Category Archives: Recipes

The Gimlet

For my New Year’s Eve party, I had juiced about a bag of limes. Then everyone ended up drinking French 75’s and 95’s all night, so while the bag of lemons got used up, the limes were basically untouched.

Rather than pitching them the next day, I decided to make some lime cordial. Lime cordial is, like most cocktail syrups, incredibly easy to make. You merely mix equal parts lime juice, and sugar, zest in the peel from the limes you used, and heat to a boil. Let simmer for a couple minutes, cool, and then toss in the fridge. The next day strain out the peels and you have a beautiful cordial.

My first thought to use it was the gimlet because, well, I don’t know if I’ve ever had any other cocktail that uses lime cordial, and that I’ve probably only ever had with that god awful Rose’s crap you’d get from a supermarket. (The ingredients of Rose’s are high fructose corn syrup, lime juice concentrate, sodium metabisulfite, natural flavors, and Blue 1. I couldn’t serve that to anyone I cared about.) So the gimlet deserved a do-over.

I used Jim Meehan’s recipe from the PDT Cocktail Book, still my favorite source for classic cocktail recipes. The recipe was:

2 oz. Plymouth Gin

.75 oz. lime cordial

.75 oz fresh lime juice

Shake and strain into a coupe, and garnish with a lime wheel.

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Tell me that ain’t beautiful! (I know the wash line is too low, my coupes are too large. I ended up increasing the recipe by 25% after that first one.)

The result was fantastic. It’s basically a gin daiquiri. In fact, I’m going to play around with rum and see if I can’t make a baller daiquiri out of it, because fuck Hemingway. (Ok, he’s one of my favorite writers, but the drink named after him sucks.) It would also go well with tequila I think in some version of a margarita.

Anyway, while the snow is falling this weekend crank the heat up to 80, put your board shorts on, pretend you’re in Aruba, and drink the gimlet.

Clarified Gin and Juice

This is part of my series of recipes from Liquid Intelligence. I’m going to make all of them, which you can see here.

One of Dave Arnold’s recipes I’ve been making for awhile is the Gin and Juice. I was able to find videos of it on the web, and piece together the process from his podcast. But there’s a recipe for it in Liquid Intelligence so I thought I’d make it for my family Christmas party. Apologies in advance for my worse-than-usual photography, but I was batching two cocktails and getting ready for a party.

This recipe isn’t particularly difficult, and is a great introduction to clarification. You can do it a few ways. If you don’t care about yield and just want a fast, easy product, you can use Pectinex/Chitosan/Keiselsol clarification (more on that later) and just wait a few hours for the solids to separate. Your yield is relatively low though without a centrifuge, on the order of 50-75%.

If you don’t mind waiting a bit longer, agar clarification is the way to go. That’s what Dave recommends, so for this post that’s what I did. It’s not that much more labor than the Pectinex/fining I mentioned, and the yield is much higher. I think I got over 90%. You’ll see my picture of the solids raft left at the end, that was all that didn’t make it, and some of that was agar.

Here’s the process:

Step 1: Juice the grapefruit.

I can’t remember how many I used, but it was most of a bag from Sam’s Club. (Sorry, I’m in Akron, we don’t have Costco yet.) I ended up with about a liter and a half.

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Step 2: Hydrate the agar

Divide the grapefruit, 75% in one batch (assuming it’s room temperature) that you’ll set aside, and 25% in another, that you’ll put into a pan. In my case,  I set 1.1 liters aside, and put 400 liters in the pan.

Measure out agar to 2g per liter, so in this case I used 3g. (I use Telephone brand packets. I ran out of this packet and had to go to the Asian market, all for 0.4 grams!)

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Whisk it vigorously into the small portion of juice. Place the pan on the stove, turn the heat to high and let it come to a boil, whisking frequently.

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When it boils, put a lid on the pan, drop the heat, and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Step 3: Temper the juice and set.

