Mixology Monday (Okay, Tuesday) XCIX: Ice, Ice Baby – Sangria Slushies and New York Sour Granita

I may or may not have fallen asleep and missed the Mixology Monday deadline last night. I’m hoping the Muse of Doom will be kind, but either way, I did the work and I’m throwing it out here for the world to see. This month’s challenge was ice.

“Can you believe we’re up to Mixology Monday 99, folks? And in all this time there hasn’t once been a theme dedicated to that undersung-yet-essential part of nearly any cocktail: ICE. 
The word says it all. Big ice cubes for Old Fashioneds, pellet ice for juleps and cobblers, shaved ice for adult snowcones, crushed ice molded into a cone for a classic Navy Grog. The art of the blender. Tell us why your selected or invented cocktail needs this particular ice usage. Show us how to make perfectly clear ice at home or what you get to work with as a professional drink-slinger.”


In many ways, ice can make or break a drink. Take the ingredients for a perfect mint julep and serve them with large, Kold-draft ice cubes, and the julep will taste too bold and not be nearly as refreshing as if served over crushed ice. However, use those same Kold-draft ice cubes to chill a martini and you well balanced, perfectly diluted and temped cocktail.
For a while I got in the habit of making myself a cocktail when I got home after a long shift, and then falling asleep before I could finish it. I woke up one morning and found the Negroni I’d mixed the night before was still next to me, untouched, with the large ice sphere fully melted. In an attempt to be frugal, I stuck it in the freezer for later. When I came back to it later that day, it had frozen into a delicious Negroni slushy. It was a happy accident, but one that led me to play around with that idea more. How do you make a frozen drink at home without a lot of equipment or time?

First up for my Mixology Monday challenge is a sangria slushy. I made it a bit sweeter than I would usually make sangria, because I’ve found that when you freeze a cocktail you trick your brain into thinking it’s dessert and you automatically want it to be sweeter. If you’re worried about the amount of syrup in this drink, cut it in half and then reserve some syrup and flavor to taste after it’s complete.

Sangria Slushy


Sangria Slushy
(service for 2)
6 oz red wine (I used Dreaming Tree Crush)
1 oz Pimm’s Blackberry & Elderflower Liqueur
.5 oz lemon juice
1 oz pomegranate syrup
2 oz water
4 blueberries
2 cherries
Mix all ingredients together in a container that can be sealed and placed in the freezer. I used a Tupperware Quick Shake container. A mason jar would work nicely as well. Freeze for 2-4 hours until nearly solid. Remove from freezer and let rest at room temperature for 5 minutes. Stir with a bar spoon for a few minutes until ice crystals melt just enough that it begins to form the right “slushy” texture. Within a frozen drink machine (think margaritas or daiquiris), a paddle or fan spins within the mixture keeping the ice crystals from freezing together, while the refrigeration unit keeps the batch at the right temperature. You’re basically mimicking this process in a lazy way. If you’re making large batches for a restaurant or a party, invest in an actual frozen drink machine. Sometimes you can rent them from party supply stores. Essentially, you want it at the consistency that you can drink it easily through a straw.

Next up is my New York Sour Granita. This cocktail is not only tasty, but beautiful in presentation. For those who don’t know, a classic New York Sour is a rye whiskey sour, topped with a dry red wine. Again, as this is a frozen cocktail, your brain is going to be tricked into thinking it should be sweet, so I chose to use a Madeira.

New York Sour Granita


New York Sour Granita
3 oz red wine (Madeira)
2 oz rye whiskey
1 oz simple syrup (1:1)
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz water

Freeze red wine in a small ramekin. Mix rye whiskey, simple syrup, lemon juice and water in a separate ramekin and place in freezer. Allow both ramekins to freeze completely, approximately 4-6 hours. Using a fork, scrape the wine and the sour, creating fine ice crystals. Scoop rye sour crystals into cocktail glass and garnish with red wine crystals. Serve with a dessert spoon.

I really enjoyed creating these boozy treats and am now am enjoying them even more that I’m getting to share them with my friends and family. To you and yours on a warm summer night…



IPA Cupcakes: Lemon Cupcakes with Grapefruit Curd & Hops-Infused Buttercream Icing

When your boyfriend is craft beer enthusiast, you make him special cupcakes for his birthday! In this case, I made a batch of lemon cupcakes, stuffed them with home-made grapefruit curd, and whipped up a batch of hops-infused buttercream icing.

