9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch

9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.comHoliday season is punch season. Ok, well, holiday season means more punch at every party. Everyone wants a punch, but let’s be honest, most of them are pretty meh.

Holiday season also means that hosts are pulling out the good booze because, hey, they’re in the spirit of sharing right now. I see a lot of Scotch brought out. Good scotch. Sometimes so good I’m hesitant to tell the host they should hang on to it and not start passing it about willy nilly. But then I’m selfish and want to drink said scotch so I’m shutting up about it.

9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.comThis holiday season I decided to combine both. I also wanted to create a punch that people who turn their noses up at scotch would like… and I did it. In fact, I got to test this punch out on a pretty varied crowd before I posted it. Initially when I showed up with the punch, people would eagerly ask what was in it then inevitable scrunch their nose as I listed scotch as an ingredient. People who don’t usually drink scotch really tend to have strong opinions about what they assume it will taste like: gym socks, band aids, burnt…stuff… So they already have a negative opinion before they start.9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.com

But the thing about holiday parties is that you always end up staying longer than you thought, and by this point you’re drinking whatever is left. For these people, initially turning down the scotch punch, they begrudgingly took a glass after finding out someone had drank all the good champagne. And then they found themselves confounded: they really liked the punch made with scotch.

Color me amused when the same folks who seemed genuinely annoyed/disgusted/sad when told the giant bowl of punch was made with scotch later came up to me with giant grins asking again what was in that punch? Had I just made converts of this bunch?9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.com

It’s holiday time, the season of giving, so I hope you all will allow me this one time to toot my own horn and smirk just a little as person after person drank up a scotch punch they earlier swore they’d never touch. Curious about the name? If you know your holiday songs, then you’ve recognized this from the 12 Days of Christmas. My punch, with 9 integral ingredients, was for a party with this theme. The Table Set guys sure love a theme party.

Now it’s your turn to try it. Please, be honest, and let me know if I’ve made you a convert too.

For the Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup:

4 (3- or 4-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

In a medium saucepan, combine cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean seeds and pod, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Strain. The syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

For the Chai Tea:

2 cups boiling water
3 chai tea bags

Combine boiling water and tea in a heatproof container. Let steep for 4 minutes. Discard tea bags and let tea cool to room temperature before adding to punch.

For the Punch:

1 (750 ml) bottle blended Scotch, such as Monkey Shoulder
2 1/4 cups Lustau East India Solera Sherry
3/4 cup fresh juice from about 6 lemons
1 1/2 cups Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup
2 cups Chai Tea
1/8 cup Angostura bitters
6 orange wheels, star anise, ice block*, for garnish

In a punch bowl or large container, combine Scotch, sherry, lemon juice, syrup, tea, and bitters. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for 5 hours or up to overnight. When ready to serve, add an ice block and garnish as desired.

*If you want to get really festive, you can add some decorative elements to your ice block. I added extra cranberries to mine. As the night progresses and the ice melts, they’ll start popping out and floating about. So make sure whatever you use is washed and makes sense with the rest of the ingredients!

So yes, scotch is definitely present. I chose Monkey Shoulder blended scotch, which offers a strong punch of malt, smoke, and baking spice flavors, perfect for a winter punch. Next I added in some chai tea just below full strength. The tea adds a wonderful assortment of appropriate flavors: cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom and black pepper all work beautifully with the whisky. Then I followed that up with Sherry for a little sweet nuttiness; Angostura for bitterness but also extra spice; and vanilla-laced cinnamon sugar syrup for a slightly floral and woodsy sweetness.

 

This recipe was originally posted on Serious Eats.

The Southall Tonic

The Southall Tonic // stirandstrain.comFor some time now I’ve had a “warming cocktail with turmeric” sitting in my to-make queue. Summer clearly was not the time to bust that out. Now that it’s turned a tad cooler out, I figured I should quickly get my act together and make this, especially before I found winter had sped by and it was too late to make it again (story of my life).The Southall Tonic // stirandstrain.com

Inspiration came from an unlikely place this time in the form of online dating. Yes, if you’ve been a loyal (or even semi-loyal) reader on here you know I am attached, so I wasn’t out looking, but Match.com came looking for me! In collaboration with the site, they asked me to come up with a London-inspired cocktail. Something that you’d want to order on your first date. You know, the date where you’re trying to impress the other person with your knowledge of fine spirits and interesting ingredients…. that “showing off” I try to impress all of you readers with every week.

