Pitchers of Cocktails for Your Labor Day Weekend

I seriously received no less than 6 emails from PR companies pitching me “Labor-less cocktail ideas” over the past two weeks. Eye rolling aside, I get it. No one wants to spend time outside at their Labor Day BBQ making single drink requests for every person that stops by. It’s time for PITCHERS OF COCKTAILS! And I have a few ideas for you guys. Check them out below.

Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Pitcher Cocktails

Sparkling and Spiced Winter Sangria // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling and Spiced Winter Sangria

sage blackberry sangria // stirandstrain.com

Burnt Sage and Blackberry Sangria

Pisco Brunch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Pisco, Grapefruit, Lime and Thyme Pitcher Cocktails

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.com

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction

Mother’s Day Cocktail Roundup 2016

Well guys, it’s been two years since I’ve done one of these, so here’s your 2016 cocktail roundup for all your Moms. Drink up!

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling Lemony-Suze Cocktails

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha

Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

Fresh Ginger Amaretto Sour Cocktails

 Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.com

Smoked-Rosemary Rum Punch

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.com

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails

Pisco Brunch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

A Pitcher of Pisco with Grapefruit, Lime and Thyme

The Pineapple Hop Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

The Pineapple Hop, a beer & pineapple shrub cocktail

Lemony Suze Sparkling Pitcher Cocktails

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIt may be January but I’m still in good spirits riding the Christmas high. That is until my husband kindly asks that the Christmas lights be removed from the porch (I’m trying to hold out until at least February). For those of you though that have shrugged off (or exuberantly put a nail in) the holiday season, I’ve got something today that perhaps will add some sparkle back into your January.

Pitchers of cocktails.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comNot only pitchers, but bright and warm, sunny yellow Suze with a good dose of winter citrus and an even bigger dose of sparkling wine. No hard booze here so you can tell yourself you’re still keeping to your resolutions.

Our New Year’s Eve tradition, at least for the last few years, has been for Christopher to make a batch of Scotch eggs. He almost bowed out of it this year but I balked at the idea of not continuing making them; I may have developed a slight superstition and now we cannot ring in the new year without them. One of the ingredients that goes into the sausage mixture is sage. And seeing as I have yet to keep a sage plant alive around here, we buy it. Alas, you cannot get sage in any small amount at our Whole Foods, so we always end up with much more than we need. I already had dried the last batch we bought, so I thought that this cocktail could use a touch of the herb.

I dunno guys, sage might become the new rosemary around here.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThe sage leaves get steeped into a lemon simple syrup to add a little depth. To further enhance sage’s flavor, we’re mixing it with Suze, a saffron-colored French aperitif whose bitter yellow gentian root flavor makes it a cousin to the Italian amaro family. It has hints of citrus and wildflower, and balances a mild sweetness with vegetal bitterness.

You might want to invite some guests over for a few casual drinks before dinner, or even serve this at a brunch. While the base can sit overnight, and then be topped off with Cava in a pitcher so that guests can help themselves, you’ll want make sure it doesn’t sit out for long after the bubbly has been added. No one wants a “sparkling drink” that’s flat and warm.

Happy 2016 everyone!

For the Lemon-Sage Syrup:

6 ounces water
8 ounces (about 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 lemons
Finely grated zest from 2 lemons
10 medium sage leaves

Combine water, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and sage in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, remove from heat, and let stand 1 hour. Strain and refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week.

For the cocktails (Yields 6 drinks):

6 ounces Lemon-Sage Syrup
1 1/2 ounces Suze
1 bottle chilled Cava or other dry sparkling wine
6 strips lemon zest
6 fresh sage leaves

The night before serving, combine the lemon-sage syrup and Suze in a large pitcher. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to serve, add Cava, pouring slowly, and gently stir to combine. Split between six Champagne flutes, twisting a lemon zest strip over each and garnishing with a sage leaf.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I originally posted this recipe on Serious Eats!

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails for a crowd or yourself

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comMaybe you guys can help me out here. If a neighbor has a fruit tree, let’s say a pomegranate tree, overburdened with fruit, like so much fruit. And it’s just sitting there out on the sidewalk for anyone to pluck a few as they walk by… Is it OK just to pluck a few? You’re not going in their yard. In fact, they are dropping from the branches looking for an excuse to go home with you.

My neighbors don’t know how lucky they are. My mother-in-law’s pomegranate tree gave us a whopping two fruit. TWO?! The tree is being downright lazy this year. So for this cocktail we’ll just turn to the bottled stuff.

