Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Accelerant

Thirsty Readers, thirst no more. Your BloomingtonGirl is back and not only is she back...She is back with possibly the most interesting and delicious cocktail she has ever made. You can be the judge, but I'm telling you. It is an incredibly sexy cocktail brimming with maximum deliciousness.

My guess is that not one person reading this will go to the trouble of making this complex drink, except for maybe Tyler Ferguson or Richard Gagnon.

Still, I implore you to try it! Do not to be put off by the steps involved. You will be rewarded by the experience of imbibing a truly special, nay! a truly ethereal libation. It is that good.

This is an excellent cocktail to serve at a dinner party, right before dinner. Why? Because the unusual and unexpected flavors conspire to make one of these drinks enough. Nobody gets loaded before the first bottle of wine is opened at the table. And also, it is sipped more slowly than most because it has some heat, so you can linger and engage in convivial company. Provided you have invited interesting guests, that is.  If your guests are not interesting, I would reconsider the cocktail choice. Uninteresting guests would be happy with a vodka tonic, so why go to this trouble. On the other hand, why would you invite uninteresting guests over? But I digress.

Without further delay, here is a photo of the drink and the recipe. I can't wait to make this drink again. It is my new favorite. The salt on the rim is pink - it is Pink Himalayan Sea Salt.

The Accelerant

1 1/2 ounces jalapeño-infused mezcal **
1/2 ounce rich sugar syrup **
1/2 ounce freshly made celery juice **
Generous 1/4 ounce Green Chartreuse
3/4 freshly squeezed lime juice
Garnish: Coarse Pink Himalayan Sea Salt (wet the rim of the glass and press it into the salt on a plate)

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a salt rimmed coupe. Cheers!

** Ingredients:

Jalapeño-infused mezcal - Scrape membranes and seeds from 2 jalapeño peppers, discarding green exterior. Put into a glass jar and top with 8 1/2 ounces of mescal. Let steep for about 10 minutes. Taste for heat. Steep up to 5 minutes more if you want it spicier. Strain out solids.  You could use tequila in a pinch, I suppose, but then you would not get the smokiness that the mescal brings. I think that smokiness is essential to this drink.

Rich Sugar Syrup - Measure 1/2 cup sugar into a heat proof measuring cup or bowl. Pour 1/4 cup boiling water into the sugar. Stir until dissolved. (Or almost dissolved. Doesn't have to be perfect.) Let it cool. Alternatively,  you can combine the ingredients in a small sauce pan, bring it just to a boil. Remove it from the heat and stir until dissolved.

Celery Juice - If you have a juice extractor, make it according to the manufacturer's directions. I made mine in my Vitamix Blender, adding some water to get it going. This was a sort of trial and error thing for me. I strained the puree through a very fine mesh strainer to get the juice. I don't know if a less powerful blender will work. Or, you can consult the oracle, for different instructions.  A few stalks will make a generous amount. The juice is fresh tasting and a pretty color and I am sure it has some magic medicinal qualities.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Maid Cocktail Family

Good evening, Thirsty Readers. Tonight, I have for you two variations on a theme. I wanted to craft a cocktail that features mint and cucumbers. Mint because it is the only plant that this black thumbed mixologist can grow in any quantity. I have copious amounts bursting from a large pot on my porch.  Cucumber because the real gardener in this household just picked some wonderful cucumbers from his VERY SERIOUS AND SUCCESSFUL GARDEN.

I went to the oracle and found many options for this combination, but the one that captured my imagination was on Food 52, a fabulous site for all things foodie.  Food 52 listed this option as "The Entire Maid Family". The basic recipe is flexible in terms of what spirit you like.  Variations are:

The Kentucky Maid (bourbon)
The Polish Maid (vodka)
The Mexican Maid (tequila)
The Old Maid (gin)

I immediately chose for myself the Old Maid option because I've been favoring gin lately and because it reminded me of being one - even officially and legally for a moment in time.

