Sunday, October 23, 2011

MxMo LXII: Morning Drinks

Pumpkin Milk Punch
A Tipsy Vixen creation

1 oz Advocaat
1/2 oz Raynal VSOP Cognac
3/4 tbsp Libby's canned pumpkin
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 oz whole milk
dash of vanilla extract (optional)
cinnamon or pie spice

Build ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until cold, and strain into an old-fashioned glass over ice. Sprinkle ground cinnamon or pie spice over the top of the drink to garnish, and enjoy!

I had my first Brandy Milk Punch while having brunch with my good friend, Millicent, at Lula Cafe.  It's quaint but hip little restaurant in the heart of Logan Square, and while some have accused the joint of being more hip-ster than hip, I have come to be more forgiving of the occasionally pretentious staff.  When I ordered the drink, after having read about somewhere (unfortunately, where exactly escapes me,) the bartender- a young lass who no doubt rolls up her left pant leg when she rides her fixie to work everyday- looked at me a little cross-eyed, and seemed almost annoyed given that she clearly thought this to be some fly-by-night trixie cocktail.  I seem to recall that she even said something like, "oh, that must be something kind of new because I've never heard of it," as she set down her copy of Franny & Zoe, to serve my friend and I.  Millicent found this exchange more amusing once I politely offered to our bonny bartender that it was in fact a much older drink, having been created by the original hipsters, the barmen of the Golden Age of Cocktails.  Suddenly more intrigued, she set about finding a recipe on her iPhone, and whipped up the drink post haste.

My first sip was sublime, and it's safe to say that I've been firmly ensconced in the bandcamp since.  Our bartender made extra, eager to try it herself, and enjoyed it so much she spent the rest of the morning talking whiskey and shooting the breeze with us.  It's the morning that finally sold me part-and-parcel on Lula Cafe as a neighborhood hang out, and opened up the field of breakfast drinks for me beyond the safe and expected (read: boring,) standbys like Screwdrivers, Mimosas, and Bloody Marys.  Don't get me wrong, I love a Bloody Mary with all my heart, but sometimes, it just doesn't make a great dance partner for my french toast and veggie sausage...

It should also be noted that I'm a big fan of pumpkin pie, eggnog, and all things autumnal.  As such, I decided that for this month's Mixology Monday theme, Morning Drinks, I wanted to not only create a drink that was breakfast friendly and decidedly lacking in orange juice as a component, but also a perfect snapshot of my favorite time of year.  I think this version nicely captures all of the  flavors of pumpkin pie, and also provided a nice excuse to use the Advocaat I made from scratch this week.  I opted for milk here, instead of the traditional half & half, since the addition of the mashed pumpkin and the Advocaat make for substational thickeners, but try it anyway if you feel so moved, or just prefer a more viscous beverage.

Also, take a minute to stop by Kevin's blog, Cocktail Enthusiast- he hosted this month's event, and has some really great reviews and cocktails to share...

Cheers, and happy fall!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Devil's Advocaat

Sometimes remakes are just not worth the effort, as seen with the 1967 film, Bedazzled, featuring the fabulous Raquel Welch, and later in 2000 with Elizabeth Hurley (sorry, Liz: no contest.)

However, I decided to take my chances this week and try my hand at recreating Advocaat- the rich, creamy liqueur of Dutch origin- since I'd be needing it for my Mixology Monday experiments... So, what exactly is Advocaat? It's traditionally a brandy-based liqueur (those Dutch really do love their brandewijn,) made with egg yolks and sugar. It's very similar in taste to eggnog, it's British cousin. It's also not altogether far off in flavor from Irish cream liqueur, which relies on- surprise!- Irish whiskey for it's base spirit, and cream instead of eggs.

Advocaat seemed like a seasonally appropriate item to acquire and use for this challenge, and since Caroline  and I are both big nog fans, I figured it wouldn't go to waste around our house. There are a few brands of commercially produced Advocaat on the market, including one from the well known Bols company, but I decided that since it can be made at home (and the store-bought products are likely to be full of extra sugar and artificial flavorings- poo!) that I would take a stab at a lovely recipe shared last winter by David over at 12 Bottle Bar. If you'd like the recipe, please go explore his blog to get it- he and his crew are the business!

