Archive for the ‘Tequila’ Category

It’s Tequila, Not Te-kill-ya

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Let’s talk tequila, shall we? I know, I know: you had a bad experience with tequila in college/your 20’s/Tijuana/Cinco de Mayo/whatever. Yeah, yeah, we all have those tequila stories.  But I’ll bet if you’re really honest with yourself, you also had those nights with vodka, rum, everclear, spodi, Mad Dog… But now we are adults (marginally) and it’s time to put that baggage behind us. Time to put Cuervo behind us.

Trust me, there is a world of tequila out there that does not involve dual streams of liquid poured into your awaiting mouth. While tequila may have knocked me down a time or so, I’ve always been able to come back; however, only since starting my cocktail experimentation have I learned more about this spirit, so here’s a brief summary AND a great tequila-entry drink awaiting.

All tequilas are not equal

Six months ago I was unaware that there are different types of tequila.  I’ve learned enough to now seek out what I like. Here’s a rundown of tequila types and Wikipedia provides more details:

Blanco/Silver tequila: This is the “youngest” tequila, in that it is aged only a maximum of 2 months before filtered, bottled and distributed. This tequila usually has the strongest taste and sharpest bite, and is the core of most margaritas.

Reposado tequila: This is “medium” aged tequila, and can rest in wood or steel barrels from 2-11 months prior to bottling. These tequilas, called aged or rested, tend to be smoother, darker and mellower than the blanco varieties. Do not confuse the reposados with the Joven/Oro (or Gold) types, which are blancos with coloring and additives (like Cuervo Gold). Bleh.

Añejo tequila: Aged for at least one year in smaller barrels, these tequilas are very smooth and complex and often fall into the “sipping neat” category, if that’s your thing. Extra añejo tequilas are aged for 3 or more years.

Although purists might be appalled (purists are such buzz-kills, aren’t they?), I now frequently substitute reposado tequila in recipes calling for blanco because I like the mellower taste and additional flavors of the reposado (and a bottle usually costs just a couple dollars more).

Ready to put your tequila fears behind you? Try out the Purple Haze, a recipe from the DRY Soda Company, a Seattle-based provider of all-natural, more adult (not XXX adult, silly) sodas.  Red Hook thought this cocktail did a good job of moderating the tequila.

Purple Haze

1¾ oz  tequila (reposado or blanco)
½ oz Chambord
2 oz lime juice
2 oz simple syrup
4 oz Lavender DRY Soda
Sugar Rim and a Lime for garnish (optional)

Prepare a bucket glass with sugar rim and add ice. Pour lemon and lime juices, simple syrup, tequila, Chambord, and Lavender DRY into glass and stir gently. Garnish and serve.

Note: the original recipe calls for 4 ounces of “sweet and sour mix,” usually meaning 2 ounces of lemon or lime juice (or a combination of the two) and 2 ounces of simple syrup.  I broke it out here because I felt the drink was a bit too sweet, so next time I will add less simple syrup to taste.

So, try out a different, better quality tequila and a good recipe to put your tequila-phobias behind you. Then you will never have to hide on Cinco de Mayo again.

Cheers, ICE


You Can Lead a Horticulture, But You Can’t Make Her Drink*

Thursday, July 8th, 2010
I’m getting used to strange looks from friends. Usually they stem from my mention of some less common (but incredibly yummy) liquor or the fact that I have willingly embarked on a cooking-related activity in pursuit of a cocktail. But I know I’m in for some serious eye-rolling when I say that I’m actually growing my own food – herbs, mostly – to use for cocktails.

Past years I’ve stuck to planting shrubs, trees and other perennials in the yard, but frankly the upkeep is pretty tedious. I’m not into tedious.  However, I figured that a few pots filled with herbs should be manageable even for me. Oh, and a Topsy Turvy strawberry planter because my kids can’t pass one on the street without yelling, “Topsy Turvy! Topsy Turvy! You should get one, Mom!” Buying a few strawberry plants seemed like better parenting than duct tape as a gag.

Who knows if my “garden” will bring forth cocktail bounty?  I will admit it has been very satisfying to wander to the patio to pick the mint, lemon thyme, basil or cilantro called for in my recipe books.  Soon I should be able to try out some pineapple mint, orange mint, thai basil and sage, too.

