• Mixology Monday XCIX Cocktail: The Reef Pass

    reefWe had to laugh out loud when we saw this month’s Mixology Monday theme was “Ice” (kindly hosted by our friend the Muse of Doom at the excellent Feu de Vie Blog). You see, as our bar/restaurant Timber & Salt nears its opening in September, we are spending a lot of time on ice. Ice is a key ingredient in cocktails, and there is no substitute- you need the right ice for the right drink. But more on that later, here is the rundown for the 99th (!) Mixology Monday:


    And in all this time there hasn’t once been a theme dedicated to that undersung-yet-essential part of nearly any cocktail: ICE. The word says it all. Big ice cubes for Old Fashioneds, pellet ice for juleps and cobblers, shaved ice for adult snowcones, crushed ice molded into a cone for a classic Navy Grog. The art of the blender. Tell us why your selected or invented cocktail needs this particular ice usage. Show us how to make perfectly clear ice at home or what you get to work with as a professional drink-slinger. It doesn’t even have to be pure H2O, either. Flavor it up! Teas, juices, liqueurs, bitters, other frozen edible objects serving as ice. Tell us the nuances of a properly-made Il Palio. Show us why a decorative approach takes your recipe to the next level. Whatever tickles your tastebuds and refreshes you this summer.

    reef4Perfect. In this summer alone we compared all commercial ice machines in mind-numbing great detail, made crystal clear ice (using the igloo method, it works very well), made almost-instant ice balls using a Japanese mold (a great show), used long ice sticks for Collins-style drinks (very cool) and experimented with the best way to get crushed ice for summer tiki drinks. And since crushed ice is our latest experiment, that’s what we will use here.

    reef1reef2And while some tiki drink recipes specifically call for blenders (and at the restaurant we may go this way), we usually prefer to use our cheap (about $20) manual ice crusher at home. Ours does both fine (tiki) and coarse (juleps and cobblers) chop, works well enough and is easy to clean. The blade apparatus comes apart occasionally, but it is easy to reassemble and it makes for a rocking tiki drink without fussing with a blender. And you really do need crushed ice for a good tiki drink, that frosted glass (along with a good dose of rum) just seems to make everything better.

    So what drink did we make? It turns out that we have tons of mint and basil in our garden this summer and we tend to freely substitute both in many of our savory preparations, so why not try it in a tiki drink? We already know that a touch of herbal flavor can enhance tiki drinks, so we took the next step.

    reef3The Reef Pass is basically a Mai Tai variant using amaro instead of simple syrup and basil instead of mint. We went with one of our favorite amaro, Santa Maria al Monte, a bittersweet and heavily herbal amaro similar to Fernet Branca, but with less overt mint/menthol notes. We also went for two strong, funky rums (Appleton V/X and El Dorado 15) that have enough flavor to match the amaro.

    How did it turn out? Extremely well. The Reef Pass does make you think Mai Tai, as the rum, lime, orgeat and Curaçao all shine through. But the basil on the nose and the slightly bitter and herbal finish of the amaro make for a very clean refreshing sip. (Surprisingly, the lime and amaro play particularly well together and we will continue to experiment here.) If you think tiki drinks are too sweet or cloying after a few sips, the Reef Pass is a good antidote. This one we are still making and enjoying. And we are always using our perfectly crushed ice…..that frosty glass never gets old. Continue reading

  • A Cocktail Experiment With Ash Apothecary Flavored Syrups

    ashFull disclosure; cocktail-oriented folks send us all sorts of cool spirits, bitters, flavorings and gear to try out here at the farm. We make no promises, but if we like an ingredient or tool we use/mention it in our posts (and always disclose the source). That said, we almost never do a full post on something that is sent to us…until now.

    But when the team at Ash Apothecary from Brooklyn (they have a kickstarter, btw) offered to send us some flavored syrups, we looked at their flavors and decided to give them a try. And we are very impressed with what they sent- enough to run an experiment making easy, but deeply flavored, riffs on sours and tiki drinks using their syrups.

    ash5ash6So why would “farmers” like us use someone else’s syrups vs. making our own? Firstly, the syrups are excellent, with clear and creative flavors. Secondly, consistency can be hard to maintain at home. There is a reason bartenders most often use quality ingredients from good suppliers, rather than DIY- good products taste the same every time. And finally, we all get lazy…or just ARE lazy.

    But not so lazy that we wouldn’t try a boozy experiment. A few of the syrups like Chocolate and Chai Masala were faves in coffee and tea, and we love the rose syrup but can’t quite figure out what to use it with (still trying..). However, when we saw Lavender Bud, Honey and Ginger, Cafe De Olla and Winter Spice syrups, we knew exactly what to do…make a few sours (and think tiki, as well).

    ash4The key here is to pull out the syrups, a bottle of dry gin and a decent bottle of rum. We went with Brokers, a traditional dry gin, and Flor de Cana 4 yr. a quality (but affordable) gold rum. Then we got some limes, lemons and a grapefruit and started mixing. Generally gin will go with floral and lighter spice, while aged rum can handle bigger flavors/spices. Gin likes lemon and lime, rum likes lime and grapefruit. We started with a ratio of 2 oz. spirit, 1 oz. sour and 1/2 to 3/4 oz. syrup, and commenced with the mixing/tasting.

