Saturday, July 5, 2014

Disturbing Movie Inspires Delicious Drink.

Did you ever watch the original Willy Wonka as a kid? I did, and I was terrified. Of course there's plenty to be creeped out by in a movie about a vindictive candymaker who preys on misbehaving children, but the one scene that really gave me the willies was the one where Violet Beauregarde turns into a giant blueberry. That, my friends, is the stuff of nightmares. And also, it turns out, delicious cocktails.

Because somewhere along the line, I had the idea to make a cocktail in honor of poor Violet, with creme de violette and, of course, blueberries. And as luck would have it, blueberries and violet are actually really, really good together.

I started out mixing the blueberries and violette with rum, but I didn't quite like how that turned out, so I switched to gin, which was better, and a natural choice because gin and floral flavors are always a good pair. And then I tried it with Cointreau, which was a bit much, and sugar syrup, which was a bit eh, and then with maraschino, which was just right. It was only after I'd done all this work that i suddenly realized: "wait... this is just an aviation with blueberries in it." Oh well. is pretty good.

The Violet Beauregarde Cocktail
2 oz gin (I used Nolet silver, which pairs really beautifully with floral flavors)
.75 lemon juice
.5 creme de violette
.5 maraschino
12 blueberries (Texas ones!)

Here's how you do: place the blueberries in the mixing glass of your shaker, and cover with the lemon juice. Muddle gently until the lemon juice turns a nice dark pink. (Don't go too crazy with this: there is no need to smoosh the blueberries all up, just get the juice out.) Add all the other ingredients, and ice, shake shake shake and then double strain (you'll definitely want to double strain this one, to get out all those floating blueberry bits) into a glass befitting the loveliness of this lovely drink.

Okay, it's more than pretty good. It's really really good. Every time I make this drink I remember again how obsessed I am with it. Jonathan, my erstwhile drinking buddy and taste tester, had one and even said it was better than a plain aviation. And that's high praise, because the aviation is a damn good drink.

In this one, the violette is a bit more forward (which is appropriate, considering the name), but the flavors still blend together quite beautifully. It's my platonic ideal of a cocktail: lots of interesting flavors come together to make something smooth and highly drinkable. The sort of thing where you could take a sip and be like, ooh, violette! ooh, gin!, &c &c, or you could just plunk yourself on the couch and I dunno, watch game of thrones and sip one of these puppies and drink yourself into a happy stupor. Hunting down the violette may prove to be a bit of a chore, but it's worth it, I promise you. It's worth it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Quick & Dirty Daiquiri

More fancy stuff comin soon, I promise, but in the meantime, something distinctly not fancy. It's a delicious daiquiri that you can make with only three ingredients, which you probably already have around the house. (Okay, so maybe you don't always keep limes around the house, but I recommend you change that. Fresh lime juice is an essential part of the good life.)

Recently I was mixing up drinks for my lovely friend Kassie's bachelorette party, and I realized that, like a dumbo, I had forgotten to bring any simple syrup. What I did have, though, was brown sugar, so I made a Fitzgerald with brown sugar in place of the simple syrup. It looked like pond scum - but it sure was delicious. 

This experience inspired me. I was also inspired by that bottle of Jamaica rum I had sitting on the counter, with juuust enough left for a couple of drinks. Jamaica rum is delicious. You don't want to waste that shit. 

Thus was born: The Quick and Dirty Daiquiri.
What you will need:
2 oz Jamaica rum (okay, or use any other kind of rum, whatever, but it might not be as good)
.75 oz lime juice (fresh squeezed!)
1 tablespoon brown sugar (don't pack it, unless you want a really sweet drink.)

How to make this thing:
Place all the ingredients in a shaker. Add ice. Shake everything up. Double strain into a glass.

It's not so pretty. But it sure tastes good.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Best Mint Julep You Will Ever Taste.

I love cocktails, but my favorite cocktail is the mint julep. Just sugar, mint, and bourbon - it's simple, it's delicious, it's brilliant, I wish I had thought of it myself. I used to angst over the perfect recipe for a mint julep - what kind of sugar? how much mint? what ratio of sugar to bourbon? - because I pride myself on making the best cocktails, and if I'm going to claim the mint julep as my favorite I should be able to make a damn good one. Right? But then I convinced one of the bartenders at the Anvil, my favorite local bar, to tell me their recipe for a mint julep. And then I stopped worrying, because this is the best mint julep you will ever taste.

