Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comFYI guys: you’re probably saying my name wrong. I don’t take offense; it’s been an issue going back to preschool. The spelling is what usually trips people up, especially now that I live in Los Angeles and an “a” is almost always pronounced “ahhhhh” when in fact my “a” is just a short “A”. Why am I talking about this then if it’s a non-issue?

Well, a few weeks back for Serious Eats I decided to make a festive riff on the Caipirinha. It’s a cocktail I love to drink, but only recently. Why the wait? Well, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I was shy about mispronouncing the name. I just sorta froze up about being schooled on the correct way to say the drink. Until I finally got comfortable with one bartender and had them say the name to me over and over and then it stuck.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comI’m sure you all have had that moment in a bar. Intrigued by a drink but one look at the name and you end up passing on it. Too bad! You probably would have liked it. But you want to know what? Your bartender is NOT going to judge you (OK, let’s be real. Maybe one or two a-holes will.). They are there to tell you how to say things right so you can impress your friends next time when you order that intriguing sounding drink. They want to pass on that knowledge and inform you, their customer.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comI had a similar experience with wine years ago when I was up in Napa at a tasting. The Sommelier, some laid back guy in jeans, and quite possibly a jean shirt too, told me that you either like a wine or you don’t. You can hate an expensive bottle and like something you picked up for $7. You don’t need to know if you’re smelling aromas of cherry or rotting wood, you should just want to drink it. I also learned that “legs” on a wine glass are bullshit and when you’re at a tasting, don’t throw back the whole glass (oops! I was young!!).

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comBut back to the drink. Now that we’re in the dull days of January, you already have this sunny Suze cocktail on hand, but here’s a zingy drink with a beautiful jewel tone, all thanks to some pomegranates. A Caipirinha is similar in structure to a Daiquiri, only swapping in cachaça for the rum, and whole lime pieces instead of just the juice, this cocktail has a bolder, huskier quality to it over the more refined and quieter Daiquiri.

That sour bite of the lime gets punched up by the sweet-tart pomegranate, with a little added crunch there from the seeds (sometimes I like a little something extra in my cocktails). Cachaca has an earthy flavor and here, the Leblon adds some floral aroma alongside a slightly peppery taste. By adding the sparkling wine, I find that it mixes the flavors together without dulling down their strong characteristics. You just need a touch of sugar here for balance, so don’t be afraid of adding that bar spoon full.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comOn a side note here, some of you might read the recipe and see sparkling wine then pass over this because the thought of opening a whole bottle just to make one cocktail seems so wasteful. But wait! No need to pass on this, just buy a split! Yes, it’s enough for two of these but really, once you make one you’ll want another. And now, let’s say it together kye-peer-EEN-yah. And by the way, it’s e-LAY-nuh.

1 barspoon superfine sugar (1 teaspoon; 4g)
10 fresh pomegranate seeds
1/2 lime, quartered
1/2 ounce pomegranate juice (1 tablespoon; 15mL)
2 ounces cachaça, such as Leblon (4 tablespoons; 60mL)
3 ounces sparkling wine (6 tablespoons; 90mL)

In the bottom of a mixing glass, add the superfine sugar and pomegranate seeds. Crush the seeds with a muddler to break open. Add lime wedges and muddle 6 times to release their juice. Add pomegranate juice and cachaça and fill glass 2/3 full with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Add sparkling wine to glass, then pour contents, without straining, into a double rocks glass. Add more fresh ice cubes if desired and serve immediately.

Lemony Suze Sparkling Pitcher Cocktails

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIt may be January but I’m still in good spirits riding the Christmas high. That is until my husband kindly asks that the Christmas lights be removed from the porch (I’m trying to hold out until at least February). For those of you though that have shrugged off (or exuberantly put a nail in) the holiday season, I’ve got something today that perhaps will add some sparkle back into your January.

