Le Pamplemousse

14Aug15

Remember when we used to have this cocktail blog? Well, Scott and I never forgot about it, and we’re finally back with a great summer drink! We created the Pamplemousse back when we started posting, and we’ve been drinking it ever since. Back in 2011, it was supposed to be the next post. And now it is!

Pamplemousse

The Pamplemousse is a refreshing little drink made with gin, lemon and this liqueur you might have heard of, St. Germain. In 2011, this elderflower concoction was new, and no one had heard of it. Nowadays, it’s earned the nickname ‘bartender’s ketchup;’ put it in anything to improve the flavor. In the case of the pamplemousse cocktail, St. Germain transforms what is essentially a Fitzgerald into grapefruit juice! Not literally, of course, but the similarity in flavor is uncanny. This is a great lazy day drink, perfect for summer brunches or nights when you don’t have too much planned.

Be careful, though, because the Pamplemousse mostly tastes like juice, you might over serve yourself. Don’t be that person!

Le Pamplemousse

  • 2 oz. Gin
  • 0.5 oz. Lemon juice* (half a lemon)
  • 0.75 oz. St. Germain

Combine all ingredients and shake with ice. Serve up with a lemon or grapefruit twist, if desired.

*Always use fresh squeezed lemon juice for this libation (and any cocktail requiring it). You won’t regret it!

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If a lighter, session cocktail is more your style, we’ve found that this drink works well with La Croix Pamplemousse sparkling water. (I know, shocking!) The recipe is essentially the same, but the flavor is a bit lighter and more effervescent with the sparkling water.  You can also make it a very light drink by using a double old-fashioned and more La Croix.

Pamplemousse Spritzer

  • 2 oz. Gin
  • 0.5 oz. Lemon juice (half a lemon)
  • 0.75 oz. St. Germain
  • La Croix Pamplemousse sparkling water

Combine gin, lemon and St. Germain and shake with ice. Pour into a tumbler with ice, top with La Croix, stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon or grapefruit twist, if desired. We also highly recommend adding Bittermen’s Hopped Grapefruit bitters to the session cocktail version. (They are also good with the regular cocktail).

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Recommended Gins

The Pamplemousse plays nice with a wide variety of botanical and citrus-y gins, but it takes most like grapefruit juice with something with a mild flavor profile. I believe Plymouth and Corsair were our go-tos when we first started making this drink. Now, we’ve come to love it with Hendrick’s or The Botanist. We’d steer you away from spicier gins like Beefeater or Bombay for this drink, and we prefer the clean taste of a London Dry or the sweetness of an Old Tom style gin best. But half the fun is experimenting!

Pamplemousse is French for grapefruit, which is how we named this drink. It’s also a delightful word to speak out loud: pɑ̃.plə.mus. 


What’s that? You’ve missed us? We’ve missed you, too!

Today, we’re going to be taking a look at a little concoction that Scott originally created around Thanksgiving: the Ruby. She gets her lovely color from cranberry juice, and no time of year has us thinking about cranberries more than Thanksgiving. Fortunately for us, February brings another holiday that celebrates with a great deal of red so we made this our cocktail of choice for our Valentine’s dinner.

Ruby cocktail

The Ruby

  • 2 oz. Gin
  • 1 oz. St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
  • 1 oz. Cranberry Juice*

Shake all ingredients with ice. Garnish if desired and serve.

* A note on the cranberry juice. We used 100% cranberry juice, not cranberry juice cocktail, which contains other juices. We recommend you do the same.

Overall, this drink is bright but well-balanced. The cranberry juice’s tartness is countered by the soft sweetness of the St. Germain, and the botanicals in the gin ground the flavor. While this drink doesn’t need bitters, we have tried it in the past with orange bitters, and they are a lovely addition. We used Corsair for our Valentine’s Ruby, as the gin’s citrus notes pair nicely with the cranberry and elderflower. But this is a great drink for experimenting with gins and will still be delicious if you use a less forward gin, like Plymouth, or something that’s heavily botanical, like Hendricks. Try it with your favorite and let us know how it goes.

For garnish, we speared a kumquat and balanced it on the edge of a saucer—mostly because I like kumquats. However, any kind of citrus peel (lemon, lime, orange) is a nice choice for this drink. Because you don’t want to serve this drink with ice, we would recommend you serve it up in a cocktail glass.

We’ll be back soon with a review of a new gin we’re playing with—Genevieve, another St. Germain cocktail and even a drink that doesn’t involve gin!


Mint Julep

12May10

The first weekend of May, Scott and I decided to try out the Mint Julep, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, in honor of said Derby. But things have been busy in Nashville, what with all the flooding, so we’re only posting this now.

Mint juleps are tricky: too sweet and they are unbearable, too much mint and they taste medicinal, not the right bourbon and they are too harsh. But if you strike just the right mix, it’s delightful: cool and particularly refreshing on a muggy Spring or Summer night.

There are a few ways to make a mint julep as neither Scott nor I have a favorite method, we’re going to list out the two most common ways mint juleps are made, as well as the hybrid method we used.

