King Cake Cocktail

This post was made in partnership with Everclear. Recipe and ideas are my own.

The older I get, the more the traditions and holidays leading up to Easter get blurry. When I was a kid at parochial school, there was Lent, there was a day where we all got palms and some day where we all walked around with ash on our foreheads (this could have been the same day, I can’t remember now), and for what seemed like an eternity we were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays. I vaguely remember having a carton the size of an individual milk serving where we collected change to give to… someone during this time too but mainly went barren until my mom made us empty out our piggy banks to fill it. But then after all this we were rewarded with waking up one morning able to stuff our faces with chocolate before we even had our daily OJ. Score.

I don’t remember the exact time in my life when I learned about Mardi Gras, and I use the term “learned” loosely as I still don’t know all the intricacies surrounding this event, but I was intrigued by this parallel party during this season. Again, the ideas and customs are still a bit fuzzy, there’s a parade, beads, lots of drunk college kids, general overindulgence, and King Cake, where you bake a baby into dessert. Out of all these ideas I’ve tended to gravitate towards the cake because… cake; I just don’t focus too much on the baked baby part of it.

This month I partnered with Everclear again to develop a cocktail to celebrate with during Mardi Gras, and that made you think of the flavors of New Orleans and that special infant-hidden-in-a-cake cake. This cocktail is more on the sweeter side, it’s indulgent and a good fit for getting in all that excess before you need to cool off for 40 days (or if you don’t do that, hell, you can still party it up all the way through April drink in hand). The passion fruit and lemon juice started as a riff on a Hurricane and then I added in some almond and berry flavors to represent the cake. The Everclear is my neutral backbone for all the flavors and to give it that boozy kick.

And if you’re wondering why the green sanding sugar garnish, that and the purplish drink color also represent the green and purple colors of the King Cake. The sugar is optional, but for this party drink I’m pulling out the flourishes. Except for the baby. I’m leave that addition up to you.

Now let’s get mixing!

1 ounce Everclear
1 ounce Passion Fruit Juice
3/4 ounces Amaretto
3/4 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 ounces Cassis Liqueur

green sanding sugar for garnish

First, rim a chilled cocktail coupe with green sanding sugar. Then, in a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, shake for 20 seconds. Strain into the chilled and garnished cocktail coupe. Enjoy!

If this recipe looks familiar to you, you may have seen it next to a bottle of Everclear at your local liquor store (or package store! Who calls it that outside of New England?). 

Mother’s Day Cocktail Roundup 2016

Well guys, it’s been two years since I’ve done one of these, so here’s your 2016 cocktail roundup for all your Moms. Drink up!

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling Lemony-Suze Cocktails

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha

Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour Cocktails

 Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.com

Smoked-Rosemary Rum Punch

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.com

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails

Pisco Brunch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

A Pitcher of Pisco with Grapefruit, Lime and Thyme

The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Pineapple Hop, a beer & pineapple shrub cocktail

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!

Vanilla-Infused Amaretto Sour with lemon foam!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanilla-infused Amaretto

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

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

Lemon Foam

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

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

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

For the cocktail

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

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

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

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

What to do with Amaretto: Part Two, make whipped cream

amaretto-whipcream-1January always seems like a “hands off” month when it comes to any subject other than how to be healthy. People are waking up, shaking off a month and a half food and booze induced coma, swearing off all evils for at least a few weeks. February seemed a more proper month to post this. All of those resolutions are out the window right now and people need a reason to put whipped cream on everything.

Booze spiked hot cocoa really doesn’t need a recipe (add alcohol until satisfied). However, measurements might be needed for a topping. Yes, a topping. Not being much of a marshmallow lover, I always have enjoyed a rather large dollop of whipped cream on my hot cocoa. And in this scenario, I have a bottle of Amaretto that needs using up. So for the next installment of “What to do with that bottle of Amaretto“, we will spike some whipped cream with it. Mmmm….amaretto-whipcream-6

Have you seen those new bottles of already spiked alcoholic whipped cream? Are you as freaked out as I am? Why does this exist if it takes 10 minutes to make on your own? You don’t even need to put pants on.

amaretto-whipcream-2Let’s make some Amaretto Whipped Cream:

8 oz. of cold heavy whipping cream
1 oz. of Amaretto
2 tbsp of sugar (I am using granulated and it dissolved just fine)

  • Start whipping the cream and add in the Amaretto and sugar. Mix until medium/firm peaks form, around 5 to 7 minutes. For softer whipped cream, beat it less. The colder the environment, mixer, whisk, etc. is, the faster your whipped cream will whip up.
  • When desired consistency is achieved (and you’ve taste tested, and maybe tested a few more spoonfuls if no one is looking), use right away or store in an air-tight container. Whipped cream will last 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

amaretto-whipcream-3amaretto-whipcream-4amaretto-whipcream-5Concerned your whipped cream will taste too much of alcohol? Don’t fret, even with an ounce of Amaretto, this recipe yields more like 2 to 2-1/2 cups, and mixed throughout is more subtle than you think. Also, the cream and sugar help cut through the sting of alcohol to let more of the almond flavor of the Amaretto stand out. I added my whipped cream to a mug (an awesome Mayan tiki mug no less) of Mexican Hot Chocolate. The flavor of the Amaretto was a match for the earthy, spiciness of the drink. Adding a touch of nutmeg on top doesn’t hurt either. I imagine this would work just as well with Swiss Miss.

