Cacoa Nibs and Cocoa Powder

The difference between Cacao and Cocoa. From left to right: Cacao Nibs, Cacao Nib Syrup, Chocolate Mocktini, Chocolate Syrup and Cocoa Powder.

The difference between Cacao and Cocoa. From left to right: Cacao Nibs, Cacao Nib Syrup, Chocolate Mocktini, Chocolate Syrup and Cocoa Powder.

Did you know that cacao nibs are the raw form of chocolate? Did you know that they are said to have one of the best sources of magnesium. According to WebMD “Researchers estimate that the average person’s body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, and about half of that is in the bones. Magnesium is important in more than 300 chemical reactions that keep the body working properly.” National Institutes of Health lists some of these chemical reactions “including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation” And that is just five! If your into nutrition and science then check out the links to find more.

Ok, but back to food right?

What the heck is Cacao? and why are they spelled different? Is that just a Canadian thing, eh?

Nope. Nothin’ like that. Turns out that Cacao is unprocessed and the real  raw deal. Cocoa processed and can refer to products with added sugar. But not always.

I checked this out by reading the ingredients on the back of my Fry’s Cocoa Powder. Processed – yes. Sugar added – nope. Here is the ingredients on my container: Cocoa, sodium carbonate. May contain peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat and/or sulphites.

So the last bit is all about the “don’t sue us if you have an allergic reaction, we processed this somewhere where other stuff you may be allergic to is held and/or processed.” But the first bit? So Cocoa and … what? Sodium Carbonate. An additive used to keep the powder from caking, grumping up, compacting like a lump. Get the picture? So processed, but pretty pure, well mostly.

Ah sorry, again with the science right? Jeez. This blog is called Experimental Virgins for a reason. Love me some science.

Back to drinks though. Why do I care? Why bother with all this research?

I want to make drinks as close to the original tastes of the adult versions as possible, when possible. Infusing Cacao Nibs will give a clear fluid, while using Cocoa Powder will give an opaque look. Think of it as the difference between cinnamon sticks and powder, there is a place for both. You don’t put whole cinnamon sticks into cinnamon buns (mmm cinnamon buns…) and you don’t put ground cinnamon into a clear iced tea. Same thing with Cacao Nibs and Cocoa Powder.

On to the recipes and enough with the preamble.

Cacao Nib Syrup

I came across cocoa nibs in my research to find a way to make an alternative to creme de cacao and looked up as my starting point DIY Chocolate Liqueur. The basic ingredients for flavouring? Cacao nibs. Infused in vodka along with sugar, water and vanilla.

So can you make a similar syrup and how? Turns out it’s pretty easy and has been done. I found the recipe simply with Google and a little poking around on a site describing a yummy iced tea using a cacao infused syrup. Great! The ingredients? Cacao nibs, water, sugar and vanilla. Sound familiar? You can check out the original recipe here for the whole drink. For the syrup alone here is what they say:

Ingredients:
  • 3 tbsp cocoa nibs
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
Procedure:

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer 5 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Strain the syrup through a fine sieve; discarding the solids. Store in fridge until needed.

My Thoughts:

First thing you should know is 1 made six, yes six, times the recipe. Go big or go home I say, and I am gonna use this a lot! Gotta have stuff to test with, and gotta have enough to make mistakes and go “ick” and chuck the drink in question down the sink.

Second I have trouble telling if sugar is dissolved completely when there is particulate matter in my syrup. So I tend to make the syrup first and then add the flavouring to it, simmer a few minutes, and then continue as before. Will that affect my final product? Not sure…

After the said time I strained the syrup, keeping the nibs for the time and tasted the syrup. Then in an exercise of science, I divided the syrup in half (remember I made six times the recipe) and added the nibs back to half the syrup. According to the DYI for chocolate liqueur, it calls for 8 days to steep the cacao nibs in the vodka before adding the remaining ingredients, then one more day to blend flavours. Since sugar syrup is thicker than alcohol I gave it two weeks in the fridge.

How did the original syrup taste?

Chocolatish. Ok so that’s not a word, but cacao nibs don’t taste like a chocolate bar. Remember not processed and unsweetened? They also have a nutty taste and are a bit acidic. The husband says it tastes a bit like maple syrup with a dash of apple cider vinegar.

14 days later I tested the second batch of syrup that had been infusing in the nibs for in the fridge. The flavour had mellowed and was more chocolatey but also less acidic. Much more pleasant but still the hint of a bite is there. I wonder…

In order to be completely scientific I purchased a different brand of nibs to repeated the recipe. My first reaction to the new brand was that they smelled different. When I made the recipe again using the new product, the resulting syrup was the best of the bunch, chocolaty and sweet with only a hint of acidity. (My husband still finds it unappealing, give him regular chocolate syrup any day.)

