Archive for March 2011


I'm planning a brunch this weekend and want to breakout of the standard bloody and champagne cocktail fare. Of course there are tons of great variations on both drinks, but considering the institution brunch has become, I'd like to add to the repertoire.

Some tips on pairing:

Bring on the citrus. Many brunch foods like pastries are high in fats so it's good to have an acidic drink that cuts through that taste and cleanses the palate. Any drink with fresh squeezed citrus will fit the bill - just remember to go easy on the sugar.

Focus on low alcohol. There are many spirits that make a drink complex and give you a lot of flavor without putting you out for the rest of the day. Try just a splash of Campari, Averna or Cocchi to fresh-squeezed orange juice or Pimm's Cup with ginger beer or iced tea.

Make it fresh. If there was ever a time to consider nutrition in a cocktail this is it. Most breakfast food skips the produce in favor of carbs, dairy and eggs. You can actually get close to a balanced meal by putting the fruits and veggies in the drinks - deceptively brilliant.

Here are my attempts at widening the menu.

Blackberry Ginger Smash
1 1/2 oz dark rum (I used Gosling's)
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 1/2 tsp turbinado sugar (varies on how sweet the berries are - mine weren't)
3 large or 4 medium-sized blackberries

In shaker, muddle blackberries, ginger and sugar. Add rum, lemon juice and ice. Shake and pour unstrained into cocktail glass. Optional: top with 2-3 oz soda water or ginger beer. Garnish with blackberry if topping with water or beer or mint leaf if not.

Mango Faux Lassi

1 1/2 oz gin (I used Hendrick's)
1 1/2 oz mango blood orange purée
1 or 1/2 egg white

To make the purée:
2 oz blood orange juice (about one orange)
1/4 of a ripe mango (or 1/3 cup frozen chunks)
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 tbs honey (I used orange blossom honey, which is sweeter and well suited for this drink)
1/3 tsp rose water

Purée well in a blender.

To make the cocktail: add ingredients to shaker with ice and shake well for one minute. Strain into coupe or champagne glass.

Notes: The shake of this cocktail is important (just like a Ramos Gin Fizz). You need to shake hard and long to create the viscosity that mirrors the yogurt in the traditional India Mango Lassi (I'm calling it a faux lassi because it has no yogurt). It's also great for making sure that the honey is completely dissolved into the drink (you usually make a honey syrup by melting honey down with sugar and water to ensure integration).

Salted Mint Lassi (for a savory option)
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup vodka (I used Ketel One, which might not be right. Perhaps an oilier vodka? Cucumber vodka would be fun here)
1/4 cup peeled cucumber or water
1/2 tsp toasted cumin seed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp diced jalapeno or ginger

Combine all in a blender reserving a few cumin seeds. Pour into ice-filled glass. Garnish with cumin seeds.

Notes: this is a complicated drink to get right and I fear it's pretty foreign to the American palate (or perhaps I just haven't figured it out yet), but it's ripe for experimentation given its numerous ingredients. So, this would not be my go-to brunch drink though I will continue to experiment on this exotic classic.

P.S. If you're making Bloody Mary(ie?)s consider making your own tomato juice by cooking down tomatoes and then running them through a food mill. If it's not tomato season (like now) use canned tomatoes, then puree and strain them. You can also use one can tomato paste to three cups water (that's basically what the bottled stuff is minus the preservatives). And don't forget the salt.

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Chocolate Cocktail

I was told that recently, someone came into the restaurant bar and ordered a very unusual flavor combination.  He wanted equal parts Maraschino Liqueur, Chartreuse and an egg, shaken and served over ice.  The drink had a name, Chocolate Cocktail.  To everyone's surprise, the drink was delicious, and did indeed taste like chocolate.

I found a recipe for a Chocolate Cocktail (No. 1) in the Savoy Cocktail Book.

Chocolate Cocktail (No. 1)
1Tsp Powdered Chocolate
1 Egg
1 Liqueur Glass Maraschino
1 Liqueur Glass Yellow Chartreuse

Shake well and strain into large glass.

Chocolate Cocktail (as ordered by patron)
1 1/2 oz Maraschino
1 1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
1 Egg

Shake well and strain over ice.

Notes:  As the name suggests, this is a desert drink resembling an adult chocolate milkshake.  I used Green chartreuse which was delicious,  but to mellow out the anise notes, I would suggest Yellow Chartreuse.  Because of its viscosity, I served it over ice.  

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Sand Dollar

We went to In Fine Spirits last night for a cocktail.  Our bartenders were from Wisconsin's coastal town, Door County.  I ordered a Corpse Reviver #2 and my friend ordered a whiskey sour.  Hers came with a beautiful sand dollar.

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Retail Therapy: Gigi Style

The film Gigi is all about transitioning from girl to woman. I think one of the major milestones is having your first drink... or getting your first bar set.

There's a lot of great vintage barware on eBay that would have fit right in at Gigi and her mother's Paris flat.

1. 24 piece glassware set - currently $10! 2. Real cocktails swords - currently $15 3. Selzter bottle - $18.50 4. Gigi bar set - $25 5. Champagne/Coupe glasses - $13 6. Black and White glasses - currently $1

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Winter White Sangria

As we try and transition to Spring, this is a good drink to sip. It's light and fresh and yet substantial. It's also very pretty for a party.

Winter White Sangria
1 bottle white wine
1 cup macerated berries
1/2 cup mint syrup
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup triple sec

Add all to punch bowl. Add an ice block. Serve with soda water and a mint leaf.

