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!

thirsty thursday: minty orange gimlet

In case you couldn’t tell, we’ve been on a bit of a fruity cocktail kick lately.

This drink is no exception…

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Does that not look like summer in a glass? There’s something so gorgeous about summertime cocktails – perhaps it’s the bright colors of citrus, or the aroma of fresh mint {from my herb garden, no less!}, that makes them seem extra special. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a good cocktail any time of year, but again, they just seem so fitting for summer. Warm, lazy evenings watching the sun set practically begs for a nightcap; albeit a light and refreshing one.

That’s where this drink comes into play. The hubs has been having fun creating syrups and flavor combinations that pay homage to summer, and this cocktail does just that. The clean flavor of vodka is the perfect backdrop for fresh citrus notes, and when topped off with the fresh mint, it really doesn’t get better.

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This has been on rotation for some time already in our household, and I guarantee you’ll be enjoying it frequently too ; ) I’m thinking it might be fun to shake up the next time or two…perhaps with grapefruit instead? Only time will tell – enjoy!

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Minty Orange Gimlet {recipe adapted from Food52}

Fresh and bright, this summer cocktail is bursting with flavor! From the sweet mint to the zesty orange, this drink only gets better as you enjoy it. Easily adaptable to make in large batches, too; perfect for summer entertaining. 

Ingredients:

1/2 to 1 ounce orange simple syrup*

1-1/2 to 2 ounces vodka

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

1/4 navel orange, sliced

ice cubes

club soda, for finishing

mint leaves, for the drink and also for garnish

*to make the orange simple syrup: use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the skin of the orange, taking care to maintain large strips. Add in the zest, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup of water to a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool, then cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge, tightly covered, for several weeks. 

To Prepare:

In the bottom of a glass, muddle the sliced orange and mint.

In a cocktail shaker, combine the syrup, lime juice, vodka, and ice. Shake well and pour into the glass with muddled orange and mint, and fresh ice. Top with a splash of club soda.

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Cheers!

thirsty thursday: rosemary & gin goddess

No matter the season, the time of year…I always find myself coming back to it. I do hereby profess my love for all cocktails that are gin-based. And this drink, y’all, is no different.

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In fact, this could almost be my new go-to in the summer. There’s something about gin that just screams “summertime” to me – it’s crisp and refreshing, doesn’t need much to transform it, but can pair so beautifully with many other ingredients. It’s simple to elevate a classic ‘gin and tonic’ with just a few slices of cucumber, or perhaps another apertif {but we’ll save that for another day}…but for today, I give you gin. Gin, paired with rosemary and lemon.

I’ll let that sink in for just a minute.

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This cocktail is so dangerously good that it should be illegal. Seriously. The hubs and I made a batch of these not long ago, and I had to restrain myself from slurping it down too fast. It’s just.that.darn.good. Preparing the rosemary simple syrup the night before you’re planning on cocktails, this drink comes together in a matter of minutes.

I recommend having enough ingredients on hand, because you’ll find yourself heading back inside to make another round. Mostly because this is an ideal porch-sipping drink on a lazy summer evening, but even more so because you’ll find yourself impossible to resist just one.

Cheers!

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Rosemary & Gin Goddess {recipe from Food52}

Appropriately named because this cocktail is seriously that amazing – nothing but the best ingredients, and suited for royalty. This is one for the books, y’all – one taste and you’ll fall in love.

Rosemary Syrup:

1/4 cup rosemary leaves, with the stems on

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

To Prepare the Syrup:

Bring the water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Add in the rosemary leaves and sugar, allowing the sugar to melt completely into the boiling liquid. Remove from heat, and cool completely. Store {with the rosemary leaves still inside} in a tightly sealing jar in the refrigerator.

Ingredients {cocktail}:

1-1/2 ounces good gin {we used Hendricks, but whatever your favorite is will be just fine}

3/4 ounces rosemary syrup

3/4 ounces fresh lime juice

club soda, for topping off

fresh rosemary sprig, for garnish

To Prepare {cocktail}:

Fill a tall glass with ice. Add in the gin, lime  juice, rosemary syrup and stir to combine.

Top with a splash of club soda, stir briefly, and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

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Enjoy!

thirsty thursday: spicy watermelon margaritas

As promised last week, here’s part two!

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spicy. watermelon. margaritas.

I mean, this is what I’ve been waiting for! And I’m going to go ahead and say that you have too…you just might not know it yet.

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I feel like I say this more often than I should, but I mean it 10000000% this time. This is the drink of summer, the drink to put all other summer cocktails to shame. One look at that color, just look! It’s gorgeous. Stunning.

