Sauce and smoky flavors bring the outdoor barbecue to your glass
The lore of cowboy life is an eternal thing. Not understandable, but eternal.
People dream of riding the wide open plains, sleeping under the stars and fixing meals over a crackling campfire.
Yes, for reasons that totally befuddle people who appreciate the great advancements of mankind, there are people who not only long for the lonesome cowboy life, they attempt to experience it.
These befuddled folk are the ones who excitedly talk about vacations, which may, at best, involve tents.
They build fires to actually cook in, even when there are perfectly suitable dining establishments within driving distance. Some, unable to journey to where the buffalo roam, stay home where all of civilization’s luxuries are right at hand but drag food out to a soot-blackened pit among the urban wildlife and clouds of mosquitoes. There, they sacrifice perfectly good meats and vegetables by flinging it on flaming pyre.
They explain this insanity by claiming it’s the call of the outdoors and a love for the flavors that only an open flame can give the foods they scorch.
It’s a cowboy thing.
But there are myriad gadgets for the kitchen that promise to replicate the outdoor cooker and none come with heat, humidity or vermin. And speaking of barbecue, the coveted flavors are not only available for food without venturing outside, they can be captured in that evening cocktail, meaning one might never have to face a charcoal briquette again.
Several years ago, blog writer Tom Fischer (www.bourbonblog.com.) and Louisville, Ky., mixologist Stephen Dennison decided to do just that by condensing their love for bourbon, barbecue and beer festivals into one glass, not surprisingly called the Beer, Bourbon and Barbecue Cocktail.
They started with the first essential ingredient for any barbecue — the sauce. This can be any favorite store-bought sauce or that secret family one everyone likes to treasure. Take 2 1⁄3 cups of the sauce — that’s a full 19-ounce bottle of store-bought — and add it to an equal amount of hot water. Whisk and chill until ready to use.
The drink itself calls for 1.5 ounces of bourbon, preferably Maker’s Mark, and 1 ounce each of honey whiskey liqueur and the barbecue sauce water. Put this in a cocktail shaker with ice and add the juice from 1⁄4 of a fresh orange. Shake this vigorously before straining into a cocktail glass.
With the base made, pour your favorite 12-ounce beer into the same shaker and give it enough shakes to generate lots of foam. Spoon the foam onto the top of the cocktail as a garnish. What you have is everything you’d taste at one of the festivals, except you never have to leave air conditioning and you can drink from a real glass. Thank you civilization.
There are actually dozens and dozens of both original and classic cocktails that can be made to taste like a campfire cookout in a glass.
The Faith, Hope and Garrity, for example, brings together Irish whiskey, V8 Juice, smoky barbecue sauce and a little lemon juice. Once this is shaken and strained into a highball glass, it’s topped with a favorite beer.
When the call of nature beckons, respond by heading to the bar and preparing a simple Whiskey Highball. This variation of the classic Whiskey Highball still uses soda with a lemon peel garnish, but for the alcohol, substitute a very smoky Scotch from Scotland like Laphroaig or Islay Single Malt, or even one of the smoky whiskies from Japan, where this is a very trendy drink right now. (Did you know that when referring to bourbon, rye and Irish varieties, it’s spelled whiskey? But it’s whisky in conjunction with Scotch, Canadian and Japanese varieties. The plural of whisky is whiskies.)
Tequila lovers can barbecue their margaritas by substituting any of a number of mescal tequilas like the QuiQuiriqui Matatlan Mezcal Espadín Joven. These all have a slightly wood-smoke flavor in them from the bourbon barrels in which they’re aged. Mix it like you would any margarita and then, just before serving, rim the glass with smoked sea salt, brands of which are found in most specialty food stores.
Locally, whiz cocktail creator Rayna Reagan, bar manager at Stingaree Restaurant & Marina in Crystal Beach, makes her own barbecue in a glass using tequila as well as rye whiskey. The drink is appropriately called Cookout.
“The goal in creating the flavor of the drink is balance,” she said. “The smoky flavor of certain tequilas paired with just a few drops of the barbecue sauce brings the smoky flavor to the forefront.”
Where even some great pitmasters lean toward using bourbons in their sauce, Reagan chose to go with rye, something more associated with Canada than Texas.
“I decided to incorporate rye whiskey instead of bourbon because the corn mash used in bourbons is typically more sweet and full-bodied,” Reagan said. “Using rye whiskey tends to create more spicy tones as well as a drier taste. Incorporating tequila with old-fashioned rye whiskey produces a smooth and unique flavor.”
The garnish, a slice of fresh jalapeño, definitely says Texas barbecue.
Reagan also created two other drinks that fit the barbecue list. Her Bosco’s Julep doesn’t use barbecue sauce, but it does bring in the flavor with a mix of brown sugar, mint, lemon and chopped strawberries added to more rye whiskey. Maple Mark combines Maker’s Mark bourbon with maple syrup, which is then garnished with a lemon slice soaked in Stingaree’s signature barbecue flavoring.
The Gomez is another tequila barbecue drink that also gets some kick from rye whiskey and lime juice. It’s served in a martini glass with spicy barbecue sauce swirled in the center.
On the subject of martinis, a few years ago, Skyy Vodka took one look at happy campers in tuxedos and decided there had to be a barbecue martini of some kind. What the company came up with is called the Skyy Red Zombie, probably not meant to be a reference to what most people who sleep and eat outdoors appear to be in the morning.
This drink brings together what would result from marrying a barbecue restaurant to The Great Gatsby. It combines the vodka, tomato juice, horse radish, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, a little salt and pepper, lemon juice and celery seeds into a cocktail shaker with ice. It all goes in a martini glass with two olives. No chuck wagon should be without it.
Of course, like crazy aunts and funny uncles, every family has that one member who still will insist what can be cremated on a grill is still better than anything to be made in a fully equipped, modern and clean kitchen. Tuaca, that famed Italian brandy liqueur, has come to the rescue.
While just imagining the charred piece of steak remains about to grace the dinner plate, consider the simple Steak in a Glass. It’s a shooter cocktail that simply calls for 1.5 ounces of Tuaca and a 1⁄2 ounce of lime juice well shaken and strained into a shot glass. Sprinkle a wedge of lemon with Worcestershire sauce, then sip and bite.
It will go down easier than the steak.
Cocktail created by Rayna Reagan, bar manager at Stingaree Restaurant & Marina in Crystal Beach
1 ounce rye whiskey
1 ounce tequila gold
1 lime wedge
4 dashes barbecue sauce
1 sliced jalapeño
Shake whiskey, tequila and lime vigorously with ice. Strain into a martini glass and swizzle barbecue sauce in the middle of the glass. Garnish with the sliced jalapeño.