Cookies and Cream Frozen Blended Cocktails

Dessert Cocktails with Kerry Gold Irish Cream // stirandstrain.com

This post was made in partnership with Kerrygold Irish Cream. Recipe and ideas are my own.

Sweet vanilla ice cream and crunchy chocolate cookies combine into one decadent frozen blended cocktail.

Kerrygold Cookies and Cream Frozen Cocktails (makes 2 drinks)

2 oz Kerrygold Irish Cream
3 oz vanilla vodka
3/4 cup vanilla ice cream
1 cup crushed ice
1/2 cup crushed chocolate wafer cookies

In a blender, pour in Kerrygold Irish Cream, vanilla vodka and vanilla ice cream. Blend until smooth. Add in ice. Blend until ice is incorporated and smooth. Divide half the mixture into two double rocks glasses. Scoop a heaped tablespoon of cookie crumbs into the glass and spread in an even layer. Top each glass with the rest of the liquid mixture. Garnish with remaining cookie crumbs.

Angostura Rum & Black Cherry Soda Float

Angostura Rum & Black Cherry Soda Float // stirandstrain.comThis post was made in partnership with The House of Angostura. Recipe and ideas are my own.

I live in an old house. I’m in Southern California, so not that old like New England, or like, Rome. Ok, actually it’s only 50 years old so by those standards it’s pretty new. But anyways, when the house was bought it included things like appliances, and central air; these too were all old. 1980’s kinda old. And since they all did their jobs without much complaint not many were replaced. As the decade wore on they slowly started to die and everything now except the air conditioning unit, which is over 30 years old, has been replaced. This beast makes me tremble when the summer electric bill statement appears. I know the bill will be high. It’s always high this time of year. However, this thing just WILL.NOT.DIE. Every summer, usually when we hit peak highs and the thing is running 24/7, it breaks down. Home insurance gets called, 3 to 5 days later the machine is up and running again. Repeat the next summer.

I keep waiting for the repair man to finally come over and tell us, Sorry, this unit is done for and the home insurance to cough up the money to replace it. Because really, we’re not spending 10k+ ourselves on a whole new unit anytime soon. So when it gets this hot out, I simultaneously hope that it won’t blow out on us and cause the internal temperature of the house to go over 90 (that has happened to us a few times now) and also sorta want it to just DIE ALREADY so we can get a new, energy efficient model. The joys of home ownership…oy!

Angostura Rum & Black Cherry Soda Float // stirandstrain.comWell, I don’t know whether to chalk these scorching summer days up to climate change or just admit that Los Angeles is the desert and this is part of the package you get when you move here. Sure, you get warm, sunny days in January, but then you have to take those 100+° days in the summer (and early Fall). To help ease these heat-aches, I partnered with The House of Angostura for a chilly, boozy treat this week (and yes, just in time for #NationalIceCreamDay on 7/15).

Did you grow up eating/drinking ice cream floats? We didn’t get them all too often, but I do recall stopping by an A&W when I was a kid and having a root beer float. In retrospect, whichever family member took me and my sister there and gave two small children ice cream floats in the car to eat was a rather brave soul. Today we’re not only refining that childhood treat with some black cherry soda and super premium vanilla ice cream, we’re also adding in RUM. And bitters. And Luxardo cherries! All the good adult stuff but with enough kid stuff to still have a whiff of nostalgia.

The Angostura 7 Year Rum has lots of cinnamon and vanilla flavors that make it a great match for this boozy adult treat. I’ve added in the Angostura Bitters and their Orange Bitters to punch up the spice of the cherry soda and to cut through some of the sweetness. The orange aroma in the nose is an unexpected and pleasant surprise when you take your first sip. For something so fun like an adult ice cream float, I found this combination to be much more complex with lots of subtle flavors. It was also a great way to forget about the heat for just a little bit too. Fingers crossed that air conditioner makes it through one more summer.

