Pink Lady

Today, this post is brought to you by my marvelous husband Eric and yes, I got to drink it!  These are the perks people!

I met a gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis….
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Whenever I hear this classic Rolling Stones song, I wonder who Mick and Keith had in mind when they wrote about the gin-soaked barroom queen. My vote goes to Tina Turner in her prime–not for nothing did the Who choose her as their very own Acid Queen, which is a very honky tonk woman, indeed (Tina does a great cover of Honky Tonk Women, by the way!). Gin and honky tonk make me think of Pink Ladies, that gin-based “girlie” drink that packs a wallop–make no mistake, this pretty drink WILL try and take you upstairs for a ride-especially the way I make them.
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The Pink Lady is made with gin (and this girl isn’t shy, so keep pouring), lemon juice and Grenadine–the only thing that Shirley Temple has in common with this barroom queen. That is how the world makes them; I go a step farther and add a splash of Absinthe–yes, the green fairy that was–until recently, illegal to sell in the USA. I figure that if a splash of Absinthe can elevate a bourbon on the rocks to the lofty heights of a Sazerac, imagine what it would do to a Pink Lady?

The Pink Lady is a classic cocktail, popular in the 1930s with the society set, quickly gaining the reputation of a “lady’s drink” because of the color. It was Jayne Mansfield’s signature tipple. Some recipes call for egg white to make it frothy. Some call for cream instead of lemon juice. Raw eggs and cream have no place in a cocktail, in my opinion. Either way, if this is a “lady’s drink,” the lady is drinking hard–this is basically a pink Martini (another great musical phenomenon).

So, if you want to drink like a divorcee in New York City–and gents, check your testosterone at the door–then mix up a Pink Lady, spin a little Stones and enjoy. I bet that Tina would approve…..

Pink Lady

Juice of one lemon per cocktail
8/10 gin
2/10 Grenadine Syrup
1 dash Absinthe

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

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Campari Cocktail, or how to live La Dolce Vita

And now a word from my in-house cocktail concocter husband Eric….

Campari, whether you love it or hate it (or love to hate it), is one of the great classic European aperitifs. Campari is bittersweet (agrodulce, in Italian) with a brilliant ruby red color and most well know as one of the ingredients in a Negroni, which includes gin and red vermouth. Campari is also served with soda or in the Americano Cocktail, which is basically a Negroni topped up with soda. A variation on these classic drinks is the Campari Cocktail, which pairs the aperitif with vodka and bitters.

Campari, with its strong, herbal flavor, pairs surprisingly well with the neutral, tasteless vodka. A dash of bitters—Angostura, or my favorite Peychaud, kicks up the bitterness of the drink. For non-gin drinkers—or vodka aficionados—this is a great way to savor the great taste of Campari.

If, like so many, you do not think that you like the bittersweet taste of Campari, consider this: Campari is an acquired taste and this just might be a way to acquire it! The first one may be a challenge. The second one, less so. By the time you get to your third (or fourth or fifth), you will be longing for the Via Condotti and la dolce—or in this case agrodolce—vita!

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Campari Cocktail, or how to live La Dolce Vita

1 oz Campari
3/4 oz vodka
1 dash Angostura or Peychaud bitters
Lemon twist for garnish

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well.Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Frozen Gin & Tonic

A Liberal Arts Education

Our daughter Zoe came home from college for the holidays with lots of good ideas—that, one hopes, is what a good liberal arts education does for one.  Oh, she ate her favorite foods, saw all of her friends and slept (a lot), but then she was full of good ideas—let’s paint the kitchen gray (Benjamin Moore “Eagle Rock”), let’s make peanut brittle from scratch (eight batches), let’s read all of Nancy Mitford in one go (“Love in a Cold Climate” while sitting in the 80 degree heat—take that, Rhode Island!)….

