Spiced Gunpowder Guava Cocktail a sweet and savory libation with Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum

This post is brought to you by Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum. Recipes and ideas are my own.

I’ve decided I hate the term “binge watching” television. The term makes it sound like it’s a bad thing to watch a few hours of House Hunters International. And that, folks, is not a bad way to spend a few hours of relaxation time (i.e. kids are asleep).

The couples on that show are fantastic to watch. Either they are attempting to look into the camera and say something positive about this bungalow in the jungle with giant flying bugs because they are fulfilling some dumb dream when they spent two weeks there in college and now are realizing how difficult it will be dragging their whole family there… OR their significant other is making them get a second house and they are just seething on the inside while obviously trying not to look angry for a national audience. But we can tell!

At the end of the island episodes, the couple is always cheers-ing with some fantastic looking cocktails and they somehow look content with their decision to be the crazy Americans on that island. If they were in Puerto Rico, by the way, they probably were sipping on a cocktail made with Don Q rum.

Today’s recipe is in partnership with Don Q Rums and we’re featuring their newest rum offering the Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum. Don Q Rum has only been in the States a little over a decade, but has been a popular choice in Puerto Rico for 150 years, making it their #1 rum. This spiced rum packs a punch of flavor with vanilla and pepper and just enough sweetness for my palate. While you can definitely sip this rum, it’s also a great mixing rum to make unquestionably delicious cocktails. So that’s what we’re doing with it now!

With such strong flavors to start with in the rum, I decided to use some equally strong flavors to compliment that spiciness. When you think powerful, do you think about gunpowder? In cocktails?! I do, but this version of gunpowder comes in the form of tea. Gunpowder green tea to be exact. Teas are great options for giving subtle (and sometimes not so subtle. Hello lapsang souchong tea!) flavor to cocktails. I steeped this savory, smoky tea in a simple syrup to lend a savory note to the drink and to balance the sweetness of the other components. Thinking of Puerto Rico, I opted to add some guava nectar for tropical sweetness and a big squeeze of lime finished with a touch of orange curaçao. The drink starts sweet, but ends with a lingering earthiness. To give it a finishing kick, the glass is rimmed in a mixture of salt and cayenne.

Ok, so now that we have our tropical inspired drinks, we can get back to the tv watching. While these house hunters might make very questionable choices, make sure your cocktail is unquestionably delicious.

Spiced Gunpowder Guava Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum
3/4 ounce guava nectar
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from about 1 lime (reserve lime shell)
1/2 ounce gunpowder green tea syrup (recipe follows)
1/4 ounce orange curaçao
1 teaspoon kosher salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper for garnish

  • First, combine salt and cayenne pepper in a shallow bowl. Using your spent lime, moisten the outside of your cocktail glass by rubbing the rim with the lime. Rim the side of the cocktail glass in the salt and cayenne mixture.
  • Next, in a shaker ⅔ filled with ice, pour in Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum, guava nectar, lime juice, gunpowder green tea syrup, and orange curaçao. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into pre-rimmed cocktail glass.

Gunpowder Green Tea Syrup

Yields approximately 5 ounces
3 bags of gunpowder green tea (or two heaping tablespoons if you have loose tea)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in teabags (or loose tea if using). Steep for 10 minutes. Strain and use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one month.

For more information about Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum and all their exceptional rums, their commitment to sustainability and quality, and for additional drink & garnish ideas and proper glassware tips please visit their website at donq.com.

The Fig and Tonic Cocktail

Fig and Tonic Cocktail with Everclear // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Everclear. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Figs were never eaten around my house growing up. Unless you count that ubiquitous yellow box of cookies that I feel every 80’s parent was forcing on their kid because it might be seen as healthy. Fig Newtons were so weird. They had those crunchy bits and they weren’t that sweet, and yet they were called cookies. I probably couldn’t recognize a fig until I reached my twenties when I started working for a company that imported gourmet food. And then came the chocolate covered figs at holiday time. OH man–SO many people calling asking for those. The figs were not just covered in chocolate, they were enrobed. Which somehow just that word made them the most sexiest thing on the shelf. Enrobed in chocolate… I’d like to be enrobed in chocolate.

