The Swaying Stalk

If you've been following my blog for some time, you've probably noticed that I enjoy using infusions in my cocktails. They're quite easy to prepare if you understand the proper length of infusion time for various ingredients. Simply add fruit, herbs, tea or spices to liquor, wait while it infuses, and then strain out all of the solids to stop the process. Infusions are an excellent way to add complexity to a drink because they have no added sugars and don't water down the overall cocktail. I've done infusions for both flavor and color with great results.

DSC_0342landscape.jpg

I was recently approached by the company Teroforma to test 1pt, their newest product line of artisanal spirit infusion blends. This blog is a space for me to share my findings on brands whose ingredients and value propositions I support, and 1pt met and exceeded my criteria. I've typically done infusions with one or maybe two ingredients at a time and then added additional flavors in the cocktail mixing process. In contrast, all of of 1pt's seven blends feature at least four thoughtfully layered herbs, spices and teas, meaning you don't need to add much to the infused spirit to make a fantastic cocktail. I chose to play with their Citrus Blend, a mix of lemongrass, ginger, lemon verbana, Yerba Mate, and marigold petals

DSC_0356landscape.jpg
DSC_0363landscape.jpg

Given the freshness and citrus character of the infusion ingredients, I chose to use a London Dry Gin for the spirit. London Dry Gin's aren't necessarily made in London nowadays but tend to be more juniper-forward, higher proof, and with a citrus component. Beefeater is particularly great for infusions as it's very reasonably priced, fairly straightforward in taste profile and therefore quite versatile. 

DSC_0391landscape.jpg

I wanted to use honey to completely smooth the bite of the gin and thus draw the focus entirely to the brightness of the infusion. Instead of using a plain honey syrup, I paired blackberries with wildflower honey for a pop of color and a delightfully tart fall flavor that I slightly accentuated with a bit of lemon. I then topped the drink with club soda to give it the refreshing feel of a gin and tonic.

DSC_0395landscape.jpg

For garnish, I added a fresh stalk of lemongrass and a dehydrated citrus peel. If you'd like to learn how to make dehydrated citrus peel in your oven, check out this earlier post. The resulting cocktail was fresh, herbaceous, bright and complex.

DSC_0397landscape.jpg

The Swaying Stalk 

  • 2 oz 1pt Citrus-infused London Dry Gin*
  • 0.75 oz honey blackberry syrup**
  • 0.25 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 oz club soda
  • Lemongrass stalk and/or dehydrated lemon slice, for garnish

Stir all ingredients other than garnish with ice, then strain into a stemmed glass and top with crushed ice. Garnish with lemongrass and dehydrated lemon and enjoy while taking a deep breath of cool air after a rainstorm.

*Infuse gin with 1pt Citrus Blend for 5 hours.

**To make syrup, bring 1 cup water and 1/2 cup blackberries to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Muddle the blackberries and then add 1/4 cup wildflower honey, stirring just until it dissolves. Allow to cool and store excess in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

If you'd like to try 1pt for yourself, use the code valcohol10 for 10% off orders over $20.

 

Parla Italiano

I'm thrilled to share this cocktail with you for several reasons:

  1. It features three distinctive and lively Italian spirits, and
  2. I finally figured out how to mix with Fernet.

Fernet Branca is an Italian amaro, or bitter spirit, dating back to the mid-1800s. Its vibrant blend of 27 various herbs, roots and plants lends it to often be enjoyed as a "digestif," or a drink enjoyed following a meal to ease digestion. Through some experimentation, I discovered that this was a tricky one to mix with for mass appeal due to its boldness of flavor. I found Fernet Branca to start on the fresher side, hinting at mint or eucalyptus, and to finish dry and bitter. Both the freshness and bitterness can easily overwhelm a drink if not used sparingly or with the right complements. 

I decided to try balancing the Fernet with fruit and tartness to mellow the bitterness while harnessing the herbal brightness. Conveniently, I had recently received two perfect spirits for the task - Malfy Italian Lemon Gin and Fabrizia Spirits Limoncello

Malfy Gin is an excellent first step for gin non-believers. It hits with lemon rather than juniper on both the nose and the palette and is surprisingly smooth even when enjoyed on the rocks. If (unlike me) you don't seek out gins that make you feel like you're drinking a forest, then I encourage you to give this one a shot!

I chose to further enhance the citrus tang of this drink with Fabrizia's delicious Limoncello. If you haven't yet tried a limoncello, it's a traditional Italian lemon liqueur made from soaking lemon peel in neutral spirit and then adding simple syrup. Most of the limoncello liqueurs I had tried to date were overly sugary to the point of being undrinkable, but I truly can't get enough of this one. I love that it's true to the lemon taste and aroma with a balanced sweetness and an almost creamy finish. It's clear that this limoncello is made with huge attention to detail and generous fruit content - I really can't recommend it enough.

When I think of my travels to Italy, I immediately picture the colorful cliffs and blissful beaches of Cinque Terre. I wanted this drink to channel those sights and the timeless, carefree feel of the quaint coastal towns. I added color and lightened the cocktail with cold brewed hibiscus tea. Hibiscus adds a deep, fuchsia hue and is pleasantly tart for a floral ingredient. Using hibiscus allowed me to bypass using any additional citrus, making this a a fairly easy and convenient drink to make in bulk for spring entertaining. 

I garnished the cocktail with fresh mint to highlight the freshness of the Fernet and a lemon twist for an extra pop of color and uplifting citrus scent. The resulting cocktail is zesty, fresh and incredibly drinkable for all palettes! 

Parla Italiano

  • 1.5 oz Malfy Gin
  • 0.75 oz Fabrizia Limoncello
  • 0.5 oz Fernet Branca
  • 2 oz cold-brewed hibiscus tea*

Shake all ingredients with ice to chill, then strain into a sturdy, wide-mouthed wine glass over ice. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and a lemon twist. Enjoy outdoors with a wood-fired pizza and a view of the Mediterranean Sea. 

