• Mixology Monday LXXI Cocktail: The 20th Century

    The 20th Century Cocktail.

    The 20th Century Cocktail.

    Another Mixology Monday is almost here, but it looks to be a busy weekend, so we are posting on Friday. This month’s edition of the online cocktail party is hosted by Scott Diaz of the excellent cocktail blog Shake, Strain and Sip. Thanks Scott. And as always, thanks to Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut, for keeping the whole Mixology Monday thing going, it is great fun and the source of some very inspiring cocktails. So here is Scott’s theme:

    mxmologoThe evolution of the cocktail has been a wondrous, and sometimes, frightful journey… But with all this focus on “craft” ingredients and classic tools & form, it seems we have become somewhat pretentious.  The focus on bitter Italian amari, revived and lost ingredients such as Batavia Arrack or Crème de Violette, the snickering at a guest ordering a Cosmopolitan or a Midori Sour has propelled us into the dark realm of snobbery… Remember, the bar was created with pleasing one particular group in mind: the guest. As such, this month’s MxMo theme… will focus on concocting a craft cocktail worthy of not only MxMo but any trendy bar, using dubious and otherwise shunned ingredients to sprout forth a craft cocktail that no one could deny is anything less.  There are a plethora of spirits, liqueurs, and non-alcoholic libations that are just waiting for someone to showcase that they too are worthy of being featured on our home and bar shelves.  So grab that bottle of flavored vodka, Jägermeister, cranberry juice, soda, neon-colored liqueur, sour mix, or anything else deemed unworthy of a craft cocktail, and get mixin’!

    20-2Create or find a drink that uses one or more ingredients that are not considered “craft”, but are used in a “craft” cocktail.  Sweet & sour, coffee, cranberry juice, most flavored vodkas, Midori, X-Rated, Alize, almost anything starting with creme, etc., are all game.

    20-1Hmmm. At first, we simply had to laugh. We spend a few years building a bar without “crass” ingredients, and now we need to go buy some. We had visions of Midori dancing in our heads (and back in the day there was plenty of Midori…and headaches). But before we bought anything we decided to use what we have, and we still have the back of one cabinet set aside for “all that other stuff” (you know, the stuff we don’t show off). And the first thing we saw was some Dekuyper White Creme de Cocoa. Yup, crass enough.

    20Dekuyper makes many of the most crazily named, colored and flavored liqueurs you can find. They are responsible for “Sour Apple Pucker”, “Razzmatazz”, bottled “Sex on the Beach” shots and dozens of other types of flavored booze. It may all be decent stuff, even fun, but it certainly ain’t “craft”. (But you should check out the cocktail recipes at their website for Spring Break classics like the “Banana Whammer”, “Apple Spazz” and the “Juicy Screw”. And the list goes on, check it out for a quick smile.)

    20-7So what to make with our very sweet and somewhat artificial-tasting Creme de Cocoa? The 20th Century, of course. Created by British bartender C.A. Tuck in 1937, and immortalized in the classic Cafe Royal Cocktail book by William Tarling, the 20th Century combines gin, Lillet blanc or Cocchi Americano (to mimic the “original” Lillet), lemon juice and white Creme de Cocoa. Think “Corpse Reviver #2 with Creme de Cocoa instead of Cointreau”. And while your first thought may be “gin and chocolate, yuk”, it does work very well. The chocolate plays well with the herbal gin, sweet fruit of the Lillet and the sour notes of the lemon. If you get the proportions right, there is just a very pleasant hint of chocolate to finish a tasty gin, Lillet/Cocchi and lemon sip.

    20-8 Continue reading

  • Spring “Kitchen Sink” Risotto

    riso4

    Couldn’t resist leading with the asparagus.

    I guess you could also call this “caramelized fennel and asparagus risotto”, but what fun is that? In any event, we tend to get excited as spring breaks loose and we buy up all sorts of stuff at the farmers market. And right now, asparagus just came in, the fennel is rockin’ (and we have Meyer lemons in orchard). Time to make risotto. And since we have some Serrano ham, parmesan, pecorino and saffron, may as well toss them in as well. But it is really up to you how you accent the veggies. Like we said, this is a bit of a “kitchen sink” recipe.

    riso

    Spring "Kitchen Sink" Risotto.

    Spring “Kitchen Sink” Risotto.

    But the key elements in this dish truly are the spring veggies. Caramelized fennel (one of our all-time favorite dishes) sweetens when cooked and is a perfect foil for the earthy asparagus. Put them in a creamy risotto and you have a lovely spring dinner. And we make extra, as the leftovers are also a real treat. The only downside of this dish is that it is risotto. And cooking risotto takes time. Expect 45 to 60 minutes of total time. Some extra prep may shave off a few minutes, but it is what it is.riso5

    riso8riso7The upside of risotto is that it is very easy to make, and any home cook can get some very “pro” results. And once you know how to make risotto, you can make dozens of variations. And if you garden or get a CSA box, risotto is an excellent use for all sort of random uncommon veggies. (Btw, if you want some serious risotto recipes, Stefan’s Gourmet Blog is the place to go, he knows his stuff.) Basically, all you need to do is a bunch of chopping and stirring (and tasting). Once you get the knack, it just comes down to the flavors you use.

    riso6riso9riso13 Continue reading