Fig and Tonic Cocktail with Everclear // stirandstrain.comSo, one word of marketing and suddenly figs were a delicacy, not an unidentifiable fruit. Now they’re a common farmer’s market item. They’ve lost a little of their sultry shine but I still find them a touch exotic. And this past week I received a whole basket of them in our CSA box and decided they were ripe for a cocktail.

Fig and Tonic Cocktail with Everclear // stirandstrain.comToday I’m mixing up this cocktail with Everclear as part of their Make It Your Own campaign. We’ve been using Everclear on the site for years to make everything from infusions to liqueurs to tinctures. And now we’re using it to make cocktails too! Let’s be clear, Everclear on its own is 190 proof, but when you mix it with non-proof ingredients like syrup and water, then the final proof will significantly reduce. Here we’re only looking at a total of 27 to 32 proof depending on how much tonic water you desire–the less tonic the higher the proof.

Fig and Tonic Cocktail with Everclear // stirandstrain.comWhy mix with Everclear? Because I wanted to taste the ingredients and not so much another liquor flavor in the cocktail this time. It also makes for a stronger cocktail that doesn’t get watered down from the tonic. And what a complex tasting cocktail this is!

Fig and Tonic Cocktail with Everclear // stirandstrain.comLetting the muddled figs steep in the Everclear for a bit makes the honeyed juice more prominent. Then to complement the figgy flavor, I created a vanilla syrup that gets some extra warming spice from black pepper, green cardamom, star anise and cloves. The vanilla really comes through but is much more complex in flavor from this spice blend. To offset some of the sweetness, a good dose of tonic water incorporates some bitterness into the cocktail while its effervescent bubbles distribute the flavors and bring out some aroma to your nose. The resulting cocktail is complex and yet clean tasting, refreshing and packs a punch. Ready to try one out?

Fig and Tonic Cocktail with Everclear // stirandstrain.comFig and Tonic Cocktail (27-32 proof)

1 ounce Everclear
2 figs, roughly chopped
3/4 ounce Spiced Vanilla Syrup (recipe below)
4-5 ounces tonic water

In the bottom of a shaker, muddle Everclear and figs. Let steep for 5 minutes. Add syrup and ice and shake for 20 seconds. Strain into a collins glass filled with fresh ice. Top with tonic water. Garnish with fig slice.

Spiced Vanilla Syrup

2 vanilla beans cut into 2″ pieces
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 star anise
4 whole cloves
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water

Scrape seeds from the vanilla pieces and add to a small sauce pan. Then add in the vanilla pieces, peppercorns, cardamom pods, star anise, cloves, sugar and water. Stir to combine and turn heat to high. Bring to just a boil and lower heat to a simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, strain syrup into an airtight container. Syrup will keep up to one month in the refrigerator.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Thatcher’s Organic Artisan Spirits. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Several years ago, when I was still working at a 9 to 5 job, I flew into Chicago for a boring conference. This was one of those conferences that not only had a floor devoted to awkward introductions and sweaty handshakes, but hours and hours of mandatory workshops. After 4 days I was exhausted in every way, but, thankfully I lopped on an extra day for sightseeing—I had never been to Chicago before.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comRight before I had left for the trip a coworker, who was born and raised in the Chicago area, told me I should check out the miniatures over at the Art Institute. I didn’t have time to do any research about what I’d find there prior to leaving, so it was going to be a surprise. I ended up booking a hotel about two blocks from the AI and since I am always keen to check out some art (I got that BA in art history you know…) I decided that I’d take some “me” time and stroll on over there. And it was AMAZING.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comGuys, I have a secret to tell you all: I LOVE manufactured environments. Disneyland, Vegas, countless restored houses in New England I frequented as a child, and these tiny miniature rooms…  This might be why I chose to make dioramas for all my book reports when that was an option (see list here). I’m sure someone out there could psychoanalyze why but who cares?

Today I’m taking that idea of the small, magical environment and turning it towards cocktails. Recently I stumbled upon these really unique cocktail glasses made by Czech designer Martin Jakobsen and it was love at first sight. The shapes and stylings had the gears in my brain turning at high speed: what to make first?

