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

High Desert Sage Martini

You know the smell of desert sage after a rainstorm? Yup, that. In a glass.

High Desert Sage Martini

High Desert Sage Martini

High Desert Sage Martini

2 oz. Jack Rabbit Gin

2-3 dashes celery bitters

1 dash dry vermouth [seriously, just a couple of drops]

1 sage leaf, smacked lightly between your palms

Fill a martini or coupe glass with ice, and set aside to chill. To a glass filled with ice, add all ingredients except for the sage. Stir for a full minute with a bar spoon. Dump the ice out of the serving glass, and strain the cocktail into the glass; float a spanked sage leaf on top.

This year the grand total of licensed distilleries in Utah rose to a grand total of five when Beehive Distilling opened up shop here in the SLC. I wrote a piece about it for my other gig at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE, and here’s a link to that story if you want to learn more about their stuff. I’ve heard from the distillers that Jack Rabbit is trickling onto UT state liquor store shelves a few bottles at a time.

Several folks have asked me what’s my favorite cocktail made with their first release, Jack Rabbit Gin, and it’s a tie between a sage and celery bitters dry martini [above], and a cocktail made by a kickass bar man, Rich Romney, at an event I attended last weekend [they called it the “Hachi Hive,” it’s made with honey-sage syrup; “hachi” means “bee” in Japanese]. I’ll work on that recipe this week and post it as a H.O.A.G.Y. [Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?], since a few people at the event with me have been dying to make it at home. It’s that good. I’ll pester my barkeep friend and get back to you, but I know it contains St. Germain elderflower liqueur and wouldn’t it figure, every state monopoly liquor store I’ve been to in the past two weeks was totally sold out. FML. So, for now, there’s the recipe for the sage martini, and I’m also working on getting my paws on some Ransom vermouth from Portland to try out another freaking delicious orange-zapped martini made by Takashi’s hottie barman, Jonny Bonner.

If you are a gin lover who really goes for big bold juniper flavors, this gin may not be your fave, since it’s got a more subtle juniper profile than many on the market. But I don’t understand why some critics out there feel compelled to get all bowed up about what’s the “best” gin. Quite frankly, I think there are enough badass gins out there now that it’s time we start thinking of having a gin repertoire, like many folks already do for whiskey. There are enough significant flavor differences that it’s worth trying a few to figure out what you like, and in what type of drink. And as y’all know, I’m all for R&D!

Darby’s Bourbon Pie

Let’s get this straight right from the start: This is NOT a “Derby Pie” [trademarked beyond belief] recipe

This is NOT D#rby Pie. It's got bourbon, and chocolate, and pecans. My kind of pie.

This is NOT D#rby Pie. It’s got bourbon, and chocolate, and sorghum, and pecans. My kind of pie.

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y [Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?] has been a long time coming.  Last year right after the Kentucky Derby, my girlfriend from college Peach Mimosa* wrote to me:

 Hey, Bourbon Gal! Do you have a good ‘Derby Pie’ recipe aka bourbon chocolate pecan pie? We have a new pie store in town & they said they’ve never heard of it — so I want to give them a good recipe for next year.

See, she’s originally from Louisiana, but is now living in Ohio—like, far northern Ohio—where they don’t get access to yummy treats from just across the river like their southern Ohio compatriots. Most folks outside of the tri-state area of Kentuck-Oh-Indiana don’t realize just how much cultural back-n-forth goes on across the Ohio River regardless of modern map boundaries. In fact, the Cincinnati [Ohio] airport is actually across the bridge in northern Kentucky, where apparently land was cheaper and people are less sensitive to the noise. Or, just aren’t as many of ‘em with political clout to complain about it.

A 1949 edition of "Out of Kentucky Kitchens," one of my favorite vintage cookbooks.

A 1949 edition of “Out of Kentucky Kitchens,” one of my favorite vintage cookbooks.

