The Purple Halo tequila - lime - agave - basil - sparkling blackberry pomegranate - butterfly pea flower

The Purple Halo Cocktail with Exotico Tequila Blanco and Mountain Valley Sparkling Essence Blackberry and Pomegranate. It's a color changing cocktail! // stirandstrain.comCocktails that stick with me tend to fall into two categories: those that tasted amazing and those that appealed to me visually. For example, I can tell you the first time I tasted bell pepper in a cocktail and fell in love with a whole new world of savory cocktails (Las Perlas in downtown L.A.). I can’t recall what it looked like, but I can remember how it tasted. I’ve gone to that flavor combination many times (and a few cocktail riffs have shown up on this website too).

The Purple Halo Cocktail with Exotico Tequila Blanco and Mountain Valley Sparkling Essence Blackberry and Pomegranate. It's a color changing cocktail! // stirandstrain.comAnd then there are those cocktails that, visually, wowed the pants off me. When I was in Chicago years ago for a trip I decided to pop over to The Aviary because a friend had recommended it. We went at opening and did not get a reservation as advised (Which seemed like such a crazy idea at the time. Oh how times have changed!) but lucked out and got a table with little wait. I can see the plastic bag filled with smoke, a cocktail glass hidden away within. I remember the small crack of opening the ice sphere that housed a cocktail. The feel of the paper bag wrapped glass bottle. But–– I could not tell you what any of these tasted like. I sat here and tried but it’s the memory of how they looked, more than taste, that has stuck with me.

The Purple Halo Cocktail with Exotico Tequila Blanco and Mountain Valley Sparkling Essence Blackberry and Pomegranate. It's a color changing cocktail! // stirandstrain.comToday I’m hoping to bridge that gap for you all with this newest cocktail. With flavors both familiar and a little outside the box, and a touch of theatrics in the garnish, this cocktail, which I’m calling The Purple Halo (that will make more sense later) is both tasty and a stunner to look at.

The Purple Halo Cocktail with Exotico Tequila Blanco and Mountain Valley Sparkling Essence Blackberry and Pomegranate. It's a color changing cocktail! // stirandstrain.comI’ve partnered again this week with Exotico Tequila, and long time favorite Mountain Valley Spring Water to make a cocktail you can impress your guests with all summer long. The base of the cocktail is Exotico Tequila Blanco, made from 100% blue agave and has a slightly spicy flavor profile that mixes really well here. I paired it with agave, lime, and fresh basil to play off its herbal notes. The cocktail then gets a good splash of Mountain Valley’s Sparkling Essence Blackberry Pomegranate Water. Mountain Valley has smaller bubbles, so it adds just a touch of effervescence to the drink without overpowering it. The all natural flavors also add subtle hints of flavor and don’t hijack your drink (or make it taste artificial) resulting in a nicely balanced cocktail.

The Purple Halo Cocktail with Exotico Tequila Blanco and Mountain Valley Sparkling Essence Blackberry and Pomegranate. It's a color changing cocktail! // stirandstrain.comWhile delicious on its own, I wanted you to also remember this visually, and that’s where butterfly pea flower tea comes in. If you’ve come across those color changing cocktails on Instagram, this is where they are getting their magic from. You don’t need to be a cocktail wizard to pull this trick off; you just need to be able to order online and make a cup of tea. I was introduced to this tea a few years back when I was still making cocktails with the local Los Angeles pop up The Coconut Club. We made a welcome Ti’ Punch that changed color before the guests’ eyes. They got a kick out of it; we got written up in the local paper. And now your guests will remember your drinks and talk about it for years to come (I cannot guarantee this). The tea changes color, from a dark cobalt to purple or pink, depending on the pH of the liquid you add to it. In this cocktail, the lime juice will start that color change as the ice cube of tea melts into the drink, creating rings of color in the glass.

The Purple Halo Cocktail with Exotico Tequila Blanco and Mountain Valley Sparkling Essence Blackberry and Pomegranate. It's a color changing cocktail! // stirandstrain.comThe butterfly pea flower tea is very, very mild and with the slow dilution does not contribute significantly to the overall flavor of the drink… but it does look cool! So, if you don’t want another box of tea bags taking up real estate in your pantry, you can leave this out and enjoy the cocktail as is.

