The Friday Tipple: The Good Friday

The Good Friday

TGIF, Boozers. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, an emphatic TGIF. For many people across the globe, this week also represents the observation of Passover and Easter, a time for reflection upon and appreciation of all that is both bitter and sweet.

We always find Fridays, in general, to be bittersweet, as we struggle to stay focused on the work necessary to pay the bills while already lamenting the scant few hours ahead that allow us to escape the daily grind. We find ourselves easily distracted, rushing headlong into the weekend and the joys of sleeping in because we sat up in the wee hours watching infomercials while munching on microwave pizza in bed.

For this particular Friday, it feels right to come home to a special cocktail that we’re calling, appropriately enough, The Good Friday. By turns bitter, sweet, celebratory, and slightly numbing, it could set the tone for your two days of respite – or simply give you a few moments of blissful ignorance.

The Good Friday

Most people think of Campari only in connection with club soda and a wedge of lime, but Campari adds a silky bittersweet note to many cocktails and is particularly nice when paired with flavors that are sweet, fruity, and botanical.

1 ounce silver tequila (we like Avion, which is rather herbaceous and gin-like with a bite)

1 ounce Campari

1/2 large fresh orange

chilled Prosecco or sparkling wine

Place tequila and Campari in a cocktail shaker and squeeze the orange into it thoroughly, including some pulp. Add an ice cube, stir briskly, and strain into a chilled coupe. Top with an ounce or so of Prosecco and enjoy.

 

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The Friday Tipple: Dilbert’s Dilemma

Dilbert's Dilemma

Feeling downtrodden, dear Boozers? We understand. In a world where there are those who delight in stepping on the backs of others to achieve their petty goals, it’s hard to be the guy who just wants to quietly punch the clock and pick up a paycheck. Not everyone cares about movin’ on up, but try telling that to the eager beaver who just assigned you a 200-page analysis of the efficacy of traditional paper clips versus mini binder clips, in the hopes that it will bump them up in the estimation of some pencil-pushing muckety-muck who never heard of paying overtime.

Sigh.

All this means that you’re really going to need a drink when you get home from a weary day of banging your head softly against the wall of your cubicle. A classic drink of the workingman is the Boilermaker — essentially just a beer and a shot of whiskey, clearly designed to take the pain away before the factory whistle has even finished blowing at the end of the workday. We call our version Dilbert’s Dilemma, a slightly more subtle combination that can be savored as you slump gratefully in the La-Z-Boy in front of a flickering screen. Don’t let The Man get you down.

Dilbert’s Dilemma

While a beer syrup forms the basis of this cocktail — a simple combination of beer, sugar, and some spices — it’s the simple act of coating the interior glass with a small amount of orange liqueur that creates a new depth of flavor.

2 ounces of whiskey (or 3 if it’s been a rough week; we like Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)

1/2 ounce Beer Syrup (recipe here)

1/4 ounce orange liqueur (Don Ciccio & Figli Mandarinetto, Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec will work)

orange peel for garnish

Pour the whiskey and beer syrup into a cocktail shaker and stir briskly to combine. Pour the orange liqueur into the glass and swirl it all around the inside of the glass to coat completely. Add the blended whiskey and beer syrup to the glass and garnish with orange peel. Drink up.

The Friday Tipple: Et Tu, Brutus?

Et Tu, Brutus?

We’re feeling nostalgic again, Boozers. A common winter ailment has left us craving vitamin C, which caused us to reminisce fondly about that childhood food court staple, the Orange Julius. Frothy and delicious, creamy and orange, there was no treat more prized when dragged to the mall in search of new snow boots or Power Rangers underwear. The promise of it served to make the torture of waiting for Mother to purchase the perfect pocket squares for Dad almost bearable.

While an Orange Julius has next to nothing to do with the Roman emperor of the same name, we find ourselves thinking of togas and chariot races nonetheless, and Italy is, of course, simply dripping with fresh oranges, so we don’t think it such a stretch to imagine that Caesar would have enjoyed a refreshing frozen orange concoction to help him while away a long hot afternoon at the baths. Et Tu, Brutus? is our version, just kicked up a notch or two. Enjoy it as you plan your next conquest.

