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Gift Ideas for the Cocktail Lover

Posted by Reese On December - 17 - 2012

Guest post by Elisabeth, Cocktail Hacktress in training.

Tis the season to wander around the mall hopelessly looking for last minute gifts for those who are hard to buy for. Would they love the Bad Kitty calendar? Another red sweater? I, myself, have a difficult-to-buy-for Cocktail Hacker and feel for you. But, should your gift recipient love alcohol, you are in luck. We found some great books for a cocktail lover –Throw in a bottle of something tasty and you have a great gift!

Gingerbread Eggnog

I was super excited when I saw the Never Cook Sober Cookbook by Stacy Laabs and Sherri Field. What could be better than combining a love of cooking with a love of booze? This book has 100 recipes that incorporate booze. To help guide your cooking each recipe is given a “jug rating” for how much alcohol content is in the final product. What I loved most about this book is that it has everything you could want to cook meat-wise, but also includes items from scrambled eggs to desserts. Every recipe sounds delicious and I find myself trying to figure out which recipe I can cook from the ingredients in my house. Reese and I ended up cooking the Honey I’m Home Whiskey Chicken. Very tasty! If you have a cocktail loving cook on your Christmas list, grab this book! Buy one for me too!

If you are looking for a complete, modern cocktail book, we recommend Edible Cocktails by Natalie Bovis. This book includes a little education on ingredients, recipes for specialty homemade ingredients and, finally, recipes for a good variety of cocktails. This book is not limited to cocktails, but also includes recipes for shrubs, preserves, and syrups that would be great for every day drinks also. The recipes feel very farm-to-table calling for fresh seasonal ingredients when possible. This would also be a good book for someone willing to put time into making their own bitters (see Reese’s Hell Fire and Coronal bitter posts if this is you!) in order to make a cocktail with great impact. Serve up this book with a new muddler or beautiful bottles for storing shrubs.

The American Cocktail by the editors of Imbibe Magazine is sorted by region of the U.S.A. As would be expected from experts that spend their days writing about cocktails, the editors compiled only the best of modern cocktail recipes from around the country. In each recipe, the ingredients evoke a feel of their home region of the U.S., such as the cherries, walnuts and apples found in the Midwest recipes. We recommend this book for a seasoned cocktail fan that is in search of fresh recipe inspiration. Pair with a nice bottle of artisanal Rye.

For your farmer’s market attending cocktail lover, I recommend Artisanal Cocktails by Scott Beattie. This book is uniquely laid out by seasons, with fresh ingredients highlighted in each recipe. As a fan of fall flavors, I drooled over the Autumn Apple cocktail, complete with dehydrated apple chip accents. Nothing screams fall more than spiced apple beverages. The recipes vary from classics such as Mint Juleps (Summer) , Cuba Libres (Spring), and Margaritas (Winter) to more creative recipes such as the Rhubarbarella (Spring), Gin Kimchi (Spring) and Grapes of Roth (Fall). The recipes are very thorough, including recipes for any ingredients you need to complete the cocktail. This would be a delightful cocktail book for someone who likes to pair their cocktails with farmer’s market finds—Pair with a nice reusable shopping bag for when those markets open again.

Buying someone a SodaStream or other type of seltzer maker? You may want to include The Artisan Soda Workshop by Andrea Lynn, currently around $10 on Amazon.com. This book gives a great selection of recipes for shrubs and syrups that would be great with seltzer water. Only a few of the recipes in the back contain alcohol, but with a great tasting shrub and a little creativity, great cocktails aren’t far away!

Reese and I realize there are just as many beer lovers in Colorado as there are cocktail lovers. We are spoiled by the Great American Beer Festival and many large and small breweries in the area. For those that may not have the same access to the brew process as us, we recommend Short Course in Beer by Lynn Hoffman. This introduces the reader to all things important to know about beer, including terminology, process, home brew techniques and even a few recipes to pair with your beer. Throw in a 6-pack or a New Belgium Lips of Faith bomber and your beer lover is set!

Hopefully these suggestions help ease your anxiety about what you buy those hard-to-shop-for cocktail lovers. Anyone with suggestions for the Cocktail Hacker that has everything, I welcome help!


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Slushed

Posted by Reese On June - 16 - 2012

I scream! You scream! We all scream…for ICE CREAM! :D  And you know what’s even better than regular ice cream?  Boozy ice cream!  That probably wasn’t a huge mystery for you, but hey, it’s true.

As you can well imagine, when a review copy of Slushed arrived at my door offering more than 150 frozen boozy treats I was more than a little giddy.  There are a whole host of delicious sounding recipes to choose from: Campari and Lemon Gelato, Maple Bourbon Yogurt Studded with Bacon and Pecans, St. Germaine and Earl Grey Tea Gelato…suffice to say, the choice was harder than originally expected.  But, to give the recipes what I felt was a true test I wanted something fairly simple which should have great flavors.  I opted for Death by Double Chocolate Liqueur Ice Cream with a slight twist.

