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Archive for Cocktails & Spirits

FOOD FUN: Collectible Tequila Cazadores Bottle

Mr. Cartoon Cazadores Tequila
[1] Tequila Cazadores’s limited-edition Mr. Cartoon bottle for El Día de los Muertos (photo courtesy Tequila Cazadores).

Mister Cartoon Skull Bandana

[2] 100% of proceeds from bandana sales go to Topos México earthquake disaster relief (photo courtesy Mister Cartoon).

 

Get ready to add this bottle of tequila to your collection, and to stock up for holiday gifting for Halloween, El Día de los Muertos and Christmas.

Mexican-American artist Mister Cartoon, has created the art for this limited edition bottle of Tequila Cazadores blanco.

It celebrates El Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead), a traditional Mexican holiday. The skull illustration honors the memories of lost loved ones.

Since pre-Colombian times, Aztecs and the Mexicans who followed have celebrated El Día de los Muertos, a ritual in which the living remember their departed relatives.

The holiday starts the evening of October 31st through November 2nd (see more below).

To commemorate the release, the artist has also created a set of skull bandanas (photo #2), from which 100% of proceeds of sales will go towards disaster relief in Mexico.
 
 
THE HISTORY OF EL DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS

Celebrated for thousands of years, this Aztec holiday was originally a month-long festival called Mictecacihuatl, The Lady of The Dead.

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century and imposed their Catholic religion, the celebration became joined with All Saints Day, November 1st, and and All Souls Day, November 2nd.

The celebration begins the evening before, October 31st—coincidentally, the Irish-American celebration of All Hallows Eve, Halloween. While people fear the Halloween spirits of the dead, El Día de los Muertos honors the deceased.

  • On November 1st the souls of children that have passed away, known as Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels). .
  • On November 2nd, the adult souls arrive.
  •  
    Graves of the deceased are visited decorated, and families expect a visit from the spirits of loved ones who have passed.

    Celebrants create brightly-colored home altars honoring these family members. They are decorated with ofrendas (offerings), gifts for the dead: candles, sugar skulls (calaveritas), flowers, food and drink, photos, even items of the deceased’s clothing or a child’s toy.

     
    The altar has mixed imagery of both indigenous origin and Catholic influences. It is not an altar of worship but of honor, to welcome the returning spirits to their homes. Here’s more about it.

    The skull imagery dates to the Aztecs, who kept skulls as trophies and used them during rituals.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Balsamic Vinegar, Beyond Vinaigrette

    Balsamic Glaze Salmon
    [1] Salmon with balsamic glaze. Here’s the recipe from courtesy Cooking Classy.

    Carrot Soup With Balsamic
    [2] Carrot soup with garnishes, including a splash of balsamic vinegar (photo courtesy Sid Wainer & Sons).

    Balsamic Ice Cream Sundae
    [3] Balsamic syrup tops a sundae of vanilla ice cream and strawberries. Here’s the recipe from Whole Foods Market.

    Pan Sauce

    [4] Add some balsamic to pan sauces. Here’s a recipe from Mom 101.

     

    Balsamic is our vinegar of choice with salad. We have 10 other vinegars, but when we want rich flavor and low acidity, we always reach for the balsamic. We currently have different ages of traditionale balsamic, condimento balsamic, plus industriale flavored balsamics in blackberry, chocolate, fig and pomegranate (there are numerous other flavors to be had).

    With so much balsamic on the shelf, we’re always looking for new ways to use them. The latest is reduced chocolate balsamic syrup on vanilla and chocolate ice cream, but here are classic uses:

    Use balsamic vinegar as you would use wine, to finish dishes or reduce into glazes and sauces.
     
     
    1. BALSAMIC GLAZE

    If you reduce balsamic vinegar into a syrup, you get balsamic glaze, also called creme balsamica (balsamic cream). It’s a luscious condiment for drizzling over savory or sweet dishes. With its complex flavors—sweet, sour, fruity—at its simplest, it can enhance anything grilled or roasted, including panini and other grilled sandwiches. Even nachos!

