I have lovely, lovely friends. Sometimes, these friends go places, and sometimes, they ask if I want them to pick me up anything while they’re away. This is how my cousin wound up making her way through customs with half a suitcase full of liquor last weekend.
Let me backtrack a bit, and tell you of my two-year-long hunt for Art in the Age’s RHUBARB Tea spirit. I started expanding my collection a few years back, and I had come across RHUBY (as it was called at the time) in a few recipes that sounded absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, not only can we not get it in Canada, but it was making itself scarce on the west coast in general (at least when I looked – multiple times – in Seattle, or when my lovely parents tried hunting it down in California for me). So when M asked if I wanted her to check for anything in Chicago while she was at a conference, you can guess what was first on my list. She went on her own (extensive) hunt, and lo, it was found, and it was bought, and now I have it. Bliss! I also got her to bring me back some local stuff to play with, along with a bottle of Ransom Old Tom Gin (because, again, Canada).
While I had oodles of plans for the RHUBARB Tea, it was one of the locals – an herbal liqueur called hum – that got pulled first. It’s a ‘botanical spirit’, a blend of hibiscus, ginger, cardamom and kaffir lime that clocks in at 70 proof, and it’s just…interesting. And tasty. This past Sunday, we helped M move, and I took delivery of the precious cargo (and let’s not talk about duty and BC liquor taxes, k?). As we all wound down at the end of the day, I achieved the level of mild-buzz where I’m prone to experiment*. This is what came from it, and damn…you should try it too – tis easy, breezy, and beautifully bittersweet:
- 2 oz Tanqueray Rangpur Lime (or any citrus-y gin)
- 1 oz hum liqueur
- 2 oz Whistler Kalamansi Lime Cordial (or make your own lime syrup – I like the cold-pressed method here)
- 1 dropper-full of The Bitter End Moroccan Bitters (swap as you like, with a nose to the Hum notes)
Add all ingredients (except soda) in a glass with ice. Stir to combine, and top with soda.
* Call it performance anxiety, but I’m too chicken to go off script when I’m stone-cold sober. All of my ‘from scratch’ recipes come from a place of just-tipsy-enough-to-be-brave. I’m sure I’ll outgrow that…
My favourite sub-genre in the cocktail world, bar none, is tiki. I am shamelessly devoted to the sweet, the syrupy and the unabashedly boozy. The second my mind starts wandering toward summer, though, my go-to, no-thought cocktail shifts from some permutation of a bourbon sour, to a bright, punchy hurricane. And really, you just can’t be too serious when you’re drinking something topped with fruit salad and possibly on fire.
It took me a while to venture into creating my own tiki cocktails, though. There were just so many classics (and ‘classics-with-a-twists’) that I wanted to work through, that when I pulled my rums down off the shelves…well, there was always something else to make. But then I got a bottle of pimento dram, and started feeling adventurous. Pimento dram has nothing to do with cheese or olives, and everything to do with warm, winter-spice reminiscent allspice. Note here: it’s very tasty, but it’s also very strong, so a light hand is needed to avoid overpowering a drink. Anyways, I got to tinkering, and came up with the Bake on the Beach. The baking spices in the allspice dram marry with the rum and bitters to create a deep, warm base, and the passionfruit, guava and orgeat layer fruit and floral notes over top.
You know that feeling when you’re lying on the beach, the sun pouring down, and it kind of feels like you’re lying in warm honey? It’s basically like that. It’s very quickly becoming a favourite. Here’s how it goes:
Bake on the Beach
- 2 oz amber rum
- .5 oz Bittermen’s Allspice Dram
- .25 oz passionfruit syrup
- .25 oz guava syrup
- .25 oz falernum
- .75 oz lime juice
- 1 dropperful Bittermen’s Elamakule bitters
I’m posting this now, and pretending it’s seasonally appropriate. I encourage you to drink it in the same spirit.
Bacon. Washed. Bourbon.
Do I have your attention now? What better way to re-visit this neglected repository than with a tale of bacony-boozy deliciousness?
