9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch

9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.comHoliday season is punch season. Ok, well, holiday season means more punch at every party. Everyone wants a punch, but let’s be honest, most of them are pretty meh.

Holiday season also means that hosts are pulling out the good booze because, hey, they’re in the spirit of sharing right now. I see a lot of Scotch brought out. Good scotch. Sometimes so good I’m hesitant to tell the host they should hang on to it and not start passing it about willy nilly. But then I’m selfish and want to drink said scotch so I’m shutting up about it.

9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.comThis holiday season I decided to combine both. I also wanted to create a punch that people who turn their noses up at scotch would like… and I did it. In fact, I got to test this punch out on a pretty varied crowd before I posted it. Initially when I showed up with the punch, people would eagerly ask what was in it then inevitable scrunch their nose as I listed scotch as an ingredient. People who don’t usually drink scotch really tend to have strong opinions about what they assume it will taste like: gym socks, band aids, burnt…stuff… So they already have a negative opinion before they start.9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.com

But the thing about holiday parties is that you always end up staying longer than you thought, and by this point you’re drinking whatever is left. For these people, initially turning down the scotch punch, they begrudgingly took a glass after finding out someone had drank all the good champagne. And then they found themselves confounded: they really liked the punch made with scotch.

Color me amused when the same folks who seemed genuinely annoyed/disgusted/sad when told the giant bowl of punch was made with scotch later came up to me with giant grins asking again what was in that punch? Had I just made converts of this bunch?9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.com

It’s holiday time, the season of giving, so I hope you all will allow me this one time to toot my own horn and smirk just a little as person after person drank up a scotch punch they earlier swore they’d never touch. Curious about the name? If you know your holiday songs, then you’ve recognized this from the 12 Days of Christmas. My punch, with 9 integral ingredients, was for a party with this theme. The Table Set guys sure love a theme party.

Now it’s your turn to try it. Please, be honest, and let me know if I’ve made you a convert too.

For the Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup:

4 (3- or 4-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

In a medium saucepan, combine cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean seeds and pod, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Strain. The syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

For the Chai Tea:

2 cups boiling water
3 chai tea bags

Combine boiling water and tea in a heatproof container. Let steep for 4 minutes. Discard tea bags and let tea cool to room temperature before adding to punch.

For the Punch:

1 (750 ml) bottle blended Scotch, such as Monkey Shoulder
2 1/4 cups Lustau East India Solera Sherry
3/4 cup fresh juice from about 6 lemons
1 1/2 cups Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup
2 cups Chai Tea
1/8 cup Angostura bitters
6 orange wheels, star anise, ice block*, for garnish

In a punch bowl or large container, combine Scotch, sherry, lemon juice, syrup, tea, and bitters. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for 5 hours or up to overnight. When ready to serve, add an ice block and garnish as desired.

*If you want to get really festive, you can add some decorative elements to your ice block. I added extra cranberries to mine. As the night progresses and the ice melts, they’ll start popping out and floating about. So make sure whatever you use is washed and makes sense with the rest of the ingredients!

So yes, scotch is definitely present. I chose Monkey Shoulder blended scotch, which offers a strong punch of malt, smoke, and baking spice flavors, perfect for a winter punch. Next I added in some chai tea just below full strength. The tea adds a wonderful assortment of appropriate flavors: cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom and black pepper all work beautifully with the whisky. Then I followed that up with Sherry for a little sweet nuttiness; Angostura for bitterness but also extra spice; and vanilla-laced cinnamon sugar syrup for a slightly floral and woodsy sweetness.

 

This recipe was originally posted on Serious Eats.

Spiced Averna Toddy

Spiced Averna Hot Toddy Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis winter season you’re going to drink some hot cocktails (unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere where you got another 6 months for that. Unless you like hot drinks in hot months. Hey, I drink iced coffee all year round now.) and more than likely a lot of them will have the same old familiar base. While whiskey is always a good partner, or even some nice aged rum, today I turn to a maybe an unlikely addition: Averna.

