Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sage wisdom

Holy crap, you guys. Look at what I just got in the mail.

Sage

The fine, fine folks over at Art in the Age (AITA) were gracious enough to send me a bottle of this absolutely outstanding spirit since I can’t seem to find it anywhere here in Savannah just yet.

I was already a huge fan of Art in the Age before this whole experience. Snap and Root are an absolute fixture in this Savannah household, and I’ve raved about AITA’s wares before. I honestly didn’t think that it was possible that I’d like Sage better than my beloved Snap or Root…I’m such a fan of both that I figured Sage would be fantastic, but it might not quite live up.

Well it lived up, and then some. I think it’s the best thing that AITA has produced. They classify it as a “garden gin” which apparently means “gin on steroids.” Tasty, tasty steroids. I mean, just listen to this incredible list of ingredients:

Neutral Spirit, Elderberry, Pine, Black Tea, Rose, Dry Orange Peel, Cubeb, Angelica, Sage, Lavender, Spearmint, Dandelion, Thyme, Sumac, Rosemary, Licorice Root and Fennel

It’s fantastic for sipping – complex, intense, with an amazing fennel finish, all without being too in your face. I’m incredibly impressed.

And lordy, does it do well in a cocktail. I imagine there will be many Sage cocktails in this blog’s future, but for now, I think I really hit a home run with this first one.

Saged to PerfectionSour Sage Gimlet

*3 parts Sage
*1 part St. Germain
*2 parts fresh-squeezed lemon juice
*1 part Simple & Spicy (click on the link for the easy recipe)

Shake that all up with a few cubes of ice and you’ll be in Sage heaven. I was almost going to call this “Saged to Perfection” but ultimately, I didn’t think that a terrible play on words did this drink – and Sage – the justice it deserves.

Now, I know some of you purists out there are going to make the note that a gimlet technically is made with lime juice. But I found that lemon juice works better here, and I’m sticking to my guns.

Anyway, try it. It’s really terrific. And dammit, go out and buy some Art in the Age spirits! I cannot recommend them highly enough. Special thanks to Allison from Quaker City Mercantile – the company behind AITA. She really went out of her way to be accommodating and all around awesome when I asked for a Sage sample. I loved AITA before, and now I basically won’t be shutting up about how fantastic the company is for a long long time. So please support them!

Until next time folks.

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Brunch impressions

We all love a good mimosa, right?! And brunch too, yes? I actually lament the loss of amazing two-brunch weekends in New York more than almost anything since I moved here to Savannah. Of course, I’m sitting on my porch swing, writing this in 70 degree weather, so I suppose I can’t complain too much.

Anyway, back to brunch! Again, mimosas are great. But I feel like this classic cocktail might need a robust makeover. I call it “Mimosa Squared”. Simple, yes, but to the point as well. And damn if it isn’t fantastic.

Mimosa Squared

Mimosa Squared

*3 parts prosecco
*1 part bourbon
*1 part orange juice (fancy oj, please!)
*1 part ginger beer (I know, I know…I’m obsessed)
*Dash of plum bitters

Seriously…it’s awesome. And if you ever host a brunch, it’s guaranteed to knock the socks off of all of your friends. That’s an Amateur Cocktailer guarantee, dammit. And the great thing is, it’s not just for brunch. It works for dinner parties too! And casual social gatherings. And really, whenever. It’s delicious in any situation. But it’s especially special for brunch, so just go with it.

That’s all for now. Back tomorrow for more!

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Warming up

It’s actually a little chilly and fairly overcast today here in the Hostess City – a rarity these days to be sure – so I’m going where the weather takes me.

This particular cocktail – I call it “Long Winter” – is guaranteed to warm your soul a little in these fading days of winter. It’s packed with not one but two ginger-flavored delicacies and topped off with some plum bitters, all of which are meant to leave you with a toasty feeling inside. And yes, I’m aware that I’m obsessed with ginger beer. It’s okay guys. It’s delicious, so don’t worry about me. Here how to make this toasty treat.

Long Winter

Long Winter

*2 parts Snap (you guys really need to check this stuff out – completely delicious)
*1 part Pimm’s No. 1
*1 part apple juice (whatever you do, use the fancy stuff)
*2 parts ginger beer
*Dash of plum bitters (don’t go overboard!)

Shake all of that tasty, toasty stuff up together – except for the ginger beer of course – and then top it off with the ginger beer. I really dig this one.

