Winter Citrus Sparkling Brunch Cocktails for Two

Winter Citrus Sparkling Brunch Cocktail for Two with Truvia // stirandstrain.comThis post was made in partnership with Truvia®. Recipes and ideas are my own.

It’s January! Has your inbox become filled with emails that are telling you how to be your best self? Or how to lose some weight? Or how you can fix your life?? Are you just deleting them all because they’re all starting to make you feel…overwhelmed? I generally have avoided trying to make over my life every January and have instead opted to start thinking more about the state and quality of my life. I use January as a time to reflect upon the previous year, not rush into the future. Did I connect with family and friends last year? Did I treat my body right? If I answered no, then I’d think about what small ways I could make changes in my life so that I could improve the overall quality in the coming year.

Winter Citrus Sparkling Brunch Cocktail for Two with Truvia // stirandstrain.comThese are no pressure approaches by the way. Being a business owner I have enough deadlines so the thought of adding to that list makes me cringe, so I look at these as fun assignments I will give myself and allow the space to let them happen. I also think of them as ways to incorporate more self-care into the day to day.

Winter Citrus Sparkling Brunch Cocktail for Two with Truvia // stirandstrain.comWhen I looked at 2018, I realized that while I was building new parts of my business, I wasn’t leaving much time to spend with friends and family. So for 2019, my assignment is to have more casual get-togethers at home. Nothing requiring lots of advanced planning, but an excuse to sit, eat and drink, and enjoy the company of friends and family. And I’ve already planned my first one with a longtime friend I feel like I barely got to see last year.

Winter Citrus Sparkling Brunch Cocktail for Two with Truvia // stirandstrain.comWe’re calling it brunch, but really it’s an excuse to eat some pastries, buy some fresh flowers, and have some brunch cocktails. This is my ideal self-care weekend date.

We’ve teamed up with Truvia® to help plan a brunch cocktail for two with their Natural Sweetener packets. You just need one packet, split between two friends, to get the ideal amount of sweetness in your brunch cocktail (One packet provides the same sweetness as two teaspoons of sugar). Truvia Natural Sweetener packets are zero-calories and made from stevia leaf extract. The packets are also convenient to carry around, in case your get-together involves a park or a camping trip (if that’s the way you do casual!).

Winter Citrus Sparkling Brunch Cocktail for Two with Truvia // stirandstrain.comFor our cocktail we’ll make use of the delicious, seasonal citrus fruit that is everywhere right now. I’ve always loved how citrus is a winter fruit, bringing a burst of sunshine into all those grey, winter days. Hopefully this cocktail, made with citrus distilled gin, orange blossom water, lemon bitters, club soda, and Truvia sweetener, will bring a little sunshine into your day. It also goes very well with a pastry plate.

Winter Citrus Sparkling Brunch Cocktail for Two with Truvia // stirandstrain.comNow let’s get brunching!

Winter Citrus Sparkling Brunch Cocktail for Two with Truvia // stirandstrain.comWinter Citrus Sparkling Brunch Cocktails for Two

3 ounces gin, a new American style with citrus notes will work best
1 Truvia Natural Sweetener packet (if you prefer your drinks on the sweeter side, then you can use up to one packet per person)
1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
2 dashes lemon bitters
1/2 cup various citrus fruit segments such as Cara Cara oranges, blood oranges, clementines and kumquat halves
6 ounces club soda, chilled

In a shaker filled 2/3 with ice, pour in gin, the Truvia Natural Sweetener packet, freshly squeezed orange juice, orange blossom water, and lemon bitters. Shake well for 20 seconds and divide between two flutes. Add in your citrus of choice and top with chilled club soda. Cheers!

Winter Citrus Sparkling Brunch Cocktail for Two with Truvia //

Kerrygold Chocolate Egg Cream

Kerrygold Chocolate Egg Cream Cocktail //

This post was made in partnership with Kerrygold Irish Cream. Recipe and ideas are my own.

January is always a slow start to the year for us booze bloggers; there just tends to be a lot of confusion around alcohol. People tend to fall into one of three categories based on what their personal new year resolution might have been: going dry, keep drinking, or cut back and start drinking lower ABV drinks. One year my husband discovered the joy that was Campari and Soda and now that’s become his go-to low ABV cocktail. Some people give up alcohol for a month, and well, they just stop altogether.

I respect all the choices these people make. Err, except maybe those people who give up drinking for January and then proceed to get black-out drunk on February 1st. Why? Why bother at all people?

This post was made in partnership with Kerrygold Irish Cream. Recipe and ideas are my own.Kerrygold Chocolate Egg Cream Cocktail //

But anyway, today I’m offering up a classic drink with a low ABV, but not the usual ones you might think of when I say “classic”. Today I’m taking you back in time to those soda pop shops with long counters and shiny chrome straw holders. I’m giving you a recipe for an Egg Cream, but an adult version made with Kerrygold Irish Cream. The traditional egg cream has neither eggs nor cream in it. It is made with milk, chocolate syrup (and for some people that means Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup) and seltzer water, and originated in this form in New York in the early 1900’s (possibly late 1800’s).

