If there is anything that we tipsy tipplers should take from the "localvore"/green living orgy that is going on around us right now, it is that we need to not just eat seasonally, but also drink seasonally. That whole "variety is the spice of life" thing is bigger than parents trying to get kids to eat nasty greens or a means of accomodating an outrageous character like Leslie. It's a way of enjoying what is available to us locally, the bikurim, the first fruits, at the peak of freshness, rather than inflexibly imposing our vision of what we want to eat on the food chain. Applying this concept to our cocktails is the obvious next step. In Texas right now we are coming out of peach season and into canteloupe (and cucumber and watermelon) season. As part of my academic committment to drinking seasonally, I procured a couple of prime canteloupes at the farmer's market recently, and let them sit on the counter til they were over-ripe, when the skins started to sink in and shrivel. (This was less of a plan than a general tendency to abandon produce once it enters the house.) I then peeled and deseeded them, and juiced the chunks in an old-style juice press (you can also blend the meat and strain through a china cap or mesh strainer.) The result is a refreshing, fabulousy uncommon, seasonally correct mixer.
First up I tried a Canteloupe Margarita
2oz Tequila (I used a 100% agave silver)
1 1/2 oz. Paula's Texas Orange Liqueur (Cointreau is a substitute if you are outside of PTO's natural range)
1 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz fresh-squeezed Canteloupe juice
I serve it one of two ways: Shake and serve over rocks. Or, if you have juiced the canteloupe using the blender method, shake and strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass, then top with some of the canteloupe froth from the blender
This is a tasty, well-balanced, subtle drink.
1 1/2 Vodka (in this case the localvore is fortunate enough to have locally distilled Tito's Handmade Vodka, but any one will do)
4 oz Fresh-squeezed canteloupe juice
I didn't like this as much as the margarita. It seems like it needs something, but I ran out of canteloupe juice so I will have to pick up the experiment another day...
On a recent trip to Homeslice Pizza on South Congress I was telling Nano, the manager-rocker-studmuffin guy, that I was starting a cocktail blog, and he said that I had to try The Liberace. Though I wasn’t planning to have a cocktail, I was certainly/am always open to the possibility of one when it presents itself, and so I ordered a Liberace.
I like this drink. It is much less flamboyant than its name would indicate (I was picturing rhinestones in the bottom of the glass, and maybe a glittery cocktail napkin), but pleasing nonetheless, and an exciting show of creativity for a restaurant that doesn't have a hard liquor permit. The Liberace consists of a generous pour of Prosecco topped with a splash of Izze blackberry and a lemon twist. I was stumped for a descriptor, but bartender Betty gave it to me: “It tastes like a Sweetart.”
Yesterday I got an email from Wiggy's announcing that they are serving complimentary Palomas to qualifying adults this Saturday July 14th, from 10am-9pm at their 1130 West 6th St. location.
Now, I love my little local liquor store, and the Lord knows I love a complimentary cocktail, or he wouldn't have sent me this email. I even love the Paloma. But I'm not feeling the love in this statement from the email:
"This is an easy to make alternative to the Margarita that I am sure you are tired of by now."
Tired of the Margarita? I've been drinking (undisclosed quantity, sealed for security purposes) Margaritas a week for the last ten years or so and I am not tired of them. I'm tired of crappy bartenders who don't know how to make a good margarita. I'm tired of all these cheesy-ass shortcut products that make people think they're tired of the margarita, like the margarita king and jose cuervo margaritas on tap. I'm tired of salted rims and those blue margaritas (what the hell?). I'm even tired of work, which keeps me away from margaritas. But tired of Margaritas? Not quite. That said, if Wiggys' slightly misguided assumption means that I get a free cocktail, so be it--they can make an ass out of the both of us any day.
1 ½ ounces reposado tequila
Pinch of kosher salt
Fill a highball glass with ice. Squeeze lime half into it and drop in the shell. Add tequila and salt. Top off with grapefruit soda, stir lightly, and add a straw.
Recipe and backstory from Drinks magazine
Very rarely do I find what I would call a tasty cocktail at those family-friendly restaurants, the kind with kids menus and crayons and blinky coaster-pagers. Sometimes, there is not even a palatable one among the pineappley rum shakes and cloyingly pre-yucky margaritas. But in Austin at Shady Grove, part of the Chuy's/Comida Deluxe group, there is a drink called the Shady Thang that I think deserves honorable mention. It is basically a frozen margarita, minus the ta'kill ya, sub Pisco brandy and Vodka. I don't know ratios as I haven't tried to recreate it at home. If there are any former or current Comida employees who would like to leak the secret recipe I would greatly appreciate it. Until then, I will enjoy drinking the experiments.
Starfish Cooler, official cocktail of Tales of the Cocktail 2007
After Lunch today we assembled with the other conventioneers at the rooftop ballroom of the hotel for the official toast to Tales of the Cocktail. This was a double unveiling, as it happens. First there was the first group tasting of the Starfish Cooler, which is the official cocktail of this year’s conference. 70 + bartenders entered recipes, and Stacy Smith of G.W. Finn’s won. Entrants had adhere to certain parameters, which is mainly a way of ensuring that the Sponsors’ products end up in the drink.
Starfish Cooler Glass Used: Collins Ingredient:
1 oz. Moët and Chandon White Star
1 oz. Lemoncello
1 oz. PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
1 oz. Un-sweet Iced Tea
½ oz. Simple Syrup Directions:
Muddle orange slice and mint leaf in Collins glass.
