Mock-tails

dbmProposed by: David

Co-fulfilled by: Jonathan

This proposal to make non-alcoholic drinks originally came in honor of Dry January, an actual event in the UK promoted by Alcohol Concern. People raise money for the charity by pledging to go without drink for one month. Of course, January is long over, and this post is (my bad) overdue. I should confess I failed anyway. About January 4th, I started researching whether one month really makes up for the other eleven—surprise, surprise, it turns out moderation is the best strategy for good health. I decided to moderate instead.

Besides, there’s nothing like a “mock-tail” to make you realize most of the work of drink-making isn’t the alcohol. A few libations call for infused spirits—and we’ve done some on this blog—but, when it comes to alcohol, the hardest part of any cocktail is buying the right kind (that, and sometimes paying for it).

To prepare my mock-tail this time around, I created two new simple syrups—juniper and grapefruit/ginger. The former I created because I had some juniper left over from making my own gin, and the latter just sounded good to me. And neither were terribly creative because the first thing I did was search for recipes online, and both popped up right away

In the world of the interweb, no one is unique.

And I had no trouble finding a plethora of mock-tail recipes either. One site offered a lengthy slideshow of concoctions invented by various restaurants, and another featured some non-alcoholic alternatives to familiar libations. No claims of “just like the real thing” appeared on any of these sites. No writer would be so foolish, and, as I was sipping my mock-tail I kept imagining a designated-driver twirling his umbrella as his friends laugh about nothing that makes the driver laugh. Still, most of the drinks I encountered seemed imaginative, at least distracting.

The cocktail I chose, the Virgin Cucumber Gimlet, comes from Ocean Prime, a nationwide restaurant:

1.5 oz club soda

4-5 slices muddled cucumber

1 oz fresh line juice

1 oz simple syrup

They said to “Combine ingredients and shake with ice,” but that’s loco. Shake all of the ingredients except the soda. Add the soda to the drink in a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a rolled cucumber slice, because, without alcohol, visuals are important.

I tried this drink with both of my simple syrups, and the juniper one seemed best. It gave the drink more character and complexity. Most of the mock-tail recipes I encountered seemed much too sweet to the point of being—dare I use the word again?—cloying.

This one was sweet as well, and I tried it with tonic water and without simple syrup (a little better), but, still, something seemed to missing. I finally decided it was gin.

Jonathan’s Part:

jbm2David and I will disagree about this. I have never understood tofu. The whole purpose, in my view, is to eat a meal that is ordinarily and properly prepared with meat without that essential ingredient. The tofu is just a substitute because the person eating the meal does not eat meat, not because anyone likes tofu. I am prejudiced but would be willing to bet that they would like the dish better if it were prepared the way intended.

Okay, now that I have irritated most vegetarians we need to talk about mock-tails. The whole purpose with them is to create a drink with everything but the alcohol, yet there is no tofu to substitute. Many of the best cocktails have a bitter or contrasting element that comes from the spirits or a dash of alcohol based bitters. There just doesn’t seem to be a good tofu/substitute for those elements.

jbm1That is not to say I don’t understand a usefulness for the alcohol-less drinks. Any mock-tail google search will lead to results that start with ideas for drinks for pregnant women, which is a worthy reason. Right behind that are the “my kid wants to drink what I do and a Manhattan just doesn’t seem right in a sippy cup” explanations. That doesn’t quite rate with pregnancy as a reason for mock-tails but okay. There are a few other explanations right down to page seven of the search which would probably lists drinks for ice road truckers who want a little pop yet they can’t afford the buzz right before sliding down treacherous highways.

I did find a couple of recipes that seemed worth a try though. The first was an Italian Cream Soda. It qualified for this blog if for no other reason than it required cooking up a fruit based syrup complete with straining. That syrup is combined with sparkling mineral water, then ice and finally a small pour of cream. It is beautiful, adaptable since many fruits can be used and quite tasty. Is it a cocktail? No, not really.

The second mock-tail also followed a theme that we know oh so well. The Juicy Julep uses three freshly squeezed, and/or strained, fruit juices. I had just established enough amnesia about juicing a pineapple to try it.
1 measure fresh pineapple juice (I used 1.5 ounce for the measure)
1 measure fresh orange juice
1 measure fresh lime juice
Roughly 2 measures ginger ale
Teaspoon crushed mint
Mint, pineapple, lime or whatever for garnish
Mix juices and mint, add ice, top with ginger ale and garnish

This one had some contrast and I think a little fresh ginger root crushed with the mint might have elevated it to the contrasting spice and sweet of a real cocktail. With the garnish, it even looked like a real cocktail.

Jonathan’s take: I liked the Juicy Julep especially after I threw in a shot of rum.

David’s take: #fail

Next Time (Proposed by Jonathan):

The mock-tail being part of the no-alcohol January resolutions, I should reveal one of my resolutions. I am trying to pare down the liquor cabinet. It is made more difficult by needing certain things for the blog and not drinking any of the liquor except when we are experimenting with a new cocktail. That said, my goal has been, with the help of friends and neighbors, to finish off bottles and only replace them with a classic or local example of that spirit. That way three types of vodka should become one and all that gin should eventually be single bottles of the most classic categories. The other way to reduce is to use up some of the oddities like Pisco. While the Pisco Sour is the classic, the Chilcano is an intriguing alternative. Not sure I can make enough to finish off the Pisco but at least it will be progress.

