thirsty thursday: spooktacular cocktails

You know that there’s a holiday coming up when I plan a post around themed cocktails! In true Alicia fashion, these festive adult beverages are geared towards toasting Halloween weekend {!!}, in the best way possible – with ‘spirits’, of course. Here are a few of my favorite cocktail and drink ideas for celebrating; may you find in-“spooky”-ration in some, or all, of them!

Cheers! 

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The Black Velvet {image & recipe c/o Real Simple}

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Witch’s Brew {recipe & image c/o Food Network}

Witch's Brew

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The Jack o’ Lantern {recipe & image c/o cocktails.about.com}

Hennessy Cognac Jack-O-Lantern Cocktail - Photo Courtesy: © Shannon Graham

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Swamp Sips {image & recipe c/o Martha Stewart}

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The Green Goblin {image & recipe c/o food.com}

Green Goblin

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The Boo Beverage {image & recipe c/o food.com}

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Spider’s Kiss {image & recipe c/o The Cocktail Project}

Midori® Spider's Kiss | The Cocktail Project

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thirsty thursday: the elder fashioned

Chilly date nights at home call for food and drink that fit the occasion.

Hot and bubbling dips.

Spicy toasted nuts, cheese and other assembled crudite.

Bold red wines.

…and of course, bourbon. Because that warms you from the soul and resonates throughout. Am I right?

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One Friday night not long ago proved no exception. Stuck inside because of torrential downpours, it was an easy decision to start the evening off with a bourbon-based cocktail. I had done a bit of research, and stumbled across today’s cocktail, the “elder fashioned”. I immediately sent it off to the hubs for review, but knew that he would go bonkers for it as soon as he read it. And sure enough, I was right.

This drink is a unique combination of spirits – never in my like would I think that bourbon and St. Germain could pair together so beautifully, but I was happily mistaken. You get all of the warm and fuzzy feelings from the bourbon, while the bright notes from the elderflower liqueur take the cocktail to new heights. The result is warm yet refreshing, complex but clean. It’s a new favorite in our household, that’s for sure.

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The Elder-Fashioned {recipe from liquor.com}

A delicious and refreshing twist on one of the most classic cocktails. 

Ingredients:

1 tsp. club soda

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 ounce St. Germain

2 ounces bourbon

optional garnish: orange twist

To Prepare:

Add all the ingredients to an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice.

Stir gently, and garnish with an orange peel {if desired}.

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Cheers!

thirsty thursday: mojito margaritas

Autumn, where did you go??

As I sit here typing this, it’s currently 75 degrees and sunny. Let me repeat myself – SEVENTY FIVE DEGREES. Ugh.

Here we are, almost into October…and I’m sharing a margarita recipe. Is this blasphemous? Well, strike that; it’s always margarita time, but I feel that since we’re solidly into fall now, I should be sharing fiery, soul-warming drinks {especially after this post}, but here I am, tempting you with a summery cocktail.

Not that you’ll be complaining after you make this drink. It’s easily a new favorite of ours, even considering that this drink is more adept for spring and summertime sipping. It combines two of my favorite drinks: a fresh, minty mojito with a tart and tangy margarita.

sidenote: how many times do y’all think I can say “margarita” in one post? 

It’s bright and sweet, but not overly so. Ideal for sipping after a long day at work, or kicking off the weekend. There’s plenty room for adjustment with this drink {an extra splash of tequila here, maybe some fresh muddled fruit added in}, and goes down so smoothly, you’ll wonder what happened!

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled….just to avoid the sin of an empty glass during happy hour.

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Mojito Margaritas {recipe adapted, minimally, from How Sweet It Is}

The combination of these two classic cocktails makes for one perfect, flavorful drink. One sip, and you’ll see why. 

Ingredients:

coarse salt + sugar for the rim
lime wedges
a bunch of fresh mint for garnish
2 1/2 ounces simple syrup {I tend to err on the lower side, as I prefer a drink that is hardly sweetened}
1 1/2 ounces tequila {I prefer silver}
1 ounces Grand Marnier
1 ounce rum
3 ounces lime juice
2 ounce club soda

To Prepare:

Take a chilled glass and rub the rim with a lime wedge. Dip the rim in a mixture of coarse salt and sugar, covering it as much as you can.

In the bottom of the glass, add 1 ounce of simple syrup and a handful of mint leaves. Muddle with a muddler or use the clean bottom of something blunt.

Add ice to the glass, and pour in the tequila, Grand Marnier, rum, lime juice and remaining simple syrup. Mix with a long spoon or knife, stirring well to combine. Add another bunch of mint leaves and a lime wedge or two. Top the glass off with club soda {a few ounces until you reach the top!}.

