Your Cinco de Mayo Roundup

Time to whip out those tiny velvet sombreros!

Am I really going to introduce a brand new and innovative Margarita recipe today? Nope. Right now you can search any number of food sites and see 60 different ways you can customize your Cinco de Mayo drink. Sometimes it’s hard to feel innovative. However, what I can do for you is make it easy to find all the drinks on THIS site that you might like to have this weekend, since you’re already here.

Let’s just start with last week’s Hibiscus-Tequila Cooler. It’s in a pitcher and no one can tell how many you’ve had until that pitcher is empty.
And then, really, who’s going to say anything?

Hibiscus Lime Cooler Pitcher #Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

 Mangoes and mezcal and chile peppers. Come on. You need this today.

Jewel of Oaxaca #cocktail // stirandstrain.com

If you want to be lazy, just throw a bunch of stuff into a blender. This will work for you.

lazy sunday punch // stirandstrain.com

If you have a lot of time on your hands, get creative with this hibiscus, vanilla-salt, inside-out take on a Margarita.

longmargarita-4

And if you just have to have a regular Margarita, here’s my favorite take on one with smoked salt and mezcal.

barkeepermargarita2

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.

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.

Holiday Gift Guide: Cocktails. On a Boat.

Probably every year about this time I start feeling uneasy and mumble to myself, “I’m not ready yet”. Purity jokes aside, it usually means I’m all a fuss about the upcoming holiday season. I mean, it’s 80 outside. It sure doesn’t feel like Santa is hiding in my chimney, ready to come down and scold me for not baking enough cookies this year.

But just because I’m a bumbling mess doesn’t mean YOU have to be. This year I’m trying to be more proactive and bring you, readers, timely gift guides. Not like those I threw out in March, even though, well, St. Patrick’s Day is also a relative holiday in my field.

Today we’re going to ease into just thinking about fun gifts for those cocktail lovers/enthusiasts/entertainers in your life. Or you can make a list for yourself! Who cares?! I don’t; you should see my “to buy” list, many items of which will actually be appearing here in the next few weeks.

Since it is still pretty balmy out here in Southern California, I’m taking you on a boat trip – with boozy gifts.

You’ll need a good Navy Strength Rum on this boat, and a couple of shatter-resistant glasses (for when it gets rough). Who wants to carry a bunch of full size products when you can have mini bitters on board? Adult ice pops? Yes. Just don’t forget the ice bucket!

Nautical Cocktail Gift Guide // stirandstrain.com

1. Loop Rocks Glasses 2. Vintage Nautical Bar Tools 3. Sailboat Stir Sticks 4. Smith & Cross Rum 5. Sailboat Pops 6. Scrappy’s Bitters Travel Pack 7. Nautical Ice Bucket

Peach-Basil Sorbet & Saison Float (Beer Float)

peach basil sorbet and saison beerfloat // stirandstrain.com

Me and Beer are not what you would call best friends. We spy each other from across the room and keep a cool distance. Once and awhile we’re forced to spend time together. Usually out of desperation. But before you Beer Lovers out there delete me from your feedly account, I will say that I can be turned sometimes. For example, last time I was in San Francisco I had a Nautilus Saison. It was really good. And if I’m out at a place that only is doing beer, I won’t be that a-hole not drinking. Usually I ask for a sour beer, and more than likely they have one.

What I really like in a Beer Experience is something luxurious. I take the beer cocktail movement seriously. Amazing things have been created and imbibed by myself. However, I haven’t quite knocked one out of the park yet to share on here. What have I done with beer lately though? Make a damn float. A luxurious Saison float with some homemade sorbet. Oh yes….

First, you cannot take any old ice cream/gelato/sorbet and stick it with any old Pilsner/IPA/Double Chocolate Stout. Oh wait.You totally can stick that Double Chocolate Stout with a lot of flavors. But the point is that when you are going to create a beer float, you need to look at it as you are crafting a cocktail. The flavors should compliment each other, have a good body together, introduce new flavors into the party. Also, you shouldn’t be afraid to add some enhancers such as bitters and herbs. Again, like making a cocktail.peach basil sorbet and saison beer float // stirandstrain.com

After I tried that Saison I knew that the profile of that type of beer would work really well with some seasonal fruit sorbets. I like making sorbets. But usually I make alcoholic sorbets. This time I would leave that part out, focus what is in season and what would pair well with the beer.

