The Daisywise (aka the Sage Margarita)

The other fresh herb I needed to find use for after Thanksgiving was sage. Man, I do lovelovelove me some sage on a turkey or in a stuffing. (p.s. If you ever want my mother-in-law's recipe for outside-the-bird stuffing, trust me, you do. Also p.s., stuffing is an underrated foodstuff for when you're drunk.)

But sage in other places I had to think about, and then sniff about. Honestly, I wound up holding a bouquet of sage up to one nostril, various bottles of liquor to the other, and deciding which smells I thought went well together. (If there's a hard and fast science to cocktail-making, somebody send me the equation. I've got 99 ways to come up with a cocktail, but a formula ain't one.)

The sage and tequila, wafting together as one, struck my nosebuds hard, stinging and good. Sage kinda looks like a cactus, right? Cacti are, like, Mexican, right? (My cultural references clearly begin and end with Looney Tunes.) Starting obvious, I constructed a pretty standard margarita, replacing regular simple syrup with my sage syrup, going whole hog on the triple sec, adding a dash of honey lemon water as my X factor. Result: too sweet, or at least sweet enough that the sage couldn't really come through. Take two: I stripped down to the basics, ix-naying the triple sec and lemon honey hoo-ha. Now after a citrus-sweet jolt on the front end, the cocktail finished with a long, happy marriage of sage-tequila grassy-sourness.

Lastly, I thought to do a salt-and-pepper rim. The full-on salt rim typical of many margaritas, I see the logic to that; usually margaritas are way sweet, so you want an equally strong counter-punch of salt going up against that. But as that wasn't the case here, I thought it'd be nice to let the pepper come out and play with the sage and tequila. (It's like picking teams for kickball! Lime/sugar/salt vs. tequila/sage/pepper!)

Hey, by the way, did you know that margarita means "daisy" in Spanish? How did I never know this? Probably because a) I took French, b) I live in a place where they speak French, and c) they rarely spoke Spanish in Looney Tunes.

The Daisywise (aka the Sage Margarita)

2 ounces tequila blanco

1 1/2 ounces sage-infused simple syrup

2 ounces lime juice

Freshly grated sea salt and a little bit of freshly cracked black pepper, for the rim

Using a piece of cut lime, sticky up the lip of a martini or cocktail glass and roll in a salt-and-pepper mixture. Set glass aside. Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake, then strain into your glass.

Tasting Notes

Why WHY didn't I save a sprig of sage to garnish this? Or go pick a freaking daisy and put that in?? (Um, because it's December in Canada, you hoser?)

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The Fall Classic

This cocktail comes via SeriousEats.com, courtesy of Gramercy Tavern in New York. While I needed to make a few detours around the restaurant's recipe in order to tailor it to my diminishing stock, it also calls for certain ingredients I've got too much of lurking around my post-Thanksgiving fridge, so yay! (In case you haven't noticed, this week on the blog is unofficially Make Use of T'giving Leftovers Week.)

What I was happy to have reason to use was my fresh thyme. Someday, I swear, I'm going to construct the world's most impressive year-round herb garden (complete with shoe-organizer mini-plots!), but until then, I find myself all too often buying fresh herbs in presized packages, using a few sprigs for one recipe, then watching the rest wilt in the crisper. Not this time, Mother Nature! Half of my leftover thyme went into an infusion (reveal date TBD); the rest made the thyme syrup for the Fall Classic.

This cocktail also calls for fresh apple cider, but instead I swapped in apple-peel tea. Wuh huh? you ask, stupefied and bewildermazed. See, soon after I arrived in Canada, I decided that living here meant crafting a more wholesome and virtuous existence. Ergo, I joined the on-campus CSA at McGill. Now I get pounds of apples every week, so I make loads of applesauce. First I made it skins-on, because I figured, why bother peeling all those apples only to throw away all those peels? Then I read that Jacques Pepin recommends steeping the peels for tea. It's totes easy -- fresh peels covered in a saucepan with water, a few shakes of lemon juice, perhaps a cinnamon stick, boil 10 minutes -- and the tea comes out a totes adorbs shade of princessy pink. (Pepin recommends oven-drying the peels first, but I kept burning them so I go with this recipe.) Apple peel tea's got sweetness and tartness but none of cider's bite, and every time I drink some of it, I find myself smiling like an idiot. It's just got such a unique, comforting, soft, fresh sweetness about it. It's Happytime Tea, see!

