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Christmas, Citrus, Cocktails, Holiday, Local

Got citrus? Here’s to ya.

December 18, 2014

There’s a lot of local citrus emerging now here in South Louisiana, and one of its best uses is in cocktails. ‘Tis the season, after all! Fresh orange and grapefruit juice are key components in loads of classic and modern cocktails, and the fresher the juice, the better the drink. Marvin J. Allen, the longtime bartender of the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans argues this very point in his new cocktail book, Magic in a Shaker (Pelican Press, 2014). Here’s my copy — already stuffed full of Post-It Notes bookmarks. And that’s my bar juicer next to it.



Allen writes,“So why are there so few who can create and make great cocktails? First, people fail to realize the importance of using the finest and freshest ingredients.”

Well, then. A fleeting opportunity is before us, my friends. It’s time to create some really memorable cocktails with all that gorgeous fruit now being harvested in backyards and on farms across South Louisiana and in other spots across the country. With access to the grapefruit tree that hangs over my fence (an agreement with my neighbor), I opted first for a Salty Dog, and I turned to Allen’s recipe as a starting point. It’s a timeless drink that combines vodka — or sometimes gin — with grapefruit juice, and it’s served on the rocks in a glass rimmed with salt. Its salt-less counterpart, of course, is the Greyhound. Here’s the fresh fruit still on the tree….and about to be juiced, followed by the recipe.


From Magic in a Shaker, by Marvin J. Allen

Greyhound or Salty Dog

1 ¼ oz. vodka

5 oz. fresh grapefruit juice


Salt (optional)

Pour vodka and juice over ice a rocks glass. For a Salty Dog, first rim the glass with salt, then build as above.

As for salt, I rimmed my glasses with two of the salts I keep on hand from Red Stick Spice Co., Murray River Flake Salt and Madagascar Vanilla Salt. Owner Anne Milneck said that other good choices for cocktails are black Hawaiian salt, great with milky-chocolate-caramel martinis, and red Hawaiian salt, which looks really pretty with citrus cocktails. Nice salts are a fun way to doozy up your drink.


Now, this post wouldn’t be complete without a mention of that quintessential holiday morning beverage, the Mimosa. It’s required drinking for anyone with an orange tree. I’m in this group – our urban orchard features 3, including this luscious hairy beast  — and I’ll be using Allen’s recipe Christmas morning.


Here it is:

Grand Mimosa

¼ oz. orange liqueur (such as Ferrand Dry Curacao)

1 oz. fresh orange juice

5 oz. Champagne or sparkling wine

Pour liqueur and juice into a Champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine. Sip and have a grand time.

This only scratches the surface on the subject of citrus cocktail. Tell me what you think!

What drinks will you make with fresh citrus?


Citrus, Kumquats, Thanksgiving

Kumquat honey sorbet

November 18, 2014

Just for kicks, what would you make for a holiday dessert if pie wasn’t an option? I threw that question out to my Facebook friends before Thanksgiving and, just to be mean, I also forbade bread pudding. Once we got past some initial protestations, a flood of interesting responses rolled in that clearly got everyone excited about the holiday table. I don’t mean to suggest you really can’t serve pie or bread pudding, but thinking beyond them is a fun way to get the creative juices flowing. Turkey and side dishes are often shackled by tradition, but the dessert course is an open playing field that begs for new additions. My friends were all over the map with suggestions like custard, pots de crème, cheesecakes (pumpkin being the frontrunner) and fruit crumbles. A hometown friend said nuts and Port, and a couple of folks tossed out sorbet. Sorbet seemed like a great place to start fiddling around, and the kumquats ripening in my backyard were perfect fodder. This is easy and you can make it ahead. Oh, and it does not require a sorbet or ice cream maker. Long live simplicity.

Kumquat Honey Sorbet

Serves 6

2 cups water

1 cup sugar

2 cups (1 pint) ripe kumquats, plus 3-4 few extra

1 tablespoon honey

Fresh mint and candied kumquats for garnish

Slice kumquats in half across the middle and remove seeds. Add to a food processor and pulse until pureed. Scrape into a medium size bowl. Add honey and simple syrup, which should be room temperature or cool. Pour mixture into an 8×8 glass pan and freeze for a few hours, until mostly firm but not quite set. Working in batches, run the nearly frozen mixture through a blender or food processor. The color will mellow and the consistency will become creamier. Spoon back into glass pan and refreeze a few hours until firm. When ready to serve, allow sorbet to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Scoop into a pretty glass and serve with fresh mint and candied kumquats.

Candied Kumquats

Bring 1 cup water to boil. Turn off heat and add ½ cup sugar. Whisk vigorously. Slice the extra kumquats crosswise into thin slices – as many as you need for garnish. Remove seeds. Drop into warm simple syrup in saucepan and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. When ready, garnish sorbet.