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Blog

Liquor reviews, cocktail recipes, mixology trends, and seasonal ingredients. Includes cocktail tips and info on local whiskey, gin, vodka, beer, and liqueur.

How to Process Pawpaws

Devin Kidner

HOLLOW LEG's Devin Kidner shows you how to process a pawpaw to use in cocktails.

Check out our next video, Maui in the Midwest, showing you how to use pawpaws in cocktails!

#hollowlegNYC

Devin Kidner

As you may know if you follow HOLLOW LEG on Instagram (ahollowleg), we recently sojourned to New York City to be a part of an incredible event hosted by Dstillery. It was an honour to be asked to be a part of such an event, and I had so much fun meeting folks, chatting with them about New York distilleries and local products, and showing NYC what HOLLOW LEG has to offer.

Here's how the trip went down:

After I settled into my hotel, I decided to make a trip over to Union Square Farmers Market. I had already ordered my New York distilled liquors and cordial from Astor Wines, who delivered* my alcohol conveniently directly to The Convene, where the event took place. 

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Once at Union Square Farmers Market, I started hunting for edible flowers. The first ones I came across were from Windfall Farms, and the lovely Nissa helped me out. 

From left to right: Borage and Chocolate Mint Blossoms

From left to right: Borage and Chocolate Mint Blossoms

First, I was looking for a garnish to make my complex, flavourful gin drink stand out. The colour is a very light greenish/yellowish colour, and it needed something to make it pop! Nissa turned me on to the borage (in the pic above), which was just the colour I was looking for! Borage is prized for its oil, and is one of the "few truly blue-coloured edible substances" (thanks Wikipedia!). It had a sweet taste, but also a bit like cucumber, so it paired perfectly with gin.

I also snagged the chocolate mint blossoms because their smell was intoxicating (if you haven't tried chocolate mint before, you're missing out!), and the blooms were delicately pink, which, paired with their green leaves, made them rustic and charming. Their flavour is mildly minty, but chocolate mint should be smelled before eaten because you'll get aromas of chocolate and it is incredible!

Edible violas from Bodhitree Farm

Edible violas from Bodhitree Farm

Before leaving the lovely ladies at Windfall, I asked them if they knew of anyone else growing edible flowers in the market. They highly recommended Bodhitree Farm, because they're a no-spray farm that produces gorgeous produce and herbs.

It took me a minute to locate the gorgeous edible violas above, but Dylan, one of the lovely salespeople, was awesome about getting me fixed up! Violas are a little larger and have a lovely, delicate taste of sweet peas. The best part about violas, though, are their colours!

Violas can be yellow, yellow/purple, orange/white, purple/lilac, and more! They are stunning and I thought they'd pair beautifully with my rich purply black cordial drink!

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I also grabbed a few New York grown apples because not only do they make for a gorgeous display, but because I was hungry! :o)

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Once I arrived back at The Convene, it was time to get to work! My liquor/cordial had arrived, and I had some pre-batching to do!

For this event, and for my drinks, I went with the above alcohol. Widow Jane Whiskey is distilled in Brooklyn and has the most lovely kick, full of spice, vanilla aroma, and oak. It was full-bodied and the flavour lingered long after your first sip.

To even out the burn and add a twist to the whiskey, I decided that American Fruits Black Currant Cordial would pair perfectly. Forget a simple syrup: this cordial had the perfect blend of sweet and deep fruitiness, along with the distinct smell and taste of black currants to create an X-factor that will keep you drinking. The best part? Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery sources their black currants locally and organically!

Do I even have to explain why I used Greenhook Ginsmiths? This gin is so dang smooth and complex, you'll be guessing what spices and herbs are in it. I noticed cinnamon and citrus off the bat, which made it perfect for my bathtub gin drink I concocted.

 

Pre-batching the Number 81 (gin drink). Notice how all of the ingredients separate into layers based on density! Honey on the bottom, gin in the middle, fresh pressed lime juice at the top along with the fresh mint.

Pre-batching the Number 81 (gin drink). Notice how all of the ingredients separate into layers based on density! Honey on the bottom, gin in the middle, fresh pressed lime juice at the top along with the fresh mint.

A little about the creations for this event: 

 

The display for the Black Apple

The display for the Black Apple

The Black Apple

As we ease into autumn, you might need a drink to warm you during your last hurrahs celebrating on Brooklyn rooftops. May I suggest a Black Apple?

