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I consider myself a bit of a booze expert. Mostly because I enjoy indulging in a glass of wine or a martini from time to time (aka most nights), but also because it is literally my job to make people … Continue reading
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Ok, so it wasn’t Mixology Monday, but last night we were feeling festive. Suzi and I brought in our cranberry citrus infused vodka and whipped up our version of a Moscow Mule.
The R+D Reindeer
Super easy, super delicious. I even sold a few to dudes that drank them really quickly so they weren’t seen with such a girly holiday martini – and then asked for another, but on the rocks this time. This drink may look sweet and fruity, but it is refreshing and crisp. A perfect holiday cocktail!
2 oz Cranberry Infused Vodka (we did the OJ for water substitute)
**If you don’t have the time or the patience, I’m sure you can use regular vodka with a SMALL splash of cranberry juice**
4 mint leaves
2 lime wedges
1.5 oz Gingerbeer
Sugar-rimmed martini glass
Combine the vodka, mint leaves, and squeezed lime wedges over ice and shake until cold.
Strain into martini glass and top with Ginger Beer. A few mint specks are fine, they are green and festive!
We garnished our Reindeer with a few frozen cranberries, but you could add a mint leaf if you want for that perfect holiday color combo.
It looks like Santa’s hat and it tastes delicious!
Oh, and this is all I have left this morning…
I’d call it a success.
The same night that I dragged Brad out to the paint store and we painted our dining room Shy Cherry, I was feeling ambitious. In addition to wearing a ridiculous painting outfit, I felt like throwing together another infusion for my Mixology Monday collection. I had a few grapefruit lying around, so I decided to get back to what really got me started me on this infusion kick. Cocktail Bitters.
Cocktail Bitters are what bartenders call the salt and pepper of the cocktail world. You can make a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned without it, but it would be like eating a steak that hadn’t been seasoned at all. You can maybe tell it’s a good piece of steak, but there could be so much more flavor if the chef hadn’t skipped that one step. Bartenders, learn how to use your bitters!!
They were most popular in cocktails before Prohibition, when many different varieties were widely available. It was a main ingredient in the popular cocktail of the time, which was simply liquor, bitters, sugar and a very little amount of water. Sounds pretty good, right? But in the second half of the 20th century, fruitier and sweeter drinks became more popular and that white Angostura bottle behind most bars was rarely used.
Enter Sex and the City and the Cosmopolitan. See you later, Pink Gin.
Bitters were once considered medicinal, but are now well known as digestifs and a mixologists’ secret weapon. In the 1800s, they were often given to sailors to cure seasickness. Some of my other favorite uses for bitters?
Take a lemon wedge and cover it in sugar. Top with a few drops of bitters. Suck on that for a minute and your hiccups should disappear. Trust me, it works.
Bitters have long been known for easing nausea. Next time you’ve had a few too many the night before and your stomach isn’t feeling too hot the next morning, add a few drops of bitters to soda water. Works like a dream.
My infusion curiosity was sparked by an article in Food & Wine magazine a few months ago about how Bitters were making a comeback and how you could make them at home. The recipes they gave were incredible mixes of cherry root and herbs and spices I’d never heard of and have no idea where to find, but my interest was piqued.
While I was brainstorming Pumpkin Spice Rum and Peppercorn Vodka, I was also on a quest to find a great bitters recipe. Bitters were something that maybe even Brad could enjoy a splash of in his soda water, so it would be an experiment I could actually share with him…
Using a recipe found on Chow, Brad and I got cooking.
You will need
1 medium grapefruit
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup vodka
1 cup Campari
3/4 cup Sweet Vermouth
And an awesome Shy Cherry wall to take pictures against. So. Much. Red.
Halve the grapefruit. Juice one half, keep the juice and throw away the rind. Coarsely chop the remaining half and save.
Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, and let syrup simmer until it thickens slightly, about 2 minutes.
Add chopped grapefruit and cook until the grapefruit releases all its juice, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Combine cooled grapefruit syrup (including chopped fruit), saved grapefruit juice, Campari, vodka, and sweet vermouth in a large container with a tightfitting lid. Stir well, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using.
And always let the dog feel like she’s helping….
Now Brad most definitely can’t drink this because it’s about 99.9% alcohol, but I’ve been sampling it on my own. Best part about bitters? You don’t have to wait a month to try them.
I am impatient when it comes to my booze.
All weekend I have been making myself Sparkling Grapefruit Cocktails and I’m looking forward to trying out a few news recipes tonight over at Mixology Monday at R+D. I feel like bitters are this simple little hidden gem that so many bartenders don’t take advantage of. I’ll give you the scoop on what worked and what flopped tomorrow along with a couple of delicious recipes!
