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This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
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Archive for Cocktails & Spirits

FOOD FUN: Pool Party Punch

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Match your cocktail to the pool (the miniature
beach balls
are plastic, made for doll houses).
Photo courtesy Pinnacle Vodka.

 

For your next pool party, make this Pool Party Punch, an tasty and fun idea from Pinnacle Vodka.

Pinnacle made it with their Original Vodka; you can make it your own with a flavored vodka. If you prefer, you can substitute gin or tequila.
 
RECIPE: POOL PARTY PUNCH

Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 part vodka
  • 2 parts lemonade
  • Splash of Blue Curaçao (we used DeKuyper)
  • Garnish: fruit of choice (we used blueberries on cocktail picks)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX ingredients and serve over ice. It’s that simple! Here’s a video with the full punch bowl recipe.

    MOCKTAIL VERSION

    Make a mocktail by exchanging the vodka for 7 UP, Sprite or white cranberry juice. Use blue food coloring instead of Blue Curaçao.

    And for garnish, perhaps a red Swedish Fish?

    Here’s the mocktail recipe.

     

    WHAT IS BLUE CURAÇAO

    Curaçao is an orange liqueur made from the dried peels of the laraha (LA-ra-ha) citrus fruit, grown on the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles (southeast of the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean).

    The laraha is a de-evolved descendant of the Valencia orange, which was brought over from Spain in 1527. It did not thrive in the Southern Caribbean climate. The oranges that the trees produced were small, fibrous, bitter and inedible. The trees were abandoned, and the citrus fruit they produced evolved from a bright orange color into the green laraha.

    When life gives you bitter fruit, distill it! It turned out that while the flesh of the laraha was inedible, the dried peel remained as aromatic and pleasing as its cultivated forebear. Experimentation led to the distillation of Curaçao liqueur from the peel.

    The distilled liqueur is clear. Some brands are colored blue or bright orange to create color in cocktails. The color adds no flavor.

     

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    Blue Curaçao. The clear orange liqueur is colored blue. It is also made in an orange-colored version.

     
    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ORANGE LIQUEUR

    Here’s how the different types of orange liqueur differ, including Curaçao and triple sec, which are generic terms, plus brands like Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Gran Gala.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Sipping Rum

    Rum is a new world spirit, initially distilled by slaves on Caribbean sugar cane plantations. The distilled rum can be drunk in its clear state (white or blanco rum), or aged in oak barrels for various lengths of time, the process of which creates the different types of rum.

    Why is one blanco (or añejo, etc.) better than another? If the aging time is the same among different rums, the quality factors include the type of the sugar, yeast, and still and aging barrel and how long the fermentation is, and the quality of the still.

    Clear rum is mostly used for mixed drinks; among the more popular are the Daiquiri, Hurricane, Mojito, Piña Colada and Rum and Coke (Cuba Libre).

    Light rum, also used for mixed drinks, is aged briefly or not at all. As with other grades of rum, the longer it is aged (Añejo, Extra Añejo, etc.) the more complex it becomes.

    For National Rum Day, August 16th, here’s an explanation of how rum is made, courtesy of Cruzan Rum (there’s an infographic at the end of the page.

    1) Molasses, a by-product of refining sugar from sugar cane, travels from the sugar plantation to the distillery. There it is diluted with water—often spring water from local aquifers.

    2) Yeast cultures, often proprietary, are added to the molasses to start the fermentation. The yeast convert the sugars in the molasses to alcohol.

       

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    Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, a fine sipping experience. Photo courtesy Cruzan.

     
    3) The alcohol is distilled into a clear rum distillate. Light rum, also called clear, crystal, silver and white rum, is bottled immediately. rum which is then aged for a brief or extensive period.

    4) Distilled rum to be aged goes into oak barrels, which are laid down in warehouses to age for a minimum of two years; some are aged for twelve years or more. As much as half the rum can be lost to evaporation, which is why, along with the cost of carrying the inventory, older rums are that much costlier.

     

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    Dark rum on the rocks. Photo courtesy Baccardi.

      5) After barrel aging, the rum is charcoal filtered and diluted to 80 proof; it is then bottled.

    See the infographic below.

