Visit my latest project, The World Cocktail Brain, now hosted at The WCB is a new way to expand your cocktail knowledge, discover new recipes, find cocktail facts and more in a dynamic, new viewing environment. It may take a few seconds to load, but it's worth waiting for! Click on this link to open The World Cocktail Brain in new tab/window. Click on this link to open My Blog Roll embedded in The World Cocktail Brain.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tequila Mojito cocktail – a twist on a classic recipe

I had my first rum Mojito at The Beach House hotel in Miami. It was expensive, but delicious. Ever since then I never fail to have a Mojito when there is fresh mint in the house. In my continuing quest for great summer coolers (well, I was short on light rum, too), I decided to try a Tequila Mojito. I thought the clean taste of a nice Plata would go well with the mint, and it was a good guess. So if you have some Plata around, and want to try something a little different, give this cooler a try.

Fresh mint leaves are an absolute requirement for a good Mojito. Accept no substitutes. You should be able to get a bunch of mint in the produce department of your grocery store if you’re not lucky enough to have any growing in your yard. For a while, Delta Airlines was serving a “Mile High Mojito” on their flights using a mix, and it wasn’t bad as airline cocktails go. It was not, however, anywhere near as good as a Mojito made with fresh mint. Bacardi® has a great video of making a Mojito here. Just don’t tell them you’re using tequila…

Tequila Mojito

2 oz Plata (silver) Tequila

fresh squeezed juice of ½ Lime (½ oz )

1/2 oz simple syrup

6-8 mint leaves

soda water

Put the mint leaves and syrup into an Old Fashioned glass. Squeeze the lime juice into the glass. Muddle well to bring out the smell and flavor of the mint. Add the tequila and stir well. Fill the glass with ice, then top off with soda water and stir lightly. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve with a straw. Vary the mint and muddling to suit your taste.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pimm’s Cup: a cocktail recipe from across the water

It’s summer in the UK, and Pimm’s Cup has been showing up a lot on Twitter recently. On my TweetDeck there’s a search that shows me almost every Tweet that mentions the word “cocktail,” and several Tweeters have mentioned having a Pimm’s Cup. The name “Pimm’s Cup” reminded me of a fun afternoon in London several years ago with a mixed group of American and British friends. We had walked along the Thames near the London Eye (across from St. Paul’s), lunched near the restored Globe Theater, and had ended up at a pub drinking several pitcher’s of Pimm’s Cup garnished with cucumber slices and fresh fruit. The afternoon was a blast, and at the airport on the way home we checked out the price of a bottle of Pimm’s No. 1 at the duty-free shop (there are several numbered varieties of Pimm’s (some of which are no longer made), but No. 1, a mixture of Gin and fruit juices, is the most common). It was pretty expensive, so we passed it by. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that not only was it available in Utah, but at a much lower price. We bought a bottle, drank about half, and left the rest to languish at the bottom of the pantry for a few years until the Tweets reminded me it was there.
Spying a cucumber fresh from the grocery the other evening shortly after reading one of these Tweets planted the seed of a thought of Pimm’s Cup in fertile ground. Rooting around under a shelf soon turned up the half empty bottle of Pimm’s. Most web recipes call for a simple mixture of Pimm’s No. 1 and lemonade, but I recommend that you use freshly squeezed juices in your cocktails whenever possible, so that’s how I’ve written my recipe. On the other hand, if you have an ice-cold pitcher of delicious lemonade sitting near your bottle of Pimm’s (or if you’re just feeling lazy), go for it.
Pimm’s Cup
2 oz Pimm’s No. 1
fresh squeezed juice of ½ Lemon (½ to ¾ oz)
4-5 oz Seltzer water
1 tsp simple syrup or sugar or equivalent sweetener
Pour the Pimm's into a mixing glass half full of ice cubes. Add the lemon juice and sweetener. Shake or stir until well mixed (i.e. sugar is dissolved) and let it rest. Fill a chilled Collins glass ¾ full of ice. Strain the Pimm’s mixture into the Collins glass and fill it with seltzer water. Stir lightly and garnish with either a lemon twist or a slice of cucumber (or both if you’re feeling frisky). Add a straw, and serve. If you have lemonade available, you can make this drink with just Pimm’s and lemonade and top it with a squirt of seltzer.