Combine all ingredients. Garnish:
1 mint leaf
1 orange slice
Over the years, I have had to learn to appreciate a number of different cocktail ingredients that had taken on a negative association in my mind after earlier unfortunate incidences from the High School/College I period. As young drinkers we generally learn to drink from people who don't know what they're doing (the first drink I learned how to make was a Purple Fuzzy F*cker); we consume products of dubious provenance and quality, in unrecommended amounts, until we eventually learn (it is hoped) the beauty of quality and moderation. For example, I began a years-long dislike for Tequila after an unfortunate night in Nuevo Laredo that involved me stumbling to a men's room and, upon not finding a light switch or it not working, vomitting into the dark void of the room. Eventually as an adult I learned to appreciate Tequila, and as any Texan worth his salt would, I partake of it regularly.
My mal-association with Gin and Tonic involved a night of highschool hijnx that ended with me waking up at a friend's house, after having been found somehow straddled diagonally between the front and back seats of my 1989 Ford Taurus station wagon with my head resting comfortably in a styrofoam box of Taco Cabana chips & queso. Although my relationship with queso was, inexplicably, not damaged by this incident, I never did regain a taste for Gin and Tonic--that is, not until recently.
A few weeks ago I was talking with Dorsey Barger, the proprietor of Eastside Cafe, about the drinks we like to make with locally-produced Paula's Texas Lemon. She explained how she makes a Gin and Tonic with a PTL floater, in a glass rimmed with Orange Saltburst, from a local company called Spiceburst. (It is sea salt seasoned with orange zest, dried rosemary, paprika.) Dorsey's drink was good, but I couldn't get past the tonic.
Then I met Jordan Silbert, creator of Q Tonic, at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans. It was there that I learned that I didn't hate tonic, per se, just that I hated the commercially available crappy tonic. Jordan makes his product from real quinine and agave nectar, not fake quinine and high fructose corn syrup like (just about) everybody else. It is crisp and clean, not gross and ass-nasty; it is truly "super-premium", if such a term can be applied to a non-alcohol component. Back at home, I revisited and revised Dorsey's drink:
Gin and Texas
In a collins glass rimmed with Orange Saltburst, add big rocks and the following:
1 1/2 oz Plymouth or Aviation Gin
Juice 1/2 lime and drop shell
Top with Q Tonic or commercial tonic if you're not in the one state (NY) where Q is available thus far...
Top with floater each of Paula's Texas Lemon and Paula's Texas Orange
I've been playing with watermelon juice, which is one of my favorite mixers this time of year. We have been using watermelon juice to modify standard cocktails for a while, and watermelon mojitos are particularly refreshing at a hot Austin summer party. This time I was trying to come up with something a little more interesting.
(Unfortunately this year I have heard that the local watermelon crop will be short b/c of the unseasonable monsoon weather we've been experiencing.)
I mixed this up and it came out the color of the zinnias out in the garden. Zinnia
1 oz Pisco
1/2 oz Pear liqueur (like Mathilde)
1/2 oz Pimm's No. 1
1 1/2 oz Fresh watermelon juice
Dash each Fee Bros Orange and Lemon Bitters
Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish w/ lemon spiral
Today we tried a classic Blood & Sand, but substituted Watermelon ("sandia" in Spanish) juice for the oj.
Blood & Sandia
3/4 oz. Scotch
3/4 oz. Sweet Vermouth (we used Vya)
3/4 oz. Peter Heering Cherry Heering
1 oz. Fresh-pressed Watermelon juice
Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.
If work could always be this fun...
Last night we had the pleasure of "working" at the Taste of the Nation event, the annual fancy food fundraiser/high-class drunkfest for Share Our Strength, the hunger relief organization. The template is a familiar one: A high-tone venue is selected--in this case the Four Seasons--and several dozen of the best restaurants in town present a bite-sized morsel of their food, often on a crisp of some kind. A major booze purveyor or two (this time Republic, who represents Patron, Stoli, among others) poneys up some bar supplies and the upper crust pay big money to eat and shmooze and support a nonprofit, but most importantly to drink.
Usually as a coffee vendor I do not have much to do at these events because people want the booze. I get a small rush at the end of the evening when people are getting ready to leave, but for the rest of the evening I have plenty of time to eat and drink and schmooze with the WASPS. Last night was an entirely different story, however, because I have changed my formula. Realizing that people come for the booze, I decided several events ago to befriend the booze sponsor and work their product into a coffee drink (a Cofftail, a cafftail?). During the (supposedly) cooler Fall when most of these events take place, I have no trouble adding booze to hot coffee drinks. There are numerous variations on these. The problem though is that a spiked cappuccino does not offer much in the way of refreshment on a hot and humid August evening such as last night.
So I perused the selections that were available to me. I should say that sharing a table with the Patron people is a fortuitous fate indeed, since I had numerous bottles of Patron, Patron XO coffee liqueur, Patron Citronge, and Pyrat Rum at my disposal (this is a much better selection than the countless flavored rums and vodkas that usually get donated to events such as these.) We got to work shaking up a cocktail that would be a contrast to what the girls next to us were serving, mostly Patron "cosmos" and Patron "mojitos." I use quotation marks because I feel that if you change the base spirit you could probably rename the drink, but as I learned myself at that event, the use of the familiar standard cocktail name is a source of comfort to these patrons who are more affluent than they are adventurous.
We made two drinks that were a hit among Austin's finest, and I'm not sure if that speaks well or ill of this drink. For the moment we will assume the former.
