Tag Archives: vodka

Cocktail Adventures with LUPEC

Like any urban lady I love sipping a well crafted cocktail. It was my pleasure to join an amazing group of ladies called LUPEC or Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. Many members are bartenders or business owners or aficionados like myself and several of the members are some of my best friends.

At our last meeting we had the opportunity to try two fantastic cocktails. The first was a wonderful cocktail using Casa Noble Organic Reposado Tequila.

CN Reposado Angle

Casa Noble is located in Jalisco Mexico and uses blue agave for their tequila. You don’t find organic tequila very often and the Casa Noble tequila is quite special. The Reposado is aged for just under a year in French white oak barrels, like fine wine. Their Anejo tequila is aged between two to five years in the oak barrels. The Reposado tequila tasted more like a fine whiskey to me, smokey and oakey. A fun note about the distillery, they have partnered with famed rocker Carlos Santana. Not only does he make amazing music and sexy shoes for us ladies but now he makes tequila. I just love this guy, and he’s local too.

carlos

Casa noble

LUPEC met at Laszlo, which is a fun bar in the Mission district and the bartender there, Kevin, made a wonderful Old Fashioned for us using the Reposado tequila.

I have long loved the Old Fashioned cocktail, ever since the Commander of the US Power Squadron sat me down one day at the tender age of 12 and taught me how to make one. The Power Squadron is like a country club but for yachts and powerboats, and my late father was Commander for a time. The Commander I remember the most was a family friend and he would have us over to his home on the Peninsula often. The Old Fashioned was his favorite tipple and he was shocked that his favorite “bartender” only knew how to mix the perfect martini. I guess you could say I had rather of an Auntie Mame childhood, mixing cocktails for my family’s friends and guests.

For those of you unfamiliar with the cocktail, it’s a drink of a sugar cube dowsed with bitters and a few pieces of fruit or orange rind, muddled together in an old fashioned glass, named for the drink naturally. Whiskey and sometimes a dash of soda water are stirred in with a few large hunks of ice and garnished with more fruit. I used to carve out the ice myself with an ice pick and block ice because that’s the way he liked it. These days I love the silicon large format ice cube trays such as these from Tovolo.

Tequila old fashioned

You can vary the Old Fashioned by changing up the bitters or the whiskey, using American whiskey or rye, and now, using an aged tequila. What a great twist on an old favorite!

Kevin’s version used simple syrup instead of a sugar cube and although I am not sure what kind of bitters he used I am quite fond of either the Bitter Truth aromatic or orange bitters. This Old Fashioned had a mysterious and alluring smokiness to it from the oak barrels of the Reposado. The brandied cherry was a nice touch.

Square one

We were served another fun cocktail that night featuring vodka from Square One.

Square One is another organic distillery that I have enjoyed getting to know over the past two years. They use organic rye from the US to make their vodka and water from the Grand Tetons; it is so lovely and smooth. They infuse some of their vodka with unusual flavors and I am quite fond of the Basil infusion. It has organic Thai, lemon, Genovese and sweet basil varieties, plus a touch of organic coriander (cilantro), honeysuckle and lemongrass. It is very aromatic and unusual and makes great cocktails.

We were served a riff on the Last Word, called at Laszlo as the My Word and it was definitely refreshing and a little dangerous. One could have quite a lot of these on a thirsty night.

Both of the representatives for Casa Noble and Square One are delightful ladies and it was great fun to get to know them and sip their cocktails. I am hoping to add the Casa Noble Reposado and Anejo tequilas and the Square One Basil to my liquor collection for some cocktail play at home.

Make these yourself!

Reposado Tequila Old Fashioned

2 T water
1 lump of sugar —- or 1 tsp. agave nectar
Angostura bitters – or any bitters you like, there are some amazing ones, my current favorite is the Bitter Truth orange bitters
A 3” piece of orange peel, no pith (white part)
Ice
2 oz Casa Noble Organic Reposado tequila
Brandied cherries or maraschino cherries (or a piece of pineapple, a piece of orange or all of them)

Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in an tumbler. You can use agave syrup instead if you like or simple syrup. Add two dashes bitters and a piece of orange peel, but twist the orange peel first then rim the glass with it before placing it inside the cocktail glass. Muddle (smash gently) with a spoon for a few minutes. Add a large cube of ice (large format) or fill 1/3 way with ice cubes, add the tequila and stir well. Garnish with fruit. Sip!

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Square One Basil My Word

3/4 oz. Square One Basil vodka
3/4 oz. yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz. maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice

Mix all together in a shaker with ice, shake or stir well until very cold. Strain and serve up in a coupe or martini glass that has been chilled. Sip!

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Infusion Class at The Fifth Floor

Out of the wealth of fantastic restaurants in San Francisco I have a few favorites and the Fifth Floor is ranked highly among them.