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comI loved how these looked like terrariums and my mind wandered towards air plants and sea grasses. And cucumbers. Not sea cucumbers mind you, but just the regular guys you see at the market. I had recently received a bottle of Thatcher’s Organic Cucumber Liqueur and had developed a recipe using shiso and coconut milk. The dreamy liquid seemed to me the perfect base to display inside the globular glass and using the green elements from the drink, I could create my own little world in a cocktail.

The cucumber liqueur has a perfectly light and sweet taste that married well with the coconut milk. Together they create a slightly creamy cocktail with a tart, floral and subtle cucumber flavor. I chose a pinch of hibiscus salt for balance in the finish. The hibiscus gives another layer of floral to the nose and just a touch of bitterness. To make the sea grass garnish in the globe, I dehydrated cucumber peels at 200°F for 15 minutes in the oven. The effect is purely aesthetic but I do love the smell of dried cucumber too.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.comAnd guys, you don’t need these little globe cocktail glasses to make the drink. A double rocks glass will do just fine too.

Thatcher’s Organic Artisan Spirits are right up my alley. They use all natural, sustainably farmed, organic ingredients all made in small batches by people—not machines. I invite you to check out their Cucumber Liqueur and their entire product line at thatchersorganic.com.

Now let’s get shaking!

1-1/2 ounces vodka
1 ounce Thatcher’s Organic Cucumber Liqueur
2 shiso leaves
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (1:1 ratio)
3/4 ounce coconut milk
Hibiscus salt and cucumber slices for garnish

In the bottom of a shaker, muddle the shiso leaves with lime juice. Add in ice 2/3 up the shaker and then pour in the vodka, Thatcher’s Organic Cucumber Liqueur, simple syrup and coconut leaves. Shake hard for 20 seconds and double strain into a rocks glass with ice. Garnish with cucumber slices and hibiscus salt.

Cucumber Seas Cocktail with Thatcher's Organic Cucumber Liqueur // stirandstrain.com

*For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Fresh Passion Fruit Sour

Fresh Passion Fruit Sour Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Illustrations by Robin N. Watts

After what seems like years debating about the livelihood of this random tree that lives in front of our house, we finally went and had a professional diagnosis its current state. It’s confirmed: that tree is indeed diseased and dead. You’d think it would be easy to spot a dead tree, but it’s not. They look surprisingly lifelike well after they’ve ceased to be a living tree. So we had it removed along with the two lavender bushes you’ve seen star in a few drinks around here. They were also dead; we can all blame this California drought (and not my poor gardening skills).

So now we have the exciting decision to make regarding what to plant in the empty spaces. While I should be thinking cactus plants and other plants that require little water, what I really want are some fruit trees out front. And what I most want are some passion fruit trees.

Not only would I have fresh passion fruits five feet from my doorstep, but I would also have those amazing blooms that come with the trees. Have you guys ever seen one? They’re like a gaudy space alien in technicolor. I need these in my life.

Fresh Passion Fruit Sour Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIf I had these trees and their fruit readily available, THIS cocktail would be the go-to cocktail around my house. Highlighting the passion fruit but balancing it out with a little sweet Meyer lemon juice and, of course, an egg white. When I developed this recipe, I was using 10 Cane Rum for the base. And then it got discontinued and I’m lamenting the fact I used up my last bottle before I found this out. Another good option is Caña Brava by the 86 Co. Or, you know, use what you like.

If I’m going to plant some passion fruit trees, I guess I’d also need a Meyer lemon tree. And a lime tree. But I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s hope I can keep this one alive first.

1-1/2 ounces rum, such as Caña Brava
3/4 ounce fresh passion fruit pulp
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1 egg white

  • In a shaker, add rum, passion fruit pulp, simple syrup, meyer lemon juice and egg white. Dry shake, hard, for 20 seconds to get a good froth. Add ice ⅔ up shaker. Shake an additional 20 second and double strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Tasting notes: bright, low acidity, silky mouthfeel, passion fruit forward.

Fans of our Wine Wine Wine posts will recognize Robin N. Watts as the man behind all of our wine picks. Besides a lover of wine, Robin also is a damn fine illustrator. Find more about his illustration works at robinnwatts.tumblr.com.

Vanilla-Infused Amaretto Sour with lemon foam!

Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com
This post is brought to you by Nielsen-Massey. Ideas are my own.

