Nothing better than enjoying a small batch agave spirit on a beautiful evening.
I live next to one of the most amazing parks. I walk out my front door and I’m in 120 acre wooded off leash dog heaven. It’s where I dust off the cooties of the work day, find peace, and my sanity. Coe and I spend a great deal of time in this park, day and night. In the three Decembers I’ve lived in Memphis, I have given back to this awesome park by volunteering at Starry Nights, a drive through holiday light display. Some nights have been cold, raining, warm, and stormy, but it has always been great fun.
I’ve met some incredible people in my volunteering time and when I had the opportunity to share an idea with the park, they listened. I’m sure it helped that I made cocktails for our first two meetings. One of the things I’ve found in my move is that there is a gaping hole in the activities available for 30-50 year olds. I know the kind of things I like to do and I just haven’t been finding it here. As a result, I’ve made my own.
If this hadn’t already been on calendar, I might have been inclined to bail, since still recovering from the flu. We had worked so hard to promote this event and get folks interested, I was making this happen. Thanks goodness for my lovely assistant and the awesome folks at the park.
At our kickoff event, we had 20 enthusiastic people, one really yummy cocktail four ways, and a creative Valentine painting project. I talked to folks about bitters and how they enhance and highlight different flavors in a cocktail. They got to taste the different bitters and customize their cocktails. While they sipped, they painted, glued, and glittered. I think I can safely say this event was a success and I am delighted and giddy for the next ones.
We are going to do this monthly, with each month’s drinks selected for the season or event of the month. In the upcoming months we will be doing Irish whiskey, mint julep, and sangria. So many yummy ideas are swirling in my brain… what to concoct next?
Wondering what we made? Here’s our cocktail: Mambo til Morning
Mambo til Morning
1 ounce tequila
1 ounce fresh expresso or cold brewed coffee
½ ounce heavy cream or ¾ ounce half & half
1 ounce cream de cacao
2 dashes chile tincture or bitters
Tools: shaker, jigger, strainer
Glass: coupe or cocktail glass
Garnish: mint leaf
Combine the ingredients in your cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake briskly.
Strain into a coupe.
Slap fresh mint leaf in the palm of your hand and float on cocktail
Fill a small jar with stemmed hot chili peppers and cover with high proof vodka. Let sit soak for three days, shaking at least once per day, then strain. You can use a combination of any type of chili peppers such as habaneros, jalapenos, arbol, or Thai chiles.
In the new year, I am going to continue with Toast Tuesday, but with a twist. I am going to be toasting life. I will be trying new spirits, new cocktails, new recipes, new restaurants, meeting new people, and in short, trying all sorts of new stuff.
It’s not like I have really ever had trouble getting out of my shell, but I am going to make myself try things I would not otherwise. In the past year, I have spent a lot of money on booze in the pursuit of drinking adventurously. I normally read a lot of food and cocktail recipes. I buy herbs, spices, and chiles with the intent of making some dish that ultimately never gets made. Those days are over.
One of the things I bought last year, with no real plans, was creme de cacao. This is a chocolate liqueur and since I don’t really like sweet drinks, I can’t recall why I bought it. I am working on a new series of workshops focusing on cocktails and crafts. The first will be in February and I am focusing on chocolate.
In the name of research, I have been making cocktails with the creme de cacao. Most of the recipes I have found, have focused on the sweet chocolate aspect of the liqueur, of which I abhor. I’m more interested in cocktails that make you wonder what’s in there.
The two I have found most interesting so far pair tequila and aged rum with the creme de cacao. Both are rich and decadent, but with the addition of interesting tinctures and bitters, balance into something really enjoyable.
This is Occam’s Razor with cold brewed coffee, chile tincture, and a mint garnish. I didn’t have a chance to make the chile tincture this weekend, but instead used Elemakule Tiki Bitters. I think with the flavors in this drink, it could also be made with bourbon or an aged rum. I’ll be making the chile tincture very shortly.
