Boozy, Edible Christmas Gift Roundup

Go the extra mile this year and make them something delicious for the holidays. Just make sure there’s booze in it.

Eggnog Jello Shots

Fernet Branca Jelly

Angostura and Luxardo Cherry Brownies

Meyer Lemon Bitters

Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce

Mocha Pecan Rum Balls

Kiss of Fire (Aperol and Cayenne Jellies)

 
Holiday Spice Syrups

Make It: Irish Coffee Jello Shots Two Ways

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comProcrastination has gotten the better of me this week as we speed, much too fast for my liking, into the 3rd month of the year. March is looking to be the most jam packed month yet this year as I’ve said “yes” to maybe one too many events, my mother is in town, and we celebrate multiple birthdays, St. Patrick’s Day (I am a 1/4 Irish), and Easter. So of course, instead of working on projects, I’ve been covering my ears and eyes going NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH and making batches of brownies and spending copious amounts of time photographing my purse contents.

I did take the time to make you guys a little something special for St. Patrick’s Day though this year. I hope it makes up for those purse photos.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comIt’s like a cocktail, but you eat it: Irish Coffee Jello Shots.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comSo here’s the thing. I enjoy an Irish Coffee from time to time; like, a few sips and then I’m usually done. It’s a lot of hot coffee and I’m usually drinking it late in the evening when a giant hot coffee is not really what I want right then. I’m also usually drinking them at a party or an event and bless their hearts for trying, but the coffee is usually not very good either. To control this situation for myself, and hopefully for you all, let’s get a delicious coffee and miniaturize it with the right amount of booze and not force people to drink giant hot coffees at 8pm.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comI went ahead and created a straight up Irish Coffee version, garnished with the tiniest of lemon peel, and then bastardized it and went crazy adding in chocolate and Fernet Branca because I love chocolate mint anything including my coffee and for this one occasion, with my whiskey. Ooooh, I’m so crazy…

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comThe original version of these has a strong, rich coffee flavor with a hint of whiskey at the finish. The cream is mixed in so you’re not trying to eat a delicate jello shot while whipped cream melts all over your fingers – gross. For the mocha-mint version, you get a lot of Fernet (a little goes a long way!) with a strong mocha finish and a more subtle whiskey punch at the end.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comIrish Coffee Jello Shots (Makes 24, 2/5 ounce shots)

2-1/2 ounces freshly brewed coffee, room temp
1 ounce brown sugar syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 packet of gelatine
2 ounces near boiling water
1/2 ounce heavy cream
2 ounces Irish Whiskey, Bushmills used here
lemon zest for garnish

  1. In a large mixing glass with a spout, pour in coffee and brown sugar syrup. Sprinkle gelatine over the liquid and let it sit for 5 minutes to bloom. Then pour in near boiling water and whisk to combine. Add heavy cream and whiskey and stir. Pour into molds and let sit for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. To remove jello shots from semi-spherical molds, carefully run a small spoon around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. If using square or straight-sided molds, run a butter knife around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. For other shapes or non-flexible molds, dip the bottom of the mold in warm water for 15 seconds, invert mold onto a baking sheet, and gently tap the mold to release the jello shot. Irish Coffee jello shots can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
  3. Garnish with lemon zests and serve!

Mocha-Mint Irish Coffee Jello Shots (Makes 24, 2/5 ounce shots)

2-1/2 ounces freshly brewed coffee, room temp
1/2 ounce brown sugar syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 packet of gelatine
1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 ounces near boiling water
1/2 ounce heavy cream
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
2 ounces Irish Whiskey, Bushmills used here
chocolate shavings for garnish

  1. In a large mixing glass with a spout, pour in coffee and brown sugar syrup. Sprinkle gelatine over the liquid and let it sit for 5 minutes to bloom. After the gelatine has bloomed, sprinkle cocoa powder over the mixture. Then pour in near boiling water and whisk to combine. Add heavy cream, Fernet Branca and whiskey and stir. Pour into molds and let sit for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. To remove jello shots from semi-spherical molds, carefully run a small spoon around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. If using square or straight-sided molds, run a butter knife around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. For other shapes or non-flexible molds, dip the bottom of the mold in warm water for 15 seconds, invert mold onto a baking sheet, and gently tap the mold to release the jello shot. Irish Coffee jello shots can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
  3. Garnish with chocolate shavings and serve!

