Floral Dose

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Recipes, Spirits, Wellness

This post is guaranteed to raise your spirits, because we’ve found the cure for the common cocktail. Readers of this blog know that Kirsti and I swoon over floral flavorings, so we almost slipped into a coma when we discovered this bouquet of botanical drink mixers from Floral Elixir Company. With flavors ranging from Orchid and Orange Blossom to Lemon Verbena and Lavender, these sweet syrups will breathe new life into your libations.

Floral Elixir Company handcrafts its line of 13 drink mixers using only natural herbs and flowers. This includes its rainbow of vibrant colors, which is created from a blend of botanicals. The syrups can be mixed with sparkling water to make singular sodas, or used to sweeten lemonade and iced tea. Behind the bar, these elixirs transform mixed drinks into magical potions with palliative properties.

Years ago, Kirsti hosted a cocktail party with a self-serve bar where guests could mix floral and herbal liqueurs (like St. Germain, Crème de Violette, and Canton) with sparkling wine. It was a huge hit, but these botanical syrups from Floral Elixir Company offer even more variety and control for amateur and master mixologists alike. Get started with these recipes and grow your repertoire.

Floral elixirs are the Rx for refreshment, so we prescribe an oral dose several times per day, or as needed, to restore well-being.


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Floral Elixir Company Botanical Drink Mixers

 

In their online shop, Floral Elixir Company offers a Mini Elixir Master Set , which includes sample sizes of all their flavors, as well as cocktail kits for Champagne Lovers, Tea Lovers, and everything in between.

 

Kom Down

Author: Kirsten K., Cold Drinks, Food & Drink

búcha Verbena Rose KombuchaWhen my favorite flavor of Wonder Drink was out of stock recently, I decided to experiment with something new. Among the sea of kombucha choices—featuring typical additions of ginger, fruit, or greens—one blend stood out: Verbena Rose from búcha® Live Kombucha. With a floral essence and no SCOBY in sight, I should have snapped it up immediately, but I hesitated over…the name?

Readers of this blog know that Kirsti and I share a passion for anything rose-flavored, but we also share an aversion to certain words and quirks of language. Setting aside the issue of proper names with lowercase letters for the moment, I bristle at the practice of dropping the first part of a word to create a shortened slang term (i.e. ’sode for episode or ’verse for universe—sorry, Browncoats!), but even though this drink is a “kom” down*, I elected to calm down and buy it.

With just a hint of sweet rose balanced by the citrus notes of lemon verbena, this flavor is a winning combo. The fermented black tea contains live kombucha culture (think probiotics), and all of the ingredients, including Damask rose petals and blackcurrant color, are certified organic. It also has a softer, less acetic bite than many other brands of kombucha. Not to get too flowery, but this floral sparkling tea is, to quote the bottle’s own label, “Enchanting.”

A Verbena Rose by any other name would taste as sweet, but I’ve been bewitched by búcha® and declare this libation to be ’licious.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

búcha® Live Kombucha Verbena Rose

 

Use the company’s store finder to locate a búcha® retailer near you.

 

*To read a brief history of búcha®, including a connection to the actual city of—yes—Bucha, click here.

 

Shrub the Right Way

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Food & Drink, History, Holidays, Recipes, Spirits

Shrub 1Here in Southern California, we’re in the midst of an early summer heat wave, but instead of searching for the cool shade of a tree, I’ve been reaching for the cool treat of a shrub. Shrubs, also known as drinking vinegars, are refreshing beverages made from sweetened fruit and vinegar mixed with still or sparkling water. Used since the 15th century and popular in colonial America as a way to preserve summer fruits, the shrub is currently enjoying a revival.

I first learned about shrubs on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg several years ago and bought a bottle of pre-made shrub syrup from the Williamsburg Marketplace to try at home. I instantly fell for this sweet/tart thirst quencher, but why buy the syrup when you can easily make your own? Shrub 2The recipe is simple, requiring only three ingredients and a bit of pre-planning. Some people recommend cooking the mixture to speed up the process, but I prefer the cold method. It can take a few days, but involves only minutes of hands-on time, and the resulting syrup has greater depth and nuance.