    SINGLE BARREL RUM

    The finest rum for sipping is single barrel rum. If you’re looking for that ultimate experience, look for award-winning Cruzan Single Barrel Rum. It’s made from a proprietary blend of vintage rums that have been aged for up to 12 years,

    The term “single barrel” refers to the process: After its initial aging, the rum is handpicked and blended before it is barreled for a second time in new American oak barrels. It is slowly aged again, bottled and individually numbered, one cask at a time.

    The resulting spirit well-rounded, mellow and full-bodied, with a balance of caramel sweetness and oak from aging. The finish is smooth and buttery (the latter also from the oak.

    Single barrel rum is best enjoyed sipped neat or on the rocks. Cruzan’s is just $29.99 per 750ml bottle.
     

     
    HOW SINGLE BARREL RUM IS MADE

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fresh Peach Bellini Cocktails

    We were inspired by this photo from Audra, The Baker Chick, to look for the ripest peaches—or plan ahead and ripen our own—for fresh peach Bellinis. In the off-season, you can buy frozen peach purée or (surprise!) baby food puréed peaches.

    You can make the peach purée a day or two in advance of your brunch or cocktail party. Well-chilled purée from the fridge is ideal.

    RECIPE: FRESH PEACH BELLINI COCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drinks

  • 2 ripe peaches
  • Chilled Prosecco (substitute Cava or other sparkler)
  • Lemon wedge
  • Optional garnish: peach wedge
  •  
    Preparation

    Plan on two peaches for the cocktail. Cut a wedge from one peach, unpeeled, for the garnish. Peel and purée the remainder of the two peaches. The riper the peaches, the better they are for the purée; but you need a ripe-but-firm peach to slice and notch for the garnish.

       

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    A Bellini made with fresh summer peaches. Photo courtesy TheBakerChick.com.

     
    1. POUR 2 ounces of the purée into a flute, tulip or other stemmed glass. Increase the amount of purée for a sweeter and less alcoholic drink.

    2. ADD a squeeze of fresh lemon.

    3. TOP with chilled Prosecco. You don’t need to stir, but if you want to, do it just once, very gently, so you don’t break the bubbles.

    4. GARNISH with a peach wedge.
     
    Audra, The Baker Chick, makes a more complex recipe, combining the peach purée with homemade vanilla bean syrup for a strong vanilla flavor. Here’s her recipe.

     

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    Prosecco’s traditional bottle shape.
    Photo courtesy Mionetto Prosecco.

     

    THE HISTORY OF THE BELLINI COCKTAIL

    While many people use Champagne to make a Bellini, the original recipe, created in 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani, head bartender at Harry’s Bar in Venice, is made with Prosecco. The dry, sparkling Italian wine is lighter than Champagne—and much less expensive.

    Even if money isn’t an issue, save the Champagne and its complex, yeasty, toasty and mineral-chalky flavors, for sipping straight.

    The peachy color of the cocktail reminded Cipriani of the color of the robe of St. Francis of Assisi in a painting, “St. Francis In The Desert” (sometimes called “St. Francis In Ecstasy”) by Giovanni Bellini, commissioned in 1525. Cipriani named the drink in Bellini’s honor. If you’re a Bellini lover and in New York City, the painting is in the collection of the Frick Museum.

    Some sources report that the original Bellini was made with white peach purée. White peaches were plentiful in the area and were often marinated in wine as a dessert.

    If you can’t find white peaches, don’t worry. When mixed with the Prosecco, the flavor difference between white and yellow peaches is indistinguishable. And yellow peaches provide more of the color for which the drink was named.

     
    ABOUT PROSECCO

    Prosecco is the quintessential summer sparkler: light-bodied for hot weather drinking and sufficiently affordable—most bottles are $10 to $12—to enjoy regularly.

    Hailing from the Veneto region of northeast Italy, Prosecco is the name of the village where the Prosecco grape—now known as the Glera grape—originated. Other local white grape varieties, such as Bianchetta Trevigiana, can be included in the blend.

    The wine can be frizzante—just slightly fizzy, sometimes bottled with a regular cork to be opened with a corkscrew—or spumante—very fizzy, bottled with the mushroom-shap cork and wire cage* used on Champagne bottles.

    The wine is often labeled Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene, after its appellation.
     
