Friday, September 27, 2013

The best part of Texas summer: Fall

While everyone else in the country is pulling out their windbreakers and scarves, waxing rhapsodic about changing leaves and crisp air, hallelujah-ing about the return of the pumpkin spiced whatever you want, we in south central Texas are just now finding it acceptable to go outside and spend more than the time it takes to go from your house to your car.  It is finally summer, instead of the inferno that makes up June-July-August.
So, refreshing drinks are still acceptable after the equinox in these parts, and we won't be switching to the warming toddies and spiced rums until about the solstice I'd say.
So, without further ado.....the whippet.  It is my riff on a greyhound, and I am sure neither the combination nor the name is original, though I did not consult anyone about it save for my other drink loving friend Danielle.  And being a vet,  I had to keep the name in the sight hound group!

Deep eddy ruby red vodka, ruby red grapefruit juice and topo Chico in the ratio you best prefer.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

exploring Rum and a continued interest in Campari

Of all the base spirits (Gin, Vodka, Whisky, Tequila, Rum) I have much experience with Rum in one iteration....the Pina Colada.  Now, I am not knocking the Pina Colada, but in most cases, it lacks some sophistication.  I love a good Pina Colada, but after hitting my stride with bourbon, rye and gin, I figured it was high time to start exploring some other good old fashioned Rum drinks.  
I have also become a big fan of Campari in the past few months.  I know, based on previous posts, this is ironic, as my first experience was not enjoyable.  But, it is an acquired taste, I guess.  I have definitely acquired it!  

So, in my first foray with new Rum drinks....I made something called Crimson Slippers, recipe found here.  I used equal parts Campari and Rum, and given I did not have homemade triple sec I used Controy.  I also left out the bitters, for no particular reason.  Technically Campari is a bitter, so I guess that is why.  And then I added a squirt of lemon.  This was delicious.  Sweeter than a Negroni, with a fair bit of body.  The Rum and the Campari were nice foils for one another.  Definitely going in the rotation!  

The next Rum drink of the weekend is a classic called the Dark and Stormy.  It is a riff on the Moscow Mule, only Rum rather than Vodka.  I used spiced rum, Kraken, and ginger beer with a half a lime.  Wow, what a refreshing drink.  Perfect for summer!  

Rum cocktails abound, so more to come in the next few warm months!  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Panama (the country, not the song....)

I had the good fortune to visit Panama last week.  I had spent some time in my 20s living in Costa Rica, and loved it.  I expected Panama would be similar to Costa Rica, being that they share a border and are both part of central america.  I was somewhat surprised to find a city whose skyline was more Hong Kong than San Jose.  I had hoped for some earthy black beans and rice with every meal, but was met with a New York Bagel shop and italian eateries.  It seems that a shared border does not mean a shared cuisine!
In addition to the howler monkeys, sloth, humpback whales and seeing my family, a great discovery was Cerveza Atlas, one of the national beers of Panama.  I am partial, as my son's name is Atlas.  I can't say the beer is anything to import, but there is something special about finding a beer with the same name as your kid!  At least if you like booze as I do.....

So, here ya go, a photo of Atlas (the beer, not the kid):


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Locally sourced cocktail makings? Mais bien sur. This *is* Austin dontchaknow?

Warning - stream of consciousness post here:

The past month provided some experiences that have led to this post.  Specifically, a coffee old fashioned inspired by the drink at Lamberts called the Stumptown Fashioned.  But before we get to that, some background.

In June, we had the good fortune to visit Seattle, WA.  I went for a conference and stayed for the weather and food.  And cocktails.  We had a great time seeing old friends, checking out the darling corner markets and yes, sampling the coffee.  Now, we are no coffee newbies.  We brew and bring our own to brunch on weekends because we can't find restaurants that brew it strong enough.  So, maybe coffee snobs?  I wouldn't say that you were wrong if you called me that.  We buy our beans from Texas Coffee Traders in town, and the story behind our loyalty to that shop is a long one that starts in 1993.  More later.

