A Bourbon Gal in Utah

cocktails, cookery & occasional domestic badassery

Archive for the category “Boozemongering (Methods)”

Repeal Day Bourbon Punch

During the crucial taste-testing process! Most cocktails started as punch recipes, so this can also be scaled down to make individual drinks with 0.5 oz shrub, 1.5 oz bourbon, and top with bubbly.

During the crucial taste-testing process! Most cocktails started as punch recipes, so this can also be scaled down to make individual drinks with 0.5 oz shrub, 1.5 oz bourbon, and top with bubbly.

A boozy punch for a crowd!

The key to making this very old school-style punch is making the oleo-saccharum, basically a process for releasing all of the goodness and zing of the lemon oils from the zest, which then gets made into a shrub to balance the fruit/acid/sugar. This is a technique of pre-Civil War era origins which I’ve messed with a bit (see sources below), popular with booze slingers from the Early American Republic through the early cocktail era. It’s a pain in the ass, for sure, to peel all those lemons, but get to work: it’s totally worth it after you’ve completed making the shrub base a couple of days later. I made this punch by request for my friends over at Sugar House Distillery for a private event they held to celebrate the release of their first bourbon whiskey. All grains sourced within 200 miles, then fermented, distilled, barreled and bottled in house! This recipe makes a quart of shrub concentrate, which when combined with three bottles bourbon and three bottles sparkling wine makes enough generous drinks for 40-60 people. Or a dozen of my friends. Collect erry’body’s keys upon arrival, just sayin’. This punch is some potent stuff!

Bourbon made in Utah! Who'd have thunk it? My buddy Jake from Sugar House Distilling and I are pretty dang excited!

Bourbon made in Utah! Who’d have thunk it? My buddy Jake from Sugar House Distillery and I are pretty dang excited!

Repeal Day Punch

1 quart lemon shrub*

3 bottles bourbon

3 bottles sparkling wine (err towards brut profile)

Combine well and serve over ice

 

*Shrub ingredients:

6 big juicy lemons

2 1/4 cups demerara sugar (divided use)

6 allspice berries (or 1/8 tsp. ground allspice)

½ of a whole nutmeg grated finely

6 whole cardamom seeds (or are they pods? whatever, the small green things)

4-5 whole white peppercorns

1″ of a cinnamon stick (more if you really like cinnamon)

To make the shrub:

Prepare an oleo-saccharum (oil-sugar) by completely removing zest (just the peels without any white parts – a swivel potato peeler is the perfect tool for this job!) of six large juicy lemons. In a big bowl, combine the lemon peels with 1 cup demerara or raw turbinado sugar. Stir to combine, smash peels a bit with the back of a wooden spoon to grind in the sugar. Lightly cover with plastic wrap, and move to a warm spot out of direct sunlight- this bowl’s gonna be living there for a while so get used to it! Reserve all those whole peeled lemons in the refrigerator; you’ll be needing them later. Every time you remember (every 3-4 hours or so), stir and smash the sugar and peels some more. Do this for at least 12 hours and up to two days. You’ll eventually have a nice pool of lemony oily, syrupy goodness in your bowl of curly lemon peels.

Image capture from my new friend Amanda (well, new IRL; we've been Instafriends for forever!) So many great folks out supporting the distillery.

Image capture from my new friend Amanda (well, new IRL; we’ve been Instafriends for forever!) So many great folks out supporting the distillery.

While that’s going, you can prepare the spice syrup. To a quart or other large heat-proof lidded jar, add 1 ½ cups demerara or raw turbinado sugar, bring 1 ¼ cups water to a boil, and pour hot water over the sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add up to another 1/4 more hot water to dissolve sugar, if needed. Add the following spices to this simple syrup: 6 allspice berries (or 1/8 tsp. ground allspice), ½ of a whole nutmeg grated finely, 6 whole cardamom seeds (or are they pods? whatever), 4-5 whole white peppercorns, and a 1″ piece of a cinnamon stick. Stir well to combine, then let sit until the syrup reaches room temperature. Remove the cinnamon stick (really, or the entire brew will taste only of cinnamon). Put a lid on that jar, and refrigerate until you’ve got your oleo-saccharum nice and runny.

When the oleo-saccharum is ready, juice the reserved 6 lemons over the lemon oil (it’s great if some pulp and pips end up in the bowl, no worries! You’ll be straining this, anyway). Stir well to combine. Add the spice syrup to the bowl with the lemony goodness. Stir well again, and let sit at room temp to meld for a few hours. Stir again, then strain through a sieve with a couple layers of cheesecloth to catch all the woody bits. Decant into another lidded jar (this should make about a 4 cups/1 quart of shrub, if it’s not quite 4 cups, add enough water to fill the quart jar) and refrigerate until ready for use, up to two weeks.

PUNCH! By David Wondrich. Put it on your booze geek reading list today!

