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Archive for Cocktails & Spirits

TIP OF THE DAY: Create Ice Cube Art (Designer Ice Cubes)

We have long made “designer ice cubes” for cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks by:

  • Adding fruit to the ice cube for sweet drinks.
  • Adding herbs to the ice cubes for savory drinks.
  •  
    You simply fill the ice cube tray with water and drop a piece of fruit or an herb into each compartment. Here’s our original article.

    We also use two techniques that don’t dilute the drink:

  • Freeze juice or other liquid into ice cubes; for example, tomato juice or bouillon for a Bloody Mary, pineapple juice for a Piña Colada, coffee ice cubes for a Black Russian or Irish Coffee.
  • Use frozen fruits or vegetables. You can buy them or make them.
  • For sweet drinks, whole strawberries or melon balls are our go-to fruits.
  • For savory drinks, use larger vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower florets instead of frozen carrots and peas or corn, which are small and will defrost quickly. You can also freeze thick cucumber and zucchini slices.
  •  
    WHAT’S NEXT?

    The artiest ice cubes yet, from Let’s Mingle Blog. We just love the look, and have so much fun mixing and matching the ingredients.

    Ingredients

  • Fruits, vegetables, herbs and whole spices of choice
  • Liquid of choice: water, flavored water, coffee, tea, juice or soft drink*
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FILL the ice cube compartments one-third or halfway with your liquid of choice: coffee or tea, juice, water, etc. Place the trays in the freezer until the ice is partially frozen (fully frozen is OK, too).

    2. ADD the fruits, herbs, spices, whatever, and return to the freezer for 20 minutes or more, so the fruit will stick and not float to the top.

    3. TOP with the final layer of liquid, and freeze fully.

    Here’s the entire article from Let’s Mingle Blog, with many more design ideas.

     

    Designer Ice Cubes

    Fruit In Ice Cubes

    The best-looking ice cubes we’ve seen, from Let’s Mingle Blog. Read the full article.

     
    ________________
    *For example, cola ice cubes for a Rum & Coke.

      

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    HOLIDAY COCKTAIL: Christmas Martini Recipe

    Christmas Martini

    Christmas Martini

    Pickled Cauliflower

    Castelvetrano Olives

    Fresh Dill

    [1] [2] It’s a Christmas Martini (photos courtesy World Market). [3] You can find actual rose and purple cauliflower heads at farmers markets, but at this time of year, you may have to color your own with beet juice. Here’s a recipe for pickled cauliflower and beets from The Galanter’s Kitchen. [4] Castelvetrano olives are the greenest, for Christmas garnishing. [5] Fresh dill, along with rosemary, are the two most Christmasy herbs: They look like evergreens (photo courtesy Burpee).

     

    Is there such a thing as a Christmas Martini?

    According to us: Yes!

    We’re not talking a peppermint “Martini” garnished with candy canes, but a real, savory vodka/gin-and-vermouth cocktail as its creators intended it to be (here’s the history of the Martini).

    We adapted this Dill Martini recipe from WorldMarket.com and gave it more holiday spirit.

    If you switch the evergreen-like dill to chive or other herb and perhaps make all the pickles red or pink, you can serve this as a Valentine Martini as well.
     
    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 ounce pickle brine*
  • Splash of dry vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Large sprig of fresh dill
  • Beet juice
  • Ice
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • Cauliflower floret pickled in brine and beet juice†
  • Fresh grape tomato
  • Baby radish, pickled or not
  • Pimento-stuffed green olive or pitted Castelventrano olive (it’s bright green)
  • Whole baby beet (from can or jar, regular or pickled)
  • Cocktail pick
  •  
    ________________
    *If you make pickled vegetables, you can use your homemade brine.

    *If you aren’t using beets, you can buy a bottle of beet juice (delicious!) at a natural- or health-food store.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. PICKLE the vegetables as desired and make the cocktail pick.

    2. COMBINE the vodka, pickle brine, vermouth mustard seeds, and fresh dill in a cocktail shaker. Shake and pour into a glass.

    2. ADD enough beet juice until you get the color you want (an assertive blush as in the photo is a good start).

    3. ADD ice to the shaker along with the contents of the glass. Shake well, strain into a coupe or Martini glass and garnish with the vegetable pick.
     
    HOW TO MAKE PICKLED VEGETABLES

    It couldn’t be easier to make “quick pickles”: just the vegetables, vinegar, spices and two hours to marinate.

