Memorial Day Cocktails, 2017

Spiked Cherry Lemonade Slushies
If you’re like us, this long Memorial Day holiday weekend is much anticipated. We want to kick off this holiday of remembrance and thankfulness with a set of cocktails to serve your veterans and those who honor them. What are cocktails without food to serve alongside? We’re sharing a chicken and chorizo dish you can cook indoors or out. Now, on with the drinks!

Playa Fortuna
created by Ryan Wainwright
1 1/2 parts Bacardi Superior
3/4 part lime juice
3/4 part coconut cordial (equal parts of coconut water and sugar)
1/4 part Falernum
4 drops tartaric acid (1 part cream of tartar and 5 parts water)
edible flower for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a Nick & Nora glass. Garnish with an edible flower and serve.

Rose Basil MartiniRose Basil Seed Martini
The original Strawberry Basil Martini recipe came from foodandwine.com. However, we discovered a rose basil seed drink at a convenience store which also sells Indian food items and decided to give it a shot. The drink is sweetened so the simple syrup is intentionally omitted.
3 strawberries plus one slice to use as a garnish
3 fresh basil leaves
1 oz. gin (We used Brockman’s)
1 oz. vodka
2 oz. Rose Basil Seed beverage (you can add more if you want a stronger rose taste)
½ oz. fresh lemon juice

Put the strawberries and basil leaves in a cocktail shaker and muddle them. Add ice, gin, vodka, and lemon juice; then shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with the Rose Basil beverage, garnish with the strawberry slice, and serve.

Spiked Cherry Lemonade Slushies
2 oz. Blue Ice Vodka
1 tsp. Crystal Light Lemonade mix
1/2 tsp cherry syrup
3/4 cups water
1 cup ice
maraschino cherries

Add all ingredients , except the cherries, into a blender and blend until the drink has a smooth and slushy texture. Pour into 2 glasses. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

Auchentoshan Berry White
1 1/2 parts Auchentoshan American Oak Single Malt Scotch Whisky
1/4 part fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 parts Shrub & Co. Strawberry w/ Meyer Lemon Shrub
3 1.2 parts Belgian witbier (wheat beer)
4 dashes rhubarb bitters

Build the drink in tall glass with ice. Then fill the remaining space with Belgian wheat beer. Garnish with a lemon peel before serving.

Laphroaig Back Yard CollinsLaphroaig® Back Yard Collins
recipe by Ivy Mix, NYC
1 1/2 parts Laphroaig Select
3/4 part Cherry Heering Liqueur
3/4 part lemon juice
1/2 part orange juice
1/2 part vanilla syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 vanilla bean split open; boil together and cool before using)
1 dash Angostura Bitters
light lager beer
lemon wheel (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients except the lager in a cocktail shaker; shake and strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice. Next, top with the beer and garnish with a lemon wheel.

Banana Beach
created by mixologist, Jane Danger
3 oz. Baileys Almande
2 oz. coconut puree
1/2 oz. agave syrup
1 1/2 ripe bananas
banana slices and grated nutmeg for garnish

Combine Baileys Almande, coconut puree, agave syrup, bananas, and ice into a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour the contents into a tall glass. Garnish with banana slices and freshly grated nutmeg.

Svedka's Imperial BlueSvedka’s Imperial Blue
1 1/2 parts Svedka Blue Raspberry Vodka
1 1/2 parts black tea
3/4 part fresh lime juice
3/4 part simple syrup
1 part sparkling wine
3 raspberries

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the raspberries. Then combine with the remaining ingredients, except for the sparkling wine. Shake and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Top with sparkling wine and stir. Garnish with raspberries and loose black tea.

Modelo Summer Crusher
cocktail by Betsy Maher and Austin Hartman, New York
12 oz. Modelo Especial
1 1/2 oz. strawberry chipotle syrup (recipe below)
1 oz. blanco tequila
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
Modelo Summer Crushersalt
ground chipotle
1 strawberry for garnish

Rim a mason jar with salt and ground chipotle pepper mixture about half an inch down the jar. Fill the jar to the top with crushed ice. Combine tequila, strawberry chipotle syrup, and fresh lime juice into a shaker with ice. Shake 18-20 times. Strain over the crushed ice and top with Modelo Especial. Garnish with a strawberry.

To make Strawberry Chipotle Syrup
12-15 medium to large strawberries
3 cups of water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground chipotle

Boil the water and add ground chipotle. Blend strawberries in a blender. Lower the water temperature and add the strawberry mixture. Let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off heat, add sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Let cool before using.

Cool Mule
1.5 parts Three Olives Cucumber Lime Vodka
.75 parts lime juice
.75 parts simple syrup
3 cucumber slices
10 mint sprigs
ginger beer

In a mule mug, muddle cucumber and mint. Add the remaining ingredients to a shaker and shake well. Pour into the mug and top with ginger beer. Use a cucumber slice or lime wheel to garnish. Serve!

