Adding Aroma to Cocktails: California Coastal Tincture

Adding Aroma to Cocktails: California Coast Tincture with Everclear // stirandstrain.com

This post was made in partnership with Everclear. Recipe and ideas are my own.

Hi, my name is Elana and I’m that weirdo at Target standing in the hand soap aisle smelling every bottle trying to determine which scent comes home with me. Scent is a powerful determining factor of what gets used in my home. If a dish soap, or hand lotion, or candle has a scent that doesn’t jive with what I consider olfactory perfection, out it goes. Aroma with cocktails is also a similar experience.

Adding Aroma to Cocktails: California Coast Tincture with Everclear // stirandstrain.comCertain scents may sound strange when referencing a drink, but think about how we throw around terroir with wine (and now, there’s lots of spirits doing that as well). You may like a drink because it reminds you of cut grass from your childhood, or bell peppers, or–and this is a favorite of mine–hot tar. Many times, the aroma of a drink will keep me going back again and again. So I thought I’d try capturing a smell from one of my favorite places, the Central Coast of California, and putting it into a drink.

Today we’ve teamed up with Everclear to recreate the aroma of the California coast in a tincture: fresh green rosemary, wafts of woodsmoke, and a spray of salt air. Everclear has a neutral base and with the higher ABV it also helps to preserve the infusion with no added flavors.

Adding Aroma to Cocktails: California Coast Tincture with Everclear // stirandstrain.comTinctures are easy ways to get new layers of flavor and aroma into your cocktails without changing the amount of liquid already present. They also will not alter the ABV of your drink in any considerable way. You only need a few drops or a spray or two and your drink is transformed. All you really need is a few ingredients, a bottle of Everclear, and some time.

Adding Aroma to Cocktails: California Coast Tincture with Everclear // stirandstrain.comSo, let’s make this tincture and then I’ll give you a few quick and simple ways to use it once it’s done! Who knows, maybe this will inspire you to create your own tincture from your favorite place, or, err, hand soap.

Note: I find having some refillable spray bottles and droppers around helpful to bottle my tinctures, but these are totally not necessary. As long as you have an airtight, non-reactive container you should be fine (that glass canning jar your bone broth came in? Give that guy a wash and use that for storage!).

Adding Aroma to Cocktails: California Coast Tincture with Everclear // stirandstrain.comCalifornia Coastal Tincture

2 ounces kosher salt
2 ounces water
10 ounce Everclear
2 tablespoons lapsang souchong tea
4 sprigs rosemary, cleaned

  • In a small saucepan over high heat, combine water and salt and whisk vigorously to dissolve (it’s fine if not all the salt dissolves). Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In an airtight container with well fitting lid, combine Everclear, lapsang souchong tea, rosemary sprigs and salt mixture. Seal container and shake well to combine. Set aside in a cool, dark place for 5 days, giving the container a shake every day or so.
  • After 5 days remove the rosemary sprigs and taste the mixture for smokiness. If you want your tincture to go even smokier, leave the tea in for another 3 days, tasting until you reach your desired level.
  • When desired aroma/flavor is reached, strain the contents through a coffee filter into a clean, airtight container. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

How do I use this tincture?

  • My absolute favorite way to enjoy this tincture is a few drops in a Martini using a 1:1 London dry gin to vermouth. The aroma pops and makes the drink much more complex.
  • You can mist this over a citrusy Old Fashioned. The rosemary pairs really well with citrus flavors.
  • Add a few drops to a Cachaça Sour for an earthy, tangy mix.

To learn more about Everclear and their Make It Your Own Campaign, click here!

Make It: Fennel Liqueur

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.com

This post was made in partnership with Everclear. Recipe and ideas are my own.

For years, whenever I ate out at an Indian Restaurant, I somehow overlooked the self serve bowl of seedy bits by the cash registers. Maybe I did notice, but not having a clue as to what it was (or thinking to even ask), it fell off my radar. And then I met my husband, who is half Indian, and going out to Indian restaurants with his mom became a whole new experience. Besides getting stuff not on the menu, or having food cooked a particular way (hello extra spicy!), I began to notice the unspoken ritual at the end of the meal. A small spoonful of those seedy bits, poured into a palm, and eaten, or rather, crunched on.

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.comThose seedy bits were usually fennel seeds, plain, sometimes with brightly sugar coated seeds, other times a mix of those and aniseed. Each restaurant had its own mix. It was not usually presented to the diner. It would sit quietly at the register, or sometimes at the end of a buffet. It was a ritual that didn’t need to be spoken of, one just consumed it. I learned it was to help digestion, fennel seed naturally helping in that department, with the potential to cleanse one’s breath after a meal.

