Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

A (Modern) Jazz Age Cocktail

"First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jazz Age Dancers

Say you find yourself standing on an uninhabited island among gaily costumed picnickers with a cocktail in your hand, a dance floor and orchestra before you, a pie contest to your left and the Dorothy Parker Society just behind you.

Pie Contest Here

Never fear. You're probably not dreaming or in a time warp. In fact, I'm guessing you're simply getting in on what more and more New Yorkers are doing this year — spending an afternoon on Governor's Island.

Spiffy Cars

In case you're unfamiliar with the place, my use of the word "uninhabited" isn't a typo. Governor's Island is officially a public park space, having been vacated by the Coast Guard after 1996. The park service folks clear out all visitors each night (which is a shame, because I'd move there in a heartbeat).

And what a public space it is... 172 lush, tree- and rolling grass-covered acres full of strange, abandoned apartment complexes, gorgeous Civil War-Era buildings, a fort (complete with cannons), and as of recently, an archaeological dig and a Water Taxi Beach.

But I digress. You were holding a cocktail and watching the flappers dance the Charleston, weren't you?

Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra put on periodic Jazz Age Lawn Parties on Governor's Island. Fun, no?

The one produced just today was also sponsored by St-Germain, makers of tasty elderflower liqueur with which one might, if so inclined, make mighty strong cocktails the likes of which you see in this photo.

St-Germain Cocktail

Now technically the Jazz Age took place during the era of US prohibition, but we all know there was still plenty of drinking going on. And, as it turns out, The St-Germain isn't terribly far off the classic Gin Rickey said to be favored by Fitzgerald — one of the most recognized spokesmen of the Jazz Age.

Anyway, I found it tasty, so I'll pass on the recipe to you, dear reader. (I'm sure the company won't mind. Corporate marketing departments are generally pretty happy about spontaneous viral exposure.)

The St-Germain
2 shots Champagne (or Sauvignon Blanc)
1 1/2 shots St-Germain Liqueur
Top with 2 shots soda water or sparkling water
Mix in a tall, ice-filled glass and garnish with a lemon twist

And by the way, if you're local and interested in zany events of this kind, Gov Island tweets, so it's easy to keep up with all the wonder and weirdness they have on offer.

To see more Jazz Age Lawn Party photos (including Michael Cumella's lovely gramophone) click here.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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10.04.2009

1. Go Vote. 2. Mix a Drink. 3. Hope for the Best.

I'm not going to tell you who to vote for (vote Obama), but in a tense time of great anticipation for the American people, this Election Day brings long lines at the polling places, a huge throng of first-time voters (noobs) and the need for a great autumnal cocktail.

Because whether you're happy with the outcome of the poll returns or not (seriously... vote Obama), I think we're all going to need a drink.

Zippy Ginger Fizz

I'm not going to go with red drinks or blue drinks here, because a.) ew. and b.) I'm sure you can find those all over the interwebs.

Instead, I want to feature something that's appropriate to these first days of November.

Though it's not the cheapest or most readily available option on the liquor store shelf, I'm kind of in love with Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur lately. It's delicious. And it's French. And, as you may have noticed, the French have a way with tasty things.

If you can't find it, I recommend you make this cocktail by whipping up some ginger simple syrup (don't worry... it really is simple) and substituting in vodka for the liqueur. I'll provide both options below.

For Ginger Simple Syrup, just add a 5" to 6" piece of ginger root (sliced thin), 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar to a sauce pan. Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the ginger, and badda bing... that's all it takes.

You can store it, chilled in the fridge, for about a week or freeze it for longer.

This cocktail was inspired by the classic Gin Fizz and a spin on a tasty drink I had at a recent work event... but if you were to heat it up, you'll note it'd be close kin to the ginger toddy recipe I featured last December.

I think the kick of spice and rich ginger tickle are nicely autumnal.
Zippy Ginger Fizz
1. In a cocktail shaker, add 1/4 cup ice, 2oz ginger liqueur, a sprinkle of ground cayenne pepper and the juice of half a lemon (about 2 Tbsp).
2. Shake well and pour into a highball glass or straight up into a chilled martini glass.
3. Top off the glass with club soda.
4. Garnish with a twist of lemon and a sprig of mint, if desired.

