Vanilla rosemary vodka spritz

There’s a lot to celebrate today!  Not only are we smack dab in that cookies and cocktails time of year (where every day feels sort of celebratory), but I’m especially happy to tell you that I didn’t die over the past semester.  Yesterday I turned in my dissertation proposal, which means that I’m now free of classes and could feasibly go on to write my dissertation from a Parisian cafe or a Caribbean beach town (or, more likely, my desk in Oakland…but it’s nice to dream).  Also, I’m really proud to announce (albeit a bit late — this happened, like, a month ago), that we’ve joined up with Gojee Drinks.  You can now find our recipes mixed in with others from some incredibly inspiring drink bloggers over on Gojee’s website.  So, a big cheers all around!

Today we’re going to celebrate with this vanilla rosemary cocktail.  Vanilla feels pleasantly wintery without being too heavy, especially when it’s mixed with herbs (or citrus, but let’s do that another day).  So, I’ve been heading out to our badly neglected herb garden, scavenging herbs, and then making simple syrups.

For the vanilla, it would be entirely wonderful and yummy to use a real vanilla pod, but I’ve been cheating and using vanilla bean paste, which is a vanilla extract that’s thick with ground up vanilla beans.  It’s kinda expensive initially (I found a 4 oz bottle for $8 in the bulk section at my local grocery store), but seems to last forever.  You can certainly use vanilla extract, but I think the flavor is more authentically vanilla with the paste (and of course, would probably be even better with a real pod).  By the way, if you’re substituting, 1 t vanilla paste = 1 t vanilla extract = 1 vanilla pod.

Another variation might be to serve these drinks in sugar rimmed champagne flutes.  Maybe they would look like a platter of icicles?

Vanilla rosemary vodka spritz
Makes one drink

  • 0.5 oz vanilla rosemary simple syrup *
  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 3 oz club soda
  • ice
  • optional rosemary sprig for garnish
  • optional sugar for rimming glass

With your finger, a towel or a brush, cover the rim of your glass with a bit of the simple syrup.  Next, sprinkle some sugar on a plate and dip the rim of your glass in the sugar (like we did with the cheladas way back when).  Add ice to the glass.

In a shaker or a separate glass, stir together the simple syrup, vodka and club soda.  Pour it into your glass and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

* Vanilla rosemary simple syrup

Makes 2 oz — or enough for 4 drinks

  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 1/4 c natural cane sugar
  • 1/2 c water
  • 2 drops vanilla bean paste

Combine rosemary, sugar and water in a small point.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add vanilla.  Strain to remove rosemary.

Raspberry Lillet cups

We’re on to week 10 of the summer cocktail series!  To browse through the  past 2.5 months of cocktail fun, check out the Cocktails category.

Now would be a totally appropriate time to drink a hurricane, with Irene bearing down on the East coast and all.  Or, maybe, by the time the evening comes around, it will be more appropriate to drink something called a Tropical Storm, which I momentarily considered inventing this week (I think there are some drinks out there with the name Tropical Storm, but all the recipes I found were too gross).  Rather than focusing on natural disasters, though, I thought it might be a little nicer to concentrate on one of the wonderful parts of late August.  Raspberries.

Growing up I spent July and August working at a local farm.  I remember being a kid, walking the dusty rows of raspberry brambles in the early morning with yogurt containers tied on pieces of twine around my neck.  I was supposed to fill the containers and bring them back to the farm stand for sale.  And I did, eventually.  But I think I ended up eating just as many raspberries as I picked and the sun rose high in the sky before I filled a few quarts (I liked making my rounds about the farm, curiously peering at all the veggies and seeing what was ripe before returning to the stand).  Thankfully for the farm I was only paid $2.50/hour (still not sure how that was legal), because I was a total profit sink.

After those days on the farm, raspberries will always remind me of the fading days of summer.  Sigh.  So, I suppose it’s only appropriate to use them today.  This is the last of the summer cocktail series.  School has started up again and it’s a bit difficult for me to get this post together on Fridays now.  (That said, I have a killer liqueur post in the works, so this will certainly not be the end of cocktails on this blog — we’re just going to take a break from the weekly thing.)

For our series finale, we’re combining those little bursts of sunshine and August with Lillet blanc, a fortified, citrusy aperitif wine. Lillet is yummy.  It also seems to be pretty trendy these days.  I’ve seen it all over cocktail menus this summer, it was on 101 Cookbooks last week, and it even made an appearance on Martha Stewart in June as the “perfect summer cocktail.”  So, I thought I’d contribute to the Lillet fury in this post.  Hopefully, like me, you already have a bottle in hand you’ve been wondering what to do with it, other than drink it straight (which is fine, but I think it’s even better as a mixer…).

Cheers to a wonderful and full summer!

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Here’s to week 9 of our summer cocktail series!

I had my very first beermosa a couple months back at an awesome little pub in Oakland called Commonwealth Cafe.  Later I did a bit of googling, and it seems that they’re most frequently made with Bud or PBR and are affectionately dubbed hillbilly mimosas.  There’s nothing hillbilly about the Commonwealth beermosa, though.  It’s a real class act.

