Plum Gin Sour

September is hereeeeeee. Fall weather and booties and scarves and VACATION is almost here! We are only six days in and I am as giddy as can be. Our house is a flurry of activity as we prepare for our trip to Europe in two weeks and this is my favorite state to live in. Planning for trips and packing and buying travel sized toothpaste is my jam. I love it. I plan vacations that I am not even going to take… just for the fun of it. I can’t stop.

In all of the hubbub to get ready – we have been slacking on our trips to the grocery store. We clearly need real meals and are not leaving the house for another week and a half, but I am in full “we dont need that – we are leaving!” mode. We were rushing through Whole Foods this week and came across some gorgeous plums so we threw them in the cart without much thought. When I finally got around to eating one, I was floored. They are incredible! I felt inspired to try something new and knew they had a place in a special cocktail.

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This cocktail is our first attempt at adding egg whites for the signature foam that you find in a gin sour. I have done plenty of research on the best way to get silky smooth cocktails and everyone swears by a little egg white. I was a bit nervous about including raw egg in a drink – all I pictured was a beefy man cracking eggs straight into his mouth – but I was delightfully surprised at the texture!

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To spice up this gin sour, I made a fresh plum simple syrup to add some color and sweetness to the drink. I only included plums, sugar, water, and lemon juice – but a chunk of ginger or other spices would be fantastic in this as we get closer to cooler days. Once you have the plum simple syrup ready it is just a matter of shaking. Lots of shaking. This cocktail requires a two-step shaking process. First, the dry shake with all of the ingredients and no ice to build that nice egg white foam. After one full minute of dry shaking, which is one full minute of a total arm workout, you add a bit of ice to wet shake for 30 seconds. The wet shake calms everything down (including cooling everything down) and gives you that silky smooth texture that you only find in cocktails with egg white.

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Ready to shake your way to a plum gin sour? Have I convinced you to add some egg whites to your cocktails? I certainly hope so!


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Total Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces plum simple syrup
    • 2 plums
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup water
    • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Egg white
  • Cubed ice

Instructions:

Start by cooking plum simple syrup. Roughly chop plums and add to pot with water, sugar and lemon juice. Heat until bubbly and then simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool with plums still in mixture. Strain twice to ensure a clear syrup and store in fridge up to one week.

Add gin, lemon juice, plum simple syrup, and one egg white to shaker. Ensure a tight seal and shake vigorously for one full minute. Stop and add 3-4 ice cubes to shaker. Continue shaking with ice for 30 seconds or until cold. Strain into coup or old fashioned glass and enjoy!

The Jungle Bird

Welcome to the tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki post! We are so excited to share some knowledge with you about tiki drinks. We recently attended a cocktail and bitters class at The Bittery in Raleigh and came home with tiki bitters, recipes for days, and a newfound excitement for mixing drinks. Tiki style drinks are everything we love about cocktails – juicy, tangy, fresh, and filled with rum. What’s not to love? We tried out a few tried and true recipes this week and settled on sharing this one! The Jungle Bird.

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The Jungle Bird is rumored to have started back in the 1970’s at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton. This tiki drink is newer and a bit different from the classics like the Pain Killer and Mai Tai because it includes Campari. Now if you remember from our post on Negronis, you know we are a bit hesitant about this bitter liquor. Fortunately, the ratio of Campari to rum and tropical juices really balances out the sweetness of this drink and makes for a more interesting cocktail.

The secret to this particular version of the Jungle Bird is the inclusion of coconut rum in addition to dark rum AND the use of special tiki bitters. The bitters are not necessary – and a bit challenging to replicate if you are not local to NC – but what a fantastic surprise they play in this cocktail. This recipe is from Crude Bitters and calls for 6-8 drops of their small batch tiki bitters. Cocktail bitters are essentially flavored extracts made from infusing herbs or fruits or flowers with alcohol. They are incredibly powerful and only require a few drops to change the flavors of a drink. These tiki bitters include toasted almonds, pineapple, and allspice.

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After experimenting with tiki recipes and these bitters, we know there is plenty more to come in this realm of cocktails. Stay tuned for more tiki-inspired drinks as we drag these summer flavors straight into cooler months! For now, take your Jungle Bird to the pool one last time and close that place down with booze in hand.