    *Dom Perignon created an early version of wire caging on the cork. Manyt of bottles were lost during production because the cork on the bottle was unable to withstand the pressure of the effervescent Champagne. The added strength. In 1844, Adolphe Jacqueson made the cage (called a muselet in French) in the shape we know today. Here’s a further discussion.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Watermelon “Keg” Tap With Watermelon Agua Fresca

    A melon tap turns any large, seedless watermelon into an punch bowl, ideal for filling with watermelon-based beverages. Simply hollow out the melon, insert the tap and fill it with your beverage of choice. In addition to a refreshing drink, you give guests the fun of dispensing their drinks from a watermelon. (In the fall, you can do the same with a pumpkin.)

    For starters, fill your watermelon “punch bowl” with watermelon agua fresca. It’s a memorable finale to the summer.

    Agua fresca is Spanish for “fresh water.” In culinary terms, it refers to sweetened, fruit-flavored water. Like lemonade, it is noncarbonated and nonalcoholic.

    But you can keep a bottle of spirits next to the melon dispenser for guests who’d like a shot or two. May we suggest watermelon vodka? You can find watermelon-flavored vodka from Smirnoff, Three Olives, Pinnacle (Cucumber Watermelon), UV (Salty Watermelon) and others.

    The tap in the photo is the PROfreshionals Melon Tap, $9.99. It includes “feet” that insert into the bottom of the melon to keep it stable. Another variation, from Final Touch, is designed to look like a beer tap handle. It’s $19.99.

     

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    Turn a watermelon into a punch bowl. Photo of PROfessionals Melon Tap courtesy GoodCook.com.

     
    This agua fresca recipe was created by Cheeky Kitchen for Good Cook. Of course, you can also serve the drink from a standard pitcher.

    RECIPE: WATERMELON AGUA FRESCA

    Ingredients For 8-12 Drinks

  • 6 pounds seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave or honey
  • Fresh mint for garnish
  • Optional: gin, tequila, vodka
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE and discard a 2” piece from the top of a large, seedless watermelon. Carve out the red melon flesh from the inside of the watermelon and cut into large cubes (they can be as free-form as you like, as they’ll soon be puréed). Place in a large bowl and set aside.

    2. PREPARE the melon for serving by ensuring it can stand upright. Slice a small portion from the bottom of the melon to make it more stable. Place the tap about 3 inches from the bottom of the melon and push it through the rind to the inside. Set aside.

    3. PURÉE the watermelon flesh and all other ingredients in a blender in small batches, as needed. Pour the beverage into the prepared watermelon. Press the melon tap to dispense the drink into large glasses filled with ice.
     
    MORE AGUA FRESCA RECIPES

  • Agua Fresca recipes: horchata (creamy almond), lychee, mango and pineapple
  • Apple-Cucumber-Lime Agua Fresca Recipe
  •   

    Comments

    RECIPE: Fruit Salad With Shrimp

    We really like this idea from RA Sushi: A shrimp salad with watermelon cubes, kiwi slices, tangerine segments, baby arugula leaves and microgreens (you can substitute sprouts or herbs).

    RA Sushi serves it as an entrée, with a Watermelon Margarita to wash it down (the Margarita recipe is below). The fruit salad dressing recipes below are theirs.

    The natural juices from the fruits provide the “dressing,” but you can create a citrus vinaigrette, a honey vinaigrette, or simply toss with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and fresh lime juice (with salt and pepper to taste).

    Grilling the shrimp adds another flavor dimension, but boiled shrimp work as well. You can substitute crab, lobster, scallops, seared/grilled fish cubes or for vegetarians, grilled tofu.

    The fruit salad has a counterpoint of spicy greens (baby arugula, for example), but you can also add a base of lettuce if you’d like more roughage, and you can add heat as well. Use the recipe template below to customize your ideal salad. Aim to use three different fruits of varying colors, to add interest to the dish. Tropical fruits work very well with seafood.

    RECIPE: FRUIT SALAD WITH SHRIMP

    Customize your recipe by choosing from these groups:

       

    shrimp-fruit-salad-RASushi-230

    Shrimp and fruit salad. Photo courtesy RA Sushi Restaurant.