Pitchers of cocktails.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comNot only pitchers, but bright and warm, sunny yellow Suze with a good dose of winter citrus and an even bigger dose of sparkling wine. No hard booze here so you can tell yourself you’re still keeping to your resolutions.

Our New Year’s Eve tradition, at least for the last few years, has been for Christopher to make a batch of Scotch eggs. He almost bowed out of it this year but I balked at the idea of not continuing making them; I may have developed a slight superstition and now we cannot ring in the new year without them. One of the ingredients that goes into the sausage mixture is sage. And seeing as I have yet to keep a sage plant alive around here, we buy it. Alas, you cannot get sage in any small amount at our Whole Foods, so we always end up with much more than we need. I already had dried the last batch we bought, so I thought that this cocktail could use a touch of the herb.

I dunno guys, sage might become the new rosemary around here.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThe sage leaves get steeped into a lemon simple syrup to add a little depth. To further enhance sage’s flavor, we’re mixing it with Suze, a saffron-colored French aperitif whose bitter yellow gentian root flavor makes it a cousin to the Italian amaro family. It has hints of citrus and wildflower, and balances a mild sweetness with vegetal bitterness.

You might want to invite some guests over for a few casual drinks before dinner, or even serve this at a brunch. While the base can sit overnight, and then be topped off with Cava in a pitcher so that guests can help themselves, you’ll want make sure it doesn’t sit out for long after the bubbly has been added. No one wants a “sparkling drink” that’s flat and warm.

Happy 2016 everyone!

For the Lemon-Sage Syrup:

6 ounces water
8 ounces (about 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 lemons
Finely grated zest from 2 lemons
10 medium sage leaves

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

For the cocktails (Yields 6 drinks):

6 ounces Lemon-Sage Syrup
1 1/2 ounces Suze
1 bottle chilled Cava or other dry sparkling wine
6 strips lemon zest
6 fresh sage leaves

The night before serving, combine the lemon-sage syrup and Suze in a large pitcher. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to serve, add Cava, pouring slowly, and gently stir to combine. Split between six Champagne flutes, twisting a lemon zest strip over each and garnishing with a sage leaf.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I originally posted this recipe on Serious Eats!

An Amaro Hot Chocolate for Every Taste

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comThe careful observer on here might notice that many, but not all, posts lately have been recipes I’ve developed for Serious Eats. Honestly, when I’m doing lots of R&D for articles, sometimes I find that my energy for more is tapped. Also, it’s the holidays and I’d like a little break.

But not a break from chocolate.

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comFor all of you who find chocolate and booze maybe a bit too much, then wait for next week when I have an all new SUPER savory cocktail. But for this week, I’m making adult hot cocoa and I’m not apologizing. And I’m topping it with Angostura infused whipped cream because WHY NOT? It’s the holidays and I’m holed up at my in-laws and I’m not going to admit how many chocolate covered almonds (milk and dark chocolate) I’ve eaten for the past 4 days.

This hot cocoa is not spiked in your usual way. There’s no bourbon, or spiced rum, or vodka (not sure I’d even recommend that). What it is spiked with is bittersweet amaro. But Elana, there are SO MANY amari out there! You can’t possible imagine that every bottle will work here (is what I imagine ALL of you are saying out loud right now. In unison.)! And yes, not every bottle will work, but most will work with a particular kind of chocolate. You just need to do a little creative legwork to find your right combination.

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comMy favorite combination is Averna and semisweet chocolate. Why Averna? Besides the fact that I’ve accumulated several bottle of the stuff, it’s a good balance between sweet and spicy with a touch of herbal in the finish. Also, it isn’t overly boozy tasting. But that’s just me. If you like the bracing, earthy edge of a dark chocolate, try it with a sweeter amaro like Gran Classico. For the milk chocolate lovers, that sweetness needs some spice or a blast of menthol; try it with Fernet. Semisweet chocolate is the sweet spot in the center, with a nice balance of rich and earthy that works well with most types of amaro. What I’m getting at is: take your favorite bottle of amaro and make this.

