Blueberry Basil Smash or, how I stopped worrying and just made a damn cocktail

Blueberry Basil Lemon Smash (and some notes on blogging) // stirandstrain.comDo you ever look over a cocktail recipe and think to yourself, this is too intimidating? Or maybe, I have no idea what any of these ingredients are! Sorry, I’m sure looking through this site some of you may have had those exact reactions. Although I like to challenge myself, because challenges build character or whatever, sometimes I just want something I can throw together and still think it looks delicious but wasn’t a hassle to make.

Sometimes I need to stop over-thinking these recipes.

This past weekend I challenged myself waaaaaay out of my comfort zone and went away for a few days to a food blogger conference (Big Traveling Potluck). Just so all of you cocktail bloggers know, we are under the vast umbrella that is food blogging (so if you get the chance, GO). Also, when you attend these things, chances are there isn’t another one of you around; you get to feel special in this weird, incestuous, high school-like cliquish group. I may be overstating that sentiment, but it’s close.

After getting over the initial I-don’t-know-anyone-here anxiety, people will just inherently feel pity on you and strike up a conversation. But the following day you can get over yourself and start having real conversations with people who all share the same passion and business questions you do. You can talk about blogging without wondering if the other person thinks you’re a hack or ask questions about CPCs and other acronyms that you’ve already forgotten what they stand for. What struck me as funny, was that there was this underlying anxiety everyone wanted to share: to slow down, give yourself some air to not feel in competition with the THOUSANDS of other people vying for the same internet space; but no one had any kind of answer. Regardless of what you were blogging about, there is always someone else you think you need to beat. Thinking about this sucks the fun out of creating for your site (at least for me…maybe you dig it).

Blueberry Basil Lemon Smash (and some notes on blogging) // stirandstrain.comAfter 3 days there I abruptly felt like I had been given my own answer: get out of your headspace and just make a damn drink. If your content speaks to people, they will read it regardless of whether it’s complicated or not. And if you’re not happy with what you did, don’t publish it. Move on to something else.

This conference may have been a tad more personal than some of the larger ones out there. There was probably way more crying (in public) and more opportunities to talk one-on-one with everyone, but for me, it helped clear out some mental blocks that I had been dealing with lately. I’m not seeking out challenges with any regularity, but I find that conquering one at least every once in awhile gets me motivated again.

Also, I appreciate you guys for visiting this site.

So, onto the drink. Basil and blueberries are not an uncommon flavor duo, and frankly, you could probably do an internet search and find some similar recipes. However, today this is what I felt like sharing with you all and what I wanted to make with ingredients not uncommon, and definitely readily available. I also wanted to make a good-looking garnish; I can never leave well-enough alone.

4-6 basil leaves
small handful of blueberries (like, 10 or so)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup (more or less to taste)
3 ounces gin, Citadelle Reserve used here*

Garnish: 3 blueberries, 2 basil leaves, lemon zest

  • In the bottom of a double rocks glass, muddle basil, blueberries, lemon juice and simple syrup. Add about an inch of ice, stir, and add gin. Fill glass with more crushed ice. Zest lemon on top of ice and garnish with blueberries and basil leaves on a cocktail pick. Straw is optional.

Basil and lemons florals for the initial aroma. There’s a nice sourness to this that is picked up from the lemon and blueberries. The basil is subtle, but present, adding earthy, vegetal qualities while the gin adds a kick of flavor from the barrel aging. The rich, spicy gin brings the “lightness” of the other ingredients down a bit making the cocktail more robust.

*Items generously given gratis and appear here because I like them. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.

Hibiscus-Tequila Cooler

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

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

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

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

Hibiscus-Lime Syrup:

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

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

For the drinks:

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

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

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

I originally posted this recipe on the Serious Drinks site.

MxMo: La Marina

La Marina #Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMixology Monday Logo

This month’s Mixology Monday cocktail challenge is an interesting one because, well, there is NO alcohol in the drinks. Scott of Shake, Strain, & Sip has themed this month “Temperance”, and you guessed it, it’s a Teetotaler’s delight around these parts.