One of her better ideas came around the cocktail hour when she said, you know, gin and tonics are so refreshing, what would happen if you made frozen G&Ts in the blender?  This is not so strange considering that we have been having 80 degree days in January; just a typical winter in Los Angeles.  So we quickly learned that pouring a gin and tonic in the blender and hitting “Frappé” results in a brain-freezingly cold glass of slush that does not taste of gin or tonic.  Trial and error revealed that freezing tonic water in ice cube trays provides just the right amount of slush but tastes of tonic.  Extra lime juice is needed to keep the trinity of gin, tonic and lime in place in this frozen state.  The resulting drink—sort of like a very dry Margarita — is really good.  And if it is that good on a warm day in January, just imagine how good this would be in the heat of summer!  Homemade gin and tonic popsicles were her next great idea but we’ll leave that for another time…..

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Frozen Gin & Tonic

2 oz Gin (Gordon’s is our house brand)
Juice of ½ lime
4-6 ice cubes made of tonic water

Mix in blender until slushy and serve with an additional slice of lime.

The Royal Cuppa

“All One Wants For Christmas….”
As the year winds down and Christmas fast approaches, even hardworking monarchs earn the right to kick off their shoes (court pumps, Rayne, British size 4) and unwind with a favorite tipple. Up Sandringham way, as the Windsors settle into their Christmas Eve fun, that tipple would be a glass of Dubonnet and gin—the Queen’s favorite drink, as it was her mother’s before her.

All this and more is contained in the book “To the Queen; A Royal Drinkology” by Thomas J.M. Mace Archer DeLacroix Mills, which is exactly as described; a book all about the Queen’s drinking habits, along with those of other members of her family. Elizabeth II always has one of her favorite Dubonnet and Gins before lunch. It is in her blood—her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, once noted as she was about to embark on a trip, “…I think that I will take two small bottles of Dubonnet and gin with me this morning, in case it is needed…” To quote from the book:
…in a well-known exchange over lunch between Queen Elizabeth II and her mother, the late Queen Mother, Elizabeth II stated, “I wonder if I might have a second glass of wine?” to which her mother replied with a smile, “Is that wise? You know you have to reign all afternoon.”

The Dubonnet cocktail is really quite good. Dubonnet is a sweet, wine-based aperitif, blended with fortified wine, herbs, and spices (including a small amount of Quinine) and pairs well with the medicinal austerity of gin. As an aside, Dubonnet was first sold in 1846 by Joseph Dubonnet, in response to a competition run by the government of France to find a way of persuading members of the French Foreign Legion in North Africa to drink Quinine, which combats Malaria but is very bitter. This has a familiar ring to it, to anyone familiar with the history of that oh, so British drink the Gin and Tonic.

The brand name Dubonnet was taken over by Pernod Ricard in 1976. You may remember in late 1970s an advertising campaign starring Pia Zadora. Or maybe not. Dubonnet is available in Rouge, Blanc and Gold (Vanilla and orange) varieties.
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So here it is, that royal favorite, as good on a hot summer’s day as it is on a chilly Christmas Eve:

The Royal Cuppa
Also known as Dubonnet and Gin

1/3 Gin (Gordon’s is a good choice)
2/3 Dubonnet
Lemon

In a tall thin glass place a wheel of lemon under cubes of ice and pour in the spirits.

Rob Roy Cocktail

Happy Thanksgiving! Here is a word from my in-house cocktail blogger, Eric Miller….

Scotch For The Holidays

What I did on my vacation?
For the last ten years….
Took pictures of your town,
Plaid perfume on my breath.
I mean I’ve been drinking Scotch.
While touring through your town….

Exene Cervenka

Thanksgiving is a time for many things—with eating and drinking at the top of the list. In keeping with the theme, any cranberry-related cocktail will do, whether it is a Cape Codder or a Cosmo. Of course, given that this holiday tends to start early, go forever, and require some relatively skilled labor in the kitchen, some like to forego cocktails for drinks with lower alcohol levels and stick to wine or champagne. Don’t fool yourself: a magnum of bubbles or a couple of bottles of Far Niente before carving the turkey will not end well—for you or the turkey.

I would rather deal with the joys—and stresses—of a family holiday gathering with a suitably autumnal cocktail; strong enough to take the edge off of all the family fun you are having and yet not so strong that you put the brown sugar in the gravy and the bouquet garni in the pumpkin pie. NB: Pickup games of touch football with young nephews should be attempted before said cocktail—broken stemware in the front lawn is never a good idea.