This is the Coctel de Chocolate that calls for a chocolate sauce made with Mexican chocolate. Mexican chocolate has spices and depth you don’t normally find in good ole hersheys, but one of the things I’m trying to do in my workshop is get folks to make interesting cocktails with regular ingredients they have in their cabinet. So, I did use good ole hershey syrup and Scrappy’s Orleans Bitters. Without the bitters, the drink was too sweet, one most of the Memphis girls will love. The addition of bitters, gives it more balance and depth, making it something I found much more interesting.
Here’s to toasting you a sweet and extraordinary new year!
Before there was beer, there was Pulque. Week 19 in our Year of Drinking Adventurously finds up discussing a cousin of mezcal. I glossed over mezcal last week in favor of tequila, but to play catch-up for a moment, mezcal is a spirit distilled from agave, like tequila, but tends to be earthier and smokier than tequila, somewhat akin to the peatiness of scotch.
Fast forward to this week, pulque is a fermented, but not distilled beverage. According to our author, it is a mildly sweet, viscous beverage that dates back sometime to the Aztec Empire. It’s exact origins are not entirely clear, but there’s a legend that a woman came upon 400 rabbits and as she approached them, all but one scattered. The one that remained was running in circles “like a lopsided drunkard”. Now if that doesn’t paint a pretty picture. She followed the drunk bunny, who led her to an agave plant that was leaking nectar. It spontaneously fermented and intoxicated the bunny. She took this back to her village and they took this as a sign from the gods. She was dubbed Mayahuel, goddess of the maguey plant.
Pulque was pervasive throughout Mexico until about a century ago, when it faded from popularity. According to the mom and pop pulque shops, the beer distributors started a smear campaign about how unsanitary pulque was. Our author gives the impression he doesn’t put much stock in this reason for the decline in pulque; but I’ll say a smear campaign worked on absinthe. Also, a couple years ago Costco showed what big money backing a ballot initiative could do in the state of Oregon. Like many smart artisan products though, pulque is experiencing a resurgence. It just hasn’t made it to Memphis.
Neither has mezcal, or based on the feedback when I inquired in at least six different liquor stores, the mezcal resurgence hasn’t made it here. We used to carry that or we discontinued it was what I heard from each store where I inquired. Just when I was about to throw up my hands in a fit of failure, I looked over and saw an intriguing little bottle… an agave liqueur. $17, what’s to loose?
Upon arriving home, I tasted it straight and it had a nice flavor, with just a hint of tequila, and not overly sweet like some liqueurs. I took to the google for some inspiration and a jumping off point of what to do with little lovely. I found a recipe for a riff on a pomegranate cosmo, but I can never follow a recipe as it’s written. Here’s what I did:
1 oz Agavero
1 1/2 oz tequila
3/4 oz pomegranate juice
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz ginger liqueur
Combine all in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and poured into a coupe glass.
This was delightful while sitting on the patio enjoying the evening. It certainly made any remaining frustrations from the work day vanish.
Here’s to Toasting another Tuesday! Cheers y’all and be sure to check out what Meg drank this week.
We all have that story. You know, the one where we do shots of tequila and then end up ridiculously sick. Mine was on my 21st birthday. So was yours?! It took me years to drink tequila again. I was more scared of tequila than I was of whiskey… hmmm… maybe not…
I am so thankful tequila and I made up. It really is one of life great pleasures.
According to our author, much of the popularity and “premiumization” of tequila is thanks to Patron. It certainly was the first tequila I thought was something better than swill. I can’t recall the name of it now, but there was (is?) a tequila bar in Portland. That was the first time I had ever heard of a shot, one single shot, of tequila costing $30+. I didn’t spend that, but I did try some that certainly made me rethink tequila.
The key with tequila is buying one that is 100% agave. Many will say agave tequila, because like whiskey they have to have a certain percentage of agave to be called tequila. There are different types of tequila. Silver or blanco, is an unaged tequila. Clear in color, right off the still. Then there is reposado, where it has “rested” anywhere from two months to nine months in wooden vessels. Finally, there are anejo, meaning aged. These are aged at least a year, but can spend any where from two to four years in a barrel.
This week also would have covered mezcal, but I have a good stock of tequila and decided to stick with what I had on hand. I’ll double back and hit mezcal on a week I foresee another fail.