Apple cider, made from NY apples, is sweet and adds a depth of flavour, thanks to the naturally occurring yeasts that can cause fermentation. Whiskey acts as the binder for the ingredients, and is a great complement to the cider, with it’s sharp flavour and spicy, oaky notes. A splash of black currant cordial is the “twist” in this cocktail that a lemon just can’t stand up to... it’s tartness is well balanced, and has a jammy, not too sweet flavour that lingers on the palate. Finished off with a sprig of rosemary for aromatics, and you’ve got a great fall cocktail!

Display for Number 81

Display for Number 81

Number 81

Gin and honey...the combination has been around since Prohibition. Because professionally manufactured alcohol was in short supply, many folks brewed noxious, nearly unpalatable bathtub gin! To make the drinks taste better, these gins were mixed with plenty of sugar and flavourings to mask their sharpness. It’s been 81 years since we said good bye to Prohibition. Let’s raise a glass and celebrate!

The Number 81

The Number 81

See how the borage makes the gin drink pop! 

The Black Apple

The Black Apple

Check out those violas!

And last, but not least, a fun couple of pictures of me at the event pouring on the left, and posing with Marco, my willing sous-mixologist who attended the event and, to put it simply, rocked that Hawaiian apron! Thanks, Marco!

I hope you liked this recap of HOLLOW LEG's adventure to NYC! For information about how you can book HOLLOW LEG for an event, please click here!

*I cannot stress how absolutely important it is that you order alcohol in advance of an event and then have someone else deliver it. That stuff is heavy!

Ark of Taste, and why it's important!

Devin Kidner

Whenever I tell people that I love making cocktails from Ark of Taste ingredients, I'm inevitably met with a lot of blank stares. I get it, though, because Ark of Taste is almost as unheard of as the products it lists. Today, we are going to change that.

What is Ark of Taste?

The Ark of Taste is a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. By identifying and championing these foods we keep them in production and on our plates.
— Ark of Taste website

How can I learn more?

Watch this awesome video!

Besides being great for biodiversity, how does this apply to mixology?

We all know cocktails are delicious, but they can be even more wonderful when you use ingredients not commonly used in cocktails. Using Ark of Taste products can help expand your palate, introduce you to interesting flavour combinations, and create cocktails that are unique to your region!

Anyone can make a Bloody Mary from canned tomatoes or a mix, but think what that Bloody Mary would taste like if you used fresh Amish Paste tomatoes that you've crushed yourself! You can have a papaya-based drink, or you could branch out and introduce your friends to a drink flavoured with pawpaws, which taste like papayas, but are indigenous to the Midwest and support a local farmer producing them. 

A good cocktail tastes great, but a great cocktail also tells a story, supports a farmer, and is uniquely delicious.

The Pawpaw, largest fruit indigenous to North America and an Ark of Taste food!

The Pawpaw, largest fruit indigenous to North America and an Ark of Taste food!

I'd like to see what Ark of Taste products are in my region. How do I look that up?

You can visit this link here to explore Ark of Taste foods by region, name, and product type!

Great! This list is huge! Where do I begin?

HOLLOW LEG is based in Chicago, so this is what we are immediately inspired by: Aunt Molly's Ground Cherries, Early Blood Turnip-Rooted Beet, Moon & Stars Watermelon, Norton Grape, Pawpaw, Oldmixon Free Peach, Traditional Sorghum Syrup, and the American Persimmon, are all flavours we are experimenting with in cocktails.

The Moon & Stars Watermelon

The Moon & Stars Watermelon

HOLLOW LEG will be using more Ark of Taste products as we continue on this journey. Check back with us to see our new creations!

Slow Food Chicago's 2014 Annual Meeting

Devin Kidner

This year's Slow Food Chicago 2014 Annual Meeting, HOLLOW LEG served up some delicious cocktails!

Devin before the event began, about to serve up The Stinger

Devin before the event began, about to serve up The Stinger

HOLLOW LEG joined Slow Food Chicago for their annual get together on Sunday 14 September to enjoy an afternoon of eating, sipping, learning and meeting other people who care about good, clean, fair food in Chicago.

Scrumptious Pantry's Lee and Devin, both are US delegates for this year's Terra Madre in Italy.

Scrumptious Pantry's Lee and Devin, both are US delegates for this year's Terra Madre in Italy.

The event was held at The Plant, Chicago’s first off-the-grid vertical farm and artisanal food business incubator.

Outside of The Plant

Outside of The Plant

HOLLOW LEG created a special cocktail for the occasion, all made from local ingredients. The Stinger was a crowd pleaser, with both humans and yellow jackets alike! As a matter of fact, it was dubbed "The Stinger" because we had to avoid getting stung by the many bees who flocked to the punch bowl!

