Soooooo... it's been a while. Life got pretty busy with COVID, what with working from home (I'm not great at compartmentalizing), cooking non-stop since we weren't going out, etc. etc. Then I got laid off. It was a great job with great people and a great product, and I was damn good at it, but unfortunately the company was no match for COVID-19, and I was caught up in our second round of cuts.
You would think that being unemployed would give me all kinds of time to work on new concoctions for this here blog, but notsomuch – I'm very fortunate to be in technology, and interviewing my next job has basically been its own full-time job. I'm a lucky gal with a lot of options, so no complaints here.
Life goes on, and so does the Aviary's ambitious cocktail book publishing schedule, and as such, I'm pleased to report that I received not one, but TWO of their fine tomes for my birthday.
Appropriately, the kids got me ZERO, the Aviary's take on booze-free cocktails, and let me tell you – if I decide to toss the sauce someday, there is more than enough content and inspiration in that book to keep this blog alive and well for decades to come. It's among the most impressive things I've seen in the mixology world in some time, chock full of detailed recipes for building out an extensive alcohol-free backbar and concocting some of the freshest and most nuanced mixers around.
Also appropriately, my wife got me the Aviary's Summer Cocktails softcover, which is a treasure trove of beverages she might actually drink. At the very center of this volume is Gallagher, a watermelon-based cocktail inspired by the long-haired comedian who is better known for taking sledgehammers to watermelons than he is for his cleverly scathing political commentary. I loved that guy.
This is among the simpler cocktails I've encountered from the Aviary, save for the ice, which is a confection of sugar, star anise, and tamarind paste. I lacked most of the ingredients required for both the ice and the cocktail, but as is often the case with the Aviary cocktail books, I look to them more for inspiration than direction, and came up with my own version of a basic watermelon-lime base that would be enhanced over time by the complex flavors in the melting ice.
Rather than tamarind, I went with dried figs, and in place of the star anise, I landed on peppercorns, juniper berries, and some spicy garam masala a friend brought back for me from India. Watermelon and lime pair great with spice, and the sweetened fig paste grounded the flavors a bit.
For the booze, I wanted to use my cucumber gin, but it was a bit... aged and musty, which is gross, so I grabbed some Tito's instead, along with homemade fennel liqueur as a nod to the absinthe in the Gallagher.
Here's the final product, which went over well with our socially distant cocktail hour today with a pal.
Frozen Watermelon Mule
For the Fig Masala ice:
8 dried figs
10 juniper berries
1/4 c granulated sugar
1 t garam masala
2 c of water, divided
Combine the dried figs, juniper berries, and peppercorns in a glass measuring cup with 1 c of water. Microwave until boiling, 2-3 minutes. Dump the contents of the measuring cup into a food processor or smoothie blender and blend until smooth.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet and sprinkle in the garam masala to toast it a bit; be careful to avoid burning it. When the spices are toasty and fragrant, add the fig paste mixture and the other 1c of water, using a wooden spoon to blend the spices, paste, and water. After everything is well-mixed (2-3 mins), remove from heat and let cool 5-10 mins.
Fill an ice mold with the mixture (I used a mold that made ice sticks) and freeze until solid.
For the watermelon ice cubes:
1/2 smallish watermelon
Cut rind off the watermelon half and chop the flesh into 1/2" cubes. Spread out on a baking sheet and freeze fully.
For the watermelon juice:
1/2 smallish watermelon
Cut rind off the watermelon half. Cut off a section and slice into spears; freeze for use as a garnish later. Slice the rind off the remainder of the watermelon, chop into cubes, and puree in a blender or food processor. Strain the juice into an airtight container, seal and refrigerate until ready to use.
For a 3-serving batch of Frozen Watermelon Mule:
2c watermelon juice
1/2 batch of watermelon ice (about 4 cups)
2 oz lime juice
6 oz vodka
2 oz fennel liqueur
6 oz tonic
1 c plain ice cubes
Frozen watermelon spears to garnish
Basil sprigs to garnish
Fig Masala Ice sticks to garnish
Combine all ingredients except garnishes in a blender and blend to a frozen daiquiri-like consistency. Pour into copper moscow mule cups, leaving about an inch of space. Garnish with watermelon spear, Fig Masala Ice stick, and basil sprig.
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