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A Holiday Cocktail: The Smoked Sammon

19 Dec

Belvedere vodka cocktail

Whether or not you’re as food crazed as I am, everyone has food memories they associate with the holidays. Growing up, the appetizer table at Christmas dinner always included a smoked salmon platter, sometimes paired with a dill cream cheese, and often garnished with cucumber and lemon slices.

So, when I was asked by the team at Off The Grid to participate in a promotion where Toronto cocktail fanatics were asked to create a holiday tipple using Belvedere vodka*, my thoughts turned to one of my favorite holiday food memories. Those who’ve followed this blog know I’ve never shied away from unusual cocktail ingredients or smoky flavours (truthfully, I have a strong preference for brown spirits), so putting together a cocktail reminiscent of a smoked salmon platter was a welcome challenge.

The result: The Smoked Sammon (The name is a play on the name of the street I live on… and a reflection of the fact there is definitely no actual fish in this drink!).

cucumber Belvedere smoked paprika

To make this drink, step 1 is infusing the vodka with cucumber and dill. Peel, halve and de-seed half an English cucumber, then chop the halves into small chunks. Throw the cucumber into a mason jar, or any container with a tight seal, along with a handful of fresh dill. Pour in half a bottle of Belvedere vodka and close the lid. Store in the fridge for three to four days to infuse, and give the jar a gentle shake once a day.

Step 2: create the “smoke” for your cocktail. For this, I made a smoked paprika simple syrup, an idea I borrowed from Toronto chef Matt Kantor. Heat 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of water and 2 tablespoons of smoked paprika in a saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes or so, until the sugar is dissolved. Let the syrup cool completely, then store in the fridge in a Tupperware (it’ll keep for several days).

Finally, make your drink. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and shake together 2 ounces of the infused vodka, half an ounce of your smoked paprika syrup and a few dashes of citrusy bitters to round things out (I used Bittered Sling’s Lem-Marrakech Bitters). Pour into a cocktail glass over ice, and garnish with a slice of cucumber from your infused vodka.

*Thanks to Belvedere and offthegridto.com for supplying me with a bottle of vodka to play with. To check out more cocktail creations, visit Off The Grid.

Drink Up: Smoked Old Fashioned Cocktail

23 Apr

smoked old fashioned cocktail

If such a thing exists, I definitely have culinary ADD. When I got my ice cream maker a couple years ago, I made ice cream obsessively for weeks and weeks. Then I stopped. Then I started again when the ice cream bug hit me. When I discovered ramps, I cooked with them all the time for a really brief stretch (of course, that’s partly due to the fact that ramp season is so short).

A while back, I discovered lapsang souchong tea. We went for high tea to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday. When they brought around the sampler box for everyone to smell the teas and choose the one they wanted, I was instantly drawn to the one that smelled like a campfire. Lapsang souchong is made of mountain-grown tea leaves from China, smoked over pine needles. It’s basically the tea-drinking equivalent of a peaty scotch, or a cigar. And while the intense flavour meant I could only drink one cup of the tea, my brain instantly went to the idea of cooking with it. Jenny and I did just that last year, preparing fish two ways with lapsang souchong.

And then, of course, I forgot about my smoked tea leaves – until just recently, when I started thinking that lapsang souchong might make for an interesting ingredient in cocktails. I started this by making a simple syrup with a 1:1 ratio of sugar to brewed lapsang souchong tea (instead of the water normally in simple syrup), which I left to cool. In the glass, I muddled a thin sliver of orange rind with three dashes of bitters and 0.5 oz of the simple syrup. To that, I added three ice cubes and 1.5 oz of bourbon.

The end result is decidedly Old Fashioned, but with a distinctive smoked flavour that lingers after the sweet and citrus notes fade. I’m more of a Manhattan guy as brown liquor cocktails go, but I can definitely see adding this to my home bartending repertoire.

Have you used lapsang souchong tea in your cooking or drink mixing?

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