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.comSo I began to try a spoonful after a big meal (a little too much that first time), and I think it did help digest the meal a little quicker, and easier, than if I hadn’t eaten any. And today I thought I’d turn towards making a liquid version of this helpful digestif: Fennel Liqueur.

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.comMaking this liqueur is easy, but takes some time. I’ve made a smaller batch to cut down on the steeping time, and also because I make a lot of infusions and don’t need so many full size bottles. I’d imagine if you’re trying this out for yourself you’d like to keep the sample down to a manageable size as well.

For the base liquor I’m turning to Everclear, one of my favorites for infusions and when I’ll be cutting the strength of the ABV down. Everclear has a clean, neutral taste so there aren’t any surprise flavors when I’m making an infusion. With the higher ABV, it also means that after cutting the infused liquid I will not end up with a watered down liqueur.

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.comThe liqueur is just sweet enough, as the fennel itself has its own sort of sweetness along with that slightly numbing anise flavor. The aroma is exactly as you’d expect: strongly fennel. After a few sips I do feel like it’s helping move the meal along, as a proper digestif should.

Here are a few ways to use the liqueur:

  • over ice with a squeeze of lemon
  • with a splash of dry orange curaçao and tonic water
  • neat, in a tiny glass, pinky up

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.comFennel Liqueur

~72 proof
*Note: if you’d like to make a larger batch, adjust sugar as needed to your tastes. 

1/2 cup fennel seeds, lightly crushed
16 ounces Everclear
16 ounces water, filtered
10 ounces granulated sugar

  • In a sterile, air-tight glass jar, combine fennel seeds and Everclear. Seal, shake to combine, and let sit, giving a shake every day or so, for 2 weeks.
  • After 2 weeks, taste and if the fennel flavor is strong enough for your taste, strain the seeds out through a fine mesh strainer, reserving fennel infused Everclear. Discard seeds. Set liquid aside.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water. Stir to dissolve sugar. Once dissolved, remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  • Once cool, combine fennel infused Everclear with the simple syrup in a new airtight container. Store in a cool, dark place. For optimal flavor, use within 6 months.

Make It: Fennel Liqueur // stirandstrain.com

Late Summer Entertaining: Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad and a Picnic Giveaway!

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.com

This post is brought to you by Beaujolais Wines, Regnié, Franck Cinquin, Domaine des Braves, 2014. Recipes and ideas are my own.

As we’re wrapping up Summer and starting to think about Fall, this is the time of year I start to stockpile my end of season summer fruits and veggies. And per usual, I overdo it with the produce.

For our end of summer entertaining post I thought I’d crack open a bottle of Beaujolais and show you this simple but flavorful dish you could serve up while we squeeze in the last few summer parties of the season (check the end of the post for our giveaway if you’re in need of some picnic swag!). Sometimes the perfect late summer get togethers can be as simple that: wine and a beautiful salad that showcases the bounty of the transitioning seasons.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comBut this is a spirits site, why are we talking salads?? Well, because we’ll be using that wine you’ll be serving your guests as an ingredient too! The star of the salad is the pickled stone fruit: nectarines, plums and cherries. These pickled stone fruit take a 3 day dip in a sweet and sour bath laced with wine and come out the other end transformed into some crazy delicious bites. I love it when I can incorporate elements from both the drinks and the food together for dishes.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comIn addition to this yummy salad, we’re also taking wine today. If we want to keep our get togethers simple and laid back, we also need a laid back wine. Enter Beaujolais; more specifically Régnié.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comRégnié (pronounced like rein-yay) is the ultimate outdoor entertaining wine. It’s food friendly and pretty much pairs with all those foods you’d want to eat at your outdoor fête. Charcuterie plate? Yes. Spinach salad? Yes. All the cheeses?!?!? Yes yes yes! That’s why we’re pairing this medium-bodied red Beaujolais (did you know Beaujolais comes in red, white AND rosé?) with our salad; the slightly spicy berry, tart and dry wine compliments the pungent, sweet and sour flavors of the pickled stone fruits as well as the salty goodness of the charcuterie and cheese perfectly.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comThe idea of this salad came about because, well…I’m not really a cracker person. Shocker, what?! Is that a thing?? I’m usually the odd one just eating cheese and meat slices off a fork; I just don’t want all the filler. My husband however is a water cracker connoisseur and is baffled by this approach to eating a cheese and charcuterie board. I thought that if I want to eat my meat and cheese and all the components of a well-dressed spread in a more substantial manner, I can put them all in a salad. The added bonus is the wine in the pickled stone fruits which punches their taste way up, and the resulting brine is an amazing substitute to plain old vinegar in the dressing for the salad.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comAre you guys ready to throw one last summer party now?

