Mixology Monday: A Winter Pear Cocktail

Winter Pear Cocktail // stirandstrain.com
Mixology Monday LogoHalloween was skipped this year. Not on purpose, but Christopher and I found ourselves on a flight crossing coasts on the 31st. By the time we landed and arrived home, there was just enough time in the day to stare at the tv and zonk off to sleep due to jetlag.

When I woke up it was time for Thanksgiving. So, naturally, I need to start thinking about Christmas RIGHT NOW.

I’m using this month’s Mixology Monday, hosted by the Booze Nerds, to do just that; think about winter holidays. The theme picked this month is “Resin”. What, you may ask yourselves, is that all about? You can read the full post on their site here, but mainly it’s using SAP (from Trees, not the accounting program).

My eyes drifted over in the direction of the front of my house, which is covered with rosemary plants. The likes of which you’ve seen as ingredients in my drinks here here and here. This month, rosemary is strictly a garnish as I bring out another beauty of the deciduous kind, Douglas Fir Eau de Vie from Clear Creek Distillery. I saw this on the shelf at a liquor store and picked it up for the sheer fact that I LOVE LOVE LOVE the smell of fir trees (i.e. Christmas Trees). This probably falls in at #3 on my list of favorite smells, which is a list that I have.

Pears are replacing apples right now as the seasonal fruit and I thought that a pairing of pear and fir tree is about as winter holiday of a cocktail as I can pull off right now. Adding cardamom also helps. And it works for the MxMo challenge.Winter Pear Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

1/4 asian pear, cubed
3 whole green cardamom pods, pods discarded and seeds lightly crushed
1/2 oz lemon juice
1-1/2 oz Chopin Rye Vodka*
3/4 oz J Vineyards Pear Liqueur
1/4 oz Clear Creek Distillery Douglas Fir Eau de Vie

Garnish:
Pear wheel
rosemary sprig

Combine pear cubes and cardamom seeds in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add lemon juice and muddle well to full combine and break down the pear. Next add in ice about 2/3 up the way of the mixing glass. Pour in vodka, pear and fir eau de vie. Shake to fully combine about 20 seconds. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with a pear wheel skewered with the rosemary sprig.

Strong rosemary and cardamom nose with sweet, lemony notes. Flavor is juicy pear with a nice balance of tartness from the lemon. The presence of the fir is not subtle, as it stands out next to the pear, but it also compliments the sweetness by offering an unexpected earthiness and woodsy layer to the drink.

Thanks to the Booze Nerds for this month’s MxMo challenge and for making me break into this bottle, it was a delicious experiment and kinda like drinking a Christmas Tree.

*This bottle of Chopin 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.

Holiday Gift Guide: Cocktails. On a Boat.

Probably every year about this time I start feeling uneasy and mumble to myself, “I’m not ready yet”. Purity jokes aside, it usually means I’m all a fuss about the upcoming holiday season. I mean, it’s 80 outside. It sure doesn’t feel like Santa is hiding in my chimney, ready to come down and scold me for not baking enough cookies this year.

But just because I’m a bumbling mess doesn’t mean YOU have to be. This year I’m trying to be more proactive and bring you, readers, timely gift guides. Not like those I threw out in March, even though, well, St. Patrick’s Day is also a relative holiday in my field.

Today we’re going to ease into just thinking about fun gifts for those cocktail lovers/enthusiasts/entertainers in your life. Or you can make a list for yourself! Who cares?! I don’t; you should see my “to buy” list, many items of which will actually be appearing here in the next few weeks.

Since it is still pretty balmy out here in Southern California, I’m taking you on a boat trip – with boozy gifts.

You’ll need a good Navy Strength Rum on this boat, and a couple of shatter-resistant glasses (for when it gets rough). Who wants to carry a bunch of full size products when you can have mini bitters on board? Adult ice pops? Yes. Just don’t forget the ice bucket!

Nautical Cocktail Gift Guide // stirandstrain.com

1. Loop Rocks Glasses 2. Vintage Nautical Bar Tools 3. Sailboat Stir Sticks 4. Smith & Cross Rum 5. Sailboat Pops 6. Scrappy’s Bitters Travel Pack 7. Nautical Ice Bucket

Amaro Highballs

Amaro Highballs // stirandstrain.comRecently I was browsing online and came across the phrase ‘amaro highballs’. There weren’t any recipes or guidelines, just the phrase, which was all I needed to start me thinking about what would fall under that category.

