IT GOT TO BE FRESH – WITH INTENSE RICH FLAVORS!
Fresh, organic and locally sourced..
I´m very fond of using fresh ingredients in cocktails and cannot enough praise their superiority. Not only do they impart natural intense rich flavors to the drinks which cannot be compared to commercial mixers, they also add all those little things we need to feel good and stay healthy. When i read around i see a global rising interest in organically grown produce – ingredients giving their best and freshest flavors. Using fresh seasonal ingredients that are just at their peak is both tasty and good for us.
The ingredients of today are so over-refined until the point of loosing almost all its flavours and nutritients and there´s a steady rising resistance to this as people gets more educated – a lot of it thanks to internet. Its no lie that better ingredients makes better cocktails not only when it comes to the spirits and liqueurs, the mixers are just as important. Each cocktail is unique and of course we want them to be fresh from the base spirits and mixers to the garnish that adorns them!
Fresh to me means as unprepared and poison-free as possible as well as seasonal and regional. Now i happen to like plenty of tropical fruits and so these can never really be that fresh here – nothing much to do about that, but seasonality is also key so i try to shop at the farmers market when possible which unfortunately isn´t that very often. It also is more expensive, but fortunately not all ingredients.
Lucky those who live in places where there`s the farmers markets every week, take your chance to get real fresh local produce brimming with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and trace elements that are still undestroyed.
Fruits are very common in cocktails but what about vegetables? there are are host of vegetables well suited for cocktails, some are very commonly used like cucumber, tomato and celery. We also have beets, carrots, radishes, sundried tomatoes, pumpkins, chilies..
When looking for fresh vegetables and fruits, look for those that are firm, colorful and fragrant and avoid the dried and sad ones. Unfortunatley those that are the most shiny and nice looking are often treated with various things to stay unchanged unaturally long. Natural veggies and fruits often do as you know have a bit irregular shapes and sometimes little blemishes but not in a bad way.
I also see a willingness to experiment and play with all the flavors from the subtle to the bold and that`s something i myself really enjoy, often to the point of making others sometimes quite tired of me (e.g tweeting some of my drinks at the TDN for example) but i cannot avoid doing it, its in my blood, sorry chaps! its a continual process of trials and errors in learning how to balance flavors in a glass and its fun!
MIXING WITH FRESH BEET JUICE
Fresh red beet juice is deliscious when mixed with ginger, fresh lime juice, lemongrass, carrot juice and mint etc. Beets contains a lot of natural sugars and when roasted those sugars gets concentrated creating a sweet juice. When cooking fresh beets you cook them in their skins to preserve as much color as possible.
But i prefer the real fresh juice straight from the beet and so i`m going to treat you with a cocktail made from fresh beet juice mixed in a blender with passionfruit juice, fresh mint and lime juice, ginger, 1/2 fig and lemongrass – all sweetened with agavesyrup.
That juice is then strained 3 times to get all solids out and then refridgerated for 15 -20 min (at the same time the cocktail glass is chilled if you want to skip the crushed ice) before being mixed with 1.5 oz Bourbon and 0.5 oz Drambuie. To that i took the oportunity to make some dried beet chips and used one for garnish together with fresh mint and a speared half fig. The beet chips can be used as nice snacks as well, then its tasty to spray them with some olive oil and rub in a little sea salt before roasting them in the oven. But for use as garnish in a drink i omitted the oil and salt.
Beets has edible roots and tops and have the highest sugar content than any vegetable and yet they are low in calories. Fresh beets have twice the folic acid and potatissum than that of canned beets (avoid please..) and the green tops contains beta-carothene, calcium and iron. There is also a golden variety which is sweeter than the red ones.
Beets are also very good for infusions, the most common is probably with vodka.
What to do:
You see that deep red color? that`s what i love about fresh beets apart from their fantastic earthy taste that so naturally pairs with citrus-like flavours.
I first made this with tequila thinking it a natural pairing with the earthy flavours of the beets and the citrusy aromas from the ginger, lemongrass and lime. It tasted good but something wasn`t quite there and then to my surprise it was with bourbon the beet juice really was shining. I want to try this sometimes with dark rum and cachaca just to find out how it tastes. I can also imagine Cherry Heering and Creme de Cassis doing well with this beet juice.
1.5 oz Bourbon (Bulleit)
0.5 oz Drambuie
Top with red beet juice mix – about 3-4 oz.
Garnish fresh mint, speared fig and beet chips.
Shake bourbon, drambuie and beet juice and strain into a cocktail glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with fresh mint, a speared half fig and a beet chips.
Red Beet Juice Mix: In blender – one sliced red beet, ½ fig, 3 small slices fresh lemongrass, 5-6 mint leaves, 2 slices fresh ginger, 0.5 oz agave syrup, 10 oz passionfruit juice (not a tart one) blend at high for 15 sek, strain 3 times, bottle and chill in fridge 20 min before use.
