Mother’s Day Cocktail Roundup 2016

Well guys, it’s been two years since I’ve done one of these, so here’s your 2016 cocktail roundup for all your Moms. Drink up!

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling Lemony-Suze Cocktails

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha

Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour Cocktails

 Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.com

Smoked-Rosemary Rum Punch

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.com

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails

Pisco Brunch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

A Pitcher of Pisco with Grapefruit, Lime and Thyme

The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Pineapple Hop, a beer & pineapple shrub cocktail

Make It: Aquafaba what is it, how to make it and what to do with it

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.comA few years ago I attended an event here in Los Angeles where I watched a local bartender use BEER in place of an egg white to make a cocktail vegan; it blew my mind. It even inspired me to make this Vegan Pisco Sour. The consistency, feel and look were almost identical to using an egg white, the only issue was that there was the slight presence of “beer taste”.

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.comI haven’t used the technique too much since then though as I almost never have beer in the house. Well, I have a few bottles, but not the right kind to make this replacement (you’ll need a wheat beer). And then a few months ago I heard about another egg white replacement being used by local bartender Gabriella Mlynarczyk (also of the blog Loving Cup): aquafaba, or aguafaba. I had no idea what this mystical sounding ingredient was so I sought it out and turns out… it’s bean water.

More specifically it’s the cooking liquid from beans, and pretty much chickpeas. Recently I discovered there’s even a whole website devoted to the magic of this liquid. So if you really want to get down into the details, check that out at aquafaba.com. But here’s the gist of it from their site:

Aquafaba can be used to replace egg whites in many sweet and savory recipes. Its unique mix of starches, proteins, and other soluble plant solids which have migrated from the seeds to the water during the cooking process gives aquafaba a wide spectrum of emulsifying, foaming, binding, gelatinizing and thickening properties.

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.comNeat, huh? Now, to make this post as useful as possible, I performed a few experiments so that I can try and answer a few questions that might come up.

  • First, you don’t need to cook beans from scratch constantly to have this on hand, although to me that sounds delicious. You can easily crack open a can of chickpeas, drain the liquid and reserve it in an ice cube tray, freezing for future use.
  • In fact, go ahead and freeze your aquafaba into 1 ounce (the equivalent of one egg white) portions right now. Unless you plan on using it all right away, there’s no reason to have it occupying space in your fridge. Microwave the frozen portion for 25 seconds, let it come to room temp and use in your cocktail. I saw no changes between the frozen aquafaba and the fresh or from can.
  • The color of the liquid from the home cooked beans resulted in a darker color, while the canned beans were lighter, however, no change in appearance of the cocktail was detected.
  • Will your cocktails taste of beans? NOPE! I cooked off a batch of dried chickpeas and while they had a pleasant nutty flavor, the cooking liquid did not impart any of that taste into my cocktail. And when I used canned chickpeas, the liquid did not taste of beans or have a metal aftertaste.
  • So how does a cocktail made with aquafaba compare with one made with an egg white? Guys, they’re almost identical. Let’s look at the comparison I did making a Sloe Gin Fizz below.

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.comTo test how aquafaba compares to using an egg white in a cocktail, I made two identical Sloe Gin Fizzes. The precise amounts of sloe gin, lemon juice (came from the same lemon!), and simple syrup were added to shakers within seconds and then 1 ounce of aquafaba was added to one and an egg white to the other shaker. Both were dry shaken with one ice cube, and then filled 2/3 with ice and shaken again for about 25 seconds.

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.com
Aquafaba on the left, egg white on the right.

When poured out, they both had a frothy head and gave about an inch and a half of head when topped with club soda. They also both passed my straw test, which means I stuck a straw in the center and it stayed there without moving.

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.com
Aquafaba on the top, egg white on the bottom.

And how did they taste? Practically the same. Neither had a taste other than sweet sloe gin and tart lemon, which is great for subbing one for the other and not affecting the taste of your cocktail. I found that the cocktail with the aquafaba had more body to the drink, while the egg white cocktail felt lighter. Then, I let the drinks sit for awhile to test how long the foam of the cocktail kept its structure. Both did dissipate, but the aquafaba held on longer than the egg white by about 15 minutes at room temperature. It kept its structure in the fridge about an hour.

