Laurel’s Whiskey Sour

Craig and I are suckers for tasty cocktails.  We also love whiskey.  What’s better than a tasty whiskey cocktail?  One that’s refreshing, simple, and is full of protein!  Craig and I spent a few weeks fussing with ratios, and have finally settled on a ratio that we love.  Full disclosure, this is not the standard whiskey sour ratio, but one that we both prefer.  A true whiskey sour traditionally does not have an egg white in it.  Technically, a whiskey sour with an egg white is called a Boston sour.  Don’t be weird about egg whites in cocktails.  They make them delicious and foamy and creamy, but aren’t gross.  We were making these and one of our friends didn’t want to try it because of the egg in it.  Then she tried it after a little peer pressure and remarked that it wasn’t gross at all.  So there’s that.  If you’re concerned about potential foodborne illness, don’t be.  This recipe is actually better using pasteurized egg whites.  More on that later.

whiskey sour cocktail

Our Whiskey sour is a simple beast.  4 ingredients. 5 if you’re fussy like me.

Egg White – Don’t skip this.  I promise it’s good.  And if it’s not, then you’re only out the ingredients of one cocktail.  Try the recipe when you have friends over, and without a doubt, someone will love it and ask you for the recipe.  Send them to my blog.  Anyway – we found that in addition to being way less effort than separating a fresh egg, pasteurized egg whites in cartons seem to give more even foam.  Just use those.

Rye Whiskey –  This can be made with most whiskeys, but rye is far and away the best.  It isn’t sweet like bourbon, and has this slight bite to it that really bounces off the creaminess off the egg white and the sweetness of the sugar.  Added bonus, you can get great mixing rye for almost nothing.  The Old Overholt that we use is $16 per 750ml bottle.

Lemon & Lime Juice – You want both.  My version of the optimal ratio is 2 lemons per 3 limes.  As long as the juice isn’t sitting the fridge for a week or something, it’s still delicious.  Don’t use bottled juice, even the really tasty Nelly & Joes stuff that’s usually passable.  It needs to be from real fruits.

Simple Syrup – This is pretty simple (hahaha, get it?  simple?!).  But seriously.  Add roughly 1 part sugar to roughly 1 part water, heat until sugar is liquefied.  I don’t even do this on the stove anymore.  I put a bunch of sugar in this jar/bottle, add some boiling water, and swirl it around.  This usually does the trick.  If it doesn’t, I microwave it in 30 second increments til it’s done.  It lasts forever in the fridge.

Bitters – These are not necessary, but I prefer using them.  Angostura are fine, but this is 100% the chance to break out your weirder ones.  My favorite is grapefruit bitters, continuing the citrus theme.

whiskey sour cocktail

Ingredients:
3 oz (or 2 fresh) egg whites
4 oz rye whiskey
3 oz lemon/lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
(optional) dash bitters

Directions:
*Add a few ice cubes to your cocktail shaker (I use 3 large hexagonal ones) and put your egg white in.  Cap and shake the crap out of it.  The goal here is to generate a lot of froth and start breaking up your ice a little.
*Crack open shaker and add the rest of your ingredients.  Shake again.  I find that sometimes the shaker burps a little, so I do this second shaking over the sink to reduce stickiness.
*Strain into an old fashioned class, garnish with a slice of lime and a couple dashes of bitters if desired.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Jelly Shots

I turn 30 this year.  I have come to the jello shot game pretty late, but I’m making up for it by producing delicious gelatinous versions of some of my favorite cocktails.  I haven’t shared any of the recipes here before, mostly because I haven’t photographed them, which… shame on me.  They’re tasty.  The one piece of advice that I can give you for any type of jello shots, is if you’re using real ingredients (not Jell-O mix), make sure the flavor is over the top.  It needs to be sweeter than a sane person would willingly drink.  Think Mai Tai or pretty much any super sweet tiki drink.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Jelly Shots

I made these as a cocktail a few months ago as a way to try to use up some of the remaining Birthday Cake Vodka that I had, and they were loved by everyone.  I had a bachelorette party to go to this weekend, which proved to be the perfect excuse to turn this super girly drink into a great jello shot.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Jelly Shots

So I did.  I did a little testing in terms of strength before jellifying it, and found that a 1:1 ratio seemed to work perfectly.  If you’re in the US, chances are you’re going to be able to find unflavored Knox gelatin in powder.  My recipe uses that, as it is what is most available to me. I’m not sure what the gelatin sheet conversion is.  For a sturdy jello shot, you want to go with 1 cup of liquid per packet of gelatin.  This makes them stable at room temperature and sturdy enough to hold together as you pull them out of molds or cut them.   And a word of warning – if you’re using silicone ice cube trays like I do, be sure to get the freezer smell out of them.  It’s not terribly apparent with ice, but there’s something about the alcohol content that absorbs every wayward flavor.  I ended up having to throw out all of the shots from the green mold because even after a baking soda soak, then a vinegar soak, then a run through the dishwasher, the flavor was still apparent in the gelatin.  The blue one got the same treatment and tasted fine.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Jelly Shots

