Sunday, December 30, 2018

Cocktail Experiments 2018

We always record cocktail experiments we would make again. Here are the ones from 2018 we deem delectable. Some of the ingredients may be hard to find in your area, in which case substitutions may be made. We always encourage messing around with ingredients.

Farewell, 2018. We are not sorry to see you go.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Pairing the Sidecar with Stuffed Mushrooms

The Sidecar, redolent with the aromas of citrus and cognac, pairs perfectly with our stuffed mushrooms.

The Sidecar, invented in Europe following World War I, and one of David A. Embury’s six basic drinks in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, is considered a classic among cocktailians across the globe. Just bring the glittering amber to your lips and you’ll soon learn why. The aroma alone is intoxicating: lemon and orange, with a familiar mix of cognac, one of the truly amazing members of the spirit world.

Pairing Sidecars isn’t such an easy task. You want to keep the citrus flavors balanced without bringing out too much of the cognac’s strength. That’s why stuffed mushrooms work so well: the richness of the butter in the stuffing is a perfect foil to the cognac, and brings out the flavors of the lemon juice and the orange liqueur without making it too sour. Add a little saffron and Italian herbs to spice things up, and all the flavors seem to just come together in one small bite.

The Sidecar
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces cognac or brandy
1 ounce orange liqueur (we like Combier)
1/2 ounce lemon juice
demerara sugar rim (or turbinado)
lemon twist, as garnish

Rim half a chilled cocktail glass with the sugar (you may need to muddle or grind the sugar if it’s too chunky). In a shaker half-filled with ice, add the cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice. Shake for 15 seconds. Strain into glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Tips & Tricks

Finding the right triple sec can be a daunting prospect. We searched high and low until we found the one we thought mixed perfectly with a variety of brandies and cognacs. If you use one other than Combier, the ratios of the three ingredients may need to be adjusted. When experimenting, you can always use teaspoons instead of ounces to sample ratios before committing to a full cocktail.

Rimming a glass is easy. Just take a lemon wedge and rub the outer rim of your cocktail glass (you also can dip the glass in the liqueur if you prefer). Then dip the edge of the glass into the sugar and rotate, gently bobbing the glass up and down so that the sugar sticks to the rim.


Stuffed Mushrooms

Paul’s mom has made stuffed mushrooms ever since he can remember, and her recipe was the inspiration for this perfect little bite-size accompaniment to the Sidecar. Rosé wine and saffron, with a little Italian herbs, bump up the earthiness of these little treats. Make sure you get small baby bellas from the farmers market or grocery store; that way, your guests can pop them in their mouths without any worry. If you want to halve the recipe (as we do in the video), go ahead. If you end up with some leftover stuffing, it’s perfect as a little side dish for your main meal, or a topping for a turkey sandwich.

12 ounces mushrooms (clean and remove stems, reserve stems)
2 small onions
2 celery stalks (remove ribs)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon Italian herbs (oregano, marjoram, basil)
salt and pepper, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon, respectively)
2 pinches saffron
1/2 cup rosé wine

Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. In a food processor, chop stems, onions, and celery until almost pulpy. Add mixture to skillet and brown, stirring occasionally (about 6 minutes). Add breadcrumbs, herbs, salt, pepper, and saffron, and mix until all ingredients are incorporated and the breadcrumbs have absorbed all the butter. Add wine and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Using a small measuring spoon, scoop out a little mixture and dollop onto underside of mushrooms caps. Press lightly to form a dome (do not overfill). Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. If the mushrooms are wobbly, you can cut a little off the bottom using a small, thin knife. Bake for 20 minutes, until mushrooms are cooked and the stuffing has browned. Serve warm.

Makes about 3 dozen stuffed mushrooms.

Fun Fact

Did you know that the stems of mushrooms are called stipes?

photos © Steve Schul

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Pairing the French 75 with Shrimp Cocktail

Gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup topped with champagne create a French 75.
Now, doesn’t that sound good? Perfect with some shrimp cocktail.
For such a light and refreshing drink to be named after heavy World War I artillery is incongruous but also poetic. The French 75 has reemerged recently as one of the most popular drinks on bar menus throughout the US. Imagine a Tom Collins topped with your favorite champagne, and you have the French 75. Keep bottles of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, some simple syrup, and gin at your bar, make sure a bottle of champagne (or some Sofia cans) are chilling on ice, and keep the recipe visible. That way your guests can help themselves. All you have to do do is encourage vigorous shaking to get this delicate drink cold. (Just keep a jigger handy to keep out the guesswork.)

French 75
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces gin (preferably one redolent with juniper)
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup*
1 to 2 ounces champagne (depending on your preference; more, if you like)
lemon twist, as garnish
brandied cherry, as garnish
ice (the more champagne, the less ice), optional

Shake gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup for 15 seconds in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into wine goblet or highball glass (with some ice cubes, if you like). Top with champagne. (Add more ice if necessary.) Garnish with lemon twist and cherry.

