The right martini recipes make a statement on Valentine's Day

Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves in matters of love. To celebrate Valentine's Day this year, they might consider floating their affections in a pink cocktail, shaken, not stirred, but definitely chilled. • A festive drink between two consenting adults paired with a yummy appetizer is a lovely alternative to the big box of chocolates (though you can buy that, too) or a heavy dinner. What better way to profess your undying devotion than with a Caribbean Cosmo spiked with coconut rum and accompanied by a Creole Crab "Cupcake"? Or how about a French Martini, which gets its rosy hue from the raspberry liqueur Chambord, and a couple of Pistachio-Orange Cocktail Cookies? • How classy, this pink thing.

There are a few classic mixers that make spirits blush. Besides Chambord, use cranberry and pomegranate juices. Grenadine syrup provides the sunrise in the classic tequila drink, but today we're enlisting vodka, flavored and plain, and rum to toast our sweeties. We'll save the bracing tequila for Cinco de Mayo.

Juices, especially citrus, bring bright flavors to cocktails, and you'll want to use fresh when you can. Many drink recipes call for a citrus garnish, and it's not just the juice from a slice that provides the zing. Essential oils in citrus rind are just as flavorful. Make sure you give your limes, oranges, grapefruits and lemons a thorough wash before adding the outer skin to your drinks.

Using fresh citrus is easy for those of us lucky to be spending our winters in Florida, either part-time or permanently. Backyard trees are heavy with fruit right now, and finding ways to use the bounty is just as challenging for us as it is Northern gardeners with their summer crops of zucchini. The cold temperatures in January sweetened the Honeybell tangelos and ruby red grapefruits in my back yard, and besides a morning pick-me-up, they are finding their way into rum cocktails and silly-tinis.

Cocktails with fresh fruit juices are best made just before serving, though the Sangritini recipe here, which gets its pink from merlot, could be made ahead and shaken with cubes just before serving. A little more time mingling with fruit slices makes it that much better. In cocktails, fresh juice is often bolstered by orange liqueurs such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier. Flavored vodkas boost flavor, too, and the array of choices is wide, from mandarin orange to blackberry to peach.

The cocktail recipes with this story, except the Non-Alcoholic Blackberry Lemonade, require a shaker. If you don't have one, make this your excuse to purchase one. No serious home bar should be without a classic cocktail shaker, and perhaps the shaker could be part of your heart's day gift to your honey. Besides being functional, they are cool looking, in that Mad Men sort of way.

There are two kinds of shakers. One has three components: the main canister, usually stainless steel, a lid with a strainer built into it and a cap. The Boston-style shaker has just two parts: a mixing glass and a canister. You'll have to buy the strainer separately. The strainer is necessary to keep ice or other solids, such as herbs or fruit, from plopping into the glass. Today's cocktails are not only pink, but neat, too. In matters of love, nothing should be on the rocks.

The Boston shaker requires a bit more precision to make sure the cup and canister are perfectly locked to avoid spills. Novice mixologists might want to start with the three-part shaker, which makes shaking and pouring a little easier.

The purpose of the shaker is twofold. It chills the mixture, plus the ice dilutes it slightly to cut the harshness of the alcohol and balance the flavors. Use fresh ice, and the smaller the cubes the better (though don't use shaved or chips). Invest in a few mini-cube trays. Big cubes don't dilute or chill drinks quick enough.

Most cocktail recipes call for ingredients measured in ounces. When you're buying your shaker, get a jigger too. Find one that's marked with graduated measurements of 1, 1 1/2 and 2 ounces. Save the souvenir Statue of Liberty shot glass for the curio shelf.

A pretty glass can set the mood, along with the beguiling pastel elixir you've mixed up. The classic martini glass screams its sophistication and shows off the drink, which frosts the sides as the libation is poured. Stores like HomeGoods, Pier 1 Imports and SteinMart have a fun selection of inexpensive glasses.

For our pink party, though, you'll want to show off the color of the drink so it's best to use clear glasses. Save the colored glasses for margaritas.

Pink is the sweet side of red, and a Valentine's Day toast with something rosy — that's not roses — is a departure from the usual crimson sentiments. A sip or two and love might just bloom, right along with the flush of your cheeks.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8586.

