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.

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails //stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by the US Highbush Blueberry Council.
Recipes and ideas are my own.

The time you spend making cocktails during holiday time should be greatly less than the time spent on enjoying them with friends and loved ones. During this season (roughly September through early January now), I am a huge fan of big batched cocktails. So this week, with just a few days left before Thanksgiving descends upon us, I’ve brought out a little help from my favorite berry to mix up something tasty for you all. No, not the cranberry, the blueberry.

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails //stirandstrain.comWe are a family that consumes blueberries in very large quantities. If you ask my kid what is her favorite food, or pretty much what her favorite anything is (she’s two and is still working out the intricacies of the English language), she will say blueberries. We are lucky here in Southern California that we can get them at the market for a selfishly long time, and then when those are gone, we hit up the frozen section. Going without them is just not an option. Blueberries have a lovely balance of sweetness and sour that is always key in a good cocktail. Pair them with your cheeseboard, drink this with the main meal, or just enjoy it after all your guests finally leave. It’s up to you, but, really, this works anytime.

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails //stirandstrain.comThis cocktail combines blueberries, maple syrup, lemons, and sparkling wine for a super easy to make and party pleasing cocktail. I love this recipe for two reasons. One, it’s easy to batch and the base will keep for some time. And two, that leftover syrup makes for some darn tasty pancake topping. Score!

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails //stirandstrain.comFor my cocktail recipe and lots more blueberry holiday inspiration, please visit the US Highbush Blueberry Council here.

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails //stirandstrain.com



Spooky (and not so spooky) Fall Cocktails

I’m back east right now visiting with family in New England and everywhere I go I am reminded of just how much more it feels like Autumn. Besides the fact there is an actual chill in the air, we drive by corn mazes and apple stands and people really deck out their houses for Halloween. Entire towns decorate for Halloween. I’m trying not to think about the 90° temps that we will be returning to in Southern California. For now, I’m just going to soak all this Autumn in and give you guys some of my favorite Spooky, and just plain seasonally appropriate cocktails.

The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Royal Affliction Cocktail

 Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon

Apple Elixir Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Apple Elixir Cocktail

Mixology Monday: Night Call Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Night Call Cocktail

Winter Pear Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Fir Tree Pear Cocktail

green hell cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Green Hell Cocktail

The Private Club Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Private Club Cocktail

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel // stirandstrain.comAbout a year ago I saw an article about a new (very old) elixir riding on the coattails of the cocktail world’s shrub renaissance. This drink’s name: Switchel. I think switchel sounds a bit more fun than shrub. Shrub sounds like the friend you have who won’t go out on a Thursday night because they have to turn in a term paper the following Monday and need the time to study. Switchel sounds more like that friend calling you at 4am asking if you want to get doughnuts.

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel // stirandstrain.comAnyway, Switchel quietly died down and I completely forgot about the saved article. I continued on with shrubs despite the name. (see here here and here) Recently though I remembered I had saved this article and revisited it again. More likely out of my desperation for it to be Fall already, I was looking for recipe ideas using apples. Instead it uses apple cider vinegar, a starting point I’d use to adapt to my own Autumnal tipple.

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel // stirandstrain.comSwitchel recipes are all basically the same plus or minus an ingredient or two. It also batches really well. So you can mix up at gallon of it Sunday night and drink it all week.

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel // stirandstrain.comGuys! Maybe I should back up here a second and remind you that switchel is NON ALCOHOLIC. Just like a shrub it contains no alcohol, but you can use it as a base for your cocktail creations. I even have a recipe for you I’ll link to. The flavor of this switchel on its own is sharp and tangy and almost like drinking a cocktail, or at least that’s what you tell yourself if you’re -cough- well into your second trimester and desperately miss cocktails. So, pregnant ladies out there, you’re welcome.