For the complete Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz, please head over to the recipe page!

This is just the beginning of the experiments. How it will work with other ingredients and spirits will require a lot more research, but that’s the fun part! I hope you guys go out and experiment too. If you’re curious about an ingredient, or have any questions about aquafaba I didn’t answer, feel free to leave a comment or reach out on social! Cheers!

Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz with the magic of Aquafaba

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.comHey guys! I wrote a long, “science” laden post all about aquafaba over here and this post is where I’m sticking the recipe for properly making the cocktail. But for the short version, aquafaba is the cooking liquid from beans like chickpeas (or any neutral tasting legume) that is used in place of egg whites. Hence, a vegan cocktail (unless your bourbon is fat washed or you cooked your beans in chicken stock)!

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.comNote: if you want to make this with an egg white, you can do a 1:1 substitution for the aquafaba. It just won’t be vegan anymore. 

Aquafaba: what is it and how to make cocktails with it! Like a Vegan Sloe Gin Fizz // stirandstrain.com1-3/4 ounce sloe gin, I used Spirit Works Distillery*
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 ounce aquafaba, see note above
2 ounces chilled club soda, Q-Club used here

In a shaker, combine sloe gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and squafaba. Dry shake with 1 ice cube until very frothy (I find this takes anywhere from 15 -30 seconds). Then add ice until shaker is 2/3 full. Shake again to combine and chill for about 20 seconds. Strain into a highball glass and add club soda.

Tarantas Wine Slushie with Melon, Pimm’s and Crystalized Ginger One SPICY cocktail!

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comFor about the last month or so you guys may have noticed I’ve been promoting a contest by Tarantas Wines where I’ll be judging all of the wine-based cocktails. I feel that sometimes saying “wine-based” for cocktails confuses people, like, they only imagine taking the wine and mixing it with club soda and maybe adding a mint leaf to it. Or, in one kinda sad case online I recently saw some wine cocktails that were just a bottle of wine blended with a basket of strawberries and ice. It looked pretty in the picture, but I wouldn’t warrant it an innovative cocktail.

I’l take a step back here though and not get on the soapbox about what IS and ISN’T a cocktail, because quite frankly that’s not a debate I want to get into. (Although, side-note, according to David Wondrich the first usage of the term cocktail has to do with horses and ginger placed in their, um, well, butts to make their tails perk up.)

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comSo let’s talk about how I like to make wine cocktails, or rather, since the weather is getting HOT again in my neighborhood, wine slushie cocktails. I don’t bat an eyelash over frozen cocktails as evidenced here here and here. In fact, book publishers- if you want a cocktail book on this subject, go ahead and contact me; I’m taking meetings.

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comThe wine I’ve chosen as my base is Tarantas Monastrell, an inky, tart and not-too-sweet red from the Jumilla region of Spain. Because it’s so dry, I added in some sweetness with honeydew melon and Pimm’s No. 1. The Pimm’s also adds in some spices and subtle earthy flavors. I wanted to finish this on a spicy note so in went crystalized ginger. (You can get crystalized ginger in a speciality grocer, online, or can make your own too.) I wanted to add a touch more sweetness and have some of the ginger chunks actually present in the drink- think of them as your chewy spice bombs. Otherwise I could have gone with fresh ginger infused in some capacity.

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comTo minimize watering the drink down with ice, I pre-freeze the mixture the night before. Because there is a low alcohol content, the mixture actually becomes solid overnight but not completely frozen. This way I can add the pre-frozen mixture directly into the blender and only add ice to it as needed. Yes, it’s an additional step that requires some thought beforehand, but it makes for a better frozen drink. If you don’t have the time to freeze overnight, you should at least chill the mixture a few hours beforehand, and if you need this IMMEDIATELY, then go ahead and throw it into the blender with crushed ice, just taste and adjust as you go.Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.com

The overnight mixture makes for a refreshing and light cocktail. You get honeyed ginger flavors with subtle spice and some grassiness; overall it’s quite balanced. If you like your drinks even spicer, I’d up the ginger by another tablespoon, it gets quite zingy.Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.com

