The Drunken Pumpkin

It’s almost winter now, but every year I get excited when fall rolls around. The colors changing and the smell of the crisp cool air make every day exciting. Curling up and reading a book by the fireplace on those days where the temperature drops just a little too much… there’s so much to appreciate. But nothing compares to how much my girlfriend, Brit, loves the fall. Apple cider, hot chocolate, apple pie, and pumpkin all get lumped together into the fall is coming and we need to have category. So having just started this blog, fall is something that I couldn’t let pass by without mentioning, and it’s time to explore one of the most characteristic fall ingredients: pumpkin.

At thanksgiving, pumpkin pie was always one of my favorite desserts. I never much cared for the turkey. My family doesn’t have a rich history of culinary expertise. That’s the nice way of saying that the turkey was really dry every year. Stuffing and gravy never really made up for the dry turkey, I have an unhealthy aversion to mashed potatoes, and as a kid, I really didn’t eat vegetables. Canned cranberries? Well I liked them for a while, but I guess I outgrew them. I still remember my grandmother pushing basically an entire can toward me and saying, have some more… I remembered that you love these, so I bought extra. To which, I had to politely take some more, and think to myself, really, I don’t remember liking them that much. But once dinner was finished, there was pie. Thinking about it now, it seems that Brit and I were destined to be together just so we could share our love of pumpkin.

Of course, there have been some not so good pumpkin experiences as well. There was that pumpkin pie that we made and forgot to add sugar. Yeah, not so good. And this year when Argo Tea started serving their pumpkin chai tea, my first attempt to order one resulted in disappointment — they were out of one of the ingredients needed to make mine.

But thanksgiving is right around the corner, and if you’re looking for something a little different to serve this year, look no further. You’ll want to serve this Drunken Pumpkin.

The Drunken Pumpkin
A Casa de Milo Original Recipe

  • 3tbs pumpkin puree
  • 2oz bourbon (Bulleit)
  • A splash of apple schnapps (99 apples)
  • Ground cinnamon (preferably ceylon)
  • Ground nutmeg (freshly ground)
  • Sugar
  • Peach bitters

Start by rimming your glass. Fill a small saucer (or plate) with sugar, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg. Use about 2 parts sugar to 1 part each of cinnamon and nutmeg. Moisten the rim of a rocks glass and roll the edge in the sugar mixture, creating an even layer of sugar around the outside of the glass.

Combine the pumpkin puree, bourbon, and apple schnapps in a cocktail shaker. Sprinkle a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg over the mixture. The amount to use here is so small that you really can’t measure for one drink. You’ll just want enough that you’ve dusted the top of the liquid nicely. Two or three shakes of the container should be fine for each. Add a generous amount of ice. Shake until cold, and strain into a rocks glass. Finish with a dash of bitters and serve over ice.

Pumpkin is such a versatile ingredient. Though sweet preparations like pumpkin pie and cookies usually come to mind, it, like many other squash, works nicely when used as a savory ingredient. In this case, we’ve mixed pumpkin with bourbon to make a fantastic seasonal drink. You get a very clear taste of pumpkin, and there’s a hint of sweetness, but the taste of the bourbon isn’t lost either.

We enjoyed this cocktail with a wonderful pumpkin fettuccine alfredo. It was a wonderful night of pumpkin all around.

The Long Day

It’s been a crazy month to say the least…

I’ll start with the story of Milo, our wonderful little Havanese. He recently had some more productive days than normal. When we leave our home, he gets his own little corner of the house, and we keep it gated off for his safety. He has plenty of room to move about and play while we’re gone, but we don’t have to be as concerned about him getting into trouble if we accidentally leave a laptop cord draped across the floor. Being a smart little bugger, though, he decided it was time to explore. Apparently all the stars aligned that day because a chocolate protein bar had been left on the coffee table, and of course he decided to eat that! Fortunately, those protein bars contain very little chocolate, and he was fine. But after the second escape act (to which we lost a few coasters and the cover of some books), we decided it was time to figure out just how he was managing to get free and why. We set up a camera and filmed what he was up to. Boy was he quick — 5 minutes after we were gone, he was out. The gate was being held in place by the weight of his crate, so he just nuzzled his way between his crate and the wall giving him free reign of our apartment.

