Monday Booze News Blue Wine, the colorful world of Tiki Kon, and champagne up in your trunk

Monday Booze News: Crazy at Tiki Kon  // stirandstrain.com

3..2..1.. Aperol Spritz Break! Indoors or Outdoors, Summer Adventure is Go

Aperol Spritz Break // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Aperol. Ideas are my own.

Today’s post is a kind of choose your own adventure. Whether you prefer to stay in an air conditioned home bar, or off under a shady tree on a hot summer day, I’m here to help make sure that wherever you do go, you have a pretty sweet bar set up.

I’ve teamed up with Aperol this summer to help kick off your very own Aperol Spritz Break. What’s that you ask? Italy’s favorite spirit, Aperol, has it’s own signature cocktail that’s the perfect reason to stop and take a moment to relax. Where you relax is up to you, so let’s get you set up for your #SpritzBreak.Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.com

The Home Bar

Although you may have a serious case of missing out looking at everyone’s Instagram account that shows off their mid-century bar cart, let me tell you that a decent home bar does not require one. I don’t have one, and look, I have a whole website devoted to cocktails made out of a home bar. This set up just requires you have a small rectangle of space to devote to your seasonal drink.

A seasonal drink? Yes. Why? Because cluttering up your space with a bunch of bottles is messy and if you have everything picked out ready to go, you look so smart when guests drop in and you can offer them a drink within seconds. It also means you get to switch out the area every season and fill it up with a new recipe and accoutrements; man I love the accoutrements. For the summer I’m enjoying an Aperol Spritz.Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.com

What makes a great space? The details. Your bar set up should be a tiny party waiting to happen. It should look like fun, but it should also be neat and have everything you need.

Like the proper bottles: have all the bottles you need for your seasonal drink ready and full. And then some. I love the small bottles from Q-Club and Fevertree for when I’m having a cocktail or two at home, or if a friend or Christopher is there enjoying one with me. For the larger crowds I use a soda siphon. Special dibs to you if you have a vintage one that works!

Ice: invest in a good ice bucket that will keep your ice cool. I like to break out my bronze pineapple when I have guests, but if it’s couple night at the house, I have a rugged OXO insulated bucket that gets the job done.

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comTools & Glassware: for the Aperol Spritz, no shaker is necessary. Just a stir stick to give it a final swirl before serving. For this punchy-colored cocktail I prefer an equal punchy-colored stirrer. These birds came from South America, but you can just go as far as Amazon and find some colorful ones. For serving, I like to have a few different size glasses available since this recipe is so adaptable. A few stemless wine glasses and some larger goblets for when you’re in the mood. And don’t forget a small knife for your fruit.

And speaking of fruit: always have a full bowl of fruit. Always. It’s not like they need to be kept refrigerated, they pretty up the space, and you’ll need lots of orange slices on hand for that Aperol Spritz.

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comExtras: It may seem obvious, but have some napkins for you and your guests. I always have paper and cloth napkins at the ready. You know there are just some people you’ll have over that either need a lot of napkins or are going to destroy your nice hand-stamped linen ones: give them paper. Alternatively, there are going to be some folks who scoff at paper. Whether it’s because of the environment or they’re a whole bunch of haughty hoo-haw: give them the cloth. Chances are they know enough not to spit their gum out in it.  This same reasoning goes with straws too. Both napkins and straws are the quickest way to change up the whole theme of your bar area.

And lastly, flowers: I’m a glutton for fresh flowers around the house. If I had my way there would be a constant rotation of flowers and my house would always smell amazing. A little bouquet just perks up the bar area and you don’t have to get super fancy. BONUS: get edible flowers and use them in your drinks.

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comThe Outside Bar

Whether you’re moving the party outside to the stoop, out to the park, or over to the beach, sometimes you need to just take it out of the house. Everything you need to have your own Spritz Break party can easily fit into a small insulated bag like this; just stop and get some ice on the way!

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comMany of the same requirements for your home bar set up work out in the wild:

  1. Bring only what you need: a bottle of Aperol, a bottle of prosecco, and two small bottles of club soda is enough for you and a small group of friends to have a nice round of drinks.
  2. Have the right tools: napkins, straws, a bottle open, a selfie-stick. Only the essentials.
  3. Glassware: leave the real glass at home. Invest in some nice quality plastic for trips out.
  4. A place to sit: blankets are lovely.

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comPlan ahead though too:

  1. Chill your bottles beforehand. That way your ice doesn’t immediately melt as soon as it hits the liquid.
  2. Cut your garnishes at home. Then you don’t have to bring a cutting board, a knife, and attract bees (trust me on the bees).
  3. Bring along some lazy games like playing cards or dominoes. Or Cards Against Humanity. Something that you only need to give a quarter of your attention to so you really do feel like you’re taking a break.

