Gift Guide: Mother’s Day 2016

This year for Mother’s Day, give her what she really wants: a couple bottles of Prosecco and for you to leave her alone.

 

Mothers Day Gift Guide 2016 // stirandstrain.com

Why have Mom choose just one little black number when she can have a black, grey and white choice (of Prosecco, that is). A dash or two of bitters into a flowery tumbler will make for a delicious road soda on the way to brunch. Give her a few cocktail pins to hold her scarf in place and away you go! And after all the kids have gone, all she wants to do is soak in a giant daiquiri bathtub and slather wine on from head to toe. Don’t we all?

1. Rosemary Lavender Bitters 2. Cocktail Pins 3. Bottle Stock Wine Opener 4. Melon Daiquiri Shower Gel 5. Zonin Prosecco Black Edition 6. Kate Spade Flower Tumbler 7. Zonin Prosecco Grey Edition 8. Wine Therapy mask 9. Zonin Prosecco White Edition

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail What you drink when it finally feels like Fall!

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor someone who lives in a climate that doesn’t stray too far in one direction or another, I realize I sure do focus on the weather a lot. But really, it wouldn’t take too much psychoanalysis to realize it’s because I grew up in New England and Fall time is… special. Yes, if you live in a place where there is amazing foliage you do make fun of the tourists coming in just to stare at trees. But when you’re away from it for over a decade, you miss it; you get why the people flock out to be in nature.

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMore than the trees though I miss the apple orchards. I didn’t realize just how many were squeezed into the tiny state of Rhode Island. I bet there are a few apple orchards somewhere in Southern California, but it’s not the same. My aunt has a small orchard on her property and I remember being a teenage, sulking about in my beat up black leather jacket trying to not look I was enjoying the annual cider press (but secretly I was so into it). The adult me is telling my younger self to stop being such a bitch and just enjoy myself already. God, how much time and effort went into teenage sulking!

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comSo anyways, it’s finally feeling like Fall in Los Angeles. I turned on the heated seats in my car and turned the heat on at home. The first day is always rough on my sinuses as months worth of dust that’s accumulated god-knows-where burns off and makes my entire house smell like something has caught on fire somewhere. But we have apples! And for this cocktail there’s sherry and apple brandy and orange liqueur!

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.comOver on the Serious Eats site I wrote an amusing tale about how this cocktail, originally named the “Quasi Apple Cocktail” got its name. Hint: there’s history, a war, Napoléon, the United States and a touch of Spain thrown in for good measure. OH! And pirates! We tossed the name, but there’s still some history there to learn if you’re into that.

Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com
1/4 apple, cored and diced
1 1/2 ounces apple brandy, such as Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
3/4 ounce Mandarine Napoléon liqueur
1/2 ounce oloroso sherry, such as Williams & Humbert
4 ounces prosecco sparkling wine
Orange twist, for garnish
Thinly sliced apple, for garnish

  1. Add diced apple to the bottom of a mixing glass and muddle until apples are broken down and have released their juice. Fill the mixing glass 2/3 full with ice and then pour in apple brandy, Mandarine Napoléon liqueur, and oloroso sherry. Stir to chill until mixing glass is very cold, about 20 seconds, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice and top with prosecco.
  2. Twist orange peel over top of drink to release oils, then discard peels. Garnish with a thinly cut round of apple.

Sweet, fresh apples are balanced by the nutty Sherry with a kick of american apple brandy. For body and a touch of richness, Mandarine Napoléon liqueur gives us just a hint of citrus. To finish, the cocktail is topped with prosecco to tie all the ingredients together and give an effervescent pop.Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com


NOTES
: Super-thin apple slices make gorgeous garnishes. Right now, THIS mandoline from OXO is my favorite. To keep the slices looking crisp and white, remember to soak them in a bowl of water with a small spritz of lemon juice after slicing. Use your favorite kind of apple here; both sweeter, softer varieties and more tart, firm types work well. If you can’t find Mandarine Napoléon liqueur, you can substitute with Grand Marnier or a good dry orange curaçao, such as Pierre Ferrand.Sparkling Apple Sherry Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Make it: Pickled Watermelon Garnish and a sweet and sour ginger cockail

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comGrowing up, there was a place where my Dad played pool that boasted a large, murky glass jug filled with iridescent white orbs; you might call them pickled eggs. Something about their appearance on a bar top, poorly lit by the fluorescent lighting, made the act of eating them akin to sticking ones hand in fire: you just didn’t do it unless you were drunk and your friend dared you to.

However, given a few decades between that memory and now, I probably wouldn’t have to be dared to eat them, and there’s a good chance I’d eat them sober too. My love of pickled food items has grown tremendously over the last 10 years. Partly because I’ve eaten some really, really good pickled items out at restaurants. Another part might have to do with my chunk of Scandinavian heritage. And partly because once you’ve eaten enough food your friends have dared you to eat while drinking, well, at some point you start to like it all.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMy introduction to pickled watermelon rinds did not, however, come at the tail-end of a deep Southern drinking spree. I was offered some from a friend, tried them, and liked them. And today, because I’ve been overindulging in the bounty that is summer watermelon, I decided to make up a batch from all those leftover rinds.Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I’m also including a complimentary cocktail to go along with your pickled watermelon. It too uses scraps in the form of ginger knobs (My freezer is full of tiny bits of ginger because I can never quite buy the right amount and cannot bring myself to throw away anything.). A tiny bit of the brine goes a long way to perk up the cocktail, so definitely make both!