The secret to its deliciousness is the 2:1 turbinado syrup. That means simple syrup, made with turbinado sugar, in a 2:1 sugar to water ratio. This stuff is lovely and thick and really delicious. If you have some left after making mint juleps, you can just eat it. I will not blame you.

How To Make the Best Damn Mint Julep Ever
2 oz bourbon
2 barspoons (teaspoons) 2:1 turbinado simple syrup
some mint (spearmint, from the backyard!)
oh, and crushed ice

Cover the bottom of an old-fashioned glass (or a silver julep cup, if you're all fancy) with a layer of mint leaves. Heck, make it a double layer if you really like mint. Pour the simple syrup on top of the mint and muddle it all real good. Then fill the glass with crushed ice. Then add the bourbon. Then stir. Then drink.

Bonus, because I like you: here's a video of New Orleans bartender Chris McMillian discussing the history and significance of the mint julep. His voice alone is a national treasure, but you'll want to watch because of the 'little bit of prose,' dating back to 1880, that he recites as he makes the drink. It begins like this: "Then comes the zenith of man's pleasure, then comes the julep, the mint julep. Who has not tasted one has lived in vain." Amen.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

When Life Gives You Lemons... Make Whiskey Sours.

My wonderful, teetotaling Baptist parents have a Meyer Lemon tree. It lives in a pot in the backyard and is mostly neglected, except for the occasional watering, but somehow that thing is just lousy with lemons. While my precious, coddled pink lemon tree this year produced... three lemons. But I don't mind their gardening triumph so much because, of course, they shared with me. ("Don't tell me what you are going to do with those," my mother said.) I thought briefly about making a pie, but I hardly ever cook, or even bake, and I don't even like pie. So instead I made a whiskey sour.

This whiskey sour is just a little bit more specialer than your average whiskey sour. Even if you don't have gardening parents, you can hunt down some Meyer Lemons at the grocery store when they're in season. (A Meyer Lemon is a cross between a traditional lemon and an orange, and is therefore a bit sweeter than the Eureka lemons you're used to.) The drink also makes use of a simple syrup made with turbinado sugar - the ratio of sugar to water here is 1 to 1. I like to use an overproof rye (like Rittenhouse) for this, but feel free to use whatever you've got around. I promise it'll still be delicious.

Meyer Lemon Whiskey Sour
1 oz Meyer Lemon juice (fresh squeezed, duh)
.5 oz turbinado simple syrup (1:1)
2 oz rye whiskey (overproof if you're a badass like me)

Shake (over ice) and strain into a glass. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Lafayette Cocktail.

So it is Mardi Gras, the part of the show where good Catholics party it up before the season of sobriety that is Lent. In celebration of the day, and of my (sort of) Cajun heritage, I bring you the Lafayette, a cocktail named in honor of the town that I was born in. If the Lafayette looks a little familiar, it's because it's really just an original Hurricane, made with extra-molassesy Black Strap rum. The rum is what takes this drink to the next level. It's sweet, and rich, and dark. And looks like pond scum. But don't let that deter you.

The Lafayette Cocktail
2 oz Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 oz Passionfruit Syrup (this stuff can be a real bitch to find - get it on Amazon.)

Shake all ingredients over ice. Then pour them into a highball glass with ice, or whatever floats your boat. Then laissez les bons temps rouler.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Gold Rush - A Deliciously Simple Cocktail with a Twist.

I have a shameful secret. Occasionally, people ask me what my favorite 'everyday' cocktail is. Something to make after coming home from a long day at work. (Or after stepping into the kitchen from a long day at work. Working from home is pretty sweet.) My favorite cocktail to make at the end of a long day is: beer. Seriously, who wants to juice limes and muddle cucumbers and make syrups after nine hours of work? Not me. Cocktails are delicious. But I am lazy. 

However! Lately, the thing I find myself reaching for is not a beer, or even a nice tall glass of wine. It's a Gold Rush, a delicious (and stupidly simple) amalgamation of bourbon, lemon and honey. Jason gets credit for discovering the Gold Rush when we went to LA's Copa D'Oro, part of a disturbing trend where my friends always manage to order delicious-er drinks than me at schmancy cocktail bars. I thought of this cocktail when another friend texted me wanting to know of a good bourbon cocktail for someone who found an old fashioned a little too strong. Recollecting the Gold Rush and its bourbony deliciousness, I decided to mix one up for myself. Here are a couple of recipes I found, courtesy of the internets:

Gold Rush 1 
2 oz bourbon
.75 oz lemon juice (fresh-squeezed, and don't cheat)
.75 oz honey syrup

Gold Rush 2
(from the Lush Chef)
2 oz bourbon
.75 oz lemon juice
1 oz honey syrup

To make the honey syrup: mix one part honey with two parts hot water. Stir. Super easy. 

