Inner Glow

hInnerGlowMain
Inner Glow

1.5 oz Espolón 100 % Agave Tequila Blanco
0.75 oz homemade crème de cacao [Recipe below] [Tempus Fugit’s is an excellent substitute.]
0.25 oz Mezcal Alipús Santa Ana del Rio
1/2 tsp grapefruit & blood orange oleo saccharum [Recipe below]

Stir with ice and strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube.

Garnish with grapefruit twist.

For bonus points, candy the citrus peels you used to make your oleo saccharum. Follow the instructions above, but discard the grapefruit twist after expressing its oils, then garnish with a candied peel instead. I spun mine into roses before candying them.


This week we had our first snow of the season, and the reality of three months of winter is setting in – short days, long nights, lots of layers. But there are silver linings. I’ll take a long run in the cold over one under a blazing sun any day, and the lower the temp, the richer the food. Last but not least, winter cocktails have a certain gravitas that summer drinks are having too much fun to provide. They are the fuzzy sweaters and crackling fires that fill the void when summer’s halters and sandals are shoved into the bottom drawers. They warm us from within.

Today’s cocktail, Inner Glow, builds that warmth on the firm foundation of a spirit usually associated with warmer climes – tequila. I start with one and a half ounces of Espolón 100 % Agave Tequila Blanco and add a quarter ounce of Mezcal Alipús Santa Ana del Rio to give a taste of the fire I want to be snuggled in front of.

To give it a bit of acid, I make a blood orange and ruby red grapefruit oleo saccharum, which I start in the morning so it’s ready by cocktail hour. Using a y-peeler, I remove the peels from 4 blood oranges and 1 ruby red grapefruit, taking care not to remove too much of the bitter white pith. I place the peels in a sturdy glass bowl (I like to use one with a lid), add 3/4 cup of superfine white sugar, and aggressively muddle them.

InnerGlowDetailMakingOleo
Making oleo saccharum. Photo by tippledpink.

You want the sugar to be damp from the oils you’re releasing from the peels. I then seal the container and set aside until evening. About once an hour, I muddle the skins a bit more and stir the mixture to ensure that all of the sugar turns into syrup. If you can let it sit overnight, it’s even easier. When it’s time to make my cocktail, I strain out the peels, pressing as much of the sugary, sweet, intensely citrusy and slightly bitter syrup out of them, then set the peels aside to use as a garnish. This makes more than I need for today’s cocktail, but I like to make extra since it will keep in the refrigerator for two months.

To candy the peels, I spin them into roses, holding them together with cocktail picks. I set my toaster oven at 150ºF, line the tray with parchment paper and cook them for 40 minutes.

InnerGlowOleoSaccharumDetail
Blood orange and ruby red grapefruit oleo saccharum. Photo by tippledpink.

Now, how to pull all of this together into a cocktail?

Thinking of the Mezcal Balls I left Santa last Christmas, I decide to add 3/4 ounce of crème de cacao. Trouble is, I don’t have any, but I do have all the ingredients to make my own: cacao nibs, a vanilla bean, Tito’s vodka, sugar, and (if you don’t want to wait 9 days) a sous vide precision cooker. I base my proportions on this Serious Eats recipe, but I add one coffee bean since coffee is to chocolate as salt is to everything else, and I back off on the sugar because I find most recipes sweeter than I’d prefer.

I start by filling a heavy stock pot with water and clipping my sous vide machine onto the side of the pot, and setting the temperature to 135ºF (57ºC). As it comes to temp, I wash an empty wine bottle and remove the labels. I funnel one and two-thirds cups of vodka into the bottle, toss in one coffee bean, then slowly pour in 1 cup of cacao nibs, using my hand as a funnel. I firmly cork the bottle and, when the water is ready, set the bottle down into the pot and set a timer for 2 hours and 15 minutes. When the time is up, I split a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the bottle, drop in the vanilla bean, shake to combine, and set the timer for 20 more minutes.

InnerGlowCremeDeCacao
Sous vide crème de cacao. Photo by tippledpink.

Once the infusion is complete, I strain the liqueur through a fine sieve to remove the cacao nibs but reserve the vanilla bean. The last step is straining it through a coffee filter, then pouring it into a clean bottle and popping in the reserved vanilla bean. Being in a hurry to build my cocktail, I use the crème de cacao before running it through a coffee filter. Big mistake. While the liqueur tastes delicious, the cacao butter congeals as soon as it mixes with the spirits. Not a good look, so I strain it and try again.

Into a small shaker go one-and-a-half ounces of tequila, three quarters of an ounce of crème de cacao, a quarter ounce mezcal, and half a teaspoon oleo saccharum. I shake it until frost forms on the outside of the shaker – about 20 seconds. I strain it into a rocks glass over a large ice cube, twist a wide strip of grapefruit zest over it, discard the zest and garnish with my candied oleo saccharum peels. The citrus and tequila remind me of warmer days, and the smoky mezcal and chocolate are better than any blanket on a cold night. ¡Salud!


Crème de Cacao Recipe

1 2/3 cup Tito’s Vodka
1 cup cacao nibs
1 coffee bean
1 vanilla bean

Start by filling a heavy stock pot with water and clipping your sous vide machine* onto the side of the pot. Set the temperature to 135ºF (57ºC). As the water comes to temp, wash an empty wine bottle and remove the labels. Funnel one and two-thirds cups of vodka into the bottle, toss in one coffee bean, then slowly pour in 1 cup of cacao nibs, using your hand as a funnel. Firmly cork the bottle and, when the water is ready, set the bottle down into the pot and set a timer for 2 hours and 15 minutes. When the time is up, split a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the bottle, drop in the vanilla bean, shake to combine, and set the timer for 20 more minutes.

Once the infusion is complete, strain the liqueur through a fine sieve to remove the cacao nibs, but reserve the vanilla bean. The last step is straining the liqueur through a coffee filter, then pouring it into a clean bottle and popping in the reserved vanilla bean. If you do not run it through a filter, it will still taste good, but the cacao butter will congeal as soon as your liqueur is mixed with another spirit.

*If you do not have a sous vide machine, follow this Serious Eats recipe instead. You’ll need nine days to make it.


Grapefruit & Blood Orange Oleo Saccharum

Zest 4 blood oranges (wide strips)
Zest from 1 ruby red grapefruit (wide strips)
3/4 cups superfine white sugar

Using a y-peeler, remove the zest from 4 blood oranges and 1 ruby red grapefruit, taking care not to remove too much of the bitter white pith. Place the peels in a sturdy glass bowl (I like to use one with a lid), add 3/4 cup of superfine white sugar, and aggressively muddle.

Once the sugar is damp from the oils released from the zest, seal the container and set it aside for at least four hours, preferably overnight. Periodically muddle the skins a bit more and stir the mixture to ensure that all of the sugar turns into syrup. When it’s time to make your cocktail, strain the oleo saccharum out the peels, pressing as much of the  syrup out of them as possible. It will keep in the refrigerator for two months.

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