Final thoughts? The quality of the nibs makes a difference, and infusing the nibs for 2 weeks with high quality nibs will give you the best product. What name brand did I finally choose? Navitas Naturals Raw Organic Cacao Nibs (unsweetened). If you can’t find them locally, I got mine from HealthyPlanetCanada.com.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Sometimes you need a real thick chocolate syrup for the job. Our family tested out a few we found on the net with the “chocolate milk” test. Does the syrup make a good cup of chocolate milk? Is it chocolaty enough, too bitter, too sweet?

The first from Allrecipes.com was too weak in our minds, especially when mixed with milk. The second passed the muster. This one is from KitchenTreaty.com and is thick and strong, but makes a great chocolate milk. You can find all the instructions on their site here, but to get you started here is the basic list of ingredients you will need.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Mocktini

Ingredients:
  • 1 oz chocolate syrup
  • 1 oz cacao nib syrup
  • 2 oz club soda

To show the difference in density and opaqueness of the two syrups I decided to make up a simple martini using both drinks, layered and topped with soda water. I probably wouldn’t serve this, as is, since the Cacao Syrup doesn’t work alone with soda water. Once it’s mixed it is reminiscent of a rich cold cocoa drink. – more appealing, but again, not quite there yet. My husband added a splash of cream and it became “OK”.

It is pretty though, and if one were to mix something else with each layer, and serve with cream on top, or maybe a candy cane for stirring, this could have potential. I think I will revisit this around Christmas time, maybe add some mint and see if I can’t come up with something inspirational.

Bloody Orange Mocktail

Bloody Orange Mocktail. Before and after "blood" injection.

Bloody Orange Mocktail. Before and after “blood” injection.

Halloween is a combination of the the imaginary and the real, the spooky and the fun, the mystical and the macabre. Tonight we are focusing on the macabre – a take on a recipe from Better Home and Gardens called Bloody Orange Cocktail. The idea s is blend of orange and citrus, with a splash of bubbles and vodka. The blood element is raspberry syrup in a syringe that is injected into the drinks after serving. Wonderfully macabre and yet wonderfully tasty.

You can find the recipe here for the original drink.

When looking for an alternative to the liqueurs found in the original drink, I had to be a bit creative. The original calls for a combination of orange juice and soda water, along with Liquor 43. This Spanish liqueur is citrus and fruit based, but as the name implies it has 43 ingredients. I decided to go with something ginger and citrus based and had just the recipe in mind.

Set with my drink base all created I thought that the rest would be simple, add some sugar to my preexisting raspberry juice and Bob’s your uncle. Not quite that easy. First, I only had frozen raspberries and the raspberry juice I had made from frozen raspberries. The original recipe called for fresh raspberries, juiced. Turns out 2 cups of raspberries makes about 1/2 cup juice according to the Oregon State University. So I needed 1/2 cup of juice.

Second, it turns out that the key to making the raspberry juice is time. Ten minutes to be precise, as the sugar syrup gets stronger due to evaporation and the pectin in the juice begins to work. Once the liquid cools the result was surprising. Jelly! Yep, delicious spread on your toast jelly.

Once that ingredient was perfected, the injected juice keeps it’s integrity in the drink and requires a bit of stirring to dissolve and blend. So that the blood infusion looks more realistic. Here is my new recipe for this great idea of a drink, without the booze, but with plenty of kick.

Bloody Orange Mocktail

The virgin version of this blends the flavours of orange, lime and ginger with a sparkle of soda for brightness.

Ingredients:
  • 10 ml raspberry syrup/jelly (see below)
  • 10 ml syring (no needle)
  • 1 oz orange simple syrup
  • 1 tsp orange juice concentrate
  • 1 oz ginger citrus syrup
  • 4 oz soda water (or ginger ale)
Procedure:

Fill 10 ml syringe with raspberry syrup/jelly and set aside. Mix syrups and orange juice concentrate in a shaker with ice. Pour over ice and top with soda water. Plunge syringe into drink and instruct recipient to inject blood before drinking. Serve and enjoy the reactions.

My Thoughts:

The blend of orange and ginger is delicious. When we had this drink for dinner, my kids found the novelty of the syringes fun and used the syringes to stir occasionally if the jelly started to sink to the bottom of the drink. You can find syringes at novelty stores or at pharmacies.

When I injected my blood, I found that the syrup just shot into the drink and started dissolving, but my glass was shy on ice. The ice and the slowness of the injection helps to keep the integrity of the jelly intact.


 Raspberry Syrup/Jelly

100 grams frozen raspberries
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

Procedure:

Cook raspberries in water on medium until defrosted and then simmer for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and press raspberries through wire double strainer over a bowl and collect all juice (should be about 1/2 cup). Return juice to pot and add sugar. Heat to a gentle boil (medium high) and continue to cook 10 minutes. Watch the pot and adjust heat as necessary to keep boiling but not overflowing. After 10 minutes remove from heat and pour into heat resistant container with lid. Allow to cool completely before using.

Ginger Lime Syrup

2 cups water
1 cup chopped ginger
juice and zest of one lime
1/2 cup sugar

Procedure:

Place water, juice, zest and ginger into pot and bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes then add sugar and heat until sugar is dissolved completely  (medium heat). Remove from heat and store for two days in fridge to allow flavours to blend. Strain syrup and store until needed.


