Longans and Cocktails

Longan Ginger Cocktail Two separate thoughts drove tonight’s cocktail creation session. The first was “Damn, these longans are delicious,” the other, in a total non-sequitur, was “I should have more cocktails on this blog.”

The cocktail thought has been coming for a while. Drinking and eating go hand in hand and when I’m doing one, I’m often doing the other, so a blog about what I eat has seemed incomplete without also discussing what I drink. As I’ve thought more about what I’m drinking, I’ve spent more time creating cocktails.

The longans, a small southeast Asian fruit somewhat similar to a lychee, came to be because they are incredibly delicious. So delicious that I had picked up a ten dollar net bag of them and am currently rushing to get through them for fear they will rot before I do. Nothing this delicious deserves to go bad. That said, there’s a lot of them still to go through and they’re somewhat time consuming to take apart in order to eat. Or drink.

To get to the sweet, complicated flavor of the longan’s meat, one must first peel away the skin, a thin but tough layer, requiring piercing with something preferably better than your fingernail. I broke a nail using my fingernail to do it. The skin will peel away fairly easily after that, as it is not really attached to fruit itself. Once you’re done with that however, you must remove the small, smooth pit from the center, which is partially attached to the fruit. If you’re popping them in your mouth, it is easiest to just eat them whole and spit the pits out. When using them in cocktails, these too must be removed before starting the drink.

For each of our drinks we muddled a handful of longans with the alcohol, usually about 5 of them.

The house favorite was actually the first drink we made, the one pictured above, though all three were fairly delicious and I would (and will) make them again!

Longan Ginger Ale (Pictured)

Novo Fogo Silver (or other) Cachaca
Ginger ale

Muddle the longans with a 1.5 oz of cahcaca and strain into a glass, over ice. Top it off with an equal amount of ginger ale, garnish with another longan and you’re all set.

Whiskey Longan

Jim Beam or similar whiskey
Angostura or similar bitters

Muddle the longans with 2 ounces of the whiskey, adding a splash of the grenadine and a dash of the bitters. Strain and serve up.

Long-gin and Juice
Sorry. I tried to resist making up stupid names for them for as long as possible. I love stupid names though. This cocktail was also the most surprising and complex, so I’m a little proud of it.

Gin (we used Hendrick’s)
Vermouth (We used Dolin Blanc)
Bitters (Angostura)

In this drink, we muddled the longans with the gin and vermouth, poured it over crushed ice and then added a very heavy handed dash of bitters.

What other drinks would be good with longans? What other strange fruits or other items would be good in drinks?


Gin Class: Learning to love a new spirit, and a contest

“No” B said definitely on the phone when I asked if he wanted to attend a free gin class with me that night. I was taken aback by this sudden change of heart–usually he can be bribed anywhere with the thought of free booze. I had emailed him, but when he called I thought I’d bring it up. The phone rang again, seconds later after he had seen the email: “GIN class? I thought you said GYM class,” I sighed in relief that my boyfriend had not been kidnapped by alcohol hating aliens.

Hendrick's Gin Gimlet

If you are a gin lover, you can stop reading right now. As I understand it, gin aficionados don’t like Hendrick’s, by whom the class was sponsored. Also, this post is the story of me learning to appreciate a new beverage, and encouraging others in the anti-gin coalition to give it a shot. If you already like gin, you don’t need encouraging. On the other hand, if you’re like me and think most gin and gin based cocktails leave you with that feeling that you just got lost on the way to the bar and ended up in Grandma’s perfume drawer, then this is for you.

The class was sponsored, as I said, by Hendrick’s Gin. Much like their branding, which I was exposed to a lot of that night, it was fun, light-hearted and educational. Side note? I heart their branding. Check out their website. At the end of class we got ‘Field Guides’ to Hendrick’s Gin. It’s hilarious, informative and full of cool facts, amusing anecdotes and cocktails that I want to drink. Right now.  Since I ended up with an extra copy of Hendricks’ Field Guide, I’m giving it away to the best gin-related story, comment or cocktail that gets left in the comments by December 1st.

Back to class, where we learned to make a traditional gimlet as well two other twists on the drink. It wasn’t really the actual cocktail that was so informative–to be honest, I don’t remember the ratios that we learned. But I do remember learning the appropriate way to hold (perpendicular to and over your dominant shoulder), shake (front to back, like a piston) and open (a well placed thump to the side) a Boston shaker. I don’t remember how much St. Germain we put into the gimlet that was my favorite, but I do remember learning why the St. Germain worked so well in the cocktail:

Hendrick's Gin Aromatics

This is a chart of the botanicals that are involved in the flavoring of Hendrick’s Gin. By pairing up the additional flavors of the gimlet–or whichever cocktail of choice is being made–with these botanicals, the cocktail becomes this little microcosm of flavors that all hold hands and sing ‘We are the World’. What? Have I been drinking too much of that gin? Let me explain. So the Hendrick’s is in this gimlet with the St. Germain. St. Germain is an elderflower liquor, so the elderflower matches up with the same botanical in the gin, and all of a sudden, it becomes this vaguely sweet, completely mild and smooth, but intensely elderflower-ish cocktail. Another variation played a similar trick using orange bitters to go with the orange peels in the botanicals. I like elderflower better, so I wasn’t as big of a fan of the citrus version, but given the eleven options for botanicals shown in the picture here, I could dream up ideas for a while. Indian themed cocktails with coriander? Tea based cocktails with Chamomile? The mind boggles…

Somewhere in the course of the class my mindset about gin began to change. No longer were the botanical flavors the enemy, blocking the path to good, clean fun–er–beverages. Instead, they are now my jumping off point for creating any number of unique cocktails. My personality tends to lead me to want to attack disagreeable flavors–to overpower them, like with a dirty martini-I’d rather taste briney olive juice than bad vodka. My biggest takeaway from the class was to do the opposite. Find the flavor I do like, embrace it, nurture it, cradle it and let it grow up to be a full cocktail flavor.

Beat the Heat: Where to Eat

Can’t think. Must type blog deliriously in heat. Must babble top 5 things to eat (and how to eat them) in Seattle during ridiculous heat invasion!

1) Sichuan Boiled Fish from Sichuanese Cuisine (or anywhere else that serves this awesome dish: 7 Stars, Chiang’s, many more). Hot, spicy peppers, soft flaky fish, this dish is delicious anytime of the year, but in the hot weather it feels especially good to sweat out the heat–it is your body’s natural cooling system anyways.

Sichuanese Cuisine on Superpages.com

2) Ezell’s Fried Chicken because nothing says a picnic on the beach like fried chicken. Yup, that was hot days in high school for us, pick up chicken, drive down to Leschi beach, enjoy.

Ezell’s Fried Chicken on Superpages.com

3) Happy Hour on the deck at Maximilien’s. Yes, there are millions of decks in town, including others with better food, better drinks, better just about anything–except views. The food is pretty good, lots of classic French options like cheese plates that are great for snacking in the sun, and your own personal bucket of Stella Artois so you don’t have to flag the waiter for your next cold one ($15 for 6, kept cool on ice at the table).

Maximilien on Superpages.com

4) Jack’s Mainly Chinese Tapas. Okay, I know, Chinese food 2 times. But this is a whole different brand and they have a cold cuts platter and a great cold noodle dish and an even more amazing dish that I tried for the first time this weekend which includes sour napa cabbage, jalapenos, cilantro, ginger and bean thread noodles.

Jack’s Tapas Cafe on Superpages.com

5) Cactus in Madison Park for mojitos–with a caveat. The key here is that you rent a canoe from the Waterfront activities center at UW and canoe across the cut and over to the beach, hide said canoe in bushes, run up to Cactus, drink tasty mojitos and eat a few chips and salsa, then enjoy a slightly tipsy canoe home. But remember–safety first! not too many mojitos! You’re a small canoe! They’re big ships. They are much larger and more powerful and in all likelihood drunker and paying less attention.

Cactus in Madison Park on Superpages.com

Where else? What am I missing? Remember, we’ve got a lot of these days in our near future, let’s not forget the best ways to enjoy them!

A Few Upcoming and Kind of Awesome Events

I don’t normally devote much space to events, despite the constant influx of emails telling me about them, mostly because I don’t believe in promoting events that I wouldn’t myself attend or be attending. And then sometimes I am scared they’ll sell out before I get my ticket. But there does seem to be quite a few things coming up that I’m excited about, so I wanted to give my readers a heads up, two of which I’ll be at and one of which I’m sad to say, I’ll miss out on by being out of town.

First off is this Sunday’s Oyster Roast for the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. They had me when they mentioned shovelling oysters onto platters. I didn’t even need to make it to the part when they talked about sausages and sides. And it even looks like it should be as close to beach going weather as we get around here this time of year, so that should make the event even more awesome.

Next Wednesday I’ll be supporting my neighborhood at the International District Spring Roll. I love living just to the side of the ID and spend a good portion of my eating life in it. The neighborhood does a ton of cool events to support the improvement of the area and local charities and I always try to be a part of them. One of my favorites was last summer’s night market, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that they’ll be doing more this summer!

