Green Fairy Tale

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Drinks, Entertainment, Food & Drink, History, Movies, Recipes, Spirits

Twenty-five years ago today, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was released in theaters. Being a fangirl (emphasis on “fang”), I flew out to see it, but amidst the gore and gothic romance, one scene sank its teeth into me:

Count Dracula fills a glass with green liquid, then pours water from a carafe over a sugar cube, which rests on an intricate silver spoon suspended atop the glass. He tells Mina, “Absinthe is the aphrodisiac of the self. The green fairy who lives in the absinthe wants your soul, but you are safe with me.” Mina takes the sugar cube and sucks on it with a look of ecstasy on her face.

Needless to say, I swooned.

For the past decade, absinthe has been enjoying a revival, but back in 1992, I hadn’t heard of it. The public Internet was in its infancy, so I had to do some old-fashioned library research in order to learn more about this mysterious drink. I discovered that it was a popular libation in Gilded Age Paris that was purported to have psychedelic properties and had been credited with inspiring great works of impressionist art, literature, and music. It had also been illegal in the United States since 1915.

Absinthe is a potent alcoholic drink featuring a mixture of botanicals, including sweet anise, fennel, lemon balm, star anise, and peppermint. One primary ingredient is grande wormwood, an herb containing high levels of thujone, long thought to be responsible for absinthe’s mind-altering effects. Due to its transformational nature and the vivid green color of the liquid, drinking absinthe became known as “romancing the green fairy.” It was believed to be highly addictive and, in the lead-up to Prohibition, took the blame for many of the social problems of the day.

The forbidden always seems more exotic, so I plotted to get my hands on a bottle, but years passed without success. I traveled to New Orleans in the spring of 2000 and visited the site of the Old Absinthe Bar where, ironically, there was not a drop of absinthe to be had due to the continued ban on its importation, but I was not the only one who’d caught absinthe fever. That same year, a product called Absente was released in America. Marketed as the first legal absinthe in the U.S. since the ban, it was made using a process similar to the original 19th-century versions, replacing the wormwood with southernwood and adding sugar.

I immediately purchased a bottle, along with their matching absinthe-style glasses and spoons. Still infatuated with the ritual that I’d seen at the cinema and read about in my research, I reverently set up my glass and spoon, placing the sugar cube just so, then carefully poured ice-cold water over the sugar and into the glass of Absente. I watched, captivated, as they combined to create la louche—the magical alchemy that transforms clear, emerald-hued absinthe into the opaline shade of green milk glass. This was finally happening! I brought the glass to my lips and took a sip.

In the build-up to this moment, I’d never entertained the thought that anticipation of a thing is often greater than the thing itself. I had also failed to consider that absinthe contains two types of anise—a flavor I don’t favor. Further, I’d never been a fan of hard liquor. Even watered down and sweetened up, this brew was robust, to say the least. I could only choke down about half of the liquid.

Disappointed, but unbowed, I wasn’t quite ready to abandon my quest for true absinthe. Despite discovering that I didn’t dig the drink, I still yearned to experience the heady effects that had inspired artists like Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec and authors such as Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway, so the search carried on and I continued to accrue absinthe accoutrements.

Helping to keep the dream alive, absinthe was featured in two movies released in 2001. The first was Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!, in which several characters savor the spirit and subsequently hallucinate a green fairy in the form of Kylie Minogue. A few months later, I found myself once again in the theater staring up at a stunning bottle of absinthe in From Hell, where Johnny Depp’s character is at once chasing the dragon and romancing the green fairy.

Eventually, Kirsti—who’d caught the absinthe bug from me—convinced a friend who was traveling to the Czech Republic to smuggle a bottle of genuine absinthe back to the U.S. for us. Bottle finally in hand, we set out our paraphernalia and prepared to imbibe. This was it.

Antique silver absinthe spoons are highly collectible, but these stainless steel versions are beautiful and affordable.

I didn’t feel the same thrill I’d experienced when preparing to drink Absente for the first time, but we performed the revered ritual and drank up. I finished my entire glass and even had another, but as the evening progressed, I never felt more than a slight buzz from the alcohol—no symphonies heard, stanzas conceived, or scenes envisioned, and not a single flash of fairy wings.

The romance was officially over.

My absinthe-related supplies and books were relegated to a dusty shelf, while the bottle of contraband liquor languished in a cabinet. This would have been the end of the story if not for our friend Mika, who, in addition to being a trained opera singer and pastry chef, is a talented mixologist with a knack for dreaming up delicious drinks. She likes to rinse a glass with absinthe before constructing a cocktail, or incorporate a small measure in the mixture itself, imparting an almost floral note that I find enchanting. Like many a skilled composer, she doesn’t always transcribe her technique, but BuzzFeed compiled a convenient list of absinthe cocktails for those who don’t take their liquor neat—or too seriously.

