Between Christmas and my birthday, I was lucky enough to receive some of the most thoughtful and beautiful pieces to continue building my bar. Here are my favorites from the holiday season.
one: this gorgeous seamless mixing glass from local Oakland homewares shop Umami Mart—essential for a cocktail stirred, not shaken.
two: Kyle treated me to this fancy bottle of Ardbeg Corryvrecken single malt scotch for Christmas. I’m not typically a scotch drinker, but this one is smoky and complex and could certainly make a believer of me.
three: Liquid Intelligence—a cocktail book with a scientific approach to all things booze. Did you know there’s an actual technique called booze washing, which strips liquor of undesirable flavors? Me neither. I feel smarter already.
four: another awesome cocktail book Death & Co., from a bar of the same name in New York City. The book is written collectively by the speakeasy’s many amazing mixologists, and features stunning pictures and hundreds of unique cocktails.
five: finally! A set of Moscow mule mugs that have been on my wishlist for quite some time. I can’t wait to use them all summer long.
six: my sisters got me this gorgeous wine decanter for my birthday; I’m embarrassed to say I have never owned a decanter (though I have been using this aerator for quite some time and love it). This thing is so pretty it doubles as a work of art.
Not pictured but equally loved: seven: an empire state building cocktail shaker (!); eight: a pair of etched fern coupes.
Your turn! Any great holiday scores I should know about? There’s always room for more, I say.
Can someone tell me how 2014 is already over?! PLEASE! I remember last New Year’s Eve like it was mere days ago. For the first time in a long time, I spent it with my parents—my dad, specifically. My own birthday falls on December 31st and my father’s is on January 1st, so growing up I was typically able to blow my candles out in the same breath as he did. I didn’t realize it then, but that’s a pretty neat circumstance.
Over the past 12(?!) birthdays, I was either back at college from winter break to celebrate with my friends, or more recently, in New York City where I lived (and when you live in NYC, you don’t really consider spending New Year’s Eve anywhere else, even if you are just sitting in your itty-bitty apartment drinking cheap champagne with your roommate).
Last year, I was finally home for my birthday. And even better: I was turning 30 and my dad was turning 75. A milestone birthday for each of us, celebrated together. We toasted champagne and snapped pictures and felt the joy of the moment, even if we didn’t speak it aloud. It was one of my favorite.
This year, Kyle and I are taking a mini roadtrip south, using my birthday and the new year as a welcome excuse to unplug, adventure, and reconnect.
I’m going to be 31. 31! I remember when my thirties felt so far away, so dreaded. I would be OLD when I reached my thirties! Now that I’m here, I feel the opposite. I feel like this decade is one of both comfort and risk, content and anticipation. It began with a commitment to myself and my partner that we were going to take on life together, side by side, forever. What could be a better start to a decade than that?
I won’t post about resolutions here, as I’m hoping to write a dedicated post to it this coming weekend; It’s hard not to get those and birthday wishes jumbled up. So I’ll make my birthday wish a simple one: more delicious cocktails shared with friends and family in 2015. I can’t wait!
For the celebration of 2015, I wanted to create a cocktail that would:
a) be a fun party drink
b) be boozy and simple
c) pair well with (birthday) cupcakes
I have been seeing French 75 cocktails all over my social media feeds, so I set out to adapt it. I had some thyme simple syrup left over from our Christmas cocktails (which my sister dubbed the Auld Lang Thyme: 2 oz bourbon, 2 oz apple cider, 1 oz lime juice, 1 oz thyme simple syrup, shake and top with champagne—so delicious even non-bourbon lovers will convert!), and I subbed in meyer lemon juice for the regular ol’ stuff. And BAM! The California 75, or Cali 75 (I hate the word “Cali” but this has an undeniable ring to it) was born.
I hope you’ll give it a go this New Year’s! It’s full of that gin flavor but has some sparkle from the prosecco, and just enough sweetness.
Happy, happy new year!
Cali 75 makes 2 cocktails
3 oz gin
2 oz meyer lemon juice
1 oz thyme simple syrup (recipe follows)
your favorite prosecco or champagne
champagne flutes or coupes
Add ice and first 3 ingredients to shaker; shake until cold. Strain equally into two champagne flutes or coupes. Top with your favorite prosecco or champagne. Cheers!
Thyme simple syrup
1 c. water
1 c. sugar
5-8 sprigs of thyme
Add all ingredients to a saucepan and heat over medium until sugar has dissolved and thyme is wilted. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 15-45 minutes, depending on desired potency.
Barware notes: To be completely honest, I can’t remember where I got these stemless champagne flutes but I think it was here.
