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The Mistletoe Mojito

• 2 oz light rum (any decent light rum is fine)
• 1.5 oz simple syrup (preferably made with unrefined sugar)
• half of a lime, sliced into 4 wedges
• 6-8 small mint leaves, 3-4 large
• 2 ounces cranberry juice
• crushed ice
• 4-6 cranberries (steeped in rum for a couple of days)
• club soda

Be prepared for the holidays! Keep a couple of handfuls of whole cranberries soaking in a glass of rum in your refrigerator for this drink! It’s optional, but definitely adds something nice. The best way to make these is to boil the cranberries in water for just a minute or two before dropping them in to the rum – this will let the rum soak in.

Drop the rum-soaked cranberries and mint leaves into the bottom of a large (18-20 oz) glass. Smash the cranberries into a paste. Now fill the glass about half-full of crushed ice. Squeeze the lime wedges into the glass, and then drop in the squeezed wedges. Add in the cranberry juice, and simple syrup (you can substitute cane juice for simple syrup if you happen to live in an area where it is available). Now muddle everything together, which basically means using a wooden spoon or muddler (available in bar supply stores – looks like a tiny baseball bat) to smash everything in with the crushed ice to combine the flavors. You don’t want to grind the mint leaves into pulp, but you do want to make sure they get a bit crushed. Pour in the rum, fill to the top with club soda and stir.

Mojito

The Caipirinha

This is a simple, classic drink, and it’s the national cocktail of Brazil. It uses a Brazilian spirit called cachaça, which is a rum made from sugarcane juice (whereas most Caribbean rums are made from molasses). Cachaça used to be hard to find in the states, but now you can find it in many local liquor stores.

• Half of a lime, sliced into 4-5 thin wedges
• 2-3 teaspoons of Turbinado sugar (unrefined sugar, sometimes sold under the brand name “Sugar In The Raw”)
• 2 oz cachaça
• lots of crushed ice

Squeeze and drop the lime wedges into a 8 oz. glass, and dump the sugar on top. Muddle the limes and sugar vigorously – really smash them together! (much of the flavor in this drink comes from the oils in the lime peel. Don’t have a muddler?  A wooden spoon works OK too). Drop crushed ice into the glass, pour in the cachaça, stir, and enjoy.

Notes: 

  • Turbinado sugar really adds to the flavor of the drink, but it does not dissolve quickly. If you like your drinks sweeter (or if you are extremely impatient), try using good-old refined sugar – it will dissolve faster.
  • Cachaça has a very nice taste, kind of like bright young rum with a hint of tequila. But my “sister from another mother” was turned off by even that faint hint of tequila, so if you have a violent physical or mental reaction to the smell of tequila, consider yourself warned.
  • If cachaça is not an option for you because of taste or availability, make a Caipiroska!  Just substitute vodka for the cachaça.

Variations: The above recipe is the classic Brazilian caipirinha, but there are hundreds of variations on this drink. Try crushing 3-4 cranberries with the lime and adding 1.5 oz. of cranberry juice for a nice Christmas Caipirinha, or substitute tangerine and a small chunk of fresh peeled ginger for the lime. Maybe some nice blackberries and a sprig of mint for a summer drink?

Rhubarb Martini

Fair warning – this drink takes more than the average amount of prep work – plan ahead. It uses homemade rhubarb syrup and homemade sour mix, both of which need to be made well in advance. But it IS very good, and worth the trouble. The secret is to make a LOT of the rhubarb syrup and sour mix at a time – it freezes well, and keeps in the refrigerator for quite a while.

• 1.75 oz sour mix (go ahead, make a double or triple batch)
• 4 oz rhubarb syrup
• 4 oz good vodka
• juice of a medium-sized lime
• lots of crushed ice

Dump all of the above into a shaker, shake like hell, and pour. Makes enough for two large martinis.

Notes: If you are like me, and don’t like really sweet drinks, use the juice from a large lime (or 1.5 medium limes), and/or add in a splash of club soda to the martini glass. It really helps cut down on the sweetness.

Rhubarb Syrup

This makes a lot of syrup, but it is kind of a pain to make, so it’s better to make a bunch in advance and freeze it in water bottles. Cut the recipe proportionally if you want.

  • 6 cup sugar
  • 6 cup water
  • approximately 4 quarts of washed and diced rhubarb stalks (about 24-28 big stalks)

Make sure to get all of the leaves off of the stalks – they are poisonous!

You’ll need a big pot for this. Heat the water until boiling. Add sugar, and stir until completely dissolved. Dump in the diced rhubarb, and bring to a full boil while stirring occasionally. Boil for 5-6 minutes or so, then remove from heat. Strain the goo through a fine strainer or colander until you have gotten as much syrup as possible out of it. This should make about a half-gallon. Refrigerate or freeze immediately.

