Gift Guide: Giddy Up! (Kentucky Derby Time!)

One week from tomorrow it’s OK to carry around a riding crop and wear a helmut in public. Be prepared. Get bourbon.

Gift Guide: Kentucky Derby 2016 // stirandstrain.com

Leave those tiny silver cups at home, we’re feeding a crowd. And by feeding I mean drinking a giant silver punch bowl filled with Mint Juleps. So get your Maker’s Mark, and a commercial ice crusher, and if you have the time, grow some mint! Or, you could just fake it and add in some mint simple instead. Stir it all up with some wild horses, and please, gentlemen, use a napkin.

1. Feeling giddy napkin 2. Grow your own mint plants 3. Triple Crown Napkins 4. Gold Horse Drink Stirrers 5. Maker’s Mark Bourbon American Pharoah Commemorative Bottle (available May 1st!) 6. Mint Julep Simple Syrup 7. Commerical Ice Crusher 8. Silver Vintage Punch Bowl

Peach and Tequila Frozen Cocktail frozen peach cocktails part one

Peach and Tequila Frozen Blended Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIt’s September. Target was filled with Halloween decorations about two weeks ago, and I have a fruit basket filled with peaches. They’re not the prettiest peaches mind you, but they’re still sooooo tasty.

Peach and Tequila Frozen Blended Cocktail // stirandstrain.comI do this every year. I overbuy summer produce like I’ll never see it again and when it starts getting close to Fall, I scramble to use it up. As you all know, it kills me to throw food away. This year it’s a little easier with a little one who gobbles up peaches but I’m still staring at this fruit basket scratching my head.

Peach and Tequila Frozen Blended Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAnd then I go, DUH, and drag out the blender.

Peach and Tequila Frozen Blended Cocktail // stirandstrain.comWhere once you only bought a frozen cocktail while on vacation where you both did not care what you were drinking, and you were more than likely not going to remember it anyway, now I insist you make them for yourself and loved ones. I convinced you to make a Frozen Blood and Sand cocktail last month, and let’s not forget that Cucumber and Green Chartreuse number from last year.

This post is part one of emptying that fruit basket of all those peaches.

Peach and Tequila Frozen Blended Cocktail // stirandstrain.comPeaches, meet tequila.

Serves 4.
6 ounces blanco tequila, such as Herradura
2 ripe peaches, pitted and cubed
1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks
2 ounces fresh pineapple juice
1-1/2 ounces Suze
8 mint leaves
Mint leaves and extra pineapple chunks, for garnish

  • Combine tequila, peaches, pineapple chunks, pineapple juice, Suze, and mint leaves in a zipper-lock bag or resealable jar. Chill at least 8 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator.
  • To serve, transfer chilled tequila mixture to a blender and add 3 cups ice. Blend at high speed until well mixed and thick, about 45 seconds. Divide between coupe glasses and garnish with a pineapple chunk and mint leaves.

A little on the savory side with earthy notes from the tequila and the herbal, floral, bitter Suze. Your sweet peaches balance out that earthy side, mixed with sweet-tart pineapple and mint for a concoction that’s both refreshing and complex.

**This recipe was originally written for Serious Eats.

Chocolate Roundup for National Chocolate Day!

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that National Chocolate Day falls so close to Halloween. Whoever is coming up with these “holidays”, and I think it quite possibly could be a food blogger, is making it easy for me to come up with roundup posts at least once a month. Hey, mostly it means I get to re-introduce some older posts you all might not be familiar with. Like some of these:

Chocolate Rye Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Chocolate Rye Cocktail

Chocolate Smoked Porter Beer Mousse // stirandstrain.com

Chocolate Smoked Porter Beer Mousse

Angostura Brownies // stirandstrain.com

Angostura Chocolate Luxardo Cherry Brownies

Chocolate Chili Mint Vodka Fizz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Chocolate Chili Mint Vodka Fizz Cocktail

Raspberry Amaro Spritz

Raspberry Amaro Spritz Cocktail // stirandstrain.comEarly Sunday evening is a great time to squeeze in one last cocktail for the weekend. For me, I never like to start my Mondays off in a foul, hungover mood, mainly because I’m already grumpy about it being Monday again. So Sundays I either cut myself off early, or I stick to lower alcohol cocktails, like this one.Raspberry Amaro Spritz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Amari are a great sub in for cocktails of the lighter ABV style (as you’ve seen in this first round here) although as I’ve mentioned before, not all are going to clock in under 40% so read your labels. This drink, written earlier this week for Serious Eats, is all about my love/hate relationship with berry season. Mainly, I can’t stand the damn seeds in berries. They pretty much ruin my enjoyment of one of my favorite types of fruit. However, being the crafty person that I am, getting around the issue of the seeds in cocktails was solved with a pretty simple berry syrup. All the flavor with none of the seeds. Smart.

