Cinco de Derby

Last week it seemed whatever blog or lifestyle news site I went to was imploring me to make a decision: Pick one to celebrate - the Kentucky Derby or Cinco de Mayo. Sweet interwebs, why must I choose?! Can't a girl have it all??

Indeed dear readers, we can!

The traditional drink for the Kentucky Derby is a mint julep. And Mexico's most famous exported alcohol is, of course, tequila! So what do you get when you mix the two? Well, I propose this:

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The Añejo Smash

This recipe comes to us from Imbibe Magazine, which claims the recipe was featured at a Manhattan mexican place called Viktor & Spoils (no longer open). Although the original recipe calls for Grand Marnier, I only had Cointreau on hand, and I found it to be a perfectly suitable alternative. Cheers, friends!

1.5 oz. añejo tequila (I used Espolón)

.5 oz. Cointreau

.75 oz. agave syrup

6 fresh mint leaves

4 lemon wedges

Combine all ingredients and shake vigorously on ice until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass that has been filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig.

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Now go enjoy with some tacos and guacamole!

Back Again - It's Been A While!

What is it with starting blogs? How is it so hard to just get started? I imagine what this is what writers call "writer's block," since I know I have plenty of things to share with you, dear reader, and yet I just can't get my words out there! It's so much easier / faster/ instant gratification to snap a photo of something I want to share and throw it up on Instagram, than it is to sit down and give you some background. But I LIKE background! I LIKE when I hear more from a blogger about their process, what worked (and sometimes more importantly, what didn't), how something can be modified, what to do with what he or she is making. So why not me? I guess it's just lack of timing (what a poor, poor excuse). And so, perhaps I just need for force this for a while to get into a habit. Yes, I believe that's the answer. One of my favorite types of recipes to discover and learn is more of what I consider a "ratio recipe", that is, a recipe the gives you an equation with which different types of each ingredient can be substituted in for one another. Take for example, The Sour. The Sour is a whole family of drinks that follow a simple premise: Base Liquor + Citrus + Sweetener. Most sours follow a 2-1-1 ratio, or 2 parts liquor, one part citrus, one part sweetener. For instance, two ounces of tequila plus one ounce of lime juice plus one ounce of Contreau equals a really tasty margarita!

With such a recipe, one can substitute and modify until their heart's content! These are the types of recipes I really enjoy, and think are helpful to have in your back pocket.

So when I discovered a ratio recipe in Esquire involving a new favorite bottle in my liquor cabinet, I was excited. Aperol was first produced in 1919 in Italy by the brothers Luigi and Silvio Barbieri (don't you just love Italian names?!) My understanding is that Aperol was created as a digestif with a lower alcohol content than others on the market at the time. Still to this day, Aperol has 11% ABV compared with its cousin Campari at 24% (FYI, although Campari and Aperol are now part of the same company, they weren't originally. Campari was created by Gaspare Campari in 1860.) All of this blathering means that Aperol maintains the bitterness often associated with digestifs, but is not as strong, making it a good gateway for those looking to get into more bitter types of cocktails and drinks.

Back to Esquire. A few years back, Esquire published an article by David Wondrich touting a "foolproof, well balanced template for making drinks", and the constant in the recipe was - you guessed it - Aperol! So here's how it goes:

1.5 oz. liquor

whiskey, tequila, vodka, gin - pick your poison!

+

.5 oz. Aperol

+

1/2 oz. liqueur

Contreau, Chartreuse, Benedictine ... Go wild! Or, not too wild, as Wondrich points out.

+

.5 oz. citrus juice

lemon, lime, or grapefruit 

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What I love about this recipe is that it gives you a few parameters with which to go crazy in, and it doesn't force you to go out and buy a completely new line-up of bottles for your cabinet... unless of course you don't have Aperol. But you should, so that's okay!! The other added delight to this type of recipe is that once you've gotten comfortable with it, you can start to understand what each ingredient does to the drink as a whole, and THAT, my friend, is when you can really start scribbling outside the lines and changing the ratios as well as the ingredients!