Kerrygold Chocolate Egg Cream Cocktail // stirandstrain.comKerrygold Irish Cream does have cream in it, super rich cream from grass-fed cows, and real chocolate. We’ll be boosting the chocolate with a touch of chocolate syrup, just like the original; your favorite chocolate syrup will do just fine here! I happen to own a soda siphon because… I write about cocktails for a living, but bottled seltzer will work just the same. The magic happens once you add the seltzer to the base of Irish cream and chocolate. Like magic, a creamy head forms on the drink making it look almost like a thick, creamy milkshake. But what I love about this drink is that it is not heavy AT ALL. It is light and frothy and you actually want to drink it down quick because the bubbles do not last all that long.

Kerrygold Chocolate Egg Cream Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis adult version of the Chocolate Egg Cream clocks in with a proof around 7.5 so it’s definitely a low ABV drink (around 3.75%). So if you’re looking for something that’s a little sweet, a little ABV, and a lot tasty, I think you should give this classic twist a try!

Kerrygold Chocolate Egg Cream Cocktail //

Note: this drink loves a variation! Try one of these combos once you’ve tasted the original recipe below.

  • make it minty with 1/4 teaspoon of mint extract
  • a little nutty with 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • sub the chocolate syrup with a different syrup of your choice (vanilla is nice!)
Kerrygold Chocolate Egg Cream Cocktail //

Kerrygold Chocolate Egg Cream

1-1/2 ounces Kerrygold Irish Cream, chilled
1 ounce chocolate syrup, chilled
5-6 ounces of seltzer water, chilled

In a soda glass or highball glass, pour in the chilled Kerrygold Irish Cream and chocolate syrup. Top with seltzer water and stir gently to combine. Enjoy!

Kerrygold Chocolate Egg Cream Cocktail //

Up All Night Cocktail

Up All Night Cocktails with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comThis post was made in partnership with Kerrygold Irish Cream. Recipe and ideas are my own.

If you were to ask me about superstitions, I’d say they’re not something I believe in. Except… I’d kinda be lying. See, the thing is, some years ago I developed this superstition that how I rang in the New Year would somehow dictate how my next year would be. I took this as vague or as specific as I wanted and I find myself thinking about that now as we approach the coming new year.

Up All Night Cocktails with Kerrygold Irish Cream //

Up All Night Cocktails with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comFight with a friend at a NYE party? I’m going to spend the next year having issues with this person. Fell asleep before the ball dropped? I’m going to have trouble meeting deadlines next year. Spend an amazing time with a guy I’d only just started seeing two months ago? Well, then obviously I was going to marry this guy. (All three are true by the way!)

Up All Night Cocktails with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comI am a notorious early bird in my family. It’s probably the reason I went to work as a barista instead of a bartender when I first moved out to L.A. It’s part of the reason I heave a big sigh come NYE; I know I’m going to have trouble staying awake. So this year I’m doing a little pre-planning. First, I’m going to push my kids on their grandmother on the 31st and take a long afternoon nap. Next, I’ll be strategically planning my cocktail for the night. It will, of course, have coffee in it. Not just any coffee, I’m infusing some aged rum with a blend of arabica and robusta coffee. Why? Because arabica has a great flavor and robusta brings the CAFFEINE!

Up All Night Cocktails with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comI teamed up with Kerrygold Irish Cream to make my perfect NYE sipping cocktail. Mainly, I wanted something reminiscent of a latte that I could enjoy over the course of the night. I’d save the champagne for the countdown toast of course, before making a swift and silent exit. Now, this pre-planning also includes making this coffee infusion; it takes two days. Alternatively, if you’ve got a coffee liqueur you’d rather sub in and save yourself this DIY project, well, then you do you.

Up All Night Cocktails with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comIf this were to be my coffee order, I’d say it’s a mocha-vanilla-almond-spiced latte. But, you know, spiked. The Kerrygold Irish Cream brings a silky-rich mouthfeel from the cream and just a touch of chocolate, which is how I prefer my coffee drinks when I go the mocha route. The whiskey in there goes quite well with the aged rum and they impart a subtle spice and vanilla flavor that gets enhanced by the addition of Drambuie and a few drops of vanilla extract.

And because it’s New Year’s Eve and we’re feeling fancy, I broke out the edible gold stars for a sparkling garnish for just a hint of glitz. You definitely need a little glitz on this holiday.

Up All Night Cocktails with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comLet’s get ready for that countdown and make some drinks!

Up All Night Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces coffee infused aged rum, recipe follows (or sub 1-1/4 ounces aged rum with 1/2 ounce coffee liqueur)
1/2 ounce Kerrygold Irish Cream
1/2 ounce orgeat
1/4 ounce Drambuie
3 drops vanilla extract
edible gold stars for garnish

In a shaker filled 2/3 with ice, combine coffee infused aged rum, Kerrygold Irish Cream, orgeat, Drambuie, and vanilla extract. Shake to combine about 20 seconds and strain into a double rocks glass with fresh ice. Optionally garnish with some edible gold stars, for that NYE glitz.

