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The Lemon Blueberry Buckle Cocktail

The Lemon Blueberry Buckle Cocktail

When I was growing up and it was blueberry season, my mom would make a dessert called a blueberry buckle. I no longer have the original recipe because we lost it somewhere along the way, but it was very similar to other blueberry buckles that I’ve been able to find online. The batter had lemon peel in it and there was a brown sugar cinnamon spice topping that finished the whole thing off. Prime time for blueberries in NJ runs the entire month of July right into the first week of

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Green Chartreuse: Into the Deep, Dark woods…

Green Chartreuse: Into the Deep, Dark woods…

While Yellow Chartreuse is sunshine and warmth, Green Chartreuse takes you somewhere deep into the woods and inundates you with green botanicals. It almost tastes mentholated, but smooth, with its more bracing herbs toned down a bit by the barrel aging. It has a natural affinity for gin and tequila, it is one of the famous ingredients in the classic cocktail The Last Word, and it’s a favorite of Queen Elizabeth in a Champagne and Chartreuse cocktail she loves to drink. It’s higher in alcohol that its yellow counterpart, so keep in mind that it’ll pack more of a punch. It can be enjoyed as an after dinner drink on its own; just remember to serve it very cold.

For today’s drink I wanted to feature a classic cocktail that I’d never tried before called the Bijou made with Gin, Sweet Vermouth, and orange bitters in addition to Green Chartreuse. When I looked into the history of the cocktail, I learned that it dates back to the late 1800s and that the original recipe called for equal parts of the 3 spirits. It was once as popular as the Martini and the Manhatten, but then it fell into obscurity after Prohibition. The legendary bartender and author, Dale DeGroff, loved to put a modern spin on classic cocktails. He breathed life back into the Bijou by changing the drink’s proportions and putting it on the menu of his Rainbow Room in Rockefeller Center in NYC. I was all set to make the Bijou for today’s post, but then a funny thing happened. Instead of grabbing the bottle of Carpano Antica ( a sweet red vermouth), I accidentally reached for the Dolin Blanc (a sweet white vermouth) instead. I went ahead and made the drink without thinking and then realized that its color was off. I tasted it anyway and fell completely in love! The herbs and flowers in the Dolin worked perfectly with the botanicals in the Chartreuse, while the gin provided the backbone for the drink, keeping it from becoming too cloyingly sweet. It was unintentional, but fantastic, and so I named it Bijou Blanc.

Bijou Blanc 

1½ oz gin (preferably Plymouth)
½ oz Dolin Blanc
½ oz Green Chartreuse
1 dash, orange bitters (I used Fee Brothers)
Lemon peel
Cherry or olive for garnish

Add all the ingredients, except the lemon peel and garnish, to a mixing glass. Fill with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Twist the lemon peel over the glass to express the oils and discard. Garnish with the cherry or olive.

Friday Musings: What’s the last thing you remember?

Friday Musings: What’s the last thing you remember?

Last January I had dinner with friends at a restaurant here in NJ that serves super-sized martinis. I’m not a fan of the big gulp martini because it leaves you with 2 options and neither of them are good. The first is that you sip your cocktail at the normal rate and end up drinking something that becomes very warm. YUCK is the most elegant prose I have regarding that choice. Your second option involves you downing the drink as quickly as you can in order to enjoy it at the right temperature. That can be extremely dangerous. On that night last January, I made the unfortunate decision to go with choice #2 and my recollection of that part of the evening ends shortly after I finished my martini. The last thing I remember is the appetizers being brought to the table. I’m off the grid, so to speak, for the entire dinner during which I eat my entrée, drink some wine (from a bottle that I apparently ordered), get up and have a conversation with a friend that stops by to say hello, and remove one of my shoes. When my memory returns I’m sitting at the bar with an after dinner drink in front of me (as if could possibly have needed more), and I’m in the middle of a very animated discussion about lipstick, of all things. At least I have both my shoes back on at this point.

I woke up the next morning in a full panic. What had I said? What had I done? How had I acted? We’ve all had instances back in college when there were blackout moments, but this felt crazy and impossible to me after just one martini, albeit a super-sized one. I began thinking that what happened to me had to be an early symptom of something awful. Dementia. Alzheimer’s. A brain tumor. Determined to find answers, I began to do research. It turns out that there is a very scientific reason why a blackout occurs, and it involves a specific region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible for converting short term memories into long term memories. The hippocampus is one of the first areas to be compromised by alcohol consumption, long before the speech and motor centers become impaired. That’s why an individual can appear to be acting normally, yet have no recollection of anything the next day. As for recovering any of the memories that occurred during the blackout, it will never happen because they simply no longer exist. There are several factors that contribute to the likelihood that a blackout will occur. The first is how quickly alcohol is consumed, so it’s really important to pace yourself, especially with high proof drinks like martinis. The second is how little or how much food and water a person has had that day, so be sure to eat before and while you’re drinking and try to stay hydrated. That’s super important. Finally, women are more predisposed to blackouts than men, so all of these precautions are especially important if you happen to be a girl.