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The Jungle Birddsc08361

Total Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 1 ounce coconut rum
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 2 ounces pineapple juice
  • 0.5 ounces simple syrup
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Crushed ice
  • 6-8 drops Tiki Bitters from Crude Bitters

Instructions:

Be sure to make your simple syrup ahead of time. Check out our post on Peach Margaritas if you want to make your own! Add all ingredients (except bitters) to shaker with ice and shake vigorously until frothy and cold. Strain mixture over 2 glasses filled with crushed ice. If you are using bitters, now add 3-4 drops to each glass and stir to enjoy!

 

Spicy Watermelon Margaritas

Happy Fri-yay! I am so jazzed that we are entering the last weekend of August and am ready to bring on the fall weather. We are getting a tiny taste of cooler weather this weekend and I am living for it. I pulled out my jeans, a cardigan, booties – I am all in. To celebrate the end of a season that reminds us all that the earth is melting, I threw together these spicy watermelon margaritas.

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Here’s the deal – I don’t like melons. Cantaloupe and honeydew melons are horrifying to me and I am that brat standing at the breakfast table picking out all fruit but the melons. I am not sorry that the person behind me has an option of ten slices of cantaloupe and one blueberry. Not sorry at all. I can get behind watermelon on occasion though. If the watermelon is super red and juicy – I might be able to partake. If the watermelon is mixed in with some lime juice and tequila… I can definitely partake.

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This is the first watermelon I have purchased this summer and it did not disappoint. This recipe only calls for half of a watermelon and I still have about two cups of juice in my fridge begging to be used in another drink recipe. You can easily make these for a crowd with one small melon!

I start by juicing half of my watermelon in a blender. I find that this is the easiest way to do it because I pour everything from the blender over a fine sieve to get a smooth juice in a matter of minutes. If you are using a full watermelon you may have seen the hip new way of putting an immersion blender straight into the middle of it for juicing. You do you!

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Once you have your watermelon juice ready to go, prep your jalapeños for the spicy component to this drink. I added about half a jalapeño for two drinks and muddled it with just the watermelon juice and lime juice to start – so taste as you go to make sure the spice level works for you.

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This drink should be shaken once you add your alcohol. I went for the aesthetic of my lovely glass here and stirred instead. Don’t be like me. Any drinks with juice should be shaken and drinks with straight alcohol are stirred. Got it? Good. So shake your drink and then strain out into glasses. I also recommend mixing up your salt rim for this drink. I know, this sounds like crazy talk for margarita straight shooters. I added some fresh cracked black pepper to my salt here. I think it adds some smokey flavor to the drink that compliments the jalapeño. Enjoy sparingly and do not take a big ole’ lick of the rim before a drink or you will overpower the flavors with black pepper. Be dignified please.

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Yum, right?

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Total Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2 – but can be scaled easily

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces fresh watermelon juice
  • 4 ounces tequila
  • 4 ounces Cointreau
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 1/2 jalapeño
  • Salt and pepper for rim
  • Cubed ice

Instructions:

Prepare your watermelon juice by cutting a small watermelon in half. Add flesh of the melon to a blender and pulse until smooth. Strain through fine mesh sieve and store remaining juice in fridge. This produces about 2-3 cups of juice depending on the size of your watermelon. I would recommend only using a quarter of your watermelon for juice if you are not making large quantities of margaritas.

Slice jalapeño into small rounds. I removed the seeds before adding to the shaker, but you can keep them if you want the drink to be very spicy. Add watermelon juice and lime juice to the shaker with jalapeño. Muddle gently to combine and then add tequila,  Cointreau and ice. Shake vigorously to combine.

Prep glasses by using leftover limes to wet the rim and roll in salt and cracked pepper. Use a 2:1 ratio of salt to pepper – you do not want a ton of pepper on each glass.

Strain cocktail into prepared glasses with ice and enjoy!

 

Weekending in Charlottesville, VA

Welcome to the first post about our travels and drinks consumed while traveling! There is no recipe at the end of this post… but I hope you will keep on reading to learn a little more about our favorite stops in Charlottesville, VA for wine, beer, and liquor.

This past weekend, we gathered up the fam and met in the middle of VA for a birthday celebration with our Dad. Being spread across the east coast makes it a bit more challenging to get everyone together – so this was a special treat! We hired a driver, packed our coolers, and set out to consume as many empty calories as possible. All of these stops were between 5-20 minutes apart – so we accomplished everything within 8 or so hours.