Death by Double Chocolate Liqueur Ice Cream (with a Twist)
6 Egg Yolks
3/4 cup Sugar
2 cups Heavy Cream
1 cup Whole Milk
5 oz Bittersweet Chocolate (chopped)
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
3 Tbsp Chocolate Liqueur *
3 Tbsp Coffee Liqueur *
2 Tbsp Black Onyx Cocoa Powder *
* My additions/subtractions
1) In a medium sized bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.
Set aside.
2) Combine the cream and milk in a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed pot.
Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the
mixture just starts to bubble at the edges.  Remove from the heat.
Toss in the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder.  Stir until the
chocolate has melted and the mixture is uniform.
3) Slowly, drizzle the hot chocolate mixture into the egg yolks,
whisking constantly to combine. Transfer the hot mixture back to
your pot.
4) Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it registers
170F on a candy thermometer and is thick enough to coat the back of
a spoon.  Strain the mixture into a bowl.  Stir in the vanilla
extract and chocolate coffee liqueur.
5) Cool in an ice bath, whisking frequently to lower the mixture's
temperature.  Refrigerate untilcompletely chilled, about 4-6
6) Process the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the
manufacturer's instructions.  Transfer to a container and freeze
overnight.

I made this ice cream for Mother’s Day (yeah, yeah time’s been tight) and everyone loved it.  The texture and flavor were amazing.  Very silky with an incredible chocolate flavor.  The liqueur doesn’t add any alcohol flavor, but the core flavor (in my case coffee) came through in a subtle, just strong enough way.  This book is a huge winner in my opinion.  The focus is on great recipes that happen to have booze in them, not mediocre recipes with booze shoehorned in for gimmick’s sake.  In Elisabeth’s words “I want to make every recipe in this book this summer!”  I concur wholeheartedly.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bartending

Posted by Reese On December - 26 - 2011

Today’s post is from my girlfriend and Cocktail Hacktress in training, Elisabeth.  She was excited to tackle this book as it’s a good intro to bartending and cocktail making in general.

Let’s face it– Reese is far from an amateur when it comes to mixing drinks.  So when “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bartending, Second Edition” was delivered to his house, it got passed to me.  I have learned a few things about cocktails over the past few months dating The Hacker, but took the time to refine my skills a little with some hands-on time.

Marie Antoinette

Perhaps most pleasing about this book is that you don’t feel like an idiot when you read it.  Your first few chapters provide you the basics on everything you need to know to bartend like a champion.  There are brief introductions to the major types of liquor which are informative and brief.  There are a few quick recipes for basic ingredients like simple syrup, followed by a list of “must haves” for your home bar.  After a quick review of my own liquor cabinet, it became abundantly clear that I am not well stocked.  The “basics” however are fairly easy to obtain and even I can find decent vodka or white rum at the liquor store (hint: it is not the $4.99 special).  If your stash has a few more bottles than mine, there are two more extensive lists that you can use to fill out your bar, should this be your goal.  I found this section particularly useful because it will help anyone buy appropriate liquors depending on how serious they are about bartending.  If I wasn’t dating Reese (who is more than happy to fill out my stash when necessary), I would definitely stock up to cover the basics.

Finally, Reese and I perused the recipe sections.  These are grouped by liquor type (which I find to be useful with a limited bar).  All recipes I consider to be staples are covered in the book—these are the ones we all know enough about to order at a bar.  There are also some you probably don’t order, giving you many options for mixing up something delicious for friends and families.  Reese appreciates that the recipes use real juices versus something like sour mix.  Most of the classic cocktails are recipes he would mix up and are sized appropriately for his taste.

Overall, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bartending is a good, complete intro to bartending.  If you got a cocktail shaker from Santa, you’ll definitely want to buy this book.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – Ice Cream Happy Hour

Posted by Reese On November - 1 - 2011

Ice Cream Happy Hour CoverDo you like ice cream?  Since you’re human, I’m going to bet yes.  And, since you’re reading my blog I think it’s safe to also assume you like booze.  So, friends, can you imagine the combination of the two?  Neither could I.  Mind you, I tried.  But my brain basically rebooted from joy every time I tried.  Salvation came in the form of Ice Cream Happy Hour, a new book from Valerie Lum and Jenise Addison.

The book is compilation of 50 recipes for ice creams, sorbets and sherbets.  There are boozy twists on the classics, like the one we chose Mint Chip with Creme de Menthe.  There are cocktail inspired recipes that definitely sound awesome.  Whiskey Sour ice cream, yes please!  And, to round it all out there are recipes for boozy sundaes, floats and the like.

