Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cocktail Buzz Favorite Things of 2013

Look for our Cheddar and Caramelized–Stuffed Mushrooms recipe below.

Since everyone had decided to become a foodie in 2012, we made a conscious decision at the beginning of 2013 to savor rather than blog, tweet, facebook, and instagram every waking moment of our bibulous and culinary exploits. After six years, we needed to find out if we truly enjoyed the Cocktail Buzz experience, or if we were just going through the motions. As a result of this decision, we blogged, tweeted, facebooked, and instagrammed with less frequency, but that forced us to pick and choose those occasions where our lips and gullets were most pleasantly pleased or delectably delighted.

But we still continued to question ourselves. What were our motives for making kimchee from scratch or infusing white whiskey with gentian-laced crème de violette to make a florally bitter tincture? We looked for insight from everyone, and from every shared happy hour and meal together.

The epiphany happened just a week or so ago when our friend Evangeline asked Paul point blank, “What job would you do if you could do any job in the world?” “Recipe development” was the quick response. Steve agreed. For us, there is nothing more satisfying than to be surrounded by an arsenal of utensils and gadgets, all eagerly waiting their chance to have a go at bottles and boxes of promise. And, in the battlefield that is our wee kitchen, we thank the gods that, even though the two of us barely fit only with the proper geometric skirmish, we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that our appliances comprise a perfect triangulated pathway connecting our sink, range, and fridge.

Regardless of the size of your workspace, you must instill a sense of play and adventure. When you give yourself license to play freely, nothing is so precious as to become weighed down by vainglory. You tend to shrug at the losses and smile when there are victories; you learn, and that is what life is all about. You rediscover your love for shaking and stirring, simmering and sautéing.

Culling from every lip-smacking experience we shared this year was not as difficult as we had thought. We agreed that spirits, liqueurs, books, movies, and recipes we returned to more than once — those things that contained multitudes of layers — would make the cut. In no particular order, here are some of our favorite things of 2013.

1. Favorite Books

The Drunken Botanist
Critics, bartenders, and foodies praised The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart, and you should too. Written in a fun and easy, approachable manner, this book celebrates and limns in great detail “The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drink,” the book’s subtitle. Filled with recipes, lore, science, and anecdotes, The Drunken Botanist will satisfy the science-loving child in those who paid attention in school, to those who want to know why allspice seeds won’t germinate from simply planting them (they “must pass through the body of a fruit-eating bat, a baldpate pigeon, or some other local bird”). It will inspire the home mixologist to start infusing spirits and sourcing unusual products, such as sorghum syrup, used in the following recipe, named after a popular sweet sorghum cultivar, which the author describes as “dessert in a glass.”

Honey Drip
(from The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart)

1/2 ounce sorghum syrup
1 1/2 ounces bourbon (or if you don’t like bourbon, try it with dark rum)
1/2 ounce amaretto

Because sorghum syrup can be too thick to easily pour or measure, try spooning it into a measuring cup and heating it in the microwave for 10 seconds with a very small amount of water, just enough to make it easy to poor. (Alternatively, drop a dollop of the syrup in the cocktail shaker and hope for the best.) Shake all the ingredients over ice and serve in a cocktail glass.

Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders’s Guide ©1935
Paul’s Mom has a friend named Janet who happened to come across an almost 80-year-old copy of a familiar friend to many home bartenders, the Mr. Boston Guide. We were thrilled when she deemed it necessary that we have it. This is our third copy (the others are from 1988 and 1968 — the 1968 copy coming from Marie, another of Mom’s friends!!), and we just love it. Filled with period ads for Mr. Boston products, it’s set up in the format of another famous bar guide, The Savoy Cocktail Book. The measurements are mostly in proportions, instead of precise ounce measurements (cocktails were smaller back then as any Nick and Nora movie can attest to), such as 1/2 Italian Vermouth and 1/2 Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin, which is the recipe for a Gypsy Cocktail. Just substitute your favorite London dry gin.

Gypsy Cocktail
(from Old Mr. Boston Official Bartenders Guide)

1/2 Italian [sweet] Vermouth
1/2 Old Mr. Boston Dry Gin

Stir well with ice and strain into 3 oz. Cocktail glass. Serve with a Cherry.

The Way We Ate
Subtitled “100 Chefs Celebrate a Century at the American Table,” this lovingly curated cookbook from photographers Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz pairs chef’s recipes with years from the twentieth century. We represent 1969 and developed a cocktail with two side dishes using the Stonewall Riots as a jumping off point. Try our ’69 Cocktail paired with lamb chops with mint gremolata and some cheddar and caramelized–stuffed mushrooms. We served the cocktails and the mushrooms to our families on Christmas Eve. They were gone in three minutes. [Buy the book]

Cheddar and Caramelized Onion–Stuffed Mushrooms
(created by Cocktail Buzz for The Way We Ate by Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz)

The savoriness of these ingredients combined creates an explosion of umami on first bite. Pairing it with a 69 Cocktail coaxes out even more flavors.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 pound button mushrooms (smaller ones are better)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brandy or cognac
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4-inch-thick 1-inch squares
1/4 ounce Parmesan cheese
Finishing salt, such as Maldon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cover a baking pan with parchment paper, then place a wire cooking rack atop the paper.

Heat the 2 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and slowly cook until caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. Reduce the heat if the onion starts to brown too quickly.

Meanwhile, remove and discard stems from the mushrooms. Wash the mushroom caps and set aside.

When the onion has caramelized, add the Worcestershire and brandy. Simmer for a minute, making sure to deglaze the pan. Transfer the onion to a plate or bowl, and set aside. Add the mushroom caps to the skillet, top with a lid, and heat on low for 2 to 3 minutes, flipping once, until the mushrooms soften slightly. Drain any excess water from the mushrooms, and place top down on the rack. Gently press 1 square of Cheddar into each cap. (You may have to cut the cheese into smaller pieces depending on size of the caps.) Top the cheddar with a generous dollop of the onion mixture, then a little piece or two of Parmesan. Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove and transfer the mushrooms to a plate. Sprinkle with finishing salt. Serve immediately.

