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Archive for the ‘Cocktails’ Category

Fruit Infused Liquor

I came across this super easy how-to on the Bon Appétit blog this Spring and I couldn’t wait to start playing around with different flavor combinations. My very first batch was strawberry vodka that I made at the end of June when the strawberries were at their peak ripeness and I couldn’t get over how incredible the flavor was. Since then I have made blueberry, rhubarb, cherry and apricot. In the next week or two I plan to make some cucumber, pepper and basil infused vodkas (separately of course) with the lovely goodies growing my garden. I also want to play around with other liquors like rum and tequila. The sky is really the limit on what you can do.

I have yet to play with other liquors, since vodka tends to be my first pick. Since the vodka itself is fairly tasteless, it can really let the flavor of the ingredient that you are infusing with, shine. Also, FYI, no reason to buy Grey Goose or Ketel one, but don’t buy that cheap crap on the bottom shelf either. I have been buying a nice middle of the road vodka like Svedka or Smirnoff.

I tend to like the fruit infused vodkas with a bit of soda water, a wee bit of simple syrup and a sprig of fresh mint or basil. I keep a jar of homemade raw sugar simple syrup in my fridge at all times which can be made very easily with 1 part sugar to 1 part water, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan; simmer until the sugar is dissolved, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

The strawberry vodka was great with some fresh squeezed lemon juice. Tonight I plan to experiment with an apricot martini of sorts. I cannot wait to make the pepper vodka with the super spicy heirloom Korean peppers growing in our garden, it will be perfect to make delicious homemade bloody marys with.  The beet infused vodka that BA suggests is also super intriguing, I think I will have to add that to the list, too.

Cocktail Made from Cherry Infused Vodka

This is a simple cocktail made with my cherry vodka, just a tad bit of my homemade simple syrup, soda water and a fresh sprig of mint. So refreshing!

Step 1: Choose your liquor
Vodka is an obvious choice, but why not use white rum or tequila, brandy or grappa? Don’t go for the really cheap stuff, but don’t splurge either. A middle-of-the-road, neutrally flavored liquor will produce the best infused spirits.

Step 2: Choose your produce
Use what’s in season. Go to your local farmers’ market or, better yet, pick berries from your own berry patch, and bring home the most beautiful produce you can find. The super-ripe peach that dribbles juice down your chin is a perfect candidate. Also try raspberries, strawberries, pears, figs, lemons, cherries, blueberries, even beets and chiles, as long as they are ripe, ripe, ripe.

Some of Bon Appétit’s favorite fruit-and-spirit combos are:
Apricots + Eau de Vie
Figs + Bourbon
Jalapenos + Tequila
Pineapple + Rum
Beets + Vodka

Step 3: Prep your fruit
Wash it well and cut it into pieces. Remove peels and skins plus any part of the fruit that you wouldn’t want to eat: Stems, pits, cores, and seeds should all be tossed into the compost pile. As the liquor infuses, bitter flavors from citrus pith and seeds can leech into the liquor, so you want to avoid that.

Step 4: Bottle & Wait
Fill a clean resealable glass jar or bottle with fresh, cleaned fruit. Top off with liquor and screw on the lid. Place in a cool, dark place (like a fridge) until the flavors infuse (anywhere from a week to a month, depending on your taste and the strength of the fruit). Shake the jar every few days. When you’re happy with the flavor of the hooch, strain out fruit* and pour infused spirits into a clean resealable glass jar or bottle; store in the fridge.

Step 5: Drink Up
Use your freshly infused spirits in place of plain spirits in your favorite cocktail or serve up on its own as a Martini.

One caveat: This process requires a little patience. I generally start one mason jar of infused spirits per week throughout the summer. Depending on the type and ripeness of the fruit, infusions can take 2 to 3 weeks, so plan accordingly if you’re making it for a party (or use a fresh batch as an excuse to party). A pretty jar of rosy strawberry vodka is the perfect hostess gift, and it’s a lot more appealing than neon-green Margarita mix.

* though eating the fruit may be tempting, don’t bother. After the infusing process, the fruit is merely a ghost of its former self. All of the flavor has been sucked out and infused into the liquor so the fruit is left bland, soggy and tasteless.

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Horchata

It has been a hot summer in Buffalo. One of the hottest that I personally can recall. We’ve been traveling a ton and trying to enjoy every last-minute of the heat and sun while we are in town. We don’t leave again for another month so we hope to get the bikes out a few times, head to the beach and maybe even squeeze in some hiking or camping or something. Now that we are working from home, we really want to take advantage of the summer months while we can and enjoy the beautiful weather, before the snow and cold set in.

