First of all, we apologize for our absence last week. We were way too sick and in no condition to be drinking, let alone making drinks or food to be sharing with all of you. But we’re back now! Hooray!
Before our productivity got all sidetracked by the coldest of colds, we had the pleasure to be invited to the Heathman Restaurant & Bar to launch their new cocktail menu. The revamped menu features spirits from local Portland distilleries. We were lucky enough to sample all of their new menu, and were especially fond of the Vineyard Margarita, which is a delicious margarita topped with a float of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. (If you haven’t had Oregon Pinot Noir then go drink some now.) Of course, the highlight for us was the Orchard Old Fashioned.
If you’re in Portland, be sure to stop at the Heathman for one of these. If you’re not in the area, try mixing one for yourself with Maker’s Mark, Clear Creek Pear Brandy syrup, and apple bitters.
Until recently, we’d never tasted Drambuie. Since we’re always down to try new flavors, we jumped at the opportunity to add it to our bar. Drambuie is a blend of scotch, honey, spices, and herbs. It’s extremely sweet, almost cloying, but it mixes well with just about any whisk(e)y without overpowering.
We mixed equal parts Maker’s Mark and Drambuie over ice. Anthony Caporale of Drambuie is calling the Maker’s mixture “Little Bit Rusty” because it’s basically a variation of the classic Rusty Nail (which mixes Drambuie with scotch). Honestly, we were a bit skeptical of Drambuie before we tasted it. We’re generally not very big on infusions or herbal blends with whiskey, but this liqueur does make a good accompaniment to any type of whiskey when you’re in the mood for something sweet.
Just in case you needed step-by-step instructions, here’s how to make a Little Bit Rusty:
1 part Drambuie
1 part bourbon
Stir in a mixing glass with ice, then pour into an old fashioned glass over ice. Garnish with a maraschino cherry if desired.
*Even though this nightcap was on Drambuie’s tab, we will always review products honestly. Contrary to popular belief, free drinks don’t automatically taste better.
We were thrilled to receive a copy of Greg Henry’s Savory Cocktails. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know we are not huge fans of overly sweet drinks, so this recipe book has quickly become our go-to for creative inspiration. (Confession: I read Savory Cocktails straight through, as if it were a novel. It’s really interesting!)
The book is organized by flavor categories: sour, spicy, herbal, umami, bitter, smoky, rich, and strong. It also includes recipes for bitters, syrups, and shrubs. Other than a few quibbles with the indexing, we found this recipe book to be exceedingly well researched and accessible, with interesting introductions and notes on nearly every page. The recipes are straightforward and the instructions are thorough.
We made the ginger and black pepper agave syrup, which is an infusion of fresh ginger and black peppercorns into warm water and agave syrup. We’ve made ginger syrup before, but the addition of black peppercorns grounds the ginger zing with some mild spice. We mixed the syrup into the cocktail below, and we could also imagine it pairing well with herbs.
2 oz. Bourbon
½ oz. Lemon juice
¼ oz. Ginger and black pepper agave syrup
2 dashes Whiskey barrel-aged bitters
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a lowball glass with ice and garnish with a lemon peel.
Even though this post was sponsored by Ulysses Press, we will always review products honestly. Contrary to popular belief, free products don’t automatically taste better.
We have such awesome readers. You guys have tremendous talents, not to mention generosity, and the days when we get emails and comments offering to share your talents with us are some of the most uplifting as bloggers. One recent such experience came from Lar (AKA @loudtalknliquor), who sent us three of his spectacular homemade bitters. The one we were most intrigued by was the bottle of charred cedar bitters, which we tried in a cocktail recommended by Lar. Stay tuned for further experiments with Lar’s bitters.
Gold ‘N’ Brown
2 oz. Maker’s Mark bourbon
3 dashes Charred cedar bitters
2 oz. Ginger ale
Stir all ingredients in a lowball glass with ice.
This drink packs in an extraordinary amount of complexity for such a simple recipe. The charred cedar bitters match well with bourbon (not surprising if you think about the aging process). Next time, we might try substituting ginger beer for a little more bite.
You know you have to try a recipe that caused someone to use up all her spoons tasting it. The procedure here is more complicated than a standard ice cream recipe, but it’s worth it. We’re copying the recipe verbatim below because the directions are spot on.
