Showing posts with label Beverage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beverage. Show all posts

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Several weeks ago one of my friends got our attention when she said tequila could be the key to our ongoing weight loss quest. Hearing the words 'alcohol' and 'weight loss' in the same sentence sounded almost too good to be true. Would our summer evening post run rituals have us abandoning wine and/or prosecco as the preferred form of (re)hydration? Or would tequila become our new post run 'drink' of choice? Even one of the non-tequila lovers in the group said she would be happy to put on 'her big girl pants' and give tequila another try. With so much fake news out there, we all hoped this story didn't fall into that category. Learning there was an actual study done a couple of years ago linking tequila with weight loss started to give this story some credibility. Proof of an actual study was one thing, the results were another. It turned out scientists actually did discover the naturally occurring sugars in the agave plant (called agavins), a key ingredient in tequila, were found to lower blood sugar and cause weight loss. But here's the catch. The fermentation process in the making of tequila actually removes all of those good agavins as the sugars are converted into alcohol ethenol. In other words, tequila is one of those great low-carb and least caloric alcohol options out there (as compared to let's say vodka), it's just not the magic weight loss bullet we all hoped it would be. However, we are all looking at tequila a little differently now.

When most of us think of a tequila based cocktail, we immediately think of a Margarita. Not as many of us think of the Paloma. Generally speaking, the Paloma has lived in the shadows of the Margarita here in the states as it hasn't yet ascended to the same level of popularity it enjoys in Mexico. And honestly, up until recently I didn't even know what a Paloma was. Whether I have lived a tequila cocktail sheltered life or suffer from a form of margarita blindness, I am thankful my eyes and tastebuds have now been opened! Going forward, if I had to choose between a freshly made margarita and a paloma, I would have a difficult decision to make. If the choice was between a frozen margarita and a paloma, it would be one of those no-brainer, don't even have to think about it decisions. I would absolutely order a Paloma. It only took one sip of this cocktail for it to become one of my new favorites.

Traditionally, the Paloma, served in a tall cocktail glass, is made with only three ingredients: tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit flavored soda. In Mexico, the grapefruit soda used most frequently in this drink is Jarritos. Here in the states, where Jarritos isn't easily accessible, Fresca, Squirt, and/or the new sparkling Grapefruit Juice made by Izze are ones used most frequently. Not surprisingly, this Paloma doesn't follow the traditional Paloma rule. This version uses grapefruit juice and club soda to bring flavor and a bit of fizz to this cocktail.

If you can find or want to make freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, go for it. I used a commercially made 100% grapefruit juice in this Paloma. The one usually found in one of the refrigerated sections at the grocery store. And I would definitely use it again. Some recipes call for the addition of a teaspoon of sugar (granulated or superfine) to temper the slight bitterness of the grapefruit juice. Instead of sugar I used a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar boiled until the sugar dissolves). The first time I made this Paloma I used only one teaspoon of the simple syrup. The second time I used two teaspoons. For me, two was definitely better than one. But before topping the Paloma with the club soda, take a tiny taste of the grapefruit juice, lime juice, tequila, and a teaspoon simple syrup mixture. If you like it made with just one teaspoon, great. If you want a tad more sweetness (trust me it's not going to be super sweet), add another teaspoon.

Note: If you want a less diluted Paloma top with only 1/8 cup (1 ounce) of club soda. If you like a cocktail on the slightly more bubbly side, use 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of the club soda.

In spite of suggesting a commercially made versus a freshly squeezed grapefruit juice would work, I will tell go out on a short limb and tell you there is no substitute for freshly squeezed lime juice. So if you plan on making Palomas for a gathering, make certain you have bought more than enough limes. 

Your choice of tequila will affect the taste of the Paloma. Personally, I like the smooth taste of Patron Silver. If you like a hint of oakiness and a little more complexity in your tequila, use a Reposado. 

