The Aviation Cocktail

It’s SPRING-time, SPRING-time! Finally, SPRING-time.

SPRING-time calls for pretty things, a flowers, and budding trees, and lovely purple cocktails!

The Aviation became a cult favorite in 1916 when it first appeared in “Recipes for Mixed Drinks”, by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at Times Square’s Hotel Wallick. Ensslin’s original formula called for the drink to include crème de violette, as I have here, which tints the drink this lovely color.

The Aviation also appears Harry Craddock’s “Savoy Cocktail Book” from 1930 where you find a version of the Aviation without the crème de violate – but what would be the point of that!?

I used an Amarena Cherry as garnish, but a maraschino cherry or a lemon twist would work just as well.

Try it, the doldrums of winter will slowly slough off and you’ll be doing a happy spring dance!

  • 2 ozs gin
  • 3/4 oz maraschino liqueur
  • 1/4 oz creme de violette
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake with ice.

Strain.

Garnish with a cherry or a lemon twist.

Pretty!

Pear Liqueur

pear-liquor

I’ve just returned to Maine after having spent Christmas and New Year’s in New York with  my family and friends. The Dear One – whose name I may now change to Dear Husband, we were married in October – was away in Antarctica working. It was wonderful being able to spend so much time with my family and friends, and also wonderful to return home to Maine. At times it feels as though I don’t feel quite settled in either place.

One of the questions I am constantly asked is “Do you miss New York?”

This is a question I have asked myself many, many times. I have no solid answer. I have more of a pro and con list for both New York City and Bar Harbor.

Bar Harbor is a car culture. I find myself at work going through my cabinets and fridge and freezer to figure out what I need at home. Once home, it’s 6 miles to the nearest store. In NYC, you can find anything you need or want at any time of the day or night – and within walking distance. I walked  more in NYC over my three week visit than I have in Bar Harbor in three months.

New York City wins HANDS DOWN restaurants, supermarkets, ability to find unusual ingredients – well, anything a foodie may need or desire. Bar Harbor is a barren foodie land. There are very few restaurants open here during the off season and those pickings are slim and not necessarily diverse. As for ingredients? OH PUH-LEASE! Thank goodness for Amazon!

Bar Harbor is beautiful and quiet. We hear no sirens or honking of horns. As you drive down roads there is one beautiful view after another. Breathtaking at times. Don’t get me wrong, there are views in NYC that are unforgettable, but they’re only enjoyed with the 300 or 400 people swarming around you.

The sidewalks are not as crowded in Bar Harbor. Not crowded from October to May and increasingly crowded May to October with tourists. But, no one is walking down the street with their heads down staring at an illuminated screen missing the world going on around them. Or a phone in one hand and a cup of Starbucks in the other behaving as though no one else is walking down the street.

People here say please and thank you regularly. I’m greeted by name in the bank and post office and supermarket. There’s a friendly spirit amongst the residents of this bucolic town.

I would say that the major disadvantage between NYC and BH is my family and friends. They’re all in NYC. I miss my family and friends desperately. That sense of community, of belonging, of loyalty, being a member of and a part of a family – whomever that is made up by – has not yet been found here. We all have those people – friends and family that call when you’re alone or not feeling well, that like to spend time together, gravitate toward each other; the phone that rings at just the perfect moment when you’re wandering around a big house all alone with a voice inviting you to dinner or a movie or a walk or just a chat. People who are truly intertwined in each other’s lives with more than just ‘saying’ they are. Perhaps it’s being the new person, or not being ‘from’ here. Quite frankly, I have met a small handful of people who actually are ‘from’ here. Everyone was new at one time or another.

Boy, oh, boy do I miss that. I’m not sure how to find that here or if it even exists. I’m still looking. I’m open to it actually happening, but after 3 years, I’m not sure if it will happen.

Wish me luck! Fingers crossed.

pear

After reading all of that, we’re finally at the foodie portion of this blog post.

One of the best things about living in Bar Harbor are our lovely gardens. Flowers and herbs and veggies and fruit trees. We have cherry trees and apple and peach and pears. Some years there are bumper crops of each and some years not a one. We were blessed with a bumper crop of pears.

The first time the trees had pears! We have three. Two were here when I  moved in and one we planted. The two that were here were very strange. They were alive, they had leaves, but never a flower. Early the first spring I spoke to them and mentioned that if they didn’t flower, they would be cut down and replaced. One tree flowered, one didn’t. The next spring, I spoke to the unflowering one and nicely asked it to catch up to the other and at least flower – or else. We planted the third tree. That spring two flowered, but not the new tree. The third spring, I was very adamant about them ALL flowering and having at least ONE pear EACH! And KA-BOOOOOOOM!

Pears! Our pears had pears! The question is, what do you do with PEARS? Bushels of pears. They don’t have a long shelf life. You cannot do a lot with them. I made pear butter, pear sorbet, many blue cheese, walnut and pear tarts … now what?

Pear liqueur here we come! It’s easy to put together. Most of the time preparing this comes during the waiting, waiting, waiting for it to be finished. But the jar is sitting in the dark just getting ready to bring you great joy.

The liqueur is sweet and fragrant, warmly infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, just a hint of citrus from the orange peel. We served this ice cold from the freezer in small glasses – you really cannot drink a lot of this (well, one person drank an entire jar – the last jar!)

I used a good, inexpensive vodka. Please don’t spend oodles of money on a top shelf vodka. The vodka here is really just a vehicle for the pears and spices.

If you have an abundance of pears or can get your hands on some beautiful, fresh pears, give this a whirl. I’ve also done the same with peaches and made a peach liqueur, so keep an eye out!

pears

1 large pear
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/4 nutmeg broken into small pieces
2 strips of dried orange peel
6 cloves
500ml vodka
150g (5 oz) caster sugar

NOTE: I quadrupled this recipe.

Make sure you have a ripe yet unblemished pear. Rinse and pat dry.

Pierce the pear all over with a fine skewer Place the pear in a sterilized glass jar that it fits quite snugly in. Make sure it’s large enough to hold the 500ml vodka. Add the spices and orange peel.

NOTE: To make the dried orange peel, use a potato peeler to peel strips of skin off an orange, making sure you just take the skin and not the bitter white pith. Leave this on a radiator or in an airing cupboard overnight, or warm in a very low oven till completely dried. I used the oven method for quickness. This intensifies the wonderful orange flavor.

adding-vodka

Fill the jar with vodka and close the lid.

ready-to-age

Set on a sunny windowsill for 2 weeks.

After 2 weeks open the jar and add the sugar. Shake well and set aside in a cool dark cupboard for a further 6 weeks. Shake every day or so that the sugar to completely dissolves.

After 6 weeks, remove pear and spices from the jar and strain the liquid through a sieve lined with a double layer of muslin. Do this part twice to get a really clear liqueur.

NOTE: I used a sieve with a coffee filter set inside.

Decant the liquid into a sterilized bottle and enjoy! It’s best served ice cold, so keep the jar in your fridge or freezer.

Salty Dawg

Drink

It’s spring!

Yeah, right!

Spring is what they say … it’s what the calendar says … it’s what all the cute clothes and shoes are saying in the stores … but raining and snowing and sleeting and yucking is what it has been doing in Maine.

The weather in the last two weeks must be Mother Nature’s way of making sure we all know who is really in charge around these parts.

So while (again) waiting for the Dear One to finally make it home after delayed, missed and cancelled flights, a new cocktail seemed in order.

This recipe was tested, many times, by Lisa and I so that it would be perfected by the time the Dear One finally arrived.

While squeezing the last of our fabulous ruby red grapefruit from K-Y Farms in Texas, I made some ruby red grapefruit ice cubes to plunk in this drink. Thank you Paul and Susan for the fabulous grapefruit! Just as an aside, if you haven’t had ruby red grapefruit from Texas, you don’t know what you’re missing! I thought they were all alike … until I tried these!

It’s a great drink to make by the pitcherful, just sprinkle the Maldon salt on each drink as you pour. The salt doesn’t really make the drink salty, it just brightens the flavors of the citrus while giving it just a wee bit of brininess.

So, while it’s not spring-like outside, this drink makes you think and feel as though spring has truly arrived!

  • 1 1/2 ounces of gin
  • 3 ounces fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Pinch Maldon salt

NOTE: I used Tanqueray gin. Use any sort of grapefruit you prefer. I think the red or pink is better than the white … and it’s pretty!

Add gin and grapefruit juice to a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into ice-filled glass, add salt on top and serve.

salting

NOTE: To make a pitcher, just multiply the ingredients by the number of cocktails you’d like. I mixed it all in the pitcher and stuck it in the fridge so it was good and cold and poured it over the grapefruit ice cubes when serving.

Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts

One of my favorite things about cocktail time are the little nibbles to go along with the cocktails. And one of my favorite nibbles are the Union Square Cafe Nuts from the restaurant of the same name and Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites. These are yummy with cocktails or just watching television. I usually have a bag in the freezer for those emergency cocktail times!

The Union Square Cafe’s Bar Nuts

  • 2 1/4 cups (18-ounces) assorted unsalted nuts, including peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Maldon or other sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

NOTE: Trader Joe’s makes a great nut mix that is perfect for this. One bag is perfect for one batch!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread nuts out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

NOTE: If you buy nuts separately, mix them together before putting them on the baking sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter. Once toasted, thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm. And once you eat these, you will never want to stop.