Mince Pie Cognac

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Photo courtesy of Sarah, some rights reserved

 

Last year I put the decision between Christmas pudding or mince pie bourbon to a Twitter vote and Christmas Pudding Bourbon came out on top.  It was tasty, super sweet and full of festive flavour.

This year then, it is the turn of the humble mince pie to be boozified.  I’ve decided to infuse it into Cognac instead of bourbon and over the next four weeks I will use this to showcase four Christmas cocktail recipes.

As I suggested last year, the mince pie infusion is much easier to make, but in an attempt to help create a clearer, more easily filtered infusion, I have decided to follow a sous vide recipe.

  1. Add 500ml of good quality Cognac and 200g of store-bought mincemeat to a ziplock bag.  Expel all of the air and seal.
  2. Heat the sealed bag at 45°c for one hour (see my Sous Vide Syrup recipe for my home sous vide technique).
  3. Once the hour is up, place the sealed bag in the freezer overnight.
  4. Next morning strain and filter the mix and bottle.  Yum!
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Camomile Sour

Whiskey Sour by Paul Goyette, some rights reserved

There’s nothing better than a delicious accident.  I made camomile bourbon a while back, and, for some reason, decided to use it in a Camomile Manhattan.  Look, I was young, experimenting, and a little obsessed with Manhattans, I didn’t really know what I was doing.

Anyway, some months later, having run out of regular bourbon (shock-horror indeed). I tried the camomile-infused version in a Whiskey Sour.  What a revelation.  The lemon and the camomile sat so well together I now almost despair a little that I didn’t think of this in the first place.

So, making up for lost time, I heartily commend to you the Camomile Whiskey Sour:

  1. Add 9 tablespoons of camomile flowers to a bottle of bourbon.  Leave this to infuse for 24 hours and then strain and filter.
  2. Add a large measure of camomile bourbon, a measure of lemon juice, half a measure of sugar syrup and half a measure of egg white to a shaker.
  3. Fill the shaker 2/3 full of ice and shake well for twenty seconds.
  4. Strain into the mixing glass and then dry shake (no ice) for a further ten seconds.
  5. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a slice of lemon and a cherry.

Christmas in Manhattan

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Avid readers (hello mum!) will recall that last week we started infusing the guts of a Christmas pudding in some bourbon.  One week on and the infusion was ready to be strained, filtered and decanted into a bottle:

  1. Sieve the fruit from the bourbon and press down on the fruit to express as much liquid as possible.
  2. Filter the syrupy liquid through coffee filter papers and store in a clean bottle.

This has a longer shelf life than its taste will require.  In other words you will finish it before it spoils!  My first pour with the finished bourbon was a Christmas Manhattan (I think I might have overdone it!):

  1. Combine two measures of Christmas pudding bourbon, one measure of sweet vermouth, half a measure of Christmas Mulled Cup and two dashes of Teapot bitters in a mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and stir well for sixty seconds.
  3. Double strain into a chilled coupe.
  4. Finish with a spritz of Christmas tincture.

Christmas Tincture

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For me, nothing evokes the joy of Christmas like the smell of a Christmas tree (that and the smell of the Christmas box that stores my parents’ decorations for eleven months of the year, though I haven’t worked out how to bottle that yet).

The easiest way to capture aroma in a drink is to create a tincture – an alcoholic extract of a plant, or an intense and high (80-100% proof) alcohol infusion.

So once we’d purchased our Christmas tree this year I relieved it of one good size branch and then:

  1. Combine 60ml vodka in a small jar and add a handful of Christmas tree needle branches.
  2. Leave to infuse for 3-4 days.
  3. Remove the branches and bottle the tincture in a diffuser.

The finished tincture can be used to rinse glasses or glass stems or as a light spritz over the top of a finished drink – don’t over do it though, too much pine can be poisonous.

Christmas Pudding Bourbon

Photo courtesy of dannyasmith (Flickr), some rights reserved.

My aunt makes the best Christmas Pudding.  No, no arguments, it’s true.  So when I was trying to decide on a festive infusion and I threw the decision out to a Twitter vote between Christmas pudding and mince pies I was really hoping the pudding would win.  Granted a mince pie infusion would have been slightly easier (add mincemeat to bourbon and wait) but you can eat mince pies for pretty much an entire month or more, Christmas pudding is really only a once a year, or twice if you’re lucky, treat.

