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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: 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.

     

    watermelon.org-margarita-230

    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 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.

       

    watermelon-roll-snow crab-greenonion-mint-shrimp-haru-230

    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
  •  

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/watermelon lemonade 230 haru

    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

    /home/content/71/6181571/html/wp content/uploads/pisco porton 230

    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.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make A Great Cocktail From Scratch

    TanquerayFrench75-230

    Celebrate Bastille Day with a French 75
    cocktail. Photo courtesy Tanqueray.

     

    Today’s tip will help you make a perfect cocktail, with advice from the experts at Cabo Flats.

    Along with the cocktail best practices, we’re rolling in today’s food holiday. Well, it’s sort of a food holiday, since it concerns one of the great culinary countries of the world.

    It’s Bastille Day in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 that launched the French Revolution. Just as the holiday we call July 4th is formally named Independence day, the official French name for Bastille Day is La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration), and commonly Le Quatorze Juillet (the fourteenth of July).

    Today, make your cocktail something French. First and foremost, we love the Kir and Kir Royale, invented by a mayor of Dijon, France. The Kir Royale recipe, made with sparkling wine, is below.
     
    RECIPE: FRENCH 75 COCKTAIL

    Made from gin, Champagne, lemon juice and sugar, the French 75 is attributed to bartender Harry MacElhone, created in 1915 at the New York Bar in Paris (later called Harry’s New York Bar). Some say it was actually the idea of American officers who frequented the bar.

     
    The drink was said to have such a kick that it felt like being shelled with the powerful French 75mm field gun. The gun was also called a Soixante Quinze (the number 75 in French) and a 75 Cocktail. The latter name was bestowed upon alcoholic cocktail.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 1.25 ounces gin
  • .5 ounce simple syrup
  • .5 ounce lemon juice
  • Champagne
  • Garnish: lemon peel curl
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SHAKE the ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.

    2. STRAIN into a rocks glass or Champagne coupe and top with Champagne. Garnish with lemon peel.

     

    TRICKS TO MAKE THE PERFECT COCKTAIL

    According to the expert mixologists at Cabo Flats, whatever you’re mixing up, you need:

    1. Balance. Balancing the amount of alcohol with bitter taste to sweet taste. Some believe that more alcohol is better, but the taste has to be considered. Correctly measure the alcohol, mixer, and sweetener.

    2. Fresh Juice. Whether its fresh squeezed orange juice, pink grapefruit juice, lemon juice, or lime juice – it is extremely important to use fresh squeezed juice and nothing packaged or pasteurized.

    3. Sweetener. Agave needs to be used with tequila, simple syrup needs to be used for vodka or gin. For brown spirits, according to Cabo Flats, you should use pure cane sugar.

    4. Quality of Alcohol. Some people think you can get away with cheap (low quality) spirits; but they will ruin your drink every time.

    5. Final Touch. The last component of a perfect cocktail is the garnish: foam, fruit, oil, rim, savory garnish (celery, olives, shrimp, etc.). This will have a huge effect on the taste and look of the cocktail.

     

    kir-royale-drinkandcocktail.blogspot-230

    Invented in Dijon, France, Kir and its variations have a base of crème de cassis, blackcurrant liqueur. Photo courtesy Chandon USA.

     

    RECIPE: KIR ROYALE

    There are many variations of the original Kir cocktail. There is also a “cousin” made with Chambord, raspberry liqueur.

    If you have Chambord but not crème de cassis you can substitute it. This creates a Kir Impériale.

    Ingredients For 4 Cocktails

  • 1 bottle crème de cassis
  • 1 bottle Champagne* or other sparkling wine, chilled
  • Optional garnish: blackberries or raspberries on a pick
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE 4 Champagne flutes in the freezer for 15 minutes. Remove and add 1 tablespoon of the liqueur to each flute.

    2. FILL each flute to the top with Champagne and serve immediately. If you want a more fruity flavor, use more liqueur.
     
    *CONSIDER OTHER SPARKLERS. Sparkling wines from other regions are more affordable than Champagne and make more sense in this recipe, given that the strong currant flavors will cover the delicate toastiness of Champagne. Consider Asti and Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, Crémant from France (eight different regions produce it), Espumate from Portugal and Sekt from Germany. Also consider sparklers from Australia, Austria, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.S. and other countries We often use the inexpensive but delightful [yellow tail] from Australia, and especially the rosé [yellow tail] (yes, that’s how the winery spells it!).

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Summer Sangria

    Thanks to our friends Laura and Charles for reviving our interest in sangria, a Spanish fruit punch. At a light summer dinner last week, the sangria they served paired beautifully with every dish.

    Americans were first introduced to sangria at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. The Spanish Pavilion had three restaurants, and the sangria offered with meals changed the way Americans thought of fruit punch.

    There are many recipes for red, rosé and white sangria. The types of wine and fruit used in Spain depended on what was grown in the particular region.

    We have two recipes from Courvoisier that are a bit more elegant than most recipes. The first uses sparkling wine instead of still wine, plus Cognac and peach liqueur, which complements the fresh summer peaches.

