Zucca Sprezzatura

Zucca Sprezzatura #Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIt might seem a little quiet around here. I’m always making apologies when the posts start to appear less frequently; it’s all that stored up Catholic guilt from my youth. But mainly 1. I’m recovering from our first real stint doing The Coconut Club and 2. it’s hot and I can barely muster the strength to stir a cocktail. So that’s why I’m all about building drinks in the glass right now. Less equipment means less time standing around washing stuff later.Zucca Sprezzatura #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

In addition to me just generally being lazy, my family is coming to visit this week and already I’ve been hearing over the phone how they can’t wait to try my “fancy drinks”. Now, I now my mom’s inability to metabolize alcohol: one drink and she’s asleep. If I made her one of my regular “fancy drinks”, she might just sleep for a day. Which… well, as tempting as that sounds, she did fly across the country to see us, not sleep the day away. So that’s where some more low alcohol drinks come in. One whole highball and only a 1/2 ounce of liquor over 40 proof. Instead of making scotch here the star, I’ve turned to Zucca, an Italian amaro that only clocks in at around 16%.Zucca Sprezzatura #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Zucca leans more towards the sweeter end of the bitter amaro spectrum, without quite evoking the flavor of its namesake rhubarb (although I’ve been schooled on the fact that it’s Chinese rhubarb used in the making of this, which gives the amaro a bitter flavor). What makes this amaro particularly special is the slightly smoky flavor profile that complements its syrupy bittersweetness. For me, it’s a perfect companion to scotch, so I’ve put them together in this cocktail*.

With these two great ingredients, I’m still considering this fancy. Looking for something a little lighter for the summer? Try this!

1 ounce Zucca
3/4 ounce Scotch, such as Great King St. Artist’s Blend
3 ounces Bitter Lemon soda, I prefer Fever-tree’s
2 dashes grapefruit bitters
lemon peel garnish

In a highball glass filled with ice, add Zucca, scotch and grapefruit bitters. Top with soda and garnish with lemon peel.

Slightly sweet, with a lingering bitterness on the tongue. The bitter lemon soda lightens everything up while adding a different layer of bitterness. The bitters add a floral note both on the nose and the palate. The cocktail is seriously refreshing and an easy to drink summer libation.

 

*I originally posted this recipe on Serious Eats!

Monday Booze News Spirited Awards winners, awesome garnish ideas, and a surprising new trend in cocktails

Monday Booze News Summer Drinks // stirandstrain.com

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: The Boca Shake

Boca Shake Cocktail - Low Rent Cocktail of the Month // stirandstrain.comFlorida always seemed to be the place where grandparents retired to on sitcoms when I was growing up. Isn’t that where Jerry Seinfeld’s parents retired? My family, living in New England, thought moving to another humid climate was stupid and find their retirement homes out in the deserts of the Southwest. But I digress. Florida still is associated in my mind with two things: Disney and old folks. (I try not to think about their politics.)

Sometime over the past year or so I picked up a bottle of Licor 43 and was completely baffled by what the owner told me when I was thinking of things to do with it. Without a hint of a smile, he told me the geriatric crowd mixes Licor 43 and milk together. Like a shake or Orange Julius. It has an ABV of 31% so it’s not like it won’t give your grandma a pick me up, but the thought of trying this just always seemed so weird to me. So, in stepped the Low Rent Cocktail.Boca Shake Cocktail - Low Rent Cocktail of the Month // stirandstrain.com

My grandparents used to have cocktail parties when they were Mad Men-ing their lives back in the early 60′s, but now when I come to visit they mainly just have a hefty jug of red wine that gets brought out when we sit down to play dominoes. It’s my belief they ply me with jug wine so that I don’t have a chance of beating them. I can totally see them sipping a few of these, only, I think they’d make it with Lactaid.Boca Shake Cocktail - Low Rent Cocktail of the Month // stirandstrain.com

Low Rent Cocktails do not always have to be the crappiest of what you have in your liquor cabinet; they can also be what you make do with. I guess for the Florida crowd, making do with with Licor 43 and cream is just something they’re Ok with. For this LRC I decided to inject some pep into it with Orange Crush because…well, it’s Orange Crush! Why the hell not?

Truth be told, it’s pretty Ok. Think about the last time you had an Orange Julius at the mall. Well, try and think that far back I guess. It’s a lot like that. But with booze. Not only does this seem a fitting drink for the Boca Raton crowd, but it’s a fitting drink for all you legal age kids trying to figure out how to make a creamsicle get you loaded.Boca Shake Cocktail - Low Rent Cocktail of the Month // stirandstrain.com

So let’s make one!

1 ounce Licor 43
4-6 ounces Orange Crush soda pop
1 ounce heavy cream

In a highball glass filled with ice. Build the drink by pouring in the Licor 43. Add soda and cream. Stir to combine. Sit back and fan away the mosquitos and try not to think about alligators in your toilet.

Check back in next month for another late summer concoction, or check back through the archives for some more Low Rent Cocktails.

Monday Booze News self serve beer kiosks, cat gin, and pour me a blended drink please!