To make the drink: combine all the ingredients in a shaker full of ice, shake the hell out of it, and strain into a cocktail glass. 

I tried both variations: version 2 is a smoother cocktail, whereas the one with less honey is a little saucier. At the time I couldn't decide which one I liked better, but after a while I decided to go with version 2, mostly because this recipe lends itself quite well to the addition of a little bit of lavender bitters, which will give the drink a little something floral on the nose and a certain je ne sais quoi on the tongue. I've decided to call the lavender version 'Purple Rain'. I'm sure I'm not the first person to call a drink that. But I'm sure mine is the best. 

Purple Rain
2 oz bourbon
.75 oz lemon juice
1 oz honey syrup (from local wildflower honey!)
I dash lavender bitters (I used Bar Keep Lavender Spice bitters. Don't go too crazy with this stuff, or your drink will taste like a bar of soap.)

Quick, put on a Prince album. And drink up. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Tale of Two Daiquiris.

The good folks at Brugal Rum were kind enough to send me a bottle of their Brugal Especial Extra Dry, which, it turns out, makes a really lovely, balanced Hemingway Daiquiri.

The Hemingway Daiquiri
2 oz white rum
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur

And as luck would have it, Texas ruby red grapefruit is just back in season, so get you some of that. To make the drink: shake over ice and then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with lime.

So how does it taste? Just like it looks. If you've been used to daiquiris of the kind dispensed by slushee machines on Bourbon street late at night, you may be in for a bit of a surprise. This daiquiri is very light, and delicate, and pink
This particular recipe for a Hemingway Daiquiri comes from Jim Meehan (the PDT guy) by way of Food & Wine magazine. The other recipes I stumbled across did not quite agree on the proportions, but they did agree on the four basic ingredients: white rum, lime, grapefruit, and maraschino liqueur. Interestingly enough, according to Paul Clarke, the original Hemingway Daiquiri (which Hemingway invented and dubbed the 'Papa Doble', since I guess he was too modest to name a drink after himself), was composed thusly:
"...two and a half jiggers [or 3 3/4 ounces] of Bacardi White Label Rum, the juice of two limes and half a grapefruit, and six drops of maraschino, all placed in an electric mixer over shaved ice, whirled vigorously and served foaming in large goblets."

So of course I had to try that too. This wasn't the first time I had followed in the boozy footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, but I'll admit, I was a little intimidated. because you know, that's a whole lot of rum. Like a whole whole lot.

3 3/4 oz white rum
juice of two limes (I wound up with a little more than 2 oz, but I swear I have terrible luck with limes and always end up with the non-juicy ones, despite my best efforts)
juice of half a grapefruit (about 2.5 oz)
6 drops maraschino liqueur (I used an eye dropper to be extra super sure to be faithful to the original recipe. Okay, I might've gotten 7 drops.)

Then I put all those things in the blender, and kept adding ice, running the blender occasionally, until I got to the desired consistency.

So here are some things you should know about the original, for real, super-authentic Hemingway Daiquiri. For one thing, this recipe makes a drink that is truly massive. I had trouble finding a glass that would fit the whole thing. It's also quite tart, although not in a bad way - I found it to be light and incredibly drinkable, like a limeade with a little extra kick. This might help explain how Hemingway supposedly consumed 16 of them at one sitting. Actually, according to Paul Clarke (who got his info from Papa Hemingway, a memoir about the author written by longtime friend A.E. Hotchner), the recipe above was the formula for the drink served by Havana's La Floridita bar to tourists who wanted to drink what the legendary author drank. The drinks served to Hemingway, Hotchner indicated, came in glasses approximately twice the size of those used for the 'tourist' version. Let's do a little math, shall we?

3.75 oz rum x 2 x 16 = 120 oz

Um. Dang. 

So just to put that into perspective, a 'fifth' of rum (ie, a traditional 750 mL bottle) contains about 25 oz of liquor. 120 oz of rum = almost FIVE BOTTLES of liquor. Even if we assume that Hemingway's record was for the 'tourist' daiquiri, that's still an impressive two and a half bottles of rum consumed in one sitting. From this we can draw one of two conclusions:

A. This story is exaggerated a wee bit, or
B. Ernest Hemingway was a BEAST. 

Believe what you will. 

Whatever your thoughts on this, though, it's true that both Hemingway's original and the modern version are a surprisingly delicious, and remarkably efficient, alcohol delivery system. Cheers.