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

Bitters Making Workshop at Batch Made Market

I was invited to present a workshop on how to make cocktail bitters at home during the inaugural Batch Made Market in San Francisco, and it was a big success!

We did a quick overview of bitters’ history and uses, then dug into the tools, processes and testing methods for making bitters. It was a fun event, with close to 50 people attending, despite it being advertised as capped at 15, and it had sold out in a matter of minutes online. Twice as many people were standing crowded into the tent as were seated, but I had thought this might happen and brought enough tasting cups and handouts for fifty students.

The handout has a lot of good info, so I thought I should share it here as well. Click image below for PDF.

(more…)

Read More

Cranberry Bitters for Thanksgiving and Christmas Cocktails

cran3Problem: too much Beaujolais at family Thanksgiving last year, and too few cocktails.

Solution: homemade cranberry bitters to craft some festive holiday drinks.

The holiday season – and the stress that comes with it – are nearly upon us, so most of the instructions in this recipe involve hitting ingredients with a hammer or jabbing them with a sharp stick. After that you just wait, shake, and blend.

(more…)

Read More

Wisdom of My Father

dad

This is my first Father’s Day as a dad, and my parents just came out to visit from Vermont to meet the baby and spend some time with me in San Francisco.

Along with sound advice on parenting and relationships, my father dropped some cocktail wisdom on me when I took my folks out to Trick Dog for drinks.

I usually assess the cocktailing potential of a new bar by ordering a Blood and Sand (equal parts Scotch, sweet vermouth, OJ and Cherry Heering). Any hesitation or confusion from the bartender, and I would know not to order another cocktail. The tragic flaw is that I am rarely in the mood for such a sweet drink. When this came up in conversation, my old man started to smirk.

My dad, he does it one better. He orders a Perfect Manhattan (“perfect” denotes replacing half of the sweet vermouth with dry vermouth), and if the bartender says something like, “Oh, all the drinks here are excellent,” he says, “You know, I’ve changed my mind. I’ll have a beer.”

An engineer by education, and a craftsman by avocation, I’m really unsurprised that he would devise such an efficient and elegant approach.

Perfect Manhattan

(Dad usually calls for Jameson, technically making this a perfect “Emerald”, a much smoother alternative to the traditional rye)

two ounces whiskey
1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce dry vermouth
a dash of orange bitters

Stir with ice, strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

Read More

Bitter Orange Jello Slices

Ending my Lunar New Year Party with Bitter Orange Jello Shots was a hit, so I will pass along this simple recipe.

Bitter Orange Jello Slices

  • 6 oranges
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 6 oz. package of orange Jello
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 1/4 cups chilled vodka
  • 1/4 cup orange bitters (I used Angostura brand)

 

1. Slice oranges in half across the navel. Cut a slit in the pith near the navel, where it is strongest.
2. Slide the end of a metal spoon between skin and fruit to remove cleanly and reserve fruit for another use.
3. Bring water to a boil, and remove from heat.
4. Stir Jello into hot water until dissolved, then stir in cold water , vodka and bitters.
5. Set orange peel halves into shallow cups on a tray so that the edges are level and fill with jello liquid to the rim.
6. Let cool overnight in the refrigerator and slice each half into thirds with two vertical cuts.

Read More