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Cheers!

thirsty thursday: crafting the perfect beer flight

We’re talking beer today, y’all! And being a typical lady {and lover of all things autumn}, I thought – why not share some ideas for creating the ideal beer flight? After all, the start of September means ALL.THINGS.PUMPKIN.

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I was doing my weekly grocery shop a few days ago and couldn’t help but notice all of the fall seasonal beers beginning to make their appearance on the shelves. From local brews, to popular craft breweries, and all the way up the chain to the national/international names that everyone knows, it seems that everyone is dedicating a vast majority of their brews to seasonal fall beverages. I am certainly not complaining, but the choices can be a little lot overwhelming! So naturally, I’ve brought in the hubs as my “professional” consultant on today’s post, and together we’re sharing how to kick off autumn with the perfect seasonal beer flight!

Question: What makes pumpkin beer so special? 

Answer: There is only a small window during the harvest year where pumpkin is accessible. You should NEVER use canned pumpkin puree – there is a substantial amount of flavor {and appreciation!} that comes with roasting fresh pumpkin for using in brewing. It’s also a great way to carry that pumpkin flavor out, and stretch it over a few months.

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Question: What are the main differences in the kinds of offerings? Shouldn’t they all taste the same if they’re all technically “pumpkin” beers?

Answer: That’s like saying “all chocolate cakes are the same!”. In all seriousness; the foundation of the beer, that is the pumpkin, is the same…but that is where the similarities end. Each brewer, whether on a large or small scale, has crafted their own recipes to suit their flavor profiles and taste preferences. Many on today’s market rely heavily on traditional pumpkin pie spices – this gives them a much sweeter taste than say, one that is brewed with roasted pumpkin and fewer ingredients. For a true experience, you want to ensure that your pick is made with 100% pure roasted pumpkin, and flavored according to your taste buds. Be on the lookout for labels that say only “pumpkin flavor” or “pumpkin pie spiced”, as these typically do not include fresh pumpkin in their batch.

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Question: How many varieties of beers {ales, IPAs, etc.} can we expect to see in our local stores?

Answer: The most common would be a pumpkin ale. Other ones worth looking out for {but may be harder to find} include: shandies, lagers, stouts, porters, and wheat beers. Truth be told, any type of beer can be crafted into a pumpkin beer – the style of the brew is what will make the biggest difference. My best advice is to pick a style that you like, and go from there!

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Question: What are some of your top suggestions?

Answer: In no particular order…Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, Southern Tier Pumpking, Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale, and New Belgium Pumpkick.

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And now….taking all this information and building it into your beer flight!

According to the hubs, here are some good things to keep in mind…

“Pour all four {or however many beers you’ve selected!} into separate glasses. At this point, order doesn’t matter – we are looking mainly for color and heaviness. Because we’re talking pumpkin beers today, the heaviness will all be pretty similar; so we’ll next look at the ABV {alcohol by volume}. **sidenote: if we were doing a more traditional flight, you would start with a lighter beer {like a lager}, then move on to ales and darker beers**  From this point, you’ll line up your beers from lightest color and lowest ABV, and gradually move up to darker colors and higher ABVs. Just like in any beer flight, you want to progress towards your strongest-flavored beer, so that the flavors build on each other as you go. Make sure to take an initial sip between glasses, before your second {longer} sip, so that you can clear your palette for each flavor. 

…and if all else fails, just drink them in the order where you finish with your favorite!”

Happy beer drinking, friends!

thirsty thursday: beer adventures in NC/SC

To stray slightly off from my traditional “thirsty thursday” posts, I wanted to share with y’all a recap of some of the awesome craft breweries we were able to check out while on our vacation earlier this summer! We toured throughout North and South Carolina over the course of several days; don’t ask me to pick a favorite, because I definitely couldn’t : ) Take a peak in, I hope you enjoy!

Alicia xoxo

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Stop #1: Palmetto Brewery, South Carolina 

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Stop #2: Holy City Brewery, South Carolina

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Stop #3: Revelry Brewery, South Carolina

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Stop #4: The Unknown Brewery, North Carolina

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Stop #5: Birdsong Brewery, North Carolina

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Stop #6: NoDa Brewery, North Carolina  

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thirsty thursday: infused vodka

I love finding inspiration and ideas for food and drink in the most unimaginable places. It’s funny how the mind works sometimes, isn’t it?

The other day, the hubs and I were out for a Sunday afternoon walk, revisiting memories and just talking about what sort of things we have coming up over the next few months {here’s a hint: WE.ARE.BUSY!}. So it was so funny, to me at least, that the thought of doing some sort of infused liquor should pop into my mind – but hey, this girl isn’t complaining! So we quickly switched topics as to what we should use, and what flavors we should incorporate.

