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).

Advertisements

The Friday Tipple: Stormchaser

Frankenstorm is bearing down upon us, Boozers. The aisles of the grocery stores are being stripped bare while the lines at the liquor stores are stretching around the block. Because there’s no way to survive a behemoth of a hurricane-meets-nor’easter without Pop-Tarts and whiskey.

We say, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Batten down the hatches and hunker down while the wind howls down the chimney to the drip-drip-drip of rain falling into strategically-placed buckets. Fire up the flashlights and play Scrabble with the kiddies. And warm your bones with a Stormchaser, the perfect toddy for those of us who prefer to experience the weather from inside a snug home.

And if the predictions of Frankenstorm are grossly exaggerated, what of it? You’ve stocked up and settled in — just rake the leaves next weekend.

Stormchaser

“Waste not, want not” is our motto, and if you tried our Occupy Whiskey cocktail a few weeks ago, then you may still have some apple-beer syrup in the fridge. Today’s tipple uses that luscious syrup in a warming tea, which is then chased by a shot of whiskey. Simplicity can be delicious.

6 ounces hot tea of your choice (we used a fruity Darjeeling)

2 teaspoons apple-beer syrup (recipe below)

2 ounces whiskey (we like the spicy taste of Catoctin Creek’s Roundstone Rye)

1 fresh twist of grapefruit

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.

Pour the tea into a heat-safe mug or glass and stir in the apple-beer syrup. Pour the whiskey into a shot glass and let the grapefruit twist soak in it while you enjoy your tea. Then sip (or shoot, if you must) the whiskey while the storm passes by.

The Friday Tipple: The Coffee Killer

Holy drinking games, Boozers. We are still wiped out from the excesses of The Presidential Pivot game, not to mention a little debate bingo, so we know what we need to help us recover: something hot, sweet, and strong.

Drag your minds from the gutters, Boozers. We’re talking here about a classic Ammazzacaffè, or “coffee killer”, an Italian tradition where a hot demitasse of strong sweet espresso is followed up with a liqueur, to “kill” the taste of the espresso. In Italy, you might partake of this little digestive after lunch or dinner, but we’re Americans, which means we’ll do whatever we damn please, and with a Vice Presidential debate looming in a few days, we may need a few coffee killers in order to steady our nerves. Have it with a boiled egg and call it brunch if it makes you feel better.

Our coffee killer is sweetened with our own Maple Sugar Simple Syrup — we picked up maple sugar from the Amish folks at the farmer’s market the other day and it makes a gorgeous simple syrup when lightly kissed with cinnamon and orange. You could try substituting a good quality maple syrup instead, such as Langdon Wood Maple Syrup aged in Catoctin Creek’s rye whiskey barrels, but don’t succumb to Mrs. Butterworth’s. We added fruit in the form of apple brandy; you could go for some French calvados, but the Italians would hate that, and, besides, we urge you to go local. There are some amazing American apple brandies on the market now — we are, after all, the home of Johnny Appleseed.

Drink up, Boozers — three more debates to go.

Coffee Killer

2 ounces hot strong coffee, preferably served in a demitasse (no espresso machine needed, just filter 2 heaping teaspoons of ground coffee with 2 ounces of hot water and add a smidge of cinnamon if you like)

1 teaspoon Maple Sugar Simple Syrup (recipe below)

2 ounces apple brandy, served in a small liqueur glass or a shot glass (Laird’s Apple Brandy is a tasty option; we prefer younger varieties so that the apple flavor is more prominent)

fresh orange twist

Here’s how to properly kill your coffee: stir the maple syrup into the hot coffee, throw in the orange twist, and drink the coffee down in one or two gulps. Suck down about half the apple brandy, then pour the remainder into the espresso cup. Swirl to capture the last dregs of coffee and maple, then swallow it down. Now you’re ready to face more questions about slow economic growth.

Maple Sugar Simple Syrup

1 cup maple sugar

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

fresh orange peel (one hefty piece, not zest)

Set sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until sugar liquifies, being careful not to let it burn. Add water slowly and stir. Add cinnamon and orange peel and allow to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove orange peel and cool completely. Yields about a cup; can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three months.

The Friday Tipple: The Hipster

Boozers, we’re hip. As if we didn’t know that already, it was confirmed this week by Forbes Magazine, which named our ‘hood as number 6 on their list of America’s Hippest Hipster Neighborhoods. Imagine that.

