Moms are the bees knees

My mom has a thing for bees.  More specifically, botanical bees.  For this reason, I am always on the hunt for cool botanical bee things.  Tea towels, serving dishes, craft punches, I’ve found them all over the year and often given them as Mother’s Day gifts.

You know what else my mom also likes?  Cocktails.  Who knows why, but one of my earliest memories involves camping in the summer and the adults sitting around a newly-lit fire in camp chairs, as the shadows grew longer, enjoying “cocktail hour.”  Of course, considering the gaggle of children they would bring along on these trips, cocktail hour may have started around 8:00 am every morning.

Always one for parsimony, I’ve finally found a way to honor two of my mom’s loves together: the bees knees cocktail.

Rumor has it that this concoction came about during prohibition as a way of making bathtub gin more palatable.  The secret ingredient is a simple honey syrup.

I’ve seen this little libation topped with lavender as well.  However, it’s too early in the season for lavender.  So, I used a paper-thin lemon slice.

Chin chin and happy Mother’s Day!

The Bees Knees

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces gin (while bathtub gin would lend authenticity, I am partial to Tangueray though all the cool kids are drinking Hendricks
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce honey syrup (see below for recipe)
  • lemon slices or lavender sprigs to garnish

Directions

  1. Fill cocktail shaker with ice.  Add-in all liquid ingredients.  Shake until the shaker grows so cold you think your fingers might stick to it.
  2. Strain and serve garnished with something pretty.

Honey Syrup

  1. Add equal parts water and honey to a small sauce pan (to make thing even, I use 1 cup).  Whisk until honey dissolves.  Bring to a boil.  When the liquid reaches a boil, turn off the heat.  Allow to cool.  Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of months.  But, it won’t last that long.

 

The Spaulding

Right after finishing college but before starting graduate school, I lived with two friends in the heart of the Fairfax District.  It was a very well rounded neighborhood complete with orthodox Jewish families, a transvestite with fantastic legs and, of course, lots and lots of “actors.”  Years after the three of us left the neighborhood, a plane crashed into the apartment building across the street.

Being  young, nubile, recent college graduates, the three of us entertained quite a bit.  At one such get together, the Spaulding was born.  Like most good cocktails, its origins are hazy though I’m fairly certain this was a an adult beverage derived from convenience.  We had vodka.  We had ginger ale.  We had limes.  We had ice.  We lived on North Spaulding Avenue between Melrose and Beverly.  A cocktail was created.

It wasn’t until at least a decade later that I realized “our drink” is really just the Moscow Mule’s significantly less sophisticated sibling.

Early in our courtship, I turned TD onto the Spaulding (he was very disappointed it wasn’t named after Spaulding Smails.  In fact I think his direct quote was “double turds.” To this I responded, “you’ll get nothing and like it”).  Despite his ire, TD liked the drink and somewhere along the way, it became our preferred party beverage.  In fact, if you happened to get married in the last 15 years or so and TD and I happened to be at your nuptials, we probably enjoyed a Spaulding or two in your honor.

I know this isn’t much of a recipe, but it’s a drink we enjoy often and a tiny bit related to next week’s post.

Soundtrack

Foster the People, a little summer music

The Spaulding

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4-6 ounces gingerale
  • lots of lime

Add everything in over ice.  Give it a mix.  Enjoy!

 

If cupid was a bartender

All around me it seems, delicious cocktails have been popping up.  I’m sure it’s a trend.  I’m sure at some point the cool kids who decide such fads will get tired of interesting flavors and turn their fickle taste buds back to the mellower white zinfandel or tasteless Natty Lite (okay, maybe not.  But, you know what I mean).  For now, at this moment at least, it’s almost okay to order something other than a vodka and soda while standing at the bar.  Examples?  I have several.  Let’s start with the Drunken Sow at Batch in Culver City.  Three words: bacon-infused-bourbon.  Too heavy?  How about a Moscow Mule from Tin Roof Bistro in Manhattan Beach.  True, it’s an oldie, but, when was the last time a man (TD) could pull off  drinking a concoction of vodka, lime juice and ginger beer–all served in an oddly effeminite silver cup?  I say, grasp the brass ring while you can.

And then there is the Old George  at Manhattan Post in Manhattan Beach.  It’s their take on a salty dog with ruby  grapefruit juice, basil and an odd sort of raspberry peppercorn relish deal.  Two of these babies over dinner and I was inspired to come up with a cocktail of my own.  Just in time for Valentine’s Day.

This cocktail begins with the blood orange.  Blood orange syrup to be specific.  They just happen to be in season right now.  But if they aren’t where you live, you can often find blood orange syrup with the other flavored drink syrups in the grocery.

Here I’ve made my own.  Equal parts juice and sugar are brought to a simmer.

Then strained and set aside to cool completely.  Go ahead and put your vodka in the freezer about now. 

No, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this photo–I just can’t seem to get over the color of blood orange juice.  Pantone…are you listening? 

Returning to the Old George.  So, a salty dog is called so because it is a greyhound (vodka and grapefruit) served in a salt-rimmed glass.  Like with margaritas, the salt plays well with the sour of the grapefruit juice.  Blood oranges fall somewhere in between regular oranges and grapefruit on the sour-scale, so I began with a bag of superfine sugar and then slowly added fine sea salt until I had a nice balance of salty and sweet (think kettle corn).  Go ahead and rim each glass with the swalty mixture..

Next comes chilled vodka followed by our blood orange syrup.  It’s all topped with plenty of crushed–almost snow-like ice.  This part is important.  If you don’t have an ice maker that will make crushed iced for you , a similar effect can be achieved with a food processor.  Think Snoopy Sno Cone machine without the interminable hand cranking.  Or, if you happen to have a Snoopy Sno Cone machine, use that.  

 The final ingredient is just enough soda water to give the whole thing a little sparkle.

Have you guessed the name of this little cocktail yet?  I’ll give you a hint, we’ve talked about salty dogs already.  And, what do you call a cocktail with regular orange juice and vodka?  That’s right a screw driver.

And so, on this Valentine’s Day, I give you, the Salty Screw (and TD says I’m not romantic).

The Salty Screw

Syrup

  • 1 C blood orange juice
  • 1 C water

Combine sugar and juice in a medium saucepan and mix until sugar is dissolved.  Bring to a boil.  Allow to boil for a minute or two.  Take off heat, strain into a head-proof bowl and let cool.  Will save well in the fridge in a covered container.

Sugar Salt

  • 1/2 C superfine or granulated sugar
  • fine sea salt to taste.

Begin by adding in 2 TBS salt, combined and continue until reach desired balance of salty and sweet.

Cocktail

(serves 1 in generous low-ball glass) (yes, I realize the cocktail pictured in this post is not in a low ball glass. I made these babies during the SuperBowl.  The SuperBowl is really long, we needed larger cocktails).

  • 1 low ball glass
  • 1.5 oz chilled vodka
  • 2-3 oz blood orange syrup (depending on your taste)
  • Crushed ice
  • Soda water

Rim glass with sugar/salt mixture.  Combined vodka and syrup.  Top with crushed ice (fill glass to top as ice will melt quickly to start).  Top-off with soda water.  Mix.  Syrup can be drizzled on top of completed cocktail for a little fancy fancy.

 

 

Spritz con Aperol for the Adult Trick or Treater

This Halloween, I will be enjoying an Orange Stinger Martini from my creative and quite devilish  friend Alison of  A Girl A Market A Martini.  Oops…I mean, A Girl A Market A Meal.  Her cocktail got my thinking about my (other) favorite orange cocktail.  The Spritz con Aperol.

It started in the spring of 2008 when my husband and I slipped off of the North American continent and disappeared into the wilds of Italy.

Oh Italy. My brother from another mother.

We saw them first in Bolzano I think.  Nearly neon orange and served over ice in large wine glasses with  fruit garnish.  It took quite a bit of gesturing and  an immense amount of effort in my own, horrible Fodor’s Italian but we soon learned the cocktail was called a Spritz con Aperol.  My understanding is that the original Spritz, made famous in Venice, was made with Campari.  I think this explains the “con” part when asking for it made with Aperol.

Aperol, like Campari is a low-alcohol liqueur.  As the color suggests, it tastes of oranges but also has the bitterness of the zest and an array of herbs.   This former cocktail waitress had never seen it until visiting Italy.  In fact, I was hard-pressed to find it once we returned to the states and originally had to order it online.  Lucky for us,  the tasty orange apertif has gained quite a bit of momentum in the last couple of years and can now be found in gourmet grocery stores and my own favorite big box store: Beverages and More.  In fact, this month, Esquire uses it as the main ingredient in its New Esquire Cocktail.  As if!

The spritz part of the cocktail comes from Prosecco.  Sure, you could use champagne or even sparkling wine but you would be taking a little of the Italian out of the whole experience.  The cocktail is light and refreshing and perfect for the summer–as well demonstrated in it’s most recent marketing campaign.

The lightness and icy cold part may not be appropriate for Halloween anyplace east of Arizona.  But, here in warm, dry California, a Spritz con Aperol could hold its own as a pre-trick or treating libation. Or, if you happen to be The Misanthropic Hostess, it simply reminds you of a late afternoon on the Western Italian coast when all there was to do was watch the sun slowly descend into the Ligurian Sea.

Or, perhaps Venice.

Or Verona

Or Bolzano.

Spritz con Aperol

  • 3 oz Aperol
  • 2 oz Prosecco
  • Fruit for garnish if desired.

To a large stemware glass filled with ice add Aperol.  Fill remaining glass with Prosecco.  Garnish.