    You can pickle just about any vegetable, and you can also pickle fruits: from grapes to sliced fruits.

  • Use your favorite spices in the brine. Look at your spices for inspiration: allspice, bay leaf, crushed red peppers, dill seed, juniper berries, mace, mustard seed, and peppercorns are all contenders. Pickled vegetables never met a spice they didn’t like. We often add a touch of nutmeg.
  • For the brine, use cider vinegar or other vinegar (you can use half vinegar and half salted water if you like). To color white veggies like cauliflower red, add beet to the brine. Be sure the brine covers the tops of the vegetables.
  • You can add sugar and or salt to the brine; but make a batch without them first. It’s healthier, and it will let the flavor of the spices shine through.
  • Pickles will be ready in just two hours; although you can keep them in the fridge for a few weeks (trust us, they will eaten quickly).
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    Since these pickled vegetables aren’t sterilized in a water bath, they need to be kept in the fridge. Eat them within two weeks (more likely, they’ll be gone in two days).

    If you’re excited about pickling, pick up a book on the topic. The Joy Of Pickling, first published in 1999, is now in its second edition.

    You may find yourself making classic bread-and-butter and dill pickles, pickled beets and kimchi.

  • Check out our Pickle Glossary for the different types of pickles.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Black Cocktails For Black Friday

    It’s Black Friday. When you get back from fighting the crowds, it’s time for a black cocktail.

    Trouble is, the well known “black” cocktails, like the Black Russian, actually brown.

    But there are options, including using the first three ingredients to color any clear spirit (clear liqueurs, gin, tequila, rum, etc.):

  • Black vodka
  • Black food color
  • Squid ink
  • Black sambuca
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    1. BLACK VODKA

    In some parts of the world, people like black vodka, which is colored with black catechu, an extract made from the bark of a southeast Asian acacia tree.

    Some are flavored, some aren’t.

    The problem is, some brands like Blavod are actually dark brown, not black. Problem #2: You can find black vodkas in Europe and Asia, but not readily in the U.S., unless you’re lucky to track down Blavod, produced in the U.K., and add some black food color.

    We’ve seen a photo of a glass of Eristoff vodka, from Russia, which looks pitch black. We haven’t been able to find a photo of Znaps Black Jack.

    If you live in a state that is covered by BevMo.com, you can order the Eristoff.
     
    2. BLACK SAMBUCCA

    The good news is, we’ve found ample supplies of black sambuca in the U.S.

    Sambuca is an Italian anise-flavored liqueur. The flavor of anise is reminiscent of fennel and licorice.

    Fans of these flavors have lots of opportunities to make cocktails black with black sambuca. Try a combination of black vodka and black sambucca!
     
    3. BLACK FOOD COLOR.

    The best bet is to color your own vodka black.

    Before McCormick introduced black food color to consumers in 2007, black was approximated by combining 10 drops each of blue and red food coloring and 8 drops of green food (this is enough to color a 750 ml bottle of clear spirits).

    The problem with mixing the three colors in a clear liquid, as opposed to anchoring the color in frosting, is that the colors will precipitate out of the spirit, requiring shaking the bottle before pouring a drink.

    Best bet: McCormick black food color. It’s available in supermarkets nationwide, and online.

    You can also find professional black gels and pastes at baking supply stores, or online from companies like Wilton.
     
    4. SQUID INK

    If you have access to a fish market that sells squid ink or sepia ink (the latter from cuttlefish, a different species), you can use it in a Martini or other savory cocktail. Used in moderation, it has a slight salty tasted.

    Want to try it? Here’s how.
     
    5. BLACK RICE INFUSION

    According to an About.com reader, you can infuse black rice into a bottle of vodka and achieve a good black color, with no added taste. Infuse it in a cool dark place for three days or until it achieves the desired color, shaking the bottle once a day. Infuse in a large jar and strain the vodka into a clean bottle.
     
    WHEN TO MAKE BLACK COCKTAILS

    In addition to Black Friday, you can have fun with black drinks for for:

  • Black And White Parties
  • Black Monday*
  • Dia De Los Muertos
  • Goth Gathering
  • Halloween
  • ________________
    *If you’re looking for another occasion to drink, October 19, 1987 saw the collapse of stock prices on Wall Street. The original Black Monday in America was October 28, 1929, when the stock markets began to crash, engendering the Depression. In 1987, the crash began in Hong Kong and spread west to Europe, then to the U.S. There are several other Black Mondays that mark disasters around the world.