    It’s easier to serve sangria from a pitcher, but if you want to show off your punch bowl, go ahead. A tip about ice: The larger the pieces of ice, the slower they melt (and don’t water down the punch). If you have metal ice cube trays with a removable insert, you can omit the insert and freeze a block of ice in the base.

    If you happen to have other fruit or mint at hand, feel free to add it to the recipe, in addition to the fruits specified. There is no “best” recipe for sangria. It’s all delicious, and that’s what makes it such an easy drink to concoct (and serve), whether for parties, weekday dinner or weekend lounging.

       

    white-sangria-courvoisier-230r

    While many of us started with red sangria (it was introduced at the 1964 World’s Fair), in Spain the type of wine used is based on the wines made in the particular region. Photo courtesy Courvoisier.

     
    Sangria is not just for summer. With varied ingredients (stronger wines, more liqueur, winter fruits) it’s a year-round drink. Here’s the history of sangria.
     
    RECIPE: SPARKLING WHITE SANGRIA

    Ingredients

  • 4 parts VS* Cognac
  • 4 parts peach liqueur or schnapps†
  • 2 bottles Prosecco or other sparkling white wine
  • ½ cup white grape juice
  • 2 ripe peaches
  • Green grapes
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT the fruit: Thinly slice the peaches and cut the grapes in half. Add the fruit to a pitcher with the Cognac, peach liqueur and grape juice.

    2. CHILL in the refrigerator for for 1-3 hours. Immediately before serving, add the Prosecco and stir gently (you don’t want to break the bubbles). Serve over ice.
     
    *If you only have VSOP (the next higher grade of Cognac) and don’t want to buy VS just for this recipe, go ahead and use it. V.S. Cognac, also called Three Star, stands for Very Special. The youngest brandy in the blend has been aged for at least two years in cask. Many people prefer VSOP, Very Superior Old Pale, where the youngest spirit in the blend is aged four years in cask but the average can be 10 to 15 years. Scroll down here for the different classifications of Cognac, which are based on how long they have been aged prior to bottling.

    †Is it schnapps or Schnaps? Schnaps is the German spelling (and German nouns are always capitalized). The English added the extra “p,” and “schnapps” prevails in the U.S. In Germany the term refers to any type of strong alcoholic drink. In the U.S. it refers to a liqueur.

     

    white-punch-courvoisier-230

    It’s easier to serve sangria (or any punch) from a pitcher; but if you want to show off your punch bowl, go ahead! Photo courtesy Courvoisier.

     

    RECIPE: LEMONADE PUNCH

    This recipe omits wine altogether, substituting a summer favorite, lemonade.

    Ingredients

  • 250ml/8-9 ounces VS Cognac
  • 750ml/25 ounces lemonade
  • 20 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
  • 3 orange wheels
  • 6 lemon or lime wheels
  • Ice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD the freshly cut fruit to a punch bowl or pitcher. Pour in the remaining ingredients.

    2. INFUSE for at least 10 minutes, or for several hours. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Add ice immediately prior to serving.

     

    EAU DE VIE, CORDIAL, LIQUEUR & SCHNAPS: THE DIFFERENCE

    Most people—including American producers and importers—use these terms interchangeably. But there are differences:

  • Schnaps/schnapps, a generic German word for liquor or any alcoholic beverage, is more specific in English, where it refers to clear brandies distilled from fermented fruits. The English added a second “p,” spelling the word as schnapps. True Schnaps has no sugar added, but products sold in the U.S. as schnapps may indeed be sweetened. As one expert commented, “German Schnaps is to American schnapps as German beer is to American Budweiser.”
  • Eau de vie is the French term for Schnaps. American-made brands labeled “eau de vie” (water of life) are often heavily sweetened, and have added glycerine for thickening.
  • Liqueur is an already distilled alcohol made from grain which has already been fermented, into which fruits are steeped. It is sweeter and more syrupy than a European eau de vie or schnapps.
  • Cordial, in the U.S., almost always refers to a syrupy, sweet alcoholic beverage, a synonym for liqueur. In the U.K., it refers to a non-alcoholic, sweet, syrupy drink or the syrup used to make such a drink. Rose’s Lime Cordial, a British brand, is called Rose’s Lime Juice in the U.S. so Americans don’t think it’s alcoholic.
  •  
    WATER OF LIFE

    Because spirits were initially intended to be medicinal, “water of life” was a logical term.

  • Eau de vie means water of life in French.
  • The Russian term zhiznennia voda, which was distilled down into “vodka” (that’s a pun), also means “water of life” (the literal translation of vodka is “little water”).
  • The Gaelic uisce beatha, pronounced ISH-ka BYA-ha, also means “water of life.” The pronounciation evolved into the more familiar term, whiskey.
  •   

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Wine & Sorbet For “Cocktails”

    Sorbet cocktails are one of our favorite summer desserts. You simply add scoops of sorbet to a glass—an opportunity to use your Champagne coupes, Margarita glasses, large-bowl wine glasses or large snifters.

    Then, pour in sparkling or still wine or white spirits (gin, tequila, vodka) and serve with a spoon. As the sorbet melts into the wine or spirit, it creates a special cocktail.