You’ll find that these tiny sweet and salty, slightly crunchy rinds are also a delicious bar snack to have around for the summer. And I’m sure any guests will appreciate these just a tad more than the jar of pickled eggs.Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Pickled Watermelon Rind:

1 small watermelon, about 4 pounds
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
2 cloves, whole
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, whole

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove outer green layer of skin from watermelon (if you have a smaller watermelon, cut the bottom and top ends off so you can stand your watermelon up to peel. If it’s larger, cut in half to stand up). Discard skin. Cut rind into 1-inch cubes and reserve pink flesh for another use.
  2. Combine apple cider vinegar, sugar, water, salt, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, bay leaf, chili pepper flakes, cloves, and coriander seeds in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add watermelon rind, return to a boil and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and carefully place a heatproof plate on top of the rind to keep it submerged as the mixture comes to room temperature.
  3. Once cool, transfer entire mixture to an airtight container and let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 days and up to 2 weeks.

Ginger Infused Vodka:

1 cup peeled fresh ginger root, sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 cups vodka, such as St. George Spirits All Purpose Vodka

  • Combine vodka and ginger in an airtight container. Let stand in a cool, dark place for 5 days or to your desired spiciness, up to 14 days total. Strain into an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor each cocktail:

1-1/2 ounces Ginger Infused Vodka
1/4 ounce dry vermouth, such as Dolin
3 ounces chilled Prosecco
Pickled Watermelon Rind, for garnish

  • Combine Ginger Infused Vodka and vermouth in a mixing glass and fill two-thirds full with ice. Stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a small wine glass or coupe. Top with Prosecco and garnish with the pickled watermelon rind.

3..2..1.. Aperol Spritz Break! Indoors or Outdoors, Summer Adventure is Go

Aperol Spritz Break // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Aperol. Ideas are my own.

Today’s post is a kind of choose your own adventure. Whether you prefer to stay in an air conditioned home bar, or off under a shady tree on a hot summer day, I’m here to help make sure that wherever you do go, you have a pretty sweet bar set up.

I’ve teamed up with Aperol this summer to help kick off your very own Aperol Spritz Break. What’s that you ask? Italy’s favorite spirit, Aperol, has it’s own signature cocktail that’s the perfect reason to stop and take a moment to relax. Where you relax is up to you, so let’s get you set up for your #SpritzBreak.Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.com

The Home Bar

Although you may have a serious case of missing out looking at everyone’s Instagram account that shows off their mid-century bar cart, let me tell you that a decent home bar does not require one. I don’t have one, and look, I have a whole website devoted to cocktails made out of a home bar. This set up just requires you have a small rectangle of space to devote to your seasonal drink.

A seasonal drink? Yes. Why? Because cluttering up your space with a bunch of bottles is messy and if you have everything picked out ready to go, you look so smart when guests drop in and you can offer them a drink within seconds. It also means you get to switch out the area every season and fill it up with a new recipe and accoutrements; man I love the accoutrements. For the summer I’m enjoying an Aperol Spritz.Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.com

What makes a great space? The details. Your bar set up should be a tiny party waiting to happen. It should look like fun, but it should also be neat and have everything you need.

Like the proper bottles: have all the bottles you need for your seasonal drink ready and full. And then some. I love the small bottles from Q-Club and Fevertree for when I’m having a cocktail or two at home, or if a friend or Christopher is there enjoying one with me. For the larger crowds I use a soda siphon. Special dibs to you if you have a vintage one that works!

Ice: invest in a good ice bucket that will keep your ice cool. I like to break out my bronze pineapple when I have guests, but if it’s couple night at the house, I have a rugged OXO insulated bucket that gets the job done.

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comTools & Glassware: for the Aperol Spritz, no shaker is necessary. Just a stir stick to give it a final swirl before serving. For this punchy-colored cocktail I prefer an equal punchy-colored stirrer. These birds came from South America, but you can just go as far as Amazon and find some colorful ones. For serving, I like to have a few different size glasses available since this recipe is so adaptable. A few stemless wine glasses and some larger goblets for when you’re in the mood. And don’t forget a small knife for your fruit.

And speaking of fruit: always have a full bowl of fruit. Always. It’s not like they need to be kept refrigerated, they pretty up the space, and you’ll need lots of orange slices on hand for that Aperol Spritz.

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comExtras: It may seem obvious, but have some napkins for you and your guests. I always have paper and cloth napkins at the ready. You know there are just some people you’ll have over that either need a lot of napkins or are going to destroy your nice hand-stamped linen ones: give them paper. Alternatively, there are going to be some folks who scoff at paper. Whether it’s because of the environment or they’re a whole bunch of haughty hoo-haw: give them the cloth. Chances are they know enough not to spit their gum out in it.  This same reasoning goes with straws too. Both napkins and straws are the quickest way to change up the whole theme of your bar area.