But, back to the pie. What Peach Mimosa is asking for is a pie made by the Kearns Family, proprietors of The Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky since the 1950s. Kern’s Kitchen, which registered the name in 1968, has exclusive rights to the name “Derby Pie,” and the recipe, which is about as fiercely guarded as a Mormon teenager’s chastity. It surely contains chocolate, corn syrup, and chopped up walnuts in a pastry crust, according to the inheritors of the trademark and recipe. They have taken on encroachers on the trademark—including Bon Appetit magazine and many a cookbook—in court and won dozens of times. I just read on Wikipedia that,

In May 2013, the Electronic Frontier Foundation inducted Kern’s Kitchen into their “Takedown Hall of Shame”, claiming that “the company behind the most litigious confection in America is going after individual websites that post new recipes for derby pies.

That gorgeous layer of dark chocolate on the bottom of the pie gets all gooey and mixed in with the filling while baking.

That gorgeous layer of dark chocolate on the bottom of the pie gets all gooey and mixed in with the filling while baking.

Holy shit, y’all. I’m reluctant to take on even the remote possibility that my little blog can go balls out on The Man. Friends, what we’re making here is decidedly NOT a frickin’ D#rby Pie. In fact, why don’t we just call it what my recipe is: Dark Chocolate-based Bourbon Pecan Pie—which has lots of things not in the contested recipe, and more things that I like. It’s something I’ve tweaked over the years, using a combination of recipes from two of my favorite southern cookbooks: “Best of the Best from Kentucky,” edited by McKee & Moseley (1993), and “Out of Kentucky Kitchens,” by Marion Flexner (1949). Oh, and last year I started making it with a combination of sorghum and agave syrup, instead of dark corn syrup, at the request of my friend Pink Lady, whose family is all up in my grill about corn syrup in, well, anything.

Here y’all go!

Darby's Bourbon Pie: ready to go in the oven!

Darby’s Bourbon Pie: ready to go in the oven!

Darby’s Bourbon Pie

1 unbaked pie crust

½ cup good quality dark chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

3 eggs, beaten

¼ cup agave syrup

½ cup sorghum [or molasses]

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 Tbs. bourbon

About 1 cup whole large pecan halves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place unbaked pie shell in a large, deep, pie pan. Spread chocolate in an even layer in the bottom of the pie shell. Cream together butter and sugar. Slowly add eggs and all other ingredients EXCEPT for pecans. Pour batter [it will be runny] slowly into the shell so as not to dislodge the chocolate. Place the pecans gently onto the surface of the pie evenly [I like to make a series of pretty concentric rings starting from the outside, going in]. Bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes. The pie will still be a little jiggly. Let sit at room temperature for at least one hour to set slightly before serving. Traditionally, pecan pies are served with whipped cream. This one is so very sweet that I like it with a little dollop of crème fraîche, instead.

*Yes, cocktail geeks: technically a “peach mimosa” would be a Bellini cocktail. However, this one that reminds me of my friend is made with equal parts orange juice and peach nectar with a splash of peach liqueur. And, I think “peach mimosa” sounds better than “orange Bellini.” So there. Recipe soon…

I just found this sorghum supplier on the internet via Amazon.com Delicious product AND they sent it well packaged, super fast, and with the loveliest thank you note for my business. And no, they didn't pay me to say this, I just think they are wonderful.

I just found this sorghum supplier on the internet via Amazon.com Delicious product AND they sent it well packaged, super fast, and with the loveliest thank you note for my business. And no, they didn’t pay me to say this, I just think they are wonderful.

It doesn't last long in our house. Mmmm.

It doesn’t last long in our house. Mmmm.

Fat Tuesday Finger Food

Three “Big Easy” Appetizers 

Our family is not great about observing Lent, but we LOVE celebrating Mardi Gras. We usually forget about Friday being meat-free [hello, bacon], and cave on our abstentions around week two. When asked why they missed so many days of Sunday School in the winter, our kids told their teachers that “everyone knows you get powder day exemptions” November to March. Don’t know if the Pope’s approved that one, but it works for us. One year, the boys decided to ‘give up’ donuts for Lent, completely undermining the only bribery that had ever worked for getting them to Mass in the first place. They are a couple of clever whippersnappers, those boys. I’m so proud.

My gal Sazerac and her yummy etouffee.

My gal Sazerac and her yummy etouffee.