For me, when I think of what Londoners are drinking, my mind goes to sophistication. Classy, gin-based cocktails (I’m picturing the American Bar at the Savoy), and then, perhaps, closely followed by beer (I mean, there’s a lot of pubs around town). But all of that tends to start to seem mundane when you suddenly have to impress someone on a first date. And first impressions are everything. So, I’ve come up with a London-inspired cocktail that is still sophisticated, but much more interesting than your run of the mill gin and tonic. Looking for your ice breaker? Here you go…The Southall Tonic // stirandstrain.com

What was my inspiration behind this cocktail? Tony Conigliaro, whose imaginative cocktails are inspiring to myself and many others way across the pond, and curry. No, seriously, curry too. When I think of the flavors of London, I immediately go to the fragrant and spicy dishes found everywhere in town. An amalgam of cultures, London lets you cherry pick the best flavors found all over the planet. But for today, my mind went to curry.The Southall Tonic // stirandstrain.com

Or, more specifically, the turmeric found in curry. Turmeric’s bright yellow color not only provides a beautiful color for the cocktail, but its peppery flavor profile gives it a nice earthy, warm kick too. Oh, and if you’re looking for some banter, it also has numerous health benefits, lots of which you can wiki when you have a moment (just not during your date please).

And there I got my warming cocktail, with turmeric. A couple dashes of lapsang souchong tea tincture gave the drink not only some heft, but an unexpected smoky flavor coming from such a brightly colored cocktail. Rounding out the ingredients, orange flower was added as a finishing touch calling out some of the Middle Eastern influence also found around town. Orange was used instead of lime for the much needed citrus element for this take on a Gin and Tonic.

Southall Tonic

2 ounces London Dry Gin, Beefeater used here
3/4 ounce Turmeric syrup (recipe below)
3-4 drops Lapsang Souchong tea tincutre
4 ounces tonic water, Fever-Tree used here
2 sprays orange flower water (use an atomizer to disperse)

orange peel for garnish

Build the drink by adding a large ice cube to a double rocks glass. Pour in syrup and then add drops of tincture. Pour in gin, top with tonic and then spray orange flower water over glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Turmeric Syrup

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh turmeric root, cleaned and roughly chopped

Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 2 hours. Strain into an airtight container. Store for up to one month.The Southall Tonic // stirandstrain.com

Strong orange oil on the nose and the hint of quinine. The first sip is both sweet and immediately hits you with savory from the tea tincture; it’s an unexpected twist. Next layer of flavors you get are more earthy from the turmeric syrup which balances the sweetness of the syrup and tonic against the strong, smoky lapsang suchong. In the end there is still a crisp bite from the gin that reminds you, at its core, it’s just a tarted up Gin & Tonic.

This post is in collaboration with Match.com. For more information on their city guides, please visit them here!

Cranberry Especial Cocktail

Cranberry Especial Cocktail // stirandstrain.comLast night I made a batch of cranberry sauce. Don’t worry, I realize Thanksgiving is still a week away and no, I’m not going crazy with early prep. It’s actually for a project that you guys will hear about next week. Anyway, it was delicious. It’s also a reminder of how food has changed in my life.

Cranberry Especial Cocktail // stirandstrain.comWhen I was a young person, I had no idea what real cranberries looked like, apart from some illustrations on a bottle of cran-apple juice, and for me, cranberry sauce was cylindrical and had ridges. This was just an accepted fact until I actually ate real homemade cranberry sauce. I don’t remember liking it very much. It was too tart and soupy and where was all the sugar?! Now we make cranberry sauce at home every year and once in awhile I will eat out someplace that still uses canned. It’s more a novelty now; like eating Twinkies. Twinkies are pretty gross now to me, as are most of those grocery store goodies I used to crave.

This isn’t a rant by the way about processed foods and being a food snob. Mainly standing over the stove making the sauce last night just reminded me about how much I’ve come to appreciate and love home cooked food.

Cranberry Especial Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAlso, that I actually really like cranberries too. And so here is your token cranberry holiday cocktail because Thanksgiving is next week. And… cranberries!

1-1/2 ounces Oloroso Sherry, Williams & Humbert Dry Sack 15 year Oloroso used here
3/4 ounce unsweetened cranberry juice, Knudsen’s used here
1/2 ounce gold rum, Phraya used here
1/2 ounce simple syrup, see note above
2 dashes orange bitters such as Fee Brothers
orange peel for garnish

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, combine sherry, cranberry juice, rum, simple syrup and bitters. Shake well about 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with an orange peel.