    Balsamic syrup is a dessert syrup, too: on ice cream, pound cake, puddings and more.

    Here are dozens of ways to use balsamic glaze, and a simple recipe.
     
     
    2. BRAISES WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

    Braising involves searing the food over high heat, then stewing it in a liquid (in a covered pot at a lower temperature).

    Whether you’re braising proteins or vegetables, add a tablespoon of balsamic to the braising liquid. It creates a rich layer of flavor with a hint of sweetness. It waves a magic braised fennel, braised radishes and other veggies.

    It also waves a magic wand over caramelized onions and mushroom ragout.
     
     
    3. MARINADES WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

    Balsamic vinegar is a known tenderizer. It imparts a rich, sweet flavor to meat and a cook’s “secret” to tenderize meats. It’s also a star with portabella mushrooms and tofu.

    You can make as simple a marinade as you like. We like this combination:

  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary
  •  
     
    4. PAN SAUCES WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

    The simplest sauce is made from the pan juices that result from sautéing a protein: fish, meat or poultry (photo #4).

    When you deglaze the pan to make the sauce, add a splash of balsamic to the wine, broth or other liquid.
     
     
    5. SOUPS WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

    Many soups, including gazpacho, get a touch of glamour from balsamic vinegar. Stir a a half or whole teaspoon per serving at the end of cooking. It adds brightness and a sophisticated layer of flavor.

    Or, splash or drizzle some balsamic on top of a thick purée (photo #2).
     
     
    6. DRINKS

    Tell your inner mixologist to get out the balsamic vinegar and add some (or more) sophistication to drinks.

    You can add balsamic vinegar to soft drinks and club soda to make shrubs. Or, layer more flavor into cocktails.

    This works best with bourbon and whiskey, which have heavier flavors than white spirits and are more adaptable to the balsamic.

     

    RECIPE: BALSAMIC NEGRONI COCKTAIL

    This Pomegranate Negroni from Sid Wainer & Sons (photo #5) will have guests wondering what the “special ingredient” is.

    You can use any flavor of balsamic, or even plain balsamic; but we like fall flavors here, such as fig, ginger, pear and pomegranate balsamic.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.25 ounces gin
  • 1.25 ounces Campari
  • 1.25 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
  • Ice
  • Garnish: orange peel
  • Optional garnish: pomegranate arils
  •  

    Pomegranate Negroni

    [5] A Pomegranate Negroni: Just add pomegranate balsamic. The recipe is below (photo courtesy Sid Wainer & Sons).

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients including ice in a shaker. Shake and pour into a chilled glass.

    2. GARNISH with the orange peel and optional pomegranate arils.
     
    NEGRONI HISTORY

    The Negroni is one of the classic cocktails of the 20th century, dating to 1919.

    As the story goes, the cocktail was invented at the Bar Cassoni* in Florence, Italy by bartender Fosco Scarselli. He created it for a regular patron, Count Camillo Negroni, who had asked for an Americano cocktail strengthened with a dash of gin instead of the usual soda water.

    Scarselli switched the garnish of the Americano from lemon peel to orange, and presented his client with a “Negroni.”

    The cocktail took off, and the Count’s family quickly founded Negroni Antica Distilleria in Treviso, producing Antico Negroni, a ready-made version of the drink.

    But the cocktail was unknown in the U.S. until 1947 when Orson Welles, working in Rome, wrote about it, creating a rush to try it.
     
     
    ALL ABOUT BALSAMIC VINEGAR
     
     
    26 USES FOR WHITE DISTILLED VINEGAR
     
    _____________________

    *Bar Cassoni became Caffè Casoni and is now called Caffè Cavalli.

      

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fun Flavored Ice Cubes

    We thought our own ice cube tips were creative: freezing coffee, fruit, herbs, juice, lemonade, vegetables, tea, wine—even bouillon for Bloody Marys.