[Makes about 2 dozen, depending on the size of the mushrooms.]
photo © Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz

2. Cloud Atlas

Okay, officially the movie Cloud Atlas came out in 2012, but we didn’t watch it until 2013, and boy, what a movie. Spanning six different time periods ranging from the nineteenth to the twenty-fourth centuries, imdb.com describes this tour de force as “[a]n exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.” The six interconnected story lines suggest we are all connected, just by being. At times funny, poignant, and harrowing, this mind-fuck of a flic will keep you glued to your seat for its entire 2 hours and 51 minutes. Do watch the credits; you will see how all of the main actors played multiple roles, one in each time period, with the help of makeup, prosthetics, and, of course, great acting. We loved it so much we had to watch it twice. (We even bought the book by David Mitchell.)

3. Organic and Non-GMO Food

The following edict may seem mean, but it comes from a place of tough love: Stop eating processed food! Well, it’s nearly impossible to stop eating it altogether, but maybe start by not shoveling it down your throats all day. That’s what we have been saying for years, and it’s finally taken the courage of well-intentioned whistle-blowers to get the word out. GMO stands for genetically modified organisms, meaning scientists have fucked with the DNA in certain plants so that foodstuffs travel better, have a longer shelf life, and someone gets richer along the way.

Food that is organic is not, by law, genetically modified. The corn, soybeans, and sugar beets that are in everything are genetically modified (thanks Monsanto), and many current scientific studies think that the allergies that are pervading our lives are caused by such GMO food. Want to feel better, don’t eat the crap. Want to live longer, don’t eat the crap. Basically pay attention to what you choose to eat and make informed decisions.

Now that we got that off our chests, we will continue with our regularly scheduled program.

4. The Manhattan Cocktail and All Its Variations

Looking back on 2013, we realized that the cocktail we drank the most was indeed our fave, the Manhattan. Although the basic formula of 2:1 whiskey to sweet vermouth, with a dash of bitters, is our go-to recipe, we have made countless variations, using obscure and well-known liquors, quinquinas, tinctures, vermouths, cordials, and bitters. Besides our love for the burnished, caramelized, woody flavors inherent in American whiskeys such as rye and bourbon, perhaps it is the Manhattan’s simple elegance that beguiles us time and time again. Here are two variations you may enjoy.

The Boulevardier
(adapted by Toby Cecchini, the guy who made the Cosmopolitan famous)

2 ounces rye or bourbon
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
lemon twist

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Add lemon twist.

(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 ounce rye
1 ounce cognac or brandy
1 ounce sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe.

5. Christmas in New York

We finally broke down and stayed in New York City this Christmas, uniting our families for an extravaganza of food, flavor, and fun. Neither of us had ever spent the Holidays in NYC, or Brooklyn to be exact, so we decided that if not now, then when? Our goal: to feed and inebriate up to twenty people on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day without stressing too much about it. How did we manage that, you ask? Two things are required: prepare most of it ahead of time, and don’t fret if you forget the cherries and onions for the cocktails.

Our main course on Christmas Eve proved to be simple and sumptuous: Martha Stewart’s recipe for Beef Tenderloin with Shallot Mustard Sauce; our Christmas day main was less formal but equally as tender and savory: Hawaiian Pulled Pork. The pulled pork was a blessing: we made it two days before and just heated it up, served with mini soft dinner rolls. Here’s the recipe.

Hawaiian Pulled Pork
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

6-pound pork shoulder (or just the Boston butt) (plus or minus a pound is fine)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil

Dry rub:
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon li hing mui powder, also called just li hing powder (don’t know of any substitutes, so if you do not have, just eliminate)
1 tablespoon ‘alaea salt (you can substitute any sea salt)
1/2 tablespoon gochugaru powder (you can substitute any hot chile pepper powder)

Wet mix:
20-ounce can pineapple chunks in juice (not syrup)
1 mango, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2–1 tablespoon ume plum vinegar (you can substitute apple cider vinegar, or any other, since the amount is so small)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 nob fresh galangal, minced (with juice) (you can find at Kalustyan’s in NYC or substitute fresh ginger)
juice of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 350ºF, adjusted for middle rack. Trim skin and excess fat off pork shoulder, but not all the fat. Rub with dry rub, working into flaps, folds, and crevices. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a dutch oven. Sear meat, approximately 2–3 minutes each side. Brown sugar will begin to bubble and blacken on bottom, so keep a watchful eye. Add onions. Cook for a minute. Add wet mix, making sure some is on top of shoulder. Lay aluminum foil over the pot so it drapes a little over the edges, for a better seal. Cover with lid, tightly. Cook for 3 1/2 hours, flipping shoulder every hour. When done, remove from oven, remove lid, and shred with 2 forks. (Careful, it’s very hot.) Remove bone and anything gristly. Serve with dinner rolls.

❤ ❤ ❤

Remember to enjoy the experience. Sometimes tweeting that cocktail pic is part of the experience, just don’t make it the experience. Share the moment, followed perhaps by a smile.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

LEAF and Chopin Vodkas Express Themselves This Holiday Season

LEAF Vodka greets us with a stunning view of Lower Manhattan.

LEAF Vodka

Sometimes putting aside ones prejudices and saying yes to something that normally we would not give a second thought to can be a good thing. Take for instance a few weeks ago. We were invited to a vodka tasting at a location that promised a nonpareil view of the city. Being suckers for a grand view, and some sips of free booze, we decided to accept LEAF Vodka’s invitation to attend its NYC launch in the sky. We are happy to report that both the view and the vodka were breathtaking.

Since vodka is made up of mostly water, the folks at LEAF Vodka decided to focus on that one ingredient in its two expressions, and this proves to offer rewards most satisfying. LEAF’s solution is to the point: Make vodka using better water, but at an affordable price. So while the bottle will only set you back a little more that $15, you can relax and focus more on the content. Clean, pristine water can be found throughout the globe, and LEAF decided to focus its quest in the United States.

LEAF Vodka’s two expressions: green for Alaskan Glacial Water Vodka and Blue for Rocky Mountain Mineral Water Vodka.

