Friday, January 25, 2013

Nicole's Rosemary Refresher

PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: Something new, aperitif, to get Date Nite going before we head out to dinner
Style of Drink: Short Drink
Spirit of Choice: no preference
Last Drink: Morango Fizz

This month's Chicago Magazine's cover feature is "100 Best Bars".  We've been reading it all week.  I was excited to try my hand at one of the many featured cocktails in the article.  But wow, is green chartreuse en vogue right now!  I know in the Dilettante's house we don't like the sickeningly sweet, dessert-like bevs, but does the new trend have to be towards licorice flavors?  Yuch!  So many, while fulfilling our desires in the PDT interview, were just going to be too much licorice, too medicinally herbal.  So...

Plan B:  The Partner's dear friend and colleague -- who we humorously refer to as his wife (with a respectful nod to her actual husband) -- shared the basic recipe for this cocktail several months ago.  She had had something very similar at an event and wanted to share the idea with me with suggested tweaks from how the original was made.  My notes have been sitting in a Word doc on my desktop ever since.  I must admit to enjoying a certain positivity from The Partner lately -- putting him in charge of sipping selection, giving him a placeholder bev while I do the photo shoot.  I figured, if we mix up the wife's tipp, he can't complain too much!

After mixing it up we texted her saying it was a success and needing a name.  Between the 3 of us, we've settled on Nicole's Rosemary Refresher which consists of vodka, pineapple juice, simple syrup & fresh rosemary. Yeah, that last ingredient is a bit of a surprise.  But it works.  The piney herb adds a complimentary-if-unexpected dimension to the tropical sweetness of the pineapple juice.  But be very careful with it.  It's a powerful herb that will quickly cross a thin line and go from interesting accent to tasting like a Christmas tree.

Bright and tropical with a light sweetness & savory depth, this can easily become a regular -- especially with our large crop of fresh rosemary that we've kept alive from last summer's herb garden!   

Nicole's Rosemary Refresher
2 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
fresh rosemary

Use a short sprig of rosemary with only about 6-8 needles on it to start.  Modify the amount to suit your tastes.  Muddle rosemary with a few drops each of simple syrup & vodka until it becomes aromatic.  Add ice, vodka, juice, remaining simple syrup & shake.  Strain into iced martini glasses.  No garnish.

Variation:  The Partner requested the second round be made with some lime juice to counter some sweetness.  His wish = My command ∴ I added 1/2 oz. lime juice. He like it.  I found it added a level of bitterness.   We'll continue to play with the recipe.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Morango Fizz

First use of awesome vintage Collins glasses: a Christmas gift from The Partner!
PDT Interview
Personal Preferences: A tasty tipp that everyone will like to get the evening rolling; a multiple rounder
Style of Drink: Buck, Collins, Fizz, or Long Drink
Spirit of Choice: Something out of the ordinary
Last Drink: Hotel Nacional Special

Each year we have two large parties of 50 guests or more.  A swank Winter Solstice party alternates years with a Mardi Gras bacchanal while each year we celebrate Pride.  They're fun.  We love the frenetic activity the week before.  The menu planning, the prep, the cooking, the baking, the decorating.   When the parties themselves unfold, we love having friends in our home, watching and listening to them enjoy themselves.  But when you throw a party that size you don't even get a chance to see everyone, never mind visit with anyone.  So we've decided that throughout 2013 we'd have a number of smaller, more casual dinner parties to enjoy the company of our friends as well as entertain.  In this way we could also properly warm the new kitchen.

Our first such evening was last night.  Just 4 friends to enjoy a dinner of homemade chicken pot pies, twice-baked mashed potatoes (topped with cheddar cheese & whipped cream!), and roasted broccoli and cauliflower.  The Partner made a devastating crème brûlée for dessert.  The perfect comfort meal for a kitchen warming on a windy, 20-degree Chicago night.  So I needed a cocktail to kick this evening off well.  Initially, I was looking at rather classic-sounding bevs.  But not everyone would be into brown liquors.  Then I came across the Morango Fizz.  It couldn't have been more perfect given my PDT Interview parameters.  And what it lacked in seasonality, it more than made up for in it's less-than-ordinary ingredients.  To boot, its base liquor would be a nice homage, given my friend, M., would be one of our guests for the evening!  It would bring a little warm weather sunshine into our mid-winter evening.

All agreed, this should be a feature on the roof this summer.  The Morango Fizz is bright & sparkling.  A summer sipper that goes down easier with each pull.  What's nice is that it's sweet and refreshing without being cloying.  It's pink lemonade-like hue is appealing without being pepto-y.  All-in-all, a delightful tipple that's as fun to make as it is to sip.

