Raktajino

I am a huge Nerd and an even larger Star Trek Fan. I grew up watching Next Generation and Deep Space Nine with my family, and now that I am an adult I love the Star Trek reboot movies and watching reruns of all the series on Neflix. Yes, I do own a Bajoran earring, have a majority of the Hallmark Star Trek Ornaments, and even have a Next Generation vintage Com Badge from the 90s.

So when I needed to mix up a liquor with a Space theme I turned to my tried and true Star Trek.

Now granted there are tons of Star Trek cookbooks and drinking guides out there; however, I wanted to really due homage to one of my favorite series so I figured I would create my own liquor.

When it comes to Star Trek themed drinks, there really are a plethora of drinks that come out of the replicators and everyone who ever watched NG knows that Captain Picard loves his earl grey tea.

I decided to see if I could do proper homage to the Klingon Raktajino. The way the crew of Deep Space nine drinks down Raktajino you would assume it was just a really strong coffee or chicory based blend, but is actually a blend of coffee and a Klingon liqueur called ra’tajRaktajino is normally served steamed or iced and has even been described as “like drinking an oil slick” but without the tangy aftertaste.

After I decided I wanted to make my own Raktajino I went searching for any reference I could about it, and also went researching the dietary customs of the Klingons…. Needless to say I don’t think I will be eating at any Klingon restaurants anytime soon.

There were a few elements I know I wanted to include in my Raktajino liquor. I wanted it strong alcohol wise, a very strong coffee flavor, salty/smoke elements, non-bitter, not-cloying or sweet, and STRONG.

I started with the coffee. When incorporating coffee into any beverage you will want to use the best coffee possible. If you use cheap coffee you will get a cheap light flavor, and coffee that has a burnt or over-processed flavor will make your drinks taste burnt. If you use instant coffee your brew will be done quicker but will taste just as bad as instant coffee.

Since I wanted to create the best coffee liquor I could, I started with the best coffee there is- Rising Star CoffeeRising Star Coffee is a Cleveland based coffee roasters whose coffee is so fresh and non-bitter it is the only coffee I can drink without cream and sugar.

I used a cold press process using vodka. That’s right, I cold pressed using straight vodka- how’s that for strong?  I left the rough ground coffee beans (1lb per 1.75 ml of vodka) sit for 3 days to extract as much of the coffee oils and flavors as possible. While that was sitting I took 1 cup of dark molasses and thinned it with 1 cup vodka and 1 tsp of smoked salt.

This is where the previous Star Trek research came in handy- a majority of Klingon food comes from the equivalent of a salt based environment- Racht, krada legs, octopus, etc.; so I knew this was an element I really wanted to add into the beverage.

People have been adding in salt to beverages since the Greeks (if not before) in order to highlight the other flavors. Salt also opens up the molecules of the ingredients in a brew allowing them to blend more thoroughly.  Most importantly, it is  known to counteract the after taste of more bitter items- and the last thing we want is a bitter coffee liquor.

After letting sit for 3 days I strained the grounds from the vodka and then using a bit of fresh vodka pressed out as much essential oils as I could in my French press. I mixed in the vodka molasses mixture and added in an additional ¼ cup buckwheat honey. Let this mixture sit for another 24 hours in order for any remaining spare sediment to sink to the bottom and rack like you would any beer or mead.

What I ended up with was a very STRONG coffee liquor with just enough sweetness to cut the burn from the vodka but not enough to make it sweetened. The smoked salt adds just a slight amount of tang on your tongue and everything combined gives you a drink to put hair on your chest, wake you, and ready to do battle.

Besides looking incredibly geeky displayed on your bar, this is a liquor that would be amazing added to cold coconut milk or cream, over ice cream or even added to a hot cup of water with cinnamon and sugar added to it.I have also thrown a splash in my morning shakes when I ran out of coffee flavoring and added a shot to a milk stout for an extra kick of coffee flavoring.

Drink a Hot Toddy

Have a sinus infection- Drink a Hot Toddy.

Have a cold- Drink a Hot Toddy.

Have strep throat- Drink a Hot Toddy.

Basically, I believe Hot Toddies are the cure for everything that does not involve extreme stomach issues.

So when a friend said they had a sore throat they could not get rid of, I recommended she drink a hot toddy. I was floored when I found out she did not have the makings for my favorite remedy drink!

To me, hot toddies are as quintessential in the house as toilet paper. In fact, I have been known to run out of toilet paper before running out of whiskey, honey, and lemons. See, in essence that is all a hot toddy is – an alcoholic mixture with honey, lemon and hot tea.

So how come this simple magical mixture is so amazing? Well, it is probably because in addition to being rather tasty, it actually works to help cure most of what ails you.

Let’s start with whiskey, which is a surprisingly effective antiseptic. Whiskey comes in about 40% alcohol and though not as effective as say, rubbing alcohol when it comes to killing bacteria, it still seems to pack a punch on most of the little buggies that are trying to make you sick. So when you start to get sick or have a sore throat, make sure you have some whiskey to help clean out your throat.  In addition to the disinfectant qualities, drinking alcohol helps us relax the sore muscles from coughing and general body ache and pains. As a little icing on the alcoholic cake, a Carnegie Mellon study showed that moderate drinkers had increased resistance to viral infections.

