Simple Syrup-or is it?

Simple syrup is just about the extent of my experience with making homemade cocktail ingredients. I completely agree with many cocktail bloggers out there who believe that the addition of homemade ingredients like fresh sour mix, grenadine, orgeat, and tonic water make a quality cocktail truly superior. I’m fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to sample the spectacular results of others’ hard work at home. For me, however, making cocktail ingredients at home is an issue because:

1. I’m busy.
2. If I’m not busy, I’m lazy.

The one ingredient that’s been “simple” enough for me to whip up at home myself is Simple Syrup. I mean, why would you ever buy a bottle of premade Simple Syrup? That’s about as crazy as buying bottled water…oh wait.

Anyway, embarrassingly enough, it has come to my attention that I might have managed to screw up Simple Syrup. My mother would be proud. How can this be? Well, I’ve always done a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water for my Simple Syrup, but there are a lot of people out there telling me I’m doing it wrong. I figured I’d bring this matter on to the blog and ask everyone’s opinion—what is the right way to make Simple Syrup?

Bobby Flay has said 1:1, and then Natalie, the Liquid Muse, called him out on it. Paul Clarke provides a 2:1 recipe on Cocktail Chronicles, but Stevi Deter of Two at the Most uses a 1:1 simple syrup in her Pisco Sours. Jeffrey Morgenthaler is on the 1:1 side, while Darcy O’Neil of Art of Drink is all about 2:1 simple syrup in his homemade Sour Mix. Stop the madness! Who’s doing it right and who’s doing it wrong? Or could it be it’s just a matter of taste? Please, share your thoughts in the comments!


Mardi Gras Cocktails

Ok, so I’ve got to be honest. I’ve never really understood the whole Mardi Gras thing. It’s kind of French, it’s kind of Catholic, it’s the day before Lent but it’s total debauchery. Are we just trying to get all the sinning out before Lent starts, or is it just an excuse to party hard on a random Tuesday?

Last summer I visited New Orleans, the famed home of the biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the U.S., for Tales of the Cocktail and fell in love with the birthplace of the American cocktail. Even on a relatively quiet and excruciatingly hot night in July, Bourbon street was alive with jazz, drinks, and (unfortunately, for me) middle-aged folks wearing nothing but body paint—Yikes! I can only imagine how crazy things are in the Crescent City this week, with Mardi Gras celebrations in full swing.

Regardless of its reason for being, I’ve always enjoyed Mardi Gras because it’s the perfect time to be carefree, have fun, and get a taste of the warmer seasons ahead with great spring/summer party cocktails. So un-pack your blenders, pull out your drink umbrellas and swirly straws and fix up a couple of these. I guarantee you they’ll be better than the 7-Eleven Slurpee-esque Hurricanes they sell on Bourbon.

Vive le Mardi Gras! Cheers!

The HYP Fairy

1/2 oz. Hpnotiq Liqueur
splash fresh sour mix

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a chilled shot glass.

White Peach Paloma

2 oz. Tequila
½ oz. Hiram Walker White Peach Schnapps
2 oz. Fresh Squeezed Grapefruit Juice
2 oz. Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1 oz. Simple Syrup

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a salt-rimmed glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lime corkscrew. Serve blended, if preferred.

Southern Belle

1 ¾ oz. Absinthe Mata Hari
1 ¼ oz. Hiram Walker Pomegranate Schnapps
Splash cranberry juice

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Grapeful Red

1 oz. Hiram Walker Pink Grapefruit Schnapps
¼ oz. Hiram Walker Triple Sec
Dash grenadine

Shake over ice & serve in a chilled shot glass.


Oscar Night Libations

Oh yeah…I’m that girl. I’m the girl who waits for Awards season all year long. I try to see as many of the nominated films as possible. I have my girlfriends over for cocktails and fancy-schmancy appetizers and we “oooo” and “ahhh” over the glamour of the red carpet. Yep, that’s me.

I’m not ashamed of this fact—quite proud actually and I’m guessing I’m not alone. Yes, I’ve even known a guy or two (straight guys!) who’ve been known to throw an at-home Oscar-viewing party. So if you too are Oscar-crazed, pretentious about film, or just love the fashion, you’ll appreciate these two cocktail recipe ideas for this Sunday.

The Red Carpet:

1 ½ oz. OVAL Vodka
1 oz. Compari
1 oz. Hiram Walker Pomegranate Schnapps
1 oz. Pomegranate Juice
½ oz. Simple Syrup

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon slice.

Winslet Cocktail: (it’s really the Starlet Cocktail, but I like this name better)

1 oz. Absinthe Mata Hari
1 oz. Orange flavored vodka
1 oz. Hiram Walker Black Raspberry Liqueur
1 oz. champagne

Combine Absinthe, vodka, and black raspberry liqueur in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with champagne. Garnish with a raspberry.


A Caipirinha for Carnaval!