PUNCH! By David Wondrich. Put it on your booze geek reading list today!

For booze geeks wanting to explore the delights of historic punch recipes, I highly recommend picking up a copy of David Wondrich’s treatise on the subject, “PUNCH: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl” (Penguin, 2010). Therein he discusses the roots and uses of various recipes for making oleo-saccharum and other alcoholically alchemical wonders. The Repeal Day Punch recipe I made is loosely based on Wondrich’s historic research on the Chatham Artillery Punch, and old Georgia recipe that featured bourbon, rum, brandy mixed with lemon oil and juice in horse buckets.

Full disclosure: the guys at Sugar House Distillery paid me to curate this punch recipe for them. Which I did gladly, since their booze kicks ass and they’re fantastic fellas. -abg

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Fall Fandango

The Fall Fandango Silver rum, Applejack, stout beer syrup, cardamom & chocolate bitters, and apple Pok Pok

The Fall Fandango
Silver rum, Applejack, stout beer syrup, cardamom & chocolate bitters, and apple Pok Pok

This rum based cocktail combines my favorite flavors of fall: apples, coffee, chocolate, and rum. Yum!

The Fall Fandango

1.5 oz white rum (I used Sugar House Distilling’s Silver Rum)

0.75 oz Laird’s Applejack

0.75 oz chocolate-coffee stout syrup*

0.5 oz Pok Pok apple sipping vinegar

2 dashes cardamom bitters

2 dashes chocolate bitters

tiny splash of seltzer

To a mixing glass filled with ice, add all ingredients. Stir for 50 revolutions. Strain into a highball glass over a bigass ice cube infused with some cacao nibs (about ¼ tsp per cube). Splash in a teaspoon or two of seltzer. Garnish with thin apple slices. Drizzle apple slices with a little more of the beer syrup.

Chocolate coffee stout beer syrup

Chocolate coffee stout beer syrup

*To make beer syrup: to a heavy non-reactive saucepan, add 2 cups of beer. For this cocktail, I used Epic Brewing’s Big Bad Baptist, a stout beer made with cacao and coffee and finished in whiskey barrels. I know, it seems a shame to make syrup out of this amazing beer, but it’s worth it! Bring the beer to a slight boil over med-high heat, then reduce heat to med-low, stir often to prevent scorching, and simmer until the beer is reduced by half (about 30 minutes). Remove from the heat, and cool for about 5-10 minutes at room temp. Add 1 cup raw (turbinado or demerara) sugar and keep stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Cool completely to room temp, pour the syrup into a lidded jar, and refrigerate until ready to use. It’ll keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.  

 

The story behind the drink….

About a year and a half ago, I got a call from a colleague who works in philanthropy for a local museum. They were putting together live auction items for their annual gala, and for one item they were planning an “Ultimate Chocolate Experience” private VIP dinner, since the museum had just launched a wildly successful visiting Chocolate exhibit (for which I’d written a promo piece for my other gig at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE). They asked if I’d be willing to create a chocolate-themed original cocktail for the event, to which I replied “Hell, yes!” That’s right up my alley: kind of a H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) assignment on a meta level.

Long story short, some of my dear friends bid on the item and won. With everyone’s crazy busy lives, we finally saw all the stars align and had the dinner for 16 guests last weekend. It was amazing! The talented and generous folks at Millcreek Cacao Roasters provided some of their superb chocolate (really, the quality and sourcing are top notch) for the building blocks of many of my recipes. Luckily, there was a bit left over for me to eat straight from the bar!

This lucky duck is looking over my Oaxaca Old Fashioned during the very important R & D phase of my chocolate cocktail assignment

This lucky duck is looking over my Oaxaca Old Fashioned during the very important R & D phase of my chocolate cocktail assignment

I made the “Fall Fandango” rum-based cocktail using a lot of locally sourced ingredients, and it was far and away the crowd favorite. I also offered a “Oaxaca Old Fashioned” using a shot of cacao nib infused rye, ½ tsp raw sugar, a barspoon of pomegranate grenadine, and 3-4 dashes mole bitters; served over a bigass ice ball, and garnished with a candied orange slice drizzled with some Millcreek Cacao 70% chocolate (and yes, those chocolate candied oranges are insane on their own. Only 2 out of 3 made it into my cocktail kit – the others ‘mysteriously’ disappeared during my kids’ quality control check).

There are always folks who appreciate a non-alcohol option, and it’s been my point as a host to make some effort to serve a drink made with as much detail and care as the boozy crowd gets on the regular. I made a zingy and refreshing spritzer (recipe below).

Me serving up the NA spritzer. Finish it up with a straw and a chocolate drizzled candied orange slice for garnish.

Me serving up the NA spritzer. Finish it up with a straw and a chocolate drizzled candied orange slice for garnish.

