• A Gift Guide For The Home Cocktail Enthusiast

    danger9So let’s say you have a friend or family member who is into mixing cocktails. And let’s go a bit further and say they are worthy of a gift. What should you get them? Well, we guess you could get them a bottle of their favorite booze. But since it is their favorite booze they probably have it already. And, truth be told, making drinks doesn’t require much fancy gear.

    Nope, what we suggest here at the Farm is a bit of creative thinking and perhaps giving cocktail gifts that will last. Cocktail gifts that inspire. Cocktail gifts with some “legs”. Gifts that might lead to better drinks…and perhaps even a few more of them. Yup, that’s what we’re talking about. And here are a few suggestions:

    Really Good Vermouth:

    What? Vermouth? The stuff that’s been sitting on the shelf for years for when aunt Edna comes by and wants a Manhattan? Or the bottle you glance at while making a dry Martini? Yes, that stuff. But it can be so much better.

    It turns out that there is some delicious vermouth out there. Vermouth you can happily drink on its own, but also makes for delightful cocktails. (And, by the way, you need to keep vermouth in the fridge after you open it- that’s why that old stuff tastes so bad). Try a few classic cocktails with good, fresh vermouth and you will stop asking for super-dry Martinis and you may rediscover the glory of a good Manhattan.

    So what to buy? There are a lot of choices, but for sweet vermouth we suggest a bottle of Carpano Antica. This is the “grandaddy” of sweet vermouth and it packs a lot of big flavors. Carpano ain’t cheap, but it is good. It also comes in half bottles that are less expensive and fit better in the fridge. The bottle is quite beautiful and will “wow” anyone who is lucky enough to get Carpano as a gift.

    Carpano Antica Bottle-Low-ResOther good sweet vermouth include Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and Dolin. If we got either as gifts we would be very happy.

    vermouth-dolin-dryWhat about dry vermouth? There are a number of good, affordable options, but we suggest a bottle of Dolin Dry vermouth. This stuff simply rocks. Dolin will make for a great Martini, but also adds herbal depth and bittersweet notes to classics like the Scofflaw. And Dolin also happens to come in nifty half bottles. Heck, you could even give a combo pack of Carpano Antica and Dolin Dry to that special someone. Excellent.

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  • Bonus Cocktail (and “Mocktail”): The Watermelon-Drop

    Watermelon Drop Cocktail.

    It has taken us too long a while, but we promised to make some cocktail recipes that also include an alcohol-free “mocktail” version, so this is the first. And as our kids enjoy their “mocktails”, this will probably not be the last.

    In any event, this week we got our first watermelons at the farmers market (ours are still tiny) and we just had to make a watermelon cocktail. The challenge with watermelon is that has very light, tasty and “summery” flavor and a great aroma, but both are easily lost when mixed with too many strong flavors. So when making a cocktail with watermelon, we tend to look towards vodka (although tequila and watermelon also play well). The Watermelon Drop combines watermelon juice, lemon juice, a bit of simple syrup or agave nectar, some (optional) rhubarb bitters and vodka, preferably quality lemon vodka. And you can simply omit the vodka for a very tasty summer cooler or “mocktail”.

    Muddle chunks of watermelon.

    These days many mixologists, and more than a few cocktail bloggers, have a certain amount of disdain for vodka. Plain vodka has little flavor, by design, and has light texture and little aroma. If you want to add flavor to a cocktail with the base spirit, vodka won’t add much. But if you want some booze in a drink and have the fruit or vegetable shine through, vodka is a good fit. And it is “OK” to simply want some buzz with your juice…nothing to be ashamed of (in moderation 😉 .

    Fine-strain pulp to extract the juice.

    These days, many vodkas come with fruit (and/or other flavorings). Most are just cheap hooch with some artificial flavors. But some are high-quality spirits infused with fruit or vegetable flavors in a style almost like gin. You can also make very good vodka-fruit infusions at home. These kinds of vodkas are quite good, and do add a lot to cocktails. In this cocktail, we use Hangar One’s Buddhas Hand Vodka and it is a lovely addition to the drink. But even here we use a light hand with the vodka, we do not want to dilute the watermelon too much. And if you are curious, Buddhas Hand is a type of Asian citrus similar to lemons but more aromatic- good stuff, and a great compliment to watermelon.

    Watermelon Drop cocktail and ingredients.

    To make this drink, you do need to take the extra step of making watermelon juice. We simply muddle chunks of watermelon and then fine-strain the pulp. A cup of watermelon chunks will get you 2-3 ounces of juice. It only takes a few minutes, but will leave your bar or kitchen a bit sticky (such is life with watermelons). Otherwise simply combine the watermelon juice, lemon juice, simple syrup / agave, rhubarb bitters (if you have them, they add a nice touch) and the vodka, if using. If making a cocktail, we prefer to shake and strain the drink, if making a “mocktail”, serving on the rocks works as well.

    So if simply eating watermelon (and spitting seeds) isn’t enough fun, try this drink out. It is light and tasty, but has big watermelon flavor. And the Watermelon Drop also makes a good “mocktail”, so feel free to share with the kids…

    The Watermelon Drop:

    Ingredients:

    • 2 and 1/2 oz. watermelon juice (about 1 cup diced watermelon, muddled and strained)
    • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 1/3 oz. simple syrup or agave nectar
    • 1 oz. lemon vodka (Hangar One Buddhas Hand is really good here). Omit for a “mocktail”
    • 2 dashes rhubarb bitters (optional, FYI some bitters have alcohol- check the label before using in “mocktail”)

    Assemble:

    1. Dice watermelon and muddle in a large glass or bowl. Fine-strain the pulp and collect the juice.
    2. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Serve.
    3. If making a “mocktail”, follow all the steps above, but omit the vodka. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass or lowball glass with ice.