Ok, so let’s make something cool now!

The Purple Halo Cocktail with Exotico Tequila Blanco and Mountain Valley Sparkling Essence Blackberry and Pomegranate. It's a color changing cocktail! // stirandstrain.comThe Purple Halo

1-1/2 cups Mountain Valley Spring Water
2 tea bags Butterfly Pea Flower Tea

1-1/2 ounces Exotico Tequila Blanco
5 basil leaves
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce agave syrup
2 ounces Mountain Valley Sparkling Essence Blackberry Pomegranate

basil leaf for garnish

  1. First, make the butterfly pea flower ice cubes by bringing 1 cup of Mountain Valley Spring Water to just under a boil. Add in tea bags and steep 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and let cool. Pour water into sphere molds and freeze overnight.
  2. To make the cocktail, remove ice spheres from molds and set aside. In the bottom of a shaker, muddle basil leaves with tequila. Fill shaker 2/3 with ice and then pour in lime juice and agave. Shake 20 seconds and strain into an oversized coupe or double rocks glass. Add butterfly pea flower ice sphere and top with Mountain Valley Sparkling Essence Blackberry Pomegranate. Garnish with basil leaf. Watch as the rings slowly start to form.

The Purple Halo Cocktail with Exotico Tequila Blanco and Mountain Valley Sparkling Essence Blackberry and Pomegranate. It's a color changing cocktail! // stirandstrain.com

For more information on Exotico Tequila, please visit them at exoticotequila.com. For more information on Mountain Valley Water, please visit them at www.mountainvalleyspring.com

The Toasty Russian vodka - coffee liqueur - homemade toasted coconut milk

The Toasty Russian Cocktail with homemade toasted coconut milk // stirandstrain.comYesterday on Instagram a gave a little hint as to what I’ve been working on lately… THE FUTURE OF COCKTAILS is alternative milks?!

Well, in the short-term it is for me anyways.

A few months back I had to cut out dairy, soy, eggs, red meat and shellfish for medical reasons. Not for some crazy diet! It doesn’t cut into the cocktail making that much, but there are a few drinks that I’ve had to shelve because of these restrictions. Eggs are an easy one to cut out since I’ve covered so many alternatives for them on the site. Dairy though can get tricky, it imparts a particular taste and mouthfeel that can be hard to replicate. With that in mind, there’s just going to be some drinks I can’t have right now. But this also opens up a new door of twists I can make instead.

The Toasty Russian Cocktail with homemade toasted coconut milk // stirandstrain.comToday’s drink is a pretty basic recipe riff on a White Russian. Except… with homemade toasted coconut milk. WHAAAAA?!

Sure, you could add coconut cream or regular coconut milk in here, but the toasty quality of this is OH SO delicious and really stands out in the drink when you put it up against the coffee. I got the idea a few months back when I saw Heidi from 101 Cookbooks make this and for whatever reason I immediately thought about subbing it for cream in a White Russian. Fast forward to now and it is so worth the extra steps to make the toasted coconut milk. And it makes enough so you can add it into your coffee all week and maybe eat some cereal with it too.

Now, this coconut milk behaves differently than cream would; it’s not thick and it’s not going to significantly lighten the color of your cocktail. That also means it’s going to give a lighter feel in your mouth and not coat your tongue like cream does. Maybe for some of you this is a plus. That said, it’s definitely worth trying out if you’re looking for an alternative to dairy or just looking to try something new!

The Toasty Russian Cocktail with homemade toasted coconut milk // stirandstrain.comThe Toasty Russian

2 ounces vodka
1 ounce coffee liqueur, St. George Spirits NOLA Coffee Liqueur used here
3/4 to 1 ounce toasted coconut milk (recipe follows)
toasted coconut flakes for garnish, optional

In a rocks glass, build your drink by pouring vodka, coffee liqueur, and toasted coconut milk over ice. Stir to combine. Garnish with some toasted coconut flakes if you’re feeling fancy.

