pop! goes the cocktail

Last week’s food for fun post brought you ice cream to beat the heat. Seeing as how this week is hotter than last–at least here in St. Paul–I’m still searching out foods to cool me down. Which is why the following headline caught my eye: “Cocktails-on-a-stick look like kid’s food, but boozy treats are for adults.” A bit wordy, perhaps, but I was all over the concept. Cocktails on a stick? Sign me up!

The article appeared in a recent St. Paul Pioneer Press, but was originally written by Jill Wendholt Silva for the Kansas City Star. It introduced me to Laura Fyfe’s Poptail and though I’d seen a version of this frozen treat at Attempts in Domesticity, I’d not yet realized it was a trend in the making.

Silva mentioned that “plenty of folks are getting on the poptail bandwagon,” talked of the poptail’s popularity on Pinterest, and cited Food & Wine‘s July issue’s Mojito-Watermelon pops. Clearly poptails are the next cupcake and it’s a trend I couldn’t wait to follow. Setting my sights on the Gin Zing, I made a batch tonight.

1 1/4 cups chopped baby cucumbers

1 1/4 cups chopped baby cucumbers

Pureeing 1 1/4 cups diced cucumber and 1/2 cup St. Germain with a stick blender (though the recipe suggests a food processor), I then strained it through a fine-mesh sieve.cucumber puree

Half of the solids left behind were stirred back into the strained liquid and 1/4 cup gin was stirred into that.Straining

I had cut the recipe in half, so was set up to make three poptails (oh, how I love that word), but I used shot glasses and was able to fill six and still have enough left over for a chef’s sample. (It was way too sweet unfrozen.)

ready to freeze

ready to freeze

I popped the poptails into the freezer and checked back an hour or so later, when the mixture was frozen just enough to hold the (half) popsicle stick upright. Another hour and they were frozen enough to unmold. The recipe called for a seven-hour freeze, though I wasn’t patient enough to let it go that long.

single serving

single serving

They were pretty little things and also quite tasty and refreshing. Sweet was the first hit on the taste buds, but booze was a close second as was the fresh green flavor of the cucumber. Next time (because there most certainly will be a next time), I’ll stir in a few grindings of black pepper or a teaspoon or so of freshly grated gingerroot for extra kick. But even as-is, these simple poptails are the bee’s knees.

Gin Zing poptails

Gin Zing poptails

Which brings me to Silva’s other flavors: Bee’s Knees (!) containing honey, whiskey, and ginger beer and The Jaliscito with lime zest and juice, watermelon, tequila, and Grand Marnier–both must-makes in my book.

Silva recommends using wooden craft sticks instead of plastic popsicle mold sticks as wood grips the softer ice mixture better than slippery plastic. She also cautions against using too much alcohol lest the mixture fail to freeze completely. Though should that happen? Silva notes that these poptails easily morph into an adult snow cone or slush. And I won’t argue with that, especially in this heat.

marshmallows with spirit

Googling gets results. Seemingly any question can be brought to the keyboard and an answer can be found. Among the bazillions of ways google makes “research” easy is as recipe-finder.

My plan to make vodka marshmallows, then, was simple. Find recipe online (nothing on my bookshelf to guide me here) and make marshmallows. But to my great surprise, the google search turned up nearly empty. Though I very clearly typed in “vodka marshmallow recipes,” most of the hits returned were for Marshmallow Vodka. So not what I was looking for.

I might have just fiddled with a tried-and-true recipe for plain Jane marshmallows, but introducing alcohol into the mix intimidated me and I wanted at least general guidelines to follow the first time around. (True, I had had fair success with bourbon marshmallows, but they were more rough-textured that what I would have liked, so wanted to keep looking.)

bourbon marshmallows didn't cut too cleanly, but still yummy

bourbon marshmallows didn’t cut too cleanly, but still yummy

The lone recipe found in my “vodka marshmallow” hit list involved two mini bottles of spirits and though the marshmallows looked divine, it seemed more trouble than is was worth to translate quantities for the sample-size bottles. (Yes, I can be a very lazy homecook.)

A change of search terms was needed. Switching it up to “spirited marshmallows” brought an intriguing mention of homemade marshmallows surrounding a center of a spirit-infused jelly. Wow and certainly yum, but way more than I was in for that night.

Changing it up yet again, I searched “marshmallows with alcohol.” Here I found a contender in Homemade Baileys Marshmallows, but thought that flavorless vodka might not be the best sub for a cream-based and super-sweet liqueur. By now, I was tired of clicking and wanted to get cooking, so the next find of St. Germain Marshmallows was my winner.

A fan of St. Germain, I have a bottle of what is advertised as “the first liqueur in the world created in the artisanal French manner from freshly handpicked elderflower blossoms” in my pantry. While not sure that the stories of monks handpicking these blossoms in the French alps while under their vows of silence are true, I appreciate the lightly fruity and floral notes in this lovely spirit. (The pretty bottle and golden color don’t hurt, either.)

Originally intending to follow the recipe exactly, I switched it up last minute and replaced the St. G with whipped cream vodka (laugh if you must, but mixed with root beer it makes a tasty “root beer float”). Though the recipe noted that only cane sugar would do (apparently beet sugar would hinder the needed “chemical reaction”), I paid no mind, reasoning that my sugar source had made many a batch of marshmallows and would perform for me again. I was happy to see the whipped mixture go from opaque to white, but started sweating when it failed to whip up as fully and as stiffly as had previous batches. Maybe the sugar source was key? Not willing to cave, I kept on and let the marshmallow-like cream set overnight in its prepared pan.

Relief all around when the marshmallows held their shape when cut the next morning. Tossed with a mixture of powdered sugar and vanilla powder, they were dreamy indeed. The 2/3 cup vodka used to soften the gelatin rendered them heavier, denser, and more moist than others I’ve made, yet they were elegantly sweet and more than a little boozy. Including them on a tray with plain ‘mallows and the above-mentioned bourbon made for a well-balanced trio.

clockwise from left: bourbon (with caramel swirl), whipped cream vodka, plain but pretty

clockwise from left: bourbon (with caramel swirl), whipped cream vodka, plain but pretty

This last month has involved much marshmallow making and I was surprised to find the variations among recipes. The recipe for this last batch had nearly twice as much liquid as I’m used to seeing and the sugar ratio differed as well. I’ve also tried recipes that fold whipped egg whites into the gelatin mixture, though decided it’s more work than it’s worth. (My Sweet Addiction has a good post on trying different marshmallow recipes should you want to know more.) Perhaps my marshmallow phase has played itself out for a bit. Though I’m hoping for easier recipe googling when my next marshmallow-making urge hits.

whipped cream vodka 'mallows

whipped cream vodka ‘mallows