With the warmer months approaching, I’ve been craving light, fruit-based drinks lately. And maybe the occasional spritz or two. With the baskets of berries pouring into the farmer’s markets (pretty much my favorite time of year), I decided to make the base of this drink with juicy, local strawberries.La Marina #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Farmers markets here are pretty diverse. I’ve been introduced to multiple varieties of strawberries, and one of my favorites is the Seascape kind. Sweet, but not too much so; it’s my ideal strawberry flavor. That said, here you’ll need to taste for sweetness. There is some from the strawberries and tonic, and a sweet and savory note from the orgeat, but if you like your drinks even sweeter, then feel free to add a drop of simple syrup.

La Marina #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com3 medium sized strawberries, hulled and quartered
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice (or white grapefruit juice)
1/4 ounce orgeat
4 ounces Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water

strawberry slice for garnish

In the bottom of a highball glass, muddle strawberries, juice and orgeat. Add ice 2/3 up the glass and top with tonic. Stir gently to combine and garnish glass with strawberry slice.

Uniquely both sweet and savory with lots of fruit forward bubbles. A straw in this case is optional as you might find the chunks of strawberries get caught up in it. The almond from the orgeat has a slight bitter edge that contrasts nicely with the sweet fruit flavors. It’s a needed element here to round out the drink.

Thanks to Scott for hosting this month and Fred for keeping this party going.

Jewel of Oaxaca

Jewel of Oaxaca #cocktail // stirandstrain.comWhoa. What a week it’s been. Towards Wednesday I started to feel like an NPR telethon with all the requests for Saveur mag votes. Except, the only fun swag I can offer you guys is more recipes, and you all know those are coming anyways. Like this one..

This recipe was originally going to have grilled pineapple, but that’s DONE (I’ll probably be eating those words in two months). So, instead, grilled mango was tested out to see if that would pair nicely with some mezcal in a cocktail. Results all pointed to yes. It may only be April, but that’s no reason not to think about grilling. Indoor grilling is doable as long as you have the right equipment, i.e. a Grill Pan. It’s a lot more efficient to oil up a pan and get it hot than turn on the propane (or light some charcoal). The sad fact is that we have a nice grill outside that ran out of propane I’d say… 2…3 years ago? I’ve lost track of how long at this point. And we’ve lazily resorted to just using a grill pan for the two of us. Now that I type this out I’m realizing that the amount of entertaining we’ve done at home has drastically decreased since the demise of the propane. Hrm.Jewel of Oaxaca #cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Ah, but the cocktail. A grill pan in this case is best if you are just going to grill up a single mango. Seem like a lot of work for one cocktail? Grill up two and save the rest for later; you’ll want a second one of these.

The savory component here gets some earthy smokiness from ancho chile peppers. Ancho chile peppers are the dried form of a poblano pepper if you weren’t aware (it’s ok, I was schooled on this point too). I put ancho chiles and mangoes in my salsas so I thought I’d try them out as a cocktail.Jewel of Oaxaca #cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Pro tip: use a Hawthorne strainer for this. Oh what a mess this made the first time around with first the shaker strainer, then the julep strainer; the holes were not big enough and there was a mango backup that resulted in half a drink lost. I took one for you guys so you won’t have this problem. The Hawthorne excels at separating the mango pulp from the juice. You will still get pieces of pulp, but you will also get all your booze out of the mixing glass too.

For the ancho chile pepper syrup:

2 ancho chile peppers (or 1 tsp ancho chile powder)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

  • Combine chile peppers (or powder), sugar and water in a medium sized sauce pan over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce the temperature to low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for one hour. Strain into an airtight container.

For the cocktail:

1/2 mango
1 ounce Ancho Chile Pepper Syrup (see recipe above)
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1/2 lime
1-1/2 ounce of mezcal, Del Maguey Vida used here

  • Take your mango half, with skin still on, and score the flesh lengthwise and widthwise, careful not to cut through the skin. Next, using a grill pan, or outdoor grill, oil the grates with a neutral oil (like vegetable oil). Over medium-high heat, place mangoes flesh side down for 5 minutes. If you would like criss-cross grill marks, use a spatula to turn the mangoes 45 degrees halfway through cook time. Remove from grill and let cool. Once cool, turn flesh inside out and using a paring knife, cut cubes away from the skin.
  • Next, in the bottom of a shaker, combine mangoes and syrup. Muddle until puree-like consistency. Add ice, lime, and mezcal. Shake for 20 seconds and using a Hawthorne strainer, strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Mezcal is a very assertive liquor that can sometimes overpower the other ingredients in a drink. But, here, mangoes, chile peppers and lime all work well in combination because they also have strong flavors. The mango’s rich sweetness, enhanced by the smoky undertone of the ancho syrup, makes for a great partner to the Mezcal, accentuating its vegetal aspects and softening its domineering palate.

