High Desert Sage Martini

You know the smell of desert sage after a rainstorm? Yup, that. In a glass.

High Desert Sage Martini

High Desert Sage Martini

High Desert Sage Martini

2 oz. Jack Rabbit Gin

2-3 dashes celery bitters

1 dash dry vermouth [seriously, just a couple of drops]

1 sage leaf, smacked lightly between your palms

Fill a martini or coupe glass with ice, and set aside to chill. To a glass filled with ice, add all ingredients except for the sage. Stir for a full minute with a bar spoon. Dump the ice out of the serving glass, and strain the cocktail into the glass; float a spanked sage leaf on top.

This year the grand total of licensed distilleries in Utah rose to a grand total of five when Beehive Distilling opened up shop here in the SLC. I wrote a piece about it for my other gig at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE, and here’s a link to that story if you want to learn more about their stuff. I’ve heard from the distillers that Jack Rabbit is trickling onto UT state liquor store shelves a few bottles at a time.

Several folks have asked me what’s my favorite cocktail made with their first release, Jack Rabbit Gin, and it’s a tie between a sage and celery bitters dry martini [above], and a cocktail made by a kickass bar man, Rich Romney, at an event I attended last weekend [they called it the “Hachi Hive,” it’s made with honey-sage syrup; “hachi” means “bee” in Japanese]. I’ll work on that recipe this week and post it as a H.O.A.G.Y. [Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?], since a few people at the event with me have been dying to make it at home. It’s that good. I’ll pester my barkeep friend and get back to you, but I know it contains St. Germain elderflower liqueur and wouldn’t it figure, every state monopoly liquor store I’ve been to in the past two weeks was totally sold out. FML. So, for now, there’s the recipe for the sage martini, and I’m also working on getting my paws on some Ransom vermouth from Portland to try out another freaking delicious orange-zapped martini made by Takashi’s hottie barman, Jonny Bonner.

If you are a gin lover who really goes for big bold juniper flavors, this gin may not be your fave, since it’s got a more subtle juniper profile than many on the market. But I don’t understand why some critics out there feel compelled to get all bowed up about what’s the “best” gin. Quite frankly, I think there are enough badass gins out there now that it’s time we start thinking of having a gin repertoire, like many folks already do for whiskey. There are enough significant flavor differences that it’s worth trying a few to figure out what you like, and in what type of drink. And as y’all know, I’m all for R&D!

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Sassy Orange Julep

Bourbon-Campari Sassy Orange Julep

Bourbon-Campari Sassy Orange Julep

I’m going to cut straight to the chase on this one–well, as much as I ever do–because it is so good. So refreshing. So few ingredients! Plus, I abso-freaking-LOVE Campari cocktails of any kind, and this is like a classic Boulevardier cocktail, but lighter, fruity-er and served on the rocks. If you still have some of that minted syrup left over from Derby weekend, now, my friend, is the time to use it up or pitch it out because pretty soon you’re going to have that nasty sugar gel bacteria glob baby growing in the middle of your syrup. Nasty.

This is also really good made with plain old simple syrup (equal parts granulated sugar dissolved in very hot water until combined, then cooled) too, but add a bit more mint to your shaker.  No need to muddle the shit out of your mint; you’ll get plenty of flavor by just adding it to the shaker and letting it beat up against all that ice while you shake it like a Polaroid picture.

Now you’ve got that song stuck in your head, too.  You’re welcome. Sh-sh-sh-sh-shake it.

To a cocktail shaker add:

1.5 oz bourbon

0.5 oz Campari

4-5 leaves fresh mint

The juice of ½ fresh orange

1 oz simple syrup (BONUS if you’ve got minted simple syrup)

Enough ice to almost cover your ingredients

Shake it shake it shake it until frothy.

Pour into a pint mason jar or (in this photo) Belgian beer glass.  Pretty!  Add another 1-2 oz. club soda if it’s particularly hot day and you are pacing yourself.