Combined with Cocchi Americano, this syrup gives just enough sweetness so that it’s refreshing to drink while not being too overpowering in the fruit department. Mainly, it’s balanced quite nicely. Raspberry Amaro Spritz Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So please enjoy this late Sunday sipper while we still have long, bright evenings here in the Northern Hemisphere (sorry Australia, you get yours in December). And learn to be OK with drinking cocktails that end in -spritz and are pink.

For the Raspberry-Mint Syrup:
1 cup raspberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
10 mint leaves

In a medium saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar, and water over medium-high heat. Mash raspberries with a wooden spoon to break up. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Add mint leaves and stir to combine. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain into an airtight container. Syrup keeps up to 1 month in the refrigerator.

For the cocktail:
3 ounces dry sparkling wine
1 ounce club soda
2 ounces Cocchi Americano
3/4 ounce Raspberry-Mint Syrup
Raspberries and mint, for garnish

Fill a rocks glass or goblet with ice. Add sparkling wine, club soda, Cocchi Americano, and Raspberry-Mint Syrup. Gently stir to combine. Garnish with raspberries and a sprig of mint.

I’ve got some more of these low alcohol summer cocktails coming at you over the next few weeks so I really hope you enjoy them! As always, let me know if you’re enjoying one through the internet! It’s online all the time!

Sparkling Grapefruit and Lillet Rosé Sangria

Sparkling Grapefruit and Lillet Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.comI took a mid-week break this week and if you follow me on Instagram, or really any of the social media entities, you may have noticed I was visiting Las Vegas for the Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. It’s always a pleasure to get out and meet the faces and personalities behind the sites one reads; this time was no exception. Within the cocktail community, one naturally gravitates towards the like-minded, and for a few days I got to spend some time with Cocktail Blog Winners Death to Sour Mix and Bit By a Fox, as well as The Beeroness and Brunellos Have More Fun. They were all a fun crew (cause, duh, we all love booze) and I’d beg for you all to check out their sites if you’re not familiar with them.


Sparkling Grapefruit and Lillet Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

So, it’s Sunday, and as much as I’d like to go sit outside and continue to enjoy the weekend, I wanted to get this drink post out to you all since it’s both seasonally, and Sunday, appropriate. I originally wrote this recipe for the Serious Eats site a few weeks ago when they were looking for some more patio drinks to feature (and I love a reason to sit outside with a cold pitcher of something good to drink). This time around, instead of wine in a Sangria, I decided on featuring Lillet, and in particular, Lillet Rosé.Sparkling Grapefruit and Lillet Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

We’re still getting grapefruits here, although not the best since the season is ending, however their delicious flavor can still go a long way in a Sangria. Since I was set on using them up, I chose Lillet Rosé as a base since it’s very grapefruit forward and would only enhance that flavor. I followed that up with grapefruit’s best friend mint, and topped it off with Cava. Pretty simple, but super tasty. Now, as far as simple syrup is concerned, you’ll need to taste your grapefruit and see just how sweet it is, or if you just like your Sunday Sippers a tad on the sweet side, use the full amount suggested in the recipe. It’s up to you!

15 fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup simple syrup
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice, from about 2 Ruby Red grapefruits, plus 1/2 of one grapefruit, peel intact, cut into rough chunks
1 cup Lillet Rosé
1 bottle Cava, chilled

  • In the bottom of a pitcher, gently muddle together the mint leaves and simple syrup. Add grapefruit chunks, grapefruit juice, and Lillet Rosé. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, add Cava to the pitcher and stir gently. Serve over ice.