So once the decision was made – democratically – the next question was how to combine a Christmas pudding with a bottle of bourbon.  One option – following the 69 Colebrooke Row panettone bellini model – was to take a blender to a pudding and dissolve it as much as possible.  That required a whole pudding, so instead of starting at the end and deconstructing I opted to start with the ingredients and flavours of a Christmas pudding and build up.  To make 350ml (half a bottle of bourbon):

  1. Add 125g dark brown sugar, 50g mixed peel, 125g sultanas and 75g raisins to a mixing bowl.
  2. Grate the zest of half an orange into the bowl and add the juice.
  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon of almond essence, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice.
  4. Finally add a cinnamon stick, the scraped contents of a whole vanilla bean and 350ml bourbon.
  5. Stir well and cover the bowl. Leave in a cool place for about a week, stirring once a day.

At this stage, the brown sludge looks distinctly unappetising, but smells incredible: orange, vanilla and bourbon – perfect winter flavours.

After a week, strain the mixture through a fine sieve – mash it right down to get all the juices out (and retain the fruit as an accompaniment to vanilla ice cream) then filter through a coffee filter paper.  Store the infused bourbon in a clean bottle and it will keep for six months or so.

And serve..? You’ll have to wait til next week for that…

Earl Grey Syrup

Regular readers may have noticed that in the early days of this site I used a lot of tea. Mainly tea-infused vermouth, but also tea-infused bourbon. I stuck mainly to green tea, chai and peppermint, but deep down inside what I really wanted to make was an Earl Grey Old Fashioned. An Earl Grey Old Fashioned and an Earl Grey Martini. I tried the former on Earl Grey’s birthday, but found that using Earl Grey infused whiskey made the drink too bitter. The solution was simple. Earl Grey Syrup.

I have already explained the basics behind home-made simple syrup, and a tea-infused syrup is no more complicated than this, you just use tea instead of water.

My Earl Grey syrup was made like this:

  1. Soak a teaspoon of loose leaf Earl Grey tea in 200ml of warm water for an hour. You can use a bag if you must, but I used Jeeves and Jericho’s Earl of Grey (at least in part because I love the colour of the cornflower petals).
  2. Pour the tea into a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Leave the bag/loose tea in the pan.
  3. Add 100g of sugar and simmer for ten minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat. Double strain and pour into a clean (sterile) bottle.

The syrup should keep for about a month if refrigerated. If you add a dash of vodka to the bottle it will keep even longer.

Mint Julep

Photo courtesy of tsand, some rights reserved.

A standard and special edition of a classic bourbon drink to mark US National Bourbon Day (14 June), although let’s not forget Bourbon Heritage Month is still to come (September)!

The Mint Julep is a drink that is now synonymous with Bourbon-country, in particular Kentucky, and an estimated 120,000 are sold over the Kentucky Derby weekend alone.

The ‘Julep’ of the name refers to a sweet syrup drink, and is a corruption of the Arabic ‘julab’ for ‘rosewater’.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, a julep was any sweet fruity drink, commonly based with rum, brandy or whiskey.  Now, the only julep-class drink with any global reputation is the mint julep, but there are some signs of revival in the form of rum and berry-based julep drinks as well.

The popularisation of the Mint Julep is often attributed to English Royal Navy officer and later novelist Captain Frederick Marryat, who eulogised thus in his 1839 Diary in America:

“I must descant a little upon the mint julep, as it is, with the thermometer at 100, one of the most delightful and insinuating potations that was ever invented, and may be drunk with equal satisfaction when the thermometer is as low as 70… As the ice melts, you drink. I once overheard two ladies in the room next to me, and one of them said, ‘Well, if I have a weakness for any one thing, it is for a ‘mint julep!’ – a very amiable weakness, and proving her good sense and taste. They are, in fact, like the American ladies, irresistible.”

Today, the Mint Julep is best made with fresh spearmint leaves and pre-chilled shaker and glass.  The traditional julep cup is made of pewter to help it to retain its coldness.  Very important when the thermometer is at  100, or even 70 – less so when (as at present) it is barely touching 50 in mid-June Edinburgh.

Two words of caution before the recipe: it is important to discard the stem of the mint, as this will produce a bitter residue when muddled, and ensure that you are only bruising the mint leaves and not pummelling them to a bitter slush at the bottom of your cup.

Ready? Ok:

  1. Add five mint leaves and a barspoon of simple syrup to your julep cup (if you don’t have $1,000 julep cup to hand a highball glass is a suitable alternative).
  2. Muddle well, but be sure to only bruise and not crush the leaves.
  3. Add a large measure of whiskey.  Bourbon is traditional given the drink’s association with Kentucky, and Early Times Kentucky whiskey is the choice at the Kentucky Derby.
  4. Fill the glass with crushed ice.
  5. Stir and garnish with a pristine mint sprig or three.

For an even mintier alternative, consider peppermint bourbon, or for an added booze and sugar hit, float half a measure of golden rum on top of the built drink.