First try the Rocky Mountain Mineral Water Vodka. This will taste most traditional to vodka aficionados; it is smooth and has a hint of natural mineral sweetness that occurs from aeons-old water trickling through layers and layers of stone. It is a true delight and will mix up well in a variety of traditional vodka cocktails. Try the Rocky Cucumber [SEE RECIPE BELOW], which is a riff on a classic Gimlet.

The other expression is distilled from the water of four glaciers that wends its way down Alaskan mountains into Blue Lake. We were floored by how different this expression tasted compared to the Rocky Mountain version. A little smoother and a little sweeter, you begin to wonder whether or not some sugar was added to the distillate, sort of the way some sugar is added to Champagne to alter its sweetness. But rest assured, there is no additive. It is pure and simple and exquisite. Try it in a Pink Glacier [SEE RECIPE BELOW], a variation of the classic Cosmopolitan. You’ll swear there’s no alcohol in the drink at all (until of course you start to feel a little giddy).

Pink Glacier
(created by LEAF Vodka)

2 ounces LEAF Vodka made from Alaskan Glacial Water
1 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
3/4 ounce pink grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce cranberry juice
1 lime wedge

In a cocktail shaker, combine grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, vodka, and ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Add cranberry juice for color. Garnish with a lime.

Rocky Cucumber
(created by LEAF Vodka)

2 ounces LEAF Vodka made from Rocky Mountain Mineral Water
1 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
4 cucumber slices
3 dashes hot pepper sauce
club soda

In a cocktail shaker, muddle 3 cucumber slices, hot pepper sauce, lime juice, simple syrup, and vodka. Shake and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Top off with soda. Garnish with a cucumber slice and an extra dash of hot pepper sauce.

❤ ❤ ❤

Chopin Vodka

Wheat, Potato and Rye
Chopin Vodkas
They used to say in an old commercial, “When it rains, it pours.” Well, it’s been pouring vodka recently at Cocktail Buzz. We were very curious about all the different expressions of Chopin, the famous Polish vodka named after one of the greatest composers of piano music, so we sampled all three of its expressions, each distilled from a different plant: potato, rye, and wheat.

If you ask, most people will tell you that vodka is distilled from potatoes. But really, vodka can be distilled from any plant, and the distinguishing characteristics of each distillation will taste different from one to the next.

Trying the potato vodka reminded us of being reunited with an old friend. Its taste is traditional, smooth and creamy, with a slight sweetness that plays pleasantly with your taste buds. Chopin (the distiller, not the composer) suggests you pair it with a dirty martini when eating a classic steak. Try the Chopin Extra Olives “CEO” Martini [SEE RECIPE BELOW]. You’ll notice that not a trace of dry vermouth is present. Why? Well, we’re certain the people at Chopin know full well that dry vermouth and vodka do not make a good match, and, after all, they want you to enjoy the vodka, not a vodka that tastes of dry vermouth. We couldn’t agree more.

Next up was the rye vodka. After sipping it, we immediately looked at each other in disbelief. How could this vodka taste so different from the potato one? Its flavor spicier and less sweet and smooth. Intrigued, we looked to see what Chopin suggested making with it. The Chopin Splash [SEE RECIPE BELOW] is simple enough to make year-round, and Chopin suggests pairing rye vodka cocktails with a red-sauce pasta dish. Give it a whirl and see what you think.

Following that, we tried the wheat vodka, which turned out to be the most different vodka we had ever tasted. Its taste and consistency were like water-thinned honey, so we decided that this would be the perfect vodka for those who are uninitiated in the world of mixology and spirits, and would like to dabble without the fear of alcohol-burn. Chopin suggests pairing this expression of vodka with roasted chicken. Try it with the Chopin Bohemian Luxury [SEE RECIPE BELOW].

Of course, no holiday season is complete without a spirited cocktail, so the fine folks at Chopin have created a Christmas Cosmopolitan using the potato vodka, a cocktail that is sure to make you happy, before, during, or after a few hour of caroling, or perhaps shopping for the perfect cocktail shaker set for your office Secret Santa. And despite its moniker, we’re certain you can imbibe a few during Thanksgivukkah this Thursday. L’chaim.

Christmas Cosmopolitan
(created by Chopin Vodka)

1 1/2 ounces Chopin Potato Vodka
3/4 ounce mulled cranberry juice *
1/2 ounce lemon juice
dash of Grand Marnier
a 3-clove–studded orange twist

Shake all ingredients with cubed ice

* Heat cranberry juice with 2 crushed cloves; add nutmeg, cinnamon, and almonds to taste. Allow to cool and infuse. Sieve the juice and use accordingly.

Chopin Bohemian Luxury
(created by Chopin Vodka)

1 1/2 ounces Chopin Wheat Vodka
1 ounce pineapple juice
1/2 Chambord (raspberry liqueur)
5 large ice cubes
1 ounce Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial Rosé
orchid, as garnish

Shake first three ingredients in ice. Strain into a chilled Champagne flute. Top with Moët & Chandon Nectar Impérial Rosé. Garnish with orchid.

Chopin Splash
(created by Chopin Vodka)

2 ounces Chopin Rye Vodka
1/2 ounce Aperol
1 ounce fresh pink grapefruit juice
3 ounces club soda

Build in a tall glass with ice. Garnish with 1/4 slice pink grapefruit.

Chopin Extra Olives “CEO” Martini
(created by Chopin Vodka)

2 1/2 ounces Chopin Potato Vodka
3 extra large or blue cheese-stuffed olives

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Add garnish

Optional: Add olive brine to taste to make a Dirty CEO [even though the world is filled with enough of them].

top photo © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Imbibe a ’69 Cocktail with Pride

Our cocktail and party food pairings are featured in The Way We Ate: 100 Chefs Celebrate at the American Table

Our ’69 Cocktail paired with Lamb Chops with Mint Gremolata and Cheddar and Caramelized Onion–Stuffed Mushrooms. Photo by Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz, from The Way We Ate.

Both of us were alive in 1969, albeit as toddlers. There was so much happening in the news that year—the moon landing, Woodstock, the Stonewall Riots—a lot for a young mind to even begin to comprehend. But these events greatly affected those around us and the vibes they gave off shaped the way we perceived the world, the way we matured, and even the way we ate.

