- First, did you check out our latest Make or Buy post? Time to start your bourbon (as in whiskey, not the former island) vanilla extract so it will be ready for the holidays!
- Also, we had an IG only frozen banana cocktail situation this week with Kerrygold and it was sweeeeeeeet!
- Over on Bit By a Fox, they’re checking out Lo-Fi Aperitifs and making some tasty cocktails with the bottles.
- Head to Georgia for your next tropical bar experience. They’ve got rum!
- Missed TOTC this year? Well, here’s the giant round up you’ve been waiting for.
- I like canned wine and I cannot lie...
- If you find yourself in Chicago (or live there), don’t miss these bars!
- Drinks International has a list of the top 100 most influential people in the industry. Check it out!
- As long as Los Angeles keeps the Tiki spirit alive I don’t think I’ll want to leave. A great tiki long read here!
- And finally, Applebees still wants to get you college drunk with $1 “Mai-Tais” all month long. So… there’s that.
In this month’s Make or Buy series we’re thinking ahead to the holidays. Yes… I’m aware that’s 6 months away, but with this ingredient you need to think into the future. Far, far into the future. Because today we’re making vanilla extract.
But is that a cocktail ingredient you might ask? The very simple is yes, it can be. But it’s also an ingredient you get to make with booze, and one which takes SIX months minimum to infuse, so we’re talking about it today. And why mention the holidays Elana? Well, for one, it’s an ingredient you probably use a lot of to bake holiday things with like cookies. And two, it’s a great gift to give someone, especially at a time when we’re all gifting something to someone. So, Christmas in July it is!
Before we get into the pros and cons of the homemade versus the store bought, I just wanted to let you know a little about vanilla beans. For one, if you decide to go the homemade route, you may run into some sticker shock when you see bean prices. Vanilla beans, you see, are a huge pain in the butt to grow. They require very high humidity environments, the flowers need to be hand pollinated (where you get a little flower dust from one plant and paint it onto another plant), and the flower blooms in like, one day and you only have that one day to pollinate the plant. Once the pods are picked, they need to cure in the sun for upwards of a year. It’s labor intensive work done by humans, humans who should be paid a living wage for their work, and that comes with a price tag. You will find vanilla beans from places like Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and Mexico as well as a score of other places. There are two main types of vanilla: Tahitian and Planifolia. However, that in combination with where they are grown produces their unique flavors and aromas. I’d suggest doing some research first and decide what flavor profile you’d prefer before going the homemade route. One last note: grade type. There are Grade A and Grade B vanilla beans. Grade B is for extract, so buy those.
Another note here is that I am using bourbon instead of vodka for the base. You mostly definitely can use a neutral spirit for making an extract like this, in fact, most would be done that way. However, I wanted to use the flavors found in bourbon to complement vanilla this time for a more robust flavor profile.
I have two store bought vanillas that I interchangeably use and I thought I’d present both here because they represent two ends of the store bought spectrum, the not too pricey grocery store variety, and the fancier, way more expensive variety. Depending on your budget and need, these are both great buys for a ready made vanilla. I happen to live near the grocery store Sprouts so I’ve been using their organic vanilla extract and that is fine. However, I also occasionally splurge and purchase Nielsen-Massey vanilla as well. There was a time that because of my job, I could purchase this practically at cost and I got very used to their awesome vanillas and other products, but they are definitely on the higher end as far as vanillas go. The Nielsen-Massey vanillas have more varieties to choose from, and therefor one can get more of the type of vanilla they are looking for. For example, their Tahitian is more flowery, while their Madagascar Bourbon is more robust. These flavors do come across in the final products you use them in, but if you’re just looking to add a touch of vanilla to some cookies you’re fine with both. However, if you’re looking for vanilla aromas to use in a cocktail where it needs to work with the other ingredients, you may want to go for the higher end product.
So let’s look at the pros and cons of both the store bought and the homemade, shall we?
