Archive for the ‘drink’ Category

Negroni time

Something about the holiday season puts me in the mood for a festive drink before dinner. Lately, S seems to be in the same mood, and his current favorite cocktail is a Negroni — the classic drink made with gin, campari and sweet vermouth.

When I first started making this cocktail I stayed true to the traditional 1:1:1 ratio and used the same amount of each ingredient in my drinks.  Over time, though, I have come to prefer my Negronis a little less sweet, a little more bitter and a little heavy on the gin.  And since I make them, S likes them that way too!

The recipe is still very easy.

For one drink, I pour 2 ounces of good gin (I like Plymouth), 1 1/2 ounces Campari, and 1 ounce Sweet Vermouth into a shaker filled with ice.  I shake gently, just enough to thoroughly chill the mixture, and pour it into a glass over an orange peel or a slice of orange for garnish.

Not only does it taste great, but it looks just right for the holiday season.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

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Last week I posted the recipe for cherry drinking vinegar used to make a colonial drink called a shrub (concentrated syrup made from fruit, vinegar and sugar poured over ice and sparkling water).  When you last saw me, I had pitted and mashed the cherries, covered them with apple cider vinegar and left them to sit at room temperature.

Today I added 1/2 cup of sugar and gently boiled the cherry – vinegar mixture for about an hour (I chose to do it outside on my trusty Weber grill because boiling vinegar has a somewhat pungent odor),

strained the mixture and began a series of taste tests.  With some advice from my visiting sister-in-law K, I added about 1/4 cup more sugar and the drinking vinegar was ready to use.  My first shrub was delicious — a perfect refresher for a summer afternoon.

The recipe made just shy of three cups of liquid and I am already imagining all kinds of other uses for this vinegar — in salad dressing, mixed with vodka … I think the possibilities are almost endless.  The recipe says it keeps indefinitely; I am guessing it won’t be around that long!

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One of my recent fascinations has been with the fruit drinking vinegars that are on the menu at two Portland restaurants:  Ping and Pok Pok.  These drinks are light, fruity, not too sweet, and, because the vinegar is topped with sparkling water, a little bit fizzy.  A perfect taste for a hot summer afternoon or evening and a great companion for spicy, complex foods.

A few weeks ago someone tweeted about a New York Times Magazine “Case Study” by Toby Cecchini that included a recipe for drinking vinegar and I knew the gauntlet had landed.  I was going to try making my own drinking vinegar at home.  A weekend trip to Hood River which resulted in several bags of cherries provided the final ingredient — the fruit I needed.

The recipe is not complicated.   The first step is to pick through the fruit (and in the case of cherries, you remove the pits), mash it up a bit, cover it with vinegar and let it sit in a covered container for a week.  Pitting cherries is messy work, and my fingers are stained red right now, but I think it will be worth it in the end.

As recommended in the original article, I used an additive-free organic apple cider vinegar — Bragg vinegar — that I was able to find at my local New Seasons grocery.  You might have to order this vinegar; it is available online.

After the shrub has developed, the recipe calls for adding 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar, boiling the mixture for an hour, and testing it for sweetness.  The drink is served mixed with sparkling water over ice.

Here’s the full recipe from the NYT website:

Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 quarts, depending on fruit used.

These measurements can be played with quite liberally, as some fruits contain more natural sugars.

2 quarts fruit, use any fruit, pears, figs, raspberries, cherries
1 liter apple-cider vinegar (preferably Bragg) or other vinegar.
1/2 to 1 cup raw sugar
Soda water

1. Rinse the fruit and discard any rot. Place in a large non-reactive or ceramic pot and mash for several minutes with your hands or a wooden spoon to break up. Pour in enough vinegar to cover and top with a lid. Let macerate at room temperature for a week, stirring once a day. (Do not be alarmed by the smell or the sludge on top.)
2. After a week, stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar and gently boil for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly, then strain. (The smell created from boiling is a bit offensive, so open the doors and windows.)
3. Make a test shrub: cool 3 to 4 tablespoons of the fruit mixture. Fill a 20-ounce glass with ice. Add water or soda water to almost the rim, then add the chilled fruit mixture. Taste to determine sweetness. If it is too tart, add sugar to the fruit mixture, little by little, while still hot. Cool fully and funnel into bottles. Will keep indefinitely in refrigerator.

Since I have only completed the first part of the recipe myself, you’ll have to wait (with me) for a week to find out how the shrub turns out.  Stay tuned!

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Some time ago, my sister-in-law, K, posted a recipe for Almond Milk on her blog.  The first few times I made it myself I flipped back to her recipe, but after a few batches I found that I was able to remember the simple and delicious recipe without peeking.  Now I keep homemade almond milk in my refrigerator almost all the time.

What makes this recipe so wonderful is the simple list of ingredients and the ease with which they can be combined to make a flavorful and healthy drink.  Almonds, water, a bit of sweetener (I use agave nectar or maple syrup) and vanilla, and a pinch of salt, whirled in the blender and strained through cheesecloth,

and there you are — creamy, smooth, slightly sweet and nutty — the perfect glass of almond milk.

For me, nothing tastes better on homemade (or any other kind) granola.

Here are the details:

Almond Milk

1 cup whole almonds (I use organic)
4 cups water
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup (you can add more or less sweetener to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Blend at the highest speed for about 2 minutes, until all of the almonds are pulverized.