I love Averna, and you’ve seen it pop up on this site from time to time, but never warmed up. And now that I’ve had it warmed up, I can’t believe it took me so long to do it!Spiced Averna Hot Toddy Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Serious Eats had asked me to come up with a hot drink for this cool season and frankly it took a moment of head scratching to figure out what to make. I kept struggling with how I’d make hot whiskey interesting…until I nixed the whiskey altogether. Then what you get is a flavorful hot toddy that’s low on the ABV and the perfect beverage you can start offering with brunch all the way up through dinner. I like a cocktail that has that much potential.Spiced Averna Hot Toddy Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Now you know I can’t leave good enough alone, and I always give you a bit of homework on here in order to make some of these drinks, so it should come as no surprise that I’m requiring a deep, dark brown sugar syrup steeped with peppercorns and cinnamon to accompany this toddy. As much as I like Averna, adding this syrup in there gives it so much flavor, and it kinda comes out tasting like a spicy tea (without the tea).

So curl up alongside a fire with a good cocktail book and one of these Averna Toddies this winter. And save the whiskey for something else.Spiced Averna Hot Toddy Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Spiced Syrup:

1 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
4 cinnamon sticks

  • Combine water, brown sugar, peppercorns, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to simmer, stirring, and remove from heat. Cover and let sit for an hour and a half. Strain and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to two weeks.

For the Cocktail:

1 ounce Averna
1/2 ounce spiced syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed juice from half a lemon
4 ounces boiling water
Lemon peel for garnish

  • In a heat proof mug, combine Averna, spiced syrup, lemon juice, and boling water. Garnish with lemon peel and serve immediately.

Warm and bright from the lemon. Lots of strong spice with hints of caramel and a touch of bitterness. The cinnamon lingers around but is not overpowering. Sweet, but light on the palate.

Tangy Cider Fizz

Tangy Cider Fizz Cocktail // stirandstrain.comOK, OK. I know I made a whole point of telling you how pears were the new black this Fall and let’s forget about apples. BUT, I forgot I had this special drink in my pocket. As I try to do around holiday time, this cocktail is on the low alcohol side so that 1. you can offer your guests some lighter options 2. you can drink more of it 3. well, you get to drink more of it!Tangy Cider Fizz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

At first glance, the ingredient list looks like the start of some Thanksgiving dessert: brown sugar, apple cider, lemon juice…but then we get some sweet vermouth thrown in there. Mmmm. Carpano Antica provides your boozy boost here and turns out it’s a strong enough player to carry all the elements.Tangy Cider Fizz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Getting this not to turn into an overly sweet cocktail means a careful balance of ingredients. It’s amazing what a squeeze of lemon can do in addition to a nice glug of club soda. Even with 4 ounces, the drink still feels rich and bright. And don’t forget the lemon zest!

Also, if you haven’t heard, there’s also a giveaway going on right now! Head over here for some Sipp Sparkling Organic sodas – a nice addition to your cocktail bar.Tangy Cider Fizz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Now let’s start on those holiday cocktails…

2 ounces Carpano Antica
1 ounce apple cider
1 bar spoon brown sugar (or 1 non-packed teaspoon)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from half a lemon
4 ounces club soda, Fever-Tree used here
lemon peel for garnish

In a rocks glass, add one bar spoon of brown sugar. Pour lemon juice over the brown sugar and muddle until the sugar is dissolved. Add ice and then pour in Carpano Antica and apple cider. Stir gently to combine and then top with club soda. Garnish with a lemon peel.

**Someone online had asked me about batching this when I originally posted the recipe on Serious Eats and I actually think this would be a fine drink to serve pitcher style. Just mix everything except club soda together ahead of time (multiplied by your number of servings, omitting 1 teaspoon of brown sugar for every 4 servings). When ready to serve, either pour club soda into the pitcher, or top off each cocktail; entirely up to you how you want to serve.