Is it too early to start thinking about Fall weather and cozy sweaters? Is it wrong that I may have turned my air conditioning down real low the other day and pretended it was cold outside? Please don’t judge. When Southern California gets its end-of-summer heat waves (that start around mid-August and go through October. Blech.), I start daydreaming pretty hard about being able to turn on my fireplace and snuggle up to it with something equally cozy.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

Amaretto might not scream Autumn to you, in fact, it just might make you scream, but I’m a firm believer that a little amaretto now and then is good for you. Ever since I made myself an Amaretto Sour a few years back (on a quest to find things to do with this giant bottle I had acquired), I realized that I had been missing out on a flavor I really loved, and wouldn’t mind more of: almond. But then I went and had too much of a good thing and realized my go-to sour just wasn’t cutting it. What I needed was a little more warm, Fall flavors, and maybe a heaping helping of the unexpected. So in stepped Nielsen-Massey’s Madagascar Bourbon (my “all purpose”) vanilla beans and pure lemon extract. And a couple of N2O cartridges for good measure.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

I’ve had Nielsen-Massey vanilla beans, pastes, extracts, you name it, in my pantry for over a decade now (thanks in part to my old job where I had access to the best ingredients Los Angeles chefs could get. Read why they’re a great pick here!). Today I’m excited to team up with them to bring you a cocktail using their amazing, hand picked vanilla beans.

Vanilla and almond are a great pair. I stick them in plenty of baked goods, and now I’m sticking them together in a cocktail. I’m also including an egg white, typically found in a sour, but not in your typical way.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

I make no apologies on here about my love of foams in drinks. Besides looking nice, foams provide a way to suspend aromas above the drink, and also are a lovely layer to taste as well. That silky texture is your first sip before you get to the meat of the cocktail. Here, an extra boost of lemon first greets your nose before you get to the rich vanilla flecked amaretto. The foam mixes with the cocktail to cut through that richness to make the usual heavier cocktail a much lighter version.Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

So now you have a fun weekend DIY and a whole week to look forward to this delicious cocktail. But… if you can’t wait a week, you can always cheat with a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste mixed into your amaretto. The flavor is not as deep as the infusion but works in a pinch!Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

Vanilla-infused Amaretto

1 cup amaretto
2 Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans, cut into 1” segments

Combine the amaretto and vanilla segments in an airtight container. Shake hard for 10 seconds to release some of the seeds from the pods. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 5 days. Taste test and leave for another day or two if you want an even stronger flavor. When ready, strain pods from the amaretto leaving seeds behind in the liquid. Infusion will keep for 1 year stored in a cool, dark place.

Lemon Foam

4 ounces water
2 ounces egg whites
1 ounce simple syrup
1-1/2 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey lemon extract

In a whip cream canister, add water, egg whites, simple syrup and lemon extract. Seal and charge with one N2O charger. Shake hard and charge with a second charger. Shake again and chill for at least an hour before using.

Click here to purchase the whip cream canister and the N2O chargers!

For the cocktail

2 ounces vanilla-infused amaretto
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
lemon foam
lemon peel for garnish

In a shaker ⅔ filled with ice, add the vanilla-infused amaretto and lemon juice. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Top with about ½” of the lemon foam. Garnish with the lemon peel.

Vanilla Amaretto Sour Cocktail with Nielsen-Massey Vanilla // stirandstrain.com

For more information on Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, please visit the Nielsen-Massey website or follow Nielsen-Massey on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Sierra Madre Sunrise

Sierra Madre Sunrise Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThere is this very clear memory I have of accompanying my mother to this one liquor store when I was a child. We were probably there to buy wine coolers for her (as was the hip thing for moms to drink in the late 80’s). In my memory the store was gigantic, like a well-lit supermarket, but instead of produce or cereal boxes, it was just aisle after aisle of colorful and exotic liquors that I felt the need to stop and read all the labels of.