Zippy Vodka Fizz
1. In a cocktail shaker, add 1/4 cup ice, 1oz ginger simple syrup, 1oz vodka, a sprinkle of ground cayenne pepper and the juice of half a lemon (about 2 Tbsp).
2. Shake well and pour into a highball glass or straight up into a chilled martini glass.
3. Top off the glass with club soda.
4. Garnish with a twist of lemon and a sprig of mint, if desired.

Remember: It's 207 270(!) electoral votes for the win. There's a map here if you want to print it out and color in the states while the returns roll in tonight. I'm pretty sure that's what I'll be doing.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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11.04.2008

Mmm... Mercadito Cantina

I've never really been wild for flan. It always just seemed like some soggier wanna-be dessert next to the perfection of the divinely crisp 'n creamy, burnt-caramel goodness embodied by the crème brûlée.

And there's so many bad examples of flan out there in the world. But having just recently eaten at Mercadito Cantina, I have seen the light. I am now a flan convert (not that that's going to do anything good for my cholesterol level).

Dos Flans

J happens to have a friend who works there, and seeing as how the place opened months ago, we were loooong overdue for a visit and a taste-test of their fish tacos (so dear to my heart and tastebuds).

After our dinner (which I can't praise enough, by the way: so. very. tasty.), we were sent a duo of dense little flans. Vanilla and Goat's Milk. My goodness, people. A well-made flan is a smooth, rich, decadent delight. A real treat.

Michelada

After freshly-made guacamole, killer salsas, a michelada that rivals my own, excellent fish tacos and sautéed mushrooms with huilacoche (not to mentioin generous bites of J's outstanding pulled pork taquitos), I was so full I couldn't even bear the thought of dessert.

And then it appeared... the little platter of tasty flanitos. One bite, thought I. But oh, mama. They broke my will. (Oh, what a thrill...)

Iban and the cooks

That said, if you want to visit for yourself, you'll have to be crafty.

Word is already out, and true to New York standards, the place is not roomy.

We went on a Tuesday, and they were well-filled by 8 p.m. I don't even want to see the crush on Friday. Early dinners and brunches may be a better bet.

4 spoons

Mercadito Cantina
Mercadito Cantina on Urbanspoon
172 Avenue B
East Village, NYC
212.388.1750

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9.23.2008

Old Mr. Boston's Bronx Cheer

Flipping through my Old Mr. Boston De Luxe Official Bartender's Guide (1960 edition, naturally...), I was struck by how many random place names pop up in the cocktails.

Cocktails

There's the Alaska and Alabama cocktails, but with no explanation, Old Mr. Boston gives no such honor to Arizona or Arkansas.

Baltimore represents in the form of both the Baltimore Bracer and the Baltimore Eggnog, but is there a Brooklyn? No. Sadly, there's not. No cocktail for you, Brooklyn.

New York rates two drinks, of course Manhattan gets its own (quite famous) cocktail, and even Fifth Avenue rates a drink, but strangely, of the boroughs Mr. Boston had available for cocktail honors, did he crown Queens? (That'd be a no.) Or stop by Staten Island? (That'd be a hell, no.)

Folks, Old Mr. Boston had it going for The Bronx.

Five cocktail listings for ye olde Bronck's Land. And why is that, anyway? A nod to the thicket of bootleggers and gangs that thrived there during the prohibition era? Does it go even further back to even seedier activities? Only Mr. Boston knows.

And, well, yes... Wikipedia also knows. (Or at least it sorta knows.) Apparently the Bronx Cocktail was the toast of 1934, devised either by Bronx restaurateur Joe Sormani, or perhaps whipped up on a whim in Philly and named for The Bronx's famed zoo. Aw!

Whatever the true origin story, we can appreciate the simple beauty of The Borough's namesake cocktail. All five variations focus on gin with various measures of vermouth, citrus juice and garnish. Easy to make, easy to drink.

I'll list out my two favorites — the straight-up Bronx Cocktail, and the evocatively named Bronx Terrace... where I envision 1934's newly retired bootleggers laid back, sippin' on gin and juice in the really, really old-school Bronx style.
Bronx Cocktail

1 oz dry gin
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz dry vermouth
Juice of 1/4 orange

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into a 3-ounce cocktail glass. Serve with a slice of orange.