Make It: Honeyed Pear and St. Germain Granita

Honeyed Pear and St. Germain Granita // stirandstrain.comOnce November rolls around I usually am kinda over apples and my obsession of fruit goes to the pear. While a lot of recipes call for spiced pear that and spiced pear this, I thought I’d turn to some lighter notes and make something slightly boozy, and good enough to eat. Actually, you can eat this; it’s dessert.Honeyed Pear and St. Germain Granita // stirandstrain.com

While I hear reports of snow hitting ground in some cities, Los Angeles still is having a personality crisis and can’t decide whether it wants to be Fall or Summer. It’s a perennial problem. So, I made a dessert that encompasses this contrast: Fall flavors encapsulated in a frozen dessert.Honeyed Pear and St. Germain Granita // stirandstrain.com

Following along similar veins to that apple-packed cocktail from a few weeks ago, I went ahead and packed this boozy dessert with pears: fresh pears, pear liqueur, and bubbly pear soda. Then I added some honey and St. Germain. I know that St. Germain gets thrown into cocktails much like salt gets thrown into everything, but have you stopped and just tasted it by itself lately? I forgot how rich it was, with beautiful notes of honey and spice, as well as the floral element it is known for. I wanted to bring this bottle back out after a brief hiatus and pair it with an ingredient that would accentuate those notes: like a pear.Honeyed Pear and St. Germain Granita // stirandstrain.com

St. Germain was actually one of the first bottles of liqueur that I bought when I was trying to add more “fancy stuff” to my home bar years ago. I remember traveling to this high-end liquor store in Pasadena and having to ask the clerk if he’d ever heard of it. Well, duh, of course he had. I forget what I made with it that first time around, but besides the unique taste, I also bought it in part because of the fancy looking bottle. You’ll still see those purchases in my home bar now; I’m a sucker for great packaging.

Now, this dessert requires a bit of hand-holding. However, if you start it early enough in the afternoon, you will be rewarded with a delicious treat by night. And by hand-holding, you’re mainly sticking a fork in it every few hours or so.Honeyed Pear and St. Germain Granita // stirandstrain.com

Ok, let’s begin.

2 heaping cups cubed pears
1/4 cup Pear Liqueur
1/2 cup St. Germain
1 cup water
1 cup Sipp Summer Pear Soda*
1/4 cup honey (note: heating up the honey in the microwave for 15 seconds makes it pourable)
1-1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and blend until smooth. Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish and move to the freezer. About every hour, run a fork through the mixture until it forms ice chunks or until you’re happy with the consistency. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Lots of pear flavor with strong notes of honey. The boozy aspect of this comes through, but I don’t find it off-putting, it’s just another layer to the dessert. The elderflower is subtle, and gives this a slight earthiness. Overall, just sweet enough. If you can adjust the honey based on your own preference (taste the mixture in the food processor first before freezing to make any adjustments).

Hey Guys! If you want to get your hands on your own Sipp Sodas, stayed tuned this week for another giveaway on the site!

 

*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

MxMo: The South American Hurricane a.k.a. the “Perfect” Hurricane

Mixology Monday: The South American Hurricane a.k.a. the "Perfect" Hurricane // stirandstrain.comWhoa! Mixology Monday has rolled around once again and this month Joel from the Southern Ash blog has challenged us with “Perfect Symmetry”. Just what does that mean? “Perfect” as in a cocktail that splits one of the liquors equally (you guys can read the full announcement here!). Not “perfect” as in the absolute best; I don’t think I’d ever refer to a drink as perfect. Improved, yes.

