• Weekly Cocktail #62: The Kentucky Monk (And The Kentucky Buck)

    monkHmm…I guess we should start calling these “monthly” cocktails.

    Anyway, things keep moving here at the farm. And times are good. A California horse won the Kentucky Derby, all while we were sipping one of our Mint Juleps. Very Nice. And we have strawberries in the garden (blueberries, too). So while the connection may be tenuous, we started looking for bourbon-based cocktails that use strawberries….as we have said before, it doesn’t take much inspiration to get us mixing drinks.

    monk10monk8And as luck would have it, our latest version of Imbibe magazine just arrived (you do subscribe, don’t you?) and had an article on “new classic” cocktails. The article included some of our favorites like the Bramble and the Jasmine, but it also included a drink we had not tried, the Kentucky Buck. The Kentucky Buck, a creation of Erick Castro, combines bourbon, muddled strawberry, lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters and ginger beer. Basically this is a bourbon buck with more going on. And like most “bucks” (spirits, ginger beer / ale, citrus), is a very tasty drink for summer.

    monk9monk6But since we have a bunch of strawberries (we are a farm / garden, after all), we decided to riff on the Kentucky Buck and bring out more of the strawberries. And the next steps were easy, we doubled the strawberries and then subbed Yellow Chartreuse for the simple syrup. And this is the key, the Yellow Chartreuse works with lemon and bourbon, but also adds sweet herbal notes that compliment the strawberries. What you get is all the sweet / sour flavor of the lemon, strawberries and ginger beer, but also complex herbal flavors all through the sip. Yum. And since Chartreuse is a big player here, we changed the name to the Kentucky Monk. Regardless, we suggest you try either version.

    monk7monk4One last note. We often buck (get it?) the trend and suggest using ginger ale rather than ginger beer in our bucks. While ginger beer can be better at times, we find the quality can be inconsistent and the musky flavors mask lighter spirits like gin (or vodka). But when working with bourbon or darker rums, we do suggest using a good ginger beer, as these spirits hold up to the bigger flavors. Either way, with summer coming, keep bucks in mind when planning your next party…. Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday LXXXIII Cocktail: Winter’s Last Gasp

    winter2It’s time for another Mixology Monday! Well, actually we are a week early. But it is St. Patrick’s Day, so may as well do a cocktail post. To be honest, we are not big fans of “drinking holidays” (we don’t need excuses to enjoy a fine cocktail). But when in Rome…uh…or Dublin…hmm…whatever. In any event, here is the theme from Craig at the excellent “A World of Drinks” blog (and thanks for Fred at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping the party going):

    mxmologoFor this month’s challenge I would like to take us back to the humble beginnings of the cocktail bar, the days when bartenders didn’t have the luxury of daily deliveries of ingredients from around the world. In these times bartenders would have been uncertain when they would again have the privilege to work with special ingredients so would naturally try to make the most of them… Such methods of preservation such as syrups and preserves have been staple ingredients behind the bar ever since, while others such as shrubs and sherbets were relatively short lived. The aim of the challenge is to go back to the days of the preserve, pick an ingredient, seasonal or not and treat it as if you won’t be seeing it again for quite some time. Syrups, sorbets, jam, shrubs and the like are all fair game, anything that will preserve the integral character of your favourite ingredient.

    winter5Seeing as how we are here on our “farm” and we make our own jams and preserves, this is a theme right up our alley. Right now we have apricot, strawberry and fig preserves from last year to work with. All are tasty and would mix well, but it was another project that guided us.

    winter3winter4Over the holidays, we got a small barrel for aging spirits and cocktails. The instructions said to start with “aging you own bourbon to season the barrel”, which really means aging some “white dog” (moonshine or un-aged corn whiskey) for a couple of months. So it has been a couple of months and what we have is something “bourbon-like”, with a light brown color and some vanilla and caramel notes, but lacking in any integration, sweetness or spice. Fun, but not necessarily good.