In Seattle, we did see a lot of coffee purveyors proudly claiming they served Stumptown Coffee.  I felt like I had heard of this brand before, and was curious, because several barista types even made the comment "it's the Stumptown" when I paid a compliment to their cappuccino.  I have a feeling they were being modest.  But, when I delved into the Stumptown backstory, it seems as though it is a company going through some change.  Born in Portland, fair trade and fair wage coffee houses with artful baristas wearing skinny jeans, pork pie hats, waxing their handlebar moustaches daily before reporting to's a video to give you the idea

Anyways, apparently Stumptown has gone corporate, and is now owned by a company that also has owned spic n span, vitamin water, etc.  There was an outcry in the coffee world that things would change with Stumptown and what it seemed to stand for.  But the folks in Seattle sure liked it.  Me, I thought it was just fine, but was I willing to spend a bunch o bucks to import this Pac NW bean into my kitchen?  Nah.  I haven't found a bean or roaster I like better than RC and crew at Texas Coffee Traders.

Back in 1993 I did a semester abroad in the cloud forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica.  It was a formative experience in many ways.  Probably the most lasting ways are:  love of lizards and appreciation for Coop Santa Elena Monteverde Cloud Forest Coffee.  I bought tons when I was there and filled suitcases to bring back as gifts.  My dad loved it so much he tracked down the only importer of the stuff, Montana Coffee Roasters.  He had been ordering it all this time, until another roaster opened in Austin, TX called Texas Coffee Traders.  When I moved to Austin in 2006, the first place we went when he visited was on an expedition to find their warehouse.  I've been buying beans directly ever since.  They never disappoint.  Ever.  And anytime I venture out to try a new bean, even local beans, I always go back to Monteverde Dark Roast.

So, you can see where this is going, non?

We had dinner at Lamberts a few weeks ago, and my better half ordered the Stumptown Fashioned, as he loves a good old fashioned.  It was quite unique and delicious.  I made a mental note to look up how to make a coffee simple syrup and filed it away for when I had some free time.  This weekend was it.

I found the instructions I based my syrup on at Third Coast Cocktails blog.  Photo of my fixins here:

I used a dark roast Bolivian coffee because those were the beans in the grinder.  I used madagascar vanilla bean because that is what I had.  I omitted the cacao nibs recipe called for because I had none and I wasn't going to go get any today....

Syrup is dead easy to make.  Tasty on its own too, could use on ice cream or something.

Anyways, I just subbed the coffee syrup for the simple syrup in a standard Rye Old Fashioned

2 dashes Angostura
2 Dashes Peychauds
1/4-1/2 oz of coffee syrup
one drop of orange oil
1-2 oz Rittenhouse Rye

Stir with ice, strain over a large ice cube, garnish with orange zest/peel (mine was clementine because that is what I had on hand).  Enjoy!  Two vices in one!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bubbles bubbles everywhere

I have a thing for bubbles.  I love carbonated water, carbonated wine, carbonated beer, etc etc.  We were spending mucho dinero on topo chico, the most delicious mexican fizzy water you've ever tasted.  But buying and drinking fizzy water by the case gets pricey and also leaves a lot of empty glass bottles to be recycled.  Enter the sodastream.  I've known about them for years, but the price tag was a turn off.  Recently they've come out with tons of models that are less expensive, certainly still pricey, but less than half the $200 they once were. So, off to bed bath and beyond with my 20% off coupon and now I am a proud owner of a sodastream.  It is awesome.  Aside from the actual satisfaction of carbonating something, it tastes great, especially with a wedge of lime squeezed in, and it is so darn easy!  I don't know when the break even point will be but overall I am very pleased.  I only wish I could carbonate other things, such as cocktails with it.  But that would void the warranty and possibly break my new beloved gadget!  Soooooooo, enter the iSi soda siphon!
I splurged and bought one of those specifically to try to carbonate cocktails.  There is a system made for that purpose, called the Perlini.  As $250 a pop, plus CO2 cartridges, I figured I would try the less expensive approach first to see if I even liked a carbonated cocktail.
My first attempt was a carbonated Negroni.  I put the empty siphon bottle in the freezer overnight, then put in 1:1:1 ratio of gin, sweet vermouth and campari to fill probably half the bottle.  I shook it, put in one cartridge intially and tested.  It came out super fizzy but the fizz waned quickly.  It tasted basically like a Negroni.  I added another cartridge and tried again, still, the same thing.  I then placed it in the freezer for some time, and then the fridge.  Always the drink came out super fizzy but then lost its fizz quickly.  Good news is it kept for almost 2 weeks in the fridge, bad news is I haven't dialed in the carbonation quite right.  But a still Negroni is better than no Negroni!

