My introduction to sake was back in college—gathered with friends around wooden tables on a Friday night at one of Davis’s few Japanese restaurants, taking advantage of sushi specials and all-you-can-drink sake deals. I remember $2 bullets of Asahi and Sapporo poured into small glasses, with chopsticks hovering in parallel over the top. A shot of sake was poured, balanced on the chopsticks, and we yelled (obnoxiously, as college students do): Ichi, ni, san—SAKE BOMB! With a pound of our fists on the table, into the beer slipped the sake and we chugged until we could see the person across from us through the bottom of the glass. It was one of the more sophisticated times in my life.
Sadly, that was as far as my exposure to sake went. I never grew to like hot sake—something about the sourness and the warmth made my stomach turn. Cold sake was a little better, but nothing I felt compelled to seek out.
Recently, though, I set out on a mission to make homemade dumplings—and because I love a good theme night, I decided to make a sake cocktail to go with them. I scoured the internet for inspiration (my search terms were something along the lines of “sake cocktail for people who don’t really like sake”) and I came across a recipe from Food & Wine that sounded perfect—cucumber, mint, lime and gin—I was convinced I would barely even notice the sake.
And that was mostly true—this cocktail is refreshing and simple, but I do think the sake adds a little something that can’t be replicated by anything other sake itself. The bottle of sake I used is super reasonably priced ($14—and you’ll get a ton of cocktails out of it, or sip alone), though I think most dry sakes would work well. Even my non-cocktail-loving (or sake-loving) husband guzzled this one down in record time.
Muddle, shake, sip—and skip the sake bombs.
Sake East Side makes 2 cocktails; adapted fromFood & Wine
8 slices of cucumber
20 mint leaves
4 oz dry sake – I used Momokawa Silver
2 oz gin
1.5 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
Muddle cucumber slices and mint in a shaker. Add ice and all other ingredients. Shake until well combined and very cold, about 20 seconds. Double strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a cucumber wheel.
Is there anything worse than having friends over, and then spending the evening chained to the oven/stove/bar, unable to really be present and enjoy their company? Making cocktails for the people I love is the whole reason I started this blog (did the name give it away?!), so I’m always on the hunt for a great batch cocktail that I can make for a crowd—and leave me free to mix and mingle.
This punch is bright and perfect for spring—the orange flavor of the Aperol, the tart citrus, the earthy gin. Double or triple the recipe and you’ll be set for at least an hour or so, leaving plenty of time to catch up with your people, relax, and even snag a sip of your own.
Billingsley Punch adapted from Death & Co.; makes about 4 cocktails
12 sugar cubes
8 oz club soda or seltzer, divided
6 oz gin (I used Tanqueray)
2 oz Aperol
2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
2 oz fresh lemon juice
4 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
Grapefruit wedges or wheels
In a pitcher, muddle the sugar cubes with 4 oz of club soda or seltzer until fully broken up. Add all other ingredients except the remaining club soda or seltzer. Add several handfuls of ice and stir until cold. Strain into a punch bowl and add a large block of ice, if available. Top with the remaining club soda or seltzer, and garnish with grapefruit wedges or wheels.
If you can’t get your hands on a block of ice, keep an ice bucket next to the punch. Guests can build their drink as needed!
Happy Valentine’s Day! Last year I created a fun blood orange cocktail for the holiday, so this year I wanted to do something a little different. I thought about the iconic conversation hearts and wanted to incorporate them somehow into a drink, but nothing felt quite right. I remembered I had this silicone heart mold hanging around my baking wares—some good homemade truffle intentions gone awry. I had some real success with ice a couple years back, so making heart-shaped cubes seemed like a no brainer. Plus: citrus season!
You can really use any type of juice you want—I even added some pureed mint to the lime cubes for extra color. Below are a few ideas for inspiration, but do come up with your own variations!
These cubes melt quick since they are so small, but I found they retained their shape when I used them as a topper rather than as a true chilling tool. Plus they float a little better this way.
So instead of going out for some overpriced dinner or picking a fight with your significant other when he doesn’t come home with flowers, make these adorable cubes, pour yourself a G&T, and sip happily to love.
Heart-Shaped Citrus Ice Cubes
You can find the silicone molds at Walmart, Michael’s and probably most dollar stores!
Take about 1/2 c. fruit juice of your choice, pour it into the molds, and allow to freeze about 2-4 hours (depending on how big your molds are).
To use, make a cocktail on ice (I like to make a clear drink, like a G&T, so the cubes really shine), and top with a few cubes of your choice.
