Holiday Entertaining: Beaujolais Wine and Cookie Decorating Party

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Beaujolais Wines. Recipes and ideas are my own.

This holiday season I’m taking a step back from all the hustle and bustle, all the commercials and “must buys”, and taking a moment to spend time with family and friends in the most fun, totally seasonal, best way possible to celebrate the holidays: a cookie decorating party. But this party is for adults only. Why? Because we’re cracking open a bottle of Beaujolais to celebrate our nearest and dearest all while having some holiday fun.

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.comIf the idea of hosting a holiday cookie decorating party makes your palms sweat (I need how many cookies?!?!), even with a glass of wine, just hold on, because I’ve got some tips and tricks that will make this party a breeze!

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.com1. First, let’s talk about the wine. While you might think Beaujolais wine is best served slightly chilled in the summertime, it’s actually a great wine to have around the cooler winter months too. That’s because it goes well with just about anything; including cookies. If you’re thinking ahead towards all your holiday meals this month, try picking up a case to have on hand. Serve it at meals and keep a bottle handy for the random relative who stops by unannounced! And if you can, try and get a mixed case. That’s right! Beaujolais comes in red, white and rosé.

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.com2. Cookies. You have a couple options here when it comes to the cookies.

  • Are you someone who can whip up 4 dozen batches of cookies without blinking an eye? Then baking them all from scratch shouldn’t be an issue. Go you!
  • Pressed for time? Make half the cookies from scratch and buy the rest. Most grocery stores with a bakery will have unfrosted cookies on hand like sugar cookies. Personally, I am terrible at making sugar cookies so I bought mine. But I have a fantastic gingerbread recipe that makes solid cookies every time (see below). So I made those for the party.
  • You can always ask people to bring undecorated cookies too! There is probably a friend or relative in your life who likes to bake. Reach out to them for some help making cookies, they probably would love to bake!

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.com

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.com3. Decorations. With endless possibilities for decorating, limit yourself to just a few ideas. You’ll end up with less waste and won’t have a pantry full of half used sprinkles and sanding sugar to deal with the rest of the year. For my cookie party, I made one batch of royal icing and put scoops into smaller piping bags and mixed a few colors right in the bag. Again, if you haven’t the time to make icing, guess what? You can buy it and it will work just fine! For decorative elements, I kept it simple with some colorful sprinkles, red and green sanding sugar, edible silver balls, and some tiny edible gold stars I had left over from another cocktail project. You could go even less than this if you wanted, or just use icing and nothing else. We also had some filled cookies so I put out a bowl of raspberry jam that was in the refrigerator. You probably already have some things at home you could use!

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.com4. Plan your stations. Short on space? No kitchen table? No problem. Set up a cookie decorating space where people will have access to cookies, plates, napkins, and bowls for putting decorations in. Don’t forget the wine glasses and wine tags too! A kitchen counter is a great setup. I have a long buffet at home that people could grab everything they needed. Not enough room at the kitchen table? Set up a cozy holiday blanket on the floor for everyone to spread out on. Remember to tell guests to bring slippers!

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.com5. Packing it up. After all the fun your guests will have decorating cookies and celebrating the season with a glass of Beaujolais, remember to have containers ready for guests to bring their cookies home in. This could be as simple as a small paper bag, or pick up a bulk pack of gift boxes. Going this extra step shows your guests you’ve thought of everything and will save you the hassle of trying to find to-go containers at the end of the night for everyone.

I hope I’ve inspired you to create some new holiday memories in a fun and creative way! Cookie decorating should definitely be on your holiday party list this year. And don’t forget the Beaujolais! Cheers!

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.comGingerbread Cookies and Icing Recipe
Adapted from Bouchon Bakery

Gingerbread Cookies

Makes about 20 cookies

6-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
1 pinch dried cloves
3/4 cup butter, room temp
1-1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup blackstrap molasses
2 eggs, room temp
1 Tbsp. vanilla

Combine all the dry ingredients, except the brown sugar, into a bowl. Whisk ingredients together until they are evenly combined.

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and dark brown sugar together on medium speed until fully combined. Once the dark brown sugar is evenly incorporated into the butter, add the molasses and continue to mix the ingredients scraping the bowl down as needed. Add the eggs and vanilla, mixing on medium speed until ingredients are fully combined.

Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the dry-ingredient mixture in three equal batches, mixing until evenly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, then mix on low speed for about one more minute, just to ensure that all the ingredients have come together.