The first cocktail was a creamy concoction that we dubbed the Mexical Freetail, in honor of the famed urban bat colony that takes residence under the bridge a few yards from the hotel where this event took place. It is basically a chocolatey Patron White Russian, a description which I realized was more appealing to our audience than the clever name we came up with.
1/2 oz Patron Silver
1/2 oz Patron XO
1/2 oz 1883 Chocolate syrup (or similar, like Torani or Monin)
1 oz Half & Half
1 oz Cold-brewed coffee concentrate (pre-diluted Toddy process coffee; chilled espresso would work)
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Tonight we tasted a cocktail called The Stargazer, by Robert Hess of Drinkboy.com
The cocktail was created for the 2006 Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans, the 2007 version of which we attended in July.
This drink consists of Lillet Blonde and Rye Whisky, I used Old Olverholt though there are also Ryes from Jim Beam, Wild Turkey and Sazerac that are available at Twin, Specs, and Wiggy's. From what little I know about Rye, I thought OO tasted kind of rustic. At TOTC I asked Robert Hess and he told me that it wasn’t bad, “for the price” (about $11.)
We were prompted to pick up a bottle of Old Olverholt after sitting at the bar at Katz’s Deli one night and owner Marc Katz was telling us about how in New York in the 1950’s real men drank Old Overholt. “That was a man’s drink. My father was a rye man.”
This conversation took place during the big “ice storm” that hit Austin back in January, which might not be identifiable as a big ice storm to anyone who has actually seen an ice storm. But by sunny Austin standards, it was huge, and when the city shut down, Marc’s deli was one of the only businesses open. Apparently all this talk of rye enlivened a taste bud in the spirited restaurateur, and he stumbled to the liquor room in the back of the restaurant to retrieve the bottle of Old Overholt, which he thought he had procured, but it was nowhere to be found. After the city thawed out we made our way to Spec’s where I found the bottle of OO, though I had to go through three or four before I found a bottle that did not leak when laid on its side in the basket.
Regarding Lillet, it says that once opened it can be stored in the refrigerator for “up to a week.” I was thinking it would be one of those use-a-splash-here-and-there-for-years kinds of bottles. Of course, there are worse fates than being rushed into consuming more cocktails more faster…
The drink consists of equal parts Lillet and Rye, a dash of Angostura, shaken and strained into a chilled cocktail glass. You can find the exact recipe here.
A couple of nights ago Joe made a classic Tom Collins and then started trying a few variations. It ocurred to us that it would be fun to make our own contribution to the Collins chapter of the cocktail canon. The challenge is that the Collins is in a crowded field. Besides Tom, there is also John (bourbon or geneva gin, depending on whom you ask), Juan (tequila), and Pierre (Cognac). When Joe made a Collins with grapefruit juice instead of lemon, we thought we had it--Joan Collins. Unfortunately we found out that a Joan Collins has already been created as a Brandy interpretation of the original.
We also decided we should stick with the spirit-simple-lemon format, and last night I believe we came up with a winner: Sean Collins. Basically a sparkling whiskey sour made with Irish Whiskey. This Collins, like all the others, is not a complex drink or a difficult one to make. But it is quite refreshing on a hot summer evening, and a welcome break from the ubiquitous margarita.
1 1/2 oz Irish Whiskey
1 oz simple syrup
3/4 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
Cherry and Orange wheel for garnish
Shake first three ingredients and strain onto rocks in a collins glass. Top with club soda and stir. Garnish with cherry and orange "flag."
Though "closing down the bar" isn't really my style ( I prefer to be already seated in a particular late-nite eatery when last call comes) I have been known to shut the place down from time-to-time. However, I can't remember the last time I did so literally. The Sunday before last, one of my favorite hangouts had a closing party. Halcyon coffee shop/bar is not actually closing permanently, they are just closing down for significant remodelling. But they were giving away the house last weekend in a fashion that I am not acustomeded to. Eric the bartender had been instructed to pour for friends and family until the bottles ran out; once something was empty a new bottle would not be opened. The owner had stashed away a few select single malts but left a rather generous selection behind the bar.
We had a beer, a few Tres Generaciones margaritas (liberally portioned in appropriate closing night generosity), and some water for good behavior. We actually had some work to do since I am their coffee supplier and had been asked to be on location to unhook all the coffee equipment once the bar closed. We had been noticing that the selection of available offerings had been diminishing, and had been thinking about what our ultimate cocktail for the evening would be.Not wanting to give the impression that we were simply schnorrers taking advantage of closing night generosity, we excercised restraint in our tippling. However we became caught up in the spirit of the evening and when Eric called "Last Call," we knew what we wanted: Hennessy VSOP Sidecars, with Grand Marnier. Eric filled a shaker with ice, poured the Cognac, then the Grand Marnier, and then looked around and seemed surprised when he said,
"oops, there's no simple syrup...well, and there's no lemon juice...here's your Sidecars!" And he gave us the Cognac & Grandma on the rocks.
And damn was it good.
We were expecting a bitchin super Sidecar, and got something we weren't even expecting.
For several days I thought about it, and finally I succumbed to the weakness and went to the liqour store last Friday to procure the ingredients. I went to Fino with friends for drinks and we were unanimously underwhelmed with our first round of $10 cocktails, so we went back to the house to mix. (I will comment more on Fino's drinks after I have had a chance to go try them at happy hour prices; they have put some creativity into the menu and I have heard good things, but the drinks we had were not memorable.) I remembered that I had these two ingredients in my car, and a memory on my palette. So we set about mixing what my friend Jenny has dubbed The Sun King, after Cognac the booze of Kings, and Grandma, with her sun-kissed flavor and image.
