If you've met me at an event, you've probably heard me call myself a nerd. I mean, my company name is a Monty Python joke reference, so I think it should be pretty clear but sometimes maybe it's not...
So let me go on record then as saying, I'm a nerd. I play D&D with my friends (3.5 thankyouverymuch), rock out with my hubby to video games, and still cry when Artex dies in The Never Ending Story. Which meant that when Pokemon Go launched a few weeks ago I was totally excited to put that app on my phone.
I have had a blast wandering around catching monsters and sharing knowing looks with strangers as we both stand on the sidewalk flicking our fingers across our phone screens. There's even a hot spot near my house where 3 Pokestops are clustered that has become a nearly perpetual Pokemon party. Seriously, some guy was out there a week ago with a portable speaker and about 50-60 people were jamin', talking and playing Pokemon.
I'm a huge people person so I love this!
But... right about the same time, this Buzzfeed style list of Pokemon cocktails started showing up on my Facebook. It's been around a while, and it's a cute way for adults to enjoy applying their nerdy things to another thing they enjoy. Having said that, these shots and cocktails are more about appearance and getting the right colors to layer than they are about enjoyable cocktails. They all look like syrupy sweet concoctions guaranteed to leave you feeling like a Beedrill has taken up residence in your head. No thank you.
I firmly beleive that everyone deserves delicious cocktails, so here is the first of our Pokemon Go team cocktails: Team Mystic. Since blue is a very difficult color to get naturally, and I didn't want to put a bunch of over sweetened things in this cocktail, I went with our brand new Blueberry Lemon shrub. It's a rich blue violet, which IMO is more mystical anyway... A quick word on the rum. I used the Mt Gay Black Barrel rum for this because it tastes somewhere between rum and whiskey. Any full bodied aged rum should work here, just try not to pick one that's very sweet.
.75 oz Blueberry Lemon shrub
1.5 oz aged rum
.5 fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 oz Ginger Beer
In a shaker with ice, combine everything except the ginger beer. Shake well, 15-20 seconds, and strain into a chilled tumbler of at least 8 oz capacity. Top with fresh ice and ginger beer. Sip mystically while catching all the Pokemon.
In the Pokemon Go playing universe Team Mystic and Team Valor are rivals of the first order. They have competing ideas about what Pokemon are and how to best make use of them. And it's really fun to have someone to lightly banter with.
Despite the fact that Team Valor is awful (jk... but seriously Mystic 4ever) I think they deserve a delicious cocktail to sip while they battle for gyms and catch all the Pidgeys. And of course it has to be red, like the blood of their enemies! Or like their red shirts, which would be a terrible thing to wear if there was ever any Star Trek/Pokemon crossover. Which there isn't to my knowledge but now that I've said something there probably is.
I also wanted to capture the fiery spirit of the Valor folks I know, as well as their team mascot. Which gave me the perfect excuse to pick up a bottle of Ancho Reyes liqueur, which is a smokey/spicy blend of ancho chilis and cane spirits. A little of this goes a long way if you're sensitive to spicy things, so use sparingly (or throw caution to the wind and drink it straight because it's delicious but has some heat). It's a natural pairing with tequila and that seemed to keep with the fiery theme of this cocktail, but I didn't want to add anymore smoke, so a tasty agave forward blanco seemed like a perfect choice. But Team Valor was not to be denied their smokey deliciousness, and the reposado was a better match. Cocktail evolution, like Pokemon evolution, can sometimes be wild and fun!
Now for the red part... Our Raspberry Lime shrub is super red and super delicious with tequila. Plus it has all this sassy snap from the limes we use in it. So we have smokey, spicy, lime and tequila which was already most of the way to a margarita variation. It was just missing a touch of orange, which we added via bitters to keep the cocktail from getting too sweet. This is the perfect thing to drink while mourning all your gyms turning blue... I mean to celebrate all the gyms being red. Good job Team Valor!
.75 oz Raspberry Lime shrub
1.5 oz Reposado tequila
.5 oz Ancho Reyes liqueur
.5 oz fresh lime juice
2 dashes Orange Bitters
Put a bit of tequila on your finger and run it around half the lip of your glass. Dip the moistened end into flakey sea salt. Skip if you don't care for a salted rim on your margarita. Put everything in a shaker with ice. Shake well, 15-20 seconds, and pour into prepared glass. Add more ice if needed and toast your fellow Pokemon trainers!
July here in Seattle has been unexpectedly gloomy and rainy and then sunny and warm, and then gloomy again. I feel like I might get weather related whiplash. Which may sound like a silly complaint from someone who moved to Seattle for the weather, but I've grown to love our brief Summers full of 80 degree days and I want more of them. In succession.
