Cucumber Seas Cocktail

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Thatcher’s Organic Artisan Spirits. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Several years ago, when I was still working at a 9 to 5 job, I flew into Chicago for a boring conference. This was one of those conferences that not only had a floor devoted to awkward introductions and sweaty handshakes, but hours and hours of mandatory workshops. After 4 days I was exhausted in every way, but, thankfully I lopped on an extra day for sightseeing—I had never been to Chicago before.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comRight before I had left for the trip a coworker, who was born and raised in the Chicago area, told me I should check out the miniatures over at the Art Institute. I didn’t have time to do any research about what I’d find there prior to leaving, so it was going to be a surprise. I ended up booking a hotel about two blocks from the AI and since I am always keen to check out some art (I got that BA in art history you know…) I decided that I’d take some “me” time and stroll on over there. And it was AMAZING.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comGuys, I have a secret to tell you all: I LOVE manufactured environments. Disneyland, Vegas, countless restored houses in New England I frequented as a child, and these tiny miniature rooms…  This might be why I chose to make dioramas for all my book reports when that was an option (see list here). I’m sure someone out there could psychoanalyze why but who cares?

Today I’m taking that idea of the small, magical environment and turning it towards cocktails. Recently I stumbled upon these really unique cocktail glasses made by Czech designer Martin Jakobsen and it was love at first sight. The shapes and stylings had the gears in my brain turning at high speed: what to make first?

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comI loved how these looked like terrariums and my mind wandered towards air plants and sea grasses. And cucumbers. Not sea cucumbers mind you, but just the regular guys you see at the market. I had recently received a bottle of Thatcher’s Organic Cucumber Liqueur and had developed a recipe using shiso and coconut milk. The dreamy liquid seemed to me the perfect base to display inside the globular glass and using the green elements from the drink, I could create my own little world in a cocktail.

The cucumber liqueur has a perfectly light and sweet taste that married well with the coconut milk. Together they create a slightly creamy cocktail with a tart, floral and subtle cucumber flavor. I chose a pinch of hibiscus salt for balance in the finish. The hibiscus gives another layer of floral to the nose and just a touch of bitterness. To make the sea grass garnish in the globe, I dehydrated cucumber peels at 200°F for 15 minutes in the oven. The effect is purely aesthetic but I do love the smell of dried cucumber too.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comAnd guys, you don’t need these little globe cocktail glasses to make the drink. A double rocks glass will do just fine too.

Thatcher’s Organic Artisan Spirits are right up my alley. They use all natural, sustainably farmed, organic ingredients all made in small batches by people—not machines. I invite you to check out their Cucumber Liqueur and their entire product line at thatchersorganic.com.

Now let’s get shaking!

1-1/2 ounces vodka
1 ounce Thatcher’s Organic Cucumber Liqueur
2 shiso leaves
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
3/4 ounce coconut milk
Hibiscus salt and cucumber slices for garnish

In the bottom of a shaker, muddle the shiso leaves with lime juice. Add in ice 2/3 up the shaker and then pour in the vodka, Thatcher’s Organic Cucumber Liqueur, simple syrup and coconut leaves. Shake hard for 20 seconds and double strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with cucumber slices and hibiscus salt.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.com

*For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Harissa Explains It All a sweet and spicy #PerfectMargarita with Patrón Tequila

Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Patrón Tequila. Recipes and ideas are my own.

If one tv show summed up my preadolescent life, it would be Clarissa Explains It All. God I loved that show. I could probably attribute it to making me even more of a quirky kid; the clothes, the chili pepper lights around the window, a boy for a best friend, the “I don’t care about fitting in” messages. Clarissa was a strong willed, independent female that, myself being the eldest sister in the family, I could look up to for inspiration.

Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.comOk Elana but what does this story have to do with Margaritas?

Well, everything. Ok, well not everything but that quirky spirit instilled in me at that young age still abounds and often finds its way into my life in all sorts of ways. Maybe you’ve noticed on this site that I get a little quirky from time to time? Today we’re getting a little quirky with some margaritas and a tube of harissa paste.

Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.comThere is nothing wrong with the classic margarita. I love them. I love that there is a day devoted to them, even if it falls in February (?!). But I get bored of the same old same old and I never can leave good enough alone. I am always on the lookout for my #PerfectMargarita.

Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.comI’ve always been a big fan of having a little savory along with my sweet, and Patrón’s Silver tequila is a lovely base for doing just that. Patrón Silver has a slightly citrus and peppery flavor profile that is smooth enough to mix into a great tasting margarita.  My sweet element comes from ripe Champagne mangoes. Their juicy nectar cuts down on added sweetener but also gives a subtle tart bite that some freshly squeezed lime juice highlights. I’ve finished this off today with a touch of chili salt to remind the palate that they’re in for some SPICE before they even taste the first sip.Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.com

Ready to get quirky? Let’s get mixing.

2 ounces Patrón Silver tequila*
4 1/2″ cubes mango, Champagne variety used here
1/4 barspoon harissa paste (more or less to taste)
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
chili salt for rim (like Tajín or similar)
lime peel for garnish

  • In the bottom of a shaker tin, muddle the mangoes with the harissa and lime juice until broken down. Add in the tequila and simple syrup and fill the shaker 2/3 with ice. Shake until chilled about 20 seconds. Rim a rocks glass with the chili salt by dipping the edge in lime juice then the salt. Add in a single large ice cube. Strain into the rocks glass and garnish with the lime peel.

Harissa Explains It All: a sweet and spicy Margarita with Patrón Tequila // stirandstrain.comRight now THIS is my #PerfectMargarita. Tell me all about yours!


And if you’d love to have a few options for Cinco de Mayo this year, check out the winning cocktail from Patrón’s Margarita of the Year contest. This contest began on National Margarita Day (of course), and featured margaritas made in 7 categories: herbal, spicy, smoky, savory, modern, tropical and classic.

Over 50,000 votes were cast (including a vote from the one and only cocktail historian David Wondrich) and the Rosa Picante Margarita was IT; so you know it’s going to be good. Bartender Jordan Corney from San Antonio, TX was inspired by the classic margarita and the El Diablo, two of his favorite cocktails, and adding the modern component of jalapeño oil to impart texture and complexity to the drink. And check out this pretty sexy cocktail video of Jordan making the drink and talking about what inspired him to create it (it makes me want one RIGHT NOW).

Rosa Picante Margarita

Created by Jordan Corney, Bohanan’s (San Antonio, TX)

2 oz Patrón Silver
.5 oz Patrón Citrónge Lime
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
.5 oz ginger syrup
Bar spoon jalapeño oil
Dash rosewater
Rose petal sea salt

  • Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice to chill. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe that has been half-rimmed with rose sea salt, and top with a dash of rose water. Garnish with a rose petal, if available.

For more information about Patrón Tequilas and liqueurs, please visit patrontequila.com.

*For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Blue Nectar Tequila. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Admittedly, I let a lot of the drink holidays pass me by. Especially when they’re not really something I feel like celebrating (vodka + red bull day I’m looking at you). But today is a very special day. Today is Margarita Day.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comI drink Margaritas every day of the year. I don’t wait for Taco Tuesday and happy hour at my local cantina. I break them out over brunch or on any given Sunday. But usually just a single serving or two. Today, because we’re celebrating, we’re going big and making a Margarita PUNCH.

Since we’re still deep in citrus season, my family just got back from picking our own grapefruits, lemons and whatever else was hanging on those fruit-laden trees. The grapefruits were so juicy and tart and delicious, that I perhaps got a little overzealous with the picking. To make sure they go to a good home, they’ll be the base of the punch today. Not only will we use some of the juice, but the zest will go into the oleo saccharum, and the whole punch will get garnished with sugared brûléed wheels of the fruit. An honorable way for these grapefruits to go.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comEven though I love those grapefruit, to balance out the citrus flavors and make the base more complex, I’m creating a oleo saccharum with lemon and lime zest in addition to a few grapefruit zests thrown in. Creating the base this way gives the punch a strong citrus backbone that won’t get watered down and lost once the grapefruit juice, tequila and ice are added in.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comTo sweeten everything up and to highlight some of the more floral characteristics of the citrus, I’ve combined Tahitian vanilla (which is the most floral of the vanilla varieties) and piloncillo. Not sure what piloncillo is? That’s ok, I’ve only just started using it over the last few years myself. Piloncillo is evaporated sugar cane juice from Mexico. It’s not as sweet as regular cane sugar, but it has a wonderfully rich taste, similar to brown sugar. Again, to make this a more concentrated flavor bomb for the punch, the vanilla and piloncillo get made into a syrup and then reduced into a rich, syrupy sweetener.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comThis wouldn’t be a Margarita without the tequila, right? For that I’m turning to Blue Nectar Silver Tequila for the perfect pairing to my grapefruit obsession. The clean vegetal flavor has just a touch of spiciness that balances out the sweetness of the citrus.