I’m coming off of a few weeks vacation on here (although you guys probably didn’t notice what with all the posts going up) and although that might read to you as “I’m totally rested and going to write a million posts”, what that actually means is “dang guys, I have waaaaayyyy too many emails to go through”. So, I’m keeping this post brief today.Mixology Monday: The South American Hurricane a.k.a. the "Perfect" Hurricane // stirandstrain.com

What’s a perfect Hurricane? Well, I decided after a long debate about what to do for MxMo this time that rum and cachaça might be a good combo to try and make into a “perfect” cocktail. So naturally my mind went to Tiki drinks. But you know what? It’s kinda hard finding a Tiki drink with one rum in it. Now, there were a few contenders with just one rum in the recipe but I wanted to revisit the Hurricane. I just love passion fruit and, well, I have a crap load of homemade syrup in the fridge right now.

Cachaça is a close cousin to rum. I tried to make the distinction in an earlier post but I believe here that there is enough of a difference that it qualifies for this recipe (they have different names!!). If you disagree, please feel free to leave a comment below.Mixology Monday: The South American Hurricane a.k.a. the "Perfect" Hurricane // stirandstrain.com

2 ounces aged rum
2 ounces aged cachaça, Leblon used here*
2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-3/4 ounces passion fruit syrup (homemade if you got it!)

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, add all ingredients and shake well. Fill a hurricane glass or large tiki mug with about 20 ounces of crushed ice. Strain drink over the ice and add more crushed ice if desired.

Thanks to Joel for hosting again this month, and to Fred for keeping MxMo alive!

 

*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Apple Elixir Cocktail

Apple Elixir Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis is quite possibly the most APPLE cocktail I’ve ever made. But it’s October so who cares! Let’s enjoy it!

I was bouncing ideas around with the Serious Eats people and decided on creating a multi-layered apple cocktail. One where you’re getting hit with apple flavor from all directions: apple cider concentrate, hard apple cider, apple brandy. Heck, I even threw on an apple chip garnish. You might be thinking to yourself…how one note this seems. But no! It’s super flavorful in unexpected ways, and if you don’t have the time you can even skip on the garnish.Apple Elixir Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Apple cider brings me back to my childhood in New England. Or rather, it brings me back to unrealistic longings of days gone by. It is true, you can’t seem to throw a rock without hitting an apple orchard there. Especially if you hail from Rhode Island, where you can’t throw a rock without hitting Massachusetts or Connecticut either (it’s a really small state). My grandparents lived near an orchard. My aunt and uncle HAVE an apple orchard. Cider was just synonymous with Fall. Now I have to deal with 90°F and over temps through October in Los Angeles. The only saving grace of it all is not having to deal with deicing my car come January anymore (please don’t throw rocks at me). Apple Elixir Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Being an adult means I’ll always have conflicting feelings about my childhood. All those sweet memories of riding around on the back of a wagon in a corn field, and there’s the actual reality of having to go to school and being told what to do and all the unpleasantness of being a kid that I tend to forget about. One thing that I don’t have any conflicting feelings about is making this cocktail. So let’s do that!

Apple Elixir Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor the Spiced Cider Concentrate:

4 cups fresh apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
4 allspice berries, whole
1 teaspoon cloves, whole
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, whole

In a medium saucepan, combine cider, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and black pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Keep at a simmer, uncovered, until reduced by 3/4, and consistency is viscous like maple syrup, about 2 hours. Strain and let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a month.

*Note: you can also buy apple cider concentrate if you don’t have the time or if apple cider (*gasp*) is not available in your neck of the woods. Find some here!

For the Cocktail:

2 ounces Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1 ounce apple cider concentrate syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from about half a lemon
4 ounces hard cider such as Samuel Smith’s Organic Cider
Apple slice or apple chip for garnish (optional)

Combine apple brandy, spiced cider concentrate, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with hard cider. Garnish with apple slice or apple chip if desired.

A small amount of lemon juice not only brightens up the drink, but the acid helps meld the flavors and prevents a sensation of just apple after apple after apple. The result is refreshing, boozy, and a tad dry.

Bottled Corpse Reviver #2’s with a scientific study on bottled juice

Bottled Corpse Reviver #2 Cocktail // stirandstrain.comYou guys must really have some patience. I alluded to this post probably over a month ago and nary a peep from anyone about why I hadn’t posted it yet. Oh…you forgot about it too?