Angostura Rum & Black Cherry Soda Float // stirandstrain.comReady to dive into your own float? Let’s make one!

Angostura Rum & Black Cherry Soda Float

2 ounces Angostura 7 Year Rum
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
2-3 scoops vanilla ice cream
4 ounces Black Cherry Soda, chilled
2 dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
Orange slice and Luxardo cherries for garnish

In a mixing glass filled with ice, pour in rum and bitters. Stir to chill 20 seconds and strain into a soda glass. Add ice cream to glass and top with black cherry soda. Dash orange bitters on top and garnish with orange slice and cherries.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Angostura and their products, please visit them at www.angostura.com

The Holiday Elixr Cocktail tequila - chocolate - reishi - kombucha - lime - mexican vanilla

Holiday Elixr Cocktail with Exotico Tequila // stirandstrain.com

This post was made in partnership with Exotico Tequila. Recipe and ideas are my own.

We’re heading into full-on holiday mode today folks. You’ve given yourself permission to eat all of Santa’s cookies. You’ve said yes one too many times to the egg nog at your company’s holiday party. You may have already put the batteries in your kid’s toy car they’ve been asking for and took it for a spin around the basement.

Holiday Elixr Cocktail with Exotico Tequila // stirandstrain.com

It’s a bit hazy whether you’re on the naughty or nice list. You might be thinking that you’ve got at least a week or so before you need to start questioning your life choices. So, I’m here to offer you a cocktail that’s on both lists; it’s a little naughty and a little nice.

Holiday Elixr Cocktail with Exotico Tequila // stirandstrain.comWe’ve partnered with the award winning Exotico Tequila again this week to bring you this refreshing cocktail that will make you feel good for a number of reasons. Their reposado expression, made with 100% blue agave, is a fantastic base for: chocolate! Reishi mushrooms! Kombucha! What what what??? See, we’re balancing the good for you with gooooood for you.

Holiday Elixr Cocktail with Exotico Tequila // stirandstrain.com

Sound a little crazy? Well, putting all the health benefits aside (like aiding in digestion, a good source of probiotics, its detoxing benefits, etc…) I will tell you that Kombucha makes a great mixer. It’s my favorite addition to cocktails because it adds bubbles and a little sweetness to a drink. The reposado Exotico has a lot of warm, spicy flavors and Health Ade’s Reishi-Chocolate kombucha balances that out with some subtle hints of chocolate and some surprising umami as well (by its own it tastes like a Tootsie roll!). To bring out more of the vanilla in the Exotico I added a splash of Mexican vanilla extract in lieu of a syrup. The vanilla extract adds the extra punch without adding more liquid and sweetness to the drink while also introducing some floral aromas too. A good dose of freshly squeezed lime juice rounds out the drink with some needed acid. The taste is similar to a Margarita with hints of chocolate, spice and an herbal/grassy finish.

Holiday Elixr Cocktail with Exotico Tequila // stirandstrain.com

It’s not too late to slow it down and rethink your cocktail choices. You can enjoy a drink this holiday season that not only tastes good, but also has ingredients you can feel good about.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Holiday Elixr Cocktail with Exotico Tequila // stirandstrain.com

2 ounces Exotico Reposado Tequila
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract, Nielsen-Massey used here
3-4 ounces Health-Ade Reishi-Chocolate Kombucha

lime peel for garnish

Build the drink: in a rocks glass filled 2/3 with ice, pour in Exotico Reposado Tequila, lime juice, Mexican vanilla extract and Health-Ade Reishi-Chocolate Kombucha. Stir gently to combine. Express lime zest over drink and garnish.

For more information on Exotico Tequila, please visit them at exoticotequila.com.

Negroni Cocktails: Past, Present & Future

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com

This post is brought to you by Campari. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Your Instagram feed might be turning from #millennialpink to a cheery garnet red next week as we embark on the FIFTH year of Negroni Week!