Blood Orange & Chocolate Spritzer

To a tall glass filled with ice add:

0.5 oz Pok Pok blood orange sipping vinegar

3-4 dashes chocolate bitters

1 barspoon pomegranate grenadine

Stir well to combine all ingredients, and fill to the rim with seltzer (about 3-4 ounces). Serve with a straw. Garnish with a chocolate drizzled candied orange slice.

Shake Your Razz

A big sassy drink brimming with raspberries and rye, this is a terrific cocktail for pre-batching to serve a crowd. Perfect for tailgating and picnics!

Shake Your Razz. Thanks to my girlfriend Pink Lady for coming over to be my drinks research partner/hand model.

Shake Your Razz. Thanks to my girlfriend Pink Lady for coming over to be my drinks research partner/hand model.

Shake Your Razz

To a pint mason jar add:

2-3 basil leaves

3-4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

1.5 oz. raspberry-champagne vinegar shrub*

1.5 oz. black sun tea

0.5 oz. Disaronno

2 oz. rye whiskey

Fill jar almost to the top with ice, screw on the lid, and shake shake shake it like a Polaroid picture. Fill with more ice, if needed and serve with a straw.

*a cold shrub with a ratio of 6 parts fresh raspberries, 6 parts baker’s sugar, and 5 parts champagne vinegar (7% acid min.) by weight. Macerate for 48-72 hours and strain to remove solids.

The story behind the drink…

We’ve chatted about shrubs on this here blog before, as they’re dead easy to make with whatever you’ve got on hand. Shrubs are something I like to throw together as I’m going through fruits and vegetables during canning: the perfect specimens go into the canning jars, the moldy bits go into the chicken-feed bowl, and the bruised and banged-up pieces go into another bowl to be made into shrubs. Since all of my shrub recipes use pretty basic ratios by weight, it doesn’t matter how much or little fruit you end up with, as long as you’ve put enough acid in the ratio. Raspberries have a notoriously short window of ideal preservation; it seems like about a third of every package are a goopy mess. Perfect for making shrubs.

I was super honored to have my girlfriend Lime Rickey invite me over last weekend to co-host a party she threw for a cocktail club here in town run by SLC boozy blogger Chelsea (better known as Heartbeat Nosh). Her cocktail club is fancy, y’all. They have dues and a calendar going out for a whole year, and they are all very young, hip, tattooed mommy bloggers with Pinterest-worthy sponsorships and fabulous shit like that. The bar was set HIGH, and I was definitely the oldest and least inked gal in the room. And since when I get nervous my voice gets even higher and more twangy than usual (think Wynonna Judd channeling Minnie Mouse- it ain’t pretty), the ladies were a very tolerant group for me goin’ on and on about how much I love shrubs. And whiskey. They’re a hilarious and fun group of gals; check out their collective Instagram feed at #hbncocktailclub for some great ideas.

I chose this cocktail to shake up for them for three reasons: 1) I thought they might want to learn a bit about shrubs, ’cause they’re freakin’ awesome, 2) it’s easy to pre-batch for a crowd, and 3) it’s fun and pretty and requires a bit of audience participation, which is always a hit in my book.

It also happens to be pretty damn delicious: the amaretto gives a nice mellow sweet base note, where rye’s spicy kick (use at least 95 proof for this one) comes right through the zing of the shrub. Peychaud’s bitters keep the color bright and add a nice licorice tickle to keep things interesting, even as the drink gets watered down a bit. Black tea adds body and volume to this boozy drink without clouding the flavors, making it a great session cocktail. This is a primo drink for tailgating parties or picnics, since you can pre-mix all the ingredients in individual mason jars for shaking AND serving, load them all right back into the cardboard carriers by the dozen. Just add ice and a straw when you get to your party spot. Bring a few backup ingredients to mix refills on site and you are golden, my friends. I’ve made this exact same drink swapping out apricot, peach, or pear shrubs for the raspberry and they’re all pretty delightful. Try using mint, tarragon, or rosemary instead of basil, too. It’s all good.

 

Smashing Melons

Smashing Melons

Smashing Melons

This summery bourbon-based cocktail’s addition of coarse black sea salt from Hawaii (available online and at specialty stores) rounds out Aperol’s bitter notes and makes watermelon’s sweetness sing.

Smashing Melons

1/4 cup chopped watermelon with juice

½ tsp. sugar

3-4 large basil leaves

½ oz. fresh orange juice

black sea salt

½ oz Aperol

2 oz bourbon

To a cocktail shaker add watermelon, sugar, and basil leaves. Muddle thoroughly. Add two generous handfuls of ice, a big pinch of Hawaiian black sea salt, Aperol, and bourbon. Shake, shake, shake it like a Polaroid picture. Strain into a rocks glass filled with cracked ice. Garnish with a basil leaf and a watermelon wedge sprinkled with more black sea salt.

