Make It: Irish Coffee Jello Shots Two Ways

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comProcrastination has gotten the better of me this week as we speed, much too fast for my liking, into the 3rd month of the year. March is looking to be the most jam packed month yet this year as I’ve said “yes” to maybe one too many events, my mother is in town, and we celebrate multiple birthdays, St. Patrick’s Day (I am a 1/4 Irish), and Easter. So of course, instead of working on projects, I’ve been covering my ears and eyes going NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH and making batches of brownies and spending copious amounts of time photographing my purse contents.

I did take the time to make you guys a little something special for St. Patrick’s Day though this year. I hope it makes up for those purse photos.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comIt’s like a cocktail, but you eat it: Irish Coffee Jello Shots.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comSo here’s the thing. I enjoy an Irish Coffee from time to time; like, a few sips and then I’m usually done. It’s a lot of hot coffee and I’m usually drinking it late in the evening when a giant hot coffee is not really what I want right then. I’m also usually drinking them at a party or an event and bless their hearts for trying, but the coffee is usually not very good either. To control this situation for myself, and hopefully for you all, let’s get a delicious coffee and miniaturize it with the right amount of booze and not force people to drink giant hot coffees at 8pm.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comI went ahead and created a straight up Irish Coffee version, garnished with the tiniest of lemon peel, and then bastardized it and went crazy adding in chocolate and Fernet Branca because I love chocolate mint anything including my coffee and for this one occasion, with my whiskey. Ooooh, I’m so crazy…

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comThe original version of these has a strong, rich coffee flavor with a hint of whiskey at the finish. The cream is mixed in so you’re not trying to eat a delicate jello shot while whipped cream melts all over your fingers – gross. For the mocha-mint version, you get a lot of Fernet (a little goes a long way!) with a strong mocha finish and a more subtle whiskey punch at the end.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comIrish Coffee Jello Shots (Makes 24, 2/5 ounce shots)

2-1/2 ounces freshly brewed coffee, room temp
1 ounce brown sugar syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 packet of gelatine
2 ounces near boiling water
1/2 ounce heavy cream
2 ounces Irish Whiskey, Bushmills used here
lemon zest for garnish

  1. In a large mixing glass with a spout, pour in coffee and brown sugar syrup. Sprinkle gelatine over the liquid and let it sit for 5 minutes to bloom. Then pour in near boiling water and whisk to combine. Add heavy cream and whiskey and stir. Pour into molds and let sit for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. To remove jello shots from semi-spherical molds, carefully run a small spoon around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. If using square or straight-sided molds, run a butter knife around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. For other shapes or non-flexible molds, dip the bottom of the mold in warm water for 15 seconds, invert mold onto a baking sheet, and gently tap the mold to release the jello shot. Irish Coffee jello shots can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
  3. Garnish with lemon zests and serve!

Mocha-Mint Irish Coffee Jello Shots (Makes 24, 2/5 ounce shots)

2-1/2 ounces freshly brewed coffee, room temp
1/2 ounce brown sugar syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 packet of gelatine
1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 ounces near boiling water
1/2 ounce heavy cream
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
2 ounces Irish Whiskey, Bushmills used here
chocolate shavings for garnish

  1. In a large mixing glass with a spout, pour in coffee and brown sugar syrup. Sprinkle gelatine over the liquid and let it sit for 5 minutes to bloom. After the gelatine has bloomed, sprinkle cocoa powder over the mixture. Then pour in near boiling water and whisk to combine. Add heavy cream, Fernet Branca and whiskey and stir. Pour into molds and let sit for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. To remove jello shots from semi-spherical molds, carefully run a small spoon around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. If using square or straight-sided molds, run a butter knife around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. For other shapes or non-flexible molds, dip the bottom of the mold in warm water for 15 seconds, invert mold onto a baking sheet, and gently tap the mold to release the jello shot. Irish Coffee jello shots can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
  3. Garnish with chocolate shavings and serve!

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comAre you guys into these? I have a few more ideas up my sleeve I’ll be rolling out over the next few months.

An Amaro Hot Chocolate for Every Taste

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comThe careful observer on here might notice that many, but not all, posts lately have been recipes I’ve developed for Serious Eats. Honestly, when I’m doing lots of R&D for articles, sometimes I find that my energy for more is tapped. Also, it’s the holidays and I’d like a little break.