Hidden within this vintage-inspired artwork by Robert Rodriguez are the names of Tempus Fugit’s absinthes.

If you have the heart of a true absintheur, you’re in luck! Absinthe was officially legalized in the United States in 2007, leading to a flood of options for enthusiasts. Absente was reformulated to contain actual wormwood, and even Marilyn Manson got in on the game with his acclaimed version, Mansinthe. Many are of high quality, but beware of imitations. I tried one that looked more like mouthwash than absinthe and did not form a louche when water and sugar were added. We at The Swoon Society are partial to Vieux Pontarlier, a pre-ban absinthe from Tempus Fugit Spirits, purveyors of luscious liqueurs in beautiful bottles.

Despite some conflict along the way, this green fairy tale has a happy ending, so raise a glass in cheers to a journey of 25 years, but opt for emerald and skip the silver…unless there are vampires about.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Absinthe

 

Have you caught the bug? For detailed information about the history, ingredients, and ritual of absinthe, visit Absinthe Fever.

 

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Seedlip – The Non-Alcoholic Cocktail You Will Be Happy to Drink

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Spirits

“Mateus, please!”

My deep appreciation of the cocktail goes way back. You might think to my early 20s, or even high school, but I became a connoisseur of spirits at the tender age of four.

Grandma Kay. It’s happy hour somewhere!

I spent the night with my grandparents often as a child. Our routine in the evening was to watch television in their den—mostly movies wildly inappropriate for a little girl, such as Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan or Logan’s Run. We’d settle in with our afghans, popcorn, and cocktails: bourbon and 7-Up for my grandparents and a wine cooler for me, which basically consisted of a glass of 7-Up with a healthy splash of wine. This was in the early ’70s, long before Bartles & Jaymes made wine coolers ubiquitous in the 1980s. I think, back in the day, it was acceptable to give kids a bit of wine before bed to make them sleepy. Or maybe it wasn’t, but “happy hour” was an everyday occurrence with my family and usually lasted until bedtime.

I was really into my wine coolers, and I knew what I liked. My grandma loved to tell the story where she tried to give me a different wine one time instead of my usual, which was a cheap rosé from Portugal called Mateus. I threw a fit until she relented and opened a bottle of my beloved Mateus. I liked the roundness of the bottle and the old-looking photo. Even at four I was picking wine based on the label.

Later, as a tween, when my parents drank Tom Collins, I got to drink the Collins mixer and pretended it was a real cocktail. You don’t see this drink much anymore, but, like Harvey Wallbangers and Rob Roys, it was popular in the ’70s. To make a Tom Collins, you just mixed gin with ice and Collins mix, which was a premade sour mixer sold next to the club soda and tonic water in the supermarket. It was easy and cheap and, when paired with a Captain and Tennille record, it kept the party swinging.

As an adult, one of my favorite rituals is having a martini with my dad. He makes a big production out of it with the fancy Waterford crystal glasses. We may not agree on what makes the best martini—he likes Beefeater gin and olives, I like Hendrick’s and a lemon twist—but we both agree that a gin martini is the only true martini. Vodka martinis are for suckers.

Like most people who enjoy a nice pre-dinner drink, I’ve embraced the craft cocktail revolution, greedily trying recipes involving St. Germain, Aperol, homemade syrups, and a myriad of bitters. And then I stumbled upon Seedlip.

Seedlip bills itself as “The World’s First Non-Alcoholic Spirit.” It has no calories, no sugar or sweetener, and no artificial flavors. It is copper pot distilled using herbs and aromatics. When mixed with tonic and a squeeze of lime or a grapefruit slice, it mimics the refreshing deliciousness of a gin and tonic.

There are two versions of Seedlip: Garden 108 and Spice 94. Garden 108 has an herbal profile with the essence of peas, hay, spearmint, rosemary, and thyme, while Spice 94 is more aromatic, with botanicals such as allspice, cardamom, oak, lemon and grapefruit conspiring together to dazzle your senses.

When I first read about Seedlip, I was swooning over the gorgeous bottles and the idea that I could have cocktails during the week that were alcohol-free. I also liked being able to provide an exciting aperitif for friends who didn’t drink alcohol. Unfortunately, it was only available in the U.K. (now it is readily available in the U.S.), but my dear brother-in-law and his girlfriend brought me back a bottle of Spice 94 from London. It was everything I hoped it would be. It had the juniper-y nip of gin commingling with many other mysterious and spicy notes.