I originally posted this recipe on the Serious Drinks site

Source It: Punch Bowls for Springtime

Springtime! A reason for garden parties and gathering outdoors (both of which I need MORE of in my life). Where cocktails flow from giant bowls and ladles, all laced with bits of fruit and maybe a flower or two… Excuse my fanciful daydreaming for a moment. I’ve been nose-deep in another Jeeves and Wooster novel this week and the English Countryside is calling my name. It’s also calling for the procurement of another punch bowl set in my house.

These punch bowls have caught my eye recently and perhaps they’ll pique your interest too. What’s a home bar without at least ONE fanciful punch bowl? Undignified; that’s what. Ok, maybe not that but take a look.

Source It: Punch Bowls // stirandstrain.comGreen Bowl / Rosé / Multi-Color / Orange / Mini Cobalt / Silver Set

 

Sex on the Beach Sailboat Popsicles

Sex on the Beach Sailboat Cocktails // stirandstrain.comI bought these sailboat popsicle molds last year with the sole intention of putting some sort of boozy frozen delicacy in them. And then a year went by, and I only just got around to taking them out of the box. And for a private dinner no less! I knew that if I put this post up on April 1st (yesterday) you all would have erroneously assumed it was some kind of practical joke. Sex on the Beach…popsicles?!?! So I thought it best to go up the next day to avoid any confusion with this recipe because it is, in fact, quite tasty.

The “cocktail” was developed after I was hired to make drinks for a private dinner party where the theme was “Seafood, Italian, 80’s Miami a la the Golden Girls”. The sailboats were the amuse course. The next four cocktails were all based on the four Golden Girls (you can check out some of those pics in my Instagram feed). My eyes popped wide open once I realized that I could use the sailboat molds – finally! At first I had thought I’d make a highbrow cherimoya-lime-spicy concoction. But then stopped myself. 80’s Miami? It HAS to be a cocktail riff based on one of those “classics” of the era; so a Sex on the Beach was made and enjoyed by all.Sex on the Beach Sailboat Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

I made a few adjustments to the recipe to start. Cranberry juice is almost never making an appearance in my fridge, so instead I subbed in my homemade grenadine. Same goes with Peach Schnapps. Instead, a fresh peach puree was used in place. A few minor changes took this recipe from meh to ahhh, resulting in a great start to the dinner.

So now I’m sharing the recipe with you all. It’s a taste of the summer to come.Sex on the Beach Sailboat Cocktails // stirandstrain.com

Note: you don’t need to have these sailboats on hand. Any popsicle mold will suffice, but just won’t be as fun.

1/2 ounce grenadine (homemade is always best)
1 ounce peach puree
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce vodka, Aylesbury Duck from the 86 Co. used here
1/4 ounce G.E. Massenez Creme de Cassis

  1. In the bottom of your popsicle mold, pour grenadine in. Freeze to semi-frozen, about 45 minutes.
  2. Mix together peach puree, orange juice and vodka. Pour on top of grenadine. Freeze to semi-frozen, about an hour and a half.
  3. Drizzle creme de cassis on top of peach/O.J./vodka mixture. Add popsicle stick at this point and freeze until solid, at least 6 hours but overnight is best.
  4. To un-mold, squeeze mold to release sides of the popsicle. This should enable you to wiggle the popsicle out. If not, run under warm, NOT hot, water for 5 seconds to help un-mold.
  5. Eat immediately!

Why not WAY more alcohol? Because then they wouldn’t freeze well. I tried this with one ounce of vodka in the center and it never fully froze to a stable consistency. That said, you can still taste that these have some booze in them because clearly, that’s the point. They do have a nice fruity punch to them with the grenadine working well in contrast with the peach/orange combo. Depending on the creme de cassis you have, this can be left out (some flavors work better than others). Try one with and one without to see for yourself. I tried this with Chambord too but the flavor just didn’t work well here, somehow it became almost medicinal. Also, if you can get a giant seashell filled with ice to display your pops in, you win.