Amaro is Italian for bitter, and for this post I am specifically focusing on Italian Amari. So Amer Picon and Becherovka have to sit out this round (but not to worry, they’ll be back on here soon!). Usually used as a digestif (after dinner to help aid in digestion), these bitter liqueurs also make for great bases in cocktails. They range from mildly bitter to the insane, cough-syrupy varieties and may take some getting used to. Use this as a gateway to explore and add one to your liquor cabinet; it’s worth it.

I also wanted to focus on some lower alcohol content drinks for the Holiday season. I don’t know about you, but my normal intake of cocktails in a night somehow skyrockets during the holiday season (stress??) and I find that if I make myself a drink with a lower ABV I can convince myself it’s just like drinking water… flavorful water.

Not all Amari though have a low alcohol content, so read your bottles! You can always adjust to your liking and below I have two choices under 40ABV (although just marginally on the second recipe).

Averna Highball

2 oz. Averna (29% ABV)
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4-1/2 oz. Q-Ginger
2 dashes ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters
lemon peel

In a highball glass, build your drink by adding ice, then the Averna, lemon juice, bitters and then Q-Ginger. Express lemon peel oil over the drink and garnish on glass. Straw optional.

Averna is sweet and slightly syrupy, a gateway amaro with less bitterness, and here the sharpness of the ginger cuts through the sweetness to balance it out. The tiki bitters bring out more of the spice that is there while the lemon adds citrus to the nose and lingers in the background of the drink.

Fernet Branca Highball

1-3/4 oz. Fernet Branca (39% ABV)
3/4 oz. Orgeat
4-1/2 oz. Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water
grapefruit peel

In a highball glass, build your drink by adding ice, then the Fernet Branca, orgeat, and tonic water. Express grapefruit peel oil over the drink and garnish on glass. Straw optional.

Fernet Branca is on the crazier side of the amaro scale with a very strong and distinct flavor. There’s some minty, bittery… gosh, I dunno, there’s a lot going on with that liqueur and although it’s clearly the star flavor, it’s cut back a bit by the almond-sweet orgeat and mellowed with the tonic. The effervescent nature of the tonic works incredibly well with the Fernet Branca and it disperses the grapefruit oil through out offering a slightly citrusy bitterness to the drink. It’s layers of bitter and sweetness in this glass.

Amaro Highballs // stirandstrain.comOne aspect that makes both these drinks versatile is that they work in warm and cold weather. They are both refreshing when it’s hot out, but also have a lot of spice that works well when it’s cold. If you venture to try one of these, let me know what you think. First time with an amaro? Awesome! Welcome to the club.

A Diwali Cocktail

A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAll of you guys are about to get schooled in a holiday I’m pretty sure you had no idea existed. If you are Indian and are reading this, then, well, you know what holiday this is. If you’re not from Indian descent, I’m guessing you are trying to figure out how to pronounce that word. Diwali. The “W” is like a “V”, pretty easy. In case you are wondering, I am not of Indian descent. My heritage crosses most of Europe, stopping way up North with the Nordic culture, and then randomly zig-zags through the continent. My family even has some French Canadian and a probably unlikely history with the Native American community. That being an unconfirmed princess from some tribe that I think is just made up several generations ago.

So why India’s most major of holidays? I married into it. From first glance you would have no idea my husband was part Indian. The other half is Polish, and after living in Los Angeles for many years before meeting him, I thought he was Mexican when we first met. No offense to Mexican and South American cultures, I was very buzzed at that first meeting. But since being an active part in his Mother’s culture for almost 7 years now, I’ve started to take on some of these other holidays. Also, at his cousin’s request, relocating back to work in India this year, I owe the cousin and her husband a housewarming drink just in time for this holiday.