  • Fruits: banana, clementine/tangerine/orange, grapes, guava, kiwi, lychee, mango, papaya, pineapple, star fruit (caramboli)
  • Spicy greens: baby arugula or watercress
  • Other vegetables: herbs, lettuces, red jalapeño, red bell pepper
  • Optional garnish(es): pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds, toasted coconut, trail mix
  • Dressing: Citrus vinaigrette, honey vinaigrette or EVOO and lime juice
  •  
    RECIPE: CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients For 1-1/3 Cups

  • 1-1/2 cups fresh blood orange juice or half regular orange juice, half lime juice
  • 1 shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest from blood oranges
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt or sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING the citrus juice to a boil in a medium saucepan. Lower the heat to a simmer and reduce to 1/3 cup.

    2. COMBINE the reduced citrus juice, vinegar, shallot, thyme and zest in a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle the oil into the mixture while whisking until the emulsion is combined and thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until needed.
     
    RECIPE: HONEY-LIME VINAIGRETTE

    Ingredients For 1-1/3 Cups

  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper or cayenne pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the lime juice and honey in a blender and mix. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

    2. SEASON as desired.

     

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    Watermelon Margaritas. Photo courtesy National Watermelon Promotion Board.

     

    RECIPE: WATERMELON MARGARITA

    Ingredients For 2 Large Cocktails

  • 2 cups (16 ounces) cubed, seeded watermelon
  • 6 ounces tequila
  • 3 ounces triple sec or other orange liqueur (Cointreau, GranGala, Grand Marnier, etc.)
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt for the glass rims
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: watermelon spear, lime wheel or both
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURÉE the watermelon in a blender. Add the tequila, triple sec and the juice of 1/2 lime.

     
    2. PLACE the salt on a plate. DIP the rims of the glasses into 1/4 inch of water in a shallow bowl, then twist the into the salt. Add ice, pour in the drink and serve.
     
    FOR TWO FROZEN MARGARITAS

    1. PURÉE 1-1/2 cups cubed, seeded watermelon in a blender.

    2. ADD 1 cup tequila, 1/2 cup orange liqueur and 1/2 cup fresh lime juice , plus 3 cups of ice. Blend until desired consistency is reached.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Watermelon Sushi

    We just finished National Watermelon Month (July), but National Watermelon Day is coming up on August 3rd. Here are two ways to enjoy it that may not yet be in your repertoire.
     
    WATERMELON SUSHI ROLL

    Mango has been a familiar ingredient in sushi rolls for years. But it’s summertime, the season for for watermelon.

    In the spirit of eating seasonally, Haru Sushi substitutes fresh watermelon for the mango in a roll made with snow crab, green onion and mint. It’s topped with shrimp and served with a lemon dressing in addition to (or instead of) soy sauce.

    If you want to make something similar at home, cantaloupe and honeydew work equally well.

    Haru pairs the Watermelon Roll with Watermelon Lemonade, a sweet-tart blend of lemon-infused vodka, saké, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur (a NIBBLE favorite), fresh watermelon, lemon juice and thyme-infused simple syrup. The recipe is below.

       

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    Watermelon combines with conventional ingredients in this sushi roll. Photo courtesy Haru.

     
    If you’d rather have someone make them for you, head to one of Haru’s five locations in Manhattan and one in Boston.

    And if you’d like to know the different types of sushi better, check out our Sushi Glossary.

    RECIPE: WATERMELON LEMONADE

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 5 fresh watermelon cubes
  • 1½ ounces Absolut Citron vodka
  • ½ ounce St.-Germain elderflower liqueur
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ½ ounce thyme-infused simple syrup
  • Soda water to fill
  • Ice
  • Optional garnish: thyme sprigs wrapped with lemon peel, skewered (see photo above)
  •  
    For The Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  •  

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    It’s not so innocent: This watermelon lemonade has watermelon and lemonade, but also citron vodka and elderflower liqueur. Photo courtesy Haru.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the simple syrup: Combine the thyme, sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool. Strain the thyme from the syrup and refrigerate in an airtight container.

    2. MUDDLE the watermelon cubes in a mixing glass. Add the remaining ingredients (except garnish) and ice, and shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds

    3. POUR into a tall, ice-filled glass. Garnish with thyme and lemon peel.
     
    THE HISTORY OF WATERMELON

    Watermelon, Citrullus lanatus, is believed to have originated in the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa (it covers much of Botswana and parts of Namibia and South Africa). An ancestor of the modern watermelon still grows wild there.