Grapefruit has a bitter, floral flavor that works really well with the sweet, cooling mint. Ruby Red is what is available right now, and these actually veer more towards tart than sweet (if you substitute white flesh grapefruits like an Oro Blanco you’ll need less sugar). The Lillet Rosé makes this a super grapefruit treat that is just a touch sweet and with the bubbly cava, totally summer in your glass.

Now if you all would excuse me, I’m going to go pour myself another glass of this and enjoy the rest of my Sunday, as should you. Sparkling Grapefruit and Lillet Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

A Diwali Cocktail

A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAll of you guys are about to get schooled in a holiday I’m pretty sure you had no idea existed. If you are Indian and are reading this, then, well, you know what holiday this is. If you’re not from Indian descent, I’m guessing you are trying to figure out how to pronounce that word. Diwali. The “W” is like a “V”, pretty easy. In case you are wondering, I am not of Indian descent. My heritage crosses most of Europe, stopping way up North with the Nordic culture, and then randomly zig-zags through the continent. My family even has some French Canadian and a probably unlikely history with the Native American community. That being an unconfirmed princess from some tribe that I think is just made up several generations ago.

So why India’s most major of holidays? I married into it. From first glance you would have no idea my husband was part Indian. The other half is Polish, and after living in Los Angeles for many years before meeting him, I thought he was Mexican when we first met. No offense to Mexican and South American cultures, I was very buzzed at that first meeting. But since being an active part in his Mother’s culture for almost 7 years now, I’ve started to take on some of these other holidays. Also, at his cousin’s request, relocating back to work in India this year, I owe the cousin and her husband a housewarming drink just in time for this holiday.

If you have been reading this blog for some time, you might recall the not-so-pleasant experience I had visiting that continent last year. However, you would note that an awesome drink DID spring up from that experience, and most notably, that country’s love of Gin. India does a decent Gin and Tonic folks.A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So for this year, on the festival of lights, I decided to tweak a recipe I encountered in the Washington Post on Indian beverages. The ingredients might seem a bit out there, but if you’re interested in new flavors, this would be a great place to start. The flavors of India are perfect for many cocktail creations, as they encompass sweet, salty and savory all at once and taste a lot more complex than cocktails you might be familiar with.

Here’s a warning for this drink, not to scare you off, but one ingredient in here, the black salt, might be a bit too much for some of you out there. When you open your container, you will get hit with a great amount of sulphur. That is a flavor component that this adds. Smelly, smelly sulphur. However, if you eat Indian food, you will find this subtly in the background in many dishes, so you might have already tried it before. Here though, if you are terrified of ruining a decent cocktail, or just simply cannot get your hands on it, leave it out. I won’t tell.A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Also, the article suggests adding herbs and whole black peppercorns to your ice cubes the day before. This is optional and mainly a decorative element. When the ice cube starts to melt in the drink, be mindful that the peppercorns may be now floating in your beverage and you might unknowingly almost swallow one. I might have just done that. Twice.

Diwali Cocktail

Adapted from the Washington Post

Yields about 4 drinks

For paste base:
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons amchoor powder
1 teaspoons Indian Black Salt (make sure it is Indian and NOT anything else. No one else will have the same sulphur quality)
pinch kosher salt
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup water

For each serving:
3 to 4 oz. Q Ginger
1-1/2 oz. Old Bombay London Dry Gin

Garnish:
marigolds
lime wedges

  1. In a large mortar dish, add all paste ingredients except water and grind down until a paste forms. Add water and stir to combine. Consistency will be watery.
  2. In a double rocks glass or medium sized snifter, add a tablespoon and a half to the bottom of the glass. Add ice. Pour over gin, Q Ginger and squeeze 2 lime wedges in each glass. Top with marigolds.

At first sip this cocktail is almost shocking. So many flavors are going on in this drink and as you sip they meld together a bit and settle down. Cumin pepper, and the black salt dominate with their earthiness while the ginger, amchoor (which is dried mango powder by the way) and lime have a lovely sharp sweetness. If you would like more sweetness here, you can up the simple syrup or Q Ginger. The mint and cilantro give off some floral aromas as well. And the gin, well, it is sitting way at the back of the class here. It’s in there, but clearly being muscled out by the other spices. The marigolds are edible if you would like to try them although here their presence is symbolic of celebration in Indian culture. For the Hindi ceremony part of our wedding these little guys were EVERYWHERE.

