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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Cocktails & Spirits

RECIPE: Dark Cherry Fizz With Sparkling Wine

The Dark Cherry Fizz in a coupe glass. Photo courtesy Chandon.

 

For Valentine’s Day, here’s a charming cocktail from Chandon, one of our favorite affordable sparkling wine makers. It uses cherry purée and crème de mûre, blackcurrant (not blackberry!) liqueur.

It may sound fusty in the U.S., but in France, where we first discovered it, crème de mûre is a popular fruit liqueur. The flavor is heavenly, drunk straight as a yummy after-dinner drink or used instead of framboise (raspberry liqueur) in a variation of a Kir Royale.

Crème de mûre (pronounced pronounce: krem duh MYUR) is one of the family of crème liqueurs (crème de cacao, crème de menthe and crème de cassis, for example).

Not to be confused with cream liqueur, in which dairy cream is added, crème liqueur is sweetened to a near-syrup consistency. In this case, “crème” refers to that consistency.

Consider a bottle of crème de mûre as a Valentine gift; and if you’re feeling flush, add a bottle of Champagne or other sparkling wine.

 
If you want to make this recipe without buying a new bottle of liqueur, you can substitute creme de cassis (currant liqueur) or framboise (Chambord is a brand of framboise).

RECIPE: DARK CHERRY FIZZ

Ingredients Per Drink

  • 3 ounces Chandon Blanc de Noirs* or substitute sparkling wine
  • 1/3 ounce crème de mûre
  • 1/2 ounce cherry purée (make it from frozen cherries)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURÉE the cherries. No sweetener is necessary, as the liqueur is quite sweet.

    2. COMBINE the liqueur and cherry purée in a shaker; shake and double strain into a coupe glass. (If you don’t have a shaker, you can blend the ingredients in whatever is convenient. If you don’t have a coupe glass, use what you have.)

    3. TOP with the sparkling wine.

     
    *Blanc de Noirs means “white from black,” referring to the white wine that is produced from black (dark) Pinot Noir grapes. Its counterpart is Blanc de Blancs, a white wine produced from white (Chardonnay) grapes. Blanc de Noirs is richer and fuller-bodied.
     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Russian Cocktail

    Do a Google search for “Russian Cocktail” and the first 30 pages are for Black Russians and White Russians. We stopped looking at that point. No simple “Russian Cocktail” could be found.

    But the folks at Grey Goose tell us that this Prohibition-era drink is the oldest vodka cocktail found in print. They shared the recipe below.

    While the drink appeared long before flavored vodkas were available in the U.S., you can use a cherry flavored vodka for more cherry flavor. Grey Goose, Pinnacle, Skyy, Smirnoff, Svedka, Three Olives and UV, among others, make cherry vodka.

    RECIPE: RUSSIAN COCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1½ parts vodka
  • ½ part maraschino liqueur or cherry liqueur (see note)
  • Crushed ice
  • Garnish: brandied cherry (see recipe below)
  •    

    russian-cocktail-greygoose-230

    The Russian Cocktail, pink for Valentine’s Day. Photo courtesy Grey Goose.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the two spirits in a cocktail shaker. Top with crushed ice and shake vigorously.

    2. STRAIN into a chilled frappe glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry and serve.
     
     
    NOTE ON MARASCHINO LIQUEUR VS. CHERRY LIQUEUR

    We actually prefer generic cherry liqueur to the cherry-specific maraschino liqueur. Maraschino liqueur, such as Luxardo, is a clear, relatively dry liqueur made from Marasca cherries, including the crushed pits. The latter give it a subtle bitter almond flavor.

    If you like the note of almond, go for the maraschino liqueur. If you like things sweeter with more cherry flavor, head for the cherry liqueur.
     
    The Original Maraschino Cherry

    The ubiquitous maraschino cherries that are a joke in some food circles were once quite elite. The cherries were originally preserved in the liqueur as a delicacy for royalty and the wealthy.

    The Marasca cherry (Prunus cerasus var. marasca) is a type of sour Morello cherry that grows largely in Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina, northern Italy and Slovenia. With a bitter taste and a drier pulp than other cherry varieties, they are ideal to make maraschino liqueur.

    The Marasca cherry tree is very fussy about where it will grow, so in the U.S., the Royal Ann variety is substituted for the Marasca to make maraschino cherries.

     

    SONY DSC

    Homemade brandied cherries from DarlaCooks.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    HOMEMADE BRANDIED CHERRIES

    You can buy brandied cherries (they’re pricey) or make your own:

  • Maraschino cherries in syrup: Drain 20% of the liquid from a jar of maraschino cherries and replace it with brandy. Place the jar in the fridge and let marinate for at least an hour.
  • With fresh cherries, thawed frozen cherries or canned cherries: Soak the cherries in your own [better quality] brandy or Cognac for an hour in the fridge.
  •  
    Here’s a recipe from DarlaCooks.com. Note that the aesthetically-pleasing stems come only with fresh cherries; so you may want to mark your calendar for cherry season, then get out your Mason jars and preserve them.

