The clouds are rushing in this morning. Rain is pouring heavily from the sky in buckets. Someone said something about heavy thunderstorms and sixty- degree weather. This is not winter- I’m confused. Certain types of confusion- such as the weather do strange things to my sense of normal. But what is normal these days? Is it finally Winter?
I hope so. This may be just an anomaly.
It’s a mere blip on the radar screen.
While down in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail- I had the pleasure of meeting and enjoying a cocktail at the historic carousel bar at the Monteleone Hotel with my friend Bill York of Bitter End Bitters and his lovely wife Laurel. As the carousel made the slow go-round and all those around me became more and more sloshed, (present company excluded) my cocktail driven sense of self detached from the reality of the situation. Now, many months later, I’m reminded of the restoratives served at the Carousel Bar and the friends I made while circling the room as the seconds ticked away.
A Limerick for Laurel Cocktail
( A VERY twisted takeoff on the classic cocktail named Bees Knees)
Makes one very dangerous drink. Stay off the roads!
2 Shots of a very smoky Bourbon Whiskey like Devil’s Cut from Jim Beam
1 Shot fresh lemon juice
1 Shot freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons Lavender/Lemon Simple Syrup from Royal Rose
2 tablespoons of wildflower honey
Bitters (your choice) I prefer the Thai Bitters from Bitter End
Preparation: To a cocktail shaker- add ½ with ice. Add Scotch, honey, juices and bitters, shake and pour into a short glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a grilled orange slice and sip to the mournful sound of that strange, yet familiar song from Chet Baker- My Funny Valentine- all sung in minor notes. Very appropriate for a 60 plus degree winter day.
Pardon my fuzzy photography from my ancient iPhone- I had to capture this picture with the camera I had on hand. This drink came together after a particularly unpleasant day yesterday. My day started with two deeply placed cavities being drilled out- at the dentist.
Please don’t get me wrong, he is most gentle and very kind- no barbarians here!
My mouth was not happy and after a few hours of discomfort I was able to get to work writing and dreaming.
My mind sometimes wanders to cocktails for reasons other than purely creative expressions of my inner self. Yesterday, it drifted towards alcohol to kill that dull pain of the experience.
A fire graced the dining room fireplace- warming against my back. I was eagerly awaiting that flood of inspiration from using great ingredients to create new flavors.
They lend their secrets through creativity.
The cast iron pan heated to smoking in the kitchen. I had some tiny Florida Blood Oranges in a bowl for snacking, then, inspiration struck. What if I segmented the oranges into sections, then seared them in the cast iron pan, smoking nicely in the background? Certainly would change their flavor. Deepen it somehow. Make it sensual- a seared blood orange juice for a cocktail or a punch? Absolutely.
But what liquor to go with this. I’m sure cognac would work, but I didn’t want to go down that road from a flavor perspective. I needed something with deep mystery. What liquor evokes mystery more than Absinthe? Nothing except maybe Chartreuse VEP? Having several bottles of Absinthe and one of the VEP in the liquor cabinet didn’t hurt.
Carefully I drew open the ancient wooden box that contained the VEP. The wax covered top and hand numbered bottle looking like something from an alchemist’s lair. The bottle of Absinthe that I chose was Tenneyson. The company hails from Texas, yet the magic captured in the bottle is distilled in France. Is there a connection here? I’m not sure.
With the blood oranges popping up and down on the sizzling hot cast iron pan, I realized that they were attaining that crunchy covering that only can happen with high heat. Removing them from the pan I set them aside to cool. Then I juiced them by hand through a cocktail sieve.
I chilled this really cool mid-century modern glass down with some ice and water, but I didn’t want this drink to be cold. My teeth were pretty sensitive at this point.
Combining a bit of Chartreuse with Absinthe takes real fortitude. The Chartreuse VEP is 108 proof. Not for the meek. Tenneyson Absinthe, rolling in at 106 proof is at first sniff, pure Gin. I don’t know how they do it, other than the specific Terroir of the herbs in their unique recipe. This Absinthe is contemplative, yes- but when combined with Chartreuse VEP and charred blood orange juice- something magical takes place.
