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?