I know it’s fall. Or, at least that’s what my calendar says. I still haven’t gotten used to fall in Texas, since moving back. In most parts of the country, fall is that lovely season in which summer lazily drifts into winter, slowly turning the leaves blazing colors as the weather turns cool and crisp. Fall was my favorite season in Northern California. It still is my favorite season, in theory… just not in Texas. In Texas, fall just doubles as extended summer, in which the temperatures still reach into the 90s regularly, but in a much more annoying fashion, since everyone is ready for sweaters and infinity scarves and pumpkin-spice everything after seemingly endless .
Anyhow, we are supposed to get an honest-to-goodness cold front overnight tonight that should drop temperatures into a fall-ish range… but for now, it still sure feels like summer here. So, why not live it up while we can, and have a daiquiri — that cocktail that puts most people in the mind of beaches and steamy weather?
Now, if you’re thinking of a fruity, bright-red frozen thing with an umbrella in it… that’s not this drink. What I’m talking about is a classic daiquiri, one that Hemingway would have downed many of on his trips to Cuba. I can’t make it to Cuba right now,* but I can easily mix up a daiquiri with fresh limes, grapefruit and some great light rum.
*Though it is absolutely on my short list for travel… someday.
if that doesn’t say Indian Summer, I don’t know what does. So, here’s to a light summer-ish refreshment, while we still can… and cheers to the bourbon and mulled wine and hot buttered rum to come!
It somehow feels indulgent to open a bottle of bubbly just to make cocktails. But, it’s summer, and prosecco is the name of the game — and a good-for-mixing bottle can be had for under $20. So why not?
What really convinced me to try out a French 75,* though, was MetropoChris’s write-up, which told me that not having simple syrup on hand was no excuse. All I had to do was put a 1/4 cup of water and a 1/4 cup of sugar in a bowl and microwave it for 30 seconds. Okay, done.
* Which I had never had, despite trying a sister cocktail, the Soixante-Neuf, a while back.
I’ve been loving experimenting with rum this summer. It’s just the best spirit for hot weather — besides, arguably, tequila — since it’s so bright, light and refreshing, and it’s fantastic paired with citrus and other fruity flavors. As I browsed my Pinterest cocktail board, though, I realized something: I was out of lemons. This would not do. So, with my shiny new membership card, I went to Costco* and bought a giant bag of limes and a giant bag of lemons. Problem solved.
* It’s practically the law when you have two small children. Plus I can’t even tell you how much Nora digs the samples. It’s like a theme park for her. Free entertainment!
With those lemons and a bottle of Flor de Caña Extra Seco, it was time to try out a Between the Sheets.
Okay, so it sounds a little racy. And for this cocktail’s era (it was around pre-Prohibition) it sure was! But the drink itself is a class act. Combining rum, cognac and citrus for a spin on the classic Sidecar, it’s a sure bet for summer. Cheers!
Oh, you guys. I have so many interesting things all photographed and in recipe-notes form… but I am suffering from the worst case of writer’s block. And I know the best cure for writer’s block is to just effing write.
So, I might as well write about the coolest thing I’ve gotten to do in awhile. I got to take a preserving class and make cocktail cherries and cherry pit syrup with Stephanie McClenny of Confituras at Whole Foods fabulous new store at the Domain. How cool is that?
I’ve been a huge fan of Confituras since moving the Austin and learning about Stephanie’s sublime products. Frankly, I kinda have a crush on her — she’s my canning idol. Her recipes are just mouth-watering, and they’re all made in small batches and locally sourced. My all-time favorite is her Rio Red Grapefruit Vanilla Bean Jam.
And here it is, cherry season.
I do love cherries. We all know, further, that I love a good cocktail, so these two recipes go hand-in hand. Plus, one uses the pits from the other — you can’t go wrong! Make them both at once and reap the rewards for weeks to come.
The cocktail cherries are made with port, and are infinitely more delicious than any florescent red maraschino cherry you might find on a typical store’s shelves. They’re prefect for garnishing a cocktail or even a homemade soda (perhaps even one you’ve made with that cherry syrup).
Speaking of which… the cherry pit syrup is brilliant, too. It gets a deep, vanilla, okay flavor from the pits, and it makes a great mixer with soda or prosecco (a combination I tried out a the class, taking advantage of the mimosa and sangria bar generously provided by Whole Foods). The other night, I shook some up with whiskey and added a splash of soda — a great, easy cocktail. You can also pour it over pancakes or waffles, or even ice cream. Enjoy!
When we lived in Sunnyvale, my favorite local coffee shop, Barefoot Coffee Roasters, had a sublime drink called the Voodoo, made with sweetened condensed milk, chocolate and coconut. I’ve craved it ever since, so naturally it was the inspiration for the recipe I’m about to share. But, it is eleventy billion degrees outside, so this is an iced version.
We all know that cold brew coffee is the way to go, especially for tasty iced coffee at home — but did you know that CoolBrew was doing cold brew before cold brew was cool?* This New Orleans company has been brewing their coffee using the cold-dripped process since 1989. Yep, they’re the original.
