A beautifully simple cocktail

The island of Martinique is still in hurricane recovery mode from Hurricane Maria which ravaged the island back in September. Rhum Agricole is produced solely in Martinique. In honor of this beautiful island, I committed to making ‘Ti Punch as much as possible.

‘Ti Punch is Martinique’s national drink and a huge part of their daily social life. It is served in cafes and bars all over the island. Everyone has their own method of enjoying it.  The ingredients are served separately table side and the drinker is left to create the drink themselves. Some like more lime, less sugar. Others enjoy a touch more sugar and a heavier pour on the rum. Don’t we all love a heavier pour on the rum?

It is a beautifully simple cocktail using just a few ingredients. You could compare it in preparation to an Old Fashioned and in a glass, it closely resembles a daiquiri. However, tastewise it is neither.

A ‘Ti Punch cocktail’s strength is the floral, funky, earthiness of its sugar cane taste. Rhum Agricole is made from fresh sugar cane juice while other types of rum are made mostly from molasses. Along with the second ingredient in this cocktail, Sirrop de Cane – which translates to sugar cane juice, the mighty cane is definitely the star of this drink.

I don’t always have an easy time finding Sirrop de Cane locally so I substitute other types of sugar products. I’ve used raw sugar, raw liquid sugar, Hawaiian sugar and for the recipe I’m sharing today, I used a vanilla simple syrup.

While not a traditional ‘Ti Punch, ‘Ti Punch avec vanille, is still simple and delightful. I love the vanilla flavor that melds with the grassy almost sweet notes of the Rhum Agricole. Don’t be afraid, it’s not too much sweetness, the lime juice adds tartness and the squeezed lime wedges add a touch of sour to the glass.

‘Ti Punch is also traditionally stirred using a swizzle stick or Le Bois LéLé. Fear not if you don’t have one, you can just stir it with a lowly bar spoon or even a teaspoon.

A ‘Ti Punch must be made with Rhum Agricole, no other type of rum is acceptable.

Rhum Agricoles are widely available at most liquor stores in varying price levels. Sample as many as you can,  each has a unique often funky flavor. It took me a while to find my favorite and of course it was one of the more expensive choices. But I think it’s totally worth it.

‘Ti Punch avec Vanille

Ti’ Punch avec Vanille

2 wedges of lime
3/4 oz. vanilla simple syrup
2 oz. Rhum Agricole
Ice

Add ice to a rocks glass. Squeeze the two lime wedges into the glass and drop the used wedges into the glass. Add the simple syrup and rum. Stir briefly with a swizzle stick. Garnish with a vanilla bean. Enjoy and remember to be exotic everyday!

Berry Bourbon Cooler

When entertaining, are you looking for a brightly colored cocktail to dazzle your guests? Would you like to achieve that without using something full of artificial color and ingredients?

If you’ve ever read the ingredient list on a bottle of Grenadine, the first item listed will invariably be the dreaded high fructose corn syrup, followed by water then several chemicals and dyes. Lastly it will say artificial flavors.

This chemical concoction should taste tart and sweet but mostly tastes synthetic. Some cocktail lovers use a mixture of a popular pomegranate juice mixed with a simple syrup to make their own version of Grenadine.

I wanted a tart & sweet syrup that I could make from scratch. I started with fresh strawberries. They pair well with just about every type of spirit. They also match well with a variety of herbs. I came up with a Summer Strawberry Basil Liqueur that can be used in the Bourbon cocktail recipe below or added to wine, club soda, sangria or even a margarita. In a margarita you can substitute this liqueur for the triple sec.

The more I tasted this liqueur, the more ideas I came up with of cocktails it could be added to; mojito, Tom Collins, even that 1990’s favorite the Cosmo. Best of all, this syrup is made using five ingredients.

