Tag Archives: brandy

Mixology Monday: Local Flavor

Blackberry Daisy

The theme for this month’s Mixology Monday is Local Flavor. Our host is Kevin of Save the Drinkers, and while I don’t despise globalization as he does, I echo his affection for local flavors and specialties.

Living here in western Pennsylvania, particularly in summertime, I’m lucky to have delightful, fresh ingredients right at hand. Corn is the big crop here now; if you have any occaision to come through this area in the next few weeks, make a point of stopping at any of the gazillion roadside stands and picking up a few dozen ears. You don’t have to cook them. Just eat them raw. You’ll be spoiled for anything other than extremely fresh corn again, but it will be worth it.

Still, for MxMo purposes I didn’t think corn was the right choice. Interesting, but too complicated. Instead, I thought back to my childhood, and I headed to my parents’ back yard.

Their yard looks like this:


When I was growing up here, we picked blackberries every summer, right at the center point in that photo. In my memory, the summer weather was always ridiculously hot and humid, but for berry picking we bundled up in long sleeves and jeans because the bushes are studded throughout with thorns, and there were poison ivy vines mingled throughout as well.

Still, the effort wasn’t that great, because you could reach out and lift up one single branch. Underneath it you’d find great bunches of blackberries, hanging thick as bunches of grapes, and nearly as big.

Please note that blackberries aren’t the same as raspberries, or even black raspberries. They’re a bit more tart, and they hang onto a bit of stem inside instead of being kind of hollow like a raspberry. They go great with peaches (which we also used to grow at home). The plants grow like weeds (as Stevi points out), but they’re also a bit fickle about whether they’ll give you happy huge berries or sad little ones.

My mother had said there wasn’t a huge crop this year, and on my first pass around I thought she was right.

The thing is, blackberries are sneaky. You look at a bush, and you see maybe just a few berries. But carefully grasp a stalk and pull up, and you may find great globs of juicy goodness.

In all, I came away with about two pints of berries, huge and gorgeous and sweet/tart as blackberries could ever be, and as organic as anyone could ask.

As to what to do with them: I thought back to January and the homemade grenadine I cooked up for that month’s MxMo. I figured blackberries would be an interesting alternative.

But I’d also searched around a bit and spotted this recipe for a syrup of blackberries and rosemary.

So. I made two batches of syrup, one with rosemary and one without. They both took far longer than the listed 20 minutes to cook, but each was delicious and drool-worthy.

I mixed up two Brandy Daisies, trying the blackberry syrup and blackberry-herb syrup each in place of the grenadine. These syrups were not nearly as thick and sugary as my grenadine though. I had to fiddle with ratios to get it right (a task made harder by the ridiculously tart lemons I have).

The rosemary-enhanced syrup turned out to be vastly more interesting than the plain berry syrup — lots of complicated flavor, a little bit of surprise. Honestly, I was blown away by it. I want to put it on everything and eat it by the spoonful.

Then I thought the daisy cocktail recipe with blackberry-herb syrup might work well with gin instead of brandy, so I pulled out a bottle of Plymouth. The result is this, my suggestion for the month:

Blackberry Gin Daisy

2 oz gin
1 oz blackberry-rosemary syrup
.25 to .5 oz lemon juice (depending on tartness and taste)
sprig rosemary and additional berries to garnish

Shake gin, syrup, and lemon juice with ice. Serve in cocktail glass with rosemary and berries.

Even if you don’t have the berries to garnish, put a fresh rosemary sprig in the glass. It’s interesting to look at, and it adds an amazing scent to the drink.

Please check out the other ideas and inspiration in this month’s MxMo — watch Save the Drinkers for the summary post. Cheers!

MxMo: Variations on the Brandy Alexander


This month’s Mixology Monday theme is "Variations," hosted by Jimmy at Jimmy’s Cocktail Hour.

Sometimes it seems like every drink I make is a variation on the original. Probably it is. Good cocktail-making is like good cooking: You take a recipe, tune it to your tastes and to the tastes of those who will consume it, adjust for the ingredients on hand, and apply a little chance.

