I love the pictures of all the crazy drinks with their swizzle sticks loaded with pomegranate seeds, fresh rose petals or cherry blossom garnishes. And I usually find one or two recipes worth shaking up.
But at the same time, who has even half of the ingredients mentioned in most of the recipes? I mean items like elderflower liqueur, Velvet Faernum (a clove-spiced liqueur), bottled ginger juice (not ginger beer or ale, mind you) and passion fruit liqueur?
Yet all of those items are key to some of the recipes in “Mix Shake Stir” (Little Brown, $29.99), a glossy, collection of mixed drink recipes from Danny Meyer’s New York restaurants, which include the lauded Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern and Eleven Madison Park.
For the Turf Race, to cite just one recipe, the bartender is asked to mix 3 1/2 ounces gin, preferably Hendrick’s; 1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur, preferably Luxardo; 1/2 ounce absinthe, preferably Lucid; and 1 generous dash of orange bitters (not Angostura).
All of these ideas are grouped under the laughable subtitle “Cocktails for the Home Bar.” Whose home? Certainly not Meyer’s patrons, people with Manhattan apartment so tiny that the book would take up too much space, not to mention the volume of bottles of pear cream liqueur, drunken cranberries, Campari cocktail mix, cardamom syrup, rosemary-infused pear nectar, verjus, and ginger-infused rye. I have a fairly well-stocked bar and I don’t have room for any of these.
Still, I did enjoy sipping my way through a few recipes. The few I found that weren’t too sweet, mind you. Cocktails, like very other drink nowadays, have gotten too sweet in recent years. Blame the cosmo-crazed women on “Sex in the City” or the sugar-coated American palate, but it’s hard to find a drink that isn’t sickeningly sweet. I can’t even order a margarita in San Antonio any more without asking first if it has been polluted with some sort of sweet-and-sour mix, syrup or sugar infusion.
One elixir called Hang Time mixed together muddled thyme with citrus-infused vodka and lime juice to great effect. Well, the printed recipe did call for sugar, but it was more refreshing without it.
The same is true of the Thai Basil Bliss, which gets enough sweetness from fresh pineapple that, in my opinion, makes the addition of simple syrup cloying and superfluous. To make the drink, muddle 4 basil leaves and 4 (1-inch) pineapple cubes in a shaker. Add ice. Then pour in 2 ounces silver tequila, 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice and an optional splash of sparkling wine. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a basil leaf. (Sweeten with syrup, if you must.)
Another plus of the book is a collection of bar snack recipes, from Five-Spice Cashews to Grilled Watermelon With Heirloom Tomatoes. Here’s a recipe for Dried Cherry, Bacon and Pecan Mix that the book promises is a great match with the somewhat fussy Modern Old-Fashioned, also below.
Dried Cherry, Bacon and Pecan Mix
3 slices thick-cut applewood or other wood-smoked bacon
1/4 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pound pecan pieces, divided use
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel, optional
For the bacon: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, rotating the pan after 10 minutes, until the bacon starts to crisp, about 15 minutes. Drain off any fat from the pan. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cayenne and cloves. Sprinkle the mixture on the bacon, return to the oven, and bake until the bacon is very crisp and the sugar mixture is bubbling, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a cutting board and let cool. Leave the oven on.
In a saucepan over high heat, combine 1/2 pound of pecans, sugar and water. Cook, stirring often, until the sugar melts and thickens to a syrup, 6-8 minutes. At this point, stir constantly until the sugar syrup crystallizes and is sandy, 3-5 minutes longer. Pour onto another baking sheet and let cool.
In a bowl, stir together the egg white, salt and cloves. Add the remaining pecans, toss to coat and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Let cool.
Cut the bacon into 1/2-inch pieces. In a bowl, toss together the bacon, praline, toasted pecans, cherries and orange peel, if using, and serve. The nut mix, without bacon, can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Makes about 5 cups.
Adapted from “Mix Shake Stir: Cocktails for the Home Bar”
The Modern Old-Fashioned
4 dried cherries, divided use
1 1/2 ounces Poire William or other pear liqueur, divided use
5 slices ripe but firm red Bosc pear
Splash of fresh lemon juice
2 ounces bourbon, preferably Michter’s
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Dash of Angostura bitters
[amazon-product]0316045128[/amazon-product]In a small bowl, soak 3 of the cherries in 1/2 ounce of the pear liqueur until plump. Thread the cherries onto a small skewer and set aside. Fill a rocks glass with ice. Muddle 4 of the pear slices, the remaining dried cherry and the lemon juice in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, then the bourbon, the remaining 1 ounce pear liqueur, the simple syrup and the bitters, and shake vigorously. Strain into the glass, garnish with the skewered cherries and the remaining pear slice and serve.
Makes 1 drink.
From “Mix Shake Stir: Cocktails for the Home Bar”