Archive for Cherries

Cherries 2010

Posted in Cherries, Creme de Noyaux, Home Made Ingredients, Stone Fruit with tags , , , on August 4, 2010 by Mr. Manhattan

It’s been a good cherry season here in northern California with plenty of nice looking fruit still for sale. Commensurately, I’ve been busy. Here’s an update on my projects.

Candied Sweet Cherries—Two ways

Back in May I made two separate batches of candied cherries using Bing and some Van, both of which are bigarreau-type cultivars of Prunus avium, the sweet cherry species. These are really fleshy fruit and I wanted to see if I could approximate the texture and taste of candied Italian amarenata cherries (often incorrectly referred to as amarena). Those cherries are very dark and dense inside, almost like a fruit paste. Some folks don’t like ‘em, but I myself am quite fond of them, especially when they’ve had the chance to ‘make friends’ with some rye in a mason jar and loose all of that heavy syrup in which they come packed.

For the first batch I started out by partially cooking 2 lb. of fruit that had been stoned and then macerated for one hour with 1 lb. of organic cane sugar. I added a vanilla bean (split lengthwise), the peel of two Seville oranges, their juice and about half a cup of water. I stirred everything until all the sugar was dissolved and simmered the mixture for about 15 – 20 minutes, as if I was going to make preserves. I then switched over to a ‘classic’ candying protocol, leaving the cherries to sit in the syrup over night, draining them in the morning, re-heating the syrup to which more sugar is then added, and then pouring the enriched syrup over the cherries again. I did this for about five days; fully candied fruit may be processed for two weeks in this manner. I then gave them a final draining (reserving the vanilla-rich syrup, which is totally killer over ice cream) and put the cherries on a baking sheet to allow them to dry. After a few days I deemed them done.

For the second batch I decided to follow the candying protocol more closely, which meant the stoned fruit was barely cooked on the first day and with much less sugar. Once again I added a vanilla bean, orange peel (Sevilles were now gone however) and the juice of a lemon. I enriched the syrup with daily additions of sugar for another full seven days after which I decided they were candied enough. One thing I didn’t want was to wind up with an entirely glaced cherry. As it turned out, this second batch was far closer to that point that I realized. After being stored in a sealed container for 10 days they were in fact showing signs of becoming crystalized.

Of the two batches, the first is clearly the more successful. The flesh of the fruit is very moist and a lot of fresh cherry flavor remains. There’s also no sign of crystallizing, even after a month in the container. The second batch, while tasty, is definitely more sugary and the fruit has begun to show signs of crystallization. I’ve put a bunch of them into my ‘washing jar’ with some rye where I think they will fare better.

I should say that neither batch approximates the jamminess of the Italian amarenata cherries. I am not sure that I will ever be able to do that.

Brandied Balatons

I have waxed poetic before on the Balaton, a cultivar of sour cherries (Prunus cerasus) originally developed in Hungary, established in states like Michigan, Idaho and Utah, and now showing up in commercial quantities here in California. These seem to be easier far to find than the tart standard bearer, the Montmorency. In fact, I’ve never seen these for sale anywhere around here.

I lucked upon Balatons last year as they were more or less fading and just barely managed to get some home before the market scuttled the box as unsalable. (I’d have taken ‘em!) This year I kept my eyes open for them every time I visited Berkeley Bowl. Two days ago they made their appearance, this time pre-packaged in 2 lb. clamshells. This was actually an improvement over the loose boxes in which I found them last year. All the fruit was firm, bright and in good condition. (Note: two days later all the Balatons were gone—sold out. Guess I wasn’t the only one waiting for these.)

Last year I put my Balatons up two ways: one rye (with orange peel and vanilla bean) and one in mixture of cognac and kirsch. I eventually added some sugar to both batches. Of the two, I liked the cognac and kirsch best, so this year that’s all I did. I also bumped the sugar a bit and allowed the fruit to macerate for a couple of hours before adding the spirits. In about a week I will sample and and adjust the sweetness if necessary.

Cherry Noyaux Experiments

My noyaux investigations continue. An abundance of cherries have been stoned in my kitchen over the past two months and I have not been letting the kernels go to waste. Unlike peach bunkers, cherry stones are easily cracked, though you get much less out of each one. For example, two pounds of Balaton cherries yielded just 19 grams of kernels. That’s “kernels,” the bit inside of each stone, not the shells which account for most of the mass.

