DIY Irish Cream

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It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day! If you’d rather sip some homemade Irish cream than drink a bunch of green beer, you’re my kind of hypothetical internet person. Baileys is good and all, but DIY Irish cream kicks Baileys’ butt. It’s rich, creamy, and satisfyingly sweet. It’s also as easy as throwing a bunch of stuff in a blender and then drinking it.

When you make it yourself, you can control the flavors. You can taste as you go and adjust, since there’s no steeping or complicated multi-step process. If you want to experiment with flavors, skip the vanilla, almond, and honey to make a base and then add flavors to your heart’s content. Coconut, cinnamon, or more chocolate are good variations. If you want a thick even-more-desserty drink, add up to four eggs in your recipe.

DIY Irish Cream

1 1/4 cups Irish whiskey
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
14 ounces condensed sweetened milk
1 tablespoon cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon real almond extract
2 tablespoons honey

Pour all ingredients into a blender and blend away! Transfer to sealable glass container and refrigerate for up to two months. Shake before serving.

Photo by Liam Boylan

The recipe I created and posted here was first published on Serious Eats

Little Italy

littleitalyI’m definitely a Cynar lover, so I’ve been on the hunt for more things to do with my bittersweet little pal. Turns out there’s a fantastic Manhattan variation called Little Italy that’s right up my alley. Word on the street is it was created by The Pegu Club in NYC, but seems like it has spread to other bars and become a favorite at-home drink as well. I love Manhattans, but I also adore the herbal kick that Cynar adds to the equation. (I also love an excuse to make my own maraschino cherries.)

Little Italy

2 ounces rye
1/2 ounce Cynar
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
Maraschino cherries for garnish

Stir all ingredients with ice, then strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

Milk Punch

milkpunchAny New Orleans cocktail is going to be good. Milk Punch is great for brunch (very late brunches, since there’s a lot of booze in it!) or cozy evening parties. It’s lightly sweet and has the homey goodness of eggnog in a much lighter drink.

I like it best with bourbon, but brandy is also a traditional choice. It’s even good with blended scotch. For a lighter version, you can use whole milk instead of half and half. (It won’t be as creamy, of course, but the flavor will be just as good.)

Bourbon Milk Punch
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 1/2 ounces half and half
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash vanilla extract
Nutmeg for garnish

Shake all ingredients well over ice, then strain into glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with freshly ground nutmeg.

Thin Mint Cocktail

thin-mint-cocktailDoes eating a Girl Scout cookie make you think, “I wish this were available as a cocktail?” No matter the answer, I promise you will be delighted with the Thin Mint Cocktail that I made with Savvy Housekeeping. It has all the satisfying chocolate and minty goodness of Thin Mints with the delightful addition of booze.

This cocktail hits the sweet spot, so to speak. It’s creamy without being too heavy. Fresh mint adds a pop to the chocolate that makes the drink perky and fun.

Though no cookies were harmed in the making of this cocktail, we were happy to buy some Thin Mints from a local Girl Scout for inspiration. Very important business-related snack purchase!

Thin Mint Cocktail

1 ounce vodka
1 1/2 ounce Baileys Irish Cream
2 sprigs fresh mint
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup (plus some for garnish)

Muddle the mint and vodka in a cocktail shaker, then add Baileys and a tablespoon chocolate syrup. Shake with ice and taste. Add more chocolate, if desired! Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass (with optional chocolate syrup garnish).

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping

El Moderno (aka Tequila Old Fashioned)

diycocktails-modernoThe Old Fashioned is the original cocktail … but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying a bunch of variations on the drink. Using the same ratio as an Old Fashioned only with different spirits is a great jumping off point for creating your own cocktail. (My book goes into this in detail!)

Here I’ve taken tequila and paired it with agave syrup (a natural partner, since tequila is made with agave) and grapefruit bitters (grapefruit and tequila are also BFFs).

El Moderno

1 1/2 ounces tequila reposado
1 teaspoon agave syrup
3 dashes grapefruit bitters (I used DIY grapefruit bitters)

Pour the agave syrup and bitters into an old-fashioned glass and stir with a bar spoon. Add ice, then pour in tequila and stir. Optional: Garnish with slice of grapefruit.

Photo by Jackson Stakeman

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Cocktail

chocolatedippedstrawberrycocktailIt’s almost Valentines Day! This calls for a cocktail. Savvy Housekeeping and I have you covered with this delicious drink that has the delightful flavors of chocolate and fresh strawberries without being syrupy sweet. It’s actually light and refreshing!

