Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pomegranates Make Easter Cocktailing a Joy: PAMA Nog

This light and fruity nog, made with three pomegranate expressions, will make your Easter celebrations an affair to remember. And because of its low-alcohol content, you can have two (or three).

Pomegranates ten years ago were exotic to most Westerners, especially to us East Coasters. Sure, we’d seen those burnished red orbs piled up in a produce-section crate at the grocery store, their crown-shaped nipples beckoning us to get a little closer, but by sheer ignorance we shuttered our eyes to their beauty. We just didn’t know what to do with them except make a mess with the arils, those pip-like seeds coated with the sweet juice that gives the pomegranate its distinct enchanting flavor.

The arils, pips, or seeds of the pomegranate (call them what you will) are the paragons of contrast: sweet and soft on the outside, hard and slightly bitter on the inside. Nibbling them can become an addiction.

Mythologically, the pomegranate, which originated in Iran, has bewitched many a soul, the most famous being Persephone, the Goddess of the Underworld in Greek tales. Poor Persephone. Abducted by Hades, god of the Underworld, she was forced to take a seat by his throne whilst he lorded over the dead. Her mom, Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, was thrown into a deep depression, so deep, as a result, winter enveloped all with its bitter chill. All vegetation shriveled up, and nothing new grew. Well, this didn’t sit well with Zeus, king of the Gods, so he ordered Hades to return Persephone to terra firma so that the shrubs and trees and flowers could once again bloom. But Hades, being devilish and cunning, tricked Persephone into eating six pomegranate seeds, so that she would be forced to stay—you see, the Fates had decreed that anyone who imbibed anything while they were roaming the dark and gloomy caverns of the Underworld were doomed to live eternity there. Six seeds were hardly enough to merit eternal damnation, so it was decided that six months a year would suffice. And during those six months, Demeter’s mourning chills the Earth, forcing the greenery into early retirement.

How dreary. And you thought pomegranates were life-affirming because of all the hullabaloo about its antioxidant properties.

But after six months of bitterness and cold, hope springs eternal. Yes, spring, the season of renewal and life, returns with the release of Persephone from Hades’s corpsy clutches. And what better symbol to promote this renewal than the egg. Going way back in Teutonic Mythology, the egg symbolized, you guessed it, renewal. Ēostre, the Goddess of spring, represented by the egg and the rabbit (yes, the bunny represents fecundity, so we get the Easter Bunny from her too), lent her name to the holiday. So eggs and Easter somehow become intertwined forever, as lovers united in a common vision of resurrection. Easter + eggs. The two words fit so well together, we can’t imagine an Easter without them. And after a gloomy winter, the more decorated these eggs are, the better.

Which brings us to the drink. We’ll call it PAMA Nog (we get nothing promoting the brand, it just sounds good). Look at the photo: It’s like a wee present, dappled in little jeweled seeds, life’s beginnings. These little ruby eggs of sweet and bitter, floating atop a cloud of pomegranate–blueberry juice laced with a hearty dose of PAMA pomegranate-flavored liqueur, when we bite into you and take a sip of your smooth and creamy essence, we become one with all mythologies that hand down their circle-of-life fables to the generations; we are cradled by their stories. (It’s that good.)

So what we’re trying to say is Steve’s drink, PAMA Nog, is a celebration of this life-cycle, and what better holiday than Easter to fete the renewal of life. In Christian mythology, Jesus rises from the dead after a nasty run-in with the Roman authorities, and it is on Easter that Christians commemorate this event — much like the Ancient Greeks would pay homage to Persephone, and the Northern Europeans would honor Ēostre — in song, dance, parades, dramas, and special holidays.

We just chose to add some liquor to our medium. But you will find the whole egg in there — yolk and white separated at first, then reunited in bibulous bliss. Mmm. Happy Lip-Smacking Easter.

(created by Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz)

Serves 2.