But not a break from chocolate.

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comFor all of you who find chocolate and booze maybe a bit too much, then wait for next week when I have an all new SUPER savory cocktail. But for this week, I’m making adult hot cocoa and I’m not apologizing. And I’m topping it with Angostura infused whipped cream because WHY NOT? It’s the holidays and I’m holed up at my in-laws and I’m not going to admit how many chocolate covered almonds (milk and dark chocolate) I’ve eaten for the past 4 days.

This hot cocoa is not spiked in your usual way. There’s no bourbon, or spiced rum, or vodka (not sure I’d even recommend that). What it is spiked with is bittersweet amaro. But Elana, there are SO MANY amari out there! You can’t possible imagine that every bottle will work here (is what I imagine ALL of you are saying out loud right now. In unison.)! And yes, not every bottle will work, but most will work with a particular kind of chocolate. You just need to do a little creative legwork to find your right combination.

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comMy favorite combination is Averna and semisweet chocolate. Why Averna? Besides the fact that I’ve accumulated several bottle of the stuff, it’s a good balance between sweet and spicy with a touch of herbal in the finish. Also, it isn’t overly boozy tasting. But that’s just me. If you like the bracing, earthy edge of a dark chocolate, try it with a sweeter amaro like Gran Classico. For the milk chocolate lovers, that sweetness needs some spice or a blast of menthol; try it with Fernet. Semisweet chocolate is the sweet spot in the center, with a nice balance of rich and earthy that works well with most types of amaro. What I’m getting at is: take your favorite bottle of amaro and make this.

Note: you don’t need to spike your entire batch of hot chocolate. Make the base separately and spike at will. That rich, velvety chocolate base is delicious all on its own and perhaps you have some folks staying with you who don’t drink. Don’t deprive them of the magic that is homemade hot cocoa. But maybe insist they add the Angostura whipped cream. Angostura isn’t alcohol after all, it’s like.. medicine. Medicine from the 1800’s.

For the Angostura Whipped Cream:

1 cup (237ml) heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon (15ml) simple syrup (see note above)
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
6 dashes Angostura bitters

Using an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat heavy whipping cream at high speed until soft peaks form, then add simple syrup, vanilla extract and Angostura bitters. Whip until medium peaks form, about 1 minute longer. (Alternatively, you can add all the ingredients to a Whipped Cream Dispenser and use that instead.)

For the Hot Cocoa:

1/4 cup (58g) unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
1 tablespoon (13g) granulated sugar
Pinch kosher salt
3 cups (710ml) milk
8 ounces (227g) semisweet chocolate chips (or other type of chocolate, such as milk chocolate, depending on your taste)
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
5 ounces (148ml) Italian amaro, such as Averna

In medium saucepan, stir cocoa with sugar and salt. Stir in milk and chocolate. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is hot. Gently whisk to completely blend mixture. Add vanilla and amaro and stir to combine. Pour into glasses and top with Angostura whipped cream.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comFor the longest time… I was afraid of eggnog. I don’t mean I would just turn my nose up at it, I mean, seriously, I thought if I had just a sip it would be the most horrible thing I ever drank and some unknown terrible thing would happen (like projectile vomit). Somewhere deep in my memory bank is a loop of a slovenly drunk man chugging eggnog from a carton and hurling all over the place. This was the image that my mind conjured up when I heard the word eggnog.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comAt some point in the last 10 years I was convinced by some person that what I really needed was to make it from scratch and try the “real thing” and it would be a life changing experience. Maybe it was Alton Brown. At least, that was the first recipe I consulted when I made it for a holiday party a number of years ago.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comAnd holy crapballs it was delicious. Like custard, but lighter, and drinkable and somehow nothing about it was what I was expecting. I think that I was preparing to drink a cocktail the consistency of pudding and have it taste of raw eggs.. this, this cocktail, and I say cocktail because there was copious amounts of liquor in it, it was so good.

