The Twilight Lounge – February 12, 2013
As reported in my last post, I was recently in Florida. And what do I do when I come home from Florida? I bring home a case of Indian River grapefruit, of course – doesn’t everyone? And just what the heck do I do with a case of grapefruit? Make cocktails, of course!
So on the first day of spring training workouts for my beloved Cleveland Indians I thought it would be appropriate to come up with something new using all that grapefruit I have (yeah, I know, the Tribe is in Arizona, but I didn’t have any cactus laying around the Lounge). As I thought about how to use the white grapefruit I pulled out the gin and St. Germain. A bit of orgeat seemed in order as well as the Agnostura bitters. Wow! It’s not often that I hit one out of the park on the first try, but today I did.
- 1-1/2 oz London Dry gin
- 3/4 oz St. Germain
- 1 bar spoon orgeat
- 1 dash bitters
- grapefruit juice
Combine all the ingredients but the grapefruit juice in a collins glass with a couple of ice cubes and stir. Fill the glass the rest of the way with ice and then top with grapefruit juice, stirring again.
Very well balanced with the orgeat and St. Germain sweetening the tart grapefruit juice just enough so that the grapefruit still shines through. The gin provides a nice base with a bit more punch than vodka would and the bitters help tie it all together into a nice, refreshing package. The perfect sipper while contemplating dreams of World Series titles for my Indians – shhh, don’t spoil the moment for me!
Saturday, May 7, 2011
I’m sure by now you know that Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby yesterday. And I’m nearly as sure that if you had any interest in race at all that you had a mint julep while you watched it, wearing your best party hat, of course. Gwen and I also settled in to watch the race, and yes, she did have a party hat on. We also had mint juleps, but not your traditional julep.
Juleps were originally developed as medicinal “tonics” to cure whatever might be ailing you during the 15th century. A mixture of herbs, sugar and water, eventually alcoholic ingredients such as brandy or Cognac were introduced. Over time mint became the herb used in juleps and then in the late 1800’s Kentucky bourbon become the choice of liquor to use. Thus, the modern mint julep was born.
As with most classic cocktails, there are certain standards and controversy about how to make a proper mint julep. If you really want to be proper you will use a silver julep cup. Using a julep cup allows the outside surface to become frosted over from the ice in the cup and adds a touch of elegance. However, if you don’t have a julep cup (I don’t) you can use any tall cocktail glass. I used a collins glass for mine on Saturday.
The second point of contention in the making of a mint julep is just where and how the mint is used. Some will simply garnish the julep with a large bunch of mint leaves extending from the top of the glass. This presentation gives you a nice scent of mint with each sip of the julep. Others will muddle the mint in the bottom of the glass before adding the ice and bourbon. And what do I do? Why, both of course!
I do enjoy a good julep, especially on Derby day. However, this year I decided to make a variation of the mint julep to provide a bit more flavor. Here’s my recipe for a Peachy Mint Julep.
Peachy Mint Julep
- 5-6 mint leaves
- 1 bar spoon powdered sugar
- 1/4 oz Stirrings Peach Liqueur
- 4 oz Maker’s Mark bourbon
In the bottom of a collins glass gently muddle the mint with the sugar and peach liqueur. Fill the glass with crushed ice and add the bourbon. Stir to mix and chill using a bar spoon. Garnish with a sprig of mint leaves extending above the rim of the glass and serve with a straw.
The Stirrings Peach Liquer adds just a hint of peach flavor and sweetness to complement the mint and the charcoal, smokey notes of the Maker’s Mark. This is particularly a good way to get your non-bourbon drinking friends to try a julep since it is a bit mellower than a traditional julep.
Day 362, Cocktails 361 & 362
…but it turned out I was mistaken.
So tonight’s mea culpa is that I had a miscount on my days. I’ve actually been off by two days, and it’s two days the wrong way, meaning I have 2 less days to complete my journey. Fortunately I was ahead of the count in terms of cocktails, so all is well. However, I’m sure Andy will have something to say about all this!
Now, back to the fun stuff – the cocktails! I did two last night, the first a recipe from Dale Degroff’s “The Craft of the Cocktail” that I selected for its ease of mixing and cool sophistication.
- 2 oz bourbon
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 1 dash grenadine
Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to chill and combine. Strain into a rocks glass over an ice ball. Garnish with a flamed lemon peel.
For this drink I used Knob Creek bourbon and it was a winner! The deep, charcoal flavor of the bourbon was mellowed ever so slightly by the grenadine and Peychaud’s. It was reminiscent of a Manhattan, but without the sweetness and allowed the bourbon to still be the star. I really liked this drink and will definitely be having it again!
Unfortunately, Gwen didn’t really appreciate the Black Rose. She asked me to make something with cucumber, so here’s what I put together for her.
- 2 cucumber slices, about 1/4″ thick
- 1/8 oz bar syrup
- 2 oz Cazadores tequila
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1-1/2 oz Old Ballycastle ginger
- Seltzer water
Muddle the cucumber and bar syrup in the bottom of a collins glass. Add the tequila, lime juice and ginger and stir. Fill the glass with ice and top with seltzer water.
Mmmm, a nice variation of the Monterrey Mule that lets the hint of cucumber compliment the ginger and tequila. I thoroughly enjoyed this refreshing cocktail and can’t wait to have it on a warm summer evening – assuming summer does show up around here sooner or later….
