What You Should Be Drinking on Valentine’s Day

Make someone you love a drink. I didn’t say it had to be another person.

The Foaming Pineapple Cocktail

Roses in the Snow

Róse Champagne Cocktail

Spiced Pear Fizz Cocktails

Sparkling and Spiced Winter Sangria

Electric Pink Fields

And to drive the point home…

Sex on the Beach Sailboat Cocktails

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

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails //stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by the US Highbush Blueberry Council.
Recipes and ideas are my own.

The time you spend making cocktails during holiday time should be greatly less than the time spent on enjoying them with friends and loved ones. During this season (roughly September through early January now), I am a huge fan of big batched cocktails. So this week, with just a few days left before Thanksgiving descends upon us, I’ve brought out a little help from my favorite berry to mix up something tasty for you all. No, not the cranberry, the blueberry.

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails //stirandstrain.comWe are a family that consumes blueberries in very large quantities. If you ask my kid what is her favorite food, or pretty much what her favorite anything is (she’s two and is still working out the intricacies of the English language), she will say blueberries. We are lucky here in Southern California that we can get them at the market for a selfishly long time, and then when those are gone, we hit up the frozen section. Going without them is just not an option. Blueberries have a lovely balance of sweetness and sour that is always key in a good cocktail. Pair them with your cheeseboard, drink this with the main meal, or just enjoy it after all your guests finally leave. It’s up to you, but, really, this works anytime.

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails //stirandstrain.comThis cocktail combines blueberries, maple syrup, lemons, and sparkling wine for a super easy to make and party pleasing cocktail. I love this recipe for two reasons. One, it’s easy to batch and the base will keep for some time. And two, that leftover syrup makes for some darn tasty pancake topping. Score!

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails //stirandstrain.comFor my cocktail recipe and lots more blueberry holiday inspiration, please visit the US Highbush Blueberry Council here.

Maple Blueberry Sparkling Cocktails //stirandstrain.com



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 Not-Your-Ordinary Valentine’s Day Wine (Report) with Robin Watts!

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comYou’ve got options for Valentine’s Day folks. Sexy, sexy wine options.

Robin Watts is back this month and he’s gone and picked an impressive line up of wines for your weekend. Pop open a few of these for a loved one, or do what I did: get thirsty reading these descriptions and finish them yourself. It’s going to be hard to pick just one…

-Elana



When I set out to pick a few wines for the impending Valentine’s Day weekend I thought I would end up going a possibly cliche route and selecting only French or Italian wines. So “romantic” and European! Truth be told, I was seduced by some domestic stuff as well and I think you, and maybe someone else in your life, might be too.

 

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com2014 Broc Cellars Love White
California
Retails apx. $20

This is a California white that I would recommend to any white drinker who doesn’t usually, or won’t, drink California white wine. This blend of Marsanne (85%), Roussanne (12%), and Viogner (3%) has some very distinctly European sensibilities about it. Aromatic and floral with overtones of pear and bit of honey I think that this wine works well as a starter or even accompanying an entree of lighter fair. And lets be honest, this holiday places a lot on aesthetics and this is nice looking bottle with a couple hearts on it. It’s called Love White!!! This wine will help you fit in with the cliche and trite parts of the holiday while its corked but surprise you and spoil you once it’s uncorked.

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com2014 Gragnano from Poggio delle Bacanti
Italy
Retails apx. $15

There is not a lot of information to be found on this wine but for around $15, and sometimes less, you’ll be drinking this so fast you probably won’t care. Mildly effervescent, it pours and froths like a lambrusco but drinks relatively still (and dry!). I prefer it with a decent chill on it and think its versatility lend it to any day part but, if pairing it with food, go heartier. Being from Napoli, and for some reason very mysterious, I have to assume this is Aglianico and Piedirosso which explains the earthy, leathery quality. There is something satisfyingly vegetal about this, almost as if an olive and a cranberry had a baby but it was raised by a beet and an eggplant. I recommend finishing this savory dry surprise the day you open it but I doubt that should be a difficult task.

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comL’Unique Gaz de Schiste
France
Retails apx. $24

Just go buy this. I should just say that and tell you to trust me. Pink? Check. Bubbly? Check. Delicious? Check. Seems perfect for Valentine’s Day. I think its perfect for any time, any place, and probably any person. 50% Grenache/50% Mourvedre and six month of bottle maturation make for one elegant bottle of bubbly. A little bit sweet, this sparkler is a tart, minerally, grapefruit-y, creamy treat. At first, it smells like you’ve opened the most exquisite bag of gummy worms (I mean that in the best, most respectful way) and the first sip conjures up images of the most impressive fruit trifle and leaves you with a macadamia kiss. Yeah. I’m not even a little bit embarrassed to say any of that. This stuff is that good and functions perfectly as an aperitif or dessert. Get a bottle for someone you love, especially if that person is yourself.