Monday Booze News // stirandstrain.com

Raspberry Amaro Spritz

Raspberry Amaro Spritz Cocktail // stirandstrain.comEarly Sunday evening is a great time to squeeze in one last cocktail for the weekend. For me, I never like to start my Mondays off in a foul, hungover mood, mainly because I’m already grumpy about it being Monday again. So Sundays I either cut myself off early, or I stick to lower alcohol cocktails, like this one.Raspberry Amaro Spritz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Amari are a great sub in for cocktails of the lighter ABV style (as you’ve seen in this first round here) although as I’ve mentioned before, not all are going to clock in under 40% so read your labels. This drink, written earlier this week for Serious Eats, is all about my love/hate relationship with berry season. Mainly, I can’t stand the damn seeds in berries. They pretty much ruin my enjoyment of one of my favorite types of fruit. However, being the crafty person that I am, getting around the issue of the seeds in cocktails was solved with a pretty simple berry syrup. All the flavor with none of the seeds. Smart.

Combined with Cocchi Americano, this syrup gives just enough sweetness so that it’s refreshing to drink while not being too overpowering in the fruit department. Mainly, it’s balanced quite nicely. Raspberry Amaro Spritz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So please enjoy this late Sunday sipper while we still have long, bright evenings here in the Northern Hemisphere (sorry Australia, you get yours in December). And learn to be OK with drinking cocktails that end in -spritz and are pink.

For the Raspberry-Mint Syrup:
1 cup raspberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
10 mint leaves

In a medium saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar, and water over medium-high heat. Mash raspberries with a wooden spoon to break up. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Add mint leaves and stir to combine. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain into an airtight container. Syrup keeps up to 1 month in the refrigerator.

For the cocktail:
3 ounces dry sparkling wine
1 ounce club soda
2 ounces Cocchi Americano
3/4 ounce Raspberry-Mint Syrup
Raspberries and mint, for garnish

Fill a rocks glass or goblet with ice. Add sparkling wine, club soda, Cocchi Americano, and Raspberry-Mint Syrup. Gently stir to combine. Garnish with raspberries and a sprig of mint.

I’ve got some more of these low alcohol summer cocktails coming at you over the next few weeks so I really hope you enjoy them! As always, let me know if you’re enjoying one through the internet! It’s online all the time!

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Monday Booze News // stirandstrain.com
Nut Syrup. Coming soon.

{now closed} Cucumber Basil Caesar and a Caesars Cocktail Book Giveaway!

Cucumber Basil Caesar Cocktail and a Giveaway! // stirandstrain.comHappy Canada Day to all my Canadian readers out there! I know you exist (my stats tell me so). Today I honor all of you with your national drink, the Caesar.

However, I’m not excluding all of the rest of the world with this post, because I’m also opening up a contest for all my Canadian and US readers with a cocktail book giveaway on this very drink. For the next week, enter win your own copy of Caesars: The Essential Guide to Your Favourite Cocktail by Clint Pattemore.Cucumber Basil Caesar Cocktail and a Giveaway! // stirandstrain.com

And for everyone across the globe, I’m also giving you a cocktail to try out. Because you’ve read this far.

I have to admit it, I didn’t realize that a Caesar was specifically a Canadian invention. Like many drinks with a history, I had a vague idea of its origins. Wasn’t it a cousin to the Bloody Mary, just with clam juice? Well, I consider myself schooled now. The Caesar I still work into the realm of day drinks, or even Sunday morning drinks (or Monday morning if Sunday was rough). And today I’m gussying up the classic with some fresh Persian cucumbers and basil from my garden. It’s seasonal and refreshing and only has a touch of savory flavor to contrast against the bright vegetable flavor.Cucumber Basil Caesar Cocktail and a Giveaway! // stirandstrain.com

Try this, or one of the many (like, over 50) ways to create a Caesar from your own copy of the book. But! You have to enter to win a copy first!

Actually, let’s make a drink first…

Slightly Adapted from the Caesars cocktail book
4 cucumber slices (preferably Persian cucumbers that you don’t have to peel)
4-6 basil leaves
3 dashes hot sauce (I use Tapatio)
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1-1/2 ounces gin
4 ounces Clamato

1 tbsp smoked salt, 1 tsp pepper, cucumber spears for garnish

Garnish your highball glass (or small goblet) first by rimming the outside of the glass with a cucumber slice then dip in salt and pepper mixture poured into a small bowl. In a mixing glass, muddle together cucumber slices, basil, hot sauce and pepper. Add gin and Clamato. Stir and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Finish garnishing with a cucumber spear. Straws are always optional!

Enter below for your chance to win a copy of Caesars: The Essential Guide to Your Favourite Cocktail! You can get up to NINE entries to win. Contest runs until midnight PST Wednesday, July 9th, 2014. Please see terms and conditions below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday Booze News snorting a martini, shrubs and orgeat are where it's it, and the CDC makes you feel guilty about having a glass of wine every day

Pickle Chip Garnish Monday Booze News // stirandstrain.com
Pickle chips are the new martini garnish.

