of Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s own ship, sunk just off the shore of nearby Fort Macon, while sipping on pineapple-and-ginger-infused rum at the Front Street Grill’s Rhum Bar. Nothing could be finer than being in Carolina, dozing on the deck of the Rhum Bar watching the dolphins cruise past Carrot Island.

And so we bring you Queen Anne’s Reward — an amalgamation of two staples of the pirate life: wine and rum. Call it a quick-and-dirty sangria if you like, but we’ve zapped a white rum overnight with fresh pineapple, then blended it with a slightly dry red wine for a snappy wine cocktail that will certainly save you from walking the plank. Sit back, Boozers — your treasure has arrived. Arr.

Queen Anne’s Reward

We looked high and low for a local rum, but arrived just a tad too early — next time we’re trawling along the Crystal Coast, we hope that North Carolina fledgling distilleries like Muddy River and Adam Dalton will have finished jumping through the many hoops of legality so that we can stay purely local, but Prichard’s Crystal Rum from Tennessee will do the trick, or any quality white rum of your choice. As to the wine, you can hardly spit in the breeze these days without hitting a vineyard, so look for a nice red in your own backyard. We opted for the locally-popular Chateau Morrisette, just up the road a piece in Virginia.

Semi-dry red wine

White rum

Several chunks of fresh pineapple, with natural juice

Small sprig of rosemary

Club soda

pineapple chunks and rosemary for garnish

To make the quick rum infusion: Put 1 cup of rum in a jar with several chunks of pineapple and the rosemary. Set aside for several hours or overnight, then strain, saving the pineapple chunks but discarding the rosemary.

Put one or two rum-soaked pineapple chunks in the bottom of a large wineglass and lightly crush. Add a teaspoon of reserved fresh pineapple juice and 2 ounces of pineapple-infused rum. Add a few ice cubes and 3 or 4 ounces of red wine and stir. Top with one ounce of chilled club soda and garnish with a few chunks of pineapple speared onto a rosemary stick.

The Friday Tipple: Beetlejuice

Spring is in the air, Boozers. We hear that snow is falling across the Midwest, but, for today at least, it’s practically sultry in our neck of the woods. Daffodils are rearing their scrawny necks and ducks are eyeing each other amorously. The breeze is redolent with the scent of raw promise.

A box of fresh produce from Washington’s Green Grocers landed on the doorstep yesterday, inspiring us with some of its early spring offerings — namely, lovely little beets, bursting with rosy goodness. Their earthy sweetness is, we believe, a perfect complement to the bright woodsy notes found in gin, culminating in an infusion that recalls springtime hikes through primeval forests, where crocuses peep through the detritus of winter and toadstools beckon innocently from the shadows.

While we tend to think of vegetables as used only occasionally in more savory cocktails — the Bloody Mary, for instance — there are many that also lend a subtle sweetness to hand-crafted drinks. Our little box of produce also yielded several gorgeous watermelon radishes, which, with their sugary spiciness are sure to find themselves more intimately incorporated into an upcoming concoction, rather than only being relegated to a pretty garnish.

Throw off the confines of winter, Boozers — spring awaits.

Beetlejuice

Our housemade St. Germain-based lemon soda is a tasty complement to our beet-infused gin, which we think lends a floral undertone to our homage to spring. It’s incredibly easy to make, but you can substitute a commercial lemon soda if you prefer.

1 small raw beet, peeled and grated

1/2 cup gin (we prefer Catoctin Creek’s Organic Watershed Gin)

raw sugar (regular granulated sugar is fine as well)

juice of one fresh lemon

1 ounce St. Germain liqueur

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

3 ounces club soda or mineral water

To make the beet infusion: Put grated beets in a cup or jar with a large pinch of raw sugar. Top with gin and allow to sit, uncovered, for one or two hours. Strain and set aside.

To make the lemon soda: Put the lemon juice, St. Germain, agave nectar and club soda in a glass and stir vigorously until well-incorporated. Do this just before assembling the cocktail to maintain the carbonation.

Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the lemon soda. Pour 1.5 ounces of beet-infused gin over the top — do not stir, but leave it layered. Garnish with lemon, fresh herbs, or a slice of watermelon radish (optional). Drink up.

The Friday Tipple: Stormy Margarita

It’s Friday the 13th, Boozers. We’re not superstitious but a stiff drink on this gloomy winter day would certainly be most welcome. Our thoughts naturally turned to a Dark and Stormy, which is truly a season-less cocktail, but then we came across a rum punch recipe from Padma Lakshmi, the goddess of Top Chef, when she also commented about a salted lime juice popular in India. The rest, they say, is history.

The base of our Stormy Margarita is a lime-ginger soda that we quickly whipped up and topped off quite simply with a big shot of Gosling’s 151, a lovely dark rum that matches our mood. Astonshingly, the first sip seems to help the skies to clear, and, by the time you drain the last drop, you’ll be dancing across the rooftops in joyous abandon. Or singin’ in the rain.

There’s nothing like a stormy drink to put a little pep in your step. Dust off those tap shoes, Boozers.

