There’s no amateur hour around these parts.
Grab some whiskey and a blender and let’s celebrate!
There’s no amateur hour around these parts.
Grab some whiskey and a blender and let’s celebrate!
What is this crazy word you ask?! Well, if your drinks don’t tend to end up in the Tiki spectrum, then you might not be familiar with this cocktail ingredient. OH! But don’t leave us yet! Falernum is a sweet, spicy, and delicious liqueur (or syrup if made nonalcoholic) that can pep up your drinks this winter and we’re going to jump right in and let you decide… drum roll please… whether you should MAKE OR BUY Falernum!
Our monthly series brings us to the island of Barbados, where our “buy” suggestion, Velvet Falernum, the ubiquitous bottle associated with this particular cocktail ingredient is from. This has been the only alcoholic version available to purchase that I have seen. If you’ve come across another, please let us know! I was first introduced to Velvet Falernum when I started making drinks from Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log. While used in many a tiki drink, this ingredient is actually much older, and exact dates as to when people started making this are unclear (because it was made by, like, your mom at home). If you’d like to know more about the ingredient and its history, go visit Darcy O’Neil over at Art of Drink for his research. Although this bottle dominates the market, it’s a great buy with a pleasant flavor: lime, cloves, almond, ginger and a light sweetness. The pro to obtaining a bottle is that you don’t need to fill a shopping basket with ingredients to make this, and the flavor is consistent. And as it is distributed by Haus-Alpenz, you can probably find it in a major liquor store. It also will keep after being opened for at a minimum 6 months or longer. The con is that the the flavor is not as zingy or as bright as something freshly made. You also cannot control the sweetness or the flavors. And lastly, if you don’t want the extra alcohol, then Velvet Falernum is out for you.
On the other hand, making Falernum, whether as a lightly alcoholic liqueur or as just a syrup, is fairly easy to do and you might just have most of the ingredients on hand to do so (although I buy whole spices in bulk and often tend to have ingredients like whole cloves available). Besides being easy to make, another pro for a homemade version is that you can make it to your specifications (change out the base rum, more or less clove or ginger, etc…). The con is that it does take a few days to make, will only last refrigerated for about a month, and that from one batch to another it’s not going to necessarily taste the same. Also, you need to invest in some ingredients first to make this. Lastly, as with all the DIY versions, you have to make it. And if that’s a chore, the DIY version is not for you.
And how do they compare in a cocktail? The quintessential Bajan cocktail is the Corn ‘n’ Oil so of course I tested out the two in this drink. Recipe is below if you’d like to try your own. With the Velvet Falernum version, the drink was lighter in body with a lime heavy flavor. The black strap rum was also more prominent. For the homemade falernum cocktail, the taste was more complex and slightly sweeter with fresh lime and zingy ginger being dominate. The color on each of the cocktails was the same, probably to do with the darkness of the rum overpowering any differences in the color of the falernums.
A few notes:
I hope I’ve gotten you mildly excited about Falernum and whether you decide to buy or go DIY, you’ve got two great places to start. If you do use one of these, please tag us so we can see your recipe! Cheers!
1 scant cup blanched almonds, roughly chopped and toasted
1 tablespoon whole cloves, toasted
1 piece of ginger, approximately 3″ long, roughly chopped with skin on
3 medium limes, zested and juiced
1-3/4 cup of overproof rum (110 proof used here)
1-1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 ounces of black strap rum
1/2 ounce of falernum
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
lime wedge for garnish
In a rocks glass, build your drink by pouring in black strap rum, falernum and bitters over ice. Squeeze your lime wedge over the top and optionally add to the drink. Stir gently to combine.
This post was made in partnership with Kerrygold Irish Cream. Recipe and ideas are my own.
This past Christmas we were gifted several POUNDS of chocolates. And yes, you would be correct to assume that’s a lot of chocolate. These boxes lasted us well into the new year and now, a few days into February the crunch of salted almond bark and the heavy, chewy nougat still linger in my memory. And gosh, next week is Valentine’s Day already!
