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

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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 Recipe: The Amazing Teflon Rhubarb Cooler

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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.

Q&A with Mark Buettler of Brooklyn Hemispherical Sriracha Bitters

A few weeks ago, I interviewed bartender John Byrd, at The Bedford restaurant in Brooklyn — the same day that his “Wake Up, Doc” cocktail was featured in a Grub Street spread of vegetable cocktails. The secret ingredient in the drink? Brooklyn Hemispherical Sriracha Bitters. Now, I’m no stranger to sriracha in cocktails, nor to spicy bitters. But this was the first time I’d encountered both in the same product!

After a bit of wrangling, I arranged an interview with Mark Buettler, co-owner of Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters. In addition to the Sriracha Bitters, he’s also on the cusp of releasing Black Mission Fig Bitters, Meyer Lemon Bitters, and other exciting flavors. 

A bit about Mark:  he was formerly head bartender at Dressler in Brooklyn, where John Byrd also worked, and where he met co-conspirator Jason Rowan, then a Dressler barfly.  Mark still “bartends all over town,” as he puts it, when not working for wine/liquor distributor Empire Merchants, or playing proud papa to a newborn baby.

Why bitters?

MB:  As a bartender, I focus on organic, homemade, and fresh. I started with making celery bitters. My first attempts were based on something found online — these days you can find anything you need or want online.

Why sriracha?

MB:  I love sriracha. I had visited Thailand maybe 2-3 years ago, and spent a little over a month in Thailand with my then-girlfriend, now wife.  Sriracha originates from a small town named Sriracha. There’s nothing like tasting where it originates. You know sriracha – the bottles here with the green top and rooster.

I talked to some people over there to learn how to make sriracha. The ingredients are chile, garlic, vinegar, sugar, water, maybe a little variation here or there. Pretty straightforward. I’ve been taking some traditional recipes people were willing to share, some research online, and then marrying them together and coming up with my own in my apartment here. It’s a pretty simple process.

So how do you make sriracha bitters?

MB:  First I make the base bitters – I take the barks and herbs, and just throw them in there. As I started playing around with flavors, I found that I had more control over the taste of it if I started with base bitters & brewed it first for several weeks. From there, adding flavor was secondary. I let it steep in there after I strain out the other ingredients. You get more pure expression. Then you’re not dealing with the bitters still brewing with barks and herbs and getting stronger.

So the bitters brew three weeks. I strain them. Then I make the sriracha and let it sit and mingle and the flavors become one. You get the pepper heat and flavor in the bitters that way. You have to add a lot.

How did you know when you got it right?

MB:  I kept bringing John Byrd the samples. We found you have to make it VERY hot, and add a bunch of sriracha to it.  Since you only add a few drops of bitters here or there to a drink, maybe ¼ teaspoon, not much more, the heat needs to be extra concentrated.

For a few weeks I had a tongue that was constantly numb and on fire. I had to bring it to John,  saying “I blew my taste buds out, I can’t taste anything.” When I thought they were too fiery and hot they were perfect for a drink. It needs to be very potent for it to affect the taste profile of your drink.

Many lost taste buds later… we had the sriracha bitters down.

How do you use sriracha bitters in a cocktail?

MB:  Being part of the food industry for many years, I’ve noticed more people experimenting with heat and spice in food, and embracing it more. That was not the case 5-10 years ago, not as much as it is these days. Which is one of the reasons I thought it would be fun to do these bitters. 

Thus far, we’ve experimented with using them in traditional drinks and riffs on traditional drinks that would already have bitters. Warmer liquors that would hold up to heat & take that flavor –whiskey, bourbon, rye – were our natural first go-to. We developed a Sazerac called the “Sriracha-rac.” It seemed like it would work in theory, and it turned out beautifully, with the sugar, and little bit of acid/oils from the lemon. It’s also a natural with tequila – we did a riff on the Paloma with the bitters.

It gives a fun, earthy, subtle hint of spice in the background. I’m excited to get it out there in the hands of other bartenders so they can do things I never thought of.

So how do we get our hands on a bottle of those Sriracha Bitters?

MB:  We’re still fledgling. I can be contacted directly through the Brooklyn Barman site. I can also be contacted at www.brooklynbitters.com. We’ll have a Paypal link up and order form in the next few weeks. I‘m looking forward to getting it to the bartending community. What’s most important to us is keeping things local and seasonal.  The bitters are made in Brooklyn, and as much as possible the ingredients ae sourced in Brooklyn.

Anything else spicy in the works?

MB:  We’re working with a restaurant opening in Greenpoint that has their own spicy rub for meat, which they’re looking to work into bitters. Spicy, but also savory. I think they’ll be called “Carne Asada Bitters.”  It won’t be made with meat, but it will have an earthy, meaty flavor.

Ever thought of making Bacon Bitters?

