The Green Bracer

Happy BC Day everyone! August 1st is a stat holiday here in Canada, and the lovely province of British Columbia gave it the “BC Day” name, although it really has no historical significance – it’s just an excuse for us to have a long weekend in the height of summer. It’s a welcome day off.

I started off my morning sipping an Americano while reading the August edition of Bon Appetit magazine. What caught my attention was a the “4 Chefs/1 Ingredient” article on avocados. In particular, it was the recipe for the Avocado Smoothie.

The recipe comes from Carly Groben at Des Moines’ North African & Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, Proof. You scoop the ripe pitted avocado flesh into a blender with a cup of ice, a tablespoon and a half of fresh lime juice, a tablespoon of fresh basil, a tablespoon of sugar, and a cup and a quarter of whole milk. You puree it until it’s smooth and then serve it into chilled glasses, garnished with fresh sliced basil. It’s not every day that I have milk, fresh basil, lime, and a ripe avocado in the kitchen at the same time, so it just needed to be made.

I used 2% milk instead of whole milk. I used the juice of one medium-sized key lime, and haphazardly threw in leaves of fresh basil until I thought it was appropriately one tablespoon’s worth. I blended it and served it into chilled tumblers. It came out like avocado mousse.

I served it to the boyfriend who looked at the pale green foam suspiciously. He took a sip. “It’s an avocado smoothie” I explained. I tried to be enthusiastic about it. He took another sip. “No wait, it’s a green booster! You’d be all over it if it was called a green booster.” I was familiar with his health kicks. He grinned and took another sip. I then took a sip of this green concoction. It was buttery smooth like you’d expect from an avocado, and the basil and lime combination gave it that satisfying flavour. But it was still missing something – something that became increasingly obvious.

“Do you want a shot of tequila?” I grinned.

Silly question.

In the end, it was the added shot of tequila per tumbler that made the cocktail click for us, especially as a post-coffee pre-brunch hair of the dog. We had to stir the tequila into the mousse-like drink, but it became much more like a milkshake in texture and easier to drink. Unfortunately the garnish – the sliced basil – had mixed itself into the drink, which was unfortunate – who wants to chew a piece of mushy basil mid-cocktail? Next time a leaf of basil will do as a garnish. But all in all it was rather delightful. We also changed the name to the Green Bracer – it somehow fit.

Making a Viceroy Cocktaili

I’ve been reading Jason Wilson’s Boozehound: On the Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits for the past, oh… 2 months now? I should have finished it long ago, but I’ve loved it so much, I’ve been purposefully stalling its completion. One of its features is the cocktail recipes at the end of each chapter.

So last Friday I was in the Yaletown Liquor Store for an Oyster Bay wine tasting (my Dad was pouring – long story), when I eyed the bottle of aperatifs behind the sampling booth. There, in all its glory, was Lillet – a French wine aperatif made famous by James Bond’s Vesper Martini – and it was selling for only $16.99 a pop. I didn’t buy it, but kept the pricepoint in mind for a latter visit.

The following Friday I found myself buying a bottle of Capel Pisco in the same liquor store – it was my goal that night to make Pisco Sours. But it the next morning I read a chapter in Boozehound that coincidentally just happened to revolve around Pisco… and it ended with a perfect recipe for a Pisco Sour, but a recipe for something called a Viceroy – a Pisco-based cocktail mixed with, yup – Lillet.

Nevertheless, a trip back to the liquor store was in order.

A Viceroy (recipe from Boozehound)

  • 1.5 ounces of Pisco
  • 1 ounce of Lillet Blanc
  • 1/2 ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce of simple syrup
  • 1.5 ounces of tonic water
  • mint sprig for garnish

The result?

Well, I still prefer a Pisco Sour to the Viceroy, but if you’re looking for an alternative to a gin & tonic, this’ll do. I doubt I’ll make it again – it seems to be lacking a certain flavour profile that I can’t put my finger onto. It’s subtly bitter, subtly citrusy, but not enough to make it stand out. Perhaps more lime is in order?

Making Pisco Sours

So tonight the journey began. I decided to make Pisco Sours as a dinner-pairing cocktail – my first time making them, ever. I’ve been drinking them on and off since, oh… 2007. I once worked for a mining start-up company where half the staff worked on site in La Serena, Chile. Pisco, you see, was its legacy. Whether at the Diamond, the Cascade Room, or Seattle’s Tin Table, I’ve been a fan of Pisco Sours ever since.

I picked up the bottle of Chilean Pisco from the Yaletown Liquor Store – the only type available, Pisco Capel – selling at just under $30. Everything else you can pick up at a regular grocery store.

  • 2.5 ounces of Pisco
  • juice of one lemon or lime
  • half an ounce of Agave Syrup
  • egg white of one egg
  • splash of Angostura Bitters

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add 2 and a half ounces of the pisco, squeeze in a full lemon (or lime – just as good!), squirt half an ounce’s worth of Agave syrup (a quick alternative to simple syrup), and crack in the egg white. Shake like crazy and serve in a tumbler or a martini glass – should be a nice bright white colour with foamy white egg whites on top. Drip a bit of Angostura Bitters on top and mix with a spoon – voila!

The Peanut Gallery was rather pleased. “You knocked it out of the park, Hanson”.

Driftwood Brewery’s Belle Royale Belgian Strong Cherry Ale

Peanut Lolita may be a cocktail blog, but I like my craft beer too.

But Belgian Beer? That’s a different story…

Ever since my sister came back from Belgium, I’ve been a bit of a Belgian beer fanatic. I am by no means an expert, and yet, I do know my Saison from my Gulden Draak. I’m sure frequenting BierCraft (formerly Stella’s) since 2005 or so (including their special  Belgian Beer Tasting – 60+ Belgian beers, unlimited tastings- at this year’s Vancouver Craft Beer Week) has helped my appreciation dramatically. As I like to tell people when the occasions arise, “I like my beer hoppy, and if not hoppy, I like it Belgian.” Silly, sure, but you get the idea…

So it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting on an East Van balcony typing away happily as I normally do.  This time, however, I’m sipping away on Belle Royale Belgian Strong Cherry Ale – a seasonal beer made by Victoria’s Driftwood Brewery. Sure, not from Belgium, but Belgian in style. I’ve never had it before, hence the blog post.

I’m betting that it was the sexy, eye-catching label that attracted the boyfriend into purchasing it in the first place. It’s equally seductive and vintage – I’d buy it too! After all, it was the Bellevue Kriek cherry ale that introduced me to the world of cherry beers many moons ago.

I cracked it open and poured it into two glasses and noticed that it was different from other cherry beers I’ve had. The colour, for starters, is a very bright salmon, almost orange in colour, like a peach cider.

The nose (do beers have noses?) – you breathe it in and are treated to this deep cherry aroma. It’s not candy, it’s not sweet – it almost smells tart.

And then the sip. The flavour of cherry is definitely there, in an intense yet natural way. The cherries taste to me like the overripe deep red (to the point of being practically black) Okanagan cherries.

“What do you think?”

“I like it… I don’t think I’d buy it again, unless I thought of something it would go really well with. But I like it.”

What do you think of the cherry flavour? Is it natural, or..?

“There’s definitely a burst of cherry flavour in there.”

“I find it’s like, uh…. a natural cherry flavour.” It’s not, for example, a Mort Subite, where the fruitiness overwhelms the taste of the beer (in a good way). This is definitely an ale first, with the essence of cherries. The balance is good.

As Vancouver Beer Blog writes, “If you’ve never tried the Driftwood Belle Royale, it’s tart, but it’s not a Lambic.  It’s a Strong Belgian Cherry Ale that showcases the greatness of Morello sour cherries, without it coming off like fruit punch”. Amen to that!