Make It: Bourbon Vanilla Caramel Sauce

Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.comAbout this time every year I start mentally writing an inventory of things I should start making for Holiday gifts. I have to think about it this early because I usually forget until about a week before Christmas, freak out, and consult the list I made two months ago. This is just how I deal with life and presents.

I was totally that kid that baked for the holidays and passed out cookies and got my teacher a Valentine’s Day gift bag (admittedly only once for that. But she was a great teacher and it was an excuse to buy heart colored tissue paper.) and since starting this blog and just, well, making A LOT of stuff, I’ve been going full force at edible gifts for the Holiday season. Rewind back to a few weeks ago and you will find me wide-eyed in front of a steaming sauce pan of sugar and butter and other deliciousness. Myself and a friend decided to take a caramel making class, the selling point for me was the “Beer and Pretzel” caramels on the list of what we would make. Seriously. Beer reduction and pretzels and caramel living together in one bite-sized wrapper. Oh, but the wrappers. The only aspect I wasn’t prepared for in this class, after spending two or almost three hours making caramels, was the hour long process of individually wrapping each damn caramel I made. After an hour I was kinda done with caramels for the time being and I brought them all in to my office the next day. The beer ones being the surprise hit.

One of the last recipes we tackled that night was not actually a candy, but a sauce: caramel sauce (it was, after all, a caramel class). This sauce made its way into a cake about 3 days later. And now it is making its way here to the site. Why? Because I’ve decided to add some Bourbon and vanilla beans to it and make jars of it for presents this year. Friends, you are welcome. Try not to eat the whole jar in one sitting.

Are you thinking this is going to be too hard? It’s not. I had one hand holding a cell phone trying to pay attention to my mother while she went on about something for 45 minutes and started and finished this whole recipe by the time I got off the phone with her. That includes prep by the way.

Don’t want to give this as a gift? Ok, put it on ice cream, or sandwich it between cookies, or DO YOU REALLY NEED A REASON FOR CARAMEL SAUCE?!bourbon-caramel-3Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

Caramel is boiling sugar. The recipe moves quickly so get all your ingredients together before you start and please, try not to spill it on yourself, it will hurt like hell.

Adapted recipe from The Gourmandise School
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, Plugra is awesome and used here
1 cup heavy cream, room temp
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp fleur de sel, Murray River used here
1 oz. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Seeds from one vanilla bean, or 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste

  1. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine sugar, water, vanilla seeds (or paste), and lemon juice. Stir once to combine. On medium high heat, cook until sugar dissolves, brushing the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush if sugar crystals stick to the sides. Bring to a boil, undisturbed (do NOT STIR), until sugar reaches a dark amber color. (This can take anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t leave the pan. It will almost always burn if you step away.)
  2. Carefully add the cream. It will bubble and hiss like crazy, but this is normal. Bring back to a boil, then add in butter, salt and bourbon. Stir to combine and until slightly thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Let cool and then jar up.

Here’s a few notes:

  • Your sauce is going to look watery at first. Don’t keep cooking it. If you pull a spoon out of the sauce and it leaves a layer, your sauce is thickened. As it cools it will thicken up much more. And once you stick it in the fridge, the next day it’s even more thick.
  • DO NOT STIR IT WHILE IT COOKS. Just don’t, it will create crystals and it will be grainy and gross.
  • The bourbon is added at the end, so you will taste it. That is the point of adding it to the sauce. Don’t like bourbon? You can add an aged rum if you like. Or just leave out the booze too if you have to.
  • Besides the lovely bourbon taste, mainly you are going to get a buttery, salted caramel with hints of vanilla. And you will keep telling yourself, One more spoonful, until there is nothing left.Vanilla Bourbon Caramel Sauce // stirandstrain.com

Mixology Monday: The Royal Affliction

The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMixology Monday LogoWhen one hosts a month of Mixology Monday, I think there is a knee-jerk reaction to do as much as you can. You’re the host; you need to show off a little bit, right? But dammit if I didn’t think ahead a bit more and pump out all the other ideas I had. There is a smoker sitting on my porch right now, unused since two Thanksgivings ago when we smoked a turkey. I’m OK with that though. For this third and last post, I still got a hell of a lot of smoke into this drink. And my kitchen. And my clothes. Lots of delicious, rosemary infused smoke.

