Friday, September 13, 2013

Rosemary Peach Maple Leaf Cocktail

It's been quite a week! I need a stiff drink. 

Sunday, I threw a birthday party for my blog, which is turning four this week. The party was such fun, but it was was a lot of work. I made a ton of Creamy Sesame Noodles, six batches of Berry, Plum and Rose Sangria, and several dozen Mint Chip ice cream sandwiches. My friend Amelia made Pasta Alla Carbonara and this Almond Plum Tart, and another friend, Kelly, brought Melon with Lime, Feta and Mint. There were also vegan chocolate chip cookies, fried yuba (tofu skin) with scallions, sticky rice with shrimp and mushrooms, and a formidable cheese plate.

On Monday, I went to a dinner hosted by Feastly and my friend Lauren and took pictures for them to (hopefully) use on their site. The event was at night, and since I don't own any lighting equipment, the experience was somewhat nerve-wracking, made more so by the presence of professional food photographer Nikki Rosario (who actually turned out to be extremely sweet and willing to answer my one hundred questions). The food was delicious, though; fried baby artichokes with lemon aïoli, grilled lamb with butternut squash white beans, sweet corn rice, and salsa verde, and a polenta olive oil cake with rum-grilled peaches. And I managed to get some decent shots, thanks to my amazing new 50mm f/1.4 lens which opens wide enough to get sharp shots even in near darkness.

On Tuesday, San Francisco Chronicle's food photographer Craig Lee wanted to come watch me do a photo shoot. Me! Trying to photograph Balsamic Blackberry Crisps with Crème Fraîche Ice Cream while a professional photographer of 30 years looks on – talk about intimidating! Luckily, Craig is the kindest person in the whole world and was even willing to man the camera a few times. (Crisp post coming up next.)

Now I'm in the process of preparing to give my first ever cooking demonstration next Saturday. I'll be making a few favorite vegan and gluten-free recipes from this site after a yoga class taught by Kimberly Hu here in San Francisco. We're calling it Yoga+Yum. (We still have spots available; you can sign up here. More info at the bottom of this post.) Hopefully I'll be able to talk and cook at the same time. I wish I were making these cocktails for that event – I'm certainly going to want one...

This is the drink that I mixed up while Molly and I played with Rosemary Nectarine Upside-Down Cakes last week. I'd been wanting to try a maple leaf cocktail ever since ogling Heidi's yuzu-based version a while back. For this version, I muddled rosemary and peach, then added whiskey, lemon juice and ice. I couldn't get enough rosemary flavor this way, so I eventually broke down and made an infused simple syrup with rosemary and some super-dark, bottom of the barrel grade B maple from our co-op, which sells maple syrup in bulk, out of a huge, steel barrel.

Heidi adds a pinch of salt to her maple leaf to sharpen the flavors, so I use the smoked sea salt that I've been obsessed with, figuring that a little smokiness would be nice with the earthy maple.

Since I was running low on whiskey, I decided to procure a few different kinds in order to find the one most compatible for this drink. I headed to K&L, an amazing wine and liquor store in the SOMA area of San Francisco, and asked a man there if he could recommend a good whiskey for cocktails. He said, "I think the better the liquor, the better the cocktail. Especially when it comes to whiskey, since the cocktails are usually just whiskey and a little vermouth or something. What are you making?"

I described the rosemary maple simple syrup and peaches. I expected him to expound on the maple notes of one whiskey, or the rosemary undertones of another. Instead he said, "Well, with the maple syrup, you won't be able to taste the whiskey anyway," and recommended one of the cheapest bottles.

"Do you like that one?" I asked.

"No! I don't like it at all. That's why you should use it in your drink." And away he went.

Left to my own indecision, I chose Redemption Rye, which is aged in charred oak barrels and has a mellow, smoky flavor. For the record, bourbon and rye are both types of whiskey, though bourbon is made from corn, and rye from (obviously) rye. (More technical explanations on Chowhound.) I'm no expert, but I find rye to be drier, with a clean, mellow flavor, whereas bourbon is more tart, spicy and bright. If bourbon is the life of the party, rye is its more refined cousin who stands in the corner sipping wine and discussing world politics.

I mixed up one cocktail with Woodford Reserve bourbon (which I like very much on its own) and one with the Redemption Rye. I found the two to be as different as taking pictures during night and day. The one made with bourbon was light and sweet. It lacked complexity and felt like it needed another grounding component. The cocktail made with Redemption Rye tasted complete.

