Make It: Fennel Liqueur

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.com

This post was made in partnership with Everclear. Recipe and ideas are my own.

For years, whenever I ate out at an Indian Restaurant, I somehow overlooked the self serve bowl of seedy bits by the cash registers. Maybe I did notice, but not having a clue as to what it was (or thinking to even ask), it fell off my radar. And then I met my husband, who is half Indian, and going out to Indian restaurants with his mom became a whole new experience. Besides getting stuff not on the menu, or having food cooked a particular way (hello extra spicy!), I began to notice the unspoken ritual at the end of the meal. A small spoonful of those seedy bits, poured into a palm, and eaten, or rather, crunched on.

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.comThose seedy bits were usually fennel seeds, plain, sometimes with brightly sugar coated seeds, other times a mix of those and aniseed. Each restaurant had its own mix. It was not usually presented to the diner. It would sit quietly at the register, or sometimes at the end of a buffet. It was a ritual that didn’t need to be spoken of, one just consumed it. I learned it was to help digestion, fennel seed naturally helping in that department, with the potential to cleanse one’s breath after a meal.

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.comSo I began to try a spoonful after a big meal (a little too much that first time), and I think it did help digest the meal a little quicker, and easier, than if I hadn’t eaten any. And today I thought I’d turn towards making a liquid version of this helpful digestif: Fennel Liqueur.

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.comMaking this liqueur is easy, but takes some time. I’ve made a smaller batch to cut down on the steeping time, and also because I make a lot of infusions and don’t need so many full size bottles. I’d imagine if you’re trying this out for yourself you’d like to keep the sample down to a manageable size as well.

For the base liquor I’m turning to Everclear, one of my favorites for infusions and when I’ll be cutting the strength of the ABV down. Everclear has a clean, neutral taste so there aren’t any surprise flavors when I’m making an infusion. With the higher ABV, it also means that after cutting the infused liquid I will not end up with a watered down liqueur.

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.comThe liqueur is just sweet enough, as the fennel itself has its own sort of sweetness along with that slightly numbing anise flavor. The aroma is exactly as you’d expect: strongly fennel. After a few sips I do feel like it’s helping move the meal along, as a proper digestif should.

Here are a few ways to use the liqueur:

  • over ice with a squeeze of lemon
  • with a splash of dry orange curaçao and tonic water
  • neat, in a tiny glass, pinky up

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.comFennel Liqueur

~72 proof
*Note: if you’d like to make a larger batch, adjust sugar as needed to your tastes. 

1/2 cup fennel seeds, lightly crushed
16 ounces Everclear
16 ounces water, filtered
10 ounces granulated sugar

  • In a sterile, air-tight glass jar, combine fennel seeds and Everclear. Seal, shake to combine, and let sit, giving a shake every day or so, for 2 weeks.
  • After 2 weeks, taste and if the fennel flavor is strong enough for your taste, strain the seeds out through a fine mesh strainer, reserving fennel infused Everclear. Discard seeds. Set liquid aside.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water. Stir to dissolve sugar. Once dissolved, remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  • Once cool, combine fennel infused Everclear with the simple syrup in a new airtight container. Store in a cool, dark place. For optimal flavor, use within 6 months.

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.com

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5 Quick Tips for Entertaining this Labor Day Plus what you should be drinking!

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Uh-oh! You’re reading this a few hours before you decide to throw an impromptu party and need help?! First, take a shot of something, anything. Your significant other’s fancy whiskey they’re saving? Sure! Some cheap vodka you found in the freezer? Yeah, that will work. Fireball shots? Um, Ok I guess. Your kid’s cough syrup. NO. Don’t touch that. They’re all going back to school this month and breed germs, you’ll need that. Put it back.

You know what I hate? Entertaining tips that are totally useless. As we celebrate a day of rest, I hope these tips will take some of the work out of your Labor Day party.

  1. BATCH BATCH BATCH!
    What’s easier than measuring out cocktails with your measuring cups? Nothing. Bring out a punch bowl–it’s festive. Or bottle some cocktails up if you have the time. The point is that you want to make being at the party easy on yourself, and your guests, and self service is the way to go.
    Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // Smoky Sage Punch // Salted Peanut Bottled Old Fashioneds
  2. Pre-freeze your frozen cocktails
    Making frosé this year? If you want to cut down on the amount of ice in your frozen cocktails, you’ll want to stick them in the freezer the night before. This goes along with batching your cocktails, but this step means less watered down drinks. And that makes you a good host.
    Frozen Watermelon White Negroni // Frozen Blood and Sand // Peach and Tequila Frozen Cockails
  3. Label what your guests are drinking
    If you’re making a few drink options (or even if it’s just one), save yourself from having to repeat ALL the ingredients in something a hundred times by writing out the name and ingredients and sticking it on/next to/on top of the drink. You can get fancy and make something on the computer, or a scribbled on index card will also work just fine.
  4. Have your booze delivered
    Yes, it may seem a bit indulgent, but I’m trying to create less work for you guys. There’s a slew of great delivery apps/services out there who will bring you booze. And some even bring you food too. You decide how much $$$ you want to shell out.
    Saucey ($10 credit for you guys too) // Drizly // Instacart (also with $10 credit)
  5. Invest in a large cooler or mini fridge
    Not all your guests are going to want cocktails so you’ll need beer and water and whatever else people drink besides cocktails. You know what’s great? Your guests have access to all the drinks they want at arm’s length. You know what’s not great? Having people rifle through your fridge. Get a cooler.