To buy: Sprouts Organic Vanilla Extract ($) // Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon ($$$)
- Readily available in store or online
- Great vanilla taste
- Consistent flavors
- Can be pricey
- Not refillable
- Limited to availability
To make: Bourbon Vanilla Extract
- Strong vanilla aroma
- Refillable (can be topped off with more alcohol to extend product)
- Sourcing quality beans can be difficult
- Extract takes a minimum 6 month to one year to make
- Flavors may not be consistent depending on vanilla bean batches
Homemade Bourbon Vanilla Extract
15 vanilla beans, 4″ in length (about 1 ounce of vanilla beans)
8 ounces of bourbon, Wild Turkey 101 used here
Chop your vanilla beans in pieces about 1″ long and place in an air-tight, non reactive container (like a Ball jar). Pour bourbon over beans, seal, and gently shake. Let sit in a dark, cool place for the next 6 months. Shake the jar at least once a week or more as this helps speed up the infusion by moving everything around. At the 6 month mark, take a taste. This will be ready to use at this point but if you’d like to get a stronger vanilla taste, you can continue to let this sit, agitating occasionally for up to one year. You can also add some additional bourbon to top off as needed when it starts to uncover the vanilla beans. When desired taste has been reached, fine strain out the vanilla beans and bottle. Discard beans. Keep in a dry, cool place.
- First, now is the time of year to be drinking tequila out of hollowed out watermelons… so get on that.
- Second, nominations for Saveur’s best blogs (and Instagram now cause blogs are harder to come by) has begun. If you’re enjoying what we do, please consider a nomination for us! Best special interest, or drinks IG, or, I dunno, photography are all perfectly fine categories.
- Rosé all day… but without the booze?!
- This summer I swore I’d bring you all more boozy popsicles and… well, here’s some Frosémonade. It sounds dumb to say but I bet it tastes good.
- During the summer I dream about getting a cocktail down at a bar in Antarctica.
- Those Nick & Nora glasses on your shelf come from this on-screen couple.
- Who first appeared in this book.
- Counterfeit booze: if it smells like jet fuel, don’t drink it!
- Hey guys! Do you need a Hawaiian shirt that also nicely holds your beer? Yes, yes you do.
- And finally, an updated list all the places to buy specialty ice for you and/or your bar.
This post was made in partnership with Tequila Cazadores. Recipes and ideas are my own.
If berries are my favorite summer fruit, watermelons are a close second. If only they weren’t such a pain to break down! And all those seeds, ugh! But I think today I’ve found a much better work around, and it includes Margaritas… so of course I’m excited.
We’ve all seen those wacky watermelon kegs (ahem, I may have even enticed you to buy one on this site before too), but what if you want the watermelon experience and there’s only two of you? Get yourself a mini seedless watermelon and hollow half of it. Boom! It’s like a very convenient and way less expensive tiki bowl. Then you can use the insides of the watermelon flesh to make Spicy Watermelon Margaritas… for two of you. You don’t need to remove any seeds or even cut it into pieces. And that very recipe we have down below.
You know what’s also exciting? It’s National Tequila Day! Today, and maybe National Margarita Day, might be some of my very favorite drink holidays. I mean, I’m not waiting to have a Spicy Marg on just these occasions, but the reminder sure doesn’t hurt. I’ll be celebrating today with Tequila Cazadores Blanco whose 100% blue agave with its clean, smooth taste ensures that I will have the most delicious drink.
And to ensure my friends also will have something delicious to drink today, I’m sending out a few tequila bags via special delivery…which would be me in my car. If you head on over to my Instagram page today you can see those bags in action, literally (go see what I mean!). In the bags I’m including some handmade citrus salt that would be so perfect with this drink if you don’t decide to use a watermelon as a drinking vessel, although I highly encourage it.
Ok! Let’s go break open some watermelons!
Spicy Watermelon Margaritas for Two
1/2 mini seedless watermelon, flesh removed and set aside
4 ounces Tequila Cazadores Blanco
2 ounces freshly pressed watermelon juice
4 chunks watermelon
1-1/2 ounces orange liqueur
1-1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch of salt
3-4 slices of jalapeño
mint and lime slices for garnish
In a shaker filled with crushed ice, pour in Tequila Cazadores Blanco, watermelon juice, watermelon chunks, orange liqueur, lime juice, salt, and jalapeño slices. Shake hard 30 seconds and pour unstrained into the hollowed out watermelon. Add more crushed ice if necessary. Garnish with mint and lime slices. Any maybe a few tiny umbrellas. Enjoy National Tequila Day!
