THE MINT IS BACK! CELEBRATING THE MINT DAY

fresh-moroccan-mint

Yes really..the real mint is back, finally.

I have waited since the last vegetable markets closed down in the early fall. Since then i have had to live with those tiny under-light grown thin plants called mint – But its to me not real mint. Oh no..because real mint has much more fragrance. Not a little shy fragrance – it has a bold fragrance.

When i buy the mint from Morocco they sell it in large bunches at the outdoor markets during the summer it smells up the whole bus on the way home.These leaves needs not much spanking if any at all, and they takes up a major space too,well – that´s mint!

Thick and sturdy plants with lots of leaves that has a good texture and brilliant green color, not these tiny little plants, light faint green with a good spacing between the leaves due to poor light.

Oh finally! So i have been waiting! Ok, the greenhouse mint is better than no mint at all, i`m thankful i have some mint during the winter, but i`m happy the real thing is here again and it’s a pity it can´t be frozen successfully. I would have stocked up like i did with all the cherries i steeped in jars with maraschino liqueur and brandy – they have lasted me the whole winter and spring. What a nice feeling, now i don´t have to even look at the supermarket mints until the fall.

Ok, its not that much mint available yet, its still early – just wait until july..but its real mint! and i`m overjoyed.So the fact that the mint is back needs to be celebrated with a drink – a real minty cocktail, a julep – a fig julep – worthy to carry a decent crown of fresh fragrant mint with dignity.

From now on i will always celebrate the MINT DAY here on my blog, not on a set date but the first day after the winter when i find the real mint is back again.

So come on folks, celebrate the mint day with me and make yourself a fig julep or other minty drink!

FIG JULEP

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8-10 torn mint leaves and sprigs for garnish

2 tsp fig marmalade

3 oz Bourbon

Crushed ice

Garnish mint and figs

Muddle fig marmalade and mint in a 10 oz. tall glass.Add crushed ice. Add Bourbon and stir until frost appears on outside of glass. Garnish with mint sprigs and 2 quartered figs.

 

WINE BASED COCKTAILS

This is a cross post with the Mixoloseum blog. Every month the members of the CSWOG (Cocktails and Spirits Online Writers Group) posts on several interesting topics related to the world of cocktails and spirits. From after this post i`m not going to cross post but i will always write an update here on my blog when i post on the Mixoloseum blog.

Wine in cocktails dates back to somewhere in the in the mid-19th century and were very popular in the 60s and the 80s and then they seemed to have more or less dissappeared – until now that is. Now they are slowly becoming popular again but its not the old style wine cocktails we are talking about, the new winetails are innovative and uses fresh fruits and spices. A wine cocktail both cleanses the palate and is refreshing before dinner.

Wine as cocktail ingredient also lovers the alcohol content and makes cocktails more food friendly and wine cocktails-food pairing is an interesting subject. If reduced to a syrup some of the acid content is toned down and the flavors becomes more concentrated, that way it can be used in small quantities to add a specific flavor component to a cocktail. Interesting area of experimentation!

And don`t forget the grapes! Checking what types of grapes the wine is made of and their taste notes and pairing those flavor notes with similar and complementing flavors in the mixers and spirits creates harmony and balance.

Thus i have tried my best to do that and the wine i have used here is a dry organical wine from Sicily with taste notes of grapefruit, pineapple,honey and white pepper and these i have paired with fresh pineapple, ginger and white rum.

Personally i`m very fond of sparkling wines and in my opinion a little topping of a lively sparkling wine makes for a happy wine cocktail, especially now in the spring and summertime.Red wine is naturally better suited for fall and winter and white and rosé for the spring and summer.

Here is a light and refreshing summer drink with a sturdy ginger flavor.

CASABLANCA

 casablanca-new

1 oz white rum (i used Elements Eight)

1 oz fruity white wine (i used Kalis grillo)

2 thin ginger slices

3-4 pineapple chunks

0.5 oz ginger syrup

0.5 oz fresh lime juice

Top with a fruity sparkling white wine

Garnish pineapple stick and something green ( i used a fig leaf)

Crushed ice

Muddle ginger, pineapple and ginger syrup in shaker.Add fresh lime juice and rum, shake. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice and top with sparkling white wine. Garnish with pineapple stick and the leaf.

This drink is perfect on a warm sunny day before or after a hot meal.