    What did we come up with? Firstly, the Honey and Ginger syrup works with both the gin/ lemon and rum/lime . Too easy. As for the Lavender Bud, well, you know we like lavender, gin and lemon- and this was great, all herbal gin, lemon and bright lavender (and no soapy flavors you can get with some floral syrups or liqueurs).

    ash1Next we dug deep into the “archives” and remembered one of our favorite lost cocktails, the Port Antonio; a rum, lime, falernum and coffee liqueur cocktail (awesome, btw). Since the Cafe de Olla syrup is a mix of spices and coffee we know we had a fit. A simple combo of the rum, lime and syrup was delightful riff on a Daiquiri with a backbone of coffee that works way better than you might expect- try it.

    Finally we had the Winter Spice syrup, which tastes a lot like Allspice Dram, but without the booze. Spices go with tiki, so we did a riff on a Jet Pilot using the rum, grapefruit, lime and syrup. Perfectly tiki, but very easy…and very good.

    ash2So thanks to the team at Ash Apothecary for giving us, yet another, excuse to enjoy more cocktails!

  • 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

  • Mixology Monday LXXVIII Roundup: Intercontinental

    Time of the Saison cocktail.

    Time of the Saison cocktail.

    Another Mixology Monday has come and gone, so now it is time for the roundup. Our theme was “Intercontinental” and the goal was to mix a cocktail, or cocktails, that have “ingredients” from at least three but up to seven continents. And, as we mentioned, the definition of  “ingredient” was pretty broad, so we hoped to see many cocktails that spanned the globe….including Antarctica.

    mxmologoSo how did everyone do?  Very, very well, IMHO. The cocktails, photos and the stories were great. We actually had many of the ingredients (should we be embarrassed about that?) and mixed a number of the drinks. Very tasty. And just as important, an excuse (motivation?) to try something new. Whenever we feel we may be getting into a slight cocktail “rut”, Mixology Monday snaps us out of it.

    Thanks again to everyone for participating and to Fred Yarm at Cocktail Virgin Slut for keeping MxMo going. Here is the roundup (in no particular order):

    Feu-de-vie, one of our favorite booze blogs, covers six continents with the Giganta, a coffee-pineapple tiki-ish concoction with homemade Coffee-Macadamia Orgeat. Nice. We want some of that…

    Giganta cocktail.

    Giganta cocktail.

    Next we get the Vegan Pisco Sour from Elana at Stir and Strain. She has lovely creations and her photos are some of the best we have seen. For this cocktail, not only do we get four continents, but some cool info on using beer as a substitute for egg whites in “foamy” cocktails. For vegans, good stuff. For us, a tasty drink. Everyone wins.

    Vegan Pisco Sour cocktail.

    Vegan Pisco Sour cocktail.

    Amarula, the “Bailey’s of Africa” makes its first (but not its only) MxMo appearance in Swizzlestick’s Life is Beautiful cocktail. Lychee liqueur made it in as well. A truly global cocktail that hits six continents. Well done.

    Life is Beautiful cocktail.

    Life is Beautiful cocktail.

    The good folks at Booze Nerds take advantage of a good name/story and global ingredients to cover seven continents with the Amundsen (nice historical reference guys!). More importantly we get a very creative drink with spirits, amaro, bitters, spice, a tea reduction / syrup and a port wine float. Gold Star.

    Amundsen cocktail.

    Amundsen cocktail.

    The Straight Up, gives us another drink using Australian port and narrative license to cover seven continents with the ….and Antarctica. Again, we also see some tea and amaro in play for this beautiful aperitif-style cocktail. We certainly are intrigued with the mix of bitter, tannic, smokey and herbal ingredients. Gold Star.

    ...and Antarctica cocktail.

    …and Antarctica cocktail.

    Our Bay Area neighbors and frequent travelers BarFlySF, take us to five continents and then a few layers of hell as a bonus…seriously. They give us Dante’s Divinia and Dante’s Divinia Down Under, riffs on the Dante’s Paradise cocktail they discovered at Longman and Eagle’s in Chicago. And with some Habanero shrub involved- there will be some fire.

    Dante's Divinia.

    Dante’s Divinia cocktail.

    Out in Tennessee, Sass and Gin goes a slightly more traditional route with the Madison’s Revenge. This Manhattan variant shows that you can get to five or six continents quicker than you think. A little tuning of sweetener, spice or garnish and you have a global cocktail. Good work.

    Madison's Revenge cocktail.

    Madison’s Revenge cocktail.

    Our fearless leader Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Slut pulls out a bottle of Van Der Hum, an African tangerine and spice liqueur, for a very spirituous, old-time cocktail the Daiqurbon. We expected to see a bit more Van Der Hum this MxMo, but since we couldn’t find any here in Norcal, we are glad somebody found some.

    Daiqurbon cocktail.

    Daiqurbon cocktail.

    Continue reading