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!”

What’s So Hard About Being a Lemon?

You know the saying: When life gives you lemons… But why stop at just plain old lemonade? Why not bring lemonade from the stand to the shaker and beyond?

When you hear “Hard Lemonade” it probably brings to mind the bottled malt beverages that come in a variety of flavor options. To make this sort of lemonade, it takes your basic home brew kit, some sorbate-free lemon juice concentrate, malt extract and yeast (the brewing kind). While I’m sure there’s finesse required to make a truly exceptional hard lemonade this way, the 6 to 8 weeks it would take before it was ready is a bit of a deterrent.

If you’d like something a bit quicker, try one of these recipes on for size:

Sunny’s Hard Lemonade
(adapted from Cooking for Real on the Food Network)

4 oz 2:1 Simple syrup
1 oz Vanilla Vodka
2 oz Lemon Juice

Mix over ice in a tall glass. Serves 1. Garnish with a slice of lemon, lime, or both.

Now you know I’m going to love this because of the vanilla vodka, right? Of course! It’s actually a good, fresh lemonade, very tart, but that hint of vanilla just makes it oh-so-good. Plus, with the relatively low alcohol content you could sip these all through a barbecue or pool party with little worry.

Hard Lemonade
(adapted from DrinksMixer.com)

1.5 oz Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
.5 oz Sweet and Sour Mix
4-6 oz. Sprite
Splash of Grenadine

Combine, in order, in a tall glass over ice.

The original called for Jack Daniel’s but I didn’t have any and Squirt is kinda hard to find around here. I wouldn’t mind trying it with a citrus soda that had more grapefruit influences (I’ll bet I could find a good substitute at World Market–their beverage section is awesome) and see what difference it made. The taste of this version is, obviously, stronger and Todd thinks that going down to a single ounce of Whiskey might be a better plan for those not into the harder flavors. The grenadine really makes this one for me, though, the touch of sweet pink making it more palatable than if it were just the booze and soda.

Of course, if you prefer your lemonade with a different edge, have you ever had the Earl Grey Lemonade from Earl of Sandwich? The recipe couldn’t be simpler: brew a pot of fairly strong Earl Grey tea and then dilute with a can of lemonade mix (the frozen kind is fine) and the 2 or 3 cans of water it calls for. It’s incredibly refreshing and suitable for all ages.

I know that school will be starting again very soon and, with it, the end of what we think of as Summer. But the heat will surely continue for many months, at least down here in Florida, so there’s still plenty of time to enjoy your lemonade–hard or soft.

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.

Harvey & Hillary

Have you ever picked up a bit of seemingly useless trivia and wondered when it was ever going to be useful? Believe it or not, sometimes it actually does.

Case in point: many, many years ago (could be a decade or more) I vaguely remember someone telling me that when a cocktail has the word “wall” in it–like the Harvey Wallbanger, our topic for today–it contains a specific ingredient. Granted, I misremembered one little detail thinking that the ingredient in question was grenadine when it’s actually Galliano.

CHF Harvey Wallbanger

Ice
2 oz Vanilla Vodka
4-6 oz Orange Juice
.5 oz Galliano

Fill a Collins (tall) glass with ice. Pour the vodka over the ice, then the orange juice until almost full. Stir with a bar spoon (or iced tea spoon if it’s handier) and then top with the Galliano. Sip slowly, letting the Galliano mix in a bit with each movement of the glass.

It turns out I was out of plain vodka (oops!) but I had plenty of the vanilla variety. Since the Galliano is described as being a anise-flavored herbal liqueur with vanilla notes I figured it would mix well and, oh, it did.

If a Harvey Wallbanger is a Screwdriver with a little something extra, the Hillary Wallbanger is the Mimosa with a kick. She doesn’t get Champagne, instead you use white wine in place of the vodka but all else is equal. Most of the recipes I found for Hillary used a reverse ratio for wine to juice and also called for a dry white, like a Chardonnay. I happen not to like dry whites and, as always, prefer more mix to hooch, so kept the Harvey proportions and used a sweeter white.

