Tag Archives: Cocktails

HOMEMADE BITTERS (REVISITED)

HOMEMADE BITTERS (REVISITED)

In December of 2011, we started playing with bitters. Today, we explore how craft meets cocktail with Jesse Goldstein. Read on to learn how to make variations of your own of cocktail bitters and how to use this relatively simple ingredient to add complex layers to your own drinks:

It was in 1806 when the word “cocktail” was first defined in print. The Balance and Columbian Repository of Hudson, NY classified it simply as “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” Fellow cocktail enthusiasts may recognize this description as what we would call an Old Fashioned today; but it’s that last, often misunderstood, ingredient listed the lineup that has fascinated me for many years.

The term “bitters” typically refers to alcohol infused with a variety of botanical ingredients resulting in a somewhat bitter or bittersweet taste. There are really two classifications of bitters: digestive bitters like Campari are sipped neat or on the rocks after a meal; concentrated tinctures of cocktail bitters (often referred to as aromatic or potable bitters) like Angostura are used in drops and dashes in many classic and modern craft cocktails. I’ve often referred to bitters as the “salt and pepper” of cocktails, providing amazing depth and flavor that you can’t get from basic booze ingredients alone. But the more I looked into bitters, the more fascinated I became with their history, their variety and, eventually, the process of making them myself.

Though modern Americans are only recently regaining an appreciation of bitterness, our ancestors once embraced the taste of bitter flavors. Bitters were originally developed for medicinal purposes, with a history traced as far back as ancient Egypt. The proliferation of distilled spirits and an obsession with pharmacology led to even more concentrated varieties in the Middle Ages. The use of bitters for ailments continued for generations, often used as preventative medicine for everything from seasickness to heartburn.

Bolstered by the renaissance of craft cocktails, bitters have been gaining steam amongst cocktail connoisseurs for the past few years. The old standbys of Angostura and Peychaud’s have been joined by companies like Hella Bitters, Scrappy Bitters, and The Bitter Truth popping up all over the country—reimagining bitters in small batches with flavors created specifically for cocktails. These purveyors are joining classic bittering ingredients of gentian, quassia bark, dandelion, or wormwood with ingredients more commonly found in your kitchen spice cabinet. But these craft bitters are not cheap, often fetching more than $10 for a single ounce.

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COLLARDS & CARBONARA

COLLARDS & CARBONARA

Vino or Moonshine? Both, please. Memphis chefs, Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman’s new cookbook, Collards and Carbonara: Southern Cooking, Italian Roots published by Olive Press, showcases their distinctly Southern-Italian dishes—or is that distinctly Italian-Southern dishes? Either way, it’s fusion cuisine with an accent.

The two chefs and best friends opened the upscale Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in Memphis back in 2008. After much acclaim, they opened a more casual sister restaurant, Hog & Hominy, right across the street in 2012. The two attended culinary school together in Charleston, South Carolina, and refined their skills in Italy. They compare their partnership to the dynamic of being in a band; they feed off one another for ideas and are always discovering inspiration together. The cookbook is a manifesto of sorts that establishes the greatness of duplicity in heritage cooking. At the root of their success is the fact that they simply love to play and work and learn and cook together. They share their stories revealing the secret to their success and the gospel of food according to these good Italian boys.

Each dish represents a new discovery and a step on their culinary pathway. The funky fusion dishes are as beautiful as they are humble. Warm pig’s ear salad with pears and Gorgonzola, fried green tomatoes with blue crab and bacon jam, gnocchi with caramelized fennel and corn; the pairings may seem unusual, but the flavors make sense together. Recipes for basic dishes like their famous boiled peanuts and pizza dough each have unlikely nuances that bring Italian and Southern American cuisines together.

COLLARDS & CARBONARA

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BUBBLES X 8

BUBBLES X 8

In anticipation of upcoming holiday celebrations, we asked Jesse Goldstein, our cocktail contributor, to come up with a couple of new twists on classic sparkling cocktails. Celebrate responsibly and come back for more great cocktail recipes in the new year.

