Frozen Daiquiris

The Daiquiri is a foundation for a huge number of cocktails, referred to at times as the Caribbean Trinity of rum, lime and sugar, originally named after a beach east of Santiago, Cuba just before the Spanish-American War.  Although lime, sugar and rum have been mixed long before throughout the Caribbean, the specific proportions in the recipe came together at this time.  It is one of my favorites, relying on the quality of the rum, and freshly squeezed limes.  Sweet frozen daiquiri drinkers may not realize how their favorite drink does not need to come out of a bottle of swill (AKA mix).  If you are reading this and normally buy a bottle of mix for any flavored daiquiri, please understand – nothing in that bottle is pure, and likely isn’t even real – that is to say no fruit – no lime juice, and sweeter than a fistful of candy bars.

I read an interesting story about the Strawberry Daiquiri (1863), Christian Zacharias haphazardly threw together the first Strawberry Daiquiri from his wife’s strawberry patch for a party during the American Civil War. The recipe would have been lost if not for a Confederate spy named James Welty, whose codename was Daiquiri.  He failed to remember vital intelligence concerning Union troop positions before the battle of Gettysburg due to too much of the strawberry overindulgence, leaving General Lee blind in his advancements. After the backbreaking battle was lost, General Lee’s only response to Welty was:  “Gettysburg, the war, all lost because of strawberries, Daiquiri?”

There is a reason for frozen drinks, why creating ice so densely fine is a tool for consuming alcohol – chilling liquid, adding air and texture, possibly opening up flavors, watering down the power of alcohol, as well as slowing the consumption of a powerful drink.  For example, if Zombies, and all the rum therein, were instead strained over ice, I would face-plant into oblivion in record speed, maybe not after one, or two, but far quicker than I would hope.  After all, no more than two Zombies were served to a customer in a Don the Beachcombers, where the drink was invented.  Crushed ice, or shaved ice is used to slow the transition, and thereby enjoying the drink longer.

With that said, I have not been a fan of frozen daiquiris for the reason of  peculiarly sweet packets or bottled mixers.  Fruity daiquiris have been mutilated with too much sugar, too many other ingredients, many times too much ice, the wrong rums, or worst of all – not enough rum.  I wanted to bring out the best flavors, and avoid the useless ones, excluding too much slush to sap the flavor out of the experience, not merely using any light rum, but mixing more than one kind for complexity.  Another main goal, and the reason for this post, I wanted to find the balance between drink and ice.

If strawberries are not in season, use frozen, but use no more than 3/4 the amount – still using fresh to breathe life into the flavor.  I tried purely frozen strawberries, and thought they were sweet, but felt they needed the freshness of even a tart, out of season strawberry. The genuine thrill of freshness never fails the taste buds, even sparingly offered.  The only banana I insist using is the level of ripeness reserved for cooking, such as banana bread, or banana cream pie.  Brown dots?  Not ripe enough.  Brown blotches?  Getting close.  If the banana is mostly brown, that is good enough.  If you can, wait until the banana has turned completely brown.  I’m talking about how much flavor this fruit will bring, the riper the banana – the more the banana will sweeten.  If you think they look disgusting, imagine how sweet they will taste in a drink.  If I’m going to eat a banana, I like a few freckles because I like flavor over texture.  For garnishing, I prefer a green-stemmed banana (I waited too long for my garnish banana…sticking a clove over a brown spot).

Since the Daiquiri is a Cuban drink, I wanted to use Cuban-styled rums.  I have not been able to purchase any Havana Club unfortunately, whose family stayed in Cuba, the brand I would choose if the embargo were not in place.  Some good rums got out though:  The family who created Bacardi escaped Castro, as did the family of the Matusalem brand of rum (Matusalem distills in the Dominican Republic, and Bacardi in Puerto Rico).  The venerable Beachbum suggests Plantation 3 Stars rum, which tastes delightful.  In the banana drink, I included Coruba dark rum, which is not Cuban, but Jamaican, for its sweet dark brown sugar flavor in the banana daiquiri, rather than a molasses flavor of other dark rums, and felt it blended remarkably well with the sweetness of Matusalem.

