IRISH COFFEE CREAM

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Irish Coffee seems simple enough; glass mug, Irish Whiskey, hot coffee, sugar, whipped cream, right? Well, let’s say close. But after making one with these ingredients you may enjoy it, but wonder why it isn’t quite what you expected or that it isn’t even all that special. A closer look at the details of this recipe and you will understand how a few simple tweaks to this recipe will make it into something special.

The most important part of this drink is the ‘whipped’ cream float on the coffee. The rest is as easy as quality medium roasted coffee that won’t overwhelm the Irish Whiskey that you are using, yet will have the backbone for some added sugar…and compliment a fine cream topping.

There are many recipes and opinions for making Irish Coffee, but the usual points of contention and confusion come with the coffee cream topping. Canned whipped cream with some green mint syrup just doesn’t cut it anymore for a proper Irish Coffee made at home or in a quality bar or pub. Even a solid whipped cream from scratch, while better than from the can, does not quite give me what I want on top of an Irish Coffee.

Instinct, taste and experience points in a slightly different direction than whipped heavy cream. To me, the Irish Coffee cream should be more like an airy double cream. Thick but not fluffy. Heavy, yet still light enough to float. Slightly pourable. A little funky in a rustic way, yet retaining the youth of a fresh, sweet cream.

The public is starting to become aware of the many dairy products and styles from around the world and one very important style is the thicker, high fat double creams from Ireland and England. Hard to find in the States, but a very important part of making a good Irish Coffee cream.

Double cream is much higher in butterfat than heavy cream by definition. (Minimum fat levels for Double Cream are 45-48% compared to American Heavy or Whipping  Cream at 35-36%)  The best creams, heavy or double, are an egg shell white like color with an almost cheesy, buttery aroma. An example comparison is American grade A unsalted butter and European style butter. European butter is lightly cultured to give it more depth and complexity. (European Style Butter)

When I was a kid in northern Minnesota, we lived by a dairy farm and always had unpasteurized fresh milk from the dairy farm up the road. We would fill gallon jars with fresh milk. It was real whole milk so the cream rose to the top and was about at least a 1/4 of the entire content of the jar. We would either shake it up and drink it that way (serious milk mustaches!) or siphon the cream off and use it for whipped cream, over fresh berries or make butter with it. It was very thick and not like what you get in the grocery store. It was pure cream and I suspect was more like a double cream.

But it’s very difficult to find a double cream in the US so what can one do to get the consistency, taste and aroma that you want from using common American style heavy cream? I thought I would try making a crème fraîche, add some sugar and vanilla, and then whip it up a bit before it became too solidified.  My thought was that this would provide the slightly cultured aroma and taste that I was looking for and be the pourable, slightly sweet floating cream needed for topping your Irish Coffee….and it was.

We never made crème fraîche back when I was a kid or even heard of it. But, when I did learn about it, it seemed very familiar and natural to me since it had those blends of aromas and flavors that were part of my memory.

At first this may seem like too much trouble to go through, but it is ridiculously easy to make and a cool skill/knowledge to have and has many other uses in the kitchen. The most important part of making this crème fraîche at home is that you can customize the process so it is perfect for an Irish Coffee cream.

The recipe consists of heavy cream with a touch of buttermilk as the culture starter. This is then allowed to sit at room temperature for a day. You can get even deeper into the details of this process by finding more natural, locally produced milk/cream and cultures but those will take a trip to the country and a local dairy farm or ordering cultures. But the following recipe is as far as we need to go for this trip.

LIGHT CRÈME FRAÎCHE FOR IRISH COFFEE CREAM

12 oz Heavy Cream

1 oz Buttermilk

16 oz Glass or Ceramic Jar

2 oz Rich 2-1 Simple Syrup or to taste

1/4 tsp High Quality Vanilla Extract or to taste

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THE PROCESS

In a non-reactive mixing bowl add the buttermilk and heavy cream and whip with a wire whisk.

IMG_8639Add this to a jar and cover it, but don’t seal it. It needs to breathe a bit. I usually just put the lid on the jar but don’t tighten it.

Let this sit for approximately 8-12 hours. Make it in the morning for evening service. Check it for consistency from time to time to see how quickly it is thickening.

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When it is thick and coats a spoon, it is ready to add a touch of sweetness. In this recipe I use a rich simple syrup instead of powdered or granulated sugar. It mixes much more easily. I like to use refined cane sugar for the cream to avoid adding any other flavors I might be getting from the coffee. The cream and coffee should be compliments, not redundancies.

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It is important that the cream isn’t noticeably sweet like normal whipped cream. It definitely needs a touch of sweetness for dimension, but there will be sugar in the coffee and whiskey so the cream will be a cool balance to the hot, sweeter and earthy coffee and whiskey combination.

In a non-reactive bowl, add cream, simple syrup and vanilla. Beat by hand with a wire whisk to add some air. You could also just add the syrup and vanilla to the jar already containing the crème fraîche, tighten the lid and shake it until you have a slightly airier whipped consistency. Taste for sweetness and texture. Adjust to your palate if desired. Store in refrigerator.

For the Irish Coffee I prefer a robust coffee, but not so robust that it overwhelms the whiskey and other flavors. I do like an unrefined or raw sugar in the coffee at this point which will add natural depth and aged tastes. Demerara sugar or Azucar Morena are both readily available. Make a 2-1 syrup for this recipe.

