Divide and Concord

October 17th, 2013

Apples and pumpkins get a lot of the cocktail attention in autumn, but the drink below is a worthy way to buck those trends and go grape.

Grape jelly is one of the most delicious memories of childhood and produces hands-down the best  PB & J. That flavor of Concord grapes is the one we most associate with grape-ness.  But it’s time that grapes get off our sandwiches, and make the jump from our juice – or wine – glasses to our cocktails.

One great cross between grape and cocktail is the Divide and Concord, featured in the September/October issue of Imbibe Magazine and credited to Tona Palomino at Trenchermen in Chicago. Combining grape juice, gin, absinthe and egg white, it is fruity and creamy without being cloying.

  

Divide and Concord

1 oz Concord grape juice (fresh pressed or store-bought bottled)
1 ½ oz gin
¼ oz absinthe
¾ oz simple syrup
½ oz lime juice
½ oz egg white
¼ oz heavy cream

Combine all ingredients and shake without ice. Add ice and shake again. Double-strain into a chilled glass. For more details about using egg whites in cocktails, see my previous egg white post.

Note: I omitted the cream because I didn’t have any on hand, but didn’t feel like anything was missing.

 

One obstacle to eating Concord grapes is those annoying seeds, but growers have solved that problem with the introduction of the Thomcord, a cross between seedless Thompson table grapes and the Concord. You can even use store-bought Concord grape juice  (I tried it with great results) if the produce is unavailable: Look for brands with no added sugars. There’s nothing holding you back from this drink!

Cheers, ICE

 

PS: Do you know, photos are a big reason I don’t post much? They aren’t my strength in the first place, plus I often forget/circumstances don’t allow me to take a photo of a great drink and then I never end up posting about it because I lack a picture. So I’m breaking with “blog protocol.” Maybe I will post more, and then you will just have my ramblings and great drink recipes unpunctuated by mediocre pics. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it? 

 
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Cocktails go from swell to gel

July 26th, 2013

Do you know what our cocktails need? A little wiggle and jiggle.

Most of us have Jell-o memories — 70’s potluck desserts, tonsillectomy recovery, college jello shots – but they are rooted in youth. It’s time to bring some fun into adulthood by making swell cocktails into gel cocktails.

Lovely, aren't they?  Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Bennett

Lovely, aren’t they? Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Bennett

My friend Liz and I spent a recent day test-driving some recipes from the Jelly Shot Test Kitchen, a blog and a book featuring nothing but jell-o’d cocktails. Using silicone molds, we made bite-sized jell-o Elderflower Mojitos, French 75s, Watermelon Basil Martinis, and Pineapple Brandy Fixes. The fun was in the making and the sampling, I assure you.

I’m featuring our favorite, the Elderflower Mojito, here. I thought this one did the best job of bringing out the flavor of each ingredient. The Pineapple Brandy Fix was also quite tasty (however the two others were not our favorites, and our tester spouses and friends agreed). 

Elderflower Mojito Jelly Shot

50 mint leaves
1/2 c. white rum
1/2 c. St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1/3 c.  fresh lime juice
1/3 c.  water
1/3 c.  simple syrup or agave nectar
2 envelopes plain gelatin (about 4 tsp gelatin powder)

Lightly muddle mint in a small bowl.  (Gently crush the mint with the back of a spoon if you don’t have a muddler.)  Add the rum and elderflower liqueur to the bowl and set aside. 

Combine lime juice, water and simple syrup/agave in a small saucepan.  Sprinkle with gelatin, and allow the gelatin to soak for a minute or two.  Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is dissolved (about 5 minutes).  Remove from heat. 

Strain the mint-infused liquor into the pan and stir to combine. We poured our mojitos into smiley face and square silicone molds, and these were set within an hour+ in the refrigerator.

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Through trial and error and even occasionally re-reading the book’s directions (oops), we discovered a few tips that made subsequent batches easier:

  • Do put the silicone molds on a cookie tray before filling them because it makes them much easier to place in the refrigerator.
  • Do make room in the refrigerator for the tray before filling the molds.
  • Spray the molds with flavor-free cooking spray and then wipe with a paper towel.
  • Use a funnel, batter pourer or other device to fill the molds for less dripping and spilling. Liz had this gadget and it was brilliant.
  • If you are making multiple recipes, label or otherwise mark which is poured where. Ours turned into a “box of chocolates” because we poured two clear cocktails into different spots on the same mold. Only tasting will tell us which each one is now!
  • Your cool little gelled cocktails will turn into blobs quickly if left at room temperature or even in an air conditioned car, so keep them well-chilled.

My most important piece of advice is to consider your audience: if there will be children around, keep these out of sight. Jell-o = kids, but jell-o’d cocktails are only for the young-at-heart. I kept mine on the highest refrigerator shelf out of reach of my two treat-craving kids.