It seems a bit ironic to craft a cocktail that’s named after a memory loss episode caused by drinking too much alcohol, but I can never pass up the opportunity to make a new drink! In coming up with the ingredients for The Blackout, I wanted to start with things that are obviously deep and dark in both flavor and color. That led me right to rye whiskey and aged rum as my combination of base spirits, and blackberries, black tea syrup, and black bitters as the additional elements that complement them. I wanted an herbal component in this cocktail too, and I wanted it to be something interesting and different. I recently picked up a bottle of Génépy des Alpes, whose delicate floral flavor falls somewhere in between Green and Yellow Chartreuse. It’s made from an herb that is a direct cousin to wormwood, the trouble-causing element in Absinthe. I decided to use both liqueurs in this drink because blackouts certainly cause their fair share of trouble! The last ingredient I added was rosemary, muddled directly into the drink, infused into the black tea syrup, and as a garnish. Why? Because rosemary is for remembrance. I couldn’t wait to write that!

I wish you all a festive and blackout-free New Year’s Eve. Have fun but be safe. See you in 2017!

The Blackout

1½ oz Old Overholt rye whiskey
1 oz Appleton Estate 12-year-old rum
½ oz Génépy des Alpes
¼ oz Pernod Absinthe to rinse the glass
1/2 oz black tea and rosemary honey syrup*
2 dashes DRAM Apothecary black bitters
6 blackberries for muddling
2 rosemary sprigs, 1 for muddling, 1 for garnishing

Pour the absinthe into an old-fashioned glass, swirl to coat the sides, and then discard the absinthe. Muddle the blackberries and 1 rosemary sprig in the bottom half of a shaker tin with the honey syrup. Strain into a mixing glass using a fine strainer. Press on the solids. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the garnishes, into the mixing glass. Fill the glass ⅔ full with ice. Stir with a long-handled bar spoon for 30-45 seconds or until very cold. Strain with a julep strainer and pour into the absinthe-rinsed glass over 1 large cube. Garnish with the other rosemary sprig. Enjoy!

*For the honey syrup, steep 2 tea bags in hot water in a measuring cup for 5 minutes with a sprig of rosemary. Remove the tea bags and add an equal amount of honey (or agave if you’re vegan). Store in a Mason jar in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

December New Moon: Getting ready to close out 2017

December New Moon: Getting ready to close out 2017

I think you all know by now that I occasionally like to interject a little bit of astrology into my cocktail posts. Today is going to be one of those days. Earlier this morning, just before 2 am, the last new moon of 2016 occurred. A new moon always marks the end of one lunar cycle and the beginning of another; it’s a constant or a given, something that has been happening since forever. Each month we’re given a new opportunity to make a to-do list and tackle it with fresh energy. This is especially significant right now because in a few days we’ll be turning that to-do list into our New Year’s resolutions. The December new moon encourages us to turn our thoughts inward and reflect on what goals we’d like to set for ourselves, not just for this month, but for the entire year ahead. It also suggests that these goals can actually be soothing and healing for us, because they impose order and provide some structure to our lives, thus helping us to make sense out of the day-to-day chaos that happens to all of us. They also give us clarity and insight into what we really want, but it’s up to us to figure out the steps we need to take to actually achieve them.