I’m sure that it wasn’t that big, but I do remember that this was the first place I ever saw tequila at. You know, the kind with the scorpions at the bottom. I don’t remember how or when I learned that not all tequila requires there to be a scorpion, but there’s a good chance it is much later in life than I am willing to admit to.Sierra Madre Sunrise Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I wish I could remember the first time I tried mezcal, or even heard of it. Although I’ve tried to rack my brain for that one time, it exists as if I somehow always knew about it. I wish I was that cool. Probably it was sometime over the past 5, maybe 7, years when we collectively started giving other liquors a chance to star in our drinks.Sierra Madre Sunrise Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Now I like to put mezcal in everything. And today’s drink is one from my ongoing “to make” list. Here my notes were: meaty, but refreshing. I’m guessing this was a late night scribbling where I had something particular in mind but what exactly is no longer clear. But I like these challenges. To make things even more interesting, bitters will play a unique supporting role in transforming the drink into two different sips. For a slightly savory cocktail, Angostura will be dashed in. And for a sweeter alternative, chocolate bitters will be used. All versions have Aperol there, an assertive liquor that stands up next to the flavors of mezcal without getting lost.

It’s kind of a choose your own adventure cocktail.Sierra Madre Sunrise Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Now that I’m remembering that liquor store, I’m realizing that the other reason I liked going over there was that next door there was a Christian store that sold Bible action figures like Samson and Delilah. What a way to get kids thrilled about the Old Testament. When I was Catholic I was all in, until I wasn’t anymore.

Ok, enough about Bible Liquor stores. Let’s get to cocktail making!

1 ounce mezcal, Del Maguey Vida Organic used here
3/4 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
3 ounces club soda
2-3 dashes of either Angostura or Chocolate bitters, like Scrappy’s Chocolate Cocktail Bitters

lemon peel for garnish

  • In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, add mezcal, Aperol, lemon juice and bitters of your choice. Shake to combine and then strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Top with club soda and garnish with lemon peel.

I’m using the Vida mezcal here because it’s both a wonderful sipping liquor and it mixes well with others. It’s assertive without being aggressive. Aperol is not too bitter and not too sweet. (But it’s just the right amount of both that you don’t need to add another sweetener.) Freshly squeezed lemon juice adds in a touch of tartness, and the whole thing is topped off with a glug of club soda to mellow it out and give some effervescent pep. Angostura adds spice that compliments some of the cinnamon and earthy flavors found in the mezcal. Or you can change that up with a few dashes of chocolate bitters. The sweet, roasted chocolate flavors in the bitters play up the sweet and bitter orange in the Aperol and also some of the vanilla found in the mezcal. This makes the drink excellent for a slightly sweet digestif or a surprisingly refreshing nightcap.

*I originally created this recipe for Serious Eats.

The Bitter Irishman

Bitter Irishman Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

You’ve heard it said, “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.” Well, I’m either one quarter or one eighth Irish, depending on which relative I consult, and I can tell you that, sadly, I don’t qualify as truly Irish on St. Patrick’s or any other day of the year. I’m not proud to say so, but it’s true. It’s not for lack of trying.

I went to an Irish Catholic school where several of the nuns were direct from Ireland, replete with charming accents– though the nuns themselves were rather sour. One of the nuns walked into my third grade classroom, declared that it was filthy, gave two boys a toothbrush, spat on the floor, and told the boys to start scrubbing. I sometimes think I might have known more Irish nuns than Irish families. The Irish families I did know lived in houses filled with crucifixes. I’m sure they must have had other decorative knick-knacks, but I only remember crucifixes. For me, everything Irish was a bit severe and austere– from the dour nuns to the simple cabbage and beef we ate on St. Patrick’s Day.

Bitter Irishman Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThen one Halloween, the Irish Catholic school burned down under suspicious circumstances, and I was relocated to the Italian Catholic school. The Italian school was completely different. Holidays were more cheerful. The clergy enjoyed themselves (and their wine) a good deal more than the nuns ever had. The food at church events tasted better. Cannoli, ravioli, stromboli. And suddenly, St. Patrick was eclipsed by St. Joseph. St. Joseph’s Day is two days after St. Patrick’s Day, and the Italians loved it. Everyone ate zeppole (a little like cannoli, but better, so, so good), and wore red and white, and went to the Knights of Columbus parade. There were flowers and candles, an explosion of color.

Mind you, I’m not trying to pick favorites. I’m just telling you what I experienced.

