• Weekly Cocktail #46: Sunny In The Garden

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    Sunny in the Garden cocktail.

    We know spring just sprung, and hasn’t reached many of you at all, but we are already thinking about “long drinks” for summer. For those who are unfamiliar, long drinks are simply large volume cocktails, often six to eight ounces, with more mixer than spirits, usually served on the rocks and often associated with warm summer afternoons, garden parties and preludes to long naps. (We also like to drink them while gardening, but that is just us). The Tom Collins is probably the classic long drink, highballs like the Gin and Tonic also qualify, and there are other well-known classics like the Cuba Libre, Paloma, Pimm’s Cup and the Dark ‘n Stormy. All worth a try, and you may see some more here on the blog over the next few weeks.

    sungarden4sungarden5Part of the fun of long drinks is that you can take almost any mixer, add some spirits, and perhaps a few modifiers, and you have a new drink. The variations are almost endless and it is pretty hard to screw up. In most cases the mixer is non-alcoholic like juice, soda water or ginger ale, but we decided to make a long drink from an apéritif and just a splash of spirits. And if we mix with an apéritif, it will often be Lillet Blanc, one of our favorite ingredients. (See the Rose Pearl for another long drink, this time using Lillet Rose.)

    sungarden6Lillet Blanc is a fortified wine that combines white wine with citrus (mostly orange) infused spirits. It is sweet with citrus notes and a slight bitter quinine edge (if you like things a bit more bitter use Cocchi Americano) and is very easy to sip on the rocks. But we wanted to amp the orange flavor, tame some of the sweetness and add some “heat” from alcohol, but not mess with the core flavors of the Lillet. So we figured this might be the kind of cocktail that makes good use of the vodka gathering dust on our bar (gin tends to win out here at the farm). And while vodka is not always a respected mixology ingredient, it does have its uses, and this was one of those times.

    sungarden7The Sunny in the Garden combines Lillet Blanc, vodka, lemon juice, orange bitters and a large orange twist, served on the rocks. The aroma is wine, floral and citrus, perfect for summer. As for the taste, you get a big, sweet wine and orange sip up front, but balanced by the lemon juice and just a bit of kick from the booze at the finish. Is this the world’s most complex cocktail? Hardly. But is a very enjoyable sipper you can linger over, think “like white Sangria, but way better”. In fact, we may serve the Sunny in the Garden along with summer meals as a substitute for wine or Sangria. But summer is still a ways away, so for now we will just have to sip this while gardening. We can live with that. Now about that nap….

    Sunny in the Garden cocktail.

    Sunny in the Garden cocktail.

    Ingredients:

    • 4 1/2 oz. Lillet Blanc
    • 1 oz. vodka
    • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
    • 2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters
    • Long orange peel, for garnish

    Assemble:

    1. Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and then strain into a highball or Collins glass filled with ice.
    2. Twist the orange peel over the drink and rub along the edge of the glass. Add the orange peel to the cocktail. Serve.
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  • 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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