* Simple Syrup
Over low heat, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water (stir occasionally). Remove from heat, cool in container, and refrigerate for up to a month.

Tips & Tricks

For the past few decades, we all think of flutes as the traditional champagne cocktail vessel. We have over a dozen in our sideboard, and we use them quite a bit. But for the French 75, we wanted to try something a little different and chose a wine goblet. You’ll add a little unexpected touch to your cocktail party. But if you want to go traditional and use champagne flutes, then go right ahead. You can cut an extra long lemon twist and let it drape down the outside of the flute.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT GIN is a very important part of the French 75 process. If we want a light drink that doesn’t overpower the lemon, we’ll perhaps choose Bulldog. If we want a more juniper-tasting cocktail, we’ll opt for some Tanqueray. Experiment with what you already have, and grow from there.


Nothing could be easier than shrimp cocktail, and it’s so perfect paired with the French 75. The spiky tang of traditional cocktail sauce (ketchup and horseradish) brightens the lemon juice and whatever herbs and spices inform the gin, making your taste buds very happy. Make this your go-to hors d’oeuvre when you’re in a hurry or tired but still crave something satisfying. Frozen shrimp is great to keep on hand, but we recommend getting the raw shrimp with the shell on. The flavor is deeper, much more complex—with a hint of the sea.

Shrimp Cocktail

A good rule of thumb is that 2 pounds of shrimp in their shells will yield about 11/4 pounds when peeled.

Allow about 3/4 pound headless shrimp in the shell per person; if the shrimp are shelled, about 1/3 to 1/2 pound per person.

Simply boil shrimp for 3 to 5 minutes in salted water. Cook until they turn pink, and then rinse in cold water. Drain and pat dry. Serve with your favorite cocktail sauce.


Tom Collins
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

For a Collins (or tall) glass
2 1/2 ounces gin (try Hendrick’s and then try a London dry and Plymouth to see what works best for you)
1 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
2–3 ounces club soda
orange wheel and cherry, as garnish

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into ice-filled collins glass. Top with soda. Add garnish, speared, and rest on rim.

For a rocks (or short) glass
1 1/2 ounces gin (we also like G’Vine Floraison)
2/3 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 1/2 ounces club soda
cherry and orange half-moon slice

Shake in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into ice-filled rocks or old-fashioned glass. Top with soda. Add garnish, speared, and rest on rim.

photos © Steve Schul

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Queer Martini, for Everyone

Behold the Queer Martini: pink and beautiful, and delicious.
Pair with some salty snacks.

We’d like to share with you a new cocktail recipe that has consistently graced our palates over the past year. We’ve been drinking this cocktail with regularity because it’s so darn good, and because it’s easy to make, with only three ingredients, plus a garnish.

Created by Paul for The Scofield literary journal, the Queer Martini is an odd little fellow. The editor-in-chief, Tyler Malone, asked Paul to read “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” by mid-twentieth-century writer Conrad Aiken and to come up with a drink inspired by that tale of a young man, also named Paul, who hears and sees things no one else does, such as the snow in the title. It’s a much more complex tale, but the cocktail Paul came up with is quite simple: it’s pink and made with gin and Cocchi Americano Rosa, which gives it its blushing hue, plus a green olive, offering a queer-looking drink in all senses of the word. It looks a little on the sweet side, so what, you may ask, is an olive doing in this drink? Is it a martini? Why, yes, it is, and very old-school in its liberal use of a fortified wine, like the first martinis did back in the day. Regardless of the Queer Martini’s progenitors, what really matters is that it’s delicious and pairs well with little nibbles. Having one (or two) is a great way to unwind after a long day at work. (We speak from experience.) Bottoms up!

Queer Martini
(created by Paul Zablocki)

2 ounces gin (try Dorothy Parker)
1 ounce Cocchi Americano Rosa
1 dash orange bitters
1 green olive, as garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktails glass or coupe. Add garnish.

❤ ❤ ❤

To read Paul’s essay how he came up with the cocktail—in the style of Aiken’s “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” visit The Scofield.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

From Ginger to Cinnamon to Galangal: Traversing the Globe in Search of the Right Amount of Spice for Friday Night Drinks, Dinner, and Dessert

by Paul Zablocki

If we’re going to have a vodka cocktail, it better taste good, like this one. The Lemonade Ginger Fizz. Sweet, sour, and fizzy. 
Friday night is pizza night. You know the drill: one of you picks up four different slices from your local pizzeria; the other makes cocktails, which sometimes linger well into pizza time.