    Watermelon is a member of the botanical family Curcurbitaceae. Its cousins include cucumbers, gourds, pumpkins and squash.

     
    Watermelons are about 92% water—that’s how they got their English name. In ancient times, travelers carried watermelons as a substitute for potable water, which was not easy to find.

    Watermelon was cultivated as early as 2000 B.C.E. The first recorded watermelon harvest occurred nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt. You can tell how much the Egyptians enjoyed watermelon: Seeds were found in the tomb of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen, so his farmers could grow it in the afterlife.

    Thirsty traders passing through the Kalahari, refreshed by the fruit, began to sell the seeds along the trade routes. The cultivation of watermelon spread throughout Africa.

    Most culinary historians believe that watermelon spread from Egypt to other Mediterranean basin countries on merchant trading ships. According to John Mariani’s The Dictionary of American Food and Drink, the word first appeared in English dictionaries in 1615. Watermelon seeds came to the U.S. with African slaves as well as with British colonists.

    Watermelon was cultivated in China and other parts of Asia by the end of the 9th century C.E. or the early 10th century. Today China is the world’s number one producer of watermelon, Turkey is the second-largest producer and Iran is third. The U.S. is the world’s fourth-largest producer of watermelon, tied with Brazil.

    Watermelons come in a variety of shapes and sizes: Oval, round, even square, developed in Japan for smaller refrigerators. The flesh can be red or yellow; botanists have also developed varieties with orange and white flesh and even this multicolored blue-green watermelon.
     
    Here’s more about watermelon history, nutrition and tips.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: Pisco Punch For Pisco Day

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    Pisco Portón, one of the finest pisco
    brands. Photo courtesy Pisco Portón.

     

    Pisco (PEE-skoe), the national spirit of Peru, is celebrated with two holidays each year: Pisco Day on the fourth Sunday of July, and Pisco Sour Day on the first Saturday of February, honoring Peru’s national drink.

    So for Pisco Day, here are two pisco punch recipes that aren’t the Pisco Sour. Punches are good for a crowd, can be made a day in advance, and are easy to pour from a pitcher.

    Make the punch a day in advance, you can chill it thoroughly in the fridge so less ice will be required (it dilutes the drink as it melts). The larger the cubes, the slower they melt.

    RECIPE: EASY PISCO PUNCH

    Ingredients

  • Peels of three lemons, each cut into spirals with a vegetable peeler
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup fresh-squeezed, strained lemon juice*
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) pisco
  • 1 quart cold water
  • Garnish: 1 star fruit
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    *Juice the three lemons after you cut the peels

    Preparation

    1. MUDDLE the lemon peels and sugar together and let sit for at least 90 minutes. Muddle the lemon and sugar again, then stir in the lemon juice.

    2. ADD the pisco and the water and stir. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
     
    3. CUT the star fruit into ¼ to ½ inch slices right before serving. To serve, pour into a glass pitcher and float the star fruit slices. Add ice cubes as needed.

     

    RECIPE: PINEAPPLE PISCO PUNCH

    Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (750ml) pisco
  • 16 ounces pineapple juice
  • 6 ounces simple syrup (Simple Syrup Recipe)
  • ½ fresh pineapple in cubes
  • 7 ounces fresh strawberries, diced
  • Ice cubes
  • Mint leaves
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MIX all ingredients in punch bowl or pitcher.

    2. SERVE in rocks glasses; garnish with pineapple and strawberry squares and mint.

     

    pisco-punch-pitcher-piscoporton-230

    Pineapple Pisco Punch. Photo and recipe courtesy Pisco Portón.

     

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF PISCO

    As Spanish emigrés settled in Latin America, they needed to find local substitutes for products that took many months to come from Europe.

    Pisco, a replacement for European-distilled brandy, was first made in the 16th century from grapes grown in the fertile Pisco Valley.

    While most pisco brands imported to the U.S. are Peruvian, you can alo find some that are made in Chile.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Know Your Tequilas

    margarita-glass-wisegeek-230

    Tequila sales in the U.S. have exploded with
    the popularity of the Margarita, one of
    America’s most popular cocktails. The
    “Margarita glass” is used in Mexico for all
    tequila-based mixed drinks. Photo courtesy
    WiseGeek.

