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Archive for Cocktails & Spirits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    COCKTAIL RECIPE: HOLIDAY MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

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

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

    1. PRE-CHILL the glass.

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

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

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

    3. GARNISH and serve with a side of olives.

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

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

     

    Olive Martini

    Mixed Olives

    Red & Green Cerignola Olives

    Esschert Herb Scissors

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

     

      

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

    Hella Bitters Kit

    Hella Handcrafted Bitters Kit

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
    WHAT ARE BITTERS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

     
      

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    HOLIDAY: National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day

    November 7th is National Bittersweet Chocolate With Almonds Day (National Almond Day is February 16th, National Chocolate Day is October 28th, National Milk Chocolate Day is July 28, National White Chocolate Day is September 22).

    Most celebrants would run out for a dark chocolate bar with almonds. But think outside the wrapper; here are other ideas:
     
    CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Chocolate bundt cake with chopped almonds.
  • Layer cake with chocolate frosting and almonds on the sides and/or top.
  • Flourless chocolate cake made with almond flour or finely-ground almonds.
  • Torte with an almond ganache filling.
  •  
    CANDY WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Chocolate almond bark. Add pumpkin seeds for the season.
  • Chocolate almond clusters. Add some dried cherries or cranberries.
  • Chocolate almond fudge. You can add almonds to chocolate fudge or make a chocolate-peanut butter fudge recipe with almond butter.
  • Chocolate-covered almonds.
  •  
    COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Brownies with almonds.
  • Chocolate chip cookies with almonds instead of pecans or walnuts.
  • Chocolate macarons (French macarons are made with almond flour).
  • Chocolate cookies with chopped almonds, or with a whole almond pressed into the top when the cookies come out of the oven.
  • Meringues with mini-chocolate chips and finely chopped almonds (use this recipe as a guide).
  •  
    DRINKS WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Chocolate almond cocktail (recipe below).
  • Chocolate almond milk (Almond Breeze, Pacific, Silk, etc.).
  • Hot chocolate, chocolate shake, smoothie, etc. made with almond milk.
  •  
    PIES & TARTS WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Chocolate cream pie or chocolate silk pie garnished with almonds.
  • Chocolate tart with almond crust (substitute almonds for the pumpkin seeds in this recipe).
  •  
    PUDDINGS & ICE CREAM WITH CHOCOLATE & ALMONDS

  • Chocolate bread pudding with whipped cream and almonds.
  • Chocolate almond mousse.
  • Hot fudge sundae garnished with almonds.
  •  
     
    THERE’S A FOOD HOLIDAY EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR

    The original concept, assembled by THE NIBBLE in 2005, has been widely copied.

    Check out all the American food holidays.
     
    COCKTAIL RECIPE: CHOCOLATE ALMOND DELIGHT

    We serve this cocktail for dessert. Nothing extra is needed, but a few Amaretti di Saronno are a welcome addition.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1/2 ounce amaretto almond liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce chocolate vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Bailey’s or other Irish cream liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce white creme de cacao
  •  

    Almond Chocolate Bar

    Chocolate Tart With Brittle

    Chocolate Macarons

    Chocolate Almond Cocktail Recipe

    [1] A chocolate bar with almonds (photo courtesy Royce USA). [2] Here’s the recipe from Giada De Laurentiis (photo courtesy Delish). [3] French macarons are made with almond flour; thus, chocolate and almond (here’s the recipe from FoodToLove.com.au). [4] A chocolate cocktail with an almond cookie rim (photo courtesy Musings Of A Housewife).

  • 1/2 ounce Godiva or other chocolate liqueur (including regular creme de cacao)
  • 2 ounces half-and-half or cream
  • Ice
  • Optional rim: finely crushed Amaretti di Saronno, other almond cookies or chocolate cookies
  •  
    Preparation

    1. FINELY CRUSH the cookies and place them on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Moisten the rims of the glasses and twist in the cookie crumbs to coat. Set aside.

    2. COMBINE all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with the ice. Shake and strain into a Martini glass.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Use Fresh Sage, From Cocktails Through Dessert

    We love fresh sage, but seem to use it mostly in the fall. We use it in stuffing, flash-fried as a garnish, and with cocktails.