Whether you’re hitting the hotspots in FishtownEcho Park, or Montrose (and since you’re a hipster, we’re sure you’ve got the down-low on these hallowed hangouts), it’s critical that you have an ironic twist on a classic cocktail to complement those vintage “Revenge of the Nerds” eyeglasses. We’ve got it, and we call it The Hipster, a modern update on The Boulevardier (what they called the most elegant of cool people at the turn of the last century).

In DC, the hipsters will be heading in droves this weekend to H Street, hopping from the Rock and Roll Hotel to Little Miss Whiskey’s while sampling the Epcot-themed delights of The Queen Vic and Biergarten Haus.

With a resurgence of interest in the beverages consumed by our forebears, this Friday’s Tipple features rye whiskey — we prefer to go local and use Catoctin Creek’s Organic Roundstone Rye, which has a rich caramel undertone perfect for that first crisp fall day when you get to pull on Grandpa’s argyle cardigan with your BDG cigarette jeans — and Italian sweet vermouth. And while we know that hipsters shy away from calling themselves by that moniker (because it would be, well, unhip), it’s okay: just have the drink. Your secret is safe with us.

The Hipster

Since the hip are always looking to spice things up, we muddled some peppercorns into the mix and added a smidge of our own Wicked Pickled Ginger Syrup. The result is a perfect sipping cocktail — sour, sweet, spicy, just like a real hipster.

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

1 ounce Italian sweet vermouth (add more if you like a sweeter drink)

1/4 teaspoon black or pink peppercorns, crushed

1/2 teaspoon Wicked Pickled Ginger Syrup (optional — we like the kick)

juice of 1/2 fresh lime

club soda

1 lemon wheel

Place first 5 ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously, then strain into a wineglass. Top with 1 or 2 ounces of chilled club soda and lemon wheel. Enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Green Goddess

This week has been a scorcher, Boozers. The kind of weather where you just want to dive into a nice cool mudhole and wallow there until the mercury has dropped below 95. But, if no mudholes are handy, then we just search for the next best thing: cucumbers.

Humans have been cooling off with cucumbers since ancient times, so who are we to argue with the Greeks and Romans? If there be a food of the gods, let it be cucumber, whose mild yet distinctive flavor can be sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. We recently have noticed cucumber soda gracing the shelves of food purveyors and the abundance of this particular summer produce inspired us to whip up a fresh cucumber bubbly base for a cocktail that we like to call the Green Goddess. Just imagine Aphrodite lounging on a chaise overlooking the blue Aegean with a cool glass in her hand. That could be you.

Green Goddess

As you know, we enjoy a gin cocktail, but this particular elixir is also excellent with vodka, so take your pick. We prefer our local Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin, and, as for vodka, we often reach for Boyd and Blair Vodka. However, if you want to kick up the cucumber flavor a notch, you might try Square One Organic Cucumber Vodka for an extra-special cuke-tail.

1/2 of a large cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

1 tablespoon water

1/2 ounce St. Germain liqueur

1.5 ounces gin or vodka

chilled club soda

lime wedge

cucumber wheel, for garnish

Place cucumber, agave nectar, and water in a blender or food processor and blend until completely puréed. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and pour cucumber liquid into a cocktail shaker. Add St. Germain and gin or vodka, then add about 1/4 (up to 1/3) cup of chilled club soda. Stir vigorously. Run the lime wedge around the rim of a glass filled with ice, then add the contents of the shaker. Garnish with cucumber wheel.

The Friday Tipple: Bikini Shot

Bathing suit season is on the horizon, Boozers. Buxom babes are overtaking magazine covers, glowing with cocoa butter on far-flung tropical beaches. Whether you hope to be a buxom babe or merely to attract a buxom babe, the approach of Spring Break prompts us to ponder the winter flab so cleverly hidden by chunky sweaters. It’s time to detox.

While we could consider exercising a little more — or at all — we prefer to go the route of a desperate last-minute liquid diet in order to shed those unwanted pounds. Protein shakes, spinach smoothies, and lemon juice spiked with cayenne are all on the menu, but as happy hour approaches, we feel the need for a little special cocktail to reward ourselves for all that self-denial.

Our detox drink of choice is our Bikini Shot — combining the health benefits of kiwi fruit, laden with vitamin C and E and colon-cleansing dietary fiber, with a vodka-laced grapefruit granita. It starts off tart and cold and ends up sweet and smooth, not unlike easing yourself into a pool. The Bikini Shot may not actually make that saggy old Speedo fit any better, but it sure will make you feel like a million bucks. Go ahead — hit the beach. Hang ten!