If you have been reading this blog for some time, you might recall the not-so-pleasant experience I had visiting that continent last year. However, you would note that an awesome drink DID spring up from that experience, and most notably, that country’s love of Gin. India does a decent Gin and Tonic folks.A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So for this year, on the festival of lights, I decided to tweak a recipe I encountered in the Washington Post on Indian beverages. The ingredients might seem a bit out there, but if you’re interested in new flavors, this would be a great place to start. The flavors of India are perfect for many cocktail creations, as they encompass sweet, salty and savory all at once and taste a lot more complex than cocktails you might be familiar with.

Here’s a warning for this drink, not to scare you off, but one ingredient in here, the black salt, might be a bit too much for some of you out there. When you open your container, you will get hit with a great amount of sulphur. That is a flavor component that this adds. Smelly, smelly sulphur. However, if you eat Indian food, you will find this subtly in the background in many dishes, so you might have already tried it before. Here though, if you are terrified of ruining a decent cocktail, or just simply cannot get your hands on it, leave it out. I won’t tell.A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Also, the article suggests adding herbs and whole black peppercorns to your ice cubes the day before. This is optional and mainly a decorative element. When the ice cube starts to melt in the drink, be mindful that the peppercorns may be now floating in your beverage and you might unknowingly almost swallow one. I might have just done that. Twice.

Diwali Cocktail

Adapted from the Washington Post

Yields about 4 drinks

For paste base:
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons amchoor powder
1 teaspoons Indian Black Salt (make sure it is Indian and NOT anything else. No one else will have the same sulphur quality)
pinch kosher salt
1/4 ounce simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup water

For each serving:
3 to 4 oz. Q Ginger
1-1/2 oz. Old Bombay London Dry Gin

Garnish:
marigolds
lime wedges

  1. In a large mortar dish, add all paste ingredients except water and grind down until a paste forms. Add water and stir to combine. Consistency will be watery.
  2. In a double rocks glass or medium sized snifter, add a tablespoon and a half to the bottom of the glass. Add ice. Pour over gin, Q Ginger and squeeze 2 lime wedges in each glass. Top with marigolds.

At first sip this cocktail is almost shocking. So many flavors are going on in this drink and as you sip they meld together a bit and settle down. Cumin pepper, and the black salt dominate with their earthiness while the ginger, amchoor (which is dried mango powder by the way) and lime have a lovely sharp sweetness. If you would like more sweetness here, you can up the simple syrup or Q Ginger. The mint and cilantro give off some floral aromas as well. And the gin, well, it is sitting way at the back of the class here. It’s in there, but clearly being muscled out by the other spices. The marigolds are edible if you would like to try them although here their presence is symbolic of celebration in Indian culture. For the Hindi ceremony part of our wedding these little guys were EVERYWHERE.

Happy Diwali. If you do venture to make this, please let me know what you think!A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Make It: Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon

Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.comYou are either reading the first line of this after seeing the header and clicking to another page (possibly rolling your eyes), or you are salivating to find out more. This is the fate of bloggers during Fall who choose to go down the path of the pumpkin.

Thanks for sticking with me until the next paragraph. I am really into the idea of pumpkin flavor, but rarely do I do anything more than bake/eat a pumpkin pie during the season. This year though I started thinking about syrups for drinks and really wanted to incorporate more Fall flavors on the site. And now it’s November and I haven’t a clue where those last few weeks have gone. Whoops.

You’ll have to check in with me later for syrups, but what I do have for you now is some fantastic infused bourbon. And it’s the flavors of Fall, without all those gross artificial flavors you are probably accustomed to. Think pumpkin pie without the weird film that forms on the roof of your mouth from corn syrup.Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

You know what is great about making infused booze at home? It’s a lazy man’s project. You just need time (FYI, make a calendar reminder as soon as you start your infusion. No forgetting about it after you stash it in a cool, dark place!) This one might be a bit more involved, but you could also make some great spiced-infused bourbon if the cutting and gutting (is that the correct terminology?) of a pumpkin is not your thing. I understand; knives can be scary.

The recipe falls into two parts. Total time is about 2-3 weeks.Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

Part the First:

Dehydrate your pumpkin! Why? Dehydrating removes excess moisture from the squash and intensifies the “pumpkin” flavor.

