Posts Tagged ‘drinks’

Sugar in a Burnt Pan: Tangerine-Rosemary Cocktails

Hot nectarines (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

“Look at these cocktails,” I say to my brother and hold up the magazine. The picture is pool-blue with a bright orange cocktail smack in the center.

“I’m driving,” he says, so at a red light, I hold it up again to show him the grilled flatbread on the other side of the double page spread.

“This is what I want my life to be like,” I say, and he says, “You just showed me that page,” and I say, “I thought you were driving.”

A few days later, his girlfriend comes to visit, and we decide to make the drinks. My brother has been learning to tend and carts his bar guide and herb books around from place to place. Of course, he’s left his brand new bar set at the other house, and we’re not sure what to use for a muddler other than a pestle, the top half of which has disappeared somewhere, the broken-off bottom still drooped in the mortar like a fat, marble bulb.

The recipe calls for tangerine halves to be dipped in raw sugar and grilled over fresh sprigs of rosemary. After I’d melted the siding off the house from a grease-fire fueled grill, we think we’ll give that a rest and caramelize the nectarine halves in a skillet on the stove. The store is out of tangerines.

Adding tonic (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I forget that sugar burns. I forget that a hot grill is different from a hot skillet, and as soon as the nectarine slices hit the skillet and the hot, crisping leaves of rosemary, a waft of thick steam rises, pure and white, and suddenly the room is filled with the fragrance of Christmas and that thick, white smoke, which, after I remember to turn on the fan above the stove, looks just like Santa Claus’ beard getting sucked up into the vent. » Continue reading this post...

DIY: Orange Liqueur

homemade orange liqueur (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I find it hard to wake up before eleven.

No. That’s not true. I find it hard to get out of bed before eleven. I toss about on my lumpy mattress, attempting to free my sinuses from whatever invisible congestion has beset them from about 8:30 on, snatching fits of sleep, more like consecutive naps, until finally, at eleven, I insist to myself that I must roll out of bed.

It’s because I lack goals, I tell myself. Joblessness does not suit me. Instead of using the wide, white expanse of day to do something productive, like apply for jobs or submit stories and poems to literary journals, I fritter away the day doing things like… untagging myself from Facebook pictures. Of course, it isn’t all waste. I do often manage to do one good thing a day – one submission or application, putting together a portfolio – so there is a general swell in the direction I need to go. But out of all of the hours in a day, how little I have to show for them.

I need a project, I said (as though applying for jobs were not a project enough). And since I have been meaning to make liqueurs, have even had the jars from Ikea sitting ready, for months, I decided that liqueur-making would be just the thing. And just for fun, I’d make a batch of homemade mustard too.

I first became fascinated with homemade liqueurs a few summers ago while visiting my grandfather on the Schwabian Alb in the south of Germany. There, nothing goes to waste, and the strawberries and rhubarb are turned into jams, the dense purple clusters of elderberries into juice, and bright red raspberries into liqueur. I have been meaning to make my own since then, yet only once managed a successful bottling when I was overcome by the abundance of mulberries hanging on the tree outside my Brooklyn apartment. » Continue reading this post...

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle: Cruzan Mojitos

The aging room (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Everything I might have learned on the rum tour I promptly forgot at the tasting session, where our Hawaiian shirt-bedecked tour guide shot generous splashes of Cruzan rum into plastic cups. Coconut, mango, guava, raspberry, some scary-looking molassesy black label concoction, cream rum… If only we hadn’t gotten there right before closing time. Though maybe that was for the best.

Cruzan rum is manufactured on a smallish plot of land on the western side of the island of St. Croix. The whole walking tour takes about fifteen minutes, from the office across a pebble-strewn lawn to an open warehouse with giant bins of fermenting alcohol, past a tower, storage facility, and trucks. The occasional chicken clucks past, and the whole operation looks more like grandpa’s moonshine still in the backyard than a legitimate rum factory which turns out something like 575,000 opaque, tropical cases of rum each year.

The fermenting house is really a raised platform built around large metal vats of water, yeast, and sugarcane in various stages of fermentation. The smell of raw alcohol sweetness, like mashed apples and burnt sugar, is overwhelming, especially in the heat.

From these vats, where thefermenting liquid spends about two days, the mash is transferred to a tall tower where it undergoes something called five-column distillation. In this process, the mash is pumped through a series of columns which remove aldehydes, esters, and other various trace compounds. This process also removes fusil oils, light oils formed during fermentation that accumulate during distillation and are often blamed for hangovers.

Barrels of rum (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
In the distillery (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We say, “So we can drink as much Cruzan as we want and not have a hangover?” Our tour guide says, “I’m not saying that.”

After fermentation and distillation, the rum is cut with rainwater and placed in handcrafted wooden barrels for aging. Around 23,000 charred oak barrels of maturing rum line the shelves of an extensive aging warehouse, where the rum just sort of hangs out for at least two years – and up to twelve – thinking about who it wants to be. » Continue reading this post...