Peaches were overcrowding the fruit basket, so they needed to go. The last of my basil was also starting to look a tad sad so I figured these two would make a great pair for a sorbet. I made a small batch, knowing that freezer space is limited in my house right now so I needed this guy in and out quick. After the batch was done, taste tests were conducted with a variety of Saisons and the winning combo was the Foret Organic Saison.

The pairing was great, but what put it over the top and rounded out the float was a sprinkling of freshly ground Coriander. Have you guys ever smelled the stuff freshly ground?! It has the most striking lime aroma. It was the extra brightness that this float needed to make it exceptional.

Thirsty? Let’s get started.peach basil sorbet and saison beer float // stirandstrain.com

Peach-Basil Sorbet

recipe adapted from the James Beard Foundation (cut in half, but I kept the same amount of basil)

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
8 basil leaves
2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks

Bring the sugar, water, and basil to a boil in a small pot. Gently simmer 10 minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for one hour.

Strain the syrup.

Purée the syrup with the peaches until smooth in a food processor. Chill mixture in the fridge for at least an hour.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker. I found that this small batch took only about 10 minutes to come together. Depending on temp and humidity in your kitchen, could take a few minutes more.peach basil sorbet and saison beer float // stirandstrain.com

The Beer Float

3 scoops of the Peach-Basil Sorbet
3-4 oz of Foret Organic Saison
Pinch of freshly ground coriander

In a pilsner glass, add the scoops of sorbet. Pour the Saison over the scoops and add a pinch of the coriander to the foam. Add a straw if you like.

The ground coriander has vivid lime notes that bring out the citrus from the Saison. Dry start with a sweet finish. The peach and basil are soft in the background on initial sip, until that is, you get a chunk in your straw, at which point you get this potent herbal fruit flavor.

This drink is SO light you can drink multiples without feeling too heavy. It’s even delicious with food (I had a Cuban sandwich and it was a super match!).peach basil sorbet and saison beer float // stirandstrain.com

Check out the Boozy Dessert Round Up on Clinton Kelly for this recipe from me and more!

Electric Pink Fields

Electric Pink Fields Cocktail // stirandstrain.comWhen I was young and trying to be fancy on the weekend, I’d order a Kir Royale at brunch. At 21, even brunch seemed like a novel idea at the time. Drinking at breakfast? Other than seeing my father mix himself a Bloody Mary while frying up some eggs on a Sunday, drinking before 3pm was unheard of growing up. Now, occasionally the odd Kir Royal pops up, usually it is at my in-laws and we’re doctoring up a bottle of champagne someone has given them as a gift. A bottle of champagne that clearly has been re-gifted because the original recipient also knew it was crap. An ancient bottle of Creme de Cassis sits at the back of their fridge just for these occasions. So why did I pick up a bottle recently? It was on my ‘to get’ list. I’d seen it listed in a particularly tasty cocktail someplace and I was reminded it would be a great ingredient in drinks other than the sweet covering up some bad bubbly.

My husband was on a liquor run for himself and had called to ask me if I needed anything, knowing probably there was something I wanted. I told him Creme de Cassis and without missing a beat he said Ok, he’d go look for some. When he was back he proudly showed me a handsome bottle acknowledging that he bought it because it’s price point suggested it was good stuff. “And look at the label!” he said, totally fancy pants.Electric Pink Fields Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I think this happened close to 4 months ago. To which, at least every few weeks, he turns to me asks when I’m going to make something with it.

A serious of unfortunate incidents led me to finally cracking it open the other night. First, my cantaloupe I was going to use had gone bad. Then my cherry syrup shattered. I found myself staring down at a bunch of bottles and just huffing to myself. And then I saw the Creme de Cassis and shrugged. I could use this; it’s fruity. I would sub this in for simple syrup.

The liqueur ended up being a very happy incident. So, working on a daiquiri variation, the first pass was too sharply tart. Bringing the lime juice down to 3/4 ounces on the next pass then rendered it not tart enough. It also felt it was lacking a missing flavor. Tarragon! I know that for some of you, this herb is scary, and completely useless in your kitchen. But really you need to give this herb some love, so, put it in a cocktail at least.Electric Pink Fields Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Adding tarragon not only gave it a lovely aroma, it toned the tartness down just enough so that it found balance.

