Drinks

Mint Syrup and Mojitos

This post was supposed to be about mint meringue cookies, and it’s not. Instead, this is a post about mint simple syrup and how to use it to make the best (that’s not hyperbole) mojitos. Clear out some refrigerator space, you’re going to want to keep this syrup on hand.

The creation of this syrup was fueled by wanting to make mint meringues that actually looked like mint meringues. Not that you wouldn’t believe me if I said a white meringue was mint flavored, but I wanted the cookie to visually match the description. Also, I don’t cook with food coloring so making them green that way wasn’t an option. 
Growing up we had mint growing around our house in different small patches that my father would cultivate every year, helping them to grow and spread. We used mint in cooking and especially for tea. In the ways of our family living in the Middle East, we would steep mint leaves in hot water and sugar to make mint tea, the perfect end to a big meal. Very quickly, the mint leaves got darker and by then end of the night they were muddy colored in little heaps at the bottom of the glass.

Mint turns black quickly once chopped or cooked. That’s why you’re often advised to wait till the last second to use it on your dish if you want the bright green color. I wanted the bright green color so I thought about blanching and set off online to look for advice or thoughts on blanching mint and making mint syrup.

I ended up reading a great article about making vibrant green mint simple syrup. I made the syrup and then when I was ready to make the meringues I prepared them Italian style which meant pouring super hot syrup into the egg whites as you’re beating them. I upped the sugar in my syrup, brought to temp, poured it in, made incredibly light and fluffy meringue, sloppily used a plastic bag with a corner cut off (I think I really need to invest in a basic pastry bag and tips), and piped out some mini mint meringue drops.

They were so delicious right out of the oven. The delicate wafer-like crispiness when you bit into them gave way to a beautiful mint flavor.  Then I left them to dry. And that’s when I learned I had failed.

Without thinking it through, I had made meringues on what would be the beginning of the most humid week we’ve had so far. The humidity didn’t let the cookies dry and as the wet in the air increased throughout the afternoon the cookies became sticky piles of egg whites and sugar melting into themselves. Hopefully, I’ll redo them one day to share the recipe. Failing in the kitchen is never fun.

As I mourned this mess the next couple days, it was becoming increasingly humid, hot, and straight up gross outside. So…mojitos.

Even though it’s a little extra work up front in making the syrup, once that’s done you’ll have it hanging out in your fridge and then putting together a mojito can happen incredibly fast. I was so excited by the recipe that I made a bunch throughout the week for friends who stopped by. Because who can say no to a mojito?
Here’s to summer and all the wonderful warm (and hopefully not too humid) days ahead!
Mint Syrup, adapted from this Food Republic recipe
*The original recipe calls for a 2:1 ratio of sugar and water to make a sweeter syrup. I prefer my drinks less sweet and a 1:1 ratio was spot-on! I often find mojitos to taste way too sugary, but this was really well-balanced and perfectly sweet.
Mint Syrup and Mojitos
Ingredients
Mint Syrup:
  • 7-10 sprigs of mint
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
Mojito (measurements for 1 drink):
  • 1 oz lime juice (about 1 lime well juiced)
  • 1 oz mint syrup
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 5 mint leaves torn up
  • Ice
Instructions
Mint Syrup:
  1. Make the simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small pot, and over medium heat, stir till the sugar is fully dissolved. Immediately remove from it from the heat and allow it to cool a little.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. While it's boiling prep a bowl with ice and cold water and set to the side.
  3. Using tongs, grip the mint stems and submerge the leaves in the water fully for 15 seconds. Remove them and immediately place them in the ice bath to cool. Leave them in the water for 1 minute.
  4. Take them out and remove the leaves from the stems, place them on paper towels, and pat dry.
  5. Combine the blanched mint leaves and simple syrup in a blender and blend on high until it's super well blended and you can't see any visible leaves (about 1 minute). Strain the syrup through a fine strainer and keep the syrup refrigerated until you're ready to use it!
Mojito:
  1. Combine the lime juice, mint syrup, and rum in a shaker with ice. Tear the mint leaves and add it to the shaker. Shake the ingredients well and strain over a glass of ice. Garnish with mint or lime and serve!