Form the dough into a block and cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until lightly chilled throughout.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Cut out the desired shapes and place onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 325 for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before decorating with royal icing.

Beaujolais Wine and Holiday Cookie Party // stirandstrain.comRoyal Icing

Makes about 2 cups

1/2 cup pasteurized liquid egg whites
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
Food coloring, fruit powder, or yogurt powder (optional)

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a handheld electric mixer, mix the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Add sugar and mix until smooth. Add lemon juice and mix until smooth. Add food coloring or powder if desired, mixing until your ideal shade is reached.

Pipe the frosting onto the cookies using a pastry bag. Allow the icing to harden and store the cookies in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to three days.

 



Gingerbread Winter Warm Up

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comThis post was made in partnership with Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur. Recipe and ideas are my own.

Do you have a holiday cookie tradition? I think I may have perfected my gingerbread cookie recipe this year. I mean, I’m using Thomas Keller’s Bouchon recipe as the base, so you really can’t go wrong with that. But, it is the first year that I made a cookie like this that didn’t just separate and spread all over the cookie sheet pan. I’ve yet to find my perfect sugar cookie recipe though. That I can never get right and that always spreads and won’t hold its shape. So, we all have to go without any holiday cookies that are gingerbread; thankfully no one complains. Sorry Santa.

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comWhile making these cookies I thought about how great the baking spices would be in a cocktail. Sure, we see lots of dashes of cinnamon or nutmeg this time of year, but those in combination with an intense ginger flavor…well we’ve got a perfect pair for some whiskey and a hot cocktail. I refer to these heated cocktails during holiday time as winter warm ups. They’re a great companion to a fireplace and a pair of hands in need of warmth.

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.com

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comThis month I’ve teamed up with Kerrygold Irish Cream to make my perfect fireside winter warm up with all the wonderful baking spices found in these gingerbread cookies. It packs a punch of ginger but also has lots of nice spice from the Irish whiskey, and that touch of chocolate and cream in the Kerrygold adds a superb richness to the drink that doesn’t get watered down. And that’s probably because they use real chocolate, and the cream used to make the liqueur comes from grass-fed cows and is a third creamier than what you usually find on the market. You can alter the hot water amount in here to your liking; I keep it around 3 ounces. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you might think about making your own whipped cream and adding some gingerbread syrup to the mix for a super dose of yummy gingerbread-ness (I did. It’s so worth it! Just a tablespoon is all you need to add to your canister.).

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comAfter making this cocktail I need to rethink my gingerbread recipe and add a little chocolate and whiskey and there too now. Then it will be perfect.

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.comLet’s get warmed up!

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up (makes two drinks)

3 ounces Irish whiskey
1-1/2 ounces Kerrygold Irish Cream
1-1/2 ounces gingerbread syrup, see recipe below
3 dashes Angostura bitters
6-8 ounces hot water (just under boiling)
whipped cream, optional

In a mixing glass, add the Irish whiskey, Kerrygold Irish Cream, gingerbread syrup and bitters. Stir to combine everything and divide between two glasses. Pour in 3-4 ounces of hot water into each glass and stir gently to combine. Optionally top with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

Gingerbread Winter Warm Up with Kerrygold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.com

Gingerbread Syrup

Adapted from Le Pain Quotidien
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger (or 3 slices, 1/4″ thick fresh ginger with skin on)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower temperature and keep at a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain fresh ginger out if using, and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, place in an air-tight container. Refrigerate up to one month.

Pairing Rosé with Apples, 3 Ways With 90+ Cellars Lot 49 Sparkling Rosé

Apple Appetizers Three Ways with 90+ Cellars Lot 49 Sparkling Rosé // stirandstrain.comThis post was made in partnership with 90+ Cellars. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Here is Southern California, September is a tricky month. While much of the country is starting to get cooler temps and fall into sweater weather, here we get scorching temperatures. Weirdly, if you journey into the mountains, barely an hour away, the apple farms are heavy with fruit ready to be picked; there’s a bit of a disconnect. But that means we can continue to savor summer just a little bit longer and make some cocktail and wine choices that transition between these two seasons nicely.

Apple Appetizers Three Ways with 90+ Cellars Lot 49 Sparkling Rosé // stirandstrain.comToday we’ve partnered with 90+ Cellars to show you how you can meld a summery, sparkling rosé wine with fresh Autumn apples. It’s what to make when you’ve over-picked at the orchard and bought way too much cider.