The story behind the drink….

Chris Panarelli at O.P. Rockwell, downtown Park City, shaking up a lovely Corpse Reviver #2.

Chris Panarelli at O.P. Rockwell, downtown Park City, shaking up a lovely Corpse Reviver #2.

Nothing screams summertime day drinking quite like a fruity cocktail. Especially one made with ubiquitous watermelon and a little hit of bodacious herbaceousness from basil or mint. I recently wrote a piece about using salt in cocktails for Devour Magazine (go check it out! I appreciate the clicks, friends!). I had the great pleasure of hitting some of my favorite SLC hot spots, Undercurrent Bar and Bodega to try what they’ve been mixing up with salt. And up on Main Street in Park City, that hip and moody joint, O.P. Rockwell, I tried a classic gin-forward Corpse Reviver No. 2 prepared brilliantly by barman Chris Panarelli. He graciously added a pinch of salt to the shaker at my request so we could try the original side-by-side with one made by salt to put our salty theories to the test. We liked ‘em both. Inspired by all of this salty sipping, I started working on some re-interpretations of summer favorites, including this kickass watermelon and bourbon cooler.

 

Firecracker Moonshine Jell-O Shots

Layered Jell-O shots.  Party like it's 1847!

Layered Jell-O shots. Party like it’s 1847!

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) is a general request from friends who’ve been asking for my recipe for patriotic moonshine jell-O shots. I make mine with PopRocks and cherries. This recipe originally posted in 2013, but IMHO jell-O shots are a classic appropriate for any old time of the year!

That’s right, people: We are making Freaking Moonshine Jell-O Shots.  With PopRocks on top!

The verdict:  Pretty damn good

The verdict: Pretty damn good

I made the ones photographed here for a July 4th party hosted by Lemon Drop and IPA (a.k.a. Hoss on Hops) in 2013 and blogged about it back then. They were a freaking HIT.  Half I made without alcohol; those were topped with cherries (to make sure the kiddos, pregnant women, recovering alcoholics, and Mormons didn’t get the boozy ones by accident).  Half were made using 80 proof white corn whiskey (commercially available “moonshine”) instead of the frat party favorite Everclear. I left those unadorned until just before serving, then I scattered about ¼ teaspoon of Pop Rocks (yes! The exploding in your mouth candy!) on each shot. The combination of the whiff of Moonshine with the sweet gumminess of the Jell-O was perfectly balanced by the acoustic and sensory bang of the Pop Rocks.  And nobody died from combining Pop Rocks and alcohol, so take that, urban mythologists. As a basis for this recipe, and for help figuring out how to make the “white” layer, I turned to a Wiki-how tutorial on making Patriots football Jell-o shots.  Of course, you can substitute any colors/flavors you want, and you can always use plain old vodka if you don’t have corn liquor on hand. This recipe makes about 35 shots, depending upon what kind of containers you use and how full you fill them.

Layered Moonshine Jell-O shots

(makes about 35)

1 – 3 oz. box blue Jell-O

2 packets plain gelatin

1 can (1 cup) sweetened condensed milk

1 – 3 oz. box red Jell-O

3 cups boiling water (divided use)

2 ½  cups clear relatively flavorless liquor (corn whiskey or vodka)

3-4 packages Cherry or Watermelon (red) Pop Rocks

To assemble your shots: Place 35 small plastic cups on a large rimmed sheet tray.  Lightly spray all of the cups with flavorless cooking spray to reduce sticking.

Blue layer

Blue layer

For the blue layer:  combine blue Jell-O with 1 cup boiling water; stir until completely dissolved.  Let cool slightly (otherwise your liquor will evaporate from the heat- we don’t want that!!).  Add the liquor, and pour equally into small cups.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set.

For the white layer:  sprinkle gelatin packets over 1 ½ cups water just off the boil; whisk quickly to dissolve completely.  Keep whisking and add the condensed milk and ½ cup liquor.   After it’s all combined, pour gently over the blue layer 2/3 the way up the cup.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set.

White layer

White layer

For the red layer:  combine red Jell-O with 1 cup boiling water; stir until completely dissolved.  Let cool slightly.  Add the liquor, and pour equally into small cups.  Add fruit to top at this point, if desired.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set. For the PopRocks Firecracker finale!  As you are serving the Jell-O shots, have guest sprinkle about ¼ tsp. Rop Rocks on their Jell-O shot.

Everything was a little blurry by this time, including this shot

Everything was a little blurry by this time, including this shot

Rhubourbon Smash

Rhubourbon Smash Rhubarb, strawberry, sugar, lemon, rhubarb bitters, and lots of bourbon.

Rhubourbon Smash
Rhubarb, strawberry, sugar, lemon, rhubarb bitters, and lots of bourbon.

