Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mocktail: Cider & Smoke

Cider and Smoke

It feels like fall is coming early this year. One minute it was still hot outside, and the next everyone is talking about Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Halloween decorations are for sale. I have to say, I don't mind. (Well, I mind about the Halloween decorations - that's just ridiculous. But I can let that go.) Fall is probably my favorite season. I love when the air turns crisp and cool and the leaves start changing. I love jackets and apple picking and all the upcoming holidays. And this year I have even more to be excited about - another birthday we'll be celebrating every year at this time.

Cider and Smoke

Another reason to love fall is the change in what you get to eat and drink. Soups and pies and cider donuts are back on the menu, and light, citrusy cocktails give way to darker spirits and spiced, smoky flavors. This year, the transition poses a bit of a challenge. Without alcoholic ingredients, it's easiest to turn to fruit juices and fizzy sodas to fill your glass, resulting in distinctly summery concoctions. I really wanted to make something that felt like a fall cocktail. So I gathered up my favorite fall flavors and tried my best.

Cider and Smoke

The base of this drink is apple cider and Lapsang Souchong tea. Lapsang Souchong is a really unique tea. The leaves are dried over cypress and pine wood fires, giving it an intensely smoky flavor. When brewed, it smells almost like barbecue sauce. Though it might sound like an exotic ingredient, it's not difficult to find - Twinings makes it. Some lemon juice and spiced Demerara syrup balanced things out and added additional autumn flavor.

Cider and Smoke

Taking a cue from the tea, I decided to smoke the glass for this mocktail as well. I saved the damp teabag and flamed it with cinnamon and cloves, letting the smoke fill the glass before I poured in the drink. In addition to intensifying the flavors of spice and smoke, this step adds a nice bit of ritual that's reminiscent of making a cocktail.

Cider and Smoke

Cider & Smoke

3 oz. apple cider
3 oz. Lapsang Souchong tea
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. Cocktail & Sons Spiced Demerara Syrup
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
6 cloves

Brew a cup of tea, reserving tea bag or tea leaves. Let the tea cool. Combine tea, cider, lemon juice, and syrup in a mixing glass and set aside. Place the tea bag or tea leaves on a fireproof surface with the cinnamon stick and cloves and briefly flame them using a crème brûlée torch. Immediately cover with a rocks glass to capture the smoke. While the smoke fills the glass, add ice to your mixing glass and stir the cocktail until chilled. Flip over the rocks glass and strain in the drink. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and an orange twist.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ricotta Toasts with Honey and Thyme

Ricotta Toasts with Honey and Thyme

I love a good snack or appetizer with cocktails. When we have people over to our house, we usually stick to a simple cheese plate and some olives - it's classy and there's no real prep involved. If you're already making dinner for guests, there's often not enough time to spend putting together elaborate appetizers. So I get pretty excited when I find a recipe that's both quick to make and impressively tasty.

These ricotta toasts are based off of a dish that I had at Citizen Public House in Fenway. It seemed like it would be easy enough to replicate, so I wrote down the ingredients and have been holding onto them for a while. Now I can't believe I waited so long to make this. The recipe is so simple, but the result tastes utterly amazing. My husband and I positively gobbled these up after I photographed them.

I'm not including exact amounts below, because this is a very ad-libbed sort of recipe - how much you'll need depends on your taste and how much you want to make.

Ricotta Toasts with Honey and Thyme

First you need to toast some slices of bread. You'll want bread that you can easily cut into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick. I used a sesame baguette from Iggy's, cut on a steep diagonal. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and brush or spray them with olive oil. (Let me put in a quick plug for one of my favorite kitchen gadgets, this olive oil mister - perfect for things like this!) Put the slices under the broiler until they just start to turn brown - just a minute or two, and watch them carefully! Remove them from the oven and cut a garlic clove in half, rubbing the toasts with the cut side. Let them cool a bit.

Getting a good-quality ricotta is really worthwhile for this recipe. I love the ricotta from Maplebrook Farm in Vermont, which you should be able to find if you're in the northeast. Calabro is another, easier-to-find favorite of mine - it's really thick and creamy. Both of these are usually firm enough that you don't need to drain them, but if your ricotta is a bit liquidy, place it into a fine mesh strainer or some cheese cloth and let the liquid drain off into a bowl. It's best to do this for several hours or overnight.

Ricotta Toasts with Honey and Thyme

Once your toasts have cooled, spread some ricotta on each of them - about a tablespoon, depending on the size of your slices. Drizzle them with honey, sprinkle them with a bit of salt and pepper, and top them with the fresh thyme leaves. And you're done! It's so easy and so, so good.

And don't limit yourself to honey and thyme - ricotta toast is an amazing blank canvas for toppings. Try pesto, tomato and basil, strawberries and balsamic vinegar, blueberries and honey, olive tapanade, even anchovies and capers if that's up your alley. Here are even more tasty ideas from Honestly Yum.

Ricotta Toasts with Honey and Thyme

Ricotta Toasts with Honey and Thyme

1 baguette
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, sliced in half
Ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper
Fresh thyme

Preheat broiler to high. Slice bread on a diagonal, about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange on a baking sheet and spray or brush with olive oil. Broil for 1-2 minutes, until slightly browned. Rub each toast with the cut side of the garlic. Let cool slightly. Spread ricotta onto toasts. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle sparingly with salt and pepper. Top with fresh thyme.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Mocktail: Just Beet It

Just Beet It

Guys, we're in the home stretch! I'm officially in my final month of pregnancy, and because baby is staying stubbornly head-up, I've got a C-section scheduled for the end of this month. Unless he decides to flip, I'm exactly three weeks away from parenthood! (And cocktails. But parenthood is the bigger deal.) The weirdest part is, I think we're ready. We've got all the baby stuff, the house is basically in order, and other than making some meals to freeze and getting the dog a much-needed haircut, my to-do list is pretty short. The biggest thing is finishing up my postdoc research, which I should probably be working on right now instead of making mocktails. Oops.

When I first announced my pregnancy, a lot of my cocktail-making friends told me that shrubs would be my go-to drink for the next few months. If you're not familiar with shrubs, check out my brief intro to them here. They're basically tangy mixtures of fruit, sugar, and vinegar that can really add a flavor kick to any drink. And since they're non-alcoholic, they're great for mocktails. I expected to be making a lot of them, but between being sent some great pre-made shrubs from Element [Shrub] and Shaker & Spoon and having lots of other mocktail ideas, I didn't really get around to experimenting much. But with my pregnancy almost done, I figured it was high time to get into the shrub game.

Just Beet It

There are so many potential flavors for shrubs, I almost didn't know where to begin. But I've been wanting to do something with beets for a while, and a shrub is a perfect way to work them into a drink. Why beets? Besides their unusual but really delicious flavor - despite being root vegetables, they're quite sweet - they add an absolutely gorgeous color to drinks. (And cutting boards, and kitchen towels, and fingers....)

My go-to guide for shrub making is this article from Food52. It makes it really easy to design your own shrub recipe, which I think is the best way to go. There can be a lot of variation in flavor and sweetness between batches, and it's important to tailor your recipe to your ingredients and your taste. Last time I made shrubs, I did a "cold process" recipe where the fruit and sugar are combined in a bowl and left out for a couple of days to produce a syrup. This time, I went with the "hot process" on the stove because it was quicker. Basically, I simmered my sliced beets with water and sugar, added some vinegar, and strained the mixture into a jar. Really easy. Check out the recipe below for the exact proportions.

Just Beet It

For my finished mocktail, I combined the beet shrub with honey syrup, lemon juice, fresh tarragon, and tonic water. It was so, so tasty - tangy, vegetal, and sweet, with the perfect bitterness from the tonic water at the end of each sip. Definitely the kind of drink that (almost) keeps you from missing cocktails!

Booze it up: I'd add some gin to this one!

Just Beet It

2 sprigs fresh tarragon
1 oz. honey syrup*
1 oz. lemon juice
2 oz. beet shrub (recipe below)
3 oz. tonic water

Combine tarragon and honey syrup in the bottom of a shaker and muddle gently. Add lemon juice and beet shrub. Fill the shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass or Collins glass filled with ice and top with tonic water and another sprig of tarragon.

*For honey syrup, combine equal parts honey and water in a saucepan, bring to a low simmer, and stir until honey is dissolved. Let cool before using.

Beet Shrub

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup beets, peeled and diced
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the beets and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, until the syrup is bright red and the beets are softened. Add half of the vinegar, stir, and taste - see how you like it and add the rest if desired. Bring briefly to a simmer and then strain. Let cool before using. Can be stored in the fridge for several weeks.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mocktail: Chic a Cherry Cola

Chic a Cherry Cola

It's been years since I drank soda regularly. Club soda, tonic water, and ginger beer are the main exceptions, but usually only in cocktails - it's just since I got pregnant that I've been drinking them on their own with any frequency, and I've tried to stick to the lighter options. Once I realized how many calories and how much sugar I was sucking down, sodas kind of lost their appeal. And for some reason, cola lost its appeal most of all. Maybe because the flavor of cola is something I only associate with a fizzy, sugary soda? I don't know. There's no reason a bourbon & ginger ale is any more acceptable than a rum & Coke, but I'm much more likely to turn up my nose at the latter.

