Lemony Suze Sparkling Pitcher Cocktails

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIt may be January but I’m still in good spirits riding the Christmas high. That is until my husband kindly asks that the Christmas lights be removed from the porch (I’m trying to hold out until at least February). For those of you though that have shrugged off (or exuberantly put a nail in) the holiday season, I’ve got something today that perhaps will add some sparkle back into your January.

Pitchers of cocktails.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comNot only pitchers, but bright and warm, sunny yellow Suze with a good dose of winter citrus and an even bigger dose of sparkling wine. No hard booze here so you can tell yourself you’re still keeping to your resolutions.

Our New Year’s Eve tradition, at least for the last few years, has been for Christopher to make a batch of Scotch eggs. He almost bowed out of it this year but I balked at the idea of not continuing making them; I may have developed a slight superstition and now we cannot ring in the new year without them. One of the ingredients that goes into the sausage mixture is sage. And seeing as I have yet to keep a sage plant alive around here, we buy it. Alas, you cannot get sage in any small amount at our Whole Foods, so we always end up with much more than we need. I already had dried the last batch we bought, so I thought that this cocktail could use a touch of the herb.

I dunno guys, sage might become the new rosemary around here.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThe sage leaves get steeped into a lemon simple syrup to add a little depth. To further enhance sage’s flavor, we’re mixing it with Suze, a saffron-colored French aperitif whose bitter yellow gentian root flavor makes it a cousin to the Italian amaro family. It has hints of citrus and wildflower, and balances a mild sweetness with vegetal bitterness.

You might want to invite some guests over for a few casual drinks before dinner, or even serve this at a brunch. While the base can sit overnight, and then be topped off with Cava in a pitcher so that guests can help themselves, you’ll want make sure it doesn’t sit out for long after the bubbly has been added. No one wants a “sparkling drink” that’s flat and warm.

Happy 2016 everyone!

For the Lemon-Sage Syrup:

6 ounces water
8 ounces (about 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 lemons
Finely grated zest from 2 lemons
10 medium sage leaves

Combine water, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and sage in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, remove from heat, and let stand 1 hour. Strain and refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week.

For the cocktails (Yields 6 drinks):

6 ounces Lemon-Sage Syrup
1 1/2 ounces Suze
1 bottle chilled Cava or other dry sparkling wine
6 strips lemon zest
6 fresh sage leaves

The night before serving, combine the lemon-sage syrup and Suze in a large pitcher. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to serve, add Cava, pouring slowly, and gently stir to combine. Split between six Champagne flutes, twisting a lemon zest strip over each and garnishing with a sage leaf.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I originally posted this recipe on Serious Eats!

Sparkling Grapefruit and Lillet Rosé Sangria

Sparkling Grapefruit and Lillet Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.comI took a mid-week break this week and if you follow me on Instagram, or really any of the social media entities, you may have noticed I was visiting Las Vegas for the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. It’s always a pleasure to get out and meet the faces and personalities behind the sites one reads; this time was no exception. Within the cocktail community, one naturally gravitates towards the like-minded, and for a few days I got to spend some time with Cocktail Blog Winners Death to Sour Mix and Bit By a Fox, as well as The Beeroness and Brunellos Have More Fun. They were all a fun crew (cause, duh, we all love booze) and I’d beg for you all to check out their sites if you’re not familiar with them.


Sparkling Grapefruit and Lillet Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

So, it’s Sunday, and as much as I’d like to go sit outside and continue to enjoy the weekend, I wanted to get this drink post out to you all since it’s both seasonally, and Sunday, appropriate. I originally wrote this recipe for the Serious Eats site a few weeks ago when they were looking for some more patio drinks to feature (and I love a reason to sit outside with a cold pitcher of something good to drink). This time around, instead of wine in a Sangria, I decided on featuring Lillet, and in particular, Lillet Rosé.Sparkling Grapefruit and Lillet Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

We’re still getting grapefruits here, although not the best since the season is ending, however their delicious flavor can still go a long way in a Sangria. Since I was set on using them up, I chose Lillet Rosé as a base since it’s very grapefruit forward and would only enhance that flavor. I followed that up with grapefruit’s best friend mint, and topped it off with Cava. Pretty simple, but super tasty. Now, as far as simple syrup is concerned, you’ll need to taste your grapefruit and see just how sweet it is, or if you just like your Sunday Sippers a tad on the sweet side, use the full amount suggested in the recipe. It’s up to you!