       

    Black Cocktail

    Znaps Black Jack Liquorice Vodka

    Eristoff Black Vodka

    Black Food Color

    Black Sugar Rim

    [1] This cocktail was made with squid ink. Here’s how from Honestly Yum. [2] Black Jack, a “shooter vodka” made by Znaps in Sweden. [3] Eristoff black vodka from Russia (photo courtesy Bev Mo). [4] McCormick black food color (photo courtesy Love From The Oven). [5] You can also use black sugar or black Hawaiian sea salt to make a rim (photo courtesy Martini Drizly).

     

    Black Sambuca

    Black Licorice Shoestrings

    Black Licorice Wheels

    Black Cocktail For Halloween

    [6] Black sambuca is raltively easy to find (photo courtesy Fine Wine House). [7] Great garnish for a black sambucca cocktail: licorice wheels (photo courtesy Smart Candy Shopper). [8] For a creepy garnish, use black licorice shoestrings (photo courtesy Candy Warehouse) as in this cocktail from Freutcake.

     

    RECIPE #1: BLACK MARTINI

    Use black vodka in your favorite Martini recipe. Unflavored brands include Blavod, from the U.K., Fruko-Schulz from Czechoslovakia.

    If you have a flavored vodka, like Znaps Black Jack, you get a licorice Martini.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2½ ounces black vodka (or color the gin black)
  • 1 vermouth (or to taste)
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: cocktail onion, olives or a lemon twist
  • Optional rim: black lava salt†
     
    ________________
    †You don’t need to salt the entire rim. The fashion these days is covering only half the rim with the rimmer.
     
    RECIPE #2: COFFEE MILKSHAKE

    You can make any this and other recipes as a shot. Proportions provided are for a three-ounce cocktail.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces black vodka
  • 1 ounce coffee or espresso liqueur
  • Optional: ½ ounce vanilla vodka
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream and/or chocolate-covered espresso beans
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SHAKE or stir the vodka and liqueur and pour into a rocks glass over ice. Top with whipped cream and other garnishes as desired.
     
    RECIPE #3: HARVEST CINNAMON

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces black vodka
  • 1 ounce cinnamon liqueur
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: whipped cream cinnamon candies
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STIR the vodka and liqueur and pour into a rocks glass over ice. Top with whipped cream and other garnishes as desired.
     
    RECIPE #r: LICORICE MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces black vodka
  • 1 ounce black sambuca
  • Optional: black sugar rim
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CREATE a sugar rim on a Martini glass.

    2. COMBINE the alcohols in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into the glass.

     

    RECIPE #5: CHERRY MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces black vodka
  • 2 ounces cherry juice
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: maraschino cherry or raspberry skewer
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the vodka and juice in a mixing glass with ice. Stir with ice and strain into the glass.

    2. GARNISH and serve.
     
    RECIPE #6: MIDNIGHT TUTTI FRUTTI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces black vodka
  • 1 ounce blue curaçao
  • 1/2 ounce black raspberry liqueur
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: raspberry skewer
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the alcohol in a mixing glass with ice. Stir with ice and strain into the glass.

    2. GARNISH and serve.

     
    GREEN SCREWDRIVER

    When you mix black vodka with orange juice, the drink turns green. Consider it for Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day or the first day of spring.
     
    ARTY COCKTAILS

    Clever mixologogists layer black vodka with colored mixers for groovy effects. Try it!

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Martini With A Side Of Olives

    If you’re not the type to sip seasonal cocktails with apple, cinnamon, cranberry or pumpkin flavors, here’s a tip to seasonalize that American classic, the Martini*.

    Recently we read an interview with a fashionable mixologist. Asked, among other things, of his pet peeves, he said, “I sell cocktails, I don’t sell garnishes. Everyone who orders a Martini keeps asking for more olives. We should make ‘dish of olives’ an bar menu item.”

    Voilà, our tip of the day: Serve Martinis with a side dish of olives—ideally, a vibrant mix of different colors and shapes.

    We adapted Sable & Rosenfeld’s Blue Martini, garnished with its blue-cheese-stuffed olives (photo #1), with red or reddish† olives, for a red-and-green holiday theme.

    There is one really red olive, and other options in the purplish range.

  • Red† Cerignola olive: from Italy, a jumbo olive with mild, buttery flesh.
  • Gaeta olive from Italy, popular in recipes
  • Kalamata olive from Greece, a meaty olive
  • Niçoise olive from France, pleasantly bitter with nutty undertones
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    Other purplish varieties you may encounter are the Alfonso, Amfissa, Nyon. But essentially: Head to the nearest olive bar and buy the reddest olives.