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com2014 Bow & Arrow Gamay
Oregon
Retails apx. $24

Bow & Arrow knows what they’re doing. This Willamette Valley Gamay is soft, luscious, velvety, and just the slightest bit dirty, but in a good way. A very good way. Valentine’s Day appropriate for multiple reasons, the label, covered in tiny arrows, will help you play up holiday Cupid motifs while impressing your sweetheart with a wine that is reminiscent of a dark chocolate bar filled with cherries and almonds. Perfect for someone who thinks they’re afraid of tannins, though be warned, they are there, this wine just gets better as it opens up. Halfway through your first bottle I’d suggest opening a second if for no other reason than to smell that luscious mulberry aroma one more time. Great acidity makes this a lovely food wine but its just as satisfying by itself. This is a wine you can proudly pour with confidence in hopes to impress a special someone new or remind a longtime partner that you can still enjoy the good stuff without breaking the bank.

Ask Robin all your wine questions on twitter @RobinNWatts and find all his wine picks here at Wine Wine Wine

Follow Stir and Strain on Delectable too!

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.

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!

Holiday Gift Guide: Silver & Gold, Silver & Gold and brass and copper and titanium

There’s a sizable stash of holiday movies in our house and I can’t throw them away…even if they are crappy transfers on DVD (or VHS!!!). If you hoard holiday classics, especially any of those 1960’s classics, you’ll recognize this song title. And if you don’t, who cares! Let’s get gifting…

Silver and Gold Holiday Gift Guide // stirandstrain.com

Everyone wishes for silver and gold, so let’s add some sparkle to your holiday cocktails shall we? From glistening glasses, to heavy metal pineapples, and don’t forget the bottles that are pouring your booze! How do you measure its worth? Just by the pleasure it gives here on Earth (or your bar cart).

1.  Rose Gold Pineapple Shot Glasses 2. Ketel One Vodka 325th Anniversary Bottle 3. Gold Sequin Coasters 4. Pineapple Tumbler with Straw 5. Copper Industrial Bottle Opener 6. Japanese Style Gold Jigger 7. The Chandon Special Edition Bottle 8. The Champagne Cocktail Carry On Kit 9. Mid Century Silver Cocktail Set

Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail For when you wish you could drink the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving...

Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThis space is too lighthearted to get very political or get in-depth about current news events, but with Thanksgiving coming next week, it’s a good reminder to be thankful for whatever you have in your life. And if it’s Thanksgiving, I’m shoving cranberry sauce in my face like no one is watching.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I’m of the camp that you need a little sweet with the savory. And while I enjoy pretty much all the flavors that grace the holiday table (except maybe you, green bean casserole), you bet that on every forkful of turkey or potatoes or creamed onions, there is a little bit of cranberry sauce. Ok, maybe a LOT of cranberry sauce.

And I’m not picky either. You want to feed me the jello version from the can? Sure, I’ll take it. Or you made a passed down recipe from your great-grandmother that is laced with a little booze? Sure, I’ll take that too. I’ll take them all.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

So why am I not eating it more often so that when Turkey Day comes I’m not feeding myself like a ravenous zombie? Well, I kinda forget about it. I think the ensuing coma from eating resets my brain every year and I spend the rest of the time oblivious until a week or so before Thanksgiving when I see some ad in a magazine and my mouth starts salivating in a Pavlovian response.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

This year it was decided that since I have such a short window of time to enjoy cranberries, I’ll make the most of it and enjoy them by not only eating those berries, but also drinking them! In fact, I figured if I made a shrub with them, I’d get to enjoy them a little bit longer (although, it’s so darn tasty I doubt it will stick around for very long).

This black pepper–spiced cranberry shrub is sweet, savory, and tart. It mixes up quick and with a fruity sparkling wine and citrusy bitters, the drink works wonderfully to lighten a meal packed with sweet potatoes, stuffing, turkey, and more. And if you don’t use up the whole shrub in one go, it will keep in the fridge for at least a month.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub

2 cups (approximately 10 ounces by weight) cranberries
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

In a nonreactive saucepan, combine cranberries, peppercorns, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and water. Stir to combine. Cover and place over medium-high heat. Cook, opening the lid and stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and some of the cranberries begin popping open, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Pour entire mixture into an airtight, nonreactive container. Refrigerate at least 8 and up to 12 hours. Strain mixture twice through a fine-mesh strainer, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate for up to one month.Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

For the Cocktails (yields 12 drinks)

36 ounces chilled sparkling wine (from 2 bottles)
20 dashes orange bitters, Regan’s used here
12 ounces chilled Cranberry-Black Pepper Shrub
Cranberries, for garnish

Slowly pour chilled sparkling wine into a pitcher. Add bitters and chilled cranberry-black pepper shrub. Stir very gently to mix. Serve immediately. Individual glasses can be garnished with cranberries.

Note: For a non-alcoholic alternative, combine 1 ounce of the cranberry-black pepper shrub, 1/4 ounce simple syrup, and 3 ounces club soda (I love Q-Club!) in a wine glass. (Add two dashes of orange bitters, if desired—they contain a tiny amount of alcohol.) Garnish with cranberries and serve.
This recipe originally appeared 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.