The difference between the hillbilly and the Commonwealth versions is that Commonwealth makes their beermosas with a wheat beer.  Most recently they were mixing with Ale Industries’ Orange Kush, brewed with orange peels, chamomile and coriander.  Earlier in the summer they were using a white beer.  Really, any sort of lighter wheat beer (like a hefeweisen, not a dunkleweisen) is great.  A blonde ale or a summer ale will also do the trick.

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Two classic Floridita Daiquiris

I can’t believe this is week 8 of our summer cocktail series.  The only good thing about 8 weeks of summer being gone is that we’ve drank some damn fine cocktails along the way, if I do say so myself.  Click on the Cocktails category to catch up with the summer fun!

I am not the first person to write about these drinks.  I initially read about La Floridita daiquiris (or El Floridita, depending on the source) in my most favorite cocktail book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.  There are also dozens upon dozens of blog posts and articles about the daiquiris, including the daiquiri Hemingway used to drink (yes, Hemingway again…).  But, oddly, all that nice coverage doesn’t seem to be translating to cocktail menus.

In all the bars I’ve gone to I’ve never noticed a classic daiquiri on the menu.  The closest I’ve seen are plain lime daiquiris and their fruity cousins at poolside bars, Trader Vic’s, and frozen drink dispensers on Bourbon St and in Vegas.  There’s no doubt that I don’t get out to the high class joints often enough, but it seems that bars favoring classic cocktails tend to be short on rum drinks.  More than that, they also tend to run away from blended drinks.  (I know from personal experience that most bartenders hate blenders — at one bar I worked at all the bartenders unanimously agreed that the blender was “broken” for years.)

So, up until today, I’d never had the real deal.  And guess what?  It’s no wonder it’s been made into so many variations.  The original daiquiris are wonderful.

Let’s refocus our collective association of the daiquiri away from the interior of Circus Circus and toward the streets of Old Havana (which I’ve never seen in person).  All photos taken in 2010.  Images courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

A few things before we get going.  According to my dear cocktail book, in 1939 La Floridita wrote down the recipes for four daiquiris creatively named #1, #2, #3 and #4.  All of them were served on ice — not blended.  Following the four recipes there was a fifth variation called the “E. Henminway [sic] Special,” a blended version of daiquiri #3.  Vintage Spirits just shares the recipe for #4, but I found a recipe for #3 that seems about right (many others used more lime or dropped the maraschino liqueur).  So, let’s make #4 and then the E. Henminway Special.

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A blueberry French 75

Cheers to week 7 of our summer cocktail series.  I can’t believe it’s August already.  Check out the Cocktails category to what we were drinking earlier in the summer.

The first time I made a French 75 there was a fortuitous combination of events.  We had recently moved into our house in Oakland and drank most of a bottle of champagne to celebrate.  Most, you say?  Right, who doesn’t finish a bottle of champagne?  No clue.

The next evening, as we were unpacking boxes, I was looking through our very barren fridge to see what I could mix up to drink.  All we had was about a glass of champagne, the tailings of a bottle of gin and a big bag of lemons that we pillaged from the lemon tree of our rental apartment the night before we moved.

At almost the same moment, I opened up a box that had been sealed SINCE COLLEGE (I’ll spare you the long story).  In the box I found a trove of books that I had been gifted sometime in my early twenties, including this vintage cocktail book (thank you, Michelle!).  I was thumbing through it — very pleased at my 23 year old self for squirreling away some cocktail books — when I miraculously read the recipe for the French 75.

Sure enough, the French 75 is made from the very ingredients I had in the fridge.  I was initially skeptical about combing gin and sparkling wine, but boy was I wrong.  This simple old drink is a winner.

Here we’re going to add some muddled blueberries, since blueberries pair perfectly with the flavors in this classic cocktail without overpowering any of the other ingredients.  Depending on your blueberries, though, the flavor they impart can almost be too subtle.  If you have wild blueberries, use those since they’re richer.  If you don’t (and you’re sufficiently organized that you’re planning out your drinks the night before), you might consider muddling some blueberries and leaving them in the gin overnight.  That’ll help impart a deeper blueberry taste and even a fun purpley color (before you serve it, though, strain out the old berries and mix it with new berries).  If none of those options sound good, just use regular old blueberries.  I did.  Some blueberry > no blueberry!  Plus, the blueberries bob up and down in the sparkling wine, which is fun to watch.

Note: Do not leave un-caged, still-corked sparking wine unattended!  There’s literally a hole in our ceiling now (adding to the list of our poor kitchen’s battle wounds).

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Blackberry and bourbon lemonade

Welcome to week 6 of our summer cocktail series.  To see what we’ve been drinking so far this summer, click on the Cocktails category.

