Thursday, April 30, 2009

Winning Metaxa Cocktail

Felicia's Atomic Lounge won third place in the national Imbibe Magazine/Metaxa cocktail contest, with our Metaxa-coffee-fig-clove cocktail, Greek Awake. How exciting. How invigorating. How freakin' cool.

As you well know, Leah Houghtaling is the mad scientist behind our most of our crazy concoctions. How does she come up with such great recipes? Typically, the brain storm - and it is a storm - starts with the phrase, "I've got an idea!" Leah then marches feverishly around the kitchen throwing different spices, fruits or vegetables into alchohol-filled ball jars labeled with masking tape. Experiments in varying stages of development litter both the lounge and home kitchens. The photo above is one of her latest spice tinctures which is kicking back in our living room. You can see our baby basil plants and germinating arugula waiting in the background for the last frost to come and go.

Of Leah's prize-winning Metaxa cocktail, Imbibe Magazine writes, "This pretty and creative cocktail is packed with flavor, and though it's light enough to drink in warm-weather months, it's also a perfect winter/holiday cocktail."

You can read about the other winning Metaxa cocktails in Imbibe's blog. Thanks, Imbibe!

Greek Awake

1 1/2 oz. Metaxa 7-Star brandy
1 1/2 oz. coffee-fig elixir (recipe below)

Ice cubes

Tools: shaker, strainer

Glass: cocktail
Garnish: grape

Shake Metaxa and coffee-fig elixir (below) in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into chilled glass. Slit grape and place on rim for garnish.

Coffee-fig elixir

1 cup high-quality fresh-roasted, hot-brewed coffee (Houghtaling uses Gimme! Ethiopian)
1 cup dried whole mission figs with stems removed
1/2 teaspoon cloves
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup water

Simmer figs, fresh-brewed coffee and cloves over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Mash figs with back of spoon after simmering. Add brown sugar and water. Heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat. Allow to cool then strain crushed figs out with a sieve and store.

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Bar Faux Pas

As bartenders, we do not always get to see the best side of people. We try not to react badly, but we have our moments. A few weeks ago during a crazy Friday happy hour, boss Leah and preggers Danielle both started hollering at men who waved their money, "What, do I look like a stripper?!" Most of the time we say nothing to you, but you can be sure that we bitch about you to each other in the kitchen.

One of my favorite San Francisco bartenders, Cielo Gold, recently wrote a blog on customer etiquette. If you don't want to have a cartoon caricature of you and your antics taped onto our ice machine so we can laugh at you behind your back, read and learn:

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Coriander in a Cocktail

Making cocktails with locally grown ingredients is a challenge throughout the winter and early spring. Even if you have a root cellar or a freezer that was filled with the bounty of last summer’s harvest, by the end of April you have probably gone through all of it.

As we hunted for inspiration for this week’s cocktail, we found a ball jar filled with coriander in the back of the cupboard. Coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant. Every summer, I let our cilantro bolt to bloom its pretty little white flowers and subsequently go to seed. In September, I pull up the dead plants and save the dried seeds that did not fall to the ground.

We don't typically cook with coriander so those darn seeds get composted the following fall when I harvest new seeds that I am sure I will use this time.

And this time, we used them. Coriander adds a subtle, aromatic essence to a classic vodka martini. If you do not have any coriander, this cocktail designed by Leah Houghtaling is currently available at both Simply Red Bistro at Sheldrake Point and at Felicia’s Atomic Lounge.

Coriander Martini

3 ounces coriander-infused vodka (see below)
1/4 ounce dry white wine (like Simply White from Sheldrake Vineyards)
twist of orange peel

Shake infused vodka and white wine with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with orange twist.

To make coriander-infused vodka:

1/4 cup coriander seeds
1 liter bottle of vodka (we used Svedka)

Place coriander and vodka into a large glass jar and let sit 24 hours. Remove coriander seeds with a sieve and crush them with mortar and pestle (not food processor). Return crushed seeds to vodka for an additional 48 hours.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Snakes in a Bar

I wish I had thought of getting my camera out sooner. But when you arrive at work to find two panicked men lying on their stomachs under a bench outside your bar, holding on to about 12 inches of red boa constrictor, you don't typically think about taking pictures. The other 42 inches of snake - the end with the head - had crawled inside a hole in the building. Fast forward: Nick eventually found his snake in our dark, frightening basement where it was peacefully eating bugs, and plotting to eat all of us (and the dog) one by one. Cocktails, anyone?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hard Cider SCOBY Update

Remember the Kombucha/SCOBY mother that cocktail chef Leah created when she was trying to distill apple cider? Hippie bartender Melissa was excited to receive one of its babies:But this cider fermentation story, alas, does not have a happy ending. The original mother grew and grew and grew until got too hungry to be contained to its two gallon jar:
Beware fermenting Kombucha and hard cider in the same room. We'll miss you, Leah.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rosemary-Grapefruit Cocktail

Today’s Mixology Monday theme is Superior Twists. Not twists as in the thing that sits on the rim of your glass as a decorative afterthought, but twists as in what if you threw out your old recipe and made a traditional classic cocktail differently, even if for only one day?

