Cocktail Advent 9: Plum Tart


I tried to make a plum pudding–the steamed variety–one Christmas several years back. I’m still not 100% sure that I did it correctly or that that was how it was supposed to taste, but it was a fun experiment all the same. This cocktail might be a bit simpler to execute.

Image via Bombay Sapphire Gin

Image via Bombay Sapphire Gin

Plum Tart
— Created by Bombay Sapphire Miami’s Most Imaginative Bartender Winner, Philip Khandehrish of The Setai Bar in Miami.

  • 2 oz plum wine
  • 1 oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • .75 oz cranberry juice
  • 3 drops of orange bitters
  • 3 lime wedges
  • 2 bar spoons of Demerrara sugar

Muddle lime and sugar in glass.
Add rest of ingredients.  Shake well and strain into Martini Glass
Top with lime wheel with dried cranberries

Plum wine can often be found in the sake section of your local wine shop.

***This recipe was provided by a representative of Bombay Sapphire Gin. I am not affiliated with this brand nor was compensated to post this recipe, not even with review samples. As always, we encourage responsible refreshment and the use of the Designated Driver. No drunken monkeys, please!***

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.

50 Shots of America–Nevada

The Mojavito

The Mojavito

Now that the move is complete and the bar is fully unpacked, it’s time to return to our drinking tour of America with state number 36: Nevada (which is Spanish for snow-covered, named after the Sierra Nevada mountains).

Originally part of the Utah Territory, the predominantly non-Mormon section that is today’s Nevada broke off from their eastern brethren in March, 1861, became a state on October 31, 1864, (just squeaking in with enough time to help re-elect Lincoln as President and doing so by telegraphing their entire state constitution from Culver City to Washington, DC), and did some re-drawing of their state’s southern boundary in May, 1866, when gold was found in the then-Arizona Territory. Good thing, too, because Las Vegas, Arizona just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

And speaking of Vegas, turns out that gambling was legalized after the Great Depression as a temporary measure to help bolster the state’s flagging economy. I think it’s safe to say that anyone who suggested outlawing it would be laughed out of the state!

There’s no Last Call in Nevada, at least not by law; alcohol can be purchased at any hour of the day or night and bottles can be purchased at grocery and convenience stores as well as dedicated liquor stores (not just beer and wine like most places). Which leads us to this week’s drink.


1/2 Key Lime**, cut into 2 wedges
1 sprig Sage, stem removed
3/4 oz Gin
1 oz Club Soda

Muddle the lime and sage in the bottom of a shaker until the sage is well-mashed and fragrant. Add ice and the gin and shake like a tumbleweed crossing the plains. Strain into a chilled cordial glass and top with club soda.

Now, seeing as how Nevada is primarily dry, arid desert, a sweet drink just wouldn’t do (in alcohol, dry is the opposite of sec, or sweet). And because of the Pinyon Juniper forests in the Great Basin desert (which sounds like it would be at the bottom of the state when, actually, it encompasses much of the north and central area), I’m going with a dry gin as the base spirit. Nevada is known as the Sagebrush State so my first thought was a sage infusion but, well, that takes too long for a good mix and muddling is far quicker. Suddenly, this is sounding a lot like a Mojito (which sounds an awful lot like the Mojave desert that does occupy the southern third of the state), so that’s when the lime and club soda came over to play. The end result is a very tart, refreshing drink that would be a perfect quencher on a hot summer’s day no matter where in the world you are (well, okay, Northern hemisphere at the very least–those below the Equator save it for the warm winters).

One final bit of trivia for the day:

Ever wonder why the CSI franchise started in Vegas? It might have a little something to do with Nevada’s 5-year reign as the most dangerous state in the country (though if that were the sole reason, I think we would have had CSI: New Orleans before Miami or New York***).

*pronounced mo-ha-VEE-toe; whether you pronounce the ‘a’ as in bad (as is the correct way to pronounce Nevada) or as in father is entirely up to you

**I used key limes because they are small and this is a small drink. A single wedge (quarter) of a standard lime should be plenty. If you want a very tart lime drink with a touch of the other flavors, go ahead and use the whole Key Lime (or half a regular one).

***Turns out there was a decision to be made, just before Katrina, between a CSI: New Orleans and CSI: New York–go figure!

How Ap-Peel-ing

64 Arts

So the mind wanders with these sorts of things (creativity is all about the wandering) and a part of the original description had gotten stuck in my brain. Specifically, the “peel” part. Peel leads to citrus and I started to wonder what I could do with the lemons hanging out on the bar.

a Little Lemon Bowl

To make the lemon bowl, start by trimming each end of the lemon so you have a flat surface for the bowl to sit on.

You can buy a fancy garnishing tool (I do have them) but it may not always fit your project’s size. I just used a sharp pairing knife and cut a zig-zag all the way around. If I were doing more than just messing around, I’d probably measure and mark off equal increments–instead I just winged it. Inside each little point I cut a little window to dress up the lemon bowl.

The lemon should easily come apart at that point, but I did have to go back over a few places where I hadn’t completely cut through. Next you want to scoop out the lemon pulp and sections as best you can. A grapefruit spoon can be useful for this but the paring knife did really well, too. Make sure all the little windows are clear of pulp, rinse it and pat it dry.

I’ve fridge-tested my samples and they’ve done well in the refrigerator for several days. I even popped one in the freezer for a night just to see how it held up. It did great! They will dry out if they’re in there too long, but 3 or 4 days shouldn’t hurt. The little points did curve in a bit but that seems to be making the overall structure that much stronger.

Now, what to do with it?

Sorbet comes immediately to mind. Fancy dinners sometimes include a palate-cleansing course but you don’t need to go to that trouble. Some Italian ice, granita or even a minty ice cream would look great and taste even better when served in these fun lemon cups.

Still too cold for an icy dessert? Candies or nuts would be fun in them or, with Easter right around the corner, how about displaying your eggs in their own little basket?

Lemon Egg Cup

When I was a little girl and we lived with my grandmother, we would do the customary egg-dying the day before and make sure every family member had an egg with their name on it. We’d leave the eggs in their cartons out on the counter when we went to bed and, in the morning, I’d wake up to them all arranged on a huge silver platter with that cellophane grass all around. It’s still one of my fondest childhood memories.

How cute would it be, then, to have personalized eggs at each place setting for the big family dinner? Placed in little lemon or lime cups that are so much more fun than those paper stands the dying kits come with and definitely eco-friendly. Plus, the pulp doesn’t have to go to waste if you turn it into fresh lemonade to serve with dinner!

The Mojito


This Cuban drink is currently experiencing its second wind among the cocktail elite, with good reason. It’s tart, refreshing and nice to look at with the muddled mint swirling around the glass.

A Mojito is basically lime, mint and rum topped by club soda or sparkling water. In order to release the oils in the mint, a muddler (kinda like a cross between a pestle and a meat mallet) is used to bruise and break up the leaves without destroying their delicacy. (While the back of a wooden spoon can also be used, an actual muddler isn’t very expensive and can also be used to muddle fruits for sangria, lemonades and other beverages.)

While a good start, sugar (or sugar syrup) is also added in the muddling stage (pre-rum). There seems to be a bit of division between what is best: sugar or syrup. Anyone whose grown up ordering iced tea in restaurants where only unsweetened is available knows full well that regular sugar does not dissolve easily in cold liquids. It may give the muddler more purchase on the mint leaves and seem like the best course of action, you’re just not going to get much sweetening from it. Even knowing this, I still tried recipes using both sugar and sugar syrup and found my hunch to be correct. Leave the sugar for rimming the glass and use a 1:1 simple syrup in your drink.

Even with the syrup, a classic Mojito is much more tart than sweet and I prefer my drinks both tart AND sweet. While in Orlando last year, the Ale House near my brother’s apartment was serving Pineapple Mojitos and it was a divine drink. Tart and sweet and very drinkable. Of course, when the Mojito came up on my list, I knew I needed to recreate that yummy version at home.

CHF Pineapple Mojito

1/4 of a Lime, lengthwise
1 oz Simple syrup
5-7 Mint leaves
2 oz Pineapple rum
Pineapple juice

In a medium glass with a heavy base, place the lime, simple syrup and mint leaves and muddle until the lime is juiced and the mint is a little broken up. Fill with ice and then top with the rum and juice. Stir and sip in contented tropical bliss.

I’m not really a big fan of club soda–to me it tastes like stale water and why would I want to drink that? Consequently, it’s left out of my version of the Mojito. If you wanted to thin it out a bit, a la the classic drink, use about an ounce of pineapple juice and then fill with club soda or sparkling water.

When making Mojitos for a crowd, Stirrings makes a tasty mixer version that just needs rum and club soda. I’ve been known to use tonic water instead of club soda and find even just the mix and the tonic water make a very fresh drink on their own, no rum required.