Merry almost Christmas, friends! I had such great intentions of creating several holiday cocktails, but somehow the time has escaped me. Doesn’t it always work out that way? I anticipate the arrival of Christmas all year, and when it finally arrives, it comes and goes in the blink of an eye. I suspect it’s that way for most wonderful things in life: weddings, births, and the many celebrations in between. What’s left is a few memories of time well spent; and, if you’re lucky, the ability to recall the joy felt in those moments.
When I look back on the 30 Christmases of my life, I can tell you with certainty that I don’t remember more than a handful of gifts I’ve received. What I do remember: Reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas each and every year, first my mom reading it to me, then my sister reading it to her kids, and now my nephews and nieces reading it to each other.
I remember a letter from Santa written by my dad, one that he spent hours creating—complete with a hole burned into it (from Rudolph’s nose, naturally) and two reindeer prints so realistic that a part of me still believes St. Nick is real.
I remember candlelight services at church, mini-roadtrips to view Christmas lights, and messy cookie-baking. I remember the faces of my nephews and nieces waking up to see that had Santa come. I remember the magic of the moments that we rush through and that rush through us.
So, as the 25th grows nearer, I’ve been trying to slow down and appreciate these little moments that add up to one busy holiday season. As I wrap my gifts, I try to think about the person who will receive them and how I hope the gift makes them feel. I try to wrap up that hope as well.
As I decorated the tree, I paused a second longer to hang my most meaningful ornaments. This was the first year Kyle’s childhood ornaments graced our tree, so I took care in nestling them amongst my own, as our pasts continue to merge into one shared life.
Over the next few days, there will be many opportunities to let such moments slip away from me—and an equal opportunity to stay present in them. Cocktails with old friends, dinners with couples we see only a few times a year, a lazy Christmas breakfast with my family—these are what joy is made of. And if I can hold onto even an ounce of that joy, and carry it with me until next year, it will have been a very merry Christmas, indeed.
As we close on 2014, I hope you’ll include this cocktail in your celebrations. It’s simple and bright and cheery—just like the holidays should be! And, in my opinion, December just begs for a little bubbly. Cheers!
Cranberry Sparkler makes 1 cocktail (build each cocktail individually)
Cranberry purée (recipe below)
Fill Champagne flute about one-third of the way up with the cranberry puree; tilt flute and slowly pour sparkling wine down the side of the glass to create an ombré effect. Sip merrily and enjoy!
Cranberry purée makes enough for about 6 cocktails
1 c. gin or vodka (I tried both and preferred gin)
1 c. sugar
2 c. fresh cranberries
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Puree at least 1 minute, until no chunks remain. At this point you can use as-is, or strain through a fine sieve. I liked it with the seeds, but Kyle preferred it strained. Up to you!
Barware notes: My Champagne flutes were a Christmas present from my sister, Jen, from CB2. I love their modern take on a classic shape. The striped napkin was a Crate & Barrel outlet find.
Sip + Skim My favorite finds this week, boozy and otherwise
This coming year, I want to experiment more with beer cocktails. Taking a cue from Beautiful Booze’s Whiskey & Gingerbread Porter Sour could be a good place to start.
I was reunited with one of my favorite shops of all time, Fish’s Eddy, during my visit to NYC this month—and am keeping their online shop on speed-click for the coolest and quirkiest wedding presents (including, um, maybe a fewthings for my own registry)
End-of-the-year “best of” lists are basically my favorite thing ever. I’m carving out some time to spend with this one, TED’s top talks of 2014.
Mourning the ending of Serial with this great list from Slate: What to read, watch and listen to when Serial ends. [Sidenote: I think Adnon did it. Dana’s point in the last episode about him being in too many “bad luck” situations is so spot-on. That said, I still think they should have acquitted him. There was clearly not enough evidence to prove him guilty without a reasonable doubt.]
Just over a year ago, I moved back home to the Bay Area after spending 7 years in New York. When I left home in 2007, I had an inking I would be back; after all, my family was and always would be in California. I was excited for the change, but felt as if living in New York had a timestamp attached to it; there was always an expiration date hovering in the background. I was 3,000 miles from the place I had grown up; how could anywhere else be as important to me as that?
But packing up last summer was much harder than I expected it to be. I had built a life in these boroughs: it was where I had grown from a floundering post-grad to a slightly-less-floundering adult; it was where I found friendships unlike others I had experienced; it was where I had started (and mourned) my own company; it was where I fell in love with the man I’m going to marry; it was where I learned to trust myself. The city was a gift to me in more ways than I think I fully realize, and was a home to me as true as my birthplace ever was.
