Fire up those grills and break out your blocks of ice.
This post is brought to you by Thatcher’s Organic Artisan Spirits. Recipes and ideas are my own.
Several years ago, when I was still working at a 9 to 5 job, I flew into Chicago for a boring conference. This was one of those conferences that not only had a floor devoted to awkward introductions and sweaty handshakes, but hours and hours of mandatory workshops. After 4 days I was exhausted in every way, but, thankfully I lopped on an extra day for sightseeing—I had never been to Chicago before.
*For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.
Garlic Black Pepper Vodka Martini
barely adapted from Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage
2 ounces vodka, Hangar 1 used here*
1/2 ounce dry vermouth, Vya Extra Dry used here
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 grinds black pepper, on the coarse side
In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, combine vodka, vermouth, garlic slices and black pepper. Shake hard for 20 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Optionally add the garlic slices back to the glass.
*This bottle of Hangar 1 was generously given gratis and appears here because I like drinking it. For more info on sponsored products, affiliate links, and gifted booze, please visit the About page.
What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours but let’s not use a sharpie to personalize our cups anymore.
Instead, let’s engrave our barware, and hey, even our tequila! Vodka your thing? Say Merry Chrismukkah or whatever holiday you’re celebrating this year with bright LED lights flashing all over your liquor bottle. Drink so much of your bespoke homemade gin you forgot where you live? Put your street map on your rocks glass and never be lost again! And when you’ve just got to show off with glitter, say it with a big ass custom banner.
1. Custom Glitter Garland 2. LED Display Medea Vodka 3. Custom Flask 4. Monogrammed Leather Ice Bucket 5. Brine Hound Customized Wooden Muddler 6. Monogrammed Stemless Champagne Flutes 7. Custom Maps Rocks Glass 8. Personalized Credit Card Bottle Opener 9. Ginbrew Custom Gin Kit 10. Engraved DeLeón Platnum Tequila
Catch up on all the gift guides here.
There’s a sizable stash of holiday movies in our house and I can’t throw them away…even if they are crappy transfers on DVD (or VHS!!!). If you hoard holiday classics, especially any of those 1960’s classics, you’ll recognize this song title. And if you don’t, who cares! Let’s get gifting…
Everyone wishes for silver and gold, so let’s add some sparkle to your holiday cocktails shall we? From glistening glasses, to heavy metal pineapples, and don’t forget the bottles that are pouring your booze! How do you measure its worth? Just by the pleasure it gives here on Earth (or your bar cart).
1. Rose Gold Pineapple Shot Glasses 2. Ketel One Vodka 325th Anniversary Bottle 3. Gold Sequin Coasters 4. Pineapple Tumbler with Straw 5. Copper Industrial Bottle Opener 6. Japanese Style Gold Jigger 7. The Chandon Special Edition Bottle 8. The Champagne Cocktail Carry On Kit 9. Mid Century Silver Cocktail Set
I’m also including a complimentary cocktail to go along with your pickled watermelon. It too uses scraps in the form of ginger knobs (My freezer is full of tiny bits of ginger because I can never quite buy the right amount and cannot bring myself to throw away anything.). A tiny bit of the brine goes a long way to perk up the cocktail, so definitely make both!
You’ll find that these tiny sweet and salty, slightly crunchy rinds are also a delicious bar snack to have around for the summer. And I’m sure any guests will appreciate these just a tad more than the jar of pickled eggs.
Pickled Watermelon Rind:
1 small watermelon, about 4 pounds
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
2 cloves, whole
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, whole
- Using a vegetable peeler, remove outer green layer of skin from watermelon (if you have a smaller watermelon, cut the bottom and top ends off so you can stand your watermelon up to peel. If it’s larger, cut in half to stand up). Discard skin. Cut rind into 1-inch cubes and reserve pink flesh for another use.
- Combine apple cider vinegar, sugar, water, salt, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, bay leaf, chili pepper flakes, cloves, and coriander seeds in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add watermelon rind, return to a boil and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and carefully place a heatproof plate on top of the rind to keep it submerged as the mixture comes to room temperature.
- Once cool, transfer entire mixture to an airtight container and let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 days and up to 2 weeks.
Ginger Infused Vodka:
1 cup peeled fresh ginger root, sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 cups vodka, such as St. George Spirits All Purpose Vodka
- Combine vodka and ginger in an airtight container. Let stand in a cool, dark place for 5 days or to your desired spiciness, up to 14 days total. Strain into an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 6 months.
1-1/2 ounces Ginger Infused Vodka
1/4 ounce dry vermouth, such as Dolin
3 ounces chilled Prosecco
Pickled Watermelon Rind, for garnish
- Combine Ginger Infused Vodka and vermouth in a mixing glass and fill two-thirds full with ice. Stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a small wine glass or coupe. Top with Prosecco and garnish with the pickled watermelon rind.
For this cocktail I’ve also added back in a little bit of zest in the form of limes and lemons (I guess I needed some zestiness to get me through the soul crushing time known as tax season. Why haven’t I scanned any of my 2014 receipts yet?!?!) to make this a take on a sour. Juice + bitters + zest = just the right amount of punchy citrus.
I’m using vodka as a neutral base for the lemongrass flavor to shine in the infusion. There are two ways you can go about infusing a lemongrass vodka this weekend depending on how much time you want to spend. The longer, more traditional way, requires nothing but time. You chop and bruise the lemongrass, cover with vodka, and wait about 1 to 2 weeks to extract the full flavor. The second way is quite quick, seriously quick, but requires some equipment. An instantaneous infusion can be made with a whip cream canister and two N2O chargers. Extra equipment, sure, but a very immediate infusion.
