New Nocino Recipe for 2016

It’s green walnut season again… nope, it’s over. These things are only around for a few weeks, so grab them while you can.

The last time I cranked out a significant batch of nocino was 2010, and I loved it, but my partner in crime at the time found the menthol and herbal flavors too intense (the term she used was medicinal), so this batch is a little warmer, sweeter and less herbal, but still true to tradition.

Five months is more than adequate maceration time, so if you’re already gearing up for Christmas presents, your nocino will be ready just in time. You will also find that it matures and flavors develop in the bottle for up to a year.

Nocino is a fantastic winter warmer, served chilled or over ice after dinner, but also works remarkably well in place of sweet vermouth in classic cocktail recipes and adds great flavor to hearty cold-weather desserts. I’ll post some recipes soon.

 nocino1a

Nocino Nuovo

  • 19 green walnuts, washed and quartered
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 750 ml bottle of vodka
  • 1 cup port
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Zest of one orange
  • 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns

nocino2b

1. Combine walnuts, herbs and sugar in a glass jar, stir to coat, and set in a warm spot for two days.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients, cap tightly and give it a good shake.
3. Let your infusion sit for at least 4 months, or up to a year, shaking the jar weekly, if not daily.
4. Pour into a clean glass bottle through a coffee filter-lined funnel.

This recipe yields over a liter, and makes fantastic holiday gifts, packaged in small bottles or flasks with a hand-made label and a couple of cocktail recipes.

nocino5a

 

Read More

Three More Equal Parts: The Simplest Cocktail Recipes Expanded

It doesn’t get much easier than this: equal measures of three ingredients to make these six fantastic cocktails from only eight bottles – and now I have an excuse to make a new Venn Diagram (here is last week’s).

three_equal_parts

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or an old fashioned glass with a big cube of ice.  Garnish with an orange twist.

  • Bijou: 1 ounce Green Chartreuse, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, dash of orange bitters
  • Boulevardier: 1 ounce bourbon, 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Contessa:  1 ounce Aperol, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • Dry Negroni: 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • Negroni: 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Old Pal: 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce rye, 1 ounce dry vermouth

 

Read More

Three Equal Parts: The Simplest Cocktail Recipes

It doesn’t get much easier than this: equal measures of three ingredients to make these four fantastic cocktails from only six bottles – and now I have an excuse to make a Venn Diagram.

three_equal_parts

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or an old fashioned glass with a big cube of ice.  Garnish with an orange twist.

  • Bijou: 1 ounce Green Chartreuse, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, dash of orange bitters
  • Boulevardier: 1 ounce rye, 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Dry Negroni: 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • Negroni: 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce gin, 1 ounce sweet vermouth

 


 

Note: This has been updated since it was pointed out to me that, despite my preference, a bijou is made with sweet vermouth and not dry, so in reconfiguring my original design (below),  and I dropped the Vieux Carré, which was a stretch on the theme, but also delicious without the benedictine, bitters or lemon twist.

3_equal_partsVieux Carré: 1 ounce rye, 1 ounce cognac, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, 1 teaspoon of benedictine, 2 dashes orange bitters, and is garnished with a lemon twist)

 

Read More

Bitters Kits and Cocktail Recipes

bitterskitAlways a hot holiday gift, I’ve expanded my offering of DIY Cocktail Bitters Kits to include new flavors and Mini Bitters Booster Kits. (Underlined text all links to the corresponding item in my online store if you are looking to purchase)

If you’re wondering how to use them, you can start off by replacing the Angostura, orange or Peychaud’s bitters in most any classic cocktail, and here are three excellent drink recipes (1 strong, 1 light and 1 bowl of punch) for each of the flavors I offer.

(more…)

Read More

Soda Siphon Shenanigans

At Tales of the Cocktail, I went to a session on Mixologists and their Toys, and after the first two presenters both talked at length on making sodium alginate sphericals (clearly they didn’t coordinate), the 3rd presenter demonstrated his new cocktail carbonating invention, the Perlini.

During the Q&A I grabbed the mic and asked why you couldn’t do the same thing with a soda siphon, which has been around since the 1850’s.  Well, everyone must love a smartass, because without knowing who I was, the VP of iSi walked over two minutes later, placed her card in front of me and told me to drop her a line so she could send me one.