I created this drink for Serious Eats as a lighter, lower ABV cocktail that you can drink at your holiday party and not get tanked with. I chose the Dry Sack Oloroso style, with its dry, sweet and nutty profile, as my perfect match for cranberries. The sweetness of the sherry also balances the lip-puckering tartness of the cranberry juice. And using real unsweetened cranberry juice here instead of a syrup helps to lighten the dense and potentially sticky mouthfeel of sherry. (Using a heavy syrup alongside of an Oloroso might have been, well, too much of a good thing.) Because sherry has only 20% ABV, the drink makes for a nice, lighter alcohol aperitif to start your evening. An extra half ounce of gold rum added to the drink gives more spicy depth to the drink without adding much boozy punch or detracting from the sherry’s flavor.

Classic and Watermelon-Infused Frozen Negroni Cocktails

Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.comIt’s summertime folks. Let’s all take a backseat to being serious and let our hair down and deep freeze our favorite cocktails.

That’s right. Snobbery be damned: I froze some Negorni cocktails. And they were TASTEEEEE!Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

Now, please stay with me on this. First, shake off your assumptions that suddenly the lofty Negroni has gone the way of the 7/11 slurpee machine: believe me, this is nothing like that. Gone are the teeth-tinglingly sweet frozen drinks you’re used to downing in the summer. The wasted calories of footlong, electric blue “adult” slushies that have about a thimble of alcohol in them and more corn syrup than anything else. These frozen versions of the Negroni take the actual, delicious drink, and whiz it up with ice for all of the bittersweet flavor, only now you sip it through a straw.Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

Oh, and when I say versions, I mean you get TWO variations for this frozen cocktail: classic and a fruit-forward twist on a white negroni: watermelon. The watermelon version is inspired by a drink I just had at a friend’s wedding which was, essentially, a White Negroni whose vermouth had been infused with watermelon. The idea was playful and it was delicious and I knew I needed to make something like that for the site. Lately, I’ve been enjoying a bit more whimsy in my cocktails, I still enjoy the classics, but when you’re recipe developing all the time, your brain wants to go in warped places. At least mine does.Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

Anyways, the idea was great, but I wanted some flexibility with the recipe. And since I wanted something a bit more versatile that I could use in multiple drinks, I infused the gin instead. It’s a short infusion, just two days, and you could always start tasting after day 1 if you don’t want a super-watermelon-y flavor and strain when you think it’s ready. Hint: if you want something over ice, instead of something made of ice, try the watermelon gin with some tonic; the sweet and bitter work well together.Frozen Watermelon White Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

OK! So let’s stop taking ourselves SO seriously, at least for today, and enjoy some frozen cocktails.

Frozen Negroni

4-1/2 ounces gin, such as G’Vine or Fords
2-1/2 ounces Campari
2-1/2 ounces Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
3 cups ice (for a thicker drink, add an additional 1/2 cup ice to each batch)
Orange slices, for garnish

  1. Combine gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in an airtight container. Place in freezer and freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
  2. When ready to serve, add chilled alcohol and ice to blender. Blend on high speed until uniform and smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour into rocks glasses or small wine glass. Garnish with an orange slice and serve immediately.

Frozen Watermelon White Negroni

1/2 cup cubed watermelon
1-1/2 cups gin, such as Broker’s or St. George Botanivore
4-1/2 ounces watermelon gin (see recipe below, line 1)
2-1/2 ounces Cocchi Americano
2-1/4 ounces Dolin Dry Vermouth
3 cups ice (for a thicker drink, add an additional 1/2 cup ice to each batch)
Watermelon and orange slices, for garnish

  1. For the watermelon gin: In an airtight container, combine gin and watermelon. Keep in a cool, dark place for 48 hours. Strain into a clean, airtight container until ready to use. Will keep up to one year.
  2. For the Watermelon White Negroni Slushie: Combine watermelon gin, Cocchi Americano, and vermouth in an airtight container and freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
  3. When ready to serve, add frozen alcohol to a blender with ice. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Split between rocks glasses or small wine glasses. Garnish each glass with a watermelon.

