Perfecting the Art of the Cocktail: Two Fresh, Easy Recipes

Venturing into the world of cocktails can be an intimidating journey. For many of us, ordering a cocktail at a restaurant—let alone making one on our own—can feel a bit like understanding a foreign language. Scan the cocktail menu at a restaurant, and you may wonder things like:

What’s the difference between liquor and liqueur?
Should I be ordering my drink neat, up or on the rocks?
And what about a martini—shaken or stirred?
What the heck are bitters and botanicals?

If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re not alone. At The Cork, you can pose these questions to skilled bartenders who are more than happy to teach you about their craft. At home may be a different story.

Maybe you’ve recently been gifted a cocktail cookbook or want to try an interesting drink recipe you saw on Pinterest, but you’re worried about purchasing the ingredients and then messing up the recipe. That’s why the best way to start crafting your own cocktails at home is to start with drink recipes you know are good. So take it from us and try two of Chef Jim’s favorite cocktails this season. Many of the ingredients can be found at your local farmer’s market, with the rest consisting of staples in your liquor cabinet.


Anguilla Bush Breeze

With a few simple ingredients, you can easily create a unique and refreshing cocktail!


Fresh basil
3 ounces Bombay Sapphire gin
1 ½ ounce fresh lime juice
¾ ounces Cointreau
Watermelon chunks (any kind of watermelon will work, but red and yellow are Chef Jim’s favorites for this drink!)
Club soda


  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine 4 to 5 torn basil leaves with gin
  2. Add ice to the shaker until half-full and shake vigorously
  3. Make watermelon juice by blending watermelon chunks and then straining
  4. Add the lime juice, Cointreau and watermelon juice to the shaker
  5. Shake well and pour over ice
  6. Top off with a splash of club soda and garnish with a basil leaf

Yellow Tomato Bloody Mary

A fresh twist on your favorite accompaniment to brunch! In four simple steps, you can have your own Bloody Mary—no mix needed—at home.


3 medium yellow tomatoes, quartered
½ teaspoon shallot, finely minced
½ teaspoon Serrano pepper, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
¼ teaspoon celery salt
3 ounces vodka
Cucumber and olives for garnish


  1. Blend yellow tomatoes and then strain (this should yield 1 to 1 ½ cups of juice, but it’s recommended you use 1 cup of juice for this recipe)
  2. Combine the tomato juice with remaining ingredients
  3. Pour this mixture over a hefty serving of ice
  4. Garnish with a slice of fresh cucumber and an olive

Some Like It Hot: Spicy Recipes to Cool You Off This Summer

Have you ever noticed that spicy foods tend to be popular among cultural groups from hot climates? From Southeast Asia, India and Africa to the Caribbean, Central America and South America, the prevalence of hot food in hot locations is well established. It may seem ironic at first, but there’s actually a scientific reason for it: spicy foods cause you to sweat, which helps to lower your body temperature.

With the hot weather we’ve been having along the Front Range lately, this is great news for spice lovers in town. Among them is Chef Jim Smailer of the Boulder Cork, who has developed and keeps several spicy, surprisingly refreshing recipes on rotation in the summer.

One of his favorites is corn cakes with aguachile (Spanish for “chile water”) and a passionfruit and mango sauce. Chef Jim loves adding fish to the meal, especially halibut or white snapper, but the cakes and sauce are also a delicious pair on their own. Check out the recipe below — if you try it, let us know how you like it, and be sure to stay cool out there.

Chef Jim’s Corn Cakes


Chef Jim's Corn Cakes2 ears corn, kernels removed
1 egg
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
¾ cup flour
½ cup cornmeal or polenta grits (Chef Jim likes Bob’s brand)
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted unsalted butter (add another 2 tbsp for sautéing)
Fresh chives or fresh jalapeño (optional)


  1. Purée ½ of the corn kernels in a food processor until creamy. Place the corn in a bowl.
  2. Add the remaining corn, egg and buttermilk. Whisk until combined.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add dry ingredients to the corn mixture and combine.
  4. Add melted butter.
  5. Add chopped fresh chives and/or fresh jalapeño to taste (optional).
  6.  Melt 2 tbsp of reserved butter over medium heat in a nonstick sauté pan until hot.
  7. Cook corncake like you would a pancake.



