DIY: Ginger Beer

With the first week of March complete, the doldrums of winter nearly over (fingers-crossed), and a historic Pi Day approaching at week’s end, it’s time for a project post! This time it’s about making our new favorite cocktail variation on a longtime favorite, the Morganthaler Dark ‘N’ Stormy, an ideal springtime libation with a spicy kick in the pants!

Recently Lisa and I sent out invitations for a party we decided to host in honor of this year’s once-in-a-lifetime Pi Day (3/14/15). While our party may not be the grandest celebration in our fair city, (see MIT’s admissions letters going out here), we will have fun! We’re asking our guests to bring sweet or savory pies (think apple, key lime, shepherd’s, even pizza) and I plan to make a batch of my new favorite variation of our favored drink for our guests.

What follows is my guide to making Morgenthaler’s ginger beer recipe with champagne yeast. Then in a few days, I’ll post his pain-free Chinese Five Spice Rum recipe, which frankly could not possibly be easier. This will be my fourth batch of the ginger beer and through my own experimentation I’ve found one hack that yields greater consistency when using yeast than Morgenthaler’s original recipe on his blog or in his book.

My contribution to his recipe is a volumetric measure of yeast. Morgenthaler’s suggestion of the “tip of a paring knife” or “roughly 25 granules of yeast” (who’s really going to count granules?) didn’t satisfy me, through trial and error I found the volume—one pinch (1/16 tsp.) that produced the best result for my tastes (see below).

Experiments!
Science!

In the following ratios you’ll need (per 16 oz. bottle):

  • 1 oz. fresh ginger juice
  • 2 oz. finely strained fresh lemon juice
  • 3 oz. simple syrup
  • 10 oz. water
  • 1/16 tsp. (one pinch) Red Star champagne yeast

Or (if using 12-oz. bottles) adjust to:

  • .75 oz. fresh ginger juice
  • 1.5 oz. finely strained lemon juice
  • 2.25 oz. simple syrup
  • 7.5 oz. water
  • 1/16 tsp. (one pinch) Red Star champagne yeast (yes, I realize this is the same as a 16 oz. bottle, but I until I find a means of measuring 1.75/32 tsp. it’ll do)

Making the ginger beer:

As Morgenthaler suggests, there is one piece of equipment you need if you plan to make ginger beer more than once, and that is a juice extractor (we use this breville juicer, better one’s exist, but it works sufficiently well). Alternatively, I’ve seen people use a blender/food processor in concert with an orange squeezer and cheesecloth. I find that even with the juice extractor the ginger pulp is still moist enough that I now use this second method to increase the yield. One last word, I peel the ginger root before juicing it, but I’ve seen others not peel—your choice (I imagine the skins would give a woodier taste).

IMG_0731
Notice how moist the pulp still appears.
IMG_0732
I recommend squeezing the pulp out with an orange press (make sure you wrap it first in cheesecloth).

Next, you’re going to need your freshly squeezed and filtered lemon juice. While one could certainly use the breville juicer for this step, lemons are so soft and easily juiced that it can more easily be done by hand. In this case, I used a citrus hand press, which can be found on amazon for less than $10 here, or comparably priced in any restaurant supply store—we bought ours at China Fair in Porter Square. Just pay attention to the ratios above.

Now for the simple syrup. You have options here, depending on how much you need, you could make it on a stovetop, or even in a microwave. Just remember that “simple” syrup is a 1:1 mixture of sugar and water. Again, pay attention to the ratios.

Finally, mix your ingredients together with water and fill your bottles using a funnel. For consistency, make sure to measure out either 12 ounces or 16 ounces, depending on the size of bottles you’re using, with a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add your yeast, cap, and store under the kitchen sink for 48 hours.

Mix and pour into your bottles.
Mix and pour into your bottles.
IN 48 hours your delicious goodness will be ready!
In 48 hours your delicious goodness will be ready!

Enjoy!

-Ryan

Advertisements

Weekend Cocktail: The Greyhound

IMG_0618
Make & filter your fresh grapefruit juice

 

It’s snowing in greater Boston today and we’re stuck at home in our fair city of Cambridge again this weekend. With the MBTA shut down, what better way to celebrate than with a citrus cocktail?!

The past month or two it seems to me that oranges and grapefruits have been on sale on a weekly basis. Today’s cocktail, the Greyhound, is a simple cocktail variation on the classic screwdriver that will take advantage of those grapefruit sales. All it requires is ice, vodka, and grapefruit juice. This recipe comes from Mittie Hellmich’s “Ultimate Bar Book: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Cocktails.”

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 5-6 ounces of fresh grapefruit juice
  • Pour into an ice-filled highball glass and stir
IMG_0620
Enjoy your Greyhound.

 

Enjoy!