Are you one of those people who consistently plans for the future, has everything organized, and just generally has her life together? Well that makes one of us. More often than not, I’m winging it in this life. I am late everywhere I go. I never put important dates on my calendar. I can be found at the grocery store basically every day of the week because I can’t get my act together to plan ahead. I don’t make my bed, my fridge hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned in months (don’t judge me), and I have dozens of receipts balled up in the bottom of my purse (and not important ones—just ones that detail the $3.99 lint roller I bought. Necessary.)
So when I present to you a cocktail made with beet juice, don’t think this is due to hours of researching, brainstorming and testing. The reason this cocktail exists is due solely to the potent concoction of laziness and convenience that is my specialty.
I saw a jar of beets cowering in the back of my fridge and thought, oh. I forgot those things were in there. Huh. Maybe the juice would look cool in a drink. Maybe?
About 30 minutes later this beet juice cocktail was born. I threw in some meyer lemon juice (also 2 days away from death), some St. Germain (which typically makes anything taste delicious), and added some absinthe for good measure. A sugared rim was added and the Beetlejuice was born.
True to form, I couldn’t even come up with a name for this guy myself (see above re: laziness). So I asked my dad. Despite his bad dad jokes (“What do they serve for breakfast in a lighthouse? BEACON AND EGGS!”), he’s pretty witty and good with a pun. So, Beetlejuice it was. No way I was beating that.
The moral here is: 1) don’t be like me. Seriously. Don’t. and 2) Cocktails can definitely be an art, but don’t always have to be. Next time you want to make a drink, see what’s hanging around teetering on its expiration date. Use it. Add random ingredients and tweak it until you’re happy. Nothing exciting was ever created without a little chaos.
Or, at least that’s what I tell myself.
BEETlejuice makes 2 cocktails
.5 oz beet juice
1 oz meyer lemon juice
.5 oz absinthe
.75 oz St. Germain
Combine the zest of half the meyer lemon and 3 tbsp granulated sugar. Rim the edge of two coupes with beet juice, then with the sugar mixture. Set aside.
In a shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients. Shake until very cold, about 20 second. Double strain into the rimmed coupes. No garnish.
Kyle asked me the other day what I love so much about Christmas. Not so much into the holiday himself—he’s a total Thanksgiving guy—he didn’t understand why I (and the rest of my family) look forward to Christmastime so much.
After I stopped rolling my eyes and shouting, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHY DO I LOVE CHRISTMAS!? WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE!!!????” I told him it wasn’t one thing in particular but everything at once: the smile-inducing songs, the colorful decorations, the warm lights, the decades-old traditions, the time set aside just to be with family. It’s the well-wishes of “Merry Christmas” I hear throughout the month. And though the gifting is lower on my list of holiday loves, there is something that makes my heart grow a few sizes seeing someone open a thoughtful present you picked out for them. All of it, combined, is what makes Christmas so magical.
Last weekend we were at my parents house and remembered something I had received from Santa when I was little—probably 5 or 6. I had them pull it out so I could show Kyle. It wasn’t a doll or a toy. That year, I had written a note for Santa and placed it beside the milk and cookies I had set out. I asked him for one small thing: His signature. I’m not sure why I asked for that, exactly, and I’m not sure what I expected to find when I awoke. But whatever it was, the note that greeted me was, I think, what made me fall in love with Christmas.
On a piece of North Pole addressed letterhead, scrawled in script, was a letter from Santa. It bore two reindeer hoof prints—true to size—and a burn hole from Rudolph’s nose. It was signed in big loopy letters, and at the end read a note from Santa’s elf apologizing for the prints, the burn. I was enchanted.
After that, I was afraid to stop believing, even after I knew the truth. I remember how scared I was of losing that feeling, how much I wanted to hold that sense of wonderment in the palm of my hand and never let it go. But like every kid, the time came when I did. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that Santa wasn’t what made Santa special—it was that Santa was really only my father, scheming late at night on Christmas Eve simply for the sake of magic.
I guess my answer to Kyle was only a half-truth. Sure, the songs and the lights are certainly wonderful, but the real reason I love Christmas so much is because of its unparalleled magic. The kind that only lingers in the background the rest of the year. The kind that shows up, scrawled on a piece of paper, with a burn mark and two hoof prints, next to an empty glass of milk and a plate of half-eaten cookies.
Onto this delicious cocktail! Everyone has been posting a variation of this gem of a cocktail, but I had to recreate my own because it’s just too good. Easy to make, cozy, not too sweet, a little tart—it’s perfection. Whip up a whole batch and make them a new tradition this Christmas!