>>EASY

French Martini

1 ½ ounces vodka

1 ounce fresh or store-bought pineapple juice

¾ ounce Chambord

Lemon peel for garnish

Combine the vodka, pineapple juice and Chambord in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with the lemon peel.

Serves 1.

Source: 101 Martinis by

Kim Haasarud (Wiley, 2006)

>>EASY

Sangritini

1 orange slice

1 lemon slice

1 lime slice

½ ounce citrus or orange vodka

½ ounce Cointreau

2 ½ ounces merlot

1 ounce pineapple juice

Cherry for garnish

Orange slice for garnish

Mash together the fruit slices with the vodka and Cointreau in a cocktail shaker. Add the red wine, pineapple juice and ice cubes and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

Serves 1.

Source: 101 Martinis by

Kim Haasarud (Wiley, 2006)

>>EASY

Pomegranate Martini

1 ½ ounces citrus or orange vodka

1 ½ ounces pomegranate juice, such as Pom Wonderful

1 ounce grapefruit juice

½ ounce lemon juice

½ ounce simple syrup (see note)

Splash of Cointreau

Lime twist for garnish

Combine the vodka, pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, simple syrup and Cointreau in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lime twist.

Note: Simple syrup can be purchased at grocery stores that carry mixers or at most liquor stores. To make it at home, heat equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Chill completely before using.

Serves 1.

Source: 101 Martinis by Kim Haasarud (Wiley, 2006)

>>EASY

Cosmo Chi Chi

1 ½ ounces vodka

¼ ounce Grand Marnier

¾ ounce cranberry juice

1 ½ ounces Tropical Sweet & Sour Mixer (see recipe)

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add vodka, Grand Marnier, cranberry juice and sweet and sour mixture. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain into a large martini glass.

Serves 1.

Source: Sips and Apps by

Kathy Casey (Chronicle, 2009)

>>EASY

Tropical Sweet & Sour Mixer

½ cup simple syrup (see note)

¼ cup fresh lime juice

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¾ cup pineapple juice

3 tablespoons Coco Lopez sweetened cream of coconut

Using a funnel, add the ingredients to a cleaned bottle with a cap. Shake to mix. Refrigerate until ready to use. Shake well before each use. The mix can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Note: Simple syrup can be purchased at grocery stores that carry mixers or at most liquor stores. To make it at home, heat equal parts sugar and water in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Chill completely before using.

Makes about 2 cups, enough for 10 cocktails.

Source: Sips and Apps by

Kathy Casey (Chronicle, 2009)

>>EASY

Non-Alcoholic Blackberry Lemonade

2 ounces Blackberry-Lemon Syrup (see recipe)

4 ounces chilled club soda

Lemon slice for garnish

Fresh blackberries for garnish

Fill a tall glass with ice cubes. Measure in the syrup and club soda. Stir. Garnish with a lemon wheel and a few fresh blackberries.

Serves 1.

Note: To make this a spirited drink, add 1 ounce of light rum.

Source: Sips and Apps by

Kathy Casey (Chronicle, 2009)

>>EASY

Blackberry-Lemon Syrup

1 cup water

½ cup sugar

½ cup fresh blackberries, or substitute frozen

1 tablespoon thinly sliced lemon zest

1 cup fresh lemon juice

Combine the ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, and boil to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Strain through a very fine strainer, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids and let the syrup cool to room temperature. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for up to 7 days until needed.

Makes 1 ½ cups, enough for about 6 servings of Blackberry Lemonade.

Source: Sips and Apps by

Kathy Casey (Chronicle, 2009)

>>EASY

Caribbean Cosmo

Ice cubes

2 ounces coconut rum

1 ounce Cointreau

½ ounce fresh lime juice

Splash cranberry or cran-raspberry juice

1 thin-sliced lime rind or lemon twist for garnish

In a tall shaker filled with ice cubes, combine all of the ingredients, except the lime rind. Strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish and serve.

Serves 1.

