I’ve been trying my hand at making the perfect Old-Fashioned Cocktail for our Visiting Artist Series tomorrow evening, and my friend Angie Mosier suggested that I try The Julian, Julian Van Winkle’s version of the Old Fashioned. Created by Sean Brock at HUSK in Charleston, South Carolina, the drink highlights the – now famous – bourbon founded by Julian Van Winkle’s grandfather, “Pappy” Van Winkle. Pappy started his family business in the 1870’s and was the creator of their original wheated bourbon recipes that are still used and aged today.
The Old-Fashioned happens to be Faythe Levine’s drink of choice, so I thought – what better time to showcase my new-found knowledge on homemade bitters and use the Van Winkle Special Reserve Bourbon so graciously sent to us by Julian at the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.
If there’s one thing that rivals my love for creating a delicious, soulful meal, it’s mixing a good cocktail. I’ve enjoyed the classic cocktail revival that’s swept through restaurants and bars, as well as the focus on fresh, seasonal cocktail ingredients. But, as much as I like to travel and seek out mad-scientist mixologists and their latest creations, there’s a special pleasure that comes from mixing cocktails in the comfort of my home, sharing them with friends on the back porch or around the kitchen table.
One of my favorite ways to spice up a cocktail is by adding an infused simple syrup. Syrups are quick, easy, and affordable to make and are good for the at-home cocktail party because most of the preparation can be done in advance. I think of flavors that I like to use together when cooking, such as lemon and thyme or blackberry and sage, then simmer these ingredients with sugar-water and incorporate the resulting syrup with a complimentary spirit. Straining off the ingredients you are infusing will allow the syrup to last longer, up to a month in the refrigerator. Below are some simple cocktail recipes using infused syrups:
A month ago I was totally intimidated and scared of bitters, what they were, and how to use them. A recent encounter changed that.
It all began with a cocktail drink at Patois in New Orleans. The beautiful drink menu started off with a lovely champagne cocktail that was something like this: Champagne, Cointreau, Orange Bitters and a twist of orange. Sounds simple right?
I turn to Nathalie and Brett and ask, “What exactly IS Orange Bitters?” I am not the biggest fan of orange-infused anything and I wanted to be SURE to make the best of the most delicious cocktail that evening. Drew explained that bitters are essentially any fruit or spice marinated in 100% Pure Grain Alcohol. Nathalie added, “You can make it yourself.”
I have been taste testing tonight for our Holiday Market and cocktail party this Thursday evening. Come by The Factory to visit with great artists and musicians and, of course, to try my Alabama Royale:
Fill glass with Belstar Prosecco
Add two wedges of organic lemon
Drizzle with a teaspoon of Elderberry Syrup (courtesy of Mothering Herbs)
Sip + enjoy (responsibly).
Join us @ The Factory:
Cocktails + Shopping
Thursday, December 15, 2011, 6 – 9pm
Holiday Shopping + Sample Sale
Friday, December 16, 2011, 10am – 6pm
Thank you to Brian Herr with International Wines in Birmingham for the lovely Belstar Prosecco!
Thanks to everyone who came out last night for our first ever Visiting Artist Series.
Our Handmade (the new favorite cocktail) with Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic and Tito’s Handmade Vodka was beloved by all!
And thank you to Jeff Moerchen for being our first…
Get his newly released book – Ligonier: A Photographic Essay.
Stay tuned for more Visiting Artists Series @ The Factory very soon …
Made (and Grown) in the USA:
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic
Tito’s Handmade Vodka
Lemon Verbena – from my garden (and thanks to Angie Mosier)
My friend John T. Edge – the man who understands everything culinary and loves “liquor and its accompaniments” – wrote yesterday of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic: “Just told Blair I want some for Christmas…”
Yes, it is that good.
Combine with Tito’s Handmade and drink responsibly…
Also in the picture at top:
Limited Edition Commune Design @ HEATH Ceramics Bowl and Clemson Spineless dried okra – from my garden.
I thought a lot about what I would drink once my cleanse was over, and I could have alcohol in my life again. I’m a lover of white wine, but just before my cleanse started I was introduced to the world of vermouth cocktails by a talented barkeep at Blackberry Farm. In July, he served me up a simple drink so light and summery that I can’t stop thinking about it.
I’ve always kind of thought of vermouth as that terrible stuff in some grandmother’s liquor cabinet that no one ever touched. But it turns out there are lots of delicious vermouths that, when mixed with fresh fruit juice and soda, compose a cocktail more refreshing (and sometimes lower in alcohol) than the lightest white wine. Perfect for cooling off in the evenings.
Because I’m new to these, I got a primer from a friend of mine in the booze business. Here’s what I learned: Vermouth and many other “aperitivi” almost always come from France or Italy. They are usually fortified wines infused with herbs, roots and barks. They can be sweet or savory; every house has a different style. And because they are so flavorful on their own, you usually only need very simple mixers to create a complex tasting cocktail. Oh, and one more tip: for best results, store in the refrigerator and drink them within a month or so. They are not that much stronger than wine, so they will spoil.
Here are some recipes I’ve been playing with. Don’t be too literal with them. Just trust your gut and blend to taste.
NATALIE’S PLUM DELIGHT
1 shot vodka
6 crushed plums
Splash of cranberry juice
Splash of fresh lemon juice
I have been remiss in posting this last week. In all honesty, this heat has made me a little slow.
The interview with Roman (see post below) is coming; please be patient with me.
To this extreme heat, add the fact that my (baby) Maggie starts school tomorrow. It seems hard to believe that time passes so quickly – even when you savor every moment, it flies. Seems like just yesterday…
Well, my mind has been elsewhere this week.