Archive for July 2009

Spicy New Brew: Lark Creek Tequila Infusion

I have been trying to come up with some new summer drinks and was inspired by the chili peppers growing in my garden. I have always wanted to make a drink using a spicy pepper and the spirit that comes to mind is tequila. I was flipping through Gary Regan's Joy of Mixology and came upon an intriguing new recipe:

Lark Creek Inn Tequila Infusion
1 serrano chili
1 pineapple, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 sprig tarragon
1 bottle (750 milliliters) reposado tequila

Slice in half, then remove the seeds and ends from the serrano chili. Place in glass container along with pineapple, tarragon and tequila. Store in dark cool place for 48-60 hours tasting infusion periodically to make sure chili isn't overpowering it.

Strain tequila from the other ingredients through two layers of dampened cheesecloth. Return tequila to bottle and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Gary Regan recommends serving this as a sipper or shooter straight out of the fridge, but I would like to experiment with this in a cocktail. Perhaps a margarita!

This tequila makes for a fabulous margarita and has been a huge success at the restaurant.
2oz Lark Creek Inn tequila (above)
1oz fresh lime juice
1oz simple syrup (1:1 sugar:water)
Build in shaker, strain over ice.

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Dark and Stormy

Over the past few months I've had a renewed interest in the Dark and Stormy cocktail. The first time I had it I was pretty apathetic. I mean all I could taste was the ginger. Then I had it again and it seemed bland without the homemade ginger syrup. What I'm starting to come to is that the Dark and Stormy is an easy cocktail to get wrong and one that is riddled with variance. But if you get it right, it's as satisfying as they come.

At the Violet Hour:Cruzan Black Strap
Brugal Anejo,
House Ginger Syrup.

I don't have the proportions, but if you like ginger this is where it's at.

At my Dad's house in St. Louis:
About 1/3 to 1/2 can of Gosling's Ginger Beer
1 1/2 to 2 oz of Gosling's Black Rum
Limes (I say the more lime the better)
Pour in the ginger beer and then float the rum on top so you get the stormy effect.

I kept drinking the result before getting a good shot. But, this was my favorite Dark and Stormy experience. Maybe it was the good company, but we went through almost the whole bottle in a weekend. It may seem boring/lazy not to make your own syrup but on a hot summer day you can literally drink one after the other to pretty fantastic results.

At home:You see how it's getting worse?

At home I tried the ginger beer Reed's from Trader Joe's because I couldn't find the Gosling's (not even at Sam's Wines). First with the rum I brought home from Nicaragua - Flor de Cana 7 year and then with the spiced rum Kilo Kai I got free from a vendor (had to qualify why I have this). Despite the above glorified photoshopped image, these are bad combos! I think I hate Reed's and the Flor de Cana is wasted with ginger beer. The Kilo Kai, I thought would get better with the ginger beer and lots of lime because it's so sweet, but no dice.

Final thoughts? Make a ginger syrup and use the Gosling's ginger beer if you can find it. Also, stick to a dark/black rum and not the spiced.

P.S. The Goslings ginger beer and rum are the traditional ingredients in the classic cocktail.

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Cocktail Cherries and Brandied Apricots

Brandied cherries

I have never understood the appeal of maraschino cherries. O.k. that is not entirely true, I enjoy the occasional maraschino cherry topping my ice cream sundae, but have always been suspect to that unnatural chemical glow. I remember being a child and staring in awe at the kryptonite colored jar of cherries stuck in the refrigerator door next to the ketchup. I was never brave enough to try one. After doing some research on the www, it turns out those green cherries were probably peppermint flavored. I have never seen a peppermint cherry in a bar so I am guessing these were used as an alternative to peppermint jelly in some sort of meat dish? Nice one, Mom!

It is no surprise that lots of objectionable ingredients go into the making of maraschino cherries including a brine, high fructose corn syrup, almond flavoring, sulfur dioxide and tons of food coloring. According to Wikipedia, "The process to create these cherries is very similar to the process used to shrink monkey heads in the Amazon rain forest area." eeeeew gross!

Ahem, so some of my co-workers took it upon themselves to make their own cocktail cherries, and I went along to help! The process was fairly simple. First, we took pitted sour cherries and strained them of their juices. We then took this juice, added sugar, fresh ginger and a sachet of spices...cinnamon, star anise, all spice, and cloves tied in cheese cloth. After simmering the mixture for 10 min., we let it cool, then added Noilly Pratte vermouth, brandy, and Triple Sec. Once all ingredients were combined we poured the mixture back into the cherries, fully submerging them and placed the giant vat in a dark cooler to marinate for several weeks. Mmmm, did somebody say Manhattan? Straight up please!

Apricot brandy

This is my first attempt ever to make apricot brandy. If you didn't already know by the title of this post, you would probably be wondering if the goal was to make brandied apricots or apricot brandy here. Well, it is the latter. We may have went overboard on the apricots or, we just might have made the most amazing apricot brandy ever. Only time will tell.

The process was very simple. First I scrubbed clean, then cut the apricots into small chunks. I tied a few of the apricot stones in cheese cloth for added depth. (It is these stones and the pits of almonds that give amaretto its unique flavor.) Finally, I added Christian brothers brandy to the fruit and sealed the jars. With the advice of our pastry chef, I stored the jars in a dark refrigerator. We will be tasting them in a few weeks. I can hardly wait!

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Apricot Smash

And the winning cocktail is... Apricot Smash

After tasting the other cocktails we decided that the flavor of the apricot really shone through when muddled with bulleit bourbon and chocolate mint picked from my garden. This drink will be on the menu for the next few weeks.

