The Garden Tipple: Sneaky Snally

Sneaky Snally

The beast is unleashed, Boozers. Here in the DC area, we’re preparing for a visit from the Snallygaster, a mythical creature that apparently once terrorized the region and now stops by once a year for a whole lotta beer. Seems reasonable.

The Snallygaster festival does have a whole lotta beer, but the one we’re most interested in this year is named for the festival itself and features a tasty little morsel that we’ve been growing in our cocktail garden this year: ground — or husk — cherries. Similar in appearance to yellow cherry tomatoes, these beauties grow in a paper husk like a tomatillo, and have a sweet pineapple-like flavor. To honor this year’s Snallygaster, we’ve gathered some of the ground cherries from our own garden and created a beer syrup for an end-of-summer cocktail that says “Bring it on,  you beast — bring it on.”

Sneaky Snally

We know, we’ve already frightened you off because you have no idea where you’ll find a ground cherry, and, admittedly, they are a bit of a specialty item. Be not disheartened, however; as we said, they taste very much like pineapple — which we also grew in the cocktail garden this year, even though we are hundreds of miles from the tropics — so we advise substituting a 1/2 cup of chopped pineapple when you make the syrup.

1 ounce Ground Cherry Beer Syrup with fruit

1.5 ounces chilled gin (we prefer Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin)

4 ounces chilled beer (we chose a summery, hoppy ale by DC Brau)

Several sprigs of fresh pineapple sage (regular sage or lemon balm also work nicely)

Put Ground Cherry Beer Syrup in the bottom of a tall chilled glass, being sure to include some fruit. Pour gin into the glass and stir well. Top with chilled beer and garnish with pineapple sage. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

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The Garden Tipple: Pickled Summer Martini

Pickled Martini

We’re a bit pickled, Boozers. A bumper crop of adorable Mexican Sour Gherkins in the cocktail garden left us somewhat overwhelmed, until we decided to just pickle the little darlings. And, to make it a bit more fun, we pickled them in tequila, which they liked just fine, thank you very much, providing us with two excellent ingredients for a perfectly summery martini: a pickled cucumber garnish and a tasty brine to stand in for the vermouth.

The trick to a really good martini is to make sure that every ingredient is really cold — from the liquor to the garnish to the glass itself — and there’s kind of nothing more luscious on a sticky summer evening when you’ve dragged yourself home from work than to be presented with a perfectly chilled cocktail just as you open the front door, calling out “Lucy, I’m home!” Our Pickled Summer Martini will hit that spot.

Pickled Summer Martini

Some people like a gin martini, some like vodka, so the liquor you use here is really up to you. We chose to use our favorite Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin, which is rye-based, because we like its herbaceous bite, but we can enjoy it equally well with the smooth richness of Boyd & Blair’s Potato Vodka. Check out your local distilleries and give them some love.

2 ounces chilled gin or vodka

1 ounce fresh cucumber juice (recipe below – you’ll need a cucumber)

a few drops of pickle brine, preferably from our Tequila-Pickled Gherkins  (you could also substitute brine from a jar of cornichons)

Several pickled gherkins or cornichons, for garnish

First, make the cucumber juice. Take a fresh peeled cucumber, cut into chunks, and put it in a blender with a tablespoon or two of water. Blend on high until liquefied, then strain. Discard pulp and chill the remaining liquid thoroughly, at least 30 minutes.

Then, take a martini glass and rinse the outside of it lightly in cold water, shaking off the excess. Then add a few drops of pickle brine to the glass and coat the glass well with the brine, pouring off any excess. Put a few pickled gherkins on a cocktail skewer and place in the glass, then put the whole thing in the freezer for 15 minutes. Chilling the garnish this way helps keep that martini really cold when you serve it.

When the cucumber juice and martini glass with the garnish are sufficiently chilled, pour the cucumber juice and gin or vodka into a cocktail shaker with a few ice cubes. Shake vigorously, then strain into the chilled martini glass with garnish. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

The Garden Tipple: Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch

Midsummer Night's Beer Punch

We have had a most rare vision, dear Boozers. Sunlight slanting low and golden across quiet orderly rows of tomatoes, beans, and peppers, suddenly distorted by the higgledy-piggledy madness of raspberry canes, climbing every which way in tangled curls of green and crimson. Warmed by the late-day sunshine, the scent is intoxicating and you find your fingers and lips stained with their sweetness. Such is a midsummer night, when inhibitions are thrown out into the soft breeze and a magical stillness settles into a contented soul.

