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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,
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Archive for Cocktails & Spirits

TIP OF THE DAY: Know Your Orange Liqueur

Do you know your Gran Gala from your Grand Marnier?

Orange liqueur is a popular ingredient in cocktails, from classics like the Margarita and Sidecar to the contemporary Cosmopolitan. It’s also used in foods from chicken to mousse.

Orange liqueurs are made from the peel of bitter oranges—generally varieties that are too bitter to enjoy as a fruit.

Does it make a difference which one you buy? Name brands like Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Grand Gala are generally better products than generics like Curaçao and triple sec, even if those products are made by well-known producers.

Some will be sweeter, some more bitter, some more complex. What you can do is hit your favorite bar with some friends, order shots of all their orange liqueurs, and decide which you like the best.

Here’s a primer.

TYPES OF ORANGE LIQUEUR

Just search for “orange liqueur” in Google Images and you’ll find scores of brands you’ve never heard of. But in the U.S., these cool the roost:

   

cointreau_beauty-wiki-230

The original Margarita recipe was made with Cointreau. Photo | Wikimedia.

 

  • Cointreau is a brand of triple sec, a finer product than products simply labeled “triple sec.” It was first produced in 1875 Edouard Cointreau in his family’s distillery in Angers, France. It is stronger-flavored and more complex than most triple secs.
  • Curaçao is a style of liqueur made from the dried peels of the laraha citrus fruit, grown on the island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles (southeast of the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean). The name is generic. The laraha developed from the sweet Valencia orange planted by Spanish explorers. The orange would not grow successfully in the climate of Curaçao; the fruits produced were small, bitter and inedible. However, the peel remained aromatic and true to the Valencia varietal, and made a delicious liqueur. The trees were bred into the current laraha species, still inedible. Some brands are colored blue or bright orange; the color adds no flavor.
  •  

    grand-marnier-bkgd-230

    Grand Marnier. Photo | Wikimedia.

     
  • Grand Marnier is a Cognac-based brand of orange liqueur, generally considered to be the finest quality of the orange liqueurs. It is made by blending macerated bitter orange skins in neutral alcohol with Cognac, and aging this spirit in oak barrels.It was created by Louis-Alexandre and first sold in 1880 as Curaçao Marnier. It became referred to as a “Grand Curaçao” because of the power of the Cognac.
  • Gran Gala is the Italian competitor to Grand Marnier, made by Stock Spirits of Trieste in Italy since 1884. It suffers from a lack of advertising awareness: The spirit is as fine as Grand Marnier; a side-by-side tasting shows it to be more assertive and more complex. Because of the layers of flavor in both Grand Marnier and Gran Gala, neither gives as pure an orange flavor as Cointreau.
  • Triple sec is a generic name for an orange-flavored liqueur made from the dried peel of oranges; the name means triple distilled. It is made from the same bitter oranges grown on the island of Curaçao as the liqueur Curaçao; the difference is that triple sec is about 1/3 as sweet as Curaçao. The orange skins are macerated (steeped) in alcohol and then distilled. Some brands names you may encounter include Bols, Combier, DeKuyper and Marie Brizard. Some sources claim that Triple Sec was invented in 1834 by Jean-Baptiste Combier in Saumur, France.
  •  
    When you taste different orange liqueurs, keep tasting notes. You may prefer one for sipping, another for mixed drinks.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Simple Syrup

    lemon-vanilla-twist-vodka-nielsenmassey-230

    This cocktail uses homemade lemon-vanilla
    simple syrup. Photo courtesy Nielsen-
    Massey. The recipe is below.

     

    Granulated sugar does not dissolve easily in cold beverages. That’s why simple syrup (also called bar syrup, sugar syrup or gomme, the French word for gum) is used to add sweetness to drinks such as cocktails, lemonade, iced tea and iced coffee.

    Over the last decade, flavored simple syrups have become popular with mixologists. In addition to sweetness, they’re also used to add an extra layer of flavor to drinks.

    There are lots of flavored simple syrups on the market. In addition to common flavors—blood orange, lavender, mint, pomegranate, raspberry—you can find cardamom, peach basil, pineapple jalapeno cilantro, saffron and tamarind.