While this drink features the macabre, there is nothing truly scary about the taste. My youngest gave this a full 5/5 and asked for seconds while my eldest decided she loved the jelly so much she simple injected a second syringe directly into her mouth.

I have seen this drink done with raspberry puree called Vampire Cocktail (drink also features orange and amaratto) on Self Proclaimed Foodie (recipe here) and Bloody Shirley Temple (using grenadine and sprite) for an all ages drink at Your Southern Peach (recipe here).

Darkness Falls

Drinks made with Black Liquorice Syrup. From left to right:

Drinks made with Black Licorice Syrup. From left to right: Ghost Shooter, Spicy Night Cocktail, Tiger Ice Cream Shooter and Black Lagoon Mocktail

Today’s focus, for the second halloween blog, is black drinks.

When researching spooky drinks, I came across some beautiful layered drinks both shots and martinis featuring black vodka. The idea of layering a black beverage appealed to me, and I had just the ingredients in my kitchen! So in honour of me mum, who is a huge licorice fan, I created a black licorice flavoured syrup and started my experiments on what could be done with this new ingredient.

Black Licorice Syrup

The goal here is to make a concentrated syrup that will work even when diluted by half without loosing it’s flavour in the recipe. With all syrups, the best test is to mix 1:1 with water. If the resulting taste is perfect than the original syrup will work well in drink mixes.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 oz aniseed (or 1 tbsp aniseed extract)
  • Black food colouring (I used Duff Goldman brand)
Procedure:

Blend aniseed (or extract) with water and bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes then remove from heat if using seeds and allow to steep 30 minutes. Strain and add sugar. Cook until sugar dissolves completely, then add food colouring drop by drop until the desired darkness is reached (about 10-15 drops). Because this food colouring looks purple when not strong enough, be sure to check syrup for darkness – you want BLACK. Taste syrup, it should be sweet and licorice flavoured. If still bitter add more sugar, if too weak and you have aniseed extract on hand ad a few drops until desired concentration is reached.

Ok that’s the foundation. Now for the fun!

Tiger Ice Cream Shooters

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First up, something fun to play with densities. Since Black Licorice syrup is definitely NOT black vodka, one cannot expect it to float on just about everything.

Black vodka is coloured with black Catechu and has no flavour other than that of the vodka – or so they say. Black vodka is also 80 proof, so wowee zowee it’s definitely NOT virgin! But does float nicely.

Sambuca, is another anise (or licorice) flavoured adult only beverage – and while not black is only 42% alcohol and in the liqueur category. Good! Nice to know, and somewhat relevant if searching for recipe ideas online.

Since my syrup is denser than any alcoholic original, I can’t expect it to float and have to find other ingredients that will float on it instead. Turns out that orange juice, both concentrated and in it’s normal diluted version both float nicely on syrups with a 1:1 sugar to water concentration. OK! Here goes the testing.

My first kick at the can was to layer concentrated OJ over the syrup and see how that faired. Too strong, too sweet. My hubby says also too orange tasting. Next try: three layers, same two on the bottom, but an added layer of cream (since it’s supposed to be like ice-cream eh!).Still not perfect. The cream hits the pallet too fast and is gone before the liquorice gets to your tongue.

So I tried mixing the cream and orange first then layering it on top. Better. Closer. Now to perfect it. According to my daughter, Tiger ice-cream is more orange than licorice. So, 1/3 licorice to 2/3 orange should do it. What was the verdict. Pretty Good!

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 oz black licorice syrup
  • 1/2 oz orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 oz whipping cream
Procedure:

Pour syrup into bottom of shot glass. Mix juice and cream in cocktail shaker and dry shake (shake with no ice). Layer onto the syrup in the shot and serve.

My Thoughts:

I thought to drop a 2 oz ball of vanilla ice-cream into the mix, increasing the glass size to compensate. While it looks pretty, the drink becomes impossible to drink in a gulp and, since this is a layered drink, that is required to blend the flavours of the two layers. So, ice cream is not an option, regardless of cool (pun intended) factor of the ice-cream!

Kid-o-metre 3/5 one of two kids likes this in my family
Taste: 3/5 Half of us like licorice, the other half not so much.
Simplicity: 4/5 One syrup, and the easiest thing to layer ever!
Ingredient finding: 3/5 Having aniseed in town is great, having aniseed extract in my cupboard was even better, made it easier. Black food colouring though needs to be picked up out of town.

Ghost Shooters

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This next shooter is another attempt to layer – but I wanted to try a different blend of flavours than the common orange and licorice. So I checked out what pairs with licorice or anise and came up with the idea of chocolate. Well, I happened to have some white chocolate cream left, so why not! The result is a layer of white chocolaty goodness floating like a ghost over the black drink. Add some whipped cream and some chocolate ships for eyes…Yup, spooky!