In December, I mentioned that I had all sorts of plans for soda siphon experiments, but I lacked the equipment at the time and so it slipped my mind, but I am back at it now that my shipment has arrived and iSi makes the best product I have tried.

Carbonated Cocktails

Why dilute with soda or sparkling wine when you want bubbles in your glass?  As long as you are dealing with straight spirits, and nothing sugary enough to gum up the works, pour a batch of cocktails into the siphon and shake it up. (Note, I was reprimanded for putting anything other than water in the siphon, but reminded that an iSi whip cream whipper will take CO2 cartridges in place of the usual nitrous, and is probably a better suited tool for the task at hand.)

Fizz Gin

A gin fizz takes on a whole new kick when you leave out the water and carbonate the gin before adding simple syrup and lemon juice. sparkling sangria, sparkle-rita, bubble-tini

Bubble-tini

I hate anything ending in -tini that isn’t an actual martini, but why not just pour your gin into the siphon and carbonate it before adding it to a vermouth laced glass?

For Bubbles’ Sake

Everybody else is doing a tribute to MJ, but what about the monkey?  There are a few sparkling sakes on the market, but I have yet to try a good one, so I threw a favorite bottle of daigingo into the iSi and gave it a whirl.  へえ、それは良かったね!

Carbonated Pineapple

Just because your drink is flat, it doesn’t mean the garnish needs to be.  I loaded a batch of fresh pineapple chunks into the whipper with a CO2 cartridge, and when I had expelled the resulting pineapple foam and unscrewed the cap, the fruit inside was actually effervescent!

I am sure I will be doing more with this in the near future, but for now, I want to relate what I have been up to so far.

Read More

Retelling Tales of the Cocktail

The impetus for launching LibationLab came from my experience in New Orleans a few weeks ago, at Tales of the Cocktail.  “Tales” is the preeminent cocktail event in the nation, and probably the biggest convention of bartenders in the world.  With press credentials secured based on my existing food and beverage blog, I went out to NoLa not knowing what to expect, but friends in the bartending community insisted that it was the highlight of their year.

Tuesday, my fake sister and I rolled into New Orleans early evening, checked into the Hotel Monetleone, grabbed a Sazerac at the Carousel Bar and then dinner at Gumbo Shop.  From there, we went to the first party of the week, hosted by the monks of Chartreuse (or at least their representatives supervising a staff dressed as monks).  The party was quiet from start to finish, we met a few good people, sampled a variety of cocktails and called it a night.  I had reaffirmed my love of Chartreuse,  but still had no idea what lay ahead of me.

The next day was a blur of tastings, seminars and socializing followed by a jaunt to the bad part of town (apparently a bartender here was shot in the back on the way out of work the week before) for a party at Bar Tonique hosted by the good people of Don Q Rum, then out onto Bourbon St. with my new crew.  We hit Yo Mama’s for dinner, where I feasted on the Peanut Butter Burger recommended by my amazing bartender/soulmate.  The best trick of the night: she had rigged the jukebox to play a different song, should a rube like me choose to play “When The Leavy Breaks” by Led Zeppelin.

The highlight of Thursday was an invitation to one of the Spirited Dinners at the Bombay Club by the lovely Christine from Bombay Sapphire where they paired 4 courses with specialty gin cocktails, and the rest of the week was full-tilt days of fascinating presentations by the national and international cocktail elite, and nights of events, parties and Bourbon Street shenanigans.  Some of the seminars were heavy on math, like “The Science of Shaking,” some very technical, like “Secrets to Successful Cocktail Photography,” some with a culinary focus, like, “Carnivorous Cocktails,” and some that really got me thinking, like, “Creative Mixology: Finding Inspiration in the Everyday.”

Although the seminars and events varied in theme, style and content, the consistent threads running through the week were humor and camaraderie.  I was really impressed by the sense of community in the bartending industry, and with the new friends I made, we are already planning our return to Tales of the Cocktail in 2010.

Note:  all of the links on New Orleans business names are tied to my bar and restaurant reviews.  If you want a deeper understanding of what I experienced at each location, click away.

Read More