There are an abundance of Summer outdoor festivals, movies in the park and every deck is packed with people enjoying the long days and mild nights. Typically with a beverage in hand. These long evenings, and our partnership with the amazing folks at Letterpress Distilling, helped inspire this cocktail. We got to have them as our neighbors at Proof this year, which was beyond fun. Seriously if you haven't been to see them, do it. They make an excellent craft vodka and one of my two favorite Limoncellos on the market.
It is from this Limoncello that we get our lemons actually. From the beginning I have always wanted to celebrate the produce that comes from Washington State. We have berries galore, stone fruit to die for, pears that are some of the best ever, apples that are one of our best known fruits and so many more things I'd never heard of until I moved here. What we don't have, much to the sadness of my California heart, is citrus. Sure, I use it sparingly in things like our Raspberry Lime shrub, but making a flavor that was focused on a citrus fruit just went against one of the main ideals of my company: Highlight local fruit, grown in state by small to medium sized growers.
And then Skip and his team posted to Facebook about wanting to find someone with a use for a bunch of blood oranges and lemons that they used for making their products. Which is how we ended up with our (sadly now sold out) Blood Orange and Lemon Lavender shrubs. So when I was planning for Proof 2016, I knew it would be super fun to make a cocktail with them to showcase the partnership we'd built. And it was super fun.
It also gave me an opportunity to work with the seriously awesome folks at Addition Cocktail Spice. They make uncomplicated things to add to your cocktails that give a finishing touch, like the best stocked spice rack. But for booze. When I'm formulating a cocktail I want three or so flavor things going on in each sip. Since La Tenerreza was a vodka based cocktail, I knew we'd need something other than the spirit to give those three distinct notes. So I added a few drops of tarragon and just fell in love.
La Tenerezza (Tenderness)
1.5 oz Letterpress Distilling vodka
.75 oz Lemon Lavender shrub
6-8 drops Tarragon cocktail spice
Chilled cava or brut champagne
In a shaker with ice, combine the vodka, shrub and cocktail spice. Shake well, 15-20 second, until the outside of the shaker is well frosted. Strain into a chilled champagne flute or coupe glass and top with the chilled bubbly.
This week we had the opportunity to attend and showcase our shrubs at the amazing Women in Beer party/fundraiser hosted by local favorites Pike Brewing. They always put on a super fun event full of talented folks making delicious food and drink and this time was no exception. Craft beer from all over the state was flowing freely, foods flavored with or meant to accompany beer were being relished, and several local craft spirits (what happens when you distil beer) were giving out tastings. My favorite bite was a self made beer float with Balleywood Creamery's chocolate malt ice cream and an espresso stout from a brewery I didn't get the name of (but if you did please leave it in the comments because I seriously need more of that in my life).
In honor of the event, and because I know outdoor grilling party season is here, we made a punch. Now, most of you have probably seen these sorts of 'beer punch' recipes where you dump a 750 mL of cheap vodka in with a 12 pack of Bud and a bunch of lemonade. That sort of beverage has its place, I suppose, but around here we like things a little more flavor full and a lot more refined. I mean, just check out the vintage glass dispenser we brought. So classy.
Classic punch form is based on linearly progressive ratios of 5 ingredients. Which is to say 1 part sour, 2 parts sweet, 3 parts strong and 4 parts weak plus spice to taste. Given these ratios you can see that classic punches, which predate the cocktail by around 100 years, could be quite high in alcohol content. Not that that's a bad thing, but it doesn't lend itself as well to the style of 'sip all day at the bbq' type of punch I prefer. While I use all the same flavors of a classic punch, I like to tweak the ratios and let some of the ingredients play double duty.
2 parts shrub: this is both sour and sweet
1 part spirit: this is the strong part
4 parts beer: this is the weak part and also add some spice/bitter
4 parts seltzer: also weak
1 or 2 pieces of fruit or herbs: citrus add sour and both add spice/bitter
One final note on making punch. It's something that's best started a few hours before you plan to serve it. While it's no longer necessary to condition the spirits, it does enhance the flavor greatly if you blend the shrub and spirit together with the fruit/herbs ahead of time to let all the alcohol soluble flavors get into the mix. 2-3 hours is ideal, but you can get away with just 1 if you're pressed for time.
