Good Evening, Mr. Underhill


Mr Underhill's Best Cocktail

My main objective in this week’s Alphatini was a more-or-less savory cocktail; we’ve had a lot of sweet going on and it’s nice to mix things up a bit.

Pun unintended.

But we’re on the letter U and, well, I was at a bit of a loss since I’d already used my upside-down-cake inspiration.

As it so happens, though, I’ve been hard at work on What to Feed Your Raiding Party and this past weekend inspiration struck as I was inking the cover to a Lord of the Rings-style comics chapter I was reminded of the hobbits and Frodo Baggins in particular.

In the scene at the Prancing Pony he gives an alias, a Mr Underhill. And Bag End and all the rest of Hobbiton is so green and lively that is proved the perfect inspiration for a savory cocktail with a botanical base.

Mr Underhill’s Best

1 1/2 oz London Dry Gin
1/2 oz Galliano
1/2 oz Apple Juice
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
garnish: 3 olives

In a mixing glass half full of ice, combine the liquid ingredients and stir and time or two, plus a few more for good measure. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with some speared olives.

I’d planned to garnish it with a sprig of Rosemary from the little bush I’d bought just after Thanksgiving but, alas, my green thumb has proven non-existent once again and the poor thing didn’t make it a week past New Years. Last time I tried to keep one I over-watered it, this time I think it suffered the curse of my overcompensation (i.e. under-watering).

Now, as to the ingredients, originally I’d planned this to be an all-alcohol cocktail–hence the stirring. But on first taste the various spirits needed something than a little melt-water to make them nice and merry, so I looked to my mixer shelf to see what could work without being too sweet. Apple juice was the safest bet and I’m quite happy with the way it softens the harder edges of the individual liquors without being too bossy. You do tend to get a nice, light apple aftertaste, which is a nice finish–I think–to an otherwise bracing, savory cocktail.

It’s also a rather wee cocktail, coming in at under 3 ounces, so perfect for those trying to imbibe with moderation after, perhaps, excessive celebration the previous months.

And +10 imaginary points if you caught the Hugo Weaving crossover nod in the title of this post.

Feelin’ Hot Hot HOT!


This week’s Alphatini is brought to you by the letter H!

Brainstorming for this week came up with such ideas as Hurricane (oh so done already), Hellfire (Charmed reference or Biblical retribution, take your pick), and Handshake. But, then, the winner appeared: A Hot Tamale!

Not the candy, though I suppose you could go that route if you wanted, I was thinking about the meat-filled, masa-wrapped, steamed-in-a-corn-husk delicacy. A delicacy I’ve never actually tasted. The closest I’ve seen a tamale were those canned ones that I never really understood–they just didn’t look very appetizing!

Hot Tamale Cocktail

Hot Tamale

But the great thing about being pretty proficient in the kitchen is that researching a recipe can give you a pretty good idea of what your aiming for, cocktail-wise. Of course, you’re probably wondering how such a non-liquid item–a savory food, at that–can be replicated in liquid form that isn’t some sort of smoothie-gone-wrong disaster.

Two hints: Pepper Vodka and Beef Stock

Wait! Don’t go! Hear me out!

It’s actually not unheard of to use something like Consomme in a cocktail–I’ve found at least 3 recipes (Horse Feathers, Bloody Bull and Bullshot) that do just that. They range from hangover cures to liquid lunches, but they exist. I will say that you want to use either canned Consomme or beef stock in this recipe–homemade, unless you’ve taken the time to really de-fat it, will yeild rather unpleasant results.

One Hot Tamale

2 oz Beef Stock
1 oz Pepper Vodka (like Absolut Peppar)
3 dashes Angosturra Bitters
Lime Wedges, Cocktail Onions for garnish

Combine over ice 1 squeeze lime wedge (leave the lime in), stock, vodka and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Shake like you’re walking over hot coals and strain into a room-temperature cocktail glass. Garnish with a second lime wedge and a cocktail onion or two.

To really spice this up–because it’s actually a rather mild and pleasant drink–mix up some cumin, chili powder and garlic powder. Slide the slime wedge around the edge of the glass and then dip the moist rim into the spice mixture.

Even though we’re calling this a Hot Tamale, the drink is served cold. The result is very Bloody Mary-like, so it would make an excellent brunch cocktail or even a nice first course for a late-night supper. Don’t be fulled by that measly 1 ounce of vodka, though, even after a full supper it can still pack some punch.