A Springtime Tipple: Persephone’s Dream

Persephone's Dream

We’ve missed you, Boozers. As we finally stretch our limbs after our winter’s hibernation, we’re coated with a thin layer of pollen and immersed in the scents of wisteria on the vine. Dearest Persephone, it’s about time you came to call.

Spring was in full force last weekend in Raleigh, and the Carolinas could not have been more welcoming, cloaked in greenery, humidity, and sunshine, a glimpse of the summer ahead. A visit to the North Carolina State Farmers Market revealed a treasure trove of truly fresh spring produce we can still only dream of in more northern climes: asparagus, ramps, frost collards, and, best of all, spring strawberries.

The strawberries of springtime recall the bittersweet story of Persephone, who was forced to spend four months of each year in the underworld, dreaming of the world she’d left behind; spring could only arrive when she was able to return above ground to be reunited with her mother. Spring strawberries, like Persephone, return hesitantly but joyously to the garden each year, the lightly sweet cousins of their summertime counterparts, holding within them the promise of carefree days ahead.

Persephone’s Dream

Campari tends to be a summertime tipple, but there’s no reason not to enjoy it at any time, especially to provide a slightly bitter counterpoint to the sweetness of spring strawberries. We’ve added a floral note with a splash of creme de violette, but you can achieve a similar quality with elderflower, rose, or even maraschino liqueur — start with smaller quantities then add more to suit your own taste.

2 tablespoons fresh strawberry purée

1 ounce Creme Yvette (or any of the substitutions suggested above)

1/2 ounce Campari

2 ounces chilled seltzer water

Fresh lime twist

Make the purée by liquefying 1/2 cup fresh strawberries in a blender or food processor with 1 teaspoon of light agave syrup and 1 tablespoon of water.

To make the drink, put the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with an ice cube and shake well. Remove the lid, add the chilled seltzer and stir well, then strain into a coupe. Twist the lime over the top of the drink to release the essential oils then drop the twist into the drink. Enjoy immediately.

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The Garden Tipple: Sugarbaby Daiquiri

Sugarbaby Daiquiri

We’re parched, Boozers. Gardening is hard work, and we’ve done enough tilling, weeding, watering, and harvesting in the height of summer to last a lifetime — and it’s not even August. The air-conditioned comfort of the grocery store’s produce section begins to look mighty good when you’re covered in sweat and compost while you battle aphids and whatever just chewed up half your tomatoes during the night. But then the sugarbabies arrived and things started to look up.

A Sugar Baby is a common variety of miniature watermelon, often found in farmers markets and grocery stores under the moniker “personal watermelon”. They are small, and sweet, and utterly hydrating on a hot summer day, especially when rum is involved. We don’t usually go in for frozen drinks, and we generally like our daiquiris Hemingway-style, but sometimes an adult slurpee is really the only way to go when the mercury is on the rise. Slurp it up and drink it down.

Sugarbaby Daiquiri

Most frozen drinks are made with ice cubes, but we turn our noses up at that when we have watermelon available. As you might imagine, watermelon is mostly water and so, when cut into cubes, they freeze perfectly. They also freeze fairly quickly, so you’ll be ready to whip up your daiquiris within a couple of hours of freezing.

One Sugar Baby watermelon, preferably seedless, cut into chunks

2 ounces rum, preferably a lighter variety such as silver or gold (we used Mount Gay this time)

1 ounce hibiscus liqueur (we used Don Ciccio & Figli; if you don’t have that available to you, use St. Germain elderflower liqueur to add a floral note, or even Maraschino liqueur, which is generally used in traditional daiquiris)

1 fresh lime

Place the watermelon chunks into a plastic Ziploc bag and freeze until solid, about an hour or two. To make a good-sized daiquiri, place one cup of frozen watermelon chunks in a blender with the rum, liqueur, and the juice of half a lime. Blend on high for a few seconds — it won’t take long to break down the cubes and you want them to maintain a perfectly drinkable frozen purée. Serve immediately.

