The (World's Greatest?) Frozen Banana Daiquiri

Something that may or may not surprise you: I'm one of those people who likes to scour the Internet for variousDIYtutorials and then implement them all over my house, oftentimes to the mild chagrin of the PhoBlograpHusband. (Two nights ago, our kitchen table was occupied for 12 hours by our crockpot, wrapped in a beach towel, 'cuz I was making yogurt.) If I were born fifty years earlier,  I would have been a devout Hints from Heloise kinda housewise. As it stands, since the start of summer my freezer has contained a big Ziploc full of banana peels and eggshells, so I can spend my weekends making nutritious, eggshell-and-banana peel fertilizer for my outdoor plants.

Also in my icebox are whole, way-overripe bananas whose peels have turned brown. The peels will inevitably see the inside of the aforementioned Ziploc; the bananas themselves are there because a few weeks ago I read online about making a soft-serve, ice cream-like dessert using nothing but frozen bananas and a blender. Given that pregnancy has kicked my ice cream addiction into disgusting overdrive, I thought this was worth a shot. I also thought, frozen banana daiquiris.

Frozen daiquiris -- a regular daiquiri (rum, lime juice, sugar) buttressed with pureed fruit and crushed ice -- get a bad rap, of course, because their crushed-ice component has allowed them to become conflated with Slurpees and slushies, and so now they are most commonly made from chemicals and food coloring, served out of a whirring machine at someplace like a Sandals resort. This is tragic, because how often do we get to enjoy the wholesome flavor of pureed fruit in our cocktails? Who wouldn't enjoy the foamy, frothy wonderfulness that an ice-blended cocktail provides? (Even I capitulate to the delectable siren call of a Frappuccino at least once per summer.) And when was the last time you got to freaking drink a banana?

A frozen banana daiquiri seems like it should be arduous to make, but it is not. It is surprisingly simple (dump stuff into blender, turn blender on) and it is surprisingly good: Smooth and creamy, with a nice, tangy, lime-y undertone, and not at all too sweet. What I found most surprising was how well its constitution held up. I figured this drink would start separating, rum and melted ice sloshing atop a swamp of banana mush, within minutes. It absolutely did not. All in all, this cocktail was so impressive and enjoyable that Sean took it upon himself to drink the whole thing (after my one, obligatory sip). He even stored it in the fridge while he went to play Frisbee for two hours, came back and drank the rest and it still held up.

So how do we make the World's Greatest Frozen Banana Daiquiri? I think I'm still working on that. What I know so far is, you definitely want to use at least a 50-50 ratio of light and dark rum. I suspect 100% dark rum would be most pleasurable (but we ran out). Yes, you can taste the alcohol in the recipe below, but it wouldn't hurt to be stronger still. My other suspicion is that this should be topped with a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon or nutmeg. The banana and lime flavors do play nicely against one another, but I think there's room in there for a third, outta-left-field flavor.

Of course, most frozen banana daiquiri recipes you're going to find online are going to tell you a) light rum only, and b) garnish with a Maraschino cherry. Take that shit to the Bahamas, yo!

The (World's Greatest) Frozen Banana Daiquiri

3/4 ounces Kraken Black Spiced Rum

3/4 ounces Bacardi Light Rum

1 tablespoon triple sec

1 1/2 ounces lime juice

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 banana, medium/large, preferably frozen and preferably overripe, sliced up into a handful of pieces

1 cup crushed ice (usually takes about 3-5 ice cubes depending on size)

Lime peel, to garnish

Combine all ingredients except peel in blender. Blend on a low speed for five seconds, then blend on a higher speed until drink is smooth. (Shouldn't take more than 10 seconds.)  Pour into chilled hurricane, martini or cocktail glass. Garnish.

Tasting Notes

OK, so what rums would kick this drink into World's Greatest territory? Honestly, name your poison. If I had more than a splash left of the Kraken, I would've gone whole-hog Kraken. Spiced Navy rums would be great, I'm guessing; I'm partial to Sailor Jerry.

You don't *have* to cut up the banana beforehand, or pre-crush the ice -- but I did both, the latter using my hand-cranked Ice-O-Mat. It'll just cut down on your blender time. This is important to someone like me who has a crappy blender as I'm always worried I'm going to kill the damn thing someday. And I really did only need to blend on high speed for like another 5-10 seconds.