When I started watching the video, I thought, oh what a smart little guy… he’s able to get out so fast, but it went downhill fast. We knew it was possible that Milo may have been having a tough time home alone. He’ll sometimes whine when we return, and in general the Havanese breed has some issues with separation anxiety. But watching your dog experience it really breaks your heart. So as soon as we learned that this was happening, we set out to fix it. Simply coming and going frequently over a few days helped reduce his stress, and shifting the majority of his exercise to the morning leaves him much calmer than before. It’s been tough re-teaching him that everything will be okay when he’s alone. He’s doing much better now, and we’re just about out of the woods.

Bourbon for The Long Day

Oh, but the craziness doesn’t stop there; life always seems to hit you with everything at once. Milo’s newfound escape artistry coincided with things at work amping up as well. We’re shifting focuses a bit after a huge product launch and have been busy with client meetings and interviews on top of an already full workload.

Everything seems to move at the speed of light when your schedule is jam packed. And an ice cold cocktail is sometimes just what the doctor ordered at the end of a long day. For those days when you’re craving something a little different from normal, I present to you The Long Day.

The Long Day

  • 1 oz burbon (I like Bulleit here)
  • 1 oz green chartreuse
  • 2 oz sour mix

Combine everything in a rocks glass with some ice. Stir & drink. It was a long day, you shouldn’t have to do any more work than that. Enjoy.

Verde, La Ultima Palabra

I started this blog a few weeks ago as a personal adventure. I snapped some photos and wrote the first article for Casa de Milo before taking a single step into the vast world of cocktail blogging. Since then, I’ve learned that this is a wonderful community to have joined. There are many active bloggers covering a wide range of cocktails. In fact, there’s even a monthly mixology event, Mixology Monday, which I’m excited to participate in for the first time this month.

The theme this month is green. Specifically, it’s not easy bein’ green. The challenge is to incorporate green into a cocktail; whether it be an ingredient or a garnish… just include something green. My mind immediately went to lime, then hopped right over to jalepeño. Green apples, mint? The possibilities are endless. Our host, Ed of Wordsmithing Pantagruel, is apparently quite fond of Green Chartreuse, though. Having had this once or twice in cocktails at restaurants, I figured it’d be a good addition to the liquor cabinet and a bit more of a challenge personally.

I did some searching online, and came up with a few good possibilities, but nothing really jumped out at me. As is often the case, the exciting recipes had too many ingredients that I don’t have stocked, and the others just sounded a bit boring. So I started looking based on what I already have (and what I like). I somehow ended up on a mezcal recipe page which narrowed down my search. Mezcal and Green Chartreuse sounded like a really interesting combination. But I wanted a bit more green than any of those recipes afforded. So the search continued. Until I found la ultima palabra. I was sold. (I’m not quite sure who to give credit to for this recipe. It seems somewhat unique, but it’s based on the last word cocktail just swapping out gin for mezcal.) Plus, it has some extra green points… lime.

The recipe here is really simple. It’s an equal parts recipe:

La Ultima Palabra

  • ¾ oz Green Chartreuse
  • ¾ oz Mezcal (Fidencio Sin Humo)
  • ¾ oz Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • ¾ oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add a good amount of ice. Shake until cold (about 20 seconds), strain into your cocktail glass, and garnish with a lime twist.

This is one very refreshing cocktail. Mezcal is a spirit that you either love or hate. If you’re on the fence, give it try here. Fidencio’s Sin Humo (meaning without smoke) is a really smooth mezcal. It still has a bit of smokiness, but it really lets the Chartreuse shine in this cocktail. Personally, I thought that the maraschino liqueur was a bit overpowering, so I tried a second round with the following ratios:

  • 1 oz Green Chartreuse
  • 1 oz Mezcal (Fidencio Sin Humo)
  • 1 oz Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice
  • ⅓ oz Maraschino Liqueur (Luxardo)

The result was a drink that was much more to my liking. Play around with it yourself. It was truly delightful!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the green submissions in the comments of the initial posting and the discussion forms.