For this St. Patrick’s Day, I plan to forgo the green beer– in fact, I’ll probably pass up the beer altogether. Instead, I’m mixing up a cocktail with a bit of a mixed heritage: half Irish whiskey, and half Italian amaro.

Bitter Irishman Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

 

1 ounce Irish Whiskey, Bushmills 10 used here
1 ounce amaro, Averna used here
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 ounce demerara syrup
luxardo cherry garnish

Combine whiskey, amaro, lemon juice and syrup together in a shaker filled 2/3 with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry.

There’s a nice contrast between the light, floral whiskey and the spicy, rich amaro. It starts with a punch of sour flavor that immediately moves into sweetness, and the bite of the whiskey and the lasting bitterness of the amaro stay with you until the next sip. It’s a cocktail with a lot of character. Like those Irish nuns. And those Italian priests.

***This recipe was originally created for Serious Eats and appeared on the site this past week.

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.

MxMo: Pineapple Gomme Syrup and a Pisco Punch!

Pineapple Gomme Syrup & Pisco Punch // stirandstrain.com
Mixology Monday LogoFor Mixology Monday, I had thought I was starting out on a simple quest: make a pineapple gomme syrup (this month’s theme is PINEAPPLE, hosted by Thiago from Bartending Notes and gomme syrup, FYI, helps to create a smooth mouthfeel in cocktails and was widely used a long time ago; now it’s peeping it’s head back up again). However, as I started to leaf through the indexes of several of my go-to cocktail books, I came to the realization that no one had a recipe. WTH? So on to consult the internet and of course, some of the serious cocktailians out there had already covered the basic gomme (or gum) syrup. Thanks guys!

The first thing you’re going to need is gum arabica powder. Oh? Where the hell are you going to get that? Well, the internet is pretty helpful (click here for resource). But, if you’re like me and you need to make it RIGHT NOW, then gum arabica powder is also known as acacia powder and can be found at Whole Foods and at Vitamin stores. And here’s something funny: acacia powder is also a fiber supplement for, you know, helping you be regular. So…added benefit?Pineapple Gomme Syrup & Pisco Punch // stirandstrain.com

There were a couple methods out there for making the gomme, but for sake of time, I chose the most rapid method via A Mountain of Crushed Ice.

4 tablespoons gum arabica powder (or acacia powder)
2 ounces hot water

Heat water to just about boiling (I used an electric water kettle) and slowly mix into the powder in a heat-proof bowl. Then stir to combine, pushing clumps of powder into the side of the bowl to break it up. Let the mixture absorb for 20 minutes and then briskly stir again. Repeat process until all the powder is dissolved (this took about an hour for me).

Next, make a pineapple syrup. Unlike my other syrups, this will be a 2:1 ratio, or a rich syrup.

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup pineapple chunks, plus 2 tablespoons juice

In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water. Stir until dissolved and add pineapple chunks and juice. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover and let sit two hours (if you desire a stronger pineapple flavor, let it sit up to 4). Strain pineapple chunks (use them for garnishes or to top some pancakes). Add gomme and stir to combine. Bottle in an airtight container. Total mixture yields about 2-1/2 cups.Pineapple Gomme Syrup & Pisco Punch // stirandstrain.com

Now at this point you can pat yourself on the back and stare at your freshly made bottle of pineapple gomme syrup and then exclaim, NOW WHAT? Put it in a cocktail!

Pineapple gomme syrup seems to be most commonly used in the Pisco Punch. So start there if this is all new to you. If you’ve covered this base already, please feel free to share what you use it in.

Pisco Punch

barely adapted from Paul Clarke

2 ounces pisco, Campo de Encanto used here
1/2 ounce pineapple gomme syrup (recipe above)
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

pineapple chunk and sprig of mint for garnish

In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, add all ingredients and shake well about 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with a pineapple chunk (those sugared leftovers are perfect here) and a sprig of mint.

Since we’re using a rich syrup here, I cut the amount back from the original recipe by a 1/4 ounce. I found the drink a touch too sweet on the first try. By doing this, the fruitiness of the pisco comes through a bit more with hints of peach and citrus. The lemon juice gives a pleasant bite that contrasts nicely with the sweetness. Overall, super smooth (thanks gomme!) and an easy sipper.