You want to use an overripe banana because the riper it is, the more sugars it's got in it. You know how when you eat an underripe banana, it can sometimes have that unpleasantly bitter, "green" taste to it? I don't know why, but that taste tends to come out even more when you puree the banana, even if it's a just-ripe banana. I know this from trying to make the banana "ice cream" using a just-ripe banana. Stick with as-overripe-as-you-can bananas.

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The World's Greatest Jack and Coke

Now just hear me out.

Back in July, out of semi-desperation, I bought a pre-bottled, pre-mixed, $11 Jack and Coke from a vendor at a Mets (again, just hear me out!) game. It was surprisingly good, actually rather delicious, with no chemical sheen to the taste and a proper balance of liquor and cola. I noticed, perhaps for the first time, that Jack Daniel's is well suited to the and-Coke genre. Bourbons almost blend in too well, with too much overall roundness to the highball; rye whiskeys can work but can also go down scratchy. Jack and Cokes are smooth up front and finish with a pleasantly peculiar, sour twist. Duly noted.

This post, however, is more about the Coke part. Not long at all after that Mets game, the Times ran a story on The Rise of the Hipster Soda Jerk (not its real title). And yes, the piece read as a cavalcade of waxed mustaches, sassafras, seltzer siphons and suspenders, but also the notion that "soda" oughta be "special" -- uttered by not one but two of the jerks quoted.

Instantly, I vowed that I couldn't agree more, and swore that someday I'd attempt the homemade cola syrup recipe that accompanied the story. And thus, the seed for the World's Greatest Jack and Coke was planted, germinating for several months before finally taking root over the Christmas break, when we finally got around to buying ourselves a SodaStream (Merry Christmas, Martelorres!) and sourcing the three ingredients that neither my home pantry nor the supermarket 'round the corner kept in stock: dried lavender buds (food-grade); whole vanilla bean (yes I know I should have this); citric acid. The first two I got at Whole Foods, but the citric acid was a BITCH to find. (I finally did at a bulk/health food store.)

So: What is it like, to make your own cola? Pretty low-key, not as intimidating as the recipe reads on paper. You basically grate and crush a bunch of stuff (citrus peels, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger) and simmer it. Then you strain it and mix the resulting liquid with a buttload of sugar. (Seriously, the amount of sugar will make you think twice.) Most of your time will be spent grating, then minding your simmering pot, then stirring in your sugar until it dissolves. But I did all this while having about 10 friends over and managed to ignore my syrup for long stretches without harming it.

The Times' recipe notes that caramel color powder is optional. I did without because I was dying to see what cola looked like when it wasn't forced to look like fudge pop. Dear The Coca-Cola Company: Why do you insist on making this stuff the color of cow dung? My syrup came out the most splendid, sunny, optimistic, adorable shade of orange. It was fucking translucent! Like the dawning of the age of Aquarius, like tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow.

Alright, enough already. We break out the SodaStream, carbonate our filtered tap water, bippity boppity boo, put it together and what've you got?

Folks, you will love go apeshit for this cola. You will kvetch and clutch your pearls and Facebook-post about it and just die for this stuff. THIS is what you get when you look up refreshing in the dictionary. And what you'll find incredibly nifty is that it tastes like Coke but also tastes nothing like Coke. I mean, your tastebuds will get intuitively that this is cola -- not orange pop or root beer or flavored seltzer -- but then again, if this is cola, why am I getting this undeniable grace note of pure lavender? And why does this lavender taste so right in what is still undeniably cola?

Mixed with a shot of Jack and a squeeze of lime? Yeah, it's the World's Greatest Jack and Coke.

The World's Greatest Jack and Coke

1 1/2 to 2 ounces Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey

About 3 ounces homemade cola

A quarter of a lime

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in your Jack, then your cola. Top off with a squeeze of lime.

Tasting Notes

We actually bought an airplane bottle of Jack just for this drink, which is technically 50ml, or 1.7 ounces. So that's why I said 1 1/2 to 2 ounces above, to taste.

