The Summertime Smash

The Summertime Smash

Is it summer finally? Are we there yet, Mother Nature?

Up here in the tundra Montreal, the warm weather has been *such* a tease lately. We've had one of those springs where two days of delightful, sun-dappled, sleeve-shedding weather are followed by a near-week of chilly, damp, Debbie Downer-weather.

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The Month-Old Manhattan (Day 35)

Time moves more slowly in Canada. I move more slowly with child. Put 'em together and what've you got? A 35-day month, but one that's worth the wait, for at the end of it lies the Month-Old Manhattan.

When I first mixed this drink in May, having gotten the recipe's inspiration from a restaurant's cocktail menu in St. Louis, I commended its use of old-school rye whiskey instead of bourbon as a base and marveled at the inclusion of curacao, which gave it a more playful (but still not juvenile) flavor. I'm paraphrasing myself here, but I described its unaged taste as appealingly scratchy-smooth-sweet on the palate.

Well; what a difference a five-week month makes. After spending that span of time sealed tightly in a Mason jar, the Month-Old Manhattan now boasts a shooting-out-of-the-gate upfrontness, like it couldn't wait to get down somebody's gullet, pronto. What may surprise you most, though, is which parts of its original profile are doing the tastebud-grabbing and the ass-kicking. This cocktail is, first and foremost, orange. Like, woah, orange. Like, oh!-range. And that's despite that fact that I'd subbed rail-quality triple sec for top-shelf curacao.

Second to that in oh!-ness is how round and smooth aging has made it. This is obviously not as surprising -- that's what aging is supposed to do, round out the corners, sand down the edges. It makes this Manhattan dangerously drinkable. In fact, if you've ever fancied shooting a Manhattan, this would be how to do it. But of course, good shots only come to those who wait.

The Month-Old Manhattan

(Adapted from the cocktail menu at Eclipse Restaurant in St. Louis)

2 ounces Old Overholt Rye Whiskey

3/4 ounce triple sec

3/4 ounce Stock sweet vermouth

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Orange peel, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a clean Mason jar, stir briskly and briefly with a bar spoon without ice, and tightly seal jar lid. Let stand for one month in a cool, dry place.

To serve, pour jar's contents into an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir vigorously with a bar spoon until drink is well chilled. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and garnish.

Tasting Notes

If the overly orangeness is scaring you off, my suggestion is to reduce the triple sec down to a half-ounce.

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The Fizzbite

The story of this cocktail (highball, technically) begins at Montreal's Macaroni Bar, where the PhoBlograpHusband and I have parked our kiesters atop bar stools recently (although mine barely fits nowadays) because that's now where Tao and Tony work. They're pretty much given free rein behind the bar there, creatively speaking, so long as they also keep up with customer demand for vodka sodas and pitchers of sangria.

Speaking of pitcher drinks, the last time we were there, Tony told us about some summertime refreshers he's been tinkering with, including a fresh lemonade made with a rosemary-infused simple syrup. He let us try some, and upon first sip, I was awash in an aura of complete summertime relaxation spiked with my ever-bubbling-near-the-surface total jealousy. How had I never thought of rosemary lemonade myself?

Sean encouraged me to do Tony's rosemary lemonade as a blog post, but I meant it when I told y'all that this blog isn't going mocktail just because I'm pregnant, and second, that's a lot of lemons to juice.  So then what entered the picture was a gift we'd received for Christmas and, I'm shame-faced to say, hadn't yet put to use: A fruit infuser pitcher, aka a "pitcher with flavor infuser." (Sean's Aunt Carrie and Uncle Tommy always give us the best bartender Christmas gifts; hi, Aunt Carrie and Uncle Tommy!)

This pitcher gizmo corrals your sliced-up fruit/veggies/herbs/what have you down the center of the pitcher instead of letting them float all willy-nilly on their own. I'm not sure how overall effective that is but it sure is fun to play with. And speaking of fun to play with, the best thing I could think to do to a pitcher of lemon and rosemary-infused water was to carbonate it with our trusty Sodastream. We are now talking refreshing, dry and crisp variety, turned up to 11.

(Science question: How come when I carbonate a lemon-spiked water, it seems get much, much fizzier than if I had carbonated the same amount of plain water? Is the acidity of the lemon doing something in there?)

