Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pear Necessities Punch with Incentive Vodka, Thatcher's Organic Apple Ginger Liqueur and Black Star Farms Spirit of Pear Brandy

Look for the pear necessities
The simple pear necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the pear necessities
Old Mother Nature's recipes
That bring the pear necessities of life

Forget about your worries and your strife and celebrate the Holidays with the Pear Necessities Punch, Pure Michigan style. This decadent punch possesses five layers of flavor profiles, beginning with a base of Incentive's sweet, bold Michigan-grown corn vodka, followed by the gentle and warming spice flavorings of Thatcher's Apple Spice Ginger Liqueur, and finishing with the soft and elegant flavors of Black Star Farms Spirit of Pear Brandy.  Cinnamon, apples, pears, honey and orange play beautifully in the punch bowl with these artisan-crafted, Michigan-produced spirits.  Cheers!

Pear Necessities Punch

1 - 750 ml bottle Incentive Vodka
1 - 375 ml bottle Black Star Farms Spirit of Pear Brandy
1 - 375 ml bottle Thatcher's Apple Spice Ginger Liqueur
32 oz. Pear Cider
32 oz. Apple Cider
12 oz. Spiced Orange Syrup
8-10 oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice (taste dependent)
2 Cinnamon sticks

Add cinnamon sticks to cider and allow to sit overnight.  Remove when ready to serve the punch.  Combine ingredients in a large punch bowl.  Stir well.  Add ice 30 minutes prior to serving to chill, and add necessary water for balance.  If using a block of ice or an ice mold, add 6-8 oz. of water for proper balance. 
Makes approximately 30 - 5 oz. punch servings.

Spiced Orange Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup honey 

16 oz. Sweet Orange Marmalade

3 Valencia oranges

1/2 cup sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

Heat water over medium heat, and slowly stir in honey. Once the honey is dissolved, add orange marmalade, stirring until dissolved. Add the juice of 3 oranges and continue stirring over medium heat. Add sugar and continue stirring. Once syrup reaches a slow rolling boil, remove from heat and add 2 cinnamon sticks. Allow syrup to cool, remove cinnamon sticks after 20 minutes. Fine strain syrup into a storage bottle and refrigerate for up to three weeks.
A Little History. . .

"In the 18th century, drinking was the most popular of all tavern recreations...The kind of drink offered by an individual tavern was a factor in its location, the availability of supplies, and the economic status and aspirations of its tavern keeper. Drinking habits did not differ significantly from colony to colony, where the majority of the inhabitants were British...Rum was the most popular distilled liquor of the time...Punch was a combination of then luxurious ingredients. The drink was made using the rinds and juice of imported lemons, limes, and even oranges, commonly mixed with rum, and white or brown sugar...Lime punch was the most popular version of the drink...punch was served warm and sold in taverns by the bowl...Toddy--rum mixed with sugar and water--and sangre--a mixture of wine or beer sweetened with sugar and flavored with nutmeg--were also dispensed by the bowl...Wine, imported from Spain and Germany, was also served in taverns, but was not widely available outside the cities...Madeira, served during the meal, was the most expensive and popular wine. The consumption of wine, like punch, was limited to the more affluent. Many colonials drank cheaper, fermented beverages made locally. Cider (hard cider) was sold by the jug...Beer was either imported from England or locally brewed...Brandy was usually imported, but native varieties were sold, made from peaches, apples, or cherries. Homemade liquors gained popularity during the Revolution when the importation of alcohol, beer, and wine was halted."

---Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers, Kym S. Rice for Fraunces Tavern Museum [Regnery Gateway: Chicago] 1983 (p. 85-96)

"A variety of alcoholic liquors was served in the provincial taverns. They were rated by the gallon, quart, pint, gill, and half-gill but often were sold by the bow, nip, or dram... Rum generally came from the West Indies or New England...Cider might be the 'common Carolina' variety or it might be imported from England or New England. It was sometimes designated as 'summer' and 'winter' cider and rated in quality from 'good' and best.' Also popular were beer, brandy and wine. Varieties of beer included those from Europe...from the colonies...Ordinaries offered homemade peach and apple brandy as well as the imported drink...Mixed drinks, particularly punch, greatly appealed to the colonials. Punch, consisting of five ingredients, usually contained rum with 'loaf' or brown sugar. Another favorite was the toddy, made of rum, brandy, or whiskey..."