Typically, our adjustments to any drink recipes tend to involve adding bourbon, substituting bourbon or increasing the bourbon-to-everything-else ratio. No surprise, then, that our classic cocktail twist involves bourbon. In this case, we chose to twist the Old Fashioned. Nothing like a little bourbon, bitters, sugar and citrus to raise your spirits and tickle your nipples.

As is usually the case when there is a deadline looming, our new cocktails are based on whatever we can find in the house, in this case, Bookers, a mostly dead rosemary plant and a grapefruit. I know, I know, mixing Bookers with anything other than an ice cube is a mortal sin fit to be punished by a tortuous eternity spent in the fiery bowels of hell. I won’t admit to you that I partook of Bookers mixed with orange juice during my last bout with the common cold. The only other bourbon we had in the house today was Knob Creek infused with rosemary and about a pound too many peppercorns which resulted in me racing around the kitchen in circles with flames blasting out of my face, much to Leah’s amusement. So Bookers it be.

We also violated our “less is more” rule with this cocktail, which contains a whopping eight ingredients. Going through a rebellious stage, perhaps?

Rosemary-Grapefruit Old Fashioned

1 1⁄2 ounce Bookers bourbon
1⁄4 ounce Grand Marnier
1⁄4 ounce sweetened lime juice (two parts lime juice to one part simple syrup)
3 dashes bitters
1 section of pink grapefruit, skin and pith removed
1⁄2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp sugar
splash club soda
grapefruit rind twist

Muddle all ingredients in pint glass except club soda and grapefruit rind twist. Pour into double rocks glass filled with ice. Top with club soda. Toss gently into pint glass and back again. Garnish with grapefruit twist.

Check out everyone else’s Mixology Monday cocktail recipes at this month’s host site, The Wild Drink Blog. Our hosts also asked what song we most like to dance The Twist to. The Twist? Bah, I say. We dance The Frug instead, while drinking old fashioneds and listening to Jaan Pehechaan Ho by Mohammed Rafi.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Balia Rimona

This week’s cocktail was created by one of Felicia’s bartenders, Melissa Brill. Desiring a fruity yet not-too-sweet drink, Melissa developed this classy martini whose flavor boasts complexity and smoothness. Both the citrus vodka and the optional bitters add the essence of orange, while the Pimm’s and pomegranate juice add fruitiness.

Melissa’s inspiration for this cocktail comes, not surprisingly, from her family history. Her Italian grandmother, who everyone affectionately called Balia, had an affinity for drinking vodka with pomegranate juice and an orange wedge. When tipsy, Balia told her grandchildren comical stories about her early years working as a nanny in Italy. I just made all of that up.

Melissa notes that this martini can double as a slushie if you whirl it up with ice in a blender.

Balia Rimona

1 oz Pimms No. 1 Cup (a gin-based spirit)
¾ ounce citrus vodka
1 oz pomegranate juice
½ ounce orange bitters (optional)
orange twist

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Making of a Mojito: Part I

Can I order a mojito? No. Can I order a mojito? No. Can I order a mojito? I want a mojito. No. When the weather warms up like it did last week, mojito cravings begin. Like birds collecting twigs for a nest or frisky squirrels trying their darndest to get laid, with the onset of Spring, the human mojito instinct kicks in. We do not have any control over it. The association of a mojito with warm weather is a normal, natural human urge. Why, then, is Felicia denying you the opportunity to feed your need?

The answer: we grow our own mint. This year, we are going to follow the life of a mint plant from baby sprout to a mature, well-developed tantalizing mojito. As you can see from the photos, the mint is currently just barely above the soil. And guess what April baby mint tastes like? No, it does not taste like mint. Why would I ask that question if the answer was so obvious? Duh. April mint tastes like...lettuce. Seriously. No flavor. It would make for a disappointing and extremely small mojito.

As I cut back the dead mint from last season, look what else I found! I guess humans are not the only ones who appreciate mint. The mint plants were a cozy blanket for whatever little creature cuddled up in here during the winter.
Unfortunately, the four-lined plant bug also likes mint. This year, we are going to kick his bug-ass so hard that we will knock him into Schuyler County.

So keep your pants on! You will get your mojito, but not quite yet. Besides, it's freakin' snowing this week. Something else to look forward to: this is a photo of the baby lemon balm, destined for your Lemon-Coco Martini:

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spiked Spiced Tea

One of the great things about making cocktails is that you get to make stuff up. For example, have you ever had tea with alcohol? (No, Long Island Iced Tea does not count). We first tried infusing both green tea and black tea in vodka with some vanilla beans but the result was slightly odd and very bitter. Just like any experiment, sometimes you fail.

Since we are gals who do not give up easily, we tried again. This time, we brewed some hot tea: Lipton Orange Spice. Why? Leah likes spices, and my feet were cold. Add some sugar and a nip of bourbon and the result is a warming tea cocktail with comforting spices and a kick.

Spiked Spiced Tea
1 cup boiling hot water
1 orange spice tea bag
2 tsp sugar
¾ ounce Knob Creek
cinnamon stick
orange wheel

Place tea bag in mug of boiling hot water. Let steep one to two minutes. Add sugar and Knob Creek. Stir. Garnish with cinnamon stick and orange wheel.

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