Lychee Punch

It’s been a while since I posted last, in part because I haven’t been feeling all that creative in the cocktail department. I’ve mostly been drinking old favorites or easy to throw together things. But tonight I got the nudge I needed to tinker. That nudge was in cleaning out the fridge I found a bottle of lychee juice left over from New Year’s Eve. Clearly, it was cocktail time!

Lychee Punch

I also wanted to get some use out of the ice crushing bag and tiki mug that I got for Christmas, so I decided to go in the tiki direction with this (as if I need much of an excuse to make a tiki drink). It also gave me the right template to use relatively a lot of fruit juice, since that was the point.

2 oz    lychee juice
1 oz    silver cachaça (Ypióca)
0.75 oz mezcal (Vida)
0.5 oz  absinthe (Pernod)
0.5 oz  lime juice
6 drops Boston bitters (Bittermens)
Shake well and strain over crushed ice
Garnish with rum-preserved cherries

This could be confused for a sour, with the lime bright and noticeable and the mouthfeel light, but much of the bite really comes from the cachaça. The mezcal and absinthe would normally be stand-out flavors in a cocktail, but here, they mix with the lychee to provide a balanced mid-range. If this is missing anything, it’s a base-note of some sort. That would usually be the dark rum component, but I’m not sure this want’s that sort of flavor. I think it might mute the brighter notes of the lychee. I don’t think that’s a fatal flaw, though, as something this refreshing is truly dangerous to be drinking out of a straw…

I’m going ahead and calling this a punch because I think it would scale up very well for a party, perhaps with a bit of simple to give it more heft. I’ll give that a try once the weather gets warmer.

Lychee Punch Closeup

I made the cherries for the garnish last summer when I found a pound of them in the fridge right before I left town for a week (noticing a theme?). I forget the exact recipe I used, but I took a standard brandied cherries recipe and switched out the brandy for rum and keeping a health dose of spices there. Surprisingly easy to make if you already have a basic canning setup. I recommend it!


Unicorn Kisses Highballs

100-0090_26061477521_oThis is a serious post, though the main ingredient, Unicorn Kisses seltzer, is part of an elaborate April Fool’s plot. When my friend Kate insisted that we go to the store for Unicorn Kisses early last Saturday, I knew I had to make a cocktail from it. For this difficult mission, I called in my friend maryr for expert advice, sparkly stickers, and coordinating bandaid choices.

First off, the seltzer itself. It’s got a floral nose that is reminiscent of kid’s lip gloss, or maybe watermelon jolly rancher, or maybe Strawberry Shortcake (the doll, not the dessert). Basically, it smells like pink and rainbows and glitter. Luckily, it’s artificially sweetened, so it’s not cloying, despite that aroma. It does kinda taste like artificially-flavored candy, but we couldn’t quite put our finger on what the actual flavor is. I would never drink something like this generally (so I’m glad I didn’t get a case of the stuff), but it is remarkably quaffable given all that. 

100-0060_26061521631_oWe made two drinks, one that accentuated the Unicorn Kisses flavor and one that complemented it.

1.5 oz white rum (Don Q)
0.5 oz grenadine (Else's)
2.5 oz Unicorn Kisses (Polar)
Build in a glass with ice
Garnish with a lemon twist and a sticker

Not, good per se, but it really fulfills the promise of the Unicorn Kisses, so kinda like alcoholic strawberry Nerds candy? An experience.

100-0068_26061511331_oThe second drink was clearly the best of the evening:

1.5 oz Midori, chilled
Unicorn Kisses to cover
Express a lemon peel over and garnish

Um. This was good? Like smooth and sweet and like non-sour apple candy?  Jolly Rancher was our go-to again for a taste comparison. The Unicorn Kisses cut the melon and sweetness of the Midori nicely. A hundred things in my bar, and it’s the Midori that paired best? This is confusing and I need to lie down now.

In all our sampling, it was the remnants of college drinking that worked best, Midori, grenadine, peach schnapps, etc. Any attempt we made to add bitters or complexity either overwhelmed and masked the Unicorn Kisses or was outright vile. So, in the end, the seltzer is probably best enjoyed on its own, if you are lucky enough to come by a bottle.

Ginger Pilot

mxmologoSpring Break is the theme of this month’s Mixology Monday challenge (wrap-up post), hosted by Southern Ash. I’ve been thinking more about tiki-style drinks lately, and this seemed like a good excuse for some experimentation. Also a good excuse to pick up some falernum. I should really have gotten some of this ages ago; add seltzer and it’s basically instant ginger beer. Which means I don’t have to stock ginger beer to have a Dark and Stormy. Which is dangerous.

