Friday Cocktail: Summer Shrub

A shrub? Yes. Well, no, not if you’re thinking about the garden variety, but definitely yes if you are thinking about a delicious, summery syrup that will keep in your fridge well into the fall, then the answer is definitely yes.

What is a shrub exactly? Well at it’s most simple it’s a sort of drinking vinegar. While that doesn’t sound terribly appetising, bear with me because it’s actually delicious. Using vinegar to preserve fruit has a long history, but it became especially popular in colonial America, making drinks with or without alcohol. And it’s exactly this ability to enjoy with or without alcohol that makes them so nice in the summer– they are super refreshing and full of flavour!

The prep work is wonderfully simple, but there is some waiting involved. Patience is definitely not a virtue that I have been particularly blessed with, but if I can wait two days for this, you can too. If you were to google ‘shrub’ lots of different recipes and combinations will come up, ranging from one with a single fruit, or multiple. The idea for this recipe comes from Renegade Kitchen and uses plums (one of my favourite summer fruits) and basil (one of my favourite herbs). Besides these two things you’ll also need some sugar, plain granulated works great, and apple cider vinegar (yay probiotics!).

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I definitely recommend using a granulated sugar rather than something liquid like agave or maple syrup since the friction will be your friend here. A lot of recipes call for white wine or golden balsamic vinegar, but I like apple cider here because it adds some good-for-you fermentation and hints at the flavour of kombucha.

Ingredients:

• 4-6 plums (your favourite kind), pitted and quartered

• large bunch basil, roughly chopped or torn

• 1c sugar

• 2c apple cider vinegar

Directions: 

  1. In a large bowl combine the plums, basil, and sugar. Use your hands (or a wooden spoon) to really coat the fruit with the sugar. Set this in the fridge at least overnight, stirring once or twice in between.
  2. The next day, strain this mixture through a fine mesh strainer (or a clean pair of stockings). There should be a lot of liquid around the fruit, but be sure to press/squeeze any excess out of the plums. Discard any solids
  3. Combine the strained juice with the vinegar and stir gently to combine. Decant into a glass container of your choice and leave in a cool place on your counter overnight.
  4. It will be ready to try the next day, but the longer it sits the more the flavours develop, and the more the vinegar mellows.

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A really lovely and refreshing way to enjoy this is to add a bit to the bottom of a collins glass, add some ice, and top with sparkling water or club soda. It’s a lot more interesting than soft drinks, and is a great way to enjoy a cocktail without any alcohol. An added bonus is the gorgeous pink colour from the skins of the plums.

For an more ‘adult’ version of the above, add a shot of your favourite gin, and a lemon twist for garnish.

I’m definitely excited to use this once the temperature begins to dip again as well– I think something like whiskey or bourbon combined with the summery plum and basil could be really interesting, so check back in a few months to find out.

If you liked this recipe and want some more inspiration, the New York Times has a great article on shrubs here.

Cheers!

 

Friday Cocktail: The Aperol Spritz

This week’s Friday Cocktail is quintessentially Italian, as Cameron and I are on a trip to Venice! The spritz originated in Northern Italy, Venice to be exact, where it involved a combination of wine and sparkling water. The later inclusion of prosecco helped create the versions we know today, adding a bitter liquor and a splash of club soda to balance things out.

I’ve never been to Venice before, but needless to say I couldn’t be more excited. A friend of ours invited us to meet her there last summer, and I can’t believe it’s finally here! I majored in Art History at University, and did a focus on Renaissance and Baroque art, so getting to see the buildings, frescoes, and paintings in person is going to be pretty amazing. Be on the lookout for a new post sometime next week about the trip, complete with probably way too many architecture photos.

Now back to this week’s cocktail.

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I have been a huge fan of Campari since pretty much forever. I remember as a child I would sneak little sips of my mom’s Campari and grapefruit during the summer, and loved the bitterness, and the gorgeous pink colour. Aperol has a lot in common with Campari, but is decidedly less bitter, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your taste. The nice thing is that its relatively low in alcohol, so enjoying a spritz pre-dinner (or late-afternoon) is totally doable without getting tipsy.

There’s just enough bitterness to be interesting, but what I really love about Aperol is the gorgeous, orange-y smell. It’s a lot like Campari, but more floral, and absolutely perfect for summer sipping.