    But of course, you can enjoy it year-round. It’s a standard herb blend with parsley, rosemary and thyme, a key component of poultry and sausage seasonings. Our mom put fresh sage under the skin of a chicken prior to roasting.
     
    WHAT IS SAGE?

    Salvia officinalis, common sage, is a membr of the Lamiaceae family of flowering plants, also called the mint family.

    Members are frequently aromatic in all parts* and include many widely used culinary herbs: basil, hyssop, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, perilla, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme. Some are shrubs, some are trees; in rare instances, some members are vines.
     
    USES FOR SAGE

  • Beverages: sage tea (herbal), crush into vegetable juices, make sage ice cubes for Bloody Marys and other savory drinks
  • Breads: biscuits, rustic loaves, stuffing/dressing
  • Condiments: pestle-ground and mixed with mustard, sage-infused honey,
  • Eggs: frittatas, omelets, quiches, scrambles
  • Desserts: apple pie and other apple dishes, custards (infuse the cream), olive oil cakes, pear crisps, savory ice cream
  • Garnishes: serve fresh, flash-fried or deep-fried with fish and seafood, meats and poultry, polenta, potatoes, poultry, salads, soups, vegetable juices and cocktails, winter squash
  • Grains & Vegetables: barley, beans, rice and risotto
  • Sauces: tomato sauce, pesto (combine with the traditional basil and/or other herbs)
  • Proteins: calves’ liver, chicken, lamb
  • Sandwiches & Burgers: garnish, fresh or fried
  • Sage Butter: a sauce for fish and pasta, especially with gnocchi, pumpkin pasta and ravioli; a compound butter for duck, lamb, seafood
  •  
    Search for sage recipes and you’ll find favorites like butternut squash soup, creamed onions with sage, pork chops and loin, roast chicken, roasted vegetables, and saltimbocca (a rolled main of steak, prosciutto and provolone with sage).
     
    COCKTAILS & HORS D’OEUVRE

    On this lovely fall weekend, relax with a sage-garnished cocktail and complementary hors d’oeuvre.

    The Side Ride cocktail, created by blogger Carey Nershi of Reclaiming Provincial, combines Cognac, Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur, sweet and sour mix (ideally homemade) and Sprite (or 7-Up) lemon-lime soda, both to taste.

    It’s similar to a Side Car, but substitutes gin for the Cognac. Carey took this sophisticated approach with a recipe she created for Vermont Creamery, served with hors d’oeuvre made with Vermont Creamery’s Bijou, an award-winning aged goat cheese in the style of the French crottin.

    Carey uses barrel-aged gin, a recently-revived practice that ages gin, like tequila—in bourbon barrels that generate more richness and spice.

    Wood aging also adds color, so barrel-aged gins are the color of whiskey.

    You can use regular gin, or use this as an occasion to try barrel aged gin.

    And, since this is the season for sage, the cocktail has a fresh sage leaf garnish.

       

    Fresh Sage

    Fried Sage Leaves

    Butternut Squash Soup

    Cranberry Sage Cocktail

    [1] Fresh sage (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [2] Fried sage leaves. Here’s the recipe from Saveur. [3] Butternut soup with a garnish of creme fraiche and a sage leaf. Here’s the recipe from Bon Appetit.[4] Sage as a cocktail garnish in everything from Martinis to this Cranbery Sage Holiday Cocktail (here’s the recipe from Creative Culinary).

     

    Side Ride Cocktail

    Beefeater Barrel Aged Gin

    Bijou Crottins Vermont Creamery

    Caramelized Apples

    Sarabeth's Chunky Apple Jam

    [1] The Side Ride, a Side Car with gin instead of cognac (photo courtesy Reclaiming Provincial). [2] Beefeater Barrel Aged Gin (photo courtesy Pernod Ricard). Aged gin is a great gift for a gin lover. [3] Bijou, a Loire-style goat cheese crottin (photo courtesy Vermont Creamery). [4] Caramelized apples (photo courtesy All Clad). [5] Sarabeth’s Chunky Apple Jam (photo courtesy SBK Preserves).

      ________________
    *Beyond leaves and stems, these can include the herb’s bark, flowers, roots and seeds.
     
    RECIPE #1: SIDE RIDE COCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.5 ounces barrel-aged gin (substitute conventional gin)
  • 1 ounce Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • .5 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 dash Angostora or other bitters
  • Garnish: sage leaf and lemon or orange peel
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the gin, Grand Marnier, lemon juice and bitters in a shaker with ice. Stir 8-12 seconds and strain into chilled coupe glass.

