Creating a Cocktail

That same party that sparked the Menu Planning and Quantity discussions (not to mention reminding me of the fun side of catering) also gave me a chance to try out a new service I’m offering: custom cocktail creation. Because it’s an interesting process (and a yummy drink), I thought I’d share how I went about designing the cocktail to fit the event.

First some background: the party was a Mary Kay Holiday Open House hosted by a trio of consultants, one of which is a good friend from high school, who requested a non-alcoholic drink because people would be coming and going, plus there’d be young ones around. My friend and the other two consultants, lovely ladies all, are fun and bubbly so I had a pretty good feel for their personalities in relation to the type of party they wanted this to be.

So right off the bat I’m thinking pink (I mean, Mary Kay: what else is there?) and possibly cranberry since it’s a fairly popular flavor and a good base for a mocktail but where to go after that? I could do a cranberry-orange mix that’s sorta like a virgin Cosmopolitan, but that wasn’t special enough; this drink needed to be truly unique so a non-alcoholic version of any regular cocktail just seemed like a cop-out to me.

Another thought flitting through my mind is the skin-care  classes the consultants host, so if I could make the drink frothy or milky, reminiscent of a lotion maybe, that would be even better. Being November a smoothie seemed a little much and most frothy cocktails involved egg whites and that’s a tough sell to a stranger even if it is a component of many classic cocktails. I briefly considered experimenting with the powdered pasteurized egg whites but ditched it just as quick. That leaves milk, but with potential diary allergies or intolerance, was that really the best option? And would it even combine nicely with the cranberry juice?

I let this mull over in my mind for a few days when I suddenly had an epiphany: Bubble Tea! For those who’ve not tasted it before, bubble tea is an Asian drink (I’m honestly not sure which culture truly claims it, I’ve seen references to Japanese as well as Vietnamese origins), a sweet combination of tea and milk with, usually, a fruit flavor added and large black tapioca pearls (the bubble part of the equation) in the bottom of the cup. It’s served with a wide straw so that the pearls, which are cooked to a gummy consistency, can be sucked up and enjoyed as well. Now, I’d never seen a cranberry bubble tea and I certainly didn’t want to use the powders (both for the tea and flavorings) that seem to be the norm, but I really liked the idea and thought it had potential.

Thinking Asian got me thinking about another milk alternative: coconut milk. Not coconut cream like you use in a Pina Colada, but the type used in Thai curries. I considered using other dairy alternatives (almond, rice and soy milks) but when I started to do some digging into the health properties of each, coconut milk was the surprising winner. Even though it contains saturated fats (usually a bad thing), the saturated fat of the coconut is unusual in it’s makeup and not harmful like the ones from animal sources. Plus I found out that coconut milk is anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-carcinogenic, anti-bacterial and has been used in studies to lessen the viral load of AIDS patients!

See, I’d already named this drink The Facial, at least as a working title, and thought that if regular facials are good for our skin, a drink named as such should be somewhat good for our bodies. So, as I experimented with the various ingredients (green tea and cranberry juice, both good things!) I tried to keep that in mind. And experiment I did. It took several trials combining different teas (regular green and flavored), the coconut milk, juice and brown sugar syrup to get a drink that was tasty and had the right color and consistency. And, of course, the tapioca pearls I found were the small white kind so as I cooked them I tinted them black with icing paste (both to match the color scheme of the party–pink, black and silver–as well as resemble the micro-beads that are in various scrubs and serums the company sells) and then stored them in the recommended brown sugar syrup.

Here’s the resulting mocktail, renamed The Miracle after the company’s core skin-care set.

The Miracle Mocktail

2.5 oz brewed Cranberry-Pomegranate Green Tea
2.5 oz 100% Juice Cranberry Juice
.5 oz Brown Sugar Syrup*
.5 oz Grenadine (mostly for color, can be omitted)
1 oz Coconut Milk
1 Tbsp Tapioca Pearls, tinted

Place the Tapioca Pearls in the bottom of a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass.