Bronx Terrace Cocktail

1 1/2 oz dry gin
1 1/2 oz dry vermouth
Juice of 1/2 lime

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into a 3-ounce cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.

(Bronx) Cheers,
Miss Ginsu

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9.09.2008

Raising a Caipirinha to Brazil

I just want to take a moment to say "thank you" to Brazil.

Why? Well, although the country has some challenges (poverty, etc.) those lovely Brazilians export a lot of wonderful things to the citizens of the rest of the world.

Bossa nova, samba, capoeira, jiu-jitsu, feijoada, churrascaria, The Girl From Ipanema... all things evocative of sensuality and living life with verve.

So thanks very much, Brazil! I raise a caipirinha to you. A blackberry caipirinha to be precise.

Blackberry Caipirinha
Blackberry Caipirinha at Little Giant in NYC

For any out there living unawares, the caipirinha (kye-per-REEN-yah) is a refreshing Brazilian cocktail composed of ice, sugar, lime and cachaça (ka-SHA-suh), which is a sugar cane liquor that's made like a rum, except that rum is aged in oak, whereas cachaça is often not aged at all (though it's sometimes aged in barrels of various types of wood).

You'll note that blackberries are not particularly Brazilian, but neither am I, and they happen to be tasty and in season at the farmer's markets right now. So... to the cocktail we go.

This is a drink that requires a good, fierce muddling. In fact, I think I may insist on muddled cocktails henceforth, because if you don't have to muddle a mixed drink, there's no love in it, is there? (I may make an exception for cocktails of the martini/old fashioned variety, since there's really not much to muddle there.)

Feel free to substitute the berry in question. We're already breaking the rules by adding it, so why not just go nuts? If you want to do this the fancy way, blend the berries with a tablespoon or so of water and strain out the seeds before proceeding.

However, if you want to do it the fast way and just get on with the enjoyment part, proceed, o impatient one.
Blackberry Caipirinha
2 oz cachaça
6-8 plump blackberries (or any delicious berry you happen to have)
1/2 of a lime
1 tsp sugar (or 1/2 oz Simple Syrup)

1. Cut the halved lime into 3 wedges.
2. In a shaker or pint glass, muddle (as in, "squash the bejesus out of") two lime wedges, the blackberries and the sugar (or syrup).
3. Add ice and the cachaça. Cover well and shake vigorously.
4. Pour into a rocks glass and use the remaining wedge of lime for garnish.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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9.04.2008

A Hammock, a Pimm's Cup and Thou

I feel that fully half of what makes the Pimm's Cup such a beguiling summer cocktail is in the garnish. There are multiple variants, of course, but I favor the ultra-simple slice of cucumber + slice of lemon.

Pimm's Cup

Pimm's makes a variety of styles, and that namesake cocktail made with the formulation known as No. 1 has traditionally been popular in the south of England, appearing as one of two staple drinks (the other sip of choice would be champagne) at such rarefied events as Wimbledon, the Henley Royal Regatta and the Glyndebourne opera festival.

Knowing all that, it's interesting to see that the recipe for the classic Pimm's Cup cocktail is terrifyingly simple. Common, even...
Pimm's Cup
2 oz Pimm's No. 1
4 to 6 oz lemonade (some use lemon/lime soda; I favor ginger ale)
Mint leaves, and slices of lemon (or orange, strawberry, apple...)

Originally, the cocktail required borage leaves in lieu of mint/cucumber, but as borage is a bit tough to come by in U.S. markets, cucumber is the go-to garnish hereabouts.

But as I mentioned, I find the cucumber/lemon combo to be particularly magical. The cooling qualities of the cucumber alongside the citrus zip and vigor of the lemon go a long way in gin-style cocktails (and Pimm's No. 1 is one such blend) in particular, since gin is, by nature, herbaceous.

I've even become a great fan of lemon and cucumber slices served with water. So simple, but the scent and flavor results are elegant... perfect for brunch, for time spent on the deck/patio/fire escape and for adding a touch of class to your next grill-fest. Give it a try and see if you don't become a convert.

Cheers,

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8.20.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 08.04.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was spotted in the Tuillerie Gardens in Paris. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

In a jam
Summer in a jar... faster.

Six of a Kind: Pizza / Slice of heaven
Six best pizzas in the bay area? I'm a bit far afield. Anyone have intelligence on this one?

