cocktails

the jam-hattan

A few weeks ago I mentioned that my dearest husband Russell had conned me into doing the Whole30 diet with him.

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

Thank god that’s over!

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

If you’re not familiar with it, the Whole30 is sort of like a cross between the Paleo diet and Atkins. It’s super protein heavy, focusing on calories from fat rather than grains or sugar. Alcohol is also strictly forbidden.

While we did feel a bit “better” after it was all over, we didn’t really have that OHMYGODI’VENEVERFELTSOAMAZINGINMYWHOLELIFE feeling that the internets promised us. It didn’t really seem all that bad at first, but a week in it felt like cruel and unusual punishment, and by the end it just felt like too much of a sacrifice and waaaaay too much work for the payoff. I also didn’t feel like it really was all that “healthy”, because while it does encourage you to eat a lot of fresh produce, it also encourages overconsumption of fat and protein and salt at the expense of the grains and carbs and sugar.

The biggest takeaway that I really hope to stick with is to read ingredient lists for everything I buy, and to avoid sugar in savory foods where it doesn’t seem to belong. Once you start paying attention, you’ll realize there is added sugar in basically every packaged food on the market, and a lot of it really is easy to avoid if you know what to look for.

When it comes to avoiding grains and sugar all the time though…
Nah…
You and I both know that shit just ain’t gonna happen.

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

Same goes for booze.

I wouldn’t really consider myself a heavy drinker, in fact I usually go weeks without drinking and don’t even think about it. I do enjoy a good stiff cocktail or tasty glass (or bottle) of wine from time to time though, and to be honest, it’s when I try to deny myself alcohol that I tend to crave it most.

Believe you me, after this crazy diet I fully needed and deserved a good strong drink.

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

Lucky for me, Drizly just invited me to join their Top Shelf Blogger Program.

I mentioned back in November that Drizly is basically just like seamless.com or delivery.com, but instead of burgers or sushi, Drizly delivers booze! I mean, how freakin’ amazing is that? We’re officially living in the future y’all!

Once I’d hatched a little plan for my first cocktail as a top shelf blogger, I had to get started with recipe testing. I was out of rye though, and nearly out of vermouth, so I went online, searched Drizly for what I needed, and had the bottles delivered to my front door in under an hour!

Magic!

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

The classic Manhattan has always been one my favorite cocktails, and I especially love when I reach the bottom of the glass and get to eat those dark jammy little Luxardo maraschino cherries. It dawned on me one day that if one of my favorite things about a Manhattan is the jammy cherries, what was to stop me from just making a cocktail with cherry jam?

When making a drink with jam, it’s important to shake it rather than stirring like you would a classic Manhattan. The jam needs to be shaken in to fully dissolve into the alcohol, and once shaken it needs to be strained into the glass to hold back any chunks of fruit that didn’t incorporate.

The jam does make the cocktail a bit sweeter than it would traditionally be, almost more like an Old Fashioned, so I think it’s important to use rye whiskey rather than bourbon. Bourbon is sweet and mild on it’s own, while rye has a bold, dry, almost spicy quality that holds it’s own against the sugary jam.

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

To add just a little something extra, I thought that a touch of rose water could compliment the sweet fruitiness of the cherry. Rose water is seriously strong stuff though, and a little goes a looooong way. It took me quite a while to work out exactly the right amount that would come through without overpowering the whole drink. We had to do a whole lot of recipe testing to get the ratios just right, but luckily this drink is seriously tasty and Russell was a willing guinea pig.

In the end I realized that it’s almost best if you can only smell the rose when you put the glass up to your lips, but don’t really taste it much in the drink. The difference between a 1/4 teaspoon and a 1/2 teaspoon can mean the difference between a interesting cocktail with an elegant floral undertone, and taking a swig from an old perfume bottle you found in your grandma’s bathroom.

With the jam to whiskey to rose water ratio just right, this drink is a freakin’ masterpiece. I’ve gone ahead and gilded the lily y’all, and I think we’re all going to be better for it. I mean, maybe it’s the hooch talking, but this is seriously one of the best cocktails I’ve ever made for you guys. Strong and serious like a good Manhattan should be, but with a hint of sweet delicate elegance from the floral fruitiness of cherry and rose. Masculine and feminine. Yin and Yang. Tracy and Hepburn.