    You can also marinate the cherries in cherry liqueur or kirschwasser, a cherry eau de vie (fruit brandy).

    What’s the difference between brandy and Cognac?

    Cognac is grape brandy, a distillate of wine that is produced according to strict regulations in the region surrounding the town of Cognac in central France. It must be made from a specific group of white grape varieties, that are double distilled using pot stills and then aged for at least two years.

     
    Grape brandy can be made anywhere, from any grapes (brandy is also made from fruit and pomace). It does not require double distillation or long aging.

    While there are quality brandies, in general Cognac is a better product. The double distilling and aging rounds out the spirit and produces more mellow flavors.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Pisco Sour Day

    National Pisco Sour Day is celebrated on the first Saturday in February. Pisco is Peru’s national spirit and the Pisco Sour its national cocktail.

    But we don’t drink nearly enough pisco in the U.S. To remedy the situation, celebrate National Pisco Sour Day, this year on February 7th.

    A versatile and mixable spirit, pisco is a brandy distilled from grapes. The oldest distillery in the Americas, Hacienda la Caravedo, was established in 1684 in Ica, Peru and now used by Pisco Portón, the most awarded pisco in the world. The spirit may be named after the Peruvian town of Pisco.

    Here’s a recipe for the most popular pisco drink, a Pisco Sour, from Pisco Portón.

    It is believed that the Pisco Sour was invented in at Morris’ Bar in Lima the 1920s, by its American owner, Victor Morris. The recipe was perfected by Mario Bruguet, who added the egg whites to make the velvety cocktail we enjoy today.

    RECIPE: PORTÓN PISCO SOUR

    Ingredients For 1 Cocktail

  • 2 ounces Pisco Portón
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 ounce egg whites
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • 5 ice cubes
  •  

    pisco-sour-piscoportion-230

    The velvety Pisco Sour. Photo courtesy Pisco Portón Portón.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high for 15 seconds, add 5 cubes of ice, and then pulse in the blender 5 times.

    2. STRAIN into a glass. Garnish with 3 drops of Angostura bitters.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE COCKTAIL: Pomegranate Refresher

    For a sophisticated Valentine cocktail that isn’t overly pink or laden with rose petals, we like this from Tequila Herradura . Herradura used its Silver Tequila to make the drink.

    RECIPE: POMEGRANATE REFRESHER

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce blanco/silver tequila
  • 1 ounce vermouth
  • Dash orange bitters
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • Ice
  • 1 ounce club soda
  • Garnish: pomegranate arils (seeds)
  • Garnish: mint sprig or notched strawberry on the rim
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PLACE all ingredients except the soda into a high ball glass filled with ice.

     

    pomegranate-refresher-herradura-230

    Pretty in [pale] pink for Valentine’s Day. Photo courtesy Tequila Herradura.

     
    2. ADD the club soda and use a bar spoon to stir the ingredients. Add the pomegranate seeds.

    3. GARNISH with the mint sprig or strawberry and serve.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Valen-Tini Chocolate Martini

    valen-tini-mccormick-230

    Make this Valen-tini with ice cream. Photo courtesy McCormick.

     

    A Valen-tini for Valentine’s Day: This one’s a rich, creamy chocolate Martini with optional ice cream, whipped up by the folks at McCormick.

    RECIPE: VALEN-TINI CHOCOLATE MARTINI

    Ingredients For 2 Cocktails

  • 1 cup light cream
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 3 tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • 1 tablespoon banana, strawberry or raspberry extract
  • Ice cubes
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream
  • Optional dessert: add a small scoop of chocolate or vanilla ice cream
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FILL cocktail shaker two-thirds full with ice. Add light cream, vodka, chocolate syrup and extract; shake until well mixed and chilled.

    2. STRAIN into 2 Martini glasses. Top with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired. Serve immediately.

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Valentine Cocktail

    Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic interest, friends or family, make the occasion special with a Valentine cocktail.

    What makes a “Valentine” cocktail? Color—a shade of pink, rose or red. If you want a Champagne cocktail, garnish it with “Champagne grapes” (they’re actually Zante currants), a red berry or an edible flower. And of course, it’s got to be a sweet cocktail.

    Chocolate cocktails are also options.

    We’ve listed some of our favorite recipes at the end, but here’s a new idea from Tequila Herradura.

    This sweet cocktail from is almost a good-for-you tonic, mixing the spirit with a serving of fresh fruit, plus fruit juice and low glycemic agave nectar instead of sugar- or corn syrup-filled cocktail mixer.

