The Passion Fruits

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Tag: alcohol (page 1 of 2)

It’s Springtime Somewhere: Scented Geranium Spritz

At this late stage in the season, there’s little action occurring on the PFruits balcony. Everything’s been cut back, pulled up, or put to bed. Everything except Franklin (the) Mint, who is still doing well in solitary confinement, and the scented geranium I put in mid-season to replace the monarda that crapped out before bothering to bloom.

In addition to being gratifyingly green so late into the fall, the geranium’s feathery, leathery leaves give off such a gorgeous, complex scent–floral rose, spicy lemon, astringent pine–when I brush up against them that I felt driven to capture it somehow before the frost finally does the plant in. Having just gone out and tousled it to see get another hit of its smell, I’m now sitting here in front of the computer with my hands up my nose like Mary Katherine Gallagher, breathing in the fabulous scent.

Many people use the (non-toxic, I checked) leaves of scented geranium to flavor sugar for use in baked goods, and I’ll probably do that as well, but why infuse sugar when there’s VODKA? I mean, honestly. So, after cutting a few leaves, giving them a good wash and air-dry, I gently clapped them together in my hands to release the oils and plopped them in about a quart of vodka.

This, by the way, represents the cutting edge of herbal cocktail science. Apparently, today’s mixological cognoscenti clap or spank their herbs gently rather than muddling them so as to pull the essential oils to the surface but not break them up to the point that the bitter green plant flavors come to the fore.

Continuing this quest to pull the flavor of the oils and not of the green chlorophyll-y leaves itself, I only steeped the leaves for about 24 hours. Much longer than 48 and those bitter green flavors will emerge even if you’ve only given your leaves the gentlest of spankings. The upside, though, to all this cosseting of the vegetation is that your fabulous herbal infusions are ready almost instantly.

Then, though, came the question of what to do with it. By itself, the vodka still burned like vodka, but sparkled with the flavor/scents that the geranium did. While it was fairly obvious I’d need to add some fruit, sweetness, and a little acid to the party since the geranium’s pungency all falls fairly high on the nose, I wasn’t quite sure how to accomplish all that without drowning it out.

After much tinkering and subjecting friends to teacups with teeny amounts of this, that, and the other combination of things, I think we came up with a lovely, if slightly unseasonal, beverage. It’s lovely and delicate, with the wonderful complexity of the geranium enlivened by the sparkling water and rounded out with a touch of lemon and just a few drops of rich, fruity Chambord. Of course, it really begs to be sipped at a garden party, so unless there’s an orangerie somewhere in your general vicinity, this one goes out to all you Southern Hemispherians… at least for now.

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Feel the French Mountain Breeze with a Zephyr Gentiane

Our vacation souvenirs tend to be fairly minimalist. Without much space at home, we don’t have room for a vast collection of snow globes… which, to be honest, no one’s that busted up about. Local candy and booze, however, do always seem to find room in our homeward-bound luggage. Our recent trip to Spain netted us a ton of delicious turron, a jar of anchovies, and a bottle of gentian liqueur.

Both the nutty delicious nougat and the anchovies were from the area we were staying. The gentian liqueur, however, actually came from France and was just bottled in Spain–much to Mr. T’s irritation. Given that we were practically in France anyway, I told him it didn’t really matter. And, in any event, we now had a big bottle of liqueur to do something with.

This doesn’t seem like much of a challenge as the flavor is a quite fascinating one: green and grassily bitter with notes of artichoke first and foremost, but there’s a definite sweetness as well, with hints of vanilla and butterscotch. It is an aperitif, though, so those green bitter notes predominate. Not so much, though, that it couldn’t be drunk on the rocks by itself–which it is.