Et Tu, Brutus?

Vanilla-laced vodka and mandarinetto – basically limoncello made with oranges – are a lovely combination for this grown-up treat. If you can, infuse a good vodka with a couple of split vanilla beans for a week or two; otherwise you can use a good vodka and scrape a vanilla bean into the mixture or simply add a good quality pure vanilla extract. Most homemade versions of the Orange Julius will tell you to use defrosted orange juice concentrate and ice cubes, but we prefer to make ours with frozen orange juice cubes – simply pour fresh orange juice into an ice cube tray and freeze until solid, about two hours.

4 frozen orange juice cubes

1 ounce vodka (we prefer Boyd & Blair)

1 ounce Mandarinetto (our favorite is Don Ciccio & Figli – you can use another orange liqueur like Grand Marnier if necessary)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or scrape one vanilla bean)

2 ounces coconut milk or cream (we like So Delicious Coconut Milk Half-n-Half)

1 teaspoon orange blossom honey or other sweetener

1/2 teaspoon baking soda (this counteracts the acidity of the orange juice)

additional ice cubes and fresh orange juice as needed

orange wedge for garnish

Put first seven ingredients in a blender and blend until well-combined, thick, and frothy. Add additional ice cubes if too liquid, add orange juice if too frozen. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with orange wedge and a straw; serve immediately.

The Friday Tipple: The Resolution

The Resolution

Ah, Boozers, we know how you feel. You rang in the new year with boisterous joy, then resolved to undo all the damage of the holiday season — Grandma’s butter cookies, those three fruitcakes, and a pound or two of chocolate snowmen. Yet here we are, just two weeks into the new year and your good intentions are already a dream deferred.

Our philosophy is to turn any resolution into an excuse for happy hour. Go to the gym, then finish up that final push-up at happy hour. Eat a salad, go to happy hour. Throw out the Christmas tree… well, you get it. It’s always 5 o’clock somewhere.

So we’ve decided this week to kill two birds with one stone and turn a health drink into our happy hour cocktail of choice. Kombucha, a kind of carbonated tea drink, is popping up everywhere these days, purportedly chock full of probiotics and other healthy junk, and makes a great base for a cocktail. You can even make it at home, although, as it takes a few weeks to properly ferment, you may want to just buy some at the health food store tonight on your way home. Add a slug of good-for-you gin (it’s full of herbs, right?) and you’re good to go. Resolutions be damned.

The Resolution

Kombucha has a lovely vinegary fizzy quality somewhat akin to fermented cider and it pairs really well with a variety of herbs and spices. If you make your own, you can experiment with different ingredients, and if you use a store-bought variety, you can still add some flavors to make it uniquely your own. As to liquor, you can really use whatever you like, but we prefer the herbaceous qualities of gin here.

1 fresh orange

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1.5 ounces gin (we enjoy our local Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin, which is organic and so, of course, extra healthy)

1 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur

chilled Kombucha (when we use store-bought, we like our local Capital Kombucha)

fresh orange peel for garnish

Squeeze the orange directly into the bottom of a tall glass, add the cinnamon and stir well to combine. Add several ice cubes, then gin, St. Germaine, and top off with Kombucha. Stir briskly, garnish with orange peel, and drink to your good health.

The Friday Tipple: Shutdown Shandy

Shutdown Shandy

We’re shaking our heads, Boozers. In days of yore, political opponents secreted themselves away in wood-paneled cloakrooms with a bottle of bourbon, a box of cigars, and a fistful of favors, trading  barbs until a deal was done. This modern game of I’ll-hold-my-breath-until-my-face-turns-blue does not sit well with us, as the trash begins to pile up and valuable medical research is abandoned and firefighters are forced to cool their heels at home. We think it’s time for Congress to suck it up and suck one down.

