Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Coffee, Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Spirits

St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, and while I may not be Irish, I like to celebrate a holiday on which people are encouraged to dress in my favorite color. Always having some article of green clothing on hand, I haven’t been pinched yet!

Sweet Dreams 1This year, in addition to the wearin’ o’ the green, I’ll be drinkin’ o’ the Dream. In our Holiday G.I.F.T. Guide, I chose Dream Catcher Legendary Toasted Irish Liqueur as one of my picks, and I’ve discovered that it makes a swoon-worthy Irish coffee. Simply replace the traditional whiskey with an equal amount of Dream Catcher and top with whipped cream. It’s magically delicious!

Serve up a mug with breakfast and you’ll feel on top o’ the mornin’. In the afternoon, you can enjoy a wee nip while you avoid a wee pinch. As a nightcap, the comforting warmth of the coffee and liqueur will help you catch some Zzzzz…and net some sweet dreams.

With luck, there’s still time to lurk in the liquor aisle and trap this treat from the Emerald Isle to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day. One sip of this toasted chestnut liqueur and you’ll know you’ve found the gold at the end of the rainbow.

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Sweet Dreams 2DREAM CATCHER IRISH COFFEE (adapted from the Food Network)

1 cup freshly-brewed hot coffee
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 ½ oz. (3 Tbsp.) Dream Catcher Irish liqueur
heavy whipping cream and sugar, to taste*

Whip the cream with a beater or whisk until stiff peaks form, adding sugar, to taste (if desired). Set aside.

Fill a footed mug with hot water to preheat it, then empty. Pour piping hot coffee into warmed glass until it is about 3/4 full. Add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Blend in Dream Catcher Irish liqueur. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and enjoy!

*To veganize this recipe, substitute whipped coconut cream for dairy whipping cream.

 

For a store locator and recipes featuring Dream Catcher Irish liqueur, visit the company’s website.

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New Hickory

Author: Kirsten K., Breakfast, Cocktails, Food, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Recipes, Spirits, Sweets

New HickoryIt may have been Andrew Jackson who had the nickname Old Hickory, but it was at the home of Thomas Jefferson that I found this new hickory syrup. I’d never heard of hickory syrup before I spotted it in the Monticello shop, but it’s quickly gaining a following. Made by Falling Bark Farm from Virginia shagbark hickory, the flavor is slightly smoky (similar to hickory smoke), but has more of a woodsy overtone. I described the syrup to my mother by saying, “It tastes like a forest,” to which she responded, “And that’s a good thing?” Believe it or not, yes!

According to the label, hickory syrup can be used to make grilling glazes, marinades, and sauces, but I like to use it straight up in place of maple syrup. Why not pour it over cheddar cornmeal waffles for a multilayered taste sensation? It also makes a delicious sweetener for hot chocolate and a beguiling mixer in cocktails.

The applications are endless, so if you’re looking to try something new in the kitchen, get a bottle of hickory syrup and you’ll be barking up the right tree.

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Hickory Syrup

 

Learn more about hickory syrup and purchase additional flavors at Falling Bark Farm.

God Save the Cocktail

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Drinks, Food & Drink, Recipes, Spirits

It seems like every time I turn around there is a new artisan product: artisan cheese, artisan beer, artisan chocolate, even artisan water (really, Whole Foods, with your asparagus water?). One of the most intriguing artisanal products I’ve come across in the past several years has been craft bitters.

God Save the Cocktail 1Back in the days of our parents’ cocktail parties, there was only good old Angostura, but now there are thousands of different craft bitters being made around the world. Bitters started out as medicinal—usually a mixture of spices, roots, bark, seeds, flowers, and fruit peels infused into alcohol. They were used as a digestive aid or as medicine, but eventually were added, by the dash, as a flavoring for cocktails. According to Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All with Cocktails, Recipes and Formulas, bitters gained popularity in Colonial America, although there is evidence they were being used in cocktails in England in the early 1700s. The complexity bitters add to a drink is what separates an average cocktail from an inspired work of sipable art—the one where you keep taking little slurps trying to discern all the different layers of flavor that are making your mouth sing, and you feel absolutely justified spending $16 on the dang thing.