Sweet and Smoky
We took a typical mezcal cocktail and changed it up.
3 oz. mezcal
1/2 oz. agave nectar
3 dashes Orleans bitters
2 maraschino cherries plus 1 Tbsp. syrup from the jar.
ginger ale

Place the two cherries inside a rocks glass. Then combine all remaining ingredients except the ginger ale in a shaker glass with ice. Shake well to thoroughly mix in the agave nectar. Strain into the glass and top with ginger ale. Note: if this is too sweet for your tastes, add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice.

Many of us fire up the grill for the first time of the year on Memorial Day weekend. Use an iron skillet with a lid or an iron Dutch Oven to roast this chicken dish on the grill. If your grill has three burners, light the outer two and place the skillet on the unlit center portion. Then you can sit back and enjoy your cocktails while it cooks.

Basque Roast ChickenBasque Roast Chicken
original recipe courtesy of Canadian Living.com; of course we put our own spin on it.
3 sweet red peppers, halved and cored
1 sweet onion, thickly sliced
1 28 oz. can of stewed tomatoes, drained (use whole tomatoes if you like your meal chunky)
5 oz. cured chorizo sausages, cut in chunks (We had problems finding chorizo in sausage form so used what was available. It worked but the chorizo blended in with the tomato sauce more than it should have; the taste certainly didn’t suffer.)
10 cloves garlic
¼ cup mezcal
8 small chicken breast pieces (half-breasts, thighs or drumsticks)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

On the grill, roast the red peppers, cut side down, until blackened. Let cool enough to handle. Peel off blackened skins and slice into strips. Then put the peppers, onion, tomatoes, chorizo, garlic, and mezcal into the skillet.

Toss chicken with oil to coat. Combine thyme, salt, sweet and smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper; rub all over chicken. Place on top of the vegetable mixture in the pan.

Cover with the lid and roast for about 45 minutes. If you prefer to cook this in an oven, then bake for the same amount of time at 450°F. Serve with flour tortillas.

Review: Black Cow Vodka

Black Cow Vodka is made in England, where the company says it produces “the world’s only Pure Milk Vodka made entirely from the milk of grass-grazed cows and nothing else.” I’m not sure how Vermont White and VDKA 6100 fit in with that claim — as they are both also from milk products — but let’s not get too hung up on firsts.

Looking at specifics, here’s how Black Cow is produced: “The milk is separated into curds and whey. The curds are used to make cheese, the whey is fermented into a beer using a special yeast that converts the milk sugar into alcohol. This milk beer is then distilled and treated to our secret blending process. The vodka is then triple filtered and finished, before being hand bottled. Black Cow is made from the same milk that is used to make dairy farmer Jason Barber’s 1833 cheddar, and our own Black Cow Deluxe Cheddar.”

Well, what then of the spirit?

The nose is earthy, and slightly pungent with notes of dried savory herbs, hay, and — perhaps it’s just my imagination — some sour milk character. The palate follows alongside this, but give it time and things open up with a healthy amount of air. On the tongue, an initially muddy palate eventually finds notes of cinnamon, lemon peel, and chocolate, atop a relatively creamy body. The finish isn’t anything out of the ordinary, though it’s got a hefty amount of bite and some vegetal character that’s hard to shake.

80 proof.

B / $40 / blackcow.co.uk

Review: Crown Royal Noble Collection Wine Barrel Finished

Crown Royal continues its limited edition, called the Noble Collection, which started with the Cornerstone Blend last year, with this second release, Crown Royal Noble Collection Wine Barrel Finished.

What we have here is classic Crown Royal that is finished in cabernet sauvignon wine barrels sourced from Paso Robles (winery unstated). No other production data (including the length of time in the finishing barrel) is provided.

There’s something immediately off on the nose — notes of gunpowder, black pepper, and overripe fruit weighing heavily on the caramel and vanilla core. There’s a ton of stuff going on on the nose — lemon peel, thyme, tobacco leaf, and menthol… more elements than you’d expect, and we’re just talking about the aromas.

The palate is just as confusing, a somewhat muddy body offering notes of dark chocolate and oily walnut, with a heavy grain underpinning. A bold furniture polish note — astringent and pungent — dominates the second act, while the finish evokes something more akin to well-aged sherry more than cabernet. The conclusion is simplistic, a bit fruity, a bit grain-heavy, and directionally confused.

Crown Royal’s special releases have long been hit and miss, but this one is a tougher sell than most.

81 proof.

C+ / $50 / crownroyal.com

Review: 2015 Mia Bea Chardonnay and Petite Sirah

Barra Family Vineyards is a small, family-owned vineyard in Mendocino County. In 2014, the vineyard owners decided to use some of the harvest to make their own wine, a chardonnay. This year, they’ve expanded and are now offering their first red, a petite sirah.