1) First thing's first, I cleared space and assembled my ingredients and equipment.

I separated the egg yolks right into a big glass bowl (this would also later serve as part of my double boiler setup,) and made sure I had my sugar, salt, brandy, vanilla extract, measuring spoons and cups, and my trusting handmixer ready to go. I used light brown sugar, mostly because I realized after I got home from the store that I didn't have any granulated white sugar, but also because it's closer to what those Dutch folks be usin' back in the day...

2) I added the salt and sugar to the yolks, and beat them senseless with my mixer.

This got pretty thick and splattery pretty quickly- next time I think I'd spend a little more time smooshing out the lumps in the sugar before adding it, so that it incorporates into the yolks more rapidly and therefore stays in the bowl...

3) Then in went the brandy, and the drooling started...

This thinned out very quickly, so I learned fast to keep the mixer on a low setting; waste not, want not!

4) Then I moved the whole thing over to the stove:

I don't have an actual double boiler, so I just used my 4-quart stockpot. I brought the water to almost boiling, and then turned the heat down to low and put the bowl into the pot. Caroline and I took turns whisking, since you pretty much need to do it nonstop to keep it from gumming up on the sides of the bowl. Once the Advocaat starts to thicken again, it happens pretty fast, so I was glad for David's suggestion to use the double boiler method; I just kept diddling around with the heat to keep the water almost hot. You don't want to cook the yolks, or cook off all of the brandy... By the time it was thick enough to coat my kitchen spoon, I had the heat almost all the way down to the lowest setting. I took the bowl off the heat, and added the vanilla. Then it was pretty much a waiting game until it was cool enough to bottle...

I happened to have a pretty nifty bottle with a wooden cap, that once contained some rather inexpensive hazelnut liqueur puchased for some fancy chocolate hazelnut cupcakes Caroline made a couple of years ago. I'm kind of a packrat like that... Anyway, I think it looks pretty spiffy in there. Use any well-sealing, sanitized container you like. Be advised though, that I ended up with quite a bit more Advocaat than the 700ml quess-timate David provided; my bottle is a 750ml liquor bottle, and had nearly a whole measured cup beyond that, so pour cautiously!

So, here it is cooled, bottled, sealed and ready for le Frigidaire! Tomorrow, I present the taste test and mix up a few new drinks. So excited!

{Edited 10/22}

I was somewhat surprised this morning to find that my Advocaat had "shrunk" significantly- the bottle only looked about half full. I suppose beating the eggs put a lot more air into the whole concoction than I realize, so I must amend my assessment of the quantity produced and say that David's estimation of about 700ml-ish is pretty close; I did use some of the leftovers last night, after filling the bottle, to make the first draft of my MixMo cocktail ;)

Monday, July 11, 2011

MxMo LIX: Beer Cocktails!

Holy brewsky, Batman! My first official month participating in Mixology Monday! If you're not familiar with the event, you can read more about it here. One Monday each month cocktail geeks everywhere get together on the interwebs for a virtual cocktail party. A different blogger hosts each event and offers up a challenge: this month, Fred from Cocktail Virgin Slut invited participants to make drinks with Homer's favorite libation, beeeeeeeeer. *drools*

I'm super excited to have finally gotten in on the action.... maybe a bit over-enthusiastic, as I have somehow ended up with three- count them- three hopped up cocktails. So without further ado, let's meet the finalists!

Skip & Go Naked

2 oz Broker's London Dry Gin
2 oz Goose Island Summertime, or other kölsch beer
1-1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz grenadine
2 dashes Fee Brothers Grapefruit bitters

Build ingredients in a blender, top with one metric ton of ice, and blend within an inch of it's life. Serve in a wide mouthed glass, and garnish with a cherry and a 'lil umbrella. Who doesn't love a drink with a tiny umbrella?

*This blog, nor its managing parties, are responsible for any mischief, shenanigans, or debauchery that may result from the consumption of this beverage.