    Most people buy a bottle of premade simple syrup (also available in sugar-free.) Others simply make their own—not only because it’s easy and so much less expensive, but because they can create special flavors—everything from ghost chile to strawberry rose.

    It couldn’t be easier: Just bring equal parts of water and sugar to a boil and simmer, then add any flavorings. You can even make agave or honey simple syrup by replacing the sugar.

    SUGAR TIP: Superfine sugar dissolves much more quickly than granulated table sugar. You can turn granulated sugar into superfine sugar by pulsing it in a food processor or spice mill.

     

    RECIPE: SIMPLE SYRUP

    Ingredients

  • 2 parts sugar
  • 1 part water
  • Optional flavor: 1-1/2 teaspoons extract (mint, vanilla, etc.)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING the water to a boil. Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water, stirring constantly until dissolved completely. (Do not allow the syrup to boil for too long or it will be too thick.)

    2. ADD the optional flavor once the sugar is fully dissolved. To infuse fresh herbs (basil, mint, rosemary), simmer them in the hot water for 20 minutes and remove before adding the sugar.

    3. REMOVE the pan from the heat. Allow to cool completely and thicken.

    4. STORE in an airtight container in the fridge for up to six months.

     

    COCKTAIL RECIPE: LEMON LIME RASPBERRY TWIST

    For spring, try this Lemon Lime raspberry Twist cocktail (photo above). The recipe from Nielsen-Massey, using their Pure Lemon and Tahitian Vanilla extracts.

    If you like heat, add some jalapejalapeñoo slices as garnish.

    Ingredients For ½ Cup Lemon-Vanilla Simple Syrup

  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    Ingredients For 1 Cocktail

  • 6 fresh raspberries
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce Lemon-Vanilla Simple Syrup
  • 1 ounce vodka
  • 2 ounces lemon-flavored sparkling water
  • Lime twist
  • 2 frozen raspberries
  • Orange wedge
  • Optional garnish: sliced jalapeño (remove seeds and pith)
  •  

    simple-sugar-ingredients-zulka-230

    Just mix equal parts of sugar and water, plus any flavorings. Photo courtesy Zulka.

     
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the syrup. Combine the water, sugar and lemon extract in a small saucepan; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup reduces, about 10-15 minutes.

    2. REMOVE from the heat. After the syrup has cooled, add the vanilla extract and stir to combine. Refrigerate the syrup in an airtight container in the fridge.

    3. MUDDLE in a cocktail shaker the fresh raspberries, lime juice and simple syrup. Add vodka and sparkling water; shake and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Drop the lime twist and frozen raspberries into glass. Top with a freshly squeezed orange wedge.
     
    WAYS TO USE SIMPLE SYRUP IN BEVERAGES

  • Cocktails
  • Nonalcoholic drinks: agua fresca, iced coffee and tea, lemonade, mocktails, sparkling water (for homemade soda)
  •  
    WAYS TO USE SIMPLE SYRUP TO SWEETEN FOODS

  • Candied peel (grapefruit, orange, etc.)
  • Glaze baked goods
  • Snow cones
  • Sorbet
  •  
    Bakers brush simple syrup on layer cakes to keep the crumb moist. If you use flavored simple syrup, it adds a nuance of flavor as well.

      

    Comments

    COCKTAIL: Tax Thyme Gin & Tonic

    gin-tonic-lime-qtonic-230

    For tax time, add fresh thyme to a G&T. Photo courtesy Q Tonic.

     

    If your taxes are in, you deserve a drink today. And if you haven’t sent them in by day’s end, you may need two drinks!

    Here’s a variation of the gin and tonic with a sprig of thyme, for tax time. It’s the creation of Q Tonic, an elegant, all natural* tonic water created to complement fine spirits.

    RECIPE: GIN & TONIC WITH FRESH THYME

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 4 ounces tonic water
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme†
  • 1 lime wedge
  • Ice cubes
  •  
    Preparation

    1. ADD the gin to a cocktail shaker. Add 3 sprigs of thyme and gently muddle. Add the ice and shake.

    2. STRAIN into an ice-filled highball glass and garnish with a line wedge and sprig of fresh thyme.

     

    *If you buy major brands, check the labels to see if they’re all natural or made with artificial quinine flavor.

