Drink Local: It’s Another Thanksgiving Sunrise…

November 26, 2014 § 1 Comment

I’ll keep this short because, well, I know you’re slammed with preparations for the Big Day. Maybe you’ve got pies in the oven, turkey brining in the fridge (or already in the smoker)… or you’re just scratching your head trying to figure out where everything and everyone is going to fit. I feel ya!

Come Thanksgiving day, when the hardcore cooking gets underway, you might want to have an adult beverage by your side (just sayin’). How about a little sumpin’-sumpin’ that’s seasonal and tasty — not to mention made with organic ingredients — to keep you company while you’re whipping up some kitchen magic (or just escaping from the usual family holiday cray-cray)?

What you want to be drinking on Thanksgiving day

What you want to be drinking on Thanksgiving day

Inspired by our warmer, late-fall weather — forecast of high 60’s for the 650! — and a bounty of seasonal fruits, I’m going California retro: pairing Satsuma mandarin oranges (available everywhere right now), cranberries, and tequila. Yes, it’s a Thanksgiving Sunrise. (Anyone else hear The Eagles singing in the background?) Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Recipe: Thanksgiving Sunrise
Yield: 1 cocktail
I’ve used all organic ingredients for this recipe (hey, it’s my first all-organic cocktail recipe!), but feel free to use what you have on hand. Oh, and you might just want to wait until the sun is over the yardarm before imbibing. Or not.

You’ll need a double old-fashioned glass, long-handled spoon, shot glass with measurement markings or measuring spoons, and ice.

Ingredients:
Note that I’ve given the ingredients in ounces. If you’re using measuring spoons,
2 ounces = 4 tablespoons, 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons, ½ ounce = 1 tablespoon

3 ounces freshly squeezed organic Satsuma mandarin juice
1½ ounces reposado tequila (I’m loving organic Casa Nobles, but Tres Agaves is a very good option as well)
1½ teaspoons cranberry syrup (see below)
½ – 1 teaspoon grenadine syrup (to taste, if you prefer a slightly sweeter cocktail)

How To:

  1. Combine the tequila and fresh mandarin juice in a double old-fashioned glass (or a large juice glass, if that’s what you have on hand) with several ice cubes. Using a long-handled spoon, stir about 10 seconds until the liquids are combined and chilled.
  2. Add the cranberry syrup (and grenadine, if you’re using it). Stir to combine.
    Sure, that pousse café thing looks cool at first, but your drink will taste better when everything is combined, so give it a decent stir.
  3. Add ice to fill the glass to the top.
  4. Drink. Adjust if necessary. Breathe.ingredients-1

 

Recipe: Cranberry Syrup
Yield: About 3.5 ounces syrup (or about 10 teaspoons)
This syrup adds a seasonal, sweet-tart twist to cocktails or non-alcoholic spritzers (just combine with sparkling water and tangerine juice or apple cider). Feeling adventurous? Try it on waffles or pancakes with whipped cream for a sweet treat or with a little crumbled bacon for something more savory. The leftover “smoosh” from straining the syrup makes a sweet-tart condiment for turkey sandwiches.

What you need:

Kitchen scale
1-quart saucepan
Fine-mesh strainer
Small container or bowl to hold the strainer
Rubber spatula
Glass or plastic container with lid for storing the syrup and “smoosh”

Ingredients:

4.5 ounces cranberries (I used organic, thanks to my CSA delivery)
4.5 ounces cane sugar (organic cane sugar complements the fruit without overwhelming it with a supersweet, granulated-sugar flavor)
6.5 ounces of filtered water

Three ingredients for cranberry syrup: cranberries (natch!), cane sugar, and filtered water

Three ingredients for cranberry syrup: cranberries (natch!), cane sugar, and filtered water

How to:

  1. Combine the berries, sugar, and water in the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
    Be sure to lightly cover the pan with a lid, as the berries will pop as they heat up. (I set the lid at a slight angle so that steam can escape.) You don’t want cranberry spray all over your backsplash.