Will new liquor laws move Utah’s reputation into the twenty-first century?

New liquor laws took affect in Utah on July 1, and if they don't improve the SLC cocktail scene, they should at least change it. Utah has been fertile ground for amateur mixologists because the liquor laws were so strict that it’s difficult to get a good, stiff drink in a bar. Part of the problem is that there were no bars. Well, there were beer bars, but none for cocktails. To get a cocktail you had to go to a restaurant or a private club; and (until last year) the bartenders were only allowed to put 1 ¼ oz of liquor in a drink. In 2008, this was increased to 1 ½ oz plus “flavorings” that may also be alcoholic. In Utah, martinis are often served in unusually thick glasses to make it look like they are bigger than they really are, but that is due more to the individual bar or restaurant than to the law. Drinks still are metered, however, and bartenders can lose their jobs if they give you too much liquor in a drink. Now the intent of this is to reduce DUI, a worthy goal, but not everyone buying a drink plans on driving.

The new laws do not eliminate private clubs, but there is no longer a requirement to be a club in order to serve drinks without being a restaurant. As a result, most clubs are going public. (The Salt Lake City Weekly claims to have a list online where you can check the status of your favorite watering hole, but I was unable to find it in five minutes of searching their site. Pick up a hard copy of the entertaining July 2 “Liquor and Liberty” issue.) You will not have to buy a membership (or be the guest of a member) to buy a drink. You will have to be 21 years of age, and if you appear to be under 35 your ID will be scanned and recorded. The recorded IDs are to be deleted within a week, and may not be used for marketing etc. DUI laws are being tightened, with stiffer penalties (when the Utah legislature and ABC give, they must also take), but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

One strange inconsistency in the law concerns the oft derided “Zion Curtain” that shielded restaurant patrons from the sight of a bartender mixing drinks. The state seemed confused as to whether the reason for the curtain is to shield all patrons from witnessing a degenerate act or to shield children from a vision so enticing (seeing a drink shaken) that should they see it, it would seduce them irrevocably to the rites of the cocktail. Under a new law that was effective May 12, 2009, restaurants that had a Zion Curtain may remove them, but restaurants that opened after that date must still have one. Perhaps the intent is to put all restaurants on an equal financial footing… Nevertheless, it appears that much progress has been made in modernizing Utah’s liquor laws.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Old Glory: a cocktail recipe you can stand up and salute

The Old Glory cocktail is a fun way to show your patriotism while enjoying a delicious, cocoanut and rum based cocktail. What more could you ask for during the long Fourth of July week-end? History tells us that the founding fathers, whom we should strive to emulate, were big rum drinkers. So what could be more patriotic than drinking a nice rum cocktail on the Fourth? I developed this cocktail last year for the July meeting of the Drink of the Month Club, and what could be a better time to share it with you? The cocktail recipe itself is simple, the complexity comes in the presentation, so let’s get started.

Old Glory will consist of three different colored layers (red, white, and blue) in the glass. I use a Pilsner glass because one variation is to dribble Grenadine into a glass full of blended cocktail and let it run down the sides. You want the bottom layer to visually fill one-third of the glass. This will not, however, require one-third of the blended cocktail. Fill one of your glasses one-third full of water and then pour the water into a measuring cup to determine how much cocktail to use for the first layer. In my 10 oz Pilsner glass, for example, this is only about 1 ½ oz.

The next step is to blend the cocktail mix. Blend well so there are no large chunks of ice left in the mix. The mix should be stiff enough to form peaks and to cling to the sides of the blender. You should be able to see the center of the blade. Add ice and re-blend if necessary. Spoon or pour the required amount of mix into a small glass or measuring cup. Add the Grenadine and stir well, then pour the mixture into the serving glass. Then add a layer of the white mixture to the serving glass to fill it about two-thirds full. Either spoon it in (or pour it onto a spoon held in the glass) to minimize any mixing with the bottom, red layer.

