Everyone loves receiving a homemade gift of the food variety. Even more so when it tastes good! Here’s a quick round up of some of my favorite items to make and give.
These rum balls are different from what I grew up with. Mostly they’re like fudge chock full of nuts and aged rum. Then rolled around in coffee flavored jimmies. Do you call them jimmies? Apparently these are one of those regional food items that every part of the country calls something else. You may know them as sprinkles. Or.. I dunno. What else do people call them? I also grew up eating American Chop Suey which apparently only people from Rhode Island and New Hampshire eat.
There is no actual baking in this recipe. Yes, there’s a double boiler but all that is required of you there is to get some water hot and then stir for about 5 minutes. What I’m really saying here is don’t be afraid of the confection; it’s amazingly simple to make but looks super hard and that means people will fawn all over you for making this.
Let’s do this!
Happy holidays guys! I hope you try your hand at making these!
Inspiration came from an unlikely place this time in the form of online dating. Yes, if you’ve been a loyal (or even semi-loyal) reader on here you know I am attached, so I wasn’t out looking, but Match.com came looking for me! In collaboration with the site, they asked me to come up with a London-inspired cocktail. Something that you’d want to order on your first date. You know, the date where you’re trying to impress the other person with your knowledge of fine spirits and interesting ingredients…. that “showing off” I try to impress all of you readers with every week.
For me, when I think of what Londoners are drinking, my mind goes to sophistication. Classy, gin-based cocktails (I’m picturing the American Bar at the Savoy), and then, perhaps, closely followed by beer (I mean, there’s a lot of pubs around town). But all of that tends to start to seem mundane when you suddenly have to impress someone on a first date. And first impressions are everything. So, I’ve come up with a London-inspired cocktail that is still sophisticated, but much more interesting than your run of the mill gin and tonic. Looking for your ice breaker? Here you go…
What was my inspiration behind this cocktail? Tony Conigliaro, whose imaginative cocktails are inspiring to myself and many others way across the pond, and curry. No, seriously, curry too. When I think of the flavors of London, I immediately go to the fragrant and spicy dishes found everywhere in town. An amalgam of cultures, London lets you cherry pick the best flavors found all over the planet. But for today, my mind went to curry.
Or, more specifically, the turmeric found in curry. Turmeric’s bright yellow color not only provides a beautiful color for the cocktail, but its peppery flavor profile gives it a nice earthy, warm kick too. Oh, and if you’re looking for some banter, it also has numerous health benefits, lots of which you can wiki when you have a moment (just not during your date please).
And there I got my warming cocktail, with turmeric. A couple dashes of lapsang souchong tea tincture gave the drink not only some heft, but an unexpected smoky flavor coming from such a brightly colored cocktail. Rounding out the ingredients, orange flower was added as a finishing touch calling out some of the Middle Eastern influence also found around town. Orange was used instead of lime for the much needed citrus element for this take on a Gin and Tonic.
2 ounces London Dry Gin, Beefeater used here
3/4 ounce Turmeric syrup (recipe below)
3-4 drops Lapsang Souchong tea tincutre
4 ounces tonic water, Fever-Tree used here
2 sprays orange flower water (use an atomizer to disperse)
orange peel for garnish
Build the drink by adding a large ice cube to a double rocks glass. Pour in syrup and then add drops of tincture. Pour in gin, top with tonic and then spray orange flower water over glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh turmeric root, cleaned and roughly chopped
Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 2 hours. Strain into an airtight container. Store for up to one month.
Strong orange oil on the nose and the hint of quinine. The first sip is both sweet and immediately hits you with savory from the tea tincture; it’s an unexpected twist. Next layer of flavors you get are more earthy from the turmeric syrup which balances the sweetness of the syrup and tonic against the strong, smoky lapsang suchong. In the end there is still a crisp bite from the gin that reminds you, at its core, it’s just a tarted up Gin & Tonic.
While I hear reports of snow hitting ground in some cities, Los Angeles still is having a personality crisis and can’t decide whether it wants to be Fall or Summer. It’s a perennial problem. So, I made a dessert that encompasses this contrast: Fall flavors encapsulated in a frozen dessert.
Following along similar veins to that apple-packed cocktail from a few weeks ago, I went ahead and packed this boozy dessert with pears: fresh pears, pear liqueur, and bubbly pear soda. Then I added some honey and St. Germain. I know that St. Germain gets thrown into cocktails much like salt gets thrown into everything, but have you stopped and just tasted it by itself lately? I forgot how rich it was, with beautiful notes of honey and spice, as well as the floral element it is known for. I wanted to bring this bottle back out after a brief hiatus and pair it with an ingredient that would accentuate those notes: like a pear.
