elderflower descant

Elderflower Descant

We’ve missed the last few Mixology Mondays, for various reasons, but when we saw that May’s theme was floral cocktails (hosted over at The Barman Cometh), we made a special effort to get something together. There are quite a few floral-based cocktails we like, particularly the Deep Blue Sea (violet) and the Vieux Mot (elderflower). We thought it would be fun to come up with something new with one of those flavors, so Jon did some experimenting these last couple of weeks, then wrote this:

As Jessamyn has already mentioned, I recently got a copy of the very fine book Left Coast Libations.  While many of the recipes therein have immediately grabbed me, demanding to be made, other recipes have remained more aloof.

Case in point, the Pear Sonata.  I’m just not a big fan of dusting a drink with ground cinnamon, and even if I were, there’s no way in hell I’m going to make pear foam.  Pear foam?  Really?

However, after letting the recipe percolate in my mind for a while, I began to recognize that for all of its weird trappings, the Pear Sonata has good, solid bones to it.  Gin, St. Germain, dry vermouth, and lemon juice.  Nothing wrong there.  What if I were to tweak the proportions a bit, leave off the pear foam (really?), and let the St. Germain shine through?  It seemed worth a try.

I began with a base of Bluecoat gin.  Bluecoat, made here in the US, has quickly become one of our very favorite gins, with a distinctly citrusy note to it, which I thought would work well with the St. Germain, which I boosted to a full jigger’s worth.  Lemon juice and dry vermouth, and in a nod to the original Pear Sonata recipe, just a dash of Clear Creek pear brandy.

A twist of orange to garnish.  I find that I have grown very fond of using orange to garnish drinks containing lemon juice – it’s similar enough not to clash, yet different enough to add a little extra dimension to the drink.  And as I was about to present it, Jessamyn added her own touch: a single lilac flower.

Elderflower Descant

  • 1 oz. Bluecoat gin
  • ¾ oz. St Germain
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. Dolin dry vermouth
  • dash Clear Creek pear brandy

Shake well with ice and strain.  Garnish with a long twist of orange and a lilac flower.

Elderflower Descant

MxMo: brown, bitter & stirred

the Brevity

Mixology Monday is here again! After the last few themes (Tom Waits? Really?) I wasn’t sure if we would be entering again, but this month it’s a good one: brown, bitter and stirred. We love a good smooth bitter cocktail, so we were anxious to do some experimentation. Some of the ensuing cocktails were excellent, some not so much. We won’t talk about those.

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MxMo: Absinthe

Gin & Sip (with absinthe)

Mixology Monday is here again, hosted this month by Sonja at Thinking of Drinking, and this month’s theme is a favorite of ours: absinthe!

Anise liqueurs have been a staple in our home bar for years, ever since we walked into a bar in Provence and ordered pastis without having a clear idea of what we’d be getting. When our order turned out to include two small glasses partially filled with clear green liquid, a metal jug of ice water, beaded with condensation, and a plate of bread and tapenade, served at a little table on a sunny patio on a hot afternoon, we fell instantly in love. From then on, the flavor of pastis – or any anise-flavored alcohol – takes us back to that trip and those lovely long evenings.

drinking pastis

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Mixology Monday: Tea

Royal Yunnan

This month’s Mixology Monday challenge is hosted by Cocktail Virgin, and the theme is tea. Black or herbal, brewed or infused, anything goes as long as it’s tea-based.

When thinking the challenge through, it seemed like we had three basic options: add brewed tea to the cocktail, infuse spirits with tea, or make a tea-flavored sugar syrup. We actually had rather good results mixing brewed oolong tea with aperol and lemon juice, but the drink we became fondest of used the sugar syrup.

golden yunnan tea

The really tough decision was which tea to use. We thought of Lapsang first, with its deep smokiness, but thought that might be too strong. We have some madrona bark tea from Shaw Island which we haven’t yet tasted, but it brews for a long time and we kept forgetting to get it started. One of my very favorite teas, though, is Golden Yunnan, and it seemed like a perfect candidate. Rich and malty in flavor, it seemed like it would go great with booze.

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MxMo: money drinks

Runabout cocktail

Note: This Mixology Monday post is brought to you by our house mixologist, my husband Jon. He makes the cocktails, I just drink ’em and take their pictures, so I had him write this post himself – Jessamyn.

Another note: December MxMo roundup is up on Beers in the Shower!

When Jessamyn informed me of this month’s MxMo assignment, ideas did not immediately spring to mind.  Money drinks?  What the heck is a money drink?  Two different definitions were provided, but neither gave a clear direction.  The first definition, a normal drink made with super-high-end ingredients, quickly got ruled out.  We just don’t have enough super-high-end ingredients in our liquor cabinet.  The other definition provided seemed a little better: a drink that you could give to anyone and they would like it.  Still a challenge, but potentially doable.

Since there seemed to be an undercurrent of festivity, with the upcoming holidays, I headed straight for the pomegranate juice.  It doesn’t appear in very many cocktails, giving it an aura of something special, plus it has that great, brilliant red color.

