Fall Cocktail Roundup

For those few of you who have a job that gives you a 3 day weekend starting today, lucky you. I’m pretty sure that last time I had that Monday off I was in college… a long time ago in college. But let’s not focus on that for now. Even if your weekend is only two days long, or even one, I’ll also give you guys an excuse to drink a good cocktail. Here’s a roundup of my Fall favorites.

The Private Club Cocktail // stirandstrain.comPrivate Club Cocktail

The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Royal Affliction

Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

Pumpkin Spiced Bourbon

The Golden Hour Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThe Golden Hour

Honey Vanilla Hot Toddy // stirandstrain.com

Honey Vanilla Chai Hot Toddy

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!

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