Source: Calypso Coolers by

Arlen Gargagliano (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2006)

>>MODERATE

Creole Crab "Cupcakes"

Cupcakes:

2 tablespoons salted butter

1/3 cup onion, in 1/8-inch dice

1/3 cup celery, in 1/8-inch dice

1/3 cup red bell pepper, in 1/8 dice

1/2 cup cornmeal

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

1 egg

1/4 cup whole milk

1/4 cup sour cream

8 ounces fresh lump crabmeat, drained well and picked through for shell fragments

Frosting:

1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

1 tablespoon milk

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

For garnish:

2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

To make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray nonstick minimuffin tins with cooking spray or lightly oil them. (The muffin tin cups should be 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter.) Set aside.

In a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the onion, celery and bell pepper for about 3 to 4 minutes, until just starting to get tender. Let cool.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and Old Bay. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and sour cream.

When the sweated vegetables are cool, add the cornmeal mixture to the egg mixture, and mix lightly. Stir in the vegetables and all the melted butter from the pan, but do not overmix. Fold in the crabmeat just until evenly distributed.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup. You should fill 20 cups. Bake for about 12 to 14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in cupcake centers comes out clean. Rotate the pans after the first 7 to 8 minutes of baking.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully remove them from the pan and let cool briefly on a wire rack before frosting. The cupcakes can be made up to 1 day in advance, covered and refrigerated before frosting. Refrigeration is imperative as the crab perishes swiftly if left at room temperature for an extended period of time. Bring to room temperature or warm for a minute or so in the oven before frosting.

To make the frosting: In a small bowl, mash the cream cheese with a fork, then whisk in the milk and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Top each cupcake with about 1 teaspoon of frosting, then sprinkle with about 1/4 teaspoon of chives for garnish.

Makes 24 to 30.

Source: Sips and Apps by

Kathy Casey (Chronicle, 2009)

>>MODERATE

Pistachio-Orange Cocktail Cookies

1 cup (4 ounces) raw, shelled pistachios

6 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) crumbled feta

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon very finely minced orange zest

1 teaspoon orange flower water (optional)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup semolina flour

1 ½ tablespoons whole milk

Kosher or coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool, then coarsely chop.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, feta, sugar, orange zest and orange flower water, if desired, until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine the flours. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture and combine, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the milk and mix just until incorporated. Mix in the cooled, chopped pistachios.

Divide the dough in half and shape each portion into a log about 6 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap, twisting the ends of the plastic to help form the dough. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or freeze for about 30 minutes, until the dough is firm. (The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; refrigerate overnight before slicing and baking as directed.)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Slice the log of dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds and place the rounds about 1 inch apart on the baking sheets. Sprinkle lightly with the salt. Bake for about 12 to 14 minutes, depending on the size, until the cookies are lightly golden on the bottom and still pale on top. Let cool. The cocktail cookies will remain fresh for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

Makes 24 to 36.

Source: Sips and Apps by

Kathy Casey (Chronicle, 2009)

>>MODERATE

Bacon, Blue Cheese and Pecan

Cocktail Cookies

3/4 cup pecans halves

4 strips raw bacon, minced (about 1/2 cup, packed)

Salted butter, as needed to make 1/2 cup with bacon drippings

1 cup crumbled blue cheese

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 5 to 6 minutes. Let cool and then coarsely chop.

In a medium skillet or saute pan over medium to medium-high heat, saute the bacon until crispy, about 5 minutes; do not scorch. Drain the drippings into a heat-proof measuring cup, and reserve the bacon separately. Let cool. To the cooled drippings, add butter as needed to make 1/2 cup total.

With an electric mixer, cream the cheese, thyme and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Add the butter mixture and mix well. Add the flour and mix the dough for about 2 minutes. Add the bacon and nuts and mix until just evenly combined. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes to chill.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or leave them ungreased.

Scoop up the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls, placing it 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. With a fork, flatten to 1 1/2-inch-diameter rounds, dipping the tines into flour as needed, and making crisscross patterns as you would on peanut butter cookies. Bake until lightly golden at the edges, about 14 to 16 minutes. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes.

Makes 36 to 40.

Source: Sips and Apps by

Kathy Casey (Chronicle, 2009)

The right martini recipes make a statement on Valentine's Day 02/08/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 7:13am]

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