It reminds me of the pink streaks at sunset during summer. I’m in love. Both with summer and this drink. Forever and ever.

Fresh watermelon juice meets hot, spicy tequila – and the result could not be more spectacular. I’ve mentioned that I was never terribly fond of overly spicy things as a child, but it just goes to show you how your palette changes and develops as you get older {even typing the word “older” made me cringe a little bit}. But I sure am glad it does happen! Because making this drink has changed my summer cocktail experience. The hubs and I have been making variations of this for several weeks now, and I am beyond thrilled to share it with you today! Happy summer sipping, y’all!

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Spicy Watermelon Margaritas

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how refreshing this drink is! The perfectly sweet watermelon is nicely complemented by the punchy tequila; a surefire winner for any summer get-together.

Ingredients:

8 ounces watermelon juice*

1 ounce habanero-infused tequila

1 ounce silver tequila {or if you dare, double up on the amount of the habanero-infused tequila!}

simple syrup, to taste {here’s my recipe; simply omit the sliced ginger used}

ice, for the glass

fresh mint springs or basil leaves, for garnish

*To make the watermelon juice: roughly chop about 1/4 of a large {seedless} watermelon. In batches, add the chopped fruit into the bowl of a food processor, and processing until no chunks remain. Using a large bowl lined with cheesecloth, pour the processed watermelon onto it; the solids will separate from the juice, and you’ll be left with gloriously pink and sweet watermelon juice! Make sure to store any remaining in the refrigerator, tightly sealed. 

To Prepare:

In a large rocks glass filled with ice, pour in the fresh watermelon juice. Add in the two tequilas, and stir vigorously to combine. Take a small sip, and adjust the taste {AKA the spiciness!} with several dashes of simple syrup to suit your palette. Garnish with fresh mint and/or basil.

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Enjoy!…and do yourself a favor by sitting porch-side in the sun. It’s the best way to enjoy cocktails in the summer, no? : )

thirsty thursday: bulleit rose sangria

Sangria. Need I say more?

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Not too long back, a good friend of mine {hi, Suzanne!} and I were chatting about summer time and some of the fun things that I should be whipping up. When she mentioned “sangria” I was instantly sold. A self-proclaimed wine lover, I have been known in years past to whip up a mighty fine sangria. And since it’s been awhile since I’ve shared one with y’all {this one, so far back?! gee whiz!}, I determined that I was well overdue for a new recipe. After time spent pouring over ingredients ::and perhaps a few poured glasses of wine, cough cough:: the hubs and I came up with a winner!

I am particularly excited about this one because not only are we using tons of fresh, in-season fruit, but we’re marrying two things the hubs and I love the most – WINE & BOURBON! Woohoo! In all honesty, I had no idea that the two spirits would pair so nicely together, but let me tell you…they are indeed kindred spirits. Dry rose wine and spicy, warm bourbon dance so nicely on your palette; it is indeed a thing of beauty. And when you get to the bottom of your glass, those wonderful bits of fruit have leeched all the glorious tastes from said spirits. You’ll find yourself reaching for another  glass…and perhaps another…

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Let’s not waste any more time, shall we?

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Bulleit Bourbon & Rose Sangria 

A playful twist on sangria, this pitcher is sure to pack a punch to your taste buds! A perfect summer drink, ideal for long evening spent sitting around the fire pit, chatting and catching up with friends. And by all means, feel free to swap out fruits for whatever you might have on hand/like better/what you have in your garden!

Ingredients:

1 bottle rose wine {we opted for a drier version}

1 pint of strawberries, washed and hulled

1 orange, sliced thin

2 Anjou pears, cut into wedges

1/2 cup bourbon {we used Bulleit, but feel free to use your preference!}

1/4 cup Triple Sec liqueur

additional fruit wedges for garnish, if desired

optional “toppers” for the drink: non-alcoholic {or alcoholic!} ginger beer, lemon-lime soda, tonic water, plain club soda, flavored club soda, sparkling water. **keep in mind that these are used to provide an effervescence, but can also be used to help dilute the drink to your liking..and potency : ) 

To Prepare:

Combine the rose wine, bourbon, triple sec, and sliced fruits into a large pitched with a tightly fitted lid. Stir to combine; you want the fruits to distribute and the different alcohols to merry together.

Chill for at least 4 to 8 hours, or overnight.

Serve over ice with additional fruits for garnishes, and fill as desired with liquid “toppers”.

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Cheers!