The other day, I came across a picture that had captured New York in that perfect way that only happens every so often. The sun was setting, the skyline was crisp, the leaves were endless shades of red and yellow and orange. The sight of it hit me like a sucker punch in the stomach; I missed that place so much I could feel it deep in my bones. It felt a little bit like the way you feel after seeing a photograph of an ex-lover, happy and smiling in a new life that doesn’t include you—full of sadness, ache, happiness and nostalgia. It was raw and real and I took a moment to let my eyes well up with tears and feel the feelings I didn’t know I had.
Of course, those feelings lessened as I went on with my week, as most feelings do with the passage of time. I lingered a little longer in the California sunshine, spent time with my nieces, reconnected with high school friends. These things reminded me of why I did end up coming back home, and why I had always known I would. But that longing for New York won’t ever truly end. I can still recall it with memories of late nights in dark Manhattan bars, warm afternoons in Central Park; the million mistakes and accomplishments and joys that are, in my mind, so wonderful if only because they were made in New York City. And those bittersweet, beautiful memories have no expiration date at all.
In celebration of this great city, I decided to make a New York Sour. Just like a traditional whiskey sour, this version includes whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup—the variation is created with the addition of a red wine float. I know it sounds strange, but it actually works—you’re only adding an ounce or so of wine, which ends up blending perfectly with the whiskey.
I used bourbon instead of whiskey here, mostly because I buy (and drink) more bourbon than whiskey—for no real reason, exactly, except maybe I’ve had more exposure to it and it is slightly sweeter, which I like. What even is the difference between bourbon and whiskey, you might ask? I’m still learning the intricacies myself, but the basics are: bourbon is distilled from a grain mixture that is comprised of at least 51% corn, which gives it that sweetness. There are also some differences in storage methods and proof requirements, but we’ll tackle that another day.
I picked up this Cyrus Noble bourbon at a wonderful new spirits shop in our neighborhood called Alchemy Bottle Shop. The store is full of unique spirits, many from small distilleries around the country that you won’t find at the big-box stores. The prices are actually pretty reasonable (only a few bucks more than you might pay elsewhere) and the shopkeepers give you the best recommendations without even rolling their eyes at your stupid questions! And trust me, I ask a lot of stupid questions.
The bottle rang in around $30, and I was told is suitable for both sipping and mixing in cocktails. I’m not even going to pretend I know a great bourbon from a crappy one (yet!), but I thought this one was certainly pleasant to drink. It’s distilled in Kentucky, but bottled here in San Francisco. The history of this bourbon is fascinating, created exclusively for SF in the days of the gold rush (1871!). Very cool.
The wine used was what I had leftover, Cupcake Red Velvet (have you had this? It’s like $8 but I swear is a totally drinkable, cheap wine for a Tuesday night), but anything not-too-oak-y would work in this cocktail, like a Shiraz or Malbec. Once assembled, the result is classic but unique, and has some definite curb appeal—much like the Big Apple itself.
Here’s looking at you, New York!
New York Sour makes 2 cocktails
4 oz whiskey or bourbon
2 oz fresh lemon juice
2 oz simple syrup
2 oz red wine
Add ice and first three ingredients to a cocktail shaker; shake vigorously until outside of shaker becomes cold. Strain equally over ice into each rocks glass. Hold an inverted spoon over one glass and gently pour 1 oz wine over back of spoon; it looks like it is sinking but it won’t! Repeat with the second glass.
Barware notes: My rocks glasses are from cb2—they are paper thin and so lovely to drink from. The shaker is from Bottlerocket in NYC. You can buy it over here.
The juicer is from Crate & Barrel—a recent purchase—and has changed my cocktail game entirely. I was using one of those awful, cumbersome handheld juicers: the worst. Please do yourself a favor and buy one of these. It will be the best $10 you ever spend.
The sidecar (used here for the wine) is also from Crate & Barrel—if you don’t have a sidecar, you must get one immediately! I love making a double batch of cocktails and pouring half of it in the sidecar. That way, you don’t have to go through the whole process again when you wolf down your first cocktail in 10 seconds. Just me?
If ever there was a holiday for a themed cocktail, Halloween is it. Though this drink is pretty tame, next year I’m totally going to up my beverage game with something really creepy, involving fake blood or eyeballs or both. Only 365 days to go. Can’t. Wait.