St. Germain was actually one of the first bottles of liqueur that I bought when I was trying to add more “fancy stuff” to my home bar years ago. I remember traveling to this high-end liquor store in Pasadena and having to ask the clerk if he’d ever heard of it. Well, duh, of course he had. I forget what I made with it that first time around, but besides the unique taste, I also bought it in part because of the fancy looking bottle. You’ll still see those purchases in my home bar now; I’m a sucker for great packaging.
Now, this dessert requires a bit of hand-holding. However, if you start it early enough in the afternoon, you will be rewarded with a delicious treat by night. And by hand-holding, you’re mainly sticking a fork in it every few hours or so.
Ok, let’s begin.
2 heaping cups cubed pears
1/4 cup Pear Liqueur
1/2 cup St. Germain
1 cup water
1 cup Sipp Summer Pear Soda*
1/4 cup honey (note: heating up the honey in the microwave for 15 seconds makes it pourable)
1-1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and blend until smooth. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish and move to the freezer. About every hour, run a fork through the mixture until it forms ice chunks or until you’re happy with the consistency. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Lots of pear flavor with strong notes of honey. The boozy aspect of this comes through, but I don’t find it off-putting, it’s just another layer to the dessert. The elderflower is subtle, and gives this a slight earthiness. Overall, just sweet enough. If you can adjust the honey based on your own preference (taste the mixture in the food processor first before freezing to make any adjustments).
Hey Guys! If you want to get your hands on your own Sipp Sodas, stayed tuned this week for another giveaway on the site!
*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that National Chocolate Day falls so close to Halloween. Whoever is coming up with these “holidays”, and I think it quite possibly could be a food blogger, is making it easy for me to come up with roundup posts at least once a month. Hey, mostly it means I get to re-introduce some older posts you all might not be familiar with. Like some of these:
I’ve had this recipe out there for so long on my “to make” list that I can’t even remember how I decided to come to develop a macadamia nut version of this almond-based syrup. All I can say is that regular orgeat is lighter in flavor, while the roasted macadamia nuts give a more hefty, robust nuttiness to the final product. It’s still quite sweet, as it should be – it’s a syrup. That said I don’t see this as a blanket replacement for regular almond orgeat. The macadamia nuts would do well to balance out some sweeter flavors like coconut or give dimension to some blander fruits like banana.
Now on to the recipe!
Adapted from Beach Bum Berry Remixed
Yields aproximately 1-1/2 liters
500 grams raw macadamia nuts
800 ml water
700 grams granulated sugar, organic
1 ounce vodka
2 teaspoons orange flower water (start here and gradually add more to taste)
- Start by roasting the macadamia nuts. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lay macadamia nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast them in the oven for 15-17 minutes until golden in color. If your oven runs hot, start checking around 12 minutes to make sure they don’t burn. Macadamia nuts are expensive and you don’t want to waste them.
- Cool the nuts and place them in a bowl. Fill with water to just cover them. Soak them for 30 minutes. Drain, place them in a freezer or Lewis bag, and crush them with a meat tenderizer (I found this work much better than with a rolling pin and I didn’t feel like busting out the food processor).
- Place the crushed nuts in a large bowl and add the 800 ml of water to it. Let stand for two hours. Strain the nuts and water into another large bowl through a layer of cheesecloth, squeezing the cloth to extract all liquid. Add the nuts back into the strained water and let stand for another hour. This removes the oils from the nuts.
- Strain the liquid into a sauce pan and set aside the nuts for another use (I recommend making chocolate bark because… chocolate). Add the sugar to the pan and stir over medium high heat until sugar is dissolved (scrape the bottom occasionally with a spoon to remove any sugar that sticks). Remove from heat and let cool 15 minutes, then add the vodka and orange flower water. Stir and store in a clean glass bottle or air tight container.
P.S. if you happen to be in Los Angeles in October on either the 6th or the 27th, you can taste this wonderful orgeat at The Coconut Club in our signature drink. Just saying.
This tincture is pretty easy to assemble, it just takes a few days to brew.
1/2 cup grain alcohol
1/3 cup green cardamom pods, slightly cracked (you can use a mortar and pestle to do this easily)
In an airtight container (mason jars with lids work great) combine alcohol and cardamom pods. Swirl to combine and leave in a cool, dark place for 6 days. After 6 days, strain out solids using a fine strainer and cheesecloth. Store in a airtight jar. Flavor will last up to a year.