Mixology Monday: Classic Blackberry Shrub

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com
Mixology Monday LogoOk, first off guys, I am well aware it’s not Monday despite the name of the post. However, I wanted to get this up before the Monday deadline. What deadline? What are you talking about? Mixology Monday for you newbies here is the once a month “cocktail party” where internet people like to show off with a drink they made based on a theme by whoever “hosts” this month. Please read up on it here and see past entries on the MxMo site. This month, Craig from “A World of Drinks” gave us the theme of “Preserves” (and yes, there’s a lot of quotation marks happening in this paragraph). It took me a second to realize that I was already planning on making a shrub this month, and since making shrubs was an old school way of preserving fruit, I was ready to publish a double duty post this month.

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com

Blackberries. I love the taste of them, but, truth be told, I hate eating them. Those little seeds! They always get stuck in my teeth and half the time they seem like too much of a bother to eat. Anyone with me on this or am I crazy? Last week my husband was out getting some food and I had asked him to pick up some blueberries. Apparently the store was out and he figured I just wanted a berry that was close enough to blue to eat. So he picked up blackberries instead. After scrunching up my face at them and letting them sit there for a few days, the overwhelming urge not to waste food made me cave in. What to do with them?

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.comA shrub! If I made them into a shrub I was just going to extract their juices and all those annoying little seeds would stay in the strainer. I might have patted myself on the back there for thoughtfulness.

Shrubs are a bit well known now, more so than say, a year ago. I see them a lot more on cocktail menus and on the shelves of my local liquor suppliers. Shrubs are also pretty simple to make yourself; let me show you how.

Mixology Monday Blackberry Shrub // stirandstrain.com

Classic Blackberry Shrub

1 cup whole blackberries, rinsed
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  1. Combine blackberries and sugar in a bowl. Lightly crush the blackberries to release their juices (I used a potato masher, but a fork would suffice). Cover and let sit 8 hours or overnight. Shake the bowl every once in awhile to make sure the sugar is incorporating into the juice. Half way through, stir the mixture and re-cover.
  2. Next, strain the mixture through a fine strainer into an airtight container. Add the vinegar and shake well (if any sugar has remained, shake hard to dissolve here). Store the container in the refrigerator for 6 days.
  3. After 6 days give it a taste. Usually, by day 6 the sharpness of the vinegar has started to pull back and let the sweetness from the sugar and fruit stand out more. Keep in mind, this is a vinegar base: it will ALWAYS taste like vinegar. The vinegar will mellow more as it sits but its zing is what is wanted in a shrub.

For this shrub, there is a nice sweet and sour balance from the ingredients. The blackberries produce a tartness that is heightened from the vinegar while the sugar cuts through to keep your mouth from puckering. Strong nose of vinegar with subtle berry.

Sparkling Blackberry Shrub (no booze)

1/2 ounce blackberry shrub (recipe above)
6 ounces sparkling water
1 lime wedge

Fill a rocks glass with the water and pour the shrub down the center. Stir to combine. Squeeze a wedge of lime and add spent lime to the glass.

And here’s Christopher’s cocktail recipe with the shrub he’s been making:

2 ounces 4 Roses Bourbon Yellow Label
1 ounce Blackberry Shrub (recipe above)
1/4 ounce maple syrup

Fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice. Add all ingredients and stir to chill. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Thanks to Craig for hosting this month and Fred for keeping MxMo up and alive!

Cocktail Quickie: Yuzu Lemon Sparkler

A cocktail does not need to be complicated. It does not need to contain 7 ingredients. It doesn’t need herbs freshly harvested from my backyard. Sometimes a cocktail is something you threw together in 2 minutes. Sometimes it looks like this.

I’ve been going through those watermelon chunks like crazy and came to a point where I ran out but still had half a bottle of OK champagne in the fridge. Ah dilemma. I could have gone the Champagne Cocktail route, but I’m trying to get through that bottle of Limoncello because I need that bottle to make a new batch soon. So this became a marriage of convenience (of ingredients).