Pour through a strainer lined with cheesecloth.  Gather the cheesecloth and squeeze until all of the liquid is extracted.

Pour into a jar and refrigerate.  Almond milk keeps, refrigerated, for about 3 days.

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With spring firmly underway here in the Northwest (despite a few cooler days this past week) my thoughts inevitably turn to fresher foods and lighter drinks.  The other night S and I were out for sushi at our newest local favorite sushi place, Masu Sushi, and S decided to try their seasonal drink — a cantaloupe martini.  I had a sip and it was so tasty that when I saw ripe cantaloupes (from Mexico, I have to admit) at Whole Foods on Saturday I had to buy one and try to make my own version of the drink at home.

After a few juicy minutes spent peeling and chopping, I tossed some chunks of cantaloupe into the food processor, whirled them around until I had a smooth, salmon colored puree that shook (over ice) with lime juice, vodka and a dash of simple syrup. Voilà! a new spring favorite was born.

Cantaloupe martini
Makes 2 generous drinks (or 3 smaller ones)

½ medium (approx 7”) cantaloupe, cubed
4 ounces vodka
1 – 2 teaspoons simple syrup
juice of 1 lime, and additional lime wedges for garnish

Puree cantaloupe in a blender until smooth.

Pour cantaloupe puree, vodka, simple syrup (use more if you like a sweeter drink, or if the cantaloupe is not sweet enough for you on its own) and lime juice in a cocktail shaker with ice.

Shake vigorously.  Pour into pretty glasses and serve garnished with lime wedges.

I am already dreaming of sitting on the deck, sipping one of these and watching the sun slowly set behind the pine trees.

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New year, new cocktail

Just before the holidays I read a book about New Orleans food called Gumbo Tales. Written by Sara Roahen, former food writer for The Gambit, the book tells the story of Sara’s experiences with food (and drink) in New Orleans before and after Katrina.

It’s a great book and I highly recommend it to any of you who like reading about food (or who are planning to visit New Orleans in the near future).  It made me long for a trip there myself.

There are a lot of chapters in the book that left an impression, but the one that has made the biggest change in my eating (or more accurately, drinking) habits is the one called simply “Sazeracs.”

Before reading this book I had never heard of a Sazerac, a drink that, according to Wikipedia (source of all accurate information), is one of the oldest known cocktails, originating in pre-Civil War New Orleans.

Always on the lookout for a new drink to test the skills of Portland’s many talented bartenders, and made truly thirsty by Roahen’s descriptions of the beverage, I started ordering them around town; and liking them.  So far I have had great versions at Toro Bravo, Clarklewis and Beaker and Flask.

Last night I decided to make my own.  I started (in the liquor store parking lot!) by reviewing a few recipes on my iPhone.  List in hand (I needed Rye or another “American Whiskey;” Absinthe, Pernod or Herbsaint; and Angostura Bitters — I had a small bottle of Peychaud’s Bitters and a lemon at home already), I made my way into the store.

The biggest dilemma was what whiskey to buy.  Despite some recipes that said NEVER to use Bourbon in a Sazerac, the Rye selection was very limited so I decided Bourbon would have to do.  I bought a bottle of Black Maple Hill Premium Small Batch Bourbon.

There was no Absinthe or Herbsaint so I ended up with Pernod, a lovely, green, anise-flavored liqueur.

The Pernod (1 scant teaspoon) is used to “rinse” a chilled glass. The other ingredients:  2 oz Rye or Bourbon, 1 tsp simple syrup, 4 dashes Peychauds bitters and 1 scant dash Angostura bitters, are mixed gently in an ice-filled cocktail shaker before being poured into the Pernod-rinsed glass.  Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

Sit back, take a sip and imagine you are in New Orleans.

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Margarita time

Most Fridays when we get home from work, S and I are ready to relax.  Often that means cooking together.

Tonight I found some frozen roasted peppers from last summer and decided that, since this summer’s peppers are almost ready to harvest and roast, it was time to make something good with them.  I settled on enchiladas.

That decision led to another, maybe obvious, choice:  we needed margaritas!


Making margaritas is not my specialty, so I headed to the internet for a recipe and found this one.  It looked great, but a quick read made it clear that I didn’t have all of the essential ingredients.  There was no Triple Sec anywhere in the house.  After adding it to the grocery list


I found a potential substitute:  Spicy Ginger Cello Liqueur, an organic botanical liqueur made by the New Deal Distillery here in Portland.  I’d used it in martinis before, but never thought of it as an ingredient in a margarita.


And the result?  It was great!

Ginger Lime Margaritas for Two

3/4 c Patron Tequila

1/4 c LOFT Spicy Ginger Liqueur

3 oz fresh squeezed lime juice

3 Tbs sugar, divided

2 cups ice

2 Tbs kosher salt

3 lime wedges

Combine Tequila, Ginger liqueur, lime juice and 2 Tbs sugar in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake well.

Combine remaining 1 Tbs sugar and 2 Tbs salt on a small plate.  Use one lime wedge to moisten rims of two glasses and, holding glasses upside down, coat rims with the sugar and salt mixture.

Strain the margarita mixture into glasses and serve garnished with lime wedges.


Put some Los Lobos on the stereo and enjoy!

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