Friday, December 15, 2017

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

It's officially the holidays! Today I'm boarding a flight to go home to New Orleans with my dog and baby in tow. I'll be there for two weeks to celebrate Christmas and have a christening for Luke. I'm really excited. I look forward to the holidays all year. And it will be even more special now that we've got a little family of our own.

Mulled Wine

Of course the holidays wouldn't be complete without some festive cocktails. At my parents' house, it's not Christmas until my dad makes his famous eggnog - maybe one day I'll get permission to share the top-secret recipe. I don't have any Christmas cocktail traditions yet myself, but I'm thinking that this mulled wine might become one of them. Particularly since Decembers in Boston call for much warmer cocktails than those in Louisiana.

Mulled Wine

Until I made it myself, I had only had mulled wine a few times, usually at holiday parties. The one memorable exception was a cold and rainy afternoon in Krakow, Poland last May. We attended my husband's cousin's wedding and then spent some time in the city. I'm not sure what it's usually like in May, but last year it was extremely cold and damp, and we had not packed properly for it. After getting thoroughly wet and chilled, we ducked into a random pub to warm up. They had mulled wine on the menu and we immediately ordered two mugs. I don't think I've ever had anything more perfect. The most memorable drinking experiences are always more about the circumstances than the recipe.

Mulled Wine

So, when we got our first snowfall this year, I decided to try my hand at making mulled wine. The baby gave me a wonderful excuse to get out of shoveling (suddenly those nine months of pregnancy seem totally worth it), but the least I could do was have a warm, spiritous beverage ready when my husband came in from the cold. And just like that dreary day in Krakow, it was absolutely perfect. This stuff positively warms the soul. I think I have my new Christmas tradition.

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

1 bottle (750 ml) red wine
1/4 cup sugar
1 orange, sliced
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1/4 cup brandy

Combine all ingredients except for brandy in a saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add brandy. Serve hot, garnished with cranberries, a cinnamon stick, and star anise.

This recipe is easily halved if you don't want to sacrifice a whole bottle to the cause or if, like me, you're only making it for two people.

Happy holidays!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

1. Love & Victory Cocktail Pins. I swear these have shown up on every cocktail gift guide I've seen this year, but how could they not? They are so freaking adorable. The perfect stocking stuffer! $12 each or $80 for the full set of 8.

2. Gold Cheers Foil Hang Tags. So much classier than just sticking a bow on that bottle of wine or booze you're bringing over. These have plenty of space to write a little message, and will work for any time of year. $9.95 for a pack of 10.

3. Wintersmiths Ice Chest. I think this is what I'll be asking Santa for this year. There are several clear ice systems on the market at lots of different price points, but it seems like Wintersmiths is the undisputed best. Give the cocktail perfectionist in your life this ice chest that makes four clear cubes or spheres, or preorder the new Phantom, which should ship in July. $120 with one shape tray, $160 with both.

4. Dash Bitters Tonic Syrup Kit. This new kit from Dash Bitters, makers of some great DIY bitters kits, allows you to craft your own tonic syrup at home for the perfect G&T. The kit comes with everything you need, including pre-measured ingredients and a bottle and label for the finished product. They sent me one this week and I can't wait to use it! Kits like this are a great way to ease into making your own bitters and mixers. $35.

5. Absolute Elyx Deluxe Martini Gift Set. Absolute Elyx vodka, which single-handedly brought the copper pineapple mug into vogue, makes all kinds of cool copper barware (I'm looking at you, cute little gnome). This martini gift set is so unbelievably gorgeous that I audibly gasped when I saw it. If you're in the market for a truly luxurious gift, look no further. $299.

6. Wilkinson Scalloped Julep Strainer. This beautiful julep strainer designed by David Wondrich is inspired by classic barware. $26.99.

7. Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum. If you don't think of rum as a spirit to sip on its own, this one will change your mind. Its rich, sweet flavor will convince the staunchest whiskey drinker to branch out. It's also excellent in cocktails. ~$30 for 750 ml.

8. Aromatic Bitter Sugar Cubes. These sugar cubes from Vena's Fizz House in Portland, Maine are perfect for Old Fashioneds, Sazeracs, Champagne Cocktails, and just about anything else you can think of. $8 for a 2 oz. jar.