Pour the room temperature juice into the hot stuff, stirring vigorously. You want to avoid the mix gelling at all, which might happen if you did it the other way around, or didn’t boil enough of the juice.

Pour into a bowl and set over an ice bath to chill. Don’t agitate it at all. No stirring. Just wait for it to gel all the way through.

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Step 4: Freeze

Place the bowl into the freezer, and let sit overnight.

Step 5: Thaw

Place the frozen brick of agar in a strainer and let the liquid drip through. It starts off like this:

 

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and ends like this:

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Step 6: Filter

I ran what was left of the juice through a Chemex to suck up a little bit of particulate matter that got through.

Step 7: Mix ingredients and chill

I mixed up enough of Dave’s recipe to make about 1.65 liters, since I was carbonating in a 2 liter bottle. That worked out to a batch of ten. The recipe is:

590ml gin

800ml agar-clarified grapefruit juice

220ml water

40ml simple syrup

20 drops saline solution

I funneled them all into a 2 liter bottle, and put the bottle in the freezer. I shook it every 15 minutes or so, so it would chill evenly, and had to be careful to pull it out before it froze (the ABV is low enough that I think it would).

When it was ice cold, I carbonated with my homebrew rig.

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Step 8: Play Snoop Dogg on radio and pour into champagne flute

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Make sure to have your mind on your money, and your money on your mind.

New Year’s Friday Classic: The French 75

For New Year’s Eve I threw a party for about 20 friends. I thought it’d be fitting to do a champagne-based cocktail, and wanted something easy since I spend enough of my time bartending. I also wanted a crowd-pleaser, something that even casual drinkers love. What could be better than the French 75?

This classic drink came to America via soldiers returning from WWI. Found in Paris, the troops said it had so much kick it felt like being shelled by the powerful French 75mm machine gun. (For bonus points, the French 95 is a variant that merely substitutes bourbon for gin.)

French 75

1 oz. Plymouth Gin

.5 oz. lemon juice

.5 oz. simple syrup

1 oz. Champagne

Lemon Twist

Shake and strain first three ingredients into champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with lemon twist.

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Christmas Cocktail: Cranberry Vodka Justino “Martini”

Those who know me know I’m not a vodka guy. I love liquor, so the idea of drinking something scientifically designed to taste as little like liquor as possible is just silly. But the entire world is not yet enlightened, and so vodka persists as the most popular base spirit in America. (Whiskey is closing the gap though.)

I’m throwing a family Christmas party, like I do every year, and I wanted to make a crowd pleaser for the people who won’t drink a Manhattan. So I decided to tech it out a little. I was in a grocery store and saw a bunch of fresh cranberries, and thought surely there’s a cocktail there somewhere.

So step number 1 was making cranberry vodka. I used Dave Arnold’s Justino method. I blended 750 ml of Sobieski (my vodka of choice, because it’s very cheap and very flavorless) with 250g of cranberries and 2 grams of Pectinex Ultra-SPL. I let that sit for a few days until it separated.

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The cranberry puree actually floated mostly to the top, so I couldn’t rack it off like I could with the banana rum or pumpkin rye. I decided to just pour it through a coffee filter and hope the particles were large enough to not pass through.

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Boom, it worked.

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Next  up, what to do with it. The cranberry vodka that came out was very tart. (Not surprising if you’ve ever eaten a raw cranberry.) Since I had made it for my family, many of whom are the sort to ask for a “martini” and mean something sweet, colorful, and probably with vodka served out of a martini glass, I wanted to come up with something they’d enjoy that wouldn’t make me hate myself for serving.

If there’s one liqueur that’s sort of sweet and acts like bartender ketchup, it’s St. Germain. So I constructed a cocktail.