Ingredients:
  • 1  oz Black Licorice Syrup
  • 1/2 White Chocolate Cream
  • whipping cream – whipped
  • 2 chocolate chips
Procedure: 

Pour syrup into bottom of shot glass, carefully layer the chocolate cream over the syrup and let settle for a minute. Top generously with whipped cream, add two chocolate chips and serve.

My Thoughts:

They now sell chocolate covered licorice, so this combo wasn’t much of a stretch. Does it work in a shooter? Yup. Sweet and creamy dessert type shooter. However don’t tryp to do this with no hands as some whipped cream topped shooters dictate. You’ll choke on the chocolate chips, and the chocolate cream is too thick to tip upside down, but mostly you’ll choke. Trust me. I tried it.

Kid-o-metre 3/5 not a hit – even with chocolate
Taste: 3/5 an aquired taste.
Simplicity: 3/5 two recipes, not hard though. Minimal ingredients required.
Ingredient finding: 3/5

Black Lagoon Mocktail

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This next recipe is an adaptation of Matha Stewarts Black Lagoon Cocktail. She had the great idea of making licorice flavoured ice cubes and then floating them in a blend of rosemary lemon vodka and seltzer. I had a similar syrup that I chose to use – stronger citrus flavour and brilliant in the drink. If I made the drink with club soda – hold the vodka – and followed the rest of the recipe I should in theory be able to create an all ages version.

Ingredients:
  • 2 oz rosemary citrus syrup (recipe below)
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 4 oz club soda
  • Licorice Ice Cubes
  • Black liquorice for garnish (didn’t have this at the time for the pic!)
Procedure:

Combine syrup, juice and club soda in a 8 oz old fashioned glass filled with Black Licorice Ice Cubes. Stir to blend flavours. Cut the ends off a black licorice stick to make a staw and serve immediately.

My Thoughts:

According to the original recipe as the drink melts the colour goes from clear to black. I have not had a chance to find this out yet, primarily because I failed to read the original directions – oops! I make the ice cubes out of the licorice syrup, strong sugar syrup it turns out, and the ice cubes turned into super sweet licorice toffee! So not to be undone, I scooped it out of the ice cube tray, plopped it in the bottom of the drink and continued as directed. The syrup added a super sweet flavour to the drink, slowly dissolving in the soda. The result was pretty terrific.

Check out the real way to make licorice ice cubes here if you want the original look.

You’ll also note that there is no licorice straw in my drinks. Seems there is no licorice in town this week… sigh.

Kid-o-metre 3/5 not a hit – with kids
Taste: 5/5 liquorice and rosemary, who knew!
Simplicity: 3/5 two recipes, not hard though (Colette, follow the directions gal!).
Ingredient finding: 3/5 Rosemary and food colouring from out of town


Rosemary Citrus Syrups

This syrup comes from a recipe for Rosemary Citrus Spritzer – all virgin from The Kitchn. I am continually finding great uses for this syrup!

Ingredients:

2 lemons – zest and juice
2 oranges – zest and juice
4 (4 inch) sprigs rosemary
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 honey

Boil all ingredients one minute, remove and cool 10 minutes to steep. Strain and store in airtight container until use. Lasts about 1 month.


Spicy Night Cocktail

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I love licorice flavour and was looking for flavours that complement the flavour of aniseed other than orange. Cinnamon and cloves came up and I just had to try it out.

This drink is made with syrups and soda water, to keep the beverage as clear as possible, the licorice and cinnamon syrup do infuse upward making the drink muddy, grey and mysterious.

Ingredients:
Procedure:

Pour cinnamon and licorice syrup into bottom of flute glass. Mix orange simple syrup, sour mix and soda water in cocktail shaker with a bit of ice to chill it and stir well. Strain, and pour carefully, layering if possible, over the darker syrup base. Top with some clear soda water to keep the top as light as possible. Serve.

My Thoughts:

I wish this was more distinctive in look from the Black Lagoon, when the drinks are both blending light into dark. Next time I make this I will consider ice as a barrier from the two elements mixing. I made this as an afterthought, feeling like I needed one more offering for this blog. I have not tested it on my family yet and me mom is not here to tell me the drink is terrific. (I stand alone in my household, with no licorice loving companions, what ever will I do?)

If you have been enjoying this, I would love to hear from you! A shout out to those in the UK who have been following and in the USA – Hi Y’all! Did you know that in the UK Licorice is spelled Liquorice? Yup! Just a small fact you may —or may not— care about.

 

Spoon!

Drinks inspired by the mighty tick. From right to left: Big Blue Moon, Mighty Blue and Blue on Ice.

Drinks inspired by the mighty tick. From right to left: Big Blue Moon, Mighty Blue and Blue on Ice.

“[The Tick is has an eating utensil in his hand. He is trying to come up with a battle cry that will strike terror into the hearts of evil-doers]

Tick: [shouts] Spoon!”

Yesterday a much awaited item to add to my arsenal of drink making tools arrived in the mail – a genuine bar spoon complete with twisted handle and metal disc on the end. With spoon in hand, I spent the next half hour waiting to yell “Spoon!” to my Tick loving hubby, who was in meetings… oh so many meetings.