9. Seedlip Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirits. Since I spent the majority of this year not drinking alcohol, I had to include something on this list for the teetotalers. Billed as "what to drink when you're not drinking," Seedlip is bringing the craft of spirits to the world of mocktails. If you know someone who is reluctantly leaving the gin out of their tonic, a bottle of Seedlip is the perfect gift to make them feel like they're drinking craft cocktails again. It's available in two varieties, Garden 108 and Spice 94. $45 for 750 ml.

10. Sugarfina Bourbon Bears. A great, cheeky stocking stuffer for a whiskey lover. Sugarfina has a whole line of boozy gummies, including champagne and rosé, stout and lager, and even Casamigos Margarita and Paloma flavors. $8.50 for a small cube or $45 for a 2.5 lb bag.

Check out previous gift guides here.

Happy Holidays! Cheers!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017



We are currently in my absolute favorite time of year. The holidays are just so joyful. There are so many happy events and opportunities to get together with friends and family. It's not yet bitterly cold, but the temperature is low enough to turn on the heat and snuggle up under a blanket. Preferably with a whiskey cocktail.

The one thing I don't like about this time of year is how short the days are. It seemed bad enough as fall began, but then Daylight Savings Time ended. We "fall back" and suddenly it's getting dark at 4 pm! This makes it supremely inconvenient to get good cocktail photos. I like to shoot with natural light, but I'm not usually going to have a drink in the mid-afternoon. I end up having to just set things aside for later. My husband has gotten used to coming home and taking a peek in the fridge to check whether anything I made earlier that day is waiting to be consumed.


It was with this annual disgruntlement in mind that I picked the Fallback out of Regarding Cocktails. In addition to the appropriate name, it's made with Applejack and Amaro Nonino, a couple of my favorite fall ingredients. They lend flavors of apple, spice, vanilla, and brown sugar to rye and sweet vermouth. The Nonino and a couple of dashes of Peychaud's give the drink just the right amount of bitterness. It's utterly perfect for the fall.

And it still tastes just fine if you have to throw it in the fridge until cocktail hour.

History: The Fallback was created by Sasha Petraske for John Dory Oyster Bar in New York City.


1 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. Applejack or apple brandy
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica recommended)
1/2 oz. Amaro Nonino
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Build the drink in a rocks glass beginning with the bitters. Add one large cube of ice and stir until the drink is chilled. Garnish with an orange twist.

Recipe adapted from Regarding Cocktails.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Spiced Cranberry Margarita

Spiced Cranberry Margarita

It's Thanksgiving! What do you have planned this year? Since we'll be in Boston far away from family (and their annual epic array of Thanksgiving casseroles) we're going to have a small dinner with a few friends. It will be our first time really hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, and I'm going to have to seriously rein in my ambitions of elaborate table settings and bountiful homemade dishes - I've got a two-month-old, after all. But we'll definitely try to tackle a few Thanksgiving classics like green bean casserole (from scratch, of course!) and stuffing.

And since my husband has dreams of cooking the turkey sous vide, that might be all we're eating. I'd better make sure there are drinks.

Spiced Cranberry Margarita

Since it's Thanksgiving, you've basically got to put some cranberry in your cocktails. Cranberries make a great addition to an Old Fashioned, Moscow Mule, or Julep. Not only do they add some fabulous flavor but they're also pretty gorgeous. Snag a few from your cranberry sauce recipe to add to your drinks. Or throw in the cranberry sauce itself!

Now, when you think of Thanksgiving cocktails, your first thought probably isn't "margaritas!" But I think this is a fresh and seasonally-appropriate take on an otherwise summery cocktail. Tart cranberries are honestly perfect in a margarita, and including some autumn spices and an aged tequila makes for a cocktail that would be right at home on your Thanksgiving table. Or at least perfect for pre-dinner drinks.

Spiced Cranberry Margarita

Spiced Cranberry Margarita

1 1/2 oz. tequila reposado
1 oz. triple sec
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. spiced cranberry syrup*

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with sugared cranberries.