    winter6winter7But our immediate thought was if we added some sweet fig jam to our “bourbon” we might be onto something. And we were right, the overt sweetness, spice and slightly oxidized notes of the figs really smoothed out the edges. After that we played with bitters and decided to use the “Bitter Frost” Basement Bitters from Tuthilltown, the suppliers of our aging barrel. These bitters use aged rye whiskey as a base along with sarsaparilla, maple and spices. This added some needed depth of flavor and complexity. Better. Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday LXXIX Cocktail: Silver And Green

    silver4It’s Mixology Monday time again. It seems like it just happened, but since we hosted, our mixology “workload” was a bit higher than normal. But just as we thought of slacking, we saw the new theme “resin” from Booze Nerds and just couldn’t resist. Here is the lowdown:

    mxmologoWe thought hard about a theme that would work well for this time of year, and after contemplating the food, booze, and decor we like for the holidays, we settled on “Resin.” From savory rosemary in a stuffing, to a delicious juniper-y gin in a martini, to a fragrant fir ornament or garnish, our friends the evergreens have a lot to offer… The challenge: come up with an ingenious creation using the resin-y ingredient of your choice. Zirbenz, retsina, hoppy IPA, pine-nut puree, even? Sure! Spirit, garnish, aroma, all are fair game.  Whatever resin means to you, we want to hear it.

    silver7silver8Hmm…well the first “resin-y” ingredient we thought of was…well, a herb we don’t grow here at the farm. Ahem. But the next thought was to use a herb we do grow here at the farm, rosemary. Not only was it the first ingredient mentioned in the announcement post, but we grow it here for cooking and as an ornamental. We got plenty o’ rosemary.

    silverAnd, of course, we went to gin. Not just because of the juniper connection, but because we like gin and it works well with pine-y flavors like rosemary. So the next trick was to find a resinous modifier or liqueur. We looked at the bar and we immediately picked out our bottle of Kummel.

    silver1So what is Kummel? It is a sweet Northern European liqueur flavored with caraway, cumin and fennel. Sweet, savory and spicy, Kummel is a challenging ingredient, with both flavors of rye bread and holiday spice cookie. Strange stuff, but fun to play with. And Kummel seems resin-y, and certainly would play well with the gin and rosemary. So now all we needed was a recipe.

    silver2Happily, we noticed the Silver Bullet cocktail in the Savoy Cocktail Book and decided to riff on that. A simple combination of 2 parts gin to 1 part Kummel and 1 part lemon juice, the Silver Bullet is a good drink on its own (basically a play on a White Lady). Juniper, citrus and spice, with a sweet caraway undertone, the cocktail is weird, but tasty. But when we muddled some rosemary, rubbed a bit on the edge of the glass and used some as a garnish, it brought pine, juniper and citrus to the fore, making the Kummel’s spice more of an undertone. An excellent, albeit very funky, sip. We call this new cocktail Silver and Green.

    silver3silver5And while we like the flavor, we will admit to enjoying to look of this drink even more. In the right light, it does glow silver and the green rosemary almost sparkles on its own. Nice. So thanks to the crew at Booze Nerds for another excellent MxMo theme and to Fred Yarm at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping the party rollin. Happy Thanksgiving!

    silver6Silver And Green:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 1/2 oz. dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. Kummel
    • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • Fresh rosemary

    Assemble:

    1. Place a few pieces of rosemary in a cocktail shaker with the other ingredients. Lightly muddle. Add ice and shake until well-chilled.
    2. Rub a sprig of rosemary lightly and then run it along the edge of a cocktail glass or coupe. Strain the cocktail into the glass and garnish with the rosemary sprig. Serve.
  • Mixology Monday LXXVIII Roundup: Intercontinental

    Time of the Saison cocktail.

    Time of the Saison cocktail.

    Another Mixology Monday has come and gone, so now it is time for the roundup. Our theme was “Intercontinental” and the goal was to mix a cocktail, or cocktails, that have “ingredients” from at least three but up to seven continents. And, as we mentioned, the definition of  “ingredient” was pretty broad, so we hoped to see many cocktails that spanned the globe….including Antarctica.

    mxmologoSo how did everyone do?  Very, very well, IMHO. The cocktails, photos and the stories were great. We actually had many of the ingredients (should we be embarrassed about that?) and mixed a number of the drinks. Very tasty. And just as important, an excuse (motivation?) to try something new. Whenever we feel we may be getting into a slight cocktail “rut”, Mixology Monday snaps us out of it.

    Thanks again to everyone for participating and to Fred Yarm at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping MxMo going. Here is the roundup (in no particular order):

    Feu-de-vie, one of our favorite booze blogs, covers six continents with the Giganta, a coffee-pineapple tiki-ish concoction with homemade Coffee-Macadamia Orgeat. Nice. We want some of that…

    Giganta cocktail.

