My love of things salty is no big secret, so it should come as little surprise that the hook that reeled me in at The Optimist in Atlanta was a salted rim. The Mother of Pearl’s slightly strange siren song was a combination of celery salt and black pepper—not traditionally delicious, hard to pinpoint, perhaps a little challenging. Coupled with gin, good tonic, and a double garnish of a leafy celery sprig and fennel frond, it was mysteriously enchanting.
The Optimist’s Mother of Pearl recreated as closely as my taste memory allowed
Celery salt, flaky sea salt, and black pepper for the rim 1 oz gin (the restaurant uses Death’s Door, I’ve been using The Botanist Islay Dry Gin; its claim to fame is the addition of 22 local aromatics foraged on the isle of Islay) 3 oz Fever Tree tonic Healthy few dashes of celery bitters (The Optimist used Fee Bros., I’ve been liking the less-sweet Bitter Truth offering, though it is less straightforward in its celery flavor)
Coat the rim with a combo of celery salt, black pepper (make sure you get enough pepper to give your mouth a little kick), and a little flaky salt. Add ice, gin, bitters, and tonic and stir gently. Garnish with a celery leaf and fennel frond, and maybe an extra pinch of the salt combo.
A few months back, I happened on this fun little tribute to rye whiskey on the New York Times site, which transported me back to high school English and Robert Frost’s classic “Mending Wall.”
“… Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: ‘Why do they make good neighbors? …”
I have no idea whether good fences make good neighbors, but I do know that the Stone Fence featured in the Times piece has made for quite a few happy cocktail hours since. The original calls for Angostura bitters, which I love, but we found that here we preferred a simpler approach. We will, however, do the neighborly thing and offer you a dash or two if you like.
Stone Fence adapted slightly from The New York Times
1 oz. Rye (having discovered rye after moving to Iowa, we use Templeton) 6 oz. hard cider (Crispin and Stella Artois Cidre have been reliable, easy-to-find choices)
Combine rye and cider in an ice-filled glass and garnish with an apple wheel if you’re feeling fancy.
Yes, I know it’s St. Patrick’s Day and drinks are flowing green all over the country, but it wasn’t let’s say top of mind today. We’re on a spring break “staycation” with an emphasis on stay as opposed to cation, and it was all mine craft for the kids and remote work plus grocery shopping for me (shopping on Monday instead of Sunday actually is a form of vacation, so that’s a plus).
Anyway, like I said, St. Paddy’s day wasn’t at the forefront when cocktail hour rolled around and I decided which concoction to pull up from the to-try list, but the luck of the Irish must have been with me, ’cause this green tea sipper got the nod.
The original recipe, the Last Call created by ‘gingerroot’ as an entry in Food52’s “Your Best Recipe with Tea” contest, calls for a lime twist garnish and no lime juice, but I just have to have a little of the tart (it’s me, not you, but it might be you too if you’re here), so I adapted things a little to accommodate. Cheers!
Almost Last Call
2 oz vodka 1 oz concentrated jasmine green tea 1 oz Domain de Canton ginger liqueur 1/4 –1/2 oz lime juice Lime twist garnish
Shake with ice until cold; strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lime twist.
Concentrated jasmine green tea: Heat 8 oz water to 160° F. (Any hotter and your green tea will be bitter, says gingerroot.) Add 4 tsp. jasmine green tea pearls, cover pot, remove from heat and steep for 4-5 minutes. Strain into a small jar. Cool slightly before closing lid and refrigerating until chilled.
Beer syrup, you ask? Sounds crazy, but turns out it’s crazy delicious.
I’m a sucker for simple syrups, especially unusual sounding ones made from not-obscure ingredients. And so it is that this very interesting example made it into the “hummingbird’s buffet” in my fridge. It takes longer than most to make, involving reducing 12 ounces of Modelo Especial by about half before stirring in a combo of white and brown sugar, plus a pinch of salt. But the velvety mouth feel (yes, I did just say that) and sweet-bitter twang is so worth it, especially in the beer-garita creation that birthed it.
This is another sip that sounds like summer but has been perfectly at home here in this harsh winter. Hailing from Miami, maybe it’s a little vicarious snow bird migration in a glass.
Mezcal for rinsing the glass 2 oz. blanco tequila 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice 3/4 oz. Modelo syrup 4 oz. Stone IPA
Rinse a wine glass with mezcal. In a shaker, combine tequila, lime, Modelo syrup, and ice; shake until chilled. Strain into the wine glass and top with IPA and a lime wheel.