Regardless of where you head this summer, use these tips to make sure you have the best bar set up, and you’re sure to have a relaxing Spritz Break.

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comNever had an Aperol Spritz before, or need a recipe refresher? It’s as easy as 3, 2, 1:

3 parts prosecco, Cinzano Prosecco used here
2 parts Aperol
1 part club soda, Q-Club used here

  • Add prosecco, Aperol and club soda to a glass filled with ice. There’s really no cap on the size of each part; I’ve been known to fill a goblet or two. Top your glass off with a slice of orange, maybe a straw or two, and you’re ready for your #SpritzBreak!

For more Aperol Spritz Break ideas, please head on over to Aperol.com!

Monday Booze News #TOTC2015, #PIMPMYBAR, and #PBRNOMORE

Monday Booze News: time for flowers // stirandstrain.com

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThings I use my grill for:

  1. grilling meat, duh
  2. cooking vegetables
  3. making pizza
  4. grilling up cocktails

Cocktails? Whaaaaa?!

Well, you’re outside on the grill anyways during the summer, might as well put it to some good use in the drink department. And if you’ve been on here before, every summer now I sort through the seasonal (and maybe not so seasonal) fruits and see what happens when you char them up. Like mangoes. And nectarines, limes and cherries. But especially cherries (so much so I made some for Kristin at DineXDesign too). Sometimes though, you run out of fruit to grill, and you unearth something from the depths of your pantry. And then the science experiments start and that’s where you can really have some fun.

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comSo, admittedly, I bought this can before I left my day job which was over a year and a half ago. How long I bought it before I left that job is a total mystery. But every so often I would open my pantry, stick my head in, notice this can of rambutans, squint at it like it’s going to tell me what to do with it, and then leave it there for another day. That is, until a few days ago.Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I had promised to make a pitcher of cocktails for some friends coming over but in my usual fashion of late, left it to the night before. And because the fruit from the farmer’s market has been so good lately, I had eaten all of it. With a sad, empty fruit bowl staring at me, wagging its imaginary banana finger, I suddenly realized now might be a good time to crack open those rambutans (which, for the record, I can’t help but sing as “bam-a-lam” from that Black Betty song).

I tasted one, a little crunchy with a sweet-tart taste similar to a grape; it could only get better with some grill time. And it did. The richer flavors that developed turned out to be a just the ingredient to pair with some tequila, grapefruit and lime juice. And smoked salt. Always with the smoked salt.

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIf you’re not in possession of a grill, no worries! You can make this on a grill pan or under the broiler too.

Makes 4 cocktails
12 rambutans, peeled and seed removed if fresh (canned rambutans come ready to eat and are available online here)
6 ounces blanco tequila
2 ounces fresh juice from 1 white grapefruit
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 limes
1 ounce simple syrup
Smoked sea salt and lime juice for rimming

  1. If using the grill: Soak 3 wooden skewers in water for at least 1 hour. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the highest heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place 4 rambutans on each skewer, and grill over high heat until char lines appear and fruit has softened slightly but still holds its shape, about 1 minute per side. Let cool and remove from skewers until ready to use.
  2. If using the broiler: Adjust rack to 4 inches below broiler element and preheat broiler to high. Place rambutans on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Broil until softened and lightly charred in spots, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes total. Let cool and remove from skewers.
  3. In the bottom of a small pitcher, muddle the rambutans to release juices and break up the fruit. Add tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup. Cover and chill for at least an hour up to overnight.
  4. To serve, add lime juice to a saucer and smoked salt to another. Dip the side of 4 rocks glasses in lime juice and then gently roll the outside edge in smoked salt. Add ice to each glass and strain the cocktail, dividing equally among the glasses.

The slightly nutty flavors pair wonderfully with tequila, while fresh lime and grapefruit juice highlight the floral and tart elements of the rambutan. A touch of simple syrup is not enough to make the whole concoction sweet; instead, it helps round out the flavor and brighten the mix.

***This recipe originally was written for Serious Eats.

Monday Booze News win some cocktail books, clouds of booze, and what it's like to have to work Tales

Monday Booze News: win books now // stirandstrain.com

Before we begin, just a reminder that you can enter to win a 3 pack of cocktail books (Tiki Drinks, Shrubs, and Vermouth) right now on the site!

Gunpowder Gin Punch

Gunpowder Gin Punch Cocktail // stirandstrain.comHappy Friday everyone!

I hope you’re enjoying this week’s posts on the site. Have you entered to win some summer reading? You can do that here if you’d like.

