So I am headed off tomorrow morning for a little New Year's brunch at some friends' house, and Mrs. The Ace signed me up for brunch cocktails for the event. From a mixology perspective, weekend brunches can be very tough events for mixing cocktails. You normally get a lot of folks that don't prefer to tipple on some combination of the following occasions:
- Before noontime; or
- While their kids are running around the joint looking for steep staircases and/or sharp objects.
So The Ace keeps it simple at brunches. Money drinks only, folks. For tomorrow's little soiree I have picked three of my favorites. The process of prepping the drinks tonight inspired me - so here goes. This is what's on my brunch menu tomorrow AM. Stop by if you're in the neighborhood...
Ramos Gin Fizz
Adapted from Henry Ramos recipe at New Orleans' Meyer's Restaurant (1880s)
2 oz. Hayman's Old Tom Gin
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 oz. heavy whipping cream
1 egg white
1 oz. simple syrup or gum arabic
3 dashes orange flower water
2 drops vanilla extract
Pour all ingredients except for club soda and bitters into a shaker WITHOUT ICE for at least 30-60 seconds - long enough to emulsify the egg white into a nice frothy head. Then add ice and shake for another 60 seconds until the drink is extremely cold and frothy.
Pour the contents of the shaker through a fine strainer into a tall collins glass. Use a barspoon to stir the drink while pouring approximately 1 inch of club soda over top of the drink. The club soda will turn the frothy head of the drink into something like a meringue topping for the drink. Finish the drink with a couple drops of the orange bitters.
Okay - this drink takes a fair bit of work to prepare. And the cream and the egg white might scare off one or two of you. But this drink is absolutely worth the time and effort. This is like cocktail comfort food - think orange dreamsicle for adults. Truly an incredible drink. The Ace uses this in all instances when the brunch companion claims that they "don't really like cocktails."
St. Germain Cocktail
St. Germain's website www.stgermain.fr
2 oz. white wine (something simple and inexpensive will do just fine here)
2 oz. club soda
1 1/2 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
Pour the wine and St. Germain into a tall collins glass with 3 perfect ice cubes. Use a bar spoon to stir the drink as you pour the club soda over the top of the drink. Serve
This cocktail is not unusual nor is it particularly creative mixology. It is, after all, straight off the distributor's promotional materials. But that doesn't change the fact that this drink is perfect for this situation. It is light, bright and bubbly (just like the The Ace!) and just tastes damned good.
Adapted from Scott Beattie's Artisanal Cocktails (2008)
1 1/2 oz. vodka (I use Hangar One Chipotle)
2 oz. heirloom tomato juice (see recipe below)
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz. Apple Farm apple balsamic vinegar
15 pickled celery root matchsticks (see below)
13 young celery leaves
Combine the vodka, juices, vinegar, celery salt & pepper in a shaker and stir well. Add the celery root shoestrings and 10 of the celery leaves, fill the shaker with ice and shake. Pour the contents into a tall collins glass and garnish with the remaining celery leaves to serve.
Heirloom Tomato Juice
Makes about 2.5 cups - enough for 10 cocktails
1 1/2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Core the tomatoes and place them in a blender with the salt. Puree until smooth, then strain the puree through a fine mesh strainer. Press the puree through the strainer to get as much juice as possible.
Note: Yes, I live in locavore Northern California. And of course I am cheating - this is New Year's Day and I am using out-of-season heirloom tomatoes shipped in from god-knows-where. My most sincere apologies. This drink really is better with in-season tomatoes. I am working through my guilt one day at a time.
Celery Root Matchsticks
Makes 150 pieces - enough for about 10 cocktails
1 pound celery root
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon dill seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups white wine vinegar
1 large bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 dried chili pepper
Trim the outside edges of the celery root into the shape of a cube. Slice the cube into 1/8 inch thick squares, then slice the squares into matchstick-size pieces. Set aside.
Heat a stainless steel saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel, dill, fenugreek and coriander to the hot pan and shake the pan to evenly distribute the seeds over the surface of the pan. Let the seeds rest over the heat until little wisps of smoke begin to rise out of the seeds (just a few seconds). Remove the pan from heat and toss the spices in the pan a few times and set aside.
Combine the sugar and vinegar in a stainless steel pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Stir in the toasted spice seeds and the cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and chili pepper, then remove from heat.
Place the celery root matchsticks into an airtight container along with the still-hot pickling juice and cool the mixture in the refrigerator before using. The pickled matchsticks will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 months.
So again this is a pretty labor-intensive drink. But this is not your parents' bloody mary, folks. It's fresh and spicy (especially if you use the Hangar One Chipotle vodka), a little sweet with a yummy vinegar kick. I tend to make a few batches of the celery sticks at once - pickled vegetables have a very half life in the fridge. And the tomato juice is easy to whip up the night before.
Notes on preparation:
- The star of this drink is the apple balsamic vinegar. It is truly beautiful stuff. It adds a little sweetness and a nice sharp acidity to the drink. Here's the website from the folks at Philo Apple Farm to order it - and YES they deliver.
- Celery leaves can be a little tricky to find, but they are essential to the drink. They give off a delicious celery aroma and a little grassy flavor - without any of the unpleasant stringy texture of actual celery. I usually get them at Berkeley Bowl - but when in a pinch I usually can find celery stalks at the big chain grocery stores with the leaves still attached.