To rim or not to rim, that is the question. Personally, I like my tequila drinks served in a salt rimmed glass as it enhances the drinking experience for me. But whether your serve the Paloma in a salt rimmed or non-salted rimmed glass, it's what in the glass where all the magic is.

If you are looking for a refreshing, semi-lethal, and yes, less caloric summer sipping season option make this Paloma. Better yet, make the Paloma your new 'house' cocktail. Live dangerously! And, if by chance you believe everything you read about the grapefruit diet, well consider this cocktail a win-win! 

Paloma (slight adaptation to Bon Appetit's Paloma recipe, January 2013)
Makes 1 serving

1/4 cup (2 ounces) grapefruit juice
1 Tablespoon (slightly less than a half ounce) freshly squeezed lime juice
1 - 2 teaspoons simple syrup (recommend using 2 teaspoons)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) good quality agave tequila (I like Patron Silver, but Patron Reposada would work well too)
1/8 to 1/4 cup (1-2 ounces) club soda
Kosher salt for the rim
Fresh grapefruit slices and wedges
Ice Cubes

1. Pour some kosher salt on small plate. Rub the rim of a glass with a grapefruit wedge. Dip the rim of the glass in the salt.
2. Combine the grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and tequila in the glass. Stir to combine.
3. Add ice and top off with club soda. 
4. Garnish with a grapefruit slice. 
5. Serve and savor.

Notes: (1) Serve the Paloma in either the traditional tall glass cocktail glass or in rocks/tumbler glass. (2) You could make a pitcher of Palomas (without the club soda or ice cubes added) and store in a covered pitcher or jar in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, pour 4 1/2 ounces of the mixture into a salt rimmed glass, add ice cubes, and top with up to 1/4 cup (2 ounces) of club soda. (3) Simple syrup will last several weeks in a covered container in the refrigerator. I use one cup of water and one cup of granulated sugar when making a batch. To make, combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Over medium heat, cook until sugar dissolves, stirring often. When the mixture is clear, remove from heat. Let cool slightly before pouring into a jar.

Tucson, Arizona (2016)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Irish Coffee

When you live in the midwest you are well aware of the fact you are living in a four season section of the country. And for the most part, you completely embrace and look forward to the changes each season brings. If you didn't, you would probably consider moving. Yet, in spite of seasonal knowledge and life experience, some of us can't help but remain eternally hopeful the seasons won't be characterized by weather extremes, record setting hot or cold temperatures, and/or unusually high amounts of precipitation regardless of the season. In other words, we want the impossible. Days having only the most optimal seasonal conditions. For some (of us) who like to run outdoors even in the winter, cold weather is refreshing, but double digit below zero temperatures can make running arduous. A run with snowflakes falling from the skies is definitely preferable to one in a torrential downpour. If that wish list doesn't already seem a bit unrealistic or one expecting too much from Mother Nature, particularly during a midwestern winter, well I might as well go all out and add one more. Like wishing there wouldn't be any icy roads and snow packed paths. There that's it. Three simple wishes.

Apparently I am slowly turning into one of those conditional winter warriors. Meaning I love running in the winter when I like the conditions. Because at my age, the thought of slipping and/or falling is slightly worrisome. At the moment I am nursing an overuse injury. As a result I have barely run outside during the last several weeks. At this point, I am so anxious to return to running I don't even care what the weather is, what the road conditions are like, or whatever else Mother Nature throws at me. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't whine an ever so slight amount. I would. However, after experiencing that return to running euphoria, my selective memory would conveniently appear.

The one thing you can't ignore or rationalize away after running in arctic cold weather is the chill your body feels. A change of clothes, a hot shower, or a cup of hot coffee can all take the chill off. But the best anecdote came from one of my friends. She sent a group of us a photo of the mugs of Irish Coffee she made after last weekend's run. Needless to say this photo put all of us under a Irish Coffee spell.