God Save the Cocktail 2When I first started noticing this onslaught of bitters, I wanted to try them all…lavender, tangerine, cardamom, celery…but soon there were so many, even my fetishy delight at all the little apothecary bottles was replaced with an overwhelming sense of panic: How will I track down all the other special ingredients in these recipes? Do I know enough people who will come over and try these varied and complicated drinks? Do I really need a muddler? Will I need to start dressing in only pre-prohibition clothing and seek out friends with handlebar mustaches? Dizzy with all these quandaries, I gave up and stuck to my go-to bitter-infused cocktail—the dependably delicious Manhattan—put on some Cab Calloway and called it a day.

Recently, I read a blurb in a magazine about bitters from a company called Cocktail Punk, whose goal is to “create compelling accents for the modern cocktail…simple yet devious. They are perfect in classic cocktails but were really designed for the cocktails that haven’t been invented yet.” I liked their renegade spirit and their chubby dropper bottles with their simple labels—elegant, but with a Vivienne Westwood snark. I promptly ordered*:

God Save the Cocktail 3CHERRY BITTERS – A cherry bomb, targeted directly at (your) Manhattan. Vibrant cherry, a hint of vanilla, and subtle spice complements the oak flavors in dark spirits, but the flavor profile is simple enough to use wherever a touch of cherry is needed. You’ll never need a barspoon of syrup from the Luxardo jar again.

SMOKED ORANGE BITTERS – Smoked Orange is the new black. Orange zest is cold-smoked with alderwood, and the result is smoky but not overly intense; a finishing touch of mint adds interest. Built for and absolutely killer in tequila and mezcal drinks, but there are also unexpected and wonderful effects in combination with darker spirits.

MORNING GRAPEFRUIT BITTERS – Zesty grapefruit flavors, but with a pronounced aromatic backbone and a touch of juniper. Inspired by an eccentric uncle who enjoyed the old Southern habit of a breakfast grapefruit half with sugar and bitters added. A seasonal bitters made only in peak grapefruit season.

God Save the Cocktail 4I received the Cocktail Punk bitters in the mail, happily opening the box to reveal my prize. I quickly got to work on making a Manhattan with the Cherry bitters. They were right, I didn’t need any Luxardo syrup to achieve a perfectly balanced cherry kick. I did, however, enjoy a few Luxardo cherries thrown in along with a twist of orange. Heaven. I tried the Smoked Orange bitters in an Aperol Sour and received a satisfying amount of praise from Kirsten and Aaron (Aperol is an Italian bitter orange aperitivo similar to Campari). I will be making these on the regular. Finally, I tried the Morning Grapefruit bitters in a simple Greyhound. I quote the first Sharknado when I say, “’Nuff said!”

I’m looking forward to inventing some of my own cocktails using Cocktail Punk’s bitters. And I might trade in the Cab Calloway for some Clash or Fear. I still don’t have any friends with handlebar mustaches, but I have plenty of friends who like punk, so I’m not bitter.

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God Save the Cocktail 5CLASSIC MANHATTAN

¾ oz sweet vermouth
2 ½ oz bourbon
few dashes of Cocktail Punk Cherry bitters
Several Luxardo cherries
1 twist of orange peel

Place cherries in a chilled cocktail glass. Stir together vermouth, bourbon and bitters with ice in a mixing glass until cold, trying not to bruise the spirits. Strain into cocktail glass. Rub edge of the orange peel over rim and twist over the drink to release the oils, discard. Makes 1 drink.

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God Save the Cocktail 6APEROL SOUR

1 ¾ oz Aperol
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz simple syrup (recipe below)
few dashes Cocktail Punk Smoked Orange bitters

SIMPLE SYRUP

2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar

Simmer sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Makes about 1 cup.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add all ingredients and shake until cold. Strain into a cocktail glass. Makes 1 drink.