15 fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup simple syrup
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice, from about 2 Ruby Red grapefruits, plus 1/2 of one grapefruit, peel intact, cut into rough chunks
1 cup Lillet Rosé
1 bottle Cava, chilled

  • In the bottom of a pitcher, gently muddle together the mint leaves and simple syrup. Add grapefruit chunks, grapefruit juice, and Lillet Rosé. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, add Cava to the pitcher and stir gently. Serve over ice.

Grapefruit has a bitter, floral flavor that works really well with the sweet, cooling mint. Ruby Red is what is available right now, and these actually veer more towards tart than sweet (if you substitute white flesh grapefruits like an Oro Blanco you’ll need less sugar). The Lillet Rosé makes this a super grapefruit treat that is just a touch sweet and with the bubbly cava, totally summer in your glass.

Now if you all would excuse me, I’m going to go pour myself another glass of this and enjoy the rest of my Sunday, as should you. Sparkling Grapefruit and Lillet Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling and Spiced Winter Sangria with Ginger, Cranberries, Black Pepper and Citrus

Sparkling and Spiced WInter Sangria // stirandstrain.comI don’t know about you guys, but I’m so ready for Christmas. After having to by-pass the two other major Fall holidays this year, all I want is to unpack my 200+ nutcrackers and put up a dang tree. Christmas shopping is already underway (it still counts if it’s for me and I say it’s ‘for christmas’) and I already broke out my Christmas DVDs. Now all I need is a drink.

It’s funny how with the invention of Pinterest that I realize that many other like-minded people are also dreaming of winter cocktails, and even further into that niche, they are thinking about winter sangria. Yep, I totally want to throw cranberries into all kinds of things lately, including this drink, but not quite the way you’d think to include them. If you’ve looked at my previous sangria recipes this year (which you can find here and here) you might notice that they tend to become quite layered. The reason is, if it’s not, I find it boring.Sparkling and Spiced WInter Sangria // stirandstrain.com

A few weeks ago I was invited to be part of the “media” who judged a sangria contest sponsored by Pavan liqueur. I won’t point out who, but some of the drinks I found to be just one-note beverages. They were flat; they were boring. That’s so sad. When I did like the drink, it was because the bartender had put a lot of thought into the layers that were making up the recipe. Flavor after flavor that both was interesting, worked as a whole, and was not boring. And that’s what I want when I am drinking sangria and when others might possibly be ingesting the drink too.

Fast forward to last week where I put the finishing touches on this sangria recipe I had been dreaming about and up it went on the Serious Drinks site. I will be posting some recipes this month on their site, so please jump on over there from time to time and check them out. Outtakes and the usual nonsense will be found here still.

For the cranberry-black pepper syrup:

3/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup fresh whole cranberries
½ cup whole black peppercorns

For the base:

1/4 cup of sliced kumquats, about 5-6 kumquats
1 satsuma tangerine, sliced
1 ounce of Shrub & Co. Spicy Ginger Shrub
2 ounces of cranberry-black pepper syrup
4 ounces of Pavan

For each drink:

4-5 ounces of Brut Cava, such as German Gilabert

  1. For the syrup, combine water, sugar, cranberries and peppercorns in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Cool and fine-strain mixture through cheesecloth or a coffee filter into an air-tight container. Will keep refrigerated for one week, or add half an ounce of vodka to the mixture to prolong freshness up to 3 months.
  2. For the base, combine sliced kumquats and tangerines in the base of an airtight container with ginger shrub, syrup and pavan. Refrigerate for at least two days and up to four days.
  3. For individual servings, pour 1 and a half ounces of base into the bottom of a white wine or rocks glass along with any desired fruit from the base. Add ice cubes and top with 4 ounces of the Cava. Gently stir to combine and serve.
  4. For a full pitcher, add the entire bottle of Cava to a pitcher containing the base. Stir gently to combine, and pour into individual serving glasses.

Lots of flavor with sharp, spiciness from the ginger and pepper. The dry cava balances out the sweet, syrupy base.

Sparkling and Spiced WInter Sangria // stirandstrain.comGentlemen, this is a sangria drink for you too; it bites back. I served this drink at a private party this weekend and one guy had 6 servings. Granted, the alcohol content is not too high, but seriously: SIX. He dragged people over to try it and they were also converted. I’m convinced all of your guests will love this.