2 limes, juiced
1 or ½ fresh jalapeño
6 oz. seeded cucumber, chopped
1 clove garlic
½ cup cilantro
½ cup mint
½ cup of parsley
2 tbsp chives, minced
¼ cup sweet onion, chopped
1 small yellow tomato or handful of yellow cherry tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup water
¼ cup good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place all ingredients except olive oil in a blender. Purée.
  2. Add olive oil at the end while blender is still running (remove the circle in the center of the blender lid so you can easily add to the mixture)
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Passionfruit and Mango Sauce


2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp shallot or onion, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp very hot fresh red or orange chile, such as a ghost pepper, Carolina reaper or habenero, minced
1 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp honey
3 ripe mangoes
4 passionfruit, halved with flesh and seeds scooped out
3 cups fresh orange juice
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat butter and olive oil in a sauce pan.
  2. Add the shallot, ginger and chile. Cook on medium heat until tender.
  3. Add curry powder, stir for another minute.
  4. Add mango and honey, stirring for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add orange juice and passionfruit pulp, seeds and all.
  6. Cook this mixture, stirring occasionally until reduced by about a third.
  7. Let mixture cool, add pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper.
  8. Place mixture in a food processor and purée.
  9. Press through strainer.
  10. Served chilled or at room temperature.

Chef’s Notes:

This sauce is great with fish or chicken. You can adjust the heat by adding more or less chile. I really like to use the passionfruit and mango sauce with my aguachile — green and yellow sauces really brighten a fresh summer dish like corn cakes.


Chef Jim’s Linguine with Clam Sauce

Celebrating Chef Jim’s anniversary at The Cork with a favorite recipe

Chef Jim Smailer

Hey everyone: on this day 36 years ago (that’s Oct. 10, 1981 for those who don’t want to do the math), Chef Jim Smailer joined The Cork family and helped establish our restaurant as one of Boulder’s favorite fine dining traditions.

While The Cork is known and beloved for its perfectly prepared steaks, those who have had Chef Jim’s famous fish tacos, crab cakes and Sake Salmon can taste that Chef Jim’s one true love is seafood. So in honor of Chef Jim’s 36th anniversary at The Cork, and his love for seafood, we wanted to share with you one of Chef Jim’s all-time favorite recipes: linguine with clam sauce.

Chef’s Notes:

I love this dish! This recipe appears simple but requires lots of attention to detail. Follow the timing of each step as outlined in the directions exactly to ensure you get a nice, thick, flavorful clam sauce. I recommend getting your clams from Whole Foods if possible. And be sure to serve this dish with homemade garlic bread and plenty of red wine! Good luck, and let me know how it turns out—questions and comments welcome below!

Recipe: Chef Jim’s Linguine with Clam Sauce


Chef Jim’s Linguine with Clam Sauce

36 little neck clams, rinsed and scrubbed well

2 tbsp fresh garlic, chopped

½ cup white wine

½ cup olive oil

4 – 5 fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

½ tsp red pepper flakes

½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 lb. best quality linguine or spaghetti


  1. In a large sauce pan with a tight fitting lid, combine clams, ¼ cup of olive oil and 1 tbsp of the garlic and cook over medium heat, shaking pan occasionally.
  2. After approx. 5 min., add wine and allow clams to simmer until they open.
  3. Remove the open clams from the cooking liquid, move to a bowl and let cool. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine strainer or cheese cloth into a sauce pan. Remove clams from their shells and set aside.
  4. Heat remaining ¼ cup of olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add remaining 1 tbsp of garlic and cook until fragrant. Add red pepper flakes and stir in the chopped tomatoes. Cook this mixture for 5–8 min.
  5. Heat the reserved clam broth over medium heat. Using a small ladle add about 2 ounces of clam liquid to the simmering tomato mixture. Repeat this 3 times, letting the liquid reduce a little each time until you have a thick, flavorful sauce.
  6. Bring a large pasta pot of water to a boil. Salt the pasta water and add pasta. Cook pasta according to directions on the pasta box. Meanwhile, pour the remaining clam broth into the tomato mixture and bring to a simmer.
  7. When the pasta has 4 min. of cooking time left, strain the pasta and add to the tomato mixture. Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce until al dente. Add the clams and ½ of the parsley. Toss all together to warm. Serve in warm pasta bowls and garnish with remaining parsley.

Spring Recipe: Chef Jim’s Asparagus Risotto

asparagus risotto

Rain, sleet or snow, we’ve been hitting the Boulder County Farmers Market every Saturday. Why even bother on a snowy Saturday? Because you only get a short window for asparagus, and come hell or high water, we’re not going to miss it.

Human nature is quirky—we treasure what is hard to come by or can only be enjoyed fleetingly. Thus, our love of asparagus. This perennial bulb and stem vegetable can take up to three growing seasons to reach maturity. Plus, harvesting season only lasts for two to three weeks, making seasonal asparagus a food in short supply and high demand.

So hit the market while supplies last, and head straight for Kiowa Valley Organics’ stand. A new vendor at the Boulder Farmers Market, this Roggen-based organic grower boasts bundles of asparagus harvested at the peak of flavor from their 15-acre organic asparagus field. But hurry—Kiowa wraps up their asparagus harvesting in June.

Once you’ve got your goods, it’s time to get down to business in the kitchen. There are endless ways to incorporate asparagus into your weekly menu, either as the star of the dish, or as best supporting ingredient. Chef Jim’s new recipe for a Spring Asparagus Risotto is the perfect way to celebrate the flavors of the season.

Yes, you read that correctly. Spring risotto. Though risotto is typically considered a dense dish served most appropriately in colder months, risotto lovers don’t have to do without when spring arrives. Try Chef Jim’s incredibly light and fresh take on the classic dish—you’ll thank us, we promise.

Chef Jim’s Asparagus Risotto

Yields 8-10 servings

2 lbs asparagus (thoroughly rinsed)
4 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
1 tsp. lemon zest
4 tbsp. best quality olive oil
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup dry white wine (whatever you have in the fridge will do)
2 tbsp. spring onion or sweet onion, minced
2 cups Arborio rice


1. Cut off tough ends of asparagus, about 1 ½ inches from the bottom. Reserve upper stalks.

2. Place tough ends in 2 quarts of cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 min.

3. Remove and discard the asparagus ends and reserve the cooking liquid. Check the liquid for any grit that may have settled at the bottom of the pan, and strain or pour off into another pan if necessary.

4. Cut reserved asparagus stalks into 1/2 – 3/4 inch pieces, reserving the tips.

5. Bring reserved cooking liquid to a boil and add cut asparagus pieces (reserve the tips). Cook until firm tender, about 5 min. Remove the asparagus pieces with a slotted spoon and chill under cold water or in an ice bath. Continue cooking the liquid at a low simmer.

6. Divide chilled asparagus into 2 small bowls. In a food processor, combine one of the two bowls of asparagus with 2 tbsp. grated parmesan, lemon zest, parsley, 2 tbsp. olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Pulse the mixture into a course puree and place back in a small bowl.

7. In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook onion in 2 tbsp. olive oil until just tender. Stir in rice and cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring to coat and toast the rice ever so slightly.

8. Add 1/4 cup of wine and stir until wine evaporates. Continue stirring and gradually ladle the hot cooking liquid one cup at a time, letting liquid absorb into the rice before adding more liquid. Before adding the last of the cooking liquid, stir in pureed asparagus, 2 tbsp. of butter, 2 tbsp. grated parmesan, the other small bowl of cooked asparagus and reserved, uncooked asparagus tips.

