Friday, June 25, 2010

Fresh Summer Produce Makes a Cocktail Swing: Part I: Tomatoes and The Adam Cocktail

A seasonal miniseries showing you how to use farm-fresh ingredients in your cocktails.

by Steve Schul

The Adam Cocktail is a light and refreshing alternative to the Bloody Mary.

One late spring, Paul and I were making new cocktails with some moonshine, Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine to be precise. We were making cocktails to pair with a three-course lunch at Bourbon House in New Orleans, and Piedmont Distillers asked us to use their moonshine in all the recipes. Excited by the notion of summer vegetables soon to grace our farmers markets, I decided to explore my savory side. When I taste this moonshine neat, there is a little burn on my tongue, and a little down my throat. It’s crystal clear, like vodka, and like vodka, it needs a little loving from the garden. I opt for tomatoes because Bloody Marys come to mind. But instead of the traditional Bloody Mary, I want it to be light and fresh, like a summertime breeze that releases the essence of tomatoes as they ripen on the vine. The only thing that tastes like that description is tomato water. Tomato water is made by mashing up some gorgeous heirlooms or vine-ripened beauties and straining the pulp through some cheesecloth. After 10 hours of a drip drip drip into a collecting bowl, the pure essence of tomato is what awaits.

You could almost drink this tomato water naked and unadulterated, and we have on occasions when we’ve made a big batch and had some extra to sip. But I wanted to add some traditional flavors of a Bloody Mary into the water, so in went a few drops of fiery Tabasco and savory Worcestershire, a shake or two of celery salt, and for added depth, a drop of liquid smoke. Add one little basil leaf atop a few ice cubes and I see Adam in the Garden of Eden, waiting for his mate to make him his cocktail.

Perfect as a brunch alternative to a Bloody Mary, the Adam will tempt you with its fresh tomato taste and off-the-vine aroma.

(created by Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz)

3 ounces tomato water*
1 ounce Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon Carolina Moonshine
1/4 ounce lemon juice
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
2 drops Tabasco
1 drop liquid smoke
2 dashes celery salt
basil leaf, as garnish

In a mixing glass halfway filled with ice, add all the ingredients. Stir gently until ingredients are cold. Strain into wine glass halfway filled with fresh ice. Add basil leaf garnish.

* Tomato Water:
9 medium vine-ripened or summer-fresh tomatoes
12 basil leaves
Pinch salt
1 beet slice (optional, for color)

In a blender or food processor, purée tomatoes, basil, and salt. Line a glass or ceramic bowl with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Pour purée into bowl. Gather ends of cheesecloth and tie tightly with enough string to create a pouch. Hang above bowl and allow to drip. Add beet slice to bowl. Allow purée to drip into bowl for 8–12 hours. (At some point, you may have to squeeze to release juices if not producing enough liquid.) Remove beet slice. Makes enough tomato water for about 6 drinks.

Patience is your best friend when it comes to making tomato water. But if you notice that the tomato water stops dripping from the pouch hanging over the bowl, it’s time to get your hands a little dirty. Wash them first, and then gently squeeze the pouch. This will redistribute the mash and allow the water that’s remaining to drip through.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Spirit of Brazil and the Globalization of Cachaça

A Baseado, made with cachaça, lemongrass, and other transporting ingredients. Saúde.

Steve was away for the weekend so when PR spirits queen Hanna Lee invited us to the Spirits of Brazil seminar at the Astor Center, I jumped at the chance. A while back, our friends Renato and Flavio brought us a bottle of cachaça from Brazil, one you can’t get in the States, and we were hooked. So, the prospect of sipping five cocktails along with a flight of cachaças and nibbling on a host of sweet and savory apps could not be passed up.

The seminar started a little late, so Paulo, a Brazilian man at my table, and spirits writer Carmen Operetta both agreed that we were officially on “Brazilian time.” But it was worth the wait. Vincent Bastos Ribiero, Master Distiller of Fazenda Soledad, proclaimed, “Like soccer and samba, cachaça is an expressive part of the Brazilian Soul.” And he wasn’t kidding. This spirit, made from the fermented juice of sugar cane, is drunk on a vast scale; many families in the fourth largest nation on earth make their own, and their are thousands of bottled expressions across the land.