Basically, it began with me lying to my sister-in-law. I told her I was pretty certain Legacy carried Bakon vodka, which she had been wanting to pick up for caesars. Instead of calling and checking, we drove all the way over to find it sold out (which it had been for a long, long time – go Erin!). She was giving me sad-face, so I did what any good SIL would do – I suggested making our own!
I’ve been meaning to try fat-washing for a while, and I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to it – the process is pretty damn easy. If you can fry up bacon, you can make delicious, porky booze! So after researching a few dozen how-tos, I smushed them all together with some common sense to come up with this method:
- Purchase your desired spirit(s). We chose Russian Standard Vodka (my favourite for infusions – it’s cheap, clean and neutral) and Four Roses Bourbon (same goes).
- Purchase your bacon. Buy more than you think you’ll need. We bought the 1kg package of Harvest bacon, which wasn’t the best choice – while it’s damn delicious, it’s fairly lean. You want something fattier, but still decent quality (because, duh, flavour). I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for the seldom seen pack of (super fatty) bacon ends from Harvest, next time.
- Locate yourself some wide-mouth jars, around a pint in size. We actually ended up using our unreturned Earnest Ice Cream jars, because their tops are nice and wide and, also, we never remember to return them, so we have lots.
- Cook off the bacon in a pan. The pan’s important, as you’ll render more fat than if you cook it in the oven. Be prepared to do lots of batches. As each batch comes out of the pan, pour the fat into some kind of container. We used a pyrex liquid measure, and poured until we got 1/2c or so each time. At that point…
- Pour the fat into your jar, and then add your spirits (we filled them to around 2/3 – 3/4 full altogether). Shake it like a polaroid picture, and set on the counter.
- Leave that jar on the counter for about half an hour while the fat separates from the liquour, and then place it in the freezer for a couple of hours or so.
- Repeat those steps until you run out of bacon or spirits.
- After the alotted time, pull your jars out of the freezer. The fat should be a solid layer on top of the spirits, now.
- Open your jar, and rather gently break through the fat layer with a spoon. Or knife. Or spork. Whatever. Break through, and remove the chunks of solidified bacon fat. You can toss ’em, or reserve them for cooking.
- The straining process depends on how fastidious you are. I’d recommend straining through a fine mesh strainer into/through a coffee filter, though cheesecloth works too. Just be aware that, as it’s not as fine, some solids might make it through, so it doesn’t store as well.
- Pour the brew into your container of choice (I use flip-top bottles). And you’re done! Be sure to store in the fridge.
See, easy! Time consuming, but easy. On the bright side, you’ll be left with a lot of crispy, delicious bacon just sitting on your kitchen counter…I’m sure you can figure out something to do with that. Nancy (the SIL) used a couple pieces in place of beans in her caesers, for instance. I just nommed it.
The nice thing about fat washing is that it’s great for instant gratification. Generally, infusions take weeks, but you can start this in the afternoon and make yourself something delicious that evening. In fact, I have a suggestion for that:
The Maple Bacon Bourbon Sour (because bacon. and maple. of course)
- 2oz. bacon infused bourbon
- 1 oz. lemon juice
- 1/4 oz. maple syrup
- 1 egg white (beaten – stolen tip from Jeffrey Morgenthaler)
- 2 dashes black walnut bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and dry-shake. Add ice, and shake more. Strain over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish as you like – I just dripped a drop of the black walnut bitters for the smokiness on the nose.
Now that I’ve fat-washed, what’s next? Chorizo tequila? Duck confit vodka? Who knows!
Hot, sticky August evenings, where everything is lazy and you move through air like syrup. These aren’t evenings built for toil, no matter how noble the effort. These evenings call for something wet, cold and particularly easy.
So sing it with me…
Let’s do the smash! The bourbon giiiiinger smash!
I read an article about how grapefruit is the under-appreciated citrus (it has no special citrus press!). But considering how often I reach for it for summertime cocktails, on the advice of any number of recipes, I figure I can’t be the only one with a growing appreciation for its own bittersweet charms. In the Salted Tarragon Greyhound, for example. Or this guy here – the (not) Knob Creek Sour Ginger.