While fresh summer fruits are now becoming available, frozen fruit works just as well when making shrub syrup. In fact, unless you grow your own fruit, pick it yourself, or obtain it from a farmer’s market, I suggest using frozen fruit (preferably organic) to make the syrup, since it is flash frozen a short time after it’s been picked and is actually fresher and more flavorful than most “fresh” fruit. Plus, it’s convenient, having been pre-washed and prepared.Shrub 3

In anticipation of the upcoming 4th of July holiday, I’ve made patriotic red raspberry and wild blueberry shrub syrups. After bottling, it’s best to leave the syrup in the fridge for at least a week or more to cure, so if you get started now, your shrub(s) will be just right to serve at that Independence Day picnic or barbecue. The fruit flavors intensify the longer the mixture sits, and the acid from the vinegar will dissolve any residual sugar over the course of a few days.

Once your syrup has matured a bit, it will be ripe to drink. You can mix it with water to taste, but a good ratio is 2 Tbsp. of syrup for every 8 oz. of water. As mentioned above, you can use still or sparkling water, but get inventive. Use the syrup in place of sugar to sweeten iced tea or lemonade, or follow the lead of trend-setting mixologists who have embraced shrub syrups as a way to add a tart kick to cocktails. The designated drivers and teetotalers at your gathering will appreciate a sophisticated shrub in place of the standard club soda and lime.

As we get ready to revel on America’s birthday, prepare to party like it’s 1776 and celebrate colonial-style with a bottle of aged shrub. It’s the perfect “cure” for the summertime red, white, and blues.

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Shrub 4Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

COLONIAL SHRUB SYRUP

1 cup berries or fruit cut in small chunks
1 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar*

Put fruit in a glass bowl and stir in sugar, mixing until the fruit is coated. Cover bowl (I try to avoid using plastic wrap, so I just rest a plate on top) and put it in the refrigerator for one to several days. The longer the mixture sits, the more flavor will be drawn out by the sugar, but I find that two days is usually sufficient.Shrub 5

When you remove the bowl from the fridge, the fruit should be floating in a watery syrup. There are a couple ways to separate out the fruit. If you want to save the sweetened fruit to use later, you can either remove it with a slotted spoon, or pour the mixture through a strainer, pressing down on the fruit with a spoon or spatula to extract all the liquid, but it will still be coated with some undissolved sugar and you will need to scoop out any remaining sugar in the bowl to add back in to the liquid.

Since I like the least amount of fuss, I simply add the vinegar to the fruit mixture first and stir until most of the sugar is dissolved. Then I pour it through a strainer and press down on the fruit. Shrub 6What remains is a small pile of sweet, vinegar-infused fruit that you can toss in a smoothie or spoon over ice cream (if that sounds unappetizing, you’ve obviously never drizzled balsamic vinegar over vanilla ice cream).

Whether you add the vinegar before or after you strain the fruit, stir well and pour the mixture into clean bottles or jars. Place in the fridge or a cool pantry (shrub syrup does not strictly need to be refrigerated) for one or more weeks before serving. Makes about two cups of syrup.

Variations
If you want to get creative, experiment with different combinations of fruit, vinegar, and herbs. For a list of herbs that pair well with summer fruits, click here. You can also make shrub syrups with different types of vinegar, including balsamic, champagne, red wine, rice, sherry, white balsamic, and white wine varieties. Balsamic vinegars should be mixed 50/50 with lighter versions, such as dark balsamic with red wine vinegar (great with strawberries) or white balsamic with champagne vinegar (try it with peaches). Use rice vinegar with plums and Japanese basil for an Asian twist. You can even play around with other kinds of sugar, like turbinado, demerara, or muscovado. The possibilities are endless, so have fun!

*I recommend Bragg’s organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar.

 

To serve your drinking vinegars in authentic colonial style, purchase tavern shrub glasses from the Williamsburg Marketplace.

Wonder of Wonder Drinks

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Cold Drinks, Food & Drink, Spirits, Wellness
Wonder of Wonder Drinks 1

I have been in a funk ever since these drinks became defunct.

I have tried my share of “wonder” drinks over the years. Like many people, I got caught up in the craze of energy drinks, enhanced waters, and herbal elixirs that began in the 1990s, but I never experienced any of their purported benefits. I simply enjoyed them for their taste, particularly some of the dry, elegant beverages that made a refreshing alternative to wine. (Two of my favorites, Aqua Libra and Golden Star White Jasmine Sparkling Tea, were discontinued and I’m still in mourning.)

One of these trendy tonics that did produce a pleasant physical effect was kombucha, which gave me a nice little buzz until a literal buzzkill discovered that this fermented tea contains a small amount of alcohol, leading to virtually all kombucha brands being pulled from store shelves for months. However, before this tempest in a tea bottle, I made a wonder-ful discovery: Wonder Drink Asian Pear & Ginger Kombucha.