---"The Colonial Tavern: A Gathering Place in the Albemarle [North Carolina]," Alan D. Watson, A Taste of the Past: Early Foodways of the Albemarle Region [North Carolina], James C. Jordan III guest exhibition curator [Museum of the Albemarle:Elizabeth City NC] 1991 (p. 36-41)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Brix Elixir with Bowers Harbor Brix Sparkling White Wine and New Holland Dutchess Citrus Vodka

We love our dogs, bubbly, and all things Michigan.  The Brix Elixir is light, clean, crisp and effervescent, perfect for festive "spirited" brunch gatherings. It pairs beautifully with fresh fruits and cheeses, frittatas, light salads and french toast.  

The Brix Elixir

1 oz. New Holland Dutchess Citrus Vodka
3 oz. Bowers Harbor Vineyards Brix Sparkling Wine
1/2 oz. Ginger Honey Simple Syrup
1/2 orange cut into 4-wedges
4 fresh basil leaves

Muddle orange wedges, ginger honey simple syrup and 2 fresh basil leaves in a sturdy mixing glass.  Add vodka and shake well with ice.  Strain into a champagne flute and top with sparkling wine.  Gently stir and add 2 fresh basil leaves for garnish.

Ginger Honey Syrup

1 cup honey
3/4 cup water
2 pieces fresh ginger root, skinned (approx. 2" each)

Heat water in a non-reactive pan over medium heat with ginger.  Slowly begin adding honey while stirring.  Continue stirring until honey is completely dissolved.  Remove from heat and allow ginger to steep in syrup for an additional 15 minutes or until flavor profile is achieved (taste dependent).  Remove ginger, bottle syrup and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Bowers Harbor, MI

This wine is bubbly and friendly!  Enjoy the ripe fruit flavors of this sparkling wine, complete with a soft sweetness on the finish. With good friends and companions alike, there is always a reason to celebrate!

Holland, MI

Dutchess Citrus vodka is a crisp spirit, with lively citrus notes infused from real fruit.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Great Lakes Wassail

Let every man take off his hat
And shout out to th'old apple tree
Old apple tree we wassail thee
And hoping thou will bear.

18th Century British farmers toasted the good health of apple trees to promote an abundant crop the next year. Cider-soaked bread was placed in the branches to ward off evil spirits. Villagers splashed the trees with cider while firing guns or beating pots and pans. 

Wassail, a tradition that dates back over a thousand years, is a potent libation of spiced wine or ale served from a wassail bowl that is typically served with rings of lemons and oranges. As a salute, "Wassail" appears in English literature as early as the eighth-century poem, Beowulf.  The anonymous Anglo-Norman Poet, who witnessed the Saxon toasting cry before the Battle of Hastings in 1066, makes mention of this early concoction, and Shakespeare alludes to a form of wassail, Lamb's Wool, which was an ale or dark beer whipped to form a surface froth in which floated roasted crab apples, in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

A story told in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain, written in 1135, purports to explain the origin of the toast:

The story of toasting 'wassail' begins when Renwein presented King Vortigern with a cup of wine and the salute 'Was hail.'

While Vortigern was being entertained at a royal banquet, the girl Renwein came out of an inner room carrying a golden goblet full of wine. She walked up to the King, curtsied low, and said "Lavert King, was hail!" When he saw the girl's face, Vortigern was greatly struck by her beauty and was filled with desire for her. He asked his interpreter what it was that the girl had said and what he ought to reply to her. "She called you Lord King and did you honour by drinking your health. What you should reply is 'drinc hail.'" Vortigern immediately said the words "drinc hail" and ordered Renwein to drink. Then he took the goblet from her hand, kissed her and drank in his turn. From that day to this, the tradition has endured in Britain that the one who drinks first at a banquet says "was hail" and he who drinks next says "drinc hail." 

The necessity of importing the wine and such spices as ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg from outside England made wassail rare and was reserved for the wealthy. When fine ales replaced the wine, more people could afford it, and recipes varied according to the means of each family.  The practice of floating crisps of bread in the wassail bowl gave rise to our use of "toast" as a drinking salutation.