White Wine Sangria with Melon & Mint  

My guys last season. Awwwww

My guys last season. Awwwww

Nothing heralds Spring quite like baseball season in our house. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a completely shallow fan of the game. I’m not super invested in a particular team, don’t follow stats with regularity, and am an inconsistent televised viewer. But I freaking love the experience of live games. When I worked for the National Park Service based out of Boston [this is pre-kids, y’all], I traveled a shit-ton for my job as a museum consultant, and a couple of my co-workers were also big baseball fans. We’d plan our summer evenings around visiting AAA, double-A, and single-A ballparks for games. We’d get there early, buy a hot dog and some peanuts, and drink draft beers which would invariably get warm long before we’d finish them in the humid dank heat of mid-summer in say, Virginia.

Both my boys play, and my hubster, The Macallan, has been a little league coach for forever. Sure, I love watching my kids’ games, but there’s nothing quite like seeing the pros [or in the case of our town, the Salt Lake Bees, a AAA farm team for the Angels] knock out nine innings. We plan our family road trips around visiting as many MLB ballparks as we can, since we’ve made a goal of hitting every major league stadium for a game before our youngest graduates from high school.

The Colorado Rockies players were super-friendly with the kids and signed a ton of pre-game autographs. Thanks, guys!

The Colorado Rockies players were super-friendly with the kids and signed a ton of pre-game autographs. Thanks, guys!

A couple of weeks ago, we took a break from the mayhem of shoulder season [in our house, it’s the overlap of the kids still ski racing, and the beginning of little league baseball #FML – hence, taking a month off from blog-writing. Sorry!], and went to a couple of preseason games in Arizona during “Cactus League” Spring training. One of the nicer surprises of the visit was checking out the Rockies/Diamondbacks practice facility Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Those folks know how to run a badass ballpark: gracious and helpful staff, parking was efficient and easy, the practice fields gorgeous, and the Rockies players were genuinely fan-friendly and signed tons of autographs for the kids pregame. There were even complementary sunscreen dispensers located around the ballpark, with free-flow SPF 30. Nice.

32 oz. white sangria at Salt River Fields [at Talking Stick, near Scottsdale, Arizona]

32 oz. white sangria at Salt River Fields [at Talking Stick, near Scottsdale, Arizona]

As you’d imagine, I base a lot of my positive stadium experience on the adult beverage and food selection, and Salt River Fields did not disappoint. Lots of great microbrews on tap, terrific selection of ballpark standard fare as well as local nosh [fantastic street tacos and margaritas the size of your head!], and my favorite: 32 oz. sangrias. Choose red or white, mixed up with as my barely-dressed barmaid described, “wine, brandy, Sprite, and fruit juice.” Not what I’d use, but it’s an efficient and delicious vehicle for dispensing alcoholic refreshment. So, while my guys discretely ogled the halter-clad and short-short sporting drinks slingers, I appreciated the players warming up pre-game, and sipped [okay, guzzled] my humongous sangria. I find these athletes vigor, flexibility, and dedication to fitness as showcase exceptionally well in baseball pants inspiring. Very. Inspiring.

Rockies pre-game warm up. Their athleticism is inspiring. Very. Inspiring.

Rockies pre-game warm up. Their athleticism is inspiring. Very. Inspiring.

Mmmm, baseball. A little something for everyone.*

Here’s my version of white wine sangria, which is more flavor-packed than “authentic.” Mix it up on a scorching day for instant refreshment. Halter tops and tight pants optional.

