• Bonus Cocktail: The Fourth Degree

    fourth10How do you know when you have officially become a cocktail geek? (Besides, you know…blogging about them.) Well, there are a few signs; multiple bottles of bitters, obsession with vintage glassware, too much gin and very little vodka, rum from at least 6 different Caribbean countries and the obligatory bottle(s) of absinthe are all reliable signs. Throw in some Falernum and Fernet and it is pretty clear that you, my friend, are a cocktail geek.

    fourthBut there is another major sign that you have gone over to the dark side (and, let’s face it, some of us enjoy it over here). Vermouth. If you have multiple bottles of vermouth and they are (hopefully) in the fridge, then you are probably a cocktail geek. And if you actually mix, match and test different recipes with different vermouth, then you are definitely a cocktail geek. Welcome.

    fourth2But even if you aren’t a cocktail geek (yet) we do suggest that all educated drinkers keep a good bottle each of sweet and dry vermouth. Keep them in the fridge, and use them often. Each brand has its charms and we suggest you experiment. And beyond the basic Martini and Manhattan, there are many experiments worth trying. We suggest the Fourth Degree be one of your first experiments.

    fourth8We will forgo some of the history (the drink, with differing recipes, is found in the Savoy and Imbibe!), but the Fourth Degree is a classic from the “golden age” of pre-prohibition cocktails. It lands somewhere between the Martinez (the proto-Martini) and the classic “wet” Martini. Not surprisingly, it uses gin and vermouth. But in this case, equal amounts of gin and both sweet and dry vermouth- along with a dash of absinthe and a lemon twist.

    fourth4Now you may say “meh”, but we suggest you try the Fourth Degree before you judge it. The drink is a bit sweet, but the flavors are deep, multi-layered and complex. You will get herbal and anise notes, but also surprising hints of fruit, chocolate and almond. The aroma of herbs and lemon peel is just as delightful. And, due to the large proportion of vermouth, the drink isn’t too strong. Go ahead and have another…

    fourth9The Fourth Degree is also a recipe that welcomes experimentation. Many have made the drink dryer with a larger proportion of gin, and that is very good. You can also play with the vermouth. Changing the sweet vermouth from M&R to Carpano Antica to Dolin to Vya will make for a substantially different drink. As will changes with the dry vermouth (we like Dolin and Vya here). But, of course, to truly experiment you need to collect a bunch of vermouth….hmmm….see what we mean?

    The Fourth Degree Cocktail:

    Ingredients:

    • 3/4 oz. dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. dry vermouth
    • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
    • 4 dashes (1 tsp.) absinthe
    • Lemon twist

    Assemble:

    1. Add all the liquid ingredients to a cocktail glass with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Garnish with the lemon twist. Serve.
  • Monthly Cocktail #2: The Case For A True Mai-Tai

    MaiTaiThe Putney Farm crew recently returned from a delightful trip to Kauai. All good, nothing to complain about…but, maybe…um…there was one little thing. And it has to do with the classic Tiki drink, the Mai Tai.

    maitai2You see, the problem was that while we were served a number of “Mai-Tais” on the trip, the only real Mai Tai we had was at home (of course we stocked a decent bar in Kauai!). Not to say there was anything wrong with the many fruity-dark rum floater-bamboo cup-multiple garnish catastrophes “creations” we drank. Hey, its rum, lime, pineapple and a bunch of other stuff- how bad can it be? And usually it isn’t all that bad. However…maitai8

    maitai3A real Mai Tai, made with the right ingredients and in the right way, is just so much better. There is a reason everyone thinks “tiki” when they hear the word Mai Tai, it is a damn fine drink. Sweet, tart, funky with a nutty “I-know-not-what” at the finish, the Mai Tai is a perfect example of what makes cocktails so special. It is way more than the sum of its parts.

    maitai4So what about those “parts”? The other good thing about the Mai Tai is that the only truly esoteric ingredient is Orgeat (pronounced or-zhay) syrup, basically almond (and sometime apricot kernels) flavored syrup with some orange flower water. You can find Orgeat in many liquor stores or make your own. We have done both. Here is a well-known recipe to make it yourself. Small Hands makes a natural version that is very tasty, but the artificially (gasp!) flavored versions from Trader Vic and Fees taste just fine.

    maitai5Otherwise you need just a few other ingredients; fresh lime juice, triple sec, sugar syrup, a light grassy rum (rhum agricole is good), a dark funky rum, a sprig of mint and some crushed ice…..and a few extra minutes to make the drink.