15 ounces honey dew melon (about half a melon), chopped into 1/2″ pieces
36 g or 1.2 ounces (about a quarter cup) chopped Crystalized ginger
2 ounces simple syrup (1:1 ration)
4 ounces of Pimm’s No. 1
8 ounces Tarantas Monastrell wine*
crystalized ginger pieces and edible flower petals for garnish

  • The night before, combine the honeydew melon, crystalized ginger, simple syrup, Pimm’s No. 1 and the Tarantas Monastrell wine into a gallon size ziplock bag. Freeze overnight.
  • When ready to make the cocktails, add pre-frozen mixture to a blender and blend to desired consistency (should be smooth, not too chunky). Add ice as needed.
  • To serve, pour into double rocks glasses and garnish with crystalized ginger pieces and edible flower petals.

Remember, you have until THIS FRIDAY to enter your own wine-based cocktail on the Tarantas website! Happy Wine Wednesday everyone!

Your 2016 St. Patrick’s Day Drinking and Eating Guide (from the Stir and Strain archives)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Let me help you pick out what you should be drinking and eating today. I am a 1/4 Irish after all…

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.com

Irish Coffee Jello Shots

Bitter Irishman Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Bitter Irishman

Anise Cream Rye-Spiked Coffee // stirandstrain.com

Anise Cream Coffee

Irish Derby Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Irish Derby Cocktail

Jameson Whiskey Truffles // stirandstrain.com

Irish Whiskey Truffles with Baileys Crystals

And a few Green Drinks…

Frozen Cucumber and Green Chartreuse Daiquiri Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Frozen Cucumber and Green Chartreuse Daiquiri Cocktail

old tom's mistake cocktail

Old Tom’s Mistake

Make It: Irish Coffee Jello Shots Two Ways

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comProcrastination has gotten the better of me this week as we speed, much too fast for my liking, into the 3rd month of the year. March is looking to be the most jam packed month yet this year as I’ve said “yes” to maybe one too many events, my mother is in town, and we celebrate multiple birthdays, St. Patrick’s Day (I am a 1/4 Irish), and Easter. So of course, instead of working on projects, I’ve been covering my ears and eyes going NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH and making batches of brownies and spending copious amounts of time photographing my purse contents.

I did take the time to make you guys a little something special for St. Patrick’s Day though this year. I hope it makes up for those purse photos.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comIt’s like a cocktail, but you eat it: Irish Coffee Jello Shots.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comSo here’s the thing. I enjoy an Irish Coffee from time to time; like, a few sips and then I’m usually done. It’s a lot of hot coffee and I’m usually drinking it late in the evening when a giant hot coffee is not really what I want right then. I’m also usually drinking them at a party or an event and bless their hearts for trying, but the coffee is usually not very good either. To control this situation for myself, and hopefully for you all, let’s get a delicious coffee and miniaturize it with the right amount of booze and not force people to drink giant hot coffees at 8pm.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comI went ahead and created a straight up Irish Coffee version, garnished with the tiniest of lemon peel, and then bastardized it and went crazy adding in chocolate and Fernet Branca because I love chocolate mint anything including my coffee and for this one occasion, with my whiskey. Ooooh, I’m so crazy…

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comThe original version of these has a strong, rich coffee flavor with a hint of whiskey at the finish. The cream is mixed in so you’re not trying to eat a delicate jello shot while whipped cream melts all over your fingers – gross. For the mocha-mint version, you get a lot of Fernet (a little goes a long way!) with a strong mocha finish and a more subtle whiskey punch at the end.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comIrish Coffee Jello Shots (Makes 24, 2/5 ounce shots)

2-1/2 ounces freshly brewed coffee, room temp
1 ounce brown sugar syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 packet of gelatine
2 ounces near boiling water
1/2 ounce heavy cream
2 ounces Irish Whiskey, Bushmills used here
lemon zest for garnish

  1. In a large mixing glass with a spout, pour in coffee and brown sugar syrup. Sprinkle gelatine over the liquid and let it sit for 5 minutes to bloom. Then pour in near boiling water and whisk to combine. Add heavy cream and whiskey and stir. Pour into molds and let sit for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. To remove jello shots from semi-spherical molds, carefully run a small spoon around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. If using square or straight-sided molds, run a butter knife around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. For other shapes or non-flexible molds, dip the bottom of the mold in warm water for 15 seconds, invert mold onto a baking sheet, and gently tap the mold to release the jello shot. Irish Coffee jello shots can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
  3. Garnish with lemon zests and serve!