IPA Cupcake: Lemon Cupcake with Grapefruit Curd
and Hops-Infused Buttercream Icing
While I was preparing them, I tried searching the internet for something similar, but couldn’t find anything remotely close. They turned out so well I had to share the recipe!
BEFORE WE GET STARTED, A NOTE ON THE ORDER OF PREPARATION: I have listed the recipes below for each component. I recommend you prepare the hops-infused butter first and put it in the fridge to cool off. Then, prepare the cupcakes. While the cupcakes are in the oven, prepare the grapefruit curd. Allow the cupcakes to cool while you are separating the hops-infused butter and preparing the buttercream icing. Then, you should be ready to assemble your cupcakes by stuffing them with the grapefruit curd (directions below) and frosting them.
(I adapted this recipe from Real Simple)
Makes 12 cupcakes
1.5 cups      all-purpose unbleached flour, sifted
                   finely grated zest of two lemons
1.5 tsp        baking powder
.25 tsp        salt
.5 cup         butter, room temperature
.75 cup       cane sugar
2                 large eggs, organic
1 tsp           lemon extract
.5 cup        whole milk, organic
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, lemon zest, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-high to beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and lemon extract. Turn the mixer down to low and slowly add in the flour mixture and milk until everything is fully incorporated and a smooth batter forms. Line a muffin baking tin with 12 paper liners and divide batter evenly between them. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cupcake comes out clean, approximately 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before stuffing or icing.
3               large egg yolks, organic
6 Tbsp      cane sugar
.25 cup     grapefruit juice
                 zest of half of one grapefruit
4 Tbsp      unsalted butter, cut into pats
Combine yolks, grapefruit zest, grapefruit juice and cane sugar in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine. Set over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thick enough to coat back of spoon, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and slowly add pieces of butter, stirring until smooth. Let cool and then refrigerate to chill, for approximately 45 minutes.
After cupcakes are at room temperature and the curd has been chilled in the refrigerator, they are ready to combine. Using a small paring knife, cut a 1″ diameter circle in the center of the top of each cupcake, at a 1″ depth, angling the cut toward the middle of the cupcake. You should be creating a cone-shaped hole in the center of each cupcake. Reserve the piece you cut out of each cupcake for later. You may also use a melon-baller or a small ice-cream scoop to achieve the same effect. Spoon 1 tsp grapefruit curd into the center of each cupcake and place cut-out cupcake piece on top to cover. Now, your cupcakes are ready to be frosted.
Hops are the main source for the infamous bitter and citrus notes found within Indian Pale Ales. If you’ve ever come across whole hops (fresh or freeze dried), they bear a slight resemblance in appearance and their pungent odor to a highly controversial recreational drug that has recently been legalized in several states. For more on the biological connection between hops and marijuana, check out this Popular Science article.
Whole leaf hops (left) and ground hops (right)
The legalization of marijuana in several states has brought the term “edibles” into the spotlight. Pot brownies are not the only thing trending on this front. Canna-butter, or “weed butter,” is (apparently) an easy way to lace THC into a meal. I don’t know much about that, but I the thought did cross my mind that if you can infuse butter with marijuana you can probably infuse it with hops as well. This is really where the whole idea behind these cupcakes came from. I desperately wanted to make hops-infused buttercream icing. The problem was, it didn’t seem like anyone else had tried to make hops butter before. So, my only resource was to look to canna-butter recipes. I’ve adapted the recipe, of course, but the technique is essentially the same.
.25 oz          finely ground hops (I used locally sourced, whole leaf Cascade hops)
.5 cup          (1 stick) unsalted butter, organic
I purchased a 1 oz package of locally grown, vacuum sealed, whole leaf Cascade hops from our local home-brew shop, Ozark Mountain Brewing Supply Company. If you have a mortar and pestle, you could use that to grind them up. I cleaned out my spice grinder / coffee grinder and used it to create a fine powder with about 1/4 of the package of hops.
In a small sauté pan, bring 1 cup of water to a boil over medium heat. Add the hops powder in slowly, stirring with a  whisk or a wooden spoon until all hops are incorporated. Add in .5 cup (one stick) of butter and stir until melted.
At this point, you need to turn the burner down to low for about 45 minutes. Keep an eye on it, stirring occasionally. Place 3 to 5 layers of damp cheese cloth over a fine mesh strainer and rest strainer over a tapered bowl. Strain hops butter through cheese cloth to remove the hops powder. You may have to repeat this process to remove all the hops sediment.
Place your bowl of strained hops-infused water/butter in the fridge for 2 hours or until the butter has risen to the top and solidified and the water is left below. DO NOT PLACE THE BOWL IN THE FREEZER. I made that mistake and then forgot about it. I had to reheat the mixture to separate the butter from the ice crystals and wait for it to cool again. Once this has cooled down, you should be able to run a butter knife along the outside edge of the bowl and the block of butter should release. Your hops infused butter should be ready to use.
You can see above where the butter rose to the top
after being chilled. Just remember not to put it in the freezer.
You can see the ice crystals on the bowl from my mistake above.
.25 cup      hops-infused butter, room temperature
.75 cup      unsalted butter, organic, room temperature
.25 tsp       lemon extract
4 cups       powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbsp      whole milk, organic
                 green food coloring
In a deep bowl, combine hops-infused butter, unsalted butter, and lemon extract and whip until fluffy. Slowly add in powdered sugar until fully incorporated. Add in whole milk last. Mix in green food coloring, 3 drops at a time, until icing has reached desired hue.
The hops flavor is intense. If you are not getting enough hops flavor using these proportions, you can add a little more hops-infused butter and a little more powdered sugar until you get to your desired flavor profile. The proportions I used above created a traditional, sweet buttercream icing with a strong hops flavor as an after-note.
Spoon your finished icing into a pastry bag and choose a frosting tip for design purposes. You may need to chill the frosting slightly before icing your cupcakes. Make sure your cupcakes are cooled to room temperature and stuffed with grapefruit curd, then have fun frosting them!
IPA Cupcakes, complete with Hops Flags