Next stop is carbonated aviation station....I have filled the iSi siphon with gin, lemon, violette and Luxardo.....we shall see if the bubbles work better this time around.....

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I prefer Texas to NY.......

The sweaty, sultry summers are worth not having to shovel snow or slip on ice covered sidewalks.  I wasn't cut out for east coast living, and apparently I wasn't cut out for this drink, either.....

I tried a variation on the 5th avenue, published on their website.  I used the following:

Bombay London Dry Gin - 50 ml
Dolin blanc vermouth - 25 ml
capful of Yellow Chartreuse
3 drops of absinthe
3 dashes lemon bitters

I like all the ingredients, but overall found the drink too viscous and perfume-y.  I think a drink that is nothing but booze should probably be limited to 2 ingredients, three at most including bitters.  Even the addition of some carbonated water to make a longer drink couldn't save it in my opinion.  I did what I have not done in a looooong time....I poured an almost full drink down the drain.

It makes for a pretty picture, though:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Another Aperol drink tonight.  The Aperol Spritz.  Effervescent, refreshing, with the mild bitterness and orange essence of the Aperol balancing any sweetness from the Prosecco.

Given that we returned from the cool northwest last night, to steamy 95 degree Austin, a refreshing drink after work was definitely in order.  Summer has officially begun here in Texas!

This one is super easy, folks, and well worth keeping a bottle of prosecco and aperol around for.

Aperol Spritz

2 parts Aperol
3 Parts Prosecco
Splash of Soda

Mix all ingredients on ice.

Imagine yourself sitting outside on St. Marks Square in Venice, watching the people and pigeons wander around, sipping this delicious ditty!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Messing with classics

In a recent post, I mentioned the Negroni and how my second opinion was that it was quite good.  Then I discovered Aperol, and decided I might want to play around with the two amari spirits.  So, a riff on the Negroni that was slight less bitter but not any less delicious:

Makes 2 drinks:

4 oz Tanqueray 10
2 oz Dolin sweet vermouth
2 oz Campari
2 oz Aperol

Stir on ice, serve up in a coupe with a twist.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Simply Siesta

With the renewed interest in Campari, I also decided to try my hand at some Aperol concoctions.  Made by the same company, Aperol is a bit lighter booze wise, a little less bitter, and maybe a bit fruitier.  Sign me up.

This recipe is in the PDT Cocktail book, and calls for Campari, but knowing my tastebuds and having just purchased a bottle of Aperol, and because I am pathologically prohibited from following a recipe exactly as written, I substitued Aperol for the Campari.  It was delicious, and had a nice bitter undertone without being too powerful.  That being said, I think I will try the next one with Campari just to taste the difference.

I suspect with more bitter grapefruit juice, the Aperol might lend itself well, but our grapefruits in Texas are much more sweet than bitter, so the Campari might add the bitter complexity the drink needs.

I would definitely make this again, but I have moved on to the Aperol spritz as the go to summer drink, as it is not too boozy and is very refreshing....another post indeed.


2 oz silver tequila
1/2 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz Campari (I used Aperol)

Stir or shake over ice, strain into a coupe.  Garnish optional.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Homesteading gets serious

My partner grew up on a farm.  A working farm.  He's grown, harvested, processed, butchered, milked pretty much any farm food you could think of, and then maybe some you won't be able to think of.  He thinks it is pretty amusing that his childhood is essentially en vogue these days.  People growing their own food, pickling and preserving the garden's bounty, etc.  Of course I grew up in suburbia and it wasn't until I was an adult that I even gave much thought to where food comes from (I don't mean the grocery store).  A few lectures into vet school I was so turned off by food animal husbandry I stopped eating most meat.  I got over it for better or worse, but now that I know, I try.  I am not always able to buy grass fed beef or pastured pork, but I try.
Anyways, with the artisan cocktail interest, it only naturally follows to try one's hand at artisan cocktail garnishes and down the road, artisan home made bitters.  We haven't gotten to the bitters, but I attempted cocktail garnish today.  Of course, the cherries are store bought since we don't have a cherry tree.  But HEB is a semi local, south central TX grocery store so it is kind of locally sourced.  Only they are CA cherries, so not really.  *Sigh*

