Monday, September 22, 2014

Mixology Monday LXXXIX: The Unknown - Phö Queen Mary

This month's Mixology Monday is being hosted by the marvelously talented Chris from A Bar Above. The theme he chose is "The Unknown" and you can read his full announcement post here. Basically, he wanted to challenge us to use an unknown ingredient or to experiment with a technique we hadn't tried before.

Over the last few weeks I've fought long and hard to save myself from the embarrassing thing I'm about to do, but I just couldn't get it out of my brain. Although it may bring me much public shame, I have wholeheartedly committed to the concept. Please bear with me.

I love savory foods, but have often been quite frustrated with savory cocktails. A dirty martini is simply a waste of good gin, and a well-made Bloody Mary is hard to find (and often too acidic for my taste). As cooler weather is rapidly approaching I will soon find myself tucked into a booth at my favorite Thai restaurant, putting away bowls of curry and Vietnamese Phö. Oh, how I love Phö. It's what chicken noodle soup ought to be.

Late last winter, as I was slurping away at the broth in the bottom of my giant bowl, I thought to myself that this flavor combination would make an excellent Bloody Mary concept. The broth was seasoned and savory and the hoisin sauce was not too far off from Worcestershire sauce. Surely I could make that work. But then I laughed it off as a ludicrous idea. No one would ever take me seriously as a bartender if I put beef broth in their cocktail. Only Matthew Biancaniello could get away with something like that.

However, the idea has continued to haunt me, and with this month's Mixology Monday challenge I finally got up the courage to give it a shot. Introducing my "Phö Queen Mary"...

Phö Queen Mary

1.5 oz Absolut Cilantro (yep, I used flavored vodka)
1.5 oz organic beef broth
1 oz lime juice
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
5 drops Sriracha
5 drops Bitter Queen's Bangkok Betty Thai Spice Bitters
.5 tsp chives (chopped, you may sub scallions)
.5 tsp lemongrass (sliced)
.5 tsp basil (chopped)

Muddle lime, hoisin, lemongrass, chive and basil. Add remaining ingredients. Chill. Shake. Double strain into Collins glass. Garnish with fresh chive, basil and lemongrass leaf.

[Side Note: I believe it would be quite interesting to substitute Soju as the base liquor, or even a rice-based vodka, like Kai Lemongrass...]

Yep. It's weird. But I finally got a cocktail that tastes like my favorite cold weather treat! It's savory and refreshing. It might even make a nice hair-of-the-dog. Plus, protien. I'm not sure that this is an entirely "unknown" concept, but it's definitely something I've been terrified to try out. Hopefully it won't bring me too much public shame. If so, I'll just have to console myself with some Phö.



Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day!

While the rest of the country is relaxing on this beautiful three-day weekend, I am hard at work making tasty drinks for you! It's crunch-time for me at work as I'm trying to train a few new bartenders and get ready for our Fall menu launch the first week of October. And though I have warm, toasty Fall drinks on the brain, the temperature outside tells me that it's still Summer and I should sit down, relax and enjoy a refreshing drink.

One of my favorite drinks this summer is our "Porch Swing" from The Main Street Pizza Company. Each year as the temperatures rise and the days grow longer, I find myself drawn to the swing on my front porch. There is something magical about sitting there in the afternoon, passing time, while my neighbors' lives buzz around me with dogs barking, children playing, car doors slamming and grills sizzling. Life moves slower in the South. The air grows thick in the summer months and you can’t help but slow down and appreciate the beauty of the world around you. I created this cocktail to complement the lazy days of Summer.

Porch Swing

1.5 oz Half Moon Orchard Gin
1 oz lemongrass lime cordial
1 oz honey syrup
1 oz green tea
8 mint leaves

Combine ingredients. Shake thoroughly.
Serve with a lemon slice in a tall glass.

Our in-house recipe calls for a complicated house-made lemongrass-lime-cordial, so for simplicity's sake, I've turned it into a punch recipe for you!

Porch Swing Punch
3 cups water
1 lemon grass stalk (diced)
2 (bags) green tea
.5 cup lime juice
.75 cup honey
1 cup gin (light or floral)
20-30 mint leaves
1 cup club soda

In a small sauce pan, bring water and lemon grass to a hard boil. Turn down to simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and steep green tea bags for 8 minutes. Strain out tea and lemon grass. Stir in lime and honey. Place in fridge to cool (approx. 20 minutes). Pinch the mint leaves into a large pitcher. Add gin and stir. Fill with ice. Add chilled tea mixture and top with club soda.