     

    For National Tequila Day, July 24th, expand your knowledge of tequila. It’s not just a Margarita mixer, but comprises five different expressions, two of which you’d never mix! Plan a tasting party with the first four expressions—and the fifth, if you’re in the chips.

    The spirit gets its name from the municipality of Tequila, in the west-central Mexican state of Jalisco (40 miles northwest of Guadalajara).

    The native Aztecs fermented agave into mezcal, the forerunner of tequila; but did not know how to distill. That knowledge arrived with the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. When they ran out of the brandy they brought, they began to distill agave into what is now called tequila.

    Tequila is one of five major distilled spirits that are indigenous to the Americas. Can you name the others? The answers are at the end of this article.

    Tequila is made by distilling the juice from the blue agave plant, not a cactus but a large succulent closely related to lilies. The best tequila is 100% blue agave, the finest agave juice that minimizes the “burn.” But at the two entry levels, tequilas can be “mixto,” at least 51% blue agave with the remainder coming from other agave species. They must be so labeled.

     
    THE 5 TYPES OF TEQUILLA

    Depending on the aging process and the quality of the agave, the tequila becomes one of the following five types. The more a spirit is aged, the more complex the flavors.

    BLANCO TEQUILLA

    Also called: White, plata/silver or platinum tequila.

    Qualities: Clear and transparent. The tequila is unaged, bottled or stored immediately after distillation. It can also be briefly aged, up to two months.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     

    JOVEN TEQUILA

    Also called: Gold or young tequila.

    Qualities: Pale yellow in appearance. This is un-aged tequila that is blended with rested or aged tequilas; or can be colored with caramel coloring, sugar-based syrup, glycerin, and/or oak extract to resemble aged tequila.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     
    REPOSADO TEQUILLA

    Also called: Rested tequila.

    Qualities: Light yellow and translucent, the tequila is aged for at least six months but less than a year. The spirit takes on a golden hue and the flavor becomes nicely balanced between agave and wood. American or French oak barrels are most commonly used* for aging, although bourbon, cognac, whiskey or wine barrels can be used. The tequila will take on nuanced flavors from the spirit that was previously aged in the barrel. Reposado began to emerge as a new category of tequila in the late 1980s.

    Use it for: Mixed drinks.
     
    AÑEJO TEQUILA

    Also called: Aged or vintage tequila.

    Qualities:: brighter yellow, aged at least one year, but less than three years. The tequila is aged in smaller barrels where the flavor can become smoother, richer and more complex. The aging process darkens the tequila to an amber color.

    Use it for: sipping.

    EXTRA AÑEJO TEQUILA

    Also called: Extra aged or ultra aged tequila.

    Qualities: Golden color, aged at least three years in oak. This is a new classification which received official classification in 2006. It is the most expensive tequila, made from the finest agave for true connoisseurs.

    Use it for: sipping.

     

    HOW TO DRINK TEQUILA

    In Mexico, the most traditional way to drink tequila is neat, without lime and salt, or as a sangrita. Outside of Mexico, a shot of tequila is often served with salt and a slice of lime. This is called tequila cruda.
     
    The Sangrita

    In some regions of Mexico it is popular to drink a shot of fine tequila with a side of sangrita, a sweet, sour, and spicy drink usually made from orange juice, grenadine or tomato juice, and hot chiles. Equal shots of tequila and sangrita are sipped alternately, without salt or lime.

    Another popular drink in Mexico is the bandera (flag, in Spanish), named after the Flag of Mexico, it consists of three shot glasses, filled with lime juice (for the green), white tequila, and sangrita (for the red).

     

    caballito-lime-wisegeek-230

    The tequila shot glass is called a caballito, “little horse.” Photo courtesy WiseGeek.com.

     

    When served neat (without any additional ingredients), tequila is most often served in a narrow shot glass called a caballito (little horse, in Spanish), but can be served in anything from a snifter to a tumbler.

    In 2002, the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (regulating council) approved a stemmed “official tequila glass” shape made by the great glassmaker, Riedel. It’s called the Ouverture Tequila glass and, like all Riedel glassware, is engineered to enable the finest aromas and flavors from the spirit.
     