2 oz cranberry vodka

1 oz. St Germain

1/2 oz. lemon juice

1/2 oz. 1:1 simple syrup

3 drops saline solution

1/2 dropper (roughly 1.5 dashes) orange bitters

I shook and strained into a chilled martini glass, and garnished with a lemon twist. I meant to snap up a picture, but I had a family Christmas party underway.

The guests seemed to love it. It looked pretty and didn’t taste like liquor. It wasn’t the sort of drink I’d generally make for myself, but it wasn’t bad. If I were making it for me I might dial back the simple to 1/4 oz, as I tend to like things a bit less sweet than your average “martini” drinker. But really it wasn’t cloying even like that.

Oaxaca Old-Fashioned

Many drinkers have a certain image in mind when you say the name Old Fashioned. They think of whiskey (unless they’re from Wisconsin), a sugar cube, and maybe some muddled oranges and cherries.

In reality an Old Fashioned is any cocktail that contains exactly four ingredients: water, liquor, bitters, and sugar. It can be any combination of any form of those ingredients, as long as it has them and nothing else.

This weekend’s spin on a classic cocktail is the Oaxaca Old Fashioned. I got the original recipe from the Death and Co. cocktail book, one of my favorites. My only changes are using Del Maguey Vida mezcal for the intense smokiness and splitting the bitters between Angostura and Orange

The recipe is simple.

  • 1.5 oz reposado tequila (I used Olmeca Altos because it’s what I stock at home.)
  • .5 oz mezcal (I like a smokey one, like Del Maguey Vida.)
  • 1 tsp. agave nectar
  • 1/2 eyedropper (1 dash) Angostura bitters
  • 1/2 eyedropper (1 dash) orange bitters 

Combine ingredients with ice, stir, and strain over a rocks glass filled with ice. Flame an orange peel and then drop it in.

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(Sorry for the crappiness of the picture.)

Clear Ice

This is the second part of my series of recipes from Liquid Intelligence. I’m going to make all of them, which you can see here.

In Liquid Intelligence, Dave Arnold explains how to make clear ice. What makes ice cloudy is solids and gasses dissolved in the water. As an ice cube freezes, the water freezes into crystals first, forcing solutes away from the new ice crystals. Because the ice in a normal freezer is freezing from the outside in, those solids are forced toward and concentrated in the center of the cube.

The solution is to do what an ice sculpture machine does and freeze from one direction to the other. The easiest way to do that at home is via insulation. Put your water in a cooler, and leave it in your freezer with the lid open, and it will freeze much faster from the top than from the sides and bottom.

So I bought a small 10 quart cooler from Amazon. You’re supposed to load it with hot water, since hot water has fewer gasses in solution. You want to let it drop in temperature as much as possible before putting it in the freezer, otherwise you’ll get a ton of condensation from the evaporating hot water on everything else. Figuring it would take a year for the hot water to cool in the insulated cooler, I put the hot water in a stockpot until it cooled to room temperature, then gently poured it into the cooler, which I then placed in the freezer.

Here’s a picture at the start:

Ice in cooler in freez

You might not be able to make it out from this image, but after about one day the ice was frozen a couple inches from the top.

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After another day (approximately 50 hours in) I took out the cooler and unmolded onto a towel next to my sink. (I need a large bar mat for next time!)

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As you can see it was only frozen about halfway through. I wanted to practice cutting it anyway, figuring my technique would need some work, so I didn’t put it back in the freezer and just went ahead. I suspect a third day would have it frozen very close to the end.

I first cut off the unfrozen part, of course drenching my kitchen in the process. After trimming it, I got about a 2.5” thick slab. Here’s what it looked like:

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Arnold’s method of cutting is pretty simple. You use a large serrated knife (I used my bread knife, since I almost never cut bread anyway) to score the ice on both sides. Then you simply put the blade into one of the grooves you created and tap on it and voila. Arnold is right when he says that it looks a lot more impressive than it actually is. Here it is cut into columns, with one column cut into chunks:

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I used it in an Oaxaca Old Fashioned from Death and Co.

