Cocktails/ Beverages

Ah, the Forbidden Fruit

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Pomelos were prevalent in local markets during the winter. And so, after seeing them in Chinatown groceries over the years, and hearing that they were something like a less-acidic grapefruit, I finally got around to picking up a couple.

V0042686 Pummelo or Pamplemousse (Citrus maxima (Burm.) Merr.): floweLooking much like an overgrown grapefruit, the pomelo is indeed like a milder version of that citrus. A little research on the fruit and its uses turned up that it is native to South Asia (hence its regular appearance in Chinatown), is available in white- and pink-fleshed varieties, has a remarkably thick skin and layer of pith, is also known as the shaddock or pamplemousse – and, that it was the base of Forbidden Fruit, a mysterious, long-vanished liqueur, and a key ingredient of the Dorchester Cocktail.

OK, that part got our attention. Delicious as the pomelo fruit is all on its own, dripping with the taste of honeyed grapefruit, its connection to the Golden Age of cocktails made it even more alluring. The whims of the 20th-century pomelo market probably brought about the demise of Forbidden Fruit liqueur, which was made by the same producer as Chambord, and was even sold in the same globe-shaped, gold-capped bottle. Even London’s Dorchester Hotel is left to wonder what might have been for its signature drink.

Pomelos are still a rarity in most markets, but apparently California growers have been experimenting with the crop. Its emergence in this country dovetails with the craft cocktail movement, and mixologists have set their sights on recreating Forbidden Fruit. Collectors have been seeking old bottle of the commercial product on eBay, hoping to coax out a few remaining drops or vapors to analyze. Cobbling together some of those efforts, we blended a batch by steeping the juice and peels of pink pomelos and blood oranges, plus cardamom, coriander and vanilla bean, in cognac, then straining off the solids and adding orange blossom honey.

The resulting liqueur has am amber color and nectar-like fragrance of early spring blossoms, touched with jasmine, vanilla and honey, tempered by a back note of spice. It’s beautiful to sip on its own, and the classic Dorchester Cocktail, which employs gin, rum and Forbidden Fruit, is a lovely martini variant. Cocktail lovers, take note. Everyone else, just cut into a pomelo to understand this enchanting forbidden fruit. 

Forbidden Fruit LiqueurTry the recipe: Forbidden Fruit Liqueur 

Then try the cocktail:

The Dorchester

2 ounces gin, preferably a London dry

1 ounce rum

1 ounce Forbidden Fruit liqueur

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with a twist of lemon. 

Sir Mix-a-Lot

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The Last Word

The cocktail shaker gets a workout whenever Dave, the family mixologist, comes to town. Cocktail of the Day offerings this time around included a mix of classics with a twist and Dave’s own specialties, all gin-based:

Waldocot: A true original, created to utilize Allspice Dram, a Caribbean liqueur that’s not an easy mixer. Dave hit on the idea of blending with apricot liqueur, which takes the Allspice Dram out of the realm of wintry flavored drinks, where it tends to land. The  name? A nod to the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City that Dave calls home.

Yuzu and other essential oils

The Florilegium: 

A martini variant finished with essential oils, which bump up the aroma and flavor. The name is taken from the Medieval Latin word for a gathering of flowers, or collection of fine extracts from the body of a larger work, and here’s why. For one drink, shake 1/2 ounce gin and 3/4 ounce Lillet blanc with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with one drop each of clove and yuzu (distillation of these and other essential oils available via our friends at Herbal Alchemy).

The Last Word: A magical mix with Chartreuse, lime juice and Maraschino liqueur.

Homemade Poire William.Dobrava.8.9.13
Pear in the bottle for a homemade pear liqueur

Aviation Poire: A  touch of pear liqueur lifts the classic Aviation cocktail to another altitude.

English Rose: A dainty name for a cocktail that packs a punch, with gin, apricot liqueur, dry vermouth and grenadine.

Now That’s Iced Coffee!

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038It’s that time of year again. On the sweltering sidewalks of New York, everyone is staying hydrated by keeping a cup of iced coffee within sipping distance at all times. But I’ve never been a big fan. Iced coffee only really tastes good with lots of milk and sugar, and I try to avoid the extra calories that involves; the melting ice dilutes the flavor; coffee shops in these parts charge more for an iced coffee, anyway; and then there’s the matter of all those extra plastic cups and lids generated by the fascination with summer’s icy brew.

