Kentucky Derby Party!

kentuckyderby

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!

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

Meyer Lemon Cocktails

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Gin Fizz from Crumb

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Gin Fizz from Crumb

I’m just going to say it: Meyer lemons are better than other kinds of lemons. (Suck it, Eureka lemons!) They’re an ideal cocktail lemon, and this time of year they’re plentiful. Meyer lemon cocktails are where it’s at, man. Here are some to try:

The Honey Bee’s Knees ~ Lavender and lemons are a delicious combo. Add gin, and you have a lovely cocktail for this lovely almost-springtime.

Meyer Lemon Fig ~ Fig is the name of the drink—there are no figs in the recipe. Just whiskey, ginger, vanilla simple syrup and meyer lemon, topped off with a little seltzer. Very refreshing.

Oaxacan Daisy ~ Smoky mezcal combines with sweet and tart meyer lemon for a complex-flavored (yet easy to make) cocktail.

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Gin Fizz ~ Herbaceous lemony good times … perfect for porch or backyard sipping.

Uncommon Threads ~ Instead of lemon juice, this uses lemon oil along with gin, Cocchi Americano and saffron-infused honey. Get it!

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.

More Grapefruit Cocktails

Thyme Paloma from 10th Kitchen

Thyme Paloma from 10th Kitchen

We’re oh-so-close to Spring! This means that a lot of the exciting fruits we’re waiting to cocktail with aren’t in season yet. Don’t fret. Our friend the grapefruit is here to help. It’s one of my favorite cocktail ingredients, because of its subtle tartness and light touch. Grapefruit cocktails are refreshing and a little unexpected. Here are a few for you to sip on:

Grapefruit Margarita ~ This twist on the Margarita offers a nice bridge between a tart and strong traditional Margarita and the sweet and fruity ones, like a Strawberry Margarita. So good!

Dirty Diana ~ “Tastes like fresh grapefruit sprinkled with brown sugar” + dark rum? I’m in.

Thyme Paloma ~ Tequila or mezcal pair so well with fresh grapefruit, and a little thyme adds a new herbal dimension to this classic refresher.

Hemingway Daiquiri ~ Hemingway knew how to write, yes. But he also knew how to drink. Adding a little grapefruit to a traditional Daiquiri was a great idea.

Little Tybee Latitude ~ Basil, grapefruit, and gin are best friends. Yum. Best friends, I say!

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.