    We don’t like melting ice cubes to dilute our drinks, so we freeze the same liquid (e.g. iced tea cubes for iced tea) or a complimentary flavor (e.g., blueberry or other fruit juice ice cubes for that lemonade).

    Then we saw these clever cubes, from Sherry Chen of Personal Creations, who has kindly provided them for today’s tip.

    They turn an everday beverage—water, a glass of milk, iced tea or coffee, cocktails and mocktails—into something truly special.

    SHERRY CHEN’S TIPS FOR PERFECT FLAVORED ICE CUBES

    Whether for a party or a refreshing day at home, a flavored ice cube will always add style, says Sherry.

    Making unique flavored ice cubes is simple. Here are a few things to keep in mind when prepping.

  • Use filtered water. It makes a clearer cube. Depending on your local water, tap water can sometimes cloud the ice, making it difficult to see the beauty inside.
  • If you want your cubes to freeze quickly, use boiled water. Here’s the explanation of this paradox.
  • Don’t keep checking on them. Once you’ve prepared the ice, let it sit for at least 3 hours. Checking it and taking it out of the ice tray will only stall the process.
  • Tilt your tray to make layered ice cubes. Pour the first layer first and freeze for about an hour. Repeat as necessary.
  • Don’t expect inclusions to stay in place. Whether it’s fruit or a piece of candy, ingredients often float away from their original spot. Make sure you place ingredients in different spots in each cube, to achieve a good variety.
  • Make sure everything is edible. If you’re using lavender, rosebuds or other flowers, for example, be sure to use the organic variety, grown without pesticides. There’s plenty of edible glitter to be had.
  • Use coconut milk for white ice cubes. If you want to achieve a bright white, coconut milk is your go-to. Regular milk is too watery and almond milk gives a brown tint. For best results, use full-fat coconut milk or creamer.
  •  
     
    ICE CUBE RECIPES

    The subhead reminds us of the joke about the cook who was so stupid, he forgot the recipe for ice.

    But these isn’t ice: They’re frozen flavor art.

    Here are five of Sherry’s ice cube recipes. You can find five more here.

  • Latte Cubes. Freeze the milk layer first, top with cold espresso and re-freeze. Pair with coffee or milk.
  • Ice Cream Cubes. Make ice cubes from your favorite ice cream, to pair with milk or coffee. Tip: Melt the ice cream (let the pint come to room temperature on the counter)l; then mix in a bit of milk for consistency. Garnish as desired.
  • Smoothie Cubes. Use coconut milk and juices. Pour the first layer, tilt the ice tray, freeze and repeat with the next two layers. Pair with smoothies, milk or juice.
  • Matcha Cubes. Thoroughly blend matcha powder with milk. Pair with iced matcha tea, other green iced tea or milk
  • Jewel Cubes: Edible glitter dissolves in water to create pretty hues. You can make them even if you don’t have a jewel-shaped ice cube tray. Pair with cocktails and mineral water.
  •  
     
    Garnishing The Cubes

    You can add even more festivity to the ice cubes with a garnish on top of the cube.

    When the cubes have frozen into a slurry state, quickly remove and shake on your choice of whatever goes with the beverage:

  • Dragées or pearls
  • Edible glitter
  • Edible gold or silver glitter or stars
  • Herbs or spices
  • Mini chips
  • Shredded coconut
  • Sprinkles or non-pareils
  •  
     
    MORE ICE CUBE RECIPES

  • Cherry Ice Cubes
  • Chocolate Ice Cubes In Vanilla Milk
  • Coconut Water Ice Cubes
  • Flower Ice Cubes
  • Frozen Fruit Ice Cubes
  • Ice Cube Art With Fruits & Herbs
  • Iced Tea Ice Cubes
  • More Flavored Ice Cubes
  • Red, White & Blue Ice Cubes
  • Strawberry Thyme Ice Cubes
  • Valentine Ice Cubes
  •  
    And take a gander at:

  • Other Things To Freeze In An Ice Cube Tray
  •  

    Latte Ice Cubes
    [1] Latte ice cubes (photos 1-5 courtesy Personal Creations.