Now that I’m a Drizly top shelf blogger, you can expect at least a handful of equally “intoxicating” (har har) recipes from me every year. To help you take full advantage of everything Drizly has to offer, I even have a nifty promo code that you can use on your first visit to their site! If you follow this link to refer a friend, you’ll both receive $5 off your first orders with the promo code: bkhoochmaker

Bottoms up y’all!

the "jam-hattan" | Brooklyn Homemaker

The Jam-hattan

  • Servings: makes 1 cocktail
  • Print
2 oz good rye whiskey (I used Bulleit)
1 oz sweet vermouth (I used Carpano Antica)
1 tablespoon cherry jam *see note
1/4 teaspoon rose water **see note
2 to 3 dashes aromatic bitters
garnish with 1 or 2 Luxardo maraschino cherries, if desired

Combine the whiskey, vermouth, jam, rose water, and bitters in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.
Shake shake shake until the shaker is ice cold and frosty on the outside, a good minute or so. Strain over ice into a rocks glass, and garnish with a skewer of Luxardo maraschino cherries.

Bottoms up!

Notes:
*Different jams have different sugar to fruit ratios, so your drink may come out sweeter than mine if you use a jam with more sugar than the “Bonne Maman” Cherry Preserves that I used. If your jam is very sweet, you may want to use a little less.
**Some rose waters are more powerfully flavored than others, so if yours doesn’t come through enough you can add a drop more, one drop at a time, until you’re happy with it. Just be careful! Rose water is STRONG stuff and can easily overpower your drink.

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apple cider boulevardier

Do you guys need a drink?

Cuz I need a drink.

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

This week, and really this entire election cycle, has been a complete emotional whirlwind and I think we’re probably all ready for a nice stiff cocktail right about now.

And boy oh boy have I got a cocktail for you today.

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

A few months ago I discovered the “Boulevardier”, and I fell head over heels in love. (Don’t tell Russell).
If you’ve not heard of a Boulevardier, it’s basically just like a Negroni, but with whiskey instead of gin.

If it sounds like I’m speaking a foreign tongue and you have no idea what I’m saying, a Negroni is a classic cocktail, which first appeared in print in 1919, consisting of gin, campari, and sweet vermouth. They’re strong, herbaceous, floral, and rather bitter in a really refreshing way. The bitterness of Campari can be a bit of an acquired taste, but if you are a fan of apéritifs or digestifs you’d probably really enjoy it. Orson Welles said of the Negroni, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.”
Smart man. It’s all about balance.

The thing is, I personally find the combination of gin and Campari a bit overpowering, so when I first tasted a Boulevardier, which substitutes bourbon for the gin, I was ecstatic and have been a huge fan ever since. It’s a strong cocktail, but the bitterness encourages sipping rather than chugging, which is never a bad thing!

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

We recently hosted the official opening part for Maxwell’s, and when I was planning the cocktail menu I decided to share my new love for the Boulevardier with all of our friends and neighbors. Like I said though, this is a pretty strong cocktail, and while we wanted everyone to have a nice time, we weren’t really trying to get all our friends wasted in the shop! Also, knowing that Campari can sometimes be an acquired taste, I was looking for a way to sweeten it up a little and mellow out the bitterness to make the cocktail appeal to a larger audience.

Since I was also making one of my favorite cakes for the party, and I was already buying fresh apple cider anyway, I thought I’d see if a splash of cider would help cut the bitterness, sweeten things up, and water things down.
Worked like a charm!
The cider mellows out the intensity of the Campari and makes this a delicious, autumnal, beautiful cocktail that everyone absolutely loved! I also decided to garnish the drink with some very thinly sliced apple rather than the traditional orange peel. So good!

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

I know that many people outside of the US are not very familiar with apple cider as we know it here in the northeast, so to explain, it’s basically nothing more than freshly pressed, unfiltered apple juice. If you can’t find fresh apple cider where you live, you could definitely substitute apple juice in a pinch. If you can get fresh cider though, I really think it has a superior flavor that’s a bit less cloying with a more intense apple-y richness.