Patriotic Bar Cart Gift Guide

For all of my non-US readers, if you’ll allow me a moment to indulge in a little red, white, and blue bar cart accessorizing I’d super appreciate it. And while together it’s a Patriotic Bar Cart fiesta, taken piece by piece they could work in your home too.

Patriotic Bar Cart Gift Guide // stirandstrain.com

 

In a little less than a week, my neighborhood will be filled with illegal fireworks, barking dogs and the inescapable wafting aromas of food being grilled. It will also be filled with drinking galore. For those of you outside the city of Los Angeles, I’m sure you picture every day here like this (sometimes I’d agree with you), but next Friday in particular the country bands together to show our love of hotdogs and beer (and maybe something to do with history but you can turn on C-Span for that). For those of you hosting a party, here’s a little guide to up your bar cart game for the 4th. Buckets of crushed ice, colorful drink accouterments, and some fine liquor selections. Now go get some sparklers and confetti poppers!

1. Ice Crusher 2. Tumbler 3. Campari 4. Clase Azul Reposado Tequila 5. Bombay Sapphire East 6. Blue Straws 7. Hayworth Bar Cart 8. Red Foil Picks

Classic and Watermelon-Infused Frozen Negroni Cocktails

Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.comIt’s summertime folks. Let’s all take a backseat to being serious and let our hair down and deep freeze our favorite cocktails.

That’s right. Snobbery be damned: I froze some Negorni cocktails. And they were TASTEEEEE!Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

Now, please stay with me on this. First, shake off your assumptions that suddenly the lofty Negroni has gone the way of the 7/11 slurpee machine: believe me, this is nothing like that. Gone are the teeth-tinglingly sweet frozen drinks you’re used to downing in the summer. The wasted calories of footlong, electric blue “adult” slushies that have about a thimble of alcohol in them and more corn syrup than anything else. These frozen versions of the Negroni take the actual, delicious drink, and whiz it up with ice for all of the bittersweet flavor, only now you sip it through a straw.Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

Oh, and when I say versions, I mean you get TWO variations for this frozen cocktail: classic and a fruit-forward twist on a white negroni: watermelon. The watermelon version is inspired by a drink I just had at a friend’s wedding which was, essentially, a White Negroni whose vermouth had been infused with watermelon. The idea was playful and it was delicious and I knew I needed to make something like that for the site. Lately, I’ve been enjoying a bit more whimsy in my cocktails, I still enjoy the classics, but when you’re recipe developing all the time, your brain wants to go in warped places. At least mine does.Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

Anyways, the idea was great, but I wanted some flexibility with the recipe. And since I wanted something a bit more versatile that I could use in multiple drinks, I infused the gin instead. It’s a short infusion, just two days, and you could always start tasting after day 1 if you don’t want a super-watermelon-y flavor and strain when you think it’s ready. Hint: if you want something over ice, instead of something made of ice, try the watermelon gin with some tonic; the sweet and bitter work well together.Frozen Watermelon White Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

OK! So let’s stop taking ourselves SO seriously, at least for today, and enjoy some frozen cocktails.

Frozen Negroni

4-1/2 ounces gin, such as G’Vine or Fords
2-1/2 ounces Campari
2-1/2 ounces Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
3 cups ice (for a thicker drink, add an additional 1/2 cup ice to each batch)
Orange slices, for garnish

  1. Combine gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in an airtight container. Place in freezer and freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
  2. When ready to serve, add chilled alcohol and ice to blender. Blend on high speed until uniform and smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour into rocks glasses or small wine glass. Garnish with an orange slice and serve immediately.

Frozen Watermelon White Negroni

1/2 cup cubed watermelon
1-1/2 cups gin, such as Broker’s or St. George Botanivore
4-1/2 ounces watermelon gin (see recipe below, line 1)
2-1/2 ounces Cocchi Americano
2-1/4 ounces Dolin Dry Vermouth
3 cups ice (for a thicker drink, add an additional 1/2 cup ice to each batch)
Watermelon and orange slices, for garnish

  1. For the watermelon gin: In an airtight container, combine gin and watermelon. Keep in a cool, dark place for 48 hours. Strain into a clean, airtight container until ready to use. Will keep up to one year.
  2. For the Watermelon White Negroni Slushie: Combine watermelon gin, Cocchi Americano, and vermouth in an airtight container and freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
  3. When ready to serve, add frozen alcohol to a blender with ice. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Split between rocks glasses or small wine glasses. Garnish each glass with a watermelon.

First, drink these with an ounce of caution; they kinda go straight to your head if you sip them up quickly. Second, the chilling overnight is so your mixture does not dilute the ice too quickly while you blend (this step is optional). The classic Negroni tastes pretty much like what you’d get in its natural state. Even though the bitterness is still very present, with this icy state it’s lovely and the citrus notes are quite present. And not watered down tasting! The watermelon on the other hand is delicate with only a hint at the bitterness from the Cocchi Americano. While the fruity watermelon is present, it doesn’t overpower the drink as a whole – it’s a nice accent.

So choose one, or both, to make this weekend. I choose both.

I originally published this recipe on Serious Eats.

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