God Save the Cocktail 7.
GREYHOUND

1 ½ oz gin (or vodka)
5 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
few dashes Cocktail Punk Morning Grapefruit bitters
1 twist of grapefruit peel

Pour ingredients into a highball glass filled with ice and stir to combine ingredients. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit peel. Makes 1 drink.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Cocktail Punk

 

The book Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Aperol can be found at BevMo and most liquor stores. You can purchase Luxardo cherries from Williams-Sonoma and Amazon.

*Descriptions of bitters from the Cocktail Punk website.

Violet Liqueur – The Bitter Truth Is Sweet

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Nostalgia, Recipes, Spirits, Travel
Violet Liqueur 1

Swooning over the ice cream in Provence.

When Kirsten and I were in the South of France several years ago, we both had the same defining food moment. We were in Les Baux and ordered violet ice cream from a perfect shop on a perfect cobblestone street. We had tasted rose ice cream before, and on the previous day in Aix-en-Provence we had tried lavender ice cream for the first time. But the moment the first glorious spoonful of violet ice cream hit our lips, we truly and completely swooned. It was like the episode of The Brady Bunch when Bobby defends Millicent at school (awesomely played by Melissa Sue Anderson). She kisses him in thanks and fireworks go off in his head and he is happily dazed by the experience. France is, of course, one of the best places on earth…the food, the wine, the country…but my greatest memory of that trip was the singular, purple-hued cup of violet ice cream. Both Kirsten and I agreed that it was the greatest thing we had ever tasted. Loving food the way we do, that is saying something. Our violet obsession had begun.

When we got back to the States, we spent years trying to find a violet extract that would allow us to relive that violet-infused moment, but, despite spending a lot of time on the Internet and a lot of money on violet flavorings, we haven’t been able to replicate that firework-inducing moment of bliss, particularly when it comes to cocktails.Violet Liqueur 2

I always love using floral flavors in cocktails. When St. Germain, the celebrated elderflower liqueur came out, I was over the moon with delight. When Shakers released rose-flavored vodka, I was making vodka tonics several times a week (it is sadly not available anymore). I have purchased about four different violet liqueurs, but none really had that true violet scent and flavor (although some of the bottles are super dreamy). And then I stumbled on The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur. The moment I read about it, I felt panic that I might not be able to find it, but Hi-Time Wine Cellars shipped it to me within three days of my order.

The first thing I noticed about it was the deeply purple color. My other violet liqueurs are varying shades of purple, but none has the color the website describes as “reminiscent of a full moon reflected on a river in the twilight.” That is some damn poetry! I opened the bottle and the scent brought me right back to that cobblestone street in Les Baux. I needed to mix this with some stuff and pour it into a fancy coup, stat!

Violet Liqueur 3My friend Melissa was coming over that weekend and I decided to make the classic Aviation cocktail. The first thing I noticed was the incredible color—it was like a goth dream. The second thing I noticed was that it smelled just like violets! Some floral flavorings can be so sickeningly sweet and overpowering, but this was just right. And then the taste…all I can say is—fireworks. Melissa doesn’t drink very often, but I think she enjoyed her fancy cocktail. I ended up having two drinks (it would have been a crime to let that boozy goodness go to waste) and floated in a delicious violet haze for the rest of the afternoon.

I guess we’ll never know if Bobby Brady would have seen fireworks if he tried The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur. I’m sure Alice or maybe cousin Oliver would have saved him from the degenerate horror of underage drinking. But I bet that Greg would have dug it, surreptitiously sipping from Mrs. Brady’s martini glass in his fringed vest up in his groovy attic room, maybe even with a few of those cigarettes he was so fond of. Queue the laugh track while I pour myself another…Violet Liqueur 4

AVIATION COCKTAIL (courtesy of The Bitter Truth)

2 oz dry gin
¾ oz The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur
⅓ oz maraschino liqueur
¾ oz fresh lemon or lime juice

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Makes 1 drink.

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The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur

 

The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur can be purchased from Hi-Time Wine Cellars. Maraschino liqueur and dry gin are available at BevMo and most liquor stores.

 

Respect Your Elderflowers

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Food & Drink, Spirits
Respect Your Elderflowers 1

Belvoir Elderflower Pressé – 100% Good!