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThank god for bottled pomegranate juice though. I will say that despite this desperation I have of ridding my neighbor’s tree of all their fruit, juicing all those pomegranates is a pain in the ass. And now that it’s officially Fall, and I believe also the start of pomegranate season, it’s time for some transitional cocktails. Because we are still going through our usual high temps in Southern California I just can’t bring myself to make something too Fall-like yet. So today I have a bit of a summery beverage with just a touch of Fall.

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThis recipe yields enough for about 4 cocktails, but you can also single batch this for yourself. I’ve been enjoying these splits of sparkling wine lately for when I want a sparkling cocktail but don’t want to crack open a big bottle.  Because what usually happens is that I make a cocktail and just drink all the rest of the sparkling wine by itself.

Do you like juicing pomegranates? Feel free to sub in fresh for the bottled if you’d like.

Sparkling Pomegranate and Cocchi Rosa Cocktails // stirandstrain.comFor the Pomegranate Reduction:

1 cup 100% pomegranate juice

  • In a small saucepan, bring pomegranate juice to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced to 3 ounces (6 tablespoons), 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container up to 1 month.

For the Cocktails:

3 ounces Pomegranate Reduction
4 ounces Cocchi Rosa
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 to 4 limes
16 ounces sparkling wine
4 orange twists, for garnish

  • In a pitcher, add the pomegranate reduction, Cocchi Rosa, and lime juice. Top with sparkling wine and gently stir to combine. To serve, divide between 4 glasses filled with ice. Express orange oil from twists over each drink, then add twists to each glass to garnish.

To temper the pomegranate syrup’s richness and bring in a bit of brightness, I use a sparkling wine for the base. And to offset the syrup’s sweetness, I mix in Cocchi Rosa, an aromatized wine whose subtle bitterness comes from gentian and cinchona bark. A splash of lime keeps it fresh. An orange twist adds a final layer of aroma and brings out the citrus qualities of the Rosa.

I originally published this recipe on Serious Eats.

Gunpowder Gin Punch

Gunpowder Gin Punch Cocktail // stirandstrain.comHappy Friday everyone!

I hope you’re enjoying this week’s posts on the site. Have you entered to win some summer reading? You can do that here if you’d like.

Have the fireworks died down in your neck of the woods? Where I live in Los Angeles, fireworks started popping off around mid-June… and they’re still going off almost a week after the 4th. After moving out here over 13 years ago the surprise has worn off and I’ve just accepted this as a natural part of summer out here. At all times of day. Like 10am (why even bother?!). Gunpowder Gin Punch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Since the weekend is just about here, I’d like to offer up a punch for you to bring to your next summer party. I’m sure you have a few on your calendar coming up, and maybe a few penciled in for tomorrow. While it may not produce multi-colored fireworks, it does have gunpowder! Well, gunpowder tea, which isn’t an actual explosive but sounds pretty darn close. (Apparently it gets its name from the way the tea is rolled… like the little pellets used in the old days)Gunpowder Gin Punch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

At its base, there’s an oleo-saccharum (your fancy term for muddled citrus peels and sugar) and with the tea, it’s kinda like a boozy, refreshing Arnold Palmer. The kicker here is the addition of celery bitters (!!!). So the result is a sweet and savory punch that has unexpected flavors but it definitely a crowd pleaser.

Plus, people will be intrigued just by you saying ‘gunpowder’ in the title.  But maybe sneak in a few sparklers one last time this weekend for good measure as well.

For the Oleo-Saccharum:

2 lemons
1 lime
4 ounces granulated sugar

Peel zest from lemons and lime, trying to remove as little white pith as possible. Reserve peeled fruit for another use. Toss the peels with the sugar in a nonreactive bowl. Muddle gently until peels begin to express their oils, and let sit 6 hours or up to overnight, covered. Strain peels from the mixture, set liquid aside.

For the Gunpowder Tea:

3 teabags gunpowder green tea
16 ounces boiling water

Pour boiling water over tea in a heat-proof container. Let steep 4 minutes. Strain and set brewed tea aside. Let cool to room temperature before using.

For the Punch:

8 ounces gin, such as Aviation
16 ounces Gunpowder Tea at room temperature
8 dashes celery bitters, such as Scrappy’s
Lemon wheels and celery stalks for garnish

In a pitcher or punch bowl, combine gin, tea, bitters, and oleo-saccharum. Stir to combine and let sit for at least an hour at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator. To serve, add ice to rocks glasses, pour in the punch and add a lemon wheel and celery stalk for garnish.
This recipe originally written for Serious eats. 