Modelo Syrup: Over medium-high heat, simmer 12 oz. Modelo Especial until reduced by half (about 25 minutes). Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir to dissolve and let cool before use. Refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.
*Apparently the drink was named for the so called “sacred well” at Chichen Itza. Sacred well, indeed.
Well, the weather outside is frightful. Again. Seriously, polar vortex, go home.
It’s about that time of winter when I have to start combating the doldrums with reverse psychology, and last week’s roasted orange experiment reminded me of this summery sipper that changed my assumptions about sweet vermouth.
It was a hot September evening in New York, it was fashion week, and I was trying to get from midtown to the West Village to meet a friend for dinner at Rosemary’s. I walked as far as Madison Square Garden, unsuccessfully trying to hail a taxi, and then gave in to the sales pitch of a not-particularly-robust-looking pedicab pedaler. Did he understand just how far I was going? Would he make it there? It was a little iffy here and there, but he was mostly able to keep the breeze going enough to make me glad I wore pants under my flouncy baby doll dress, and we did eventually make it to the destination.
Needless to say, I was ready for a cold drink. Only problem was, Rosemary’s doesn’t have a full liquor license, which is how I ended up falling for Carpano Antica sweet vermouth. Their “Tempestoso” was a perfect storm of Antica, lime juice, and ginger beer, and its charms have translated well to home quaffing. Inspired by this similar concoction, I started adding Domain de Canton to the mix, and I love the way it magnifies the spicy kick of the ginger beer, especially when temps cool. Something in the warm gingered cognac and the earthy vermouth allows this cousin of the Moscow Mule and Dark ’n’ Stormy to linger into fall and brighten a dark winter night without quite looking like the crazy wearing flip-flops in the snow.
1 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth 1 oz. Domain de Canton ginger liqueur 1 oz. lime juice (lemon also works here) 1–2 oz. ginger beer
Shake first three ingredients with ice, and strain into a collins glass filled with ice. Top with ginger beer, and garnish with a long slice of fresh ginger.
This is the story of a drink that took me nearly two years to make, the story of a spark that patiently glowed in the background and fed on new input until it finally lit a proverbial fire.
The spark: I first heard of the Negroni Sbagliato via this cocktail of the week post (such a fun series!), and though I like Campari well and sparkling wine very very well, I hadn’t yet been won over by sweet vermouth.
The glow: After having a refreshing sipper made with ginger beer and Carpano Antica (we’ll come back to that one another day), I picked up a bottle of this rich, complex, less sweet gem that finally made me understand the potential of red vermouth.
Ignition: When a friend sent me a link to this piece in The New York Times, with its description of a twist on the sbagliato that includes roasted orange, the flame was fanned. After playing around, I prefer the proportions drawn from the spark with the technique of the ignition. Roasting and muddling the orange, rather than just adding a slice as garnish, adds a mellow richness to the mix that really changes the drink into something particularly special. And I prefer the flavor chemistry of the shaken version described in the Times piece, though the one I mixed in the glass was also enjoyable.
Whichever way you build it, this is a lovely fire of a drink to curl up next to.
Negroni Sbagliato with Roasted Orange adapted from dell’Anima restaurant’s version, as described in The New York Times
1 slice roasted orange 1 oz. Campari 1 oz. Carpano Antica vermouth 2 oz. dry sparkling wine
Muddle half of the orange slice in the bottom of a shaker with the Campari and vermouth; add ice and shake briefly. Strain into a glass with ice, top with 2 oz. of sparkling wine (play with a little less or a little more to get to a balance you like best), and garnish with the other half of the orange slice.
Roasted Orange Slices: Slice a seedless orange into wheels (if you can, use organic oranges because you’ll leave the peel on). Line a baking sheet with foil and coat lightly with oil (I used olive and didn’t notice or mind it imparting any extra flavor), plop on the orange slices, and brush the tops very lightly with vanilla bean paste (I used my finger for this part—delicious finger painting, I can tell you). Broil for about 10–15 minutes, until the oranges start to get a little brown in spots but haven’t completely dried out.
A few months back, while in Atlanta working on a really fun story, I had a fantastic meal at this airy Persian spot called Rumi’s Kitchen. I am still dreaming of their perfect citrus-and-saffron-brined chicken kabobs, but so far my attempts at recreating them have been utter flops. Thankfully I’ve had better luck bringing to life the delightfully refreshing tarragon lemonade I sipped alongside those kabobs. Rumi’s is vodka based, but when I stumbled across this gin version in the June issue of Bon Appétit I had a feeling it would be a more than worthy stunt double. In fact, this pitcher has become the summer dinner party scene-stealer around here.