Up All Night Cocktails with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comCoffee Infused Aged Rum

14 oz. aged rum
1/2 cup coffee beans (blend of arabica and robusta), lightly crushed

Combine ingredients in an airtight container (I reused my rum bottle). Swirl to cover the beans. Let sit for 2 days. Fine strain to catch the coffee bean bits (I like using this nut bag for these kind of jobs). Bottle. Use within two years.

Chilled Mulled Wine Cocktail

Chilled Mulled Wine Cocktails with Truvia // stirandstrain.comThis post was made in partnership with Truvia®. Recipes and ideas are my own.

I’m hitting peak holiday tradition time right around now. The advent calendar has been going, there’s a tree and decorations and now due to small children’s insistence there’s a second small tree, I’ve sent out Christmas cards, and the majority of the presents have been bought (can you tell I’m a planner??). I’ve also checked off attending the annual Glögg party thrown by some close friends of ours. They’ve been throwing it for close to a decade now and we’ve been attending almost every year (minus a few bouts of the flu). But I’ve kept a secret… I’m not a big fan of hot wine punch.

Chilled Mulled Wine Cocktails with Truvia // stirandstrain.comAfter reading this my secret will be blown. But, since we’re all friends, I doubt they’ll care all that much. They know I really come for the Swedish meatballs. Are you sitting there reading this thinking to yourself “I like wine, I like spices, but I don’t necessarily want them piping hot…” Well, lucky for you great minds think alike and I’ve got a new twist for your holiday mulled wine traditions!

Chilled Mulled Wine Cocktails with Truvia // stirandstrain.comI’ve teamed up with Truvia® to offer a chilled spin on this traditional holiday drink. The secret to achieving a flavorful mulled wine cocktail is to concentrate the flavors that would ordinarily go into a mulled wine by making a syrup.

For the base I decided to use Truvia Cane Sugar Blend to first create a simple syrup and then add in the mulled wine spices and the wine itself. Truvia Cane Sugar Blend combines stevia sweetener and cane sugar with 75% fewer calories per serving than sugar. Does it make a simple syrup that works just like regular cane sugar? It sure does! Because it is sweeter than cane sugar you also don’t need to add as much into the syrup. After making a quick simple syrup, everything simmers together to make a reduction and extracts those great spices so they really stand out when mixed into a drink. Also, chilling liquids tends to tame the flavors a bit so you want the flavors to be on the bold side.

Chilled Mulled Wine Cocktails with Truvia // stirandstrain.comSince we’re making this into a cocktail I decided to pair this mulled wine syrup with bourbon for a wintery drink. Bourbon imparts some vanilla and buttery caramel flavors into the mix as well. Finally, a burst of citrus comes from freshly squeezed lemon juice and Cointreau. How to garnish is up to you. If you want it to be reminiscent of a Glögg, add in a cinnamon stick, orange slices and a star anise when you serve up the drink. You could also leave all of this out and you’d be fine. Personally I like the aroma that fresh spices add to the drink, but if you’re serving this up at a party you could also just throw in the orange slices. And speaking of parties! This syrup makes enough for plenty of drinks so you might want to consider this for a different take when you host your next holiday party.

Chilled Mulled Wine Cocktails with Truvia // stirandstrain.comOne last note. I realize I might be edging out some of you that really enjoy a hot mulled wine. Clearly my friends do since they host this party every year. Here’s a quick tip so you can enjoy a glass of Glögg any time: you can make this drink hot too. Yes! You don’t have to wait for someone to throw a party and use up several bottles of wine and occupy your InstaPot for an entire day. Make the syrup, add the ingredients, and add in some hot water! You’ve got a hot mulled wine cocktail now!

Grab a bottle of wine and let’s make some cocktails!

Chilled Mulled Wine Cocktails with Truvia // stirandstrain.comTruvia Chilled Mulled Wine Cocktail (with Hot Version too!)

Mulled Wine Syrup (Yields 1-1/3 to 1-1/2 cups)
1 cup Truvia Cane Sugar Blend
1 cup water
1-1/2 cups red wine
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods
6 cloves
4 green cardamom pods, cracked
1 tsp black peppercorns, lightly crushed
4 orange slices, 1/4” thick

For the syrup:
Combine Truvia Cane Sugar Blend and water in a medium saucepan over medium- high heat. Whisk until fully dissolved. Add in red wine, cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, cloves, green cardamom pods, black peppercorns and orange slices. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until mixture has reduced and thickened slightly. Remove from heat, strain out solids and discard them. Let syrup cool to room temperature and then transfer to an airtight container like a swing-top bottle or mason jar. Store refrigerated up to a month.

For the drink:
2 ounces of bourbon
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce mulled wine syrup

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, combine the bourbon, lemon juice, Cointreau and mulled wine syrup. Shake about 20 seconds to combine and strain over fresh ice into a double rocks glass. Garnish with orange slices, cinnamon stick and star anise.