Five-Spice Bourbon Punch

5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.comCurrently I am sitting in a nicely air-conditioned room while outside is reaching temperatures of 117°F today. My birthday was this past week and I’ve decided that I’d like to spend all of my 30-year birthdays drifting around in a pool, drink in hand (or in an inflatable cup holder,what’s wrong with that?) while spending a few days in Palm Springs. For most of my 20-year birthdays, I somehow coordinated almost all of them to happen at bowling alleys and I’m a person who likes traditions so if I could somehow work it out that all of my 40’s are spent in castles in Europe I’d very much like that.

5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.comBut I’m not in the pool today. It’s too hot. While it might seem that the best way to counteract the scorching heat would be to live in the pool, I find that when temps creep almost to 120°F, the water ceases to be refreshing. The water, too, is hot.

5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.comSo the backup plan is to escape to the air-conditioned comfort of the house, draw the shades, and make myself a beverage to cool off with. Sweet, icy drinks are no good when it’s this hot out. Anything with a high sugar content right now makes me cranky and gives me a headache, and that’s the last thing you want when you have guests that are around trying to celebrate you. (Cake, by the way, does not count in this category.) So instead I batched up a savory, spicy syrup (because spicy is actually good for you when it’s hot out. Look at Indian food.) and mixed it up with some bourbon for a refreshing punch. Spicy bourbon punch is refreshing? Read about that argument here on Serious Eats when I just recently batched this drink up.

For now, I’ll park myself next to a large window, occasionally glance outside and remind myself it’s too hot to breathe and enjoy my cocktails in air-conditioned comfort. Happy weekend folks (and Happy Father’s Day to all you Dad’s out there)!5 Spice Bourbon Punch cocktails // stirandstrain.com

For the Five-Spice Syrup:

1 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorns
1 whole star anise pod
1 (6-inch) cinnamon stick or 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

  • Toast Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cloves, and fennel in a dry medium skillet over medium heat, tossing and stirring frequently until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cinnamon stick, sugar, and water and place over medium high heat. Cook, stirring, until just starting to boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let rest for 2 hours. Strain into an airtight container. Five-spice syrup will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

For 4 Cocktails:

6 ounces bourbon, such as 4 Roses Yellow Label
3 ounces Five-Spice Syrup (see above)
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 to 3 limes
8 ounces club soda
Lime wedges for garnish

  • In a pitcher, combine bourbon, 3 ounces Five-spice syrup, and lime juice. Stir well. Add club soda and stir gently. To serve, fill rocks glasses with ice, pour in 4-3/4 ounces of the cocktail and top with lime wedges.

The sweet, savory, and pungent flavors of the Five Spice Syrup are an excellent pair to the rich, slightly sweet bourbon. And when you add in the lime juice and club soda, the whole cocktail gets loosened up a bit and really is quite refreshing.

Steak Island Cocktail

Steak Island Cocktails // stirandstrain.comIt’s Super Bowl weekend. I only know this because I was asked to come up with a cocktail you would want to drink at a party celebrating this fact. Well, it’s a drink that I would want to drink at this kind of party. And I guess the name is quite telling that I’d name it Steak Island, however, let’s talk about why I gave it this name.Steak Island Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

I go into this a little in the article I wrote on Serious Eats, but let me elaborate on this just a wee bit here. Since this is a safe place to ramble on and you readers are somewhat more forgiving of these overly long explanations (well, some of you aren’t and you know who you are).

For the most part, I like to live an uncluttered life.. actually, let me stop you here if you’re just searching for “super bowl cocktails” and you’re still reading at this point. Might I suggest you just scroll down to the recipe? Anyways, I’m the type of person who loves, with a capital L, to throw stuff away and have lots of clean surfaces. I’m a believer that an uncluttered space means an uncluttered mind and yes, I might just use the excuse that the studio space is too cluttered to photograph in right now so I’m just going to be over here watching tv and procrastinating. But mainly I’m not a person who holds on to stuff. However, I do have a few exceptions for collectibles. The major collections I have are my Tiki mugs, which need a new cabinet (see, I still need to sequester the collections) and, since I used to DJ out here with much, much more frequency than I do now, my 1960’s girl group and girl garage band 45s. That was mainly it for stuff I held on to that took up space. You know what doesn’t take up a lot of space that is fun to hang on to if you’re into cocktails: vintage drink stirrers. These are highly curated because I can’t justify keeping more on hand than what will fit in a Highball glass.Steak Island Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

Knowing that I liked some of these kitschy treasures from restaurants and bars that once were, a friend of mine found herself at a flea market somewhere in Arizona a few years ago and happened upon someone’s stockpile of stirrers for sale. Sifting through the amazing variety of brightly-colored sticks, she selected what she thought I’d most like to have (and seriously did an amazing job). One of my favorites though was this black stick with gold lettering that just said “steak island” on it with this little grass hut. Either it was the bizarre combination of this little tropical hut imagined to house giant steak laden plates, or that it was coming out of Texas and I was to believe there was something tropical-like there, but either way, I immediately knew someday I’d need to make a drink in honor of this establishment’s namesake. Super Bowl Sunday seemed like the most appropriate “holiday” to make such a drink.Steak Island Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

So what better to wash down plates of rich, meaty foods than some light and refreshing effervescent cocktails…made with beer! And… steak sauce!