The Sun King
1 1/2 oz. Hennessy V.S.O.P.
3/4 oz. Grand Marnier
Stir with ice to chill. Strain over one giant rock in a cute 60's mod thrift store glass. Garnish with a flamed lemon peel (a la Dale Degroff), or twist a lemon curl over the drink to express the oil, but don't drop. Toast the Sun King with this deconstructed postmodern Sidecar.
Though the Central Texas climate offers us only about 2 weeks of Fall weather, and it's usually too hot even by Halloween to wear a complicated costume without schvitzing, there is one hallmark of fall that is worth celebrating--the arrival of the persimmons. I did not even know about this fruit until a couple of years ago and boy am I making up for lost time. I know that there are numerous culinary applications for persimmons, but I prefer to drink them.
There are two types of persimmons that grow here that i know of. There are the tomato-shaped ones called fuyus. And then there are the hachiya persimmons, which are a little bit bigger than the fuyus and have a slightly cleaner pulp by my experience. There is also a native "texas persimmon" which is black, and I have yet to try it. As far as I know, they are all (except the fuyus) quite astringent until they ripen, at which point they undergo an almost immediate transformation in texture and flavor.
The persimmon is a rather finnicky fruit because it takes time and patience before the fruit is ready to be utilized in a cocktail. They remain relatively hard until right before they become ripe, and then they turn to mush within a few days. When they feel totally gloopy is when they are ready to be used. I use the following method for separating the pulp/muck/"nectar/ooze from the seeds and skin. I don't know what the actual term is for the naturally pureed guts of a persimmon, but here is how to go about procuring it:
1. After washing the fruit and plucking off the stem, I tear its skin and mash it into a strainer set over a bowl or mixing cup
2. With a spatula, press the persimmon guts around the strainer to extract maximum puree. Scrape the guts off the bottom of the strainer as well.
3. Because of the labor-intensive nature of this process and because of the short season of persimmons (literally only a few weeks), I suggest processing quite a few at a time. This will also allow you to freeze some of the puree in ice cubes to use later on. The 2 1/2 cups of puree shown here came from eight smallish persimmons
Those are actually not lemons but small mexican limes that I got from a local farmer's kid at the farmer's market.
The recipe that I use to make this Persimmarita is based on the margarita recipe propagated by Paula Angerstein of Paula's Texas Spirits--2oz tequila, 2oz PTO, 1 oz lime, 1 oz. water. My love affair with Paula and her products is NO secret, as I include them in as many recipes as I see appropriate. Paula's margarita, while it didn't sweep the Bobarita contest this summer as we expected it would (mosty likely because popular taste and good taste do not always coincide), is one of my favorites. For one thing, it has a whopping 4oz of spirits in it, which might account for why everybody gets so festive when the go over to Paula's house. For another it tastes the way a margarita should tatse, just boozey and tart enough and not overly sweet. I substitute the 1oz. of water for 2oz. of persimmon puree. This resulting drink is a perfect pint-sized margarita, or you could divide into two more reasonable drinks. The drink is bright and orangy, with a velvety suppleness from the persimmons. Way drinkable.
2 oz. Reposado Tequila, like Tradicional or Hornitos
2 oz. Paula's Texas Orange
1 oz. Fresh-squeezed lime juice
2 oz. Fresh ripe persimmon puree
Build drink over ice in a cocktail strainer. Shake and strain over ice in a pint glass. Repeat.
The tipsy holibirthuation days continued after graduation as we prepared for the Christian holiday, which I do not celebrate but which my other half does, and of course I always appreciate a day that involves me not having to work.
One of the interesting things about growing up in Austin is that at this moment in time a lot of the people who live here aren't from here. So during the holidays the friends I have made since high school take off to their respective homelands and many of my old friends from school come back home from wherever they have moved off to. There are a lot of impromptu reunions during this time. One night a couple of vagabond classmates came over on a particularly cold evening and we decided to build a cozy campfire in the backyard and enjoy a tipple
In the current issue of Edible Austin magazine there is an article about a woman who lives in East Austin and finds comfort in building a fire out in her backyard, relaxing with a glass of wine, and taking a little mini retreat right in the middle of her urban environment. Inspired by this story, we decided it would be nice to make a little boozy adult hot chocolate: bring milk to a simmer in a heavy-bottom sauce pan, stir in chocolate chunks until melted, to taste. Let the mixture cool slightly and add Patron XO (tequila-based coffee liqueur) and Praline liqueur to taste. Pour into a cute earthenware pitcher and mugs. We were feeling particulary luxurious, so we topped the cups with whipped cream, then took our pitcher outside and sat by the fire and talked about old times and future times. It wasn't too long before the highway noise dropped out of the background and all we could see was the fire and the almost full moon in the clear sky. And the Festivus lights on my patio cover.
Tonight we decided to make a pot of chicken tortilla soup. This required a run to Central Market to pick up a chicken and a few other supplies. As is often the case, we got carried away in the beer department, and we left with about ten different bottles of specialty beers. Back at home we were reminded that our refrigeration capacity is not as grandiose as our beer-buying ambition. Something had to go from the fridge so we could make room for all this beer. Joe (Tipsy) grabbed the bottle of Stone's Original Green Ginger WIne, saying something to the effect of, "Let's get this out and try it, that way if it's nasty it won't be taking up valuable real estate."
We poured a glass first without reading the serving instructions. We were not in love with it served neat. Topped with a spritz of charged water, it was more drinkable.
