Kumquat Marmalade

Fresh fruit and herbs are the best drink ingredients, but growing seasons can be short, while cocktail cravings last year-round, so the best compromise is to preserve fresh produce for later use. This approach also works if you have a surplus of fruit and want to use it over the next month or so, except that it would sooner pass from ripe to rotten.

One of my favorite fleeting cocktail components is the kumquat, which I only see a week each year, so I developed this recipe to preserve them in a mixing-ready marmalade which balances the tartness to make a great sweetener.

I’ll post a marmalade cocktail recipe next week.

Kumquat Marmalade Recipe:

1/2 pound kumquats, washed and stemmed
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1-2 tablespoons fresh Thai basil or tarragon, finely chopped (optional)

Pulse kumquats in food processor until finely chopped.
Soak fruit in water for 24 hours, then skim and discard seeds.
In a small saucepan, bring kumquat water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.
Stir in sugar and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently and skimming off foam and errant seeds.
Add  optional herbs to the hot marmalade, let cool and refrigerate.
Use within a couple weeks or follow proper canning procedure if you intend to save it.

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My Next Cocktail Competition is this Wednesday

I got bored this week and started entering cocktail competitions. Every entry form that didn’t ask for a place of employment (because I haven’t worked at a bar in a decade), I submitted. The first to invite me is this Wednesday at Osha Thai on the Embarcadero, and will feature my homemade raspberry kombucha.

It’s going to be a snap, because kombucha is the best mixer! It has a distinctly herbaceous tea flavor, plus naturally balanced acidity and additional sweetness. It’s every part of a cocktail except the hard stuff, so all I need to do is add a dash of bitters, shake it with booze and ice, and call it a day. Kombucha is a lot like the base for a traditional punch recipe. I imagine everyone else will be measuring and stirring, grinding and zesting, while I am just pouring.

The only real work is figuring out the math. I am supposed to make 3 gallons of my bright pink concoction, and each 3-ounce drink requires a dash of bitters (3 gallons is 384oz / 3 ounces per drink = 128 dashes at 36 dashes per ounce) so I need to add 3.5 ounces to the pot.

Maybe I will carbonate the vodka or something.

This competition is sponsored by Absolut Vodka, everyone’s favorite spirit, but for those of you with different tastes, I promise to have a nip of Louisville’s finest on hand for you. Just ask me… discretely.  Actually, request the “Kentucky Kombucha” and give me a wink.

I would love to see you all there (especially since the crowd votes), and if we haven’t met before, stop by my station and introduce yourself!


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Monthly Mixer: Syrup Made Simple

[“Monthly Mixer” is my new column on Drink of the Week, providing recipes and uses for excellent homemade cocktail mixers, and the following is my 2nd post.]

Simple syrup, is called simple for a reason. It is the easiest way to sweeten a drink, and blends into a cocktail much easier than plain sugar. You can make it at home in five minutes and store it in the fridge for weeks. In a pinch, you can even mash in some fruit and pour it over pancakes.

To create simple syrup, combine equal parts water and granulated sugar in a saucepan and cook until sugar is dissolved and water just starts to boil. Then just let it cool and pour it into a bottle before refrigerating.

Brown sugar syrup can be made the same way, and rich simple syrup is made by combining 2 parts granulated sugar with one part water and following the same procedure as above. Alternately, maple and agave syrups are already the right consistency for cocktailing, and honey works well, but must be diluted with equal parts water in order to be mixed.

With a bottle of booze and fresh citrus, you have everything you need to make a great cocktail like the ones below:

Collins (Tom, John or Vodka)

1 ½ ounces London dry gin, bourbon, or vodka

1 ounce simple syrup

¾ ounce lemon juice

club soda

Shake spirits, sugar and lemon juice with ice, strain into a tall, chilled glass and fill with soda. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.


1 ½ ounces white rum

¾ ounce simple syrup

¾ ounce fresh lime juice

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a small cocktail glass.

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Kombucha Class

I’ve recently discovered the sweet and sour joy of Kombucha. So recently, that I had consumed less than one bottle before signing up for a workshop with local jewelry designer, Shana Astrachan in her Mission District shop. Shana was welcoming and informed, providing a great run-down of how to start making my own kombucha at home.

Kombucha is tangy carbonated drink from a millennia-old Chinese recipe for fermenting sweetened tea in the same way that wine is turned into vinegar,  which has recently gained a cult-like following stateside for it’s supposed health benefits.

It’s also marked up like movie theater popcorn, costing pennies to make and running about $4 for a 16 ounce bottle, so it was great to learn how easy it is to make kombucha, and how easy it is to flavor with fresh seasonal produce.  I also think it will be a great cocktail mixer, much like fruit syrups and vinegar are used to make a shrub.

The class only ended an hour ago, so I don’t have results to post yet, but I’m heading home to start brewing (I hope my roommate doesn’t mind me raiding the ample tea repository she has set up in our pantry),  and I will be sure to takes some pretty pictures, do some research and post a tutorial soon.

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Monthly Mixer: Grenadine

[I am writing a monthly column at Drink of the Week, providing recipes and uses for excellent homemade cocktail mixers, and the following is my first post.]

That never-expiring bottle on your shelf isn’t really grenadine. That bastard stepchild of the classic cocktail mixer, which comes in a color not found in nature and is comprised almost entirely of sugar, may be ubiquitous but it’s not authentic.

Thanks to the public demand for antioxidants and the year-round growing season in California’s Central Valley, 100% pomegranate juice is now available at every grocery store in that double-bubble bottle, so we can all make our own grenadine the traditional way, by simmering real juice with sugar.