As we grew up gay, we poured over books that would lend credence to our existence and provide a historical context for how we came to be. We learned about the Stonewall Riots, the angry drag queens who had enough from the police and decided to stand up for themselves and be heard. The closet door flung wide open.

So when photographers Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz, inspired by Gourmet magazine’s prolific output during the last century, asked us to come up with a chapter for their book The Way We Ate, we immediately thought 1969. In coming up with a cocktail and hors d’oeuvre pairing to commemorate the Stonewall uprising on June 28, 1969, we decided to look to history not only for inspiration, but for the ingredients we would use. Since the Riots erupted in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, we base the ’69 Cocktail on the seminal Manhattan Cocktail, but also the International Bartenders’ Association 1969 winning drink, which used Canadian whisky as its main spirit. Since we’re rye’s best friend, we use it in the ’69 instead of Canadian whisky. (Canadian whisky was commonly referred to as rye, and you can still hear some old-time bartenders call it such.) We then mellow it with some brandy, make it food-friendly with the addition of sweet vermouth, add a little grenadine for sweetness, and for that magic touch, Galliano, a liqueur that inexplicably transformed into a vanilla-spice syrup in the late 80s, but has returned to its original complex recipe, the one that would have been used in 1969. Once the contents of the shaker are poured into a chilled coupe, we express a little orange oil over the ’69, thus adding an aromatic layer that brings all the elements of the drink together and allows for easier pairing with food. The ’69 Cocktail will appeal to those who like their drinks a little sweet, and those who like their drinks on the drier side. It’s a happy medium.

The ’69 Cocktail is not so much a celebration of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, but a meditation. One that you can sip while reflecting upon history and how we have come to be who we are today.

But as gay men, we can’t just leave it at that. We had to add a garnish that would make this drink more playful. Riffing on the iconic rainbow flag, we chose a fruit to represent each color—blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, orange peel, lime peel, and lemon peel—and fashioned it into a fabulous panoply of smell, hue, and texture. Drop it in your drink and sip with pride. The berries will soak up the booze, which makes for a happy ending to your cocktail.

Preparing a round of ’69 Cocktails. Let your rainbow imagination run wild.
Do embellish with garnish.

As far as pairing the ’69 Cocktail, we have come up with a few hors d’oeuvres that are easy to make and can be eaten before or as dinner. We’ll publish those recipes at a later date, but do buy the book. There are 100+ recipes to make so you might as well start now with the ’69 Cocktail.

’69 Cocktail (or leave out the apostrophe if you’re so inclined)
(created by Steve Schul and Paul Zablocki, Cocktail Buzz, for The Way We Ate)

Makes 1 drink, but feel free to split it with a lover, friend, or trick.

1 1/2 ounces rye
3/4 ounce brandy or cognac
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/4 ounce Galliano l’Autentico
1/4 ounce quality grenadine*
orange peel, to express
blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, orange peel, lime peel, and lemon peel, or other very colorful garnish, such as Gummi bears (skewer them on a garnish pick in a rainbow pattern, as if they were part of an ursine chorus line).

Shake first five ingredients in ice for 20 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Pinch orange peel (peel side out) over drink, allowing the oils to express into it, rub around rim, and discard. Garnish with berries and citrus peel, in an artistic fashion, skewered through a pick.

Note: For a fruitier cocktail, you can add a berry or two of your choice, before shaking. If you do, make sure to double-strain so as not to get any seeds in the drink.

If you don’t want to buy premade grenadine, homemade grenadine is easy to make. For a smaller batch, halve the amounts.

2 cups 100% pomegranate juice*
2 cups sugar
1 ounce vodka

Bring pomegranate juice to a boil over medium–high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and add sugar. Stir gently until sugar is dissolved. Keep heat low and simmer for up to 15 minutes, until mixture is slightly reduced. Allow to cool. Add vodka and stir. May be kept for several months in the refrigerator in a clean 750ml bottle (or 325ml bottle for half recipes).

* You can also make your own pomegranate juice. Cut up two large and heavy pomegranates (if you’re very adventurous, you can try to peel off the outer red rind), place pieces one at a time in a citrus squeezer, and squeeze the juice out of the arils into a deep bowl. (This is very messy, so make sure to wear an apron and have a damp cloth ready to wipe up any stray squirts.) Add a splash of water.

We’ll publish the recipes for the pairings soon. But for now, enjoy the ’69.

Other photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Tale of Four Manhattans: A Manhattan Cocktail Taste Test

with Templeton Rye and Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon as the
main spirits
and Carpano Antica Formula and Punt e Mes as the
sweet vermouths

The Manhattan Cocktail in all its glory. To achieve perfection, read on.

The lovely Laura Baddish, from the Baddish Group PR firm, sent us a most tantalizing package of spirits that contained the makings of four different Manhattans. Among the tightly rumpled packing paper and swaddling bubble wrap lay two American whiskeys: Templeton Rye, Four Roses Single Batch Bourbon; and 2 sweet vermouths, Carpano Antica Formula and Punt e Mes. We have always been a fan of all four of these beguiling bottles of booze, but actually taking the time to make four different Manhattans with them and compare notes is something you have to set out to do before the first sips cloud your mental faculties.

We are happy to report that all four versions of the Manhattans we made left us breathless with delight. The luscious bittersweetness of the Carpano Antica Formula made for some damn smooth cocktails, while the zestier Punt e Mes brought out the oaky–spiciness of each of the whiskeys. Adjusting the ratio of whiskey to vermouth was the only detail we had to consider before we started to stir. The Templeton is 80 proof while the Four Roses Single Barrel is a whopping 100 proof. Just remember this: The higher the whiskey’s proof, the more vermouth and stirring you’ll want to apply to your cocktail crafting, in order to tame the bite. For us, we use a 2:1 ratio of whiskey to vermouth, with a dash of Angostura bitters; for the lower-proof whiskeys, such as Templeton rye, we will mix only 3/4 ounce of the vermouth to 2 ounces of whiskey (you dont want to overwhelm the whiskey with the sweetness of the vermouth, unless of course you desire a Sweet Manhattan. Then by all means add more vermouth. 

