Today I bring you a weekend cocktail. A festive, fir tree scented drink you can sip on as you bake cookies, or wrap gifts, or use as a palate cleanser between licking all those damn holiday cards you still haven’t got out in the mail yet.
Wait… did she say fir tree scented???
Yes! You might be familiar with eau de vie spirits made from fruit, but there is one that is made from pine buds. I have three favorite scents in this world: lilac, wood smoke, and fir trees. So the first time I saw this brandy I went absolutely nuts over it and immediately started making drinks (see here and here). I bring it out during the winter months because that’s when I associate this particular smell, and it makes me a little homesick for the New England winters. And then I remember trying to de-ice a windshield in below freezing temperatures and driving my car into a snowbank one year and I snap right out of that fantasy.
So yes, it’s another groan-inducing variation on a Negroni; a twist on a twist as this stems from a White Negroni. But really, you can call it a Holiday Fir Tree Cocktail for all I care, but what I do want you to do is drink this, especially if you’ve never tried a spirit like this before.
For this drink, stick with a dry or extra dry vermouth, you want a little less residual sugar in there so that the fir tree aroma and flavor stands out. This is on the slightly less bitter side than a classic Negroni, as Bitter Bianco is used, which adds some citrus and delicate floral notes that really work with the pine forest effect of the eau de vie.
Totally optional, but I had a lot of fun garnishing the drink with what looked like snowy tree branches. If you’re trying to impress guests and want a festive garnish, go ahead and add these to the drink. It’s just powdered sugar and rosemary. I’ve made a note on making these following the recipe. Keep in mind though that rosemary imparts its own strong aroma, which can work here, but I would present the drink with the garnish and then remove before imbibing.
3/4 ounce gin, London Dry style
3/4 ounce Bitter Bianco
3/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/2 ounce Douglas Fir brandy
optional: “snowy branch” garnish (how to follows recipe)
In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, pour in the gin, Bitter Bianco, dry vermouth and Douglas Fir brandy. Stir 20 seconds to combine. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Optionally garnish with a “snowy branch”.
To make the “snowy branches”, take a cleaned rosemary sprig and coat lightly with egg whites using a silicone pastry brush. Shake off any excess liquid and immediately dip into a shallow bowl filled with about a 1/4″ of powdered sugar. Swirl the rosemary sprig around to coat and let dry. Once dry, use a garnish on your cocktail. Also looks cute on a some baked cake!
What to get the beer lover in your life? Well, beer to start. Let them tinker in their basement with their own brew this year. Find them a beautiful jug to store it in, and then outfit their home bar with some cool glasses. And if that’s too fancy, a rustic sign and a reusable red cup lets them relive their college days (minus the landfill waste). What goes best with beer? Pizza! And if that’s not enough, let them lather themselves in the sweet, sweet aroma of…beer.
This post is brought to you by Specialty Retailers, Inc. Recipes and ideas are my own.
Did you know that Margaritas are the most popular cocktail in the U.S.? Probably not surprising when you think of the amount of frozen, neon colored drinks you encounter walking down the main strip in Las Vegas. I’m sure those are being counted in this statistic. And that bottled drink mix with the svelte lady on the front; that’s probably being counted too. But here in my home bar, a Margarita is a solid, easy to mix drink with endless variations. And today we’ll be making them holiday ready for a little online party!
Ok, so you set your holiday stage and are ready for guests. Let them feel in charge with a little DIY bar set up. This 3 cup dipping tray could hold snacks any other time of the year, but today it will hold all the components for the Cranberry Sauce Margaritas: cranberry sauce, lime wedges and the rosemary sugar. Put out some little spoons for the dishes and some shot glasses for the booze components. Holiday parties should be about coming together with friends and family, and having this little DIY bar lets guests mingle about with one another.
This 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.
3. 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!
4. 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!
5. 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!
Gingerbread Cookies and Icing Recipe Adapted from Bouchon Bakery
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.
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.
After booze, books are always a solid gift choice…
Got a cocktail enthusiast on your list this year? There’s plenty of great books that have been released recently to stir up some creativity. Here’s 9 of our favorites to give as gifts this holiday season for newbies through the professional.
This post was made in partnership with Truvia®. Recipes and ideas are my own.
The last of the Halloween decorations made their way back into the garage this week. The hold outs were the two trick or treat buckets still filled with candy that were slow to empty. Of course, all the good stuff went immediately. And when I say that I mean that my husband and I ate a good portion of the better candy immediately after the kids went to bed. Then there were the thousands of lollipops, off brand candy, and miscellaneous stuff thrown into the buckets that hung around too long. So those got chucked and the buckets, to my children’s surprise, mysteriously disappeared along with all the rest of the decorations by morning.
This post was made in partnership with Loire Valley Wines. Recipes and ideas are my own.