The aroma the tincture imparts is an intense cardamom smell that has sweet, floral notes. Looking for a recipe to go along with this? Stay tuned! One coming up this week.
Bottling cocktails to have on hand at home (or to bring to a party, or give out as baby shower gifts, whatever) is really very easy. Yes, like any project, you need to invest in some basic equipment. The internet is a great source for that (I’ll post some sources below), but if you’re in a town that has a beer supply shop you could also hop on down to one and very likely find these items. Let’s assume you have the booze on hand for a cocktail you’d like to bottle, then all you need are bottles, caps and a capper. And 2 out of the 3 items can be used over and over again.
Last week Serious Eats published a recipe of mine that was a jumping off point to start bottling cocktails at home. I love single serving bottles that can be handed off to guests when they show up late to your house and demand that you make them a fancy cocktail. I’m not a night person, so my brain after 9pm is staticky at best (no one ever shows up for cocktails at 10am). However, if I have a small supply of varying fanciness in the fridge ready to go at a moments notice, then I look cool. And no one can tell I’d rather be in bed then entertaining (until I fall asleep mid-sentence on the couch).
Cocktails that work well in a bottled cocktail form have the standard rules of NO dairy and NO fresh juice due to stability issues (although I’m testing one of those out next week so check back in here!!). Instead of bottling the household standards of a Manhattan or a Negroni, likely choices since they’re all booze, I decided to riff on an Old Fashioned. It being summertime, I wanted a recipe that worked well both in terms of summer flavor and also would work in a bottle. Thus, the Salted Peanut Old Fashioned was born. Using peanuts in an Old Fashioned I’ve seen before, but I see it a lot on the sweet side. For this drink I wanted to cut back on the sugar, and create a more savory profile. The whole idea made me reminisce about late summer baseball games and eating peanuts and you can read all that in the original post. The summer 6-pack of beer was being replaced by a 6-pack of cocktails!
Couple facts to point out before we begin:
- Water. Water is added to the base since we will NOT be stirring the cocktails. These are stand alone and can be poured right into your mouth and enjoyed from that bottle they’re living in. Or, if you want to get sophisticated, they can be poured into a chilled cocktail glass too. Also, the amount of dilution can be based on YOUR desire as well. Want it to be a tad stronger? Decrease the amount of water, but don’t forgo it altogether unless you want to stir these with ice when you crack them open.
- Yes, there is an infusion in the recipe, but nut infusions tend to move rather quickly. 24 hours isn’t that long if you’re already dedicated to the project.
- The amount of salt added is to MY taste, not your taste. So if you like things less salty, add less. More salty, add more. You should actually want to drink this.
Ready to start bottling? Let’s go!
Peanut Infused Rye
Note: the peanuts will soak up a few ounces of liquor, so you’ll start with more base rye than you think you’ll need.
16 ounces rye whiskey, such as Rittenhouse 100
1 cup (about 5-6 ounces) raw peanuts
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread raw peanuts on a baking sheet and roast in oven for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking. Let cool. Combine rye and roasted peanuts in an airtight container for 24 hours. Strain peanuts through cheesecloth over a fine strainer, and then strain liquid once more through a new cheesecloth. (If you feel like you’re not getting all the oils/fats/solids out, freeze the mixture for a few hours and scrape off any fats that rise to the top. Thaw, and then use below)
Salted Peanut Old Fashioned
12 ounces peanut-infused rye (recipe above)
9 ounces water
4 ounces simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
12 dashes Angostura Bitters
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
In a large measuring cup, combine all ingredients. Using a small funnel, pour 4 ounces of the mixture into each bottle. Using a capper, cap each bottle. Refrigerate if you’re using soon or you can store in a cool, dark place for several months.
The aroma is sweet and nutty while the cocktail has a rich, savory flavor that is complimented by the addition of salt. Bottling this will not change the flavors too dramatically (yes, they will meld a bit together) as we are not barrel-aging, we’re stopping the flavors in time. Summertime.
Amari are a great sub in for cocktails of the lighter ABV style (as you’ve seen in this first round here) although as I’ve mentioned before, not all are going to clock in under 40% so read your labels. This drink, written earlier this week for Serious Eats, is all about my love/hate relationship with berry season. Mainly, I can’t stand the damn seeds in berries. They pretty much ruin my enjoyment of one of my favorite types of fruit. However, being the crafty person that I am, getting around the issue of the seeds in cocktails was solved with a pretty simple berry syrup. All the flavor with none of the seeds. Smart.
So please enjoy this late Sunday sipper while we still have long, bright evenings here in the Northern Hemisphere (sorry Australia, you get yours in December). And learn to be OK with drinking cocktails that end in -spritz and are pink.