9. Taste the risotto and add salt and pepper to taste. Rice should be slightly al dente. Ladle in the last bit of the cooking liquid. Serve the risotto in warm, shallow bowls. Garnish with grated parmesan and minced parsley.


Chef’s notes:

What makes this risotto unique is its lightness and texture. Unlike typical risottos, this recipe doesn’t call for stock and requires only small amounts of fats, making it less rich and highlighting the fresh flavor of the asparagus. And adding asparagus in a variety of forms in this recipe means that this risotto has texture all over the place—the crunchy asparagus pieces complement the asparagus puree that forms the base of this risotto.

Recipe: Chef Jim’s Holiday Oysters

Looking for a new family favorite? The holidays around the Smailer house wouldn’t be complete without this warm, cozy heirloom dish.

Serves 3 people

1 fennel bulb (trimmed, cored and finely diced)
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes (peeled and finely diced)
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
24 oysters (any type will work well)


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a sauté pan, heat the butter and oil over medium high heat add the vegetables. Let the mixture brown on the bottom before stirring.
  3. Stir with a spatula to brown ell edges evenly. Add a little salt and a generous grind of fresh pepper.
  4. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
  5. Shuck the oysters and place in the cast iron pan, being careful not to lose any of the liquid from the oysters.
  6. Top the oysters with the vegetable mixture and bake for approximately 8 minutes. The topping should be very hot and the oysters just cooked.
  7. Garnish with a fennel frond and enjoy this warming comfort dish.

Chef’s notes:
This recipe has been in the family for 30 years, and it’s perfect as a first course or side dish. I like to serve at least 8 oysters per person, and it’s imperative that it’s served immediately and very hot. It’s a nice touch to serve the oysters from the cast iron pan they were cooked in, straight from oven to table.

Chef Jim's Holiday Oyster Recipe

Chef Kirsten’s Belgian Chocolate Mousse Recipe


Yield: 16-18 (4oz) servings

Belgian Chocolate Mousse


14 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 oz milk chocolate
½ cup warm coffee
¼ cup liquor (Grand Marnier, kahlua, crème de cacao)
4 egg yolks
8 egg whites
2 ¼ cups cream


  1. Melt chocolate in a small metal bowl over a pot of boiling water (double boiler).
  2. In a large metal bowl, add coffee and liquor.
  3. Add melted chocolate. Whisk.
  4. Add egg yolks. Whisk till combined.
  5. In a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites until you see stiff peaks. Add to chocolate mixture.
  6. Beat heavy cream to medium stiff peaks. Add to chocolate mixture.
  7. Pour into glasses. Cover with wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  8. Serve with whipped cream and strawberries.

We Love June!

The Boulder Farmers Market is in full swing, and we’re excited about the gorgeous seasonal and local veggies we find there. Greens are finally in season, and Chef Jim is already crafting ways to weave them into our dishes, incorporating fresh, organic arugula into our salads and introducing a variety of braising greens into daily specials.

IMG_4831Of course, the Farmers Market isn’t our only source of fresh produce—our garden is brimming with delicious herbs. Throughout the summer, we cultivate a variety that make their way into dishes, appear alongside them as garnishes and get muddled in summer cocktails. We are proud to bring you such hyperlocal treats as lovage, basil, sage, oregano, borage, lavender, rosemary, parsley, sorrel, thyme, fennel, mint and more.

20130407-172957If all this talk about fresh greens has you hooked, grab some fresh parsley from the market this weekend and try Chef Jim’s great Spring Salsa Verde recipe. We highly recommend pairing this delectable sauce with fresh white fish or steak and a nice, crisp white wine.

And of course, we always welcome you to join us for a taste of these local and seasonal flavors any day of the week (we’ll help you pair the wine). Never hesitate to ask about our daily specials or recommendations. Chef Jim’s just getting started!

May: One of Our Favorite Food Months

In Boulder you can always confirm the arrival of spring with the sights and sounds of our legendary farmers market. Booth after booth, the market seems to expand each year, marking the arrival of established and new farms and ranches. Who can keep up with this bounty?

Jim at Farmer's MarketA longstanding devotee of the market, our Executive Chef Jim Smailer certainly does his best. Undeterred by the chill of an early spring morning, Chef Jim arrives early for the best selection. Lots of folks enjoy the Market, but for Chef Jim, finding the freshest local asparagus and greens is like panning for gold.

“I feel like I say this every year, but May is one of my favorite food months at home and at the Cork. We come out of five months of virtually no local produce, and May really starts the Farmers Market season off. The world comes alive in spring,” Chef Jim said.

It’s true that freshly-picked produce stands on its own, but its ability to elevate a dish is remarkable. That’s where Chef Jim’s true talents come in to play. The joy in his face reflects his delight in cooking with these kinds of quality ingredients, as well as the creative opportunities hyper-seasonal selections, such as pea shoots, offer.

Asparagus ravioliThat asparagus in his hand might just turn into Asparagus ravioli, which you can also try at home with Chef Jim’s recipe. Pea shoot pesto and squash blossom pizza are other examples of Jim’s artistry. To supplement goodies from the farmers market, The Cork regularly receives deliveries from the best local farms.

It’s also a great time for seafood.

“Wild salmon and halibut have been long gone. These two great American fish make a welcome return in the spring,” Jim said, “Oh, and I almost forgot to mention softshell crabs which I eagerly await!”

Halibut Salad (better lighting)Together with Jim’s hand-picked produce, the possibilities for his seafood selections are almost endless.

“We also have spring lamb from Triple M Bar Ranch,” Jim said.

So, who can keep up?

Chef Jim, of course.

Come and enjoy Chef Jim’s inspired spring cuisine at the Cork!

Recipe: Pea Shoot Pesto

Recipe: Pea Shoot PestoIngredients:

  • 2 packed cups of pea shoots
  • 1/2 cup of fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup of spring onion or scallion chopped
  • 1/4 cup of lightly toasted piñon nuts (preferably Italian)
  • 1/4 tsp. of black pepper
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup of grated reggiano parmesan


  • Place all of the above ingredients in a food processor and slowly add extra virgin olive oil until you have the right consistency (should make about a 1/3 to 1/2 cup of finished pesto).
  • Can be made a couple of hours ahead of time, covered with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature.

Chef notes:

  • The pesto is the perfect complement to a piece of fresh halibut because it is a little less pungent than a classic basil and garlic version.

Recipe: Asparagus Ravioli

Asparagus ravioli


  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 spring onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup plus more for topping of Reggiano Parmigiano, grated
  • 1/2 cup plus more for topping of Pecorino Toscano, grated
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large saute pan add the olive oil over medium high heat.
    Add the spring onion and chopped asparagus, reserving the spear tops.
  2. Season with salt and pepper and cook until tender, approximately 10 minutes
  3. Set this mixture aside to cool.
  4. In a bowl whisk together the ricotta, nutmeg and 1/2 cup of each cheese
  5. Add the cooled asparagus mixture and gently mix.
    This mixture is a wonderful spring filling for ravioli. Find your favorite fresh pasta recipe and a ravioli mold and make ravioli.
  6. The ravioli will cook in salted gently boiling water for approximately 4 – 6 minutes depending on the thickness of the pasta. Drain the ravioli and reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  7. While the ravioli are cooking melt the butter in a saucepan just until melted, do not brown. Add the reserved asparagus tips and cook until just tender.
  8. Add the cooked ravioli and the 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water to the saucepan with the asparagus tips. Toss the ravioli. Place in warm bowls. Top with the reserved cheeses and few grinds of black pepper.
  9. This recipe makes about 36 small ravioli or 24 free form ravioli.
  10. The size will depend on size of ravioli. This recipe will serve 6 people.