cocktail

Mint Julep: Off To The Races

This has been a week of celebrations, from Cinco de Mayo and ending this weekend on what is known as two-minute sporting spectacle, the Kentucky Derby. Both celebrations feature great food as well as a signature cocktail. Margarita’s tequila and triple sec and mint julep’s bourbon base combine with simple syrup to make easy-to-down cocktails. Most people are familiar with making (and drinking!) margaritas, but the bourbon-based mint julep is just as easy.

The mint julep is associated with the American South, where a whiskey/bourbon and mint combination that is savored during the long hot months makes this cocktail a perennial favorite. At the Kentucky Derby, the drink is served in a special silver Julep cup. Using a metal container in the heat is practical as the frosted cup insulates the cocktail. A mint julep is easy to make: Use the best bourbon that you have available, fresh mint leaves for both aroma and aromatics, and simple syrup.

Mint Julep

Bourbon Whiskey – 2 oz

Simple Syrup (see below) – ½ –1 oz

Mint Sprigs – 5-6

Crushed ice – enough to fill the serving Julep glass

 

  • Mix 4 tsp of sugar and 4 tsp of water. Bring to a boil.
  • Remove from heat. Add 3-4 mint leaves. Keep aside until the simple syrup is cool.
  • When ready to serve, add the remaining mint leaves to the serving cup. Crush the leaves lightly (muddle) with a wooden spoon.
  • Fill the cup with crushed ice. Pour in the whiskey and simple syrup.
  • Garnish with a sprig of mint.

 

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Cheers to the winner!

Note: If you don’t own a metal cup or silver julep, chill a standard highball glass.

 

 

 

 

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Persimmon Syrup For A Modified Mojito: A Persimmoto, Perhaps?

Persimmon is a mellow fall fruit, which looks like a cross between an apricot and tomato. The fruit’s color also reflects autumn shades, falling somewhere in between a pale orange and drifting maple red leaves. The two varieties of persimmon, categorized as astringent and non-astringent fruits, are available through December. Their edible skin bruises easily, and once the fruit has ripened, their shelf life hastens.

The rapidly deteriorating condition of the persimmons inspired me to preserve their essence. I remembered my mother’s stewed pineapples and jackfruit, which I savored long after their season. Stewing the persimmons conserve their subtle sweetness. Stewed fruits can be flavored with cinnamon or ginger and they can be used immediately as a spread or frozen and used later. Fresh persimmons can be added to a salad or baked in an open tart. I used the stewed paste to flavor simple syrup. The persimmon syrup became my fall version of a mojito – a persimmoto!

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Persimmon Syrup

Persimmon – 5-6

Light cane syrup – 2-3 tbsp

Water – ½ cup

  • Wash the persimmons. Remove the brown calyx, and extract the seeds from the mashed fruit. Place the fruit into a pan.
  • Add the cane syrup and water. Bring to a boil.
  • Simmer for 5-7 minutes, until the fruit has softened.
  • When ready to use in the cocktail, crush the pulp with the back of a spoon to extract as much of their flavors.
  • Strain the pulp through a tea strainer, keeping both the syrup and pulp separate.
  • Add syrup (1oz) and mint leaves (5-6) and muddle them in a glass. Add light rum (1½ oz) and pulp (½ tsp). Top with ice, a lime wedge, and a sprig of mint. Cheers!

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In A Soup and In A Pickle – Pearl Onions

When the weather report called for blizzard conditions and snow began to amass on patio tables like coconut icing, I decided that it was a good time to make soup. I’ve learned from past snow shoveling seasons to always keep good stock ready at hand and/ ready to thaw. In previous years as A. and N. would layer up in preparation to begin shoveling, I would start cooking a soup before joining them outside.

A soup recipe for a snowstorm should be as easy as combining and simmering roughly chopped vegetables and herbs with stock. The reward upon returning from shoveling is twofold, a cleared path and the warmth of rejuvenating aromatic soup. Before I head out to shovel, I combine chicken stock and red pearl onions to make onion soup.

Pearl (cocktail) onions are walnut-sized purple or white onions that are innately sweet. Pearl onions cook quickly and retain their shape, making them a good substitute for regular onions in soup. One of my pet peeves with onion soup is that if the onion slices aren’t cooked down and caramelized, they retain a slimy texture – one that you can taste in every bite. Caramelizing onions take time and constant attention. The miniature pearl onions sweat (lose moisture) and brown rapidly. A resultant soup has both a pleasing textural crunch as well as the desired caramelized flavor.

Due to the petite size of pearl onions, you need a large quantity for making the onion soup. Peeling 25 onions comes with the perennial problem – tears. I was happy to come across a clever trick to cope with this arduous task. Place the pearl onions in a bowl and heat them in the microwave for 20-25 seconds. Remove them immediately (or sooner if they start to pop), as you don’t want the onions to cook. Cut off the ends of the onions and pull away the outer skin, which should come off very easily. The pearl onions are now ready to be substituted in the classic French Onion soup, which combines onions and garlic in wine and stock. A deliciously simple soup with lots of flavor!

 

Pearl Onion Soup

Pearl onions – 25, peeled

Butter – 2 tbsp

Olive oil – 3 tbsp

Garlic cloves – 4, peeled and sliced

Stock – 4 cups

White wine – 5 tbsp

Salt and pepper – to taste

Bread/cheese

 

  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a pot.
  • Add the whole peeled onions. Lower the heat, and sauté the onions for about 10 minutes. The onions will sweat and brown.
  • Add the garlic. Sauté for a minute
  • Add the stock and wine. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until the onions are soft but yet hold their shape.
  • Just before serving, pour the soup into four ramekins. Place a slice of bread with grated cheese (I used goat cheese) on top of the soup. Broil for less than a minute, just until the cheese has melted.

 

 

Pearl onions are sharply vinegary in taste, and served in North Indian restaurants as cocktail onions and (when spiced) in South Indian homes as ulli thiyal, a relish. Alternatively called button onions and Silverskin onions, they are usually pickled and used throughout Europe with spring peas, as part of a smorgasbord of pickled herrings and beets, or as a garnish in the gin and vermouth cocktail, Gibson.

Pickled Pearl Onions

Pearl onions –10-12, peeled

Distilled (or any pale-colored) vinegar – ¼ cup

Sugar – 8 tbsp

Water – 2/3 cup

  • Peel the onions as above.
  • Fill a mason jar with the distilled vinegar, sugar and water. Mix until sugar has dissolved.
  • Add the pearl onions.
  • Cover and keep for 12 hours or overnight. The pickled onions keep fresh for 3-4 days.

 

Gibson Cocktail

Pickled onions are used as garnish in a Gibson cocktail. One or three pickled onions (always in odd numbers) replace olives in a Gibson cocktail, which is a Gin Martini served shaken or stirred. The onions add a vinegary twist instead of briny hint to the traditional mix of gin (6 parts) and vermouth (1 part).