New infused spirits – summer style!

Well hello there again my lovers of sugar and bitters,

Three times in one week? Someone sure is taking their B-vitamins!

I’m coming to the realization that I’ve been experimenting a LOT, and that I should probably share some of the fun I’ve been having.

So today, I’m going to share with you two of my infused spirits I’ve got going on at the lounge at Hotel Casa 425

They are both featured as key ingredients in my new summer cocktail menu.  The first is a jalapeño-cucumber infused tequila, the second is an orange-rosemary infused bourbon.  They are both fantastic products, and the cocktail recipes I use with them are perfect for the summer months.

I had recently purchased the largest size of the OXO Good grips POP storage container, which holds 5.5 quarts.  So I knew I could fit in at least four liters of spirit along with whatever I wanted to infuse to create a large batch or goodness.

To start the process of the jalapeño-cucumber tequila, I begin by chopping up 4 medium sized jalapeños (roughly 173 grams if you want to be specific)  I slice them into thin 1/4 inch discs keeping all the seeds on the board.

3 jalapeños all sliced up and ready to party!

These all go into the container and await their new friend, the sliced cucumber, also cut into 1/4 inch segments.

Jalapeños in, cucumbers getting sliced.

I used about 3/4 length of an English cucumber (for specifics, I did measure out 291 grams).

Happy shiny cucumbers ready to join the jalapeños for a tequila bath!

291 grams, on the dot!

Next up, I pour in four liters of El Jimador blanco tequila, a deliciously crisp and citrusy spirit from the lowlands region in Amatitlán, Jalisco.  El Jimador, or as I like to call it “Herradura jr.” is one of my favorite mixing tequilas because it is so versatile.

El Jimador, 100% de agave, and also 100% de awesomeness

Here we have the container and label showing what’s inside.

Experiment #425-T

I let that sit in my office for a couple of days to let the tequila extract the flavors and aromas from the jalapeños and cucumbers.  The result is a spicy yet balanced liquid that works amazingly well in my “Berry spicy margarita” that utilizes fresh farmers market berries from Pudwill Berry Farms.  More info on that in a later post…

For the infused bourbon, I must give credit to Jaymee Mandeville at Drago Centro in DTLA for inspiring me with a cocktail made with rosemary infused Bushmill’s back in January!  I had been tinkering with both the infusion and cocktail recipes since then, and only in the past month have I felt like I really had something good.  Hats off to you Jaymee!

I’ve found the infusion results are best with the whiskey when both the rosemary needles and the orange peels are dried first, and then added to the bourbon.  The drying out of the ingredients seems to trap the oils and essences inside. When they hit the liquid, they release their flavors like an explosion resulting in a fantastic product.

So what I do first is cut some fresh rosemary from our hotel property.

Clipping some rosemary from the hotel grounds

I rinse the rosemary off and then just place the sprigs out on a half-sheet to dry out.

The rosemary sprigs just chllin’

Once the rosemary dries out, just rub your index finger and your thumb together down the sprig to remove all the needles.

Next, I peel about 6-8 oranges, enough to fill up two half-sheets.  When I peel the oranges, I take away 4 peels to create a bit of a cross.

I peel these 4 sections first

Next, I peel the remaining four smaller sides to be able to get as much of the citrus as possible.

All peeled!

Then I lay out all the peels to be dried with the rind facing up.  My little office gets pretty warm, so I just place the sheets in there to dry out anything I need to.  If you want to try this at home, just throw the sheet in the oven, but DO NOT turn the oven on.

The orange peels laying out trying to catch some rays.

You know the peels are done when they curl up and are hard and brittle to the touch.  Here I have some already dried out peels and needles.

These guys are ready for some bourbon!

Now comes the fun part!  Measuring and pouring!

I’ve found that with four liters of bourbon, about 13 grams of rosemary needles and 40 grams of orange peels work best for a nice balance.

13 grams of rosemary needles

40 grams of dried orange peel, street value is probably somewhere in the high tens.

For infusing bourbon, I like using Evan Williams black label.  It’s what I have in my well for whiskey/bourbon, and is a great mixing spirit.

Lined up, ready to be emptied!

Here we have the rosemary floating on top of the whiskey with the orange peels starting to release their oils into the mixture.

The rosemary and orange peels look like they’re fighting now, but soon they will come together to make a love-baby.

And here we have a double portion of this magical mixture.  I had to double up production because this product and the cocktail it is made with is selling really, really well.

Double portions of the new infused bourbon. Aren’t they lovely?

The finished product is very citrusy on the nose and you get the dryness of the rosemary at the end of the palate.  I mix this product with lemon juice, simple syrup and basil to create my “Kentucky Rose” cocktail, but just like the previously stated margarita, more on that later…

Well, that’s about it for now.  Upcoming topics include the summer cocktails, carbonated bottled cocktails, house-made lemoncello, house-cured cherries as well as a sneak peek into what kind of infusions I have going on for the fall months.

