Bloody Marys 2 Ways: Sriracha Basil Lime & Smoky Cajun Bacon

Thanks to Brighton Ski Team for this great photo of the racers at last year's Grand Targhee race.

Thanks to Brighton Ski Team for this great photo of the racers at last year’s Grand Targhee race.

Last Spring, I wrote about our [mis]adventures at Grand Targhee with my boys’ downhill race team, the Brighton Competition Team, and shared a recipe for a traditional spicy Bloody Mary.The madness has continued yet again this season, with both kids competing in alpine race events all over the place. Usually on different mountains on the same day. #FML. The Macallan has finally embraced Google calendar and we’ve synched up our lives to get the boys where they need to go.

Slope-side selfie

Slope-side selfie

Over President’s Day weekend—one of the busiest weekends at every ski resort, just sayin’ in case you are already making vacation plans for next year—my older son Tim Collins raced slalom and giant slalom at Snowbird. One of my favorite traditions of ski racing, and hell, any outdoor sporting event, is the tailgate party. In the past year, our home mountain team has paired up with Summit Ski Team of Park City and put on a seriously festive tailgating party, that is [dare I say it] the envy of other race teams. Well, at least we have the best bar and loudest cowbells.

Summit Ski Team's fantastic "GrillSki" [patent pending, I'm sure].

Summit Ski Team’s fantastic “GrillSki” [patent pending, I’m sure].

Think of moving everything from your truck ONTO the mountain at whatever resort you are visiting: tents, chairs, tables, grills, coolers, bars. You name it. A parent on the Summit team has even become the envy of pretty much every race dad in the Intermountain Division by mounting a grill on SKIS = the GrillSki. Yes, you can slide your grill to the tailgate spot. Ingenious. It’s up there with the ‘shot ski’ as best re-appropriation of old gear.

On Monday, our family’s contributions to the party were a couple of different kinds of Bloody Mary mix and an XL bottle of vodka. Each of these recipes makes about 1 quart, so increase quantities as needed.  A plastic gallon jug, for instance, is perfect for pouring mixers for a crowd. If we’ve got the space and muscle, I like bringing pint Mason jars to serve the drinks; just put ice and all of your ingredients into the individual jars and they become both the shaker and the glass. Keep all the lids on hand to seal up the jars for mess-free clean up and transport.

Bloody Mary Bar

Bloody Mary Bar

Sriracha-Lime-Thai Basil Bloody Mary Mix

As one race dad said, “This isn’t a cocktail. This is the best freakin’ breakfast I ever had in a glass.” Aw, y’all say the sweetest things.

3 ½ cups [about 28 oz. +/-] tomato juice or original V8 juice

¼ cup Sriracha hot sauce

½ cup packed [about 2 large heads] Thai basil leaves

4 scallions

Juice of 3 fresh limes

Sriracha Bloody Mary with Lime, Thai Basil, and Scallions

Sriracha Bloody Mary with Lime, Thai Basil, and Scallions

To a small food processor [or large-mouthed quart jar so you can use a stick blender] add all ingredients EXCEPT for the tomato juice. Blend thoroughly, until basil and onions are minced but not a gooey slushy mess. Add herb mix to the quart jar along with tomato juice, replace lid, and shake to combine. Add some crushed black pepper and sea salt to taste. Mix up with a ratio of 2 parts Bloody Mary mix to one part vodka. Serve over ice. Garnish with a sprig of Thai basil and a slivered scallion.

Cajun Smoky Bacon Bloody Mary Mix

You can either make your own bacon salt—cook down 3-4 strips of smoked bacon until crispy, drain on paper towels and cool, then add to a food processor with a pinch of smoked paprika and ¼ cup kosher salt and buzz until all minced together—or use a commercially available blend. If you have time, infuse your vodka by adding all those leftover bacon drippings to 2 cups vodka, chill for a couple of days, and then strain through a double layer of cheesecloth before use.

3 ½ cups [about 28 oz. +/-] tomato juice or original V8 juice

¼ cup Crystal [or other Louisiana-type] hot sauce

1 Tbs. smoked paprika

1 Tbs. bacon salt [plus additional for dipping the rim of the cup]

2 tsp. liquid smoke

Juice of 1 large fresh lemon

Cajun Smoky Bacon Bloody Mary. Great slope-side or during your next ski tuning session.