But back to Mardi Gras. I’m writing a piece about The Sazerac—one of my all-time favorite cocktails—for cityhomeCOLLECTIVE , so enlisted a specialized crew of my friends to help me out with an early photo shoot last week. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little freaky planning my holiday life about three weeks earlier than I’m actually ready for Mardi Gras, but what’s a gal to do? Well, in this case, keep the food as simple and easy to throw together as possible, with a minimum of fuss and clean-up to boot. I’m swimming in backyard eggs from my hens, so making Southern-style deviled eggs with homemade pickled okra garnishes was an easy pick. I also snagged a big ‘ol wedge of Cajun-spiced  goodness crafted by one my favorite Utah cheesemakers, Beehive Cheese, which ended up as part of an addictive filling for mushroom caps finished off in the oven right before the party. I love the savory-sweet combo of traditional Devil’s on Horseback, but changed them up a bit with Southern flavors: dates stuffed with smoked oil-packed jalapeños I put up last fall, watercress goat-cheese filling, and topped with locally-made Creminelli salumi. I’m tellin’ ya: Holy goddamn yum, y’all.

My gal Sazerac [from last Halloween’s Poison Apple party] brought fixins for crayfish etouffee and flash-fried grit cakes. She swears she just Googled “easy etouffee” and “Emeril,” and ended up with the recipe that she used and “tweaked it, maybe a little.” Well, we’re too polite to pry, but I’ll get to the bottom of this secret if I can. Oh, what I do for y’all in the name of research.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Crawfish Etouffee

Crawfish Etouffee

 

Big John’s Cajun Stuffed ‘Shrooms 

Big John's Cajun Stuffed 'Schrooms

Big John’s Cajun Stuffed ‘Shrooms

These were the hands-down hit of the party. Even my man, who never eats mushrooms, scarfed down about five of these bad boys. I’m going to start making them all year ‘round, they are that good.

24 oz. baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed

4 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temp

6 oz. Beehive Cheese “Big John Cajun,” finely shredded [divided use]

2 scallions, minced

¼ cup minced fresh red or orange bell pepper

½ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. celery salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Meanwhile, combine cream cheese, 4 oz. of the shredded cheese [save about 2 oz. for topping the mushrooms], veggies, and seasoning in a bowl using a fork to smash or in a food processor using quick on/off pulses. Divide filling between all the mushroom caps evenly, adjusting for size of the mushroom as needed. Sprinkle each cap with a bit of the remaining 2 oz. shredded cheese. Bake on the middle rack in the oven until cheese is slightly browned and filling is bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

“Big Easy” Stuffed Dates

Dates with smoked preserved jalapenos, goat cheese-watercress filling, and Creminelli's "Campania" salami

Dates with smoked preserved jalapenos, goat cheese-watercress filling, and Creminelli’s “Campania” salami

I usually use some of my home-cured wild goose or antelope andouille to top cheese stuffed dates, but am plum out right now. We are huge fans of locally-made Creminelli artisan salami, and their slightly smoky spiced uncured “Campania” variety married wonderfully with the sweet dates, tart watercress, and creamy goat cheese. The smoked preserved jalapeños [from Hank Shaw’s fantastic blog] are completely optional but highly recommended.

5 oz. goat cheese, room temp

2 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temp

½ bunch fresh watercress [about ½ cup packed]

4 dozen large dates, split down one side to open and pits removed

3-4 oz. Creminelli “Campania” salami

2-3 oz. smoked preserved jalapeños, chopped

To a small food processor add cheeses and watercress, combine until smooth using on/off pulses. To each date, stuff first with a few pieces of smoked jalepeno, add about 1 tsp. [or slightly more, depending on the size of date] cheese filling. Slice salami into thin rounds, then cut each round again into 3-4 strips. Top each date with a strip of salami. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours or serve immediately.

Campania, Goat Cheese & Watercress Stuffed Dates

Campania, Goat Cheese & Watercress Stuffed Dates and Devilish Eggs with spicy okra

Devilish Eggs

Y’all know how to make perfect hard-boiled eggs with no grey ring, right? Place eggs in a shallow pan, cover with water, and bring to just a bare boil. Boil gently for one minute, then immediately turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan. Let eggs sit in the hot water for 12 minutes. Pour out the hot water, then cover eggs with cold running water and a few cubes of ice until cool to touch. Keep refrigerated until ready for use. 