    Giganta cocktail.

    Next we get the Vegan Pisco Sour from Elana at Stir and Strain. She has lovely creations and her photos are some of the best we have seen. For this cocktail, not only do we get four continents, but some cool info on using beer as a substitute for egg whites in “foamy” cocktails. For vegans, good stuff. For us, a tasty drink. Everyone wins.

    Vegan Pisco Sour cocktail.

    Vegan Pisco Sour cocktail.

    Amarula, the “Bailey’s of Africa” makes its first (but not its only) MxMo appearance in Swizzlestick’s Life is Beautiful cocktail. Lychee liqueur made it in as well. A truly global cocktail that hits six continents. Well done.

    Life is Beautiful cocktail.

    Life is Beautiful cocktail.

    The good folks at Booze Nerds take advantage of a good name/story and global ingredients to cover seven continents with the Amundsen (nice historical reference guys!). More importantly we get a very creative drink with spirits, amaro, bitters, spice, a tea reduction / syrup and a port wine float. Gold Star.

    Amundsen cocktail.

    Amundsen cocktail.

    The Straight Up, gives us another drink using Australian port and narrative license to cover seven continents with the ….and Antarctica. Again, we also see some tea and amaro in play for this beautiful aperitif-style cocktail. We certainly are intrigued with the mix of bitter, tannic, smokey and herbal ingredients. Gold Star.

    ...and Antarctica cocktail.

    …and Antarctica cocktail.

    Our Bay Area neighbors and frequent travelers BarFlySF, take us to five continents and then a few layers of hell as a bonus…seriously. They give us Dante’s Divinia and Dante’s Divinia Down Under, riffs on the Dante’s Paradise cocktail they discovered at Longman and Eagle’s in Chicago. And with some Habanero shrub involved- there will be some fire.

    Dante's Divinia.

    Dante’s Divinia cocktail.

    Out in Tennessee, Sass and Gin goes a slightly more traditional route with the Madison’s Revenge. This Manhattan variant shows that you can get to five or six continents quicker than you think. A little tuning of sweetener, spice or garnish and you have a global cocktail. Good work.

    Madison's Revenge cocktail.

    Madison’s Revenge cocktail.

    Our fearless leader Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut pulls out a bottle of Van Der Hum, an African tangerine and spice liqueur, for a very spirituous, old-time cocktail the Daiqurbon. We expected to see a bit more Van Der Hum this MxMo, but since we couldn’t find any here in Norcal, we are glad somebody found some.

    Daiqurbon cocktail.

    Daiqurbon cocktail.

    Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday “Intercontinental” Cocktail #2: Two Trios

    Two Trios Cocktail.

    Two Trios Cocktail.

    Lots of cocktails at the farm these days (well, sort of, more reading and shopping than actual drinking, but such is life).  We may just need to change the name to Putney Tavern (hmmm…I like the sound of that). In any event, we are the hosts of Mixology Monday and the drinks are rolling in, so we figured we would do one more cocktail. The theme is “Intercontinental” and the challenge is to use ingredients from multiple continents (full details here). We used five continents in the Horn of Good Hope cocktail, so now we are looking to use six.

    mxmologotrioSeeing as our bar is already full of ridiculous esoteric bottles, we decided to look to the orchard, garden and pantry for ingredients from the “tough” continents like Africa and Australia. And pretty soon we learned that our Cayenne pepper is from Africa (who knew?) and that our candied and crystalized ginger is from Australia. From there, things started rolling.

    trio1trio2One concept we are familiar with is the “holy trinity” of Creole cooking, the mirepoix of onion, green pepper and celery. But there is also a lesser-known “trio” of using black, white and red pepper in spicier recipes. The idea is to give heat, bite and burn to a dish so you get layers of spice. This concept works really well in cooking, so we figured we could apply it to the cocktail. The ginger has heat and the Cayenne burn, so all we needed was some “bite”.

    trio3Well, with booze, that is easy enough. The spirits themselves have kick, and citrus (without too much sugar) has that sour bite. So now that we had a few ingredients, we just looked to the map and started to play. One of our favorite spirits, El Dorado Demerara rum comes from South America, we chose to go in the direction of a daiquiri. And since we were thinking of trios, we decided to use three types of citrus that would add complexity and help finish our “map”.

