The Friday Tipple: Margarita Memory


The Ides of March is upon us, dear Boozers. Historically speaking, it marks the day that Caesar was assassinated — “Et tu, Brute?” — although the term “Ides” simply refers to either the 13th or the 15th day of the month, as the Romans couldn’t make anything simple. We like to use this day to lift a glass in memory of friends and loved ones — and as our dear ones all seem to have had a penchant for margaritas, that most communal of libations — we are celebrating today with a Margarita Memory.

A margarita is really a classic blend of sweet and sour, to which we like to add notes of spice — creating a perfect representation of a life well-lived. It can be made with a variety of citrus, from traditional lime to blood oranges, mandarins, and grapefruit, and its flavor can be subtly altered by the type of tequila you use — blanco, mixto, reposado, and so forth — or you could even substitute with an unaged whiskey (we’ve done this often with Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit with excellent *hic* results) or even a smoky mezcal. Most importantly, to make a Margarita Memory really sing, choose ingredients that really reflect the person you are remembering — sweet, smooth, fresh, rich, perky, snarky, optimistic — and then savor every drop.

Margarita Memory

Our version today contains some muddled peach and a blend of lime and orange juice, because it reminds us of happy days drinking margaritas on the beach with special people. We added a pink peppercorn syrup to pack a bit of punch  — because peaches are not in season now, we actually used the syrup from canned peaches as our base.

2 ounces silver tequila

1 ounce Cointreau

1/2 ounce Amaretto

2 ounces fresh lime and orange juice

Slice or two of peach (canned is fine if peaches are out of season)

1 tablespoon pink peppercorn syrup, or to taste (recipe below)

dash of citrus bitters (such as Urban Moonshine or even Bitter Ends Thai Bitters)

Wedge of lime or other citrus for garnish

Muddle a couple of slices of peach in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add tequila, cointreau, citrus juices, syrup, and bitters; add a few ice cubes and shake vigorously. Strain into a margarita glass (salt optional) filled with ice and float a little Amaretto over the top. Garnish with lime and serve immediately.

To make pink peppercorn syrup: Strain syrup from canned peaches into a small saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of whole pink peppercorns and simmer over very low heat for about 30 minutes. Cool completely, then strain and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.



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).

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: Flashback Cooler

Consider the wine cooler, Boozers. Remember the 80s, when the summer beaches were full of bikini-clad babes swilling popsicle-flavored bottles of Bartles & Jaymes, with Duran Duran wailing on the portable cassette deck? Good times.

The thing is, a wine cooler really is a perfect summer beverage — it’s fruity, refreshing, slightly acidic, and a little fizzy. It’s just enough alcohol to make you feel relaxed while you work on your tan, but not quite enough to have you baring it all for a spontaneous game of Naked Beach Volleyball.

So make a batch for a crowd,  sync “Purple Rain” to your iPod, and party like it’s 1985. But keep your suit on.

Flashback Cooler

Waste not, want not, we always say. We recently made a really tasty Pineapple Sage Simple Syrup for our version of a Tom Collins, so we used that again here. If you aren’t up to the task, then you can substitute some orange blossom honey or even the syrup from a can of peaches. Just throw the peaches onto the compost heap.

1 bottle white or rosé wine (chilled)

2 large oranges

3/4 cup Pineapple Sage Simple Syrup

1/2 cup triple sec or Cointreau

1 cup chilled club soda

sliced fruit or berries for garnish

Pour the wine, simple syrup, and triple sec or Cointreau into a large pitcher and squeeze in the juice from the two oranges. Throw the juiced oranges in and refrigerate for one hour. Then remove the orange halves and stir in the club soda. Serve immediately in wine glasses over ice, with fruit garnish.

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!


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: 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.