On a trip to England in 2002, I was swooning over one of the magnificent gardens in Cornwall when I stopped by a concession stand for a drink and purchased a bottle of something I’d never encountered before: elderflower pressé. I was instantly smitten with its light, floral flavor that had the refreshing astringency of citrus. Although I saw this delightful beverage in several places over the course of my trip, I searched in vain for a bottle once I’d returned home to the United States.

Respect Your Elderflowers 2

photo credit: Mika McDonald

Elderflowers bloom in lacy clusters of white or pale cream blossoms and have traditionally been used in Central and Eastern Europe to flavor regional desserts and drinks. Pressé is a French word meaning “squeezed.” The elderflowers are steeped, then pressed to extract as much of the flavor as possible. Most bottled pressé drinks I’ve seen on the market are carbonated and are often labeled as “sparkling pressé”. Translation: elderflower pressé = pressed elderflower soda.

Respect Your Elderflowers 3Years after my trip, I was thrilled to discover Belvoir Elderflower Pressé for sale at my local World Market. From that day forward, I routinely had a bottle chilling in my fridge. I began to take it for granted until one day when I couldn’t find it on the shelf and learned that the store was no longer going to carry it. Fortunately, my devastation was short-lived. A friend discovered that IKEA carries its own version of Elderflower Drink Concentrate (Dryck Fläder to you Swedes) that, when mixed with sparkling water, tasted virtually identical to the pressé I knew and loved—at a fraction of the price.Respect Your Elderflowers 4

In the midst of all this, the holy grail of elderflower beverages made its debut. In 2007, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur descended from heaven on a cloud of tiny white flowers for the delectation of humankind. I’m not sure what we did to deserve it, but to say that this liqueur is swoon-worthy would be an understatement. From its sweet, nectar-like flavor to the gorgeous packaging that evokes the decadent height of the Roaring Twenties, this product is truly in a class by itself. It can be enjoyed straight from the bottle, but we at The Swoon Society love adding it to a flute of sparkling wine (Kirsti prefers Gruet Extra Dry to balance the sweetness of the liqueur, but if you have a sweet tooth like me, try Gruet Demi Sec).

Respect Your Elderflowers 5Recently, I’ve seen Belvoir Elderflower Lemonade on the shelves of World Market, but I prefer the flexibility and price of the elderflower concentrate (Belvoir also makes an Elderflower Cordial, which is the same as concentrate). In addition to making elderflower soda, it can be used as an ingredient in cocktails and a sweetener for lemonade, or just mixed with plain water for a light thirst quencher.

Now that the elderflower seems here to stay, I no longer worry about being able to find it, but I also make sure to savor it and never again take it for granted. The blossoms only appear for a few weeks in late spring and must be harvested at that time to last the rest of the year, so take a lesson from me and respect your elderflowers!


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Belvoir Elderflower Pressé
Belvoir Elderflower Cordial
IKEA Elderflower Drink Concentrate
St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Gruet Extra Dry Sparkling Wine
Gruet Demi Sec Sparkling Wine

 

Belvoir Elderflower Pressé (marketed as Lemonade in the U.S.) and Cordial can be found at World Market, some British import shops, and online at Amazon. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur can be purchased at BevMo. Gruet Extra Dry and Demi Sec are available at many specialty wine shops and liquor stores.

 

Pamplemousse

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Drinks, Food & Drink, Recipes, Spirits
Pamplemousse 1

Crème de Pamplemousse Rose liqueur from Combier

Can I just start by saying that I love the word “pamplemousse”? The French word for grapefruit, and so fun to say. I love all things grapefruit. I also love liqueurs in pretty bottles, anything from France, and cocktails in alluring glassware, so Crème de Pamplemousse Rose is a perfect storm of deliciousness.

Pamplemousse 2I have been on the hunt for this spirit for many months, which is made from neutral alcohol and red grapefruit by Combier, the company responsible for the very first Triple Sec, L’Original Combier, created in Saumur France in 1834.

