Archives for Beverages

This year’s signature summer cocktail: The French Martini

For the past two summers, my cocktail of choice has been a Bourbon Cherry Lemonade. Bourbon is an old friend of mine; we met in college while most of my classmates were taking up with tequila. I was more of a sipper than a shooter, so Bourbon and I got along splendidly.

I still love a good bourbon, and Bourbon Cherry Lemonades won’t disappear completely from my repertoire, but after two summers it’s time to find a new summer standby. The reason I have a summer drink is because I don’t usually keep a fully stocked bar. With a signature drink, you keep those ingredients on hand for whenever you have friends over for dinner, a party, or just want to enjoy a drink with dinner. A cooler of beer and a signature drink are usually all you need to have to throw a great afternoon barbecue.

After holding a few grueling auditions (sipping cocktails is such strenuous work), the French Martini edged out the competition with its inspiriting not-too-sweet, not-too-tart, not-too-heavy qualities as this year’s signature summer cocktail.

According to the Chambord website, the French Martini recipe is:

  • 1 1/2 oz Finlandia Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Chambord Liqueur
  • 2 oz Pineapple Juice

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into martini glass. Garnish with raspberries.

I’ve found that using just 2 oz of pineapple juice makes for quite a strong and small martini. So, I recommend using a full 3 oz of pineapple juice.

I also recommend ditching the Finnish vodka (Finlandia). It’s made with barley and is suggested, I assume, because the Chambord and Finlandia are distributed by the same company in the US (Brown-Forman). It’s not a bad vodka, it’s just not the right vodka for this drink.

Since the drink is called a French Martini, I think it works much better with a French vodka. Vodkas produced in France are typically made with fermented wheat or grapes, which tend to produce a little sweeter and more delicate flavor than other grains or potatoes do. The popular French vodkas that are imported into the U.S. include Grey Goose, Ciroc, Pinnacle, Nuage, Idol, Integre, Rue 33, and IceKube. After trying these French vodkas, I settled on the Ciroc as my favorite for this drink. (If you don’t have any French vodkas in your collection, Hangar 1 is a great American alternative because of its distinct sweetness.)

French Martini, SimpliFried Style

  • 1 1/2 oz Ciroc Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Chambord Liqueur
  • 3 oz Pineapple Juice

After combining the ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker, give it a vigorous shake, and then strain the liquid into a glass. If you have raspberries on hand, garnish with two on a toothpick (like you would two olives in a Dirty Martini).

If you drink alcohol, what is your preferred drink this summer?

Cheddar Ale Soup (and a drink recipe, too)

Back in my early twenties, the Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence, Kansas, was a popular hangout where my friends and I would meet at least once a week for dinner and drinks. My beverage of choice was a Cyclist — half lemonade and half Wheat State Golden (a Kolsch-style wheat beer) — which was perfect for hot and humid Kansas nights.

In sharp contrast to the cold, refreshing Cyclist, my favorite entree was a large bowl of Free State’s Cheddar Ale Soup. The soup was made with white cheddar cheese from Alma (my 101-year-old-grandmother’s birthplace), the brewery’s own Ad Astra Ale (an amber), and cream.

Once the weather started to turn warm this year, nostalgia for the Cyclist and Cheddar Ale Soup set in and I haven’t been able to curb the cravings. Since I now live 1,000 miles east of Lawrence, stopping by Free State hasn’t yet been an option. Instead of letting my cravings and nostalgia overwhelm me, I headed into my kitchen to recreate a version at home.

The Cyclist was simple to reproduce: Half a glass of a favorite wheat beer (or the leftover Miller High Life from the recipe listed below) and half a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade (or even a decent store-bought one works in a hurry).