Now, despite my complete transformation on the drink, there were still people at the party who were in the former camp and nothing I could say would convince them to try it. Nevertheless, the punch bowl of eggnog was emptied at some point, and found later under a desk. This told me that I’d made something pretty good.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comI’ve made eggnog from scratch with raw eggs quite a number of times now and there are still those I cannot get to try even a sip (perhaps they too are seeing a drunk uncle puking up streams of the stuff). So this year I thought I’d try something different, something most people can’t resist. An edible cocktail.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comInstead of an intimidating punch bowl, I’m trying out tiny bite sized shots of the stuff. These beautiful hemispheres might not get you sloshed, but they might just be the gateway into drinking the stuff. Why?

Because we’re using from scratch eggnog for the base. Yup: Raw. Eggs. In fact, you can whip up your regular eggnog for the party and then save some of the liquid to batch these up. Then maybe people will gradually move to the actual punchbowl. These taste JUST like the same eggnog and you don’t even have to garnish them. The nutmeg gradually sinks to the bottom while they’re setting, forming a lovely sprinkled top.

(And if you simple can’t do with the raw eggs, you can also use the store bought kind. See the note below.)

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comIf you’re curious about what mold to use, silicone is best for removing the jello shots. I used these mini hemispheres from World Cuisine, but you can use any shape you’d like. If you’d like to get really fancy, use a larger mold, and then serve in a tiny cup with a spoon.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.comHappy Holidays!

*Note: If you want to use store-bought eggnog or any of our flavor variations, start with 12 ounces eggnog. Pour half of the eggnog into a heatproof bowl and half into a small saucepan. Whisk 1/2 cup dark or spiced rum into eggnog in the heatproof bowl. Sprinkle 2 packets unflavored powdered gelatin onto the surface of the eggnog in the saucepan and let stand 5 minutes. Set saucepan over low heat and bring to just under a simmer, whisking constantly, until gelatin is fully dissolved; do not let boil. Remove from heat and let stand 2 minutes to cool slightly. Pour eggnog-gelatin mixture into the eggnog-rum mixture and whisk to combine. Proceed with instructions in Step 5.

2 large eggs, separated
2-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar (1.1 ounces; 28g), divided
3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (120ml) heavy cream
2 packets unflavored powdered gelatin (1/2 ounce; 14g)
1/2 cup (120ml) dark rum, such as Gosling’s, or spiced rum, such as Malahat Spiced Rum
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  1. Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk and beat at low speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until they are about the consistency of shaving cream, about 90 seconds. Reduce speed to medium. With mixer running, add half of sugar and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape whites into a large bowl. Do not wash stand mixer bowl.
  2. Add egg yolks and remaining sugar to stand mixer bowl and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow and ribbony, shutting off machine and scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary, about 2 minutes total. Add milk and cream and mix at low speed to combine.
  3. Pour half of the yolk mixture into a small saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over the surface. Let stand 5 minutes. Meanwhile, add rum to remaining yolk mixture in stand mixer bowl and mix at low speed for 30 seconds to combine. Set saucepan over low heat and bring to just below a simmer, whisking constantly, until gelatin is fully dissolved; do not let boil. Remove from heat and let stand until cooled slightly, about 2 minutes.
  4. With stand mixer running at low speed, slowly pour gelatin mixture into the yolk-rum mixture. Gently whisk in egg whites until smooth.
  5. Strain mixture into a large measuring cup with a spout. Sprinkle in nutmeg and stir gently to combine. Carefully fill your molds with the eggnog. Refrigerate until set, about 8 hours.
  6. To remove jello shots from semi-spherical molds, carefully run a small spoon around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. If using square or straight-sided molds, run a butter knife around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. For other shapes or non-flexible molds, dip the bottom of the mold in warm water for 15 seconds, invert mold onto a baking sheet, and gently tap the mold to release the jello shot. Eggnog jello shots can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Make It: Eggnog Jello Shots // stirandstrain.com

I originally posted this recipe on Serious Eats

{Now Closed} Giveaway // Wild Drinks & Cocktails and a Hazelnut Orgeat recipe!

Giveaway - Wild Drinks & Cocktails // stirandstrain.comReady to get wild with your cocktails? No, I’m not talking about hauling out some liquid nitrogen, but instead hauling yourself out into nature and using your backyard for some cocktail inspiration. Your guide book? Wild Drinks & Cocktails by Emily Han.