The Brandy Alexander is itself a variation on the Alexander, which is gin, creme de cacao, and cream in equal amounts, shaken with ice. The brandy variation took over its older brother long ago. I’ll guess this is because your average gin drinker doesn’t want his gin softened by a big splash of cream, while in contrast the brandy version turns out to be perhaps the original "girly" drink — soft and sweet but packing a hefty wallop for those who aren’t careful.

Feist (see video above) isn’t the only one to note its danger. It’s a Brandy Alexander that Jack Lemmon’s character orders for a virginal Lee Remick on their first date in Days of Wine and Roses. The sweet young lady loves her first-ever cocktail, and then 45 minutes later her child has nearly perished in a fire and she’s less than an hour from destroying her marriage, all because she can’t drag herself away from the bottle. So much danger in a simple cocktail glass, sprinkled with grated nutmeg.

Movies notwithstanding, the Brandy Alexander is a mild and friendly drink. It is, in fact, a dessert, with creme de cacao turning a perfectly respectable cocktail into a pseudo-chocolate slushie.

I wanted to find a variation that kept the kick of the brandy or cognac, plus the softness of the cream, but offered a bit more with the sweetness part — more flavor, a little subtlety.

I turned to Tuaca, a sweet Italian liqueur flavored with vanilla and fruity spices. This handled the sweetness admireably and brought in nice flavor, but couldn’t quite balance with the cream. So I added a drop or two of Cointreau and came up with a pleasant cocktail.

I have just a few minutes until midnight to post and can’t find a good name for this thing, so I’m going with the obvious:

Brilliant Alexander

1 oz brandy or cognac
1 oz Tuaca
2 or three drops of Cointreau to taste
1 oz light cream

Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into cocktail glass and serve.

Enjoy! And please check out the creations that Jimmy collects for this Mixology Monday of variations. Cheers!

Mixology Monday: Brandy

Cognac: Spot

Cognac: Spot, originally uploaded by Shaylor.

The first Mixology Monday of 2008 is being hosted by the clever Marleigh of Sloshed! and she has chosen a warm and friendly theme that’s sure to bring a little something for everyone: Brandy.

I’ve written about brandy in the past (most notably here). So many lovely drinks can be made with it. For this post, I wanted to try a cocktail I’d never tasted before. I searched my (meager) collection of cocktail books and came up with a few intriguing recipes for the Brandy Daisy — but no background on the drink or explanation for the name.

Thank heavens for the Internet, because Wikipedia filled in a few blanks. The drink appears to be a predecessor of the Sidecar, which as longtime readers know is one of my very favorite cocktails (and my Drink of the Year for 2003). Margaritas can be traced back to it too:

The Brandy Daisy is a cocktail which first gained popularity in the late 19th century. One of the earliest known recipes was published in 1876 in the second edition of Jerry ThomasThe Bartenders Guide or How To Mix Drinks: The Bon-Vivants Companion.

Over the years, multiple variants of the recipe developed, including other daisies involving other base spirits, such as whiskey or gin. Citrus — typically lemon juice, but occasionally orange or lime juice — is common throughout most daisy recipes. Liqueurs or cordials also figure prominently, ranging from Curaçao to maraschino or yellow Chartreuse, distinguishing the daisy from other sour cocktails. Sweeteners range from gomme syrup to grenadine syrup, raspberry syrup, or bar sugar.

It was the grenadine that caught my eye. Here was a recipe that would fit the bill for MxMo January and give me a reason to try my hand at homemade grenadine, which peterb of Tea Leaves had written about recently. Homemade grenadine is worlds better than the ubiquitous Rose’s stuff, which is just colored high-fructose corn syrup.

The grenadine was easy: 1 cup POM brand pomegranate juice, 1 cup sugar, boil until the temperature reaches 220 degrees F. Next time I’ll aim for a lower temperature, as the syrup I made is a bit thick; 210 degrees might be a better endpoint.

I added a little vodka to my syrup to thin it — supposedly this addition will also preserve the syrup, but I’m keeping it in the fridge all the same. Anyway, I expect to use it all up before anything can start spoiling it.

The fact that I’m using homemade grenadine of uncertain syrupiness calls into question the proportions I’m about to give you. The other monkeywrench is the quality of the lemons I’m using — or rather, the lack of quality. It’s hard to find good citrus in the wilds of western Pennsylvania in January. The recipes I’ve seen have been all over the board anyway though. Start with this ratio, tweak to your taste:

Brandy Daisy

2 oz quality brandy or cognac
3/4 oz homemade grenadine
juice of 1/2 lemon

Mix the first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Spritz with seltzer and serve.