I married when I was 35, a late age to some, I suppose. A couple of years before that, I bought a house. When I went to review the closing documents, I was rather surprised to see myself characterized as:

Joni Lynn Ruller, Spinster.

I'm not gonna lie. Seeing myself described as a Spinster dampened my Buying-a-House-all-by-my-Mighty-Girl-Self excitement.  But the moment passed quickly. I signed the documents and moved into my beautiful antique house on an acre of land. Never mind that I had no idea how to fix anything or mow a lawn... but that's a story for another time.

So, I chose the Old Maid and my taster chose the Kentucky Maid. Here are the beautiful Maids.

The Kentucky Maid, all gussied up

The Old Maid in her finery.

Thirsty Readers, I am surprised to report that I preferred The Kentucky Maid by a far piece over the Old Maid. It was, if I may say, a rather perfect drink. Before I tasted it, I couldn't imagine pairing lime with bourbon. That'll teach me to have such a narrow imagination! The Kentucky Maid was well balanced and very refreshing, boozy and deliciously tasty. Seriously delicious. It is a KEEPER.

The Old Maid was nice as well, but of the many gin drinks that I enjoy, it is not my first choice. There was just nothing special about it.  Sorry, Old Maid...

Without further delay, here is the basic recipe for the "Maid" family of drinks. I modified the Food 52 instructions by adding a muddling step. I am certain that this makes a tastier and more interesting cocktail.

The Basic Maid Recipe

2 ounces spirit (gin, bourbon, tequila,vodka...hell...why not rum?)
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup (my taster thought it could use a bit less, I thought it was perfect)
4-6 fresh mint leaves
3 cucumber slices

In a mixing glass, combine mint, cucumber and simple syrup. Muddle until nicely blended. Add ice and spirit. Shake until cold. Strain into an old fashioned glass with a large ice cube. Garnish with a cucumber wheel speared with some mint. Delight in this fabulous summer beverage!


Monday, July 28, 2014

The Sicilian 75 for Vincenzo Nibali

Thirsty Readers, tonight I have for you a boozy Champagne cocktail of sorts. I was inspired by my lately hero, Vincenzo Nibali, winner of this year's Tour de France, which finished yesterday in Paris.  Isn't he just darling?

Vincenzo Nibali upon winning the Tour de France yesterday, drinking Champagne but secretly wishing he had a Sicilian 75 in his hand. 

And, here is an even more exciting photo of Mr. Nibali, riding in the peloton.  How they don't constantly crash into each other is a mystery to this humble cyclist.

Vincenzo! I love you!
But, back to the cocktail, which is why we are gathered here, no? The Sicilian 75 is a variation of an old cocktail called the French 75. The French 75 is made from gin, Champagne, lemon juice and sugar. It was created in 1915 at the New York Bar in Paris. The drink was said to have a kick that compared to one created by a French 75mm field gun. The concoction went on to be popularized by the Stork Club in New York and the recipe for it was put into print in The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930.  There are a few variations on this drink, and the one I have chosen to feature this evening was created by Louro in Manhattan.  Like the French 75, The Sicilian 75 is deceptively light tasting drink with a kick.

This libation is lovely to behold and quite nice to drink. While it won't be one of my evening go-to cocktails, it will most definitely be on my list of drinks to serve the next time I host a groovy relaxed brunch.

Here is the beautiful beverage, garnished and ready to go.

So, if you are reading this Vincenzo Nibali - and of course you are - Congratulations on your triumph!  We lift our glasses to your achievement.

Without further delay, here is the recipe for The Sicilian 75

The Sicilian 75 for Vincenzo Nibali

1 oz. fresh blood orange juice, plus a slice for garnish
1 oz. gin
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/4 oz. Campari
2 oz. dry Champagne 

Combine juice, gin, syrup and Campari in an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a flute. Top with the Champagne. Garnish with the orange slice.  Enjoy.


Friday, July 25, 2014

The Suzy Yeagley Nice and Strong Cocktail - aka The Corpse Reviver 2

Thirsty Readers! You must be absolutely parched by now, waiting for this new cockail with eager anticipation. My apologies for making you suffer so.