The Fall Classic

(Adapted from Gramercy Tavern, as found on SeriousEats.com)

1 ounce Buffalo Trace Bourbon

1 ounce Busnel Fine Calvados

1 ounce apple-peel tea

1/2 ounce thyme syrup

1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Apple slice, thyme sprig or lemon peel, to garnish

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker, shake vigorously, strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish as you like.

Tasting Notes

The original recipe calls for an ounce of either Calvados or Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy, FYI. It also called for making the thyme syrup with equal parts sugar and water along with four fresh thyme sprigs. I halved the sugar because, especially with an herb-based simple syrup, I just like to make sure that the herbaceousness really comes through.

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The Bathtub Gin(ger)

In my quest for Total World Cocktail Domination, last week I made myself a little spreadsheet of upcoming recipe contests, those expressly for cocktails as well as others where my commendable potations will be up against some lame-ass summer salads or whatever.

First at bat: a grapefruit-and-ginger recipe contest courtesy of a skin-treats company. Winners get paid in grapefruit and ginger-scented bath-product gift baskets!... Wait, I've never mentioned what a slut I am for a nice, relaxing bubble bath? Well, there you go.

Starting from scratch, here's how I manifested The Bathtub Gin(ger). I am writing this all down for you because one day The Museum of the American Cocktail will ask that my brain be donated to their archives, but that won't be possible because I never plan on dying. So you guys can pass this along to them and I bet they'd even give you money for it.

Attempt #1: Take everything I know and/or have at my disposal in the grapefruit and ginger departments, combine with appropriate cutesy wordplay and visual puns, pour into a glass. This means gin, sloe gin, ginger syrup and fresh grapefruit juice, plus some egg white (creating visual pun of frothiness = bubble bath) and a salted and sugared rim (because I like Salty Dogs).

Result: Salt overpowered EVERYTHING. Blergh.

Attempt #2: Nix salt/sugar rim, see what happens when you add in some Luxardo. Why? Because Luxardo's proven itself a stealth facilitator of awesomesauce cocktails before.

Result: All Luxardo, even though I only used half an ounce. Damn.

Attempt #3: Back to drawing board. Try using World's Greatest Cosmopolitan as a template, swapping out cranberry juice for grapefruit and ginger syrup for regular simple syrup. (Oh wait... I don't use simple syrup in the World's Greatest Cosmopolitan.) Keep all other elements of WGC intact: lime juice, triple sec, confectioner's-sugar rim.

Result:  Weirdly lacks a center. What starts out as the right amount of sweetness somehow evaporates into nothing. This is getting frustrating.

Attempt #4: Brainstorm other possible ingredients. Remember the beauty that is grapefruit-Campari sorbet. Graft Campari and a splash of sloe gin onto WGC recipe.

Result: Getting there...

Attempt #5: Spend way too much money on a bottle of Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit Flavored Vodka, all the while lamenting, "Whither art thou, Domaine de Canton?" Curse the SAQ for putting you in this predicament. Go home, construct a recipe using those elements you like best from attempts 1-4. Decide that the ginger syrup needs help; find ginger ale on sale.

Result: This...