Ingredients: 

• 3 oz dry prosecco

• 2 oz Aperol

• 1oz club soda

Directions: 

  1. In a wine glass or tumbler add a healthy about of ice
  2. Add apparel, prosecco, and club soda
  3. Gently stir and garnish with an orange wedge

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Saluti! (Cheers!)

Friday Cocktail: The Gimlet

I can still remember when I first discovered the gimlet. I was 15 (bear with me), and was browsing the aisles of Sephora with my mom when I found myself drawn to a gorgeous bright green bottle of Philosophy’s shampoo/shower gel/bubble bath combo. The scent, a super bright blend of lime and what I now know to be juniper, was amazing, and I loved the glamorous-sounding name.

Flash forward a few years and I finally tried the real thing. As it turns out, the shower gel actually smelled very little like the cocktail, which is probably a good thing so I didn’t go to school smelling like gin. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may remember a post about a vodka gimlet, but there’s nothing quite like the classic. Vodka is nice here, but it makes for a decidedly different drink. Gin adds a lot of its own flavour and makes the drink a little more complex. Because of this I definitely recommend using at least a mid-shelf gin if you can.

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In the original recipe for a gimlet instructions call for equal parts Rose’s Lime Juice and gin, but as I have yet to see any Rose’s while in London, I opted for getting my hands a bit dirty and juicing my own limes. Yes, time consuming, but (surprise) totally worth doing. Not only does it taste better, I think the pulp from freshly squeezed is really nice in this cocktail.

Ingredients:

• 2oz lime juice (about 2 limes)

• 2oz gin (I used Bombay)

• (optional 1/4-1/2 tsp simple syrup)

Directions:

  1. Add lime juice & gin (and simple syrup if you’re using it) to a cocktail shaker, top with ice and shake well
  2. strain into a cocktail glass(or martini glass) and enjoy!

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If you want to garnish these with something think a strip of lime zest would look really nice. If you’re on the fence about how much you like gin, I would err on the side of caution and go ahead and add the simple syrup (I like a little bit in mine, but Cameron leaves it out entirely). It won’t impact the taste too much, but will mellow the slight antiseptic quality of the gin a bit.

Cheers!

Friday Cocktail: The Whiskey Sour

What is it about the whiskey sour that seems a bit old fashioned? It’s certainly old, with the first recorded recipe seen in 1862, but for some reason I always associate it with dramatic starlets in old movies, and 1960’s cocktail parties á la Mad Men. I think it should come back into style, though, and hopefully by the end of this post you will too.

I love a margarita, or a daiquiri in the summertime, and at it’s most basic level, a whiskey sour is the same– 2oz sprit, citrus, a bit of sugar. It’s so wonderfully simple I don’t even need to check the recipe while combining everything. Better yet, it requires ingredients I always have in the fridge/pantry. Better yet, a good margarita, daiquiri, and whiskey sour are generally well received by all.  While margaritas and daiquiris may be warm weather drinks, the whiskey sour has staying power.

Thinking about why the whiskey sour may have fallen out of favour I came to the conclusion that, much like the margarita and the daiquiri, the inclusion of sour mix rather than freshly-squeezed citrus is the likely cause. I alway find sour mix to be too sweet, and masks any properties of the spirit in the drink. A good whiskey sour needs to flavours of the whiskey, not just the lemon and sugar. So, if you’ve tried one with sour mix and have an unfavourable opinion, I hope you give this a try (and let me know if you do in the comments).

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Ingredients:

• 2 oz whiskey or bourbon (I like Buffalo Trace for these)

• 1 scant tsp sugar

• 1 Tbs lemon juice (or half of a small lemon)

Directions: 

  1. Combine lemon juice, sugar, and bourbon in the base of a shaker. Mix a bit by swirling everything together to dissolve the sugar a bit.
  2. Add ice and shake well to combine
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve with or without ice, and a orange or lemon slice

 

I like ice in my whiskey sour most of the time, mostly because there are so few ingredients that it’s nice to have the slowly melting ice mellow the drink out a bit, but either way is equally delicious. You may have noticed the absence of an egg white here. My favourite thing about sours is their simplicity– adding an egg white ruins this a bit (at least for me).

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Earlier this week I was thinking about this series, and how much fun it’s been to try so many different cocktails, but that it would be lovely to have one go-to ‘signature’ drink. Admittedly this can be a bit difficult to discover when I’m testing new recipes every week, but I think the whiskey sour may be in the running– it’s simple to throw together, good in both warm and cold weather, and delicious without being fussy.

Cheers to my (possible) new go-to drink, and the weekend!