So many of the drinks I like come garnished with a cherry.  The really high end places do it with these dark, crinkled cherries that bear no resemblance to the neon red balloons called maraschino cherries.  So, I delved into research mode and found a multitude of recipes, none of which I exactly followed!  Basically, you put cherries, booze and some sugar in a jar and refrigerate, and wait 2-4 weeks for the cherries to get soused before using.

So, I did one jar of cherries with bourbon, and one with a mixture of kirschwasser and luxardo maraschino liqueur, because I had both in the liquor cabinet and both are cherry based spirits.

So, who is coming over in 4 weeks for a Manhattan or Old Fashioned with one of these cherries for garnish?  

Novel Negroni

So, waaaaay back in March 2012 (seems like a lifetime ago, doesn't it?) I regaled you with my impression of the Negroni, a gin/campari drink that I found extremely bitter and somewhat unpalatable.  I then began seeing the Negroni on menus everywhere, on facebook status updates frequently, and one day, Everett ordered one.  I took a sip and was amazed, the balance of bitter and sweet, the citrus notes, all blended to make a complex, flavorful and dare say delicious drink.  What was mine missing?

I did some research on the interwebs and found people even harder at work than me at cocktail hobby-ing.  People who tried 10 different gins and at least 4 different sweet vermouths with Campari being the only constant.  That is 40 different Negronis!  It would take me 4-6 months at least to try all those and that is if I were only drinking Negronis.  Anyways, some suggestions of using higher end vermouth were well taken, as well as using a different gin (Bombay Dry, my go to for martinis now).  I also have aqcuired some orange oil, and one drop makes a huge difference in drinks that need a citrus nose.

So, I made another attempt at the Negroni and was pleasantly surprised.  I liked it!  I really really liked it!

Without further ado......

1.5 oz gin
1 oz campari
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 drop orange oil
Stir on ice
Strain into glass with a large ice cube
Twist a large orange peel over drink and place in the glass

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Prickly pear perfect

We've been blessed with unseasonably pleasant weather this spring, with semi-cool nights, low-ish humidity, sitting outside for dinner weather.  All until this week, when the Texas summer bore down like it usually does only in April, rather than almost June.  With the cooler temperatures, I had not been inspired to make all sorts of margaritas, but rather happy to drink ice cold Big Bark from our kegerator.  Tonight, that changed, and it is now officially margarita season in our house.

I made a favorite with some different ingredients.  Namely, I picked up a bottle of Controy sometime last year, as I was looking for a more affordable orange liqueur that was not quite as cheap as triple sec.  I had never seen this one on the shelves before, and it had "Pura Vida" on the label.  I was taken back to my days in Costa Rica, and I was sold.  Apparently it is a product of Mexico, only available since last summer in the US, and purported to be the original margarita orange liqueur.  Who knows, but it sure makes a nice marg!

The prickly pear puree is store bought.  I attempted making some several years ago, but they have baby fine spines all over the skin, and you have to boil them, peel them, puree them and strain them all for a small amount of puree.  You get these little spines that you can't see embedded in your skin.  And if you don't get enough out during the processing and you ingest them, things could get ugly.  So this is one thing I am willing to buy in the store rather than make myself.....

The margarita recipe is standard for 2 drinks:

4 oz silver tequila
1.5 oz Controy
2/3 oz or less simple syrup
1 lime - juiced
3-4 tsp of frozen/slightly slushy prickly pear puree

Shake, strain over ice, and serve in a salted rim glass.