This is a versatile punch: serve it up with breakfast tacos or late in the afternoon all by itself; anytime really. But especially today, for the best drink holiday, Margarita Day.

For more information on Blue Nectar Tequila, please check out their website here!

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comMakes approximately 12 servings

For the oleo saccharum:

4.5 ounces sugar
zests from 2 limes
zests from 2 lemons
zests from 1 grapefruit

  • To make the oleo saccharum, peel zests from limes, lemons and grapefruit, trying to remove as little white pith as possible. Toss the peels with the sugar, muddle to express oils, and let sit 6 hours or up to overnight in a nonreactive bowl (I use glass or a cambro container), covered. Strain peels from the mixture, set liquid aside.

For the vanilla and piloncillo reduction:

1 cup piloncillo
1 cup water
2 Tahitian vanilla bean pods cut into 1” pieces

  • In a small saucepan over medium high heat, combine piloncillo, water, and vanilla pieces. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, until mixture is reduced by half. Strain vanilla pieces out and store in an airtight container until ready to use. Will keep refrigerated up to one month.

For the punch:

750 ml Blue Nectar Silver Tequila
12 ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit, preferably oro blanco grapefruits
oleo saccharum
4 ounces vanilla and piloncillo reduction
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces orange curacao, preferably Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao
1 large ruby red grapefruit, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 tablespoon piloncillo

  • To make the punch, combine Blue Nectar Silver Tequila, grapefruit juice, reserved liquid from oleo saccharum, vanilla and piloncillo reduction, lemon juice and dry orange curacao. Stir gently to combine. Chill mixture.
  • To make the brûléed grapefruit wheels, place sliced of grapefruit on a wire tray over a cookie sheet. Sprinkle them with piloncillo sugar. Place them under a broiler, or use a culinary blow torch to caramelize the sugar and wheels. Let cool. Once the wheels are cooled, reserve 3 wheels for the punch bowl garnish and slice the rest for garnishing individual cups.
  • To serve, pour mixture into a punch bowl and add a large block of ice. Garnish with large brûléed grapefruit wheels. Ladle into individual cups with wedges of brûléed grapefruit. Optionally sprinkle with sea salt crystals.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comFYI guys: you’re probably saying my name wrong. I don’t take offense; it’s been an issue going back to preschool. The spelling is what usually trips people up, especially now that I live in Los Angeles and an “a” is almost always pronounced “ahhhhh” when in fact my “a” is just a short “A”. Why am I talking about this then if it’s a non-issue?

Well, a few weeks back for Serious Eats I decided to make a festive riff on the Caipirinha. It’s a cocktail I love to drink, but only recently. Why the wait? Well, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I was shy about mispronouncing the name. I just sorta froze up about being schooled on the correct way to say the drink. Until I finally got comfortable with one bartender and had them say the name to me over and over and then it stuck.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comI’m sure you all have had that moment in a bar. Intrigued by a drink but one look at the name and you end up passing on it. Too bad! You probably would have liked it. But you want to know what? Your bartender is NOT going to judge you (OK, let’s be real. Maybe one or two a-holes will.). They are there to tell you how to say things right so you can impress your friends next time when you order that intriguing sounding drink. They want to pass on that knowledge and inform you, their customer.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comI had a similar experience with wine years ago when I was up in Napa at a tasting. The Sommelier, some laid back guy in jeans, and quite possibly a jean shirt too, told me that you either like a wine or you don’t. You can hate an expensive bottle and like something you picked up for $7. You don’t need to know if you’re smelling aromas of cherry or rotting wood, you should just want to drink it. I also learned that “legs” on a wine glass are bullshit and when you’re at a tasting, don’t throw back the whole glass (oops! I was young!!).