Friday Cocktail: An Updated Margarita

I love a good margarita. If you’d been reading for a while, you definitely will have seen at least three different recipes, ranging from spicy to sweet, and of course the classic (which was one of my first ‘Friday Cocktail’ posts).  Given how much I’ve been loving blood orange recently, it was really only a matter of time before  I combined to of my favourite things. While each is great on its own, they make a pretty fantastic twist on a classic.

As Cinco de Mayo was yesterday I was definitely inspired to make this week’s post tequila-focussed. While it may not be the usually choice, I really like reposado tequila when I’m making margaritas as it has a bit more flavour that silver tequila, and somehow seems a bit more mellow. Feel free to use your favourite in the recipe below, although next time you’re re-stocking I definitely recommend giving reposado a try.

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The ingredients are wonderfully simple, and if you’ve read my earlier post on the classic margarita, this is mostly that recipe, but with a small addition of blood orange juice.

The recipe below will make two cocktails, so grab a friend and give it a try!

Ingredients:

• juice from 1/2 blood orange

• 1 lime, cut into four wedges

• 1-2 tsp agave nectar or sugar

• 4oz tequila

 Directions: 

  1. Squeeze lime into the base of a cocktail shaker, add agave or sugar, and muddle well to combine
  2. Add blood orange juice (and a dash of cointreau, optional), tequila, and ice
  3. Shake well and strain into two cocktail glasses, garnish with lime wedges, and serve

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Friday Cocktail: Blood Orange Crush

A few weeks ago I posted a cocktail recipe with blood orange, and have been keeping them around sever since. I love how tart they are, and the colour is absolutely gorgeous! I’m definitely going to be a bit sad when they are no longer in-season. At least I will appreciate them all the more the next time.

This cocktail definitely has quite a bit of orange, but I think hit just the right balance of sweet and sour, just like its namesake. This recipe will taste the best if you use blood oranges, but if you can’t find them, you could always use blood orange juice already-squeezed, plus one regular orange. It will be sweeter if you use regular orange, so make note and adjust the other ingredients accordingly.

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Ingredients:

• 1.5 oz blood orange juice

• 2 wedges blood range peel (I slice these off of the fruit that I’ve squeezed)

•  .5oz cointreau

• .5oz simple syrup (or less)

• 2 oz vodka (orange-fused optional, but nice)

• 1-2 dashes orange bitters

Directions: 

  1. squeeze blood oranges (1 should give you just about 1.5oz), and set aside
  2. combine orange peel, and cointreau int he bottom of a shaker, and muddle for at least 30 seconds, but the longer the better
  3. add the rest of the ingredients into a shaker, cover with ice, and shake vigorously
  4. strain into a glass and garnish with, what else, a wheel of blood orange

 

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Cheers! And have a lovely weekend!

Friday Cocktail: Chai-Spiced Moscow Mule

I found a version of this cocktail on Food52 that featured a masala spice infused vodka, and sounded absolutely amazing. The only problem was that I’m not generally patient enough to wait for the month of infusing time the recipe called for.

Looking in my spice cabinet I realised that another way to get a lot of the same spiciness and complexity of flavour was to use chai tea instead and speed up the infusion process. I’ve infused vodka using tea before, so knew it was possible, and better yet only takes a few hours to transfer the flavours. I’m definitely proud of this “aha moment”.

The combination of flavours from the chai tea combined with the spicy ginger from the ginger beer and a squeeze of lime make a wonderfully fragrant, slightly warming, and easy sipping cocktail.

To make the chai-infused vodka

Ingredients: 

two sachets chai tea

1/2 bottle of vodka

2 clean glass containers with lids

3. fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth

Directions: 

1. open tea sachets into the glass container and over with vodka

2. shake well and let sit for at least two hours, tipping once or twice each hour

3. once the tea has infused to your desired strength, strain through a fine mesh sieve into another clean glass container. Chill until ready to use.

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The nice thing about infusing vodka this way is that it’s really easy to control how much flavour you put in. You can also amend how much vodka you use and just add less tea, or strain it sooner. I haven’t experimented yet with other ways to use it, but my guess would be that there are several.

For the cocktail:

Ingredients:

• 2 oz chai-infused vodka

• 1/2 lime, cut into two wedges

• spicy ginger beer

Directions:

  1. squeeze limes into a glass with ice and toss into the bottom
  2. fill glass with ginger beer roughly half of the way
  3. top with vodka, garnish with a cinnamon stick, and enjoy

The warming ginger and chai spices turn what I think is a warmer-weather drink into something a little bit nicer for when the air is still a bit cool. Using a spicy ginger beer keeps it from being too sweet, but the beauty of this cocktail is that you can really adjust it to your taste.