Steak Island Cocktails // stirandstrain.comIf I was going to make a cocktail that included the word steak, then I figured some steak sauce as an extra special ingredient was in order. So what you get is a drink close to a Michelada with a heaping amount of tangy, umami-filled A1 Steak Sauce (or whatever sauce you’d like). Personally, growing up I was not a fan of steak, but I did like dipping the steak in A1 and then sucking all the sauce off the meat and tossing the meat away (I wasn’t a picky eater but the texture of steak I found to be most offensive to my young self). Now I skip the formalities and just drink the sauce here.

Intrigued? You should be, so let’s make some cocktails!

Yields 6-8 drinks for a party
8 ounces red and yellow bell pepper slices
14 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice from about 14 limes
4 ounces steak sauce, such as A1
1/4 ounce freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
48 ounces lager, such as Pacifico
Lime wheels and additional bell pepper slices for garnish

  • In the bottom of a pitcher, muddle together the bell peppers and lime juice. Add the steak sauce and pepper. If your sauce is not on the salty side, add some additional salt to your liking. Cover and refrigerate the base at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  • To serve, add beer straight to the pitcher and stir gently to combine, serving into ice-filled glasses. Alternately, you can pour about 2 1/2 ounces of the cocktail base into a highball glass filled with ice. Top off with about 5 ounces of the beer and stir gently to combine.
  • Garnish glasses with lime wheels and bell pepper slices, serve.

Like I said, it’s super refreshing and easy drinking, a great pair to richer foods. The steak sauce has a touch of sweetness and adds some underlying umami to the cocktail. Mixed with fresh citrus juice, it adds both a base note and a tangy brightness to your fizzy beer mixer. Muddled bell peppers offer a subtle vegetal flavor and complexity that’ll keep you sipping. I chose to top it all off with a lager so that the beer doesn’t overpower the drink with too much hops or bitterness or whatever special flavor it might have been brewed with. I enjoyed with Pacifico, Christopher liked some Foster’s with his.

Hibiscus-Tequila Cooler

Hibiscus Lime Cooler Pitcher #Cocktail // stirandstrain.comAs much as I love throwing together some cocktails when a friend or two stops by, when a small crowd starts to gather I freeze up, spill liquor all over the place and add salt when it should have been sugar. That’s why I love pitcher cocktails for crowds at my house. Besides turning to all thumbs, I’d rather be mingling, drink already made in my hand, then trying to mix and half listen to a story being told to me. Anyone else like this?

Spring and Summer tends to pack the weekends with parties, and this bright, floral pitcher cocktail is just SO refreshing and delicious you could serve it at least a couple of times before changing it up. Now, I know this is calling for limes. Don’t let that ingredient mean you’re passing this up! You can easily switch out the lime for other citrus combinations; grapefruit and lemon, kumquats, tangerines… as long as you get a fragrant, slightly sweet and not too sour flavor.Hibiscus Lime Cooler Pitcher #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Another nice fact about pitcher drinks: they can mostly be assembled beforehand and topped off before the party starts. Less stress this summer; you are welcome.

Note: my pitcher is on the small side, serving about 6. If yours is much larger this can easily be doubled (or hell, tripled). And be careful with the hibiscus! This little flower goes from tangy to bitter super fast so don’t walk away and forget about it when you’re steeping.Hibiscus Lime Cooler Pitcher #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Hibiscus-Lime Syrup:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 dried hibiscus flowers
zest from one lime
2 ounces lime juice from 2-3 limes

Over medium-high heat, bring sugar and water to just under a boil. Remove from heat and add hibiscus and lime zest. Stir, cover and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain, let cool and add lime juice.

For the drinks:

1 lime, sliced thin
1 cup hibiscus-lime syrup (recipe above)
1 cup tequila, Herradura Tequila Silver used here
2 cups tonic water, chilled

For the drink: In a pitcher, add lime slices, syrup and tequila. If not using right away, store in refrigerator. Otherwise, add tonic water and stir to combine. Serve over ice with lime wedges.

Tart and tangy, the hibiscus-lime mixture provides a lift to the vegetal nature of the tequila. The tonic gives a hint of bitter and sweetness to the final drink, along with a nice effervescence. If tonic is too overpowering for you, club soda can be substituted.

I originally posted this recipe on the Serious Drinks site.