I have made two distinct experiments using cherry stones at this point.

Experiment #1: Boosting the Peach Noyaux

The first thing I wanted to try was to add cherry kernels to the peach kernel noyaux I made last year. That first product has always felt a bit delicate and subtle to me. My thought was to boost the flavor by macerating some cherry kernels in it. One batch, using Bing/Van kernels, has been macerating for two months and has now been coarsely filtered. The aroma of this noyaux is definitely more intense but it’s the flavor which has really changed: much more marzipan and bitter almond. My current thoughts are to mix in more of the peach kernel noyaux to reduce the bitterness and/or add more sugar.

I also have a second similar batch based on the Balaton kernels in process. It will be interesting to see if it tastes any different than the batch based on Bing/Van kernels.

Experiment #2: Straight Cherry Noyaux

Another idea was to make a new batch of noyaux based entirely on cherries. Since cherry stones contain such small kernels I decided to just crush the stones and add everything—kernels, shells, and any flesh still attached—to a bottle of VS cognac. That batch is about one month old right now and has turned a coppery-red. You can smell the cherry in it and when tasted, it exhibits a light cherry flavor. It will be interesting to see how much more flavor develops in a month and how it tastes after it’s been sweetened. I may also augment this with some of the cherry-boosted peach noyaux.

TBD: An Indian Summer Refreshment

Posted in Cocktails, Left Coast Libations with tags , , on September 25, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

Ingredients for the TBD

Inspired by Alex Day’s Tinker’s Stand No. 1 and the Balaton cherries which I put up a few weeks ago, I created this Indian summer refreshment which, for lack of a better name, I have called “TBD”. This either stands for “To Be Determined” or “To Be Drunk.” I leave it to you to decide. TBD incorporates cherries with candied ginger, bitters, and lime slivers, the flavors of which play joyously against bourbon and Lillet. Make it at the end of a warm day, as the sun is going down. Sit outside and enjoy!

TBD

2 quarter-sized slices of candied ginger, minced
4 – 5 brandied cherries (see note below)
1 – 2 healthy dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1/4 of a lime, cut into thin slices
2 oz. bourbon (I recommend Evan Williams single barrel)
3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc

Put the ginger, cherries and bitters into a mixing glass.
Muddle hard, turning everything in the glass into a pulp.
Add the lime slivers, muddle some more to express the juice.
Leaving the muddler in the glass, add the bourbon and Lillet.
Swish the muddler about to loosen and remove any pulp which may be stuck to it.
Remove the muddler.
Fill the mixing glass with ice and shake vigorously for 20 seconds.
Fine strain into a chilled coupe.

Notes:

If you don’t have brandied cherries then you may substitute Italian candied amarena cherries. As these are much more intensely flavored, I would recommend using no more than 4 of these per cocktail.

There’s a tendency for the ginger to stick to the bottom of the mixing glass after muddling. Be sure you shake hard enough so the stuck bits get dislodged and mixed up with the rest of the cocktail.

Pulping cherries and candied ginger for TBD
TBD

[Apologies for the crappy photo of the drink itself. I had great light but nothing was quite in focus. Grumble, grumble. grumble.]

The Criollo: Mixing with Mozart Black Chocolate Liqueur

Posted in Cocktails, Manhattans with tags , , , on August 27, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

The Criollo and Mozart Black

A few months ago Paul Clarke went on an insane blogging spree, writing about thirty different cocktails in as many days. On day 17, Paul wrote about an adult chocolate cocktail called Theobroma made with tequila and creme de cacao. The Camerone (another cocktail from the original LCL) was also mentioned, which of course caught my attention. I had been intrigued by that one for a while and the exotic ingredients required to make it (see The Digression, below). Then in a comment on Theobroma by Jay Hepburn (of Oh Gosh!) I spied the recipe for making this:

Smoker’s Delight
Gonçalo de Sousa Monteiro

1½ oz. Laphroaig scotch whisky
¾ oz. Mozart Black chocolate liqueur
2 dashes The Bitter Truth Aromatic bitters

