Two classic Floridita Daiquiris

I can’t believe this is week 8 of our summer cocktail series.  The only good thing about 8 weeks of summer being gone is that we’ve drank some damn fine cocktails along the way, if I do say so myself.  Click on the Cocktails category to catch up with the summer fun!

I am not the first person to write about these drinks.  I initially read about La Floridita daiquiris (or El Floridita, depending on the source) in my most favorite cocktail book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.  There are also dozens upon dozens of blog posts and articles about the daiquiris, including the daiquiri Hemingway used to drink (yes, Hemingway again…).  But, oddly, all that nice coverage doesn’t seem to be translating to cocktail menus.

In all the bars I’ve gone to I’ve never noticed a classic daiquiri on the menu.  The closest I’ve seen are plain lime daiquiris and their fruity cousins at poolside bars, Trader Vic’s, and frozen drink dispensers on Bourbon St and in Vegas.  There’s no doubt that I don’t get out to the high class joints often enough, but it seems that bars favoring classic cocktails tend to be short on rum drinks.  More than that, they also tend to run away from blended drinks.  (I know from personal experience that most bartenders hate blenders — at one bar I worked at all the bartenders unanimously agreed that the blender was “broken” for years.)

So, up until today, I’d never had the real deal.  And guess what?  It’s no wonder it’s been made into so many variations.  The original daiquiris are wonderful.

Let’s refocus our collective association of the daiquiri away from the interior of Circus Circus and toward the streets of Old Havana (which I’ve never seen in person).  All photos taken in 2010.  Images courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

A few things before we get going.  According to my dear cocktail book, in 1939 La Floridita wrote down the recipes for four daiquiris creatively named #1, #2, #3 and #4.  All of them were served on ice — not blended.  Following the four recipes there was a fifth variation called the “E. Henminway [sic] Special,” a blended version of daiquiri #3.  Vintage Spirits just shares the recipe for #4, but I found a recipe for #3 that seems about right (many others used more lime or dropped the maraschino liqueur).  So, let’s make #4 and then the E. Henminway Special.

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Zucchini, corn and cherry tomato casserole

I knew I wanted to make something with zucchini and corn.  I also wanted there to be leftovers — something I could easily eat for lunch over the next couple days.  For the first time in my life, it occurred to me that a casserole might be the answer.  So I made one.  And it will definitely, definitely not be my last casserole.  It hit the spot.

This dish is total comfort food.  It’s particularly nice when you wake up in August with a cold that’s left your head in a cloud (colds in August = not fair), or even when all the news stories are just so miserable that it feels good to make something simple and grounded.

Contrary to my previous thoughts on casseroles, this is a light dish.  You could eat it as either a main or a side course.  If it’s a main, you may want to pair it with a tossed green salad.  Also, this recipe isn’t fussy.  If you have little bits of leftover grains around your house, you might mix them in place of or in addition to the rice.  I can picture something with millet, quinoa, farro or wheat berries being totally yummy. Continue reading

A blueberry French 75

Cheers to week 7 of our summer cocktail series.  I can’t believe it’s August already.  Check out the Cocktails category to what we were drinking earlier in the summer.

The first time I made a French 75 there was a fortuitous combination of events.  We had recently moved into our house in Oakland and drank most of a bottle of champagne to celebrate.  Most, you say?  Right, who doesn’t finish a bottle of champagne?  No clue.

The next evening, as we were unpacking boxes, I was looking through our very barren fridge to see what I could mix up to drink.  All we had was about a glass of champagne, the tailings of a bottle of gin and a big bag of lemons that we pillaged from the lemon tree of our rental apartment the night before we moved.

At almost the same moment, I opened up a box that had been sealed SINCE COLLEGE (I’ll spare you the long story).  In the box I found a trove of books that I had been gifted sometime in my early twenties, including this vintage cocktail book (thank you, Michelle!).  I was thumbing through it — very pleased at my 23 year old self for squirreling away some cocktail books — when I miraculously read the recipe for the French 75.

Sure enough, the French 75 is made from the very ingredients I had in the fridge.  I was initially skeptical about combing gin and sparkling wine, but boy was I wrong.  This simple old drink is a winner.