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comAre you guys into these? I have a few more ideas up my sleeve I’ll be rolling out over the next few months.

And the winner of the barrel aged cocktail choice goes to…

Barrel Aged Hanky Panky (without a real barrel) // stirandstrain.comTwo weeks flew by around these parts and in that time a new cocktail was born. Well, the base you all will be familiar with, but the flavor profile? Totally new.

In the first post, I proposed the question to you all, What cocktail should get barrel aged (without a real barrel)? In this post I found that most of you would rather respond on every other form of social media except the post’s page. So I rounded up all of your responses, gave it a thought, and decided the cocktail would be…

A Hanky Panky!

First, thanks to you guys who gave up a lot more info on this process than I had in the instruction manual. All of your comments were super helpful in this process and tuned me in to the fact that I needed to taste daily. And you know what? After four days this baby was done aging with the stave. It did, however, require several more days of chilling out in the bottle before the taste was to my liking.

The jar holds 375ml, so count on about 3 full cocktails, or several small sipping shots.

6 oz. gin, Ford’s works well here
3 oz. sweet vermouth, Martini & Rossi used here
1 oz. Fernet Branca
6 dashes of orange bitters,Regan’s used here

  • Add the stave to the jar. Using a funnel, pour all ingredients into the barrel and seal.
  • Taste starting a day or two into aging. After 4 days I found that I was happy with the taste.
  • Strain mixture through cheesecloth, remove the stave from the jar, rinse the jar, and pour strained mixture back into the bottle. Cap and let sit for about 5 days in a cool, dark place.
  • After 5 days your Hanky Panky is ready to drink. Pour with ice into a strainer to chill, or sip straight out of the bottle too! Both work.

The flavor definitely has that “barrel aged” quality to it with a sweet, smokiness. On the nose there are hints of molasses, vanilla, raisins, pepper, honey, and smoke; not your typical Hanky Panky. The sweet vermouth is more pronounced while the Fernet Branca has softened considerably. In the barrel it’s been transformed into a richer, moodier version of a Hanky Panky.

Now on to thinking about what goes in there next…

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.

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!

Make It: Fernet Branca Jelly

Fernet Branca Jelly // stirandstrain.comFact: three years ago I had no idea what Fernet Branca was apart from being an ingredient listed in a new cocktail book I bought and what a bunch of bartender twitter feeds told me they were drinking a shot of. When struck by an ingredient I’d never heard of, but keep seeing, I do the only logical thing I can think of; I go buy it. I was prepared in a small way for what to expect when trying this Amaro for the first time. Biting, minty, medicinal, sweet….confused. And after my first sip, the only remark I could say was, “I like it. What’s all the fuss?”

I’ve now found myself in a chatty group of cocktail bloggers who all view Fernet Branca as a tasty shot of awesome. Right guys? And two weeks ago, in a long-winded, nonsensical twitter ramble (isn’t that how a lot of these things happen?) among us, urged on by the Fernet Branca twitter feed, I found I had agreed to making Fernet Branca jelly. Jelly, like, for toast.Fernet Branca Jelly // stirandstrain.com

Jelly with an ounce of booze I’ve heard of, but making a jelly whose star ingredient was the booze? Research was in order. A friend of mine who cans on a semi-regular basis suggested I go look up Wine Jelly. So, jelly made with alcohol was a thing. I found a pretty standard recipe and cut it in half. If this didn’t work out, I wasn’t about to waste an entire bottle of Fernet Branca. I bought a second bottle though as a just in case.Fernet Branca Jelly // stirandstrain.com

Here are a couple things you need to know about this recipe before trying it.