Mocha-Mint Irish Coffee Jello Shots (Makes 24, 2/5 ounce shots)

2-1/2 ounces freshly brewed coffee, room temp
1/2 ounce brown sugar syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 packet of gelatine
1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 ounces near boiling water
1/2 ounce heavy cream
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
2 ounces Irish Whiskey, Bushmills used here
chocolate shavings for garnish

  1. In a large mixing glass with a spout, pour in coffee and brown sugar syrup. Sprinkle gelatine over the liquid and let it sit for 5 minutes to bloom. After the gelatine has bloomed, sprinkle cocoa powder over the mixture. Then pour in near boiling water and whisk to combine. Add heavy cream, Fernet Branca and whiskey and stir. Pour into molds and let sit for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. To remove jello shots from semi-spherical molds, carefully run a small spoon around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. If using square or straight-sided molds, run a butter knife around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. For other shapes or non-flexible molds, dip the bottom of the mold in warm water for 15 seconds, invert mold onto a baking sheet, and gently tap the mold to release the jello shot. Irish Coffee jello shots can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
  3. Garnish with chocolate shavings and serve!

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comAre you guys into these? I have a few more ideas up my sleeve I’ll be rolling out over the next few months.

Fresh Passion Fruit Sour

Fresh Passion Fruit Sour Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Illustrations by Robin N. Watts

After what seems like years debating about the livelihood of this random tree that lives in front of our house, we finally went and had a professional diagnosis its current state. It’s confirmed: that tree is indeed diseased and dead. You’d think it would be easy to spot a dead tree, but it’s not. They look surprisingly lifelike well after they’ve ceased to be a living tree. So we had it removed along with the two lavender bushes you’ve seen star in a few drinks around here. They were also dead; we can all blame this California drought (and not my poor gardening skills).

So now we have the exciting decision to make regarding what to plant in the empty spaces. While I should be thinking cactus plants and other plants that require little water, what I really want are some fruit trees out front. And what I most want are some passion fruit trees.

Not only would I have fresh passion fruits five feet from my doorstep, but I would also have those amazing blooms that come with the trees. Have you guys ever seen one? They’re like a gaudy space alien in technicolor. I need these in my life.

Fresh Passion Fruit Sour Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIf I had these trees and their fruit readily available, THIS cocktail would be the go-to cocktail around my house. Highlighting the passion fruit but balancing it out with a little sweet Meyer lemon juice and, of course, an egg white. When I developed this recipe, I was using 10 Cane Rum for the base. And then it got discontinued and I’m lamenting the fact I used up my last bottle before I found this out. Another good option is Caña Brava by the 86 Co. Or, you know, use what you like.

If I’m going to plant some passion fruit trees, I guess I’d also need a Meyer lemon tree. And a lime tree. But I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s hope I can keep this one alive first.

1-1/2 ounces rum, such as Caña Brava
3/4 ounce fresh passion fruit pulp
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 egg white

  • In a shaker, add rum, passion fruit pulp, simple syrup, meyer lemon juice and egg white. Dry shake, hard, for 20 seconds to get a good froth. Add ice ⅔ up shaker. Shake an additional 20 second and double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Tasting notes: bright, low acidity, silky mouthfeel, passion fruit forward.

Fans of our Wine Wine Wine posts will recognize Robin N. Watts as the man behind all of our wine picks. Besides a lover of wine, Robin also is a damn fine illustrator. Find more about his illustration works at robinnwatts.tumblr.com.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Blue Nectar Tequila. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Admittedly, I let a lot of the drink holidays pass me by. Especially when they’re not really something I feel like celebrating (vodka + red bull day I’m looking at you). But today is a very special day. Today is Margarita Day.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comI drink Margaritas every day of the year. I don’t wait for Taco Tuesday and happy hour at my local cantina. I break them out over brunch or on any given Sunday. But usually just a single serving or two. Today, because we’re celebrating, we’re going big and making a Margarita PUNCH.