Grenadine Recipe:

1 16-ounce bottle of Pom (pomegranate juice)

1 cup of granulated sugar

1 ounce of vodka

Simmer the juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to 2 cups, remove from heat, and stir in the vodka (adding a little alcohol extends the shelf life exponentially without much alteration to the flavor).

Let it cool before pouring back into the original bottle. It will keep in the refrigerator for a month or more.

Uses: grenadine can be added to ginger ale for a Shirley Temple, cola for a Roy Rogers, or used as an alternative to sugar or other sweeteners in any number of cocktails, as well as in the classic grenadine cocktails linked below.

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Toddy Water

It’s that time of year, when the leaves have fallen off the trees, you can see your breath, and there’s  a nasty Rhinovirus in heavy circulation (don’t freak out, that’s just the common cold).  We all deserve a hot toddy, but not everyone keeps the requisite cinnamon, citrus and spice in their kitchen, and nobody wants to trek to the market on a bitterly cold night, especially when they’re already under the weather.

Conveniently, all six flavors of Herbal Water lend themselves well to a steaming cup of booze and require nothing else but a little sweetener to make a great hot toddy.

Herbal Toddies

All of these recipes follow the same ratio – 1/4 cup Herbal Water :  1 ounce spirits : 1 tablespoon sweetener.  Microwave the water in a mug for 2 minutes, stir in the spirit and sweetener and and garnish with a lemon wedge.

  • Cinnamon Orange Peel – Irish whiskey – maple syrup
  • Lemongrass Mint Vanilla – bourbon – brown sugar
  • Ginger Lemon Peel – Tequila – agave nectar
  • Lavender Mint – Aviation Gin or citrus vodka – honey
  • Lemon Verbena Geranium – London dry gin – apricot jam
  • Cloves Cardamom Cinnamon –  Rum – white sugar

Full disclosure: I got my first taste of Herbal Water at a conference, and while their sparkling water made sense as a mixer, I wasn’t sure what to do with the still water…until I got sick, and they were kind enough to send me some.

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Fresh Pressed

Can someone explain why the swill they pass off as cider on the West Coast all tastes like the government issued apple juice served in public school cafeterias?

Autumn always makes me crave the fresh cider pressed at Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury, Vermont.  I wonder why they can’t reproduce it here in California, with our eternal growing season and vast diversity of apple species, and then I am reminded of the difference in the apples.

The MacIntosh apples back in Vermont taste nothing like the MacIntosh apples here.  I remember my excitement at finding MacIntosh apples at a farmers market in San Francisco, only to take a bite into the sweet, but mostly flavorless fruit.  The Macs back in VT are tart, vibrant and complex, qualities that Cold Hollow attribute to the Champlain Valley terroir.

“Like grapes are to wine, so are the McIntosh apples to our cider! It is the soils of the Champlain Valley that make our McIntosh apples taste the way they do.  Nothing compares to our cider.”

It’s true.  nothing compares to their cider.  I first thought it might be the result of an additive, like MSG or crack, but if you go to the cider mill, you can see that their cider has one ingredient: apple.

I just booked a one-way ticket to Vermont (I’m coming back; I just haven’t booked the return flight yet), and I think I may drive straight from BTV to Cold Hollow. Not only can you drink straight from the presses, but they make fresh apple cider donuts that will blow your mind.

I wonder if Cold Hollow cider is a common cocktail ingredient on the east coast, because I know it would be far superior to any apple juice or nectar I have seen in use as a mixer. I left a bottle of Old Rip in Burlington last time I was there, so when I get back, I’ll probably throw together something like this

Lost in the Orchard

  • 1.5 ounces Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon
  • 1 ounces Cold Hollow apple cider
  • .5 ounces maple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 dashes angostura bitters

Dry shake first 4 ingredients, then shake with ice.  Strain into a small rocks glass and drip bitters onto the foam.

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Pomegranate Liqueur

The New York Times recently ran a great article with really deceptive photos on preserving fruit in alcohol, which gave a bunch of great ideas, techniques and uses for the preserved fruit, but the gorgeous images of pomegranate seeds in gin didn’t ring true. I have a couple jars on my mantle full of pom seeds in vodka and while they looked great for a day, the color quickly bleached into the booze, leaving dull, mauve fruit, but the byproduct is fantastic!

I combine the fruit with vodka and honey, and within a week, the liquid emerges a bright red, light liqueur and the ruby gems are  decrease in size, but not firmness and are infused with alcohol.

The liqueur can be substituted for other fruit liqueurs and brandies such as Cointreau, Chambord or Cherry Heering in most any recipe, or in place of grenadine for a stronger, drier cocktail than the original drink.  The seeds look great as a cocktail garnish or bouncing around in a glass of champagne.

Pomegranate Liqueur

  • 1 large pomegranate, separated
  • 5 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce honey

Combine vodka and honey in a 1-pint canning jar and shake to dissolve honey. Carefully clean away all pith without breaking the seeds and add them to the jar.  Close tightly and let sit for at least one week. Fruit can be stored in the liquid until time of use.

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Fiery Shrub

Almost as good as the hot sauce I made yesterday is the spicy, salty vinegar that rises to the top of the jar when the hot sauce settles.  Inspired by a Strawberry Shrub I had at an SF Chefs event last year from Neyah White, then of Nopa, I whipped the bright orange vinegar into a fiery shrub to use in cocktails. It has a really unique and complex flavor, marrying spice, sweetness, salt and acidity. Next up, how to use it in a tasty cocktail.

Fiery Shrub

  • 1 cup spicy vinegar
  • 1 cup white sugar

In a small saucepan, combine both ingredients over medium heat, bringing to a boil just long enough to dissolve the sugar. Stores in the refrigerator up to a month.

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