Wow, didn’t that sound grand and so very very adult! The problem, as I immediately discovered, was that no one in the SF Bay area carried this Mozart Black chocolate liqueur, just the milk and the white (ick!). Ultimately I mentioned my interest in Mozart Black to Ed at Ledger’s Liquors in Berkeley and, lo, a month or so later it appeared amongst the other bottles in the liqueur section at the back of the store. (And let me put a BIG HEALTHY plug in here for Ledger’s. Honestly, I don’t think you’ll ever find a bigger and more exotic selection of liqueurs, amari, eau de vie, aperitifs, etc, anywhere in northern California. And in an entirely unpretentious setting. One could easily spend an hour exploring the shelves, as many different bottles are stacked in front of one another. One could also spend a lot of money. Go see Ed!)

So the Mozart Black, in it’s squat round dark glass bottle, touts that it’s made from 87% cacao mass right on the front label. It also instructs you to shake well before use. Does all that cacao settle out? Unfortunately, it doesn’t say what percentage of that mass is present in the bottle nor what else might have been compounded into it. Nothing artificial, I presume, since that would have to be listed on the label. All I can say is that it’s got a heady chocolate nose and a really nice chocolate flavor. Not horribly cloying. Most importantly, it garnered the approval of my “I’m not a big drinker, but I loves my chocolate” partner, Brandee.

The Smoker’s Delight once I made one was all that I had hoped for. The smokiness of the Laphroaig was a perfect foil for all that chocolate. It even stood up to the Quarter Cask. But, ya know, really I’ve got this thing for another cocktail: one made with rye. Yes, I immediately started to wonder how I could incorporate the Mozart Black into a Manhattan variant that didn’t immediately make one think of T.G.I.F. It didn’t take much tinkering to come up with this rather delicious formulation:

The Criollo (No. 1)

2 oz. rye (Wild Turkey is my “go to” these days)
3/4 oz. Vya sweet vermouth
1/4 oz. Mozart Black chocolate liqueur
1 barspoon Patron Citronge
1 dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Long thin orange peel, for garnish

Stir well with with ice to chill and dilute.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with the orange peel, cutting it over the cocktail to catch the oils.

[NOTE: Criollo, pronounced "cree-oy-yo," is a variety of cacao - ostensibly the most noble of all cacao varieties.]

The Vya (from Quady, makers of Essencia) has a significant dollop of orange muscat in it, which complements the chocolate in the Mozart nicely. The Fee Bros. bitters bring a nice rounding cinnamon note into the mix. And, because I wanted even more orange I added a dash of orange bitters in this case Regan’s but you could also try Angostura.

Overall, the No. 1 is more or less just a chocolate Manhattan. The rye spice and cacao dryness play out nicely in the nose. A pleasant enough if rather simple (!) cocktail. Still, I wanted more layers and complexity. Which led me to the No. 2:

The Criollo (No. 2, AKA The Mozart Black Manhattan)

2 oz. rye
3/4 oz. Amer Boudreau (or Ramazotti)
1/4 oz. Mozart Black chocolate liqueur
1 barspoon Grand Marnier
1 short dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1 short dash Angostura orange bitters (optional if you used Amer Boudreau)
Long thin orange peel, for garnish

Now we’re talking! The amaro is great in combination with the chocolate, especially if you are using Amer Boudreau with its “jacked” orange component. And interestingly enough the bitterness of the amaro blends and brings out the bitterness of the cacao. I love this cocktail! [Note: it seems easy to over-bitter this cocktail as it's made with an amaro. I recommend that you keep the amount of bitters you add under control.]