So with the thoughts of blue drinks coursing through my mind, I set upon a mission to make a new drink inspired by the Tick – something big, blue and powerful.

Here is my Ode to the Tick.

The Mighty Blue

“Like a great blue salmon of Justice, the mighty Tick courses upstream to the very spawning ground of evil.” – The Tick 

This first drink is inspired by spiritdrinks.com recipe for Angostura Stinger. The recipe is a blend of mint, chocolate, orange, cream and bitters. Creating similar ingredients sans-booze was not difficult but took a few steps.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 oz mint simple syrup
  • 1 oz White Chocolate Cream (recipe below)
  • 2 oz blue curaçao syrup (recipe below)
  • 2 oz half and half cream
My Thoughts:

The taste of the white chocolate and cream mix well with the flavours to create a sweet powerful flavour that is best sipped. I omitted the bitters as the home version of the curaçao tends to have that component. Great for a dessert beverage.

Kid-o-metre 4/5 Sweet!
Taste: 4/5  nice blend when you keep the mint syrup light in the mix.
Simplicity: 3/5  Three recipes to make, but nothing hard to do.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 Local Local Local.


 White Chocolate Cream
Ingredients:

6 oz white chocolate chips
1 cup whipping cream

Heat whipping cream in saucepan on medium high. When heated add chocolate chips and stir until melted. Remove from heat and pour into container to cool. Keep in fridge until use.

Blue Curaçao Syrup
Ingredients:

2 cups cold water
2 cups white sugar
1 tbps orange extract
peel of two mandarine oranges – chopped
10 drops blue food colouring

Mix water and sugar on medium high in a sauce pan until sugar is dissolved completely. Add extract and orange peels and continue to heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Give the ingredients a chance to infuse for half hour then tint mixture with food colouring to desired degree. Strain out peels and store in air tight container in fridge until needed.


The Big Blue Moon

“I am mighty. I have a glow you cannot see. I have a heart as big as the moon. As warm as bathwater. We are superheroes, men, we don’t have time to be charming. The boots of evil were made for walkin’. We’re watching the big picture, friend. We know the score. We are a public service, not glamour boys. Not captains of industry. Keep your vulgar moneys. We are a justice sandwich. No toppings necessary. Living rooms of America, do you catch my drift? Do you dig?.” – The Tick 

Seems there are a ton of ideas for blue drinks out there, both using the blue tinted citrus flavoured curaçao, or Sourz Tropical Blue or for virgin drinks the use of blue Kool-Aid or Hawaiian Punch. Since neither family friendly blue liquid was available locally, I decided to make my own curaçao syrup, add a dash or two of food colouring and work with something more “adult inspired.”

The original Blue Moon includes vanilla, cream, curaçao and orange juice but I wanted something fizzy and the rating on the recipe was not inspiring. The Blue Duck blends curaçao, vanilla and raspberry together in a martini flavour, this had potential to update with a fizzy twist. And I could use my new “Spoon!” to not only measure some ingredients but also to try a stirred drink.

Ingredients:

Serving Size: Two 9 oz drinks

Procedure:

Measure vanilla, lemon juice, blue curaçao syrup and blue raspberry mix into a martini glass. Stir to blend and pour into two 10 oz old-fashioned or highball glasses. Add Ice and top with club soda (about half can per glass). Stir again to mix and serve.

My Thoughts: 

This is a very tart drink. The pure vanilla can become overpowering, so care has to be taken to make sure the other flavours are in correct proportion. If you prefer something sweeter, use Sprite.

I first tried this without the raspberry mix, forgetting I had an additional blue ingredient in my pantry. Without the added ingredient the beverage was too sour and the vanilla dominated the blend. Adding that one extra ingredient changed the mix to something worthy of writing about. Why the name Big Blue moon when the drink is far from the original? Well the tick doesn’t talk at all about ducks!

Kid-o-metre 3/5 with the addition of blue raspberry, this drink was acceptable but not guzzled down when served with dinner.
Taste: 4/5  Tart and good when thirsty, would be good with salty tortillas and dip.
Simplicity: 5/5  one recipe, simple to make, rest is all bottled ready to use from the local store.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 Small town possible.

Blue on Ice

“Let your journey into hugeness teach us all a lesson. Absolute power is a sticky wicket. And, Arthur, chum, you were the stickiest. Don’t you get it, good friend? Some of the best things come in small packages.” – The Tick 

This one is directly inspired by the layered drink called the Toronto Maple Leafs. I was looking for a layered shooter, using the colour blue, but also using my wonderful new spoon. In the end I also got to use my long spoon to pull the iced cream from the bottom of my blender (another reason they  make the shaft so long – just for that purpose!)