I told my husband that this year I would like flowers, and maybe some burgers, but please don’t buy me a box of chocolates. Still, Valentine’s Day doesn’t seem like a holiday without something sweet. So this year I’ve decided that something light, with a hint of chocolate, and a tart burst of fruit would suit my palate more. And hey, why not throw some booze in there too?
I’ve teamed up with Kerrygold Irish Cream to make my alternative to a box of chocolate bon bons this year: Passion Fruit and Kerrygold Irish Cream Cocktail Jellies. More petite than your average jello shot, with a refined taste similar to what you’d expect from a fancy sweets shop. These are pretty low on the ABV scale but still, adults only!
I love a fruit gelée and right now I’m on a passion fruit kick. That sweet-tart golden liquid is a wonderful contrast to the rich, creamy Kerrygold Irish Cream. With a hint of chocolate, real cream and a touch of Irish whiskey, you don’t need to add much to these jellies to make a delicious treat; you just need a little patience.
A few notes for this recipe:
Make the passion fruit layer first: pour water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. In a wide bowl, pour in passion fruit puree. Sprinkle one packet of gelatine over the top. Let sit a few minutes until bloomed (no granules should be visible). Once bloomed, pour the boiling water over the passion fruit and whisk until the gelatine is dissolved. Pour passion fruit mixture into the bottom of your molds and refrigerate one hour or until it starts to set (see note above).
Next, make the Kerrygold Irish Cream layer: pour 1 cup of the Kerrygold Irish Cream and pinch of salt into a small saucepan and bring to just under a boil. In a wide bowl, pour in the second cup of Kerrygold Irish Cream. Sprinkle one packet of gelatine over the top. Let sit a few minutes until bloomed (no granules should be visible). Once bloomed, pour the hot Kerrygold Irish Cream over the bloomed gelatine mixture. Whisk until combined and then slowly pour over the almost set passion fruit layer. Refrigerate. Allow to set completely 6 hours or overnight.
To serve the jellies: for round molds, carefully run a small spoon around the edge and slowly invert the mold to pop out. 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 jellies. Jellies can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Hello and welcome to the second installment of our Make or Buy series. I’m so happy to have you here, especially in January when you can practically hear the crickets on this site.
Today we’re going to be looking at Grenadine. Yes, we already have a recipe here on how to make a basic one, but this version I’ve altered as a step up from the most basic way to make it and it’s how I currently make my home bar version.
Grenadine is one of those ingredients I think everyone buys and no one uses. I think in part because 1. it tends to be associated with that kiddie drink the Shirley Temple (and OH YES, that is what we’re going to make today to compare the make vs. buy options) and 2. the commercial products that have been available were full of super processed ingredients and food dye and just not very tasty. But here’s the thing, there are now some really great options out there for buying grenadine at the store, we’ve got one of those today in fact, and also, grenadine is super easy to make. And I’ll show you how.
First let’s talk about what you can buy at the store. I chose Small Hand Foods grenadine syrup as my pick. Why? Because it’s an excellent product and is my go-to when I don’t have mine own syrup on hand. Second, as usual in this series, let’s address the pros and cons. The pros here are great. All natural products, cane sugar, easy to buy (Amazon!), tastes of pomegranates. The cons here are that I find the flavor a bit muted, and because it is not dyed red, you are not going to get that bright red color that one expects grenadine to have in drinks.
If you decide to make your grenadine, you have two choices in regards to the pomegranate base: freshly bottled juice you can buy, or go crazy and juice your own pomegranates. Clearly this can be a pro or a con depending on YOU. Because I do not have the desire to juice 4 pomegranates (which would yield approximately the 2 cups you need to start with), I went with bottled fresh juice. For this version of the syrup I also finish it off with a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses which adds in a lot of zip and tang to the final product. So the pros here for me are that you get a fresher tasting product that you can alter the sweetness, volume, and overall flavor of. Using the fresh juice also means you’re getting a brighter red color in the final product (still not as bright as a food dye though). Also, I reduce the syrup in half resulting in a thicker, more viscous grenadine. On the con side, if you’re constantly switching up your formulas you’re not going to get a consistent product to make drinks with. Also, fresh juice is going to very from fruit to fruit so you might occasionally get a batch you don’t like the flavor of. It also is possible that getting fresh juice in your area is just not an option (nor would growing a tree be). And with all the “make” versions here, you have to make the product and if you’re short on time or inclination then that’s just not going to be fun for you.