Finally, emboldened by my experiences with the No. 1 and No. 2 versions, I decided to try one more variation and push firmly into “dessert-style” cocktail territory:

The Criollo (No. 3)

2 oz. rye
1/2 oz. Mozart Black chocolate liqueur
1/2 oz. Lustau East India (Oloroso) sherry
1 barspoon Grand Marnier
1 dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
1 dash Angostura orange bitters
Long thin orange peel, for garnish

Here the chocolate in the Mozart combines with the nuttiness of the sherry to create a distinct toasted coconut flavor. In fact I liked that dimension of this cocktails so much that I decide to re-make it, modifying the template by leaving out the orange-flavored liqueur and cutting the bitters way down. I also replaced the orange peel garnish with a cherry:

The Criollo (No. 3, revised)

2 oz. rye
1/2 oz. Mozart Black chocolate liqueur
1/2 oz. Lustau East India (Oloroso) sherry
Scant dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters
Scant dash Angostura orange bitters
3 brandied or amarena cherries, for garnish

OK, there you have it: three variations on the Manhattan, each using the Mozart Black to a different effect. I’d deem this liqueur a worthwhile addition to any bar.

Criollo No 4 Redux

[P.S. There also a Mozart Dry which is clear and not sweet at all. I look forward to playing with that one day - when a bottle shows up at Ledger's.]

The Digression…

The moment I came across a reference to chocolate bitters in Paul Clarke’s cocktail the Camerone something in me was hooked. It think it was the idea of a chocolate flavoring which didn’t turn your drink into something that “the girls” order at T.G.I.Friday’s. Spiritous chocolate in cocktails for adults. Right on!

The bitters in question were of course Avery Glaser’s infamous Xocolatl Mole bitters. Right away I was like: “Who made these? Can I get some? Can I get the recipe?” I had no idea that I was starting to pull on a long thread that had been winding itself through the cocktail geek scene a good while before I arrived. Avery Glaser had been seeding bottles of these bitters (along with the Grapefruit) on the west coast for a while already. But most of these were empty (or locked away) by the time I became interested in them. Then I found the Bittermen’s web site where I learned about Avery Glaser’s struggle to obtain the permits and licenses necessary to make and sell the bitters legally in the US. (*). I got on Bittermen’s email list and joined Bittermens’s group at Google.

Then late last spring when visiting NYC, I saw bottles, rather large one’s in fact, of the Xocolatl Mole bitters sitting on the shelves of most all of the watering spots I visited. At Mayahuel I even got to sample them for the first time (impression: cacao, musky cinnamon). The buzz was that something was going to happen – and very soon. And then it did. Avery Glaser brought Bittermen’s to Germany where it would be made by Stephan Berg at The Bitter Truth. Bottles have started to flow into the US, though I have yet to see one. Oddly, after all the wait and build-up, I found the price something of an issue: a single bottle is 21,16 € delivered or a bit over $30 USD (depending on the exchange rate). Ouch! I’ve decided to hold off trying them until some place local, like Cask in SF, starts carrying them and defrays some of the shipping costs through a bulk purchase.

(*) – Bitters you may haven noticed are rather alcoholic, generally about 45 proof and fall into an odd category: neither a food nor a spirit (i.e. not a thing you can eat nor a beverage you can guzzle) but with enough alcohol for the government to want to keep a rein on ‘em just the same. I am guessing the easiest, though hardly the cheapest route if you want to produce bitters, is to make ‘em under a distillery license. But, unlike a bottle of spirits, all those additives (read: flavorings) in the bottle also puts them under the scrutiny of the FDA. So every different bitters flavor you make requires it own approval process. Can you say time and money consuming? No wonder Fee Bros. make their “bitters” the way they do. No wonder Bittermen’s moved to Germany. ;-(

[P.S. If someone out there knows more about the process of getting bitters produced legally for retail sale in the US, I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment or drop me a line.]

Cherries Jubilee: A Five Day Followup

Posted in Cherries, Home Made Ingredients, Stone Fruit with tags , , on August 25, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

So last night I sampled my two batches of cherries. Here are my notes:

Cherries in Rye: These seemed a bit tart to me and not very well integrated with the rye spirit. I decided to doctor things a bit. I strained the cherries out of the spirit (now a lovely red) and removed the orange peel. I ran the spirit through a coffee filter to get all the cloudiness out (took a while) and then added an additional 1/2 cup of sugar. (I had about 1 cup of spirit after filtering.) I put the sweetened spirit/syrup back in the jar with the cherries so they can spend some more time together. (N.B. I used caster sugar so it dissolved quickly and easily.)

