Timeless elegance is the theme of this month’s Mixology Monday Challenge and Special 100th Edition. With the resurgence of cocktail culture in the last 15 years, it’s interesting to note that we seem to have gone though a cycle. The old classics were rediscovered, elevated, tweaked, riffed on. Eventually we got a bit side-tracked with exotic ingredients, molecular mixology, or 20-component cocktails. Now the trend seems to be for simple yet memorable cocktails.
One person though always stayed the course, and his vision of perfectly crafted cocktails inspired countless bartenders all over the world. That person, of course, is Sasha Petraske, who passed away a few days ago. It’s quite incredible how much of a deep impact he had on the cocktail world as a whole. So many bartenders I admire have worked in his bars, or have been trained by people who worked in his bars. Many of them have opened or managed successful and influential bars. Continue reading
Picture yourself – it’s already late at night and you had some snacks, maybe some charcuterie or cheese with your cocktails, but you still haven’t made anything for dinner. You don’t feel like turning on the oven (it’s the middle of summer) and are looking for something simple and nutritious.
Chilled summer soups are great for the occasion. Here are a couple more ideas. One is this very straightforward cucumber sorrel gazpacho based on a recipe by Russ Parsons in How to Pick a Peach. The book is a fairly complete list of fruit and vegetable grouped by season that provides an overview for each together with recommendations about storage, preparation, and a few simple recipes. I find that it’s a good starting point and I use it quite a bit to figure out ways to use the sometimes not-so-familiar vegetables in my CSA.
In summer I enjoy cold soups. One that I make regularly is Suvir Saran’s chilled yogurt soup with cucumber and mint from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I love this soup because it is ready in 5 minutes in the blender and does not require any cooking. You start with a large pinch or two of cumin seeds that you roast for a couple of minutes in a pan then grind; I use a little coffee grinder dedicated for spices. Then you blend 2 cups of yogurt (I like to use the Greek yogurt from Trader Joe’s because it is quite thick), one large cucumber (cut in chunks with the skin on), a green chili (serrano or jalapeño – I use a little bit of jalapeño Tabasco, or BDW serrano cocktail spice that a friend makes locally, if I don’t have fresh green chilies), a large pinch of garam masala, the leaves from a bunch of fresh mint, salt & pepper. You just blend everything until the mint and cucumber skin are reduced to small green flecks. Garnish the soup with a dusting of cumin and a mint leaf. It’s really nice and fresh for the summer; it reminds me a little of cucumber raita in soup form.
Another good summer soup is this watermelon and cucumber gazpacho that I made last night. It was equal parts watermelon and cucumber, blended (it helps to start with the cucumber first as it is thicker) with plenty of lime juice (I used two limes for 1 cucumber and half a small seedless watermelon), the leaves from 2-3 mint sprigs, salt & black pepper. Garnish with finely diced watermelon and feta cheese, plus a small drizzle of good olive oil. Seasoning is key (otherwise the soup just tastes like a fruit smoothie!) – be generous with the salt & pepper and the flavors will pop.
Watermelon and cucumber gazpacho
The French are not known for their cocktails. It’s true that there is the kir, a French creation which is simply cassis (blackcurrant liqueur from Dijon) with white wine (aligoté, a dry white wine from Burgundy), and its regal version, the kir royal (*). But it would feel a little strange enjoying a libation that references the king on Bastille day. Looking for cocktails with a connection to France, the French 75 immediately comes to mind. Created in Paris, it is a very nice drink, especially with gin. The cognac version has the advantage of combining two French ingredients, cognac and champagne. But I did not feel like opening a bottle of champagne, so I searched for something else.
Continuing with the cognac theme, I picked the Maid in France (**). The Maid is a family of drinks based on the following formula:
Muddled mint & cucumber | lime | simple syrup | base liquor | (soda water optional)
With the cognac + citrus combo, you could say that it is a relative of the Sidecar (also thought to have been created in Paris). But it has a much lighter feel due to the fact that simple syrup, rather than orange liqueur, is used as the sweetener. The muddled mint and cucumber add another element of freshness. And it’s served on ice with a fragrant garnish.