*You can make the sugared cranberry garnish and the spiced cranberry syrup together. Combine 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar and simmer to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup cranberries, 1 cinnamon stick, 8 cloves, and 2 star anise. Let sit for 10 minutes. Strain, reserving both the cranberries and the syrup. Arrange half of the cranberries on parchment paper on a wire cooling rack and let sit for one hour; these will be your sugared cranberries. Return the rest of the cranberries and the spices to the pot with the syrup and muddle. Let sit for another 10-20 minutes and strain again, discarding the solids. Once an hour has passed, pour 1/4 cup sugar onto a plate and roll the remaining cranberries in it to coat.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bottle Buy: Amarula


Even though my bar has grown quite a bit over the last few months, it's been a while since I properly introduced a new bottle. I'm particularly excited to introduce Amarula today because of a wonderful campaign they are running right now - keep reading for details!

A friend of mine who has spent a lot of time in Africa introduced me to Amarula several years ago. I fell instantly in love. It's a rich, silky cream liqueur that puts Bailey's to shame with its complex flavors and just the right amount of sweetness. If you think you don't like creamy dessert liqueurs, give Amarula a try before you give up.

Amarula is made from the fruit of the marula tree. This bright yellow fruit has a unique flavor described as a "citrus tang and a creamy, nutty taste." It only grows in sub-Saharan Africa and cannot be cultivated. The fruit is hand-harvested from wild trees to make the liqueur. The marula pulp is fermented, distilled, and aged in French oak barrels for two years. After this, cream is added to give Amarula its silky texture. The resulting liqueur has a rich and nutty flavor with hints of citrus and coconut. It's definitely sweet, but not tooth-achingly so, making it versatile enough to use in cocktails but also perfect to sip on its own.


Marula fruit is a favorite food for elephants. When the fruits are in season, elephants will travel for miles to find trees with ripe fruit. Amarula has long been dedicated to the conservation of these incredible animals, and this fall they have launched the "Don't Let Them Disappear" campaign to raise awareness and support elephant conservation. Until the end of the year, Amarula will donate $1 of every bottle sold to WildlifeDIRECT to support their efforts to save the African elephant. So now there's even more reason to try a bottle of Amarula! You may even find one without the elephant on its label, an illustration of the danger of elephants disappearing within our lifetime.


Price: $24
Alcohol Content: 17%
Popular Cocktails: Often served on the rocks or with coffee

Savannah Sunrise

For a cream liqueur, Amarula is surprisingly versatile. It works well with tropical flavors like banana, coconut, and rum as well as with dessert flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. I decided to play with this a bit in my first Amarula cocktail, the Savannah Sunrise: Amarula, dark rum, and Giffard Banane du Bresil (a banana liqueur) served over coffee ice cubes. The rum and Banane du Bresil bring out the more citrusy, tropical notes in the Amarula, but as the coffee ice cubes melt, they change the character of the drink and emphasize the sweetness of the liqueur and the caramel and vanilla notes from the aging process.

Elephant Ice Cubes

Plus, I made the coffee ice in these adorable elephant-shaped ice cube molds that Amarula sent me. It just doesn't get any cuter.

Savannah Sunrise

Savannah Sunrise

1 1/2 oz. Amarula
1 1/2 oz. dark rum
3/4 oz. Giffard Banane du Bresil
Coffee ice cubes

Combine Amarula, rum, and Banane du Bresil in a mixing glass with ice and stir briefly until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass over the coffee ice cubes.

Amarula Milkshake

You basically can't work with something as decadent as Amarula and not make a dessert drink. It's absolutely heavenly served over vanilla ice cream, so it seemed pretty clear that a boozy milkshake was the way to go. A little bourbon goes great with the vanilla and adds some depth and caramel flavor. It's so ridiculously good.

Amarula Milkshake

I garnished the milkshake with whipped cream and edible gold leaf, because why not?

Amarula Milkshake

Amarula Milkshake

2 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 oz. Amarula
1/2 oz. bourbon

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and top with whipped cream.