Until then, happy cocktailing!

-W

Cheers!

An Old Fashioned Cocktail

I was first introduced to the Old Fashioned cocktail in my early twenties, and to be honest, it was not love at first sight. I have been enjoying bourbon whiskey almost since I have been of legal drinking age, but the Old Fashioned just did not seem appealing. I think it had to do with the fact that it sounded so…….OLD! I suppose I always thought of it as an “old-man-drink” and never really bothered to give it a decent chance.

That all changed about three years ago. I was working as a server at Red White+Bluezz and our GM/Sommelier Russ Meek exclaimed “You’ve never had an Old Fashioned?!??!!”. I had to sheepishly admit that I had never had a good experience with one. He then proceeded to whip one up for me, detailing what he was using and his methods. His recipe was the “popular” one of today; sugar and bitters (YES!), cherry, orange, bourbon, ice, soda water.

My god, was it delicious!

It was a perfect blend of flavors and beautifully balanced. That evening I enjoyed two more creations, the last one being made by myself. That one experience had catapulted my love for the Old Fashioned cocktail into one of near fanaticism. For the next few months I constantly ordered them, suggested them, made them, drank them.

It was a glorious period of time.

I knew I had entered into a era of enjoying cocktails. By that, I mean, not just using booze to “escape”, but the whole experience of drinking and what it did to all of my senses. The sight of the orange slice and the brown bourbon interlaced with the bright red cherry. The initial smell of the aromatics of the angostura bitters and the oils of the citrus. The cool touch and feel of the condensed water on the side of the glass. The sound the ice made clinking around as I swirled the spirit against the soda and orange. And of course the terrific taste of balanced beauty as I gingerly sipped from the rim.

Over the years, I had also tried many variations, rye whiskey, irish whiskey, canadian whiskey, brandy, rum, and tequila. I tried different garnishes as well, lemon instead of orange, luxardo cherries instead of maraschino, strawberries instead of cherries. The possibilities seemed to be endless. I have also enjoyed creating my own variations of this wonderful concoction. I am even putting a “New Fashioned” on my secret cocktail menu at Hotel Casa 425 in Claremont, CA.

This past week I went on a little field trip to explore some nearby cocktail culture. I’ll get into the whole trip some other time, but I wanted to bring up my last stop which was at Las Perlas in DTLA. Las Perlas is a well-known tequila and mezcal bar, so when I saw they had an old fashioned cocktail, needless to say I was quite intrigued. After I ordered, I watched (as well as other curious onlookers) as the bar man lovingly created a fantastic perfectly-balanced well-structured cocktail. It was so good I ordered two more throughout the night and suggested it to a good friend (he loved it too).  The flavor of the reposado tequila combined with the smokiness of the mezcal made for such a pleasurable gift for my palate.  The complexity of the mexican spirits mixed with the sugar, bitters and citrus was so enjoyable, I knew that I had to try my hand at replicating this libation.  The next day at work, affectionately dubbed “the lab”, I successfully(!) re-created what I saw the bar man do.

To make this cocktail, you only need a handful of ingredients that again can be found at any BevMo or quality liquor store.  You might have a little trouble finding good mezcal, and please note that it should NOT have a worm at the bottom.  That is/was a marketing ploy and does not make the spirit any better.  With many things in life, you get what you pay for. So if you want a finely crafted quality cocktail, you may have to pay a little extra for proper ingredients.

You need:

1.5 ounces reposado or añejo tequila (I used Partida reposado)

.5 ounces mezcal (I used Del Maguey, San Luis del Rio village)

1 sugar cube

4-5 dashes aromatic cocktail bitters (I used the most well-known brand, Angostura)

1 Old Fashioned glass

Ice (actual cubes are best, the bigger, the better)

1 orange

1 maraschino cherry (If you can find/afford luxardo cherries, you will never want to use the atomic red kind)

Citrus peeler or knife

Muddler

Method:

Place the sugar in the glass and add 5 dashes of angostura bitters to that sweet little sucker.
Muddle/mash for about 10 seconds to create a syrup-like consistency.
Add the tequila and the mezcal and stir gently.
Add a large ice cube/cubes and stir again to create a little dilution.
Peel a slice of orange and squeeze over the glass to release the oils and then wipe the rind along the rim.
Add the luxardo cherry and say “Cheers!”, you just created a delicious smoky tequila Old Fashioned.

Just as you should with any aromatic cocktail, take your time enjoying it.  Appreciate the aromas of citrus and smoke.  Let the cherry add its sweetness to the drink for a few minutes before biting into it.  Try it with a peel of lemon or grapefruit instead of the orange for a variation.

Cheers!