Thursday, August 15, 2013

We Want A Shrubbery!

I'm a curious kind of guy. I've been told that I ask too many questions; just ask my fiancee. I just feel that there is a lot of information out there to be had. Why not try to grasp it? So, in my unquenchable thirst for knowledge, pun intended, I found shrubs. No. Not the shrubs that The Knights Who Say Ni want. These are shrubs that you can drink.

In this post, I am just going to show you the basics of shrubbing. I want you to develop your own fruit combinations and add your own spices and herbs if you wish.

Otherwise known as "drinking vinegars", shrubs essentially come in two forms, alcoholic and non alcoholic. Alcoholic shrubs most likely originated from the medicinal cordials of the 1500's or thereabout. They were another vehicle to medicate one's ailments back in the day. The non-alcoholic shrubs would be more closely related to canning fruit and preserves. The basic ingredients of the shrubs I'm referring to in this post are vinegar, fruit, some sort of sweetener and/or spices. If made well, they have a great balance between sweet and sour. As with anything that I do, I like to find ways to simplify recipes for you lazy bastards out there. So, this is it:

16 oz Fresh Fruit (your choice) or frozen if you're REALLY lazy
2 cups White Refined Granulated Sugar (like Domino's)
Apple Cider Vinegar Unfiltered and Unpasteurized (Bragg's)
herbs and spices (optional)

Cut up your fruit into small cubes and add them to a bowl. If you are using small berries like blueberries, just press on them to get them to burst a bit. Pour the sugar on top and give it a good mixing until the sugar starts to coagulate and get stick with fruit just. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and throw it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, give it a good stir again. You will
These are peaches in sugar - 2nd day
notice that the sugar is turning into a syrup with some residual sugar granules. This is good. Throw it in the fridge again. Stir it again later on that night. By the time you get to it the next day, most of the sugar should be dissolved. Filter out the fruit and pour the sugar syrup into a jar. Add an equal amount of vinegar to the syrup. Seal the jar & shake. If you wanted to add spices like cinnamon, clover, fresh elderflower, another fruit, this would be the time. A spice bag would be helpful. Let rest for another couple of days. Remove spice bag. If you still have some granulated sugar on the bottom, shake again until dissolved. Now you're ready to drink it! Shrubs should last several months. Due to the sugar and acid in the shrub, the flavors will get better as the weeks roll by.

You can try a sip straight up. It's pretty powerful and will induce a funny face with a involuntary shaking of the head. A fresh, delicious and fun way to enjoy your new shrub is to add it to club soda. 
These are not the shrubs you are looking for

Fill a Collins glass with ice.
Add 3/4 oz of Shrub
Top off with 5-6 oz Fever Tree Soda Water or Club soda
Gently stir.

In a cocktail developed by @BarstoolPhD:
Pyro In The Grove
1 1/4 oz Broker's Gin
1 oz Homemade Orange Curacao (Bol's or Ferrande is fine)
1/2 oz Strawberry Shrub
1/2 oz Aalborg Akvavit 
1/4 oz Ardbeg 10 year Islay Scotch (or any well peated Scotch)

Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker.
Add ice and shake until your hand freezes.
Shake for a few more seconds.
Double Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with an orange peel with oils expressed over the cocktail. 
Drop orange peel into cocktail

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Great Gin Twist Adventure

I like cocktail parties. I like parties where we roast pigs. But, what I like the best is pig roast cocktail parties.

Saugatuck Craft Butchery  approached me a few days ago and asked if I wanted to supply the booze for their First Annual Pig on the Plaza event. It's a pig roast that originated as one of their butchery classes that turned into a bad ass event. Of course I would supply the booze! I don't want to talk about the beer or wine that we're serving. So, let's get right to the cocktail. The Gin Twist.

I've been thumbing through a cocktail book originally printed in 1902 by Farrow & Jackson called Recipes of American and Other Iced Drinks. It was a marketing ploy by Farrow & Jackson, who manufactured tools and equipment for bars. Buy the book. It's pretty cool. Charlie Paul was the man who provided most of the recipes in this little goodie. I'm only assuming that he came up with the Gin Twist recipe back in the day. But, I may be wrong. So, don't quote me on it.

As with a lot of the recipes found in these antique printings, it leaves a lot up to interpretation. The actual recipe goes as follows <as printed in the book>:

Gin Twist. S.D. (short drink)

Take a wine glass ; put in a small piece of ice, a
teaspoonful of strawberry syrup and half a tea-
spoonful of lemon juice ; fill up with Old Tom gin,
then pare half a lemon, twist, and drop in.