strawberry daiquiri2

 

Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri
2 oz Bacardi Silver
2 oz Matusalem Platino
4 cups fresh strawberries, cleaned & halved (if not in season 
  use 3 frozen & 1 fresh)
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup (to taste - double for truly sweet drink)
3/4 oz cream 
6 oz shaved ice (to taste) 
1 strawberry, mini lime wedge, mounding tsp whipped cream for 
  garnish

In a blender combine rum, strawberries, lime juice, syrup, cream and ice and blend until strawberry is thoroughly combined.  Garnish:  Clean and hull a strawberry, fill with whipped cream, garnish your garnish with a tiny triangle of lime.  Serves two.

banana daiquiri2

Frozen Banana Daiquiri
4 1/2 oz Matusalem Platino
1 1/2 oz Coruba
4 extra ripe bananas, in pieces (passed the brown dot phase)
1 oz fresh lime juice 
3/4 oz simple syrup (to taste)
3/4 oz cream 
6 oz crushed ice
1/2 banana, cherry and clove for garnish

Blend all ingredients except ice in blender until smooth, creamy and firm.  Stir in shaved ice until preferred texture.  Garnish with dolphin banana with rinsed and dried cherry in its mouth, inserting a positioned clove for an eye.  If you feel the need for fins, slit a spot for a trimmed lemon peel, or pineapple leaf, or even shaping your fin from an Anna’s cookie.  It’s all for fun anyway, right?  Serves 4…only once, and then you’ll have to make another pitcher.

If you prefer to make banana daiquiris for two, here is the recipe for nearly half the amount, not strictly cutting the ingredient amounts in half.

2 oz Matusalem Platino
3/4 oz Coruba
2 very ripe bananas, in pieces
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup (to taste)
1/2 oz cream
3 oz crushed ice

Note:  Do you not own a blender, or are between blenders because your old one died?  An ice shaver works perfectly well, not to say it replaces a blender, but focusses on just the ice to scoop in after the ingredients have been pureed in a food processor, or muddled (both of which I have tried).

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Autumn at last!

Regarding the temperate climate, with broadleaf trees changing color seasonally, there is a charisma in the air, an inspiration, a profound unveiling of the inner self where breathing the cooler air and seeing the astonishing colors of the leaves reminds me of my genuine reflection.  I am not at peace.  Yet, this season brings a quiet in my heart I have waited for since last year.  Autumn is a journey of exploration, and all the realms entirely within myself.  Nature is on the move.  When it first arrives, it is as if it is an accident – that stunningly chilly morning.  Refreshing, on the other hand unnerving and disturbing, almost as if something is wrong.  Turns out it is good jacket weather, and time to eat some apples, and anything with them in it.

If you read my Apple Season cocktail from last year, I made a similar cocktail, again inspired by apples.  The first difference with this one is with the rum, using three rums instead a single rum and Applejack combination.  Not that all daiquiris require Cuban style rums, I wanted that flavor attention.  The Bajan rum spices the Matusalem, not as a spiced rum would, but in the same way salt enhances the richness in a dessert.  And the dark Coruba adds a lovely brown sugar flavor, rather than molasses.  Instead of just lime juice, I wanted to incorporate more flavor from the oils from the lime peal in the muddling, as well as the unique blending with the sweetness of the lemon peal.  Then, the amounts of cider and cider syrup** are increased to make a larger and sweeter drink.  I also wanted to change the bitters, feeling Regan’s orange bitters would give a better impression than the savory Angostura, particularly with both lemon and lime.  My first apple cocktail was a more refined drink, and needed double-straining, floating a delicately thin slice of apple to float.  The Autumn Daiquiri is a bit more playful, not only with flavors, but the unstrained salad-effect.