2 ounces PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur
1 egg, divided (yolk and white separated)
5 teaspoons sugar, divided (4/1)
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 cup pomegranate–blueberry juice (or just pomegranate juice)
nutmeg, freshly ground
pomegranate seeds, as garnish

In a bowl, beat the egg yolk and 4 teaspoons of sugar with a mixer until it lightens in color and sugar is dissolved. Add PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, milk, pomegranate-blueberry juice, and stir to combine.

Place the egg white and the 1 additional teaspoon of sugar in a bowl and beat with mixer until soft peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the mixture. Chill. Whisk before serving. Divide between two glasses and garnish with pomegranate seeds and freshly ground nutmeg. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hot and Cold Irish Whiskey Drink Recipes for St. Patrick’s Day, After Hours

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t always have to begin at the crack of dawn. An Irish Coffee may be the perfect way to end a meal with family and friends.

The Tale of Rosie and Her Dad’s Irish Coffee

It’s not often we imbibe postprandial drinks — we usually limit ourselves to one when we’re cocktailing it at home, so that always means pre-dinner — but last night was special because our neighbor, the fabulously talented Burlesque performer Rosie 151, stopped by our test kitchen to help us whip up some Irish Coffees just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Rosie shared with us her Dad’s family recipe, and lovingly limned each step as Paul went through the motions of replicating Dad’s most revered concoction.

A side note about Irish Coffee: It was most likely invented in the 40’s by one Joe Sheridan, a chef in County Limerick who added some Irish whiskey to a group of Americans’ coffees when their flight was delayed. Not a bad way to spend those hours. We suppose that after years of perfection of this caffeinated potable, Irish Coffee eventually had to make its way stateside by someone who loved it so. This happened to be Stanton Delaplane, a travel writer who worked for the San Francisco Chronicle. On a fall evening in 1952, he brought his remembrance of the recipe to the men at the Buena Vista Cafe, and after hours of trial and tribulation, and falling all over each other in sheer energized inebriation, the Irish Coffee became an American staple.

By nature it’s a contradictory drink: On the one hand, sipping the rich dark coffee is like being injected with a shot of adrenalin; on the other hand, the spiky presence of Irish whiskey makes you feel like you’re being laced with a potent soporific. But that’s what’s so fun about this drink. You get a nice boost of energy before being tamed into submission by the distilled effects of Irish liquor. Sometimes after a hard day’s work, it’s nice to straddle between the worlds of Morpheus and Mercury.

So as Paul dutifully boiled water, whipped cream, and poured spirits, and Rosie cooed instructions, both their beaus arrived for some lusty mugsful accompanied by some light cookies. As the last dollops of cream started to reveal milky legs dripping down the coffee-whiskey mixture, we couldn’t help but raise a toast to Rosie’s dad, offering a most-deserved “thank you.” Artistry must run through the family.

Dad’s Irish Coffee
(recipe courtesy of Terry Grillo)

2 ounces Irish whiskey
6 ounces fresh-brewed coffee, strong
3 dollops fresh whipped cream, gloppy, not stiff
2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon superfine sugar, separated (you can use regular sugar as well)
nutmeg (preferably freshly ground)

Tools and Sundries Needed
1 pint cream (we prefer heavy)
dark-roast coffee beans
large mixing bowl
electric beater, standing mixer, or strong arms
tempered-glass mugs (to see the effect of the whipped cream melting into the brew)

Make sure you adjust the recipe according to the number of Irish coffees you’re making. Boil a kettle full of water (make sure you have at least 15 ounces for every Irish coffee you are making). Fill tempered-glass mugs. With the remaining water, brew your favorite unflavored coffee, such as French Roast.

Meanwhile, make whipped cream: Fill a large mixing bowl with an entire pint of cream, plus 2 tablespoons of superfine sugar. Whip until the cream is gloppy, not stiff. To test, a spoonful of whipped cream will gently plop off when tipped (not remain stuck to the spoon).

Empty the mugs and add remaining teaspoon of sugar, followed by Irish whiskey, then coffee. Stir. Top with an inch-thick layer of whipped cream. Garnish with nutmeg, to taste.