Sipping on the rocks, though, while simple and lovely, is just not the PassionFruits way. And, aside from offering a recipe for a white Negroni, in which the Campari is replaced by the gentian liqueur, the Internet didn’t have much to say, though I did learn that gentian is also a key ingredient in several types of bitters and other aperitifs–Aperol, for example. This isn’t terribly surprising given their flavor profiles and general uses. Several gentian liqueurs–Salers, Suze, and Avèze–are available in the US, if something of a challenge to locate.

We tried the white Negroni and found it a bit robust for these waning days of summer. We then fiddled around with sparkling wine and various citrus juices and garnishes. But for all our experimentation, a light combination of liqueur, a splash of syrup, club soda, and an orange twist seemed to be just right. Go easy on the syrup at first as the soda seems to mute the bitterness and allows more of the liqueur’s sweetness through. 

If bracing long drinks like the Negroni or Campari and soda appeal, then you’ll like the Zephyr Gentiane–named after the soft, west winds–very much. It’s a bit lighter, sweeter, and greener, which can all be good things.

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A Taste of Vienna: Gurkenlimonade

On a recent trip up to New York, I dragged Mr. T to the Neue Galerie for a little visit with Gustav Klimpt and some pretty tea sets. Mr. T, usually game for such cultural attractions, wanted to take a nap instead, so we first detoured to one of the gallery’s two cafes for a restorative bit of cake.

He settled on a piece of linzertorte and an espresso. I was entranced by the idea of gurkenlimonada, a lemonade with cucumber. I also just like the word: “gurkenlimonade”. Tee hee.

And it was delicious. With a refreshing flavor that matched its sprightly green color (theirs was greener than mine was… still working on that…) it was just the thing to perk us up for an afternoon of gallery hopping. It’s quite a delicious cooler on its own, but makes for a fabulous end-of-summer cocktail with a slug of gin–a cucumber-heavy one like Hendrick’s would be just perfect to take the sizzle off of hot Indian Summer day.

One word of warning, though. Do this pretty close to a la minute. It tastes lovely, fresh, and cucumber-y when combined together, but as the  mixture sits it gets a little… pickle-y. Not a bad thing, really, but not as good as it is when freshly mixed.

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Have Yourself a Drunken Little Christmas: Mulled Cider

The day before our holiday party it was 65° in D.C. and I thought to myself, if the weather’s going to be this ridiculous, there is no way in hell I’m serving a hot drink. Of course, as it turns out the weather WAS ridiculous, but on the other end of the temperature spectrum… to the point where our favorite Australian parked himself next to the stove and refused to move.

So, a good thing that I had been mulling (har, har) a hot spiced cider and, more importantly, that  Mr. T was gracious enough to trot off to the market and pick up a few gallons at the last minute. The cider must have been good too, because even with the chilly weather, I was surpised at how quickly it got sucked down.

On reflection, though, the cider did have some seriously winning charms–sweet but not cloying, with a pronounced apple-y flavor and a tingle of warm Christmassy spice. It was even better with a judicious splash of spirit (the bottle kind, not the pep rally kind…).

I kept the cider pot virgin but parked a bottle of rum next to the stove and let people mix to their heart’s desire. I think this is considerate of the drinkers as well as the teetotalers… who wants to see good alcohol just evaporate anyway? Of course, I caught one discerning friend who knows his way around our liquor cabinet mixing his cider with rye whiskey instead, and frankly that sounds like an even better idea than the rum.

No matter what booze you choose, though, I’ve found that the key to success with mulled cider is the exact opposite of the secret to mulled wine. For the latter, the answer is sugar, a TON of sugar. When wine is heated–particularly the less-than-stellar vintages used for mulling–all those bitter notes come to the fore and thin everything out. A ridiculous amout of sugar is needed to smooth things over and round out the mouthfeel.

Sweet cider, though, needs no more sugar. In fact, in addition to the usual festive spices, it needs something bitter and tannic to give it backbone. The answer? The blackest, baddest, most powerful tea you can get your hands on. We’re talking paint-thinner tea, here. Fortunately, I live with an Englishman, and we are never without some ridiculously strong tea. So into the spice pot went 6 sachets of Yorkshire tea, and while it made the spice concentrate a chokingly bitter mess, it was just the thing when combined with the cider and hotted up a bit.

