Saturday, May 21, 2011

3 New Ways to Gussy Up Your Booze

This past week's weather was rainy and generally crap, so I got to daydreaming about sipping cocktails outside at 8pm while the sun was still up.  Soon enough,  I know!  But until then, I will enthusiastically drink indoors and at least try to make it more interesting.

What I have on hand:  cheap whiskey, nice gin, cheap red wine

is turned into: Easy Mint Juleps, Raw Ginger Gimlets, Poor Lady's Sangria

by making fridge staples for rapid cocktail preparation: Mint Simple Syrup, Raw Ginger-Lime Cordial, random bits of fruit

Mint Simple Syrup
Never make a drink that requires muddling?  Fear not, I hate it too and refuse to do any more work for a drink beyond opening and pouring (even corkscrews are a stretch).  Infusing the mint into the simple syrup gives it a great flavor without the mess of muddling or the green bits sticking in your teeth.

Makes 300mL, enough for 10 drinks
Total time: Overnight (Active time 5 minutes)
  • 1 cup (225g) sugar
  • 1 cup (240mL) water
  • 3/4 bunch of fresh mint (reserve remainder for garnish)
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Rub the bunch of mint between your hands (bruising it) and add to the saucepan.  When the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from heat.  When completely cool, transfer to the fridge to sit overnight.  Strain out mint leaves before using.

Easy Mint Julep
This is the ratio I like, not too sweet or over-the-top bourbony, but feel free to tinker to taste here.  Most recipes don't include club soda, but I find it gives a much needed lift to a potentially syrupy drink.

Makes 1 drink
  • 3 big ice cubes
  • 1 oz (30mL) Mint Simple Syrup
  • 2 oz (60mL) bourbon/whiskey
  • 2-3 mint leaves
  • club soda
Pour Mint Simple Syrup and bourbon over ice in a lowball glass (or, fine, a plastic tumbler, though it's not what Don Draper would do).  Bruise mint leaves between your hands to release flavor and add to the glass.  Swirl it all around and top with club soda.

Image via Nytimes Magazine

Raw Ginger Lime Cordial
I do everything the New York Times tells me to when it comes to drinks, for better or for worse.  This beats the pants off of Rose's - more tart and spicy, less sweet with a darker, less nuclear color.   You could also use this mix for an excellent margarita.

Adapted from The New York Times Magazine
Makes 250mL, enough for 6-8 drinks
Total time: 48 hours (Active time 20 minutes)
  • 4 large limes
  • 1/2 cup (115g) sugar
  • 3.5 oz (30g) fresh ginger
Rinse the limes in warm water and dry.  Remove the zest using a microplane or vegetable peeler, leaving as much of the white pith as possible.  Juice the limes into a non-reactive container with a lid (I used a glass jar formerly containing peanut butter).  You should have between 3/4-1 cup of juice.  Grate the ginger using a microplane* and add to the jar along with the zest and sugar.

Cap the jar and give it a good shake.  Allow the mixture to sit for 24 hours in the fridge.  Strain the zest and ginger using a fine mesh strainer.  Let the cordial sit for another 24 hours to cure before using.

*To save yourself at least 15 minutes, blisters, and swearing, the original recipe recommends chunking the ginger and liquefying it in a food processor with some of the lime juice.

Raw Ginger Gimlet
Makes 1 drink
  • 3 big ice cubes
  • 1 oz (30mL) Raw Ginger Lime Cordial
  • 2 oz (60mL) gin
  • lime wedge
 Pour cordial and gin over ice, stir, and squeeze a big lime wedge to serve.

Sangria image via Epicurious (the real thing didn't last long enough for a photo)

Poor Lady's Sangria
This isn't a recipe so much as an impressive concoction I threw together to make a $5 awful bottle of wine taste sensational.  The underlying lesson is don't give up hope on your skunky Little Penguin - you just may have the right tools to fix it in the fridge.  If you don't have time to make the simple syrup, a few tablespoons of sugar/honey/maple syrup would also do the trick.

Makes 1-6 drinks
  • 1 bottle of cheap red wine (do not pay more than $8) 
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 orange
  • a few chunks of cantelope
  • 1 oz (30mL) Mint Simple Syrup (or to taste)
 Pour the bottle of wine into a large pitcher.  Add the juice of the lime and orange, then cut the fruit into thin slices and add to the pitcher along with the cantelope.  Start with 1 oz (30mL) of simple syrup, taste, and keep adding until it tastes like something from the local cantina.

1 comment:

  1. I think you may have solved my mojito problem! Every time I make them, they're not minty enough. Definitely going to make up some of the mint simple syrup for next time!