I'll Take the Manhattan
Mmmmm. You can't argue with the classics...

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8.04.2008

Food Quote Friday: Virginia "Pepper" Potts

Martini

"I'll have a vodka martini... with a lot of olives. Like at least three olives."

Virginia "Pepper" Potts in Iron Man


Thirsting for more? Find 'em in the food quote archive.

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7.04.2008

The Cocktail Kit: A Sweet Conspiracy

In the last edition of the Cocktail Kit, we took another look at the joy of Homemade Bitters. This time, we're looking at a seasonal cocktail delight that also has uses in number of impressive non-cocktail treats... the preserved cherry.

I posted about maraschino cherries back in '05, gave a bit of history and offered up a DIY recipe, but I didn't give enough thought to one of the dastardly details that surround the maraschino cherry saga...

The fact is, the very first maraschino cherries were preserved with liqueur. This treat lost traction as the temperance movement of the early 1900s came to a head, and by 1920 — the dawn of U.S. Prohibition — maraschino cherries were manufactured without any liqueur at all.

"Less liqueur was used in processing and almond oil was substituted for some of the liqueur. Finally, the liqueur was eliminated altogether. By 1920, the American maraschino cherry was so popular that it had replaced the foreign variety in the United States."

The piece I quoted in my original maraschino post seems to indicate that liquor-soaked cherries simply lost the national popularity contest to sugar-soaked cherries. But the match-up in the date pattern indicates something different: the sugar-soaked maraschino cherry was marched in as a watered-down replacement for a treat that was just too vice-ridden for the dry 1920s to handle.

Bourbon Cherries
Bing cherries preserved in (gasp!) alcohol.

No wonder the maraschino rides high atop ice cream sundaes. No wonder it's a necessary component of that most legendary of the goodie-goodie cocktails — the Shirley Temple.

The maraschino is the bright-red flag of a nation attempting to return to some mythological state of innocence.

It's a sugar-coated conspiracy! A syrupy cover-up!

So what happened to the liquor-preserved cherries of old? Well, other, less puritanical countries continued making them, and they've sustained an underground existence in homes and pantries in the U.S. As it happens, those little demon berries are in my kitchen and in my cocktails right now.

Brandied cherries continue to be popular Southern treats (particularly when they're covered in chocolate), but you can also do what I do: preserve 'em with bourbon.

Cherry season is coming right up, so now's the time to take a Sunday afternoon and make up a few batches. Enjoy some now and save some for the holidays. Little jars of bourbon cherries make great gifts alongside a couple of cool cocktail or dessert recipes.

The biggest part of the task is simply pitting the fruits. Either do it by hand (just cut a 1/2-inch slice into each cherry along the stem end and dig out the pits), or invest in a cherry pitter.
Bourbon Cherries
2 lb sweet cherries
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup bourbon
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
1-2 whole star anise (optional)

1. Wash and pit the cherries.
2. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, water, lemon juice and spices (if using).
3. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer. Add cherries and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Remove cherry mix from the heat, and stir in the brandy.
5. Pack the hot cherries and syrup into sterilized jars, leaving some headspace.
6. Cap the jars, and if you're planning to can them, simmer for about 15 minutes in a bath of boiling water. If not, just cool and store the jars in the refrigerator.

Bourbon cherries make punchier stand-ins for their maraschino counterparts, or use them to top ice cream... or even sautéed duck breast.

Cheers!

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6.25.2008

Mi Chelada Es Su Chelada

Nearly 10 years ago, I visited the Yucatán Peninsula for the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival and discovered a drink they called the michelada. It was a refreshing cocktail of sour, savory and salty flavors with brisk carbonation... just the thing for an afternoon of snorkeling, sunbathing and snacking on fresh fish tacos beside the sea.

I didn't see another michelada until I moved to NYC and rediscovered them at Barrio Chino, where the staff poured micheladas just the way I remembered, not to mention great fish tacos. But Barrio Chino is nearly always busy when I'm hankering for a michelada, so I learned to make them on my own.



Through much experimentation, I found that Clamato, a tomato-clam juice, makes the most balanced michelada. Unfortunately, Clamato is also made with high-fructose corn syrup — an additive I actively try to avoid.

