50 Shots of America–Pennsylvania

You’d think (or at least I would) that Pennsylvania would have been the first to ratify the Constitution, seeing as how much time our forefathers spent doing big things in Philadelphia and all during those early colony days. Instead, they signed on a full 5 days after Delaware, on December 12, 1787,* becoming the second official state of the Union.

The site of the first commercially drilled oil well in 1859, oil is not what most think of as being the prime business in the woods (Pennsylvania means Penn’s Wood after the founder, William Penn, and the Latin silva for forest). Some consider Pennsylvania to be the “snack food capital of the world” and with good reason. Not only are the Hershey chocolate factories located in the heart of the state, so are Mars, Wilbur Chocolate Company, Wise Snack Foods and Just Born (the company behind, among other things, Peeps!).

Even though I’ve actually been to Pennsylvania (well, Philadelphia, and only for one partial day–I did some comics about it) and, therefore, actually _can_ find it on the map, I did not get a chance while there to visit that mecca of many: Hershey, PA. No, no pictures with a kiss-shaped street light for me. Not yet at least. I’ve got two sets of people I can stay with should I get a chance to head that far north again and it WILL be on the agenda when that day comes. I did recently read an excellent history of Mr Hershey and his town, though, which makes getting to concoct this next drink extra fun!

(Interesting side note: did you know Hershey found early success not with chocolate but with caramels? It was the success of his caramel business, the recipe for which he learned in Denver, that gave him the opportunity and backing to experiment with making eating chocolate like they did in Europe. I was also fascinated to learn that Hershey’s distinct flavor can be attributed to the slight souring of the milk as it’s processed–apparently the European chocolatiers used milk powder instead of liquid milk in their recipes. But I digress…)

The Sweet Tooth

1/2 oz Vanilla Vodka
1/2 oz Godiva** liqueur, divided
1/4 oz Amaretto liqueur
1/4 oz White Chocolate Irish Cream
1/4 oz Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup

Combine all ingredients except 1/4 oz Godiva in a cocktail shaker over ice and shake it like you’re making a milkshake. Strain into a shot glass and float the remaining Godiva over the top by pouring over the back of a bar spoon.

Now, I’ve read that all-alcohol bevvies aren’t supposed to be shaken. Whatever. If you keep all of your alcohol chilled (I know I don’t have the fridge-space for that!), I suppose you could skip the shaking and just stir it up in a small bar glass before transferring to a shot but I wanted it really cold and, with this many ingredients (probably another no-no for a shot), well mixed so my petite shaker it is!

Incidentally, the state beverage of Pennsylvania is Milk, so if you wanted to mix up a double batch of the Sweet Tooth and stir it into a nice cold glass of milk, I think that’d be just fine, too.

*You know, if the blog-stars align to where I’m writing about a state on the day it became a state, I might just have to play the lottery or something!

**Don’t worry, Godiva’s totally valid here--the North American debut of Godiva chocolates was at Wannamaker’s Department Store in Philadelphia in 1966!

PS–The state tree is Hemlock. Insert classics geek joke here. (Q.What were Socrates’ last words? A. I drank what?)

PPS–From Todd at dinner: “Life is like a shot of chocolate.” To which I, being of a philosophical bent today, added: “Exactly, if you make it yourself you know exactly what you’re gonna get!”

Kirsch Me, I’m German

Kirsch (or kirschwasser) is one of those liqueurs that, if you you have it, you probably have it because you’ve made a Black Forest Cake (aka Kirschtorte) at some point in the not too distant past. This dry cherry brandy is strong! Definitely not something I would ever sip without it being heavily diluted with something very sweet.

But what to do with the bottle on my bar? I dug around through a couple of reliable cocktail books and found a few recipes for drinks that also called for other non-standard ingredients (like Chartreuse and Benedictine–not things I had on hand). Besides, I was looking for something along the comfort-food line and couldn’t stop thinking about that cake!

Black Forest Cake, in case you’ve never had the pleasure, is chocolate cake (I tend to make a genoise and then moisten it with a kirsch syrup), layered and topped with fresh whipped cream and cherries. A lot of bakeries tend to use maraschino cherries but I prefer the sour cherries, spiked with a bit of the kirsch for good measure. Then the sides are usually coated in chocolate shavings. It is a rich, decadent dessert and the last time I made one was for a good friend who’d spent many years serving in Germany; he was very appreciative.

So… cake vs. cocktail. Where shall the two meet? Also on my mind this week was the recent discovery of how lovely a Vanilla Cola was achieved with the addition of vanilla vodka. Since I cannot have caffeine, commercial vanilla cola is not an option as they don’t make a caffeine-free version (at least that’s not loaded with aspartame). Same goes for cherry cola… do you see where I’m going here?

CHF Black Forest Cola

1 oz Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
.5 oz Chocolate Liqueur
.5 oz Kirschwasser
6 oz Cola**

Combine the alcohols in an ice-filled shaker, shake it like it’s sliding down the Matterhorn*, and strain it into a tall glass 3/4 full of ice. Top with the soda and then give it a little swirl with a swizzle stick. Garnish with a cherry, if you like.

*yes, I know, the Matterhorn is actually part of the Swiss Alps but the name is German!

**I’m being very brand neutral here, but I prefer caffeine-free Coca Cola classic.

Now, a few things I found out while I was working on this recipe. Kirsch, as I already knew, is strong but Irish Cream smooths it out like you wouldn’t believe (at least at a 1:3 ratio). Notice that there’s no Irish Cream in the final recipe? Yeah, add cola to the list of things Irish Cream does not play well with (the list that includes Strawberry pucker and lime juice)–it started off with a foamy head like you get with a root beer float  which was fine (if necessitating the additional of a straw) but then the rest of the drink decided to behave like biscotti left in tea for too long. It tasted good but the texture was incredibly unappealing (though now I’m in the mood to make a batch of biscotti).

