• 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

  • Orange Sour Cream Pound Cake

    poundThere are few things easier to make than a pound cake. (Few things better to make, for that matter). And you can find pound cake just about anywhere. But that doesn’t mean pound cake isn’t blogworthy. Far from it. Like a blank canvas, the basic equal-proportion pound cake recipe is a worthwhile place for bakers to riff and create tasty new treats. And this recipe is a perfect example of how a few substitutions and/or additions to the traditional pound cake can make something entirely new (and good).

    pound8pound7This recipe uses most of the equal proportion of flour, sugar and egg, but then splits the fat between butter and sour cream. This adds more tang while keeping a rich flavor. Meanwhile, that tang is enhanced by a little orange zest. Topped with two different citrus-sugar glazes, you suddenly have a very rich cake, but with a tangy and slightly acidic core that keeps you coming back for another bite. If you find basic pound cake a bit cloying, this type of recipe is a good place to play.

    Pound5pound4Carolyn adapted the recipe from “Sweet” by Valerie Gordon. Sweet is a solid cookbook by a well-known pastry chef / confectioner. Beyond the recipes, the photos are beautiful. Our sons, drawn by the photos and the thought that “maybe Mom will make some of this for us” gave Carolyn the cookbook for Christmas. Smart kids.

    pound3pound2 Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday LXXXII: The Hanalei Sour

    sour5Mixology Monday time again! And not a moment too soon. We were getting a bit one-dimensional with our cocktails here at the farm (playing with Old Fashioned variants mostly), so it is always good to get the creative juices flowing (pouring?). Here is the theme from the excellent Ginhound Blog (they took the name before we could):

    mxmologoSome of the most iconic cocktails are Sours… There is a reason for this: A perfectly balanced sour is a work of art. What has happened to the Margarita shows exactly what is at stake when mixes replace bartender skill. For this month’s MxMo I suggest that we test the sour to the limit: Are there citrus besides lemon, lime and grapefruit that works in a Sour? Is citrus the only possible souring ingredient? Could vinegar or other tart fruits or vegetables be used? Let’s also include the Daisies and the Fizzes – that widens the playing field with eggs and whatever makes you fizz to play with. Let’s play with the garnish – or just take Jerry Thomas’s advice from The Bon Vivant’s Companion: In mixing sours be careful and put the lemon skin in the glass.

    Ah, sours, one of our favorite types of cocktail. And just like last month’s theme of Highballs, it is a good reminder that there are only a few “families” of basic cocktails and that most creations are just riffs on a common core. So with this in mind, we got to work.

    sourThe cool thing about a sour is the basic construct is so easy: spirits, sour and sweet. The hard thing is making them all play nice together. Too much of any ingredient can make a sour into a mess. And while we are not big fans of the term “balanced”, it is the right term for a good sour. The sour brightens your palate, the spirits give some kick and the sweet smooths the flavor. Alchemy.

    sour1sour8Now we just needed some inspiration. In our case, since some of the crew are in Kauai (with a much smaller bar to work with), we chose to use local ingredients as our core. And in Hawaii that means sugar and pineapple, at one time both were the primary crops of the islands. We also have a bounty of local citrus (Tahitian and Calamondin limes) and local rum, Koloa from here in Kauai (good stuff). We also got some local coconut flavored sugar…hmmm. Time to make a local daiquiri variant….that may delve into the realm of tiki. But both daiquiris and tiki drinks tend to be sours, so when in Kauai……

    sour3The Hanalei Sour combines fresh muddled pineapple, lime juice, coconut sugar (or just superfine sugar), Koloa Gold Rum and Tiki Bitters (Angostura in a pinch). We also garnish with fresh pineapple, lime, rim the glass with the coconut sugar (vanilla sugar would also do well here) and add some bitters to the foam on top of the drink. Is this really a sour? Or more tiki? Not sure. But we are sure it tastes good.

    sour4 Continue reading

  • The Best Almond Cake

    Almond cake. Life is good.

    Almond cake. Life is good.

    So let’s say that your Super Bowl team just laid an epic egg had a disappointing game. (Sorry Denver, our Niners lost to the same guys a few weeks ago…sometimes you just get beat). Or let’s say winter “snowmageddons” or endless droughts have you down.  Or maybe you just want a good dessert. Well, have some almond cake. Trust us, this will make it all better….uhh, maybe Peyton will need two slices.

    almondalmond1Anyway, this cake truly is the best almond cake we have tried. Usually, being the food geeks bloggers we are, we will try a number of takes on any given dish before we say we found the “best” recipe. But when Carolyn says “we can stop looking for other recipes”, she means it. And this recipe she adapted from Food52 is a real winner.

    almond3almond4almond6And don’t be fooled by the somewhat basic appearance of this cake. It is moist, flavorful and easy to make. Think “big marzipan cookie as a cake”. Kids and parents love it. You can serve it at any time and with almost any topping. Ice cream? Check. Chocolate sauce oh yeah. Check. Toasted with jam at breakfast? Yes, life is good here at the farm…. Continue reading

  • Mixology Monday LXXXI Cocktail: The Other Anejo Highball

    anejoMixology Monday is back again. And not a moment to soon. We have some resolutions that need breaking….(who are we kidding, they are long gone). Anyway, here is the theme from the excellent food, booze and cigar blog Southern Ash:

    mxmologoHighball – n. 1. a long iced drink consisting of a spirit base with water, soda water, etc. -Collins English Dictionary Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition…  For this month’s theme, I thought we could strip away the complexities of cocktails and relax with a nice highball… Most cocktails are at least three ingredients with the highball relegated to emergency or last resort status, but in those highballs we will seek refuge. The end of the day is sometimes better served by a simple liquor plus mixer combination than an artfully measured Corpse Reviver No. 2 This month, tell us what you’ll do with a liquor and a mixer (with maybe a wee bit of garnish) to ease into the new year.

    anejo3Ah, highballs. Not only are highballs easy to make (a good thing after all the holiday festivities), but they are a favorite here at the farm. The Florodora is a favorite (our house punch is a variation), the Diablo is another welcome sip and we have a love affair with Gin and Tonics. This was going to be fun, and we knew just where to go- a Buck.

    anejo4Bucks are a variety of highball using spirits and ginger ale or ginger beer as the mixer, you can add juices, sweeteners, liqueurs and/or bitters as well. My sister Tina introduced us to Gin Bucks years ago and we have played with Bucks ever since (the Folordora and Diablo are Buck variants). Might as well keep playing…

    anejo2After a little research we found Dale DeGroff’s famous Anejo Highball, a combination of anejo (aged) rum, Curaçao, lime juice, ginger beer and bitters with a citrus garnish. Good stuff, but it got us thinking that we should use the “other” anejo, tequila. Tequila plays well with ginger, so this wasn’t much of a stretch. And after a few trials, we got something we like.

    anejo1The Other Anejo Highball combines anejo tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, ginger ale and orange bitters garnished with lime and orange wheels. We went with ginger ale for cleaner flavor. And let’s face it- ginger beer gets funky sometimes, great with a vodka-based Moscow Mule, not so great with aged tequila. We also went to orange bitters and agave to keep the tequila from fighting with heavier Curaçao.

    What did we get? Basically, the Other Anejo Highball tastes like a sparking ginger margarita made with really good tequila. That works for us, plus it’s easy to make. And while we usually save anejo tequila for sipping, the extra depth and richness of the anejo does shine though. Worth a try, and certainly worth the effort. Continue reading