Vanilla-Infused Amaretto Sour with lemon foam!

Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com
This post is brought to you by Nielsen-Massey. Ideas are my own.

Is it too early to start thinking about Fall weather and cozy sweaters? Is it wrong that I may have turned my air conditioning down real low the other day and pretended it was cold outside? Please don’t judge. When Southern California gets its end-of-summer heat waves (that start around mid-August and go through October. Blech.), I start daydreaming pretty hard about being able to turn on my fireplace and snuggle up to it with something equally cozy.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

Amaretto might not scream Autumn to you, in fact, it just might make you scream, but I’m a firm believer that a little amaretto now and then is good for you. Ever since I made myself an Amaretto Sour a few years back (on a quest to find things to do with this giant bottle I had acquired), I realized that I had been missing out on a flavor I really loved, and wouldn’t mind more of: almond. But then I went and had too much of a good thing and realized my go-to sour just wasn’t cutting it. What I needed was a little more warm, Fall flavors, and maybe a heaping helping of the unexpected. So in stepped Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar Bourbon (my “all purpose”) vanilla beans and pure lemon extract. And a couple of N2O cartridges for good measure.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

I’ve had Nielsen-Massey vanilla beans, pastes, extracts, you name it, in my pantry for over a decade now (thanks in part to my old job where I had access to the best ingredients Los Angeles chefs could get. Read why they’re a great pick here!). Today I’m excited to team up with them to bring you a cocktail using their amazing, hand picked vanilla beans.

Vanilla and almond are a great pair. I stick them in plenty of baked goods, and now I’m sticking them together in a cocktail. I’m also including an egg white, typically found in a sour, but not in your typical way.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

I make no apologies on here about my love of foams in drinks. Besides looking nice, foams provide a way to suspend aromas above the drink, and also are a lovely layer to taste as well. That silky texture is your first sip before you get to the meat of the cocktail. Here, an extra boost of lemon first greets your nose before you get to the rich vanilla flecked amaretto. The foam mixes with the cocktail to cut through that richness to make the usual heavier cocktail a much lighter version.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

So now you have a fun weekend DIY and a whole week to look forward to this delicious cocktail. But… if you can’t wait a week, you can always cheat with a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste mixed into your amaretto. The flavor is not as deep as the infusion but works in a pinch!Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

Vanilla-infused Amaretto

1 cup amaretto
2 Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans, cut into 1” segments

Combine the amaretto and vanilla segments in an airtight container. Shake hard for 10 seconds to release some of the seeds from the pods. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 5 days. Taste test and leave for another day or two if you want an even stronger flavor. When ready, strain pods from the amaretto leaving seeds behind in the liquid. Infusion will keep for 1 year stored in a cool, dark place.

Lemon Foam

4 ounces water
2 ounces egg whites
1 ounce simple syrup
1-1/2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey lemon extract

In a whip cream canister, add water, egg whites, simple syrup and lemon extract. Seal and charge with one N2O charger. Shake hard and charge with a second charger. Shake again and chill for at least an hour before using.

Click here to purchase the whip cream canister and the N2O chargers!

For the cocktail

2 ounces vanilla-infused amaretto
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
lemon foam
lemon peel for garnish

In a shaker ⅔ filled with ice, add the vanilla-infused amaretto and lemon juice. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Top with about ½” of the lemon foam. Garnish with the lemon peel.

Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

For more information on Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, please visit the Nielsen-Massey website or follow Nielsen-Massey on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Make it: Pickled Watermelon Garnish and a sweet and sour ginger cockail

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comGrowing up, there was a place where my Dad played pool that boasted a large, murky glass jug filled with iridescent white orbs; you might call them pickled eggs. Something about their appearance on a bar top, poorly lit by the fluorescent lighting, made the act of eating them akin to sticking ones hand in fire: you just didn’t do it unless you were drunk and your friend dared you to.

