The drink you need for your 4th of July party: The Rosemary Refresher


The Rosemary Refresher

photo credit: Teri Lyn Fisher

It’s possible that I may I love this drink a little too much. I made a batch for a book signing event on Saturday, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

A few random thoughts on this drink:

  • Although it was created to be a pitcher drink, if it’s going to sit out for longer than a few minutes before guests gulp it down in a thirsty frenzy, do not add ice! This drink is best when chilled, but loses all its oomph when it gets watered down. Mix it up and set it in a bottle or carafe, and pour it over ice to serve, if it’s going to sit for any length of time. (if serving right away, the pitcher method is just fine, though.)
  • If any rosemary syrup (and/or lime juice) is left over, refrigerate it and save it. Sunday night, I used this template to create an enjoyable Rosemary Daiquiri (though I used 2 oz white rum, not 2.5 oz aged rum). Tuesday night, I found inspiration here to make a rosemary-tinged gin Gimlet.
  • The rosemary sprig garnish is optional. But it makes the drink look really impressive.

The Rosemary Refresher

From Cocktails for a Crowd, by Kara Newman (Chronicle Books)

Serves 8
Total volume: 4 3/4 cups (without ice)

This sophisticated margarita variation is a wonderful thirst-quenching aperitif. The recipe makes a bit more rosemary-infused simple syrup than needed for the cocktails. Offer the leftover portion in a small pitcher for anyone who isn’t drinking alcohol so they can enjoy it mixed with club soda or ginger ale.

Rosemary Simple Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
5 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 cups reposado tequila
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
4 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
6 ounces rosemary-infused simple syrup
4 cups ice cubes
8 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

To make the rosemary syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved. When the syrup starts to boil, lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Gently roll the rosemary between your hands to release some of the aromatic oils, then add it to the syrup. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then remove the rosemary sprigs and strain the syrup if need be. Stored in a covered container in the refrigerator, the syrup will keep for about 2 weeks.

To make the cocktails: In pitcher that holds at least 10 cups, combine the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and rosemary simple syrup and stir until thoroughly blended. Add the ice and stir well.

To serve, pour into rocks glasses and garnish each glass with a rosemary sprig.

Cocktail experiment: Sweet Broiled Lemon Margarita (by way of Tony Conigliaro)

grilled lemon

When I was in San Francisco a few weeks back, I popped into the awesome Omnivore Books and picked up a copy of Tony Conigliaro’s new book, Drinks.

It’s a really interesting book:  deeply scientific, with lots of rumination about concept drinks and recipes that most people can’t make at home unless they happen to have sous-vide equipment and malic acid on hand.

This is not one of those recipes.

Rather, this is from the “Culinary Skills” chapter (aka Chapter 2), one of the more accessible chapters in the book — although readers still will need to flip to the back of the book to learn techniques like say, how to make Grilled Lemon Juice.

Note:  Conigliaro’s recipe is called the “Grilled Lemon Margarita.” I used the broiler on my stove rather than an outdoor grill, so to my American mind the key ingredient is “Broiled Lemon Juice” — not “Grilled Lemon Juice.”

Semantics aside, Broiled Lemon Juice is worth the effort — it tempers the tartness found in uncooked lemon juice, and creates a lightly caramelized flavor and slightly thickened texture. Explains Conigliaro:  “Grilling the lemon relieves the fruit of its acid bite by caramelising the fructose and killing its vitamin C.”

Conigliaro rightly points out that the caramelized/caramelised lemon juice is a perfect match for the caramel and toffee notes found in reposado tequila. I also experimented with rye whiskey — also full of caramel and vanilla notes — and it was an equally harmonious match.

Home bartenders will find two hurdles in trying to make drinks from this otherwise fascinating book. First, there’s the molecular wizard hurdle — I don’t own a Superbag or a homogenizer, so in the recipe below I’ve adapted it using tools I have in my own kitchen. Second, he’s English, so recipes are given in milliliters (um, millilitres) instead of ounces, as American recipes use. So in effect, I’ve translated this recipe twice.

Take that as a hint:  make two drinks.

Sweet Broiled Lemon Margarita

adapted from Drinks, by Tony Conigliaro

Step 1: Make Broiled Lemon Juice

This makes about 1/4 cup lemon juice – enough for 2 drinks, with a little extra. (Conigliaro calls for 5 lemons; I cut this down.)

2 lemons, cut in half

Place lemons, cut side up, under a broiler. Grill under high heat until golden brown. (Note – Conigliaro calls for “medium heat.” My oven doesn’t have that setting. It took 12 minutes for the lemons to turn brown.)

Juice the broiled lemons. (Note – the lemons will be HOT. Allow them to cool first. Happily, the lemon halves will now juice as easily as if they’re made of butter.)

Strain using cheesecloth. (Conigliaro calls for a Superbag.)

Step 2: Make the cocktail


1 1/2 ounces reposado tequila

3/4 ounce broiled lemon juice

1/2 ounce triple sec

Sugar, for the rim

Combine all of the ingredients except the sugar in a cocktail shaker and shake with cubed ice.

Fine-strain and pour into a chilled coupette with a half sugar rim.

5/7/13:  UPDATE:  Apparently I’m not the only one translating measurements. An Americanized version of Conigliaro’s “Drinks” book will be published on July 16, under the name “The Cocktail Lab.”

Hot Stuff: Jalapeno Cilantro Sour

This happens to me a lot:  I’m talking with someone about one topic, and they mention the words “spicy” or “jalapeno” and I get totally sidetracked. 

That’s exactly what happened the other day when Seth Hammond, who is chef & GM at Pomegranate restaurant in Redmond, WA., told me he makes his own jalapeno cilantro sour mix, which he uses in a Margarita-like drink called the Invierno Caliente (“Hot Winter”).  I’ve heard of infused spirits and syrups, but infused sour mix is new to me. So at that point I completely forgot the topic at hand, and asked, “you do what WHAT to your sour mix?”

Hammond replied:  “We make a bit of sweet and sour, and add simple syrup. Our bartender infuses red and green jalapenos and cilantro for four days, and then strain it out.”

Me:  “Four days??? Are you crazy? I infuse peppers for two hours and it gets kind of hot. Four DAYS???”

Hammond:  “Well, it’s four gallons, to one jalapeno.”

Me:  “Oh.” (Brief but sheepish silence.) “I’m usually infusing two cups of liquor, with half a jalapeno. OK, I guess four days isn’t so much with those proportions.”

Hammond:  “The acid actually pulls a lot of heat out of the peppers, so it’s not so hot.”

Me:  “So what do you do with the sweet-and-sour-and-spicy mix?”

Hammond: “We make it into a Margarita after that. A touch of tequila, Grand Marnier, and then a lemon-infused sugar for the rim.”

Niiiiiice.  And just in time for Cinco de Drinko, I mean, Cinco de Mayo, too, an innovative new Margarita recipe!

Feeding cocktails to children is bad, right?

Someday, I’m going to look back on all this and laugh. Right?

I was in Portland, OR last week, promoting Spice & Ice in between general networking and merriment at the IACP conference. I had exactly two promotional opportunities planned:  a cocktail segment on KATU (the local ABC-TV affiliate), and book-signing at the IACP Cookbook Expo. What could possibly go wrong?

Part I:  Morning

The KATU studio, with Robo-Camera. It's like the world's biggest Roomba!

I arrived at KATU bright & early at 8:45 am, all my cocktail gear in hand. (Including all my chopped cucumbers, poblanos, and more, lovingly peeled and cut in my hotel room the evening before, aka “hotel mise-en-place.” Isn’t my life glamorous?) I set up quick-as-a-wink on a bar that would be wheeled out into the studio at the appropriate moment, and waited for my cue.

And then, they brought in the “studio audience.” I’ve never done a cocktail demo in a TV studio before, and certainly never in front of a studio audience. And for a moment, I froze.

They were children on a class trip.

Not exactly an ideal group for a cocktail demo. In fact, it’s a wildly inappropriate audience for a cocktail demo.

But I took a deep breath, and when the time came, I did my thing, doing my best to forget about who was watching, and focusing instead on making 3 Margarita variations. If you’d like to watch, the video is posted here.  Look for the host’s “trick” with the ice cubes. At least that part amused the kids.

Part II:  Afternoon

Repeat to myself:  no feeding cocktails to children, no feeding cocktails to children.  Fat chance!  At the IACP Cookbook expo, alphabetical order dictated seating order. To my left was Cynthia Nims, promoting her fun new book Gametime Gourmet with fun Scrabble tiles and other fun games. And to my right was Jackie Newgent, promoting her Big Green Cookbook  with “hyper-baked” chocolate chip cookies. Games + Cookies = children, like moths to the proverbial flame.

I found myself shooing away said moths reaching for a glass of pretty pink liquid to wash down their cookies. (Kool-Aid?  No, Blood-Orange Jalapeno Margaritas.) I’d say, as kindly as I could, “there’s alcohol in that,” and they’d snatch away their little hands as if I’d said “there’s poison in that.” 

Feeding cocktails to children is bad, right?  Then why does the universe seem to want me to do just that?

Spice & stitches

I hear Mercury is still in retrograde. Surely that can be the only excuse for yesterday’s random series of events that landed me in the emergency room for five stitches in my index finger and a tetanus shot.

I’d been very much looking forward to the annual “Celebration of Our Members” event held by the Culinary Historians of New York. In addition to general catching up with friends I hadn’t seen all summer, I wanted to pick up books written by members (Raising Steaks! Grains Greens & Grated Coconuts! Seven Fires!) and hear about Diana Pittet’s round-the-world cheese adventure. And surely a few people would be reporting back from the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery.

This was also meant to be a low-stress preview for Spice & Ice – game plan was to mix up a few shakersful of Poblano-Blackberry Margarita for a friendly audience, and then sit my butt down and listen to other people present their work.

Not so fast.

I keep thinking about all the “what-ifs” that might have allowed me to participate as planned. If only…

…our venue had an ice maker on site, I wouldn’t have dashed out to the corner deli to pick up a bag of ice.

…the ice hadn’t been frozen solid (meaning it was poorly handled – partially melted and then re-frozen) I wouldn’t have needed to bash it to pieces to create usable chunks.

…I’d had the brains to smash it in the sink, not on the floor.

…the cheap-ass bag hadn’t broken, spilling ice cubes all over the floor.

…the janitor had arrived sooner with the mop, the floor might not have been wet.

…I’d been smart enough to go around the other side of the kitchen island, I might not have slipped.

…I hadn’t been carrying a bottle of Cointreau, it wouldn’t have smashed, lacerating my hand.

Of course, it was just an accident, plain and simple. But these are the things that went through my mind as I sat in the ER, dejected at missing all the fun and smelling rather like a distillery. (Self-pity trumps fear!) Renee, a cool-headed friend keeping me company at Lenox Hill, charitably said that the high orange note of the liqueur smelled more like strong perfume.

Here’s a photo of the morning after the night before. I’m trying to come up with less embarrassing reasons for the bandage than “I slipped.” Knife fight (you should see the other guy…). Trapeze mishap. Daredevil monster truck race. Got any bad-ass ideas I can use?

My war wound

My war wound

The stitches come out in a week. Hopefully by then Mercury will have moved far, far, far out of retrograde.