Cynar Cocktail: Red Letter Day

redletterdayI didn’t realize what Cynar could do until I went to Buenos Aires, where it’s a more popular cocktail ingredient than vodka. Even though Cynar is made with artichoke leaves, it doesn’t actually taste like artichokes. It has more of a bittersweet herbal flavor that adds a little kick to drinks. (The Cynar folks tell me it’s named after cynarin, a property of artichokes that makes your tastebuds perceive food and drink as sweeter.)

Speaking of the Cynar folks … they sent me a lovely package that included Cynar and some other cocktail ingredients. I don’t post recipes sent by brands unless I like them. And this one was a big hit with me! It’s light and refreshing (perfect warm for late-summer nights) but with a sophisticated depth and hint of sweetness that doesn’t take over your palate like sweeter Mojito-style cocktails can.

Cynar isn’t as whammo bold as Campari, though they are both aperitifs. But it still offers that touch of Italy and bitterness that is perfect for before a meal (or after).

Red Letter Day

1 ounce Cynar
1 ounce Applejack
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce ginger syrup
1/4 ounce grenadine
Club soda to top (about 4 ounces, according to taste)
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Pour all ingredients except the club soda and bitters into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake. Then strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and top with soda and bitters.

I used Laird’s Bonded Applejack, Morris Kitchen ginger syrup, and Fee Brothers grenadine. But you could make your own ginger syrup by cooking up  2 cups sugar, 2 cups water, and a six-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced. As for grenadine, I recommend making DIY grenadine.

Recipe by Tonia Guffey of Dram in Brooklyn

Cucumber Basil Gimlet

cucumberbasilgimlet

The garden at Savvy Housekeeping is overflowing with cucumbers! So we got together and made this lovely, late-summer cocktail with some of the bounty. It has a delicate and sweet flavor that’s a good antidote to the muggy weather we’re having now. We used lemon cucumbers and purple basil, but you can also use English cucumber and whatever your favorite basil variety is.

Cucumber Basil Gimlet

1 English cucumber or 2-3 small lemon cucumbers
8 basil leaves
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 oz gin

Peel the cucumbers, then chop into chunks and discard the peels. Muddle basil, cucumber, lime, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and gin, then shake for 15-30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping

Hemingway Daiquiri

hemingwaydaiquiri-diycocktailsJuly 21 is Ernest Hemingway’s birthday. I’m using that as an excuse to mix up some Hemingway Daiquiris, so named because the drink was (supposedly) invented for good old Papa by Constantino Ribalaigua Vert at El Floridita in Havana, Cuba. So shake up a few of these bad boys, grab a copy of your favorite Hemingway novel (might I suggest “The Sun Also Rises”), and celebrate!

I made mine with Brugal Extra Dry, because those folks are always sending me lovely samples. But you can use whatever white rum you like. I would not suggest using dark or gold rum at all. Some say Hemingway liked his frozen and doubled in size (aka the Papa Doble), which would mean blending this with some ice instead of shaking. I haven’t tried it myself, but the weather definitely calls for it. Remember that maraschino liqueur is NOT maraschino cherry juice. Not even close. Luxardo is the most common brand, and it’s a good one.
Hemingway Daiquiri

1 1/2 ounces white rum
1 ounce fresh Ruby Red grapefruit juice
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake for about 15 seconds. Strain into coupe or Martini glass. Optional: Garnish with lime wheel or grapefruit twist.

Fresh Cherry Margarita (and Camarena Tequila review)

CherryMargaritaFamilia Camarena sent me some tequila to review, along with a cute little cocktail tool kit. All I could think when I saw it was “Margarita time!” But all the summer fruit around made me want to get a little more creative than that. Since I couldn’t get Margaritas off my mind, I mixed up some Cherry Margaritas. I made this a little strong, since I like to taste the tequila and this is nice tequila. You can adjust the tequila and lime to your tastes.

(After the recipe, I’ll give my thoughts about Camarena Tequila.)

Cherry Margarita

12 cherries (pitted)
1 ounce light agave nectar
2 ounces silver tequila
1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice

Muddle the cherries and the agave nectar at the bottom of a shaker or mixing glass. Add the tequila and lime juice along with ice and then shake vigorously. Strain into rocks glass with fresh ice.

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Low-Calorie Piña Colada (aka Skinny Piña Colada)

skinnypinacoladaThis drink has that lovely coconut-pineapple flavor that makes the Piña Colada so popular … only with half the calories. Savvy Housekeeping made coconut-infused vodka, and we got together for a low-calorie summer tropical cocktail party. Call it a Skinny Colada or whatever you like, but one thing is for sure: It’s damn tasty!

The infusion uses dried, shredded coconut (the kind used for baking, so you probably have half an old bag of the stuff in your cupboard). Using vodka let the pure coconut flavor shine through, but it would also be good with a light rum. We made ours a double, but you could easily halve it for a smaller drink. We also juiced a fresh pineapple, but the canned stuff would work just as well. Grab your tiny umbrella and get mixing!

Skinny Piña Colada

3 ounces Coconut-infused vodka (recipe at the link)
2 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 ounce lime juice

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake drink and strain into a glass.

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping