Art of Auchentoshan

whisky2 Auchentoshan invited me to sample its new offering (American Oak single malt scotch) while working on a fun art project at WorkshopSF. Making things while drinking scotch (bonus: and eating delicious BBQ with fried mac and cheese)? I’m in. I didn’t know what the project would be, although I was pretty sure it wouldn’t involve blow torches or saws while sipping drams of whisky.
whisky1The project was screenprinting (fun, but also alcohol-appropriate). But before I made my first shirt, there was some whisky to try!

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Lillet Rosé Cocktails

Sparkling Grapefruit Sangria from Serious Eats

Sparkling Grapefruit Sangria from Serious Eats

The weather just keeps heating up, so this is the perfect time to turn our cocktail attentions toward the light and refreshing French aperitif Lillet Rosé. It’s nice on its own or perhaps with a grapefruit slice, but it’s also a good team player. Here are some fun recipes for using this herbaceous ingredient:

Cardamom Blush ~ Cardamom-infused Lillet Rosé turns a simple gin cocktail into so much more.

Lillet Rose Spring Cocktail ~ This one also pairs gin with the aperitif, along with the addition of grapefruit and edible flowers for delightful effect.

La Coquette ~ Fresh strawberries and Aperol bring out the complexities of Lillet Rosé for a bright Spring cocktail.

Sparkling Grapefruit Sangria ~ It’s sangria weather! Citrus and bubbles go well together.

Lillet Rose Cooler ~ Lemongrass, grapefruit and sparkling wine collaborate with Lillet Rose to make any heat wave bearable.

DIY Honey Liqueur

20120921-221387-diyhoneyliqueurThere are all sorts of exciting honeys hiding out at farmers markets and local shops. Go get some! And then? Use some of it to make honey liqueur. It’s so easy! Sugar is usually the go-to sweetener for cocktails, but honey liqueur will give a deep, rich flavor that sugar just doesn’t.

I used the basic Clover honey (the kind in the bear), which is the mildest and most common variety sold in most grocery stores. That’s why I jazzed it up with orange and cinnamon. But lavender honey, blackberry honey and other types have more flavor, so try your honey alone before deciding it you want to add other flavors to your liqueur. Continue reading

Twists on the Bloody Mary

Verde Mary from Grab a Plate

Verde Mary from Grab a Plate

With brunch season upon us, the always-popular Bloody Mary is now the even-more-popular Bloody Mary. It’s a classic, but a flexible one. (Of course, there’s always the Canadian drink with Clamato, the Bloody Caesar.) Here are some fun variations on the traditional Bloody Mary.

Maple Bacon Bloody Mary ~ The usual Bloody Mary gets a makeover with a little maple syrup and a bacon garnish. Breakfast’s delicious duo give a savory, smoky and slightly sweet lift.

East Indies Bloody Mary ~ Since I come from a Dutch-Indonesian family, I was excited to see this Indonesian tweak to the original Bloody Mary. It’s legit, guys! Along with Indonesian sambal (hot sauce) and spices, it uses Batavia arrack, a funky East Indies liquor.

Brewed Mary ~ Like beer and Bloody Marys? You don’t have to choose, thanks to this version made with beer.

Mediterranean Bloody Mary ~ Olive tapanade and dry sherry are just a couple of the Mediterranean touches that transform the Bloody Mary into something new and exciting.

Verde Mary ~ Green tomatoes and tomatillos give the Bloody Mary a tangy and refreshing flavor.

Brunch Cocktails

Peach and Aperol Mimosa from Serious Eats

Peach and Aperol Mimosa from Serious Eats

While Bloody Mary may be the (well-deserved) usual choice for brunch drinking, there are so many other cocktails that pair well with the sweet, savory, breakfasty-lunchy foods that make brunch the most fun meal of ‘em all.

The Buckley ~ This is a lovely, complex drink that makes me think of spring and brunch all at the same time. Sage, lime, Campari, and Cocchi Apertivo Americano build a bold yet fresh cocktail. (Sub Lillet Blanc, if you can’t find Cocchi)

Grapefruit Basil Mimosas ~ The classic Mimosa is fine, but take out the OJ and use basil and grapefruit instead for a more sophisticated and nuanced take on brunch drinking.

Rosemary Sloe Gin Fizz ~ Low alcohol but rich in herbaceous and fruity flavor, this sparkling drink is just right for brunch no matter what you’re serving … from eggs and waffles to salads and more.

Peach Aperol Bellini ~ Lightly bitter Aperol adds a delightful twist to the traditional Bellini. Frozen peaches mean good flavor and less effort, no matter what time of year.

Ramos Gin Fizz ~ This New Orleans brunch (or anytime) classic is a lovely mix of light and airy with rich and creamy. I like to use a gin with floral qualities, because I think it gives the drink a delicate touch.

Kentucky Derby Party!