Combine the tea through coconut milk in a cocktail shaker over ice and shake for a good count of 10. Pour over the tapioca pearls and enjoy!

* Brown sugar syrup is made by combining 1 part brown sugar, 1 part white sugar and 2 parts water in a saucepan and heating until the sugars are completely dissolved. Can be made ahead and store in the fridge for more than a month. Also good in rum-based cocktails where regular sugar syrup is called for though it can change the color of a drink.

The drink was a hit, both with the hostess trio and the guests and I had so much fun creating it and playing bartender throughout the evening. I did get asked if it was harder coming up with a non-alcoholic cocktail and I had to admit that, yes, it was a little more challenging to come up with something different enough to justify the effort but it was definitely rewarding and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to create a custom cocktail!

If you’d like to find out how to get your own custom cocktail creation, email me at randomactscomics@gmail.com.

Pomegranate Snark

A while back–maybe a year or so, that’s pretty long in Internet-years–I was part of a conversation among friends which resulted in the following question: If you had a drink named after you, what would it be called?

Now, this was back when I was a bar novice. I stuck to rum & Cokes, Kahlua & cream (or the stand-by Amaretto Sour), avoided vodka at all costs and didn’t know there were more than 3 or 4 types of rum. And by types, I mean regular (white), dark, spiced and 151. Maybe I didn’t even qualify as a novice, yet, come to think of it. At any rate, I did at least come up with a name for my drink: the Snarky Little Tart.

I also knew enough, or thought I did, that the little should signify a shot or some other small portion and the tart naturally led me to think something from DeKuyper’s Pucker line-up. I was on a serious gin kick at the time, so that would be the base and since this was a drink about me, it should definitely be red, so I was leaning towards watermelon or, more appropriately, cherry pucker. That is until I found pomegranate liqueurs at the store and, thus, the Snarky Little Tart had it’s debut.

Snarky Little Tart

1 Ice cube
1 oz Gin
.5 oz Vanilla cordial
1 oz Pomegranate liqueur
splash of Club soda

Build the drink over the single ice cube in a double-shot or cordial glass. Swirl.

This isn’t a bad drink, especially for the first-time mixologist that I was. But, now, a year or two later (really, time flies, all spent online) and several more experiments under my bar towel, I think it’s time to give the ‘Tart a little more room and a polish.

Trying out the different combinations is almost more fun than sipping the triumphant final drink, so I thought I’d go into what changes I made and why. First was the Vanilla cordial, originally made for me by a friend it’s not something that everyone is going to have on hand and not something I’ve ever made myself. The bottle of vanilla vodka never seems to leave the top of the bar these days, so it was a natural first choice when updating the drink. Second choice was to add some pomegranate juice since I wanted a bit of mixer to cut the straight alcohol and I really wanted to get away from the club soda, even if it was only a splash.

Unfortunately, the vanilla vodka didn’t play as nicely with the rest of the ingredients, it was a bit harsh in some ratios and just too bright in others. Then it dawned on me that the Cordial was a brandy base, and I had a wonderful brandy-vanilla flavor tucked away under the bar in the form of a bottle of Tuaca . This turned out to be the magic bullet that pulled together the different flavors (excepting the vanilla vodka, of course, it was just too pointy, even for Snark). So after about 4 different goes, we finally agreed on a winner:

CHF Snarky Tart

1 oz Gin
1 oz Tuaca
1 oz Pomegranate liqueur
2 oz Pomegranate juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker half-full of ice and shake with a touch of bitter wit. Quoting some Dorothy Parker wouldn’t go amiss, either.

This slightly more mature version of it’s younger shot sibling retains the tartness, the color and the touch of gin but goes down much smoother and is meant for sipping.

PS-Pomegranate Snark (along with a long derivation that led to Snarky Cheerleader) was another potential name for the spruced-up cocktail.