Props and liqueur supplied by Amarula; copper straws and strainer from Viski.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Teenage Riot

Teenage Riot

A couple of weeks after Luke was born, my parents came up to Boston to help us out. We instituted a pretty regular cocktail hour in the evenings - much needed after a day of dealing with a crying baby. My Dad loves Manhattans and Boulevardiers, so I started suggesting some other cocktails for them to try. Before long, a definite theme emerged - we were working our way through all my recipes with gin or whiskey, vermouth, and an amaro. We made Little Italys, Black Manhattans, Negronis, and Montenegronis. The Lucien Gaudin slipped in. I wish there was a general name for this formula, because this combination - specifically with bourbon and sweet vermouth - is definitely my favorite sort of cocktail.

Eventually I thought we ought to switch it up a bit, and I suggested the Teenage Riot. I first heard of this cocktail when the folks at Tipple & Nosh posted their riff on the recipe on Instagram. I didn't have the Cynar 70 and Madeira to make their version, but the original sounded right up my alley - my favorite whiskey/vermouth/amaro combo with some Amontillado sherry and orange bitters to boot.

Sure enough, I loved this drink. It has a beautiful citrus aroma. When you sip, you first get the bite of the rye, then the rich fruity, nutty flavor of the sherry and the Cynar, which stretches into a bitterness at the end. It would be interesting with sweet vermouth, but using dry keeps it lighter and balances things out. It's a beautifully crafted cocktail, and it's going on my list of favorites.

Teenage Riot

History: The Teenage Riot comes from Tonia Guffey of Dram, Flatiron Lounge, and Lani Kai in New York City. She presumably named it after the song by Sonic Youth.

Teenage Riot

1 1/2 oz. rye whiskey
1 1/2 oz. Cynar
1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1/2 oz. Amontillado sherry
2 dashes orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a lemon twist.

Recipe from Gaz Regan's 2011 Annual Manual for Bartenders via Cocktail Virgin Slut.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

D-Day Rum Sazerac (+ Baby News!)

D-Day Rum Sazerac

Guess what? I had a baby! My son Luke was born at the end of September, and my husband and I have been busy figuring out this whole "parenting" thing for the last month. It's absolutely amazing. I was never a baby person, and I'm totally in love with this little guy. Everyone talks about how hard it is to care for a newborn - and it is hard! - but I wasn't expecting how much fun it is too. Although I think he was set to easy mode for the first two weeks, and recently decided we were ready for him to ramp things up... for the past few days, there's definitely been a lot more crying and a lot less sleeping. On both our parts.

Nonetheless, I'm so excited to get back to making, drinking, and posting cocktails! I know I mentioned my pregnancy a lot, but I promise I won't be constantly talking about Luke and posting baby pictures. We're all here for the cocktail recipes.

Oh, all right. If you insist. Just this once.


I had a few people ask what my first drink was going to be after I had the baby, and I honestly didn't have one picked out. But the D-Day Sazerac was pretty high on my list. I tried it for the first time before I got pregnant and made it for some guests during the pregnancy. Everyone was raving about it, and I have to say I felt a bit bummed out sipping my club soda. I'm pretty thrilled to be drinking one at last.

This recipe switches up the traditional Sazerac by replacing the rye with Jamaican rum (the original recipe calls for Smith & Cross Navy Strength; I used Appleton Estate Reserve Blend) and sweetening the cocktail with Steen's Cane Syrup, a thick, dark, unrefined syrup that is a classic southern ingredient. If you can't get your hands on some, Demerara syrup or molasses is a fine substitute here. I like making mine with another Louisiana product, Cocktail & Sons Spiced Demerara Syrup. The fruity, funky flavor of the rum blends perfectly with the Herbsaint and bitters. It makes me want to try rum in lieu of whiskey more often.

D-Day Rum Sazerac

History: The D-Day Sazerac was created by Scotty Dagenhart at the Green Goddess in New Orleans. His inspiration for the drink is pretty cool: at one point, the bar was unable to get any of their usual rye whiskey, and this reminded Dagenhart of how the Hurricane was created during World War II when bars in New Orleans couldn't get their hands on whiskey but had plenty of rum. As the menu says, "We invented this to imagine New Orleans captured by German U-boats, leaving us without any rye whiskey to make our hometown Sazeracs." Dagenhart presumably chose D-Day for the cocktail's moniker because of the D-Day Museum (now the National World War II Museum) in New Orleans.