The instructions in my home kitchen journal* said explicitly that after the chicken hits the pot, "Make a stout margarita. Or two." At that critical point in the recipe I was struck with an inspiration: I realized that the Stone's would fit in perfectly with this Texmexican feast. Tipsy set to work squeezing some tangerines that we got at the farmers market last weekend. I began gathering the liquid ingredients.
The Stone's Gingerita.
4 oz. Cuervo Tradicional or other 100% agave reposado tequila
2 oz. Paula's Texas Orange
2 oz. Stone's Ginger Wine
2 oz. fresh-squeezed tangerine juice
2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 piece fresh ginger.
Measure ingredients into shaker. Using a ginger grater, grate fresh ginger into shaker, allowing the juicy pulp to get in, but keeping the stringy stuff behind. Shake vigorously. Strain over ice in 2-3 rocks glasses, or pour into a small carafe. Top cocktail with a floater of Stone's.
*We keep a detailed journal of what we cook or mix at the house. That way if something spectacular comes out of it, we will be able to recreate it. It is a tragedy when you spend all night tweaking a cocktail recipe, experience a victorious breakthrough in cocktail perfection, then forget it all given the intoxicating nature of your quest, and the drink is lost forever. On the other hand, it is important to keep track of things that really don't work. On Elvis's birthday I was determined to make a Pink Cadillac, and the notes next to my early drafts reflect my tasters' comments: "Kool Aid" "Cough Syrup" "Nope!"
Last night we decided to celebrate the final State of the Union Address of the Bush presidency. I called up a few like-minded friends and told them that I thought that it was worth toasting that we would never have to hear G-Dub give another such address; and I lured them with the promise of games and cocktails.
For entertainment, and to make sure that everybody was paying attention to W's talk, I made up Bush Bingo cards with keywords that I thought the President was reasonably likely to say: evil, economy, climate, God, Taliban, Amurrikah, etc. There were a few words that I had not thought of such as "empower" and "trust" that the Prez said about fifty times each. Another one was "Veto" which I thought he used with almost reckless abandon, given his relatively restrained use of the power (in reality the Signing Statement is W's preferred method of circumventing the will of Congress, but that is the business of a different blog than this one.) We all had placed personal wagers on how many times W would say "Nukular", and though the word appeared on only a couple of the Bingo cards, everybody cheered the first time he said it.
If it weren't for this glass of whiskey, I don't think Phil would have made it as far as he did on this Bingo card
For cocktails, we created the "State of the Union," a libation crafted entirely from domestic ingredients, of course. I chose Rye and Applejack because of their historical significance and seasonal appropriateness. (However last night we were experiencing something more like a Hot Summer Night than a typical January evening; my friend Mike and I sat around the fire ring out back, though we didn't light it) I also figured that the drink should be strong, given the famous closer that it seems every president must use some permutation of.
Did you know that the State of the Union Address is Constitutionally mandated? I did not know that until one of our guests, a history professor, Philled us in...
The State of the Union
1 1/2 oz. Laird's Applejack
3/4 oz. Wild Turkey Rye
1/2 oz. Simple syrup
Dash Peychaud's Bitters
2 Dashes Fee's Orange Bitters
Stir cocktail until well chilled and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Try not to choke on it while you listen to the president say things like "Purveyors of false populism in this hemisphere..."
Mike showed up with his "Texas Travel Kit," which consists of a pile of meat from Smitty's BBQ in Lockhart, a jar of pickles, and a travel-size bottle of Maker's
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Edible Austin magazine, it is a fabulous publication that is focused entirely on locally produced food and beverage products. They are officially in their second year in print with last week's release of the summer issue. Somehow Tipsy and I managed to convince the publisher of the magazine that Edible Austin needed a Drinkable Austin feature, and that we were just the kind of tipsy Texans for the job. It is possible that there were a few cocktails being consumed during this conversation, but I don't exactly remember. Regardless, some time last fall she agreed and our first Tipsy Texan column appeared in the Spring issue. I started a post about that issue a little while before the issue came out, but decided it was unwise to scoop my own work. Then I forgot about it entirely. This time around, I am only a week or so late.
Since the focus of the magazine is on local food and beverage products (and to a larger extent, on sustainable living in general), we had to point our muddlers in the direction of the summer garden. In Texas, that means melons:
First up we did a Watermelon Mojito, which we were fortunate enough to have featured on the cover. (Thank you, Edible!) I am well aware that the Mojito is a tired feature of many an unimaginative cocktail menu, at home by now at the corporate-owned family restaurant of your choice. However, I think that the drink is almost never made well, at least not here in Austin, which is a damn shame given the frequency with which it is made in this hot hot town (I mean hot as in temperature, not as in "like, so cool"). We chose the Mojito because when made properly it is a delicious refresher in a city that despite the months of high-90's and 100+ degree days people still insist on dining outside whenever it is an option, which it is at many places for almost the whole year. Another thing going for the Mojito is that all or most of the ingredients can come from local sources, now that Treaty Oak rum is on the market. It is also a summery twist on a drink that is well-known enough that Austinites might at least like to try it, as opposed to, say, the esoteric Stonewall Sour that we also made for this issue, which I will describe in a moment, and which I suspect nobody will venture to make... . The Watermelon Mojito satisfies our need to make a drink that is democratic enough that the thirsty Edible reader can make it at home by just following a few steps; the Stonewall Sour is complex enough to appeal to the more accomplished tippler, and, I hope, our would-be peers in the craft mixology community.