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Summertime Sippin’: Lemongrass Vodka

Tis the season, all of a sudden, for refreshing poolside/rooftop/backyard cocktails. And, lest it be said that I never did anything for you, here’s another quick and easy infusion that will set your bar–wherever it may be–head and shoulders above everyone else’s.

Like the Earl Grey vodka I put up for our Royal Wedding “tea” party, this is another simple put-stuff-in-vodka-and-let-it-sit-around kind of thing. While I have some other more complex liquors in the works (strawberry-black pepper rum, anyone?), this fairly basic lemongrass infusion is worth mentioning since the herb has such a lovely flavor–sharp, citrusy, and herbaceous–that isn’t familar to people as it should be.

I suspect this is in large part due to the “grass” part of lemongrass. It’s only good fresh (dried is UTTERLY useless), and even then, it’s tough and fibrous and just kind of a pain in the ass.

Vodka, then, is the perfect gateway application as we get all of the taste with none of the narsty crunchy bits found in the headily-scented Southeast Asian soups and such where lemongrass is usually deployed.

In a nod to those cultural antecedents, I used turbinado instead of regular sugar to smooth out the mouthfeel and add the toasty caramel note often found in Vietnamese cooking particularly. A tiny piece of ginger adds dimension to the already powerful lemongrassy zing.

This is just lovely on the rocks with ginger ale–now’s the time to reach for the Canada Dry, fancy ginger beers would just walk all over the lemongrass–or a lightly-flavored seltzer, maybe with a dash more syrup and a mint sprig. Any way you slice it, it’s a brightly envigorating.
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If Don Draper Had Diabetes…

TequilaOldFashioned…and landed the AeroMexico account, this is the Old-Fashioned he would choose: The Tequila Old Fashioned.

The cocktail is sweetened not with a simple syrup but agave nectar, an appropriate co-pilot for tequila.

Agave is a natural sweetener with a low glycemic index of 27.  So, if daughter Sally made this drink, she may not need to cut off a toe from Papa Cita Draper. I’m just sayin’…

D.C.’s The Gibson makes a lovely version of this drink–It’s not on the menu but do ask for it. They add a lemon peel to theirs but I like this recipe with a strip of lime.

My final cocktail in this Old Fashioned installment will appear on Friday. For a basic Old Fashioned, click here. For now, I leave you with tequila. Lime. Agave. Mmmm. The drinks works, oh-so well. Try it.

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Looking for a Festive Drink? Mull THIS Over

mulledwine1So, winter’s finally come to D.C. We had our first snowfall of the year a week or so ago–it even stuck to a few things for, well, at least a day. It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of parties to go to inside. What better time to pull out this blend of sugar, spice, and everything nice (wine) to get you and your friends in a festive frame of mind? It’s sweetly spicy and is not at all acrid like mulled wines.

This recipe is one I’ve been refining for years, and the tinkering has paid off.  Seasoning the cider separately allows one to be pretty much ready to go at a moment’s notice, to adjust the wine-cider ratio to ones liking, and to heat the wine as little as possible. All good things that I’m sure even Martha would approve of.

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A Run-By Fruiting, Dearie…

PFLaunchParty

A big ‘thanks’ from the Fruits to all of you whoattended our launch party last week andhelped make it a great success. We are quite grateful for your readership. Another sizeable thanks goes to John, Molly and Paul for helping us achieve our little dream. You have all extended yourselves so generously to help us and we would not have a site today without all of you. Thank you.

Please share with us your feedback via comments. We would love to continue hearing from you about what is working and what, frankly, is not. We’ll begin posting recipes of the dishes we served last week. First up: the pecan/gorgonzola icebox crackers Joe made with Paul followed by Joe’s pork crostini. Thanks again, everyone.

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