-Ryan

Eater 38 Boston Challenge #8: Trina’s Starlite Lounge

I love reading the blog Eater. When I saw their recent recommendations on “The 38 Essential Restaurants” of 2015, I knew  a challenge was in the making. So many of these fantastic restaurants are right in our neighborhood, and while Ryan and I make it a point to cook at home as much as possible, I love indulging ourselves once in a while. It is a great way to explore a city and get to know some new neighborhoods. The challenge is to try all 38 restaurants by the end of the year. I already tried seven of them in 2014 (Oleana, Jm Curley, Hungry Mother, Craigie on Main, Bronwyn, Casa B, and Gene’s Flatbread), so I have a head start. Follow us as we eat our way through Boston!

Last weekend, Ryan and I scratched off number seven on our list by going to Trina’s Starlite Lounge in Inman Square. We dined here the night of the NFC/AFC championship games, the one in which the Patriots played the Colts. You can imagine that here in Cambridge (a city full of die-hard Patriots fans), this was a very important and big day. Thus, our experience may not be truly indicative of what average service is like here. This is a no reservations type of place. Despite the crowds, we were actually seated right away. The decor here is retro and so much fun. All the television screens were playing the game and the fridge near the bar was appropriately decorated with letter magnets that read, “Keep Calm and Go Pats!”

shaddock

We started off with a cocktail called the Shaddock (above). Trina’s is known for its cocktails so pass on the beer when you come here. The Shaddock is a classic cocktail made of Genever, St. Elder, Aperol, and lemon. This cocktail was perfectly executed and delicious. Now  we cannot stop eyeing the bottles of Genever whenever we go to our local liquor store. Soon we will give in and purchase a bottle so that we can make our own version at home, I know it!

Starlite hot dog Starlite chicken and waffles

Then we got the Starlite hot dog and the fried chicken and buttermilk waffles. The Starlite dog was topped with french fries, coleslaw, and a mayonnaise based sauce (that I think had sriracha in it?). It was overall a bit too decadent for me. But maybe this is the kind of hot dog you want to watch a game and have a beer with? For five bucks, it was worth trying- but next time I’d order something else on the menu.

The chicken and waffles are one of Trina’s signature dishes. I can see why! These waffles were crisp on the outside,and the chicken moist on the inside. I would have liked more of that hot pepper sauce because it was so tasty. None of these plates came with any accompaniments. If you want a more balanced meal, order some sides. The very reasonable prices would allow you to do that and the portions are fairly large.

Decor: 4/5

Service: 5/5

Food: 4/5

Total Rating: 4.3/5 stars

I definitely see myself coming back here for a casual drink and snacks! I would love to try their “industry brunch” on Mondays some day.

Happy Dining!

-Lisa

Your Weekly Cocktail: the Whiskey Buck

IMG_0580

Lets be frank, there are some weeks where Friday just can’t come soon enough… For those weeks we hope you’ll join us in our weekly cocktail series.

As the weeks roll, I will taste a new cocktail each week and document it. As mentioned elsewhere, I’d like to learn the techniques of bartending. My goal is to make this more interesting and informative than a straight cocktail recipe book—if you’re looking for that, I suggest you look no further than Mittie Hellmich’s book The Ultimate Bar Book: The Comprehensive Guide to over 1,000 Cocktails. Eventually, my aim to make these cocktails as “from scratch” as possible and share the techniques and trivia learned in the process. In a few months I’d like to make my own cordials, infusions, tinctures, bitters, and syrups. Until then we’re starting with the homemade ginger beer we made recently.

A Buck—aka a mule—is a flexible drink, can be made with any spirit: rum, vodka, gin, whiskey, brandy, and garnished with lime or lemon. Buck’s are great for parties because they conserve your liquor cabinet and keep your guests’ quenched.

Here is what you’ll need to make the 12 Bottle Bar version of the Whiskey Buck:

  • A chilled collins glass (didn’t have so I used a Ball jar—so hipster I know)
  • Crushed ice
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1.5-2 oz of rye whiskey (12BB recommends Old Overholt Rye Whiskey as their “budget” rye ~$16.50-$18.00)
  • A jigger to measure
  • lewis bag (or a cheaper equivalent)
  • A mallet (a crab hammer works. Or if you’d like overkill—Tim the toolman Taylor style—a deadblow hammer)
  • 4-6 oz of ginger beer (home-made, Reed’s, or any of these recommended by dappered)
IMG_0581
Stuff ice cubes into lewis bag and pretend you’re playing whack-a-mole.
IMG_0584
Crushed ice.
Add ice to glass (preferably a collins) add two measures of rye whiskey,
Add ice to glass (preferably a collins) add 1.5 to 2 measures of rye whiskey, the strained juice of 1/2 a lemon, top with 4-6 ounces of ginger beer, garnish with a lemon slice (optional), stir.
Drink responsibly.
Drink responsibly.