It is a punch beyond dreams- a simple drink really. Made with passion! You need to include two other ingredients that may have to be ordered directly from their source. Bitter End Moroccan Bitters and Royal Rose Simple Syrup of Tamarind to acheive my flavor profile. Or you can skip them and use the bitters on hand and a sugar cane simple syrup.
Magic Monk’s Eventual Dream Punch (Makes two or more… Just lovely cocktails)
2 oz. Tenneyson Absinthe or your choice of Absinthe
.25 oz. Chartreuse VEP
4 oz. of grilled blood orange juice
A few slices of (ungrilled) blood orange for garnish
Sear blood orange segments in a cast iron or stainless steel pan until nicely browned on both sides, set aside to cool, then juice through cocktail sieve
Combine Absinthe and Chartreuse VEP in a cocktail mixing vessel of your choice.
Add seared blood orange Juice slowly while mixing with a stainless steel cocktail mixer. Be gentle. Watch the louche’ take place in the glass. Contemplate the creamy, gin and citrus scented aromas that rise up from within.
Add a medicine dropper of the Bitter End Moroccan Bitters.
Add a splash or two of the Royal Rose Tamarind Syrup.
Give another gentle stir.
Pour into one of your most favored glasses… Have a connection to your glass that you will pour the drink into- make it memorable and share this elegant little punch with someone who appreciates FLAVOR!
Top with a bit of seltzer water, and garnish with a slice of blood orange. Sip, then dream into your Absinthe colored mystery!
Cocktail inspiration comes from the internet- driven media as well as my twisted sense of my often enlightened self. This morning I was reading the “Tweets” from my friend Patti Clauss. She linked and re-Tweeted a recently published journey in Eater Magazine involving Anthony Bourdain, eating and drinking his way through the streets of San Francisco. I love Tiki bars, especially the ones in San Francisco. They are a fantasy for the mind and the body. It’s funny to me how drinking rum in tropical vessels just seems to evoke a dreamy sensibility that is all things San Francisco.
One of the quotes in Anthony Bourdain’s article struck me as the perfect name for a cocktail “Walking Buddha”. This cocktail is Tiki in derivation and it tips the hat to all the great Tiki bars in the land.
On this blustery cold morning in Morristown, NJ, I offer you a hint summer for your glass. Stay warm and dream of the tropics!
The Walking Buddha Cocktail
Makes two rather enlightening cocktails!
Few White Whiskey
Ron de Jeremy Rum
Royal Rose “Rose” Simple Syrup
Charred in a cast iron pan then freshly squeezed – Lime, Grapefruit and Tangerine juices (Essential!)
Bitter End Thai Bitters or Angostura Bitters and a bit of chopped hot pepper
Coconut Water Ice (Essential!) -please find the recipe below-
Fill a cocktail shaker ½ with regular ice
Add 2 shots each Few White Whiskey and Ron de Jeremy or your brands of choice
Add 4 Tablespoons of Royal Rose “Rose” Syrup
Peel the citrus of all white pith (it’s very bitter) and segment. Char in a cast iron or your choice of pan, cool then juice
Add the Freshly squeezed juices, about 1 shot of each one
Add 1 tsp of the bitters
Shake and strain into two short Rocks glasses with roughly crushed coconut water cubes, garnish with a tangerine slice
Coconut Water Ice– To an ice cube tray, fill with sweetened coconut water and freeze overnight
Writing about Rum comes easily to me because my late step-father was very fond of Rum. He and my mom owned an ocean going yacht and it made for a comfortable passage from island to island in the search of fine food and most importantly cooling rum cocktails. It was a nice adventure!
The two meals I looked forward to the most on our day trips from island to island were lunch and dinner. Lunch because sailing all morning in the blistering heat develops quite a hunger and thirst, and dinner because after hard sailing all day, the meal could start with a refreshing rum beverage and finish the meal with something quite extraordinary. I say extraordinary because the islands, being British or French had open trade agreements with Cuba. As everyone who has tasted Cuban Rum knows, it has a very unique Terroir and character.
Recently I have been experimenting with the Ron de Jeremy Rum. This Rum is very smooth with a long finish. It tastes very similar in the mouth to the historic Rums of Cuba.
Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez makes this Rum taste like his old country with sweet notes of vanilla sugar and citrus blossoms bursting into bloom with every sip.