Autumn Daiquiri

Autumn Daiquiri
1 oz Matusalem Gran Reserva
1/2 oz Mount gay Eclipse
1/2 oz Coruba dark
1/2 lime (chopped)
1/4 lemon (chopped)
3/4 oz apple cider syrup**
2 1/2 oz apple cider
1/4 sweet apple (chopped)
2 dashes Regans' Orange Bitters No.6

Muddle lemon, lime, apple, syrup & bitters.  Add rest & shake hard with ice.  Pour unstrained into chilled old-fashioned glass (or collins glass).  Garnish with a hearty apple wedge.

**Apple Cider Syrup
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 cup apple cider
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Simmer just below boil for few minutes to reduce slightly, stirring regularly.  Take off heat and let stand until room temp.  This will taste better the next day, but ready to eat right now with your pancakes…or aebleskivers…or Swedish coffee bread.

From Mars with Curiosity

Doesn’t it look like you could walk here, like it isn’t 171,156,808 miles away (and growing more distant every second according to a real-time distance calculator)?

Reading the news online, having not nearly as much interest as I wanted, I heard they sent another mobile probe to Mars.  It was good to hear the word NASA again for some reason.  Yet it was the pictures sent back from the red planet that genuinely caught me.  This was right before the olympics, I think, and hearing a joke that it took what…16 minutes for images to get here from Mars – but video from London taking 6 hours.  There was one image in particular, not blurry, not pixellated, not of a landscape stuck in a crater, but a crystal clear horizon with a mountain, and a familiarizing shadow of the rover to compliment the privilege of seeing another planet.  I stared at the image for a while, taking myself there – no, bringing it to me.  I imagined walking there, like I was hiking a barren desert (I really like hiking in deserts – that is when I can get to one).

Images are from NASA – there are lots more.

Then came the color, more images sent home of landscapes and views from Curiosity’s camera, whether including parts of itself in the view or not.  This also helped shape how I wanted to build my drink.  It can’t be a bright red drink.  Mars is not bright red, or not as red as some of the from-space images I’ve seen.  Yet again I stared.

It was so easy to take in, and before I knew it, I forgot how difficult it was to bring this image to my eyes.  How many millions of dollars?  How much time planning it, building it, and finally sending it?  How many people invested? How hard was it to send this incredible machine to another planet?  How hard was it to make this incredible machine send this image to Earth?  Here’s to the Mars Rover Curiosity, or to all who had a hand in her triumphs.

The Mars Rover Curiosity
1 oz Mount Gay Eclipse
1/2 oz Rhum Barbancourt White
1/2 oz Lemon Hart 151
1/2 a lime (cut into 6-8 pieces)
3/4 oz ruby red grapefruit juice
1/2 oz blood orange juice
1 level bar spoon brown sugar 
1/4 oz falernum
1/2 oz Cherry Heering
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters
freshly grated nutmeg

Muddle lime  & brown sugar.  Add rest of ingredients, shake with equal amount of crushed ice (around 3/4 cup).  Pour unstrained into chilled double old fashioned glass, or big enough cocktail glass.  With a fine grater, dust lightly with nutmeg.  Garnish with a wedge of ruby red grapefruit with 2 cherries skewered, and a sprig of mint, to look like the rover (kind of) coming over the rim of the glass, just as unstoppable as your thirst.  I also added a slice of carambola, AKA star fruit – I thought appropriate.

Since this is summer, there aren’t any blood oranges around.  They are almost always limited to the season, whereas regular oranges are more prolific and abundant.  For those who have not heard of the blood orange, please don’t panic – it is citrus only, just like any other citrus.  If you don’t believe me, check out some of the True Blood cocktail recipes.  Or, if you prefer it out of the bottle, HBO describes their True Blood version as “…a delicious blood orange carbonated drink inspired by Bill’s favorite synthetic blood nourishment beverage.”  I found blood orange juice in the supermarket, hopefully just as easy to find for you too.  If you don’t have nutmeg seeds, or cannot find any easily, it might lightly roast ground nutmeg in a fry pan to wake up the flavor and aroma (I’m just talking about for 20-30 seconds – you’ll smell when it’s done).