Have the fireworks died down in your neck of the woods? Where I live in Los Angeles, fireworks started popping off around mid-June… and they’re still going off almost a week after the 4th. After moving out here over 13 years ago the surprise has worn off and I’ve just accepted this as a natural part of summer out here. At all times of day. Like 10am (why even bother?!). Gunpowder Gin Punch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Since the weekend is just about here, I’d like to offer up a punch for you to bring to your next summer party. I’m sure you have a few on your calendar coming up, and maybe a few penciled in for tomorrow. While it may not produce multi-colored fireworks, it does have gunpowder! Well, gunpowder tea, which isn’t an actual explosive but sounds pretty darn close. (Apparently it gets its name from the way the tea is rolled… like the little pellets used in the old days)Gunpowder Gin Punch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

At its base, there’s an oleo-saccharum (your fancy term for muddled citrus peels and sugar) and with the tea, it’s kinda like a boozy, refreshing Arnold Palmer. The kicker here is the addition of celery bitters (!!!). So the result is a sweet and savory punch that has unexpected flavors but it definitely a crowd pleaser.

Plus, people will be intrigued just by you saying ‘gunpowder’ in the title.  But maybe sneak in a few sparklers one last time this weekend for good measure as well.

For the Oleo-Saccharum:

2 lemons
1 lime
4 ounces granulated sugar

Peel zest from lemons and lime, trying to remove as little white pith as possible. Reserve peeled fruit for another use. Toss the peels with the sugar in a nonreactive bowl. Muddle gently until peels begin to express their oils, and let sit 6 hours or up to overnight, covered. Strain peels from the mixture, set liquid aside.

For the Gunpowder Tea:

3 teabags gunpowder green tea
16 ounces boiling water

Pour boiling water over tea in a heat-proof container. Let steep 4 minutes. Strain and set brewed tea aside. Let cool to room temperature before using.

For the Punch:

8 ounces gin, such as Aviation
16 ounces Gunpowder Tea at room temperature
8 dashes celery bitters, such as Scrappy’s
Lemon wheels and celery stalks for garnish

In a pitcher or punch bowl, combine gin, tea, bitters, and oleo-saccharum. Stir to combine and let sit for at least an hour at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator. To serve, add ice to rocks glasses, pour in the punch and add a lemon wheel and celery stalk for garnish.
This recipe originally written for Serious eats. 

{Now Closed} Giveaway // Summer (Cocktail) Reading

Giveaway: Summer Cocktail Books! // stirandstrain.comIf you’ve been pondering what to read at the beach this summer, look no further! Today Stir and Strain in hosting a summer reading giveaway… of boozy books!

Whether you’d like to delve deeper into the mysteries of Vermouth, give yourself a weekend DIY project making shrubs, or chill out with a rum laden tropical treat on your own private island (a.k.a. your couch), these 3 titles will get the job done. Countryman press will be sending one lucky Stir and Strain reader copies of Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, Vermouth: The Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture, and Tiki Drinks: Tropical Cocktails for the Modern Bar. Here’s a little more on each book:

Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times – A definitive introduction to the world of shrubs, from Martha Washington’s secret formula, to recipes utilizing the best of the farmer’s market.

Vermouth: The Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture – Vermouth has been an overlooked, under appreciated bar staple for over half a century, but distiller Adam Ford has set out to reclaim it, by telling its unique and fascinating story, and sharing vermouth-centric recipes that showcase some of the nuanced craft vermouths now on the market.

Tiki Drinks: Tropical Cocktails for the Modern Bar – A fun, colorful book packed with recipes for drinks, syrups, creative garnishes and more, all using fresh juices and syrups for balanced flavors.

Giveaway: Summer Cocktail Books! // stirandstrain.comI have been nose deep enjoying these books this past month and I think you all would love them too! Check out the options below to enter and get up to 7 entries to win. Giveaway ends at 11:59pm PST July 14th, 2015. Please see terms and conditions below (sorry, only open to U.S. and Canada residents). Good Luck!

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The Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts!

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comSummer wiiiiines… make me feel fiiiiiinnne!

Well folks, we are fully into summer now and the outdoor parties/concerts/star gazing/stoop sitting events are going strong. With all these gatherings I’ve started to realize that, while cocktails are fine and dandy, many of my friends (and their friends) also want a glass of wine when they’re out and about. And sometimes I do too. This week I’m introducing a new quarterly column on here with my pal and wine lover Robin.

Robin loves wine. And he thinks you’ll love these wines. Why? Because these wines are made for cocktail lovers. They’re unique and flavorful and best of all… cheap. Time to stock up! But first, here’s Robin with a little intro about himself and the Summer Wine Report!

-Elana


Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comI am a freelance illustrator and wine hoarder living and working out of Los Angeles. I fell in love with wine right around the time I turned 21. The restaurant I worked in had a separate wine bar and I was able to start attending tastings and winemaker events. Having access to great wine at such an early age spoiled me. Having a small budget at that same age made me get resourceful. Since that time, I have been fortunate enough to befriend some really fantastic wine makers, shop owners, and sommeliers that have helped me further my wine education. Cooking and gardening have always played an integral role in my life and I have found that few things can enhance a good meal/afternoon/evening/morning/camping trip/barn raising/what have you like a nice bottle of wine. I love sharing my latest wine finds over a good meal and love even more finding a way to remove the pretense and intimidation from the experience for the people in my life. With some many great (and affordable!) wines out there there is no excuse for drinking bad wine and I am looking forward to sharing some of my favorite picks with the Stir & Strain audience each season.

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comLa Boutanche Gamay
France
Retails apx. $17

This gamay is funky but that funkiness lends itself to some real versatility. It has a blackberry shrub meets cauliflower meets smoked meat thing happening on the nose that gives way to a surprisingly light and tart taste that could easily be enjoyed with tacos, Asian foods, seafood, or really anything grilled. Its not too heavy for seafood but the cherry/chorizo notes and soft, subtle tannic element on the finish would make it appropriate for meatier fare. I would say this affordably priced liter with a twist off cap would be welcome at any table, picnic, or cookout this summer. On a side note, I recommend throwing a little chill on it.

tocai-bottleFolk Machine Tocai Friulano
California
Retails apx. $13

Summertime is perfect for drinking light crisp wines and I’d be hard pressed to find another bottle that epitomizes that more this season than Folk Machine’s Tocai Friulano. Subtle citrus elements like lemon and grapefruit play a harmonious second fiddle to the striking minerality this wine presents. You can almost taste the crisp salt air of Mendocino where these 40 year old Friulano vines grow. Super lean and only 11% alc this is a wine you can, and will want to, drink all day.

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comRed Car Rosé
California
Retails apx. $28

I am a sucker for a dry rosé. This rosé of 100% pinot noir is more than that. The first time I had this wine I was shocked it wasn’t from Provence. Incredibly dry and elegant this true vin gris is what I imagine wine made from the palest pink grapefruits might taste like. Steely and just the tiniest hint of cherry make this rosé the perfect start to a summer afternoon with friends or companion for a sunset. Or brunch. Or a beach day. Any time, really. Share a bottle with someone important and they’ll know it. Or just keep it as a treat for yourself.

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comUnderwood Rosé
Oregon
Retails apx. $6/can

I cannot think of a more seasonally appropriate wine than this for multiple reasons. Who doesn’t want a light, crisp refreshing wine with notes of watermelon, strawberry, and just a bit of peach on a hot summer day? Who doesn’t want that at the beach, a picnic, or by the pool? This wine is perfect for all those things and IT COMES IN A CAN. No broken glass by the pool, no heavy bottles to lug out of your campsite, and small enough to fit in your pocket at the movies. Yeah. Some of the aromatics are lost drinking from the can but you can always transfer it to a glass. This little Oregon treat is delicious and travels well and is exactly half a bottle. What more could you ask for from a summertime wine?

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com

Summer Wine Report with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com

Ask Robin all your wine questions on twitter @RobinNWatts

Follow Stir and Strain now on Delectable!

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Upcoming Collaborations and What’s Next

Collaborations // stirandstrain.comI hit 4 years writing on Stir and Strain a few months ago. I’m not proclaiming this for any smug, self-gratifying reason; just acknowledging the milestone of keeping this going. And it is a milestone. With all the grumblings about the internet of the state of food blogging being dead, or near-dead, or reaching the saturation level that will soon too quickly rise to… well, being dead… ignoring all of that chatter, keeping your head down and moving on feels like a monthly, if not daily goal. So, OK, I’ll give myself a little pat on the back.

But writing on here is so different now. Audience wise, I’m reaching far more of you out there then I was 4 years ago. But choosing to leave an office work environment and confine myself to working under the same roof I sleep under day after day has made this a very insular, navel-gazing (or bottom of the rocks glass gazing) job. Job: it’s still a job.

Part of writing about cocktails was developing drinks an audience would love, and sharing those drinks in an experience where I could potentially see the outcome. While I’ve briefly done that once a month with the supper club, the day to day drinks on here usually only go as far as Christopher, if not just me, and have led to some unusual drinking hours (10am cocktails anyone?) that are dictated more on which way the light is coming through my windows rather than a special occasion coming up.

I realized that this was not a sustainable work environment, at least not for now, which is why I’ve come back around to trying to surround myself with creative people and fresh ideas. Collaborations are where it’s at when it’s time to get some new perspectives on the day to day.

So what does that mean? Some new collaborations (and voices!) coming up on the site this week as well as some partnered collaborations taking a sharp left from the usual recipe posts in the next few months. It also means you will find me hopping on over to a few other sites as well.

I hope you all enjoy some of the changes and tweaks to the site. And, as always, feel free to let me know how you feel about it.

Cheers!
Elana