It’s just about the closest thing I’ve tasted here at home- that tastes like the rum we used to mix into Painkillers down in the islands.
So I leave you with the Very Twisted Cocktail Whisperer version of the “pain” cocktail that I cannot say the name of in the hot sun.
This drink makes 2 veritable mind erasers, fact- that is the name of the cocktail:
The Veritable Mind Eraser Cocktail
To a cocktail shaker muddle fresh pineapple, orange and tangerine chunks that you’ve previously seared lightly in a sauté pan until crispy and “charred”
Add some ice to the shaker, about ¼ full
Add some coconut milk (sweetened) to the fruit. Use about 2 shots
Add some coconut water (sweetened) to the milk and the fruit. Use 1 shot
Add 4 Shots of Ron de Jeremy Rum
Crush some coconut water ice- you know, freeze coconut water in an ice cube tray overnight then crush…
Happy New Year all! I’ve been experimenting with citrus as of late- but instead of the usual juice it and forget it- the cast iron pan (over there) has made a new dimension to my drinks.
What? A cast iron pan? How do you mean?
I like the charred flavor of citrus fruits. But how?
Clementines are seasonal. As are blood oranges. Grapefruits are gorgeous at this time of year. Sure, they are great juiced, but why not heat up your cast iron pan to almost smoking, peel your citrus and throw it into the pan. Char the citrus and set aside to cool.
Char the grapefruit segments until nicely browned on all sides
Juice the segments and strain
Add Casa Noble Tequila to a cocktail shaker filled 1/2 with ice
Add one medicine dropper of Bitter End Moroccan Bitters to the shaker
Add the juice of the charred grapefruit
Shake!!! Shake!!! Shake!!!
Strain into a short rocks glass with a sprig of mint as garnish… Slurp and enjoy!
The next cocktail combines blood oranges juice, lime juice, and clementine juice in a punch-like concoction that includes Cava from Spain, Conjure Cognac and Ron de Jeremy Rum. “The Long, Smooth Rum”
It’s aptly called the “Hedgehog’s Revenge”
Take about three each, peel away the bitter pith and char in your cast iron pan. Set aside to cool.
Juice the citrus fruits
To a cocktail shaker, add 1/2 with ice
Add 2 shots of Conjure Cognac
Add 4 shots of Ron de Jeremy Rum
Splash of Cava (Spanish Sparking Wine)
Add about 6 oz of the charred juices
Shake and strain into two Champagne flutes
Top with a splash of Cava
This Cocktail uses Botanical-style Gin. What is Botanical Gin? Quite simply, it’s Gin that tastes like something! Most of the Gin on the market today has very little flavor. If it said Vodka on the label- you’d be 1/2 way to a hangover by now! My friend Laura Baddish sent me some samples of a lovely Botanical Gin named Bulldog.
This is Gin with GUTS! It stands up to citrus faster than you can say “Gin with juice” which is the basis of this little drink. It’s more of a long drink than a mere shot.
Absinthe stirs the imagination. All those paintings from France in the 1800’s exemplifying the mystical aspects of this misunderstood liquor makes me want to delve deeply into measured sips. But how does Absinthe work? It does because of the mystique surrounding the clear liquid that somehow turns cloudy after dripping scant drops of water over the surface. Magic happens! Sure there are the botanical herbs, of course there is the ever-present alcohol- you cannot miss that with many varieties exceeding 120 proof!
Absinthe is powerful stuff indeed!
I love Absinthe because of the bad boy (bad girl) element. From a flavor perspective, Absinthe is every bit as delicious as botanical Gin, but it is thicker somehow. On the first taste, you can feel the creamy texture against your lips and tongue- then- coming quickly into view is the anise elements- then suddenly as if a monster awakened- the brooding depth of the alcohol. Sweet, savory, tart and herbal elements differ from brand to brand. The European varieties are known to contain certain long banned ingredients, but the American ones are no less potent. The rumor of a brand of Absinthe that may have plied Van Gogh to cut off his ear is known as the Green Fairy- good luck finding it! (No, not his ear) La Fee Verte.