    Cranberries and sugar in the pot

    Cranberries and sugar in the pot

  2. Immediately reduce the heat to low-medium to medium (depending on the power of your burner), keeping the mixture at a low boil/simmer for about 10-12 minutes.
    Make sure you’re stirring the mixture regularly and using the rubber spatula to break up the berries in the pot. I press the spatula against the berries until they pop. After 10-12 minutes, you’ll have what looks like a cranberry compote.
  3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing down just lightly with the spatula to extract the syrup from the compote.
    Strain the cranberry compote through a fine-mesh strainer to extract the syrup

    Strain the cranberry compote through a fine-mesh strainer to extract the syrup

    Don’t press too hard, or you’ll end up with a grainy syrup, which you’ll have to strain a second time. Also, keep in mind that cranberries are high in pectin, so they’ll set up more quickly than other berries (e.g., raspberries or blueberries) if you cook out too much water. If your syrup thickens too much as it cools, you might need to add some water to thin it.

  4. Let the syrup cool a bit (it should still feel warm to the touch, but not boiling hot), then dip a spoon in it to see how thick it is. If you prefer a thinner syrup, stir in 1/2 – 3/4 ounce of boiling water.
  5. Scrape the “smoosh” (cranberry skins, pulp, and seeds) from the strainer into a separate container and store in the refrigerator.
    You can use this compote as condiment for turkey sandwiches, but it will likely need a touch of acid for balance. Adjust it to your taste by adding a touch of balsamic vinegar or freshly squeezed orange juice.
  6. Allow the syrup to cool completely to room temperature. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.syrup-bottle

Spicy Cucumber Margaritas

July 24, 2014 § 6 Comments

While visiting my parents in the midwest earlier this month, I learned three things:

  • The town where I grew up built a new police station directly across the street from my old house. Seriously. Right. Across. The. Street. (Good thing that didn’t happen while I was in high school — just sayin’!)
  • I am lucky, lucky, lucky to have long-time, dear friends in my life, some of whom also happen to share my love of tequila. (Coincidence? I think not!)
  • Spicy cucumber margaritas are delicious and need to be in my cocktail-making repertoire.

    Spicy Cucumber Margarita

    Spicy Cucumber Margarita

During what’s becoming an annual celebration of belated birthdays, catching up, and plain-ole’ day drinking, one of my dearest friends and I enjoyed a couple of rounds of said margaritas on the 4th of July. They’re refreshing and go down a little too easily, but are perfect for a hot summer day — especially if you’re hanging out with good friends.

As it’s National Tequila Day, I’ve come up with my own version of this sweet-spicy, herbal-fresh margarita. Make up a batch and share them with your nearest and dearest! There are three parts to this recipe, which requires just a bit of advance planning:

  1. Spicing up your tequila.
  2. Making the cucumber simple syrup.
  3. Putting it all together and making the cocktail.

I’ve put the cocktail recipe first, just in case you already have your spicy tequila and simple syrup ready to go. If not, you can find these recipes at the end of the post.

Recipe: Spicy Cucumber Margarita
Yield: 1 cocktail

You’ll need a double old-fashioned or highball glass, cocktail shaker, shot glass with measurement markings or measuring spoons, and ice.

Ingredients:

2 ounces pepper-infused reposado tequila (recipe below)
½ ounce Cointreau
¾ – 1 ounce cucumber simple syrup (recipe below)
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

For the glass:

1 tablespoon Kosher or freshly ground sea salt
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile powder
1 lime wedge
Thin slices of cucumber

Ingredients for Spicy Cucumber Margarita

Ingredients: Fresh lime juice, pepper-infused tequila, Cointreau, cucumber simple syrup, spicy salt and garnishes for the glass

Note that I’ve given the ingredients in ounces. If you’re using measuring spoons,
2 oz = 4 tablespoons, ½ oz = 1 tablespoon

How To:

  1. Combine salt and chili powder in a small bowl, then pour on to a saucer. Run a wedge of lime around the rim of the glass, then turn the glass upside down and dip into the spicy salt. (You’re trying to get the salt to adhere to the outer rim of the glass). Set aside.
  2. Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with four or five cubes of fresh ice.
    When I make this cocktail, I use ¾ ounce of the cucumber simple syrup. If you prefer a sweeter cocktail, by all means, increase the amount to your taste.
  3. Shake 4 – 5 times (not vigorously) to combine and pour into a prepared glass.
  4. Fill glass with ice and garnish with thin slices of cucumber and a lime wedge.