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 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: 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: Lincoln’s Oscar

Lincoln's Oscar

We’re heading back to the red carpet, Boozers. Last week we celebrated the excellent judging in at least one category at the Grammy Awards, and today we begin preparing for the Academy Awards. Oscar night should rightly be observed with glamorous gowns, trays of canapés, and a special cocktail. Or two.

Film aficionados seem to agree that Steven Spielberg’s monumental “Lincoln” will win big at the Oscars this year, which led us to wonder “What would Lincoln drink?”. People often characterize the 16th president as a teetotaler, but it is perhaps more accurate to say that he was not much interested in indulging in alcohol or tobacco, preferring to imbibe typhoid-inducing water. However, Lincoln was known to have spent a certain period of time drinking lager, which had been recommended to improve his health. Ah, how we love 19th-century medicine.

Lincoln’s Oscar is, therefore, a beer-tail that is an ode to a complex American born in a log cabin who loved to dance at balls — lager combined with liquor and elegantly served, red-carpet ready, in a coupe. And the winner is…

Lincoln’s Oscar

Lager has a light refreshing fizziness — the champagne of beers — that lends itself to festive cocktails. We chose to combine it with a rye-based gin, such as Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin and St. George Dry Rye Gin, because it has a certain bold peppery quality that we find quintessentially American, but it could work just as well with a more floral variety like Green Hat Gin or Dry Fly Dry Gin.

3 ounces chilled lager (we chose Flying Dog’s UnderDog Atlantic Lager, because Lincoln loved an underdog)

1 ounce gin

1 ounce reduced apple cider (instructions below)

1/2 ounce St. Germaine liqueur

few drops of celery bitters (yes, invest in this — perfect combination with the apple cider, and with gin in general)

one apple slice soaked in Leopold Bros. New York Apple Whiskey (apple brandy or calvados will also work)

Put one cup of apple cider in a small saucepan and simmer over very low heat until reduced by half. Cool completely before using. Soak the apple slice in an ounce or so of the apple whiskey or brandy for about 30 minutes.

In a cocktail shaker, mix together the gin, apple cider, and St. Germaine, then add the beer and stir briskly. Add the bitters (without stirring) and pour directly into a chilled coupe or a wide-mouthed wine glass. Float the apple slice on top and make your entrance.

The Friday Tipple: Green Goddess

This week has been a scorcher, Boozers. The kind of weather where you just want to dive into a nice cool mudhole and wallow there until the mercury has dropped below 95. But, if no mudholes are handy, then we just search for the next best thing: cucumbers.

Humans have been cooling off with cucumbers since ancient times, so who are we to argue with the Greeks and Romans? If there be a food of the gods, let it be cucumber, whose mild yet distinctive flavor can be sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. We recently have noticed cucumber soda gracing the shelves of food purveyors and the abundance of this particular summer produce inspired us to whip up a fresh cucumber bubbly base for a cocktail that we like to call the Green Goddess. Just imagine Aphrodite lounging on a chaise overlooking the blue Aegean with a cool glass in her hand. That could be you.

Green Goddess

As you know, we enjoy a gin cocktail, but this particular elixir is also excellent with vodka, so take your pick. We prefer our local Catoctin Creek Organic Watershed Gin, and, as for vodka, we often reach for Boyd and Blair Vodka. However, if you want to kick up the cucumber flavor a notch, you might try Square One Organic Cucumber Vodka for an extra-special cuke-tail.

1/2 of a large cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

1 tablespoon water

1/2 ounce St. Germain liqueur

1.5 ounces gin or vodka

chilled club soda

lime wedge

cucumber wheel, for garnish

Place cucumber, agave nectar, and water in a blender or food processor and blend until completely puréed. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and pour cucumber liquid into a cocktail shaker. Add St. Germain and gin or vodka, then add about 1/4 (up to 1/3) cup of chilled club soda. Stir vigorously. Run the lime wedge around the rim of a glass filled with ice, then add the contents of the shaker. Garnish with cucumber wheel.

The Friday Tipple: Antioxidantail

We’re on a health kick, Boozers. The Good Booze HQ is crammed with fresh fruits and veggies from our local green grocer, inspiring our good intentions to create a tasty pick-me-up for cocktail hour. And why shouldn’t your happy hour drink of choice help boost your immune system at the same time it calms your nerves from another day navigating the rat race?