My recipe makes a pitcher drink, because I do not like minty bits getting in the finished product, especially with this variation that is already overloaded with watermelon pulp. When I get a watermelon from the farmer's market I trim it in its entirety when I get home so that it is all in bite-size pieces ready for the fridge. In the process, I try to trim away the veins of seeds. Eating watermelon by the slice and spitting out the seeds may be the picture of summer recreation, but I prefer to snack on (or muddle) seedless chunks, chilled to a frosty 38 degrees.
Watermelon Mojito (By the pitcher)
Making the base drink and adding the club soda later assures that all refills are properly fizzy. To make the base drink, muddle a handful of mint leaves with 1/4 cup light brown sugar and ¼ cup lime juice in the bottom of a glass pitcher. Add 1 cup light rum (like Treaty Oak) and ½ cup aged rum (such as Mt. Gay). Adjust flavor to your liking. In the bottom of a tall glass, muddle 3 - 4 chunks of ripe watermelon. Add ice, and fill glass 2/3 full with mojito base. Top with club soda and garnish with a slice of watermelon and sprig of mint.
For something a little more complex (and time consuming), try the Stonewall Sour. It incorporates several delicious summer flavors from the garden: juicy peach (in the form of a peach gastrique-like syrup), ripe cantaloupe, and basil. Ever since Camper English declared on Alcademics that in 2008 vinegar would be the new egg white, I have wanted to incorporate it into a cocktail, and I like the way this came out.
Start by making this Sour Peach Gastrique
¼ cup champagne (or other white) vinegar
½ cup peach nectar
1 tablespoon local honey
2 tablespoons raw sugar
In a small saucepan, reduce vinegar to 1 ½ tablespoons. Add peach nectar and reduce to ¼ cup. Stir in honey and raw sugar, allow to cool. The result will be a sour syrup that you can experiment with in your favorite summer cocktails or other culinary creations.
For the drink:
1 ½ Pisco
½ fresh lime juice
½ simple syrup
2-3 chunks ripe cantaloupe
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 oz sour peach gastrique
In a mixing glass, muddle cantaloupe, basil, lime juice and simple syrup. Add pisco, bitters, and sour peach gastrique. Shake vigorously and strain into chilled cocktail glass.
To complete the lineup I called on Mindy Kucan, who is a bartender at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Austin. She has won and placed in numerous cocktail contests, and won the title “Hilton Hotel’s Best Bar Chef” with this drink. A variation of her recipe is featured in the DVD "Travel. Taste. Toast." which stars Tony Abou-Ganim mixing the drinks for the Hilton Hotels International cocktail menu. Because Mindy's recipe involved a local product that is not available outside of Texas, the recipe was altered. This did not get in the way of Mindy's getting to travel to New Orleans last summer to receive her award and some face time with Tony...
Hot Summer Night
Created by Mindy Kucan
1 ¼ oz local vodka (Tito's, Savvy, or Dripping Springs)
½ oz Paula’s Texas Lemon liqueur
½ oz lemon juice
2 oz Sprite
4 sprigs thyme
De-stem 3 sprigs thyme and muddle in mixing glass with honey and lemon juice. Add ice, vodka and PTL. Stir lightly and strain into a rocks glass over ice. Top with Sprite. Garnish with remaining sprig of thyme.
The astute observer will notice that this post is somewhat overdue, because the loquats have been done for over a month. However, I just found the little cord that connects the camera to the computer--it has been lost since loquat season.
Loquats, for the record, are not related to kumquats.
This year Austin had a bumper crop of loquats, due to the fact that we had a very mild winter with no hard freezes. Loquats thrive in Austin and are cold hardy enough to sustain our typical winters; however if temperatures drop below the mid 20's, the flowers will freeze and there will be no fruit. (The tree is fine, but only in its ornamental function) What goes hand-in-hand with a bumper loquat crop is a bumper mosquito crop the following summer, but I will not go into that for fear of lapsing into a deep depression. (I fight the nasty bastards as I work in my Drinkable Estate each morning, )
I harvested about ten pounds of loquats from the trees in my yard. I went to Austin Homebrew because my intention was to make loquat wine out of my harvest. However, the week got away from me and I realized that my harvest was starting to spoil. Not wanting to risk wasting the the fruit on the wine project for fear that if the fruit was tainted at all, I wouldn't find out about the spoiling until months later, I decided to feature the loquats in a giant loquat-theme feast. (The wine making equipment is only taking a short rest while I get ready to make Peach wine in the next few weeks)
A feast, especially a Tipsy Texan feast, must of course start with cocktails. First off we made a Loquat Mojito. Anyone who saw our article in the recent Edible Austin might begin to think that I am a one-trick pony with my frequent mojito mixing. This is only partly true. I do often make a seasonal mojito, but when we make it it is a damn sexy drink. The mojito gets a bad rap because it is most often made poorly, sometimes even from the wrong ingredients. Jeffrey Morgenthaler has a long and detailed discussion on this subject at his blog. This discussion includes a lot of talk about why most mojitos suck when you order them in public, which I never do. The recipe he provides is for a classic mojito, which is obviously not what I am making here. As with many other classic cocktails, if you first understand the classic form, you gain the knowledge necessary to experiment following your own inclinations. Morgenthaler insists that only white rums be used; in a classical preparation I concur. But I also have experimented with various other rums that have been aged, and found that they add a nice complexity to the drink. I do, however, only use the aged rum something like a "modifying spirit", to compliment the white rums. You can also experiment with various sugars, and even various mints. Morgenthaler also says that the drink should not be made in a pitcher and only in the glass, when making only a few drinks I agree. But I make them in a pitcher when I have a lot of drinks to make, then pour them into the glasses. I personally don't like the minty bits when there is another fruit present so I strain the drink; I am quite aware that this defies convention.
