Monday, August 5, 2013

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 24

Photo from
I saw no other way to end my Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail series than with a book on Marilyn Monroe.  I've read a few of them, and this one has been one of my favorites thus far. Not only did Taraborrelli do a great job in recounting Marilyn's life, but he did so in a way that was well-written, documented and not sensationalized. There was still room for the reader to make up his or her mind about her life and to get a better understanding as to why or how events unfolded as they did for Marilyn Monroe. I've always been a fan, but I know that she does not always get the best rap when it comes to her reputation or her stardom. But through this book you are able to see the person behind the big screen. Marilyn had very humble beginnings and a troubled past with her sick mother and no father to speak of. But she also had gumption, heart, and drive. Not to mention talent of course. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe doesn't reveal any particular big secret, but it does allow the reader a glimpse into the beautiful tragedy that was Marilyn Monroe and I for one did not come away feeling sorry for her or lamenting what happened, but rather I gained a better understanding of her life and a wish that I could have been around when she was alive.

For the cocktail pairing I had to of course use champagne, but I wanted to glam it up and make it pretty for MM.  I had seen a champagne cocktail that used a blooming hibiscus flower for garnish and I thought it looked so beautiful, my eye was instantly drawn to it, and that pretty much sums up what Marilyn does to most people, even 51 years from her passing, she still draws the eye in and fascinates us (she passed 51 years ago today on August 5th 1962).  I'm calling this one The NJ for Norma Jeane.

The NJ
6 oz. Champagne (any one you prefer, although Marilyn did like her Dom Pérignon)
A hibiscus flower in rose water syrup
1/3 cup of Granita made from Hibiscus tea and simple syrup

How to: First make the granita.  To begin, seep some dried hibiscus blooms in boiling water to make the hibiscus tea (about 1 1/2 cups). Strain the tea and let it completely cool.  Mix the tea with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of simple syrup. Pour into a small metal cake or pie pan and freeze until the top layer begins to harden. This takes about two hours. Using a fork, scrape the mixture to break the frozen parts into tiny pieces. Freeze for another 30 minutes and then scrape again. Repeat this process until the granita resembles fluffy shaved ice. This takes about 4 hours in total. To assemble the cocktail, lay about 1/3 of a cup of the granita in your favorite champagne glass.  Place a hibiscus flower on top of the granita. Then slowly pour your champagne into the glass.  You can use the flower itself or the back of a small spoon to let the champagne slowly roll into the glass so that it floats on top.

This is the granita the first time out of the freezer
After a few times back and forth between scraping and freezing, the granita becomes 'fluffier'
Start assembling the cocktail with a bed of granita first
Then add the hibiscus flower
These flowers are edible, sustainably harvested in Australia and packed in the essence of Bulgarian roses
Pour the champagne slowly so that it rolls over the flower and into your cocktail glass
The finished champagne cocktail - this one's for you NJ!
As an adage, I just want to say that I have truly enjoyed putting these cocktail and book pairings together.  I don't always sit with a cocktail in hand when I read, well actually, hardly ever. But I know that when I make these drinks they will evoke the books that I paired them with, and hopefully this isn't the end of my cocktail adventures. I will definitely be sprinkling them in here and there as I go forth whenever I can. Cheers everyone!

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