Alternatively, you can make this a hot drink by including 2-3 ounces of hot water. Combine all ingredients for the cold cocktail in a heat proof mug and then add hot water. Stir gently to combine and serve.


The Fir-Groni Cocktail: a holiday twist on the White Negroni // stirandstrain.comToday I bring you a weekend cocktail. A festive, fir tree scented drink you can sip on as you bake cookies, or wrap gifts, or use as a palate cleanser between licking all those damn holiday cards you still haven’t got out in the mail yet.

Wait… did she say fir tree scented???

The Fir-Groni Cocktail: a holiday twist on the White Negroni // stirandstrain.comYes! You might be familiar with eau de vie spirits made from fruit, but there is one that is made from pine buds. I have three favorite scents in this world: lilac, wood smoke, and fir trees. So the first time I saw this brandy I went absolutely nuts over it and immediately started making drinks (see here and here). I bring it out during the winter months because that’s when I associate this particular smell, and it makes me a little homesick for the New England winters. And then I remember trying to de-ice a windshield in below freezing temperatures and driving my car into a snowbank one year and I snap right out of that fantasy.

So yes, it’s another groan-inducing variation on a Negroni; a twist on a twist as this stems from a White Negroni. But really, you can call it a Holiday Fir Tree Cocktail for all I care, but what I do want you to do is drink this, especially if you’ve never tried a spirit like this before.

The Fir-Groni Cocktail: a holiday twist on the White Negroni // stirandstrain.comFor this drink, stick with a dry or extra dry vermouth, you want a little less residual sugar in there so that the fir tree aroma and flavor stands out. This is on the slightly less bitter side than a classic Negroni, as Bitter Bianco is used, which adds some citrus and delicate floral notes that really work with the pine forest effect of the eau de vie.

The Fir-Groni Cocktail: a holiday twist on the White Negroni // stirandstrain.comTotally optional, but I had a lot of fun garnishing the drink with what looked like snowy tree branches. If you’re trying to impress guests and want a festive garnish, go ahead and add these to the drink. It’s just powdered sugar and rosemary. I’ve made a note on making these following the recipe. Keep in mind though that rosemary imparts its own strong aroma, which can work here, but I would present the drink with the garnish and then remove before imbibing.

The Fir-Groni Cocktail: a holiday twist on the White Negroni // stirandstrain.comFir-Groni Cocktail

3/4 ounce gin, London Dry style
3/4 ounce Bitter Bianco
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/2 ounce Douglas Fir brandy
optional: “snowy branch” garnish (how to follows recipe)

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, pour in the gin, Bitter Bianco, dry vermouth and Douglas Fir brandy. Stir 20 seconds to combine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Optionally garnish with a “snowy branch”.

The Fir-Groni Cocktail: a holiday twist on the White Negroni //

The Fir-Groni Cocktail: a holiday twist on the White Negroni // stirandstrain.comTo make the “snowy branches”, take a cleaned rosemary sprig and coat lightly with egg whites using a silicone pastry brush. Shake off any excess liquid and immediately dip into a shallow bowl filled with about a 1/4″ of powdered sugar. Swirl the rosemary sprig around to coat and let dry. Once dry, use a garnish on your cocktail. Also looks cute on a some baked cake!

Cranberry Sauce Margaritas with Rosemary Sugar Rims

Cranberry Sauce Margaritas with Rosemary Sugar: A Holiday Party with Stages // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Specialty Retailers, Inc. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Did you know that Margaritas are the most popular cocktail in the U.S.? Probably not surprising when you think of the amount of frozen, neon colored drinks you encounter walking down the main strip in Las Vegas. I’m sure those are being counted in this statistic. And that bottled drink mix with the svelte lady on the front; that’s probably being counted too. But here in my home bar, a Margarita is a solid, easy to mix drink with endless variations. And today we’ll be making them holiday ready for a little online party!

Cranberry Sauce Margaritas with Rosemary Sugar: A Holiday Party with Stages // stirandstrain.comToday I’m taking part in Stage’s virtual holiday party and sharing my Cranberry Sauce Margaritas to help celebrate and #SetYourHolidayStage! I’m making them extra festive with an easy DIY rosemary sugar rim you can whip up in minutes and use all holiday season long. As my older readers know, I have an entire front yard full of rosemary. So when the Fall and Winter seasons are upon us, I’m sticking it in everything. Food, of course, but also in lots of cocktails. If you’re finding us through the Stages Holiday Party, a quick search through the archives will introduce you to a whole new world of using rosemary in cocktails; take a look!