So go with Clamato if you can take the MSG and HFCS, or just use your favorite tomato juice. Standard V8 works fine and R.W. Knudsen also makes a nice vegetable blend without corn syrup, but their juice is pretty tart, so you may have to notch down the lime you'll add to the michelada recipe to get the right flavor balance.

One more thing: this is a salty drink. Maybe don't serve it to friends with sodium-sensitive hypertension, okay?
Miss G's Michelada
A small bowl or dish of kosher salt (for salting the glass rim)
1/2 cup Clamato or your favorite tomato juice
juice of 1 lime
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 dash soy sauce
1-2 shakes of hot sauce or 1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 bottle Negra Modelo, Corona or Sol, chilled

1. Dampen the rim of the glass you intend to use (a pint glass is perfect) with water or lime juice, and dip the dampened rim into the bowl or dish of salt.
2. Pour tomato juice, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and hot sauce into the glass and mix well.
3. Add ice, if desired, and pour in the beer. The beer will froth in the glass, so pour slowly. You may not get the entire beer in the glass. This is fine. Sip your cocktail and pour in the rest of the beer when you have space.

Last year, I saw that Budweiser was marketing a savory beer based on the same concept: The Budweiser Chelada. I haven't had one, but I can't help but think that fresh-squeezed limes have a lot to do with the charm of this drink. And if you ask me, canning a highly acidic beverage in aluminum sounds like a recipe for nasty off-flavors.

All I'm saying is this: don't try the Bud Chelada (or, similarly, the Miller Chill) and think you've had the genuine article. A real michelada needs to be freshly prepared, and it has a flavor that's somewhere between a Bloody Mary and a Corona with lime. Wait for a sweltering hot, crushingly humid day and make yourself a michelada based on the recipe above.

Salud!

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6.19.2008

The Cockail Kit

It's natural, expected even, for we humans to swoon over autumn. Those crisp mornings followed by sweet, golden afternoons are bankable bliss. Likewise, the daffy days of springtime are an easy sell.

Loving nothing more and nothing less than the temperatures between 45 and 85 °F, we hairless apes are among the most delicate of creatures, and summer and winter — the seasons of extremes — are the times that try our good will. Temperature hardship tends to ensure we lose a bit of that stuff we refer to (with more than a little pride) as our humanity.

Whether packed into airless cubbies, tearing sweat-soaked clothes from rashy skin or cursing our clammy shoes and shivering from a malingering chill that stings noses, fingers and toes... the harsh months require boosts of external cheer. In short, we need cocktails.

Perhaps it's only me who believes that cocktails are bound to time and temperature. That said, I'm sincerely of a mind that the cocktail was invented to sustain us through winter colds, seasonal affective disorder and glum January just as it revives us from summertime bouts of immobility, irritability and heat-induced wilt.

I also firmly believe that cocktails belong within the realm of the home cook. After all, why should lovingly constructed drinks be the exclusive domain of the professionals?

With all that in mind, I'm going to dedicate a handful of upcoming posts to homespun summer cocktails. May they provide a sense of restorative ease — and perhaps even exoticism — to those cruelest of months.

Homemade Bitters

When I whipped up home-brewed batches of bitters last December (and drank them with great glee the following month), I realized that there are three compelling reasons to make something yourself when you could more easily stroll down to the store and buy it.

1. You can make it cheaper.
2. You can make it better.
3. You teach yourself a bit about the world you inhabit.

I haven't actually done a cost breakdown on my homemade bitters vs. a readily available brand like Peychaud (I suspect the results wouldn't fly in favor of the homespun... the cost of materials probably throws this one off), but I can certainly put in a good word for reasons two and three.

An additional bonus: it's so much swankier to breeze into a backyard barbecue or a rooftop grillfest with a jar of one's own limited-edition bitters and a couple of classy cocktail recipes. And as an urbanite lacking outdoor space, repeat invitations from grateful hosts are precious, indeed.

So make up a few jars of bitters now. Set 'em on top of the fridge and let them steep for a week or two. Next time you have an invite, grab your jar and print out the cocktails below. Adoration is assured.