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Penicillin Cocktail Recipe

I’m going to start a new feature where I post my take on a classic recipe on Fridays. Friday’s a notoriously great day for a cocktail, and especially a tried and true one. Most of my recipes will be someone else’s perhaps with slight modifications I’ve developed over the years.

One of my all-time favorite wintery cocktails is the Penicillin. I love Scotch, honey, ginger, and lemon, and while the combo probably won’t cure the common cold, it’s surely the closest you’ll get without a prescription. I looked around the net for recipes and tried a few, but none of them seemed perfect to me. A lot of them had you muddling ginger, which seems laborious and imprecise for something you can just juice. Hell you can juice it by hand with a cheesecloth and a citrus press.

Then I stumbled on a video from it’s creator, Sam Ross, that was quite enlightening and which I now can’t find to save my life. But I remember the recipe. He uses honey ginger syrup instead of muddling. I like that much better, so here it is, abstracted from the video.

My one alteration is using an atomizer for the Islay. You’re using it more for the nose than the flavor, and spraying it over top does a much better job than just pouring 1/4 oz. on with much less Islay used.

Honey Ginger Syrup

  • 1.5 fl. oz. honey
  • 1.5 fl. oz. ginger juice
  • 1 fl. oz. sugar
  • 0.5 fl oz. hot water

Mix and stir until dissolved. A few seconds in a microwave can help if needed.

The Penicillin

2 fl. oz. Monkey Shoulder blended Scotch

.75 fl. oz. lemon juice

.75 fl. oz. honey ginger syrup

Atomizer filled with Islay Single Malt Scotch (I like Ardbeg)

Combine the Scotch, lemon, and honey ginger syrup. Shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice.

Spray a few hits of the Islay from the atomizer over top.

Banana Justino

This is the first part of my series of recipes from Liquid Intelligence. I’m going to make all of them, which you can see here.

I had heard a few weeks back on Cooking Issues Dave talking to one of the callers about making Justinos using just Pectinex and gravity (or God’s centrifuge as his guest called it). He said the mixture was shelf-stable so you could just wait it out. I believe Dave was talking about dates rather than bananas, but I decided rum was probably high enough alcohol to be shelf-stable anyway, even with a few bananas blended in. I’m far from a scientist though so please take that as nothing but the rambling of a random guy on the internet. All I can tell you for sure is that I drank some of it and didn’t die.

Though Liquid Intelligence makes use of a centrifuge, those of us without $10,000 to spare have to wait so I decided to try his banana Justino recipe when I knew I was going to be out of town for awhile.

The process was dead simple.

Step 1

Blend a bottle of rum (I went with my default dark rum, Gosling’s Black Seal) and three bananas with 2g Pectinex Ultra-SPL.

Justino Step 1

Step 2

Wait. I was out of town, so it sat on the counter for I think 14 days. It didn’t really separate much more than it did after 2, so I’m not sure there was a point to waiting any further. Here’s what it looked like:

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Step 3

Strain through a Chemex back into a bottle. Voila. You can see I got most of a bottle back.

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The taste is fantastic. I mean, it’s banana and rum. You know the combo.

I served it as Dave recommended. I made ice cubes out of coconut water, poured the Justino over it, squeezed a lime wedge on top, stirred, and topped with a star anise pod. Here it is half-drank. I was too busy enjoying to get a great picture.

Rittman Heights: Angostura Mulled Cider with Brown Butter Rum and Caramel Foam

The Rittman Heights

The Rittman Heights

Sometime last year, after learning about a fat-washing, I woke up with three words in my head: brown butter rum. As with most great ideas I thought I had invented, I plugged it into Google to find it had been done before. My process for making it is a little different, and I’m going to try to compare the two side by side one day soon, but either way the results were fantastic.

I never really figured out a cocktail I loved with it though. The obvious Dark and Stormy was pretty good, and one friend who tried it requests it every time I see her. But I felt like there was something more.