You'll also note in our pics that we used one of our big-ass ice cubes for this, as I think is wise for any highball drink. Welcome to the rock!

The Times' cola syrup recipe can be found here. I followed it to the letter except: 1) I didn't whirl the white and brown sugars together in a food processor before combining them with the simmered liquid; 2) I used coffee filters instead of cheesecloth to strain my simmered mixture.

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The Breakfast of Champions (aka The Bittersweet Surrender)

This is the story of how a post-theater drink transmogrified in four days' time into a cocktail made for first thing in the morning -- although not really, just in a jokey way -- and how your blogtender Sloshy got her groove back along the way.

So Thursday night, I went to see The Normal Heart (OMG GO) on Broadway with my friend Jackie, and afterwards the PhoBlograpHusband met us in midtown for a tipple or two. (It wound up being three, natch.) Beforehand, I'd scoped out this new-ish Theater District bar online called The Rum House, which is on the ground floor of the deliciously retro (if a shade shady) Hotel Edison, and as it's from the guys behind Ward III in Tribeca, I figured we should check it out.

The lighting was perfectly dimmed and someone was playing away on the upright piano, so I liked The Rum House instantly. On its cocktail menu was a simple creation whose name now escapes me, comprised of bourbon, egg white and one of the countless Amaro liqueurs, served on the rocks. How had I not thought of something like this before? Then again, how was it possible that my home bar still lacked an Amaro, given the number of times I'd lustily ogled bottles of it behind the bars at such reputable establishments as Otto, Mario Batali's awesome enoteca, and Brooklyn's Watty & Meg?

I was sure it'd be easy to replicate four days later in my kitchen: Bourbon, egg white and... Punt e Mes? Bourbon, egg white and... Fernet Branca (aka shoe-polish liqueur, but I am forever willing to be proven wrong)? Bourbon, egg white and Campari? Vermouth? Fucking Pimm's, and yes I know that's not Italian, what??!? Every permutation I mustered struck an imbalance between the flavor (often heavy and bitter) and the texture (light, frothy). Out of options but refusing to surrender (cue self-realization moment of finding my groove!), I figured I'd try using my homemade espresso vodka. "Ha ha, eggs and coffee," I chucked to myself. "It's like breakfast. Especially for a drunk who hides bourbon in her coffee." (I"m speaking hypothetically about a third-person "her." I don't do that much.)

The concoction now tasting better but still incomplete, and my one-track mind now committed to the punchline, out came the cinnamon and then the maple syrup. I took a couple long sips, then took the dogs out for a walk. When I returned, I declared to Sean that I'd be thinking about this drink the whole time I was dogwalking and could not wait to get home and finish it off.

The Breakfast of Champions, in case it needs saying, does not taste like breakfast. In fact, you won't detect the maple syrup at all; it just serves to cohere the other ingredients. It's got a very mellowed bourbon profile at the start with a languorous, coffee-redolent finish. It is neither more sweet than bitter, nor more bitter than sweet, and if you like 90s alt-rock then you get the Bittersweet Surrender reference.

The Breakfast of Champions (aka The Bittersweet Surrender)

2 ounces Henry McKenna 

2 ounces espresso-infused vodka

1 small, raw egg (or half the contents of a large egg)

1 teaspoon Grade A maple syrup

Ground cinnamon

Espresso beans, for garnish (optional)

Combine all ingredients, including one or two dashes of cinnamon and both the raw yolk and white from the egg, into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake with utmost vigor until the shaker's so cold you can't hold onto it anymore. Strain into cocktail glass. If desired, float a few espresso beans on top for garnish.

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The Affogato Alexander

I had no idea how I was going to wrap up Alexander Week. Any sort of liqueur-based Alexander seemed too obvious/easy, the thought of a Rum Alexander held no appeal (maybe if I used a sorbet instead of an ice cream/gelato? But still, meh) and a Vodka Alexander -- well, I'd actually made one of those a few weeks ago, using an unflavored vodka and the exact-same recipe as I did for the gin Alexander (with the white creme de cacao and the mint chip gelato). It tasted OK, not at all bad, but from a mixology standpoint I was uninspired by it.

Then I remembered the espresso-infused vodka we'd made a while back, and then I thought about affogato.