If you’re not familiar with this wonderful time of year, or have only heard of it in passing, let me loop you guys in. From June 5 through 11 this year, bars, restaurants and vendors from around the world celebrate the Negroni cocktail – an iconic mix of Campari, gin, and sweet red vermouth – to raise money and awareness for great causes. What started as just 100 bars in the US, has now grown into an International event and this year will be bigger than ever.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comWhile you’ll see me out to help the cause next week at a few of my favorite bars (remember to follow us along on Instagram as we’ve planned a few surprises!!) there are other ways you can help a charity out. A portion of proceeds from the sales of nationally-available items such as a Campari-branded red bicycle from PUBLIC, a Negroni-red Baggu tote, and fire red-tinted sunglasses from Sunski, among other items, will be donated to charity. National partner Lyft will also offer coupon codes to new users to help riders safely get around during Negroni Week.

Campari, the star of the cocktail itself, is committed to supporting the trade community’s fundraising efforts as well. This year, Campari is teaming up with both the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild (USBG), as well as SHARE – a nationwide community that offers support to women diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancers – via SHARE’s partnership with Speed Rack, the all-female speed bartending competition benefitting breast cancer research, education and prevention. Multi-city events will be held with both the USBG and SHARE/Speed Rack to raise money for each charitable cause.

I am a staunch believer in volunteer and charity work and grew up in a community that placed a strong emphasis on these values. That’s why I’m participating once again to help spread the word. While going for a drink out may seem almost like a lay up to support a charity, the point is, it supports a charity. Everyone, and every bit (or drink), counts.

Because Negroni Week is also a celebration of the cocktail, I’ve teamed up with Campari to create 3 of my own variations on the cocktail to represent its Past, Present and Future (and have named them such).

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Past (double vanilla Negroni float)

Representing the past, the Negroni: Past Cocktail harkens back to old timey soda fountain shops where ice cream floats were an indulgent treat for everyone. Here we’ve made this an “adult’s only” cocktail with double the vanilla. Vanilla infused gin, Campari, vanilla ice cream and sweet vermouth “sauce” is a refreshing, and super indulgent, treat for the summer. Optionally, if you can get your hands on some acid phosphate you can give your float extra tang just like the OG soda jerks did.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com1-1/2 ounces gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin, infused with vanilla (recipe follows)
1 ounce Campari
2-3 scoops vanilla ice cream
8 ounces sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
optional: 1/2 tsp acid phosphate

  1. Start by reducing the sweet vermouth. To do this, heat sweet vermouth in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it reduces to about 2 ounces. Set aside.
  2. In a pint glass, or soda fountain glass, add 2-3 scoops of vanilla ice cream. Then, in a mixing glass filled 2/3 with ice, add in vanilla infused gin and Campari (and acid phosphate if using). Stir to chill about 20 seconds. Strain mixture over the ice cream.
  3. Garnish your adult float with the sweet vermouth “sauce”.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comVanilla Infused Gin

8 ounces gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin
3 to 4 vanilla beans

  1. Chop vanilla beans into 1″ pieces. Add vanilla pieces and gin into an airtight container and seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for 3 to 4 days.
  2. Strain the mixture into a new container when desired taste has been reached.
  3. Vanilla infused gin will keep at optimal taste up to 6 months.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Present

Just because the original Negroni cocktail uses gin, does not mean that today’s has to. One of the biggest trends of the current cocktail era is to take a classic drink and swap out the main spirit. Mezcal has exploded onto the bar scene and you can find it popping up in most bar’s menus. And with good reason, it’s delicious. For this cocktail, we swap out the gin with mezcal, keep our friends Campari and sweet vermouth, and add a touch of green bell pepper syrup to highlight the vegetal nuances of the mezcal.