White Wine Sangria with Melon & Mint  [makes about 6 cups]

1 750-ml bottle dry white wine

½  cup Melon liqueur [like Midori] OR orange liqueur [such as Cointreau]

2 Tbs. [or more, to taste] agave nectar

1 cup honeydew melon, cubed into ½” pieces

1 lemon, sliced

1 cup seedless green grapes, halved

1 10 oz. bottle club soda, chilled

6 stems fresh mint

 

White Wine Sangria with Melon  Mint

White Wine Sangria with Melon & Mint

To a large pitcher, add all ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Fill six tumblers or large wine glasses with ice, and pour sangria over ice. Smack the mint sprigs between your palms [as if clapping], to release fragrance and place a sprig of mint in each glass. Split the fruit equally between the glasses as a garnish and for yummy boozing snacking.

* Yes, I realize this is shallow and objectifying the undeniable talent that it takes to mix drinks or play major-league baseball. But this blog is about mixing drinks and enjoying all that life has to offer, not about changing the rules of society. Everybody’s got their thing.

Fat Tuesday Finger Food

Three “Big Easy” Appetizers 

Our family is not great about observing Lent, but we LOVE celebrating Mardi Gras. We usually forget about Friday being meat-free [hello, bacon], and cave on our abstentions around week two. When asked why they missed so many days of Sunday School in the winter, our kids told their teachers that “everyone knows you get powder day exemptions” November to March. Don’t know if the Pope’s approved that one, but it works for us. One year, the boys decided to ‘give up’ donuts for Lent, completely undermining the only bribery that had ever worked for getting them to Mass in the first place. They are a couple of clever whippersnappers, those boys. I’m so proud.

My gal Sazerac and her yummy etouffee.

My gal Sazerac and her yummy etouffee.

But back to Mardi Gras. I’m writing a piece about The Sazerac—one of my all-time favorite cocktails—for cityhomeCOLLECTIVE , so enlisted a specialized crew of my friends to help me out with an early photo shoot last week. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a little freaky planning my holiday life about three weeks earlier than I’m actually ready for Mardi Gras, but what’s a gal to do? Well, in this case, keep the food as simple and easy to throw together as possible, with a minimum of fuss and clean-up to boot. I’m swimming in backyard eggs from my hens, so making Southern-style deviled eggs with homemade pickled okra garnishes was an easy pick. I also snagged a big ‘ol wedge of Cajun-spiced  goodness crafted by one my favorite Utah cheesemakers, Beehive Cheese, which ended up as part of an addictive filling for mushroom caps finished off in the oven right before the party. I love the savory-sweet combo of traditional Devil’s on Horseback, but changed them up a bit with Southern flavors: dates stuffed with smoked oil-packed jalapeños I put up last fall, watercress goat-cheese filling, and topped with locally-made Creminelli salumi. I’m tellin’ ya: Holy goddamn yum, y’all.

My gal Sazerac [from last Halloween’s Poison Apple party] brought fixins for crayfish etouffee and flash-fried grit cakes. She swears she just Googled “easy etouffee” and “Emeril,” and ended up with the recipe that she used and “tweaked it, maybe a little.” Well, we’re too polite to pry, but I’ll get to the bottom of this secret if I can. Oh, what I do for y’all in the name of research.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Crawfish Etouffee

Crawfish Etouffee

 

Big John’s Cajun Stuffed ‘Shrooms 

Big John's Cajun Stuffed 'Schrooms

Big John’s Cajun Stuffed ‘Shrooms

These were the hands-down hit of the party. Even my man, who never eats mushrooms, scarfed down about five of these bad boys. I’m going to start making them all year ‘round, they are that good.

24 oz. baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed

4 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temp

6 oz. Beehive Cheese “Big John Cajun,” finely shredded [divided use]

2 scallions, minced

¼ cup minced fresh red or orange bell pepper

½ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. celery salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Meanwhile, combine cream cheese, 4 oz. of the shredded cheese [save about 2 oz. for topping the mushrooms], veggies, and seasoning in a bowl using a fork to smash or in a food processor using quick on/off pulses. Divide filling between all the mushroom caps evenly, adjusting for size of the mushroom as needed. Sprinkle each cap with a bit of the remaining 2 oz. shredded cheese. Bake on the middle rack in the oven until cheese is slightly browned and filling is bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