Cranberry Moscow Mules makes 2 cocktails
4 oz vodka
2 oz cranberry sauce syrup (recipe follows)
2 oz fresh lime juice
8-10 oz ginger beer (I love Fever Tree)
Sugared cranberries (use this great recipe via Holly & Flora!) and rosemary for garnish
Combine first three ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until very cold, about 20 seconds. Strain into two copper mugs filled with fresh ice. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with sugared cranberries and/or rosemary. Sip merrily!
Cranberry Sauce Syrup
I encourage you to make your own favorite cranberry sauce, and instead of allowing it to simmer until thick, let it go only about 10-15 minutes so it’s syrupy and still pourable. That’s it!
The variation I used was simply 1/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. water, 1 cup frozen cranberries, and the zest of 1 satsuma or orange. Combine all ingredients and let simmer until it barely coats the back of a spoon, about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. The syrup will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
If you’re anything like me, your first memory of grenadine is the sugary, syrupy variation that made Shirley Temples so delicious. It felt like such a treat to order one out at restaurants—showing up to the table almost sparkling, and when done right, the most vibrant ombre filling the glass. It was perfect.
And if I’m telling the truth, I’ll stand by the use of the old school grenadine—usually Rose’s—used in that iconic beverage. But cocktails are another story. True grenadine should made with a base of pomegranate, not cherry, and adds a really special flavor to a drink when you have the good stuff. I had been purchasing mine from small-batch producers, which is great because there are some really wonderful ones on the market. But after stumbling upon so many easy recipes for grenadine, I knew I wanted to try to make my own.
But which recipe?! I had a basic recipe I kept coming across, which included the use of citrus, but had also stumbled upon a New York Times variation that used demerara sugar that sounded interesting. And then there was the Death & Co. recipe—the holy grail—that I knew would be amiss to skip.
So I made all three! Below are all of them in full. Which was my favorite? It’s a tight race between the classic citrus variation and Death & Co.’s—they both have unique flavors. But if I was forced to choose, I would have to go with the classic recipe. To me it seems to have just the right amount of flavor to not overwhelm the cocktail, but still add dimension. I would encourage you to gather all the ingredients (which are few!) and do your own taste test!
Most recipes make a ton of grenadine (I halfed or quartered the recipes so I didn’t have vats of the stuff—these quantities are reflected below), and it’s perfect for holiday gifting—the color is gorgeous. Simply include your favorite cocktail recipe (that uses grenadine, of course!) along with the bottle, snazz it up with some twine or ribbon and you’re done! You can buy these bottles on Amazon and they have a ton of sizes.
Bonus! Holly and Flora adds some spices to her grenadine and it sounds incredible. Definitely give this variation a whirl, especially in the winter!
I’ll be posting a few of my favorite recipes using grenadine soon. Stay tuned!
Classic Citrus Grenadine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pomegranate juice
2 dashes orange blossom water
juice from half a lemon, strained
Combine sugar and juice over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Let cool before use.
I love a super-seasonal cocktail that includes pomegranate, cranberry, cider or something similar—but sometimes I just want a fall drink that’s a little more traditional and not too fussy. This cocktail, called Fields of Gold, is one of my favorites. It’s a variation of a sour, made slightly sweet with the orange and honey. It’s simple and you probably have all the ingredients on hand at any time.
Add a little more lemon or a little less honey syrup to adjust to your liking. I typically go heavy-handed on the bourbon. However you make it, I hope you enjoy it curled up on the couch next to a fire (or under a cozy blanket!). Happy Thanksgiving!
Fields of Gold makes 2 cocktails
4 oz bourbon
4 slices of orange
3 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz honey syrup (combine 1 tbsp honey with 1.5 tsp warm water; stir until honey has thinned)
Place orange slices in a cocktail shaker and muddle. Add ice, bourbon, lemon juice and honey syrup. Shake until very cold. Double strain into two rocks glasses filled with fresh ice. Garnish each with an orange twist.
Barware notes: The glasses were thrifted. Napkins are from cb2. The black juicer and cocktail pick were both old finds at Crate & Barrel.
Thanksgiving is here! Christmas is my favorite holiday (because, duh, CHRISTMAS) but Thanksgiving is definitely my second favorite (because, duh, ALL THE FOOD). I do have a t-giving cocktail up my sleeves—that’s coming! But I came across this cranberry tart from Smitten Kitchen and though Deb’s recipes never need improvement, I knew it could be bumped up just a notch with some bourbon.
I added the good stuff (generously) to the caramel and it turned out so delicious. You can really taste the bourbon (which was the point, tbh), and I think it’s a great addition to the holiday dessert table.
Hope you’ll try it out this week or for one of the many upcoming holiday soirees. Stay tuned for the cocktail!