Cherries in Cognac and Kirschwasser: This seems like the winning combination. Simply delicious. The kirsch married with the fresh cherry flavor so naturally – which I guess shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. As with the cherries in rye, I strained the cherries out of the spirit, removed the orange peel and ran the spirit through a coffee filter to remove any cloudiness. I thought “maybe a little bit sweeter” so added in a some sugar, just a 1/4 cup, and then put everything back together again. Did it really need more sugar? Maybe not. I’ll see what happens and let you know.

Cherries in Brandy and Kirsch

[P.S. I also filtered the Thomas Handy rye in which I'd been soakling all the cherry pits. Man that smells great! I haven't decided what I'm going to do with this next. There's only about 4 oz. Any suggestions, besides just drinking it (as if you're reading this ;->)?]

Cherries Jubilee

Posted in Cherries, Home Made Ingredients, Stone Fruit with tags , , on August 19, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

A few days back I walked into Berkeley Bowl (my absolute favorite place to buy produce) and much to my delight saw they had Balaton cherries for sale. Balaton’s are a coveted and relatively new sour variety, perfect for pies and tarts, more hardy than the heirloom Montmorency (which I have never seen except canned or frozen). I had read about about these a while back in Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Now, here before me (in the flesh, so to speak) were pounds of the very small, red, soft and juicy fruit, many still with stems and leaves. These had been grown in Idaho, not Michigan where, according to the Balaton Cherry Home Page, the cultivar had been developed in the mid 1980s. It would seem that cultivation has been spreading and now these are going to be more generally available – I do hope. (N.B: apparently the name Balaton is trademarked and should be followed by an ®. Who knew?)

My first two pounds were stoned and converted into filling for some tarts. After gorging myself these, I decided I had to try my hand at cocktail cherries (the de rigueur garnish for my favorite cocktail, The Manhattan). I had already collected the stones from the ones I pitted for the tart filling and put them into a jar with some Thomas Handy rye. I was vaguely thinking this would form the basis for some bitters this fall. I had brandied some Bing cherries last year using a recipe from The New York Times but wasn’t so impressed with the results. I was looking for something different. After a bit of quick research on the web, I decided just to wing it and put up two batches: one in a 50/50 mixture of kirsch and cognac (ala griottines) and one in rye (Rittenhouse 100). Keep it simple, let the cherries sing.

In both cases I started by macerating the pitted fruit with sugar in the ratio of one cup cherries to 1/4 cup superfine sugar. I let this mixture sit for about 30 minutes, turning it gently (these cherries are pretty soft) with a spoon until most all of the sugar was dissolved and a light syrup had formed. I then poured the mixture into a small Mason-style jar and covered with the spirits. I also added a couple of long strips of orange zest to each batch. Here’s a photo, including the jar with the stones I put up in the Handy rye:

Balaton Cherries and Stones in Spirit

Pretty good looking, eh? I’m not 100% sure at what point to declare these things “done” so I’m going to sample ‘em every five days or so and keep some notes. I’ll report back later and let you know what I find out.

[P.S. The fake cherries on the rightmost jar came from the bottle of Kammer Black Forest kirsch I used. Not the most expensive but I'm partial to what's made in Europe, probably because of the cherry varieties they have available to them.]

Experiencing the Joys of Shrub

Posted in Cherries, Cocktails, Home Made Ingredients, Stone Fruit with tags , , , , , on June 1, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

In which the author shares his recipe for black cherry balsamic shrub and a couple of cocktails which use it.

[NOTE: I've been erroneously adding a second 'b' to 'shrub' during these past posts. I think that crept in because I started out using the made-up gerund "shrubbing" ("shrubbin'") in the title of the first post. It sounded right - doubling the consonant before adding the 'ing' - but then it appears to have stuck, maybe because it sounded more rustic and old-tyme-like. At any rate, the extra 'b' has been expunged. The results are just as delicious.]

The two shrubs (raspberry/blackberry and black cherry) which I wrote about on the 16th of May are now bottled. A number of very yummy cocktails have been created, made and savored. Shrub turns out to be a very intense ingredient which concentrates the flavor of the underlying fruit with sweet and acid notes. It obviates the need to add any citrus to a cocktail and adds no additional alcohol (a good or a bad thing depending on your taste). It seems most natural to make sweet/sour type drinks with this though one could experiment with dialing the amount of shrub back to see what happens (e.g. a gin-based drink using no more than 1/4 oz. of shrub).