Bikini Shot

A granita is similar in texture to a shaved ice, made with fresh fruit juice, sugar, and, in this case, alcohol. We used Square One Cucumber Vodka for this recipe, as the cucumber essence adds a fresh note to the grapefruit, but it would work beautifully with gin. We’ve also had success with a blackberry granita made with Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit, which has a certain grappa-like quality that makes us feel like we are vacationing on the Amalfi coast.

One whole grapefruit, juiced and retaining some of the pulp

3 ounces vodka or gin

2 ripe kiwi fruits, peeled and cut into chunks

1 orange, juiced

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

To make the granita: combine the grapefruit juice, pulp, and vodka or gin and pour into a shallow freezer-safe dish (like a pie pan). Place uncovered in the freezer for an hour, then scrape with a spoon to loosen the ice crystals. Return to the freezer for another hour. It can be scraped into a freezer-safe container at this point and kept in the freezer until ready to use.

To make the kiwi fruit juice: Put kiwi, orange juice, and agave nectar in a blender and blend until smooth. Strain through a sieve to remove seeds (optional). Chill for 30 minutes.

Pour two ounces kiwi juice into a shot glass or aperitif glass; top with a spoonful of grapefruit granita. Enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Carrot Top

We’re gripped by spring fever, Boozers. Never mind that Punxsutawney Phil predicted an extended winter or that we see snowflakes in Monday’s forecast— we are now firmly planted in meteorological spring and nothing can turn us back even as the clocks move forward just a week from now. Spring has sprung.

Building on last week’s exploration of root vegetable cocktails — and an unintentional nod to 1980s pop culture — we were inspired yet again by the fresh produce delivered by our friendly green grocer. Nothing heralds spring more than a cheerful bunch of carrots, sweet and crunchy and topped by a frothy head of green fronds. Carrots are particularly sweet in the early spring, when frosty nights help concentrate their natural sugars and the warm sunny days allow them to deepen in flavor.

The pairing of carrots with rye whiskey is a perfect match for spring, which, as Charles Dickens said, is a time “when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade” — the rye has a comforting spicy warmth while the carrots lend a welcome note of bright sunshine. The Carrot Top is a necessary shot of spring; go ahead and put on the flip flops that you’ve been eyeing longingly in your closet. You might want to throw on a pair of toe socks with them, just in case. Cheers!

Carrot Top

This lovely little infusion makes a fabulous aperitif on its own, but also makes a smashing cocktail when poured over ginger beer on ice (and, even better, throw in a splash of Stone’s Ginger Wine to add another layer of flavor). If you don’t have crystallized ginger, then substitute a couple of small chunks of fresh ginger and about a 1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar.

1/2 cup rye whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1 carrot, freshly grated

3 chunks of crystallized ginger, about 1-inch each

Place all ingredients in a jar and set aside for two hours. Strain liquid and discard carrot and ginger. To serve, put two ounces of infused rye into a cocktail shaker with an ice cube and shake vigorously. Strain into an aperitif or shot glass and sip responsibly.

Fat Tuesday Tipple: Creole Coffee Cocktail

Laissez le bon temps rouler, Boozers. Beads are flying in New Orleans even as you read this, but most of us are sadly bereft of a true Mardi Gras experience, so we turn instead to the Shrove Tuesday alternative: pancakes.

In the Protestant tradition, pancakes are the preferred meal on the night before Lent, dripping with butter and sugar before 40 days of denial. And, whatever your spiritual beliefs, or non-beliefs, who doesn’t like breakfast for dinner? Even if you don’t participate in a Pancake Race, this is the time to break out your favorite recipe — buckwheat, blueberry, chocolate chip — and load up those carbohydrates.

As excess is the word of the day, a proper cocktail needs to accompany such a treat, something bitter, subtly sweet, and complex enough to balance out the full-fat decadence of a stack of hotcakes. The Creole Coffee Cocktail hits the spot here — we like to use a chicory-based coffee to enhance the nutty flavor, but any dark roast will do. We like to think that this little shot of caffeine will truly help keep the good times rolling until Ash Wednesday sobers us up. Keep your shirts on, Boozers — or not. Carpe Diem!

Creole Coffee Cocktail

2 ounces strong black coffee, cooled

1.5 ounces rye whiskey (we like Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1/2 ounce Nocello walnut liqueur (Frangelico, Kahana Royale, Amaretto, or even Kahlua will work as a substitute)

Dash of Peychaud’s bitters

1/2 a small orange, peeled

orange twist, for garnish

Put the orange in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle; add a couple of ice cubes and the coffee, rye whiskey, Nocello, and bitters, and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with the orange twist.

