Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mocktail Week #6: Magic Mix

Here's something of a bonus - a bit shy of an actual drink, but a sufficiently impressive discovery to merit posting.  Think of it as a sort of super-mixer; drink straight if you like, or just add booze for an awesome highball.

Another advantage is that this is completely scalable - make as much or as little as you like.

4 parts carbonated cucumber water
4 parts Q Tonic water
4 parts passionfruit juice
1 part lime juice

Combine and serve immediately, or bottle in a sealed container and store in the fridge.

Mocktail Week #5: Raised Bed

Today was another hit-or-miss one - I'm starting to feel like I'm treading over the same ground here.  Fortunately I found at least one good combination tonight!

1 1/2 oz lemon juice
1 1/4 oz strawberry-saffron syrup
8-10 mint leaves

Muddle the mint leaves in the syrup; add the lemon juice, shake, and strain over large ice cubes in a tumbler.  Top with about 3 oz tonic water to taste (Q Tonic) and stir.  Garnish with a mint sprig if you must.

Frankly, I'm glad that this week is just about done.  It was a welcome break, but I'm starting to really want a drink, you know?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mocktail Week #4: Sam's Bitter

This one wound up being something like a take on Sanbitter (which is something like a non-alcoholic Campari & soda) with some intriguing added flavor notes.  It was a nice variation from other more citric mocktails so far, veering instead into highly bitter territory but with enough sweetness to balance.

1 1/2 oz mixed berry syrup (leftover from Kader Punch - no shame in recycling)
1 1/2 oz chilled black tea (a fairly mild Darjeeling here)
1/2 oz red grapefruit juice

Stir over ice and top with about 1 1/2 oz each ginger beer (Regatta again) and soda water.  Stir again, garnish with a grapefruit twist if you must.

It's too bad that I ended on this one, because it'd be a fantastic apertif.  Might have to revisit this one tomorrow.

Mocktail Week #3: Pineapple Fauxito

After my early break yesterday, I figured I'd probably be able to turn out another success, but nothing much stood above the rest.  Today was a much luckier day!  I didn't do much experimentation at all, really (for one thing, I'm running out of citrus) but I did manage to turn out multiple winners.  All of which is to say: you get two today.

Full disclosure, this one is fairly similar to a non-alcoholic beverage that was featured for years on my old restaurant's menu - similar mix of flavors, distinctly different construction.

1 1/2 oz pineapple-lime syrup
1/2 oz lime juice
8-10 mint leaves
3-4 dashes Bitter Truth celery bitters

Muddle the mint in the syrup, add the juice and bitters, then shake and strain over large ice cubes in a large tumbler.  Top with about 1 oz ginger beer (deviating from my usual Reed's here - I found instead a much spicier version called Regatta) and about 3 oz carbonated cucumber water, then stir gently to combine and top with a sprig of mint or a lime wheel.

Overall a very tropical feel - somewhere between a Mojito and a Mai Tai with none of the booze.  I'd go so far as to say that this exceeds the original (though to be fair, it could use a better name).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mocktail Week #2: Wondermelon

This is only my first attempt for the evening, but I tried it and went full stop - this is fantastic, it's getting posted.  It's a little more complicated than some of my attempts from last night, but it works marvelously together - a little sweet, a little sour, a bit bitter, expressive of watermelon and summer, and very refreshing.

1 1/2 oz cryo-watermelon juice (a great way to use up all your leftover watermelon)
1 oz strawberry-saffron syrup (the saffron adds a certain deep, herbal quality that is entirely worth the expense, believe me)
1/2 oz lime juice
3 dashes rhubarb bitters

Shake well and strain over large cubes in a Collins-style glass.  Top with about 2 oz each tonic (Q Tonic for me) and carbonated cucumber water (don't use regular soda, the cucumber really brings out the watermelon flavor).

I'm gonna go have another.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mocktail Week #1: Clover Field

As it turns out, I can't drink old-fashioned cocktails forever - or, indeed, cocktails forever.  I think yesterday's Briny Deep put me over the edge.  My poor, overloaded liver needs a (brief) break, and so this week I'm beefing up my repertoire of non-alcoholic beverages and sharing the best of the evening here.

Even though in terms of ingredients this one doesn't share much with the Clover Club, but its pretty color and foamy cap reminded me so much of one that I wanted to capture that in the name.  Oddly enough, it achieves this without any egg white at all; it turns out that cryo-cucumber juice retains an exceptional foaming power.

2 oz cryo-cucumber juice
1 oz rhubarb syrup (accented with lemon peel and peppercorn; raspberry syrup would work too)
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
5 dashes celery bitters (Bitter Truth's version is the best I've found)
4-5 drops white balsamic vinegar

Shake and strain over large cubes in a Collins-style glass; top with 4-5 oz soda water, stir gently, and garnish with a small bunch of mint, slapped between your palms to express the oil.

That's a damn good way to start this mini-series!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Briny Deep

Okay, fine, I admit it - I wanted a Pitch Black, I was out of vermouth, and I subbed in another amaro instead.  So what?  It's tasty enough to merit its own name anyway.

1 1/4 oz Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition
1 oz Averna
1 oz Cynar
1/4 oz overproof dark rum (did you know that Gosling's makes a 151-proof version?)

Stir over a large ice cube in an old-fashioned glass; garnish with a small pinch of salt on top of the cube.

This makes for an impressively dark and sultry drink.  Worth hunting down the amaros for, if you ask me.