However, given a few decades between that memory and now, I probably wouldn’t have to be dared to eat them, and there’s a good chance I’d eat them sober too. My love of pickled food items has grown tremendously over the last 10 years. Partly because I’ve eaten some really, really good pickled items out at restaurants. Another part might have to do with my chunk of Scandinavian heritage. And partly because once you’ve eaten enough food your friends have dared you to eat while drinking, well, at some point you start to like it all.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMy introduction to pickled watermelon rinds did not, however, come at the tail-end of a deep Southern drinking spree. I was offered some from a friend, tried them, and liked them. And today, because I’ve been overindulging in the bounty that is summer watermelon, I decided to make up a batch from all those leftover rinds.Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I’m also including a complimentary cocktail to go along with your pickled watermelon. It too uses scraps in the form of ginger knobs (My freezer is full of tiny bits of ginger because I can never quite buy the right amount and cannot bring myself to throw away anything.). A tiny bit of the brine goes a long way to perk up the cocktail, so definitely make both!

You’ll find that these tiny sweet and salty, slightly crunchy rinds are also a delicious bar snack to have around for the summer. And I’m sure any guests will appreciate these just a tad more than the jar of pickled eggs.Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Pickled Watermelon Rind:

1 small watermelon, about 4 pounds
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
2 cloves, whole
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, whole

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove outer green layer of skin from watermelon (if you have a smaller watermelon, cut the bottom and top ends off so you can stand your watermelon up to peel. If it’s larger, cut in half to stand up). Discard skin. Cut rind into 1-inch cubes and reserve pink flesh for another use.
  2. Combine apple cider vinegar, sugar, water, salt, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, bay leaf, chili pepper flakes, cloves, and coriander seeds in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add watermelon rind, return to a boil and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and carefully place a heatproof plate on top of the rind to keep it submerged as the mixture comes to room temperature.
  3. Once cool, transfer entire mixture to an airtight container and let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 days and up to 2 weeks.

Ginger Infused Vodka:

1 cup peeled fresh ginger root, sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 cups vodka, such as St. George Spirits All Purpose Vodka

  • Combine vodka and ginger in an airtight container. Let stand in a cool, dark place for 5 days or to your desired spiciness, up to 14 days total. Strain into an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor each cocktail:

1-1/2 ounces Ginger Infused Vodka
1/4 ounce dry vermouth, such as Dolin
3 ounces chilled Prosecco
Pickled Watermelon Rind, for garnish

  • Combine Ginger Infused Vodka and vermouth in a mixing glass and fill two-thirds full with ice. Stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a small wine glass or coupe. Top with Prosecco and garnish with the pickled watermelon rind.

Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails the Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni

Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.comSometime over the past 6 months the Negroni cocktail became my go-to drink at home. Maybe it’s the simplicity in the recipe, or the rush of the bitter with the sweet. Maybe I just got tired of making Manhattans.

Making a nightly Negroni meant that I rapidly ran out of certain ingredients like sweet vermouth. And Campari. So when I couldn’t make it to the store to stock back up, I started to get a little clever with the bitter and the sweet elements (the gin, of course, always stayed the same).Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.com

I’m also talking about the Negroni cocktail today because next week is Negroni Week! It’s not just an excuse to drink this cocktail, but there’s also a great cause behind it. You can read all about that right here.

Last year I switched out the gin with mezcal, but this year we’re keeping the gin but adding in some extra flavor goodness. Like coconut. And coffee.Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.com

St. George Spirits put out this NOLA Coffee Liqueur a little while ago and I’ve been obsessed with getting a bottle. I could drink this stuff straight, but today I’m using the liqueur in lieu of sweet vermouth in the first Negroni variation. This Negroni combines that bittersweet, robust coffee liqueur with toasted coconut infused gin and a touch of Campari (and don’t worry, if you feel you haven’t the time for another cocktail project I’ve got a pretty simple variation below too). It’s more of an after-dinner drink, or actually, a pretty amazing weekend brunch cocktail (or breakfast cocktail if you prefer).Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.com

Coconut Coffee Negroni

Toasted Coconut Gin

1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup Martin Miller’s Gin

Set your oven to 350°F. On a cookie sheet, spread out the coconut flakes in an even layer. Place in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes. Let cool and move to an airtight container (I used a wide mouth canning jar). Cover with the gin, seal, and let sit out overnight. The next day strain through a coffee filter into a new, clean airtight container (I often use old liquor bottles).

The Cocktail

1 ounce coconut infused gin
1 ounce St. George Spirits NOLA Coffee Liqueur
3/4 ounce Campari

  • In a double rocks glass with a large ice cube, pour in coconut infused gin, coffee liqueur, and Campari. Stir 15 seconds to chill and serve.Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.com

Now, for those of you who’d like something with a little fewer steps, I give you this Negroni variation. Basically I ran out of most of the ingredients one might need to make one and ended up with this. It’s still got a nice bite and the Zucca does the double duty of being both semi-sweet and bitter with a little more orange-y bitterness from the orange bitters.Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.com

The Moorish Dance

1-3/4 ounce gin, Ford’s used here
1-3/4 ounce Zucca
2 dashes orange bitters, Regan’s No.6 used here
orange peel for garnish

  • In a double rocks glass with a large ice cube, pour in the gin and Zucca. Add the dashes of bitters, stir 15 seconds to chill and express the oils from the orange peel over the drink. Add the zest for garnish.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer & Pisco Cocktail whole lotta goodness that tastes like cream soda

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis week I’m having a hard time pinning down exactly what I’d like to tell you guys about. I think it was a lot easier when there were less eyes on the page and I could ramble on about how using a jigger like a professional bartender just makes me look like an idiot (albeit I’ve improved slightly), or that I tried and failed, again, at growing an herb garden but I’ve got SO   MUCH  ROSEMARY I can’t give it away fast enough.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThere’s got to be some performance anxiety tied to having the site nominated for any kind of award. So I think now is the time to take a step back and reassess the story I’d like to share with you guys, that may or may not have to do with a cocktail I am making.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIn the meantime, I’d like to formally state that I’m totally not into this switch on the mac OS where IPhoto has gone away and I’m stuck having to use their new “Photos” program. Mainly I’m whining because it now means I really need to learn Lightroom better. So, if any of you guys out there have a good quick and dirty immersion “how to” so I can stop dragging my feet and just learn it already, I’d appreciate the feedback and suggestions.Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Also, I have this delightful cocktail I made for you guys that might seem like a Whoa! but really, it’s pretty easy to assemble and I sweetened my ice teas for the next week with the leftover syrup so it definitely has some stretching power. Plus, it’s rhubarb season and I’m sick of pies already (not really, but I’m sick of MAKING them!).Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup:

1 cup sugar
1 cup sliced (1/2-inch) rhubarb
1 cup water
1 Mexican Vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped (reserve pod)

  • Combine sugar, rhubarb, water, and vanilla seeds and pod in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain into an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 weeks.

For the Cocktail:

1-1/2 ounces Pisco
3/4 ounce Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup
3 ounces Scottish Ale, such as Ballast Point Piper Down
Vanilla bean, for garnish (optional)

  • In a rocks glass filled with ice, build the drink by adding pisco and rhubarb vanilla syrup. Gently add beer, stirring just to combine. Garnish with vanilla bean and serve immediately.

First off, this tastes like cream soda. Because of the viscosity of the Pisco, the mouthfeel is super creamy. The Scottish Ale provides some toasty, caramel notes that adds a richness to the drink, while the Pisco imparts some citrus and a touch of floral (Tahitian vanilla would tip this drink overboard in the floral direction, so make sure you use Mexican vanilla) along with that lovely viscosity. That small buzz you get afterward however would prove otherwise.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I originally created this recipe for Serious Eats!

The Pineapple Hop it starts with a pineapple shrub

The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.comSo how was your week?