And then the Apple Cocktail Challenge occurred. It’s fall, and I live in the Midwest, so a hot toddy seemed appropriate. Mulled apple cider is a big drink around here. We even have an annual cider festival.

So for the Apple cocktail challenge, I wanted to come up with an apple hot toddy, and brown butter rum seemed like the ideal spirit. I tried a few different incarnations, from rapid-infusing the rum with apple slices in an ISI Whip and adding to tea, to mixing with bourbons and vermouth and hot water, but the best one of all was the one based on cider.

I also noticed long ago that Angostura bitters taste a good bit like mulling spices. They really jazz up this recipe quite a bit. My next fall cocktail is going to use pumpkin pie puree, and I’ll probably use a lot of Angostura in that one too.

In a past life I was a professional poker player. When I first got started, most of the games in my area were run from (and often full of) guys from a local town called Rittman. They played a lot of crappy hands, but for some reason 8-5 offsuit was the one we named after them. And 8-5 suited was called Rittman Heights.

The two big apple orchards in the area are in Rittman, so I thought it only fitting that I name after that legendary hand and the shady cast of characters who played it so poorly. And because of the foam, this feels more like the suited variant.

And so I humbly submit to you…

The Rittman Heights

Mulled Cider with Brown Butter Rum, Maple Syrup, Angostura, and Caramel Foam

Ingredients (Makes 4 roughly 8 oz servings)

4 cups apple cider

6 sticks cinnamon

1 orange peel

1 lemon peel

2 oz. Angostura bitters

2 oz. grade B maple syrup

8 oz. brown butter rum (recipe follows)

Caramel foam (recipe follows)

Instructions

Combine cider, 2 cinnamon sticks, orange and lemon peels, Angostura, and maple syrup in a pot. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Pour 2 oz. rum into each of four 12 oz coffee mugs. Pour the mulled cider over the rum and stir with a cinnamon stick. Leave the stick in as garnish and top with caramel foam.

Brown Butter Rum

Ingredients (Makes one bottle)

750 ml bottle of dark rum (I used Goslings)

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Instructions

In a saucepan over medium heat add butter and cook, swirling occasionally, until butter turns brown and has a nutty aroma.

Browning The Butter

Browning the Butter

Pour butter into a quart canning jar or other wide mouth, non-reactive container. Pour the rum in slowly as it will spatter and foam at first. Put the cap on and shake.

Set a sauce pan full of water over low heat. Set the jar in it. Shake every five minutes for an hour.

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Place the jar in the freezer. Let the fat freeze, then strain the liquid, first through a mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, then through a coffee filter.

fat congealing

Fat Congealing

Caramel Foam (Adapted from Le Bernardin)

Ingredients (makes enough for about 12 toddies)

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon water

2 large egg yolks (reserved from above)

3/4 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon whole milk

1/2 sheet (2-gram sheet) gelatin, softened in ice-cold water*

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and cook, without stirring, over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the caramel turns a light golden brown.

making caramel

making caramel

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks together in a bowl. Heat the heavy cream and milk together until hot. Remove the caramel from the heat and whisk in the cream mixture. Whisk the mixture over low heat until any lumps of caramel have completely dissolved and the caramel is smooth. Gradually whisk the caramel into the egg yolks, and return to the saucepan.

foam all together

foam all together

Cook the sauce over low heat until it reaches 183°F (84°C). Remove from the heat and add the gelatin, whisking until it dissolves. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and chill in an ice bath, then pour into 1L ISI Whip and refrigerate until ready to use.

Charge with 2 canisters of nitrous, shake vigorously, and serve.

caramel foam

dollop of caramel foam

*Note: I used 200 bloom (gold) gelatin and it seemed like maybe just a tad much. I’d probably drop down to 170 bloom (silver) next time. I don’t have Le Bernardin’s book and found this on the web so I don’t know if they specify.