As of July 4, 2011, most of my blogs are on indefinite sabbatical, but you can still keep up with me on Twitter, my writing and Florida blogs, and JSH News!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Almond Pear Martini

Who doesn't love pears? And almonds? And Platinum 7X vodka?

Although Looza makes a nice bottled pear juice, I happen to have a flotilla of these jars of pears in syrup, and dumping them down the juicer for martini purposes seemed like to good way to clean out my pantry.

Originally I simply set out to have a simple pear-juice martini, but then a bottle of organic almond extract caught my eye and I knew in a heartbeat that this would kick the proceedings up nicely. (I love almond extract; I put it in my iced coffee, smoothies, even on cereal.)

There's no exact formula here - mix to taste:

2 parts pear juice
1 part vodka
a few drops of almond extract

Shake together with ice, strain and pour.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Balsamic Vinegar Martini

If "vinegar" and "martini" aren't two words you associate together, start associatin', Jack.

This drink is a real treat for the senses, especially for those of us who already adore Vermouth and who already knew what most Americans still can't wrap their heads around: Vermouth is a perfectly good drink straight-up on its own, not just as a mixer to be doled out in drops and dashes.

Think of Frederic in Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, who is consistently chugging Vermouth. Frederic, however, prefers the Italian variety while my own heart is with the French.

Here the Vermouth takes a back seat to the vodka but nevertheless has a presence far exceeding the comfort zone of Western bartenders. And as a compliment to the drink's core gimmick - Balsamic vinegar - the dark sweet Vermouth is parfait, vraiment.

Here's the rundown:

2 oz. Vodka
0.5 oz. Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth
1 dash of Balsamic vinegar (real, barrel-aged Balsamic, not the fake common stuff)

Shake together the vodka and vermouth with ice. Pour strained. Add a small dash of Balsamic (a little goes a long way!)

A lot of bartenders recommend bringing fruit into the mix. Not I. The most I would dare introduce to this would be maybe, just maybe, a dash of orange juice. But personally, I think that just murks up an already murky drink past the point of systemic murk-icity. It also brings the drink a step closer to being something else entirely, namely a Satan's Whiskers, which is Gin or Vodka, Sweet Vermouth, orange juice, orange liqueur, and bitters.

Just be content to enjoy the subtle interplay between the Vermouth and the vinegar, staged against the backdrop of the almighty vodka.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Banana Clover Club

I was perusing the built-in recipes on my one of my cocktail shakers today and noticed a recipe for something called a "Clover Club". It says:

2/3 dry gin
1 egg white
1/3 lemon juice

Curious, I did some quick Googlery and found a Wikipedia entry about it that says:

The Clover Club Cocktail is a cocktail consisting of Gin, Lemon Juice, Raspberry Syrup (or Grenadine), and an Egg white. The Egg white is not added for the purpose of giving the drink flavor, but rather acts as an emulsifier. Thus when the drink is shaken a characteristic foamy head is formed.

The Clover Club Cocktail is a drink that pre-dates Prohibition, and is named for the Philadelphia mens club of the same name, which met in the Bellevue-Stratford hotel.[1] It has a long history dating back to at least 1911, and was enjoyed by the captains of industry who were members of the famous club. In its Heyday the drink was described by Jack Townsend as being enjoyed by the pre-prohibition gentleman who would have fit in with those of the club, and was a "Distinguished patron of the oak-paneled lounge." However, by the time that Townsend was writing about the drink it was becoming unpopular, and was eventually all but forgotten.

The drink seems to have been forgotten partly due to the use of raw egg in the cocktail, which many people shy away from, and partly due to the complexity of its preparation. Despite the use of what some may consider to be strange ingredients the cocktail is enjoyable, and has been described as tart with the added syrup giving the drink complexity, and the egg white providing body as well as a foamy head.

Wikipedia gives the recipe as:

1 1/2 Oz. Gin
3/4 Oz. Lemon Juice
1/4 Oz. Raspberry Syrup (or Grenadine)
1 Egg White

Dry shake ingredients to emulsify, add ice, shake and served straight up.

Eager to resurrect this "forgotten" drink, I consulted the kitchen and determined some adjustments would be necessary. I'm all out of gin, so I substituted vodka. No Grenadine or raspberry syrup in the house either, so I went for a more tropical motif using banana nectar. Since banana was now the theme of the drink, I decided to omit the lemon juice. And instead of fresh egg whites, I took the lazy way back to the ranch and used powdered egg whites.

