I know I've lamented in the past about the poor fruit production of my Kalamansi tree, Kal. But for all intents and purposes, Kal has had a pretty decent and citrusy summer so far by yielding a fairly sizeable crop for me. Albeit that the kalmansi I pick every now and then are still quite small and haven't grown to the size I would like (ideally, they should be about an inch around), they are still bursting with juice. And these small tart-tinged orbs are indeed a step up from my slim pickins of yesteryear that all but died as soon as they reached the size of a grain of rice.
But Kal's meager offerings aren't entirely his fault. He's relegated to a corner of our balcony (our condo has no yard, just a small porch and the aforementioned balcony) where he is kept under close watch by our garden gnome, Reggie.
Kal and Reggie, BFFs
As it is, Kal soaks up about 4 hours of sun a day. I've read that citrus needs at least 8 hours of sun, so I'm sure Kal's smallish limes are directly correlated to his lack of solar energy.
And it has also occurred to me that perhaps I lack the green thumb gene that seems to be so very prevalent in my family. Both of my grandfathers are wonderful gardeners who have grown all sorts of goodies in their respective backyards, I have an uncle who owns and tends a large sprawling farm in the Philippines, and my parents spend weekends in their garden tending to their supply of various halucinogenic fungi magic poppy fields cannabis coca plants uh, fruits and veggies.
Although I presently lack any gardening prowess in my DNA (I'm hoping it's still too early to tell), I've at least seemed to inherit my father's appreciation for a good buzz via a stiff drink (well, that and an undying, forever-burning internal rage). And while Kal's bounty is always good for a squeeze into a small dish of soy for a toyomansi dipping sauce, I've found that the majority of the Kalamansi I pick usually ends up in a cocktail glass to sate my inherited thirst for blurred vision and hiccups.
Iron Liver > Green Thumb
Admittedly, using kalamansi juice in cocktails is quite easy--just sub the kalamansi for lemons or limes in the cocktail recipes that call for them. A gin and tonic with a squeeze of kalamansi is a no-brainer, as is a whiskey sour that is soured with the Pinoy lime. And as seen in this post by Manju of Three Tastes, kalamansi juice can create a unique twist on the margarita as well.
For me though, I've come to enjoy kalamansi in the Aviation cocktail, which is an old pre-prohibition drink comprised of gin, lemon juice, and maraschino liqueur (and also creme de violette, but that is an old ingredient that is incredibly hard to come by).
Since I used kalamansi juice and some of the Ginebra Gin I brought back from the Philippines to make my version of an Aviation cocktail, I hereby dub this drink "Philippine Airlines" (Clearly No. 2).
Anyhoo, this drink isn't overly sour from the kalamansi juice as it is balanced out by the sweetness and pepperiness of the maraschino liqueur. And don't confuse maraschino liqueur with that red chemical/corn syrup sludge found in jarred store-bought artificial maraschino cherries. Maraschino liqueur is an alchoholic concoction made from fermented sour cherries--pits and all. Maraschino liqueur has a thick, almost syrupy consistency to it and is nutty, sweet, peppery and has juuuust a hint of cherry in it.
Also, do yourself a favor and make your own maraschino cherries by following this NYT recipe (I made a batch earlier this summer at the height of cherry season, the artificial cherries don't come close to the real thing).
While we're on the subject of cocktails, another old man drink that I'm quite fond of is the Manhattan cocktail. The manhattan is composed of whiskey (bourbon is good, rye may be better), bitters, and sweet vermouth. I made a discovery a few weeks ago when I was mixing myself a Manhattan and took a whiff of my sweet vermouth--it immediately reminded me of the Basi (Ilocano wine made from fermented sugar cane) that I had brought back from Ilocos. So I did a little taste test between the sweet vermouth and the Basi.
Turns out that the sweet vermouth and Basi were quite similar in looks, smell, and taste--which is pretty odd considering they are fermented from completely different things (grapes vs. sugarcane). I wouldn't say the vermouth and basi are dead ringers for each other, but they were pretty close. I'd say that the Basi was a touch sweeter and more astringent than was the sweet vermouth.
The Basi Manhattan I mixed was very complex--and rightfully so as this drink is usually spicy, sweet, and bitter all at once. But with the Basi subbing in for the sweet vermouth, my version was also a bit more astringent as well--quite a tasty twist if you're used to drinking old-man Manhattans.
Philippine Airlines (Aviation cocktail w/Kalamansi Juice)
Makes 1 cocktail
Although I prefer to have a bit more maraschino than Kalamansi in this drink, feel free to play around with the ratios (but leave the amount of gin alone!) to fit your particular tastes.
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce Maraschino Liqueur (I prefer the Luxardo brand)
1/4 ounce Kalamansi juice
Combine the gin, maraschino liqueur, and kalamansi juice in a mixing glass or shaker with ice. Stir briskly for 15 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Kalamansi lime on the rim, or a maraschino cherry in the glass.
Makes 1 cocktail
I usually make my Manhattans with 2 parts rye whiskey to 1 part sweet vermouth. But since I found the Basi to be a bit stronger in flavor than the vermouth, I toned the basi amount down to 1/2 an ounce.
2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce Basi wine (fermented sugarcane wine from the Philippines)
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters
Combine the whiskey, basi, and bitters in a mixing glass or shaker with ice. Stir briskly for 15 seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.