All in all, depending on your mood and what flavors you want to draw out from the apps you pair with them, you’re going to end up with one swell drink. Try each with your favorite brand of spicy potato chips, or some similar snack, and you’ll taste the difference. For example, you will taste more of the spice from Utz Maui Chips if using Punt e Mes, and more of the sweetness if using Carpano Antica Formula vermouth. They’re both worth it. Try one tonight, and another tomorrow night.

Well, we’ve already made our Manhattans. So, we raise a toast to you for your discernment, and of course to Ms. Baddish, for the hooch, and the idea for this Manhattan Project.

Bottoms up!

This Single Barrel bourbon is simply aces. That first whiff when you open the bottle beckons you like a siren. Do you resist the call, or take the plunge? We thought so. Here’s the recipe.

Whether you choose Templeton rye or Four Roses Single Barrel is up to how inebriated you want to get. Choose wisely, and you will be rewarded richly.

Four Roses Single Barrel Manhattan
(suggested by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon
1 ounce Carpano Antica (smooth) or Punt e Mes (spicy) vermouth
1–2 dashes Angostura bitters
brandied or maraschino cherry, as garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Do not rush this process. You want a decent amount of dilution. Strain into chilled cocktail glass, or coupe. Add cherry.

❤ ❤ ❤

We’ve sung Templeton Rye’s praises before, and we continue to do so today. Smooth, yet utterly distinct, it is in a class by itself. A must.

Templeton Rye Manhattan
(suggested by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces Templeton rye
3/4 ounce Carpano Antica (smooth) or Punt e Mes (spicy) vermouth
1–2 dashes Angostura bitters
brandied or maraschino cherry, as garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass, or coupe. Add cherry.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summertime Cocktail Experiments, sans Summertime Ingredients

Variations on the Manhattan are all the rage. This Cynar Manhattan will delight you with its bittersweet bliss.

This summer our terrace garden lies fallow. For the third summer in a row, our inattentive landlord has neglected the reconstruction of our outdoor space, not to mention the repairs needed inside, most likely to get us out of here so he could then fix the place up and jack up the rent, in preparation for multi-six-digit-figure tenants. Sound familiar? Normally, we would be making infusions and party food nibbles using organic fresh herbs. Hyssop Julep this year? Sorry, no dice. Borage-garnished Pimm’s Cup? Not a chance. We don’t even have any basil, mint, or rosemary, three summertime staples we’d be muddling, chiffonading, and infusing in order to reinvigorate our library of cocktail and appetizer recipes. A summer barbecue without Gin Stevies and brunches without Adams have reduced us many a night to bourbon and ginger–swilling layabouts.

But enough of that. Let’s look on the bright side. Because of our lack of herbaceous freshness, the two of us have been forced (and we use “forced” the way a lush is forced to accept the offer of a second drink) to use primarily the spirits on our shelves. The results have been elucidative: A good drink is a good drink no matter how many ingredients, common or obscure, fresh or preserved, it takes to make it. Take for instance our new “up” tequila cocktail. In our notebook, it’s simply called “Tequila Martini/Manhattan,” but that will not do for this pale-to-almost-clear, lovely concoction. Let’s call it a

Blanco Nuevo
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces silver tequila
1 3/4 ounces white (bianco) vermouth
1/4 ounce rhubarb syrup (from Ikea)
1 dash Regan’s orange bitters
brandied cherry, as garnish (these were homemade, but any kind you like will do)

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Add cherry.

Looking at it, you would indeed think this was some strange hybrid of a Martini and a Manhattan, but the first sip gives away the main ingredient, tequila. You must use silver tequila for this baby or you won’t get that whisper-of-amber hue. The rhubarb syrup adds some bittersweet bliss, and the white vermouth, which is the perfect foil for silver tequila, balances the tequila and the syrup. A dash of orange bitters rounds it out. The cherry is mere folly, but, when you make your own, you end your drink with a boozy reward.

❤ ❤ ❤

Another one of our experiments, a variation on the classic Manhattan (if you’ve followed us you know how much we love to riff on the Manhattan), uses Cynar [pronounced chee-NAHR], a dark and bittersweet Italian liqueur, or amaro, in conjunction with the requisite sweet vermouth. Again, we bandy about the phrase ”bittersweet bliss,” because that is what you’ll be experiencing once you’ve drawn this luscious libation to your lips. We’ll just keep the name straightforward and call it a

Cynar Manhattan
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces rye (we used Rittenhouse bonded)
1/4 ounce Cynar (artichoke amaro)
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth (we used Martini & Rossi)
brandied cherry, as garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Add cherry.

If you love other amaro, such as Campari, you’ll really take a shine to this one. Cynar is made from artichokes. It sounds odd, but it works so well with rye and sweet vermouth. You don’t need your usual dash of bitters because the Cynar takes care of that. This is the drink we sip on our derelict terrace, while viewing the crepuscular Manhattan skyline. Both drink and view are splendid.

❤ ❤ ❤

While messing around with the new-and-improved Galliano (remember Harvey Wallbangers?), we decided that both rye and bonded applejack (American apple brandy) made it taste mm mm good, along with some Carpano Antica sweet vermouth. Some bitters added more piquancy and united all these spirits into a drink we call Willam Tell All (which is what you’ll be doing after just one of these).

William Tell All
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

1 ounce bonded apple brandy (Laird)
1 ounce rye (Templeton)
1/2 ounce Galliano l’Autentico
3/4 ounce Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
dash Angostura bitters
dash Peychaud’s bitters
expressed lemon peel

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Express lemon peel and discard.

❤ ❤ ❤

And just in case you thought we didn’t like Manhattans, here’s another variation we have been playing around with that uses aged rum. Right now it’s called a

(created by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces aged rum (we used Santa Teresa from Venezuela)
1 ounce Punt e Mes vermouth
1 dash angostura bitters
expressed, flamed orange peel, as garnish

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Express orange peel through a match flame by holding the match over the drink and, with your other hand, in one quick, sharp squeeze, pinch the peel (outside of peel facing the match) so the oils spurt through the flame, causing a gentle flare-up. Then gently rub the outside of the peel around the rim and drop into the glass.