Cajun Smoky Bacon Bloody Mary. Great slope-side or during your next ski tuning session.

Combine all ingredients in a quart Mason jar and shake like crazy. If desired, rub the rim of the cup/glass with a lemon wedge and dip in additional bacon salt. Mix up with a ratio of 2 parts Bloody Mary mix to one part vodka. Serve over ice, and garnish with pickled okra, a strip of bacon, olives, or whatever you’ve got on hand.

Thanks BST for this photo of my racer!

Thanks BST for this photo of my racer!

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New York Sour

Classic New York Sour made with rye whiskey and homemade sour mix

Classic New York Sour made with rye whiskey and homemade sour mix

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y. (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) comes via the ABG Instagram feed [@abourbongal] from a local cutie, Sparkling Rosé. Here’s her request:

“I’m throwing a birthday party for a friend. I want to have semi-fancy cocktails but I don’t want them to take forever to make; there will be a lot of people at the event and I’m the only bar tender [ABG note:  you go, girl!]. Have you ever made homemade sour mix?! I was thinking a New York Sour would be fun and easy.”

Sours ARE fun and easy! And really goddam delicious. Several bars in the SLC make delicious New York-style sours, two of my favorites being Whiskey Street and The Copper Onion. A couple of weeks ago we made a Tullahoma Whiskey Sour for my dear friend Strawberry Julep, but that was makin’ one cocktail, not prepping for a crowd. Commercial sour mixes are, IMHO, cloyingly sweet and thick. Some have tons of corn syrup, and lots of preservatives to keep them shelf stable. Once you’ve tasted fresh-made sour mix, you’ll be able to spot the bright notes of just-squeezed citrus quicker than a 75% off sale at H&M and it makes all the difference in the freakin’ world. Except for the run to Costco for your bags of lemons & limes [you’re going anyway, right?], and squeezing all those suckers, making the sour mix is dead simple.

The New York Sour makes for a terrific Valentine’s cocktail** or, in Sparkling Rosé’s case, a festive party drink. Why? Well, it’s got a nice sweet-sour balance point, making it perfect for soirées when you don’t know if you’ll have guests who like super-sweet cocktails or will be serving purists who just want some high-proof bourbon, served neat. The finishing float of red wine makes it super pretty AND festive. As booze historian David Wondrich describes, back in the day [like, the mid and later 1800s] barkeeps claimed all of their New York sours were topped with “the claret ‘snap’” –really any fruity red wine fancily declared ‘claret’ no matter the origin, but a Bordeaux works especially well in this application. It’s a fun bit of drinks history: the ‘sour’ is a fancy single-mixed drink adaptation of the ubiquitous Punch during the Victorian age. It’s kind of a proto-cocktail. The recipe I use is loosely based on the one Wondrich quotes in his cocktails history bible Imbibe! [p. 103], which he found in the 1869 Steward & Barkeeper’s Manual:

One wine glass [2 oz.] of spirits

Half wine glass [1 oz.] of water

One Tablespoonful of sugar

Half of a lemon

Method: “Squeeze a portion of the lemon into the tumbler, which should be a quarter full of ice, and rub the lemon on the rim of the glass. Stir with a spoon…. In the manufacture of fixes and sours a small bar-glass or ordinary tumbler is employed.”

ABG note: wine glasses were really freaking tiny back in the day, right?

So, basically the barkeep was mixing up impromptu simple syrup with just a bit more than equal portion of citrus. And sours can be made with brandy, gin, amaretto, rum, applejack [The New Jersey Sour], just about any liquor, although the New York Sour was traditionally made with rye. In making homemade sour mix, I’ve found that the ratio of simple syrup to citrus is just about right at two parts syrup to three parts citrus. As noted before when making drinks in the ‘sours’ category, a little pinch of salt gives a great tart pinch to cocktails.

 *Homemade Sour Mix: makes about 2 ½  cups [about 20 oz.] of sour mix for 10-12 cocktails.