Having recently seen a post for an Irish Coffee recipe from the Dead Rabbit. Described as bringing the Irish Pub into the 21st century and winning the 2016 Drinks International Award for the World's Best Bar, I thought surely the mixologists at the Dead Rabbit were experts in making Irish Coffee. There were several links claiming to have the Dead Rabbit's Irish Coffee recipe. All were made with Irish Whiskey, hot coffee, whipped cream, and demerara syrup. However, there were some differences in each of the recipes. They ranged in the recommended amounts of alcohol (ranging from 1 1/4 ounces to 1 1/2 ounces) to the sugar to water ratios in the demerara syrup. But still, the idea of making Irish Coffee with a sugar syrup, one made with demerara sugar, was more than intriguing. 

What is demerara sugar? Described as a natural cane sugar with a fairly large grain and pale amber color, demerara sugar brings a deeper flavor than regular granulated sugar. Demerara sugar has long been available in the United Kingdom and has been a relative new 'sugar' import to the states.

Instead of a 1 to 1 ratio of sugar to water, this demerara syrup was made with a 2 to 1 sugar to water ratio. (I used 1/2 cup of demerara sugar and 1/4 cup of water.) The sugar and water are combine and cooked over a medium heat until the sugar melts. I made more of the demerara syrup than I needed, but since it keeps covered in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks, nothing was going to prevent me from making Irish Coffee when the urge struck me.

What would an Irish Coffee be without lightly whipped cream? 

Instead of grating fresh nutmeg over the lightly sweetened whipped cream, I crumbled up a Cadbury Flake chocolate bar. If you can't find one, grate some milk chocolate.

Instead of making this Irish Coffee with Irish Whiskey, I used Bailey's Irish Cream.  I have a feeling they would doubly lethal (which isn't necessarily a bad thing) if made with Irish whiskey. Not just because I love the flavor of Bailey's, but I am not an Irish Whiskey expert. Which means I wouldn't know which of the 12 best Irish whiskeys to choose. I certainly could ask my Irish friends for a 'best' recommendation, but I have a sneaking suspicion there are as strong allegiances to Irish whiskey as there are to Irish football, rugby, and soccer teams. 

I may be somewhat biased but this was the best Irish Coffee I have ever had. Seriously. Not that anyone needs a reason to have an Irish Coffee, but somehow wishing for cold winter days or nights seems justifiable. Just promise me you won't wish for arctic cold, double digit below zero winter weather temperatures. Some of us want to use running in the cold as a reason to have an Irish Coffee or two to warm up.

Irish Coffee (a slight variation recipes attributed to the Dead Rabbit's Irish Coffee Recipe)

Ingredients for a Single Serving
1 1/2 ounces Bailey's Irish Cream (or your favorite Irish whiskey)
4 ounces freshly brewed coffee
1/2 ounce demerara sugar syrup
2 Tablespoons lightly whipped, lightly sweetened whipped cream
Optional garnish: Shaved chocolate or a crumbled Cadbury Flake chocolate bar for an Irish Coffee made with Bailey's; grated nutmeg for one made with Irish Whiskey.

1. To make the demerara syrup: In a small pan, combine 1/2 cup of demerara sugar with a 1/4 cup of water. Heat until the sugar dissolves. Pour into a heat proof jar. Use as needed. Store unused demerara syrup in the refrigerator. 
2. Pour the Bailey's Irish Cream in a heat proof glass. 
3. Mix together the hot coffee and demerara syrup and then pour into the glass with the Irish Cream. Stir gently.
4. Pipe or place large dollops of the slightly whipped cream over the top. Sprinkle some shaved chocolate or some pieces of a Flake bar over the whipped cream.
5. Serve immediately.