Ingredients:
  • 1 oz blue curaçao syrup (see above)
  • 1 oz Irish Cream Syrup (recipe below)
  • 1 oz whipping cream
  • 3 ice cubes or 1/4 cup ice

Serving Size: Two shots

Procedure:

Divide blue curaçao syrup between two shot glasses. Carefully layer Irish Cream Syrup over the blue syrup. Toss the cream and ice into a blender or magic bullet and use the ice chop setting if you have one to crush the ice into slush. Spoon over each drink and serve.

My Thoughts:

I originally tried this with the two ingredients from the original recipe. Because of the lack of the alcoholic bite, the final drink was too sweet and needed something new to cut the flavours. So I decided to try layering cream on the top. Even with whipping cream the density of the two top ingredients was too close and after four attempts I realized I had to be creative to get that final ingredient layering on the top. Inspired by the Maple Leafs who spend all their time on the ice, I decided to throw caution to the wind and toss the cream into a blender with a little ice, creating an iced cream that happily sat on top of the drink looking like a pile of ice shavings from the Zamboni.

I left these two drinks sitting for my kids to try, by the time they got home from school the iced cream had melted into a froth, leaving white moustaches on both girls after they tipped the drink into their mouths. I am guessing there would be a small brain freeze with the original, not a problem for such as the tick, who has such a small brain to start with I am sure it would never be affected!

“Destiny’s powerful hand has made the bed of my future and it’s up to me to lie in it. I am destined to be a superhero, to right wrongs and pound two-fisted justice into the hearts of evil-doers everywhere. You don’t fight destiny, no sir! And you don’t eat crackers in the bed of your future or you get all…scratchy. Hey, I’m narrating here!” 
– The Tick 

Kid-o-metre 5/5 Whether it’s melted or iced, this drink is pure yum!
Taste: 5/5  Gotta be good if it’s inspired by hockey right?
Simplicity: 3/5 This one takes skill baby!
Ingredient finding: 5/5 Even up north, these things are easy to find… especially the ice!


Irish Cream Syrup

This is the recipe from Allrecipes.com for DIY Original Irish Cream. I just omitted the whiskey!

Ingredients:

1 cup whipping cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 tsp chocolate syrup (Hershey’s or similar)
1 tsp pure almond extract

Add all but cram to blender, blend well then add cream and blend again. Pour into container and store in fridge. Lasts about 1 month refrigerated.


Well there you have it, that was fun! Not too scientific this time, in keeping with the theme…

“Oh, science… boring… interest… fading…” – the Tick

Bye for now!

Simple Syrups

simple syrup making is pretty easy: sugar, water and any flavouring you want.

Simple Syrup: a key ingredient.

As I work my way through recipes for drinks, both common and unusual, simple syrups keep showing up as a key ingredient. Simple syrups, like alcoholic infusions, can be flavoured with herbs, spices or fruit and add sweetness and flavour to cocktails, lemonades, iced teas, coffees, fizzes and sodas.

When I started working to create virgin drinks with similar tastes to the original alcoholic drinks, I found that simple syrups were a way of creating flavours that imitated some of the sweeter liqueurs like cinnamon and peppermint schnapps, Curaçao, and even Kahlua. Unlike their originals, these syrups lack the bite or kick that the alcohol provides, and will be sweeter. This means that in order to adapt recipes less syrup should be used or the drink will become simply too sweet for most palates.

In my testings and trials of drink making I have found that adding bitters, soda water or more sour beverages can counteract the sweetness of the simple syrup. The key, though, is to make the flavouring in the simple syrup strong enough that the amount needed is halved in comparison to a liqueur, without loosing flavour.

Simple Syrup – basic recipes

Ingredients:
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
Procedure:

Measure water and sugar into a pot and heat at medium high. Stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved in the water and the water turns clear.  Turn off heat and allow syrup to cool. Store in container, well sealed, in cool location.

My Thoughts:

Simple syrup recipes are easy to find online. The basics are that the more sugar the stronger the syrup but the components are the same: Sugar and water.

Some call a one to one ratio thick or rich simple syrup as does What’s Cooking America others refer to a rich simple syrup as a stronger sugar concentration While Allrecipes  suggests that a 1:1 ratio is known as simple syrup. . About Food suggests a rich simple syrup is 2:1 ratio. Whatever it’s called there is four common ratios. 1:1 sugar to water; 2:1 sugar to water; and 1:2 sugar to water; and 1:3 sugar to water.

I find that the stronger syrups are better for more sour or bitter combinations such as dark or semi sweet chocolate, coffee, lemons, grapefruit and raspberries. More dilute syrups work best for drinks where multiple syrups and strong juices will be used without diluting the drink with soda water or use of bitters.

Simple syrups can also be made with flavoured or alternate sugar sources. Brown sugar makes a pleasant and darker tasting simple syrup, and caramelizing white sugar then introducing the water changes the flavour of the syrup to introduce darker flavours into your drinks. I provided the recipe for carmel syrup in my post all about apples here as it takes a few more steps and some practice to get right.

You can also find how I make my coffee syrup which I use at half strength instead of kahlua from my previous post used in my version of Carmel Apple-Disiac, and my cinnamon heavy syrup recipe here as part of my recipe for apple pie shooters.


