{now closed} Cucumber Basil Caesar and a Caesars Cocktail Book Giveaway!

Cucumber Basil Caesar Cocktail and a Giveaway! // stirandstrain.comHappy Canada Day to all my Canadian readers out there! I know you exist (my stats tell me so). Today I honor all of you with your national drink, the Caesar.

However, I’m not excluding all of the rest of the world with this post, because I’m also opening up a contest for all my Canadian and US readers with a cocktail book giveaway on this very drink. For the next week, enter win your own copy of Caesars: The Essential Guide to Your Favourite Cocktail by Clint Pattemore.Cucumber Basil Caesar Cocktail and a Giveaway! // stirandstrain.com

And for everyone across the globe, I’m also giving you a cocktail to try out. Because you’ve read this far.

I have to admit it, I didn’t realize that a Caesar was specifically a Canadian invention. Like many drinks with a history, I had a vague idea of its origins. Wasn’t it a cousin to the Bloody Mary, just with clam juice? Well, I consider myself schooled now. The Caesar I still work into the realm of day drinks, or even Sunday morning drinks (or Monday morning if Sunday was rough). And today I’m gussying up the classic with some fresh Persian cucumbers and basil from my garden. It’s seasonal and refreshing and only has a touch of savory flavor to contrast against the bright vegetable flavor.Cucumber Basil Caesar Cocktail and a Giveaway! // stirandstrain.com

Try this, or one of the many (like, over 50) ways to create a Caesar from your own copy of the book. But! You have to enter to win a copy first!

Actually, let’s make a drink first…

Slightly Adapted from the Caesars cocktail book
4 cucumber slices (preferably Persian cucumbers that you don’t have to peel)
4-6 basil leaves
3 dashes hot sauce (I use Tapatio)
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1-1/2 ounces gin
4 ounces Clamato

1 tbsp smoked salt, 1 tsp pepper, cucumber spears for garnish

Garnish your highball glass (or small goblet) first by rimming the outside of the glass with a cucumber slice then dip in salt and pepper mixture poured into a small bowl. In a mixing glass, muddle together cucumber slices, basil, hot sauce and pepper. Add gin and Clamato. Stir and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Finish garnishing with a cucumber spear. Straws are always optional!

Enter below for your chance to win a copy of Caesars: The Essential Guide to Your Favourite Cocktail! You can get up to NINE entries to win. Contest runs until midnight PST Wednesday, July 9th, 2014. Please see terms and conditions below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blueberry Basil Smash or, how I stopped worrying and just made a damn cocktail

Blueberry Basil Lemon Smash (and some notes on blogging) // stirandstrain.comDo you ever look over a cocktail recipe and think to yourself, this is too intimidating? Or maybe, I have no idea what any of these ingredients are! Sorry, I’m sure looking through this site some of you may have had those exact reactions. Although I like to challenge myself, because challenges build character or whatever, sometimes I just want something I can throw together and still think it looks delicious but wasn’t a hassle to make.

Sometimes I need to stop over-thinking these recipes.

This past weekend I challenged myself waaaaaay out of my comfort zone and went away for a few days to a food blogger conference (Big Traveling Potluck). Just so all of you cocktail bloggers know, we are under the vast umbrella that is food blogging (so if you get the chance, GO). Also, when you attend these things, chances are there isn’t another one of you around; you get to feel special in this weird, incestuous, high school-like cliquish group. I may be overstating that sentiment, but it’s close.

After getting over the initial I-don’t-know-anyone-here anxiety, people will just inherently feel pity on you and strike up a conversation. But the following day you can get over yourself and start having real conversations with people who all share the same passion and business questions you do. You can talk about blogging without wondering if the other person thinks you’re a hack or ask questions about CPCs and other acronyms that you’ve already forgotten what they stand for. What struck me as funny, was that there was this underlying anxiety everyone wanted to share: to slow down, give yourself some air to not feel in competition with the THOUSANDS of other people vying for the same internet space; but no one had any kind of answer. Regardless of what you were blogging about, there is always someone else you think you need to beat. Thinking about this sucks the fun out of creating for your site (at least for me…maybe you dig it).