The secret to chocolatey flavor without the heaviness of chocolate is chocolate-flavored vodka. Combine that with fresh strawberries and wow! I’m usually not a fan of commercial flavored vodkas because they taste fake to me. But 360 Double Chocolate vodka tastes like real chocolate and is made with natural ingredients. (You could make this with another chocolate vodka. I haven’t tried others, so I can’t tell you whether or not they taste like chemicals.)

This drink is pleasantly sweet with a full flavor that fills your mouth and gets better as it goes. The bitters is a must-have ingredient, because it tempers the sweetness to make it a more complex drink. Cointreau adds another layer that makes this a cocktail experience and not a dessert experience.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces chocolate vodka
1/2 ounce Cointreau or triple sec
2 ounces fresh strawberry juice (about 4-5 strawberries)
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Make the strawberry juice with a juicer or blender. Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping

Blood Orange Old Fashioned

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Now is the time of the dramatic and beautiful blood orange! So Savvy Housekeeping and I concocted a simple and simply delicious drink for the occasion, a variation on the Old Fashioned made with blood orange and maple syrup.

Like the original Old Fashioned, this drink is a good way to enjoy bourbon without hiding it’s flavor. Maple syrup and blood orange are a surprisingly good pair, adding a bittersweet touch to the heat and sweet undertones of bourbon.

If you are one of those Super-Bowl-lovin’ types, maybe this could be your Super Bowl drink? Don’t one of the teams wear orange costumes? Theme drink!

Blood Orange Old Fashioned

2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce blood orange juice
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Twist of orange to garnish

In a glass, combine bourbon, juice, bitters, and maple syrup. Stir with ice. Garnish with orange twist.

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping

Smoky Old Mate

smokyoldmateThe idea of aging a cocktail in a barrel (similar to how whiskey is aged) has always sounded like an intriguing experiment, but I’d sipped some aged cocktails before with mixed results. Some didn’t stand out or seem worth the trouble. A few were damn tasty but also damn expensive, since the bar had to store a bunch of barrels for a month or more and charged for the effort. So I’ve never tried the DIY version.

But The Black Grouse sent me a cocktail aging kit, a recipe, and some of its scotch—the perfect incentive to give barrel-aging cocktails a try. Instead of a whole barrel, this kit came with some barrel staves (tiny aged barrel sticks!) and a small bottle. All I had to do was pop a stave in the bottle, pour in the drink ingredients, and wait a week.

Verdict: Delicious! I sampled the drink before aging it, and while it tasted good, the aging mellowed the flavors and made them deeper. The combination of bitter and sweet flavors seemed more integrated after a week in the bottle. Continue reading

Low-Calorie Blueberry Tarragon Cocktail

2014! Let’s celebrate the new year with a drink … one that is light AND delicious. Savvy Housekeeping and I got together for a January cocktail. In keeping with New Year’s resolutions, we kept the calories on the low side (and the deliciousness on the high side).
blueberrytarragoncocktailBlueberry and tarragon are a delightful combination! The tarragon adds complexity that makes it taste like you added some fancy liqueur to the mix. We used real sugar—just not a whole lot of it–to boost the natural flavors. (I can’t stand artificial sweeteners.) Our version is about 160 calories. If you cut the sugar in half, it goes down to 145 calories. If you’re doing the “Dryanuary” abstaining-from-alcohol-this-month thing, you can skip the vodka and add more club soda. (Skipping the booze makes it a 65 calorie drink.) It’s really a flexible drink–you could use a bit of honey, or gin, or another herb, or whatever floats your boat.

This was so tasty, I could have downed a few more. But I suppose that goes against the whole light, low-cal business.

Blueberry Tarragon Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces vodka
1/3 cup blueberries (one large handful)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoon fresh tarragon
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
Club soda to top (about 2 ounces, or more to taste)

Muddle all ingredients except club soda at the bottom of a mixing glass. Add ice and then top with club soda.

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping

Holiday Cheer

holidaycheerchampagnecocktailThe holidays are a time when, dammit, you want something super fancy and wonderful but don’t have a lot of time to make it. This Holiday Cheer cocktail I made with Savvy Housekeeping is perfect for this time of year because it’s exactly that—festive, delicious, and easy.

We used store-bought raspberry sorbet, but you can use any flavor you like. (Perhaps homemade cranberry sorbet, which I think would be great in this) If you want something a little sweeter or just don’t like hard liquor, you can skip the rye and just make it a Champagne Raspberry Float.

Holiday Cheer

1 scoop raspberry sorbet
1 ounce rye whiskey
Sparkling wine

Scoop the sorbet into a champagne flute, add the rye, and then slowly pour in sparkling wine to top. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Photo by Savvy Housekeeping