3-4 dried citrus wheels*
3 tablespoons kosher salt
Grind the citrus wheels in a spice or coffee grinder until fine. Run through a coarse mesh strainer to remove any larger white pith parts. Combine salt and ground citrus in an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry place.
*If you’d like to see how to make dehydrated citrus wheels, check out our DIY Story on our Instagram page!
- First, we’re in full-on summer drink mode here on the site so of course I made boozy milkshakes.
- And then I went and made Daiquiri popsicles.
- Since you’re already grilling outside, why don’t you go grill your cocktail too?
- The best drink to order on an airplane? Surprisingly not a cocktail. Boo.
- Looking for some summer sips? Let NOLA’s Paul Gustings lead the way.
- Genever: What it is and what to buy in the US!
- There’s a new cocktail technique out there… but it requires one cold freezer.
- TALES heads down to Puerto Rico on their next traveling show to help raise awareness for the country.
- New celebrity booze alert: Breaking Bad mezcal. Would you drink it?
- And finally, how many wine glasses do you think Rihanna has stored away from restaurants?
I know, I know… “classic Daiquiri” is not usually in popsicle form, but since I’ve committed to bringing all of you more boozy popsicles this summer, you’ll just have to give this to me. And since today is National Daiquiri Day I thought, why not? The “classic” flavors found in a Daiquiri: rum, lime, and sugar are so delicious in frozen form (and trust me, I know a thing or two about frozen Daiquiris. See here, here, and here.). And it’s super simple!
I really enjoy the floral sourness of limes, and here I wanted these to be extra… well, lime-y, so I zested a whole lime and added that into the mix in addition to adding a lime wedge to each popsicle. It gives the popsicle an extra punch of flavor, which is important when you’re dealing with frozen drinks/treats. Flavors tend to dull a bit when they are very cold, so you need to compensate for that.
Now, I will say that proportion wise, this isn’t really a classic Daiquiri, as you can only add a small amount of rum to each popsicle in order to get a good freeze. Otherwise you’re looking at a slushy on a stick, which is really just a mess on your clothes. The base of these is more of a limeade with a touch of rum, but since all of the flavors are still in the realm of Daiquiri… I get get to call them Daiquiri popsicles.
And now you get to make some!
Classic Daiquiri Popsicles
Makes 5 3-1/2 ounce popsicles
2-1/2 ounces white rum (I used Caña Brava here but sadly it is going away so use your favorite white rum)
1/2 cup lime juice, from 4-5 limes
3-3/4 cups water, divided
1/2 cup sugar
zest from one large lime
5 thin lime wedges
- Pour the rum and lime juice into a large mixing glass with a spout.
- Next, in a small saucepan, combine 3/4 cup of water and sugar. Heat until almost boiling, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Once sugar is completely dissolved, remove from the heat.
- Pour sugar syrup into mixing glass and add in zest. Stir to combine.
- This recipe uses a lay-flat popsicle mold, so lime wedges are placed in the molds and then each mold gets 3-1/2 ounces of the mixture. If you are using the standing molds, place lime wedges at bottom and pour mixture in.
- Freeze for 18-24 hours until solid. Then remove from molds and enjoy!
This post was made in partnership with Kerrygold Irish Cream. Recipe and ideas are my own.
Years ago, when I was working a 9-5 job where I left my house and went into an office, my day-to-day activities often including working with chefs. Whether they were designing a new commercial kitchen here in Southern California, looking for hard to find ingredients, sourcing pallet loads of Cambro containers, or looking to gain some exposure by hosting a demo in our test kitchen. It was working with these chefs where I first heard of molecular gastronomy; not from watching Top Chef, although when they started getting technical on the show suddenly we had to learn about a lot more techniques and answer some interesting questions from viewers of the show.
Although dubbed a fad by many, the excitement waning for most diners, the techniques still hold a fascination with me. This probably has to do with my love of chemistry as a young person that has carried through decades later. Recently, for a separate project outside of this site, I decided to relearn a technique called reverse spherification, and in doing so learned of a new-to-me technique called frozen reverse-spherification. The very abridged explanation of this technique is to turn a liquid into a sphere shaped jelly-like solid. Cool, right?
