Bayberry Punch

November 15, 2012

  • 1 oz Bayberry infused Plymouth
  • 1 oz Barbancourt 8
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 3 dashes Earl Grey bitters

I came home with a strong hankering for the savory-berry goodness of bayberry. It stands among the more useable gin infusions I’ve made, perhaps because it adds only a moderate amount of sweetness, thereby cooperating better with the gin. The resulting infusion has a surprising funky note, so of course, I thought to pair it with a slightly funky rum. I knew I would be using lemon juice and syrup to create a lighter drink – might as well go for the punch varietal and add earl grey bitters for the spice note. With that, a flavored syrup would make it too complex to hold up as a punch, therefore just simple this time.

In all, it is a rather tasty drink – the sweet/savory bayberry hits the palate first, promptly followed by lemon and the funky kick of the rum. The bitters don’t play a large role, and I think they could even be upped just a bit, but I feel like the complexity is pretty close to perfect to keep a person interested in a large bowl of this one.

Bayberry-Plymouth Infusion:

  • 7 oz (by weight) bayberries, cleaned
  • 10 oz (volume) Plymouth

Soak the berries in the gin for 1 week, then strain and bottle

Earl Grey Bitters:

  • 1 tsp earl grey tea
  • 2 oz Plymouth
  • 2 oz 151 pr vodka

Infuse the tea for 1 week, then strain.  Blend with basic 151 pr vodka infusions of the following:  black walnut leaf, milk thistle, and fringe tree bark.  My proportions were 9 parts tea infusion to 1 part each of the above bittering agents.

Bein’ Green

October 15, 2012

Well, hello there strangers!  Like what seems to be 95% of the cocktail blogging scene, I have been taking a rather guilty, rather extended break from this site.  And so – just in time for October’s Mixology Monday, I’m back!  This month’s challenge is being hosted by Ed over at Wordsmithing Pantagruel, and reads as follows:

“With the warm days of summer now fading off into the distance in our rear view mirrors, let’s pay one last tribute to the greens of summer before the frosts come and our outdoor herb gardens give up the ghost for the winter. For our theme for this month, I have chosen: (it’s not easy) “Bein’ Green.” (Perchance due in no small part to my predilection for Green Chartreuse.) I’m giving you a wide berth on this one, anything using a green ingredient is fair play. There’s not only the aforementioned Chartreuse; how about Absinthe Verte, aka the green fairy. Or Midori, that stuff is pretty damn green. Crème de menthe? Why not? Douglas Fir eau de vie? Bring it! Apple schnapps? Uh…well…it is green. I suppose if you want to try to convince me it makes something good you can have at it. But it doesn’t have to be the liquor. Limes are green. So is green tea. Don’t forget the herb garden: mint, basil, cilantro, you name it – all fair game. There’s also the veritable cornucopia from the farmers market: green apples, grapes, peppers, olives, celery, cucumbers…you get the idea. Like I said, wide berth. Base, mixer, and or garnish; if it’s green it’s good. Surprise me. Use at least one, but the more the merrier.”

This seemed like the perfect excuse to pull out one of my particularly-challenging-but-tasty concoctions: a cilantro-Batavia-Arrack infusion.  Here we go:

The Herbalist

1.5 oz cilantro-Batavia-Arrack infusion ¹

0.5 oz London Dry gin [BigGin]

0.25 oz basil turbinado syrup ²

3 d Chartreuse Élixir Végétal

Basil leaf garnish

The infusion has a lot of intense flavor to work with; the smoky, funky arrack notes and the woody-citrusy cilantro will dominate almost everything I have tried pairing them with.  However, Big Gin is an equally intense gin with heavy pepper and citrus notes (and also “green” in that it is a local spirit).  It not only holds its own, but can actually take over in the face of the arrack.  I used the basil syrup to sweeten and smooth the intense flavors without losing the botanical focus, and of course, no highly botanical green drink would be complete without a few dashes of Élixir Végétal and a leafy green garnish to tie it all together!

This is not a cocktail I’d want to drink every day, but it has a fascinating depth to it despite being a simple stirred drink.  The multitude of flavors blend together well, resulting in a distinct yet balanced libation, while leaving you with the impression that you just encountered a most striking form of pesto that isn’t quite pesto.  For my personal taste, I would reduce the syrup to a barspoon, as I tend to like my drinks overly-bittered and under-sweetened by standard tastes.

¹ Cilantro Batavia Arrack Infusion

Fill an 8 oz jar halfway with cilantro leaves, gently tamped down.  Top with 4 oz Batavia-Arrack.  Age for 2 days, strain through a coffee filter, and bottle.  Lifespan is indefinite, as is the stunning green color, if kept in a cool, dark place such as the recesses of a liquor cabinet.

