Let’s Get Fresh! what to make and drink with all that winter citrus

Winter is officially citrus season, which always seemed so bizarre to me. Why would this bright, summery feeling fruit be a winter crop? Maybe to cheer us all up during those dark winter days? Well, drink (or make!) a few of these citrus concoctions and you’ll be smiling soon.

When you have too many Meyer Lemons:

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Syrup // StirAndStrain.com

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Syrup

Meyer Lemon Bitters

What about Tangellos:

Tangelocello // stirandstrain.com

Tangelocello

Rosemary-Tangelo Shrub

Lots of Mixed Citrus…make some punch:

Smoky Sage Punch

Brûléed Grapefruit and Mixed Citrus Punch with Vanilla and Piloncillo Reduction

Smoked Rosemary Rum Punch

9 Ladies Dancing Scotch Punch

And then there’s always the cocktail option:

Sugar, Spice and Citrus Play Nice Cocktail

Smoky Citrus Rum Old Fashioned Cocktail

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails

Fresh Lime Soda Sweet, Salty and Boozy

Chamomile and Tangerine Sparkling Cocktail for Two

Spiced Pear Fizz Cocktails

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

Are you browsing sites that are still offering to ship presents before Christmas? I am. I could have sworn I was done a week ago but there keeps popping up a missed gift or two. I’ve had to shoot a text to a few family members letting them know that their present might not make it in time (I wasn’t about to call and admit I forgot); an issue when your entire family lives 3,000 miles away and everything has to be handled by the post office or UPS and it’s obvious when you just plumb forgot.

I also found myself a little sad today that the holiday party season is coming to a close. My quota of warm punches and bottled cocktails was definitely not met. BUT! We still have New Years and I’ve been thinking about the perfect cocktail to serve for that, the last of the year’s parties.

I love the juicy, slightly citrus flavor that pears impart to cocktails and love them even more when they cozy up to some strong baking spices. My signature NYE cocktail will have all that with a touch more citrus bite from fresh lemon juice and a hint of smooth, rich maple to round the whole drink out.

The base of the cocktail uses Everclear to start and I infused that with cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, green cardamom and allspice using my favorite quick infusion method (cream whipper I love you). I keep that separate so that I can tinker with the adjustments to make the final cocktail perfectly spiced; it’s just of the ways I’ve used Everclear this season for cocktails. You can check out the myriad of ways Everclear is transforming craft cocktails as part of their Make It Your Own campaign.

If all these spices seem like a lot to go and buy, remember you can purchase in bulk online for cheap. I like having the option of whole spices at home for using in recipes or infusions, and when I need ground spices, I can make them fresh and keep some small jars on hand. It’s a little extra legwork up front for better tasting infusions and food down the line.

This cocktail also batches up well so, as the spiced Everclear base will make about 8 drinks. Feel free to adjust the recipe below to accommodate the number of guests you’ll be serving. No need to make individual drinks at the party this year; you can plop all this in the pitcher and mingle.

Spiced Pear Fizz Cocktail (~28 proof)

1 ounce spiced Everclear (recipe follows)
1-1/2 ounces pear nectar
1/2 ounce maple syrup
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 -4 ounces soda water, chilled
pear slices for garnish

  • Combine spiced Everclear, pear nectar, maple syrup and lemon juice in a shaker 2/3 filled with ice. Shake about 20 seconds and strain into a champagne flute. Top with chilled soda water and garnish with pear slices.

For the Quick Infused Spiced Everclear:

8 ounces Everclear
2 cinnamon sticks
4-5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
5 dried allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole black pepper
3-4 whole cloves

  • Into a whipping canister (I use the ISI brand canister), add Everclear and spices. Screw on the top and charge with one charger of N2O. Discard charger and let the mixture sit for one minute. Release pressure, open the top and strain Everclear into a clean vessel for storage. Use spiced Everclear immediately or keep sealed in a cool, dark place for up to six months for optimal flavor.

Peppermint Mocha S’Mores Cocktails with brown-butter bourbon and marshmallow creme

Peppermint Mocha S'Mores Cocktails with Brown-Butter Bourbon and Brûléed Marshmallow Creme // stirandstrain.com

This post is brought to you by Jackson Morgan Southern Cream. Recipes and ideas are my own.