Backyard Chicken Eggs. Good work, ladies!

Backyard chicken eggs make for the most gorgeous yolks!

Keep 'em coming, ladies!

Keep ’em coming, ladies!

6 eggs, hard boiled, peeled, and cut in half [reserve yolks in a separate bowl]

3 heaping Tablespoons mayo

3 heaping teaspoons country Dijon or coarse-grained Cajun mustard

Sliced rounds of pickled okra and red pepper for garnish

A few dashes of Louisiana hot sauce, optional

Smash egg yolks with a fork until fine grained and evenly crumbly. Mix in mayo and mustard, smash to combine well. Fill egg whites equally with yolk mix. Can be covered and refrigerated for up to 12 hours. Just before serving, garnish with pickled okra and pepper rounds, and a couple of dashes of hot sauce.

Devilish Eggs

Devilish Eggs

The Old-Fashioned Way

I wrote this piece for the cityhomeCOLLECTIVE blog last year for their “Cocktails 101” series. See more delicious photos from the party, as shot by Tristan Shepherd, here. Edited by the lovely and talented Amy Tibbals.

Cranberry-Clementine Old Fashioned.  Mid-century style (photo by Tristan Shepherd).

Cranberry-Clementine Old Fashioned. Mid-century style (photo by Tristan Shepherd).

It only takes one sucky Old-Fashioned to put you off this drink for life. My first introduction to the Old-Fashioned was the one served for pretty much every holiday gathering with my family. It looked like fruit vomit, and tasted like booze-tinted water. My-relative-who-shall-remain-nameless [he meant well, really] smashed great masses of fruit—orange slices, godawful red maraschino cherries, sometimes some lemon—in the bottom of a glass, stirred in a spoonful of sugar, a spoonful of grenadine, and a dash of Angostura bitters. Then he filled the glass with ice, added a splash of Canadian Club, and quite a few glugs of club soda [ladies, after all, shouldn’t be served full-strength cocktails. Psh.]. I’d smile weakly and say thank you, and then later my brother-in-law and I would scrounge for the bottle of bourbon I gave them the year before at Christmas and make our own drinks. Booze: the gift that keeps on giving.

In defense of my relatives, the aforementioned version of this wayward drink is the one that most post-Prohibition-era Americans drank, and expected to be served if they ordered one at the club. And until Don Draper’s character made it sexy again on Mad Men, nobody without an AARP card would be caught dead ordering one at a hipster bar. It’s the version I’d been taught to make at my first bar gig in the 1990s. And it’s a goddamn shame, too, because in its purest form, the Old-Fashioned is a tasty thing of beauty: just a bit of citrus, sugar, bitters, a large cube of ice, and booze. Barmen in the late 1800s started making drinks by request “the old-fashioned way” in protest against what their patrons saw as unnecessarily elaborate cocktail chicanery of fruit concoctions, fussy garnishing, and flashy shaker work. Ironically, that original Old-Fashioned recipe was hijacked after Prohibition and turned into just the sort of muddled-fruity-watery vulgarity that the 1880s bartenders had been protesting. Cocktail history, my friends, is a fickle bitch.

Many Old-Fashioned's later.... [photos by Tristan Shepherd]

Many Old-Fashioned’s later…. [photos by Tristan Shepherd]

Flash forward to now, people, and keep up, ‘cause this is where it’s going to get tricky. In today’s bourbon-is-sexy-again cocktail-crazed scene, you never know what you’re going to get if you order an Old-Fashioned. You may get a stunning—and short [I’m not gonna lie, 2 oz. of liquid looks pretty puny with only a big ‘ole ice cube keeping company]—Old-Fashioned at a place like Bar X, or as mixed up by the booze slingists of C&S Spirits. They’ll kill it, you’ll love it. Or, you could end up with my in-laws’ version at the golf club. Sucks to be you.

*Solution: start making your own. Try a few out and find what you like. Here’s a few basics to get you get started:

THE BOOZE: It doesn’t have to be the most expensive bottle on your shelf. Bourbon? Classic. Rye whiskey? A nice touch, and historically accurate. Southern Comfort? Um, not what I’d pick, but okay for a 21-yr-old frat boy. Brandy? Way sweet, but it’ll work in a pinch. Tequila? WTF, people. No more experimenting. Bottom line, I prefer a 90 proof or higher bourbon or rye for making Old-Fashioneds; make the booze the star.

