Cocktail Recipe: The Amazing Teflon Rhubarb Cooler


Some people are downright breezy when it comes to messing with recipes. Not me:  I fret when I start tweaking ingredients, convinced that I’ll ruin the drink.

But not this one. You can’t hurt this recipe — it’s like cocktail teflon.

This drink started life as “The Rhubarb Cooler.” But I’ve since realized that I might was well rename this versatile cocktail “The Whatever Seasonal Produce You Can Get Your Hands On Cooler,” since it’s easily adaptable… and the window for rhubarb is very, very short.

Sure, I’ve made it with rhubarb. The last of it is probably at the greenmarket right now. When rhubarb is in season, I’ll sometimes cut the rosy-red stalks into half-inch pieces and puree them in the food processor. After the stalks are pulverized into smithereens, the fibrous mess can be spooned into a piece of cheesecloth, and the juices squeezed out into a measuring cup. Only an ounce of the vibrant ruby juice is needed for one cocktail.

But the rhubarb season is short — mid-to-late spring– and I foolishly agreed to make this drink for Martha Stewart’s “Cooking Today” show on Sirius at the tail end of March. I went to the greenmarket, the supermarket, and what did I find? NO RHUBARB. I was too early!

So I substituted strawberry lemonade, to approximate the rosy hue and tart punch of fresh rhubarb. And it was delicious!

So I’ve been experimenting with the juices in this drink:  as long as there’s a tart element (lemonade or fresh lemon juice) to balance out the sweetness of the fruit juice and liqueur, it works great. Fresh strawberries, raspberries, fresh-pressed apple juice. It all works. No mint for the garnish? Try basil (probably would be amazing with a strawberry variation). Try coriander, or rosemary.

Another change that seems to make for a more forgiving cocktail:  I’ve switched the format from straight up to on the rocks. The gradual dilution seems to smooth any remaining rough edges.

Teflon, I tell you.

Rhubarb Cooler  Teflon Rhubarb Cooler

adapted from “Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails,” by Kara Newman

1 ½ ounces Maker’s Mark bourbon

1 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur

1 ounce rhubarb puree * (or other amount of seasonal fruit juice, plus a squeeze of lemon)

1 mint sprig, for garnish

Vigorously shake together the bourbon, ginger liqueur and rhubarb puree with ice, until frothy. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with mint sprig, and offer a straw.

*For rhubarb puree:

1 ½ cups 1-inch pieces rhubarb

Puree the rhubarb in a blender and strain out the sediment through cheesecloth. Makes enough for several drinks.

Spicy spirits: King’s Ginger Liqueur

I love ginger. I really, really do.

I have long been a vocal fan of Domaine de Canton, that zingy ginger-infused brandy liqueur. And when I had a chance to try a swig of Skyy Infusions Ginger vodka, that made me happy too:  all bright ginger sizzle and aroma, but no sweetness. And of course, the more fiery the ginger beer for my Dark & Stormy’s, the better (Fentimans is still my brand of choice).

And now, add to the ginger landscape The King’s Ginger liqueur. It’s distilled in Holland, and clocks in at 82 proof (rather high for a liqueur). The label says it’s “produced exclusively for Berry Bros & Rudd” in London, supposedly created in 1903 for King Edward VII. The marketing literature plays heavily on the London provenance. I do like that it’s sold in Harvey Nick’s –  very Ab Fab, sweetie darling.

So how does it taste?  The honey-colored liqueur has a good dose of ginger in the aroma, but when you take a sip you get hit by a syrupy sweetness first, and then the spiciness of the ginger only kicks in after a beat or two. The end result is that it seems heavier than it really is.  I suspect it will be best lightened up with carbonation (tonic water? ginger ale) and citrus. Speaking of citrus, there’s an intriguing citrusy note on the finish, though it fades out quickly.

The final verdict:  I prefer ginger to really sing out, so Domaine de Canton still wins for me. But I realize that I’m probably in the minority, and many people will enjoy this sweeter version, especially when mixed into drinks. And perhaps consumed while watching Patsy & Edina in action. Kiss kiss, sweetie darling.

Two parties, two punches

Last week, I participated in two events, and punch was the featured libation at both. A few snaps (and recipes) to share:

Event #1:  The Holiday Spirits Bazaar – This event was hosted by The Dizzy Fizz. I was there selling copies of Spice & Ice, so of course I showcased a drink from the book, writ large in punch format.  I also had hot sauce available for sale, the hottest I could find!

Punch #1:  Sparkling Ginger Daisy Punch (click for recipe)



Event #2: Monastic Liqueurs & Cheeses – This was an event hosted by The Culinary Historians of New York, and focused on the rich foodways that monks have provided throughout history, and continue to provide today. The event was held at the National Arts Club, who provided the gorgeous silver punchbowl.

Recipe #2:  Alchemist Punch  The punch (recipe after the photo) showcases Benedictine, a liqueur once made by monks as long as 500 years ago. It’s not supposed to be bright red (I used blood orange puree since I couldn’t find mandarin orange puree). But it sure does look festive, doesn’t it?

Alchemist Punch

Alchemist Punch (courtesy of Benedictine)

Organic honey (50 ml)

Water (300 ml) (10 oz)

1 bottle of Benedictine (70 cl)   

Mandarine Puree/Nectar (500 ml) (16.6 oz)   

Freshly squeezed lemon juice (350 ml) (11.6 oz)

Fresh slices of lemons (2 lemons)

Fresh wedges of tangerines (3 tangerines)

Fresh thyme (for garnish)

Glassware:  Punch bowl + glasses.

Method:  Start by diluting the honey with hot water in the punch bowl. Assemble all the other ingredients, stir to harmonize all the flavors, fresh fruits last. Macerate and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Take the punch out. Serve in a cup/glass with ice cubes and garnish with fresh thyme.

Drink recipe: Sparkling Ginger Daisy Punch

photo courtesy Marleigh Riggins

So far, the Sparkling Ginger Daisy has proven to be one of the most popular drinks from the Spice & Ice book. I made it at the book launch party; I made a non-alcoholic version of it on TV; and it’s even going to be appearing in a major women’s magazine very shortly (shhh….more on that soon).

And now, it’s also avaiable writ large, in punch format, at the request of clever spirits rep MIchelle Ponto, for a holiday party.  And why not? Punches are everywhere this season (thanks, Dave Wondrich!)

Hmmm. I can’t resist a challenge. It took just a couple of minutes with a measurement converter tool, and a tweak here and there. Voila!

Sparkling Ginger Daisy PUNCH!

 Yield:  enough for 8 guests. Double this recipe for 16 guests (or 8 hard-drinkin’ types)

1 cup Plymouth gin

1 cup Domaine de Canton

1 cup lemon juice

½ cup grenadine (or a little less – some people find the recipe as is a little too pink)

Approx. 2 cups Brut Champagne, Prosecco, or other sparkling wine.

In a large punchbowl, stir together gin, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, and grenadine. Add large chunks of ice to keep everything chilled (such as frozen in a round Bundt pan). Add the sparkling wine, and stir again.

Serve with a ladle, and consider keeping a bowl of maraschino cherries next to the punchbowl for guests to garnish their own drinks.

Drink Recipe: Daikon Green Tea-ni

My first article for NPR’s “Kitchen Window” is running today.  It’s called “Relishing the Radish,” and if that’s how you found your way here – welcome!

Of course I couldn’t help slipping in a cocktail recipe. Originally, I had planned to use Scott Beattie’s super-pretty Gin Kimchi cocktail recipe, which features a zingy pickled daikon, but frankly it was just too darn complicated. So then I started casting about for different ways to use radishes in cocktails, each time coming back to daikon. I sifted through sake, citron vodka, ginger beer, fresh ginger, and pickled ginger before settling on gin and ginger liqueur, with fresh, un-pickled daikon.

To be honest, the fresh daikon flavor is a little too subtle in the drink for my taste. but I figured that for most folks without Teflon tastebuds, the flavor should be just about right. If you try it, I’d love to hear what you think!

Daikon Green Tea-ni

Gin is flash-infused with green tea to create this subtle sipper, which melds with earthy daikon and piquant ginger flavors.  Taste the daikon first for pungency; if the radish is very mild, use an extra couple of slices.

Makes 1 cocktail

1 green tea bag

2 ounces gin

3-5 pieces of daikon radish, peeled and sliced thin

1 ½ ounces Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur

¾ ounce fresh lemon juice

1 mint sprig, for garnish

Immerse tea bag in hot water for 10 seconds, then remove it and immerse it in the gin. Allow to steep for five minutes. Remove tea bag before proceeding to next steps.

Use a muddler or the back of a spoon to crush the pieces of daikon at the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add tea-infused gin, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, and ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with mint sprig.

Spice & Ice cocktail contest winners!

Many thanks to everyone who came out to last night’s Spice & Ice event at Trattoria Cinque (and a special thanks to Devin, bartender extraordinaire)!  One of the highlights was our DIY cocktail contest –  we had two winners, Meryl Rosofsky, with The Hot Scrooge, and the Law Librarians of NYC, with Fred (you’ll understand the cocktail name in a moment). Congrats to both, who each took home a copy of Spice & Ice for their tongue-tingling original creations.

The Hot Scrooge, created by Meryl Rosofsky
A perfect name for the holiday season! Meryl describes this drink as a “hot holiday homage” to the classic Screwdriver cocktail. We didn’t have O.J. on hand, so she cleverly subbed in pineapple juice. And get a load of that garnish! 

The Hot Scrooge

lemon wedge, for rim
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder, for rim
4 jiggers pineapple juice
1 jigger vodka
3-4 dashes Frostbite (a clear hot sauce)
1 slice each jalapeno, poblano, and habanero, skewered on a cocktail straw (alternate green and red colors), for garnish
Rub the lemon wedge around the rim of a glass to moisten it. Roll the edge of the glass in the ancho chile powder to coat; allow to dry.
Combine the pineapple juice, vodka, and hot sauce with ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into prepared glass and garnish with hot pepper skewer.  Enjoy!
Fred, created by the Law Librarians of NYC 
This drink was a group effort, created by Vicki Szymczak, Janet Peros, George Prager, Kathy David, and Karen Schneiderman. Since this drink heavily features ginger – both crushed fresh ginger and Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur – this drink started as “Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers.” But in the end, the group opted for the simple, wry “Fred.”  Ginger is implied. Get it?

Team Fred

As for the drink itself – the flavor profile is similarly clean and elegant. It reminded me a bit of a zingy, refreshing ginger-limeade, the kind I only wish I could buy at the store.
2 oz. vodka
1 oz. Domaine de Canton
2-3 Tablespoons crushed fresh ginger
lime juice
club soda
garnish – lime wedge
Muddle fresh ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add vodka, ginger liqueur, and lime juice. Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Top with club soda and garnish with lime wedge.

Drink recipe: Spiced Caramel Apple

I’ve been so immersed lately in all the blah-blah-blah of book promotion that I’ve strayed from the core mission:  cocktails!  So without further ado, I give you the Spiced Caramel Apple.

This drink has proven to be a universal crowd-pleaser, with a good dose of ginger spice, the aroma of caramel, and (since it’s the season, after all!) your favorite apple cider. If you can’t get your hands on a bottle of caramel vodka, try using your favorite vanilla vodka. But do try to get some:  it really does elevate the drink to something special.

The Spiced Caramel Apple

2 oz. Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur

1 oz. Van Gogh Dutch Caramel vodka

2 ½ oz. apple cider

1 dash lemon juice


Add liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well. Strain into martini glass.

Optional touch:  rim the glass with agave syrup and crumbled gingersnap cookies.

5 Must-Try Spirits for Spice Lovers

Like the hot stuff? Then you’re going to want to get your hands on the following products.

(And no, I have not been paid or otherwise compensated to mention any of these brands…or any others on this blog, for that matter. These are my opinions. Period.)

Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur:  This tingly liqueur in the iridescent bamboo-shaped bottle has just the faintest hit of ginger-y heat, and blends seamlessly into cocktails. Imbibed in petite shots, this the perfect way to indoctrinate everyone you know into spicy drinks.  I’d rate this one mild to harmless.

Mazama Infused Pepper Vodka:  MazamaWhat do you mean you haven’t tried it yet? What the heck are you waiting for? Created by Oregon’s Bendistillery, the vodka is infused with a blend of six different hot and sweet peppers. The web site recommends blending it with mango juice and a dash of sugar.   Sounds good to me. Rating:  medium to hot.

Tanteo Chocolate Tequila: Think the rougher, tougher side of chocolate mole. I’ll be honest:  the jalapeno infusion is a little brutal even for my daredevil taste, and I’d gladly see it toned down a bit so the chocolate can shine through more clearly. But at the bottom of it all, it’s a smooth tequila, and would be awesome in a spicy chocolate margarita, so it makes my shortlist. The marketing literature describes the flavor as “roasted”; I concur.  Rating:  HOT STUFF, handle with caution.

 MS_Celery_PeppercornModern Spirits Celery Peppercorn Vodka:  It’s not just that Modern Spirits is an artisanal brand. It’s not just that the bottles and the labels are so very pretty. It’s not even just that they also own the organic Tru brand. To me, it’s all about the fact that this is a product that seems custom-made for adding to a Bloody Mary. They’ve somehow managed to capture the elusive freshness of celery stalks, and the peppercorn notes don’t overpower either. It’s delicate but not flabby.   Rating:  a very lovely medium.

Hangar One Chipotle Vodka – This is a limited edition product made with Fresno chile peppers, and I suspect it will sell out very shortly (let’s hope they plan to make more!). I spotted some on the shelf at Astor Wines & Spirits; it won’t be there for long. Check out the video of Hangar One’s Lance Winters on distilling chipotle peppers— he neatly sums up what’s wrong with many pepper-infused liquors (but none of the ones above): “all they are is hot & spicy, there’s no other identity of the pepper.” Amen to that. Rating:  medium to hot.