Cranberry Sauce Margaritas with Rosemary Sugar: A Holiday Party with Stages //

Cranberry Sauce Margaritas with Rosemary Sugar: A Holiday Party with Stages // stirandstrain.comWe still have two whole weeks until Christmas and who knows how many parties we’ll be going to or hosting up to then. If you’re in charge of drinks, Stages has all the accessories you need to make prepping and decorating easy! We did a quick shopping trip online to get all our gear for our virtual party including glasses, those cute gold foil holiday napkins, a caddy to hold the napkins and straws, a chalkboard sign to write out the name of our Signature Cocktail, the containers to store the rosemary sugar, a dipping tray for all the ingredients for the Cranberry Sauce Margaritas, as well as some festive decorations like this teeny tiny lights and the nutcracker. Even my holiday sweater came from there! SO MANY GREAT ENTERTAINING OPTIONS.

Cranberry Sauce Margaritas with Rosemary Sugar: A Holiday Party with Stages //

Cranberry Sauce Margaritas with Rosemary Sugar: A Holiday Party with Stages //

Ok, so you set your holiday stage and are ready for guests. Let them feel in charge with a little DIY bar set up. This 3 cup dipping tray could hold snacks any other time of the year, but today it will hold all the components for the Cranberry Sauce Margaritas: cranberry sauce, lime wedges and the rosemary sugar. Put out some little spoons for the dishes and some shot glasses for the booze components. Holiday parties should be about coming together with friends and family, and having this little DIY bar lets guests mingle about with one another.

Cranberry Sauce Margaritas with Rosemary Sugar: A Holiday Party with Stages // stirandstrain.comThe recipe for the Cranberry Sauce Margaritas has just a touch of sweetness in it from the cranberry sauce and the Grand Marnier. You can adjust going up or down with either to your liking. I also think adding just a touch of the rosemary sugar into the drink doesn’t hurt either, just remember to shake it really well to combine it all! TIP: use the spent lime wedges from the cocktail recipe to help rim the glasses. Then you won’t need to waste additional lime wedges just for rimming. Also, when rimming your glass, use a shallow bowl or rimmed plate and push the sugar out towards the edges so that the sugar will evenly coat around the glass.

Let’s make some drinks!

Cranberry Sauce Margaritas with Rosemary Sugar: A Holiday Party with Stages // stirandstrain.comCranberry Sauce Margaritas

1-1/2 ounces blanco tequila
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon cranberry sauce
rosemary sugar (see recipe below)
rosemary sprig

First, rim a rocks glass with the rosemary sugar. Set aside. Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled 2/3 with ice. Shake well to combine, about 30 seconds. Strain over fresh ice into the prepared rocks glass. Add additional cranberry sauce if desired. Optionally garnish with a rosemary sprig.

Cranberry Sauce Margaritas with Rosemary Sugar: A Holiday Party with Stages // stirandstrain.comRosemary Sugar

2 cups granulated sugar
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary, about 3 to 5 inches long, divided

Take one sprig of rosemary and remove all the needles. Finely chop them. Combine the chopped needles and the sugar in an airtight container. Mix well to evenly distribute the rosemary. Add a few extra sprigs to the jar, shake, and let sit overnight or up to a few days. Sugar may look clumpy but it will dry out and break down. Remove the sprigs, seal the jar, and keep in a cool, dry place up to three months.

Cranberry Sauce Margaritas with Rosemary Sugar: A Holiday Party with Stages //

Holiday Entertaining: Beaujolais Wine and Cookie Decorating Party

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Beaujolais Wines. Recipes and ideas are my own.

This holiday season I’m taking a step back from all the hustle and bustle, all the commercials and “must buys”, and taking a moment to spend time with family and friends in the most fun, totally seasonal, best way possible to celebrate the holidays: a cookie decorating party. But this party is for adults only. Why? Because we’re cracking open a bottle of Beaujolais to celebrate our nearest and dearest all while having some holiday fun.

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.comIf the idea of hosting a holiday cookie decorating party makes your palms sweat (I need how many cookies?!?!), even with a glass of wine, just hold on, because I’ve got some tips and tricks that will make this party a breeze!

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.com1. First, let’s talk about the wine. While you might think Beaujolais wine is best served slightly chilled in the summertime, it’s actually a great wine to have around the cooler winter months too. That’s because it goes well with just about anything; including cookies. If you’re thinking ahead towards all your holiday meals this month, try picking up a case to have on hand. Serve it at meals and keep a bottle handy for the random relative who stops by unannounced! And if you can, try and get a mixed case. That’s right! Beaujolais comes in red, white and rosé.

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.com2. Cookies. You have a couple options here when it comes to the cookies.

  • Are you someone who can whip up 4 dozen batches of cookies without blinking an eye? Then baking them all from scratch shouldn’t be an issue. Go you!
  • Pressed for time? Make half the cookies from scratch and buy the rest. Most grocery stores with a bakery will have unfrosted cookies on hand like sugar cookies. Personally, I am terrible at making sugar cookies so I bought mine. But I have a fantastic gingerbread recipe that makes solid cookies every time (see below). So I made those for the party.
  • You can always ask people to bring undecorated cookies too! There is probably a friend or relative in your life who likes to bake. Reach out to them for some help making cookies, they probably would love to bake!