Don’t ever let someone tell you s’mores are only for summer. Can you get your hands on a kitchen blow torch? Yes? Then you’ve got a reason to have s’mores all year round.

Peppermint Mocha S'Mores Cocktails with Brown-Butter Bourbon and Brûléed Marshmallow Creme // stirandstrain.comToday though we’re going to be drinking our s’mores! Holiday style!

Peppermint Mocha S'Mores Cocktails with Brown-Butter Bourbon and Brûléed Marshmallow Creme // stirandstrain.comWe’re back at the bar mixing it up with Jackson Morgan and their delicious, and very holiday appropriate, Peppermint Mocha Cream. I always associate peppermint and chocolate with Christmas time. It’s about the only time of year I bake something with that flavor profile because there is always a party I can bring them to. See, you are either a lover or a hater of that flavor combo. I, obviously, am a lover. My husband on the other hand…. Let’s just say if I make some Grasshopper Brownies and don’t have a reason to bring them out of the house, I am probably consuming that whole pan by myself. I’d tell you I would regret it, but I’d be lying.

Peppermint Mocha S'Mores Cocktails with Brown-Butter Bourbon and Brûléed Marshmallow Creme // stirandstrain.comThis is also perfect for holiday time because it’s pretty decadent. When are you infusing browned butter into whiskey and topping your cocktails with marshmallow creme? During the holidays, when all bets are off. So let’s talk about what is going into this s’mores cocktail. First, Peppermint Mocha Cream, of course. Next takes a little prepping but it’s worth it for the final result and you also get extra to just chug straight if you choose: brown-butter infused bourbon. This gives the cocktail a subtle nutty, buttery component that you’d get from the graham cracker. And a s’mores cocktail wouldn’t be complete without marshmallows! I’m giving you an easy way and a homemade way to do this in the recipe below. Both will work but honestly, making your own version of marshmallow Fluff is dang easy!

Peppermint Mocha S'Mores Cocktails with Brown-Butter Bourbon and Brûléed Marshmallow Creme // stirandstrain.comYou might think that the consistency would be very thick and rich tasting, but the brown-butter bourbon cuts through the peppermint mocha cream for a nice balance. Served over ice the cocktail goes down very smooth and the peppermint is not quite as strong as it is on its own. Torching the marshmallow creme binds it together a bit so you can pop off pieces from the top while sipping on your drink. It’s like you have your own bar snack you don’t have to share.

Peppermint Mocha S'Mores Cocktails with Brown-Butter Bourbon and Brûléed Marshmallow Creme // stirandstrain.comSome notes on the cocktail:

  • I’ve made the recipe for one but this easily doubles and batches well.
  • The brown-butter bourbon yields 16 ounces (2 cups) so there is plenty left over if you are going to batch multiple drinks.
  • The topping is marshmallow creme, not marshmallows. The marshmallow creme has a soft consistency and therefore easily piped.
  • If you are torching the marshmallow creme, use heat proof glassware. Even kitchen torches get quite hot and I don’t want to be held responsible if you explode your favorite vintage glass.

Peppermint Mocha S'Mores Cocktails with Brown-Butter Bourbon and Brûléed Marshmallow Creme // stirandstrain.comFor the cocktail:

3 ounces Jackson Morgan Peppermint Mocha Creme
2 ounces brown-butter infused bourbon
marshmallow creme (I made this recipe from The Kitchn, but store bought Fluff will work as well)
graham cracker for garnish

In a shaker filled 2/3 with ice, add in the Jackson Morgan Peppermint Mocha Creme and brown-butter infused bourbon. Shake well for 20 seconds and then strain into a heat-proof glass or mug filled with fresh ice. Pipe marshmallow creme on top. Using a kitchen torch,brûlée the marshmallow creme to desired “doneness’ (I like mine lightly toasted but I know some of you probably like your s’more’s marshmallows burnt to a crisp). Garnish with a graham cracker square.