1 ounce mezcal
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
1 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce green bell pepper syrup (recipe follows)
large strip of orange zest for garnish

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add in mezcal, sweet vermouth, Campari and bell pepper syrup. Stir for 20 seconds to chill and then strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass. Garnish with orange zest.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comGreen Bell Pepper Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 green bell pepper, chopped

  1. In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, add to the pan the sugar and water. Stir to dissolve and add in green bell pepper. Stir and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and cover.
  2. Let sit one hour, remove bell peppers, and let syrup finish cooling to room temperature.
  3. Store syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.comNegroni:Future

When you think of the future of cocktails, do you picture some mad scientists conducting experiments in a lab? I do. With the future in mind, I’m highlighting the sharp bitterness of the Negroni with gentian smoke for a take on the smoked cocktail. This cocktail requires a blow torch, so you know it’s fun.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com1 tablespoon dried gentian root
1 ounce gin, such as Bulldog London Dry Gin
1 ounce sweet vermouth, such as Cinzano 1757
3/4 ounce Campari
dehydrated orange slice for garnish

  1. Start by moving to a well ventilated room. Place gentian root in a shallow, heat proof dish (I also like mini disposable pie plates!). Get a kitchen torch or long fireplace lighter ready.
  2. Next, fill a mixing glass 2/3 with ice. Pour in gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. Stir to chill 20 seconds.
  3. Immediately begin smoking the gentian root by holding a flame to it until starts to smoke. As soon as it begins to smoke, place a glass upside down over the smoke to “catch” the smoke. When the glass is filled, slide a postcard or piece of cardstock over the hole to keep the smoke in.
  4. Turn the glass right side up, keeping the hole covered. When ready to serve, remove the card and strain the mixed cocktail into the smoke. Garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel.

Negroni Week Cocktails: Past, Present and Future // stirandstrain.com

For more information on Negroni Week, and for a list of bars participating, visit negroniweek.com and follow @CampariUS and @Imbibe on Facebook, @CampariUSA and @Imbibe on Instagram, @Campari and @Imbibe on Twitter, and engaging with the #NegroniWeek hashtag.

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 organic 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.

 

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

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comThis post is brought to you by Blue Nectar Tequila. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Admittedly, I let a lot of the drink holidays pass me by. Especially when they’re not really something I feel like celebrating (vodka + red bull day I’m looking at you). But today is a very special day. Today is Margarita Day.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comI drink Margaritas every day of the year. I don’t wait for Taco Tuesday and happy hour at my local cantina. I break them out over brunch or on any given Sunday. But usually just a single serving or two. Today, because we’re celebrating, we’re going big and making a Margarita PUNCH.

Since we’re still deep in citrus season, my family just got back from picking our own grapefruits, lemons and whatever else was hanging on those fruit-laden trees. The grapefruits were so juicy and tart and delicious, that I perhaps got a little overzealous with the picking. To make sure they go to a good home, they’ll be the base of the punch today. Not only will we use some of the juice, but the zest will go into the oleo saccharum, and the whole punch will get garnished with sugared brûléed wheels of the fruit. An honorable way for these grapefruits to go.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comEven though I love those grapefruit, to balance out the citrus flavors and make the base more complex, I’m creating a oleo saccharum with lemon and lime zest in addition to a few grapefruit zests thrown in. Creating the base this way gives the punch a strong citrus backbone that won’t get watered down and lost once the grapefruit juice, tequila and ice are added in.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comTo sweeten everything up and to highlight some of the more floral characteristics of the citrus, I’ve combined Tahitian vanilla (which is the most floral of the vanilla varieties) and piloncillo. Not sure what piloncillo is? That’s ok, I’ve only just started using it over the last few years myself. Piloncillo is evaporated sugar cane juice from Mexico. It’s not as sweet as regular cane sugar, but it has a wonderfully rich taste, similar to brown sugar. Again, to make this a more concentrated flavor bomb for the punch, the vanilla and piloncillo get made into a syrup and then reduced into a rich, syrupy sweetener.