I've been galavanting hither and yon for the last three weeks,  putting nearly 3000 miles on my car's odometer. At an average speed of, say, 60 miles an hour, that's about 50 hours of sitting in a car. There were, on this trip, many additional hours spent sitting while writing (yay! progress) and watching the Tour de France. To that sedentary experience, add many sumptuous meals with friends and family, and my perhaps-should-be-patented moveable cocktail feast. I took a rather full bar of booze with me so I could mix up craft cocktails for my loved ones visited on the way. They were happy about this, as you can imagine.

All of this has resulted in a girl who is way off of her fitness game. I realized upon coming home that I needed a workout and - of course! -a cocktail that would revive me.

First, the workout.

To start getting back into shape, I did a 75 minute bike ride yesterday, but it was a mostly humbling and somewhat discouraging experience.  I came back the opposite of revived.

This morning, I tried a different option. I took a class at the Bloomington Body Bar, founded and owned by Suzy Yeagley, for whom today's drink is named. I take a class at the Body Bar almost daily when I'm in town in order that I can remain fit enough to mix and drink a cocktail each evening. One must have priorities.

This morning, for my first class after this driving/imbibing extravaganza, I took willPower & grace taught by Suzy.  willPower & grace is one of many kinds of classes at the Body Bar. Go to their website right now and sign up for one. You're welcome.

Though willPower & grace is a very challenging workout, especially for the "recently un-fit", it is,  under the capable guidance of Suzy, an exhilarating and inspirational hour. Sure, I was a little sore and tired afterward, but I was encouraged that my body was on its way to being back in shape. I was, after a hard workout, not discouraged or exhausted. I was revived!

So, in honor of that revival, today's drink is named for Suzy. Why Nice and Strong? Because when she cues us to plank in her classes, Suzy always says "nice and strong" when she describes what to do. And, believe it or not, this brief phrase actually makes me stronger. Who knew?  In addition, the drink and Suzy share some characteristics. Both are good looking and elegant. Both are strong, but not harsh. Both have very good balance. And, neither is very common. You can't find a drink or instructor/businesswoman/coach of this quality just anywhere.

So here's the drink. The recipe is adapted from The Savoy Cocktail Book, a classic tome written in the 1930s by Harry Craddock. There are at least three Corpse Revivers.  I've only had the 2nd. It is, quite possibly, one of the most perfect cocktails I've ever made or consumed. Seriously. It is well balanced, smooth but still has the edge I love, and is boozy without being harsh.

The perfect cocktail made more so by a house-made Brandied Cherry.

This cocktail is easy to make and you should definitely make one. Unless you are a cocktail person, you aren't likely to have absinthe or Lillet Blanc. I do think it is worth adding both to your collection, if only just to make this one perfect libation.  Justify the purchase by knowing that both are are used in many other delicious cocktails that you will enjoy. You will see that this recipe calls only for a "dash" of absinthe.  You might be tempted to skip it. Very no. Do not do this. That dash is critical.'

Without further delay, here is the recipe.

The Suzy Yeagley Nice and Strong Cocktail 
The Corpse Reviver 2

1 ounce gin
1 ounce Lillet Blanc
1 ounce Contreau (or other triple sec but make sure it is GOOD, not some bottom shelf junk)
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 dash (I estimate about 1/8 ounce) absinthe
Orange peel or really good cherry for garnish

Shake all ingredients together in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Strain into a chilled cocktail/martini glass. Garnish. Enjoy. Resist mixing up a second. It'll be hard, believe me.


Monday, July 7, 2014

The Old-Fashioned

Good Evening to you, Thirsty Readers. Tonight I have for you a classic cocktail, The Old-Fashioned. It is a simple cocktail, but one that many (alas, far too many) bartenders do not know how to make well. Often when I order one at a bar - and I've learned to be very specific when I do - I get a cloyingly sweet concoction that bears no resemblance to what I think an old-fashioned should be.