Day 344, Cocktail 351
Well, I guess this serves me right. I didn’t take any pictures of Tuesday’s cocktail, a whiskey fizz. I did a quick online search for photos of whiskey fizz and I found some very nice ones, but just didn’t feel right using someone else’s photograph of the cocktail. So I got cute and thought, “hey, I’ll find something sexy to use” and did a search for whiskey chicks. Well, you can see how that turned out…
- 1-1/2 oz rye whiskey
- 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz bar syrup
- lemon lime soda
Combine everything but the lemon lime soda in a shaker with ice cubes and shake to mix and chill. Strain into a collins glass filled with ice cubes and top with lemon lime soda. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
This recipe came from Dale Degroff’s “The Craft of the Cocktail”, and it is very good – it beats just a plain rye and 7-Up anyday. The lemon adds a much fresher component to the recipe than you would otherwise get just using the soda. I used Jim Beam rye in this one, but a good bourbon would work just as well.
Day 343, Cocktail 347
Well, after Sunday’s lame wine and soda cocktail, I decided I could improve on the effort and went back to drawing board. I still had half a bottle of the Rex-Goliath to get through and Gwen won’t be drinking it any time soon…so I figured I should try to amp up this puppy.
I contemplated what to use and decided on gin. I specifically used the Beefeater because I wanted a strong, London Dry gin to be able to hold its own against the strong flavor of the wine. And in honor of the now nearly empty bottle of Rex-Goliath I named by drink the Crazy Rooster.
- 1 oz Beefeater gin
- 5 oz red wine
- lemon lime soda
Combine the gin and wine in a collins glass with ice. Top with the lemon lime soda and stir. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
This amped up version of the Red Wine Cooler adds a bit of an alcoholic punch while cutting down on the sweetness of the wine. The gin is there and actually compliments the wine and soda nicely.
Day 342, Cocktail 346
Ok, I admit it. Yesterday was about the laziest cocktail day I’ve had in past year. I spent a good chunk of the afternoon working on a braised beef brisket dinner, which wasn’t the original plan. The original plan was to BBQ the brisket in the smoker. But a late start Sunday morning (thanks to Jenny and NID) and a crappy weather forecast (it rained and hailed all day) forced me to plan B. Oh, yeah, I didn’t have a plan B!
A quick search on Recipebridge.com yielded a braised brisket with root vegetables recipe that looked good, although a bit winterish, considering it’s now April. But I wasn’t in any position to fight it, so that’s what I went with. Five hours later I had a terrific dinner for the family…and no cocktail!
Typically, with a dinner like this I would have just opened a hearty red wine and not worried about it. Then I remembered that I still had a bottle of Rex-Goliath Cabernet that would probably turn to vinegar before Gwen would drink it. We’ve had a bunch of value priced red wines over the years, but for some reason Gwen just didn’t like this one. So I pulled the Ultimate Bar Book off the shelf, found the wine section and viola, my cocktail of the day!
Red Wine Cooler
- 6 oz chilled red wine
- 4 oz lemon lime soda
Fill a collins glass with ice and add the wine. Top with the lemon lime soda and garnish with a lemon wedge or slice if desired.
Yes, I admit it, this is lame! But, I accomplished three objectives. First, I used up a bottle of wine that would have been undrunk otherwise. Second, I had my red wine with dinner. Third, I got in Sunday’s cocktail and the opportunity to share it with you fine folks. Not bad if I say so myself – a true triple threat!
Day 341, Cocktails 344 & 345
Saturday night and it was, yet again, another NID night. This month’s theme was Brazilian food, which meant cachaca was on the cocktail menu. I’ve never had cachaca before, so I lost my cachaca virginity last night, as did everyone else there!
Cachaca is known as Brazilian rum, although the similarity to the rums we are used to from the Caribbean ends with the fact that it is distilled sugarcane. It is generally distilled in pot stills and is not aged, leaving it fiery bite. In fact, when I tasted the 51 brand of cachaca I was reminded more of pisco than I was of rum. Extremely popular in Brazil, you can start to find cachaca in local liquor stores here in the US.
I was assigned the task of making two cocktails that used cachaca. Here they are:
- 4-5 lime wedges
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 oz cachaca
In the bottom of a rocks glass muddle the lime and sugar until the sugar has dissolved in the lime juice. Fill the glass with ice and then the cachaca. Stir and enjoy.
This cocktail has a definite bite that the sweetened lime juice doesn’t completely tone down. It has a fiery element, just like the dancing in the streets you’d see during Carnivale!
Batida de Coco
- 2 oz cachaca
- 1/2 oz bar syrup
- coconut milk
Combine the cachaca and bar syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake to mix and chill. Strain into a collins glass filled with ice cubes. Add the coconut milk and stir.
To my suprise, the coconut taste is mellowed out nicely by the cachaca and sweetness of the sugar (I am not a fan of coconut and this is the first recipe I’ve done with it). Sweet and creamy, this was a nice compliment to the bite of the Caipirnha, and went much faster among the diners.
These two cocktails, along with some great Brazilian food made for a fun evening…in fact I seem to remember Gwen and Jenny on the bar (again) before the night was over!