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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Spicy Watermelon MargaritasDSC08164.jpg

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!