Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cocktail Night! - Old-Fashioned Pioneer & Summer Berry Julep

Who doesn’t love Friday night? Marc and I especially love them because of 2 things: (1) I back off of my healthy weekday eating rules and let us eat abominations for dinner like a massive bowl of homemade tortilla chips and pre-packaged cheese dip goo, and (2) cocktails!!!

Marc and I love a good mixed drink. As visual proof, may I present our “bar.”

We like to boast that we have the best selection outside of the Class 6. (The Class 6 is the general term for the place on an Army post where you go to buy your liquor at pretty reasonable prices.) Before we got married, when I was still living in St. Louis, every weekend that I went to visit Marc at Fort Campbell we would go to the Class 6 and pick out a bottle of liquor for our future bar. Since we were just buying one bottle here or there, we chose the good stuff, and after many months of this we had a stunning collection of Grey Goose Vodka, Disaronno Amaretto, Grand Marnier, Milagro Tequila, Knob Creek Bourbon and other beauties. Having amassed such a selection of goodies, who wouldn’t want to try them out every once in a while? So it has become somewhat of a custom that on Friday nights we try a new recipe, and quite often, make up one of our own. Even though this site is dedicated to old recipes, sometime I might have to post a few of our own concoctions, like the Time Out, or the Caribbean Elephant. Aren’t the names intriguing? :D

But for now, back to the old timey stuff, and nothing says “been around for a while” like an Old-Fashioned. If you’ve never had one, and especially if you like bourbon, do yourself a favor and order one next time you’re out. I think you will be pleased. Or, you could really do yourself a favor and make your own at home! That way if you have too many, you only have to navigate your way from your living room to your bed at the end of the night.

This drink is every bit of 100 years old, and I’ve seen some sources that claim it was created as long ago as the 1880s. Versions today might be made with whiskey or brandy, but the original was made with bourbon. I believe it was also made with a sugar cube, which most of us don’t keep around today. So I went with superfine sugar which is easy to find, and dissolves quickly. This drink is great as-is, and there is no need to mess with perfection, so the only changes I made were the aforementioned superfine sugar instead of a sugar cube, and I used a local, Kansas made whiskey called Most Wanted. Where else would you expect to find a great corn whiskey than Kansas? In honor of my current home state, I called it an Old-Fashioned Pioneer.

Side note: even though the chips and cheese we were eating at the time really cried out for a beer, this drink was a great accompaniment to our guilty pleasure snacking. I would be happy to drink one of these anytime, no matter what was on my plate.

Old-Fashioned Pioneer

I will fully admit that I don’t know how to make a pretty lemon twist, like a real bartender. I’m a home bartender, and a lemon zest peeled with my vegetable peeler is going to have to be good enough. When I made these, I put the zest in last, but if I had it to do over again, I would squeeze the lemon zest in the glass to get a bit of the oils out, and then throw it in the glass right away and build the drink on top of it. Since you can learn from my mistakes, that is how I’m going to write up the directions. I operate under the assumption that a “dash” in bartending terms means the small amount that comes out if you quickly turn the bottle over and back upright again.

A note about old-fashioned glasses – this should be a short glass tumbler that holds somewhere around 6 to 8 ounces. Our glasses are a bit big for this, but when my drink was done, it probably had a total volume of about 8 ounces. I’m telling you this because I know it’s a little vague to tell you to “top up” with the club soda. If you have the wrong sized glass and you top up, you could accidentally end up with a really watered down drink, and then you’ll be emailing me and asking what was so great about this lousy drink? None of us want that. You’ve heard of a highball glass, right? Well, my husband always accidentally calls an old-fashioned glass a “lowball.” He’s so funny when he’s not trying to be.

1 ½ oz. Most Wanted Bourbon Mash Whiskey*

1 dash of Angostura bitters

1 tsp. superfine sugar

Club soda

Twist of lemon

Squeeze / pinch the lemon zest into an old-fashioned glass to release some of the oils and drop the lemon zest into the glass. Add the sugar, and then add the dash of bitters on top of the sugar. Stir around a little so that the bitters are mixed into the sugar a bit. Add the whiskey or bourbon and top up with soda. Stir and enjoy!

* Obviously not everyone can get whiskey made in Atchison, Kansas, so use the bourbon or whiskey of your choice.

But wait! Cocktail night is not over yet! Might I interest you in a Summer Berry Julep?

I was in whiskey / bourbon mode, and another very old recipe involving bourbon is the mint julep. The strawberries at the grocery store were gorgeous, so I thought, why not throw those into a julep? I think good, sweet raspberries would be equally tasty. Or blueberries. Mmmm…..

The lore that I’ve heard is that these were often made with brandy, until after the Civil War when bourbon was easier to come by. So if they were being made well before the Civil War, this drink certainly has a place in the Vintage Kitchen.

Summer Berry Julep

Muddling means to crush the ingredients, and I usually use the handle end of a wooden spoon. In this case, I also ended up using the business end of the spoon so that I could mash the berries. In the last picture, you can see that the glass on the left has already been muddled, and the one on the right has not.

1 ½ oz. bourbon

6 to 8 fresh mint leaves (don’t skimp!)

2 strawberries, tops cut off and diced

1 tsp. superfine sugar

1 Tbs. water

Club soda

Strawberry and mint leaves for garnish

Add the sugar, mint and water to an old-fashioned glass. Muddle with the handle end of a wooden spoon until most of the sugar is dissolved. Add the diced strawberries and use the spoon to mash against the side of the glass and muddle with the mint leaves. Add the bourbon and fill the glass with ice. Top up with club soda. Stir a bit and garnish with the strawberry and a sprig of mint.

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