Never mind the formalities then, let’s just jump to the point. While doing some research during the Salted Peanut Old Fashioned Bottled Cocktails post, one of the points stressed by many was that you couldn’t do two things: bottle cocktails that contained dairy and those that contained fresh juice. Since I too can fall victim to the echo chamber here on the internet, I initially took those as solid facts that could not be defied. That is until I decided I didn’t quite believe the one about the juice.Bottled Corpse Reviver #2 Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I was fairly certain that you could bottle juice in a cocktail, what would change over time would be the quality. So, I decided I should find out what that shelf life would be.

The cocktail I chose to test was the Corpse Reviver #2. Why? Because lately this had become Christopher’s drink of choice at home and he could give a fair assessment of the changes the bottled drinks would take on over time.Bottled Corpse Reviver #2 Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

A couple notes here before we start:

  • I am not a scientist, although I like to pretend to be in my head.
  • The experiments were not done in a controlled lab situation but in a home kitchen, like the one you have, so that’s probably a better place to test these out if YOU are making them.
  • Bottles were stored in a refrigerator to help keep them climate controlled. If you leave these in your pantry your results could be different.
bottled-corpsereviver2-pouringIf you went ahead and bought some of those nifty home bottling accessories for that Old Fashioned post, you’re ready to start. If not, check the bottom of this post for links!

Bottled Corpse Reviver #2
yields 5 cocktails (or 5 bottles)

3.75 ounces gin, here I used Broker’s
3.75 ounces Cocchi Americano
3.75 ounces Cointreau
3.75 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained of pulp/seeds
5 dashes Absinthe, here I used St. George Spirits
5 ounces filtered water

Sanitize five 187 ml bottles (dishwasher works fine for this, or you can place bottles in boiling water for 10 minutes). Combine all ingredients into a large measuring glass with a pour spout. Stir to combine. Mix should total 20 ounces. Using a funnel, pour 4 ounces into each bottle. Cap the bottles and store in the refrigerator. To serve, gently shake bottle, uncap and either serve from the bottle or pour into a chilled cocktail glass.Bottled Corpse Reviver #2 Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

And the results?

  • Bottle #1: 24 hours later from start date. Sharp lemon flavor with strong anise notes. No compromise in quality.
  • Bottle #2: 48 hours later from start date. Lemon less sharp. Mellower flavor. No noticeable compromise in quality.
  • Bottle #3: 96 hours later from start date. Still no noticeable compromise in quality. Flavors still distinguishable but overall less sharp.
  • Bottle #4: 10 days from start date. Drinkable but flavor is one note and muddied. Too mellow. Bland.
  • Bottle #5: 15 days from start date. Not passable. Too bland. Still drank it in the name of science though.

If you’re having company or expecting people to drop by at any time, a small batch of these kept in the fridge for a week will be fine! But after that, the quality starts to drop and guests will think you mucked up the recipe. So…drink ’em up.

Product resources for bottling cocktails:  Caps / Bottles / Capper

MxMo: Pineapple Gomme Syrup and a Pisco Punch!

Pineapple Gomme Syrup & Pisco Punch // stirandstrain.com
Mixology Monday LogoFor Mixology Monday, I had thought I was starting out on a simple quest: make a pineapple gomme syrup (this month’s theme is PINEAPPLE, hosted by Thiago from Bartending Notes and gomme syrup, FYI, helps to create a smooth mouthfeel in cocktails and was widely used a long time ago; now it’s peeping it’s head back up again). However, as I started to leaf through the indexes of several of my go-to cocktail books, I came to the realization that no one had a recipe. WTH? So on to consult the internet and of course, some of the serious cocktailians out there had already covered the basic gomme (or gum) syrup. Thanks guys!