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comThis wouldn’t be a Margarita without the tequila, right? For that I’m turning to Blue Nectar Silver Tequila for the perfect pairing to my grapefruit obsession. The clean vegetal flavor has just a touch of spiciness that balances out the sweetness of the citrus.

This is a versatile punch: serve it up with breakfast tacos or late in the afternoon all by itself; anytime really. But especially today, for the best drink holiday, Margarita Day.

For more information on Blue Nectar Tequila, please check out their website here!

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction // stirandstrain.comMakes approximately 12 servings

For the oleo saccharum:

4.5 ounces sugar
zests from 2 limes
zests from 2 lemons
zests from 1 grapefruit

  • To make the oleo saccharum, peel zests from limes, lemons and grapefruit, trying to remove as little white pith as possible. Toss the peels with the sugar, muddle to express oils, and let sit 6 hours or up to overnight in a nonreactive bowl (I use glass or a cambro container), covered. Strain peels from the mixture, set liquid aside.

For the vanilla and piloncillo reduction:

1 cup piloncillo
1 cup water
2 Tahitian vanilla bean pods cut into 1” pieces

  • In a small saucepan over medium high heat, combine piloncillo, water, and vanilla pieces. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, until mixture is reduced by half. Strain vanilla pieces out and store in an airtight container until ready to use. Will keep refrigerated up to one month.

For the punch:

750 ml Blue Nectar Silver Tequila
12 ounces freshly squeezed grapefruit, preferably oro blanco grapefruits
oleo saccharum
4 ounces vanilla and piloncillo reduction
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces orange curacao, preferably Pierre Ferrand Dry Orange Curacao
1 large ruby red grapefruit, sliced 1/4″ thick
1 tablespoon piloncillo

  • To make the punch, combine Blue Nectar Silver Tequila, grapefruit juice, reserved liquid from oleo saccharum, vanilla and piloncillo reduction, lemon juice and dry orange curacao. Stir gently to combine. Chill mixture.
  • To make the brûléed grapefruit wheels, place sliced of grapefruit on a wire tray over a cookie sheet. Sprinkle them with piloncillo sugar. Place them under a broiler, or use a culinary blow torch to caramelize the sugar and wheels. Let cool. Once the wheels are cooled, reserve 3 wheels for the punch bowl garnish and slice the rest for garnishing individual cups.
  • To serve, pour mixture into a punch bowl and add a large block of ice. Garnish with large brûléed grapefruit wheels. Ladle into individual cups with wedges of brûléed grapefruit. Optionally sprinkle with sea salt crystals.

An Amaro Hot Chocolate for Every Taste

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comThe careful observer on here might notice that many, but not all, posts lately have been recipes I’ve developed for Serious Eats. Honestly, when I’m doing lots of R&D for articles, sometimes I find that my energy for more is tapped. Also, it’s the holidays and I’d like a little break.

But not a break from chocolate.

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comFor all of you who find chocolate and booze maybe a bit too much, then wait for next week when I have an all new SUPER savory cocktail. But for this week, I’m making adult hot cocoa and I’m not apologizing. And I’m topping it with Angostura infused whipped cream because WHY NOT? It’s the holidays and I’m holed up at my in-laws and I’m not going to admit how many chocolate covered almonds (milk and dark chocolate) I’ve eaten for the past 4 days.

This hot cocoa is not spiked in your usual way. There’s no bourbon, or spiced rum, or vodka (not sure I’d even recommend that). What it is spiked with is bittersweet amaro. But Elana, there are SO MANY amari out there! You can’t possible imagine that every bottle will work here (is what I imagine ALL of you are saying out loud right now. In unison.)! And yes, not every bottle will work, but most will work with a particular kind of chocolate. You just need to do a little creative legwork to find your right combination.