Wondering how Mixology Monday went?
Well, it was delicious. And I still have some Pumpkin Spice Rum left. So come on by if you want one of these…
Pumpkin Pie Martini:
2 oz Pumpkin Spice Rum
1 1/2 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream
1/2 oz Domaine Canton Ginger Liqueur
Shake all ingredients over ice to chill. Strain into martini glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. Yum.
I am also offering a Pumpkin Spice coffee if you’re chilly out here by the beach. It will warm you up and put you in the holiday spirit! If you’re making this at home, I would halve all of the above measurements and then fill with hot coffee.
A tip for coffee drinks. Heat up the mug first with hot water for at least 30 seconds before pouring it out and mixing your drink. It just helps keep the drink hot when adding the room temperature liquors. Every degree counts on a wintery cold evening!
Deciding between Coffee Vodka and Peppercorn Vodka for next Monday… Stay tuned!
After writing about the Bloody Mary contest and my mixology chops, I realized I kind of left you all hanging. I know you’ve been biting your nails, sitting on the edge of your seats, waiting to see how delicious all of those beautiful liquor infusion concoctions came out. So I will finally give you the run down.
About a month ago, I bought some mason jars, bought some booze, and bought some crazy things to infuse that booze with. And it looked fantastic. It was a shame I had to put those jars away to do their magic. But I had to wait. And it helped that I went out of town for almost two weeks.
So at long last, here are the results.
Pumpkin Spice Rum
The absolute favorite. Looks amazing, tastes even better. Mixed with a little bit of Domain Chandon Ginger Liqueur and a splash of Bailey’s Irish Cream? May I introduce you to the “Pumpkin Pie Martini”. I wouldn’t give up Pumpkin Pie for the world. Unless it was in alcohol form. And this martini, my friends, is unbelievable. YUM.
Blackberry Mint Rum
Um, not quite as good as I wanted it to be. I had high hopes for the blackberry liquors. Turned out they just infused their color, not really the taste. Oh, and the mint may have been in there too long. It started tasting mostly like toothpaste. Actually dumped this one completely out. That’s ok. Trail and Error, folks.
Not the hit-it-out-of-the-park results I wanted. The final infusion has a tiny bit of that bitterness from the nut’s skin, I think. Not really nuttiness. So I’m doing a do-over here. The other night I toasted up some new pecans and crushed them a bit before adding the bourbon. Hopefully the toasting will help get those oils out, or at least give the bourbon a different flavor. Back to waiting…
See Blackberry Mint Rum. The bourbon has great color, but doesn’t taste much like blackberries. Maybe I’ll try to use MORE blackberries next time? Or maybe I’ll try this again when Blackberries are REALLY in season. I’m convinced this will be delicious, so I will keep trying until it is. And until then, I’m still going to use this “failed” attempt in a Manhattan or Old Fashioned or something to give it some awesome color. No Bourbon wasted here.
Ever tried VanGogh Double Espresso Vodka? I love it. It was kind of the inspiration for this vodka. But I don’t think it tastes at all like coffee. Mine was extremely successful, but when I started mixing it up, trying to come up with some drinks, I remembered I just don’t like coffee. I ended up making a delicious “Latte-tini” that tasted just like the coffee drinks I like do – nothing like coffee at all. Gotta get a coffee drinker to help me with this one… Any volunteers?
Hot, hot, hot!! This is the perfect Bloody Mary vodka. Nice and spicy. This is actually the vodka that prompted Steve to enter me in the Bloody Mary contest. Yep, it’s that good.
Next up? I just whipped up a jar of homemade Grapefruit Bitters. Also, stay tuned for the Pecan Bourbon updates and maybe even a few more holiday themed infusions! Sugar Plum anyone?
Also!! Because of our success in the Bloody Mary contest and the deliciousness of some of this first round of infusions, Suzi and I will be featuring a new infused liquor every Monday night at the bar at R+D. Let’s call it “Mixology Mondays”. Come on down tonight to get into the Thanksgiving spirit and try a Pumpkin Pie Martini or Pumpkin Spice Coffee!
So this time last weekend, Suzi and I were already a few Bloody Marys deep and trying to figure out how to win $500.
Our GM at R+D, Steve, entered us in a competition for the “Best Bloody Mary in the West”. It was a competition where any bartender on the Westside could come and compete with their finest Bloody Mary recipe.
This is all of the information we got:
Steve entered us Saturday night around 9PM. The competition was at noon Sunday. AND Suzi and I were closing the bar Saturday night.
Thank goodness Daylight Savings Time gave us an extra hour.
So Suzi and I left work about 12:30 Saturday night and went to my apartment to plan. We Googled, we made lists, and we came up with some solid Bloody Mary ideas. Then we went out to find a 24 hour grocery store.