1 organic sugar pumpkin, about 8″ diameter

  1. Heat your oven to 200°F.
  2. Cut your pumpkin in half from stem to bottom. Scoop out seeds (discard, or roast if that’s your thing. Personally I can’t stand them.) and slice into 1/2″ moons.
  3. Spread the slices on a baking sheet and move that to the oven. Wait six hours. Watch if you want occasionally. It’s like the Shrinky Dinks of my childhood.
  4. After 6 hours, turn the slices over. Bake another 6 hours. This will fully dry the slices out for infusion.
  5. Optionally, you can do this in a dehydrator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Part Deux:

Infusion Time!

Dehydrated pumpkin slices (recipe above)
3 5″ cinnamon sticks
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 whole allspice
1 star anise
1/2 tsp cloves, whole (about 4)
2 cups Buffalo Trace Bourbon

  1. Place all ingredients in an airtight container, glass would be best.
  2. Give the container a good swirl to make sure all ingredients are covered with liquid. Stick the jar in a cool, dark place for two weeks.
  3. After two weeks, strain all material out of the liquid using cheese cloth over a fine mesh strainer into a storage container (I reused the Buffalo Trace bottle).
  4. Taste the infusion. You have two options now.
  5. First, you can use as is. Second, bottle and wait an additional week to mellow out the flavor (I prefer the later).

Why would you wait one more week? Right after discarding the solids the flavor of the infusion is quite sharp. Giving the infusion a week to sit let’s the flavors meld and mellow out. But this is entirely up to you. Like it sharp? Start using it now.Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

What to do with this infusion? Well, for one, you can drink it over ice. It’s pretty much a flavor bomb of Fall smells. The sugar pumpkin has enough sweetness in it that it creates a nice balance with the whiskey. For those of you who want something a little less Fall tasting than just drinking Pimento Dram, this is for you.

I’m going to play with this over the next week or so and see what I come up with for some cocktail suggestions. That gives you some time to start infusing. So get going!

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Candy Corn Shooters

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Candy Corn Shooters // stirandstrain.com

Hey kids! This months Low Rent Cocktail is a layup. That Halloween party you threw Saturday night? You’re going to have one rager of a hangover Sunday morning. The solution: more booze. And candy. Candy is always the answer. Just before you passed out into oblivion I bet you tossed a bunch of candy corn into an almost empty solo cup of vodka. Well, that sat overnight and turned into a magical elixir… of candy corn syrup… that you can shoot back and start your day. Ok, first you need to take off that Vampira makeup. Or are you still in your Teen Wolf costume? Either way, this drink is going to put things back into perspective.

Maybe next you should go find a chili dog.

2 oz. of Vodka or any clear spirit
small handful of candy corn

Toss the candy corn into the vodka and let that sit overnight, or at least 4 hours. The candy should have broken down at this point, so give it a stir, and toss it back.

It’s a thick, syrupy, candy corn flavored elixir. Unless you plopped your candy corn in some rum, then it’s going to be rum and candy corn flavored. You get the idea.

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Candy Corn Shooters // stirandstrain.com

Happy Halloween everyone! If you need some monster-inspired music, check out the #songaday selections on my Twitter.

Cocktails will resume in November!

Make It: Bourbon Vanilla Caramel Sauce

Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.comAbout this time every year I start mentally writing an inventory of things I should start making for Holiday gifts. I have to think about it this early because I usually forget until about a week before Christmas, freak out, and consult the list I made two months ago. This is just how I deal with life and presents.

I was totally that kid that baked for the holidays and passed out cookies and got my teacher a Valentine’s Day gift bag (admittedly only once for that. But she was a great teacher and it was an excuse to buy heart colored tissue paper.) and since starting this blog and just, well, making A LOT of stuff, I’ve been going full force at edible gifts for the Holiday season. Rewind back to a few weeks ago and you will find me wide-eyed in front of a steaming sauce pan of sugar and butter and other deliciousness. Myself and a friend decided to take a caramel making class, the selling point for me was the “Beer and Pretzel” caramels on the list of what we would make. Seriously. Beer reduction and pretzels and caramel living together in one bite-sized wrapper. Oh, but the wrappers. The only aspect I wasn’t prepared for in this class, after spending two or almost three hours making caramels, was the hour long process of individually wrapping each damn caramel I made. After an hour I was kinda done with caramels for the time being and I brought them all in to my office the next day. The beer ones being the surprise hit.