Here’s my super-basic recipe for homemade sour mix. Really, the ratios depend on what kind of citrus I’ve got on hand, and what I’m mixing with. More lemon goes great with whiskey, more lime with tequila. I’ve made great sour mix using grapefruit and lemon for amaretto sours. I’m sure you know the trick about microwaving citrus for 10+ seconds and rolling it to extract the most juice, ’cause you are a bar god/goddess. Own it!sourMix

Make a simple syrup with 1 cup boiling water mixed with 1 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve, and let cool to room temp. Meanwhile, juice 1 generous cup freshly squeezed lemon juice [4-5 large juicy lemons], and 1/2 cup juice from fresh-squeezed limes [4 limes].  Or, whatever ratio of citrus you like that gets you 2 parts simple syrup to 3 parts citrus juice. Strain the citrus through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and pulp. Mix citrus and syrup together [I like shaking & storing it in a quart mason jar], and it will keep in the fridge for weeks.

New York Sour

The great thing about mixing drinks at home [especially in Utah], is that you can mix them to YOUR taste, not to the letter o’ the state liquor law. So, fair warning, this drink is a bit stiffer than the one you’ll be served at a bar in the Beehive state. The egg white is totally optional – I’ve got fresh eggs coming out the wahzoo from my backyard hens so I’m not worried about cooties—it just gives the drink a little more velvety body and helps the wine “float.” If I’m making drinks for a crowd I leave the egg out ‘cause it’s a total pain in the ass to crack all of ‘em perfectly and you don’t want ANY yolk ending up in your drink [yellow strings of egg = gross].

2 oz. rye whiskey

1.5 -2.0 oz. homemade sour mix*

0.5 oz. Disaronno [or amaretto liqueur]

1 egg white [optional]

Tiny pinch of sea salt

0.5 oz. rich fruity red wine [like Bordeaux]

New York Sour

New York Sour

Add all ingredients except the wine to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake like crazy. Strain into a highball glass or tumbler filled with fresh ice. Pour wine slowly over the back of a spoon to “float” on top of the cocktail.

 ** In case you are color blind, never go to the ‘seasonal’ aisle in the store, or don’t have a calendar, I’ll remind you that Valentine’s Day is THIS Friday, y’all. It’s hard to believe, but it was just about this time last year that I’d started this here blog [I know! A year!], and posted a rant on why y’all should avoid restaurants for V-day, and might choose to make “Oh, You Sexy Beets!” Dirty Martinis at home, instead. It’s a tougher sell this year, since a Friday or Saturday holiday doesn’t get the middle-of-the-week buy-out. Sucks to be you. I also recently posted a blog over at my other gig at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE about Chocolate-centric stuff you can do all this month in the SLC. Why save the romance for one day? 

Hot. Buttered. Rum.

Hot Buttered Rum.  Yeah, baby.

Hot Buttered Rum. Yeah, baby.

Baby, it’s freaking cold outside!  Well, here in the SLC it’s a balmy 21 degrees, but I’m feeling for my friends braving the Polar Vortex.  Yikes!  That’s some serious shit goin’ on, there.  Although my hot beverage of choice is usually a bourbon or rye based Hot Toddy, I do love a nice mug of Hot Buttered Rum on occasion.  Around Thanksgiving I mix up a pint jar of butter batter, and scoop it out as needed all winter long.  It’ll keep for months in the fridge, and one pint will make 20+ drinks, depending on how buttery you like your mug.  For a serving a crowd, I like to dole out individual portions of butter and rum, leaving the spoon in the mug so guests can make the buttery magic happen when we top off their serving with hot water.  You can also put the entire butter batter recipe in a crock pot with 4 cups of water and a bottle of rum (heat on low, then reduce to ‘warm’ – don’t let it come to a boil or it will cook off your alcohol!), it makes for delicious self serve ladle-ing.

For the booze component, a golden-hued barrel aged rum like Mount Gay from Barbados gives the drink a nice molasses tone, but you can use white rum if that’s what you’ve got on hand.  Spiced rum?  Gross.  If you like heavier spice than what’s in this subtle butter batter, just shave a little more nutmeg in, or a bit more cinnamon.

Hot Buttered Rum

To an 8 oz (1 cup) mug add:  1 heaping tablespoon of butter batter* and 2 oz. dark rum.  Fill the mug almost to the rim with hot water (just off the boil), and stir gently until the butter is melted and sugar dissolves.  Rub the rim of the mug with a bit of orange zest and drop the zest into the drink.  Top off the mug to the rim with more hot water, and another little grating of fresh nutmeg.

Best Butter Batter with rum

Best Butter Batter with rum

Rum Butter Batter

You want to use artificial sugar and margarine instead of butter?  Y’all are making me sad.  It’s BUTTERED rum.  Not margarine-ed rum.  Gah. 

½ cup vanilla ice cream, softened

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar

½ tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. fresh grated nutmeg

¼ tsp. ground ginger

A pinch each of: ground cloves, ground mace, and smoked sea salt

Butter Batter and it's best.

Butter Batter at its best.

In a bowl, smash all of the ingredients together until they are completely combined.  Transfer to a pint mason jar or other re-sealable container.  Store in the refrigerator until ready for use.

The Poison Apple: a bright red cinnamon-apple cocktail

The Poison Apple

The Poison Apple

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out A Gal/Guy, Yeah?) comes from my friend Sazerac –she’s from Baton Rouge, y’all—who texted me with this request:

 “I’ve decided to be Snow White for Halloween!  I want to make up a ‘poison appletini.’ Can you help me?!” 

Of course, gal!  We’ve got your adorable backside covered.  Sazerac also said it needed to be a simple cocktail, since folks would be mixing up their own at her party.

The result:  With a day or two of prep to start an infusion and freeze up some “poison apple” ice balls, the drinks only had three ingredients and they were both gorgeous and delicious, especially if you like your cocktails on the sweet-spicy side.  If you don’t have the time or equipment to freeze ice balls – which look supah cool, but I’m warning you they are a pain in the ass to remove from the trays, the red food coloring gets EVERYWHERE, and beware the red shits the next day—regular old ice cubes work just fine and the drink is still a beautiful clear red color.

24 hours + in advance:

  • Start your Cinnamon Vodka Infusion:  to a clean glass quart jar, add 25 cinncinnamon candyamon hard candies, and cover completely with not-expensive vodka (about 3 ½ cups).  Store in a cool place out of direct sunlight, and shake the jar a few times a day to dissolve the candies.  After one or two days, strain the vodka through a fine mesh strainer to remove any candy pieces that did not dissolve.  I poured the vodka into an oversized clear liquor bottle and labeled it with a cool sticker label for the party.  This will make about 20-25 cocktails.
  • Make the Poison Apple Ice balls:  I make these in my kitchen sink to trap spills.  Fill up the bottom half of your ice mold almostball ice trays all the way to the rim with water.  For a tray of 4, add about 12 drops of red food coloring and an optional 4-6 drops of cinnamon oil (available at most baking supply stores).  For cripes sake be careful with the cinnamon oil and food coloring: the former is super strong flavored, and the later will stain everyfuckingthing it touches.   Tightly secure the ice mold lid, tip it slightly to remove excess water, and move the ice mold to a flat spot in your freezer.  I put paper towels under the tray to collect the red staining water as the trays froze.
Snow White and Sexy Jesus (aka my gals Sazerac and Saketini) - Halloween 2013

Snow White and Sexy Jesus (aka my gals Sazerac and Saketini) – Halloween 2013

The Poison Apple

1 oz. red hot cinnamon-infused vodka

1 oz. Applejack (such as Laird’s)

1 oz. ginger beer (Sazerac likes using diet ginger ale)

Add all ingredients to a large wine glass or martini glass, stir gently to combine.  Add a couple of ice cubes or a poison apple ice ball.

Happy Halloween, y’all!

The Poison Apple

The Poison Apple

Corny Candy Cocktail

Corny Candy cocktail

Corny Candy cocktail

Now, this is how you make a safety cone orange cocktail, my friends.  One week left until Halloween!  I love this holiday: the weather, the ancient ties to pagan harvest festivals like Samhain, the slutty costumes, the silly-themed food, and especially the outrageous cocktails.  I started a couple of infusions last week in preparation for the festivities.  The one I’m sharing now uses a candy-corn infused vodka that is shockingly hunter-vest orange.  Fabulous!  I’ll post the other one (hint: it’s called The Poison Apple, for my gal Sazerac who is dressing as Snow White) after it premières at her party this weekend.