Sparkling Tarragon Lemonade from Bon Appétit, June 2013
10 large sprigs tarragon 2 lemons, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons sugar 3/4 cup gin 3/4 cup St-Germain elderflower liqueur 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 12 ounces club soda or sparkling water
Muddle tarragon, lemon slices, and sugar in a large pitcher. Add gin, St-Germain, lemon juice, club soda, and ice. Stir and serve over ice with additional lemon slices and a sprig of tarragon (plus a straw if you don’t care to have your nose tickled by those licorice-scented leaves).
The Italian theme continues. A few of my friends are in Italy this week, and the social media trail of their adventures yielded this refresher. Here’s how it went down: They toured the Martini headquarters in Turin, and among the exuberant images (do you not adore Instagram?) was a pale and bubbly something on ice with a sprig of mint and a lime wedge that just trilled ‘summer evening in a glass.’ Wanting to be with them in spirit(s), I googled “Martini Royale,” cracked open the bottle of Dolin Blanc I’d ordered for but hadn’t yet tried in this sipper over here, pinched a sprig of mint from the pot that’s wildly overflowing on the patio, and enjoyed a little virtual getaway.
2 oz. Bianco or blanc vermouth* 2 oz. Prosecco 2 lime (or lemon) wedges Mint sprig
Fill a large glass with ice, add the vermouth and prosecco, squeeze in one lime wedge, and stir gently. Garnish with the second lime wedge and mint sprig.
* This is ‘white’ vermouth, not the more common dry variety. It has a slightly sweet, floral flavor, and I wish I’d discovered it earlier. The branded Martini Royale calls for Martini Bianco vermouth (they even bottle a pre-mixed Royale cocktail product), but I didn’t have that on hand (nor have I seen it locally). This seemed the perfect excuse to finally open that bottle of Dolin Blanc. And it was.
PS — The Bormioli Rocco “Murano” cobalt tumbler seemed an appropriate vessel for this one. Find them here or here.
Back in May, my soul sister (and style and entertaining icon) Annette Joseph hosted a little Cinco de Mayo party at her place in Italy and served margaritas made with limoncello. Holy citron! When I heard about them, I had to get to mixing. Her instructions were to use limoncello in place of the Cointreau, and with that starting point I arrived at version one. Annette and I made them together on Memorial Day and she had a brilliant modification in mind: adding a splash of Mexican Fresca (which, to my great surprise, has real sugar and pink grapefruit juice — it is not an artificial diet soda and it’s worth checking out). That’s version two, scaled for a crowd and lightened a tad by the soda, perfect for poolside sipping.
Version one: 1 1/2 oz. premium tequila 1 oz. decent limoncello* 1 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice 1/2 oz. simple syrup pinch of sea salt
Combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker; shake and strain into an ice-filled glass (with or without salted rim).
Version two, for a small crowd: 1 cup añejo tequila 1 cup fresh lime juice 2/3 – 3/4 cup decent limoncello* 12 oz. bottle of Mexican Fresca (or other grapefruit soda, such as Jarritos Toronja or San Pellegrino Pompelmo if you want to go with the Italian theme here)
Combine all ingredients in a pitcher, stir gently, and pour into glasses prepped with ice and a lime wheel or two. For best results, pre-chill all the ingredients and once mixed nestle the pitcher into a container of ice (or the fridge) to keep things cool.
* I used Caravella, which is tasty and seems to be pretty easy to find. If you happen to be in the French/Italian Riviera, do yourself a favor and stop into Au Pays du Citron in Menton, France, and check out the insanely delicious cellos Annette turned me on to. The citron vert was my favorite.
I realize this may be completely unfair. That you may not be able to find any kumquats now that we’ve hit summer’s full stride. For this, I apologize. However, if you can no longer find these glorious little citrus nuggets in markets, go make yourself a note, bookmark this page at Urban Comfort, and please, please remember to buy a couple of pounds of kumquats the next time you see them. Then make yourself a batch of this heavenly cello—it’s complex and pleasingly tart (read: not sickly sweet, or just as sweet as you like it because you get to decide how much sugar to add). Kumquat cello, meet my weeble-wobble shot glasses, or a little scoop of ice cream, or that flute of champagne, or maybe a late afternoon glass of crushed ice and soda, or…