THE BITTERS: You can get super ambitious and make your own artisanal bitters, and in a couple of months, if they turn out, you’ll be ready to make a drink. You can buy fancy-schmancy fruit bitters, like Fee Brothers, online, but Angostura bitters are available at most supermarkets and are a classic addition.

THE SWEET: Use white sugar, Demerara or turbinado sugar, hand-harvested by virgins, organic beet sugar, sugar shaved raw from a pressed loaf smuggled through customs from your last Cuban vacation. Sure, why the hell not. Stay away from brown sugars.  

THE FRUIT: Please, for love of all that’s holy, try to keep the fruity additions to a minimum, and make them the background notes to support the flavor of your liquor. Avoid a fruit salad that you have to slurp around to get to your drink.

THE WATER: If there’s one thing you remember when making this drink, it’s to watch your water content; a mere baby splash of club soda or water [less than ½ oz.] will open up the nose of your booze nicely, but a watery Old-Fashioned is just fuckin’ gross. If you’re pulling your rocks from an ice bucket, make sure that they’re cold and hard..not floating sadly in water. Oh, and the bigger your cube, the better. Now, let’s make drinks, shall we?

The Classic Old-Fashioned [by booze historian David Wondrich for Esquire]

Place ½ tsp of loose sugar in the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass, then add two or three healthy dashes of Angostura bitters and ½ tsp of water. Muddle until the sugar is dissolved. Add three ice cubes to the glass. Stir. Add 2 oz straight rye or bourbon whiskey. Stir again. Twist a thin-cut swatch of lemon or orange peel over the top, add a stirring implement, and let sit for one minute. After that, enjoy thoroughly.

 

Cranberry-Clementine Old-Fashioned [a cross ‘twixt the 1880s classic and a mid-century cocktail, with a sparkly rim for festivities’ sake. I made a cranberry-rum citrus jam to use as the sweetening/fruit element, but you can totally use leftover, cold, cranberry sauce from your holiday dinner and it’ll rock, just the same.]

Rub ½ of the rim of a lowball glass with ¼ of a Clementine wedge; dip the citrus-coated rim of the glass in turbinado sugar to coat. Then, to a short glass add: juice of ¼ Clementine wedge [drop it into the glass, if you want to be like Don Draper’s daughter], three dashes bitters, ½ tsp. cranberry jam [or cranberry sauce], ½ tsp sugar. Stir with a spoon until sugar dissolves. Add 2 oz. bourbon and 3 to 4 cubes of ice, then top with an optional tiny-baby splash of club soda. Stir gently to combine, garnish with 2-3 sugared cranberries, and enter the gates of heaven.

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? 

Tullahoma Whiskey Sour

Tullahoma Tennessee Whiskey Sour

Tullahoma Tennessee Whiskey Sour

 

This weeks H.O.A.G.Y. (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) comes from my college gal pal Strawberry Julep (yup, she’s just that sweet and sassy) who sent me a Facebook message:

“I had a drink in a restaurant recently that I just loved. I copied the menu description here for you to see.  I suck at trying to recreate drinks but figured if anyone could, it would be you [ed note:  Awww, thanks gal!].  It tasted kind of like a margarita made with whiskey instead of tequila.  It was a little tart. My girlfriends and I added salt and that made it super smooth (and therefore deadly!). I’d love to mix these up at home. Can you help?”

Absolutely!  The barkeep’s description of the cocktail (called “The Derailed”) called for Chattanooga Whiskey Reserve, triple sec, mint-infused simple syrup, and lemon juice.

Sounds to me like this is a fine example of a Whiskey Sour, the raspy pack-a-day voiced barfly of the cocktail world.  In this case, sweetened up a little with triple sec  and mint syrup.  We’ve talked about using mint syrup previously on this here blog, and it’s a wonderful concoction to keep on hand for impromptu Juleps, Mojitos, etc.