For the brown-butter bourbon:

*Adapted slightly from Gabriella Mlynarczyk for NYT Cooking

16 ounces bourbon
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

  • Pour bourbon into a wide mouth jar or heat-proof container. Cut butter into cubes and add to a heavy-bottom small saucepan over medium-low heat. You’ll need to watch the pan as the butter will go from being nutty and golden to burnt pretty fast. Watch for the butter to start to foam and stir until you see some brown flecks on the bottom of the pan. At this point you’ll smell a nutty aroma, like hazelnuts. Remove the pan from the heat. Let cool for a minute and then pour into the bourbon. Whisk together until well incorporated and let sit at room temperature for one hour. Then refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
  • The fat will separate from the bourbon while it cools. Use a butter knife to loosen the edge of the fat and it should pop right out of the container. Then strain bourbon through a coffee filter to remove any additional fat solids and debris from the butter. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Make It: Irish Coffee Jello Shots Two Ways

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comProcrastination has gotten the better of me this week as we speed, much too fast for my liking, into the 3rd month of the year. March is looking to be the most jam packed month yet this year as I’ve said “yes” to maybe one too many events, my mother is in town, and we celebrate multiple birthdays, St. Patrick’s Day (I am a 1/4 Irish), and Easter. So of course, instead of working on projects, I’ve been covering my ears and eyes going NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH and making batches of brownies and spending copious amounts of time photographing my purse contents.

I did take the time to make you guys a little something special for St. Patrick’s Day though this year. I hope it makes up for those purse photos.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comIt’s like a cocktail, but you eat it: Irish Coffee Jello Shots.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comSo here’s the thing. I enjoy an Irish Coffee from time to time; like, a few sips and then I’m usually done. It’s a lot of hot coffee and I’m usually drinking it late in the evening when a giant hot coffee is not really what I want right then. I’m also usually drinking them at a party or an event and bless their hearts for trying, but the coffee is usually not very good either. To control this situation for myself, and hopefully for you all, let’s get a delicious coffee and miniaturize it with the right amount of booze and not force people to drink giant hot coffees at 8pm.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comI went ahead and created a straight up Irish Coffee version, garnished with the tiniest of lemon peel, and then bastardized it and went crazy adding in chocolate and Fernet Branca because I love chocolate mint anything including my coffee and for this one occasion, with my whiskey. Ooooh, I’m so crazy…

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comThe original version of these has a strong, rich coffee flavor with a hint of whiskey at the finish. The cream is mixed in so you’re not trying to eat a delicate jello shot while whipped cream melts all over your fingers – gross. For the mocha-mint version, you get a lot of Fernet (a little goes a long way!) with a strong mocha finish and a more subtle whiskey punch at the end.

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comIrish Coffee Jello Shots (Makes 24, 2/5 ounce shots)

2-1/2 ounces freshly brewed coffee, room temp
1 ounce brown sugar syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 packet of gelatine
2 ounces near boiling water
1/2 ounce heavy cream
2 ounces Irish Whiskey, Bushmills used here
lemon zest for garnish

  1. In a large mixing glass with a spout, pour in coffee and brown sugar syrup. Sprinkle gelatine over the liquid and let it sit for 5 minutes to bloom. Then pour in near boiling water and whisk to combine. Add heavy cream and whiskey and stir. Pour into molds and let sit for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. To remove jello shots from semi-spherical molds, carefully run a small spoon around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. If using square or straight-sided molds, run a butter knife around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. For other shapes or non-flexible molds, dip the bottom of the mold in warm water for 15 seconds, invert mold onto a baking sheet, and gently tap the mold to release the jello shot. Irish Coffee jello shots can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
  3. Garnish with lemon zests and serve!

Mocha-Mint Irish Coffee Jello Shots (Makes 24, 2/5 ounce shots)

2-1/2 ounces freshly brewed coffee, room temp
1/2 ounce brown sugar syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 packet of gelatine
1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder
2 ounces near boiling water
1/2 ounce heavy cream
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca
2 ounces Irish Whiskey, Bushmills used here
chocolate shavings for garnish

  1. In a large mixing glass with a spout, pour in coffee and brown sugar syrup. Sprinkle gelatine over the liquid and let it sit for 5 minutes to bloom. After the gelatine has bloomed, sprinkle cocoa powder over the mixture. Then pour in near boiling water and whisk to combine. Add heavy cream, Fernet Branca and whiskey and stir. Pour into molds and let sit for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. To remove jello shots from semi-spherical molds, carefully run a small spoon around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. If using square or straight-sided molds, run a butter knife around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out the shot. For other shapes or non-flexible molds, dip the bottom of the mold in warm water for 15 seconds, invert mold onto a baking sheet, and gently tap the mold to release the jello shot. Irish Coffee jello shots can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
  3. Garnish with chocolate shavings and serve!