Blueberry Basil Lemon Smash (and some notes on blogging) // stirandstrain.comAfter 3 days there I abruptly felt like I had been given my own answer: get out of your headspace and just make a damn drink. If your content speaks to people, they will read it regardless of whether it’s complicated or not. And if you’re not happy with what you did, don’t publish it. Move on to something else.

This conference may have been a tad more personal than some of the larger ones out there. There was probably way more crying (in public) and more opportunities to talk one-on-one with everyone, but for me, it helped clear out some mental blocks that I had been dealing with lately. I’m not seeking out challenges with any regularity, but I find that conquering one at least every once in awhile gets me motivated again.

Also, I appreciate you guys for visiting this site.

So, onto the drink. Basil and blueberries are not an uncommon flavor duo, and frankly, you could probably do an internet search and find some similar recipes. However, today this is what I felt like sharing with you all and what I wanted to make with ingredients not uncommon, and definitely readily available. I also wanted to make a good-looking garnish; I can never leave well-enough alone.

4-6 basil leaves
small handful of blueberries (like, 10 or so)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup (more or less to taste)
3 ounces gin, Citadelle Reserve used here*

Garnish: 3 blueberries, 2 basil leaves, lemon zest

  • In the bottom of a double rocks glass, muddle basil, blueberries, lemon juice and simple syrup. Add about an inch of ice, stir, and add gin. Fill glass with more crushed ice. Zest lemon on top of ice and garnish with blueberries and basil leaves on a cocktail pick. Straw is optional.

Basil and lemons florals for the initial aroma. There’s a nice sourness to this that is picked up from the lemon and blueberries. The basil is subtle, but present, adding earthy, vegetal qualities while the gin adds a kick of flavor from the barrel aging. The rich, spicy gin brings the “lightness” of the other ingredients down a bit making the cocktail more robust.

*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Peach-Basil Sorbet & Saison Float (Beer Float)

peach basil sorbet and saison beerfloat // stirandstrain.com

Me and Beer are not what you would call best friends. We spy each other from across the room and keep a cool distance. Once and awhile we’re forced to spend time together. Usually out of desperation. But before you Beer Lovers out there delete me from your feedly account, I will say that I can be turned sometimes. For example, last time I was in San Francisco I had a Nautilus Saison. It was really good. And if I’m out at a place that only is doing beer, I won’t be that a-hole not drinking. Usually I ask for a sour beer, and more than likely they have one.

What I really like in a Beer Experience is something luxurious. I take the beer cocktail movement seriously. Amazing things have been created and imbibed by myself. However, I haven’t quite knocked one out of the park yet to share on here. What have I done with beer lately though? Make a damn float. A luxurious Saison float with some homemade sorbet. Oh yes….

First, you cannot take any old ice cream/gelato/sorbet and stick it with any old Pilsner/IPA/Double Chocolate Stout. Oh wait.You totally can stick that Double Chocolate Stout with a lot of flavors. But the point is that when you are going to create a beer float, you need to look at it as you are crafting a cocktail. The flavors should compliment each other, have a good body together, introduce new flavors into the party. Also, you shouldn’t be afraid to add some enhancers such as bitters and herbs. Again, like making a cocktail.peach basil sorbet and saison beer float // stirandstrain.com

After I tried that Saison I knew that the profile of that type of beer would work really well with some seasonal fruit sorbets. I like making sorbets. But usually I make alcoholic sorbets. This time I would leave that part out, focus what is in season and what would pair well with the beer.

Peaches were overcrowding the fruit basket, so they needed to go. The last of my basil was also starting to look a tad sad so I figured these two would make a great pair for a sorbet. I made a small batch, knowing that freezer space is limited in my house right now so I needed this guy in and out quick. After the batch was done, taste tests were conducted with a variety of Saisons and the winning combo was the Foret Organic Saison.