 

The Friday Tipple: Jane’s Affliction

Ahoy there, Boozers! We’ve just returned from a bit of a jaunt to the Big Apple where we roughed it at The Jane, that most hipster of hotels overlooking the Hudson. It has a rather illustrious history as a classy hotel for sailors and actually hosted survivors of the Titanic immediately following that infamous sinking. If that’s not inspiration for a drink, we don’t know what is.

Imagining ourselves as proper British passengers, if we’d had to abandon ship in the middle of an iceberg-covered Atlantic, we’re quite sure we’d want a nice cup of strong sweet tea to help us cope with the shock once our rescuers had deposited us in the cozy confines of The Jane. And a generous measure of something somewhat stronger would not go amiss, leading to the creation of Jane’s Affliction.

The Titanic sank in 1912, the same year that absinthe was banned in the United States. Absinthe has had a bit of a resurgence, and we’ve been intrigued by several small-batch varieties, including Great Lakes Distillery’s Amerique 1912 Absinthe Rouge; its delicate undertone of hibiscus and anise recalls round-the-world voyages to exotic islands. The next time you’re in need of rescuing, Jane’s Affliction will surely come to your aid. Bottoms up!

Jane’s Affliction

The base of this cocktail is a tea-infused liquor; we’ve done it with both Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit and Boyd & Blair’s Vodka, so take your pick. You can do a quick infusion by adding a teabag (Earl Grey works well, but Lifeboat Tea might be even better) to 4 ounces of liquor and letting it sit for an hour. For the more ambitious, add four or five teabags to the whole bottle and leave it in a dark place for two weeks — the tannins from the tea help give the liquid a lovely silkiness.

2 ounces tea-infused liquor, such as an unaged whiskey or vodka

3/4 ounce St. Germain liqueur (because every $14 cocktail in New York has to have St. Germain in it, and why not?)

Absinthe

2 or 3 orange wedges

1 sugar cube

piece of orange peel

Muddle the orange wedges in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and pour in the St. Germain. Let sit for a few minutes. Meanwhile, rub the rim of a cocktail glass with the orange peel. Put the sugar cube in the bottom of the glass and sprinkle a few drops of absinthe over it. Add a few ice cubes and the tea-infused liquor to the cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into the glass.

The Friday Tipple: The Wolfhound

Holy Mozart, Boozers. It’s the great composer’s 256th birthday and it got us to wondering what kind of cocktail that celebrated imbiber might have enjoyed on his special day. Except, of course, that cocktails were invented long after Mozart’s death, but the well-traveled musician must surely have been introduced to spirits such as vodka and gin, and most certainly tipped a glass or two of grappa with his friend Salieri.

In the days of Amadeus, a refreshing treat would have been the earliest version of carbonated soda — created by adding a pinch of common baking soda to lemonade. This fizzy delight piqued our interest and seemed like a perfect historical base for a modern cocktail. Now that it is late winter, the produce aisles at the grocery stores are piled high with seasonal ruby red grapefruit; we think Wolfgang would have loved the exotic color and sweetly tart flavor, as complex as his Piano Sonata No. 13.

The grapefruit juice naturally led us to the addition of vodka, a cocktail traditionally known as a Greyhound, but that sprinkling of bicarbonate of soda gives it an unexpected edge: say “Wilkommen” to the Wolfhound. Salty, sour, sweet, seductively simple — a veritable symphony of taste sensations. Prost!

The Wolfhound

The addition of baking soda gives this cocktail a slightly salty flavor — and perhaps even soothes a hangover before it has begun. Be careful to add just a small amount or the drink will begin to take on a bit of an Alka-Seltzer quality. If you are not a fan of vodka, don’t despair: this drink is wonderful with gin as well, which pairs perfectly with the grapefruit.

1/2 cup freshly-squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice (about 1 whole grapefruit)

2 ounces vodka (we love Boyd & Blair, which is local to our area, but Square One and Twenty 2 are also terrific American-made vodkas)

scant 1/2 teaspoon light agave nectar

a large pinch of baking soda (no more than 1/4 teaspoon)

Put the grapefruit juice, vodka (or gin if you prefer), and agave nectar in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a glass and quickly stir in the baking soda until it dissolves and the liquid begins to foam. Enjoy immediately.