Fernet and ginger sorbet (a.k.a. Awesome Sorbet)


This is a refined version of a recipe we made at Carlyle back in 2009 for a night of drinks featuring Fernet Branca. That version was delicious but it didn’t freeze well as I’d have liked. A few months ago I acquired an ice cream maker, so I’ve been enjoying lots of fernet sorbet this summer tweaking the recipe to reduce the amount of sugar and alcohol, both of which impede freezing.

The texture on this one still isn’t perfect for a stylized restaurant presentation, but it’s much more stable. Perhaps it would be perfect with a better ice cream maker or a fernet with a lower proof than the ubiquitous Fernet Branca that I’ve been using. The important thing is that it tastes fantastic. “Awesome Sorbet” was the label I found on the container at Carlyle when we made the first batch, and it still lives up to the name.

The inspiration for this is the fernet and ginger ale pairing beloved by so many West Coast bartenders. Neither ingredient dominates the sorbet, but they add spice and flavor.

30 oz orange juice
4 oz lemon juice
3 oz fernet
1 1/2 oz ginger juice*
6 oz superfine sugar

Whisk ingredients in a bowl, spin in an ice cream maker, and put in freezer until frozen.

* I don’t actually juice ginger for this. I just blend chopped ginger with a little water and push it through a strainer.

[Recipe edited 8/20/14 to reflect newest version.]


MxMo: Package Notice

Hibiscus cocktail

A couple months ago I agreed to be in a vodka infusion contest hosted by Oval Vodka. The winner received a free hotel stay in New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail. Unfortunately I found out soon after the bottle arrived that I wouldn’t be able to attend this year, so I didn’t compete and have an extra bottle of vodka sitting on my home bar. At about the same time my friend David sent me a package that included a big bag of hibiscus flowers. This makes for a nice coincidence given that this month’s Mixology Monday theme is “vodka is your friend,” hosted by Felicia’s Speakeasy:

The theme of August 10th’s Mixology Monday is “Vodka is Your Friend.” The recent high profile bashings of vodka interspersed with a few weak “yeah, buts…” left me wondering, is vodka the axis of evil, our most dangerous enemy? While it may not be the life of the party, experts agree: Vodka’s obituary does not have to be written just yet.

Every once in a while I do enjoy vodka on the rocks, especially if it has some rye character to it. I very rarely choose to mix with it though. There’s a limited amount of spirit that can fit into a cocktail and I don’t often want to devote any of it to a nearly flavorless ingredient. If a drink is good with vodka, wouldn’t it be better with gin? Or rum, or aquavit, or tequila, etc.? Despite this, the two most popular cocktails on Carlyle’s menu are made with vodka. Like it or not, we craft bartenders have to use it.

One thing vodka is good for is letting other flavors shine through. Given what I had on hand, my first thought was to try a hibiscus infusion. This turned my vodka an attractive shade of red but the flavor wasn’t strong enough to stand out in a mixed drink; clearly I would not have won the infusion contest.

So then I started doing some research. And by “research” I mean I looked up the hibiscus entry on Wikipedia. There I learned that there are countless words for hibiscus tea, a beverage popular throughout the world and made by steeping dried hibiscus flowers in hot water. In Jamaica fresh ginger is often added. Thus an idea for a drink began to take shape and after a little trial-and-error I settled on this Package Notice cocktail:

2 oz chilled hibiscus tea (agua de Flor de Jamaica)
1.5 oz vodka
.25 oz ginger liqueur
.25 oz rich simple syrup

Shake over ice, strain into an ice-filled rocks glass, and garnish with an edible flower.

The hibiscus flavor is tangy but also very light, so vodka works nicely here. It’s a simple drink, but it’s admittedly pretty nice on a summer day.


MxMo ginger: The Shift Drink

Shift Drink

This month’s Mixology Monday is hosted by blog pal Rumdood, one of the small handful of cocktail bloggers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person. (And it’s going to remain a small handful a little while longer: I learned last week that, contrary to my initial plans, I won’t be able to attend Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans next month.) Rumdood’s chosen theme is ginger.

For the ginger contribution to the drink I’m using Domaine de Canton, an excellent liqueur made with ginger and Cognac. I’m also using two spirits I’ve come to appreciate much more since getting back behind the bar in Portland, rye whiskey and Fernet-Branca. Or maybe this is just a sign I spend too much time at 50 Plates. Hence the Shift Drink:

1.5 oz rye whiskey
.75 oz Domaine de Canton**
.5 oz Fernet-Branca
.75 oz lemon juice*

Shake all of the above with ice and strain into a cocktail glass, garnishing with a twist of lemon.

Ginger and Fernet pair very well and the whole drink comes together nicely. If you have a taste for cocktails with a strong bitter component, this is one to try in the summer months.

*Updated 9/1/09: Since publishing this I’ve been upping the amount of lemon juice used, a change now reflected in the recipe above.

**New Update 9/29/11: I recently revived this recipe for Metrovino and altered the recipe yet again. Instead of Domain de Canton I’m using a ginger syrup made by simmering fresh ginger with equal parts sugar and water. Nothing against Canton, which is delicious in this drink, but the syrup does just as well and allows us to keep the price down.