Their burger – bourbon – beer special is a frequent indulgence and Chef David Bazirgan’s treatment of foie gras is incomparable. Foie mousse stuffed buratta – foie-ratta! It is the most luscious thing ever on a plate.

When I heard through friends that Chef Bazirgan was going to teach an infusion class I had to go, no matter what.

I hailed a cab and hobbled over to the Fifth Floor, which is located in the Hotel Palomar, and entered the lounge during the daylight hours. It was a very weird feeling to see the place with so much light and empty except for our exclusive group.

What a delightful afternoon this turned out to be and I expected no less.  Most of the other attendees are friends from Twitter and from various food and cocktail events around town. I love how Twitter and Facebook has brought so many of us together, where before in a large city we may have otherwise not met.  My network expands all of the time – it is rather like witnessing the Big Bang theory in action.

Chef David and his bar manager, Brian Means, greeted us with a glass of sparkling wine and ushered us into the dining room where a demonstration table was set up with rows of comfy chairs.

Brian started things off with a tangy aged Pink Elephant, a cocktail of Beefeater gin, lemon, Small Hands pineapple gum, Rosato vermouth, orange bitters and smoked Absinthe.  This concoction was aged for two weeks to mellow the flavors. The Absinthe was smoked using a smoker gun.

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A few of these and you will see pink elephants.

Chef David showed us the smoker gun for a treatment of egg yolks. He forages for Douglas fir needles and other necessary herbs in his kitchen from their rooftop garden, various areas in San Francisco including the Presidio and the San Bruno mountains.

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Chef David firing the smoking gun assisted by Amy

Chef loaded the smoker gun with the Douglas fir and inserted the output nozzle into a hotel pan filled with fresh, raw egg yolks and sealed the pan with plastic wrap. The container fills with a thick fog of smoke and the egg yolks are infused with the aromatic scent for 30 minutes. Then the yolks are delicately transferred to a plastic bag filled with a dab of olive oil and sea salt and cooked in a sous vide (temperature controlled immersion bath) at 165 F for 45 minutes.  The softly cooked egg yolks are whisked to a creamy consistency with a bit of neutral oil and used on a beautiful shaved asparagus salad, which is on the regular tasting menu, or, for today, as a dollop on top of a tiny crostini with a quenelle of beef tartare.

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beef tartare crostini with Douglas fir smoked egg

Although I was not able to indulge in this little bite my friends assured me it was fantastic, with the smoke displaying as a subtle enhancement to the creamy egg.

The absinthe for the cocktail was infused with smoke in much the same way, although we were not privy to the organic material used to create the smoke.  Chef recommended purchasing a smoking gun at Polyscience, where they can be had for under $100 or locally at TriMark Economy Restaurant Fixtures on 7th Street.

Our next demonstration was something that many of us love but perhaps don’t think of as an infusion – miso soup.   The base for a miso soup is dashi, which is an infusion of konbu (seaweed) and bonita (tuna flakes).  Chef purchases his ingredients at the same shop I do in Japantown and he uses the best konbu and bonita he can find.  Because the packaging for these products are in kanji therefore naturally we have no idea which products Chef purchased, but I always follow the lead of older Japanese ladies when I shop for my dashi ingredients.

Chef noted that dashi is an essential, simple and yet subtle infusion, and his recipe (end of post) is a classic preparation.  He soaks the konbu  in fresh water for 30 minutes, then gently simmers this for 10 minutes.  Then, he removes the konbu and lets the infusion reduce for about 5 minutes over high heat.  The shaved bonita flakes are added to the hot infusion and allowed to steep for 10 minutes and then it is strained.

In a small bowl he mixes together the miso paste, using  3:1 red to yellow miso and then a ladleful of the hot dashi is whisked in, and the loosened paste is added to the rest of the dashi.  At this point your miso soup is ready to serve, and it is a question of what kind of garnish you would like to use.  This being the Fifth Floor the garniture was exquisite. Chef prepared pickled shitake shreds, cubed tofu, foraged seaweeds, onion blossom buds from the roof garden and daikon micro greens.

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fancy garniture for miso soup, Fifth Floor style

Chef David ladled the miso into teapots for ease of serving to the class, but it is also a clever way to serve to your own guests, as the teapot keeps the soup very warm and it has great panache.

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an elegant way to serve a simple soup

The chattering in the room ceased except for appreciative murmurs from everyone. Amy and Brian lined up for a cupful and Chef took a moment to enjoy some too, having had a really busy week between the usual filled nights at the restaurant, the Share Our Strength event Thursday and the foie gras dinner at Alexander’s the night before. We agreed that miso was our go-to soup when feeling draggy or under the weather. To me, it is far more satisfying than even chicken matzo.