    TEQUILA TRIVIA: THERE ARE NEVER WORMS IN THE BOTTLES

    Many people believe that some tequilas have a worm in the bottle. They don’t; but certain brands of mezcal do contain a worm, the larval form of the moth Hypopta agavis, which lives on the agave plant.

    The larvae are used by several brands of mezcal to give flavor to the spirit. As a marketing gimmick that began in the 1940s, some brands put a worm in the bottle. Any flavor from the worm has long been removed during production.

    According to the website Mezcal-de-Oaxaca.com, in 2005 the Mexican government legislated to remove the worm from mezcal (it was already prohibited in tequila). One reason is that at 20¢ to 40¢ per worm and between 200-500 worms per plant, irresponsible harvesters actually uproot and destroy an agave plant to harvest the worms.

    Tequila should not contain an insect of any kind, and if it does, then “you’ve either purchased gag-inducing hooch aimed at gullible gringos, or your top-shelf booze is infested by some kind of alcohol-breathing, alien bug,” according to author James Waller (Drinkology: The Art and Science of the Cocktail, page 224, published 2003).
     
    THE OTHER MAJOR AMERICAN SPIRITS

    Also indigenous to the Americas: Bourbon (USA), cachaça (Brazil), mezcal (Mexico), pisco (Peru) and rum (Caribbean).

    Numerous other spirits are distilled locally throughout the Americas, but are not distributed far beyond their place of origin.
     
    *After fine wine is aged in [expensive] new oak barrels, the used barrels are often sold to the producers of spirits for aging. New oak imparts specific flavors to wine; but with spirits, the distiller is not looking for prominent oak flavor. Thus, the same used barrel can be used for several years, where it imparts slight nuances.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Spicy Pineapple Cocktail With A Special Garnish

    pineapple-grilled-ham-garnish-butter&scotch-230

    A spicy pineapple-tequila cocktail with chile
    liqueur. Photo courtesy Butter & Scotch |
    Brooklyn.

     

    At our request, mixologist Allison Kave of Butter & Scotch in Brooklyn sent us the recipe for her Grilled Pineapple Cocktail. The cocktail itself isn’t grilled, but the garnishes are.

    Allison uses a mix of tequila and mezcal, plus Ancho Reyes Ancho Chile Liqueur. If you like sizzle, Ancho Reyes is a real find. You can add heat to other cocktails, or sip it straight.

    And, give it as a host or holiday gift for those who share your spicy palate.

    While you do get lots of chile heat from the liqueur, it is balanced by the sweetness of liqueur—a dimension lacking in hot chile-flavored vodkas, such as Hangar One Chipotle Vodka.

  • If you can’t get your hands on Ancho Reyes (DeKuyper also makes a chile liqueur) make a less spicy cocktail with orange liqueur and a shake of hot sauce.
  • If you don’t have mezcal and don’t want to buy a bottle, replace it with more tequila.
  •  
    RECIPE: GRILLED PINEAPPLE COCKTAIL

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 1 ounce tequila
  • .5 ounce Ancho Reyes Liqueur
  • .5 ounce mezcal
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • .5 ounce lemon juice
  • .5 ounce simple syrup (recipe)
  • Cracked ice
  • Optional garnish: grilled or seared ham and/or pineapple cubes
  • Cocktail pick
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients but the garnish in a cocktail shaker with cracked ice. Shake vigorously until chilled. (Bartender tip: when the shaker is frosty/misty on the outside, the drink is chilled.)

    2. STRAIN into a chilled coupe, Martini or other glass. Top with a skewer of garnishes.
     
    Garnish Variations

    The small cube of grilled ham looks elegant in the photo above. But frankly, if we’re going to grill ham or pineapple at home—or even serve it ungrilled—we’re going to turn it into a nibble.

    So, make the cubes as large as you like, and use as many as you like. Separately, you can make ham and pineapple skewers to serve with the drinks. You can add:

  • Sweet-hot pickled chiles (recipe below)
  • Peppadews (they come in sweet red, sweet golden and hot red varieties)
  • Sweet gherkins or pickle chips
  •  

    More Variations

    You can play with other ingredients in the recipe; for example:

  • Increase the pineapple juice.
  • Use chile vodka (or even spiced rum) instead of tequila.
  • Eliminate the heat, by substituting orange liqueur for chile
    liqueur.
  • Substitute lime juice for the lemon juice.
  • Add a sugar rim to offset the heat (turbinado sugar or other raw
    sugar—Sugar In The Raw is turbinado sugar).
  • Use fresh wedges of pineapple or boiled ham, instead of
    grilled/seared garnishes.
  •  
     
    CONFUSED BY THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SUGAR?