I know, I know.  I was supposed to post a couple photos from our hiking/camping trip.  But, I didn’t.  I’ve done nothing this week except fret about school and eat 70 pizzas.  I’m starting to wonder about the weight limitations on my desk chair.  Thankfully, I’m about to wrap up a big project and the very second I do — no matter the time of day! — I’ll be making myself a big pitcher of this amazing lemonade.  I CAN’T WAIT.

Assuming you’re not desperately finishing up a project and then celebrating with bourbon (irrespective of the time of day), I’m thinking this drink would be perfect for a sunny late afternoon in the backyard, or maybe around a fire pit at night.  It would also be an awesome accompaniment to some BBQ (and now I’m thinking about BBQ tempeh burgers again…oh, and did you see  Alex’s faux pulled pork sliders in GOOD magazine?  I love his use of grated tofu — I would have never thought of that!).  Whatever your weekend plans are, though, be sure to work this drink into them.   Blackberries, bourbon and lemonade are guaranteed to make your weekend that much better — especially when combined!

Before we go, here’s a really close-up shot of a blackberry.  I washed them afterward.  Really well.

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Boozy cucumber-ginger-lime slushies

We’re on to week 5 of our summer cocktail series (how is summer moving so quickly?!).  To catch up on past recipes, click on the Cocktails category.  For new recipes, swing by on Fridays.

I had two different recipes (I mean, food recipes) that I wanted to share with you this week.  But, somehow the week slipped through my fingers.  I didn’t do much cooking, mostly because Alex and I went on a little hiking/camping trip and because, on our return, I felt so guilty about abandoning work that I didn’t leave my computer for 3 days.  I’ll tell you more about the hiking/camping in our next post.  In this post, I want to send sympathy waves out to the people who are melting on the East coast in 100+ degree temps.  Today’s frozen cocktail is dedicated to you.

There are a couple ways you can make this slushy and I opted for the fastest way, since I thought everyone would just want to have an icy, cold drink in hand as soon as possible.  We’ll make the drink in a blender.  An alternative is to add a cup of water into the mix and then freeze it in a bowl in your freezer (similarly to how the sorbet is frozen in this post) or in your ice cream maker.  If you don’t have a blender or you want a little more intensely flavored drink, you can go that route. Continue reading

A modern Tom Collins

Welcome to week 4 of our summer cocktail series. To see past recipes, click on the Cocktails category.

Most discussions of the Tom Collins start off with a description of the drink’s history.  It’s been around since the 1870s and is often confused with a similar drink called the Gin Fizz, so the back story is interesting.  But, I’m not going to talk about that (read this if you’re interested).  Instead, I’m going to tell you that, over a summer when I was about 16, I learned that I liked a Tom Collins.

At the time, I thought that a pre-made bottle of Collins mix was necessary to make the drink.  The mix was crazy sweet and chemically, but I was 16 and had dubious taste.  It was the mid-nineties and overly sweet cocktails (__-tinis, as most of them were called) were all the rage.  Thankfully, that sort of thing has mostly fallen out of vogue (that horrid Collins mix might have had a role in ending the trend).  Since that fateful summer, I have never again personally witnessed anyone order or drink a Tom Collins.

Fast forward to my 30s.  I was sipping on a gin and fizzy lemonade and started reminiscing about my summer of Tom Collinses (can they be pluralized?).  I had no idea what was in one.  So, I looked it up.  I was stunned to find I was pretty much drinking one at that very moment.  The only thing I was missing was the characteristic garnish of a maraschino cherry and an orange slice. Continue reading

Rosé sangria with peaches and cucumber

This is week 3 of our summer cocktail series.  Check in every Friday for a fresh, light and easy summer drink.  To see our past recipes, check out the Cocktails category.

I think sangria might be one of my favorite drinks ever.  Still, I don’t make it at home nearly enough and I rarely order it when I’m out (because it always seems overly expensive).  Finally, today, after going to a restaurant last night that was serving sangria for $9 a glass, I decided to make a whole, gorgeous pitcher for a grand total of $12.  (Note: this was not good for my productivity for the day.)

This sangria is a nice and light summer version.  Rosé keeps the fruit bright and has a much softer flavor, which lets milder fruits shine through.  I used a more minerally French rose because I thought it would match nicely with the cumber.  If you use a Spanish or California rosé, the sangria will likely have have a slightly sweeter, fruity flavor (which is yummy, too!  but I like a crisp rose with the cucumber).

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Vodka-infused watermelon agua fresca + Watermelon-jalapeno margaritas

We’re on to week 2 of our summer cocktail series.  Check in every Friday for light and easy summer drinks.  If you want to see our past recipes, browse through the Cocktails category.

So, now you have a big vat of watermelon agua fresca (or you will soon enough).  It’s wonderful, light and refreshing as is.  But, it’s party time!  And you deserve a drink.  Here’s two recipes (bonus!), depending on your mood: an easy drinking vodka number and a lets-tip-our-hats-to-Mexico with a spicy tequila one (I’m super into this one).  Let’s start with the vodka and work our way up.  But first, here’s a reminder of how yummy that agua fresca looks in case you’re on the fence about making it (it’s easy!).

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