Here are some tips for serving your wine, party style:
  • Beaujolais is a pocket friendly wine, so stock up for the party
  • serve Régnié at slightly cooler than room temp but never totally chilled (and it’s fine if you forget and leave it at room temp too!)
  • don’t be afraid to pair this wine with “picnic” foods: fried chicken, crab dip, pâtés…
  • serve it all day long: Beaujolais is easy to drink from apps to dessert and everything in between

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.comWine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad

1-1/2 cup of pickled stone fruits plus 2 tablespoons of brine, reserved (recipes follow)
4 ounces sliced prosciutto and salami
1/4 cup sliced cornichons
1/4 cup sliced olives
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
4 cups mixed greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper
basil, chives, parsley, basil flowers for garnish
toasted baguette slices, optional

Start by mixing together brine, olive oil and salt and pepper to make a dressing. Build your salad by placing greens on a large plate and top with stone fruits, charcuterie, cornichons, olives, and cheese. Toss to combine and top with fresh herbs. Optionally serve toasted baguette slices to mop up any juices left over on your plate.

Pickled stone fruit

4 large stone fruits (mix of nectarine, plums and/or peaches), sliced into 1/2″ slices
1-1/2 cups white vinegar
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper, whole
1 teaspoon coriander, whole
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 ounce Régnié Beaujolais wine

In a medium sized non-reactive saucepan, pour in white vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Heat over medium-high heat until sugar has dissolved. Stir in chili flakes, black pepper, coriander, star anise and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Place the stone fruit slices in a large glass container and pour the hot liquid over the fruit and stir in wine. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and then cover and refrigerate. Let the mixture sit for three days for best taste. Keeps up to two weeks.

*Sweet and pungent with a nice lingering heat from the small addition of chili flakes.

Pickled cherries

adapted from Whole Foods

1-1/2 cups cherries, pitted
1-1/2 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
3 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon coriander
4 green cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 ounce Régnié Beaujolais wine

In a medium sized non-reactive saucepan, add in water, sugar, cloves, cinnamon stick, coriander, cardamom pods, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar and wine. In a medium sized glass container, place cherries at the bottom and pour hot mixture over them. Let cherry mixture cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for three days for best flavor. Keeps up to two weeks.

Régnié Beaujolais and Wine-Pickled Stone Fruit and Charcuterie Board Salad // stirandstrain.com

*Sweet, sour and spicy!

Up Your Beaujolais Game! from Honest Cooking on Vimeo.

You’ve got your wine, you’ve got a tasty salad, and now you guys need some picnic swag! Enter below for a chance to win a Wine Picnic Bag for 4 valued at $119! (Giveaway ends 10/15/17)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more information on Régnié and all theBeaujolais wines, please visit DiscoverBeaujolais.com today!



Crustafied whiskey - orange curaçao - lemon - angostura - notes on moving on from craft cocktails

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comAre you going to Tales this year? Can we meet at Tales? I’m reaching out to you about meeting up at TOTC… Sorry guys, I did not attend Tales of the Cocktail this year. I really don’t know when I’ll make that happen, if ever. However, I was able to bypass the crowds and the sweltering, miserable 105° heat with god-knows-how-high humidity and just look at everyone’s Instagram and Twitter and quite frankly that was great and totally enough, thanks.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comLately though it’s been hard to muster up the interest to pretend everything is OK and go eventing and snap some ‘grams. Instead I’ve been compulsively scrolling through the news with an ever increasing knot in my stomach wondering what the hell is going on in the world. It makes all this social media and even this website seem, well…¯\_(ツ)_/¯

But I’ll save those thoughts and actions for offline, where I can actively do things and not just type type type on here. Anyways, to say the least, I’ve been pretty uninspired with drinks lately. I recently read on article on the End of the Craft Cocktail Movement, and while I initially wanted to get cocky and yell in an obnoxious manner no it’s not, I had to give the author a nod for touching on some truths. The truth being that, yeah, you can get a good cocktail practically anywhere and we as cocktail drinkers have come to expect that now. It’s not novel to be craft and to use fresh ingredients and make your own bitters and muddle in some cucumber. We ALL know how to do that and that’s a good thing. The scary part for people like myself is how do we move on from there.