This Friday was different. Steve made, to my amazement, what could only be called a glorified vodka and soda.* Of course he had to make it special, or why bother?
* The following is a short rant against the vodka and soda, the most boring, stupid, worthless cocktail in the world: It means you want to get drunk and you don’t care how you get there. You might as well hammer a sign to your forehead saying I enjoy the taste of nothing. Why are you cock blocking your taste buds? You’re having a drink; why not actually taste and enjoy the spirits you are imbibing . . . okay, I’m done kvetching—for now.
Steve chose vodka as his base Friday night because he didn’t want to get whiskey-tired. It’s the perfect spirit to mix with when you still have dinner and dessert to contend with. So after he handed me the highball and I tried it, I said, “Wow, that’s really good. A little spicy. What did you put in it, besides the obvious?”

“A little ginger syrup we already had in the fridge and a lot of lemon juice.”

(So, It really wasn’t a vodka and soda. But I’m not sorry for the rant.)

Steve doesn’t like his drinks too sweet before dinner. But he does love sours, with just the right amount of sweetener so you still get that pucker after you take a sip.

Lemonade Ginger Fizz
(created by Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz)

Serves 2

3 ounces vodka
1 1/4 ounces lemon juice
1 ounce ginger syrup*

Shake the vodka, lemon juice, and ginger syrup in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with soda.

Enjoy with potato chips.

*Ginger Syrup
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 piece of fresh ginger, about 8 inches
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water

Wash then mandolin or thinly slice the ginger (no need to peel). In a medium saucepan combine sugar, water, and ginger. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Be careful not to bring to a roiling boil at this point as this will cause the syrup to harden. Allow to cool with ginger in syrup. Strain into jar. Press down on ginger to get all the syrup out. This keeps for about 1–2 weeks, and longer if you add a tablespoon of vodka or other spirit.

❤ ❤ ❤

The ginger stimulated our appetites, so after a few of those fizzes, we decided to make dinner. Steve found a recipe in Cook’s Illustrated, July/August 2016, for the classic Mexican dish tinga de pollo and riffed on it. Normally, you plop the shredded chicken—cooked with cinnamon, cumin, and chipotle chiles in adobo sauce—on a corn tortilla, but since we only had flour tortillas, tacos transmogrified into burritos. Each spice had its moment to shine, but ultimately the smoky adobo sauce makes the dish. You get addicted. Sour cream and lots of Cotija cheese are good foils for the piquant heat of the chiles in the adobo, so we added the sour cream for its cooling effect and the Cotija for its funk. As burritos, they are filling, so we stopped after one, knowing full well that dessert was just a belch and an expectant smile away.

And so dessert. I actually made something I had been pondering for several weeks: galangal ice cream. Just to make sure I wasn’t barking up the wrong tree, I googled galangal ice cream and found one recipe, on the New York Times Web site, then riffed (riffing is a common theme in our kitchen). For those of you new to galangal (pronounced GAL-in-GAL), it’s a rhizome similar to ginger but not as spicy. When you take a whiff of one of the gnarly bulbs, which look like the shiny, articulated segments of a giant insect, you instantly smell camphor, with an undertone of sweet mustard. How can this possibly make for a delicious ice cream? Well, when you add the divine Hawaiian lehua honey (I also used honey from its relative the New Zealand rata) and an udderful of cream and milk, you can’t lose. If you can find fresh galangal (look in Asian markets) and you own an ice cream maker, I say go for it. When you serve it, grab some gourmet—or, better yet, homemade—cookies and make some sandwiches.

Galangal and Honey Ice Cream
(adapted from William Grimes, New York Times)

1 3/4 cups milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup lehua or rata honey (or a combination of the two)
3 ounces or 1/2 cup fresh galangal, peeled (as much as you can) and chopped
6 large egg yolks

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, heavy cream, honey, sugar, and galangal. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool, then transfer to a covered container. Refrigerate at least eight hours, or overnight, to infuse the flavor of the galangal.

Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl, whisk until blended, and set aside. Return the galangal mixture to a metal bowl placed over a pot of boiling water (make sure the water level does not reach the bottom of the metal bowl filled with your mixture; I like to use a medium-size “industrial” salad bowl that hangs well over the perimeter of the pot below, so I can easily manipulate the bowl; however, if you have a double boiler, use the double boiler) over medium-high heat, bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to low. Slowly mix about a cup of the hot galangal mixture into the egg yolks. Add the yolk mixture to the bowl. Cook over low heat, stirring slowly, until the custard has thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from the heat.

Strain the custard into a mixing bowl, and place in a container of ice water to cool. When the custard is chilled, freeze in an ice cream maker, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Galangal and honey ice cream is easy to make and unique. It's also delicious.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A “Brilliant” Cocktail Keeps a Roomful of Book Critics Happy

The “Brilliant” cocktail shines with the flavors of spicy ginger, lime, and Junípero gin. Make our spicy ginger syrup and you’re ready to dazzle your guests at your upcoming spring/summer party. Photo by Steve Schul.

