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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

You’ll love the hot and spicy St Germain Ginger Margarita

Cocktail recipes have not been difficult to find for many years.  One could argue that there are too many of them.  There are cocktail databases on the web with thousands of recipes (many of them not very good) and blogs by respected cocktailians with their own recipes and often some of the classics (many of these are very good indeed).  Sometimes the cocktail menu at a bar or restaurant will present some good ideas, as well as an opportunity to sample one or two.  This was the case when a family get-together decided on dinner at Kay ‘n Dave’s Mexican Cantina in Culver City, where an item on the Margarita menu caught my eye: the St Germain Ginger Margarita.

This was one hot and spicy cocktail (thanks to the ginger), and while some ingredients were listed on the menu, all you really needed to know about the ingredients was given away in the name.  It was easy to build a recipe based on the 2:1:1 ratio of the classic Margarita.  Just substitute St Germaine elderflower-based liqueur for the more pedestrian Triple Sec, add some ginger, and you are on your way.  If you haven’t used ginger in a cocktail before, you can find cubed ginger preparation instructions here. If you’re worried that the ginger flavor may be overwhelming, feel free to start out with a little less than specified and work your way up.  A final caution: many of my Tequila cocktail recipes use Agave Nectar as a sweetener, but it’s not recommended here because it easily overwhelms the more subtle florals of the St Germain. So with a tip of the hat to Kay ‘n Dave, here’s my version of the St Germain Ginger Margarita.

St Germain Ginger Margarita
  • 2 oz Plata or Blanco Tequila (use your favorite)
  • 1 oz Saint Germain Liqueur
  • 1 oz Freshly squeezed Lime juice
  • 1 Tsp Simple Syrup
  • 1 Tbsp finely cubed fresh ginger

Combine the Tequila, St Germain, and Lime juice in a shaker 2/3 full of ice.  Shake well and let it rest.  Put the syrup and ginger in a well-chilled cocktail glass and mull thoroughly to release the ginger flavor.  Fill the glass ½ full with ice cubes and fill about half full from the shaker. Stir well to mix in the ginger and syrup, add  a little more ice and the remaining contents of the shaker and stir again.  Garnish with a lime wedge and serve with a smile.

Spicing things up: preparing ginger for your cocktails

Cubed ginger ripe for muddling.

Ginger has uses in cocktails that go beyond mixing with Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer.  This hot and tangy root (it’s actually a rhizome, but luckily we’re not in science class) has a bit of a bite along with some sweet and citrusy undertones.  It has just the mix of flavors and sensations to add an extra kick to your cocktails.  You may have used Ginger in stir-fries, or had it in dishes at restaurants.  Either way, you’re probably at least familiar with the taste.  Preparing some cubed ginger for use in cocktails is not that hard if you follow these simple steps.
  • Wash and dry your ginger as you would any root from the grocery store.
  • Cut off any unwanted protuberances.  (Note: A nice section of our demo root trims down to a regularly-shaped piece of ginger.)
  • If possible, cut off a nice straight piece to use in cubing, a regularly shaped piece will be easy to peel and cut up.  Your ginger may have a very irregular shape, so you may have to peel it with a paring knife or a vegetable peeler.  Sometimes you can use a Chef’s knife if, due to the symmetry of the piece, it’s easy to cut off the skin.
  • Cut the piece into thin slices based on the desired size of the cubes.
  • Next, stack the slices and cut them into strips.
  • Gather the slices and start cutting off the cubes until the ginger is cubed.

When preparing a cocktail, we will normally muddle the ginger, sometimes alone, sometimes with simple syrup, and other times with citrus juice.  Try it in a St Germain Ginger Margarita.  Whichever way you mix it, be prepared for a treat.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Celebrate National Rum Day with a delicious Rum cocktail

The Rapture Cocktail will float you up to heaven.

It can be argued that Rum is more of an American drink than Bourbon.  Demon Rum was manufactured in New England as early as 1664 when the first Staten Island, New York, distillery was established.  Originally made from molasses, a waste product of cane sugar manufacture, Rum was the drink of choice in colonial times, and our hearty forefathers consumed it in “mass quantities”.  (Don’t forget that in those days, the water could kill you.)  Rum is perhaps the most legendary of liquors, having associations with pirates, patriots, rum runners, the sea, the tropics, and even Tiki bars.  (For more on Rum and its history, see Wayne Curtis’ book “and a Bottle of Rum”) or even Wikipedia.  Now, however, to help you celebrate National Rum Day (August 16), here are some classic (and new) Rum cocktails for you to try this evening.

The Rapture cocktail is named in honor of events set to occur on Judgment Day.  Ingredients include fine Demon Rum, Campari, Cointreau Orange Liqueur, and Sweet Vermouth.  Judgment Day calls for earthly ingredients redolent of the Garden of Eden, and the Rapture will not let you down.

The Daiquiri  is one of the classic Rum cocktails.  Beloved of Ernest Hemingway (and countless others), this blend of Rum and freshly squeezed lime juice (plus a little sweetener) is hard to beat.  The Mojito , another classic Rum cocktails, is easy to make and even easier to enjoy.  Rum, lime, sugar and mint: who would have thought that those simple ingredients could taste so good?

You have read about my love of Mai Tais on this site, and about my introduction to this ambrosial cocktail sitting in a semi-private tea room at a Japanese restaurant in Chicago.  This cocktail is perhaps the quintessential Tiki tropical concoction.  The preceding link is for a delicious, touristy (i.e. sweet) Mai Tai.  If you’re looking for a drier, cocktail-style Mai Tai closer to Trader Vic’s original recipe, follow the link in this sentence.  It has very little fruit juice and more Rum flavor.