    As for the rum, experts like Beachbum Berry and Rumdood all suggest an equal combination of Appleton 12 year (for the dark, funky notes) and Rhum Clement VSOP (aged, but still bright and a bit grassy) as the “standard”. And we agree. But we also like to play around and find other dark rums like El Dorado 8, 12 and 15 are all good (inexpensive) subs for the Appleton 12. We also think you can sub rhum Barbancourt (3 or 5 star) for the Clement, if the Clement is hard to find.

    maitai6Triple sec? We like Cointreau, but many suggest Clement Creole Shrub. Use what you like. Crushed ice? Trust us, it looks better and dilutes the drink properly. Mint Spring? Adds a bright note to the aroma of the drink, and it looks good. So does the lime shell. Got it? Good!

    Finally, one note on the history of the Mai Tai. While cocktail geeks historians quibble about the details, Trader Vic Bergeron made this version of the drink famous (even if Don the beachcomber made something else with the same name earlier). And Vic was a Bay Area guy, so we will stick with our man and tip our caps to Vic for this delightful sip. Now go make one before the summer is over!

    maitai1The Mai Tai:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 oz. dark(er), funky rum (Appleton 12 or El Dorado 8, 12, 15)
    • 1 oz. light(er) rum (Clement VSOP, rhum Barbancourt)
    • 3/4 oz. lime juice
    • 1/2 oz. orgeat syrup
    • 1/2 oz. triple sec
    • 1/4 oz. simple syrup
    • Mint sprig, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Using a blender, ice crusher or lewis bag, crush a bunch of ice.
    2. Add all the liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Reserve the lime shell. Shake until well chilled.
    3. In a lowball glass, add the crushed ice and the lime shell. Stain the cocktail into the glass and garnish with the mint spring. Enjoy. Repeat.

     

     

     

  • Our Garden, Growing Strong….

    grows….please forgive the obscure Game of Thrones reference (think House Tyrell). But our garden is growing strong, indeed. The hot and dry winter left us without cherries (not enough chill hours) and with withered greens. But our spring onions and potatoes were a delight and the blueberries and strawberries are simply amazing…and plentiful. No complaints.

    grows1grows8grows4It is our tomatoes that are truly growing strong, we practically have a tomato thicket. Frankly, we can’t wait. And along with tomatoes, our other warm weather plants like the eggplant, peppers and raspberries all look like they will have a very good summer. That means we will have a good summer.

    grows6grows11grows3Oh, and don’t even get us started on the apples, peaches and figs. They look good so far and we hope we can keep the varmints off them until late summer. It is a 50/50 shot at best…but hope springs eternal.grows10grows9 Continue reading

  • ‘Cue, Cocktails And Cake For Memorial Day

    anejoAh, summer. You can feel it coming (here in Norcal, it barely left). But for the rest of the country, we gather that this summer will be particularly welcome. Now, we all know that summer isn’t “official” until the solstice, but around here (and hopefully where you are) summer starts on Memorial Day. And Memorial Day is “opening day” on the farm for weekend barbecue, big pitchers of punches and highballs and lots of dessert. So here are a few links to recipes we think you may want to try this weekend and into the summer (and don’t worry, they are well-tested).

    porkOur favorite summer meals almost all include real, low-and-slow barbecue (we also like steamer clams and lobster rolls, but those are for another post). And our favorite for Memorial Day remains Pulled Pork. We post a link to this recipe every Memorial Day for a reason, it rocks. Pulled pork is inexpensive, easy, feeds an army and tastes great. The only thing you need is time. For the best results you need to plan ahead a day or two- so get started!