One of the last recipes we tackled that night was not actually a candy, but a sauce: caramel sauce (it was, after all, a caramel class). This sauce made its way into a cake about 3 days later. And now it is making its way here to the site. Why? Because I’ve decided to add some Bourbon and vanilla beans to it and make jars of it for presents this year. Friends, you are welcome. Try not to eat the whole jar in one sitting.

Are you thinking this is going to be too hard? It’s not. I had one hand holding a cell phone trying to pay attention to my mother while she went on about something for 45 minutes and started and finished this whole recipe by the time I got off the phone with her. That includes prep by the way.

Don’t want to give this as a gift? Ok, put it on ice cream, or sandwich it between cookies, or DO YOU REALLY NEED A REASON FOR CARAMEL SAUCE?!bourbon-caramel-3Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

Caramel is boiling sugar. The recipe moves quickly so get all your ingredients together before you start and please, try not to spill it on yourself, it will hurt like hell.

Adapted recipe from The Gourmandise School
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, Plugra is awesome and used here
1 cup heavy cream, room temp
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp fleur de sel, Murray River used here
1 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Seeds from one vanilla bean, or 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste

  1. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine sugar, water, vanilla seeds (or paste), and lemon juice. Stir once to combine. On medium high heat, cook until sugar dissolves, brushing the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush if sugar crystals stick to the sides. Bring to a boil, undisturbed (do NOT STIR), until sugar reaches a dark amber color. (This can take anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t leave the pan. It will almost always burn if you step away.)
  2. Carefully add the cream. It will bubble and hiss like crazy, but this is normal. Bring back to a boil, then add in butter, salt and bourbon. Stir to combine and until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Let cool and then jar up.

Here’s a few notes:

  • Your sauce is going to look watery at first. Don’t keep cooking it. If you pull a spoon out of the sauce and it leaves a layer, your sauce is thickened. As it cools it will thicken up much more. And once you stick it in the fridge, the next day it’s even more thick.
  • DO NOT STIR IT WHILE IT COOKS. Just don’t, it will create crystals and it will be grainy and gross.
  • The bourbon is added at the end, so you will taste it. That is the point of adding it to the sauce. Don’t like bourbon? You can add an aged rum if you like. Or just leave out the booze too if you have to.
  • Besides the lovely bourbon taste, mainly you are going to get a buttery, salted caramel with hints of vanilla. And you will keep telling yourself, One more spoonful, until there is nothing left.Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

Mixology Monday: The Vegan Pisco Sour

Vegan Pisco Sour // stirandstrain.comMixology Monday LogoLately it seems that Mixology Monday is how I mark the passing of time. “Didn’t we just do this?”, I ask myself when I get the alert that there is a new challenge up on the site. Maybe it’s also because I hosted last month and I was neck-deep in it for a full week. This isn’t a complaint by the way. I love these challenges, and this month, Stewart from the Putney Farm blog has really created a doozy of a challenge for us all: make an “Intercontinental” cocktail. For the full run down, please visit his site here!

A geography lesson was needed as I started picking through what I had on hand. Trinidad is considered part of South America, even though it’s an island. Right, islands are still part of a continent. Admittedly I kept forgetting we only have 7 continents. Why does this feel like school?

However, even with all the map reading and consulting a globe, I actually had a recipe idea already in mind that I was just going to shoehorn into this month’s challenge. Last month I attended a cocktail event here in Los Angeles, Taste L.A. (which was actually cocktails and food but I only went to the cocktail-themed event), where there were some great demos that I took notes on and squirreled away for future post ideas. The demo I was looking forward to attend the most was one with bartender extraordinaire Matthew Biancaniello, who was awesome, but what I didn’t expect to be the most intrigued by was Brady Weise from the 1886 Bar (which I wrote about over here if you’re interested). He is known for his beer cocktails, and I am always on the lookout for those, but for his demo he showed us how to use  beer as an emulsifier to sub out using egg whites in cocktails. Science cocktails! By doing this, he effectively made a vegan cocktail. Yes, before anyone brings it up, many, many cocktails have no animal products in them whatsoever. However, if you notice, more bars now are using egg whites and whole eggs in their cocktails as they re-discover classics that call for these. If you are vegan, you are missing out. This post is for you guys.Vegan Pisco Sour // stirandstrain.com

Weise’s cocktail was a Pisco Sour and since this is my first time trying this out, I’m sticking, mostly, with his measurements. To get the right consistency, he suggests using a very wheat-y beer. There’s some scientific stuff about proteins and such that I have not provided for you to read. You can open a new tab if you’re really interested and have the internet tell you about it.