I was inspired to create this number when I spotted the Aperol tucked away in the back of my liquor cabinet, looking sad and neglected. I bought the bottle after my trip to Italy this summer with my sisters, where Aperol is the star in the Italian cocktail staple called the spritz. A spritz traditionally has a white wine or Prosecco base, along with a bitter liqueur (like Aperol or Campari) and topped off with soda water. The sweetness of the sparkling wine perfectly compliments the Aperol, and makes for a super-refreshing sip.
In this version, I used a vodka base rather than wine or Prosecco, and topped the Aperol with ginger beer for that added sweetness. The bright orange appearance of the cocktail screams Halloween—but honestly, this drink is a winner any time of year. I hope you’ll give it try tonight or in July when you can’t possibly consume yet another mojito.
Though Kyle and I won’t be dressing up this year (are we really at the stage in life when watching a scary movie in our PJs is more appealing than partying in costume?! Sigh), I do hope we get a few trick-or-treaters. I stocked up on Butterfingers and Cookies n’ Cream Hershey bars, but I think I might run out and grab some Reese’s too. Ya know, just in case. Ahem.
Have a safe and sip-worthy evening!
Spooky Spritz makes 1 cocktail (build each cocktail individually)
1.5 oz vodka
1 oz Aperol
3 oz ginger beer
3 oz soda water
Fill a highball glass with ice. Stack ingredients over ice, then give a quick stir.
Bareware note: The highball glasses were found at a thrift shop down the street from me—I love the heavy base of them. The ice was made in a Tovolo King Ice Cube tray—these cubes make any drink look cooler. I scored the paper straws in the dollar bin at Target. I think I spend a liiiittle too much time there.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll recognize this cocktail from several weeks ago—mid-August, actually. My New York girlfriends were in town for our weekend getaway to Sonoma, and before departing on Saturday we spent Friday evening in Cole Valley at a little restaurant called Padrecito. I ordered a drink called La Copa Verde, based on the recommendation of the waiter. I always ask the waiter or bartender for his or her recommendations—on cocktails, wine, food, everything. It’s perfect for enabling my lack of decision-making skills.
La Copa Verde was everything I was promised: tangy and herb-y with all that delicious smokiness from the mezcal. If you haven’t become obsessed with mezcal yet, you should start immediately. It has this sort of bold spunkiness to it that I can really appreciate. It’s what you drink when you want to seem sophisticated, but not pretentious. I know you know what I’m talking about.
Here’s a rundown of the ingredients you’ll need: cilantro, lime juice, simple syrup, mezcal, and chipotle chile pepper. Feel free to skip the pepper if you can’t handle the heat (wahhhh), but it does add a little something. I think Padrecito’s version has a secret ingredient I can’t quite place, but this adaptation is still quite similar.
Once the cilantro mixes with the mezcal and the chipotle, it becomes the perfect addition to a Mexican meal. It’s like a taco in a glass! But, in a really good, not weird way. Just trust me on this one. ¡Salud!
La Copa Verde makes 2 cocktails
4 oz mezcal
1 oz simple syrup
handful of cilantro leaves, stems removed
2 oz lime juice
sprinkle of chipotle chile pepper
coupe or martini glasses
In a food processor, combine cilantro and lime juice. Puree. Run through a fine mesh strainer – some small bits of cilantro will pass through; that’s okay.
Add ice, mezcal, syrup and cilantro/lime mixture to shaker. Shake vigorously until cold and strain into coupe or martini glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of chipotle chile pepper.
Barware note: My shaker (not well-pictured here, but alas), is from this wonderful wine and spirits shop in Manhattan called Bottle Rocket. My coupe glasses were an am-az-ing $3 find at a place called Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley. Clear your whole afternoon before going; it’s a gem.
Skim + Sip My favorite finds this week, boozy and otherwise
I’ve been thinking a lot about this article on drinking in moderation while pregnant. I’m not going to lie: I will probably indulge in a glass of wine now and again when that time comes. Ladies: thoughts?
I’m heading to The Cheese School in San Francisco tomorrow for a cheese and wine pairing class with my dad. I gave him this as a gift for Christmas, which was really a present for me. Win-win.
Working solo from home, I listen to a lot of podcasts. I am O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D with this new one from the creators of This American Life, called Serial. The season covers one murder case, each week uncovering a little more of the mystery. It. is. everything. You can download it for free on their site or on iTunes.
I’ll admit it: I don’t really read the news as much as a should. Which is why I love getting The Skimm newsletter in my inbox every morning. It covers the most important news items (everything from Ebola outbreaks to celeb breakups) in just a few sentences each, and is written by two really smart, witty ladies. It’s the perfect compliment to your morning cup of coffee.