First, drink these with an ounce of caution; they kinda go straight to your head if you sip them up quickly. Second, the chilling overnight is so your mixture does not dilute the ice too quickly while you blend (this step is optional). The classic Negroni tastes pretty much like what you’d get in its natural state. Even though the bitterness is still very present, with this icy state it’s lovely and the citrus notes are quite present. And not watered down tasting! The watermelon on the other hand is delicate with only a hint at the bitterness from the Cocchi Americano. While the fruity watermelon is present, it doesn’t overpower the drink as a whole – it’s a nice accent.

So choose one, or both, to make this weekend. I choose both.

I originally published this recipe on Serious Eats.

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Smoky Beer Sangrita

Smoky Beer Sangrita Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMemorial Day weekend kicks off the official start of grilling season. It also kicks off cut off shorts season and burn until you look like a lobster season. It’s a season of magic.

In my efforts for making your drinking experiences more efficient this summer, I will have a bunch of upcoming recipes that are batched for your convenience. Take 10 minutes the night before, or first thing in the morning, to put together the bases, and then top off as needed day of. Easy.

First up is a drink I made for Serious Eats (guys, drinks is no longer its own site, it’s incorporated into just one big Eats site now, so don’t get confused) where I use BEER as the alcohol base. Yes, yet another beer cocktail on this site for the year. It is the topper for a spicy, smoky sangrita-like base that you can make ahead of time.Smoky Beer Sangrita Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Sangrita-like might be stretching it; it’s really just sangrita made with a bunch of delicious citrus with a dollop of harissa. Not familiar with harissa? If you like spice and smoke you’ll like this peppery paste that has its roots in North African cuisine. It’s not normally used in drinks, but I love the extra level of spice it adds. Also, a little goes a long way, so you can keep it around to experiment with food later.

Usually, sangrita is just the sidekick to a shot of tequila, but I love the rich flavors of tomato and citrus so much I thought it deserved its own spot at the bar (or backyard BBQ) as a cocktail. Since it’s a low alcohol drink, you could easily sip on these all afternoon, playing horseshoes or whatever it is people do outside.

Sangrita Base

1/2 teaspoon harissa, or more to taste
8 ounces tomato juice
6 ounces freshly squeezed juice from about 2 grapefruits
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces freshly squeezed juice from about 2 oranges
1-1/2 ounces freshly squeezed juice from 2 lemons
2 ounces freshly squeezed juice from 2 to 3 limes

For Your Cocktail

Grapefruit wedge
Coarse smoked sea salt
4 ounces Sangrita Base
4 ounces Sculpin IPA, or any hoppy IPA

  • To make the base, in a pitcher, whisk together harissa, black pepper and tomato juice. Add grapefruit juice, orange juice, lemon and lime juice. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 8 hours maximum.
  • To make the cocktail, wet the rim of a highball glass with grapefruit wedge, dip moistened edge in smoked sea salt. Add ice and 4 ounces of the sangrita base. Top with 4 ounces of IPA. Garnish with grapefruit wedge and serve.

Citrus is an ideal match for a hoppy IPA. The Sculpin IPA from Ballast imparts a lot of grapefruit and lemon in the flavor, as well as in the aroma, which not only compliments the tomato-citrus base, but also adds some needed bitterness to round out the drink. With beer cocktails, the effervescent quality will significantly lift a heavier based drink which can sometimes seem like a challenge to drink. It can also provide a smoother, creamy texture, making the drink feel more like a “cocktail” and less like juice (or in this case Gazpacho). If the Sculpin is not available in your area, look for a beer with this kind of citrus profile. And at the end of the day, if you run out of the base, this beer pairs excellently with barbecue too.

Sex on the Beach Sailboat Popsicles

Sex on the Beach Sailboat Cocktails // stirandstrain.comI bought these sailboat popsicle molds last year with the sole intention of putting some sort of boozy frozen delicacy in them. And then a year went by, and I only just got around to taking them out of the box. And for a private dinner no less! I knew that if I put this post up on April 1st (yesterday) you all would have erroneously assumed it was some kind of practical joke. Sex on the Beach…popsicles?!?! So I thought it best to go up the next day to avoid any confusion with this recipe because it is, in fact, quite tasty.