Todd’s vote went squarely to the Harvey though I think if I’d used a Pinot Grigio instead of the Sugar Sands (a muscadine-based sweet white that I already had open) the Hillary may have been more to his liking. I thought Hillary was a nice, sweet mix but could have sipped either one with no quibbles. We both agree that the vanilla vodka enhances the Galliano (whose smell makes me think of root beer) so it will be how we make it from here on out.

Safe Sipping!

Random Appetites: Martini Mishaps

Welcome to cocktail hour, kiddies!
This Will Never Do...

This Will Never Do...

First, a little background may be in order:

The classic martini is made with gin and vermouth (2:1 ratio) and garnished with either cocktail olives or a twist of lemon. The vodkatini made popular by 007 himself has become accepted as a substitute and with it have come numerous flavor variations. The common element, though, is that there be either gin or vodka in the drink.

I’m no purist, to be sure, as I find the straight martinis to be way too bracing for me. (This has a lot to do with my first encounter involving a dirty martini–one that’s had a splash of the olive juice added–that was way too strong for mixer-loving me.) Beginning in the Fall of 2005, however, I learned to love flavored martinis with a passion and spent over a year on a Mangotini kick like you wouldn’t believe. An unfortunate New Year’s Eve experience has since put me off the mango variety, mores the pity, but such is life.

From the online menu...Being somewhat adventurous and quite enamoured with pomegranates of late, I ordered a Pomegranate Martini at a local chain eatery named for a knowledgeable fruit and a very possessive insect. First of all, I only glanced at the description, but even if I’d committed it to memory it would not have prepared me for what the hapless waiter served me. When he approached the table I noticed the martini glass was rimmed. Unusual, yes, but the sweeter martinis often feature a sugared rim so I didn’t really give it much thought. He offered to pour the first one for me and I let him (less chance of me wearing it that way, after all) and he walked away. At the first sip I was horrified: it was not a sugar rim but SALT. When I finally unpuckered the lower half of my face from the shock I debated returning the drink for one with slightly less sodium or just wiping the salt off and making the best of a bad situation. Since the waiter took a bit to return, I went with the second option and was still trying to divide the salt from it’s host when he did return.

Of course I asked him why on earth anyone would SALT the rim of a martini. To which he answered, well, it’s actually a margarita. Pardon? He claimed that there really was only one pomegranate cocktail on their menu and it was a margarita. Um, no, have a glance at the menu if you would. Now, what I don’t see (nor had I tasted) was any tequila in there (which is sorta required for it to be a margarita) and it’s certainly NOT what was on the menu. [It should be noted that the online menu does feature a pomegranate margarita, as well, but it was not on our drink menu this particular visit.] Had I paid more attention to the description, though, I probably would have ordered something else since it does feature orange liqueur, sweet and sour and soda… not the way I like my Pomatinis. But whatever. The whole visit was questionable and will probably be our last trip to fruit-buzz’s for a while.

How is this a martini?Now, remember when I said there should be either gin or vodka in the drink to make it a martini? Well, another affront was spotted at yet another chain restaurant named after a gem of a day (this one chosen as it was one of the few recognizable, reliable eateries in a little Southern town). Why we continue to patronize these places is beyond me, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. This particular cocktail I did not try, opting instead for a glass of Sangria, but it clearly violates the entire notion of a martini. Last time I checked sake was neither made from potatoes or juniper berries, so no dice! I suppose if we were really trying to make a cause for a sake martini, vodka can be made from grains and rice is a grain so rice wine could maybe… nope, sorry, can’t do it, doesn’t count! It should be noted that this same musically-inclined eatery featured a curious cocktail called a “Chilled Grape Martini” which did include vodka but just makes me wonder why not just drink wine?