Pour your self a glass. Enjoy the sunshine or sit back and relax in the cool breeze.

Cheers, Y'all!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mixology Monday LXXXVIII: Coconut - One More Night

I love coconut. I love it on my Snowballs, in my cream pies, and wit de lime to relieve my bellyaching. I'm such a silly woman. I grew up watching movies like Swiss Family Robinson and The Blue Lagoon. Coconuts were a fantasy fruit for me and to this day hold an almost magical or etherial quality that can transport me out of my reality to a different world (a world with fewer clothes and more hammocks).

This month's Mixology Monday challenge is hosted by R Rated Cocktails, and the theme is Coconut!
"It is my sincere belief the coconut does not get the love, nay the respect, it so richly deserves. Because this easy going tropical seed had it's heyday in the Tiki era, it's happily associated with the same fun loving drinks... Despite all the great Tiki drinks coconut appear in most people are down on the humble seed because of the Piña Colada. Friends, this need not be so. I say we take this delicious ingredient and show it can yield a tasty, well-balanced cocktail."

My most recent love affair with coconut developed several years ago when coconut water came into vogue. With its new place in the spotlight, coconut water claimed to be so much more than just natural, coconut juice. It's apparently full of electrolytes and rumor has it that it's great for hangovers. While age and wisdom has taught me to pace myself, due to my job I still drink "for a living," and occasionally have an event or occasion for which I know I will be called upon to overindulge. The idea of having a go-to hangover solution caught my attention.

According to Men's Fitness, coconut is "insanely hydrating, and one carton typically packs more potassium than a banana—which is the key nutrient for feeling better fast (when you have a hangover)." Over the last few years I've found coconut water to be a wonderful solution. If I know I'm going to be celebrating all night, I will have a coconut water (VitaCoco's Pineapple is my favorite) before I leave the house, and then open one when I get home before I go to bed. I'll usually drink part of it before crashing and then finish it off when I wake up in the morning. So far, this has been the best solution I've found to beat a hangover, despite how much I've consumed.

I followed this same strategy for Tales of the Cocktail this year. Before I left for the conference I bought a case of Vita Coco Pineapple and loaded my bags with it. Before I left my room each day I'd grab two fresh bottles of coconut water and drink them throughout my day. Then I'd have another when I got home at the end of the night. The drinking at Tales was intense. I was basically drinking from about 10am until I managed to hit my pillow at night (usually after midnight). But, despite the loaded schedule of hair-of-the-dog drinking, tasting rooms, seminar drinking, more tasting, seminar drinking, dinner, post-dinner drinks and nightcaps, I never once had a headache or felt sickly the whole week I was there. On the contrary, I felt energetic and refreshed when I woke up every morning. I give most of the credit for my happy Tales experience and sobriety to coconut water. It saved my butt.

Laura Cloer, 2014
That said, I typically have two more things I desire when I'm hungover. My go-to spirit for hair-of-the-dog is Fernet Branca. The eucalyptus always settles my tummy. I also crave coffee. When I saw this month's Mixology Monday challenge, a light when off and I thought immediately of coming up with a new hangover remedy. Something that would allow me to get out of bed and keep on going...

One More Night, Laura Cloer, 2014


One More Night
1.5 oz Fernet Branca
.5 oz toasted coconut syrup (recipe below)

Method: Shake & Strain
Glass: Stemless Champagne or Collins
Garnish: None

Yes, it's simple. But, it's the perfect blend of three of my favorite flavors. Plus, when I am hungover, I am lazy, and I knew this recipe had to be both tasty and simple for practicality sake. I have to be willing to make it when I feel my worst. The toasted coconut syrup is also a perfect addition to my home syrup collection and I am eager to use it in other recipes.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well these flavors worked together. This drink is sweet, but the toasted syrup retains it's earthiness and the Fernet balances out the sweetness. If you cannot find Coco Cafe in your local store, or you are against using a pre-made mixer, you can make your own version by brewing coffee with plain coconut water (instead of tap water), and adding vanilla syrup and a little non-fat milk to taste.