Morango Fizz
2 oz. strawberry-infused cachaça*
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
1 egg white

Dry shake ingredients, then shake with ice and strain into chilled fizz glass.  Top with 1 oz. club soda.  No garnish.

*:  Cachaça can be hard enough to find in the traditional variety, depending on what your liquor store carries.  So don't waste time trying to find strawberry-infused.  Better to make your own.  A good infusion takes anywhere from 12-hours to 3 days.  I had about 8 hours before our guests arrived, so here's a "quick" infusion:

  • Remove the stems from a pint of fresh strawberries and do a medium-fine dice.
  • Put the berries in a large non-reactive bowl.  
  • Pour a full bottle of cachaça over them, give a stir, and let stand at room temperature.
  • Stir once or twice an hour while infusing.
  • After 8-12 hours, strain fruit from the booze and decant.

I was curious as to what this concoction would yield.  Cachaça is a strong liquor.  So I was amazed to notice throughout the day how the mixture slowly transformed from its sharp, alcoholic sting to a softer, lighter berry infusion.  At this time interval, the finished effect was a pleasant balance of a softer cachaça and a light essence of strawberry.  Nothing like the current trend of heavy-handed flavoring of rums & vodkas.  And that's a good thing.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hotel Nacional Special

Another night to go out -- this time to a friend's birthday gala.  So happy hour tonight is a warm-up.  Our friend L., of "He Shot, She Shot" fame, is joining us for a cocktail before we all head out the party.

I knew tonight I didn't want to have to deal with The Partner's puckered faces and comments about my evening's bev selection.  So I handed him my copy of PDT and said, "You're in charge of selecting tonight."  He started to protest.  "Nope.  You pick.  I mix."  Why haven't I done this before?!?  He couldn't complain about his own selection.  I think this is how it goes from now on!  You pick, I mix.  Indeed.  The Partner has a new job :-)

What's funny is how the Hotel Nacional Special became a communal tipple, in that the three of us sipped from a single coupe before moving on to other bevs.  The recipe below calls for Bacardi 8, which is  essentially dark rum that's aged 8 years.  The equivalent we have on the bar is a spectacular aged rum that The Partner's sister & brother-in-law brought us from Guatemala five years ago.  We've been savoring it a sipped shot at a time ever since, making it last as long as possible, it's just that good.  So I wasn't about to make multiples cocktails with  such a fantastic spirit.  So I made one for us to split.  If it was Sunday this could've been a kicked up Holy Communion!

I was surprised at The Partner's pick.  According to PDT, this sweet tipp was created by Will P. Taylor at the Nacional bar in Cuba and was the last manager at the Waldorf before Prohibition closed the bar.  But, as it turns out, a nice balance of sweet & sour.  I don't think this is one you could have many of before a meal, unless you like sweet things.  It wouldn't be bad as a dessert bev, as a matter of fact.  Here's to The Partner's future picks!

Hotel Nacional Special
2 oz. Bacardi 8 rum
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/4 oz. apricot liqueur

Shake with ice & strain into a chilled coupe.  Garnish with lime wheel.

White Lady

Happy New Year!

Has there really been no post since November??  Well, we've gotten through Thanksgiving, all the holiday parties, Chicago Christmas, New Jersey Christmas, both of us down with a winter cold, and a first week back re-entry.  And while last night wasn't exactly a Date Nite, we did eek out a cocktail from PDT that we sipped while we got ready to meet friends for dinner.

Say hello to the White Lady.  A staple offering from the 1920's at the infamous Harry's New York in Paris, this looks and tastes like the old classic it is.  I thought it would be a good one for The Partner given that the ginny, juniper, citrusy qualities would be mediated by the silky sweetness of the egg white & simple syrup....  Not so much.  A little too classic for his tastes.  While I wouldn't make this a regular for us, it is an easy classic sipper when you have a few friends over and want to impress with a single round that's classy looking, classic flavors, and introduces some  variety beyond the usual bowl of vodka.  A good aperitif to wake up palates before dinner...(and subsequent rounds!).  

**A note to C:  To start 2013 off on the right foot, The Dilettante took your advice.  To keep everyone happy while The Dilettante did the mix-n-shoot, The Partner got a short Tito's & soda sipper.  You were right!  No complaints, not whining, no rushing while the drinks were mixed, staged & photographed.  You're a genius! 

White Lady
2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. Cointreau
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup
1 egg white

Dry shake, then shake with ice.  Serve in chilled egg coupes with no garnish.