Burnt Caramel Bourbon Ice Cream with Toffee
1½ cups whole milk
1½ Tbsp. cornstarch
½ cup of your favorite bourbon
1¼ cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
4 Tbsp. mascarpone cheese, softened
¼ tsp. salt
⅔ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup milk chocolate toffee pieces (like Heath chips or chopped Heath bar)
Measure out the milk. Take 2 tablespoons of the milk and combine it with the cornstarch to create a slurry, whisking constantly. Set aside. Add the bourbon to the milk.
Measure out the heavy cream and add the corn syrup to it. Add the mascarpone to a large bowl and whisk in the salt. Set aside.
To make the burnt caramel, I used Jeni’s dry burning technique. You have to keep an eye on the caramel the ENTIRE time! Heat a large (Jeni calls for 4-qt.) saucepan over medium heat and add sugar; make sure it is in one layer cover the whole bottom of the pot. Literally watch the sugar until it begins to melt and the outsides turn caramely and melty. Once there is just a small amount of white sugar remaining in the center, use a heat proof spatula and scrape the melted sugar from the sides into the center. Continue to do so until all of the sugar is melted, and stir well. Watch sugar as it begins to bubble and once the edges are bubbly and releasing smoke and the sugar turns a dark amber color, remove from heat. The only way to truly judge it right before it BURN burns is to carefully stand over top and smell/watch. The minute you remove it from the heat, add a few tablespoons of the cream/corn syrup mixture (be careful—it will spit!) and whisk constantly to combine. Slowly add the remaining cream very slowly, whisking constantly.
Place the saucepan back over medium heat and add the milk/bourbon mix. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil (for me, this is over medium heat, and it takes a few minutes to achieve. Do NOT remove your eyes from the milk as it can easily bubble up and over, so have a spatula on hand and turn the heat down if necessary, increasing again slowly) and once boiling, boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the cornstarch slurry, whisking to combine. Place back over heat and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring with a spatula until slightly thickened. Gently pour mixture into the large bowl with the mascarpone and whisk to combine.
Fill a large bowl with ice and ice water, placing an open gallon-sized ziplock bag in the water, bottom down. Pour the mixture carefully into the bag, then press the air out and seal. Chill for 30-45 minutes. Once chilled, set up your ice cream maker according to its directions and pour the ice cream in. Churn according to directions. For my Kitchenaid, I churned for 20 minutes. Five minutes before finishing, add in toffee pieces. Once churned, spread in a freezer-safe container and place a piece of plastic wrap on top, pressing against the ice cream. Freeze for 4-6 hours before serving. Note: this ice cream is soft!
We didn’t use up all our spoons tasting it, but we did have a scoop for lunch. This ice cream is that good. The texture achieved by the heat, cornstarch, and cheese is so smooth and decadent. The Heath bar pieces add a lovely textural contrast. Most important, the bourbon really shines and is complemented by the caramel.
We made a few substitutions and the ice cream turned out fine. First, we used 2% instead of whole milk. Second, we used agave nectar instead of corn syrup. (This is the most questionable substitution because the corn syrup is intended to bind the water molecules so the ice cream freezes better, and agave nectar doesn’t have the same glucose level. We only made this substitution because we had already had a long day filled with work and a pet medical emergency and we weren’t about to make another errand for ourselves by running out to buy corn syrup.) The third change was using a metal mixing bowl instead of a Ziploc bag to hold the ice cream mixture in the ice bath.
Last week we received an exciting invitation from Alma Chocolate in Portland to taste their boozy bon bons. Obviously, we wasted no time heading over to their shop, where we learned all about Alma’s history and its decadent products. Not only do they sell chocolate but also hot chocolate, ice cream, caramel sauce, and toffee. Plus, they host a regular dinner series featuring local chefs. This is our kind of place, but we were there specifically for the bon bons, and we got right down to business by sampling the bourbon bon bon made with Maker’s Mark. This is a bitter, complex dark chocolate shell covering a soft, smooth center flavored generously with bourbon. It is a home run and the perfect lead-in to Alma’s cocktail-inspired bon bons.
In what they call “the best game of ping pong ever,” Alma’s founder, Sarah Hart, worked with mixologist Kyle Linden Webster (opening bartender at St. Jack, and now behind the newly opened Expatriate with wife Naomi Pomeroy of Beast) to trade chocolate tasting notes and cocktail recipes back and forth until they developed a line of bon bons that actually taste like some of our favorite drinks.