Below is my recipe for the black cherry balsamic shrub, which I feel is the more complex and unusual of the two I made, followed by a couple of original cocktail recipes which use it.

I also should mention that I did make Jamie Boudreau’s “Clarke’s Conundum” using my berry shrub. It was in fact the first thing I tried. It was delicious and I’d make it again. Of course I am also thinking of ways I’d tinker with it. Perhaps using an Oloroso in place of the PX to make it less sweet and a bit more nutty? Hmmm.

Bottled Raspberry/Blackberry and Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub

Black Cherry Balsamic Shrub

Ingredients:

500 grams fresh black cherries
500 grams organic sugar [1]
250 grams organic balsamic vinegar [2]
250 grams organic apple cider vinegar
2 large quills ceylonese cinnamon
8 – 12 black peppercorns, cracked by hand [3]

[1] – I was out of white sugar when I made my shrub so used turbinado (AKA demerara) sugar instead. You may use either though I think the less-refined sugar will result a deeper more complex flavor.

[3] – I recommend buying a better grade of balsamic – i.e. not the cheapest you can find – but certainly not the most expensive.

[3] – You don’t want to use coarse ground pepper for this, which will give too much surface area and possibly become too dominant a flavor. I started with whole peppercorns which I then gently cracked in a small mortar and pestle.

Equipment:

A scale for measuring ingredients in grams.
A 1-liter wide-mouthed glass jar with a well-fitting resealable lid.
A muddler or similar implement for smashing and pressing fruit.
A fine-mesh sieve or even a chinois.
A large mixing bowl made of glass or stainless-steel (i.e. non-reactive).
A medium funnel.
Cheesecloth.
Bottles for storing finished product.

Procedure:

1- Wash and remove the stems from the cherries.

2- Put the cherries into the wide mouthed glass jar (“jar”).

3- Put the sugar into the jar.

4- Use muddler to crush up the cherries, releasing juice, mixing things up with the sugar. Be sure that every cherry has been broken open.

5- Stir the cherry-sugar mixture together until all of the sugar has been moistened by the cherry juice.

6- Seal the jar and let sit in a cool place to macerate for at least 24 and up to 48 hours. I recommend you visually monitor the mixture during this time for signs of fermentation. If it looks like it’s starting to ferment you may add up to 125 grams (one half) of the cider vinegar to arrest this process.

NOTE: some slight froth is normal and does not indicate fermentation. That would be indicated by observing the formation and rise of small bubbles and the build up of CO2 gas in the jar. Also a little fermentation isn’t a bad thing but you don’t want it to get out of control as you are not making wine.

7- After maceration is complete, add the cider vinegar (or what remains of it), the balsamic vinegar, the cinnamon quills and the cracked black peppercorns to the jar, seal and shake well. Store in a cool place for at least 7 and as long as 10 days.

NOTE: over the next day or so you should aim to get all the remaining sugar crystals dissolved by shaking a few times a day. This also helps you to form a bond with your new shrub.

8- When you are ready, strain the contents of the jar into a sufficiently large non-reactive bowl. Use your muddler or the back of a large spoon to press as much liquid as possible from what remains of he cherries. Get as much a possible out before you give up on ‘em.

Pressing Cherry Goodness

9- Set up your funnel with a couple of layers of cheesecloth and pour (or ladle) the shrubb into your bottle (or bottles) for storage.

NOTE: the cheesecloth will still let a lot of very fine fruit particles pass. I think there’s a lot of flavor in them particles so this doesn’t bother me. As the shrub stands, these particles will settle out so I give my shrub a good shake before using it for a cocktail. I suppose it could be decanted – and maybe I’ll try that at some point to see how it affects the flavor. I’ll let you know.

10- You are done. Clean up and get ready to make some cocktails.

Shrub Cocktails:

Arbusto Oaxaca

1 1/2 oz. Del Maguey Minero mezcal
3/4 oz. black cherry balsamic shrub
1/4 – 1/2 oz. Tia Maria
1 dash orange bitters (*)

Stir ingredients over ice. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a long lemon twist.

