We believe in Happy Hour. Firstly, we like happiness. Secondly, we very much like the ritual of gathering together with a few friends in the early evening to share a nice drink, maybe a little snack, and have a bit of conversation before we hit the dinner hour.
So, when our friends at Northern Waters Smokehaus (hi guys! we love you!) asked if we'd be interested in coming up with cocktail suggestions for pairing with a couple of their gorgeous cured meats and other nibbles we thought we'd do them even one better and create five pairings - a whole work-week's-worth, if you will! - perfect for happy hour.
(Obviously there is no need to have happy hour every day for a week. But it seemed fun to assign each pairing to a particular day, right? However, feel free to use our suggestions any day you want, for a special day or to celebrate the ordinary.) (Also, as a side note: to keep things simple, we decided to do all cocktails that use our Cedar Gin, but you could also swap it for Juniper Gin to make a more piney, punchy version of any of these cocktails.)
Monday: I think a traditional Negroni is perfect as it is, but it's also a remarkable jumping off point for creative variations. The central flavor in a Negroni is Campari, and I think Campari is delicious with raspberries, so we muddled some raspberries into a lightened up Negroni for an ever so lightly fruity take on this bittersweet classic.
- 8-10 raspberries (you can use frozen ones, but defrost them first)
- 1.5 oz. Boreal Cedar Gin
- 1 oz. sweet vermouth (our favorite kind is Cocchi Vermouth di Torino)
- 3/4 oz. Campari
- Gently smash the raspberries in the bottom of a stirring glass. Add the remaining ingredients and stir with ice for about 20 seconds. Strain into a lowball glass over an ice cube (or two). Garnish with a coin of orange peel (you can flame it if you like, but you don't have to).
Pair with: Lonzino - the most amazingly buttery, nutty cured pork you can imagine (a bit like prosciutto on deliciousness steroids) and dark, sweet amarena cherries.
Tuesday: Do you know what a French 75 and a Bee's Knees are? Even if you don't, just know that if you mash-up those two cocktails and add a pinch of thyme, you'll get this delightful herbal, sweet-tart, bubbly little number. It's a well known fact that champagne makes everything better, including Tuesdays.
- 1 scant tsp. fresh thyme
- 1/2 oz. lemon juice
- 1 heaping tsp. honey
- 1 oz. Boreal Cedar Gin
- brut Champagne (or any dry sparkling wine), chilled
- Combine the thyme, lemon juice, and honey in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Stir until the honey dissolves. Add the gin and then ice and shake hard for about 10 seconds.
- Double strain (that is to say, strain through your cocktail strainer plus another fine mesh strainer like a tea strainer) into a cocktail coupe or champagne glass.
- Top with your sparkling wine.
Pair with: The Smokehaus's scrumptious saucisson sec, their boursin cheese (which, by the way, is mind-bogglingly good) and some crusty bread.
Wednesday: It's Hump Day! A Martini is in order. A Martini is the perfect pre-dinner drink; it whets the appetite like no other. However, instead of a traditional gin Martini, I like to trade the dry vermouth out for something just a little less dry (mostly I find dry vermouth to taste too oxidized for me), particularly Cocchi Americano (another type of herbed and fortified wine) to go with our musky Boreal Cedar Gin. Cocchi Americano can be hard to track down (if you're in Duluth, they do have it at Mt. Royal Bottle Shoppe), so if you can't find it you could try Lillet Blanc instead.
- 2 oz. Boreal Cedar Gin
- 1 oz. Cocchi Americano
- 3 dashes orange bitters
- Stir all ingredients with ice until very well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. No garnish.
Pair with: beautifully smoky and piquant Smokehaus chorizo, plus some Castelvetrano olives. Because you are fancy.
Thursday: Thursdays call for a simple drink and a satisfying snack. So, we paired up a straightforward, but delicious, Cedar Collins with some pork loin. It did the trick.
- 1.5 oz. Boreal Cedar Gin
- 1 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 oz. simple syrup (to make simple syrup, just combine equal parts sugar and water and stir until the sugar dissolves)
- soda water
- Stir together the gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a tall-ice filled glass. Top with soda water and stir to make sure everything is combined.
Pair with: Smoked pork loin from the Smokehaus - which makes me think of Christmas and 4th of July picnics all rolled into one remarkable sliced meat. It's so good. Then, add apricot preserves (they also have that at the Smokehaus), crackers, and some toasted, spiced nuts. You may not need dinner.
Friday: Ok, personally I don't get brunch, and I don't get Bloody Mary's. And no amount of attempting to convince me will change my mind. Sorry! However, I accept that many people like them very much. And so, on Friday, perhaps you're already looking forward to the weekend so much that you want to taste it by having a Bloody Mary. But instead of a standard Bloody Mary, let's up our game with a tomato shrub. It sounds complicated, and it tastes complex, but it's a breeze to make. And it's just as amenable to a meal's worth of garnish as a regular Bloody Mary.
- 1 cup chopped fresh tomato
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup white wine vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce to taste
- Combine the tomato, sugar, and vinegar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer (still covered) for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes have rather broken down and released their juices. Strain into a jar, allow to cool, then stir in some Worcestershire sauce to taste, if you want. (You can keep the remaining tomato solids and use them kind of like a tomato jam, if you don't mind peels and seeds, I suppose.) The shrub will keep for up to a month covered in the fridge.
- To make a cocktail: Shake 2 oz. Boreal Cedar Gin and 1.5 oz. of the tomato shrub with ice. Strain into an ice filled glass and garnish with your favorite Bloody Mary garnishes.
Our Garnish: A chunk of Smokehaus bison buddy, a piece of sharp cheddar, an olive, and a rolled anchovy.