DIY Cocktail Hour: Gold Dust Woman Martini

Tito’s Handmade Vodka started something with its notion of taking the distilling of vodka as a serious art in this country. It has been my workhorse vodka for years and will remain one of my favorites unless they change the recipe or start making prissy flavors like “angel food cake” or “cool whhip.”

There are now a plethora of artesinal vodkas that are organic, distilled over charcoal in artesinal springs with dancing nymphs and Romans eating grapes. With Portland 88, Crater Lake and House of Spirits Volstead Vodka, the Portland area certainly has more than its fair share of purified and crystalline vodkas. But this week when I went to Austin on vacation, I wanted to see how the locals stacked up.

dripping_springs

At the liquor store down the street from the ranch that was my vacation home– yep, you got it, a ranch. (No cows but a salt water pool and about a billion stars at night). I found several Austin craft distilled vodkas. I went with Dripping Springs because it had received some convincing accolades. The label doesn’t do it justice. It is a ten times filtered vodka from the water of an artesinal spring. Beautifully alcoholic and clear it has the resonance of crystal. Don’t let the label fool you, it’s not fake crystal. This can’t go through the dishwasher.

With the elegance and decadence of the vodka as a starting point, I created the following cocktail:

Gold Dust Woman

Gold Dust Woman

Gold Dust Woman:

Ingredients
5 oz Dripping Springs Vodka
1 1/2 oz mango pulp
1/2 oz Headsnapper Sauvignon Blanc

Directions
Fill martini glass with sparkling water and ice cubes
Fill shaker with ice
Add vodka, mango pulp and sauvignon blanc
Shake, shake shake until the shaker is frosty and sticks to your hand
Empty martini glass, rinse with 1/2 oz of sauvignon blanc
Partially rim with white sugar
Strain drink into glass 7 oz glass (It’s Texas, it has to be big)
Garnish with giant, freshly picked Texas strawberry

To Pick On: (Cuz Gold Dust Women Don’t Really EAT)
Tex-Mex Strawberry Salad

2 Shredded romaine hearts
1 cup juillienned jicama
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup tortilla strips

Dressing
1 small fresh red chili pepper, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps agave syrup
1/3 cup pack fresh chopped mint
1/2 cup squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp liquid coconut oil
1/3 cup EVOO
2 tbsps white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Dress salad in bowl, chill if desired and dish up into four dishes.

Best Use: Chillin’ by the pool waiting for your toenails to dry, sparkled gold over violet

Reading Materials:
 Maya’s Notebook, Isabelle Allende

Soundtrack: Duh, Gold Dust Woman… this version

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DIY Friday Cocktail Hour: Futbol Hero

frozen margarita in mason jar

frozen mason jar cocktail a la tastespotting.com

I will readily admit that I have had a love affair with margaritas–I know a minute on the lips and a lifetime on the hips. That’s why I come up with variations on a theme that are a little bit lighter so you feel less guilt.

This happy accident came during Cinco de Mayo and is a holy hybrid of the Pina Colada and the margarita.

Ingredients: (Makes one 40 oz pitcher of  Tropical Margaritas plus ice)
Iced Pitchers
 1/2 cups Espolon 100% Agave Blanco Tequila
1 1/2 Trader Joe’s Low Sugar Lemonade
1 cup Knudsen Pineapple Coconut Juice
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 cups Monarch Triple Sec (or to taste)

On really hot days, sometimes a frozen margarita is on the menu, if the blender’s not broken 😉

Frozen Pitchers
Pre-frozen sliced banana and small can of pineapple chunks
1/2 cup cocktail ice (if available)
1 1/2 cups Espolon 100% Agave Blanco Tequila
1 cup Trader Joe’s Low Sugar Lemonade
1/2 cup Knudsen Pineapple Coconut Juice
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1/4 cups Monarch Triple Sec (or to taste)

The liquid should cover the frozen bits with about a half-3/4 inch to spare. Blend for 45 seconds to 1 minute depending on the power of the blender.