The part I liked best about this book is that they break down the ice cream making process into distinct, simple steps.  I hadn’t made ice cream before (despite having my own ice cream maker, go figure) and I found the recipe very easy to follow.  You will need an ice cream maker, but they’re pretty easy to find and, if you don’t want to buy one, I’m betting you have a friend who would gladly loan you theirs.  And, I can tell you, once you’ve had boozy ice cream, all others are just a little boring.

Creme de Menthe Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mint Chip with Creme de Menthe
2 cups Milk
2 cups Heavy Cream
3/4 cup Sugar
4 Egg Yolks
2 tsp Mint Extract
3-4 drops Green Food Coloring
1 packet Gelatin
1/4 cup Cold Water
3/4 cup Cold Creme de Menthe
1 cup Chopped Chocolate
1) Scald the milk, cream and sugar
2) Whisk the egg yolks and temper with 1/3 of the milk mixture
3) Thicken the custard over low heat
4) Whisk in the mint extract and food coloring
5) Strain, cover and chill the custard for at least 8 hours
6) Dissolve the gelatin in the cold water
7) Melt the gelatin over low heat
8) Spike the custard with the cold creme de menthe
9) Churn the ice cream for at least 20 minutes
10) Fold in the chocolate 

† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.

Review – The Punch Bowl

Posted by Reese On June - 21 - 2011

Sweet, sour, spice, water and alcohol.  Those are the five, seemingly simple, components of every good punch.  But, I’ll ask you this.  Have you ever tried to come up with your own punch?  Was it good?  What about great?  I’m willing to bet, coming from past experience, that it wasn’t amazing.  If you’re lucky it was really good, but more than likely it was somewhere in the range of pretty okay to just good.  The good (and bad) news is that we no longer live in a time when the quality of the punch can make or break you.

In times past, a punch was your way of showing not only your culinary skills but your social status as well.  You see, in past centuries the ingredients that go into punch (fresh juice, spices, spirits, etc) were expensive and, in some cases, very hard to come by.  So, when you threw a big party you pulled out all the stops and got the best you could.  You mixed it all up and served it out of your very best punch bowl.  While the times of showing your status with punch may be gone, the times of enjoying a really good punch certainly are not.

The Punch BowlThat brings us back to my original problem, where do you find the guidance to make some really epic punch?  A great place to start is the recipes of times past.  Or, even better, start in the pages of Dan Searing’s The Punch Bowl.  In this book Dan starts things off with a history of punch and the punch bowl, amazing pictures of which are sprinkled throughout the book.

After the history section he gives a great intro on punch making pointing out some of the key lessons that apply as much to punch as to good cocktails.  My favorites that he calls out are the use of good spirits and a great conversion chart for old recipes.  Dan points out a key factor when choosing spirits for punch, go with good stuff, but don’t go crazy.  For example, a top dollar cognac is going to be wasted on a punch.  Instead opt for a high quality, but far less expensive, brandy.  Following that, I love the chart for converting old measures to something more familiar.  I mean, really, do you know what the hell a gill is?  How about a puncheon?  Yeah, me neither.

Prep aside, Dan gets to the meat of this topic, the recipes.  He includes 75 recipes spanning all categories and base spirits.  Included are classics such as Rum Punch, Tiki staples like the Scorpion Bowl and modern creations from top notch bartenders.  Each recipe states where it originated (and the its circa date), a brief description, how many servings (4-6 oz punch cups) it will produce and, most importantly, concise measures and directions.  The finish and production quality of this book that really bear mentioning.  The book is hardbound, with heavy, glossy pages.  The pictures are bright and vivid and the punch bowls alone are enough to keep you turning the pages.  I think this would make a great host(ess) gift.

This book arrived just at the right time.  I had a burning need to make some drinks for a party I was throwing and punch fit the bill perfectly.  I leafed through the pages and found a quick punch that sounded super tasty.  The resulting libation was easy to mix up, balanced and fruity and packed enough punch (pun intended) to keep the party going strong.

Dry Gin Punch

Dry Gin Punch (The Punch Bowl)
1 Quart Orange Juice
3/4 cup Lemon Juice
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp Grenadine
3 cups London Dry Gin
1 quart Seltzer Water
2 Lemons, Sliced
1 Orange, Sliced
1) Pour the orange juice, lemon juice and grenadine into a large bowl,
and stir well.  Slowly add the gin, and stir well.
2) Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator, and chill for 2 hours.
3) To serve, pour the punch over a block of ice that has been set in
a large punch bowl.  Add the seltzer water, and stir gently.  Garnish
the punch with the fruit slices.

I learned a few things from this punch experience.  First, punch is freaking delicious.  Second, I need a legit punch bowl.  My ceramic bowl and old fashioned glasses worked, but it didn’t properly show my social status. ;) Third, make more punch than you think you’ll need.  Trust me on this one.


† The product reviewed here was provided to me as a free sample. If you’re wondering what that means check out my sample policy.