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Happy New Year!

Over the years we have done plenty of experiments with ingredients, often recommending to our readers that it's okay to adopt a playful attitude of trial and error when it comes to recipes. Sometimes it's a result of substitutions for not having the right ingredients, but more often it comes down to personal taste. There are recipes that call for very specific proportions, but most of the time it makes more sense to taste the result and adjust as necessary. For instance, adjustments are almost always expected when balancing sweet and sour. One never knows how much acid is present in a volume of citrus juice, and personal taste can affect what you consider "balanced". We tend to lean toward the sour side, but we understand that some recipes are meant to be sweet. Time and experience can transform your idea of a good cocktail.

Today, we

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Halloween Party Cocktails

It's a question we get asked every year: What cocktail should I feature at my Halloween party? There are a lot different answers depending on what is important for your situation. We usually answer with a series of questions. How much work do you want to do ahead of time? How much work do you want to do during the party? Do you want to make something spirit-driven or citrus-based? How important is it for your theme to be represented (either in name or ingredients)? Your answers to these questions can be determining factors, so here's a list of possibilities with summaries and links to the specific details.

Batches and Bowls We usually always refer folks to large-volume solutions like Punch, Sangria, and Morganthaler's Gallon of Margaritas. We covered all of these in this post back in January. Even if none of them are for you, it's a good

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Death in the Gulf Stream

Something we often admire about classic cocktails is their simplicity. We suppose early recipes had the advantage of being first to attempt basic combinations. Such is the case, for instance, with the Daiquiri: rum, lime and sugar—a favorite of rum lovers everywhere, including at least one famous writer from the Florida Keys. It shouldn't surprise you to know that in addition to his reputation for enjoying such drinks, Ernest Hemingway also had a hand in creating a few. One of them is called Death in the Gulf Stream, and it is both easy and efficient.

Cocktail construction efficiency isn't something we think about very often. In a typical setting, one has plenty of ice, a sink to rinse tools and glassware, and just a general concern for making the best use of every step and ingredient—it's the end result that counts. Need to shake a drink over ice,

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The Lowlands

We've been itching to construct a drink that uses Brancamenta. It's not the easiest liqueur to mix—think Fernet-Branca with a little more sugar and a refreshing blast of peppermint. If you like Fernet, Brancamenta is an easy sipper, and if Fernet always seems too bitter or intense, Brancamenta will be far more approachable. The only problem is that not many cocktails are out there that use it.

Over the years, we've collected lots of notes and clippings of various recipes we use for inspiration. Today, we dug up something we captured off the pages of the Oregonian last year. Back in August, they ran a story about carbonated cocktails. Naturally, we filed away these details hoping to try a few of the featured recipes this summer. So, here we are looking at a drink created last year by Brandon Wise back when he was bar manager at Imperial.

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Naked and Famous

There's a great passage in the new Death & Co cocktail book that describes the process they use for vetting new additions to the menu. It's basically an interactive taste test with one bartender whipping up a new drink and all of the others making suggestions about proportions or ingredients. It helped us realize that perfecting a new recipe is often an iterative process, and settling on a final list of ingredients can be collaborative, but requires that one has access to (if not knowledge of) a vast array of possibilities. Sure, it's possible to hit incredible combinations right off the bat, but craft cocktail bars can even explore alternative brands allowing a recipe to be perfected to an extreme that most customers probably never realize—and it doesn't always lead to choices that are the most expensive or obscure.

Here's an agave recipe that caught our eye from the

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First Word

Several years ago we wrote about the Last Word cocktail. If you haven't had the pleasure, you really should give it a try, especially if you are already a fan of the Aviation. Besides having a name befitting any New Year's Eve celebration, the Last Word contains some of our favorite ingredients—Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and green Chartreuse. As we transition from the end of one calendar year to the beginning of another, we decided to post a similar cocktail that we recently tried at one of our favorite restaurants in Portland, Oregon.

The First Word cocktail was featured on the fall menu at Toro Bravo. A little research will reveal that it's not an original name. There are several First Word recipes out there and none of them resembles this one.

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Ground Cherry Daiquiri

If you've never heard of them, ground cherries are odd little yellow-orange berries that look like miniature tomatillos. About the size and shape of a cranberry, they are firm and smooth, but like the tomatillo, they have a papery shroud over the fruit. The plant on which they grow apparently looks like a short tomato shrub, but here's the thing: they don't really taste like tomatoes at all. How does strawberry, pineapple, or maybe kiwi sound? We first discovered them three weeks ago at Bar Avignon in SE Portland. The ground cherries were served as part of an appetizer that we ordered and were meant to be paired with the cheese on the plate. Peeling open each light husk revealed the fruit inside, and after just one bite we knew we had to make a drink out of them. Fortunately, we found Naked

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