Today we’ve teamed up with Fair Winds Press to offer one lucky Stir and Strain reader their very own copy of the book. Emily is a fellow Los Angeleno who empowers people to cultivate a mindful relationship with nature and nourishment. As a writer, recipe developer, educator, and herbalist she focuses on topics such as handmade food and drinks, foraging and wildcrafting, and herbs and spices. Her cookbook, Wild Drinks and Cocktails (Fair Winds Press, 2015), encompasses healthful, handcrafted beverages using local, fresh, or foraged ingredients. Passionate about growing communities, Emily is also the Communications Director for LearningHerbs.com, founder of LA Food Swap, and co-­founder of the international Food Swap Network.

Want a taste? Check out Emily’s recipe for Hazelnut Orgeat (and if you know us, we LOVE our orgeats) and enter below! Check out the options below to enter and get up to 9 entries to win. For more information on Wild Drinks, check that out here! Giveaway ends at 11:59pm PST Monday November 30th, 2015. Please see terms and conditions below (sorry, only open to U.S. and Canada residents). Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wild Drinks & Cocktails Giveaway on stirandstrain.com

Hazelnut Orgeat

Recipe reprinted from Wild Drinks & Cocktails by Emily Han, with permission from Fair Winds Press, copyright 2015
Yield: about 2-1/2 cups (590 ml)

2 cups (8 ounces, or 224 g) blanched hazelnuts (also known as filberts)
2 cups (470 ml) water
2 cups (400 g) sugar
Dash orange flower water (optional)

Place the hazelnuts and water in a blender or food processor. Pulse until the hazelnuts are finely chopped but not pureed. Pour the hazelnuts and water into a bowl. (To chop without a food processor, crush the hazelnuts with a rolling pin and then stir them into the water.) Cover the bowl and let stand for 8 hours or overnight.

Line a fine-mesh strainer with a fine-mesh bag or flour sack cloth and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Squeeze the bag or cloth to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the hazelnut pulp. Stir the sugar into the hazelnut liquid. Warm the mixture over low heat (but do not boil), stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Stir in the orange flower water. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (Because this is an oil and water emulsion, the orgeat will separate in the refrigerator, so always shake well before using.)

Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail For when you wish you could drink the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving...

Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis space is too lighthearted to get very political or get in-depth about current news events, but with Thanksgiving coming next week, it’s a good reminder to be thankful for whatever you have in your life. And if it’s Thanksgiving, I’m shoving cranberry sauce in my face like no one is watching.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I’m of the camp that you need a little sweet with the savory. And while I enjoy pretty much all the flavors that grace the holiday table (except maybe you, green bean casserole), you bet that on every forkful of turkey or potatoes or creamed onions, there is a little bit of cranberry sauce. Ok, maybe a LOT of cranberry sauce.

And I’m not picky either. You want to feed me the jello version from the can? Sure, I’ll take it. Or you made a passed down recipe from your great-grandmother that is laced with a little booze? Sure, I’ll take that too. I’ll take them all.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So why am I not eating it more often so that when Turkey Day comes I’m not feeding myself like a ravenous zombie? Well, I kinda forget about it. I think the ensuing coma from eating resets my brain every year and I spend the rest of the time oblivious until a week or so before Thanksgiving when I see some ad in a magazine and my mouth starts salivating in a Pavlovian response.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

This year it was decided that since I have such a short window of time to enjoy cranberries, I’ll make the most of it and enjoy them by not only eating those berries, but also drinking them! In fact, I figured if I made a shrub with them, I’d get to enjoy them a little bit longer (although, it’s so darn tasty I doubt it will stick around for very long).

This black pepper–spiced cranberry shrub is sweet, savory, and tart. It mixes up quick and with a fruity sparkling wine and citrusy bitters, the drink works wonderfully to lighten a meal packed with sweet potatoes, stuffing, turkey, and more. And if you don’t use up the whole shrub in one go, it will keep in the fridge for at least a month.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub

2 cups (approximately 10 ounces by weight) cranberries
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine cranberries, peppercorns, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and water. Stir to combine. Cover and place over medium-high heat. Cook, opening the lid and stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and some of the cranberries begin popping open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Pour entire mixture into an airtight, nonreactive container. Refrigerate at least 8 and up to 12 hours. Strain mixture twice through a fine-mesh strainer, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to one month.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Cocktails (yields 12 drinks)

36 ounces chilled sparkling wine (from 2 bottles)
20 dashes orange bitters, Regan’s used here
12 ounces chilled Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub
Cranberries, for garnish

Slowly pour chilled sparkling wine into a pitcher. Add bitters and chilled cranberry-black pepper shrub. Stir very gently to mix. Serve immediately. Individual glasses can be garnished with cranberries.

