Valentine’s Day 2016 Gift Guide

What’s more sexy than your booze dripping in hot red wax? This year we’re skipping the bubbles and getting down to business.

Gift Guide: His & Her Valentine's Day 2016 // stirandstrain.com

Box of chocolates? Lame. Dozen roses? Done that! How about a dozen jelly shots? YASSSS! And nothing says I care like his & her flasks filled with something boozy and delicious. Except maybe having a bedside hangover remedy ready first thing the next morning. Staying in this weekend? Break out your finest pineapples and don’t forget the stirrer pizazz. But first, let’s scrub that pucker up with a good ol’ Mint Julep. There’s more than one way to enjoy a drink!

1. Ludlows Jelly Shots 2. Gold Fringe Firecracker Drink Stirrers 3. Copper Pineapple Tumbler 4. Silver Pineapple Tumbler 5. Gold Flask Bracelet 6. Maker’s Mark Whisky 7. Stanley Adventure Flask 8. Mint Julep Lip Scrub 9. Motive Pure Electrolyte Hydration Pack

Catch up on all the gift guides here.

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{Now Closed} Giveaway // Valentine’s Day Cocktail Kit from Saloonbox

Giveaway: SaloonBox Valentine's Day 2016 // stirandstrain.comMaking someone a cocktail at home is always a generous act. And if you’re looking to surprise someone with a few delightful concoctions this Valentine’s Day, but need a little help in the recipe department, I’ve got the solution for you. Stir and Strain has teamed up with SaloonBox to offer one lucky reader a Valentine’s Day cocktail kit!

SaloonBox is a craft cocktail subscription that features original recipes developed by top mixologists. The February SaloonBox contains all the ingredients to make 2 two serving cocktails. First there’s one of my favorites, The Paloma with tequila, lime juice, grapefruit, club soda, agave nectar and serrano pepper. Then there’s the Volstead cocktail with champagne, vodka, elderflower liqueur, pear and lemon juice.  Check out the February kits here. They also include a treat from Charles Chocolates!

Check out the options below to enter and get up to 9 entries to win.You MUST BE 21 and OLDER to enter. Giveaway ends at 11:59pm PST February 9th, 2016. Please see terms and conditions below (Sorry! USA only. Some states unfortunately are excluded from shipping liquor to so please double check your state!). For more information on SaloonBox, please visit their site at saloonbox.com. Good luck!

If you can’t wait to win one of these and want to sign up STAT, Saloonbox is offering Stir and Strain readers a 15% discount using the coupon code STIR15 on their site from now until February 29th.

The Hot Ward 8 Cocktail

hotward8I tend to go back and forth on bottled cocktails. Will the juice taste fresh enough? Should I even bother with juices or should it be all booze and bitters? Can I just drink this whole bottle and not share it?

The best thing about bottled cocktails though? The convenience factor. Batch up a couple to bring to a party and you’re fawned over like you invented cute puppies. But what if you need to take that cocktail on the road? And what if it’s freezing outside because some friend convinced you it would be an awesome idea to go camping? In winter…

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comLet me introduce you to your new best friend, the insulated thermos. Keeping your hot cocktails hot, and your sanity in check this winter.

When you’re making hot cocktails there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, you’ll be adding in hot water so you want to keep your juices to a minimum (if your cocktail requires them). Why water your cocktail down even more? I’ve found the best way to work around this is to make an oleo saccharum to ensure you have that bright zesty citrus flavor in concentrated form and none of the excess juice.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comSecond, you want to keep your cocktail hot. For my thermos cocktails, I use a Stanley Classic Vacuum thermos. It’s old school looking; like something my Dad would bring with him to work to keep his soup hot. And this guy keeps it hot for HOURS. At 1.1 quarts it also holds enough drinks for you and some friends so no one need go without a drink. But don’t just pour your drink into the thermos! If you preheat it while you’re making the cocktail it will prevent heat loss when you pour the drink in. So, to do that, just add boiling water and stick the cap on while you’re doing the mixing. Anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes is sufficient time to get that thermos nice and hot. When you’re ready to pour the finished cocktail in, dump out the water and you’re good to go.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThird, make a cocktail that actually tastes good hot. For my first venture with the thermos, I made a variation of a Hot Ward 8, Boston’s only real pre-prohibition contribution. I’d love to tell you the history on this but there is so much competing information out there as to its true origins that putting anything down in print seems like hearsay.

I chose this for a few reasons. I thought it would taste good hot, and it uses up some seasonally appropriate produce (Are your kitchen counters filling up with citrus yet? Mine are.). You could always go with some cocktails that are already served hot. Some nice Hot Toddies while you’re ice fishing, or some Irish Coffee while you’re out snow-shoeing, or whatever you do in the snow.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThe Ward 8 delivers a bit more complex flavor here with sweet and spicy rye and that bright citrus from the oleo saccharum. I also add in a touch more syrupy citrus sweetener with a dry orange curaçao and round out the drink with tart fresh pomegranate juice (the last of my season’s batch). For a spicy/bitter finish, a few dashes of Angostura are added in to the mix to keep it from getting too sweet.

There’s plenty of cold months ahead of us, so let’s start planning on a few hot cocktails to get us through. And don’t forget your thermos.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comFor the Oleo-Saccharum:

Zest from 2 lemons
Zest from 1 orange
4 1/2 ounces (130g) sugar

  • In a heatproof container with at least a 36-ounce capacity, toss together lemon and orange zests with sugar. Muddle for 30 seconds to release the oil from the zests. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 and up to 12 hours.

For the Cocktails:

8 ounces (235ml) boiling water, plus more for preheating thermos
16 ounces (475ml) rye whiskey, such as Bulleit 95
4 ounces (120ml) unsweetened pomegranate juice
2 ounces (60ml) dry orange curaçao, such as Pierre Ferrand
8 dashes Angostura bitters
8 lemon zest strips, for garnish (optional)

  • Pre-warm thermos by filling with water just off the boil and let stand. Meanwhile, pour rye whiskey, 8 ounces boiling water, pomegranate juice, orange curaçao, and bitters over the oleo-saccharum. Stir well until sugar is completely dissolved. (If you find you’d like your drink hotter, pour everything except the rye into a sauce pan and heat to desired temperature. Then add in rye and continue with the recipe)
  • Discard hot water from thermos, then carefully strain rye mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into thermos (a funnel can help avoid spills); discard spent zests. Seal thermos.
  • Optionally, when ready to drink, add new lemon zests to your cocktail, expressing the oils over the top first.

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The Best Vodka Martini has garlic in it

The Best Vodka Martini: with garlic and black pepper // stirandstrain.comDo you all remember the first time you heard about blogs? I forget in what order these things go, but I know I paid attention to food blogs the most first. But then I forget that when I was younger, much younger, I created a site where I reviewed live music shows local to Los Angeles. This actually led to a brief period of my life where I got paid to write for music publications and got sent free music to review. At the time, this was akin to winning the lottery.

The Best Vodka Martini: with garlic and black pepper // stirandstrain.comFood blogs were an interesting mix of recipes and people spilling their guts out to the public (not much change there). Their casualness led to a renewed interest for me of cooking in the kitchen. These people clearly were not chefs and just look at what they were making! And then in 2010 I was preparing to get married and stumbled into the even larger and insane world of lifestyle/wedding/etc blogs that kept me up crying and hyperventilating into a paper bag. I still occasionally look at these for no reason at all, but I’m thankful that I only had to spend a brief period of my life picking out color schemes for napkins and talking about chair cushion choices.

And then came the drink blogs. I had no idea these existed but there was a period in 2009 when a whole crop of them (now mostly retired) sprung up. I make no secret around here that after reading Morgenthaler’s site I decided to start writing again and created a space (this space) to write down my recipes and to use the site as a reason to learn all I could about cocktails and such. I’m about to hit 5 years writing this thing and the biggest transition in my thinking, and what I see many bars and bartenders starting to follow as well, is to stop being a dick. OK, well, a snob. There is a lot less snobbery in the cocktail world now. What might have been a backlash at first again the conventional drinking world and a fight to bring back old spirits and even older recipes often resulted in people feeling ostracized and a whole lot of suspenders. None of this is news though, but looking back on early posts I can definitely see where I was echoing a lot of that sentiment. Especially when it came to vodka.