I am often disappointed by gourmet food and drink that has the promise of exotic ingredients, only to taste them and find their magical flavors undetectable. Seedlip, however, really delivers on the flavor. Its spicy, herbal scent tickles the nose as much as it delights the taste buds. I am completely smitten. My husband, Aaron, is also a fan, and we went through our bottle lickety-split.

The only drawback is that Seedlip, with a $40 price tag per bottle, is more expensive than any fancy top shelf spirit. Still, this lovely elixir enchants me. I’ve yet to try the Garden 108, but I see a bottle in my future. I might even be wild and add some gin, or perhaps a splash of Mateus. I’ve got Wrath of Kahn on DVD and a soft afghan calling my name.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Seedlip Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirits

 

Seedlip can be purchased in the United States from Food52 and a variety of online retailers.

 

Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Food & Drink, Holidays, Spirits, Wine

If you plan to toast America’s Independence Day, you have three ways to say, “Cheers!” Those who enjoy bold flavor might try a red sparkling wine,* such as Lambrusco (wine blogger Marissa A. Ross is a fan), while traditionalists can opt for a classic champagne made with white wine grapes (our choice for the occasion, natch, is Cuvée Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut). But those who enjoy things a little off-color will swear by something blue.

Yes, blue sparkling wine is becoming a thing. There’s a blue prosecco from Italy, which gets its color from blue curaçao, but this 4th of July we’re raising a glass of Blanc de Bleu Cuvée Mousseux by Bronco Wine Company. Made from Chardonnay grapes with a touch of blueberry juice for color, Blanc de Bleu is a respectable effervescent wine with crisp, dry flavor…but let’s face it—the color is why we’re talking a blue streak about this cerulean sparkler.

The unexpected hue of Blanc de Bleu is mesmerizing and sure to become the center of conversation at any gathering. Much like rosé wine, which beguiles with its blush, blue sparkling wine is fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously (will #intotheblue replace #yeswayrose?). It’s a natural choice to serve at weddings and gender reveal parties…or to class up your backyard barbeque. There’s still time to stock up for tomorrow’s celebration, so get a case of the blues this year and spread some holiday cheer(s). Happy 4th, Swoonsters! 🥂 🇺🇸


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Blanc de Bleu Cuvée Mousseux

 

Blanc de Bleu is available at BevMo, Total Wine, and many wine shops and liquor stores.

 

*You can also add cranberry juice to white sparkling wine for some bright red refreshment. With a splash of Cointreau or Triple Sec, this is known as a Poinsettia and makes a festive cocktail to serve during the Christmas holidays.

 

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.

 

The Royale Treatment

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Food, Food & Drink, Spirits, Sweets

It’s almost the middle of January, but I’m still “toasting” the New Year with champagne…

kir-royale-brunch-jam-1When my sisters and I were young, Santa would fill our stockings with all types of tiny treasures. Once I was old enough to make my own money (and learn the sad truth), my mother and I began a tradition of exchanging stocking gifts on Christmas morning. These petite presents can include scented candles, jewelry, ornaments for the tree, candy and food items—anything that will fit inside an oversized sock. This past December, as I was perusing a gourmet foods section looking for stocking stuffers, I spied four of the greatest words in the English language ever assembled together: Kir Royale Brunch Jam.

kir-royale-brunch-jam-2Let’s parse this phrase by working backwards. When it comes to jam, I’m with Joey Tribbiani—forget the knife, get the spoon. Or just forgo utensils altogether. Luscious and fruity, it turns plain toast (and bagels and scones) into a tasty treat. Then there’s brunch, the breakfast that allows you to sleep in. So considerate and delicious with its generous assortment of sweets and savories. Royale means that this fruit spread is fit for a (French) queen, and, when paired with Kir, it refers to a classic cocktail featuring champagne and blackcurrant liqueur. No modest mimosa, this spirited sparkler elevates even a meager meal to a regal repast.

Containing whole blackcurrants, real champagne, and crème de cassis, this juiced jam from Stonewall Kitchen looks like candied caviar on the brunch buffet. At just a few dollars a jar, anyone can indulge in the lifestyles of the rich and famous, so give yourself the Royale treatment and enjoy champagne wishes and kir-infused dreams.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Stonewall Kitchen Kir Royale Brunch Jam

 

Kir Royale Brunch Jam is not currently (or currantly) featured on the Stonewall Kitchen website, but jars can be found online and in select stores. As a brunchtime alternative, try Bellini or Mimosa jam.