For a gin-based pomegranate drink, it’s hard to beat the Diva Quaranta, which Jessamyn has already written about.  For cold winter evenings, though, we’re often more in the mood for whiskey-based drinks, so I used the Diva Quaranta as a jumping-off point and began tweaking.

Not all of my attempts were successes, but I do believe I found a winner.  Named the Runabout, after one of the better words played in a game of Scrabble the other evening, it uses rye, but would work equally well with bourbon.  I retained the Campari, since I enjoy the bitterness it imparts.  If the recipient of the drink does not like bitter (after all, this is supposed to be a drink that you could give to someone and know that they would like it), omit the Campari and double the Triple sec.

Runabout cocktail

The Runabout

  • 1 oz rye
  • 1 oz pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 oz Campari
  • 1/4 oz Triple sec

Stir all ingredients with ice (shaking creates a bit of foam on the top that detracts visually).  Garnish with a lemon twist.  Give to someone you really like and then make another for yourself.


Mixology Monday: Vermouth

Cornwall Negroni

I was happy to see that this month’s Mixology Monday challenge was Vermouth. It just so happens that we have recently discovered that vermouth really is a worthwhile flavor in a cocktail, not just something to wave at from a distance while making a dry martini. I will admit that I’m not fond of it straight, but ask again in a year and I might say something different.


Probably my current favorite drink using vermouth is the Manhattan, but in the interests of broadening our horizons we tried a few new things. The winners were the Emerald and the Cornwall Negroni.

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MxMo: dizzy dairy

Irish coffee

This month for Mixology Monday we were faced with the theme Dizzy Dairy. In other words, any cocktail involving eggs, milk, cream, yogurt or butter. The first thing that came to my mind was Irish Coffee, one of my favorites, but that seemed far too obvious.  We did some research and applied ourselves to some experimentation.

Angostura Fizz

We began with an Angostura Fizz. A tart mixture of lime juice and Angostura bitters, this also had cream and grenadine, and was shaken vigorously with one egg white. Poured into a pint glass and topped up with seltzer, it offered an intriguing combination of bitter, frothy and creamy. I’d never tasted anything quite like it. I wouldn’t mind trying it again sometime, but I’m not really sure what the right time would be: to go with a burger? An afternoon pick-me-up?

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Mixology Monday: vodka is [not] your friend

vodka-pastis cocktail

This month’s Mixology Monday, hosted by Felicia’s Speakeasy, has the regrettable theme of Vodka is Your Friend. I wish I could concur, but I can’t really say that vodka has been my friend in the past. In fact, most of my interactions with vodka have involved a certain acquaintance who likes instant cocktail mixes, usually mixed much too large and strong, and inevitably leading to a conversation with Ralph on the big white phone (for her, anyway – I tend to just feel ill for days). But we needn’t talk about that.

So I was trying to think of anything I’ve had with vodka that I actually liked. I will occasionally try a Bloody Mary, but I usually find that I can only drink about two inches down the glass before I get tired of it. Vodka tonics hold no interest for me at all, and neither do vodka martinis. I like gin, what can I say?

Then I remembered a drink I had many years ago, at Campagne in Seattle. It was called Nuage de Pastis, and at the time I thought it was fantastic.  I’ve been unable to find any record of the drink online, but I remembered it as a primarily vodka cocktail with an orange twist and a float of pastis (French anise liqueur) which “snowed” down into the vodka. It was beautiful and delicious. I decided to try to recreate it, with my husband’s assistance. We shook up two ounces of vodka with ice, strained it over a fresh orange twist, and spooned a little Pernod over the top.

Suffice it to say, it didn’t work out. It came out pretty enough (see the pic at the top) although we didn’t quite get the pastis to float; it clouded down into the glass fairly quickly. The flavor, though, was like a regular pastis-and-water cocktail at first, except that it was too strong to drink fast, and not particularly refreshing. As the drink sat it began to take on a weird flavor of mothballs. I have no idea if I remembered the ingredients incorrectly, or if my tastes have simply changed. If anyone else remembers a drink like this I’d be happy to compare notes.

This time, though, I set it aside and poured myself a glass of gin and bitters. No more vodka for me for a while.

Note 8/12/09: I’m not the only one with vodka issues. Check out the MxMo roundup here.

Lillet Sin

Lillet Sin

In defiance of all the traditional wisdom of what a Skagit County spring should be like, the last few weeks have ranged from pleasant to actively hot, with practically no rain. Normally we’re lucky if we even see the sun before the Fourth of July! Instead we’ve been able to turn off the house heat, the garden has needed to be watered several times a week, and the summer cocktail recipes are beginning to emerge. When I saw that this month’s Mixology Monday theme was ginger, I knew just what drink I was going to post about.

cocktail ingredients

Two of my favorite summer drinks are the mint julep and Lillet Blanc on the rocks, but Jon recently discovered a drink on the Lillet website that combines fresh mint and Lillet, then punches it up with fresh ginger and lime. They call it a Lillet Sin, for some odd reason – it’s one of the least sinful cocktails I can think of. Continue reading