So which continents did I hit? Well, the limes were from Mexico (they’re not in season here right now) so there’s North America. The Pisco was from Peru, so there you have South America. Angostura Bitters are from Trinadad, but that’s still in the Americas (shoot!). The Hefe-Weizen’s Germany so we got Europe covered. And the added touch? Orange Flower Water, from Lebanon. So there’s Asia. BOOM! Four out of seven is not bad in my book.Vegan Pisco Sour // stirandstrain.com

Now that school is over, let’s make a drink!

Adapted from Brady Weise:
1-1/2 oz. Encanto Pisco
1-1/2 oz. Paulaner Hefe-Weizen Beer
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/4 tsp. Orange Flower Water
3-4 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Pour the Orange Flower Water in the bottom of a rocks glass. Swirl to coat the entire inside of the glass and pour out remaining liquid. In a mixing glass, add lime juice, simple syrup, pisco and–slowly–beer. Using a Boston Shaker, hard shake for about 30 seconds. Strain into your rocks glass and give a few hard shakes to get foam out of the shaker and into the glass. Top with a few dashes of Angostura Bitters.

The result is similar to a regular Pisco Sour, except this version has some wheat in the finish and a sweet orange, floral aroma and taste. Overall tart with sweet grape, but a balanced tartness due to the orange flower water (after trying without, I prefer this less mouth-puckering version) that also compliments the wheat from the Hefe-Weizen. The head is thick, foamy, and slowly dissipates, showing its structure.

Thanks to Stewart for hosting this month and to Frederic for keeping Mixology Monday up and running.

In Other News

If you didn’t click on the link for 1886, and that’s fine, no one is forcing you to, more of my writing can be found on the Serious Drinks site now. What kind of stuff? Reviews of some of my favorite places to drink in Los Angeles, and first looks at some new places. Heading to L.A. soon? Check it out!

The liquor shelf page was starting to get a bit crowded, so the bookshelf is getting it’s own page now!

Sudden Blush Cocktail

Sudden Blush Cocktail // stirandstrain.comOk folks, let’s shake off that sugar hangover from the last Low Rent Cocktail. Thank god those are only once a month! Now back to the class…

Can a cantaloupe be classy? I think so. No, wait. I KNOW so.

The last of the season’s melons had landed in my CSA basket and I stared them down thinking what to do with them. I’d made watermelon ice cubes, and a melon salad, but I wanted to showcase them in a cocktail. Last year I was all a-craze with this watermelon cocktail, the Salty Melon. I was making them by the pitcher with no shame what-so-ever and drinking them, mostly, all by myself. This year I decided on cantaloupe syrup. Surely I would find a cocktail to put it in…

But it sat next to the Dijon mustard for 3 weeks.

3 weeks and maybe a few days. Until a bottle of Dobel Tequila showed up on my doorstep.

As I have been desperately clinging on to daylight as it starts to get cooler here in Los Angeles, one reminder of summer, besides taco trucks, is melon gazpacho. There is something SO refreshing gulping down this sweet and savory soup. I like mine with a little heat, go figure, and a sprinkling of cilantro. So why not spike this melon syrup with a bit of tequila?

1-1/2 oz. Dobel Tequila*
1/2 oz. Cantaloupe Melon Syrup (recipe below)
1/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
3 slices of serrano pepper with seeds removed, adjust according to your desired heat levels

cilantro sprig for garnish

In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle the pepper slices with lime juice. Add ice, then add in syrup and tequila. Stir for about 30 seconds and then strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro.