Affogato is an Italian dessert made simply by pouring hot espresso over gelato. Most affogato recipes will call for vanilla gelato (or ice cream, since we're stateside) although some note coffee or chocolate; likewise, strong coffee can often sub for espresso. I love affogato because the cleanness of espresso on vanilla is breathtakingly good and because the presentation is undeniably elegant even though it sounds like something one might do on accident, and because I have never had a bad affogato. (My last one was in late summer at Al Di La. 'Nuff said.)

So with my espresso-infused vodka and some easily-whipped-up vanilla ice cream, all I needed was to break out the dark creme de cacao and a shaker of cinnamon and I was ready to go. In keeping with the traditional style of affogato-making, I placed my scoop of ice cream in the glass first, then poured my alcoholic mixture on top -- but since this needed to err on the side of drinkable rather than spoonable, I kept my scoop quite small.

On my first attempt, I actually poured just a vodka-creme de cacao mixture over the ice cream, only to find that they didn't gel well at all; splotches of cream started coagulating and floating on the surface of the liquor quite unappealingly. So I went back to how I'd been making Alexanders all week, pre-mixing a little ice cream into the liquid mixture, and all was right with the world again.

The Affogato Alexander

1 1/4 ounces housemade espresso vodka

3/4 ounces dark creme de cacao

About two ounces of homemade vanilla ice cream

Cinnamon, for garnish

Pour vodka and creme de cacao into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Add about an ounce of ice cream. Shake until ice cream is melted.

Scoop another ounce or so of vanilla ice cream into a chilled cocktail glass. Strain contents of shaker over ice cream.

Sprinkle with cinnamon to garnish.

Tasting Notes:

If you've got an ice cream maker at home, here's the easiest recipe ever for a really good vanilla ice cream that I've used several times: Dump a can of condensed milk, a cup of regular milk and a tablespoon of vanilla extract into ice cream maker. Turn on ice cream maker. You don't even have to mix the ingredients together beforehand if you don't want to.

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The Twelfth Day of Christmas

Our season’s-greetings cards just went out on Monday. There’s a gift I ordered online three weeks ago that’s apparently stuck in a storing-stuck-things facility somewhere. The tree’s still up in our living room (although I did manage to de-ornament it over the weekend).

However, I refuse to be late making my favorite Christmastime tipple, The Twelfth Day of Christmas, a whiskey infusion that takes (whaddaya know?) 12 days to make -- but unlike the rest of all the holiday meshugas, it’s time that does most of the work.

Sean and I first made this last year, when we were trying to come up with cheap thoughtful gifts for our whiskey-sipping compadres. Orange and cinnamon turned out to be the peanut butter and jelly chocolate of potable presents: Not only two great tastes that taste great together, but two equally robust flavors that balance each other out while overpowering the fact that you just bought really cheap whiskey to give to your loved ones as a gift. (How cheap? Early Times isn’t allowed to call itself bourbon because not all of it is aged in new, charred oak barrels; some of its barrels are used.)

A sipping whiskey is just the sort of thing one needs to bide one’s time through the doldrums of winter, and I’ve found that this infusion is indeed most enjoyed all by its lonesome. I’ve tried making Manhattans and Old Fashioneds with it, and while they’re certainly pleasant, they’re also redundant; no need for further flavoring agents.

Merry Epiphany Eve!

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

A handle of Early Times Kentucky Whiskey

A few oranges

A few cinnamon sticks

Peel two oranges of their rind. (Leave the white pith intact on the orange, or it’s likely to ruin the taste of your infusion.)

Place one or two cinnamon sticks, plus the rind from the oranges, into the bottle of whiskey. Store in a cool, dark place.

After five or so days, start checking your infusion once daily by smell and taste, making sure the orange and cinnamon flavors are balanced. Add fresh rind and cinnamon or remove the old ones as needed. (Generally, the cinnamon sticks impart stronger flavor longer and may need to be removed before the rinds are, or more rinds may need to be added.)

Once you’ve achieved the flavor profile you like, store as you would any bottle of liquor, but without the cinnamon and orange rinds so that you won’t have to continue monitoring the infusion.

Serve in a highball glass over ice.


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