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel // stirandstrain.comFor my variation on a switchel, I added in some of my favorite Fall flavors: cinnamon, green cardamom, cloves and steeped that in a base of apple cider vinegar, ginger and maple syrup. The spices are subtle when compared to the strong, zingy ginger, but I like that those flavors are not too overpowering. The apple cider vinegar provides a sharp sour contrast that you can adjust by adding or subtracting the water from the mix. Personally I like that sour flavor and I find the drink quite refreshing. If you’ve found shrubs to be a bit too strong for you, you definitely might want to scale back on the vinegar and up the water a bit; taste and see.

Autumn Apple Cider Switchel

Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 5″-piece fresh ginger (about 6 ounces)
½ cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
4 cups water
2 4-6″ pieces of cinnamon
6 green cardamon pods, lightly crushed
4 cloves, whole

Pass ginger through a juicer (you should have about ⅓ cup). Strain the juice through a fine sieve to remove any larger pieces. Combine ginger juice, vinegar, maple syrup, and water in a large container and stir until maple syrup is dissolved. Add in cinnamon sticks. And then put the cloves and cardamom pods into a tea filter bag (Bags are not necessary but help in collecting all the bits later on. I prefer the bags with the drawstring for easy collection later on.) and add to the mix. Refrigerate overnight or at least 12 hours.

When ready to drink, remove the cinnamon sticks and the bagged spices. Switchel can be drunk as is, over ice with a splash of lemon juice or in a cocktail.

And speaking of cocktails, we’ll have an end of Summer cocktail using the Autumn Apple Cider Switchel here tomorrow! Enjoy!

Fall Cocktail Roundup

For those few of you who have a job that gives you a 3 day weekend starting today, lucky you. I’m pretty sure that last time I had that Monday off I was in college… a long time ago in college. But let’s not focus on that for now. Even if your weekend is only two days long, or even one, I’ll also give you guys an excuse to drink a good cocktail. Here’s a roundup of my Fall favorites.

The Private Club Cocktail // stirandstrain.comPrivate Club Cocktail

The Royal Affliction Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Royal Affliction

Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

Pumpkin Spiced Bourbon

The Golden Hour Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThe Golden Hour

Honey Vanilla Hot Toddy // stirandstrain.com

Honey Vanilla Chai Hot Toddy

Mixology Monday: Classic Blackberry Shrub

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com
Mixology Monday LogoOk, first off guys, I am well aware it’s not Monday despite the name of the post. However, I wanted to get this up before the Monday deadline. What deadline? What are you talking about? Mixology Monday for you newbies here is the once a month “cocktail party” where internet people like to show off with a drink they made based on a theme by whoever “hosts” this month. Please read up on it here and see past entries on the MxMo site. This month, Craig from “A World of Drinks” gave us the theme of “Preserves” (and yes, there’s a lot of quotation marks happening in this paragraph). It took me a second to realize that I was already planning on making a shrub this month, and since making shrubs was an old school way of preserving fruit, I was ready to publish a double duty post this month.

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com

Blackberries. I love the taste of them, but, truth be told, I hate eating them. Those little seeds! They always get stuck in my teeth and half the time they seem like too much of a bother to eat. Anyone with me on this or am I crazy? Last week my husband was out getting some food and I had asked him to pick up some blueberries. Apparently the store was out and he figured I just wanted a berry that was close enough to blue to eat. So he picked up blackberries instead. After scrunching up my face at them and letting them sit there for a few days, the overwhelming urge not to waste food made me cave in. What to do with them?

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.comA shrub! If I made them into a shrub I was just going to extract their juices and all those annoying little seeds would stay in the strainer. I might have patted myself on the back there for thoughtfulness.

Shrubs are a bit well known now, more so than say, a year ago. I see them a lot more on cocktail menus and on the shelves of my local liquor suppliers. Shrubs are also pretty simple to make yourself; let me show you how.

