Well, The Frugal Hostess keeps getting sent these amazingly beautiful books about cooking and drinking. For free. It just keeps on happening. Amazing.
Seriously, man. Check these out.
The first, Organic, Shaken and Stirred by Paul Abercrombie, has some amazingly creative ideas for drinks, whether you're a freak about organic ingredients (as you should be) or not. The book takes a chef's approach to cocktails, incorporating ingredients like radish, purple basil, and simple syrup infused with beet juice. Some ingredients are a little esoteric or expensive for The Frugal Hostess's taste - organic saffron threads, anyone? But even the least attainable of the recipes contains an idea or two that you can replicate.
Here's an example.
Roasted Red Pepper Julep
4 sprigs of mint
1 oz. simple syrup [TFH often uses agave syrup in place of simple syrup.]
2 oz. roasted red pepper puree [There's a recipe for this in the book, but, really, just puree roasted red peppers.]
2 oz. bourbon
2 oz. sparkling water
1. Muddle mint with simple syrup.
2. Add ice. FruHo recommends crushed ice for juleps, if you can get it easily. [Also, she suggests adding only half the ice, followed by the rest of the ingredients, and topped with the remaining ice. That just makes it easier to stir.]
3. Add remaining ingredients, stirring slowly.
4. Garnish with mint.
Isn't that just an intriguing recipe?
Gizmo Moments: Really cool, innovative takes on traditional cocktails, plus new ideas. Focused on organic ingredients. Very balanced drinks, with savory ingredients and herbs evening out the sweetness of simple syrups and sugars. Great punch ideas! When The Frugal Hostess was looking for punch ideas for her Mardi Gras party, she really could have used these ideas! Also, gorgeous, plentiful pictures.
Stripe Moments: Some ingredients are hard to find or expensive, and TFH wishes that there were a few more stories included with the recipes, either personal ones from the author or more details on the history of the drink. That is clearly not the point of the book; FruHo just thinks it would've been a cool addition.
Then there's Champagne Cocktails by A.J. Rathbun (this one isn't out yet, so no link to buy - sorry!). Who has this many ideas for drinks based on bubbles? The book starts with versions of the classics (think Kir Royale and Mimosa), and then follows up with a ton of other interesting ideas. A particularly creative one is the Caprese Cocktail, which uses molecular gastronomy favorites, sodium alginate and calcium chloride, to create gels out of balsamic vinegar and ketchup. These gels are in turn made into "caviar," which sit in the bottom of the champagne glass. Amazing, right? Unfortunately, there's no picture of this drink in the book, so it's hard to tell if this is worth the trouble of making it.
Gizmo Moments: Champagne cocktails are a really good way to make cheap wine seem more festive, and there are so many creative ideas in this book. Plus, once you see how Rathbun has combined different ingredients, it's easy to come up with your own ideas. Also, for those restaurants with only beer and wine licenses (this may be a Florida phenomenon), this can help spice up their offerings.
Stripe Moments: There are not enough pictures in this book. Now, look, The Frugal Hostess is not illiterate, but she really prefers a lot of photography in any kind of cooking (or cocktailing) book. How else do you know what you're getting yourself into?
Here is a final drink, inspired by both of these books.
Rosemary Citrus Champagne Cocktail
Fresh rosemary, finely minced
Zest of one lemon or lime, or half an orange
Agave syrup (or sugar and water, or a packet of Splenda or stevia sweetener)
Splash of water
Directions - fast version:
1. Put the rosemary, zest, splash of water, and 1 oz. (or packet) of sweetener into a cocktail shaker, and shake like mad.
2. Pour into two champagne flutes and top with bubbles.
Directions - slow version:
1. Combine one cup of sugar, one cup of water, several sprigs' worth of finely minced rosemary, and the zest in a saucepan.
2. Heat until sugar is completely dissolved.
3. Let your rosemary-citrus simple syrup cool. [FruHo likes to store simple syrups in squeeze bottles, like the kind the diner uses to store ketchup, in the refrigerator. This is the least sticky method. But it's still very sticky. Duh, it's sugar.]
4. Add an ounce or so of the syrup to each glass, and then top with champagne (or prosecco, or cava, or whatever is cheapest!).
5. Garnish with a short sprig of fresh rosemary and a twist of citrus peel.
Wanna win one of these books? Leave a comment about your favorite non-alcoholic beverage, and, if you win the random drawing, you'll have your choice of either Book 1, Book 2, or a Prize Package put together by The Frugal Hostess. How will you ever have the nerve to request anything but the latter???