This week’s cocktail is woven of Absinthe, freshly squeezed, charred grapefruit juice and a splash of Q-Tonic water. Q-Tonic water is available in nearly every Williams-Sonoma store and also in Whole Foods. It’s worth the extra expense for a hand-made product!
I’ve taken a small producer Absinthe from St. George in California- certainly available around the country- although you can use your choice of Absinthe- and added freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. I char the grapefruit segments in a cast iron pan before juicing to reveal a deeper personality and a hint of mystery!
I love the idea of a blazing fire, accompanied by friends and family gathered together at the table to share a Thanksgiving meal.
This important holiday evening is started nicely with cheery glass of Cava, or Spanish sparkling wine. I then add a fire-roasted fruit puree. I’ve taken organic strawberries, charred them in a dry, yet sizzling hot, cast iron pan, let them cool, then run them through the food processor. I adjust the sweetness to taste with agave syrup, I then add a dollop or two of this smoky-sweet puree into each glass. Use two pints of strawberries and two 750 ml bottles of Cava for 8 people.
The tangy-sweet-tart quality of the strawberries when added to a mineral-tasting Cava just says a welcoming celebration in your spirited glass. You don’t need very much of this drink to say greetings and please join us at our bountiful table.
Dyed in the Wool
Another easy and exotic drink is a spin-off on the classic Rob Roy cocktail. In this case blended, (not single malt) scotch whiskey is added to a short rocks glass. I then add some freshly squeezed lemon juice and some cool, rustic apple cider. A small splash of sweet vermouth finishes the drink.
The earthy, richly scented cider melts into the deeper tastes of scotch and the sweetness of the cider. Scotch and apple cider is a very sophisticated and a slightly under-the-radar combination.
2 shots blended scotch
1 shot sweet vermouth
1/4 cup apple cider (preferably unpasteurized, unfiltered)
2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Lemon twist for garnish
To a cocktail shaker add the blended scotch, sweet vermouth, apple cider and the freshly squeezed lemon juice with ice.
Shake and strain into a short rocks glass with a lemon twist and a shake or two of Angostura Bitters to finish. Serves 1.
Apple Betty Punch
For all of you wine lovers out there, may I recommend instead a perfectly lovely, crisp punch to go along with your dinner? Hard apple cider is marvelous when combined with sparkling, non-alcoholic cherry juice and some lemon and lime juices for spark. The flavors of hard cider with the citrus juices are marvelous with turkey and all of your fixings!
1 bottle of hard cider
1/2 bottle of non-alcoholic cherry cider
1/2 bottle of seltzer water
1/4 cup each of lemon and lime juices
2 cups ice
Mix all ingredients together, pour over ice and serve with round slices of lemon and lime. Makes 20 four-ounce portions.
If you don’t want an alcoholic beverage, please substitute non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider for the hard variety and use a bit of seltzer water for that celebratory fizz.
Spiced Scotty Toddy
Dessert also calls for a deeply warming hot toddy. I’m especially fond of the classic Hot Buttered Rum. The extra warmth a toddy offers is the perfect send-off to your friends.
This drink is an exotic approach to the classic boiling hot water-based toddy, with the addition of sweet butter. You can also use freshly whipped cardamom and ginger-sweetened cream on top of the mug instead of butter; it’s your choice. I like to use dark spiced rum or a home-spiced whiskey for this hot drink.
For an interesting after-dinner drink, I suggest something a rich glass of Pedro Ximenez Sherry or an older vintage of Madeira — it’s rich and thick, a dessert in a glass! Ask your local wine store what they carry. Use this rule of thumb: dry sherry for appetizers, sweet juicy sherry with dessert.
4 to 5 shots spiced rum or good blended whiskey that you have spiced a few weeks in advance (see note below)
1 quart or more hot chai tea or strong black tea
1 pat sweet butter per drink (if you use whipped cream, eliminate the butter)
Pour a shot rum or whiskey into 4 or 5 preheated mugs, then distribute the chai tea among the mugs. Top with butter pats or spiced, sweetened whipped cream. Serves 4 to 5.
*How do I spice whiskey? Add apple pie spices with a split vanilla bean to a cheesecloth bag. Submerge into a bottle of whiskey for a couple of weeks before using. Use the spiced whiskey for all your whiskey-based cocktails.