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Monday, August 14, 2017

Mexican Hot Chocolate with Mezcal Whipped Cream

Mexican Hot Chocolate with Mezcal Whipped Cream

Usually I really enjoy summers in Boston. Sure, it can get pretty hot, but it rarely comes even close to rivaling the Louisiana temperatures of my childhood. Plus we have to make up for all those frigid months of winter. Summer is when I plant herbs on my balcony and vegetables in my backyard garden. It's when my husband and I sit outdoors and sip cocktails and watch the sunset. It's when most of the fun events occur around town. It's a great time of year.

Mexican Hot Chocolate with Mezcal Whipped Cream

This summer, however, I'm just not having it. Being pregnant kind of negates a lot of that summer fun. Admittedly I've had very few unpleasant symptoms these last few months, but I'm just so tired all the time - thus the lack of any blog posts the last couple of weeks. And the heat seems to make it worse. Instead of working out in my garden or sitting on the balcony, I'd much rather be curled up inside under a blanket. And on some evenings, when I'm feeling particularly achy and exhausted, I pretend it's already fall, take a warm bath (not hot - add that to the list of things I'm looking forward to in October), and curl up on the couch with some tea, warm milk, or hot chocolate. With the AC blasting, of course.

That, I hope, sufficiently explains this hot chocolate recipe in the middle of August. Although I would argue that there's never a bad time for hot chocolate. It's a delicious, comforting, all-purpose beverage. Don't argue with a pregnant woman.

Mexican Hot Chocolate with Mezcal Whipped Cream

At first, this was going to be a non-alcoholic Mexican hot chocolate, made with cinnamon and chili powder. But then the idea of mezcal whipped cream popped into my head, and I decided it was genius, because one little dash of mezcal is a-ok for baby but adds a surprisingly intense, smoky agave flavor to a batch of whipped cream. And then it occurred to me to add Ancho Reyes to the hot chocolate, and it was really a lost cause at that point. A simple suggestion wouldn't do - I had to at least hash out the proper proportions so that I could guide you all to spicy, chocolatey perfection. You can make this recipe with or without it, but whether you go non-alcoholic or full-on boozy, this hot chocolate is so good I promise you'll enjoy it - even in August.

Mexican Hot Chocolate with Mezcal Whipped Cream

Mexican Hot Chocolate

1/2 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 oz. Ancho Reyes or 1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Combine chocolate chips, cinnamon, and cayenne (if using) in a small saucepan. Add milk and put on stove over medium heat, whisking constantly, until chocolate chips are melted, spices are incorporated, and milk is warm. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from heat and stir in Ancho Reyes (if using) and vanilla. Serve in a mug topped with Mezcal Whipped Cream, a pinch of cayenne, and a cinnamon stick.

Mezcal Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. mezcal (optional)
1/2 tbsp. vanilla

In a large bowl, whip cream with the whisk attachment of a mixer until it begins to thicken. add sugar, vanilla, and mezcal (if using). Continue to whip the cream until it reaches the desired consistency, with firm peaks that hold their shape.



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mocktail: Golden Orchard

Golden Orchard Fennel Mocktail

There's a great book a lot of cocktail enthusiasts have recommended to me called The Flavor Bible. This genius tome is a must-have reference for anyone who likes to develop their own recipes for food or cocktails. It goes through dozens of ingredients, from achiote seeds to zucchini blossoms, and lists other flavors that work well with them. Some combinations are obvious, while others can be quite surprising. Under pineapple, for example, you'll find banana, coconut, lime, rum, and vanilla, but also chile peppers, curry, fennel seeds, maple syrup, and star anise. There's a gold mine of cocktail ideas right there! I've found the book particularly helpful with mocktails, where I often need a little creativity boost and suggestions for ingredients I wouldn't normally think of.

I turned to The Flavor Bible for this recipe because I had a definite starting place in mind: I wanted to do something with fennel. It's a favorite of mine, and I've been meaning to work it into a cocktail for some time. The Flavor Bible pointed me in the direction of a number of ingredients that are all supposed to work well with fennel and with each other: honey, almond, turmeric, and apple. It was a bit challenging to decide how to incorporate all of them; most went into a flavored syrup I made by simmering honey, water, chopped fennel, and turmeric together with a bit of almond extract added at the end. Non-alcoholic sparkling cider was a perfect apple base, and lemon juice and a bit of club soda evened out the flavors. I used Martinelli's because it's what I could find, but a drier cider would be even better - the Martinelli's is pretty intensely flavored and did its best to try and overpower the other ingredients.

This mocktail is sweet and tart, laced with subtle flavors of almond and anise. It would be a great one to pull out instead of champagne for a celebration, or to dress up the usual sparkling cider.

Golden Orchard Fennel Mocktail

I could not for the life of me come up with a good name for this drink! There are too many ingredients to keep it descriptive. The color is distinctive, but anything containing the word "orange" seemed misleading. A number of fennel puns came to mind (Fennel Word, The Fennel Countdown, That's My Fennel Offer) but I just have too much self-respect. So Golden Orchard will have to do.

Booze it up: Try an alcoholic sparkling cider!

Golden Orchard

2 oz. fennel syrup*
1 oz. lemon juice
4 oz. sparkling cider
1-2 oz. club soda, to taste

Combine fennel syrup and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled and strain into a stemmed glass. (Alternatively, you can build the drink in the glass, especially if your syrup is good and cold.) Add the sparkling cider and the club soda. The amount of club soda will depend on your cider; the Martinelli's is very sweet and intensely flavored, and I felt like it needed to be toned down a bit. Garnish with a sprig of fennel.

Fennel Syrup:

1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 cup chopped fennel
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp almond extract

Combine honey, water, fennel, and turmeric in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and let simmer for about ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Let cool slightly before pouring through a fine strainer. Let cool completely before using.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mocktail: Strawberry Balsamic Lemonade

Strawberry Balsamic Lemonade

This week's big baby-related activity was stroller shopping. We went to a little boutique baby store in Brookline because we heard they had a good selection of the brands we were interested in. We'd walked about three steps into the store when we were pounced upon by an eager employee looking to help us. As an introvert and cheapskate, I generally prefer to shop by myself rather than having someone hover over me, but since this was a whole new world for us, we reluctantly told this smiling woman - Pattie - what we were looking for.

All I can say is, thank God for Pattie. Strollers and carseats are complicated. There is no way my husband and I would have been able to figure out which strollers were compatible with which carseats, which ones came with toddler seats, which ones needed adapters, etc. You would think that between the two of us, a PhD and an MD, we would be able to at least figure out how to fold a stroller frame, but we were still fumbling with most of them after the third time Pattie showed us how to do it. And let's not even get into carseat installation. There's never been a time in pregnancy when I was more in need of a drink.

Strawberry Balsamic Lemonade

Alas, the hard stuff is still eleven weeks away, but at least I can make a refreshing mocktail to banish a bit of the summer heat and unwind post-stroller shopping. I've been seeing far too many beautiful strawberries around not to have them end up in a glass somehow. This is a pretty simple recipe, but it's quite tasty and the color is stunning. Muddled strawberry and basil brighten up an average cup of lemonade, and a syrup made with balsamic vinegar gives it a beautiful depth and tang. It's a wonderful summer drink.

As for the stroller saga, it's not over yet... this weekend we're headed to Babies 'R' Us to look some more. Pray for me.

Strawberry Balsamic Lemonade

Strawberry Balsamic Lemonade

2 strawberries, sliced
6 basil leaves
1 oz. balsamic syrup*
1 1/2 oz. lemon juice
5 oz. club soda

Combine strawberries, basil, and balsamic syrup in the bottom of a shaker or mixing glass and muddle to bruise the basil and release the juices of the strawberries. Add the lemon juice and a few ice cubes and stir briefly to chill and dilute. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a fanned strawberry and some basil leaves.

*For balsamic syrup, combine equal parts water, sugar, and balsamic vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool completely before using. Also good on salads!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mocktail: Toasted Coconut Iced Chai

Toasted Coconut Iced Chai

They say that if you crave sweets during your pregnancy, you're going to have a girl. Well, me and the little boy I've been lugging around in my belly are here to tell you that this is patently false. If I could eat nothing but cake, muffins, and ice cream until October, I'd be perfectly happy. I've had to stop keeping chocolate chips in the house because I will eat the entire bag long before they end up in any sort of baked goods. I recently discovered Halo Top ice cream, which is incredibly low-calorie, but I'm basically doing my best to negate that by shoveling my way through pints of it. I can't say I've had any real, specific pregnancy "cravings," but I've definitely got a penchant for sweet stuff at the moment. Don't worry, I eat healthy meals the rest of the time, and my weight gain is somehow miraculously on track. But doctors recommend you eat about 300 extra calories a day during pregnancy, and if I'm being honest, mine probably comes mostly from dessert.

