Adventures and Spiced Apple Mocktails

Wow! It has been a month since our last post and what a month it has been. I would say I’m sorry for the delay… but I’m definitely not. I put my phone down and thoroughly enjoyed our European vacation like no other vacation of my life. I went through a Twitter detox and seriously came out fresher and happier on the other side. I had a brief moment of FOMO when I dove back in, but stopped myself from the constant scroll to catch up. Instead, I have been constantly scrolling through all of our photos from the trip!

I want to share a few memories with you all from our trip, alcohol-focused of course, and then dive in to a mocktail that is getting me through this re-entry into life. Did I mention that I am also on an alcohol and sausage detox? I cannot look at another sausage or glass of beer for at least two more weeks. That is what Oktoberfest does to you apparently! To get through this week of veggies and water consumption, I whipped up a spiced apple and ginger kombucha mocktail. We had a taste of crisp fall weather while in Europe and I am back with full fall intensity. Gimme all the pumpkin, apple, and spiced products ASAP! I don’t care that it is still 80 degrees in NC, I am ready for sweater season.

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Before we get into sweaters and cinnamon sticks and apples, let me tell you about our journey through the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Germany. I won’t tell you the entire story, send me a message if you want the full scoop (I am happy to share all the deets!), but I will share some information about the best places to grab a cold one! This is a booze blog after all.

First Stop – Amsterdam, Netherlands

How does a city become so perfect? Amsterdam is unlike any other city in the world. It has the charm that is inescapable when it is built around canals, yet remains completely modern and bustling with business. And of course the bikes, everyone tells you about the bikes. It is impossible to really understand the magnitude and importance of bikes until you experience it. I am a total failure at riding bikes, which was evident on our ride through wine country in France, so I am not the perfect resident of Amsterdam – but I’d like to be! And what better way to quickly hop between bars than on a bike!

I am going to share two spots with you from Amsterdam, as we were only in town for two nights and saving our drinking for the heavy hitters in Belgium.

  1. Tales and Spirits. This cocktail bar is INCREDIBLE. They are so warm and welcoming and the space is so cozy. We walked in with a group of six just before dinner and they were happy to accommodate us. They recommended drinks based on our preferences and really made us feel at ease. The menu is monstrous, which typically makes me feel inadequate and unprepared for selecting the right drink, but there was no judgement here for taking your time to read through all the options. I ended up with the Body and Soul which includes Sake, plum wine, purple carrot juice, lemongrass syrup, ginger and yuzu juice, and Bittermen’s Hopped grapefruit bitters. I needed a little boost after our 24 hours of traveling and this really hit the spot. dsc08710
  2. The Heineken Experience. Sure – this sounds touristy. But why not?! Heineken is a beer that I overlook here in the states because we have so many amazing local beers, especially here in Raleigh. But I gotta hand it to them, it was wonderfully refreshing after miles of walking and sightseeing. The experience is truly an EXPERIENCE. There is the history and touring of the original brewery and then there is this wild lights and sounds “show” that leads you to your first beer. All in all, you get about two and and a half beers with admission and it was a great two hours spent with friends. They even have a little competition for the best pour at the end. If you are into learning about how beer is made – check it out. img_1841

Second Stop – Bruges, Belgium

Bruges was a dark horse for us on this trip. We had no idea what to expect and after just a day and a half, we were sold. This place is ADORABLE. Restaurants and bars are tucked in tiny little alleyways and they all lead you to this beautiful central square. The chocolate is plentiful and the beer is pumped through the city in underground pipes – what’s not to love! Please see below for all of our beer drinking stops, there were many.

  1. Le Trappiste. This is a bar in a basement cellar and a must-see stop. The beer options are sketched out on the wall in chalk and they are plentiful. There is a special glass for every beer, and this is a great way to try lots of different beers from across the country. dsc09150
  2. Brewery Bourgogne des Flandres. Sure, it’s a mouthful. It is also a gorgeous brewery along the canal with plenty of seating and flights of all of their beer! This was not our favorite beer of the city, but a great option to try lots of different flavors. img_20180921_144851
  3. De Garre. Ok, now listen up. This is the best beer we had in all of Europe. Everything was right. Tucked down a tiny alleyway? Check. Salami, cheese, and mustard? Check. Awesome glassware? Check. Best freaking triple of all time?!?! Check. Go here and order the Triple Van de Garre and you won’t be disappointed. And be careful, three is the limit with these powerful 11%-ers.
  4. Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan. This is the “city beer” of Bruges and what is pumped through the city in underground pipes. This is a family brewery with a beautiful space to spend an afternoon. They have a full menu, so stop here for lunch. We tried a variety of their beers and were pleased with all of them! LRG_DSC08343

Third Stop – Strasbourg/Colmar/Eguisheim, France

You wanna know where the inspiration for Beauty and the Beast came from? Visit Colmar and Eguisheim. These towns are straight out of a fairytale. We spent two nights in Strasbourg and used our full day to visit Colmar and ride bikes to Eguisheim. We had a perfect sunny day and were convinced we died and went straight to wine heaven on this bike trip. Eguisheim has wineries and shops at every turn and we stopped every chance we had. Our favorite stop was this little family owned spot, Vins d’Alsace Joseph Freudenreich. They have a courtyard for drinking and it is so serene. This region is known for Riesling and Gewurztraminer – so try them both!

Final Stop – Munich, Germany

So you know the deal here. Oktoberfest all the way. This was the main reason for the trip and everything else was built around this day. We were ready. We bought our traditional Lederhosen and Dirndls and had a table reservation and practiced for this. It was everything we expected and more. The beer tents are HUGE and the liters are plentiful. Pretzels are everywhere and the half chicken we had for lunch was delicious. Our only mistake, we went a little too hard on the liters a little too early… It would have been great to have more time to see the grounds, but we were laser focused on that tent and then stumbled our way home after we had our fill. We visited the Hacker-Pschorr and Löwenbräu tent that day. Both were incredible! We also recommend skipping the Hofbräuhaus tent at Oktoberfest and making a dinner reservation the night before instead at their full restaurant. That was another wonderful experience itself! Moral of the story – go and do it. It is not overrated, it is worth it.

You made it! You made it all the way through friendcation and to the actual recipe you probably came here for. As you can tell, plenty of alcohol was consumed on this 10-day jaunt through Europe. As a result, this week I am sharing a mocktail recipe to get us back on track and propel us straight into fall.

This spiced apple and ginger kombucha mocktail is as exactly as the name says. I have no brain power left to come up with a clever name, so too bad. The first half of this recipe is just about making a spiced apple cider – so you can stop right there if you want to serve a hot cider. You can add bourbon or brandy and serve warm with a cinnamon stick if you so desire! I was craving something cold and bubbly, so I let my cider cool and then mixed it with ginger kombucha over ice for this fall mocktail. It is still 80 degrees after all…

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Proost!


Spiced Apple and Ginger Kombucha Mocktail

Total Time: 20 minutesdsc00882

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups apple cider
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 bottles ginger kombucha
  • Cubed ice

Instructions:

Start by spicing up your apple cider by adding all ingredients through nutmeg to a saucepan. Heat on stove until simmering and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. You can also serve this cider warm now and top off with bourbon or brandy!

Add cubed ice to glasses. Pour cooled spiced cider about half way up and top with ginger kombucha. Stir 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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