And lastly, flowers: I’m a glutton for fresh flowers around the house. If I had my way there would be a constant rotation of flowers and my house would always smell amazing. A little bouquet just perks up the bar area and you don’t have to get super fancy. BONUS: get edible flowers and use them in your drinks.

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comThe Outside Bar

Whether you’re moving the party outside to the stoop, out to the park, or over to the beach, sometimes you need to just take it out of the house. Everything you need to have your own Spritz Break party can easily fit into a small insulated bag like this; just stop and get some ice on the way!

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comMany of the same requirements for your home bar set up work out in the wild:

  1. Bring only what you need: a bottle of Aperol, a bottle of prosecco, and two small bottles of club soda is enough for you and a small group of friends to have a nice round of drinks.
  2. Have the right tools: napkins, straws, a bottle open, a selfie-stick. Only the essentials.
  3. Glassware: leave the real glass at home. Invest in some nice quality plastic for trips out.
  4. A place to sit: blankets are lovely.

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comPlan ahead though too:

  1. Chill your bottles beforehand. That way your ice doesn’t immediately melt as soon as it hits the liquid.
  2. Cut your garnishes at home. Then you don’t have to bring a cutting board, a knife, and attract bees (trust me on the bees).
  3. Bring along some lazy games like playing cards or dominoes. Or Cards Against Humanity. Something that you only need to give a quarter of your attention to so you really do feel like you’re taking a break.

Regardless of where you head this summer, use these tips to make sure you have the best bar set up, and you’re sure to have a relaxing Spritz Break.

Aperol Spritz Break: Summer Adventure // stirandstrain.comNever had an Aperol Spritz before, or need a recipe refresher? It’s as easy as 3, 2, 1:

3 parts prosecco, Cinzano Prosecco used here
2 parts Aperol
1 part club soda, Q-Club used here

  • Add prosecco, Aperol and club soda to a glass filled with ice. There’s really no cap on the size of each part; I’ve been known to fill a goblet or two. Top your glass off with a slice of orange, maybe a straw or two, and you’re ready for your #SpritzBreak!

For more Aperol Spritz Break ideas, please head on over to Aperol.com!

Garnishes Up In My Face, and Vamping Up a French 75

Giant Beautiful Garnish

Recently my husband and I took a trip to Vegas for a couple of days. Unfortunately the morning of I had come down with a horrible bout of food poisoning. We ended up canceling all of our dinner plans, but kept the cocktail tastings since that was about all I could take. We visited the bar at Postrio at the Venetian, had a beautiful drink with Hendrick’s Gin and Grapefruit juice (I wish I could tell you all the ingredients; hell, I wish I remembered them so I could make this at home). The garnish was this large section of grapefruit. It really looked… beautiful. But it was pretty clumsy to drink. I love a garnish that adds to the drink, but if you’re concerned with it falling off, or on your face, while you’re trying to drink, then what’s the point? We ran into a similar problem at a Champagne bar at the Palazzo. The lemon twist was HUGE. I had to take it off to drink out of the flute… otherwise it might have come tumbling out. Not to make this a downer post, but the champagne cocktail itself was a one note drink. Which made me think about what I’d want in one. And hence a post about drinks with Champagne (or, Prosecco since that’s all that I have on hand).

 

Well. Damn, I still have that container of orange simple syrup lurking in my fridge. And well, I’d love to riff on the French 75 I had at that champagne bar. How could a drink made with lemon juice and gin.. have no flavor?

 

I have a tiny bit of Citadelle Gin that I should use up. Do you ever have a bottle that has been hanging around for awhile, and not because you don’t like it.. you just have a tiny bit left and cannot throw it out? Welcome to my world. I cannot waste things, like food. I cry if I find a half dead head of lettuce in the fridge and I have to throw it out. And I also have on hand is some brand X prosecco(it’s really not that great of a prosecco here and you would laugh at how much I bought it for. So really, any dry bubbly will work here) that is going into a risotto recipe after this. But on to the drink recipe…

 

2 oz Citadelle Gin (this boasts 19 different ingredients and since it had both orange and lemon peel on this list I figured this would work fine)
1-1/2 ounce Meyer lemon juice
1 oz orange simple syrup
prosecco to top it off with

 

Shake the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker filled with ice. Strain into a highball glass. Top it off with prosecco. I would suggest not filling the glass all the way to the top with prosecco as you will drown out the other flavors (and possibly have it fizz all over you and the floor).

 

I upped the lemon juice by a here for some more zing in the drink and to balance out the very dry prosecco. The orange simple syrup added just a hint of sweet orange flavor. The gin is a bit buried in this drink. And honestly, for all its boasting of ingredients I couldn’t really distinguish them all when tasting it by itself, so mixing it in here just added one more level of flavor. Oh, and due to some camera difficulties and white balance, the full glass is not shown here due to it looking like a big ol’ glass of pee. It was starting to go flat and I wasn’t about to waste it.

 

So, comparing this drink with the French 75 I had in Vegas… well, for starters you can taste the citrus, and there is not a hint of bitterness. It is sweet and sour and light. And I think I’ll have another.