Last month, the company that does the PR for the Black Grouse invited me out to try their product at two Los Angeles bars where the bartenders would be showcasing the way they would serve this Scotch Whisky. They also generously provided me with my own bottle that I am using here. At the first bar, Sassafras, I learned that you can smoke rosemary for a drink using only a tea candle and a snifter glass. The simplicity and genius of this bar trick stayed with me. I knew at some point I would have to try this, and this month was the perfect opportunity to do so.The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Here’s the thing about smoking herbs: use organic, and if possible, from your own garden (that’s where mine came from). Not sure if your grocery store has organic you can trust? Go to a farmer’s market and ask the person selling the herbs if they use pesticides or chemicals on their herbs. Why go through all the trouble? Because crap in crap out. The smoke from this drink will be IN your drink and you are going to ingest it. Do you want weird unknown substances being brought to high temperatures and those fumes entering your mouth? You don’t care? You like huffing sharpies? Fine, you’ve been warned.

The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The blackberries here in Southern California are starting to go tart, so for this cocktail, I wanted to use them up in a syrup, as they would not give enough sweetness just muddling them into the drink. FYI, this syrup is super thick. If you’re not sure what to do with the leftover syrup, there is only one way to go: PANCAKES.The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Rich Blackberry Syrup

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
heaping 1/2 cup of blackberries

Bring all the ingredients to a boil then simmer for a half hour; gently mash blackberries down while the mixture cooks. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, strain and bottle syrup. If not using all right away, add 1/2 ounce of vodka to mixture and keep refrigerated up to 3 months. (I refer to this as ‘rich’ due to the viscous nature of the final syrup. This is not a true ‘rich’ simple syrup, since I am still using a 1:1 sugar water ratio.)The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

And now the drink:

2 oz The Black Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky
3/4 oz Blackberry Syrup (recipe above)
1/2 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
3 dashes Scrappy’s Celery Bitters
2 cleaned sprigs of rosemary, approximately 5″-6″ long

tea candle and holder (I found a jam jar worked great for keeping distance between the flame and the rosemary. You want at least 3 inches of clearance between the two.)
piece of card stock larger than the diameter of your glass
brandy snifterThe Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

IMPORTANT: get everything ready before you begin, this will move fast. Light the tea candle and place the rosemary across the top on the jam jar/candle holder. This will take a minute to warm up and start smoking. It’s best if your rosemary has not dried completely from cleaning (not wet, but not bone dry). In a shaker filled 2/3 with ice, add the first four ingredients and shake well until chilled. Set aside. Once the rosemary starts to smoke, place a snifter glass over the top so that the smoke fills the glass completely. Using the card stock, slide it over the top of the glass to “hold” the smoke inside until you pour your drink in. Remove the rosemary from the candle. When you are ready, quickly remove the card stock and strain the contents of the shaker into the glass.The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Woodsy, rosemary tinged smoke fills the glass. Those notes infuse through the lightly sweetened berry flavor with tart background highlights. The Black Grouse is mellowed out and given an almost honey quality, while also heightening the smoky flavor. Even when you no longer can see the smoke, it stays with the drink from first to last sip.

On the celery bitters: these you CANNOT leave out. You will not taste celery, but what they do is provide an amazing amount of balance. Without them, the drink is both too sharply tart and too sweet. A few drops and it balances everything out. Kinda amazing how bitters do that.

Adding Aroma to Cocktails: Smoke Tincture

smoke tincture // stirandstrain.comA few weeks ago I attended just one of the many events at the LA Food and Wine Festival. Grant Achatz was presenting a cocktail demo with the head bartender at Chicago’s The Aviary, Charles Joly. There was lots of wowing the audience with juice stock and dry ice, but what stuck out for me the most was the idea of Aroma in cocktails. Their idea was to play on aroma and create a smell for some cocktails that when you tasted the drink, did not exist in it. Are you all following me?

