I was all excited this weekend to take part in my my first Mixology Monday. It's an online party started by Paul at The Cocktail Chronicles. Once a month a blogger will host the party by setting a theme, and then everyone else will go out and blog on it.
This month Meeta in Germany of What's for Lunch Honey? is hosting. The theme is Exotica. And I was all ready for it. I'm on the third round of using homemade Tiki syrups & I've got it down. Saturday evening I mixed up variations on authentic Mai Tais and less than authentic Sangrias. I took lots of pretty pictures. I got a bit buzzed.
Then the earthquake hit, and it was big. So much for my Sunday.
We just got our power back on an hour ago. Here's my last-minute contribution to the party ...
EXOTICA - TIKI STYLE
It all started so innocently. I was online looking for a Mai Tai recipe, and didn't even recognize orgeat - one of the main ingredients. Wikipedia told me that it was an liqueur flavored with almonds and orange flower water, which ... yum! I wandered from there to amazon.com to google, and eventually stumbled into a wonderful new world of cocktail bloggers. These were men and women after my own heart, drinkers who drank for pleasure rather than for getting smashed. Folks who understood the vodka was a marketing scam, that vermouth is a respectable drink, and that a bar without bitters ain't a real bar at all.
They were folks who treated cocktails the way foodies treat food. I wanted to join the game.
But these guys were using all kinds of new words ... orgeat. falernum. pimento dram. orange bitters. And even better, I found online recipes for a lot of the new flavorigs - most at the Cocktail Chronicles, above.
I ordered some online, but they all sucked. So I got to cooking and experimenting. Not everything worked out [the pastis is drinkable but ouzo is better, and I've failed three times at making homemade orange liqueur], but some of the home recipes are downright amazing - as follows [and pics to come!]:
Orgeat - I used French Brandy and Orange Flower water. Orgeat is one of those wow! ingredients that I am absolutely in love with. The recipe says that orange flower water is optional, but don't believe it. The almonds and brandy alone have a great flavor, but the orange flower water plays the same role that bitters do in cocktails - it helps blend and bind the flavors & creates a drink that is much more than the sum of its parts. It tastes like it would be great to cook with, too.
Mac Nut - I tried to be a good Hawaiian boy and make an orgeat using macadamia nuts. It's good, but lacks the subtlety of the almond based orgeat.
Falernum - I used white rum and let the ingredients soak for a week; otherwise I followed the recipe. It's heavy on the lime, with a nice background of ginger and cloves. It doesn't work alone, but is wonderful with bourbon and rum drinks. I've been using it in place of sour mix.
Grenadine - Just lovely. I use 1 cup sugar, 1 cup of pomegranate juice, and 1 cup of white rum. If you've never had homemade grenadine then you haven't had grenadine before. I can't imagine a tiki drink without this ... and it takes less than five minutes to make.
Lilikoi - I made it the same way as the Grenadine, only using passion fruit pulp. I let it sit a week. It's great - powerful, bold, and citrusy. I tried to do some orange liqueurs, but nothing really worked out. This one did.
Pineapple- I also made it the same way as the above, but only let it sit a week. It's ok, but super sweet and not very complex or interesting.
Brandied Cherries - Cherries, brandy, and sugar ... c'est tout.
Pimento Dram - Scroll down to Feb 17 for the recipe. And just ... damn. I made this months ago and it is still over-powering. I can't think of a day to day use - but this plus Kentucky Spike [bourbon, rum, brandy, and spices - including cocoa nibs] will, I think, make the best eggnog ever. If you're in the islands for the holidays come on by and I'll show you.
So. On to the drinks. These are my current five favorites with my new found ingredients:
Mai Tai 1 - 1 part each white rum and gold rum, 1/2 part each orgeat and falernum, 1/4 part each passion fruit and grenadine. Add sugar if needed. I made this at my sister's wedding, and it was a hit. It's fruity, smooth, and complex, and bears almost no relation to any mai tai I've ever had at a bar. It's also quite dangerous - it's pure alcohol, but tastes light and refreshing.
Mai Tai 2 - 1 part each white rum and gold rum, and I forgot to measure how many parts of grenadine, pineapple, passion fruit, mac nut, and falernum. This was very sweet, and much closer to what most people think of as a mai tai - only a bit higher end. It was way too sweet for me, but if you like your drinks foo-foo then it might work for you.
Rosé Sangria - 1 part French rose wine, 1/4 part grenadine, 1/4 part passion fruit, one brandied cherry, splash of cherry liqueur, sugar syrup to taste. This is sweeter and lighter than my normal sangria, and much faster to make. I bought a bunch of rosés after reading so much about them in the New York Times, but none really worked for me solo. They were a bit too yeasty for me - but they were perfect for sangria! I served it with paella last week & it was a great match. A rose sangria is also damn pretty. This is a drink for a hot and lazy afternoon, though I'm sure the wine snobs will hate it. The rum from the grenadine and passion fruit means that this sangria packs a nice punch.
MC's Drink - I'm still playing with the proportions. Tonight [version MC.03] it's 1 part rye, 1/2 part orgeat, 1/4 part each falernum and passionfruit, splash orange bitters, and one brandied cherry. This is somewhat close to an old fashioned. I absolutely love the way that rye and bourbon bring out the orgeat flavors & vice versa. As far as I know there is no name for this, and there ought to be. Until I hear otherwise I'm naming it after me. The fruits add another interesting layer.
Rum Sour - Yeah, I suck with the names. It's basic: 1 part gold rum, 1/2 part falernum, and a dash of bitters. It would probably taste completely non-descript with store bought falernum, but is rather pleasant with home-made. Think of a pisco sour but with spicer undertones of clove and ginger.
None of these would work with store bought syrups. In fact, I think they'd be downright nasty.