As with many old-school cocktails, there seems to be a few different versions of this drink and how it came about. One version has Playboy magazine introducing the cocktail it's readers in 1970. Another less racy account credits a certain Butch McGuire of Chicago with the creation of the scandalously named sipper (as well as the Harvey Wallbanger,) in his eponymous Goldcoast bar. Some versions of the drink are made with vodka; my guess is that these came later after gin fell out of fashion, so to speak. Contemporary versions are made with pink lemonade concentrate, or worse, with fruit punch- swill... I did find one intriguing version that upped the ante by replacing the grenadine with pomegranate liqueur. I think I'm going to have to try that one...

For my recipe, I settled on the traditional base spirit, gin, and opted for freshly sqeezed lemon juice and pomegranate. I happened to have some fabulously perfect, sweet/sour lemons that day, but feel free to add a little simple syrup or a little extra grenadine if you need a touch more sugar- I happen to enjoy this drink more on the tart side. I also added the grapefruit bitters for a touch more complexity. I chose to blend the crap out of it to dilute it a bit more, making it ideal for a party beverage or for sitting around drinking all day on a sweltering summer afternoon. If you aren't worried about overindulging very quickly, it's great on the rocks too...

A Tipsy Vixen creation

2 oz El Jimador Reposado tequila
2 oz Goose Island Summertime or other kölsch beer
3 oz V-8
1/2 oz lime juice
2 dashes Annie's worcestershire
1 dash Cholula hot sauce

In a mixing glass, add all ingredients and stir well with ice. Strain into a chilled glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish with cilantro and jalepeño-stuffed olives, duh!

I love Bloody Marys. A lot. So naturally, when I had Michelada (a popular drink among my latin friends featuring beer, salt, and hot sauce) for the first time at a house party a few years back, I thought it was the business! Then more recently, I learned of the tequila tag-along, Sangrita, which quite literally translates into 'little blood'. It's a non-alcoholic chaser, designed to cleanse the palate between shots of tequila (much the same way that rye bread is sometime eaten with vodka) and usually includes tomato juice, citrus juice, Worcestershire, and hot sauce.

At some point, my brain decided all of theses things needed to live in the same glass. They seem to be getting on well- perhaps a little too well...

My roommate overwhelmingly preferred the kölsch-style version, but I thought it worked nicely with a citrusy, funky lager like Stella Artois for a crisper taste.


3/4 oz Gran Torres Orange (or Gran Marnier)
5 oz Goose Island Summertime or other kölsch beer

In a champagne flute, pour orange liqueur and top with kölsch beer. Express one orange twist over the top of the drink, and drop into glass for garnish.

I can't really claim credit for this one on my own: my good friend Nicole Farrow from Haymarket Brewery made the suggestion, and I ran like hell with it. Thanks, Nicole! ♥

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Bitter Half....

I am a woman possessed.

There's a certain magic to the addition of bitters to a cocktail that I hadn't fully appreciated until rather recently: It had always seemed kind of arbitrary to me, the way they are added- just a dash or two, and no more- to so many different drinks. I realize now that's a bit like saying vanilla is not really necessary for chocolate chip cookies. If you forget to add it, people will notice. But probably more accurately, it's like the difference between Italian sausage and a Bratwurst: it's all in the seasoning, and it's a whole different animal! So in the same way that one discovers the nuances of cooking ethnic dishes with different characteristic spices, so have I opened my eyes and awakened my palate to all of the subtleties bitters can bring to the bar. Now that I've fallen under the voodoo spell of bitters I can't get enough of the stuff, and I'm throwing them into just about every drink I make at home now, just to see what all the different varieties and combinations thereof can do....

