Holiday (scratch that) Super Bowl party!

Sweet and Sour Glazed Chicken Wings

Ginger red wine spritzer

Tequila cranberry cooler

Didn't try the glaze on the Rolos, but it would probably be good

Didn’t try the glaze on the Rolos, but it would probably be good

(What should have been a holiday cocktail party post has conveniently become a Super Bowl party post.  *wipes hands in a self-satisfied fashion*)

So here’s the deal with these three.  We did actually serve them all together.  We also put out mixed nuts.  And we made those lovely cookies.  It was a good day.

The wings were tasty, but kind of a hassle.  I mean, wings are always kind of a hassle, but the hassle of the glaze bears some mention.  When you do the baking step, you should grease the sheet at least a little and/or put down foil to keep them from sticking.  I lost a lot of skin and, frankly, quite a bit of meat just from trying to turn the wings.  The glaze was the real troublemaker, though.  I burned it on the first try.  Badly.  Like black ooze at the bottom of the pan, doors and windows open to clear the smoke and avoid waking the baby with the fire alarm bad.  I think the key is to just be sure you can keep an eye on it.  It goes from way too thin to burned really quickly, especially if you halve the recipe like I did.  Once it’s done and not burned, the glaze is really tasty.  The chili powder adds a lot.  The cayenne mostly just adds heat, but that’s welcome here.  We started rolling some roasted nuts in this glaze.  That was extremely good.  The glaze thickens a bit when it sits, so don’t get upset if it isn’t super goopy right off the range.

Sweet, spicy, sour, hot, awesome

Sweet, spicy, sour, hot, awesome

As for the cocktails, the spritzer was nice, but maybe a little forgettable.  I would rather just have a glass of wine, really.  I couldn’t taste the ginger ale and didn’t really even get a sense of the bubbles.  The kirsch or maraschino does add a little bit of cherry flavor and sweetness.  The maraschino adds a LOT of sweetness, really.  I preferred the drier taste of the kirsch.  We did a taste test with our guests, and we were evenly split between the kirsch kamp and the maraschino maniacs.  (groan…)  If you like something sweeter, pick maraschino. 

Red wine spritzer with those amazing palmiers and the macadamia nut bars.

Red wine spritzer with those amazing palmiers and the macadamia nut bars.

Now, the tequila cran cooler was an unqualified success.  I loved it.  The Campari cut the sweetness of the juices and the sharpness of the tequila.  Frankly, I might consider putting a little campari in margaritas next summer.  Also, the sugared rim was definitely welcome because the other tastes in the drink started to lean toward sour and bitter once the Campari was in there.  I think this would be some good training wheels for Campari.  In other words, B, try this one.  You’ll like it.

Coming to a BBQ near you: Summer 2014

Coming to a BBQ near you: Summer 2014

Go….let’s say Broncos. 

Advertisements

Guest post: Citrus Spritzers from D

Citrus Spritzers*

D here, guest writing. I have a longstanding love of cocktails and think that home bartending is just a fun hobby to have, so when the “citrus spritzers” recipe came up here, G asked me to collaborate. The recipe isn’t available online, so here’s it is (if you’ve got a set of The Stripes at home, this is p. 74 of No. 45, though the picture is on p. 72):

Cheers!

Cheers!

*Adapted from Everyday Food, September 2007

-2 cups fresh orange juice (from 6 oranges), strained
-1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons), strained
-1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes), strained
-2/3 cup superfine sugar
-4 cups seltzer or club soda
-1 ounce vodka per serving (optional)
– Orange, lemon or lime slices, for garnish (optional)

When G and I looked at this recipe we knew were going to make this a boozy version, but vodka seemed like a total copout. I’ve actually had good luck with Martha Stewart’s cocktail recipes in general and the Everyday Food “Happy Hour” section in particular. The Happy Hour is where I first discovered the way to make a proper Lemon Shandy which is kind of a curse, because once you’ve had it you’ll never be able to drink any pre-made “shandy” type beer again. The “Happy Hour” is also where I was introduced to miracle that is Tequila & Tonic. It’s 5,000% better than you’d think it is – trust Martha on this one.  Throwing vodka in this just seemed uninspired, so we decided to have our own tasting to audition the best spirit to add in here.

G made up the mixture and then I set up a flight-style tasting, using the stated proportions to make little tiny cocktails in sake cups for G and I to audition. I was glad we were so methodical, because pairing a spirit with the spritzer base turned out to be much harder than anticipated. Here’s the contenders:

It's a tough job...

It’s a tough job…

The first that we tried is white rum – we used Flor de Cana 4 year old, because that’s what I had on hand. It was serviceable, but the flavor of the rum didn’t really come through, and the whole thing just kind of ended up tasting like a wan beach drink from a TGI Fridays. Since we jettisoned the suggested vodka in search of something more flavorful, this wasn’t what we were hoping for.

Next we tried it with a silver tequila, in this case Leyenda del Milagro (at about $20 a bottle a phenomenal value if you can find it). This was decent, but something was missing. The tequila/lime/orange flavors made it very similar to a classic margarita, but the addition of the lemon and the effervescence of the club soda made the whole thing kind of odd: it ended up tasting like someone had poured 7Up into your margarita. Surprisingly, the white rum was actually better.

Two other things to note before declaring the winner. I drug the bottle of Tanqueray out of the freezer mostly as a lark: huge mistake. Imagine a band doing a cover of the Snoop classic “Gin and Juice” in Spanish, and then imagine resulting song as a cocktail. Horrible. Also falling into the “bad idea” category was mescal (far right). If you know what mescal is and like it, don’t waste your time here – the spritzer base is  too sweet and clashes with the smokiness of the mescal. If you don’t know what mescal is, now is not the time to learn. Move along.

So the winner was a reposado tequila. Tequilas generally fall into three rough categories: 1) silver or “blanco” which are not aged or have been aged only slightly, 2) reposado tequilas, which have been aged between 2 months and a year in oak barrels, and 3) anejo tequilas, those aged over a year.  Like aged whiskies, tequilas take on a woody, smoky character from the wood in the barrels, and the bite of the alcohol tends to mellow.  Anejo tequilas run to the pricey side, and generally should be sipped on their own. But there are excellent reposados available at reasonable prices if you know what you’re looking for, and they can be just what a cocktail calls for. Reposados tend to be much less smoky than a mescal, so they can be easier to mix and more crowd pleasing than a mescal cocktail, which is often an acquired taste (G has yet to acquire this taste for the most part).

Espolon is fairly widely available and their reposado tequila is an inexplicably good value at about $23 a bottle.  I think they just break into other distilleries and steal this stuff or something. Go track it down and mix it into your spritzer (and your margarita the next time you make one). The aged character comes through just enough to give the drink some character, but it doesn’t overwhelm the base: the fresh sweetness and the acidity of the juices still comes nicely into balance. The seltzer gives the whole thing an effervescence that makes these dangerously easy to drink. Even G, whose tolerance for smoky alcohol is about 1/1000th of mine, declared this one the clear winner.

So go get yourself some Espolon Reposado and have a couple of these. We still need a name for this magic elixir, so get drunk and suggest one in the comments.

(Alright, Bear: I contributed. The ball is in your court to write something, or you’re going to look like a slacker!)