In creating this December New Moon cocktail, I decided that mezcal was going to be my base spirit since it’s such an agent of clarity for so many people. After all, at some point in our lives haven’t we all claimed to see more clearly after a shot of tequila?? For my next spirit I went with Yellow Chartreuse for its color and its subtle herbal profile, and because I love the way it pairs together with mezcal. Chartreuse has been made in the same way by the Carthusian monks since 1737, based on careful instructions contained in a manuscript from 1605, that they are not sharing with anyone. Apparently French and Italian monks are equally secretive! I felt like this ancient recipe brought the idea of order and structure to the drink. Ginger and lemon also work well with mezcal, and since both are very soothing they fit in with the theme of the cocktail too. The chamomile syrup added just the right amount of sweetness to offset the lemon’s acidity, and the sage bitters echoed the herbal notes in the Chartreuse. In terms of symbolism, chamomile encourages us to have patience and sage brings us healing. I was happy with how all the components came together in this drink, and I felt like they each had a deeper meaning as well. It reminded me of a Penicillin Cocktail, with its smoky, gingery, lemony profile, but mezcal is very different from Scotch in that it has that elusive element to it that can only be described as funk. The Chartreuse, chamomile, and sage enhance that funkiness, bringing it even more to the forefront. Sip this cocktail slowly and patiently and let the new moon guide you as you write your New Year’s resolutions. Don’t forget to make drinking new cocktails one of them!

December New Moon

1½ oz Del Maguey Chichicapa mezcal (or your favorite mezcal)*
½ oz Yellow Chartreuse
½ oz Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
½ oz lemon juice
½ chamomile agave syrup**
2 dashes DRAM Apothecary Wild Mountain Sage bitters
Candied ginger cube for garnishing

Place all the ingredients in the bottom half of a shaker tin and add your ice. Shake vigorously for 20 seconds or until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a ginger cube on a skewer. Enjoy!

*You can swap tequila for the mezcal, but just remember that it won’t have the same smoky flavor profile that mezcal does. Smokiness in a drink does not appeal to everyone, so the tequila makes a good substitute in that case.

**Steep 2 chamomile teabags in hot water for 3 minutes or so. Combine equal parts of the tea and the agave and store in a Mason jar in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

Of the 3 spirits that visit Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was always the one that I feared the most as a child. Tall and imposing, wearing a cloak that is as black as the night around him, his slow walk across the snow towards Scrooge always struck terror in my heart. I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt that way. Since then I’ve often wondered why Charles Dickens made the ghost that would show Scrooge his future so very formidable. If you think about it for a moment we probably all wouldn’t mind a visit from this ghost if he was a bit more pleasant looking and nicely tempered. Who doesn’t want a glimpse into their future? Isn’t it true that many of us visit psychics, read tarot cards, consult numerologists, and follow our horoscopes in the hope that we might gain some insight? Of course it is, although if I were sitting in the waiting room waiting for a psychic and this is who walked through the door, I’d run as fast as my feet would carry me! Maybe Dickens made this particular spirit so frightening because what’s ahead of Scrooge is so grim. He needed to feel that intense fear before he would really be willing to change the course of his life. Or maybe it’s Dickens’ admonition to his readers to be sure we’re living a life that we’d want to be remembered by. Everyone wants to be well-loved, but we can only get there if we keep our hearts open and we love well in return.

Creating a cocktail that captured the essence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was truly a fun challenge. My middle son (who was the mastermind behind the idea of this little cocktail series this week) was the first person to come up with the thought of going with a flavor profile that suggested coldness and austerity. I started out with Bluecoat gin as my base and paired it with Krogstad aquavit, a dry Scandinavian caraway-based spirit that has a natural affinity towards gin. Krogstad is meant to be served super cold; in fact, right from the freezer is considered ideal. I liked the combination of the two spirits together but it was very dry, so I added in simple syrup for some sweetness, and lemon to pull out the citrus flavor of the Bluecoat and to balance out the sugar. I needed a bitter element next, but rather than go with some sort of bottled bitters, I chose to use a muddled vegetable instead because it seemed like the better fit. Watercress was the perfect choice. The ginger was my final addition and it had the effect of binding the drink together because it works so well with each of the other components. To turn the drink black I emptied one capsule of activated charcoal in with the other ingredients right before shaking. I went with a sugared rim for my garnish. You tell me what you see there. Is it just snow and ice? Maybe. Or is it the outstretched hand of the ghost beckoning you to follow? You decide.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

1½ oz Bluecoat gin
½ oz Krogstad Aquavit
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup
The contents of 1 activated charcoal capsule
Ginger slices and watercress for muddling
Decorative sugar for garnishing

Rub some simple syrup around the outside of a cocktail glass and then roll the sides of the glass in the decorative sugar. Muddle the watercress and ginger slices with the simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker tin. Add the remaining ingredients along with ice and shake vigorously for 20 seconds or until very, very cold. Double strain using a Hawthorne strainer and a mesh strainer into the cocktail glass. Enjoy!

Stop back tomorrow for a roundup of Christmas cocktails, 3 of which I’ll be pouring this Friday night during candlelight shopping at Gorshin Trading Post right here in downtown Haddonfield.