NAVAN – NATURAL VANILLA LIQUEUR

navan-vanilla-liqueur1

As a real vanilla geek i was happy to receive this vanilla liqueur – now i got a perfect excuse to indulge myself and everybody in vanilla flavored cocktails..

Navan is made by Grand Marnier and is made with natural ingredients and as we know vanilla isn`t the cheapest spice. The quality of  Navan is good and the bottle is handsdown gorgeous, the flavour is very embracing, warm and aromatic. Sweet yes but still less sweet than you may expect due to its cognac base. Picture an exotic climbing vanilla orchid in bloom embracing you..then sending you whiffs of aromatic sweet vanilla fragrance – that´s its nose, until you dip your nose deep into the bottle, then the cognac heaviness takes over but with a sweet overtone.

The vanilla beans used to make this product is the bourbon vanilla beans from Madagascar. The process in pollinating and curing vanilla is a long complicated and burdensome affair and thus the price is high. The vanilla orchid flowers does only bloom for a few hours in the morning once a year and thus needs to be hand-pollinted very quickly.

After the green beans has grown ready to be picked they need to be treated for several months in order to become the fragrant oily dark brown vanilla pods as we know them from the shops.

The aroma of vanilla is pure pleasure..its warm, fragrant and embraces you with its lingering scent and the flavour is sweet and aromatic. Its well known that a bit of vanilla liqueur serves very well as component that ties things together in many cocktails and especially in Tiki drinks.

In the year of 1827 the first liqueur was created for the house of Grand Marnier and at a time when were expensive and hard to find. Now some 200 years later this cognac based liqueur is made with vanilla. Its not brand-new, its been here for a while but its the first time i get a chance to try it. There´s a village on the northeast coast of Madagascar called Navana and the name comes from it and its also from here the beans in the liqueur is from.

The beans are shipped to France and then they are macerated in neutral spirit for a few weeks to extract all the flavour. After that the vanilla beans are combined with aged French cognac using the same procedure as is used in the creation of Grand Marnier.

This is a nice vanilla liqueur and if you like vanilla then i recommend you try to get your hands on a bottle of Navan.

SCENT OF AN ORCHID

scent-of-an-orchid

2 oz tequila reposado
1/4 oz raw sugar syrup
0.5 oz Navan
0.75 oz fresh lime
Club Soda

Shake over ice, (not the Club Soda) strain into a glass with ice, top with a little Club Soda. Garnish with vanilla bean.

MADAGASCAR

madagascar

1.5 oz Bourbon
0.5 oz Navan
0.5 oz passionfruit syrup
juice of ½ lime
1t hibiscus grenadine
1 oz passionfruit juice

Shake everything except grenadine over ice and strain into an old fashioned glass filled with cracked ice. Add grenadine and more ice to fill. Garnish with 2 vanilla beans.

MYSTIQUE

mystique

2 oz rhum agricole blanc
1 oz fresh pineapple juice
0.5 oz Navan
Juice of 1/2 fresh lime
1/4 oz cinnamon syrup

Mix things together in a shaker with ice, strain into a glass with crushed ice and garnish with a cinnamon stick and vanilla bean.

FALL COCKTAILS

Its happening fast now, the fall is really storming in with sudden temp drops, strong winds, lots of cold rain mixed with sun, and a sudden color change on the leaves…which did inspire me to make these two fall cocktails.

I`m lucky to have a very beautiful walkway to my work along the shores with trees bending over the water and everytime i walk that way i get inspired by the beauty of the nature which now is changing its colors. That´s indeed a good start of a working day!

And even though i`m a summer person and hate cold temps i do like the fall colors that goes from yellow, orange and red – through all shades of brown and down to deepest purple. And when we now go towards colder temps (at least here) its nice to creap up in the sofa with a cosy blanket and put a touch of awesome to a dark rainy evening with a nice drink.

So here are the cocktails, these will keep you warm. They were submitted in the Bourbon TDN – happy weekend!

ARABESQUE

fall-cocktails-arabesque

3 oz Bourbon
1t fig and bayleaf marmalade
0.5 oz honey
0.5 oz lemon juice
1-2t hibiscus grenadine to brighten up the boozy flavours.