Happy Diwali. If you do venture to make this, please let me know what you think!A Diwali Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Mixology Monday: Green Hell Cocktail

green hell cocktail // stirandstrain.com
Mixology Monday Logo

My fist submission this month for Mixology Monday actually became a recipe idea about a few months ago from a recommended drink at a bar. It’s a part of why this month’s theme was SMOKE. Out at a local restaurant, asking for the bartender’s recommendation while waiting on some friends to show for dinner, we were served a dram of a Whisky called Brimstone. My eyes rolled back in my head as I tasted this incredibly strong, insanely smoky liquid. It was akin to someone just pouring smoke down my throat, and I loved it. I’ve waxed poetic enough on this site to let you all know that woodsmoke is a heavenly smell for me. And being able to drink down that wonderful aroma is like a drink of the gods. Or something in a similar vein.

So we picked up a bottle to have on hand and realized one thing about it, it is really strong, like, one and I’m done strong. Mainly in part because the smoke really is so powerful. Sometimes even I can’t handle that much smoke. That is when the quest to find a cocktail to put this guy in began.

There are many bottles on my shelf that are relegated to the back positions. Not because I don’t know what to do with them…. only I don’t know what to do with them right now. My beautiful bottle of Chartreuse was one of those bottles. Then one day looking through some older cocktail recipes I happened upon the Bijou drink and gave it a whirl. It was sweet and vegetal and I couldn’t stop making them. It also seemed like a great match for the Brimstone.green hell cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Initially I tried tweaking the ingredients to see if I could add an Amaro in for the vermouth, but the sharpness of the vermouth is really needed here to balance out the herbal chartreuse and sweeten the whisky.

And the name of the drink? The combo of the green chartreuse and a smoky whisky called Brimstone immediately made me think of the song Green Hell by the Misfits. I wouldn’t even call the Misfits a guilty pleasure (that would be the housewives franchise). In fact, I realized some time ago while playing the ‘stranded island’ game, that I would take the Misfits collection with me for music I could listen to on said island. I love a crooner’s voice and would, with all sincerity, put Danzig in there as a crooner. Even if he’s singing about dead cats and serial killers.green hell cocktail // stirandstrain.com

1-1/2 oz. Balcones Brimstone Corn Whisky
1 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz. Green Chartreuse
2 dashes Regan’s Bitters

3-4 mint leaves for garnish

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add all ingredients except mint and stir until cold (20-30 seconds). Strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish a side of the glass with mint leaves so that they stick up like little green flames. To do this, drag the bottom half of the leaf through the drink and up on to the side of the glass. The leaf should stick to the inside of the glass. (This could take a try or two).

Woodsmoke is the first aroma that will hit your nose. The color is a deep amber (nope, not green at all). The taste is of woodsmoke with a bittersweet finish. And there are light herbal notes from the chartreuse with hints of citrus.

So this is my first entry for this month’s Mixology Monday. I will have some more smoky fun coming up later in the week. To check on what other’s are submitting, see the announcement post! You can also follow me and Mixology Monday on twitter for retweets and updates.

Mixology Monday: Lazy Sunday Punch

lazy sunday punch // stirandstrain.com

mxmologo

Sundays should be lazy. You shouldn’t have to think that far ahead in your day; events should just roll in and out. And no one judges you if you stay in your soft clothes until Monday morning. This drink came about in that lazy Sunday way. There was definitely a driving force behind it. Mixology Monday was due the next day, and clearly I had to produce something to show for it. Not to knock this month’s theme Drink Your Vegetables, hosted by Fogged In Lounge (whose blog name is so fantastic by the way). This month has just been particularly hard for posts due to outside circumstances, any other month I could have been running wild with fennel and kohlrabi and other vegetables. But here I am on Sunday with a couple cucumbers, and a blender, in my yoga pants.

