During my year of drinking adventurously, we tried Fernet-Branca, which is a bitter liqueur. It is often served as a digestive or a common drink is Fernet mixed with coke or ginger beer. I was not a fan. I thought for sure I had just wasted money on a bottle that was going to collect dust on my shelf for eternity.
While doing research for Irish whiskey cocktails, one caught my eye, the Southside Smash from the Jameson website. It called for lime juice, whiskey, mint… so far so good… and Fernet. I like all of the other ingredients in there so I think I need to give it a try. I dialed back the Fernet to almost half what the recipe called for. This allowed all the flavors to come through and not be bullied out by the Fernet.
The two weeks before my recent Concoct event at Shelby Farms, I had two different taste testing evenings to fine tune my recipes and finalize the menu. The Southside Smash was one that gave people a new flavor element within the comfort of more familiar flavors. Everyone did a straw taste of Fernet, one woman really liked it, and no one was repelled by it. So, here’s to trying new things!
This second Concoct event was so much fun. The people were amazing, the energy of the group was congenial, and there were some great conversations. A handful of us went for dinner afterward to keep the party going.
For your next Irish Party, give the Southside Smash a try.
1 ½ ounces Irish whisky
¼ – ½ ounce Fernet-Branca
¾ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
¾ ounce simple syrup*
4-6 mint leaves
Combine ingredients into a shaker, add ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds.
Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
Garnish with a mint sprig.
*Simple Syrup is equal parts sugar and water. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temperature and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Alright, run along now and enjoy this spring! Slainte!
This week in The Year of Drinking Adventurously, I’m going to briefly flashback to when I began my job several (seven as of last week, to be exact) years ago. Happy hour was the most glorious time of the day. I’d get home and make myself a vodka martini. Shaken. Three olives.
I had a very simple drink and rarely did I waiver. Slowly but surely my palate for spirits evolved, I became more adventurous, and my drinks became more complex. One thing remained fairly constant as I explored different different cocktails, I enjoyed the flexibility of vodka. It’s a chameleon.One of the great things about vodka is its purity and simplicity. With its colorless, odorless, tastelessness, you can mix vodka with just about anything. You can also infuse it with just about anything.
This week our author goes on a bit of a rant about how infusions took a turn for the worse in the early 2000’s, especially when they started infusing vodka with things like gummy bears. I agree, this is taking it a bit too far. I’m also horrified by the ridiculous flavors of glazed donut or cotton candy. Clearly these aren’t flavors that occur naturally.
My patio is full of herbs purely to be used in cooking and cocktails. This summer I made a lavender infused vodka. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with it, but taking to the Google, I found a few ideas and here is what I did.
Lavender & Sage Spritzer
2 ounces lavender infused vodka
Several small fresh sage leaves or 1 large fresh sage leaf
1/2-3/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)
Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake hard for 20 seconds.
Double strain into rocks glass filled with ice and top with about 2 ounces club soda.
I’ve tried in the past to work sage into my cocktails. It is a strong flavor and can be overpowering. I used small, fresh leaves that came through, but did not overwhelm the drink. One of the drinks I made I slightly reduced the lemon and the sage was more pronounced, but not overwhelming or off-putting, just more savory. The lavender and sage worked well together, giving the drink a balance. Sometimes lavender in a cocktail can feel like you are drinking perfume.
Now run along and see what Meg did with her vodka. She’s more a fan of the dark spirits so I’m excited to see where her tasting took her.
Cheers to another tasty Tuesday!
This week in our Year of Drinking Adventurously, week 34, we are traveling to South America, to Peru actually. Pisco is a brandy that hails from Peru and Chile. A reminder for you, brandy is distilled from wine. How it varies most distinctly from brandy as we are accustomed, is that pisco cannot be aged on wood. This allows more flavors of the grapes to come through to the finished product. There are only eight different varietals of grapes that can be used for making pisco. Additionally, it can only be made in five different regions on the coast of Peru.
Our author tells us that Chile has certain standards, like Peru, but they are not as stringent, and not recognized by all countries. I was unaware of the battle between Chile and Peru, over the origins and provenance of pisco. Before now, I’ve only ever know of pisco as a Peruvian spirit. Evidently, the U.S. is one that does recognize Chilean Pisco as they keep the ABV (alcohol by volume) more in line with Peru’s pisco.
