alcoholic beverage

Gin Coconut Cooler

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It took me 14 years of living in New England, but I finally made it to Portland. The word all over Boston was that this city had an impressive food and drink scene. I'd heard restaurants named over and over again by friends within the hospitality industry. Now, people who live in Boston traditionally fall into two categories: those who head up to Maine, and those who go down to the Cape. We fall into the latter group, and it's almost impossible to get us to take any trips from April through November. Which only gives us the winter months to get away. Towards the end of last year, I told Eric I couldn't take it any longer. We had to go.  

During our time in Portland, we stayed at the Press Hotel, a charming property centrally located within walking distance to many great restaurants, bars, and shops. Our first stop was at Eventide, a seafood-extravaganza that made this pescatarian very happy. From there we got drinks at the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club and Blyth and Burrows, which are just a few blocks away from each other (and only a couple minutes from where we stayed). Dinner was even more convenient: at Union Restaurant, on the ground level of the Press. After dinner, we walked briskly through the 19-degree air to the other side of town for some drinks at Bearded Lady's Jewel Box, a bar so charming I wish I could've bottled it up and taken the whole vibe home. The night ended around the corner at Chaval, a Spanish-themed restaurant and bar. Too full to get more than some tapas, we ordered the boquerones and a cocktail and were perfectly content. That was just our first night. The rest of the weekend was spent doing more of the same: trying bites at different spots, meeting chefs, bartenders and distillers along the way. By the end, we felt like we were a part of the community (which shows just how warm and welcoming everyone is). There will undoubtedly be a return trip, and I don't expect it'll take us as long to get back up. 

Activities like our trip to Portland are what get us through the winter months. I'm always trying to plan things for the weekends. Shows to see, restaurants to check out, friends to brunch with. It's the only way we can deal with the snow and cold. Another thing that helps me forget about the dreary weather is festive cocktails. These usually involves lots of lime and herbs (typically, mint). I know some folks (including my wonderful husband) who have major issues with cilantro, but I can't get enough of it in drinks. The fragrant citrus notes pair beautifully with the botanicals of a dry gin. A little heat (and a slight tingly/numbing effect) is provided from the Sichuan peppercorn syrup, but the creamy coconut milk keeps it mellow.

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Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food

Gin Coconut Cooler
Yield: 1 drink
Tools: cocktail shakermuddlercocktail strainer
Glassware: Rocks glass

1 oz Sichuan peppercorn simple syrup (see recipe below)
1.25 oz lime juice
6-8 cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
2 oz gin
.5 oz green chartreuse
1 oz full-fat coconut milk

Add lime juice, cilantro, and simple syrup to cocktail shaker. Muddle cilantro. Add gin, green chartreuse, and coconut milk, along with 3-4 ice cubes, and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass. Fill glass to the top with crushed ice. Garnish with cilantro.

Sichuan Peppercorn Simple Syrup
Yield: 1 cup
Tools: saucepan, strainer

3  tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

In a small pot, bring water to a boil. Add Sichuan peppercorns to the pot, turn off heat, and cover with a lid. Let steep for 30 minutes. Strain Sichuan peppercorns from the pot, reserving liquid. Put the liquid back in the pan, along with the sugar. Set over medium-high heat. Whisk until sugar has dissolved. Take off heat. Let the syrup cool completely before using. Store in a container in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food

Raspberry Vermouth Cobbler

We have a lot going on right now, and many of these things are tough to wrap our heads around. One is the Cape house. I haven't mentioned it here, but in October, we bought the house next to Eric's family's property. It was a joint purchase with his brother and his wife, and their mom. Yes, it's exciting, but there is much that needs to be done and it's hard to accomplish anything from such a distance. With that said, we're in the beginning stages of some work... making lists, getting quotes, and lots of time browsing through websites figuring out how to best proceed with these projects. I have been given the task of getting things in order with the kitchen, which makes sense since I spend as much time cooking down there as I do in the lake or reading in the hammock. 

When we left the house at the beginning of November, we had done as much as we could. Rooms were cleaned and we even got a bit of painting done (ok, it was a giant amount of painting... 21 kitchen cabinets and a large living room, to be exact). I think we were all a bit burnt out by the end of that. I had little desire to think about any of it, but seeing that we're already in February, I think the time has come to stop procrastinating.  Before we know it, April will be here and we'll be on our way to open the house(s).  

Last week, I needed my spirits lifted and there are few things that do that better than a vibrant boozy beverage garnished with a ridiculous amount of fresh mint. A cobbler came to mind and I worked a little spin in there by muddling raspberries, which provided some nice color and sweetness (most cobbler recipes call for some sugar, but I didn't think that was necessary here). 


1 drink

1/4 ounce lime juice
1/4 ounce fresh orange juice
3 raspberries, plus more for garnish
3 ounces sweet vermouth
Soda water
Fresh mint

1. In the base of a cocktail shaker, muddle together raspberries, lime juice, orange juice and vermouth. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain mixture into a highball glass filled with ice cubes.

2. Top drink with soda water and garnish with fresh mint. Serve with a straw. 

Bufala Negra

Humanity is a privilege, we can't give in
When they build walls, we'll build bridges
This is resistance, we're resilient
When they spread hate, we shine brilliant.

-Wednesday Morning, Macklemore

Deep down inside, I thought we wouldn't get here. I thought, hoped, that maybe it was just a bad dream. But it's not. It's our reality. And now we have to figure out how to deal with all of it. Protesting makes a statement, but I think that only does so much. I hope to do more this year, get involved with our community, to provide in some way to those in need. It requires putting ourselves out there, which, I'll admit, is something I struggle with.  But each day, it feels as if our world gets smaller and smaller and I know that each of us will be impacted by what occurs over these next four years.

I was touched by the farewell speech given by President Obama a few weeks ago.  If you didn't get a chance to watch it, I highly recommend taking some time to hear his words. This passage struck me the most.

"Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it's really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power. We, the people, give it meaning. With our participation, and with the choices that we make, and the alliances that we forge. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. That's up to us. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured."

I'm not sure if that's leaving things on a hopeful note or not, but I figured I should at least write a little bit about why I made this cocktail. I realized that it'd been quite a while since I'd featured a drink here, so I spent a bit of time looking for inspiration online. For me, it's whiskey season (not that there's ever an end to that season), so I knew it had to include some form of that spirit. And I wanted to use vinegar. Now, I've done shrubs before (like this, this, and this) with balsamic or cider vinegar. But I thought using straight up vinegar would be unique. After a little research, I came across this Bufala Negra on The New York Times. I must admit, I was slightly skeptical of the addition of basil leaves. I shouldn't have been, because this turned out to be one spectacular and complex cocktail. It's perfectly balanced, with the balsamic to cut through any sweetness (plus, the ginger beer adds a slight kick which I loved).  I hope you all enjoy. 

Bufala Negra

The New York Times, adapted from a recipe by Jerry Slater of H. Harper Station in Atlanta

1 Drink

1/2 teaspoon turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon good aged balsamic vinegar
5 fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
2 ounces ginger beer

Add sugar, vinegar and 4 basil leaves in a cocktail shaker. Muddle for 10 seconds. Add bourbon and shake to dissolve sugar.

Strain over ice into old-fashioned glass, top with ginger beer and garnish with basil.