Note: This is one of a series of guest posts I’ll be hosting over the next few weeks to spice up Cocktail Thursday. With summer knocking on the door, and mint starting to spread like weeds in the garden, it’s only natural to start dreaming of mojitos! Please welcome Kenley Leigh of Green Door Hospitality for a refreshing take on this summer drink. Also, go check out her site — there are lots of delicious veggie-centric recipes and entertaining ideas to get your creative juices flowing for the summer entertaining season.
Nothing says refreshing cocktail for the spring and summer months like a classic mojito. The cool combination of mint and lime makes this drink the perfect companion to a breezy and sunny weekend afternoon. Plus, it is a great way to use all the mint that pops up in our garden. When it starts creeping, prune and make mojitos!
There are a lot of great interpretations and variations to the mojito — ones that bring flavors like strawberry, lemongrass, coconut, and blueberries to the table. However, to me, nothing beats a classic.
Awhile back, when I was first experimenting with maraschino liqueur (which is now one of my favorite cocktail components), I tried out the classic Aviation cocktail. I was lacking one minor ingredient, though: Crème de Violette, or Crème Yvette. These are both similar (and similarly obscure) floral liqueurs that add just a touch of color and flavor to the cocktail. (Crème Yvette has an additional vanilla note.)
I liked the version without, but I was intrigued, so I went on the hunt for the missing liqueur, and, let’s just say it was hard to track down! I finally succeeded, though, and I’m glad I did.
Not only did the Creme Yvette add the perfect tinge of purplish-blue, so that the drink actually resembles a cloudless sky (hence the name), it also added a little depth of flavor. The addition of just the slightest floral note really completes the drink. Sure, the Aviation tastes just fine without it, but I’m glad I tried it this way, too. And, since I have a bottle of Crème Yvette now, I may as well use it! Check out my original post for the recipe for the Aviation, both with and without Crème Yvette/Crème de Violette.
Now I just need to find some other cocktails to experiment with that showcase my new liqueur!
Note: This is the first of a series of guest posts I’ll be hosting over the next few weeks to spice up Cocktail Thursday. Although many people’s minds are turning to margaritas with Cinco de Mayo coming up, it’s almost time for another big drinking day — the Kentucky Derby! I do love a good mint julep, so when Veronica Meewes of My Well-Fed Life (and my fellow AFBA member) offered to do a piece on the julep (so very intertwined with the Derby), I thought it was a fabulous idea. Read on for some great local spots (for the Austinites) and a couple of delicious recipes to make your own julep to sip while you watch the derby.Drink.well also happens to be one of my favorite local spots, so I’m pleased as punch to have the secrets behind a couple of their inventive twists on the julep.So, without further ado, may I introduce you to the lovely and talented Veronica Meewes?
Pineapple Julep ~ photo courtesy of drink.well
I’ve always been captivated by the Kentucky Derby. An excuse to dress up, wear big hats, bet on horses with tongue-in-cheek names, and drink boozy, refreshing drinks? Umm.. yes, please! You can bet my dress is already picked out with a hat to match for this weekend’s race.
But I’ve always wondered where the tradition of drinking mint juleps came from. The combination of bourbon, mint, sugar, and water is so ingrained in Derby culture, it’s nearly impossible to hear the word “julep” and not think of the races! The word “julep” itself is derived from the Persian word for rose water, but according to Wikipedia, “the origins of the mint julep are clouded and may never be definitely known.” But the first American julep sightings occurred in the late eighteenth century after Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky brought the beverage into popularity.
Now, in the course of two days each year, around 120,000 juleps are served at Churchill Downs in Louisville during the Kentucky Derby. And did you know they also sell ultra-premium mint juleps for $1,000 each?? Served in gold-plated cups with silver straws, these high rollers’ cocktails are made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, mint imported from Ireland, spring water ice cubes from the Bavarian Alps, and sugar from Australia. (The proceeds are used to support organizations dedicated to retired horses.)
Thirsty yet? Here are a couple places hosting Derby parties this Saturday, May 4th in Austin. Want to host your own? Scroll down for a several delicious julep variations from the mixologists of drink.well!
Maybe you didn’t even know there was a polo club in Austin? I sure didn’t! But this is the third year of this annual event, where you can watch two live polo matches before the Derby begins at 5:40pm. General admission is $20, while VIP runs $50-75 (how VIP are you??) Proceeds benefit the Texas Canine and Horse Rescue and the horses of the Longhorn and Aggie polo clubs.
Prize baskets will be given out for best dressed and best hat while bartenders pour juleps in flavors like ginger and blackberry, or a sweet tea collins, if you prefer! Enjoy a hot brown sandwich while they screen The Run for the Roses before the races start.
If you’re in it for the drinks, this is where you need to be (I’ll be here!) The award-winning staff will be dressed to the nines and shaking up creative cocktails as usual, such as pineapple and baker’s rack juleps (recipes below), Jabronis (a hybrid julep/Negroni), and Seelbachs, an aperitif named after the Louisville hotel where it was created.
Not long ago, I had the ladies from my running club over for a mamas’ night out. We all needed a drink. Husbands have been traveling, working long hours and otherwise not around as much as we would like, but the stars aligned and most of us made it out that evening. We kicked it on my back patio with some potluck goodies, wine and a nice pitcher of lemon-thyme Pimm’s coolers.
