• Bonus Cocktail: The Orchard Moonraker

    The Orchard Moonraker cocktail.

    Last week Carolyn and I had a few days in San Francisco and the wine country, and of course that means we enjoyed some great food and cocktails. Ironically, the wine country is filled with signs promoting cocktails along with wine- and we think this is a great thing. Wine country is also farm country and there are all sorts of tasty fruits and vegetables that can make their way in to cocktail menus- and they are, often with tremendous success. Meanwhile, San Francisco continues to be a hotbed for great food and cocktails. If you like to eat and drink, San Francisco is a very easy place to like.

    And our inspiration for this week’s drink, the Orchard Moonraker comes from a visit to Bar Agricole, one of the best bars (and restaurants) in San Francisco. Bar Agricole is well-known for its cocktail program and a mix of both classic and creative drinks. The interior is modern and clean, the spirits top quality, the glassware beautiful and the bartenders knowledgeable. Altogether, an excellent place for a cocktail, and a great place to discover new flavors. In this case Bar Agricole featured their take on a classic cocktail, the Moonraker, which comes all the way from the Savoy Cocktail Book of the 1930′s.

    The original recipe for the Moonraker is equal parts brandy, peach brandy, quinquina (Lillet blanc or Cocchi Americano) and a few dashes of Absinthe. We tried it this way with Armagnac and Rothman and Winter’s Peach liqueur- and it is a good drink. Bar Agricole’s adaptation was brandy, Leopold Brothers Peach Whiskey, Cocchi and a few dashes of Absinthe. This was even better. The brandy and peach whiskey feature floral and sweet peach flavors, while the Cocchi adds herbal and bitter notes and the Absinthe cleans the palate. A bit unusual, but a very tasty drink. If you like Manhattans or Sazeracs, you may really enjoy the Moonraker. We certainly liked it.

    But as we are gardeners, and we have fresh peaches from the farmers market (ours are about a 10 days out- we are very excited), we adapted the Moonraker one more time to include fresh peaches and more common ingredients. Our version includes brandy, rye (you can use bourbon), muddled peaches, Cocchi and Absinthe. And if your peaches are not particularly sweet, a touch of sugar may help. The Orchard Moonraker, features overt floral and peach flavors and is a bit less sweet (peach liqueur is very sweet) with a touch of spice and depth from the rye and brandy. We use a little less Cocchi (you can substitute Lillet). The other notable difference is that the drink is cloudy from the muddled peaches. But overall, a tasty cocktail and fun way to enjoy peaches in season.

    Orchard Moonraker cocktail and ingredients.

    As for the name, it has nothing to do with the James Bond movie- the recipe has been around a lot longer. But a bit of internet research doesn’t give much more connection to the cocktail. A Moonraker is the name of a small, uppermost sail on some old ships, but is also a knick-name for some old-time British smugglers. Neither seem to have any real connection to the drink, and if they did it’s lost in time. But “Moonraker” sounds good, and the cocktail tastes good. So we will just have to drink it.

    The Orchard Moonraker: (Moonraker recipe below)

    Ingredients:

    • 1 oz. brandy
    • 1 oz. rye (or bourbon, in a pinch)
    • 1/4 ripe sweet peach, in slices (we like the skins on for extra flavor, but skin the peaches if you like)
    • 1/2 oz. Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc
    • 2 dashes Absinthe
    • A few dashes of simple syrup if the peaches are tart.
    • Peach slice, for garnish.

    Assemble:

    1. Add the peach slices to a cocktail shaker and muddle thoroughly.
    2. Add the brandy, rye, Cocchi, Absinthe and ice. Shake well to combine. Taste for sweetness and add a bit of simple syrup, if needed.
    3. Double strain (the peach pulp can be thick) into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with peach slice and serve.

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  • Heavy Branches and the Lonely Peach

    Bing cherries, we will harvest later this week.

    We planted our stone fruit orchard nearly 5 years ago. And while there have been a few successes, this is the first year we can say the trees are “heavy” with fruit. The peaches and nectarines are in process, but the Bing cherries are truly on the cusp. We eat them daily, but the big harvest will come later this week. The limbs on the Bing cherry tree are bending under the weight of the fruit. Amazingly, this same tree yielded just a few tiny, tepid berries last year but will give us baskets of cherries this year. A small reminder that patience and effort are sometimes rewarded.

    Cherry branch bending under the weight of the fruit. This is good.

    We are pleasantly surprised by the density of the cherries.

    And sometimes there are pleasant surprises. The hybrid Van and Black Tartarian cherry tree was mostly planted to  pollinate the Bing. But, as we noted last week, this tree is also bearing fruit. The Vans are tasty and the Tartarians are just coming in. We look forward to tasting all three of the cherries just off the tree.

    Netting the tress to protect the fruit in the orchard.

    On a more sober note, we took the plunge and netted the trees in the orchard. We needed help to do this, but as most of the trees have real fruit, now is the time. The orchard is less picturesque, but is hopefully protected from some of the nighttime raids of earlier years. We’ve written about our more…ummm, “active” protection of the garden and orchard from varmints, so let’s hope the passive systems work as well.

    A flash of purple amidst the green.

    Otherwise, the apple and pear trees outside of the orchard are looking great. The blossoms of spring are now the small fruits of the tree. These are older trees that bear fruit every year. We deal with leaf curl and the occasional pest, but we rarely worry about these trees. They are in their prime. Our younger Macintosh apple is also looking good and we expect a decent crop this year.

    Pears on an older tree. Lots of fruit, but months from being ready. Continue reading