Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cocktails with Royal Rose Simple Syrups

I love Royal Rose's flavored simple syrups - I use them in cocktails, and I mix with soda water for lightly flavored homemade sodas. Their unique flavors add give cocktails unexpected depth (like in my favorite Saffron Sour at the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club), and you can feel good about their use of natural, organic ingredients. I've always had several bottles on hand ever since they came to Maine, launching with a cocktail party in a Biddeford mill building in 2013. 

Emily and Forrest, the couple behind the products, have since moved their manufacturing to Brunswick and continue to add new flavors. Emily offered to send me the newest flavors, and I immediately began searching for recipes using the unusual ingredients like fenugreek, anise, and jasmine. 

Turns out their bottles come with some of the best recipes for their products; the one recipe I found on my own was a bit of a flop in my mind (I've included it anyway, in case you think it runs towards your tastes). 

The anise simple syrup is made with both star anise pods and fennel seeds, in addition to cane sugar and lemon juice. The syrup is subtly anise-flavored; I know many don't like the stuff, but this syrup is a good gateway into the world of licorice flavors. It's not overpowering, but sweet and a little tart, and blended very well in the Love Below. It would make a great summertime or brunch cocktail.

The Love Below
From Royal Rose Simple Syrups

1 oz. light rum
1 oz. peach or orange juice
1/2 oz. Royal Rose Anise Syrup
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice

Combine rum, juices, and syrup in a cocktail shaker. Ad ice and shake. Strain into a chilled coupe glass or champagne flute and top with prosecco.

The Rose Connelly brings out the earthier notes of the syrup; I didn't get much anise at all. If you think its a little sweet, as I did, an additional squeeze of lime will bring it into balance.

Rose Connelly
From Royal Rose Simple Syrups

1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey
1/4 oz. St Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz. Royal Rose Anise Syrup
1/2 oz. lime juice

Shake ingredients with ice. Serve straight up or on the rocks.

After a few missteps, I ran out of rye whiskey, so I turned to Knob Creek for the Fenugreek Is Not Fennel! cocktail. And indeed, it's not fennel, but rather has a sweet, molasses type flavor in a syrup - it's actually used to make the flavoring that flavors artificial maple syrup.

Fenugreek Is Not Fennel!
From Royal Rose Simple Syrups

1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey
1/2 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
1/2 oz. Royal Rose Fenugreek Syrup
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients over ice and shake. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a lemon twist.

The only misstep was, again, when I tried to find my own recipe - this Michigan Sweat Lodge sounded promising, although it was a Maine Sweat Lodge when I made it, since I used Maine wild blueberries. The harsh, bitter notes of Cocchi Americano and Campari combined and overtook any other flavor, however. If you just love the bitter end of Campari, this cocktail is for you.

Maine Sweat Lodge
Adapted from Chicago Reader

6-8 Maine blueberries
1.5 oz Wild Turkey 101 rye whiskey
1 oz Cocchi Americano
.5 oz Royal Rose fenugreek syrup
.5 oz Campari
dash Angostura bitters

Muddle blueberries in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add spirits, fenugreek syrup, and bitters. Add ice, and stir until it's chilled and the flavors are incorporated. Strain into a chilled martini or old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a smoked blueberry.

Stay tuned for recipes using the Jasmine, Ginger-Lime, and Orange-Vanilla flavors!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

April Portland Spirits Society Tasting: Salvage BBQ

I love Salvage BBQ so much, but I always think of their great barbecue, sides, and craft beer selection. So I was surprised when a Portland Hunt & Alpine Club bartender suggested them as a place with a great bourbon selection. 

I was casting about for opinions on where to host our next Portland Spirits Society event - and Salvage is a great place to host a big group, whether for a meetup or a party. The casual counter service and picnic tables lends itself well to coming and going, casually dropping in, and mingling. 

So our next women's whiskey tasting will be at Salvage on Wednesday, April 15th at 6pm. We'll be ordering from Salvage's large selection of bourbons and discussing what we taste, while we get to know other women interested in whiskey.

Plus, their delicious trays of fatty meats and fried sides can provide a solid base for all that booze! 

Join us for a night of casual bourbon education and delicious food. The event is pay-as-you-go and you can drop in anytime after 6pm. If you're a facebooker, RSVP to the event there. 

Buffalo Trace bourbon cocktail at Timber

And a few women and booze links: 
  • This woman offers "Nosing Services" to craft distillers to help them evaluate and blend their whiskeys. "The Sniffer," by Wayne Curtis, The Atlantic

  • Heather Greene, whiskey sommelier at The Flatiron Room in Manhattan, knows her shit and still faces sexism in the industry.