First things, first:  I couldn’t get my hot little hands on any Chattanooga Whiskey Reserve in Utah, but after a bit of research decided that I’d substitute another Tennessee Whiskey widely available here with what I think is a similar flavor profile [in this case, Dickle 8 yr Tennessee Whiskey].  Lemme know if I’m wrong on this one, friends.  As my gal Strawberry Julep noted, adding a pinch of salt is a clever trick to balance out sweet and tart in a cocktail, and works well especially with drinks in the ‘sours’ category.  When life gives you lemons, make a badass Whiskey Sour!

Tullahoma Whiskey Sour

1.5 oz. Tennessee Whiskey

0.5 oz. Cointreau

Pinch of sea salt

1.5 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 oz. mint simple syrup

Fill a cocktail shaker ½ way with ice.  Add all ingredients, and shake like crazy. You want this to be super frothy and cold.  Fill a tall Collins glass (or Old Fashioned glass, the classic) with large ice cubes.  Strain the shaker into the glass.  Garnish with fresh mint, a couple of lemon slices, and another generous pinch of sea salt over the top.  This is one of the few cocktails I like with a long straw.

The PomeGrenade

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y!  (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?):  a pomegranate-tequila-sparkling wine cocktail

The PomeGrenade - made with Pomegranate-tequila liqueur

The PomeGrenade – made with Pomegranate-tequila liqueur

My gal Big Bold California Cab brought me back a bottle of tequila-based La Pinta Pomegranate Liqueur after her last turn-around to Mexico (she’s a flight attendant for a major airline).  She said all of the folks she worked with were raving about the stuff.  They mostly liked it on the rocks mixed with diet lemon-lime soda, or with seltzer, but they’d like to try it out in some festive cocktails.  It’s definitely a tequila-forward liqueur (38 proof – 19% ABV), with a bright ruby color and not-too-cloying sweet fruity tone that rings pretty true to pomegranate with some cranberry notes; it also has a slight citrus finish.

Well, with it being New Year’s and all, I thought it would be perfect in a champagne cocktail!  I’m in the middle of writing a piece for CityHomeCOLLECTIVE about the French 75 for my “Cocktails 101” series, so I have WWI artillery (it’s named after the eponymous 75 mm gun), and champagne on the brain already.  The old root of the word “pomegranate” comes from the French name for the fruit first cultivated in Persia; the French called it a pomme-grenade. The word “grenade”—referring to ordinance—is believed by historians to come from the Old French word that alluded to the resemblance of hand-sized bombs to the fragmented nature of the fruit within its spherical hull.  Hence, the fruity AND explosive moniker for this cocktail.  Plus, it will totally knock you on your ass after one or three.  BOOM.

So, here ya go, my flighty friends!  I’m happy to take any and all extra drinks coupons you may have laying around off y’alls hands in exchange.

The PomeGrenade

½ teaspoon superfine sugar

Juice of ¼ lime (plus a nice long twist cut from the rind)

1.5 oz. pomegranate liqueur

2 oz. sparkling wine (champagne, prosecco, or whatever you’ve got open)

To a cocktail shaker add sugar, lime, pomegranate liqueur, and 4-5 cubes ice.  Shake like crazy, and strain into a martini glass.  Fill to rim with champagne.  Garnish with a long lime twist.

Cranberry Nation

Cranberries Three Ways: in an Old-Fashioned, Sugared, and in a Cranberry-Rum ginger jam that is amazeballs instead of that jiggly canned shit served at Thanksgiving.  Trust me.  It’s also delightful stirred into rum cocktails, or into club soda with a dash of bitters for a gorgeous spritzer.

Cranberry-Clementine Old Fashioned.  Mid-century style (photo by Tristan Shepherd).

Cranberry-Clementine Old Fashioned. Mid-century style (photo by Tristan Shepherd).

My super-hip friends Fat Tire Ale and Cosmopolitan recently asked me to curate—which it seems is a fancy-schmancy word used everywhere now for ‘make shit up’ as opposed to the ‘curatorial’ work I did in museums, anyhoooo—the cocktails for a holiday party they hosted recently at their gorgeous mid-century modern house.  I was MORE than happy to do so, and even more excited about the substantial research and testing needed to get the job done.  I suffer for y’all.  Really I do.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with making a cranberry jam.  Cranberries are perfect for canning projects: they are easy to process (no peeling, seeding, etc.), take on flavor well, and already have a lot of natural pectin, which means they gel delightfully well.  As I often do, I referenced the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (ed by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine) to make sure my acid levels would be appropriate for canning to avoid the cooties.  In case you hadn’t heard:  Botulism sucks. Avoid it.  If you are a beginning canner, or just want to have pretty much The Bible of Canning on hand, THIS, my friends, is the book for you.   Here are the recipes I came up with, based very loosely on the Ball book’s Cranberry Rum Sauce.