If you don’t have Rhum Barbancourt, another agricole will work.  Light Bacardi could replace it, even though it does not resemble the flavor.  Also, Lemon Hart can be replaced with another demerara; but since it is overproof – add twice the amount of your 80 proof to equal the attempted flavor.  I would however highly recommend getting a bottle of Mount Gay, not merely because it is one of my favorite rums, but is easily available, and flexible in a great many drinks.

Some might consider this a sour drink, or at least very tangy.  As with all drinks, if you prefer more sweetness, make it the way you want it.  I’ve tried to balance the sweet and sour, but understand not everybody likes sharp contrasts of citrus over the other fruit flavors.  Since I ask for brown sugar, it might be better to up the sweetness with simple syrup instead so not to overpower with molassesness.  I like molasses flavor, but thought only a little was important when mixing with the other enhancements.  Regardless, this is a sipping drink, thanks in part by the tool of crushed ice to slow you down (I respect it as a tool, instead of straining it).  When I sip on a drink, I reflect.  And reflecting is the point of this drink, reflecting on the reason I made it, of a far away place brought closer.

Lujoso Mojito

Mojitos in the summertime…mmm…refreshing and invigorating.  In Beachbum Berry’s book Remixed (yeah – I really like what the man has offered the world), he made a rendition of the drink, calling it a Frohito.  I thoroughly enjoyed that drink, and appreciated the mint syrup aspect of it.  I have nothing against the Mojito, and will continue to drink them without reservation.  The Bum’s idea tasted almost the same, but smoother, friendlier, and since it’s frozen – slower going down (I normally drink Mojitos on the rocks).  I enjoy making flavored syrups, or if your prefer “infused simple syrups”, and like how a syrup can pack flavor in, while softening the flavor as well.  After trying the Frohito, I thought, “What about a lime syrup too?”  I also wanted a more Cuban style rum, as the last change to his recipe.

Making these syrups is more work than you may intend.  However, making syrups are just as rewarding as drinking them, at least in my opinion.  If you do not agree, there are mint syrups and lime syrups for purchase.  No big deal.  It might go without saying a homemade version will taste better, and the only preservative is vodka.  Something else to keep in mind, if you are making more drinks, and have no intension of storing these syrups (or any syrups), there is no need to add vodka, since its only use is preservation.

Lujoso Mojito
4 oz Bacardi light rum (or Matusalem - one of my favorites)
1 oz lime syrup*
1 oz mint syrup**
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
18 oz crushed ice (2 1/4 cups)

Pour 1/4 oz mint syrup into 2 chilled glasses, each.  Blend rum, lime juice, lime syrup and ice until frappéd. Gently pour (pile…it’s got to be thick) equal amounts of slush into each glass.  Top each drink with 1/4 oz mint syrup.  Garnish with small mint sprig and lime wheel.

*Lime syrup
1 cup sugar
5 oz water
3 oz fresh lime juice
peal of 1/2 of a lime (one piece - no white, which is sour)
cap-full of vodka

First, you need to set up the ingredients, then you can drink.  Peel the lime, since it is difficult after the lime is squeezed.  I know I said in the ingredients half a lime’s peal, and making it one piece.  I guess I live in Utopia, but try your best.  Sometimes pealing in a zig-zag pattern works…sometimes.  Regardless, two whole pieces are fine, or even three.  My point is not to grate the peal – keeping as solid of a surface area as possible.  Bring water and juice to a slow boil (slowly).  Add sugar and peal, and slow boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  I may not understand this, but I rapid boiling might be too high of a temperature.  Take pan off heat, keep stirring until sugar dissolves.  Cover, let sit for 1 hour.  Uncover, remove peel, and let cool.  Strain through a fine-meshed sieve.  Bottle, adding a cap-full of vodka, gently stirring in to incorporate, or stir in the vodka before bottling – whichever is easiest.  Store in the refrigerator.  May keep up to 3 weeks.  As with all syrups, keep a close eye on them for any change.

It’s so dark you can’t see light through it. Mmm…I can’t wait!