But don’t confuse Cachaça with rum, in which molasses, the remnants of sugar refining, is used in the distillation process. According to Steve Luttmann, Founder and CEO of Leblon, cachaça needs its own internationally recognized geographical spirits designation, such as the ones held by tequila, cognac, and champagne. (You can learn more about this at Legalize Cachaça.)

Steve shared the floor with Olie Berlic, tireless cachaça champion and expert, and Leticia Moreinos Schwartz, chef and author of The Brazilian Kitchen, who uses cachaça in many of her recipes. Brazilian cuisine is a mix of Portuguese, Native American, and African cuisines. We were treated to some traditional and riffed-on Brazilian amuse bouche such as pao de quejo, a pop-in-your-mouth-sized doughy cheese puff, paired with Brazil’s traditional drink, the Caipirinha (which Olie says is probably the most widely drunk cocktail in the world). To be a Caiparinha, you must contain only three ingredients: cachaçca, sugar, and limes. No more, no less. How you make it though is up to debate, and, as Olie pointed out by having people raise their hands in the room, some of us are shakers and some of us are stirrers. (We’re stirrers, if you needed to know. We don’t like too much pulp in our Caipirinhas.)

(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

3 ounces cachaça
1/2 lime cut lengthwise, with ends cut off and middle pith removed
1 teaspoon sugar
small ice cubes or crushed ice

Cut a deep cross into the pulp side of the lime, but not all the way through the peel. Add to a old-fashioned or rocks glass, peel side up. Add sugar. Gently muddle (about five twists). Add ice, then pour cachaça. Stir.

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Following that was a croquette de carne (meat croquette), which was paired with a Spiced Batida de Maracuja, a brunch cocktail made with cachaça, passion fruit, and a bit of habanera. Sweet, spicy, tart . . . delicious. Laticia expressed her strong desire to separate Latin and South American cuisines by region and nationality instead of the common practice of just lumping them all into one generic category. “We don’t do this to European cuisine. Each one is distinct in its own right. Why do this to the cuisines of the Americas?”

In between these pairings was a flight tasting of different cachaça, some unaged, and some slightly aged. Many cachaças are aged to mellow the alcoholic heat and to give the spirit a distinct flavor profile by aging in not just oak, but casks made from native Brazilian trees. The unaged Beleza Pura was a favorite, as was the Fazende Soledad, which is slightly aged. The Leblon is very clean and smooth, and makes a great mixer.

Steve made us a drink called Baseado (Brazilian slang for marijuana joint), that was sweet, but complex, redolent of coconut with flavors of lime and lemongrass. Exquisite, and perfect with the salty yucca sticks Leticia had prepared for us.

My favorite drink made me feel a little guilty: a Batida de Coco. It’s a simple rocks preparation of 1 part cachaça shaken with 2 parts coconut cream, and fortunately it landed right in front of me the same time as the Brazilian chocolate truffles known as brigadeiros. Mercy, they satisfied my sweet tooth and put a big ol’ smile on my face.

— Paul Zablocki

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Beefeater: The Summer Edition. Available Now! Get Some While Supplies Last!

Well, if you read our posts, you’ll be happy to know that we finally met Stephanie Jerzy, that elusive spirits promoter and champion of cocktail geeks from Central Connecticut, and may we say, what a charming woman. She could elicit a racketeering confession from Al Capone if just given five minutes and a bottle of gin. Beefeater Summer Edition, to be precise. Stephanie invited us to the launch of Beefeater’s newest edition to its roster of excellent spirits. We met Stephanie at the Ace Hotel’s Liberty Hall, a tastefully modest set of rooms, but festooned with lovely bottles of Beefeater’s Summer Edition, a light gin (and a terrific introduction to people who say they don’t like gin, but will ultimately succumb to the brave new world that lies way beyond the isle of London dry). Developed by the creative genius Desmond Payne, the master distiller who gave us last year’s crazy delicious Beefeater 24, this light gin is made with the edition of elder flower, black currant, and hibiscus flower. While sipping it, you realize that this gin is gentle, not overtly juniper forward, and no surprise that it mixes splendidly with its parent components.