Wonder of Wonder Drinks 2There are a couple of things that set Wonder Drink apart from the kombucha crowd. First, it is pasteurized.* Most kombucha drinks are raw and can have a slimy mass called a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) floating around in the liquid like a jellyfish in a murky sea. Blessedly, I’ve never encountered one in a bottle of Wonder Drink. Second, it’s sweeter and more palatable than many other brands. While I actually enjoy the tart, acidic flavor of most kombucha, I always find it amusing when someone who’s never had it before takes a sip and makes “that” face.

But the main thing that, in my opinion, separates Wonder Drink from the pack is their Asian Pear & Ginger flavor. The company produces 11 varieties of kombucha, and I’ve tried most of them, but Asian Pear & Ginger is my favorite (I’m not alone, as it’s their most popular flavor). There’s something about those two magical ingredients that creates an alchemy with the kombucha, turning an ordinary element into liquid gold. I like to drink it with meals as a digestif, but it’s also delicious in cocktails, making restorative spirits to restore your spirits.

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As for health claims, some might argue that pasteurization destroys the beneficial bacteria for which kombucha is known, or that more of the sugar should be consumed by the yeast than by you, but I always feel an immediate sense of well-being by merely having a bottle of Wonder Drink in my fridge. So, if you want to enjoy some fashionable fermentation, but you’ve been put off by the bite of other brews, try Asian Pear & Ginger from Wonder Drink. This potent potion will do wonders for your disposition.

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Wonder Drink Asian Pear & Ginger Kombucha

 

There is only one store in my area that carries Wonder Drink, so I often purchase it online (if you can’t locate a brand of kombucha in health-conscious L.A., you might have trouble finding it elsewhere). Use Wonder Drink’s store locator to find out where to buy.

 

*Wonder Drink has now added three raw versions of kombucha tea to its line of products.

 

All’s Well That Ends S’well

Author: Kirsten K., Cold Drinks, Food & Drink, Hot Drinks, Wellness

You might find this hard to s’wallow, but when I chose the S’well water bottle as one of my picks for our Holiday G.I.F.T. Guide, I didn’t actually have one of my own—yet. My employer had been bringing her 25 oz. bottle to work each day for months and s’wore that it was the best water bottle she’d ever used, but I was unconvinced. While I always made sure to reuse and recycle my water bottles, I figured one would do as well as another and used whatever was on hand, but her enthusiasm for this bottle began to s’way me.

S'well 1I asked what made it so special and she s’wiftly told me that the neck fit comfortably in her hand and she liked the smooth feel and weight of the bottle. The cap was simple to remove and replace, and the wide mouth made it easy to take a s’wig of liquid. The stainless steel interior gave her peace of mind, knowing that nothing harmful would leach into her water as it s’wished around in the bottle throughout the day. She also loved the s’wank gold finish that she’d chosen from the company’s Metallic Collection.

I got s’wept away by her zeal and decided to recommend it as a gift pick, planning to buy one for myself when the holidays were over, but she beat me to it. Among my Christmas s’wag I found a 17 oz. S’well bottle in my favorite color: green. In fact, it’s the exact same bottle as the one in the picture I used for the G.I.F.T. Guide, even though she s’wears she never saw our post. To prevent my co-worker from s’wiping my bottle, she bought her a S’well as well.

S'well 2I s’wapped my old water bottles out for my new one and have been using it exclusively for the past month. I can now say with authority that this bottle is to s’woon for. I primarily use it to brew tea, so I appreciate that it keeps drinks hot for 12 hours, but I still can’t figure out how the steam doesn’t escape with a powerful s’woosh when I remove the cap. The bottle also keeps liquids cold for 24 hours, as my employer can attest, since she left the bottle in her s’weltering car last summer, only to take a drink and find that the water was still cold. Whether it’s s’weater weather or s’weating weather, this is the only bottle you’ll need.

S’well bottles come in a variety of styles, from s’wirls of color in matte finishes to shimmering solids with a glossy shine, so s’wing over to their website and have a look. The company’s mission is to rid the world of plastic bottles while supporting charities that make s’weeping improvements to drinking water safety and access for communities throughout the world, so ditch the plastic and make the s’witch to S’well.

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S’well Bottles

Cider House Yules

Author: Kirsten K., Cold Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Holidays

Cider House YulesThe members of my family are not big drinkers, so our holiday table is always strewn with a selection of non-alcoholic beverages. Primary among these is sparkling apple cider, which is why, on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago, I decided to purchase a bottle of their Chowning’s Tavern Mulled Sparkling Cider to try at Christmastime. It is, without question, the most festive and flavorful sparkling cider I’ve ever tasted!