Thanks again to Thiago for hosting this month and Fred for keeping Mixology Monday alive.

Mixology Monday: The Vegan Pisco Sour

Vegan Pisco Sour // stirandstrain.comMixology Monday LogoLately it seems that Mixology Monday is how I mark the passing of time. “Didn’t we just do this?”, I ask myself when I get the alert that there is a new challenge up on the site. Maybe it’s also because I hosted last month and I was neck-deep in it for a full week. This isn’t a complaint by the way. I love these challenges, and this month, Stewart from the Putney Farm blog has really created a doozy of a challenge for us all: make an “Intercontinental” cocktail. For the full run down, please visit his site here!

A geography lesson was needed as I started picking through what I had on hand. Trinidad is considered part of South America, even though it’s an island. Right, islands are still part of a continent. Admittedly I kept forgetting we only have 7 continents. Why does this feel like school?

However, even with all the map reading and consulting a globe, I actually had a recipe idea already in mind that I was just going to shoehorn into this month’s challenge. Last month I attended a cocktail event here in Los Angeles, Taste L.A. (which was actually cocktails and food but I only went to the cocktail-themed event), where there were some great demos that I took notes on and squirreled away for future post ideas. The demo I was looking forward to attend the most was one with bartender extraordinaire Matthew Biancaniello, who was awesome, but what I didn’t expect to be the most intrigued by was Brady Weise from the 1886 Bar (which I wrote about over here if you’re interested). He is known for his beer cocktails, and I am always on the lookout for those, but for his demo he showed us how to use  beer as an emulsifier to sub out using egg whites in cocktails. Science cocktails! By doing this, he effectively made a vegan cocktail. Yes, before anyone brings it up, many, many cocktails have no animal products in them whatsoever. However, if you notice, more bars now are using egg whites and whole eggs in their cocktails as they re-discover classics that call for these. If you are vegan, you are missing out. This post is for you guys.Vegan Pisco Sour // stirandstrain.com

Weise’s cocktail was a Pisco Sour and since this is my first time trying this out, I’m sticking, mostly, with his measurements. To get the right consistency, he suggests using a very wheat-y beer. There’s some scientific stuff about proteins and such that I have not provided for you to read. You can open a new tab if you’re really interested and have the internet tell you about it.

So which continents did I hit? Well, the limes were from Mexico (they’re not in season here right now) so there’s North America. The Pisco was from Peru, so there you have South America. Angostura Bitters are from Trinadad, but that’s still in the Americas (shoot!). The Hefe-Weizen’s Germany so we got Europe covered. And the added touch? Orange Flower Water, from Lebanon. So there’s Asia. BOOM! Four out of seven is not bad in my book.Vegan Pisco Sour // stirandstrain.com

Now that school is over, let’s make a drink!

Adapted from Brady Weise:
1-1/2 oz. Encanto Pisco
1-1/2 oz. Paulaner Hefe-Weizen Beer
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/4 tsp. Orange Flower Water
3-4 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Pour the Orange Flower Water in the bottom of a rocks glass. Swirl to coat the entire inside of the glass and pour out remaining liquid. In a mixing glass, add lime juice, simple syrup, pisco and–slowly–beer. Using a Boston Shaker, hard shake for about 30 seconds. Strain into your rocks glass and give a few hard shakes to get foam out of the shaker and into the glass. Top with a few dashes of Angostura Bitters.

The result is similar to a regular Pisco Sour, except this version has some wheat in the finish and a sweet orange, floral aroma and taste. Overall tart with sweet grape, but a balanced tartness due to the orange flower water (after trying without, I prefer this less mouth-puckering version) that also compliments the wheat from the Hefe-Weizen. The head is thick, foamy, and slowly dissipates, showing its structure.

Thanks to Stewart for hosting this month and to Frederic for keeping Mixology Monday up and running.

In Other News

If you didn’t click on the link for 1886, and that’s fine, no one is forcing you to, more of my writing can be found on the Serious Drinks site now. What kind of stuff? Reviews of some of my favorite places to drink in Los Angeles, and first looks at some new places. Heading to L.A. soon? Check it out!

The liquor shelf page was starting to get a bit crowded, so the bookshelf is getting it’s own page now!