I Still Need a Still…

img_6564Yesterday I saw this little gem in the 50% off cart at the bookstore. The opening chapter makes it seem like distilling one’s own spirits is a breeze!

While I most certainly am looking forward to creating liquor from scratch, that day lies waiting somewhere in the future. Coming up early next week, however, is a overview on the result of my first attempt at making 11 different varieties of Cocktail Blueberries!

The closing chapter of this book has a wide array of cocktail recipes that I believe would translate quite nicely into drinks made with whiskey, rum, and vodka infusions for anyone looking to jazz up their next holiday party!

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Fancy Sugar Cubes

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• 1/4 Cup- Sugar

• 1/2 tsp- Water

  1. Mix sugar and water until it reaches an even consistency.
  2. Press mixture into molds (I picked up these 1/2 cube trays in the candle-making section at the craft store) and let sit at room temperature overnight.

Now for a tasty twist on this classic try using fruit juice or muddling fresh fruit and/or herbs into the sugar for flavored sugar cubes.

Here I muddled fresh Mint Leaves into Pomegranate Juice. Stay tuned for a Pomegranate-Mint Rum Old Fashioned!

Strawberry Vodka à la Spoon!

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Step 1: Infuse Vodka with sliced Strawberries!

  • Slice up enough strawberries to fill your container HALF WAY.
    • Whether you use a 106 oz. jar like I did below, or an 8 oz. mason jar fill it half way with SLICED Strawberries, and then TOP with Vodka
  • Let sit 5 days, flip it over daily, and then strain out the strawberries

Step 2: Add Gelatin

  • In order to avoid cooking out the alcohol add your STRAINED Strawberry Vodka to a cold pot, THEN turn heat to medium.
  • Add 1/3 of the recommended amount of Unflavored Gelatin, and stir constantly
  • As soon as small bubbles begin to form at the bottom of the pot TURN OFF heat, and continue to stir until gelatin disappears.

Step 3: Set the Vodka Gel

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  • Portion Strawberry Vodka with Unflavored Gelatin into bucket glasses
  • Allow to set until firm in fridge with 3 oz. shot glasses placed into center of each bucket glass
  • When Gel is firm, remove 3 oz. shot glasses to reveal a void through the center of the Strawberry Vodka Gel
    • Pouring hot water into the 3. oz shot glasses can help loosen them and make for a more clean removal!

 

Step 4: Add Whipped Cream Through Center and Over Top to Taste!

  • I whipped Heavy Whipping Cream with Vanilla Extract and Crême de Menthe, then piped it all the way down and over top with a Pastry Bag, but your preferred delivery system (including spray can if you’ve already waited long enough!) will do nicely.

Enjoy!

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How Sailors of Old Shaped Contemporary Drinking Habits

18th Century Sailors_Drinking_sc_579x325_bg_whiteWe tend to love stories about and insight into our drinks when we sit down to enjoy a few. In that vein, I’ve found some fun stories about how sailors in the olden days—both pirate and legitimate alike—have influenced the way in which drinks are enjoyed to this day.

SUGAR CANE was introduced to the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus, from which rum ultimately came to be distilled.

SPICED RUM resulted from impatient sailors receiving rations of high-proof and unaged rum. Instead of choking down the rum equivalent of rum-moonshine, they opted to enliven it with spices.

RUM AND COKE: let’s face it, it’s rum with a pile of sugar and garnished with a lime. In 1740 British Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon for some reason decided that taking sailors into battle who had been issued rum-moonshine wouldn’t be as effective as if their rum-rations were diluted with water. To make this rum & water more palatable he suggested adding sugar and lime. This sweetened & lime flavored rum concoction took on his nickname and came to be called “Grog”.

JUNGLE JUICE is descended from grog that evolved into punch when sailors returned to Europe. In France they spiked it with brandy, in Holland and England it was gin, and back to rum again when the British navy took over the West Indies.

GIN AND TONIC actually originates in preventative medicine. Quinine is the ingredient in tonic water that makes it taste different from soda water. It also helped the British navy ward off malaria in the tropics. When you combine this with the limes that also helped them prevent scurvy—along with the fun of drinking gin—you get history’s first gin & tonic!

There you have it. Several cocktail staples ubiquitous in bars throughout the world today can trace their roots to the daily life of 18th century tall ship sailors.

Strawberry Bourbon

img_5642Forget the sweet flavored spirits out there. What a day like today calls for is a nice whisky-forward drink. 

Strawberry Bourbon:

  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 3 cups Bourbon
  1. Soak strawberries in Bourbon 3-5 days then strain out the fruit. 
  2. Mix with lemonade muddled with basil. 
  3. Serve over ice. 

Happy Father’s Day, dads!

Foray into Cocktail Culture

Dessert_Whipped Cream Vodka_06Two birds with one stone: I would earn a little food-&-drink money and strike an item off my bucket list. That is why I started bartending at a one of the eight bars near campus. At $2 for a light beer and $2.50 for a flavored Bacardi & diet we were among the more expensive bars in the area—which means that fancy techniques and exotic ingredients were not on the docket. Regardless, I fell in love with the craft, and came to realize that a career in landscape architecture was never going to satisfy me like a career making people happy through booze.

I made the move to downtown Champaign, Illinois in search of a more challenging bar program; where the entire kitchen was at my disposal to experiment with and create syrups, infusions, jellies, rimmers, and anything else that could result in a feature cocktail. At the student-bar I unlocked my passion for getting inside someone’s head, and finding the perfect drink for them—here I honed it.

No longer satisfied with the limitation of whatever traffic that walks through the door of a restaurant, I now endeavor to reach out to a wider audience to display my passion, offer my services, and most of all to learn. Cocktail culture is vast, vibrant, ever-evolving, delicious; and becoming immersed in it is the most exciting journey of my life. Through everything I have learned and continue to learn, here is what I have to say.