For the toasted coconut syrup: Crack open a whole coconut. Remove the meat in chunks. Roast on an oven pan at 450F for 15-20 minutes or until it begins to turn golden brown. For every one part coconut add two parts water. Puree in blender until smooth. Low boil over medium heat and for every one part toasted coconut puree add one part sugar. Stir. Stir. Stir. Strain through cheese cloth. Chill.

Toasted Coconut, Laura Cloer, 2014
This is the end of a very long day for me. I just got home from work and it is very late. Sadly, all the Vita Coco Vanilla Cafe is gone and I am nodding off as I attempt to get this drink ready for submission. My pillow is calling my name. Until next time, happy drinking!



Monday, July 28, 2014

Mixology Monday LXXXVII: The Smash - The Sylvan Smash

Oh, my! This summer has been busy and I have been neglecting my little blog project, in lieu of a crazy work schedule and a much anticipated trip to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail (more on that later). I though I had missed the deadline altogether for this month's Mixology Monday, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that I still had this weekend to work on it. Huzzah!

This month's challenge is hosted by Stacy Markow at the Stacy Markow blog. Her challenge this month is the Smash...

"I’m proud to announce that July’s theme is all about the Smash, those ice-laden, refreshing concoctions designed to celebrate my favorite things about life: stiff drinks and warm weather. It’s no surprise that in 1862 Jerry Thomas was the first to declare that 'the Smash is simply a julep on a small plan.' The drink originally gets its name from the way mint was smashed up in the shaking process. Fast forward twenty-five or so years later and barman Harry Johnson addresses the Smash as a separate cocktail from the julep entirely and expands the components to include 'fruits in season.' Johnson’s smashes resemble many modern interpretations found on cocktail menus today. With that said, the basic elements of the drink have remained the same over the years: they always include a spirit base, lots of ice, fresh herbs (the most popular being mint), sugar, and seasonal fruit."
Bring it on.

I recently received a bunch of Thai Basil blossoms from River Creek Farm and was asked to make them into something fabulous and boozy. I already have a deep rooted love of pairing basil with my gin. [Mmmm. My mouth starts to water a little just thinking about it.] Thai Basil, a variety of sweet basil, has the same anise notes as Genovese Basil, but it also carries a little spice and can withstand higher cooking temperatures than other types of sweet basil when used in the kitchen.

I have a slight obsession with Smooth Ambler's Barrel Aged Gin. It has all the delightful qualities of my beloved gin, but satiates my desire for whiskey with a hint of oak and spice. Where does barrel aged gin come from? Ship a barrel of London Dry gin from the motherland to the British colony in India and let it slosh around in a barrel at sea for 3 months. Voila! Barrel Aged Gin.

I figured I needed a potent gin to stand up to the strong anise notes in the Thai Basil. I added a little cucumber into the mix to offer a crisp, refreshing note, similar to the component citrus adds to many cocktails.

Next up was one of my new toys that I picked up at Tales of the Cocktail from Bitter Queens, a new bitters company based out of San Francisco. All of their bitters are named after strong female types. Check out their lineup. Bitter Queens NorCal Nancy Eucalyptus Bitters features eucalyptus, bay leaf, white sage, quassia, oak and other spices. It added just the right herbaceous balance to this cocktail.

Thai Basil (with blossoms), Smooth Ambler Barrel Aged Gin,
Bitter Queens NorCal Nancy Eucalyptus Bitters


The Sylvan Smash

1.5 oz Smooth Ambler Barrel Aged Gin
6 ds Bitter Queens Eucalyptus Bitters
.25 oz simple syrup (1:1)
2 slices cucumber
4 leaves Thai Basil

Muddle basil, cucumber, bitters
and simple syrup. Add gin.
Shake & double strain over crushed ice
into an old fashioned glass.
Garnish with Thai Basil blossom.

Drink. Enjoy. Chill out.

The Sylvan Smash, Laura Cloer, TMSPC, 2014

Many, many thanks to Fred for keeping this going and to Stacy for hosting this month. More on Tales of the Cocktail and other fun stuff coming up this next month!



Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mixology Monday LXXXVI: Pineapple - Sparkling Piña Colada & East Harbor

Yep. It's that time again. MIXOLOGY MONDAY!!! This monthly cocktail party always makes me giddy. The community of cocktail crafters that participate every month make me feel like I'm not totally alone in the wasteland of sour mix and Coke backs in which I've resided for too many years. Many, many heartfelt thanks to the MxMo community!