Our next project will be making an apricot brandy. I hope to revisit some of the other drinks once the apricot brandy is ready, which should be in a few weeks. This will also allow us to make apricot cocktails year round. I know I will be looking forward to an apricot cocktail this winter, accompanied by a delicious braised lamb dish of some sort.

Here is the revised recipe:

Apricot Smash
1/2 apricot
5 sprigs chocolate mint
3/4 fresh lemon
1 oz simple syrup (less depending on the sweetness of the apricot)
2 oz bulleit bourbon

muddle apricot and mint. add lemon, simple and bourbon. shake and strain over rocks. top with soda and garnish with sprig of chocolate mint.

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Apricots are in season right now and they have been making small appearances on the menu at my restaurant. Although I often associate stone fruits with fall, I am more than happy to see this beautiful creamy textured orange fruit accompany our dishes. Just thinking about them is making me salivate. So, in keeping with the season, I will be working on some apricot cocktails for our drink list.

Here are some ideas:

Apricot Smash
1/2 apricot
5 sprigs of chocolate mint
1/2 simple syrup
3/4 fresh lemon
2 oz bourbon
muddle fruit and mint, add bourbon and simple, serve over ice and top with soda.

Apricot Punch

1/2 apricot
3/4 fresh lime
3/4 pineapple juice
1/2 simple syrup
2 oz spiced rum
muddle apricot, add lemon, pineapple juice, syrup, and rum. shake and strain over ice. garnish with chocolate bitters.

Apricot Caipirinha
1/2 apricot
3 lime wedges
2 bar spoons sugar
2 oz cachaca
muddle fruit and sugar. add ice and cachaca. top with soda and garnish with a lime.

Claridge Cocktail- recipe from the Savoy Cocktail Book
1/3 dry gin
1/2 french vermouth
1/6 apricot brandy (sub muddled apricot and brandy)
1/6 couintreau
shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

Depending on their success, I will take some photos of these drinks and add them to this post later.

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Blind Tasting

My new restaurant job has compelled me to brush up on my wine knowledge. The wine menu has 120+ wines, ranging from appellations all over the world and a lot has changed in wine making styles since my last restaurant job, 6 years ago. Wanting to better acquaint myself with the wines on our list, tap my wine savvy friends for information, and educate some of my less wine savvy friends, and myself, I decided to throw a wine and cheese dinner party. The theme for the evening would be wines from the Mediterranean and South America. We tasted a total of 8 wines, 3 whites, one rose, and 4 reds and we put together a simple spread of vegetable salads from the farmers market, a beautiful bowl of radishes with butter and sea salt, sandwiches, a cheese plate, and a banana cake with mascarpone frosting.

The most interesting part of the wine and cheese dinner is that we decided to do the tasting blind. To my surprise, this turned out to be a huge success. We were able to focus more on the characteristics of the wine such as body, color, and smell to determine what region the wine was from, the grape variety, and finally the actual name of the wine. I found the blind tasting encouraged a nice group dialogue where people were less intimidated to add their observations. It was a fun way to put our wine knowledge to the test. My favorite wine turned out to be a 2005 Alsatian Pinot Blanc by Marc Tempe which I randomly threw in at the last minute. It had an amazing bouquet of honey, apple, butterscotch, raisin and must. It was medium body and slightly acidic with a dry finish. It was wonderful with the stinky cheeses. Runner up was a Spanish white called Txakoli (pronounced chalkolee) made from the hondarrabi zuri grape. The wine had nice grapefruit and citrusy notes, it had a lovely effervescence to it and was dry and refreshing on the palette. Traditionally this wine is poured with the bottle held high above the glass which is said to bring out the full flavors of the wine. While I do not intend to perform this ceremony at my tables I will definitely be recommending these wines off the list to my customers.

Until the next wine dinner,
ciao, suerte!

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Days of fun with lemons

The two recipes below are for people with basements and lemon trees...dare to dream.

Creamy Limoncellos

yield: Makes 8 servings

active time: 20 min

total time: 4 days (includes soaking and chilling) - Really good, or traditional limoncello is supposed to take between 40 and 80 days.

  • 6 lemons
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) good-quality vodka
  • 1/2 gallon 1 % (low-fat) milk
  • 1 cup sugar

Remove zest from lemons with a vegetable peeler (about 5 strips per lemon), reserving fruit for another use. Scrape any white pith from zest strips, then soak zest in vodka at room temperature 4 days.

Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a liquid measuring cup, discarding zest, then transfer vodka to a glass bottle (preferably 2 quart).

Simmer milk and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 4 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. (Skim off any foam.) Cool completely, then add to vodka. Chill until cold, at least 2 hours.

Preserved Meyer Lemons

yield: Makes 48 pieces

active time: 15 min

total time: 5 days

Adapted from cookbook author Paula Wolfert’s quick method, made it even faster by blanching the lemons first. The rind of a preserved lemon is a common ingredient in Moroccan dishes; also use also in soups, stews, and salads and as a low-fat alternative to olives. Save the pulp for Bloody Marys or anything else enlivened by a little lemon juice and salt.

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds Meyer lemons (10 to 12)
  • 2/3 cup coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Special equipment: 6-cup jar with tight-fitting lid

Blanch 6 lemons in boiling water 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut lemons into 8 wedges each and discard seeds. Toss with salt in a bowl and pack into jar.

Squeeze enough juice from remaining lemons to measure 1 cup. Add enough juice to cover lemons and cover jar with lid. Let stand at room temperature, shaking gently once a day, 5 days. Add oil and chill.

*Both recipes taken from Gourmet Magazine.

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