Serve frozen or on the rocks in mason jars (can be kept cold in coolers or in the freezer
Or serve up in a margarita glass
Garnish with a lime and a pineapple wedge
Cocktail umbrella optional

Serve with: Spicy Mango Salsa and Tortilla Chips from my new fave Sarah’s Cucina Bella
Soundtrack: Futbol Heroes Cinqo de Mayo 2012 by pandemix

What’s your gorgeous spring day missing? An Aperol Margarita

So bear with me on this one because it may sound a bit culturally inappropriate and downright odd. There are those of us in this world who do not like sugary margarita mix. I’m one of them. Combine the sugar water with a triple sec and woo-baby, sugar spike, calorie binge. They may be delicious but they add up.

So, in the spirit of ingredients that mysteriously add up to delicious things, I present the Aperol Margarita. Made with an Italian digestif rather than triple sec, it actually captures quite well the neighborhood in which it was invented: the Italian Market in Philadelphia, a place where Italian Americans and Mexican people co-exist although they don’t often mingle.

Mingle me this Batman.

Aperol Margarita

1 1/2 oz blanco or reposado tequila (100% agave of course, some recommendations here)
1 1/2 oz Aperol
1 1/2 oz fresh lime juice sweetened with agave nectar (to your liking)
Garnish with an orange twist (just the surface zest)

This will be unlike any margarita you’ve had before…call it a “dry” margarita, but it’s great for a spring day when the sun is not radiating you with its death rays and the flowers are blooming.

Hendricks Gin: Cucumber, meet Rose

I think most people who have spent any time at all with a bottle have a particular spiritual nemesis (mine is bourbon, which makes me weep like a baby).  But for some reason, gin has this notoriety of turning Dr. Jekylls everywhere into drunk, venom-spewing Mr. Hydes.  I heard this theory the other night while bartending, that the culprit is a sensitivity to juniper berries, which seems plausible. In its unripened form, the juniper berry is hard and green which lends the tannic bitterness to both the gin and its drinker.

Then there’s the seedy side of gin–the roaring twenties with luscious egg-white thickened cocktails. Of course these fancy cocktails came into existence because of the foul taste of nefariously produced ‘bathtub gin.’ Trust me, no one wants an extra-dry martini with soap scum floating at the top.

But we no longer have to resort to the bathtub as distillery, we can leave it to the professionals.  Hendrick’s, for instance, makes a gin so deliciously pure and clear that you are never in danger of a sudsy aftertaste.  Infused with cucumbers and rose petals, this gin has that classic herbaceous quality characteristic of a high end spirit. Unlike London Dry styled gins, the herbs employed in building its aroma aren’t boiled in the still, rather they are steamed, their vapors lending subtle flavor to the liquor. Although it is herbaceous, Hendricks doesn’t drag your palate through the herb garden as does Herbsaint or Absinthe. It may be a bit frilly for Tanqueray drinkers but it is worth straying from the flock for those with an adventurous spirit. And it led the revolution of apothecary styled liquor bottles.

Fun with Mixology: The Hendricks Rosegarden
2.5 oz Hendricks Gin
1 oz Rosehip Liquor
Splash Pink Grapefruit Juice
Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters
Shake vigorously, strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with rose petals or a cucumber wheel

Nightcaps: The Darling Nikki

Baileys Cherry CafeWhen I was a young bartender in Philadelphia I consumed a lot of whiskey coupled  with high alcohol beer, mainly Belgian. This is not a lifestyle choice I necessarily recommend. One problem with it is that can unleash vicious heartburn and induce an overall feeling of malaise. When the burning starts and the thought of another beer stirs the seas of your stomach acids, there are two options–one is to call it a night. There is nothing wrong with this option. Go home and snuggle with the cat. It’s good for the soul. The other option is to muscle on through the burn.

Enter the Darling Nikki, known to relieve tension from the tense and tame the savage beast. This cocktail is a sleeper. It tastes a bit like a milkshake and goes down easily, soothing the burn along the way. But pay heed, the Nikki will leave you in that hotel room the next morning wondering what the hell happened and why your pants are on the windowsill.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey *
1 1 oz Bailey’s Irish Whiskey
1 1/2 oz Amaretto (don’t bother with the fancy stuff, the house works well)
Rim glass with cinnamon sugar

Pour into ice filled shaker. Shake hard (feel the frost build on the shaker and your bicep burn). Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a cherry.

This cocktail may raise a judgmental eyebrow, because of its girlish nature  but trust me she will give you a funky time, every thing that money can buy.

*If whiskey isn’t your think, sub Stoli for a Darling Nikita 😉 Thanks Cheri