This aged rum Manhattan is rich and deep, with the slightest bitter edge. We even celebrated National Rum Day with it, and it pleased us immensely.

❤ ❤ ❤

If we try to find a common them among these three drinks, the phrase “bittersweet bliss” again looms over  the whole affair. We suppose that phrase can be applied to the way we feel about our digs: We love our pad, but we don’t like the politics that go along with being tenants of neglect. So now you know why these four drinks have been stirred quite a bit during cocktail hour this summer. Despite our whining, we love them all. And don’t forget those bourbon and gingers.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New Spirits Inspire Some Classic Cocktail Updates

Pacharán, a Spanish sloe berry liqueur, is the star in this gorgeous Manhattan-style cocktail. The brandied and moonshined sour cherries are homemade.

When we were little, Sesame Street taught us the basics, such as the alphabet and counting to ten, using clever ditties sung by a variety of adults and children we deemed the luckiest people in the world because they lived on Sesame Street. One ditty that popped into our heads as we walked about the streets of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, a ditty that we never fully appreciated since we both grew up far removed from the business districts and downtowns of our respective burgs, began “Who are the people in your neighborhood?”

We may have forgotten most of the words, but that main refrain on our midafternoon walk around our neighborhood — along the streets we normally don’t take because they are not a part of our walk to and from the subway station — finally made sense, and revealed riches that provided us just the right amount of inspiration we needed to breathe new life into some classic cocktails we were beginning to take for granted.

A relatively new wine and sprits shop near us, Passage de la Fleur boasts about a dozen shelves’ worth of natural and organic wines from around the world. Manager Emilie Kapp helped us understand the difference between organic (made with organically grown grapes) and natural (made with minimal intervention of chemicals and modern technology in both the growing and actual winemaking processes) and guided us through the somewhat confusing terrain of biodynamic wines (made by following strict, somewhat philosophical, post-harvest guidelines relating to ecological concerns).

What caught our attention, though, were the spirits, liqueurs, and fortified wines lining the back shelf. One in particular, sporting a tongue-in-cheek 19th-century silhouette of a woman in need of a handkerchief, was aptly labeled Uncouth Vermouth. We had heard of Uncouth Vermouth, the brainchild of Brooklyn denizen Bianca Miraglia, who began tinkering with wine at the Red Hook Winery. She infuses them with botanicals that bring distinct flavors to the fore, with such combos as serrano chile lavender, apple mint, and, the one we opted for, beet eucalyptus.

Although reddish, the beet eucalyptus is dry and delicately balanced, so you won’t be put off if you have issues with either of these ingredients. It’s a perfect aperitif on the rocks, and also works well in cocktails that feature a standard dry French-style vermouth. Emilie suggested Negronis, so we took her up on it and made some New York Negronis on the rocks that night that paired perfectly with some unseasoned, but lightly salted, sweet potato crisps.

New York Negroni
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz)

1 ounce gin
1 ounce beet–eucalyptus vermouth (Uncouth Vermouth)
1 ounce Campari

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. An orange twist might be nice, but is optional.

Pairing Suggestions
Anything with blue cheese.
Unseasoned, but lightly salted, sweet potato crisps.

A New York Negroni and a Brooklyn view.

❤ ❤ ❤

Also on Passage de la Fleur’s shelves sat a bottle of Pacharán (Patxaran in Basque), a bittersweet Spanish liqueur made from sloe berries. Its flavor may be familiar to you if you’ve delved into the recently revived world of sloe fin fizzes. Take a sip. A bright tartness mingles with a lusciously rich and deep fruitiness that, together, linger on the palate; and since this Pacharán is aged in chestnut barrels, lucky for you, those lingering flavors will taste of bitter dark chocolate. We already had a bottle of Baines Pacharán at home, so we were reminded of a Pacharan Manhattan we came up with a few years back when we were coming up with Manhattan variation after Manhattan variation. The vermouth we use in our Pacharan Manhattan is the bitter orange Punt e Mes. It matches the orange and star anise flavors inherent in the Pacharán, as do a few dashes of Angostura bitters, adding more spice to the mix.

Pacharan Manhattan
(created by Cocktail Buzz)

2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Pacharan
1/4 ounce Punt e Mes vermouth
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir in ice for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

Pairing Suggestions
Anything with bacon.

❤ ❤ ❤

With thoughts of neo-Negronis and hybridized Manhattans dancing in our minds, we continued our neighborhood journey, and alighted at the storefront of Güreje, a place we had passed many times, but never ventured into. Güreje is a new world clothier who applies old world techniques and patterns from around the world. This creates a visually arresting hybrid style that Jimi Güreje, the master dyer and owner, can call his own. Jimi showed us the back room, an expansive open gallery space for art installations, and a newly licensed bar area that will help to alleviate any thirst for patrons. There’s even an adjacent outdoor space, completely private from the neighborhood. A rarity. His bar should be open some time this month, so be sure to check it out when you’ve found yourself in Prospect Heights.

We hope this has inspired you to walk around the block with your eyes wide open. You may be surprised by the recent creativity popping up around your neighborhood.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

 Look deep into the amber red glow of a Pacharan Manhattan; it beckons.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Behold the Teeny-tini and The Chick’s Peas, a Healthy Cocktail and Party Food Pairing

The Teeny-tini was featured on The Joy Fit Club segment of Kathie Lee and Hoda’s fourth hour of The Today Show.

Cocktail Party fun doesn’t always mean calories. Our pairing of a ginger-laced Teeny-tini, accompanied by the crunchy limy Chick’s Peas, will surely bring a smile to your waist.

Our friend Kate Chapman just reminded us of a cocktail-and-snack-food pairing we came up for her a year or so ago, when we were all searching for ways to eat healthier, but still wanting to have a little fun. Kate, a Broadway musical actress, currently practicing her new vocation as a health coach, requested a low-calorie cocktail she could have anywhere.

This proved challenging. After all, “anywhere” implies anywhere that serves alcohol. What could we possibly come up with that would be easy enough for any bartender to make, but be full of remarkable flavor? One good enough for our beloved broadway belter?

Kate did give us a few parameters to keep us grounded. “I adore bubbles, but not too sweet,” was one of her earliest pronouncements, followed by “I love love LOVE chick peas.”

