Category Archives: Drinks

Homebrewing for dummies: Brooklyn Brew Shop simplifies brewing craft beer at home

Homebrewing for dummies: Brooklyn Brew Shop simplifies brewing craft beer at home
Photo: Brooklyn Brew Shop

Left: Brew mix kit; Right: full brewing starter kit with flavor mix. (Photo: Brooklyn Brew Shop)

After attending culinary school and working with food for an occupation for around seven years now, it’s pretty safe to say that I enjoy cooking (just don’t talk to me about pastry). To complement my culinary studies before culinary school, I got into the basics of wine and pairing it with food. Then the craft beer craze came along a few years back so naturally, I was inclined to learn all about the intricate flavors of the many styles of beer out there and their pairing possibilities. Needless to say, I got hooked and still am a craft beer fanatic.

This year, I decided to add onto this breadth of beer knowledge. I knew what ingredients went into beer and how it’s supposed to taste, but wondered how it really it all comes together to make “the perfect pint”. How do hops, grain, water and yeast marry to create a sudsy love child of deliciousness? And as far as I knew, home brewing required lots of large equipment and space which I don’t have in my small, one bedroom apartment.

And then I stumbled upon the beer making starter kit by Brooklyn Brew Shop (brooklynbrewshop.com) which had everything I needed to make a gallon of craft beer and it attracted me immediately.

I swear that they made this an unofficial ‘Brewing for Dummies’ package because if you know how to heat up water on the stove, then you can make these beer recipes. My first experience with the BBS kit was fun and very easy — they provide extremely detailed directions (with pictures and timelines) on their website and even have step-by-step videos for almost every flavor they have available. Included in the starter kits are just about everything you need to make the beer: grains, hops, yeast, the fermenting jug, tubing, chambered airlock, a thermometer, racking cane, and even equipment sanitizer. The only other items needed are a large pot, decent-sized strainer, a large bowl, funnel and bottling vessels (e.g.: beer bottles and a capper). The starter kits ($40) come in one- and five-gallon kits in a range of flavors like Smoked Wheat (my first batch), Bruxelles Black, Chocolate Maple Porter and Everyday IPA, to name a few.

The result of my first crack at being a bona fide homebrewer? Palatable success. The smoked wheat actually tasted like a smoked wheat beer! It was light, with just the right amount of carbonation and a hint of smoked malts. I was just overjoyed that I didn’t screw it up — and so were the friends with whom I shared it.

Photo: Brooklyn Brew Shop

Various flavors getting delicious in the fermenting jugs. (Photo: Brooklyn Brew Shop)

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Spice up your Cinco: Two twists on classic tipples to celebrate the 5th of May

Spice up your Cinco: Two twists on classic tipples to celebrate the 5th of May

Ginger Beergarita 1_logo

Due to the simple fact that we Americans have to make just about every holiday an excuse to drink, I’m sure that most of you are well aware that Cinco de Mayo is this weekend. That means parties, sombreros, and tequila drinks galore. And no, for the last time, it does not mark Mexico’s Independence Day (that’s September 16th); it’s a celebration and remembrance of Mexican fighters taking down the French forces at The Battle of Puebla in 1862. Use that one to impress friends and potential one-night-stands on Sunday.

I digress. On to the drinks!

Tired of celebrating with the standard margarita, I decided to concoct a new tequila-based libation. I borrowed the idea of the “Beergarita” — a mixture of Mexican lager beer, limeade or sour mix, and tequila — and gave it a sweet and spicy twist by replacing the lager with ginger beer, and adding fresh ginger and jalapeno. Ginger and reposado (slightly aged, amber-colored) tequila are a great flavor pairing in this Ginger Beergarita and the addition of the jalapeno enhances the spiciness of the ginger — which can easily be omitted from the recipe if you’re not a fan of heat.

Not that this would be the first thing on your mind when mixing a drink on Cinco, but the Ginger Beergarita also has some great health benefits. Ginger has natural immune system-boosting properties and helps to fight of certain types of cancer cells with its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects. Bonus: ginger has been a natural remedy for migraines and nausea, so this drink may actually reduce your hangover on May 6th.

So while celebrating the rich culture and heritage of Mexico (and the time they kicked some French ass) by guzzling far too much cerveza and tequila, try out the following exotic tipples this weekend.
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Eat Your Suds: Beer bread and spreadable beer cheese

Eat Your Suds: Beer bread and spreadable beer cheese
Incredibly easy recipes for all you beer (and carb) lovers.

Incredibly easy recipes for all you beer (and carb) lovers.