No, I think there’s a much better way of taking coffee iced: in the form of granita. I was reminded of it while reading a chapter in The Man Who Ate Everything, in which Vogue food critic Jeffrey Steingarten searches Italy for the perfect granita, stopping off in Palermo to join the local custom of breakfasting during hot-weather months on coffee granita into which pieces of brioche are dunked. Granita— differing from close cousin sorbet in the granular, yet fluffy texture of its ice crystals— is a perfect vehicle for delivering the punch of coffee or espresso in a truly refreshing manner.  The ingredient list consists basically of coffee and sugar (with a dollop of whipped cream for serving recommended).

But the best thing of all is that it’s incredibly easy to make. Coffee granita calls for no special skills, no special equipment, and it’s a great way to use up leftover coffee or espresso.  Mix it up, freeze in a metal pan, and stir with a fork every once in a while to scrape up the crystals. It takes a bit of time to develop the right texture, but the effort involved is little more than giving the pan a stir when you get up from the couch to grab a snack.

Once you’ve got the basic concept of granita-making down, the same technique can be used for other fruit and flavor varieties. We’ll be trying Watermelon Granita with Cardamom Syrup (also a good way to use up extra fruit), and Steingarten’s Chocolate Granita from Catania, which he turns into chocolate in garapegra, a “holy and noble elixir of fresh life” from the 18th-century, with the addition of some vanilla, orange zest, and a few drops of distilled jasmine.

How refreshing!

Burger and Tonic

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Srira-cha-cha Burger on a pretzel bun, Essex Street new pickles on the side

Sometimes you just need a burger. Might as well make it a good one. Thanks to brother, Dave, I’ve got a simple way to kick up the average burger, using that Mother of All Hot Sauces, Sriracha. This Thai-inspired chile sauce is the go-to secret ingredient for many chefs in their own home kitchens, lending a heat and depth of flavor quite unlike any other hot sauce.

Grab a bottle with the rooster on the front, (the deceptively foreign-looking, California-made Huy Fong brand) which is surprisingly easy to find in the “ethnic foods” aisle at major supermarkets. (We know families where the kids simply call it “Rooster Sauce”). It pairs with endless ingredients – try it on eggs of all stripes, in soups, in mayo to kick up a sandwich, or just a dollop on a square of cheese and cracker.

But back to that burger . . .


Srira-cha-cha Burger

Into 1 pound ground beef, grate half a red onion, add a couple good squirts of Sriracha sauce, salt and pepper, and shape into patties.

That’s it. Grill, broil, pan fry to your liking.

Enjoy this summer cooler (a variant on gin and tonic) while the burgers cook.

South Brooklyn Ginny

1 ounce gin

¼ ounce St. Germain liqueur

Tonic water

Lime wedge

Pack a tall glass with ice. Pour over the gin and St. Germaine. Top off with tonic water. Squeeze lime wedge into drink and stir gently.


Life’s A Beach, Part 1

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The question was pressing- what do we bring for food on a deserted island where we will be the only inhabitants. Reassured that there was indeed a gas stove on the little cay we called home for five days, we began the game we love to call “if you were stuck on a deserted island, what would you bring. . . ”  Thankfully, there was ample room in our bags, because no one needs more than a bathing suit, cover up and a pair of shorts to live happily for five days. Our food journey began with the knowledge that we would have ample access (via boat) to fresh fish, fresh fruit and the essential libation of Central American rum. Upon arrival to the cay, we also duly noted that coconuts were in large supply. Large enough, I may add, to play a rousing round or two of bocce ball with said coconuts.

Meal planning was out of the question, but we knew enough to take organic brown rice (a staple in our house), a good cooking knife, and ample spices. Macaroni and cheese was also added as a quick fix. A great challenge for those of us who believe everything tastes better home cooked, we found ourselves in the sauce section of the local coop and supermarket, reviewing all that was prepackaged. There was pad Thai, jambalaya and gourmet Mexican seasoning sauces, in bags no less. Were they waiting for us, did they know we were going on a trip, hence the packaging? Purchases packed, we made our way to the cay and made one more stop on the way the local supermarket of the main island to build up our supply of fresh fruits and local tortillas and beans.

Upon arriving on the island-cay, our first order of business was peeling the pineapple, and making some pineapple tea base. Using the pineapple tea as a base, we added fresh coconut water, freshly chopped coconut meat and pineapple, ample amounts of rum and a shot of fresh lime to create our first drink and christen our stay on the island with the first of many happy hours.

And then there was fresh sea bass.

The Sandy Cay

½ cup Pineapple tea (see above)
¼ cup fresh coconut water
2 shots dark rum
1 tbsp. chopped coconut
2 tbsp. chopped pineapple
Dash fresh lime juice

Mix the liquid ingredients together and then add the fruit. Stir and serve in fancy plastic glasses .

We Saw Stars

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Anticipating that  The Artist would take home top prizes at this year’s Academy Awards, the Three Points cooks also turned to Old Hollywood for inspiration this weekend. By that we mean two of the restaurants that are synonymous with Movieland’s Golden Years: The Brown Derby and Chasen’s. Together they hosted Hollywood elite and produced some classic recipes that proved even stars love their comfort foods, like Chasen’s Chicken Pot Pie and Chili.

On the menu for our multi-city Oscar viewing parties:

The Brown Derby Cocktail. A refreshing aperitif of bourbon, grapefruit juice and honey syrup. Grapefruit seems to have been a theme at The Brown Derby, whether in cocktails or cakes. Go for the fresh-squeezed juice suggested and use leftover  grapefruit segments, as we did, in another throwback salad, tossing with chunks of avocado and this old-fashioned fruit salad dressing.

Cobb Salad. The Brown Derby, so the story goes, is progenitor of this classic American salad, created from leftovers by Bob Cobb, a co-owner. We all know  it and love it… though its original form included chicory and watercress, which are far less likely to appear on today’s menu (or grocery shelves). So, we went with mixed greens. The recipe also calls for boiled (boring) chicken… So we poached it Pierre Franey style (a warm bath with carrots, celery, onion, bay, thyme, marjoram, garlic and — our twists — lemon pepper and a hit of ginger).

Chasen’s Chili.  Legend has it that Elizabeth Taylor loved this chili so much she had orders of it flown to Rome while she was filming Cleopatra (and conducting a torrid affair with co-star Richard Burton). The list of ingredients is pretty simple in comparison to today’s more complex recipes, but something about the combination produces one damn, fine chili. (We suspect that browning the beef and pork in butter before adding to the pot has something to do with the crazy tender, succulent results. Don’t skip this step if your diet can take it.) In honor of the Oscars, served with sparkling Cava.  A award-winning combo, indeed. We  think Liz, who was honored in memoriam at the Oscars, would approve.

Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake. We went with the LA Times Magazine’s modified version of this cake, sans candied grapefruit peel. Goosed with a little grapefruit essence from Aftelier Perfumes, the cake packed a tart punch to counterbalance the cream cheese frosting.

Grenadine, Take Two

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We admit it. Seeding and juicing pomegranates isn’t the most glamorous of kitchen tasks. (Although we were excited to discover the quick Whack-a-Mole method.) So in the service of great cocktails, Brother Dave has been searching for a good grenadine recipe that uses pomegranate juice instead of the fresh pomegranate version posted previously, and comes up with this super simple syrup  from the book Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits
3 cups Pom Pomegranate juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 ounces lemon juice
zest of 1 orange
Siimmer for 45 minutes or so to reduce by about half.
That’s it, although Dave adds a little vodka as an additional preservative, since it can take awhile to go through a batch. So really, no need to buy that food coloring-enhanced, preservative-laden grenadine sold in most stores. And hey, think of all the health properties attributed to drinking Pom!
The same basic recipe might serve nicely for a syrup using blood oranges, an of-the-moment cocktail ingredient. Meanwhile,  time to have another round of that classic cocktail with grenadine, the Scofflaw.

The Scofflaw*

1 1/2 ounces rye

1 ounce dry vermouth

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

3/4 ounce real pomegranate grenadine

Shake in an iced cocktail shaker and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

*Scofflaw: a frequenter of speakeasies and general flouter of the National Prohibition Act, a term coined in 1924.