Rhubourbon Smash

2 oz. high proof bourbon

3 dashes rhubarb bitters

3 oz. rhubarb smash*

1 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

To a pint glass add rhubarb smash (including fruit pulp) and bitters. Smash with a muddler or the back of a spoon to further break up the fruit. Add remaining ingredients, plenty of cracked ice, then stir, stir, stir with a bar spoon for about a minute. Strain into a rocks glass filled with cracked ice. Serve with a straw and strawberry garnish, if so desired.

Rhubarb-strawberry smash. Basically, macerated fruit.

Rhubarb-strawberry smash. Basically, macerated fruit.

*Rhubarb smash: combine 2/3 c. rough chopped rhubarb, 1/3 c. chopped strawberries, and 1 cup sugar in a large non-reactive bowl or quart jar. Rest in the warmest part of your fridge (or in the cellar) for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days, until fruit has released all its juices. Stir to re-incorporate sugar and evenly distribute fruit before using. Smash syrup will keep refrigerated up to 3 weeks.

The story behind the drink….

Growing up, my sibs and I spent summers with our maternal grandparents in rural Indiana, and my Gram had rhubarb plants spotted along her drive like landscaping features from the Little Shop of Horrors. They were massive plants, or maybe just remain that way in my childhood memory. Mostly they were shudderifically scary because they were inevitably full of spiders, and harvesting stalks from them was an arachnophobic kid’s freakin’ nightmare. After much squealing and squawking about the spiders, I’d chop off the toxic leaves, and blast the stems with a garden hose before I brought ‘em inside. They were transformed into preserves, pickles, and my everliving favorite: pie. Gram made the best pie crust (using chilled shortening and oleo) and there’s nothing I liked better than helping her make the criss-cross lattice weave delicately topping a strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Nothing says "Spring" quite like peonies and rhubarb-strawberry cocktails.

Nothing says “Spring” quite like peonies and rhubarb-strawberry cocktails.

One of the first perennials I planted in our Utah garden when we moved here 10 years ago were two rhubarb plants. Only one of ‘em survived the first winter, but it supplies a shit-load of stalks for our family starting in April and going all summer long. Right now I’m in the midst of putting up all things rhubarb, usually with it’s sweet-tart Gemini sister strawberry right along side. I’m brewing up a huge batch of rhubarb-strawberry shrub, and last night skimmed some of the fruit and sugar mash prior to adding the shrub vinegar blend to make a zippy bourbon concoction. It’d be in the ‘smash’ category of cocktails (think along the lines of a julep, but adding fruit to the muddle), which is a half-assed way of saying you smash whatever you like and add booze. Excellent.

For more on how to make seasonal fruit cocktail shrubs, check out my previous post, here.

Sugar House Slingshot

Sugar House Slingshot: silver rum, charred lemon, honey-thyme syrup, cardamom bitters, and salt.

Sugar House Slingshot: silver rum, charred lemon, honey-thyme syrup, cardamom bitters, and salt.

Sugar House Slingshot

2 oz. silver rum

1 oz. honey-thyme syrup*

1 oz. charred lemon juice**

2 dashes cardamom bitters

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake like crazy. Rub the rim of a highball glass with charred lemon, and dip half the rim into coarse salt (I used Utah-sourced RealSalt). Fill glass with fresh ice, strain drink into glass over ice. Pop a little club soda floater on top, if desired. Garnish with thyme and a slice of charred lemon.

The story behind the drink:

This week I was thrilled to hear that my friends over at Sugar House Distilling got the go-ahead for sales of their latest release, a molasses distilled silver rum. Rum gets me all excited for spring imbibing: tiki drinks, mojitos, anything umbrella embellished and slurped through a straw. Slings are usually short cocktails made with liquor, citrus, sugar, and water, so this is a riff on that theme but using a honey-thyme syrup, instead of sugar.

ImageThis freaky unseasonably warm weather lately means we’ve uncovered the grill for the season—no doubt we should anticipate snow any day as a result of this arrogance—and I always throw on a few extra halved lemons when I’ve got some free space on the grates. The juice of these charred lemons makes a spectacular smoky sour mix, and in this case kicks some serious ass paired with the sweet-spicy notes of cardamom bitters. I’ve been playing around with making homemade cardamom bitters, but until I tweak that to satisfaction, you can find several varieties (like Fee Brothers) at specialty stores.