With a few of these recipes under my belt, I am now incredibly curious about turning my favorite cocktail recipes into jellied versions. I expect some wiggle, some jiggle and no doubt some giggle.

Cheers, ICE

 
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A perfect pitcher: herbs, tequila and Cinco de Mayo

April 30th, 2013

Wow, I think my calendar did stop since my last post because here it is almost Cinco de Mayo. ..

Here is a quick quiz. When hankering for a drink on Cinco de Mayo, do you:

  1. Avoid tequila because of “that one time when I…” ? (then you really should see my past post on the subject).
  2. Embrace the tequila, but drown the taste with artificial sweet and sour mix, or worse, one of those pre-mixed, pre-frozen tubs of margaritas (“Just Add Tequila!”).
  3. Say the hell with it, and grab some Mexican beer instead?

I’m not a counselor, so I won’t be diagnosing where you fall on the scale of tequila-avoiders. Nor can I relate to your plight because I love tequila. Nonetheless, I do have a solution.  I call it Herbaceous*, but that’s partly for lack of inspiration (do you know, naming cocktails is often harder than creating them?).

Herbaceous* mixes a couple of tasty herbs while cutting the tequila with vodka. I can’t even remember why I did this initially – did I run out of tequila? – but it works. Red and my friend PRS, both tequila shunners, like this pitcher drink a lot. The taste of tequila is still present, but softer, and pairs seamlessly with the flavors of cilantro and lemon-thyme. The overall ratio of booze to non-booze makes it light and refreshing.

The Herbaceous pitcher drink uses muddle cilantro and lemon-thyme syrup. Use about this much lemon-thyme per 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of water.

The Herbaceous pitcher drink uses muddle cilantro and lemon-thyme syrup. Twelve stems of cilantro are shown here on the cutting board. Use about this much lemon-thyme (on the right) per 1 cup of sugar with 1 cup of water for the syrup.

Herbaceous*

Bunch of cilantro (approx. 12 stems)
6 oz reposado tequila
6 oz vodka
6 oz fresh lime juice
11 oz lemon-thyme syrup
24 oz club soda

Muddle the cilantro with lime juice in a pitcher. Add lemon-thyme syrup, tequila and vodka and stir well. Refrigerate for one hour, and then gently stir in chilled club soda. Serve on the rocks in a short bucket glass.  The recipe above serves 12.

Lemon-Thyme Syrup

1 c. sugar
1 c. water
4-5 stems of lemon-thyme (see photo)

Boil sugar and water together until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and drop in rinsed lemon-thyme stems. Cover and steep for 30 minutes, then strain out solids and cool liquid. Makes 12 ounces.  I recommend doubling this recipe so that you have the syrup ready for an ice tea sweetener – I keep this on hand year-round.

I brought this creation to two functions last summer and it disappeared quickly. Enjoy it with friends at a Cinco de Mayo gathering, and keep the recipe on hand for summer days. ¡Salud!

Cheers, HEILO

For more Cinco de Mayo options, see my previous posts: Granada de Amor and  St. Rosemary.

*Seriously, do you have another suggestion?

 
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Doomsday approach-eth

December 17th, 2012

We don’t need the Maya to point out December’s doomsday vibe. The days are so dark and short, the traffic catastrophic and the calories so destructive.  It seems fitting that the Maya chose to end their extensive calendar system on Dec. 21, 2012.*

I’m pretty sure we’ll live to see 2013. But just in case, I created this cocktail to soften the blow of Maya Prophesy Day. It’s strong, so you won’t feel the flames lickin’ at your feet…

Doomsday Drink

1 oz reposado tequila
½ oz crème de cacao (I used Marie Brizard white)
¼ oz vanilla syrup
½ oz Becherovka liqueur
4 drops Xocalatl Mole bitters (Bittermans)
Grated cinnamon garnish

Combine first five ingredients with ice in a shaker and shake until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and grate a dusting of cinnamon over the top…

… Or, hell, just dump them all in a glass and tip back. The world is ending, people! This is no time for prissy drinks!

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Sorry, hysteria contained. Why these flavors for the Doomsday Drink, you ask? Simple. The Maya’s territory stretched from southern Mexico through Central America, and their descendants still favor the flavors of chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla. Mexican tequila and Xocalatl Mole bitters also fit geographically. The digestif Becherovka lends the cinnamon note and keeps the drink from being too sweet.

But don’t despair: If Dec. 22 rolls around and you find the world still intact, this would make a great cocktail for Festivus/Winter Solstice/Christmas/New Year, et al. A multitasking cocktail is a truly welcome gift.

Cheers and fa la la la la,  ICE

*Well, we know now that they didn’t. Their calendars continued on elsewhere, and apparently we are safe for thousands more years. I think the Maya would have enjoyed this cocktail, though.

As always, check out my Glossary of Spirits page for alcohol and mixer definitions and details.

 
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