Lastly, I told you last week about how much I enjoyed the St. Germain Cocktail Crawl, and I just noticed they’ll be doing the same thing on Sunday, May 10th, but with Champagne as the ‘secret ingredient’. You can get tickets via Brown Paper Tickets. I was a little sad to see that they are using the same four restaurants, because I really enjoyed getting to go to places I hadn’t been, and now I’ve been to them. That said, if I were in town, I’d definitely be in for another round. Unfortunately, I’ll be doing a little wine tasting out in Walla Walla and will have to skip this. It’s a rough life, you know?

I hope you get a chance to attend these, and if so, come say hi or leave me a comment here letting me know how it was.

The St. Germain Cocktail Crawl

So it is very hard to write about a cocktail crawl because by the time you feel energized to write, you may have forgotten much of what went on. Compound that with still having ADS (after-drinking-stupids) and you might accidentally delete the post instead of posting it. So if this comes out less inspired and more insipid this time, I apologize.

A cocktail crawl–what a brilliant idea! I used to work in restaurant marketing so I appreciate the concept from all sides. As you see desperate restaurants cling to the recession economy for their final dollars, throwing out brunches and happy hours to entice, it is nice to see someone come up with such a good solid idea. Drinkers are happy, they’re paying $20 and getting 4 cocktails ($5/’tail, not bad) and a little variety in their life. Restaurants get to pack in a Monday night crowd at the bar without ill effect on any regular customers.

This particular crawl was showcasing St. Germain, an elderflower drink. Not familiar with the beverage, we asked at the first stop, the Rob Roy to sample a little on its own. It was a complex, slightly floral flavor that drifted at the end to be extremely sweet on the finish. The Rob Roy played into the sweet aspect by pairing it with rye in the Rye Persuasion. The sweetness of the rye was pulled to the front and hit the tongue first, followed by the sweetness of the St. Germain. For me? Too much sweet. It was a simple cocktail and you could taste the flavors of the featured liquor, but the sweetness was overwhemling. The dark black decor of the place hinted to me we should have ended the crawl here instead of starting (we chose our own order), but I did appreciate that they lightened it up with the bright orange of the goldfish crackers on the bar.

Rob Roy on Urbanspoon

Next we sauntered down to the Flying Fish. Making a poor first impression on me, the scent of the place smelled like fish. I appreciate that they’re doing seafood here, but I don’t want my fancy restaurant to smell like the fishmonger’s, you know? The bartender set us up with our St. Elder’s Fire, which I greatly enjoyed as a cocktail. I love spicy food and drink, so I was pleased with the spice, but shocked that they were so comfortable serving this to the masses and with no warning–he asked as how tart we would like ours, turns out the chiles are marinated in the lime juice. We asked for them as they should be, and it was hot. No mention of the heat before drinking. The flavors were good, headed by the tequila, dragging along the lime and chile and finishing with the refreshing cucumber that garnishes it. What’s missing? That’s right, Iron Chef Reader, I couldn’t but barely detect the St. Germain in this drink.

Flying Fish on Urbanspoon

Next up was Brasa, the only of the four bars I’d spent a significant amount of time in. By which I mean I once ate a meal here a few months ago. Misu, the adorable bartender totally remembered me, as any great bartender would, and introduced us to her sister Minon, inventor of their drink. Made with gin and muscato, it played heavily to the sweet side again, with little balance or palate relief for the drinker. Citrus was present, unfortunately, only in candied form as the garnish. Now, I will say the orange slice candy on the rim was darn delicious, but I wish there would have been a squeeze of the orange in my drink to pick it up a little.

Brasa on Urbanspoon

Lastly we came up to Cafe Campagne, which was fairly packed, making the service a little less attentive, so I didn’t catch either a name or all the ingredients (okay, maybe it was because I was 3 cocktails in, too), however the drink was visually stunning, with a basil stuffed grapefruit on the edge and the basil matching the vivid green of the drink. The drink used grapefruit which I thought was a great match for the sweet yet floral flavors of the St. Germain, and the basil flavor helped out too. The cocktail involved Champagne, which I think helped to alleviate the cloying sweetness on the finish that plagued the other drinks. I then abandoned drinking to dive into the oddly addicting yet frighteningly greasy Marcona Almonds they kept on the bar.

Cafe Campagne on Urbanspoon

Oh, what, sorry, you wanted to know about the cocktail crawl? Overall I thought it was a great idea, I chose the final cocktail because I enjoyed the skill involved in playing so well with the chosen St. Germain, while the cocktail I may have liked best was the St. Elder’s Fire. But they kind of cheated by completely covering up the flavor, in my opinion.

As the recession continues, I am excited to see what other really good ideas restaurateurs can come up with to draw in more people on slow nights. If they’re as good as this one, you’ll be certain to find me there.