The Stinger

The Stinger

Made with fresh pressed grape juice from two types of Concord grapes ("Fredonia" Early Concords from Mick Klug and Concord grapes from Leaning Shed), blueberry lavender syrup made from Ellis Family Farm blueberries and Smits Farms lavender, FEW Gin, and topped with edible Nasturtium from Growing Power, the cocktail was sweet, tangy, aromatic, and had a lovely gin punch! The cocktail was topped off with a little club soda for some sparkle!

An unlikely garnish: A yellow jacket!

An unlikely garnish: A yellow jacket!

We had a great time meeting others, serving drinks, and enjoying the beautiful day! Devin's excited to attend Terra Madre this October and see some of the folks she met again.

For information on how to acquire the Blueberry Lavender syrup, please contact Devin at hollowlegproductions@gmail.com. 

Ginger and spice and all of it's nice!

Devin Kidner

Currently, if you couldn't tell by my most recent creations, I'm obsessing over ginger and the use of pepper in drinks.

Since most people equate the pungency of ginger and the burn of pepper as autumn and winter flavours, I couldn't help but be inspired to try them with late summer fruits like blackberries and nectarines.

Balancing the sweet juiciness of fresh fruit by adding a punch of ginger makes my mouth water. In the case of the Black Velvet, the depth of the blackberries pair perfectly with the lingering taste of ginger, and keep you coming back for more. Working with ginger liqueur over fresh ginger also seemed like a no-brainer. Peeling and pressing fresh ginger can be a pain, and you often have to add more sweetness to the drink to even out the pungency. KOVAL's Ginger Liqueur is already balanced and ready to go. Unlike other ginger liqueurs, it's bolder and more pronounced, so you don't have to add as much for flavouring.

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Black and red pepper are becoming a staple in my drinks, made in the form of simple syrups. Equal parts water and evaporated cane sugar, sprinkled with whole black peppercorns or crushed red pepper, then simmered with the sugar mix until thickened, makes for a lovely surprise in drinks on the back of the palate. Imagine the Pep in Your Step, a fresh nectarine flavour off the top, finishing with some well-balanced heat!

Red pepper simple syrup. Notice the gorgeous amber colour!

Red pepper simple syrup. Notice the gorgeous amber colour!

There are a few tips when employing strong flavours in your drink:

1. Always start out with less than you think you need. When blending one cocktail, start with 1/4 - 1/2 ounce, then build onto that according to taste. You don't want to add too much ginger or pepper and come out with a cocktail that makes you gag and your throat burn uncomfortably.

2. When making simple syrups, make sure to strain off the pepper! It may sound like a no-brainer, but believe me, if you don't strain correctly, you could end up with more than you bargained for! I also give my simple syrup a gentle shake before spooning out, just to make sure any flakes left behind are evenly disbursed.

3. Simple syrups can last a while, if made properly! A little squeeze of lemon juice won't alter the flavour drastically, and can really help to preserve your simple syrup! Keep it labeled in the fridge for 2-3 weeks!

Over the next few weeks, I'll be experimenting with other ways to make kicky drinks. Keep on checkin' out the blog for updates!

Devin 

What's in a name?

Devin Kidner

Hi, and welcome to HOLLOW LEG!

I'm so thrilled that you've stumbled upon, or purposely clicked, onto this site! You've probably read the "About" page and are still looking for more information. That's why we're here.

"Having a hollow leg," if you've never heard the phrase, means to have a great need or capacity for food or drink (in my case, it's both!). Here at HOLLOW LEG, we take that need seriously, and want to provide you with hands-on workshops, inspiration, and information about how to fill your hollow leg, hoping you'll leave a little room for your own at-home creations.

Our concept is not just to make you a cocktail and hope you like it, but to arm you with cool facts based on science about how to make a great cocktail, and inspiring you to take what you learn and apply it in your own kitchen/bar. We also strive to use local farmers, brewers, and distilleries in our creations, because we truly believe that seasonal tastes better and supporting local businesses is awesome. We throw in some non-local creations, too, based on our travels!

We're starting small and building off of the recent momentum we've been having: Winning Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste Cocktail Competition earlier this year, and will be slowly including workshops for food, too!

I invite you to browse around, toss me a line, make suggestions about local products you'd be more interested in learning about, and keep up with us via social media and this blog!

Here's to good food and good drink!

Best,

Devin
Founder/Owner

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