We toast to our Michigan crops by creating the Great Lakes Wassail, using a sweet red Michigan wine and Journeyman Distillery's Road's End Rum and brandy.

Great Lakes Wassail 
1 bottle of sweet red Michigan wine
1/2 bottle of Journeyman Distillery's Road's End Rum
1/2 bottle of brandy
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cloves
6 allspice berries
3 inch stick cinnamon
1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup water

Combine the Wine, brandy, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon sticks, sugar and water in a large, heavy saucepan (without letting the mixture come to a boil). 

Strain the wine mixture, add the rum, and pour into a metal punch bowl. 

Serve in 8-ounce mugs or punch cups.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Merry and Bright Elixir with W. R. Welter White Rye Whiskey

A great cocktail to be Merry in Michigan through the Holiday Season!  The Merry and Bright Elixir captures the essence of the holiday season with the flavors of honey, orange marmalade, Great Lakes Tea and Spice Vietnamese "Saigon" cinnamon and W. R. Welter White Rye Whiskey, Journeyman Distillery, Three Oaks, MI.  Bright, vibrant and festive, this elixir is perfect for cozy evenings by the fire.  Vietnamese ‘Saigon’ Cinnamon is considered the finest quality and most flavorful cinnamon in the world due to its high oil contents and rich, dark, distinctly sweet flavor and complex aroma. 

Merry and Bright Elixir

1 1/2 oz. W. R. Welter White Rye Whiskey (Three Oaks, MI)
3/4 oz. Spiced Orange Syrup
3/4 oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
Great Lakes Tea and Spice Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon - garnish (Glen Arbor, MI)

Combine whiskey, orange syrup and lemon juice in a mixing glass.  Add ice to Boston Shaker, shake ingredients for 10 seconds.  Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a dusting of Great Lakes Tea and Spice Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon.

Spiced Orange Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup honey 
16 oz. Sweet Orange Marmalade
3 Valencia Oranges
1/2 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks

Heat water over medium heat, slowly stir in honey. Once dissolved, add orange marmalade, stirring until dissolved. Add the juice of 3 oranges and continue stirring over medium heat. Add sugar and continue stirring. Once syrup reaches a slow rolling boil, remove from heat and add 2 cinnamon sticks. Allow syrup to cool, remove cinnamon sticks after 20 minutes. Fine strain syrup into a storage bottle and refrigerate for up to three weeks.

Holiday Punch Demonstration

Holiday Punch Demonstration
24032 Front Street, Mattawan, MI
Friday, November 25, 2011
1:00 pm
Admission: Free
Join the Traveling Elixir Fixer for a Colonial Punch Demonstration and a little history lesson in Victorian style punches.  Sample punch created using all local Southwest Michigan ingredients and take home the recipe, a perfect holiday elixir to serve at your upcoming festive gatherings.  An added bonus includes a Michigan Wassail recipe using St. Julian's Founder's Pride Red, New Holland Artisan Spirits Michigan Rum, locally grown Michigan apples and Great Lakes Tea and Spice Co.'s Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon.

You may talk of brisk Claret, sing praises of Sherry, speak well of old Hock, Mum, Cider and Perry; but you must drink Punch if you mean to be Merry 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Over the River Elixir with W. R. Welter White Rye Whiskey

What a great way to celebrate with friends and family at Thanksgiving time!  Welcome the holiday memories with this tantalizing seasonal cocktail, Over the River Elixir, using SW Michigan's Journeyman Distillery's W.R. Welter White Rye Whiskey

Over the River Elixir

1 1/2 oz. W. R. Welter White Rye Whiskey
1 large barspoon of Dickinson's Pumpkin Butter
3/4 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
Graham Cracker Crumbs (garnish)
Simple Syrup (garnish)
Fresh grated nutmeg (garnish)

Combine whiskey, pumpkin butter and lemon juice in a mixing glass.  Add ice to Boston Shaker.  Shake for ten seconds and strain into a cordial glass rimmed with simple syrup and graham cracker crumbs.  Add a dusting of fresh grated nutmeg to drink as final garnish.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Rasputin's Revenge with Incentive Vodka and Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup

At the Chicago Food Film Festival in September 2010, I had the pleasure of meeting Ronnie Campbell, who introduced me to Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup.  I was intrigued and delighted when a package arrived the following week from Ronnie that contained several jars of this esoteric, elegant food and beverage ingredient.  I decided to feature this wonderful asset in my next cocktail demonstration, and I wanted to add a little Midwestern charm to the mix. A cocktail demonstration event was scheduled in February featuring Incentive Vodka, I thought this would be a perfect fit as the event was scheduled very close to Valentine’s Day.  I began working on the cocktail, and had several people sample my creation to check its balance. On an interesting note, I found that the samplers loved the cocktail but were scared and apprehensive of the flower - at the end of the drink you can eat the flower, its natural flavor being similar to raspberry and rhubarb. In fact, most people would not try it unless I ate one at the same time. Once they actually experienced the sensation of the wild hibiscus flower, they were hooked.  I would jokingly add, “see?  I didn’t poison you today.”  I decided to name my cocktail “Rasputin’s Revenge,” paying tribute to Russian vodka and the man who refused to die from poison. The cocktail turned into a huge hit, so I also served it at the Boyne Mountain Chef’s Challenge in April, 2011.

The Wild Hibiscus Flower Company is a small, family-owned and operated firm run by a passionate team in Sydney, Australia. Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup are the original creation of Lee Etherington, who invented the product eleven years ago in 1997.  Under the Wild Hibiscus Flower Company’s supervision, contracted growers in tropical northern Australia produce and hand pick the crops of flowers, 25 percent of which are certified organic. The fresh flowers are individually picked, deseeded, cleaned and packed into jars entirely by hand at their factory in the tiny village of Kurrajong, in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Hibiscus flowers grow in several different shapes, so they are placed in predetermined positions in the jar according to shape, to ensure that none are squashed.

Grigori Rasputin

Grigori Rasputin was a Russian Orthodox Christian and mystic who influenced the latter days of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their only son Alexei. It has been argued that Rasputin helped to discredit the tsarist government, leading to the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917. Rasputin was seen as "the dark force," and in order to save the monarchy, several members of the aristocracy attempted to murder the holy man. On the night of December 16-17, 1916, they tried to kill Rasputin. The plan was simple, yet on that fateful night, the conspirators found that Rasputin would be very difficult to kill. 

Rasputin was poisoned, shot four times, and badly beaten, but an autopsy established that the cause of death was drowning after the conspirators threw his body into the frozen river. It was found that he had indeed been poisoned, and that the poison alone should have been enough to kill him. There is a report that after his body was recovered, water was found in the lungs, supporting the idea that he was still alive before submersion into the partially frozen river.

Rasputin’s Revenge
Incentive Vodka, Sturgis, MI

2 oz. Incentive Vodka
¾ oz. Wild Hibiscus Syrup
½ oz. Fresh squeezed lime juice
½-inch Piece of skinned ginger root, cut into 2 pieces
½ tsp. Seville Orange Marmalade

Muddle ginger root and orange marmalade in a mixing glass.  Add Incentive Vodka, wild hibiscus syrup and lime juice.  Shake ingredients with ice in a Boston Shaker for 10 seconds.  Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with wild hibiscus flower.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Holiday Cocktails with Journeyman Distillery

Three Oaks, MI
Sunday, November 13, 2011
3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. 
Admission Fee:  $25.00/person

Join Chicago Mixologists Lynn House and Angie Jackson as they bring a little festive cheer to SW Michigan's Journeyman Distillery. Learn their  secrets to spectacular seasonal cocktails, using Journeyman’s W.R. Welter White Whiskey, as Angie and Lynn demonstrate their unique mixing styles through two signature cocktails designed for this event using locally-sourced ingredients.  Please join us and sip on these fine crafted cocktails created by these talented Windy City Mixologists as they demonstrate how to create these drinks and offer a few cocktail entertaining tips for the upcoming holiday season. You will take home the recipes to these cocktails, filled with Journeyman Cheer, and enjoy a few bits of cocktail history and folklore as presented by Angie Jackson and Lynn House.