In this picture of Stephanie grilling the meat, the lamb chops on the top shelf look frighteningly like grilled dachshund.
For dinner we marinated several pounds of lamb chops in a glaze consisting of muddled loquats, jalapenos, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. I brushed this on the meat as we grilled it to a nice rare-medium rare. For the sides we roasted fennel, turnips, leeks, and potatoes, all from the farmers market. We also served a field greens salad drizzled with loquat-cilantro vinaigrette.
For dessert I did Loquats Foster. I prepared it following the traditional Brennan's method, the only real difference being that I sauteed/flambeed loquats and bananas in equal parts. Spooned over Blue Bell Mexican Vanilla ice cream. We served a Loquat Cocktail with dessert. The recipe that I wrote down reads, "loquat juice, lemon juice, Pimms, Treaty Oak rum, simple." It was awesome, but unfortunately in my tipsy haze I forgot to write down the proportions. I guess we'll have to wait til next year to figure it out...
I guess I was so busy drooling over the fact that FINO's Bill Norris won the contest last night that I forgot to mention his winning cocktail. Before doing so I want to say a few more things about the event. Although by my estimation there were only a few true craft mixologists in the bunch, this is not to say that everyone who competed didn't put forth a strong effort. In the way of showmanship, there were some tremendous performances, such as the gentleman from 219 West who built a tower of bottles and glass platforms encased in a dry ice fog for the presentation of his cocktail; there was also the bartender from the Yellow Rose who erected (?) a screen behind which there was a titillating (?) display of sexually charged shadow dancing while he mixed, all of this before he ingested a mouthful of high proof rum and exhaled a fiery plume onto his glasses. The entertainment value here is incontrovertible.
What I would have liked to see is more of the craft--the artistry in the glass, and not just in the presentation. I tried many of the drinks. Most were drinkable, some were excellent, while some were just bizarre (one drink had the taste and consistency of cake batter). Some drinks showed real creativity while some were completely derived. Is derivative mixology necessarily a bad thing? Not when the source material is solid. Take for example Tony Abou-Ganim's now famous Cable Car, just one ingredient away from the Classic Sidecar, and his is now arguably considered a modern classic.
But the Kiwi Lime Martini with the graham cracker rim is a spitting image of the Key Lime Martini that was on the menu at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse many years ago. That is not a drink that in my opinion is worth emulating.
What is at the root of this situation is that some of these contestants, who obviously have a passion for bartending, do not have the necessary education to execute great cocktails. Take for example the fellow who used three different vodkas in his green tea cocktail. Why use both green tea vodka and green tea? Why use citron vodka instead of real citrus? Why put an egg in the drink and then barely shake it? He had an idea, but not the background information to follow through on it. He knew that egg whites are used in cocktails, but didn't know to shake it to achieve the proper emulsion. He obviously wants to do something creative but needs to be doing his homework so that he actually can follow through.
That said, everybody had a great time last night and I'm glad that all of these contestants were here. I'm glad they at least care enough about their mixological philosophy to enter a contest. I'm glad that hundreds of people showed up to support their contestants, and to support the industry, and to drink cocktails. If what was being served at the bars last night was not cocktail brilliance, at least it wasn't a Bud Light. If "flare" bartending keeps people from ordering a Bud Light, that is a step in the right direction.
And now for the winning recipe, the Bee Sting by Bill Norris
Okay...it was really Bill Norris in the Chronicle, but he was gracious enough to direct people looking for his award-winning Bee Sting to our site. Thanks!
Shake it like you mean it, Bill! The professional at work while his glasses chilled (we're not sure, but we think he was the only contestant to chill glasses--a nice touch in the heat of July)
For those of you not familiar with this story, Bill is our local cocktail hero (and FINO bartender) who won the Cocktail World Cup regional finals last month in Austin, and who will be on the team that represents this region at the Cocktail World Cup in New Zealand.
The Bee Sting looks as good as it tastes...
The Bee Sting
2 oz 42 Below Honey Vodka
3/4 oz Meyer lemon juice
1/4 oz cracked peppercorn syrup Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass rinsed with 100% Blue Agave Blanco Tequila--preferable something peppery. Garnish with fresh ground pepper and a flamed lemon peel.
To make the syrup:
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
3/4 cups whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed (you can put them in a ziplock bag and whack it a few times with your hand on the counter.)
In a sauce pan, bring sugar and water to boil, stirring until all sugar is dissolved. Lower heat, add pepper and simmer, covered, for fifteen minutes. Remove from heat and allow to stand for another fifteen minutes. Strain out solids using a fine mesh strainer and allow to cool before using. For more pepper flavor let it stand a further ten minutes before straining.
If Meyer Lemons are unavailable, Combine the juice of one orange with the juice of ten lemons.
You can find more info about Bill, and a couple of his recipes, in this story by the Chronicle's Wes Marshall
Would anybody like to help count off all of the things that are wrong with this instructional video on margarita technique? (Although this is bad, it's not quite as far off as this video on the worst mint julep in history)
I think a good place to start is the muddled limes--muddled with ice, no less, for maximum pulpiness. Then you could continue with the Cuervo Gold, and the Sour mix...