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party //

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.com3. Decorations. With endless possibilities for decorating, limit yourself to just a few ideas. You’ll end up with less waste and won’t have a pantry full of half used sprinkles and sanding sugar to deal with the rest of the year. For my cookie party, I made one batch of royal icing and put scoops into smaller piping bags and mixed a few colors right in the bag. Again, if you haven’t the time to make icing, guess what? You can buy it and it will work just fine! For decorative elements, I kept it simple with some colorful sprinkles, red and green sanding sugar, edible silver balls, and some tiny edible gold stars I had left over from another cocktail project. You could go even less than this if you wanted, or just use icing and nothing else. We also had some filled cookies so I put out a bowl of raspberry jam that was in the refrigerator. You probably already have some things at home you could use!

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.com4. Plan your stations. Short on space? No kitchen table? No problem. Set up a cookie decorating space where people will have access to cookies, plates, napkins, and bowls for putting decorations in. Don’t forget the wine glasses and wine tags too! A kitchen counter is a great setup. I have a long buffet at home that people could grab everything they needed. Not enough room at the kitchen table? Set up a cozy holiday blanket on the floor for everyone to spread out on. Remember to tell guests to bring slippers!

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.com5. Packing it up. After all the fun your guests will have decorating cookies and celebrating the season with a glass of Beaujolais, remember to have containers ready for guests to bring their cookies home in. This could be as simple as a small paper bag, or pick up a bulk pack of gift boxes. Going this extra step shows your guests you’ve thought of everything and will save you the hassle of trying to find to-go containers at the end of the night for everyone.

I hope I’ve inspired you to create some new holiday memories in a fun and creative way! Cookie decorating should definitely be on your holiday party list this year. And don’t forget the Beaujolais! Cheers!

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.comGingerbread Cookies and Icing Recipe
Adapted from Bouchon Bakery

Gingerbread Cookies

Makes about 20 cookies

6-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
1 pinch dried cloves
3/4 cup butter, room temp
1-1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup blackstrap molasses
2 eggs, room temp
1 Tbsp. vanilla

Combine all the dry ingredients, except the brown sugar, into a bowl. Whisk ingredients together until they are evenly combined.

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and dark brown sugar together on medium speed until fully combined. Once the dark brown sugar is evenly incorporated into the butter, add the molasses and continue to mix the ingredients scraping the bowl down as needed. Add the eggs and vanilla, mixing on medium speed until ingredients are fully combined.

Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the dry-ingredient mixture in three equal batches, mixing until evenly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, then mix on low speed for about one more minute, just to ensure that all the ingredients have come together.

Form the dough into a block and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until lightly chilled throughout.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Cut out the desired shapes and place onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 325 for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before decorating with royal icing.

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.comRoyal Icing

Makes about 2 cups

1/2 cup pasteurized liquid egg whites
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
Food coloring, fruit powder, or yogurt powder (optional)

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a handheld electric mixer, mix the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Add sugar and mix until smooth. Add lemon juice and mix until smooth. Add food coloring or powder if desired, mixing until your ideal shade is reached.

Pipe the frosting onto the cookies using a pastry bag. Allow the icing to harden and store the cookies in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to three days.


Gingerbread Winter Warm Up

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comThis post was made in partnership with Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur. Recipe and ideas are my own.

Do you have a holiday cookie tradition? I think I may have perfected my gingerbread cookie recipe this year. I mean, I’m using Thomas Keller’s Bouchon recipe as the base, so you really can’t go wrong with that. But, it is the first year that I made a cookie like this that didn’t just separate and spread all over the cookie sheet pan. I’ve yet to find my perfect sugar cookie recipe though. That I can never get right and that always spreads and won’t hold its shape. So, we all have to go without any holiday cookies that are gingerbread; thankfully no one complains. Sorry Santa.

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comWhile making these cookies I thought about how great the baking spices would be in a cocktail. Sure, we see lots of dashes of cinnamon or nutmeg this time of year, but those in combination with an intense ginger flavor…well we’ve got a perfect pair for some whiskey and a hot cocktail. I refer to these heated cocktails during holiday time as winter warm ups. They’re a great companion to a fireplace and a pair of hands in need of warmth.

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream //

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comThis month I’ve teamed up with Kerrygold Irish Cream to make my perfect fireside winter warm up with all the wonderful baking spices found in these gingerbread cookies. It packs a punch of ginger but also has lots of nice spice from the Irish whiskey, and that touch of chocolate and cream in the Kerrygold adds a superb richness to the drink that doesn’t get watered down. And that’s probably because they use real chocolate, and the cream used to make the liqueur comes from grass-fed cows and is a third creamier than what you usually find on the market. You can alter the hot water amount in here to your liking; I keep it around 3 ounces. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you might think about making your own whipped cream and adding some gingerbread syrup to the mix for a super dose of yummy gingerbread-ness (I did. It’s so worth it! Just a tablespoon is all you need to add to your canister.).

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comAfter making this cocktail I need to rethink my gingerbread recipe and add a little chocolate and whiskey and there too now. Then it will be perfect.