*To make honey-thyme syrup: in Mason jar mix ½ cup honey with ¼ cup water just off the boil; stir until honey is dissolved. Drop in a generous sprig of fresh thyme. Cool to room temp, remove thyme. This syrup will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

**Charred lemon juice: Halve a bunch of lemons. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar over each cut surface. Grill, cut side down, over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until lemons are smoking and well charred. Remove from heat and rest at room temperature for an hour or two. Keep several lemons aside for use as garnishes, and juice the remaining charred lemons, straining out seeds and excess pulp. Juice will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

Drinks by the Gallon: Manhattans and Prairie Punch

As part of my Cocktails 101 series over at the cityhomeCOLLECTIVE blog, I recently wrote a history/rant on that gorgeous hit of rye, The Manhattan. For this very tough and hard-hitting bit of research, I spent an afternoon chatting and drinking with bartender extraordinaire Amy Eldridge at the classic Salt Lake watering hole, Bar X. Somebody’s gotta do it. Quite a few folks have been asking me lately about drinks by the pitcher or punch bowl for a crowd over the holidays, so here are a couple of my standards: one is for Manhattans pre-made in the freezer, the other for a citrusyManhattans at Bar X punch that you need to plan about a day of lead time for to make the classic oleo saccharum (“oil sugar”). Both with whiskey, of course!

Manhattans by the Gallon This edition of “How to get your family shitfaced in large batches” courtesy of Amy Eldridge. Perfect for the holidays!

1) Take a very large freezer-safe pitcher or hefty gallon jug, and fill it with:

one bottle sweet vermouth

two bottles rye whiskey

and the equivalent of one bottle filtered water

2) Put upright in the freezer for at least a couple of hours or overnight [it won’t freeze because of all of the alcohol, but may get a little slushy].

3) Portion out cocktails directly into chilled glasses as needed, with a couple of dashes of bitters dropped into each glass first, and a cherry garnish to finish. Or, fill a pretty glass pitcher with the booze and one of those wicked cool ice insert thingies so your Manhattans stay icy cold without getting diluted. Let your guests serve themselves until you call them a cab and boot their ass to the curb. Cheers!

High West Prairie Punch

Prairie Punch: perfect with cheese and savory snacksFinca’s bar man Scott Gardner resurrects the concept of an artisanal punch in this recipe, harkening back to the time when every bar or local watering hole worth its salt had a proprietary and exclusive house punch.   The traditional oleo saccharum (“oil sugar”) preparation takes some lead-time to assemble, but is worth the effort to create a well-blended traditional punch. Here’s his recipe, which makes A LOT (good for a party of 20 or more guests):

1) At least two hours, or up to one day ahead, prepare oleo saccarum by gently muddling 8 oz. granulated sugar and the peels of 6 lemons.

2) After the sugar has turned to a syrup/paste consistency, add 6 oz. lemon juice, stir to combine, and let sit for an additional 30 minutes.

3) Strain out the lemon peels from the mixture and discard

4) In a large punch bowl (or two pitchers), combine:

  • lemon sugar
  • 1 bottle (apprx 25 oz.) High West American Prairie Reserve bourbon
  • 40 oz. cold water
  • ½ oz. angostura bitters
  • Just before serving, add ice to chill your punch
  • Float 8 oz. brut cava on top of the punch
  • Garnish with lemon wheels and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg
  • Note from A Bourbon Gal: Lovely served in shallow ‘coupe’ stemmed glasses

For more punch recipes made the old, old fashioned way [um, not with 7up and floating sherbet], check out David Wondrich’s history of the flowing bowl, Punch [Penguin 2010].

Hachi Hive

The Hachi Hive

The Hachi Hive

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) is a request by many friends for the “Hachi Hive” cocktail developed at Salt Lake City’s award-winning Takashi restaurant by manager Rich Romney and barman Jonny Bonner.  We were slurping ’em down during a recent photo shoot and interview I did about Utah’s Jack Rabbit Gin [made by SLC-based Beehive Distilling] for cityhomeCOLLECTIVE, and it was also featured at the distiller’s launch party this spring. It’s decidedly refreshing and delicious, y’all, and one of my new favorite drinks during this heat wave. The only downside is that Takashi’s bar uses fresh yuzu* juice in the cocktail, which can be difficult to source. I found yuzu juice at my favorite local Asian foods market, but it was $17.99 a bottle. Not a typo, friends. Holy Liquid Gold, Batman! A great substitution is plain old fresh lemon juice. It also calls for using a honey-sage syrup, which is dead easy to make at home–recipe, below– and I love it in other white booze-based cocktails.

It’s sweet, tart, and lively drink, and perfect for summer sippin’.  Distiller Chris Barlow said of this betty of a beverage, “it haunted my dreams.” Agreed, Chris. It’s some sublime shit.

HACHI HIVE 

To a tall bar glass filled with ice add:

2 oz. floral gin [I used Jack Rabbit Gin]

1 oz. Elderflower liqueur [such as St. Germain]

1 oz. honey-sage syrup

1 oz. yuzu [or lemon] juice

Takashi's bar

Takashi’s bar

Stir with a bar spoon until the glass is frosty [about one minute]. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and add a spanked sage leaf for garnish.