So that got my nerd brain going with what aromas I’d like to accompany cocktails, but not necessarily put IN the drink.smoke tincture // stirandstrain.com

This month I’ve been playing around with ideas for Mixology Monday, the theme being SMOKE. This seemed like an interesting path to follow and see where it went. I am, in all honesty, still very much amateur status when it comes to all things behind the bar. I’ve definitely broadened my scope of these items over the past few years (like how to say Cynar correctly), but for awhile the idea of tinctures seemed mildly hazy to me. Aren’t these just infusions? Why a separate name?

Well, I read a bit for this post and pretty much what it came down to is that a tincture is the essence of the ingredient you steep in a neutral grain alcohol. It can be used in small amounts by itself, or added with more ingredients for compounds like bitters. Because it is steeped in a high proof alcohol, you don’t shoot it back in a giant gulp. It would also probably taste awful. With an infusion, you are also extracting the essence of what you are putting into the alcohol, but it is co-mingling with the base spirit for a new combined flavor. You might see sour cherry bourbon, lemon lavender gin, something along those lines.

When I think aroma, my mind naturally moves towards perfume. Now, before I lose all you men out there, check this article out from the New York Times last year. The Pegu Club, PDT, these big timers have been using aroma, perfume even, in cocktails for awhile now. Perhaps for us New Wave Cocktail Bloggers this is brand new, but treading into this territory we find the path already laid out for us. So, give perfume a try I guess.smoke tincture // stirandstrain.com

For this particular use of smoke in a cocktail, I didn’t want the drink to continue to be steeped in smoke. What I wanted here was for the initial smell to be a deep, meaty smoke aroma, and then when tasted, you were only getting the cocktail. This beautiful smoky aroma would make the drink a surprise for the person drinking it, hopefully a pleasant shock. The aroma would then dissipate as one continued to finish the drink. I chose a Boulevardier to accompany the smoke aroma.

First, the tincture:

1/2 cup grain alcohol (I have 151 proof everclear)
1/4 cup Lapsang Souchong Loose Tea

Combine the two ingredients in an airtight glass container. Let sit for two weeks in a cool, dark place. Gently shaking every few days. After two weeks, strain with a fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth. You want to make sure you are getting all the tiny bits of tea out. If you still see residue, strain an additional time. Store in a dropper bottle.

Lapsang Souchong tea has a heavy smoke aroma. When you open the box it’s like getting hit with a face full of wood smoke. As a tincture, the essence gets meatier (as in smoked meat).smoke tincture // stirandstrain.com

Ok, so, here is the part when you can decide whether getting an atomizer is worth it or not. I tried experimenting with the tincture in 3 ways. First, I rinsed the glass and added the cocktail. Second, I swapped a tincture soaked cotton ball around in inside of the glass after pouring the drink in. Third, I sprayed the tincture with an atomizer over the finished drink. Of the three I found the atomizer to have a stronger aroma over the final drink. Rinsing added too much of the smoke to the drink and was not the effect I wanted. The cotton ball didn’t create a strong enough smell for me. When I used the atomizer, I found I had more control over how much aroma went onto the finished cocktail and I appreciated being able to add more in small increments to achieve the final essence. So, if you are not one for unitaskers, then maybe an atomizer is not something you need taking up space in your bar drawer. I found a tiny atomizer that is under 3″, meant for perfume, but works great.

Next, the Boulevardier Cocktail with Smoke Aroma:

2 oz Bourbon (Black Ridge Small Batch was used for this cocktail)
1 oz Campari
1 oz Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
Smoke Tincture

Orange peel garnish

In a mixing glass 2/3 with ice, stir the first three ingredients about 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass or goblet (you want some space for your nose to dip into; sounds gross but trust me). Garnish with an orange peel and over the top of the drink, spray about 3-4 sprays of the tincture.