The next drink is a simple take on the Caipirinha just adding the same white wine with citrus and pineapple notes as i used in Casablanca plus a topping of some sparkling rosé.

WINE CAIPIRINHA

wine-caipirinha

 ½ lime cut in quarters

1 tsp fine raw sugar

1 oz cachaca (i used Leblon)

1 oz white wine with citrus fruit notes

1 oz jamaica (or sub 0.5 oz hibiscus grenadine)

Top with sparkling rosè wine

Muddle lime and sugar, add cachaca, wine and 0.5 oz jamaica and shake over ice and pour into a rocks glass with crushed ice. Top with sparkiling rosè wine and remaining jamaica.

Garnish with lime wheels.

To make the lime wheels: Stick a chopstick through a lime and start cutting the lime all the way down to the stick in a spiral manner all around.The difficulty with this garnish is to cut even slices that aren´t too thick..you need a thin sharp knife to begin with (which i don`t have for the moment)

JAMAICA

5 dl water to 2 handful of dried hibiscus flowers
9 cl agave syrup
Boil for 5 minutes
Cool for 2 hrs

Strain and bottle and keep in the fridge, it will be fresh for about a week.

My conclusion is that wine cocktails are fun to make and tasty to drink. Cocktails with wine may also attract people who don`t drink wine into appreciating it and vice versa, get winedrinkers into cocktails – a win for both the wine and spirits industries and the drinkers.

I surely will come back in the fall with some winetails based on red wine and fall fruits. I hope though it will will take looong before the fall sets in…i love the summer!

TDN RUM DRINKS

Rum is my favorite spirit and i wish not just my drinks would have attended this TDN but me too. Amazingly enough i have now managed to miss out on 2 rum TDNs and 2 rum chats!

I have liked rum for many years and oddly enough one of my earlier rums was the 15 year old El Dorado which i the first time i tried it got in a mini bottle. And as that bottle quickly was finished a big bottle soon followed, and this rum also was a rum i used along with Cruzan and their flavored rums during my early experimentations with tropical style drinks before i even knew what a tiki drink was.

After that i discovered the Ministry of Rum and that´s where i started to really seriously learn something about rum along with much tasting and mixing and a lot of what i know today i have learnt in that forum.

My three TDN rum drinks were these, i`m not sure if any one of them did make  it into the TDN except for the Vanilla treat. Anyway the other drinks here are a twist of the Mai Tai and a Planter´s Punch style drink. I hope some of the drinks will inspire somebody to try it out or maybe make a twist of it.

TIARE´S VANILLA TREAT

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0.5 oz flavorful white rum ( i used Elements 8 )

0.5 oz tequila blanco (i used Porfidio)
2 oz fresh grapefruit juice (white)
0.5 oz fresh lime
0.5 oz vanilla syrup
¼ creme de cacao blanc
Dash bitters (i used Bob`s vanilla)
Float Jwray

Blend at high speed 5 sek with crushed ice.

Pour in chilled cocktail glass and garnish with vanilla bean.

ITI ITI

 iti-iti-21

 1 oz good white rum (E8,Oronoco or El d 3yr)

1 oz gin (Citadelle)

0.5 oz simple syrup

¼ oz cointreau

0.5 oz fresh lime juice

crushed ice

Shake over ice with spent lime shell, strain into rocks glass with crushed ice.Garnish with the spent limeshell and a crown of fresh mint.

ARUBA GARDEN

aruba-garden

1 oz Appleton Extra

1 oz aged rhum agricole

2 oz fresh orange juice

1 oz fresh grapefruit juice

0.5 oz fresh lime juice

1 oz hibiscus grenadine

¼ oz simple syrup

Jwray overproof to float

Shake everything except JWray and strain into a tall glass with crushed ice, float Jwray and garnish with a tropical flower.

MxMo XXXIX – AMARO

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Oh how i love this topic! thank you Chuck for hosting this MxMo at the Gumbo Pages which i consider being a fantastic blog.

amaro-ramazotti

One amaro two amari..

These bitter herbal liqueurs are very dear to me because for some weird reason its some of the first alcohol drinks that i tried and that was in Italy, and therefore i always feel the memories of that wonderful country when i drink a nice amaro. I just need to look at a bottle  to get that special feeling. Oddly enough Cynar is one of the amaris which i tried later than sooner.

