• Our First Anniversary, And Some Gratitude

    petals13Hard to believe, but it has been one year since our first blog post. We had no idea where this was going when we started, but our family blog is now a labor of love. But it isn’t even “labor”, we simply love this. We are not much on milestones here at the farm. We enjoy every day and hope to do a little better every tomorrow. We don’t look back much, as we are so grateful for the present. Sometimes heaven is a place on earth, and many days we think we’ve found it (or at least something pretty close).

    awards1But we will mark this anniversary because we want to thank all of you for visiting us. We cannot begin to tell you all how grateful we are that you would take time out of your day to visit Putney Farm. We feel like we have dozens of new friends from all over the world. And for that, we are eternally grateful.

    peachWe are also grateful for all the feedback, suggestions, jokes and encouragement. Bloggers, it turns out, are a very fun group of people. We are also grateful for all the corrections and suggestions to improve our recipes. It pains us to make mistakes or poor choices (and we apologize for any and all recipe issues), but the only way to get better is to recognize where you can improve. And we can both say we are much better cooks, photographers, gardeners and bartenders than we were a year ago. And for this we are most grateful. To us, food truly is love, and to constantly make and serve better food to those we love is a dream come true. Thank you. (And a summary of photos from the last year).

    scofflawtritiphotsauce1orc7forage8gaz5 Continue reading

  • Weekly Cocktail #36: A Martini

    A Martini.

    Writers coin hundreds, perhaps thousands, of words each day to wax over the history and debate the composition of this week’s cocktail, the Martini. We can’t, and won’t, try to match any of it. What we will say is that the weather is getting nippy, we are cooking richer dishes and many holiday parties are on the horizon. Our tastes tend to shift with the season, and these days we start to crave the occasional Martini. Regardless of all the blather endless conversation, a good Martini is still a delight. Clean, cold and elegant, and with crisp, bracing flavors, a Martini is a good start to a special evening. (A few more can also be a very poor end to an evening, but we will leave that to Dorothy Parker).

    Ironically, for all the “best”, “only way”, or “classic” interpretations of the Martini, the recipe has been in flux throughout the Martini’s history. The only real constants are gin (yes, only gin) and vermouth. And that’s it, otherwise the variables are endless. Early recipes used Old Tom gin and sweet vermouth, some Plymouth gin and a mix of sweet and dry vermouth, later recipes London dry gin and dry vermouth. And the ratios are simply all over the place. Even the best cocktail books and writers simply don’t agree. Some recipes go 50/50 vermouth to dry gin (most recipes these days use dry gin) and some still use just the lightest hint of vermouth, others include a dash of bitters. And, of course, you have the preparation and garnish. The amount of back-and-forth over shaken vs. stirred and olive vs. a lemon twist already fill a few volumes. In fact, the one thing we can say with confidence is that if someone tells you they know the “best” or “only” way to make a Martini, they really don’t know what they are talking about. All they really know is how they like “their” Martini. If you like a good Martini, you need to try a number of variations and decide what you like. This is a good thing.

    And while you experiment, we do suggest you consider a few things. Firstly, vermouth isn’t an afterthought. There are many quality vermouths out there from the inexpensive (Noilly-Pratt) to the premium (Dolin). And if you keep them in the fridge they actually taste good. No need to skimp. Try recipes that use more vermouth, you may be surprised. Secondly, the world of gin is exploding with multiple flavor profiles. Good London dry gin and Plymouth are still heavy on juniper, but “new world” gins like Hendrick’s and Nolet’s focus on flavors like cucumber or rose petals (we tend to like the old standby of Tanqueray and the occasional dalliance with Hendrick’s, but that’s just us). Third, we suggest you play around on the edges, try a dash of orange bitters, experiment with olives and twists depending on the gin or vermouth you use.  Finally, it makes sense to keep your Martinis small so they don’t warm up, a cold Martini is a good martini. And feel free to shake or stir, just be sure to do it until the Martini is very, very cold.

    Right now, we enjoy Dolin dry vermouth and have it highlight our Martinis. We use a decent slug of vermouth with dry gin and we also enjoy an “old-school” variation and include some orange bitters. As for olives or a twist, it depends on our mood and if we need a quick appetizer, but we like the lemon oil from the twist. So our current recipe is 1 and 1/2 oz. dry gin, 3/4 oz. dry vermouth, a dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters #6 and a lemon twist. We have a cool mixing glass, so we stir. But do what you like. Enjoy yourself.

    And one last note. Few cocktails match the spare, timeless elegance of the martini. The shaker, the glass, the olive all look beautiful and harken back to the art-deco designs and speakeasies of the 1920′s. Having a Martini is a special event, a small step back in time, an escape. And we celebrate that. However you make it, take the time to make your Martini well. Pull out some of your best glasses and maybe even a silver tray. Pick out some good music to play. Maybe invite over a few good friends. Serve your Martini with style, it will pay you back handsomely.