As you move into the glass, there is the meaty smoke aroma followed by the sudden bittersweet richness of the Boulevardier. That first sip has the most smoke on it, while progressive sips become less and less potent, which lets you experience varying degrees of the aroma. If this is all a bit too much for you, have you had a Boulevardier cocktail yet? Go make one, it’s a great Fall cocktail.

Make It: Fernet Branca Jelly

Fernet Branca Jelly // stirandstrain.comFact: three years ago I had no idea what Fernet Branca was apart from being an ingredient listed in a new cocktail book I bought and what a bunch of bartender twitter feeds told me they were drinking a shot of. When struck by an ingredient I’d never heard of, but keep seeing, I do the only logical thing I can think of; I go buy it. I was prepared in a small way for what to expect when trying this Amaro for the first time. Biting, minty, medicinal, sweet….confused. And after my first sip, the only remark I could say was, “I like it. What’s all the fuss?”

I’ve now found myself in a chatty group of cocktail bloggers who all view Fernet Branca as a tasty shot of awesome. Right guys? And two weeks ago, in a long-winded, nonsensical twitter ramble (isn’t that how a lot of these things happen?) among us, urged on by the Fernet Branca twitter feed, I found I had agreed to making Fernet Branca jelly. Jelly, like, for toast.Fernet Branca Jelly // stirandstrain.com

Jelly with an ounce of booze I’ve heard of, but making a jelly whose star ingredient was the booze? Research was in order. A friend of mine who cans on a semi-regular basis suggested I go look up Wine Jelly. So, jelly made with alcohol was a thing. I found a pretty standard recipe and cut it in half. If this didn’t work out, I wasn’t about to waste an entire bottle of Fernet Branca. I bought a second bottle though as a just in case.Fernet Branca Jelly // stirandstrain.com

Here are a couple things you need to know about this recipe before trying it.

  1. I am not a home canner. I made a small batch and it filled about 3 of the small 8 ounce mason jars. With the taste testing I’ve gone through them already (less then a week). Since they did not go through a hot water bath to bring to temp to kill off bacteria, I cannot guarantee how long yours will last. However, if you don’t consume all of it within a few days. Keep sealed in the fridge and eat within a month. If you DO can. Congratulations. Hot water process and keep them in your pantry until you want to use them.
  2. I was happy, really happy, after the first pass at this. However, the texture did include some sugar crystals that did not render the jelly smooth as silk. However, one of the aspects of this site is to get YOUR feedback. If you make this and you have some pointers on how to improve up on this, add them to the comments section below. I’d love to hear about your experience.
  3. The recipe comes together quickly. So have everything ready once you begin, because you will NOT be able to leave the stove.
  4. This is not a super sweet jelly. I wanted the flavor of the Fernet Branca to be the star. That’s the whole point of this experiment. That said, there IS sugar added to this recipe, otherwise you couldn’t make a jelly. You could always reduce the Fernet over a low heat to make a reduction/syrup. That would also be tasty, but not a jelly.
  5. This is a quick cook, and the alcohol is not killed off. There is A LOT that remains. Did I get drunk off of eating this? No, but you can taste the alcohol, so be warned.

OK, with those points covered, let’s start the fun.

1-3/4 cup of Fernet Branca
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 oz. Pure Apple Pectin
2 cups granulated sugar

3 8-Ounce Mason Jars, cleaned with lids or a large jar with a tight fitting lid
heat proof spatula

Combine first three ingredients over medium-high heat in a medium sized non-reactive sauce pan (stainless steel is good). Stir constantly until the ingredients start to boil, scraping down the sides all the time you are stirring. Add sugar carefully to the mixture, stir to combine, and keep stirring while bringing back the entire mixture to a rolling boil. Once boil is reached, boil rapidly for two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour into 3 8-oz. sized mason jars, or one large jar with a tight fitting lid*. Cover and let cool. Once cool, store in refrigerator. See notes above about storage.

*If you ARE a home canner, at this point process your hot water bath. Fernet Branca Jelly // stirandstrain.com

And the result? It’s SO Fernet Branca, except slightly sweetened and spreadable. Cooking it does not reduce it’s pungent flavor, as it still has that wonderful minty and bitter flavor. How did I enjoy it? With a generous dab of Plugra butter on a biscuit. Perfect morning fuel. It was also consumed by the spoonful.