Mainly when I think of cucumbers I think light, refreshing, and I wanted this drink to come off that way. And it does. It’s not very sweet, although it is sweet enough for me. There is an overwhelming taste of cucumbers, which is the point since we are highlighting veggies here, but it’s not like drinking a V-8. The citrus gives a nice sweet-tart bite, while the elderflower and rose water take away some of the ‘green-ness’ of the drink with a peppery finish from the mint. The tequila is very soft in the background, cucumbers are surprisingly overpowering in flavor. I chose to blitz it all with ice since it seemed like a perfect way to imbibe it on this warm afternoon.

If you find the need for a bit more sweetness, a 1/4 to 1/2 ounce of simple syrup should do the trick.lazysundaypunch-2

4 oz Cazadores Tequila Blanco
1-1/2 oz St. Germain
4 oz freshly squeezed oro blanco grapefruit juice (or sub white grapefruit)
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 oz rose water
2 small cucumbers, peeled and seeded
small handfull of mint leaves

1 cup of crushed ice
cucumber spear for garnish

Add all ingredients except ice to a blender and blend for 15 seconds to combine. Add ice and blend for another 15-20 seconds. Pour into chilled margarita glasses or oversized martini glasses. Garnish with cucumber spears.

I am just realizing that this post is also killing two birds by getting a MxMo post up and getting another round of drinks for two into the mix. Although this makes more like drinks for two and then some.

Chocolate Chili, Mint and Vodka Fizz Cocktail

A couple months back I had more mint syrup sitting in my fridge than I could ever use. I really stretched it out into as many drinks as possible, but still found that its volume was decreasing ever so slightly. Browsing on Foodgawker I caught sight of this drink on there. I filed it as a possibility and then forgot about it, and the mint syrup, until this week. Well, the mint syrup was in bad shape and had to get tossed out. But I still had an idea of reworking this recipe with the chocolate chili bitters I had from Miracle Mile bitters, and I had a bunch of fresh mint hanging around. It could still work, and in the end it did.

The drink came out smooth, minty and flavorful with a subtle kick from the chili in the bitters. The fresh mint and simple syrup were a fine stand in for mint syrup. Why did I keep it as a vodka base? Well, I had a bottle around the house and sometimes I need to come up with drinks for people who only drink vodka. This is one to file away for such a time.

I used a small rocks glass for this drink. It’s really almost a juice glass. But the smallness keeps the flavors vibrant without allowing too much space for melting ice, or for overfilling with club soda.

1-1/2 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz. simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
6 medium sized mint leaves
2-3 dashes of Miracle Mile Chocolate Chili Bitters
2-3 oz. Q-Club club soda
sprig of mint

In the bottom of a rocks glass, muddle the mint leaves and simple syrup together gently just until a minty smell is released. Add the dashes of bitters, a few ice cubes and add vodka. Stir a few times to combine and top with club soda. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Cocktail Quickie: Sparkling Hibiscus Cocktail

Recently a friend of mine was up in Napa visiting family and was gracious enough to bring back a case of Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine with her. After downing a couple of the bottles, I decided that maybe I could use them in other (cocktail) ways.

This week I picked up a small container of hibiscus flowers in syrup. I’ve seen some really gorgeous drinks with these and hoped they actually tasted as good as they looked. I am a believer that your drink garnish should 1. make sense with your drink 2. taste good. And these did both. On it’s own, the hibiscus flowers are a bit chewy like a fruit leather, and taste somewhat like rhubarb.

I wanted this drink to be an easy cocktail that could be whipped up quick as necessary, but also look lovely. Need a Mother’s Day cocktail, something for a brunch for people who *gasp* don’t like Bloody Marys, or are bored by Mimosas? Here  you go.

Be careful with the mint. More than half a bar spoon will overpower the drink. I learned that the first time around on this. Together, the mint and hibiscus provided a sweet backdrop to the sharpness of the sparkling wine. And that flower is a nice little treat at the end.

1/2 bar spoon of mint simple syrup
1 hibiscus flower in syrup
4 oz sparkling wine (I used Gloria Ferrer’s Blanc de Blancs, or use a good dry sparkling wine or prosecco)

Pour the mint syrup in the bottom of a champagne flute. Pick out a hibiscus flower, shake off a bit of the syrup, but having some of the liquid still on the flower is fine and will add some extra hibiscus flavor. Place the flower gently in the bottom of the flute and pour the sparkling wine down into the center of the flower. The flower should stay at the bottom of the glass and open up slightly as it sits.