So now the choice is up to you. Do you buy a tested and well-loved brand, or do you make your own batch? Or do you do both and have too many syrups in your house like me?
Well, before you decide let’s talk about how these two work in a drink. Oh, but it’s January and half of you aren’t drinking (but you’re lurking around on booze sites like this, huh?)! No worries! We’ll make what I consider the quintessential mocktail, The Shirley Temple.
My earliest memory of having a Shirley Temple was at some relative’s anniversary party or family reunion or something like that where there was a bunch of elderly people in a banquet hall. I was young, but one of these elderly people put a drink in my hand with a cherry in it and OH BOY did I feel like a fancy lady. In fact, I still feel like a fancy lady when I garnish my drinks. Anyways, I inquired as to what I was drinking and I was told it was a Shirley Temple. And really, if you want to feel even more fancy as a small child, make them a drink, without booze, and give it a name.
The other reason that I chose to use the grenadine here is that it is a pretty simplistic drink, you’ll taste the syrup, and you’ll see how it interacts with just one other ingredient. And just how do they do here? Both were fine! The Small Hand Foods grenadine is much lighter in both appearance and body, so you see that when it’s mixed with the soda. You get more of the soda and less of the grenadine, more like a hint of it. You can adjust here and add more though but I equalled portioned both grenadines out. The homemade batch of grenadine was a thicker syrup so that came across as a brighter red colored drink with more body. The grenadine was more noticeable here in the flavor as well.
And thus concludes this month’s make or buy. Let me know which way you decided to go and don’t forget to tag us in your posts! It’s always fun to see how you all experiment!
In a medium saucepan, pour in pomegranate juice and sugar. Whisk and bring to a boil over high heat. Once at a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer and let simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until mixture is reduced by half. Remove from heat and add in orange flower water and pomegranate molasses. Whisk to fully combine and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, pour in vodka, if using (this would act as a preservative) and bottle in an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry place. If not using vodka, once bottled, store in the refrigerator up to one month.
3-4 ounces ginger ale or lemon-lime soda
1/2 ounce grenadine
maraschino cherry for garnish
In a collins glass, 2/3 filled with ice, pour in soda of choice. Top with grenadine and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a cherry.
This post was made in partnership with Kerrygold Irish Cream. Recipe and ideas are my own.
If you were to ask me about superstitions, I’d say they’re not something I believe in. Except… I’d kinda be lying. See, the thing is, some years ago I developed this superstition that how I rang in the New Year would somehow dictate how my next year would be. I took this as vague or as specific as I wanted and I find myself thinking about that now as we approach the coming new year.
Fight with a friend at a NYE party? I’m going to spend the next year having issues with this person. Fell asleep before the ball dropped? I’m going to have trouble meeting deadlines next year. Spend an amazing time with a guy I’d only just started seeing two months ago? Well, then obviously I was going to marry this guy. (All three are true by the way!)
I am a notorious early bird in my family. It’s probably the reason I went to work as a barista instead of a bartender when I first moved out to L.A. It’s part of the reason I heave a big sigh come NYE; I know I’m going to have trouble staying awake. So this year I’m doing a little pre-planning. First, I’m going to push my kids on their grandmother on the 31st and take a long afternoon nap. Next, I’ll be strategically planning my cocktail for the night. It will, of course, have coffee in it. Not just any coffee, I’m infusing some aged rum with a blend of arabica and robusta coffee. Why? Because arabica has a great flavor and robusta brings the CAFFEINE!