A selection of fresh mango and blueberries highlight our Antioxidantail; the mighty mango is rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids, while blueberries are high in manganese, vitamin K, and anthocyanins. Not only that, but they taste good, too, especially when combined with calcium-loaded dairy-free coconut milk, which has anti-bacterial properties that aid digestion. Add a splash of vodka — we liked Boyd & Blair potato vodka with this particular treat, since, after all, potatoes are also high in potassium, so the vodka must be nutritious, right? We predict you’ll soon start finding this on the menu of your fancy health club’s juice bar, a perfect way to cool down after that hot yoga class.

Antioxidantail

While we love the smoothness of mango combined with coconut milk, we tweaked the flavor a little with the addition of elderflower liqueur and celery bitters (The Bitter Truth makes excellent versions of both). The elderflower liqueur lends a lightly floral undertone when used in moderation while the celery bitters adds a slightly piquant vegetal note, bringing a subtle counterpoint to the sweetness of the fruit. Besides, celery is actually also chock-full of antioxidants. Who knew?

1 fresh mango, cut into chunks

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk (there are several good varieties out there, including Silk and So Delicious)

1 teaspoon maple syrup (yep, you guessed it, an antioxidant-rich natural sweetener)

1.5 ounces vodka (we used Boyd & Blair here, but also highly recommend Square One or Nude)

1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur (St. Germain is usually readily available if you can’t find The Bitter Truth)

a few drops of celery bitters

Put first four ingredients in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Add vodka, liqueur, and bitters and pulse a couple of times. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

Special Edition: The Twitter Tipple

We love Twitter, Boozers. It’s haiku for the masses. So we made a special drink for Twitter’s birthday. Recipe: @goodbooze

The Friday Tipple: Beetlejuice

Spring is in the air, Boozers. We hear that snow is falling across the Midwest, but, for today at least, it’s practically sultry in our neck of the woods. Daffodils are rearing their scrawny necks and ducks are eyeing each other amorously. The breeze is redolent with the scent of raw promise.

A box of fresh produce from Washington’s Green Grocers landed on the doorstep yesterday, inspiring us with some of its early spring offerings — namely, lovely little beets, bursting with rosy goodness. Their earthy sweetness is, we believe, a perfect complement to the bright woodsy notes found in gin, culminating in an infusion that recalls springtime hikes through primeval forests, where crocuses peep through the detritus of winter and toadstools beckon innocently from the shadows.

While we tend to think of vegetables as used only occasionally in more savory cocktails — the Bloody Mary, for instance — there are many that also lend a subtle sweetness to hand-crafted drinks. Our little box of produce also yielded several gorgeous watermelon radishes, which, with their sugary spiciness are sure to find themselves more intimately incorporated into an upcoming concoction, rather than only being relegated to a pretty garnish.

Throw off the confines of winter, Boozers — spring awaits.

Beetlejuice

Our housemade St. Germain-based lemon soda is a tasty complement to our beet-infused gin, which we think lends a floral undertone to our homage to spring. It’s incredibly easy to make, but you can substitute a commercial lemon soda if you prefer.

1 small raw beet, peeled and grated

1/2 cup gin (we prefer Catoctin Creek’s Organic Watershed Gin)

raw sugar (regular granulated sugar is fine as well)

juice of one fresh lemon

1 ounce St. Germain liqueur

1 teaspoon light agave nectar

3 ounces club soda or mineral water

To make the beet infusion: Put grated beets in a cup or jar with a large pinch of raw sugar. Top with gin and allow to sit, uncovered, for one or two hours. Strain and set aside.

To make the lemon soda: Put the lemon juice, St. Germain, agave nectar and club soda in a glass and stir vigorously until well-incorporated. Do this just before assembling the cocktail to maintain the carbonation.

Fill a tall glass with ice and pour in the lemon soda. Pour 1.5 ounces of beet-infused gin over the top — do not stir, but leave it layered. Garnish with lemon, fresh herbs, or a slice of watermelon radish (optional). Drink up.