We tasted both wines from the newly released 2015 vintage. Thoughts follow.

2015 Mia Bea Mendocino Chardonnay – Buttery and thick with vanilla, but dialed back enough to let a bit of spice and some herbal notes push through. A slightly syrupy body gives it a very lengthy finish, which works against it a bit, letting some lingering bitter notes creep up in the end. B / $22

2015 Mia Bea Mendocino Petite Sirah – While densely purple, this wine drinks with more delicacy than expected from a petite sirah, giving its dense raspberry and blackberry notes at the core a slightly floral touch. The finish is a touch earthy, with some licorice notes on top and a smattering of fresh thyme. A- / $28

miabeawines.com

Review: The Spice Lab Special Touch Premium Mixology Case

Nothing’s more fun than ordering a high-end cocktail at a bar and receiving it with a wacky ingredient or garnish — maybe a flaming star anise or an edible flower, slowly leeching its color into your drink.

Well good news, campers: Now you can recreate some of these experiences at home, thanks to The Spice Lab’s “Special Touch” Premium Mixology Case.

It’s a very simple idea: This attache-style case contains a dozen rare or high-end garnishes, each provided whole and packaged in its own individual plastic case. The dozen includes the following: cardamom seeds, giant coffee beans, cocoa seed, allspice (whole), star anise, dried kumquat, juniper berries (whole), mini cinnamon cassia sticks, whole mace, and three dried (whole) flowers: hibiscus, Persian rose, and mallow blossom.

The case includes a deck of cards, one giving some basic usage ideas for each ingredient. The top lid includes five barware pieces: a jigger, bar spoon, tongs, peeler, and a cylindrical grater for dried spices.

What can you do with all of these? The Spanish-designed kit is designed for use with vermouth, rum, and gin, and just about all of these garnishes pair well with gin concoctions, particularly the Spanish staple of gin and tonic. Pick any of the flowers and drop one in your glass to open up new aromatics and give your drink a breathtaking color. Other ingredients, like kumquat and mace, present more of a challenge. And of course, items like star anise, cocoa bean, and cinnamon are all very versatile, well being the world of gin and tonic. From top to bottom, all the ingredients are extremely high end — but remember, dried spices and flowers will lose flavor and potency over time, so don’t be afraid to use them liberally.

At $200, this is an awfully luxe kit, but if you don’t need the full collection, Special Touch offers some simpler kits that are more targeted (and which cost quite a bit less), and individual botanicals can be purchased as well. My only complaint: The case itself is a bit flimsy, though it’s decked out in leather and metal trim.

That aside, I know I’m having fun with this kit. Order a drink at my house these days and who knows what kind of garnish you’ll get!

A- / $200 / thespicelab.com

Review: Breckenridge Brewery Barrel Aged Imperial Cherry Stout

This second entry in Colorado-based Breckenridge Brewery’s Brewery Lane Series is a cherry stout — “aged 50% in whiskey barrels and 50% in Port wine barrels, Imperial Cherry Stout features sweet-sour Montmorency tart cherries which play on the dark fruit flavors prevalent in a traditional Imperial Stout.”

This is a huge beer but quite an enchanting aged stout, offering a richly coffee-laced and heavily nutty approach that quickly winds its way down a rabbit hole of flavors. Chocolate-covered cherries emerge immediately, followed by more of a mocha coffee character. After a moment, the initially sweeter attack fades and lets in an herbal note punctuated by a red wine character — the Port at work — and some lingering bitterness. Quite a complex monster, though it’s so bold on the palate that I recommend enjoying it in small doses. Bring a few friends.

9.5% abv.

A- / $12 per 25.4 oz bottle / breckbrew.com

Review: Humboldt Distillery Spiced Rum

Humboldt Distillery is best known (to me, anyway) for its hemp flavored vodka. But Humboldt also makes a rum, organic and well spiced. The rum is double distilled; once in a column still, once in a pot still. There’s no information on aging or the spices used in the flavoring process.

The golden/amber rum is relatively light in color, but it presents a very rich and powerful nose. Aromas include notes of butter cookies, molasses, cloves, and a pungent note of chewing tobacco. The palate has some roughness around the edges — clearly this is a younger rum — but is nonetheless full of flavor. Ample vanilla, brown butter, lots of cinnamon and cloves — this is the classic stuff of spiced rum, but with the sweetness dialed back a bit and the toasty/bready notes given an upgrade.

The finish finds a return to the rum’s rustic roots, alongside some notes of green banana, coconut, and smoldering spice. If you’re looking for a spiced rum that goes beyond mere flavors of cinnamon-flecked brown sugar, this is one to check out.

B+ / $26 / humboldtdistillery.com

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