  • The Portland Rum Riots, May 31-June 2, will have lots of great liquor education events. Details on the special Portland Spirits Society/Rum Riots event coming soon! 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Wintertime Canning: Hot Pepper Jam

Canning hot pepper jam in the middle of winter is the perfect pick-me-up. It's nice to put up a quick little project that doesn't rely on perfect in-season produce, and this jam refreshes the canning pantry which is starting to look a little thin this time of year.

These are local Maine peppers though; I promised A. that we'd can one day last summer, and we both bought the necessary supplies. I, as is my tendency in the summer, overbooked my evening and had to bail, so I recommended that she freeze the peppers until we had time to can. Well, a good seven months later, we did. 

A. froze the peppers whole, so we thawed them partially before chopping. We also found we'd bought some habanero peppers to substitute in for some of the jalapeƱos to make it hotter. This jam came out delightfully spicy, sweet with a tangy kick. A. says it's great with cream cheese and bagel chips.

Hot Pepper Jam
Adapted from Sure Jell

1-1/2 cups red peppers, seeded, finely chopped (about 2 medium)
1-1/2 cups green peppers, seeded, finely chopped (about 2 medium)
1 cup jalapeƱo peppers, seeded, finely chopped (about 5 large peppers, 1 habanero)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl, divided
1 box Sure Jell For Less or No Sugar Needed Pectin

Wash 8 4-oz. jars, lids, and screw bands. Set lids and screw bands aside. Fill boiling water bath canner halfway with water and heat on medium heat. Add jars to canner.

Chop peppers; wear gloves when chopping hot peppers. Bring peppers, vinegar and water to a boil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching. Measure out 1/4-cup sugar into a separate bowl, and mix in pectin powder thoroughly.

When pepper mixture boils, add sugar-pectin mix and stir to dissolve. Return to a roiling boil and add remaining sugar. Stir to dissolve and return to a full rolling boil. After mixture boils, remove from heat. Ladle into 4 oz. jars leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims. Apply dome lid and screwband until fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool, check seals, and store for up to one year.

Yield: about 4 cups (8 4-oz. jars)

For more information about safe home food preservation visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

First Look: Reopened East Ender

I eagerly stopped into the East Ender on Middle Street in Portland last night for happy hour. I'm an unabashed fan of Karl and Bill's cooking - last seen coming from the bright orange Small Axe food truck. The two were so generous with their time, allowing me to profile them for my book and for no fewer than 5 Phoenix/Dig articles. 

I was momentarily sad when the two sold their food truck, but cheered up immediately when I learned it was because they were looking to move into a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The news came at the end of last year that they would be taking over the East Ender on Middle Street. Well, the wait is over; they opened yesterday for lunch and dinner with a special happy hour menu between the two. 

Their cocktail list is impressive, unique without being intimidating. Between our party of five, we managed to order almost every one on the list. I tried the Haitian Divorce first, a warm, rich mix of Rhum Barbancourt (Haitian), Cruzan Blackstrap rum, Cynar, pineapple and lime juices. 

Sitting on Middle Street, with the sun setting an hour later than the days before, we all agreed it was the perfect drink to mentally transport us to warmer climes. The High Noon did the same thing with its refreshing mix of mescal, triple sec, Campari and grapefruit (or at least I think that's what was in it). 

We sampled a few of the bar snacks - fried vegetables in a Bagna Cauda sauce ($8) and the chicken liver croquettes topped with pickled onion jam ($9). They were both outstanding. The happy hour menu (served 3:30-5:30 Monday through Sunday) also had a selection of cheeses, mussels, a BLT, and the infamous cold-smoked burger. It's back! Hooray! If at any point, you can't find me between 3:30 and 5:30, I'll be at East Ender, taking a burger and $2 Miller High Lifes to the head. 

The redesign of the space might seem a little plain compared to the teal and cow-spotted decor of the previous East Ender but it's a welcome change. It's now grey and black, with lighter wood accents. The lounge area's mini fireplace has been removed and replaced with a banquette. I can't imagine there's less seating upstairs, but it seems roomier than before. 

Like I said, I'm predisposed to like everything Karl and Bill do. But even if that weren't the case, I'd be planning to frequent the East Ender. It's in the perfect spot in a nice little restaurant row. Between Eventide, the Honey Paw and East Ender, I may never have to leave Middle Street again. 

Dinner menu