• cocktails,  cooking

    Liqueurs: A History

    In the great strawberry liqueur adventure, I realized that I had no idea what actually comprised a liqueur, even though they’re something I’ve enjoyed for years. Being a food nerd, naturally this Will Not Do.

    I find alcohol fascinating. Perhaps this is natural, given that I’m the daughter of a (recovered) alcoholic. I can’t remember a time in my life where it didn’t have a special significance. But family history aside, it’s tied in so closely with so much human history; our rituals, our societal progression and regression, our bonding, our celebrations, our mourning. Entire countries have prohibited it, religions have alternately celebrated and shunned it and it’s even provided a significant nutritional benefit when food has been scarce.

    In other words, it’s a whammy, which we sometimes deal with better than other times.

    Back to liqueurs. A little research. Liqueurs, like soda, began as a medicinal. We can blame the monks, who were trying to make better medicines. A liqueur begins life as an infusion of alcohol and some flavor producing item; sometimes bark, sometimes fruit, sometimes flowers or nuts. Let’s look at the life of my forty-dollar bottle of strawberry liqueur. Somewhere, in Italy, someone picked a whole bunch of strawberries, then added some alcohol and sugar. Then it was reduced. And reduced. And reduced. Eventually, it got down to a point where it could fit in a bottle and was worth shipping across half the world, because someone desperate for strawberry flavor in her cocktail was going to buy it.

    The first known liqueurs were being produced in the thirteenth century, strictly as medicinals, but like soda, a good thing caught on and now we drink far too much of it. Says you. I drink precisely enough.

    Liqueurs are not liquor, even when they’re flavored. They are, however, cordials, which finally answers my confusion that I’ve been carrying around for years about Anne of Green Gables and her escapade with the elderberry cordial. At last, I understand what all the fuss was about (if not what an elderberry is, other than a reference from Monty Python)…and wonder where to get mine. They’re the food dye in the easter egg – they give the flavor that straight liquor often lacks.

  • cocktails

    Loco

    Yes, it’s Monday, but it’s a holiday, so it’s *like* a Sunday.  You see.  It’s also snowing, which made me want to make a tropical drink.  My favorite liquor is, by far, Appleton rum.  Aside from the fact that it’s irreversably twined up with the Caribbean and good times in my mind, which means summer, which means happiness, it’s sweet and nommy.

    We had some cranberry juice in the house, so I went for a Loco, which is not really all that crazy, despite the name.  You take a highball and fill it with ice and line up all the ingredients for their class picture:

    And then you drink that pretty baby down:

    Well, it might be cold and snowy outside, but it’s a tropical storm in my tummy. Nom nom. The prevalent tastes are the cranberry juice and the peach schnapps, which mingle for a very sweet and sour sort of taste. Bring on the summer; I’m ready.

  • cocktails

    Meet Kir

    This week, I made two drinks; one a giant punch that I took absolutely no photos of before the hordes that it was made for destroyed it and the other being a drink called a Kir. The punch is called Strawberry Cup and is made with fresh strawberries marinated in a strawberry liqueur. After about half an hour, you add two bottles of dry white wine and two bottles of sparkling wine, like champagne. Mostly it tasted like champagne, which I’m not a huge fan of, but as the punch lasted about twenty minutes, it clearly was a hit. I would have liked more strawberry flavor, particularly since the strawberry liquor is one of the more expensive liquors I’ve added to the collection ($40 for a 750 ml bottle). We still have most of the bottle left, so just an initial investment.

    Kirs, on the other hand, came to mind because I had a third of a bottle of white wine in the fridge that will spoil soon if I don’t drink it. So here’s a drink after my own heart – a leftover. Kirs are named after a man named Canon Felix Kir, who was the mayor of Dijon, France in the 1850s. He served a drink made of crème de cassis (black-currant liqueur) and dry white wine in order to promote the wine, which was called Bourgogne Aligoté and from the region. Of course, following recipes is boring and I didn’t have any crème de cassis, so I made it with Chambord instead, a raspberry liquor in the same spirit.

    Soon, I had friends.

    The drink is, after all, quite light and easy to make. It’s fruit flavored wine – as a dedicated merlot drinker, it’s hard to go wrong. My friends thought so too.

  • cocktails,  house

    Warning: Blueberries Improperly Muddled

    It’s Cocktail Sunday (others may be watching some game in which a bunch of padded dudes run around outside in February, which is an insanity that *should* be watched by millions, because that’s crazy town). Today we did Blueberry Martinis. I’m not much a fan of martinis because they’re too much alcohol in far too little liquid, so they always taste like barely disguised burning. It’s also difficult to nurse them all night (or more than about 90 seconds, from the way my fiancé drank his tonight).