Since we’re still deep in citrus season, my family just got back from picking our own grapefruits, lemons and whatever else was hanging on those fruit-laden trees. The grapefruits were so juicy and tart and delicious, that I perhaps got a little overzealous with the picking. To make sure they go to a good home, they’ll be the base of the punch today. Not only will we use some of the juice, but the zest will go into the oleo saccharum, and the whole punch will get garnished with sugared brûléed wheels of the fruit. An honorable way for these grapefruits to go.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comEven though I love those grapefruit, to balance out the citrus flavors and make the base more complex, I’m creating a oleo saccharum with lemon and lime zest in addition to a few grapefruit zests thrown in. Creating the base this way gives the punch a strong citrus backbone that won’t get watered down and lost once the grapefruit juice, tequila and ice are added in.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comTo sweeten everything up and to highlight some of the more floral characteristics of the citrus, I’ve combined Tahitian vanilla (which is the most floral of the vanilla varieties) and piloncillo. Not sure what piloncillo is? That’s ok, I’ve only just started using it over the last few years myself. Piloncillo is evaporated sugar cane juice from Mexico. It’s not as sweet as regular cane sugar, but it has a wonderfully rich taste, similar to brown sugar. Again, to make this a more concentrated flavor bomb for the punch, the vanilla and piloncillo get made into a syrup and then reduced into a rich, syrupy sweetener.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comThis wouldn’t be a Margarita without the tequila, right? For that I’m turning to Blue Nectar Silver Tequila for the perfect pairing to my grapefruit obsession. The clean vegetal flavor has just a touch of spiciness that balances out the sweetness of the citrus.

This is a versatile punch: serve it up with breakfast tacos or late in the afternoon all by itself; anytime really. But especially today, for the best drink holiday, Margarita Day.

For more information on Blue Nectar Tequila, please check out their website here!

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comMakes approximately 12 servings

For the oleo saccharum:

4.5 ounces sugar
zests from 2 limes
zests from 2 lemons
zests from 1 grapefruit

  • To make the oleo saccharum, peel zests from limes, lemons and grapefruit, trying to remove as little white pith as possible. Toss the peels with the sugar, muddle to express oils, and let sit 6 hours or up to overnight in a nonreactive bowl (I use glass or a cambro container), covered. Strain peels from the mixture, set liquid aside.

For the vanilla and piloncillo reduction:

1 cup piloncillo
1 cup water
2 Tahitian vanilla bean pods cut into 1” pieces

  • In a small saucepan over medium high heat, combine piloncillo, water, and vanilla pieces. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, until mixture is reduced by half. Strain vanilla pieces out and store in an airtight container until ready to use. Will keep refrigerated up to one month.

For the punch:

750 ml Blue Nectar Silver Tequila
12 ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit, preferably oro blanco grapefruits
oleo saccharum
4 ounces vanilla and piloncillo reduction
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces orange curacao, preferably Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao
1 large ruby red grapefruit, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 tablespoon piloncillo

  • To make the punch, combine Blue Nectar Silver Tequila, grapefruit juice, reserved liquid from oleo saccharum, vanilla and piloncillo reduction, lemon juice and dry orange curacao. Stir gently to combine. Chill mixture.
  • To make the brûléed grapefruit wheels, place sliced of grapefruit on a wire tray over a cookie sheet. Sprinkle them with piloncillo sugar. Place them under a broiler, or use a culinary blow torch to caramelize the sugar and wheels. Let cool. Once the wheels are cooled, reserve 3 wheels for the punch bowl garnish and slice the rest for garnishing individual cups.
  • To serve, pour mixture into a punch bowl and add a large block of ice. Garnish with large brûléed grapefruit wheels. Ladle into individual cups with wedges of brûléed grapefruit. Optionally sprinkle with sea salt crystals.

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.

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.