I’ll Have Another

I’ll Have Another seems an appropriate name for the horse we picked to win today’s Kentucky Derby.  Not only are the odds good, but this is also our motto, as in  “Yeah, sure.  I’ll have another.”  Especially when it’s a Mint Julep.  Some would say, and I might agree, that in Spring it’s time to put down the brown liquor and pick up the white.  But, today proves different.  Today, is the day to throw caution to the wind, wear a huge hat, and drink from a pewter cup filled with bourbon, mint and sugar.  Oh, and crushed ice.  It’s probably the most important part, and not to be forgotten.

The Unadulterated Mint Julep

Chill a silver or pewter cup, either with ice or by leaving it in the freezer for an hour or so.

2 1/2 oz. Bourbon

1/2 oz. Simple Syrup

8 Mint Leaves

Crushed Ice (this can be done in a food processor or in a plastic bag with a hammer)

Muddle mint and simple in the chilled julep cup.  Add Bourbon and top with crushed or pebble ice.  Swizzle and garnish with mint leaves.

Drink and repeat.

Put this on your Honey Do List

Even though the weather has turned cool,  and the first few leaves are blushing with color, there a few things from summer clinging on.  Melons.  I love them, but I can’t grow them.  I’ve tried.  So, when I see them at the Farmer’s Market I kind of go crazy.  This cocktail was inspired by an especially good honeydew I picked up at the Winooski Farmer’s Market (Misery Loves Co. has a stand set up here too…come and visit us!).  This melon was so juicy that  only about a quarter was needed for cocktails, the rest we saved and ate with ribbons of iberico jam.  Actually, it went really well with the Honey Do and I highly recommend you serve them together (even if it’s just for yourself).

Honey Do

 

Honey Do

1 oz. Vodka

1/2 oz. Aquavit…this really makes the drink, so try and find it.  It’s a Scandinavian spirit made from caraway and star anise.  It’s amazing.

Juice of 1/2 a Lemon

1/4 oz. Mint Simple Syrup

2 oz. Honeydew Juice (throw it through your juicer, or blender and strain)

Shake all ingredients with ice and serve up in a coup glass.  Garnish with lemon zest.

Good For You

 

 

My friend, Mike Dunn, a bartender at the Monkey House in Winooski presented me with a cocktail at the beginning of summer when one night they had run out of Campari (I’m sure I’m to blame for that).  ”It’s good.  It’s good for you.  You’ll like it”  is all he said as he grinned and passed it over the bar to me.  And I did.  A lot.  A cocktail that we have since named, with affection and a nod to Dunn’s salty attitude, The GFY.  A combination of Pimm’s Cup, a large amount of freshly squeezed lemon and finished with 7up from the gun, the GFY is a tamer, better Long Island Iced Tea.

 

Dunngaree

Trying to recreate the GFY at home, with no 7up on hand, I added ginger beer, Cachaça-a friend brought back from Brazil and some peach juice.  A whole new level was reached, The Dunngaree.   Spicy ginger beer, herby Pimm’s, and round peach flavor make this a perfect late summer sipper.  Make it for your friends and loved ones and pass it to them with a smile as you say, “It’s good for you”.

The Dungaree

1 1/2 oz. Cachaça (use can use rum or gin if you can’t get your hands on Cachaça)

1/2 oz. Pimm’s

1/2 oz. Apple Juice

2 1/2 oz. Peach Juice (bottled peach nectar will do fine)

1/2 oz. Ginger Beer

1/4 oz. Lemon Juice

Stir all ingredients over ice.  Garnish with lemon peel.

Old Man Drink

When traveling, especially abroad, I am always on the look out for what the locals are drinking and eating.  Usually these items are not on the menu (at least not the ones they give to Americans), but usually they are the best and freshest of what the area has to offer.  As far as libations are concerned, I’ve come to refer to them as ‘Old Man Drinks’.  I find that if a group of old, weathered men are sitting around a cafe talking and heckling each other, there is little doubt that what ever is in their cups is going to be delicious.  I’ll have what they’re having.  That can sometimes lead to glasses of high-octane-make-your-eyes-bleed clear liquids, but on occasion it can lead to bitter, herbal, almost medicinal home brews that make me very happy.  If you know me at all, you’ll know I have a deep love affair with Campari, but also with bitters, Amaros and anything that can kind of be gross on the first try to most.  As a friend once said, while discussing such said liquors, “Basically if it tastes like shit, I’ll probably love it!”  I couldn’t agree with him more.

I first read about the Bicyclette in 2008 from Fergus Henderson’s book, Beyond Nose to Tail. Named for the old men in Italy who drink it and then wobble home on their bicycles, it fits perfectly into my ‘Old Man Drink’ category. I prepared it for the chef I was working with at the time, and my husband, his sous chef; delivered it to them in rocks glasses with a twist of lemon.  A minute later, there were requests for more…but in bigger glasses, of course.  Stacked high with ice and filled with Italian white wine, Campari and a splash of soda the Bicyclette did well in a cocktail shaker in lieu of a glass, and was there on known as the ‘Full Metal Jacket’.

