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: 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: 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?

~~~

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!

lately: the bourbon trail!

This past weekend, the hubs and I enjoyed one last drink-related event…we toured part of the Bourbon Trail! Located in Kentucky, the Bourbon Trail boasts an insanely awesome line-up of fantastic distilleries. We met up with a good friend, and spend the weekend roaming around! Here’s a glimpse into how we spent our weekend…enjoy!

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thirsty thursday: the fallen apple

Gone are my cravings for cocktails on the lighter side. While I still love a good mojito if the sunshine is out {because how can you go wrong with that drink?}, autumn cocktails need to be warm, comforting, and full-bodied.

We’ve had a bottle of apple wine {a favorite of mine from a local winery} waiting to be crafted into something fun and new. I adore this wine on its own, but have been itching to transform it into something different! So I spent the better part of an afternoon thinking and dreaming researching how we could best do that.

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And then I saw the drink I’m sharing with you all today. I’ve taken a bit of a liberty and tweaked it from its original form, but the end result is nothing short of spectacular. The maple bourbon we’re using hits the perfect note of warmth and sweet; the mulled simple syrup adds a bit of spice and flair thanks to the honey, and the apple wine itself creates the perfect canvas for these flavors to meld as one.

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The Fallen Apple {recipe adapted from What Sarah Knows}

With my newly found and developed love of good bourbon, this cocktail was a no-brainer to make on a chilly Friday evening. Perfectly balanced with the warm notes from the simple syrup, the sweet bourbon, and the crisp apple slices, this cocktail will make you feel comfortable and cozy. 

For the Mulled Simple Syrup:

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey {use local if you can}

1 tsp. mulling spices

To make the syrup, bring all ingredients to a  boil on the stove top, making sure to stir constantly. The sugar may burn if you don’t! Once all ingredients are dissolved, remove  from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator, tightly covered, when not in use. 

Ingredients:

2 ounces Crown Royal Maple Bourbon, or whatever you like

2 ounces apple wine {apple cider would be a great substitute}

1 Tbsp. mulled simple syrup

thinly sliced apple, for garnish

To Prepare:

As directed above, prepare the mulled simple syrup and set aside to cool.

In a shaker add ice, bourbon, apple wine, and mulled simple syrup. Shake and pour into a glass. Top with sliced apple.

Cheers!

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Let’s Discuss: are you a fan of mulled wine? What do you like/not like about it?

apple cake with bourbon-vanilla buttercream

As a child, we had a tradition in my family. On your birthday, you got to pick whatever dish you wanted for dinner. No if’s, and’s or but’s, my mom was always up for the challenge. Most years, my sisters and I would pick our tried and true favorites – dishes that were easy to create but nonetheless special, because mom made them just for you on your birthday. Is it just me, or does food taste just a tad bit better when it’s like that?

The same went for desserts. Again, tried and true favorites were picked. Yellow cake with chocolate buttercream frosting was on regular rotation for my sisters, and sometimes evolved into a certain chocolate ganache cake that was so rich, only a mere sliver could be enjoyed. Cheesecakes would often sneak in, and ever so often a pie would appear.

You may be asking yourself what this has to do with today’s recipe.

Well, y’all, the tradition of special birthday meals has not been ignored every since I flew the coop and got hitched a couple years back. As long as the hubs and I have been together, I’ve enjoyed preparing dishes and desserts for him every year on his birthday. The only stipulation? It has to be something uncommon, and something we wouldn’t necessarily make at home. The same applies for dessert. We’ve had the cake version of my Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, trifles, and various twists on the classic chocolate cake. So this year, I challenged HIM. We had to select a dessert that had never passed our lips, but that would be delicious and sumptuous.

With fall just around the corner, the mental light bulb was quick to turn on. Almost simultaneously, after discussions of how amazing our wedding cake was, we thought “APPLES!”. It couldn’t be more perfect – the hubs love apple-based treats, and when I suggested a buttercream centered on his favorite libation {bourbon}, he was instantly sold.

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And I’m telling y’all, this is to.die.for. Like, seriously. It is perfectly moist and decadent, but not at all overly sweet or heavy. We use applesauce, not oil {!}, in the cake, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.It adds the perfect amount of sweetness to the cake, and creates the most beautiful crumb when you slice through it. One bite of this, topped with fluffy buttercream, and you’ll want this for your birthday.

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Apple Cake with Bourbon-Vanilla Buttercream {cake adapted from A Beautiful Bite, & frosting recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma}

Just because it’s not quite yet fall, doesn’t mean the desire for apples in baked goods isn’t here! This cake is full of apple flavor, and the bourbon buttercream takes it over the top. Supremely moist and full of flavor, this is sure to satisfy. 