Once frosted, your cupcakes should be covered and refrigerated until ready to serve to keep the frosting from weeping. As long as they’re kept covered in the refrigerator they should stay fresh for about 3 days. I hope you love them as much as we did!

Cheers, Y’all!


The Lazy Shrub

I love shrubs!

Many thanks to the talented team at Serious Eats who have influenced my drinks over the years. In the summer of 2011, I read an article by Michael Dietsch on the basics of making shrub syrups, a old fashioned vinegar-based fruit syrup. Dietsch went on to publish the extent of his research in a whole volume on shrubs last fall (Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times), which I highly recommend. Basically, shrubs are produced by cooking fruit, sugar and vinegar into a syrup. You can use any fruit or even something like peppers or celery. You want to match the type of vinegar you use with the base fruit you’re using. For instance, I might use champagne vinegar when making a peach shrub and balsamic vinegar when making a blackberry shrub. Then you can use your shrub syrup as  a sweet-tart component within a cocktail, similar to a lime cordial.

Over the last few years I have used the shrub syrup template to make a variety of shrubs for my cocktail program at work. I’ve made blackberry shrub, peach shrub, rhubarb shrub, apricot shrub, and celery shrub. And they were all delicious and created some truly amazing cocktails.

But, this afternoon I was craving the taste of a shrub-based cocktail, but didn’t feel up to cooking up an entire batch of syrup. I’m not mixing for a crowd today, so for you at-home mixologists out there, I present the faked shrub. This shrub cocktail you can make with just you in mind.

Raspberry Tart
2 oz      vodka or gin
4     fresh raspberries
.25 oz     simple syrup
.125 oz      balsamic vinegar
4 drops     fresh orange tincture
Muddle fresh raspberries with vinegar and simple syrup in a mixing tin.
Add spirit of choice, fresh orange tincture and ice and shake to chill, about 15 seconds.
Double strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish with two fresh raspberries.

I used Ball’s Vodka and Bittercube’s fresh orange tincture (recipe for this tincture is here, along with several other awesome tincture and bitters recipes). You could also achieve a similar effect by misting the drink with fresh orange oil. If this is not tart enough for you, use equal parts balsamic vinegar to simple syrup instead.

Happy Drinking!


Dear Lovers of Gin,

Aside from the whole month of Ginuary, World Gin Day is my favorite time of year! Are you drinking gin right now? Well, get to it! There are no excuses today! I recommend trying something new. I recently picked up a bottle of Russell Henry Hawaiian White Ginger Gin, from Craft Distillers. Coming in at 47.3%, this gin is a bit robust on its own, but mixed in a proper drink or served over the rocks with a splash of water and a lemon, and the flavor profile opens right up.

Recently I’ve used it in a Blueberry-Thyme Gimlet, with house-made blueberry thyme syrup and fresh lime juice.

Blueberry-Thyme Gimlet
2 oz  Russell Henry Hawaiian White Ginger Gin
1 oz   lime juice
1 oz   blueberry-thyme syrup

Shake & Double Strain into Chilled Cocktail Glass.
Garnish with fresh blueberries.