    The Martini:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 and 1/2 oz. dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. good dry vermouth
    • 1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters #6 (optional)
    • Lemon twist

    Assemble:

    1. Combine the gin, vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until very cold and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Squeeze the twist over the drink and then place it in the glass. Serve.
  • Weekly Cocktail #24: Long Island Iced Tea

    Long Island Iced Tea Cocktail.

    Well, “when in Rome…” And in this case, “when in Long Island….make Long Island Iced Tea”.

    While this cocktail is much tastier than you might think, there is no tea in this drink, and there is nothing “long” about it. “Long” drinks usually denote cocktails that are less boozy and often served in higher volumes, like a Pimms Cup or Dark n Stormy (a Diablo is also a good long drink). Long drinks often make for good summer cocktails, as you can sip them over a lazy afternoon. But with the Long Island Iced Tea, you can sip one over a full afternoon and still feel like you had a Three-Martini lunch…umm… make that a four-martini lunch.

    Many ingredients, but most are easy to find or are in your bar right now.

    The trick with the Long Island Iced Tea (Latin translation: needus designus driverus) is that most recipes suggest anywhere from four to seven ounces of high-proof spirits per drink (most cocktails have two ounces)- but you really don’t taste the booze. The Long Island Iced Tea tastes good (very good if you tweak the recipe), and goes down way to easy for its own (and your own) good.

    Most recipes suggest an ounce to an ounce-and-a-half each of gin, vodka, tequila, rum and triple sec, with some lemon, simple syrup and a splash of coke. We include that recipe below, but it is a bit sweet for most. And while it tastes good, most of the attraction is of the “I can’t believe this drink is smooth with so much booze” category. Our version lightens the drink somewhat (not much) but omits the triple sec and adds more lemon and coke. Usually we don’t mess with original recipes without changing the name of the cocktail. But there are literally dozens of variations on the Long Island Iced Tea (see here, if curious), so whats one more version of the recipe?

    Long Island Iced Tea and ingredients.

    As for the spirits used in the recipe, there is no need for anything special. Decent, inexpensive rum, gin, tequila and vodka will do fine. The real alchemy of the drink is how the spirits mesh, if you add something too good, or aged, it won’t help and may actually harm the drink- and why waste the money? If you do want the best result, fresh lemon juice and simple syrup will work better, but sour mix will work in a pinch. All recipes suggest Coke, and that’s what we use, but any decent cola should be fine. And serve with lots of ice, the dilution helps the drink, and softens the booze (a tiny bit). And in the end, you have a very tasty drink that is a good summer sip. Think rum and coke, but with more tartness, depth and complexity. Just be careful if you have more than one.

    A few too many and you may end up looking like this…

    As for the history of this drink, there are simply too many stories to know where it came from. TGI Fridays claims they invented it (doubtful), but bars from Long Island to Tennessee also claim to be the creators. And to make matters worse, the timeframe varies anywhere from the 1920′s to 1970′s. But since neither tequila or vodka were common in the states until the 1950′s, we suspect the Long Island Iced Tea is a more recent creation. But perhaps fittingly, after a few of these cocktails, no one would remember anyway… ;-)

    The Long Island Iced Tea: (Our version)

    Ingredients:

    • 3/4 oz. white rum
    • 3/4 oz. blanco tequila
    • 3/4 oz. dry gin
    • 3/4 oz. vodka
    • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
    • 1/4 oz. simple syrup
    • 2-3 oz. cola
    • Lemon wheel, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Combine the spirits, lemon juice and simple syrup in a highball or Collins glass with lots of ice. Mix and then top with the cola. Add the lemon wedge and serve.

    Continue reading

  • Weekly Cocktail #15: The Nouvelle Fleur

    Nouvelle Fleur Cocktail.

    We generally try to make our weekly cocktails out of readily available ingredients (we have the bonus posts for the crazy stuff), but this week we need to make an exception. The Nouvelle Fleur is a drink that will send many of you to the liquor store, but it really is worth the trip. The reason is that the Nouvelle Fleur is not only a good cocktail, but a recipe that easily becomes a great summer punch. So we think a punch that pleases a dozen guests is worth the extra effort.

    The extra effort comes from a somewhat long list of ingredients. The Nouvelle Fleur combines St. Germain, blanco tequila, Aperol, lime juice, grapefruit juice, a pinch of salt and is topped by sparking wine. Now many people will not have St. Germain or Aperol in their bar, but both are worthy additions. St. Germain is a low-proof elderflower liqueur that is sweet with floral and pear notes. St. Germain is a popular ingredient with mixologists and is often used as a more floral substitute for Cointreau or triple-sec in cocktails. Aperol is an Italian apéritif that is similar to Campari, but much less bitter and with lower alcohol. Aperol has pleasant citrus, bitter and herbal notes (maybe even rhubarb) that add depth to many cocktails without the outright dominance of Campari. Aperol plays very well with tequila, as we noted earlier with the Chica Facil.