“Big Easy” Stuffed Dates

Dates with smoked preserved jalapenos, goat cheese-watercress filling, and Creminelli's "Campania" salami

Dates with smoked preserved jalapenos, goat cheese-watercress filling, and Creminelli’s “Campania” salami

I usually use some of my home-cured wild goose or antelope andouille to top cheese stuffed dates, but am plum out right now. We are huge fans of locally-made Creminelli artisan salami, and their slightly smoky spiced uncured “Campania” variety married wonderfully with the sweet dates, tart watercress, and creamy goat cheese. The smoked preserved jalapeños [from Hank Shaw’s fantastic blog] are completely optional but highly recommended.

5 oz. goat cheese, room temp

2 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temp

½ bunch fresh watercress [about ½ cup packed]

4 dozen large dates, split down one side to open and pits removed

3-4 oz. Creminelli “Campania” salami

2-3 oz. smoked preserved jalapeños, chopped

To a small food processor add cheeses and watercress, combine until smooth using on/off pulses. To each date, stuff first with a few pieces of smoked jalepeno, add about 1 tsp. [or slightly more, depending on the size of date] cheese filling. Slice salami into thin rounds, then cut each round again into 3-4 strips. Top each date with a strip of salami. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours or serve immediately.

Campania, Goat Cheese & Watercress Stuffed Dates

Campania, Goat Cheese & Watercress Stuffed Dates and Devilish Eggs with spicy okra

Devilish Eggs

Y’all know how to make perfect hard-boiled eggs with no grey ring, right? Place eggs in a shallow pan, cover with water, and bring to just a bare boil. Boil gently for one minute, then immediately turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan. Let eggs sit in the hot water for 12 minutes. Pour out the hot water, then cover eggs with cold running water and a few cubes of ice until cool to touch. Keep refrigerated until ready for use. 

Backyard Chicken Eggs. Good work, ladies!

Backyard chicken eggs make for the most gorgeous yolks!

Keep 'em coming, ladies!

Keep ’em coming, ladies!

6 eggs, hard boiled, peeled, and cut in half [reserve yolks in a separate bowl]

3 heaping Tablespoons mayo

3 heaping teaspoons country Dijon or coarse-grained Cajun mustard

Sliced rounds of pickled okra and red pepper for garnish

A few dashes of Louisiana hot sauce, optional

Smash egg yolks with a fork until fine grained and evenly crumbly. Mix in mayo and mustard, smash to combine well. Fill egg whites equally with yolk mix. Can be covered and refrigerated for up to 12 hours. Just before serving, garnish with pickled okra and pepper rounds, and a couple of dashes of hot sauce.

Devilish Eggs

Devilish Eggs

New York Sour

Classic New York Sour made with rye whiskey and homemade sour mix

Classic New York Sour made with rye whiskey and homemade sour mix

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y. (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) comes via the ABG Instagram feed [@abourbongal] from a local cutie, Sparkling Rosé. Here’s her request:

“I’m throwing a birthday party for a friend. I want to have semi-fancy cocktails but I don’t want them to take forever to make; there will be a lot of people at the event and I’m the only bar tender [ABG note:  you go, girl!]. Have you ever made homemade sour mix?! I was thinking a New York Sour would be fun and easy.”

Sours ARE fun and easy! And really goddam delicious. Several bars in the SLC make delicious New York-style sours, two of my favorites being Whiskey Street and The Copper Onion. A couple of weeks ago we made a Tullahoma Whiskey Sour for my dear friend Strawberry Julep, but that was makin’ one cocktail, not prepping for a crowd. Commercial sour mixes are, IMHO, cloyingly sweet and thick. Some have tons of corn syrup, and lots of preservatives to keep them shelf stable. Once you’ve tasted fresh-made sour mix, you’ll be able to spot the bright notes of just-squeezed citrus quicker than a 75% off sale at H&M and it makes all the difference in the freakin’ world. Except for the run to Costco for your bags of lemons & limes [you’re going anyway, right?], and squeezing all those suckers, making the sour mix is dead simple.