Are you game to try this? I’d love to hear about it if you do.

Make It: Kiss of Fire (Aperol and Cayenne Jellies)

Kiss of Fire Aperol Jellies // stirandstrain.comOverachiever. Two posts for Mixology Monday and you can start to attribute that to yourself. I’m not officially submitting this, since it’s an alcoholic dessert, but the FIRE theme this month is the reason why this post went up.

I’ve actually had this idea in my back pocket for awhile now. There was this recipe in the Los Angeles times online for Prosecco gelee and I knew I’d have to make them sometime with some liquor. The time had to be right, and the flavors needed to make sparks (otherwise it would just be a fancy jello shot).

Kiss of Fire Aperol Jellies // stirandstrain.com

In the Eyes of Angelique post, I started to play around with Campari and cayenne in a foam, and when that combination came together, I thought I would try a more straight on approach to the flavors, more concentrated, and Aperol and cayenne seemed like the duo to try. There is a touch of chipotle powder in there to bring an earthiness to the sweet, bitter and hot flavors.

This might seem like a project, but it’s really hands off, and the sugar coating is optional. In fact, here’s a tip with that. If you do go the way of sifting the jellies with sugar, coat them twice. There is an issue with something called ‘weeping’ that happens when the sugar starts to melt a bit (after they’ve sat for awhile). So if you do sugar them, coat twice and then eat immediately! Otherwise the unsugared jellies will stay firm in the fridge up to 4 days, covered.Kiss of Fire Aperol Jellies // stirandstrain.com

Recipe adapted from L.A. Times
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 water
12 oz. Aperol
3/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
9 sheets of gold gelatin

Combine sugar and water in a sauce pan. Bring to just about a boil and remove from heat. Soften gelatin sheets in a bowl of water for 2 minutes, ring water out and mix them into the sugar syrup. Stir until gelatin is dissolved. Add Aperol, cayenne and chipotle powders to the syrup and stir to combine. Line a 8″x8″ pan with plastic wrap and pour mixture into the pan. You can also pour into individual silicone molds. Refrigerate overnight to set. To serve, cut into squares.

Optional sugar coating:
Pour a 1/2 cup of granulated sugar into a bowl. Add jellies a few at a time to coat. Shake off excess and coat a second time. Serve immediately.

Each little square has the sweet bitter flavor of the Aperol, but with an earthy fire from the powders. That cayenne heats hits the back of your throat for a nice spicy bite. You do not need to sugar coat them, but if you do, you could pass them off as elegant candies.

Make It: Passion Fruit Syrup // The Hurricane Cocktail

hurricane cocktail // stirandstrain.comDid you know that passion fruit had a season? Neither did I until earlier this week. Big thanks to Nathan from the Chocolate of Meats blog for hipping me to this fact.

If you are a lover of Tiki drinks you know that passion fruit is a major component in many of those elusive Grog Log drinks. If you’re not familiar, now you know. Pretty much though you’re stuck with commercial flavored syrups that taste more like sad kool-aid than anything resembling a fruit derived substance. Until now. My passion fruit did not come locally unfortunately, they were flown in. I thought that was the only way I would get them until I found out a local catering company, Heirloom LA, were growing them in their backyard. Note to self, plant that ASAP.passionfruit // stirandstrain.com

So before we get to the drinks, lets get to making the syrup. If you don’t raise your hand to the question Who’s going to use this syrup up in a month? Then you can either add a 1/2 oz of vodka to the mix to prolong it up to 3 months, or make a large batch and freeze up containers to use when passion fruit is not in season.

Although a basic recipe, credit goes to Tiare from the Mountain of Crushed Ice blog for some of the tips to making this syrup.