Ginger PilotFor this challenge, I took inspiration from the Jet Pilot cocktail, which is a personal favorite of mine, though I usually don’t make things quite that complicated at home. Rather than adjust the spices too much, I decided to play with the mix of spirits at the center and bring in some other warm-weather favorites. I used a mix of golden Cachaça and silver mezcal alongside the usual 151 and I must say that it turned out very well!

1 oz    gold cachaça (Diva)
0.75 oz silver mezcal (Mina Real)
0.75 oz 151° rum (Cruzan)
0.5 oz  lime juice
0.5 oz  grapefruit juice
0.5 oz  cinnamon syrup
0.5 oz  falernum syrup (BG Reynolds)
6 dash  orange bittters (Scrappy's)
Shake well and strain over (crushed) ice
Garnish with grapefruit peel

This came together really, really well, if I do say so myself. The combination of boozy, citrusy, sweet, and spicy was remarkably balanced. This one goes down very easily, so while I garnished with a straw for the photo, I don’t recommend consuming it that way unless you actually use crushed ice. The ginger bite from the falernum is still clear even with all the other ingredients involved, so be careful not to have too heavy a hand there. The mezcal I used isn’t particularly smoky, so didn’t shift the character as much as some others would, but definitely added to the overall complexity. I considered adding a few drops of Pernod, as in a standard Jet Pilot, but couldn’t really imagine anise helping things here, so didn’t actually do so—if any of you try it, let me know how it goes!

Hog Town Toddy

HogTownToddyIt’s winter and the living room doesn’t have as much insulation as one might like, so it’s time for hot toddies. I was in the mood for more bitter than refreshing, so I took some inspiration from the Toronto cocktail, but decided I wanted a rounder feel so replaced the usual simple & bitters with Drambuie to good effect.

2.0 oz rye whiskey (Old Overholt)
0.5 oz Drambuie
0.25 oz Fernet Branca
4 oz hot water
Add everything to a mug, no need to even stir

The first impression was warming, naturally, but it held up just fine even as it cooled. The sweetness plus mint gives it an after-dinner quality, but not cloying. Don’t overdo the Fernet! This toddy was pleasantly medicinal sipper with a lingering complexity, but more mint would have been unappealing. Despite the abundance of whiskey, it doesn’t feel boozy, so it’s a good thing that other elements slow you down.

Tiki Log Cabin

Tiki Log CabinMy housemate has a lot of tea. One of our first purchases was an electric kettle with enough temperature selection buttons to support our respective oolong drinking habits. I had decided to make us drinks on this frigid-for-SoCal Thanksgiving Eve, and so I was rummaging through the box of tea for inspiration. I found one that smelled like fancy cinnamon-apple granola, and a star was born.

When asked to devise a name for the drink, my housemate spoke of log cabins and flannel. We talked about gender identity and cocktails. Is this a [insert mysogyny here] martini variant, or a humble tiki aspirant? Is flannel for treehuggers, lumberjacks, or lesbians? Is this log cabin in Portland, OR or Portland, ME? Do we live for the briny sea or the greenest of trees?

This drink is alarmingly smooth. The nose is inviting; the flavors are complex. Each sip warms and bolsters. (It ought to make a good toddy if one subs the fresh lime for a splash of Grand Marnier.) To get a sense of where this vodka infusion gets its tiki aspirations, consider that the tisane is labelled “for almond lovers” (evoking orgeat), and also contains cinnamon.

/Makes 2 drinks/
 1.5 tsp David's Tea Forever Nuts
 0.5 tsp black tea (David's Tea English Breakfast)
 4 oz vodka
 1 oz maple syrup
 1 oz fresh lime juice

Infuse the teas in the vodka, stirring occasionally, while preparing other ingredients in a shaker. Ten minutes is plenty. Combine, shake with ice, and strain.

Gin Tonique

Gin ToniqueContinuing to be inspired by the Mezcal Tonique, I have been playing around more with tonic syrup as an ingredient in a non-bubbly cocktail. This ended up being something of a variant on the Martinez and nicely straddled the line between rich and refreshing. As in a Martinez, adding some orange bitters could be helpful.

2.0 oz gin (New Amsterdam)
0.5 oz Lillet
0.5 oz Luxardo
0.5 oz tonic syrup (Tomr's)
Stir with ice and strain

The major impression is of ripe stone fruit with lots of apricot and roasty/oxidized flavors. The noise is lighter; floral and grape/lychee. This starts off sweet, and I was worried it might get cloying, but then the bitterness kicked in and balanced it out. So, not this cocktail isn’t balanced all at once, but becomes so over the course of the sip. The gin, despite its volume, is really a background player here, but addsneeded clarity. I previously made a version with just 1.5 oz gin, but I like this version bettter, as it’s more open.