I dropped my phone in a toilet. What’s worse was the speed with which I dove in to grab it without even thinking about “is the bowl clean or dirty” (it was clean by the way). And it works still so that’s a plus.

I learned how to vacation with an infant (very different ideas of “vacation” now exist for me). And that spending several days in the wonderful desert heat almost always means for me coming back to Los Angeles and experiencing gray, grey days. It also makes me appreciate the contrasts in climate for this part of the country.

The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAlso, May starts today. Which means it is practically summer and wasn’t everyone everywhere complaining about snowstorms and the like about 5 minutes ago? Maybe it’s the crippling realization that time really does speed up the older you get but man, do I need a cocktail right about now. So let’s think about summer drinks.

If we’re thinking about summer days to come, I’m sure pineapples fit in there somewhere. In my house, I fit them in all the time despite the time of year, but that’s me. For today’s recipe, I’m giving you guys some homework first (OK, ok, a DIY super fun, easy, hands off it practically makes itself project): pineapple shrub.

The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.comI’m not kidding either. Making a shrub is so easy I’m not sure why more people aren’t batching this in their kitchen all time?! Oh, lack of counter space. And, well, better things to do I guess might prevent that from happening. For the sake of this post I’ll just assume you’re on board with me for this one project. Let’s continue.The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

If we’re thinking about summer, we’re also thinking about refreshing drinks, and for a lot of you guys out there, beer. Beer and BBQ and hotdogs and maybe a few illegal fireworks. So, surprise! I’m putting beer in this cocktail too. Pineapples and beer and RUM.

The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAre you already picturing yourself running through a sprinkler and drinking this cocktail? Me too. Except let’s hold on to that thought and wait two weeks while this shrub brews and then we can get to the galavanting. At least this week is done.

Pineapple Shrub

1 medium pineapple, peeled, and cubed into 1” pieces
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

Place the pineapple cubes in a clean, sterilized container. Cover with the sugar and lightly crush the pineapples (I used a potato masher). Let sit, covered with a tea towel, in the open for 8 hours or overnight. Strain fruit and add apple cider vinegar. Cover and let sit unrefrigerated in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Shake the mixture every other day. In two weeks, filter into an airtight container and refrigerate. Will last up to 6 months. Yields approximately 3 cups.

For the cocktail

1 ounce white rum, SelvaRey used here
1 ounce pineapple shrub (see above)
1/4 ounce orgeat
4 ounces IPA beer, Stone IPA used here

In a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice, pour in rum, shrub and orgeat. Stir to chill 20 seconds and strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice. Top with beer.

The biting, tangy nature of the shrub is excellent paired with the beer as it provides a contrast to the bitterness that comes with an IPA. Just a touch of sweetness is needed and the sweet almond orgeat provides that along with the white rum. The shrub can be enjoyed all summer long here in this drink, or by itself with a splash of club soda.

*Looking for a larger batched version of this? I originally made that very version for Serious Eats a little while back.

Fresh Lemongrass Sour a DIY project for your weekend

Fresh Lemongrass Sour Cocktail // stirandstrain.comWhat a week folks! In case you haven’t heard, I’ve been nominated again this year for Saveur Magazine’s Best Blog Awards in the cocktail category. A HUGE thanks to everyone who sent in the nomination. Now the voting begins for the winners. You have until April 30th to get that vote in. I super appreciate all of you.

Fresh Lemongrass Sour Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMoving on… to cocktails. In an effort to make cocktails taste more like the foods I love, i.e. Thai Food, I’ve been concocting various infusions lately and experimenting with some bizarre flavor combinations (more to come here soon). One of the simplest though was fresh lemongrass. I compare lemongrass as the pastel cousin to winter citrus. While the oranges and grapefruits have this intense zestiness that I feel counteracts the depressing reality that is winter, lemongrass is a good match for the budding warmth of springtime. It’s floral, with some light citrus notes (but basically it’s the same smell as a citronella candle).Fresh Lemongrass Sour Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For this cocktail I’ve also added back in a little bit of zest in the form of limes and lemons (I guess I needed some zestiness to get me through the soul crushing time known as tax season. Why haven’t I scanned any of my 2014 receipts yet?!?!) to make this a take on a sour. Juice + bitters + zest = just the right amount of punchy citrus.

