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Neighbor's Favorite Recipe: Autumn spirits
Yuba City mixologist Angela Aberasuri shares seasonal libations
It's finally autumn, which means the holidays and holiday parties are just around the corner.
To help us all prepare, Angela Aberasturi, a mixologist at the Dancing Tomato Caffé Restaurant and Bar in Yuba City, is sharing two of her favorite seasonal cocktails — a Pink Lady Carameltini and a Fresh Blueberry Margarita.
Angela, a Marysville native who now lives in Yuba City with her two children, has been at the Dancing Tomato for just about two months, but she's been in the food industry for more than 15 years.
"I really do love the (food) service industry. It's something that I've chosen to do because you never know what you're going to get when you come to work, and I love working with people," she said.
Being behind the bar and providing, on occasion, unique refreshments appeals to Angela's creative side. "I have a real passion for cooking; it's how I show my artistic side. I can't draw or paint, but when it comes to cooking, I love to get creative by making up recipes, and that really translates well into bartending," she explained. "I love to come up with new drinks for parties and for my friends."
Angela said her favorite mixed drink during the summer is a Fresh Strawberry Lemon Drop Martini. "I like to use anything that's in season. So when strawberries are in season, I make a simple syrup with sugar, water and strawberries and mix it so it tastes like fresh strawberries. Then I mix it all together with a citrus-flavored vodka, lemon and a little more sugar. I then make it all pretty with a strawberry on top."
The craziest drink she's ever made? "That's hard to say because there's been a lot of years and a lot of drinks," but what most people order are plain margaritas or something like a vodka and cranberry, gin and tonic or whisky and Coke, she said.
Angela has worked at a number of establishments in the area, and at each place, the patrons seem to go for a certain type of drink. "At Pasquini's, it was often whisky on the rocks," she said. But at the Silver Dollar, where beer is commonly served, someone once asked for a Flying Black Superman: "I had no idea what that was," she said.
Using the right liquor is important to making a tasty drink, Angela said, but she added that using the best when simply good will do is a waste of money and good liquor.
"When you're making a mixed drink, like a margarita, you don't want to use a top-shelf tequila like Patron Silver. It's like a slap in the face because first, you're not going to taste it with the mix, and second, the point of high-quality, expensive liquor is to be tasted," she said.
"If you're going for a mixed drink, you want to use well to mid-level (alcohol)."
She explained that a good "well" is something like Early Times whisky; a mid-level would be a liquor such as Jack Daniels; and a top-shelf alcohol would be on the level Gentleman Jack or Crown Royal. "A Jack and Coke is fine, but if you want to taste (the alcohol), use Crown Royal."
Turning to the cocktails, Angela explained why she chose to demonstrate these two: "I picked these because of the time of the year. I like to use what's in season when I'm making drinks. Since it's October, I decided on caramel apple; it's something I'd make for my friends. It's the same thing with the blueberry margarita. These berries are in season, and I like to pick things that are in season."
A quick aside before going on:
One of Angela's favorite bartending tools is a "muddler." When I asked what that was, she gave a look that silently asked, "What kind of novice are you?" But instead of being mean, she nicely explained that at a muddler is used like a pestle to mash — or muddle — fresh fruits in the bottom of a glass to release their flavor.
Before Angela began making her Pink Lady Carameltini, she prepared by pouring caramel syrup into a small, flat dish and pouring crushed peanuts into a second small, flat dish. This way, she was ready to dip the rim of the martini glass first into the caramel and then the peanuts.
Her next step was dicing half a Pink Lady apple before spooning it and some orange slices into a martini shaker and muddling them to release all of the flavors.
Other apples can be used, but Angela said she likes Pink Lady the best.
Next, she poured in the vodka, apple pucker liquor, butterscotch schnapps and ice and shook it all up.
After straining the mixture, she poured it into a glass whose rim had been dipped in the caramel and peanuts. The final step was gently placing a thin slice of cinnamon-sugar apple on top for garnish.
For the Fresh Blueberry Margarita, Angela started — of course — with fresh blueberries and sugar that she muddled to mix their flavors. She then added tequila, lime juice, a little triple sec and sweet and sour.
Again she shook it well and poured the strained mixture into a bucket (meaning an on-the-rocks) glass that had been rimmed with sugar. To get the sugar to stick to the glass, Angela used a slice of lime to wet the rim and then dipped it into sugar on a small, flat dish.
She finished the drink with a splash of Grand Marnier and added a few fresh blueberries for a garnish.
PINK LADY CARAMELTINI or CARAMEL APPLE MARTINI
1⁄2 Pink Lady apple, diced (or whatever apple variety you prefer)
2 orange slices
1-1⁄2 ounces vodka
2 ounces apple cider
1 ounce apple pucker liquor
1 ounce butterscotch schnapps
Handful of crushed ice
For the rim of the glass:
Crushed peanuts, optional
For garnish: 1 thin slice of apple, sliced horizontally and dipped in cinnamon and sugar
Prepare a martini glass by dipping the rim first in some caramel syrup and then in some crushed peanuts. Set aside.
Muddle apple and orange slices in a cocktail shaker. Add remaining drink ingredients and ice and shake well. Strain into prepared martini glass. Garnish with cinnamon-sugar apple slice and serve immediately.
FRESH BLUEBERRY MARGARITA
1⁄4 cup fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons sugar
1-1⁄2 ounces tequila
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1⁄2 ounce triple sec
1⁄2 ounce sweet and sour
For the rim of the glass:
1 slice of lime or lemon
Splash of Grand Marnier liquor
More fresh blueberries
Muddle blueberries and sugar in a cocktail shaker. Add remaining drink ingredients and ice and shake well. Gently rub the slice of lime or lemon around the rim of a bucket glass, then dip the rim of the glass in sugar. Fill the glass with ice, then strain the contents of the shaker into the glass. Top with a splash of Grand Marnier and garnish with a few blueberries. Serve immediately.