The Friday Tipple: Gin For The Masses

We’re getting organized, Boozers. As the cold weather begins to chase us indoors, we thought we’d think about gin. What could be better, really? Actually, we’ve now created a Gin Cocktails section to the Good Booze recipe index, so that you can quickly find gin cocktails whenever the mood strikes you (and with Thanksgiving dinner with the folks on the horizon, you may be considering cocktails already), and we’ll follow with more indexes in future weeks. Consider it our little holiday gift to you.

Looking for a perfect fall cocktail in the meantime? We suggest our own Pear & Pimm’s, which will surely impress the family, while nicely taking the edge off. Be thankful.

The Friday Tipple: Occupy Whiskey

Remember rebellion, Boozers? This week brought the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement and we found ourselves yearning for days gone by, 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, now heading into the last few exciting days of pushing for pennants. Luckily, we recently 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 simple 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 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: Post-Convention Bounce

The political season is in full swing, Boozers. Now that we’ve slogged through two weeks of speechifying, the fun begins in earnest as the presidential debate drinking games start to surface. In the meantime, we, like the candidates, need a Post-Convention Bounce to help get us back on our feet.

In our world, a bounce is a liqueur often distilled from brandy, fruit and sugar — the first First Lady, Martha Washington, is somewhat revered for her own recipe for a Cherry Bounce. However, as it takes several weeks to make a proper bounce, we looked for a quick alternative and were rather taken with the idea of using fruit preserves in cocktails — that’s what we call American ingenuity at its finest.

Our Post-Convention Bounce cocktail is a concentrated nip of bliss, perfect for those early days of autumn when there’s a bit of a snap in the air after sunset but it’s still warm enough to wear flip-flops. Put the campaign rhetoric aside for today — you can rock the vote later.

Post-Convention Bounce

Using fruit preserves in cocktails is more than a shortcut — they bring a concentrated burst of flavor and the pectin helps provide a silky mouthfeel. And, while brandy cocktails are thought by some as rather old-fashioned and by others as sacrilege, we enjoy the warm hug of a brandy-based cocktail, especially when punched up with the brightness of a tart cherry jam. 

2 ounces brandy (we used Catoctin Creek’s 1757 Virginia Brandy)

1 ounce fresh orange juice

1 large teaspoonful of cherry preserves

dash of bitters

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass and enjoy immediately. You can also serve this over ice and top with an ounce of chilled club soda.

The Friday Tipple: Moment of Zen

Minimalism is in, Boozers. After enduring day after day of record-breaking heat, with no relief in sight, we’ve given up. We expend the minimal amount of energy these days on pretty much everything — cooking, moving, thinking — and so our cocktails have gone the same way. Call it Zen, if you will — less is more.

This led us to one of our summertime favorites — sparkling sake. Cool and refreshing with a pleasant bubbly effervescence, it cheers us up even as the mercury tops 100. But even this charming libation likes to get dressed up a little — and by “a little”, we mean minimally. Which brings us, once again, to cubes. As you know from previous Tipples, we like to add a little zip to hot weather cocktails with frozen additions that subtly enhance the flavor with only a soupçon of effort. Welcome to our version of Zen.

We love the flavor of plum and ginger with chilled sake, and combined them into zesty little ice cubes that melt slowly into the sparkling sake, altering its essence with every sip. We call it a Moment of Zen. You can call it a welcome respite from reality.

Moment of Zen

Plums are in season now, but they can become overly ripe quickly, making them great candidates for juicing. Frankly, it’s a bit messy, but only takes a few seconds. Just take several soft plums, slit them open on one side (but don’t cut all the way through), and squeeze the heck out of them into a bowl. Strain out the pulp, add a little grated fresh ginger, and pour into an ice cube tray. If you don’t have a silicone ice cube tray, now’s the time to invest — the cubes will pop out perfectly every time.

1 plum-ginger frozen cube

4 ounces chilled sparkling sake

Chill a small wine glass for 15 minutes in the freezer. Pour in the sparkling sake, drop in the cube, and plop yourself into a hammock for your own personal moment of zen.

The Friday Tipple: A Walk on the Beach

Remember Sex on the Beach, Boozers? So do we. Of course, we’re referring to those sickly sweet cocktails that were all the rage in the 80s, a cheap one-night stand in a rocks glass. The kind of thing Tom Cruise would have whipped up on screen, accompanied by sly innuendoes and a suggestive smirk.

But here’s the thing — a drink with such a name can only conjure up images of illicit fondling and sand in all the wrong places, hardly a recipe for romance. But a Walk on the Beach with the true object of your desire… that’s the real deal. Fingers intertwined, the salty tang of the evening breeze, skin tingling from the last rays of the setting sun, two sets of footprints lapped by warm waves. A perfect prelude to a night full of promise.