If you’ve got a hot tip, let us know! Leave us a comment or reach out to us online. We’re listening.

Late Summer Entertaining: Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad and a Picnic Giveaway!

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.com

This post is brought to you by Beaujolais Wines, Regnié, Franck Cinquin, Domaine des Braves, 2014. Recipes and ideas are my own.

As we’re wrapping up Summer and starting to think about Fall, this is the time of year I start to stockpile my end of season summer fruits and veggies. And per usual, I overdo it with the produce.

For our end of summer entertaining post I thought I’d crack open a bottle of Beaujolais and show you this simple but flavorful dish you could serve up while we squeeze in the last few summer parties of the season (check the end of the post for our giveaway if you’re in need of some picnic swag!). Sometimes the perfect late summer get togethers can be as simple that: wine and a beautiful salad that showcases the bounty of the transitioning seasons.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comBut this is a spirits site, why are we talking salads?? Well, because we’ll be using that wine you’ll be serving your guests as an ingredient too! The star of the salad is the pickled stone fruit: nectarines, plums and cherries. These pickled stone fruit take a 3 day dip in a sweet and sour bath laced with wine and come out the other end transformed into some crazy delicious bites. I love it when I can incorporate elements from both the drinks and the food together for dishes.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comIn addition to this yummy salad, we’re also taking wine today. If we want to keep our get togethers simple and laid back, we also need a laid back wine. Enter Beaujolais; more specifically Régnié.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comRégnié (pronounced like rein-yay) is the ultimate outdoor entertaining wine. It’s food friendly and pretty much pairs with all those foods you’d want to eat at your outdoor fête. Charcuterie plate? Yes. Spinach salad? Yes. All the cheeses?!?!? Yes yes yes! That’s why we’re pairing this medium-bodied red Beaujolais (did you know Beaujolais comes in red, white AND rosé?) with our salad; the slightly spicy berry, tart and dry wine compliments the pungent, sweet and sour flavors of the pickled stone fruits as well as the salty goodness of the charcuterie and cheese perfectly.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comThe idea of this salad came about because, well…I’m not really a cracker person. Shocker, what?! Is that a thing?? I’m usually the odd one just eating cheese and meat slices off a fork; I just don’t want all the filler. My husband however is a water cracker connoisseur and is baffled by this approach to eating a cheese and charcuterie board. I thought that if I want to eat my meat and cheese and all the components of a well-dressed spread in a more substantial manner, I can put them all in a salad. The added bonus is the wine in the pickled stone fruits which punches their taste way up, and the resulting brine is an amazing substitute to plain old vinegar in the dressing for the salad.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comAre you guys ready to throw one last summer party now?

Here are some tips for serving your wine, party style:
  • Beaujolais is a pocket friendly wine, so stock up for the party
  • serve Régnié at slightly cooler than room temp but never totally chilled (and it’s fine if you forget and leave it at room temp too!)
  • don’t be afraid to pair this wine with “picnic” foods: fried chicken, crab dip, pâtés…
  • serve it all day long: Beaujolais is easy to drink from apps to dessert and everything in between

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comWine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad

1-1/2 cup of pickled stone fruits plus 2 tablespoons of brine, reserved (recipes follow)
4 ounces sliced prosciutto and salami
1/4 cup sliced cornichons
1/4 cup sliced olives
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
4 cups mixed greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper
basil, chives, parsley, basil flowers for garnish
toasted baguette slices, optional

Start by mixing together brine, olive oil and salt and pepper to make a dressing. Build your salad by placing greens on a large plate and top with stone fruits, charcuterie, cornichons, olives, and cheese. Toss to combine and top with fresh herbs. Optionally serve toasted baguette slices to mop up any juices left over on your plate.

Pickled stone fruit

4 large stone fruits (mix of nectarine, plums and/or peaches), sliced into 1/2″ slices
1-1/2 cups white vinegar
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper, whole
1 teaspoon coriander, whole
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 ounce Régnié Beaujolais wine

In a medium sized non-reactive saucepan, pour in white vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Heat over medium-high heat until sugar has dissolved. Stir in chili flakes, black pepper, coriander, star anise and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Place the stone fruit slices in a large glass container and pour the hot liquid over the fruit and stir in wine. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and then cover and refrigerate. Let the mixture sit for three days for best taste. Keeps up to two weeks.

*Sweet and pungent with a nice lingering heat from the small addition of chili flakes.

Pickled cherries

adapted from Whole Foods

1-1/2 cups cherries, pitted
1-1/2 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon coriander
4 green cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 ounce Régnié Beaujolais wine

In a medium sized non-reactive saucepan, add in water, sugar, cloves, cinnamon stick, coriander, cardamom pods, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar and wine. In a medium sized glass container, place cherries at the bottom and pour hot mixture over them. Let cherry mixture cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for three days for best flavor. Keeps up to two weeks.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.com

*Sweet, sour and spicy!

Up Your Beaujolais Game! from Honest Cooking on Vimeo.

You’ve got your wine, you’ve got a tasty salad, and now you guys need some picnic swag! Enter below for a chance to win a Wine Picnic Bag for 4 valued at $119! (Giveaway ends 10/15/17)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more information on Régnié and all theBeaujolais wines, please visit DiscoverBeaujolais.com today!



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Crustafied whiskey - orange curaçao - lemon - angostura - notes on moving on from craft cocktails

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comAre you going to Tales this year? Can we meet at Tales? I’m reaching out to you about meeting up at TOTC… Sorry guys, I did not attend Tales of the Cocktail this year. I really don’t know when I’ll make that happen, if ever. However, I was able to bypass the crowds and the sweltering, miserable 105° heat with god-knows-how-high humidity and just look at everyone’s Instagram and Twitter and quite frankly that was great and totally enough, thanks.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comLately though it’s been hard to muster up the interest to pretend everything is OK and go eventing and snap some ‘grams. Instead I’ve been compulsively scrolling through the news with an ever increasing knot in my stomach wondering what the hell is going on in the world. It makes all this social media and even this website seem, well…¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But I’ll save those thoughts and actions for offline, where I can actively do things and not just type type type on here. Anyways, to say the least, I’ve been pretty uninspired with drinks lately. I recently read on article on the End of the Craft Cocktail Movement, and while I initially wanted to get cocky and yell in an obnoxious manner no it’s not, I had to give the author a nod for touching on some truths. The truth being that, yeah, you can get a good cocktail practically anywhere and we as cocktail drinkers have come to expect that now. It’s not novel to be craft and to use fresh ingredients and make your own bitters and muddle in some cucumber. We ALL know how to do that and that’s a good thing. The scary part for people like myself is how do we move on from there.

When I was perusing the images from TOTC, one of the most intriguing things I saw was on Craft & Cocktails’ twitter. It was 4 images of weird stuff with the caption that they were “all cocktails”. You can see that post here and read my comments on it below. To sum up, I was most into the weirdest, the most wrong, the most confusing cocktail of the bunch that was a glass with what looked like dentures sitting in it.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comSpectacle. We’re now moving onto spectacle. When we all expect what’s in the glass to taste great, you’re going to need a 3 ring circus to bring the audience in, at least when we’re talking about here in the blog/social media world. There has been a trend with the younger, newer drinking age audience to stop making drinks at home and to cease entertaining. Their eyeballs are glued onto their phones looking for the next great cat bar, not to necessarily go there, but to “like” the idea of it and quickly move on to the next strange idea.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comThis is a weird spot to be in when you’ve been happily plugging along on your website, coming up in the (second? third?) craft cocktail movement and sharing a love of home bartending. The newer audience will not be home bartenders, and the audience you’ve been talking to is going to start getting home bartending fatigue. Even I see that in myself. I’ve stopped reading a lot of sites, even ones I’ve loved, and stopped browsing through a good chunk of the social media sites, and instead started reading more actual books again. I chuckle at the newest hashtag of #readafuckingbook and am actively giving my brain a break from the nonsense and just the relentless tragedy that coexist in the same feeds.

And so, here’s a little spectacle, wrapped around a good drink. The good folks at Copper & Kings just released an orange Curaçao that is pretty darn great and I added that into my variation here on a Brandy Crusta. First, I swapped some California rye whiskey in for the brandy and then instead of the sugar crusted rim and lemon peel, I made some lemon zest infused sugar and spun that around the glass. The sugar looked like amber when it hardened, and it made me happy to look at it. Like a little artwork on my glass.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comI hope you all find a little something that makes you happy this week.

Crustafied!

2 ounces whiskey, Spirit Works Straight Rye Whiskey used here*
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce orange curaçao, Copper & Kings intense orange curaçao used here*
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
Dash Angostura bitters
lemon-sugar garnish (recipe follows)

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, pour in the whiskey, lemon juice, orange curaçao, maraschino liqueur and Angostura. Stir to chill 20 seconds and strain into lemon-sugar crusted glass.

Lemon Infused Spun Sugar Garnish

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and lemon zest, stir to combine. When sugar starts to melt, stir constantly until sugar reaches a golden-brown color. Remove from heat immediately and continue to stir. As the sugar mixtures begins to cool, the liquid will thicken. Sugar is ready when a wooden spoon is dipped in and sugar pours off in a ribbon. Dip a coupe glass into the sugar and slowly pull out, twisting the sugar as you remove the glass. Hold upside down for about 30 seconds and then stand up to finish cooling. Set aside until ready to use.

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