This month's challenge for Mixology Monday is Pineapple, brought to us by Thiago at Bartending Notes (round up post here). Here's the summary from the announcement post:

Let's bring the king of fruits back! After being canned, mixed with all sorts of sugary liquids and blended into guilty pleasures not to be named some dreadful 80s cocktails, the pineapple needs more respect!
Once a symbol of hospitality, the King of fruits might be misunderstood. Once of the greatest non-citrus souring agents, used for crazy garnish ideas, infusions, old gum syrup flavoring, the pineapple is a fruit to be be reckoned with.

I'll admit it. Throwing pineapple and coconut cream in a blender in the summer with a little ice and some Bacardi makes me smile. A lot. This challenge couldn't have come at a better time.

Laura Cloer, 2014
First with pineapple... the juice. Juice a pineapple and then try it in comparison to canned or bottled pineapple juice. You'll never go back. Fresher is always better. Sidenote: our Jack LaLanne juicer has outlasted every commercial juicer we've tried to use over the last few years. It's a bit like my car... old and out-of-fashion, but damn reliable.

My first reaction to this challenge? A sparkling piña colada, of course! I started off by making my own sorbet.

Piña Colada Sorbet

2 parts fresh pineapple puree
1 part coconut cream

Peel, core and dice one whole pineapple. Run fruit through a food processor. The average pineapple will yield approximately 2 cups of pineapple puree. For every 2 parts pineapple puree add 1 part cream of coconut. If you are using Coco Lopez or something similar, I recommend running the can under hot water for 2-3 minutes and shaking before opening. This will re-liquify the coconut cream and make it easier to work with. If you find it is still rather chunky and separated, all you need to do is stir it thoroughly.

Combine pineapple puree with coconut cream and freeze. After sorbet is frozen solid, pull it out of the freezer and allow it to sit at room temperature for 15 - 20 minutes, or long enough for it to soften enough that you can break it up into chunks. Run the softened sorbet through a food processor until it reaches a smooth consistency. Place back in container and re-freeze. This process allows a little air to be whipped into the sorbet and makes easier to scoop (less like ice and more like ice cream).

Sparkling Piña Colada

.5 oz  coconut rum
(if you're feeling really ambitious, make your own)
.5 oz  pineapple juice
1 scoop piña colada sorbet
Top with Prosecco or Cava

Serve in a champagne flute or dessert wine glass.

Sparkling Piña Colada, Laura Cloer, 2014

My next project was a swizzle. I desperately wanted a rum swizzle. I don't have the set up at my bar to do blended drinks. Also, I hate blending drinks for anyone but myself. So, we have crushed ice. Want a frozen margarita? No bueno. We just have crushed ice. I can make you a banging margarita over crushed ice. Trust me, you'll love it. During the summer months I always get request for piña coladas, but until this year I've just told people to bugger off. I finally decided to do something about it that reflects my love for pineapple and coconut, and gives a little sophistication and dignity to a much abused classic.

Introducing the East Harbor, a grown up version of a Piña Colada. This drink has lived a little, dreams of retiring in the next five years, and has been responsibly putting all of its spare cash in a 401k for the last 30 years.

East Harbor, Laura Cloer, 2014

East Harbor

1.5 oz Mt Gay Eclipse
.5 oz All Spice Dram
1.5 oz pineapple juice
.75 oz coconut cream
2 ds Angostura bitters

Stir all ingredients together in a mixing tin and then slowly pour into a Collins glass over crushed ice. Swizzle with a bar spoon or a proper swizzle stick. Top with crushed ice and continue to swizzle until exterior of glass begins to frost over. Garnish with a lime slice and enjoy.

I have fully embraced the beautiful summer weather this year and I can't wait to see what other lovely cocktails Mixology Monday brings about this month for me to try! Yummy!

Cheers, Y'all!


Our current cocktail line-up at The Main Street
Pizza Company, Laura Cloer, 2014

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Spirit of Johnson City: Blind Lemon Jefferson

Phew! We made it! This is the last in a series of posts on the original "Spirit of Johnson City" cocktails I created for The Main Street Pizza Company in 2012. Each drink was designed to celebrate the history and heritage of Johnson City, Tennessee. For the stories on the drinks we've already covered, see the links below.