I’m using vodka as a neutral base for the lemongrass flavor to shine in the infusion. There are two ways you can go about infusing a lemongrass vodka this weekend depending on how much time you want to spend. The longer, more traditional way, requires nothing but time. You chop and bruise the lemongrass, cover with vodka, and wait about 1 to 2 weeks to extract the full flavor. The second way is quite quick, seriously quick, but requires some equipment. An instantaneous infusion can be made with a whip cream canister and two N2O chargers. Extra equipment, sure, but a very immediate infusion.

Instantaneous infusions are a blessing… and a curse. There is only so much room in my home for all these infusions and I don’t think I can drink them fast enough. A sampling party may be in order soon…

OK! Let’s welcome in spring with some booze.Fresh Lemongrass Sour Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the lemongrass infusion:

4 lemongrass stalks
2 cups vodka

  • Clean and remove the outer layer of the lemongrass stalks. Chop the stalks into 1 inch pieces and bruise them by crushing them with the side of your knife. Add the pieces to an airtight container and cover with the vodka. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 week up to 2 weeks. Shake daily. Taste after 1 week and continue to steep up to two weeks to desired flavor. Strain into an airtight container. Will last up to 6 months.
  • Alternatively, to instantaneous infuse, take chopped lemongrass and add to a whip cream canister. Pour in vodka and seal. Charge with one N2O charger. Shake well. Charge a second time with a new N2O charger. Shake well and then discharge contents into a clean, airtight container over a strainer. Infusion will last up to 6 months.

For the cocktail:

2 ounces lemongrass infused vodka (recipe above)
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1 lime
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
3 dashes lemon bitters
lime zest strips for garnish

  • In a shaker, add the lemongrass infused vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white. Dry shake (no ice yet) for about 30 seconds to incorporate the egg white. Add ice and then shake hard for another 30 seconds. Double strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with 3 drops of the lemon bitters topped with the lime zest.

The lemongrass is a more subdued flavor that doesn’t take over the drink or muddle the flavors but provides a subtle floral backdrop to the cocktail. There’s a nice bite from the lime juice and an egg white is added for some extra silky mouthfeel and to add a lightness to the drink. The foamy head created by dry shaking with an egg white suspends the lemon bitters above the cocktail, heightening the heavenly layers of citrus aroma.

I created this recipe originally for Serious Eats this week

A Pitcher of Pisco with Grapefruit, Lime and Thyme

Pisco Brunch Cocktail // stirandstrain.comWelcome back to brunch week on Stir and Strain. Today’s cocktail gets mixed up by the pitcher and also includes a long standing feud between two South American countries.

That’s right! We’re batching up some pisco!Pisco Brunch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Why pisco today? Well, one reason is that it’s been awhile since I’ve made a cocktail on here with it. And two, well, I swallowed the pisco kool-aide (err.. punch?) so to speak.Pisco Brunch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Back in January I attended the second annual Golden State of Cocktails here in Los Angeles. Three days filled with seminars, demonstrations, booze, tacos, science, more booze, some bar crawls, educational booths, and so much more booze. While there were some fantastic seminars attended, the talk on the history of pisco stood out the most for me. It made me… really excited about pisco. I can’t say for certain what it was exactly that made this particular talk so great: the enthusiastic speakers? The bottled punch? The sample after sample of pisco? Whatever it was, I knew I was hooked on the spirit and had to start using it more. Hey, the title of the seminar was “The World’s Most Mixable Spirit”. (And if you’d like a little more history on it, I touched on a couple points in my Serious Eats post you can read.)