I teamed up with Kerrygold Irish Cream to make my perfect NYE sipping cocktail. Mainly, I wanted something reminiscent of a latte that I could enjoy over the course of the night. I’d save the champagne for the countdown toast of course, before making a swift and silent exit. Now, this pre-planning also includes making this coffee infusion; it takes two days. Alternatively, if you’ve got a coffee liqueur you’d rather sub in and save yourself this DIY project, well, then you do you.
If this were to be my coffee order, I’d say it’s a mocha-vanilla-almond-spiced latte. But, you know, spiked. The Kerrygold Irish Cream brings a silky-rich mouthfeel from the cream and just a touch of chocolate, which is how I prefer my coffee drinks when I go the mocha route. The whiskey in there goes quite well with the aged rum and they impart a subtle spice and vanilla flavor that gets enhanced by the addition of Drambuie and a few drops of vanilla extract.
And because it’s New Year’s Eve and we’re feeling fancy, I broke out the edible gold stars for a sparkling garnish for just a hint of glitz. You definitely need a little glitz on this holiday.
Let’s get ready for that countdown and make some drinks!
1-1/2 ounces coffee infused aged rum, recipe follows (or sub 1-1/4 ounces aged rum with 1/2 ounce coffee liqueur)
1/2 ounce Kerrygold Irish Cream
1/2 ounce orgeat
1/4 ounce Drambuie
3 drops vanilla extract
edible gold stars for garnish
In a shaker filled 2/3 with ice, combine coffee infused aged rum, Kerrygold Irish Cream, orgeat, Drambuie, and vanilla extract. Shake to combine about 20 seconds and strain into a double rocks glass with fresh ice. Optionally garnish with some edible gold stars, for that NYE glitz.
14 oz. aged rum
1/2 cup coffee beans (blend of arabica and robusta), lightly crushed
Combine ingredients in an airtight container (I reused my rum bottle). Swirl to cover the beans. Let sit for 2 days. Fine strain to catch the coffee bean bits (I like using this nut bag for these kind of jobs). Bottle. Use within two years.
This post was made in partnership with Truvia®. Recipes and ideas are my own.
I’m hitting peak holiday tradition time right around now. The advent calendar has been going, there’s a tree and decorations and now due to small children’s insistence there’s a second small tree, I’ve sent out Christmas cards, and the majority of the presents have been bought (can you tell I’m a planner??). I’ve also checked off attending the annual Glögg party thrown by some close friends of ours. They’ve been throwing it for close to a decade now and we’ve been attending almost every year (minus a few bouts of the flu). But I’ve kept a secret… I’m not a big fan of hot wine punch.
After reading this my secret will be blown. But, since we’re all friends, I doubt they’ll care all that much. They know I really come for the Swedish meatballs. Are you sitting there reading this thinking to yourself “I like wine, I like spices, but I don’t necessarily want them piping hot…” Well, lucky for you great minds think alike and I’ve got a new twist for your holiday mulled wine traditions!
I’ve teamed up with Truvia® to offer a chilled spin on this traditional holiday drink. The secret to achieving a flavorful mulled wine cocktail is to concentrate the flavors that would ordinarily go into a mulled wine by making a syrup.
For the base I decided to use Truvia Cane Sugar Blend to first create a simple syrup and then add in the mulled wine spices and the wine itself. Truvia Cane Sugar Blend combines stevia sweetener and cane sugar with 75% fewer calories per serving than sugar. Does it make a simple syrup that works just like regular cane sugar? It sure does! Because it is sweeter than cane sugar you also don’t need to add as much into the syrup. After making a quick simple syrup, everything simmers together to make a reduction and extracts those great spices so they really stand out when mixed into a drink. Also, chilling liquids tends to tame the flavors a bit so you want the flavors to be on the bold side.
