The Bonne-Bonne

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When I was penning The Big Book of Martinis for Moms -- because that's how one writes a book; one pens them ever so eloquently; one doesn't thrash at one's laptop until the "c" key gets permanently stuck or try to organize one's writer-blocked thoughts by haphazardly slapping a bajillion Post-Its on the wall like a mental patient -- I had an idea for a chocolate-cherry cocktail.

If you've readskimmed why haven't you bought this book yet please buy this seen the book, you know that the cocktail recipes therein each correspond to a particular feat of motherhood that deserves a potent, potable reward. So like babyproofing the house is an accomplishment that calls for a Rusty Nail, while helping with homework earns Mom a Brainstorm. The chocolate-cherry cocktail, I thought, would be a mother's just desserts on those blessed afternoons or evenings when she gets to do nothing at all, fluffy-slippered feet resting atop the coffee table. In other words, like drinking a bonbon.

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Unfortunately, I knew that actually inventing said cocktail would not be so easy-breezy. Chocolate and cherry are two very forceful flavors. I find that sometimes when I try to combine two big, bold tastes like that, I wind up with a flavor profile that's somehow less than, or even worse than, the sum of its parts. It can taste entirely like one flavor and none like the other, or two two can meld into something downright blech-y.

Anyway, one way I snuck around those problems was by relying on cranberry juice, which provided a lovely hue (seriously, cranberry juice really does pretty up a drink) as well as an easygoing companion, palate-wise, to my white creme de cacao.

The Bonne Bonne (which I've given a French feminine spelling) wound up not making it into the book. Quel mal-mal for the book but goody for us!

The Bonne Bonne

1 1/4 ounces vodka

3/4 ounce white creme de cacao

2 ounces cranberry juice cocktail

2 dashes chocolate bitters

Combine all four ingredients into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass.

Tasting Notes

I didn't have any Three Olives Cherry vodka on hand while testing out this recipe, but I'd bet it's an ever better ingredient to use in this instance that straight-up vodka.

An even bigger cheat: You can make a drink with equal parts chocolate vodka and cranberry juice. Not bad at all. (Ghetto Bonne Bonne, anyone?)

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The Bicerin (send it over the Alps)

A regular of mine at The Royale (one of the ones I had a crush on) came in one night many years ago and ordered "a Manhattan, put it up on skates." I shot him one of my perplexed Charlie Brown faces; he unfurled a devilish Cheshire grin (catnip to a female bartender who was fed up with her boyfriend at that point). He'd just heard this phrase, probably earlier that night during his own shift, and couldn't wait to test it out on me. My demurely flirtatious reply: "What the fuck does 'put it up on skates' mean?"

It meant, shake the shit out of a Manhattan so hard that when you strain it, perfect, adorable little ice floes, teensy shards small enough to scoot through the coils of your Hawthorne strainer, dot the surface of your cocktail. To this day I know of nobody else who's ever heard of or used this expression, but it's always stuck with me as quite a cool thing to say... although yes, nowadays we know that all-alcohol cocktails like the Manhattan ought to be stirred, not shaken, lest you "bruise" their precious molecules. (See: "Don't ever shake that drink, or you'll kill it.") Someday I'll side-by-side taste-test that theory, but for now what can I say except that it was the 00's; we were the young and the reckless, and I was really hoping to kiss this guy soon.

Non-narrative jump to today: I read Afar Magazine. Their July/August 2011 issue has a story on bicerin (bee-chay-reen), an Italian beverage with secret-recipe roots stretching back to 17th century Turin along the foothills of the Italian Alps. Its main ingredients are milk, melted chocolate, espresso and whipped cream. Cafe Al Bicerin, a Turin institution that takes its name from the drink, is where locals head after Sunday Mass to break the fast. God bless the Italians, with their Roman Catholic guilt and their natural disregard for calorie counts!

Of course, I took one look at the Afar story and said, "Dude, I should totally incorporate that into a cocktail." And what I did was, I sent it over the Alps. What the fuck does "send it over the Alps" mean? It means (says me) to douse peaks of whipped cream ("the Alps") with a shot of yellow Chartreuse, that suave, milder-than-green-Chartreuse liqueur made by monks in the village of Voiron, along the foothills of the French Alps ("send it over").