The final verdict: it's weird. But I like weird.

The package of powdered egg whites says to use 2 teaspoons of the powder to equal 1 egg white, but I deliberately used more egg whites than called for, just to see what would happen. I used 2 heaping tablespoons, and when I say heaping, I mean heaping.

My version:

1 1/2 Oz. Vodka
2 tbsp Deb-El Egg Whites
2 tbsp water
1/4 oz. Looza banana nectar

Shake the egg whites and the water together, then add vodka, banana nectar, and ice. Shake again.

What I got was a much richer, frothier, firmer head on the mixture; one that resisted pouring out, which was handy - I filled the glass 3/4 full and then ladled out the foam to sit atop the liquid. It's almost meringue-like in its consistency, which probably isn't what the old boys at the Clover Club had in mind. In fact, this is so far off from the original recipe that I should probably just call it something else entirely. Any ideas?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Primordial Soup Cocktail

I consume equal parts junk food and health food, and I believe they mostly balance each other out. I'm not a big fan of vegetables in general, but I will consume anything if you reduce it to liquid. So I constantly run my Waring juicer and fill it with tomatoes, carrots, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, bananas, lemons, limes, oranges, apples, radishes, turnips, onions, grapefruit, watermelon, honeydew, canteloupe, guava, papaya, pears, strawberries, ginger root, pineapple, grapes, kiwi, celery, horseradish, etc., all in one big witch's brew of Plastids.

The resultant mixture isn't for everybody. I love the total plant-fiber immersion of it, but I've had even vegetarians tell me they don't find it palatable to have all those things mixed together into one super-powerful primordial soup.

And that's just what I call it when I add booze - the Primordial Soup Cocktail. At various times, I've added rum, vodka or cachaca to the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink juice mix, and I can report that the brainpower rush that comes from all that bombardment with planty goodness is exponentially enhanced by alcohol.

The Primordial Soup with rum isn't far off from various Zombie recipes, which usually calls for mixing three different types of rum with three different types of fruit juice. I hope you'll agree my version punts it to the vanishing point, especially when served in a Hurricane glass.

Some people's idea of a Zombie, however, is to mix several different types of liquor entirely - vodka, rum, gin and even bourbon. To do that with my mega-mix from the juicer would be such a senses-reaming experience I'd be tempted to name it the Total Perspective Vortex, in honor of Douglas Adams.

(Of course, it would probably taste bizarre and possibly make the imbiber quite ill and send them to Shambala. So, of course, we have to try it.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Hungarian Caipirinha

What happens when the unstoppable force of Brazil's Cachaça meets the unmovable object of Hungary's Zwack?

It didn't sound very good, but I had to find out.

Unfortunately, in my attempts to add Zwack to a traditional Caipirinha, I found that lime juice simply ruins the Zwack, even if it's just a few drops. They just don't get along.

(And then I wondered - why there isn't a snooty fine liqueur that does for lime what Cointreau does for orange? Did a quick Google search and discovered that yes, there are such products, but I've never heard of any of them. Will get back to y'all on this. Look for a redux of this recipe in the future.)

So, forget the lime juice. As the plastic surgeon said to the Joker, let's see how we did:

2 parts Zwack
1 part Cachaça (Dark or Gold type)
5 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Shake well.
Chill in shaker in freezer for a few minutes.
Reshake and quickly pour into shots.

I chose Ypioca Gold as my Cachaça of choice specifically because it's the funkiest, bitterest brand out there with a psychoactive whap-a-dang that perfectly matches the Zwack that those crazy Hungarians have wrought, God bless 'em. Bela Lugosi, thou art avenged.

Keep it Zwacky. Let the Zwack dominate the formula and you can't do wrong. The Cachaça pipes up and makes its presence known in such a loud shrill voice that one might even make it 3 parts Zwack to 1 part Cachaça and still come out alright. For perversity's sake, I added several shakes of Angostura Bitters, which is a bit like coals to Newcastle here but what the hey.

I suspect what it really needs to push it over and to make the Hungary-Brazil fusion fair and balanced, however, is Lluvia de Estrella Lime Tequila liqueur. I'll let ye know.