Notes: (1) Instead of using Bailey's Irish Cream, use Irish Whiskey. If using whiskey, use 1 1/4 ounces to 1 1/2 ounces. (2) A half cup of heavy whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks will be enough for two servings of the Irish Coffee. I like to lightly sweeten the whipping cream using a 1/2 cup of whipping cream to 1 Tablespoon of confectionary sugar ratio. (3) The demerara syrup will keep for 2-3 weeks stored in the refrigerator. (4) If you love Irish Coffee, consider splurging on some clear tall glasses. They really aren't that expensive. (5) You can demerara sugar at many grocery stores. I like India Tree's demerara sugar.

Nathanael Greene Homestead, Coventry, Rhode Island (November 2017)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cinco de Mayo Round-Up

Happy Cinco de Mayo! However you decide to celebrate, I hope it includes some great food and beverages. And it goes without saying, a really good tequila! One of the great things about the foods typically enjoyed on Cinco de Mayo is they are all great year round. I mean, can you imagine if we waited to eat guacamole and drink margaritas once a year? The mere thought of this is almost unfathomable. So here are some recipes to include in your fiesta as well as in any of your upcoming gatherings.

Amy's Shortbread Cookies - Cinco de Mayo Style

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mint Mojitos

"It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end." (Ernest Hemingway) In less than two weeks I am running a 10 mile race. A 'race' distance I had not run in almost fifteen years. After both a much too long hiatus from running (14 years to be exact) and then a year ago this month having a stress fracture in my right leg (with an recovery period that seemed endless), I thought my longest running distances would never be more than 6 miles, 6.2 to be exact. But a combination of factors, including the support and encouragement of my running group friends, caused my running goals to shift. In the past month I have run the distance of 10 miles twice, again returning to the world of double digit runs. The first 10 miler felt like a struggle which had me questioning how realistic my revised running goals actually were. However, the second 10 mile run not only gave me some of the confidence I so desperately needed, but it provided me with the reassurance I could do 'whatever it was I made up my mind to do'. Like some other runners, running for me is as much of a 'head game' as it is a test of physical strength and endurance. On that first 10 mile attempt, I told my small group to go ahead without me at the four and a half mile mark as I wasn't exactly certain my 'head' was in a good place. So much to the worry of some, I went rogue. Meaning I didn't stay on the course we were all supposed to follow. This was less about being fiercely independent (which I can be at times), but more about trying to (re)gain some mental focus (more on my pace and breathing, less on how much further ahead or faster my running partners were). With the support of my running group coach, I went rogue again for the second ten miler. In taking the self-imposed competitiveness with others out of the picture, I actually ran stronger and faster (well faster is a relative term). As much as I have loved and benefitted from the camaraderie of running with a group, when I am pushing myself further than I had gone before or think I am even capable, some time running alone seems to help me keep my 'head in the game'. Who knows what my performance will be on the day of this upcoming 10 mile race as many factors (weather being the biggest) will affect it. However, I have decided I have only one simple goal for this race: to finish feeling happy. Because the return to running was in part to re-experience the joy running had brought to my life. Although I will be downright euphoric if chocolate milk is available on the other side of the finish line. A more potent celebratory drink will have to wait until later in the day.

Not listed in any order of preference, some of my favorite 'alcoholic' beverages are martinis, margaritas, and mojitos. I apparently have an affinity for cocktails beginning with the letter "M" (with the exception of manhattans, intentionally excluded from this list for reasons having nothing to do with their taste but rather a still unforgotten serious state of inebriation decades ago). Fortunately one of Cuba's oldest cocktails was created and exported long before the political wall went up between the US and Cuba. However, it was Ernest Hemingway who was responsible for popularizing the mojito. Made with only a handful of ingredients, has become a signature staple cocktail in both Latin and American cuisine. Lime, mint, sugar, rum (preferably a clear, white and/or silver rum), and ice combine to create a cocktail where its' sweetness is complimented by refreshing citrus and mint. Not a fan of the mojito? Well maybe it's because the ones you had were made by bartenders pretending to be mixologists, who unbeknownst to you, substituted splenda for sugar or the Italian liqueur BrancaMenta for the mint or even over muddled it. All because it wasn't one of their most favorite drinks to make. In other words, please give making your own 'fresh' mojito a try before writing it off.

