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Segue Into Spring: Moving from one season into the next

Segue Into Spring: Moving from one season into the next

Sometimes when one season transitions into the next, the change can seem a bit abrupt. This is often not a problem when we’re moving out of winter because we’re eager to be basking in 75 degree temperatures. Since the first day of spring occurs in the ever-fickle month of March, however, things don’t always go as expected. I had the opportunity to visit the Tait Farms booth at the Philadelphia Flower Show this past Saturday, and I’ve been wanting to use their pear shrub in a spring cocktail ever since. The weather over

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Infusing Spirits. The Double Green Cocktail.

Infusing Spirits. The Double Green Cocktail.

Infusing spirits will take your cocktail making adventures to a whole new level. Although you can certainly bring flavor into a drink in other ways, like in a simple syrup, there’s a certain amount of subtlety that’s achieved when you infuse it instead. Additionally, making your own infusion allows you to avoid buying some of the positively awful flavored spirits that are available on the shelves right now. There are a few rules of thumb to the infusion process. First, use a high quality spirit to

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A shrub in a cocktail? How do I get it in the glass??

A shrub in a cocktail? How do I get it in the glass??

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Happy Repeal Day!! I have to be honest and say that the first time I saw a shrub listed as an ingredient in a cocktail, I really didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. I tried to pretend as if I knew… Oh sure shrubs, they’re awesome in cocktails, but really I was thinking whaaat??? Just a little bit of research told me everything I needed to know. The origin of shrubs goes back to colonial times when refrigeration was not available, and vinegar was used as a means of preserving fruit. Early Americans discovered that if they strained out the fruit and added a little cane syrup and some spices to what was left behind, they’d produce a drinking vinegar, also know as a shrub. They subsequently learned that they could then add a little soda water for a soft drink, or some alcohol to make a cocktail. Once I understood what shrubs were I was truly curious to try a drink made with one, but then I’m a person who loves the taste of vinegar. I know what you’re all thinking. Last Friday I told you about a bitter spirit that tasted like medicinal mud, and now I’m suggesting that you drink some vinegar! I was a bit skeptical too at first, but this is definitely worth exploring. When I finally got to have one, I was pleasantly surprised by how different and refreshing it was, but if you’re a person who loves sweet cocktails then those made with shrubs may be an acquired taste for you. After all, vinegar is distinctly sour, and that sourness does not disappear even after the addition of simple syrup and bitters, but I still encourage you to give them a try. Have I ever really steered you wrong?? Shrubs are also something that can be made at home, so if you’re a person who is into home canning or preserving this might be just the thing for you!

I’m preparing to pour cocktails this Friday night at Gorshin Trading Post in Haddonfield, so I’ve been doing some tasting to figure out which drinks I want to serve. I knew I wanted one of them to be a kind of a holiday shrub that used some of the products that are available to purchase right in the store. I decided on the McClary Bros. Michigan Saskatoon shrub and the Jack Rudy aromatic bitters. I went with my own homemade simple syrup made with black tea and rosemary to give the drink a deeper base, and to bring in an herbal quality that makes me think of Christmas. Finally, I needed a main spirit and I wanted it to be local so I chose Stateside Vodka, a super-pure product distilled right in nearby Kensington. This is an easy drink to mix up in a batch for a holiday party because it requires just a little bit of stirring over ice. Add a cranberry on a skewer and a rosemary sprig and you’re good to go!

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Old Time Holiday Shrub (recipe adapted from McClary Bros.)

3 oz. Stateside Vodka
2 oz. McClary Bros. drinking vinegar (Michigan Saskatoon or Michigan Cranberry)
1/2 oz Black tea and Rosemary simple syrup*
2 dashes Jack Rudy aromatic bitters
3 oz Q club soda
1 cranberry and a rosemary sprig for garnishing

Place all the ingredients except for the cranberry and rosemary into a mixing glass and fill 2/3 full with ice. Stir with a long-handled bar spoon until very cold. Strain using a julep strainer, and pour over ice into a Collins glass. Skewer the cranberry with a toothpick and garnish along with the rosemary sprig. Enjoy!

*To make the simple syrup, add equal parts black oolong tea and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 2 rosemary sprigs to a mason jar, pour in the syrup, and seal. Let steep for a few hours until you can distinctly taste the rosemary. Discard the sprigs and the syrup will keep for a few weeks in the fridge.

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Thursday Barlogue: Federal Distilling Room in Philadelphia

Thursday Barlogue: Federal Distilling Room in Philadelphia

stateside1Two Saturdays ago my husband and I were headed into the city for dinner. We decided to stop for drinks beforehand at Federal Distilling Room (FDR) in the Kensington section of Philadelphia, which opened to the public just this past August. Having always been a vodka lover, I was excited to have an opportunity to taste their Stateside Urbancraft Vodka because I’d already read and heard so many good things about it. I was also very intrigued to take a look at their drink menu, which features vodka as the main spirit. If you’ve been reading my blog this week, you know how much it distresses me that the list of vodka cocktails is woefully short at so many bars. Definitely not the case here! There are 12 very innovative drinks on the menu (with excellent names, I might add), but I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s start by talking about the space itself.