To make honey-sage syrup:  This is perfect for that barely-filtered crusty honey your neighbor gave you from their hives that may or may not have a stray bee, bits of honeycomb, and a dog hair or two; you’ll be straining it yourself, anyway. At Takashi, they are using honey from their roof-top beehives [“hachi” = “bee” in Japanese] and I’m sure they are much more tidy about their filtering process than my neighborhood honey donors.  To one cup of honey in a pint Mason jar, add one cup boiling water. Stir until honey is dissolved evenly. Add 3-4 fresh clean sage leaves, and let sit at room temperature for a couple of hours to cool off [or overnight]. Strain through a fine mesh into a clean glass jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

*Yuzu is a very sour and seedy citrus fruit developed in Southeast Asia, although you can grow it in the US [see info about California sourcing, here]. It’s about the size of a tangerine, and folks use the pulp, rind, and juice for cooking and cocktails.

Shrub lovin’ (and a Cherry-lime Rickey)

Love That Homemade Shrub

Before we get into how to make your own shrubs, I’m hoping to inspire y’all with a cocktail. I recently made this one for my gal Woodford on the rocks as a long-distance birthday cheers. It’s like an upscale Sonic soda, or a cherry lime rickey. But boozier (I’m not going to say ‘better,” too, but it’s implied).

Cheery Cherry Lime Rye Rickey

Cheery Cherry Lime Rye Rickey

Cherry-Lime Rye Rickey

2 oz. rye whiskey [or bourbon]

1.5 oz. cherry-red wine vinegar shrub [recipe, below]

Juice of ½ lime

2 oz. club soda

Mint, spanked [for garnish]

Add all ingredients to a rocks glass over ice. Stir briefly (and gently) to combine without making the soda foam up. Easy peasy!

Now, y’all have probably seen lots of folks using ‘cleanse’ concoctions containing more or less the following components: water, lemon, cinnamon, some kind of sweetener [honey, agave, sorghum, sugar], and vinegar. You may even be a proponent of this stuff, yourself. The proportions differ, and everybody’s got their own soapbox about why this kind of vinegar or that works best. Or why sugar is poison, so you should only use honey. Unless you are vegan [yikes, sorry] in which case agave is the way to go. Now, if you like drinking this stuff that tastes IMHO like watered-down cat piss on a regular basis in the name of ‘cleansing,’ go right on ahead. Go, you! I doubt if it does much harm guzzling these things, and I could certainly use a bout of fasting every so once in a while. But since I’m neither a nutritionist, nor in any way a medical professional, I’m not going to touch talking ‘bout health benefits with a ten foot pole.

What’s interesting about this craze to me, though, is that it’s a recipe very close to a centuries-old tonic called a “shrub,” which Slow Food USA

Cherry Basil shrub with pink peppercorns and red wine vinegar - terrific with gin cocktails

Cherry Basil shrub with pink peppercorns and red wine vinegar – terrific with gin cocktails

claims on their “Ark of Taste” comes from the Arabic word sharab = to drink. Back in the day, folks made shrubs out of all kinds of past-its-prime shit to preserve fruits and their delicious nutrition-packed juices over the winter. By combining equal parts fruit, sweet, and vinegar [e.g. acid], they were essentially pickling the fruit in syrup form. Straining out the solids after a few days of percolating further extended the shrub’s shelf life. Let it sit out exposed to cool air, and all kinds of friendly bacteria joined the fermenting party, making for an even more flavorful—and some would claim beneficial—brew. Eventually you get a very fruity sweet-tart shelf-stable vinegar. In addition to not being a medical professional, I’m also not a chemist, so I’m going to defer to all those food scientists out there who throw around words like acidulation and acetobactator to explain how all of this works. I am a historian, so this is what I do know: Since this was all before refrigerators [and even before reliable canning], shrubs gave folks a burst of summer fruit flavor to mix up a winter diet filled with root vegetables and dried everything else.

Back in the day, shrubs got mixed in with hot water and brandy or rum to make flavorful toddies in the winter, or with colder equivalents in the summer to make the perfect sweet-tart refresher. Nowadays, you’ll see superbly mustachioed intimidatingly hip bartenders breaking out custom shrubs all over the place. But they’re dead easy to make at home, and following the recipes I’ve used—which are based on weight rather than volume, so you can make as much or as little as you want depending on what you’ve got ready to toss out—you can whip them up pretty quickly. I love ‘em in cocktails, but they also make a freakin’ spectacular NA spritzer when mixed over ice with a few glugs of club soda and a couple of tablespoons of shrub. See, the ‘cleanse’ recipe just got about a million times better. Right?

Mix strawberry-rhubarb shrub with equal parts bourbon and club soda for a pretty and pretty frickin' delicious cooler

Mix strawberry-rhubarb shrub with equal parts bourbon and club soda for a pretty and pretty frickin’ delicious cooler

M’kay, let’s get shrubbin.