Shake with ice, strain. Serve in a wide glass with large ice cubes and fig garnish.

WINDS OF FALL

fall-cocktails-winds-of-falls

2 oz Bourbon
0.5oz lemon juice
0.5oz maple syrup
1 oz fresh organic apple juice
1 oz passionfruit juice
¼ oz campari
1t honey

Shake and strain. Serve in rocks glass with large ice cubes. Garnish speared apple-slices.

stockholm

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

fig-julep-small

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.

 

MARKET FRESH VEGETABLES IN COCKTAILS

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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:

PURPLE ERUPTION

purple-eruption-1st

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.

MIX:

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.

SMOKY BEET

smoky-mezcal

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.

But..

Maybe everyone really doesn´t like beets…here is another suggestion for a drink using a sort of fruit-vegetable, a plantain Punch:

PLANTAIN PUNCH

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

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.

Raspberry Purée

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?

MxMo XXXVIII – SUPERIOR TWISTS

mxmologo1

Oh how fast time flies, its time again for yet another Mixology Monday, and this time its hosted by the Wild Drink Blog.Thank you for hosting! I really like this topic, its really fun to try to make a twist of a classic cocktail thus giving the opportunity to play with ingredients and flavors. The good thing is that you also develop your palate and sense of flavors during the process of both failing and succeeding. Its a good thing i have a lot to learn which means i have a lot of cocktail mixing ahead!

Tristan also wants to know which is the favorite song to dance the twist to, so i got to say Do the twist with Fat Boys and the original with Chubby Checker.

After going through some of my books, finally my eyes fell on the Saratoga cocktail. I have seen a few different recipes out there but i choose to use the recipe from Jerry Thomas Bartenders Guide which is this:

SARATOGA COCKTAIL

(Use small bar-glass.)

Take 2 dashes Angostura bitters.
1 pony of brandy.
1 pony of whiskey.
1 pony of vermouth.

Shake up well with two small lumps of ice ; strain into a claret glass, and serve with a quarter of a slice of lemon.

Now my twist on this ended up being a totally different drink, no surprise, substituting whiskey with bourbon, brandy with Metaxa and vermoth with Campari. Then adding a few new ingredients: honeymix, lime and Creme de Cassis.

LADY IN RED

lady-in-red1

1 oz Bourbon
1 oz Metaxa 5*
1 oz Campari
Sprinkle of fresh lime
0.5 oz honeymix
Dash Creme de Cassis for deeper color

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, serve up.If you like, top with a splash of Club Soda. Garnish a pineapple leaf.

First i thought of using rye but then i realized i didn´t have any so i picked my Bulleit instead. The Angostura bitters and brandy were subbed with Campari and Metaxa and for some zing, a sprinkle of fresh lime. I didn`t find the color deep red enough so i added a splash of Creme de Cassis to deepen it. The drink was tasty, and i think Metaxa, Bourbon and Campari goes quite well together.

So while i`m at it with the bourbon, next up is the Whisky Daisy. Now for the fun of it i want a total change! I figured the Whisky Daisy had to be transformed to something with a bitter edge as well and my mind inevitably went back to my very much beloved Campari.

Then my thoughts went further to the little bottle of Bob´s vanilla bitters on my shelf and which i like very much.Vanilla and Campari? nothing i`ve tried before so why not? even though i was wondering if the Campari wouldn`t overpower the vanilla flavor i just had to try it still, after all – making a twist is all about experimenting with flavors and  if it doesn´t turn out tasty, well then at worst the drink has to be zinked and you have learnt something on the way.

There are many recipes for this drink and here is the one from Jerry Thomas again, How to Mix Drinks (1887)

Whisky Daisy

Take 3 dashes gum syrup.
2 dashes Orgeat syrup.
The juice of half a small lemon.
1 wine-glass of Bourbon, or rye whiskey.

Fill glass one-third full of shaved ice. Shake well, strain into a large cocktail glass, and fill up with Seltzer or Apollinaris water.