Midsummer is an important time in many cultures, as the longest day of the year arrives with great fanfare, only to be immediately followed by gradually shortening days that herald the inevitable coming of winter. Fueled by a sense of urgency, we feel the need to gather our friends and dance with abandon in the open air, surrounded by barbecues and beer cans as we chase our dreams through the shadows. We like to celebrate such folly with our Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch, a heady blend of raspberry-infused gin, limoncello-spiked lemonade, and crisp summer ale. Consider yourself forewarned: though she be but little, she is fierce.

Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch

Here in the U.S., we tend to come just a bit late to the party by celebrating midsummer on the Fourth of July, and this punch is just right for a crowd. The trick is to try to keep everything well-chilled until just before serving — go rustic by mixing the lemonade and gin together in a large mason jar, then add a couple of cold beers to the jar as your guests begin to arrive. To keep it extra cold, try throwing in a few beer cubes.

2 cups chilled lemonade with 3/4 cup limoncello added (we like our local Don Ciccio & Figli limoncello)

1 cup chilled gin infused with raspberries and lemongrass (recipe here)

3 chilled beers (we used a summery ale by our local DC Brau)

Several slices of fresh orange and lemon

Using a punch bowl or a large mason jar, add all ingredients and stir together well. Serve immediately and replenish as necessary. Garnish with fresh lemongrass stalks if you have it.

 

The Garden Tipple: Naughty Miss Parsley

Naughty Miss Parsley

We’ve gone green, Boozers. It’s still just early summer and while we wait for the tomatoes to reach their full potential, we’re overrun with parsley, that riotous partygirl of the summer garden. Playful and coy with her head of green curls, Miss Parsley loves to be the center of attention as the garden party gets started, although she starts to flag once the serious heat sets in, wilting quietly in a corner, dreaming of her misspent youth.

Naughty Miss Parsley does tend to be highly prolific, and we are often at a loss to know what to do with such abundance — there’s only so much pistou really needed in any household. So we’ve gone and named a cocktail in her honor, filled with a glorious brilliant green parsley juice and just enough vodka to get the party started. Pace yourself, Miss Parsley, the night is young.

Naughty Miss Parsley

Parsley juice does sound like some awful hippie concoction that must be drunk during the waning moon while living in a commune tucked away in the rolling countryside of the Pacific Northwest, but it actually has a bright earthy flavor that somehow tastes like distilled summer in a glass. A snap to make, it pairs well with both vodka and gin, and can be a nice addition to a fresh Bloody Mary.

3 ounces fresh parsley juice (recipe here)

1.5 ounces vodka (we actually used Square One Cucumber Vodka this time, which added another fresh note to this cocktail)

1/2 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur

1 to 2 teaspoons of light agave nectar, to your taste

wedge of fresh lime

chilled club soda (optional)

Put first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Pour all contents into a tall glass and squeeze the lime over it. Can be served as is or topped off with an ounce of chilled club soda.

 

The Garden Tipple: Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

We’re full of vim and vinegar this week, dear Boozers. It’s Negroni Week, when our favorite magazine teams up with our favorite Italian liqueur to encourage local watering holes to mix up negroni cocktails for charity. A classic negroni is simple and elegant with just three ingredients: gin, Campari, and vermouth, generally served with a twist of orange. What’s nice about it is that while it is just perfect as it is, it’s also easy to riff off of it for fun new variations.

And so we went out to the farmers market and picked up a whole lot of fresh early summer strawberries, since our own cocktail garden’s strawberry plants aren’t yet at peak production, and made a beautiful and slightly tart strawberry-basil drinking vinegar. A drinking vinegar serves much the same purpose as a bitter liqueur like Campari, working as an excellent digestive agent when mixed with club soda. But, hell, we just like it anyway, especially when mixed up in a cocktail. So go out and have a negroni for charity, then come home and have a Strawberry Vinegar Negroni with friends.

Strawberry Vinegar Negroni

We love the flavor of Campari and didn’t want to replace it entirely with the Strawberry-Basil Drinking Vinegar, so we chose to create a Campari candied orange garnish, which is as simple as putting a 1/2 cup of Campari, 1/4 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar, and some fresh orange slices in a small saucepan and simmering over low heat until all that’s left is a really thick syrup coating the orange slices. Remove to a baking rack and let cool completely.