If you’re more of a traditionalist, you can substitute brown sugar for the superfine sugar added to the mug. Or, instead of adding the sugar altogether, add a half ounce of Irish Mist.

Why Stop at Dad’s Irish Coffee When There’s More To Be Drunk

And speaking of Irish Mist, that honey-and-heather laced whiskey liqueur from Dublin, we offer you another after-dinner libation. A variation on the classic Rusty Nail (which unites scotch whisky and Drambuie), the Irish Nail flaunts Irish whiskey’s natural attraction to Irish Mist, creating a smooth, honey-sweet drink that is the perfect nightcap. It’s also a further variation on a Black Nail, which uses equal parts Irish Mist and Irish whiskey, plus an orange peel for a little flavor. You may want to have an Irish Nail after a round of Dad’s Irish Coffees. Don’t forget to nibble on some shortbread while you do. They go so well together. Slàinte. (That’s Irish-Gaelic for “Cheers.”)

Use all your senses as you bring the golden glow of an Irish Nail to your lips.

Irish Nail

(adapted by Cocktail Buzz, based on a Black Nail)

1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey
1/2 ounce Irish Mist (use less depending on how sweet you like your drink)
3 ice cubes
orange peel, as garnish (optional)

Stir in ice for 15 seconds. Add ice cubes to rocks glass. Strain into glass.

photos © Cocktail Buzz

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Celebrate National Absinthe Day with The Green Fairy

The Green Fairy gambols through the butterfly forest in this vintage absinthe poster.

March 5 is National Absinthe Day. You have twenty-four hours in which to worship at the altar of The Green Fairy, as it has been commonly referred to in literature because of its hue and high alcohol content (you’d see fairies too if you drank enough).

Absinthe can be a conundrum for the uninitiated. “It’s so strong and licorice tasting, how can I possibly like it?” Absinthe derives its strong, somewhat medicinal flavor from all the botanicals and seeds stirred into the distillate, such as anise, fennel, and the controversial wormwood. Wormwood (Artemesia absinthium) is a bitter, menthol-tasting plant that secretes oil containing thujone, a regulated compound and the source of the controversy. In the past, people believed that thujone in high quantities could induce hallucinations; however, the actual amount of thujone present in absinthe is so small as to induce nothing more than eye-rolling from inveterate absinthe drinkers who know that it’s the high alcohol contact that’s more apt to induce visions of the la fée verte. So if you sip some absinthe straight from the bottle, you’ll notice immediately the bitter woodsy floweriness of the wormwood that gives absinthe its unique vegetal flavor. It should not taste anything like mouthwash. If it does, you’ve got yourself a bottle of crap. You should also know that not all absinthe is green. Take for instance Lucid. Its pale straw color is barely perceptible in the dim light of a smoky bar, but its taste is unmistakably “absinthean.”
“Let me be mad . . .
mad with the madness
of Absinthe, the wildest, most
luxurious madness in the world.”

— Marie Corelli, early-20th-century British fantasy novelist
The most traditional way to take your absinthe is with sugar and cold water in a process called louching. Ice water from an urn is slowly allowed to drip through a controllable spigot onto a sugar-cube held by a fancy-looking miniature spade with holes. This is an absinthe spoon and it is positioned over a glass containing your favorite absinthe. When the water drips and slowly dissolves the sugar cube, the absinthe will become milky and diluted by the cold water and the sugar, turning it into a highly enjoyable sipper.

The louche (pronounced loosh), or the milky green opalescence, is the center of Lee Harlem’s absinthe poster.

Absinthe also mixes well with many spirits, and a bottle can last you a seeming eternity since many recipes only call for a dash or two of this liquor. We’ve shared absinthe cocktails with you in the past, some with just a touch, to add a bright anise flavor, others with a heavy dose that pack a wallop. Regardless of how you like to imbibe the Green Fairy, here are collected posts containing absinthe. You can search for the word absinthe once you click the link to find the recipes. Absinthe cocktails and more. Also note that you can substitute absinthe for Herbsaint and Pastis in these recipes. Bottoms up!