The pairing was great, but what put it over the top and rounded out the float was a sprinkling of freshly ground Coriander. Have you guys ever smelled the stuff freshly ground?! It has the most striking lime aroma. It was the extra brightness that this float needed to make it exceptional.

Thirsty? Let’s get started.peach basil sorbet and saison beer float // stirandstrain.com

Peach-Basil Sorbet

recipe adapted from the James Beard Foundation (cut in half, but I kept the same amount of basil)

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
8 basil leaves
2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks

Bring the sugar, water, and basil to a boil in a small pot. Gently simmer 10 minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for one hour.

Strain the syrup.

Purée the syrup with the peaches until smooth in a food processor. Chill mixture in the fridge for at least an hour.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker. I found that this small batch took only about 10 minutes to come together. Depending on temp and humidity in your kitchen, could take a few minutes more.peach basil sorbet and saison beer float // stirandstrain.com

The Beer Float

3 scoops of the Peach-Basil Sorbet
3-4 oz of Foret Organic Saison
Pinch of freshly ground coriander

In a pilsner glass, add the scoops of sorbet. Pour the Saison over the scoops and add a pinch of the coriander to the foam. Add a straw if you like.

The ground coriander has vivid lime notes that bring out the citrus from the Saison. Dry start with a sweet finish. The peach and basil are soft in the background on initial sip, until that is, you get a chunk in your straw, at which point you get this potent herbal fruit flavor.

This drink is SO light you can drink multiples without feeling too heavy. It’s even delicious with food (I had a Cuban sandwich and it was a super match!).peach basil sorbet and saison beer float // stirandstrain.com

Check out the Boozy Dessert Round Up on Clinton Kelly for this recipe from me and more!

Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria for Two

Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

At the end of May I caught a tweet from the NY Times food section that completely changed my mind about what a Sangria should be. Lavender? Sake? What were these crazy components I’d never dreamed of adding to what I considered to be a drink of wine and fruit thrown in for good measure. You can read the whole article through this link, just come back here when you’re done.

That Burnt Sage and Blackberry Sangria I did? Little did I know what path I would start going down next. Suddenly that article made me want to try it with all kinds of wine. White Sangria I am still working on, but Rosé? I think I have something pretty special here. (Oh, and I got Sherry waiting in line too, FYI).Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

In developing this recipe, I made the Rosé tell me where to go. By that I mean I bought a relatively cheap bottle in case this was a bomb (Hello Trader Joe’s!) and tasted it, and from there went with what I thought would enhance the flavor profile of the wine and compliment it on several levels. Apples, plums, basil. It’s all in there along with some not so well known ingredients: Cardamaro (a complex wine-based Amaro). And unexpected: Rum.Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

For me, I want Sangria to be complex, like a cocktail, but on the obvious larger scale in size.The only downfall here is the wait time. Sorry folks, this needs to sit for 2 days, it’s just better that way. Trust me.

5-6 basil leaves
2 plums, sliced
1-1/2 green apples, sliced
1/2 large pear, sliced
1 oz. Cardamaro
4 oz. El Dorado 15 year Rum
1-1/2 cups Pinot Noir Rosé (pick a Rosé that is light, dry and subtly sweet with hints of berries)

Lightly crush the basil in the bottom of your pitcher. Add fruit. Pour liquids over the fruit and stir to combine. Refrigerate for two days. To serve, pour over ice filled double rocks glasses.Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

The Rosé, regardless of what else is added here, is still the dominant flavor, but now there is a wonderfully warm, light syrupy taste from the liquors. Apples our among the fruit with this particular ratio, however it’s a nice crisp addition. Plum is more of a subtle flavor in the background while the basil adds a slight earthiness that compliments this Rosé. Some people disagree with adding fruit during the resting period because it can become soggy. I am not one of those people. The fruit I stick in there I want infused into the drink. They are not merely a garnish. In fact, I might not even eat them.