Pisco Brunch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So obviously I needed to start mixing with it. Consider this your gateway cocktail into the world of pisco (that is if you are still on the fence about drinking a Pisco Sour due to the egg white. OH, hey. I made a vegan version of that you should try). Here I’ve paired the pisco with the very much in season grapefruits that I had accumulated over the last several weeks from the farmer’s market. Yes, sometimes my seasonal cocktails are just a reason to get rid of some fruit I’ve over-bought. Then I spiked it with a little thyme and a splash of lime.

Pisco Brunch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Grapefruit Syrup:

Zest from one medium grapefruit
1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice from 2 to 3 grapefruits (see note above)
1 cup granulated sugar

  • Combine grapefruit zest, juice, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Strain into an air-tight container. Refrigerate until ready to use or up to 1 week.

For the Bottled Cocktails:

3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice from 3 limes
9 ounces pisco, such as Encanto
4 1/2 ounces Grapefruit Syrup
6 sprigs fresh thyme for garnish

  • In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle together thyme and salt. Add lime juice and stir. Fine-strain into a 24-ounce carafe or swing-top bottle and then pour in grapefruit syrup and pisco. Cap and gently shake to combine. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.
  • For each cocktail, add one large ice cube to a double rocks glass. Pour in 2-3/4 ounces of the bottled cocktail. Gently stir and garnish with a sprig of thyme.

It’s a bright, delicious cocktail that you can easily have along whatever brunch-y dishes you might be cooking up. But still palatable for a pre-dinner drink too if that’s more your thing.

Chamomile and Tangerine Sparkling Cocktail for Two and an excuse to turn off the internet

Chamomile and Tangerine Sparkling Cocktail for Two // stirandstrain.comI told myself I was going to relax tonight and watch tv. That was two and a half hours ago right before I jumped on Instagram. Now I feel like I’ve wasted so much time I should just go back to work. Have you ever looked at so many photos of food that you felt sick? Instagram makes that a reality for me now.

But photos of booze? Can’t get sick from looking at that. Or maybe it’s just all the screen time making my eyes go funny. Maybe that’s what is making me feel sick.Chamomile and Tangerine Sparkling Cocktail for Two // stirandstrain.com

Lately I’ve been wanting to put a ban on having electronic devices on at certain times at home. But with both myself and Christopher working out of the house, attempts to do this have been eagerly thwarted. If your office is in the same structure that you sleep in, then you can pretty much count on a 7 day work week. Unless you have the amazing ability to do such a thing as limit screen time. You, then, are an enigma to me.Chamomile and Tangerine Sparkling Cocktail for Two // stirandstrain.com

Regardless, there are always a few minutes in the day when neither one of us is holding on to a device. The best times are when we’re holding on to a cocktail glass and talking about not work things. Occasionally things get so busy around these parts that, to make things easy on ourselves, I batch up a cocktail and keep it in the fridge. It might be a Manhattan for later in the day (and yes, I might have made it at 9 that morning) or the base to something that can get perked up later on with something sparkling.

This drink is a little something like that.Chamomile and Tangerine Sparkling Cocktail for Two // stirandstrain.com

I had originally written this for Serious Eats as a more Valentine’s Day centered recipe, but I think the sentiment of taking a break from the internet to enjoy another real person’s company is even more fitting for the everyday.

For the Chamomile-Tangerine Syrup:

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
4 chamomile tea bags
Zest of 2 tangerines, white pith removed
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangerine juice

Combine sugar and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a light simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and add tea bags, tangerine juice, and zests. Steep for 6 minutes, then discard tea bags. Cover and let stand an additional 30 minutes. Strain zest and keep syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 1 month.

For the Base:

4 ounces Chamomile-Tangerine Syrup
3 ounces white balsamic vinegar
4 ounces London Dry Gin, such as Tanqueray

Combine syrup, white balsamic, and gin in a swing-top bottle. Gently swirl to blend. Refrigerate until ready to use. Base will keep up to 4 days refrigerated.

For Each Cocktail:

5 ounces chilled dry sparkling wine, such as Cava

Measure out 2 3/4 ounces of the base into a Champagne flute or cocktail glass. Top with sparkling wine.

 

So yes, I ventured out into the land of floral ingredients here with the chamomile, but it’s subtle and mild. For a sweet note, I used the in-season tangerines, and combining their tangy juice and zest with a good dose of chamomile flowers gives a fragrant sweetness without being too perfume-y. It’s a fresh, tangy base with very subtle floral flavors in the background. To make it more zippy in flavor, white balsamic adds some needed acidity while a London Dry style gin adds another herbal layer with just a touch of juniper in the finish. While this base is tasty on its own, it really comes together when you top it off with some sparkling wine. I tried a few varieties and a dry cava brut is best to offset the syrupy base.

Smoked Sugar Cubes and Another Take on an Old Fashioned

Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMy “to make” list is getting out of hand lately. And sometimes those late night scribbles have me scratching my head the next day as I’ve written down just single words like “cream” or “beer” and cannot recall what I was trying to reference. I think I need to keep a recorder by the bed. But then transcribing the next day might prove to be just as perplexing.Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Alas, there is nothing more straightforward than an Old Fashioned. Liquor, bitters, sugar, it’s all wrapped up neat for you and tastes good without all the extra foo-foo. Ok, so maybe a bartender is throwing on a flamed orange peel, or adding in a brandied cherry, or doing just a little bit of foo-foo-ness. But instead of adding on more, I thought I’d take a look at the base ingredients.

The Smoky Citrus Rum Old Fashioned was just the start of delving into looking at the Old Fashioned and seeing what new flavor combinations I could make work. This all stemmed, by the way, from another scribbled note for ideas that read “cleaned up old fashioneds with interesting bitters”. I mean, you could build 100 drinks off of that comment. And I just might do that. But for now I’m just giving you two.Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

And this one has a DIY project! Yay!Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

First, I realized that you all were going to get bored real quick if the only thing I was doing was changing up the bitters. Hell, I got bored with that idea after 2 minutes and moved on to the idea of homemade sugar cubes. So easy, right?! Wrong. Well, it’s going to be easy now because I spent the better part of a month trying out techniques and perfecting this. For you guys.Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Things to know about making your own sugar cubes:

  1. You must use superfine sugar, granulated sugar does not make for a solid cube.
  2. Don’t try and speed this up by microwaving. All these recipe how-to’s I read on making sugar cubes all reference the microwave and I think they are ALL LYING. All the microwave did was melt my sugar, even on low power.
  3. Mini ice cube trays are amazing for perfectly sized cubes. But not necessary. Your choice.

Homemade Smoked Sugar Cubes and Sour Cherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThese smoked sugar cubes taste amazing with sour cherry. Instead of doing that blasphemous thing where you muddle some neon cherries in a glass and call it and Old Fashioned, here I’ve combined sour cherry bitters from Miracle Mile with some tasty bourbon to compliment the heady smoked flavor of the cubes.

Smoked Sugar Cubes

1 cup superfine sugar
2 teaspoons smoke tincture
2 teaspoons water

  • Combine sugar, smoke tincture and water in a bowl. Mix until well combined, similar to the texture of wet sand. Pack sugar into a mini ice cube tray, tamping down each hole. Alternatively, you can spread mixture out in a 1/4 size sheet pan (you might want to double the recipe amount) pressing down hard. Let mixture sit out to dry overnight. When sugar has hardened, pop cubes out of the molds, or cut cubes to size. Store in an airtight container.

Smoked Sugar and Sour Cherry Old Fashioned

2-3 mini smoked sugar cubes
2 dashes Miracle Mile Sour Cherry Bitters
2 ounces bourbon, W.L. Weller used here
optional, blood orange peel for garnish

  • In a mixing glass, add sugar cubes then dash in bitters. Muddle to combine. Add ice 1/2 way up glass and pour in whiskey. Stir to combine about 20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass with a single large ice cube or 2 smaller cubes. Express orange over the glass and add in peel.