Grapefruit, Grenadine, and Gin Cocktail

We keep a well-stocked bar here in Astoria. We love tasting new bourbons, gins, and interesting liqueurs, but we’re not big spirit drinkers, so our bar sits relatively undisturbed. The wine extension to our bar does just fine, but our collection of liquors and mixers just seems to grow and grow. Here’s hoping that my resolution to craft more cocktails in 2015 sticks!

That resolution, coupled with Valentine’s Day, made for the perfect occasion to whip up a fun drink like this one. It’s got the color and a touch of sweetness to make any occasion special…even if it’s a Saturday night in, watching movies.

Growing up, I didn’t get to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The schools I went to were Jewish day schools where hearts weren’t passed around and we didn’t craft sweet messages to our friends in art class. As an adult, it doesn’t hold any interest for me. I don’t think it’s a cynical thing, it just never sparkled for me in that way. However, I do love sharing food and drink with the people I care about, so this could make for a sweet love note.
This drink is also inspired by the crazy amounts of citrus that I’ve been consuming recently. January and February have been so good about providing perfect fruits that I can’t help but turn them into foods and drinks. This cocktail not only uses fresh grapefruit juice, but there’s some candied grapefruit on top for a sweet garnish.
For all the cool stuff on our bar, you’d think we would have cooler glasses to serve our drinks in. I kind of like the “mad scientist, everything in a jar” look but I can see the benefit (especially from a photography point of view) of using gorgeous barware to present beautiful drinks.

So, I’m raising my glass to many things this week, including: writing this blog for 6 consecutive months (woop!), to a recent weekend jaunt in Stockholm where much herring was consumed, to love, and to turning 30. I’m pretty sure I’ve been telling people I’m 30 for a while now, but it still feels nice to actually be here. What are you raising your glass to this week?

Grapefruit, Grenadine, and Gin Cocktail
For each drink use equal parts of the listed ingredients (aside from the garnish)
Ingredients
  • Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • Sparkling water
  • Gin
  • Splash of grenadine
  • Grapefruit zest or candied grapefruit for garnish
Instructions
  1. Shake or stir the first three ingredients with 1-2 ice cubes and pour into a cold glass.
  2. Pour a splash of grenadine over the drink. Taste for sweetness.
  3. Let the grenadine settle to the bottom for the beautiful layering effect, garnish, and serve!
Notes
I used an Old Tom style gin by Queens Courage, which if you can get your hands on I highly recommend, but you can substitute your favorite gin instead.

For a single drink measurement: I used the smaller end on a double jigger, which is about 1 ounce.

Grenadine is super easy to make at home and bonus, no crazy chemicals and dyes.

Bloody Mary Mix and Quick Pickled Eggs

I have a deep an abiding love for pickled foods. Really almost anything that’s come in contact with vinegar for, let’s say, over an hour makes me very happy. Salty foods and spicy foods are also very high on my list of “what I will eat at any hour of the day”. Sour, spicy, and salty combine to make the holy trinity of a perfect drink. Especially on a Sunday. With alcohol. And a side of eggs dripping in hollandaise.For the last month or so, I’ve been craving a Bloody Mary every single weekend, but for so many reasons haven’t been able to have a (good) one. (There was one upstate a few weeks back, but it was so sadly disappointing that even the memory is bringing my taste buds down.)

Then, finally, we had a brunch on the calendar!  Bloody Mary’s here I come! But in that moment, thinking only of food and wanting to impress our out of town friends, I chose the best brunch place in our neighborhood: Queens Comfort.Then disaster. I remembered the restaurant is BYOB, which is almost never disastrous, except when you’ve been craving a Bloody Mary. After giving in to a little silent pouting, I decided that an inconvenience like having to bring all the pieces to make the perfect brunch drink wasn’t going to stop me. The real problem was that I hadn’t ever made a Bloody Mary mix from scratch before.

