The Garden Tipple: Iced Amalfi Americano

Iced Amalfi Americano

We’re preparing for deprivation, Boozers. Apparently there’s a coffee shortage looming, courtesy of drought and disease, so we feel the need to stock up while we can. With the temperatures rising, we began to crave Thai Iced Coffee, but a charming little Cinnamon Basil plant jauntily growing in the windowbox made us consider a more Mediterranean twist — logically bringing us to our friends at Don Ciccio & Figli and their tasty little Italian liqueur known as Concerto, brimming with the flavors of the Amalfi coast.

This summer, as we explore cocktails from the garden, we’re bringing you a Garden Tipple each week, with today’s offering, the Iced Amalfi Americano, featuring one of our favorite tricks: the cocktail cube. A few weeks back, we picked up a Cinnamon Basil plant from the local home improvement store for a couple of bucks, and we’re obsessed with its spicy cinnamon flavor, which adds a zingy essence when chopped up and added to an ice cube. As the cube melts into your drink, the flavors subtly shift and deepen — the easiest way to add new layers to what could be an otherwise ordinary drink. Try it with fresh mint for a mojito, thyme for a gin-and-lemonade, and even garlic chives for an amped-up Bloody Mary.

Iced Amalfi Americano

A confection made from barley and espresso, Concerto is just about perfection when used in a coffee-based cocktail, but another coffee-based liqueur will do just as well, such as a traditional Kahlua or Patron XO Cafe.

3 ounces cold-brewed coffee with a pinch of dried cardamom

1.5 ounces espresso-based liqueur

2 ounces coconut milk half-n-half (we like So Delicious; you can use regular half-n-half)

1 ounce unaged whiskey (this is optional, but we strongly suggest it; we used Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit)

4 cinnamon basil ice cubes

We like to make sure that every element of this cocktail is well-chilled, so it’s nice to put together some of the elements in advance and put them back in the refrigerator to chill for an hour or so before serving — or mix up enough for four or five drinks and leave it in the refrigerator for up to a week, ready to drink when you are.

First, make the cubes. You’ll need several clean cinnamon basil leaves (other varieties of basil work well also, such as Thai basil), cut into a fine chiffonade. Put the basil leaves and about half a cup of water into a blender and blend on high until the leaves are pulverized and the water is green. Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid.

Next, mix together the coffee and espresso liqueur and put in the refrigerator to chill, then mix together the half-n-half and the unaged whiskey and put that into the refrigerator to chill.

To assemble the drink: Pour the chilled half-n-half mixture into the bottom of a tall glass. Add several of the basil cubes and then pour the coffee mixture into the glass. Enjoy.

 

Advertisements

The Friday Tipple: Sochi Dreams

Sochi Dreams

We’re feeling a little international, Boozers. There are those who say that sports transcend geographical borders, drawing people together from all parts of the globe to cheer on their favorite athletes in every sport imaginable, from ping-pong to diving to cricket to curling. Some sports place emphasis on the individual while others are all about team effort.

A cocktail, of course, is a team effort in which each individual must play its part to complete the whole. We’ve been honored to work with some tasty liqueurs by one of our hometown favorites, Don Ciccio & Figli, crafting several combinations that celebrate flavors from around the world. With the Winter Olympics approaching, we’ve decided to cozy up with our version of a White Russian, which we’re calling Sochi Dreams. Sip it whether you dream of Olympic glory or for greater equality everywhere. За любовь!

Sochi Dreams

For this particular cocktail, we combined Don Ciccio & Figli’s Concerto (a barley and espresso-based liqueur) with Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, a white whiskey that we think makes a great substitute for vodka. However, we enjoy vodka as much as the next person, so when we make this with vodka, we like Boyd & Blair potato vodka, which has a nice clean and crisp finish.

1 ounce Don Ciccio & Figli Concerto 
1 ounce white whiskey or vodka
2 ounces coconut milk (we used So Delicious Coconut Creamer)
1/2 ounce cinnamon tincture (Bittermen’s Hiver Amer works really well also)

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, shake thoroughly, and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe or martini glass. Dust with grated nutmeg (optional). For a variation, pour over ice into a rocks glass, preferably coffee ice cubes instead of just plain ice cubes.

The Friday Tipple: Fall Classic

Fall Classic

We’ve fallen and we can’t get up, dear Boozers. Autumn appears to have truly arrived, as leaves of every color are whipped around in a stiff wind and the storm windows are shut against the chill. And apples, apples are everywhere, stacked up in untidy piles on the kitchen counter, challenging us in their cheerful hues of red and green: “We dare you to do something with us besides make pie.”

Oh, we’ll take that challenge, and we’ll make a fresh apple shrub out of it. Some of you might call it a drinking vinegar, but the term “shrub” sounds weirdly sexier, in a Colonial sort of way, and we all know how Ben Franklin felt about apples. Not only that, it couldn’t be easier to make, because a shrub is little more than fruit, vinegar, and sugar, simmered into a lovely spicy syrup (there’s a cold-brew method as well, which we will detail below, but it was nippy in the kitchen and we wanted to warm up). When diluted with club soda, it’s a perfect mixer for a fall evening by the fireplace. Gather round it with your friends and boost the immune system at the same time. Cheers.