Notes: This is a great drink to double, triple, etc. Just take note as you add one component that you add the proportionate next components so that your balance remains. We used a case of wine for the party above and just kept refilling the punch bowl.

Make a block of ice using any baking mold you have that will fit inside the punch bowl.

If you're using ice cubes instead of a block of ice, then skip the soda water on top as you'll have more water naturally in the punch. When we served it, we added a little water to the punch and used dry ice as it naturally carbonates as it cools.

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Simply It

We had another amazing meal this past Tuesday, co-hosted by Grub With Us, at Lincoln Park's charming Vietnamese restaurant  Simply It.  Both the company of our fellow diners, and the food were fantastic.  

We enjoyed the challenge of creating two drinks to accompany our Vietnamese Cuisine for the evening.  For our first drink we used the Mojito as inspiration.  We chose basil and lemongrass to mix with gin.  We topped it with soda and bitters, creating a refreshing beverage to pair with our appetizers and start the night off.

South Pacific
2 oz London Dry gin
1 oz lemongrass simple syrup
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
sprig of basil

Muddle basil, syrup and lemon in glass.  Add gin and stir.  Top with ice and soda water.  Garnish with a basil leaf and 3 drops Angostura bitters.

Notes:  You may want to  roll this drink back and forth in a shaker, or give it a nice stir before serving.  For a more refined drink, strain and serve in a coupe glass.  Float a basil leaf for garnish.  

For our second drink of the evening we used the Sidecar as our inspiration.  We thought something  bright with pear and star anise flavors would be a nice accompaniment to the entree portion of our family style menu.  By making a pear and star anise syrup we came up with a nice variation on a classic drink.

Indochine Sidecar
2 oz Cognac
1oz pear star anise syrup
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake and strain into chilled martini or coupe glass.  Garnish with star anise.

Notes:  Time really helps to develop flavor in this pear-star anise syrup.  The longer you simmer the pear, water and sugar mixture, the more caramelized flavors you will develop.  If the syrup reduces, you can always add more water.  We simmered the pear syrup for an hour over the stove and it really made a  difference in the finished cocktail.  Experimentation is encouraged.  Also, remember the star anise garnish will highlight the anise flavors in the cocktail.

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Stirring Technique via Imbibe

Speaking of stirring (see post below), here's a great tutorial on looking like a pro... there really is an art to doing it.

P.S. There are tons of other great videos from the great Imbibe Magazine.

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In the Spirit of Mardi Gras: New Orleans

Few cities have as much cocktail caché as New Orleans. Home of the Sazerac, Mint Julip and Ramos Gin Fizz. Below is a cocktail on the rise, which is reminiscent of the Manhattan, but less sweet and more aromatic. This is a great cocktail to practice your stir technique - wherein you stir ingredients with ice to bring the temperature down and release a bit of water.

Vieux Carré
1 or 3/4 oz rye whiskey

1 or 3/4 oz Cognac
1 or 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
1 teaspoon Bénédictine D.O.M.
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Mix all ingredients in a double Old Fashioned Drink and stir.

Invented in 1938 by Walter Bergeron, the head bartender at the Monteleone Hotel
in New Orleans (one of the oldest in the Quarter), and named after the French term for what they call "The French Quarter" ... le Vieux Carré ("Old Square").

For more New Orleans magic, I urge to you visit the Gumbo Pages here.

Part One, Act One from Tennessee Williams "Vieux Carr
Writer: Once this house was alive, it was occupied once. In my recollection it still is but by shadowy occupants like ghosts. Now they enter the lighted areas of my memory.

Bon ton roulet!

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Los Nepoles

We had a lovely evening last night dining at Los Nepoles with our new friends from Grub With Us.  The night was a huge success, we met some great people and enjoyed a fabulous meal.  We hope there will be many more to come.  If you are interested in joining us for a meal in the future,  please check out our group here.

Our drinks for the evening were inspired by two classic cocktails, the margarita and the daiquiri.  The Lark Creek Inn margarita was an example of how to make your own infused spirit at home and incorporate it into a cocktail.  The White Daiquiri was an example of how to make an inspired simple syrup and incorporate it into a drink.  Two simple concepts that we hope our fellow diners will try at home.  Here is what you missed:

Lark Creek Inn Margarita
2 oz Lark Creek Inn infused tequilla
3/4 oz agave nectar or, simple syrup
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

Shake and serve into a salt-rimmed rocks glass.

Notes:  This infusion is from Bradley Ogden of the Lark Creek Inn, Larkspur, California in 1995.  I found it in Gary Regan's book "The Joy of Mixology".

When making infusion, be sure and check every 12 hours for desired spiciness.  When I get the desired heat, sometimes I remove the Serrano and leave the pineapple for a few more days to get a more fruit forward infusion.  Don't feel limited, this would be a fun recipe to play around with using different chilis.  Try a chipotle for a smokier infusion.  You could also switch the fruit out.  I am sure mango would be delicious.

White Daiquiri
2 oz white rum
3/4 oz cinnamon orange peel syrup
3/4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz coconut milk

Shake and strain into chilled rocks glass.  Garnish with candied orange peel or stick of cinnamon.

Notes:  We also tried this drink with some darker rums and it was delicious.  With the darker the rum, we noticed more banana, vanilla and spice notes.  Also, this drink is lovely over ice, but would be delicious blended.

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