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comBut back to the drink. Now that we’re in the dull days of January, you already have this sunny Suze cocktail on hand, but here’s a zingy drink with a beautiful jewel tone, all thanks to some pomegranates. A Caipirinha is similar in structure to a Daiquiri, only swapping in cachaça for the rum, and whole lime pieces instead of just the juice, this cocktail has a bolder, huskier quality to it over the more refined and quieter Daiquiri.

That sour bite of the lime gets punched up by the sweet-tart pomegranate, with a little added crunch there from the seeds (sometimes I like a little something extra in my cocktails). Cachaca has an earthy flavor and here, the Leblon adds some floral aroma alongside a slightly peppery taste. By adding the sparkling wine, I find that it mixes the flavors together without dulling down their strong characteristics. You just need a touch of sugar here for balance, so don’t be afraid of adding that bar spoon full.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comOn a side note here, some of you might read the recipe and see sparkling wine then pass over this because the thought of opening a whole bottle just to make one cocktail seems so wasteful. But wait! No need to pass on this, just buy a split! Yes, it’s enough for two of these but really, once you make one you’ll want another. And now, let’s say it together kye-peer-EEN-yah. And by the way, it’s e-LAY-nuh.

1 barspoon superfine sugar (1 teaspoon; 4g)
10 fresh pomegranate seeds
1/2 lime, quartered
1/2 ounce pomegranate juice (1 tablespoon; 15mL)
2 ounces cachaça, such as Leblon (4 tablespoons; 60mL)
3 ounces sparkling wine (6 tablespoons; 90mL)

In the bottom of a mixing glass, add the superfine sugar and pomegranate seeds. Crush the seeds with a muddler to break open. Add lime wedges and muddle 6 times to release their juice. Add pomegranate juice and cachaça and fill glass 2/3 full with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Add sparkling wine to glass, then pour contents, without straining, into a double rocks glass. Add more fresh ice cubes if desired and serve immediately.

Smoked-Rosemary Rum Punch

Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.comRemember when I said I’d never use Snapchat forever and ever? Yeah, about that… Guys, ugh, talk about going down a rabbit hole of watching people make coffee and take bad selfies. And yet, I’m so compelled to WATCH. Actually, right now, I love seeing how people decorate for the holidays, and Snapchat itself has compiled these little videos of people celebrating for the holidays all over Europe. What I think I’m trying to get across here is that I’M SO INTO CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR.

Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.comYes, yes, it might seem like I am getting a bit overexcited about something that happens every year, but for the last few Christmases I just couldn’t be bothered. This Christmas I have forced myself to be in the holiday mood since about November 27th and I plan on keeping it up until at least New Year’s. While I have done my requisite decorating, I have now turned to holiday-izing my food and drinks. For all of you reading this right now, I will just focus on the drinks.

Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.comHoliday Punch. This is almost without a doubt my main cocktail situation for big parties, and especially those of the Christmas kind. You can batch it beforehand and let guests get as tipsy or not as they want and you still get lots of credit for making it (but we all know it’s WAAAAY easier than individually making drinks for 40 people at your party. F that.).

This year I turn, again (and again and again), to rosemary. I don’t need to go into my rosemary situation, but for those of you just joining us here on the site, it’s OUT OF CONTROL. So into another drink it goes. And this time we’re adding a little fire to the mix and giving the rosemary a little smoke to send your guests over-the-edge with excitement as you tell them you hand smoked all that rosemary they’re drinking. You just won the holiday party this year also, FYI.

Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.comThat smoky rosemary is paring up with some winter citrus because we want to make this as holiday as possible. Then throw everyone a curve ball as you sneak in a few Tiki elements with gold rum, orgeat and grated cinnamon. Oh, and also some high proof rum because WHY NOT?! Our base rum is Parce 8-Year, a small-batch Columbian rum that’s aged in whiskey barrels so it has a similar flavor to single malt scotch, and is DELICIOUS.