IRISH COFFEE

1.5 oz Irish Whiskey

Hot Medium-Dark Roast Coffee

1-2 Tsp Rich Unrefined Sugar Syrup or to Taste

Irish Coffee Cream

8oz Coffee Drink Mug

Piping Hot Water

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THE PROCESS

Before making your Irish Coffee, add piping hot water to your 8 oz coffee drink mugs and let rest while you get ready to pour. You can use whatever sized mug you like and adjust ratios accordingly, but 8 oz is a good place to start. The hot water will help keep your mug hot before and after serving. Use glass mugs so you can show off the coffee and the cream.

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When ready to serve, dump the hot water. Add Irish Whiskey and demerara syrup. Top with coffee, leaving room for cream. About 1/4 of the mug should be free at the top. Use a spoon and, holding it just touching the coffee, gently pour the cream onto the spoon allowing the cream to float over and then onto the surface of the coffee. Fill to the rim.

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Your Irish Coffee is ready to serve. No extra garnishes or straws/stirrers are necessary. Each sip should give you part cream and part whiskey/coffee in your mouth which should make you happy.

If you do wish a garnish of some type, I recommend a light dusting of grated cinnamon or ground cocoa nibs on top of the cream. You could also use pure maple syrup or even a liqueur in place of the sugar syrup in the coffee. The herbal base of Benedictine or Drambuie would make them great complimentary additions to a jazzed up Irish Coffee.

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HOMEMADE IRISH CREAM REVISITED

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Several years ago I decided to try my hand at making an Irish Cream in my kitchen. A little research showed, to my surprise, that Irish Cream is really something invented purely for marketing in the 70’s…the 1970’s. So there were no 18th century classic Irish recipes to be found…or that I could find. There are, however a plethora of modern day home recipes that are available online.  Marketing invention or not, Irish Cream appears like a genuinely good idea and also seems like something that would be a prime candidate for the value added by making it yourself at home.

A PLETHORA OF HOME RECIPES

I generally search through books and the web for as many recipes as I can when learning something new. I filter out the ones that I feel are nonsensical and then compile a list of common denominators of them all. I then use my best judgment to come up with a prototype recipe to go to kitchen with. Most of the recipes I found for Irish Cream seemed to amount to glorified chocolate milk and didn’t make me think value added. Most recipes rarely used egg as an emulsifier, more often relying on things like evaporated or sweetened condensed milk to gather viscosity. Most rarely used heat.

The most common base flavors incorporated into the home recipes that I found included chocolate, vanilla, coffee, almond and cinnamon. Many of the recipes relied heavily on either coffee or chocolate or both as the dominant flavor and many also used things like cinnamon and almond which I like, but don’t feel are present in Irish Cream. Most recipes seemed to lack subtlety in the base flavors, thus creating more of a chocolate cream or coffee cream.

SOME INGREDIENTS FOUND IN IRISH CREAM RECIPES

Milk, Half and Half, Cream, Evaporated Milk, Sweet Condensed Milk, Non-Dairy Creamer, Dry Milk

Eggs, Burnt Sugar, Cane Sugar, Beet Sugar, Honey

Vanilla, Cinnamon, Dried Coffee, Fresh Coffee, Coffee Infusion, Almond Extract, Cocoa Nibs, Cocoa Powder, Baking Chocolate, Chocolate Syrup, Chocolate Extract, Coconut Extract

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THE BIG TWO

The history of Irish Cream and Bailey’s is very sketchy and little doubt glossed over or kept in the closet, so to speak, by its marketers. A long storied history is what is implied by the name and the marketing. Nonetheless, it is a delicious and simple idea.

Bailey’s Irish Cream was brought to market in 1974 by Gilbey’s of Ireland. There was no R. A. Bailey behind the name. Wikipedia asserts that the name was inspired by the Bailey Hotel in London, others hold it was just an easy and identifiable Irish name used purely for marketing. In any case, it was an instant and enormous hit and remains so today inspiring other competitors as well as new flavors.

The Bailey’s website says their recipe contains fresh dairy cream, a triple pot distilled whiskey blend, a proprietary blend of natural cocoa extracts and a blend of cane and beet sugars. Bailey’s states that it does not contain eggs. No other ingredients are listed but Wikipedia says in it’s listing that other ingredients “…include herbs and sugar.” That is the wild card that seems to be the point where many decide to throw in cinnamon, almond and coffee. The coffee seems to also be related to more hearsay that Gilbey’s came up with Bailey’s Irish Cream in an attempt to use up surplus whiskey by making a bottled Irish Coffee. (Homedistillation). Coffee and chocolate seem to be goes at this point.

The Carolan’s Irish Cream website says its base uses fresh cream, honey, water, stabilizers and natural colors that are combined in stainless steel tanks and heated at high temperatures. They don’t mention coffee or chocolate/cocoa or vanilla as flavoring agents, just honey. Their spirit base is whiskey and unspecified ‘spirit’ that I can only assume is neutral grain spirit. They describe the taste of Carolan’s as “Vanilla flavour with a smooth texture. Creamy taste, accented with the burnished gold of aged spirits and wildflowers honey.” A big description that doesn’t really say much. Other than the cream, I am not sure what is in this and am not interested in using honey in this recipe. Zero from them.

PUTTING TOGETHER A RECIPE

One key necessity to making a homemade cream or cream liqueur, that is often overlooked, is a binding agent or emulsifier or emulsifying process to keep the cream liqueur from separating in storage. Egg yolks are commonly used in the home as emulsifiers in things like mayonnaise, custards, pastry creams and egg nogs. Artificial and natural stabilizers (slightly different from emulsifiers) like pectin, guar gum, agar, gelatin etc. are often used either at home or by manufacturers to help in this process. Other methods not readily available in the home are the use of high pressure heating or some other unspecified proprietary method of homogenization, are the most common ways to bind ingredients together. The manufacturing of cream liqueurs generally employs the industrial method of high pressure and heat.