Such a mixer will easily pair with your clear, aromatic spirit of choice: gin, eau de vie, or in the case of the Fizzbite, NY-state grappa distilled from Gewurtztraminer grapes. Sean actually found the Fizzbite too bitey, but I loved the parade of sting-->grappa's sour apple notes-->more seltzer-y sting-->lemon tartness-->rosemary essence marching down my gullet.

The Fizzbite

1  1/2 ounces Finger Lakes Distilling Grappa

Lemon-rosemary club soda, to fill

Lemon wheel and rosemary sprig, to garnish

Fill your highball glass of choice with ice. Pour in grappa. Fill with club soda and garnish.

Tasting Notes

FYI, we infused the plain water for a week-ish before carbonating, although we could've stopped at half that. When carbonated, the rosemary-lemon soda water took on an almost peachy-pink tone. I don't know why... science question?  Tastes fine, though, I am still drinking and enjoying the soda water straight.

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The Pregnant Pause

It's been un longtemps and a day since I've posted, which means lots to catch up on even if you're one of my kindly regular readers -- let alone a newbie gamely bouncing on the blogwagon thanks to my recent Saveur Best Cocktail Blog nom (#believethatscalledahumblebrag #hinewbies).

Everything you need to know about my truancy, as well as my all-telling *general*outlook*on*life*, you can glean from the following statement: I feel acutely guilty that, thanks to uterus-subletting fetus, I'm not inclined to drink for you guys as much as I once did. Isn't it awful how I'm letting y'all down, spending my current pregnancy largely away from alcohol? Without a coupe in her claw, who is this Blogtender personbot?

Talking like a normal now... I'm totes pregs! A girl is due in August. I drink a lot of nonalcoholic beer these days (it takes the edge off, it really does). I also allow myself one sip per cocktail ordered by the PhoBlograpHusband whenever we're out, and when out at restaurants with ace bartenders, I ask them to mix me up a mocktail of my own.

At MEDIAnoche in St. Louis (my old stomping ground, was there in February), one bartender complied with a lemon juice-ginger syrup concoction that was damn fine and delightful. I found myself relishing its memory (and replicating it in pic below) as if it were a real, actual drink. I hadn't caught every move he'd made in its construction; was it really just lemon juice and ginger syrup? I might have tasted fizz. At least mocktails are still getting my mixology mojo going, right? At least I still have that?

FYI, I have no plans to turn this blog dry for the next few months. My one-sip rule stands for the full-hooch tipples I'll continue to roll out here. Is that controversial? If so, let some modern-day Carry Nation twist up her bloomers, cause a stink online, and pave the way for my appearance on Anderson touting my hedonistic child-ruining. Cocktail-book deal to follow, natch.

Having said that, today's cmocktail is, in fact, without alcohol. I started with that lemon-ginger base and wanted to see what I could work up from there. Turns out it was the sprightly kick of fresh ginger that felt like fizz, so no soda needed, but the recipe I drafted this weekend did include grapefruit soda and a quick hit of Liber & Co. Spiced Tonic Syrup, which I was kindly sent as a review sample several weeks back and do recommend as a quirky, comfortably priced change of pace from bitters. (Think Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters, with a more concentrated flavor and a quinine-y finish, bought at a half-off sale.)

Impregnate the Pregnant Pause with light or dark rum or tequila, or gin, or even bourbon. I think this recipe's got legs, versatility-wise, and damn if it's not refreshing as all get-out. Maybe not as refreshing as the half-gallon of mint chip I downed last week, but that's just the expectation talking.

The Pregnant Pause

1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 ounce ginger-infused simple syrup

1/4 teaspoon Liber & Co. Spiced Tonic Syrup

Grapefruit soda, to fill

Cucumber wheel and rosemary sprig, to garnish

1 1/2 ounces booze of choice, to taste (optional)

Combine juice, syrups and liquor, if including, in ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a Pilsner glass over ice. Top with grapefruit soda. Garnish with cucumber and rosemary.

Tasting Notes

My grapefruit soda came from SodaStream. It's one of the little flavor-adding packets you get when you buy the start-up kit. FWIW, I only used half the packet and the soda turns out just as flavorful and (I'm assuming) not as sweet.

As I suggested above, swap in Fee Brothers Barrel Aged Whiskey Bitters for the tonic syrup, or even Angostura. You basically just want a couple dashes (maybe 2 or 3 to taste) of something that plays against the other flavors.

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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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