When I was perusing the images from TOTC, one of the most intriguing things I saw was on Craft & Cocktails’ twitter. It was 4 images of weird stuff with the caption that they were “all cocktails”. You can see that post here and read my comments on it below. To sum up, I was most into the weirdest, the most wrong, the most confusing cocktail of the bunch that was a glass with what looked like dentures sitting in it.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comSpectacle. We’re now moving onto spectacle. When we all expect what’s in the glass to taste great, you’re going to need a 3 ring circus to bring the audience in, at least when we’re talking about here in the blog/social media world. There has been a trend with the younger, newer drinking age audience to stop making drinks at home and to cease entertaining. Their eyeballs are glued onto their phones looking for the next great cat bar, not to necessarily go there, but to “like” the idea of it and quickly move on to the next strange idea.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comThis is a weird spot to be in when you’ve been happily plugging along on your website, coming up in the (second? third?) craft cocktail movement and sharing a love of home bartending. The newer audience will not be home bartenders, and the audience you’ve been talking to is going to start getting home bartending fatigue. Even I see that in myself. I’ve stopped reading a lot of sites, even ones I’ve loved, and stopped browsing through a good chunk of the social media sites, and instead started reading more actual books again. I chuckle at the newest hashtag of #readafuckingbook and am actively giving my brain a break from the nonsense and just the relentless tragedy that coexist in the same feeds.

And so, here’s a little spectacle, wrapped around a good drink. The good folks at Copper & Kings just released an orange Curaçao that is pretty darn great and I added that into my variation here on a Brandy Crusta. First, I swapped some California rye whiskey in for the brandy and then instead of the sugar crusted rim and lemon peel, I made some lemon zest infused sugar and spun that around the glass. The sugar looked like amber when it hardened, and it made me happy to look at it. Like a little artwork on my glass.

Crustafied, a rye whiskey variation on the Brandy Crusta // stirandstrain.comI hope you all find a little something that makes you happy this week.

Crustafied!

2 ounces whiskey, Spirit Works Straight Rye Whiskey used here*
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce orange curaçao, Copper & Kings intense orange curaçao used here*
1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
Dash Angostura bitters
lemon-sugar garnish (recipe follows)

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, pour in the whiskey, lemon juice, orange curaçao, maraschino liqueur and Angostura. Stir to chill 20 seconds and strain into lemon-sugar crusted glass.

Lemon Infused Spun Sugar Garnish

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and lemon zest, stir to combine. When sugar starts to melt, stir constantly until sugar reaches a golden-brown color. Remove from heat immediately and continue to stir. As the sugar mixtures begins to cool, the liquid will thicken. Sugar is ready when a wooden spoon is dipped in and sugar pours off in a ribbon. Dip a coupe glass into the sugar and slowly pull out, twisting the sugar as you remove the glass. Hold upside down for about 30 seconds and then stand up to finish cooling. Set aside until ready to use.

The Toasty Russian vodka - coffee liqueur - homemade toasted coconut milk

The Toasty Russian Cocktail with homemade toasted coconut milk // stirandstrain.comYesterday on Instagram a gave a little hint as to what I’ve been working on lately… THE FUTURE OF COCKTAILS is alternative milks?!

Well, in the short-term it is for me anyways.

A few months back I had to cut out dairy, soy, eggs, red meat and shellfish for medical reasons. Not for some crazy diet! It doesn’t cut into the cocktail making that much, but there are a few drinks that I’ve had to shelve because of these restrictions. Eggs are an easy one to cut out since I’ve covered so many alternatives for them on the site. Dairy though can get tricky, it imparts a particular taste and mouthfeel that can be hard to replicate. With that in mind, there’s just going to be some drinks I can’t have right now. But this also opens up a new door of twists I can make instead.

The Toasty Russian Cocktail with homemade toasted coconut milk // stirandstrain.comToday’s drink is a pretty basic recipe riff on a White Russian. Except… with homemade toasted coconut milk. WHAAAAA?!

Sure, you could add coconut cream or regular coconut milk in here, but the toasty quality of this is OH SO delicious and really stands out in the drink when you put it up against the coffee. I got the idea a few months back when I saw Heidi from 101 Cookbooks make this and for whatever reason I immediately thought about subbing it for cream in a White Russian. Fast forward to now and it is so worth the extra steps to make the toasted coconut milk. And it makes enough so you can add it into your coffee all week and maybe eat some cereal with it too.

Now, this coconut milk behaves differently than cream would; it’s not thick and it’s not going to significantly lighten the color of your cocktail. That also means it’s going to give a lighter feel in your mouth and not coat your tongue like cream does. Maybe for some of you this is a plus. That said, it’s definitely worth trying out if you’re looking for an alternative to dairy or just looking to try something new!

The Toasty Russian Cocktail with homemade toasted coconut milk // stirandstrain.comThe Toasty Russian

2 ounces vodka
1 ounce coffee liqueur, St. George Spirits NOLA Coffee Liqueur used here
3/4 to 1 ounce toasted coconut milk (recipe follows)
toasted coconut flakes for garnish, optional

In a rocks glass, build your drink by pouring vodka, coffee liqueur, and toasted coconut milk over ice. Stir to combine. Garnish with some toasted coconut flakes if you’re feeling fancy.