    Spicy cucumber margarita

    Make mine a double: double recipe in a highball glass.
    You know, for photo-styling purposes…

 

Recipe: Pepper-Infused Tequila
There’s not much work involved here: pierce or cut a spicy pepper and pop it into a bottle of your favorite tequila for the infusion. Ideally, start this project when you have a designated driver handy or are hanging out at home for a while, as you’ll need to taste the tequila periodically to test for spiciness.
Important: I strongly recommend wearing gloves while handling spicy peppers. Afterwards, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands, cutting board, knife, and any utensils you used. Don’t touch your eyes, mouth, or other, er, sensitive parts immediately after handling spicy peppers — wash your hands first!

Ingredients

1 – 2 jalapeño peppers, depending on your tolerance for hot peppers
1 bottle reposado tequila (my favorite is Tres Agaves, but choose whatever you like)

How to:

  1. Wash and dry the pepper(s).
    I used mature Purple Jalapeños from my garden. Want to know more about these peppers? Check out this post about my garden.

    Mature purple jalapenos

    Mature Purple Jalapeños (yes, they turn red) from my garden

  2. Take a look at the opening of your tequila bottle.
    a. If you can fit the whole pepper through the opening, then pierce several holes in the pepper using a skewer or sharp paring knife. Push the pepper through the opening and recap the bottle.
    or
    b. If the whole pepper will not fit through the opening, slice the pepper in half vertically. Press the pepper pieces into the bottle and recap it. Some seeds might come away from the pepper. Don’t worry, you can always strain them out later.

    Cut peppers inside the tequila bottle

    Cut peppers inside the tequila bottle

  3. Make sure that the bottle is capped tightly. Holding the bottle upright, give it a quick turn upside down. The pepper (or pieces) should float to the bottom and settle down.
    Depending on how spicy/mature your pepper is, the infusion process can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days.
  4. Grab a shot glass and taste-test the tequila at regular intervals.
    I did my first taste test after two hours of infusion, then two hours later. After eight hours I still wasn’t tasting the level of spice I wanted. Turns out my peppers were really mature, and not as hot as I’d anticipated, so I ended up just leaving them in the bottle.
  5. When your tequila has reached the desired (tolerable?) level of spiciness, remove the pepper and any seeds that might have settled in the bottom of the bottle.
    You can strain the tequila into another bottle for storage, or simply fish out the pepper from the original bottle, whatever works best for you. Make sure that you clearly label the bottle containing the spicy tequila. I also put the date of infusion on the label as well.

Recipe: Cucumber Simple Syrup
Yield: About 8 ounces syrup
Refreshing and tasty, you can also use this simple syrup to make an easy summer spritzer.

What you need:

1-quart saucepan
Fine-mesh strainer
Small container or bowl to hold the strainer
Rubber spatula
Glass or plastic container with lid for storing the syrup

Ingredients:

4 ounces sugar (½ cup)
4 ounces water (½ cup)
½ cup peeled, grated cucumber

How to:

  1. Peel the cucumber and grate it using the large holes on a box grater or food processor attachment.
  2. Combine the cucumber, sugar, and water in a saucepan and place on the stove top.
  3. Give the ingredients a stir and heat just until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
    Give the syrup another stir to make sure that all of the sugar has dissolved.

    Cucumber simple syrup cooling in the pan

    Cucumber simple syrup cooling in the pan

  5. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the cucumber to remove as much liquid as possible.

    Straining the cucumber simple syrup

    Straining the cucumber simple syrup

  6. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

 

Oh My… Margaritas!

February 22, 2014 § 2 Comments

Good morning campers — today is National Margarita Day! Have I mentioned how much I love margaritas? No, not those frozen, icky-sweet concoctions that come out of a blender, or some mess of bottled sweet-and-sour mix thrown together with Jose Cuervo Gold! I’m talking about the simple, delicious elegance of 100% blue agave tequila, Cointreau, and fresh-squeezed lime juice, shaken up with fresh ice and poured into a lime-and-salt-rimmed glass. *sigh* Yes, this is a day for celebrating! While you could head off to your favorite, local Mexican restaurant for today’s celebratory drink (nothin’ wrong with that, by the way), why not try making a batch at home?

