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: