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.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

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.

 

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Trial by Fire Tongs Punch

Author: Kirsten K., Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Recipes, Spirits, Wine

Christmas has forced me to face my fears on more than one occasion. When my father was no longer able to hang lights on the outside of the house, I had to conquer my fear of heights to get on the roof and do it myself. Ditto for climbing to the top step of the ladder in order to place the angel atop our 13-foot tree.

feuerzangenbowle-1As the granddaughter of German immigrants, I enjoy many German Christmas traditions, so when I read about Feuerzangenbowle (FOY-er-TSAHNG-en-bowl-uh)—literally, “fire tongs punch”—I knew I had to try it…but I am scared of working with fire.

I have always had an anxious relationship with fire. One year at a family dinner, tissue paper from a gift bag fell into a candle flame on the table and caught fire. I panicked and dumped an entire pitcher of water on it, dousing my sister in the process, which led to yelling (and slapping). Fearful of starting a fire in my own fireplace and burning the house down, I prefer to enjoy one at Kirsti’s, where her husband Aaron is master of the hearth and assumer of the risk.

But I really wanted to try this punch.

The practice of setting fire to a rum-soaked sugar cone suspended by a set of specialized “tongs” over a bowl of mulled wine has a long history in Germany, but gained in popularity after the release of the 1944 film Die Feuerzangenbowle, which has become a cult classic. The sugar cone caramelizes as it burns, dripping into the punch bowl to sweeten a blend of red wine, citrus, cinnamon, and spices.

It’s a showstopper at parties with a large cone set aflame, but I wanted to start small, so I purchased mini sugar cones and tongs for experimentation. My first couple of attempts were failures, since the rum I’d acquired did not have a high enough proof to catch fire, but I was assured by subsequent research that Bacardi 151* would satisfy all my flaming needs.

feuerzangenbowle-2With tools and ingredients on hand, I set to brewing. I began with just a cup of wine, adapting the recipe (below) for one person. Once the tongs and sugar cone were in place, I poured the rum over the sugar. Then, with the longest match I could find in one hand and a fire extinguisher in the other, I lit the cone.

The flame started small, but quickly shot up higher than I’d expected, giving me a moment of panic, but it subsided as the sugar began dripping into the pot. In less than a minute, the punch was ready to drink—and it was delicious! Of course, you have to like mulled wine, which I do, but the addition of caramelized sugar makes this a sweet holiday treat.

Since my trial by fire tongs punch, I have made these seasonal spirits several more times, both on the stove and in a special mug with attached tongs. I no longer fear the flame and feel ready to tackle the larger version at a future holiday gathering. Until then, you can find me sitting by my (virtual) fire in front of the tree getting punch drunk on Christmas cheer. Fröhliche Weihnachten!

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FEUERZANGENBOWLE (adapted from German Deli)

feuerzangenbowle-32 bottles of red wine (Burgundy or Merlot works best)
4 thin slices of orange
4 thin slices of lemon
juice of 2 fresh oranges
juice of 2 fresh lemons
½ tsp. fresh orange rind
½ tsp. fresh lemon rind
4 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. cloves (optional)
1 large sugar cone
1 cup of rum (at least 151 proof)*

Equipment:
1 heat and flame-proof glass punch bowl, and
1 stainless steel bridge (tongs), or
Hot Pot Feuerzangenbowle Set
Long match or lighter

feuerzangenbowle-4Directions:
In a large pot, add both bottles of wine and all ingredients except the sugar cone and the rum. Simmer the wine, fruit, and spices over low heat for about 15 minutes. Don’t boil the wine—it should be hot, but not scalding. Carefully add the hot wine (including fruit slices and whole spices) to the punch bowl. For dramatic flare, place the punch bowl in a dimly-lit room. If you have a Hot Pot set, light the candle below the punch bowl to help keep the wine warm. Place the stainless steel bridge across the top of the punch bowl. Unwrap the sugar cone and place it on the bridge. Slowly pour the 151-proof rum onto the cone, rotating the cone until it is soaked with the rum. When guests have gathered around, light the sugar cone with the match or lighter.* The sugar cone will dissolve as the burning rum heats up the cone. The caramelized sugar will drip into the punch to sweeten it and the rum will enhance the flavor.

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*Use extreme caution with alcohol at this proof, as it is highly flammable. When you light the sugar cone, do so from a distance with a long match or lighter and make sure there is sufficient space for the cone to flame upwards (i.e. away from hanging light fixtures or decorations). Do not put your face near the cone or look down on it from above as you light it. Bacardi 151 comes with a stainless steel flame arrester over the opening to prevent the rum from igniting inside the bottle. It can be found in select liquor stores and is available for purchase online.

 

Grapefruit Loop

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Drinks, Food & Drink, Pop Culture, Recipes, Spirits, Wine

rose-pamplemousseToday is officially the last day of summer, and even though I view the hottest season of the year with dread, I find myself wondering where the time went. Back in April, Kirsti sent me a link to an article about grapefruit wine and how this rosé pamplemousse was all the rage in France. Envisioning the two of us enjoying summer sunsets on her balcony with a bottle of the citrusy spirits, I bookmarked it as something to explore—and possibly post about—in early summer.

On the day the season arrived, I saw a segment on Nightline about the “rosé lifestyle,” a craze primarily among millennials that has spawned the hashtags #yeswayrose and #roseallday. Deciding to blend the trend of those who #drinkpink with the French penchant for grape juice and pamplemousse, I scoured wine shops and liquor stores for grapefruit rosé, but couldn’t find a single bottle. An online search uncovered a few brands for sale from a handful of retailers, but the shipping was two-to-three times the price of the wine. When I contacted two local wine shops about ordering rosé pamplemousse in the States, neither was able to do it, so I shelved the idea.

very-pamp-rose-pamplemousseIn late summer, it suddenly occurred to me: I have a friend living in France! I’ve written a number of times about Mika, who currently calls Lyon home, so I contacted her and asked if she’d seen any grapefruit wine around town. Despite everything I’d read about the French passion for pamplemousse, she hadn’t heard of it, but she returned mere hours later with two bottles of Very Pamp from Maison Castel. She drank each “without fanfare” (her words) and didn’t seem too impressed, but the next day she found three more brands and reported back:oh-my-pamp-rose-pamplemousse

“I am having the Oh My Pamp. It is really good! Very interesting notes all around. Lots of play on the palate and much more in the nose. Yes, it’s sweet, but not too sweet and not flat at all. It actually has a small hint of ROSE flavor to it! I don’t know why, but it TOTALLY works. Super low alcohol, so after I enjoyed half a glass I added a tiny bit of vodka and it’s still smooth and delish. Rosé and grapefruit might be my new flavor combo this year!”

summer-water-rose-wineThree bottles later, what may have started without fanfare had ended with a fan there, but that didn’t help me at all. Unwilling to put her to the trouble of shipping me a bottle of alcohol, but wanting to stay in the grapefruit loop, I decided to take the advice of one blogger and simply mix grapefruit juice with grape fruit juice, so to speak. Since both grapefruit wine and rosé have become synonymous with summertime, I purchased a bottle of Summer Water rosé for this experiment.

Pink grapefruit juice and rosé wine make such an obvious pairing that it’s difficult to believe this marriage has only been recognized for the past few years. With each displaying a shy blush and demure sweetness that tempers a tart acidity on the tongue, this fun and and flirty couple captures the “spirit” of the season. It may have taken me until the end of summer to figure this out, but with local temps predicted to reach over 100° by the weekend, it’s refreshing to know that there’s still time to fall for this fad.

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grapefruit-rose-wineGRAPEFRUIT ROSÉ (adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 cup rosé wine
½ cup fresh pink or Ruby Red grapefruit juice
Ice (optional)

Mix wine and grapefruit juice in a small pitcher. Serve straight or over ice. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit, if desired. Serves two.

Variation: omit the grapefruit juice (or not) and add Monin Ruby Red Grapefruit Syrup, to taste.

 

You can purchase Meadowsweet Rosé Wine with Grapefruit (from Arlington, Binny’s, and Jericho), Ruby Red Rosé Wine with Natural Grapefruit Flavor (from Amity, Shop Rite, and We Speak Wine), and Pulse Rosé with Grapefruit & Peach online, but be prepared to pay around $20 to ship a $5-10 bottle of wine.

 

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.

God Save the Cocktail

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Drinks, Food & Drink, Recipes, Spirits

It seems like every time I turn around there is a new artisan product: artisan cheese, artisan beer, artisan chocolate, even artisan water (really, Whole Foods, with your asparagus water?). One of the most intriguing artisanal products I’ve come across in the past several years has been craft bitters.

God Save the Cocktail 1Back in the days of our parents’ cocktail parties, there was only good old Angostura, but now there are thousands of different craft bitters being made around the world. Bitters started out as medicinal—usually a mixture of spices, roots, bark, seeds, flowers, and fruit peels infused into alcohol. They were used as a digestive aid or as medicine, but eventually were added, by the dash, as a flavoring for cocktails. According to Brad Thomas Parsons, author of Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All with Cocktails, Recipes and Formulas, bitters gained popularity in Colonial America, although there is evidence they were being used in cocktails in England in the early 1700s. The complexity bitters add to a drink is what separates an average cocktail from an inspired work of sipable art—the one where you keep taking little slurps trying to discern all the different layers of flavor that are making your mouth sing, and you feel absolutely justified spending $16 on the dang thing.

God Save the Cocktail 2When I first started noticing this onslaught of bitters, I wanted to try them all…lavender, tangerine, cardamom, celery…but soon there were so many, even my fetishy delight at all the little apothecary bottles was replaced with an overwhelming sense of panic: How will I track down all the other special ingredients in these recipes? Do I know enough people who will come over and try these varied and complicated drinks? Do I really need a muddler? Will I need to start dressing in only pre-prohibition clothing and seek out friends with handlebar mustaches? Dizzy with all these quandaries, I gave up and stuck to my go-to bitter-infused cocktail—the dependably delicious Manhattan—put on some Cab Calloway and called it a day.

Recently, I read a blurb in a magazine about bitters from a company called Cocktail Punk, whose goal is to “create compelling accents for the modern cocktail…simple yet devious. They are perfect in classic cocktails but were really designed for the cocktails that haven’t been invented yet.” I liked their renegade spirit and their chubby dropper bottles with their simple labels—elegant, but with a Vivienne Westwood snark. I promptly ordered*:

God Save the Cocktail 3CHERRY BITTERS – A cherry bomb, targeted directly at (your) Manhattan. Vibrant cherry, a hint of vanilla, and subtle spice complements the oak flavors in dark spirits, but the flavor profile is simple enough to use wherever a touch of cherry is needed. You’ll never need a barspoon of syrup from the Luxardo jar again.

SMOKED ORANGE BITTERS – Smoked Orange is the new black. Orange zest is cold-smoked with alderwood, and the result is smoky but not overly intense; a finishing touch of mint adds interest. Built for and absolutely killer in tequila and mezcal drinks, but there are also unexpected and wonderful effects in combination with darker spirits.

MORNING GRAPEFRUIT BITTERS – Zesty grapefruit flavors, but with a pronounced aromatic backbone and a touch of juniper. Inspired by an eccentric uncle who enjoyed the old Southern habit of a breakfast grapefruit half with sugar and bitters added. A seasonal bitters made only in peak grapefruit season.

God Save the Cocktail 4I received the Cocktail Punk bitters in the mail, happily opening the box to reveal my prize. I quickly got to work on making a Manhattan with the Cherry bitters. They were right, I didn’t need any Luxardo syrup to achieve a perfectly balanced cherry kick. I did, however, enjoy a few Luxardo cherries thrown in along with a twist of orange. Heaven. I tried the Smoked Orange bitters in an Aperol Sour and received a satisfying amount of praise from Kirsten and Aaron (Aperol is an Italian bitter orange aperitivo similar to Campari). I will be making these on the regular. Finally, I tried the Morning Grapefruit bitters in a simple Greyhound. I quote the first Sharknado when I say, “’Nuff said!”

I’m looking forward to inventing some of my own cocktails using Cocktail Punk’s bitters. And I might trade in the Cab Calloway for some Clash or Fear. I still don’t have any friends with handlebar mustaches, but I have plenty of friends who like punk, so I’m not bitter.

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God Save the Cocktail 5CLASSIC MANHATTAN

¾ oz sweet vermouth
2 ½ oz bourbon
few dashes of Cocktail Punk Cherry bitters
Several Luxardo cherries
1 twist of orange peel

Place cherries in a chilled cocktail glass. Stir together vermouth, bourbon and bitters with ice in a mixing glass until cold, trying not to bruise the spirits. Strain into cocktail glass. Rub edge of the orange peel over rim and twist over the drink to release the oils, discard. Makes 1 drink.

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God Save the Cocktail 6APEROL SOUR

1 ¾ oz Aperol
¾ oz lemon juice
¼ oz simple syrup (recipe below)
few dashes Cocktail Punk Smoked Orange bitters

SIMPLE SYRUP

2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar

Simmer sugar and water in a saucepan until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Makes about 1 cup.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add all ingredients and shake until cold. Strain into a cocktail glass. Makes 1 drink.

God Save the Cocktail 7.
GREYHOUND

1 ½ oz gin (or vodka)
5 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
few dashes Cocktail Punk Morning Grapefruit bitters
1 twist of grapefruit peel

Pour ingredients into a highball glass filled with ice and stir to combine ingredients. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit peel. Makes 1 drink.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Cocktail Punk

 

The book Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Aperol can be found at BevMo and most liquor stores. You can purchase Luxardo cherries from Williams-Sonoma and Amazon.

*Descriptions of bitters from the Cocktail Punk website.

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.


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.

Violet Liqueur – The Bitter Truth Is Sweet

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Nostalgia, Recipes, Spirits, Travel
Violet Liqueur 1

Swooning over the ice cream in Provence.

When Kirsten and I were in the South of France several years ago, we both had the same defining food moment. We were in Les Baux and ordered violet ice cream from a perfect shop on a perfect cobblestone street. We had tasted rose ice cream before, and on the previous day in Aix-en-Provence we had tried lavender ice cream for the first time. But the moment the first glorious spoonful of violet ice cream hit our lips, we truly and completely swooned. It was like the episode of The Brady Bunch when Bobby defends Millicent at school (awesomely played by Melissa Sue Anderson). She kisses him in thanks and fireworks go off in his head and he is happily dazed by the experience. France is, of course, one of the best places on earth…the food, the wine, the country…but my greatest memory of that trip was the singular, purple-hued cup of violet ice cream. Both Kirsten and I agreed that it was the greatest thing we had ever tasted. Loving food the way we do, that is saying something. Our violet obsession had begun.

When we got back to the States, we spent years trying to find a violet extract that would allow us to relive that violet-infused moment, but, despite spending a lot of time on the Internet and a lot of money on violet flavorings, we haven’t been able to replicate that firework-inducing moment of bliss, particularly when it comes to cocktails.Violet Liqueur 2

I always love using floral flavors in cocktails. When St. Germain, the celebrated elderflower liqueur came out, I was over the moon with delight. When Shakers released rose-flavored vodka, I was making vodka tonics several times a week (it is sadly not available anymore). I have purchased about four different violet liqueurs, but none really had that true violet scent and flavor (although some of the bottles are super dreamy). And then I stumbled on The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur. The moment I read about it, I felt panic that I might not be able to find it, but Hi-Time Wine Cellars shipped it to me within three days of my order.

The first thing I noticed about it was the deeply purple color. My other violet liqueurs are varying shades of purple, but none has the color the website describes as “reminiscent of a full moon reflected on a river in the twilight.” That is some damn poetry! I opened the bottle and the scent brought me right back to that cobblestone street in Les Baux. I needed to mix this with some stuff and pour it into a fancy coup, stat!

Violet Liqueur 3My friend Melissa was coming over that weekend and I decided to make the classic Aviation cocktail. The first thing I noticed was the incredible color—it was like a goth dream. The second thing I noticed was that it smelled just like violets! Some floral flavorings can be so sickeningly sweet and overpowering, but this was just right. And then the taste…all I can say is—fireworks. Melissa doesn’t drink very often, but I think she enjoyed her fancy cocktail. I ended up having two drinks (it would have been a crime to let that boozy goodness go to waste) and floated in a delicious violet haze for the rest of the afternoon.

I guess we’ll never know if Bobby Brady would have seen fireworks if he tried The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur. I’m sure Alice or maybe cousin Oliver would have saved him from the degenerate horror of underage drinking. But I bet that Greg would have dug it, surreptitiously sipping from Mrs. Brady’s martini glass in his fringed vest up in his groovy attic room, maybe even with a few of those cigarettes he was so fond of. Queue the laugh track while I pour myself another…Violet Liqueur 4

AVIATION COCKTAIL (courtesy of The Bitter Truth)

2 oz dry gin
¾ oz The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur
⅓ oz maraschino liqueur
¾ oz fresh lemon or lime juice

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Makes 1 drink.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur

 

The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur can be purchased from Hi-Time Wine Cellars. Maraschino liqueur and dry gin are available at BevMo and most liquor stores.

 

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.

Respect Your Elderflowers 2

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!


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.

 

Pamplemousse

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Drinks, Food & Drink, Recipes, Spirits
Pamplemousse 1

Crème de Pamplemousse Rose liqueur from Combier

Can I just start by saying that I love the word “pamplemousse”? The French word for grapefruit, and so fun to say. I love all things grapefruit. I also love liqueurs in pretty bottles, anything from France, and cocktails in alluring glassware, so Crème de Pamplemousse Rose is a perfect storm of deliciousness.

