Drinks

Meyer Lemon Bourbon Sour and Oh My God, I’m Writing a Book

I’ve been driving around for the last few days with a 10-kilogram bag of sugar in my backseat.

Not even in the trunk — there isn’t enough room between all the flats of diet coke.

Lately, I’ve found myself in a position where I’m going through lots of sugar. Maybe not quite enough to justify purchasing a bag the weight of a small child, but it is a lot more cost effective this way.

It’s not that I suddenly have insatiable cravings for sweet stuff (I will almost always take savoury options over sweet ones when it comes to snacking, despite my love of baking), it’s that recipe testing comes with a lot of trial and error. And that means going through ingredients pretty quickly.

See, I’ve been keeping a small secret. At first because details had to be ironed out. And then because I just wasn’t even sure I believed it myself and finally because I didn’t really know how to even start that conversation.

But here it is: I’m writing a book. A cookbook.

Signed with Veuve Clicquot Rose

(I celebrated signing by drinking some Veuve Clicquot Rose. Sometimes a girl just has to splurge on herself.)

This time next year, people — friends, family, strangers — will be able to walk into a bookstore, or go online, and purchase something with my name on it, with my recipes inside, with my photos illustrating those cocktails, cookies, salads, main dishes and more.

The book contains all recipes that use lemons, limes and grapefruits and it’s called (and I do love this part) Pucker.

When I started this blog five years ago, it was a little side project, a hobby, something to counteract the gloom of covering crime and calamity in the city. These were the years at the height of the gang war and city police were handling upwards of 30 homicides a year. Those days when I worked night shifts, those weekends when I wasn’t listening to the police scanner, I was baking and cooking, photographing and writing, all for the pleasure of it.

Now I get to do all that as my job. And that led to me writing a book as a result.

Life is amazing sometimes.

Let’s have a drink to celebrate, shall we?

How about with a Meyer Lemon Bourbon Sour.

Meyer lemons are slightly sweeter, more fragrant versions of their regular cousins, which are more typical for sour drinks. They work just as well, as long as there is compensation on the simple syrup end of the equation. A sweeter citrus means less sugar is needed.

Meyer Lemon Bourbon Sour

I’ve gone old school with this sour, using egg white in the recipe to create a smooth and frothy cocktail. Those who don’t want to take chances by consuming raw egg can just leave it out. I make it both ways and both are equally good. (Though, admittedly, not using the egg white shaves off at least a minute. You know, if that drink needs to be made quickly. However, if you do use the egg white, may I suggest hanging on to the yolk and making some lemon curd?)

When I first started drinking sours, I made them with whiskey. (Good lord, this blog has come a long way since then. Yikes!) Over the last year, I’ve come to realize that I’m really much more of a bourbon girl. In particular, Buffalo Trace. So, that’s what I use in my cocktails, like this Old Fashioned. But, of course, use what you like, whether bourbon or whiskey.

And  yes, this will probably be in the book.

Meyer Lemon Bourbon Sour I

Meyer Lemon Bourbon Sour

  • 1 1/2 ounces bourbon or whiskey
  • 1 ounce Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 egg white

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine all the ingredients. Shake well. Strain into a glass and enjoy.

Bourbon Old-Fashioned

Things have been roller coaster-ish in the last couple of weeks. Some pretty good highs, some devastating lows.

And, while I’m not one to advocate drinking away your sorrows, suffice to say that there were a couple of nights when I got home from work and really felt like I could use a cocktail.

Bourbon Old-Fashioned I

Lately, I’ve been loving the classic Bourbon Old-Fashioned. I had a couple at National back in December, raising a few eyebrows among the group I was with.

“That smells like my dad’s liquor cabinet,” said one friend after taking a sniff.

She may have a point, but I really love this cocktail. So, since then, I’ve kept ordering them. Like at Charcut a couple of weeks ago.

Later, out of curiousity, I looked up the recipe and saw how easy they are to make.

So when the cocktail urge struck, I bought a bag of ice, made some simple syrup and stirred myself a drink.

Bourbon Old-Fashioned III

Bourbon Old-Fashioned

Typically, the recipe calls for straight orange, but I happened to have a couple of blood oranges lying around, so I used slices of that. Of course, use what you have on hand. Although I usually have Maker’s Mark, I recently bought a bottle of Buffalo Trace, which I’m enjoying a lot.

