Archive for the ‘Brandy’ Category

A Sauced Cranberry gets you ready for the big meal

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving Day is defined by The Meal: The lore of the first Thanksgiving meal between pilgrims and Native Americans (who certainly must regret it now) and the meals we Americans eat every fourth Thursday in November. Since cranberries are such an integral part of the turkey dinner, I was drawn to incorporating them into a pre-dinner cocktail.  An aperitif primes the digestive system for a meal, and this cranberry shrub cocktail will do just that.

Shrubs are fruit preserved with vinegar and were widely consumed in the colonial America that came after the pilgrims. They are an effective way to make seasonal fruits last longer, and, in cocktails, add both sweet and acidic elements.  Having that acidic component is a huge plus for group cocktails as it means no tedious citrus squeezing.   

There are two ways to produce a shrub, either the cold-process method where fruit is macerated with sugar for 24-48 hours before adding vinegar, or by simmering the ingredients together until the fruit is broken down.  For cranberries, using heat is a better option to soften the harder fruit.

Cranberry Shrub

4 c. fresh cranberries
3 c. sugar
1 c. water
2 c. apple cider vinegar (I used unfiltered)

Split open all of the cranberries with a muddler or other hard tool. Combine with sugar and water, and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes as fruit softens and sugar dissolves. Add apple cider vinegar and simmer for 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Strain out all solids, bottle and keep in the refrigerator. Makes 3+ cups after straining. A shrub can last months because of the preservation nature of vinegar.

For this occasion, I chose apple cider vinegar because I thought it would pair nicely with the cranberries, but any variety – white or red wine vinegars, white vinegar, champagne vinegar – will do. Brandy also seemed suiting, along with a final garnish of cayenne pepper to add a bit of heat. So while the cocktail was coming together with aspects of tart, tangy and heat, it still needed a touch of sweetness to round it out. An amaretto’s almond flavoring provided the missing element.

Sauced Cranberry

1 oz brandy
½ oz cranberry shrub
¼ oz amaretto (I used Di Saronno)
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix brandy, shrub and amaretto in a glass with ice. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to garnish (this is optional, but provides a nice heat and offsets typically non-spicy Thanksgiving dishes to come later).  It will be lacking the full flavor, but if you want to substitute an almond syrup for the amaretto, start with half the amount and add to taste.  To scale into a pitcher drink that serves 12, use 12 oz of brandy, 6 oz of shrub, and 3 oz of amaretto; pour into a glass with ice and garnish.

There is some research showing that consuming vinegar (in salad dressings and such) can help stabilize blood sugar, lower glucose levels in diabetics, and help with general digestive issues.  Like, perhaps, those caused by ingesting mass quantities of turkey, mashed potatoes and pie?  But even if the Sauced Cranberry doesn’t provide health benefits, it is easy to make ahead and the shrub could do double-duty as a mocktail with Sprite or ginger beer.

 Have a Happy Thanksgiving. May you pull the long side of the wishbone!

 Cheers, ICE


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



Nice Spoils From the Blueberry Wars

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Here is the scenario: Lovely sunny day with time on our hands and a plan to meet up with friends. Berry picking? Great idea. The kids are all happy to pick and taste blueberries, content to wander among the bushes to seek the ripest berries, buckets in hand.  (Note that there is no holding hands and skipping because that would be obnoxious).  Sounds nice, eh?

Now cue the snakes, boys pelting each other with berries and later my daughter loudly describing the snake’s poop (probably scared out of the poor thing) to all at the check-out stand. Ah, now that’s a typical summer afternoon.


Check out the schmancy garnish. It took me only slightly more time than making the drink and syrup...

But it was fruitful because I now have ingredients for a wonderful cocktail: blueberries we picked with our own hands, rosemary clipped from my own pots, and maple syrup…poured from a bottle. Sorry, no syrup-making trees in our parts. Intriguing ingredients made it worth hauling out the blender for this one.

Blueberry-Maple Caiprissimo *

6 ounces bourbon or Cognac (I used Metaxa brandy)
6 ounces blueberries, plus 4 blueberries, each skewered on a rosemary sprig, for garnish (optional; see picture)
6 ounces Maple-Rosemary Syrup
4 ounces fresh lemon juice
3 cups ice

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients except the skewered blueberries and blend until smooth. Pour the drinks into chilled rocks glasses and garnish. Makes 4 drinks.


Rosemary-Maple Syrup

4 rosemary sprigs
6 ounces pure maple syrup

 Combine ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high power until hot, about 30 seconds. Let the syrup cool, then discard the rosemary sprigs. Transfer the syrup to a jar, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. Try on pancakes or French toast, too!