    The overall combination of aromas and flavors in the Nouvelle Fleur truly stand out. The aroma is mostly, and pleasantly, grapefruit with a bit of floral from the St. Germain. As for the flavor, the sweetness of the St. Germain is matched by the citrus of the lime and grapefruit juice. The Aperol and grapefruit lend bitter and herbal notes and the champagne keeps the drink light and refreshing. The salt provides a subtle kick that keeps you coming back. Everyone who tries this drink loves it, particularly for summer.

    Nouvelle Fleur and ingredients.

    And there is another summer bonus. The Nouvelle Fleur isn’t a boozy drink, only the tequila is a high-proof spirit and there’s only 1/2 ounce in the recipe. Otherwise all the ingredients are under 20% alcohol. This lends really well to making a light summer punch. Simply add the same proportion of ingredients to a punch bowl, top with champagne or sparking wine and add a big block of ice. Now you have a tasty punch for a crowd that packs plenty of flavor, but won’t have them falling in the pool….

    As for the actual recipe, it comes from the Eastern Standard, a restaurant in Boston. We are far from Boston, but since we are avid readers of Cocktail Virgin Slut, we get the scoops, and this recipe, from one of the best cocktail towns in the country. Sometimes you just have to love the internet. But the Nouvelle Fleur is such a good drink, we may need to visit Eastern Standard in person and sample the rest of their cocktails….Maybe we will catch a game at Fenway as well.

    The Nouvelle Fleur:

    Ingredients:

    • 1 oz. St. Germain
    • 1/2 oz. blanco tequila
    • 1/2 oz. Aperol
    • 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
    • 1/2 oz. fresh pink grapefruit juice
    • 1 pinch of salt
    • 2 oz. Champagne or sparking wine

    Assemble:

    1. Combine all the ingredients, except the Champagne, in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake thoroughly. Strain into a cocktail glass, flute or coupé.
    2. Top with the Champagne and serve. No garnish.
  • Bonus Cocktail: The “Classic” Champagne Cocktail

    Classic Champagne Cocktail.

    This recipe is another example of how building one successful cocktail often helps you discover (or rediscover) many more great drinks along the way. In this case, we were playing with cocktails using French Brandy (Cognac or Armagnac) and found the May Daisy. But as we did our research (reading books, cruising the web and trying drinks- a tough gig) we also found a note on the Champagne cocktail that piqued our interest.

    Now almost all Champagne cocktail recipes include Champagne (or good sparking wine), sugar, Angostura bitters and a lemon twist. But it turns out that many recipes for the Champagne cocktail include anywhere from 1/4 to 3/4 of an ounce of brandy, usually Cognac. These recipes also note that while you can use “OK” Champagne, you need good brandy to make a successful drink. And since we had a good, but affordable, Napoleon Armagnac, we were in business.

    And while we already like a basic Champagne cocktail, this version with good brandy was something altogether different, and very much better. The aroma, with the combination of citrus from the twist, the tart yeasty note of the champagne, spice from the bitters and sweet floral / fruity notes of the Armagnac is outstanding. You will be happy simply smelling this drink. And magically, as the Champagne bubbles keep the drink “active”, the aroma persists from beginning to end. This cocktail is a reminder that adding a twist to a drink can be very, very important to the result. As for flavor, the Champagne still rules the drink, but with much more depth of flavor and just a touch of pleasant heat from the brandy. We love this drink, it is good anytime / anywhere.

    As for the ingredients, as we noted earlier, good brandy (VSOP or XO) is the way to go, but you can be more flexible on the Champagne or sparking wine. We use California sparkling wine in cocktails, our favorite brand is Gloria Ferrer, who makes great wine in the $15 - $20 per bottle range that is available in most liquor and grocery stores. Both the Brut and Brut Rose are worth seeking out.  But if you have a bottle that you like, and it’s not too expensive, use it. The amount of brandy in the recipes varied, but we found 1/2 ounce to supply good flavor without drowning out the other players or being to boozy. For the bitters we use Angostura, some recipes suggest adding orange bitters, but we found this added more sweetness than we needed (but by all means try it if you like orange bitters). For sugar, most recipes suggest soaking a sugar cube in 3 dashes of the bitters and adding it to the drink. This will add some sweetness and extra bubbles. But if you don’t have sugar cubes (most of us don’t anymore), 1/4 of an ounce of simple syrup can replace the sugar cube. Lastly, a big, fresh lemon twist is essential to this cocktail. Many photos show long thin twists in the drink, but you need the oil from the twist in the drink. We cut a half-dollar size piece of the lemon zest and give it a good working-over above the drink and then add it in. You will pick up the aroma of the drink immediately, and it will be good.

    Classic Champagne Cocktail and Ingredients.

    Continue reading