For the Raspberry-Mint Syrup:
1 cup raspberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
10 mint leaves
In a medium saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar, and water over medium-high heat. Mash raspberries with a wooden spoon to break up. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Add mint leaves and stir to combine. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain into an airtight container. Syrup keeps up to 1 month in the refrigerator.
For the cocktail:
3 ounces dry sparkling wine
1 ounce club soda
2 ounces Cocchi Americano
3/4 ounce Raspberry-Mint Syrup
Raspberries and mint, for garnish
Fill a rocks glass or goblet with ice. Add sparkling wine, club soda, Cocchi Americano, and Raspberry-Mint Syrup. Gently stir to combine. Garnish with raspberries and a sprig of mint.
I’ve got some more of these low alcohol summer cocktails coming at you over the next few weeks so I really hope you enjoy them! As always, let me know if you’re enjoying one through the internet! It’s online all the time!
Now, please stay with me on this. First, shake off your assumptions that suddenly the lofty Negroni has gone the way of the 7/11 slurpee machine: believe me, this is nothing like that. Gone are the teeth-tinglingly sweet frozen drinks you’re used to downing in the summer. The wasted calories of footlong, electric blue “adult” slushies that have about a thimble of alcohol in them and more corn syrup than anything else. These frozen versions of the Negroni take the actual, delicious drink, and whiz it up with ice for all of the bittersweet flavor, only now you sip it through a straw.
Oh, and when I say versions, I mean you get TWO variations for this frozen cocktail: classic and a fruit-forward twist on a white negroni: watermelon. The watermelon version is inspired by a drink I just had at a friend’s wedding which was, essentially, a White Negroni whose vermouth had been infused with watermelon. The idea was playful and it was delicious and I knew I needed to make something like that for the site. Lately, I’ve been enjoying a bit more whimsy in my cocktails, I still enjoy the classics, but when you’re recipe developing all the time, your brain wants to go in warped places. At least mine does.
Anyways, the idea was great, but I wanted some flexibility with the recipe. And since I wanted something a bit more versatile that I could use in multiple drinks, I infused the gin instead. It’s a short infusion, just two days, and you could always start tasting after day 1 if you don’t want a super-watermelon-y flavor and strain when you think it’s ready. Hint: if you want something over ice, instead of something made of ice, try the watermelon gin with some tonic; the sweet and bitter work well together.
OK! So let’s stop taking ourselves SO seriously, at least for today, and enjoy some frozen cocktails.
4-1/2 ounces gin, such as G’Vine or Fords
2-1/2 ounces Campari
2-1/2 ounces Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
3 cups ice (for a thicker drink, add an additional 1/2 cup ice to each batch)
Orange slices, for garnish
- Combine gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in an airtight container. Place in freezer and freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
- When ready to serve, add chilled alcohol and ice to blender. Blend on high speed until uniform and smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour into rocks glasses or small wine glass. Garnish with an orange slice and serve immediately.
Frozen Watermelon White Negroni
1/2 cup cubed watermelon
1-1/2 cups gin, such as Broker’s or St. George Botanivore
4-1/2 ounces watermelon gin (see recipe below, line 1)
2-1/2 ounces Cocchi Americano
2-1/4 ounces Dolin Dry Vermouth
3 cups ice (for a thicker drink, add an additional 1/2 cup ice to each batch)
Watermelon and orange slices, for garnish
- For the watermelon gin: In an airtight container, combine gin and watermelon. Keep in a cool, dark place for 48 hours. Strain into a clean, airtight container until ready to use. Will keep up to one year.
- For the Watermelon White Negroni Slushie: Combine watermelon gin, Cocchi Americano, and vermouth in an airtight container and freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
- When ready to serve, add frozen alcohol to a blender with ice. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Split between rocks glasses or small wine glasses. Garnish each glass with a watermelon.
First, drink these with an ounce of caution; they kinda go straight to your head if you sip them up quickly. Second, the chilling overnight is so your mixture does not dilute the ice too quickly while you blend (this step is optional). The classic Negroni tastes pretty much like what you’d get in its natural state. Even though the bitterness is still very present, with this icy state it’s lovely and the citrus notes are quite present. And not watered down tasting! The watermelon on the other hand is delicate with only a hint at the bitterness from the Cocchi Americano. While the fruity watermelon is present, it doesn’t overpower the drink as a whole – it’s a nice accent.
So choose one, or both, to make this weekend. I choose both.
I originally published this recipe on Serious Eats.
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