This makes for a pleasant alternative to the Cosmopolitan. I plan to try it on my Cosmo- and Lemon Drop-drinking friends, to see if I can lure them away from vodka to other spirits.

Plus, at least a few of the antioxidants in the pomegranate juice must survive the syrup-making process. Even now they are repairing any damage the booze might have done to my organs. Or that’s what I prefer to believe.

I still don’t know why this drink is called a Daisy. The color resembles that of some Gerber daisies I’ve seen, but that can’t be it. Some versions are garnished with a pineapple and a cherry, but that still doesn’t work enough for me. I welcome any information on the source of the name.

Mixology Monday 23

For more brandy recipes and MxMo fun, check in with Sloshed! and see what all the other participants are drinking. Thanks to Marleigh for hosting this month!

UPDATE: Here is Marleigh’s summary of all the posts for MxMo 23. Twenty-nine at the current count! Watch out for a worldwide dip in brandy availability now that these recipes have hit.


Spirited Cuisine: Brandy

You're a fine girlThis is the fourth installment in the Spirited Cuisine series from Sri Bala (Shaman) and me. Each round, I select a liquor or spirit, and Sri creates a dessert recipe incorporating it. Find Sri’s posts at his blog and mine here within the Lush Life category.

Brandy is the world’s oldest spirit — as old as distilling itself. It’s made by distilling wine or fermented fruit mash: Brandy made from wine is "brandy," while brandy from other fruit goes by the fruit’s name, like "cherry brandy." There are variants — for example, Cognac, which comes from the Cognac region of France. Oh, and don’t forget Armagnac (another high-end French brandy), and Metaxa and Ouzo from Greece, and Calvados (France again), and applejack (America), and kirschwasser (which I adore)…. On and on it goes.

Plus there are those crazy brandy snifters, which look cool but seem challenging to drink properly from. Am I supposed to cup it in my hand? Hold the base? Or maybe the stem? How long am I supposed to sniff? How goofy do I look while sniffing?

No wonder the average drinker is thrown off.

Our lack of familiarity with brandy is a real shame, because brandy is as flexible as liquors come. You can substitute it for bourbon, whiskey, vodka, or most other liquors in almost any cocktail for a neat twist on your standard drink. And it’s the best option for oomph in punch recipes like champagne punch, sangria, eggnog punch….

Brandy is the go-to-guy of the bar.

Brandy is also the main ingredient in two of the classic cocktails: the Sidecar and the Stinger.

The Sidecar is kicker of a drink. It has a balance of citrus tang and sugar sweetness — from a combination of Cointreau and either lemon or lime — backed by the smoothness of the brandy. People can debate whether it’s a "girly drink," but it has all the muscle any drink needs. I like mine mixed like this:


2 parts good brandy
1 part Cointreau
big squeeze of lime

Stir with ice, strain into chilled, stemmed cocktail glass. Skip the garnish and start sipping … slowly.

As for the Stinger, it too is deceptively strong but still sophisticated. According to Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts (published in 1949, "A Time-Honored Guide to the Perfect Party"):

Formerly a quiet member of the "horsey" set, an also-ran in the cocktail derby, the Stinger buzzed into popularity when wartime pilots discovered how well it lives up to its name. Even though Army-Navy plane clothes have been doffed for plain clothes, the ex-fliers still like to check out on the Stinger.

I like it after dinner, because it tastes of mint and seems to help digestion. Besides, if I have one or two before dinner, I find that the meal flies by without me remembering to eat.


2 parts brandy
1 part white Creme de Menthe

Stir with cracked ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Get ready to buzz.

Brandy plays extraordinarily well in food too, as demonstrated by Sri’s culinary creation for this round: Brandy Bread Pudding with Apples and Spice. In addition to the recipe being tasty, the photo essay that accompanies it is a wonder. I promise your mouth will be watering as you read. Enjoy.

Our next inspiration for Spirited Cuisine: Galliano, that crazy yellow stuff in the too-tall bottle.