    Ice Cream Ice Cubes
    [2] Ice cream cubes melt creaminess and flavor into the drink.

    Smoothie Ice Cubes
    [3] Smoothie ice cubes.

    Matcha Ice Cubes
    [4] Matcha ice cubes.

    Jewel Ice Cubes
    [5] Jewel ice cubes.

    Coffee ice Cubes

    [6] Latte ice cubes in a glass of milk (photo courtesy Rabbit Food For My Bunny Teeth).

     

      

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    RECIPE: Autumn Apple Spritz Cocktail

    Appletinis evoke spring and summer; mulled cider is for the chilly fall and winter.

    In-between, how about an Apple Cider Spritz?

    We adapted this recipe from one from Elegant Affairs Caterers. The basic recipe is very versatile, and a lesson in the ease of substituting ingredients.

  • Don’t have apple-flavored vodka? Use regular vodka and hard apple cider.
  • Don’t have apple juice or cider? Use hard cider or apple schnapps.
  • Don’t have club soda? Perrier or other sparkling water will work. So will 7-Up or Sprite, but it makes a sweeter drink.
  • Don’t have a Lady apple? Cut small round slices from the apple you do have with a cookie cutter.
  • Don’t have star anise? Use a cardamom pod or a whole clove.
  •  
    RECIPE: AUTUMN APPLE SPRITZ

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces apple flavored vodka
  • 2 ounces apple juice
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) club soda
  • Squeeze of lime wedge
  • Garnish: 1 slice lady apple topped with 1 star anise
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the vodka, apple juice, club soda and a squeeze of the lime wedge. Shake with ice until mixed and strain into a Martini glass or a coupe (the “sherbet champagne” glass).

    2. TOP a slice of apple with the star anise and float atop the drink.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF LADY (API) APPLES

    The Lady is an old French variety, which remains popular in Europe and the U.S. It is known in Europe as the Api, after the forest of Api in Bretagne, in western France, where it is thought to have originated.

    It is a petite apple—an adult can finish it in three large bites—with a pleasing aroma and flavor. In photo #2, you can see how many fit into a pint container.

    Throughout its history, the Lady apple has been used as much for decoration as for eating apple. Baskets of Lady apples were used to mask unpleasant odors.

     

    Apple Spritzer
    [1] An Apple Sprizer bridges the gap between warm-weather Appleton’s and cold weather Mulled Cider (photo courtesy Elegant Affairs caterers).

    Lady Apples
    [2] Lady apples, called Api (their original name) in Europe (photo courtesy Simply Beautiful World | Tumblr).

     

    Records suggest that Api appeared as a seedling some time before the early 17th century. It soon became popular in France, England and the U.S.

    Records also show that the U.S. exported large quantities to England in Victorian times under the name Lady Apple [source].

    In modern times, Lady apples are popular in the fourth quarter, as in centerpieces and other holiday decor, along with clementines, evergreen branches and pine cones.

    The Lady apple/Api is not directly related to either Pink Lady or Lady Alice apples.

      

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    COCKTAIL RECIPE: Blackberries = Purple Cocktail = A Delicious Smash!

    Blackberry Smash Cocktail Recipe
    [1] Watch the sunset with a Blackberry Smash.

    Bourbon Peach Smash Recipe
    [2] A Bourbon & Peach Smash. Here’s the recipe from Imbibe Magazine (photo courtesy Imbibe Magazine).

    Tequila Sage Smash Recipe
    [3] This Tequila & Sage Smash is served in a tall glass with ice cubes (photo courtesy Imbibe Magazine).

    Basil Hayden's Bourbon

    [4] Basil Hayden’s Bourbon is made in small batches by Beam Suntory (photo courtesy Basil Hayden’s).

     

    The only problem with this stunning cocktail is that kids will clamor for it.

