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!

MARKET FRESH VEGETABLES IN COCKTAILS

purple-eruption-prepping-beet-juice-mix-for-making-purple-eruption

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?

CINNAMON IN COCKTALS

cinnamon

Cinnamon has a warm sweet woody aroma that is delicate yet intense with a warm fragrant taste with hints of clove.

At the left in the picture above are4 sticks of the mexican cinnamon called canela (which also comes from Sri Lanka but is from another species than the common ceylon cinnamon) and in the bundle at the right is the common cassia often sold in the shops as ceylon cinnamon.The leaves are from a large cinnamon tree and i use them in cooking as they impart a subtle flavor in curry dishes, something i learnt while watching a TV documentary about cooking in the Seychelles. These leaves also makes for a beautiful cocktail garnish.

Native to Sri Lanka the cinnamon tree is an evergreen small tree growing to 10–15 metres (32.8–49.2 feet) tall and which contains an essential oil which gives the aromatic flavor which is extracted from the bark. The botanical name for the spice — Cinnamomum zeylanicum—is derived from Sri Lanka’s former (colonial) name, Ceylon.

Cinnamon has a long history way back to antiquity, its also mentioned in the bible. It used to be such a precious spice that it was given to monarchs. The cinnamon tree is grown for 2 years before harvesting which is done by stripping the bark from the shoots emerging from the roots after a special treatment. The inner bark is then curled into rolls which are cut for sale.

There are several varietes of cinnamon and also several varietes of cultivars as well. The name cinnamon is correctly used to refer to Ceylon cinnamon, also known as “true cinnamon” (from the botanical name C. zeylanicum). However, the related species, Cassia are as i wrote sometimes sold as cinnamon. Its the presence of eugenol in the essential oil that distinguishes cinnamon from cassia, giving it the note of clove.

I have 2 varietes at home for the moment, cassia and then the interesting mexican variety called canela that was sent to me in a swap by Anita over at “Married With Dinner“. The cinnamon that is used in Mexican cooking is a softer loose bark variety –  also grown in Sri Lanka and when i compare the two they are quite different. The cassia is harder and has a somewhat deeper but less present fragrance while the canela variety is more fragrant up-front and has a much softer bark which is also lighter in color. I love to use the sticks for garnish in cocktails and i regularly make cinnamon syrup which i think is a nessecity for my cocktail mixing.

CINNAMON SYRUP

To make cinnamon syrup you simply make a simple syrup with either 2.1 or 1:1 water and sugar of choice. Then you add a few broken cinnamon sticks into the pan and let it boil for a while before cooling. The longer you let it sit to cool the more flavor you will get so taste your way.

cinnamon-syrup

CINNAMON IN COCKTAILS

Checking for the use of cinnamon in cocktails in one form or another, the use of cinnamon syrup is for instance common in the world of tiki cocktails. You will also find cinnamon being used in warm cocktails around christmas time as well as in other winter time cocktails. Cinnamon also goes well with apple cider and bourbon.

For cocktail mixing and infusions:

Cinnamon combines well with:

Almonds, blackberries, blood orange, cranberry, mandarin, feijoa, fig, cumquat, orange, apples, apricots, chocolate, coffee, pears, persimon, walnuts, carrots and bananas.

CINNAMON PLANTATION PUNCH

cinnamon-plantation-punch

2  oz dark rum – Plantation Barbados
.5 oz  highproof demerara rum
¼ oz Cointreau
.5 oz fresh lime juice
.5 oz cinnamon syrup
2  oz fresh blood orange juice
Top with a splash of Cherry Heering.

Shake all ingredients except Cherry Heering and strain into a ice filled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

This is a strong rum drink with lots of rum flavor yet i find it balances well with the rest of the ingredients and i think the cinnamon syrup goes well with the blood orange juice. The Plantation Barbados is a nice dark rum and well suited for both mixing and sipping and the addition of a highproof demerara gives depth to the rum flavor as well as a good kick.

This is especially a drink for rum lovers.

cinnamon-post-plantation-rum

LA CLANDESTINE ABSINTHE

la-clandestine-absinthe1

Its not many absinthes you can buy here in my country (Sweden) in fact, there`s just ONE bottle in our state controlled liqueur shop an artificially brightly turquoise thing i never will buy, among all bad things i`ve read about it,  it even lacks louche. Then we can special order 4 other brands but to very expensive prices. Now when i heard that la Clandestine is soon going to be sold here, it`s very good news.

BORN IN COUVET

La Clandestine absinthe is the only absinthe that is hand-crafted in the village of Couvet in the Val-de-Travers region of Switzerland where absinthe was first born and is a 100% natural distilled absinthe free from artificial colour.