We’re thrilled now that warm weather has returned — especially after such a long, cold winter. To combat memories of the abominable blizzards, we came up with a “Brilliant” solution. This drink was created for the National Book Critics Circle spring cocktail party 2015, held at the Center for Fiction, in East Midtown. Sarah Russo — a terrific publicist and advocate for the NBCC — gave us only one requirement for the cocktail: we must use Junípero gin, by Anchor Distilling Company of San Francisco. We love this juniper-heavy dry gin, laced with many other herb and bark flavors, and were thrilled to have it as a starting point. The evening’s forecast was warm and very humid, so a cool refreshing drink was in order. We started out with the French 75 as inspiration, and as the basis for the proportions. Lime juice with ginger sounded tropically thirst quenching—a good pairing for the gin. We mixed up a batch of our own Cocktail Buzz spicy ginger syrup, added gin, squeezed some fresh lime juice, shook it up with ice to chill, and topped it all with champagne. Delicious and refreshing—a new summertime favorite! We served it that night to the thirsty literary crowd of book critics and might have heard a murmur, or perhaps the review . . . “Brilliant!”

Paul and Steve mix up some “Brilliant” cocktails for the National Book Critics Circle spring cocktail party. Photo courtesy Sean Sime.
(created by Cocktail Buzz for the NBCC)

1 1/2 ounces Junípero gin (or one redolent with juniper)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce Cocktail Buzz spicy ginger syrup*
2 ounces champagne

Shake gin, lime juice, and ginger syrup in an ice-filled shaker for 15 seconds. Strain into a champagne flute or highball glass. Top with champagne. (You can add an ice cube or two if it’s a particularly close night.)

*Cocktail Buzz Spicy Ginger Syrup

6 ounces fresh, unpeeled ginger, washed and diced (or sliced with a mandoline or pulsed in a food processor)
3 cups of water
1 1/2 cups sugar
pinch salt

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool completely. Strain mixture into a jar and store in refrigerator for about a week.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Two Tang Cocktails To Send You Into Orbit

Calling all Apollo 11 Aficionados! Try our orange, scotch, and amaretto cocktail,
A Midwinter Tang.

Our friends Sara Kate Gillingham and Penny de los Santos asked us to come up with a Tang cocktail, one that would kick off a dinner for six winners of a school raffle, who requested the menu be based on Tricky Dick Nixon’s White House dinner to honor the Apollo 11 astronauts. The reason they asked for such a cocktail was simple: one of the lucky recipients of Sara Kate and Penny’s feast—turns out it was his birthday—requested that the powdered mix, which was used to fuel the astronauts, fuel him as well.

The first question we asked was, Do they still make that stuff?

The answer, we discovered, was a resounding yes—although, we had to ask our checkout worker at the grocery store where to find it. There are two sizes: first, a jug that you can rest easily in the palm of your hand and second, a container four times the size of the jug, suitable only for overly large families. We opted for the former. But we discovered why those containers were so big: it takes two tablespoons of Tang to make one serving!

Both Penny, a photographer, and Sara Kate, founding editor of The Kitchn, love scotch, bourbon, and gin, so they asked us to use one of those spirits in the cocktail. We immediately reached for the bourbon, whipped up a small batch of Tang, and mixed the two. All it made were two sad faces. But like intrepid astronauts, we persisted, eager to explore unknown terrain. Although the bourbony Tang did not send us into orbit, the scotchy and ginny Tangs did. So we decided to make two separate drinks. Our goal was to keep them simple but make sure that orangey Tang-y essence made our mouths vibrate a little.

Here’s what we came up with:

A Midwinter Tang
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces light blended scotch whisky (we used Glendrostan)*
1 ounce Tang
1/2 ounce amaretto (we used Luxardo)
1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake in ice for 15 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe (or on the rocks in a rocks glass, if you prefer). Serve with salty and spicy potato chips.

* Feel free to try any scotch on hand. We also tried A Midwinter Tang with Drumguish Single Highland Malt, and it made the drink delightfully tingly.

The Orbiter
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 1/2 ounces London dry gin
3/4 ounce Tang
1/2 ounce green Chartreuse
1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake in ice for 15 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe (or on the rocks in a rocks glass, with a splash of soda, if you prefer). Serve with salty potato chips.

❤ ❤ ❤

Sara Kate and Penny chose A Midwinter Tang to serve the winners. Asked if they liked it, Sara Kate responded, “Maybe too much.” Check out her writeup of the event on The Kitchn.

photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz