Thursday, March 20, 2014

A little late-night "research" in mixology with my Wine Guy

When my friend and personal wine guy Bill and I get together to do "research," we inevitably end up making up new cocktails.  Perhaps this is as a result of our late-evening blood alcohol content, when we are more likely to fancy ourselves capable mixologists.  But perhaps it's because, between the two of us, Bill and I have some pretty impressive cocktail making skills and knowledge about booze.  I'd like to give option #2 full credence for our results, but option #1 does assist in the creativity department.  Both options are fully responsible for hangovers.

Take our most recent progeny: The Coho Martini.  An alchemy of house-infused pomegranate vodka, Damiana liqueur, Aperol and fresh lime juice, this drink is perfectly balanced and beautiful in the glass. 

Although you could use another commercially-produced pomegranate vodka, infusing your own is easy (but you will need to start about 3 weeks out) and contributes a glow to this cocktail.  To make your own pomegranate vodka, remove the arils from the pomegranate and place in a large, clean container along with 750 ml of mid-price vodka.  Cover and let things take their course.  Your vodka is ready when the arils are bleached of their color and the vodka is a deep blush in color.  This process takes about 3 to 4 weeks, so you need a little patience.  Then strain the infusion into a clean container (use a coffee filter if you want it to be exceptionally clear), discard the arils and cover your new baby tightly until ready to use.  It lasts for several months if stored away from heat and light and will eventually darken if not consumed.  You can also add a few ounces of store-bought organic pomegranate juice to plain vodka and get similar results in about 3 minutes.  For some of us, patience is just not a virtue and believe me, I do understand that.

Now, let's talk a little bit about Aperol.  Aperol is like the friend you only see once in a while, but when you do, you wonder why you don't see more of each other.  And if you don't have a bottle of this incredibly versatile, lightly bitter, orange-scented aperitif, now made by the folks who make Campari, you should run right out and get one (since I hear you can buy your friends nowadays).  This lovely stuff is a gorgeous color and also makes a great cocktail when mixed with grapefruit juice.  I was hooked when I tasted my first Pamplemousse (find Orangette's version here).  Truthfully, Aperol makes a lot of great-tasting cocktails, period, and I tend to reach for it when I want a more complex flavor profile.  But a little goes a long way in something like a martini.


So now let's talk a bit about my shy friend in the middle there, Damiana.  Maybe she's in the middle background because she's not wearing any clothes and she's an old-fashioned girl.  I first bought Damiana for the bottle she came in, modeled after an Incan fertility goddess.  Lord only knows why I would have brought that kind of energy into my house, since I've prayed fervently from the age of 8 to not EVER be pregnant or, worse still, a mother. Managing pets, gardens and husbands for the past 30 odd years has been quite enough responsibility, thank you.

Nonetheless, Dami sits in my collection of mixers and oddballs, and often gets neglected.  Maybe that's really because Dami and I both have body image issues.  But when Bill comes over and we've been doing a little "research," he usually ends up rooting around in my liquor cabinet, looking for something fun to experiment with.  Being a very persuasive and congenial guy, Bill managed to coax Dami out of hiding.  She shyly acquiesced.

Don't ask me to recall the exact science behind this particular mixology experiment (because there is none) am I'm still a bit fuzzy about how the components were picked, except that I wanted to brag to Bill about my latest vodka infusion.  As a sidenote, I'd like my readers to know that I do a lot of infusions in my kitchen (just in case you'd like to drop by and try your hand at late-night mixology experiments).  Most of them are brilliant (in my humble opinion), like the Kashmir Mogra saffron and vodka infusion I did one year for an Indian dinner party.  It made a fabulously gorgeous infusion and an infamously lethal cocktail, along with some allspice dram, lime juice and Vietnamese cinnamon.  I called it The Bollywood Bhindi and after most of the cocktails had gotten inside everyone, there were some interesting interpretive dance moves in response to the sitar music later that evening, as I recall.  If it's one thing we're not short on at The Voluptuous Table, it's hilarity.

But the chocolate mint-cocoa nibs-vodka infusion I did last summer and that I thought was going to be wonderful, not so much.  I think that will have to be relegated to adult hot chocolate drinkers.

Sometimes Bill and I disagree on methods and ingredients in our cocktail experiments (and that's OK).  But one thing Bill and I did agree on were the proportions in The Coho Martini and the addition of enough lime juice to tweak all the other components into making you think that you were going to want to have at least 3 more cocktails.  Why did we name it The Coho Martini?  Well, I thought it looked rather like the color of salmon in the glass, and the name "Sockeye Martini" and "Alaskan King Martini" didn't seem to have that special, inviting ring.  So there you are.

Find the recipe below.  Have plenty of ingredients on hand (even if you're alone), because these little beauties are really tasty.  If you use a pretty glass, like I did, just know that I am not responsible if you drink too many and tag yourself in your pictures on Facebook.

The Coho Martini                          

1 oz. pomegranate vodka
1 oz. Damiana
1/4 oz. Aperol
lime wedge

In a cocktail shaker with the ice, combine pomegranate vodka, Damiana and Aperol.  Stir well, then strain into chilled martini glass.  Squeeze lime wedge into cocktail, rim the glass with the wedge, then discard lime.  Makes one cocktail.


  1. I do love infusing liquor and I'm looking forward to trying this. I even have the Damiana hiding somewhere. Sounds like fun times!

  2. Thank, you Maggie! Give this cocktail a whirl. Let me know what you think.

  3. Did you snicker a little bit when you wrote Pamplemousse? ;)