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 orange slice
  • splash of soda water
  • ice cubes
  • 2 1/2 fl. oz. bourbon

In a double old-fashioned glass (or, in my case, whatever glass I have lying around that is clean), combine the sugar cube, bitters, orange slice and soda water and muddle together. Add a handful of ice cubes, then the bourbon. Stir well.

Makes 1 drink.

 

Blackberry Gin & Tonic

It is unclear to me when I realized I liked gin.

I remember having some in high school – and we’re well past the statute of limitations on that incident, I’m sure – and not being entirely enamoured with the juniper flavour.

At some point between then and now, however, it’s become my preferred liquor. (Though, admittedly, the brand has changed in the intervening years.) Gin and tonics are now my preferred highball.

Although lime is traditional, I like mine with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Sometimes I add in some rhubarb bitters I found at a small shop in Portland, Ore. But even with these minor tweaks, the recipe is essentially the same.

Every favourite can benefit once in a while from a little change, however, so when I stumbled on this recipe for a Blackberry Gin and Tonic while cruising Serious Eats – an excellent online resource for recipes, cooking tips and, perhaps most important to me, reviews of hamburgers all over the U.S. – I bookmarked it immediately.

Blackberry Gin & Tonic I

The scorching heat over the past weekend that had me wilting in my apartment seemed like the perfect time to give it a try. Gin and tonics are a good way to beat the heat, in my opinion, and adding the juicy, sweet and tart summer flavour of blackberry only adds to that.

With my ice and wee clamshell case of some of the juiciest blackberries I’ve ever seen in the grocery store, I set to work.

While I do have a cocktail shaker and set, I don’t have a muddler – a long-handled, often wooden pestle used by bartenders to pound at fruit and herbs to release their flavours. I’m sure a real bartender would balk, but let me assure you that the back of a large spoon pressed against the inside of the cocktail shaker seemed to do a very nice job squeezing out that deep purple juice from the ripe berries.

A little squeeze of lime, some tonic and a large handful of ice then get all shaken up. (I love watching the shaker fog over from the cold as it’s shaken.)

The resulting liquid is berry bright in the glass, even after the tonic is added.

Blackberry Gin & Tonic IV
(P.S. How sweet are these glasses? My little sister has very good taste.)

It tastes of summer and refreshment and of a welcome change to my old favourite.

Blackberry Gin & Tonic III

Blackberry Gin and Tonic

This recipe comes from Serious Eats.

  • 6 ripe blackberries, plus 2 more for garnish
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup (see Cook’s Note)
  • 1 1/2 oz gin
  • 2 to 3 oz tonic water

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the blackberries and lime juice. Fill with ice and add simple syrup and gin. Shake vigorously for about 10 seconds.

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Double strain into serving glass using a cocktail strainer and its strainer or a mini fine-mesh strainer to prevent the blackberry seeds from going into the glass. Add tonic water and stir gently. Garnish with a few blackberries on a skewer.

Cook’s Note: To make simple syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. Cool before using. It will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to five days.

Edited to add: At a friend’s request, I made these again the weekend this story first appeared in the Calgary Herald. It would be an understatement to say they went over well. This is, hands down, my new favourite summer drink.)

Sidecar

I love a good retro cocktail.

Sidecar III

Though, truth be told, some times I like just about any kind of cocktail. At Milk Tiger Lounge — where, let me tell you, they make a mean cocktail — I’m particularly prone to ordering the Champs-Élysées. Or, uh, several.

Ahem.

And sometimes I’ll order a Sidecar.

Sidecar IV

But, where the Champs-Élysées is made with ingredients I’m unlikely to ever have in my liquor cabinet — yellow chartreuse is a good example — those in the Sidecar are pretty standard: Cointreau, Cognac and lemon juice.

The thing I don’t usually have is, strangely, ice. My freezer sucks all the moisture out of it and leaves tiny, misshapen cubes with a disgusting aftertaste. So, I rarely make shaken cocktails at home, since it seems a bit silly to buy a giant bag of ice for a drink or two and then have it take up valuable space in my freezer. But I had friends over for dinner last weekend and I knew that gin and tonics would be in order and that would mean ice. And that meant some leftover ice. And that meant it was cocktail time.

Enter the Sidecar.

It’s tart, yet sweet, citrusy and smooth.