    LOVE NECTAR

    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 10 seedless red grapes
  • 1 ounce apple cider
  • ½ ounce agave nectar
  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: apple fan
  •  

    love-nectar-cocktail-herradura-230

    Get ready to toast Valentine’s Day with some Love Nectar. Photo courtesy Casa Herradura.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the grapes into the base of a cocktail shaker and crush with a muddler. Add the remaining ingredients including ice. Shake hard and strain over ice into an old fashioned glass.

    2. GARNISH with a fan of red apple. (Here’s a video that shows how.)
     
    MORE VALENTINE COCKTAILS

  • Amore Espresso Cocktail Recipe
  • Bright Red Cocktail Recipes
  • Chocolate Basil Martini Recipe
  • Five Chocolate Cocktail Recipes
  • Love Potion Recipe
  • Pink Cocktail Recipes
  • Pomegranate Martini Recipe
  • The Right Kiss Gin Cocktail Recipe
  •  
    Or, since you’ve got time, start thinking about making your own signature cocktail. Hint: There’s nothing easier than

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Super Bowl Cocktails

    Drink your team colors on Super Bowl Sunday, with these layered cocktails made with Blue Chair Rum.

    These recipes, courtesy of Eclectic Recipes, have fun visual impact. You’ll also be adding a bit of the tropics to a cold day.

    PATRIOT PUNCH

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1/2 jigger or 3/4 oz Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum
  • 1/2 jigger or 3/4 oz Blue Curaçao
  • 1 jigger or 1-1/2 ounces pineapple juice
  • 2 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice
  • Garnish: 1 maraschino cherry
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the run, Curaçao and pineapple juice in a shaker. Shake well and pour over ice in cocktail glass.

     

    super-bowl-2015-eclecticrecipes-230

    Patriot Punch, front, and Seahawk Slammer. Photo courtesy EclecticRecipes.com.

     
    2. ADD two teaspoons maraschino cherry juice slowly and let it fall to the bottom of the drink. Garnish with a cherry and serve.
     
    SEAHAWK SLAMMER

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1/2 jigger or 3/4 ounce Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum
  • 1/2 jigger or 3/4 ounce Blue Curaçao
  • 1 jigger or 1-1/2 ounces pineapple juice
  • 2 teaspoons melon liqueur (like Midori)
  • Garnish: lemon slice for Garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum, Blue Curaçao and pineapple juice in a shaker. Shake well and pour over ice in cocktail glass.

    2. ADD the melon liqueur slowly, and let it fall to the bottom of the glass. Garnish with lemon and serve.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: X.O. Cognac

    hennessy-xo-230

    It’s a beauty—and it has a just-as-lovely gift
    box. Photo courtesy Hennessy.

     

    We sign our letters to friends with “X.O.,” short for a hug and a kisse.

    The abbreviation for “hugs and kisses,” XOXO, has been used for centuries to express love or good friendship at the end of a written letter or card (and these days at the end of an email or text message). The X stands for kiss and the O for hug.

    What is the history of this custom? Why not HKHK instead of XOXO? There’s more about that below.

    First, we’d like to suggest a luxurious Valentine’s Day gift: X.O. Cognac, a divine aperitíf or nightcap.

    This style of Cognac was created in 1870 by Maurice Hennessy, to be enjoyed with his circle of friends. The bold, intense and complex flavors are based on much longer aging. Some of the 100 eaux-de-vie* assembled to create X.O were aged for 30 years. M. Hennessy gave it the name X.O to signify “extra old.”

    It’s a Cognac for connoisseurs, served neat, on ice or with a splash of still or sparkling water. Don’t even think of mixing it in a cocktail!

     
    By the way, it was Maurice Hennessy, great-grandson of company founder Richard Hennessy, who created the Cognac classification system. He used varying numbers of stars to designate different quality, first producing Hennessy’s Three Star Cognac, today known as V.S (Very Special). His classification system was adopted by the entire industry.

    When he was the Prince of Wales, King George IV of Great Britain asked Hennessy to create a “very superior old pale Cognac.” It was designated V.S.O.P—Very Superior Old Pale—and since then, a letter system evolved to replace the stars (see below).
     

    LUXURIOUS VALENTINE GIFT IDEA

    Deliver your hugs and kisses with a bottle of X.O. Cognac. In addition to Hennessy, it is made by a number of Cognac houses including Camus, Courvoisier, Martell, Rémy Martin and others. They bottles cost $150 and up.

    While a bottle of Hennessy X.O., at the top of the price scale, can cost upwards of $200, we found it “on sale” at WineAnthology.com for $165.

    If you’re not looking for a bargain, you can get a custom-engraved bottle directly from Hennessy. Your message is engraved on the back of the bottle, making it a lovely keepsake (see the photo below).

    We also like to give an engraved bottle of X.O. Cognac as a wedding gift or anniversary gift.