Note: you don’t need to spike your entire batch of hot chocolate. Make the base separately and spike at will. That rich, velvety chocolate base is delicious all on its own and perhaps you have some folks staying with you who don’t drink. Don’t deprive them of the magic that is homemade hot cocoa. But maybe insist they add the Angostura whipped cream. Angostura isn’t alcohol after all, it’s like.. medicine. Medicine from the 1800’s.

For the Angostura Whipped Cream:

1 cup (237ml) heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon (15ml) simple syrup (see note above)
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
6 dashes Angostura bitters

Using an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat heavy whipping cream at high speed until soft peaks form, then add simple syrup, vanilla extract and Angostura bitters. Whip until medium peaks form, about 1 minute longer. (Alternatively, you can add all the ingredients to a Whipped Cream Dispenser and use that instead.)

For the Hot Cocoa:

1/4 cup (58g) unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
1 tablespoon (13g) granulated sugar
Pinch kosher salt
3 cups (710ml) milk
8 ounces (227g) semisweet chocolate chips (or other type of chocolate, such as milk chocolate, depending on your taste)
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
5 ounces (148ml) Italian amaro, such as Averna

In medium saucepan, stir cocoa with sugar and salt. Stir in milk and chocolate. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is hot. Gently whisk to completely blend mixture. Add vanilla and amaro and stir to combine. Pour into glasses and top with Angostura whipped cream.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comFor the longest time… I was afraid of eggnog. I don’t mean I would just turn my nose up at it, I mean, seriously, I thought if I had just a sip it would be the most horrible thing I ever drank and some unknown terrible thing would happen (like projectile vomit). Somewhere deep in my memory bank is a loop of a slovenly drunk man chugging eggnog from a carton and hurling all over the place. This was the image that my mind conjured up when I heard the word eggnog.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comAt some point in the last 10 years I was convinced by some person that what I really needed was to make it from scratch and try the “real thing” and it would be a life changing experience. Maybe it was Alton Brown. At least, that was the first recipe I consulted when I made it for a holiday party a number of years ago.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comAnd holy crapballs it was delicious. Like custard, but lighter, and drinkable and somehow nothing about it was what I was expecting. I think that I was preparing to drink a cocktail the consistency of pudding and have it taste of raw eggs.. this, this cocktail, and I say cocktail because there was copious amounts of liquor in it, it was so good.

Now, despite my complete transformation on the drink, there were still people at the party who were in the former camp and nothing I could say would convince them to try it. Nevertheless, the punch bowl of eggnog was emptied at some point, and found later under a desk. This told me that I’d made something pretty good.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comI’ve made eggnog from scratch with raw eggs quite a number of times now and there are still those I cannot get to try even a sip (perhaps they too are seeing a drunk uncle puking up streams of the stuff). So this year I thought I’d try something different, something most people can’t resist. An edible cocktail.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comInstead of an intimidating punch bowl, I’m trying out tiny bite sized shots of the stuff. These beautiful hemispheres might not get you sloshed, but they might just be the gateway into drinking the stuff. Why?

Because we’re using from scratch eggnog for the base. Yup: Raw. Eggs. In fact, you can whip up your regular eggnog for the party and then save some of the liquid to batch these up. Then maybe people will gradually move to the actual punchbowl. These taste JUST like the same eggnog and you don’t even have to garnish them. The nutmeg gradually sinks to the bottom while they’re setting, forming a lovely sprinkled top.

(And if you simple can’t do with the raw eggs, you can also use the store bought kind. See the note below.)

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comIf you’re curious about what mold to use, silicone is best for removing the jello shots. I used these mini hemispheres from World Cuisine, but you can use any shape you’d like. If you’d like to get really fancy, use a larger mold, and then serve in a tiny cup with a spoon.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comHappy Holidays!