The Old Fashioned is perhaps the oldest cocktail on record, back in the days when the word cocktail actually implied the use of bitters. And the Sazerac, an old New Orleans special, isn't much more new fashioned than the Old Fashioned. So learn to whip up just these two and you can impress the Steampunk neighbors down the way with your old-school cocktail insights.
Easy: The Sazerac

3/4 oz simple syrup
1 dash bitters
3 oz rye whiskey
1 tsp absinthe
1 lemon twist (to garnish)

1. Chill a rocks glass.
2. Blend the syrup and bitters. Add the whiskey.
3. Swirl the inside of the rocks glass with the absinthe and discard any excess.
4. Fill the glass with crushed ice and pour the whiskey mixture over it.
5. Garnish with lemon twist.

Easier: The Old Fashioned

2 oz Bourbon or rye whiskey
1 splash of simple syrup
2 dashes bitters
1 orange twist

1. Place a handful of ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass (rocks glass)
2. Pour in syrup, bitters and whiskey. Mix well.
3. Garnish with the orange twist.

Easiest: Seltzer & Bitters

Fill a rocks glass with ice (shaved or cubed, as you prefer). Pour in a shot of bitters and finish the glass with seltzer.


Cheers!

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6.10.2008

Day 12: What, me bitter?

This post marks Day 12 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

The dank, dark days of December are famously crowded with cocktail parties. Cocktails and latkes for Hanukkah parties, cocktails and pigs in blankets for Christmas parties, cocktails and blini for New Year's Eve.

Aside from the sleek glassware and ostentatious garnishes, my favorite aspect of the cocktail is the stories that follow in the wake of every highball, martini, gimlet and toddy out there. To follow the history of cocktails is to dive down a fascinating rabbit warren of nooks, crannies, characters and concoctions.

My obsession of the moment is with bitters. Having recently discovered that Marlow & Sons, my local shop of culinary wonders was making their own bitters, my mind opened to a new world of possibility.

You can make bitters? Like, not buy them but make them? At home? Without a still? What an adventure!

Yes, Virginia, you can whip up your own homemade bitters. As it turns out, that's what our ancestors used to do. Bitters were common among the herbal tinctures and tonics of an ancient age. And though they're rarely used in cocktails today, bitters preceded the first cock-tails and were, by definition, a necessary component of the earliest cocktail mixes.

The second known printed reference to cocktails comes in the May 13, 1806, edition of the Balance and Columbian Repository of Hudson, New York:
"Cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters — it is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a Democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else."

Hardy har har.

In all seriousness, the bitters-making process is embarrassingly easy and endlessly adjustable, based on your own tastes.

There's heaps of ancient recipes out there, calling for everything from obscure botanicals like columbo root, gentian and Virginia snake root to better-known additives like chamomile, cherry bark, cardamom and caraway.

I'm going with lemon, ginger and common household spices for mine. Look how pretty my steeping bitters look!

375

DIY Citrus Bitters

1/2 cup raisins
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1" piece fresh ginger, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
1 Tbsp whole cloves
1 Tbsp whole allspice
750 ml whiskey, rum or vodka (highest proof you can find)

1. Combine spices, citrus and liquor.
2. Cover, refrigerate and soak for 1-4 weeks.
3. Strain into a clean jar of your choice.

Make bitters now, and they'll be ready for your Christmas and New Year's cocktails.

Toss aside your Angostura and your Campari and imagine how clever you'll look when you whip out your very own home-brewed bitters at your next party.

Or be generous... Make custom labels and give bottles away as gifts.

How will you use your newfound skill in making bitters? Glad you asked! I've included three quick recipes below. Just keep in mind: bitters are not meant for straight-up sipping. Add to cocktails with a light hand, as you would use a seasoning or garnish.
1. Hot Mulled Wine
You may notice some similarity between this recipe and the Hot Mulled Apple Cider recipe from last week. I think they work well in tandem at parties. Offer Mulled Cider to the kids and teetotalers, Mulled Wine to your favorite boozehounds.

1 750-ml bottle red wine
1 cup water
1 tsp DIY Citrus Bitters
1/3 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
3 allspice berries
2 star anise
Zest of 1 orange, removed with a vegetable peeler

1. Pour the wine, water, honey and bitters into a large saucepan.
2. Wrap the spices and orange slices in a square of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string (or simply use a strainer to remove spices and slices the at the end of simmering).
3. Add the spice bag to the pan and heat the wine, uncovered, over very low heat until hot, about 30 minutes.
4. Remove the spice bag (or strain out the spices and oranges), and serve hot, garnished with cinnamon sticks.