Also, in the spirit of keeping promises, I’m finally ready to post my glorious rice ball recipes!! It finally happened guys – I fried something in a pot on my stove, and I didn’t even give myself a 3rd-degree burn! For those of you who know me well, this is a serious accomplishment. I’m quite the clumsy fellow. And it’s a good thing too – the missus won’t let me buy a fry-daddy. Which, I suppose, is really for the best.

Here’s a little sneak peek of what’s in store:

Fried Rice Ball

I’m so proud of these little guys!

I’ll be back next week with rice balls in tow. And a better name for them than “rice balls” – I still experience a combination of snickering and feeling uncomfortable every time I say that phrase.

Have great weekends, y’all!!

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Brewing history

Something a little different here today at the ol’ blog. I recently picked up some of this tasty stuff at my local market.


New Albion Ale

To be honest, I only bought it because I was seduced by the packaging. I’m a slave to marketing, dammit!! I also like to try anything new that comes across my vision, but mostly, I’m a corporate puppet.

ANYwho…luckily for me, the guy who works at the local market is quite friendly and quite knowledgable about all things beer. He gave me a little history lesson on this particular concoction, and after a little more research, I realized that I am currently in possession of a really cool piece of microbrewing history.

The story goes like this. In 1976, in the beautiful hills of Sonoma, CA, Jack McAuliffe created what is widely considered to be the first modern microbrewery – New Albion Brewing Company. Here’s Jack, back in the day, in all his glory.

Jack McAuliffe

Sadly, Jack was way ahead of his time, and the New Albion Brewing Company brewed it’s final batch of delicious ale in November of 1982, and subsequently folded…but not before Jack could inspire a whole host of beer enthusiasts who carried on his legacy and created the craft beer sensation that we are lucky enough to witness today.

One of those enthusiasts was Jim Koch, founder of Samuel Adams, which I assume you’ve all heard of. Luckily for us, Jim decided it was about damn time to honor Jack’s work properly, and has re-released the New Albion Ale with Jack’s blessing. It’s the first time this beer has seen the light of day in 30 years! And I gotta say, it’s absolutely worth the wait. It’s pretty light – lighter than the average ale, I’d say – but totally delicious and has a great hint of citrus on the back end. I really really like it.

So kudos to Mr. Jack McAuliffe for his amazing vision and contribution to vastly improving our beer situation here in the US. And kudos as well to Mr. Jim Koch. I love that he still has such a passion for his craft after all these years. Here are these two awesome gents together!

Jack and Jim

Granted, Jack looks a little ornery in this photo, but we’ll forgive him. Go pick up some New Albion Ale today!

Until next time, folks.

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Bacon grease, personified

Like many people, I love bacon. Holy crap, do I love it. I mean, it’s bacon! Come on.

The issue is…what the hell do you do with the bacon grease after you’ve cooked it? Sure, you can make a bacon bomb if you’re crazy enough, but most people just put it in a can and then toss it.

In an effort to maximize the deliciousness of bacon, I decided to try my hand at making something out of that totally tasty fat that usually goes to waste. For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to call it lardon, even though it’s technically not, and the Frenchies may very well come after me for it.

Now, this isn’t just any old lardon. You know I love to get fancy with it. So first, you’re gonna make some brussels sprout puree. Here’s the deal:

Brussels Sprout PureeBrussels Puree

*Brussels sprouts – about 10 medium sized sprouts
*Garlic – 2 cloves
*1/2 yellow onion

Take all of that goodness and chop it up in a food processor as finely as possible, like you see over here to the right. Don’t be afraid to go to town with the food processor. The brussels can take it.

Next, sauté that shiz over medium heat. You might want to throw a little bit of water in the pan with it, but it’s also okay if you get the puree a little brown. Just adds to the taste, really. Still, I used a non-stick pan just to avoid serious burnage.

Brussels Puree cooking

Cook that for about 10 minutes and then set aside. Honestly, this is going to make a lot more puree that you’re going to need for the lardon, but it’s delicious on it’s own, so there are plenty of uses you can find for it. I combined the extra with some farro and it was pretty damn tasty.

Now it’s bacon time.

I used thick cut bacon because, a) it’ll give you more grease, and b) it’s more delicious, and you’re gonna want to eat a few of those delicious strips yourself, right?!

Bacon Cooking

I don’t think you’re going to need much instruction on this particular portion of the evening. Take a few strips of bacon, toss them in a pan, and cook them. Pretty simple. I used 8 full strips of thick-cut bacon so I’d have a decent about of grease to work with. So once you’ve cooked your bacon, you should have a pan of mouth-watering bacon grease.

Bacon grease

Take that and dump into a clean pan. Scoop about 1/3 of a cup of the brussels puree into the bacon grease, and give it a good stir. You should get something that looks about like this.