Now its not just the italians that makes bitter liqueurs but really the italians have made it into an art to create diverse liqueurs from all sorts of unlikely ingredients, just think about Cynar! (artichoke) or Amaro Nonino which is made from grappa infused with herbs, plus grain alcohol, and ingredients that include caramelized sugar, bitter orange, cinchona, galenga, gentian, liquorice, quassia wood, rhubarb, saffron, sweet orange and tamarind.

One of the most famous amaris is Amaro Averna from Sicily which among other things contains chinotto, the bitter orange which i really like. I once read somewhere that the italians have invented more than 300 different kinds of after-dinner digestive drinks for relieving the heaviness that often follows their meals.

Amaro means bitter in italian and its a bitter herbal liqueur, a digestif usually drunk after dinner, having a tonic effect, cleansing the palate between meals. Amari are most often drunk neat with a citrus wedge, ice or with a topping of tonic water, here simplicity is the best, but they are also wonderful mixers for other cocktails.

For this post i decided to use Ramazotti menta which i don´t use that very often and now i got a wonderful opportunity to make more use of it. Ramazotti menta is also a bit challenging i think as the mint flavor really can be a bit overpowering, i think mint has a way to do that unless its fresh.

The original Amaro Ramazotti is a reddish-brown digestive that sits somewhere in the mid-range of bitterness with a bit of an orangey flavor. Its made with 33 ingredients and among them are cinchona tree bark, cinnamon, gentian, oregano, bitter orange from Curaçao sweet oranges from Sicily.

Ramazotti was first made in Milano in 1815 by Ausano Ramazotti who created it in his shop as a tonic liqueur made from herbs and spices including gentian root, rhubarb, cinnamon and the peel from Sicilian oranges. Ramazzotti does not contain artificial color or flavour materials.

Now with this menta version i made a very simple digestive, amaro menta with some ice and fresh orange juice topped off with a small splash of fernet, another famous amaro and one of my favorites along with campari..

MENTA AMARO

amaro-bitter-menta1

1 oz Ramazotti menta
2 oz fresh orange juice
Small splash fernet branca
Soda to top
Ice cubes
Garnish orange wedge and mint

Half fill a rocks glass with ice cubes, add Ramazotti menta and orange juice, stir. Add a small splash fernet branca and top with soda. Fill up with more ice and garnish with a orange wedge and mint sprig.

The topping off with a small splash of Fernet followed by soda will layer the bitter flavors a bit.

I was very tempted to even top off with a few dashes of bitters but i resisted, that would have been too much different bitter flavors outdoing each other. Even the combination of Ramazotti menta and Fernet is maybe a bit unusual but actually i find it tasty. The color isn`t the most appetizing, a cloudy murky sort of brown but dont let that fool you, this tastes much better than it looks.

Overall this cocktail was tasty enough to make me want to drink it again. The fun thing is that rather than feeling like a digestive it sparked my appetite for wanting more of both the dinner and another drink.

 Finally one last thing, i sometimes enjoy a shot of Swack which is a lighter version of the original Unicum (or i enjoy a shot of Fernet).

 amaro-unicum

And with this i want to finish by saying that i really looking forward to read the roundup, so don`t forget to check out the Gumbo pages in a few days.

amaro-ramazotti-menta

CREATIVE USE OF BANANAS IN COCKTAILS

First i want to say one thing – i`m not very fond of bananas in cocktails..and that`s the reason why i jumped on the task of writing this post, i simply see it as a challenge to try to create something interesting with bananas..

The first thing – it can`t be too sweet and second – it can´t be too bananaish.

Third – it can´t be too slushy and thick.

Fourth – find or invent a cocktail where the banana-whatever thing will fit in well and actually make the drink tasty.A commercial banana liqueur or spirit was out of the question – i wanted fresh stuff.

So what to do? well i rubbed my brain and then figured that if i make a banana peel syrup (and maybe just a little of the fruit) it may add just a hint of banana flavour without getting overly much banana-sweet. For the banana peel syrup i wanted greenish somewhat unripe bananas,they are less sweet and hopefully would lend a more interesting “green” flavour to the syrup.

Lesson number one (i noted to self) : get the right type of fruit. And when it comes to bananas – bananas are not just bananas.The varieties have very different sizes and textures.

Now the next challenge was to hit the stores when they happened to have some green unripe bananas.There´s an Indian-african-caibbean store here which now and then carries apple bananas and they are often in the unripe state in that shop.