Summer Strawberry Basil Liqueur

8 oz. Fresh Strawberries
1 1/2 Cups Vodka
4 Basil Leaves
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Pure Florida Cane Sugar

First, cut the strawberries into halves and remove the stems. Add the berries and the fresh basil leaves into a sealable glass jar. Pour in one and a half cups of Vodka and seal the jar. Give it a good shake.
Let the mixture steep for two days at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. At the end of the two days, your strawberries should be almost white. Strain the liquid into a clean measuring cup using a fine mesh strainer. Set this liquid aside.
In a pot, heat one cup water and one cup sugar on medium heat and bring to a boil for five minutes. Remove the sugar syrup from the heat and let cool.
Once the syrup is cool combine it with your strained strawberry liquid. Seal this liqueur in a glass bottle and shake well to fully mix. Let it rest for a day in the fridge before serving. Keep refrigerated between uses and it will last for up to a month.

Now your have this beautiful Strawberry Liqueur and need a cocktail to utilize it in. Bourbon is the perfect match.

Berry Bourbon Cooler

2 Tablespoons Pure Florida Cane Sugar
5 Fresh Raspberries
4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
3 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. Strawberry Basil Liqueur
1 oz. Lemon Juice

Muddle the sugar, raspberries and bitters in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the bourbon, liqueur and lemon juice. Add a generous helping of ice to the shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with mint, fresh raspberries and lemon peel.

Your guests will be ravished by the color but stunned when they taste all the fresh ingredients you’ve used. Cheers to drinking better!

Spiced & Spiked Vanilla Frappé

There are times when a trip to your local coffee house just won’t cut it. Maybe you’re craving a coffee drink and an alcoholic cocktail at the same time. Your local coffee house can’t accommodate you with both. What to do?

Make your own yummy coffee cocktail at home. It can be done easily in the comfort of your own kitchen. Heck, you can even make it in your pajamas!

Everyday Exotic Spiced and Spiked Vanilla Frappé

2 oz. Vodka
2 oz. cold milk
3/4 cup vanilla ice cream
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 oz. cold brew coffee
whipped cream/additional ice cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
gingerbread cookie

Add vodka, cold milk, ice cream and allspice into a blender. Pulse until blended and pour into a tall glass. Top with two ounces of coffee. Top with an additional scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and a gingerbread cookie.

Three Berry Moscow Mule

My latest recipe is a variation of the classic Moscow Mule. I love ginger beer and Fever-Tree is my absolute favorite. http://www.fever-tree.com/ginger-beer I love the glass bottles and the spicy ginger zing. I used to buy other brands of ginger beer in two liter bottles but they always went flat before I used them up. I threw away more ginger beer than I used. Once my local grocery store started carrying Fever-Tree that was all I bought.

My other advice is to make sure you use fresh squeezed lime juice. Don’t try to spike my cocktail with what is in those little plastic lime bottles. It’s full of adulterated chemicals, I don’t want that in my food or my cocktails. I always keep limes in my fridge. If they don’t get used quickly then I squeeze them and freeze them in ice cube trays. Once the cubes are frozen, I transfer them to a freezer bag and keep on hand to use in cooking.

Vodka is not my favorite liquor. I rarely use it in cocktails with the exception of a Cosmo (we’ll get into the awesomeness of the cosmo in another post, but it was and still is one of my favorite things to drink.) I don’t buy super expensive vodka. I have found several great mid priced choices that have a clean flavor and are under twenty-five dollars a bottle.

So we’ve covered all three ingredients in a traditional Moscow Mule. I’ve added frozen berries to my variation. I buy a frozen three berry mix of strawberry, blackberry and raspberry that my local grocery store carries in the freezer case.

Three Berry Moscow Mule

2 oz. vodka
1 oz. lime juice
2 tablespoons frozen mixed berries
4 oz. ginger beer

Muddle berries in a cocktail shaker and set aside. Fill a mug three quarters full with crushed ice. Add vodka, lime juice, muddled berries and ginger beer to mug. Stir with a bar spoon. Garnish with a three berry sword, lime slice and mint.