In the words of cocktail writer Michael Dietsch, "If that's wartime austerity, bring on the goddamn war."

D-Day Rum Sazerac

D-Day Rum Sazerac

2 oz. Smith & Cross Navy Strength Rum (I used Appleton Estate Reserve Blend)
1/4 oz. Steen's Cane Syrup (I used Cocktail & Sons Spiced Demerara Syrup)
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash Peychaud's bitters
Herbsaint rinse

Combine rum, syrup, and bitters in a mixing glass with ice and stir until chilled. Rinse an Old Fashioned glass with Herbsaint and strain in the cocktail. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Recipe adapted from The Nola Defender.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Recipe Round-Up: Mocktails

Well guys, this is it. Baby boy still hasn't flipped, so I'm going in for a C-section on Friday. That's just three days from now. I've never been so excited and terrified all at once! Surprisingly (considering the whole cut-you-open-while-you're-awake aspect of the situation), I'm really looking forward to it. I can't wait to meet this little guy and start this new phase of my life. And I can't wait to not be pregnant anymore! Overall I think I had a pretty easy pregnancy, but I can't say it went by quickly. And this belly is getting out of control!

While I definitely missed cocktails over the last nine months, I had a lot of fun getting creative with non-alcoholic recipes. For my last post, I thought I'd do a quick roundup of ten of my favorites. See the full list of mocktails here!

Wishful Thinking

1. Wishful Thinking. The first mocktail I posted, this one is simple but really delicious. Lime juice and lavender syrup dress up the usual ginger beer, and a dash of cardamom bitters provides the finishing touch.

Juniper & Tonic

2. Juniper & Tonic. Mixing tonic water with lime juice and a juniper syrup totally cured my G&T craving. Throw in some edible flowers and you have a beautiful summer sipper!

Just Beet It

3. Just Beet It. My only foray into the wide world of homemade shrubs during the pregnancy, this vibrant recipe pairs beet shrub with tarragon and tonic water. It was a definite favorite!

Chamomile Pear Sour

4. Chamomile Pear Sour. Using aquafaba, a vegan substitute for egg whites, allowed me to make a sour with a lovely layer of foam on top, just like the real thing. This would be a good non-alcoholic option to impress a real cocktail lover!

Spicy Sandia

5. Spicy Sandia. While this mixture of watermelon, lime, and jalapeño is basically screaming for a couple shots of tequila, it's a positively delicious recipe on its own - perfect for outdoor summer sipping.

Toasted Coconut Iced Chai

6. Toasted Coconut Iced Chai. This one isn't pretending to be a cocktail, and it doesn't have to. It's a sweet, delicious treat for when you want to drink something just a bit more decadent.

Consolation Prize

7. Consolation Prize. This is the only recipe on the list that I didn't come up with - it's from Smitten Kitchen, one of my all-time favorite food blogs. It's basically a cross between a piña colada and a mojito - absolutely dreamy.

Golden Orchard

8. Golden Orchard. Fennel, turmeric, and sparkling apple cider might seem like unusual ingredients in a drink, but they work perfectly in this sparkling mocktail.

Old Cuban

9. Old Cuban. A true "mocktail," this recipe emulates one of my favorite cocktails with the use of non-alcoholic sparkling wine and several dashes of Angostura bitters. It was probably the closest I felt to the real thing for nine months!

Green Monster

10. Green Monster. Cucumber and black pepper is a match made in heaven - seriously, you've got to try it, preferably with some Hendricks. But failing that, green tea is a fabulous substitute.

In addition to these recipes, I discovered lots of interesting non-alcoholic products aimed at the teetotaler, including Element Shrub & Club, Seedlip Non-Alcoholic Spirits, and Fre Wines. It's nice to see so many options on the market and on bar menus. There are a lot of reasons someone might not be drinking, and it's great to not feel left out!

Well, I'll probably take a bit of a hiatus from posting for the next few weeks, but check my Instagram and Twitter for baby updates and - who are we kidding? - pictures of my first few post-pregnancy cocktails. Cheers!

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.