Here we’re going to add some muddled blueberries, since blueberries pair perfectly with the flavors in this classic cocktail without overpowering any of the other ingredients.  Depending on your blueberries, though, the flavor they impart can almost be too subtle.  If you have wild blueberries, use those since they’re richer.  If you don’t (and you’re sufficiently organized that you’re planning out your drinks the night before), you might consider muddling some blueberries and leaving them in the gin overnight.  That’ll help impart a deeper blueberry taste and even a fun purpley color (before you serve it, though, strain out the old berries and mix it with new berries).  If none of those options sound good, just use regular old blueberries.  I did.  Some blueberry > no blueberry!  Plus, the blueberries bob up and down in the sparkling wine, which is fun to watch.

Note: Do not leave un-caged, still-corked sparking wine unattended!  There’s literally a hole in our ceiling now (adding to the list of our poor kitchen’s battle wounds).

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Trail mix cookies (oatmeal, dark chocolate and GORP)

These cookies are really doing it for me.  They’re moist, nutty and chunky.  When they’re warm, they overflow with dark chocolate.  As soon as I claim I’ve had enough, I find myself reaching in for another…

I started thinking about trail mix a couple weeks back when Alex and I threw work aside, haphazardly packed the car with whatever gear we could find, and headed off to Mt. Shasta.

Mt. Shasta is a big ole volcano that stands high above its surrounding mountains.  It’s a dramatic mountain.  For those of you who care about these things, the summit rises to 14,162 ft.  The base is at around 7,000 ft.  We planned to hike up in a single day, leaving at 3 am and getting back whenever we did.  Sound exhausting?  It was.  In all the mountains I’ve climbed, I’ve never ascended 7,000 ft vertical in a day.  Let alone after coming from sea level the day before.

It was incredible!  Gorgeous!  But the altitude was beating us up.  As we switchbacked up the hill, kicking steps into the snow with our crampons, I snorted down trail mix and chile-rubbed dried mango (thank you Trader Joe’s).  I hoped that the calories would turn into magical wings and fly me up the hill.  Eventually I gave up hope on the wings and started dreaming about trail mix cookies. Continue reading

Blackberry and bourbon lemonade

Welcome to week 6 of our summer cocktail series.  To see what we’ve been drinking so far this summer, click on the Cocktails category.

I know, I know.  I was supposed to post a couple photos from our hiking/camping trip.  But, I didn’t.  I’ve done nothing this week except fret about school and eat 70 pizzas.  I’m starting to wonder about the weight limitations on my desk chair.  Thankfully, I’m about to wrap up a big project and the very second I do — no matter the time of day! — I’ll be making myself a big pitcher of this amazing lemonade.  I CAN’T WAIT.

Assuming you’re not desperately finishing up a project and then celebrating with bourbon (irrespective of the time of day), I’m thinking this drink would be perfect for a sunny late afternoon in the backyard, or maybe around a fire pit at night.  It would also be an awesome accompaniment to some BBQ (and now I’m thinking about BBQ tempeh burgers again…oh, and did you see  Alex’s faux pulled pork sliders in GOOD magazine?  I love his use of grated tofu — I would have never thought of that!).  Whatever your weekend plans are, though, be sure to work this drink into them.   Blackberries, bourbon and lemonade are guaranteed to make your weekend that much better — especially when combined!

Before we go, here’s a really close-up shot of a blackberry.  I washed them afterward.  Really well.

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Boozy cucumber-ginger-lime slushies

We’re on to week 5 of our summer cocktail series (how is summer moving so quickly?!).  To catch up on past recipes, click on the Cocktails category.  For new recipes, swing by on Fridays.

I had two different recipes (I mean, food recipes) that I wanted to share with you this week.  But, somehow the week slipped through my fingers.  I didn’t do much cooking, mostly because Alex and I went on a little hiking/camping trip and because, on our return, I felt so guilty about abandoning work that I didn’t leave my computer for 3 days.  I’ll tell you more about the hiking/camping in our next post.  In this post, I want to send sympathy waves out to the people who are melting on the East coast in 100+ degree temps.  Today’s frozen cocktail is dedicated to you.

There are a couple ways you can make this slushy and I opted for the fastest way, since I thought everyone would just want to have an icy, cold drink in hand as soon as possible.  We’ll make the drink in a blender.  An alternative is to add a cup of water into the mix and then freeze it in a bowl in your freezer (similarly to how the sorbet is frozen in this post) or in your ice cream maker.  If you don’t have a blender or you want a little more intensely flavored drink, you can go that route. Continue reading

A modern Tom Collins

Welcome to week 4 of our summer cocktail series. To see past recipes, click on the Cocktails category.