Andre Gide, the famed French novelist and activist, famously said that art thrives when working with constraints, and having Kate nudge us in a direction her taste buds were telling her to take made life so much easier in the test kitchen. We immediately thought champagne. Its bubbles, as well as its ubiquity, are legendary. And to accompany the champagne, we thought gin (what bar doesn’t have gin?) would be just the thing to make this baby shine like it was opening night.

The drink definitely needed more that a little gin and some fizz; it was screaming for a more pronounced flavor enhancer that would give the two spirits some sex appeal.

And that’s where we turned to fresh ginger. Talk about potency! It packs a punch in such small amounts that a quarter of a teaspoon is all that was needed to breathe some kapow into the cocktail, along with the same amount of low-glycemic-index maple syrup to add just a hint of sweetness.

But how could we guarantee that any bar Kate moseyed on up to had fresh ginger juice and maple syrup? That’s where a dropper comes into play. Pick one up at a container store and fill it with equal parts ginger juice and maple syrup. Just two squirts into your champagne flute will bring you low-cal high-flavor bliss. As for the name, Kate decided that Teeny-tini would fit the bill nicely. We couldn’t agree more.

With the cocktail now completed, it was time to turn our attention to the beans. Chick peas are packed full of protein. You see them offered as little bar snacks, baked to a delicate crunchiness and bathed in various seasonings. We decided after several attempts at finding the perfect pairing that cinnamon and cumin, blended with a little salt and grape-seed oil, brought out a balanced savoriness to the beans. When they came out of the oven smelling of toasted spices, we squirted some lime juice and dusted the chick peas with lime zest and more salt. One nibble confirmed what we already knew: These will pair remarkably with Kate’s cocktail.

The calorie count for this pairing is such that if you would like to indulge in more that one drink, two would not be sinful. (They rack up about 113 a pop, and the chick peas, about 80 calories a handful.)

(created by Cocktail Buzz for Kate Chapman)

Serves 2

1 ounce gin
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger juice*
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
8 ounces champagne

At home:
Shake the first three ingredients in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into two champagne flutes. Top with 4 ounces champagne each.

On the go:
Mix quadruple (or more) the amount of ginger juice and maple syrup with a few drops of water and store in a glass dropper. When you are out and about, request champagne and 1/2 ounce gin (or a splash) from the bartender. Squirt one full stopper amount into the champagne and gin, and give it a little stir (you may have to request a stirrer from the bartender). Imbibe. Enjoy with chick pea snack.

* Ginger juice is easy to make if you have a ginger grater or a juicer. Just make sure to peel it first.

The Chick’s Peas
(created by Cocktail Buzz for Kate Chapman)

1 16-ounce can chick peas, rinsed and patted dry
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Saigon cinnamon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for finishing
1 lime (for zest, then juice)

Spread chick peas on a paper towel–covered rimmed baking sheet to dry (preferably for 60–90 minutes, but if you are in a rush, make sure to pat them dry thoroughly).

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Mix oil, garlic, salt, and spices in a bowl. Add chick peas to bowl and stir, coating evenly. Spread the chick peas on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30–35 minutes, stirring the chick peas, or shaking the pan, every ten minutes. The chick peas should be browned and crisp-looking. Remove from oven and top with a generous amount of lime zest and the juice from half the lime. Transfer to a serving bowl and a add a pinch of salt to taste. Mix and serve warm with a Teeny-tini. (If you are taking them on the go, allow them to cool completely and transfer to a sealable plastic bag.)

Note: Some chick peas will be crunchy, others may have a soft interior. We like the textural combination of the two.

Take some with you for an on-the-go protein boost.

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz
tini-tini tinitini tini tini

Sunday, May 26, 2013

An Onion and Fig Tart To Start Off Your Next Dinner Party, with Cocktails, Of Course

More from Cocktail Buzz’s Cookbook Challenge . . .

The seductive aroma and complex flavors of Ras el Hanout, a North African spice blend, are the secret to this tart’s success.

If architectural terms, puff pastry is the foundation that keeps your tart structurally sound. This cocktail party workhorse is just about the easiest thing in the world to create with. All you need to do is let it thaw and unfold. Your imagination then takes over as you decide on the sweet and savory toppings. Most anything in your crisper or on top of your kitchen counter will work well with the flaky, layered dough. The one thing puff pastry doesn’t like, however, is bland. That’s why caramelized onions are the perfect “main floor” of your tart. Little else, save salt and pepper, are needed. We found a basic caramelized onion tart recipe in a very helpful, instructional book called Knives Cooks Love, one of the books we chose this month as part of our ongoing Cookbook Challenge. In our version, we wanted to ramp up sweetness and spiciness with some fresh mission figs, cut into halves or quarters, and a sprinkling of the 30-plus-spice Moroccan blend known as ras el hanout.

Mission figs are starting to appear in markets right now and should be available through the end of September. Chose ones that are plump, dark, and give a little when you squeeze them. You don’t want them greenish, or they will taste slightly astringent. When fully ripe, they should taste more like newton filling. Adding ras el hanout works magically with figs. Figs were originally brought to the Americas by the Spanish conquistadors, so choosing a spice blend from generally the same part of the world seemed to us like a good fit. Besides having the usual mixture of ground cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, and cumin, the ras el hangout we used had some rosebuds ground in the mix as well, offsetting the spiciness with a slight floral taste and aroma.

Caramelized Onion Tart with Figs 
(inspired by and adapted from Sur la Table’s Knives Cooks Love, by Sarah Joy)

4 yellow onions
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, 10"×10", thawed
5 fresh black mission figs, quartered or halved1
1 tablespoon ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend)2
orange zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the onions in half from pole to pole. Then take each half and cut from pole to pole into 1/4-inch-thick slices. (To achieve this, you will have to cut obliquely into the onion, by angling the knife a little. Start slicing from the bottom, then move your way to to the top. Readjust, then slice the remaining onion.)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add onions and salt, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring every so often. The onions can brown a little, but you do not want them to burn. If they seem to be sticking too much to the pan, add a little water to loosen them up. After they are done cooking, remove them from the pan to a plate to allow them to cool completely.