*Note: If you want to use store-bought eggnog or any of our flavor variations, start with 12 ounces eggnog. Pour half of the eggnog into a heatproof bowl and half into a small saucepan. Whisk 1/2 cup dark or spiced rum into eggnog in the heatproof bowl. Sprinkle 2 packets unflavored powdered gelatin onto the surface of the eggnog in the saucepan and let stand 5 minutes. Set saucepan over low heat and bring to just under a simmer, whisking constantly, until gelatin is fully dissolved; do not let boil. Remove from heat and let stand 2 minutes to cool slightly. Pour eggnog-gelatin mixture into the eggnog-rum mixture and whisk to combine. Proceed with instructions in Step 5.

2 large eggs, separated
2-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar (1.1 ounces; 28g), divided
3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
2 packets unflavored powdered gelatin (1/2 ounce; 14g)
1/2 cup (120ml) dark rum, such as Gosling’s, or spiced rum, such as Malahat Spiced Rum
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  1. Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk and beat at low speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until they are about the consistency of shaving cream, about 90 seconds. Reduce speed to medium. With mixer running, add half of sugar and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape whites into a large bowl. Do not wash stand mixer bowl.
  2. Add egg yolks and remaining sugar to stand mixer bowl and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow and ribbony, shutting off machine and scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary, about 2 minutes total. Add milk and cream and mix at low speed to combine.
  3. Pour half of the yolk mixture into a small saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over the surface. Let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add rum to remaining yolk mixture in stand mixer bowl and mix at low speed for 30 seconds to combine. Set saucepan over low heat and bring to just below a simmer, whisking constantly, until gelatin is fully dissolved; do not let boil. Remove from heat and let stand until cooled slightly, about 2 minutes.
  4. With stand mixer running at low speed, slowly pour gelatin mixture into the yolk-rum mixture. Gently whisk in egg whites until smooth.
  5. Strain mixture into a large measuring cup with a spout. Sprinkle in nutmeg and stir gently to combine. Carefully fill your molds with the eggnog. Refrigerate until set, about 8 hours.
  6. To remove jello shots from semi-spherical molds, carefully run a small spoon around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. If using square or straight-sided molds, run a butter knife around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. For other shapes or non-flexible molds, dip the bottom of the mold in warm water for 15 seconds, invert mold onto a baking sheet, and gently tap the mold to release the jello shot. Eggnog jello shots can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.com

I originally posted this recipe on Serious Eats

Smoked-Rosemary Rum Punch

Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.comRemember when I said I’d never use Snapchat forever and ever? Yeah, about that… Guys, ugh, talk about going down a rabbit hole of watching people make coffee and take bad selfies. And yet, I’m so compelled to WATCH. Actually, right now, I love seeing how people decorate for the holidays, and Snapchat itself has compiled these little videos of people celebrating for the holidays all over Europe. What I think I’m trying to get across here is that I’M SO INTO CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR.

Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.comYes, yes, it might seem like I am getting a bit overexcited about something that happens every year, but for the last few Christmases I just couldn’t be bothered. This Christmas I have forced myself to be in the holiday mood since about November 27th and I plan on keeping it up until at least New Year’s. While I have done my requisite decorating, I have now turned to holiday-izing my food and drinks. For all of you reading this right now, I will just focus on the drinks.

Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.comHoliday Punch. This is almost without a doubt my main cocktail situation for big parties, and especially those of the Christmas kind. You can batch it beforehand and let guests get as tipsy or not as they want and you still get lots of credit for making it (but we all know it’s WAAAAY easier than individually making drinks for 40 people at your party. F that.).

This year I turn, again (and again and again), to rosemary. I don’t need to go into my rosemary situation, but for those of you just joining us here on the site, it’s OUT OF CONTROL. So into another drink it goes. And this time we’re adding a little fire to the mix and giving the rosemary a little smoke to send your guests over-the-edge with excitement as you tell them you hand smoked all that rosemary they’re drinking. You just won the holiday party this year also, FYI.

Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.comThat smoky rosemary is paring up with some winter citrus because we want to make this as holiday as possible. Then throw everyone a curve ball as you sneak in a few Tiki elements with gold rum, orgeat and grated cinnamon. Oh, and also some high proof rum because WHY NOT?! Our base rum is Parce 8-Year, a small-batch Columbian rum that’s aged in whiskey barrels so it has a similar flavor to single malt scotch, and is DELICIOUS.

Now, please don’t be intimidated by the fact we are smoking the rosemary. It’s as simple as turning on a gas burner and throwing the rosemary over it for a minute. Or, seriously, you could use a candle if you just have electric burners. Either way, your house is going to smell amazing come time for that party. And hey, let’s snapchat it to each other while we’re at it.

Yields 16 servings

For the Smoked-Rosemary Citrus Syrup:

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Zest from 2 medium lemons
3 ounces freshly squeezed juice from 2 medium lemons
Zest from 2 small limes
1 ounce freshly squeezed juice from 2 small limes
3 (4-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, water, and lemon and lime zest and juices. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to just under a boil, then remove from heat and cover. Meanwhile, hold rosemary over an open flame using heatproof tongs, turning continually, until it begins to smoke. As soon as it starts to smoke, uncover syrup and place rosemary in saucepan. Cover again and let steep 30 minutes. Strain solids out and reserve syrup for the punch in an airtight container. The syrup will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator, but flavors will be best if used within 2 days.

For the Punch:

24 ounces gold rum, such as Parce 8-Year*
4 ounces orgeat, such as Small Hand Foods orgeat
12 ounces smoked-rosemary citrus syrup
4 ounces overproof rum, such as Smith & Cross
4 ounces water
Cinnamon sticks, for garnish

In a punch bowl, combine gold rum, orgeat, smoked-rosemary citrus syrup, overproof rum, and water. Stir to combine and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight. To serve, add a large ice cube to the punch bowl. Ladle about 3 ounces into a punch glass and grate fresh cinnamon on top. Serve.

 

I originally posted this recipe on Serious Eats.
*This bottle of Parce 8-Year was generously given gratis and appears here because I like drinking it. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour Cocktails

Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour Cocktails // stirandstrain.comA few years back I started a short series on Amaretto. See, I had acquired a bottle from somewhere (as one does), and really had no clue what to do with it. So I started scouring books and the internet in search of what to do with a bottle of Amaretto. The first drink I made was an Amaretto Sour, naturally.

Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour Cocktails // stirandstrain.comBut oh boy! A drink that I had mostly associated with decades past and little old ladies threw me for a loop–I loved it! It was sweet, but balanced by being also very tart so the two sorta canceled themselves out and made for a smooth, easy drinking cocktail. Alas, I forgot about making more as I kept up my search and eventually turned towards other liquors to play with. Until today, when I was craving something a little sweet and a little sour and not too boozy.

Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour Cocktails // stirandstrain.comI also was staring at the extra ginger laying out that I had not yet stuck in the freezer. Sweet and sour can also use a little spice, and ginger has that edge I love in drinks. Why not add some fresh ginger in there then? Almond flavors go particularly well with wintery baking spices, so it’s a nice match to that kick found in ginger, and in the Angostura you’ll dash in.

Adding in spicy ginger automatically makes this a holiday drink (says I) and so I’ve doubled up the recipe for you and someone to sip cozily by a fire. Maybe throw on some holiday music of your choosing and break out the Ferrero Rocher balls too.

Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour Cocktails // stirandstrain.comYields 2 Cocktails
1 (1-inch) knob of ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1-3/4 ounces freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon
2-1/4 ounces amaretto, such as Disaronno
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 egg white
Crystallized ginger, for garnish

  • In a cocktail shaker, muddle the rounds of ginger with lemon juice. Add the amaretto, bitters, and egg white. Shake hard to incorporate the egg white for 20 seconds, then fill shaker 2/3 of the way with ice and shake for an additional 20 seconds. Strain drink through a standard cocktail strainer and a fine-mesh strainer into two small aperitif glasses. Garnish each glass with a piece of crystallized ginger.