The New York Sour makes for a terrific Valentine’s cocktail** or, in Sparkling Rosé’s case, a festive party drink. Why? Well, it’s got a nice sweet-sour balance point, making it perfect for soirées when you don’t know if you’ll have guests who like super-sweet cocktails or will be serving purists who just want some high-proof bourbon, served neat. The finishing float of red wine makes it super pretty AND festive. As booze historian David Wondrich describes, back in the day [like, the mid and later 1800s] barkeeps claimed all of their New York sours were topped with “the claret ‘snap’” –really any fruity red wine fancily declared ‘claret’ no matter the origin, but a Bordeaux works especially well in this application. It’s a fun bit of drinks history: the ‘sour’ is a fancy single-mixed drink adaptation of the ubiquitous Punch during the Victorian age. It’s kind of a proto-cocktail. The recipe I use is loosely based on the one Wondrich quotes in his cocktails history bible Imbibe! [p. 103], which he found in the 1869 Steward & Barkeeper’s Manual:

One wine glass [2 oz.] of spirits

Half wine glass [1 oz.] of water

One Tablespoonful of sugar

Half of a lemon

Method: “Squeeze a portion of the lemon into the tumbler, which should be a quarter full of ice, and rub the lemon on the rim of the glass. Stir with a spoon…. In the manufacture of fixes and sours a small bar-glass or ordinary tumbler is employed.”

ABG note: wine glasses were really freaking tiny back in the day, right?

So, basically the barkeep was mixing up impromptu simple syrup with just a bit more than equal portion of citrus. And sours can be made with brandy, gin, amaretto, rum, applejack [The New Jersey Sour], just about any liquor, although the New York Sour was traditionally made with rye. In making homemade sour mix, I’ve found that the ratio of simple syrup to citrus is just about right at two parts syrup to three parts citrus. As noted before when making drinks in the ‘sours’ category, a little pinch of salt gives a great tart pinch to cocktails.

 *Homemade Sour Mix: makes about 2 ½  cups [about 20 oz.] of sour mix for 10-12 cocktails.

Here’s my super-basic recipe for homemade sour mix. Really, the ratios depend on what kind of citrus I’ve got on hand, and what I’m mixing with. More lemon goes great with whiskey, more lime with tequila. I’ve made great sour mix using grapefruit and lemon for amaretto sours. I’m sure you know the trick about microwaving citrus for 10+ seconds and rolling it to extract the most juice, ’cause you are a bar god/goddess. Own it!sourMix

Make a simple syrup with 1 cup boiling water mixed with 1 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve, and let cool to room temp. Meanwhile, juice 1 generous cup freshly squeezed lemon juice [4-5 large juicy lemons], and 1/2 cup juice from fresh-squeezed limes [4 limes].  Or, whatever ratio of citrus you like that gets you 2 parts simple syrup to 3 parts citrus juice. Strain the citrus through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and pulp. Mix citrus and syrup together [I like shaking & storing it in a quart mason jar], and it will keep in the fridge for weeks.

New York Sour

The great thing about mixing drinks at home [especially in Utah], is that you can mix them to YOUR taste, not to the letter o’ the state liquor law. So, fair warning, this drink is a bit stiffer than the one you’ll be served at a bar in the Beehive state. The egg white is totally optional – I’ve got fresh eggs coming out the wahzoo from my backyard hens so I’m not worried about cooties—it just gives the drink a little more velvety body and helps the wine “float.” If I’m making drinks for a crowd I leave the egg out ‘cause it’s a total pain in the ass to crack all of ‘em perfectly and you don’t want ANY yolk ending up in your drink [yellow strings of egg = gross].