 While normally not a lover of blended cocktails, I make an exception for this one because it is darn tasty. Plus, it has the added novelty of including an actual microwave in the directions. How easy is that? Considering that a friend just sent me instructions on how to hard boil eggs, I think we can all see how I was drawn to this one.

Cheers, ICE

*The Blueberry-Maple Caiprissimo was created by mixologist Adam Seger and was featured in Food & Wine’s Cocktails 2009.  No snakes were harmed (tangibly) in the making of this post.

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


Reunited And It Feels So Good

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Remember that song by Peaches & Herb (the duo’s name is even cocktail-friendly!): “Reunited and it feels so good…” That’s how I’m feeling about my summer cocktail recipes. Seeing the cherry stand at the side of the road, I couldn’t wait to revisit brandied cherries and the Cherry Blossom Sling recipe I made with them. These cherries are so good and so easy; I’m already certain that I should have made more. I re-posted the recipes below.


Aren't these gorgeous? The cherry stand proprietor suggested I try this Strawberry-Cherry variety, and I'm glad I did. They kept my mouth happy while my brandied bing cherries brewed.


 Lu’s Brandied Cherries (courtesy of Imbibe Magazine)

1 lb sweet cherries, pitted
½ c. sugar
½ c. water
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 stick cinnamon
Pinch of fresh nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. brandy (I used Metaxa Greek brandy but any should do)

Wash and pit the cherries (stain warning: gloves would be helpful). In a saucepan, combine all ingredients except the cherries and brandy and bring to a rolling boil. When the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium. Add the cherries and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat, add the brandy and let cool. Transfer the cherries into clean jars and refrigerate uncovered until cherries are cool to touch. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 2 weeks.

To showcase my cherries I chose the Cherry Blossom Sling, from my MixShakeStir cocktail book. The book also has a brandied cherries recipe, but I was missing several ingredients. Lu’s worked quite well, and the recipe allowed me to incorporate some of the yummy liquid into the drink.

Cherry Blossom Sling

3 brandied cherries, plus a splash of liquid
3 lime wedges
1 ½ oz gin
¼ oz Cherry Heering (a cherry liqueur)
½ oz simple syrup
¼ oz fresh lime juice
Splash of soda water
Dash of Angostura bitters

Muddle the cherries and lime wedges in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and all ingredients except the soda water and bitters and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass, add the soda water and bitters, and serve.

Cheers, ICE

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


The Spice is Nice (for Ice)

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Every once in awhile I get hung up on trying a specific cocktail recipe, despite a large number of equally tantalizing ones queued up. The Epicé Sidecar was such a recipe: Combining “heat” with “sidecar” sounded great to me. Although it is overall an easy drink to make, it took awhile to achieve the perfect storm of ingredients on-hand with the chance to make it. 

Epice Sidecar half-rimmed with Sugar in the Raw.

The Epicé Sidecar (epicé meaning spicy in French, says the recipe description) combines a simple syrup of jalapenos and brown sugar with pineapple juice, cognac and lemon juice. Since pineapple juice isn’t my favorite in drinks, I chose to use less and compensated by adding a little extra syrup. Nonetheless, the drink just didn’t WOW me. And, yes, I do expect a WOW factor from my cocktails.

Epicé Sidecar

1 1/2 oz Cognac (I used Metaxa brandy)
1 oz fresh pineapple 
 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz jalapeno brown sugar (double strength) simple syrup

Rim half of a chilled cocktail glass with brown sugar (Sugar in the Raw is recommended). Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into the glass. Garnish with two jalapeno slices and/or a small pineapple wedge (optional).

Jalapeno Brown Sugar Syrup:

2 cups brown sugar
1 cup water
2 fresh jalapeno peppers, washed and stemmed

Add the sugar, water and jalapenos sliced lengthwise to a pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes before straining through a fine-mesh strainer. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

Regardless of the anticipation of trying this cocktail, sipping the finished product made me long for the Metaxa Sidecars I was making last spring. I decided to replace the simple syrup in that recipe with the jalapeno brown sugar syrup, thereby discovering a new twist on an old favorite.  Much better.

Metaxa Sidecar “spiced” up

1 oz Metaxa brandy
½ oz Cointreau
1 oz lemon juice
½ oz jalapeno brown sugar syrup (regular sidecar uses ¾ oz simple syrup)

Rim a chilled cocktail glass with fine sugar. Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into chilled glass and enjoy.

Why Metaxa, you ask? After trying a sidecar made with the Greek brandy at two different Seattle bars (Pair and 10 Mercer), I decided to skip the hunt for a good mixing Cognac and embrace the Metaxa instead. Yum.

Cheers, ICE