Pomegranate Martini

I got this recipe from our friend Jude – thanks Jude!

Shake the following in a shaker until mixed and cold:

  • 2 oz. pomegranate juice
  • 2 oz. citrus vodka
  • 1 oz. Cointreau (or other orange liquor if Cointreau not available)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • ice

Pour a splash of soda – maybe a half ounce or so – into the bottom of the martini glass, and then pour the shaker contents to fill up the glass.

Notes: Regarding pomegranate juice brands: I have tried several brands, but the only ones that truly taste decent in this drink are POM or Odwalla (the Odwalla flavor name is PomaGrand). Make sure you are getting plain old pomegranate juice, and not the crap flavored with “berry” or “passion fruit” – it tastes horrible, and will make a rotten drink.

POMartini

Ozoner’s Rasta Reindeer

Well, I needed to come up with a new drink for Christmas this year… After much difficult experimentation, I came up with the following. It is a weird combination, but seems to work.

• 1.5 oz light rum (any decent light rum is fine)
• 1.5 oz Malibu rum
• Juice of half a large lemon
• .75 oz Midori
• .5 oz Grenadine syrup
• Cranberry juice

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a tall (16 oz) glass. Add ice, then fill with cranberry juice, and stir.

Mojito

Red Beans and Rice

The classic New Orleans dish. There are SO many different ways to make it: this recipe is more of a guideline than anything else. I cobbled it together from about 3 different sources and after a bunch of trial and error, this is my current favorite iteration. WARNINGS! 1) Done properly, this is a two-day process, and; 2) This recipe makes a LOT – you will need a really big pot, 12 quarts minimum. It freezes really well, though.

  • 2 pounds of dry red kidney beans
  • 6 ribs of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 7-9 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 large white onions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 large green bell peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large smoked ham hocks (or substitute 3/4 pound of diced smoked ham if you simply can’t find ham hock – a shame)
  • 3 pounds of good spicy smoked sausage – andouille if you can find it – sliced on the bias
  • 1.5 tsp dried thyme leaves, crushed
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Several dashes of Crystal or Tabasco hot sauce
  • Several dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3-4 tsp creole seasoning blend
  • 1-2 tsp salt

The night before, put the beans into a pot, and cover them with lots of cold water – you will need at least 4 inches of water on top of the beans, if not more. Soak them overnight. Soaking the beans overnight reduces the cooking time, and also reduces some of the… err… deleterious effects of bean consumption, if you know what I mean.

In the morning, drain the water from the beans, and put fresh water in the pot. Bring the beans to a rolling boil, and cook for 45-60 minutes until they are tender but not falling apart. Make sure to keep the beans completely covered in water while you are cooking them, or they will get hard and nasty-tasting.

While the beans are cooking, sauté the onions, celery, and bell pepper until the onion just starts to turn translucent. Add in the garlic and cook a couple more minutes (don’t cook it too long – if the garlic browns, it will turn bitter).

Drain the cooked beans, and dump everything into your big cooking pot in this order: Ham hocks, celery/onion/bell pepper/garlic, half of the sausage (reserve the other half for later), beans, and all of the seasonings except for the salt. Now shake the pot a bit to settle everything: you want it as compact as possible for when you add the water (adding too much water is where you can really screw up the dish.)

Fill up the pot with cold water until you can just see the waterline about to cover the top of the beans. Don’t make the mistake of over-filling the pot with water, or it will turn out more like soup – you want the end result to be thick like stew. You can always add a little more water later.

Crank up the heat until the mixture comes to a full boil, then turn it down to a simmer for about 2.5-3.0 hours. Stir it occasionally, so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.

At about the 2 hour mark, fish out the ham hocks. Pull off all of the meat and dump it back in the pot, and throw the fat and bones away. Continue simmering.

When the beans really start to break down and thicken up, dump in the reserved sausage, and salt to taste. Simmer for about another 20 minutes and then turn off the heat (you should be at around the 3 hour mark now, but you can go longer if you need to). You can eat it now, but it always tastes better if you let it sit overnight in the fridge to let the flavors further combine.

Serve over hot rice, and eat with some good French bread and a frosty beverage!

———-

NOTES:

  • For those of you in the Seattle area, the sausage I use is half Hempler’s Andouille, half Double-D Meats double-smoked bratwurst. If you can’t find these in your area, any sausage that is smoked and has pork in it (and maybe some garlic) would work fine.
  • If your beans do not seem to be thickening up by the 3 hour mark, you may have gotten old beans from the store. Try pulling out a few scoops of the beans from the pot, mashing them up in a bowl, and then dumping them back in.
  • I know that I just got through telling you to make sure not to add too much water, but…  This recipe also make a really hearty soup if you add a teeny bit more water, and drop in a handful of chopped green onions right before serving.  So if you added too much water, make lemons out of lemonade and serve “Red Bean Soup” for dinner!