Apple bananas (musa manzano) are much tastier than the regular bananas,they have a sort of apple flavour with a hint of strawberry and at the same time they actually have a bit of tang as the fruits are sweet yet have a slight tartness.They are smaller, rounder, firmer and less sweet than other bananas.These seemed to be exactly the type of banana i needed for this.

GREEN APPLE-BANANA DAIQUIRI

apple-banana-daiquiri

 * 1 1/2 oz light rum

* 3/4 oz lime juice

* 1 barspoon apple banana peel syrup

* ¼ oz honey water – honey and water mixed 1:1

Pour the rum, lime juice, honeymix and syrup into a shaker with ice cubes and shake, strain in to a glass and add a large chunk of ice and garnish with the other lime half

APPLE BANANA PEEL SYRUP

2:1 Sugar and water. ¾ part light muscovado sugar and ¼ part molasses. Peel from 1 apple banana and a few slices of the fruit.

To this syrup i used light muscovado sugar and a pinch of molasses plus the peel of one apple banana plus a few slices of the fruit as its not so sweet. Then i boiled it for 2 mins and then simmered very lightly for another 20 mins before cooling, straining and bottling. I got a very subtle banana flavor and so i think i could have used more of both peel and fruit. But it was a nice syrup, very rich in flavor.

Now we´ve had a cocktail that uses banana quite subtly, so what about making something that really is straight forward BANANA? despite my doubts about too much banana i decided to give it a go..and so here is something that is both a cocktail and a dessert, for your sweet tooth:

THE ULTIMATE BANANA COCKTAIL

the-ultimate-banana-cocktail

 2 oz demerara rum

1 tsp molasses

¼ oz fresh lime juice + a little extra for the bananas

¼ fresh lemon juice

2 oz fresh orange juice

Dash orange bitters

1 tsp Dark chocolate,chopped

1 tsp pecan nuts, caramelized and chopped.

2 small bananas – sliced lengthwise, halved and cut in quarters

Muddle lime, lemon and molasses in shaker. Add rum,juices and bitters. Shake and strain into a glass. Place the banana sticks in the glass and drizzle fresh lime juice over the bananas.Top with grated dark chocolate and caramelized pecan nuts.

And there you got it – the Ultimate Banana Cocktail.

CARAMELIZING THE PECAN NUTS

1 oz light sugar

A few drops lemon juice

A few pecan nuts

Melt the sugar very slowly in a mini pan with the lemon juice and when you have a brown caramel, and place the pan in a waterbath to cool. Add the pecan nuts, then take them out and leave to dry on a lightly buttered baking sheet.

Enjoy!

BEEFEATER 24

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Beefeater 24 is being distilled to a new recipe using specially selected botanicals including a blend of Japanese Sencha and Chinese green teas.Beefeater’s original creator James Burrough constantly tried different combinations of ingredients and used seville oranges already in the 1860s.

Sharing Burrough’s passion for experimentation and flavour, Desmond Payne started experimenting too, trying a whole range of botanicals to complement the range of botanicals that Beefeater traditionally uses, resulting the discovery of the tea as a natural ingredient.Using these Japanese and Chinese teas which leaves are steamed after the harvest and thus getting fresh green flavors lifting up the aromas and flavors of the gin itself.Since the 17thcentury, both gin and tea are distinctively brittish.Its disitlled by master distiller Desmond Payne who has 40 years of experience in the business.

STEEPED GIN

This gin is distilled in the traditional pot stills and the spirit and 12 natural botanicals are actually left to steep in the still for a full 24 hours – longer than any other premium gin and its this 24h steeping that has given this gin its name.This process unique to Beefeater and each botanical comes through at different times in the process resulting in a complex, smooth, scented and full flavoured gin.I find this steeping process very interesting! I wonder how the gin tastes at different stages of the steeping?

Partly inspired by the 20th century the bottle is very beautifully designed – marrying the era of the 20s with our present time.

Apart from the teas, Beefeater 24 is made with 12 different herbs from all over the world,including peels from seville oranges and grapefruit.Its 45% ABV.According to Desmond Payne the crucial thing in gin making is the balance – how the flavors work together. And in this gin they sure works fine.The new gin is refreshing and light like a feather, and a bit sweeter than the regular Beefeater gin.Because of its light character its best on its own or in lighter style of cocktails, fresh and fruity.If mixed with heavier mixers it will be lost.