Cheers!

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Friday Cocktail: The Income Tax

As today is tax day in the states, and I’ve spend the last few days getting everything together to file (I know, I really shouldn’t have waited until the last minute) I thought I would feature a more fun sort of income tax– a cocktail version.

Now I have absolutely no idea why this cocktail is named as such, but don’t let any aversion to doing taxes sway you away from giving it a try. Since taxes are technically due on the 18th this year for some reason, you can sip this as you finish filing, or as a celebration once you’ve finished. Or maybe both. I may need both.

It’s simple to make, and is really just a bit of a riff on the classic combination of gin and orange juice. Please, please use freshly-squeezed here. The sugary-sweet taste of carton orange juice and gin taste a bit too much like college tailgate events during football season. Freshly-squeezed orange juice however, will lead to a much better cocktail with some natural tartness and a nice balance.

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Ingredients: 

• 2 oz gin

• 1 tbs sweet vermouth

• 1 tbs dry vermouth

• 3-4 dashes angostura bitters

• 1.5 oz orange juice (about 1/2 an orange)

Directions: 

  1. combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
  2. shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  3. relax!

 

Cheers!

Friday Cocktail: Red Wine Caipirinha

This one is a bit unexpected, but wonderfully easy, and perfect for warmer weather. I was flipping through my gigantic cocktail book when I found this one, which I’d bookmarked ages ago, but had yet to try. It was originally created by a bartender at a New York restaurant who made it for a customer who wanted a cocktail to follow the red wine she’d had with dinner. It’s definitely a nice after-dinner drink, but enjoying one in the afternoon would also be just as nice.

I love caipirinhas, especially in the warmer months, but wasn’t too sure what would happen adding red wine into the mix. Actually, there is no cachaça in this recipe at all, which made me even more skeptical. Red wine and lime juice? Admittedly a bit strange, but with such gorgeous weather recently I was definitely in the mood for something easy to relax with. I love red wine though, and tying it in a cocktail has definitely been on my to-do list.

With the warmer weather we’ve been having, something chilled, and simple to make has also been increasingly appealing. This is wonderfully tart, and tastes a lot like a cross between a caipirinha and sangria. You may want to experiment with the amount of sugar you use, I found the two teaspoons the recipe calls for to be a bit much.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp granulated sugar (I used 1.5)
  • 1/2 lime, cut in four small wedges
  • 3 oz red wine (the recipe calls for Rioja, but I used a dry cabernet sauvignon with wonderful results)

Directions:

  1. muddle lime wedges and sugar in a highball glass, making sure the sugar is well-dissolved
  2. fill the glass with ice, then top with the red wine
  3. stir well, and garnish with a lime wedge

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Cheers!

Friday Cocktail: Rum Old Fashioned

This week’s cocktail is one of my favourite riffs on a classic cocktail. I was especially excited to give this a try with a really interesting and delicious aged rum we found that’s been aged briefly in an oak barrel (it also happens to be from Cuba). I’m of the opinion that classic cocktails are classic for a reason– after all, why would we keep making something if it wasn’t very good? Reinventing the wheel isn’t always a good idea, but it’s certainly nice to put new tires on every once in a while.

Maybe this metaphor is getting a bit out of hand, but hopefully you get the idea. This twist on a classic is, like the original, wonderfully simple. I definitely recommend using a dark rum for this drink, and absolutely nothing flavoured with ‘tropical’ things like coconut or pineapple. While those may have their place elsewhere (like spring breaks or sugary frozen piña coladas) that place is decidedly not here.

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Rather than simple syrup, this recipe calls for Demerara syrup. To make it combine 1c sugar with 1/2 c water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar is just dissolved. Make sure not to let it boil though or you’ll get something a bit more like caramel. Actually, that may bot be a bad thing– let me know if you give it a try! If you’re tempted to use regular simple syrup instead, don’t. The Demerara syrup makes it significantly better– trust me!

Ingredients:

• 2oz rum

• 1tsp demerara syrup

• 2 dashes angostura bitters

•2 dashes orange potters (or Peychaud’s)

Directions: 

  1. combine ingredients into a mixing glass with ice
  2. stir everything to combine and chill
  3. strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel

 

Cheers!