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beautiful miso soup – warm, comforting and restorative

As the food section of the infusion class drew to a close, Chef David passed around a pot of eucalyptus infused oil that he made by crushing branches of young eucalyptus from the Presidio and allowing it to steep with a neutral oil, such as canola. He uses this light and floral oil as a finish to some of his dishes. I was surprised that it did not have any tinge of menthol, just a very pleasant herbiness with a familiarity that comes from growing up driving through the Presidio.  He also discussed the common and classic of infused vinegars but did not want to demonstrate them because, knowing we are “foodies” he felt this particular demonstration would be superfluous.

Since the class was so informal it was such a treat to have the opportunity to chat food with a chef of this caliber. He made a delicious razor clam ceviche for the Share our Strength event and an attendee inquired about his source for clams, which turned out to be very close to her hometown on the east coast. Another person asked about his contribution to the foie gras dinner the night before so Chef David pulled out his iPad and showed off his photo gallery, which is also available to view on Instagram.  He and his wife are also expecting his first baby quite soon.  Mazeltov!

With a fresh pour of sparkling wine in our glasses, and for me a little help from Amy with my purse, we transitioned over to the lounge to discuss infused spirits and tinctures with the Bar Manager Brian Means.

Brian had a large trolley filled with interesting dropper bottles of various mysterious ingredients, little containers of spices and herbs and a huge glass barrel of lemoncello.

Brian started off by discussing the commonly known infusions in the world of finely crafted cocktails, namely vermouth, bitters and infused vodkas.

He demonstrated a unique use for vermouth, namely Aperol, an Italian aperitif similar to Campari.  He brought around a tray filled with Asian soup spoons, and nestled into each spoon was a egg yolk shaped sphere of a pale jade hue with bright red bits of what looked like tobiko scattered over the top. This was fact an Aviation cocktail formed into a sphere with crunchy bits of dehydrated Aperol.

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The Aviation is a well-known cocktail in San Francisco (and elsewhere) comprising gin, maraschino liqueur and usually egg whites, but this time the liqueurs were mixed with sodium alginate, a form of powdered seaweed, and formed into a sphere using a calcium lactate solution which creates the skin of the sphere. Fun stuff indeed! The Aviation ball popped in the mouth and then the bitter and crunchy bits of the dehydrated Aperol provided the final KaPow of sensation.

Next dessert wine glasses filled with a golden liquid were delivered to our waiting hands.  The fragrant scent of lemons filled our heads as we sipped Brian’s housemade lemoncello (recipe below) made from Greek lemons.

This was heady stuff and after all that we had imbibed so far most everyone was sipping this slowly.  Brian makes an infusion of peeled Greek lemons with Everclear, a very high-alcohol spirit (known as moonshine back in my youth but now available commercially).  The peels sit on the alcohol for several weeks then are strained and diluted with sugar syrup.

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Lemonhead time – lemoncello, a classic liqueur originally from Sicily 

The color is achieved purely by the duration of the peels infusing with the alcohol. Meyer lemons are also wonderful for this concoction or any citrus fruit peel can be used for a different effect. I immediately thought of kumquats and plan to make up a batch once I see them in the market again.

Vermouths are infusions of herbs and spices that are blended into red or white wine, sweetened or not.  A common herb in vermouth is gentian, which I had always associated with the color violet (look at your crayon box!) but is a traditional herb used as a tonic.

Another common infusion is bitters, which are technically tinctures. In older times before advanced medicines, the local quack or healer would make tinctures of healing herbs and spices to treat ailments.  Today, they are a base for many cocktails and are a very potent infusion of herbs and spices and alcohol.  Brian passed around his collection of housemade tinctures:  black pepper, habanero, espresso, cinnamon, lemon, vanilla (same as a vanilla extract), black walnut, cherry, and my personal favorite, candy cap mushroom.   The base for tinctures does not have to be Everclear, bourbon and rum are often more suitable for a base depending upon the ingredient to be infused. Brian’s favorite tincture is a citrus bitter (recipe below).

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I could not get enough of this tincture, candy cap mushrooms in a bourbon base

The final infusion Brian discussed is a newcomer to most of the cocktail crowd, fat washing. I have had a lot of experience with this when I created bacon bourbon and bacon vodka several years ago. Bacon fat is added to the alcohol base and left to infuse for a few days. The mixture is then frozen to allow the fat to be removed easily, and after straining a few times through cheesecloth the mixture is ready to use.    My fat washed bourbon made the best bacontini.

Brian, of course, takes fat washing to another level by making infusions of roasted pecans with butter infused into bourbon, or coffee beans and cacao nibs with Everclear.  I really want to try making butter pecan bourbon once I figure out this allergy-intolerance business.