Irish Coffee Jello Shots 2 ways // stirandstrain.comAre you guys into these? I have a few more ideas up my sleeve I’ll be rolling out over the next few months.

The Not-Your-Ordinary Valentine’s Day Wine (Report) with Robin Watts!

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comYou’ve got options for Valentine’s Day folks. Sexy, sexy wine options.

Robin Watts is back this month and he’s gone and picked an impressive line up of wines for your weekend. Pop open a few of these for a loved one, or do what I did: get thirsty reading these descriptions and finish them yourself. It’s going to be hard to pick just one…

-Elana



When I set out to pick a few wines for the impending Valentine’s Day weekend I thought I would end up going a possibly cliche route and selecting only French or Italian wines. So “romantic” and European! Truth be told, I was seduced by some domestic stuff as well and I think you, and maybe someone else in your life, might be too.

 

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com2014 Broc Cellars Love White
California
Retails apx. $20

This is a California white that I would recommend to any white drinker who doesn’t usually, or won’t, drink California white wine. This blend of Marsanne (85%), Roussanne (12%), and Viogner (3%) has some very distinctly European sensibilities about it. Aromatic and floral with overtones of pear and bit of honey I think that this wine works well as a starter or even accompanying an entree of lighter fair. And lets be honest, this holiday places a lot on aesthetics and this is nice looking bottle with a couple hearts on it. It’s called Love White!!! This wine will help you fit in with the cliche and trite parts of the holiday while its corked but surprise you and spoil you once it’s uncorked.

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com2014 Gragnano from Poggio delle Bacanti
Italy
Retails apx. $15

There is not a lot of information to be found on this wine but for around $15, and sometimes less, you’ll be drinking this so fast you probably won’t care. Mildly effervescent, it pours and froths like a lambrusco but drinks relatively still (and dry!). I prefer it with a decent chill on it and think its versatility lend it to any day part but, if pairing it with food, go heartier. Being from Napoli, and for some reason very mysterious, I have to assume this is Aglianico and Piedirosso which explains the earthy, leathery quality. There is something satisfyingly vegetal about this, almost as if an olive and a cranberry had a baby but it was raised by a beet and an eggplant. I recommend finishing this savory dry surprise the day you open it but I doubt that should be a difficult task.

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.comL’Unique Gaz de Schiste
France
Retails apx. $24

Just go buy this. I should just say that and tell you to trust me. Pink? Check. Bubbly? Check. Delicious? Check. Seems perfect for Valentine’s Day. I think its perfect for any time, any place, and probably any person. 50% Grenache/50% Mourvedre and six month of bottle maturation make for one elegant bottle of bubbly. A little bit sweet, this sparkler is a tart, minerally, grapefruit-y, creamy treat. At first, it smells like you’ve opened the most exquisite bag of gummy worms (I mean that in the best, most respectful way) and the first sip conjures up images of the most impressive fruit trifle and leaves you with a macadamia kiss. Yeah. I’m not even a little bit embarrassed to say any of that. This stuff is that good and functions perfectly as an aperitif or dessert. Get a bottle for someone you love, especially if that person is yourself.

Sexy February Wines with Robin Watts // stirandstrain.com2014 Bow & Arrow Gamay
Oregon
Retails apx. $24

Bow & Arrow knows what they’re doing. This Willamette Valley Gamay is soft, luscious, velvety, and just the slightest bit dirty, but in a good way. A very good way. Valentine’s Day appropriate for multiple reasons, the label, covered in tiny arrows, will help you play up holiday Cupid motifs while impressing your sweetheart with a wine that is reminiscent of a dark chocolate bar filled with cherries and almonds. Perfect for someone who thinks they’re afraid of tannins, though be warned, they are there, this wine just gets better as it opens up. Halfway through your first bottle I’d suggest opening a second if for no other reason than to smell that luscious mulberry aroma one more time. Great acidity makes this a lovely food wine but its just as satisfying by itself. This is a wine you can proudly pour with confidence in hopes to impress a special someone new or remind a longtime partner that you can still enjoy the good stuff without breaking the bank.