I nicked that recipe up above, with a couple of tweaks. Now, it calls for Domaine de Canton liqueur, which (while absurdly delicious) is a pretty major investment. I had a couple of mini bottles that I picked up at Legacy, but I used them already and I haven’t seen them since. As I was just the maid of honour in a wedding and my discretionary spending is thus…limited, I was forced to improvise. I used Giffard Ginger of the Indies, which has a really nice intense ginger flavour, but lacks the sweetness of the Canton. I made up for some of that by adding about a half-ounce of honey syrup – I felt ginger syrup would gild the lily a bit, and honey syrup tastes miraculous with grapefruit. I also tried it with both the Maker’s Mark and the Basil Hayden’s, and found I preferred the former – the latter was just a bit too smooth.
What I wound up with was just the trick to deal with Vancouver’s uniquely deceptive heat. A little sweet, a little tart, a little bitter and very much like a drinkable version of those little spray bottle fan things.
- 1.25 oz of your preferred bourbon
- .75 oz of ginger liqueur (Canton, ideally, but Giffard will work)
- 2 oz good quality grapefruit juice
- .5 oz lemon juice
- .25 oz honey syrup (omit if using Canton)
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice, shake to chill. Pour over fresh ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wedge, but give it a squeeze over the drink before you drop it in. Now take that drink, put a record on and sit on the balcony with your eyes half closed and your feet up. There ya go…
I had this idea.
You really have no idea how many times that sentence has ended in relative disaster for me.
My idea was born of an anniversary gift from Alex, a bottle of Snap that I had been too guilty to splurge on yet. I have a
little big ginormous thing for ginger in general, so you can imagine my glee. There may have been some petting of the bottle. Anyways, I started off by doing a quick mix-up of one of the ‘suggested cocktails’ in the little attached booklet…and it was absolutely disgusting. It tasted like sipping paint thinner.
Alright, no worries – how about I use this opportunity to take some baby steps away from my recipe dependance? Surely that’s a better idea than picking any of the dozen recipes I collected specifically for that spirit! I’m sure, going with the title, you can imagine how this ends.
It was a fairly conservative idea – start with a basic bourbon sour, make it gingery. Split the mix from straight bourbon into half and half with the Snap. Add lemon, then some honey syrup? Yeaaaah, not so much. It’s what I like to call ‘lopsided’ – a drink with a pronounced limp on the palate.
Maybe if I made it more gingery (Erin’s solution to any number of problems)? Skewed the spirit ratio, used some Morris Ginger Syrup instead. Nope. Nope nope nope, totally flat. Somehow tasted LESS gingery. Maybe if I add a couple drops of Shanghai Rhubarb Bitters (I like ginger and rhubarb elsewhere)? Yeaaahh, no, this thing is just not going to happen this evening.
It was a sad moment, made sadder by the empty space in the bottles. Waste of Snap, waste of a very, very tasty bourbon. I’m determined to try again after a bit, to not let it haunt me as long as my failed egg white experiments. I know you can’t learn what works until you’ve had an intimate acquaintance with what certainly doesn’t, so we’ll see when I can muster my courage once more.
Ah, egg whites. I like you quite a bit. In omelettes, where I can pretend you’re more healthy and thus add five times the amount of cheese (doric feta ftw!). In meringues, where you get all crunchy and chewy and oh-my-god-delicious. And, of course, in cocktails, where you make drinks downright velvety. Now that you and I understand your particularly special needs in said cocktails, can we be friends?
After my comparable success with the Clover Club, I was left with almost half a carton of eggs. Though we circumvented the quick corruption our fridge normally exacts (Alex sealed the carton in a ziploc), fresh is only fresh for so long. So I decided I’d start out with another drink that I have repeatedly failed at. Because that’s always a solid idea, no?
Shortly after our first dinner at Hawksworth, back when they opened, I made Alex promise to beg the recipe for the Hotel Georgia cocktail from the bar manager next time he saw him. He, being a good man, brought it home to me in no time at all. So I tried it, and…it was awful. Things I didn’t know at the time: the importance of dry shaking, the importance of fresh lemon juice, the importance of fresh eggs, the importance of double straining. Did I mention that I spent my very brief time as a bartender pulling pints and mixing highballs and appletinis? I didn’t exactly have the best knowledge base.