Pamplemousse 2I have been on the hunt for this spirit for many months, which is made from neutral alcohol and red grapefruit by Combier, the company responsible for the very first Triple Sec, L’Original Combier, created in Saumur France in 1834.

My birthday was this week and my husband, Aaron, was going to be working out of town. I wasn’t thrilled about this news, but Kirsten was going to come over and watch Gidget Goes To Rome with me, so I consoled myself with the thought that I would probably get extra presents to make up for this gross injustice, and I would still have a great birthday hanging out with my best friend. Little did I know that Husband Extraordinaire would surprise me with a Present Treasure Hunt! Kirsten and I had so much fun running all over the house solving riddles, while Aaron laughed at us on FaceTime. The culmination of this extravagant scavenge was a bottle of the glorious Crème de Pamplemousse Rose hidden in the wine fridge in our basement.

Pamplemousse 3After proper tribute was paid to the most excellent planner of birthday shenanigans, Kirsten and I opened a bottle of sparkling wine (I’m partial to Gruet Brut Rosé from New Mexico—if you haven’t tried it, buy several bottles) and added a few generous splashes of the liqueur. You could smell the grapefruit, so lovely and citrusy and fresh. We clinked our glasses and took a sip. It was delicious. It didn’t overpower the sparkling wine, but enhanced its crisp, bubbly majesty.

I have to say, Gidget Goes To Rome did not live up to the original Gidget movie with Sandra Dee, or even the awesome series starring Sally Field (which I record on my DVR and watch before going to sleep on the regular), but the Crème de Pamplemousse Rose exceeded all expectations, and I can’t wait to try it in other cocktails. I think even Moondoggie would have left the beach to hang out with us on my birthday and toast Jean-Baptiste Combier and his wife Josephine for concocting such a wonderful spirit. When Gidget said, “Honest to goodness, it’s the absolute ultimate,” I am sure she was referring to Crème de Pamplemousse Rose.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Crème de Pamplemousse Rose
Gruet Brut Rosé

 

Crème de Pamplemousse Rose and Gruet Brut Rosé are available at many specialty wine shops and liquor stores.

 

Yes, Grasshopper

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

I’ve always thought of Crème de Menthe and Crème de Cacao as the kind of alcohol you sneaked from your friend’s parents’ liquor cabinet at a slumber party. Syrupy sweet and not too potent, they were the type of thing that my underage taste buds and underdeveloped palate could tolerate and even enjoy. As I got older, however, I began to develop a taste for wine and what I deemed to be sophisticated cocktails. No candy-colored “mom drinks” for me. That is, until I came across Tempus Fugit Spirits.

Tempus Fugit 1I was initially drawn in by their packaging—sinuous bottles with sumptuous labels that would have been perfectly at home in a 19th-century Parisian bar. Tempus fugit (“time flies”), indeed. But then I read about their Crème de Cacao and Crème de Menthe, and reliable sources seemed to agree: these liqueurs were something new and special, a cut above. The Tempus Fugit website states: “Our goal is to source and recreate rare spirits and liqueurs from the pages of history to satisfy the demands of the most discerning connoisseur.” Being a lover of both history and rare spirits, I had to try them out for myself.

I procured a bottle of each and was delighted to discover that the praise was warranted. The Crème de Menthe is made with spearmint, in addition to the usual peppermint, so it’s cool and refreshing with a little bite that nicely balances the sweetness. And there’s no neon green in sight. The liquid is as clear and pure as the taste on your tongue. The Crème de Cacao, on the other hand, is the rich brown of its namesake, in contrast to the white version that is traditionally used to make grasshoppers. It is truly extraordinary. Thick and sweet without being cloying, it has an intense chocolate flavor that aficionados will adore.

Tempus Fugit 2Put these two together and you have a cocktail that will make your friends swarm…and swoon. This ain’t your parents’ grasshopper. People will plague you for the recipe, so here it is:

TIME FLIES (AND SO DO I) GRASSHOPPER

1.5 oz. Tempus Fugit Crème de Menthe
1.5 oz. Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao
1.5 oz. light cream
ice

Mix together in a cocktail shaker, then strain into chilled glasses. Serves 2.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Tempus Fugit Spirits

 

Tempus Fugit Crème de Menthe and Crème de Cacao can be purchased from K&L Wines.