*To make cold-brewed hibiscus tea, steep 2 tbsp of dried hibiscus flowers per 8 oz of water for about 45 minutes, shaking occasionally. Strain and store excess in the fridge. 

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the glasses. The blue lacquered tray is from CB2

 

Cara Cara Orange Marjoram Mimosa

If you're still under the impression that there is only one type of orange, you've been seriously missing out (or masterfully avoiding grocery shopping trips since childhood). Especially at this time of the year, produce aisles are overflowing with a variety of citrus - lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges and many combinations thereof. This gives you the perfect excuse to slow down on the weekend and enjoy breakfast in bed with a fresh and exotic mimosa. 

I chose to feature Cara Cara oranges for their sweeter, less acidic, and more complex taste. While they're practically identical to ordinary navel oranges from the outside (I recommend keeping them inside a separate bag in the fridge so you don't mix them up), they've got a rosier hue on the inside and a flavor reminiscent of red fruit. They're also seedless and therefore easier to use as different forms of garnish. 

Is using fresh citrus in a mimosa worth the extra effort? 

Yes, yes, and again, yes.

Not only does fresh-squeezed juice have more flavor, but the aromatic experience of working with fresh citrus will pleasantly invigorate your senses. You can also set aside a few slices to snack on with breakfast or to adorn glasses if you're making these mimosas for a gathering. If you're truly concerned about the time involved, make a jar of fresh-squeezed juice in advance and refrigerate overnight.

I wanted to add an herbal twist to this mimosa for more complexity so I challenged myself to experiment with an herb that was new to me: marjoram. Hailing from the same family as oregano, marjoram is a tad sweeter, with flavors of citrus and pine. It's been said to help calm anxiety and boost immunity, making it a perfect ingredient to incorporate during cold season. I find that I get the most flavor from herbs by making them into a simple syrup and adding a fresh sprig as garnish to complement taste with scent. 

For the bubbly, I chose to feature La Marca Prosecco because I wanted something crisp and fresh to work with the orange and herb flavors. I appreciate that this Prosecco is such a great quality for the price point and easy to find at most stores. The resulting mimosa is lightly tart, blissfully scented and pleasantly effervescent for enjoyment at any time of day. 

Cara Cara Orange Marjoram Mimosa

  • Juice of 1 Cara Cara orange
  • 0.5 oz marjoram syrup*
  • Chilled Prosecco, to top

Add fresh squeezed Cara Cara orange juice and marjoram syrup to a champagne flute and stir to combine. Top with chilled Prosecco and garnish with fresh orange and a spring of marjoram. Enjoy while appreciating a slow and relaxing weekend morning. 

* To make syrup, dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in 2 cups water in a small saucepan, then add bunch of fresh marjoram. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until your desired flavor has been achieved, then strain and allow to cool. Store excess in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the tray and vintage cups and saucers. Champagne flutes are from Crate&Barrel

A Garden Feast

I imagined my second Thanksgiving cocktail recipe as the perfect complement to the main meal - slightly savory, unimposing and complimentary in flavor. I knew I wanted to work with a common fall vegetable, and carrots came to mind as a healthy and ubiquitous option. Surprised to hear me casually suggesting vegetable cocktails? I completely understand - I was initially suspicious as well. While I'm not keen on Bloody Marys and dirty martinis, I have thoroughly enjoyed well-executed cocktails featuring carrots, beets and even poblano peppers. It's all about using those unexpected flavors alongside more common ingredients to create drinkable, yet unique concoctions.

In my industry research (meaning drinking many cocktails), I've found that carrot is almost always mixed with ginger.  The flavor pairing works in both food dishes and cocktails alike and is a perfectly safe mixing option. However, I didn't want to do safe (because taking risks is undeniably more fun, even if it is sometimes at the expense of your cocktail tester/husband). I considered rosemary but thought that might make the drink far too savory. Instead, I needed something light, fresh and gently herbal: sage.

I brought the carrot and sage flavors together with some apple cider for sweetness (and bonus fall vibes) and lemon for a balanced tartness. To finish off the recipe, I chose to feature Koval white rye as the spirit. I had previously sampled white rye in a nitro cold brew cocktail at one of my favorite local restaurants (Beatrix) and was blown away by how smooth, sweet and pleasantly spiced it was. All un-aged whiskeys I had tried to date had left me feeling disappointed and overwhelmed with the booze forwardness but this one quickly became a staple in my creations.

This cocktail is truly a garden feast - earthy, refreshing and virtually guiltless! 

A Garden Feast

  • 2 oz white rye whiskey
  • 1 oz carrot juice (if you get a store-bought variety, make sure it doesn't have much, if any, added sugar)
  • 1 oz apple cider
  • 1 oz sage syrup*
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Several sage leaves, for garnish

Shake all ingredients other than fresh sage with ice until chilled, then strain into rocks glass. For a greater sensory experience (and lovely presentation), use mini clothespins to attach several fresh sage leaves to the rim of the glass. To make this drink in bulk, adjust the measurements for your guest count and stir ingredients in a pitcher with ice to chill. Divide between glasses, using a spoon to hold back the ice. Enjoy while strategically selecting a next to your favorite Thanksgiving dish. 

*To make syrup, heat 4:1 parts water:sugar in a small saucepan until sugar dissolves. Add sage leaves (1 small container of sage works well for 2 cups of water) and keep on heat for 5 minutes, making sure sage is fully submerged. Strain, allow to cool and store excess in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Thanks to Belen Aquino for the stunning cocktail photography and to Gather Vintage Tablescapes for the lovely glasses, dishware and other table adornments.