So, that brings us to today’s recipe, made in partnership with our friends over at Kerrygold Irish Cream. When thinking about some fun summertime recipes to make, the idea of milkshakes came up, but here in Los Angeles, I’m more likely to run across a boba shop than a milkshake shop, so I thought, why not combine the two? However, we’re using some artistic license here and instead of the tapioca pearls found in your boba tea, we’ll be using flavorful strawberry spheres instead. Because, while some might like their stone fruit during the summer, it’s all about the berries for me.
I bring up the molecular gastronomy because you can, in fact, make these spheres, and I will list a few of my go-to resources below. However, because it’s summer and we don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen making spherification baths all day, I’m also listing where you can buy these strawberry spheres. So now you can follow your own adventure.
I’m thinking of this shake as a modern take on the Neapolitan flavors of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Vanilla ice cream is spiked here with the rich, creamy chocolate found in Kerrygold Irish Cream (along with some Irish whiskey for good measure), and little spheres bursting with strawberry flavor are peppered throughout the drink. I don’t think a milkshake is complete until it has been topped with whipped cream, and if you’re going to go for it, you should definitely add some sprinkles too. It’s summer, celebrate.
I’ve listed my resources for the reverse spherification process below the recipe if you’d like to try your hand at that!
Spiked Vanilla Milkshake with Strawberry “Boba” Pearls
2-3 scoops vanilla ice cream
1 ounce Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur
1/4 cup milk
1/2 to 1 cup strawberry pearls (or “bursting boba” like these)
In a blender, combine the ice cream, Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur, and milk. Blend until smooth. Pour a small layer of strawberry pearls into the bottom of a pint glass or soda glass. Pour in the milkshake mixture. Top with whipped cream, a few more strawberry pearls, and sprinkles. Enjoy!
If you’d like to try your hand at reverse spherification, you’ll need a few items and tools you probably don’t have in your pantry. Here’s what I currently use:
- distilled water (you cannot use tap water or filtered water as there shouldn’t be any calcium present)
- Sphere Magic
- calcium lactate gluconate
- scale that weighs down to 0.1 grams
- small sphere ice mold
Once you have your items, you’ll need to create your spherification bath and infuse the liquid you want to use with the spherification agent. I usually use the Chef Steps site for my instructions but I HIGHLY suggest you check out some YouTube videos to watch how to move from one step to the next. Also, I’m here for questions!
- First, did you catch our post for Bastille Day? French wine and macaron towers can be enjoyed any day BTW.
- I don’t know if the French are better drinkers than us, but I do know that 3 tequilas equals floor.
- And since we have some bottles of wine open, here’s all the BBQ foods and their perfect wine pairings.
- Ice… has a history. Read all about it here.
- If you’re in LA soon, with your pup, here’s where you can drink!
- Boozy doughnuts for your breakfast!
- How the Cognac industry is combating climate change.
- Tales of the Cocktail starts tomorrow and Thirsty has some tips if you’re new to this event.
- Beer contracts allow you to sue flaky friends… and this isn’t even in the US!!
- And finally, here’s a great read on the science of sweetness in cocktails.
This post is brought to you by Louis Jadot wine. Recipes and ideas are my own.
We LOVE a reason to entertain around Stir and Strain headquarters, and while the fireworks have died down (mostly) around Los Angeles, we’re still seeing some blue, white, and red in our future as Sunday the 14th is Bastille Day. And what better way to celebrate than with some french wine— Louis Jadot to be exact, and a colorful macaron tower… that you get to build AND eat?!
If you plopped me somewhere in France today, with all the pastries and desserts laid out in front of me, my first instinct would be to sprint towards the macarons. Yes, sprint. Macarons are like tiny empty canvases waiting to be filled with delicious flavor combinations. Also, I find them hard to just have one, and a party becomes instantly better for me if a platter has been laid out. And if you’ve managed to create a tower of them I will gush about your party foreverrrrrr.
But why celebrate Bastille Day if you’re not in France, or not French? Because we just have a love of French food and culture. And we still have our 4th of July decorations up from last week (kidding). There’s also a lot of interesting history there as well. Personally, I am huge history buff and my favorite types of books delve into the intricacies of a country’s politics and culture. Bastille Day actual celebrates the storming of the Bastille, a prison, and the beginnings of the French Revolution and democracy in the country.
