Monday, March 17, 2014

OMG a Recipe: As Drunk on TV

Two vital things you should know about me --  (Vital I) I like my cocktails and (Vital II) I like my nerdy TV shows. A nicely-balanced drink in one hand, DVR remote in the other... PUT YOUR HANDS TOGETHER. Actually, don't do that. It would be messy. But what you can do, is be inspired to mix up some cocktails and/or get your genre-based serialized drama-watching on! No Spock-ears required, I PROMISE.

Carry on my Wayward Son, there'll be peace when you are done (with this drink) - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I can blame/thank the TNT Network for showing reruns of Supernatural twice-daily for the last I-don't-know-how-many-years, for finally getting me snagged as a viewer. Which is ironic, since it's a CW series. It's been on almost 10 years, about the time when you feel obligated to show up to a high school reunion. A sizable unit of time measurement, to be sure. I honestly don't know why I didn't start watching Supernatural from the get-go, back in 2005 when it started. It had all the elements of a show I'd watch: a fringe group of people who hunt monsters and ghosts, each episode highlights some kind of weird creature that has roots in actual myth somewhere in the world, and it's all wrapped around the personal saga of two brothers whose family was torn apart by a demon, kicking off their sentimental saga known simply as "the family business." Also, it's probably one of the drunkest shows you'll ever see. The Winchester boys and their angel/demon buddies would give the ladies from Cougartown a run for their boozeahol money.

The real star of Supernatural: Boozeahol - screencaps from the CW/Supernatural
I think the Mister's initial reticence to watch Supernatural sums it up best, which was, "Why do I want to watch a Redneck X-Files?" Damn good question, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how wonderfully witty and self-aware Supernatural was. Their best shows are the super-meta ones where they do things like strand the main characters in television shows, where they jump from doctor dramas to sadistic Japanese game shows, or probably their trippiest episodes are where the fandom of the Supernatural series managed to get written into the series itself, and main characters fight off fangirls and contend with disturbing fanfic. So. Totally. Meta.

The world of ghosts, monsters, angels and demons can be exhausting, so I came up with a cocktail called The Wayward Son. Yes, based on the Kansas song, the same one that has become  the unofficial anthem of Supernatural. The cocktail is whiskey-based, as it's the drink of choice (next to beer) that fights both external and internal demons. Much like the constant quarrel between good and evil, it's made with honey simple syrup and a dash of cayenne -- some sweet with heat. I add a float of Scotch as nod to badassery, as well as to a demon named Crowley, aka, The King of Hell. Because he fancies Scotch and it gives the drink a nice, smoky richness.

The Wayward Son
2 oz rye bourbon (Hunter's Helper)
1 oz honey simple syrup (1 part honey, melted into 1 part water over a stove, then cooled)
1/2 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 small pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 oz Scotch to float on finished drink

Take all ingredients except Scotch and place in a cocktail shaker with ice and stir until combined, about 10-15 seconds. Double-strain into a highball glass or mason jar (because it's cool) filled with ice. Carefully pour the Scotch over the finished drink and garnish with a curl of lemon peel. Drink, fight evil, repeat as necessary.

The secrets to a good cocktail? Fresh citrus and homemade syrups - Photos by Wasabi Prime
You can have all the top shelf liquor you want in your house (and why shouldn't you?), but it needs to be balanced with equally good fresh/homemade ingredients. When citrus goes on sale, I buy it. Limes or lemons, if it's a good price, I get 3 or 4 because I know they'll get used up in a week's time. Most cocktails require a little bit of fresh citrus juice, just to keep the flavors bright. When it comes to sweeteners, I stay away from pre-mixed syrups because they're often too sweet and stabilized by corn syrup. Grody to the Max. For the Wayward Son drink, I use honey simple syrup, which is just like regular simple syrup, with the sugar swapped with honey. I had some nice, fancy wildflower honey that was unfortunately starting to crystallize, so what better way to savor it in syrup form? Drinks made with honey-based syrups have a unique rich, earthy sweetness, which is why it goes so nicely with rye or bourbon. 

My new favorite homemade cocktail sweetener is vanilla simple syrup. I got the recipe from my friend Mark Sexauer's book, Aphrodisiacs With a Twist -- a must-get for your own home bar -- which is the same 1:1 ratio of water to sugar when making a simple syrup, but adding vanilla extract right at the end. Most recipes for simple syrups make a little under two cups' worth, so for that amount, a heaping tablespoon (or two, if you're a vanilla fiend like me) of good vanilla extract will be enough to give it that fragrant vanilla essence. You add it at the end, after the syrup is off the stove, so that the extract doesn't burn off, since it's alcohol based.

The Double Helix, aka Drunk at the Mall, because it tastes like an Orange Julius - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Vanilla and orange are two of my favorite flavor combinations -- Creamsicle, yo! I paired the homemade vanilla syrup with some gin and homemade orange marmalade, but wanted the cocktail to have some mouthfeel richness, so I decided to rock the egg white foam. Doing the foam always feels a bit like a mad science experiment, throwing all these ingredients into a shaker and having it emerge as this lovely drink in two parts: the cocktail below and the thick foam that rises to the top. The foam is stable enough to carry droplets of bitters, so consider it another opportunity to practice your foam art. My art sucks, I'm sure yours will be better.

If you don't like the idea of using a fresh, raw egg white, you can use pasteurized whites or even the powdered egg white (just hydrate it with a little water and make sure it's fully dissolved). I have short T-Rex arms, so it takes me a good 40-50 seconds of vigorous shaking to get the foam to emulsify. Shaking a drink for a long-ass time gets you thinking about weird stuff like, man, a centrifuge would be totally boss right now. And hey, isn't a new episode of Helix on soon...?

Genetic aberrations overthrowing your research facilities? Have a drink - images fr SyFy/Helix, photo by Wasabi Prime
This scientifically engineered drink is dedicated to my new weird, scary/sci-fi favorite, Helix. It's currently being aired on the still-annoyingly-spelled SyFy channel, made only less annoying if they renew it for another season. You hear that, SyFy Execs? Much like Supernatural, I was late to the Helix party, but thanks to Wasabi Mom asking every week over the phone, "Are you watching Helix yet?" and an all-day marathon, I was able to get caught up, and of course I was hooked. Without being a Spoiler Party Pooper, Helix is like The Thing meets 28 Days Later. A bizarre viral outbreak plagues an isolated Arctic mega-think tank/research facility. A group of CDC doctors are sent to investigate, but of course they become involved and infected with whatever weirdness is happening, and every episode spans a day since the CDC team's arrival. I'd compare it to my other favorite series, Walking Dead, but it's nowhere near apocalyptic levels (yet), and it's not so totally gross (yet) that I can't enjoy a frosty beverage in peace. It's a great combination of medical thriller, suspense, and a bit of a monster movie vibe, since the facility is overrun with ghoulish, homicidal infectees oozing black goo. Cocktail hour, anyone?

The Double Helix  
2 oz gin
1 tablespoon of orange marmalade
1/2 oz vanilla simple syrup
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 egg white, lightly beaten 

Angostura bitters to garnish

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker full of ice. Seal VERY WELL and shake vigorously, like your life depends on it, for 40-50 seconds. Double strain into a martini glass or fancy science experiment-looking Bodum glass. Allow egg white foam to form along the top and add droplets of bitters to decorate into a delicate design. And if the design looks like hell, just say you totally meant for it look like a petrie dish.

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