(Incidentally, what do you call sodas? I grew up saying "soft drinks," and it took moving away from Louisiana to realize that not everyone knew what I was talking about. It still feels strange to write anything else.)

So basically I'm not sure where the idea for this recipe came from. The idea of cherry vanilla cola basically popped into my head and wouldn't go away. Apparently this is something you could buy about ten years ago, which might be where I came up with it. It sounded pretty tasty to me. And then I got the idea of adding some coffee to the mix, and I knew it was the next drink I'd be making.

Chic a Cherry Cola

I generally just brew my own coffee at home, but I've been eyeing the growing selection of cold brews at my local grocery store, and decided to try some for this recipe. I picked Chameleon Cold Brew's Mexican Coffee, which actually has some additional flavors of cinnamon, almond, and vanilla that went very nicely in this cocktail. It's absolutely delicious on its own, and I could see nabbing a bottle regularly once I'm not watching my caffeine intake so carefully. For my cola, I reached for Maine Root's Mexicane Cola (there's a definite Mexican theme here, but that's entirely unintentional), which is a tasty cola made with organic cane juice that allows me to remain something of a soda snob.

I love the way the flavors of this drink came together. It's like the ingredients are made for each other, right down to the rosemary garnish. It's like a grown-up version of Cherry Coke. Well, I suppose a real grown-up version of Cherry Coke would have some booze in it - feel free to add some. Bourbon or rum, I'd say, something with some nice vanilla notes.

Speaking of vanilla, what about a scoop of ice cream? I think this drink would make a pretty mean float. Excuse me while I run back to the grocery store.

Chic a Cherry Cola

The name for this one comes, of course, from the 90's masterpiece "I Want You" by Savage Garden. Man, I was obsessed with that album in junior high.

Chic a Cherry Cola

6 cherries, pitted
3 oz. cold brew coffee (I used Chameleon Mexican Coffee)
3 oz. cola (I used Maine Root Mexicane Cola)
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
Rosemary sprig

Place cherries in the bottom of a rocks glass and muddle well to release their juices. Add coffee, cola, and vanilla, stirring briefly to mix. If you don't want cherry pieces in your drink (I kind of like them), strain this mixture into a fresh glass. Add ice and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mocktail: Volstead Act

Volstead Act

I've got another lovely, vibrantly orange mocktail for you this week, courtesy of a secret ingredient - turmeric. I know I basically just posted a recipe made with turmeric, but throwing that little bit into my fennel syrup made me really want to experiment with putting this interesting ingredient front and center. I'm a little skeptical on all the supposed health benefits of turmeric, but I'm 100% in agreement that it tastes pretty fantastic in a cocktail. So while I was working on this tasty mix of pineapple, lime, ginger, and club soda, I went ahead and tossed in a whole quarter teaspoon. And it really makes an otherwise ordinary drink extraordinary.

Volstead Act

I'm calling this non-alcoholic concoction the Volstead Act in honor of the bill that started Prohibition in the United States. It's an intensely tasty drink - tropical and refreshing, with spice and savoriness from the turmeric. Add a little rum and you'd have a positively dreamy cocktail.

Volstead Act

This is the first recipe I've made with my fancy-schmancy new juicer from the folks at Simple Utensils, so I had to show it off a bit. I thought I was doing just fine squeezing citrus by hand or using my simple plastic reamer (not sure what you call the type, but it looks a bit like these), but now I'm not sure how I went so long without getting a proper hinged juicer. It's so much cleaner and easier! And I am all about that these days.

Volstead Act

Volstead Act

2 oz. pineapple juice
3/4 oz. lime juice
3/4 oz. ginger syrup*
1/4 tsp. turmeric
2 oz. club soda

Combine all ingredients except club soda in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and stir briefly. Garnish with pineapple leaves and dried pineapple slices.

*For ginger syrup, peel and slice a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger and add it to a saucepan with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Lower heat and let simmer for 5 minutes. Then remove from heat and let the syrup steep as it cools. Once it's cool, fine-strain it to remove the ginger.

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!

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.