Toasted Coconut Milk

recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1-1/2 cups of shredded coconut
4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup

  1. Heat your oven to 350°F. Toast your coconut on a sheet pan for approximately 10 minutes, stirring half-way through. Set aside to cool.
  2. Once coconut is cooled, combine toasted coconut and water. Let sit for 3 hours.
  3. Pour into a blender and add salt and maple syrup. Blend for 30 second to combine.
  4. Pour mixture into a nut bag placed over a bowl to strain out solids. You may need to skim the top after straining.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Negroni Cocktails: Past, Present & Future

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com

This post is brought to you by Campari. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Your Instagram feed might be turning from #millennialpink to a cheery garnet red next week as we embark on the FIFTH year of Negroni Week!

If you’re not familiar with this wonderful time of year, or have only heard of it in passing, let me loop you guys in. From June 5 through 11 this year, bars, restaurants and vendors from around the world celebrate the Negroni cocktail – an iconic mix of Campari, gin, and sweet red vermouth – to raise money and awareness for great causes. What started as just 100 bars in the US, has now grown into an International event and this year will be bigger than ever.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comWhile you’ll see me out to help the cause next week at a few of my favorite bars (remember to follow us along on Instagram as we’ve planned a few surprises!!) there are other ways you can help a charity out. A portion of proceeds from the sales of nationally-available items such as a Campari-branded red bicycle from PUBLIC, a Negroni-red Baggu tote, and fire red-tinted sunglasses from Sunski, among other items, will be donated to charity. National partner Lyft will also offer coupon codes to new users to help riders safely get around during Negroni Week.

Campari, the star of the cocktail itself, is committed to supporting the trade community’s fundraising efforts as well. This year, Campari is teaming up with both the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild (USBG), as well as SHARE – a nationwide community that offers support to women diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancers – via SHARE’s partnership with Speed Rack, the all-female speed bartending competition benefitting breast cancer research, education and prevention. Multi-city events will be held with both the USBG and SHARE/Speed Rack to raise money for each charitable cause.

I am a staunch believer in volunteer and charity work and grew up in a community that placed a strong emphasis on these values. That’s why I’m participating once again to help spread the word. While going for a drink out may seem almost like a lay up to support a charity, the point is, it supports a charity. Everyone, and every bit (or drink), counts.

Because Negroni Week is also a celebration of the cocktail, I’ve teamed up with Campari to create 3 of my own variations on the cocktail to represent its Past, Present and Future (and have named them such).

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Past (double vanilla Negroni float)

Representing the past, the Negroni: Past Cocktail harkens back to old timey soda fountain shops where ice cream floats were an indulgent treat for everyone. Here we’ve made this an “adult’s only” cocktail with double the vanilla. Vanilla infused gin, Campari, vanilla ice cream and sweet vermouth “sauce” is a refreshing, and super indulgent, treat for the summer. Optionally, if you can get your hands on some acid phosphate you can give your float extra tang just like the OG soda jerks did.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com1-1/2 ounces gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin, infused with vanilla (recipe follows)
1 ounce Campari
2-3 scoops vanilla ice cream
8 ounces sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
optional: 1/2 tsp acid phosphate

  1. Start by reducing the sweet vermouth. To do this, heat sweet vermouth in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it reduces to about 2 ounces. Set aside.
  2. In a pint glass, or soda fountain glass, add 2-3 scoops of vanilla ice cream. Then, in a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice, add in vanilla infused gin and Campari (and acid phosphate if using). Stir to chill about 20 seconds. Strain mixture over the ice cream.
  3. Garnish your adult float with the sweet vermouth “sauce”.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comVanilla Infused Gin

8 ounces gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin
3 to 4 vanilla beans

  1. Chop vanilla beans into 1″ pieces. Add vanilla pieces and gin into an airtight container and seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for 3 to 4 days.
  2. Strain the mixture into a new container when desired taste has been reached.
  3. Vanilla infused gin will keep at optimal taste up to 6 months.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Present

Just because the original Negroni cocktail uses gin, does not mean that today’s has to. One of the biggest trends of the current cocktail era is to take a classic drink and swap out the main spirit. Mezcal has exploded onto the bar scene and you can find it popping up in most bar’s menus. And with good reason, it’s delicious. For this cocktail, we swap out the gin with mezcal, keep our friends Campari and sweet vermouth, and add a touch of green bell pepper syrup to highlight the vegetal nuances of the mezcal.