If you can wait for this, it’s a light, crisp, refreshing and seriously easy to drink Sangria.

Variation on a Gimlet with Mint & Basil

I’m starting to amass a large collection of infused/flavored simple syrups. Partly it’s that I keep surprising myself with how much syrup is left after I make a batch for a sorbet. And because I always just mindlessly make a 1 cup to 1 cup ratio every time I do a syrup. So yeah,  a lot of these bottles.

To try and start using them up I’ve been picking my brain for new ways to use them. Mint lattes? Why not! Basil lattes? No. Nononono… Adding them in to cocktails that I already know how to make? Sure, yeah, I guess.

That basil syrup is sure a hard one to be clever with. However, going with flavor profiles I was familiar with, I decided on making a variant of a gimlet.

With the addition of some fresh mint, this drink becomes very fragrant. The notes of both herbs are quite strong, but not powerfully “herbal”. Staying true to a gimlet, it’s also sweet and tart. Together it’s a lovely flavor combination.

6 mint leaves
1/2 oz basil simple syrup (recipe found through here)
2 oz Gin (Hendrick’s)
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

Mint leaf for garnish

Muddle the mint and basil simple syrup together. Add gin,  lime juice and fill shaker 2/3 full with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with one mint leaf.

Le Tiki-Vert/ What to do all that Basil Liquor

So this is my tarragon plant.
But I’m sure all the other herb plants think of it as a blood thirsty killer. That pot used to house a dill plant. But the Tarragon killed it dead. This plant is growing at a rate I’ve never seen any of my plants succeed at doing and now I’m stuck with a lot of an herb I only use a tiny bit of. My natural inclination was to see how I could fit it into a drink.

I’ve mentioned on here that I have a couple of bottles of Shrubs I’ve been experimenting with for work cocktails. This drink was born out of the remnants of a chicken salad. Sorta. I saw my husband mixing up tarragon and lemon juice into his classic sandwich mix and I thought, Hey- I should stick those herbs in the lemon shrub and see what happens. It ended up being a pretty nice combination and I’m glad I risked possible salmonella to try it (I may or may not have grabbed some leftover tarragon leaves for the first version of this that were mingling with leftover chicken on a cutting board. Don’t judge.).

One thing I learned about this is that you can go heavy with the tarragon. It works here and you want the taste. Too little leaves and the flavor is just not present enough and lacks that nice grassy-ness. The only problem I ran into with this drink was trying to name it. Is it really necessary to name your drink? I read some blogs where ‘names’ are just a modified list of ingredients. Other times people go in crazy directions and name their drink a long string of words that are really meaningless to the drink. I guess it doesn’t matter; I’m guilty of doing both. Except that this is on a short list for the work drink, so I did have to spend some time back and forth thinking of a name. Le Tiki-Vert just came out of the color and the Tiki-tasting quality of the drink. It could change, but for now I’m keeping it.

2 tbsp tarragon leaves
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1-1/2 oz white rum (Oronoco here)
1/2 oz lemon shrub (Tait Family Farms)
1 oz grapefruit juice

Muddle leaves and lime juice together in a mixing glass. Add ice and the rest of the ingredients. Cover with metal shaker and shake well to combine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Bits of tarragon will be floating about.

The drink has a mellow, bitter fruit flavor that borders on the tropical side. Herbaceous notes from the tarragon sit on the back of your tongue, becoming stronger as the drink sits.

I made 3 of these and had a pleasant afternoon.

***************

One other project that I didn’t feel warranted an entire blog post but worth mentioning was my discovery that you can make sorbet with liquor. Maybe all sorbet is made like this, who knows! I’ve only made this one recipe.

