drinks

Black Apples & Vernal Equinoxes

I was wondering why I was finding it hard to get excited about the Spring Equinox this weekend. Then it hit me. I’m in mourning for winter. The Spring or Vernal Equinox is a time of balance, when day and night are relatively equal. It signifies a change in power between day and night. After the Spring Equinox the day wins ascendancy as long nights are overtaken by longer days. My short cold days and comforting long nights are almost over. I will miss them but know they will return when the wheel spins its way to autumn once more.

To mourn the loss of winter I thought I would create a variation of a Black Velvet. The Black Velvet was supposedly created by a London bartender in 1861 to mourn the death of Queen Victoria’s beloved Prince Consort, Prince Albert. The colour of the drink was meant to symbolise the colour of the black armbands worn by mourners. A Black Velvet is a mix of equal parts champagne or sparkling wine and stout. To make, fill a glass halfway with chilled sparkling wine or champagne then slowly top with chilled stout.

A Poor Man’s Black Velvet, also called Mud and Blood, is a variation of a Black Velvet which substitutes the sparkling wine or champagne for apple or pear cider. One way of serving either drink is to try slowly pouring the stout over the back of a spoon into the sparkling wine or cider. If done right, the stout will sit on the top and create a layered effect. I tried this but failed 🙂 If you can achieve the separation of colours, these Black Velvets would be perfect for the Equinoxes as they visually symbolise the balance between day and night.

While I am celebrating the Spring Equinox, I am also mourning the end of winter and its long cold nights which were warmed by comforting hot drinks. To commemorate this loss I thought I would make a warm and spicy mulled version of a Poor Man’s Black Velvet.
I’m calling it a Dark Queen’s Black Apple.

Dark Queen’s Black Apple

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Ingredients
1 orange
1/4 cup brown sugar
8 cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
2 cups apple cider
2 cups stout

Instructions
Using a knife or vegetable peeler, peel the skin from the orange leaving behind as much of the white pith as you can.
Place the orange peel and all the other ingredients into a saucepan.
Simmer gently over low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the drink is hot but not boiling.
Strain into heatproof mugs or glasses.
Refrigerate any leftover drink.
You can reheat it or drink it chilled.

I Never Drink … Wine

When Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi first uttered those immortal words in Tod Browning’s 1931 movie Dracula, he didn’t realise he would be giving birth to one of the most famous lines in vampire folklore. These words never appeared in Bram Stoker’s novel. They were unique to the film which is loosely based on the 1924 stage play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. It was this play that introduced us to an urbane, tuxedo wearing Count Dracula, much different to Stoker’s quite repulsive vampire. The romantic, cape wearing Count would become one of the most popular versions of the mercurial vampire in literature and cinema. His popularity does not appearing to be waning.

To celebrate Bela’s upcoming 134th birthday on Thursday October 20, I thought I would drink some wine in his honour 🙂 Sangria, a chilled Spanish red wine drink, is supposedly named after the Spanish word for blood – sangre – which reflects its dark red colour. I have chosen to meld a chilled Spanish sangria with a warm mulled wine. After all, if Dracula did drink wine he most certainly would want it served warm – like blood!

Hot Blooded Sangria

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Ingredients
1/2 cup blood orange juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
750ml bottle of red wine
1/3 cup brandy
1 blood orange, cut into pieces

Method
Place the juice and sugar in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Stir until combined.
Add the cloves and cinnamon sticks. Simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 – 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes syrupy.
Add the wine and brandy. Cover and simmer, without boiling, for 5 minutes.
Add the blood orange pieces to a heatproof jug.
Pour wine over the blood orange pieces.
Drink while warm.
Refrigerate any leftover wine and enjoy cold over ice.

Spanish Rioja is traditional but you can use any red wine you like. I used a Vampire Merlot from Transylvania 🙂
You can use any variety of oranges when blood oranges are out of season.

Slow Chocolates and Warm Memories

As I wind down my reminiscing, I can’t help but think of the warm and nurturing hot chocolates we ended our evenings with at Jamala Wildlife Lodge. To symbolise my slow journey back through my past, I thought a slow cooker hot chocolate would be great. Don’t worry if you can’t drink it all in one go. Allow any leftovers to cool, then refrigerate until cold. It makes a great chocolate mousse!

