Vodka-Cocktail

For various reasons I’ve found myself at Ember in Retreat Village twice in the past couple of weeks. And, boy, am I glad! First, I attended a group happy hour and enjoyed egg rolls, oven-fired brie and a house specialty called chicharrones. These are actually just good old-fashioned pork skins with a twist – that twist being twofold: sriracha aioli and jalapeño vinegar. Served piping hot, they make whatever you happen to be drinking even more enjoyable. My second visit was for a full-on dinner – and I was in a pizza frame of mind. My attention was immediately drawn to the listing for Cuban pizza. I love a good Cuban sandwich, but pizza? Curiosity got the better of me so I ordered. It was unbelievably delicious! Great crust topped with ham, pulled pork, mozzarella, Swiss cheese, and, of course, the all-important pickles and mustard.

The bar at Ember is a sight worthy of a visit in and of itself. It literally glows, and is happily staffed by attentive and skilled bartenders. There’s also the pizza oven, not only glowing but almost fire breathing. That’s why the pizza crust is so good — a 6-million degree brick oven will do that! If you aren’t in the mood for a full meal or a pizza just grab a barstool, order a cocktail, and try the oven roasted olives. A mix of Cerignola and Castelvetrano, they get a run through that piping hot oven and then are finished off with a bit of rosemary-infused oil. Yummy!

While I wasn’t out eating I ran across a fascinating, albeit almost science fiction sounding, article about a new product called “air vodka.” And it is exactly what it sounds like – vodka made from air. Or, more accurately, from carbon dioxide. The Air Co. has figured out a process that takes CO2 from the atmosphere, adds water, and by running an electrical current through the mixture breaks it apart to form ethanol and oxygen.

Now, I have to admit, that on my way to obtaining a B.S. many years ago, chemistry almost proved to be my downfall. I’d love to be able to provide the chemical formula for this transformation but, alas, I cannot. I know that ethanol (the alcohol we drink) is CH3CH2OH. Water of course is H2O. Add in carbon dioxide and I can see that there’s plenty of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to go around. I’m picturing Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory with that electricity crackling through the air as all these compounds boil and bubble. (And a mad scientist triumphantly exclaims “It’s drinkable,” instead of “It’s alive.”)

The Air Co. website cites the vodka’s extreme purity as well as the obvious sustainability (since it seems we have an abundance of carbon dioxide). In fact, each liter removes a pound of CO2 from the atmosphere, according to the company. I have not located a source closer than New York to purchase , the price there being $65 for a 750ml bottle. In more good, but unlikely news, a brewery in Finland is working on a similar project to make beer.

I should have mentioned at the start of this column that if you don’t have Valentine’s Day dinner reservations yet you should get on the phone and read about pseudo-scientific vodka making later. Cupid is right around the corner and you want to be prepared. But even if you choose to stay in you can make the evening special with a romantic cocktail.

Evening shade

½ oz. lime juice

3 slices cucumber

2 oz. peach puree

1-½ oz. corn whiskey (such as Mellow Corn from Heaven Hill)

¾ oz. Domaine Canton ginger liqueur

½ oz. PAMA pomegranate liqueur

1–2 sprigs lemon grass or lemon balm

Muddle lime juice and cucumber in a cocktail shaker; add peach purée, whiskey, liqueurs and ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a Collins glass filled with cracked ice; garnish with lemon balm grass.

I like this one because it’s not an obvious bright red. The more subtle blush color will remind your date what a sensitive fellow you are (and all those liqueurs will convince her you are obviously a man of the world). Plus, if you are into trivia and the evening needs livening up, you can see who remembers the plot and characters of the mid-90s Burt Reynolds TV show of the same name.

Not to leave out those who might be celebrating with a group of friends instead of as a couple, here’s a good punch that will satisfy even the most lovelorn. Plus, as the name implies, after a few folks might just loosen up

Lose Your Shoes

First, add ½ oz. of hibiscus tea to a 750 ml bottle of good vodka. Let steep in refrigerator for 2 hours, then pour vodka through a fine strainer to remove tea leaves. (If you can find Absolut Hibiskus you can save yourself a lot of effort.)

In a large pitcher pour in the hibiscus vodka. Then stir in:

8 oz. Combier Pamplemousse Rose liqueur

4 oz. yellow Chartreuse

Mix well.

To serve fill champagne flutes about halfway with the mixture and then gently fill the glass with Champagne. Garnish with a grapefruit peel spiral.

If, when you have friends over, you typically just stock the fridge with beer and tell folks as they arrive to help themselves, your group will be enormously impressed at the considerable trouble you have gone to. Or they might think they’re at the wrong house.

For a couple or a group, you can serve up exquisite cocktails that will make Cupid’s job a bit easier. You, on the other hand, have some serious liquor shopping to do. And don’t forget to at least try for dinner reservations – there’s likely a 4:30 p.m. seating available somewhere.