Ingredients
1.5 cups canned pineapple juice
3 packets Knox gelatin
1.5 cups cake or vanilla vodka
nonstick cooking spray (don’t use coconut oil.  it solidifies and gets ugly)
maraschino cherries if desired (these give you a really pretty red gradient)

Instructions
*Measure out pineapple juice in a heat resistant cup large enough to hold everything.
*Sprinkle gelatin evenly over pineapple juice, making sure all of the gelatin gets moist
*Allow gelatin to bloom for 5-10 minutes and heat until totally liquefied. I microwaved it.
*Allow to cool additional 10-45 minutes.
*Add Vodka, stir, and pour into molds/loaf pan that have been sprayed with nonstick spray. Add cherries if desired.
*Chill in fridge overnight or for 6+ hrs
*Remove from molds or loaf pan. Cut into cubes if you used loaf pan.
*Enjoy responsibly

Infusing your own alcohols

I am going to be honest, I have made several pretty bad infused liquors.  That goes with the territory. You win some, you lose some.  In college, I took a $30 bottle of vodka and soaked a huge pile of blackberries in it, then added a huge amount of sugar.  The result – $40 worth of fail.  That $40 failure was a huge financial hit for a college student, and dissuaded me from attempting to infuse booze for many years after that.  Last fall Craig mentioned a mixed drink that he had tried where you mix fireball (cinnamon liqueur) with apple flavored snapple, but mentioned that it was very sweet.  I set about coming up with a way to make it tastier and lower sugar.  I soaked a few cinnamon sticks in some whiskey, and mixed it with actual apple cider.  It’s delicious, and has the benefit of no added sugar.

 This post is not about my whiskey though.  It is about infusing gin.  Most of us have had a bad experience with gin that has put us off drinking it.  Mine involves running out of juice midway through a night of drinking when I was in highschool, and switching to doing shots of it out of a mug.  It was not a positive experience.  The next time I touched gin was close to 8 years later, when I spent the weekend getting cut, bruised, sweaty, and dusty tearing out a huge pile of juniper bushes from our front yard.  Deciding that I needed a victory cocktail, nothing seemed more fitting than drinking a spirit steeped in juniper offspring (berries).  It was then that my love affair with gin began.  Unfortunately, nobody else in my circle of friends felt the same way about it.  To this day, I have to come up with something pretty fancy to get Craig to drink it.  This spring, I came across the ticket.  I made a rhubarb simple syrup, and began my experimentation with adding different herbs to cocktails made with the syrup.  If I remember correctly, I think the gin cocktail was rhubarb simple syrup, muddled basil and lime, plus gin and soda water.  And it was magnificent.  It was then that I coerced Craig’s best friend (and my secondary husband) Ian to try gin.  He then began drinking gin and tonics (G&Ts!) and has also begun exploring the exciting world of craft-distiller’s versions of gin.  Rogue brewery has a gin that they put out somewhat recently which is great.  My PERSONAL favorite is Dry Fly from Eastern Washington.  They scale back a bit on the standard botanicals, and add in apple, lavender, hops, mint, and some other similar flavors.  It is an incredibly complex flavor and is a lot less juniper-heavy than many others.  This spring, when lavender was blooming, I took a cue from Dry Fly, and collected some lavender flowers, threw them in a jar, then filled it with gin and allowed it to sit for a few days.  The gin turned a yellowish color eventually, and I strained everything, and made cocktails using elderflower syrup and soda water.  It was like drinking a flower, but in a good way.

lavender-infused gin
It tasted as pretty as it looked

So this year for Christmas, when I found myself unable to find a suitably thoughtful gift for Ian (he is a very good gift giver), and he mentioned having gotten a new fancy gin, I knew what to do.  I decided to make him a trio of infused gins.  The biggest trick to infusing liquors, is to start with something CHEAP.  It doesn’t have to be enormous plastic bottle cheap, but unless the enormous plastic bottle liquor is actually unpleasant tasting, it should be fine if you start with that.  When I infuse our cinnamon whiskey, I get a 1.75 liter bottle of the cheapest whiskey I can find, and dump a few cinnamon sticks in.  My go-to gin is Beefeater, and I get it in (glass) 1.75 liter bottles for a pretty decent price, so I feel OK keeping it around for drinking, and whatever hair I have up my ass for infusing. My first plan was satsuma-cranberry.  For this, I just threw half a bag of fresh cranberries into a bottle (I’ll mash them up a bit if I do this in the future) and the zest from 2 satsumas.  I like doing large ribbons of zest, so I slice big pieces of peel off, then shave away any visible bits of white pith (pith=bitter=unpleasant).  Here it is after having sat for a few days.