Amaro Hot Chocolate // stirandstrain.comMy favorite combination is Averna and semisweet chocolate. Why Averna? Besides the fact that I’ve accumulated several bottle of the stuff, it’s a good balance between sweet and spicy with a touch of herbal in the finish. Also, it isn’t overly boozy tasting. But that’s just me. If you like the bracing, earthy edge of a dark chocolate, try it with a sweeter amaro like Gran Classico. For the milk chocolate lovers, that sweetness needs some spice or a blast of menthol; try it with Fernet. Semisweet chocolate is the sweet spot in the center, with a nice balance of rich and earthy that works well with most types of amaro. What I’m getting at is: take your favorite bottle of amaro and make this.

Note: you don’t need to spike your entire batch of hot chocolate. Make the base separately and spike at will. That rich, velvety chocolate base is delicious all on its own and perhaps you have some folks staying with you who don’t drink. Don’t deprive them of the magic that is homemade hot cocoa. But maybe insist they add the Angostura whipped cream. Angostura isn’t alcohol after all, it’s like.. medicine. Medicine from the 1800’s.

For the Angostura Whipped Cream:

1 cup (237ml) heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon (15ml) simple syrup (see note above)
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
6 dashes Angostura bitters

Using an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat heavy whipping cream at high speed until soft peaks form, then add simple syrup, vanilla extract and Angostura bitters. Whip until medium peaks form, about 1 minute longer. (Alternatively, you can add all the ingredients to a Whipped Cream Dispenser and use that instead.)

For the Hot Cocoa:

1/4 cup (58g) unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
1 tablespoon (13g) granulated sugar
Pinch kosher salt
3 cups (710ml) milk
8 ounces (227g) semisweet chocolate chips (or other type of chocolate, such as milk chocolate, depending on your taste)
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
5 ounces (148ml) Italian amaro, such as Averna

In medium saucepan, stir cocoa with sugar and salt. Stir in milk and chocolate. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is hot. Gently whisk to completely blend mixture. Add vanilla and amaro and stir to combine. Pour into glasses and top with Angostura whipped cream.

Vanilla-Infused Amaretto Sour with lemon foam!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vanilla-infused Amaretto

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

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

Lemon Foam

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

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

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

For the cocktail

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

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

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

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

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Shark Toof

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Shark Toof // stirandstrain.comDid you know there are only 23 days left until Shark Week?! Because this is a thing! Get the foam fins ready! Set your DVR to record whatever programming will be on! Make… a cocktail!!!!!

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Shark Toof // stirandstrain.comIn the spirit of made up holidays and network cable’s ability to hype just about anything, this month I’m priming you with the exact kind of cocktail you need to watch sharks turn into zombies and then rip apart other sharks and then talk about shark feelings. July is right around the corner folks, so let’s do this! Low Rent Cocktail style!

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Shark Toof // stirandstrain.comSo you spend more time in front of the t.v. and less time in your home bar/kitchen/beach themed utility room, this drink helps you out by starting with a Starbucks run. Depending on where you live, you can either make the base vanilla, or if you’re feeling pretty tropical that day, coconut cream. And since I like to feel tropical every day, you’re going to spike that with a hefty dose of light rum.

But what about the sharks?!

Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Shark Toof // stirandstrain.comTo truly enjoy your shark viewing experience, get out the bag of blue gummy sharks and let those guys dive right into your drink. Feel free to use a cocktail pick for your harpoon.Low Rent Cocktail of the Month: Shark Toof // stirandstrain.com

1 small (“tall”) vanilla or coconut blended beverage (get whipped cream and stir that into the drink too)
2-3 ounces of light rum, such as 10 Cane Rum
handful of Gummy Blue Sharks

  • Your choice: throw the rum into your plastic cup and add the sharks, or if you’re feeling fancy, pour it all into an oversized Margarita glass and have your sharks swim on top.

The Low Rent Cocktail series is an occasional column on Stir and Strain where the boundaries of “good taste” are pushed to the limit, or more often than not, pushed out the window. Enjoy at your own risk.