One of my favorite things about the short-lived summertime in Buffalo, is playing around with refreshing drink recipes. Admittedly, I planted mint in my yard, just to make mojitos and this summer I even infused my own liquors after reading this article in Bon Appetit magazine. Now that I made my first two batches and they turned out great, I plan to write-up a post about them.  Don’t worry though, it isn’t just “adult beverages” I like to create, I love making fresh smoothies in the morning, iced teas, flavored sparkling waters and the like. Naturally, when I came across a post on David Lebovitz’s blog about making homemade horchata, I couldn’t wait to try it. There is nothing better than an ice-cold refreshing glass at an authentic mexican restaurant. OK, so maybe it is a close second to a good margarita, but it’s still incredible. It’s light, full of delicious flavors and it is perfect on ice on a hot summer day. There are few “authentic” Mexican restaurants here in Buffalo, (as far as I am concerned, none of them are authentic) and definitely no taquerias, so the chances of finding horchata here, are slim to none. I usually reserve my mexican indulgences for when we travel, rather than being let down, so when we aren’t traveling and I am craving Mexican, I tackle it myself at home. It isn’t nearly the same, but I still find it to be better than any of the Mexican restaurants here. I make my own tortillas, pico de gallo and guacamole, which is already a step above most places. We are actually having black bean tacos at home this week and I cannot wait.

When I saw how easy this horchata recipe was, I knew that this would be another Mexican treat worth trying at home. It is quite simple, you will spend more time waiting for the rice to soak then all of the prep time combined. You definitely want to make sure you strain in through cheese-cloth so you get all the rice bits, otherwise it will settle to the bottom of the pitcher in the fridge.

In addition to David’s recipe, I also checked out Rick Bayless’ recipe and many others. I came across many variations on the recipe, some include almonds, lime zest, etc. I decided to alter them all slightly and go with my own combination and I was very happy with the results. Oh and definitely try a glass with a shot of good rum stirred in, YUM!

Another fun twist you can take with the horchata is something that I have now learned is called a “Cochata”: Iced Coffee + Horchata. I made this apparently trendy drink in accidental desperation the morning after making the horchata. I wanted an iced coffee and realized after it was poured that we were out of any milk or cream, so I poured in a large glug of the horchata and was instantly in love. You have to try it.

On a side note, I apologize for the lack of posts and recipes on here, we just got home from nearly 2 weeks on the west coast. So I am hoping to get more recipes up here in the next few weeks as we are home for a month straight, finally. It has been a busy summer, full of travel and events, so I am excited to have some time at home.

Ground up rice and spices for horchata

Horchata
Makes 7 servings
Adapted from recipes from Rick Bayless and David Lebovitz

2/3 cup white rice
2 cinnamon sticks
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
3 2-inch strips of lime zest (colored rind only) 3/4 inch wide
3 cups of hot water
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
3 cups of cold water

Grind the rice in a blender or spice grinder into fine pieces. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add in the cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and lime zest. Stir in 3 cups of hot tap water, cover and let stand at least 6 hours or preferably, overnight.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and pour the mixture into a blender and blend for 3 to 4 minutes, until it no longer feels very gritty. Add 2 cups of water, and then blend for a few seconds more. Set a large sieve over a mixing bowl and line with 3 layers of dampened cheese cloth. Pour in the mixture a little at time, gently stirring to help the liquid pass through. Squeeze the cheese cloth firmly to extract as much of the rice flavor as possible.

Add 1 cup of water and stir in your desired amount of sugar, mix until the sugar is dissolved. Taste, and adjust sweetness, if necessary. If the consistency is too thick, add additional water. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Stir before pouring.  Serve over ice with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon on top.

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Thai Basil Mojito

I wish I could take credit for the idea of this drink, but I can’t. My dad dreamt it up after tasting the thai basil I had growing in my garden. The thai basil has a subtle anise flavor and is very different from Italian basil. This was a refreshing summer drink, that was perfect for a hot day and grilling out.

Thai Basil Mojito
serves 1

1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
a small handful of fresh thai basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon organic pure cane sugar (or 2 oz of simple syrup)
2 oz white rum
ice cubes
club soda

Place the lemon wedges at the bottom of a tall glass along with the basil leaves. Add sugar or simple syrup and muddle the mixture. Stir in the rum and top with ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with a lemon wedge and couple thai basil leaves.

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IMG_9895

The mojito is one of my go to summer cocktails. But, as with everything, I love all the variations on the classic. This is one of my favorites and considering we had grabbed some fresh picked strawberries while we were out in the country and my herbs are growing out of control in our yard, this was a no brainer.

I love the sweetness from the strawberries and the spiciness from the basil. It is perfectly light and refreshing, the perfect Springtime twist on an old classic.

Strawberry Basil Mojito
serves 1

5 strawberries, hulled
5 fresh basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon organic pure cane sugar (or 2 oz of simple syrup)
2 oz white rum
ice cubes
club soda

Slice the strawberries and place at the bottom of a tall glass along with the basil leaves. Add sugar or simple syrup and muddle the mixture. Stir in the rum and top with ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with strawberry slices and basil leaves.

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