Archive for the ‘Cointreau’ Category

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


Rhubarb Surprise

Saturday, May 15th, 2010

Strawberry-Rhubarb syrup ready for straining.

My friend Julia generously brought me some rhubarb from her P-patch when I said I had some recipes to try. In fact, she chopped and delivered it to me mere hours after I mentioned it, which even Amazon Fresh can’t beat.        

It’s possible that I’ve tried rhubarb before, but I’m certain I’ve never actually touched it. Employing my lack-of-cooking skills, I hammered out two different rhubarb syrups and tried them in three drink recipes (one a mocktail). This may be the very first time that others can benefit from my food preparation (and that includes consuming it).     

Contestant #1

First, I went for the Strawberry-Rhubarb Syrup because our friend B.O.B. raves about Plush Pippin’s strawberry-rhubarb pie. Then again, he is the only man I know who visits Mexico and solely eats at Italian restaurants.  This syrup is used in the Josef the Spy cocktail from Food & Wine’s Cocktails 2009 book:        

Josef the Spy
1 oz tequila
½ oz Cointreau or other triple sec (I used Cointreau)
3 oz strawberry-rhubarb syrup (see below)
3 drops balsamic vinegar
1 oz chilled Sprite  
Strawberry-Rhubarb syrup
Trim and chop 4 stalks of rhubarb, then puree in blender with 2 ½ oz (1/2 cup) hulled strawberries and 1 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled until sugar is dissolved) until smooth. Strain the syrup into a jar, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Makes 14 oz (note: mine made maybe 8 oz once strained). 

I found this syrup recipe rather unwieldy. The fibrous rhubarb was a lot for my blender to handle, and was definitely too much for my fine-mesh sieve. It took a couple trips through the sieve, and I felt like I got too little syrup for the effort.   If I’m going to make that effort, I want it to last longer than four days.  Most syrups last for 3-4 weeks refrigerated; so what makes this one so special?     
Did the syrup redeem itself in the cocktail? Sadly, not really.  This recipe particularly intrigued me because of the balsamic vinegar, and I was curious what it could do in a cocktail. Josef the Spy (OK, who named this??) was too sweet for me; Red Hook said it was “good not great” with a strawberry burst that hits later. I added some lime juice to tart it up (like when I’m going out for the night), but it failed to make a dent. If I were to try it again, I would substitute club soda for the Sprite and reduce the strawberry-rhubarb syrup to 2 ounces instead of three.        

On a happy note, my kids loved the syrup mixed with sparkling water. They balked at trying rhubarb, but after being bribed discovered a new form of produce that they like. Even I can’t complain about that. (By the way, I had to google to see what to call rhubarb. Is it a fruit or vegetable? Clearly it is a common question because I only had to type “is rhubarb a” and the answer came right up: it is an ornamental vegetable.) 

Contestant #2

I decided to try the Rhubarb Cooler from Portland restaurant owner Lucy Brennan’s Hip Sips book mostly because I had the fresh rhubarb and was curious how the drinks – and differing rhubarb syrups – would compare. The results surprised me.      

Rhubarb Cooler
1 ½ oz gin (I used plain ol’ Tanqueray)
¼ oz lemon juice
¼ oz lime juice
1 oz rhubarb syrup
Splash of soda water

Fill shaker with ice and add gin, lemon & lime juices and rhubarb syrup. Shake well, then pour into ice-filled Collins glass. Garnish with lime wedge.   

Rhubarb Syrup
6 stalks of rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups sugar
2 cups water

Combine all ingredients into saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes, or until rhubarb is very tender and liquid coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month. 

I made a half recipe of the syrup because I had just three stalks left. This syrup is more like the usual infused simple syrups, where the flavor is steeped into the syrup. It was also much easier to strain than the Strawberry-Rhubarb Syrup because I could spoon out the bulkier solids first. I also liked that it keeps for a month and is a pretty pink color while the other syrup is a bit brownish.        

Here you can see the difference in color between the two rhubarb drinks. The Josef the Spy is in the Collins glass on the left. Although the Rhubarb Cooler calls for a Collins glass, I chose a martini glass without ice.

So, easier, prettier and longer-lasting…and makes a fabulous drink!  I have only recently learned to like some gins and Red Hook is not a fan (he recoiled at the gin smell before tasting), but we both liked this one. The Rhubarb Syrup really complimented the gin, and the cocktail is good enough to go in my “favorites” book. This would be a great choice for a brunch or shower, too. I’ll bet it would also be good with sparkling water, giving a non-alcohol option for guests.     

My verdict

I may try the Josef the Spy again, but I’ll use the Rhubarb Syrup with muddled strawberries or blackberries instead. And I’ll cut the sugar in the syrup down to ¾ cup or so; I can always add in a bit of simple syrup later if it proves too tart.        

It’s always satisfying to find (and share) and winning cocktail. Enjoy!        

Cheers, ICE        

Look, pictures! I’m upping my blog game by adding pictures of my trials. Before you judge, I readily admit that my photography skills are lacking. Even though the drinks weren’t sticking out their tongues, strangling each other or shaking their booties like my usual subjects, getting the right shot was tricky.


Payback’s a Bitch

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

It’s Mother’s Day morning and I’m looking through my master drink book with bloggin’ on my mind. Red Hook* asks if I’m starting up cocktail hour early. But I see a more important question here: why isn’t he making me brunch so that I can bust out the champagne?!

There are lots of great brunch cocktails out there, and I’ll get to them here someday. But I was thinking a better drink for today is the Payback.  Is it because today is the day to pay moms back for all they do? Or the payback that we’ll enjoy when our kids become parents? Interpret it however you wish.

The Payback

2 slices jalapeno chile
½ fresh kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced
1 ½ oz silver tequila
1 oz triple sec
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz simple syrup

(This recipe requires muddling. Ideally you would use a muddling tool with a flat end and long handle to press the fruit or herbs to release their juices or oils. This is isn’t hard, but you don’t want to mangle them.) 

Remove seeds from jalapeno slices, but leave the white membrane. Muddle the jalapeno and kiwi slices in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and remaining ingredients and shake vigorously. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and enjoy!

This recipe comes from The Modern restaurant in New York City and is included in the excellent cocktail book, MixShakeStir.

Cheers, ICE

BTW, I just got a unique Mother’s Day gift. Roy Rogers* is pretty excited that I’m starting this blog, enough so that he created notices announcing the debut of Ice + Clink + Drink. He plans to put these in the neighbors’ mailboxes, for which I readily apologize.

*to find out who Red Hook and Roy Rogers are, please check out my “ICE, Red, Roy & Shirley?” page.