1 ounce gin (support your local distillery — we like Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

1 ounce sweet vermouth

1 ounce Strawberry-Basil Drinking Vinegar

chilled club soda

candied Campari orange slice for garnish (you can also just marinate orange slices in Campari for a couple of hours as an alternative garnish)

Put first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir vigorously. Pour into a glass with fresh ice, top with chilled club soda, and stir again. Garnish with candied Campari orange slice.

 

 

The Friday Tipple: La Primavera

La Primavera

We’re back on the spring bandwagon, Boozers. It keeps creeping ever closer, little by little, and we’re not about to argue. Flowers are blossoming, bees are buzzing, and the farmers markets are starting to feature fresh vegetables that did not grow under the ground — not that we don’t enjoy a good root vegetable as much as the next person. What we’re crushing on this week are those little darlings of spring, fresh sweet peas.

Before you recoil in horror, let us say that these are not cafeteria peas, cooked down to mush with a color that can only be described as, well, pea green. These are those charmingly cherubic spheres that are the brightest hue of spring green, like a new blade of grass and just as sweet. And, yes, they make a lovely cocktail. We know it’s hard to fathom, but open your minds, just like you are opening your windows to a soft spring breeze — if you must drink your vegetables, then this is surely the way to do it.

La Primavera

We created this recipe for Don Ciccio & Figli, an absolutely wonderful distiller of seriously hand-made Italian liqueurs in Washington, DC. Each flavor is like a jewel-toned work of art; this particular drink features limoncello, and a good limoncello should be a clear lemon-yellow color (not day-glo yellow, which likely means artificial colors have been added) and you should be overwhelmed with the scent of fresh lemons when you open the bottle — if it smells like Country Time Lemonade, then something has gone seriously wrong.

1 ounce fresh pea juice
2 ounces limoncello
1 ounce gin (we always use Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin; please support your local distiller)
chilled club soda (optional — see below)

Make the fresh pea juice: take 1/2 cup clean peas (you can use frozen peas if fresh are not available, just defrost them first) and put them in a blender with 1/2 cup water. Purée thoroughly, then strain completely so that you have just a clear green liquid. Can be refrigerated for up to two days.

Place first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake thoroughly. At this point, you have two options: strain into a cosmopolitan glass and drink it as is, or pour into a tall glass filled with ice and top with chilled club soda. It’s preferable to garnish with early spring strawberries, sweet cherry tomatoes, or a few fresh pea shoots, but a lemon wedge will do just as well.

 

The Friday Tipple: La Violette

La Violette

Spring has sprung, Boozers. Bees are buzzing, flowers are blooming, and all appears to be right with the world. At least until summer humidity arrives.

Standard garden-variety flowers make lovely cocktails, if only you know what to do with them. It’s simple enough: grab a handful of petals — after determining, of course, that they are not poisonous — and then throw them into a simple syrup or use them to infuse some vodka, gin, or white wine. For us, the essence of spring is the precious little violet, peeping shyly from the new green grass in exotic hues of purple and yellow; its flavor is soft and slightly woodsy, giving a fresh essence to a spring cocktail, along with a delicate violet color. Vive le printemps.

La Violette

Infused simple syrups are, of course, wildly easy to make, and our Violet Simple Syrup is no exception. The color will be a deep green, but, when added to liquid, it will become a charming shade of pale violet. There is the barest soupçon of Chartreuse in this recipe, but you can skip it entirely if you don’t have a bottle at home, or feel free to substitute a few drops of St. Germain if you have a bottle of that on hand.

1.5 ounces gin or vodka (we prefer Boyd & Blair Vodka or Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

3 drops Chartreuse or St. Germain (optional, but definitely no more than 3 drops)

Chilled club soda

large teaspoon Violet Simple Syrup

Violet for garnish (try dipping it briefly in simple syrup then let it air dry)

small wedge of fresh lemon

Fill a glass with ice and add the gin or vodka and a few drops of the Chartreuse or St. Germain. Top with the chilled club soda and the Violet Simple Syrup and stir well. Garnish with the candied or fresh violet and add a tiny squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving (discard the lemon, do not serve with the cocktail itself).