Fall Classic

It’s so easy to make a shrub that we decided to make a tasty garnish as well — a caraway seed brittle, to be precise. Brittles are not always as easy as they look, but basically it’s simply a cup of water, two cups of sugar, a small knob of butter, and a couple of tablespoons of caraway seeds cooked over medium heat until it becomes thick and syrupy (if you stop cooking too soon, you’ll end up with a caramel). Whisk in a teaspoon of baking soda, then spread it out onto an oiled baking sheet, sprinkle a little sea salt over the top, and let it harden. Voilà.

to make the fresh apple shrub:

3 apples, grated

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup sugar (we used maple sugar)

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

a pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain, pressing grated apple thoroughly to get out all the liquid. Cool completely; can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. To cold brew, simply place all the ingredients in a mason jar and put it in the fridge for 4 or 5 days, then strain as directed.

to make the Fall Classic:

1.5 ounces fresh apple shrub

2 ounces rye whiskey (we used Catoctin Creek Organic Roundstone Rye)

1/2 ounce fennel or anise liqueur (we used Don Ciccio & Figli Finocchietto)

chilled club soda

caraway seed brittle for garnish (optional, but just right)

Combine first three ingredients in a tall glass with ice and stir well. Top with club soda, stir briskly, and garnish with caraway brittle.

Other options: While we like rye in this drink, it also works well with bourbon or rum. Some anise liqueurs that will work well include absinthe, galliano, ouzo, pastis, and sambuca.

The Friday Tipple: This Little Figgy

This Little Figgy

We’re feeling figgy, Boozers. The neighbors just dropped off a giant bag of fresh figs, because their tree is overflowing and it is, after all, fig season. You may have seen these funny little wonders in the farmer’s market and wondered what to do with them. Fig bars? Figgy pudding? Toasted under the broiler with gorgonzola? The list is endless, really.

We, of course, lean toward the cocktail. Figs lend themselves to cocktails quite well, actually — when added into alcohol, their texture provides a certain silky mouthfeel which makes any drink seem quite sexy. They also have a luscious sweetness which combines well with many other flavors. For our concoction, which we fondly call This Little Figgy, we like the addition of Finocchietto, a fennel liqueur made by one of our favorite local distillers, Don Ciccio & Figgli, but you could substitute another anise-based liqueur such as absinthe or even dust off that bottle of Galliano that you are never quite sure how to use. Get your fig on.

This Little Figgy

On a recent trip to the great state of New York, we were intrigued to discover Core Vodka, which is distilled from apples. The flavor is clean and crisp — this is not an apple-flavored vodka, but simply the essence of apples distilled into vodka. Paired with the fresh fall flavors of fennel and fig, This Little Figgy is like a bright September day poured into a glass.

2 fresh figs

3 ounces vodka

1 ounce Finocchietto or other anise liqueur

2 dashes orange or grapefruit bitters (The Bitter Truth has good varieties of each)

Cut the figs in half and use a spoon to remove the flesh from three of the halves, setting the final half aside for garnish. Put the fig flesh into a cocktail shaker and add the vodka, mashing together. Set aside for a few minutes, then add the Finocchietto, bitters, and a couple of ice cubes. Shake vigorously. Remove the larger pieces of fig (this makes it easier to strain) and strain into a cosmopolitan glass. Garnish with the remaining half of fig.

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.

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: A Good Booze Classic

Labor Day approaches, Boozers. And, with that, we’ve decided to stop and smell the late summer roses and revisit a Good Booze Classic known as Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur. Similar to a sipping tequila, this lovely little libation needs no frills or fripperies — like a perfect day at the beach, all you need is a gentle breeze and a friendly companion.

You can view the original post here, which waxes poetic on earthquakes, hurricanes, and overripe peaches. We’ve also included our favorite version of the recipe below — if you set it up today, you will indeed have something tasty to sip on the front porch come Monday afternoon, as you sadly wave goodbye to the final hours of summer. Keep a kleenex handy.

Last Gasp of Summer Liqueur

While you can make this with any fruit or liquor that you prefer, we find that this particular recipe truly captures the flavors of late summer. This liqueur is also perfect in our Margarita Aperitif, which takes the essence of a classic margarita and distills it down into two ounces of perfection. If you don’t finish it all in one go, make sure to keep the liqueur refrigerated, or it becomes slightly bitter. 

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. Stores in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

The Friday Tipple: Birthday Cake Shot

Happy birthday, Boozers! Well, maybe it’s not your birthday yet, but we had a birthday here at Good Booze this week, and we are still celebrating. You may enjoy a little special libation on your own birthday, and we couldn’t agree more. So, we went trolling around on the glorious Google world looking for the legendary Birthday Cake Shooter. It’s purported to taste like a birthday cake — who could resist?

The basic recipe calls for either citrus or vanilla vodka, paired with Frangelico and a sugar-coated lemon slice on the side. However, with apologies to Frangelico, we find it a bit too sweet, so we went for Nocello instead — an Italian walnut liqueur that is slightly more subtle. And, while there are plenty of vanilla vodkas on the market, it’s a breeze to infuse your own, and, because it was our birthday, we wanted a really good vodka, not just some run-of-the-mill variety. We recently came across Boyd & Blair Vodka in our quest to drink local first; they are not exactly right around the corner, but their distillery is close enough to fall into what we like to call the Mid-Atlantic Liquor Watershed.

While we’re not quite sure that the Birthday Cake Shot tastes exactly like a slice of birthday cake, it is certainly a tasty little morsel that may help distract you from your advancing age. Just don’t forget to blow out the candle first. Many happy returns!

Birthday Cake Shot

1 ounce Vanilla Vodka (we like to infuse Boyd & Blair vodka —instructions below)

1 ounce Nocello liqueur

1 lemon slice, coated in sugar

Shake vodka and Nocello in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a shot glass, with the lemon on the side. Shoot down the Birthday Cake, then suck on the lemon. Yum.

How to infuse vodka with vanilla:

It’s embarrassingly easy. Put a cup of vodka in a mason jar. Add a vanilla bean that has been split down the center. Let sit in a cool dark place for a few days, remove the vanilla bean, and enjoy.

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.

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.