First Stop: Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard

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Pippin Hill is everything a vineyard should be. Rolling hills, barn doors, farm-to-table food, and rows of fresh grapes greeting you at the front entrance. Our one recommendation for this stop: have it be your first one! Pippin Hill can get incredibly busy and you want some time to explore the grounds before all of the parties arrive. Get there a few minutes before they open to take some photos and keep your eye on a tasting bar. Our group split in two and half of us did the classic tasting that includes whites and reds and the other half did the reserve tasting of all reds. Our favorite for a hot summer day: Zero White.

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Second Stop: Blue Mountain Brewery

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Time for some beer! This is a gorgeous venue with plenty of outdoor tables and a space for lawn games or blankets. Unfortunately, we had a bit of rain come through during this stop and we had to sit under cover at the bar. But have no fear! We enjoyed some great beers here and will absolutely be back. Our favorites: A Hopwork Orange IPA and Dark Hollow Stout.

Third Stop: Veritas Vineyard & Winery

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This winery is adorable with a LOVE sign made of corks greeting you as you enter the beautiful tasting room. Again, the rain was our nemesis for the afternoon and prevented us from spending a ton of time on the grounds, but they have a huge wrap around porch with plenty of space. We stopped here for lunch as this was the first stop allowing outside picnics. We grabbed a table under cover and enjoyed a bold Rosé and smooth, red blend called Red Star with an assortment of cheeses and dips. Veritas is well prepared for large crowds and they have a great system for keeping tastings organized. You can come by any time and expect an organized line for sampling all of their amazing wines. Bonus – their winemaker is a woman 🙂

Unexpected Fourth Stop: Silverback Distillery

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This stop was not on our original agenda, but was recommended by our driver, and it was incredible. We did not know what to expect when we arrived, but the small tasting room was packed with excitement and we were greeted with a torch-wielding, badass woman making a smoked old fashioned. The gentlemen in our group tossed aside their menus and promptly ordered two each of these specialities. And man, were they something special. Smoke from an old oak barrel, house whiskey, and a syrup made with maple syrup and chocolate bitters. It rocked our worlds. Now, while I enjoyed a taste of this masterpiece, I spent my 3 oz. limit on 3 tasters of their gin, whiskey, and 151 proof moonshine. I highly recommend going this route if you want a chance to sample all of their products!

Fifth Stop: Bold Rock Nellysford Cidery

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If you like cider, stopping at Bold Rock is a must. They have a great tasting menu with all sorts of fruit-based ciders and even one with Rosé! The tasting room is gorgeous and looks like an old log cabin. We were not here for long, but especially enjoyed the pear cider!

LAST STOP: Devils Backbone Brewing Company

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Honestly, I wish we stopped here earlier on our leg of this trip because this is an amazingly beautiful stop with many many options. As you are certainly aware, we had consumed plenty of alcohol prior to this last leg of our trip and were not prepared for much more of anything else. The boys tried the whiskey and cigar bar and the ladies tried the beers. I had a delicious sour beer that I wish I knew the name of (again, another reason to return!) and tried a tiny sip of the whiskey. I would recommend making this stop a half-day experience or coming on the second day of your weekend to make sure you have plenty of time! Grab an adirondack chair, order some food, smoke a cigar if you so desire, and really take time to enjoy.

And that is it! A weekend of spirits and celebrations with family in Charlottesville, VA. Comment with your favorite stops in Charlottesville and let us know if you have any recommendations for our next trip!

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Frozen Piña Coladas

It is time for our very first guest recipe! This blog is a family affair. Our friends are a HUGE part of the success of this venture and they are always happy to be our taste testers and brainstorming partners. We have four ride-or-die friends that have made living in the South worthwhile, and they ALL can make a mean cocktail. This specific drink was made by a member of our “Raleigh Babes” crew, Jessie, for our Fourth of July, lakeside shindig and we freaked out at how amazing these were. I have been saving this recipe specifically for National Rum Day and am thrilled that the day is finally here!

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Let me tell you a bit about Jessie, the Piña Colada connoisseur. Most importantly, she is incredibly generous. She is quick to give heartfelt compliments, always happy to supply excessive amounts of cheese for a game night (although is there such thing as too much cheese…), teaches us how to be crafty, and always says yes to a day of treat yo’ self. She even let us take over her kitchen for this photo shoot and use her belongings as props!! She also takes a big ass wagon to the farmer’s market – no shame in the fresh produce game – and has a greener thumb than the rest of us. She’s awesome!