Passion Fruit Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Just under 1/2 cup of Passion Fruit seeds/juice (about 7 smallish fruit)
2 passion fruit

Combine first 3 ingredients in a sauce pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. As soon as the mixture reaches a boil, cut the heat and remove from the stove. Add the juice and seeds from the last two passion fruit to the mixture, stir to combine and cover. Let this sit for two hours, then strain and bottle.passionfruit-2 // stirandstrain.com

Let’s ease into the Tiki now with the Hurricane cocktail. With just 3 simple ingredients this is where quality really counts. And perhaps your garnishes too.

I always associated the Hurricane with a red/pink color, in fact, I assumed that passion fruit were this color too (I seriously had no idea). So to my surprise, this Hurricane really is the color of a passion fruit, yellow-orange. Dealing with the fresh passion fruit also has taught me what I smell in a lot of Tiki drinks I’ve had out of the house. The point I’m trying to make is that if you want to be serious with drinks, or food even, get to know the fresh stuff, not just what comes in a can at a grocery store, you’ll very quickly start to favor the fresh ingredients. I’ll probably be heading back to the market to buy a couple pounds of passion fruit this week just so I can make enough syrup to freeze a sizable stash. God, I just hope they’re not out of season by Tuesday.

Hurricane Cocktail (adapted from the Grog Log)
4 oz dark rum (I chose Goslings Black Seal Rum)
2 oz freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
2 oz passion fruit syrup

large sprig of mint and pineapple cubes for garnish

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, add first 3 ingredients and shake well. Fill a hurricane glass or large tiki mug with about 20 ounces of crushed ice. Strain drink over the ice and add more crushed ice if desired. Garnish with mint (give it a good slap between your hands to release some of the oils from the herb) and 3 pineapple cubes on a cocktail spear.

Don’t forget that mint! The mint adds an aromatic nose that is a perfect compliment for this sweet-tart drink. The Goslings was chosen because it gives a nice deep spice layer, while the Meyer lemon balances out the passion fruit tartness. Overall this was not what I remember a Hurricane tasting like, and that’s probably a good thing. Enjoy!

Make It: Tangelocello

Tangelocello // stirandstrain.comTangelocello. The name makes me think of some late 70’s disco/synth band but there wasn’t any other way to describe this liqueur.

As I mentioned in this post, I was able to pick quite a bounty of tangelos from my backyard this year. The problem with these tangelos? They’re SUPER tart. It’s not like you can just peel and eat them. Unfortunately with a bag full of them I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do with them all. Then I recalled my Limoncello experiment (found here and here) and realized if you can make tart lemons drinkable, then tart tangelos should also work. tangelocello-3

And you know what? It did work! In the end I had a sweet, citrus liqueur with some tang, but not enough to make my cheeks pucker and spit it out.

One small caveat. You’re going to need 8 weeks. It is a project, but really, let’s be honest. It’s a project where you barely put in any effort and you’re rewarded with liqueur you made with your hands that tastes awesome. That should be reward enough!

Making tangelocello falls into two major steps, and one small half step. I’m including everything here on this one post for convenience purposes.tangelocello-2

4-5 medium sized Tangelos
1-1/2 cups high proof vodka (I used Belvedere Vodka INTENSE 100 Proof)

Wash a jar large enough to hold the vodka and dry well. Add the vodka to the jar. Zest the tangelos and add those to the vodka. Juice the tangelos, put the juice in a ziplock bag, and throw that in the freezer. You will need it in two weeks. Seal the jar and place it out of direct sunlight. Shake the jar once every day for two weeks. I find putting it someplace in sight will help you remember to do this. After two weeks strain the zest from the vodka and get ready for Step Two.tangelocello-1

1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
juice from the 4-5 tangelos, defrosted (if you had left it in the freezer)

First, make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and water over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool and add that and the juice to the vodka. Seal and keep in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks. No need to agitate this time.

After 6 weeks, strain again into a bottle and seal. Keep in the refrigerator so you always have chilled Tangelocello on hand for a digestif. Aren’t you fancy!?