*Okay, cold brew was always cool, technically.
When they offered me a sample, I enthusiastically said yes, and I received a big box of goodies to experiment with — which is exactly what I’ve been doing for the last couple of months. The recipe I am about to share is the first of a few I’ll be tossing out over the summer months — and perhaps beyond — to keep you nice and cool.
But first — here’s a cool trick to make sure you don’t water down your iced coffee. Use coffee ice cubes!
It couldn’t be simpler. I just used some of my Original Cool Brew to make a batch of coffee, and then froze it in an ice cube tray to use in coffee-based beverages. How’s that for a stroke of brilliance? Of course, I can’t take full credit for the idea — Dolce Vita, a local espresso bar here in Austin, offers an “upgrade” of coffee ice cubes in any of their iced beverages for a small fee.
As for the Iced Voodoo — you guys. You are going to have to taste this to believe it. I slung together** my Iced Voodoo Chocolate Almond Mocha based on that Barefoot Roasters drink I crave, and I have to say — it’s not the same. I’m not a copycat artist. But when you take inspiration and use the tools you’ve got, sometimes something beautiful happens.
** I was gonna say “crafted” but, meh. That’s kinda pretentious, at least when you’re talking about my aimless kitchen experimentations. Artist I am not, but I do like to experiment, and I know what tastes good!
Beautiful it is. And delicious. And ever-so-simple to sling together.
Back in the day, when I worked long hours and sometimes went out for drinks with colleagues (sometimes before heading back to the office, natch), my go-to drink was a dirty martini. It was a rather trendy drink at the time, and I heard someone order one and decided to try it. I think the real appeal for me was that you could get one with blue cheese-stuffed olives! Of course, being a relative young ‘un, I ordered my dirty martinis with vodka. Because, well, that’s what you do. At least it was usually Tito’s or Grey Goose (only because Tito’s used to be hard to come by in NorCal).
Long story short, the hubby has been traveling for business a lot lately, and I’m often in need of a good, stiff drink after the kiddos are safely tucked into bed. I decided I wanted a dirty martini on one of those evenings, and I wondered if people made them with gin. A quick Google search later, I was entranced by this article on the dos and don’ts of the dirty martini. To the point: “Purists” (ha!) make dirty martinis with gin, not vodka, because vodka is rather tasteless (by design), so drinking a vodka dirty martini is basically just like drinking olive juice. Huh.
Clearly I had to test this theory. So, I broke out my trusty bottle of gin, cracked open a jar of local olives* and got to shaking. If I had been feeling extra-ambitious that evening, I probably would have stuffed the olives, once pitted, with blue cheese, but — again — hubby out of town, two kids finally in bed, exhaustion.
*Yes! Texas is one of the few places in the U.S. where you can successfully grow olives. We’ve just planted a couple of olive trees in our yard, but it will be years before we reap the rewards. Still, they’re pretty.
I must say, I am a convert. The flavors of the gin mingled quite well with the briny olive juice, and my first gin dirty martini made the perfect drink to sip while winding down after a hard day.
Hubby is gone again this week, so this just may be on my agenda for tonight. We’ll see once the kids are in bed.
If you like cocktails, you probably know that this week (June 2-8) is Negroni Week. If you didn’t know, well, I’m telling you. Get thee to a local bar! Over 1,300 bars around the country are participating, including 19 bars here in Austin, and each will donate $1 for each Negroni sold to a charity of the bar’s choice. I’m not going to pretend they let me out of the house for this kind of thing night now,* so I’ll just link to Matt McGinnis’s excellent round-up of the Austin bars participating and what they have going on this week (along with some Negroni-inspired cocktail recipes) over at What Are You Drinking?
* New mommy = close to zero social life. I drink at home.
As for me, well, I have never been the world’s biggest Negroni fan. I find them to be very bitter. I will readily admit, however, that I don’t always take proper care of my sweet vermouth (meaning storing it in the fridge and using it quickly), so that may be a part of my issue. I promise I’ll try to do better.
But, bitter is big right now. So, if you’re like me, maybe you’d rather tame the bitter with a little sweet to see if you can acquire a taste for it. For a Negroni, I accomplish this by adding a splash of Grand Marnier.
I think it works nicely with the flavors in the classic drink, and it makes the drink more palatable to those of us without a super-human ability to withstand bitterness. Cheers!
Ah, Mother’s Day. For children, it is a time to present the most important lady in your life with a hand-painted mug, handprint ornament, or some other handmade thing that Good Ol’ Dad helped you make (probably at the last minute), and tell her that, despite your attitude most days, you really do appreciate her. For grown-ups like me, with a couple of small children of their own, it’s a time to reflect on how much I really DID appreciate my mom back then, and still do now.
So. Being a mom. It’s not an easy gig. You get spit up on, you have to deal with someone else’s poop on a daily basis (at least for the first couple of years), you get woken up randomly during the night for different reasons throughout your beloved offsprings’ development, you spend a lot of time arguing over matters that completely defy logic with a small but determined opponent,* and you tend to collapse at the end of the day utterly exhausted, but also completely unable to account for anything you really got done.
