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.
This 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.
So, 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.
Today 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.
Why 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!
Letting 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?
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.
This 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.
I 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.
Even 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.
To 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.
This 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!
Makes 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
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.
The 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.
For 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.
My 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
2 ounces vanilla-infused amaretto
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
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.
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.
Also, I have this delightful cocktail I made for you guys that might seem like a Whoa! but really, it’s pretty easy to assemble and I sweetened my ice teas for the next week with the leftover syrup so it definitely has some stretching power. Plus, it’s rhubarb season and I’m sick of pies already (not really, but I’m sick of MAKING them!).
For the Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup sliced (1/2-inch) rhubarb
1 cup water
1 Mexican Vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped (reserve pod)
Combine sugar, rhubarb, water, and vanilla seeds and pod in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Strain into an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 weeks.
For the Cocktail:
1-1/2 ounces Pisco
3/4 ounce Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup
3 ounces Scottish Ale, such as Ballast Point Piper Down
Vanilla bean, for garnish (optional)
In a rocks glass filled with ice, build the drink by adding pisco and rhubarb vanilla syrup. Gently add beer, stirring just to combine. Garnish with vanilla bean and serve immediately.
First off, this tastes like cream soda. Because of the viscosity of the Pisco, the mouthfeel is super creamy. The Scottish Ale provides some toasty, caramel notes that adds a richness to the drink, while the Pisco imparts some citrus and a touch of floral (Tahitian vanilla would tip this drink overboard in the floral direction, so make sure you use Mexican vanilla) along with that lovely viscosity. That small buzz you get afterward however would prove otherwise.
But the thing about holiday parties is that you always end up staying longer than you thought, and by this point you’re drinking whatever is left. For these people, initially turning down the scotch punch, they begrudgingly took a glass after finding out someone had drank all the good champagne. And then they found themselves confounded: they really liked the punch made with scotch.
Color me amused when the same folks who seemed genuinely annoyed/disgusted/sad when told the giant bowl of punch was made with scotch later came up to me with giant grins asking again what was in that punch? Had I just made converts of this bunch?
It’s holiday time, the season of giving, so I hope you all will allow me this one time to toot my own horn and smirk just a little as person after person drank up a scotch punch they earlier swore they’d never touch. Curious about the name? If you know your holiday songs, then you’ve recognized this from the 12 Days of Christmas. My punch, with 9 integral ingredients, was for a party with this theme. The Table Set guys sure love a theme party.
Now it’s your turn to try it. Please, be honest, and let me know if I’ve made you a convert too.
For the Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup:
4 (3- or 4-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
In a medium saucepan, combine cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean seeds and pod, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Strain. The syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
For the Chai Tea:
2 cups boiling water
3 chai tea bags
Combine boiling water and tea in a heatproof container. Let steep for 4 minutes. Discard tea bags and let tea cool to room temperature before adding to punch.
For the Punch:
1 (750 ml) bottle blended Scotch, such as Monkey Shoulder
2 1/4 cups Lustau East India Solera Sherry
3/4 cup fresh juice from about 6 lemons
1 1/2 cups Vanilla Cinnamon Syrup
2 cups Chai Tea
1/8 cup Angostura bitters
6 orange wheels, star anise, ice block*, for garnish
In a punch bowl or large container, combine Scotch, sherry, lemon juice, syrup, tea, and bitters. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for 5 hours or up to overnight. When ready to serve, add an ice block and garnish as desired.
*If you want to get really festive, you can add some decorative elements to your ice block. I added extra cranberries to mine. As the night progresses and the ice melts, they’ll start popping out and floating about. So make sure whatever you use is washed and makes sense with the rest of the ingredients!
So yes, scotch is definitely present. I chose Monkey Shoulder blended scotch, which offers a strong punch of malt, smoke, and baking spice flavors, perfect for a winter punch. Next I added in some chai tea just below full strength. The tea adds a wonderful assortment of appropriate flavors: cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom and black pepper all work beautifully with the whisky. Then I followed that up with Sherry for a little sweet nuttiness; Angostura for bitterness but also extra spice; and vanilla-laced cinnamon sugar syrup for a slightly floral and woodsy sweetness.
Panic. Panic is setting in as I look at the calendar and realize that Christmas is in two weeks and I haven’t even sent out cards yet. But I did make a batch of holiday flavored cookies and my house smelt amazing the whole time. That should be all we need during the season, houses filled with the smells of cinnamon and ginger. And rum. Cookies should have rum in them too.
But you’re a cocktail blog! I know! But sometimes there are food goodies on here and this was for charity and also: I love cookies.
Right from the beginning of this challenge I knew I wanted to make molasses cookies. They ship well and combined with Black Strap Rum they are filled with deep, dark, molasses-y goodness. So that’s what I sent. Of course there was a hiccup; the first batch accidentally got much more cardamom then they should have and ended up in the garbage. Seriously guys, a little cardamom goes a LONG way. The next batch however was perfect: nicely spiced, smelled divine, and they were edible. The 3 recipients also got a couple extra cookies thrown in because they ended up being smaller than first anticipated and I am nice like that.
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1-1/2 tbsp. Cruzan Black Strap Rum
1/2 cup Valrhona Cocoa Nibs
1/2 cup white or clear sugar crystals
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg. Then beat in molasses, vanilla and rum. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing until blended. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat an oven to 350° F.
Cover 3 half sized sheet pans in parchment. Using a 100 size disher, scoop out cookie dough onto sheet pans. Once dough has been scooped, by hand round out scoops into balls, toss in a small bowl filled with the sugar crystals and flatten out the ball into discs about 1/4″ thick. Refrigerated for 20 minutes.
Move the sheet pans directly from refrigerator into the pre-heated oven and bake for approximately 12 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool on sheets for about 10 minutes and then transfer cookies to a cooling rack.
Once cool, cookies can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to one week.