This was the perfect drink for a warm spring evening enjoyed out on the patio with friends.
For the non-alcoholic version (a lemon-thyme spritzer), go check out my post on LiveMom, which features that recipe plus a couple of other non-boozy tipples. For the real deal, read on.
I love love love FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar. It’s my new favorite restaurant in Austin, aside from Wink… maybe. The food and wine list stands out at Wink, but, since I tend to veer toward the tasting menu there, it definitely qualifies as a special-occasion restaurant. FINO, however, is my go-to date night pick. And the cocktails? Oh my, but they are amazing.
On our last visit there, I sampled two cocktails, and they both blew my mind. The first was dubbed the Brief Introduction, and it included Flor de Caña 4-year rum, Velvet Falernum, lime, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram and grenadine.
The layers of flavor — wow! When dining out, I often eschew the simpler flavors of a classic cocktail for a glass of wine with some complexity, but in this case, I didn’t have to make the decision. This cocktail was as multi-layered as a lovely wine, and I’d expect no less from the mixologists at FINO.
The hubby went with the Professional Courtesy (yes, we were all about formality), which included Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Amaro Ramazzotti, Bénédictine, Zirbenz Stone Pine liqueur and orange bitters.
Check out the giant ice cube! It was a very different drink from mine, but still lovely and complex. I think we both chose perfectly for our respective preferences.
To accompany dessert, instead of going with my classic choice of port or another dessert wine, I went with one of FINO’s “after-dinner cocktails.” Though I was a wee bit skeptical, I was not disappointed. I can’t recall the exact composition of the drink,* but I do remember that it starred a house-made coffee liqueur, and it was sublime with our dessert of house-made donuts with sugar and cardamom accompanied by coffee sorbet. I felt like I had died and gone to dessert heaven.
* Is anyone really surprised at this point?
While I do love mixing it up in our home bar, it is nice to get out every so often and let the pros do the heavy lifting.
Maraschino liqueur, hard as it was to find, is fast becoming one of my favorite cocktail ingredients. When I saw this recipe for the pre-Prohibition Era cocktail the Black Rene over at Cocktail Virgin Slut, I was immediately on board.
I like that it mixes a traditional winter-y spirit (brandy) with a summery one (rum) — how very appropriate for spring. And of course I couldn’t resist the Meyer lemons. Cheers!
How can you go wrong with a cocktail made with gin and honey, as an ode to spring and the buzzing bees that deliver us this delectable nectar. With Meyer lemons in the fridge and local raw honey from Goodflow (ever-present on our countertop), it was a no-brainer to try this Food & Wine cocktail.
The hubby, ever my taste-tester, volunteered that the Bee’s Knees “tastes like spring.” He is not much given to saying such things, so it must really be true!
As you probably know by now, when I have a new ingredient in my bar, I like to take it out for a spin or two. A couple weeks ago, we tried out a cocktail called the Boulevardier, which, along with bourbon and sweet vermouth, has Campari as one of its main ingredients.
It was a little too bitter for me. In the end, I thought the Campari overpowered the other flavors too much — but the jury is still out as to whether my appreciation will increase with time. So, when the hubby suggested we try out a Special Manhattan, which includes the same ingredients as the Boulevardier, only with different proportions, I was intrigued. And, I enjoyed the result very much.
The lower proportion of Campari and higher proportion of sweet vermouth really make a difference and, in my humble opinion, balances this drink out. It’s not too sweet, and not too bitter — it’s just right. And I think that’s pretty special, myself.
Let’s continue with this fermented foods theme, shall we? I recently had kombucha (fermented tea) for the first time, and I was blown away by how good it actually tastes. I always figured it was something hippies drank for the health benefits, and never mind the taste, but I am a convert now.
So, why not take something so healthy and mix some booze with it? It’s already fermented anyway — I’m just taking it up another notch. I’m definitely not the first one to have this idea (check out this list of kombucha-based cocktails), but a good idea it is.
Kombucha tends to be mixed with ginger anyway, so, naturally, I thought I’d pair it with my very own ginger-infused vodka. I figured ginger kombucha (though it is my favorite by itself) would be a bit too much ginger all at once, so I went with a blackberry, raspberry and ginger blend (called Black Magic) from Austin-based Kosmic Kombucha instead. It was lovely, and even my kombucha-loathing hubby admitted it was pretty good. Cheers!
I bought a bottle of Campari not too long ago, but I hadn’t actually used it in a cocktail yet. When I ran across a recipe for the Boulevardier in Bon Appétit, I knew the moment had arrived.
The Boulevardier was… interesting. The hubby loved it, but I am still trying to get used to the bitterness of the Campari. It really stands out in this cocktail. I’m not saying I didn’t like it — I’m saying I’m intrigued. I guess it’s kind of like getting used to the taste of coffee or wine the first few times you try it. It’s an acquired taste. But — if I’m right here — once you get used to it, life will never quite be the same. Or maybe that’s just the bourbon talking.
I’m a recovering lawyer-turned-freelance writer and editor, aspiring domestic goddess, and mom to a spunky, demanding and truly awesome 2-year-old 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 the ankle-biter around makes it more challenging!