Thursday, January 18, 2018

Here's a Little Something to Keep You Warm.

Eight years ago I visited New York for the first time, and the first bar I ever went to in the city was a little underground cocktail joint called PDT. The first drink I ordered there was something so weird and exotic I could barely wrap my mind around it - an old fashioned made with bacon infused bourbon. Yes, you read that right. Bacon.

Here I am, circa 2010, enjoying a bacon old fashioned and some tater tots.

The Benton’s Old Fashioned, made with orange, maple syrup, bitters, and bacon-infused bourbon, is a really interesting drink, and it’s not just gimmicky - it actually tastes good. Drinking meat seems fairly horrifying, but somehow the addition of bacon gives the old fashioned a smokiness and robustness you never knew it needed. The Benton’s is a staple of the PDT cocktail menu, and it’s one of their most ordered drinks.

While hunkered down during our recent cyclone, I had the idea to make some bacon infused bourbon. And then I had the idea to turn the Benton’s Old Fashioned into a hot toddy, because it is punishingly cold outside and why not? I was a bit worried that bacon in a hot drink would just be incredibly strange, but I shouldn’t have been: my bacon hot toddy was only a little odd, a pleasantly surprising kind of odd. It's warm and full, with a subtle smokiness that resolves itself into a round sweetness. This weird little toddy is the perfect sort of thing for drinking around a campfire, or just in your tiny apartment when the weather outside gets to be too damn much.

Benton's Hot Toddy
1.5 oz (or more, I don't know your life) of bacon-infused bourbon
1 teaspoon maple syrup (grade B preferred)
1 cinnamon stick
1 whole anise star
5 whole cloves
slice of orange

Combine the bourbon, maple syrup, and spices in a mug or heat-proof snifter. Add the boiling water: squeeze the orange slice (but not too much, or it'll get all pulpy) and drop it in.

(This toddy recipe, as ever, is adapted from Art of the Bar, a cocktail book I never get tired of.)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Pear Apparent

Those of you who know me know that I am not much of a cook, but still, I take a lot of inspiration from the culinary world. Some people, I imagine, have a sixth sense for flavor pairings, but I am always looking for clues. I had been wanting to make a pear cocktail, because I have a weird affinity for pear brandy, and at the farmer’s market I spotted a pear butter flavored with almond and cardamom, which was all I needed to get started.

I knew that pear and bourbon were a good match, thanks to this pear old fashioned I made years ago (from Danny Meyer's Mix Shake Stir). So you have bourbon, and pear brandy, or eau de vie (a liquor distilled from pears), and also orgeat, an almond syrup frequently seen in tiki drinks, and cardamom bitters and a bit of lime. It all comes together beautifully, as if all these flavors were meant to be together, which, of course, they were.

The Pear Apparent
1 oz bourbon
1 oz pear eau de vie (Neversink Spirits' pear brandy, which is distilled in New York from New York pears, is a really beautiful option.)
.75 oz fresh lime juice
2 tsp orgeat

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake and strain into a glass. Garnish with a slice of pear and a cinnamon stick if you're feeling fancy - or just drink it down.

Friday, November 24, 2017

I'm Back! With beets.

Hi everyone. It's been a while. Sometimes life happens to you, and then you don't update your blog in three years. I've been busy, making the move from Texas to New York and creating lots of great content for Apartment Therapy. But it's good to be back. Last Saturday I wandered around the farmers market, looking for something to liquify, and I had that feeling of pleasure and deep rightness that you get when returning to something that you really love.

I bypassed lots of decorative gourds and settled on some beets, because I remembered having seen a beet cocktail once in a book of seasonal drinks. And because I didn't feel like juicing a pumpkin. Juicing beets, it turns out, is quite an ordeal. The pumpkin might've been easier.

Right away, I cut into my beets and was horrified to discover that they were not bright pink on the inside, but rather pink and white striped. I began to panic, thinking I had accidentally bought radishes. A little research revealed that my beets were actually chioggia beets, an heirloom variety from Italy. Sources vary as to whether chioggia beets taste the same as other beets, or a little bit sweeter. I had nothing to compare them to, having never eaten raw beets before, and I thought they tasted like a carrot that's been rolled in dirt.

Cooked beets, of course, are much sweeter, but I couldn't help thinking that that earthy, rooty flavor would be a nice match for something else that's a little earthy and vegetal: tequila. Pair raw beet juice with tequila, lime, and ginger liqueur, and you get all the brightness of a margarita, but with a touch of dirt, like the raw, rich smell of a chilly winter hike.

Beet It*
1.5 oz beet juice**
1.5 oz tequila
3/4 Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice - shake and strain into a glass. (If you're using homemade beet juice you'll definitely want to double strain this one to remove any lingering beet gunk.)

*After considering many puns about beets, I went for the most obvious. Have other suggestions? Leave them for me in the comments!

**A note about juicing beets: This is totally possible, even if you don't have a juicer! It's just a complete pain in the ass. First you wash the beets, and then chop them up into little cubes. Place the cubes in a blender, and add enough water to get to a consistency that's a little slushier than what you'd expect from a smoothie. Then, run this unholy mixture though a strainer, pressing with a spatula (like so) to make sure you get all the juice out. (You will have to periodically discard the spent beet gunk to make sure your strainer doesn't get clogged.) Voila: fresh beet juice! Your kitchen is now a disaster. (You could also buy beet juice from the supermarket, and that would probably be ok.)

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.