Toasted Coconut Milk

recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1-1/2 cups of shredded coconut
4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup

  1. Heat your oven to 350°F. Toast your coconut on a sheet pan for approximately 10 minutes, stirring half-way through. Set aside to cool.
  2. Once coconut is cooled, combine toasted coconut and water. Let sit for 3 hours.
  3. Pour into a blender and add salt and maple syrup. Blend for 30 second to combine.
  4. Pour mixture into a nut bag placed over a bowl to strain out solids. You may need to skim the top after straining.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

What You Should Be Drinking This 4th of July

And then George Washington took out his Margarita machine and said, “Let there be frozen drinks!”. Happy 4th folks!

The Blue Crush Tequila Swizzle // stirandstrain.com

The Blue Crush Tequila Swizzle

Frozen Negroni Cocktails (regular and watermelon)

Frozen Cucumber and Green Chartreuse Daiquiri Cocktail

Frozen Peach, White Pepper and Green Tea Daiquiri

Frozen Blood and Sand Cocktail

Peach and Tequila Frozen Cocktail

Frozen Peach, Rum, Coconut Blended Cocktail

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: The Snowden

The Blue Crush Tequila Swizzle blueberry - coconut - tequila

The Blue Crush Tequila Swizzle // stirandstrain.com

This post is brought to you by Tres Agaves Tequila. Recipes and ideas are my own.

All of my cocktails tend to take on a blue hue this time of year, even if I’m not setting out to make something patriotic. More than anything, I really just love putting blueberries in drinks right now. But what happens when those blueberries are out of season? We’ve got a trick to fix that!

The Blue Crush Tequila Swizzle // stirandstrain.comHave you guys ever tried quick infusions with dehydrated fruit?! A few weeks back I collaborated with a local bartender on a drink and she hyped me to this technique. I thought I had pretty much exhausted all the fast and furious ways you could get some flavor infused into drinks but I’d never thought of trying it with dehydrated foods. When you crush the dehydrated fruit into the drink, it sucks up the liquid and starts to seep its flavor out. Pretty neat huh?

The Blue Crush Tequila Swizzle // stirandstrain.comSo today I’m swizzling up tequila and dehydrated blueberries alongside creamy coconut milk and a little spice from a cinnamon syrup you can whip up in less than a half hour. For an extra kick, Angostura bitters is floated on top. We chose to work with 100% estate grown agaves Tres Agaves Tequila because of it’s slightly spicy flavor profile and subtle sweet and grassy aroma; it was the perfect match for our cocktail creation.

The swizzle is a super refreshing cocktail that has a lovely silky mouthfeel and let’s the tequila shine. It has a nice balance of having just enough sweet to balance out the spice while surprising you with new combinations of flavors as the ice settles and the blueberries permeate the cocktail.

The Blue Crush Tequila Swizzle // stirandstrain.comHope you guys enjoy this over the (long) weekend! If you try it, let us know what you think!

The Blue Crush Tequila Swizzle // stirandstrain.com1-1/2 ounces Tres Agaves Blanco Tequila
1 ounce coconut milk (full fat)
3/4 ounce cinnamon syrup (see recipe here)
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/2 cup dehydrated blueberries, lightly crushed (we used Crunchies* here!)
1/4 ounce of Angostura bitters

In a Collins glass, combine Tres Agaves Tequila, coconut milk, cinnamon syrup, and lime juice. Fill glass halfway with crushed ice and swizzle about 20 seconds. Add blueberries and more crushed ice to the glass. Float Angostura on top.

The Blue Crush Tequila Swizzle // stirandstrain.comFor more information on Tres Agaves Tequila, please visit their site at tresagaves.com

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

Desert Rosé Punch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desert Rosé Punch

Serves 5-7 guests

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

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

Pomegranate Reduction

1-1/2 cups all natural pomegranate juice

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

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

Festival Ready Bar Cart Styling (it's a party for your booze)

If you’re anything like me, scrolling through endless Instagram photos of kids out at a festival, profusely sweating and pretending to smile at the camera, you’re SO happy you didn’t wait in line 45 minutes for a watered down margarita. You get to drink yours with 2 ounces of top shelf booze in front of the air conditioning. You win.