1 ounce mezcal
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
1 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce green bell pepper syrup (recipe follows)
large strip of orange zest for garnish

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add in mezcal, sweet vermouth, Campari and bell pepper syrup. Stir for 20 seconds to chill and then strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with orange zest.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comGreen Bell Pepper Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 green bell pepper, chopped

  1. In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, add to the pan the sugar and water. Stir to dissolve and add in green bell pepper. Stir and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and cover.
  2. Let sit one hour, remove bell peppers, and let syrup finish cooling to room temperature.
  3. Store syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Future

When you think of the future of cocktails, do you picture some mad scientists conducting experiments in a lab? I do. With the future in mind, I’m highlighting the sharp bitterness of the Negroni with gentian smoke for a take on the smoked cocktail. This cocktail requires a blow torch, so you know it’s fun.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com1 tablespoon dried gentian root
1 ounce gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
3/4 ounce Campari
dehydrated orange slice for garnish

  1. Start by moving to a well ventilated room. Place gentian root in a shallow, heat proof dish (I also like mini disposable pie plates!). Get a kitchen torch or long fireplace lighter ready.
  2. Next, fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice. Pour in gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. Stir to chill 20 seconds.
  3. Immediately begin smoking the gentian root by holding a flame to it until starts to smoke. As soon as it begins to smoke, place a glass upside down over the smoke to “catch” the smoke. When the glass is filled, slide a postcard or piece of cardstock over the hole to keep the smoke in.
  4. Turn the glass right side up, keeping the hole covered. When ready to serve, remove the card and strain the mixed cocktail into the smoke. Garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com

For more information on Negroni Week, and for a list of bars participating, visit negroniweek.com and follow @CampariUS and @Imbibe on Facebook, @CampariUSA and @Imbibe on Instagram, @Campari and @Imbibe on Twitter, and engaging with the #NegroniWeek hashtag.

Desert Rosé Punch

I was compensated by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas for my time in developing this recipe and post. All opinions are my own.

This past week, Instagram was filled, filled, with weddings. It’s like half the internet decided this was the most auspicious week of their lives and if they were ever going to get married they might as well do it now. And I’m in no way hating on these people, in fact, I loved looking over how different they all were from each other; I’m a total sucker for weddings.

All of this celebrating tuned me in to the fact that we are about to hit summer party season. Already. One would say you can’t tell by the weather here in Southern California, but those of us in the know, know, that summer season starts about as gray and gloomy as they get before the awful heat kicks in.

So today we’ve got a fun punch you can throw together for a wedding or a graduation party or “hey look I’ve got a stoop we can sit on for a few hours let’s make a punch and call it a party” party. You’ll find a reason guys to make this punch. It’s also a lovely pink-hued punch for our SoCal June gloom, but it will work for sunny days too. Let’s just all agree not to call it a millennial pink punch. Ok? It was inspired by Turkish cuisine with pomegranates, pistachio and orange blossom water, otherwise known as “Essential Oil of Neroli”.

I’ll tell you upfront, it’s gin based, and I can already hear some of my pals whining about how they don’t drink gin. But trust me! It layers nicely in here and if you use a London dry, like I tell you to, then it won’t be an overpoweringly “gin” punch. Pairing it with a rich pomegranate reduction give a sharp sweetness with a nutty layer from some pistachio orgeat. The whole punch gets tied together with the amazing scent of Nielsen-Massey’s Orange Blossom Water.

There is a tiny amount of the orange blossom water in the pistachio orgeat, but adding in the aroma directly to the punch makes for a more prominent aroma. Also, if you opt not to make the orgeat then this guarantees that you’re still getting lots of orange blossom with every sip.

I’ve been using the Nielsen-Massey vanillas for over a decade now and have started using their extracts in cocktails these past few years. All Nielsen-Massey products are all-natural, certified gluten-free, certified Kosher, allergen-free and GMO-Free, and there is an expanding line of certified organic products (right up our alley!). Their orange blossom water is my go-to for my obsession with almond-alternative orgeats as well.

Are you ready to start your summer punch party? Let’s get mixing.

Desert Rosé Punch

Serves 5-7 guests

7-1/2 ounces London dry style gin, such as Beefeater
1-1/2 ounces pistachio orgeat (recipe here, or sub in orgeat of choice)
2-1/2 ounces pomegranate reduction (recipe follows)
2-1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
1-1/2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water, or to taste
1 bottle of sparkling rosé wine
orange slices and pomegranate seeds for ice block

  • The day before, freeze together the orange slices and pomegranate seeds with water in a container that will fit your punch bowl.
  • At least an hour before serving, combine the gin, pistachio orgeat, pomegranate reduction, lime juice and Nielsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water into your punch bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • To serve, stir mixture and add ice block to the punch bowl. Top with sparkling rosé wine.