Instantaneous infusions are a blessing… and a curse. There is only so much room in my home for all these infusions and I don’t think I can drink them fast enough. A sampling party may be in order soon…
For the lemongrass infusion:
4 lemongrass stalks
2 cups vodka
- Clean and remove the outer layer of the lemongrass stalks. Chop the stalks into 1 inch pieces and bruise them by crushing them with the side of your knife. Add the pieces to an airtight container and cover with the vodka. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 week up to 2 weeks. Shake daily. Taste after 1 week and continue to steep up to two weeks to desired flavor. Strain into an airtight container. Will last up to 6 months.
- Alternatively, to instantaneous infuse, take chopped lemongrass and add to a whip cream canister. Pour in vodka and seal. Charge with one N2O charger. Shake well. Charge a second time with a new N2O charger. Shake well and then discharge contents into a clean, airtight container over a strainer. Infusion will last up to 6 months.
For the cocktail:
2 ounces lemongrass infused vodka (recipe above)
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1 lime
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
3 dashes lemon bitters
lime zest strips for garnish
- In a shaker, add the lemongrass infused vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white. Dry shake (no ice yet) for about 30 seconds to incorporate the egg white. Add ice and then shake hard for another 30 seconds. Double strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with 3 drops of the lemon bitters topped with the lime zest.
The lemongrass is a more subdued flavor that doesn’t take over the drink or muddle the flavors but provides a subtle floral backdrop to the cocktail. There’s a nice bite from the lime juice and an egg white is added for some extra silky mouthfeel and to add a lightness to the drink. The foamy head created by dry shaking with an egg white suspends the lemon bitters above the cocktail, heightening the heavenly layers of citrus aroma.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that National Chocolate Day falls so close to Halloween. Whoever is coming up with these “holidays”, and I think it quite possibly could be a food blogger, is making it easy for me to come up with roundup posts at least once a month. Hey, mostly it means I get to re-introduce some older posts you all might not be familiar with. Like some of these:
Today I just realized that soon, tomato season will be over. This is a hard pill to swallow because somehow this summer sped by so fast that I don’t feel I indulged on enough tomatoes. To compensate, I went to the farmer’s market this weekend and I, perhaps, overbought by a pallet or two.
Lately, if you’ve been reading on here with any regularity, you might have noticed that I’ve been lamenting the summer produce as it starts to slowly leave the aisles of the local farmer’s markets. Using seasonal products has always been a priority on here, and really, for many people now, it’s not a very new concept anymore. However, after years of living with the same produce available all year round, I find that I’m still getting used to this idea. You mean I can’t have fresh tomato pasta in a few weeks? No more bruschetta? No more PEACH DAIQUIRIS?!?!
OK, I’m calm now but I still have this giant bag of tomatoes that have to get preserved somehow. Well, I can eat only so many of these guys, so then I turned to preserving the flavor of tomatoes. Yup, the flavor.
For this recipe, in partnership with Absolut Vodka, I get to hang on to that summer tomato flavor for as long as I have this bottle handy (which actually could get used up pretty quick in my house). Absolut is a good match because they also care about making things seasonal and local; in making Absolut Original they use local ingredients and keep farming and production in the surrounding community of Åhus, Sweden. They have a craft approach to details, like using crop rotation to naturally restore the area’s wheat fields, and making all the famous bottles at a 300 year old glassworks nearby. Their name for keeping everything in Åhus is One Source. They even feed the local farm animals the spent grains from production; talk about a happy cow!
For the base, I chose cherry tomatoes over larger ones so that I could get a nice mix of tart, sweet and sour flavors to make the “water” more layered and not just a single note. I also decided to add a touch of salt to each individual cocktail instead of the larger infused batch. This was done so that serving this, guests who liked things a little salty could add more salt, and those who might even want to forego salt altogether could (although I wouldn’t suggest it). The base itself then would remain a consistent flavor. Using the Absolut Original vodka also means that I have a consistent flavor and quality in all the cocktails.
The black pepper and thai bird chili give the base its earthy, spicy flavor and the heat factor is completely up to you (as it should be). I like enough heat so that the cocktail has some zip to it, but I don’t let it overpower the other star ingredients. Otherwise I would have made you a chili pepper cocktail.
Spicy Tomato Water Infused Absolut Vodka
750 ml bottle Absolut Original Vodka (a little over 3 cups)*
3 cups cherry tomatoes, chopped
2 thai bird chili peppers, roughly chopped with seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, whole
Combine all ingredients in an airtight container. Leave in a cool, dark place for 3 days. Strain ingredients through a cheesecloth lined fine strainer into a clean, airtight container. For optimal flavor, use within 6 months. This recipe can easily be scaled down or up.
Spicy Tomato Water Martini
3 parts Spicy Tomato Water Infused Absolut Vodka (recipe above)
1/4 part Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
pinch of good sea salt
cherry tomato and cocktail onions for garnish
Yes, I’m aware there’s been quite a number of round ups on the site this summer. But you know what? It’s SUMMER. Give me a break. To continue the trend of taking it easy as we head into Fall, I’m giving you yet another list of cocktails ideas. This time though I’m making sure they’re batched and sitting pretty in your fridge, waiting for you to break out a pitcher or blender to wizz them up at the touch of a button.
Pro tip: get someone else to make the bases for you.
Frozen Negroni Cocktails. In regular flavor and watermelon.
Salted Peanut Old Fashioneds. You should already have these made and in your fridge.
Hibiscus Lime Cooler. Because you should.
Sex on the Beach Sailboat Cocktails. Cocktails you can eat are always a win.
Drunken Apple and Rosé Sangria. I just love an excuse to make Sangria.
See? (Sparkling Grapefruit and Lillet Rosé Sangria)
Lazy Cucumber Punch….
Happy long weekend everyone! Let me know what you’re drinking!