My friend P and I used to drive home from work on a back road, winding through Oregon City and we stumbled upon one of the greatest margaritas of all times. We still refer to this as the Steven Margarita. We made a rule, we could talk about work for one drink, then when the second one was placed in front of us, all talk of work had to stop. These margaritas cured everything! When Steven got a new job and left us to fend for ourselves, we attempted to recreate his magic.
There is really nothing better than a fresh, from scratch margarita. But most of us don’t have that kind of time or patience during the week. So, I came up with the Steven Shortcut.
In a rocks glass, muddle 1 or 2 wedges of lime
1/2 oz triple sec
2 oz tequila of your choice
top with about 4 ounces of Freshies Margarita Mix*
Sprinkle with pink Himalayan salt (or whatever you have on hand)
Stir and drink. ahhhhhhhh
*Freshies has no high fructose corn syrup and if I can’t make fresh, its my favorite mixer.
I have three tequilas on my bar, one purchased purely for the pretty bottle, one for mixing, and one for sipping or mixing. This is the first time I have ever sipped all three side by side and I’ll admit I was surprised. The pretty bottle may be my new favorite mixer, especially for people who think they don’t like tequila.
Coa Silver was about $15. It has a little boozey nose, but it tastes like water. Quite smooth, but it got lost completely in the drink.
El Charro, a reposado, has been my mixer, and by itself I was not impressed, but it stands up quite nicely to a mixer. Giving my margarita a hint of something, with that little bit of age coming through.
Finally, my sipper/mixer has been Zircon Azul, but I think it’s been bumped in favor of the other two. Good, but a little more expensive and not any better.
This Toast Tuesday I leave you with a poem…
Tequila with salt and lime
I can drink you any time
You always lift my mood
And pair with all kinds of food
Oh the simple joys in life
A cup filled w happiness & ice
I don’t know how else to tell ya
I love a good margarita
I’m a little embarrassed to say I drive by Nuestra Cocina all the time. It took me until a few months ago to check this place out. And now I’m hooked!
I get off work at 4:15 and by the time I get over there the doors are swinging open at 5pm and the bar stool is calling my name!
The bartenders, Danny and Ernie, are darling. As we sat at the bar nibbling on chips and 3 different salsas, Ernie gave us tiny tastes of several different drinks he served up while we watched.
The Cocina Especial has become my staple. A nice spicy margarita which I get just a little hotter than usual. The girls have ventured through a few more beverages on the menu, such as the Scarlet Orange Margarita, the Serrano Lime Drop, and the Margarita De la Casa, all of which are outstanding.
I’ve learned through life’s hiccups there are certain things that can cure anything. One is ice cream. Breyer’s Vanilla Fudge Twirl. The other is a fabulous Margarita. Throw a bit of arbol simple syrup in there and the world is just about perfect.
ahhhhh… the weekend is almost here
This is the first time I’ve ever had a tequila that I thought I’d be happy just sipping. We tasted 3 tequilas and all 3 were lovely. The charming and charasmatic David Ravandi, of 123, told us the story of how they started, the process of being certified organic, and how they slowly cook the agave in large stone ovens before pressing to release the sugary juice. I was amazed when he told us they use wild yeast to do a natural fermentation process. (I captured wild yeast to start a sourdough starter and it took a few tries before I got something I liked. I couldn’t imagine the risk on this grand a scale.)
Uno ($50) is the blanco (unaged) of the series. It has earthy citrus notes and hit right in the middle of my tongue leaving a beautiful, delicate finish.
Dos ($56) is a reposado that has been aged for 6 months. This hit the back of my mouth and left a lingering hint of vanilla. The finish on this was outstanding.
Tres ($62) is an anjeo that is aged for 12 months in white oak barrels. This one hit the tip of my tongue and slowly filled my mouth and left me with a lingering smokey finish.
All three were incredible, but if I were to bring one home, it would be a toss up between Uno and Dos. Dos seemed it may be the more versatile of the two, but I was so impressed by the simple perfection of Uno.
Kask was the perfect setting for our tasting. The bar is cozy and comfortable. I loved the chalk boards on the wall listing the sips and snacks. The woodwork was gorgeous and they have a great selection of local spirits.
Kudos to Will for this great tasting. I can’t wait to go back to Kask during regular business hours and try a few cocktails.