The Kentucky Derby is May 3. If you’re not going to be there in person, it’s still a fantastic excuse to throw a Derby Day party at your house. Here are some ways to get the party started:

  • Cocktails, of course! I would suggest sticking with the traditional (and totally delicious) Mint Julep. However, I’ve gathered some julep recipes from mint to more exotic that are winners.
  • Sweet Tea! There should always be a delicious non-alcoholic drink option, and this one suits the mood.
  • Kentucky Hot Browns! This is basically an open-face turkey sandwich with a bunch of gravy. Very traditional.
  • Biscuits with Ham & Red Pepper Jelly! If gravy sandwiches are either too messy or too heavy for your crowd, this will still satisfy the desire for Southern food in a more hand-holdable, gravy-free way.
  • I Can’t Believe It’s Not Derby Pie! OK, it basically is, but that name is trademarked by someone who is insane about it, so no one calls it that.
  • Dress up! Even in casual California, a dress and hat for ladies is a must. For gents, there’s always a seersucker suit, or the closest you can get to that. Derby chic, y’all.

Fun Pitcher Cocktails for Spring

Strawberry Rosemary Sangria from A Cozy Kitchen

Strawberry Rosemary Sangria from A Cozy Kitchen

The weather outside is delightful (where I live … if that’s not the case where you live, I hope it will be soon)! Time to call some friends and sip drinks outside. Get those pitchers out! Here are some tasty pitcher cocktail recipes for spring sippin’.

Blueberry Smash ~ Blueberry, mint, vodka, and elderflower liqueur? If you make this, can I come over?

Strawberry Basil Margaritas ~ Strawberry and basil go together so well. Take your pitcher of Margaritas to the next level. This is a cheater recipe that uses limeade. Considering the price of limes has shot up, I actually think this could be a good idea (not to mention easy).

Ruby Red Grapefruit Cocktail ~ A sparkling concoction with grapefruit, Campari, and gin is just the thing for barbecue season.

Strawberry Rosemary Sangria ~ The ultimate pitcher drink: Sangria! You could drink these all day long. Now that’s springtime living.

Jasmine Spritzers ~ The lovely scent of jasmine … now in cocktail form! Refreshing, lovely, and light.

DIY Rhubarb Bitters

diyvsbuy-rhubarbbittersIt’s rhubarb season! So get thee to a market and buy some of these gorgeous magenta stalks. Rhubarb is a great cocktail ingredient in general (as you can see if you try this recipe or any of these recipes).  But so far my favorite way to cocktail it up with rhubarb is rhubarb bitters, which pair well with every spirit and complement sweet, sour, and bitter flavors alike.

My favorite way to use these bitters is to make a Gin & Tonic, squeeze in a little grapefruit and then top with the bitters. But really you can use them in place of grapefruit bitters or to tie together a lighter cocktail. Cinchona bark and angelica root are often available at herb shops or Latin markets. You can also buy them online.

Remember: Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and should not be used for any recipes. Only the stalks are edible.

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Floral Cocktails

Elderflower Old Fashioned from Saveur

Elderflower Old Fashioned from Saveur

It isn’t just time for flowers in the garden. It’s also time for flowers in our cocktails! Whether it’s a liqueur, syrup, infusion, or simply a garnish … flowers are where it’s at, man.

Violet Vermouth ~ A low-alcohol, two ingredient cocktail of creme de violette and dry vermouth sounds lovely. Add a violet garnish and you’re good to go.

Garden Elixir ~ Peppery nasturtiums make an intriguing garnish for this gin cocktail that includes cilantro, celery, and apple among its garden ingredients.

Lavender Collins ~ A Tom Collins spruced up with some lavender syrup and Parfait Amour? What’s not to love?

Elderflower Old Fashioned ~ Sub some St. Germain for the sugar in an Old Fashioned for a spring twist on a classic.

Hibiscus & Ginger Champagne Cocktail ~ Ginger and hibiscus flowers (in rosewater syrup) and champagne? Yes, please!

Cocktails to Celebrate Spring

Lavender Bees Knees from Honestly Yum

Lavender Bees Knees from Honestly Yum

It’s official: Spring is here! Time to celebrate with cocktails. Here are some intriguing spring cocktails to help you ditch those winter blues.

Agricole Guava Cooler ~ Rhum agricole is a type of rum made in the West Indies using sugarcane juice instead of molasses. This gives it a lovely grassy flavor that is perfect for spring drinking. Mix it with guavas, which are coming in season now, and you have an unexpected and refreshing seasonal drink.

Lavender Bees Knees ~ Lavender, honey, gin, and lemon … a lovely spring-y drink great for early spring, since not all our favorite fruits are ready for us yet.

Kiwicha ~ Kiwi fruit is the star of this gorgeous green cocktail made with Pisco.

Pink Collins ~ Strawberries, grapefruit, and elderflower liqueur give a light spring touch to a vodka Collins.

Kumquat Lemongrass Rum Punch ~ Lemongrass and kumquat are a bright spring cocktail combo you can’t ignore!