2 oz. rye whiskey

1.5 -2.0 oz. homemade sour mix*

0.5 oz. Disaronno [or amaretto liqueur]

1 egg white [optional]

Tiny pinch of sea salt

0.5 oz. rich fruity red wine [like Bordeaux]

New York Sour

New York Sour

Add all ingredients except the wine to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake like crazy. Strain into a highball glass or tumbler filled with fresh ice. Pour wine slowly over the back of a spoon to “float” on top of the cocktail.

 ** In case you are color blind, never go to the ‘seasonal’ aisle in the store, or don’t have a calendar, I’ll remind you that Valentine’s Day is THIS Friday, y’all. It’s hard to believe, but it was just about this time last year that I’d started this here blog [I know! A year!], and posted a rant on why y’all should avoid restaurants for V-day, and might choose to make “Oh, You Sexy Beets!” Dirty Martinis at home, instead. It’s a tougher sell this year, since a Friday or Saturday holiday doesn’t get the middle-of-the-week buy-out. Sucks to be you. I also recently posted a blog over at my other gig at cityhomeCOLLECTIVE about Chocolate-centric stuff you can do all this month in the SLC. Why save the romance for one day? 

Hemingway Mojito: another Mason jar cocktail

Hemingway Mojito: Grapefruit, rum, Disaronno, ginger syrup, mint & kumquat

Hemingway Mojito: Grapefruit, rum, Disaronno, ginger syrup, mint & kumquat

I’m all up in here canning kumquats this week. They’re delightful little buggers with the wonderful dichotomy of having the reverse tastes of most citrus: bitter fruit and sweet skin. They’re definitely not in the Canning 101 category. Like okra and apricots, they’re notorious floaters and take quite a bit of pre-canner finessing [soaking in baking soda, pricking the skin to prevent bursting, etc.]. I’ll post the recipe soon, not to worry.

Right now, I’m frantically packing and getting ready for a trip to Louisville to see my fan-damily AND attend the Bourbon Classic with my mom and sis. Girls trip! Until I get back and tell all y’all about my boozy adventures in the Bluegrass, I hope this will tide you over.

Hemingway Mojito [story soon, promise!]

4 mint leaves

2 oz. aged rum [like Mount Gay]

0.5 oz. Disaronno liqueur

4 oz. grapefruit juice

1 oz. ginger simple syrup*

Additional mint leaves and a kumquat for garnish [or, a gingered kumquat in rum-mint syrup, if you’ve got ‘em. If not, I’ll be sharing the recipe real soon!]

To a pint Mason jar, add all ingredients except garnish. Fill with ice, leaving about 1” head space. Attach lid, and shake like crazy. Remove lid and add a little club soda, if desired, and the extra mint garnish.  Enjoy!

*to make ginger simple syrup: make a pint of simple syrup as usual, then add about 1/3 cup rough chopped peeled fresh ginger while still hot. Cool to room temp, add lid to jar, and refrigerate overnight. Strain out ginger before using. Keep refrigerated, and it’ll last a couple of weeks.

Tullahoma Whiskey Sour

Tullahoma Tennessee Whiskey Sour

Tullahoma Tennessee Whiskey Sour

 

This weeks H.O.A.G.Y. (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) comes from my college gal pal Strawberry Julep (yup, she’s just that sweet and sassy) who sent me a Facebook message:

“I had a drink in a restaurant recently that I just loved. I copied the menu description here for you to see.  I suck at trying to recreate drinks but figured if anyone could, it would be you [ed note:  Awww, thanks gal!].  It tasted kind of like a margarita made with whiskey instead of tequila.  It was a little tart. My girlfriends and I added salt and that made it super smooth (and therefore deadly!). I’d love to mix these up at home. Can you help?”

Absolutely!  The barkeep’s description of the cocktail (called “The Derailed”) called for Chattanooga Whiskey Reserve, triple sec, mint-infused simple syrup, and lemon juice.