Obviously it was going to need good heat, salt, and acid in it, but what about the garnish? I love when a Bloody Mary basically has a whole meal just sitting on top of it. It needed to be more than a celery stalk, but it couldn’t be too much more because it was coming along with us to a restaurant. Like my friend Maya (check out her Bloody Blog), I detest when the garnish is a simple lemon or lime. The drink is hearty and bold – it should have hearty and bold food to go with it.In New York we don’t really have pickled eggs for purchase, and by the time I came to the idea of putting an egg on it I had less than 24 hours to make them. Turns out eggs can get that delicious pickled taste pretty quickly. They’re also super good in spicy tomato juice – hearty, and bold.

Once the eggs were set we went to work putting together the mix. Since neither Ari nor myself had ever made a Bloody Mary mix before, our kitchen transformed into a full on lab. More lime! Enough pepper! Touch of salt! What about this? Throw it in!Half an hour later we had what we thought was possibly the most delicious pitcher of tomato juice ever crafted. After letting it hang out in the fridge overnight we bottled it up, packed up the garnish and vodka and headed off for the most epic BYOB brunch ever. This “classic recipe with a twist” was a hit. Earning high marks from friends, who drank it with and without the alcohol, its status was upgraded to blog-worthy.

So here’s to the last days of summer. To hot lazy weekends, long brunches, and glasses filled with ice cubes slowly melting in the sun. I can’t wait for the fall but I sure will miss this amazing season. Cheers!

 

Bloody Mary Mix and Quick Pickled Eggs
Ingredients
Quick Pickled Eggs
  • 3 Hard-boiled Eggs, cooled, shell removed
  • ½ cup Distilled White Vinegar
  • ½ cup Water
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • 6-10 Black Peppercorns
  • Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  • Pinch of Fennel Seed (optional)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
Bloody Mary Mix
  • 1 ¼ tsp of Celery Seed
  • 1½ - 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 Limes Juiced
  • 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 4 Tbsp Prepared White Horseradish
  • 2 Tbsp Hot Sauce (we used Cholula)
  • 1 can, 46 oz, of Tomato Juice (we used Sacramento)
  • Many turns of Fresh Black Pepper (to taste)
  • Salt to taste
For the rim
  • Seasoned salt or your favorite spice (we used the Mexican spice Tajin Clásico - an incredible blend of chilies, lime, and salt)
Instructions
Quick Pickled Eggs
  1. Bring all the ingredients (minus the eggs) to a boil in a small saucepan. Use a whisk to incorporate the sugar and salt. Turn off the heat and let it cool slightly (about 5 minutes).
  2. Pour the liquid and spices over the shelled hard boiled eggs in the container you will pickle them in (I used a jam jar). Let the jar of eggs and pickling mix cool fully before putting it into the fridge. I turned it upside down in the fridge to make sure the eggs were all submerged.
  3. Eggs are ready 12-24 hours later. I liked them best within a day or two but you can keep them up to a week in the refrigerator.
Bloody Mary Mix
  1. In a pitcher, or small bowl, break down the celery seed in the worcestershire sauce using the back of a spoon or pestle.
  2. Transfer the celery seed/worcestershire sauce to the pitcher or bowl you will use to mix everything together and add all the ingredients except the tomato juice. Mix together.
  3. Add the tomato juice and stir it all up. Taste for seasoning. Let sit for at least a couple hours in the fridge or overnight.
To Serve
  1. Moisten the rim of the glass with a lemon or lime. Roll the glass rim in whatever salt or seasoning you're using.
  2. Place a few ice cubes in the glass and, if you're using vodka, pour the vodka over the ice. We used 1 part vodka to 2 parts mix. Fill the rest of the glass with your Bloody Mary mix and stir.
  3. Garnish with spicy and salty things. Things I thought about but didn't use: cubes of cheese, pickles, smoked meats, and pickled carrots. I used seven olives because three seemed too few and eleven couldn't fit on the skewer.