Campari is kind of gateway drug into the world of bitter liquors.  I can proudly say that my friends and I have turned a lot of people on to Campari, and I’m pretty sure we were responsible for the Great Campari Blight of Vermont in 2009.  The Bicyclette can go down pretty quickly, and is really meant to be a salute to overindulgence.  Cin Cin!

Bicyclette

Bicyclette

2 oz. Campari

4 oz. White wine (Vermentino works really well)

Splash of soda

Put all ingredients over ice and stir.  Garnish with lemon peel.

Persian Rose

 

There’s something about these hot Summer days that gets me craving heat, and I mean spicy heat.  I suppose there’s good reason why the hottest places on earth are known for their spicy cuisine.  For me, the endorphins that rush from my brain to the tips of my toes is the best high there is!  Here’s a cocktail that takes that craving into a special place, balancing the coolness of cucumber and the etherial quality of rose water with fresh hot peppers from the garden.

 

 

Persian Rose

 

Persian Rose

1.5 oz. Aviation gin

3 oz. fresh cucumber juice (add a squeeze of lemon to avoid oxidation)

4 bar spoons culinary rose water

4 bar spoons simple syrup

juice of 1/2 lime

2 oz. hot peppers diced

 

  • Muddle peppers with gin and lime.  You can use a variety of sweet and spicy peppers and alter amount depending on your own tolerance.
  • Add remaining ingredients and shake over ice
  • Strain into glass filled with new ice.  Garnish with rose petals and slice of cucumber

Poteet Special

In Vermont, strawberry season is a yearly rite of passage.  It balances perfectly on the edge of Spring and Summer, marrying the two seasons into one seamless event.  So by the time the signs come down for pick your own strawberries and go up for raspberries and blueberries, you hardly notice that it is full-on Summer, and Spring is long gone.  Like most seasons in Vermont we hold our breath patiently for the sweet rubies to arrive, and when they  finally do we gorge ourselves.  It’s natural.  If you’re smart and think ahead, you will can and jar the little jewels to enjoy them later when the snow has begun to fall and the only things coming out of the ground are hard little tubers.  But I have no will power, and there will be none left over after they are cooked into pies, mashed into drinks, frozen into popsicles, cut into salads and eaten over the sink as the juice drips down my chin.  It will be another year before I see the likes of them.

In Texas, where I’m from, there’s a little town that holds these little fruits up to the sky and says, “These are special…come eat them” .  Poteet, Texas has a population about 3400, but every year in April the town swells as they hold their annual Poteet Strawberry Festival.  We used to go every year when I was young.  My favorite was the Strawberry Parade, where the Princess of Poteet would wave to us from atop a float wearing a large strawberry in place of a crown (I still want one) while we drank strawberry slushies, staining our shirts.

The Poteet Special is, of course, a nod to the town that holds strawberries in the regard they deserve.  Last time I looked on their website it was only 278 days, 7 hours, 1 minute, and 56 seconds ’till the next Poteet Strawberry Festival.  I guess we’ll just have to wait.

 

Poteet Special

Poteet Special

1 1/2 oz. Titos Vodka (from Austin, TX)

2 oz. Strawberry Puree *

1/4 oz. Black Pepper Syrup **

Squeeze Lime

Prosecco

Cilantro & Mint

 

Muddle 6-7 leaves of cilantro and 2-3 leaves of mint with vodka.

Add strawberry puree, black pepper syrup and squeeze of lime.

Shake with ice and pour back into glass with tumbled ice.  Add ice if needed.

Top with Prosecco and garnish with cilantro flowers, or cilantro leaves

 

*Strawberry Puree

Macerate strawberries with a little sugar, just to release juices (about 20 minutes)

Puree until smooth

 

**Black Pepper Syrup

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 T. whole black peppercorns

Bring to a boil and then simmer until all sugar is dissolved and black pepper is infused to desired potency.

Dirty Bird

 

 

 

 

I’m starting this post off with an apology for our absence.  Really no excuse…but  we’ll blame our other venture-Dirty Bird, our pop-up fried chicken night done weekly at our friend’s breakfast joint (while they’re closed) and brought through the back alley over to another friend’s bar (while they’re open).  In Winooski we do things a little differently.

Monkey House before the hungry patrons arrive

So it’s here, that on any given Wednesday you can find us frying up birds, drinking a Situation or two (we’ll get to that later), and listening to the masterful spinnings of DJ Disco Phantom…and not writing posts for Booze Block.  Sorry.  We promise to make it up to you.

 

Dirty Bird/Laura & Aaron

The Monkey House is our neighborhood bar, a home away from home.  Where everybody knows what we drink, if not our names.  It’s Campari or Chartreuse these days, although recently there was a flurry of activity around a bottle of Fernet Branca.  It is, in my opinion, one of the best bars around.  Truly.  And, they let us serve fried chicken with biscuits and gravy.  Kind of awesome.

 

Ted, a happy Dirty Bird diner

When we started doing this, everyone wanted to know what cocktail to pair with fried chicken.  Hmmm…icy cold beer was our first answer.  But really, The Situation is where it’s at-a kind of grownup lemonade.  An easy combination of vodka, lemonade and a float of Chartreuse is a refreshing answer to the salty richness of fried chicken and the kick of Crystal hot sauce.  Order it anywhere other than the Monkey, and the bartender will look at you with a blank stare.