My birthday was this week and my husband, Aaron, was going to be working out of town. I wasn’t thrilled about this news, but Kirsten was going to come over and watch Gidget Goes To Rome with me, so I consoled myself with the thought that I would probably get extra presents to make up for this gross injustice, and I would still have a great birthday hanging out with my best friend. Little did I know that Husband Extraordinaire would surprise me with a Present Treasure Hunt! Kirsten and I had so much fun running all over the house solving riddles, while Aaron laughed at us on FaceTime. The culmination of this extravagant scavenge was a bottle of the glorious Crème de Pamplemousse Rose hidden in the wine fridge in our basement.

Pamplemousse 3After proper tribute was paid to the most excellent planner of birthday shenanigans, Kirsten and I opened a bottle of sparkling wine (I’m partial to Gruet Brut Rosé from New Mexico—if you haven’t tried it, buy several bottles) and added a few generous splashes of the liqueur. You could smell the grapefruit, so lovely and citrusy and fresh. We clinked our glasses and took a sip. It was delicious. It didn’t overpower the sparkling wine, but enhanced its crisp, bubbly majesty.

I have to say, Gidget Goes To Rome did not live up to the original Gidget movie with Sandra Dee, or even the awesome series starring Sally Field (which I record on my DVR and watch before going to sleep on the regular), but the Crème de Pamplemousse Rose exceeded all expectations, and I can’t wait to try it in other cocktails. I think even Moondoggie would have left the beach to hang out with us on my birthday and toast Jean-Baptiste Combier and his wife Josephine for concocting such a wonderful spirit. When Gidget said, “Honest to goodness, it’s the absolute ultimate,” I am sure she was referring to Crème de Pamplemousse Rose.

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Crème de Pamplemousse Rose
Gruet Brut Rosé

 

Crème de Pamplemousse Rose and Gruet Brut Rosé are available at many specialty wine shops and liquor stores.

 

Yes, Grasshopper

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Recipes, Spirits

I’ve always thought of Crème de Menthe and Crème de Cacao as the kind of alcohol you sneaked from your friend’s parents’ liquor cabinet at a slumber party. Syrupy sweet and not too potent, they were the type of thing that my underage taste buds and underdeveloped palate could tolerate and even enjoy. As I got older, however, I began to develop a taste for wine and what I deemed to be sophisticated cocktails. No candy-colored “mom drinks” for me. That is, until I came across Tempus Fugit Spirits.

Tempus Fugit 1I was initially drawn in by their packaging—sinuous bottles with sumptuous labels that would have been perfectly at home in a 19th-century Parisian bar. Tempus fugit (“time flies”), indeed. But then I read about their Crème de Cacao and Crème de Menthe, and reliable sources seemed to agree: these liqueurs were something new and special, a cut above. The Tempus Fugit website states: “Our goal is to source and recreate rare spirits and liqueurs from the pages of history to satisfy the demands of the most discerning connoisseur.” Being a lover of both history and rare spirits, I had to try them out for myself.

I procured a bottle of each and was delighted to discover that the praise was warranted. The Crème de Menthe is made with spearmint, in addition to the usual peppermint, so it’s cool and refreshing with a little bite that nicely balances the sweetness. And there’s no neon green in sight. The liquid is as clear and pure as the taste on your tongue. The Crème de Cacao, on the other hand, is the rich brown of its namesake, in contrast to the white version that is traditionally used to make grasshoppers. It is truly extraordinary. Thick and sweet without being cloying, it has an intense chocolate flavor that aficionados will adore.

Tempus Fugit 2Put these two together and you have a cocktail that will make your friends swarm…and swoon. This ain’t your parents’ grasshopper. People will plague you for the recipe, so here it is:

TIME FLIES (AND SO DO I) GRASSHOPPER

1.5 oz. Tempus Fugit Crème de Menthe
1.5 oz. Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao
1.5 oz. light cream
ice

Mix together in a cocktail shaker, then strain into chilled glasses. Serves 2.

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Tempus Fugit Spirits

 

Tempus Fugit Crème de Menthe and Crème de Cacao can be purchased from K&L Wines.