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!