Onions. You guys, he made a cocktail with onions. AND IT WAS GOOD.
The only thought process to share on this one is that Chris knew he didn’t want to add sugar so he muddled a thin slice of onion straight into the lime juice. Aquavit brought some complementary flavors like caraway to the party and the whole thing ended up tasting a bit like biting into a tart green apple. After the first few sips, we actually decided it needed MORE onion so he smashed another slice with the side of the knife and added it as a garnish. The extra aroma added a nice sharpness to the sip.
This drink is magic. It’s alchemy. It’s alive! It’s delicious!
Awful pic because I was busy going “Wait, whaaaaaaaaaaa?”
The Gobsmacker (named for my reaction to how well this worked)
Juice of half a lime
2 oz Aquavit
Two thin slices of a fresh white onion (these were smallish CSA, not grocery store bohemeths)
Add ingredients to Collins glass, gently middle the onions into the line juice. Add Aquavit, top with ice and side. Garnish with reserved onion for added aroma.
I. Love. Strawberries. I think I single handedly kept the strawberry seller in business at the farmer’s market by my office. Quarts and quarts! Some went into popsicles, some went into milkshakes, some went on top of ice cream, some went in my mouth. Well, you get the idea.
While the market berries had shown up a few weeks ago – the rules we set for ourselves and this challenge meant we couldn’t use them in cocktails until they (hopefully) showed up in the CSA. This was that week – hurray!
We started out by playing with a strawberry-balsamic syrup (one of my favorite flavor combinations) but felt like it hid the fresh flavor of the berries far too much. When you have farm fresh berries, you want farm fresh flavor! We ended up going for something much closer to a smash – with muddled strawberries to pack that fresh punch. A little lemon juice added a bit of tartness, the barreled gin adds some smooth vanilla notes, and the fruity cognac buttresses the strawberry flavor against the aroma of the mint. (I tried it before and after the mint garnish and the aroma really does change everything.)
5 small strawberries
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/4 oz rich simple syrup
1 oz cognac
1 1/2 oz barreled gin
Muddle the strawberries with the simple syrup to make a strawberry mash. Add lemon juice and spirits. Stir to mix. Top with ice and a little soda water, garnish with a mint spring.
We expected this to be a tough challenge. We knew there would come a week when we would look at our amazing array of produce from Featherstone Farm and thing “there is no way any of this will make a tasty cocktail.” We’d be tempted to cheat – maybe by using something from the farmer’s market, maybe by repeating an ingredient, maybe by using Romaine lettuce as a giant garnish. But we didn’t expect it to happen on week two.
I don’t know why I was optimistic – I live in Minnesota where the seasons come and go as fast as Taylor Swift’s boyfriends. It can be 90 in April and 50 in June. Heck, it can be 90 and 50 in the same week. What I’m saying is that late Spring/early Summer is tough for farmers around here. That we have any local produce is a miracle some years.
This week’s box contained spinach, red and romaine lettuce, garlic chives, asparagus, kale, rhubarb, and beet greens (with a few tiny roots). While we may eventually repeat an ingredient (but only if we can use it in a dramatically different way), we didn’t want to use rhubarb two weeks in a row. I mean we already admitted that rhubarb is practically cheating by being a veggie we treat as a fruit. I’m not ready to dive into salad green cocktails yet so we turned to the other vibrant option – the beet greens.
Let me be clear – I do not like beets. At. All. I’ve had one or two that were roasted and caramelized until they were almost palatable. Almost. But I knew that beets were going to show up and I knew Chris would want to try them in a cocktail.
Right after adding vodka
24 hours later
These beets came to us as beet greens but we decided to use the tender stalks. There was one dime sized root but most of these were (for lack of a better term) embryonic beets. I was hoping this would mean a more delicate flavor (i.e. not dirt) and was mostly right. Chris opted to chop the stems and roots and then soak them in vodka for 24 hours in order to get all the beety goodness (Kate says “HA!”) extracted. The vodka turned a light pink within minutes and a deep magenta by the next day. I hoped that Chris would bury the beet flavor under sugar and booze – but he stubbornly insisted on trying to accentuate different parts of the flavor with two different cocktails.
For both cocktails, he was inspired by a beet salad he once had with beets, oranges, and raisins. This led to him building a foundation of a nice raisiny Cognac and the locally made Tattersall Orange Crema (similar to a curacao). For cocktail number one he merely added some orange bitters for structure along with a flamed orange peel. Cocktail number two went in a Sidecar direction by bringing in lemon juice and 11 Wells Allspice Liqueur to brighten the overall beet flavor.
Amazingly enough, I enjoyed both drinks though the “Sidecar” won me over with the Allspice. The warmth of the liqueur evoked the caramelization of a well roasted beet and the lemon juice cut through the dreaded earthiness without hiding it. Cocktail number one was beautiful in its simplicity but was a bit too heavy for my tastes. In both cases I believe the delicate young stalks conveyed much of the distinctive beet flavor without the bitterness that comes with age. Wait, am I still talking about vegetables or did I veer into self-analysis? Beets me.
Cocktail #1 – Bonnes Beets
3/4 oz Beet Vodka
1 oz Orange Crema (or Orange liqueur)
2 oz Cognac
2 dashes orange bitters
Stir and serve over ice. Garnish with an orange peel, ideally flamed
Cocktail #2 – (All Things) Bright and Beetiful
3/4 oz Beet Vodka
1 oz Tattersall Orange Crema (or Orange liqueur)
2 oz Cognac
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz 11 Wells Allspice Liqueur (or Allspice Dram)
Chris and I got our first CSA box last Thursday, a small bonus box as a thank you for signing up for all three seasons of the Featherstone Farm CSA. Signing up for three seasons means we are heading into nearly eight months of fresh produce! We chose Featherstone because they came highly recommended by friends and they have a drop off site just around the block from our new home. It’s hard to imagine an easier way to stock our home with fresh and local produce!