Still miss that 104° heat? Make your home bar into your own oasis. Here’s how…

Do they even serve alcohol at these festivals? Who cares! You have a well stocked bar cart at home. Throw up some cactus photos, maybe in #milleniumpink and match your glasses to that desert vibe. Crochet. There has to be lots of crochet things. A hanging chair to sip cocktails in? YES! And maybe some hanging crochet fruit baskets to match. Add in some tassels and some leather fringe. And if your festival look veers off in the electric art dream in the desert, might I suggest uranium glow-in-the-dark mixing glasses and colorful rainbow ice cubes? You can always use that glow stick to mix a few drinks with too.

1. Desert Distilling Vodka 2. Blush goblet 3. Cactus Print 4. Hanging Chair 5. Tassel Swizzle Sticks 6. Manila Bar Cart 7. Leather fringe flask 8. Cactus tumbler 9. Arette Tequila 10. Glow-in-the-dark mixing glass 11. Rainbow Ice Cubes

 

Catch up on all the gift guides here!

Indian Summer Switchel Cocktail

Indian Summer Apple Cider Switchel Cocktails // stirandstrain.comSwitchel what?

Switchel is a delicious non-alcoholic drink that was enjoyed as far back as the 17th century and was what we talked about on the site yesterday. You can read more about that here! But if you just want to get to the cocktails, well then let’s do that!

Indian Summer Apple Cider Switchel Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThe base of this cocktail starts with our Autumn Apple Cider Switchel recipe and then gets a kick from Añejo Tequila and floral lime juice. I see it as that clashing of seasons in September where you want it to be Autumn but the thermometer reminds you it’s still summer. I could have gone my usual full Fall route here and made this with a gold rum (as my Apple Cider Warm Up I make every October contains. There’s no real recipe for that–mainly apple cider and rum thrown together in a stock pot on the stove while adults imbibe and dangerously carve pumpkins. Do so at your own risk.). However, the aged tequila brings out those spice notes but still keeps the drink light and refreshing while the limes gives another sour and sweet layer to the drink.

Indian Summer Apple Cider Switchel Cocktails // stirandstrain.com3 ounces Autumn Apple Cider Switchel
1-1/2 ounces Añejo Tequila, 1800 Tequila used here
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
apple slices for garnish

In a mixing glass, combine the Autumn Apple Cider Switchel, Añejo Tequila and lime juice over ice. Stir 20 seconds to chill and strain into a double rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with apple slices.

Pitchers of Cocktails for Your Labor Day Weekend

I seriously received no less than 6 emails from PR companies pitching me “Labor-less cocktail ideas” over the past two weeks. Eye rolling aside, I get it. No one wants to spend time outside at their Labor Day BBQ making single drink requests for every person that stops by. It’s time for PITCHERS OF COCKTAILS! And I have a few ideas for you guys. Check them out below.

Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Pitcher Cocktails

Sparkling and Spiced Winter Sangria // stirandstrain.com

Sparkling and Spiced Winter Sangria

sage blackberry sangria // stirandstrain.com

Burnt Sage and Blackberry Sangria

Pisco Brunch Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Pisco, Grapefruit, Lime and Thyme Pitcher Cocktails

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.com

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction

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.

Gift Guide: Summer Sipping

Need something a little cooler to sip from this summer? I got ya covered. So be cool. Don’t be all, like, uncool.

Gift Guide: Summer Sipping 2016 // stirandstrain.com

Summer’s made for pitcher cocktails, long icy cocktails, and when it’s really hot… beer in a glass (or just straight from the fridge). Brighten up your home bar while we’re still enjoying those long days.

1. Party Ferret Freaker 2. Yellow dipped pitcher 3. Grand Poppy Liqueur 4. Flamingo Glass 5. Tasty Tallboy Can 6. Copper Bar Cart 7. I Pineapple Summer Koozy