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Tea for Two: Some thoughts on making cocktails with tea…

Tea for Two: Some thoughts on making cocktails with tea…

Tomorrow is National Tea Day and I’ve teamed up with Elin Lawrence, who writes the blog Travel Food Cool, to bring you some celebratory cocktails this week. There’s lots of information about making cocktails with tea that’s available online, but I wanted to share my own personal thoughts about tea as an ingredient and the experiences I’ve had using it. The first tea cocktail that I ever made was with a green tea vodka from Charbay in California, a company that makes excellent infused products. I found the flavoring to be

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Muddling my way through Blue Monday…

Muddling my way through Blue Monday…

If you look up the word “muddle” in the dictionary, the first 4 meanings focus on mental confusion. It’s not until you read the 5th meaning that you come upon anything related to cocktail making. The interesting thing is there’s actually quite a bit of confusion as to how to properly muddle ingredients in a drink, so it seems fitting that the meanings overlap like this. Equally confusing is deciding on which muddler to buy, because there are a confounding number of choices that vary in terms of the material they’re made from, their size, and other factors. Watching a bartender muddle doesn’t always provide you with any clarity because their styles of muddling can can be so very different. Yet it’s an important technique that has to be done correctly in order for a cocktail to taste the way it should. Let’s see if we can clear this up a bit.

First of all, the main purpose of muddling is to release flavor and oils from herbs, fruits, and vegetables into a drink. Think for a minute about these 3 different ingredients. They vary in terms of their structure, right? Herbs are fairly fragile with pliable leaves and stems, fruit can be soft like blackberries, hard like apples, or somewhere in between like citrus, and vegetables can be extremely sturdy. This means that we need to apply pressure differently depending on which type of ingredient we’re actually muddling. Let’s start with herbs. I love the example that Death & Co. uses in their book to illustrate just how gentle you need to be. They recommend that you put a mint leaf in your mouth and press on it with your tongue. You’ll immediately taste its flavor. Then start to chew it and watch how quickly that flavor becomes bitter. The same is true with mudding. Be as gentle as possible with herbs, just pressing down and turning slightly, otherwise you’ll extract undesirable bitter components and they’ll end up in your cocktail. Also, I’ve found that most cocktail books recommend adding sweetener in (if a recipe calls for it) with herbs when muddling to extract as much flavor as possible. Citrus fruits will require a bit more pressure to extract their flavor, and firmer fruits and vegetables even more than that, but the purpose of muddling is still not to crush the ingredients into a pulverized mess.

Muddlers come in a variety of materials, but those made from PVC plastic are the most highly recommended by a multitude of sources. There are a number of reasons why. They won’t splinter or wear like wood, they’re easy to keep clean, and they have clearly defined edges that work well against the sides of shaker tins. Be sure to choose one that’s long enough; a muddler that’s too short for your shaker tin makes no sense at all. The muddler that I use is called the “Bad Ass” (yes, you are reading that correctly) and it’s made by Cocktail Kingdom.

Today’s drink is called Blue Monday after the fact the the 3rd Monday in January is considered by many people to be the gloomiest, most depressing day of the year. Dr. Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University in the UK was the first person to come up with this concept in 2005. He developed a formula based on things like the weather, Christmas bills, post-Christmas sadness, motivation, and unfulfilled New Year’s resolutions. This cocktail is a riff on a Cucumber Collins that uses Bluecoat gin, St. Germain, and Dolin Rouge Sweet Vermouth. My hope is that it’s a drink that will conjure up thoughts about warm weather and summer vacation, lifting our spirits, even if it’s just a little bit! This recipe will require muddling blackberries, cucumbers, and mint. When there are multiple ingredients like this, it’s best to stack them so that you’re able to apply pressure properly. In this case the mint would go on the bottom of the shaker tin with the simple syrup, the blackberries would be next, and the cucumber slices would go on the top. You can follow this general idea for any recipe: most fragile ingredients on the bottom, sturdiest on the top.