    There are so many different types, it’s easy to get confused. Our Sugar Glossary explains them all.
     
     
    RECIPE: QUICK-PICKLED HOT & SWEET CHILES

     

    ancho-reyes-230

    Ancho chile-infused liqueur, for mixing or drinking straight. Photo courtesy Ancho Reyes.

     
    You can buy hot and sweet pickled chiles (check out these from Mrs. Renfro’s, Texas Pickle Works, or Texas Wild. And don’t forget hot peppadews.

    Or, you can make your own. They won’t taste the same as the commercial brands, but they’ll be very tasty and ready in an hour! If you want, you can toss pearl onions and/or garlic cloves into the pickling liquid, and use them with the cocktail above or for other recipes.

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 to 1 pound chiles, stems removed*
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (you can substitute table sugar, but brown sugar delivers better flavor)
  • Optional: Pearl onions and/or garlic, as desired
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spices
  •  
    *To reduce the chile heat, also remove the white pith and seeds. Whenever cutting hot chiles, be sure to wear gloves; then remove and wash them (or throw away disposables) to avoid getting burning capsaicin in your eyes.

     
    Preparation

    1. CLEAN and cut the chiles into 1/4 inch slices—you want them thick enough to skewer. If you have very small chiles, like bird’s eye or pequin, simply de-stem them and pickle them whole. Place them in a container with a lid.

    2. COMBINE all the other ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the hot liquid over the chiles; add the lid and shake to fully coat. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to bring to room temperature. They will stay firm in the fridge for up to 10 days.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Beer Cocktails

    mimosa-pomwonderful

    A Beer Mimosa. Photo courtesy Pom
    Wonderful.

     

    Can’t decide between beer or cocktails? Make beer cocktails, sometimes called beertails.

    We published our first beer cocktail recipe, Almond Ale Spritzer, five years ago. It’s time to revisit the options.

    These cocktails were developed by Bohemia Beer, made in a Pilsner style beer. But you can try other styles: Check out our Beer Glossary for the different types of beer.

    RECIPE: BEER MIMOSA

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • ¾ cup (1/2 bottle) beer, very cold
  • ½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, very cold
  • Orange slice—wedge, wheel, peel curl—for garnish
  •  
    Preparation

    1. POUR the beer into a wine glass. Top with orange juice and stir gently.

    2. GARNISH with the orange slice—or, be creative and make a curl from the peel, as shown in the photo above.

     
    RECIPE: MICHELADA

    Michelada is a Mexican drink: beer mixed with ingredients similar to Bloody Mary mix. “Chela” is Mexican slang for a cold beer, and michelada is a portmanteau of “mi chela helada,” or my cold beer. Here’s more about the Michelada.

     

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 cut lime
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt or coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 4-½ cups Bloody Maria Mix (recipe below)
  • 3 bottles beer
  • ¾ cup (6 ounces) tequila
  • Garnish: lime wedges, cherry tomatoes, pickled jalapeño slices
    and cubed cheese for garnish
  •  
    FOR THE MICHELADA MIX

    Ingredients For 4½ Cups

  • 1 quart tomato juice
  • 2 green onions (scallions), roughly chopped
  • 1 serrano chile, de-stemmed, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1 whole lime)
  • Worcestershire sauce to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  •  

    celery-salt-rim-bloodymary-pompeianFB-230

    Beer Bloody Maria. Photo courtesy Pompeian.com | Facebook.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the Bloody Maria mix: Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.

    2. COMBINE the salt and pepper and spread out on a flat plate. Rub the rims of 6 tall glasses with the cut lime, then twist in the salt and pepper to coat the entire rim.

    3. POUR 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of tequila into each glass. Add ¾ cup of beer and ¾ cup of the Bloody Maria mix and mix the drinks well with a spoon.

    4. GARNISH: Place a lime wedge on the edge of each glass. Skewer a cherry tomato, cube of cheese and pickled jalapeño slice and place in glass.

      

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