With the above ratios you can experiment with all kinds of flavor profiles. Changing the spirit and the beer will give you very different results. For example here are two options with our Blood Orange shrub. Blood Orange shrub with a nutty brown ale, rye and a lemon would be rich and delicious. Blood Orange shrub with gin, a blond ale and rosemary would also be delicious, but a bit little lighter and much more herbaceous.
For the Women in Beer event, this is what we did.
Queen Mab in Her Cups
makes around 1.5 gallons punch
32 ounces Apricot Cardamom shrub
16 ounces Ide Hour Whiskey from Seattle Distilling, or your favorite sweet whiskey
64 ounces Naughty Nellie beer from Pike Brewing, or your prefered blond ale
2 liters of Seltzer
1 lemon organic if available, or well scrubbed
1 orange organic if available, or well scrubbed
Cut the lemon and orange into quarters, and then each quarter into 3 or 4 pieces. Put in a large jar of at least 1/2 gallon capacity. Add to this the whiskey and shrub. Shake well to combine everything and let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour at minimum, and up to 4.
When you're ready to serve, get out your punch bowl or drinks dispenser. If you have time before hand, make frozen water balloons so you have extra big pieces of ice. Just peel off the latex and give the ice a rinse before you add it to the punch. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU OR YOUR GUESTS HAVE LATEX ALLERGIES. You can also use a silicone ring or square mold that will fit into your punch bowl. I like having the big ice because it melts much slower, so the punch stays cold longer and doesn't get watery.
Add the punch base (shrub/spirit/fruit mixture) to the chosen vessel. Add the beer and seltzer and stir gently to combine. Add the ice, as gently as possible since the punch vessel will be very full and you want to keep as much of the carbonation as possible. Drink deep and enjoy your outdoor event. Also, this is still around 7-10% abv so make sure you don't forget to drink water, and don't drive under its delicious influence.
This cocktail came about because of a super fun photo shoot I was doing for this site. We needed to shoot me making drinks and handling bottles, and somehow this drink was born. We had some fresh mint on the bar top, for color and as set dressing, but it looked so inviting. And I had about 1/3 of a whole lemon sitting on the cutting board. I knew lemon and rhubarb were a perfect match, because we had just made the Queen Bee and who doesn't love lemon and mint together?
So I threw them in the bottom of my shaker and muddled them well. Then I added a healthy dose of the Simply Rhubarb shrub and swirled it around. A quick taste let me know I was onto something. The lemon played bridge between the mint and the rhubarb, letting them play better together than I hoped. Meanwhile the sweetness of the shrub subdued the frostiness of the mint letting more herbal/green notes come forward.
I knew a more assertive spirit, like gin, would wreck the delicate balance working here so I reached for vodka. Now, for the most part I'm not a vodka drinker. I have such a love affair with the more pronounced spirits that I don't often reach for it. It is, after all, the color black of the spirits world. But here, I was able to bring in a local craft vodka with a creamy mouth feel and subtle notes of vanilla custard. It rounded the edges off the shrub/mint/lemon mixture and brought them into a perfect harmony. After a good shake and a double strain, we tasted.
Grassy green flavors with a refreshing minty finish, with a good strong rhubarb middle and notes of bitterness from the lemon peel. This was really refreshing and delightfully different. I hope you get a chance to make this soon.
2-3 sprigs fresh mint
.5 ounce lemon juice plus a strip of peel, or about 1/3 a lemon
1 ounce Simply Rhubarb shrub
2 ounces local craft vodka
In a shaker, muddle mint and lemon. Add shrub and vodka and fill with ice. Shake well, about 20 seconds or until the shaker is quite frosty. Double strain into a chilled bucket or cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge and one bruised mint leaf.
Here in Seattle we're having an on again/off again affair with sunshine and temps over 70, but we are firmly into gin weather. My cocktail year is broken up into the gin seasons of spring and summer, and the whiskey seasons of fall and winter. Not that I don't love other spirits (rum and tequila are year round for me), but I'm surrounded by craft distillers who make some of the most amazing gins and whiskeys so I tend to reach for those. When fall comes around we'll talk about whiskey, but for now I want to encourage everyone to restock their gins.
Now, maybe you're one of those who think gin tastes like Pine-Sol and lighter fluid. To which I say, I'm sorry you've only ever had the really cheap stuff (not to be confused with inexpensive). Gin is the original flavored vodka, and as such has a wildly varied set of flavors and smells depending on the herbs and process used. In general, there are two kinds of gin: Compound gin and Distilled gin. Compound gin is made by soaking aromatics (juniper berries and other herbs/spices/flowers) in vodka and then straining out the solids. They tend to be harsh, so I generally don't recommend them. Most of the commercial gins worth drinking take this Compound gin and redistill it to remove impurities and enhance the taste. These Distilled gins can be all manner of delicious.