Blue Monday

2 oz Bluecoat gin
1/4 oz St. Germain
1/4 oz Dolin Rouge Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz lemon juice
2 dashes DRAM Citrus Medica bitters
2 oz club soda
6 blackberries, 6 thinly sliced cucumbers, 1 mint sprig for muddling
1 blackberry, 1 thick cucumber slice cut in half, and 1 mint sprig for garnishing

Muddle the mint, blackberries, and cucumber slices with the simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker tin. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the garnishes) and fill with ice. Shake for 30 seconds until very cold. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with the club soda. Garnish with the cucumber, blackberry, and mint sprig. Enjoy!

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The 1960s called. They want to make you a whiskey sour.

The 1960s called. They want to make you a whiskey sour.

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I grew up in the 1960s and I can remember my parents having parties at the house where they served cocktails. My dad was a Dewars and water guy and my mom liked screwdrivers, but they had a friend who loved a a good whiskey sour. Much like the Daiquiri, the whiskey sour is one of those drinks that is available as a mix, but my dad never believed in that. He’d whip up something from scratch, although I have to say that I don’t remember him ever shaking anything. And the whole question of using egg whites was never an issue for him  Why waste a raw egg on a drink when you could wake up in the morning and drink it Rocky Balboa style??

The original recipe for a whiskey sour was first recorded in 1862 in a book called The Bartender’s Guide, but some version of the cocktail is said to have been around for at least 100 years prior to that when sailors were drinking it to ward off scurvy on long sea voyages. Like some of the other classic cocktails, the whiskey sour has been making a reappearance on many bar menus and has become one of those drinks that home bartenders also take pride in making well. The use of an egg white is still up for debate; you certainly don’t have to use one if you’re opposed to it, or you can use less (anywhere from a 1/2 ounce on up). You can also consider a vegan substitute like chick pea liquid, but use a full ounce of that if you’re going to give it a try. Either way we’ll need to first dry shake the ingredients without ice to get the the drink good and foamy. Then we can add the ice and shake again to bring the temperature down.

The Whiskey Sour

2 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon*
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz egg white**
1 dash Angostura or other aromatic bitters
Orange strip and Italian cherries as a garnish

Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and dry shake for 15 seconds or so. Add the ice (1 large cube and 2 small if you can) and shake for another 15 seconds or until well chilled. Strain into an old-fashioned glass or a goblet over 1 large ice cube. Garnish with the orange and cherries. Using an eye dropper, place small drops of the bitters in the egg white to finish off the top of the drink. Toast the 1960s and enjoy!

*Of course! What else for me? Feel free to substitute your favorite.

**Use up to the full egg white, or 1 oz of a vegan substitute, or omit it entirely.

Vintage glass a recent thrift store find. I’m always on the lookout.

On tomorrow’s barlogue I’ll be changing things up a bit and covering Gorshin Trading Post & Supplies right here in Haddonfield. They carry excellent cocktail making supplies! Check back to read more.

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Let’s talk about Paris. The Strawberry Daiquiri meets the French 75.

Let’s talk about Paris. The Strawberry Daiquiri meets the French 75.

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Around this time last year my daughter and I were just starting to talk about a trip to Paris. I wanted to come up with a cocktail that we could drink as we sat down to begin making specific plans. Her only requirements were that it should have strawberries and St. Germain in it. I had recently had an abominable Strawberry Daiquiri made from a mix and remembered thinking “there has to be a way to come up with a respectable version of this drink.” I thought about making a French 75 and adding strawberries to it, but I didn’t have any Champagne in the house and I couldn’t get that Daiquiri out of my head. So what I decided on was a sort of a blend between the two drinks with the addition of strawberries and St. Germain. The color remained true to what we typically see in a frozen Daiquiri made from a mix, but the taste was something altogether different.