Orange Simple Syrup

This is a wonderful bright tasting syrup that is infused with the essences of orange zest. The resulting syrup is clear and slightly orange in colour.

Ingredients:
  • Orange zest from two oranges
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cup sugar
Procedure:

Heat water in pot on medium high and add orange zest, bring to boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep half hour. Return to medium high heat and add sugar. Bring back to a low boil and cook until sugar is dissolved and no crystals are left on the bottom. Remove from heat, cool and pour into container for storage. Leave rinds in place to continue to infuse. Store in fridge until use and strain rinds as used.

Mint Simple Syrup

Ingredients:
  • Peppermint leaves – chopped (about half cup)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
Procedure:

Heat water to boil in pot and add peppermint leaves – allow to simmer 5 minutes then turn off heat and allow to steep up to 1 hour. Strain leaves from water, keeping the infused liquid, and return peppermint water to medium high heat. Add sugar and dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and taste liquid for strength. If liquid feels too weak, add more peppermint leaves and allow to infuse for a few days in the syrup. If desired add a drop or two of green food colouring.

My Thoughts:

I didn’t have a fresh source of peppermint leaves when I first created this recipe. In order to “cheat” I simply added a few drops of real peppermint extract. Careful to taste the recipe as you add more mint – peppermint is very strong and you can end up with toothpaste floured syrup instead of something wonderful for drink making purposes.


Depending on how often you make a certain drink, or use a flavoured syrup it may be better for you to have the basic recipe for sweetness and add flavour other ways. In many cases I have chosen to make a simple syrup and add flavourings by muddling them into the drink instead of infusing the ingredients into a number of syrups and then storing these for later use.

Storing multiple simple syrups can take up space and be expensive if you choose to procure fancy bottles for your liquids to reside. I keep some of my most used syrups on hand – in fancy bottles- cause it looks much cooler when mixing drinks then pulling out multiple plastic Ziplock tubs or old pickle jars. But the majority of my syrups are stored in the cheapest containers I can find and reside in an old fridge in the basement for when I need them.

Prep Day – Part Two

Flavouring drinks with fruit, spices or herbs is a process of patience. A friend of mine living in the lower mainland is huge into infusions, posting his creations on Facebook. Fruit infused water is becoming all the rage, with special bottles and pitchers for the task. Mixologist and bartenders often use a simple syrup in recipes – infused with herbs and spices or fruit – along side the more potent flavoured spirit.

Naturally, without the option of flavoured spirits, the job of creating flavoured syrups or liquids becomes more essential in a virgin drink. This has led me on a mission of creating simple syrups flavoured with all kinds of things from coffee to orange zest and from chai tea spices to apples. If you choose to try some of your own creations, Serious Eats will give loads of hints on how to infuse spirits, Toned and Fit gives some great tips on what and how to infuse fruits into water, and about.com gives a list of recipes for simple syrup infusions using heat, or go to Carey’s Reclaiming Provincial blog to see how she uses a cold infusion method to make strong bright fruit and herb syrups.

From what I have read, the pros of doing these infusions yourself is more natural flavours, more options than you would find in your local stores and the cost is much less. All you need is sugar, a pot, knife, grater, peeler, fine wire mesh strainer and storage containers. Seems like mason jars are the best bet – less costly and don’t absorb flavour. But they lack a bit of elegance. Buying bottles however adds to the cost and from my experience the cooler the bottle the more it costs. So what are your alternatives? Muddle and strain. Faster, simpler, but not the same. Nope.

So I am embarking on yet another infusion experiment, working on the list from part one.

Apple Jack Syrup Infusion

First up is Apple Jack or Apple Brandy. Turns out this is pretty easy to make, but normally takes about three weeks to infuse the apples into the brandy and wine. Since I wasn’t using brandy, I made a simple syrup instead, and added a dash of brandy extract at the end to give it it’s aged flavour. I found the concept for DIY applejack from wikiHow.com and altered the recipe as follows:

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups green apples, peeled and chopped really thin
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cup sugar
Procedure:
Dissolve sugar in water, add apples and simmer until tender about 10 minutes. Apples should become translucent. Add cinnamon and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into mason jar, add 2 tablespoons brandy extract and let cool completely before sealing and storing. Let sit overnight or as long as you want in fridge.
My thoughts:
This recipe is super sweet without the alcohol, practically syrup you could put on your pancakes! So it will require a little tweaking, or adding something to cut the sweetness in the cocktail it includes. Most likely club soda or tonic water.