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comLet’s get warmed up!

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up (makes two drinks)

3 ounces Irish whiskey
1-1/2 ounces Kerrygold Irish Cream
1-1/2 ounces gingerbread syrup, see recipe below
3 dashes Angostura bitters
6-8 ounces hot water (just under boiling)
whipped cream, optional

In a mixing glass, add the Irish whiskey, Kerrygold Irish Cream, gingerbread syrup and bitters. Stir to combine everything and divide between two glasses. Pour in 3-4 ounces of hot water into each glass and stir gently to combine. Optionally top with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream //

Gingerbread Syrup

Adapted from Le Pain Quotidien
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger (or 3 slices, 1/4″ thick fresh ginger with skin on)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower temperature and keep at a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain fresh ginger out if using, and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, place in an air-tight container. Refrigerate up to one month.

Make or Buy: Allspice Liqueur

Make or Buy: Allspice Liqueur // stirandstrain.comAllspice liqueur. Allspice dram. Pimento dram. Christmas in a bottle. Whatever you call it, this fragrant, spicy liqueur is an essential item in lots of drinks, especially of the Tiki kind. In fact, I believe the first time I came across this ingredient was while I was trying to make all the drinks from Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s classic cocktail book, Grog Log. I rushed out to get a bottle and found that I was out of luck. 7 years ago not many liquor stores out there were carrying it, and this was in Los Angeles, a major city where you’re supposed to find everything.

Make or Buy: Allspice Liqueur // stirandstrain.comLuckily in my search to source hard to find ingredients two things happened:

  1. I found a handful of stores that actually stocked most of these unusual items
  2. I got my hands on recipes to make what I couldn’t find

So now I always had two choices when it came to hard to find bottles, make or buy. And that brings us to today and our first item in this new series on the site, allspice liqueur.

Make or Buy: Allspice Liqueur // stirandstrain.comLet’s start with what you can buy. While there are a few companies making the product, the first one I found on the market, and the brand that I’ve found the easiest to buy, is St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram. There are multiple online liquor stores that will ship it to you if your state allows that. The St. Elizabeth brand is dark amber in color and very heavy on the clove. It’s not too sweet or syrupy and has secondary spices in the nose and flavor such as cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. The price point hovers around $24-$30.

Make or Buy: Allspice Liqueur // stirandstrain.comOn the other hand you can make the liqueur. Allspice berries can be found in bulk online for relatively cheap meaning you can scale up or down depending on your needs. For example, local favorite bar The Tong Hut makes their own allspice liqueur for all their drinks so they can buy in large bags and make a giant batch. But, you also can make a much smaller amount if you’re only sparingly using it. Infusing takes some time, around 4 weeks. And you’ll need to invest in a base liquor. This method allows for much flexibility in flavors as you can use anything from a neutral spirit (like Everclear) to an aged rum (like Appleton 12 year). My version using the recipe below has a balanced flavor of baking spices. I chose not to go too heavy on the clove (personal preference) so this recipe is much more subtle than the St. Elizabeth in that respect. The color is also more golden and cloudy. The mouthfeel is more rich and syrupy. It’s definitely allspice, but a different version than the store-bought.

Make or Buy: Allspice Liqueur // stirandstrain.comThere are definite pros and cons for each option. While St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram is easy to come by where I am, and I’m in a state that I can get liquor shipped to my house, YOU might not have either option available to you. And while anyone can get some allspice berries shipped to their house, YOU may or may not be into a project that will take up to a month to get a finished product.

And how do they compare in a cocktail? To test out the flavors in a drink, I chose the drink Jasper’s Jamaican from Beachbum Berry’s Intoxica. With the simple ingredients of rum, fresh lime juice, allspice liqueur and simple syrup, I figured I could gauge how each would play out in a cocktail.

Make or Buy: Allspice Liqueur // stirandstrain.comThe result? They both work great. While the flavors in the cocktails have some differences, mainly there is more spicy clove in the St. Elizabeth than in my home version, they are not drastically different to say one would work better than the other.

So now you have two choices when it comes to allspice liqueur. Want convenience and a proven brand? Gor for the St. Elizabeth! Want a DIY project that you can customize? Make your own! You’ll end up with a good one no matter which path you choose.

Allspice Liqueur

1-1/4 cups 151 rum
1/4 cup allspice berries, lightly crushed
1 2″ piece of cinnamon
3 whole cloves
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup Appleton 12 year rum

First, combine 151 rum, allspice berries, cinnamon, and cloves in an airtight container (I like using ball jars for this). Seal and shake gently to combine. Let sit 2 weeks in a cool, dry place, shaking once every day or so.

Next, strain the solids (I like to use nut bags for this to make sure all the particles get caught). Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk to dissolve the sugar, bring to just under a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes and then let cool to room temp.

Finally, combine the allspice base, the simple syrup and add in the Appleton 12 year rum. Seal and let rest for an additional 2 to 3 weeks in a cool, dry place. Start tasting at 2 weeks and let rest an additional week if you’re not completely happy with the taste.

