Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Scarborough Fair

3 parts cold vodka
1 part Scarborough Fair Syrup (recipe follows)

Scarborough Fair Syrup
2 sprigs of fresh parsely
2 sprigs of fresh sage
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Directions: in a small saucepan, combine the fresh herbs, the sugar, and the water. bring to a full boil, lower the heat, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, and cool. It will keep several weeks in the refrigerator.

Thoughts: My inspiration for this drink came from a joke about the song. I never understood how the phrase "parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" was an answer to the question, "are you going to Scarborough Fair?". It seemed to me the perfect cop-out answer. Are you going to study for your Biology test? Parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme. When are you going to wash the dishes? Parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Well... you get the idea.

My wife and I went to one of Baltimore's excellent Farmer's Market, and we came away with a huge amount of rosemary. I had thyme growing in my garden and my drink idea fell into place. It was delicious in the vodka, but I bet it would work in other neutral spirits like grappa.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Pink Limey

3 oz Tanqueray Rangpur Gin *
Watermelon Basil Juice
* you can substitute any good quality gin and a 1 tablespoon of lime juice.

Directions: Pour the gin (and lime if substituting) over ice and then fill the glass with the watermelon juice.

Notes: Tanqueray Rangpur is a variety of their delicious gin that has very strong and wonderfully bitter overtones of Indian rangpur lime. It has recieved mixed reviews, but we tend to like bitter flavors so we enjoy it. I am lucky enough to have a wife who is a wonderful food blogger and she made this deliciously sweet watermelon basil juice which paired very well with the strong bitter taste of the gin. Feel free to be generous with the gin; I always am.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Slivovitz - Not just for Purim

For the last 10 years or so, I have been obsessed with slivovitz. Not obsessed in a stalker sort of way, but in a healthy admiration sort of way. Recently I discovered that there was a Slivovitz festival in Minnesota with a satellite festival right here in Maryland… and I missed it! Next year I am thinking that we need a Baltimore Slivovitz festival. Who’s with me?

For those of you who are not familiar, slivovitz is a very strong plum brandy (sliva means plum in Slavic). Most eastern European countries, particularly the Slavic ones, have a version of this strong delightful creation. It is often a favorite of Ashkenazi Jews because, not being made from grains, it is considered kosher for Passover. We ike to drink it on Purim, the Jewish St. Patrick's Day. One of my favorites, pictured here, is Jelineks from the Czech Republic. I highly recommend the gold variety as it is glass-aged to a smooth perfection.

My own relationship with slivovitz began as part of a re-claiming my heritage kick I went on in the mid 90s. As I passed thirty I began to realize that drinking slivovitz and eating bagels and corned-beef sandwiches, was about as Jewish as I was going to be. Having reached this epiphany, I can just relax and enjoy the booze and so, my friends, should you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mango Cha Cha

3 oz. cachaça (or vodka if cachaça is unavailable)
3 oz. mango juice
juice of half of a lime
club soda

Directions: pour mango juice and cachaça over ice. Squeeze in the the lime juice and pour in the soda.

Thoughts: This is such a summer drink. During the hot months we tend to drink everything with soda: juice, vodka, cheese... okay, maybe not cheese. Everything taste good with bubbles. We found the mango juice at our favorite little Indian store and it was a great pairing with cachaça.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pearing Down

Friends, countrymen, boozehounds, lend me your ear. I promise to give it back soon. 2 weeks ago I began my Pear and Ginger Liqueur project and today I strained and bottle it. For two weeks I let the following sit in a large sterilized glass jar :

1 liter of vodka
4 pears sliced with the skin and pits, two bosc pears and two red pears
1 2inch piece of Ginger, peeled and sliced
the peel of one lemon

Today, I strained out the solids through a fine sieve. I filtered the liqueur twice more, once through a coffee filter (as seen above) and once through a double layer of coffee filters. The coffee filters should always be wet first so they do not soak up too much of your liqueur. I then added 1 cup of sugar syrup* and then poured the mixture into 750 Ml bottles with caps. They will ages for 2 months more before they will be truly ready to drink. But can I wait that long? Well I will bloody well have to. It shan't taste so good before then. The taste now is quite sweet and cloying but the sugar will mellow over time and it will quite nice (hopefully)

* My sugar syrup is made from equal sugar to water. I usually mix up 2 cups of water and two cup of sugar and heat them to a boil stirring until the sugar dissolves. What I don't use for my liqueur making I will use later in cocktails. It stores nicely in a glass jar in the fridge.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Sangritzakov

2 parts cold vodka
1 part sangrita

Mix in a double shot glass and drink quickly. Repeat ad nauseum.

Note: Sangrita is a delightful sweet and spicy mixer from Mexico that is generally served with tequila. We drink a lot of vodka, so this seemed a logical progression for us. This particular bottle was left at our house by Jon after a debaucherous cocktail party where everyone brought some interesting liquor and we mixed and matched.

While tequila is delightful with anything sweet, I find that vodka's neutral taste brings out the wonderful spiciness of the sangrita.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Liquid Diet

Off Beat a Zane, Friends. I would really love to make my own alcoholic beverages from scratch. Short of being a bootlegger, there are relatively few options:
  1. Wine making - way too labor intensive. It requires hundreds of dollars worth of machinery including a grape press. What ever happened to the old purple feet method?
  2. Beer making - cheaper, but still required an equipment and accoutrement investment. Also my wife is not a big beer fan so I would be stuck with way too much liquid.
  3. Liqueur making - aaaaah! That's the ticket. All it requires is vodka and/or everclear, water, sugar and some fruit or herbs to soak in it.
I have started 3 different liqueurs: Limoncello, Pear Ginger Liqueur, and Grape Liqueur (which I call Grappa-port). The grapes actually came from our backyard. Unfortunately for people like myself who are short on patience, this process takes months. -sigh- I hope they come out. The one that I am most confident of is the Limoncello because it is relatively foolproof. You soak lemon skins in vodka and everclear for 40 days, then strain, add a sugar syrup, and let mellow for 40 more days to develop the taste and to make it more smooth. My only concern is whether or not I got too much pith on the lemon peels when I peeled them which could cause the liqueur to develop a bitter taste. Oh well, only 32 more days until I find out. Rest assured, friends If any of these turn out I will surely be posting the recipes.