What to do with Amaretto: Part Two, make whipped cream

amaretto-whipcream-1January always seems like a “hands off” month when it comes to any subject other than how to be healthy. People are waking up, shaking off a month and a half food and booze induced coma, swearing off all evils for at least a few weeks. February seemed a more proper month to post this. All of those resolutions are out the window right now and people need a reason to put whipped cream on everything.

Booze spiked hot cocoa really doesn’t need a recipe (add alcohol until satisfied). However, measurements might be needed for a topping. Yes, a topping. Not being much of a marshmallow lover, I always have enjoyed a rather large dollop of whipped cream on my hot cocoa. And in this scenario, I have a bottle of Amaretto that needs using up. So for the next installment of “What to do with that bottle of Amaretto“, we will spike some whipped cream with it. Mmmm….amaretto-whipcream-6

Have you seen those new bottles of already spiked alcoholic whipped cream? Are you as freaked out as I am? Why does this exist if it takes 10 minutes to make on your own? You don’t even need to put pants on.

amaretto-whipcream-2Let’s make some Amaretto Whipped Cream:

8 oz. of cold heavy whipping cream
1 oz. of Amaretto
2 tbsp of sugar (I am using granulated and it dissolved just fine)

  • Start whipping the cream and add in the Amaretto and sugar. Mix until medium/firm peaks form, around 5 to 7 minutes. For softer whipped cream, beat it less. The colder the environment, mixer, whisk, etc. is, the faster your whipped cream will whip up.
  • When desired consistency is achieved (and you’ve taste tested, and maybe tested a few more spoonfuls if no one is looking), use right away or store in an air-tight container. Whipped cream will last 2-3 days in the refrigerator.

amaretto-whipcream-3amaretto-whipcream-4amaretto-whipcream-5Concerned your whipped cream will taste too much of alcohol? Don’t fret, even with an ounce of Amaretto, this recipe yields more like 2 to 2-1/2 cups, and mixed throughout is more subtle than you think. Also, the cream and sugar help cut through the sting of alcohol to let more of the almond flavor of the Amaretto stand out. I added my whipped cream to a mug (an awesome Mayan tiki mug no less) of Mexican Hot Chocolate. The flavor of the Amaretto was a match for the earthy, spiciness of the drink. Adding a touch of nutmeg on top doesn’t hurt either. I imagine this would work just as well with Swiss Miss.

Don’t want hot chocolate? Sneaking a piece of cake during your bout of trying to be healthy? This is spectacular on spice cakes or just dipping cookies into. Or strawberries! Valentine’s Day is this week…

Make It: Grenadine // Semi-Homemade Tequila Sunrise

grenadinespoon-1About 8 or 9 years ago I finally had an apartment to myself, no roommates(!), and in celebration went to the closest liquor store and picked up a bottle of Tequila. OK, it was Jose Cuervo. I already had OJ in the fridge, and had picked up a bottle of grenadine at work. It was a time in my life where I thought it would be adult of me to have a small ‘bar’ at my place. This was fancy for me; I was in my early twenties. Having picked up my first cocktail recipe book, I had decided on making a Tequila Sunrise. This was a cocktail name I had heard before, it was less scary than some of the other recipes in the book and I knew all the ingredients (even if I had no idea what went into grenadine). You have to start somewhere.

The other day, flipping through one of the Bum’s cocktail books, I realized I had no grenadine in the house. That lone bottle I bought some 8 or 9 years ago had stayed with me through several more apartments, a couple boyfriends, and my own wedding. Its existence being extinguished at one of our Tiki parties two years ago. I hesitated to go buy a bottle. There are more bad reviews of grenadine out there than good, and I recently had been reading about just how easy it was to make it. There are two approaches one can make their own grenadine with: the cold method (pomegranate juice and sugar shaken together until the sugar is well incorporated), and the cooked method. I went with the cooked method. Taking inspiration from the SippitySup blog and the Imbibe site, I combined a method I was happy with. I wanted to keep it simple, and the addition of the orange flower water gives it just the subtlest floral hint without being too perfume-like.