The old-fashioned embodies what the original "cocktail" was - spirits, bitters, sugar and water, essentially. You can make this drink with bourbon or rye. I made two tonight. One with Bourbon for my taster and the other with rye for me, because I prefer it. That's why.

What made tonight's cocktail special was the addition of (drum roll please) a HOUSE MADE cocktail cherry! It is a bit of a bastardization to add a cherry, perhaps, but if you tasted one of these ethereal, amazing, addictive little spheres of cherry heaven, you'd want to add them to everything, too. I don't even mind that my fingers are stained with cherry juice or that my elbow aches from pitting 18 pounds of cherries over the weekend. My pantry is filled with pint jars of these beautiful boozy gems and it was worth it.

Here is a photo of the cherries.

There's still time to be super nice to me so you get on my Christmas gift list...

I will, at some point, publish the recipe I used. I adapted it from Jeffrey Morgenthaler's The Bar Book.  But tonight, I am eager for an early bedtime so that I can snug in with my new book. I know. I lead a crazy wild life.

But, back to the drink.  I take some tiny liberties with the erudite BT Parson's basic old-fashioned recipe in his Bitters book. I prefer to muddle some orange peel with simple syrup and bitters before adding the spirit. I like a fruit accent in this drink. I also cut back the amount of syrup by a bit. You don't have to, of course.

Here is the drink.

The Old-Fashioned Cocktail

2 ounces rye or bourbon

1/8 ounce simple syrup (or 1/4 ounce, if you insist) 

3 dashes Angostura bitters 

Thick piece of orange zest (and an extra one for garnish, if you like)

House made cherries for garnish (optional)

In a mixing glass, muddle the orange zest with the simple syrup and bitters. Add ice and rye. Mix until well chilled. Pour into a chilled old-fashioned glass filled with large pieces of cracked ice or a large ice cube. Garnish with the second orange zest and a house made cherry if you are lucky enough to have one.

Sip and enjoy.  


Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Rusty Nail, in honor of Mr. Schmid

Good Evening, Thirsty Readers. The subject cocktail is not one I had tonight, but one that my tester requested. I passed on it  - I think it is too sweet and too wintery for this time of year. I opted instead for a gin martini made with Old Tom style gin. But, more on that cocktail tomorrow.

The Rusty Nail is a mix of Scotch and Drambuie Liqueur. It might have been around as early as 1937, but became popular in the 1960s.  I looked it up on Wikipedia and found this:

[Cocktail authority] Dale DeGroff notes, "The Rusty Nail is often credited to the clever bartenders at the 21 Club in Manhattan sometime in the early 1960s."  The cocktail's name was finally cemented in 1963, when Gina MacKinnon, the chairwoman of the Drambuie Liqueur Company, gave the Rusty Nail her endorsement in The New York Times. DeGroff observes that in the early 1960s "the Rat Pack was enamored of the drink, which may have been responsible for the wide appeal in those years."

Whenever I think of the Rusty Nail, I can't help but remember Mr. Schmid, my music teacher and band director at Herkimer High School, back in the day. The Rusty Nail was, and I believe it still may be, one of his go-to cocktails. Mr. Schmid was nothing short of an awesome teacher, band director and friend.  So, here's to you, Mr. Schmid! 

I think of the Rusty Nail as more of a winter drink, so if you want, you can save this recipe for colder days. Or if you love Scotch and Drambuie all year round, have at it. It's a cinch to make. For those who like a very sweet drink, you can increase the amount of Drambuie. Some recipes call for a 1:1 mixture. I would find that far, far too sweet for my taste, but don't let that stop you. I used 1 part Drambuie to 4 parts Scotch and thought it was plenty sweet. 

Has a simple elegance, doesn't it? Note the perfect ice cubes.
 The Rusty Nail, in honor of Mr. Schmid

2 ounces Blended Scotch (use a good one, please)

1/2 ounce Drambuie Liqueur

Pour the Scotch and Drambuie into an old fashioned glass. Add a goodly amount of ice and stir. Raise a glass to Mr. Schmid's health. Cheers!