When we first walked down to Liberty Hall, there were small clusters of people gathered around two bars mise-en-place’d with the pressed-flower, scrapbook-as-collage label in throbbing lime, sno-cone blue, and vermilion; and two tables loaded with the perfect complement: nosh. On platters lay just-cooked two-bite fish and chips, replete with cocktail sauce, if you so chose; braised artichokes, so tender you could pierce them with a whisper; and a fine selection of cheeses and their faithful leavened companions. We sipped an English Summer Collins to start as we chatted with New York Times columnist Robert Simonson, and shared some favorite ways to drink summer sippers. Perhaps we can collaborate someday on the perfect Summer Cocktail. Hmm. If it’s anything like the English Summer Collins—with just the right amount of sweetness, with some St-Germain to bring out the its elder flower notes, just a bit of crème de cassis to cut through the fresh lemon juice, accompanied by a minty, lemony aroma as you bring the straw to your lips—this drink will be loved for its simple refreshing elegance. We’d serve them in a heartbeat to eagerly awaiting guests on our terrace.

English Summer Collins

(created by Jamie Gordon)

1 1/2 parts* Beefeater Summer Edition gin
1/2 part St-Germain (elder flower liqueur)
1/2 part Mathilde Cassis (crème de cassis)
1 part fresh lemon juice
3/4 parts simple syrup
club soda, to top
lemon wedge, as garnish
mint sprig, as garnish

Shake first five ingredients with ice and strain over fresh ice into a highball glass. Top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a lemon wedge and a mint sprig.

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Stephanie then introduced herself as Robert went off in search of a new cocktail and a possible tale for his online musings, Off the Presses. Our online chatter instantly morphed into flesh. We talked about Connecticut, where Paul is from, not too far from where Stephanie calls home too, and reminisced about the fun we had separately at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic Gala. Not content with just one drink, we escorted her to the bar and asked for a Summer Flower. Now, who wouldn’t want a cocktail called a Summer Flower? Mixologist Jamie Gordon, who expounded on developing the evening’s cocktails with spirits ambassador and bon vivant Simon Ford, found a perfect trio to add to the new gin: hibiscus syrup, fresh lemon juice, and a dash of orange bitters. This flower shone deep red and tasted like lightly sweetened tea, with a slight tart note from the hibiscus and a pucker from the lemon. The orange bitters rounded out things nicely. Needless to say, all the yummy food went very well with these drinks, and that made us all happy.

Summer Flower
(created by Jamie Gordon)

2 parts Beefeater Summer Edition
1/2 part hibiscus syrup
3/4 parts fresh lemon juice
1 dash orange bitters
grated lemon zest, as garnish

Shake ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and fine strain (or double-strain to remove any pulp) into a cocktail glass. Garnish with grated lemon zest.

Stephanie (on right) and her friend Julia. You can read Stephanie’s Musings on Cocktail Culture. A Summer Gin Fizz, courtesy of the Mixologists and Ad Firm that conceptualized it: 2 parts Beefeater Summer Edition over ice. Top with fresh ruby grapefruit juice and a splash of club soda. Garnish with a wedge of ruby grapefruit.

As we said our good-byes to Stephanie and her lovely friend Julia, who happened upon the party just in time for a light summer refresher, we were handed each a petal-pressed-in-paper envelope sealed in wax and stamp with the imprint of a sunflower. Inside, little dried blooms pressed in between recipe postcards with photos of cocktails in Mad Men era–poses and saturated hues. We can’t wait to pick up a bottle and and have a picnic.

* For American measures, a part equals 1 ounce, which will make your life easier.