MB:  Bacon Bitters!!  Well, I am now.

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.

Drinking in Oregon-inspired cocktails

Last night I attended the Oregon Food Fete, held here in NY in a loft space somewhere west of the theater district. Although I don’t often report on such events, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality (and quantity!) of cocktails on offer, tucked in among pleasing nibbles like smokey blue-cheese chocolates, cayenne caramels, and award-winning chipotle cheddar.

At first I was skeptical – after all, food festivals typically trot out the best-of-the-best to represent. But then I thought some more about the thriving, delightfully geeky Portland bartending scene.  And even the IACP will be recognizing the culinary significance of Portland when their national conference is held there just a few short months — and I intend to be there, elbowing my way to the front of the bar (who’s with me?)

But back to the drinks:  First off I sampled two vodkas from Artisan Spirits, which is owned by Wildwood bartender and distiller Ryan Csanky. The first was made from wine, the second from honey. Neither is available here in NY yet, but I think bartenders are going to go bananas over this brand because it has very distinctive aromas and flavors that will blend beautifully into cocktails.

Then I headed over to House Spirits, which is probably best known for the phenomenally successful Aviation gin brand. In addition to Aviation, tBell pepper cocktailhey were showcasing Krogstad Aquavit (a domestic aquavit? not Swedish? that’s new) and the “Apothecary Line” of eau-de-vie-like liqueurs.  The mini bottles are adorable, but the product was just too strong for me to swallow more than a sip. Much more palatable was the bell-pepper cocktail, made with Aquavit, honey, lemon, mint, and muddled bell pepper.

And then the final stop was the Pear Bureau Northwest, which was showcasing pear-based cocktails made by ten-01 mixologist Kelley Swenson. (Disclosure: my Peppered Poire cocktail is a finalist in a cocktail contest sponsored by the PBN, which is why I was at the event in the first place.) Kelley Swenson, mixing things up

Although he was showcasing a recipe called the Autumn Anjou (Anjou pear puree, Aviation gin – naturally, Aperol, pear brandy, and lemon juice), I found a number of cocktails featured in a PBN booklet even more intriguing — featuring cardamom, clove, even black pepper flavors. Here’s one of those:

A Pear of Cloves

Brian O’Neill, Cafe Gray, NYC

1 1/2 oz. pear vodka

1/z oz puree of fresh pear, such as Green Anjou or Comice

1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 oz. clove-infused simple syrup (see recipe below)

3 to 4 thin slices Green Anjou pear, skin on

In a shaker, muddle the pear slices before adding the remaining ingredients. Fill with ice and shake until cold and frothy. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of pear.

Clove-Infused Simple Syrup

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup water

6 whole cloves

Bring sugar, water and cloves to boil in a small pot. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain and chill.

Picking A Peck of Pepper Primers

It’s hard to believe that August is nearly over.  One thing that means is that chile peppers are ripe and all kinds of crazy varieties will be appearing at greenmarkets and grocers soon (chocolate habanero, I’m lookin’ at you!). 

It also means a bumper crop of press coverage on how to use these babies:  check out Gourmet online’s article on how to grow chile peppers, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s ultimate pepper primer — everything you need to know about cooking with peppers (if that’s your kind of thing and you’re in NY, you’ll also want to check out this “Chiles From the Greenmarket” cooking and walking tour at Astor Center on Saturday). And if that’s not enough, The New York Times offers a Q&A on the science of hot peppers

So what’s missing? Cocktails, natch. So here’s my mini-primer on working with chile peppers in drinks:

Muddle them:  Jalapenos, red chiles, and other “mild-to-medium” heat peppers. This imparts a vegetal freshness and a hint of the pepper’s flavor, as well as a small, tingly amount of heat to a drink.

Slice peppers into rounds, including the seeds, and drop them into the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Use a muddler or the back of a spoon to crush the living daylights out of the peppers, and then add the rest of your ingredients. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Do a quick spot check to make sure no seeds have fallen into your drink, and you’re good to go!

Infuse them:  Habaneros, serranos, Thai bird’s eye chiles, and other “medium-to-hot” peppers. Although any chile pepper is good for infusing, I’m singling out the hotter varieties here because of the instant-gratification factor. Compared to a jalapeno, which takes a couple of hours to completely permeate a cup or two of vodka, a habanero works much faster; you can do a complete infusion in about 20 to 30 minutes. That includes infused simple syrups too. Click here to see a step-by-step for making habanero-infused simple syrup.

Sprinkle them:  Dried and powdered chile peppers, such as ancho, guajillo, or chipotle. Any of these are great dashed over top of an otherwise very basic, perfectly chilled gin martini to create a “gunpowder martini” effect. Or mix with salt, sugar, or cocoa to create a custom mix for rimming glasses. If this appeals to you, check out the Fiery Almond cocktail, which uses this technique.