The “cocktail” was developed after I was hired to make drinks for a private dinner party where the theme was “Seafood, Italian, 80’s Miami a la the Golden Girls”. The sailboats were the amuse course. The next four cocktails were all based on the four Golden Girls (you can check out some of those pics in my Instagram feed). My eyes popped wide open once I realized that I could use the sailboat molds – finally! At first I had thought I’d make a highbrow cherimoya-lime-spicy concoction. But then stopped myself. 80’s Miami? It HAS to be a cocktail riff based on one of those “classics” of the era; so a Sex on the Beach was made and enjoyed by all.Sex on the Beach Sailboat Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

I made a few adjustments to the recipe to start. Cranberry juice is almost never making an appearance in my fridge, so instead I subbed in my homemade grenadine. Same goes with Peach Schnapps. Instead, a fresh peach puree was used in place. A few minor changes took this recipe from meh to ahhh, resulting in a great start to the dinner.

So now I’m sharing the recipe with you all. It’s a taste of the summer to come.Sex on the Beach Sailboat Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

Note: you don’t need to have these sailboats on hand. Any popsicle mold will suffice, but just won’t be as fun.

1/2 ounce grenadine (homemade is always best)
1 ounce peach puree
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce vodka, Aylesbury Duck from the 86 Co. used here
1/4 ounce G.E. Massenez Creme de Cassis

  1. In the bottom of your popsicle mold, pour grenadine in. Freeze to semi-frozen, about 45 minutes.
  2. Mix together peach puree, orange juice and vodka. Pour on top of grenadine. Freeze to semi-frozen, about an hour and a half.
  3. Drizzle creme de cassis on top of peach/O.J./vodka mixture. Add popsicle stick at this point and freeze until solid, at least 6 hours but overnight is best.
  4. To un-mold, squeeze mold to release sides of the popsicle. This should enable you to wiggle the popsicle out. If not, run under warm, NOT hot, water for 5 seconds to help un-mold.
  5. Eat immediately!

Why not WAY more alcohol? Because then they wouldn’t freeze well. I tried this with one ounce of vodka in the center and it never fully froze to a stable consistency. That said, you can still taste that these have some booze in them because clearly, that’s the point. They do have a nice fruity punch to them with the grenadine working well in contrast with the peach/orange combo. Depending on the creme de cassis you have, this can be left out (some flavors work better than others). Try one with and one without to see for yourself. I tried this with Chambord too but the flavor just didn’t work well here, somehow it became almost medicinal. Also, if you can get a giant seashell filled with ice to display your pops in, you win.

Trinidad Spell (with a whole lot of bitters)

Trinidad Spell Cocktail // stirandstrain.comOne day trolling the internet I came across a drink called the Stormy Mai-Tai. This tropical sounding cocktail totally threw me for a loop–there was a whole lot of bitters in there. Like, a WHOLE lot. An ounce and a half.

Somewhere along the way through my cocktail education, I mistakenly thought bitters contained lethal amounts of alcohol that when taken in large doses would kill me. Clearly I was mistaken. Here was a drink that showed you could use bitters as a base and not just an accent. Also, I had overlooked the fact that Angostura only clocked in at 44.7% ABV, not lethal.Trinidad Spell Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I had thought of recreating the Stormy Mai-Tai here for this site, but when I was asked to come up with a bitters-heavy drink for Serious Drinks, I thought I’d see where else I could get bitters to work in large doses; so I turned to Tiki drinks.

I adapted the Polynesian Spell (which you can find in the Grog Log) by replacing the grape juice (there’s a head scratcher), triple sec, and peach brandy with Angostura, apricot brandy, passion fruit and citrus; I kept the gin. I was going out on a limb trying to shove Angostura in there, but after a couple of tweaks…wow. It was a success.

1 ounce Angostura
1 ounce gin, London Dry style
3/4 ounce Rothman & Winter Apricot Brandy
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice from 1/4 orange
1/2 ounce passion fruit syrup (see note)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled 2/3 with ice. Shake hard for 30 seconds to incorporate and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish according to your own inner-Tiki style.

Yes, the flavor is strongly bittered, but there’s also a cascade of cherry and clove, fruit and sweetness. The aroma is fiery from the Angostura with strong hints of passionfruit and orange. The slight numbing of your tongue may serve to remind you: you’re drinking a heck of a lot of bitters.