The smoky flavor of the rye comes through, playing against a backdrop of maple and peach, with a savory finish from the rosemary. In spite of the maple syrup, the drink is just sweet enough. It does what a good cocktail ought and piques your appetite for a salty snack – olives, or cheese and crackers, or the maple bourbon pistachios I just enjoyed at Marlowe with my friend Melissa.

In fact, I even think the guy from K&L would like it. Not that I'm gonna make him one.

Made with Redemption Rye, this drink is fruity enough to be unintimidating, but with a smoky dryness and a boozy kick that even those who take their whiskey seriously will enjoy.

{As I mentioned above, on Saturday September 21st, yoga instructor Kimberly Hu and I are collaborating to present YOGA + YUM: a mini retreat to nourish mind, body and soul. After a 75 minute yoga class taught by Kim, I'll demonstrate how to make a few of my favorite vegan and gluten-free recipes: Mint and Celery Sodas, a variation of these Creamy Sesame Noodles with Crispy Tofu, and Chocolate Chile Coconut Milk Truffles, all of which we get to eat and drink, of course! The event will be held at Kim's studio in the Dogpatch area of San Francisco from 10:30-1:30pm. Space is limited, and advanced booking (here) is required. $40 for the whole shebang.}

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Rosemary Peach Maple Leaf Cocktail

I like using grade B maple syrup here for its deeper maple flavor. I highly recommend smoky Redemption Rye, which is aged in charred oak barrels and lends a deep earthiness to this drink that complements the sweet maple and bright peach. Bulleit Rye is my second choice. Try this with ripe pears when peaches are out of season. I like my maple leaf served on the rocks, but you can shake it with ice and strain it into a chilled glass if you prefer. Add a splash of sparkling water if you want it to be more refreshing on a warm day. 
Makes 1 strong drink

1/4 of a peach, chopped, plus a few slices for garnish
1 1/2 tablespoons rosemary maple simple syrup (below)
1 tablespoon strained lemon juice
1/4 cup rye whiskey (preferably Redemption Rye)
tiny pinch smoked sea salt
rosemary sprig for garnish
sparkling water or club soda, optional

Muddle together the chopped peach, rosemary maple simple syrup, lemon juice, rye, and salt in a measuring cup or glass. Strain the mixture into a tumbler filled with ice, pressing on the fruit pulp to get out all the good stuff. Garnish with the peach slices and rosemary sprig. If you like your drink a little lighter, top it with a splash of sparkling water or club soda.

Rosemary Maple Simple Syrup

Makes about 1 cup, enough for 10 drinks

3/4 cup lightly packed rosemary leaves (from about 10 sprigs), roughly chopped
1/2 cup (5 3/4 ounces by weight) maple syrup
1/2 cup water

Combine the rosemary, maple syrup, and water together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then cover and steep for at least 15 - 30 minutes. Strain the mixture though a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the rosemary to extract all the liquid. Discard the rosemary. Chill the syrup until cold, 1 hour (or mix your drinks right away if you just can't wait). The syrup will keep, refrigerated, for at least several weeks.


  1. Hi dear, these photos are gorgeous and I'm only guessing that the blend of these amazing flavors must be absolutely delicious! I especially like the photo of Catamus...How do you get him to pose for you? ;)

    1. How do I get him to STOP posing for me? ;)

      Thank you, Mom! You can have "a sip" of one when you're up here. :)

  2. Sounds amazing, totally trying this tonight..the inlaws are over and we could all use a nice cocktail :)!

    1. I hear that! Hope they were duly enjoyed. :)

  3. The drink is stunning, and I'm lusting after that lens...

    1. Thanks, Sue! A photographer friend let me borrow her 1.4 lens and got me completely hooked. I'm so glad I have it, cause I would be been screwed shooting that event otherwise!

  4. Oh man, you've been busy doing so many exciting things! Your blog birthday party sounded AWESOME. (Fact: I could eat my weight in fried yuba.)

    And that K&L guy....ugh. I love when people don't have the imagination to generate helpful suggestions, so they just cop a snotty attitude instead. Rye sounds like it would be absolutely perfect in this drink. I usually find myself buying Bulleit, but I'll have to give Redemption a try next time (it already gets some bonus points for having a pretty cool label!).

    Also, isn't that 50mm 1.4 fantastic? I've dreamed of owning the 1.2 or the Zeiss 2.0 makro for a really long time, but I decided to face the fact that I'm not made of money and do the modest upgrade instead, and I'm so glad I did! (:

    1. Thanks for the supportive words, Carey!!! It's been such a doozy of a week. I'll be so relieved when I'm done with the cooking demo - no more scary things for a while. (Fingers crossed.) I wish you could have been at the partay - someday!