    2. RUB the rub sage leaf lightly on the rim of coupe and float the leaf in the drink along with lemon or orange peel.
     
    RECIPE #2: GOAT CHEESE HORS D’OEUVRE

    Carey created this hors d’oeuvre to go with the Side Ride cocktail. Slices of Bijou aged goat cheese (from Vermont Creamery) are topped with smoked salmon and a dollop of crème fraiche for a festive bite.

    We had a jar of Sarabeth’s Chunky Apple Jam, and found that we preferred apple jam/preserves to the caramelized apples she specifies. It’s also a lot easier to open a jar, rather than than peeling, slice and caramelize the apples.

    If you have another jam or chutney, that can work, too.

    And if you want to use caramelized apples, Carey’s recipe is below.
     
    Ingredients

  • Vermont Creamery Bijou goat cheese or substitute
  • Good crackers (like La Panzanella)
  • Caramelized apples (recipe below), apple preserves or apple jelly
  • Smoked salmon slices
  • Crème Fraîche (buy Vermont Creamery’s or make your own)
  • Garnish: Fresh dill (substitute sage)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. SLICE the Bijou into rounds and place on top of crackers. Top the cheese with the caramelized apples or preserves, and a piece of smoked salmon that’s size-appropriate for the cracker.

    2. TOP with a dollop of crème fraîche and garnish with a small sprig of fresh dill or a piece of sage.

    RECIPE#3: CARAMELIZED APPLES

    Caramelizing is the process of converting sugar into caramel. This type of caramel is not thick like caramel sauce or caramel candies. Rather, the sugar and butter combine to create a light, caramel finish to the apples.

    You can use caramelized apples with everything from pancakes to pork loin. Carey uses a dab to add a sweetness counterpoint to the salty smoked salmon in the recipe above.

    Ingredients

  • 2 firm apples, such as Gala or Granny Smith
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PEEL the apples and cut them into thin slices, as if for apple pie. First cut them into quarters, then slice each quarter into 4 pieces.

    2. MELT the butter over medium-high heat. Add the brown sugar, stir to combine, and add the apples. Toss the apples a few times until they are softened and caramelized.
     
    WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SAGE RECIPES?

    Let us know how you use them: for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts.

     

      

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    RECIPES: Halloween Cocktail Party

    No plans for Halloween? You can still invite the gang for a Halloween cocktail party with these special cocktails:

    There’s still time to invite friends to a Halloween cocktail party—costumes optional. Create your cocktail menu from these cocktail recipes:

  • Bloody Eyeball Martini
  • Bloody Vampire Martini
  • Brandy-Based Cocktails
  • Drunken Pumpkin Pie
  • Candy Corn Cocktail
  • Gin-Based Cocktails: Bloody Scream, Satan’s Whiskers, Swamp Demon, Witch’s Brew
  • Harvest Moon Cocktail
  • Kahlúa-Based Cocktails
  • Pumpkin Divine Martini
  • Smoking Blood Orange Mimosa
  • Spider Bite With Frangelico, dripping with “blood”
  • Vampire Cocktail With Fangs
  • Vodka-Based Cocktails
  • Toffee Apple Martini
  • Vampire Elixir
  •  
    NEXT STEPS

    1. SEND out the invite. Costumes optional?

    2. DEVELOP the menu: 4 or 5 cocktail options, plus a mocktail and soft drinks for the designated drivers.

    3. CHOOSE some recipes that can be made in advance, and make multiple quantities in pitchers.
     
    HALLOWEEN MOCKTAIL

    The easiest: a mix of apple cider, pomegranate juice and club soda, with an optional candy pumpkin, notched to fit on the glass rim, or a lime wheel.

    Mix the juices in a pitcher, and add club soda to the glass after pouring. Vary the proportions as you prefer, starting with a 2:1 or 3:1 proportion of juice to soda.

    Alternatively, there are hundreds of Halloween cocktail recipes online.

     

    Vampire Martini

    Bloody Eyeball Martini

    [1] Vampire Martini (photo courtesy Betty Crocker). [2] Bloody Eyeball Martini (photo courtesy Kim Plaszek).

     

      

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