Archive for the ‘Drinks for Parties’ Category

Cocktails go from swell to gel

Friday, 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.

IMG_8562

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

 

A perfect pitcher: herbs, tequila and Cinco de Mayo

Tuesday, 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?

 

Skip the pumpkin patches and corn mazes for the Pumpkin King cocktail

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Cocktail experiments are much like wandering through a corn maze.  Sometimes – too often – a promising zig or zag ends up a dead-end. Repeatedly. Should I consider it cheating if someone finally hands me a map? Hell no!

I get some flavor ideas stuck in my head; this month it was pumpkin (for the holidays and because my daughter’s smile looks like a jack-o-lantern now, with missing teeth galore). The problem is that pumpkin, no matter in syrup or butter form, leaves unappealing sediment.  Blech.  Then I remembered that chocolate can have that same problem –> but my chocolate stout reduction did not –> and they do make pumpkin ale –> so I could use the same technique to make pumpkin ale syrup. Aha! Surely I had found my way out of the maze. 

 

 

Er, not quite. Sticking with my chocolate stout syrup recipe, I created the pumpkin ale syrup and trialed it in several cocktails. Somehow I just couldn’t find the right combination of flavors to highlight the pumpkin element. Ready to toss that idea into my (full) dustbin of discarded cocktail ideas, an online search brought me to a Raising the Bar segment with Jamie Boudreau, owner of the excellent Canon on Capitol Hill. Boudreau demonstrates the Pumpkin King recipe, even using the same brand of ale, Southern Tier Pumking, for his pumpkin ale liqueur.

The Pumpkin King cocktail is refreshing and interesting. It would make an ideal chaser to Trick or Treating or a Thanksgiving feast…or both!

 

Jamie Boudreau’s Pumpkin King cocktail

1½ oz blended Scotch
½ oz pumpkin ale liqueur (see my change below)
½ oz lime juice
Dash of bitters (I used Peyschauds)
Ginger beer to top (I used 1 oz of Fentimans)

Shake the first four ingredients with ice; strain into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with ginger beer (I found 1 oz to be better, perhaps owing to different glass sizes), and garnish with a lime wedge.

 

Disclosure: my version deviates from Boudreau’s because I wanted to use the pumpkin ale syrup I had already made rather than create a liqueur.  My syrup uses less sugar, so I bumped the amount up from ½ oz to 1 oz in the cocktail. If you also want to go that route, here is my recipe:

 

Pumpkin Ale Syrup

1 bottle (24 oz) of pumpkin ale
1 c. sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 t. allspice berries
1/8 t. salt
 
Combine all in a large sauce pan. Bring to boil until the sugar is dissolved, and then simmer on medium while stirring occasionally and watching carefully — it can quickly bubble up and over if left unwatched. After simmering for 15 minutes, remove from heat and discard any foam on top.

 

Happy Halloween! Looking for more Halloween-inspired cocktails? Check out these previous posts:

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Drinks That Burn in Hell-oween

When Orange Meets Black

Uniting Fire and Ice

A Cackle Night Hollow

Cheers, ICE

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

 

Do not fear the liquor and beer

Monday, June 25th, 2012
Beer before liquor, never sicker
Liquor before beer, never fear…

So they say, but what happens when the beer is mixed with the liquor?!  My report: so far, so good.

My flirtation with beer in cocktails has been picking up speed. It started with the humble shandy and has progressed to other interesting concoctions. I have a feeling I will be reporting on more of these “aletails” this summer, starting with the “One Sunset.”

The “One Sunset” was featured on Imbibe Magazine online after appearing in the new book Beer Cocktails by Howard and Ashley Stelzer. After sampling the “One Sunset,” this book is now on top of my wish list.

One Sunset

6 red grapes
10 fresh mint leaves
2 oz vodka
¾ oz Aperol
¾ oz simple syrup
½ oz fresh lemon juice
1 ½ oz amber lager (I used Full Sail’s LTD #05)
grapes and mint to garnish (optional)

In a mixing glass, gently muddle grapes and mint leaves. Add ice and remaining ingredients (except the beer). Stir until well chilled and strain into a Collins glass. Top with beer and garnish.

This aletail has a touch of bitter from the Aperol and the lager, but tastes light and refreshing. Since I had the open bottle of lager, I tried subsequent variations that reduced and then omitted the vodka (sometimes substituting plain club soda). I didn’t miss the vodka in taste, and leaving it out creates a lighter-alcohol drink that can be enjoyably sipped all of a summer afternoon without serious consequences. 

Better yet for continuous sipping, I scaled and tweaked the recipe to create a pitcher drink:

One Sunset Pitcher

48 red grapes
30 mint leaves
8 oz vodka
6 oz Aperol
6 oz simple syrup
4 oz lemon juice
8 oz club soda
1 bottle amber lager

Muddle grapes and strain. Muddle mint leaves and grape juice, then add vodka, Aperol, lemon juice and simple syrup. Mix together and chill for at least one hour. Add beer and club soda just before serving. Stir gently and pour over ice to serve. Makes 8 servings. 

 Cheers, ICE

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