My recipe was kismet: The thought of adding yellow Chartreuse to the bicerin stuck in my head for a few days, then I discussed it with Sean and found out he'd had the very same notion, then I Googled a map and saw that, indeed, the mother lands of Chartreuse and bicerin are a mere three hours apart, the Alps stuck in between. Something about bicerin made me less wary than usual about doing a dessert cocktail, and while my end result technically isn't a cocktail but a spiked coffee beverage, it reads on the palate like a cocktail to me: You can detect all the parts that are in there but the impression on your senses is that of a fully integrated taste, more than the sum of its parts. (Spiked coffee beverages, on the other hand, often taste to me as just that: Coffee with a high-spirited intruder who somehow found his way in.)

We contemplated a second liquor, but it just doesn't need it.

P.S. I like this one so much, I'm contributing the recipe to the first-ever gojee Virtual Potluck, an online smorgasbord of eats and drinks put together by yours truly and many of gojee's other fine blogging contributors. Starting on Thursday, January 26, check out other potluck dishes fellow gojee contributors shared. Go to gojee.com and enter "gojeepotluck" into I Crave. You can also follow #gojeepotluck on Twitter.

The Bicerin (send it over the Alps)

(Adapted from Afar Magazine; its recipe for the original bicerin is an educated approximation, as Cafe Al Bicerin's recipe is "closely guarded")

2 ounces yellow Chartreuse

1/2 cup 2% milk

1 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 shots very strong coffee

1/4 cup freshly whipped cream, sweetened to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk and chocolate until boiling, whisking vigorously all the while. Remove from heat, then pour mixture into a clear cappuccino mug, goblet, etc. Slowly pour in coffee. Top with whipped cream. Slowly pour Chartreuse over whipped cream. Serve with a sundae spoon (optional).

Tasting Notes

Afar's printed recipe calls for whole milk, dark chocolate and espresso. I went with what I went with (2%, semi-sweet, "strong coffee") because I already had them in the house. Having said that, this drink was diabetic coma-inducing enough the way I made it. Proceed with whole/dark/espresso at your own risk. (Seriously, garnish with insulin injectable or something if you must go all the way.)

If you don't have yellow Chartreuse, try making this with a shot of Benedictine instead. Their smell and taste profiles are quite similar, although of course you won't get the same, sunny brightness shining down on your Alps. Don't use green Chartreuse; it's too herbal in taste, and everyone will assume it's creme de menthe and that you made some sort of caffeinated Grasshopper.

I was afraid of melting chocolate in a saucepan rather than a double boiler, but with the milk this was actually not an issue at all. (I did use a nonstick saucepan, for what that's worth.)

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Boozy Hot Chocolate

Guest post by my friend Stephanie Klose, a Brooklyn-based writer and editor, contributor to Serious Eats and blogger at stephanieklose.com (and previously, right here on the blog!).

A Christmas or two ago, I received a bottle of Godiva chocolate liqueur as a gift. It's not something that I would normally keep around and I don't generally drink the kinds of drinks that call for it. But it was given with love by someone who liked it herself and I held on to it, stashing it out of sight until recently, when it occurred to me that there was one legitimately very delicious thing I could do with it: augment hot chocolate.

[Ed. Note: Before we jump to the recipe, I feel compelled to commend Steph on finding a good use for gift-booze that she wasn't necessarily keen on at first look. I am way guilty of letting too many well-intentioned presents collect dust on my liquor shelves and so I take this advice to liver heart.]

Boozy Hot Chocolate

Fill a mug with milk to about an inch and a half below the top. Pour the milk into a small saucepan and heat on low until steaming. While it's warming, add a heaping spoonful each of unsweetened cocoa and brown sugar (or white, but I like the bit of molasses flavor) to the mug, along with a splash of milk. Stir until it forms a paste (or slurry, depending on how much milk you splashed in). Add warm milk, stirring to combine, then 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla or other chocolate-friendly extract. I'm partial to either almond or peppermint. Add a shot of Godiva liqueur and stir. Top with a marshmallow if you like.