The first thing you’re going to need is gum arabica powder. Oh? Where the hell are you going to get that? Well, the internet is pretty helpful (click here for resource). But, if you’re like me and you need to make it RIGHT NOW, then gum arabica powder is also known as acacia powder and can be found at Whole Foods and at Vitamin stores. And here’s something funny: acacia powder is also a fiber supplement for, you know, helping you be regular. So…added benefit?Pineapple Gomme Syrup & Pisco Punch // stirandstrain.com

There were a couple methods out there for making the gomme, but for sake of time, I chose the most rapid method via A Mountain of Crushed Ice.

4 tablespoons gum arabica powder (or acacia powder)
2 ounces hot water

Heat water to just about boiling (I used an electric water kettle) and slowly mix into the powder in a heat-proof bowl. Then stir to combine, pushing clumps of powder into the side of the bowl to break it up. Let the mixture absorb for 20 minutes and then briskly stir again. Repeat process until all the powder is dissolved (this took about an hour for me).

Next, make a pineapple syrup. Unlike my other syrups, this will be a 2:1 ratio, or a rich syrup.

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup pineapple chunks, plus 2 tablespoons juice

In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water. Stir until dissolved and add pineapple chunks and juice. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let sit two hours (if you desire a stronger pineapple flavor, let it sit up to 4). Strain pineapple chunks (use them for garnishes or to top some pancakes). Add gomme and stir to combine. Bottle in an airtight container. Total mixture yields about 2-1/2 cups.Pineapple Gomme Syrup & Pisco Punch // stirandstrain.com

Now at this point you can pat yourself on the back and stare at your freshly made bottle of pineapple gomme syrup and then exclaim, NOW WHAT? Put it in a cocktail!

Pineapple gomme syrup seems to be most commonly used in the Pisco Punch. So start there if this is all new to you. If you’ve covered this base already, please feel free to share what you use it in.

Pisco Punch

barely adapted from Paul Clarke

2 ounces pisco, Campo de Encanto used here
1/2 ounce pineapple gomme syrup (recipe above)
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

pineapple chunk and sprig of mint for garnish

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, add all ingredients and shake well about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with a pineapple chunk (those sugared leftovers are perfect here) and a sprig of mint.

Since we’re using a rich syrup here, I cut the amount back from the original recipe by a 1/4 ounce. I found the drink a touch too sweet on the first try. By doing this, the fruitiness of the pisco comes through a bit more with hints of peach and citrus. The lemon juice gives a pleasant bite that contrasts nicely with the sweetness. Overall, super smooth (thanks gomme!) and an easy sipper.

Thanks again to Thiago for hosting this month and Fred for keeping Mixology Monday alive.

Smoky Beer Sangrita

Smoky Beer Sangrita Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMemorial Day weekend kicks off the official start of grilling season. It also kicks off cut off shorts season and burn until you look like a lobster season. It’s a season of magic.

In my efforts for making your drinking experiences more efficient this summer, I will have a bunch of upcoming recipes that are batched for your convenience. Take 10 minutes the night before, or first thing in the morning, to put together the bases, and then top off as needed day of. Easy.

First up is a drink I made for Serious Eats (guys, drinks is no longer its own site, it’s incorporated into just one big Eats site now, so don’t get confused) where I use BEER as the alcohol base. Yes, yet another beer cocktail on this site for the year. It is the topper for a spicy, smoky sangrita-like base that you can make ahead of time.Smoky Beer Sangrita Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Sangrita-like might be stretching it; it’s really just sangrita made with a bunch of delicious citrus with a dollop of harissa. Not familiar with harissa? If you like spice and smoke you’ll like this peppery paste that has its roots in North African cuisine. It’s not normally used in drinks, but I love the extra level of spice it adds. Also, a little goes a long way, so you can keep it around to experiment with food later.

Usually, sangrita is just the sidekick to a shot of tequila, but I love the rich flavors of tomato and citrus so much I thought it deserved its own spot at the bar (or backyard BBQ) as a cocktail. Since it’s a low alcohol drink, you could easily sip on these all afternoon, playing horseshoes or whatever it is people do outside.