Anyways, last week my husband and I trekked out to a local farmer’s market (we recently, sadly, discontinued our CSA baskets for the main reason that we wanted to go and be active in our community and support local farms and have a bit more say in what we’re getting from where. So far we’re doing it every week. Or I am going during the week on my lunch.) and we picked up 3 pints of strawberries with me proclaiming all kinds of recipe ideas I was going to make with them. With only one drink under my belt and 2-3/4 pints left, I decided to look up a recipe where I could use a lot of them in one go. Browsing a favorite food blog, Sassy Radish (who, if I can wax poetic for a sec, is really a great, unpretentious, awesome food blog that anything I make from there always comes out perfect. And on the subject of food, I really should add a food blog section under the blogs I am reading. I’ll just make a mental note to do that), I came across this recipe for her Strawberry Basil Sorbet. Ah, also I forgot to mention I had harvested the last of my basil plant and needed to use that up STAT too. So I noticed that she had added a bit of vodka to her recipe in order to keep it smooth. Fireworks went off in my head when I remembered I didn’t have vodka, but I sure had some Basil Liquor made with Everclear in the freezer. I could totally sub that out and make this a super basil sorbet.

Anyways, so tweaking her recipe I used 2 tablespoons of the basil liquor and using the ice cream bowl attachment for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, whipped that up and had some sorbet. The basil is definitely there, but not as strong as I was expecting. Since I haven’t tested it against a recipe NOT made with the basil liquor, I have no idea how pronounced it really should be. But there you go. Basil liquor for ice cream treats. You’re welcome.

One last note. Cumin in savory cocktails. I was out two weeks ago at a bar in downtown L.A. and had one and my mind has been blown. I need to get on this bandwagon. So, hopefully I can make something drinkable with cumin. If not, you’ll hear about it either way.

The Basil Simple

Here’s a little something green for this week. Just one of the handful of basil liqueur recipes I’ve been trying out lately. It’s pretty simple, but super flavorful. Do I need to add another sentence to make this look like a whole paragraph? Apparently so.

2 oz basil liqueur (recipe HERE)
1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lime juice, keep the limes handy
2 dashes of mint bitters

In a rocks glass with 3 large ice cubes, add the basil liqueur, lime juice and mint bitters. Add the spent limes as well. Stir together, squishing the limes into the mix with a bar spoon. Sip and slurp.

The mint bitters accent the subtle mint flavor of the basil liqueur and heighten them so they’re a bit more loud. Oh, so this also means I’ve gotten around to tasting the mint bitters. Boy are they strong. Just a tiny bit goes a long way. One thing that I hate though is that they have dye in them. I need to put making mint bitters on the to do list, but not for awhile. I’ve bought the bottle and I’m committed to using it.

Make It: Basil Liqueur

Apologies if I am incorrectly naming this delicious bottled beverage. Not sure what to call it once you add the simple sugar to the … tincture? Eh, someone someday will correct me on this.

This recipe comes from my friend John the moonlighting landscapist. It was a Christmas gift for me and my husband. Booze. Can’t give me a more enjoyable gift. Well, there may be a couple items that top higher, but we don’t need to go into those right now.

If the idea of drinking BASIL puts you off, you shouldn’t worry. The taste is not basil smacking you upside the head. It’s gentle and sweet and you can almost taste some citrus in the back there. It’s great on its own straight out of the freezer, or as you will see THIS WEEK, it is also tasty in mixed drinks. Here’s how to make it:

750 ml everclear (this was made from some bathtub hooch that John got up in Montana- a family recipe I believe. I suggest a very high proof vodka or if you can get it straight grain alcohol.)
basil leaves (enough to pack the bottle)

Pack the everclear with as much of the basil leaves that will fit in there and recap the bottle. Let them sit together in a cool, dark place for 4 days, shaking the bottle every day. Strain the liquid through a double layer of cheese cloth into a clean container for storing. You can toss out the basil leaves… I can’t think of anything you could do with them. If you do, let me know!

Next you need to make a half strength simple syrup. To do this, take 750 ml of water, combine with 350 grams of sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat, stir the mixture to dissolve any remaining sugar crystals and leave to cool to room temperature. Combine the simple sugar mixture to the basil liquid, cap it and stick it in the freezer.