Cranberry-Clementine Old-Fashioned

My buddy Ramos Gin Fizz and I, all fancied up.  Classic polaroid.  (photo by Cody Derrick)

My buddy Ramos Gin Fizz and I, all fancied up. Classic polaroid. (photo by Cody Derrick)

For the full story on my Old Fashioned experience, see the piece that I wrote for CityHomeCollective this week.  Apologies in advance to my in-laws: they are wonderful, talented, loving people.  They are just not-so-great bartenders.  

Rub ½ of the rim of a lowball glass with ¼ of a Clementine wedge;

dip the citrus-coated rim of the glass in turbinado sugar to coat.

To a short glass add:

juice of ¼ Clementine wedge (drop it into the glass, if you want to be like Don Draper’s daughter)

3 dashes bitters

½ tsp. cranberry jam (or cranberry sauce)

½ tsp sugar

Stir with a spoon until sugar dissolves.

Add 2 oz. bourbon

3-4 cubes ice

Top with an optional tiny baby splash of club soda.

Stir gently to combine.

Garnish with 2-3 sugared cranberries*.

Cranberry Jam with ginger and citrus.  If you have a few tablespoons left from canning, it's terrific on toast, or mixed into a rum-citrus cocktail with a little ginger beer floater.

Cranberry Jam with ginger and citrus. If you have a few tablespoons left from canning, it’s terrific on toast, or mixed into a rum-citrus cocktail with a little ginger beer floater.

Cranberry-Rum Jam with ginger and citrus

Makes nine or ten 8oz. jars

3 lg. (6”) cinnamon sticks, broken into 2” pieces

12 whole allspice berries

9 whole cloves

4 ½ cups granulated sugar

2- 2/3 cups water

12 cups fresh cranberries

3 large apples (sweet or tart, or a combo), peeled, cored, and chopped

1 ½ cups rum

2 Tbs. fresh grated ginger

Zest of 1 orange

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 envelope liquid fruit pectin

Prepare canner, jars and lids for water bath canning.

My Canning Bible.

My Canning Bible.

Make a spice bundle with a large square of cheesecloth: add cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cloves.

To a very large non-reactive saucepan, add sugar, water, and spice bag.  Bring to a boil, and stir constantly until sugar dissolves.  Reduce heat, and boil gently for 5 minutes.

Add cranberries and apples, and return to boil.  Boil on med-low gently, stirring frequently to avoid scorching, for about 15-20 minutes, or until cranberries have burst and the apples are very tender.

Remove the spice bag, and remove pan from heat.  Add the rum to the pan.  Purée until smooth using an immersion blender (or in batches- careful!!!- in a regular blender).  Add the ginger, orange zest, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.

Bring to a high boil that cannot be stirred down (as for jam), add the liquid pectin, and stir constantly to avoid scorching.  Boil hard for one minute, then remove from heat.

Ladle hot jam into jars leaving ¼” headspace.  Wipe rims, add new sterilized lids and clean rings.  Tighten to fingertip tight.

Process in boiling water bath canner for sea-level baseline 15 minutes (adjust for altitude wherever you are!).  Turn off the heat, and remove canner lid.  Let jars sit in canner 5 minutes.  Remove jars, cool, and store for up to one year.

Sugared Cranberries

To make sugared cranberries:  whisk together 1 egg white and 1 Tbs. water in a medium bowl until frothy.

Throw 1 cup cranberries in the egg-water and toss to coat; shake off the excess egg by letting it drip through your fingers.

Immediately toss the cranberries with 1 cup turbinado or sanding sugar until evenly coated.  Set out in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet to harden for 24 hours.  Store for up to one week on the cookie sheet or in a vented container (if it’s sealed tightly, the sugar will melt).