Since the high pressure heat method is not readily duplicated at home, I decided to use the traditional egg yolk based, or pastry cream, method of emulsification that I also use for making a Mexican style rum egg nog called Rompope and a Puerto Rican coconut cream liqueur called Coquito.

Essentially this is making a flavored pastry cream and then halting the process (so it doesn’t become too thick to drink) straining and cooling the cream and finally adding a base spirit. The Irish Coffee story seemed plausible so I decided to incorporate coffee into the recipe. Chocolate was a given. I also wanted to add some vanilla. To me, vanilla is essential to the base of any cream. All these had to be blended subtly so as not to overwhelm any other flavor.

IRISH CREAM

Pastry Cream Method

To make approximately 28 oz of Irish Cream:

4 Large Egg Yolks
16 oz Whole Milk
1 Tblsp Cocoa Nibs or 1/2 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate
1 oz Brewed French Roast Coffee or 1/2 Tsp Instant Espresso
6 oz Cane Sugar
2 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

6-8 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey or Irish Whiskey of your preference

Slowly heat the milk, sugar, coffee, vanilla, and cocoa nibs. Bring to a very low near-simmer for approximately 10 minutes to bring out the nibs and coffee. Stir frequently.

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In a non-reactive mixing bowl add the egg yolks and whisk together.

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When the milk mixture is ready, remove from heat and strain into an appropriately sized mixing bowl. This will be used immediately in the egg yolks.

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Now slowly pour and whisk this hot milk mixture into the egg yolks a little bit at a time. It’s good to have an assistant at this stage. Doing this slowly and in parts will ensure that the eggs do not curdle from the heat. Keep doing this…always whisking…until all the milk is incorporated.

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Now return the milk and egg mixture to a clean saucepan on low heat and whisk/stir continuously until it begins to thicken. Continue until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

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Fine strain this again and store in an appropriately sized container that can be covered and cooled off in a refrigerator. The fine straining at this point will remove any bits of egg or milk that may have congealed.

When the cream is cool, it should be thick like an Alfredo sauce. Add whiskey and stir or shake. Taste and adjust as you see fit.

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It is now ready for sharing, drinking or storage in the fridge. Shelf life is several months, but if it tastes as good as it should, it won’t last that long.

Feel free to add more or less sugar depending on how sweet you want your Irish Cream. This can be non-alcoholic but it should then be used within a week or turn it into ice cream..

Once you know this base method of making a cream liqueur, you can be branch off and try many other flavors; coconut, hazelnut, cinnamon, almond and so on. Also the choice of base spirit can be almost endless. Rum, Tequila Añejo, Bourbon, sweet chocolaty Amaros, Cognacs and brandies,  etc..

If you have any questions, please reach out to me, I would be glad to help you through this recipe or answer any questions about drinks and drink making .

Enjoy!!

Todd

SPARKLING WINE/CHAMPAGNE COCKTAILS AND GLASSWARE

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There is something that has bothered me since I began bartending 12 years ago and that is the typically unquestioned use of the champagne flute for most sparkling wine and champagne cocktails.

During the cocktail dark ages (70’s-80’s) champagne was still often being sipped from a coupe, even if it was made of plastic, and champagne cocktails were something that Cary Grant drank in the 40’s-50’s…but he and everyone else generally drank them out of coupes or other cocktail glasses. The champagne and sparkling cocktail made a big comeback with the cocktail revolution 20 years later, but somehow the coupe got left behind.

Wine had it’s renaissance in the US around the time of the cocktail dark ages and flutes rapidly took the place of coupes for sipping your bubbles, even if they were plastic. It made more sense to drink sparkling wines from something that would keep those bubbles from dissipating quickly and direct those wonderful aromas to your nose. The aesthetics of either glass for sparkling are a matter of personal taste, but flutes did allow the bubbles to put on a long show up the glass to freedom.

But even the flute is now falling out of favor for sipping champagne as a new wave of knowledgeable oenophiles abandon the flute for the even more bubbles friendly, yet aesthetic, tulip style glass.

All of this is great for enjoying sparkling wines, but what about sparkling wine cocktails? It seems that most of the cocktail revolutionaries that helped stoke the cocktail renaissance just opted for the flute when making champagne cocktails as it was de rigueur and those revolutionaries were just getting on their feet. It seemed appropriate. This isn’t to say that they are never made in coupes or other glassware, but the trend and go-to glass was, and still is, the flute for the bulk champagne/sparkling wine cocktails. Doing a quick search for champagne or other sparkling wine cocktails, one sees that most tend to be photographed in flutes. Every bar but one that I have worked in that served all sparkling cocktails served them in flutes.

Before we get into the discussion on glassware I would like to loosely define a few things.

What is a champagne cocktail? For the purposes of this discussion and to avoid confusion at this point, I would like to define a ‘champagne cocktail’ as any drink that includes champagne or sparkling wine as an ingredient or the base ingredient of a more complex mixture. The true and narrow definition of the named drink, Champagne Cocktail, is that it is a like a strict cocktail (sugar, bitters, spirit) with champagne filling in for the spirits. Yes, some add brandy as well as champagne.