And it goes down dangerously easy. Please consider yourself warned.

Sidecar I

Sidecar II

Sidecar

  • 3/4 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 1/4 ounces Cognac
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice
  • sugar and additional lemon juice for sugaring the rim

Rub the rim of the glass with lemon juice and then dip in sugar.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add the Cointreau, Cognac and lemon juice. Shake well and strain into prepared glass.

 

Juice of a Few Flowers

Last year was one of celebrations: plenty of new babies and a wedding or two.

That, inevitably, meant many a shower.

Some involved sipping tea out of dainty china cups, others a glass of wine or two, perhaps a tipple of Champagne.

This year is gearing up to be slightly slower showerwise. No weddings on the calendar and only a few friends expecting to add to their families.

Which is too bad, because I’ve just discovered a lovely multi-purpose cocktail.

Juice of a Few Flowers

It’s a drink with a tart citrus punch and a nice kick of vodka. An ice-cold glass, a sugared rim, a sprig of mint.

It’s downright civilized.

So, it’s no surprise then that Juice of a Few Flowers was apparently created in the 1920s by a couple said to give glamorous parties in the East Hamptons.

The original version used gin, but Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, in her book Back to Basics (Clarkson Potter, $40), has updated the recipe to use vodka.

She notes, though, Gerald Murphy often mixed up the drink without alcohol, pouring it into martini glasses and serving them to the children.

And that makes it a great mocktail for mothers-to-be.

Shower guests and the guest of honour can all sip (relatively) the same thing.

With puckery grapefruit and tart lemon and lime juices, this drink could head toward sour territory, but it’s mellowed by the addition of sweet orange juice, then tempered further with the sugared rim.

Shaken until ice cold (freeze the martini glasses in advance to keep it even further chilled), the drink is smooth and oh-so sippable.

So much so that I don’t think I’ll be waiting for a shower or other celebration to be pulling out this recipe again.

Citrus

Juice of a Few Flowers II

Juice of a Few Flowers

Ina Garten notes if your juicer doesn’t strain the juice, use a sieve to remove the pulp, otherwise it will clog the holes of the cocktail shaker.

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice (1 grapefruit)
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) vodka
  • extra lemon juice
  • granulated sugar
  • fresh mint sprigs

Combine the orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, lime juice and vodka in a pitcher.

Dip the rims of 4 martini glasses first in a dish of lemon juice and then in a dish with sugar. Set aside to dry.

Pour the cocktail mix into the glasses, garnish with mint and serve.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.

Foxy Lady Rhubarb Cocktails

Some of you may have noticed I have a new header. It had long irked me that in the back of the original photo, I could see a chair leg and a box. I’m sure no one else really noticed, but I did. So, when the uber talented Leah Hennel (a friend and photographer with the Herald; check out her website) asked to do a 1940s-style, black and white shoot with me, I asked in return if she would be willing to reshoot my masthead. I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Looks cleaner, neater and the reds pop way more. I’d love to know what everyone thinks!

I’ve included one of her b&w shots of me below the recipe if anyone is curious. Plus, I had her take a new shot for my “What It’s All About” page, which you can see here.

(One last note: the new header has nothing to do with the catty remarks I wrote about in this post. You will note that my “pleasantly plump” calves, red shoes and red bowl are still very much key elements in the masthead. Because that’s the way I like it.)

Last fall, I drove home to the West Coast for three weeks to chill out with family and friends and take a small side trip to Long Beach. As part of that, I stopped over on Galiano Island for a night to hang out with my grandparents, who have lived on the island for almost as long as I can remember. My grandmother is an amazing gardener and cook. And, man, she knows a good cocktail.

In the late afternoon sunshine, we sat out on the back deck, surveying the expanse of grass, the pond and outbuildings while sipping rhubarb-vodka cocktails. It tasted just like summer. The sour-sweet of rhubarb, bite of vodka and soda fizz was perfection. I had two.

Foxy Lady Rhubarb Cocktail II

So, after I left I found myself thinking often of these cocktails and that early fall afternoon. When rhubarb reappeared at the farmer’s market this spring, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

The beauty of making rhubarb syrup is that you get the gorgeous pink syrup for drinks and the stewed fruit left behind is equally delicious. I like it over plain yogurt, but did indulge once or twice in having it with a healthy dollop of whipped cream.