Confession: I love craft beer and I’ll drink just about any kind, but I also enjoy eating my suds. No, not in a bowl with a soup spoon, but actually in food. Beer can be used in cooking, much like wine and spirits, to add flavor to dishes. Braising, stewing, poaching — you can really do just about anything in the kitchen with beer. And believe it or not, you can even bake with it.

I was recently looking for a new vehicle in which to enjoy my suds and came across a recipe that uses beer in a bread recipe. Not being an avid baker, I usually steer clear of recipes that require lots of exact measuring and mixing, but this dish caught my eye as it only requires a few ingredients and very little mixing. This beer bread is very similar to Irish soda bread: soft on the inside with a flavorful, crusty exterior. I recommend using a strong-flavored beer for this recipe, like a stout or porter, so that the flavors in the beer can really shine through.

After baking the bread I realized that it needed an accompaniment: beer cheese! Creamy and dreamy with a hint of beer flavoring, this condiment is also incredibly easy to make and the only special equipment needed is a food processor. I recommend using a lighter beer for this one, like a pilsner, wheat beer or low IBU pale ale, as you don’t want the cheese’s flavor to overpower or clash with the strong notes in the beer bread.

My biggest piece of advice when making these recipes: Please, do yourself and your guests a favor and don’t use crappy beer. You wouldn’t use a foul-tasting wine or spirit to cook with, right? (Your answer should be “no”.) Then steer clear of using any macro brews (e.g.: fizzy yellow water type beers).
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Does bacon make everything better?: Rogue Ales’ Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale

Does bacon make everything better?: Rogue Ales’ Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale

Bacon maple doughnut in a glass

Rogue Ales recently teamed up with Portland’s legendary Voodoo Doughnut (the bakery that became infamous by foodie travel shows for their odd doughnut flavors) to create a limited-release beer that pays homage to Voodoo’s Bacon Maple Bar — a raised yeast doughnut topped with maple frosting and crispy bacon. Containing a baker’s dozen number of ingredients (13), the smoked malts, Applewood bacon and natural maple flavoring and are the stars in this smoked ale. The bubblegum pink bomber bottle (750 ml; $13) sports Voodoo’s signature color and logo, setting itself apart from Rogue’s typically brown bottles.

The 5.6% ABV Voodoo pours a dark amber color with a light head that dissipates fairly quickly. At first whiff, there’s a ton of smokiness with a slight hint of maple syrup. Some said their noses were hit with a huge wave of maple or have even smelled Eggo waffles and syrup, but I blame that on the power of suggestion or their preconceived expectations. This is a smoke monster and not much else comes through on the nose.
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Everything’s Coming Up Rosé

Everything’s Coming Up Rosé

Credit: Samantha via Wikimedia Commons

Head on over to my pal Penny’s blog, Penny’s Romance Reviews, to check out my guest post on one of my favorite drinks for her weekly “Martini Club”: Rosé!

It’s both educational and entertaining (complete with RuPaul’s Drag Race references), if I do say so myself. ;-)

Cinco de Derby: Drinking decisions for a double holiday

Cinco de Derby: Drinking decisions for a double holiday

Whether you're donning a feathered fascinator or a colorful sombrero this Saturday, here are some Cinco and Derby drinks perfect for celebrating this double holiday. (Photo: Polkaroo via Flickr)

This Saturday, May 5th, will see two popular “holidays” celebrated nationwide: Cinco de Mayo and Derby Day. And what do Americans enjoy doing most for both occasions? Drinking, of course!

But with both holidays falling on the same day this year, what will drinks will you be enjoying? Whether you’re donning a feathered fascinator or a colorful sombrero, here are some refreshing cocktails to enjoy this Saturday — a couple of classics and a new hybrid tipple by yours truly.
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It’s the bomb: Get a sweet buzz from this Chocolate “Bomb” Stout Float

It’s the bomb: Get a sweet buzz from this Chocolate “Bomb” Stout Float

Believe it or not, beer and chocolate make a great pair. Better yet, beer and chocolate ice cream make an amazing pair. The inspiration for this boozy treat came from a drool-worthy photo of a similar recipe in Bon Appetit of a tall glass oozing over with ice cream, stout and chocolate syrup. But never being able to follow a recipe, I decided to put my own spin on it. Thus the Chocolate “Bomb” Stout Float was born.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the libation often knocked back at (American) Irish pubs, the “Irish Car Bomb” — the drink and its inappropriate name being an American invention, of course. It’s served as a glass of Guinness draft and a separate shot glass filled with Irish whiskey and Bailey’s Irish Cream. The drinker drops the shot glass into the beer and quickly guzzles it down until the drink is gone — and before the Bailey’s curdles.