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

Now, if this cocktail sounds good to you, but the idea of peeling yourself off the couch and putting pants on doesn’t, I’d like to offer you another way to put the ingredients for this drink into your hands.
Enter Drizly.com.
Drizly is similar to the food delivery websites that are so popular in larger cities right now, (Russell and I would probably starve to death without Seamless) but instead of food, Drizly delivers alcohol!

You have to be 21 (obvi), and you have to live within one of their delivery windows, but if both those things are true for you, the sky’s the limit! You can have any and all of your favorite hooch delivered right to your front door with the click of a button!
I mean, talk about a dream come true!

You can get the bourbon, Campari, and sweet vermouth you’ll need to make your very own boulevardier, and in some areas, you can even have the cider delivered! (I had to go to the store for that though, what a buzz kill!)

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

So, what are you waiting for?
You really have no excuse not to make yourself a fancy ass apple cider Boulevardier. It’s the perfect grown up cocktail for fall, and did I mention that Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away?

This drink is strong but not too strong, sweet but not too sweet, bitter but not too bitter, with a wonderfully warm, herbaceous, bright, and fruity flavor.

It doesn’t get much better than that, unless of course you have all the booze delivered to your front door without changing out of your PJs. Which you can.

apple cider boulevardier | Brooklyn Homemaker

Apple Cider Boulevardier

  • Servings: 1 cocktail
  • Print
1 1/2 oz. bourbon
3/4 oz. Campari
3/4 oz. Sweet Vermouth
1 1/2 oz. fresh apple cider
Ice
Thin apple slices for garnish

Place bourbon, campari, sweet vermouth, and apple cider into a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake just until well mixed and cold. Strain into a rocks glass, and serve with more ice.

Garnish with a slice or two of fresh, thinly sliced apple.

 

holiday milk punch

I realize how snobby this will probably sound, but I’ve never been a fan of store bought eggnog.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

I guess it’s because I was spoiled my whole life by my mother’s eggnog. Every year we’d have a big family Christmas party and she’d spend the whole day making cocktail sauce and big bowls of shrimp, layering trays of her famous taco dip, and whipping up two huge punch bowls full of her Christmas eggnogs (one them regular, the other chocolate, both spiked with plenty of hooch).

She used to save a little for us before adding the booze when we were really little, and when we finally reached double digits we were allowed just a tiny cup of the same nog as the adults.

When I was still pretty young I didn’t really like the taste of the adult version, but it was so thick and rich and heavy that even when I was old enough to actually enjoy the alcohol I couldn’t have more than a cup or two before feeling full to the point of bursting.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Right after college I decided to host a holiday soiree of my very own, and I thought a big batch of mom’s homemade eggnog would be just the ticket. It was every bit as rich and delicious as I remembered, but it was my first and last time making it. Once was enough for me to decide that it took too much time and effort to make something so heavy that people wanted only one or two cups. Of course, everyone loved it, but they all moved on to something else later in the night, and half of it went to waste.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Just before Christmas in the first year that Russell and I lived together I spotted a recipe on Smitten Kitchen that piqued my interest.

I’ve never been a huge fan of milk as a beverage on it’s own. I don’t even usually eat cookies with milk, and reserve it only for cereal instead. There was bourbon in this milk punch recipe though so I was willing to give it a shot.

It’s so much lighter, and so much simpler to make, that I honestly didn’t expect it to hold a candle to homemade eggnog. To my surprise though, I absolutely loved it! It’s doesn’t really taste like eggnog; it’s not nearly as rich and custardy and, well, eggy; but it does have a sort of similar flavor profile. A bit of milk, a bit of cream, a bit of sugar, a bit of vanilla, and a bit of nutmeg; all topped off with enough booze to make it taste exceedingly festive.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

I was in love.

I may actually even like this better than eggnog. I mean, I still think homemade eggnog is the bee’s knees, but this is just as festive and you don’t want a nap after one glass!

I wouldn’t exactly call milk punch healthy, but I would say that it’s a heck of a lot healthier than eggnog. Much less fat and a bit less cream, and no raw eggs to worry about. You’d never know it though. This stuff is TASTY!

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Recipes for versions of milk punch (very different versions from this one) actually date back to colonial times. Benjamin Franklin even had his own recipe that’s been making the rounds on the internet lately.

