Desert Rosé Punch

I was compensated by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas for my time in developing this recipe and post. All opinions are my own.

This past week, Instagram was filled, filled, with weddings. It’s like half the internet decided this was the most auspicious week of their lives and if they were ever going to get married they might as well do it now. And I’m in no way hating on these people, in fact, I loved looking over how different they all were from each other; I’m a total sucker for weddings.

All of this celebrating tuned me in to the fact that we are about to hit summer party season. Already. One would say you can’t tell by the weather here in Southern California, but those of us in the know, know, that summer season starts about as gray and gloomy as they get before the awful heat kicks in.

So today we’ve got a fun punch you can throw together for a wedding or a graduation party or “hey look I’ve got a stoop we can sit on for a few hours let’s make a punch and call it a party” party. You’ll find a reason guys to make this punch. It’s also a lovely pink-hued punch for our SoCal June gloom, but it will work for sunny days too. Let’s just all agree not to call it a millennial pink punch. Ok? It was inspired by Turkish cuisine with pomegranates, pistachio and orange blossom water, otherwise known as “Essential Oil of Neroli”.

I’ll tell you upfront, it’s gin based, and I can already hear some of my pals whining about how they don’t drink gin. But trust me! It layers nicely in here and if you use a London dry, like I tell you to, then it won’t be an overpoweringly “gin” punch. Pairing it with a rich pomegranate reduction give a sharp sweetness with a nutty layer from some pistachio orgeat. The whole punch gets tied together with the amazing scent of Nielsen-Massey’s Orange Blossom Water.

There is a tiny amount of the orange blossom water in the pistachio orgeat, but adding in the aroma directly to the punch makes for a more prominent aroma. Also, if you opt not to make the orgeat then this guarantees that you’re still getting lots of orange blossom with every sip.

I’ve been using the Nielsen-Massey vanillas for over a decade now and have started using their extracts in cocktails these past few years. All Nielsen-Massey products are all-natural, certified gluten-free, certified Kosher, allergen-free and GMO-Free, and there is an expanding line of certified organic products (right up our alley!). Their orange blossom water is my go-to for my obsession with almond-alternative orgeats as well.

Are you ready to start your summer punch party? Let’s get mixing.

Desert Rosé Punch

Serves 5-7 guests

7-1/2 ounces London dry style gin, such as Beefeater
1-1/2 ounces pistachio orgeat (recipe here, or sub in orgeat of choice)
2-1/2 ounces pomegranate reduction (recipe follows)
2-1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
1-1/2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water, or to taste
1 bottle of sparkling rosé wine
orange slices and pomegranate seeds for ice block

  • The day before, freeze together the orange slices and pomegranate seeds with water in a container that will fit your punch bowl.
  • At least an hour before serving, combine the gin, pistachio orgeat, pomegranate reduction, lime juice and Nielsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water into your punch bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • To serve, stir mixture and add ice block to the punch bowl. Top with sparkling rosé wine.

Pomegranate Reduction

1-1/2 cups all natural pomegranate juice

  • In a small saucepan over medium high heat, bring pomegranate juice to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and let sit until juice reduces to a little over a quarter cup.
  • Remove from the heat, let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

For more info on Nielsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water and all their products, check them out at nielsenmassey.com or on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

What You Should Be Drinking on Thanksgiving

I’m not one to tell you guys what to do, but if you’re looking for something to make this week for your holiday table, here are a few suggestions! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Smoky Sage Punch // stirandstrain.com

Smoky Sage Punch

Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub Cocktails

Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch // stirandstrain.com

Smoked-Rosemary Rum Punch

9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch // stirandstrain.com

9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Lemony Suze Sparkling Pitcher Cocktails

Spiced Pumpkin Bourbon // stirandstrain.com

Pumpkin Spiced Bourbon

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails //stirandstrain.com

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails

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

The Hot Ward 8 Cocktail

hotward8I tend to go back and forth on bottled cocktails. Will the juice taste fresh enough? Should I even bother with juices or should it be all booze and bitters? Can I just drink this whole bottle and not share it?

The best thing about bottled cocktails though? The convenience factor. Batch up a couple to bring to a party and you’re fawned over like you invented cute puppies. But what if you need to take that cocktail on the road? And what if it’s freezing outside because some friend convinced you it would be an awesome idea to go camping? In winter…

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comLet me introduce you to your new best friend, the insulated thermos. Keeping your hot cocktails hot, and your sanity in check this winter.

When you’re making hot cocktails there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, you’ll be adding in hot water so you want to keep your juices to a minimum (if your cocktail requires them). Why water your cocktail down even more? I’ve found the best way to work around this is to make an oleo saccharum to ensure you have that bright zesty citrus flavor in concentrated form and none of the excess juice.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comSecond, you want to keep your cocktail hot. For my thermos cocktails, I use a Stanley Classic Vacuum thermos. It’s old school looking; like something my Dad would bring with him to work to keep his soup hot. And this guy keeps it hot for HOURS. At 1.1 quarts it also holds enough drinks for you and some friends so no one need go without a drink. But don’t just pour your drink into the thermos! If you preheat it while you’re making the cocktail it will prevent heat loss when you pour the drink in. So, to do that, just add boiling water and stick the cap on while you’re doing the mixing. Anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes is sufficient time to get that thermos nice and hot. When you’re ready to pour the finished cocktail in, dump out the water and you’re good to go.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThird, make a cocktail that actually tastes good hot. For my first venture with the thermos, I made a variation of a Hot Ward 8, Boston’s only real pre-prohibition contribution. I’d love to tell you the history on this but there is so much competing information out there as to its true origins that putting anything down in print seems like hearsay.