Note: For a non-alcoholic alternative, combine 1 ounce of the cranberry-black pepper shrub, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, and 3 ounces club soda (I love Q-Club!) in a wine glass. (Add two dashes of orange bitters, if desired—they contain a tiny amount of alcohol.) Garnish with cranberries and serve.
This recipe originally appeared on Serious Eats

Vanilla-Infused Amaretto Sour with lemon foam!

Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com
This post is brought to you by Nielsen-Massey. Ideas are my own.

Is it too early to start thinking about Fall weather and cozy sweaters? Is it wrong that I may have turned my air conditioning down real low the other day and pretended it was cold outside? Please don’t judge. When Southern California gets its end-of-summer heat waves (that start around mid-August and go through October. Blech.), I start daydreaming pretty hard about being able to turn on my fireplace and snuggle up to it with something equally cozy.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

Amaretto might not scream Autumn to you, in fact, it just might make you scream, but I’m a firm believer that a little amaretto now and then is good for you. Ever since I made myself an Amaretto Sour a few years back (on a quest to find things to do with this giant bottle I had acquired), I realized that I had been missing out on a flavor I really loved, and wouldn’t mind more of: almond. But then I went and had too much of a good thing and realized my go-to sour just wasn’t cutting it. What I needed was a little more warm, Fall flavors, and maybe a heaping helping of the unexpected. So in stepped Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar Bourbon (my “all purpose”) vanilla beans and pure lemon extract. And a couple of N2O cartridges for good measure.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

I’ve had Nielsen-Massey vanilla beans, pastes, extracts, you name it, in my pantry for over a decade now (thanks in part to my old job where I had access to the best ingredients Los Angeles chefs could get. Read why they’re a great pick here!). Today I’m excited to team up with them to bring you a cocktail using their amazing, hand picked vanilla beans.

Vanilla and almond are a great pair. I stick them in plenty of baked goods, and now I’m sticking them together in a cocktail. I’m also including an egg white, typically found in a sour, but not in your typical way.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

I make no apologies on here about my love of foams in drinks. Besides looking nice, foams provide a way to suspend aromas above the drink, and also are a lovely layer to taste as well. That silky texture is your first sip before you get to the meat of the cocktail. Here, an extra boost of lemon first greets your nose before you get to the rich vanilla flecked amaretto. The foam mixes with the cocktail to cut through that richness to make the usual heavier cocktail a much lighter version.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

So now you have a fun weekend DIY and a whole week to look forward to this delicious cocktail. But… if you can’t wait a week, you can always cheat with a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste mixed into your amaretto. The flavor is not as deep as the infusion but works in a pinch!Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

Vanilla-infused Amaretto

1 cup amaretto
2 Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans, cut into 1” segments

Combine the amaretto and vanilla segments in an airtight container. Shake hard for 10 seconds to release some of the seeds from the pods. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 5 days. Taste test and leave for another day or two if you want an even stronger flavor. When ready, strain pods from the amaretto leaving seeds behind in the liquid. Infusion will keep for 1 year stored in a cool, dark place.

Lemon Foam

4 ounces water
2 ounces egg whites
1 ounce simple syrup
1-1/2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey lemon extract

In a whip cream canister, add water, egg whites, simple syrup and lemon extract. Seal and charge with one N2O charger. Shake hard and charge with a second charger. Shake again and chill for at least an hour before using.

Click here to purchase the whip cream canister and the N2O chargers!

For the cocktail

2 ounces vanilla-infused amaretto
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
lemon foam
lemon peel for garnish

In a shaker ⅔ filled with ice, add the vanilla-infused amaretto and lemon juice. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Top with about ½” of the lemon foam. Garnish with the lemon peel.

Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

For more information on Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, please visit the Nielsen-Massey website or follow Nielsen-Massey on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickled Watermelon Rind:

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

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

Ginger Infused Vodka:

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

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

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

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

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

Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails the Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni

Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.comSometime over the past 6 months the Negroni cocktail became my go-to drink at home. Maybe it’s the simplicity in the recipe, or the rush of the bitter with the sweet. Maybe I just got tired of making Manhattans.

Making a nightly Negroni meant that I rapidly ran out of certain ingredients like sweet vermouth. And Campari. So when I couldn’t make it to the store to stock back up, I started to get a little clever with the bitter and the sweet elements (the gin, of course, always stayed the same).Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.com

I’m also talking about the Negroni cocktail today because next week is Negroni Week! It’s not just an excuse to drink this cocktail, but there’s also a great cause behind it. You can read all about that right here.

Last year I switched out the gin with mezcal, but this year we’re keeping the gin but adding in some extra flavor goodness. Like coconut. And coffee.Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.com

St. George Spirits put out this NOLA Coffee Liqueur a little while ago and I’ve been obsessed with getting a bottle. I could drink this stuff straight, but today I’m using the liqueur in lieu of sweet vermouth in the first Negroni variation. This Negroni combines that bittersweet, robust coffee liqueur with toasted coconut infused gin and a touch of Campari (and don’t worry, if you feel you haven’t the time for another cocktail project I’ve got a pretty simple variation below too). It’s more of an after-dinner drink, or actually, a pretty amazing weekend brunch cocktail (or breakfast cocktail if you prefer).Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.com

Coconut Coffee Negroni

Toasted Coconut Gin

1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup Martin Miller’s Gin

Set your oven to 350°F. On a cookie sheet, spread out the coconut flakes in an even layer. Place in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes. Let cool and move to an airtight container (I used a wide mouth canning jar). Cover with the gin, seal, and let sit out overnight. The next day strain through a coffee filter into a new, clean airtight container (I often use old liquor bottles).

The Cocktail

1 ounce coconut infused gin
1 ounce St. George Spirits NOLA Coffee Liqueur
3/4 ounce Campari

  • In a double rocks glass with a large ice cube, pour in coconut infused gin, coffee liqueur, and Campari. Stir 15 seconds to chill and serve.Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.com

Now, for those of you who’d like something with a little fewer steps, I give you this Negroni variation. Basically I ran out of most of the ingredients one might need to make one and ended up with this. It’s still got a nice bite and the Zucca does the double duty of being both semi-sweet and bitter with a little more orange-y bitterness from the orange bitters.Negroni Week 2015 Cocktails: Moorish Dance and a Coconut Coffee Negroni // stirandstrain.com

The Moorish Dance

1-3/4 ounce gin, Ford’s used here
1-3/4 ounce Zucca
2 dashes orange bitters, Regan’s No.6 used here
orange peel for garnish

  • In a double rocks glass with a large ice cube, pour in the gin and Zucca. Add the dashes of bitters, stir 15 seconds to chill and express the oils from the orange peel over the drink. Add the zest for garnish.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer & Pisco Cocktail whole lotta goodness that tastes like cream soda

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis week I’m having a hard time pinning down exactly what I’d like to tell you guys about. I think it was a lot easier when there were less eyes on the page and I could ramble on about how using a jigger like a professional bartender just makes me look like an idiot (albeit I’ve improved slightly), or that I tried and failed, again, at growing an herb garden but I’ve got SO   MUCH  ROSEMARY I can’t give it away fast enough.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThere’s got to be some performance anxiety tied to having the site nominated for any kind of award. So I think now is the time to take a step back and reassess the story I’d like to share with you guys, that may or may not have to do with a cocktail I am making.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIn the meantime, I’d like to formally state that I’m totally not into this switch on the mac OS where IPhoto has gone away and I’m stuck having to use their new “Photos” program. Mainly I’m whining because it now means I really need to learn Lightroom better. So, if any of you guys out there have a good quick and dirty immersion “how to” so I can stop dragging my feet and just learn it already, I’d appreciate the feedback and suggestions.Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Also, I have this delightful cocktail I made for you guys that might seem like a Whoa! but really, it’s pretty easy to assemble and I sweetened my ice teas for the next week with the leftover syrup so it definitely has some stretching power. Plus, it’s rhubarb season and I’m sick of pies already (not really, but I’m sick of MAKING them!).Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup:

1 cup sugar
1 cup sliced (1/2-inch) rhubarb
1 cup water
1 Mexican Vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped (reserve pod)

  • Combine sugar, rhubarb, water, and vanilla seeds and pod in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain into an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 weeks.