For this recipe, I used a Cobalt shaker*. I was sent this shaker to try out and I’ve used for several of my tiki drinks for a few reasons. One, the shaker gets things cold, really cold. And two, for the boozier drinks, I like the small ice chips that slowly melt as I drink the cocktail. It’s also roomy for large volume recipes like these too.

cobalt shaker // Trinidad Spell Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. All opinions are my own and no monetary compensation was given. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Make It: Meyer Lemon Bitters

Make It: Meyer Lemon Bitters // stirandstrain.comIt’s Tuesday, so I bet you’re already thinking about the weekend by this point in the day. So how about a fun DIY project to start planning? That involves doing something with all that winter citrus you have hanging out in your fruit basket? Making bitters might seem like a daunting task, but a lot of it is just sitting around waiting for it to be done already. Kinda like Limoncello (or Tangelocello). And, this recipe yields enough that you can bottle up and give away some as gifts. Those people will think it took you forever, but you don’t have to tell them how easy this is.

My recipe is based off of B.T. Parsons’ recipe found in his essential book on bitters, aptly titled “Bitters“. I made his version last year to the letter and enjoyed the results, however, I found that this year I wanted a version less sweet and delicate, and more bitter with richer citrus notes. So that’s what you’re getting here.

Make It: Meyer Lemon Bitters // stirandstrain.comA couple of tips to help you along the way: First, use a vegetable peeler to zest the citrus. Using a light hand while peeling will help keep the pith on the fruit and not on the zest (YOU want to control your bitterness in the recipe, not the fruit). Second, invest in some cheesecloth. A small amount of cheesecloth will go a long way in keeping unwanted particles from entering your final product, and you’ll find plenty of other uses for it in the kitchen. And lastly, if any of these ingredients have you scratching your head, they’re all available online.Make It: Meyer Lemon Bitters // stirandstrain.com

Adapted from the book “Bitters”
Yields approximately 18 ounces
zest from 4 meyer lemons
zest from 1/2 bitter orange (such as Seville)
zest from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons dried lemon zest (see note below)
1/2 tablespoon dried orange zest
4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon dried ginger (do not use powder, see note on dried citrus)
1/4 teaspoon whole coriander
1/4 teaspoon whole white pepper
4 – 5 dried Dried Kaffir Lime Leaves
3/4 teaspoon gentian root
1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 cups high proof vodka (I have access to 150 proof everclear in California, however, 100 proof vodka would also work)
1 cup water

  1. To make dried citrus, zest 4-6 large lemons (2 oranges or peel a 1″ nub of ginger and slice). Chop peel and lay on a baking sheet in an oven set at 250°F for 1 hour. Peel should be completely dry but not brittle. Dried lemon zest is also available commercially.
  2. In an airtight container, combine all of the zest, cardamom, ginger, coriander, white pepper, lime leaves, gentian root, and fennel seed. Pour vodka over the ingredients and seal container. Swirl to combine. Keep the container in a cool, dark place for two weeks, swirling mixture once daily. (I find it helps to set a calendar reminder also at this point.)
  3. After two weeks, strain out solids and set aside. Strain liquid through a cheesecloth to remove any particles left and transfer to an airtight container. Store in a cool, dark place. In a small sauce pan, combine solids with water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once boil is reached, turn heat to low and let simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, pour contents of the pan into a separate airtight container and let sit one week.
  4. After a week, strain out solids through a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh strainer. Add to the original liquid that has been set aside. Let sit at room temperature for 3 days and skim off any residue that accumulates at the top. Strain again if there is any leftover sediment and bottle into dropper bottles for storage.

Meyer lemons have a more pronounced floral aroma, as opposed to just a regular lemon, which tends to be more astringent. To pierce the perfumy nature of the meyer lemons, the kaffir lime leaves give a nice punch and aroma, while the bitter orange, fennel and spices create earthy undertones for balance.

I add a few drops to a Gin & Tonic, and they can be used as a sub for recipes using regular lemon bitters. Experiment and see what cocktails work for you!

*This recipe originally appeared on the Serious Drinks site.

Orange-Pecan American Triology a.k.a. “The Clusterf*ck”

american-cluster-3Apologies are in order first, as these bitters used here you can’t actually buy anymore. Clusterf*uck bitters were named after a kitchen mishap from Miracle Mile Bitter’s owner Louis Anderman where he accidentally mixed a batch of pecan bitters with orange bitters creating this delicious one-off. I, of course, ran as fast as I could to a local shop to pick up a bottle before they sold out. Which they did. Quickly. But fear not, you can mix your own at home to pretty much replicate the same flavor. 2:1 pecan to orange bitters.

american-cluster-2Ok, now that the caveat is out of the way. Here’s the cocktail. It’s actually Anderman’s way of enjoying these bitters in a simple, straight-up cocktail, the American Trilogy. More apologies are in order I guess if you’ve read this far thinking I might start talking about the Elvis song. I’m not going to, except maybe to say it’s a decent song. And possibly wonder how far up the google ladder this post would have to climb in order for it to have some relevance to Elvis. Anyway, this recipe comes via the Looka! Blog, a fellow Los Angeles cocktail lover, and lover more so of all things New Orleans. Check him out.