My Classic Mojito

The Mojito has apparently become the new “in” drink over the past year or so. However, I think is is also one of the most bastardized drinks around – I have had some REALLY awful mojitos in some very nice bars. To my mind, a properly-made mojito is light, fresh, and balanced, without the overwhelming taste of rum, mint, or that awful “mojito drink mix”. If the drink is neon green in color, then it is NOT a real mojito; they used some crappy pre-made mix – probably margarita mix.

• 1.75 oz light rum (any decent light rum is fine)
• 1.75 oz simple syrup (preferably made with unrefined sugar)
• half of a good-sized lime
• 6-8 small mint leaves, 3-4 large
• crushed ice
• club soda

Fill a large (18-20 oz) glass about half-full of crushed ice. Cut the half-lime into 3-4 wedges, squeeze them into the glass, and then dump the squeezed wedges into the glass. Add in the fresh mint leaves, rum, and simple syrup (you can substitute cane juice for simple syrup if you happen to live in an area where it is available). Now muddle everything together, which basically means using a wooden spoon or muddler (available in bar supply stores – looks like a tiny baseball bat) to smash everything in with the crushed ice to combine the flavors. You don’t want to grind the mint leaves into pulp, but you do want to make sure they get a bit crushed. Fill to the top with club soda and stir.

Notes: This is very much a “to-taste” recipe. Some people like a little more lime, some like a little more sweetness, etc. Play around with it, and find what you like best.

Mojito

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is used to sweeten lots of different drinks, and it is handy to have on hand in the refrigerator when you need it. Yes, I know that you shouldn’t really need a recipe for simple syrup, but here it is anyway.

The ratio of water to sugar is 1:1 – e.g. if you are using two cups of water, then you will use two cups of sugar. Bring the water to a rolling boil, and then add in your sugar. Stir constantly until it is back at a rolling boil and all of the sugar is completely dissolved. Take it off the heat, and cool as noted below.

Good old refined white sugar is fine, but I usually use turbinado sugar (aka “Sugar in the Raw”) that has not been fully refined. It has a little bit of that molasses flavor in it, and gives a little more character to your drinks (especially mojitos).

Warm sugar water is a great place for bacteria to grow, so you want to cool it down pretty quick. I will usually cover the bottom of a large bowl with ice cubes, put the pan with the hot sugar water on top of the ice cubes, and stir until it is cool. Store it in the refrigerator – it will keep for a couple of months in there. I keep mine in a big decorative glass container meant for olive oil – it looks nice, and has a built-in pour spout.

The Hurricane

This is one I have had a ton of requests for – the infamous New Orleans original Hurricane. This is a ‘batch mode’ adapted from a recipe found on Chuck Taggart’s amazing site The Gumbo Pages. Be forewarned that this drink exhibits the three dangerous “S” characteristics – Stealthy, Smooth, and Strong.

• 600 ml Dark Rum (Good rum – like Cockspur or Appleton)
• 600 ml Light Rum (any decent light rum – Bacardi is fine)
• 750 ml Orange Juice
• 1 liter Passion fruit nectar
• Juice of 9 fresh limes (don’t you dare use bottled lime juice!)
• 14 packets of Splenda (or use sugar or whatever to taste – see note below)
• Maraschino Cherry juice to taste… I used about 4-5 ounces of juice

Mix everything together in a large container (it makes 3 liters). Serve in tall glasses over lots of ice, and drop a maraschino cherry or two in each glass. If you have leftovers, it keeps well in the fridge for at least a week.

Notes: 

  • Any decent light rum will do, but for this recipe to turn out well you need to use a good dark rum – I suggest Appleton from Jamaica or Cockspur from Barbados – cheap dark rum will RUIN this drink!
  • Many better grocery stores will stock passion fruit nectar in liter bottles – usually under the brand name Looza. If you can’t find it, you can try substituting another tropical juice like mango or papaya, but it just isn’t the same.
  • I use Splenda for sweetener because it dissolves better in the mixture and because chicks dig the low-cal thing. Feel free to use good old sugar if you want, but you will have to stir it forever and you will still end up with a slurry of un-dissolved sugar in the bottom of your container. Please taste as you sweeten – the amount of sweetener needed will vary depending on the bitterness of of your limes, and you run the risk of over-sweetening the batch (plus it is fun!).
  • My original recipe called for 750ml of white and dark rum, not 600ml.  It was great, but people were dropping like flies. Try it if you want a drink that will make people lay down instead of party…

Hurricane