Now, please don’t be intimidated by the fact we are smoking the rosemary. It’s as simple as turning on a gas burner and throwing the rosemary over it for a minute. Or, seriously, you could use a candle if you just have electric burners. Either way, your house is going to smell amazing come time for that party. And hey, let’s snapchat it to each other while we’re at it.

Yields 16 servings

For the Smoked-Rosemary Citrus Syrup:

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Zest from 2 medium lemons
3 ounces freshly squeezed juice from 2 medium lemons
Zest from 2 small limes
1 ounce freshly squeezed juice from 2 small limes
3 (4-inch) sprigs fresh rosemary

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, water, and lemon and lime zest and juices. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to just under a boil, then remove from heat and cover. Meanwhile, hold rosemary over an open flame using heatproof tongs, turning continually, until it begins to smoke. As soon as it starts to smoke, uncover syrup and place rosemary in saucepan. Cover again and let steep 30 minutes. Strain solids out and reserve syrup for the punch in an airtight container. The syrup will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator, but flavors will be best if used within 2 days.

For the Punch:

24 ounces gold rum, such as Parce 8-Year*
4 ounces orgeat, such as Small Hand Foods orgeat
12 ounces smoked-rosemary citrus syrup
4 ounces overproof rum, such as Smith & Cross
4 ounces water
Cinnamon sticks, for garnish

In a punch bowl, combine gold rum, orgeat, smoked-rosemary citrus syrup, overproof rum, and water. Stir to combine and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight. To serve, add a large ice cube to the punch bowl. Ladle about 3 ounces into a punch glass and grate fresh cinnamon on top. Serve.

 

I originally posted this recipe on Serious Eats.
*This bottle of Parce 8-Year was generously given gratis and appears here because I like drinking it. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails for a crowd or yourself

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comMaybe you guys can help me out here. If a neighbor has a fruit tree, let’s say a pomegranate tree, overburdened with fruit, like so much fruit. And it’s just sitting there out on the sidewalk for anyone to pluck a few as they walk by… Is it OK just to pluck a few? You’re not going in their yard. In fact, they are dropping from the branches looking for an excuse to go home with you.

My neighbors don’t know how lucky they are. My mother-in-law’s pomegranate tree gave us a whopping two fruit. TWO?! The tree is being downright lazy this year. So for this cocktail we’ll just turn to the bottled stuff.

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThank god for bottled pomegranate juice though. I will say that despite this desperation I have of ridding my neighbor’s tree of all their fruit, juicing all those pomegranates is a pain in the ass. And now that it’s officially Fall, and I believe also the start of pomegranate season, it’s time for some transitional cocktails. Because we are still going through our usual high temps in Southern California I just can’t bring myself to make something too Fall-like yet. So today I have a bit of a summery beverage with just a touch of Fall.

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThis recipe yields enough for about 4 cocktails, but you can also single batch this for yourself. I’ve been enjoying these splits of sparkling wine lately for when I want a sparkling cocktail but don’t want to crack open a big bottle.  Because what usually happens is that I make a cocktail and just drink all the rest of the sparkling wine by itself.

Do you like juicing pomegranates? Feel free to sub in fresh for the bottled if you’d like.

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comFor the Pomegranate Reduction:

1 cup 100% pomegranate juice

  • In a small saucepan, bring pomegranate juice to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced to 3 ounces (6 tablespoons), 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container up to 1 month.

For the Cocktails:

3 ounces Pomegranate Reduction
4 ounces Cocchi Rosa
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 to 4 limes
16 ounces sparkling wine
4 orange twists, for garnish

  • In a pitcher, add the pomegranate reduction, Cocchi Rosa, and lime juice. Top with sparkling wine and gently stir to combine. To serve, divide between 4 glasses filled with ice. Express orange oil from twists over each drink, then add twists to each glass to garnish.

To temper the pomegranate syrup’s richness and bring in a bit of brightness, I use a sparkling wine for the base. And to offset the syrup’s sweetness, I mix in Cocchi Rosa, an aromatized wine whose subtle bitterness comes from gentian and cinchona bark. A splash of lime keeps it fresh. An orange twist adds a final layer of aroma and brings out the citrus qualities of the Rosa.

I originally published this recipe on Serious Eats.

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThings I use my grill for:

  1. grilling meat, duh
  2. cooking vegetables
  3. making pizza
  4. grilling up cocktails

Cocktails? Whaaaaa?!

Well, you’re outside on the grill anyways during the summer, might as well put it to some good use in the drink department. And if you’ve been on here before, every summer now I sort through the seasonal (and maybe not so seasonal) fruits and see what happens when you char them up. Like mangoes. And nectarines, limes and cherries. But especially cherries (so much so I made some for Kristin at DineXDesign too). Sometimes though, you run out of fruit to grill, and you unearth something from the depths of your pantry. And then the science experiments start and that’s where you can really have some fun.

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comSo, admittedly, I bought this can before I left my day job which was over a year and a half ago. How long I bought it before I left that job is a total mystery. But every so often I would open my pantry, stick my head in, notice this can of rambutans, squint at it like it’s going to tell me what to do with it, and then leave it there for another day. That is, until a few days ago.Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I had promised to make a pitcher of cocktails for some friends coming over but in my usual fashion of late, left it to the night before. And because the fruit from the farmer’s market has been so good lately, I had eaten all of it. With a sad, empty fruit bowl staring at me, wagging its imaginary banana finger, I suddenly realized now might be a good time to crack open those rambutans (which, for the record, I can’t help but sing as “bam-a-lam” from that Black Betty song).

I tasted one, a little crunchy with a sweet-tart taste similar to a grape; it could only get better with some grill time. And it did. The richer flavors that developed turned out to be a just the ingredient to pair with some tequila, grapefruit and lime juice. And smoked salt. Always with the smoked salt.

Grilled Rambutan Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIf you’re not in possession of a grill, no worries! You can make this on a grill pan or under the broiler too.

Makes 4 cocktails
12 rambutans, peeled and seed removed if fresh (canned rambutans come ready to eat and are available online here)
6 ounces blanco tequila
2 ounces fresh juice from 1 white grapefruit
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 limes
1 ounce simple syrup
Smoked sea salt and lime juice for rimming

  1. If using the grill: Soak 3 wooden skewers in water for at least 1 hour. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Alternatively, set half the burners on a gas grill to the highest heat setting, cover, and preheat for 10 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place 4 rambutans on each skewer, and grill over high heat until char lines appear and fruit has softened slightly but still holds its shape, about 1 minute per side. Let cool and remove from skewers until ready to use.
  2. If using the broiler: Adjust rack to 4 inches below broiler element and preheat broiler to high. Place rambutans on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Broil until softened and lightly charred in spots, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes total. Let cool and remove from skewers.
  3. In the bottom of a small pitcher, muddle the rambutans to release juices and break up the fruit. Add tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup. Cover and chill for at least an hour up to overnight.
  4. To serve, add lime juice to a saucer and smoked salt to another. Dip the side of 4 rocks glasses in lime juice and then gently roll the outside edge in smoked salt. Add ice to each glass and strain the cocktail, dividing equally among the glasses.

The slightly nutty flavors pair wonderfully with tequila, while fresh lime and grapefruit juice highlight the floral and tart elements of the rambutan. A touch of simple syrup is not enough to make the whole concoction sweet; instead, it helps round out the flavor and brighten the mix.

***This recipe originally was written for Serious Eats.

Gunpowder Gin Punch

Gunpowder Gin Punch Cocktail // stirandstrain.comHappy Friday everyone!

I hope you’re enjoying this week’s posts on the site. Have you entered to win some summer reading? You can do that here if you’d like.

Have the fireworks died down in your neck of the woods? Where I live in Los Angeles, fireworks started popping off around mid-June… and they’re still going off almost a week after the 4th. After moving out here over 13 years ago the surprise has worn off and I’ve just accepted this as a natural part of summer out here. At all times of day. Like 10am (why even bother?!). Gunpowder Gin Punch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Since the weekend is just about here, I’d like to offer up a punch for you to bring to your next summer party. I’m sure you have a few on your calendar coming up, and maybe a few penciled in for tomorrow. While it may not produce multi-colored fireworks, it does have gunpowder! Well, gunpowder tea, which isn’t an actual explosive but sounds pretty darn close. (Apparently it gets its name from the way the tea is rolled… like the little pellets used in the old days)Gunpowder Gin Punch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

At its base, there’s an oleo-saccharum (your fancy term for muddled citrus peels and sugar) and with the tea, it’s kinda like a boozy, refreshing Arnold Palmer. The kicker here is the addition of celery bitters (!!!). So the result is a sweet and savory punch that has unexpected flavors but it definitely a crowd pleaser.