2 oz. Oronoco white rum
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 oz. G.E. Massenez Creme de Cassis
8 tarragon leaves

In the bottom of your shaker, add the tarragon leaves and lime juice. Lightly crush with a muddler. Add ice 2/3 up the shaker. Pour in rum and creme de cassis. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Magenta in color with flecks of tarragon throughout. The nose is berry and tarragon, or rather a subtle licorice smell if you’re unfamiliar with this herb. The cocktail itself is tart and sweet. More berry on the palate with a grassy aftertaste. Dry in the mouth but flavor profile is refreshing.Electric Pink Fields Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: The Snowden

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: The Snowden // stirandstrain.comAt this point in the news I’m sure someone has already taken this name for a cocktail. And the idea, let’s be honest here, sticking a popsicle in liquor is fine, but I think we all are taking it a bit too seriously (ahem, Pinterest people?). So for this month’s Low Rent Cocktail, I’m knocking this instagramming sensation down to where it needs to be: the frozen treats section of Ralph’s Grocery store.

This started as a joke, a drunk joke, and now is ending up here on the site, still as a joke. I haven’t posted a Low Rent Cocktail for awhile and as the lazy, late Summer days are passing us by with growing ferocity, I thought I’d post this lazy way to get your drink on.

Russia, meet your American Firecracker.

2-1/2 oz. Stolichnaya Vodka, chilled
1 Red, White & Blue Firecracker Popsicle

Pour chilled vodka into a collins glass. Add popsicle. Get paranoid about your last telephone call or email. Take a valium. Note: do not call anyone about taking a valium.

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: The Snowden // stirandstrain.com

Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria for Two

Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

At the end of May I caught a tweet from the NY Times food section that completely changed my mind about what a Sangria should be. Lavender? Sake? What were these crazy components I’d never dreamed of adding to what I considered to be a drink of wine and fruit thrown in for good measure. You can read the whole article through this link, just come back here when you’re done.

That Burnt Sage and Blackberry Sangria I did? Little did I know what path I would start going down next. Suddenly that article made me want to try it with all kinds of wine. White Sangria I am still working on, but Rosé? I think I have something pretty special here. (Oh, and I got Sherry waiting in line too, FYI).Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

In developing this recipe, I made the Rosé tell me where to go. By that I mean I bought a relatively cheap bottle in case this was a bomb (Hello Trader Joe’s!) and tasted it, and from there went with what I thought would enhance the flavor profile of the wine and compliment it on several levels. Apples, plums, basil. It’s all in there along with some not so well known ingredients: Cardamaro (a complex wine-based Amaro). And unexpected: Rum.Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

For me, I want Sangria to be complex, like a cocktail, but on the obvious larger scale in size.The only downfall here is the wait time. Sorry folks, this needs to sit for 2 days, it’s just better that way. Trust me.

5-6 basil leaves
2 plums, sliced
1-1/2 green apples, sliced
1/2 large pear, sliced
1 oz. Cardamaro
4 oz. El Dorado 15 year Rum
1-1/2 cups Pinot Noir Rosé (pick a Rosé that is light, dry and subtly sweet with hints of berries)

Lightly crush the basil in the bottom of your pitcher. Add fruit. Pour liquids over the fruit and stir to combine. Refrigerate for two days. To serve, pour over ice filled double rocks glasses.Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria // stirandstrain.com

The Rosé, regardless of what else is added here, is still the dominant flavor, but now there is a wonderfully warm, light syrupy taste from the liquors. Apples our among the fruit with this particular ratio, however it’s a nice crisp addition. Plum is more of a subtle flavor in the background while the basil adds a slight earthiness that compliments this Rosé. Some people disagree with adding fruit during the resting period because it can become soggy. I am not one of those people. The fruit I stick in there I want infused into the drink. They are not merely a garnish. In fact, I might not even eat them.

If you can wait for this, it’s a light, crisp, refreshing and seriously easy to drink Sangria.

Spiced Cherry Cobbler Cocktail

Spiced Cherry Cobbler Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThe Willet line of whiskeys are a hardy bunch. By that I mean when I drink them my throat feels like hot oil is being poured down it. Not a bad thing mind you, just one of those types of booze that I have to remember that fact about. Now, some of you might ‘tsk me about this, especially since Willet isn’t cheap, but you know what? I will use it as a base sometimes.

*ducks as rocks are thrown*

Look, I enjoy my whiskeys neat, but sometimes I taste something and I think to myself, this would go well with X. And in this case, a couple ounces of Willet go well with the cherry syrup I made last week. And all those lonely cherries that were left behind.