All gins must contain juniper and, at least in America, they can be no less than 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume). Since those are the only rules that a spirit has to abide by to be called gin, that leaves loads of room for creativity. Most gins will fall under either the London Dry style of gin or the American style of gin. Both are delicious, and both have their place in your home bar.
London Dry style gins are characterized by their robust flavor profiles with lots of resinous juniper, mineraly coriander, and bold spices like cassia bark and cloves. A good London Dry gin should remind you of a culinary garden mixed with a medieval pharmacopeia. Some of my favorite local London Dry style gins are put out by Fremont Mischief, Sun Liquor, Copperworks, and Sound Spirits. These gins are phenomenal in a classic gin and tonic, and pair spectacularly with flavors like our Strawberries n Champagne or Blood Orange.
American style gins are softer with a less assertive juniper note and more citrus and floral notes. Some can even be quite sweet, with flavors of custard and baked goods. A good American style gin should remind you of an English garden in summer, with culinary herbs and flowers in abundance, and just a touch of earthiness. A few local favorites include Seattle Distilling, Oola, and the Spy Hop gins put out by San Juan Island Distillery. I love gins like this in cocktails where I want to highlight softer flavors, like in our Simply Rhubarb or Lemon Lavender shrubs.
But of course I can't just encourage you to go visit the local distilleries and not give you a delicious way to use your new gins. So here are two cocktails for you to try out. One is better with the London Dry style gins, and one is more geared toward and American style gin. I named them after my two favorite dames.
Dame Judi Dench
1 ounce Blood Orange shrub
1.5 ounces London Dry style gin
.5 ounces Cocchi Americano
Put all ingredients into a shaker with ice. Shake well, about 20 seconds or until the outside of the shaker is well frosted. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist. Sip and revel in your elegant badassness.
Dame Helen Mirren
.75 ounce Apricot Cardamom shrub
1 ounce American style gin
Cava or other sparkling white wine
In a shaker with ice, combine the shrub and the gin. Shake well, about 20 seconds or until the outside of the shaker is well frosted. Strain into a chilled coupe and top with Cava. Sip and revel in your elegant badassness.
Spring is in full swing in the Pacific Northwest. The trees are wearing their best blossoms, lilacs are budding, and bees are out and about collecting pollen to make delicious honey. I also know it's fully Spring because my cocktail preferences have switched from whiskey based cocktails to gin based ones. One of my favorite gin based cocktails is the Bee's Knees. If you've never had one, it's a sweet/tart/herbaceous blend of gin, lemon juice and honey that tastes like the beginning of the season. I highly recommend trying one at the next possible moment.
I suspect it was the timing of the Service Industry Night at The Barrel Thief in Fremont that inspired the Queen Bee. I had the opportunity to showcase The Shrubbery at SIN and I wanted to give guests an opportunity to try two different cocktails, that incorporated two different shrubs. We settled on a rye cocktail that riffs on the Scofflaw, and a rhubarb enhanced Bee's Knees.
I Fought The Law, made with our Lemon Honey Rosemary shrub, is a tasty blend of dry vermouth, rye whiskey and shrub. It's on the savory side of shrub based cocktails, owing to the rye and the tartness of the lemons, and I thought it was the perfect sip for the slightly chill weather we had that night. But my dreams of spring were pinned on the Queen Bee, and it does not disappoint.
For this cocktail you'll want to break out your softer gins, as opposed to a classic London Dry style. Rhubarb is a delicate flavor profile and a more aggressive gin will mask it. I'm a fan of several of our Seattle local craft gins, and highly recommend Seattle Distilling, OOLA, or Copperworks for this. But if you're not in Seattle and don't have access to those, Hendricks gin or Bombay Sapphire would likely also be quite lovely in this.
Beyond the gin, you will also need freshly pressed lemon juice and honey syrup (put 2 parts honey and 1 part water in a sauce pot and heat just until the honey fully dissolves, cool fully and store in an airtight container). If you don't have a citrus press you can use freshly squeezed lemon juice, but the presser will impart some of the citrus peel oils into the mix and I find that adds another level of flavor which makes home cocktails taste more like the ones you find at your favorite bar.
Here then is how you make a Queen Bee:
1.5 ounces gin
.75 ounce Simply Rhubarb shrub
.5 ounce Honey Syrup
.5 ounce lemon juice
Put everything into a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled, about 15-20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass and topp with ice. Garnish with half a lemon wheel.