    †Fresh thyme should be stored in the produce bin of the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel. If you’re storing it for more than a day, put the damp towel with thyme in a plastic bag.

     
    WHAT TO DO WITH EXTRA FRESH THYME

    Don’t let fresh herbs dry out in the fridge; find something else to do with them. Thyme is a great partner many popular foods.

  • Beans: Thyme is the go-to herb for bean dishes, whether hot or in a bean salad.
  • Braises: Add it to anything braised (like pot roast), simmered or stewed. If cooking with multiple sprigs, tie them together with kitchen twine to make removal easier.
  • Breads: Add to corn bread or corn muffins, other savory muffins, sausage bread, etc.
  • Casseroles: Even if your recipe includes another herb, add an equal amount (or half as much) of fresh thyme.
  • Eggs: Add to omelets and scrambled eggs.
  • Freeze: Wash, dry thoroughly and seal in heavy-duty plastic bags. When ready to use, the frozen leaves come right off the stems, and the tiny leaves defrost almost immediately.
  •  

  • Fish: Poach fish, with lemon slices and sprigs of thyme on top of the fish, and additional thyme in the poaching liquid.
  • Pasta and risotto: Add chopped fresh thyme to the sauce or garnish for pasta; add to risotto towards the end of cooking with some lemon zest.
  • Pork: Add to sauces for grilled or roasted pork, or use in the marinade and/or as a garnish.
  • Potatoes: Add to roasted or scalloped potatoes. If you don’t have chives, add fresh thyme to baked potatoes as well.
  • Poultry: Add to the cavity of the bird before roasting, and/or tuck leaves under the skin. Add to the marinade of cut pieces.
  • Rub: Blend with mustard, salt and garlic to make a rub for roast lamb or pork.
  • Salads: Add to a vinaigrette‡ or sprinkle atop salad greens.
  • Soups and stocks: Season with fresh thyme (it’s great in bean or lentil soup).
  •  

    common-thyme-burpee-230

    It’s easy to grow fresh thyme indoors or as a patio plant. Get seeds from Burpee.com. Photo courtesy Burpee.

  • Spreads and dips: Mix in fresh thyme, to sour cream- or yogurt-based dips or hummus.
  • Stuffing: Mix in fresh or dried thyme.
  • Sweets: Try some in shortbread or other butter cookies.
  • Tomatoes: Add to tomato sauces and soups; sprinkle on grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, or atop the tomato on a burger.
  • Vegetables: Add to sauteed mushrooms; make a thyme vinaigrette‡ or a Dijon-yogurt sauce for steamed or grilled vegetables.
  •  

    Thyme, like all fresh and dried herbs, should be added toward the end of the cooking process since heat can easily cause a loss of its delicate flavor. This is less of an issue with quick-cooking dishes like scrambled eggs, as opposed to long-cooking beans and stews.

    There are some 60 different varieties of thyme. The variety typically found in U.S. markets is French thyme, also called common thyme, Thymus vulgaris. The upper leaf is green-grey in color on top, while the underside is a whitish color.

    Check farmers markets for lemon thyme, orange thyme and silver thyme, or grow your own.

    THYME TRIVIA

  • Native to Asia, the Mediterranean and southern Europe, thyme has been used since ancient times for its culinary, aromatic and medicinal properties.
  • The ancient Egyptians used it as an embalming agent to preserve deceased pharaohs.
  • In ancient Greece, thyme was burned as a temple incense for its fragrance.
  •  
     
    ‡Thyme vinaigrette recipe: Crush a large garlic clove and add to 5 ounces extra virgin olive oil. Allow flavors to blend for an hour or longer. In a separate bowl, combine 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon minced shallots,
    2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar. Remove the garlic cloves and gradually add olive oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Peeps Cocktail

    peeps-cocktail-xbarhyattregencyLA-230L

    A Peeps cocktail for Easter. Photo courtesy
    XBar | Hyatt Regency | Los Angeles.

     

    This idea came to us from X Bar at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Los Angeles.

    They use a Pink Lady cocktail, but you can use other pink cocktail recipes, including two different pink Martinis.