Margarita ingredients

Four simple ingredients for a delicious, fresh margarita!

First of all, contrary to what you might read on the internet, there’s no one-size-fits-all, perfect margarita recipe. While a quick search of the interwebs will turn up a variety of religious arguments recipes for the perfect margarita, everyone’s palate is different, and the perfect margarita is the one that you like.

For me, the perfect margarita has a good balance of tartness and sweetness, while letting the flavor of the tequila shine through.  Blanco (also called silver) tequilas are ideal for margaritas because they’re lightly aged, with crisper, less woody flavor profiles than resposados or anejos. Although I’ve also made some tasty margaritas with reposados, I believe that anejos are best left for sipping and enjoying with a piece of 70% cacao dark chocolate.

Knowing a bit about the tequila you’ll use — it is, after all, the star ingredient — will help you decide if you need to tart up or sweeten your recipe. So before you get started, take a sniff of your tequila. Blanco tequilas can vary from grassy or herbal to floral and fruity. Have a little taste. Some are sweeter, and some are crisper with more acidity. Once you get past the alcohol, what flavors are you noticing?

My House Margarita Recipe
My go-to margarita recipe uses Herradura Silver, which is an herbal, crisp tequila that can stand up to lots of lime; I think of it as a masculine tequila. I like the addition of Cointreau for orange flavor without the syrupy-ness of Grand Marnier or generic triple sec. If you love lime, you might go for extra lime juice. Like a sweeter cocktail? Add a splash of agave nectar. Think of this recipe as a template that you can tweak to your taste.

margarita on the rocks

My House Margarita

You’ll need a martini or old-fashioned glass, cocktail shaker, shot glass with measurement markings or measuring spoons, and ice.

Ingredients:
2 oz Herradura Silver
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/4 oz agave syrup

For the glass:
Wedge of lime
3-4  Tbs Kosher salt

Note that I’ve given the ingredients in ounces. If you’re using measuring spoons,
2 oz = 4 tablespoons, 1 oz = 2 tablespoons, and 1/4 oz = 1.5 teaspoons.

How To:
Pour salt on to a saucer. Run a wedge of lime around the rim of the glass, then turn the glass upside down and dip into the salt. (You’re trying to get the salt to adhere to the outer rim of the glass). Set aside.
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with four or five cubes of fresh ice. Shake to combine and pour into a prepared glass. If you prefer some rocks in your margarita, add one or two fresh cubes to the glass.

I happen to be a huge fan of San Francisco-based Tres Agaves Tequila, and have used this recipe with their Blanco and Reposado tequilas as well. If you want to try a reposado version of this recipe, substitute Tres Agaves Reposado for the Herradura Silver.

Hola Campeon!
Recently I stopped into K&L Wines in Redwood City to check out their tequila stock, as they usually carry high-quality, smaller-batch brands. The Campeon Silver caught my eye, and it has an interesting story behind it. Not only is the company based in Burlingame, CA, but K&L worked with Campeon to develop their own version. Go 650!

The Campeon Silver is a nice tequila, but sweeter and more floral than my usual Herradura; it’s a good example of a more feminine tequila. My House Margarita recipe was just not working with the Campeon Silver. After a few experiments, I ended up reducing the lime juice to 3/4 oz because it was overpowering the tequila. So, for a sweeter or more floral tequila, here’s my modified recipe:

Ingredients:
2 oz Campeon Silver
1 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/4 oz agave syrup

For fun I tried out CHOW’s Blood Orange Margarita recipe (which you can find on their site). Campeon Silver is really well-suited to this recipe! The floral sweetness of the tequila is a good match for the blood orange, and the color is oh-so-pretty. CHOW’s recipe calls for 1 1/2 ounces of tequila, but with the Campeon, you could probably increase that to 1 3/4 oz. Keep in mind that early-season blood oranges might be a bit tart, so taste the juice to determine whether you want (or need) to add a drop or two of agave syrup.

Blood Orange Margarita made with Campeon Silver

Blood Orange Margarita made with Campeon Silver tequila

So, Happy National Margarita Day! Did you celebrate with a cocktail at home, or leave the mixing to your local bar or Mexican restaurant? Do tell! Better yet: pictures! Pictures, or it didn’t happen…

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