* Being a corporate lawyer prepared me very well for this part of parenting.
Now that I’m a mom myself, and I have experienced all of those enumerated joys, plus plenty of others that just aren’t springing to mind right now, I really, really appreciate my mom. Really really. And the least I can do is make her a Mother’s Day cocktail.
So, Mom, I’m sorry for every time I threw a fit in public, especially when you had your hands full of groceries and possibly a baby sibling. I’m sorry for every time I told you something on my plate (which you’d probably slaved over and eagerly anticipated my delighted reaction to) was yucky or that I wasn’t hungry or that I just wanted yogurt instead. I’m sorry I took so long to sleep through the night, and once I did, I’m sorry for every time I woke you up in the middle of the night for reasons like “the fan is scaring me” or “I couldn’t find my water.”** I’m sorry for sometimes being a brat who took for granted the loving and comfortable home you provided for me. I wish I had realized at the time how good I had it! I’m sorry for wrecking my car when I was a teenager — even though it wasn’t my fault, I’m sure I could have avoided it if I had been a more experienced driver, and I’m damn lucky I didn’t give you a heart attack. I can only imagine how worried you were when you heard about it. Anyway, I sure do owe you a drink.
**I don’t know for sure that I did these things, but it seems likely, based on my own beloved daughters and their sleep habits.
When Red Envelope asked me to develop a cocktail recipe inspired by my mom for their Mother’s Day Brunch series, I thought it was a fabulous idea, and I had to put on my thinking cap. My mom is just not your everyday lady. She’s a Texan through and through, a little bit of a hippy, and not too much of a drinker, but she does enjoy a good mimosa. Since Mother’s Day brunch is a thing, I figured mimosas were a perfect starting point. When I saw a few of the last beautiful grapefruit from the Rio Grande Valley gracing my grocery store’s produce aisle, I knew it was fate. One of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received was from my mom — a crate of Rio Red grapefruit at the height of the season (delivered after the New Year) when we lived in California, where those sweet, juicy red beauties were not all that easy to get your hands on. Add a cherry, and we’re in business.
So, here’s to you, Mom. Thanks for dealing with me for the past thirty-some-odd years. I really appreciate you now, even if I didn’t fully back then. Really.
Rio Red grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed if possible
maraschino cherry, for garnish****
Fill a champagne flute almost to the top with the champagne. Top off with a splash of grapefruit juice.
Drop in a maraschino cherry (because Mom deserves a cherry on top, damnit!) and serve with breakfast in bed.
*** I used prosecco, which is my favorite for mixing. Use a moderately priced sparkling -- don't go too cheap (you don't want to give Mom a wicked hangover now do you??) but don't go ruining a bottle of Dom Perignon with grapefruit juice, either. **** I prefer Tillen Farms maraschino cherries, which are made with pure cane sugar and no red dye. Get 'em on Amazon -- it's not too late for Prime shipping!
First, I had to give Partida Blanco the sip test. Although blanco tequila (as opposed to aged — añejo or reposado — tequila) tends to be the best for mixing in drinks, any tequila worth its salt (ha!) should taste good when sipped, not just when mixed.
Photo courtesy of Partida
It passed. It was smooth, clean and crisp, and tasted of agave — which, of course, a good tequila should. I read not long ago that the reason tequila has such a bad reputation for causing hangovers is that cheap tequila is often made with a lot of sugar as filler — so be sure to look for “100% de agave” on the label of your tequila. Of course, Partida is no cheap tequila, and it’s made from 100% agave — otherwise I wouldn’t have even bothered with the sip test.
Now, of course, the main event — the margarita! Simple is best, in my humble opinion, when it comes to a margarita. This one contains only Partida Blanco tequila, agave nectar and freshly squeezed lime juice. Perfection.
Here’s to Cinco de Mayo, and many thanks to the folks at Partida for allowing me to experiment with their fine product!
The other night, the hubby and I were in the mood for a cocktail, and he suggested a Sidecar. I, however — mindful of how much I’ve neglected Cocktail Thursdays lately — suggested we try a variation. A little Googling later, we agreed on the Alabazam.
Although it sounds a bit like a cheesy magical incantation, the Alabazam is actually just a subtle variation on the classic Sidecar, with the same ingredients — though bitters are an added touch — in different proportions. In fact, the Alabazam was developed before the Sidecar, at least according to The Straight Up (which has a great walk-through of several Sidecar variations).
The experiment was a success! Although the Alabazam shares most of the same ingredients with the Sidecar, it’s a very different drink. The bitters definitely change the taste (though I opted for a lighter hand with them than the original recipe), and there’s more cognac than citrus, which makes it a bit sweeter with a little more kick. I’ll drink to that!
I’m a recovering lawyer-turned-freelance writer, aspiring domestic goddess, and mom to a spunky and demanding preschooler and a tiny and demanding baby girl. I love all things food and drink, and I’ve rediscovered a love for cooking now that I’m not spending most of my days locked in the office, but I often have to improvise, since having ankle-biters around makes it more challenging!