Next, unfold a sheet of puff pastry onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten a little with a rolling pin, to roughly 11"×11". Prick the dough all over with a fork, but avoiding close to the perimeter. Keep the dough refrigerated if you are not ready to assemble the tart.

Spread the caramelized onions evenly over the dough, leaving a little room at the edges. Arrange the sliced figs on top in a way that every slice will allow at least one bite of fig. Sprinkle the ras el hanout (and orange zest, if using) from about a foot above the tart, so that it disperses evenly over its entirety. Bake until the crust is golden on top and also underneath (you can check the bottom by lifting the tart with a spatula), about 25–30 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut into bite-sized squares or rectangles if for a cocktail party; if for dinner, cut into nine even squares. Serve warm.

1  You can substitute any fresh figs. If you only have dried figs, add them to a small pot, fill with water so that it covers the figs completely, bring to a boil, remove from heat, and cover. Let sit for at least 2 hours. Remove from water and use. Instead of dumping the remaining liquid, you can add some sugar to it (about 1/4 cup), bring to a simmer, and reduce for about 10 minutes, or until desired thickness. You can use this fig simple syrup as a sweetener substitute in one of the cocktails below. If thicker, you can pour over vanilla ice cream.

2  You can get prepared ras el hanout from spice purveyors such as Kalustyan’s in NYC. No two are exactly alike, and some can use over 30 different spices and herbs.

Pairing Suggestions

Accompany your onion tart
with a cocktail and a side salad.
Brandy Old-Fashioned
Champagne Cocktail
Jack Rose
Slivovitz Sour
Gin and Tonic
Tom Collins
French 75
Pimm’s Cup

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Two Cucumber Side Dishes for Spring, plus a Pimm’s Cup Recipe

Cocktail Buzz’s Cookbook Challenge Continues . . . 

Our Cookbook Challenge has yielded tasty results, including Stuffed Cucumbers with Green Mayonnaise, above.

Last month we challenged you to pour through your cookbooks, both dog-eared and pristine, every time you needed inspiration for ingredients you had lying around. Throughout the month of April, we continued to be inspired by Culinary Artistry and The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book when we had some cucumbers that were in desperate need of a makeover. We present you the following results.

Stuffed Cucumbers with Green Mayonnaise
(adapted from The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book)
Serves 2–4

Cucumbers are low in calories, have a goodly amount of antioxidants, and are very high in vitamin K, which has been found to increase bone strength. They are also quite tasty in this side dish that celebrates the greenness of spring, incorporating peas, string beans, and a host of fresh greens and herbs. It takes a little time to make, but is well worth the effort, especially if you want to double up the recipe for a spring dinner party or brunch.

2 long cucumbers
4–6 ounces frozen or fresh peas
4–6 ounces (handful) string beans, stems removed
chives, minutely cut
large handful cress (any kind), stems removed
large handful spinach (not baby), stems removed
large handful fresh chervil, stems removed
large handful fresh tarragon, stems removed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6–8 ounces mayonnaise
juice 1/2 lemon

Cut unpeeled cucumbers in half lengthwise. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place cucumbers in an ice bath until cooled. Dry thoroughly and chill. With water still boiling, add string beans and cook until desired tenderness. Remove from heat and place beans in an ice bath until cooled. Dry and chill. In the same water, boil peas until desired tenderness. Remove from heat and place peas in an ice bath until cooled. Dry and chill. Boil cress, spinach, tarragon, and chervil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place herbs in an ice bath until cooled. Drain using a colander, pressing as much liquid out as you can. Then wrap herbs in cheese cloth and squeeze out the remaining liquid. Chop finely and mix in mayonnaise with the juice of half a lemon. Set aside.

Remove vegetables from refrigerator. Take cucumbers and hollow out by removing seeds with a 1/2 teaspoon or other rounded spoon, within 1/4 inch of the skin. Set aside on a tray. Dice beans. Fill cucumbers with beans and peas. Dollop with green mayonnaise. Sprinkle with chives.

Sometimes fresh chervil, a lightly green-flavored and delicate herb, can be difficult to find (it’s notoriously difficult to grow, as well). You can use some curly parsley instead, or eliminate altogether.

Quick Pickled Cucumber Slices
(inspired by Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page)

Paul looked up “Cucumbers” in Culinary Artistry for some flavor-pairing inspiration for a quick pickle. The results will keep you stealing them from the jar. They are perfect as a sweet and tart side dish, or as a topper for sandwiches.

1 long cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly into circles (a mandoline at 1.5 or 2.0 makes this easy)
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried spearmint
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill
1 teaspoon dried urfa pepper flakes, or some other smoky slightly hot dried pepper, such as aleppo
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large shallot, thinly sliced

Place cucumbers in a bowl. Meanwhile, dissolve sugar in both vinegars in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients. Remove from heat. Allow to cool uncovered.  Pour over cucumber slices. Transfer to a sterile jar and refrigerate.

Pimm’s Cup
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz from the traditional recipe)

Nothing says “It’s warm enough to have a drink outdoors” like a Pimm’s Cup, a bittersweet elixir that originated in England as a gin-based, herbal-infused digestive aid, and is now a traditional seasonal drink for many American tipplers who enjoy yachting, horseshoes, and an excuse to have a cocktail before Happy Hour. We also use Pimm’s in our Zul Mule, another tasty concoction that lets the one-of-a-kind flavor of Pimm’s shine.

1 1/2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
3 ounces lemon-lime soda (you can substitute ginger ale)
cucumber and lemon slices, as garnish

Fill a highball or collins glass with ice. Add Pimm’s and top with soda. Stir until slightly chilled. Garnish with slices of cucumber and lemon.

Borage flowers
If you have some borage growing in your garden, do add a bloom to the glass as you would a mint spring. Borage was originally used, along with the leaves, as a Pimm’s Cup garnish. The blooms are edible and taste a little like cucumbers.

Our next Cookbook Challenge

Follow us as we channel creative vibes from our next three cookbooks, picked totally at random: Knives Cook Love from Sur la Table, Feast by Nigella Lawson, and Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson (yes, two Nigella books!).

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz