Monday, July 28, 2014

Mixology Monday LXXXVII: The Smash - The Sylvan Smash

Oh, my! This summer has been busy and I have been neglecting my little blog project, in lieu of a crazy work schedule and a much anticipated trip to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail (more on that later). I though I had missed the deadline altogether for this month's Mixology Monday, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that I still had this weekend to work on it. Huzzah!

This month's challenge is hosted by Stacy Markow at the Stacy Markow blog. Her challenge this month is the Smash...

"I’m proud to announce that July’s theme is all about the Smash, those ice-laden, refreshing concoctions designed to celebrate my favorite things about life: stiff drinks and warm weather. It’s no surprise that in 1862 Jerry Thomas was the first to declare that 'the Smash is simply a julep on a small plan.' The drink originally gets its name from the way mint was smashed up in the shaking process. Fast forward twenty-five or so years later and barman Harry Johnson addresses the Smash as a separate cocktail from the julep entirely and expands the components to include 'fruits in season.' Johnson’s smashes resemble many modern interpretations found on cocktail menus today. With that said, the basic elements of the drink have remained the same over the years: they always include a spirit base, lots of ice, fresh herbs (the most popular being mint), sugar, and seasonal fruit."
Bring it on.

I recently received a bunch of Thai Basil blossoms from River Creek Farm and was asked to make them into something fabulous and boozy. I already have a deep rooted love of pairing basil with my gin. [Mmmm. My mouth starts to water a little just thinking about it.] Thai Basil, a variety of sweet basil, has the same anise notes as Genovese Basil, but it also carries a little spice and can withstand higher cooking temperatures than other types of sweet basil when used in the kitchen.

I have a slight obsession with Smooth Ambler's Barrel Aged Gin. It has all the delightful qualities of my beloved gin, but satiates my desire for whiskey with a hint of oak and spice. Where does barrel aged gin come from? Ship a barrel of London Dry gin from the motherland to the British colony in India and let it slosh around in a barrel at sea for 3 months. Voila! Barrel Aged Gin.

I figured I needed a potent gin to stand up to the strong anise notes in the Thai Basil. I added a little cucumber into the mix to offer a crisp, refreshing note, similar to the component citrus adds to many cocktails.

Next up was one of my new toys that I picked up at Tales of the Cocktail from Bitter Queens, a new bitters company based out of San Francisco. All of their bitters are named after strong female types. Check out their lineup. Bitter Queens NorCal Nancy Eucalyptus Bitters features eucalyptus, bay leaf, white sage, quassia, oak and other spices. It added just the right herbaceous balance to this cocktail.

Thai Basil (with blossoms), Smooth Ambler Barrel Aged Gin,
Bitter Queens NorCal Nancy Eucalyptus Bitters


The Sylvan Smash

1.5 oz Smooth Ambler Barrel Aged Gin
6 ds Bitter Queens Eucalyptus Bitters
.25 oz simple syrup (1:1)
2 slices cucumber
4 leaves Thai Basil

Muddle basil, cucumber, bitters
and simple syrup. Add gin.
Shake & double strain over crushed ice
into an old fashioned glass.
Garnish with Thai Basil blossom.

Drink. Enjoy. Chill out.

The Sylvan Smash, Laura Cloer, TMSPC, 2014

Many, many thanks to Fred for keeping this going and to Stacy for hosting this month. More on Tales of the Cocktail and other fun stuff coming up this next month!



Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mixology Monday LXXXVI: Pineapple - Sparkling Piña Colada & East Harbor

Yep. It's that time again. MIXOLOGY MONDAY!!! This monthly cocktail party always makes me giddy. The community of cocktail crafters that participate every month make me feel like I'm not totally alone in the wasteland of sour mix and Coke backs in which I've resided for too many years. Many, many heartfelt thanks to the MxMo community!

This month's challenge for Mixology Monday is Pineapple, brought to us by Thiago at Bartending Notes (round up post here). Here's the summary from the announcement post:

Let's bring the king of fruits back! After being canned, mixed with all sorts of sugary liquids and blended into guilty pleasures not to be named some dreadful 80s cocktails, the pineapple needs more respect!
Once a symbol of hospitality, the King of fruits might be misunderstood. Once of the greatest non-citrus souring agents, used for crazy garnish ideas, infusions, old gum syrup flavoring, the pineapple is a fruit to be be reckoned with.

I'll admit it. Throwing pineapple and coconut cream in a blender in the summer with a little ice and some Bacardi makes me smile. A lot. This challenge couldn't have come at a better time.

Laura Cloer, 2014
First with pineapple... the juice. Juice a pineapple and then try it in comparison to canned or bottled pineapple juice. You'll never go back. Fresher is always better. Sidenote: our Jack LaLanne juicer has outlasted every commercial juicer we've tried to use over the last few years. It's a bit like my car... old and out-of-fashion, but damn reliable.

My first reaction to this challenge? A sparkling piña colada, of course! I started off by making my own sorbet.

Piña Colada Sorbet

2 parts fresh pineapple puree
1 part coconut cream

Peel, core and dice one whole pineapple. Run fruit through a food processor. The average pineapple will yield approximately 2 cups of pineapple puree. For every 2 parts pineapple puree add 1 part cream of coconut. If you are using Coco Lopez or something similar, I recommend running the can under hot water for 2-3 minutes and shaking before opening. This will re-liquify the coconut cream and make it easier to work with. If you find it is still rather chunky and separated, all you need to do is stir it thoroughly.

Combine pineapple puree with coconut cream and freeze. After sorbet is frozen solid, pull it out of the freezer and allow it to sit at room temperature for 15 - 20 minutes, or long enough for it to soften enough that you can break it up into chunks. Run the softened sorbet through a food processor until it reaches a smooth consistency. Place back in container and re-freeze. This process allows a little air to be whipped into the sorbet and makes easier to scoop (less like ice and more like ice cream).

Sparkling Piña Colada

.5 oz  coconut rum
(if you're feeling really ambitious, make your own)
.5 oz  pineapple juice
1 scoop piña colada sorbet
Top with Prosecco or Cava

Serve in a champagne flute or dessert wine glass.

Sparkling Piña Colada, Laura Cloer, 2014

My next project was a swizzle. I desperately wanted a rum swizzle. I don't have the set up at my bar to do blended drinks. Also, I hate blending drinks for anyone but myself. So, we have crushed ice. Want a frozen margarita? No bueno. We just have crushed ice. I can make you a banging margarita over crushed ice. Trust me, you'll love it. During the summer months I always get request for piña coladas, but until this year I've just told people to bugger off. I finally decided to do something about it that reflects my love for pineapple and coconut, and gives a little sophistication and dignity to a much abused classic.

Introducing the East Harbor, a grown up version of a Piña Colada. This drink has lived a little, dreams of retiring in the next five years, and has been responsibly putting all of its spare cash in a 401k for the last 30 years.

East Harbor, Laura Cloer, 2014

East Harbor

1.5 oz Mt Gay Eclipse
.5 oz All Spice Dram
1.5 oz pineapple juice
.75 oz coconut cream
2 ds Angostura bitters

Stir all ingredients together in a mixing tin and then slowly pour into a Collins glass over crushed ice. Swizzle with a bar spoon or a proper swizzle stick. Top with crushed ice and continue to swizzle until exterior of glass begins to frost over. Garnish with a lime slice and enjoy.

I have fully embraced the beautiful summer weather this year and I can't wait to see what other lovely cocktails Mixology Monday brings about this month for me to try! Yummy!

Cheers, Y'all!


Our current cocktail line-up at The Main Street
Pizza Company, Laura Cloer, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Spirit of Johnson City: Blind Lemon Jefferson

Phew! We made it! This is the last in a series of posts on the original "Spirit of Johnson City" cocktails I created for The Main Street Pizza Company in 2012. Each drink was designed to celebrate the history and heritage of Johnson City, Tennessee. For the stories on the drinks we've already covered, see the links below.

Johnson City has a rich musical history. Between 1928 and 1929, Columbia Records hosted a series of recording sessions of local musicians for their "hillbilly music division" which came to be known as the Johnson City Sessions. However, long before Columbia came to town, the streets of Johnson City and Fountain Square had had become a stage for many local musicians, who would play for the railway passengers and travelers making their way through town.
Blind Lemon Jefferson, ca 1926

According to the North Carolina musician Walter Davis, he and Clarence Greene learned the art of blues guitar from the legendary performer 'Blind' Lemon Jefferson, known as the "Father of the Texas Blues," who played on the streets of Johnson City in the early 1920's. Blind Lemon Jefferson is best known for writing and recording "Matchbox Blues," "See That My Grave is Kept Clean," and "Black Snake Moan." His musical legacy went on to influence the works of B.B. King and Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson, and his 1927 recording of "Matchbox Blues" was named by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.

As I was researching our city's musical history, something about this obscure story about Blind Lemon Jefferson playing on our streets caught my attention. His life is somewhat shrouded in mystery, but we do know that after he began recording with Paramount records in Chicago, he spent some time traveling in the South. I tried to imagine how this blind musician found his way to Johnson City, where he may have stayed, what friends he may have found here and what his routine was like while he was in town. I came to the conclusion that if I found him sitting on the edge of Fountain Square today, playing his guitar out in the hot sun, this is the drink I'd make him to thank him for his talent and to cool him down.

So, do me a favor. Make yourself this tasty drink, sit back and listen to Black Snake Moan, and pay your respects to a legend who graced our streets.

Blind Lemon Jefferson, Laura Cloer, TMSPC, 2012

Blind Lemon Jefferson

2 oz Knob Creek Bourbon
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz honey syrup (1:1 ratio)
2 ds Regan's Orange Bitters

Shake and strain over ice into a rocks glass.
Garnish with an orange twist.

Thank you for following along with the revival of The Spirit of Johnson City cocktails as we've celebrated the two year anniversary of our cocktail program at The Main Street Pizza Company!



Friday, May 23, 2014

The Spirit of Johnson City: War of the Roses

This is the fifth in a series of posts on The Spirit of Johnson City cocktail list I created for The Main Street Pizza Company in the Spring of 2012. Each cocktail was designed to celebrate the history and heritage of our small town. For the other cocktails we've already covered, please check out the links below.

One of our region's ties to our state's history goes back to the late 1800's, shortly after the Civil War. During the war, northeastern Tennessee was politically divided, with some local families pledging their support to the North and some to the Confederacy. As I understand it, the Taylor family, native to the Johnson City area, had great political debates within their home, as Mrs Taylor supported the South and Mr Taylor supported the North. Naturally, their children became politicians.

In 1886, brothers Robert (Bob) L. Taylor and Alfred (Alf) A. Taylor ran against each other in Tennessee's gubernatorial campaign. The press soon began referring to the political race as the "War of the Roses," alluding to England's medieval dynastic war between family members over the throne of England. During the campaign, supporters wore red roses in support of Bob Taylor and white roses in support of Alf Taylor on their lapels.

The brothers reportedly traveled together across the state and shared the same hotel rooms. Before their political debates they would entertain their audience with fiddle-playing and storytelling. Their camaraderie and practical jokes naturally brought a lighthearted air to their campaign and continued to keep them both on the front page of the press. Although Bob Taylor won the election and went on to serve as both Tennessee's governor and a senator, Alf also continued a career in politics and served as Tennessee's governor in the early 1920's.

The War of the Roses cocktail includes a rye whiskey to represent the North, a Tennessee whiskey to represent the South and a few rosy elements to balance it all out. It is by far the most popular cocktail on our "Spirit of Johnson City" list and it packs a nice punch, like any good politically-minded cocktail should.

War of the Roses, Laura Cloer, TMSPC, 2012

The War of the Roses

1.25 oz George Dickel #12
1.25 oz Smooth Ambler Rye
.5 oz Campari
4 ds Peychaud's bitters
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz orange juice
.5 oz grenadine (pomegranate based)

Combine ingredients.
Shake and strain over cracked ice in a highball glass.
Garnish with a lemon slice.

I sincerely hope you try this one out! It's definitely one of my favorite creations!



Monday, May 19, 2014

Mixology Monday LXXXV: Under a Shady Tree

I have taken a few months sabbatical from Mixology Monday, but I am back in the saddle again and ready to get this months cocktail party underway! This months challenge is "Aw, Nuts!", brought to us by the lovely Elana of Stir&Strain.

"A few months back I tried, and was wowed by, a peanut-y take on an Old Fashioned at a bar here in LA. They had infused peanuts in bourbon and with a touch of honey had made magic... Your challenge is to utilize nuts... in any way you see fit to create a cocktail. Infusions, bitters, almond tinctures are all game. Amaretto, homemade nocino, Frangelico too. Go nuts!"

I made two successful attempts over the winter playing with peanut and pecan orgeat. For this challenge, I decided to go back to basic orgeat, an emulsion made by steeping crushed, toasted almonds in simple syrup with a splash of orange water. I use the recipe on Serious Drinks, which you can find here.

[As a side note, I did make a batch of pistachio orgeat for this challenge, but I'm still trying to figure out how to apply it to a cocktail. So far I'm loving it on ice cream.]

For my entry I chose to work with Breuckelen Distillery's Glorious Gin. This gin's creamy notes remind me strongly of cream soda. I recommend it on the rocks with a lemon. Or in this drink. I definitely recommend Glorious Gin in this drink.

Under a Shady Tree, MxMo LXXXV, Laura Cloer, 2014

Under a Shady Tree
1.5 oz Breuckelen Glorious Gin
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz orgeat
1.5 oz coconut water
2 slices apricot

Muddle 2 slices of apricot with orgeat and lime juice.
Add gin and coconut water. Shake thoroughly. Double Strain.
Serve in a collins glass. Garnish with mint sprig and apricot slice.