The Bathtub Gin(ger)

2 ounces Bulldog Gin

1 ounce Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit Flavored Vodka

1/2 ounce Campari

2 ounces freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice

1 ounce ginger syrup

1 raw egg

About 2 ounces ginger ale

Confectioner's sugar, for the rim

Mint sprig, to garnish

Rim a cocktail glass with confectioner's sugar and set aside. Combine gin, vodka, Campari, grapefruit juice, ginger syrup and the white from raw egg in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Before straining contents of shaker into sugar-rimmed cocktail glass, pour about two ounces of ginger ale in the glass first. Garnish with mint sprig.

Tasting Notes

To make ginger syrup: Mix a half-cup of granulated sugar and a half-cup of water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. While waiting for mixture to come to a boil, grate a thumb-sized piece of ginger into the pan. Stir until mixture reaches a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Strain into a container and let cool before using. This will make you more syrup than you need. You can refrigerate or freeze the rest.

As you probably already figured out, I poured the ginger ale into the empty cocktail glass first because I didn't want to shake the carbonation out of it. If you've got Domain de Canton on hand, try it in this recipe (instead of or in addition to ginger ale) and let me know what it tastes like!

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The Hot Cha!

In Montreal, Halloween's a very big deal. Like NO-SCHOOL-THE-DAY-AFTER! big (candy hangover NOMMMMM...).

We'll be spending tonight seated in front of our duplex with one of our upstairs neighbors, treats at the ready. (Smarties, the world's greatest candy, am I right?) He informed us that this is tradition around here, because it prevents us all from going crazy hearing our doorbells go off 300 times in one night. I swear to you, in my 15 1/2 years of postcollegiate adulthood, spent in 13 previous apartments, I have never had a single Halloween customer come to my door! I'm so excited!

Yes it is cold here in Canada on the day before November -- although, jeez, nothing like y'all are getting in the NYC <--> DC Eastern corridor; say hello to balmy Quebec! -- so after telling myself I must wear my Under Armour tonight, the second thing I told myself was to concoct a hot cocktail, something sippable from a Thermos.

When I worked at Redbook ages ago, I once edited a piece on healthy winter snacks. (Ask your Grandma if you're not sure what Redbook is.) One of them was to heat up a glass of cranberry juice in the microwave and sprinkle some cinnamon in it. It's actually quite good and for some reason I've always remembered that, so that's what came to mind for the Hot Cha! The rest pretty much wrote itself, almost as if I were possessed... by ghosts... OOOOoooooOOOOO!

The Hot Cha!

1 1/4 ounces Busnel Fine Calvados

3/4 ounces The Arran Malt Single Malt Scotch Whiskey

4 ounces cranberry juice

1/2 ounce honey lemon water

3 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters

1 cinnamon stick

1 orange peel

Heat the cranberry juice, orange peel and cinnamon stick in the microwave together for a minute-ish. While that's nuking, mix the Scotch, Calvados, bitters and honey lemon water in a separate vessel and stir vigorously without ice. Combine the two in a Thermos, or a baby bottle if you want to go as a drunk baby this Halloween.

Tasting Notes

We're fans of the Arran Scotch around here; we also don't keep many other Scotches in the house. Sean recommends Dewar's as a great pick for this recipe because of its bite.

To make honey lemon water, just stir honey, water and a couple lemon slices in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it's cooked down to a consistency somewhere between the honey and the water. I use two parts water to one part honey.

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The Green Rhum Thumb

Do not attempt this at home. This is the work of a mad genius. Do you have absolutely nothing to do for the next month and want to devote every minute of your days to concocting ONE DRINK TO RULE THEM ALL??!?

The previous sentences are ones I've brainstormed over the past few weeks, trying to figure out how the hell I'm gonna blog about Tony Galdes' entry in last month's Montreal Bar vs Chef. I'm still not sure how to explain to you what I'm about to explain to you.

Tony was bartending at LAB over the summer. Stopped to go back to school. He is 21 years old. I REPEAT: He is 21 years old. He was born in 1990. I will give you all a moment to collectively sigh, go inspect your gray hairs in the bathroom mirror, and wonder if you've ever accomplished anything as massive and brilliant as Tony's Green Rhum Thumb.

