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Fourth of July Cocktail: Make America Flow Again

This is just a quick, four-day-late post to talk about my 4th of July drink. This one was shot gonzo-style (i.e., on my phone), served to a large crowd, and primarily about image. So basically, it was just like politics. Independence day is all about the red, white, and blue, so I decided to bring back that old resort classic, the Lava Flow, and garnish it with an attention-grabbing comb-over of blue sanding sugar.

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And honestly, that’s all there is to it. We had initially tried rimming the glass with blue sugar, but with this style of glass, that did not provide the density that I desired for maximum visual impact. Sprinkling blue sugar on top proved to be both more striking and simpler to execute.

For the puree, I blended a cup of raspberries, a cup of strawberries, and ~6 oz of raspberry jam, and stored the puree in a squeeze bottle. This produced both a richness of flavor and a thick viscosity, ideal for coating the outside of clear plastic party cups.

for the smoothie, we used compressed pineapple, made in my friend Johan’s chamber vac. It didn’t affect the final drink in any noticeable way, but it signaled our molecularly gastronomic values. The plating was the most interesting part of this drink, I am sure you will agree.

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Make America Flow Again
3/4 Cup of compressed pineapple
8 oz light rum (Bacardi)
4 oz Trader Joe’s Coconut Cream
3 oz lime juice
2 oz simple syrup (1:1)
2 Cups of ice
Blend it up, and pour it into a clear glass with red stripes of berry puree. Top with blue sanding sugar.

All of the above measurements are approximations, except the rum/lime/sugar. Perhaps ironically, I never measure my smoothies.

The most frustrating thing about this drink is that it tastes better if you swirl it all together, and that completely ruins the aesthetics. Personally I’d rather preserve its beauty, but most guests opted for the stir. Populism vs. elitism, I guess.

Happy (belated) fourth.


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Pimm’s Cup

It’s all been a little high-concept around here lately, so I decided to rein it in a bit, and share one of my favorite summer drinks with all of you. The Pimm’s cup is an English classic, made with Pimm’s No. 1, cucumber, and some kind of fizzy drink. It’s more of a feeling than a specific recipe. Here’s how I like to make mine.

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Instead of buying Pimm’s No. 1, I like to make my own. It’s very simple to make, and I suggest this recipe from Serious Eats. It’s just gin, sweet vermouth, and a little bit of extra orange flavor. Since it’s a wine product, it’s perishable, which is why I prefer to make it in small batches as I intend to use it.

Lemon lime soda or ginger ale are common, but I like to use plain old soda water, and juice it up with a little bit of grated ginger and simple syrup. For me, it’s all about the ritual, so I like to take my time and create an elegant plating, by layering strawberry, orange, and cucumber inside the glass.

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Pimm’s Cup à la Measure and Stir
3 oz Pimm’s No 1. (DIY)
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
Dash of simple syrup
Cucumber, strawberry, and navel orange to fill the glass
Soda water
Layer the produce inside a highball glass with ice. Shake the Pimms, grated ginger, and simple syrup over ice, and then strain it into the glass. Top with soda water. Optionally top it with a grind of black pepper.

A “cup” is generally a wine-based drink, and sure enough, this is that. I like to drink them in summer, and with this kind of dramatic presentation, they are great for entertaining.

Cheers.


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Valentine’s Trio

A little more housekeeping here, just a roundup of my Valentine’s day menu from earlier this year. Each drink was paired with a small bite. I had attempted a Valentine’s menu in 2015, but the concepts never quite made it onto the blog. At that time, I had created early versions of the Love Letter and No More Cremes, but neither drink was fully developed until quite recently.

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Love Letter

Raspberry coulis à la Jacques Pépin, calvados, malic acid, rose air, raspberry powder, candied berries.

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Heavy-Handed Symbolism

Homemade chocolate liqueur, blood orange juice, citric acid, egg white, chocolate macaron with orange buttercream and candied orange.

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No More Crèmes in Brûlée

Buttermilk crème anglaise, demerara rum, whole milk, angostura bitters, tonka bean, caramel disk, doenjang caramel sauce, toasted brioche.

This was a really great opportunity for me to focus on technique, as putting it together required me to make classic French sauces, fabricate a liqueur, prepare candied fruits, german buttercream, two different caramels, and a scented cocktail air.