The very first absinthe was born in Couvet  in the 1790’s. The best absinthes in the 19th century were all produced in the area around Couvet (the Val-de-Travers) and then just over the French border in Pontarlier which eventually became the capital of absinthe production. When absinthe was banned in most of Europe between 1908 and 1915, the French (law abiding citizens!) stopped producing.

Many Swiss families carried on making absinthe for themselves and their friends. It is rumoured that the Swiss decided at this time to forgo the final colouring step and so produced a clear absinthe to fool the customs officers that it was vodka or schnapps. La Clandestine’s recipe comes from this time: it was distilled by a Charlotte Vaucher (her name is celebrated on the bottle)

In the year 2000 La Clandestine started to be made by Claude-Alain Bugnon who is born in the region and he was the first maker of absinthe from the actual birthplace of absinthe to go legal – that was in 2005, two hundred years after the first birth of absinthe, and Claude-Alain went legal labelling his absinthe La Clandestine to celebrate the heritage of Swiss absinthe freedom fighters.

The first batch of La Clandestine was made in a simple 12 liter pot with a cooling device on a hotplate. Claude-Alain Bugnon gave up his job in industry to start making the local drink for his own friends in 2000. His reputation spread via the internet and his absinthes started to become famous (for American absinthe drinkers, that is). At the time, it was still illegal to produce absinthe in Switzerland and he risked a jail sentence, while fighting in his wife’s laundry for distilling space!

Claude-Alain received his license after doing a series of experiments under the control of the authorities and his first legal absinthe was shipped to Germany in december 2004. The ban of absinthe was lifted in march 1st ending the 95-year ban. And since then it has developed throughout the world, its now sold in 11 countries, including the USA, Canada, Japan, etc. It has won many fine awards and finally reached my mailbox!

What makes La Clandestine special?

The plants that are used grow in the fields around the distillery. The combination of soil, topography and climate are ideal for the plants used in absinthe. There is a lot of difference in using fresh plants, rather than ones shipped across the world.

La Clandestine is distilled in Couvet – the very birthplace of absinthe.

At a time when “hand-crafted” could become a cliché, La Clandestine is very much a hand-crafted labour of love with the whole process from plant selection through distilling to bottling all done by hand.

Claude-Alain is recognised as an amazing craftsman within the industry, having won the Golden Spoon at the Pontarlier Absinthiades for the last 4 years. I term this is the Absinthe Oscars since the winner is selected by a panel which includes his colleagues in the absinthe business.

A FAMILY OF ABSINTHES

La Clandestine absinthe family has four members:

La Clandestine – the official flagship, launched to mark the Swiss legalisation of absinthe on March 1, 2005. With a recipe made up of more than 10 plants, it has, at first nosing, a wonderful richness of aromas, followed by a lingering light bitterness. This is the blue bottle with a blue label, slightly different in the US (750 ml) bottle, with a slightly different label. It has won first prize and “Absinthe d’or” at the National Competition for Swiss spirits on September 16, 2005 and Gold Medal in the same competition in 2007.

La Capricieuse – Comes with a green label and is stronger – 72% abv 144 proof- remining of the old days before the ban. Its based on the same recipe as La Clandestine.

Recette Marianne – This absinthe was produced only 10 days before the French Absinthiades in Pontarlier, and was made to to conform to the strict French laws. Marianne was awarded the Golden Spoon of 2005, 2006, 2007 and again in 2008. Marianne has a sharper taste than La Clandestine Originale; less smooth and rather piquant and spicy, with a mild bitterness. Its 55% abv 110 proof. The bottle has a blue label.

Angèlique Verte Suisse – The newest of the absinthes from La Clandestine and its a “verte,” or green absinthe. Angélique was created to meet the demands of some customers for an absinthe with a stronger but reduced anise taste. The colour, which is completely natural, comes from the maceration of wormwood in aromatic plants. After filtration, the macerate is added to distilled absinthe and the resultant blend is stored in wooden barrels to give it a light woody, more rounded taste. Its 72% abv 144 proof.

A GOOD ABSINTHE

I think La Clandestine has a great taste, it has a pronounced anise flavor but its not too overpowering and it has a nice little slightly bitter bite. It also has the same clean freshness in the flavor as i find in the nose. This is a nice product and i`m happy it will soon be sold in my country. The first drink that came to my mind and which is a drink i like very very much is the absinthe suissesse, and i choosed a bit of a different take on this recipe which Rick over at Kaiserpenguin kindly gave me . This drink is smooth like silk! and a good first drink of the day.

ABSINTHE SUISSESSE

absinthe-suissesse

2 oz absinthe (La Clandestine)
1/2 oz orgeat
1 1/2 oz heavy cream
8 drops orange flower water
1 egg white

Shake with cracked ice long enough to get the eggwhite well mixed , strain into a chilled cocktail glass.