Pomegranate Reduction

1-1/2 cups all natural pomegranate juice

  • In a small saucepan over medium high heat, bring pomegranate juice to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and let sit until juice reduces to a little over a quarter cup.
  • Remove from the heat, let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

For more info on Nielsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water and all their products, check them out at nielsenmassey.com or on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

Make It: Pistachio Orgeat

I need to apologize upfront to the reader who had asked about making this recipe two… three (??) years ago. At this point they’ve probably moved on, but I, however, kept this on my “to make” list and am finally, FINALLY, getting around to posting this. Sorry reader.

This will mark the third variation on orgeat I’ve done on the site (OK, one wasn’t technically mine) and I think this shows how adaptable some of these tried and true cocktail ingredients are. Sometimes plain old orgeat isn’t going to cut it and we need to sub in another kind of nut. Today we’re subbing in pistachios.

Pistachios give a savory, earthiness to the orgeat that you might be familiar with if you eat pistachio ice cream. It’s sweet, but hey, there’s a lot of savoriness in there too. Use this pistachio orgeat to pair with sweet tart flavors like passion fruit or berries.

A few notes on this recipe before you venture forward:

  • If you can find pre-shelled pistachios you will save a lot of time. You might even save yourself some broken fingernails (ugh).
  • Use WHITE sugar if you want to keep your orgeat a pretty avocado green. Yes, I constantly advocate for the use of unprocessed cane sugar, but if you use the unprocessed stuff with this pistachio orgeat, your color is going to turn a murky brown. It will taste fine, but won’t look pretty. Trust me, I know this for a fact.
  • Get yourself a nut bag for straining. Cheesecloth is fine but if you like these kinds of projects then a reusable nut bag will not only catch more of the fine bits while straining, but you get to reuse the bag over and over again. I like this bag, but any bag you prefer will probably be fine.
  • To orange flower water or not to orange flower water? That is the question with orgeats! Most recipes say optional but I say put it in. However, as always, it’s up to you.

Ok, let’s make this!

Yields approximately 2-1/2 cups

2 cups shelled roasted pistachios
2 cups water
2 cups granulated white sugar (see note above)
1 ounce vodka
1 teaspoon orange flower water, such as Nielsen-Massey (see note above)

  1. Place nuts in a bowl and fill with water to just cover them. Soak them for 30 minutes. Drain, place them in a freezer or Lewis bag, and crush them with a meat tenderizer or mallet.
  2. Place the crushed nuts in a large bowl and add the 2 cups of water to it. Let stand for four hours. Strain the nuts and water into another large bowl through a layer of cheesecloth, squeezing the cloth to extract all liquid. Add the nuts back into the strained water and let stand for another hour. This removes the oils from the nuts.
  3. Strain the liquid into a sauce pan and set aside the nuts for another use (I still recommend making chocolate bark with the nuts). Add the sugar to the pan and stir over medium high heat until sugar is dissolved (scrape the bottom occasionally with a spoon to remove any sugar that sticks). Remove from heat and let cool 15 minutes, then add the vodka and orange flower water. Stir and store in a clean glass bottle or air-tight container.

Spiced Gunpowder Guava Cocktail a sweet and savory libation with Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum

This post is brought to you by Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum. Recipes and ideas are my own.

I’ve decided I hate the term “binge watching” television. The term makes it sound like it’s a bad thing to watch a few hours of House Hunters International. And that, folks, is not a bad way to spend a few hours of relaxation time (i.e. kids are asleep).

The couples on that show are fantastic to watch. Either they are attempting to look into the camera and say something positive about this bungalow in the jungle with giant flying bugs because they are fulfilling some dumb dream when they spent two weeks there in college and now are realizing how difficult it will be dragging their whole family there… OR their significant other is making them get a second house and they are just seething on the inside while obviously trying not to look angry for a national audience. But we can tell!

At the end of the island episodes, the couple is always cheers-ing with some fantastic looking cocktails and they somehow look content with their decision to be the crazy Americans on that island. If they were in Puerto Rico, by the way, they probably were sipping on a cocktail made with Don Q rum.

Today’s recipe is in partnership with Don Q Rums and we’re featuring their newest rum offering the Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum. Don Q Rum has only been in the States a little over a decade, but has been a popular choice in Puerto Rico for 150 years, making it their #1 rum. This spiced rum packs a punch of flavor with vanilla and pepper and just enough sweetness for my palate. While you can definitely sip this rum, it’s also a great mixing rum to make unquestionably delicious cocktails. So that’s what we’re doing with it now!