    The first step is to make the special “Easter grass” rim. It combines lime zest with the sugar for a textured “grass.”

    Alternatively, you can buy green sanding sugar, which is available in both emerald green and pastel green.
     
    RECIPE: COLORED SUGAR RIM

    Ingredients

  • Table sugar
  • Green food color
  • Lime zest
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PLACE the sugar in a plastic sandwich bag or quart bag with a drop of food coloring. Shake well to infuse the color. Add more color (green or yellow) as required to reach the desired hue. (Color the sugar lighter shade of green than the lime zest.)

    2. ALLOW the sugar mixture to air dry. Spread it on a paper towel or a plate. When ready to make the sugar rim…

    3. GRATE the lime zest and mix it 50:50 or as desired with the green sugar. Place on a plate.

    4. DIP the rim of a Martini glass or sherbet champagne glass 1/4-inch deep in a shallow bowl of water. Remove, shake to eliminate drips and place in the sugar mix, twisting the glass to coat the rim.
     
    RECIPE: PINK LADY COCKTAIL ~ EASTER VERSION

    The Pink Lady is a classic gin-based cocktail that may have been named after a 1911 musical of the same name. The pale pink color comes from grenadine; the foamy top is created by an egg white.

    A favorite of society ladies of the 1930s, the drink was widely known during Prohibition (1920-1933) but fell out of favor in the 1960s. One theory is that the [typically male] journalists who wrote about cocktails and the [typically male] bartenders who mixed them had little interest in pink, “girly” drinks.

    The original recipe had only three ingredients—gin, grenadine and egg white—shaken and strained into a glass. Over time, some versions added lemon juice, applejack (apple brandy) and even cream (which could be substituted for the egg white or used in addition to it). Here’s more Pink Lady history.

    We’re opting for the version with apple brandy, for more flavor. If you don’t have apple brandy, you can substitute apple schnapps (apple liqueur), which Appletini lovers will have on hand.

    If you don’t want to use any apple brandy, make the cocktail with two ounces of gin. If you don’t want to use an egg white, use heavy cream (but don’t use lemon juice—it will curdle the cream).

     

    The classic recipe uses a maraschino cherry for garnish, but for our Easter cocktail, the cherry gets replaced by a pink Peep.
     
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1-1/2 ounces gin
  • 3/4 ounce applejack, Calvados, other apple brandy or apple schnapps
  • 1/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 2 dashes grenadine or more to desired color
  • 1 egg white or 1/2 ounce heavy cream
  • 1 cup crushed ice or ice cubes
  • Easter garnish: 1 pink Peeps chick
  • Optional side: miniature jelly beans
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the first six ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously until everything is mixed well (the shaker should be frosted over). Strain into a rimmed Martini glass.

     

    PomBlush-pomwonderful-230

    Shake the cocktail vigorously so the egg white foams into a creamy top. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful.

     
    2. SLICE a notch into the bottom of the Peeps chick. Place on the rim of the glass.

    3. SERVE with a shot glass or ramekin of miniature jelly beans.

      

    Comments

    COCKTAIL: Green Drink For St. Patrick’s Day

    From the Owl’s Brew, specialists in tea crafted for cocktails: artisanal, fresh-brewed and ready-to-pour tea.

    For St. Patrick’s Day, they sent us this appropriately green cocktail that uses one of their brews (here’s a store locator); or you can brew your own.

    They call the cocktail The Green Garden, but you can call it The Emerald Isle.

    RECIPE: THE GREEN GARDEN

    Ingredients For 1 Drink

  • 2 parts The Classic brewed tea*
  • 2 parts cold pressed green juice (recommended: cucumber & mint or mixed greens with apple & lemon)
  • 1 part vodka
  • 1 part saké
  •  
    *The Classic is a blend of English Breakfast Tea and lemon peel, with a bit of tartness from lemon juice and lime juice. If you can’t find the product locally, you can brew your own.

     

    green-garden-owlsbrew-230

    As green as the Emerald Isle. Photo courtesy Owl’s Brew.

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the ingredients and stir or shake.

    2. POUR over ice into a mason jar or strain into a martini glass.

      

    Comments

    ST. PATRICK’S DAY: Irish Coffee Shots

    Each year we present Irish coffee recipes for St. Patrick’s Day. Here they are:

  • The history of Irish coffee and the original recipe
  • Irish coffee recipe variations
  •  
    But for something different this year, we like these Irish coffee “shots.”

    Traditional Irish coffee combines whiskey, brown sugar, black coffee and heavy cream. In these shots, coffee liqueur substitutes for the coffee and sugar, and Irish cream liqueur takes the place of the whiskey and cream.

    It looks like a tiny Guinness!

    RECIPE: IRISH COFFEE SHOTS

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2-1/2 ounces coffee liqueur
  • 1/2 ounces Irish cream liqueur
  •  

    irish-coffee-shot-goodcocktails-230

    Food fun: Irish coffee shots. Photo courtesy GoodCocktails.com.

     
    Preparation

    1. POUR the coffee liqueur into a shot glass. Layer the Irish cream on top.

    It’s that easy! You don’t even have to brew coffee!

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cucumber Tequila Cocktail

    If your drink of choice isn’t beer or Irish whiskey, consider this green tequila drink with a green garnish for St. Patrick’s Day. It was sent to us by Milagro Tequila, titled “Cool as a Cucumber Margarita.”

    Ahem. Every drink made with tequila is not a Margarita; yet, each week we are sent a mis-named “Margarita” recipe that only serves to confuse consumers. Let us elaborate:

    A classic Margarita is a tequila and lime juice drink sweetened by Cointreau or other orange liqueur. While you can stretch the concept and substitute another fruit liqueur and/or fruit purée to call it, say, a Mango Margarita, you can’t call a cucumber drink that has no fruit/sweetness a Margarita of any kind.

    So, we renamed this cocktail. Feel free to submit your own name.

    RECIPE: THE MEXICAN LEPRECHAUN

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 parts silver tequila
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • 3 cucumber slices
  • Garnish: lime wheel and cucumber stick
  • Rim garnish: course ground sea salt and black peppercorn mix
  • Ice cubes
  •  

    cucumber-paddy-milagro-230

    Green enough for St. Patrick’s Day. Photo courtesy Milagro Tequila.

     

    Preparation

    1. MAKE the rim garnish and coat half the rim: With your finger, wet half the outside rim of a rocks glass with water; then twist the rim into a plate of the salt and pepper mix. You can garnish the entire rim, but not everyone may want the salt and pepper.

    2. COMBINE the tequila, lime juice and cucumber slices in a blender. Blend and pour over fresh ice into the glass.

    3. GARNISH with the cucumber spear and lime wheel and serve.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cherimoya

    WHAT’S A CHERIMOYA?

    When our colleague Hannah Kaminsky mentioned that cherimoya was her favorite fruit, we were curious. Depending on where you live, you may not come across this heart-shaped subtropical fruit often.

    We had to head to a Latin American supermarket uptown. But seek it out we did, and the trip was worth it. The fruit’s blend of banana, mango, passionfruit and pineapple notes is luscious. The ivory-colored flesh is creamy, similar to a ripe peach.

    Also called a custard apple in the U.S., cherimoya is believed to have originated in the Andes Mountains. The name originates from the Quechua (Inca) word chirimuya, meaning “cold seeds” (because the seeds germinate at high altitudes). It grows as a shrub or tree.

       

    cherimoya-baldorfood-230

    A cherimoya. Now you know! Photo courtesy Baldor Food.

     

    HOW TO BUY & SERVE CHERIMOYA

    The pale green, shingled skin must be handled with care to avoid bruising. Choose unblemished fruit that is firm and allow it to ripen at room temperature.

    As it ripens, the skin will turn a darker green and will yield to gentle pressure. Refrigerate soft fruit and consume it as soon as possible for the best flavor.

    To serve, chill the cherimoya, cut it in half, spoon out the seeds and eat the flesh with a spoon. It can also be turned into desserts, such as crêpes, custard (hence the name “custard apple)”, dessert sauce (purée), fruit salad (as with apples, dip cut fruit in lemon or orange juice to prevent darkening), mousse, pie filling, pudding and sorbet.

    You can freeze the cherimoya and eat it as ice cream, from the shell. Definitely try this!