Sangrita Base

1/2 teaspoon harissa, or more to taste
8 ounces tomato juice
6 ounces freshly squeezed juice from about 2 grapefruits
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces freshly squeezed juice from about 2 oranges
1-1/2 ounces freshly squeezed juice from 2 lemons
2 ounces freshly squeezed juice from 2 to 3 limes

For Your Cocktail

Grapefruit wedge
Coarse smoked sea salt
4 ounces Sangrita Base
4 ounces Sculpin IPA, or any hoppy IPA

  • To make the base, in a pitcher, whisk together harissa, black pepper and tomato juice. Add grapefruit juice, orange juice, lemon and lime juice. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 8 hours maximum.
  • To make the cocktail, wet the rim of a highball glass with grapefruit wedge, dip moistened edge in smoked sea salt. Add ice and 4 ounces of the sangrita base. Top with 4 ounces of IPA. Garnish with grapefruit wedge and serve.

Citrus is an ideal match for a hoppy IPA. The Sculpin IPA from Ballast imparts a lot of grapefruit and lemon in the flavor, as well as in the aroma, which not only compliments the tomato-citrus base, but also adds some needed bitterness to round out the drink. With beer cocktails, the effervescent quality will significantly lift a heavier based drink which can sometimes seem like a challenge to drink. It can also provide a smoother, creamy texture, making the drink feel more like a “cocktail” and less like juice (or in this case Gazpacho). If the Sculpin is not available in your area, look for a beer with this kind of citrus profile. And at the end of the day, if you run out of the base, this beer pairs excellently with barbecue too.

Trinidad Spell (with a whole lot of bitters)

Trinidad Spell Cocktail // stirandstrain.comOne day trolling the internet I came across a drink called the Stormy Mai-Tai. This tropical sounding cocktail totally threw me for a loop–there was a whole lot of bitters in there. Like, a WHOLE lot. An ounce and a half.

Somewhere along the way through my cocktail education, I mistakenly thought bitters contained lethal amounts of alcohol that when taken in large doses would kill me. Clearly I was mistaken. Here was a drink that showed you could use bitters as a base and not just an accent. Also, I had overlooked the fact that Angostura only clocked in at 44.7% ABV, not lethal.Trinidad Spell Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I had thought of recreating the Stormy Mai-Tai here for this site, but when I was asked to come up with a bitters-heavy drink for Serious Drinks, I thought I’d see where else I could get bitters to work in large doses; so I turned to Tiki drinks.

I adapted the Polynesian Spell (which you can find in the Grog Log) by replacing the grape juice (there’s a head scratcher), triple sec, and peach brandy with Angostura, apricot brandy, passion fruit and citrus; I kept the gin. I was going out on a limb trying to shove Angostura in there, but after a couple of tweaks…wow. It was a success.

1 ounce Angostura
1 ounce gin, London Dry style
3/4 ounce Rothman & Winter Apricot Brandy
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice from 1/4 orange
1/2 ounce passion fruit syrup (see note)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled 2/3 with ice. Shake hard for 30 seconds to incorporate and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish according to your own inner-Tiki style.

Yes, the flavor is strongly bittered, but there’s also a cascade of cherry and clove, fruit and sweetness. The aroma is fiery from the Angostura with strong hints of passionfruit and orange. The slight numbing of your tongue may serve to remind you: you’re drinking a heck of a lot of bitters.

For this recipe, I used a Cobalt shaker*. I was sent this shaker to try out and I’ve used for several of my tiki drinks for a few reasons. One, the shaker gets things cold, really cold. And two, for the boozier drinks, I like the small ice chips that slowly melt as I drink the cocktail. It’s also roomy for large volume recipes like these too.

cobalt shaker // Trinidad Spell Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. All opinions are my own and no monetary compensation was given. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.