These are the 12 botanicals used:

Japanese Sencha tea,Chinese green tea,seville orange peel,grapefruit peel,lemon peel,juniper,coriander seed,liquorice,angelica root,angelica seed,almond,orris root.

I`ve been curious to try it ever since i read one of my cocktail blogger friends review after the launch party in the UK,and now finally it reached my homebar.To me this gin just shouts for citrus mixers! so citrus is what i choosed to mix with.Perfect for the pre-summer season, needing refreshing light mixers allowing the flavors of this gin to come through.

My two drinks for the Beefeater TDN were these:

B24 FRESH

b24-fresh

2 oz Beefeater 24

1 oz Aperol

0.5 oz fresh lime juice

¼ oz simple syrup

¼ oz fresh grapefruit juice

Top with Tonic

 Shake and strain into a fancy glass with crushed ice.Garnish lime spiral.

SEVILLA SUNSET

 sevilla-sunset

 2 oz Beefeter 24

0.5 oz fresh lime

1 tsp seville orange marmalade or 0.5 oz seville orange syrup

Top with bitter lemon soda

Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass Garnish orange spiral and if you can find it – a tea leaf.

Apart from the obvious clean gin base Beefeater 24 has nuances of flavors that are quite delicate and i feel its best to keep it simple and go fruity.Of the two cocktails i liked the first one (24 Fresh) most.

I find Beefeater 24 really nice to mix light refreshing cocktails with and i would recommend anyone to try it out.

MARGARITA

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Green Cactus Margarita – Recipe here.

There is but one word for this lively libation – freshness!

A LITTLE MARGARITA BASICS

The roots of this cocktail can probably be traced all the way to Jalisco, Mezico – right to the blue agave plant. It appeared in the States around late 1940`s. It was published as the drink of the month in the dec 1953 issue of Esquire magazine:

“Drink of the Month”

“She`s from Mexico, Senores, and her name is the Margarita Cocktail – and she is lovely to look at, exciting and provocative”

“1 ounce tequila, dash of triple sec, juice of 1/2 lime or lemon”

“Pour over crushed ice, stir. Rub the rim of a stem glass with rind of lemon or lime., spin in salt, pour and sip”

There are even earlier publications which describes cocktails using these ingredients in various proportions also with other names and there are many stories in circulation as to who invented the Margarita.

A Margarita is really a Sidecar with tequila and lime instead of brandy and lemon. The basics of making a classic Margarita is simplicity and a true classis Margarita is just 3 ingredients – tequila, lime and orange liqueur. I tend to prefer the ratio 2:1:1 (tequila, cointreau, lime)

If you like it sweeter despite the sweetness from the orange liqueur, add some simple or agave syrup. The orange liqueur that i would recommend is Cointreau.The tequila type to use is the silver/blanco or reposado but not anejo. Finally i strongly recommend that you use fresh lime juice and simple syrup instead of a commercial sweet&sour mix.

The Margarita is one of those cocktails that has been severely bastardised (along with the Daiquiri and the Mai Tai) – often slushy, and made from commercial mixers. Luckily though is that the real Margarita isn`t all gone or forgotten. I`m not against variations as long as they doesn`t become vulgar. A nice variation is to use the more tart key lime juice and with them Grand Marnier which is sweeter than Cointreau.

When it comes to rimming the glass with kosher salt, its a good idea to rim half the glass if you don`t know if the person who is going to imbibe it likes a salted rim.

I`m going to make a Margarita variation that adds a splash of jamaica – hibiscus tisane which is made with dried hibiscus flowers that are boiled and steeped in water, then sweetened with sugar or syrup. It has a tart/sweet very refreshing and tropical flavor that i think goes very well with tequila and fruits like lime. And finished off with a float of smoke – mezcal.

SMOKY MARGARITA JAMAICA

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1.5  oz tequila
1  oz cointreau
1  oz fresh lime juice
¼ oz agave syrup
jamaica to top
0.5 oz mezcal
salt

Shake ingredients (except jamaica and mezcal) over ice, strain and pour into ice filled margarita glass rimmed with salt.
Top with a splash jamaica and float 0.5 oz good mezcal

Garnish a lime wedge.

HIBISCUS DRINK – JAMAICA

5 dl water to 2 handful of dried hibiscus flowers
9 cl agave syrup
Boil for 5 minutes
Cool for 2 hrs