Corny Candy Cocktail

2 oz. candy corn-infused vodka*

2 oz. blood-orange sparkling soda

Pour both ingredients over ice and stir gently.  Garnish with a couple of candy corns threaded on a toothpick (make sure they are fresh from the bag, if they are dried out they will crack right in half).

*Candy corn vodka:  Fill any sized jar about 1/3 full with candy corns.  Fill the jar up to within ½” of the rim with vodka (use the cheap stuff for this one).  Store in a cool place out of sunlight for 3 days, shaking the jar twice a day or so to encourage the candy disintegration.  After 3 days, strain the vodka through a mesh strainer to remove candy fragments, and decant into a clean glass container.  Shelf stable for about a month, refrigerate for up to one year after that.

I’ve also been writing for SLC’s fabulous City HomeCOLLECTIVE blog recently, and what a freakin’ fun gig that’s been!  To see more on their blog about a fabulous dinner by Pago chefs at Frog Bench Farm, featuring unfiltered totally fab RUTHLewandowski wines, click here.

Pretty in Pink: A Cranberry-Prosecco Sparkler

I’m super excited.

Pretty in Pink:  A Cranberry-Prosecco Sparkler

Pretty in Pink: A Cranberry-Prosecco Sparkler

Tonight I am meeting twenty or so women who are guests of Westminster College’s “Party Board” for a gal’s night out fundraising event supporting the general scholarship fund.  I’m a huge fan of the liberal arts—my undergrad years were spent at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN—and I’m an even bigger fan of women getting together for some fashion, fun, and Autumn-inspired cocktails mixed up by Yours Truly.  I promised them in advance I’d post the recipes on the blog so they can look ‘em up later.  Here goes, ladies!

Pretty in Pink: A Cranberry-Prosecco Sparkler

0.5 oz cranberry vodka*

3-4 oz. Prosecco

To a champagne flute, add 0.5 oz. cranberry-infused vodka.  Top with the Prosecco (how much depends on the size of your glass).  Garnish with a skewer of sugar-dusted vodka soaked cranberries left over from your infusion.  When you drop the skewer into the Prosecco, the sugar reacts to the carbonation of the wine and makes it bubble up even more.  Festive!

*To make cranberry vodka:  (Easily halved if you only need enough for a few cocktails) To a large clean quart lidded glass jar add 10 oz. dried unsulfured low-sugar cranberries.  Pour over enough vodka to fill the jar (about 3 to 3 ½ cups).  Place in a cool place away from direct sunlight, and shake daily for 1 week.  After a week, strain the vodka through a fine mesh strainer, reserving the vodka-soaked cranberries to make lovely garnishes.  If you are going to use the vodka immediately, it does not require refrigeration. If you are going to keep the vodka for longer-term storage, remove all sediment and fruit residue by filtering through a triple layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter.

The Wasatch Mule

The Wasatch Mule

We also made Pear-Ginger Mules:  Here’s a link to the Wasatch Mule recipe on a past blog post. 

XOXO, y’all!

Simple Syrup in a FLASH!

Mmmm - smells like fall in here.  And booze.

Mmmm – smells like fall in here. And booze.

We’re taking a quick break from our tour of my tiny household and how I can get ‘er done in the midst of harvest, canning, etc.  Are y’all as crazy as I am this time of year?  Fortunately, The Macallan built some handy new shelves in the cellar for me – it’s a perfect temp year ’round for my various brewing, fermenting, and infusing projects.  Let’s just hope the cable guy doesn’t need to get to those wires behind my cider any time soon….

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) comes from a friend who needed to make simple syrup LIKE RIGHT NOW in preparation for a cocktail party, because the stuff she’d made a week earlier had already developed a Kombucha-like sugar mother alien thing and she was scared to use it.  I’d be scared, too.