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Redless Snapper

bloodless.jbmProposed By: Jonathan

Reviewed By: David

It may be more common to say there are two camps on any subject, yet when it comes to the Bloody Mary there seems to be three. Of course there are those who love them and those that do not, but there is also a third group that wants to love them.

The lovers have many reasons. They are one of the few cocktails that are associated with breakfast or brunch, mixing and matching ingredients makes them adaptable and customizable, and switching the liquor not only changes the taste but changes the name. Finally, how many drinks include the juicy rationalization that you are actually drinking something healthy? Okay, maybe I am the only one who claims that.

The detractors have their points too. Tomato juice is the main ingredient and it dominates the drink. Don’t like tomato and you won’t like the drink. The thickness, spiciness, acidity and garnishes are all cited by those who much prefer a Screwdriver as a spirited part of their breakfast or brunch.

That final group is the one this week’s cocktail may attract. I have a friend, we’ll just call him “Willard” to guard his anonymity, who wants to like the Bloody Mary but can’t get past all of the negatives listed above. It is the thickness of the tomato juice based mix that really holds him back, and he challenged me to try and find an alternative. Clam juice, water and even orange juice (yes, there is a version of the Mary with orange juice) couldn’t cut the thickness to move him from one group to the other. So it was with some interest that I read about the Redless Snapper.

This cocktail is the creation of Kevin Barrett at Foundation Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was one of the drinks featured in an article in the February/March 2014 edition of Garden and Gun about spirits distilled in the south. It uses Cardinal Gin made in Kings Mountain, North Carolina and is technically a Red Snapper because of the gin substitution for vodka. The key to the cocktail, though, is that it uses tomato water made with fresh tomatoes instead of the standard mix.

The recipe for the tomato water is as follows:

6 large tomatoes, peeled and cut up
3 tsp. lime juice
½ green or red pepper
½ small clove of garlic
1 -2 tsp. fresh horseradish
1 jalapeno (optional)
Salt and pepper

Blend all ingredients except salt and pepper until smooth. Heat in a saucepan until it turns from the pink color to a deep red. Let it cool and strain through a fine strainer and then cheese cloth until it reaches the clarity you want. Add salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate. It reads harder than it really is.

The drink doesn’t specify the amount of tomato water to use but here’s the way I made it:
Moisten the rim of a highball glass with lime and roll in Old Bay seasoning

2 ounces gin
3 ounces tomato water
2 dashes celery salt
Ground black pepper
2 dashes hot sauce
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Serve in the highball glass with ice and garnish with the usual suspects – lime, olive, cornichon, celery, pickled okra – your choice.

Obviously you could use vodka to make a standard Blood Mary but either way it makes a much lighter cocktail that takes advantage of fresh tomatoes and the desire for a softer drink more appropriate for summer. Maybe even a drink that Willard would like.

Here’s David’s Review:

IMG_1043Looking at this recipe for the first time, I recognized it immediately as a sneaky version of a Bloody Mary. The name strays from the usual witty word-play—“Redless Snapper” makes no use of “Mary” as most varieties do—but maybe “Bloodless Mary” was just too much.

Like “Willard,” the part of a Bloody Mary that always gives me the most trouble is the tomato. Gazpacho, I love—it takes advantage of perfect tomatoes in their juiciest peak along with a number of complementary fresh and—this is key for me—uncooked ingredients.

Despite approximately 258,000 repetitions by advertisers, I’ve never wished I could have had a V-8 (what never?… no never) because tomato juice tastes cooked to me, like tepid pasta sauce, too dense to be a satisfactory beverage.

Thus, the notion of “tomato water” in the Redless Snapper appealed to me, as it promised the taste of tomatoes without the usual gravity of tomato juice. Plus, this Bloody Mary used gin (increasingly my favorite spirit) and perhaps enough citrus to leaven the heaviness of the cocktail. The preparation of the tomato water was arduous to me—maybe I’m just developing an antipathy for straining—but I had very high hopes for this drink.

My wife liked the Redless Snapper quite a bit, but I’m still convinced tomato cocktails are just not for me and maybe I should figure out how to spike gazpacho. This drink was much lighter and much more refreshing, its savory elements weren’t overwhelmed by the tomato taste, and it accommodated the gin well. I still consider myself a member of Jonathan’s third group. It’s my problem, must be a former life thing or some scarring event from my childhood I can’t remember.

But we still have plenty of tomato water remaining, and I may try it again some Sunday when a get a hankering for a brunch-style drink. Next time around, however, I may try changing the proportions, with more citrus and more gin to diminish the tomato that, even as water, still seems too much for me.

Jonathan’s Take: I have always been in the lover of Bloody Mary camp but this is good. Still need a side of Tums to go with it too.

David’s Take: Foiled once again by another attempt to rehabilitate the Bloody Mary, alas.

Next Week (Proposed by David):

Summer seems the perfect time for beer, and I’m proposing we try a variety of Shandy—beer with citrus, usually lemonade. Next week’s version is called the Orange Wheat Shandy. Americans have taken to adding a slice of orange to Blue Moon beer (brewed by Miller-Coors), and that’s the idea… yet, beer-snob that I am, next week’s “beertail” ventures further than average, substituting the more hearty, and older, German Hefeweizen (a cloudy brew with substantial body and a yeasty taste redolent of cloves and bananas) for the imitation Belgian Wit-bier and trading fresh orange juice for the one measly orange slice.