The Best Vodka Martini: with garlic and black pepper // stirandstrain.comDo I have vodka in my bar? Yes. Lots really. Brands send it to me and I try it, curious to see what this new one will taste like, if anything. Do I drink vodka martinis? Not really; I am used to the taste of a gin martini and I prefer all the flavor it has. However, I am not dismissing it. I am however going to make it fancy.

And I do have a favorite vodka martini recipe now. It is barely tweaked from a food blogger’s recipe, the vodka being swapped in for gin. Actually, it comes from this blogger’s book, because a lot of the earlier bloggers all seem to have books. This blog, Orangette, is an early blog. I feel like it touches upon the territory of when no one was writing them and maybe because of the unknown, it also didn’t quite fit that mold of “food blog”. There was a lot of writing, not many photos (or if there were, maybe not of food), and names of entries might have nothing to do with what the person was cooking. The site is pretty much the same, even after being around for over a decade. Her books read like an extension of her site, just a long format version and in between pages of what it was like for your husband to one day decide to open a restaurant after NEVER having any experience in the field whatsoever, there are a few well selected recipes. This martini recipe was one of those.

One note before you go trying this: one must enjoy garlic. Even if you don’t add the cloves back in after you strain it, the drink is still pretty pungent. Me, I enjoy the ever increasing garlic flavor that becomes almost a dare to finish when you’re down to the last few sips. And I finish it of course. The black pepper you can also adjust to your liking as well. I like a little bite, but I don’t enjoy crunching on every sip so just a few turns of the pepper grinder is enough for me. And if you couldn’t quite tell, it’s a very savory cocktail.

The Best Vodka Martini: with garlic and black pepper // stirandstrain.com

Garlic Black Pepper Vodka Martini

barely adapted from Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage

2 ounces vodka, Hangar 1 used here*
1/2 ounce dry vermouth, Vya Extra Dry used here
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 grinds black pepper, on the coarse side

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, combine vodka, vermouth, garlic slices and black pepper. Shake hard for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Optionally add the garlic slices back to the glass.

*This bottle of Hangar 1 was generously given gratis and appears here because I like drinking it. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Stir and Strain X Club 83 And the Good Thang Cocktail

Stir and Strain X Club 83: Good Thang Cocktail // stirandstrain.comI partnered with the brand to write this article but every word is mine.

When I first started cocktail blogging, connecting with other like minded people was a slow process. I mean, it took several years just to meet all the bartenders just in Los Angeles. And there are new ones popping up every week. But now meeting and chatting with bartenders all over the world has just become as easy as clicking a button (and I like easy).

To fill the gap, The Club 83 social network has stepped in. Want to find out what bartenders in France are up to? Or just somewhere else in the U.S.? Want to share your bar’s creations with other bartenders who will appreciate your skill and effort? You don’t need a website, just an internet connection.

Stir and Strain X Club 83: Good Thang Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor their launch, The Club 83 has created a cocktail contest and yours truly is going to compete alongside all of you. For all the details on the contest, create a profile on The Club 83 and sign up to participate on the site. And just what IS the contest? The Flavour Vibes contest pairs your favorite song with a new cocktail of your creation. The winner will win a sampler pack of tasting syrups from the famed flavoring creator Maison Routin and their 1883 brand of syrups. Not your run of the mill flavors with such cool syrups as red bell pepper and orchid. Orchid!!

This week, with the sad news of David Bowie’s passing, I’ve been running through his back catalog and the song I always turn to when I need some cheering up is Hang On to Yourself. It’s got pep, it’s got rock and roll, and a touch of glam, ingredients for a good song, and a good drink.

This cocktail uses gin as the base (we are referencing a British song!) with peppy ginger and zingy Yuzu lemon syrups. To give the cocktail some depth and intrigue, some roasted cumin is added alongside a touch of lemon ginger bitters. It’s a glamorous cocktail with a slightly hard edge.