It started with one, just one purchase of a bottle of Angostura bitters so I could start making my beloved Manhattans at home. "I won't need more than that for quite some time- bitters are bitters, right?," I thought to myself. And then one of my favorite bartenders, Julian, had to go and make me a Manhattan with orange bitters, insisting up, down, and six ways from Sunday that changing those two little dashes could make all the difference in the world. And he wasn't kidding! So off I skedaddled to my nearest Binny's for a bottle of the much revered Regan's Orange bitters. Then, the VeeV contest happened in May, and I went bat-shizzle hibiscus crazy and had to have that darned Burlesque bitters from Bittermens, too. I had it shipped all the way from Boston because I could not rest until I'd tried it with the VeeV. And since I was at it anyway, then I had to try the more anise-forward Peychaud's if I was ever going to make a proper Sazarac.... Sometimes, you don't really want to shove the genie back into the dasher bottle ;)

Today, it was the siren call of Fee's Grapefruit that lured me off the safety of the upper decks. This week's experiments involve cocktails made with beer, and this made me think of those hundreds of little wedges of citrus I've been served over the years with my lovingly pulled pints of ales, lagers, and Belgian-style wheats, which also in turn made me think of Margaritas and what a love child born from the marriage of both would taste like. And then there was that gosh darned Grapefruit Bitters, staring at me from the shelf at my neighborhood liquor store.... I tried to look away, but I was powerless against it's promises of crisp, thirst-quenching euphoria on such a smarmy, hell-mouth kind of day. I guess I'm still a sucker for a sweet talker....

So tonight I mingle and flirt with lager, tequila, lime, and my new Fee's; who knows where the hell this party will take us (just don't tell Grapefruit that I've already made a date with his cousin, Fee's Peach!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Solstice

The Solstice - A Tipsy Vixen creation

2 oz VeeV Acai Spirit
1.5 oz Jacques Cardin VSOP Cognac
1/2 oz homemade ginger syrup (instructions below)
1/2 oz lemon juice
2 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters

Dayaaaaaaaaamn! Sometimes a girl just can't catch a break... I was supposed to spend the summer solstice whooping it up all Celtic-like with my extended Chicago family, but as luck would have it, instead this girl was bored out of her mind at work. Booooooo!

Not to be subdued so easily, I went home and tied one on anyway with my other VeeV concoction. It isn't that I didn't like this drink; quite the contrary! The gals and I both agreed that the Ringwald was just more appropriate for the contest at hand. That said, I was really proud of this one too, and knew I could still roll it out to celebrate the upcoming holiday for which it's named.

Maybe it was a little nerdy of me, but when I saw the pretty yellow color, and tasted the warm citrusy blend of the cognac, ginger and fruits, the 15 year-old fluffy-bunny pagan still hiding somewhere in my psyche got all excited and glommed onto the whole solar thing. The rest of me decided that it was also a very summery drink in it's own right, and decided to indulge her.

For this one, I tried my hand at making ginger syrup: the experiment was successful for the drink at hand, but unfortunately the syrup starts to lose it's spiciness rather quickly and therefore it's potency in cocktails. I'll have to continue exparmentin'! as grandad would say, to solve that problem...

Anyway, you can make up a few ounces of ginger syrup rather easily like this:

Mash up about 6 ounces of fresh ginger root.
Heat about 1/2 a cup of water in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and completely dissolve 1 cup of sugar. Add the ginger and let it simmer very gently for about 20 minutes. Strain, cool, and bottle in a sterilized container.

Feel free to mix up a Solstice, and share your comments or suggestions below!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Ringwald

A Tipsy Vixen creation

1 oz VeeV Açai Spirit
1 oz Broker's London Dry Gin
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Flora syrup
12 drops of Bittermens Burlesque bitters

Cast your vote once daily here until June 3rd!

I was only 8 years old when Pretty In Pink was released, but I was already well familiar with Molly Ringwald; for whatever reason, my mother couldn't stand her and wasn't shy about discussing it, so naturally I thought she was the bee knees! To me, she seemed so grown-up, the epitome of cool and sophistication. There was something quirky and approachable about her that boys liked, and she was so very much the Average-Girl's girl; she wasn't the conventional beauty, but you wanted to be her, or at the very least be her friend. And then there's that oh-so-famous dress...

