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The following post is sponsored by Frangelico. Cocktail name, development, recipe and photography are completely my own. Check out Frangelico online and follow them on Facebook for more exciting recipes.
Is it summer finally? Are we there yet, Mother Nature?
Up here in
the tundra Montreal, the warm weather has been *such* a tease lately. We’ve had one of those springs where two days of delightful, sun-dappled, sleeve-shedding weather are followed by a near-week of chilly, damp, Debbie Downer-weather.
At times like this, I find that crafting a pre-emptively summery cocktail helps. It’s like a
rainsundance for fanciful imbibers like us! (Here in French Canada, we might call it a bellwether for belle weather! *har*har*snort!)
A julep’s got most everything I look for in a summertime cocktail. The crushed ice keeps the drink colder, longer and the mint’s cooling and refreshing. But the bourbon — can I do one better on the bourbon? I love (read: luuurrrve) bourbon’s languid sweetness, but how about lightening up its syrupy-ness with some more playful flavors, a little tartness and an unexpected grace note or
two three: A hint of nuttiness, a whiff of vanilla, a certain je ne sais noisette? (p.s. Bonus points if I can do all this without glopping on a ton of calories. What up, bathing suit?)
To make the Summertime Smash, I improved upon (if I do say so myself) the julep by halving the bourbon and replacing it with Frangelico. The hazelnut-flavored liqueur, more delicate in flavor and body, makes for a less heavy cocktail and one with more going on in the glass. The flavor of the Frangelico also allowed me to introduce some lemon into the recipe.
(Note: I know it seems that a plain-old julep, nothing but mint and bourbon, should pair easily with lemon, but you’d be surprised. It needs a bridge ingredient, a harmony-maker if you will. Enter Frangelico!) (I’ve also done this before with ginger beer.)
Once the hubs and I open our backyard for the season, I’m thinking the Summertime Smash may end up my go-to cocktail for entertaining al fresco. I have a hunch that those friends who find my mint juleps too heavy and cloying will appreciate the more lilting qualities of the Summertime Smash, while those who do love juleps will enjoy the refreshing, slightly fizzy presto-change-up. (Which I’ve also done before; see World’s Greatest Rye Perfect Manhattan.)
Hey, summer? Ready when you are.
The Summertime Smash
1 ounce Frangelico
1 ounce bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)
1 teaspoon sweetener of choice (granulated sugar, simple syrup, or mint-steeped simple syrup; see Tasting Notes below for recipes and tips)
A splash of two lemon-spiked seltzer
About 8 large mint leaves
Mint sprig and lemon wheel, to garnish
Place mint leaves in bottom of a rocks glass. (It’s up to you whether you want to use a highball, a Collins glass, etc.) Pour sweetener on top of leaves and muddle together well. Fill glass with crushed ice. Pour in bourbon, then Frangelico. Top with seltzer. Give the drink a gentle stir, then add your garnish. Enjoy!
My preferred method for making simple syrup is to mix equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the mixture reaches a boil, turn off heat and let cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge.
To make mint-steeped syrup, add a good handful of mint leaves to the above mixture as soon as you’ve removed it from heat. Let the leaves steep 10 or so minutes, then strain them from the mixture and toss.
If you choose granulated sugar as your sweetener, pour just a teaspoon or so of water on top of your mint and sugar before muddling. The liquid acts like a hood that keeps the mint’s fragrance down in the bottom of the glass where you want it, rather than allowing it to release into the air.
Make lemon-spiked seltzer by simply squeezing a lemon wedge into a liter-sized bottle of seltzer. Or, you can just use plain seltzer when making your cocktail, then squeeze a little lemon over your Summertime Smash to finish it off.
Time moves more slowly in Canada. I move more slowly with child. Put ‘em together and what’ve you got? A 35-day month, but one that’s worth the wait, for at the end of it lies the Month-Old Manhattan.
When I first mixed this drink in May, having gotten the recipe’s inspiration from a restaurant‘s cocktail menu in St. Louis, I commended its use of old-school rye whiskey instead of bourbon as a base and marveled at the inclusion of curacao, which gave it a more playful (but still not juvenile) flavor. I’m paraphrasing myself here, but I described its unaged taste as appealingly scratchy-smooth-sweet on the palate.
Well; what a difference a five-week month makes. After spending that span of time sealed tightly in a Mason jar, the Month-Old Manhattan now boasts a shooting-out-of-the-gate upfrontness, like it couldn’t wait to get down somebody’s gullet, pronto. What may surprise you most, though, is which parts of its original profile are doing the tastebud-grabbing and the ass-kicking. This cocktail is, first and foremost, orange. Like, woah, orange. Like, oh!-range. And that’s despite that fact that I’d subbed rail-quality triple sec for top-shelf curacao.
The story of this cocktail (highball, technically) begins at Montreal’s Macaroni Bar, where the PhoBlograpHusband and I have parked our kiesters atop bar stools recently (although mine barely fits nowadays) because that’s now where Tao and Tony work. They’re pretty much given free rein behind the bar there, creatively speaking, so long as they also keep up with customer demand for vodka sodas and pitchers of sangria.
Speaking of pitcher drinks, the last time we were there, Tony told us about some summertime refreshers he’s been tinkering with, including a fresh lemonade made with a rosemary-infused simple syrup. He let us try some, and upon first sip, I was awash in an aura of complete summertime relaxation spiked with my ever-bubbling-near-the-surface total jealousy. How had I never thought of rosemary lemonade myself?
