Archive for the ‘Liqueur’ Category

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Dondurma Days Revisited – Mastiha Liqueur

March 18, 2013

Back in my chemistry lab days, I worked for a pretty cool adviser in Professor Kirshenbaum. On the side from our day to day, we had a number of really interesting food-science related experiments running along with this amazing speaker series called “The Experimental Cuisine Collective” he initiated. I had always been excited about the overlaps between the science and food world myself, so to have been a part of the early days of this work is still something I’m really proud of. And one of the more interesting pieces of work we had going on was related to Dondurma.

Dondurma is a stretchy (yes, I said stretchy) Ice Cream from Turkey that is not only delicious, but pretty entertaining. While the ingredient list is fairly simple (typically milk, sugar, salep, and mastic), it’s the salep itself that we were most interested in. Salep (a flour made from Orchids) has a polysaccharide component called “glucomannan” that helps give the ice cream that stretchy consistency. This same characteristic also provides a sense of satiety making this ice cream particularly interesting as a “better for you” alternative to high sugar, high calorie traditional ice cream. The only problem was (maybe still is?) the Salep flour was not intended to be exported. Therefore we got to work on alternative ingredient choices as a means to make our own version of stretchy Ice Cream.

But as cool as that all sounds, it was actually the Mastic component of the Ice Cream that came flooding back to my brain this weekend. Mastic is a resin from the Mastic Tree that has been used for centuries in candy and gum creation. The flavor is intense and distinct but I hadn’t encountered since I finished school years ago. That is until this weekend when I came across Skinos Mastiha Liqueur. My buddies at Alphabet City Wine Co. had a number of unique spirits they had been tasting and I happened to stop by at the perfect time. This mastiha liqueur grabbed my immediate attention, even above all the other amazing grappas, cognacs, and whiskeys they had available.

As a liqueur, I expected this stuff to be quite sweet but the mastic flavor is what really got me. If you have never had it on it’s own before you’ll probably pick up some “bubble gum” like flavor references. But for those who have tried the resin, this liqueur is undeniably mastic in origin. I’m not sure exactly what I’d end up doing with this stuff but in cocktail mixing there is definitely some potential. Check back for more ideas later once I get a chance to play around with it but in the mean time, go check out more stretchy ice cream YouTube videos and check out the Experimental Cuisine Collective here!

God, I love Science!

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Milla: A Chamomile Liqueur

October 22, 2012

Friday night, out in Sea Cliff, I had the opportunity to try one of the more interesting wines ever produced. How many glasses of wine have you ever seen poured from a Grolsch bottle? I’m guessing not many…

In all seriousness, Em’s dad Larry, and my partner in Cow Thievery, brought out some of his own, 20-year-old wine and it was surprisingly good. I say surprisingly, because the grapes came from their arbor, they were smashed by Em and her friend Nikki’s childhood feet, and somehow lived to tell about it two decades later. Pretty darn cool!

But none of that could have prepared me for what I got to taste on Saturday night…

This bottle of Milla, a chamomile infused grappa is quite possibly the most insanely delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. Paolo Marolo started his distillery in 1977 with an eye towards crafting a trans-formative grappa. Grappa is made by distilling the pomace, or the leftover bits from the wine fermentation process. The skins, the seeds, the pulp and the stems all end up contributing, making the quality of the grapes a major factor; so it certainly isn’t a coincidence they set up shop in Piedmont. But Marolo’s real breakthrough is rooted in something near and dear to my heart. By infusing herbs into his Grappa he manages to create a truly unique offering that is somehow familiar and exotic all in the same.

This Milla is created through an 11 month chamomile steep. The fully ripened and dried leaves have plenty of time to impart their comforting flavor notes and the outcome is spot on. You can’t help but relax as you sip away on this amazing example of thoughtful production. You should get a bottle of this stuff immediately.

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The Cabral

October 19, 2012

Part of the reason I love making cocktails is that the ability you gain from experience is exponential. Just like I used to rant on about on the food blog, once you discover that a quality dish or drink requires a certain balance of flavors the list of ingredients available for your experiments expands tremendously.

The Cabral, named after the Portuguese Noble(r)man whom discovered the land of Brazil where the key ingredients in this cocktail originate from, is a perfect example of this learned balance. A while ago I posted about a classic recipe for the perfect margarita. 2 oz tequila, 1 oz orange liqueur, and the juice of half a lime. Over some crushed ice, this recipe makes you wonder why you’d ever purchase a pre-mix again. So when I first got my hands on this new macerated Acai liqueur (Cedilla) from the Leblon team, it was my natural inclination to start off with something simple, something just like that margarita recipe.

In this case the combination of cachaça with the acai liqueur is another success story. Not surprisingly as Leblon is producing both products but the balance between sweet, crisp, and acidity in this cocktail makes it refreshing and delicious. Plus the color is dynamite. The point is, sometimes it’s hard to break away from the standard purchases at the liquor store, but recipes like this showcase why it’s worth trying new things. After you’ve had one or four of these, you won’t be disappointed to have cachaça and Cedilla in your cocktail toolbox.

Enjoy the weekend and don’t forget to grab your ticket to the Night Cap NYC!

The Cabral

2 oz Leblon Cachaça

1 oz Cedilla

Juice of half a lime

Lime for garnish

In a cocktail shaker full of ice mix the first three ingredients until well combined. Strain over some crushed ice and garnish with the lime slice. Can’t be more simple than that!