The pisco I chose is from Peru. I stood in the store for quite some time mulling over my purchase. There were 4 different varieties within the Barsol line. I can’t recall now what entirely drove my choice, but I wish I had picked a different one. The one I chose, the Barsol Primero Quebranto, was in my opinion, unremarkable. Neutral, with a hint of earthiness at the finish. I picked up none of the hints of fruit or aromatics the distiller boasts of on their website. In my research for cocktails, many noted how pisco, in general, can be used in place of any other spirit in any cocktail. That being a bonus for it’s neutrality. If I finish this bottle and get another, I will pick another one that has more flavor and character.
I made two cocktails with pisco, and while I was most familiar with the Pisco Sour, I found out there are five cocktails that are “traditional” pisco cocktails. All of which are cocktails we are accustomed to with other spirits, but have taken on their own life with pisco.
I started with the Pisco Sour. Combining fresh squeezed lemon (or lime) juice, pisco, and an egg white with a finish of bitters. The egg white is what gives the drink that pretty layer of white foam. A very easy drinking drink that went down quite easily; perfect for a summer evening. Again, I would have liked this more with a more distinctive spirit, as this pisco just vanished in there.
Next I made El Capitan, which is a bit of a riff on a Manhattan. Again, I needed a more distinctive pisco, but found I liked this drink the more I let it sit and the flavors balanced. I sipped on this for awhile, and liked it more and more. In lieu of a nice maraschino cherry in the Manhattan, this was finished with lemon.
I have had enough spirits and cocktails over the years to recognize a few things. One of which is the distinctive headache I get from alcohol. Not a hangover per se, but certain alcohols give me a headache. I have yet to determine what exactly the culprit is, but this was one of those. I am not giving up on pisco, this just the one for me. Pisco has been on my to-do list for quite some time and I was delighted to have a reason to finally give it a try.
I’m pretty sure Meg was going off book this week, so let’s see what she got up to.
Cheers to another week of drinking adventurously!
I spent National Mojito Day drinking cognac. Seems a little wrong, I know. This is week 28 in our Year of Drinking Adventurously and also this week, on July 14th, is Bastille Day. So we are off to France.
Jumping right in, the law limits Cognac to not only the best parts of the grape, but to only three different varietals. After the initial process of making the wine under stringent specifications, it is then distilled twice in a copper pot still. The final, and most important step, is aging.
If you are anything like me, you’ve seen these labels and have some idea what they stand for, but have no real idea of what they mean. What I am referring to are the designations of:
V.S. Very Special must be aged at least two years.
V.S.O.P. Very Special Old Pale is a little older, usually aged at least four years.
X.O. Extra Old… The youngest cognac to go into this blend is at least six years old and are often far older.
Per the norm, I didn’t read the book before I went shopping,and truth be told, I just went in and asked what airplane bottles they had. I came home with two different cognacs and as our author advised, the subtle differences between the two were almost lost on me. I could tell the younger had a boozier bouquet. The VSOP had a warmer, earthier finish.
I was sitting on the patio trying to wrap my head around this, when I was drawn to making a cocktail. One thing I’m really coming to discover in this adventure is that there aren’t a lot of boozes I just want to sip straight. The ones I do enjoy might surprise you, but that’s a post for another day.
According to David Wondrich of Esquire, and the Punch cocktail book, one of the best things to come from prohibition is the Sidecar cocktail. With that kind of hype, how could I not give it a whirl. I found three different recipes, and went with one from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. I’d probably enjoy different proportions better. It was a lovely little cocktail, but siting on the patio listening to the frogs and crickets, I really would have preferred a mojito.
Run over and see what Meg drank.
Here’s to Toasting another Tuesday! Cheers
This weekend has been so delightfully cocktail filled that when it came time to try the madeira, I was up for the challenge! This is week 27 is our Year of Drinking Adventurously. I can’t speak for anyone else on this adventure, but I keep telling people how this was one of the best, and most expensive, gifts I’ve ever gotten. I’ve been having so much fun trying and tasting my way through this book.
This week, and the last two, I’ve had some trouble with. Fortified wines in the summer just seems ridiculous. I’ll say, at this point, this is truly my only complaint with the book. That being said, having had madeira in a cocktail before, I knew I had options. When I went to the liquor store, I didn’t spend a lot of time reading labels; I didn’t even consult with the author or Vivino. I just picked one under $20.
Once I got ready to open the bottle and taste, I did a little googling to check on my selection. For a $19 bottle, it got decent reviews. One even said “Rainwater is a pleasant and approachable style – perfect for those starting to explore it. The Broadbent has pleasant exotic fruit and toffee notes with a clean finish. Try it with crab bisque or pâtè.” Pate… oh this was going to be good.