Ask Robin all your wine questions on twitter @RobinNWatts and find all his wine picks here at Wine Wine Wine

Follow Stir and Strain on Delectable too!

The Hot Ward 8 Cocktail

hotward8I tend to go back and forth on bottled cocktails. Will the juice taste fresh enough? Should I even bother with juices or should it be all booze and bitters? Can I just drink this whole bottle and not share it?

The best thing about bottled cocktails though? The convenience factor. Batch up a couple to bring to a party and you’re fawned over like you invented cute puppies. But what if you need to take that cocktail on the road? And what if it’s freezing outside because some friend convinced you it would be an awesome idea to go camping? In winter…

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comLet me introduce you to your new best friend, the insulated thermos. Keeping your hot cocktails hot, and your sanity in check this winter.

When you’re making hot cocktails there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, you’ll be adding in hot water so you want to keep your juices to a minimum (if your cocktail requires them). Why water your cocktail down even more? I’ve found the best way to work around this is to make an oleo saccharum to ensure you have that bright zesty citrus flavor in concentrated form and none of the excess juice.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comSecond, you want to keep your cocktail hot. For my thermos cocktails, I use a Stanley Classic Vacuum thermos. It’s old school looking; like something my Dad would bring with him to work to keep his soup hot. And this guy keeps it hot for HOURS. At 1.1 quarts it also holds enough drinks for you and some friends so no one need go without a drink. But don’t just pour your drink into the thermos! If you preheat it while you’re making the cocktail it will prevent heat loss when you pour the drink in. So, to do that, just add boiling water and stick the cap on while you’re doing the mixing. Anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes is sufficient time to get that thermos nice and hot. When you’re ready to pour the finished cocktail in, dump out the water and you’re good to go.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThird, make a cocktail that actually tastes good hot. For my first venture with the thermos, I made a variation of a Hot Ward 8, Boston’s only real pre-prohibition contribution. I’d love to tell you the history on this but there is so much competing information out there as to its true origins that putting anything down in print seems like hearsay.

I chose this for a few reasons. I thought it would taste good hot, and it uses up some seasonally appropriate produce (Are your kitchen counters filling up with citrus yet? Mine are.). You could always go with some cocktails that are already served hot. Some nice Hot Toddies while you’re ice fishing, or some Irish Coffee while you’re out snow-shoeing, or whatever you do in the snow.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comThe Ward 8 delivers a bit more complex flavor here with sweet and spicy rye and that bright citrus from the oleo saccharum. I also add in a touch more syrupy citrus sweetener with a dry orange curaçao and round out the drink with tart fresh pomegranate juice (the last of my season’s batch). For a spicy/bitter finish, a few dashes of Angostura are added in to the mix to keep it from getting too sweet.

There’s plenty of cold months ahead of us, so let’s start planning on a few hot cocktails to get us through. And don’t forget your thermos.

Hot Ward 8 Cocktails // stirandstrain.comFor the Oleo-Saccharum:

Zest from 2 lemons
Zest from 1 orange
4 1/2 ounces (130g) sugar

  • In a heatproof container with at least a 36-ounce capacity, toss together lemon and orange zests with sugar. Muddle for 30 seconds to release the oil from the zests. Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 and up to 12 hours.

For the Cocktails:

8 ounces (235ml) boiling water, plus more for preheating thermos
16 ounces (475ml) rye whiskey, such as Bulleit 95
4 ounces (120ml) unsweetened pomegranate juice
2 ounces (60ml) dry orange curaçao, such as Pierre Ferrand
8 dashes Angostura bitters
8 lemon zest strips, for garnish (optional)

  • Pre-warm thermos by filling with water just off the boil and let stand. Meanwhile, pour rye whiskey, 8 ounces boiling water, pomegranate juice, orange curaçao, and bitters over the oleo-saccharum. Stir well until sugar is completely dissolved. (If you find you’d like your drink hotter, pour everything except the rye into a sauce pan and heat to desired temperature. Then add in rye and continue with the recipe)
  • Discard hot water from thermos, then carefully strain rye mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into thermos (a funnel can help avoid spills); discard spent zests. Seal thermos.
  • Optionally, when ready to drink, add new lemon zests to your cocktail, expressing the oils over the top first.