The Williamsburg Marketplace also offers a traditional Virginia Sparkling Cider, but I like to order the mulled version for the holidays. Infused with spices like cinnamon and cloves, each sweet sip encapsulates the season with the nostalgic flavors of an old-fashioned Christmas. Adults and children alike will enjoy a cold, crisp glass amidst the warmth of holiday gatherings with family and friends. Serve it at your own seasonal get togethers, or give it as a host/hostess gift in place of the usual bottle of wine.

Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia, and it makes a golden, delicious cider, so please stop to pick up a bottle—or a crate—on your annual flight next week, because I’ve been extra nice this year. Thanks a bushel!

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Chowning’s Tavern Mulled Sparkling Cider

 

I was dismayed this year to see that the Williamsburg Marketplace is not offering single bottles of the mulled cider for sale on its website. Since I don’t need a full case of 12 bottles, I contacted their customer service department and was told that single bottles are still available and can be ordered over the phone at (800) 446-9240 (Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST). Alternately, single bottles of the Virginia Sparkling Cider and Mulled Sparkling Cider can be purchased year-round from the Williamsburg Craft House by calling (757) 220-7747.

Raspberry Lemonade. Like, Totally.

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Food & Drink, Nostalgia, Recipes
Raspberry Lemonade 1

Raspberry Lemonade

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. The summers in the valley were so hot. Like, totally. But for a kid in the late ’70s and early ’80s, they were also magic. Our house was the one where all the neighborhood kids gathered. Sometimes it was for a game of TV tag, other times it was to trade baseball cards or run through the sprinklers. We could stay out until the streetlights came on—a wild pack riding skateboards—or go to the liquor store to buy as many Watermelon Stix as we could with the change from the bottom of our Moms’ purses. The days were long and time was abundant and the break from school felt like forever.

When I think back on that time, it’s the delicious smells of summer I remember most—fresh cut grass, the strong piney scent of the juniper bushes we built our forts in, and the lemons, big as softballs, in my next door neighbor’s yard.

Our neighbors had three lemon trees in their backyard, with a swing set right in back of them. I spent a lot of time there with Claire, who was the same age as me. We would swing for hours and sing oldies, but goodies, that we learned from playing our parents’ records. I learned what the “F” word meant, sitting on one of the swings, and we laughed uncomfortably at the Wacky Pack cards given to us by boys. The smell of the lemon blossoms would fill our noses with the fragrance of sun and citrus and we would try to touch the leaves of the trees with our feet while singing “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to,” the swing set squeaking in time, “You would cry too, if it happened to you.”

Raspberry Lemonade 2Every couple of days, we’d pick a bunch of lemons and make lemonade to sell at our sidewalk stand. We never really sold much lemonade, but I loved the ritual of making it—picking the lemons, washing them, cutting them, juicing them, adding water, the whooshing sound of the sugar being poured into the pitcher, the few drops of red food coloring to make it pink, stirring it and, of course, drinking it. When you’re a kid, you take everything for granted, but it was never lost on me that the taste of that lemonade on a valley-hot summer day was perfection.

I recently moved back to the San Fernando Valley. Feeling wistful for those days, I went on a lemonade-making binge. Lavender lemonade, watermelon lemonade, cucumber lemonade…they were all great, but my favorite was raspberry lemonade. Simple, naturally pink. And if a splash of gin found its way into my glass, awesome!

I still love the smell of fresh lemons from a backyard tree and I still suck in my breath with delight when the sugar whooshes into the pitcher—and it still tastes exactly like it did when I was a kid. I wish I had a swing set in my back yard. I do have that Lesley Gore record, though. I think I might put it on, maybe even say the “F” word, and think more about those magical hot summer days. Like, totally.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Raspberry Lemonade

¾ cup fresh or thawed frozen raspberries
9 cups of water
2 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 12 lemons)
2 cups superfine sugar

Purée the raspberries in a blender and strain through a fine sieve into a pitcher. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together until the sugar dissolves, enjoying the whooshing sound the sugar makes as it’s poured into the pitcher. Serve over ice. Taste summer.

Respect Your Elderflowers

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Food & Drink, Spirits
Respect Your Elderflowers 1

Belvoir Elderflower Pressé – 100% Good!