I like the idea of sometimes having something in my brain Rolodex that I can throw together quickly without having to think too much on it (like after a grueling day at work). This is one of them, and may possibly be a new vein of recipes on here: the quickies.

1-1/2 oz Limoncello (homemade if you got it)
2 dashes of Miracle Mile Yuzu Bitters
3-4 oz of Champagne

Pour limoncello and bitters in a chilled Champagne flute. Swirl gently to mix. Pour in champagne. Bottoms up.

I love the heightened citrus and woodsy notes that the Yuzu bitters adds to the mix (DO go and find these bitters. So worth it.). Can you drink champagne without any extras? Yes. But if you want an extra punch to the drink, this quick fix will do you right.

Salty Melon


Watermelon is a wonderful fruit if you’re the type of person who loves to break down fruits and veg. Pineapples also fall into this category. Thank god my local grocery store caters to us lazy kitchen skills people to give us these fruits already broken down and cut into chunks. Awesome, thanks Fresh & Easy.

It’s been hot in LA for the last week or so. Summer hot. The rising temps tricked my inner self into thinking it was already time for tropical fruit drinks on the patio and I found myself seeking out fresh pineapple chunks at the grocery store and for kicks threw in a pack of watermelon chunks too. I had started out thinking I was going to make some kind of tropical sangria. Until I remembered the whole pouring it into a pitcher (which I need to buy), and also hey, you can’t drink this for 24 hours. So that will have to wait for another time. But I had champagne and something sparkling seemed the right thing to make. And suddenly I wanted watermelons.

My mint plant has been out of control lately with this new plant food I’m giving it, so pretty much I’ve been throwing it into everything. No exception here.

In the first version of this drink, I found that I wanted…salt. So on the next round I added a bit more mint and a pinch of salt and OH YUM. Hello new summer drink. It was so tasty I made two more.

It’s a bit of work, but if you’re reading the this and enjoy making cocktails then this isn’t all that much. Note: with the desire to drink several of these I thought I’d try this as a blender drink (minus the champagne). Don’t do it. The beautiful pink color you get from the muddled melon disappears with the addition of the blended mint leaves. Also, it’s a lot more on the watery side when you do it this way. I would just advise making it by the glass.

1 oz Limoncello (homemade if you got it!)
2 sprigs of mint
3-4 chunks of watermelon about 1-1/2″ in size
pinch of salt
2-3 oz of champagne (decent quality. but since you’re mixing it, don’t use up the really good stuff)
1 sprig of mint for garnish

In a Mixing Glass, muddles the mint with the limoncello. Add the pinch of salt and muddle just enough to mix it in. Add the watermelons to the glass and muddle until smooth (this may take a few minutes). Strain through a medium-fine strainer into a rocks glass. You’ll need to use the back of a spoon to push the solids through to help get the remaining liquid in your glass. Add the champagne and garnish with a mint sprig.

This drink is a great balance of flavors with the addition of salt (just like in baking). The watermelon is present, but not overpowering to make it too sweet. That champagne cuts through to help aid in that as well. And in the background there is a nice herbal-citrus note that finishes well. I was really happy with this, and I hope you can enjoy it too.

UPDATE: instead of using the strainer to get the last bits in, you can mix and muddle your ingredients in a bar shaker and then flip it over into the glass and push solids through the top. Less dishes and mess.

The Basil Simple

Here’s a little something green for this week. Just one of the handful of basil liqueur recipes I’ve been trying out lately. It’s pretty simple, but super flavorful. Do I need to add another sentence to make this look like a whole paragraph? Apparently so.

2 oz basil liqueur (recipe HERE)
1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lime juice, keep the limes handy
2 dashes of mint bitters

In a rocks glass with 3 large ice cubes, add the basil liqueur, lime juice and mint bitters. Add the spent limes as well. Stir together, squishing the limes into the mix with a bar spoon. Sip and slurp.

The mint bitters accent the subtle mint flavor of the basil liqueur and heighten them so they’re a bit more loud. Oh, so this also means I’ve gotten around to tasting the mint bitters. Boy are they strong. Just a tiny bit goes a long way. One thing that I hate though is that they have dye in them. I need to put making mint bitters on the to do list, but not for awhile. I’ve bought the bottle and I’m committed to using it.