The day after Thanksgiving I’m usually at my all time laziest. My slippers might not come off all day, and forget about those holiday sales… I am not leaving the house. But what happens when there is a house full of people still… at my house?! What will they eat?! The answer: leftovers. Lots and lots of leftovers. I’m a good host though. I may have slippers on, but I am going to provide a few meal options that are fresh, light, or just the right size for people who just ate their weight the previous day in turkey and pies.
First, and very importantly, here’s my wine tip for you holiday celebration. Buy your wine by the case! Lots of stores and wineries give you a case discount which means you don’t have to worry about running out during a meal, or even by Saturday. We’ve teamed up with Loire Valley Wines for our Thanksgiving meal as wines from this region are the most diverse, producing wines in every style to make sure you have the perfect one for your meal. If that makes you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry! Loire Valley Wines are ideal food wines with moderate alcohol levels, refreshing acidity and minerality so chances are most will work with your dinner. They’re also a great price point, so buying a case, mixing and matching styles, gives you even greater success at pairing for your holiday!
Bite Size Croque Monsieur Tartines
2 cups leftover gravy (or make your own bechamel sauce, see note below)
2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
10 slices bread, toasted
Gruyere or Parmesan cheese, grated
cranberry sauce for dipping
quail eggs, optional
Turn on broiler. Place toasted bread on a foil covered baking sheet. Spread desired amount of dijon mustard on bread slices (I used about a teaspoon per slice of bread). Sprinkle a handful of turkey next on the bread, followed by a dollop of gravy. Spread the gravy over the turkey and sprinkle cheese on top. Place under the broiler until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Serve with leftover cranberry sauce! If you’re feeling fancy, add a fried quail egg on top. They make these little bites even more adorable.
Note: to make a bechamel sauce, melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a saucepan. Add in 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour and mix for a few minutes until combine. Slowly pour 2 cups hot milk into the butter/flour mixture and whisk continually until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, pinch of nutmeg, and 1/2 a cup of shredded Gruyere cheese. Use immediately.
This post was made in partnership with Truvia®. Recipes and ideas are my own.
Halloween may have you thinking about those sweet treats filling up your jack-o-lantern buckets, but today we’re going to be talking about a different kind of sweetness…how we show a little sweetness to each other every day. And we’ve got a fun cocktail kit we’ll show you how to make when you want to give a little sweetness to a friend, partner, or yourself!
We’ve teamed up with Truvia® to find out “What motivates you to be sweet and kind.” Truvia and Upworthy.com are exploring what motivates individuals to be sweet. Some of the research might surprise you and they have a fun quiz you can take to find out what your sweetness personality type is too. There are four possible types: Purely Sweet, Reciprocally Sweet, Tactfully Sweet, and Graciously Sweet. Curious what kind of sweetness you are? Take the quiz and let me know! I am Graciously Sweet, which means I enjoy doing kind things with the goal of inspiring others to pay it forward. I admit I do love a teachable moment.
So, today I’m going to use this post as a teachable moment. I’m going to teach you all how to put together a simple cocktail kit to give to a friend, partner or yourself. This could be a thank you gift, a hostess gift, something to give for the holidays, or an extra special treat you can tuck away for yourself when you need a little self-care.
Truvia Natural Sweetener packets now come with uplifting sweet phrases on each pack, the perfect little bit of sweetness to add to someone’s day. They are also a great size and amount to sweeten a cocktail with. Adding these single serve packets keeps everything neat and organized.
Ready to sweeten someone’s day? Let’s look at what we’ll need to create this cocktail kit.
For this cocktail kit, I’m putting together a Whiskey Old Fashioned recipe. For one reason, all the ingredients are easy to come by, and everything is shelf stable. Also, if your friend or partner is a novice when it comes to making drinks, this is super easy!
First, find a container that will fit everything. A small box or tin works great. You can keep this simple by visiting a craft store or kitchen supply store to find small bottles and bar tools. Also, Amazon has lots of options. Label all the bottles so your recipient knows what’s inside and measure out the amount you’ll need for your recipes. You can choose to create 2 or more servings depending on the size bottles you get. Then create a recipe card with how much to measure from each bottle. You can optionally personalize the items too. Rocks glasses with initials are not hard to come by, and they show the person you went out of your way to find something unique. Finally, tuck the Truvia Natural Sweetener packets in the glass so they can see the sweet phrases on them. Package up everything and deliver to that special someone!
I hope I’ve inspired you to show a little sweetness to someone in your life!
It’s a three day weekend. Time to grab a watermelon, eat some frozen champagne and dress up like a cocktail!
It’s the official start of summer. So let’s tap a (watermelon) keg, freeze up the champagne (pops), and break out the patriotic bunting and vodka. You’re going to need some shades out there in that sun, so they might as well resemble your favorite cocktail. And if that’s too loud a statement, put your favorite spritz on your shoes instead.