Like most libations there are a multitude of variations all claiming to be the 'one', the 'best', the most 'authentic'. After looking at dozens and dozens of mojito recipes, there seemed to be most consensus on the use of a clear/white/silver rum; the use of fresh mint leaves; and, the use of freshly squeezed lime juice. When it came to whether to use sugar or a simple syrup made with sugar, there seemed to be less agreement. Just the thought of the mere possibility of a grainy mojito had me jumping on the simple syrup bandwagon. The highly carbonated 'waters' used in the mojito ranged from mineral water, to sparkling water, to seltzer water, to club soda. Club soda seemed to the hands down favorite. I used Schweppes, although someone did a carbonated water and cocktail test and identified "Q" club soda as the 'best' albeit rather on the relatively pricey side, as far as club soda prices go. So until I someday find and splurge on a bottle of "Q" club soda, I am sticking with Schweppes.

Last, but not least, was the process of making the mojito, of which there seems to be two camps, Shaken and Muddled. Not surprisingly each camp claims their version doesn't over mint the taste of the mojito. This version goes with the sexier, gently muddled approach.

If you were looking for reasons to plant highly invasive mint in your garden, put mojitos on the top of this list. Depending on the day of the week, the availability of the fresh mint found in grocery stores can be sometimes slim to none or even worse, has an appearance you wouldn't even want to mask in a pesto. One should be able to make mojitos on a whim or whenever you have a taste for them! So on your next trip to the farmer's market, garden center, or roadside herb stand and pick up a few mint plants. In a relatively short period of time, you will never need to deny yourself or your friends a mojito on a moments notice again. If you love a great mojito, you won't care too much about your mint's invasive tendencies. Especially after you have had one or two of them.

An ounce of simple syrup (recipe below) and 6-8 fresh mint leaves are gently muddled together. Muddling too hard will "break the little capillaries in the mint leaf and release bitter chlorophyll, essentially ruining your drink". So find another way to take out any of your aggressions and never ever over muddle your mint. Although I am certain there are some aggressive muddlers out there who would disagree. (If your mint leaves are on the large size, use 6. If they are small to medium or a combination of S/M/L, use 8. Once you taste it, you can make your personal preference adjustments.)

After adding a generous handful of ice cubes (crushed ice is optional), pour in two ounces of white rum. Next comes two ounces of club soda, followed by one ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice. After a gentle stir to combine, top with a sprig of fresh mint and wedge/slice of lime. Then sit back and enjoy the spell this refreshing cocktail will have on you.

I know, this sounds like a cocktail made with a lot of precision. Maybe it is. But precision, as in many things, is one of the factors determining whether something is either good or great. And this Mint Mojito is great, really great. How great? Well so great that even those of you on the 'take it or leave it' mojito fence might be tempted to start singing the refreshing Mint Mojitos praises, especially on a hot summer day. 

Mint Mojitos (inspired by multiple sources)

1 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces white rum
2 ounces club soda (recommend Schweppes)
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
6-8 mint leaves
Fresh lime wedge/slice for garnishing
Spring of mint for garnishing
Ice cubes or crushed ice

Note: To make simple syrup, bring one cup of water and one cup of granulated sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. The mixture should look clear with no trace of sugar granules. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store reserved simple syrup in the refrigerator in a covered jar.