Don’t want hot chocolate? Sneaking a piece of cake during your bout of trying to be healthy? This is spectacular on spice cakes or just dipping cookies into. Or strawberries! Valentine’s Day is this week…

What to do with Amaretto: Part One, make a sour

For a couple years I’ve been slowly adding to my liquor cabinet, and then recently I’ve just gone nutso and been buying carts full of stuff to try. Unfortunately this means that the tidy little nook that was housing all the liquor is now being turned back into the wine rack it really is. The sideboard is now starting to groan under the weight until we get around to finishing the bar (and with a now tentative plan of late January for this year’s Tiki Party, that really needs to happen ASAP).

While cleaning out the wine nook, I came across a couple bottles that have not seen the light of day for quite some time. One being an ‘ok’ bottle of Amaretto. I believe this was bought around the time of the first Tiki Party four years ago, and hasn’t been cracked open since this post. Needless to say it was quite dusty.

I figured it was time to give it a second chance when it occurred to me… what to do with a bottle of Amaretto? An Amaretto Sour? I don’t think I’d even tried one before. And while I wasn’t about to compete with Mr. Morgenthaler on how to make one (who can while he is making that face?… I kid, I’m sure it’s delicious.) I wanted to just make it as basic as possible and to just try it on for size. Just two ingredients.

And in the end, head-scratchingly good.

I guess I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the taste of almonds. That is, after all, the defining characteristic of Amaretto. Mixing it with lemon made it one of the most delicious, almond-spiked (albeit maybe the only almond-spiked) lemon-aides I’ve ever had. I was very surprised with how much I enjoyed the drink. The sharp lemon was cut perfectly with the overly sweet amaretto, omitting the need for sweetener entirely and blending just two ingredients into a well-balanced cocktail.

I could see this working at brunch.

2 oz. Amaretto
1 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
sugar crystals for garnish
optional: nutmeg

Add liquids to a shaker 1/2 filled with ice. Shake and strain into a sour glass garnished with a sugar rim.

Note on the sugar rim: while pretty to look at, completely covering the entire rim resulted in WAY too much sugar. I’d suggest half the rim dipped in sugar, or just leave it off completely if you’re by yourself and don’t feel the need to garnish.

I also did one take with a slight dusting of nutmeg. It gave the whole drink a lovely woodsy aroma and I found it enhanced the almond flavor; add if you want to get fancy like that.

Mixology Monday: Some Like It Hot- Hot Buttered Warm Up Drink!

Hot alcoholic drinks bring me back to being sick as a kid and having a dad who was extraordinarily inept when it came to dealing with these things. I guess he was just doing what his mom did to him when he was sick and a kid.. passing down old world traditions of giving hot whiskey and honey to a coughing child. Occasionally I still will mix one up when the temperature in L.A. drops down below 50, which it has been doing lately. Waking up the other morning and looking out to see a palm tree in the foreground and a snow covered mountain in the background made me take a second glance. And then a third. And then I broke out the camera and emailed a photo to my parents back east to prove we do have weather out here. Oh but you came here for a drink recipe! Let’s talk about that!

This post is my entry into this month’s Mixology Monday. It’s my first, which may not be so shocking since there are only a handful of posts on this here site (the blog may be new, but my interest in cocktails goes back a-ways). And it is hosted over at The Backyard Bartender. Hosted virtually. The drink is a Hot Buttered Warm Up. It doesn’t really indicated anything about the drink except there may be some butter in it and it’s hot. Part of the titling is that warm drinks go down easy and after several I can’t remember what they’re really called and default to calling them ‘Warm Ups’. Cause they do that to you.

1 T of Cardamom, Vanilla, and Muscovado Sugar Compound Butter (recipe is in this post)
1 bay leaf
5 oz of strong black tea (I used PG Tips)
2 oz of bourbon
1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz of amaretto
lemon peel for garnish

Drop the tablespoon of butter mixture into your serving cup (a glass coffee mug, regular coffee mug.. something that can take some heat). Meanwhile, make the tea: pour boiling water over one tea bag and the bay leaf in a separate mug (you could quadruple this recipe and make a whole pot of tea if you were serving for company. It would probably make you feel better than having to waste two coffee mugs on this.). Let sit and brew for 6 minutes. Strain the tea onto your butter mixture, you want to use anywhere between 5 to 6 ounces of tea here (one small coffee mug is about right- but since mugs vary greatly in size and capacity, you might want to measure it all out ahead of time). Add the bourbon and lemon juice. Stir to combine the mixture (and break up the butter a bit if it’s been hanging out in the fridge until now). Float the amaretto on top and garnish with the lemon peel.

Even though you have sugar and vanilla in the butter, it mellows out here and is not very sweet. That said, if you love your drinks sweet I’d adjust the butter mixture to your own tastes. This was perfect for me. Originally I had this without the lemon juice but once I tasted the drink it was screaming for some acid. I particularly wanted to use bourbon in this, but next time I might try it with some dark rum to see where that goes (my never ending quest to become pals with rum). If the temperature stay the same around here you might see some more hot drinks coming soon.

***The inspiration behind this was in part me marrying into a half-Indian family last year and eating much more cardamom. I learned that I like it, and there’s a whole new world of bizarre flavor combinations that I want to make into drinks thanks to them. This is one of them. The other part is that hot whiskey is the only cure I can think of when I look outside and there are palm trees and snow.