BITTER VANILLA

mxmo-superior-twists-bitter-vanilla

2 oz Bourbon
0.5 oz fresh lemon juice
0.5 oz vanilla-gomme syrup
1 barspoon grenadine
0.5 oz Campari
3-4 good dashes Bob`s vanilla bitters (or other bitters)
Crushed ice
Garnish lemon wedge speared on a vanilla bean

I first used 1 oz lemon juice but found it a tad sour so in my 2nd drink i reduced it to 0.5 oz. The 0.5 oz vanilla-gomme syrup plus a barspoon grenadine makes it sweeter. Then instead of ice cubes i used crushed ice and the addition of Campari plus vanilla bitters added a pronounced and a pleasant bitterness. The vanilla flavour was lingering subtly in the background.

VANILLA-GOMME SYRUP

I simply did split a vanilla bean and simmered it with my already made gomme syrup and then let cool.

If these are superior twists? heh.. but still tasty!

mxmo-superior-twist-bitter-vanilla-2

BULLEIT BOURBON

bulleit

There`s something very reachable about this bourbon, it`s  nice and “homely”, and also very reasonable priced and no doubt  of good quality. Its one of those spirits that should always be on the shelf.

Bulleit Bourbon is inspired by a recipe in the 1800`s created by Augustus Bulleit. The Bulleit Distilling Co was founded by Tom Bulleit 22 years ago – created by the idea to make his family`s recipe with best ingredients available.

Bourbon – the official spirit of the US – can legally be made anywhere in the US but must be at least 51% corn and the rest of it rye, wheat, or barley, and then it must be aged in new charred oak barrels. A rye whiskey must contain at least 51% rye. As Bulleit contains 30% rye it has the highest rye content of any bourbons.

Bulleit is a small batch premium quality 90 proof bourbon which uses Kentucky-limestone filtered water together with corn, barley malt, rye and a proprietary yeast strain. It has a rich oaky aroma with hints of vanilla from the new white oak barrels, spice and pepper, with a lingering smoky finish. The color is quite on the orangey side, like amber.

It comes in a very simple attractive bottle, robust and rounded. I also very much like the glasses with their oval form and same robust roundness as the bottle has. The flavor is warm, full bodied, round and smooth.  As it also is very decently priced its a very good all-round bourbon, made from quality ingredients with each step in production ensuring a premium bourbon which is very nice to both sip neat and mix.

I made two cocktails this time and one is fruity, the other one more spicy. The first drink – the fruity one pairs Bulleit bourbon with fresh blood orange juice and Campari.

BOURBON & BLOOD

bourbon-blood

1 oz Bourbon (Bulleit)
1/4 oz Cointreau
0.5 oz Campari
Sprinkle of fresh lime juice
1.5 oz fresh blood orange juice
Top with Fevertree bitter lemon
Add a splash of hibiscus grenadine to add a tropical floral note and deepen the color at the base.
Garnish with a half blood orange slice.

Shake over ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a half blood orange slice. Its not very often my drinks exceeds my expectations but this one turned out to be ridiculously fresh and tasty, try it! The only thing i maybe should have done is double strain it, but on the other hand i`m not bothered by some blood orange and ice chips in this drink.

BULLEIT WRAP

bulleit-wrap

2,5 oz Bulleit Bourbon
1 very thin slice of lemongrass
small sprig of fresh coriander
1 very thin slice of fresh ginger
¼ oz simple syrup
Top with Club Soda
Long wide blood orange twist/spiral + 1 lemongrass stick for garnish

(I tried it topped with Ting as well and omittted the simple syrup as Ting made a sweeter drink)

Muddle ginger, lemongrass and carefully fresh coriander with the simple syrup. Add bourbon and shake over ice, strain, pour into glass. Garnish with a blood orange twist wrapped around a lemongrass stick in the glass to release some of the flavors from the peel into the drink.

Top with crushed ice.

More spicy than fruity. I find that bourbon goes well with both fruits and spices but also grenadine. One of my favorite bourbon drinks containing grenadine is the Port Light invented by Trader Vic, that is a drink i keep coming back to over and over again, the combination of grenadine and passionfruit with bourbon is just so damn tasty.