Stormy Margarita

Fresh ginger and lime are key to the bold flavors of this drink. We made our soda with a slug of Stone’s Ginger Wine, which adds complexity, but we also think it would work well with a splash of dry sherry. We also used light agave nectar, because it is not cloyingly sweet, but you could substitute sugar or honey to taste.

1 fresh lime, juiced

1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, grated

1 ounce Stone’s Ginger Wine (or dry sherry)

1 tablespoon light agave nectar (adjust to your taste)

large pinch of Kosher salt

1/4 cup club soda

2 ounces Gosling’s 151 Black Seal Rum

lime wheel for garnish

Place first five ingredients in a cocktail shaker and let sit for 10 minutes, then add ice and shake vigorously. Add club soda and swirl to combine, then strain into a glass over ice (this step removes some of the grated ginger so it doesn’t get caught in your teeth, but still leaves a strong ginger essence). Carefully pour rum over the top and garnish with lime. Cheers!

 

The Friday Tipple: Fizzy Friday

You’ve done it again, Boozers. You told yourself “I will not have a third helping of mashed potatoes” and you stuffed yourself on stuffing and then there were three kinds of pie. We know how you feel: bloated, bleary, and blubbery.

After sucking down a bottle of Grampa’s homemade dandelion wine and those shots of Wild Turkey with your cousin Gerry behind the garage, Black Friday is a bit of a blur. What you need to do is soothe your tum. Enter bitters. There are two types of bitters: digestive bitters and cocktail bitters. Both types are basically herbs and roots that are used to flavor alcohol, usually having a bitter or bittersweet taste. Cocktail bitters, like Angostura, Bittermens, Fee Brothers, and Urban Moonshine, are generally used sparingly to flavor cocktails, much as you might add salt and pepper to your food. Digestive bitters, like Campari, Pimm’s No. 1, and Cynar, can be drunk straight up or on the rocks as well as in cocktails.

We like to make our own cocktail bitters and just finished up a batch of what we call Chocolate Stout Bitters (want a bottle of your own? drop us a line), featuring fresh hops, espresso beans, and cocoa nibs, but don’t be intimidated by our ingenuity. Drag yourself to the local liquor store and grab any bottle of either cocktail or digestive bitters, along with some tonic water or club soda. Down the Fizzy Friday in one go and you’ll be back in fine fettle before you can say “Alka Seltzer“. Cheers!

Fizzy Friday

There are as many ways to make a Fizzy Friday as there are recipes for Thanksgiving leftovers. You can choose to go the digestive route and pour a generous slug of Campari (our personal favorite) over ice and top it off with a splash of club soda. However, we’re going the other direction today, for reasons that will soon become clear.

Tonic water or club soda

Cocktail bitters (Bitters, Old Men Restorative Tonic is good here)

Gin (as always, we’ll be reaching for the Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

Fill a lowball glass with ice and add 4 ounces of tonic water or club soda. Add 20 drops of bitters — yes, that’s right, we said 20 — and drink it down quickly. Then fill the glass with more tonic or soda, throw in some gin, and you’re good to go. Great Aunt Joan’s waiting for you to drive her to Walmart.

The Friday Tipple: Make Mine a (Skinny) Margarita

It’s Labor Day weekend and, after a long sweaty summer, some of us are ready for a margarita. It’s that most classic of summertime beverages, thirst-quenching on that last hot day we get to spend by the pool or at the beach before the onset of autumn activities. However, we also want to keep our svelte summer figures in shape, so that means making our margaritas “skinny”, à la Bethenny Frankel. And, honestly, once you make a really fresh margarita (which is actually what a “skinny” margarita is in reality), it’s almost impossible to drink that bottled mixer ever again. Hold on to your sombrero — you’re about to become a margarita snob.

If you paid attention to our post earlier this week, then you may have already made your own version of the Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur; we infused triple sec with peaches and hot peppers in preparation for today’s Tipple, because, frankly, we knew we were going to need a drink. You can use regular triple sec, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau also, so don’t despair if you didn’t make your own infusion, although we encourage you to try it out sometime — the peaches and peppers give a nice little spicy-sweet kick that feels just right on a hot day at the end of summer.

Basically, a “skinny” margarita uses fresh lime juice (we find that it takes about 4 limes per drink — it’s worth the work), light agave nectar (easily found in most grocery stores these days, in the sugar and honey section), silver (clear) tequila, the triple sec or other liqueur, and a little club soda. It will take a few sips to get used to it, because it is not cloyingly sweet like a typical margarita made with sweet-and-sour mix, but you will soon love its refreshing light flavor and turn your nose up at the other stuff. It’s also far lower in calories than a standard margarita (150 calories vs. 550 calories, by some estimates), so maybe we can have two… or perhaps three. It’s been a long week. Cheers!

Make Mine a (Skinny) Margarita

1/3 cup fresh lime juice (usually about 4 or 5 limes)

2 ounces silver (clear) tequila

1 ounce Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur, triple sec, Grand Marnier, or Cointreau

Light agave syrup to taste (start with 1 tablespoon per glass)

Club soda

Place first 4 ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake vigorously, taste to check for sweetness and adjust if necessary. Pour it all into a glass, then top with up to 1/4 cup of club soda.