Make It: Bourbon Salted Caramels No corn syrup recipe!

Make It: Bourbon Salted Caramels // stirandstrain.comThis post was made in partnership with Truvia®. Recipes and ideas are my own.

The last of the Halloween decorations made their way back into the garage this week. The hold outs were the two trick or treat buckets still filled with candy that were slow to empty. Of course, all the good stuff went immediately. And when I say that I mean that my husband and I ate a good portion of the better candy immediately after the kids went to bed. Then there were the thousands of lollipops, off brand candy, and miscellaneous stuff thrown into the buckets that hung around too long. So those got chucked and the buckets, to my children’s surprise, mysteriously disappeared along with all the rest of the decorations by morning.

Make It: Bourbon Salted Caramels // stirandstrain.comThis holiday always symbolizes quantity over quality, and while I type that out I feel like that’s a lot of holidays now. So that got me thinking about how I can make some little changes for the remainder of the holidays this year to show quality, and thoughtfulness, in the gifts given to others. And for me, one way I like to show that is with handmade gifts.

Make It: Bourbon Salted Caramels // stirandstrain.comI’ve teamed up with Truvia® to craft some special holiday treats that can be used for hostess gifts, stocking stuffers, welcome gifts for out of town guests, or a special treat for someone “just because.” I feel like there’s always someone in your life who could use a little treat for that very reason. I come from a family who are makers. On both sides there are artisans, farmers, photographers, builders, crafters, seamstresses, and my grandfather and uncles can build a classic car from the ground up. Making something, crafting it with your hands, and sharing it with others is very important to me. But you don’t have to build a car. In fact, today I’m making caramels.

Make It: Bourbon Salted Caramels // stirandstrain.comBourbon caramels! Quality treats, but for adults only. These little packages of deliciousness come together fairly quickly but require some stirring and a watchful eye. The hardest part is waiting overnight for them to set. The sweetness comes from Truvia Brown Sugar Blend, a blend of stevia sweetener (the sweet leaves of the stevia plant) and brown sugar, for 75% fewer calories per serving than regular brown sugar. You still get that deep, rich caramel flavor that brown sugar imparts, and the bourbon not only adds a little kick, but it also brings its own vanilla and spice flavors to the caramels.

Make It: Bourbon Salted Caramels // stirandstrain.comSo I think it’s time to get in the kitchen and make some treats!

A few notes on making the caramels:

  • Yes, there’s not a lot of volume here, but trust me, you will need a larger pot than you think for when the mixture boils later. Once the dairy is added it boils up but that’s normal!
  • Cream of tartar! Why is it here? Good question! Because corn syrup is not used in this recipe as it is in most caramel recipes, we need something to inhibit the formation of sugar crystals. Corn syrup is an invert sugar that does just that (honey is as well and sometimes you will see recipes call for that but I’ve heard conflicting opinions on how well it works) but cream of tartar introduces an acid to the mix that also will help inhibit those sugar crystals to form and give a smooth texture to your caramel.
  • Since we’re using Brown Sugar Blend it will be hard to tell when the mixture has started to burn, other than smelling it and you don’t want to get to that point. The last 50°  when waiting for your mixture to hit 350° goes rather quickly (getting to 300° usually takes awhile) so stay nearby watching the thermometer or using an instant read thermometer with an alarm for when it reaches temperature.
  • This is a bourbon forward recipe. Feel free to cut back to a 1/2 ounce for a more subtle flavor.

Make It: Bourbon Salted Caramels // stirandstrain.comBourbon Salted Caramels

Adapted from Busy in Brooklyn

2 cups Truvia Brown Sugar Blend
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream, room temperature
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ounce bourbon of your choice
3/4 teaspoon flakey sea salt

Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides of the pan.

In a large pot, combine the Brown Sugar Blend, cream of tartar and water and set over low heat. Whisk continuously until the sugar dissolves completely, around 5-8 minutes. If sugar crystals appear above the surface of the syrup, wipe down the sides of the pot with a damp pastry brush (I keep a bowl of water nearby with a silicone pastry brush).

When the Brown Sugar Blend dissolves, clip an instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar (if using a thermometer with a wire string, do not immerse the string). Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the syrup to a boil, whisking until bubbles begin to form, then stop stirring. Continue cooking the Brown Sugar Blend without stirring, brushing down the sides of pot if crystals form.

When the syrup reaches 350°F (this took about 20 minutes for me) remove it immediately from the heat and add in the heavy cream and butter. The mixture will start to bubble up at this point so use caution.

When the mixture settles, stir with a silicone spatula until smooth. Return the pot to the stove and boil until the mixture reaches 248°, around 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, add the bourbon and salt, stir to combine.

Pour the caramel into the parchment-lined pan and bang it on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Let the caramels set for 6 hours, or overnight, in a cool, dry place.

Once set, caramels can be cut out to desired shapes and wrapped in parchment paper. Will keep at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Make It: Bourbon Salted Caramels //