While the majority of our CSA share is destined to be eaten, the rhubarb we received in Bonus Box #1 ended up being made into a syrup for cocktails and sodas. I started thinking about unexpected cocktail ingredients – like the time I was at Parlour and had a drink made with butternut squash shrub. Are there more tasty ways to drink veggies in cocktail form? Can we destroy all the nutritional goodness of greens by adding them to alcohol? Can we use at least one thing from every CSA box we receive to make a delicious cocktail?
First Round – Rhubarb
Rhubarb is almost cheating because it’s a vegetable the world treats as fruit. Raw, it’s basically inedible. When you cook it with plenty of sugar it ends up bitter yet sweet with a bit of earthy funk that is the perfect counterpart to other early summer fruit, like strawberries.
To make the syrup, I simply simmered chopped rhubarb with water and sugar for about 25 minutes, then strained out the rhubarb. (Recipe) The syrup retained all of the good funk of the rhubarb while cutting much of the stalk’s bitterness.
Chris started with the mild sugar cane funk of cachaça to accentuate the vegetal flavors in the rhubarb. Next up was some lemon juice to give the cocktail more body and then finished with homemade grenadine, hoping to bring some smoky notes to the overall taste.
The final product was smooth on the front of the palate with a hint of dry bitterness at the back of my tongue. The grenadine and lemon juice made it almost taste like a rhubarb lemonade, with the funkiness keeping it from being cloying or childish. The drink had a beautiful pink hue from both the rhubarb and the grenadine and reminded me of the recently blossomed crabapple tree in our new backyard or a Northern Minnesota sunset.
Chris has been making cocktail ice at home for a while now, using a cooler to keep the sides from crystallizing too much and allow the top of the ice block to stay clear.
I caught him pulling a fresh batch out this evening. He has to trim off the thin bottom edges (saved for crushed ice) and then chop the larger block in to smaller rough blocks to be used and shaped later.
Jars, cheap (but tasty!) vodka, and marshmallows ready to go.
I ended up visiting two distilleries, two breweries, and a cocktail bar this weekend and I should be posting about those. But since apparently the first few snow flakes fell today, I’m postponing the epic weekend post for the perfect winter booze project – marshmallow vodka, two ways.
These days it seems like you can buy every flavor under the sun in vodka form. Sriracha, bacon, whipped cream, cake, etc etc etc. Someone is taking this idea to the bank, literally. You can get a decently clean vodka for under $10 and infuse it at home with a little bit of research, or you can buy a bottle of vodka and flavoring. Sure, the bottle says “Natural Flavors” on it, but that doesn’t mean it bears any resemblance to the source of the flavor. Wouldn’t you rather get flavors from your kitchen than a laboratory?
Jars stuffed full of marshmallows.
Now that I’ve made it sound like I hate chemistry, let me just point out that I actually really like flavored vodkas. When I first discovered the marshmallow and whipped cream vodkas, I owned them both. The marshmallow vodka went in most of my hot chocolates and the whipped cream went with orange soda for a creamsicle concoction. And they were delicious! (And I was in my late 20s/early 30s at this point.)
That said, if I can make something at home and control the process, I’m going to give it a try. With winter lurking just behind the corner, it was time to try my hand at homemade marshmallow vodka. I’m by no means the first to give this a shot, I found several versions online (mixthatdrink.com, Craig’s Concoctions, Rosalilium). The process couldn’t be simpler – cut marshmallows to expose as much of the gooey center as possible*, fill jar with marshmallows, top off with vodka, wait. The hardest part was getting the marshmallows to stay in the jar when adding the vodka – they are buoyant little buggers.
Immediately after filling, the vodka picked up color right away.
I wanted to try something just a little different, so I did one plain jar and one jar with toasted marshmallows. I don’t have a fire pit and I didn’t want to toast them one by one over my gas burner, so I borrowed a trick from my childhood and used the toaster oven. (I also used “Stackers” flat marshmallows, this was unintentional. I just wasn’t paying enough attention at the store.) The toasted marshmallows tore apart quite a bit, which ended up being a good thing as they dissolved much better. The outer layer of the raw mallows got goopy but never disappeared. Other sites range from a 24 hour to two week infusion time – I sampled a few times and finally strained them after a week. I used half-pint jars for this as it was just to test the concept. I’d go bigger for a full batch.
So tonight, after the first few flakes decide to fall, I strained my vodkas and whipped up some homemade hot chocolate (loosely based on the Hershey powder recipe). The raw marshmallow jar yielded far less vodka because it was harder to fill and some strained out in a thick and unappetizing goo. The resulting vodka is milky white and sweet, but with a definite taste of raw marshmallow. The toasted marshmallow jar yielded almost twice as much vodka because I was better able to fill it, the stickiness kept things from floating. What was in there dissolved far better and ended up as an almost clear brown. The toasted flavor is pronounced without edging to just burnt sugar – there’s still a distinctly marshmallow flavor.
You can’t see the vodka, but I promise it’s in there!
I tried each one in hot chocolate with one tablespoon of the vodka. The plain vodka got lost in the richness of the chocolate but the toasted one added a nice nuttiness and depth of flavor. I’ve never really been one to eat raw marshmallows (unless they are homemade) but I *love* a toasted marshmallow (s’more optional) so I guess it’s no surprise that toasted won this battle. Toasted marshmallow vodka has earned a spot on my winter bar!
*I am going to try one more test batch of raw marshmallow, using either larger mallows that I can cut apart more, or using marshmallow fluff because that’s ALL gooey center!