When I started reading about cocktails and really starting delving deeper into their history, I came across the concept of ‘cobblers’. Not the dessert, but a drink in which you decorate a mound of ice with booze and fruit among other things. Kinda like a tarted up adult sno-cone. I loved the idea of these ‘beverages’; they seemed so old fashioned to me. I have been making notes for almost 2 years now on doing this, but just never got around to it. Until now.Spiced Cherry Cobbler Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

After making that cherry syrup I found that I had a bag of sugary, smooshed cherries that needed some love. So I decided now was the time to start tinkering with cobblers. I’m marking this post as a good starting place, but already I’ve thought of some ways to improve upon it. Here’s a big tip: don’t go too fine with the ice. It melts too quick and you find all your cherries and liquid will start quickly plopping over the side of your dish. For presentation’s sake I made this in a shallow dish, thinking that I could mound the cherries on top, however, they all sank due to my ice crusher’s overzealous attempts to pulverize the ice and thus resulting in quickly melting ice. You would be better off to pile the ice in a collins glass and stick the fruit on top. Also, go easy with the ice! Too much and it waters your drink down too quickly.Spiced Cherry Cobbler Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

If you follow those guidelines you’ll be on your way to enjoying this summery, refreshing cocktail. So, grab a spoon and a straw and let’s get started.

2 oz. Willet, Straight Rye Whiskey
1 oz. Spiced Cherry Syrup (recipe found here)
1/4 cup Cherries from the syrup batch (can sub out with Luxardo cherries if you’ve ditched/eaten the cherries from the syrup batch)
1 cup Crushed Ice (not too fine)
Cinnamon Stick
Sprig of Mint

In a shallow dish, place the cherries in the bottom (if using a Collins glass, reserve for the end). Mix whiskey and syrup with half of the crushed ice gently to combine. Pour into dish. Pack more ice on top. Slap your mint to release the oil and garnish the drink. Grate fresh cinnamon on top.

Now, here’s the fun thing about the cobbler: do you eat the fruit first? Or do you stick your straw in (go to the very bottom where the syrup, juice and whiskey have collected) and drink up? Your choice. You can even alternate if you’re not a weirdo like me and need to choose one or the other (I was that kid who only ate one food group at a time off their plate and never combined anything, occasionally this annoying trait finds its way back into my life once in a blue moon).Spiced Cherry Cobbler Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Enjoying this cocktail is like having a more subtle version of an icee, with alcohol. The ice tones down the heat of the whiskey and it mixes with the cherries for a sweet and lightly spiced flavor combo. This is not your convenience store cherry flavor mind you. Don’t go in thinking it’s like that or you’ll be disappointed. It’s a fresh cherry flavor, and in a way more muted. This has been enjoyed with the extreme heat we’ve been having this summer, and this has helped cool me down, sans the uber-sugary fake flavor you’d find elsewhere. Next time though I think I’ll pre-make a snowball with a hole in it to keep the ice-melting at bay.

Cocktail Quickie: Sparkling Hibiscus Cocktail

Recently a friend of mine was up in Napa visiting family and was gracious enough to bring back a case of Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine with her. After downing a couple of the bottles, I decided that maybe I could use them in other (cocktail) ways.

This week I picked up a small container of hibiscus flowers in syrup. I’ve seen some really gorgeous drinks with these and hoped they actually tasted as good as they looked. I am a believer that your drink garnish should 1. make sense with your drink 2. taste good. And these did both. On it’s own, the hibiscus flowers are a bit chewy like a fruit leather, and taste somewhat like rhubarb.

I wanted this drink to be an easy cocktail that could be whipped up quick as necessary, but also look lovely. Need a Mother’s Day cocktail, something for a brunch for people who *gasp* don’t like Bloody Marys, or are bored by Mimosas? Here  you go.

Be careful with the mint. More than half a bar spoon will overpower the drink. I learned that the first time around on this. Together, the mint and hibiscus provided a sweet backdrop to the sharpness of the sparkling wine. And that flower is a nice little treat at the end.

1/2 bar spoon of mint simple syrup
1 hibiscus flower in syrup
4 oz sparkling wine (I used Gloria Ferrer’s Blanc de Blancs, or use a good dry sparkling wine or prosecco)

Pour the mint syrup in the bottom of a champagne flute. Pick out a hibiscus flower, shake off a bit of the syrup, but having some of the liquid still on the flower is fine and will add some extra hibiscus flavor. Place the flower gently in the bottom of the flute and pour the sparkling wine down into the center of the flower. The flower should stay at the bottom of the glass and open up slightly as it sits.