I started out this VeeV cocktail contest very much inspired by a Mojito variation served last summer at 676 Restaurant and Bar, called the Eco-Mojito. It was made with muddled mint and limes as you might expect, but with VeeV spirit instead of rum, topped with club soda and accompanied by cucumber. It was delicious. But the more I sniffed and sampled the VeeV, the more I was attracted to fruitier and more floral avenues. I played around a bit with some cognac and citrus, and came up with a rather tasty combination (I'll get into that one later this week,) but the favorite among some friends of mine was this little pink concoction.

If you remember from last week, I very quickly became obsessed with the floral angle, perhaps spurred on by the Mixology Monday challenge earlier this month: when I discovered the Bittermens Burlesque bitters contained both hibiscus and Açai, I was hell-bent. I ordered a bottle immediately from The Boston Shaker, and set to work making homemade syrups to experiment with. My favorite to make was the Flora syrup, which is essentially hibiscus with a little cinnamon and licorice for zing. I used Tea Forte Flora tea to make it, simply steeping 2 tea bags in 1 cup of boiling hot water. After removing the tea bags, I added 2 cups of white granulated sugar, and heated until sugar dissolved completely (perhaps it goes without saying, but let the syrup cool completely before you go dumping it into your mixing tin with ice, mmm'kay? Oh, and Captain Obvious also says to store it in the fridge.)

Ask just about any cocktail enthusiast, or bartender worth their salt, and they'll tell you that fresh squeezed citrus juice is essential in a drink. They aren't wrong! I suppose bottled juice is fine for everyday consumption (I keep it on hand at home for those moments when I don't have fresh lemons or limes, which is a lot, not going to lie) but it really, honestly, TRULY does make a difference to squeeze fresh lemon and lime juices for your cocktails. It's really quick if you get yourself one of those little hand-press types (kind of like a garlic press I guess,) and set aside a couple of small bottles to strain into and store them in.

I like to recycle and re-purpose the glass bottles from condiments like vinegars, chili oil, and grenadine because they're just the right size to store a few at a time in the fridge without hogging a ton of space, and they hold just enough juice/syrup to use for a few cocktails at a time. Less waste all around! But seriously, squeeze fresh for this; you won't regret it....

I enlisted my good friends Jennifer and Caroline to taste test with me (check out their respective blogs Thin Invisible Steel and Numinous Wilds) and they thought that the Ringwald tastes a bit like pink lemonade with lavender. I'd have to agree, and am really happy with the way that both the fruity and the floral flavors I was enjoying in the VeeV really come forward in the drink, but aren't too sweet or cloying. In fact; Caroline, who hates gin with a vehement passion, enjoyed the drink and was able to appreciate the floral and botanical notes of the gin in a way she hadn't been able to before.

Ultimately, I'm really pleased with the results of this adventure. I think that The Ringwald, while being a little bit of an oddball also manages to be approachable and delightfully sweet and snappy. A bit like it's namesake :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Competitive Spirit

I've been out of commission for a few days with a tummy bug that has not only kept me home from work, but has also kept me from all of my cocktailian experiments (boo.) Monday sort of passed in a blur, as I spent all of my time either lying miserably in bed or, well.... I'll leave that to the imagination. Or, preferable to all, not.

Imagine my dismay then, upon stirring late finally from my seclusion, to discover that I had completely and utterly missed the boat on this week's Mixology Monday. If you are unfamiliar, this is a monthly event conceived by Paul Clarke over at The Cocktail Chronicles and you can find more information about the specifics here.

This month, Dave of The Barman Cometh hosted, challenging participants to "feature a cocktail that highlights a floral flavor profile or includes a floral derived ingredient, whether home-made or off the shelf." I was really bummed when I read the challenge, because I am all about using flowers in food and drink (one of these days, I am going to tackle that marigold custard....) Imagine my delight this morning, when I opened today's eLetter from Ardent Spirits with the details for the VeeV Garden-to-Glass Cocktail Challenge.

The challenge:

VeeV is inviting any Tom, Dick, Harry, & Jane, with the inclination, to create a cocktail using VeeV, fresh seasonal herbs, and fruits. The deadline for submissions is midnight on Monday May, 23.