I chose this for a few reasons. I thought it would taste good hot, and it uses up some seasonally appropriate produce (Are your kitchen counters filling up with citrus yet? Mine are.). You could always go with some cocktails that are already served hot. Some nice Hot Toddies while you’re ice fishing, or some Irish Coffee while you’re out snow-shoeing, or whatever you do in the snow.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThe Ward 8 delivers a bit more complex flavor here with sweet and spicy rye and that bright citrus from the oleo saccharum. I also add in a touch more syrupy citrus sweetener with a dry orange curaçao and round out the drink with tart fresh pomegranate juice (the last of my season’s batch). For a spicy/bitter finish, a few dashes of Angostura are added in to the mix to keep it from getting too sweet.

There’s plenty of cold months ahead of us, so let’s start planning on a few hot cocktails to get us through. And don’t forget your thermos.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comFor the Oleo-Saccharum:

Zest from 2 lemons
Zest from 1 orange
4 1/2 ounces (130g) sugar

  • In a heatproof container with at least a 36-ounce capacity, toss together lemon and orange zests with sugar. Muddle for 30 seconds to release the oil from the zests. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 and up to 12 hours.

For the Cocktails:

8 ounces (235ml) boiling water, plus more for preheating thermos
16 ounces (475ml) rye whiskey, such as Bulleit 95
4 ounces (120ml) unsweetened pomegranate juice
2 ounces (60ml) dry orange curaçao, such as Pierre Ferrand
8 dashes Angostura bitters
8 lemon zest strips, for garnish (optional)

  • Pre-warm thermos by filling with water just off the boil and let stand. Meanwhile, pour rye whiskey, 8 ounces boiling water, pomegranate juice, orange curaçao, and bitters over the oleo-saccharum. Stir well until sugar is completely dissolved. (If you find you’d like your drink hotter, pour everything except the rye into a sauce pan and heat to desired temperature. Then add in rye and continue with the recipe)
  • Discard hot water from thermos, then carefully strain rye mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into thermos (a funnel can help avoid spills); discard spent zests. Seal thermos.
  • Optionally, when ready to drink, add new lemon zests to your cocktail, expressing the oils over the top first.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comFYI guys: you’re probably saying my name wrong. I don’t take offense; it’s been an issue going back to preschool. The spelling is what usually trips people up, especially now that I live in Los Angeles and an “a” is almost always pronounced “ahhhhh” when in fact my “a” is just a short “A”. Why am I talking about this then if it’s a non-issue?

Well, a few weeks back for Serious Eats I decided to make a festive riff on the Caipirinha. It’s a cocktail I love to drink, but only recently. Why the wait? Well, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I was shy about mispronouncing the name. I just sorta froze up about being schooled on the correct way to say the drink. Until I finally got comfortable with one bartender and had them say the name to me over and over and then it stuck.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comI’m sure you all have had that moment in a bar. Intrigued by a drink but one look at the name and you end up passing on it. Too bad! You probably would have liked it. But you want to know what? Your bartender is NOT going to judge you (OK, let’s be real. Maybe one or two a-holes will.). They are there to tell you how to say things right so you can impress your friends next time when you order that intriguing sounding drink. They want to pass on that knowledge and inform you, their customer.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comI had a similar experience with wine years ago when I was up in Napa at a tasting. The Sommelier, some laid back guy in jeans, and quite possibly a jean shirt too, told me that you either like a wine or you don’t. You can hate an expensive bottle and like something you picked up for $7. You don’t need to know if you’re smelling aromas of cherry or rotting wood, you should just want to drink it. I also learned that “legs” on a wine glass are bullshit and when you’re at a tasting, don’t throw back the whole glass (oops! I was young!!).

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comBut back to the drink. Now that we’re in the dull days of January, you already have this sunny Suze cocktail on hand, but here’s a zingy drink with a beautiful jewel tone, all thanks to some pomegranates. A Caipirinha is similar in structure to a Daiquiri, only swapping in cachaça for the rum, and whole lime pieces instead of just the juice, this cocktail has a bolder, huskier quality to it over the more refined and quieter Daiquiri.

That sour bite of the lime gets punched up by the sweet-tart pomegranate, with a little added crunch there from the seeds (sometimes I like a little something extra in my cocktails). Cachaca has an earthy flavor and here, the Leblon adds some floral aroma alongside a slightly peppery taste. By adding the sparkling wine, I find that it mixes the flavors together without dulling down their strong characteristics. You just need a touch of sugar here for balance, so don’t be afraid of adding that bar spoon full.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comOn a side note here, some of you might read the recipe and see sparkling wine then pass over this because the thought of opening a whole bottle just to make one cocktail seems so wasteful. But wait! No need to pass on this, just buy a split! Yes, it’s enough for two of these but really, once you make one you’ll want another. And now, let’s say it together kye-peer-EEN-yah. And by the way, it’s e-LAY-nuh.

1 barspoon superfine sugar (1 teaspoon; 4g)
10 fresh pomegranate seeds
1/2 lime, quartered
1/2 ounce pomegranate juice (1 tablespoon; 15mL)
2 ounces cachaça, such as Leblon (4 tablespoons; 60mL)
3 ounces sparkling wine (6 tablespoons; 90mL)

In the bottom of a mixing glass, add the superfine sugar and pomegranate seeds. Crush the seeds with a muddler to break open. Add lime wedges and muddle 6 times to release their juice. Add pomegranate juice and cachaça and fill glass 2/3 full with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Add sparkling wine to glass, then pour contents, without straining, into a double rocks glass. Add more fresh ice cubes if desired and serve immediately.

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.