Johnson City has a rich musical history. Between 1928 and 1929, Columbia Records hosted a series of recording sessions of local musicians for their "hillbilly music division" which came to be known as the Johnson City Sessions. However, long before Columbia came to town, the streets of Johnson City and Fountain Square had had become a stage for many local musicians, who would play for the railway passengers and travelers making their way through town.
Blind Lemon Jefferson, ca 1926

According to the North Carolina musician Walter Davis, he and Clarence Greene learned the art of blues guitar from the legendary performer 'Blind' Lemon Jefferson, known as the "Father of the Texas Blues," who played on the streets of Johnson City in the early 1920's. Blind Lemon Jefferson is best known for writing and recording "Matchbox Blues," "See That My Grave is Kept Clean," and "Black Snake Moan." His musical legacy went on to influence the works of B.B. King and Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson, and his 1927 recording of "Matchbox Blues" was named by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.

As I was researching our city's musical history, something about this obscure story about Blind Lemon Jefferson playing on our streets caught my attention. His life is somewhat shrouded in mystery, but we do know that after he began recording with Paramount records in Chicago, he spent some time traveling in the South. I tried to imagine how this blind musician found his way to Johnson City, where he may have stayed, what friends he may have found here and what his routine was like while he was in town. I came to the conclusion that if I found him sitting on the edge of Fountain Square today, playing his guitar out in the hot sun, this is the drink I'd make him to thank him for his talent and to cool him down.

So, do me a favor. Make yourself this tasty drink, sit back and listen to Black Snake Moan, and pay your respects to a legend who graced our streets.

Blind Lemon Jefferson, Laura Cloer, TMSPC, 2012

Blind Lemon Jefferson

2 oz Knob Creek Bourbon
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz honey syrup (1:1 ratio)
2 ds Regan's Orange Bitters

Shake and strain over ice into a rocks glass.
Garnish with an orange twist.

Thank you for following along with the revival of The Spirit of Johnson City cocktails as we've celebrated the two year anniversary of our cocktail program at The Main Street Pizza Company!



Friday, May 23, 2014

The Spirit of Johnson City: War of the Roses

This is the fifth in a series of posts on The Spirit of Johnson City cocktail list I created for The Main Street Pizza Company in the Spring of 2012. Each cocktail was designed to celebrate the history and heritage of our small town. For the other cocktails we've already covered, please check out the links below.

One of our region's ties to our state's history goes back to the late 1800's, shortly after the Civil War. During the war, northeastern Tennessee was politically divided, with some local families pledging their support to the North and some to the Confederacy. As I understand it, the Taylor family, native to the Johnson City area, had great political debates within their home, as Mrs Taylor supported the South and Mr Taylor supported the North. Naturally, their children became politicians.

In 1886, brothers Robert (Bob) L. Taylor and Alfred (Alf) A. Taylor ran against each other in Tennessee's gubernatorial campaign. The press soon began referring to the political race as the "War of the Roses," alluding to England's medieval dynastic war between family members over the throne of England. During the campaign, supporters wore red roses in support of Bob Taylor and white roses in support of Alf Taylor on their lapels.

The brothers reportedly traveled together across the state and shared the same hotel rooms. Before their political debates they would entertain their audience with fiddle-playing and storytelling. Their camaraderie and practical jokes naturally brought a lighthearted air to their campaign and continued to keep them both on the front page of the press. Although Bob Taylor won the election and went on to serve as both Tennessee's governor and a senator, Alf also continued a career in politics and served as Tennessee's governor in the early 1920's.

The War of the Roses cocktail includes a rye whiskey to represent the North, a Tennessee whiskey to represent the South and a few rosy elements to balance it all out. It is by far the most popular cocktail on our "Spirit of Johnson City" list and it packs a nice punch, like any good politically-minded cocktail should.

War of the Roses, Laura Cloer, TMSPC, 2012

The War of the Roses

1.25 oz George Dickel #12
1.25 oz Smooth Ambler Rye
.5 oz Campari
4 ds Peychaud's bitters
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz orange juice
.5 oz grenadine (pomegranate based)

Combine ingredients.
Shake and strain over cracked ice in a highball glass.
Garnish with a lemon slice.

I sincerely hope you try this one out! It's definitely one of my favorite creations!