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The Tequila Alejandro

Upholding my week-long commitment to exploring the far reaches of Alexandria, today I find myself a bit of a stranger in a strange land -- that land being Tequilaville.

I have never cottoned to tequila, and I’ve never felt like I’ve missed out on much as a consequence, except perhaps further burdening my trove of already-embarrassing-enough drunken tales/tally of inexplicable scars (two; one just south of my lower lip, the other craggy across the top of one foot). If bourbon tastes like adult fun, then tequila tastes like legal troubles. It’s antagonistic-tasting. It’s too in-my-face, and even when I’m doing nothing more innocent than enjoying a margarita, I often believe that tequila’s devilish essence is asseverating itself from beneath its blanket of lime, sugar and salt, rather than just commingling nicey-nice in the glass like a base liquor is supposed to.

But when I started thinking about how to retrofit the basic Alexander recipe (liquor, creme de cacao, cream) around tequila, a few choices became clear. One was that the creme de cacao should be swapped out for Patron XO Cafe. A “coffee liqueur made with tequila,” as it’s described on the bottle (“Coffee Patron,” as I often call it), it was a big hit at The Royale when I worked there -- as a shot, a sipper or as one half of an admittedly puerile shooter I devised one night with a jovial, half-sauced regular that we dubbed the Irish Taco: Patron XO and Bailey’s. Since then, I’ve insisted of having it as a member of the at-home bar and have aimed to devise more subtle and clever uses for it.

A recurring challenge with Patron XO is that it’s quite syrupy in texture and trenchant in taste -- it's got an appealing warmth and a nice linger as a standalone digestif, but can be tricky for mixing -- so for this cocktail I reduced my Alexanders’ usual creme de cacao measurement by a quarter-ounce. The next part of the equation was to decide upon a cream variation, for which nothing sounded as right as chocolate. Actually, since chocolate is a taste I usually don’t enjoy in an alcoholic context, I had a hunch this would be a case of two wrongs making a right.

Tequila and chocolate are geographically/agriculturally simpatico, and both revel in an added kick of heat. Upon that realization, the rest of the recipe fell together in an instant. We had the bitters just sitting there on the shelf (hello -- Aztec!) and the dark chocolate-chili bar was a Christmas gift from Sean’s Aunt Meggie, who had actually given it to me as an in-joke, based on a Facebook comment she’d left me suggesting a spicy grace note for a previously blogged-about cocktail.

The Tequila Alejandro

1 ¼ ounces Sauza Anejo Conmemorativo Tequila

½ ounce Patron XO Cafe

¼ ounce Grand Marnier

3 dashes Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters

1 ¼ ounces Baskin-Robbins or homemade* chocolate ice cream, plus a little more for the float

Lindt Excellence Chili Dark Chocolate bar and cayenne pepper, for garnish

Grate chocolate bar (with Microplane?) until you've got just a pinch or two of shavings. Mix shavings with a few shakes of cayenne pepper to taste. Set aside.

Combine Sauza, Patron XO, Grand Marnier and bitters in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Add 1 1/4 ounces of chocolate ice cream. Cap and shake vigorously until ice cream has melted.

Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add a small float of chocolate ice cream. Garnish with chocolate-cayenne mix.

Tasting Notes:

*OK, about the Baskin-Robbins: Me battling a recent cold + needing but a couple small scoops of ice cream + Sean getting a Dunkin' Donuts gift card for Xmas + a Baskin-Robbins located inside the Dunkin' Donuts that's located three doors down from our apartment building = yes, I used Baskin Robbins chocolate ice cream. (How's that for honesty?) However, I am a HUGE advocate for homemade ice cream. Even when I cheat (which is all the time) by using evaporated or condensed milk or by using raw eggs without cooking the mixture first, it's 1000 times better than store-bought.

The Sauza Anejo Conmemorativo is one of two tequilas we have in the house, the other being a blanco. This Sauza is aged in used bourbon barrels, so I think we lucked out as far as using a tequila with choco-friendly notes.

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