1. Put 6-8 mint leaves in a glass. Add simple syrup and lightly muddle.
2. Add ice, white rum, and club soda.
3. Top with lime juice. Stir gently.
4. Finish with a fresh sprig of mint and lime wedge/slice.
5. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Westport, Massachusetts

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Watermelon Martini

I have always believed, always felt there was something magical about the summer solstice, the longest day of the year marking the first day of astronomical summer. The magic associated with Midsummer's Eve and Midsummer's Day has been a part of Northern European celebrations, folklore, and legends as well as in literature for centuries. Three timeless pieces of literature standing the test of time (A Midsummer's Night Dream, The Tempest, and MacBeth) and written by 16th century poet and playwright Williams Shakespeare all had references to magic occurring on the night of the summer solstice. Yet, in spite of my (barely detectable) Swedish heritage and my exposure to the work of Shakespeare in my impressionable teenage years, I cannot seem to account for how, why or where this belief, these feelings of mine came from. However I find it reassuring to know there have been and continue to be so many summer solstice kindred spirits out there.

And speaking of spirits (the alcoholic in nature kind), what better way to celebrate the beginning of summer than with a Watermelon martini. Is this not what 'summer in a glass' was meant to be?

I love almost all of the fruits and vegetables of summer, but watermelon ranks as one of my favorites. And lately I have been eating more than my fair share of it. For me, watermelon has just the right amount of sweet and is just the right amount of refreshing, particularly on a hot, humid weather day. Botanicially watermelons are considered fruits (and are consumed as fruits), however, scientifically they are a member of the gourd family (which also makes them a vegetable). Hey, you never know when fruit/vegetable trivia may come in handy.

I didn't think it was possible to love this 'summer fruit, summer vegetable' more than I already do. Until the discovery of the juice of a watermelon combined with citron vodka, freshly squeezed lime juice, and Midori liqueur happened.

If watermelon is the ideal health food (it doesn't contain any fat or cholesterol, is high in fiber, Vitamins A and C, and a great source of potassium), should we give consideration to the possibility that the Watermelon Martini is the ideal 'healthy' martini? Okay, maybe it is a stretch to think anything containing alcohol is healthy, but in concept this sounds plausible. Doesn't it?

A seedless watermelon cut into chunks, pureed in a food processor, and then strained yields a most delicious watermelon juice. In the making of this martini, the cloudiness of the watermelon juice is greatly reduced if the pureed/strained juice is allowed to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before using. I was in too much of hurry to wait (patience was not a virtue today) so these photos show what a watermelon martini looks like without the wait time.

In addition to the watermelon juice, the martini's ingredients include ctiron vodka, Midori liqueur and freshly squeezed lime juice. If you have never had Midori before, it is a sweet, bright-green in color, muskmelon flavored liqueur. Some Watermelon Martini recipes call for the use of simple syrup (for added sweetness), but the Midori Liqueur adds more than a little sweetness, it adds a wonderful melon flavor to the martini. It compliments the flavor of the watermelon perfectly.

A small seedless watermelon will give you more than enough watermelon juice to make a batch of martinis for a small gathering. The basic Watermelon martini recipe calls for 3 ounces of watermelon juice, 2 ounces citron vodka, 1 ounce Midori Liqueur and 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice. All of the ingredients go into a martini shaker filled with ice. The shaken martini is poured into a martini glass rimmed with superfine sugar, then garnished with a wedge of watermelon (the wedge of watermelon is there to help give the impression of a healthy cocktail).

Celebrating the summer solstice was merely a convenient reason to make a Watermelon martini. But something this delicious doesn't need a reason to be made. Happy Summer.

Watermelon Martini

3 ounces strained, chilled watermelon juice (made from a small seedless watermelon)
2 ounces citron vodka (Absolut Citron or Grey Goose Citron)
1 ounce Midori (melon) liqueur 
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
Superfine sugar (for rim)
Slice of watermelon for garnish

1. Puree chunks of a small watermelon in a food processor. Pour mixture into a strainer. Chill watermelon juice for at least one hour before using (the chilling is not a deal breaker, it only changes the finished look of the martini). Discard the pulp left in the strainer.
2. In a martini shaker filled with ice, add 3 ounces watermelon juice, 2 ounces citron vodka, 1 ounce Midori liqueur and 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice. Shake vigorously.
3. Pour martini into a superfine sugar rimmed martini glass. Garnish with a thin slice of watermelon.