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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.

Review – Cosmo’s Official Cocktail Book

Posted by Reese On May - 31 - 2011

Cosmo's Official Cocktail BookLet’s get something very clear.  I’m not a reader of Cosmo.  But, that said, I did have a subscription to Maxim for a couple years and, let’s face it, you remove the gender slant and they’re really the same thing.  So, when my review copy of Cosmo’s Official Cocktail Book arrived I tore into it in search of the lost secrets of how to please my man and get him liquored up in the process (wait a sec…).  What I found was a pretty good collection of cocktails and some fun stuff thrown in for kicks.

The recipes in Cosmo’s book, not surprisingly, lean toward the sweet side, but they do add some fun ingredient twists and they’re actually not half bad cocktails.  In addition, throughout the book you get little quizzes, tips, facts, etc.  On top of all that there are a pair of features that I really like.  First, the recipes are all fairly simple with easily accessible ingredients.  And, on that note, if there is an ingredient you’re not familiar with you can look it up in the back of the book to get an idea of the flavor, etc.  Second, there is a “Cocktail Crash Course” section at the end of the book that introduces the tools, spirits and some pointers from a bartender.  These features make the book accessible to cocktail mixers of all skill levels, which I think is exactly how books like this should be.  I do have one complaint, which was pointed out by my loyal test subject, the cocktail pictures don’t always show the true look and color of the cocktails.  While this is likely not a problem for a guy, it was pointed out that some ladies out there might pick cocktails to match a color palate.  So, knowing that, make sure you mix up a sample cocktail to see if the colors work and, bonus, you get to drink the sample.

Blood Orange Bonanza

Blood Orange Bonanza (Cosmo's Official Cocktail Book)
3 oz X-Rated Fusion Liqueur
1 oz Light Rum
1/2 oz Grenadine
1) Combine ingredients in a blender
2) Add a handful of ice and blend until smooth
3) Garnish with a slice of blood orange

First, let me say 70’s blenders are rarely going to get you a picture perfect frozen drink.  Mine sure as hell didn’t, but enough whining.  Like a number of cocktails in this book, the Blood Orange Bonanza is very pink.  But, like cocktails in the past, I’m going to let that slide.  It’s all about the flavor, right?  This drink was a little too sweet for me at first, but it was well received by Elisabeth.  And, as the ice melted a bit the sweetness was cut and the overall flavor is quite nice.  The liqueur offers some bright fruit flavors and the rum rounds it all out.  I could have used a bit more sourness in this for my taste, I’d say a touch of lime juice or even blood orange juice would do some great things.

I added about 2 oz of prosecco once I’d had my initial sips and was really pleased.  The prosecco cut the sweetness and gave the drink a really pleasant effervescence.  I’d definitely suggest giving that twist a try if you mix up this cocktail.  We also mixed up a few others from the book so keep an eye out for the recipes and my thoughts.

† 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 – Cocktail Town: San Francisco

Posted by Reese On April - 5 - 2011

Cocktail TownTraveling to a new city can always be a bit daunting.  Unfamiliar streets, unfamiliar restaurants, unfamiliar landmarks and, possibly the worst, no knowledge of where to go for a good cocktail to calm your nerves.   Cocktail Town takes the guess work out of that problem and shows you around the cocktail hotspots.

This is the travel guidebook booze hounds have been looking for.  The project isn’t all about books, though.  It’s actually a combination of a website and a series of coffee table style books.  The first book in the series covers the cocktail scene in San Francisco.  Starting first with a look at the local distilleries (Distillery 209 and St. George) and followed by a look at classic ingredient producer Small Hand Foods.

Then the book gets into the meat of the topic, the cocktail hotspots of the area.  Each spot has an overview of the atmosphere and the feel of the cocktail menu (i.e. classic cocktails, twists on favorites, etc).  In addition, Cocktail Town includes a signature recipe from each spot.  The photography and recipes alone were enough to keep me flipping through this book.  The photos are stunning and the recipes highlight the creativity of the bartender’s craft.

If you’re looking for an introduction to the cocktail hotspots in the San Francisco area and some great recipes, Cocktail Town is well worth a look.  The web site includes the same info as the book and supplements the recipes with how-to videos, so that’s where I’d start.

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


The Bubbly Bar

Posted by Reese On December - 28 - 2009

A few months ago I received a review copy of Maria Hunt‘s new book The Bubbly Bar.  Unlike most cocktail books, this one centers entirely on Champagne based cocktails.  The book starts, as it should, with the classics.  Some I’ve featured already (eg The Champagne Cocktail and the French 75) and some I have not (look for the Bellini and the Kir Royale later this week).  After the classics are laid down Maria goes on to cover more recent creations.  Amongst these are  riffs on other cocktails (like the Aperol Flip and Ruby Red Sangria) and original cocktail creations (like the Violet Fizz, which I’m going to mix up later this week, and the Cucumber Cooler which I’ve listed below).

The recipes are straight forward, using fairly common ingredients for the most part.  Another definite high point is that Maria put some effort in to making the drinks balanced.  Which, in a world where a lot of restaurant creations are much too sweet, is very welcome.  In addition to the well thought out recipes, the photographs are also quite stunning.  Overall, the book is well done and worth checking out if you’re looking for some new ways to enjoy an old classic.

Cucumber Cooler (The Bubbly Bar)
6 Thin Slices of Cucumber
1/2 oz Vodka
Juice of 1/2 Lime
3/4 oz Agave Nectar
5 oz Dry Sparkling Sake
1 Cube of Cucumber
1) Muddle vodka and cucumber in a rocks glass
2) Add lemon juice and agave nectar
3) Stir to mix thoroughly
4) Fill glass 3/4 full with ice
5) Top with sparkling sake
6) Garnish with a cucumber cube

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