The 90+ Cellars Lot 49 Sparkling Rosé is made from Pinot Noir grapes planted in vineyards throughout the regions of Trentino and Alto Adige in Northern Italy. It is vinified as a dry rosé prior to second fermentation using the Charmat method. What does that mean you ask? The second fermentation happens in a tank as opposed to the wine bottle. This method preserves the flavor and aroma and allows for quicker production, without sacrificing taste. (Throw that fact out at a dinner party!)

Apple Appetizers Three Ways with 90+ Cellars Lot 49 Sparkling Rosé // stirandstrain.com

With a light bubbliness, aromas of berries and rose, and a slight acidity, pairing with sweet, tart apples is a perfect pair. These three dishes we’ve picked out work as part of an appetizer spread, on their own, or even as part of a larger meal, and they all pair very well with this rosé.

“Holiday entertaining” might still be a few months away, but we think there’s always a reason to celebrate with a party and this transitional time between months, with a few extra hours of sunlight left in the day, is definitely reason enough for us! Now on to the pairings!

Apple Appetizers Three Ways with 90+ Cellars Lot 49 Sparkling Rosé // stirandstrain.comTo start: Apple Jelly with cured ham and Manchego

  • An easy and quick appetizer to assemble! On water crackers or bread, layer a piece of cured ham, Manchego cheese, and a dollop of apple jelly. The fattiness of the meat and cheese with the smooth, sweetness of the apple jelly pair are lovely with the small bubbles of the wine.

Apple Appetizers Three Ways with 90+ Cellars Lot 49 Sparkling Rosé // stirandstrain.comPalate cleanser: Sweet and Spicy Apple Granita (full recipe below)

  • Enjoy this cool treat on its own, or between meals as a palate cleanser. Just don’t forget your wine! That acidity in the rosé pairs with the slight acidity found in the apple cider and lemon juice in the granita.

Apple Appetizers Three Ways with 90+ Cellars Lot 49 Sparkling Rosé // stirandstrain.comWith the main meal: Spiced Apple Chutney (full recipe below)

  • While a rich, spiced chutney might seem like a heavy match for rosé, the 90+ Cellars Lot 49 Sparkling Rosé lightens the dish up and the spices work really well together. The chutney can be enjoyed on a slice of toasted bread, or alongside a main dish like pork.
Apple Appetizers Three Ways with 90+ Cellars Lot 49 Sparkling Rosé // stirandstrain.com

Sweet and Spicy Apple Granita

3 cups apple cider
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1-1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a medium sized sauce pan, combine all the ingredients and bring to just under a boil. Remove from heat and whisk to combine. Pour into a 9×12 baking pan and place in the freezer. After 30-45 minutes, whisk mixture to break up any ice chunks. Wait one hour and with a fork, scrape through the mixture so that it is chunky. Wait an additional hour and scrape the fork through again, fluffing up the mixture. Freeze until ready to serve.

Spiced Apple Chutney

(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 diced and peeled apples (I used Gala)
1/4 cup seedless raisins
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons water

Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add shallots; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add apple; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in raisins, mustard seeds, sugar, pepper, cloves, ginger and salt. Add vinegar and 2 tablespoons water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until apples are tender and most of liquid is absorbed. Serve warm or let cool and transfer to an air-tight container. Refrigerate for up to one week.

 

If you’d like to find out more about 90+ Cellars Lot 49 Rosé and all their wines, please visit them at: ninetypluscellars.com/

{Now Closed} Giveaway // Cuisinart Compact 16 oz Juice Extractor And a Sparkling Non-Alcoholic Citrus-Ginger Drink!

Giveaway: Cuisinart Compact 16 oz Juice Extractor with PC Richard and Son // stirandstrain.comThis post was made in partnership with PC Richard and Son. Recipe and ideas are my own.

I’m not sure when frozen juice concentrate stopped being a thing, but it was definitely what I grew up on in the ’80’s. The sploosh as the frozen cylinder hit the Tupperware pitcher, and then, for me, the satisfaction of feeling like I “made” something healthy and helped out in the kitchen (give me a break, I was 9). However, the first time I had real, freshly squeezed orange juice, well, let me tell you, that taste was something else. Fresh juice? You mean it all doesn’t come from a can?

I might be losing some of you younger readers. You guys get juice. The real stuff. You are not afraid to juice anything. And better yet? You like to make drinks with it.

So today I’m partnering with PC Richard and Son to give one lucky Stir and Strain reader a machine to make all their juicing dreams come true: a Cuisinart Compact 16 oz Juice Extractor.