2 cups fresh blueberries
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup water
1 cup cane sugar
Combine ingredients in a pan over medium heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Press / crush blueberries against inside of pan to release juices. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Allow to cool. Strain through cheesecloth. Chill.
“The only time I ever enjoyed ironing was the day I accidentally got gin in the steam iron.” 
-Phyllis Diller

"The End of an Era": Cooking from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook

When I first started slinging drinks Sex & the City was still airing on HBO, and in my first few years behind the stick I must have made a thousand Cosmopolitans. It’s amazing to me how much television and film affect drinking culture. Over the last 7 years there has been one show that has dramatically increased its viewers knowledge of classic cocktails, and driven many bar patrons nationwide to order Old Fashioned’s and gin Martinis. Tonight, AMC premiers the second half of the final season of Mad Men, the “End of an Era.” I raise my glass high, in honor of the show that has reminded people to drink classy.

A few weeks ago I got my hands on a copy of The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars and Restaurants of Mad Men.  Each recipe includes a description connecting it to a specific moment or episode within the series. There’s also a bit of background history on the era and the recipes origins. To celebrate tonight, I decided to try out a recipe for Jackie Kennedy’s Avocado and Crabmeat Mimosa Salad, and pair it with a Bridge Night Tom Collins. Recipes are below.
Jackie Kennedy’s Avocado and Crabmeat Mimosa 
2 ripe avocados
1 scallion, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
dash of hot pepper sauce
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chili sauce
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
ground white pepper
8 ounces cooked fresh crabmeat
2 cups watercress (I substituted kale)
2 hard-cooked egg yolks
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1. Peel half of one avocado. In a small bowl, mash avocado half. Add scallion, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and hot pepper sauce. Stir until well combined. Reserve.
2. In a separate bowl, stir together mayonnaise, chili sauce, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and remaining teaspoon lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Reserve.
3. Peel remaining 1 1/2 avocados, cut into half-inch cubes, and place in a large bowl. Squeeze excess moisture from crabmeat. Add to cubed avocado and gently combine. Fold in mayonnaise mixture until crab and avocado are evenly coated.
4. Line bottoms of 6 chilled open champagne glasses (coupes) or small glass serving dishes with watercress (I substituted finely chopped kale). Divide crab mixture evenly among glasses. Top each with a dollop of mashed avocado mixture.
5. Press egg yolks through fine mesh sieve; combine with parsley in a small bowl. Sprinkle yolk/parsley mixture evenly over each portion. Mimosas can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 hours.
Bridge Night Tom Collins
1 1/2 ounces dry gin
1 ounce lemon juice
1 teaspoonful powdered sugar
1/2 lime
club soda (about 3 ounces)
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Orange slice, for garnish
1. Add gin, lemon juice and powdered sugar to cracked ice in a cocktail shaker and shake thoroughly. Strain into a Collins glass.
2. Add ice cubes (to collins glass), squeeze lime into drink, and fill with club soda. Stir a little and garnish with lime shell (I used a lime wheel), cherry, and orange slice.
Both recipes turned out splendidly. I was a bit skeptical about the Tom Collins recipe, but I found it very refreshing. I had a few friends over to test out the Avocado and Crabmeat Mimosa Salad and they’re all begging me for the recipe. Enjoy your Sunday nights on the couch as we celebrate the last few episodes of Mad Men, and happy dining!

Old Fashioned Month: The Gin Old Fashioned

On the last day of my self-declared Old Fashioned Month I’m finally getting to introduce you to the Old Fashioned I’ve been dreaming of all month… the Gin Old Fashioned.

First, you need to choose a finely crafted gin that you, personally, enjoy sipping neat. I chose Martin Miller’s Gin, a smooth London Dry gin with crisp citrus notes and warm, easy juniper. I paired it with Wilelaiki Blossom honey (a moderately sweet and spicy honey I enjoy for it’s seemingly low acidic content) and Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Teapot Bitters (handcrafted with black tea, yerba mate, hazelnut, citrus peel, vanilla and ginger).

The honey i chose is typically raw and crystalized, so you’ll need to set the jar in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes before preparing your cocktail. I don’t recommend placing your honey in the microwave, as you can scorch it.

Gin Old Fashioned
1.5 oz Martin Miller’s Gin
.5 teaspoon Wilelaiki Blossom Honey
3 ds Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Teapot Bitters

Combine ingredients in the base of a mixing glass and stir with cracked ice until the honey fully dissolves. Strain over fresh ice in an old fashioned glass. Cut a wide strip of lemon zest from a fresh lemon (shiny and firm) and express the lemon oil over the top of the drink. Use lemon zest as garnish.

a Gin Old Fashioned

Thank you all for joining me this month! I hope you’re enjoying your spirits with a bit of sweet and a dash of bitters! I’m going to be working on stuff for the restaurant over the next few weeks (our Summer beverage menu is due) and will be absentee from the blogosphere until late April. Until then, happy drinking!