This drink is light, refreshing and aromatic. It's not overly sweet. It makes me want to find a cool place to plop down and read a book in my mother's orchard. The orgeat adds an earthy creaminess to balance out the fruit and citrus. The apricot plays second fiddle to the coconut water, but the Glorious Gin shines through with its cream and light herbal notes. A perfect afternoon sipper.

Many thanks to Elana for hosting this month! I have more blog updates coming later this week, so stay tuned.



Monday, May 5, 2014

The Spirit of Johnson City: Cranberry Furnace

We are now on to our fourth cocktail from The Main Street Pizza Company's "The Spirit of Johnson City" cocktail list. I originally created these drinks to embrace the heritage and history of our small town when we launched TMSPC's bar program in the Spring of 2012. For the other cocktails we've already covered, please check out the links below.

One of the largest veins of iron ore in the nation was once just over the mountain from Johnson City, in Cranberry, North Carolina. In 1882, the ET&WNC ("Tweetsie") Railroad linked the Cranberry mines to Johnson City.
Cranberry Furnace, 2014, Laura Cloer, TMSPC
Around that same time, a residential and industrial development, named Carnegie, was founded just a mile northeast of downtown Johnson City. It quickly become a "boom town", becoming home to a variety of businesses and a nice hotel. By 1902, Johnson City's Cranberry Furnace was up and running in Carnegie, with

"a 75-foot high blast furnace, three hot-blast stoves, a 160-high chimney, twelve 50-horsepower boilers, three 500-horsepower steam blowing engines, an open stock house, and a steel-framed cast house... The furnace was built to have a 125-ton capacity, meaning it could produce 125 tons of iron per day."*

The railroads brought iron ore to the area, ore brought industry, and industry helped solidify the economy as our small town continued to grow.

By the 1920's the production of iron ore had changed and the Cranberry Furnace could not compete in the modern market. It was permanently closed in 1929. The property now houses production warehouses for American Water Heaters.

In honor of the prosperity the great iron ore furnace brought to Johnson City, I give you the Cranberry Furnace, served in a collins glass to represent that tall, rosy smoke stack.

Cranberry Furnace, 2014, Laura Cloer, TMSPC
Cranberry Furnace

1.5 oz Edinburgh Gin
.5 oz creme de cassis
3 ds Regan's Orange Bitters
Top with cranberry juice

Shake and serve in a collins glass.
Garnish with an orange twist.

Just as I though this series of cocktails was winding to a close, a friend inspired me to put together two more cocktails to commemorate our town... the Henry Johnson  and the Model Mill. Those will be coming very soon! Until then, keep on celebrating your history and drink good drinks!



* "Carnegie (Cranberry) Furnace", John R. Waite, Blue Ridge Steamwinder, Fall/Winter 2003

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Spirit of Johnson City: Southern Railway

For our third post on The Spirit of Johnson City cocktails I created for The Main Street Pizza Company in the Spring of 2012, we are looking at the "Southern Railway." These drinks were created to celebrate the legacy of our small Southern town. (For the others we've covered so far, please see the links below.)

The Southern Depot, 1912-1973
Johnson City, Tennessee was originally founded as Johnson's Depot by Henry Johnson in the 1850's, at the intersection of the stagecoach road and the new railway that was being built between Bristol and Knoxville. By the turn of the century, Johnson's Depot had become "Johnson's City" and the small town was booming as a major junction of travel, trade and commerce between the North and South. The three rail lines that passed through town, the Southern, Clinchfield, and ET&WNC, brought great prosperity to the area. The Southern, the largest of the three rail companies, operated a passenger line through Johnson City from 1912-1973. The Norfolk-Southern Railway still operates cargo trains though town to this day.

When I was researching the history of the hospitality available through the rail lines that passed through town, I came across a picture of what appears to be a brandy bottle with the Southern Railway "The Southern Serves the South" logo. I started dreaming of what it must have been like to sit in the bar car and sip on this spirit as the sun went down across the horizon. Then I started to imagine how much fun it would have been to tend bar on a train, and what I might have made from the "house brandy" provided by my employer.

I'd really like one of these bottles.
If anyone local knows where to find one,
please let me know.

Southern Railway

1.5 oz brandy or cognac (Courvoisier VSOP or similar)
.5 oz sweet vermouth (Cinzano or Vya)
.5 oz dry red wine
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz pomegranate grenadine (recipe)

(Please make sure the wine and vermouth you are using are fresh!)

Combine ingredients in mixing tin.
Shake briefly to chill.
Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with maraschino cherry.

Southern Railway, 2014, Laura Cloer, TMSPC

I've been a bit absent this Spring from the Blogosphere. I've been distracted while working on our new TMSPC Summer menu update (out now) and getting my garden ready to plant. I'll be finishing up our Spirit of Johnson City drinks posts, participating in Mixology Monday again, and posting new creations soon! Until then, glasses raised for happy drinking...