      Yeah, I'm a total sucker for a pretty label! I don't LOVE the Redemption on its own - it's a little too manly for me - so I'm glad I found a good use for it in this girly drink. I'm looking forward to trying it with pears (and also your pear and thyme Bee's Knees - yum)!

      I can't believe how much more that 1.2 lens costs than the 1.4! I've had a couple of pro photographer friends say that it's not worth the extra $800, though I'd be curious to try it out, of course. And if someone gave me one, well, I wouldn't exactly turn it away. ;)

      Thanks for reading, Miss Carey. :)

  5. This cocktail sounds amazing! And that K&L character? Boo, hiss! And ditto to what carey said. Your blog is beautiful!

    1. Thanks, Uncle Beefy! I actually like tough love characters like K&L guy - maybe it's my inner masochist. :) And I'm LOVING your blackberry buttermilk popsicles - so glad to find your site. Thanks for the sweet comment!

    2. You bet! And maybe you like characters like that, not because of your inner masochist, but because you drum up an "I'll show you" kind of approach? Which is decidedly awesome. :)

    3. Uncle B, YOU are decidedly awesome! :D

  6. What a week! This definitely seems like a good way to end a long and busy week. Looks BEAUTIFUL (and I know tastes even better). I loved the shot with the cat. Thank you for sharing. What a sweet way to end my week (and start the new one!) I hope you have a wonderful Monday!

    1. You are SUCH a sweetie! Thanks, Monet. I managed to end the week with a round of these cocktails and a truly lovely day of making music, writing songs, and bonding with my family and bandmates. I hope you have a wonderful Monday, too! I'm looking forward to a very Bojon Monday myself of working on my own projects at home, taking a yoga class, and having dinner with my sweetie. And I'm wishing you and your little one a joyful and relaxing week, too!

  7. Your drink looks gorgeous and I have to say, those are some of the most beautiful pictures. Happy Blogging! Your cat is adorable.

    1. Aw, thank you, Asha! I'm really happy with the pictures, and ditto for my kitty. :)

  8. I guessed, you were a bit… perceived by the infos about the whiskeys.
    First - all straight whiskeys are aged in charred barrels. And the charr doesn't add smokiness to the whiskey but sweetness [the more charr, the more potential sweetness - due to the fact, that cellulose of the wood will be partly broken down into poly-saccharides].
    Second: the mashbill of a Rye whiskey doesn't necessary contain only rye. Bourbon must have a corn content of at least 51% - and straight rye must have a rye content of 51% [however the Redemption rye is at 95%].
    Aging is also a very important part of the equation: Redemption rye is only aged for 2 years -Woodford is definitely aged for 4 years and longer. The shorter the aging, the more funk you have [which works sometimes very well with cocktails].
    Unfortunately you cannot make generalizations if comparing bourbon with rye. Some ultra high rye content bourbons are tasting more like a rye than some straight forward ryes [for example I find, that Wild Turkey Bourbon taste usually rye'ier than Rittenhouse rye].
    Next time, try Elijah Craig bourbon - on one hand it is quite cheap, but it is really something special - has enough alcohol [47%] and is aged for 12 years. Amazing stuff.

    For the cocktail, I quite like it. You might want to try next time the NO2 cavitation method to infuse your drink faster. Hence you would not have a thicker texture and a more whiskey forward taste overall.

    1. Hi Dominik, Thank you for taking the time to put down all this great information! You are a wealth of knowledge and I wish we could hang out and sip Bourbon and Rye all day long. :) I'll look into the NO2 infusion method and Elijah Craig bourbon - sounds delish! Cheers.

    2. Last night friends wanted a festive holiday whiskey based cocktail so I made a version of this last night. Used super ripe pears in lieu of peaches - as you suggested - and Bulleit Rye. Muddled all ingredients together in cocktail shaker, added ice, shook and loosely strained into chilled martini glass. Garnished with red pear and rosemary sprig. Huge hit! The smoked sea salt flakes really help pull it all together. Thx for sharing this recipe!

    3. As you can tell from the two "last nights" typed above I'm still feeling the goodness!

    4. I just figured you were from the department of redundancy department. ;-) But seriously, thank you for testing the recipe with pears, and reporting the positive outcome - I'm so glad the drink was a hit! I'll have to give your variation a try as it sounds delicious. Cheers!


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