IMG_0015.JPGSlow Cooked Hot Chocolate

Special Equipment:
Slow Cooker
Stick Blender

Ingredients
300ml double cream
2 cups of milk
200g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
Place all the ingredients into the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, give the chocolate a good whisk making sure you scrape any chocolate from the bottom and sides into the mixture. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.
Turn off the slow cooker and very carefully blend the hot chocolate with a stick blender.
Serve piping hot.

Drinks To Drive For

Gemelli, a great new food place, recently opened up near us. We’ve been there a few times trying out the menu. They have some great food but the standout favourites have to be their milkshakes. Four flavours range from Berry Cheesecake, Cara-Malt Popcorn, Chocolate – Chocolate – Chocolate to Vanilla Brulee. It took a while, but I tried them all 🙂 Choosing a favourite is difficult, as each has something unusual and delicious to tempt you.

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the wobbly jelly pieces in the Berry Cheesecake

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the caramel popcorn floating crunchily in the Cara-Malt Popcorn

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the chocolate filled wafers poking out of the Chocolate – Chocolate – Chocolate

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the bruleed marshmallow sitting in a mini ice cream cone, poking out of the Vanilla Brulee

I did not think there was a drink to match these in beauty and flavour but I was wrong. After conquering the milkshake challenge I turned to one of my favourite drinks – the Affogato.

What is not to love about cold ice cream served with a shot of hot coffee to pour over it? Affogato means “drowned” in Italian and refers to the ice cream being drowned by the coffee. When the hot coffee meets the cold ice cream a battle begins between the two. Will the heat of the coffee melt the ice cream or will the cold ice cream cool down the coffee? Both things actually happen. What you are left with is a warm, creamy, melting coffee flavoured ice cream which you both drink and eat with a spoon!

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Can it get any better? Yes! By the additional of alcohol. Affogato can be served with a shot of Amaretto, a sweet, almond flavoured liqueur. But the affogato here is served with Frangelico, a sublime hazelnut flavoured liqueur. It was a very pleasant surprise. While you are meant to pour both the coffee and the liqueur over the ice cream, I kept some Frangelico back for the end. Finishing my affogato with a final sip of warming Frangelico was the perfect end to a perfect drink.

I loved the affogato so much I decided to make my own version with vanilla and raspberry ice cream, served with a shot of hot coffee and a shot of Turkish Delight liqueur. The raspberry ice cream almost overpowered the coffee, but the coffee bravely fought back. The raspberry and Turkish Delight liqueur complemented each other beautifully and I was left with an intriguing mix of flavours which I liked.

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If you are happy to stray from the traditional flavours of an affogato, you can have heaps of fun experimenting. I’m wondering what coconut ice cream and coffee would taste like and what liqueur to pair them with and … I could go on but it’s time to have a coffee – without ice cream! 🙂

Bitter Sweet

In my exploration of the five flavours through drinks, I’ve saved bitter for last. Not just because it is my favourite emotion – I mean flavour! – but because it was the most difficult. Like sweet, bitter has so many of my favourite flavours such as beer, wine, tea and coffee. How could I narrow down a drink with so many offerings? With great difficulty.

After contemplating a citrus sangria, a root beer float with real beer and numerous tea infusions I finally settled on a tried and true bitter combination – mocha. Chocolate and coffee are great companions and both can be bitter. I chose to celebrate their union in stages. A marriage of fresh brewed coffee blended with melted chocolate is topped with a dollop of cream infused with instant coffee and sprinkled with cocoa nibs. The result – a luscious, messy indulgence 🙂

Hot Mocha

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A bitter-sweet symphony of coffee and chocolate.

Ingredients
1/2 cup double cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1 cup freshly made coffee
50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
cocoa nibs for serving (optional)

Method
Whisk the cream and coffee together by hand until thick.
Place the fresh coffee and chopped chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly for 5 minutes or until the chocolate has melted and combined with the coffee.
Divide evenly between two heat-proof glasses or mugs.
Top with coffee whipped cream.
Sprinkle with cocoa nibs if desired.

Note:
The cream can sometimes separate when dropped into the hot mocha. You can allow the mocha to cool slightly before dolloping the cream or you can enjoy it as a buttery, creamy mocha.

Saline Solution

Next in my exploration of the five taste sensations through drinks is the realm of salt. When we think of salty drinks we think of soups and broths. Cocktails that may come to mind are ones that have salt encrusted rims such as salty dogs and margaritas. A favourite of mine growing up was the tequila shot – lick your hand between your thumb and forefinger, sprinkle with salt, knock back your tequila shot then bite on a slice of lemon or lime – we always used lemon. This classic shot has been the subject of much debate. One theory suggests that you salt a slice of lemon or lime, pop it in your mouth and chew on it, then drink down a shot of tequila. I haven’t tried this version  – yet 🙂

Synchronistically, my local bar Hopheads has tapped a couple of salted beers recently. I tried one and was really surprised. Even though beer is not usually sweet, the overt taste of salt takes you back at first. After a few sips I began to enjoy it but it’s definitely not a favourite. They also had a cucumber and mint soft drink seasoned with salt and black pepper. With salty drinks on my mind I knew I had to try it. My first sip sent waves of disappointment through me as I thought “it’s horrible!” but a few sips in and I began to really appreciate its flavours. It actually reminded me of the doogh I made for the sour drinks blog. I began to wonder what it would be like with a spoonful of yoghurt or a few shots of gin.

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For the recipe below I explored the world of salted teas. I have always wanted to make Tibetan butter tea as it combines some of my favourite flavours – tea, butter and salt. Sadly, the one I made was awful. I don’t know if it was me or the recipe but I really didn’t like it. Neither did my partner. Unperturbed I experimented with a different salty tea called Noon Chai – I just loved the name and happily the flavour! Noon Chai, also called Pink Tea, is a salted and spiced Kashmir tea with a surprise ingredient – bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). You can garnish it with chopped nuts like pistachios or almonds if you like.

Noon Chai

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Ingredients
1 teaspoon green tea leaves
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk

Method
Place the tea leaves and half the water into a saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk until combined. Add the remaining water, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Whisk until combined. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a simmer.
Strain and serve.

A Bloody Birthday Drink

October 20th is Bela Lugosi’s birthday. He would be 133 years old if he lived. Considering he is one of the most famous actors who played Dracula, he may still be living – or undead!

As I continue to explore the five taste sensations through drinks, I couldn’t resist creating a Bloody Virgin Mary. Not only is it a drink most appropriate for a vampire, it is also a celebration of umami flavours. Umami is a Japanese word and is used to describe the unique flavour of savoury. Best examples of umami flavours can be found in aged foods such as cheese, cured foods, fermented foods, meats, sauces, seaweed and stocks.

Bloody Virgin Mary
A heady combination of savoury and salty flavours.

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Ingredients
1 + 1/2 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup beef stock
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 spring onions, finely chopped

Method
Place the tomato juice, beef stock, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce and spring onions in a blender. Blend until combined. Pour into a jug. The mixture will be frothy so chill in the refrigerator until settled before serving.

A Tasty Sour Note

I hope this won’t leave a sour taste in your mouth! Actually I do – but hopefully you’ll like it. The next flavour on my list is not sweet but sour 🙂

Sour is a bit of a pleasure and pain taste, but in the right proportions it really brings a recipe to life. Interestingly I love sour foods from the dairy range such as cheese – especially cream cheese and goat cheese – buttermilk, creme fraiche, sour cream and yoghurt. I’m not partial to sourness from fruits or vegetables although I do love sour cherries and occasionally really lemony tarts. So when exploring sour drinks I steered away from citrus based ones like the Whisky Sour and went for dairy based ones.

Fermented dairy products are popular drinks around the world and are thought to be helpful for digestion. They have been around for thousands of years and have been made from a variety of different dairy products such as camel milk or mare milk! While researching these drinks I was reminded of a drink that I used to make for myself, which I called Moon Milk because it was so white. My Moon Milk was simply yoghurt mixed with milk and seasoned with a pinch of salt. This led me to choose a yoghurt based drink to celebrate sourness. Indian lassis and Turkish ayran are probably the more well-known yoghurt drinks, but I chose Persian doogh, mainly because I have newly acquired and much loved Persian relatives. I also love how the sourness of yoghurt is tempered by the refreshing mint.

Doogh

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Ingredients
1 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup sparkling water
Ice cubes for serving.

Method
Place the yoghurt, mint and salt in a jug. Mix until the yoghurt is smooth. Add the soda water and mix until combined.
Serve chilled over ice.

A Very Sweet Equinox

It’s Equinox time – a time of balance and renewal when day and night are as equal as can be. In the Northern Hemisphere, the nights will now be longer than the days. In the Southern Hemisphere, the days will now be longer than the nights.