    ribsIf you are worried about time, then Memphis-Style Ribs are the way to go. These ribs still benefit from a little extra prep time, but they are easily a one day meal. And, sooooo good. Trust us, make extra.

    brisketFinally, if beef is your thing, then Franklin Style Brisket is a real treat. Again, you get a great dish for a crowd, you just need to take the time to do it right. (We jumped the gun on summer and made this last weekend for some good friends, and it is still one of the best things going).

    fleurIf you happen to imbibe (and we hope you do), summer is the best time for easy punches or highballs. These are drinks that keep you and your guests outside, and not inside mixing drinks all the time. Our favorite summer punch is the Nouvelle Fleur, a sparkling tequila, citrus, St. Germain and Aperol concoction. This drink packs big, thirst-quenching flavors, but is relatively low-strength. Great for sipping.

    laniIf you want an easy punch, but with more, umm… “punch”, then we suggest the Lani Honi. This is a simple mix of white rum, lemon and Benedictine. But even with just three ingredients, the flavors are full and complex. Good stuff and easy to mix in a pitcher.

    monkFor those who like tall, cool summer cocktails, we always suggest bucks like The Kentucky Buck or Kentucky Monk. And for those who like riffs on classics, we love the Upside Down Martini, using vinho verde in place of dry vermouth. Crisp, cold and delightful. Continue reading

  • A Big Bowl Of Polenta

    pol2Well, winter never really made it here to Norcal, but there is nothing better on a foggy, rainy and/or chilly day than a bowl of polenta. And since we get plenty of fog, even in summer, polenta is a popular choice here at the farm. So popular, we didn’t think of it as something for the blog. But since Judy Rodgers passed, we think a lot about her and her polenta recipe. So we figured we would share.

    pol1pol4The key to making polenta (cornmeal mush) is that it just isn’t all that hard. You don’t need any special technique and you don’t need to stir every second. You just need to be mindful and take your time. You will hear all sorts of polenta making B.S. “advice” about stirring every second and how you drizzle the cornmeal, etc. Forget all that. Rodgers has you cook the polenta at low heat in a heavy-bottom pot, stir every few minutes to avoid scorching and hold in a double boiler to improve texture and allow quick service. And it works. We play frisbee and basketball with the kids while making this dish. We just duck in the kitchen every 5 minutes, give the pot a stir and then it is back to fun outside….nice.

    pol5pol6The only real “challenge” here is how to add flavor to the polenta. Just butter and seasoning makes for a way better dish than you might expect. Parmesan and/or mascarpone cheese are common additions, and how Rodgers served it at Zuni. But we like to go a bit further and make polenta into a 1-dish meal. We like stirring in the parmesan, adding a soft-boiled egg, crumbled bacon and then topping with a bright salad of parsley or celery greens. Other good additions are braised greens, prosciutto, sautéed mushrooms, tomato jam and braised short ribs (yum).

    pol7pol8 Continue reading

  • Winter Never Came, But We Still Have Spring

    springWell, we never really got winter this year in Norcal. We did get some rain, and may get some more, but what we call “cold and wintry weather” (but really isn’t) never arrived. I guess it was sucked in by the polar vortex. Once the rains came, the plants came roaring back to life. The bees are working the wisteria, the roses are about to burst, hummingbirds are sprinting from flower to flower and the bluebirds flicker in the sun. We will take it.

    spring1spring2spring8Meanwhile, in the garden the greens look beautiful (taste good, too) and the blueberries are in flower. We have fennel everywhere and the artichokes are sending up canes. The herb garden seems to double in size every day (at least the mint). Excellent.

    spring3spring4spring5spring6In the orchard, this is our favorite time of year. The citrus is at its best, with Meyer and Eureka lemons and Cara-cara oranges all looking and tasting lovely. Some seem to make their way into a few cocktails. And the stone fruit trees are starting to flower. Nothing prettier in the world….So much for winter. We will gladly take the spring.

    spring7