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Now, back to the alcohol. Pictured above is the day that this delightful beverage entered my life. This Piña Colada recipe is perfect for hot days at the lake, lazy days at the beach, and any day when you need something a little extra. We also forced Jessie’s husband into taking this photo as we yelled, “THIS NEEDS TO GO ON THE BLOG!!”.

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So here is Jessie’s famous Piña Colada recipe! This is a no fuss, no waiting around for fresh fruit to freeze, and no fancy juicing type of drink. Grab some frozen pineapple out of the freezer section, some pineapple juice (even better if it is has coconut water in it like this), cream of coconut, coconut milk, limes, and a ton of rum.  Throw all of it in a blender and add more frozen pineapple or ice as needed. Top with more rum if you are feeling extra boozy and drink up!

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Total Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4 generous portions

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces light rum
  • 4 ounces dark rum
  • 1 12oz bag frozen pineapple
  • 6 ounces cream of coconut
  • 2 ounces pineapple juice
  • 2 ounces unsweetened coconut milk
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Cubed ice

Instructions:

We recommend packaged frozen pineapple chunks and pineapple juice, but you are more than welcome to cut up a fresh pineapple and freeze it on your own if you have time. We used pineapple juice with coconut water for added flavor, but use whatever you prefer or have available. Add all ingredients to a blender and start with about 1/2 cup of ice. Add more ice as needed to reach desired consistency. Top with additional dark rum if you are feeling frisky and enjoy!

Rhubarb Ginger Gin Fizz

Ready for this week’s cocktail? It’s a mouthful with a mouthfeel that sends you into a mini vacation. The Rhubarb Ginger Gin Fizz is the perfect cocktail to ease you into the weekend and celebrate the end of early-summer harvest. Rhubarb is best consumed in the late-spring or early-summer months and is mostly seen in pie or crumble form here in the South. While I have absolutely consumed my fair share of rhubarb-strawberry pies, it has taken me an embarrassingly long time to learn that rhubarb is actually a vegetable… AND to top it off, it does not produce that bright red juice that I expected out of it. What a letdown. Fortunately, the delicious tart flavor that comes out of these celery-sibling stalks makes up for its lackluster looks.

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To make these cocktails, you have to do a little heavy lifting and *gasp* real cooking. I, of course, think this is all worth it – but I am warning you now! This rhubarb ginger syrup comes together in about 30 minutes and requires you to pull out your cutting board and knife. Make a large batch so you can enjoy the syrup well past a few drinks. Chop up the rhubarb into small cubes and peel one hunk of ginger. Looking for some helpful cooking hints to go with your alcohol? Use the edge of a spoon to peel ginger rather than a vegetable peeler.

Add your rhubarb and ginger to a pot with lemon juice and equal parts water and sugar and set that sucker to high. I bring everything to a boil and then immediately bring back down to a simmer for 5 minutes or until the rhubarb is very soft. I do a little mashing to release more juice and then let the pot sit off the heat for another 10 minutes to steep. After those little nuggets of deliciousness mingle for a bit, strain and keep syrup in the fridge for up to one month! This syrup would be incredible in lemonades or with club soda if you want to enjoy outside of happy hour.

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I am trying not to get too far ahead of myself here, but this may be my favorite cocktail on the blog so far. You all know how much of a sucker I am for pucker-inducing treats. The tartness of the rhubarb is the perfect compliment to the floral notes in gin and spiciness of fresh ginger. This may be my drink of choice for the next few weeks. Move aside Sunday scaries wine night. We are taking these Rhubarb Ginger Gin Fizzes straight into next month!


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Total Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 2 (easily adjusted for more)

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces gin
  • 1 small bottle ginger beer
  • Juice from 2-3 lemons
  • 4 ounces rhubarb ginger syrup
    • 2 stalks rhubarb
    • 1 medium-sized piece of ginger
    • Juice from 1 lemon
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup sugar
  • Cubed ice

Instructions:

Start by preparing the rhubarb ginger syrup. Chop fresh rhubarb into cubes and peel ginger. Add rhubarb and entire piece of ginger into a pot with juice from 1 lemon and equal parts water and sugar. Bring to a boil. Once mixture comes to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until rhubarb is broken down and soft. Mash rhubarb to release additional flavor and remove from heat. Let mixture sit for 10 minutes, then strain out solids and keep syrup in fridge for up to one month. This makes enough syrup for 6-8 drinks.