The Cheddar Ale Soup took me longer to figure out how to reproduce since neither Alma Cheese nor Ad Astra Ale are available in D.C.-area markets. Ultimately, I found that Miller High Life was all I needed to get the results I wanted. (It is the “champagne of beers” after all …)

Nostalgic and Easy Cheddar Ale Soup

Makes one bowl

  • 1 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Miller High Life
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp canned diced green chiles or jalapenos
  • Pepper to taste

In a small soup pot at room temperature, mix the cheddar cheese and flour until the cheese is dusted and no longer sticks to itself very well.

Over medium heat, add the beer and start stirring constantly with a rubber spatula (making sure to scrape any stuck cheese off the bottom of the pot). Completely melt the cheese. Once the cheese is a large melted mess, slowly add the milk (a few tablespoons at a time) to fully incorporate it into the melted cheese. Remove from heat and turn off the burner.

Add the teaspoon of diced chiles, a little pepper, and serve immediately. I like it with a hearty bread and, of course, a Cyclist. Multiply this recipe out for as many people you plan to serve, but you’ll need to reduce the beer a little bit to keep the consistency. I wouldn’t substitute skim milk because your soup will be too thin if you do, but you could easily substitute cream for the whole milk if your heart desired. The soup will have a little bit of a grainy texture to it, which I believe is part of its charm.

Best part of all, this soup takes less than five minutes to make.

(One time when I found my pantry bare of canned chiles, I substituted a teaspoon of Frontera Guacamole Mix and it was just as fabulous.)

Can there be comfort in kitchen routines?

I love coffee.

But, even more than drinking coffee, I love the routine of making coffee.

Every morning I follow the exact same coffee routine. I heat water on the stove top in a tea kettle until the water boils. Then, I let the water sit briefly until it cools to 197ºF. The point at which the water is the perfect temperature, I pour it over freshly ground beans in my AeroPress:

I stir the water and grounds 10 times with a non-reactive stirrer, then depress the plunger at a steady pace to extract a beautiful cup of coffee.

I find great comfort in the daily making and drinking of my cup of coffee. It might seem ridiculous to you, especially if you aren’t a coffee drinker, but you likely have a food or drink or other routine in your life that has a similar effect on you.

Kitchen routines have both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, an after-meal clean up routine keeps the kitchen clean and clutter free. The routines of making your favorite meals or getting ready for a dinner party can be just as soothing as making that morning cup of coffee. On the negative side, routines can also imply that you’re in a cooking rut — you make the same things over and over again because you’re busy and the creativity isn’t flowing.

What are your favorite kitchen routines? Do you love making a morning cup of coffee like I do? Do you look forward to the time alone with your thoughts each night after dinner while you’re doing the dishes? Share your favorites (and your least favorite routines) with everyone in the comments.

Making foamy milk without a steamer

When you buy a latte or cappuccino at a coffee shop, it’s always dressed with a nice frothy head of milk foam. That foam comes from aerating the milk with a blast of superheated air from a steam nozzle. If you buy an espresso machine of sufficient fanciness for your home, it may have an attached steam nozzle. With some practice, you might even learn how to use it without without spraying hot milk all over yourself.

But does that mean you can’t have foamy milk unless you have an espresso machine? And what if you’re a tea-drinker, like I am?

Fortunately, you can easily steam milk at home using nothing but a sealed microwave-safe container (say, a BPA-free cup with a lid) and a microwave. Simply fill the container with your milk, shake vigorously until it foams, and then immediately microwave until hot (usually less than a minute). The foam will solidify and remain on top as the milk heats. Then, carefully pour the milk so the foam floats on top of the milk and onto your coffee. (You can spoon the rest of the foam onto your drink if you prefer.) This even works with soy milk, and there’s no messy milk spray if you mess up.

Sprinkle some cinnamon or mocha on top and you’ll have a cup of joe worthy of a barista.

Note: Reader @hornbeck suggests removing the lid on the cup before microwaving. Her lid blew off during cooking! We’ve never had that happen, but it sounds like a great suggestion to us. The lid is important for shaking purposes; it’s not important for microwaving.