And so we present the Shutdown Shandy for consideration. Because hot air is still hovering over the nation’s capital, in more ways than one, we’ve opted for a cold one, combining it with a hefty shot of whiskey for good measure. However, it’s the Melting Pot Simple Syrup that brings it all together, a melding of everything that makes America great – sweet, spicy, sour, salty – coming together for the common good. Mix one up, Congress, and get it together.

Shutdown Shandy

We love a good garnish, so for this Tipple we went for some oven-dried orange slices. Simply slice an orange into round disks, dust them with confectioner’s sugar, and place them on a baking sheet in a 200-degree oven for about two hours. Once they’re dried out with a brilliant orange hue, you can store them for a week or two in an airtight container.

12 ounces chilled lager or ale (we used DC Brau’s The Corruption)
1.5 ounces whiskey (support your local economy – we used Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye)
1 large spoonful of Melting Pot Simple Syrup (recipe below)
Oven-dried orange wheel for garnish (optional, but you should do it)

Put first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker, stir briskly, strain into two rocks glasses (because this is not meant to drink alone), and spoon a dollop of the foam left in the shaker on top of each drink. Garnish and toast to your continued friendship and cooperation.

Melting Pot Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 fresh lemon
1 tablespoon freshly chopped ginger
1/2 cup fresh clean basil leaves (we used Thai Basil for an extra spicy note)
Big pinch of Kosher salt

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Squeeze lemon into the pan, then drop in the lemon and add the ginger, basil, and salt. Stir to combine and bring to a rolling simmer. Reduce heat to very low and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes. Can be strained and stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

The Friday Tipple: Back to School Shandy

Back to School Shandy

Our nest has emptied, Boozers. As the fledgling stood uncertainly on the edge, we gave a mighty shove right between the shoulder blades, calling behind the offspring’s flapping wings: “For God’s sake, if you must drink beer, at least make it good beer!”. Because there’s really nothing sadder than social media pictures of overeager freshmen clutching cans of Coors Light.

And so now it’s cocktails à deux, as these wayward parental units sit back and contemplate life without PTA meetings, smelly sports equipment, and teen angst. Taking it slowly as we ease into the unknown, we’re starting off with a classic shandy, with a bit of a twist: beer cubes. As our loyal Boozers know, we have a long love affair with cubes of all sorts, as they help change the character of a drink while they melt and meld. Cubes also have the added benefit of looking somewhat innocent at the start, slowly becoming more devious as time goes on — not unlike the fledgling now flapping off into the sunset.

Back to School Shandy

A sparkling lemonade creates the base for this little Tipple, which you can make yourself by making a strong lemonade and then topping it off with seltzer water. We actually used a tasty bottled variety called Spindrift, which was lightly sweet, somewhat tart, and filled with a bubbly effervescence — rather like the offspring.

5 ounces chilled sparkling lemonade
1 ounce limoncello (we like our local Don Ciccio & Figli)
3 – 4 beer cubes (recipe below)

Put all ingredients into a tall glass (or a classic red Solo cup, if you want to relive your college days), stir briskly, garnish with a slice of lemon, and enjoy.

Beer Cubes:

12-ounce can or bottle of beer (for God’s sake, make it good — we used Shift Lager this time)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup citrus juice (we used both orange and lime)

Put all ingredients into a bowl, whisk together, and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid, about 4 or 5 hours.

The Friday Tipple: Smokey Sour

Smokey Sour

Fire up the grill, Boozers. It’s been too hot to cook indoors, so we’re livin’ large in the backyard, armed with charcoal, a pair of tongs, and a few toe-tapping R&B tunes. Of course, we see no reason to restrict our grilling glory to chunks of protein or marshmallows on a stick, so we decided to grill us up a cocktail. Welcome to the Smokey Sour.

Inspired by our own Whiskey Cherry Syrup, a jar of which now resides in the fridge from last Friday’s delectable Michigan Cherry Beer, we felt in the mood for riffing off a classic Whiskey Sour. A basic sour mix consists of fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, creating a lip-puckering base, but we mixed things up a little by throwing several different kinds of citrus straight onto the barbecue. Lightly charred, these lemons, limes, and oranges plump up with an intensified flavor that is fragrant with both smoke and sunshine. Should you be deprived of a backyard grill, don’t despair — an open flame of any kind will do the trick. Just crank up some Motown and get groovin’.