Add cubed ice, gin, lemon juice, and rhubarb ginger syrup to tall mixing glass. Using a stirring spoon, stir until cold. I add equal parts gin and syrup because I want the rhubarb to really shine. Use extra lemon juice if too sweet, I find that the juice really cuts through the sweetness and allows the tart flavors to shine.

Add mixture to glasses filled with ice and top with ginger beer (I prefer Fever Tree). Garnish with thyme if you are feeling it and serve!

 

The Toasted White Russian

It is August and ohmygod how did we get here so quickly. August used to be “back to school” month for 18 years of my life and it was filled with excitement and nerves and cramming in pool parties or sleepovers before settling into what was then called “real life”. This August is still a month of preparation for us this year, but for the total opposite of “real life”. We are SIX weeks out from a two week jaunt through Europe with four friends and we cannot wait!! This month will be full of packing lists, itineraries, reservation confirmations, and many many trips to Targets for last minute items. We have just a few short weeks to cram in the last bit of summer before we leave and head straight into rainy European fall weather. Ya’ll remember my love of sweatshirts and cold weather, right? I am built to live in Europe.

This past weekend we planned and prepared for this trip by executing a “Reverse Europe” night of fun. We went to a German restaurant where the boys wore their Oktoberfest Lederhosen and were the evening entertainment, drank French wine, stuffed our faces with Belgian chocolate and stroopwafels from Amsterdam, and ended the night with drunk history PowerPoints about our destinations. It was magical and had us begging for these next six weeks to fly by. In preparation for a night of European debauchery, I was tasked with selecting a special cocktail. As you can imagine, these countries are not well-known for their cocktails because they excel in wine and beer. It took some time, but I learned that Belgium is where the Black Russian cocktail originated!

Black Russians are simply vodka and coffee liqueur – which didn’t quite feel festive enough for a night of drunk PowerPointing… So I added a little cream to turn it into a White Russian and then whipped up some special toasted marshmallow syrup to pay homage to summer nights with friends and getting “toasted” out by the bonfire.

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Here sits the Toasted White Russian! Now, I did not build a bonfire in my backyard just for the sake of creating this drink. Who would do that? Instead, I built a mini bonfire on my kitchen island! This little creation is perfect for those nights when you are craving a s’more (or two or three) but do not have the patience for a bonfire – or even for those of you in apartments with no space to set some logs on fire. This mini bonfire pit came together with $10 spent at KMart on a ceramic pot, tin foil, and some charcoal. Easy peasy!

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Start by rolling some tin foil into a ball and placing that at the bottom of the pot. Then line the rest of the pot with a few layers of tin foil to create a little bowl. Make sure you are using a ceramic or terra cotta pot, do not use plastic. Add a few bricks of charcoal to your pot with some paper, and set ablaze! The charcoal will keep flames for about 5-10 minutes so act quickly. When you are finished, be sure to let your charcoal cool completely before throwing in the garbage. You can even add it to your grill if you have one.

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Once you have a few toasted marshmallows you are ready to make your syrup. Start off like you would for any simple syrup with equal parts sugar and water. Once that is melted together, add a few toasted marshmallows and melt completely. Once melted, strain out any leftover burnt pieces and store for up to one week in the fridge.

To create the Black Russian, add vodka and Kahlúa to a glass with ice. If you all you want is a Black Russian, stop there. But who ACTUALLY wants to stop there? Add a little bit of the marshmallow syrup to taste before slowly adding in your cream. If you want a layered effect, slowly pour your cream over the back of a spoon and it will gently sit on top of the vodka and Kahlúa mixture. If you DGAF like me, just pour that cream (or half and half) straight into your glass.

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And there you have it! The Toasted White Russian. Top with a burnt marshmallow on a stick for added effect. Or don’t. Whatever you want. I encourage any and all types of marshmallow consumption with cocktails.