Since we’re making this into a cocktail I decided to pair this mulled wine syrup with bourbon for a wintery drink. Bourbon imparts some vanilla and buttery caramel flavors into the mix as well. Finally, a burst of citrus comes from freshly squeezed lemon juice and Cointreau. How to garnish is up to you. If you want it to be reminiscent of a Glögg, add in a cinnamon stick, orange slices and a star anise when you serve up the drink. You could also leave all of this out and you’d be fine. Personally I like the aroma that fresh spices add to the drink, but if you’re serving this up at a party you could also just throw in the orange slices. And speaking of parties! This syrup makes enough for plenty of drinks so you might want to consider this for a different take when you host your next holiday party.
One last note. I realize I might be edging out some of you that really enjoy a hot mulled wine. Clearly my friends do since they host this party every year. Here’s a quick tip so you can enjoy a glass of Glögg any time: you can make this drink hot too. Yes! You don’t have to wait for someone to throw a party and use up several bottles of wine and occupy your InstaPot for an entire day. Make the syrup, add the ingredients, and add in some hot water! You’ve got a hot mulled wine cocktail now!
Grab a bottle of wine and let’s make some cocktails!
Mulled Wine Syrup (Yields 1-1/3 to 1-1/2 cups)
1 cup Truvia Cane Sugar Blend
1 cup water
1-1/2 cups red wine
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods
4 green cardamom pods, cracked
1 tsp black peppercorns, lightly crushed
4 orange slices, 1/4” thick
For the syrup:
Combine Truvia Cane Sugar Blend and water in a medium saucepan over medium- high heat. Whisk until fully dissolved. Add in red wine, cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, cloves, green cardamom pods, black peppercorns and orange slices. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until mixture has reduced and thickened slightly. Remove from heat, strain out solids and discard them. Let syrup cool to room temperature and then transfer to an airtight container like a swing-top bottle or mason jar. Store refrigerated up to a month.
For the drink:
2 ounces of bourbon
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce mulled wine syrup
In a shaker 2/3 filled with ice, combine the bourbon, lemon juice, Cointreau and mulled wine syrup. Shake about 20 seconds to combine and strain over fresh ice into a double rocks glass. Garnish with orange slices, cinnamon stick and star anise.
Alternatively, you can make this a hot drink by including 2-3 ounces of hot water. Combine all ingredients for the cold cocktail in a heat proof mug and then add hot water. Stir gently to combine and serve.
This post is brought to you by Specialty Retailers, Inc. Recipes and ideas are my own.
Did you know that Margaritas are the most popular cocktail in the U.S.? Probably not surprising when you think of the amount of frozen, neon colored drinks you encounter walking down the main strip in Las Vegas. I’m sure those are being counted in this statistic. And that bottled drink mix with the svelte lady on the front; that’s probably being counted too. But here in my home bar, a Margarita is a solid, easy to mix drink with endless variations. And today we’ll be making them holiday ready for a little online party!
Today I’m taking part in Stage’s virtual holiday party and sharing my Cranberry Sauce Margaritas to help celebrate and #SetYourHolidayStage! I’m making them extra festive with an easy DIY rosemary sugar rim you can whip up in minutes and use all holiday season long. As my older readers know, I have an entire front yard full of rosemary. So when the Fall and Winter seasons are upon us, I’m sticking it in everything. Food, of course, but also in lots of cocktails. If you’re finding us through the Stages Holiday Party, a quick search through the archives will introduce you to a whole new world of using rosemary in cocktails; take a look!
We still have two whole weeks until Christmas and who knows how many parties we’ll be going to or hosting up to then. If you’re in charge of drinks, Stages has all the accessories you need to make prepping and decorating easy! We did a quick shopping trip online to get all our gear for our virtual party including glasses, those cute gold foil holiday napkins, a caddy to hold the napkins and straws, a chalkboard sign to write out the name of our Signature Cocktail, the containers to store the rosemary sugar, a dipping tray for all the ingredients for the Cranberry Sauce Margaritas, as well as some festive decorations like this teeny tiny lights and the nutcracker. Even my holiday sweater came from there! SO MANY GREAT ENTERTAINING OPTIONS.