That’s when the butterscotch schnapps came in. Since I was wanting to suggest the tastes of a Black Forest Cake in the drink, the Irish Cream was my go-to for the whipped cream. As a ringer, the butterscotch served the smoothing purposes while also suggesting a bit of warm, baked cakey goodness that definitely made the drink more palatable.

If you search you may find other so-called Black Forest cocktails. But be wary, my friends, if it has not a stitch of cherry (much less Kirsch) inside. Cranberries and raspberries (and the latter’s liqueur) may be tasty and tart, but it does not a Kirschtorte–or Kirsch cocktail–make.

A Touch of the Irish

Most people who have encountered Irish Cream liqueur have done so favorably and come away fans. While it does well as a single spirit, over ice or neat, it also pairs with a whole laundry list of others. There are some notable exceptions, however: like the lime juice that tops it in a Cement Mixer and, from personal experiments, strawberry liqueur–the consistency is, well, they call it a Cement Mixer for a reason. Blech!

Back to happier combos! Vodka seems to pair especially well with this spirit and, of course, anything chocolate or coffee. If you treat it as cream with a kick, you can hardly go wrong! This is what gets us such gems as the B52 and the Mudslide, but the cocktail I want to bring you today is a little newer, to me anyway, and with my own twist (mostly due to substitutions to match my current inventory of alcohol). Based on the cocktail known as the Oreo Cookie, I now present to you

The CHF Double-Stuff

1 oz Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Coffee liqueur
1 oz Irish Cream liqueur
1 oz Chocolate liqueur

Combine in a cocktail shaker over ice and then pour into a chilled glass. Makes 1 large cocktail or 2 double shots; after all, it’s good to share!

My love affair with the vanilla vodka continues, as you can see, and my other substitution was Godiva liqueur for creme de cacao. Creme de cacao, from my quickie research, is a lighter chocolate liqueur with a touch of vanilla, so my substitutions seemed incredibly logical. The first sip, according to my co-taster, was very chocolate but then leveled out whereas I got more of the Kahlua and Irish cream. It probably depends on the individual taste buds involved but we both agreed that it blends and mellows with each sip.

While it’s certainly no substitute for a real cookie, it’s a nice treat when you’re not actually hungry but craving something sweet.

Random Appetites: the Food of Love

Aphrodisiacs are one of those things you either believe in or you don’t because there’s no real scientific evidence that any of them work. Superstitious in origin, they build on various forms of sympathetic magic (the idea that if an animal, for instance, possesses a lot of one quality, then the ingesting of the animal will give you some measure of it) or simple vitamin-boosts from what would have otherwise been lacking.

Named for Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, who was supposedly born from the sea, many seafood and shellfish varieties fall under the heading of aphrodisiacs; sort of a “gulit” by association thing (not to mention the similarity of certain foods to certain items to be affected by the aphrodisiac). Many people can’t quite stomach the thought of oysters on the half-shell and fried foods don’t always put one in the mood for love. Still, if you want to serve oysters and see how much of a spark they give, try my favorite way…

Oyster Stew

2-3 dozen small oysters, with liquor
6 green onions, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 Tbsp minced parsley (fresh)
1 quart milk
1 stick butter
Salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce to taste

Saute the green onions, celery and parsley in a little bit of the butter while you heat the rest of the butter and milk in a separate pot–heat, don’t boil! Add the oysters and liquor to the vegetables and cook until the oysters are almost cooked and then add them to the milk and butter mixture. Let the oysters cook through and season the soup with the salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Garnish with a few oyster crackers or some homemade croutons.

Often, though, it’s less about the foods you eat and more about how you eat them. Notice that many of the foods found on lists of aphrodisiacs are able, and common, to be eaten as finger foods? Set up a romantic buffet of carrot sticks, steamed artichokes (the scraping of the leaves via the teeth is remeniscent of certain romantic biting techniques from the Kama Sutra), honey-glazed figs, asparagus spears, peeled shrimp and oysters and feed them to each other in a comfortable setting. Feel free to add your own preferred foods and not stick too closely to the recommendations of this or any site: the important thing is your perception of the food and the event, not what you’re eating.

Though I would caution against overly heavy foodstuffs. Have you ever noticed that there are are no red meats listed as aphrodisiacs? I think it’s because red meat in any quantity (while undeniably satisfying from time to time) tends to weight the body down and tie up the digestive system for so long that the point, generally the immediate one, of aphrodisiacs is lost. So, if you must include some heavier proteins, keep them then, small, not overcooked and without heavy sauces.

And, no, I’m not forgetting about one major aphrodisiac. Once prized for it’s scarcity but now widely available in all manner of concoctions, a good chocolate will almost always be welcome at the end of a romantic meal (or the beginning, for that matter). And what better way to feed each other chocolate than by the very convivial means of fondue.

Chocolate Fondue for 2

4 oz plain chocolate, chopped
2/3 c heavy cream
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier or other fruit or citrus liqueur
1 Tbsp butter, diced
Bananas, strawberries, sponge cake and other foods for dipping

Melt together the chocolate, cream and liqueur in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or double-boiler, stirring constantly and without overheating. Alternately, place the mixture into a fondue pot over sterno or a tea light (depending on the fondue set). Once smooth, dip the fruit or cake into the chocolate and enjoy.

Now go start those plans for Valentine’s Day; it’s right around the corner!