Try it and let us know what you think! Have a happy weekend!

-Ryan

On Entertaining: Being a Good Guest

Lisa recently gave her 5 tips on entertaining and I wrote a longer post on the lessons we’ve learned on being good hosts. Every story has two sides though, so now it’s time to review the top 5 traits of a good guest.

A good guest…

  1.  Is on time, or slightly later, but is never ever early. Unless the party host specifically asks you to arrive early, don’t. If you must, immediately offer to assist with set up. However, unless you know the hosts very well, the far safer move is another lap around the block. That’s because a good host will spend the final 30 minutes before their party relaxing. If you arrive then, it’s destroyed.
  2. Never drinks to the point of illness. If you’re no longer capable of making a life-or-death decision, you’ve had enough. If you’re throwing up in the host’s bathroom, you better return the next day to help clean up.
  3. Always and sincerely compliments the hosts upon arrival. Everyone likes being appreciated. Your party hosts are no different. They undoubtedly put a lot of effort into making a good impression, so pay them the hearty compliment they desire and deserve.
  4. Contributes to the party or bar in good looks, conversation, cheerful disposition, gift, or cash. Gifts and cash are always appreciated, just keep the setting in mind. For example, the host of a cocktail party may prefer a bottle of liqueur, Vermouth or even bitters over comparably priced beer or wine. If hors d’oeuvres are served, a bottle of olive oil, vinegar, or even spices are other great options. All of these are less perishable and the host will remember you fondly with each use in the following months (never a bad thing). I can’t think of a home cook who would be upset about receiving a bottle of saffron. Nor would a cocktail enthusiast be peeved about receiving Regan’s Orange Bitters or Dale Degroff’s Pimento Aromatic Bitters.
  5. Always responds to RSVP requests in a timely manner. Planning a party is hard enough, don’t make it even harder. A host doesn’t want to know 30 minutes before the party that you’re suddenly coming and that you’re bringing a group of 5 other people. Likewise, if you RSVP that you are attending, honor it.

How about you, what makes someone a good guest that you cheerfully invite back?

-Ryan

Weekend Cocktail: French 75

It is technically the end of the holidays, but I am going to celebrate my only day off of the week with a little bubbly anyway! This has been a tough holiday season for me, working through Christmas, New Year’s eve, and every weekend. I did not attend a single holiday party. While residency can make one weary, I cannot help but feel grateful for this amazing (albeit sometimes exhausting) profession I have. 2014 was a wonderful year full of numerous milestones (match day, graduating medical school, moving to a new city). It is hard to think 2015 will top it, but I am optimistic that it will!

The French 75 gets its name from the French 75-millimeter gun of World War I or the “Soixante-Quinze”. The champagne makes it a festive cocktail – perfect for the holidays. Warning: It is a strong cocktail. Enjoy wisely.

French 75

From the 12 Bottle Bar

Makes 1 Drink

2 teaspoons Simple Syrup

3/4 ounce strained, freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 ounces dry gin

Champagne or sparking wine, chilled


1. Combine the simple syrup, lemon juice, and gin in a mixing glass.

2. Fill the glass 3/4 full with ice cubes and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled, 15 seconds.

IMG_0253

3. Strain into a flute and top with chilled champagne.

IMG_0257

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

-T.S. Eliot

Happy New Year!

-Lisa

Weekend Cocktail: Boston Sour

This cocktail is a tribute to our new city! A Boston sour is a whiskey sour plus an egg white. Egg whites are generally tasteless and odorless, so it will not change the flavor of a drink so much, but definitely elevates its texture. Adding eggs or egg whites to shaken cocktails will not only impress your guests, but also gives the cocktail a rich, creamy texture and an incredible foamy cap.

If you have not made a cocktail with egg or egg whites in it before, this is a great introduction to it. While drinking a raw egg can be frightening to some, if you prepare it correctly it is very safe. Make sure to buy the freshest eggs you can (preferably from a farmer’s market). The fresher the egg (read: straight from a chicken), the less time it will have to develop bacteria like Salmonella.

To prevent your cocktail from dilution, use the dry shake technique. Combine all the ingredients excluding the ice in the shaker and shake for about 10 seconds. This will allow the egg proteins to loosen up and start to foam without the ice melting into it to water it down. Then add the ice and shake it again. This will make the cocktail nice and cool and strengthen the foam as well.

Boston Sour

Serves 1

From The Ultimate Bar Book by Mittie Hellmich

photo 1 (16)

2 ounces whiskey (bourbon or rye)

3/4 ounce simple syrup

3/4 ounce lemon juice

1 egg white

 

1. Combine all the ingredients in a shaker.

2. Dry shake for at least 10 seconds.

3. Add ice to shaker and shake again.

4. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

photo 3 (4) photo 4 (9)

Enjoy even if you’ve never been to Boston!

-Lisa