Wednesday, April 28, 2010
One of the many (shiteous) jobs I've had in my past is Tending of the Bar. The bartending phase occurred post-college and pre-graduate school. You know, the WTF? years. Where you don't know who you are or where you want to go or what you want to be? Yeah, those. Those are some un-comfy years, aren't they?
Bartending sucked, but it didn't suck as hard as waitressing. At least when you are tending bar, you are behind the bar, so nobody can pinch (or otherwise insult) your moneymaker. And your face-to-face exposure with obnoxious toolbags is low; you just have to deal with the regulars at the bar itself and the brief walk-ups...waitresses have entire tables of jerkwads to deal with.
I've done both and believe me, give me a spot behind the bar any day. Plus, when things are slow, you get to fool around and try to create new, interesting libations. It's not altogether unlike cooking. Or chemistry. Take some raw material, shake it up, add a hint of this and a smattering of that and...viola! Some new genius drink. Or, sometimes, a vile concoction that even Sideshow Bob wouldn't ingest. But it's good fun, really.
I've been obsessed lately with infused vodkas. We have several bars in our area that are infusing vodka with amazing things--ginger, pineapple, guava, cucumber, habanero. Vodka is cool like that--it's a canvas for whatever strong flavor you want to bring.
I'm not ambitious enough to infuse my own vodka--yet--wait until this summer for that little project, but I did see a pear-infused vodka the other day and I had to give it a spin. Hangar One is a terrific vodka. I love, love, love it. But not as much as my husband loves it. He's a sucker for the stuff.
What we love about Hangar One is that they infuse the vodka with a flavor--say, mandarin orange--and yet it isn't sweet, sugary overload like a lot of vodkas on the market. The vodka smacks of orange but is barely sweet at all. And if you don't like things very sweet (like weirdo me), you're gonna love Hangar One.
The pear vodka is crazy! It's barely sweet at all, but it's got notes of cardamom and star anise, which immediately bring heat to back of your throat, and shoot me if I'm wrong, but I swear I tasted peppercorn in that stuff. It's a spicy, heady mix. Hubs and I tried it first on the rocks and decided, Whoa! It's just too packed with flavor (for us) to drink au naturel.
So I played around and came up with a wallop of a drink. It's a drink we immediately fell in love with, because it isn't too sweet, it's got a lot of flavor, it's refreshing, and it's potent. Fair warning: one of these babies will make you bubbly. Two will make you downright frisky. Which is why we forgot to take a photo of our drinks.
But damn, they're good. I dare you to whip these up on a warm evening. I bet you're going to be dancing in the yard with the kids, blasting the Lyle Lovett or the Pink or The Shins or whatever you like, before you know it. Bring on Spring.
Saucy Spring Pear Deliciousness
1/2 cup pear-infused vodka, such as Hangar One*
1/4 cup good vodka
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1-4 tablespoons simple syrup (to taste)**
1/2 Asian pear, peeled, grated (preferably on a microplane, over the cocktail shaker)
cold Prosecco, or other sweet sparkling white wine
if desired, frozen grapes***
Freeze both vodkas and cocktail shaker, at least 2 hours. Place grated pear in shaker (if you use a microplane, grate the pear over the cocktail shaker, collecting any pear juice/pulp you can get). Add 1 tablespoon simple syrup to pears and, using the back of a spoon, muddle the pears/syrup. Add vodkas and lime juice. Add ice to the shaker and shake well. Taste. If mixture isn't at all sweet, add simple syrup, by tablespoons, until slightly sweet.
Strain mixture into two highball glasses, filled with ice and, if using, frozen grapes. Add Prosecco to fill; stir well. Garnish with lime and/or Asian pear slices.
*Hangar One Pear is a lot less sweet than other infused vodkas, so depending on the brand you use, you really may have to adjust the ratio of simple syrup. Taste! And taste again!
**Simple syrup: Boil 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar until sugar dissolves. Cool completely. Simple syrup will keep well, covered in the refrigerator, for a week.
***Frozen grapes in drinks are genius! They work like ice cubes, but don't dilute the drink! Wash some grapes, put them in a plastic freezer bag, toss them in the icebox and Hey! Cool ice "cubes" that don't dilute your drink! Because diluted drinks are castrated drinks, you know.