Coupe

Coupe

Some commonly known Sparkling Wine/Champagne cocktails

BELLINI

MIMOSA

CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL

FRENCH 75

KIR ROYALE

Goblet

Goblet

There are hundreds more and they keep coming as many talented mixologists keep creating riffs and new cocktails made with sparkling wine.  Sparkling wines are also often used in punches. Sparkling wines can be used as a luxury replacement for sodas in many drinks. It is a great way to stretch out a cocktail and or lighten it up. The acidity of a brut or dry champagne can be used to balance any extra sweetness of sugars in syrups, juices and liqueurs. It certainly has no limits to it’s use in cocktails except what I see as the generally limited functionality of the flute.

Now why would the flute be better for champagne but not necessarily better for cocktails?

Let’s start with the accepted reasons it is better for champagne.

A fluted glass focuses bubbles and aroma to your nose. Those aromas are part of the experience and pleasure of a well made sparkling wine. The flute is narrow so it focuses those bubbles to your nose and palate and also, since it is narrow,  won’t diffuse those bubbles and get flat quite as fast in a room temp glass. Like wine glassware, they aren’t meant to be filled to, or close to, the rim allowing for the aromas to gather in the upper part of the glass. About 3/4 or 3/5 full is about right for a proper pour of sparkling wine.

Those two reasons are the biggest for using flutes over coupes for sparkling wine. Other reasons are the aesthetics of the bubbles flowing up the glass to the top..it does look elegant.

But for cocktails and other drinks that use sparkling wine, in my opinion, coupes and other similar cocktail glassware fare much better than flutes in aesthetics as well as functionality. The champagne cocktail also opens the door to using other styles of glassware. Collins and other long drink glasses, large rocks or double old fashioneds, wine glasses and goblets can be wonderful when making a champagne/sparkling cocktail. Once sparkling wine begins to mix, it can be free to extend it’s realm to all kinds of glassware appropriate for each mixture and flutes are not made to contain ice.

COUPES vs FLUTES

Coupes were and are used for cocktails today as well as for cocktails and champagne during the classical period of mixology leading up to prohibition and during prohibition in Europe. They are better suited for champagne cocktails than for champagne for several reasons.

In lieu of unlimited refrigeration space, coupes and other cocktail glassware can be pre-chilled with ice much more easily, and thus faster, than flutes.  Flute are generally not, if ever, chilled in most bars and restaurants since they are often doing double duty for cocktails and champagne service as well as part of the refrigeration space concern mentioned above. Flutes should not be chilled for wine service, but should be for cocktail service.

The coupe offers a larger surface for the number of complementary added aromas that are generally present in cocktails. Champagne aromas can often be much more subtle and thus require the narrow mouth of the tulip or flute to collect them. Cocktail aromas often need more space to work with that champagne just won’t stand up in.

The coupe offers easier accessibility and space for the bartender to work with, also making it faster and easier to make and mix drinks in them.

The tall narrow nature of the flute often requires more manipulation with a spoon or other tool to mix properly. Over manipulation and stirring is also an enemy of bubbles.  Even worse is the light shake or rolling to mix carbonated drinks I often see in many bars.

Coupes drain in a more aesthetically pleasing way. By that I mean when a Mimosa is half drunk, it leaves orange matter from the bubbles along the inside of the long iceless glass. This generally happens when fruit, juice and sugars are mixed with sparkling wine.

The flute is not a very stable glass to mix in or work with in a busy bar.

A coupe is also arguably easier to drink cocktails from. When sipping from a flute you must cock your head back the more the flute becomes drained. This is greatly diminished with a shallow glass like the coupe and better for drinking cocktails.

HEAT IS THE ENEMY OF THE BUBBLE

Since a coupe is easier to chill (in lieu of unlimited glassware refrigeration most bars and homes don’t have), using a coupe makes more functional sense. Chilling the glass before pouring anything straight up into it helps diminish the loss of carbonation for sparkling drinks and also assists in maintaining the chill of any drink served up. This helps sustain that effervescence because the more a liquid warms or is warm, the more it wants to expand. That means pouring cold bubbles into warm glasses of any kind makes those bubbles fly away faster upon impact. Chilling your glass and anything that goes into your glass makes an enormous difference to any drink that uses sodas or sparkling wines.

When one adds carbonated things to non-carbonated things or vice versa, the result is immediately diminished carbonation regardless of the chill factors mentioned above.

This means there are a many things at work against the carbonation of your drink. Some we can diminish and some we cannot, so it is imperative to attend to those few details that can help your cocktail be at it’s best. The coupe and other glassware can really have the advantage over a flute in these cases.

EVERYBODY MUST GET CHILLED

CHILL YOUR BASE

Chilling the base ingredients with a quick stir over ice before adding them to any glass to be topped with bubbles is a very important, yet overlooked, step in keeping your sparkling cocktail, sparkling.

CHILL YOUR SPARKLING

Make sure your carbonated ingredients are well chilled beforehand as well. That means your Prosecco, club soda, 7 Up, Ginger Beer, tonic etc…As explained above, warm soda falls flat fast, is difficult to work with and also stresses your ice. Having a flat and weak Gin and Tonic with already worn out ice floating to the top may as well have the nasty brown lime from the garnish tray thrown on it to finish the effect.

CHILL YOUR GLASS

Your coupe or cocktail glass must be chilled.  Just fill with ice along with a little water and let it sit while you go ahead and mix your drink. Generally the glass is chilled enough by the time you have your drink mixed and are ready to pour it. Dump the ice water. A couple of quick shakes of the coupe or cocktail glass will remove most of the remaining drops.