For instance, oftentimes liqueur gives the drink the sweet factor while also upping the alcohol level a tad. So if one were to forego the liqueur, substitute a sweetener, and also increase the base liquor a tad, we're sort of doing the same thing. And who's to say we need to stick with ONE citrus? What if we split that amount between two types of citrus?

OH NO SHE DIDN'T!!

OH YES I DID!

OK, if I haven't completely bored you with alcoholic mathematics, then perhaps I'll draw you back with a recipe? Dubbed The Weekender Cocktail by Forrest Butler of Royal Rose Syrups, this cocktail includes my favorite Aperol with a few other delicious ingredients (only slightly modified from Wondrich's template), and it's the perfect summer cocktail for sitting poolside with a floppy-brimmed hat and a good book! Those days aren't so far away, ... right?!?! Sigh...

 

The Weekender

1 oz. vodka

3/4 oz. Aperol

1/2 oz. saffron simple syrup (from Rose's, or DIY)

1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice

1/2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously (not shaking vigorously is the equivalent of shaking hands limply. So blasé!) Strain your drink into a chilled coup glass. Enjoy! Poolside!

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Until next time, friends!

Cheers!

 

 

 

To New Beginnings

About a month ago, it seemed as if spring was never going to beat out winter here in Boston. It was raw, damp and gray. As Marathon Monday quickly arrived, I thought about how last year, it was 90 degrees that day, and this year, we had barely reached 60 degrees on more than a handful of days. But spring finally arrived just a week or so ago, and boy has it been a good one!

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This past weekend, I went for a jog along the Esplanade. As I ran past the magnolia trees, the cherry trees, and the ornamental pear trees, I thought to myself, 'This experience right now is 100 percent pure spring!' And again last night, as I finished my run and sat stretching on the benches near the footbridge back to Beacon Hill, I thought the same thing.

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It's been much needed here in Boston. After the chaos of the last few weeks following Marathon Monday, I feel like this city of mine needed a fresh start; to turn a corner into a new season. Mother Nature sure has responded. 100%.

Last weekend, I visited one of my favorite bookstores, The Brookline Booksmith, and picked out a book I've had my eye on for a while now, The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart. A book combining gardening and drinking? SCORE! Amy got me thinking about tons of different types of cocktails to try, and when I got home from my meander around the city, I found myself staring at a jar of dried lavender I'd purchased while in Seattle last year. Lavender ... I'd had a gin based cocktail out in Seattle that had lavender bitters, but what about just infusing the lavender into the gin? I was onto something!

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A simple Google search resulted in a few different recipes for lavender-infused cocktails, and on Sunday afternoon, I tried one of them out. The process was relatively simple, toss one and a half teaspoons of lavender into a saucepan and allow to warm for a few minutes over low. Add a cup and a half of gin and bring to a boil, immediately removing after reaching a boil and allowing to cool. That gin is then strained (with cheesecloth) back into your 750 ml bottle where it came from.

But I wasn't done there! I then mixed up some lavender simple syrup, which was equally easy!

Lavender Simple Syrup

1/2 tablespoon lavender

1/2 c. water

1/2 c. sugar

Bring water to a boil, then steep lavender in the water for 10-15 minutes. Strain water, add back to the pot, and mix in sugar. Bring mixture to a simmer. Once sugar is completely dissolved, stir for another 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Both the gin and the simple have this wonderful aroma and taste of lavender, which is just so refreshing and springy - the perfect ingredient for a spring cocktail! I recommend mixing one up, and then heading out to enjoy it on a patio or deck. If you're a city dweller like me with no private outdoor space, then open up a window, pull up a comfy chair, and enjoy the breeze and this drink with a good book!

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Lavender Gin Fizz

2.5 oz. lavender-infused gin

1 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 oz. lavender simple syrup

2-3 dashes orange bitters

club soda

Fill a collins glass with ice. Add gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters.

Stir ingredients until well blended. Top with club soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel.