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.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Mocktail: Spicy Sandia

Spicy Sandia Mocktail

It might be late May, but it doesn't feel like summer in Boston yet. We got a brief taste of seasonally-appropriate (or even seasonally extreme) weather when it hit ninety degrees for two days last week, and I ran out and bought herbs and vegetables for my garden thinking that the warm weather had finally arrived. But then it promptly returned to fifty degrees and raining. At least I don't need to water the plants. I'm not exactly in a hurry to get to sweltering heat, but a few days in the seventies certainly wouldn't be unwelcome.

Spicy Sandia Mocktail

While this mocktail is more ideal for sipping on the porch in the summer heat, its color and spice certainly brightened up my rainy day. One of the biggest challenges to mocktail recipes, I've found, is finding ingredients that make up for the liquid volume usually taken up by alcohol. There's a reason you see a ton of drinks made with club soda and ginger beer - they're easy add-ins. Things like tonic water, shrubs, fruit juices, and teas are other good options. When brainstorming ingredients for this purpose, it occurred to me that watermelon would be a fantastic addition to a mocktail - colorful, subtly sweet, and very juicy. And so this ode to a margarita was born. It's ridiculously tasty and extremely refreshing. I added some jalapeño for a kick and some smoked salt on the rim for a bit of extra flavor and aroma. Smoked salt isn't something I've used before, but it's an amazing rimmer for cocktails. Look for it at your grocery store with the organic spices.

Booze it up: One word: tequila.

Spicy Sandia Mocktail

Spicy Sandia

8 1-inch cubes watermelon
2-4 thin slices jalapeño pepper (depending on spiciness and how you like it)
1 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. agave nectar
1 oz. club soda
Smoked salt, for rim

To prepare the glass, rum the rim or exterior of a rocks glass with a wedge of lime and roll it in smoked salt. Fill the glass with ice. Combine watermelon and jalapeño in the bottom of a shaker and muddle well to extract the juices from the watermelon and incorporate the spice from the pepper. Add lime juice and agave nectar. Fill the shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Fine-strain into the prepared glass. Top with club soda and garnish with a slice of watermelon and a wedge of lime.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tequila Old Fashioned

Tequila Old Fashioned

Since I'm not making cocktails during my pregnancy, I've invited some fellow bloggers and cocktail enthusiasts to write guest posts and share their recipes. Today's guest blogger is Instagrammer Morgan Hufstetler!

This past fall I moved to Florida and wanted an Old Fashioned, however it was 85 degrees outside and well, tequila sounded more refreshing. But don't wait till fall to drink this refreshingly boozy concoction. It's a great little drink that doesn't require too many steps and is extremely well-balanced. The bitterness of the Campari is offset by the elderflower liqueur and the Ancho Reyes and tequila pair nicely together.

Tequila Old Fashioned

Tequila Old Fashioned

1 1/2 oz. tequila reposado
3/4 oz. Ancho Reyes
1/2 oz. Campari
1/4 oz. elderflower liqueur (such as St. Germain)

Stir with ice and strain over a giant ice cube or spherical and garnish with a flamed orange twist.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mocktail: Consolation Prize

This is a mocktail recipe I've had bookmarked for a while, since long before I became pregnant. It comes from Smitten Kitchen, one of my absolute favorite food blogs. It's basically my go-to for looking up basic recipes, and browsing the archive by ingredient is an endless source of inspiration on nights when I have no idea what to cook. Every recipe I've tried from the blog has been delicious. So when I saw that Deb had posted a mocktail recipe during her pregnancy, I immediately bookmarked it, knowing the day would come when I too would be pregnant and desperate for something resembling a cocktail. The fact that it's basically a combination of a Pina Colada and a Mojito - arguably two of the most delicious summer drinks - only made me want one even more.

This drink is so delicious and refreshing. The smooth, creamy coconut milk smooths out the tart lime and pineapple into tasty perfection. The club soda lightens it up quite a bit, depending how much you use, and turns it from a thick and creamy treat to a refreshing summer sipper. There aren't many mocktails out there that make you feel even luckier than the folks who can drink, but this is one.

Also, can we just talk about the genius name for a minute? Possibly the best mocktail name ever.

Booze it up: I agree with Deb that rum would be the way to go. I'd reach for white rum myself, but as she points out, an aged rum similar to what you'd use in a Pina Colada would probably be lovely as well.

Consolation Prize

5 mint leaves
2 oz. pineapple juice
1 1/2 oz. coconut milk (well-shaken)
1/2 oz. lime juice
1/4 oz. honey
Club soda, to taste

Place mint leaves at the bottom of a shaker and muddle lightly to release the flavor. Add the pineapple juice, coconut milk, lime juice, and honey. Fill the shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and top with club soda. Garnish with lime wedges, mint leaves, and/or pineapple slices.

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted Chickpeas

It's been a while since I posted a good bar snack or appetizer, and since I had some chickpeas left over after my Chamomile Pear Sour made with aquafaba, I thought it was high time for one. Roasted chickpeas are a genuinely magical snack. They're warm and crunchy and filling and actually good for you. And they're really easy to make. I kept hearing about how awesome they were but I assumed for some reason that you needed to start with dried chickpeas, which I never have on hand. I was quite pleased to find out that you can go from typical canned chickpeas to crunchy goodness in about an hour. Now my pantry is rarely without a can.

Roasted Chickpeas

The first step to making this recipe is to drain, rinse, and dry your chickpeas. Be sure to save the liquid from the can if you want to experiment with some aquafaba cocktails! After rinsing the chickpeas in a colander, roll them around in a dish towel or some paper towels to dry them well. The drier they are, the better they'll roast. You may find that they start shedding skins as you dry them - that's fine. Just pull the skins off and discard them.

Roasted Chickpeas

Next, spread your dry chickpeas out on a pan and drizzle them with olive oil, tossing them to make sure they're all well-coated. Sprinkle on some salt and toss them again. Then put them in an oven preheated to 400 degrees and bake them for about 30 minutes, stirring and tossing them every 10 minutes so they roast evenly. When they're done, they should be brown and crispy outside but still a little soft inside.

Once your chickpeas are ready, it's time to season them. I used smoked paprika and cumin on these, but there are tons of other great options: rosemary, curry powder, garlic, lemon... you can even go sweet and use cinnamon and sugar. The Kitchn, where I got this recipe, has lots of great suggestions. Sprinkle on your seasonings, give them one more stir, and serve them immediately - they're best when they're hot!

Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted Chickpeas

2 15-oz. cans chickpeas
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and other seasonings (I used smoked paprika and cumin)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Drain chickpeas (reserving water for cocktails, if desired) and rinse them well. Dry them thoroughly on a towel. Some of them may lose their skins; just pick them out if so. Spread them on a large baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss well to coat the chickpeas. Sprinkle with some salt. Bake for about 30 minutes (I did 35), stirring and tossing the chickpeas every 10 minutes, until they have shrunken slightly and have become crispy on the outside. Add whatever seasonings you want to use and more salt. Serve them while they're still warm.

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mocktail: Tea Thyme

Tea Thyme

If you were looking for an excuse to drink this past weekend, I doubt you had to try too hard - between Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby, the margaritas and mint juleps seemed to be flowing. We didn't really participate in either celebration this year (are we already boring parents?!) but we did have our own news to celebrate - our ultrasound on Thursday revealed that we're having a boy! He was moving around like crazy during the scan, and has continued to be pretty active in there. It's fun feeling little kicks, especially now that we've seen his little feet.

Tea Thyme

After scrolling past photo after photo of frosty mint juleps on Twitter and Instagram, I decided to try and make a mocktail version of a julep for me and the little guy. In its purest form, the mint julep is not really a cocktail that lends itself to mocktailification (that's a word, right?) - it's mostly bourbon. Ok, it's basically all bourbon. But the general template of a julep, a sweet and herbal beverage served over crushed ice, definitely leaves some room for experimentation. I liked the idea of using peaches and sweet tea, both of which have a very southern feel, and I threw in some fresh thyme as well. The result is a refreshing mocktail that I think holds up pretty darn well against a mint julep or margarita. Cheers!

Booze it up: Bourbon. Lots of bourbon. :-)

Tea Thyme

Tea Thyme

2 1/2 oz. cold black tea
3/4 oz. lemon juice
1/4 oz. honey
3 slices peach
1 sprig fresh thyme

Place peach slices, thyme, and honey in the bottom of a julep cup and muddle well.* Add lemon juice and black tea and stir. Fill the cup with crushed ice. Garnish with a slice of peach and a sprig of thyme and serve with a straw.