The Bar Sugar Method
8-10 mint leaves
1 rounded teaspoon of bar sugar*
2.5 oz. bourbon
Crushed ice

Combine finely granulated bar sugar and fresh mint leaves in the bottom of the serving glass.  Crush with a muddler for about a minute. Add enough crushed ice to almost fill your glass. Add bourbon, stir and serve. Garnish with a mint leaf or two for the full aromatic effect.

Using this method, the sugar acts as an abrasive to help release the mint oils from the leaves. Some people prefer this method because it requires the least preparation, but muddling the mint can be somewhat laborious.

*Bar sugar is finely granulated sugar. You can make bar sugar by running regular granulated sugar through the blender or a clean hand-held coffee grinder for about 30 seconds. Do not use confectioners sugar, as it contains cornstarch.

The Mint Simple Syrup Method
2-4 mint leaves
1 oz. mint simple syrup*
2.5 oz. bourbon
Crushed ice

Combine mint simple syrup and mint leaves in bottom of serving glass, muddle briefly. Add crushed ice and bourbon, stir and serve. Garnish with a mint leaf or two, if desired.

*To make the mint simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan. Add 10-12 fresh mint leaves. Heat on medium until sugar dissolves. Be careful not to let the mixture get too hot so you don’t actually cook the mint leaves, as they will lose some of the fresh flavor and get mushy. Let the mixture cool, strain and keep in the fridge for up to a week. Alternatively, you can pour the cooled syrup into ice cube trays and simply melt when you need it. (If you’re very crafty, you can pour it into the tray in 1/2 oz. measurements so that you don’t have to measure it each time.)

You can use this mint infused syrup instead of muddling the fresh mint to save time and effort. (The mint syrup is also good to have around for mojitos).  Though a few fresh mint leaves should always be included in a proper Mint Julep no matter what.

The Hybrid Method
8-10 mint leaves
1 oz. simple syrup
2.5 oz. bourbon
Crushed ice

In shaker, muddle mint leaves in simple syrup for one minute, transfer to serving glass. Add crushed ice, add bourbon. Serve. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired.

Scott and I used this method because it is simple and we had simple syrup on hand already. Any of these methods will produce a mint julep you will enjoy.

A word on mint juleps’ ties to the Kentucky Derby. Mint juleps have several storied serving glasses. The most well-known is probably the sterling silver julep cup, but there are also collectible mint julep glasses issued for the Kentucky Derby each year. Click here to read more about that. One of the official bourbons used by the Derby is Early Times, which was still legal during prohibition as it was considered a “medicinal whiskey.” Woodford Reserve is the other official Derby bourbon. The Kentucky Derby also has an official mint: Kentucky Colonel, which is a spearmint. One of the gentlemen at our local liquor store informed me that it is really the best mint for mint juleps. He’s married to a chef, and they grow a dozen varieties of mint so I guess he would know, but I can’t verify this assertion.

We hope you enjoy the mint julep. Let us know what you think in the comments! (Proper non-cell phone photography will return in our next post. Sorry about that!)


Gin

26Apr10

Scott and I started this blog off with a gin-based drink, and that’s no coincidence. Gin is a favorite for both of us, and we think you will like it, too. But what, you say, is gin like? Well, here’s the basic run-down.

Gin is a distilled liquor that gets its signature flavor from the juniper berry. It probably comes from the word “genièvre” which is French for Juniper.  Known for it’s medicinal properties, juniper has been mixed with spirits for hundreds of years. The gin that we drink today is actually a style called “London dry gin” that is known for being flavored with not only juniper, but also a whole host of other spices. Gin is often referred to as having a “botanical” taste, which just means it tastes of plants, particularly juniper. (But botanical sounds much smarter, doesn’t it?) Juniper pairs well with citrus, which is why many common gin drinks involve citrus. Along the same lines, you’ll also find that many gins have a citrus flavor of their own, derived from things like bitter orange peel, etc.

Gin has a pretty interesting history, and I recommend you check it out on Wikipedia. Here are the highlights:

  • Franciscus Sylvius is credited with inventing gin in the 17th century.
  • Liquor production laws made gin the number one alcoholic beverage in England for a couple hundred years, but it got an unsavory reputation during that time. Some terms that are associated with this nadir in the history of gin are:
    • gin-soaked
    • gin joints, gin mills
    • Mother’s Ruin
  • Until very recently (like, until the start of the 20th century), “common” gin was known for being flavored with turpentine. This is also related to the liquor laws that gave gin its salty reputation.
  • In the 1920s, another unfortunate name arose, “bathtub gin.” Because it was easy to produce, bootleggers would make gin (sometimes in bathtubs), but it tended to be pretty awful stuff.  It’s popularity rose since it was a liquor that did not have to be aged to reach it’s peak flavor (like whiskeys). Fortunately, there are many fine gins on the market today, none of which are made in bathtubs.
  • Perhaps the best known gin drink, the gin and tonic,* was used to prevent malaria.  Tonic water contains quinine, an anti-malarial drug, and it was one of the few effective treatments for the deadly disease in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Gin helped to disguise the bitter taste of the quinine in tonic water.

Did I mention gin’s reputation was less than reputable in the past?

