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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!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Father's Day Gift Guide 2017

I've always been a bit jealous of the dads on Father's Day. Gift guides for fathers always include things like cocktail glasses, leather-bound journals, and humidors. As a soon-to-be mom who thoroughly enjoys whiskey and cigars, I'd much prefer a Father's Day gift than the scented candles and spa days that are usually recommended for mothers. I hate to contribute to this dichotomy with the manly gift guide below, but consider these suggestions for the cool mom in your life too. Here are my picks for dad this year:



1. Admiral Stainless Steel Cigar Holder and Flask from Viski, $22. Help Dad carry the really important stuff in style with this combo cigar holder and flask. The elegant stainless steel tubes hold 2 oz. of liquor and a 54-gauge cigar. Consider picking out a spirit and cigar pairing ahead of time and gifting it already filled.

2. Regarding Cocktails by Sasha Petraske and Georgette Moger-Petraske, $30. When bartending legend Sasha Petraske passed away suddenly in 2015, it shocked and saddened the craft cocktail community. This book, which he began before his death, was completed by his wife and published in 2016. It contains 75 recipes that Petraske invented, popularized, or perfected along with anecdotes and minimalist line drawings of the drinks. It's a perfect gift for any dad who wants to up his home cocktail game by learning from the very best.

3. Tuthilltown American Oak Barrel, $60-96. If your dad is already a whiz at whipping up Old Fashioneds and Manhattans, help him take them to the next level with a charred American oak barrel from Tuthilltown Spirits. They're perfect for aging cocktails or spirits, and look beautiful to boot. Available in 1-, 2-, 3-, and 5-liter sizes.

4. Dropcatch Porter Bottle Opener, $39. We have one of these on our fridge, and it's a staple in our kitchen. A magnet at the bottom of the wood catches bottle caps as they fall, and can hold over 60(!) caps. Made of stained walnut, it's both a stylish and useful gift for any dad who loves beer.

5. Nikka Coffey Grain Whiskey, $65. Japanese whiskey is only increasing in popularity, and everyone seems to be talking about this particular bottle. Made mostly from corn using a traditional Scottish Coffey still, it's a unique whiskey that might be most similar to a bourbon, with strong vanilla and caramel notes. It would be a great gift for a dad who loves Scotch or bourbon but is looking to branch out.

6. Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Stave Cutting Board, $89. Assuming you can't get your hands on an actual bottle of Pappy, this cutting board is a nice way to give dad a piece of the world's most famous bourbon for his home bar. Louisville craftsman Jason Cohen makes these boards out of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrel staves. They're perfect for serving appetizers or preparing garnishes.

7. Craft Your Own Bitters Kit from Hella Cocktail Co., $65. This DIY kit comes with everything dad will need to make his own citrus and aromatic bitters, including the necessary herbs and botanicals. Once he learns how easy and fun making bitters can be, he might just have a new hobby.

8. NEAT Whiskey Glasses, $20. If your dad is a more traditional guy, you might consider getting him a set of Glencairn glasses or nice rocks glasses for his whiskey. But if he's into what's new and most innovative, he'll love these NEAT whiskey glasses. Their design, inspired by the art of Dale Chihuly, is meant to optimally concentrate and deliver the aromas of your whiskey while separating out the nose burn from the alcohol. Check out their website for more information on the idea behind the unique shape.

9. Monkey 47 Schwartzwald Dry Gin, $45 for 375 ml. Dads are usually pigeonholed as whiskey and beer drinkers, but let's not neglect the G&T and Negroni lovers out there. Monkey 47 is a unique gin that's intensely flavored with 47 different botanicals from Germany's Black Forest. It's pricey - possibly the most expensive gin out there right now - but that makes it exactly the sort of bottle that Dad isn't likely to go out and buy himself.

10. Lonely Planet's Global Beer Tour$20. Lonely Planet has just come out with the perfect travel guide for beer fans. This brand-new book highlights the best taprooms and breweries in over 30 countries. Dad can use it to check and see what spots are recommended at his next vacation destination, or use it to plan the ultimate beer-centric getaway.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Mocktail: Old Cuban

Non-alcoholic Old Cuban

A couple of weeks ago, I was scouring the internet for good spots in Boston to grab a mocktail with a pregnant friend. Luckily, there are several articles out there discussing what bars and restaurants have good non-alcoholic options. One place that comes up repeatedly is, unsurprisingly, Eastern Standard. Their cocktails are fantastic, it made sense that they'd do an excellent job on their non-alcoholic options as well. A couple of sites listed one drink that they make in particular, a non-alcoholic version of an Old Cuban. This is one of my favorite cocktails, so I was definitely intrigued. I decided to try and make my own Old Cuban mocktail at home.

The Old Cuban is usually made with aged rum, mint, simple syrup, lime, bitters, and sparkling wine. The rum would be easy enough to omit, and the bitters could remain for my purposes. The real challenge was a substitute for the sparkling wine. There are all sorts of sparkling grape juices and ciders out there, but I find most of them too fruity and sickeningly sweet. Eastern Standard uses one I had never heard of called Fre Brut. Fre makes a variety of different non-alcoholic wines, and I had high hopes for the Brut. After all, Eastern Standard's endorsement means a lot. If it tasted anything like real champagne, I was ready to buy every varietal they sell - I'm definitely at the point in this pregnancy where I would love a glass of wine.

Non-alcoholic Old Cuban

Unfortunately, while the Fre Brut is tasty, it's still strongly reminiscent of the sparkling grape juice we used to have as kids on New Years Eve. I was hoping for something dry, but it's quite sweet. And indeed, the second and third ingredients after dealcoholized wine are grape juice and grape concentrate. I wonder what it would taste like if they left the wine as-is. If anyone knows of a drier non-alcoholic sparkling wine, let me know! I'd be all over it.

Still, I decided to proceed with my Old Cuban recipe, and I'm glad I did. I simply reduced the amount of simple syrup to make up for the sweetness of the Brut, and it turned out really, really good. It might be the closest in flavor to an actual cocktail that I've come. The fizz, the sour lime, and the familiar flavor of the Angostura work together to really mimic its alcoholic namesake. You might even be able to fool someone. I think it's the best mocktail I've made yet!

Booze it up: The alcoholic version of this drink is here.

Non-alcoholic Old Cuban

Old Cuban

9 mint leaves
3/4 oz. simple syrup
1 1/2 oz. lime juice
4 dashes Angostura bitters (omit if you are avoiding alcohol entirely)
4.5 oz. non-alcoholic sparkling wine (I used Fre Brut)

Combine mint leaves and simple syrup in the bottom of a shaker and muddle. Add the lime juice and bitters. Fill the shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Fine-strain into a coupe glass and top with the sparkling wine. Garnish with a mint leaf.