 All Spice Dram Infusion

Next, I researched what is All spice Dram. Serious Eats to the rescue! Turns out it’s rum based, no problem, just pull out the imitation rum and omit the rum. Here is what I did:

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup all spice berries*
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons imitation rum.
*NOTE: If you don’t have whole all spice berries, this is essential. I originally tried this with ground, bound in cheesecloth, but the spices didn’t infuse into the water.
Procedure:
Boil water and spices and simmer 10 minutes. Let steep half hour. Strain and add sugar. Heat to dissolve sugar, remove from heat and add rum extract. Cool and store in fridge until needed.
My thoughts:

While this doesn’t have the kick from the booze, it has a lot of flavour from the spice, and in most cases the recipes is calling for a few drops – so the booze isn’t the essential part. By infusing the spices like a tea before putting in the sugar, I got a nice concentrated taste to the syrup and probably would not even bother with the rum extract in the future.

Walnut Infusion Experiment

Remember those roasting nuts in the oven? They were to try to create a walnut flavoured syrup – which will either rock or be terrible I figure. Verdicts still out, as I wait for this to infuse. What I have done is find out how to infuse walnuts in oil, and then transfer that concept to syrup. Original recipe from Food.com. Process is to boil the nuts, stain the liquid, roast the nuts, smash them and then infuse them. As nuts are oil based this may or may not work with syrup but I couldn’t see wanting oil for a cocktail or mixed drinks. What did I do to alter the recipe? Well…

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
Procedure:

Drop nuts in boiling water and boil for 3 minutes. Strain reserving liquid. Spread nuts onto a baking sheet and roast at 350 F for 15 minutes (until golden brown). Remove from oven, cool, place in a ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin. Pour into mason jar or other 500 mL container. Meanwhile, add sugar to reserved liquid and heat to dissolve sugar completely. Pour over nuts, let cool and store. How long? Not sure, but I am giving it 2 days and then will test to see if this was a great idea or a complete failure.

Next up: Juicing with no blender. In order to get the kick in an apple drink, and without investing in a juicer, I looked up how to juice with my blender. Turns out it’s not that hard. I found the instructions for juicing on chalkboard mag.com. The equipment is simple: a good blender, a fine wire mesh strainer, a wooden spoon & a bowl to catch the juice.

Apple Sour Recipe

In order to make a decent apple juice, that has a kick, juice your own apples. I purchased granny smith, but any super tart apple would do the trick, as long as they are juicy ones. The goal? To create something similar to Sourpuss Liquor.
Ingredients:
4 green tart apples
2 oz lemon juice (bottled is fine for this)
Procedure:

Quarter the apples, with skins on, cut out the cores and chop into thumb size bits. Fill blender with apples and add lemon juice. Don’t forget this step! Lemon juice BEFORE blending makes sure that the apples don’t brown.

Start blender on lowest setting, chop by pulsing until apples are finely chopped. Turn to next setting and blend until the apples are moving freely through the blades without help. Increase speed and continue until you get to top speed and the apples are pulp.

Pour apples into strainer over the bowl, and use the back of your wooden spoon to push and squeeze all juice out of the pulp. The juice will be a nice green colour.

My thoughts:

I decided to take the remaining pulp add just enough water to cover (about 1 cup) and bring to a simmer on medium low, this way I got a little more flavour out of the apples, and more of the sour out of the skins. Once the apples pulp had lost the green tint (about 10 minutes) I removed from heat and poured again into my strainer. I tried this liquid, found it lacked the sweetness of the first batch, but had a nice kick, so I simply poured the second press in with the first and sealed up the juice for later. Since the juice is fresh, it won’t last long and needs to be refrigerated.

Next blog: the drink mixing!

Prep Day – Part one

Up north the gardening is done, the leaves are flying off the trees, and the nights are crisp if not getting cold. Fall was in the air last night, literally leaves blowing everywhere and rain, lots of rain. So I thought, what perfect weather to warm up in the kitchen with pots on the stove and nuts roasting in the oven.

While some drinks can be made with simple ingredients, or items easily found at the store, when it comes to alternates to the boozy options sometimes it takes a bit of work, research and … time.

Yup, lots of time.

Today was prep day.  The theme for this Thanksgiving weekend is fall beverages celebrating apples, pears, walnuts and fresh herbs still available at this time of year.

Ingredients purchased for this set of trials included:

Apple (Granny Smith apples, unsweetened apple sauce, fresh apple cider, apple juice);
Pear (fresh pears, canned pears and frozen pears in syrup),
Citrus (oranges and orange juice concentrate, bottled lemon juice and lemons);
Herbs and spices (fresh rosemary, fresh mint,  cinnamon, ginger, all spice);
club soda, sugar, coffee and cream.

The Prep List:

  • Applejack or Apple Brandy
  • All Spice Dram
  • Apple Sour
  • Walnut flavoured …syrup

When researching fall drink ideas, there are just tons out there on the net. This year, with the focus on apples and pears, I kept to a simple list of drinks that used common ingredients to see which I could alter to be virgin and still work. Here is my list.

Thanksgiving Drink Menu:

  • Fall Apple Martini experiment
  • The Apple-disiac experiment
  • The Spiced Pear Collins Experiment
  • Apple Ginger Sparkler
  • Herb’s Harvest Experiment
  • Apple Blow Fizz Experiment
  • Pear Ginger Fizz
  • Apple and herb virgin martinis

Stay tuned for the results!