     

    COGNAC CLASSIFICATIONS

  • V.O.: Very Old, aged a minimum of four years.
  • V.S.: Very Special. The youngest brandy in the blend has been aged for at least two years in cask. Also called Three Star.
  • V.S.O.P.: Very Superior Old Pale; the youngest spirit in the blend is aged four years in cask but the average can be 10 to 15 years.
  • X.O.: Extra Old. The youngest brandy is aged for at least six years but the average is 20 years or more. In 2016, the minimum storage age of the youngest brandy used in an XO blend will be 10 years.
  • Extra/Napoleon/Vielle Reserve: While regulations designate a minimum of 6 years of age for the youngest brandy, this average is usually older than X.O.
  •  
    There are other age designations, but they are smaller productions and are not typically imported to the U.S.
     
    Other terms to know:

     

    valentine-engraved-bottle-230

    Engrave a personal message on your X.O. Gift Photo courtesy Hennessy.

  • Hors d’Age: Meaning “beyond age,” this is a rare Cognac that is off the designated age scale.
  • Varietal: Made using only one type of varietal grape
  • Vintage: Aged and was put into the bottle in the year of the vintage
     
    ABOUT X’s AND O’s

    The custom of placing X’s on envelopes and at the bottom of letters notes, signifying kisses, dates back to the Middle Ages. At that time, a Christian cross was drawn on documents or letters to indicate faith, honesty and sincerity. A kiss, indicated with an X, was then placed upon the cross by the signer as a display of his or her sworn oath.

    A similar practice dates back to early Christian history. Since most people could neither read nor write, an X was used as their signature on documents, and an actual kiss was placed upon it as a show of sincerity. [Source]

    What about the “O?” Current speculation is that it is of Jewish derivation, since Jews would not use the sign of the cross.

    In terms of how the two symbols came together in the very non-legal “hugs and kisses”: Alas, dear reader, the answer is lost to history.
     
    *Eau de vie (eaux is the plural), pronounced oh-duh-VEE, is French for “water of life.” It’s a clear, colorless fruit brandy. After the brandy is aged in wood, it takes on its amber color. Cognac is a region in northern France; only brandies produced there can be called “Cognac.” The artisanship and strict production regulations in Cognac creates a superior spirit. Generic “brandy” can be produced anywhere.

      

  • Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Crème Yvette

    creme-yvette-2-230

    Crème Yvette violet liqueur, worth getting to know. Photo courtesy Cooper Spirits International.

     

    This old-fashioned-looking bottle with an unfamiliar name hasn’t been around in more than 40 years. Purple-hued and violet-scented, it was enjoyed since the 19th century in cocktails and as an after-dinner digestif.

    Alas, it was one of many old-fashioned liqueurs that went out of style and ceased to be produced; in this case, it went defunct in 1969. But it recently caught the fancy of the creator of St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (another favorite for Valentine’s Day or any day), who has resurrected it.

    Crème Yvette, also called Crème d’Yvette and Crème de Yvette, is made from parma violet petals*, blackberries, blackcurrants, red raspberries and wild strawberries, along with honey, orange peel and vanilla.

    Currently, it seems to be available in New York and California, but you can see if your local liquor store can order a bottle for you.

    There are cocktail recipes on the brand’s website, CremeYvette.com. We enjoyed mixing it with sparkling wine (we also layered St. Germain into one variation).

    And it’s delicious atop raspberry sorbet—an easy Valentine’s Day dessert.

    (By the way, exactly who Yvette was has been lost to history.)
     
    *The same exotic flower used to make those violet pastilles.

     

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Burns Night Tonight

    When you sang “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve, did you recall that it was first a poem from Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland (1759-1796)?

    His birthday, January 25th, is celebrated in Scotland as Burns Night. Family and friends gather for an evening of good food and company—a warm and happy event much like our Thanksgiving. A traditional Burns’ Supper is served. Here’s the supper format, if you want to plan ahead for next year.

    But you can have a much smaller event tonight, as brief as enjoying a tumbler of Scotch and reading a poem. Burns’ complete works are available free online. Some suggestions: A Red, Red Rose (“My luve is like a red, red rose…”); To a Louse; To a Mouse; Tam O’Shanter.

    If you’d like to do something a bit more elaborate, call around and invite a group for a Scotch tasting (here’s how). Everyone can bring whatever brand they have at hand…along with any bagpipe music.

    Then, there’s a Scotch and chocolate tasting. While solid chocolate wasn’t invented in Burns’ lifetime, he was a bon vivant and we’re sure he’d approve.

    Here are more food ideas for Burns Night.

     

    scotch-cheese-wisconsincheesetalk-230

    Celebrate Burns Night with Scotch and a poem. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    Heid doon arse up! (That’s Scottish for Get on with it!)

      

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