    MAKE IT A PARTY

    For a fun dessert, make pairing a dinner party activity, with each guest mixing and matching to find his/her favorites. There are no wrong pairings; it’s what your palate likes. It can Here are some matching ideas for starters:

    WITH CITRUS, MOST FRUIT & LIGHT FLAVOR SORBETS

  • Fruity White Wine (Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio)
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Ice Wine/Eiswein
  • Muscat/Moscato
  • Sauternes or Botrytised Semillon
  • Sauvignon Blanc From Australia or California
  • Sparkling Wine/Sparkling Saké
  •    

    Lemon sorbet

    Lemon sorbet with citron vodka and Limoncello, Photo © Auremar | Fotolia.

     

    WITH BERRY, CHOCOLATE & STRONGER SORBET FLAVORS

  • Amontillado Sherry
  • Fruity Red Wine (Beaujolais, California Syrah, Italian Dolcetto)
  • Late Harvest Riesling
  • Pineau de Charentes
  • Ruby Port
  • St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  • Vin Santo
  •  

    Sherbet Freeze

    Strawberry sorbet and Prosecco. Photo © Lognetic | Fotolia,

     

    WITH ANY FLAVOR

  • Fruit Beer
  • Fruit Liqueur
  • Flavored Vodka
  • Gin
  • Hard Cider
  • Rosé
  • Tequila Blanco (Silver)
  •  
    MORE ON SORBET COCKTAILS

    Here are more tips:

  • Sorbet Cocktails
  • Dessert Cocktails
  •  

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Lavender For Summer

    Today is the first day of summer. When we think of summer, we think of lavender.

    Lavender is a flowering plant, a genus of 39 species that originated in the Mediterranean, northern and eastern Africa and southwest Asia, including India. The most widely cultivated species is English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia. Though not native to England it has long been the preferred variety grown there.

    As noted in Wikipedia, the names “English lavender,” “French lavender” and “Spanish lavender” are “imprecisely applied.”

    The word lavender may be derived from Latin livere, “blueish.”

    It is grown as an ornamental flower, and also as a culinary ingredient. The oil is used to scent beauty and household products. Medicinally, it was used as a disinfectant and antiseptic by ancient herbalists. It became a cosmetic herb and a tonic due to its popularity with the English royalty.

    The different lavender types vary in the potency and flavor of the flowers and oils. English lavender is the sweetest and the most commonly used.

    If you look for lavender recipes, you’ll find almost every food embellished with lavender. We can’t possibly narrow the selection, so look for what you like.

    What we will do is tell you how to infuse lavender in alcohol and simple syrup, and make lavender cocktails.

     

    lavender-cocktail-drysoda-230

    Lavender makes a summer soft drink or cocktail. Photo courtesy DrySparkling.

     

    INFUSING LAVENDER IN ALCOHOL

    When lavender buds are steeped in alcohol, the essential oils are extracted from the flowers and infused into the alcohol.

    Add sprigs of to a bottle of gin, vodka or tequila, let it infuse in a warm, dark place for a week or two, then put the bottle in the freezer so it will be chilled and ready for summer drinks.

    Note that you need organic lavender: You don’t want pesticides in your food.

    Our favorite is lavender-infused gin. Lavender is a great match with the botanicals in the gin.

    Lavender is a great pairing with lemon, so don’t hesitate to add lavender to a bottle of lemon vodka. of gin and lavender make an absolutely fabulous gin and tonic! A sprig of lavender in a martini with a twist of lemon is another intriguing synergy.

     

    dry-soda-grouping-230

    Dry Sparking is a delicious soft drink or mixer. It’s a non-alcoholic pairing for cheese, grilled fish, hazelnuts, pork tenderloin, salted caramel and tiramisu. Photo courtesy Dry Sparkling.

     

    LAVENDER MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce lavender simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Garnish: lavender sprig
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

    2. SHAKE well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lavender sprig.
     
    LAVENDER SIMPLE SYRUP

    Infuse lavender buds in this simple syrup recipe. Use 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds per each cup of water.

     
    LAVENDER SUGAR RIM

    Put a lavender rim on any cold or hot beverage where you’d like the extra flavor. Try it with iced tea!

    Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
  • 3 cups sugar
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the lavender and sugar in a food processor and pulse to mix evenly. Flecks of lavender should be evenly distributed throughout the sugar.

    2. MAKE the rim by dipping the glass rim in water, about 3/8″ deep. Twist the glass in a dish of lavender sugar to make the sugar rim.

    3. STORE unused sugar in an airtight jar, out of direct light.
     
     
    MORE LAVENDER IDEAS

    We’ve enjoyed lots of lavender products, including:

  • Lavender cheese
  • Lavender chocolate bars
  • Lavender honey
  • Lavender marshmallows
  • Lavender salt caramels
  • Lavender tea
  • Lavender white hot chocolate
  • Lavender lemonade
  • Lavender iced tea
  • Lavender scones
  • Lavender whipped cream
  • Lavender water
  • Blackerry Lavender Fizz
  •   

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