    trio4The Two Trios combines Demerara rum (Guiana, South America), Persian lime juice (North America, oddly enough), Meyer lemon juice (originally from Asia), Curaçao (Europe, France in this case), ginger liqueur (Europe, although the ginger is Asia or Australia), a pinch of Cayenne pepper (Africa) and a crystalized ginger garnish (Australia). Antarctica will have to wait.

    trio5So how does it taste? Very, very good. One of our better Mixology Monday cocktails, and one we will make again. The Two Trios lands somewhere between a daiquiri and a tiki drink with a clear rum and citrus base augmented by a wave of extra spice. You get sour lime and rum up front and then the orange, lemon and ginger in the middle. And at the end you get just a hint of burn from the Cayenne. It builds, but just enough that you know it’s there. And if you take a bite of the crystalized ginger you get a nice blast of sweet heat. A good sip from beginning to end.

    trio8So that is our second Mixology Monday cocktail. Every time we do this it gets the creative juices flowing and we learn something along the way. And usually we end up with a tasty cocktail. Not a bad deal…not bad at all. Roundup post coming soon!

    Two Trios Cocktail:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 oz. Demerara rum (El Dorado gold)
    • 1/2 oz. Curacao (Pierre Ferrand)
    • 1/2 oz. ginger liqueur (Massenez)
    • 1/2 oz. lime juice
    • 1/2 oz. Meyer lemon juice
    • 1 pinch Cayenne pepper
    • Crystalized ginger, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Spear the crystalized ginger on a long toothpick or cocktail spear.
    2. Combine all the liquid ingredients and the Cayenne in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well-chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with the crystalized ginger. Serve.
  • The Viveka Cocktail And Homemade Limoncello

    viv

    The Viveka Cocktail.

    Many months ago we asked for our readers to guess the location of a photo we took in Kauai. The winner would get a cocktail named after them. The winner was our friend Viveka from My Guilty Pleasures, a blog about life with all it’s humor, delights, food and travel. It is also a blog about friendship. Viveka seems to collect friends, both in the physical and virtual world, at a very steady clip. She has a big, warm, generous heart.

    viv4viv5viv6Viveka is also patient. Because once she won our little contest, we knew we had to use a special homemade ingredient in her cocktail; limoncello. The only problem was that limoncello, while easy to make, takes a while. Like a few months. But we warned Viveka of the impending wait. And then we waited. And waited. But finally the wait is over.

    viv7Limoncello is basically a liqueur of lemon zest (with as little white pith as possible) soaked in grain alcohol (or strong vodka), strained and then sweetened with sugar syrup. You get a sweet, lemony liqueur without any sour notes. It’s good stuff. While you can make limoncello in just a few days, an infusion of 30-45 days is generally considered the best method. The you need to strain and filter the zest from the very-strong booze and add some simple syrup to get to about 60 proof and age it again for another 45 days (most people shorten this step). But since we are making cocktails, we took a slightly different path.

    viv3viv2Our one issue with limoncello in cocktails is that it is a bit sweet and not strong enough to lead a cocktail. It is good as an accent, but we thought it could fully replace gin or vodka if our limoncello was stronger and dryer. So rather than use a mix of 50% or more simple syrup, we went with about 35-40% syrup. And since we were using 135 proof Everclear as our base, we ended up at about 90-100 proof. The limoncello is a bit strong on its own, but has the juice to carry a cocktail and gives a slight warming feel as you drink it. Not too hot or boozy, but you know it’s there.

    viv8And that was exactly what we wanted for our special cocktail. Our friend Viveka is not a fan of dark booze like rum or whiskey, so we wanted to use a “clear” booze. We do enough gin drinks around here, so that was out. And since Viveka is from Scandinavia, we figured she knows her vodka. Boozy limoncello seemed liked a good fit. And we even had a recipe in mind.

    viv9The Viveka combines, boozy limoncello, Cointreau, lemon juice and muddled raspberries (or raspberry syrup, if you must). The drink is a riff on the 1934 Cosmopolitan (an older,  lesser-known- but IMHO better- version of the Cosmo), with the boozy limoncello replacing gin and fresh raspberries rather than syrup. (If using lower-proof limoncello, just add 1/2 oz. good vodka and a touch more lemon juice). What you get is a bright lemon sip that isn’t particularly sour, mixed with sweet orange and raspberry notes that almost seem to dance around. On the finish you get a nice warm kick from the limoncello. This drink has a warm heart, just like Viveka…..Here you go Wivi!

    viv1 Continue reading