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Mixing It Up

The world's best chefs have turned their attention to cocktails, with surprising results

Makes 10.

Sazerac

To experience America's oldest cocktail in its original form, use cognac and absinthe. Absinthe made with wormwood was outlawed in the early 1900s, but legal versions are now available. They taste just like anisette. Peychaud bitters are native to New Orleans but available in Houston at Spec's.

Andrea Lazar of T'afia makes the restaurant's 
namesake drink: a ratafia, marinated fruit in a mixture 
of wine and spirits.
Daniel Kramer
Andrea Lazar of T'afia makes the restaurant's namesake drink: a ratafia, marinated fruit in a mixture of wine and spirits.
All the ratafia ingredients are local: organic sugar from 
Sugar Land, vodka from Austin, wines from Texas 
wineries.
Daniel Kramer
All the ratafia ingredients are local: organic sugar from Sugar Land, vodka from Austin, wines from Texas wineries.

1 shot cognac, rye or bourbon
1 crushed sugar cube
3 dashes Peychaud bitters
4 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash of Herbsaint, Pernod or absinthe
Fill a shaker with ice cubes, and add the brandy, rye or bourbon. Rinse a chilled old-fashioned glass with Herbsaint, Pernod or absinthe. Drop the sugar cube into the glass and shake the bitters over it. Add the chilled liquor and stir until the sugar dissolves. Garnish with a lemon twist. Traditionally served neat, but also excellent on the rocks.

Makes 1.

Watermelon Cooler (adapted from Raising the Bar by Nick Mautone)

The frozen watermelon cubes are a great idea. Nick Mautone says this drink is even better than wine with great barbecue. But be forewarned, he thinks hot dogs are barbecue. (I wonder what wine he drank with his hot dogs before he discovered watermelon coolers.)

1/2 small watermelon
8 ounces simple syrup
4 ounces fresh lemon juice
4 ounces fresh lime juice
Ice
12 ounces dark rum
8 ounces vanilla liqueur
12 mint leaves
To prepare the watermelon, cut off the rind and discard. Cut the flesh into one-inch cubes (you should have about four cups) and place them in a colander set inside a bowl. Stir the cubes gently to extract as much juice as possible without breaking up the cubes. You should have at least eight ounces of juice. Put the watermelon cubes in a plastic bag and freeze for at least half an hour.

Mix the syrup, lemon juice and lime juice with the watermelon juice. To serve, divide the frozen cubes among four glasses. Divide the rum, vanilla liqueur and juice mixture among the glasses and stir. Add ice cubes if desired. Garnish with mint leaves.

Deconstructed Mojito

Modern-day Jell-O shots, lime sorbet and mint leaves lined up on a Chinese soup spoon. When you eat them, you make mojitos in your mouth.

100 grams kosher gelatin
200 grams lemon-lime soda
200 grams Mount Gay rum
Lime sorbet
20 mint leaves

Heat the soda and rum in a microwave until very hot. Combine with gelatin. Add food color if desired. Allow to set in a cake pan in the refrigerator until jelled. Cut into one-inch cubes.

On Chinese soup spoons, place one cube of rum gelatin. Next, make one or two mini-scoops of lime sorbet with a melon baller and place beside the gelatin cube. Garnish with two mint leaves.

Serve immediately. The drink should be eaten in one bite.

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