A Bourbon Gal in Utah

cocktails, cookery & occasional domestic badassery

Archive for the category “Drinks for a Crowd”

The Belle and Bull: a Bourbon Bloody Mary

Pick a rye-forward bourbon with a bit of spice instead of vodka for your next Bloody to take the character level of this go-to day drink to the next level. All the cool kids are doin’ it. 

Rub the rim of a heavy pint glass with the cut side of a lemon. Dip the rim into 1 Tbs. of your favorite steak seasoning mix to coat (I like McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple – the molasses and brown sugar elements make for a nice sweet note

The Belle and Bull: a Bourbon Bloody Mary with a kick

The Belle and Bull: a Bourbon Bloody Mary with a kick

under the bourbon’s spice).

To a tall mixing glass add:

4-5 ice cubes

2 oz. bourbon whiskey

1.5 oz. strong beef stock

a generous pinch of steak seasoning mix

1/8 tsp. prepared horseradish

juice of ½ lemon (about ½ oz.)

a generous pinch of coarse-ground black pepper

5-6 oz. tomato juice strained through very fine mesh to remove most of the pulp

Stir thoroughly with a long-handled bar spoon until combined; pour all contents into the prepared serving glass. Add more ice if needed to fill the glass.

Garnish with a bigass slice of smoky beef jerky.

The story behind the drink….

This burly bloody brings a bit of umami to the flavor profile of the traditional bevvy with the addition of both hearty beef stock and bold bourbon. It makes for a satisfying stick-to-your-ribs version of the classic, especially with an addition of steak seasoning to the rim and beef jerky for the garnish. This “Beauty and the Beast” match-up was inspired during a slope-side brunch tailgate last ski season when we ran out of vodka for mixing. Fortunately, I had some whiskey tucked away in a flask and it made for the perfect addition to the mix on that blustery day. Go for a spicy rye-forward bourbon such as Woodford Reserve or Belle Meade to add a bit of kick and balance to this savory medley. Although most citrus cocktails work best in a shaker, take the time to stir this one thoroughly, instead; shaking it makes for a pale pink frothy mess. Definitely not the vibe we’re going for in this bold bourbon Bloody Mary.

(c) 2016 Darby Doyle, http://www.aBourbonGal.com

 

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

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.

 

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

The MacHattan

Here’s an Irish-American twist on that New York classic, the Manhattan, made in the drier style of a Perfect Manhattan. A Manhattan crossed with a Tipperary Cocktail, y’all. Yum! 

The MacHattan

The MacHattan

The MacHattan Cocktail

To a bar glass with ice chunks add:

1 dash orange bitters

1 dash Angostura bitters

1/2 oz. Chartreuse

1/2 oz. sweet vermouth

2 oz. Irish whiskey

Stir, stir, stir with ice using a bar spoon for about 50 revolutions. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a lime zest.

The story behind the drink…

Over the weekend, our family celebrated our 21st annual St. Patrick’s Day Bash. What started out over 20 years ago as a bunch of wild land firefighters and field biologists drinking whiskey in our cabin smack dab  in the middle western Washington’s nowhere has morphed a lot over the years. In the early iterations, guests were free to bring their dogs along for the festivities, as long as they didn’t drink all the Guinness. When we lived in Boston while my hubster was in graduate school, we had crazy late ragers with all kinds of guests; one year we suspect there was an actual leprechaun in attendance. Okay, maybe we stereotyped, however, if you’re a redheaded 5’0″ man with a neck tattoo of a feckin’ shamrock that covers an area from ear to collar, you’re just asking for it. We had one disastrous year of dog/baby overlap, then had to Ix-nay the canines. Y’all won’t be surprised to hear that later the toddlers and primary school aged kiddos proved to be even more shitty guests than the dogs.

From Beehive Distilling's Instagram feed. Love y'all! Everyone's a little Irish at our fest.

From Beehive Distilling’s Instagram feed. Love y’all! Everyone’s a little Irish at our fest.