  1. I am not a home canner. I made a small batch and it filled about 3 of the small 8 ounce mason jars. With the taste testing I’ve gone through them already (less then a week). Since they did not go through a hot water bath to bring to temp to kill off bacteria, I cannot guarantee how long yours will last. However, if you don’t consume all of it within a few days. Keep sealed in the fridge and eat within a month. If you DO can. Congratulations. Hot water process and keep them in your pantry until you want to use them.
  2. I was happy, really happy, after the first pass at this. However, the texture did include some sugar crystals that did not render the jelly smooth as silk. However, one of the aspects of this site is to get YOUR feedback. If you make this and you have some pointers on how to improve up on this, add them to the comments section below. I’d love to hear about your experience.
  3. The recipe comes together quickly. So have everything ready once you begin, because you will NOT be able to leave the stove.
  4. This is not a super sweet jelly. I wanted the flavor of the Fernet Branca to be the star. That’s the whole point of this experiment. That said, there IS sugar added to this recipe, otherwise you couldn’t make a jelly. You could always reduce the Fernet over a low heat to make a reduction/syrup. That would also be tasty, but not a jelly.
  5. This is a quick cook, and the alcohol is not killed off. There is A LOT that remains. Did I get drunk off of eating this? No, but you can taste the alcohol, so be warned.

OK, with those points covered, let’s start the fun.

1-3/4 cup of Fernet Branca
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 oz. Pure Apple Pectin
2 cups granulated sugar

3 8-Ounce Mason Jars, cleaned with lids or a large jar with a tight fitting lid
heat proof spatula

Combine first three ingredients over medium-high heat in a medium sized non-reactive sauce pan (stainless steel is good). Stir constantly until the ingredients start to boil, scraping down the sides all the time you are stirring. Add sugar carefully to the mixture, stir to combine, and keep stirring while bringing back the entire mixture to a rolling boil. Once boil is reached, boil rapidly for two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour into 3 8-oz. sized mason jars, or one large jar with a tight fitting lid*. Cover and let cool. Once cool, store in refrigerator. See notes above about storage.

*If you ARE a home canner, at this point process your hot water bath. Fernet Branca Jelly // stirandstrain.com

And the result? It’s SO Fernet Branca, except slightly sweetened and spreadable. Cooking it does not reduce it’s pungent flavor, as it still has that wonderful minty and bitter flavor. How did I enjoy it? With a generous dab of Plugra butter on a biscuit. Perfect morning fuel. It was also consumed by the spoonful.

Are you game to try this? I’d love to hear about it if you do.

The Eagle Rock

Read through any cocktail book and there are more recipes that start with ‘this is a variation on…’ then one realizes. Mad scientists behind the bar, a mixologist/bartender/whathaveyou finds themselves looking at a base recipe and seeing where it can take off.

This cocktail recipe is a riff, on a take, on a variation with its beginnings at the turn of the 20th century.

To explain further, the PDT Cocktail Book does a great job of briefly setting up some ingredients and ideas for seasonal cocktails, and in the ‘Fall’ category use the Newark as an example of a cocktail that lends itself well to multiple variations. The drink itself is based on the Brooklyn cocktail. So I went with my own variation, and named it after my neighborhood. Well, sort of my neighborhood. My actual neighborhood is so small that even people living in it don’t necessarily know it’s technically separate from Eagle Rock, or Glendale. So I’m naming it the Eagle Rock. (Apologies to everyone not in Los Angeles, for which this makes no sense. Now would be a fun time to go look at Google maps, or just continue reading).

The Players

2 oz. Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon
1 oz. Punt e Mes
1/2 oz. Maraska
1/2 oz. Fernet Branca

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled coupe.

The combination of Punt e Mes and Fernet Branca made me think of a more herbal variation on a Manhattan. The drink is dry, sharp and bitter with some sweetness from the Maraska and Punt e Mes, and a strong herbal undertone. And why the Wild Turkey Bourbon? It’s what I had on hand, and it added a nice layer of spice too.