Since I had had similar challenges with the Clover Club, I figured I could give it another shot while my luck was good. I put it all together with crossed toes (crossed fingers don’t give the best grip on the shaker), and poured. And tasted. And had Alex taste to make sure it wasn’t just my own wishful thinking. But turns out, it was damn good!
The Hotel Georgia
- 1.75 oz. gin (they use Plymouth)
- .5 oz. orgeat
- .75 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 6 drops of orange water (I like that measurement, straight from the aforementioned article – so delicate-sounding!)
- 1 fresh egg white
- nutmeg for garnish
Combine everything but the nutmeg in a shaker, and give it a dry shake (no ice) for about 20 seconds, until you feel the mixture change consistency (should feel less sloshy, a little smoother). Add ice, shake again just to chill. Pour everything into a chilled cocktail glass. Grate/sprinkle nutmeg to garnish.
So then, since I figured that that went pretty well, I might as well ride my luck a little longer. I pulled up another recipe that’s been languishing on my list while I’ve been moping about egg whites. May I present, the Filibuster!
If the name alone doesn’t make you want to give it a shot, consider this: you probably have everything you need already sitting in your fridge. And I’ll say this: this pretty thing exceeded my expectations. Alex tried it, and we agreed the balance of it made me seem far more skilled than I really am.
- 1.5 oz. bourbon
- .75 oz. fresh lemon juice
- .25 oz. maple syrup
- dash black walnut bitters (my substitution – recipe calls for Angostura)
- 1 large fresh egg white
Same method as the Hotel Georgia. Everything goes in for a dry shake until the consistency changes (~20-30 seconds). Add ice, shake again to chill. Pour into your cocktail glass, and garnish with a slip of lemon (which looks oh-so-pretty against the foam). I’ll note, I had to dump my first attempt as I made the dumb mistake of separating my egg over the shaker. So don’t do that.
A while back, Alex made a rosemary panna cotta with salted caramel. My brother, as I mentioned in a previous post, is not as much of a fan of said herb. He likens it to eating trees. Now, me, I like that idea – trees taste yummy. Think gin!
Which brings us to today’s first rosemary cocktail*. I spied this Rosemary Gin Fizz a few months back, but it got shuffled lower in my to-do list due to the accompanying write-up identifying it as a Christmas season cocktail. Silly me.
The recipe itself was a little sweet for me, even though I shorted the soda. I want to play around with it a bit, see if another mix plays better. Still, it’s tasty, and certainly worth a try. Nice, very refreshing and certainly suitable for summertime sipping and Christmas parties alike.
- 2 oz. gin – I used Victoria Gin to work with the herbal notes, but a London dry variety would be nice, too
- 1 oz. fresh lime juice
- 0.5 oz rosemary syrup
- club soda
- a rosemary sprig for a garnish
Fill a high-ball glass half-full with ice, pour over the first three ingredients. Stir, then top with the soda and garnish with the rosemary. The fresh sprig gives a lovely herbal scent when you’re drinking, so don’t skip that part. Play around with the ratios to suit your taste – it’s a pretty flexible mix.
Next, a pretty simple variation on a classic: a rosemary gimlet. The gimlet’s my go-to drink. Even when I only drank vodka, it was a standard order. Simple, tasty and well-balanced. So why not play with it?
I started with the ratios from Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Richmond Gimlet, but instead of simple syrup and a mint sprig, I swapped in the aforementioned rosemary syrup. I’d still like to try that original recipe when I’ve got some mint handy, but this one turned out nicely enough. I tweaked a couple of things to adjust for the ingredients on-hand, so here’s the mix I ended up liking:
- 2 oz. dry gin (I used Plymouth)
- .75 oz. fresh lime juice
- .75 oz rosemary syrup
Add all the ingredients to a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for those lovely ice shards, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
*Yes, I know it’s not technically a cocktail unless it’s spirits, sugar, water and bitters. But let’s not be pedantic, eh?