Toasted Coconut Iced Chai

So it was only a matter of time before I allowed this penchant for sugar to bleed over into my mocktail creations. I suppose this iced chai isn't technically a mocktail, in that it's not imitating any sort of cocktail, but since it is nonalcoholic I'm going to stick with the nomenclature I've been using. I don't remember exactly where I got the idea, but I think I was fantasizing about toasted coconut and whipped cream and decided that I needed to come up with a drink topped with both. I was going to do hot chocolate, but it's a bit warm for that. So iced chai it was. I experimented with sprinkling the whipped cream with Demerara sugar and flaming it with a crème brûlée torch, which left a sweet and crunchy crust on the top. It's hard to see in the photos under all the toasted coconut, but it was a really delicious addition.

Toasted Coconut Iced Chai

Despite all my talk about sugary desserts, this concoction is surprisingly refreshing and perfectly sweet-but-not-too-sweet. The coconut flavor is fairly subtle, maybe even moreso than I'd like, but it was all so delicious that I decided not to do too much more experimenting. Assembling all the parts is a bit time-consuming but completely worth it. I mean, look at this thing. It is so. good.

Booze it up: Some coconut rum could be really delicious in here! You could also try aged rum or whiskey.

Toasted Coconut Iced Chai

Toasted Coconut Iced Chai

6 oz. cold chai tea (I used Tazo)
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp. toasted coconut syrup
Coconut whipped cream, demerara sugar, and toasted coconut for topping

For toasted coconut: Heat a skillet over medium heat on the stove and add the desired amount of unsweetened coconut flakes. Stir and flip the coconut continuously - once it starts to brown, it will happen fast. Once the coconut is as toasted as you'd like, transfer it to a bowl.

For toasted coconut syrup: Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and 2 tbsp. toasted coconut in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let simmer on medium-low for five minutes. Let cool, then strain out the coconut.

For coconut whipped cream: Pour 1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream into a bowl. Begin to whip with the whisk attachment of an electric mixer. When the cream begins to thicken, add 2 tbsp. of the coconut syrup. Continue to whip until the cream reached your desired consistency.

To assemble the drink: Combine chai tea and toasted coconut syrup in a mason jar or other tall glass and stir to combine. Add ice and milk. Top with whipped cream. If you want to brulee the top, keep the whipped cream level with the top of the glass and sprinkle it with Demerara sugar. Then briefly flame the sugar using a creme brulee torch, until it is melted and crystallized. White sugar works similarly but will not show; brown sugar tends to burn, so I would avoid it. Whether you brulee the top or not, sprinkle it with toasted coconut and serve with a straw.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Mocktail: Fruit Cup

Fruit Cup

When I think of perfect summer cocktails, one of the first things that comes to mind is a Pimm's Cup. (Seriously, look.) This refreshing mixture of Pimm's No. 1, sparkling lemonade or ginger ale, and tons of fresh fruit and herbs is easy to make and perfect for drinking in the heat. It's sort of the sole surviving member of a popular category of cocktails, the fruit cups. While today those two words evoke thoughts of syrupy chunks of pineapple and pear in little plastic tubs, they were once used to describe alcoholic punches made with spirits, spices, and lots of fruit, particularly popular in Britain. Pimm's is essentially a bottled fruit cup mixer, and it has remained popular enough to stand the test of time. But fruit cups can be made with any kind of spirit, and don't have to contain Pimm's at all.

In honor of Wimbledon this week (the #1 excuse to drink a fruit cup - they are to Wimbledon what the Mint Julep is to the Kentucky Derby), Instagrammer and fellow cocktail enthusiast Matt (@theamateurmixologist) has challenged some cocktail Instagrammers to make variations on the classic fruit cup. You can check out their creations by searching the #sippingwimbledon hashtag!

Fruit Cup

While others are sure to get extremely creative with their fruit cups (there was talk of including things like coffee, burnt cinnamon, and Dubonnet), I gave myself a different challenge: to get as close to a classic Pimm's Cup as possible without using Pimm's (or any alcohol, for that matter). This turned out to be an extremely educational exercise. Picking up subtle flavors in liqueurs and spirits can be a challenge, and reconstructing them even moreso. I poured myself a tablespoon of Pimm's for research purposes and got to work.

Fruit Cup

The first thing I notice with Pimm's is the strong scent of bitter citrus, and this carries over into the sip. For this, I thought, a couple of dashes of orange bitters might do, along with some fresh oranges in the cup. Of course, as I've discussed before, bitters do contain alcohol, but they're used in such small amounts that it's not a concern when it comes to most reasons you'd opt for a mocktail (pregnancy, designated driver, etc). Other flavors I get when I sip Pimm's are sweetness, spice, and something a lot like cola, actually. So I brought in some Cocktail & Sons Spiced Demerara Syrup (last seen last week) and a splash of Coke. On the advice of some other non-alcoholic Pimm's Cup recipes, I also added a bit of balsamic vinegar, which somehow seemed to bind all the flavors together.

The result, when combined with the usual ginger ale and a splash of lemon, was surprisingly close to the real thing! Especially once I added the elaborate garnish (cucumber, strawberry, orange, mint, thyme, and rosemary). This is really a perfect mocktail to serve alongside actual Pimm's Cups at your next summer party so that your non-drinking friends don't feel left out. You could even pre-batch the mocktail ingredients so that all you have to do is add ginger ale and lemon, just like you'll be doing for your Pimm's Cups.

Fruit Cup

Since this summer drink is best enjoyed outside, we took our Fruit Cups onto the patio. It was a great excuse to break in* our new GoVino cups - plastic, shatterproof cocktail glasses made for outdoor sipping. They sent me a pack of their whiskey glasses, and they're perfect for drinks on our balcony. Between a slightly wobbly table and an occasionally overzealous little dog at our feet, it's nice to know we're not drinking out of anything breakable!

*In truth, this is the second time we've used the GoVino cups - my husband had some friends up to the balcony for bourbon and cigars after our crawfish boil a few weeks ago, and since they'd already been drinking for much of the day, I thought it prudent to equip them with shatterproof drinking vessels.

Fruit Cup

Fruit Cup

1/2 oz. Cocktail & Sons Spiced Demerara Syrup
1/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 dashes orange bitters
1 oz. cola
6 oz. ginger ale
Sliced strawberries, oranges, and cucumber
Fresh herbs such as mint, rosemary, and thyme

Combine Demerara syrup, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, orange bitters, and cola in the bottom of your glass. Swirl or stir briefly to combine. Add a few large ice cubes and top with ginger ale. Give it one more brief stir. Garnish with sliced fruit and herbs - the ones here are just a suggestion, so go nuts!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Old Fashioneds with Maker's 46

Spiced Old Fashioned with Maker's 46

Last week, Maker's Mark invited me to participate in their Father's Day webinar. Pamela Wiznitzer teamed up with David Shapiro of Trunk Club in Manhattan to help us make some cocktails and come up with some creative Father's Day gifts. In addition to showing us several ways to wrap a Maker's Mark bottle (my personal favorite was tying a bowtie around it and gifting them both), Pam showed us how to make a couple of different Old Fashioned recipes with Maker's 46. At first I thought, "Well, I know how to make an Old Fashioned." But then I realized that (a) my currently-posted Old Fashioned recipe is a bit old and contains a lot more "fruit salad" than I prefer these days, and (b) Pam had some pretty great ideas on how to make an excellent cocktail, all of which are below.

Old Fashioned Ingredients

I'm usually 1,500 miles away from my dad, and until this year my husband could only be considered a father to our adorable but badly-behaved dog, so I was really excited that my dad was coming up to Boston this past weekend and we could have a belated Father (and Father-to-be)'s day celebration with some Old Fashioneds. I set up all the ingredients we'd need for the two recipes Pam showed us and mixed up some drinks for the two of the most important men in my life (the third being the tiny one doing somersaults in my uterus right now). My dad also brought his incredibly nice Canon 6D and all of his expertise with Lightroom, so we got some great photos of the process!

Making an Old Fashioned

Maker's Mark can make for a very special Old Fashioned. I personally love using bourbon instead of rye, and as a wheated bourbon, Maker's is particularly sweet and rich. We made these cocktails with Maker's 46, a special bottle from Maker's Mark that is aged for 2-3 more months with additional French oak staves. It gives the Maker's a more intense flavor, rich with caramel, spice, vanilla, and toasted oak. The distillers experimented with several different barrels for the special bourbon, and the 46th was the one that worked - thus Maker's 46.

Making an Old Fashioned

For the first Old Fashioned, Pam kept it classic with Angostura bitters and regular simple syrup (1:1 ratio of sugar and water, either simmered and cooled or - as Pam suggested if you're pinched for time - shaken together in a mason jar until the sugar dissolves). Where she surprised me was suggesting a lemon twist instead of the usual orange twist. At first I was aghast - isn't that sacrilegious or something?? But she said it could really brighten up the flavors of the bourbon, and she was completely right. It was a nice twist on my usual recipe (no pun intended).

Making an Old Fashioned

For the second recipe, Pam used two really excellent ingredients: Cocktail & Son's Spiced Demerara Syrup, which I've tried before and loved, and 18.21 Barrel Aged Havana & Hyde bitters, which were new to me but are going to quickly became a favorite in my bar. This Old Fashioned was an entirely different experience, full of spice and smoke. An orange twist and star anise were the perfect garnish.

The dads had a great time catching up and enjoying the Old Fashioneds. I'm really lucky that my son is going to grow up with two such wonderful men in his life!

Dad and Dad-to-be

Simple Old Fashioned

2 oz. bourbon (Maker's 46 recommended)
2 dashes bitters
2 barspoons simple syrup
Lemon twist

In a mixing glass, combine bitters, simple syrup, and bourbon. Fill the glass with ice, stir briefly, and strain into an Old Fashioned glass over one large ice cube. Twist a lemon peel over the glass, rub it along the sides, and drop it in. Alternatively, you can build the drink in your glass.


Old Fashioneds with Maker's 46

Spiced Old Fashioned

2 oz. bourbon (Maker's 46 recommended)
9 drops 18.21 Havana & Hyde bitters (or other barrel-aged bitters)
1 barspoon Cocktail & Sons Spiced Demerara Syrup
Orange twist
Star anise

Combine bitters, syrup, and bourbon in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir briefly. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass over one large ice cube. Squeeze an orange peel over the glass, rub it along the sides, and drop it in. Garnish with star anise. Alternatively, you can build the cocktail in your glass.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mocktail: Juniper and Tonic


A quick pregnancy update! Our recent ultrasound revealed that we're having a boy, and everything looks good. I'm now 25 weeks(!) and sporting an obvious bump, but it's not so big yet that I'm uncomfortable. The little guy is kicking like crazy, and it's both completely bizarre and very, very cool. (Except when he kicks me in the bladder, which is decidedly uncool.) Everything is going really well, and I honestly have only one complaint at the moment: I miss gin.

Maybe it's the warm weather, but for some reason I could take or leave the bourbon and rum cocktails that pop up on my Instagram feed or my favorite cocktail blogs, but every Martini and G&T makes me drool. And don't even get me started on Negroni week.


What's a pregnant girl to do? I resigned myself to plain tonic water until I saw this post from On the Sauce Again, which suggests making a juniper syrup as a non-alcoholic substitute for gin. Genius. I whipped up a batch using Inka's recipe, but I think I used a bit too much orange zest, because what resulted was more of an orange syrup than a juniper one. To properly satisfy my gin craving, I revamped the recipe to be extremely juniper-forward. As Inka suggests, I also include a bit of orange peel, cardamom, and bay leaf. You could throw in any additional gin botanicals you like - coriander, angelica root, lavender, allspice, orris root, chamomile, cassia, and other types of citrus peel would all be at home here.

I mixed my juniper syrup with some tonic water and lime, and soon I was drinking the best gin and tonic I'd ever had - without any gin. An extra fancy garnish of chive flowers and chamomile made it feel even more special. This mocktail is revolutionary, guys. I'll be drinking these all summer.


Juniper and Tonic

1 oz. juniper syrup (recipe below)
1/2 oz. lime juice
5 oz. high-quality tonic water (I used Fever Tree)

Combine juniper syrup and lime juice in a rocks glass. Fill with ice and top with tonic water. Stir very briefly. Garnish with a slice of lime, some juniper berries, edible flowers, and anything else that strikes your fancy.

Juniper Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp. dried juniper berries*
1 strip orange peel
1 cardamom pod
1 small bay leaf

Combine juniper berries, sugar, and water in a saucepan. Muddle the juniper berries to release their flavor. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool. Transfer to a jar or other container and refrigerate a few hours or overnight. Strain before using.

*Dried juniper berries were surprisingly easy to find. My local big-chain supermarket sold them in the organic spice section, but I ultimately went to a small natural foods store that let you scoop your own for much cheaper. Indian groceries are another good place to check. And there's always Amazon!