2 cups of POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice (or freshly squeezed if you have it on hand)
1 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp of Orange Flower Water
1/2 oz of Vodka (for a preservative), optional

Combine juice and sugar in a pan over high heat. Bring to a boil then leave at simmering until reduced by half (I ended up with about a cup and a half). This can take 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat, add the orange flower water and leave to cool. Once cool, stir in vodka and bottle.grenadine-2grenadine-4grenadine-1

Couple notes here: Why heat? Testing the cooked method, I enjoyed the more syrupy consistency of the end result. It also resulted in a more intense “berry” flavor. Does orange flower water taste like orange? No. Have you ever smelled fresh blooms on an orange or lime tree? It’s like that, floral, not citrus.grenadine-3

Reminiscing about the grenadine, I thought, for nostalgia reasons, I’d make a Tequila Sunrise to test out the final batch. With a couple of tweaks it was just as satisfying as I remembered drinking it standing in my ‘bar’ of that first studio apartment.This time around, I juiced my own oranges in a rather large batch (I am finding new uses for this juicer we just committed to buying), which, because of how sweet they are this season, I decided on adding a touch of lime juice. And to round the whole drink out, a few dashes of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters.tequilasr-1

2 oz. Avión Silver Tequila
2-1/2 oz. freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 dashes of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters
Splash of grenadine (house made if you got it!)

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, combine tequila, orange juice, lime juice and bitters. Shake well to combine and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add the grenadine to the center of your drink so it drops to the bottom of the glass. Stir gently with a bar spoon and watch as the colors float up.

A touch of sweet earthiness from the grenadine floats throughout the drink. I know that in this case it’s mainly a beautiful way to add color, but the richness of the syrup cuts through some of the sweetness of the orange juice too. Those bitters provide a subtle balance to the drink, that tends to just be very citrus forward and not much else.

I hope this post shows just how easy it is to have this bar staple on hand! No need to buy, just shake or simmer…

Make It: Holiday Spice Syrups

The hard ciders and glogg are starting to roll out. It’s Fall- hell, it’s almost Thanksgiving already. For me that means starting to plan for Christmas. My personality is such that I painfully start planning things much too far in advance, forget about them, and freak out at the last minute trying to get these plans into action.

A good chunk of gift giving is pretty easy actually when it comes to my friends. They all like booze. But really, putting a bow on a bottle of Jameson a couple years in a row starts to become too easy and predictable. Yes, you can step it up and maybe shell out for a bottle of Booker’s. However that becomes expensive when you multiply that by just 4 people.

When I started making my own infused syrups at home it occurred to me the potential these had for gift giving. One can make up a batch, pair it with a small bottle of something, and write up a little card with a drink recipe on it. For me, it’s a way of sharing an interest with my friends and getting them tipsy in the process. Win! Even better when you can open it together.

This year I’m expanding my usual arsenal of syrups to include some Fall spices that I want to try out. Adapting the clove syrup recipe from the PDT Cocktail Book, I’ve scaled that down and also worked up a cinnamon syrup too. Bottle these up and give away, or keep for yourself.

For this recipe, I made a master batch of simple syrup and then divided it to steep the cloves and cinnamon separately.

Master Simple Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Combine water and sugar in a sauce pan. Swirl to combine and place over high heat until warmed through and transparent. Do not let it come to a boil. Once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat if using immediately for below or keep over a very low flame- you will need the syrup to be warm to infuse.

Clove Syrup

1/2 cup simple syrup
1/4 oz of cloves (I used a kitchen scale to weigh this out. It’s about 3 tablespoons if I were to eyeball it.)

Combine a half cup of the warm simple syrup with the cloves in a heat-proof container. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain into a bottle through cheesecloth or a fine sieve. Let the mixture cool and store in the refrigerator.

Cinnamon Syrup

1 cup simple syrup
5 sticks of cinnamon, 2″ to 2-1/2″ in length

Combine a half cup of the warm simple syrup with the cinnamon sticks in a heat-proof container. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain into a bottle. Let the mixture cool and store in the refrigerator.

Syrups will keep approximately 1 month in the refrigerator (or at least they do in my house).