The beauty of the pink is ethereal and they taste pretty darn good too.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pamplemousse and Paloma

Something about citrus and tequila is so refreshing and delicious.  I had recently tried tequila and blood orange, which got me thinking about other citrus and tequila combinations.  Texas has enormous, ruby red delicious grapefruits.  La Paloma is a drink that combines grapefruit and what the heck.  There are several iterations of this drink, ones that use fresh juice and those that use grapefruit soda (Squirt, Jarritos).  After our trip to Central Market today, we left with many pounds of citrus, as well as some Pellegrino Pompelo soda.  As a side note, I don't really like eating raw citrus, it is a texture thing, but we also bought some Sumo Citrus, and it is like candy.  It is soooooooo wonderful. But I digress.  

The Paloma tonight was of the fresh juice variety.  Here goes:

2 oz anejo or reposado tequila
1 oz tequila plata or blanca
juice of one lime
1 oz simple syrup
pinch of salt 
juice of 1/2 large grapefruit
sparkling water/club soda

Mix first 6 ingredients in a shaker with ice
Pour 3-4 oz soda water in a glass with lots of ice
Pour the drink mixture over soda water in glasses

Makes 2 drinks

Will be trying the Pompelo Soda version soon.


Very bright, yet a little complex.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Our winter=everyone else's summer

So, it's been in the 70s-80s this Jan/Feb more than it has been in the sub 50 degree temperatures.  Global warming be damned, I am all for this kind of al fresco weather.  Sun dresses and flip flops in winter, without the plane ticket to Hawaii....awesome!

I saw this recipe on a tequila company's website, the tequila is called dulce vida, it's clame to fame is 100 proof, 100% organic.  I did not buy the tequila, but used my own, slumming, 80 proof non organic tequila.  It is organic by chemical standards, if not by USDA standards ;)

Anyways, it calls for some blood orange soda, which I happened to have in my booze fridge, just waiting for a recipe to use it in.  I am somewhat obsessed with blood oranges.  I love the taste, the color, the name.  Obsessed.  I stalk the citrus section of Central Market for Meyer Lemons and Blood Oranges, and when I see them I pounce, buying pounds to just have in my house.  Once I saw the blood orange Pellegrino soda, I had to buy a flat just to have it in case I needed it.  Tonight, I needed it!

I made this drink a little different than the original recipe (called the Orange Blood).

1 oz serrano infused silver tequila (I like spice)
1/2 oz silver Don Julio tequila
1/4 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz Meyer lemon juice (recipe calls for lime)
4 oz San Pellegrino blood orange soda

stir first 4 ingredients, then add ice.  Top with soda, stir, enjoy!

This is delicious!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Making the most of the day

Well, the final quarter of 2012 went by without so much as a post from yours truly....and for this I do apologize.  One of the things about trying out a slew of new cocktail recipes is that you find many that you want to make and make again.  Because I did not want to be overly repetitive, I didn't post on favorite repeats.

Plus, there was that whole acute abdominal pain after a day of drinking citrus and booze in its many iterations (blood orange mimosas!  mexican martinis with serrano infused tequila!  hydrochloric acid in my esophagus!).  Glad to say a visit to the GI doctor and his trusty endoscope reveal nothing that a daily dose of omeprazole can't manage.  But the bland diet no booze for 2 weeks did put another damper on the cocktail train.

And, then there are the holidays.  The time warp from November to early January - where does it go? that things are back to normal, time to get back on the blog bandwagon!

This drink is a spin on the traditional mint julep of Kentucky Derby fame.  The resurgence in interest in KY's greatest export (I have no idea if this is true, but it sounds good) - Bourbon, Rye, and now white corn whiskey (aka white dog, moonshine, white lightening) has made all of these spirits much more easily accessible.  Yay for me!

So, I put slightly < 1 oz of simple syrup in a shaker, muddled some fresh mint sprigs, added 1/2 oz or so of Meyer lemon juice (I squeezed a bunch into a glass bottle for ease of use), and added 3 oz white corn whiskey.  Add ice, shake, and then strain over crushed ice in a glass.  Garnish with sprig of mint.

Like all things in a stream of consciousness project or hobby leads to another.  The mint has me wanting to build raised bed herb gardens in the back yard.  If you come over to help build them, I'll make you one of these fine drinks!!!!