When you get to Hawaii, be sure to kick back on the lanai and enjoy a Piña Colada (follow the link for my rocks recipe).  Upon arrival in that most pleasant of states, get to the grocery store and/or the ABC Store and buy some Rum and the necessaries for Piña Coladas.  Piña Colada is a delicious cocktail, especially if you enjoy sweeter cocktails, Rum-based cocktails, or Tiki cocktails (or all three).  Finally, the Rum and Coke is a long-time favorite. This cocktail (don’t forget the lime) is simplicity itself, and is hard to mess up.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Big Black Cherry Coke cocktail may surprise you!

Southern Comfort has added to its stable of flavored liqueurs with the release of the new Southern Comfort Big Black Cherry.  The sight of the signature bottle may give you a flashback to your college days, as it did me.  The bottle brought back memories of my senior year, living in a shared apartment that was immediately behind the biggest liquor store in Terre Haute, Indiana.  Southern Comfort was always high on the student shopping list because it mixed so well with our soft drink of choice, Coca-Cola.

Today, savvy marketers battle for liquor store shelf space (and visibility to customers) through the introduction of flavored spirits.  Vodkas, of course, lead the pack, but Whiskies, Rums, and even Gins have followed suit.  Brown-Forman’s Southern Comfort is no exception; Big Black Cherry is their third flavor variation on Martin Herron’s original 1874 New Orleans concoction.

It will come as no surprise that “SoCo” Big Black Cherry is smooth and sweet.  It has a strong Cherry flavor, but you should catch hints of vanilla and other spices.  While it’s a little sweet to drink neat, it mixes great with many soft drinks (colas especially) and the types of fruit juices (like cranberry and pineapple) usually found near a home bar.  Southern Comfort is promoting the introduction of “SoCo” Big Black Cherry with Coke Zero; it makes a great, cherry-flavored Coke cocktail, and the Coke Zero will help out those who are counting their calories.  It’s great on a hot, summer afternoon when it’s too hot for cocktails and all you want to do is kick back and relax.

SoCo Big Black Cherry & Coke Zero
  • 1½  oz. SoCo Bold Black Cherry
  • 4 oz. Coke Zero (or cola)

Fill a Highball glass with ice cubes. Add the Southern Comfort Bold Black Cherry. Fill with Coke Zero, stir lightly, and garnish with a cherry.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cocktail ingredients Utah update – August 2012

White Russian: the Dude's cocktail of choice.

Every year in August the Utah DABC State Liquor Stores enter the summer doldrums.  Sailors of old knew the doldrums as a location where they might be becalmed and get stuck, sometimes for a month or more. Today the term doldrums describes conditions of stagnation or inactivity.  There is no better work to describe the number of items on SPA (Special Price Adjustment) in Utah this month; it has dropped from around 250 in July to a more mere 156 in August, and it will last a month...  August usually marks the beginning of a cooling trend as the days grow noticeably shorter.  This year has stayed warmer than normal, so when cocktail hour rolls around, Utah’s amateur mixologists should have plenty of takers for their cocktails.  The problem is that there’s not much in the way of quality ingredients marked down this month.  Here are some cocktail ideas that will save you money by taking advantage of items that are.

Deals on Vodka this month include liter bottles of Ketel One (CS# 034457 down 10% to $27) and 1750ml bottles of Absolut (CS# 034008 down 12% to $37).  Try these in a White Russian or a Vodka Martini.

Lovers of Brandy cocktails will be pleased to find that E&J XO Brandy is on SPA for $13 (a 19% reduction); try it in a Sidecar (or any other cocktail calling for Brandy), where it will hurt your wallet far less than using your favorite Cognac.  If you’re looking for a sweet treat, Bailey’s Irish Cream is marked down 8% to $22 this month; try it on the rocks for something cool or in coffee for something a bit warmer.

A classic Gin cocktail from The Savoy Cocktail Book is the Corpse Reviver No. 2.  This month you might want to try one using Beefeater Gin (1750ml CS# 028088 down 11% to $38), an “old reliable” Gin.  If you’re looking for something to go into a summer cooler like a Tom Collins, try some New Amsterdam Gin (750ml CS# 031475 down 20% to $12), an excellent economy Gin.  You can check all of the prices for yourself by clicking through to the “SPA Product List” to open a price book in PDF format that shows all of the markdowns for the current month; then search on “gin” or the product of your choice. 

High West launches a new Bourbon whiskey blend

Manhattan: an all time favorite Whiskey cocktail.

American cocktail lovers are no strangers to Bourbon.  Sales of that corn-based elixir continue to increase year over year as cocktailians consume more and more of it in Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and iconic Mint Juleps.  While Vodka and Rum marketers are not looking over their shoulders in concern, sales of everyday Bourbons and specialty small-batch or single-barrel Bourbons are climbing rapidly.  Now, the master blenders at High West Distillery in near-by Park City, Utah, have launched their newest product: American Prairie Reserve, a blend of two mature Bourbons, one aged six years and the other ten, that should go well in your favorite whiskey cocktail or in a glass on the rocks. 

High West Distillery is known for its line of blended Rye whiskeys like High West Rendezvous Rye whiskey, High West Double Rye!, a Rye-Bourbon blend named Bourye, and even one named Son of Bourye.  American Prairie Reserve is their first exclusively Bourbon blend.  High West remains faithful to their Rye roots, however, with the mashbills of the two Bourbons weighing in at 20% and 35% Rye respectively.  That makes the Prairie Reserve a little “hotter” than your run of the mill Bourbon.  I’m always impressed by High West’s products, and American Prairie Reserve is no exception.  If you have tried it, post a response to this post and let us know what you think.