I tasted a nip on it’s own and I got the toffee notes, but certainly not something I’d really want to sip on it’s own. I could see though how it was going to pair nicely with some other spirits.
Last night I hosted my first cocktail class here in Memphis. I had a small group of
guinea pigs friends who sat through two hours of me yammering about glassware and bar basics with a few cocktails thrown in. One of the ladies asked about a cocktail she drank at her speakeasy watering hole back in Philly, a Brown Derby cocktail. I whipped it up and it was quite tasty. Bourbon and grapefruit juice… I had my doubts until the first sip.
When I found on google a cocktail that had madeira, rye, maraschino liqueur, grapefruit juice, and bitters I had to try it. As I told my friend, its softer than the Brown Derby and went down quite easily. Perfect for a summer evening while sitting on the patio watching a storm rage or for hiding in the bathroom bunker, as was the case in our house.
Now, run over and see what Meg did this week. And here’s to tasting another Tuesday!
I really had intentions of blowing off this week and just regurgitating the history in the book, but the call was just too strong. If you know me, or you’ve come to know me, you know what a crafty booze loving word nerd I am.
One of my new friends here in Memphis is encouraging me to start teaching some classes on home bar basics and how easy it really can be to make good, simple cocktails. Since she planted this idea just a couple days ago, this is all I’ve thought about. Hard to believe, but I’ve been thinking about cocktails more than usual. I came up with a rather complete outline for my class in no time at all. Another girlfriend has already told me how excited she is to learn my secrets. I think that’s why I mustered for this week’s sherry. Purely in the name of research.
We are entering a period in our Year of Drinking Adventurously that baffles me a bit. For the next couple of weeks, we are going to be discussing fortified wines. To me, Nothing says summer less than a heavy wine. But what does says summer to me is rum, so when I went to the Google box searching for a recipe this combination really caught my eye. It is with this recipe in mind that I made my purchase. Had I actually read what our author had to say before I went to the store, my purchase most certainly would have been different.
Sherry is typically produced with white grapes, where ports usually use reds, and we will discuss that more next week. According to our author, there are some fine sherries that are bone dry. Historically, we think of sherry as sweet and only consumed by old ladies in England. What I got was sweet, and to be honest, I wasn’t really willing to plunk down the dough for something really nice, that may or may not end up collecting dust.
Up to now, when I have purchased sherry, it has been purely for cooking purposes. This leads to a tiny rant about Memphis and it’s lack of good groceries. Finding wild rice here has been almost impossible. Almost. Thank goodness for Whole Foods.
According to our author, a nice dry Fino sherry can be consumed like one would a nice white wine and can pair with almost any meal. Now I wish I had made a better purchase. These sherries are aged under a film of yeast that acts as a barrier between the liquid and the air. This process helps Fino develop its signature characteristic, which is typically light in body and a pronounced minerality.
What I got was an Oloroso sherry, and in contrast to the Fino, has not been aged and tends to be richer and have a far fuller body. These tend to be paired more with red meats and stews.
The Oloroso I got was a sweet wine and I could easily see this pairing with a rich dark chocolate cake. The nose was that of a port, so I was a little surprised the sherry itself was so drinkable. The cocktail I made was not something I’ll make again. If I do, I’ll change the proportions. I can see there is potential. This recipe paired the sherry with a dark rum. I didn’t have the best dark rum, but I could see it pairing with an aged rum better. Overall, I preferred this sherry as a sipper rather than mixed, but I’m not giving up on that avenue.
Be sure to see what Meg drank this week. Also, please leave a comment to share your favorite home bar tricks and tools.
Here’s to Toasting another Tuesday!
I’m going to tell you honestly, I really didn’t read this chapter in the book. I just looked in my liquor closet and followed my tastebuds. I have three gins and a genever in my collection.
When New Deal began making gin, I was certain I didn’t like gin. What I soon realized was I hadn’t had any good gins. I’d only had old school gins that tasted only of rubbing alcohol and juniper. New gins were a beautiful balance of flavors and different notes that just juniper.
When New Deal was experimenting with the gins, we’d pour them in the tasting room to get people’s feedback. We made two gins; one of the gins is a little more traditional, and the other something very unique and herbaceous, that really took folks by surprise. I fell in love with Gin No, 1, the weird kid. Before I moved I stocked up on #1. It has a soft green hue and is quite versatile. It is great for a martini, in a Bloody Mary, or with savory elements. I know the thing you are scratching your head about there is the Bloody Mary, but a good bloody has layers of spice, and so does No. 1.