    COCKTAIL RECIPE: HOLIDAY MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2½ ounces gin or vodka
  • ½ ounce dry vermouth
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 3 regular-size olives or 1 Red Cerignola olive
  • Ice
  •  
    Plus

  • A small dish of olives in mixed colors and sizes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PRE-CHILL the glass.

    2. PREPARE the garnish. Strip the leaves from bottom 2 inches of the rosemary sprig and skewer three small olives onto it, or one large Red Cerignola olive.

    TIP: Some kitchen scissors have a leaf stripper in the center for herbs. We use this one from Esschert.

    2. FILL a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add the alcohol and ice; shake and strain into the glass.

    3. GARNISH and serve with a side of olives.

    If your guests don’t polish off all the olives with their cocktails, you can toss them into the salad or serve them with the cheese plate!
     
    _________________________
    *Check out the history of the Martini.

    †The color of an olive is an indication of its ripeness. Green olives ripen and become black olives in shades from black to purple-black and brown-black. As the olive ripens, it produces colors in-between: light brown, purple and reddish. In general, the darker the olive, the riper it was when picked. As they mature, some varieties may be red for a day or two. But what nature doesn’t provide, man will: Red Cerignola olives are actually dyed bright red with an FDA-approved colorant (red #3) and a patented process to provide festive color. La Bella di Cerignola is the formal name for the olives grown in the area of the town of Cerignola in Puglia, Italy.

     

    Olive Martini

    Mixed Olives

    Red & Green Cerignola Olives

    Esschert Herb Scissors

    Sable & Rosenfeld). [2] What Martini drinkers want: a side dish of olives (photo courtesy Pompeian | Facebook). [3] The reddest olive available is the jumbo Red Cerignola, shown with the Green Cerignola (photo courtesy DeLallo). [4] Strip leaves of of herb stems using the center part of this Esschert herb scissors.

     

      

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    GIFT OF THE DAY: Make-Your-Own-Bitters Kit

    Hella Bitters Kit

    Hella Handcrafted Bitters Kit

    This kit from Hella enables any mixologist or hopeful to craft his/her small-batch bitters (photos courtesy Hella Company).

     

    The creative mixologists in your life can perfect their own, homemade bitters recipes for cocktails and mocktails.

    You can also make coffee and iced coffee more sophisticated with a dash of bitters (check it out).

    The same materials also enable the production of extracts for cooking and baking.

    This handsome kit from Hella Bitters contains all the tools and ingredients required, except the alcohol (vodka or other neutral spirit).

    Just add alcohol and follow the easy, step-by-step instructions. The handcrafted, small-batch bitters will be ready in no time.

    The kit contains all the equipment needed, plus Hella’s proprietary mixes of herbs, spices, bittering agents and dried fruit peel as a starting point for other blends.

  • Unique bitters can be made simply by adding other flavor component. We’ve made cardamom bitters and star anise bitters for holiday cocktails.
  • Check out this article from BonAppetit.com, which includes everything from baking and fruit salad, ice cream, floats and whipped cream.
  •  
    The kit is $64.95 at HellaCompany.com.

    Optionally, you can add a good bottle of vodka for $15: New Amsterdam, Pinnacle, Smirnoff Red, Sobieski, UV, etc.

    Save the Stolichnaya Elit ($60) for sipping on the rocks.

     
    WHAT ARE BITTERS?

    Bitters, which date back to ancient Egypt, are liquids consisting of water, alcohol and botanical extracts.These botanicals—aromatic herbs, barks, flowers, fruits and roots—were known for their medicinal properties.

    Popular botanicals included cascarilla, cassia, gentian, orange peel, and cinchona bark.

    The word bitters derives from Old English biter, which evolved thousands of years earlier from the Gothic baitrs, “to bite,” describing the taste of numerous botanicals.

    The Middle Ages saw an increase in the development of medicines that combined botanicals with alcohol to create tonics, often used to aid digestion (hence the term, digestive bitters, as opposed to the modern “cocktail bitters”). Available “over the counter,” they came to be used as preventive medicines.

    By the turn of the 19th century, the British practice of adding herbal bitters to wine had become very popular in the U.S. as well.

    What happened next? By 1806, there are American references to a new preparation, the cocktail, described as a combination of “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”

     
      

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