Let’s Talk About Paris

2 oz white rum*
1/2 oz St. Germain
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 simple syrup**
1 ripe strawberry
Pinch of salt***

Gently muddle together the strawberries and the simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker tin. Add the remaining ingredients to the shaker and add 1 large and 2 small cubes of ice. (If you don’t have the large format cubes on hand then fill the shaker about 2/3 full with ice). Shake for about 15 seconds or until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a strawberry slice. Enjoy!

*I used Petty’s Island Rum from our local Cooper River Distillers.

**Simple syrup is very easy to make at home. Combine equal amounts of regular sugar and water in a pot and heat until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture turns completely clear. Store in a mason jar in the refrigerator for about a month.

***The salt helps to brighten the flavor of the citrus in much the same way that it does in cooking.

Cocktail coupe glass made by Schott Zwiesel.

Follow up with me tomorrow when we’ll take a look at the Whiskey Sour, a classic shaken drink!

 

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Let’s Shake Things Up!

Let’s Shake Things Up!

 

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Happy Monday! So far we’ve talked about drinks that are built and drinks that are stirred, two methods of making cocktails that yield a clear finished product with very little texture at all. If we take a look at the drink above we immediately see that it’s neither clear nor smooth. That’s because this is a shaken drink, and the whole purpose of preparing it this way is to emulsify the ingredients and infuse the cocktail with texture in the form of air bubbles. This cocktail also contains both citrus juice and egg whites, two ingredients that require shaking in order to be properly incorporated. As soon as you see either of them in a recipe you know you’ll be taking your shaker out! So let’s get down to the details.

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We start by measuring and pouring our ingredients into a cocktail shaker. What you see pictured above is the smaller half of a Boston shaker. It measures 16 oz. and the larger half measures 28 oz. I always build the drink in the smaller half and then add my ice. In terms of which ice to use, I found the information in Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold to be truly helpful. He painstakingly conducted experiments to see what effect different sized ice cubes had on shaken cocktails and concluded that the best combination is one large cube and 2 small. To be honest, I really didn’t believe this at first. What difference could it possibly make? So I followed Arnold’s suggestion and did the experiment at home. Just as he predicted the cocktail with the large and small cubes had the best texture by a long shot.

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Once we’ve added all our ingredients, the next step is to seal the shaker. To do this I place the larger half on top of the smaller half and give it a good whack with my palm. The pressure inside the shaker from the changing temperature builds up and helps to seal the two tins together. To get ready to shake I invert the tins (so that the smaller one is on the top and the larger one is on the bottom) and I point the bottom half away from me at an angle. The reason for this is so that if the tins were to separate the drink would end up all over me, not my guest. Now I’m ready to shake – this is the best part! Rather than shaking in a back and forth motion, I like the recommendation from Death & Co. to think of moving the shaker in a fast arc so that the ice cubes are spinning around inside, rather than slamming back and forth. This means less breakage and less chance of too much dilution. I shake the drink for a  good 10 -15 seconds; I want it to get very cold. I shake for less time if I’m making a drink like a Cucumber Collins that will be served over ice. There is also something called a dry shake that’s used when there are egg whites in the drink. You seal the tins and shake vigorously with no ice to get the egg whites nice and foamy, then add your ice and shake again to chill. After I’m finished shaking, I separate the tins by holding them in my right hand and giving another good whack with my left palm right about where the two tins are joined together. Alternatively (and I like this better) I squeeze the larger tin in that same approximate spot and push against the smaller one until the seal breaks.

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Before I actually pour my drink, I place my larger half of the shaker into the smaller half (you can see that above). It’s just a good habit to get into and it helps to keep your work area neat. I double strain my drink into a chilled cocktail glass using a Hawthorne strainer and a mesh strainer. This is to be sure to keep small pieces of ice out of the finished drink. We’re now ready to garnish and serve! As with the building and stirring techniques we’ve already covered, try to develop a regular pattern when shaking your cocktails. This creates consistency and that’s the hallmark of a great bartender!

Check back tomorrow and Wednesday for recipes!

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