Today Addie Broyles of the Statesman posted a how-to video on her Relish Austin blog. The speaker is some know-it-all in a snap shirt who thinks he knows everything about the Margarita cocktail.
Of course the know-it-all is me, and since I posted this hateful margarita how-to video last week, I suppose I deserve all of the critiques and criticisms that anyone can throw at me.
Perhaps I should cast the first stones:
1) It's Pepe Zevada, not Pepe Zavala
2) It sounds like I'm pitching Paula's Texas Orange based on price only, but it is also of excellent quality
3) Platinum tequila? I got my precious metals confused, and meant silver. Maybe I had Treaty Oak Platinum Rum on my mind. Maybe I had that margarita on my mind and lost control of my vocal faculties...
4) "Fresh lime juice is not an option"--I think I meant fresh lime juice is not optional.
Here is the recipe I follow:
1 1/2 oz. 100% agave silver tequila
3/4 oz. Paula’s Texas Orange (or Cointreau)
3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
(If a sweeter drink is desired, start with a scant 1/2 oz. simple syrup or agave nectar and adjust to taste. I prefer a more tart beverage)
I am of the opinion that the tequila:orange:lime ratio in a Margarita is something like the ratio of gin to vermouth in a Martini in that the drinker really has to experiment to find a suitable balance. Paula from Paula's Texas Orange calls for equal parts, not surprisingly, of tequila and orange liqueur; a lot of recipes call for 1 1/2 oz : 1 oz, respectively. Play around with ratios, just don't mess with the holy trinity of these two ingredients plus fresh lime juice.
Tex will be making the Treaty Oak Cocktail this morning on KXAN local news at around 8:40 am. Unnatural hours for a bartender to be up and at 'em, but what sacrifices we make for shameless self promotion!
The Treaty Oak Cocktail appears in the most recent issue of Edible Austin magazine, in a cooperative ad with locally-made Treaty Oak Rum and the Tipsy Tech, the educational program of this Web site.
Treat Oak Cocktail
2 oz Treaty Oak Platinum Rum
3/4 oz Rosemary syrup
3/4 oz Fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz Paula's Texas Orange liqueur
When I created this drink I was aiming for something that captured my impression of the flavors of the Hill Country. The locally made rum, the subtle herbaceousness from the rosemary, and the bright citrus all call to mind a bright sunshiney Texas afternoon on the patio. I structured the drink such that it would be familiar to Texans, but that it would still taste new and interesting. At it's core it is a Rum margarita, with a localized twist in the Rosemary which grows like a weed here. To make the syrup is easy--make a 1:1 batch of simple syrup (heat water and sugar til they're warm enough to dissolve the sugar), and while still warm infuse a couple sprigs of rosemary for a few minutes. Strain herbs from syrup and cool.
Note: This blog's comments section is not currently functioning :(
Here is a nice little fall cocktail featuring Tito's Vodka that was featured on their blog this week. I know that vodka is not the first spirit that comes to mind when you think of "winter cocktails"... but if you're thinking of vodka and need a winter cocktail, have I got a deal for you:
Père Noël 1.5 oz Tito's
1.5 oz Mathilde Pear Liqueur
.5 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Barspoon St. Elizabeth's Allspice Dram Shake vigorously with ice to chill; strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of pear.
For the uninitiated, the Père Noël cocktail is a play on words. Père Noël is the French name for Father Christmas, or what we called Santa Claus at my house even though we were technically Jewish and shouldn't have been expecting some fat bastard in red to come popping down the chimney bearing gifts and in search of cookies. Père Noël is pronounced like Pear Noel and so that is why I called the cocktail by this name. Perhaps a cocktail name that needs to be explained should be named something else. You be the judge.
This cocktail video was filmed in my kitchen. Note the lovely mid-century suburban fixtures, such as faux knotty pine cabinets. Video highlights include:
Jigger the dog poking his head in the background, which is covered in a big ass cone due to a recent surgery, somewhere around the 1:25 mark ( you can see a glimpse of tail around 1:31); and around the 1:38 mark you can see my own Father Christmas belly shaking like a blubber whale while I cut that pear. I need to hit the gym.
From NYT to ATX, Roll Out the Barrel-Aged Cocktails
Today in the New York Times there was an article about barrel-aging cocktails, and I remembered that one of our local bar stars debuted a barrel-aged cocktail of her own a few weeks ago at the Tigress. According to the Times piece, barrel aging was first explored by London bartender Tony Conigliaro in 2004. The first time I really started paying attention to it was when Jeffrey Morgenthaler started writing about it (and when others in turn started writing about him) with his aged Negroni experiments.
For those of you who are not inclined to travel to either New York or Portland for a cocktail, there is good news: at the Tigress Pub on North Loop, a comfortable drive for most Austinites, you can sample a barrel-aged cocktail from the hands of Lara Nixon, "Brand Wrangler" for Balcones Spirits and my partner-in-crime for Tipsy Tech. For her first go at the Barrel, Lara chose that venerable classic of New Orleans, the Vieux Carré. Typically made with a base of Cognac, Rye, and Sweet Vermouth, Lara decided to substitute Balcones Rumble for the Cognac. The cocktail would then be aged in a Rumble barrel. Though Rumble defies categorization, the distillate of figs, wildflower honey and turbinado sugar has a very brandy-like quality to me. The barrel aging rounds out the corners of this cocktail, and the cocktail will be available for a short time at the Tigress.
Nixon was putting on a showcase of cocktails made with Balcones spirits. She made a hell of an Egg Nog that night, and if I successfully coax the recipe out of her I will post it here.