**Mint syrup
8 oz mint leaves (tightly packed, washed, stems discarded)
water
3 oz simple syrup
cap-full of vodka

The most time-consuming part of making mint syrup.

Wash 2 bunches of mint in cold water, stripping leaves from stems, discard the stems.  Tightly pack leaves into an 8-ounce cup, empty into a pan filled half way with rapidly boiling water.

You’ll really like the smell of this.

After 5 seconds or so, when the leaves wilt and vibrantly turn green, swiftly strain the leaves.

I bought one bottle at the store because it’s a good-sized bottle. Ever since I have made my own simple syrup, which is a huge savings for one, and better tasting.

Blend with 3 oz of simple syrup until completely liquified, scraping the insides of the blender to get every tidbit chewn.

Don’t you hate when this happens?

With a fine-meshed sieve, strain by pressing down to get as much syrup possible.  Toss the solids.

Seriously, try to get every drop

Stir in a cap-full of vodka, and bottle.  Store in the fridge.  You should get 3 ounces of lovely deep green mint syrup, and can drink off that for maybe 2 weeks.  But even with the preserving vodka, keep an eye on it.  Without vodka, it’d last only a few days (I got this recipe from Beachbum Berry, in his book Remixed.  Yet in the instructions to this, he said he adapted it from a 2003 recipe from one of Martha Stewart’s magazines.  When I searched for it to see how different, I found an updated recipe in Martha Stewart Living, May 2010, which looks closer to this.  I don’t want to get into trouble, nor from Mr. Berry for that matter).

{Okay, for clarification, yes, I said “chewn.” As in the verb “hewn” is the past participle of “hew”. I prefer not to say chewed. “Chewn” exists, but is not recognized, that is not by any other source than the Urban Dictionary. If I don’t agree with the spelling of a word, I change it in hopes it’ll catch on with popularity. After all, American English alters constantly according to what is commonly spoken. For example, I won’t ever pronounce it “wheelbarrow” – it’s always been a “wheelbarrel.”  To me at least, and understandably i might be the only one thinking this way: Chew is an irregular verb.}

Especially after making infused syrups for a couple of hours, this tasted that much better.

As you can see, this recipe is for 2 glasses.  Making one is possible by halving the ingredients, yet is so much more friendly if including someone else you care about.  Understandably sweeter than the mojito you might be used to, this drink simply seems more refreshing, whether due to its smoothness from the shaved ice, or a trick played from not using citrus juice and raw vegetation.  When first trying this, I did not have the 1/2 oz of lime juice in the recipe.  My lovely wife, who normally, if not always, preferring sweeter drinks to mine even said she wanted a little more lime flavor, but no more lime syrup with how sweet it already was.  After stirring in a 1/4 oz of lime juice to each glass, it evened the score and made it a better drink.  If you’re slow-grilling for 3 hours, enjoying a hot weekend get-together, or imagining a trip to an island in the Spanish Caribbean, frappé some of these up and make your relationships stronger.  And something I should say with every alcoholic recipe – please drink responsibly.

At the Piña…Piña Colada – the coldest drink south of Ottowa (I know…sorry Barry)

There’s a great argument when, where and who invented the piña colada, so either without offending anyone or accidentally getting the facts wrong, I’m going to leave this point alone.  The important thing is to enjoy the drink, and making it the way you like it.  After all, you never know what you’re going to get with someone else making it.  With that said, it was a restaurant that taught me to pay attention to the piña colada’s ingredients in a new way.  Bahama Breeze was a place we used to go when living in Arizona, a great place I wish would come to my home town.  Anyway, they served a fantastic piña colada, and used Myers’s dark rum, which was the key ingredient, and what I feel is the cornerstone ingredient in any piña colada, or at least a dark rum for special flavoring.