Beet chips: With a mandolin or cheesecutter slice a few chips from the beet before using it for the juice.Twist them a bit and spread on baking sheet in the oven on low heat, (100 C) let dry for about 40 min or until dry but not burnt.Turn them around after half time. Check every 5-10 min or so. They will shrink considerably so try to make them as large as possible, and the thinner the better.
And voila! now you have a tasty and healthy cocktail! that also is very nice sans alcohol sometimes.The ingredients in this drink can be varied a bit i think, for instance maybe some fresh carrot juice would nice as well and a topping of root beer or ginger beer with dark rum.. hm…
BEET AND MEZCAL
I wasn`t able to let away the thought of trying the juice with mezcal, i thought i was done with this post but no, a mezcal drink was in order and had to be made and tested. As i suspected the mezcal paired well with the beet juice. So why didn´t the tequila i tried first do that? Well, not that it wasn´t good but there was a sort of bitter aftertaste that slightly disturbed me. Maybe i should just try another tequila, maybe a reposado rather than a silver?
But Mezcal proved to be a winner.
This is what i made with the mezcal, a very simple drink: 1 oz mezcal and top with beet juice, nothing else, well ice and then stirred. It was very tasty even though the smokiness of the mezcal dominated, it paired very well with the earthy slightly sweet beet flavor, they go well together. I also added a small extra sprinkle of fresh lime after a while and that lifted the drink up to another level of added freshness.
1 oz mezcal
Top with fresh beet juice mix
Stir in the glass with ice.
Add a sprinkle of lime.
Garnish with a few of the fresh young beet leaves, they are edible and tastes crisp and nice. It looks like a salad;-)
So if you haven`t had fresh beet juice in a cocktail yet, please take my advice and at least try it, the worst that can happen to you is that you zink your drink and the best that you may get converted into drinking beet juice for the rest of your life.
Maybe everyone really doesn´t like beets…here is another suggestion for a drink using a sort of fruit-vegetable, a plantain Punch:
Plantains are cousins to the bananas but they are more like a vegetable than a fruit and are also called cooking bananas as they must be cooked or fried before used. So when used in a drink uncooked its needed to use a ripe one. They are green first and very hard, almost impossible to peel, then they turn yellow before the skin finally starts to blacken.
At that state they are used in dessers rather than in cooking. Plantains are very nice when fried and they also makes nice chips in the same way as the beet chips but plantain chips are deep fried rather than dried in the oven.
2 oz white rum
1 oz fresh lime juice
honey syrup to taste
4-5 slices ripe plantain
3 oz passionfruit juice
Buy a yellow plantain, riper and sweeter than the green which cannot be used here and avoid the blackened ones, they are not bad but too sweet for this drink. The flavor should be that of a unsweet vegetably banana. Use a few slices and add to a blender and blend with 2 oz white rum, 1 oz fresh lime juice, simple syrup to taste, crushed ice. Blend until smooth.
If too thick, top with some more passionfruit juice.This drink can taste different depending on how tart your passionfruit juice is, the one we get here is sweet. Garnish with a piece of plantain.
USING BELL PEPPER
This is one of my favorite vegetables, the other one is tomato.The bell pepper or paprika as its called here is really useful in cocktails giving a very nice flavor that i think pairs very well with tequila, bourbon and white rum. I used it in my first entry to the MxMo which was in may 2008 one month before i started blogging. Back then i roasted a bell pepper and made a syrup of it and used it in a Bell Pepper Punch.
Then i discovered that i had also used bell pepper in June`s MxMo as well, i got to have been onto a real paprika craze or someting.This now reminds me that its maybe time to make a paprika syrup again or use fresh paprikas and use it in tequila and mezcal drinks this time. Here is the recipe for that old MxMo drink:
SPICED PAPRIKA WHISKEY SOUR
2×2 cm red Paprika
2 oz Bourbon
0.5 oz Fresh Lemon juice
0.5 oz Raspberry pureé
1 oz Honey Spice Mix
Garnish: 3 red Paprika strips.
Muddle the paprika in a mixing glass and add the rest of ingredients and shake with ice, strain in ice filled rocks glass.
Honey Spice Mix (2 drinks) :
0.75 oz Honey, 0.75 oz Water
0.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
2 cm piece crushed Cinnamon stick
8 crushed green Cardamom pods
Stir honey with water, lemon Juice, cinnamon and cardamom in a small pan. Bring to a slight boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Cool.
2 dl Raspberries, 1 tsp fresh Lemon Juice, 1 tsp simple syrup, add a little water, puree. You want a quite thin pureé, so if to thick add some more water. Strain through cheesecloth to discard the seeds.
NOW ITS YOUR TURN
By showing a few of my recipes using fresh vegetables in cocktails i hope i can inspire some of you to try them out and to make your own concoctions that i hopefully will read about on your blogs sometimes! I don`t use vegetables in my drinks all the time of course but it happens now and then and when i do i really enjoy it. I`m definetily into drinking beet juice for the rest of my life along with JWray and Ting and i hope you will too.
Do you use vegetables in cocktails? and if you do, what do you use?