Bacon and brussels

Now you’re ready to let all that goodness congeal. I used a cute little mason jar that we have around the house and poured the whole shebang into it.

IMPORTANT – once you’ve poured it into the jar, you’re not quite done. You’re definitely going to have to keep your eye on this stuff. The puree tends to sink to the bottom of the jar, so you’re gonna have to stir it once and a while to bring the puree back up to the surface. All in all, it’ll take about an hour to congeal, and you’ll need to stir it a handful of times. If you play it right, you should come out with this.

Bacon brussels lardon

It’s not a whole lot, but a little of it goes a loooong way. I’m pretty excited about it. It may just become my secret ingredient for making things extra delicious. Just don’t tell anyone.

Until next time!

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Lemons into lemonade

Hey y’all!!

I’m finally back in our beloved new hometown, and ready to ply you guys with more delicious food and beverage than you could ever want.

I’ve realized that, somehow, I always end up posting a cocktail on Mondays. Not quite sure why that is, but hey, it’s a good way to start the week, right?!

So, a few days ago, I was doing this, courtesy of our lovely friends over at Boozed & Infused:

Limoncello Infusing

I tweaked the recipe just a little bit. I often find that limoncello is WAY too sweet. Alicia at Boozed & Infused specifically mentioned that this recipe was much more tart than the normal limoncello fare, but I wanted to err markedly on the side of tart, so I cut down a little bit on the sugar. Here’s what I came up with.

Limoncello (in the style of Boozed & Infused)

*1 750 ml bottle of Vodka (I used Tito’s – seriously, I defy you to find a vodka this good for the price)
*9 lemons
*3/4 cups of white sugar

Juice the lemons completely – I set aside the lemon juice in a container for mixing in other cocktails – and then drop them in the vodka in a sealable container. Add the sugar and stir carefully – you don’t want to squeeze the lemons very much. Seal the container. While this is all infusing, you’ll want to turn the container upside down a few times to mix up the sugar and help it dissolve. You’ll want to leave everything infusing for at least a few days – you’ll be able to see when the sugar has completely dissolved.

Once it’s done, pick out the lemons carefully and then strain the excess pulp floating in there – I used the mesh from my French press to do so. Finally, put it back in the vodka bottle from whence it came, and you’ll get this!

Homemade limoncello

Guys…it’s REALLY fantastic. The perfect combo of sweet and tart. Definitely going to be a fixture in this Savannah household.

Now, it’s perfectly good on it’s own, of course. But the committee of one here at The Amateur Cocktailer isn’t satisfied until a delicious cocktail has been created. So here’s a particularly good one. I call it “The Two Timer” – it’s tart and sweet, all at the same time, especially with the chocolate bitters in the mix.

The Two TimerThe Two Timer

*2 parts limoncello
*1 part Pimm’s No. 1
*2 parts apple juice
*1 part grapefruit juice
*1 part seltzer
*Dash of chocolate bitters

Honestly, I think you’re going to be seeing a lot of limoncello cocktails here on the ol’ blog in the near future – I really love how it works in a drink.

And I haven’t forgotten about the rice balls I mentioned a while back…still tweaking and perfecting. I should have them down by the end of the week! Until next time.

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Simply delicious

Just a quick one here while I’m still off galavanting in Atlanta. Although I’m not really galavanting. Kind of just strolling. But I felt like galavant and Atlanta together had a nice ring to it.

ANYwho, before I left Savannah, I whipped up this delicious little simple syrup recipe.

Simple Syrup Jar

It’s spicy, sweet and totally tasty. I haven’t tried it in any cocktails yet, but that’s coming soon, I promise. Here’s how to whip it up.

Simple & Spicy

*1/2 cup white sugar
*1/2 cup water (filtered, preferably)
*1 tsp cumin
*1 tsp ground ginger
*15 drops of Sriracha

Heat the sugar and water in a small pot until the sugar dissolves. Throw in the cumin, ginger and Sriracha, and just simmer for as long as you please. The more simmering you do, the more the spices will infuse the syrup. When you’re satisfied, take it off the heat and let it cool – you might want to give it a few stirs while it’s cooling – and then store it in the fridge in your favorite container. I, for one, love how it looks in those adorable Bonne Maman jars.

Simple Syrup Sealed

That’s it! Super easy and super delicious. I’m off to the Sweetwater Brewery in a little while. Who doesn’t love brewery tours?! Until next time.

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A magical place

Hello there, loyal readers. Apologies for being off the blog train for a few days. My travels to Atlanta have been a little busier than I expected, and involved helping a woman on the street who was having a seizure and making a fantastic sort-of-Ethiopian meal with some lovely friends. Who knew Atlanta was so full of adventure?!