It was also another exciting opportunity to practice the art of writing a cocktail menu.

Cheers.


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Spring Quartet: Voyagé to the Far Easter: Easter Dinner with Cocktail Pairings

This is just a bit of housekeeping, because when I do a series of posts with a common theme, I like to have a single landing page for them. Herein, I will sum up my collaboration with Johan at Moedernkitchen on a four course Easter dinner with cocktail pairings.

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Shochu Think You Can Dance? / Shiso Ready!
An amuse-bouche of shiso sorbet, paired with a fizzy aperitif of shochu, ginger, daikon, and horseradish.

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Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta and the Slaughter
Lamb “katsu”, smashed peas, rowanberry jam, paired with a drink of gin, sugarsnap peapods, green tea, and mint.

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Easter Bunny and Do You Even Carrot All?
Rabbit leg confit, parsnip puree, caramelized shallots, “melted” carrot, paired with a drink of light rum, mango, carrot, and habanero.

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The Perfect Blossom
Cherry blossom opera cake, cherry blossom tofu mousse, and cotton candy, paired with a drink of white tea, junmai daiginjo sake, and preserved cherry blossom.

If it was not immediately obvious, our goal for each course was to appear in a different color commonly associated with the easter season. If our pastels were a little too vibrant, well, who really wants to eat pastel-colored food? Gross.

Most people don’t want to drink four cocktails in a row, even if they are paired with food, so I kept the alcohol content a little lower than average, (~1 oz per drink) and my strategy was to use abrasive agents such as ginger, horseradish, mint, habanero, and tannins from tea in order to offset the rich food. Mixed drinks often deal in strong flavors, and it is easy to overpower a food accompaniment.

For the best degustation, keep your drinks light and your food bold.

Cheers.


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Spring Quartet: The Perfect Blossom: Sake, Tea, Sakura

We finished off the Spring Quartet with a celebration of cherry blossoms. We made an opera cake consisting of white sponge soaked in pink syrup, cherry blossom-flavored butter cream, and cherry blossom-flavored white bean paste. That may sound odd if you are not used to the idea of beans in dessert, but it was beautifully in line with the theme, I assure you.

As before, this was a collaboration with Johan from Moedernkitchen.

Also pictured, though not recommended, was a mousse of soft tofu and cherry blossom honey. The mousse itself was delicious, but our decision to serve it with a paper straw inside of a painted egg left it with a musky, off note. Never serve anything in a goose egg.

Purely for decoration, we adorned some branches from a local cherry tree with little puffs of cotton candy.

Since cherry blossom has a subtle flavor, I wanted to stay true to its subtlety, and let it speak for itself. I prepared a lightly sweetened white tea, and stirred in some preserved cherry blossom powder. The powder is sweet, salty, and dusty pink.

This is another one of those preparations where your own good taste must be your guide. The flavor of the tea itself was softer, even, than the sake and the cherry blossom, so I steeped it to a richer extraction than I would if I were drinking it on its own. I then stirred in preserved cherry blossom powder and simple syrup according to my desire.

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Cherry Blossom Tea
1 oz of high quality sake. I used a Junmai Daiginjo sake with delicate floral and mineral notes.
2 oz of white tea, seasoned with preserved cherry blossom
The tiniest dash of simple syrup.

The tea here was intended as a foil to the much richer cake that it accompanied. In concert with the other ingredients, it was a pleasant harmony. On its own, it might have been a bit lackluster.

Cheers.


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Spring Quartet: Easter Bunny and Do You Even Carrot All? Mango, Habanero, Carrot, Rum

Hey guys, I’m a little behind in writing up my Spring Quartet, in which I collaborated with Johan at Moedernkitchen to create a four course meal called Spring Quartet: Voyagé to the Far Easter.

For the third course, we served a rabbit confit on a bed of mashed parsnips and caramelized onions, topped with a “melted carrot”.

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I paired this with a drink of carrot, mango, and habanero juice, shaken with rum. For the mango juice, I sautéed a ripe mango in brown butter, and then juiced a second, raw mango, and blended the two together. This is a technique that is becoming old hat to measure and stir regulars, I am sure, although the brown butter is a bit of a twist.