2. Citrus Bitters & Soda
Cool and refreshing on a hot summer day.

6 oz DIY Citrus Bitters
6 oz soda water

1. Half-fill a highball glass with ice.
2. Pour in bitters.
3. Fill the rest of the glass with soda water.
4. Top with a twist of citrus. Serve immediately.

3. The Gin Bitter
A cocktail classic. Substitute rum or whiskey for the gin, if you prefer.

2 jiggers gin
2 dashes DIY Citrus Bitters

1. Half-fill an old fashioned glass with cracked ice.
2. Shake gin and bitters with 1/2 cup cracked ice.
3. Pour into prepared glass.
4. Top with a twist of citrus and/or a thin slice of cucumber. Serve immediately.

Happy adventuring, all! Cheers!

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12.12.2007

Oh! Sweet. Fleeting. Spell...



Brunch is a safer bet if you really want to score a seat.

Barrio Chino on the NYC Lower East Side:

  • A rich, smoky reposado tequila, flanked by sangrita, mango and jicama.

  • Exposed brick walls that float fancifully suspended cocktail umbrellas.

  • A cool mojito with coconut. Take it sweet or savory. They mull your mint and pinch your juicy lime wedges to order, naturally...

  • Fish tacos the like of which you haven't seen since that week on the Yucatán.

  • Sangria that rolls heady and silken across the tongue with easy, even balance such that a first sip is enough to renew your sense of wonder at how people can drink — much less claim to enjoy — the world's lesser cocktails.

Arrive at 7. This laid-back shop of delights is all yours. But don't get smug. You'll find your little treasure must be soon be shared with the rest of New York, all of whom will attempt to press their shapely frames through the door within two hours' time. Sip your nectar slowly and savor the moment while you can.


Barrio Chino
253 Broome St.
(Btwn Orchard & Ludlow)
212-228-6710

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6.29.2005

Little Red Zombies

Now that cherry season is in full swing, let's take a gander at this fruit's twisted doppleganger... the unnaturally red, uniformly flavored maraschino.

Like tiny Stepford Wives, maraschino cherries begin life as juicy tree fruits but are turned soulless through a process of bleaching, dying and sweetening. Creepy, right?

Fresh Sour Cherries

A little background:
"Maraschino cherries, the kind most often used in drinks and on ice cream sundaes, are made from sweet cherries. The maraschino cherry originated in Yugoslavia and northern Italy where merchants added a liqueur to a local cherry called the 'Marasca.' This cherry product was imported to the United States in the 1890s as a delicacy to be used in the country's finest restaurants and hotels.

In 1896 U.S. cherry processors began experimenting, using a domestic sweet cherry called the Royal Anne. Less liqueur was used in processing and almond oil was substituted for some of the liqueur. Finally, the liqueur was eliminated altogether. By 1920, the American maraschino cherry was so popular that it had replaced the foreign variety in the United States."

Taking a cue from ancient instructions at Uncle Phaedrus, a self-anointed "finder of lost recipes," I've revamped an version of do-it-yourself maraschinos for a smaller batch that suits the modern kitchen.

As it turns out, maraschino-making is very much like pickling, but instead of brine, we use a sweet, colored syrup as the preservative vehicle. I imagine if you're opposed to dyes, you could just leave out the coloring altogether. You'll simply end up with preserved cherries that have a (far more natural) rust-colored hue.
Homemade Maraschino Cherries
For the brine
1/2 quart water
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp alum

For the cherries
1 lb sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1 lb pitted cherries
1/2 Tbsp almond extract
1/2 Tbsp red food coloring

1. In a saucepan, mix the water, salt and alum and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and soak cherries overnight in this brine.

2. Drain the cherries the following day and rinse them in cold water. Pack in sterilized, sealable jars.

3. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil and add the almond extract and red food coloring. Remove from heat and pour the mixture into the jars of cherries.

4. If you want your cherries to be shelf-stable, seal in a water bath (about 20 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts). Or simply seal, chill and store in your refrigerator.

Use to garnish your own homespun sundaes, killer cocktails or crazy-good banana splits.

Cheers!

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6.23.2005