Holiday-Gin-and-Tonic

December 22nd – Holiday Gin and Tonic

For a long time Gin & Tonics were my mixed drink of choice. Somewhere along the way I kind of lost my taste for them, but I still, occasionally, find myself with a craving for one, especially on hot days, when that mix of gin, tonic and lime juice becomes the ultimate thirst quencher.

While this past month’s cocktails may not really show it, I am a big fan of traditional, classic cocktails. While I enjoy playing around with all sorts of ingredients, I also like the simplicity of many of the classics. Today’s cocktail is a reflection of that mind set. I start with a classic Gin and Tonic and simply replace the lime with orange and cranberry, leaving the drink, at heart, pretty much the same, but giving a slight nod to the holiday season. Both the orange and cranberry are pretty subtle in this drink, playing against the strong flavors of both the gin and the tonic. If you are not a Gin and Tonic fan this drink will not be for you, but if you like Gin and Tonics I think you will really enjoy this slight rift on the classic.

Holiday Gin and Tonic
1 drink

1 slice Orange
4 each Cranberries, fresh
2 oz. Gin
Tonic Water

In a highball glass gently muddle the orange and the cranberries, ensuring that the cranberries pop open. Fill the glass with ice then add the gin and tonic water. Give a gentle stir. This drink doesn’t really need a garnish as you can see the orange and cranberries in the drink, but if you want you can garnish with either an orange or lime wedge.

Ruby-Red-Cocktail

December 14th – The Ruby Red Cocktail

This is one cocktail that I wish I could take credit for, but actually I found the basic recipe over at merrygourmet.com. It was originally created as a Valentine’s Day cocktail, and with it’s pretty pink color I can see that, but I thought the flavors were perfect for a Christmastime cocktail and besides, I haven’t offered up a gin drink yet.

Now I know that gin isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I do have a few gin cocktails that are my go-to drinks for people who don’t like gin. This one isn’t necessarily one of them. My wife isn’t a gin fan, and while she claimed to like this cocktail I could tell it wasn’t her favorite. So if you really, really don’t like gin, you probably won’t like this drink, but if you enjoy gin, or don’t at least have an aversion to it, then I think you will like this cocktail.

American’s aren’t big fans of “bitter” when it comes to flavors. That’s probably one reason lots of people aren’t big fans of gin. With both gin and grapefruit juice, this cocktail has a decent bitter kick to it, but I really like that. I had originally added a dash or 2 of bitters to the recipe, but, even though I really liked it that way, I thought it made it too bitter for most people, but if you embrace the bitter then go ahead and add a dash of bitters to this drink. I tried it with both orange bitters and Angostura bitters and both added a bit more nuance to the drink.

The Ruby Red Cocktail
adapted from merrygourmet.com
1 drink

1 1/2 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
1 1/2 oz. Gin
1 1/2 oz. Cranberry Juice
1 1/2 oz. Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice
Lemon Twist for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add ingredients and shake until icy cold. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a Lemon Twist.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been in the gin mood. For the last year I’ve mainly been drinking rum and, my personal favorite, bourbon. But recently I was in a gin kind of mood. It was hot out, unseasonably hot. It was only the beginning of June but between the high heat and the lack of rain the grass, in our yard, has the brown, stunted look and sharp, prickly texture of August. I was in the mood for gin, but I didn’t want anything too heavy and aromatic and, for once in my life, wasn’t in the mood for a Gin & Tonic. Luckily I didn’t have to search far. The folks over at Sloshed! are a great resource for well crafted cocktails. A quick search of their gin drinks and I came across a drink called the “Florodora.” It was exactly what I was looking for. You can find their recipe here. The folks over at Sloshed! originally found the recipe in “Esquire Drinks” by David Wondrich. They slightly altered the recipe by using Ginger Beer instead of Ginger Ale, and I had to agree with their choice as I am a fan of the bite of Ginger Beer. Also, in the classic cocktail (this one has quite a history) they use a raspberry liqueur, but Sloshed changed it to raspberry syrup. Since I had raspberry syrup around this is what I went with. For a more decedant drink by all means use a raspberry liqueur like Chambord. I have also slightly altered the recipe further by increasing the amount of Raspberry Syrup since I am a sucker for anything “raspberry.”

I do hope you give this drink a try, even if you don’t like gin. Gin’s strong, piney, juniper taste is easily tamed by the sharp Ginger Beer and the floral and fruity qualities of the raspberry syrup. I truly believe that even if you are not a fan of gin you will like this one. Try it out and let me know!

The Florodora

makes 1 drink

2oz. Gin

1oz. Raspberry Syrup (homemade or higher quality product)

1/2 oz. Lime juice (fresh please, no bottled stuff)

Ginger Beer

Lime wedge

Fill a collins glass with ice. Pour in the gin, the raspberry syrup and the lime juice. Fill with ginger beer and garnish with a lime wedge. Give a quick stir just before drinking and be prepared to make another one as these go down quite easily!!!

In my long career, in the restaurant world, I’ve held most every position there is, from dishwasher and busboy to chef and manager and pretty much every job inbetween. While I have enjoyed cooking the most, my second favorite job has always been bartender. I love the interaction with the patrons and enjoyed the showy aspect of creating a good cocktail. I took pride in the drinks I poured and would handcraft each one.