Sounds to me like this is a fine example of a Whiskey Sour, the raspy pack-a-day voiced barfly of the cocktail world.  In this case, sweetened up a little with triple sec  and mint syrup.  We’ve talked about using mint syrup previously on this here blog, and it’s a wonderful concoction to keep on hand for impromptu Juleps, Mojitos, etc.

First things, first:  I couldn’t get my hot little hands on any Chattanooga Whiskey Reserve in Utah, but after a bit of research decided that I’d substitute another Tennessee Whiskey widely available here with what I think is a similar flavor profile [in this case, Dickle 8 yr Tennessee Whiskey].  Lemme know if I’m wrong on this one, friends.  As my gal Strawberry Julep noted, adding a pinch of salt is a clever trick to balance out sweet and tart in a cocktail, and works well especially with drinks in the ‘sours’ category.  When life gives you lemons, make a badass Whiskey Sour!

Tullahoma Whiskey Sour

1.5 oz. Tennessee Whiskey

0.5 oz. Cointreau

Pinch of sea salt

1.5 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 oz. mint simple syrup

Fill a cocktail shaker ½ way with ice.  Add all ingredients, and shake like crazy. You want this to be super frothy and cold.  Fill a tall Collins glass (or Old Fashioned glass, the classic) with large ice cubes.  Strain the shaker into the glass.  Garnish with fresh mint, a couple of lemon slices, and another generous pinch of sea salt over the top.  This is one of the few cocktails I like with a long straw.

The PomeGrenade

This week’s H.O.A.G.Y!  (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?):  a pomegranate-tequila-sparkling wine cocktail

The PomeGrenade - made with Pomegranate-tequila liqueur

The PomeGrenade – made with Pomegranate-tequila liqueur

My gal Big Bold California Cab brought me back a bottle of tequila-based La Pinta Pomegranate Liqueur after her last turn-around to Mexico (she’s a flight attendant for a major airline).  She said all of the folks she worked with were raving about the stuff.  They mostly liked it on the rocks mixed with diet lemon-lime soda, or with seltzer, but they’d like to try it out in some festive cocktails.  It’s definitely a tequila-forward liqueur (38 proof – 19% ABV), with a bright ruby color and not-too-cloying sweet fruity tone that rings pretty true to pomegranate with some cranberry notes; it also has a slight citrus finish.

Well, with it being New Year’s and all, I thought it would be perfect in a champagne cocktail!  I’m in the middle of writing a piece for CityHomeCOLLECTIVE about the French 75 for my “Cocktails 101” series, so I have WWI artillery (it’s named after the eponymous 75 mm gun), and champagne on the brain already.  The old root of the word “pomegranate” comes from the French name for the fruit first cultivated in Persia; the French called it a pomme-grenade. The word “grenade”—referring to ordinance—is believed by historians to come from the Old French word that alluded to the resemblance of hand-sized bombs to the fragmented nature of the fruit within its spherical hull.  Hence, the fruity AND explosive moniker for this cocktail.  Plus, it will totally knock you on your ass after one or three.  BOOM.

So, here ya go, my flighty friends!  I’m happy to take any and all extra drinks coupons you may have laying around off y’alls hands in exchange.

The PomeGrenade

½ teaspoon superfine sugar

Juice of ¼ lime (plus a nice long twist cut from the rind)

1.5 oz. pomegranate liqueur

2 oz. sparkling wine (champagne, prosecco, or whatever you’ve got open)

To a cocktail shaker add sugar, lime, pomegranate liqueur, and 4-5 cubes ice.  Shake like crazy, and strain into a martini glass.  Fill to rim with champagne.  Garnish with a long lime twist.

Bourbon Caramel Spiced Bar Nuts

Perfect to go along with your Thanksgiving cocktails!