Another gin that is great in a bloody is the barrel aged Abernathy Gin from Tenn South Distillery. This is made in the New American style where juniper is not the only flavor element. This has a soft hints of floral and citrus. I knew at first sip this was going home with me.
The other thing I drank this week was Bols Genever. Genever is the precursor to the gin we know now, first made by the Dutch. It’s very malty, both on the nose and the pallet. You can make an interesting Old Fashioned with it. What I did was the Improved Gin Cocktail and followed cocktail historian David Wondrich’s tasting notes and mixed it with maraschino liqueur and bitters. The maltiness came through and made a delicious little cocktail.
I also made a cocktail called the Jasmine, that I found I had saved in my drinks file a couple years ago and again last week. Clearly if I’ve saved it twice, it was time to make it. I used Martin Miller’s Gin. This is my favorite commercial gin a soft juniper flavor and citrus flavor.
This week I am hosting my ladies group for my Happy Hour at home. I’ve really struggled with what to serve this week. I want to make classic cocktails that are intended to be savored and sipped. Most of these ladies want koolaid that can be sucked down in a flash. So as a compromise for myself, I’m making one classic cocktail, one simple cocktail, and one fluffy, but interesting, cocktail. oh the decisions…
Be sure to see what Meg drank this week. I’ll keep you posted on how the ladies fare with the gin.
Here’s to another great Tuesday and drinking adventurously!
I’ve had a wonderful week of sake. The story, the process, and the different types are all too vast for me to summarize in any succinct manner. I’ll just tell you, sake is yummy. If you don’t believe me, I’ve got a room full of ladies that’ll tell you I changed some minds. Our guide in this journey is very passionate about his sake. I will certainly have to give a little more thought the next time I go out for sushi.
For my monthly Happy Hour at Home, I made cocktails with sake!
In addition to our cocktails, I had sake for the ladies to try. Sometime last summer I went to a short sake seminar. I tried all sorts of sakes and I learned a few things that really stuck in my head.
- They polish the rice before it is fermented. The more they polish it, the higher grade the sake. When they polish it, they are removing a certain percentage of the grain to achieve a certain flavor.
- I’m not a huge fan of the unfiltered sake I have tried. I won’t say I don’t like unfiltered sake, because I am sure there is some I would like. But so far, not a fan.
The winner of the sake samples, was my favorite from the sake tasting I went to. It was a sparkling sake. If I hadn’t told them it was sake, they would have all thought it was champagne. It’s beautifully delicate, with a hint of floral sweetness. That is the pretty blue bottle in the front of the picture with 4 sake bottles.
I made three cocktails. All were a huge hit, but there is always a clear favorite. This evening the gold medal went to the Mojito.
In an 8 ounce mason jar or rocks glass, muddle
2 sugar cubes
7-10 mint leaves
1 wedge of lime
Fill glass with ice and top with sake (about 4oz).
Stir well and enjoy!
2 oz sake
1/2 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz lime juice
Splash simple syrup (1/4z)
Few drops Elemakule bitters or Angostura bitters
Shake with ice and serve up.
2 oz sake
1/2 oz cucumber infused vodka*
1/4 oz simple syrup
Shake with ice and serve up.
*I chopped and muddled 1 large cucumber and topped with 8 ounces of vodka. Let the infusion sit in the fridge for 2 days, then strained.
The simple syrup really heightens the flavor of the cucumber.
To kick this martini up a notch, add 1/2 oz Hot Monkey or you favorite pepper infused vodka.
As I sit here, pondering my week of sake, I am enjoying another mojito. This may be this summer’s drink… that is until the next amazing week of drinks.
Here’s to Toasting a great Tuesday! Be sure to see what Meg drank.
I leave for work when it’s dark. When I get home it’s almost dark. Tonight it is raining so hard, we are all concerned about getting washed away. So, going out to take pictures is not high on my priority list.
What does my bliss look like?! I really had to give this some thought. I really had no idea until I started going back through my photo files and realized my bliss is creativity and making things. Making drinks, making dinner, making a cake, making whipped cream, making people laugh, or making something in the community.
These photos are a stroll down the memory lane of my blog. I giggle and smile thinking back on each one of these. I hope you do too.
Do tell, what does your bliss look like?