Enjoy!

Everyday Exotic Cocktails available now https://www.amazon.com/Everyday-Exotic-Cocktails-Florida-Christina/dp/1389799441/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507581502&sr=8-1&keywords=everyday+exotic+cocktails

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Don’t feel like talking like a pirate today? Me either, I have no aptitude for talking like a pirate. I know the key phrases; arrrgg matey, shiver me timbers, walk the plank but my ability ends there.

While I’m not a pirate expert, I do know a little bit about rum and pirates loved their rum. While sailing the open seas, clean drinkable water was always in short supply. Pirate’s drank more rum than water. Pirates were also susceptible to a vitamin c deficiency  due to a lack of availability to citrus fruit in their diet. This resulted in many cases of scurvy while on long voyages looking for ships to plunder or treasure to bury.

From this convoluted reasoning, I’ve come up with an original recipe called Scurvy Prevention to honor Talk Like a Pirate Day. The cocktail is a wonderful mix of white rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, a touch of falernum and topped with overproof rum. I’d like to think if a pirate did order a cocktail this might be one he’d like.

So drink rum cocktails, it fights scurvy and boosts morale.

Scurvy Prevention

2 oz. white rum
1 oz. overproof rum
3/4 oz. orange juice
1/2 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. vanilla simple syrup
1/2 oz. falernum

Combine all ingredients except the overproof rum in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into an ice filled glass. Top with a float of overproof rum. Garnish with an orange peel and mint sprig.

Gin and Tonic, simple end of summer sipper

It’s the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend. Growing up in the northeast, this holiday signaled the end of summer. Now that I live in Florida, I know summer does not end in early September but in my reminiscing mind it does end this weekend.

All summer long I’ve mixed up some fabulous cocktails; the Paloma, frozen daiquiris, margaritas, gin shandies, Mai Tais and a host of others. My mixing arms are worn out. I want to make something this weekend that requires minimal work and delivers maximum flavor. The classic gin and tonic meets these requirements.

I’m a long time gin lover, even before it was cool to like gin. Now gin is in fashion again and distillers are making some awesome gins with very unique flavor profiles.

A refreshing classic, the gin and tonic, at The Hele Lau Home Bar

Citrus based gins are one of my very favorites. Brooklyn Gin is one of my all time favorites. It is still a juniper based gin but has added citrus peels to give it a crisp, sweet citrus burst. They boast hand peeled and hand cracked juniper berries. While this may seem a bit pretentious and maybe a touch too cool for me, the end result is a superior product. You can check out their website at http://www.brooklyngin.com/?age-verified=89da977172

Another of my favorite gins is St. Augustine New World Gin. Distilled in St. Augustine, Florida. The citrus flavor is dominant but there are fascinating spice notes. The distillery offers free tours and they have an attached restaurant, the Ice Plant Bar with amazing food choices to pair with your cocktail. Check out their website http://staugustinedistillery.com

Today, my gin of choice is Boodles. It’s a proper British gin and has a herbal mellow flavor.  This gin was the liquor of choice for my favorite literary character, Travis McGee of the Travis McGee series written my John D. MacDonald. He lives on a house boat in Ft.Lauderdale and romances many a lovely lady on his boat named the Busted Flush. He preferred Boodles on the rocks.

http://www.boodlesgin.com

http://dos.myflorida.com/cultural/programs/florida-artists-hall-of-fame/john-d-macdonald/

Another ingredient I like to utilize for a G&T is Original Strong Tonic made by Strong Tonic, LLC  http://www.strongtonic.com   Their syrup blends the traditional tonic flavor with a sweet zing using all natural ingredients. It truly takes your G&T to another level. Their website lists some great recipes to try out on a day when I’m feeling more ambitious.

Lazy days call for lazy cocktails and this weekend, I’ve decided the G&T will be my end of summer cocktail. Enjoy and be exotic everyday!