As I think of the long hot days ahead I think of drinks. So I thought it would be fun to play with the concept of balance through drinks and our sense of taste. Taste has five sensations – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Over the coming weeks I will explore each sensation through a drink. I’m starting with sweet.

Sweet is one of the easiest to work with as it is a pleasurable flavour and there are so many delicious sweet drinks around. But that is also a problem – with so much choice how do you choose?

One of my favourite sweet flavours is rose water. I thought a rose water cordial would be lovely. I was chatting to my friend who runs a bar about my thoughts for a sweet rose water cordial. He was brought up in Malaysia and told me about a drink from his youth – bandung. It’s a rose water syrup drink sweetened with condensed milk! Can you get anything sweeter than condensed milk? Possibly, but the thought of a rose water and condensed milk drink had me running from the bar to my kitchen. Here is my version of the very sweet, very delicious and very pink bandung.

Let me know what your favourite sweet drinks are 🙂

Bandung

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Ingredients
for the syrup
2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon rose water
pink or red food colouring

for mixing
1 cup condensed milk
1 cup water

Method
Boil the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves.
Add the rose water and enough food colouring to achieve the desired pink colour.
Add the condensed milk and water and mix until combined.
Chill in refrigerator before serving.

A Taste For Gin

I’ve been drinking gin since I was 15 years old. Something about the heady aromatics of
juniper berries grabbed me and held on tight. I love the different botanicals in different gins. When I discovered sloe gin I was blown away.

In my younger days I mixed my gin with lemonade or lemon squash. Now I shudder at the thought. Being older and wiser I go for the more traditional gin and tonic with a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber.

A while ago I saw that The Bass and Flinders Distillery in Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula was offering a Gin Masterclass. I couldn’t wait to enrol in their two hour workshop and quickly booked a place.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived and was a little nervous. All I knew was that it was a workshop where I would be creating a bottle of gin for myself! I shouldn’t have worried. As soon I walked in the door, I was offered a gin and tonic with a choice of gin. That’s a good start! They make a few different gins here so there was quite a choice. I chose the Monsoon, which is a blend of 8 botanicals featuring coriander, ginger and lemon grass. It was delicious.

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I sat down at a little table and was confronted with an array of small glasses filled with liquid alcoholic botanicals. It was like being in a laboratory. I had a mixing glass in which I poured the juniper berry base. Coriander was added as the balancing element. Now all I had to do was decide which other flavours I wanted for my personal blend of gin!

The botanicals came from three regions – Asia, Australia and Europe and ranged from dry to aromatic. I decided to try and taste all the botanicals but after a few sips I was getting confused. So I just launched in and starting mixing flavours – keeping written notes so I could remember my final blend. I was doing really well until I added lemon myrtle, one of my favourite Australian herbs. Sadly it completely destroyed my gin and turned it into a lemon cough syrup. No amount of coriander could balance out that taste and I was devastated.
Luckily there was a second round.

I decided to punish and banish all the Australian botanicals from the next round and went for a blend I like to think of as The European Panda 🙂 There were only a few European botanicals so I decided to use them all and mixed them with a few Asian botanicals to come up with a very delicious gin. My final concoction was a heady blend of juniper, coriander, barberry, dill, elderberry and cardamon. My job was done!

All I had to do was decide what I wanted on my label and then wait for my very personal bottle of gin to arrive in the mail. The first part was easy as I’d already made up my mind. The second part, not so much. Patience is not my strong point. As the weeks passed I kept checking the mail, getting more and more anxious. Would the gin be as good as I remembered? How long was the process going to take? Had they forgotten me? Where is MY GIN?? were justIMG_0414 some of the thoughts that ran through my mind.

Finally my package arrived. I cracked it open and took a much anticipated drink. It was better than I remembered. It was so good straight that it didn’t need any mixers.

I smiled when I looked at the label. There, draped between two women, were the words – Vintage Vladic Aged 50 Years. This was a 50th birthday present to myself. I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate for an ancient gin drinker 🙂

Gin Alexander
Another one of my favourite drinks growing up was Brandy Alexander. It wasn’t the brandy I liked, but the cream and the chocolate. Naturally I had to try it with gin.

1 part gin
1 part creme de cacao
1 part thin cream
ice cubes
grated dark chocolate for sprinkling

Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well.
Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
Sprinkle with grated dark chocolate.