Back at the beach house, prop your feet up on the deck railing with this lovely summer nightcap — subtly sweet, lightly bitter, a perfect representation of this crazy little thing called love. Embrace it.

A Walk on the Beach

The original Sex on the Beach featured peach schnapps, but this modern update is based on a fresh peach and vodka purée that highlights our favorite summer fruit and makes us long for just-out-of-the-oven peach pie from Grandy Farm Market on the Outer Banks… but we digress. This is the next best thing, and if you can’t walk on the beach, then take a romantic stroll down to the corner.

3 chopped fresh peaches, pits removed

6 ounces vodka (we like Boyd & Blair for this, especially when infused with a vanilla bean)

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

1 fresh orange

1/2 ounce Campari

To make the peach-vodka purée: Put chopped peaches, agave nectar, and vodka in a blender and blend on high until liquefied. Strain through a sieve; can be kept in a jar and refrigerated for up to a week.

To assemble the drink: Put two ounces of the peach-vodka purée into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and squeeze in all the juice from the orange. Shake vigorously and pour the contents into a chilled glass. Pour Campari over the top and enjoy.

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: Bananarama

We’re beach-bound, Boozers. Shimmering waves and soft breezes are calling to us seductively, but we still have 24 hours of packing and planning to go. Vacation-itis has hit us hard, and we find ourselves daydreaming of breakfast in bed and leisurely hours spent gamboling along the shoreline. We roundly curse the last-minute projects dumped on our desks.

Which is why it’s time for a daiquiri. Screw the projects. The vacation starts now.

Rum is a must-have in vacation cocktails. It reminds us of devil-may-care pirates sucking down grog with gay abandon as they swing on ropes across the bow of a schooner bedecked in the skull-and-crossbones.  It signals reckless freedom in the fierce sunshine of a tropical spring. Wherever you are and whatever the weather, rum transports us to the Caribbean of our souls. Revel in it.

Bananarama

Some people use up overly ripe bananas in muffins or quick bread. We prefer a daiquiri. This is not the frosty variety that you might find on a cruise ship, topped with a mound of whipped cream, but a more subtle version that slips softly down the gullet. We like to use Gosling’s Gold or Mount Gay rum, which truly taste of the tropics, but a good quality Puerto Rican white rum like Don Q Cristal will also do the trick. Because we like the flavor of coffee with banana, we added a dusting of powdered coffee mixed with a little sugar (this is a great way to use up those packets of Starbucks VIA instant coffee).

1 very ripe banana

2 ounces chilled coconut water

1.5 ounces rum (we recommend a gold or white rum)

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

juice of half a lime

1/4 teaspoon instant coffee mixed with a little granulated sugar (optional)

Put first 5 ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Pour into a margarita glass and dust the top with instant coffee. Yo ho ho!

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.

Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur

In the past week, the Good Booze kitchen has made it through both an earthquake and a hurricane. Since bad things tend to come in threes, we think the last thing to threaten us will be… the end of summer. Labor Day is on the way and, with it, the end of juicy fresh raspberries, peaches, tomatoes, and cantaloupes. Don’t get us wrong, we’re looking forward to apples, pears, and pumpkins, but in this bittersweet time of year, we are holding on to summer with a vengeance even as it slips through our fingers.

The hurricane blew down a few plants in the old vegetable plot, leaving us with an assortment of peppers, both hot and sweet, that need to be consumed right away. Add to that the enormous piles of almost-overripe peaches being sold at rock-bottom prices at our local farmer’s market, and we knew what we needed to do: make an infusion for this Friday’s Tipple.

A lot of cocktail recipes call for really beautiful liqueurs; we often covet them at the local liquor emporium, where they beckon to us in their glistening bottles clad in designer labels. But making your own infusions gives you the chance to be really creative while using seasonal products — and it’s much less expensive. We still buy the occasional artisanal liqueur — in fact, we’re seeking out Catoctin Creek’s Pearousia right now, with autumn cocktails in mind — but, for now, we’re sealing our summer memories in a jar.

Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur

There are no rules to this, make what you like. Use any fruit, vegetable, or herb combination and use with brandy, vodka, gin, bourbon, or whatever. Here’s what we did, because we wanted to make something to specifically complement this Friday’s Tipple recipe:

One ripe peach, sliced

One hot Italian pepper, split

1 tablespoon lavender honey

Triple Sec

Place peach slices and whole pepper into a 12-ounce mason jar; cover with triple sec and let sit in a cool place for a few days, or even a few weeks. Add to cocktails to taste.