On a trip to England in 2002, I was swooning over one of the magnificent gardens in Cornwall when I stopped by a concession stand for a drink and purchased a bottle of something I’d never encountered before: elderflower pressé. I was instantly smitten with its light, floral flavor that had the refreshing astringency of citrus. Although I saw this delightful beverage in several places over the course of my trip, I searched in vain for a bottle once I’d returned home to the United States.

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photo credit: Mika McDonald

Elderflowers bloom in lacy clusters of white or pale cream blossoms and have traditionally been used in Central and Eastern Europe to flavor regional desserts and drinks. Pressé is a French word meaning “squeezed.” The elderflowers are steeped, then pressed to extract as much of the flavor as possible. Most bottled pressé drinks I’ve seen on the market are carbonated and are often labeled as “sparkling pressé”. Translation: elderflower pressé = pressed elderflower soda.

Respect Your Elderflowers 3Years after my trip, I was thrilled to discover Belvoir Elderflower Pressé for sale at my local World Market. From that day forward, I routinely had a bottle chilling in my fridge. I began to take it for granted until one day when I couldn’t find it on the shelf and learned that the store was no longer going to carry it. Fortunately, my devastation was short-lived. A friend discovered that IKEA carries its own version of Elderflower Drink Concentrate (Dryck Fläder to you Swedes) that, when mixed with sparkling water, tasted virtually identical to the pressé I knew and loved—at a fraction of the price.Respect Your Elderflowers 4

In the midst of all this, the holy grail of elderflower beverages made its debut. In 2007, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur descended from heaven on a cloud of tiny white flowers for the delectation of humankind. I’m not sure what we did to deserve it, but to say that this liqueur is swoon-worthy would be an understatement. From its sweet, nectar-like flavor to the gorgeous packaging that evokes the decadent height of the Roaring Twenties, this product is truly in a class by itself. It can be enjoyed straight from the bottle, but we at The Swoon Society love adding it to a flute of sparkling wine (Kirsti prefers Gruet Extra Dry to balance the sweetness of the liqueur, but if you have a sweet tooth like me, try Gruet Demi Sec).

Respect Your Elderflowers 5Recently, I’ve seen Belvoir Elderflower Lemonade on the shelves of World Market, but I prefer the flexibility and price of the elderflower concentrate (Belvoir also makes an Elderflower Cordial, which is the same as concentrate). In addition to making elderflower soda, it can be used as an ingredient in cocktails and a sweetener for lemonade, or just mixed with plain water for a light thirst quencher.

Now that the elderflower seems here to stay, I no longer worry about being able to find it, but I also make sure to savor it and never again take it for granted. The blossoms only appear for a few weeks in late spring and must be harvested at that time to last the rest of the year, so take a lesson from me and respect your elderflowers!

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Belvoir Elderflower Pressé
Belvoir Elderflower Cordial
IKEA Elderflower Drink Concentrate
St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Gruet Extra Dry Sparkling Wine
Gruet Demi Sec Sparkling Wine

 

Belvoir Elderflower Pressé (marketed as Lemonade in the U.S.) and Cordial can be found at World Market, some British import shops, and online at Amazon. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur can be purchased at BevMo. Gruet Extra Dry and Demi Sec are available at many specialty wine shops and liquor stores.

 

White Rose Iced Tea

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Recipes

White Rose 1One thing you will soon learn about us over at The Swoon Society is that we love any food or drink involving floral notes. There is something so lovely about a cupcake with rose frosting or a cocktail with violet liqueur. Some people don’t like eating or drinking things that taste like flowers, and some extracts or liqueurs can be too cloying or sweet, but when the stars are aligned and the flavor is just right…man, it’s magical.

One of my quick, non-alcoholic, go-to party drinks is iced tea made with Numi White Rose tea. It’s organic and light and definitely not too sweet. People are always curious about it and when they taste it, they kind of go crazy. Even guys like it. It’s very refreshing and turns a ho-hum beverage into something people talk about and, well, swoon over.White Rose 2

WHITE ROSE ICED TEA

3 Numi White Rose tea bags
2 cups boiling hot water
1 quart cold water
Handful of bruised mint leaves
2 Tbsp agave or sugar (optional)
Ice
Organic rose petals and mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Place the tea bags in the 2 cups of boiling water and let steep for about 7 minutes. Let cool. Pour tea into a pitcher and add the cold water, mint and agave, if using. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or more. Pour into glasses with ice and serve with extra mint leaves and organic rose petals for garnish. Serves 6.

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Numi Organic White Rose Tea

 

Numi Tea is also available at many grocery and specialty stores, including Whole Foods, Sprouts and World Market.