For the Cocktail:

1-1/2 ounces Pisco
3/4 ounce Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup
3 ounces Scottish Ale, such as Ballast Point Piper Down
Vanilla bean, for garnish (optional)

  • In a rocks glass filled with ice, build the drink by adding pisco and rhubarb vanilla syrup. Gently add beer, stirring just to combine. Garnish with vanilla bean and serve immediately.

First off, this tastes like cream soda. Because of the viscosity of the Pisco, the mouthfeel is super creamy. The Scottish Ale provides some toasty, caramel notes that adds a richness to the drink, while the Pisco imparts some citrus and a touch of floral (Tahitian vanilla would tip this drink overboard in the floral direction, so make sure you use Mexican vanilla) along with that lovely viscosity. That small buzz you get afterward however would prove otherwise.

Rhubarb-Vanilla Beer and Pisco Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I originally created this recipe for Serious Eats!

The Pineapple Hop it starts with a pineapple shrub

The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.comSo how was your week?

I dropped my phone in a toilet. What’s worse was the speed with which I dove in to grab it without even thinking about “is the bowl clean or dirty” (it was clean by the way). And it works still so that’s a plus.

I learned how to vacation with an infant (very different ideas of “vacation” now exist for me). And that spending several days in the wonderful desert heat almost always means for me coming back to Los Angeles and experiencing gray, grey days. It also makes me appreciate the contrasts in climate for this part of the country.

The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAlso, May starts today. Which means it is practically summer and wasn’t everyone everywhere complaining about snowstorms and the like about 5 minutes ago? Maybe it’s the crippling realization that time really does speed up the older you get but man, do I need a cocktail right about now. So let’s think about summer drinks.

If we’re thinking about summer days to come, I’m sure pineapples fit in there somewhere. In my house, I fit them in all the time despite the time of year, but that’s me. For today’s recipe, I’m giving you guys some homework first (OK, ok, a DIY super fun, easy, hands off it practically makes itself project): pineapple shrub.

The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.comI’m not kidding either. Making a shrub is so easy I’m not sure why more people aren’t batching this in their kitchen all time?! Oh, lack of counter space. And, well, better things to do I guess might prevent that from happening. For the sake of this post I’ll just assume you’re on board with me for this one project. Let’s continue.The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

If we’re thinking about summer, we’re also thinking about refreshing drinks, and for a lot of you guys out there, beer. Beer and BBQ and hotdogs and maybe a few illegal fireworks. So, surprise! I’m putting beer in this cocktail too. Pineapples and beer and RUM.

The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAre you already picturing yourself running through a sprinkler and drinking this cocktail? Me too. Except let’s hold on to that thought and wait two weeks while this shrub brews and then we can get to the galavanting. At least this week is done.

Pineapple Shrub

1 medium pineapple, peeled, and cubed into 1” pieces
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

Place the pineapple cubes in a clean, sterilized container. Cover with the sugar and lightly crush the pineapples (I used a potato masher). Let sit, covered with a tea towel, in the open for 8 hours or overnight. Strain fruit and add apple cider vinegar. Cover and let sit unrefrigerated in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Shake the mixture every other day. In two weeks, filter into an airtight container and refrigerate. Will last up to 6 months. Yields approximately 3 cups.

For the cocktail

1 ounce white rum, SelvaRey used here
1 ounce pineapple shrub (see above)
1/4 ounce orgeat
4 ounces IPA beer, Stone IPA used here

In a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice, pour in rum, shrub and orgeat. Stir to chill 20 seconds and strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice. Top with beer.

The biting, tangy nature of the shrub is excellent paired with the beer as it provides a contrast to the bitterness that comes with an IPA. Just a touch of sweetness is needed and the sweet almond orgeat provides that along with the white rum. The shrub can be enjoyed all summer long here in this drink, or by itself with a splash of club soda.

*Looking for a larger batched version of this? I originally made that very version for Serious Eats a little while back.