Double Old Fashioned

Double Old Fashioned

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Highball

NOT ONLY COUPES…

While I sing the praises of the coupe over the flute for champagne cocktails without ice, I also love using other styles of glassware. Tall glasses for sparkling long drinks, large sized rocks glasses, wine goblets and glasses. A Mimosa served in a tall glass on ice is delicious, cold, and wonderful looking. It also gives you the space to add the non-alcoholic mixers and garnishes, while still having room for the champagne to make a drink that fits in it’s space and won’t be drained in 3 seconds flat, or be flat in 3 seconds flat. These are also the perfect style drink to use large cubed ice. The large ice melts slowly and takes up less space, while maintaining the chill and carbonation you want down to the last sip.

This is the time when calling your cocktails ‘coolers’ and ‘spritzers’ may seem more appropriate. The Aperol Spritz is getting fantastically popular now, to the point of marginalization, but really is a delicious, fun, beautiful, low alcohol drink and style. Perfect for making in a chilled coupe, or over ice in a tall glass or wine glass with a slice of orange and/or a splash or fresh orange or grapefruit juice. I cannot think of a sparkling wine cocktail that seems completely inappropriate served on ice in any of these glasses, with the possible exception of the classic Champagne Cocktail.

I love glassware and choosing the proper one is very important to the function, as well as form, of all your drinks and cocktails.

Here is an updated version of a cocktail I did in 2013. I substituted Prosecco for Club Soda

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PORTOFINO

2 oz BEEFEATER 24
.5 oz COCCI AMERICANO
.5 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
Chilled Prosecco
Grapefruit Peel
16 oz Highball
Large Format Ice
Chill the gin, Cocci Americano and juices in a mixing glass. Strain into 16oz highball filled with large ice (eg. kold draft). Top with Prosecco. 1 or 2 gentle turns dragging from bottom of glass to top with bar spoon to mix the top and bottom. Express your grapefruit peel over the top, add to drink and add a long straw.
The dryness/acidity of the Prosecco may require the deletion or diminution of the lime juice.
Riffs can include different styles of sparkling wine, gin and amaros/bitters. I suggest Aperol or Campari for the Cocci as wonderful alternatives. Adjust for sweetness.

DRINKING VINEGARS AND SHRUBS

I was very interested in the fruit drinking vinegars over the last few years. It seems natural and I often sip from cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar bottles for that funky acid taste.

 When I was young, my grandmother would tell me her sister in Germany would often drink vinegar. It always came up when I was making salad dressing and would just eat the dressing.

I remember old timers would drink Kraut juice. Sounded gross to me then, but the whole family of fermented drinks, fruits and vegetables now seems so obviously delicious as well as healthy.

I was in Portland for the 2011 Portland Cocktail Week and went to Pok Pok and tried some of their vinegars and chicken wings and I decided I had to make some. Chicken wings too.

BASIC RICE VINEGAR SYRUP

I feel like I have always been making rice vinegar syrup.

There are a few things I am never out of in my kitchen cabinet; Soy-Brown Sugar Syrup and Rice Vinegar White Cane Sugar Syrup. I use them so often in so many things.
I think of these and other similar ingredients as bases to build on. I use the vinegar syrup for food dishes like Cucumber salad, Hawaiian Sweet and Sour Sauce, other salad dressings and marinades.
I make it without any other flavors or ingredients so I can use it as a base. The rice vinegar is fruity, light and not aggressive. It accepts other flavor infusions very well and it is light in color.
To make the syrup I just use 2 parts sugar to one part vinegar and simmer low on the stove until the sugar has dissolved. It is really just a rich simple syrup using vinegar instead of water.
What this does is add an acidity to a one dimensional sweet syrup.
Sweet and Sour
Now you have acid and sweet in one neat package.

Did some investigating and found that the Romans and Byzantines drank something called Posca, spoiled/ sour wine, juices etc that would be mixed with herbs and other flavors. It was a natural source of Vitamin C and related to lacto fermentation in such things as sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha. Going bad could mean going good.

Drinking vinegars essentially vanished from Western diets, but are well known in many Asian nations (Korea, Japan, China). It has been rediscovered in this country and thought about taking the rice vinegar sugar base into the drinking vinegar and cocktail realm.

I use the rice vinegar syrup as the base for my old school Hawaiian Sweet and Sour Sauce, which is really fresh pineapple that is ultra pureed and then drained of the natural juices.  To the rice vinegar base I add the juices and simmer. Once it is a syrup, I can then add the pineapple puree and voila! You have a bad ass sweet and sour sauce.

Ingredients
Korean Drinking Vinegar

Assorted retail options

But this is really, also, a fruit vinegar so I thought I would try it with other fruits and strain out the solid fruit matter after the infusion.
It worked fantastically.
It is simple. It is good. It lasts and has many uses including drinking it mixed with soda or in cocktails.
BASIC RICE VINEGAR SYRUP
4 Cups White Cane Sugar
2 cups Plain Rice Vinegar (some come flavored or spiced, so check the label)
Place ingredients into appropriate sized sauce pan.
Stir until it is as dissolved as possible before placing on heat. This minimizes chances of burning or caramelizing the sugar on the bottom of the sauce pan.
Vinegar Syrup