I was thinking about this one the whole time I was waiting for the shrub to be ready. It seems like a natural fit between the smokiness of the mezcal, the tartness of the vinegar and the sweetness of the cherries, complemented by a little chocolate from the Tia Maria.

Arbusto Oaxaca

(*) - I actually tried my nascent chocolate orange bitters. If you are lucky enough to have access to Bittermen’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters bitters (soon to be available to the rest of us) you could give those a whirl.

Black Shrubhattan

2 oz. bourbon (I used Grand Dad Bottled in Bond)
1/2 oz. black cherry balsamic shrub
1/2 oz. Amaro Nonino
1 dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged bitters

Stir ingredients over ice. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish required.

Tis’ the Season to be Shrubbin’

Posted in Cherries, Cocktails, Home Made Ingredients, Left Coast Libations, Stone Fruit with tags , , , , on May 16, 2009 by Mr. Manhattan

OK…it’s still a little early in the season for local berries to be stacked in low-cost abundance on the shelves at Berkeley Bowl, but raspberries and blackberries from the good old USA are now once again available. That, plus a good dose of the inspiration I received during last night’s seminar on home made ingredients given by Neyah White of Nopa and Jeff Hollinger of Absinthe (part of 2009 SF Cocktail Week) and there was nothing more to stop me shrubbin’ today than finding the right jars.

I’d been wanting to make a shrub for a while now. It was one of very the first special ingredients that caught my eye in the original version of LCL, called for in one of Jamie Boudreau’s contributions to that book. Here’s the recipe:

Clarke’s Conundrum
Jamie Boudreau

2 1/4 oz. Rye
1/2 oz. Pedro Ximinez Sherry
1/2 oz. Raspberry/Blackberry Shrub
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist.

[Here's is a link to Jamie Boudreau's own write up on this cocktail and a generally good introduction to the topic of shrub.]

I of course wanted to learn more about shrubs after reading this but by the time I was done with my research (and making bacon bourbon – remember that?), berries were long out of season. Living in northern CA where juicy ripe berries can be had cheaply and in abundance in season, I could not bring myself to buy Mexican or Chilean imports (to say nothing of paying the obscene prices these fetch). I would have to bide my time – which as it turned out was fully consumed making all the things I needed for the 100 new LCL cocktails, sadly none of which called for shrbb.

Anyway, today I started two shrubs, which I am choosing to make without cooking as suggested by Neyah White. One will be blackberry and raspberry (so I can make Clarke’s Conundrum) and one will be black cherry – to which I will also add some cinnamon and use balsamic vinegar when the time comes. Right now I am macerating the fruit with sugar and a little vinegar to control fermentation. (Oh, and I also muddled the cherries before adding the sugar. I just hope I used the right end of the muddler.) I also chose to use Turbinado (AKA Demerara) sugar for the cherries, mostly because I ran out of refined white cane and had a supply of it on hand. (I also seem to recall the Neyah said he favored “really dirty sugar” in his concoctions, so I think I am on solid ground having made this choice). Here’s a photo taken on my back deck of the beautiful macerating fruit:

Shrubs Macerating

I’ll probably let them stand for a couple of days down in my cool basement (it’s getting warm in the house) and then add the vinegar before I leave town for a few days. I’ll filter and try ‘em when I return and let you know how they turned out in a follow up post.

Postscript:

One other thing I was inspired to do after last night’s seminar was to add a whole bunch of fresh orange peel to this bastard chocolate-orange-chili bitters I’ve been tinkering with for the last couple of months. It started life as something of a disaster (the story of which cannot yet be told) exhibiting almost no chocolate character when it was supposedly “ready.” I however could not bring myself to sink it. So I put it away and ignored it until about three weeks ago when I filtered it (dumping what was left of the original ingredients) and added back about 4 oz. of cacao nibs. About two weeks later (and after shaking it almost daily) I noticed it was finally developing a reasonable chocolate nose. I now have hope. I added the orange peel to push that component even further. Oh, and I also snagged what was probably one of the last Seville oranges of the season and threw the peel of that in there as well. I’ll also keep you posted on this. (Here’s a photo. Kind of pretty actually.)

Bastard Chocolate-Orange-Chili Bitters

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