For the carrot juice, I used the same raw+cooked formula, but I opted to sous vide the carrots at 85C for 20 minutes. Regarding the different cooking techniques, I had initially tried cooking the mango sous vide, but the brown butter flavor won out, adding a surprising richness. Unfortunately, it left behind some tiny butter particles in the final drink, which were not discernible on the palate, but which were visually unappealing.

In order to facilitate rapid service, I blended the mango, carrot, and habanero juice about an hour before our guests started arriving, and seasoned the juice with tartaric acid and simple syrup. I did not cook any of the habaneros. For my taste, I wanted the burn to be noticeable without being overly challenging to the imbiber.

I chose tartaric acid because neither mangos, nor carrots, nor habanero have a significant component of malic or citric acid. Tartaric acid is probably a flavor that you associate with sour candies such as pixie sticks or sour patch kids. On its own, the association is hard to avoid, but when mixed into juices or sauces it provides a clean, slightly chemical acidity that is a refreshing change of pace from other, more common culinary acids.

The motif of French meets Japanese fell apart a little bit in this dish. My original concept simply did not work with the meal, so this drink ended up being a bit of an improvisation. I used El Dorado Three as the base spirit of this drink, because the rum-mango-habanero connection was too tempting to avoid, and because I love Demerara rum. El Dorado Three is like Bacardi’s more sophisticated cousin.

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Do You Even Carrot All?
2 oz Mango-Carrot Juice Blend (see above)
1.5 oz El Dorado 3
Shake over ice and strain into a small goblet. Garnish with candied carrot.

As with the Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta, I suggest blending the fresh juices in this drink to your taste, and then combining it with a standard measure of rum.

For the candied carrot, I used a y-peeler to cut long strips of peeled carrot, dipped them in a rich simple syrup, and baked them at 200F for about 30 minutes. While they were still hot and pliable, I used chopstick to curl them into spirals, and then allowed them to cool on a wire rack.

Cheers.


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Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta and The Slaughter

As the Spring Quartet progressed, the harmony of our naming scheme might have come apart. Johan at MOEdern Kitchen opted to call his dish “The Slaughter”, but I thought that was too light-hearted, and I went with the more serious “Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta”.

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Sugar snap peapods are both green and in season, so they were a perfect fit, thematically. I love their earthy bitterness. In order to bring out their best flavor, we cooked some of them sous vide at 85C for 15 minutes, and combined their juice with that of raw peapods. The raw ones have more green plant complexity, while the cooked ones trade some bitterness for sweetness.

To the peapod juice, I added fresh mint juice, sugar, and tartaric acid. The exact seasoning of your juices is a matter of taste. I cannot tell you a precise recipe because your crop of peapods will be different from mine. Trust your own good judgement, and try to find a balance of sweet, sour, and bitter. Add a pinch of salt, and the juice of fresh mint until it finishes with a bit of cooling menthol.

Regarding the choice of acid, how is one to choose? I wanted acidity, not flavor, because the drink is complex on its own, but I also needed to cut the sweetness. All sweet and no sour is like a life with all pleasure and no pain. It spoils children and cocktails alike, and lacks dimension.

I opted to use tartaric acid for this drink, in order to preserve the purity of the flavor, rather than accidentally invoke the juiciness of malic acid or the lemony quality of citric acid. It’s a curious thing that these acids, without affecting flavor, are still evocative of their common carriers.

A crust of green tea around the rim of the glass made an elegant garnish, and its flavor complemented the other green elements of the drink. Greens of most varieties pair well together, and the grassiness of matcha is no exception. In the same vein, gin, made from green botanicals, likes other greens.

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Easy Peasy Matcha Crusta
1.5 oz gin
1.5 oz Green juice blend (see above)
Shake, double strain, and pour into a glass rimmed with green tea.

For the matcha crusta:
Combine white sugar and matcha powder, then coat the rim of a glass with juice from a wedge of lime, and then apply it to the matcha mixture.

It matched the meal, of course, which consisted of a high tech lamb nugget, deep fried in panko and parsley, on a bed of green pea mash, topped with rowanberry jam.

Mint and gin complement lamb, peas match with peapods. It’s not rocket science, but it would have been if we served it with arugula.

Cheers!

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