Oh, hi there! Welcome to this little corner of the interwebs I’ve carved out for us to gather around the proverbial bar and raises our glasses together. You can read a little more about how this blog came about over here, but finally, after trying out too many themes, tinkering with a logo (still not satisfied) and getting my hands dirty in some html, it’s herrrreee!
I went through no less than 2,764 potential names for this space—there was the good, the bad and even the ugly (no, seriously: “Hooch + Holler” was on the table at one point, and don’t even get me started on my fiancé’s suggestion of “Ice Spice.” Um, what now?)
But when I thought a little more about why I wanted to even go to the effort to catalog my gin-fueled adventures, the reason was simple: I wanted a place to hang out with you. To cheers to the inevitable over-bittered cocktails and the perfectly-garnished concoctions alike. To share a sip, if you will. Let’s face it: drinking alone is boring (sometimes necessary, sometimes borderline alcoholic, but always boring). Drinking with friends is, in my opinion, one of the great playing field-levelers out there. So let’s hang out, OK? Stay awhile.
Before we get to this week’s cocktail, I also want to note that this won’t just be a blog of cocktail recipes. I’ll probably also wax poetic about silly things that are on my mind (like the new season of Homeland! OMG.) and maybe even delight you with a story or two. I hope that’s okay.
Now, onto the boozy portion of our programming!
Ah, summer. It feels like we practically spend all year longing for you, but by the middle of July we can’t wait to say goodbye. Have we really already forgotten about your warm nights, outdoor concerts, BBQs in the ‘burbs and weekend getaways? I know we’re all anxious for pumpkin spice everything and sweater weather, but I, for one, will miss you. Plus, we’re in the midst of the much-anticipated indian summer here in San Francisco, so anything heavier feels just plain OUTLANDISH. A pumpkin-bourbon smash?! Don’t be crazy.
As an ode to summer, and in an effort to use the lavender that is somehow growing like gangbusters in our ghetto urban “backyard” (read: 8×8 patch of dirt that none of the apartment’s tenants have the know-how to maintain), I present to you: Lavender Lemonade. For a minute, I was worried to use the lavender, thinking it must be a deadly strain since no one was touching the thing. I even googled “how to tell if lavender is poisonous.” The internet told me this wasn’t really a possibility, so I went with it.
I read in a recipe that you could circumvent the step of actually making lavender simple syrup, and since I love anything that allows me to be even a fraction lazier than I already am, I thought, HELL YES! It instructed me to just put several sprigs of lavender in your shaker with the other ingredients, shake an extra 30 times, and voila! Lavender-infused cocktail.
Wrong. This doesn’t work. Not even a little bit. You gotta make the syrup. But here’s the good news: Make a bunch and store it in your fridge—it will keep for at least a month. I’ve used simple syrups wellllllll past a month, and haven’t died, so do with that tidbit what you will.
Other than that, this recipe is super simple. Because summer is about simplicity, amirite? It’s a nice one to sip on the porch (read: in front of an open window of your 600-square-foot apartment) in the last few days before daylight savings ends and it becomes dark at 5pm again. I can’t even talk about it.
Imbibe and enjoy!
Lavender Lemonade makes 2 cocktails
3 oz gin or vodka (ok, let’s be honest: I used 4 oz)
2 oz fresh lemon juice
Lavender simple syrup to taste (I used a generous .5 oz) – recipe follows
2 sugar cubes
Coupe glasses, teacups, or small rocks glasses
Place one sugar cube at the bottom of each glass. In a cocktail shaker, combine all other ingredients. Shake and strain over sugar cubes. Garnish with lavender sprig. Would also be lovely on ice!
For the lavender simple syrup: makes about 1 cup
½ c. water
1 c. sugar
3-4 tbsp fresh lavender buds; about 8 sprigs
Simmer all ingredients on low heat for 10-15 minutes, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Run through a fine mesh strainer to catch the lavender remnants.
I love to store my syrups in the smaller versions of these, which I can only seem to find at the Crate & Barrel Outlet.
Skim + Sip My favorite finds this week, boozy and otherwise
Cocktail-related: One last summer sip, The Painkiller, from one of my favorite bloggers, Shutterbean. Tracy’s blog is a delightful mix of innovative-but-simple recipes, gorgeous photos, and thoughtful inspiration. Basically I want to be her BFF. You’re going to hear so much more about her from me.
The Capsule Wardrobe: I’m really, really intrigued by this idea! I feel like it could be so liberating if the thought of it wasn’t causing me so much anxiety.
Everyone I know is having babies. These could easily become my go-to shower gift.