Note: amaretto is not especially high in the booze department with an ABV of around 25%. So feel free to follow this up with something stronger to get the party started, or serve this at the end of your holiday meal. Ginger does make a wonderful digestive aid! And that egg white in there is for silky, silky mouthfeel. If you JUST CAN’T with the raw egg whites, feel free to leave it out.

I originally posted this recipe on the Serious Eats site!

The Date Martinez Cocktail

The Date Martinez Cocktail // stirandstrain.comHave you had your fill of pies? No? Me either. But there needs to be a time when you tell yourself to stop. My teeth have been singing from the overindulging of pecan pie and I think I’ve reached that point when I need to put my fork down. I *might* have eaten 5 pieces. Oh my gosh…. the sugar…

The Date Martinez Cocktail // stirandstrain.comNow, I’ll admit it, the whole “alternative sugars” thing was something I wrinkled my nose at. While I won’t touch any of those chemically created sugars (don’t they make you run to the bathroom??), I really couldn’t be bothered with all those other “natural” sweeteners. Agave, date syrup, rice syrup… why couldn’t I just have plain old natural cane sugar? That is until recently, when I realized how you could get some very unique flavors while not using plain old evaporated cane sugar.

It started with some baking, and then, naturally, into my cocktails. I recently started experimenting with date syrup since I had been making my way through 3 of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks and found that instead of dropping some cash on the pre-made stuff, I could make my own (also, we are spending a LOT more time out in the Palm Springs area with family making the move that way. There’s quite a lot of dates out here). Making your own date syrup results in a slightly lighter syrup than the store bought kind and while that wasn’t always what I wanted for my baked goods, the lighter syrup resulted in a nice substitute for simple syrup in a few cocktails. The one I bring to you today, that I originally posted on Serious Eats, is for a Date Martinez.

The Date Martinez Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThe Martinez cocktail is a classic cocktail. Classic as in pre-1900. You can read about its history somewhere else, for right now, let’s get down to its remake.

You have a choice here. You can make your own date syrup, and not only use it for this cocktail, but sweeten up your oatmeal, or bake with it, or I don’t know, make a face scrub. Or if you’re short on time and can pick up store bought, go do that. But keep in mind, you’ll need LESS of the store bought to sweeten the drink. If you do a 1:1 swap this will turn out too sweet.

The Date Martinez Cocktail // stirandstrain.comNote: I found and made my date syrup recipe from Oh, Lady Cakes. Since I didn’t ask her about reprinting her recipe, you can find that link in the recipe below.

1-1/2 ounces amontillado dry sherry, such as Lustau
1-1/2 ounces gin, such as Ford’s
3/4 ounce date syrup, homemade (recipe link here!)
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Orange peel, for garnish

  • Fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice, then pour in sherry, gin and date syrup. Add the dashes of Peychaud’s and stir 20 seconds to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist orange peel over top of drink to release oils and garnish drink with peel.

The syrup’s rich, deep date flavor pairs wonderfully with a nutty but dry amontillado sherry. Here, my fall-inspired riff on the Martinez mixes the sherry with equal parts gin to dry out the drink and lend some contrasting juniper and pine flavors. The cocktail gets a sweet and spicy kick from a few dashes of Peychaud’s bitter, and is brightened up with a twisted orange peel that doubles as a garnish.

Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail For when you wish you could drink the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving...

Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis space is too lighthearted to get very political or get in-depth about current news events, but with Thanksgiving coming next week, it’s a good reminder to be thankful for whatever you have in your life. And if it’s Thanksgiving, I’m shoving cranberry sauce in my face like no one is watching.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I’m of the camp that you need a little sweet with the savory. And while I enjoy pretty much all the flavors that grace the holiday table (except maybe you, green bean casserole), you bet that on every forkful of turkey or potatoes or creamed onions, there is a little bit of cranberry sauce. Ok, maybe a LOT of cranberry sauce.

