The Wasatch Mule: a pear-ginger white whiskey cocktail

The Wasatch Mule

The Wasatch Mule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wasatch Mule

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

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

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

Plum Lucky

local plums

local plums

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

We’re talking plums for DAYS, friends.

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

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

The Plum Lucky (makes one)

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

2 oz. gin

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

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

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

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

Plum Crazy

2 oz. bourbon

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

2 oz. club soda

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

 

 

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

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

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

1 tsp. pink peppercorns

2 ½ cups water

1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

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

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

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

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