 

Greatest DJ ever! DJ Disco Phantom

Dirty Bird/Lovely bartender, Sarah

Sold Out

 

at the bar

the not-so-subtle shift of the seasons

I woke up this morning realizing that Spring was completely over and Summer had arrived in full force.  I noticed this because, while yesterday had been a pleasant 65 and breezy, today is a sweltering 94 in the shade.  Ah, Vermont…never half-assed. I had meant to post this cocktail as sort of a  harbinger of Spring-but now it will have to do as a distant, faded memory of yesterday.  Easy to do when you’re using pickled ramps (a treat we look forward to year round).  The Spring Onion was originally a cocktail translated by my brother from a Thai restaurant in London.  It made a lasting impression on him as well as me when he fixed a few up one night.  It is essentially, a variation on a Gibson, and can be incredibly refreshing even past Spring and into the microwave of Summer.

 

Spring Onion & Pickled Ramps

Spring Onion

1 1/2 oz. Aviation Gin

1/2 oz. White Verjus*

1/4 oz. Pickling liquid

1/4 oz. Simple Syrup

Flat leaf parsley

Pickled ramps**

Muddle parsley and gin in glass.  Add ice and remainder of ingredients and shake.  Return to glass.  Garnish with parsley

*Verjus is an unfermented grape juice that is used as a low acid vinegar of sorts.  It’s a great addition to the kitchen anyways, so if you can find it it’s worth the few bucks.  There is both white and red…get the white.

**Pickled Ramps: Place clean ramps, with leaves removed, into a jar.  They can be tightly packed.  Heat 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon allspice berries, and whatever other spices you might want in there, until gentle boil.  Pour over ramps.  Let cool and then close them up.  This is the the quick pickle that I use mainly because the word ‘quick’ is involved.  There are other recipes that you can play with to really reach your desired sweetness, spice, etc.

Bottled Talent

Ever since Jess and I started this blog, we’ve wanted to get other people in on the action.  Booze Block was, after all, an excuse to hang out, make some cocktails, flex our creative spirit and then enjoy our libations together…so why not get more folks in on it?  We invited our friends, who also happen to be incredibly talented bar keeps in Burlington, Megan McGinn and Chris Maloney to join in our fun.

And like great house guests, they brought booze with them.  In fact they each brought a project they’d been working on, because like me they spend pretty much every waking hour thinking about liquor and ingredients and concocting them together to make cocktails that transport and tell stories.  They are our kind of people, Zealots.

Megan and her 'Oats & Honey'

Megan’s talents go far beyond her cocktail prowess…she is also an incredible gardener, cook and historical preservationist.  Her true talent, however, is the ability to combine all of these things into a seamless tapestry of a cocktail that seems to always speak of place and time and hit the chord of memory.  Megan sometimes reminds me of Mary Poppins as she pulls from her bag jar upon jar of homemade tinctures and syrups, jams and pickled things.  This time she brought her homemade Oats & Honey. While it is a simple infusion of vodka with toasted oats and local honey, the flavor is anything but.  Upon drinking I was immediately transported to the countryside with visions of breezy summer days and rolling grassy hills with bumble bees fat with nectar bobbing up and down…like being in a Van Gogh painting.  She took it to a whole other level with the addition of cream and grated nutmeg…magic that kept the day dream going.

Chris and his citrus liqueurs

And then there’s Chris, a true alchemist who cooks up cocktails with creative, bold ambition that is equal parts scientific and whimsical, creating drinks that are cerebral and layered.  He ponders each drink, really each ingredient, with acute patience -a gene I was not born with.  It could take him up to 6 months to hit the right tone he was searching for.  This is a truly a gift I am jealous of. His patience pays off with awesome flavor.  He showed up at my house that day with a ‘study in citrus’-3 bottles of limoncello-inspired liqueurs using meyer lemons, naval oranges, spices and handfuls of other ingredients to reach pitch perfect pucker. With complex, deep flavor that changed and developed in the glass these sun hued elixers easily put store bought limoncello to shame.

 

Jess and I can’t wait to have them over again…soon!

enjoying the spoils

 

Honey Badger

 

 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been playing the Honey Badger video over and over on You Tube while holding your stomach from laughing too hard.  This drink actually had another more serious name, but we thought we’d rename it in homage to the ‘Nasty Ass Honey Badger’.  But that all aside, this drink is a great combination of herbally aged gin, spicy honey, lemon and yeasty mead.  And like the Honey Badger-it just takes what it wants because the Honey Badger doesn’t give a shit.

 

 

The Honey Badger

The Honey Badger

Honey Badger

1 1/2 oz. Ransom Old Tom Gin

1 oz. Honey Syrup

3/4 oz. lemon juice

Serve over ice and top off with sparkling mead or cider…Mead is the preferred choice here but cider might be a little easier to come by.  We used a friend’s home made hard cider, but Farnum Hill Cider is also delicious.

And if you haven’t seen it already, here you go… Honey Badger

 

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