It’s been a few months since I participated in a Mixology Monday, partially because I was so busy with work and other things that I forgot when they were taking place, and partially because by the time I realized it was Mixology Monday it was too late for me to get a drink, a photo and a post together. Fortunately for me, I’ve been consistently reminded over the past week about this month’s MxMo, hosted by the amazing Matthew Rowley of Rowley’s Whiskey Forge, with the theme Hard Drinks for Hard Times. If anyone was going to coax me back on the wagon, I can’t think of a better man for the job than Rowley.
This month’s theme is all about what we’re drinking now that the economy has taken a turn that echoes California—that is, into the crapper. As a result, money has been scarce, as have jobs. Even in our educated and highly experienced home, Dan and I spent three months out of work last year, a circumstance which greatly depleted our bar. Once again gainfully employed, we’re still catching up on everything we were behind on for those three months and, unfortunately, the bar is still suffering under that burden. We’ve managed to restock most of the crucial bottles, though not at the rate we would prefer. As such, it doesn’t leave much leeway for luxury purchases, such as flavored liqueurs like Domaine de Canton, Navan or Passoa. Unfortunately there are a large number of drinks that require vanilla, ginger and passion fruit to work, so those of us who can’t afford to drop $40 per bottle of highly specialized liqueur have to get creative, particularly with flavors that can be replicated accurately at home.
I’m a product of a very DIY household. My grandfather recycled everything he could lay his hands on—building materials, aluminum, wood, copper, glass, you name it. My father built the house I grew up in. My mother and grandmother made most of my prom dresses. As a result, I have the eternal mindset of “Why buy it if I can make it?” Most of the time this doesn’t really help as regards cocktails, but for flavors that appear in concentrated form and smaller quantities there is an easy and inexpensive alternative: syrups.
To be fair, there is much more that goes into a liqueur like Navan or Domaine de Canton than simply vanilla or ginger flavor. However, when times are tight and bar expenditures have to be at a minimum, syrups are an affordable and flavorful alternative to products we might otherwise indulge in. And so, for those also operating under a budget deficit, here are four syrups you will find in the Sloshed! repertoire (not including the previously posted spice syrup):
from David Wondrich via Paul Clarke
8oz POM Wonderful*
10oz evaporated cane juice
Pour equal parts cold POM and sugar into a jar; seal and shake like the dickens until sugar is dissolved. Add remaining two ounces of sugar and shake until incorporated. Add one ounce of vodka as a preservative or, alternatively, place in the freezer in a plastic container.
*POM has a relatively rocky history with vegetarians, as they funded animal testing to support health claims related to their product. As of 2007, multiple reports surfaced that the company had ceased all animal testing. The product I used for this recipe was received from POM as a promotional offer, prior to which they verified to me, via email, that they have suspended all animal testing. Some people may not like this, but I don’t believe that there is any benefit to blacklisting a company that realizes the error of its ways and changes its course.
1 cup passion fruit juice
½ cup sugar
Boil passion fruit juice until reduced by half. Remove from heat, taste for sweetness, then add sugar to taste and stir until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool and refrigerate.
1½ cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger, unpeeled
Bring all ingredients to a boil until sugar dissolves. Simmer for ten minutes, remove from heat and let steep for fifteen minutes. Strain syrup through a sieve and discard ginger. Allow to cool and refrigerate.
1 cup water, heated to just boiling
1½ cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, scraped, pod reserved*
Combine heated water and sugar and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add scraped vanilla bean seeds and pods. Let steep for at least an hour, strain through fine mesh to remove pod and seed clumps and refrigerate.
*Vanilla beans are a precious commodity in the best of times, but fortunately the internet can help take the sting out of this luxury item. I purchase my vanilla beans in bulk for the bargain price of $.46 each, or $12.49 for 30.