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Invest in Quality Liqueur

October 8, 2012

Walk into a decent liquor stores these days, and you might be shocked to see the number of liqueurs available. Unfortunately, most of our first experiences with liqueurs were pretty typical and pathetic: sneaking into our parents liquor cabinet grabbing bottles we had no clue about, or getting ready for our first attempt at making margaritas with the $8.99 bottle of triple sec. This of course is why even now today, I am a bit deterred from picking up a number of the more well used and popular brands like St. Germain (Elderflower Liqueur) at thirty some bucks a bottle. But after a quick taste of this new acai based liqueur offering from the Leblon team, I realized I really got a get over that ridiculousness.

I won’t go too deep into the Cedilla yet, because I want to work on a few cocktails before I post more, but I can tell you it’s really delicious. And the key, a key crucial for all of these typically lower alcohol, higher sugar content beverages, is quality. The triple sec example is another fantastic one. A really great homemade margarita will incorporate a portion of orange liqueur. Triple sec is the commodity option for orange liqueur. However, as you work your way up the pricing ladder through Cointreau and Grand Marnier you start to find true orange flavor, as opposed to artificial sweetness.

So it seems obvious then, that the biggest deterrent, besides our past experiences, is the price that is linked to the quality; like I said, expect to pay more than 30 bucks for some of the more worthwhile liqueurs. But in this case, you do indeed get what you pay for. And the good news is that these should really be used as supporting ingredients in your cocktails making them last longer than most bottles of booze. That should help make the bottle worth the investment and trust me, after a few drinks, you’ll be glad you made the switch.

But just in case you need a little more nudging, once you’ve made the switch (and I need to listen to my own advice here), you might even find yourself sipping on your liqueur on it’s own. They tend to act as perfect after dinner drinks and for those us who like to drink our dessert, it’s a match made it heaven!

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My New Arch Enemy

June 4, 2012

You’ll remember back before the weekend I promised a little chat regarding the pending changes being made to the DSM standards for classifying addiction. But after such an awesome weekend, basically owning all of Sea Cliff Garage sale day and celebrating with some seriously strong margaritas, I decided that this topic is a bit too serious for us all on this rainy Monday morning. Instead, I’d like to turn your attention to my new arch-enemy:

The Old Man Guavaberry branding is spot on. Because after every failed cocktail I worked on, all I could imagine was that old man, smiling ear to ear, laughing in my face. The back story here is that my Mom, in her loving, supportive motherly way, brought me back a bottle of this stuff from a Caribbean vacation some time ago. I don’t blame her. She knows I like booze, and this is indeed booze by definition. But the stuff is god awful. So in the spirit of the garage sale, I decided to make a signature cocktail based off ingredients I was looking to get rid of. Things didn’t go so well…

The Guavaberry liqueur is caught somewhere between cloyingly sweet and devastatingly artificial; the result is medicinal. But I’ve worked around these types of ingredients before. In fact, the cure to this type of issue is almost always acid. The brightness and acidity act to combat those overpowering flavor profiles but in this case, lemons, limes and grapefruits were no match. No matter how hard I tried, all we could taste was that Old Man’s sneer!

I probably should have put this stuff in the “free” pile after the Garage sale was over, but my ego got the better of me. I will re-visit this battle one day and hopefully next time, I will have some better results to share. Until then, you can feel free to leave the Guavaberry Liqueur in the islands.

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Nobler Bitters Giveaway!

May 23, 2012

It was just over two months ago that I promised the very first batch of Nobler Experiment Bitters. And if you had happened to do any research on the matter, you probably know that it doesn’t take two months to produce…I hate when I make blog promises before I actually start the process!

So to make up for the delay, I’m upping the ante. For this Nobler giveaway, I’m making it extra easy on you. All you have to do is leave a comment or like this post through the Facebook tag below and you are in the running for not one, not two, not three…uh oh, I’m starting to sound like Lebron now. Okay, let’s make it three bottles of bitters that I’m giving away! So get in on the action and when this batch gets bottled early next week, be one of the only people with a bottle of Nobler Bitters in your collection. Plus I promise it won’t have that lame, rushed label for those aesthetically appalled…

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Jäger Bombs

February 7, 2012

Talk about developing a reputation…

But you know what. I really like Jäger. And maybe even more surprising…I always have! I doubt the Germans who invented the digestif /cough-remedy back in 1935 envisioned the fist pumping nation declaring the liqueur their drink of choice but then again, if this unintended (I can only assume it was not by design) branding had not occurred, I wonder how much Jäger would be sold in the States.

Interestingly enough, if you took a look at the ingredient list which includes citrus peel, licorice, anise, poppy seeds, saffron, ginger, juniper berries and ginseng, you might think you were grabbing a box of health inspired tea. And for those who have tried it, which I’m sure is the majority, the overwhelming flavor is of licorice (anise). But after further contemplation, you really start to pick up on the nuances. That is of course, assuming you aren’t slamming shots.

Lastly, I’m a big advocate of bad ass names. Jägermeister translates to the hunt-master. The unmistakable logo is a reference back to the Patron Saints of Hunters and well…I better stop…somewhere, someone is about to turn this into another continued branding effort…I can see it now…The bar is the “forest”, the man, unable to “hit his target” sidles up to the bar in defeat. That is until the wise older bartender (the Hunt Master) pours an icy cold shot of Jäger…drops it in a red bull…and queue the bad ass music…

Damn!

Well despite all this, I still really do like the stuff…

 

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