Because Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday, I thought—what is more American than a Rob Roy? We are a melting pot, after all, and how better to celebrate our diversity than give a nod to our Scottish ancestors? The Rob Roy is basically a Manhattan but is made with Scotch whisky, while the Manhattan is traditionally made with rye and today commonly made with bourbon or Canadian whisky.

Created in 1894 by a bartender at the Waldorf Astoria New York, the Rob Roy was named in honor of the premiere of Rob Roy, an operetta loosely based upon Scottish folk hero Robert Roy MacGregor. Any good Scotch will do—I like Dewars or Famous Grouse for this drink.
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Rob Roy Cocktail

7/10 Scotch whisky
3/10 Sweet Vermouth
Dash Angostura or Peychaud bitters.

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry (you don’t have to eat it—grandchildren LOVE them).

Pineapple Mojito

I leave today’s blog to my wonderful husband Eric, my in-house cocktail aficionado.

Fresh pineapple is one of the best of the tropical fruit-well worth the effort to skin and core, light years better than the canned kind (unless we are talking about a pineapple upside down cake, in which case the opposite is true). As good as the fruit is on its own, it is fantastic in drinks. While pineapple is very sweet when properly ripened, there is plenty of acidity to balance the sugar and create the perfect foil for rum. The Mojito, that perfect combination of rum, mint and lime, is an excellent vehicle for pineapple and lighter, somehow, than traditional rum and pineapple tropical drinks that live in Tiki-land, especially if you add a splash of club soda just before serving.

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Pineapple Mojito

3 oz light rum
1 oz triple sec
1 oz pineapple juice
2 slices pineapple
4-5 lime wedges
6-8 mint leaves
Mint sprig for garnish

Muddle the pineapple, lime, and mint in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. (To muddle is to combine ingredients, usually in the bottom of a mixing glass, by pressing them with a muddler before adding the majority of the liquid ingredients.)

Fill the shaker with ice and add the other ingredients. Shake well and strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Avocado Margaritas

My resident cocktail advisor, Eric is blogging today.

The Margarita is a drink that is much loved and comes in many shapes and forms.  I personally am a purist and think that its magic lies in the fact that just three ingredients—tequila, triple sec and fresh lime juice—perfectly blend together (with an assist from the salt on the rim of the glass) to create something much greater than the sum of its parts.  No other fruit or flavor is needed—not strawberries, bananas or Midori.  You can alter the proportions to suit your taste and of course there is the blended or shaken debate (I am a rocks/salt man, myself) but in any event, stick to the basics.
 
So it was with initial horror that I heard someone on talk radio extolling the virtues of blended Margaritas made with avocados.  I mean, I have never met an avocado I didn’t like and guacamole certainly goes well with a Margarita, but in one?  Where I live, we eat our avocados, not drink them (and 95% of US avocado production comes from Southern California, where we live).  The more I listened, the more I became intrigued.  The idea is that the creaminess of the avocado imparts a silky smoothness to an otherwise slushy drink and the delicate flavor of the avocado pairs well with salt, citrus and—it seems—tequila.  Now drinking this fruit isn’t as crazy as you might think: in the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, and southern India, avocados are frequently used for milkshakes, so why not cocktails?

I tried it with one ripe avocado for four drinks, and the result is amazing.  The liquid turns slightly opaque and jade green.  The most interesting thing is that it made the drinks light and fluffy—that was the first thing one of my guinea pigs (I mean guests) mentioned.  Depending on how you roll, you could even use cayenne pepper in the salt or introduce some Habanero simple syrup as the creaminess of the drink would complement the spiciness very well.  I may not make them this way every time, but for now, I am a covert!

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Avocado Margaritas

For Four Small/Two Large

1 Cup Tequila (I used Cuervo Platinum)
½ Cup Triple Sec
½ Cup fresh lime juice
1 ripe avocado
 
Blend with crushed ice in blender and pour into salt-rimmed glasses.