Next add the Blue Curaçao to the blender and blend to mix (you may also do this by stirring it in a small glass or measuring cup) to form the blue mixture. Then spoon it into the serving glass (or pour it onto a spoon held in the glass) to minimize any mixing with the middle, white layer. Don’t worry if you get a little mixing, it will still look great.

For garnish, I prefer a maraschino cherry (although you could also do something with blueberries) and a small American flag. If you need a bunch, you can probably buy them at a party store. I didn’t need many, so I made my own by printing flags from Wikipedia, cutting them out, and gluing them around a cocktail pick using a glue-stick. (Choose a color laser printer over an ink-jet if you have that option; ink-jet ink will run if it gets splashed.) I should have used toothpicks, however, because the cocktail picks are too heavy to rest on top of the mixture so I had to perch them on the side of the glass. Serve with a red or white straw for contrast with the top, blue layer.

Here’s a link to a slideshow of this process.

If all of this just seems like too much work on a holiday week-end, check out my list of fast and easy Summer Cooler Cocktails. Either way, have a Happy Fourth of July and a great week-end!

Old Glory

1 ½ oz light (or gold) Rum

½ oz Amaretto

½ - 1 oz Coco Reál® Cream of Coconut (one healthy squirt)

1 ½ cups of ice (about 12 cubes)

½ oz Grenadine

½ oz Blue Curaçao

Combine the Rum, Amaretto, Coco Reál, and ice in a blender. Follow the detailed instructions above for presentation to construct the cocktail in a Pilsner glass. Make sure you end up with enough cocktail to fill the glass; modify the recipe as necessary. If that seems like too much work, you can just pour the blended cocktail into the glass, dribble some Grenadine around the edges of the glass so it runs down the sides (I tried and tried and could not make the Grenadine make nice, red stripes), and float the Blue Curaçao on top. For garnish, skewer a bright red maraschino cherry with a small American flag (preferably one with 13 stars), perch it on top, and serve with a red straw.

Piña Colada: a recipe for tropical cocktail enjoyment

Whenever I’m in Hawaii I like to kick back on the lanai and enjoy a Piña Colada cocktail (if not several). Assignment #1 upon arrival is to get to the grocery store and/or the ABC Store to get some rum and Piña Colada “fixins”. It’s a delicious cocktail, especially if you enjoy sweeter cocktails, rum-based cocktails, or tiki cocktails, and it’s not that hard to make. Unless you have a lot more dedication as a bartender than I do (or are staying in a really nice condo), you may not have adequate bar gear on vacation. If that’s the case (and even at home, if you prefer), you can substitute a pineapple-coconut juice blend for the juices listed in my recipe. The advantage of using two separate juices is that you can also use the pineapple juice to make Mai Tais. Try to avoid commercial Piña Colada mixers unless you have a real need to use them. They’re high in sugar (that’s why they taste so good), but don’t really taste as good as the natural juices.

I usually use Coco Reál® Cream of Coconut for my cocoanut drinks, but it’s hard to measure it so I usually “guestimate” the amount and just squirt some directly from the squeeze bottle into the mixing cup or blender. You can build this cocktail directly in a highball glass. The Coco Reál might not completely dissolve if you’re stirring or shaking with ice, so you should stir only the liquid ingredients briskly until there are no lumps before adding ice to ensure the cocktail is well mixed. This is not an issue, however, if you’re using a blender.

Piña Colada

2 oz light (or gold) Rum

½ - 1 oz Coco Reál® Cream of Coconut (one healthy squirt)

4 oz Pineapple juice

Combine the ingredients in a highball glass and stir well to dissolve the Coco Reál. Fill the glass with crushed ice and stir again. (To blend, just combine the ingredients with ice in a blender.) For garnish, pin a bright red maraschino cherry to a pineapple wedge or orange wheel, and serve with a straw.