Place pan on low heat and stir frequently until the sugar is dissolved. Make sure you keep the sides of the pan clean of grains of sugar. I use a heat resistant silicone spatula. Stray sugar granules could cause the syrup to start to crystallize in the storage jar. Nothing to freak about though.
It is important to use at least 2 parts sugar to 1 part vinegar (you can even use a little more). This is a way of ensuring that your syrup does not just taste like vinegar. Even though it is vinegar, we want the sugar to help tame the vinegar sharpness. The fruit will help even more. You want hints of vinegar, not raw vinegar taste.
Simmer until the syrup is clear and no sugar crystals remain. Approximately 15-20 minutes
sugar crystals on side of pan
Clear Syrup
Cool and pour into glass jar. Does not need to be refrigerated. I keep a jar always in my cupboard.
RASPBERRY DRINKING VINEGAR/SHRUB
2 Cups Rice Vinegar Syrup
1 Pint of Fresh Raspberries
Pour cleaned raspberries into appropriate sized non-reactive deep bowl or cambro. Heat the vinegar until it simmers. Pour the vinegar over the raspberries and stir a bit to make sure everything is incorporated and cover.You can mash the berries slightly but don’t blend them. This allows for the juice to be released and minimize the particle sediment for aesthetics.
Some fruit needs to be crushed or mashed. Each fruit selected for your vinegar may need some special attention. This is the basic process.
Hot vinegar syrup. Macerate fruit. Strain fruit.
Allow the fruit to macerate over night. Then strain and bottle.
This also does not need refrigeration, but it wont hurt it if you do.

Straining Raspberries

Finished Raspberry Vinegar
Suggestions for fruits:
All Berries
Pineapple
Passion Fruit
Guava
Sour Sop
Rhubarb
Cherries

Spices and herbs can work well, when used appropriately, as the base or as a compliment to your fruit.

Suggestions for Combos:
Strawberry and Tellicherry Peppercorn
Pineapple and Sage
Pineapple and Ginger
Guava and Ginger
My rule of thumb for using a spice as a compliment is use less of the spice or herb than you might think. The vinegar syrup will take on a lot of the flavors and a little goes a long way. You want your Strawberry Peppercorn to taste like Strawberry Peppercorn, not Peppercorn Strawberry.
You can also use things like citrus peel or make combos of fruits that go well together. Lemon Peel and Pineapple, or Orange Peel and Cherry.
BRIAR GIMLET
2 oz London Dry Gin or Solid Vodka
½ oz Raspberry Vinegar
In mixing glass filled with ice, add both ingredients and stir.
Strain into tasteful, chilled cocktail glass or on one large ice cube in small rocks glass.
Yes this is a Briar… in homage to the Bramble.
CUCUMBER SALAD
1 Cucumber, seeded, peeled and dice cut.
Thin sliced red onion to taste
DRESSING
3 tblsp Plain Rice Vinegar Syrup or to taste
Pinch of Salt
Zest of half a lime
Mix dressing and pour over cucumbers in bowl. Serve or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
Try chopped Napa cabbage instead of cucumber. It is amazing and a great palate cleanser.
FRUIT VINEGAR AND SODA

2 oz Fruit Vinegar
Ice
Tall Glass
Club Soda
Fruit for garnish
HISTORICAL RECIPES

RASPBERRY SHRUB
(The Settlement Cookbook, Milwaukee, WI 1947)

4 qts Raspberries
1 qt Vinegar
Sugar

Mash red or black raspberries, and cover with the vinegar.Let stand over night or longer; strain. To each pint of juice, add 1 pound of sugar, boil 20 minutes; then put in sterilized bottles and keep in cool place. Use 2 tablespoons to a glass of water.

RASPBERRY SHRUB
(Buckeye Cookery, Mpls, MN circa 1880)

Place raspberries in a stone jar, cover them with good cider vinegar, let stand over night; next morning strain, and to one pint of juice add one pint of sugar, boil ten minutes, and bottle while hot. —Mrs. Judge West

GRANDMOTHERS HARVEST DRINK
(Buckeye Cookery, Mpls, MN circa 1880)

One quart of water, table-spoon sifted ginger, three heaping table-spoons sugar, half pint vinegar.

HOT BUTTERED HALLOWEEN

HOT BUTTERED HALLOWEEN
I had been playing with orgeats and horchatas (Irish Oat Cream) in mid 2010 testing out different nuts and grains and methods. I particularly liked how Steel Cut Irish Oats worked in an orgeat cream. I even used it in a Cocktail for the Bacardi Legacy Competition (Miami 2011) in a cocktail called the Dublin Pirate.
I thought about trying apple cider (Apple Cider-Oat Cream) instead of water as the base for the oat cream to add another dimension. It seemed obvious, I thought, since apples, oats and cinnamon are a natural combination.
I was very happy with the results. It was one of those things that turns out exactly as you envision it.
Steel Cut Oats

I was excited about playing with it and sharing, so I made a larger batch soon after the experiment while refining the process. It’s almost always the case that the process and method of a new recipe will be refined in terms of quality of end product and/or flow of the recipe. This was no exception.

TRICK OR TREAT
It happened that I finished this batch of Apple Cider-Steel Cut Oat Cream the week of Halloween 2011.
The timing was perfect as on Halloween night I was asked to make some hot drinks for a few friends outside who were handing candy out to Trick or Treaters and being generally neighborly. It was getting pretty chilly by the time evening set in and seemed like a perfect plan to help keep the neighborhood festivities flowing.
I decided on an aged rum as the base spirit so figured a little butter would work to make it a buttered rum.
Immersion Blender

The results could not have been better. It was the perfect blend of buttery and creamy oat flavor with apples and cinnamon and a touch of acidity from the apple cider. The velvety texture was very pleasant. It melted in your mouth and satisfied both palate and bones. The light acidity from the cider along with a small pinch of salt more than balanced the sweetness of this drink.

