The Garden Tipple: Cantaloupe Cantina Cooler

Cantaloupe Cantina

It’s tequila time, Boozers. After a long week slogging away in a grown-up world of trading gossip by the water cooler, listening to the C-suite droning away about budgetary propriety, and spending yet another morning commute stuck in a tunnel on a disabled subway car, you’ve earned every precious drop.

If your paycheck doesn’t seem to be commensurate with the amount of overtime you put in every week, then you’re probably looking for ways to stretch your cocktail budget. We understand this all too well, so our advice is to spend as much as you can afford on a good bottle of tequila (we like Avión Silver, which is smooth and herbaceous with a pleasant kick, yet reasonably priced) and then head to the farmers market at the end of the day. Why? Because this is the time when farmers try to lighten their load by actually giving away the produce they haven’t sold yet.

We picked up two rather overlarge cantaloupes this way this week and immediately thought of making cantaloupe juice, an embarrassingly easy little job. Until our summer cocktail garden fills in, we’ve been rejoicing in the beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables to be found at the farmers market, where the farmers have a jump on the rest of us by growing their products in greenhouses during the cooler spring months. The cantaloupes right now have that fresh early summer brightness that matches just about perfectly with tequila.

So finish up that really important report for the boss, then hit the farmers’ line around 5 to see what you can score, without having to resort to dumpster diving. You deserve a drink.

Cantaloupe Cantina Cooler

We said it was embarrassingly easy to make cantaloupe juice and we weren’t kidding. Scoop out the flesh of a ripe cantaloupe and throw it into a blender. Blend on high until liquified, then strain through a coffee filter until you have a beautiful clear liquid. At this point, we like to add the juice of one fresh lime and about 2 teaspoons of light agave nectar. Can be stored for up to two days in the refrigerator, but best if used immediately.

3 ounces fresh cantaloupe juice

1.5 ounces tequila

1 ounce prickly pear liqueur (we love this, especially from our local maker Don Ciccio & Figli, and it adds something special to tequila, but go ahead and use triple sec if you can’t find prickly pear liqueur at your liquor store)

Chilled club soda

2 wedges of lime

Put first four ingredients into a cocktail shaker and stir well, then pour over a tall glass filled with ice. Squeeze one wedge of lime into the drink, then garnish with an additional wedge of lime.

 

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The Friday Tipple: Fresh Strawberry Ale

Fresh Strawberry Ale

Summer breezes are blowing, Boozers. With Memorial Day just around the corner and farmers markets bursting at the seams with spring fruit, we’re flushed with that heady anticipation of early summer delights, before the humidity settles in to dampen our enthusiasm. “Grab it while it lasts” is our mantra.

For the next few months, we’ll be offering up a series of cocktail recipes we like to call Good Booze in the Garden, and today we’re giving you a bit of a preview. Strawberries are growing in our cocktail garden right now, sweet little morsels of sunshine beckoning to us with their insouciant freshness. Recently, we noticed an advertisement for a commercial brand of strawberry ale and thought how nice it would be if our own favorite local brews had a bit of a strawberry twist. It was only a tiny little leap for us to realize that we had everything we needed for our own Fresh Strawberry Ale — literally in our own backyard.

It’s embarrassingly simple, but let that be our little secret. Enjoy.

Fresh Strawberry Ale

You don’t have to grow your own strawberries to make this treat — pick them up at the farmers market, steal them from your neighbor’s garden, visit a pick-your-own farm, or just get them at the grocery store. However, we strongly advise that you procure locally-grown strawberries simply because they will have the sweetest and freshest flavor now that they are in season.

1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh strawberries

1 chilled 12-ounce beer of your choice (support your local brewer — we used DC Brau’s The Public, a citrusy pale ale which complements the strawberries nicely)

Yes, that’s it.

Place strawberries in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle with a wooden spoon until the juice begins to run out — they shouldn’t be pulverized, but slightly mashed. Pour in the beer and stir gently. Let sit for a few minutes, then strain into a glass.

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.

A Monday Tipple? The Coffee Killer

Surprise, dear Boozers! Feeling a bit bleary-eyed as Monday smacks you in the face? We feel your pain. Inspired by a call for breakfast cocktail recipes by Mixology Monday and  Cocktail Enthusiast, we considered what exactly we need to get us going as the weekend fades away: 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 another week in the cubicle looming ahead, we may need a little coffee killer for breakfast 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, the type you’d pour over those frozen waffles before dashing off to your commute, but don’t succumb to Mrs. Butterworth’s. We added fruit to our breakfast drink 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 — Tuesday’s just around the corner.

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 go out and face the masses.

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: Tomato Water Martini

The leaves are starting to fall, dear Boozers. As the days shorten, we find ourselves with the last of the summer fruits gently rotting on the vine; you’ve probably seen them also, sadly tottering in untidy piles at the farmer’s market: tomatoes. They are usually rather ugly this time of year, coming in an odd assortment of colors, overripe to the point of implosion. These tomatoes are like wrinkled old women at the seaside determined to get one more day of sunshine before winter strips them of their tans. These tomatoes know that they are headed for the compost bin if they can’t attract your attention.

Luckily for them, we were inspired this week in the Good Booze kitchen by a recipe for tomato water in the latest issue of Imbibe and by a brand spanking new bottle of Square One Organic Cucumber Vodka. We treated this cocktail in the simplest way possible, much like our Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur — no need for fussiness here. The cucumber essence of the vodka combined with the slight tartness of the tomato water gives you one last tiny blast of summer, and, if you add a few drops of hot sauce (we like our local Uncle Brutha’s varieties), it turns out to be a pretty good way to combat the first head cold of the season. Either way, it’s a win-win, for you and those last desperate tomatoes of the year. Cheers!

Tomato Water Martini

One cup fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped, any variety

Chilled vodka (we like the Square One Cucumber rye vodka)

Kosher salt

Hot sauce (Uncle Brutha’s No. 9 Chile Verde Garlic & Ginger is our fave)

Kalamata olives for garnish (optional, of course)

Let the tomatoes sit at room temperature for a couple of hours. Wrap them in cheesecloth and squeeze them tightly to extract the juice, or press them through a fine-mesh sieve. Strain them again to remove any errant seeds or pulp. Pour two ounces of the tomato water and two ounces of vodka into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass, then sprinkle a pinch of Kosher salt over the top, add a few dashes of hot sauce, and garnish with Kalamata olives. Enjoy!

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.