I also made extra syrup for a pregnant friend. Just mixed with soda, it’s a great mocktail for the summer season.

You may wonder about the name of the drink. My grandmother’s nickname (for which I have no explanation) is Foxy Lady. It only seemed right to name the drink after her.

Rhubarb

Sliced Rhubarb

Stewed rhubarb

Draining the rhubarb

Rhubarb Syrup

Rhubarb and yogurt

Foxy Lady Rhubarb Cocktail

Rhubarb Syrup

  • 4 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup water
  • Sugar to taste (up to 1 cup, depending on how sour the rhubarb is)

In a saucepan, bring rhubarb and water to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the fruit is soft and the liquid is pink and slightly syrup-like. Add sugar and stir. I started with 1/2 cup. Let it dissolve for a minute and then taste the syrup. Add more sugar if desired. I wouldn’t go much more than a cup, though because rhubarb should be a little tart.

Using a fine strainer set over a bowl, separate the solid rhubarb from the syrup. Let sit for 10 minutes or so to fully drain the rhubarb. Pour the syrup into a container and refrigerate. Scoop the stewed fruit into a separate container and refrigerate.

The stewed fruit is fantastic over plain yogurt or ice cream or topped with a dollop or two of sweetened whipped cream.

Foxy Lady Rhubarb Cocktails

  • 1 part vodka
  • 2-3 parts rhubarb syrup
  • 1 part soda water

In a tall glass, mix together the vodka and syrup. Top with soda and a couple of ice cubes. Stir gently. Serve.

This also makes a fantastic mocktail if you just omit the vodka.

B&W shot by Leah Hennel

Whiskey Sours

I drank my first Whiskey Sour at the behest of my friend Julie who had spent two years in Ireland where she developed a taste for the amber liquor. That tall drink sipped in the plush lounge of the Four Seasons in Vancouver (two nights of luxury while on assignment in my hometown. L’Occitaine products in the bathroom, three soft pillows on the bed and turn-down service; this is exactly why I never stay at hostels) sparked what would become a several-year quest to find the perfect replica.

There is something deliciously retro about a Whiskey Sour. Makes me want to sing Danke Schoen while prancing around in heels and a frilly, white apron. (And a dress, people, what kind of blog do you think this is?)

I’ve had pitiful recreations at some bars where the bartender believes mixing whiskey and lime-ade will fulfill the need. May I just say, No. No. No. No.

The ingredients

It seems the secret is to have one at a hotel bar and every time I’ve done this, it has been successful. Still, I wanted to give them a try at home, so I was ecstatic when the Barefoot Contessa included a recipe in her latest book, Barefoot Contessa at Home. Her recipe calls specifically for Jack Daniel’s and who am I to doubt Ina? But when I made a batch, I didn’t love them and I wondered if perhaps I wasn’t as enchanted with Whiskey Sours as I once had been.

But I was determined to make them for my pre-blog launch on Saturday night. (And then I got impatient, launched the blog and made it a post-launch.) Another friend kindly offered to donate a half bottle of Gibson’s Whiskey that she had lying around and didn’t think she’d drink on her own, so I decided to make it what that.

I nearly got a hand cramp from reaming the eight limes and six lemons required to make two cups of fresh-squeezed citrus and I was very grateful I had no paper cuts. But it was beyond worth it. Once combined with the sugar syrup and the smooth whiskey, these drinks were fantastic. I think my guests and I made it through the entire batch in the first 30 minutes of the party.

The Aftermath

For the record, I didn’t bother with the cocktail shaker step because I made a pitcher of them and had kept everything in the fridge until just before serving. No one seemed to mind, but I bet ice cold would be even better. In fact, writing about this is tempting me to go squeeze out the rest of the lemons and limes in the fridge for another round.

The recipe comes from Barefoot Contessa at Home.

Fresh Whiskey Sours

  • 3/4 cup Whiskey (use what you like, though my friend Julie — to whom I turn for all things Whiskey — recommends Jameson or Bushmills.)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 limes)
  • 2/3 cup sugar syrup

Combine the whiskey, lemon juice, lime juice and syrup. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and fill two-thirds full with the cocktail mixture. Shake for 30 seconds and pour into glasses. Add a maraschino cherry and serve ice cold.

Note: To make sugar syrup, put 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Chill thoroughly before using.

Serves four (apparently).

Whiskey Sours