The only thing I find 21-years-old about Tony, who is really outgoing and funny, is that he chose to infuse his cocktail's contest-mandated one ounce of Appleton Estate Reserve rum with weed. Is this illegal? I mean, probably, but in Quebec it's also illegal to infuse alcohol with, like, a fucking lemon peel, so fuck it. (Contestants were allowed to infuse anything they wanted for their recipes, as these drinks were not being sold to the public.)

The only thing I can think of to reference the Green Rhum Thumb's degree of multilayered difficulty (perhaps even its Rube Goldberg-ishness? A quality I'd tried to avoid in my Bar vs. Chef cocktail and yes I do feel a little sheepish about that now) is the St. Louis Arch, which was architecturally so unheard-of in its day that it couldn't be built until new types of construction equipment were first invented to make its construction possible. In order to make a Green Rhum Thumb, you first have to make all five ingredients that go into making a Green Rhum Thumb.

Oh yeah, you also need a CO2 cartridge, which you're gonna load into your Perlini shaker, which is designed to instantly carbonate beverages. This is a shaker that didn't even exist until this past summer and costs $100 -- just for the shaker. It's $200 for the deluxe start-up kit that comes with a bunch of cartridges, a pressurizer that allows you to reuse the cartridges, and for fuck's sake, a flash drive. I have no idea what the flash drive is for.

The Green Rhum Thumb

1 ounce orange-infused Appleton Reserve Rum

1 ounce weed-infused Appleton Reserve Rum

1/4 ounce Allspice gastric

1/2 ounce caramelized banana syrup

2 barspoons Blue Mountain Coffee bitters

Pour all ingredients in a Perlini Shaker, add ice, close the shaker, put in CO2 cartridge, shake, let rest for 30 seconds then pour into a champagne flute. Garnish with a slice of banana and a weed leaf.

Tasting Notes

Sounds simple, the above does, n'est-ce pas? You can read up on orange infusions here. I am not going to tell you how to infuse rum with weed because my mom reads this blog sometimes. As for the final three ingredients...

Allspice gastric:

1 1/4 cup lemon juice

1 1/4 cup water

2 1/2 cups cane sugar

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup allspice

1 cup pink grapefruit juice

Melt the sugar on medium temperature with the water and lemon juice. Once melted, add the vinegar and allspice and gradually put in the grapefruit juice. Keep heat on until most of the bubbles disappear. Chill and filter twice, once with a regular strainer to take out the big chunks, and then with a Brita filter to keep the small particles out.

Caramelized banana syrup :

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

6 bananas, sliced

1 cup cane sugar

1 cup water

Put the butter and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a pan until it starts caramelizing. Add the bananas until they get a nice roast, then add the rest of the sugar along with the water. Let simmer until the bananas start to fall apart, then chill. Once cold, strain through a cheesecloth to get a nice clear syrup. (Says Tony: "You can keep the rest of the bananas to put on your toasts in the morning!")

Blue Mountain Coffee Bitters:

1 750ml bottle Appleton Estate V/X

3 teaspoons white cardamom

3 teaspoons coriander seeds

2 teaspoons angelic leaves

1 cinnamon stick, crushed

2 cloves, crushed

1 nutmeg, crushed

1 star anise, crushed

1 wormwood stick

1 Tonka bean, crushed

3 teaspoons Allspice

6 teaspoons Blue Mountain Coffee, crushed

6 teaspoons Blue Mountain Coffee, uncrushed

Dried peels from one Mandarin, one orange, one lemon, one lime

3/4 cup simple syrup, made with equal parts sugar and water

Dry the peels of the citrus for 4-5 days in the sun then put it with the rest of the dry ingredients in a Mason jar with the Appleton Estate V/X. Shake at least once a day for 10-15 seconds and keep at room temperature in a dark place (or put black tape around the Mason jar). After 3 weeks, add the simple syrup then refrigerate for a week, always shaking at least once a day.

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