    But…we had blueberries and brand spankin’ new martini glasses. And they are pretty.

    The ingredients are very simple; blue caraçao, vodka, lemon juice and the ingredient of honor, the blueberry. I’m not sure I knew what the inside of a blueberry looked like before this. (But thanks to my CSA, my first thought was…”that looks like the inside of a gooseberry!”)

    The first step is to take the blueberries, cut them in half, then put them in your shaker and “muddle” them. Of course, I don’t have a muddler, although it’s now high on my shopping list, as it’s instrumental for mojitos and I do love me a mojito. So I used a fork and did my best, but I must warn you that the next picture displays Blueberries Improperly Muddled:

    Shield the eyes of your children. And, well, perhaps any friends that you may have that are also bartenders. I promise I’ll learn to do it properly soon.

    At the end, you get a drink that’s more lemony than anything (though perhaps this is due to Improper Muddling), but is very pretty and very alcoholic. Those Poles do know their vodka.

    While I might be an improper muddler, I did learn how to remove and install a new bathroom faucet this weekend, which was extremely exciting. So while many of you will be watching the foot ball (go Packers!…yes, that’s for you, my Wisconsin family), I will be delighting in turning on and off the faucet and stopping the sink, because I made that go and it feels damn good to be handy. Look at that beauty!

    We’re having an impromptu dinner tonight for some local friends, so I must now go invent something…and perhaps make a few Tom Collins’s and Blueberry Martinis….

  • amusement,  cocktails

    Blue Mist

    Are we drinking again? And mid-week? Normally, I’m not a fan of midweek drinking in your kitchen, but some weeks just demand it and this has definitely been one. Also, I needed an excuse to play more with blue curaçao, because it turns your food blue. For serious. How awesome is that? BLUE FOOD.

    Also, we had some orange juice and I needed some vitamin C, so I made Blue Mists, which were pretty much a bomb. Not recommended – nothing special in them at all. Just cream, orange juice, white rum and my beloved curaçao.

    And the drink, slightly tested. That’s the cream that leaves behind all the evidence. To be honest, that’s about all we had between the two of us – it was too strong and really needed a martini glass. We really need to invest in a better glassware set to support this hobby.

    Something like these? Note for the wedding registry?

  • cocktails

    Blue Mondays

    Darlin’, it’s a blue Monday — at least it was in our house, since we didn’t make our cocktails on Sunday. But it’s a holiday? Even if we both had to go to work?

    Anyway, here are the ingredients:

    It makes for a pretty drink, which does make me want to dash blue caraçao into *everything*, because blue food is awesome and I have the maturity of a twelve year old.

    It’s a nice and light refreshing drink that still tastes just a bit alcoholy, but mostly of orange and blue. It’s definitely one of our favorites so far, though it goes back just a little *too* nicely… Our live-in teenager has been on a brownie making spree, so I can tell you that it complements chocolate quite well and I recommend it. Especially when the brownie is delivered.

  • cooking,  family

    Cupid in the Corner, Sloshed

    As we are burgeoning alcoholics[1], we’ve started a tradition of making a different cocktail each Sunday. It’s fun and it lets me justify the purchase of The Complete Bartender’s Guide, which I bought when I first moved into my house, since I love to throw parties. (Note, parties thrown to date: three, which happens to be an average of one per year. But all memorable, I assure you.)

    Tonight, I started with a Grasshopper for my fiancé and tried it and decided that I didn’t like it much. We didn’t get green crème de menthe, so it wasn’t even pretty. It was pretty minty and heavy on the cream, which I’m not such a fan of. We refer to plain cream as Irish cream in this household, as Americans know better than to eat it without sugar. Cultural differences were discovered at an inopportune dessert moment for which we still sometimes bow our heads in mourning.

    So for my cocktail, I browsed through the book for Things That Use Chambord, as we had just returned from purchasing some at the liquor store. I settled on Cupid’s Corner, which is equal parts cognac, Chambord and heavy cream with a dash of grenadine. You then use some cream to draw a heart on the top of the drink, which I got better at by the second one. The trick seems to be to barely touch the surface of the drink – you’re laying the cream on top of it, rather than putting it in the drink at all.

    Personally, I found it far too alcoholic to my taste, although we were admittedly pouring doubles for lack of real cocktail glasses. Of course, you can see what that leads to.

    [1] As the child of an alcoholic, I can make that joke. And no, we’re not really, but everyone needs a goal.

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