While this country may be experiencing a “cocktail revolution” or “re-awakening” I still am disappointed by the number of bartenders that really have no clue about how to make a proper cocktail. To them, it’s just a matter of throwing some booze in a glass, adding a premade mixer, stirring it up and maybe adding some soda. There’s no thought behind how the drink is made and the general mindset seems to be “the stronger the better.” While this attitude seems to be changing, at least in the cities and at higher end places, it’s still business as usual at the vast majority of bars. That’s why I mostly drink beer. It’s pretty hard for a bartender to screw that up, but ask for something as simple as a Manhattan or Old Fashioned and all bets are off. And forget about any of the more complex drinks that require precision in measuring and a little technique. To most of today’s bartenders, the word jigger is a bad word and most would rather be dead than caught using the measuring device. Unfortunately though, well made cocktails need to be measured out. Without measuring there is virtually no way to get the proper balance a drink needs.

But even measuring doesn’t do much good when you add crappy ingredients to a cocktail. Bottled sour mix, OJ from frozen concentrate, and a whole host of packaged bar mixes might help to speed things along at busy bars, but they certainly have no place in the making of a good cocktail. It saddens me when I see someone order a margarita with a premium tequila only to watch the bartender ruin it by using a bottled mix instead of fresh juice.

That said, today I was playing around with cocktails at home. I had this crazy idea that I wanted to come up with a way to combine gin and fresh tarragon, one of the first herbs to come up in my herb garden. There wasn’t much out there, on the web or in any of my cocktail books to guide me in combining these two items so I was on my own. Grapefruit seemed like a natural way to bridge the gap as grapefruit pairs well with tarragon and all citrus fruits pair well with gin. I then needed a sweetener. Grenadine would work perfectly in this aspect, providing sweetness, flavor, and a little color to the cocktail, but I refused to use the store bought stuff as it tastes nasty and has no resemblance to pomegranate, which is what grenadine was originally made from. So I decided to make my own.

Homemade Grenadine

12oz POM pomegranate juice
12oz sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a large container with a tight fitting lid. Shake the mixture until your arms feel like they are going to fall off. Allow to settle for about 30 minutes and if there is undissolved sugar settling on the bottom, repeat the shaking process. Continue until all sugar is dissolved. Store, tightly covered in the refrigerator. Will last for about 3-4 weeks.

Once that was solved I decided I wanted to give my cocktail an old fashioned look and texture to it. I wanted a nice foam to top the cocktail and I wanted it to have a nice velvety texture to it. There is only one way to achieve the look and feel I wanted-raw egg white. Okay, I know what you are thinking, “Gross!!!” but egg whites have been used for years in cocktails, and trust me, by the time the cocktail has been properly shaken you won’t even know it is there.Many drinks relied on egg whites, the most familiar being the Ramos Gin Fizz and the whole family of Sours (Pisco Sour, Whiskey Sour, etc.). Nowadays, bottled sour mixes achieve that foaming action through the used of chemicals and additives. I think I’d rather take my chances with the raw egg white. If you are worried about food poisoning you can always use pasteurized egg whites but let’s look at the reality. Statistics say that about 1 in 20,000 eggs is infected with salmonella. That means you have a 20 times greater chance of dying by drowning, 4 times better chance of dying by choking on your food, and a 3 times better chance of dying from a slip and fall, than you do from contracting salmonella. Even then, if you are a healthy adult the chances of actually contracting the illness is even much slimmer. But again, I urge you to try this cocktail using the egg white, even if it is pasteurized. It is just not the same without it.

I have titled this drink “The Dragon’s Tongue Cocktail” as an old name for tarragon is Dragon’s Wort. Make sure you go lightly on the tarragon. It is an assertive herb and can easily overpower the other flavors in this drink.

Dragon’s Tongue Cocktail

2 oz. Gin (I used Tanqueray)
4 oz. grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 oz. homemade grenadine
1 small sprig tarragon (3-4 leaves)
1 egg white

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add ingredients and shake for at least 1 minute. Don’t skimp on the shaking as it is this shaking that will create the lovely foam that sits on top of the drink. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and serve.

Years ago, when I attended New England Culinary Institute there was a little, local distillery that made a cucumber flavored gin. We had discovered it by accident, but I was glad we had as it made the greatest Gin & Tonics I had ever tasted. While the juniper flavor was still there it didn’t overpower and the combination of the cucumber, lime and tonic created a wonderfully refreshing beverage meant for chasing the heat of summer away. Veranda Gin was well ahead of its time. It was one of the few well crafted gins being created in small batches and using flavors beyond juniper to give their drink a unique taste all its own. Today many distilleries are experimenting with gin and flavors besides juniper, but it took them 10 years to catch up to what Vermont Distillers had created. Unfortunately, I believe that Vermont Distillers no longer exists as I’ve spent a number of hours searching the web to find any information on them. Most references I find are dated from the mid 1990′s and earlier. I had never forgotten those Gin & Tonics though and over the years I have perfected my own cucumber accented Gin & Tonic, which I happily share with you all.

Cucumber Juice
1 1/2 Cucumbers
2 Tbsp. Water

Peel the whole cucumber, but leave the 1/2 cucumber unpeeled. Roughly chop and place in a blender along with the water. Blend until as smooth as possible (about 1 minute). Strain through a fine mesh strainer pressing down on the pulp to extract as much liquid as possible. Depending on your cucumbers this should yield approximately 2 cups-plenty for a night of drinking with friends and then some unless you’re a lush like me!

Summertime Gin & Tonic
1 1/2 oz. Gin (preferably one with a little less juniper flavor such as Plymouth’s or Tanqueray 10)
2 oz. Cucumber Juice
2 wedges Lime (cut into 1/8th)
Tonic Water

Fill a tall Collins glass with ice. Add the gin and cucumber juice. Squeeze 1 wedge of lime into the glass and drop the lime in also. Fill with tonic water and garnish with the additional lime, allowing your guest to add more lime flavor if they want.

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