Beehive Bombshell

A million thanks to all y’all who took the time to vote for my cocktail the “Beehive Bombshell” over on the CocktailersAnonymous Instagram competition. Haven’t voted yet? Pretty please with cherries on top, go on over there, and pronto! Voting closes today and it’s a close one [though thanks in no small part to y’all, the Beehive Bombshell is ahead by a frog hair right now. Squeeee!]. It’s a riff on one of my favorite celebratory beverages, the festive French 75. I made this one using locally-produced Beehive Distilling Jack Rabbit Gin, and Utah-owned VIDA tequila añejo.

So. Good. It’s made even prettier [and tastier IMHO] by the kickass addition of Meyer lemon juice and sparkling rosé.

The Beehive Bombshell, as featured over on the Cocktailers Anonymous feed.

The Beehive Bombshell, as featured over on the Cocktailers Anonymous feed.

Beehive Bombshell

1.5 oz Beehive Jack Rabbit Gin

0.5 oz VIDA tequila añejo

1.25 teaspoons superfine sugar

0.5 oz Meyer lemon juice

Top with sparkling rosé [2-3 oz.]

In a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice, add all ingredients except for the wine. Shake briefly to combine, then strain into a champagne flute. Top slowly with sparkling rosé. Garnish with an extravagant lemon peel, of course! Oh la la.

For an extended history-slash-rant on my love of the French 75, check out this story I wrote last winter over at the cityhomeCOLLECTIVE blog: “There’s something about a champagne cocktail that cranks the flyin’ high freak-flag level of any event right up to 11 from the first toast, and the French 75 is arguably THE classic bubbly cocktail. Fair warning: it’s the kind of cocktail that sneaks up on you like a velvet sledgehammer. After a few of these, you’ll be stumbling into the next day wearing nothing but a tuxedo jacket and false eyelashes. That don’t belong to you.”

Plum Loco

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y. (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) comes from my new best girlfriend who has several 30+ year old fruit trees in the backyard of her Avenues home in our Salty City. Plums, pears, apples, and other fruity goodness for days, people. The boys and I went over a few days ago and harvested buckets full of her late-season plums, and she’s still swimmin’ in ’em.  I’m sending her some of my Plum Ginger Pink Peppercorn syrup–which is dead easy to make with even the squishiest of fruit you’ve got on hand– in thanks for sharing her bounty, and hope she’ll make this fab tequila cocktail with it, or perhaps an equally delish Plum Lucky (with gin) or Plum Crazy (with bourbon). It’s ALL good.

Plum Loco A tequila, plum & ginger glass of YUM

Plum Loco
A tequila, plum & ginger glass of YUM

 Plum Loco

1.5 oz (okay, more like 2) oz. tequila blanco

0.5 oz. Cointreau or triple sec

2 oz. Plum Ginger pink peppercorn syrup

splash of club soda

generous pinch of smoked sea salt

Fill a tall Collins glass with ice. To a bar glass filled with ice, add the tequila, Cointreau, and plum syrup. Stir with a bar spoon for a minute. Strain into the Collins glass. Add a splash of club soda floater. As with many sweet drinks, a good pinch of salt does wonders right on top; use plain kosher salt, or some wacky smoked sea salt you’ve been saving up. Get yourself a straw to slurp down all of that sweet, sweet goodness.

 

 

Hachi Hive

The Hachi Hive

The Hachi Hive

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

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

HACHI HIVE 

To a tall bar glass filled with ice add:

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

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

1 oz. honey-sage syrup

1 oz. yuzu [or lemon] juice

Takashi's bar

Takashi’s bar

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Hemingway Mojito: another Mason jar cocktail

Hemingway Mojito: Grapefruit, rum, Disaronno, ginger syrup, mint & kumquat

Hemingway Mojito: Grapefruit, rum, Disaronno, ginger syrup, mint & kumquat

I’m all up in here canning kumquats this week. They’re delightful little buggers with the wonderful dichotomy of having the reverse tastes of most citrus: bitter fruit and sweet skin. They’re definitely not in the Canning 101 category. Like okra and apricots, they’re notorious floaters and take quite a bit of pre-canner finessing [soaking in baking soda, pricking the skin to prevent bursting, etc.]. I’ll post the recipe soon, not to worry.

Right now, I’m frantically packing and getting ready for a trip to Louisville to see my fan-damily AND attend the Bourbon Classic with my mom and sis. Girls trip! Until I get back and tell all y’all about my boozy adventures in the Bluegrass, I hope this will tide you over.

Hemingway Mojito [story soon, promise!]

4 mint leaves

2 oz. aged rum [like Mount Gay]

0.5 oz. Disaronno liqueur

4 oz. grapefruit juice

1 oz. ginger simple syrup*

Additional mint leaves and a kumquat for garnish [or, a gingered kumquat in rum-mint syrup, if you’ve got ‘em. If not, I’ll be sharing the recipe real soon!]

To a pint Mason jar, add all ingredients except garnish. Fill with ice, leaving about 1” head space. Attach lid, and shake like crazy. Remove lid and add a little club soda, if desired, and the extra mint garnish.  Enjoy!

*to make ginger simple syrup: make a pint of simple syrup as usual, then add about 1/3 cup rough chopped peeled fresh ginger while still hot. Cool to room temp, add lid to jar, and refrigerate overnight. Strain out ginger before using. Keep refrigerated, and it’ll last a couple of weeks.

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 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.