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com

Classic Blackberry Shrub

1 cup whole blackberries, rinsed
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  1. Combine blackberries and sugar in a bowl. Lightly crush the blackberries to release their juices (I used a potato masher, but a fork would suffice). Cover and let sit 8 hours or overnight. Shake the bowl every once in awhile to make sure the sugar is incorporating into the juice. Half way through, stir the mixture and re-cover.
  2. Next, strain the mixture through a fine strainer into an airtight container. Add the vinegar and shake well (if any sugar has remained, shake hard to dissolve here). Store the container in the refrigerator for 6 days.
  3. After 6 days give it a taste. Usually, by day 6 the sharpness of the vinegar has started to pull back and let the sweetness from the sugar and fruit stand out more. Keep in mind, this is a vinegar base: it will ALWAYS taste like vinegar. The vinegar will mellow more as it sits but its zing is what is wanted in a shrub.

For this shrub, there is a nice sweet and sour balance from the ingredients. The blackberries produce a tartness that is heightened from the vinegar while the sugar cuts through to keep your mouth from puckering. Strong nose of vinegar with subtle berry.

Sparkling Blackberry Shrub (no booze)

1/2 ounce blackberry shrub (recipe above)
6 ounces sparkling water
1 lime wedge

Fill a rocks glass with the water and pour the shrub down the center. Stir to combine. Squeeze a wedge of lime and add spent lime to the glass.

And here’s Christopher’s cocktail recipe with the shrub he’s been making:

2 ounces 4 Roses Bourbon Yellow Label
1 ounce Blackberry Shrub (recipe above)
1/4 ounce maple syrup

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice. Add all ingredients and stir to chill. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Thanks to Craig for hosting this month and Fred for keeping MxMo up and alive!

Private Club Cocktail

The Private Club Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMaple. Walnut. There really are only two places your mind is going to go after hearing these words in rapid succession. One is breakfast cereal, the other is wood types. If you can think of a third I’d love to hear about it.

I got it stuck in my head a few weeks back that what I needed on the site was a maple cocktail. But I couldn’t get out of the loop that it had to be a maple walnut cocktail. Problem with that duo is that it evokes a sticky sweetness that quite frankly sounded like a cocktail I would be serving at a kid’s party…if that makes any sense at all. Shear stubbornness on my part to keep this flavor duo won the house over in the end though. Want to know why? Citrus is the key to balancing a sweet cocktail. Well, and some bitter too but let’s keep this simple.

In its infancy, I was trying to work with a Manhattan variation but Rye was just not cutting it; too harsh. Cognac needed to step in and take over. And then I threw the sweet vermouth out and Amaro Nonino took its place. Angostura stayed put with the maple walnut flavor; just had to cut it with some lemon juice for balance.

Then suddenly it all made sense. The dark wood. The sexy cognac. This was a cocktail you’d find in a private club. I’d say gentlemen’s club but then you’d start thinking of pole dancing and that is not what I mean. This rich and superbly balanced cocktail is meant to be sipped in an overstuffed chair while you debate the sturdiness of the legs on some race horses you no doubt put a lot of money on for the win. There or by the fireplace wishing for the winter chill to pass.The Private Club Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Pro Tip: Just like you would sharpen/hone your knives, did you know you can also extend the life of your paring knife by doing this too? If you have knives you care about and own a Sharpening Steel, make sure you hone your paring knife before every use. Believe me, once I tried this out it made cutting citrus zest SO much easier since I had a nice sharp blade to work with. You can pick up a sharpening steel for relatively cheap online, and save yourself the trouble of having to go and constantly replace your paring knives. Saving money, that’s my gift to you all. 

2 oz. Camus Cognac
3/4 oz. Amaro Nonino
1/4 oz. organic medium amber maple syrup
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice (Eureka lemon used here)
3 dashes Fee Brothers Black Walnut Bitters
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

2″ long strip lemon peel for garnish

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add cognac, amaro, maple syrup, lemon juice and bitters. Stir to chill about 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Express lemon oils from the peel over the drink and add the zest to the glass.

Lemony aroma that has a bright, clean start that eases into a warm, nutty sweetness. I served this cocktail over a large (2″ square, like this one) ice cube and found that the slow dilution kept this balanced the whole time I sipped it.