The Fruit: Pretty much any “juicy” fruit will work. Strawberries, strawberry-rhubarb combo, berries of any sort, apricots, peaches, cherries, or pomegranates. You can make them with ‘sweet’ veggies like sugar snap peas, carrots, or beets (just juice them and use the juice by weight). These have all made an appearance in Mason jars stashed all over my house. As long as the fruit is clean and free of moldy spots, it can be smushy, ugly, and unpeeled. I don’t even pit the cherries or apricots first. See? Dead. Easy. I’m thinking I’ll experiment with some melon shrubs [for those I’ll have to take the rind off, I reckon] this summer, too, and let you know how it goes.

The Sweet: In colonial times, the most widely available sweeteners came in the form of honey, or raw/unrefined sugars. No doubt somebody’s made shrub with sorghum or molasses, but it seems to me like that would overpower the fruit, which kind of cancels out the desired tart-sweet effect. Most shrub recipes I’ve seen call for regular white sugar, which really does let the fruit flavor sing through all the vinegary syrup with the least amount of interference. Final call? It really depends on what you want the sweet flavor notes to be like, and go from there. Think of pastry combinations that work well as a baseline, for example honey-peach. Whereas cherries flavor up better [IMHO] with sugar.

The Vinegar:  Apple cider vinegar is the base acid for traditional shrubs, but red wine vinegar, light balsamic vinegars [use the cheap stuff, really], white wine vinegars also make terrific shrub. I stay away from regular white vinegar: it’s brash and overpowers the fruit flavor. This is also a terrific time to experiment with random wine-herb vinegars you’ve been hoarding: think tarragon with peaches, or sage with blackberries. YUM.

Keep it Clean: Just like with home canning, the first rule is to keep it clean. Run any jars/glass containers you’ll be using through the sterilize cycle of the dishwasher right before use, or rinse with a sterilizing solution [like you find at the beer brewing store]. The fruit can be ugly as sin on Sunday, but remove any wormy bits, moldy spots, stems, and leaves. I’d recommend using only a small amount of ingredients the first few times you shrub (about a cup of fruit, etc.) until you find out what flavors you like. Nothing more disappointing than spending a shit-ton of cash on farmer’s market fruit gold, local honey, and artisinal vinegar only to find out you hate the end product.

Measure up: Get out your trusty food scale: it’s the quickest and easiest way to make shrubs with however much fruit you’ve got on hand. You’ll be using the ‘tare’ feature if you’ve got it, or just jot down a little note as you go to remember your weights. Weigh your fruit after cleaning and prep – you’ll be surprised how much a package of berries will vary by weight depending on how dehydrated they got during shipping, and how much fruit is removed in the stemming/hulling process. Let’s say you have 8 oz. of fruit. That means you’ll also need 8 oz. of sweetener and 8 oz. of vinegar for your recipe. Taste as you go and add more acid if you’d like, but never have less acid than fruit/veg or you’ll run into trouble of the bacterial kind.

Hot Shrub: Sounds kind of naughty, hmm? Recipes for hot processing shrubs are more common, which makes sense since by boiling together the ingredients your chances of killing any nasty bacteria in the mix improve. Simple: put all the ingredients [equal parts fruit, sweet, and vinegar, by weight] in a non-reactive pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes or so, or until the fruit breaks up and the mix has a syrupy consistency. Cool to room temp, strain through a double layer of cheesecloth or a jelly bag, bottle, and refrigerate. This type of shrub will live contentedly in your fridge for months.

Cold Shrub: This is the method folks used back in the day when they had cool root cellars or spring houses to start their shrubs, but you can duplicate the process in your fridge. Place equal parts fruit and sweet [by weight] in a non-reactive large jar or bowl. Cover loosely with a tea towel—to allow for all that airborne yeast and good bacteria to join the party—and refrigerate for two or three days. Stir it up every twelve hours or so to encourage the sugar to dissolve, or the honey to bond with the fruit juice. Add an equal part vinegar, stir again, and place back in the fridge covered with the tea towel for another day. Strain through a double layer of cheesecloth or a jelly bag, bottle, and refrigerate.

Don’t sue me on this one: I actually keep my shrubs in quart jars in the cellar for up to a year without refrigeration and I haven’t poisoned myself yet. So there. But I’m also the kind of gal who keeps her butter at room temperature and I don’t refrigerate my chicken’s fresh eggs, which drives my husband batshit crazy.

 

Some shrubs, infusions, and bitters working away in the cellar

Some shrubs, infusions, hard ciders, and bitters working away in the cellar

Get started! Here are some basic combinations.

Peach, honey, white balsamic vinegar

White peach, sugar, tarragon white wine vinegar

Cherry, sugar, red wine vinegar

Strawberry-rhubarb, turbinado sugar, apple cider vinegar

Blackberry, a couple of sage leaves, sugar, red wine vinegar

Apricot, one dried med-hot chile [like a guajillo], agave, apple cider vinegar

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