² Basil Syrup

Cook a 1:1 ratio turbinado simple syrup with 1/2 c water and 1/2 c sugar.  Immediately after removing from heat, pour into a jar with 1 oz (by weight) fresh basil leaves.   Allow them to steep for approximately 1 hour in the closed container.  Strain through cheesecloth or fine mesh and bottle.  The syrup should be viable for several months up to (at best) a year if kept refrigerated well, though it is best used within the month.

I have decided to embark on a new task – I recently cataloged the homemade portion of my liquor cabinet and I will be trying to make at least one cocktail with every item in there  in an effort to find what is good, what is worth working on, and what will never happen again.  This libation is the first of that series.  Charged with making drinks for the evening, my fellow wanted an old fashioned — an order I’m always happy to comply with — and then he picked a Rainier cherry infusion for me to play with.

I was in an old fashioned mood myself, so I went for a simple riff on it:

1.5 oz Jameson
0.75 oz Rainier cherry infused brandy †
1 tsp 1:1 simple
1 d lavender bitters ††
Garnish with lemon twist

The biggest issue working with the cherry infusion is that Rainier cherries are naturally a very mild and subtle flavor — and more so in a maceration.  I wanted the cherry to come through as an accent, but because the infusion mostly picked up the sweetness, I couldn’t use it as a base.  That dusty green bottle of Jameson tucked away in a corner came through for me here, adding a mild oakiness and some grain to balance out the overwhelming fruit, without beating it into submission.  However, standard Jameson is a whisky that can end up on the boring side if you neglect it, so I had to be sure to pick a lively bitters.  That’s when I remembered my early batch of lavender bitters — floral and astringent with just a hint of wood and citrus.  Just one tiny dash, as it can be pretty overwhelming, and a twist of lemon to tie things together, and voila! a taste of all the hope of spring and growing things, with all the comfort and warmth of a wintery whisky-based drink.

The end result:  a nose of lemon and lavender, which turns to brandy, whisky, and cherry as you sip and then goes back to the lavender and lemon with just a touch of oak on the swallow.  Light and crisp, but still spiritous and simple at heart.

Rainier Cherry Infused Brandy
4.75 oz (weight) of Rainier cherries, unpitted
7 oz brandy (I used Paul Masson VSOP — good depth and spice for an affordable price)
Macerate at room temperature about 2 and a half weeks, then strain with a coffee filter.  The yield is pretty small — 4-5 ounces — but the recipe can obviously be increased as desired.  The cherries may have further use too, if you like booze-drenched fruit.

Lavender Bitters
I didn’t come up with this one.  Go check out the recipe at Blotto, which I found to be pretty painless and well worth the effort.  I do recommend reducing the recipe though – I think I got mine down to 1/4 or  1/8 to save on cabinet space.  The resulting 1-1.5 oz is plenty for my limited use of it.  Lyle’s Golden Syrup may be difficult to find as well, though it’s worth owning as a cocktail sweetener if you do run across it.  If not, substituting agave nectar or a mellow honey would work just fine.

Buttermilk Liqueur

April 24, 2011

Recently I ran across a recipe for milk liqueur. Being intrigued by this as an alternative to cream-based liqueurs such as Baileys, I had to give it a try. However, all I had in the fridge was an excess of buttermilk, so buttermilk liqueur it was. The first batch was disappointing to say the least — poor instructions and too much sugar led to a liqueur that had potential, but was ultimately difficult to use. The second batch, I took charge, and it turned out much better. Here’s the recipe:

Buttermilk Liqueur

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups vodka (I used 8.5 oz Everclear 151 and 7.5 oz water to make a rough 80 proof vodka)
  • 1.5 cups white sugar (or to taste)
Combine the buttermilk and vodka, and age 10 days — no need to refrigerate. Strain out the solids through a coffee filter, then add the sugar. Shake to incorporate the sugar, and allow to sit for a day to finish dissolving any remaining grains. Yields about a fifth of 21% ABV liqueur.

The liqueur is incredibly smooth, with a sweet, milky taste at the tip of the tongue, and an acidic, almost sour finish. The alcohol is excellent at pulling out the essence of the buttermilk, while leaving behind all the fat. The sugar just fills out and smooths the maceration.

So what to make with a buttermilk liqueur? A couple test runs pointed me in the direction of rum; the natural acidic tones made me think of lemon, which would balance out the sweetness and perk it up nicely to pair with a sweet base spirit. The benefit of dairy liqueur is that it can smooth out rougher flavors, so I decided to pull out a favorite — Batavia-Arrack, and go from there.

  • 1.5 oz Batavia-Arrack
  • 1 oz buttermilk liqueur
  • 0.25 oz lemon juice
  • dash of Jerry Thomas Decanter Bitters (or other aromatic bitters)
Shake ingredients, then rinse glass with a peaty scotch (I used Lagavulin 16).

This cocktail is citrusy and sweet at the front — the slightly smoky arrack combined with the buttermilk pulls out spice and rose notes, then eases into the peat of the scotch with a smooth transition. This drink is surprisingly subtle, but not boring, and an aftertaste of lemon and smoke is never bad.