I’ve often said that it’s a shame sparkling wine seems to be reserved for special occasions. Gone are the days that the only options at your local wine shop are cheap, sweet bubbles or expensive French Champagne. These days you can find many amazing (and affordable) varieties of Italian Prosecco, Spanish Cava and California sparklings. Even better, you can also find outstanding rosé varieties, which often have more depth and flavor than their white counterparts.

But just because you’ve got a good bottle of bubbly does not mean there’s no room for improvement. Adding a splash of cordial or a special garnish turns up the flavor of your bubbles and makes it more memorable and delicious for your guests.

Here are a few of my personal favorites.

PROSECCO PUNCH

1 bottle chilled rosé Prosecco
6 cherries (pitted and frozen)
6 ounces pineapple juice
2 ounces brandy
1 ounces Cointreau or Grand Marnier

If using fresh cherries, freeze them first. This helps break down the cellular structure of the fruit and makes for better flavor absorption. Place the frozen cherries in a small jar with the pineapple juice, brandy, and Cointreau. Seal and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, mix with the bottle of chilled rosé Prosecco, reserving the cherries to drop into each glass as a garnish.

BUBBLES X 8

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HOMEMADE CURAÇAO

HOMEMADE CURACAO

We have reached that time of the year when, even in Alabama, we have to accept that winter has arrived. While there are many things to celebrate during colder months, the early frosts are the hardest to embrace. So, we were excited when guest contributor Jesse Goldstein offered up a bit of a tropical concoction for this month’s cocktail post. Enjoy:

Although I hesitate to admit it, I once thought of Curaçao as the blue stuff that went into supposed “fancy” drinks. Of course, this was in my early college years back when I felt very grown up ordering Rum and Coke. What I’ve learned over the years is that Curaçao isn’t always blue, has an amazing history, and, when made properly, is worthy of even the most discerning palate.

HOMEMADE CURACAO

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LAVENDER-INFUSED VODKA

LAVENDER-INFUSED VODKA

This month, we offer our second installment on creative cocktails from Jesse Goldstein on the often overlooked of beauty lavender as a flavor. Hopefully you will be inspired to experiment with your own infusions to create spirits with complex, but delicious, flavors.

While the idea of infusing herbs and botanicals into spirits may seem to be more popular these days than taking a “selfie”, the practice is nothing new. Take Chartreuse for example: infused with more than 130 botanicals, Chartreuse has been made by the Carthusian Monks in the French Alps since 1737. But just because infusing is an old idea does not mean that we can’t continue to interpret (and reinterpret) the process to create flavors that are fresh, modern and, most importantly, breathtakingly delicious.

The flavor of lavender has never really caught on in this country, though for centuries it has been used around the world as an herb and condiment. (Please watch Juliette of the Herbs.) While it often finds its way into an abundance of scented candles, lotions, and soaps, all too rarely does it find a home in our food and drinks.

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RECLAIMING CHURCH PUNCH

RECLAIMING CHURCH PUNCH

Today we welcome Jesse Goldstein, one of Nashville, Tennessee’s resident cocktail experts, as a regular contributor to our Journal. Jesse will be sharing stories of Southern culture and the spirits that surround it. Look for a cocktail recipe each month—including traditional mixed drinks and their modern interpretations.

One of my favorite things as a kid was going to the local volunteer fire department potluck suppers with my family. The quilt-covered folding tables were loaded with all sorts of casseroles, gelatin-based “salads”, and sweets that I would never get to eat the like of at home. One of my ultimate treats was what most people in the South like to call “church punch.” This version was made with a combination of ginger ale, pineapple juice, and sherbet and was like drinking pure sugar from the little waxed paper cup. I remember pretending not to love it for my parents’ sake but secretly savoring every sip of the sugary nectar.

Luckily our tastes change as we grow older. These days I prefer my salads without colored gelatin and cringe at the thought of how sweet that punch was. But there is something wonderful about the convivial aspect of a big bowl of punch and there’s no reason it can’t be brought forward to today with a recipe you would be proud to serve—to adults, that is.

Punch has an incredible history that goes back hundreds of years. Long before the invention of the cocktail, spirits were consumed socially in the form of punch. Made in large batches, punches were ideal for celebrations of all sorts. Times have changed, but punches still have a place at a party. All my friends know I’m a big fan of cocktails, but I personally prefer making punches when I’m entertaining. A good batch of punch takes time, effort, and the investment of good spirits that good friends are worthy of.