 

 

 

The Friday Tipple: Brighter Than Sunshine

Brighter Than Sunshine

We’re waving the white flag, Boozers. Faced with another frigid day on a dreary winter landscape, we’re dreaming of summer and sunshine, even as we know we’ll regret those dreams on a muggy August midnight. No matter, as we cry “Uncle” repeatedly… Whither are thou, o Persephone, goddess of spring?

While we generally embrace the locavore mindset, even we have to give in every so often and search for products that can only be found in some far-off clime in that other hemisphere, where they are reveling in the glories of summer as we shiver here in the frozen north. And so we gravitated toward a box of luscious ruby-red raspberries, beckoning to us with their plump cheeriness, sweetly tart and sparking long-ago memories of rustling barefoot through the raspberry canes in the mid-summer sunshine, fingers and lips stained red with their juice, an Aqualung tune providing a wistfully appropriate soundtrack.

To those weighed down by a long winter, we present you with Brighter Than Sunshine. You deserve it.

Brighter Than Sunshine

We are so desperate for a shot of sunshine that we won’t waste time by waxing poetic any longer. Stop on the way home tonight for a box of raspberries, a couple of lemons, club soda, gin and limoncello, and you’ll be good to go.

2 ounces gin (yes, vodka is fine too. We just happen to like Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin. A lot.)

1 ounce limoncello (we use our local Don Ciccio and Figli)

1 tablespoon simple syrup

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

6 fresh raspberries

chilled club soda

sugared lemon wheel for garnish

Place raspberries in the bottom of a tall glass and lightly crush with a bar spoon. Add simple syrup, lemon juice, and gin and stir together; top with several ice cubes and fill glass with club soda, stirring to combine. Pour limoncello over the top and garnish with sugared lemon wheel. Serve immediately.

 

 

The Friday Tipple: Shirley’s Valentine

Shirley's Valentine

We’re feeling nostalgic, Boozers. What with the passing of an American icon and our misty-eyed fondness for love in all its forms, we felt the need for a special cocktail today. The Shirley Temple, of course, is a sweet homage to the child star of the same name, perhaps most adored by generations of children for a typically generous garnish of maraschino cherries. Of course, as we age, we learn that love is, indeed, bittersweet, yet we still can delight in its moments of perfection.

Today we’ve gone slightly old-school with Shirley’s Valentine, a kind of Negroni with a twist or two, rather like the twists and turns of love. No matter who you spend your Valentine’s Day with, bring Shirley along for the ride and let love blossom.

Shirley’s Valentine

A classic Negroni is composed of gin, vermouth, and Campari; we like the idea of using gin in our grown-up version of a Shirley Temple because gin was the liquor of choice in the grown-up films of Miss Temple’s heyday, showing up in cocktails sipped by elegantly-dressed women in silk charmeuse and men in black tie. A house-made cherry-ginger soda and Luxardo maraschino liqueur give the whole thing a sweet bite.

1 ounce gin (we prefer Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin)

1 ounce Luxardo

1/2 ounce Campari

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

2 teaspoons maraschino cherry liquid (yes, from a jar of maraschino cherries)

chilled club soda

fresh orange peel (for garnish)

In a cocktail shaker, mix together the ginger, maraschino cherry liquid, and 2 ounces of the chilled club soda. Add a few ice cubes and then the gin and Luxardo; stir vigorously, then strain into a tall glass filled with ice (heart-shaped cubes are a nice touch). Add more club soda to fill glass almost to the rim, stirring again, then pour Campari over the top and garnish with fresh orange peel (twist over glass to release essential oils). Enjoy.

The Snow Day Tipple: Winter Warmers

Potlikker Sangria

It’s still winter, Boozers. While we know that you may be longing for springtime and flip-flops, many of us are still tromping around in snowboots and hunkering down with a bottle of whiskey. And so, with that in mind, we’ve collected for you today a list of warm winter cocktails. Because liquor stores never close.

An Epiphany

Daisy’s Cup

Earl’s Cup

Hot Buttered Rum Toddy

Lavender Lemonade with Hot Gin

Mexican Cocoa Martini with Drunken Fluff

Nutella Whiskey Dream

Parade Punsch

Potlikker Sangria

Sick Day

Sochi Dreams

Tailgater’s Toddy

Tex-Mex Cocoa

And, for those who are feeling a tad more adventurous:

Arctic Char

Blizzard Shot

Gin Mickey

incidental musings on moonshine

Robert Frost-ini

Sochi Dreams

Published in: on February 13, 2014 at 12:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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