This is an amazing action shot
Awesome. So, when I say "interpretation" that means that when I made this recipe for the first time, I didn't have the exact ingredients on hand at that exact moment. So, I "interpret" the shit out of it. Really, what happened was, I didn't have Old Tom Gin and I just made lemonade with all of the lemons i had in house. Bare with me here. Old Tom gins stylistically are sweetened gins. So, what would happened if the sweetener was misplaced and put into the lemon juice? It's all sugar right? Who cares how it gets in there, just as long as it gets in there? Right? Right. Moving on. 

The Pig on the Plaza event has grown to at least 150 people at this point. That's a lot of Gin Twisting.

Fifty lemons, two bags of oleo saccharum and 14 cups of lemon juice, I'm ready to move on to the strawberry syrup. Now, I haven't had any scholastic or culinary training and I haven't done any true research on it. But, I'm pretty sure any kind of strawberry syrup contains a shit load of strawberries and a whole bunch of sugar. Some might say there is some water in there, too. There is water in strawberries, right? Good enough.

I guess you're supposed to boil and simmer fruit and sugar to create syrups. Let's interpret "syrup" here, too. I'm lazy.

Hull the strawberries and cut them in half. Yes, all 4lbs of them.

Throw them in a bag and add 2 cups of that lovely granulated sugar.

Smoosh them together a bit to jump start that sugar/fruit magic.

Yup. vacuum seal it, too. If you don't have a vacuum sealer like this one, I would assume you can use a Ziploc bag and take as much air out as possible.Just let it sit out on the counter at room temperature for a few hours or until it looks like a lot of the sugar is dissolving.

Okay. You're done for today. Let all of that hard work you just did sit overnight in the fridge.

I know we all have busy schedules nowadays. This will keep fresh in the fridge for a couple days.

You have a blender or a food processor, right? Take it out of the cupboard and dust it off. Strawberries+sugar+blender=strawberry syrup in my Gin Twisted head.  Blend the strawberries until they're smooth. Voila! You have strawberry "syrup". Now you can funnel this syrup into Ball canning jars,  swing-top bottles or whatever resealable vessel you feel like. Personally, I think this tastes better than that nasty syrup crap from a can you get at diners. The sweetness here ends up being a bit brighter and you still have a little texture to it. And, guess what? No boiling, simmering or reducing! Plus, it's works better in cocktails.

The next step was to make my famous and ridiculously delicious oleo saccharum lemonade in large format. I won't bore you with the details.

Gin Twist

2oz Plymouth Gin
1/2oz Strawberry syrup
1oz oleo saccharum lemonade

Combine in a strainer. Add ice and shake.
Strain over fresh ice in a Highball glass
top with 1oz club soda
Garnish with a lemon twist and a sprig of mint

Friday, July 6, 2012

Grapefruit Syrup - The Amazing Way

Don't frickin' freak out. It's only grapefruit syrup.

I must confess that I have gone the majority of my life without even knowing what a Paloma was. But ever since having one at Rosa Mexicano in New York City, I've been hooked. It was so simple. It was so delicious. It was so amazing. When I ordered it, they gave me a Collins glass filled with ice and garnished with a lime, a shot glass of Partida Silver Tequila and a bottle of Jarrito's Toronja grapefruit soda. Holy shit. It blew me away.

Like anything else that I love in the name of alcohol, I wanted to carry Jarrito's in my wine shop. But, for some reason, I couldn't find the vender for Jarritos. So, in typical "me" fashion, I decided to give it a go myself. Of course, I geeked out.  I needed to dissect the All Mighty Toronja.

Ingredients: carbonated water (water, carbon dioxide), natural sugar, citric acid, natural flavor, sodium benzoate (preservative), yellow 5, yellow 6. Look for yourself.


Now, I don't know about you but I HATE yellow #5 and yellow #6. Actually, that statement isn't entirely true. I never understood the point of food coloring. Just kidding. I do understand why companies use it. It's another marketing ploy to make you believe something is more delicious than it actually is. It keeps the food coloring companies in business. I blame the Irish. After all, I am half Irish. What does that mean exactly? I don't know. It just makes me feel better when I blame the Irish. It's just like using food coloring.

Okay. Enough rambling and on to the recipe.

Grapefruit Syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 cups fresh squeezed Grapefruit juice
Grapefruit oleo saccharum

Cold process the sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. You can find my cold process method here.  Add grapefruit and oleo saccharum and shake. Let it sit over night. It makes all the difference in the world. Remove grapefruit peels and press out remaining juice of peels. Store in fridge up to one month.