RECLAIMING CHURCH PUNCH

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SUMMER’S LAST PEACHES (+ A COCKTAIL)

SUMMER'S LAST PEACHES (+ A COCKTAIL)

The last day of summer is officially September 22nd, but Maggie started back to school weeks ago. As the long days wind down, we must begrudgingly say farewell to peach season. This year, I found myself with an abundance of peaches throughout the summer. Whenever I swiped the last one from the counter to eat in my oatmeal, another batch would show up on my doorstep. Into the house that bag would come. The moment of anticipation and joy of standing over the kitchen sink—house perfectly silent—and biting into the soft flesh, savoring the moment as juice runs down my arm…for me, this is the essence of summer.

All peach lovers know that peaches develop their sweetness and flavor while on the tree. Once they are picked, they just get softer and juicier. Stay away from peaches that are firm and look for those who yield slightly to gentle pressure. To test firmness, don’t poke the fruit with your fingertip; hold the peach in your whole hand and squeeze gently. Peaches that are green around the stem are not yet ripe; shriveled skin means the fruit is too old. The best test for a peach’s flavor is its smell; a peach will taste almost exactly how it smells.

You can store firm peaches at room temperature. Once they begin to turn soft, put them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and plan to eat them soon. If you find yourself with too many peaches, you can freeze them (peeled and sliced) and keep them for up to 6 months.

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VIVIAN HOWARD’S CUCUMBER LIMEADE COCKTAIL

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A few months ago, I spent a couple of days with friends at Gray Bear Lodge in Hohenwald, Tennessee. While there—in addition to the yoga sessions, sauna time, tub soaks, and hikes—I was treated to a (mini) juice cleanse for a few days. And though I recommend consulting your doctor before embarking on your own juice cleanses, I must say that I walked away from the experience feeling healthy and refreshed.

I returned from my trip, bought a juicer the next day, and it has changed my life. Diann from Gray Bear walked me through the juicing regimen which always seemed a bit complicated and demanding for me.  She taught me to: simplify, use ingredients that I like, experiment with combinations, and taste as I go to come up with an array of variations. “Plus,” she says, “once you have the raw ingredients on hand (and the juicer out and running) make enough for a few days.” While that might not be as good as juicing and drinking right away, this is real life, right?

After a few weeks, I also discovered that these fresh fruit and vegetable juices also lend themselves to delicious cocktails. (However, it should be noted that fresh juice cocktails don’t maintain all of the health benefits of fresh juice alone.) During Vivian Howard’s recent dinner at The Factory, we used my juicer to create the Cucumber Ginger Limeade cocktail that opened the evening. Since the dinner, there have been several requests for the recipe. Break out your juicer (but juice—and drink—responsibly).

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BOOK GIVEAWAY: HANDMADE GATHERINGS

HANDMADE-GATHERINGS-02

A few weeks ago, we wrote a review of Handmade Gatherings by Ashley English (and also picked Ashley’s brain for her best tips on communal entertaining).

As The Factory continues to grow and host events, we openly welcome her simple approaches to creating an experience through collective, potluck meals. Now, we want to share those inspirations and insights with one of our lucky readers.

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BLOOD ORANGE POMEGRANATE COCKTAIL

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Ever since I read about classic Southern drinks in the latest issue of Garden & Gun, I’ve been craving a crisp, refreshing cocktail. We’ve shared some grenadine-inspired libations before and, in keeping with that theme (and continuing our love affair with Jack Rudy’s Small Batch Grenadine), we created a blood orange-infused pomegranate cocktail.

Boasting a deep and rich citrusy flavor, blood oranges are considered to be among the finest dessert oranges in the world and are at their seasonal peak right now. These oranges are quite sought after by most bartenders—they are only ripe for a few months each year. The perfect pairing with a range of spirits, we chose to mix ours with Cathead Vodka.

Tip: Blood oranges will only last a couple of days at room temperature, so we suggest refrigerating them; they will last up to two weeks that way.
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