For this cocktail, I wanted to keep the heat to just a flavor and tiny bit of fire. Overpowering the cocktail with too much spice kills the delicate cantaloupe flavors and in turn ruins the drink. The cilantro gives a nice aroma and you can decide whether to drop it in you drink or not. I almost always want more cilantro on everything, personal preference. The drink is well balanced between the earthiness of the tequila, the just-sweet-enough melon syrup, tart lime and touch of spice. The sudden blush refers to the color the drink takes as you pour it, turning a cloudy silver to a peachy blush color with tiny specs of red from the pepper (yours might have tiny green, orange or yellow depending on your pepper).

One word on the garnish. I think the cilantro looks dainty and fragile, Christopher says it looked sad. I think that if we were looking at a bunch of a Ballerinas I would think they looked dainty and he would probably think they were all sad statues.

 

Sudden Blush Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Cantaloupe Syrup

1/2 cantaloupe, orange flesh only cut into cubes
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

In a nonreactive medium sized sauce pan, combine sugar and water over medium heat. Throw the cantaloupe chunks into the pan and with a potato masher or large fork, crush the melon, breaking it down into the sugar water. You want it to resemble the consistency of a thick soup, with no visible large melon chunks. Bring mixture to a boil and then let simmer over low heat for a half hour. Stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let cool completely. Fine strain mixture into an airtight bottle. Add 1/2 ounce of vodka if not using entire syrup completely. Refrigerate until ready to use.

*This bottle of Dobel 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

Currently Drinking: Homebodies Edition

hanky panky homebodies cocktails // stirandstrain.comRecently Raul over at the Death to Sour Mix blog gave us 3 drinks he enjoyed this summer. That reminded me I wanted to throw up a couple of drinks that have been in regular (heavy) rotation around this house lately.

First, my husband, Christopher, who no longer would like to be referred to by ‘husband’ here but by his own name (maybe should have thought twice before he put a ring on it) is not one to turn down a drink. He leafs through all the cocktail books I bring in (never telling me I’ve bought too many. Thank god.) and, in addition to being my test monkey, he very often makes up his own drinks or makes a recipe that appeals to him. Lately it’s been the Hanky Panky via the PDT cocktail book. But not just your run of the mill HP. For the Gin, he uses the very assertive Terroir from St. George Spirits. Quite possibly his favorite gin ever. For me, this completely changes the drink and it’s totally something else, in a good way. Like when you put an onion in a martini and get to call it a Gibson. Be warned, this is like a pine forest took up camp in your cup, which you will either love, or not. NO in-betweens here!

Hanky Panky in a Forrest

2 oz. St. George Spirits Terroir Gin
1-1/2 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz. Fernet Branca

Stir all ingredients over ice in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled coupe.

red lantern homebodies cocktails // stirandstrain.comFor me, it’s all about this Negroni variation suggested by Michael Dietsch via his Serious Drinks article found here. I mean…dang! Smith and Cross was always a bit too powerful to the point I sometimes was unsure of what to do with it. But with Carpano and Campari it tames that wild beast of a rum into delectable smoothness. At first my only addition was adding a grapefruit peel garnish. I’m a bit sad to think about how many grapefruits I peeled to death and then forgot to eat the inside of. I need to learn to supreme citrus already! And then it happened, I ran out of Carpano. Playing my own game of swapping out the liquor I turned to Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and it worked in this drink’s favor. So much so I decided I’d even name this one.

Red Lantern

1-1/2 oz. Smith and Cross Jamaican Rum
3/4 oz. Campari
3/4 oz. Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
grapefruit peel for garnish

In a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice, add first three ingredients. Stir for 30 seconds and pour into a chilled double rocks glass. Cut a peel of grapefruit about 3 inches long. Express the oil over the drink, swab the inside of the glass with the oil and drop the peel into the glass.

Why a double rocks glass for that small amount of liquid? It’s all about getting that grapefruit aroma in there and up your nose. When I added that grapefruit peel the first time I tried this variation, bells went off; it was pretty darn perfect for me. And the rest of the drink? Velvet texture. The sharpness of the Smith and Cross is but by the syrupy Vermouth and bitter-sweetness of Campari. Powerful, and yet so easy to drink.

So what are you guys drinking at home? Is it your favorite classic cocktail? Or maybe it’s just a good beer. Let me know!