And I’m not picky either. You want to feed me the jello version from the can? Sure, I’ll take it. Or you made a passed down recipe from your great-grandmother that is laced with a little booze? Sure, I’ll take that too. I’ll take them all.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So why am I not eating it more often so that when Turkey Day comes I’m not feeding myself like a ravenous zombie? Well, I kinda forget about it. I think the ensuing coma from eating resets my brain every year and I spend the rest of the time oblivious until a week or so before Thanksgiving when I see some ad in a magazine and my mouth starts salivating in a Pavlovian response.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

This year it was decided that since I have such a short window of time to enjoy cranberries, I’ll make the most of it and enjoy them by not only eating those berries, but also drinking them! In fact, I figured if I made a shrub with them, I’d get to enjoy them a little bit longer (although, it’s so darn tasty I doubt it will stick around for very long).

This black pepper–spiced cranberry shrub is sweet, savory, and tart. It mixes up quick and with a fruity sparkling wine and citrusy bitters, the drink works wonderfully to lighten a meal packed with sweet potatoes, stuffing, turkey, and more. And if you don’t use up the whole shrub in one go, it will keep in the fridge for at least a month.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub

2 cups (approximately 10 ounces by weight) cranberries
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine cranberries, peppercorns, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and water. Stir to combine. Cover and place over medium-high heat. Cook, opening the lid and stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and some of the cranberries begin popping open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Pour entire mixture into an airtight, nonreactive container. Refrigerate at least 8 and up to 12 hours. Strain mixture twice through a fine-mesh strainer, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to one month.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Cocktails (yields 12 drinks)

36 ounces chilled sparkling wine (from 2 bottles)
20 dashes orange bitters, Regan’s used here
12 ounces chilled Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub
Cranberries, for garnish

Slowly pour chilled sparkling wine into a pitcher. Add bitters and chilled cranberry-black pepper shrub. Stir very gently to mix. Serve immediately. Individual glasses can be garnished with cranberries.

Note: For a non-alcoholic alternative, combine 1 ounce of the cranberry-black pepper shrub, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, and 3 ounces club soda (I love Q-Club!) in a wine glass. (Add two dashes of orange bitters, if desired—they contain a tiny amount of alcohol.) Garnish with cranberries and serve.
This recipe originally appeared on Serious Eats

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail What you drink when it finally feels like Fall!

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor someone who lives in a climate that doesn’t stray too far in one direction or another, I realize I sure do focus on the weather a lot. But really, it wouldn’t take too much psychoanalysis to realize it’s because I grew up in New England and Fall time is… special. Yes, if you live in a place where there is amazing foliage you do make fun of the tourists coming in just to stare at trees. But when you’re away from it for over a decade, you miss it; you get why the people flock out to be in nature.

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMore than the trees though I miss the apple orchards. I didn’t realize just how many were squeezed into the tiny state of Rhode Island. I bet there are a few apple orchards somewhere in Southern California, but it’s not the same. My aunt has a small orchard on her property and I remember being a teenage, sulking about in my beat up black leather jacket trying to not look I was enjoying the annual cider press (but secretly I was so into it). The adult me is telling my younger self to stop being such a bitch and just enjoy myself already. God, how much time and effort went into teenage sulking!

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comSo anyways, it’s finally feeling like Fall in Los Angeles. I turned on the heated seats in my car and turned the heat on at home. The first day is always rough on my sinuses as months worth of dust that’s accumulated god-knows-where burns off and makes my entire house smell like something has caught on fire somewhere. But we have apples! And for this cocktail there’s sherry and apple brandy and orange liqueur!

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comOver on the Serious Eats site I wrote an amusing tale about how this cocktail, originally named the “Quasi Apple Cocktail” got its name. Hint: there’s history, a war, Napoléon, the United States and a touch of Spain thrown in for good measure. OH! And pirates! We tossed the name, but there’s still some history there to learn if you’re into that.