The Best Vodka Martini has garlic in it

The Best Vodka Martini: with garlic and black pepper // stirandstrain.comDo you all remember the first time you heard about blogs? I forget in what order these things go, but I know I paid attention to food blogs the most first. But then I forget that when I was younger, much younger, I created a site where I reviewed live music shows local to Los Angeles. This actually led to a brief period of my life where I got paid to write for music publications and got sent free music to review. At the time, this was akin to winning the lottery.

The Best Vodka Martini: with garlic and black pepper // stirandstrain.comFood blogs were an interesting mix of recipes and people spilling their guts out to the public (not much change there). Their casualness led to a renewed interest for me of cooking in the kitchen. These people clearly were not chefs and just look at what they were making! And then in 2010 I was preparing to get married and stumbled into the even larger and insane world of lifestyle/wedding/etc blogs that kept me up crying and hyperventilating into a paper bag. I still occasionally look at these for no reason at all, but I’m thankful that I only had to spend a brief period of my life picking out color schemes for napkins and talking about chair cushion choices.

And then came the drink blogs. I had no idea these existed but there was a period in 2009 when a whole crop of them (now mostly retired) sprung up. I make no secret around here that after reading Morgenthaler’s site I decided to start writing again and created a space (this space) to write down my recipes and to use the site as a reason to learn all I could about cocktails and such. I’m about to hit 5 years writing this thing and the biggest transition in my thinking, and what I see many bars and bartenders starting to follow as well, is to stop being a dick. OK, well, a snob. There is a lot less snobbery in the cocktail world now. What might have been a backlash at first again the conventional drinking world and a fight to bring back old spirits and even older recipes often resulted in people feeling ostracized and a whole lot of suspenders. None of this is news though, but looking back on early posts I can definitely see where I was echoing a lot of that sentiment. Especially when it came to vodka.

The Best Vodka Martini: with garlic and black pepper // stirandstrain.comDo I have vodka in my bar? Yes. Lots really. Brands send it to me and I try it, curious to see what this new one will taste like, if anything. Do I drink vodka martinis? Not really; I am used to the taste of a gin martini and I prefer all the flavor it has. However, I am not dismissing it. I am however going to make it fancy.

And I do have a favorite vodka martini recipe now. It is barely tweaked from a food blogger’s recipe, the vodka being swapped in for gin. Actually, it comes from this blogger’s book, because a lot of the earlier bloggers all seem to have books. This blog, Orangette, is an early blog. I feel like it touches upon the territory of when no one was writing them and maybe because of the unknown, it also didn’t quite fit that mold of “food blog”. There was a lot of writing, not many photos (or if there were, maybe not of food), and names of entries might have nothing to do with what the person was cooking. The site is pretty much the same, even after being around for over a decade. Her books read like an extension of her site, just a long format version and in between pages of what it was like for your husband to one day decide to open a restaurant after NEVER having any experience in the field whatsoever, there are a few well selected recipes. This martini recipe was one of those.

One note before you go trying this: one must enjoy garlic. Even if you don’t add the cloves back in after you strain it, the drink is still pretty pungent. Me, I enjoy the ever increasing garlic flavor that becomes almost a dare to finish when you’re down to the last few sips. And I finish it of course. The black pepper you can also adjust to your liking as well. I like a little bite, but I don’t enjoy crunching on every sip so just a few turns of the pepper grinder is enough for me. And if you couldn’t quite tell, it’s a very savory cocktail.

The Best Vodka Martini: with garlic and black pepper // stirandstrain.com

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.

Stir and Strain X Club 83 And the Good Thang Cocktail

Stir and Strain X Club 83: Good Thang Cocktail // stirandstrain.comI partnered with the brand to write this article but every word is mine.