My wife is a big piña colada fan.  As a loving husband, it is my duty to try to make her happy, and fun to do when getting it right.  For a long time I have gotten close to a good recipe for her, but fell short of getting precisely what she wanted.  In a way I was shooting for that Bahama Breeze piña colada, and continue to search for the perfect piña colada for her, both with my own experiments and hunting or other’s recipes.  There are two recipes I experimented into, which I labeled below as Piña Colada #1 & Piña Colada #2, one with more elaborate ingredients, and another with far less mixed together.  #2 is both quick and surprisingly close enough to an ideal piña colada taste.

I used to drink Malibu rum, that is the coconut rum, and felt completely content for my coconut needs.  Then I happened across the Cruzan line, who opened my eyes to what I truly preferred in a coconut rum.  And it was here where I learned how the Piña Colada #2 could work so easily, and enjoyably.  The Malibu simply could not mix the same way with pineapple juice, or the chemistry of Cruzan Coconut blended more thoroughly.  I don’t know if it’s a chemistry thing, or a palate thing.  Regardless, we made the change in rum brands, and started drinking more piña coladas.

The first two recipes are ongoing taste tests, recipes I hope to get right, but feel I am pretty close.  They are going for a more complex grouping of flavors, while the second two remain more simplified, and closer to the original idea of the drink.  I enjoy mixing rums together, to see what they do, how they play out a story, or if they fight and try to steal the show.  The first drink will be extremely friendly, soothing in smoothness, and more laid back in the shade on a hot sunny day on the beach.  the second I feel is more of a night drink, meant to be taken more seriously and appreciated after a good meal (or during as well).

Okay, whether you like your piña colada frozen or on the rocks, I’m describing how to make it shaken, and poured over ice.  That’s the way I prefer the drink, and how my wife prefers it.  I’m not saying I’m above frozen drinks, or anything like that.  So to each their own, and I salute you for considering other options but sticking to the way you like the drink best.  Also, some people like theirs creamy, and some don’t.  So I’ve added cream to each of the recipes as optional.  I recently tried Coco López brand coconut cream, reading many reviews and comparisons, and found it superior to what I normally stocked my bar with, Real Coco.  They both have great coconut flavoring, but the López for some reason seemed more creamy.  If you have Real Coco, your drink will taste just as good.  And finally, a note on “floating” – some like to float a dark rum on top.  My recipes have you mixing it all in to taste the same flavor from top to bottom.  But that’s just me.

Number One
1 1/2 oz Mount Gay Eclipse Silver
1/2 oz Matusalem Gran Reserva
4 oz pineapple juice
3/4 oz coconut cream (I used Coco López)
1/4 oz cream (optional)
1/4 oz Myers's dark

Shake with lots of ice to get it good and cold.  Strain into a chilled glass, and if you can – use a piña colada glass.  I recently got a good deal on a set, so I don’t stray from the fun.  Garnish with a pineapple chunk and cherry (not only the food of your drink, but the aroma really helps).

Or for a heartier version:

Number Two
1 1/2 oz Bacardi Superior
1/2 oz Ronrico gold
4 oz pineapple juice
3/4 oz coconut cream
1/4 oz cream (optional)
1/8 oz Lemon Hart overproof

Shake with lots of ice.  Strain into a chilled glass.  Garnish with a pineapple chunk and cherry.

For a more Jamaican style:

Number Three
1 1/2 oz Appleton
5 oz pineapple juice
3/4 oz coconut cream
1/4 oz cream (optional)
1/4 oz Myers's dark

Shake with lots of ice.  Strain into a chilled glass.  Garnish with a pineapple chunk and cherry.

And one in a jiffy:

Number Four
2 oz Cruzan Coconut
5 oz pineapple juice
1/2 oz cream (optional)

Shake with lots of ice.  Strain into a chilled glass.  No need for a garnish, but if you want, a cherry will suffice.

When it comes down to it, a piña colada is three ingredients:  Rum, pineapple and coconut.  I was simply adding ideas to the original idea , hoping each drink remains balanced as what was first inspired.  Sorry I didn’t have any pineapple for the garnish.  It really makes a difference.

My wife and I had a taste test.  For those who are interested this is how they ranked:

I ranked them 1, 3, 4, 2                  My wife ranked them 1, 4, 3, 2