Take your whiskey and add in the honey. Just like whiskey, honey is also incredibly antiseptic, especially if you get natural local honey (hint: skip the commercial honey and go for local natural honey- it tastes better and is much better for you). Honey will also coat and soothe a sore throat better than any cough drop you can find.

As you now have the antiseptic healing properties down, let’s take care of some of the other symptoms. This is where you want to add in either hot water or hot tea. Inhaling the steam of any hot beverage can soothe nasal passages and temporarily relieve congestion. Hot beverages will also promote mucus secretions in the nose and mouth, which is one of  our bodies’ first line of defence against bacteria and viruses.

Finally, you want to add in some Vitamin C in the form of lemon juice and zest. Scientific studies have shown that lemon can cut cold symptoms short by usually at least a day. Besides the lemon juice, I like to put the zest from the lemon in my hot toddies as well, in order to get as much lemon oil into the drink as possible. The essential oils in the lemon zest help open up the nose and unblock your ears.

Independently, all of these ingredients are great cold fighters, but when you add them together you can really put your coughs and sneezes to bed.

If you are not like me and do not always have a handy supply of whiskey, lemon juice, and honey on hand, then you can always make a hot toddy liquor to keep on hand for the cold & flu season.

For my hot toddy liquors I use — 2 lemons, 2 cups whiskey (or bourbon or your favorite alcohol of 40% or higher) and ¾ cups honey. I mix the lemon zest from the lemons in with the lemon juice and add in the ¾ cup honey and bring to boil. Once it is cool enough to touch, add in the whiskey. You will want to let it sit for about 2 weeks to extract as much of the essential oils out of the lemon zest. Strain the liquor through a coffee filter and keep in a cool dark place. I recommend adding in 1-2 tbsps of the liquor into a cup of tea before bed when sick… or when you just want some.

It is incredibly important to stay fully hydrated when you are sick, so I recommend drinking at least glass of water or orange juice for every hot toddy you drink.

Limon Mandarinochello

I always say that every brewer and cordial maker has their signature lemon liquor. Mine is a spiced lemonchello with a spiced Rum base.

Therefore, it was not surprising when last week, my mom contacted me for lemonchello advice.

What you may not know, is that my mom moved to Costa Rica after retiring from one too many years of being a High School teacher in Northern Nevada. My mom likes wine even more than I do, can go tequila shot for shot with me, and takes her martinis dry with gin.

Costa Rica has great weather, fabulous beaches, and amazing surfing (did I mention my mom married a surf instructor?). But do you know what Costa Rica does NOT have? An alcohol surplus.

As much as my mom is enjoying the local flaura, fauna, and waves, she is really missing her cabernet from the California foothills.

See, as awesome as Costa Rica is, they don’t have a surplus of  Two-Buck Chuck or cheap alcohol. What they do have instead, is a local distilled beverage called Guaro.

Guara is a Latin American distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juices. It typically ranges from 30-40% alcohol (so just shy of Rum and Vodka) and is slightly sweeter than our distilled alcohols.

I have neither Guara nor limon mandarino in order to figure out how to advise my parents how to make their liquor, but my lemonchello (whose base also comes from RUM, a distilled sugar can base) is amazing; so I figured what the heck.So basically my mom tells me that my step dad really wanted to make lemonchello from Guara and this lemon/lime fruit combo called limon mandarino that grows on their property.

Basically they are going to need to get enough of their limon mandarino thingies to get 1/2 cup juice. Before they squeeze the limon mandarino, they will want to zest them.

When zesting (and juicing), always make sure to get none of the pith (that’s the white yucky stuff between the outer area you zest and the meaty area you juice), as it will give your liquor a bitter flavor.

Bring 2 cups water to a boil and stir in 3 cups of sugar, as well as the zest. This needs to come to simmer to become a citrusy simple syrup. This needs to simmer long enough to reduce a bit and completely dissolve the sugar. Don’t boil and don’t simmer too long or it will turn into a hard candy. A low simmer for about 15 minutes should be good. Remove the zested simple syrup from heat and let cool just long enough until you can touch it without scorching yourself. Weirdly this is the hardest part- too hot and you will burn off all the alcohol (ALCOHOL ABUSE), and too cold and the simple syrup will stick to the pan. Basically, if it is still warm and you can stick your finger in without burning it, you are good to go.

Finally, add in the half cup of juice and stir thoroughly before adding the 3 cups of Guara. This then needs to sits in a cool (as cool as Costa Rica gets) dark place for about 2-4 weeks.  Don’t refrigerate the cordial (that will crystalize the sugars in the simple syrup), but keep it out of direct sunlight and away from heat while it ages. Strain through linen/Muslin/cotton fabric (or worse case scenario a coffee filter) to get rid of all of the zesty bits (or any pulp bits or seeds that get in from the juice).  Bottle in anything you have and keep out of direct sunlight while you enjoy it.

Hypothetically speaking, this liquor can be used just like a lemon or limechello: meaning it can be drunk straight, added to anything sparkly, spice up a little ice tea, or added to a tasty pound cake, since my mom is also a fabulous baker. :-)