The biggest moment of my trip so far, however, was an absolute revelation called Your Dekalb Farmers Market. Holy crap, you guys. This place is HUGE.

Dekalb Farmers Market

This photo doesn’t even begin to do it justice. It’s 140,000 freaking square feet!! It has all the produce, spices, dry goods, coffee, cheese, and especially meat that you could ever want. I’ve legitimately never seen anything like it in my entire life. Check out these spices and grains I picked up!

Spices

13 different spices, plus some lentils and some farro, all for a grand total of $21.39. Unbelievable. I mean, look at this.

Ground Fennel

Ground fennel for 45 cents! I was so giddy and overwhelmed that I sort of just wandered around in the absolute grandeur for a while. I could probably spend 3 hours there.

After grumbling about how we don’t have one of these in Savannah (hell, there closest thing in New York is Fairway, and it’s not even that close), my wonderful Atlanta friends and I went off to cook our Ethiopian meal. It ended up being fairly NOT Ethiopian, but it WAS totally delicious. Curried lamb. Roasted beets in beet glaze, lamb fat and onion reduction sauce. Fried and baked quail in pear and shallot sauce. Roasted yucca and purple sweet potatoes. Mmmmmmmmmmm. Cooking with friends is really one of the great pleasures in life.

Anywho, I’m off to do some schmoozing, but I’ll be back tomorrow to finish off the week. Fennel cocktails are definitely coming in the near future. Woo! Until next time.

Two dogs and some Scotch

The other day, I was sitting in my office doing some work, when I happened to look up and see two adorable dogs running down my street. It didn’t look as though anyone was actually following them, so as a good Baldwin Park resident, I put on some shoes and ran out to investigate. Next thing I know, I’m chasing these little guys down so they don’t get hit by a car, and they end up being the newest residents of 308 E 41st for a little while. Here they are, looking particularly cute on my couch.

Dawgs

Fast forward to a few hours later, when, through the wonders of Facebook, I managed to find the dog owners. Sad as I was to see these little guys go, it was such a relief to find the owners, and to realize how absolutely ridiculous the world of social media is.

The owner, Maja, was kind enough to bring me a bottle of Scotch to thank me for the whole ordeal. Thanks Maja! Of course, I had to make a cocktail with some scotch to honor the experience.

Scotch

Amazingly enough, The New Yorker ran an article about a Scotch distillery on the Isle of Islay in the last issue. Everything seems to be coming up Scotch these days. So a Scotch cocktail was clearly in order.

Isle of IslayIsle of Islay

*2 parts Scotch (this Tomatin that Maja brought me is quite lovely)
*1 part Bauchant (or Grand Marnier)
*2 parts apple juice
*1 part grapefruit juice
*1/2 part fresh squeezed lemon juice
*Dash of aromatic bitters

This is my first experience making a cocktail with Scotch, and I have to say, I might be hooked. Some people might feel it’s blasphemous, but I say no. Scotch is fantastic on it’s own, but it also deserves its rightful place in the mixed drink world. And this cocktail above is a great start.

On another note, I am currently taking a page from the world of the lovely blog, Boozed and Infused, and infusing myself some limoncello.

Limoncello Infusing

If you haven’t seen Alicia’s blog, it’s full of incredible booze infusions that I can’t wait to test out. I’ll report back on the limoncello – I’m expecting deliciousness.

I’m off to Atlanta for the rest of the week. I’m planning on keeping the blog going during my trip – I’m not quite sure what my posts will entail, but I have a feeling they’ll have a lot to do with eating awesome stuff in the greater Atlanta area. Happy Monday, everyone! I’ll be back soon.

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In honor of Vern

My friend Kate just lost her dear friend and life partner, Vern – this is him in some very fetching sunglasses.

VernKate asked me to make a drink in honor of her feline companion, and I’m more than happy to oblige. I never actually met the fellow, but he was practically a Facebook institution and certainly deserves a proper eulogy. And what better way to honor the guy than with a cocktail! I’m sure Vern would approve.

The VernThe Vern

*2 parts Pimm’s No. 1
*1 part St. Germain
*2 parts ginger beer
*1/2 part fresh squeezed lemon juice

It’s tart and tasty, just like Vern. Actually, it’s one of my favorite drinks I’ve made in a while, so I think it’s a perfect way to send Vern off. Kate – come visit us here in Savannah. I promise to make you a bunch of these.

Until next week folks. And for those of you in the Northeast, stay warm! Or just come move down here. We’ve got plenty of room.

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