Ingredients – Cake:

4 cups firm fleshed baking apples, cored and diced {I used a mixture of Fuji/Granny Smith/Red Delicious}

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup turbinado sugar {granulated will work fine; I think the turbinado offers a richer and more complex taste}

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp. vanilla extract {homemade, if you have it!}

Ingredients – Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream:

6 cups confectioners’ sugar

16 tbsp. (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3 tbsp. milk, plus more if needed

2 tsp. vanilla extract {again, if you have homemade, go for it!}

1 to 1-1/2 shots of bourbon {optional, but encouraged!}

pinch salt

To Prepare – Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (2) 9″ baking pans and set aside. As these cakes tend to bake a bit taller than usual, I would recommend greasing all the way up the sides of the pans, and the lips as well!

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In a large mixing bowl, combine flour/cinnamon/salt/baking soda. Mix well and set aside.

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Using a stand mixer or hand mixer set on medium speed, combine both sugars/eggs/applesauce/vanilla. Mix until incorporated.

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Slowly add in the flour mixture; mixing only until incorporated.

Stir in the apples by hand. Pour cake batter into the (2) pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Remove from oven and let cool, in pans, for at least 20 minutes. Flip out of pans and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Once cooled, cover with Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream.

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To Prepare – Bourbon Vanilla Buttercream:

Have all of the ingredients at room temperature for best result.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, milk, bourbon and vanilla and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixture and scrape down the sides. Increase the speed to medium and beat another 3 minutes. Stop and scrape the sides down again. Turn the mixture onto medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, another 3-5 minutes.

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Cake will stay, covered, on the countertop for up to 3 days. If it lasts that long, transfer to refrigerator.

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Let’s Discuss: do you and your family have any special birthday traditions? What is your favorite birthday treat, whether savory OR sweet?

homemade vanilla extract

We’re getting creative today, y’all. We’re going to make our own vanilla extract. From scratch. 

Say what?!

Well, I’m saying it – Yes! It can be done! I saw you scratching your heads, looking at me like I’m crazy, so I just wanted to clarify.

Vanilla extract has always been one of those ingredients, for me at least, that was always just a super market convenience. Need to make cookies? Go grab a bottle. Brownies or blondies? Oopsy, need to buy some more. And then, before I know  it, I’ve somehow accumulated four or five bottles of extract. #cookproblems

But I digress. When the hubs and I were flying back from our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, almost two years (!) ago, I happened upon a stand in the middle of the outdoor airport that was selling jars of vanilla extract, and vials of some of the most beautiful vanilla beans I’d ever seen. Having only used the ordinary vanilla extract (not that I’m hating on McCormick), I decided to go ahead and pick up both a bottle and a vial. I thought to myself, if they’re selling it at the airport, it should be fine, right?

And boy oh boy, I could not have been more right. The first time I opened that bottle of extract, my sensory system felt as if it had died and gone to culinary heaven. Never before have I smelled vanilla that fragrant; so rich and floral, it could have passed for fragrance. I’m not even kidding. This was liquid culinary gold, and you bet your bottom dollar I was going to use this sparingly, and really really really enjoy it.

Flash forward some year or so later. I decided to use my first of only six vanilla beans for the hub’s birthday cake. Again, I was welcomed with that same, overpowering, delicious scent of exotic vanilla. Scraping out the beans, I knew that these pods were too special to just be tossed aside, so I put on my thinking cap and got to work.

Enter Joy the Baker. This baking goddess, a true inspiration of mine, knew exactly what I needed. I had recalled one of her posts when she talked about making homemade vanilla extract, and after that it just clicked. I assembled all three things I needed, and 5 minutes later, I had vanilla extract prepped.

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The toughest part about this recipe, my dears, is the waiting period. Joy suggests letting the vanilla steep in the alcohol for two months for the flavors to fully develop. Storing it in a cool, dark place and giving it a good shake every week will help it move along. The wait is long and painstaking, but I promise, the end result is worth it. Do you really think that Joy would ever steer us wrong?

I didn’t think so.

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Homemade Vanilla Extract {adapted from Joy the Baker’s recipe}

2/3 C. high proof alcohol…think 80 proof. I used a mix of Bowman’s Single Barrel Whiskey & Maker’s Mark. Feel free to use whatever you have on hand.

2 vanilla beans. My vanilla beans are from the Dominican Republic. You’ll find that, depending on where your beans are sourced, they will have slightly different flavors. Take a look here to see the different kinds!

1 mason jar, or any vessel with a very tight-fitting seal

a dark spot to store the jar

…and patience. Lots of patience.

To Make:

Use a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down the center of the vanilla beans, leaving about an inch at the top of the bean uncut. Put the vanilla beans into your mason jar, and cover completely with alcohol (you might find that you need to bend or fold the beans to fit – that’s okay!).

Tightly cover the jar and give it a good shake, then store in a cool, dry place for two months. Give the bottle a good shake every week to help meld the flavors (I find it helpful to set a reminder on my phone’s calendar).

After two months have passed, you’re ready to use it!