Then it hit me: Guinness plus chocolate ice cream plus Irish whiskey could potentially equal something awesome. And sure enough, this float is great when first served but gets even better when the ice cream melts and mixes with the roasty stout, the toasty whiskey and the rich chocolate sauce.

If Guinness is too bitter for your tastes, I recommend using Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout (though watch out for the 10% ABV) or any stout or porter brew with notes of chocolate and/or espresso. As for the ice cream, I prefer using a rich, chocolatey one, like Blue Bell’s Dutch Cocoa, but you could also experiment with coffee ice cream as well as it would mingle well with the flavors in the beer.

As for the liquor, I’d advise a sweeter whiskey, like an Irish style, over a smoky or peaty-flavored one. You could also use bourbon, espresso liqueur (Patron XO is amazing in this) or blackberry brandy for a take on the traditional “Guinness and Black” drink.
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Dreaming of Rio: Cachaça is Brazil’s answer to rum

Dreaming of Rio: Cachaça is Brazil’s answer to rum

Cachaça! Brazil's national booze produced from sugarcane (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Though most of the U.S is stuck in the doldrums of a chilly, gray winter, I’m in sunny Brazil. While the temperatures are averaging somewhere in the 50s at home, it’s a balmy 80 degrees and I’m on a beach in Rio with a cold drink in my hand. In my mind, at least.

Instead of waiting for the warmer months, I’m imagining they’re already here with an exotic cocktail straight from the other side of the Equator — thanks to my new friend cachaça. Made from sugarcane, cachaça (“ka-SHA-sa”) is Brazil’s answer to rum. While rum is typically made from the distilled byproducts of sugarcane (like molasses), cachaça is produced straight from fresh sugarcane before being fermented and distilled. It comes in two varieties, unaged (white) and aged (gold), but is more familiarly seen as the former.

Unaged cachaça has the slight flavor and aroma of fresh sugarcane, and it reminds me of a cross between silver tequila and light rum — light and aromatic like tequila but with a smooth end note like rum.

Cachaça makes a great substitute for white rum, vodka or even tequila in a cocktail, but I find that it is best showcased in Brazil’s fabulous and refreshing national cocktail: the Caipirinha (“kye-pur-een-yah”). Very similar to the Cuban Mojito, it’s a simple mixture of lime juice, sugar and cachaça. It can be made with rum if you haven’t any cachaça, though the flavor will be a bit different. I like to add a splash of tonic to my Caipirinha to add a bit of effervescence.

While cachaça used to be harder to find in the States, a few producers — Leblon, Velho Barreiro, Ypioca — are making their way onto the scene. Best of all, cachaca is fairly inexpensive — between 15 and 25 bucks at spirits retailers.

My recommendation: Grab yourself this exotic spirit to inject a bit of sunny Brazil into your day (or night).
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Tasty trends: Food and drink predictions for 2012

Tasty trends: Food and drink predictions for 2012

Will gourmet doughnuts overtake the cupcake craze this year? (Pictured: bacon-maple "Flying Pig" doughnut from Gourdough's food truck in Austin. Credit: pagetx via Flickr.)

That gold, strapless cocktail dress adorned with feathers that Versace put on the runway last season will almost assuredly be reproduced by both high- and low-end designers this year, to be seen everywhere from small boutiques to Forever 21. Just like that celebrity chef’s gourmet doughnut shop in Manhattan, which will spur a monomania for sweet, yeast-risen breakfast treats topped with everything from bacon to squid.

Food and dining trends, like those in fashion, are predicted — or determined — every year by the trade’s influencers. Big-name and up-and-coming chefs, large food companies, restaurant consulting firms and even Food Network are the main culprits.

So what’s the buzz for the next 12 months?
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The white wine spritzer gets a classy, 21st century makeover (recipes)

The white wine spritzer gets a classy, 21st century makeover (recipes)

Credit: Voga Italia

While many consider the wine spritzer to be a throwback drink (made popular in the ’70s and ’80s), it seems that lately the spritzer has been making its way back onto the trendy cocktail scene.

The spritzer of days gone by was typically two parts white wine to one part club soda. (Can you say “boring”?) But today’s mixologists are giving them modern, grown-up twists by mixing them with top-shelf sparkling wine, Champagne, fresh fruits and exotic liqueurs.

So, the next time you have guests over or throw a cocktail party, mix up some of these nouveau spritzers for refreshing alternatives to the typical liquor-mixer cocktails and throwback white wine spritzers.

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