Ok, so you set your holiday stage and are ready for guests. Let them feel in charge with a little DIY bar set up. This 3 cup dipping tray could hold snacks any other time of the year, but today it will hold all the components for the Cranberry Sauce Margaritas: cranberry sauce, lime wedges and the rosemary sugar. Put out some little spoons for the dishes and some shot glasses for the booze components. Holiday parties should be about coming together with friends and family, and having this little DIY bar lets guests mingle about with one another.
The recipe for the Cranberry Sauce Margaritas has just a touch of sweetness in it from the cranberry sauce and the Grand Marnier. You can adjust going up or down with either to your liking. I also think adding just a touch of the rosemary sugar into the drink doesn’t hurt either, just remember to shake it really well to combine it all! TIP: use the spent lime wedges from the cocktail recipe to help rim the glasses. Then you won’t need to waste additional lime wedges just for rimming. Also, when rimming your glass, use a shallow bowl or rimmed plate and push the sugar out towards the edges so that the sugar will evenly coat around the glass.
Let’s make some drinks!
1-1/2 ounces blanco tequila
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 tablespoon cranberry sauce
rosemary sugar (see recipe below)
First, rim a rocks glass with the rosemary sugar. Set aside. Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled 2/3 with ice. Shake well to combine, about 30 seconds. Strain over fresh ice into the prepared rocks glass. Add additional cranberry sauce if desired. Optionally garnish with a rosemary sprig.
2 cups granulated sugar
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary, about 3 to 5 inches long, divided
Take one sprig of rosemary and remove all the needles. Finely chop them. Combine the chopped needles and the sugar in an airtight container. Mix well to evenly distribute the rosemary. Add a few extra sprigs to the jar, shake, and let sit overnight or up to a few days. Sugar may look clumpy but it will dry out and break down. Remove the sprigs, seal the jar, and keep in a cool, dry place up to three months.
This post was made in partnership with Kerrygold Irish Cream Liqueur. Recipe and ideas are my own.
Do you have a holiday cookie tradition? I think I may have perfected my gingerbread cookie recipe this year. I mean, I’m using Thomas Keller’s Bouchon recipe as the base, so you really can’t go wrong with that. But, it is the first year that I made a cookie like this that didn’t just separate and spread all over the cookie sheet pan. I’ve yet to find my perfect sugar cookie recipe though. That I can never get right and that always spreads and won’t hold its shape. So, we all have to go without any holiday cookies that are gingerbread; thankfully no one complains. Sorry Santa.
While making these cookies I thought about how great the baking spices would be in a cocktail. Sure, we see lots of dashes of cinnamon or nutmeg this time of year, but those in combination with an intense ginger flavor…well we’ve got a perfect pair for some whiskey and a hot cocktail. I refer to these heated cocktails during holiday time as winter warm ups. They’re a great companion to a fireplace and a pair of hands in need of warmth.
This month I’ve teamed up with Kerrygold Irish Cream to make my perfect fireside winter warm up with all the wonderful baking spices found in these gingerbread cookies. It packs a punch of ginger but also has lots of nice spice from the Irish whiskey, and that touch of chocolate and cream in the Kerrygold adds a superb richness to the drink that doesn’t get watered down. And that’s probably because they use real chocolate, and the cream used to make the liqueur comes from grass-fed cows and is a third creamier than what you usually find on the market. You can alter the hot water amount in here to your liking; I keep it around 3 ounces. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you might think about making your own whipped cream and adding some gingerbread syrup to the mix for a super dose of yummy gingerbread-ness (I did. It’s so worth it! Just a tablespoon is all you need to add to your canister.).
After making this cocktail I need to rethink my gingerbread recipe and add a little chocolate and whiskey and there too now. Then it will be perfect.
Let’s get warmed up!