Nowadays, gin is not flavored with turpentine. In fact, it’s quite pleasant stuff. Here are the things that Scott and I like about gin:

  • Its flavor is unexpected. There is something earthy and clean about the way that gin tastes. In the right context, it’s also extremely refreshing.
  • Because of its interesting flavor, gin creates a totally different cocktail experience than liquors like vodka, which mostly aims to be tasteless ad provide a base for other ingredients.
  • There are thousands of simple, delicious cocktails made with gin. Because it’s been around for centuries, civilization has had plenty of time to come up with tasty gin concoctions.
There are a number of different reputable brands of gin. Here’s a taste guide to help you figure out which one might be right for you:
  1. Tanqueray: Tanqueray is known as the vodka drinker’s gin. This is because it is very smooth and has an extremely mild flavor, almost tasteless. This brand is good for those who aren’t sure if gin is for them or for drinks with exotic ingredients that you want to be the focus of the drink.
  2. Plymouth: Like Tanqueray, Plymouth is extremely smooth with a very light taste. Another good gin for first-timers and ingredient-focused drinks. The bottle is very deco so it looks nice in your bar. Plus, for you history buffs, this is known as Winston Churchill’s favorite gin. (The former British Prime Minister is renown for his recipe for a dry martini which included gin and special amount of vermouth. “Take out the bottle of Vermouth, wave it over the glass and put it back,” were Churchill’s instructions).
  3. Beefeater: This gin has a bit of a stronger taste and a little more warmth to it.  Gin is often known as being a “British” liquor and  this one is a particularly good example.
  4. Bombay: has some nice spice, similar in some ways to Beefeater. We don’t drink much Bombay or Beefeater, but they are staples of the gin world and have been for many years.
  5. Bombay Sapphire: This is the one in the iconic blue bottle. Bombay Sapphire is easy to find in bars, and it makes a good cocktail. If you’re in doubt about ordering a gin drink while out, ordering it with Bombay Sapphire will keep you from drinking something more closely resembling the bathtub gin of Prohibition. Bombay Sapphire’s taste, though smooth, has a very distinct botanical quality.  It’s a complex gin that, while pleasant, is a long way from vodka.
  6. Hendricks: Hendricks has a strong botanical taste, which means it sometimes overpowers other ingredients in a cocktail. By the same token, though, its intense burst of juniper can really make a cocktail sing. Cucumber is one of its main ingredients, and it shows. We recommend garnishing this one with cilantro or lemongrass for an exotic kick. And it stands up well as a cocktail to have with dinner. It’s great in drinks like gimlets, the Fitzgerald and others, but it can be tricky when you’re pairing it with flavored liqueurs. Hendricks’ powerful flavor doesn’t really do well for dairy-based gin drinks (like the Alexander). But finding out what you like is half the fun!
  7. Corsair: Corsair is distilled in Bowling Green, KY (coming soon to Nashville, TN). Since we’re based in Nashville, that means that Scott and I get to enjoy this distinctive local delight often. Like Hendricks, Corsair has a strong botanical taste, but it also has strong citrus notes. If you like Hendricks, you’ll probably like Corsair and vice versa, but they do not taste the same. Corsair works well with flavored liqueurs that pair well with citrus (if you’ve got some St. Germain on hand, these two play well together), but like Hendricks, it can fight with other ingredients and is tricky with dairy-based gin drinks. We often use Corsair to make Fitzgeralds, gimlets, G&Ts and a host of other drinks.

You may not agree with us on all of this, but this is a good guide to the common types of gin that we recommend. As you try them out, let us know what you think we got right and what we were a bit off about.


*I’ll admit, many folks would say that the martini is the best-known gin drink. I’m not here to argue. I’m just saying you’ve probably heard of the G&T.*


The Fitzgerald, purportedly named for author F. Scott, is a simple, thoroughly delicious cocktail that doesn’t require much work or any expensive ingredients.

The Fitzgerald

  • 1.5 oz. Gin
  • 0.5 oz. Lemon Juice
  • 0.5 oz. Simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake all ingredients and serve.

The Fitzgerald is a close cousin to the both the Gimlet (lemon instead of lime) and the Lemon Drop (gin instead of vodka) and is technically a Gin Sour. But this drink is far too sweet to be called a sour.

A few tips about making Fitzgeralds
If you like gin for its botanical quality, you will want to make this with Hendricks or Corsair, both of which have a strong herbal, citrus flavor. If you are looking for a smoother drink, you will want to use a gin like Plymouth or Tanqueray that will bring the taste of the bitters forward.

Always use fresh squeezed lemon juice for this libation (and any cocktail requiring it). You won’t regret it!

Don’t be afraid of the bitters in this drink. Angostura bitters, and all bitters, are actually aromatic, not bitter. This drink is a good base for experimenting with bitters, if you can find (or make) different varieties. But if the idea of bitters scares you, you can definitely drink the Fitzgerald without them. It’s still delicious, if a bit less complex.

This drink is supposed to be served in an old fashioned glass with a lemon peel garnish, but it’s awfully nice to drink from a champagne saucer…