The Friday Tipple: Highclere Highball

Highclere Highball

It’s the weekend, Boozers. And, unlike the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey, we know exactly what that is. We’ve worked our little fingers to the bone all week and we’re deserving of a cocktail. As devotees of what appears to be the most popular soap opera in the U.K. and the U.S., we enjoy imagining life above stairs, when Carson delivers a frosty drink to us in the drawing room at the end of the day as we warm our weary limbs by a crackling fire. First world problems, indeed.

The real Downton Abbey is, of course, Highclere Castle, which has quite the storied history of its own and whose owners saved it from financial ruin by hiring the estate out to the highest bidder, in the grand old tradition of land barons suddenly faced with taxation. It’s a tough row to hoe, lords and ladies, and the Highclere Highball rewards that hard labor with a spot of sherry, a slug of gin, and a touch of ginger beer mingling together for all the world like the chauffeur dallying with the daughter of the house. Drink up — Monday’s just around the corner.

Highclere Highball

Sherry cocktails are a long-standing tradition in the most elegant London watering holes but Americans have long eschewed sherry as a viable sipper until recently. There are several types of sherry beyond the amontillado made famous by our own Edgar Allen Poe; we prefer a dry sherry like a fino which takes well to being chilled.

2 ounces chilled dry sherry

1 ounce chilled gin (we prefer the spicy bite of Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin)

2 ounces chilled ginger beer

a few drops of citrus bitters (we like Hella Citrus Bitters)

1 blood orange, freshly juiced (you can use a standard orange if necessary)

slice of blood orange for garnish

Put first five ingredients in a tall (highball) glass filled with ice, stir briskly, and garnish with slice of blood orange. Serve immediately.

The Friday Tipple: Tall, Dark, and Handsome

Faith and begorrah, Boozers — St. Patrick’s Day is looming large. Ireland has brought us some lovely things: Guinness, Bono, Enya, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Guinness, Baileys… did we mention Guinness? The good people of Ireland will tell you that St. Patrick’s Day is not a day to spend in drinking and carousing, but rather in attending religious services and communing with family. We’re not buying it.

Normally, we’d sink ourselves into a pint or two of creamy Beamish, perhaps accompanied by a dram of whiskey, but the groundhog seems to have made a mighty mistake this year on his weather predictions. Spring sprang some weeks back and we have moved onto summer at a pretty fast clip. Which made us long for a classic Dark & Stormy, that harbinger of warm weather fun.

Today’s Tipple is the best of all worlds, we think — a bit of a Shandy crossed with a Stormy, perfect for an unseasonably warm St. Patrick’s Day. Go ahead, get your green on. Beannachtam na Femle Padraig!

Tall, Dark, and Handsome

We tend to think of the Irish as being magically beautiful with lilting accents that will charm the socks off us. Of course, that could just be the alcohol talking, but why quibble? You could substitute a shot of Irish whiskey for the black rum, but we think it adds a splash of warm sunshine to the richness of the stout.

3 ounces chilled ginger beer (we prefer a Bermuda-style like Barritts)

3 ounces chilled stout (we do love the aforementioned Irish brands, but also enjoy local varieties, such as Dogfish Head Chicory Stout)

1 ounce Gosling’s Black Seal Rum (150 proof)

Pour the ginger beer into a tall glass. Layer the stout over the top to maintain a little golden glow at the bottom of the glass. Pour rum over the top. Take a cab when you go out to hit the pubs.


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.

Seriously wicked pickled ginger syrup

So, we’re a little obsessed with infused simple syrups right now in the Good Booze kitchen. We acknowledge that an intervention may need to be staged at some point, but until then, just look the other way. A little sugar and water never hurt anybody.

You can walk into pretty much any restaurant these days and find a list of fancy cocktails of which at least one will, inevitably, feature a ginger simple syrup. So, we set out to make a standard ginger syrup until suddenly inspired by the giant bowl of fruit and vinegar currently marinating on the kitchen counter (keep an eye out for that recipe soon), which sent us running to the Asian foods section of the local grocery store in search of a jar of pickled sushi ginger.

The resulting syrup is luscious and peppery, with a distinct tang of vinegar. It will take a star turn in The Friday Tipple this week, but, more importantly, it would be amazing drizzled over creamy vanilla ice cream, as a spicy counterpoint to a rich flourless chocolate torte, or added to club soda for a homemade pickled ginger beer. And we’re pretty sure a spoonful of it might just cure the common cold.

Wicked Pickled Ginger Syrup

We used a raw sugar/cane sugar combination with this recipe, to help deepen the flavor and color. For the pickled sushi ginger, we used a piquant organic variety by The Ginger People, not the dyed-pink stuff that you usually see piled up next to the wasabi on your sushi plate. And don’t throw out the ginger pieces after you’ve strained the syrup — it’s candied pickled ginger gold! We put ours in the fridge and think they make a delicious addition to Greek yogurt and ice cream.

1 cup raw turbinado sugar

1 cup cane sugar

2 cups water

1 jar (6.7 ounces) pickled sushi ginger in vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a rolling simmer, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to low and allow to reduce for about 30 minutes, until you get a slightly thickened syrup. Cool in saucepan, then strain into a jar or squeeze bottle. Kept refrigerated, it should last at least three months.