Take this guy for a spin the next time you’re planning brunch at home, looking for a healthy post-workout drink, or in need of juicing a lot of citrus for a party! It’s compact size means it can live right on your counter top and is ready whenever you need it.

For Christmas morning I’ll be prepping a refreshing sparkling non-alcoholic drink for all the family with a little help from my Cuisinart Compact Juice Extractor. A nice mix of fresh citrus with a kick of ginger, sweetened with maple syrup and bubbles courtesy of some sparkling water. I can juice all the citrus and ginger together and then just add in the sweetener and finish with sparkling water.

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1″ knob of ginger, skin on, juiced or finely grated
3 tablespoons maple syrup
sparkling water to taste
citrus wheel for garnish

In a pitcher, combine juices, ginger and maple syrup. Stir to incorporate maple syrup. Add in sparkling water to taste. Garnish with citrus wheels.

Ready to get juicing? Enter below for your chance to win a Cuisinart Compact 16 oz Juice Extractor (retails $100) and get up to 11 entries to win. Open to US residents only. Giveaway ends December 23, 2017 at 11:59 PST. For more information on PC Richard and Son, please visit them atpcrichard.com. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel // stirandstrain.comAbout a year ago I saw an article about a new (very old) elixir riding on the coattails of the cocktail world’s shrub renaissance. This drink’s name: Switchel. I think switchel sounds a bit more fun than shrub. Shrub sounds like the friend you have who won’t go out on a Thursday night because they have to turn in a term paper the following Monday and need the time to study. Switchel sounds more like that friend calling you at 4am asking if you want to get doughnuts.

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel // stirandstrain.comAnyway, Switchel quietly died down and I completely forgot about the saved article. I continued on with shrubs despite the name. (see here here and here) Recently though I remembered I had saved this article and revisited it again. More likely out of my desperation for it to be Fall already, I was looking for recipe ideas using apples. Instead it uses apple cider vinegar, a starting point I’d use to adapt to my own Autumnal tipple.

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel // stirandstrain.comSwitchel recipes are all basically the same plus or minus an ingredient or two. It also batches really well. So you can mix up at gallon of it Sunday night and drink it all week.

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel // stirandstrain.comGuys! Maybe I should back up here a second and remind you that switchel is NON ALCOHOLIC. Just like a shrub it contains no alcohol, but you can use it as a base for your cocktail creations. I even have a recipe for you I’ll link to. The flavor of this switchel on its own is sharp and tangy and almost like drinking a cocktail, or at least that’s what you tell yourself if you’re -cough- well into your second trimester and desperately miss cocktails. So, pregnant ladies out there, you’re welcome.

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel // stirandstrain.comFor my variation on a switchel, I added in some of my favorite Fall flavors: cinnamon, green cardamom, cloves and steeped that in a base of apple cider vinegar, ginger and maple syrup. The spices are subtle when compared to the strong, zingy ginger, but I like that those flavors are not too overpowering. The apple cider vinegar provides a sharp sour contrast that you can adjust by adding or subtracting the water from the mix. Personally I like that sour flavor and I find the drink quite refreshing. If you’ve found shrubs to be a bit too strong for you, you definitely might want to scale back on the vinegar and up the water a bit; taste and see.

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel

Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 5″-piece fresh ginger (about 6 ounces)
½ cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
4 cups water
2 4-6″ pieces of cinnamon
6 green cardamon pods, lightly crushed
4 cloves, whole

Pass ginger through a juicer (you should have about ⅓ cup). Strain the juice through a fine sieve to remove any larger pieces. Combine ginger juice, vinegar, maple syrup, and water in a large container and stir until maple syrup is dissolved. Add in cinnamon sticks. And then put the cloves and cardamom pods into a tea filter bag (Bags are not necessary but help in collecting all the bits later on. I prefer the bags with the drawstring for easy collection later on.) and add to the mix. Refrigerate overnight or at least 12 hours.

When ready to drink, remove the cinnamon sticks and the bagged spices. Switchel can be drunk as is, over ice with a splash of lemon juice or in a cocktail.

And speaking of cocktails, we’ll have an end of Summer cocktail using the Autumn Apple Cider Switchel here tomorrow! Enjoy!

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

Tarantas Wine Slushie with Melon, Pimm’s and Crystalized Ginger One SPICY cocktail!