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Total Time: 15 minutes

Serves: 1 (scale up as needed!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1 ounce Kahlúa
  • 1 ounce cream or half-and-half
  • Toasted marshmallow syrup
    • 3-4 marshmallows
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup water
  • Cubed ice
  • Toasted marshmallow for garnish

Instructions:

Start by making your toasted marshmallow syrup by adding water and sugar into a saucepan on the stove. Heat until dissolved and add 3-4 toasted marshmallows. Stir until melted and strain to remove leftover burnt pieces. Store in fridge for up to one week.

Add cubed ice, vodka, Kahlúa, and 1-2 teaspoons of marshmallow syrup to your glass. Taste and add syrup to your preference. It is very sweet so add a little at a time.

Slowly add cream or half-and-half to your glass. Again, add as much as you prefer to reach desired creaminess. Stir together and top with toasted marshmallow garnish. Enjoy!

Cherry Limeade Margarita

It’s National Tequila Day! Which, let’s be honest, might as well just be Margarita Day. Yes, yes, there is already a day dedicated to margaritas (February 22nd to be exact) but why not have two holidays for this special nectar of the agave plant?? Today, I am honoring tequila with this Cherry Limeade Margarita.

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I have a thing about cherries. Anyone with me? Cherry-flavored things remind me of cough syrup and other super artificially flavored candies. And don’t get me started on the maraschino cherry… no thank you to those bright red sugar bombs. There is only one time a year that I get excited about cherries, and that is dark, sweet cherry season. No bright red colors or super sweet additives – just dark, luscious cherries from Washington State or Oregon. YUM.

Additionally, as most Americans, I am an Amazon prime member and can never go back to 3-day delivery or shipping that costs more than $0. I am even more devoted now that Whole Foods gives me a hefty discount on a few select items each week with said membership. This week, I walked into my neighborhood Whole Foods and what do I see? Fresh, dark cherries marked at 50% off. A gift from the gods I say. And then that same day, what appears on my doorstep? Oh, that brand new blender I purchased on Amazon Prime Day… obviously my first thought goes to a frozen beverage. Thanks, Amazon.

So here lives the frozen Cherry Limeade Margarita, perfect for a celebration of booze. I pitted my fresh cherries and put them right into the freezer for this cocktail to ensure a smooth consistency. Once they were frozen, I threw them into my blender with tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, a little simple syrup, and a few handfuls of ice. Simple, delicious, and worthy of my $10 sale-priced bag of cherries.


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Total Time: 10 minutes (plus time to freeze fruit)

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces tequila
  • 2 ounces Cointreau
  • 2 ounces lime juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 cup dark cherries, pitted
  • Handful cubed ice
  • Sugar and lime zest for rim

Instructions:

Pit your cherries and freeze them for about 2 hours until firm. You can use frozen cherries from the freezer section in the off season, but fresh is best. Once frozen, add cherries to blender with remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Add 1 cup of ice at a time to reach desired thickness.

Prepare your glasses with the sugar and lime zest rim by taking a slice of lime and circling around the edge. Then roll the glass on a plate filled with granulated sugar and fresh lime zest.

Fill prepared glasses with frozen margarita and enjoy!

 

Maple Bourbon Sours

Nothing screams “mountain vacation” like maple syrup-spiked alcohol in a mason jar. This is exactly what I had in mind this weekend while visiting my parents in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They have this gorgeous log cabin with excellent views of the mountains and a HUGE back deck. This deck is what dreams are made of and it begs you to sit back, relax, and enjoy a morning coffee or an evening cocktail (or two). As I packed up my cold weather gear for a balmy 75 degrees, I made sure to bring along my trusty cocktail supplies and mason jars for these maple bourbon sours.

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I love everything sour. Sour beers, sour cocktails, sour candy – I can’t get enough. I will choose a bag of sour patch kids over a chocolate bar any day. The only place where I DO NOT want artificial sour flavoring is in my cocktails. Sour mixers out of plastic jugs should be banned forever. Fresh lemon juice is the ONLY way to go. I balanced out my lemon juice in these drinks with a little bit of maple syrup. The maple goes wonderfully with bourbon and provides a more complex flavor than regular simple syrup. I recommend using high quality, dark maple syrup in these cocktails to really let the flavor shine.

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I also throw a sprig of rosemary in these drinks to bring some freshness. This is not required, but I think you will appreciate another layer of flavor to brighten up the sweetness. Now go forth and climb a mountain with your maple bourbon sours!