    Otherwise, it’s deliciously refreshing summer smash (double entendre: smash is the name of the cocktail category). Just make it in a kid-free environment.

    The recipe came to us from Basil Hayden’s Bourbon. It was crafted by mixologist Benjamin Schiller of Chicago, who called it the Market Street Smash (a local reference).

    It’s easy to make, and it comes with a history (below).
     
     
    COCKTAIL RECIPE: BLACKBERRY SMASH

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 parts Basil Hayden’s Bourbon
  • ¾ parts simple syrup
  • ½ part fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 fresh blackberries plus 3 for garnish)
  • Garnish: mint sprig
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a mixing tin and muddle the blackberries. Add ice, shake and strain over crushed ice inri a rocks glass.

    2. GARNISH with a sprig of mint and 3 blackberries.
     
     
    WHAT’S A SMASH COCKTAIL?

    Smash is a family of easy-to-make cocktails that generally include a:

  • Spirit
  • Sweetener
  • Herb
  • Seasonal fruit
  • Crushed ice
  •  
    Imbibe Magazine calls them “those fruity, icy concoctions that highlight the best of the cocktail season

    The Cocktail Novice notes, “It’s like a Mint Julep with seasonal fruit.” Adds Imbibe: “a smash is a julep, but a julep is not always a smash.

    Here are Cocktail Novice’s recipes for:

  • Gin, Cucumber & Basil Smas
  • Jalapeño Tequila Smash
  • Strawberry Lemonade Smash
  • Whiskey Smash
  •  
    From Imbibe Magazine:

  • Añejo Smash (with tequila)
  • Bourbon & Peach Smash
  • Pepper Smash (with aquavit and bell pepper)
  • Philly Smash (with rye, Averna [herbal liqueur] and seasonal berries)
  • Ranger Smash (with whiskey and Cocchi Americano, a quinine-laced aperitif)
  • Rhubarb-Thyme Smash
  • Tequila & Thyme Smash
  •  
     
    THE HISTORY OF THE SMASH COCKTAIL

    Per Imbibe Magazine, one of the earliest examples of a smash is a julep recipe in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 The Bartender’s Guide.

    Thomas doesn’t mention the cocktail by name, but his definition of the julep “clearly lays the foundation for the future of the category.”

    Thomas, who literally wrote the book—the first cocktail recipe book—begins by calling the julep a “peculiarly American beverage” that is most popular in the South.

     

    He qualifies that a “real Mint Julep” must be made from a dozen mint leaves, a spoonful of white sugar and “equal parts peach and common brandy,” topped with crushed ice (and he acknowledges that there were many versions in existence).

    In 1888, barman Harry Johnson distinguishes the smashes from the julep, and includes four distinct smash recipes:
    “His Old Style Whiskey Smash is a casual concoction of sugar, water, mint, “small pieces’ of ice [crushed or shaved ice] and one ‘wineglass’ of whiskey (about 2 ounces). He added that to a glass with ‘fruits in season,’ gave it a mix and served it with a julep strainer.”

    Subsequent cocktail books include the smash in the category of juleps. In 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book mentions a choice of spirits: “Either Bacardi Rum, Brandy, Gin, Irish Whisky or Scotch Whisky as fancy dictates” [source].

    “His Old Style Whiskey Smash is a casual concoction of sugar, water, mint, “small pieces’ of ice [crushed or shaved ice] and one ‘wineglass’ of whiskey (about 2 ounces). He added that to a glass with ‘fruits in season,’ gave it a mix and served it with a julep strainer.”

    Subsequent cocktail books include the smash in the category of juleps. In 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book mentions a choice of spirits: “Either Bacardi Rum, Brandy, Gin, Irish Whisky or Scotch Whisky as fancy dictates” [source].

    Our fancy this summer is a Blackberry Smash.

    (Why is it called a smash? Our guess is that in the days before crushed ice machines, the ice was smashed with a hammer.)

     
      

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