Most discussions of the Tom Collins start off with a description of the drink’s history.  It’s been around since the 1870s and is often confused with a similar drink called the Gin Fizz, so the back story is interesting.  But, I’m not going to talk about that (read this if you’re interested).  Instead, I’m going to tell you that, over a summer when I was about 16, I learned that I liked a Tom Collins.

At the time, I thought that a pre-made bottle of Collins mix was necessary to make the drink.  The mix was crazy sweet and chemically, but I was 16 and had dubious taste.  It was the mid-nineties and overly sweet cocktails (__-tinis, as most of them were called) were all the rage.  Thankfully, that sort of thing has mostly fallen out of vogue (that horrid Collins mix might have had a role in ending the trend).  Since that fateful summer, I have never again personally witnessed anyone order or drink a Tom Collins.

Fast forward to my 30s.  I was sipping on a gin and fizzy lemonade and started reminiscing about my summer of Tom Collinses (can they be pluralized?).  I had no idea what was in one.  So, I looked it up.  I was stunned to find I was pretty much drinking one at that very moment.  The only thing I was missing was the characteristic garnish of a maraschino cherry and an orange slice. Continue reading

Apricot cobbler (for breakfast!)

OK, fine, you can eat this cobbler for dessert (and you’ll love it), but breakfast cobbler!  It’s easy to prepare, can be made ahead of time, has lots of fresh fruit, little sugar, whole grains, almonds and yogurt.  And let’s not forget that it tastes awesome.

I threw together this not-so-sweet cobbler after reading Good to the Grain, one of my new cookbooks.  The author, Kim Boyce, talks about using whole grain flours in baking not explicitly for health reasons (though, they do provide more nutrients, protein and fiber), but because of the complex and wonderful flavors they often impart.  I was sufficiently inspired that, as I thought about how I wanted a nutty topping for my cobbler, I added in some whole wheat flour.  I don’t usually use whole wheat flours in desserts, but I wasn’t trying to be virtuous.  I just wanted its nutty flavor.

Then, as I rifled down some cobbler for breakfast the next morning (tell me I’m not alone in eating leftover dessert for breakfast), I realized that my breakfast was actually pretty healthy.  In fact, it had less sugar and bad fats than most pancake and muffin recipes, let alone those devilish things at the bakery down the street.  It also had good stuff like fruit, whole grains, almonds and yogurt.

Thus was the dawn of Breakfast Cobbler.  Possibly the greatest I-feel-like-I’m-being-bad-but-I’m-not breakfast ever.  So, really!  Bake this cobbler.  In the morning, put a big spoonful in a bowl, heat it up, top it with a dollop of yogurt and feel almost as virtuous as you would if you were eating a bowl of oatmeal and fruit.  Or maybe eat it directly from the pan with a fork (who would ever do a thing like that…?). Continue reading

Rosé sangria with peaches and cucumber

This is week 3 of our summer cocktail series.  Check in every Friday for a fresh, light and easy summer drink.  To see our past recipes, check out the Cocktails category.

I think sangria might be one of my favorite drinks ever.  Still, I don’t make it at home nearly enough and I rarely order it when I’m out (because it always seems overly expensive).  Finally, today, after going to a restaurant last night that was serving sangria for $9 a glass, I decided to make a whole, gorgeous pitcher for a grand total of $12.  (Note: this was not good for my productivity for the day.)

This sangria is a nice and light summer version.  Rosé keeps the fruit bright and has a much softer flavor, which lets milder fruits shine through.  I used a more minerally French rose because I thought it would match nicely with the cumber.  If you use a Spanish or California rosé, the sangria will likely have have a slightly sweeter, fruity flavor (which is yummy, too!  but I like a crisp rose with the cucumber).

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Summer split pea soup with yogurt and dill

I usually think of split pea soup as a winter thing, but last week I gave a summer version a shot and I was really happy with the result.  Alex and I ate it outside for an early dinner with a couple glasses of savignon blanc.  I also think this soup would be nice served up in little shot-sized glasses or porcelain spoons for an hors d’oeuvre or an amuse bouch (they did something similar with a spring pea soup while we were at Blackberry Farm and everyone was raving about it).  But, beyond tasting wonderful, this recipe is secretly really healthy — packed with protein and low in fat and calories (perfect for post-July 4 BBQ benders!).

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