For tickets and reservations, please contact

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Martha Washington with GT Distillery's Ol' George Rye Whiskey

In April 2011, I had the pleasure of mixing and shaking cocktails at Boyne Mountain, MI for the 4th Annual Chef’s Challenge.  The Chef’s Challenge is the premier Michigan epicurean event, held at Boyne Mountain, benefitting Challenge Mountain, a non-profit organization devoted to improving and enriching the lives of the mentally and physically handicapped through outdoor recreation.  Challenge Mountain is the nation’s only adaptive recreational facility dedicated exclusively to people with special needs. 100% of all donated dollars go directly to Challenge Mountain programs. The event showcases Michigan’s great agricultural diversity, at its succulent finest, complimented by fine Michigan wines, micro-brews and spirits. This two-day event features a high school competition where culinary high school teams from across the state prepare dishes using chicken, beef tenderloin, Koegel Italian sausage, and a dessert. Chef teams, micro brewers, vintners and spirits distillers are judged by a team of celebrity judges as well as the public. 
La Vega Family

I was shaking and hanging out at this incredible sensory tasting event with all of my wonderful distillery, brewery and winery friends from New Holland Artisan Spirits, Grand Traverse Distillery, Black Star Farms, Incentive Vodka, and Good Harbor Vineyards.  I attended Friday evening’s high school challenge, and was quite impressed by a pair of young enterprising brothers, who were inspired by their grandmother, to begin creating delectable Michigan-made jams.  The La Vega Foods brothers began selling produce at local farmers markets, and have now exploded into their own culinary enterprise while still in high school. The brothers also created Jeff’s Smokin' Barbecue Sauce; Mama V's Jellies, Jams & Preserves; Natures Garden Honey; and Casa Vega Salsa. All of their products are Michigan made, and you will see "I am made in Michigan" on all product labels.  I was so impressed with these young and talented chefs’ salesmanship skills, I decided to sample their goods.  

I was astonished at the flavor profiles they achieved in their jams, especially the Nature’s Garden Cinnamon Roll Walnut Jam and the Apple Pie Jam. I decided that I needed to honor their craft with my craft by designing a signature cocktail using their jams and a Michigan whiskey.  I had the perfect spirit in mind for this creation - Ole George Rye Whiskey, produced at Grand Traverse Distillery in Traverse City.  Ole George Whiskey is distilled from a 100% rye mash bill, is bottled at 93 proof and distilled in the traditional rye whiskey fashion. Prior to prohibition, Americans drank rye whiskey. Rye has a unique character that no other grain can provide - a spicy flavor profile. Grand Traverse Distillery’s Ole George Whiskey is bottled straight from the barrel. They do not chill filter Ole George, as chill filtering can remove flavor from the whiskey.  Their goal with Ole George Whiskey is to let the unique flavor of the rye come through. I had a sneaking suspicion that the spicy rye of Ole George would blend beautifully with Nature’s Garden Cinnamon Roll Walnut Jam.  
This is the perfect drink recipe for upcoming winter celebratory gatherings – PURE Michigan style.  It is named after the wife of our country's first President (who also happened to be the largest and most successful whiskey distiller in the late 1700s), and Grand Traverse Distillery’s Ole George Rye Whiskey.  Cheers!

Martha Washington

2 oz. Ole George Rye Whiskey (Grand Traverse Distillery, Traverse City, MI)
1 tablespoon Nature’s Garden Cinnamon Roll Walnut Jam (Whitmore Lake, MI)
½ oz. Ginger Infused Simple Syrup (see recipe)
¾ oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice

Muddle jam, lemon juice and simple syrup in a mixing glass.  Add whiskey and shake all ingredients with ice for 10 seconds in a Boston Shaker.  Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Ginger Simple Syrup

2 cups of fine turbinado sugar
1 cup water
1 four-inch piece of skinned ginger root, cut into 2-pieces

Heat water in a non-reactive sauce pan over medium heat.  Add ginger root pieces as water begins to heat, and slowly add sugar while stirring well.  Continue stirring. Once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and allow ginger to steep an additional 10 minutes or until desired flavor profile is reached.  Remove ginger, allow syrup to cool.  Bottle and refrigerate.  Syrup will last up to 30 days in refrigerator.