Green Tomatoes: Fried, pickled and in Salsa Verde

We’ve got snow!  Time to pull in all the harvest, my friends, if you haven’t already.  We’re eating green tomatoes for days here.  My friend White Lightin’ Lemonade FB messaged me recently, “I would love to have your green tomato salsa recipe if you’re willing to share.”  Sure!  I’m going to do that, and more for this week’s H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?)  We’re having them fried, pickled, AND in salsa verde.

Here’s how to do ‘em up right:

Fried Green Tomatoes with Chili Sauce

Fried Green Tomatoes with Chili Sauce

Fried Green Tomatoes

Use only entirely un-ripe firm green tomatoes for this dish.  Some of my friends prefer a buttermilk/egg coating to the tomatoes before the dredge, but I like the crisp crunch of very lightly battered tomatoes.

4-5 large green tomatoes, sliced crosswise in ¼” thick rounds (discard both ends).

1 cup white flour

1/3 cup cornmeal

1 tsp. each salt, fresh ground black pepper, and Cajun seasoning

Combine flour, cornmeal, and spices in a shallow bowl.  Coat tomatoes entirely in flour dredge, tapping lightly to remove excess dredge.  Fry in a cast iron skillet coated with a scant 1/8” deep hot vegetable oil or bacon grease, over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium if your oil starts to smoke and burn the tomatoes.  Fry tomatoes until golden brown on each side, and just slightly softened through (about 7-10 minutes per side).  Remove to a plate covered with paper towels to drain; sprinkle hot tomatoes with a little kosher salt. Add more oil or fat to skillet as needed.  I like mine served with a little hot/sweet chili sauce.

Spicy Pickled Cherry or Pear Tomatoes

Use only entirely un-ripe firm green cherry or pear tomatoes with no cracks in the skin.  Those cute little 4 oz. or short wide-mouth 8 oz.  jars work great for these pickled beauties.  Use them as a spicy change up from olives in your dirty martini!  Makes about 2 pints total

Spicy Pickled Cherry Tomatoes - ready for brine and the canner!

Spicy Pickled Cherry Tomatoes – ready for brine and the canner!

1 cup white vinegar1 cup water

1 tsp. pickling salt

2 lbs. small green cherry or pear tomatoes

Prepare brine: combine vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer.

Prepare canner, and heat jars.  Sterilize lids and rings.

Pack hot jars to within ½” of rim with tomatoes.  To each 8 oz. jar (halve for 4 oz. jars), add:  1 small clove garlic, ½ bay leaf, 10 black or mixed peppercorns, ½ tsp. dill seeds.

Ladle hot brine into jars, completely covering tomatoes, leaving ½” head space.  Remove air bubbles and adjust for headspace with more brine if needed.

Wipe jar rims, place lids and rings.  Tighten to fingertip tight.

Process completely covered with boiling water in canner for 15 minutes (at sea level; adjust for altitude).  Remove canner lid and turn off heat.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool to room temp, and store for up to 1 year.

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

I volunteer at my kids’ school garden, and we had a TON of leftover green tomatoes this year.  I made this salsa verde (usually made with tomatillos) with produce from the school garden and am planning to give it as thank you gifts for garden volunteers and teachers.  It’s super tasty with tortilla chips, but I like it best with cheesy scrambled eggs and tortillas for brunch.  Makes about 10 half-pint jars.

8 cups finely chopped green tomatoes (I leave the skin on)

5-10 (about, to taste) chopped hot peppers; jalapeños, Serrano, whatever you’ve got!

1 very large red onion (2 cups), chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup lime juice

¼ cup agave syrup or nectar

¼ cup tequila

½ cup chopped cilantro, loosely packed

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. Mexican oregano (dried)

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

Prepare canner, sterilize jars, lids, etc.

Combine all ingredients in a large non-reactive saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to just bubbling, and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly to avoid sticking.  Remove from heat.

Ladle hot salsa into hot jars.  Leave ½” headspace; tap gently to remove air bubbles.  Wipe rims, place lids and rims to fingertip tights.

Process completely covered with boiling water in canner for 20 minutes (at sea level; adjust for altitude).  Remove canner lid and turn off heat.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool to room temp, and store for up to 1 year.