*I personally like the pieces of peach pulp at the bottom of the drink, which get sucked up into the straw as you sip, but if you'd prefer not to have them then prepare the drink in a shaker or mixing glass and strain it into the julep cup.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Gold Leader

Gold Leader

Since I'm not making cocktails during my pregnancy, I've invited some fellow bloggers and cocktail enthusiasts to write guest posts and share their recipes. Today's guest blogger is Adam of Mr. Muddle!

Greetings Garnish Nation (Garnishites? Garnisheers?)! Katie has asked me to play guest blogger this week, and I couldn’t be happier to oblige.  Us Boston cocktail bloggers gotta stick together. Anyway, some of you may know that yesterday was a “holiday” of sorts for fans of a certain movie empire.  In these circles, May 4th is known as Star Wars Day (say “May the Fourth...” Get it?). So it seemed like a good time to put a new spin on one of my older Star Wars related drinks.

Just over a year ago I came up with a drink using bourbon, Aperol, Benedictine and lemon juice called Good Shot Red Two. The name comes from a throwaway line in Episode VI by Wedge Antilles during the Battle of Endor (you’ll see where I came up with the name for this new drink in that clip too). It’s a line that has stuck with me for many years, and works well as a cocktail name.

For this new spin, I decided to take the basic components of the drink (brown spirit, bitter liqueur, sweet liqueur, juice), but push the flavors a bit more. I really liked the interplay of sweet Benedictine and bitter Aperol in the original, so I thought about other ways to highlight this yin/yang flavor combo. My amari collection has grown a bit this year, and recently I got some Suze* to add to the arsenal. The bright herbaceousness matches the intense yellow color of this French liqueur. More floral than its Italian cousins, it seemed like a good counterpoint to the warm spices of Benedictine. As for the base spirit, I decided to use Cognac in place of bourbon, hoping to get a little more punch there as well.

*Fun Fact - After a successful bottle swap a few months ago, Katie and I decided to run it back again with different bottles and she chose Suze (I’ll keep the other half a secret for now). Then she made her big announcement and we had to put Round 2 of the bottle swap posts on hold. But it's too good to let it collect dust for 9 months.

Gold Leader

The Gold Leader is a whirlwind of herbs and spices on the nose from the two liqueurs. Each whiff alternates between the bracing freshness of the Suze and the subtle warmth of the Benedictine. The sip starts with a round tartness as the lemon tries to peek through. The Cognac keeps things just soft enough, with the grape and burnt sugar notes popping through, while tannins in the background give it some bite. Wonderful warm low notes from the Benedictine and Cognac keep the Suze from taking over, but its unmistakeable botanicals are ever present.

Since this was a riff on a Star Wars themed cocktail, the name should stay true to that formula. Plus, I wanted to give a nod to the brilliant yellow gold color of Suze. Gold Leader is Lando Calrissian's call sign in the battle, and it certainly checks all those boxes. The Gold Leader is a perfect wingman to Good Shot Red Two, providing another take on a template worthy of more exploration.  

Thanks again to Katie for letting me take over her corner of cyberspace for a bit. Cheers!

Gold Leader

1 1/2 oz. Cognac (Hine VSOP)
1/2 oz. Suze
1/2 oz. Benedictine
1/2 oz. lemon juice

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

My Favorite Cocktail Blogs

My Favorite Cocktail Blogs

One thing I've realized since I started blogging about cocktails is that there are a lot of other people out there blogging about cocktails, too. And it's great. I love that you can find the same recipe on ten different blogs, and everyone who made it has a different perspective on it. Some blogs focus on original concoctions and others just cover the classics. Some have impeccable photography with perfect lighting, and others make do with a few cellphone snaps. Some have thousands of loyal followers, and others operate quietly in the background because they love what they're doing.

I've found a lot of blogs I love over the past couple of years, and since I'm not making any cocktails myself right now, I thought I'd share some favorites with you. Check them out to get your cocktail recipe fix!

Mr. Muddle

1. Mr. Muddle. You probably already know Adam, aka Mr. Muddle, from our Bottle Swap posts. Since he's a fellow Boston blogger, he's one of the few on this list that I've actually met in person. He's a whiz at coming up with original cocktail recipes (and perfect names), and his blog is a treasure trove of inspiration for new drinks. He's also got a couple of kids, so I'm hoping I can get him to give me some parenting tips. :-)

Drinking With Chickens

2. Drinking with Chickens. I am obsessed with Drinking with Chickens. Kate makes and photographs beautiful, colorful cocktails all made with fresh ingredients straight from her extensive garden. And, more often than not, there are chickens involved. I follow her Instagram religiously enough that I know many of these chickens by name. (The one in the photo is Pip.) She's also got two adorable boxers and an African Grey parrot, so I basically want her life. Or to at least be her best friend. Call me, Kate.

Craft and Cocktails

3. Craft & Cocktails. When I first stumbled upon Ashley Rose Conway's absolutely stunning cocktail blog, I basically wondered what I was even doing with mine. It's just so, so lovely. Her recipes are often imaginative and whimsical twists on classics, like her Carrot Cake Ramos Gin Fizz or Negroni Float. The styling and photography is impeccable. It's like entering a magical fantasy world of perfect, pretty cocktails. And I never want to leave.

Apartment Bartender

4. Apartment Bartender. Elliot Clark, aka Apartment Bartender, is just so effortlessly cool. (Even Express thinks so.) His blog is full of well-curated cocktail recipes paired with beautiful photography, as well as useful articles like 10 Really Damn Good Bottles of Scotch Under $100 or How to Tiki at Home. I particularly enjoy his Instagram, where he posts gorgeous photos of the process of making his drinks.

Stir and Strain

5. Stir and Strain. I've always thought of Elena's wonderful blog as something of a model for what I'd like mine to be. She refers to it as "a cocktail scratchpad" - a place to test out new recipes. Her drinks are creative and approachable. I love her gift guides and bar cart styling guides, and I miss her weekly Booze News posts. She also frequently does great giveaways.

Holly and Flora

6. Holly and Flora. This blog by Denver-based sommelier Jayme Henderson is all about fresh, seasonal, garden-to-glass cocktails. Nowhere will you find a more stunning array of mouth-watering ingredients and beautiful fruit and herb garnishes. Her photography and styling set a delicate, tranquil mood. Each post makes you feel like you're sipping a perfectly crafted cocktail with Jayme in her garden and watching the sunset. Or at least wish you were!

Cold Glass

7. Cold Glass. This site is an absolute treasure trove of cocktail information. Doug Ford serves his cocktails garnished with fascinating histories, digging up the stories behind such classics as the Swizzle, the Tuxedo, and the Gibson. But he doesn't neglect new favorites either, being sure to include recipes like the Paper Plane and the Cooper Union as well. I always check his site when I write about a drink to see if he has covered it yet. He posts relatively infrequently, but it's always worth reading.

Boxes and Booze

8. Boxes and Booze. There are a lot of cocktail blogs and Instagram accounts with interesting themes (this one comes to mind), but one of my favorites is Boxes and Booze. On his blog, Steve shares his love of well-crafted cocktails with an extensive collection of wooden puzzle-boxes, and presents each recipe with a related box that inspired it. It's incredibly unique and absolutely fascinating. He's also a wizard with elaborate citrus peel garnishes - check out the pup on his Doggone Old Fashioned or the Cupid on his Heart-Shaped Box.

Letters and Liquor

9. Letters and Liquor. Along the same vein, Matthew of Letters & Liquor pairs his cocktails with beautifully hand-lettered cocktail-themed artwork. Both are absolutely stunning. Each of his posts tackles a classic recipe, and he provides spectacular historical information and context for each one. I love learning the history behind cocktails, and this blog is a complete treasure trove. Don't miss Matthew's Instagram, where he often shows pictures of his works in progress - until you see them, you'll have trouble believing the lettering is done by hand.

Cocktail Virgin

10. Cocktail Virgin Slut. Don't let the generic blogger template and iPhone photos fool you - Cocktail Virgin Slut is one of the best resources for cocktail recipes and information on the internet. Bartender Fred Yarm posts new recipes prolifically, and always with detailed tasting notes and often some interesting historical context. Check out what he's made lately, or use the list of ingredients in the sidebar to browse the extensive archive. Or pick up one of his recipe books: Drink & Tell: A Boston Cocktail Book and the brand new (and aptly-named) Boston Cocktails: Drunk & Told. And if you're in the Boston area, head over to Loyal Nine to have him make you a cocktail himself!

There are a lot more great blogs out there, and it was tough narrowing down this list to only ten! Did your favorite blog make the list?