13 tbsp (1 stick plus 5 tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 c. powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 c. unbleached flour
1 tbsp heavy cream
Let the butter come to room temperature. Place the powdered sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the pieces of butter and toss to coat. Using a paddle attachment with a standing mixer, combine the sugar and butter at medium speed, until the sugar is no longer visible. Add the egg yolk and combine until no longer visible.
Scrape down the butter off the sides of the bowl. Add half of the flour, then begin mixing again until the dough is crumbly. Add the remaining flour and then the cream and mix until the dough forms a sticky mass.
Flatten the dough into a thick pancake, wrap it in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours before preparing to roll out the dough. Lightly butter a 9-inch pastry ring or tartlets, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Once the dough has chilled, cut it in half, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat, until you have 16 equal pieces. Work quickly with the dough so that it remains chilled. Sprinkle your work surface with a thin layer of flour. Knead the pieces of dough together until it forms one new mass and shape it into a flattened ball. Flour a rolling pin and sprinkle flour again on the work surface underneath the dough. Roll out the dough into a circle one-eighth-inch thick.
To easily transfer the dough into the ring or tart pan, fold it in half gently, then in quarters. Move the folded dough to the tart ring or pan, with the point of the dough in the center, then unfold it, gently patting the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the ring. Trim the edges so that they are flush with the top of the ring. You can do the same with the tartlets by simply cutting out a circle the size of the tartlet rings plus about .5 inch. Dock the dough with a pastry docker or prick the dough all over with a fork.
Put the baking sheet and pastry ring into the freezer for 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 350º. Place the baking sheet and ring in the oven and bake 25-30 minutes or until the dough is lightly browned. You can actually cook the crust longer than you think; a deeper golden brown is great. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before filling.
Filling + Assembly
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into eight pieces
1/4 c. bourbon
1 c. granulated sugar
1 3/4 c. frozen cranberries
2 c. unblanched sliced almonds
Keep (or preheat) the oven to 350º. Measure the bourbon, cream and butter into a saucepan and heat it over low heat. When the butter has melted completely, remove from heat.
To make the caramel, spread the sugar evenly in a perfectly dry, deep 10-inch skillet and place it over medium-low heat.
The sugar should turn straw-colored, then gold and then a nutty-brown caramel after about 10 minutes. If the sugar cooks unevenly, gently tilt or swirl the pan to evenly distribute the sugar. Remove from heat and slowly whisk the bourbon/cream/butter mixture into the sugar, which can splatter as the cream is added (long sleeves are a good precaution). If the caramel seizes, return it to the heat and continue to stir until it is smooth and creamy. Strain the caramel into a bowl and cool it for 30 minutes.
Stir the frozen cranberries and the almonds into the caramel and mix until all the fruit and nuts are coated. Spoon the filling into the partially baked tart dough mounding toward the center.
Bake for 3-40 minutes, until the juices and the caramel are bubbling slowly around the edges. Again, you can bake these for longer than you think. Get those edges nice and brown! Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 hour, then gently lift the tart ring off the pastry.
Carefully transfer the tart to a serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature—with ice cream, of course!
I always forget about Kimchi. How fresh and delicious it is—perfectly spicy and full of flavor. Seeing the recipe in Small Victories for Kimchi Fried Rice incited that “YES!” reaction in my belly and so I went forth fearlessly into the world of fried rice!
Luckily, it turned out for me, fried rice is about the easiest thing to whip up for a quick weeknight meal. And bonus: you can make a lot of it ahead of time, like the rice and scallion “salad” to top it off.
I added bacon because a) BACON and b) Kyle is the type of guy whose go-to meal is “meat on bread” and so I threw him a bone by adding a touch of the good stuff into this dish.
The also topped it off with a soft-boiled egg for some protein and to make it feel a little more like a meal than a side dish. The result was a bowl full o’ comfort, and made great leftovers for lunch the next day.
I paired the kimchi fried rice with a classic Dark & Stormy—bold but with a little sweetness to balance out the spice of the kimchi. It’s a great cocktail to serve for guests, too, because of the rum float atop the ginger beer.
One important note about the Dark & Stormy: I’ve made it with ginger simple and seltzer vs. ginger beer, and the latter is just better. Plain and simple. The syrup and seltzer just doesn’t have the strong flavor that really makes for a good Dark & Stormy. I love to keep ginger beer on hand—the mini bottles of Fever Tree are my favorite, since you never really need a full bottle for two cocktails—it will keep in your pantry for quite some time, and its a great addition to so many cocktails.
I’ve got one more recipe up my sleeve from Small Victories, and I can’t wait to share it! In the meantime, grab that leftover rice, pick up a jar of spicy kimchi, and get cookin.’
