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Monday, May 17, 2010

Artisan Cocktails Made at Home

Recently I have become more interested in making cocktails at home–-one of the reasons is so I can control the cost while investing in the ingredients and spirits I’m most intrigued by. With that in mind I attended a class hosted by CUESA in the Ferry Building and led by Scott Beattie formerly of Cyrus restaurant fame and the author of “Artisanal Cocktails” a fantastic recipe book for making drinks at home. 

The workshop was filled with passionate amateur mixologists who wanted to learn tips from the master, and work with the spirits provided by Alameda distiller St. George Spirits and Hangar One.

We started the class with an absolutely delicious (and seasonal) Rhubarbarella (pictured), which was fruity without being sweet; a seasonal cousin of the classic Negroni, though made with vodka.

After an overview of the art of cocktail making, we were set loose on the bar stations they set up, and were guided to make two cocktails; a classic Margarita and the Mai Tai (which was said to have been created in San Francisco).  With the resurgence of the so-called "tiki" drinks (like at Smugglers CoveI was greatly surprised by the Mai Tai—in the past I have not been a big fan of this famous drink as most hotel bars seem to add canned pineapple juice—which negatively overwhelms the components. Scott’s recipe below is based on the original, though he uses great local artisan spirits and mixers. We were extremely lucky to be some of the first people to try the new St. George Agua Libre Rum—I understand it will be available soon at Cask in San Francisco and at the St. George Distillery in Alameda. 

The next time I make a cocktail, I’ll be following Scott’s advice (see his tips below) and shake up another recipe from his fantastic “Artisanial Cocktail” tome.

CLASSIC MAI TAI (re-printed with permission from Scott Beattie.)
Makes 1 cocktail
1 1/2 oz St. George Agua Libre Rum
1 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz Qi Orange Liquor
1/2 oz Small Hands Orgeat Syrup
1/2 oz Demarara simple syrup (1:1 demerera to water)

Add all ingredients to an empty mixing glass, add enough ice to fill the glass. Shake hard for 7 seconds and strain into a 12 oz Collins glass filled half way with fresh ice.

  • Create mixers at home using fresh ingredients, spices, essential oils and fruit and herbs.
  • Edible flowers and herbs make stunning garnishes.
  • Use a jigger and measure, measure, measure. This makes for consistently delicious cocktails.
  • If it’s a cocktail made using a shaker: always shake hard for 7 seconds and strain immediately so as not to water down the drink.
  • Make one cocktail at a time for best results.
  • Use bags of ice for best results – ice from your freezer imparts aromas and flavors from what you are storing in there (especially freezer meat).

Base measurements for all juice-based cocktails

Spirits: 1 1/2 oz of liquor
Acid: 3/4 oz of acid (fresh juice)
Sweet: 1/2-3/4 oz of sugar (depending on acid)

Suggested resources: for oils, Cask in San Francisco and Beverages & More for spirits, seltzer waters at Whole Foods. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fried Shishito or Padrone Peppers

One of my favorite aperitifs is the pan-fried Padrone pepper with salt and a squeeze of lemon. 

You can use either Padrone or Shishito pepper for this; I buy the fresh Padrone peppers at the Farmers market in spring or summer and the Shishito pepper at the Japanese or Korean markets year round. Some of the peppers are spicier than others, but you don’t find that out until you bite into one! The first time I ate them was about ten years ago with Joanne Weir, she has spent a lot of time in Spain where they are a standard dish in the tapas bars.

Get a pan hot with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Throw in the peppers and fry until they are popping and browned; around 4 minutes.

Serve hot with a generous squeeze of lemon and kosher salt. A glass of rose pairs well with the pepper (and you almost feel as if you are in Spain).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Squash Blossoms are in Season!

On Saturday at the Fillmore Farmers market I was excited to see that squash blossoms were in season. I’ve cooked them a few times, and love their delicate favor and texture. I bought 2 bags for only $1 each. They have a short but glorious life so you'll need to use them within a few days.

Options for cooking squash blossoms:

Pull out flower stamen and stem and slice horizontally.

Sauté in a small amount of melted butter and a drop of olive oil in a warm pan and cook for a minute. Option: Add in a handful of corn.

Quesadilla: Grill 2 tortillas and melted Monterey Jack cheese. Add the blossoms, corn and a handful of green onions and season with salt and pepper. I like to have salsa verde on the side.

Pasta: Toss with fettuccine pasta, olive oil, green onions, generous amount of Parmesan cheese, a spot of crème fraiche, salt and pepper.

Stuffed and fried:

Pull out flower stamen and stem. Pat dry.

Stuff with tiny amount of either ricotta or crème fraiche cheese. You can also make this without the stuffing.

Dip blossom in seasoned flour (salt and pepper).

Dredge in egg batter.

For extra crunch, dredge in tempura flour.

Fry in pan with butter and olive oil till lightly brown and crunchy.

Serve as an appetizer with a side of salsa verde.