With such strong flavors to start with in the rum, I decided to use some equally strong flavors to compliment that spiciness. When you think powerful, do you think about gunpowder? In cocktails?! I do, but this version of gunpowder comes in the form of tea. Gunpowder green tea to be exact. Teas are great options for giving subtle (and sometimes not so subtle. Hello lapsang souchong tea!) flavor to cocktails. I steeped this savory, smoky tea in a simple syrup to lend a savory note to the drink and to balance the sweetness of the other components. Thinking of Puerto Rico, I opted to add some guava nectar for tropical sweetness and a big squeeze of lime finished with a touch of orange curaçao. The drink starts sweet, but ends with a lingering earthiness. To give it a finishing kick, the glass is rimmed in a mixture of salt and cayenne.

Ok, so now that we have our tropical inspired drinks, we can get back to the tv watching. While these house hunters might make very questionable choices, make sure your cocktail is unquestionably delicious.

Spiced Gunpowder Guava Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum
3/4 ounce guava nectar
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from about 1 lime (reserve lime shell)
1/2 ounce gunpowder green tea syrup (recipe follows)
1/4 ounce orange curaçao
1 teaspoon kosher salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper for garnish

  • First, combine salt and cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl. Using your spent lime, moisten the outside of your cocktail glass by rubbing the rim with the lime. Rim the side of the cocktail glass in the salt and cayenne mixture.
  • Next, in a shaker ⅔ filled with ice, pour in Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum, guava nectar, lime juice, gunpowder green tea syrup, and orange curaçao. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into pre-rimmed cocktail glass.

Gunpowder Green Tea Syrup

Yields approximately 5 ounces
3 bags of gunpowder green tea (or two heaping tablespoons if you have loose tea)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in teabags (or loose tea if using). Steep for 10 minutes. Strain and use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one month.

For more information about Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum and all their exceptional rums, their commitment to sustainability and quality, and for additional drink & garnish ideas and proper glassware tips please visit their website at donq.com.

Spiced Pear Fizz Cocktails

This post is brought to you by Everclear. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Are you browsing sites that are still offering to ship presents before Christmas? I am. I could have sworn I was done a week ago but there keeps popping up a missed gift or two. I’ve had to shoot a text to a few family members letting them know that their present might not make it in time (I wasn’t about to call and admit I forgot); an issue when your entire family lives 3,000 miles away and everything has to be handled by the post office or UPS and it’s obvious when you just plumb forgot.

I also found myself a little sad today that the holiday party season is coming to a close. My quota of warm punches and bottled cocktails was definitely not met. BUT! We still have New Years and I’ve been thinking about the perfect cocktail to serve for that, the last of the year’s parties.

I love the juicy, slightly citrus flavor that pears impart to cocktails and love them even more when they cozy up to some strong baking spices. My signature NYE cocktail will have all that with a touch more citrus bite from fresh lemon juice and a hint of smooth, rich maple to round the whole drink out.

The base of the cocktail uses Everclear to start and I infused that with cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, green cardamom and allspice using my favorite quick infusion method (cream whipper I love you). I keep that separate so that I can tinker with the adjustments to make the final cocktail perfectly spiced; it’s just of the ways I’ve used Everclear this season for cocktails. You can check out the myriad of ways Everclear is transforming craft cocktails as part of their Make It Your Own campaign.

If all these spices seem like a lot to go and buy, remember you can purchase in bulk online for cheap. I like having the option of whole spices at home for using in recipes or infusions, and when I need ground spices, I can make them fresh and keep some small jars on hand. It’s a little extra legwork up front for better tasting infusions and food down the line.

This cocktail also batches up well so, as the spiced Everclear base will make about 8 drinks. Feel free to adjust the recipe below to accommodate the number of guests you’ll be serving. No need to make individual drinks at the party this year; you can plop all this in the pitcher and mingle.

Spiced Pear Fizz Cocktail (~28 proof)

1 ounce spiced Everclear (recipe follows)
1-1/2 ounces pear nectar
1/2 ounce maple syrup
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 -4 ounces soda water, chilled
pear slices for garnish

  • Combine spiced Everclear, pear nectar, maple syrup and lemon juice in a shaker 2/3 filled with ice. Shake about 20 seconds and strain into a champagne flute. Top with chilled soda water and garnish with pear slices.

For the Quick Infused Spiced Everclear:

8 ounces Everclear
2 cinnamon sticks
4-5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
5 dried allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole black pepper
3-4 whole cloves

  • Into a whipping canister (I use the ISI brand canister), add Everclear and spices. Screw on the top and charge with one charger of N2O. Discard charger and let the mixture sit for one minute. Release pressure, open the top and strain Everclear into a clean vessel for storage. Use spiced Everclear immediately or keep sealed in a cool, dark place for up to six months for optimal flavor.