It’s been un longtemps and a day since I’ve posted, which means lots to catch up on even if you’re one of my kindly regular readers — let alone a newbie gamely bouncing on the blogwagon thanks to my recent Saveur Best Cocktail Blog nom (#believethatscalledahumblebrag #hinewbies).
Everything you need to know about my truancy, as well as my all-telling *general*outlook*on*life*, you can glean from the following statement: I feel acutely guilty that, thanks to uterus-subletting fetus, I’m not inclined to drink for you guys as much as I once did. Isn’t it awful how I’m letting y’all down, spending my current pregnancy largely away from alcohol? Without a coupe in her claw, who is this Blogtender personbot?
Let’s just call Valentine’s Day what it is — a test — and I’ll openly admit to what I am, a flunky. Which means that this year, not only did I completely neglect to get a gift for my sweet, patient, kind and deeply attractive PhoBlograpHusband, but whenever it did occur to me that I oughta do a V-Day cocktail for the blog, I’d be all, “Err, d’ya really think those guys [Ed. Note: that's you] want a special drink for Valentine’s? I don’t know if they’d be into that…”
So this weekend, while away on a five-day, half-work/half-play trip to my old St. Louis stomping ground, I briefly mentioned to the PhoBlograpHusband via gchat that, if possible, it’d be great if he could whip up something holiday-appropriate while I was gone that we could then post. He’s in the middle of a large project right now for a class on Hollywood film musicals, which helps keep things spicy in our relationship by causing me to wonder on occasion just how gay he is, because he’s really into it, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, I brought it up once and that was that. And a couple of days later, he emails me the recipe and photos for the Is You Is My Baby. Now there is a man who can ace a test with flying colors even when it wasn’t a test I was actually bothering to proctor.
The other fresh herb I needed to find use for after Thanksgiving was sage. Man, I do lovelovelove me some sage on a turkey or in a stuffing. (p.s. If you ever want my mother-in-law’s recipe for outside-the-bird stuffing, trust me, you do. Also p.s., stuffing is an underrated foodstuff for when you’re drunk.)
But sage in other places I had to think about, and then sniff about. Honestly, I wound up holding a bouquet of sage up to one nostril, various bottles of liquor to the other, and deciding which smells I thought went well together. (If there’s a hard and fast science to cocktail-making, somebody send me the equation. I’ve got 99 ways to come up with a cocktail, but a formula ain’t one.)
This cocktail comes via SeriousEats.com, courtesy of Gramercy Tavern in New York. While I needed to make a few detours around the restaurant’s recipe in order to tailor it to my diminishing stock, it also calls for certain ingredients I’ve got too much of lurking around my post-Thanksgiving fridge, so yay! (In case you haven’t noticed, this week on the blog is unofficially Make Use of T’giving Leftovers Week.)
What I was happy to have reason to use was my fresh thyme. Someday, I swear, I’m going to construct the world’s most impressive year-round herb garden (complete with shoe-organizer mini-plots!), but until then, I find myself all too often buying fresh herbs in presized packages, using a few sprigs for one recipe, then watching the rest wilt in the crisper. Not this time, Mother Nature! Half of my leftover thyme went into an infusion (reveal date TBD); the rest made the thyme syrup for the Fall Classic.
In my quest for Total World Cocktail Domination, last week I made myself a little spreadsheet of upcoming recipe contests, those expressly for cocktails as well as others where my commendable potations will be up against some lame-ass summer salads or whatever.
First at bat: a grapefruit-and-ginger recipe contest courtesy of a skin-treats company. Winners get paid in grapefruit and ginger-scented bath-product gift baskets!… Wait, I’ve never mentioned what a slut I am for a nice, relaxing bubble bath? Well, there you go.
Starting from scratch, here’s how I manifested The Bathtub Gin(ger). I am writing this all down for you because one day The Museum of the American Cocktail will ask that my brain be donated to their archives, but that won’t be possible because I never plan on dying. So you guys can pass this along to them and I bet they’d even give you money for it.
In Montreal, Halloween’s a very big deal. Like NO-SCHOOL-THE-DAY-AFTER! big (candy hangover NOMMMMM…).
We’ll be spending tonight seated in front of our duplex with one of our upstairs neighbors, treats at the ready. (Smarties, the world’s greatest candy, am I right?) He informed us that this is tradition around here, because it prevents us all from going crazy hearing our doorbells go off 300 times in one night. I swear to you, in my 15 1/2 years of postcollegiate adulthood, spent in 13 previous apartments, I have never had a single Halloween customer come to my door! I’m so excited!
Do not attempt this at home. This is the work of a mad genius. Do you have absolutely nothing to do for the next month and want to devote every minute of your days to concocting ONE DRINK TO RULE THEM ALL??!?
The previous sentences are ones I’ve brainstormed over the past few weeks, trying to figure out how the hell I’m gonna blog about Tony Galdes’ entry in last month’s Montreal Bar vs Chef. I’m still not sure how to explain to you what I’m about to explain to you.
Tony was bartending at LAB over the summer. Stopped to go back to school. He is 21 years old. I REPEAT: He is 21 years old. He was born in 1990. I will give you all a moment to collectively sigh, go inspect your gray hairs in the bathroom mirror, and wonder if you’ve ever accomplished anything as massive and brilliant as Tony’s Green Rhum Thumb.