    And you can drink it. Whip up a shake, smoothie, cherimoya Daiquiri or other fruity cocktail.

    To usher in spring, which began today, make Hannah Kaminsky’s tropical cocktail or smoothie, Cherimoya Lava Flow.

     

    cherimoya-shake-hannahkaminsky-230

    Celebrate spring with this Cherimoya Lava Flow. Photo and recipe courtesy Hannah Kaminsky.

     

    RECIPE: CHERIMOYA COCKTAIL OR SMOOTHIE,
    THE CHERIMOYA LAVA FLOW

    From Hawaii, where her local farmers market has plenty of cherimoyas, Hannah writes: “It’s a pricy treat to be sure,” even though grown locally. Her favorite way to enjoy the ripe, custard-like flesh is to dig in with a spoon.

    “With an overripe fruit, though,” she advises, “the only thing one one can do is blend and drink it. That’s where the idea to create a tropical shake came from, playing off the classic umbrella drink, the lava flow.

    “Fiery red rivulets of strawberry ‘lava’ flow throughout a classic coconut-pineapple rendition of this refreshing island staple, finished with a kiss of light rum. The sweet, creamy richness of cherimoya transforms the drink into an exotic new experience, which is just as luscious with or without the booze.

    “In lieu of fresh cherimoya, you can substitute either 1 medium banana or 2/3 cup young coconut meat for a different, yet still delicious, taste.”

    Of course, you can leave out the rum for a tropical smoothie. Substitute an equal amount of pineapple juice.

     

    RECIPE: CHERIMOYA LAVA FLOW

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

    For The Strawberry Lava Sauce

  • 1 cup strawberries, fresh or frozen/thawed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  •  
    For The Creamy Cherimoya Cocktail

  • 1 medium cherimoya
  • 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/4-1/2 cup light rum
  • Optional garnish: fresh pineapple wedges
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREPARE the strawberry sauce first by combining the strawberries, sugar and lime juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, just until the berries have softened and the sugar dissolved. Transfer to a blender and thoroughly purée so that no chunks of fruit remain. Strain out the seeds if desired and set aside.

    2. RINSE and dry the blender bowl and return it to the base. Slice the cherimoya in half and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, discarding the black seeds as you encounter them. Add the cherimoya to the blender, along with the pineapple, coconut milk and 1/4 cup of rum. Blend on high speed until completely smooth. Add more rum to taste.

    3. DIVIDE the cocktail between two glasses and drizzle the strawberry “lava” into each one, aiming for the sides of the glass to create the greatest visual impact. Serve with a tall straw and an additional wedge of fresh pineapple for garnish.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Dark Cherry Fizz With Sparkling Wine

    The Dark Cherry Fizz in a coupe glass. Photo courtesy Chandon.

     

    For Valentine’s Day, here’s a charming cocktail from Chandon, one of our favorite affordable sparkling wine makers. It uses cherry purée and crème de mûre, blackcurrant (not blackberry!) liqueur.

    It may sound fusty in the U.S., but in France, where we first discovered it, crème de mûre is a popular fruit liqueur. The flavor is heavenly, drunk straight as a yummy after-dinner drink or used instead of framboise (raspberry liqueur) in a variation of a Kir Royale.

    Crème de mûre (pronounced pronounce: krem duh MYUR) is one of the family of crème liqueurs (crème de cacao, crème de menthe and crème de cassis, for example).

    Not to be confused with cream liqueur, in which dairy cream is added, crème liqueur is sweetened to a near-syrup consistency. In this case, “crème” refers to that consistency.

    Consider a bottle of crème de mûre as a Valentine gift; and if you’re feeling flush, add a bottle of Champagne or other sparkling wine.

     
    If you want to make this recipe without buying a new bottle of liqueur, you can substitute creme de cassis (currant liqueur) or framboise (Chambord is a brand of framboise).

    RECIPE: DARK CHERRY FIZZ

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 3 ounces Chandon Blanc de Noirs* or substitute sparkling wine
  • 1/3 ounce crème de mûre
  • 1/2 ounce cherry purée (make it from frozen cherries)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PURÉE the cherries. No sweetener is necessary, as the liqueur is quite sweet.