Smokey Sour

While this grilled sour base is a mix of citrus fruits, we prefer to keep it lemony with a hint of orange for sweetness, then we add our favorite local rye whiskey from Catoctin Creek to give it a peppery undertone — the result is a perfect combination of sweet, sour, spicy, and smoky.

6 large lemons, halved

3 limes, halved

1 orange, halved

Whiskey Cherry Syrup (click here to find the recipe)

2 ounces whiskey

a whisper of Grand Marnier (triple sec will work, too)

chilled lemon-lime soda (we love small-batch varieties like Maine Root)

slices of grilled lemon and orange for garnish (technically optional, but do it anyway)

Place citrus fruits flesh-side down onto a hot grill over a medium-high flame. Grill for a minute or two until the flesh just starts to blister and char, then place into a large heat-proof bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the fruit to cool. When cooled, juice the fruit, mix all the juices together, and discard the seeds. The juice may now be refrigerated for up to two weeks.

In a cocktail shaker, add 3 ounces of the juice, 2 teaspoons of the Whiskey Cherry Syrup, 2 ounces of whiskey, and the barest splash of Grand Marnier. Add several ice cubes, cover, and shake vigorously. Pour contents into a highball glass, add a few cherries from the Whiskey Cherry Syrup, and top with a generous splash of lemon-lime soda. Garnish with grilled citrus slices.

The Friday Tipple: Bikini Shot

Bikini Shot

Bathing suit season is on the horizon, Boozers. Buxom babes are overtaking magazine covers, glowing with cocoa butter on far-flung tropical beaches. Whether you hope to be a buxom babe or merely to attract a buxom babe, the approach of Spring Break prompts us to ponder the winter flab so cleverly hidden by chunky sweaters. It’s time to detox.

While we could consider exercising a little more — or at all — we prefer to go the route of a desperate last-minute liquid diet in order to shed those unwanted pounds. Protein shakes, spinach smoothies, and lemon juice spiked with cayenne are all on the menu, but as happy hour approaches, we feel the need for a little special cocktail to reward ourselves for all that self-denial.

Our detox drink of choice is our Bikini Shot — combining the health benefits of kiwi fruit, laden with vitamin C and E and colon-cleansing dietary fiber, with a vodka-laced grapefruit granita. It starts off tart and cold and ends up sweet and smooth, not unlike easing yourself into a pool. The Bikini Shot may not actually make that saggy old Speedo fit any better, but it sure will make you feel like a million bucks. Go ahead — hit the beach. Hang ten!

Bikini Shot

granita is similar in texture to a shaved ice, made with fresh fruit juice, sugar, and, in this case, alcohol. We used Square One Cucumber Vodka for this recipe, as the cucumber essence adds a fresh note to the grapefruit, but it would work beautifully with gin. We’ve also had success with a blackberry granita made with Catoctin Creek’s Mosby’s Spirit, which has a certain grappa-like quality that makes us feel like we are vacationing on the Amalfi coast.

One whole grapefruit, juiced and retaining some of the pulp

3 ounces vodka or gin

2 ripe kiwi fruits, peeled and cut into chunks

1 orange, juiced

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

To make the granita: combine the grapefruit juice, pulp, and vodka or gin and pour into a shallow freezer-safe dish (like a pie pan). Place uncovered in the freezer for an hour, then scrape with a spoon to loosen the ice crystals. Return to the freezer for another hour. It can be scraped into a freezer-safe container at this point and kept in the freezer until ready to use.

To make the kiwi fruit juice: Put kiwi, orange juice, and agave nectar in a blender and blend until smooth. Strain through a sieve to remove seeds (optional). Chill for 30 minutes.

Pour two ounces kiwi juice into a shot glass or aperitif glass; top with a spoonful of grapefruit granita. Enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Margarita Memory

margarita

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: 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.