Oleo saccharum of grapefruit
Grapefruit rind of 3 grapefruits
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Combine ingredients in a sous vide bag. Rub sugar and grapefruit peel together to release oils from the rind. Vacuum seal and let sit at room temperature for a few hours until the sugar and oil combine. You see what I mean when you do it.

Here's how to make the most amazing Paloma you'll ever have in your life. Seriously.

1 1/2 oz of your favorite blanco tequila (I use Partida)
1 1/2 oz Grapefruit syrup
2 oz carbonated water (club soda)
*2 drops Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters
juice of 1 lime wedge (a 1/4 lime)

Combine ingredients in a Collins glass filled with ice. Give it a quick stir. Garnish with an  orange peel.

*A note on the bitters: You can use any bitters you like. I've tried Fee Brothers Grapefruit and it ended up offering more floral notes on the nose and a sweeter taste profile. It didn't work as well with the syrup, in my opinion. You can also sub in Dr. Adam Elmegirab's Spanish Bitters if you'd like. It works well and it adds a different dimension to the cocktail that is truly refreshing. If you use Adam's bitters, I'd bump it up to three drops. If I make two of these cocktails for myself on a hot day, I use Bittermens in one and Adam's in the other. I like the contrast.

If you're not a fan of tequila cocktails, you can sub in gin in this recipe.

Gins that work in this recipe:
Plymouth - Nice, well balanced. The grapefruit brings out more herbaceous notes in the gin
DH Krahn - Sweet and citrusy. Very playful on the palate. I would garnish this with a lemon peel
Beefeater Summer Edition - Floral and airy. The sugar in the syrup pull the botanicals together nicely
No. 3 - Citrusy and soft - The orange peel in the gin plays nice. Use Adam's spanish bitters
209 Gin - Rich and complex. I tend to use Fee Brothers Grapefruit bitters in this one.

The only thing that I ask of you is, make sure there are no children around when you say "That's fucking delicious."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Gomme Syrup - The Easy Way

This isn't David Wondrich. This dude is a gum arabic producer in Niger.
As tending bar is evolving into what borders the culinary arts, we are discovering cocktail recipes from the likes of Professor Jerry Thomas. Some of these antique recipes call for some off-the-beaten-path ingredients - recipes "lost" in the alcohol black hole known as Prohibition and American industrialization. David Wondrich, author of Imbibe! and Punch, has done an enormous amount of research to revive these recipes. Without repeating what other people have said, I'd like to add a tip to one recipe in particular - gomme syrup.

So, as you may have found on other blogs like Cocktail Chronicles that have done all the hard work and given you and I the recipe for gomme syrup, I'd like to make the process a little bit simpler for the masses. By the way, Cocktail Chronicles is a fantastic blog.

This is what gum arabic looks like...on a tree.
I'm a firm believer in cold processing simple syrup. I've mentioned my method here. To me, it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to the viscosity of the cocktail that you are using it in. Mixologists are using gomme syrup today to add not only flavor and sweetness to a cocktail, but a velvety viscosity as well. Let's make it simpler, shall we?

Cocktail Chronicles has this recipe split up into two parts; 2:1 simple syrup and arabic gum syrup.

Arabic Gum Syrup
Put the arabic powder and room temperature water in a bowl and whisk until combined. It took only a few minutes. 

Simple Syrup
Add the sugar and room temperature water in a canning jar and shake the hell out of it until the sugar  dissolves. There may still be minute sugar granules floating around. Don't worry. We'll take care of that in a second.

When you're tired of whisking and shaking that Ball Caning Jar, combine these two syrups in a small sauce pan and put over low heat - DO NOT BOIL. Using a regular old kitchen metal spoon, stir the syrup until you can't feel any of the sugar granules on the bottom of the pot. This takes about 45 seconds. Remove from heat. Let cool at room temperature for a bit. You want to wait long enough for the white foam to form on top of the syrup.

When the foam forms on the top, scoop it off with a spoon. Then, use a conical cocktail strainer and strain into a jar or capped bottle of your choice. I just use a Ball Jar. POW! It's ready to use.

So, lets recap:
Cold shake sugar and water
cold whisk arabic gum and water
combine both syrups in a sauce pan
over low heat, stir until you can't feel the sugar granules
let cool
scoop off  foam - This is just tiny bubbles. No need to get grossed out by it. 
Strain into a bottle

This whole recipe will take about a mere 10 minutes not including the cooling time. I don't know how long I let mine cool. I left it on the counter and then ran out to do an errand. You can do the same, that is, if you have errands to do.