The Is You Is My Baby

Let's just call Valentine's Day what it is -- a test -- and I'll openly admit to what I am, a flunky. Which means that this year, not only did I completely neglect to get a gift for my sweet, patient, kind and deeply attractive PhoBlograpHusband, but whenever it did occur to me that I oughta do a V-Day cocktail for the blog, I'd be all, "Err, d'ya really think those guys [Ed. Note: that's you] want a special drink for Valentine's? I don't know if they'd be into that..."

So this weekend, while away on a five-day, half-work/half-play trip to my old St. Louis stomping ground, I briefly mentioned to the PhoBlograpHusband via gchat that, if possible, it'd be great if he could whip up something holiday-appropriate while I was gone that we could then post. He's in the middle of a large project right now for a class on Hollywood film musicals, which helps keep things spicy in our relationship by causing me to wonder on occasion just how gay he is, because he's really into it, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, I brought it up once and that was that. And a couple of days later, he emails me the recipe and photos for the Is You Is My Baby. Now there is a man who can ace a test with flying colors even when it wasn't a test I was actually bothering to proctor.

I like to think that the Is You Is contains a cloaked test or two of its own, the main one assessing the willingness of the drink recipient's palate; most of us don't think jalapeno when we think Feb 14, but garnish heaps of extra credit upon those who do, or are at least up for giving it a shot. (Srsly dudes, life is too long and boring on its own to be with someone who won't.) Secondly, should mixology know-how be high on your list of must-have qualities in a mate -- which sounds shallow, sure, but we've all got our I'll-dump-him-if-he-doesn't-say-Manhattan-is-his-favorite-Woody-Allen-movie deal-breakers -- you can see if your sig oth is hip to how this cocktail is basically a margarita-sidecar hybrid.

Without a pre-purchased token of affection for my sweetie, I usually just resort to acting extra kissy-kissy on V-Day. Except that Sean and I kiss-kiss all the time. His kisses taste more intoxicating than anything I've ever blogged about here, in fact. Seanboy, You Is My Baby! (And yes, I'll now try to pawn off this paragraph on him as a thoughtful "present." Man, I am the worst.)

The Is You Is My Baby

2 ounces Cognac

1/2 ounce Cointreau

2 medium strawberries

A 1/2-inch piece of jalapeno

1/2 ounce sage-infused simple syrup 

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

Cut a few, thin slices of strawberry and jalapeno for garnish and set aside. Muddle the rest of the strawberry and jalapeno with the simple syrup in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add ice and all liquid ingredients. Shake well. Strain into martini glass and add garnish.

Tasting Notes

I'll leave today's notes up to Sean: "Strawberries are romantic and jalapenos are spicy, like romance should be. I thought the sage syrup's herbaceousness combined the two nicely, but using plain simple syrup is totally fine. However, should you use a more downmarket brandy and a triple sec, instead of Cognac and Cointreau, you'll end up with a drink that lacks a certain depth.

"Flavor profile-wise, the lime and the jalapeno gave the drink a nice freshness without being too spicy. With the strawberry, the flavors married very nicely." Yay, married! (Sorry, couldn't help myself, I luv my hubs!)

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The Strawberry-Basil-Grappa Thing

Guest post by the PhoBlograpHusband

Seriously, summer!?! Three days of suck-it-Trebeck humidity and thunderstorms, capped off by a 67-degree Friday and foggy in the middle of the day, that’s your idea of a grand entrance? Rose and and I have been looking forward to debuting these fantastic-for-summer, mouthwatering concoctions for months and this is what you give us?

(Yes, we’re bitching about the weather two days in a row, but it has really sucked...)

So long as you allow me a half-hour of relative sunlight on Saturday mornings so I can hit the farmer's market in peace, I won’t let you spoil my fun. The Strawberry-Basil-Grappa Thing is perhaps the perfect seasonal cocktail for the first week of summer, when farmer’s-market strawberries and basil are at their ripest and most abundant.

I’ve seen a few strawberry and basil cocktails out there before, but they are generally vodka-based and come off as little more than a slightly boozy summer salad. Our way around this was grappa. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with grappa my whole drinking life. I want to love it but I usually end up hating it. Though I’m not one to shy away from straight liquor, the burn of grappa is just a little too aggressive, the finish a little too long. Turns out that grappa’s in-your-faceness was just the thing to give what could have been an all too saccharine and ethereal cocktail real substance.

The Strawberry-Basil-Grappa Thing

1 ¼ ounces Finger Lakes Distillery Grappa

¾ ounce Grand Marnier

1 ¼ ounces club soda

4-5 basil leaves

2 strawberries

¼ teaspoon Colonel De’s Mint Julep sugar

Muddle strawberries, basil and sugar (regular sugar will work if you can’t get some from the Colonel) at the bottom of a highball glass. Fill glass with ice and add grappa, Grand Marnier and soda and stir or lightly toss back and forth into a tumbler.

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