(Alternatively, one could make the "Straight Up Nail". Shake the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.)


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Tom Collins

This cocktail reminds me of my childhood, Thirsty Readers. Not because I was throwing back Tom Collins Cocktails whilst still in elementary school. I just remember it being a "thing". I remember my parents and their friends drinking Tom Collinses (how does one make this plural?). But, I also remember the ubiquitous Tom Collins "MIX".  Which, I suppose still exists.  Though as you can imagine, I cringe at using a mix of anything I can make from scratch.

And speaking of mixes, my good friend and gifted baker, Michelle, owns a fine bakery in Fairfield, CT called Sweet and Simple. She makes everything from scratch using only the finest ingredients. You can imagine Michelle's surprise - nay, horror! - when a customer ordered a cake from her and then provided  some boxes of Pilsbury Funfetti cake for Michelle to use.  (Michelle does great mail order. Click HERE for her site.)  In the interest of customer service, Michelle obliged. But, I bet it was very hard. I've asked her for a photo of this bastardization of baked goods and if I get it, I shall share it.

But, as I do, I'm digressing.

Back to the Tom Collins. This is a simple drink, but if well executed, it is quite perfect, especially for summer. Like, really perfect. Seriously.

I mixed up tonight's drink using a recipe from the brilliant and witty Jeffrey Morganthaler. It is in his new and gorgeous book, The Bar Book.  The book is mostly about drink making technique, but it also includes great recipes for some cocktails and for ingredients you need to make great cocktails.  Like Quinine Syrup, for instance, which is used to make the best Gin and Tonic EVER. Or so he says. I can't speak to this directly because I could not procure the ingredients necessary to make such syrup in Bloomington, the place where there isn't even a GAP.

But, fret not, Thirsty Ones. I've ordered powdered cinchona bark and gentian root from the miraculous inter-web. They are on their way and soon, I'll be all set. You can be sure that you will be reading a post on the perfect Gin and Tonic in the next week or so. Stay tuned.

So, here is a photo of tonight's beverage in a vintage Collins glass. My mom gave me her entire set of these - some have green dots like the one below and others have black or red.  Thanks, Mom! The photo angle belies the fact that the glass is straight sided, and the perfect volume for the Tom Collins.

Herkimer High Colors for those Magicians. You Herkimer peeps will know what I mean!

The only thing you might not have at the ready for this drink is simple syrup. But, you ought to make some up and put it in your fridge. It will keep and it is handy for a great number of good drinks.  I've included the simple syrup recipe below.  Make the Tom Collins. I implore you. It is delicious, refreshing and summery. For those of you who want to know more about the interesting origins of this delightful libation, check out the Wikipedia entry for the  Tom Collins HERE.

The Tom Collins Cocktail

2 ounces Gin, preferably Old Tom style. (I didn't have any, so I used Beefeaters, a London dry and it was still wonderful)

3/4 ounces fresh lemon juice (FRESH. Nothing else will do, trust me.)

1/2 ounce simple syrup (see below)

Ice Cubes

2 ounces chilled soda water (seltzer)

Lemon peel for garnish

Comine the gin, lemon juice, and simply syrup in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Shake with ice cubes until chilled. Add the soda water to the shaker.

Strain into a chilled collins glass filled with fresh ice. Twist the peel over the surface of the cocktail and drop it in the drink to serve.


Simple Syrup

1 cup white granulated sugar

1 cup water

In a medium saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a simmer, stirring the mixture occasionally to dissolve the sugar. At the first crack of a boil, remove from the heat. Cool completely then store in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. It will keep for up to a month.

The part about removing it from the heat at the first crack of a boil is important. If you keep boiling it, the sugar will crystallize out in the fridge.  You don't want that. 

Thanks to BT Parsons for this recipe. It's from his wonderful Bitters book.