So, here’s how you make simple syrup in under 30 minutes:

Four steps to FAST simple syrup

Four steps to FAST simple syrup

1 – into a pint Mason jar, fill half-way with sugar (your choice)

2 – fill with boiling water up to 1″ from the rim of the jar, stir to dissolve

3 – add ice cubes to the rim of the jar, gently stir to dissolve and cool

4 – place a lid on the jar and the jar in an ice-water bath

It will be ready in 15- 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

The Wasatch Mule: a pear-ginger white whiskey cocktail

The Wasatch Mule

The Wasatch Mule

After posting my call for bourbon cocktail requests in honor of National Bourbon Heritage Month I learned quite a bit about y’all via your feedback. Mostly that:

1) your time, storage space and/or desire to mix up a bunch of esoteric syrups, shrubs, and bitters is limited;

2) y’all don’t like to purchase or wash any more cocktail equipment than necessary; and

3) you are curious (dare I say suspicious?) about how I manage to make this shit happen on a regular basis in my tiny kitchen with all of those kids and dogs underfoot.

So, for the rest of this month at this here blog we’ll go through each of these concerns and talk it out. And drink some bad-ass cocktails. We’ll tackle the time/space issue this post.

Before I call y’all out as the laziest bunch of sorry cocktail geeks I’ve ever known, I’ll make some of excuses on your behalf. In fact, they’re excuses I use for myself, all the time. Rare ingredients and random specialty booze like that 12-year-old crusty Blue Curaçao bottle with only 3-4 oz. used up take up a lot of space, and if you live in a 1940’s Sugarhouse cottage like mine, that’s at a premium. We were lucky enough to buy a house that the previous owner had obviously fitted with some SERIOUS food storage/hoarding capabilities, which my boys promptly filled with Legos in various stages of completion. Also, most syrups and some shrubs experiments require refrigeration, and if you are an infrequent cocktail mixer this seems like a waste of space that could be used for cheap white wine, expensive beer, and your Costco-sized bag of lettuce. I get it, so I’m gonna go full disclosure on y’all so you don’t get all frustrated about the physical and emotional space you are in.

The booze: You know why bars have that huge shelf of hundreds of bottles behind them? Because a bar needs them to serve the whim of folks who wouldn’t ever use Fernet or Aperol (both of which are next to impossible to source for the home consumer in Utah) for in a cocktail at home, but like to order the most complicated cocktails ever made when they’re out. A good barkeep will also have a wide price and flavor range within a booze category, e.g. several kinds of gin, bourbon, etc. Unless you are having outrageous cocktail parties every weekend or write a booze blog you don’t need all that shit at your house. Figure out what you like, and just keep that on hand. If you don’t know what you like, go to a very good bar early on a not-very-busy night and talk to your bartender. They’ll be happy to help you find your groove – most mixologists love to share their knowledge and recipes. Only buy the random stuff when you have a big party and want to make a signature cocktail, then at the end of the night give a guest who loved it (and whom you love) the random bottle(s). You get your space back, and make a friend for life. Win-win.

The mixers: I started out making my own shrubs, syrups, and bitters because when I first moved to Utah years ago there wasn’t much of a cocktail scene here and these things were hard to come by for the average home consumer. Thanks to Amazon.com, Etsy, and great local small-batch producers all over the country, it’s getting easier every day to source great ingredients. For instance, here in Salt Lake, you can buy Sugarhouse Libations cocktail syrups at the Downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, or order their delicious syrups online. No, they didn’t pay me to say this, I just like their stuff. And the packaging and recipes that come with the heavy sexy bottle are feckin’ killing it. Get some. Then make this with it:

The Wasatch Mule

This cocktail is a play on the Moscow Mule, which you’ve seen served in pretty metal cups. To make it Utah Wasatch Mountains style, I used High West Distillery Silver Oat Whiskey instead of vodka, and Sugarhouse Libations Pear-Ginger syrup, and mix up the whole thing in a pint Mason jar. Yes, you can make your own pear liqueur (which, yes, I do, and it’s the BOMB), but you can also find it at big liquor stores.

5-6 leaves mint, spanked
2 oz. Silver Whiskey (or moonshine)
1 oz. pear liqueur
4 oz. pear-ginger syrup
2 oz. club soda

Spank the mint between your palms, as if clapping. Throw it in the bottom of a pint Mason jar. Add the whiskey, pear liqueur, and pear-ginger syrup. Fill almost to the top with ice. Close up with the jar lid and shake like crazy. Uncap the jar and add club soda. Replace the lid and gently tilt to combine ingredients –don’t shake it or that shit will explode all over you! This can also be made in a traditional cocktail shaker (minus the club soda—again with the exploding) and poured into a mule cup or julep cup with a floater of club soda swizzled in.