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com
1/4 apple, cored and diced
1 1/2 ounces apple brandy, such as Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
3/4 ounce Mandarine Napoléon liqueur
1/2 ounce oloroso sherry, such as Williams & Humbert
4 ounces prosecco sparkling wine
Orange twist, for garnish
Thinly sliced apple, for garnish

  1. Add diced apple to the bottom of a mixing glass and muddle until apples are broken down and have released their juice. Fill the mixing glass 2/3 full with ice and then pour in apple brandy, Mandarine Napoléon liqueur, and oloroso sherry. Stir to chill until mixing glass is very cold, about 20 seconds, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice and top with prosecco.
  2. Twist orange peel over top of drink to release oils, then discard peels. Garnish with a thinly cut round of apple.

Sweet, fresh apples are balanced by the nutty Sherry with a kick of american apple brandy. For body and a touch of richness, Mandarine Napoléon liqueur gives us just a hint of citrus. To finish, the cocktail is topped with prosecco to tie all the ingredients together and give an effervescent pop.Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com


NOTES
: Super-thin apple slices make gorgeous garnishes. Right now, THIS mandoline from OXO is my favorite. To keep the slices looking crisp and white, remember to soak them in a bowl of water with a small spritz of lemon juice after slicing. Use your favorite kind of apple here; both sweeter, softer varieties and more tart, firm types work well. If you can’t find Mandarine Napoléon liqueur, you can substitute with Grand Marnier or a good dry orange curaçao, such as Pierre Ferrand.Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails for a crowd or yourself

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comMaybe you guys can help me out here. If a neighbor has a fruit tree, let’s say a pomegranate tree, overburdened with fruit, like so much fruit. And it’s just sitting there out on the sidewalk for anyone to pluck a few as they walk by… Is it OK just to pluck a few? You’re not going in their yard. In fact, they are dropping from the branches looking for an excuse to go home with you.

My neighbors don’t know how lucky they are. My mother-in-law’s pomegranate tree gave us a whopping two fruit. TWO?! The tree is being downright lazy this year. So for this cocktail we’ll just turn to the bottled stuff.

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThank god for bottled pomegranate juice though. I will say that despite this desperation I have of ridding my neighbor’s tree of all their fruit, juicing all those pomegranates is a pain in the ass. And now that it’s officially Fall, and I believe also the start of pomegranate season, it’s time for some transitional cocktails. Because we are still going through our usual high temps in Southern California I just can’t bring myself to make something too Fall-like yet. So today I have a bit of a summery beverage with just a touch of Fall.

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThis recipe yields enough for about 4 cocktails, but you can also single batch this for yourself. I’ve been enjoying these splits of sparkling wine lately for when I want a sparkling cocktail but don’t want to crack open a big bottle.  Because what usually happens is that I make a cocktail and just drink all the rest of the sparkling wine by itself.

Do you like juicing pomegranates? Feel free to sub in fresh for the bottled if you’d like.

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comFor the Pomegranate Reduction:

1 cup 100% pomegranate juice

  • In a small saucepan, bring pomegranate juice to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced to 3 ounces (6 tablespoons), 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container up to 1 month.

For the Cocktails:

3 ounces Pomegranate Reduction
4 ounces Cocchi Rosa
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 to 4 limes
16 ounces sparkling wine
4 orange twists, for garnish

  • In a pitcher, add the pomegranate reduction, Cocchi Rosa, and lime juice. Top with sparkling wine and gently stir to combine. To serve, divide between 4 glasses filled with ice. Express orange oil from twists over each drink, then add twists to each glass to garnish.

To temper the pomegranate syrup’s richness and bring in a bit of brightness, I use a sparkling wine for the base. And to offset the syrup’s sweetness, I mix in Cocchi Rosa, an aromatized wine whose subtle bitterness comes from gentian and cinchona bark. A splash of lime keeps it fresh. An orange twist adds a final layer of aroma and brings out the citrus qualities of the Rosa.

I originally published this recipe on Serious Eats.