Walt’s Limoncello

When life gives you lemons, make limoncello! That is exactly what my good friend, Walt does. He has lots of citrus on his property and he has been experimenting, making different limoncellos for the past few years. He made different batches using various amounts of sugar. He also made some using Everclear 151 grain alcohol instead of vodka.  Everclear is the brand name of a colorless, unflavored, distilled beverage bottled at two different high strengths: 151-proof and 190-proof, meaning respectively 75.5% and 95% alcohol by volume  It is distilled from corn (maize) and is nearly identical in taste to fine-grade unflavored vodka, although it contains more alcohol.   Due to its high alcohol content, Everclear is illegal, unavailable, or difficult to find in many areas.  I found the Everclear version too strong and burning going down the hatch!

Salute! Cin cin!

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Walt’s Limoncello

10 lemons
1 (750-ml) bottle vodka
1 (750-ml) water
2 cups sugar

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 2 weeks at room temperature. Shake the bottle once a day.

Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.

Grapefruit Margarita

I promise that this will be my last grapefruit post this week! You can blame it on Shannon! This recipe is really delicious, by the way.

I will now turn it over to my in-house mixologist, Eric…

With so many grapefruit around the house, I thought I would try making a Grapefruit Margarita, which is not such a stretch when you consider that the Salty Dog cocktail, which is a Greyhound (vodka and grapefruit juice) in a salt-rimmed glass, marries the salt and grapefruit flavors and has been popular for years. For my margarita, I used freshly-squeezed ruby grapefruit juice, silver tequila, blue agave sweetener and I added a kick of chili into the mix.

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Grapefruit Margarita

1-1/2 oz tequila
1/3 cup freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
2 Tbs triple sec
2 Tbs agave sweetener

Kosher salt mixed with cayenne pepper for glass. I used about a half a teaspoon of Cayenne for every three tablespoons of salt.

Fill a cocktail shaker about half full with crushed ice. Add tequila, grapefruit juice, Triple Sec and agave. Shake well, then pour—with ice–into a margarita glass or other stemmed cocktail glass with a cayenne salted rim.

Wise Men Cocktail

wise men cocktailMy passion is cooking–I like a cocktail as much as the next gal, but I live in the kitchen, not behind the bar.  For years, I have relied upon my husband–a mixologist par excellence–to ghostwrite my blogs about cocktails.  Well, now he can step into the light and you can meet my longest-standing guest blogger, my husband Eric.  An allrounder, he can make a mean buerre blanc, but he comes into his own with a shaker in his hand…….

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Wise Men Cocktail

For most, the Christmas season starts too early; by the time the day itself arrives, we are ready to clear out the clutter, spend our gift money on bargains and make resolutions to go to the gym.  The reality is that Christmas starts with Christmas and lasts for twelve days, at which point the Epiphany season begins. The term epiphany means “to show” or “to make known” or even “to reveal.” In the Christian tradition, it remembers the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child. The wise old man (also called senex, sage or sophos) is an archetype as described by Carl Jung, as well as a classic literary figure.

So, as we let our belts out a notch, head for the slopes, or just settle into our holiday rut, let’s focus for one brief moment on some holiday wisdom—or sagacity.  To celebrate the season, here is a cocktail that focuses on the herb sage, or Salvia officinalis which is the  perennial, evergreen plant that we use to season dressing, stuffing, pumpkin ravioli—and now, a cocktail!

Bourbon whiskey, infused with fresh apples and sage, forms the heart of this cocktail.  Simply take an air-tight jar, fill it with Bourbon (I use Maker’s Mark) and add several fresh apple slices and a sprig of fresh sage.  Let this sit overnight or even for a few days but not much longer as the sage can grow bitter if left in too long.  Apple cider further extends the apple flavor and a rim of celery salt cuts through the sweetness and makes this drink—basically a Manhattan with cider instead of red vermouth—an off-sweet, celebration of seasonal flavors.  The wisdom, we hope, will follow.  I can’t vouch, however, for gold, Frankincense and Myrrh………

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The Wise Men

7/10 Apple and sage-infused Bourbon
3/10 Apple cider (or regular apple juice)*

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass rimmed with celery salt.  Serve straight up with a wedge of apple and a sprig of fresh sage.

*I use fresh apple cider but any kind of apple juice will do.  In Europe, cider usually means hard cider, with has an alcohol content close to that of vermouth, or fortified wine, and that works too, for a drier, slightly pétillante version.