I love making handmade gifts for the holidays, and these bar nuts fit the bill perfectly:  tasty, easy to throw together quickly, and gorgeous in a pretty jar or crinkly bag.  Plus, they make your house smell hella good when they’re roasting!  I made these for our Supper Club a few years back and they’ve been a favorite ever since; great with salads or alongside cocktails.  Technically, they’re really not a ‘caramel,’ but the presence of sugar and butter together gives it that distinctive caramel-ly flavor.  I fix up a few batches of these sweet-spicy-savory treats just before Thanksgiving and have ‘em on hand for football tailgating, hostess gifts, and impromptu cocktail parties through the New Year.  For the mixologist in your life, snuggle a box of bar nuts alongside a great bottle of booze and some swanky mixers.

Cheers, y’all!

Bourbon Caramel Spiced Bar Nuts

Bourbon Caramel Spiced Bar Nuts

Bourbon Caramel Spiced Bar Nuts

2 ½ lbs. unsalted nuts (just pecans, or any combo you like)

3 Tbs. butter, softened to room temperature

½  cup brown sugar

¼ cup bourbon

1 tsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 ½ Tbs. smoked sea salt (any variety, any color)

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

1 Tbs. raw, turbinado, or other large-grained sugar (for finishing)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread nuts evenly out on a large rimmed cookie sheet.

To a very large mixing bowl, add all remaining ingredients except for the raw/turbinado sugar.  Stir to combine well (it’s okay if the butter is a little lumpy, it will melt later).

Toast nuts on the center rack of the oven until they are fragrant and golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Immediately toss the nuts into the large bowl with the other ingredients and stir with a large spoon until evenly covered.  Spread all of the nuts out in an even layer on the rimmed cookie sheet; sprinkle with turbinado or sanding sugar. After cooling for about 15 minutes, taste, and adjust with a little salt or spice to your liking.  Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for one month.

I recently served these nuts for a photo shoot on a piece I wrote for CityHomeCOLLECTIVE about Hot Toddies.  Check it out!

Pretty in Pink: A Cranberry-Prosecco Sparkler

I’m super excited.

Pretty in Pink:  A Cranberry-Prosecco Sparkler

Pretty in Pink: A Cranberry-Prosecco Sparkler

Tonight I am meeting twenty or so women who are guests of Westminster College’s “Party Board” for a gal’s night out fundraising event supporting the general scholarship fund.  I’m a huge fan of the liberal arts—my undergrad years were spent at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN—and I’m an even bigger fan of women getting together for some fashion, fun, and Autumn-inspired cocktails mixed up by Yours Truly.  I promised them in advance I’d post the recipes on the blog so they can look ‘em up later.  Here goes, ladies!

Pretty in Pink: A Cranberry-Prosecco Sparkler

0.5 oz cranberry vodka*

3-4 oz. Prosecco

To a champagne flute, add 0.5 oz. cranberry-infused vodka.  Top with the Prosecco (how much depends on the size of your glass).  Garnish with a skewer of sugar-dusted vodka soaked cranberries left over from your infusion.  When you drop the skewer into the Prosecco, the sugar reacts to the carbonation of the wine and makes it bubble up even more.  Festive!

*To make cranberry vodka:  (Easily halved if you only need enough for a few cocktails) To a large clean quart lidded glass jar add 10 oz. dried unsulfured low-sugar cranberries.  Pour over enough vodka to fill the jar (about 3 to 3 ½ cups).  Place in a cool place away from direct sunlight, and shake daily for 1 week.  After a week, strain the vodka through a fine mesh strainer, reserving the vodka-soaked cranberries to make lovely garnishes.  If you are going to use the vodka immediately, it does not require refrigeration. If you are going to keep the vodka for longer-term storage, remove all sediment and fruit residue by filtering through a triple layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter.

The Wasatch Mule

The Wasatch Mule

We also made Pear-Ginger Mules:  Here’s a link to the Wasatch Mule recipe on a past blog post. 

XOXO, y’all!