Plum Lucky

local plums

local plums

We were on a plum glut for a while here at my tiny kitchen.  My girlfriend Pink Lady has a friend with a super-prolific plum tree and he basically gave her– and by extension, me, though I’d never met this scion of generosity before—carte blanche with his crop before the birds got ‘em all.

We’re talking plums for DAYS, friends.

Nice, small–about the size of a walnut– dark ones, which were delightfully sweet out of hand.  A large portion of the less-gorgeous specimens* I used to make a big batch of thick cocktail syrup, which I then processed in half-pint jars to keep shelf stable for the year.  I’m sharing here with y’all a small-batch recipe which will keep beautifully in your fridge (if you’ve strained it well) for 3-4 weeks.

This syrup will make you look like a cocktail rock star: the gorgeous deep purple-to-pink color practically glows in the glass, even when it’s shaken vigorously with liquor.  It pairs especially well with an English dry floral gin (think Plymouth, or Broker’s), or with vodka if you want more of the ginger notes to stand out.  It’s also very refreshing mixed with one part syrup to two parts club soda, poured over ice: a super elegant and tasty option for your friends who’d like something non-alcoholic at the party.

The Plum Lucky (makes one)

Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup and Gin
Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup and Gin

2 oz. gin

2 oz. Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup (recipe, below)

To a cocktail shaker filled half way with ice, add gin and plum syrup.  Shake the bejeezus out of it until your hands can hardly hold that shaker ‘cause they are so icy cold.  Strain into a martini glass; garnish with a cube of candied ginger pierced on a narrow skewer.

Plum Crazy- a bourbon & plum cocktail.  Thanks to The Macallan for the awesome coaster.

Plum Crazy- a bourbon & plum cocktail. Thanks to The Macallan for the awesome coaster.

Plum Crazy

2 oz. bourbon

2 oz. Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup (recipe, below)

2 oz. club soda

In a large glass filled with ice, swizzle together bourbon and plum syrup with a long spoon until well combined.  Pour in club soda and gently stir to combine.

 

 

Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn Cocktail Syrup (makes about a quart)

One pound plums, any color- pitted and cut into quarters

1/3 cup fresh ginger root, peeled and rough chopped

1 tsp. pink peppercorns

2 ½ cups water

1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup on the stovetop.  Smells so good!

Plum-Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup on the stovetop. Smells so good!

Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan.  Bring to a low boil, and then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for 30 minutes or more, or until fruit is very soft and broken, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Remove from heat, uncovered, and let sit until it reaches room temperature (about an hour).  Pour initially through a mesh strainer to remove large solids.  Strain again through a double layer of cheesecloth or a jelly bag; don’t be tempted to push your liquid through the strainer or scrape the goo off the bottom (that will make your syrup cloudy- yuck!).  Store in a sealed glass jar or bottle in the refrigerator.

*You can use fruit that’s a little bruised or smooshed to make this syrup, but throw any fruit showing rotting or mold in your compost.

Firecracker Moonshine Jell-O Shots

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

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

July 24th:  Pioneer Day.  It’s a Utah state holiday commemorating the triumphant arrival of Brigham Young and his band of pioneers to the Salt Lake valley on July 24, 1847.  After he declared “This is the right place,” floods of Mormon emigrants and immigrants followed him to Utah.   Most Utah towns of any size (except for the Independent Republic of Park City, but that’s another topic altogether…) host parades and associated “family-friendly” festivals.  The Salt Lake City parade is the biggest community event of the year.  Last year, lawmakers extended the period during which residents shoot aerial fireworks so that citizens could blow shit up from the  4th to the 24th of July without interruption.  Folks who celebrate Pioneer Day host parties that fall into two camps directly divided by modern religious affiliation, rather than pioneer ancestry:  Pioneers vs. “Pie and Beers.” Makes me want a good, stiff drink.  Or some Jell-O shots. That’s right, Pie & Beer Camp: 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).  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

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