Plus, people will be intrigued just by you saying ‘gunpowder’ in the title.  But maybe sneak in a few sparklers one last time this weekend for good measure as well.

For the Oleo-Saccharum:

2 lemons
1 lime
4 ounces granulated sugar

Peel zest from lemons and lime, trying to remove as little white pith as possible. Reserve peeled fruit for another use. Toss the peels with the sugar in a nonreactive bowl. Muddle gently until peels begin to express their oils, and let sit 6 hours or up to overnight, covered. Strain peels from the mixture, set liquid aside.

For the Gunpowder Tea:

3 teabags gunpowder green tea
16 ounces boiling water

Pour boiling water over tea in a heat-proof container. Let steep 4 minutes. Strain and set brewed tea aside. Let cool to room temperature before using.

For the Punch:

8 ounces gin, such as Aviation
16 ounces Gunpowder Tea at room temperature
8 dashes celery bitters, such as Scrappy’s
Lemon wheels and celery stalks for garnish

In a pitcher or punch bowl, combine gin, tea, bitters, and oleo-saccharum. Stir to combine and let sit for at least an hour at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator. To serve, add ice to rocks glasses, pour in the punch and add a lemon wheel and celery stalk for garnish.
This recipe originally written for Serious eats. 

Fun in Jalisco!

Fun In Jalisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Blue Nectar Tequila. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Right now I’m in the middle of a frozen drink-a-thon session. I fear for the life of my blender’s motor. Everything is getting thrown in there, all with a good helping of booze. As our big summer holiday draws upon us, I thought I’d get a little technicolor creative this year and bust out my red, white, and blue drink ingredients. The liquor of choice today: Blue Nectar Tequila.Fun In Jalisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

When it comes to blue drinks, I usually head straight to the Tiki classic Blue Hawaii, I mean, obviously if you’re been following my Instagram account. But today I wanted to revamp that classic with a little South of the Border pizzazz. Maybe… a little Fun in Acapulco? (OK, OK, I’ll stop with the Elvis movie references).

Fun In Jalisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

 

You could just enjoy the tequila on its own, but today I decided to use it as the base for the cocktail. Blue Nectar Tequila’s Silver has an earthy, slightly spicy, honeyed flavor profile that is a perfect mate for fresh, zingy pineapple juice. It’s triple distilled so the flavor is not overly aggressive and works really well in cocktails. Paired with a nice splash of freshly squeezed lime juice and a touch of blue curaçao, this is definitely miles above the original. (The Blue Nectar is not actually blue, so you’ll need a little help for the blue color from the curaçao. The “blue” refers to the blue agave that is used to craft the tequila.) For a little patriotic flair, frozen watermelon gets blended in for a sweet, fresh layer of flavor. And it’s up to you: layer it between the blue, or just blend it in with the whole batch. It’s a holiday weekend; don’t sweat the small stuff.Fun In Jalisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Now, while adding ice to blend will usually either 1. water your drink down or 2. dull the flavors, here we’re adding just enough to flash blend it and get it icy while keeping the flavors fresh and bold.

Fun In Jalisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

While this drink can hold its own, I couldn’t resist crowing the whole affair with a salted coconut foam. Think of it as the white caps crashing on waves, or a soft cloud in the deep blue sky, or the white smoke smoldering on the lawn after you accidentally set your grass on fire trying to ignite a couple of Roman Candles. Regardless, it’s a light way to add the cream to your drink, and the salt keeps the whole cocktail from being too sweet, which I truly appreciate on a hot day.

Fun In Jalisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIf you’re in a place where fireworks are legal, by all means, bring out the sparklers, but, if you’re in a state like California, where the pyrotechnics are left up to the professionals, then a dash of edible gold stars is good enough for a sparkling garnish.

Happy 4th guys!