Whaaaaaat!?! I think I all but squealed out loud (okay, I totally did.) Agonized at the thought of waiting for the next Mixology Monday, I was ecstatic to hear of another such challenge with which I could not only get my blog rolling and get my feet wet with, but one that I am *gasp!* familiar with! I work in a pretty nice restaurant and while I am just a humble hostess, I'm a pretty nosy gal and make it my business to know how the stuff we serve is made. It shouldn't come as any surprise that I tend to ask the most questions about the cocktails we serve in the bar... Last summer, on our list of roof-top cocktails (all made with herbs literally grown right on our roof,) there was a twist on the Mojito made with (suprise!) Veev Acai Spirit, house mint, and cucumber. It was wildy popular, and for good reason, I thought.

The Prize?

Three entries with the highest votes win a 3-day trip to Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

Hell yeah! I've been dying to visit NoLa for ages: the Carousel Bar, the Sazarac was born there, and oh, there's that whole French Quarter thing. Like I need motivation...

So, on the mend finally, and inspired both by this week's MxMo challenge and the successful cocktail I'm already so familiar with, I'm excited to start playing around in the liquor cabinet again.

I've got a couple bottles of bitters on order, which should be arriving on Friday. I've got to pickup some Veev- something I've been meaning to have on hand at home, anyway- and some fresh goodies for my trials. Stay tuned over the next few days for a blogging blitz while I try my hand at some new techniques, and try tweaking some old recipes :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pardon my mess...

Breakfast At Tiffany's is my all-time favorite movie for a number of reasons; Holly Golightly was so unbelievably stylish that at 8 years old, I fell in love with classic couture fashion right then and there. New York of the early '60s seemed so fascinating and glamorous, with ladies in their coats and gloves and hats, the jazzy cocktail lounges and piano bars, that I've been longing for a taste of it ever since. The love story was so embraceable: two completely screwed up people find each other and find a chance to heal (and never you mind how the novella ended...) And good golly Miss Holly, did I ever want to know what it would be like to attend a grown-up party like Ms. Golightly's!

Of course since then, I've turned 21 and have been to my fair share of ragers, and I'm sure that at some point or another we've all been the cat, Paul Varjak, the Brazilian, or that crazy lady at the mirror in turn. Hopefully, along the way we've also gained some respect for those notable potables that can take you from Point A (smiling and laughing) to Point B (sobbing in your hi-ball) before you can say "the mean reds" if you don't watch your back...

It wasn't until a few years ago (New Year's Eve at Violet Hour, if memory serves) that I really began to appreciate the finer points of a properly mixed cocktail, or the nuances of different spirits. In fact, I had just turned 30 when I had my first REAL Manhattan, and it's been love ever since. What surprises me though, considering the cost involved in going out to drink, how many of my peers still just order the well drinks; usually low quality spirits, diluted with cheap sugary fountain soda, or so-called specialty cocktails that are usually more of said same minus the pop and diluted with artificial tasting mixers and weak cordials. For maybe a buck or two more, it's possible to have something that doesn't need a ton of crap dumped in it to hide the taste of half-arsed spirits, and you'd be less likely to wake up feeling like you've had your head kicked in by Little Alex and a mob of angry Oompa Loompas.

Fed up with cheap liquor and bad pours, I embarked on a quest to enjoy my libations more. Fortunately, this was also around the time I began frequenting Late Bar, my favorite watering hole. If you live in Chicago, or find yourself visiting, you simply must stop in for a quaff. The music is fantastic, with local DJs spinning everything from Soul and Freakbeat to New Wave and Post Punk to classic 50's and 60's Rock 'n Roll, and there's no reason to fret over whether you can order a real drink here: not one of the friendly bar staff will bat an eyelash if you order a martini and get specific about your gin. Hooray!

While I still may occasionally order the Jameson/ginger ale combo I favor when I'm on the cheap, I've been making the rounds in pursuit of better drinking. After quite a bit of banging around in the kitchen, I'm just about ready to start sharing some posts with you about some great (and sometimes not so great) booze! Bear with me while I finish hanging the drapes, and soon we be having our first cocktail party....

In the meantime, here's a little humor to keep you entertained: