Articles in Cocktails

The Bloody Bull. Credit: The Lanesborough Hotel, London

An arranged marriage between vodka and tomato juice, infinitely customizable with an assortment of stalk-like accoutrements, the Bloody Mary is thought to have been created shortly after World War I. An unknown American bartender in Paris usually gets the credit for creatively availing himself of some of the first tins of tomato juice imported from the United States.

The original recipe did not contain booze. Bartender Fernand Petiot at The St. Regis New York’s King Cole Bar in 1934 added vodka to tomato juice and came up with the name. It was apparently inspired by a bar regular named Mary, left waiting for her man while nursing one of Petiot’s tomato cocktails. Bar Mary’s plight was likened to that of England’s Queen Mary I, and thus the Bloody Mary was born.

The name was considered a little racy, so Petiot improvised a new version of the Bloody Mary with gin and called it a Red Snapper. But once Smirnoff vodka took America by storm in the 1960s, making vodka more mainstream, the Bloody Mary roared again.

It has a reputation as a hangover remedy, and the Bloody Mary is abidingly good after a big night out thanks to the richness of the tomato juice, which also provides acidity. Spice comes from the traditional Tabasco, though some bartenders prefer Louisiana hot sauce, horseradish or other concoctions of their own.

Themes on the classic Bloody Mary abound, and in honor of its history, each St. Regis hotel has its own signature Bloody Mary. The luxurious Lanesborough Hotel in London, part of the St. Regis family, makes one with fresh yellow tomato juice and rosemary-infused vodka. In Kauai, the Aloha Mary is a blend of organic Hawaiian vodka, Clamato juice, wasabi, Sriracha and local guava wood-smoked sea salt, garnished with sea asparagus. For this week’s recipe, master barman Tony Abou-Ganim provides a very spicy take on the old classic, the Bloody Bull, thought to have originated in New Orleans.

Bloody Bull

Courtesy Tony Abou-Ganim, “Vodka Distilled”

Serves 1

Ingredients

2 ounces vodka, preferably one made from rye or mixed grain

2 ounces tomato juice

2 ounces beef bouillon

½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

2 dashes Tabasco sauce

Pinch of kosher salt

Pinch of coarsely ground black pepper

Directions

1. Place all ingredients into a mixing glass.

2. Add ice and roll contents between mixing glass and shaker tin until well mixed.

3. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass.

4. Garnish with a wedge of lemon.

Top photo: The Bloody Bull. Credit: The Lanesborough Hotel, London

Read More
Alaska's Eklutna Lake. Credit: Frank Kovalchek / Flickr

The local food movement, already a difficult undertaking in Alaska, has moved from solids to liquids. An abundance of breweries, a meadery and even a winery spill across the state, but one of the few that uses only local ingredients is Truuli Peak Vodka.

Named for the tallest mountain on south central Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, Truuli Peak has only three ingredients: water, barley and honey. These might seem plain, but the raw ingredients are some of the purest you will find. The water is glacial melt from Eklutna Lake; the filtered version is Anchorage’s drinking water.

The honey comes from the Alaska Honey Man, whose bees feed on the wildflowers of the Chugach Mountains. The barley is grown in Delta Junction, 95 miles south of Fairbanks.

Co-founder Jeremy Loyer was committed from the start to crafting a vodka made from local ingredients, but barley was not his original choice. When he and partner Kyle Ryan started Truuli Peak five years ago, they used potatoes from land his parents leased to a spud farmer in Alaska’s fertile Matanuska-Susitna Valley. But after completing an internship with Dry Fly Distillery in Spokane, Wash., Loyer was persuaded to switch to barely.

“Potatoes only have a 9% yield per pound,” he said. “Plus, they’re big and dirty and they need special equipment to clean and smash them. Barley has a roughly 40% yield per pound and is much easier to work with.”

Using Alaska’s raw resources

Though Loyer and Ryan created Truuli Peak five years ago, they have been selling vodka for less than two years; the first release was in October 2011. Loyer had fortunately secured startup money through an entrepreneurial grant with the University of Alaska, which allowed him and Ryan to develop a strong product.

“Our goal was always to be local,” he said. “The raw products are very important to us.”

Loyer points out that vodka can be made with anything that has a starch content, and some companies even use ethanol.

“Our labels say 95% grain, 5% honey,” he explains. “If you see a label that reads ’100% neutral grain spirits,’ the producers may not even have a still.” The raw ingredients are what make Truuli Peak a premium spirit, and having them locally sourced is really just a bonus.

vodka

Vodka made with locally sourced Alaska ingredients. Credit: Courtesy of Truuli Peak Vodka

Loyer becomes animated when discussing not only what he calls the “mouth feel” of the vodka, but also of the glacier water with which it is made. They originally used filtered water, but the unfiltered version is far superior. The difference is like night and day, Loyer said. The water is collected and trucked to Anchorage in 375-gallon tanks.

Truuli Peak is distinct for its soft floral notes. It is slightly sweeter than other vodkas, and finishes smoothly. There is no need to chill this vodka; Loyer prefers it at room temperature.

The process for creating Truuli Peak Vodka is fairly straightforward. Barley and honey are fed into three large fermenters, where a mash ferments for three days. The results of the fermentation are basically an 8% beer. The 8% alcohol is removed and sent to a still for its first distillation. That product then moves to the rectifying run, which is responsible for purification. In this 24-foot-tall tank, the liquid is cooled to make it hard for the distillate to become vapor. From there it’s on to the mixing tanks, where it is frozen to separate impurities, and finally raised to 60 degrees for optimum bottling.

Currently, Truuli Peak is bottled on site. You can find it across Alaska, Oregon and, most recently, New York.

Top photo: Alaska’s Eklutna Lake. Credit: Frank Kovalchek / Flickr

Read More
Saturn peaches: Credit: Kathy Hunt

Blame it on the cheap, tinny fruit cocktail that my elementary school cafeteria doled out, but until recently, I was a holdout on peaches. As a kid, I knew them as the bland, stringy, yellow cubes that floated in a bowl of cloyingly sweet syrup or that cascaded down a mound of flavorless cottage cheese.

Fresh, sliced peaches proved no better. Fuzzy on the outside, they had a tough, red strip at the center of every piece. Someone had done a lousy paring job, one that had scarred me for quite a while. It took a chance encounter with the flattened, white-fleshed, freestone Saturn to change my mind about this stone fruit.

Saturn peaches have more sugar, less fuzz

Taste, fragrance, texture and ease of eating were what won my heart. Smaller, sweeter and more aromatic than other varieties, the Saturn peach possesses everything that the fruit of my childhood did not: juicy, luscious flesh; an abundance of peachy flavor with just a hint of almond; and a bold, floral scent. Bite into this ambrosial gem and you experience the best that peaches have to offer.

You can, in fact, sink your teeth right into an unpeeled Saturn. Its thin skin has little to no fuzz so you don’t have to remove the outer layer before consuming. If you hate peeling peaches and getting sticky juice all over your hands, arms, clothes and countertop, this is a huge selling point.

Additionally, you won’t need to wrench out or cut around a large pit. Its small, spherical pit doesn’t cling to the flesh and can be removed easily. Just cut the fruit in half, twist the halves to separate and pop out the pit.

Saturn peaches get their name from their bagel-like shape, which many believe resembles the rings of Saturn. Their squashed appearance has also earned them the monikers of doughnut, saucer and galaxy peaches. The pale yellow-fleshed version has been dubbed, fittingly enough, “Sweet Bagel.”

Although its form may be unusual, the origin of its shape is not. It arose out of a natural genetic mutation that produced a flattened, rather than globular, peach. Emerging in South China at least 200 years ago, it was known as pan tao, or “flat peach,” and was reputed to be the preferred fruit of emperors. Centuries later it’s winning fans in the United States.

Saturns thrive at Pennsylvania farm

An hour northwest of Philadelphia, in Boyertown, Pa., family-owned Frecon Farms has been harvesting Saturns for close to 20 years. During that time, these growers have watched customers tentatively sample the traditional, round peaches and then ultimately fall for the extremely sweet, flat variety. Steve Frecon points to the higher brix count of these peaches as a reason for their popularity; brix refers to the amount of sugar present in the fruit.

Although Frecon favors eating Saturns right out of his hand, he also advises using them as a replacement for Mandarin oranges in salads and dressing them with a bit of vinaigrette.

“Because of their low acidity and high sugar count, which burns off during cooking, these peaches aren’t as good for baking or preserving. They are best fresh,” he says. Yellow peaches, he adds, are better for cooking.

Should you opt to feature Saturns in a salad or pair them with other foods, keep in mind that they go nicely with almonds, apricots, honey, pistachios, pork, plums, walnuts, white and red wine, and champagne.

In spite of all its wonders, the Saturn does have its downsides. More fragile than other varieties, it bruises easily. When gathering Saturns at Frecon Farms, the peaches must be placed in shallow, half-bushel containers to prevent indentations in the fruit. Additionally, if they aren’t carefully plucked from the tree limbs, the peaches’ skin may tear at the stem.

Once picked, they should be quickly consumed. These guys don’t have a long shelf life and soon start to over-soften. However, with peaches this delicious, they won’t linger on your kitchen counter for long.

Saturn peaches are in season from July to late August, so gobble them up while you can.

Saturn Bellini

If you can’t track down apricot liqueur, you can always omit it. This will leave you with a classic Bellini.

Makes 2

Ingredients

2 Saturn peaches, pits removed and cut into chunks

1½ ounces apricot liqueur, divided

Chilled champagne

Directions

Place the peach chunks and apricot liqueur in a blender and purée. Pour the mixture into two glasses and top with chilled champagne.

Top photo: Saturn peaches: Credit: Kathy Hunt

Read More
Sagatiba Pura Caipirinha. Credit: Courtesy of Campari America

Americans have always loved rum, but it tends to be pigeonholed as a party drink, the base for daiquiris and Mai Tais but not serious sipping. That’s changing as better rums come out to compete with the mega-brands we know so well, and rhum agricole and cachaça, two other sugarcane-based spirits, get in on the game.

Caliche Rum

Launched in 2012 by bar/lounge mogul Rande Gerber and Roberto Serrallés of Serrallés Distillery in Puerto Rico, Caliche has taken off in a big way, selling 10,000 cases in its first year. Named for limestone found around the distillery, Caliche is a crystal-clear white rum, smooth and slightly sweet in vanilla and caramel, with hints of spice. Unlike most white rums, it’s aged much like a sherry, with four layers of separately aged rums blended into one. Serrallés recommends that Caliche be sipped over ice with a slice of lime or mixed into classic rum cocktails, its age lending more complexity to even a simple mojito or Cali Libre (rum, Coke, cream and lime wedge).

Penny Blue Mauritian Rum

A single-estate, small-batch rum aged in cognac, bourbon and whisky casks, Penny Blue is a new addition to the lineup from Medine Distillery, which also has produced the popular Pink Pigeon rum since 1926. For Pink Pigeon, Medine distills sugarcane and then infuses it with hand-pollinated, handpicked bourbon vanilla from nearby rainforests, later adding orange peel for freshness. Penny Blue is the aged version, named for the world’s rarest stamp — the 1847 “Penny Blue” from Mauritius, which sold for $1.4 million at auction in 1994.

Phraya Rum

The most amazing thing about Phraya — other than the gorgeous gold adorning the bottle — is that it comes from Thailand, not a place usually associated with rum. Phraya alone may change that. It is an exceptional spirit, based on sugarcane from Nakhon Pathom province, in the center of the country. Aged in fired oak barrels for seven to 12 years, the rum is dark and exotically spicy, like Thai cuisine, rich in vanilla, honey and coconut and just right for sipping all night long.

Sagatiba Cachaça

Often called Brazilian rum, cachaça is made from sugarcane juice rather than molasses, using hand-cut sugarcane that is then fermented and distilled without additives, meaning that it’s usually pretty clear. It’s become a hot ticket in the United States, a smooth drink with the kind of herbal and botanical nuances that entice lovers of gin. It can also be aged, two to three years typically, bringing out the spirit’s darker, butternut squash and plantain notes. Aged cachaças are often enjoyed neat or as a chilled shot; the unaged go better in mixed drinks like the classic caipirinha below.

St. George California Agricole Sugarcane Rum

Made entirely from rare California-grown sugarcane, St. George’s agricole rum is akin to a sugarcane wine or eau-de-vie because of the way it is fermented. With a base of fresh sugarcane juice, it’s grassy, earthy and less sweet than rums made from molasses.

Sagatiba Pura Caipirinha

Courtesy of Campari America

Serves 1

Ingredients

Half a fresh lime, cut into wedges

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

2½ ounces Sagatiba Pura or other cachaça

Directions

1. Squeeze and drop lime wedges into a rocks glass.

2. Add sugar and muddle.

3. Add cachaça, fill with ice cubes and stir.

Note

You can get creative and replace lime with any fresh fruit for a unique twist on the classic caipirinha.

Top photo: Sagatiba Pura Caipirinha. Credit: Courtesy of Campari America

Read More
Cucumber Mint Rickey.

Your backyard garden is a treasure trove of inspiration for creative cocktails that don’t take hours of infusing or scouring for obscure ingredients known last to pre-Prohibition times.

Follow the lead of restaurants and bars like the Forty Four bar at the Royalton Hotel in New York, currently featuring a garden-to-glass cocktail menu of fruit, herb and veggie-based drinks.

The Royalton’s drinks include the Down and Dirty Rosie, a mix of rosemary-infused Absolut vodka, spicy pickle brine and sriracha bitters served in a coupe and garnished with a house-pickled cornichon.

To get started you need only a few items — fresh fruit, herbs, limes, a muddler and Cointreau, a fantastic summer alternative to rum or vodka. Cointreau works well as a base spirit for your garden cocktails, as it adds a balanced amount of sweetness and its natural orange flavor is a smooth complement to the fruits and herbs found in your summer garden.

Cointreau cocktail and spirits expert Kyle Ford has many other ideas for what to do with the elixir, including the Cucumber-Mint Rickey featured below.

Cucumber-Mint Rickey

Courtesy of Kyle Ford, Ford Mixology Lab

Serves 1

Ingredients

2 ounces Cointreau

1 ounce fresh lime juice

3 to 4 ounces club soda

4 slices cucumber

5 mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish

Directions

1. Muddle 3 slices of cucumber and the mint  leaves in the bottom of a highball glass.

2. Add the remaining ingredients with ice.

3. Stir briefly.

4. Garnish with a slice of cucumber and mint sprig.

 

Top photo: Cucumber-Mint Rickey. Courtesy of Couintreau

Read More
The World's Best Margarita. Credit: Nancy Zaslavsky

We met more than 20 years ago in a bar in Guadalajara. It didn’t matter that Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city, sitting square in the middle of the state of Jalisco. Or even that the city is famous for charreada, rodeos where powerfully costumed cowboys, or charros, display high-velocity horsemanship for a legion of adoring fans. In the West Central highlands, what matters is pride — pride in the long tradition of the charros, the universal symbol of this place. Pride is was what I remember most about Bo-Bo, that and his magnificent margarita.

Bo-Bo (short for Bonifacio) was a bartender in Tlaquepaque, a section of Guadalajara now considered the sweetheart of interior decorators because of their warehouse-sized shops and overstuffed galleries. But in those earlier days, things were not so precious. On one night, I wandered around El Parián, a festive city block ringed with casual cafes designed for good times and late nights. Looking around, it was difficult to choose where to go; every place was enticing. Laughter and candlelight and brightly colored clothing made each space seem more provocative than the last. The locals found it easy, as they warmed up to the place where family members waited tables or perhaps had visited for generations. I just let the spirit of the night guide me, and I walked through the next doorway I saw.

I could not have guessed from its modest entrance all which would appear before me. The otherwise dimly lit space opened up to an open-air patio, with a large gazebo where a full mariachi band played. Later I would hear that some of the best musicians in the country frequented this spot, and over the years I would raise a glass to many of them as trumpets and voices filled the space.

 

margarita2

margarita2
Picture 1 of 5

World's Best Pomegranate Margarita. Credit: Nancy Zaslavsky

That night, I must have really looked out of place, a wide-eyed gringa, overstimulated with all the sights and sounds, and Bo-Bo extended a hand and a smile. He took me on a tour of El Parián, pointing out the places with the best tacos and bar snacks. He showed me where I could grab a table under shady porticoes and pull up an equipale, the locally made, rustic leather-and-wood barrel chair, and stay for tequila and music. We paused near the gazebo stage to watch the mariachi wail “Guadalajaaaaara” wearing the same traditional outfit as the charros: skin-tight pants and jackets with heavy silver-studded adornments and huge, elaborately detailed sombreros. Here, Bo-Bo told me, “Weekend afternoons have remained unchanged for generations, and nights are forever young.”

As we wandered back to his bar he proudly proclaimed that he served, “the world’s best margarita, hands down.”

Smiling at my proud guide, I said, “OK, prove it.”

And he did.

World’s Best Margarita

Makes 1 drink

Guadalajara is known for tequila. The actual town of Tequila is about an hour to the west, and it is the place where Mexico distills its finest in countless factories. Tequilana Weber blue variety agave plants (Agave tequilana) run up and down kilometers of hillsides in perfect blue-gray waves of neat rows from the lowlands to the nearby mountains. Ancient volcanoes in the distance provide the background where they push against sapphire skies.

Bo-Bo’s perfect storm of spirits is still the recipe I use today. Here is his original formula with my alternate ruby-red suggestions. But first, a few rules of a great margarita:

1. Use only 100% agave tequila because others are mixtos, cheap blends of 49% something else — mostly cane alcohol and/or sugars. My preference is clear (aka silver, blanco, white) because of its clean agave flavor unaltered by aging.

2. Never use a pre-made, artificially flavored and colored, headache-inducing, neon chartreuse “margarita mix.”

3. No slushy blender drinks. Serve “on the rocks” in an old-fashioned glass or “up” shaken with ice and strained into a martini glass.

4. Serve with or without a salted rim, but without is like a kiss where the lips never touch.

Ingredients

1 lime wedge

A few tablespoons slightly coarse sea or kosher salt on a small plate

Ice cubes

1½ parts 100% clear agave tequila

½ part Cointreau

1 part freshly squeezed Mexican (aka Key) limes

Simple syrup or bartender’s super-fine sugar, if needed

Directions

1. Moisten the rim of an old-fashioned glass (or martini glass) with a lime wedge. Dip in the salt to coat the rim.

2. In a small pitcher, mix the tequila, Cointreau and lime juice. Stir and taste; if it’s too sour stir in a little sweetener, but the drink should be sour.

3. Either fill an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes and then pour in the tequila mixture or pour the mixture into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice, shake 10-15 seconds and strain into a martini glass.

Ruby-Red Pomegranate, Cranberry or Jamaica Margarita

Makes 1 drink

Ingredients

Thick slice off lime end

¼ cup slightly coarse sea or kosher salt

Ice cubes

1½ parts 100% clear agave tequila

½ part Cointreau

1 part unsweetened, sour pomegranate juice, cranberry juice or strong-brewed jamaica tea (pronounced ha-MY-ca, dried flowers of the hibiscus family, found in Mexican markets)

Simple syrup or bartender’s super-fine sugar to taste

Directions

1. Moisten the rim of an old-fashioned glass (or martini glass) with a lime wedge. Dip in a dish of salt to coat the rim.

2. In a small pitcher mix the tequila, Cointreau and juice. Stir in sweetener to taste, but keep it sour!

3. Either fill an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes and then pour in the tequila mixture, or pour the mixture into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice, shake 10 to 15 seconds and strain into a martini glass.

Like it hot? Quarter a fresh green jalapeño chile, remove the seeds and then slide it into the drink. Like it smoky? Float 1 tablespoon Del Maguey mezcal on top of the finished drink. !Salud!

Simple Syrup

Ingredients

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Directions

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Store in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one month. Makes about 1½ cups.

Top photo: The World’s Best Margarita. Credit: Nancy Zaslavsky

Read More
Aloha Mary cocktail from Ocean Vodka. Credit: Jessica Pearl

Hawaii has always had a cocktail culture — as evidenced by such drinks like the Mai Tai, Piña Colada and Blue Hawaiian — but one based not as much on quality as on packing a colorful and potent punch.

To many mainlanders, that’s because Hawaii is for them vacationland, a place to enjoy the mildly tropical weather and have drinks served in coconut shells with a tiny umbrella. It’s an image of Hawaii that dates to when Elvis was alive, thin and young.

But just as with food, the attitude toward Hawaiian spirits is slowly beginning to change in the islands. As chefs like Ed Kenney of the restaurant Town in Honolulu have shown, there is a way to please diners by emphasizing locally raised greens and meats rather than the traditional gravy-covered mounds of rice.

And small distillers are starting to make better rums, vodkas and other spirits from local ingredients, accenting a sense of history by reclaiming former sugarcane and pineapple plantations.

Ocean Organic Vodka is one of them, a multigenerational family-run, 80-acre farm and distillery on Maui making vodka out of sugarcane.

Kyle and Diana Smith and their kids Shay and Sye were looking for a way to bring sustainable agriculture to Hawaii and make a non-perishable product. Cocktail aficionados who love to experiment, they settled on vodka, the base of their favorite martinis and more.

To make the vodka, they source seawater that originates 3,000 feet below Hawaii’s Big Island and surfaces near the Kona Coast. High in potassium, calcium and magnesium, the water is then purified and desalinated through reverse osmosis and mixed with fermented sugar cane that they grow.

The result is a crisp, clean-drinking spirit subtle in high-toned citrus notes. Open for tours, Ocean Vodka plans to expand into making rum and whiskeys in the coming years.

Haleakala Distillers is also on Maui, a craft rum distillery run by Jim and Leslie Sargent that makes dark rum, gold rum, 155-proof “Extreme” rum, pineapple-flavored rum and Okolehao. That’s a spirit made from ti root, a Hawaiian herb that Sargent says reminds some people of amaretto, and it goes into a drink called Leilani’s Tsunami, blended with passionfruit, orange, guava and lime juices and Sprite over ice.

A few ‘back’ stories on Hawaiian spirits

Father-son team Maui Distillers produce Old Lahaina Rum in an old sugar mill in the town of Paia. Driven by frustration over the fact that most “Hawaiian” rums were made on the mainland, they were able to source a special molasses from Maui’s Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar, the last operating sugar plantation in Hawaii. Maui Distillers launched in 2004, becoming the first distillery on Maui in 20 years, making dark, silver and gold rums.

Haliimaile Distilling Company is another Maui vodka maker, producing small batches from extra-sweet Maui pineapples, while Maui Brewing founder Garrett Marrero is expanding his brewery in the central part of Maui to soon distill bourbon and spirits based on local breadfruit.

And there’s Kauai, where it is believed Captain James Cook was accompanied by barrels of rum when he first made landfall in 1778. It is the home of Koloa Rum Company, the first and only licensed distillery on the island. Koloa Rum was named for a once-vibrant sugar plantation and mill. Now it is growing its own sugarcane and experimenting with using fresh-pressed cane juice instead of processed sugar. Koloa is devoted to single-batch white, gold, dark and spice rums; its spice rum is rated highly by F. Paul Pacult’s “Spirit Journal” and others. Koloa runs a tasting room and company store from its historic Kilohana Plantation location.

Aloha Mary

Courtesy of Ocean Vodka

Serves 1

Ingredients

2 ounces vodka (for example, Ocean Vodka)

3 ounces tomato juice

½ ounces fresh lemon juice

3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce

2 drops Tabasco

Directions

1. Pour ingredients into shaker over ice.

2. Shake vigorously and pour in a tall glass.

3. Salt and pepper to taste, garnish with fresh vegetables.

Top photo: Aloha Mary. Credit: Jessica Pearl

Read More
Apps

These app reviews will teach you to become a vegan in 21 days or to mix perfect cocktails from sight alone. There’s also a complete guide to garden herbs (perfect for a farmers market) and finally, a tool to identify the hottest peppers. Enjoy!

Eyeball those cocktails

Clinq takes a strikingly different approach to the cocktail recipe. Instead of listing shot measures, Clinq shows you the ratio of ingredients, each represented by a different color. The idea being, whether you’re making one drink or 20, you’ll get the measures right without counting shots. The stunning yet simple visuals add to the app’s appeal. The home page gives you a choice of five different spirits (gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon and rum) spelled out in stylish black typeface on a white background. Once you touch the screen to make your choice the screen slides to the left, revealing the outlines of four different glass shapes (highball, martini, hurricane and lowball). Choose your glass and you are given a choice of cocktails — there are over 140 listed. Once the color-coded ratio is shown, you can press the screen for a few seconds and the ingredient names are revealed, then hold it again for a few more and the cocktail making procedure is shown. It may take a few times to get used to the controls, but this has to be one the more creative apps around. Happy mixing!

99 cents on iTunes

Help for the Virgin Vegan

Just how does one become a vegan? The first step is probably the most difficult, but if you want to take it, 21-Day Vegan Kickstart might just be the app you need.  Designed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the app provides you with daily food lists and recipes to help you along your vegan route. You are able to see what ingredients you’ll need a week in advance, then each day you are given a plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a snack (one I imagine you will look forward to each day).  Click on the meal and the page flips, providing you with the recipe and nutritional information.  All in all, a very resourceful app that is simple to use and follow. It might just change the way you eat, forever …

Free on on iTunes

How hot is that pepper?

Say you’re cooking up a vindaloo curry or making a salsa, and you want to calibrate the heat that you’ll be bringing. When you’re talking peppers, you need to know one word: Scoville. That’s the name of the scale that measures a pepper’s spiciness.  Every pepper has a Scoville rating, from the slightly sweet bell (0 units) to the burn-your-head-off habanero (100,000 to 350,000 units).  The scale was invented by Wilbur Scoville a century ago — and no, he didn’t assign the heat levels by chomping his way through the world’s chilis. He got other people to do it for him. Scoville the app lists pretty much every pepper in existence, its Scoville rating, and tasting notes or other background information.  The “Jamaican hot,” for example, has flavors of apples, apricots and citrus (under a furnace-like heat on your palate, one presumes) and is mainly used for hot sauces in the Caribbean. In fact, after a quick browse, it seems that everything higher on the scale than the habanero has some sort of health warning and can only be eaten in the tiniest of quantities, with a pint of milk at the ready. One of the hottest peppers, the terrifyingly named Naga Viper, has a Scoville rating of up to 1,382,118 units. It is usually dabbed on food with a toothpick, so as to only use a tiny drop – that is hot to the point of pain!

$1.99 on iTunes

Apps field guide to kitchen herbs

Most of us can tell the difference between rosemary and basil … but to the untrained eye (especially my own), telling lavender from sage can sometimes prove difficult. That’s where Herbs+ fragrantly wafts in. This app would be particularly good for finding fresh herbs in the wild. The entry for each herb offers gardening tips, culinary ideas, medicinal uses and an image to help you identify the herb.

There’s also a handy link to Wikipedia, which you can access without leaving the app.  In the “Herb Garden,” you’ll find basic guidelines for how to launch your garden successfully as well as sections on harvesting, preserving, propagating and winterizing your herbs. There are also useful tips — did you know dill doesn’t grow well if planted near fennel? No, neither did I.  All in all, a very good app to spice up your phone and quite possibly your next dinner too!

$2.99 on iTunes

Top image, clockwise from top left: logos for Clinq, Scoville, Herbs+ and 21-Day Vegan Kickstart.

Read More