The cream also mixes well with most aged spirits in hot and cold drinks. Bourbon, Rye, Añejo Tequila, Apple Brandy, Calvados, Cognac etc.. are all wonderful base spirits to use.
This hot buttered rum, though, is now winter tradition with me.

Straining Oats from Cream
Finished Cream
 
APPLE-IRISH OAT CREAM HOT BUTTERED RUM
Serves 4
8 oz Dry Quality Aged Rum
16 oz Apple Cider Oatmeal Cream
4 Tblsp Unsalted Butter
Pinch of Salt
4 Coffee Mugs (8oz Size)
In a saucepan add all ingredients except the rum. Bring to a simmer while stirring frequently.
Add 2 oz of rum to each of the coffee mugs and top with hot Apple-Oat Cream.
Serve with a cinnamon stick or just a small spoon.

DUBLIN PIRATE

2 oz Quality Light Rum
½ oz Lime Juice
1 oz Irish Oat Cream
½ oz Arrack Punsch (Swedish Punch)
Angostura Bitters
Lime Wheel
Add all ingredients except the bitters to an iced shaker tin.
Shake hard. Strain into iced rocks glasses. Top with dash or two of Angostura Bitters. Lime wheel.

FAVORITE SUMMER DRINKS

Keeping It Simple
A Reengineered Sea Breeze and Madras
Todd Appel

I have many favorite drinks and cocktails I love to sip on and entertain with during the northern summer months.
Peaches, cherries and berries abound and are wonderful ingredients in numerous drinks and mix with nearly every spirit available. Most of these drinks are not difficult, but they generally have some lengthy prep involved. Peach infused bourbon lemonades with tart cherries, Bitter Lemon Sodas with gin, White Sangria with summer fruits, cognac, curaçao and white Spanish wines among many others.
But one of my favorite ones for pure, simple refreshment is a re-engineered take on a Sea Breeze that anyone can make and take to parties, picnics, BBQs, the pool or beach. In reality this is a blend of Madras and Sea Breeze cocktails, but nothing like most people have ever had.
It doesn’t have a laundry list of ingredients. It doesn’t take a lot of prep work or lengthy infusions. It can be made on the fly and will please everyone and anyone.
The key to this drink is using fresh squeezed citrus. The difference between fresh grapefruit and orange juice and the refrigerator carton counterparts that say “fresh” is measured in light years. The boxed stuff doesn’t taste, smell or feel like the real stuff. They are thick, sour, bitter, and murky.They aren’t worth drinking in any manner that I can think of.
The real stuff is refreshing, naturally sweet but not cloying or syrupy. They are wonderfully aromatic and such a pleasure to drink. Even if the summer months are not the high season for citrus in the U.S., you can still get delicious grapefruits and oranges.
By simply using fresh orange juice and fresh grapefruit juice you can make a seemingly ordinary vodka drink into something people will remember.  With no added sugar.
Oranges and Grapefruits
Citrus Juice Mix
4 Parts Orange Juice
2 Parts Grapefruit Juice
1 Part Cranberry Juice
All citrus juice MUST be fresh squeezed and strained. Use juice style oranges (Valencia etc.). They are made for juicing and give more juice than navel oranges. I prefer ruby red grapefruit, but white grapefruit will work too.
I generally make at least a few quarts of this at one time. If you are going to make it, you might as well make a lot of it. It is great for breakfast if you don’t use it all in your poolside drinks.
If you feel so inclined you can make your own cranberry juice by simmering fresh cranberries with some sugar and a little water, puree and then strain. But I find this is not nearly as important as the fresh citrus, so a good quality store bought cranberry juice works fine here. I try to think in terms of “value added” when deciding such things. Making fresh OJ has a lot of value added to your small amount of labor. Making cranberry juice doesn’t have nearly the value added. I think the same way with food and drink.
The base spirit I suggest is a good quality PLAIN vodka, but I really love a good London Dry gin in this as well. Tequila or rum would work beautifully too. Try to avoid flavored vodkas here. I believe they diminish the natural freshness of drinks like this.
By the Pool

KEY WEST SEA BREEZE
2 oz Absolut Vodka
4 oz Citrus Juice Blend
16 oz Cup or Glass
Ice
Long Straw
No garnish needed
Fill glass with ice. Add vodka and top with citrus juice blend. Stir.
In a proper glass
If you feel so inclined again, I suggest both grapefruit and orange peel for garnish. You can make the garnishes ahead of time by making the peels from the citrus before you juice them and keeping them in a container in the fridge. Wash the fruit before making the peels.
Citrus Peel

For best results, chill the juice before hand. It isn’t as shocking to your ice, especially on a hot day. Keep it in your cooler filled with ice or in the refrigerator at home.
This recipe is just a guide. You can use more or less vodka and the amount of juice is really what fits in the glass after adding your spirits. Use your best judgment and your own taste.

MAKING THE TRADITIONAL CAIPIRINHA

Since Americans were introduced to Cachaça (ka-sha-sa) over the last 15 years in the form of the Caipirinha (Kai-pee-reen-ya) and the many new cachaças that have been marketed here, there has been a little confusion with the proper method of making one, and even from some of the best bartenders around the country.

