Adventures in Booze: Best new booze of 2013

A friend of mine asked me to do a post about the best new-to-me booze of 2013. I definitely have one, but I’m going to do my top three here.

Chartreuse: Oh Chartreuse. You green magician of awesome. How many are your flavors? I don’t even know but they are like a symphony of deliciousness. I bought this stuff completely untried and unlike my experience with Campari, I didn’t waste my money. (which, thank god cuz this green stuff’s pricy) Chartreuse is definitely my favorite and cocktails using it are definitely my go-to at home. Given how rare it is in the sort of bars I end up in, I still need to find something I can order while out.

Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye: My husband is a big whiskey fan. I scored BIG last Christmas with the Whiskey Advent Calendar from Masters of Malt. It also helped us find out what sort of whiskeys/bourbons/etc. I might consider favorable. He brought the Catoctin Creek home from an outing with work buddies and suggested I try it. I really enjoy it. I don’t think it will ever be something that I’ll just sit and sip, but I love it in a Manhattan (with actual cherries soaked in Maraschino liqueur, not those dyed monstrosities) or in a punch I still need to write up. Its got a fantastic vanillish wood taste that I find a perfect accent to a warming drink. A+ find.

Aviation Gin: I bought this from a suggestion in The Drunken Botanist as I am a person who does not actually care much for the juniper that is essential to calling a spirit gin. This is a very not junipery gin and for that it will always be my favorite. I, um, haven’t had it straight in a while so I can’t talk much about the flavors in it right now, but if you want the flavors of gin without feeling like you got smacked with a pine tree, this is the gin for you.

As a fun follow up and bonus answer, if you do like getting smacked in the face by pine trees when you drink your gin, you may want to try Barr Hill Gin which is literally flavored with just juniper and raw honey. We took a road trip up to Vermont and stumbled across their tasting room late this fall. What I find really amazing is that for me, the juniper plays hide and seek while you’re tasting it. It’s like BOOM PINE TREE and then gone. Honey, deliciousness, dry out, final swallow, BOOM PINE TREE. It’s totally weird but I oddly like it. Their vodka is also quite awesome.

Adventures in Booze: So Here is a Thing That is Delicious

Here I am with another recipe that has half-assed measurements and doesn’t even come with pictures this time. But I’m drinking right now in the chill of my kitchen and had to share.

Hot Orange Chocolate

A handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips (or probably like somewhere between a 1/4 and an 1/8th a cup). You can use whatever small chocolate pieces you have lying around. When I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll use the delicious dark chocolates they give you after meals at Cheesetique.
A similar amount of orange liquor, enough to cover the chocolate. You can use Cointreau if you like it sweet. I’ve been using Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao for orange without more sugar.
A pinch or so of ground cayenne pepper. Adjust to taste. Start small if you’re a spice wimp. It can add up fast.
1 cup (8 oz) of milk or milk substitute. I use unsweetened soy.

Place your chocolate, orange liquor, and pepper in a bowl or largeish coffee mug and microwave for 30 sec. Remove and whisk smooth. The chocolate shouldn’t need much heating. Slowly whisk in milk and then microwave in short burst until warm. You don’t want to get it too hot or you’ll get a nasty skin on it. Drink and be warm.

You can, of course, do this all on the stove which may be more time effective if you’re making a large batch. But for just one person, the microwave works great.

Orange and chocolate is a very common, tasty combination. Chili and chocolate is actually how it was originally enjoyed by its native discoverers and how you can find it in Mexican hot chocolate. All three together are pretty much my favorite thing ever for a chilly night. You can also throw some cinnamon in there for a feast for the senses. Everyone else is probably doing apple cider drinks right now (and I’ve got a few of them on tap) but today called for chocolate.

Adventures in Booze: Cucumber Martini

Light green martini with cucumber vine in the background

When I first mentioned that I had been drinking cucumber martinis to my coworkers, one of them said to me, “Oh! What brand of cucumber vodka do you use?” Brand of cucumber vodka? I had no idea there was such a thing. I just use cucumbers.

This isn’t a great way to use up the cucumber tsunami you may have from being overenthusiastic with your vine planting, but it’s so good that you just don’t care. This is a recipe that I’ve been making for a while without using things like “measurements” so I apologize for the approximations.

3-4 slices of cucumber (about an inch total), unpeeled. You can use English cucumbers to avoid the seeds or just use what you’ve got on the vine.
4-5 mint leaves. I like the stuff they sell as Mojito mint best. This does create a mint-heavy drink so adjust according to preferences.
1 spoonful of sugar. You know, the smaller table spoon from your tableware set. What are those called anyway? Are they teaspoons?
Juice from half a lime or two spoonfuls.
2 oz vodka or gin

Muddle your cucumber, mint and sugar in a cocktail shaker. And when I say muddle, I mean pulverize that shit. Add lime, spirits and ice, shake and strain into a martini glass.

One thing that can be fussy about making this is that your chunks of cucumber can make it a bit of a pain in the ass to strain. But if you make it enough times, you’ll figure out your technique.

This is a drink that I usually make with a nice vodka because I (repeat after me) don’t like gin. I also like to have the light cucumber and mint tastes to come to the fore over any gin botanicals. That said, it’s pretty damn good with gin too. As with all of the gin containing drinks I’ve mentioned thus far, I use Bulldog because I find it drinkable. It’s a London dry if that helps you decide what to pull out of your liquor cabinet. Enjoy!

Adventures in Booze: Aronia-infused Vodka, an on-going project

Ah, the aronia-infused vodka project.

Colander full of dark red aronia berries

I don’t think my initial batch of berries was ripe. This is the first year I’ve actually paid attention to this plant as a food source instead of as a bird feeder so I wasn’t quite sure. It turns out that when they get ripe – and the birds start eating them – that they’re pretty much black. They’re also soft, which should have been a clue. Compare the berries below to the berries above.

Black-red berries in a colander

Much darker color! Hindsight, man. However, this just means I’m going to have two batches to sample. The first has been steeping for a few weeks now.

Jar full of berries and red liquid in front of books

Bet you can’t guess who’s books those are.

It’s probably about time to add the sugar to the first batch. I still need to buy vodka for the second batch which have been chilling in the fridge for a bit while I get my act together. More updates soon!