Vanilla Gorilla

My reason for making infusions recently was threefold. First, infusions open a world of wonderful and seemingly endless combinations for spirits. Things you’d never put directly into a cocktail shaker because they couldn’t be strained out are suddenly fair game. Second, we had a bottle of vodka in our freezer that had been there for a while just asking to be spiced up a bit. Third, and most compelling, was the promise of an absolutely wonderful looking Vanilla Gorilla.

For a few days, I had Tony Abou-Ganim’s Modern Mixologist: Contemporary Classic Cocktails open on my coffee table with a beautiful picture staring up at me saying, make me. When I first read this recipe, what stood out to me was the use of Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur which I hadn’t tried before. I’m a nut lover, and having always loved amaretto, this seemed like a really good item to have on hand. But when you add banana, chocolate, coconut and cream to that, you can’t really go wrong!

Vanilla Gorilla Ingredients

Are you ready to make one of these? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Sweetened coconut flakes
  • Melted chocolate or syrup
  • 1½ oz vanilla vodka
  • ¾ oz Frangelico liqueur
  • ¾ oz Banana liqueur (Bols or Dekuyper)
  • 1 cream

Toast the coconut flakes on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees. You should stir every few minutes so they brown evenly. This will take about 10-15 minutes, but keep your eye on them throughout the entire process. They’ll go from toasted to burned pretty quickly.

With your coconut toasted, dip the edge of a cocktail glass in the melted chocolate and then coat with the toasted coconut. Once your glass is rimmed, you’ll want to store it in the freezer while you finish making the drink (otherwise your chocolate will drip down the glass).

Add the remaining ingredients to a cocktail shaker with a generous amount of ice. Shake until well chilled (about 20 seconds) and strain into your cocktail glass.

Two Vanilla Gorilla Drinks

These turned out very nicely. They were a little strong for my taste, so I added about ¾ an ounce of milk. On another note, rimming a glass with chocolate and toasted coconut turns out to be a little more difficult than salt or sugar and may take a bit of time to master. That being said, there will be plenty of time to master it since it should make for a very nice addition to many cocktails.

Enjoy!

The Perfect Margarita

Oh, the lime. What a joyful fruit. The scent of freshly squeezed lime alone warms my senses. There are so many great uses of these little guys, one of those being my favorite cocktail: the margarita.

When you mix the beauty of lime with the complex agave flavor of tequila, you have the makings of an absolutely wonderful cocktail. The margarita, it seems, has always been a popular drink. It’s a go to for many people, myself included. Tequila, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same stellar reputation. Sadly, many people still turn their noses up at tequila, recalling a night of cheap tequila shots followed by the worst morning ever. Like most spirits, though, there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The world of tequila is as complex as the rest of the spirits world. Once you get into it, you’ll be talking about your favorite blancosreposados, and añejos without skipping a beat. If you’re new to tequila, though, this can all be a bit overwhelming.

Let’s start with the basics. First, make sure you purchase something that’s labeled 100% blue agave. There are variations on this, so you may see 100% agave azul or 100% de agave, but there will always be 100% in there. So don’t be fooled, the big named brands (whose ads you see constantly) label their bottles as made with blue agave. This is very different. It’d be a bit like making wine by combining actual wine with cheap rum and grape juice. No good.

So where to start? Espolon makes great, very affordable Blancos and Reposados. I’ve been using these a lot lately. El Milagro Silver1800 Silver, and Camarina are also good choices to start with. You should be able to find one of these at your local liquor store. A quick note on naming: blanco/sliver means un-aged, reposado/gold means rested (slightly aged), and añejo means aged. Generally you’ll pay more for a tequila that’s aged more. There’s a lot more to it than that, but we’ll save that for another time.

 

There are various tales of how the margarita came to be, but one of those stories involves a recipe of equal parts. This, we will consider to be the original margarita and tweak it ever so slightly for sweetness.

Without further ado, the recipe:

  • Kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1½ ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1½ ounces 100% blue agave tequila
  • 1½ ounces Cointreau
  • ¼ ounce agave nectar or simple syrup (optional)

Start by rimming your glass. Fill a saucer (or plate) with a good amount of salt. Cut a lime in half, and use it to moisten the outside edge of the glass. Then, with the glass tilted slightly downward, twist the glass through the salt, making sure you have a nice even layer of salt around the outside of the rim.