First and foremost, there are 4 things that always go into a Caipirinha in Brasil. Lime, white superfine sugar, un-aged cachaça and ice. It should be shaken. You can use simple syrup but it absolutely must be at least 2-1 rich syrup. Superfine or “Bar” sugar is the best choice. This kind of sugar acts to macerate the lime and extract the lime oils as well as dissolve easier than regular American table sugar. Once you understand the traditional method, you can then understand and do riffs on this basic theme

I’ve spent many years traveling or living in Brasil and have seen Caipirinhas made from Rio to Recife and from beach to bar. There are always some subtle differences to each person making one but there are some subtle common denominators to making the classic Caipirinha like a Brazilian that everyone in Brasil does.

 
On a beach it will most likely be made in a makeshift plastic container/shaker and served in a plastic cup.

But in a bar it will more likely be served in a small rocks glass.

The proportions will vary depending on the size of the cup or glass. We will be using an 8 oz rocks glass in the demonstration here.

I will only be giving rough quantities for the drink, they will vary according to glass since that is generally the way you regulate quantities….and it is a good way to get a feeling for making this without measuring tools…the natural or every day way!

An 8 oz rocks glass is perfect for 1 small cut up lime and one heaping tablespoon of fine sugar, ice and filled the rest of the way with cachaça. Let’s talk about sugar first.

SUGAR

The table sugar in Brasil is comparable to super fine, or “bar sugar” in the US. It melts and mixes easily. “Bar sugar” is kind of a lost item in American bars these days with the prevalent use of simple syrup that has taken its place. Regular table sugar in the US is a bit too coarse for making cocktails, and there is a real lack of general knowledge of bar sugar hence the reliance on simple syrup in cocktails here in the States. American table sugar grinds up what you want to muddle too much, and is also not nearly as soluble as the fine sugar.

I’ve seen many recipes that use brown or raw sugar. Brown or raw sugar are almost non-existent in Brasil and, although they make a rich Caipirinha and seem rustic, neither are or should be used in making a classic one.
 
Brasilians like things sweet. I like balance, but it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Adjust sweetness and tartness to your own taste, but be careful your adjustments overflow and imbalance the spirits.

Let’s talk about limes now.

LIMES

Regular Persian limes in Brasil tend to be smaller than in the US where they sometimes get as big as lemons. That large size can throw off your Caipirinha if you use a whole giant one in a small glass. So try to purchase medium to small limes. Always adjust to the size of glass. If you have a giant lime, use only half of it or 3/4 of it. You will have to use your own judgement here. It’s easy.

When buying limes, choose ones that are rounder and have smooth, thin skins, with hardly any dimples. These limes are juicier and give up their juice easier, there is less pith and less bitterness. The more elongated limes with dimpled skin tend to have very thick skins and interiors. They feel hard. This means less juice and makes the limes more difficult to juice as well. A few trips to the grocer and you will be able to verify the difference easily.

Notice the two limes pictured above. The top lime is elongated and dimpled. Inside the pith and skin are much more dominant, making the lime harder and less juicy. The one on the bottom is nearly spherical, and inside the pith and skin is hardly noticeable. It is full of juice.

CACHAÇA

Cachaça is made from sugar cane. It is a style of rum called rhum agricole. The most recognizable rum to most Americans is rhum industriale. Bacardi, Myer’s, Appleton Estate, Mount Gay etc..are all this style. The difference between them is that rhum industriale is distilled from molasses, a byproduct of sugar making, and rhum agricole is made from fermented cane juice. The flavors are completely different. In the French Carribbean, rhum agricole is used in a cocktail similar to the Caipirinha, Ti Punch, which is lime juice, cane syrup and rhum agricole.

 rhum agricole

There are many cachaças in the US market today. Some are old standards from the large industrial distilleries in Brasil like “51”, Pitu, and Velho Barreiro. There are also many home distilled or artisanal cachaças made all over Brasil that may have nothing more than a hand written label. There are also some larger artisanal brands of cachaça being produced now such as Novo Fogo and Sagatiba that are really bringin the level of taste and quality to new heights.

Finally we have the cachaças made for the US or international markets such as Cabana and Leblon. If you are at a beach or barzinho (bar-zeen-yo) or botequim (bo-che-keen) in Rio,  you will almost assuredly get one of the big national brands like “51” in your caiprinha. But there are bars in Brasil  where you can get amazing cocktails and caipirinhas or riffs on caipirinhas made with a huge array of different cachaças; aged, flavored, from different regions and in different styles..etc..

ICE

This drink is always made with cracked or chunks of ice. Clear bag ice from the grocery store is perfect. If you are using something like Kold Draft large format ice, then you will have to crack it. It is important that the ice melts some with the drink. The drink is muddled and built in the glass, then shaken and poured back into the glass or cup. It is important that your glass be FILLED with ice. This brings the temperature down fast with the perfect amount of melt and regulates the amount of spirits to top off the glass..

INGREDIENTS/TOOLS
8 oz Rocks Glass
Wooden muddler
1 Small Lime
1 Heaping Tblsp of Super Fine sugar
Ice to fill glass
Cachaça to fill glass
I prefer NOVO FOGO Cachaça

HOW TO CUT YOUR LIME FOR MUDDLING

This is a detailed step and almost always never done in the US. It really does make a big difference in taste, appearance and ease of muddling.

Your lime

Cut the ends off your lime

 Cut the lime lengthwise into quarters
 

 Cut the center white rib out of each quarter

 Cut the pieces into eighths

 Add to glass

 Add sugar to taste (2 regular spoons or a big tblspn)

 Muddle until sugar is dissolved and all juice extracted

Fill glass with ice

 Fill glass with cachaça

Pour contents into shaker and shake hard


Return all contents, unstrained, back to glass. Top with more ice if needed.
short straw

!!PARABENS!!
This is the classic Brazilian Caipirinha