When I first started cocktail blogging, connecting with other like minded people was a slow process. I mean, it took several years just to meet all the bartenders just in Los Angeles. And there are new ones popping up every week. But now meeting and chatting with bartenders all over the world has just become as easy as clicking a button (and I like easy).

To fill the gap, The Club 83 social network has stepped in. Want to find out what bartenders in France are up to? Or just somewhere else in the U.S.? Want to share your bar’s creations with other bartenders who will appreciate your skill and effort? You don’t need a website, just an internet connection.

Stir and Strain X Club 83: Good Thang Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor their launch, The Club 83 has created a cocktail contest and yours truly is going to compete alongside all of you. For all the details on the contest, create a profile on The Club 83 and sign up to participate on the site. And just what IS the contest? The Flavour Vibes contest pairs your favorite song with a new cocktail of your creation. The winner will win a sampler pack of tasting syrups from the famed flavoring creator Maison Routin and their 1883 brand of syrups. Not your run of the mill flavors with such cool syrups as red bell pepper and orchid. Orchid!!

This week, with the sad news of David Bowie’s passing, I’ve been running through his back catalog and the song I always turn to when I need some cheering up is Hang On to Yourself. It’s got pep, it’s got rock and roll, and a touch of glam, ingredients for a good song, and a good drink.

This cocktail uses gin as the base (we are referencing a British song!) with peppy ginger and zingy Yuzu lemon syrups. To give the cocktail some depth and intrigue, some roasted cumin is added alongside a touch of lemon ginger bitters. It’s a glamorous cocktail with a slightly hard edge.

Good Thang Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces London Dry style gin, such as Beefeater
1/2 ounce 1883 Yuzu syrup
1/4 ounce 1883 Ginger syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon roasted ground cumin
3 dashes lemon ginger bitters

In a mixing glass 2/3 filled with ice, add gin, yuzu syrup, ginger syrup, lemon juice and cumin. Stir for 30 seconds and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Add dashes of bitters on top of cocktail and express oil from a strip of lemon zest. Garnish glass with spent zest.

So join me at The Club 83 and see what bartenders like yourself are up to, all around the world! And to participate in the Flavour Vibes Contest, go here, cheers!

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comFYI guys: you’re probably saying my name wrong. I don’t take offense; it’s been an issue going back to preschool. The spelling is what usually trips people up, especially now that I live in Los Angeles and an “a” is almost always pronounced “ahhhhh” when in fact my “a” is just a short “A”. Why am I talking about this then if it’s a non-issue?

Well, a few weeks back for Serious Eats I decided to make a festive riff on the Caipirinha. It’s a cocktail I love to drink, but only recently. Why the wait? Well, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I was shy about mispronouncing the name. I just sorta froze up about being schooled on the correct way to say the drink. Until I finally got comfortable with one bartender and had them say the name to me over and over and then it stuck.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comI’m sure you all have had that moment in a bar. Intrigued by a drink but one look at the name and you end up passing on it. Too bad! You probably would have liked it. But you want to know what? Your bartender is NOT going to judge you (OK, let’s be real. Maybe one or two a-holes will.). They are there to tell you how to say things right so you can impress your friends next time when you order that intriguing sounding drink. They want to pass on that knowledge and inform you, their customer.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comI had a similar experience with wine years ago when I was up in Napa at a tasting. The Sommelier, some laid back guy in jeans, and quite possibly a jean shirt too, told me that you either like a wine or you don’t. You can hate an expensive bottle and like something you picked up for $7. You don’t need to know if you’re smelling aromas of cherry or rotting wood, you should just want to drink it. I also learned that “legs” on a wine glass are bullshit and when you’re at a tasting, don’t throw back the whole glass (oops! I was young!!).

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comBut back to the drink. Now that we’re in the dull days of January, you already have this sunny Suze cocktail on hand, but here’s a zingy drink with a beautiful jewel tone, all thanks to some pomegranates. A Caipirinha is similar in structure to a Daiquiri, only swapping in cachaça for the rum, and whole lime pieces instead of just the juice, this cocktail has a bolder, huskier quality to it over the more refined and quieter Daiquiri.