 

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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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

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.

 

Kiddie Pools and Cucumber Cocktails

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cocktails, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Spirits

Cucumber Cocktai 1I live in Woodland Hills, California—a suburb in the west San Fernando Valley that is known for being the hottest neighborhood in Los Angeles. I like it here, but in the summer it’s hot as Hades with a side of flame-broiled misery. When Santa Monica is a cool 89 degrees, we are 104. Last summer I remember having lunch with a friend, and the temperature in my car said 118 degrees. I laughed because it was funny/not funny. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t melted. All the candles on my deck did!

This year, my husband Aaron had enough and declared we were getting a kiddie pool. I was dubious, but—lo and behold!—a week later Amazon delivered a crazy-looking, 8-foot-wide, inflatable pool with a pump and a cover. And a skimmer! When one has a kiddie pool, one must not forget the skimmer! I giggled at Aaron’s fervor, but was secretly wondering how soon he could get this thing set up. When we finally tried it out, I’ll be damned if our little pool wasn’t the perfect antidote to this hell-spawned heat. We even got a doggie raft for our pug, Owen. This IS L.A., after all.

The only question was, what does one drink in a kiddie pool in the middle of a blistering Saturday afternoon?

Cucumber Cocktail 2The answer, friends, is a Cucumber Vodka Tonic.

When I read that Prairie made organic cucumber vodka, I immediately went out and procured this spirit. I’m normally a gin drinker, but I love cucumber water, cucumber seltzer—even cucumber perfume—so I was in.

I couldn’t love this cocktail more. It’s refreshing and delicious and the perfect drink for an afternoon in the kiddie pool. It’s also handy when you trick your friends into coming over for dinner and they don’t realize how ungodly hot it is here. I just put one of these cooling little babies in their hands and they are like, “I freaking LOVE Woodland Hills!” The Cucumber Cocktail Diversion, as I call it, works every time. We only hope that next time they remember to bring their swimsuits.

“Marco.”

“Polo.”

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Cucumber Cocktail 3CUCUMBER VODKA TONIC
Serves 4

1 cup Prairie Cucumber Vodka*
I cup tonic water
¼ cup lime juice
2 Tbsp. agave syrup or superfine sugar
mint leaves
cucumber ribbons
Put all ingredients except mint leaves and cucumber ribbons in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until cold. Strain into glasses filled with ice. Garnish with mint leaves and cucumber ribbons.

Turn on music. Get in kiddie pool. Ahhhhhh…

 

*Use the Prairie Finder to locate a Prairie Organic Spirits retailer near you.

 

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.

Wonder of Wonder Drinks 3

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.

 

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Coffee, Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Spirits

St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, and while I may not be Irish, I like to celebrate a holiday on which people are encouraged to dress in my favorite color. Always having some article of green clothing on hand, I haven’t been pinched yet!

Sweet Dreams 1This year, in addition to the wearin’ o’ the green, I’ll be drinkin’ o’ the Dream. In our Holiday G.I.F.T. Guide, I chose Dream Catcher Legendary Toasted Irish Liqueur as one of my picks, and I’ve discovered that it makes a swoon-worthy Irish coffee. Simply replace the traditional whiskey with an equal amount of Dream Catcher and top with whipped cream. It’s magically delicious!

Serve up a mug with breakfast and you’ll feel on top o’ the mornin’. In the afternoon, you can enjoy a wee nip while you avoid a wee pinch. As a nightcap, the comforting warmth of the coffee and liqueur will help you catch some Zzzzz…and net some sweet dreams.

With luck, there’s still time to lurk in the liquor aisle and trap this treat from the Emerald Isle to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day. One sip of this toasted chestnut liqueur and you’ll know you’ve found the gold at the end of the rainbow.

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Sweet Dreams 2DREAM CATCHER IRISH COFFEE (adapted from the Food Network)

1 cup freshly-brewed hot coffee
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 ½ oz. (3 Tbsp.) Dream Catcher Irish liqueur
heavy whipping cream and sugar, to taste*

Whip the cream with a beater or whisk until stiff peaks form, adding sugar, to taste (if desired). Set aside.

Fill a footed mug with hot water to preheat it, then empty. Pour piping hot coffee into warmed glass until it is about 3/4 full. Add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Blend in Dream Catcher Irish liqueur. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and enjoy!

*To veganize this recipe, substitute whipped coconut cream for dairy whipping cream.

 

For a store locator and recipes featuring Dream Catcher Irish liqueur, visit the company’s website.