Respect the frozen daiquiri

It’s summer, it’s hot. What do you want to drink? A small, four ounce daiquiri strained into a champagne coupe with no ice or twenty ounces of frozen yumminess poured into a hollowed out pineapple?

Not a hard question.

The frozen daiquiri is perhaps the most refreshing summer cocktail you can sip. Whether poolside, beachfront or land-locked this cocktail sets the scene perfectly.

The frozen daiquiri rarely gets the high esteem it should garner. The lack of respect is largely due to the high number of bad itinerations of frozen daiquiris out in the universe. Every sad chain restraurant has a long list of them and your local bar may even have a huge machine churning a horrible powder mix, sugary daiquiri.

Making a proper frozen daiquiri is easy and it doesn’t have to have half a pound of sugar in it. Measuring your ice is a key step. The ice/liquor ratio is super important. The following recipe is my go-to basic recipe. I may riff with different syrups or add some frozen fruit from this basic recipe.

Everyday Exotic Frozen Daiquiri (Serves 2)

1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 oz. simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
4 oz. silver rum
10-12 ounces of ice

Combine all ingredients into a blender. Blend on the smoothie or ice crush setting until you get a smooth consistency. Pour into mug or glass with handle.

***Wonder why I advise using a mug/glass with handle? So your drink won’t melt too fast while you hold it and your hand won’t get cold!

Enjoy the bounty of mango season

It’s mango season in Florida. Fresh mangos are only fifty cents to a dollar each in the grocery store right now. They’re free if you have a tree in your backyard. Making the most of this mango bounty, I came up with two fresh and easy frozen cocktails to get us through this hot, humid summer weather. Enjoy!

Frozen Mango Daiquiri (will serve 3-4)

3 cups ice
1 mango, cubed and frozen
4 oz. dark rum (Myer’s Original Dark)
3 oz. gold rum (Appleton Estate Signature Blend)
3 1/2 oz. lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup
1/2 oz. Florida honey

Add all ingredients into a blender and pulse on puree until well blended. Pour into a glass and garnish with a mango wedge. You can also drizzle honey on top if you like.

Frozen Mango Margarita (will serve 3-4)

3 cups ice
1 mango, cubed and frozen
2 oz. lime juice
5 oz. tequila (Milagro Silver)
2 oz. triple sec
1 1/2 oz. agave nectar
1 oz. Florida orange juice

Add all ingredients into a blender and pulse on puree until well blended. Pour into a rocks glass and garnish with a lime wedge. Sprinkle chili powder on top if you like.

Welcome to paradise

Welcome to Everyday Exotic Cocktails. I’m getting ready to launch my first book, “Everyday Exotic Cocktails, Florida Edition.” In this book are fifty awesomely simple recipes for delicious exotic cocktails. The recipes contain ingredients you can easily find in your local grocery store, there are very few special ingredients. By utilizing fresh fruit and homemade syrups, all of the cocktails have amazing flavor and they’re super simple to make.

I choose Florida themed drinks for my first book because it’s known as a vacation paradise. I’ve lived in Florida for over twenty years now and feel I’ve earned my Floridian badge. I proudly wear this badge and revel in the tropical paradise I get to experience everyday. I feel Florida sometimes gets the short stick when it comes to being recognized as a tropical paradise. We have hundreds of varieties of palm trees throughout the state. We have 1197 miles of gorgeous coastline. There are 663 miles of beaches with many different types of sand, from pristine white beaches to coquina rock beaches. We are home exotic creatures like the manatee, the alligator and the Florida panther. We grow beautiful tropical plants in our front yards like frangipani, hibiscus and bird of paradise. Florida is truly a tropical gem and I hope to convey this to you through my original cocktail recipes.

I’ll share bonus recipes here along with tips, tricks and advice on stocking your own home bar,  and entertaining the Everyday Exotic way.