Kimchi Fried Rice adapted from Small Victories
4 scallions, chopped
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
toasted sesame seeds, optional
1 16-oz jar kimchi, chopped, juices reserved and set aside
3 tbsp canola oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6-8 slices of bacon, diced (or, if you have it already cooked, simply crumble and set aside)
4 cups white or brown rice, cooked (leftover is great—so is Minute Rice. No judgements here!)
1 tbsp soy sauce, plus more to taste
salt to taste
sesame seeds or furikake for garnish
To make the scallion “salad” combine the first 4 ingredients in a bowl, mix well and set aside.
To make the rice, warm the canola oil in a skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, bacon (if uncooked), and a pinch of salt. Cook about 5 minutes until onion is soft. Add chopped kimchi and let cook for another 5 minutes. Add the rice, reserved kimchi juice, bacon (if previously cooked), and about 1 tbsp soy sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add more salt and soy sauce to taste.
Serve in bowls topped with the scallion salad and a soft-boiled egg, if desired. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or furikake if you have it on hand!
Dark & Stormy makes 1 cocktail; build each individually
2 oz dark rum
5 oz ginger beer
Fill a rocks glass with ice. Fill about 3/4 of the way with ginger beer. Using an inverted spoon, pour the dark rum slowly over the back of the spoon so the rum floats on top of the ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Sunday mornings are my favorite. I usually spend them lounging in bed, waking up slowly, relishing in the fact that I don’t have anywhere in particular to be, no to-dos that need to be checked off right away. When I finally crawl out from under the covers, I grab a cup of coffee that Kyle (the early riser of our relationship) has brewed.
Scrambled eggs are my go-to weekend breakfast (I finally learned how to make the best scrambled eggs—the secret is in the pull!), bacon (this recipe is everything) and english muffins (ideally from here). Sometimes, though, I like to mix up the breakfast routine and make something different—like waffles, pancakes, or chilaquiles!
Chilaquiles are a great weekend breakfast because they are quick and you can typically adapt them to whatever you have on hand. I made my own chips and homemade salsa for this version (because the salsa from Small Victories is soooo good), but I’ve also used store-bought of both, and honestly, it’s pretty great either way.
A couple pro tips for making the best chilaquiles: sauté the chips right before you’re ready to eat—and go easy on the salsa to start. The chips will get soggy in a hurry, especially if you over-do the salsa, and you can always add more. A little goes way farther than you’d think.
My other tip: fry the eggs separately rather than cracking them over the chips and baking. I’ve made it both ways, and it’s way easier to get the eggs perfectly cooked by frying and adding to the chips.
Chilaquiles are great for a crowd, and equally as perfect for two. Topped with lime sour cream, cotija and picked red onion (don’t skip this! so easy to make and they’ll keep in your fridge)—and you’ve got a show-stopping Sunday breakfast.
I paired them with a tequila-based cocktail called The El Diablo, which also has lime juice, ginger beer, and creme de cassis. It’s a great brunch cocktail but would also be delicious with tacos at dinnertime. Is there every really a bad time for tequila? Happy Sundaying!
Heat oven to 425º. Arrange tomatoes and onion on a baking sheet; dress with a couple of tablespoons of canola oil and a pinch of salt, and roast for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a blender or food processor, pureé roasted veggies with the jalapeño, salt, cilantro and lime juice. This recipe makes quite a bit of salsa, but I love to use it for dipping plain ol’ chips.
For the pickled red onions
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp salt
1/2 c. white vinegar
1/2 c. water
Combine all ingredients in a mason jar. Shake well. Let sit for at least 20 minutes until serving. Will keep in fridge for up to 2 weeks.
For the chilaquiles
4 generous handfuls of chips (fry strips or wedges of tortillas in canola oil, 1-2 minutes per side; or use store-bought chips)
1/4 c. salsa (see above)
2 fried eggs, sunny-side up
sour cream (add lime juice to taste, optional)
1/4 c. pickled red onions (see above)
1/4 c. crumbled cotija
cilantro leaves for garnish
In a deep skillet, combine chips with salsa. Sauté for a few minutes to coat chips; remove from heat. Arrange sautéed chips on two individual plates or bowls. Top with a fried egg, then pickled red onions, cotija, sour cream and cilantro. Serve immediately.
El Diablo makes two cocktails
3 oz tequila (blanco and reposado are both great options) or mezcal
2 oz creme de cassis
1.5 oz fresh lime juice
3-4 oz ginger beer
Combine the first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until very cold, about 20 seconds. Strain into two coupe glasses. Top with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge.