Posts Tagged ‘club_soda’

Four strikes, this drink is out

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

The Loser lives up to its name

Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh. But the drink that sounded so amazing – black pepper syrup, yowza! – just hasn’t panned out.  Four times I’ve tried:

Attempt No. 1: The recipe said to crack the peppercorns coarsely, but it made for a very weak syrup and boring drink.

Attempt No. 2:  Armed with a mallet, plastic bag and my alarmingly aggressive children, we pounded the hell out of those peppercorns. This time the syrup was flavorful but still not a winner. Maybe the problem was substituting tequila for the pisco (a grape-based brandy from South America)?

Attempt No. 3: Our friends Stacy and Laura generously donated a bottle of pisco to the cause. Stacy picked up a couple of bottles in Chile when his engineering firm went down to survey the recent earthquake damage. It is lovely having friends that support your, uh, endeavors.

However, even with the pisco this drink doesn’t cut it for me. It could be the pineapple juice; while I love fresh pineapple, I just don’t care for it in cocktails (pina coladas in Maui being the exception).  On this third try I did reduce the pineapple juice from 3 ounces to just a ½ ounce, but the pineapple was still pushy.

Attempt No. 4: I am stubbornly pursuing this drink. This last time I eliminated the pineapple juice altogether and upped the lemon juice and black pepper syrup by ½ ounce each. Still, it’s just OK. Maybe using grapefruit juice instead of pineapple would be a worthy substitute?

I guess you win some, lose some, even with cocktails.  But not all is lost – I will use the pisco to try shaking up a Pisco Sour — the drink in Peru and Chile — and I just saw some recipes in the new Imbibe magazine calling for black pepper syrup.  Oh, darn, more experimenting.

The Loser

1 oz pisco
½ oz Velvet Falernum (clove-spiced liqueur)
3 oz pineapple juice
1 oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz black pepper syrup
1 oz chilled club soda
Pinch of freshly ground pepper, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the soda and ground pepper; shake well.  Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Stir in the soda; garnish with pepper.

Black Pepper Syrup – makes about 8 oz

1 c. water
½ c. sugar
¼ cup cracked black peppercorns

In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add sugar and stir over moderately high heat until dissolved. Add peppercorns and let stand off the heat for 20 minutes. Strain the syrup into a jar, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Cheers, ICE


If It Weren’t For Those Muddling Kids

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

I don’t think Scooby Doo and the gang were making many cocktails (Shaggy was likely smoking his intoxicants), but they might view muddling as a mystery. Since this is a prominent part of making many cocktails today, let’s get it out there.

Muddling is pressing ingredients with a pestle-shaped muddler in order to release the juices, oils and flavors of fruits, herbs and chile peppers.  If you’ve ever ordered a mojito, you’ve seen this technique in action, as the bartender muddles the mint in the bottom of the glass with sugar before adding the rum, lime juice and club soda. If done well, you get a pretty drink with greenery and a nice mint taste. If the drink mixer has aggression issues, you get a whole lot of leaf pieces shooting up your straw with each sip – where you know they’ll probably lodge between your teeth like you’ve been eating salad. Or, in the case of a frustrating blackberry mojito I had at the Ritz Carlton (where you’d think they’d know better) in Lake Las Vegas, a straw jammed with blackberry seeds.   

But strength of muddling is not the only factor.  Some cocktail pros advocate adding sugar with the item to be muddled – in the case of the mint above, the grains of sugar would help masticate the leaves. Others use simple syrup, which is not granular, in order to mix the flavors before shaking with ice and booze.  And at one site I saw a clip of a bartender slapping the mint in between his hands to release the flavor, but I’ll save that for when my mint has been very, very naughty.

Unlike the mojito, most drinks I make and see recipes for call for muddling in a cocktail shaker and not in the serving glass, so the muddled items are strained out.  No doubt I will learn more (and share it here), but I have found a couple of muddling musts:  First, I don’t smash the fruit or leaves; I press and turn the muddler slightly each time. I also tend to muddle leafy herbs first, then add any fruit and muddle it again. Otherwise it is hard to reach the herbs properly through the thick fruit.  Then I add the ice and remaining ingredients and shake. But – and here’s the second part – I don’t rely on the strainer at the top of my shaker if I’ve muddled soft fruit or that with seeds in it. I put a baby strainer on top of the glass and pour the drink through that. You get a yummy drink and no salad teeth.

Try this spring drink out:

Strawberry-Basil Refresher

6 strawberries
6 basil leaves
2 oz vodka
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz lime juice
2 oz club soda

In a cocktail shaker, first muddle the basil, then add strawberries and muddle. Add ice, vodka, simple syrup and lime juice; shake well. Double-strain into a highball with ice, then add club soda and stir gently.

Cheers, ICE