Have you ever been to a grocery store at 1AM on a Saturday night/Sunday morning? It is a really special place. People are either super drunk and really wobbly or in their PJs and kind of crazy. There is usually just one cash register open and the line is extremely entertaining. There were keys ripping open guacamole containers and girls buying containers of icing with no cake mix to put it on. There were cookie containers with maybe a cookie or two left (scratch that, that was Brad) and lots of frozen pizzas. Poor cashier.
I’ll say it again. Ralphs at 1AM is a very special place.
But we got home and got to work. This is what my stove looked like around 2AM.
We were frying bacon, making Old Bay Shrimp, and I was hungry so I was making spaghetti (big surprise).
Our plan was to submit two entries. Suzi would make a BLT Bloody Mary with Bacon infused vodka, a Mayo and Breadcrumb rim, and Charred Frisee garnish.
I was taking the Maryland approach. A Crabby Mary that used as much crab as I could get into it.
So at 2AM we prepped. We fried bacon. We did a speedy bacon vodka infusion that had to sit overnight. I made Old Bay Shrimp. And we ate spaghetti. Because that is all good to do at 2AM.
I went to sleep about 4AM. At 7:30, I woke up and went to Whole Foods for some blue crab meat. Suzi came back over around 9, and then we got to work fo realz. On 3.5 hours of sleep. Ugh.
We fried up more bacon and then I made some mini crab cakes for garnishes. They were some of my finest work. I’ll even say amazeballs, because they were, in fact, balls. Appropriate.
So a little trial and error, a little scraping congealed bacon fat off of vodka, a few sample Bloody Marys drunk, and we were off to Salute Wine Bar on Main St in Santa Monica.
And then we got there….
The set up was like this. Here is a table to put your stuff on. Here are 150 plastic cups to serve 150 samples to the brunch guests from noon until 3pm. Here is some ice. Oh and here is a bottle of vodka.
No shakers? No utensils?
Yea, so I had twelve crab cakes. TWELVE. And I ate one of them that morning, of course. (Quality control. Anyone who has ever watched Top Chef knows this is super important…) So I had ELEVEN crab cake garnishes for 150 samples. And not to mention, Suzi and I had only two jars of V8 between the two of us.
I retreated into my head for a little bit. Just stood there by our table looking around, trying to reassess. Our competitors had bottles and bottles full of pre made mixes. They had knives and spoons and cutting boards. They had kimchi and quail egg garnishes made up for at least 100 people. They had deli cups and spouts and fancy toothpicks…
But I’ve been a bartender for five years in some of the most under and over prepared bars I’ve ever seen. And one of the first things I learned when I was training back at the college student infested Urban Flats in Winter Park, FL was “Make it Red.”
Ok, so this obviously applies here because if your Bloody Mary isn’t red, there is something seriously wrong. But “Make it Red” really refers to just making it work and making it taste good. When some tipsy college kid asked me for a “Twisted-Surfer-Whose-Hair-is-On-Fire” shot or something, you just smile and make it red. Truth is, some bartender probably made that ridiculous concoction up somewhere and the kid has no freaking idea what’s in it. So make it red, make it strong, and make it delicious.
***I made up the “Twisted-Surfer-Whose-Hair-is-On-Fire” shot. But whatever is in it, now it is definitely red.***
Suzi and I consolidated. We scratched the BLT because we definitely didn’t bring enough of the bacon infused vodka to last 150 samples. (But Suz made one for Steve once he got there and it was DELISH. Next year….) We broke the crab cakes into 3 pieces each. We garnished some with just the Old Bay shrimp. I only added half of the amount of blue crab shaken into the Crabby Marys and added way more Old Bay. We worked the one-eyed stuffed animal crab. We worked our charm. And I called our GM to bring us a shaker so I could actually function.
In reality, 150 was a gross over-exaggeration. We probably only made about 80 samples, and only ran out of crab meat for the very last two. People loved the crab cakes and I heard so many nostalgic stories about summers or childhoods spent in Maryland. I reminisced with people about Annapolis and Ocean City. We talked about the Ravens and the Orioles. It made me homesick and happy, and it was well worth getting my $$ Sunday bar tending shift covered.
We came in second place behind a bartender from a bar right down the street who was absolutely more prepared than we were. But we only lost by 3 votes, which I thought was a great victory.
The $500 Grand Prize would have been nice, but we spent the rest of the night drinking champagne, dancing, wearing funny hats, watching the sunset and hanging out with amazing new (and old) friends at a beautiful apartment right on Ocean Ave in Santa Monica.
And first is the worst, second is the best. At least until next year…
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