With your glass prepared, it’s time to mix the drink. First things first… fresh lime juice. That means that you squeeze the juice yourself. Don’t worry, it’s not hard. You can squeeze by hand or invest in a good citrus juicer. Fresh juice makes a world of difference, and it’s amazing that more bars don’t squeeze citrus on the spot for their drinks. Each lime will yield about an ounce of juice, so you’ll use about one and a half limes per drink. Also, there’s a trick to juicing limes — don’t refrigerate them. You’ll get more juice out of a room temperature lime than you will from one that’s chilled.

With your ingredients ready, you’re just a quick mix and pour away. Add a generous amount of ice to a cocktail shaker (small pieces of ice are better). Add the lime juice, tequila, Cointreau, and agave nectar. Shake for about 20 seconds. Strain and serve.

There’s a good amount of room for flexibility here as well. Play around with the tequila — choose anything from a blanco to an añejo, but stick to 100% agave. I generally use blancos and reposados. You can also consider using Key limes instead of Persian limes, but note that they ripen to yellow. Try substituting a different orange liquor or skipping the extra sweetness of the agave. The ratio can also be tweaked depending on your tastes. Many margaritas will be a bit more heavy on the tequila. If you’re making a drink for a friend who loves the sweetness of restaurant style margaritas, use ½ an ounce of simple syrup to kick up the sweetness a bit.

This is a really fantastic cocktail that’s easy to make. These days, you’re likely to find me with a margarita in my hand. And when you don’t, I’ll probably be sipping some lime flavored carbonated water. Because in the end, it’s all about the lime.

Making Infusions

For my birthday this year, I received a wonderful book on contemporary cocktails, The Modern Mixologist. While it contains its fair share of recipes, this book also contains a good background on the history of cocktail making as well as some words of wisdom in regards to methodology and use of fresh ingredients. One way of spicing up cocktails that stood out to me was creating infusions, a simple way to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary!

Jalepeño tequila, rosemary tequila, and vanilla vodka

Armed with a bit of vodka and a mexican vanilla bean, I started off with a simple experiment: let’s see how vanilla vodka turns out and go from there. By the next day, the infusion had started to turn a nice golden color as the vanilla began working its way into the vodka. That same day I happened to stop by the farmers market on the way home from work. The jalepeños looked amazing, so I got a basket. What to do with a basket of jalepeños? Why not infuse those too! To top it off, I found some rosemary that was left over from some recent cooking… of course that had to be infused as well. So my simple experiment turned into an array of infusions which should all be ready for consumption soon.

Making your own infusions is exceptionally easy. Here’s how:

Jalepeño infused tequila

  • 1 pint Espolón blanco tequila
  • 1 jalapeño

Rosemary infused tequila

  • 1 pint Espolón blanco tequila
  •  A few sprigs of fresh rosemary

Vanilla infused vodka

  • 1 pint Ketel One vodka
  • 1 mexican vanilla bean cut lengthwise

Jalepeño tequila, rosemary tequila, and vanilla vodka

For each of these, simply combine the ingredients in a glass canning jar. These jars are easy to come by (they’re available online as well as in hardware stores and other retailers). I prefer the pint sized jars because it uses about two thirds of a standard bottle leaving you a bit left over to enjoy the spirit on its own.

Allow your infusion to sit for about a week in a cool place or until it takes on as much flavor as you want. Once the desired flavor is achieved, remove the herbs or fruit and strain if needed. Store your infused spirit in the fridge and use within 3 months.

As you may be able to tell from the pictures, I took it easy to start with the jalepeños. (I didn’t want to start out too spicy to begin). I removed the seeds and the pith to reduce the spice, but you can also simply pike holes in the pepper and place it in the jar whole.

Choose herbs, spices, and fruits that pair well with spirits you enjoy, and the sky’s the limit. In upcoming posts, I’ll be using these infusions to make some wonderful cocktails. Stay tuned!