In our carefully wrapped to-go packages, we found bon bons containing prunes soaked in Madeira and House Spirits rum, filled with lime anise ganache, and dipped in dark chocolate. This candy was really intense. As one might expect, the prunes soak up the alcohol like sponges, but it was nicely balanced by the citrus spiciness of the ganache. Our favorite bon bon was the Pegu Club, which is a dry gin ganache with a honey-lime caramel, dipped in dark chocolate, and finished with Angostura-soaked coconut. The flavors in this bon bon are so layered and complex. Each nibble brought a new experience, and we can’t wait for our next trip to Alma Chocolate.
Even though this post was sponsored by Alma Chocolate, we will always review products honestly. Contrary to popular belief, free products don’t automatically taste better.
We had some leftover lemongrass and ginger from an Asian stir fry, so we thought we’d try to incorporate those great flavors into a cocktail. We decided to make a syrup, which is always a simple and powerful way to combine flavors.
2 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. Lemon juice
¾ oz. Lemongrass-ginger simple syrup*
Combine top three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake to combine and chill, then strain into a lowball glass with ice. Top with a splash of club soda and garnish with a lemon twist.
*Lemongrass-Ginger Simple Syrup
3 stalks Lemongrass
1 inch Ginger root
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Water
Trim the lemongrass so that just the stiff, whitish base is left. Slice them down the center, but stop your blade a few layers from the bottom so that the stalk splays open, but doesn’t separate entirely. Take the flat side of a blade and smash the ginger a little bit so that it opens up to release the oils. Place all ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer while stirring until the sugar has melted. Turn off the heat and let sit for about thirty minutes until it is fragrant. Strain into a glass container and store in the refrigerator.
This cocktail is so light and refreshing on a hot day. The earthiness of the syrup pairs really well with the bourbon, and the touch of acidity from the citrus balances it. I love carbonation in the summer, so the club soda is a great finishing touch.
We recently received a package from Thomas Henry, a culinary company based in Germany that makes sodas, tonics, and assorted gelées. One of the most intriguing items in this package was a jar of Horse’s Neck gelée. Since we don’t speak or read German, we couldn’t find very much information about this product (though their website provides an English version for their other products). What we do know is that Horse’s Neck is cocktail of bourbon and ginger ale, and that the Thomas Henry gelée is made with Maker’s Mark. That’s pretty much the only words we could read in the product information. Unsure of what to do with this product, we opened it up to sample it. Sure enough, it tastes remarkably like a perfectly mixed bourbon and ginger ale cocktail.
Pleased with the flavor, we did what any self-respecting bourbon lover would do: we put it on waffles. In case you weren’t aware, waffles that taste like bourbon are even more delicious than normal waffles. We highly recommend trying this gelée if you can get your hands on some. (It seems that all their products can be ordered via the worldwide interwebs.) Thomas Henry also makes gin & tonic and earl grey & vodka gelées, in case you want a whole spectrum of breakfast cocktail concoctions.
OK, now for a silly question: is gelée any different from jelly? We noticed at least one of the gelées is slightly more liquid than we’re used to seeing with jellies. Other than that, we didn’t see a difference. Is a gelée used differently from a jelly? Please advise!
Also, feel free to throw out any more ideas for how we might use this Horse’s Neck gelée.
Even though this weekend’s breakfast was on Thomas Henry’s dime, we will always review products honestly. Contrary to popular belief, free stuff doesn’t automatically taste better.
We’ve been thinking a lot about Cynar lately and how it pairs so well with bourbon. This recipe is a variation on a manhattan, a classic bourbon cocktail.
Game Set Match
2 oz. Bourbon
½ oz. Cynar
½ oz. Sweet vermouth
4 dashes Bitters
2 dashes Orange bitters
Stir all ingredients together with ice for about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry and lemon twist.
This cocktail is well balanced with enough bitterness to satisfy sophisticated palates. The orange bitters are the key to brightness here, and if you’d like more, feel free to dash a couple more times than called for. We used a lower proof bourbon as directed in the original recipe so that the whiskey didn’t overpower the more delicate vegetal notes of the Cynar.