These days recipes similar to this one are very popular in the South, especially in New Orleans where it’s often served with breakfast or brunch. There’s even a scene in the film “The Help” where a milk punch is being prepared before a meeting of the ladies bridge club.

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

The first time I tried milk punch I made it with bourbon, following Smitten Kitchen’s recipe to a T.

Just before I decided to share it here with all of you though, I saw an an article about a taste test for the best hooch to use for eggnog. After tasting some nog spiked with various spirits, straight or in combination, they found that a mix of rum and brandy had the best, most quintessentially “holiday” flavor.

While I absolutely love bourbon 365 days a year, I decided that I could let rum and brandy have their turn for this holiday recipe. I’m so glad that I did, because it somehow made my milk punch taste even more similar to a homemade eggnog. Even if you’d still prefer bourbon though, this recipe is nice and strong, as any holiday cocktail should be.

If you have time, I’d recommend freezing your milk punch for a few hours until it gets slushy. It has a thicker, almost milkshake like texture this way, and it means you can make it ahead of your guests and take it out whenever they arrive. You can even make it a day ahead and keep it in the freezer, but you’ll need to stir it up and let it sit out for a bit if it freezes through.
The second best method would be to shake it in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice until it gets super cold and frothy. For an even easier presentation, you could simply serve it in a punch bowl with plenty of ice, or even a frozen milk ice ring. Either way, just finish it with a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg and you’re in holiday heaven!

holiday milk punch | Brooklyn Homemaker

Holiday Milk Punch

  • Servings: 6 to 10, depending on size
  • Print
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream *see note
1 cup good dark rum (not spiced rum)
1/2 cup brandy (or cognac) **see note
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish.

In a pitcher, whisk together milk, heavy cream, rum, brandy, sugar and vanilla.
This can be served a few ways. You can serve very well chilled in an icy punch bowl, or shaken with ice until frothy and frigid. My favorite way though, is to freeze it until slushy. This will take 3 to 4 hours, but you can leave it in there up to a day. Stir before serving it in chilled glasses, finished with a few gratings of fresh nutmeg.

notes:

*For a thinner, healthier version use more milk and less cream. For a thicker, richer version use more cream and less milk, equalling 5 cups total.

** You can use more brandy and less rum if desired, or all brandy, all rum, or even all bourbon. I think 1 1/2 cups of alcohol total offers the best flavor, but you can do less if you don’t like as much hair on your chest.

frozen watermelon margarita

I know what everyone keeps saying, but you guys, it’s still summer!!! I swear it!

frozen watermelon margaritas | Brooklyn Homemaker.com

It seems like every year, come August, people start whining and mourning the end of summer, at least six weeks prematurely. I don’t know if you’ve been outside lately, but it’s freakin’ hot out there.
While everyone is lamenting the onset of cold weather, we’re smack dab in the middle of our second heatwave in less than a month. You can’t go outside without sweating through your clothes, and the farmer’s markets are exploding with gorgeous tomatoes and stone fruit.

frozen watermelon margaritas | Brooklyn Homemaker.com

Last week my mom had some vacation time and wanted to take a break from fixing up her new old house and get away for a few days. She piled in the car with my little sister and drove down to Brooklyn to hang out with me and Russell, and get in some snuggle time with Doris and Betty (she calls them her granddoggers!).

While she was here we drove down to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone and check out the freak show. There were also margaritas involved. Later that night, safely back in Bushwick with dinner tucked into our bellies, mom suggested we pick up some tequila and have a few more.

frozen watermelon margaritas | Brooklyn Homemaker.com

Mom isn’t really a big drinker, but as far back as I can remember, she’s always been a big fan of frozen drinks. She usually makes them a bit on the weak side, just strong enough to have a little fun without getting messy, but either way she likes them just the same. When I was growing up whenever mom had a party she’d dust off the blender and stock the freezer with those frozen cocktail mixers they keep next to the OJ in the frozen food aisle. She’d usually even make an extra batch without the booze just for us kids.