Good Thang Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces London Dry style gin, such as Beefeater
1/2 ounce 1883 Yuzu syrup
1/4 ounce 1883 Ginger syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon roasted ground cumin
3 dashes lemon ginger bitters

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add gin, yuzu syrup, ginger syrup, lemon juice and cumin. Stir for 30 seconds and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add dashes of bitters on top of cocktail and express oil from a strip of lemon zest. Garnish glass with spent zest.

So join me at The Club 83 and see what bartenders like yourself are up to, all around the world! And to participate in the Flavour Vibes Contest, go here, cheers!

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comFYI guys: you’re probably saying my name wrong. I don’t take offense; it’s been an issue going back to preschool. The spelling is what usually trips people up, especially now that I live in Los Angeles and an “a” is almost always pronounced “ahhhhh” when in fact my “a” is just a short “A”. Why am I talking about this then if it’s a non-issue?

Well, a few weeks back for Serious Eats I decided to make a festive riff on the Caipirinha. It’s a cocktail I love to drink, but only recently. Why the wait? Well, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I was shy about mispronouncing the name. I just sorta froze up about being schooled on the correct way to say the drink. Until I finally got comfortable with one bartender and had them say the name to me over and over and then it stuck.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comI’m sure you all have had that moment in a bar. Intrigued by a drink but one look at the name and you end up passing on it. Too bad! You probably would have liked it. But you want to know what? Your bartender is NOT going to judge you (OK, let’s be real. Maybe one or two a-holes will.). They are there to tell you how to say things right so you can impress your friends next time when you order that intriguing sounding drink. They want to pass on that knowledge and inform you, their customer.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comI had a similar experience with wine years ago when I was up in Napa at a tasting. The Sommelier, some laid back guy in jeans, and quite possibly a jean shirt too, told me that you either like a wine or you don’t. You can hate an expensive bottle and like something you picked up for $7. You don’t need to know if you’re smelling aromas of cherry or rotting wood, you should just want to drink it. I also learned that “legs” on a wine glass are bullshit and when you’re at a tasting, don’t throw back the whole glass (oops! I was young!!).

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comBut back to the drink. Now that we’re in the dull days of January, you already have this sunny Suze cocktail on hand, but here’s a zingy drink with a beautiful jewel tone, all thanks to some pomegranates. A Caipirinha is similar in structure to a Daiquiri, only swapping in cachaça for the rum, and whole lime pieces instead of just the juice, this cocktail has a bolder, huskier quality to it over the more refined and quieter Daiquiri.

That sour bite of the lime gets punched up by the sweet-tart pomegranate, with a little added crunch there from the seeds (sometimes I like a little something extra in my cocktails). Cachaca has an earthy flavor and here, the Leblon adds some floral aroma alongside a slightly peppery taste. By adding the sparkling wine, I find that it mixes the flavors together without dulling down their strong characteristics. You just need a touch of sugar here for balance, so don’t be afraid of adding that bar spoon full.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comOn a side note here, some of you might read the recipe and see sparkling wine then pass over this because the thought of opening a whole bottle just to make one cocktail seems so wasteful. But wait! No need to pass on this, just buy a split! Yes, it’s enough for two of these but really, once you make one you’ll want another. And now, let’s say it together kye-peer-EEN-yah. And by the way, it’s e-LAY-nuh.

1 barspoon superfine sugar (1 teaspoon; 4g)
10 fresh pomegranate seeds
1/2 lime, quartered
1/2 ounce pomegranate juice (1 tablespoon; 15mL)
2 ounces cachaça, such as Leblon (4 tablespoons; 60mL)
3 ounces sparkling wine (6 tablespoons; 90mL)

In the bottom of a mixing glass, add the superfine sugar and pomegranate seeds. Crush the seeds with a muddler to break open. Add lime wedges and muddle 6 times to release their juice. Add pomegranate juice and cachaça and fill glass 2/3 full with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Add sparkling wine to glass, then pour contents, without straining, into a double rocks glass. Add more fresh ice cubes if desired and serve immediately.

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