The wide open tasting room has a very cool urban vibe to it with its white brick walls, industrial lighting, and exposed pipes. There is table seating off to the right side in front of a large glass window through which you can see into the distillery. To the left is a beautiful marble bar that sits beneath the large Stateside Vodka sign. Behind it the backbar shelving holds a striking display of the vodka itself, as well as a wide selection of other well-known spirits. So if you are not a vodka drinker, you will have no problem finding another cocktail to order here! There were a good number of people sitting at the bar that Saturday night; the entire room felt full of positive energy and there was great music coming from an awesome sound system.stateside2We found 2 spots at the bar and were greeted warmly by Matt Quigley, co-owner of FDR along with his brother Bryan, and Kyle DiRaddo, who was bartending that night but who also had a hand in crafting the drinks on the cocktail menu. Both Matt and Kyle talked about the challenges involved in developing a bar program around a spirit like vodka, which, if made well, will totally fade into the background and allow the other elements of the cocktails to take center stage. I love the fact that several of their drinks are classics with just a simple twist: Scent of a Mule is a Moscow Mule with a bit of vanilla extract, The Collie Man is a take on a Vodka Collins with some basil added in, and my favorite is The Cat’s Pajamas, a variation of a vodka martini with orange liqueur, lillet blanc, and orange bitters subbing in for the traditional dry vermouth. I had this drink and it was excellent!stateside3

The other implication of your main spirit stepping gracefully aside is that your secondary ingredients and garnishes had better be as innovative, interesting, and fresh as possible. Federal Distilling Room makes this look easy by using a wide assortment of bitters, fresh juices, house made simple syrups infused with things like cucumber and blueberry-ginger, and liqueurs like Triple sec, Elderflower, and Crème de Violette. DiRaddo explained to me that FDR’s syrups are made with 4 parts water to 1 part sugar, which lightens them up considerably. This helps to impart a clean taste to the cocktails because they are not weighed down by a heavy syrup and it also respects the move that most people are making towards being more health-conscious in general. DiRaddo and I also talked about their jalapeño-infused vodka and how FDR arrived, through trial and error, on 4 days being the sweet spot to get the infusion just right. This attention to detail makes all the difference in the world. I had the Day Walker (pictured below), the drink that uses the jalapeño-infused vodka and the blueberry-ginger syrup, and I could easily see why it, along with The Cleanse, is one of the most popular drinks on the menu. My husband had the Dirty and Gritty, also with the jalapeño-infused vodka and some olive juice, making it another subtle twist on a classic: the Dirty Martini.stateside4In addition to the great cocktails, FDR also offers a small but impressive wine and beer list. In terms of food, FDR’s offerings are far more substantial than what you’d normally expect from a tasting room. There are some snack items like glazed kettle chips, sausage and honey, marinated olives, and house made ricotta, but there are also heartier offerings that include sandwiches, panini, flatbread, and chili.

On the day that I revisited FDR to take some pictures for this post, I had the opportunity to tour the distilling room and learn more about Stateside Vodka, one of the fastest growing spirits in Pennsylvania. Stateside is made from non-GMO Missouri corn and it is gluten-free. It is distilled 7 times and then infused with medical grade oxygen for a 24-hour period (to refine the nose) before it’s run through a 12-step filtration system. This same system also filters all the water and ice used in both the distillery and in the bar area. The vodka is then washed with carbon before moving onto the final step where pharmaceutical grade minerals are added back in. This improves the taste and mouthfeel of the vodka and, more importantly, because electrolytes are so important to cellular hydration it helps to mitigate hangover symptoms. That’s good news for all of us! There’s no question that Stateside is an exceptional vodka. The aroma is clean and the taste is smooth. I’ve used it in several cocktails at home and to me it stands right up there with CROP vodka, which is my favorite. It’s not surprising to me at all that Stateside has won 8 medals, or that it was the official vodka of the DNC.stateside5The bottom line here is that Federal Distilling Room is more than just a tasting room. It’s an awesome space with a well-stocked bar where you can order a number of fabulous vodka cocktails, as well as just about any other drink you might want to have. The food menu is light enough if you’re just stopping by for a drink, or substantial enough if you plan to make a night out of it. Be sure to get there soon; you’ll be more than happy that you did!

Federal Distilling Room   1700 N Hancock Street   Philadelphia, PA

For those of you that are local, I’ll be pouring drinks tonight from 5-9 at Gorshin Trading Post in Haddonfield, NJ for Girls’ Night Out. I am using Stateside Vodka in one of the cocktails I’m making. Stop in and give it a try!

On the blog tomorrow, I’ll be talking about the easiest way to make cocktails for a crowd.

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