To this day, it isn’t a party at mom’s house without an frosty pitcher of margaritas, daiquiris, or piña coladas. In fact, the last time I was home we decided to have a little family cookout and I swear my Aunt D wasn’t even out of her car before she was asking where her piña colada was!

frozen watermelon margaritas | Brooklyn Homemaker.com

Given my mom’s inclination to imbibe the icy stuff, I picked up a bag of ice along with my liquor and limes. Since mom sometimes likes her drinks sweet and fruity, I grabbed a bag of frozen strawberries too.

Not really fond of store bought mixes, I knew I wanted to make my margaritas from scratch, but I’ve never found a frozen margarita recipe that I loved (until now). Off I went to google, and on the pages of Serious Eats I found what I believe is seriously the world’s greatest and most perfect frozen margarita recipe ever. I’ve had MANY mediocre margaritas in my day, so I really wasn’t expecting much. I knew mom would love them either way, so I gave this recipe a whirl (literally). The only change I made was to substitute about half of the ice cubes with frozen strawberries. I was floored by how good they were, and we ended up making a second pitcher before the night was through, and another two pitchers the next night! They’re not too sweet, not too sour, not too strong, not too weak. Literally perfect. I cannot sing enough praises for this recipe.

frozen watermelon margaritas | Brooklyn Homemaker.com

When we decided to have some friends over in the backyard this past weekend, I decided to revisit the recipe, this time with just a few small changes. Rather than using (somewhat flavorless) frozen strawberries, I decided to celebrate what’s left of summer with fresh watermelon instead. I picked up a whole seedless watermelon, removed the rind, cut the fruit into cubes, and froze them in a single layer on a sheet pan. Instead of half fruit, half ice, this time I used no ice.
All watermelon, all the time.

The only thing about adding so much fruit to the recipe was that they ended up a little too sweet for my taste, so I decided to make a few (tiny) changes to the next batch; namely reducing the simple syrup and increasing the booze (cuz that’s how I roll).

frozen watermelon margaritas | Brooklyn Homemaker.com

You’ll want to get started on these a day (or two) ahead so you have time to freeze the watermelon, but once you get everything prepped these puppies are a breeze to make with a good strong blender. To make sure your drinks are as icy as possible, it’s best to mix the tequila base together and put it in the freezer ahead of time too. The tequila and triple sec will keep the lime juice and simple syrup from freezing solid, but while still liquid, your mixer with be as icy cold as can be. A whole watermelon is enough for several pitchers, so I put a half dozen containers of mixer in the freezer at the same time.

It was a party, how dare you judge me!

As you may have guessed, these suckers were met with rave reviews. They’re so perfectly summery, so perfectly refreshing, so perfectly delicious, so perfectly perfect; that I still can hardly believe it. Man I could go for another one right about now…

frozen watermelon margaritas | Brooklyn Homemaker.com

Frozen Watermelon Margaritas

adapted (just barely) from Serious Eats

5 ounces (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) silver tequila (100% agave is best)
2 ounces (1/4 cup) good quality Triple Sec or orange liqueur
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) fresh lime juice (from 4 to 5 limes)
2 ounces (1/4 cup) simple syrup (see notes below)
4 cups cubed seedless watermelon (rind removed)

At least 8 hours ahead:
Arrange the cubed watermelon on a parchment lined sheet pan and place in the freezer for several hours or until completely frozen. The parchment will make it easier to remove the frozen cubes. Once frozen, transfer to an air-tight container or zip-top freezer bag.

In another air-tight container, combine tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and simple syrup and freeze for at least 8 hours or up to one week (mixture will remain liquid). You can mix several batches ahead, but freeze each one in a separate container because a standard blender will only fit one recipe at a time.

When you’re ready to party:
Combine your frozen watermelon with the tequila mixture in the pitcher of a powerful blender. Blend on highest setting, pulsing and scraping down sides if necessary, until completely smooth. Serve immediately. If desired, garnish with a small wedge of fresh watermelon.

Notes: To make simple syrup, combine equal volumes of sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Cool before combining with alcohol.
While you certainly can mix the base just before blending, your drinks will be significantly less frosty and more liquid. The base mixture can be made up to a week ahead and stored in the freezer.
In my experience, a small to medium seedless watermelon gave me enough cubes for roughly 8 pitchers of this recipe, but that will depend on the size of your watermelon.