Brian recommended a wonderful book, which I have in my collection, the Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. I think it is an essential to any cook or food and cocktail enthusiast. He sources his amazing collection of herbs and spices from Scarlet Sage Herb Company in SF, or the Rainbow Market. There is a shop in Berkeley as well but as I am rarely there I didn’t jot down the name, my apologies.

Brian was so kind to gift us all with a bottle of his habanero bitters. I am compiling food and drink ideas to use with this vial of liquid volcano with a fruity edge.

We lingered for a while over the last of our lemoncello and wandered out into the bright blinking daylight for a cocktail and snack at Jasper’s to decompress and have more conversations about the wonderful world of infusions.

I hope you enjoy Chef David and Brian’s recipes, I am going to make the bitters after my next grocery store run. The Fifth Floor will be hosting another infusion class in either April or May and I highly recommend you snap up a ticket once they announce the dates.

RECIPES:

Chef David Bazirgan’s Fifth Floor Miso Soup (includes Dashi)

Brian Means’ Fifth Floor Lemoncello

Brian Means’ Fifth Floor Citrus Bitters

Drunken Gummi Bears

Gümmi bears, drunk and squishy

When I was a kid my sister and I loved Gummi bears, and one of her friends would have a family member bring in bags of them from Germany for us because they were not sold here. The horror!

Now we have so many different kinds of Gummis, worms, Smurfs and other craziness but my heart has always remained true to the classic Gummi. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I learned of the penultimate way to serve them.

Drunken.

You heard me. Drunken Gummi bears are the bomb.

After a few days of immersion in vodka they turn from the chewy and semi-rigid candy we love to chomp on into soft, squishy and highly alcoholic drunken bears. The vodka turns an unnatural pinky-Koolaid looking color, cloyingly sweet and with a viscosity that could be deemed either pleasant or unpleasant, dependent upon the specific quantity of consumption.

I prefer Sky vodka or Absolut for this concoction; simply dump a bagful of Gummi bears in a jar, top with vodka and let sit for a few days but no more than three days (based upon my highly scientific experimentation).

Chill the jar before serving and fish out the drunken Gummi bears with a slotted spoon. They are best eaten very cold with your fingers.

You will be shocked, simply shocked about how alcoholic they taste, and how delicious they are, sort of like mini no-work Jello shots. Any remaining vodka should be frozen and drunk in shots as a last resort or possibly as a dare. I did make a Gummi vodka Cosmopolitan once and sort of did not regret it.

Now go forth and make drunken Gummi bears if you have any left from your Halloween candy. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Update: Thanks to @AlwaysCookwWine aka Keely I am now making Rummy Bears, Gummi bears macerated in Puerto Rican rum. If only I could fast-forward to Friday!

When Life Gives you Lemons… Make Lemon Drops!

Last night when the Roost was sizzling away, despite the rain, my thoughts turned towards cool, refreshing libations. It was a stroke of luck (or was it fate?) that Costco had a mondo bottle of Ketel One for $20 and a giant tub of Meyer lemons for $4 the other day. When life hands me lemons, I do one of two things: roast a chicken or make a cocktail!

But given my recent track record, I decided a cocktail was in order.

As prepared my tipple last night it occurred to me that this cocktail is actually more like a health tonic. Think of all the Vitamin C in the juice of a lemon and a Mandarin orange, not to mention the healing properties of Vitamin V, it’s totally good for you!

The Roost’s Lemon Drop

3/4 jigger of lemon vodka
1 jigger freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice or one lemon
1/2 of a Cutie or Mandarin orange, squeezed
1 T agave nectar
3-4 ice cubes

Place all of the above in a mini cocktail shaker and shake well for one minute. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

If you are feeling fancy, swipe the squeezed lemon rind over the martini glass first, then dip the edges in sugar for a sugared rim. Garnish the rim with a spiral of lemon rind or a paper thin slice of lemon.

Repose seductively on the couch, switch on Dean Martin’s “Sway” on the hi-fi and sip slowly.

Ahhhh…

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When you run out of lemon vodka, why not make your own?

2 Meyer lemons
An empty bottle of vodka
A mondo bottle of vodka
A funnel
A serrated vegetable peeler
A small sharp knife

Peel the lemons, then using the knife, scrape out the bitter white pith from the inside of the peel. Julienne the peels and stuff into the empty bottle. With the funnel fill the bottle with vodka, seal and let sit for a month. When you think about it agitate the bottle now and then.

Do you really need to spend all that money on flavored vodka when you can easily make it at home? And, I guarantee, you will agree this tastes a heck of a lot better when it’s home-infused.

Here’s to a new year!!

Wishing you a great year of health, creativity, good friends and great cocktails!!