3 ounces Irish whiskey
1-1/2 ounces Kerrygold Irish Cream
1-1/2 ounces gingerbread syrup, see recipe below
3 dashes Angostura bitters
6-8 ounces hot water (just under boiling)
whipped cream, optional
In a mixing glass, add the Irish whiskey, Kerrygold Irish Cream, gingerbread syrup and bitters. Stir to combine everything and divide between two glasses. Pour in 3-4 ounces of hot water into each glass and stir gently to combine. Optionally top with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.
Adapted from Le Pain Quotidien
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger (or 3 slices, 1/4″ thick fresh ginger with skin on)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower temperature and keep at a simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain fresh ginger out if using, and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, place in an air-tight container. Refrigerate up to one month.
This post was made in partnership with Truvia®. Recipes and ideas are my own.
The last of the Halloween decorations made their way back into the garage this week. The hold outs were the two trick or treat buckets still filled with candy that were slow to empty. Of course, all the good stuff went immediately. And when I say that I mean that my husband and I ate a good portion of the better candy immediately after the kids went to bed. Then there were the thousands of lollipops, off brand candy, and miscellaneous stuff thrown into the buckets that hung around too long. So those got chucked and the buckets, to my children’s surprise, mysteriously disappeared along with all the rest of the decorations by morning.
This holiday always symbolizes quantity over quality, and while I type that out I feel like that’s a lot of holidays now. So that got me thinking about how I can make some little changes for the remainder of the holidays this year to show quality, and thoughtfulness, in the gifts given to others. And for me, one way I like to show that is with handmade gifts.
I’ve teamed up with Truvia® to craft some special holiday treats that can be used for hostess gifts, stocking stuffers, welcome gifts for out of town guests, or a special treat for someone “just because.” I feel like there’s always someone in your life who could use a little treat for that very reason. I come from a family who are makers. On both sides there are artisans, farmers, photographers, builders, crafters, seamstresses, and my grandfather and uncles can build a classic car from the ground up. Making something, crafting it with your hands, and sharing it with others is very important to me. But you don’t have to build a car. In fact, today I’m making caramels.
Bourbon caramels! Quality treats, but for adults only. These little packages of deliciousness come together fairly quickly but require some stirring and a watchful eye. The hardest part is waiting overnight for them to set. The sweetness comes from Truvia Brown Sugar Blend, a blend of stevia sweetener (the sweet leaves of the stevia plant) and brown sugar, for 75% fewer calories per serving than regular brown sugar. You still get that deep, rich caramel flavor that brown sugar imparts, and the bourbon not only adds a little kick, but it also brings its own vanilla and spice flavors to the caramels.
So I think it’s time to get in the kitchen and make some treats!
A few notes on making the caramels:
2 cups Truvia Brown Sugar Blend
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream, room temperature
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ounce bourbon of your choice
3/4 teaspoon flakey sea salt
Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides of the pan.
In a large pot, combine the Brown Sugar Blend, cream of tartar and water and set over low heat. Whisk continuously until the sugar dissolves completely, around 5-8 minutes. If sugar crystals appear above the surface of the syrup, wipe down the sides of the pot with a damp pastry brush (I keep a bowl of water nearby with a silicone pastry brush).
When the Brown Sugar Blend dissolves, clip an instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar (if using a thermometer with a wire string, do not immerse the string). Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the syrup to a boil, whisking until bubbles begin to form, then stop stirring. Continue cooking the Brown Sugar Blend without stirring, brushing down the sides of pot if crystals form.
When the syrup reaches 350°F (this took about 20 minutes for me) remove it immediately from the heat and add in the heavy cream and butter. The mixture will start to bubble up at this point so use caution.
When the mixture settles, stir with a silicone spatula until smooth. Return the pot to the stove and boil until the mixture reaches 248°, around 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat, add the bourbon and salt, stir to combine.
Pour the caramel into the parchment-lined pan and bang it on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. Let the caramels set for 6 hours, or overnight, in a cool, dry place.
Once set, caramels can be cut out to desired shapes and wrapped in parchment paper. Will keep at room temperature for up to two weeks.