Interested to know a bit more? While there are numerous books one could read, recently I just finished the book A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, a favorite author of mine, which follows the characters who made up the French Revolution and their lives through the revolutionary times. Funny at times, violent at others, it was an intense read about events I really knew little about. When speaking of the revolution in France, I think most Americans might recall Marie Antoinette saying “let them eat cake”, and they definitely will recall a guillotine or two, but wow, those times were so much more than that and I highly suggest this particular novel to get a real sense of the years that surrounded the changes in the country.
But let’s get back to entertaining. First, go ahead and pour yourself a glass of wine. We’re pouring a Beaujolais and Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay from Louis Jadot. Both of the wines work well with desserts and are great party wines if you’re considering a spread of french foods like cheeses, seafoods, and light meats. The Beaujolais is 100% Gamay with juicy flavors of strawberry and black cherry with a little spicy black pepper. While the Chardonnay, made with 100% Chardonnay grapes, is more floral with apple and citrus aromas and slightly mineral notes. They are also both reasonably priced if you are looking for a few bottles or more to serve at your fête.
Now, the macaron tower. My biggest pet peeve about all the macaron towers out there is that the entire thing is not edible. Most are stuck on to a styrofoam tower, held in place with buttercream or a toothpick. While it can be impressive in height, I’d rather have a dessert tower that can be fully enjoyed by my guests. So, I decided to make this more of a “petit” tower, and have as my structure for the macarons to sit on be tiered vanilla cake. I mean, I wouldn’t be disappointed to be served a piece of cake with macarons covering it. This does mean baking a few small cakes (like, 3), but if you have the basic pantry staples around and a few small cake tins or even ramekins, this comes together quite quickly. And the macarons, while you most definitely can make those two, I just happen to have a favorite macaron shop here in Los Angeles I got mine from (and that is just far enough away I don’t visit them everyday… that would be dangerous for me).
If you’d like to make this taller, you can bake a larger base and build up from there. Height is totally up to you, but for me, I found three cake layers sufficient for a small party.
Et Voilà! Let’s pour another glass of wine, make some buttercream, and build a macaron tower for Bastille Day.
For the cakes
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg
1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 350, and grease a 6″ round cake pan, a 4″ cake pan, and a 4 ounce ramekin. Line the bottom of the pans with a round of parchment paper.
- In a medium-size bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy, 1-2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well-combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add half of the this to the batter and beat for just a few seconds before stirring in half of the buttermilk. Continue beating. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat, and then stir in the remaining milk.
- Divide the batter into the prepared pans, about 2/3 of the way up the pan. Bake smallest cake 16-18 minutes, and the larger cakes 35-37 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool on a wire rack in the pan. Carefully remove it from the pan, pulling away the parchment paper once it has cooled.
For the buttercream
1 cup unsalted butter
4-5 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
salt to taste
In a stand mixer, beat butter until creamy, 1-2 minutes and then slowly pour in 4 cups of the powdered sugar. Add in heavy cream and vanilla extract. Beat mixture until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. If mixture is too soft, add in more powdered sugar up to 1 cup, a quarter cup at a time. Beat in a pinch of salt. Set aside.
(these can be any flavor, we are just looking for the blue, white, and red of the French flag)
11 blue macarons
8 white macarons
8-9 red macarons
Once cakes have cooled, lightly frost outside of cakes. Add an extra dollop of buttercream between each layer of cake to secure each layer. Next fill a piping bag with the remaining buttercream and pipe a quarter sized dot around the edges of each cake layer. Secure a macaron in place, pressing lightly to hold. Place a small dollop on the very top layer and secure 2-3 macarons in place at an angle. Enjoy with a glass of Louis Jadot wine!
- First, YAY and congrats to Ashley Rose Conway’s fun summer cocktail book Celebrate Rosé. Which is what I plan to do this summer with a cocktail or two.
- Oh HELLO, I’d like a Breakfast Martini please.
- There’s been a number of distilleries catching fire and now Jim Beam is suffering a major loss.
- And then there was “Dry July”...
- I mean, if your beer tastes like blood you should definitely toss it.
- Pink gin is apparently just as bad as drinking soda.
- Come for the whiskey, stay for the…slide?!
- I’ll take a Negroni with a “coconut blast” please and thanks.
- Steeped in nostalgia, this punch will get you and 30 of your friends blasted.
- And lastly, science says having four friends you meet up with twice a week to have drinks with means you’ll live longer. Or something like that.