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comFor about the last month or so you guys may have noticed I’ve been promoting a contest by Tarantas Wines where I’ll be judging all of the wine-based cocktails. I feel that sometimes saying “wine-based” for cocktails confuses people, like, they only imagine taking the wine and mixing it with club soda and maybe adding a mint leaf to it. Or, in one kinda sad case online I recently saw some wine cocktails that were just a bottle of wine blended with a basket of strawberries and ice. It looked pretty in the picture, but I wouldn’t warrant it an innovative cocktail.

I’l take a step back here though and not get on the soapbox about what IS and ISN’T a cocktail, because quite frankly that’s not a debate I want to get into. (Although, side-note, according to David Wondrich the first usage of the term cocktail has to do with horses and ginger placed in their, um, well, butts to make their tails perk up.)

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comSo let’s talk about how I like to make wine cocktails, or rather, since the weather is getting HOT again in my neighborhood, wine slushie cocktails. I don’t bat an eyelash over frozen cocktails as evidenced here here and here. In fact, book publishers- if you want a cocktail book on this subject, go ahead and contact me; I’m taking meetings.

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comThe wine I’ve chosen as my base is Tarantas Monastrell, an inky, tart and not-too-sweet red from the Jumilla region of Spain. Because it’s so dry, I added in some sweetness with honeydew melon and Pimm’s No. 1. The Pimm’s also adds in some spices and subtle earthy flavors. I wanted to finish this on a spicy note so in went crystalized ginger. (You can get crystalized ginger in a speciality grocer, online, or can make your own too.) I wanted to add a touch more sweetness and have some of the ginger chunks actually present in the drink- think of them as your chewy spice bombs. Otherwise I could have gone with fresh ginger infused in some capacity.

Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.comTo minimize watering the drink down with ice, I pre-freeze the mixture the night before. Because there is a low alcohol content, the mixture actually becomes solid overnight but not completely frozen. This way I can add the pre-frozen mixture directly into the blender and only add ice to it as needed. Yes, it’s an additional step that requires some thought beforehand, but it makes for a better frozen drink. If you don’t have the time to freeze overnight, you should at least chill the mixture a few hours beforehand, and if you need this IMMEDIATELY, then go ahead and throw it into the blender with crushed ice, just taste and adjust as you go.Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.com

The overnight mixture makes for a refreshing and light cocktail. You get honeyed ginger flavors with subtle spice and some grassiness; overall it’s quite balanced. If you like your drinks even spicer, I’d up the ginger by another tablespoon, it gets quite zingy.Tarantas Wine Slushie with honeydew, Pimm's No. 1 and crystalized ginger // stirandstrain.com

15 ounces honey dew melon (about half a melon), chopped into 1/2″ pieces
36 g or 1.2 ounces (about a quarter cup) chopped Crystalized ginger
2 ounces simple syrup (1:1 ration)
4 ounces of Pimm’s No. 1
8 ounces Tarantas Monastrell wine*
crystalized ginger pieces and edible flower petals for garnish

  • The night before, combine the honeydew melon, crystalized ginger, simple syrup, Pimm’s No. 1 and the Tarantas Monastrell wine into a gallon size ziplock bag. Freeze overnight.
  • When ready to make the cocktails, add pre-frozen mixture to a blender and blend to desired consistency (should be smooth, not too chunky). Add ice as needed.
  • To serve, pour into double rocks glasses and garnish with crystalized ginger pieces and edible flower petals.

Remember, you have until THIS FRIDAY to enter your own wine-based cocktail on the Tarantas website! Happy Wine Wednesday everyone!

Stir and Strain X Club 83 And the Good Thang Cocktail

Stir and Strain X Club 83: Good Thang Cocktail // stirandstrain.comI partnered with the brand to write this article but every word is mine.

When I first started cocktail blogging, connecting with other like minded people was a slow process. I mean, it took several years just to meet all the bartenders just in Los Angeles. And there are new ones popping up every week. But now meeting and chatting with bartenders all over the world has just become as easy as clicking a button (and I like easy).

To fill the gap, The Club 83 social network has stepped in. Want to find out what bartenders in France are up to? Or just somewhere else in the U.S.? Want to share your bar’s creations with other bartenders who will appreciate your skill and effort? You don’t need a website, just an internet connection.