That sour bite of the lime gets punched up by the sweet-tart pomegranate, with a little added crunch there from the seeds (sometimes I like a little something extra in my cocktails). Cachaca has an earthy flavor and here, the Leblon adds some floral aroma alongside a slightly peppery taste. By adding the sparkling wine, I find that it mixes the flavors together without dulling down their strong characteristics. You just need a touch of sugar here for balance, so don’t be afraid of adding that bar spoon full.

Sparkling Pomegranate Caipirinha // stirandstrain.comOn a side note here, some of you might read the recipe and see sparkling wine then pass over this because the thought of opening a whole bottle just to make one cocktail seems so wasteful. But wait! No need to pass on this, just buy a split! Yes, it’s enough for two of these but really, once you make one you’ll want another. And now, let’s say it together kye-peer-EEN-yah. And by the way, it’s e-LAY-nuh.

1 barspoon superfine sugar (1 teaspoon; 4g)
10 fresh pomegranate seeds
1/2 lime, quartered
1/2 ounce pomegranate juice (1 tablespoon; 15mL)
2 ounces cachaça, such as Leblon (4 tablespoons; 60mL)
3 ounces sparkling wine (6 tablespoons; 90mL)

In the bottom of a mixing glass, add the superfine sugar and pomegranate seeds. Crush the seeds with a muddler to break open. Add lime wedges and muddle 6 times to release their juice. Add pomegranate juice and cachaça and fill glass 2/3 full with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Add sparkling wine to glass, then pour contents, without straining, into a double rocks glass. Add more fresh ice cubes if desired and serve immediately.

Lemony Suze Sparkling Pitcher Cocktails

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comIt may be January but I’m still in good spirits riding the Christmas high. That is until my husband kindly asks that the Christmas lights be removed from the porch (I’m trying to hold out until at least February). For those of you though that have shrugged off (or exuberantly put a nail in) the holiday season, I’ve got something today that perhaps will add some sparkle back into your January.

Pitchers of cocktails.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comNot only pitchers, but bright and warm, sunny yellow Suze with a good dose of winter citrus and an even bigger dose of sparkling wine. No hard booze here so you can tell yourself you’re still keeping to your resolutions.

Our New Year’s Eve tradition, at least for the last few years, has been for Christopher to make a batch of Scotch eggs. He almost bowed out of it this year but I balked at the idea of not continuing making them; I may have developed a slight superstition and now we cannot ring in the new year without them. One of the ingredients that goes into the sausage mixture is sage. And seeing as I have yet to keep a sage plant alive around here, we buy it. Alas, you cannot get sage in any small amount at our Whole Foods, so we always end up with much more than we need. I already had dried the last batch we bought, so I thought that this cocktail could use a touch of the herb.

I dunno guys, sage might become the new rosemary around here.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.comThe sage leaves get steeped into a lemon simple syrup to add a little depth. To further enhance sage’s flavor, we’re mixing it with Suze, a saffron-colored French aperitif whose bitter yellow gentian root flavor makes it a cousin to the Italian amaro family. It has hints of citrus and wildflower, and balances a mild sweetness with vegetal bitterness.

You might want to invite some guests over for a few casual drinks before dinner, or even serve this at a brunch. While the base can sit overnight, and then be topped off with Cava in a pitcher so that guests can help themselves, you’ll want make sure it doesn’t sit out for long after the bubbly has been added. No one wants a “sparkling drink” that’s flat and warm.

Happy 2016 everyone!

For the Lemon-Sage Syrup:

6 ounces water
8 ounces (about 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) sugar
2 ounces fresh juice from 2 lemons
Finely grated zest from 2 lemons
10 medium sage leaves

Combine water, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and sage in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, remove from heat, and let stand 1 hour. Strain and refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week.

For the cocktails (Yields 6 drinks):

6 ounces Lemon-Sage Syrup
1 1/2 ounces Suze
1 bottle chilled Cava or other dry sparkling wine
6 strips lemon zest
6 fresh sage leaves

The night before serving, combine the lemon-sage syrup and Suze in a large pitcher. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. When ready to serve, add Cava, pouring slowly, and gently stir to combine. Split between six Champagne flutes, twisting a lemon zest strip over each and garnishing with a sage leaf.

Savory Lemon Suze Sparkling Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I originally posted this recipe on Serious Eats!