This year we made it a ‘no kids’ party. Sure, there were fewer guests in attendance overall, but my stress factor was practically cut in half not having to entertain the little bastards. And feedback from our guests was all about the keeping it this way for a while, at least until the kids are old enough to be designated drivers. I didn’t have the space or time to mix MacHattan cocktails for the masses, but our friends cleared out three cases of Guinness, and 7 bottles of Irish whiskey [and no, we don’t serve green beer. We’re grown-ups, and that shit’s disgusting]. Guests knowing about our “only Irish beverages provided” rule brought their own bottles of wine, whiskey, and beer beyond number. We even had our local friends from Beehive Distilling stop by and they nudged a bottle of gin onto the bar. It magically disappeared rather quickly! Y’all are sneaky like that. Here’s my favorite Irish toast to you:

That those who love us love us well. And those that don’t, may God turn their ankles so we may know them by their limping!

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].

Hot Pocket

The Hot Pocket I just saw how gnarly that lime looks. Yeesh.

The Hot Pocket
I just saw how gnarly that lime looks. Yeesh.

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y. [Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?] comes from my college BFF Jalapeño Gimlet. She wrote to me via the ABG Facebook page:

“Hey bourbon gal! Help a gf out! Have a cocktail I wanna make…it’s called the hot christy and it has gin, cucumber, lime and habanero. Like a gin gimlet right? Do I infuse the gin? Can you help me???”

She then sent me a couple of pics of the drink and gave the very helpful info that she was drunk-ass from two of them. Which provided excellent context for figuring out proportions. Though, generally, my gal Jalapeño Gimlet gets pretty drunk off of two of anything. One of the many reasons I love her.

Jalapeño Gimlet and I doing a little wine tasting detour during our recent Epic Road Trip. Eleven am is a perfect time for wine tasting, right?

Jalapeño Gimlet and I doing a little wine tasting detour during our recent Epic Road Trip. Eleven am is a perfect time for wine tasting, right?

She ended up making our version, which she awesomely called the “Hot Pocket” for a friend’s Bon Voyage party and they were a big hit! Additionally, she said the aggressive cucumber muddling and shaking required was particularly helpful in working through the combined joy and frazzle of party hosting with a grin on her face, in spite of recent sad news. Ah, the zen of bartending. I recommended infusing the syrup, not the gin, since as we all know alcohol is a solvent and mixing spicy things like peppers [like we did to make Grilled Jalapeño-Pineapple Tequila a while back] takes some pretty careful monitoring. It’ll go from nicely kick-ass to sweaty eyeballs in a matter of hours.

“Hot Pocket” – A Habanero Gimlet

Rub the rim of a martini glass with lime wedge, dip rim into Redmond Real Salt or kosher salt

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the hell out of ½ cocktail [Persian] cucumber

Add a big handful of ice

Add 2 oz. gin [I like Beehive’s Jack Rabbit Gin for this]

Splash of St. Germaine liqueur

¾ oz. fresh squeezed lime juice

1 oz. habanero simple syrup*

Shake it like a Polaroid picture, then strain into the salt-rimmed martini glass.

Habanero Simple Syrup

Habanero Simple Syrup

*Habanero simple syrup: to a pint mason or other heat-proof lidded jar add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup boiling water. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved, then add 2 habanero chilies [cut in half to expose all those spicy innards]. Let cool to room temp, add lids, and refrigerate over night or for at least 12 hours. TASTE. The longer you leave in the habaneros, the spicier this syrup will be; I removed the habaneros after about 24 hours. It will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

We’ll be using some of the leftover habanero syrup to make more drinks soon. Visit the ‘abourbongal’ Instagram feed to check out pics from some recent research sessions, including a fab twist on a Habanero Margarita. Yum.

Have your own H.O.A.G.Y. request? I love some R&D, y’all! Contact me via the A Bourbon Gal Facebook page, or email abourbongal@gmail.com

 

Moonshine Layered Jello shots

Moonshine Jello shots.

Moonshine Jello shots.

That’s right y’all: Moonshine Jello shots, layered in patriotic colors and topped with exploding candy. I posted this recipe last July, but have gotten lots of requests for a re-blog and update, so here ya go.

I made the ones photographed here for a July 4th party hosted by Lemon Drop and IPA (a.k.a. Hoss on Hops) last year. They were a freaking HIT. Half I made without alcohol; those were topped with fresh 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 (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 verrrryyy slowly 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 gently equally into small cups.  Add fruit to top at this point, if desired.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set. Don’t add the Pop Rocks yet. 

For the PopRocks Firecracker finale!  As you are serving the Jell-O shots, have guests sprinkle about ¼ tsp. Pop Rocks on their Jell-O shot right before slurping.

 

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

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

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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