Satsuma-Cranberry Gin
The second one is lemongrass-lime.  For this, I got a stalk of lemongrass and cut it to about 8″ long, then cut it into strips so that I’d be able to remove them from the bottle, and did the same zest trick with 2 limes.  Due to the assertiveness of both flavors, I expect that this one will only take a few days to infuse, but I think that it’ll be a fun one to experiment with, so I’ll be happy to “water it down” with some additional gin(if it’s too intense) and take whatever leftovers I end up with.

lemongrass-lime infused gin
My final infusion is a grapefruit-basil infused gin.  As you can see, it’s only grapefruit zest so far.  That is partially because I think that the grapefruit will need a little longer to infuse to release its flavors, and partially because I haven’t made it to the store to get some fresh basil in the middle of winter yet.

grapefruit infused gin

Making Limoncello

I just decided to try my hand at making limoncello in time for the holidays and figured I’d chronicle my adventure. This is why – Craig wants a lemon tart for his birthday instead of a cake because he doesn’t love cakes. I was at the restaurant supply store buying flank steak and saw that they had a bag of like 30 lemons. The bag of like 30 lemons was approximately $6, about what you’d pay for a bag of something like 6 at the grocery store. I can’t pass up a deal, and since I already have a jar of preserving lemons, I figured I’d do the next best thing with my score, limoncello!

Ingredients:
11 lemons
2 750ml bottles of 151 proof vodka
1 quart glass jar or bottle
cheap vodka to fill
1 brita filter

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remove the zest from the lemons. I’d normally use a microplane for this step, but I read online that taking larger chunks off of the lemons makes it A LOT easier to filter. That makes sense. I started with a sharp veggie peeler, but that ended up including too much pith (the white stuff… you want to avoid that at all costs, it has a bitter flavor that ruins things) so I switched to a very sharp paring knife.

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This is not water in the brita.

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You want to filter your booze 4 times apparently. I’ve never filtered cheap vodka before, so I couldn’t tell you whether it makes much difference, but mythbusters did it and a vodka aficionado was able to discern between how many times vodka had been filtered, and since the internet guide that I loosely based this recipe off said to filter it 4 times, and I have a costco pack of brita filters hanging out, I figured I’d give it a try. I don’t really trust the quality of a $16 bottle of 151 anyway.

Anyway, put the lemon zest in the jar/bottle, then pour in your 151 booze, then filter enough vodka to fill the rest of the bottle/jar.

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The shitty jar that I bought at Cost Plus World Market apparently doesn’t seal very well against vodka, so I got a sheet of plastic wrap and folded it into quarters and put it between the lid and the rest of the jar to hopefully seal better. Anyway, put the jar away for about a month. In that time, the vodka should pull all of the essential oils from the lemon zest, and turn it into a freaky sad greyish/whitish color. The liquid should apparently turn yellow and bright and friendly. We’ll see.

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The next step after letting it age for about a month is to make a strong simple syrup, strain the zest and finings out through a few coffee filters, mix, and let age for another month or so.

White Sangria

It might not be authentic, or even that great when compared to red, but Craig’s mom is willing to drink it, which is the reason I made it with white wine. Oh, and I have a CLASSY box of wine that I keep in the kitchen for cooking, which means I didn’t have to buy wine. Sangria-tizing wine makes even 3-buck-chuck drinkable.

I was making a nectarine cobbler so I thought I’d lend a little continuity to the meal and use them in addition to my classic strawberries and lemon combo. They were pretty awesome. I also used tangerines. The trick is to let the wine steep in the fridge overnight with the fruit, then if you’re serving it to guests, drain the greyish and discolored fruit out, slice up some fresh lemon/tangerine, and put it in a pretty pitcher. Putting a slice of lemon in one’s glass is a festive way to serve it, and it makes you feel less bad for basically wasting a whole $1 lemon for the sake of a nice presentation.
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If it’s too sweet, water it down with a little club soda or talking rain.

All-Grain beer making! Maiden Voyage!

It went well. Yeah… well, mostly. It was beautiful outside, a balmy 70º with very little wind, and I was protected from the sun by our classy (but very useful) covered porch. It took a little longer than expected to get things going, but after I did, I was pleasantly surprised by how seamlessly it all came together.
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I overshot my expected efficiency(how much sugar you’re able to extract from the grains) at 72% which I’m satisfied with for now. I ended up with 6 gallons of wort pre-boil. Here it is draining from my mash tun (the cooler) into my brew kettle (the enormous pot)
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After my boil began, I was able to relax a little and decided to pull a pint to pass the time. Unfortunately, I kicked the keg after 1/3 of a glass (that’s how it always happens) so RIP red ale
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Boris was there to help the entire time. 🙂
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Here’s my wort chiller hanging out in the brew kettle to sanitize prior to chilling.
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The wort chilled in record time (under 10 minutes from boiling to 65º), butI had a few issues with hops clogging my siphon after the boil (durr). I ended up pouring the wort through a strainer set into a funnel. I also ended up with only 4 gallons of beer at the end, so I know to plan to have much more wort at the start of boil than 6 gallons.