    2. COMBINE the liqueur and cherry purée in a shaker; shake and double strain into a coupe glass. (If you don’t have a shaker, you can blend the ingredients in whatever is convenient. If you don’t have a coupe glass, use what you have.)

    3. TOP with the sparkling wine.

     
    *Blanc de Noirs means “white from black,” referring to the white wine that is produced from black (dark) Pinot Noir grapes. Its counterpart is Blanc de Blancs, a white wine produced from white (Chardonnay) grapes. Blanc de Noirs is richer and fuller-bodied.
     
      

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    RECIPE: Russian Cocktail

    Do a Google search for “Russian Cocktail” and the first 30 pages are for Black Russians and White Russians. We stopped looking at that point. No simple “Russian Cocktail” could be found.

    But the folks at Grey Goose tell us that this Prohibition-era drink is the oldest vodka cocktail found in print. They shared the recipe below.

    While the drink appeared long before flavored vodkas were available in the U.S., you can use a cherry flavored vodka for more cherry flavor. Grey Goose, Pinnacle, Skyy, Smirnoff, Svedka, Three Olives and UV, among others, make cherry vodka.

    RECIPE: RUSSIAN COCKTAIL

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1½ parts vodka
  • ½ part maraschino liqueur or cherry liqueur (see note)
  • Crushed ice
  • Garnish: brandied cherry (see recipe below)
  •    

    russian-cocktail-greygoose-230

    The Russian Cocktail, pink for Valentine’s Day. Photo courtesy Grey Goose.

     

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the two spirits in a cocktail shaker. Top with crushed ice and shake vigorously.

    2. STRAIN into a chilled frappe glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry and serve.
     
     
    NOTE ON MARASCHINO LIQUEUR VS. CHERRY LIQUEUR

    We actually prefer generic cherry liqueur to the cherry-specific maraschino liqueur. Maraschino liqueur, such as Luxardo, is a clear, relatively dry liqueur made from Marasca cherries, including the crushed pits. The latter give it a subtle bitter almond flavor.

    If you like the note of almond, go for the maraschino liqueur. If you like things sweeter with more cherry flavor, head for the cherry liqueur.
     
    The Original Maraschino Cherry

    The ubiquitous maraschino cherries that are a joke in some food circles were once quite elite. The cherries were originally preserved in the liqueur as a delicacy for royalty and the wealthy.

    The Marasca cherry (Prunus cerasus var. marasca) is a type of sour Morello cherry that grows largely in Bosnia, Croatia, Herzegovina, northern Italy and Slovenia. With a bitter taste and a drier pulp than other cherry varieties, they are ideal to make maraschino liqueur.

    The Marasca cherry tree is very fussy about where it will grow, so in the U.S., the Royal Ann variety is substituted for the Marasca to make maraschino cherries.

     

    SONY DSC

    Homemade brandied cherries from DarlaCooks.com. Here’s the recipe.

     

    HOMEMADE BRANDIED CHERRIES

    You can buy brandied cherries (they’re pricey) or make your own:

  • Maraschino cherries in syrup: Drain 20% of the liquid from a jar of maraschino cherries and replace it with brandy. Place the jar in the fridge and let marinate for at least an hour.
  • With fresh cherries, thawed frozen cherries or canned cherries: Soak the cherries in your own [better quality] brandy or Cognac for an hour in the fridge.
  •  
    Here’s a recipe from DarlaCooks.com. Note that the aesthetically-pleasing stems come only with fresh cherries; so you may want to mark your calendar for cherry season, then get out your Mason jars and preserve them.

    You can also marinate the cherries in cherry liqueur or kirschwasser, a cherry eau de vie (fruit brandy).

    What’s the difference between brandy and Cognac?

    Cognac is grape brandy, a distillate of wine that is produced according to strict regulations in the region surrounding the town of Cognac in central France. It must be made from a specific group of white grape varieties, that are double distilled using pot stills and then aged for at least two years.

     
    Grape brandy can be made anywhere, from any grapes (brandy is also made from fruit and pomace). It does not require double distillation or long aging.

    While there are quality brandies, in general Cognac is a better product. The double distilling and aging rounds out the spirit and produces more mellow flavors.

      

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