After toying around with the idea a bit {we nixed bourbon, solely for the fact that I’ve seen it done countless times}, we settled on vodka. Not only is it the perfect vehicle with its clean bite and clarity, but we have a bit of surplus from summer shenanigans ; ) Our mint plant is practically bursting with fresh leaves on a daily basis, and with a pint of farm fresh strawberries in the fridge, we had come up with a plan.

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The process couldn’t be more simple.

Wash and dry your ingredients, prepare as necessary, measure the vodka.

Combine.

Strain after 24 hours.

…done! It’s as simple as that. And, like the tequila we infused earlier this summer, it will keep for quite some time.

I’m dreaming of this in all sorts of ways – mixed with club soda for a fun afternoon pick-me-up, mixed with some crisp white wine and soda water for a “jazzed up” spritzer, and of course…fun shooters! And for those in need of something quick, simply mix it with some freshly squeezed juice {watermelon, anyone?!} and you’re all set.

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Strawberry & Mint Infused Vodka 

Use this infusion to jazz up any of your favorite vodka drinks – from a fresh fruit Martini to a “kicked up” white wine spritzer, you can’t go wrong with this flavor combination!

Ingredients:

1 cup vodka {we used Smirnoff}

4 large strawberries – washed, hulled, and quartered

1 heaping cup fresh mint leaves, washed and dried thoroughly

To Prepare:

Into the bottom of a wide-mouth container with tightly fitting lid {we used a Mason jar}, pack in the mint first, then add the strawberries on top. Pour in the vodka and seal the rim tightly. Store in a cool, dark place for 24 hours.

Once the 24 hours has elapsed, strain off the strawberries and mint {you can definitely save these in a container in the fridge for a few days, but do note that they are STRONG!}. Pour the remaining vodka back into the jar. Infused liquor will keep several weeks, at room temperature.

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Cheers!

 

thirsty thursday: marinated cherries

Every spectacular drink deserves a spectacular garnish. There’s nothing more unfortunate than a handcrafted cocktail, only to be taken down a notch by a lackluster topper – be it a soggy piece of fruit, wilted herbs or, not tasty but just as ghastly, a paper umbrella {these are only OK if you’re sitting beach side in a festive, tropical resort…and that’s still iffy}.

So today, we’re taking the garnish game up a notch. We’re making marinated cherries, sure to enliven any cocktail you’ve ever imagined.

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After many times of unsuccessfully perusing the grocery store and specialty food stores here in our area, the hubs and I got tired of not finding anything that met our needs. Sure, you could plop a maraschino cherry into a drink that calls for it, but why settle when you can do better? Those cherries are meant for desserts; syrupy sweet and not bringing much to the drink itself. So we got to work, scouring recipes for ideas to make our own cocktail cherries at home.

And boy, did we hit the mark on this one! Never before have I had a cocktail cherry like this; we’ve been to some pretty swanky bourbon bars, and nothing tops these ones. It doesn’t hurt that cherries are in season, either! We used gorgeous, dark Rainier cherries for this recipe, but any one of your preference will do. The fruit soaks up the marinade beautifully – each cherry has sensational notes of bright orange, oaky bourbon and subtle vanilla.

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You’ll find yourself pining for the cherries to be done {darn that 3-day wait period!} as soon as you seal them up. They’re that good, I promise. From an Old Fashioned to a Manhattan, a fancy Martini, or just with neat bourbon, you’ll be happy you have these on hand.

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Bourbon Marinated Cherries {recipe adapted from Tasting Table}

Maraschino cherries have met their match; dare I say, they’ve been far surpassed! These marinated cherries are the epitome of awesome – oaky bourbon notes, sweet hints of orange and a taste that will blow your mind. Get creative when you make these, as they’re equally wonderful in a drink as they are on top of a grown-up ice cream sundae. 

Ingredients:

1 cup bourbon

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 {1″ strip} orange peel

1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract {we used my homemade version for an extra bourbon kick!}

1/2 lb. cherries, pitted and stems removed*

*the hubs came up with a great trick to remove the pits! – simply use a nonflexible drinking straw to force the pit out; starting at the top of the fruit, gently push down until the pit is released through the bottom. Super easy, efficient, minimal clean up…and you didn’t have to buy a cherry pitter 

To Prepare:

Combine the bourbon, sugar, orange juice and orange peel in a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.

Combine the bourbon mixture and the cherries in a 15-ounce jar and seal tightly. Allow the contents to cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator. Chill for at least three days before using.

Cherries will keep up to one month.

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Cheers!