My cocktail garden.

In the meantime, here is a great recipe that utilizes the cilantro, as well as the blackberries that are poised to take over in my region. My friend Dee calls the Yerba Mora, “bright and lovely.” Funny, that’s how I describe Dee, too.

Yerba Mora  (created by mixologist Joaquin Simo)

5 cilantro leaves
5 blackberries, plus 3 blackberries skewered on a pick for garnish
2 ounces blanco tequila
1/2 ounce green Chartreuse
Dash of absinthe
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and warm water, shaken to mix)

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the 5 blackberries. Add ice and all of the remaining ingredients except the skewered blackberries and shake well. Strain (a small fine-mesh sieve is handy to catch the blackberry seeds) into an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with the skewered blackberries (optional).

The Chartreuse is an appealing liqueur and one of the finds that I’ve been happiest about discovering. I have the green Chartreuse called for in the Yerba Mora, but there is a also a yellow (and therefore not actually chartreuse) Chartreuse that is sweeter. Monks in France have been making it for centuries, which suddenly make monks seem far more interesting. It has also made my liquor cabinet more interesting.

Cheers, ICE

*This headline – slightly tweaked – is courtesy of writer Dorothy Parker’s quote, “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”


Drinks that evoke, not erase, memories

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

For my latest cocktail experiments I went old school. It was quite by accident, but the results were pleasant.

When I was 11 or so, my family took ski trips in Germany and stayed in a WWII-era hotel where they served syrupy Shirley Temples heaping with maraschino cherries.  I have fond memories of slurping those down while playing Pac Man, Space Invaders and pinball in the tiny arcade. When I kept running into grenadine in various cocktail recipes, those tooth-achingly sweet drinks came to mind. Eventually I learned that real grenadine is actually made with pomegranate juice and only bears the color red in common with the commercial “grenadine” sold in the U.S.  And, it is ridiculously easy to make.

Tequila Sunrise with homemade grenadine

Easy homemade grenadine

1. Combine 1 bottle (16 oz) of pomegranate juice with 1 c. of sugar
2. Simmer on medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until the mix coats the back of a spoon
3. Remove from heat and add a couple dashes of orange flower water (I found mine near the bottled grenadine at the grocery store – but don’t be tempted to buy that instead!)
4. Once cooled, pour into an airtight bottle and refrigerate. It will keep for 2-3 weeks and makes about 2 cups.

After I made my batch, I taste-tested it against a forgotten bottle of Rose’s brand grenadine …what a difference! They taste nothing alike. While both sweet, the homemade grenadine is a bit thicker, richer and has a slight tartness. The store-bought grenadine has high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors and dyes red 40 and blue 1. It looked pretty going down the drain: I’m pretty sure my regular Diet Cokes give me all the liquid chemicals a body needs.

Now was the time for my kids to try their nick-namesakes the Shirley Temple and Roy Rogers drinks. I didn’t have any glowing-red maraschino cherries, but the drinks disappeared quickly anyway (I used about 4 oz each of 7-up and cola with 1/2 oz each of grenadine).

Moving on, I decided to try a classic with grenadine, the Tequila Sunrise. If I’ve ever had this iconic 70’s drink, I must not have been too impressed. But perhaps that was due to artificial grenadine or crud tequila in some college bar, because the one I mixed tonight was so very tasty.  So easy and no shaker required!

Tequila Sunrise

1 ½ oz tequila
3 oz orange juice
¼ to ½ oz homemade grenadine

Mix the tequila and orange juice over ice, then slowly add the grenadine to achieve the “sunrise” effect. This would be a nice party drink because larger quantities of the tequila and orange juice can be mixed in advance and each serving quickly finished with the grenadine.

Lastly, when patrolling for recipes to use my new grenadine (and there are tons à la Google), I ran into a drink that uses Jägermeister, that nemesis of shot-haters everywhere. I’m quite curious about this drink:

Bed of Roses    

1 ½  oz Jägermeister
2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz homemade grenadine syrup
½ oz fresh lime juice
Lime slice and cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients and shake over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish, sip and then post a comment here to tell me how it is!

When I asked Red Hook if we had any Jägermeister (buried deep) in the liquor cabinet, his response was a weary, “I don’t know what’s in there anymore.” 

Yes, it’s probably better that way.

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.