For more information on Blue Nectar Tequila, please check out their website here!

Makes 2 drinks

For the salted coconut foam:

7 ounces coconut milk
2-1/2 ounces egg whites
2 ounces simple syrup
2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • Add all ingredients to a whipped cream canister. Close the canister, shake hard, charge it with a whipped cream charger, shake, charge with a second canister and refrigerate at least one hour until ready to use. Will keep fresh for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Fun in Jalisco Cocktail:

1 cup watermelon cubes, frozen
4 ounces Blue Nectar Silver Tequila
6 ounces pineapple juice
2 ounces lime juice
1 ounce blue curaçao
1-1/2 cups ice cubes
edible gold stars

  • In a blender, first blend watermelon cubes until even consistency (make sure cubes are small, if the cubes freeze up in the blender, add 1 teaspoon of hot water to the blender). Pour into a separate container and set aside. Next, combine Blue Nectar Silver Tequila, pineapple juice, lime juice, blue curaçao and ice in the blender. Blend for 15 seconds until even consistency. To serve the drink, in a tall glass pour in the tequila mixture until about halfway up. Pour in a layer of the watermelon puree (about half the puree), and then top with additional blue mixture. Add salted coconut foam on top and sprinkle with gold stars.

The drink is quite refreshing with a nice blend of sweet, tart and spicy from the tequila. The salted coconut can be gently mixed in for added creaminess or left atop the cocktail for between sips.

Five-Spice Bourbon Punch

5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.comCurrently I am sitting in a nicely air-conditioned room while outside is reaching temperatures of 117°F today. My birthday was this past week and I’ve decided that I’d like to spend all of my 30-year birthdays drifting around in a pool, drink in hand (or in an inflatable cup holder,what’s wrong with that?) while spending a few days in Palm Springs. For most of my 20-year birthdays, I somehow coordinated almost all of them to happen at bowling alleys and I’m a person who likes traditions so if I could somehow work it out that all of my 40’s are spent in castles in Europe I’d very much like that.

5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.comBut I’m not in the pool today. It’s too hot. While it might seem that the best way to counteract the scorching heat would be to live in the pool, I find that when temps creep almost to 120°F, the water ceases to be refreshing. The water, too, is hot.

5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.comSo the backup plan is to escape to the air-conditioned comfort of the house, draw the shades, and make myself a beverage to cool off with. Sweet, icy drinks are no good when it’s this hot out. Anything with a high sugar content right now makes me cranky and gives me a headache, and that’s the last thing you want when you have guests that are around trying to celebrate you. (Cake, by the way, does not count in this category.) So instead I batched up a savory, spicy syrup (because spicy is actually good for you when it’s hot out. Look at Indian food.) and mixed it up with some bourbon for a refreshing punch. Spicy bourbon punch is refreshing? Read about that argument here on Serious Eats when I just recently batched this drink up.

For now, I’ll park myself next to a large window, occasionally glance outside and remind myself it’s too hot to breathe and enjoy my cocktails in air-conditioned comfort. Happy weekend folks (and Happy Father’s Day to all you Dad’s out there)!5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.com

For the Five-Spice Syrup:

1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 whole star anise pod
1 (6-inch) cinnamon stick or 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

  • Toast Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, and fennel in a dry medium skillet over medium heat, tossing and stirring frequently until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cinnamon stick, sugar, and water and place over medium high heat. Cook, stirring, until just starting to boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let rest for 2 hours. Strain into an airtight container. Five-spice syrup will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

For 4 Cocktails:

6 ounces bourbon, such as 4 Roses Yellow Label
3 ounces Five-Spice Syrup (see above)
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 to 3 limes
8 ounces club soda
Lime wedges for garnish

  • In a pitcher, combine bourbon, 3 ounces Five-spice syrup, and lime juice. Stir well. Add club soda and stir gently. To serve, fill rocks glasses with ice, pour in 4-3/4 ounces of the cocktail and top with lime wedges.

The sweet, savory, and pungent flavors of the Five Spice Syrup are an excellent pair to the rich, slightly sweet bourbon. And when you add in the lime juice and club soda, the whole cocktail gets loosened up a bit and really is quite refreshing.