Stir and Strain X Club 83: Good Thang Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor their launch, The Club 83 has created a cocktail contest and yours truly is going to compete alongside all of you. For all the details on the contest, create a profile on The Club 83 and sign up to participate on the site. And just what IS the contest? The Flavour Vibes contest pairs your favorite song with a new cocktail of your creation. The winner will win a sampler pack of tasting syrups from the famed flavoring creator Maison Routin and their 1883 brand of syrups. Not your run of the mill flavors with such cool syrups as red bell pepper and orchid. Orchid!!

This week, with the sad news of David Bowie’s passing, I’ve been running through his back catalog and the song I always turn to when I need some cheering up is Hang On to Yourself. It’s got pep, it’s got rock and roll, and a touch of glam, ingredients for a good song, and a good drink.

This cocktail uses gin as the base (we are referencing a British song!) with peppy ginger and zingy Yuzu lemon syrups. To give the cocktail some depth and intrigue, some roasted cumin is added alongside a touch of lemon ginger bitters. It’s a glamorous cocktail with a slightly hard edge.

Good Thang Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces London Dry style gin, such as Beefeater
1/2 ounce 1883 Yuzu syrup
1/4 ounce 1883 Ginger syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon roasted ground cumin
3 dashes lemon ginger bitters

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add gin, yuzu syrup, ginger syrup, lemon juice and cumin. Stir for 30 seconds and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add dashes of bitters on top of cocktail and express oil from a strip of lemon zest. Garnish glass with spent zest.

So join me at The Club 83 and see what bartenders like yourself are up to, all around the world! And to participate in the Flavour Vibes Contest, go here, cheers!

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!

Make it: Pickled Watermelon Garnish and a sweet and sour ginger cockail

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comGrowing up, there was a place where my Dad played pool that boasted a large, murky glass jug filled with iridescent white orbs; you might call them pickled eggs. Something about their appearance on a bar top, poorly lit by the fluorescent lighting, made the act of eating them akin to sticking ones hand in fire: you just didn’t do it unless you were drunk and your friend dared you to.

However, given a few decades between that memory and now, I probably wouldn’t have to be dared to eat them, and there’s a good chance I’d eat them sober too. My love of pickled food items has grown tremendously over the last 10 years. Partly because I’ve eaten some really, really good pickled items out at restaurants. Another part might have to do with my chunk of Scandinavian heritage. And partly because once you’ve eaten enough food your friends have dared you to eat while drinking, well, at some point you start to like it all.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMy introduction to pickled watermelon rinds did not, however, come at the tail-end of a deep Southern drinking spree. I was offered some from a friend, tried them, and liked them. And today, because I’ve been overindulging in the bounty that is summer watermelon, I decided to make up a batch from all those leftover rinds.Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I’m also including a complimentary cocktail to go along with your pickled watermelon. It too uses scraps in the form of ginger knobs (My freezer is full of tiny bits of ginger because I can never quite buy the right amount and cannot bring myself to throw away anything.). A tiny bit of the brine goes a long way to perk up the cocktail, so definitely make both!

You’ll find that these tiny sweet and salty, slightly crunchy rinds are also a delicious bar snack to have around for the summer. And I’m sure any guests will appreciate these just a tad more than the jar of pickled eggs.Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Pickled Watermelon Rind:

1 small watermelon, about 4 pounds
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
2 cloves, whole
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, whole

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove outer green layer of skin from watermelon (if you have a smaller watermelon, cut the bottom and top ends off so you can stand your watermelon up to peel. If it’s larger, cut in half to stand up). Discard skin. Cut rind into 1-inch cubes and reserve pink flesh for another use.
  2. Combine apple cider vinegar, sugar, water, salt, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, bay leaf, chili pepper flakes, cloves, and coriander seeds in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add watermelon rind, return to a boil and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and carefully place a heatproof plate on top of the rind to keep it submerged as the mixture comes to room temperature.
  3. Once cool, transfer entire mixture to an airtight container and let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 days and up to 2 weeks.

Ginger Infused Vodka:

1 cup peeled fresh ginger root, sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 cups vodka, such as St. George Spirits All Purpose Vodka

  • Combine vodka and ginger in an airtight container. Let stand in a cool, dark place for 5 days or to your desired spiciness, up to 14 days total. Strain into an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor each cocktail:

1-1/2 ounces Ginger Infused Vodka
1/4 ounce dry vermouth, such as Dolin
3 ounces chilled Prosecco
Pickled Watermelon Rind, for garnish

  • Combine Ginger Infused Vodka and vermouth in a mixing glass and fill two-thirds full with ice. Stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a small wine glass or coupe. Top with Prosecco and garnish with the pickled watermelon rind.