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Total Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 4 (in small glasses)

Ingredients:

  • 7-8 ounces bourbon
  • Juice from 2 1/2 lemons
  • 2 ounces maple syrup
  • 3 rosemary sprigs
  • Cubed ice

Instructions:

Measure out your bourbon, lemon juice, and maple syrup into your shaker. Add ice and one full rosemary sprig. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds until frothy and ice cold. Add ice to 4 small old fashioned glasses and strain mixture into each glass. You can use mason jars here, but know that you might not get large portions in the regular pint jars. Try the 8oz. half pint jars if you are committed to the look. Nothing is wrong with a stronger drink if you need to top them off with more bourbon! Add small sprig of rosemary as garnish.

 

Mango Mojitos

Happy (belated) National Mojito Day! What a perfectly refreshing drink for peak summer heat and outdoor activities. Mojitos really check all of the boxes for a perfect cocktail – sweetness from muddled sugar and lime, freshness from mint leaves, and a little fizz from club soda. And of course you can’t forget the RUM. Everything you need for poolside, lakeside, beachfront, or plain old couch-sitting sipping.

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This week I found wonderfully ripe mangoes at the grocery store, so this is a little twist on a traditional mojito. Before getting to the recipe, I want to share a little information about how to select the perfect mango and chop it up so you can really embrace the fruit in your cocktails. Mangoes were such a mystery to me until I got to college and finally learned how to cut one up. They do have a hard “pit” in the center and cannot be cut down the middle like most fruits. I have butchered my fair share of mangoes trying to get around that tough center. Mangoes can also be super tart and unappealing if you grab them before they are ripe. The best way to check whether a mango is ripe is giving it a gently squeeze and looking at the stem. If the stem pops off easily and the flesh gives a little to your squeeze, you should (gently) throw that sucker in your basket! Do not go off color alone, some mangoes do not change color as they ripen.

Once you are ready to devour your mango, cut it in thirds from the top to avoid the center. You will toss the middle chunk and just cut up the flesh like an avocado. I score my mango using a sharp knife in straight lines. First I score from top to bottom and then side to side. Do not cut through the skin! Try to keep your slices just through the flesh of the fruit so you can then flip the skin inside out and chop off your perfect little cubes! This sounds like some creepy Dexter dialogue – so please see photos below to avoid listening to my “skin” and “flesh” cutting talk any longer.

Once your mango is ready to go – you can make this Mango Mojito! Mojitos have a weird reputation for being challenging to make. I have heard countless stories of friends ordering them at the pool bar and getting an eye roll from the bartender or the “we are out of mint!” story. Don’t fall for it, make these suckers at home any chance you get.

First, you want to muddle your mint, lime juice, and sugar. This will release the oils from the mint leaves and really ensure a strong aroma and flavor. While these mojitos do have mango, I think you still need some of the sugar to add sweetness. Once your mint, lime juice, and sugar is muddled – add your mango chunks and muddle a little more to release juices from the fruit. It is essential that you have a super ripe mango here that is easily crushed and juiced.

Add ice, rum, and shake like crazy! Once my drinks were adequately shaken, I had trouble getting the liquid out because of the mango pulp. My little shaker holes failed me and I ended using a mesh strainer over a cup to get the liquid out. Improvise when you need to! You are at home and no one is judging your choice of cocktail creating tools.

Add your cocktail mixture to a glass with ice, torn mint leaves, and extra mango chunks for the perfect summertime mojito.

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Mango Mojitosdsc074381

Total Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 mangoes
  • 1 bunch fresh mint leaves
  • Juice from 5-6 limes
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 10 ounces dark rum
  • Club soda
  • Cubed ice

Instructions:

Put 5-6 mint leaves to the side for garnish and then add remaining leaves to your shaker. Add juice from limes and sugar to shaker, and muddle with mint leaves. I like a lot of lime juice in my mojitos, so use 6-7 limes for 4 people if you are like me. Add mango cubes from 2 whole mangoes to shaker and muddle gently. Once you have juiced your mango cubes and broken them down, add rum and ice to shaker. Shake for 30 seconds or until glass is very cold.

Add ice, torn mint leaves, and remaining mango cubes from your third fruit to 4 tall glasses. Strain cocktail mixture evenly among glasses and top with club soda. Give a little stir and enjoy!