Mezcal Tonique

Mezcal ToniqueThe other night I was at Backbar and very much enjoyed their drink of the day, the Mezcal Tonique. I’ve written before about the joys of stocking tonic syrup, but it had never occurred to me to use tonic syrup in a cocktail by itself without soda water; I am definitely going to have to play with this more as a stand-alone ingredient! This is my recreation of the drink from Backbar’s menu description, so the ratios could stand a little more tweaking. The one thing I didn’t have was Yuzu Bitters, so I substituted some homemade Buddha’s Hand Tincture* to fill the exotic citrus role.

1.5 oz mezcal (Vida)
1.0 oz lemon juice
0.5 oz tonic syrup (Tomr's)
1.0 ml Buddha's Hand Tincture

Shake with ice and strain.

This reminds me of an Ultima Palabra with a strong citrus sip and smoky nose. This is far less sweet, though, with just the tonic syrup adding sugar. It’s fairly sharp with lots of bright citrus, but the tonic syrup and mezcal give it enough weight to keep it balanced. This strikes me as primarily a warm-weather drink, so I’ll probably put off tweaking the recipe until the spring, but I wanted to make sure I got this up before I forgot it!

* Fill a small jar with thin slices of buddha’s hand peel, add grain alcohol to cover. Wait at least a day or so; keeps indefinitely. Use sparingly.

Dry Margarita

Dry Margarita

The other day a coworker told a story of when she went to a restaurant and ordered a margarita. The server returned to ask if she wanted it dry or extra dry. Wisely, she opted for a beer instead. This got me thinking, though, what would a “dry margarita” actually be? I decided to apply the proportions and technique of the martini to the ingredients of the margarita, but Sasen took the idea the other way, suggesting more martini-like ingredients with margarita prep, so that might be a future post…

2.5 oz reposado tequila (Distinqt)
0.5 oz orange liqueur (Cointreau)
Lime peel
Kosher salt 

Stir and strain into glass with half-salted rim
Express lime peel and float as garnish

This actually came out pretty well, it had the strong boozy character of a dry martini, but with the some of the flavors of the margarita. The salt rim is mostly for show, as without the sourness of the lime juice you don’t actually want that much salt. I’d also probably go for a more complex tequila with this, the Distinqt is fine for mixing, but doesn’t really shine as the star of the show.

Guest Post: Greedy

This was inspired by the lovely gift, from Matt, of a book devoted to crazy Negroni variants. I wanted a Negroni. But I also wanted something fruity and complex. So I got greedy and tried to do too many things at once. But the Negroni forgives. The Negroni says, “Listen child, it’s okay to be ambitious, to express nuanced opinions on hot topics, to describe dreams of the future that don’t make any sense yet. But when you’ve gone overboard, you gotta learn how to fix it.”

1.25 oz gin
1.25 oz Campari
0.75 oz sweet vermouth
0.25 oz orange liqueur (Cointreau)
0.25 oz blackberry liqueur
0.5     lime (juice it, then drop in as garnish)
4 drops Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters (Bitter Truth)

Shake with ice
Adjust the proportions til you don't feel the imbalance of greed
Stir with more ice

This drink started off with only 1 ounce each of gin & Campari. That might have worked with better ingredients (especially the blackberry and the sweet vermouth), but I found the result too medicinal. So, I’d say: go nuts with adding wacky tasty things—get all greedy—and then fix it with small portions of 1:1 gin and Campari (or use the standard 1:1:1 ratio if you like your sweet vermouth).

I like the bitterness that develops from dropping in the used half-lime rind, as if it’s a Moscow mule. Meanwhile, the colors remind me of Raspberry Lime Rickeys on Boston’s hot summer days. Though, I suspect the blackberry flavor is complicit in that memory as well.

Scalia’s Tears

Scalia's Tears_smallerOver the last week, several online discussions I’ve seen have brought up to the concept of “drinking Scalia’s tears” (cf. South Park‘s Cartman), and what the appropriate cocktail instantiation of this is. At least one bar in Chicago has such a creation on the menu already! I didn’t have any Malört handy, so I tweaked a recipe from KathrynT on MetaFilter:

2 oz    rye whiskey (Rittenhouse)
0.25 oz Fernet Branca
0.25 oz orange liqueur (Cointreau)
3 drops saline solution
splash  soda water

Stir all but soda, strain, and serve on the rocks
Top with the seltzer

The drink was nicely balanced with the small amount of salt helping round out some of the herbal notes but did not actually give it a salty character. A salt rim was considered, but the drink wasn’t sour enough to make that work. It was definitely more popular than the other signature drink at Saturday’s party, the “King v. Burwell Majority Opinion”, but that was just a shot glass full of pure applesauce…