Via Looka! via Caroline on Crack with respect to Miracle Mile Bitters
1 oz Rittenhouse 100 rye whiskey
1 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1 barspoon rich Demerara syrup
3 dashes Miracle Mile Clusterf*ck bitters (sub out 2 dashes pecan bitters and one dash orange bitters)
Orange peel for garnishamerican-cluster-1

Combine all ingredients except peel in a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Express orange oil from the peel over the drink and around the rim then drop it into the glass.

Fresh orange fills your nose as you get into the glass, while that first sip, expecting fire from the rye and applejack, is actually soft and nutty. There’s a touch of sweetness, but not overpowering. The rich syrup works well with the liquors to balance out. Lovely, simple and solid.

Burnt Sage and Blackberry Sangria for Two

sage blackberry sangriaCocktails are rarely a solitary experience in my household. Many of the cocktails you find on this site are created in duplicate because they are shared among two or more people in one sitting. Which got me thinking, why don’t I have more cocktails for two on here? So, I’m going to try and have more of those around in the next few months.

First up, Sangria. Except, this is way more complex of a Sangria than I thought I would be able to get out of it. This is due to an extreme case of being flustered, tired, and combatting a cold. To sum it up, I was too lazy to check in on it after the first day and just let it sit for two days in the fridge. Result: a sangria for cocktail lovers.

Sangria holds a special place in my memory. I remember the first time I drank it. At the office going away party that was thrown for me when I turned 21 and moved out to Los Angeles. Let’s get our story straight though; turning 21 had nothing to do with moving West. It was a passing fancy when a friend of mine decided to move out here and I decided I would too. It was a last minute decision. Rarely did I make well thought-out decisions at that age. Anyway, since there was a table of us, and technically, we were at lunch and people would be returning to the office, a pitcher of Sangria was ordered. At 21 this seemed exotic and fancy, the same way that seeing someone bring out a flaming bowl of liquor at a Chinese restaurant was exotic 10 years prior. I don’t remember how it tasted, only that it was red Sangria. Since then, I’ve been spectacularly disappointed by this drink many a time.

But now something in me wanted to make this again, and make it good. Thankfully procrastination made this work in my favor.sageblackberrysangria-1

Burnt sage? YES. Just lightly torch the edges, don’t try and burn up the whole leaf. If you find you’ve charred it too much, just break that part off. This was also an excuse to use more of the black pepper syrup I have stored up in the fridge, it’s really much more versatile than I thought and adds a peppery bite to the syrupy blackberries and wine.sageblackberrysangria-2

This drink is for two but can easily be adapted into a larger batch. If you have a third of a bottle laying around it’s a good way to use that up.

4-1/2 oz Red Wine (Malbec used here)
3 oz Four Roses Bourbon
1 oz black pepper syrup (recipe here)
3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
4-5 burnt sage leaves
8 blackberries

4 slices of blood orange

Burn the edges of the sage leaves and let cool for a few seconds. Add the leaves to the bottom of a mixing glass, add syrup and lime juice. Lightly muddle. Add blackberries and crush, leaving some pieces more intact than others. Pour in wine and whiskey, add orange slices, stir to combine and cover (I used the other half of the Boston Strainer for a cover). Let sit for two days refrigerated to steep. After two days, stir gently. Fill two rocks glasses with ice cubes. Carefully pour the contents of the mixing glass between the two glasses.sageblackberrysangria-3

Don’t be afraid of the overpowering smell of whiskey you will have when you first make this. It needs to sit and steep. What you get at the end of two days is a sweet and sharp elixir.  On the nose are orange and berry followed by more berry on the palate with subtle layers of tart and pepper with an earthy undertone. It’s rich, which is the one characteristic that I find lacking in most Sangrias. There is a heavier body that the whiskey contributes to overall making this seem almost more like a rather large cocktail than just a ‘wine’ drink.

Now I somehow need to do this with a white wine. Wish me luck.