Harder Than It Looks

My mixological rut continues unabated.  Most of my experimentation recently has been more culinary in nature, but I've been re-reading Craft Cocktails at Home and picking up some ideas.  I'll likely have a bit of general experimentation to post about soon.

In the meantime, there's been one spot of mixological success that deserves mention here.  I've talked about the cryo-juicing method here before, and I recently applied it to a bag of leftover watermelon slices.  The result is absolutely beautiful - slightly sweet, very subtle, and extremely refreshing even in small doses.  It just so happened to find its way into a Negroni remix and it couldn't have been more welcome.  The navy-strength gin here made up for the extra volume and retained the incisive flavor of the juniper.

1 oz navy-strength gin (Hayman's Royal Dock)
1 oz Aperol (Campari or Capelletti would work too)
1 oz Cocchi Americano
1 oz cryo-watermelon juice

Stir with a single large ice cube in an old-fashioned glass; garnish with a strip of grapefruit peel.

I named this after its very pretty pink color, combined with the fact that it retained a pretty fair punch from the gin.  Handle with care.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Kader Punch

Well, I'm into another mixological rut, hence the lack of new posts.  Early last week I checked my fridge and found that four different syrups had collected in their squeeze bottles, tucked away on a shelf in the door.  Waste is despicable, especially after putting such hard work into each of them (okay, not really hard work) and so it became old-fashioned time, all the time.  Not that I object; the old-fashioned is one of the easiest cocktails, and I find almost any variety to be a paragon of virtuous simplicity.  But they don't make for interesting blogging.  So, instead, today I bring you a rare adventure into non-alcoholic beverages.

One of my favorite things to assemble for a party is punch.  Like old-fashioned cocktails, punch is amenable to endless variation, and has a huge advantage in that it can be prepared in advance and without alcohol.  Once you arrive, it's just a matter of assembly and ladling, and guests can keep themselves happy the whole night through, including by spiking their cups (or not!) as they prefer.  I've retained a couple of large Tanqueray 1.75L bottles with handles, which makes the whole shebang exceptionally portable.

My latest version wasn't assembled especially far in advance, but that's okay too.  Some good friends of ours were having a party; I'd offered to bring a specialty beverage, but they forgot to confirm with me until about 6 hours prior to the event.  What to do?  Rummage around for some frozen berries and tea leaves, and tell them to grab whatever at the liquor store?  Yep.

This is a little more involved than some of my other recipes, and it requires larger equipment, mainly a big pot with a lid.  But it produces enough for a party: about 4.5 liters once assembled, which has proven to be just about right for a mixed group of 15-20.  Bring along a couple 5-pound bags of ice to keep it cold, too.

2 pounds white sugar (the unbleached kind or a light raw sugar like Turbinado would be okay too, but will produce a muddier appearance)
1 pound frozen mixed berries (mine came from a couple half-used bags, and included a mix of strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, and cranberry)
48 oz water (or 3 pints, for those inclined)
1/4 cup loose black tea leaves (I used a fairly mild, floral Darjeeling)
1/4 cup unpeeled, chopped ginger
Peel of 2 large or 3 medium lemons
8 oz lemon juice
1 oz honey
1 12-oz bottle ginger beer (I like Reed's)
1 1-L bottle soda water (or use your siphon)

In a non-reactive bowl, pour about 1/4 cup of the sugar (precision is unnecessary) over the lemon peels.  Lightly muddle them until the sugar adheres to the peels and set aside.  This is a trick gleaned from David Wondrich's Punch, known as "preparing the oleo-saccharum".

Bring 1 pint of the water to a simmer, then remove from the heat and add the tea leaves.  Stir a few times and let steep for 6-7 minutes.  Don't let this go too long or it will become bitter.  Filter into the storage vessel of your choice (a clean 1.75L bottle is very convenient!) and set aside.  Discard the used tea leaves.

Bring the remaining 2 pints of water to a simmer and add the sugar; stir until this dissolves.  Add the mixed berries and ginger, and bring just back up to a simmer.  While this heats, add about 2 oz of the lemon juice to the oleo-saccharum and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add the remaining lemon juice to the storage vessel.  When the syrup returns to a simmer, kill the heat, add the lemon mixture, stir, and cover.  Let this stand and infuse for anywhere from 2-4 hours as time permits.

Filter the syrup through a couple layers of cheesecloth or a fairly coarse strainer into the final storage vessel.  If you wind up with extra syrup, keep it in a separate, airtight container to bring along for the ride.  You can use this later like any other flavored syrup.

When ready to serve, break out your finest punch bowl (or relatively clean bucket; I won't judge) and pour in the contents of your transport vessel.  Re-fill the vessel with cold water, and pour that into the bowl/bucket as well.  Add ice, soda water, and about half the ginger beer.  Stir to combine, taste, and adjust with the remaining syrup and ginger beer as desired.  Remember that the flavor will become gradually diluted, so you want it on the strong side to begin with.

Serve with white wine on the side (something relatively subtle, like a vinho verde) for the assembly of spritzers (1 part wine, 1 part punch) and with whatever liquors are handy.  Provide a shot glass for measurement, so that your guests don't accidentally overpour.  This particular punch goes especially well with a mild gin or with brandy.  Top off periodically with ice as needed.

Now that makes for a good time.  I've got a couple more of these that I've developed, and which I'll be happy to share in future posts.