The smoke lingers in the back but adds a strong backbone to the drink. Sour cherry bitters add just a touch of bitterness and some sweetness to the rich bourbon. I chose the blood orange for just a hint of citrus and mainly for aesthetics due to the lovely red speckling all over the orange peel.

Smoky Sage Punch

Smoky Sage Punch // stirandstrain.comI hope you’re curled up on a couch right now watching movies. I hope that someone else is making you dinner and you’re only concern is how long can you wait before you seriously have to get up and use the bathroom.

Lazy days are the best, but this past year I’ve had a whole lot of trouble turning the internet off for a second to be able to do just that: be lazy. Starting a new business, starting a family, remembering to put out the trash so that you’re not going on TWO weeks of forgetting. All of this takes so much…TIME. But as we rapidly put a nail in 2014 and I try and remember to reflect on this past year, I can say I regret nothing about my choices this year, even forgetting to be lazy. Actually, especially that.Smoky Sage Punch // stirandstrain.com

I was considering putting this post up on Wednesday for Christmas Eve, but I figured you all were off doing bigger and better things and not sitting around looking at a cocktail blog. Or maybe you were here and were like, Why isn’t there a new recipe before Christmas?!?! I’m super sorry about that guys if that was you. I hope you decided instead to crack open that expensive bottle of whiskey and share it with everyone you hold dear.Smoky Sage Punch // stirandstrain.com

But now we’re going into the post-Christmas daze and we have to start thinking about NYE parties (because we just can’t rest until January 2nd) and we need something we can batch up and serve to people and just get through the night. I bring you all this punch.Smoky Sage Punch // stirandstrain.com

Don’t be scared! There’s a lot of steps but it’s worth it for the end result.

Yields 10 Servings
For the Sage Syrup:

1 cup (8 ounces) water
8 ounces (about 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
10 medium sage leaves

Combine sugar, water, and sage in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, remove from heat, and let sit 1 hour. Strain and store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

For the Oleo-Saccharum:

2 lemons
1 orange
4 ounces (about 4 1/2 tablespoons) sugar

Peel zests from lemons and orange, trying to remove as little white pith as possible. Reserve peeled fruit for another use. Toss the peels with the sugar, muddle, and let sit 6 hours or up to overnight in a nonreactive bowl, covered. Strain peels from the mixture, set liquid aside.

For the Lapsang Souchong Tea:

2 cups (16 ounces) boiling water
1 tablespoon lapsang souchong tea leaves

Pour boiling water over tea in a heat-proof container. Let steep 4 minutes. Strain and set brewed tea aside. Let cool completely before using.

For the Punch:

3 cups (24 ounces) New American style gin, such as Jack Rabbit from Beehive Distilling
1/2 cup (4 ounces) freshly squeezed lemon juice from about 4 lemons
3/4 cup (6 ounces) orange curacao, such as Pierre Ferrand
1/2 cup (4 ounces) sage syrup
2 cups (16 ounces) lapsang souchong tea
Orange rounds, lemon rounds, sage leaves for garnish

Combine gin, tea, oleo-saccarum, sage syrup, lemon juice, and orange curacao in a punch bowl or other serving piece. Stir to combine. Add orange wheels, lemon wheels and sage leaves for garnish. Serve with ladle into ice-filled punch or rocks glasses.

Smoky Sage Punch // stirandstrain.com

This punch is bright and flavorful, with earthy notes from the sage and unexpected smoky tea. The lapsang souchong doesn’t overwhelm with smoke, but instead adds that extra “something” that your guests will try and place all night as they gulp glass after glass. I opted to use a new American style gin for an added dose of botanicals. Jack Rabbit has lots of sage, coriander and rose flavors, but use whatever you have on hand if this isn’t available where you are.

*This post originally appeared on Serious Eats.