Carnaval is coming! The popular Brazilian holiday begins tomorrow and lasts until Lent. In Brazil, people celebrate with costumes, parades, samba music, and (you guessed it) Cachaça! Leblon, Brazil’s finest Cachaça, is helping to spread the Carnaval love with events nationwide, an awesome Carnaval kit for you home party, and of course, fabulous cocktails!

If you’ve been to the Leblon site, you’ve seen the vast array of cocktail recipes—everything from complex bar-chef masterpieces, to martinis and twists on the classics. But I think for Carnaval, it’s best to stick to the basics. What better way is there to celebrate Carnaval than with Brazil’s #1 cocktail—the Caipirinha?

The traditional Caipirinha is the current fave in my household. My fiancé and I can’t get enough of them and, though there is some muddling involved, it’s a super easy cocktail to fix. Once you’ve got your bottle of Leblon stocked, all you need to do is pick up a couple limes from the grocery store and you’ve got cocktails for the night.

Traditional Caipirinha

2 oz. Leblon Cachaça
½ lime
2 tsp superfine sugar (or 1 oz. simple syrup)

Cut the lime into four wedges. Muddle the lime and sugar (or simple syrup) in a cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and add Leblon Cachaça. Shake vigorously. Serve in a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of lime.

Super easy! Once you’ve got that down, you can make several variations on the Caipirinha by muddling fresh fruit. The Blackberry Caipirinha is absolutely delicious!

Blackberry Caipirinha

2 oz. Leblon Cachaça
6 Blackberries (or any berry will do)
¼ lime, sliced
1 tbsp sugar

Place blackberries with sliced lime in a shaker and muddle well. Fill with ice and add Leblon Cachaça and sugar. Shake vigorously and pour into a rocks glass. Garnish with a blackberry. Yummmmmmmmmm!

Ok so you’ve got the cocktails for your Carnaval party—now all you need is the Leblon Carnaval kit to top it off. This party-in-a-box includes green Carnaval masks, Bon fims, Carnaval beads, Caipirinha glowsticks, napkins, stirrers, a muddler and samba music. What more do you need? Still looking for more direction? The video below will walk you through how to make the perfect Caipirinha. Saude!


What's Absinthe?

What’s Absinthe? That’s a question I heard from several people at the Liquor Depot in Avon, CT this past weekend. I was there for a special Valentine’s Day Absinthe Mata Hari tasting and, for many guests, it was their first experience with Absinthe.

When you spend your day reading cocktail blogs, it’s hard to imagine anyone hasn’t heard about Absinthe, but there are still so many people who either don’t know anything about it or are filled with misinformation about the category. Some people I spoke to still believed it was illegal in the U.S. or it would make them go crazy and cut their ear off. Even more were hearing about Absinthe for the first time and wanted me to compare it to something they had already tried.

That’s a tough task to tackle. To what can you compare Absinthe? Pastis, Sambuca, or Anisette liqueurs? No, Absinthe, especially bohemian style, is definitively and fundamentally different from anything else out there. Just try it yourself and see!

We got a great response, both from guests who tried Mata Hari in the traditional drip and in a Bohemian Baybreeze.

Bohemian Baybreeze:

1 ½ oz. Absinthe Mata Hari
2 oz. Pineapple Juice
1 oz. Cranberry Juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into an old fashioned glass.

Many first-timers caught the bug and wanted to learn more about Absinthe’s fascinating history. We might have some work to do to further spread the word about Absinthe, but I think it’s safe to say that Mata Hari has begun to steal hearts, even in our country’s smallest corners. Thanks to everyone who came out for the tasting! Cheers!


1 Day to Go…Valentine’s Day Cocktail Ideas

There’s only one day left to make your plans for Valentine’s Day, but I’m here to help you out. No matter your situation, a cocktail will probably be in order and I’ve got just the thing.
I’ve never been big on celebrating Valentine’s Day with cards, chocolates (though I won’t turn them down, of course) or teddy bears. It’s all just a little too…contrived. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Valentine’s Day-“this-is-just-a-marketing-ploy-fronted-by-Hallmark”-Hater. I think any day that asks you to stop what you’re doing and appreciate the ones you love is a good one.

But rather than buying your sweetie some overpriced heart-shaped pillow that says “Be Mine,” why not show your love with some quality time at home. Nothing says “I love you” like a home cooked meal and a well-crafted cocktail. Or, if you’ve already got reservations for dinner out, set aside time for cocktails at the home bar afterward. Try a few of these tasty tipples and toast to the ones you love on Valentine’s Day!

Ok, this one might take a little extra work but it’ll be worth it in the end, and it’ll show your Valentine just how much you really love them. Oh, and bonus points if you serve it up with a long-stemmed rose on the side (buy two—one for your rose syrup!).

Rose Royce:

1 oz. OVAL Vodka
1/3 oz. Rose Syrup
1/3 oz. Simple Syrup
2/3 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
½ glass Perrier Jouet champagne

Shake all ingredients well over ice and pour into a champagne flute half-filled with Perrier Jouet. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

Rose Syrup: C’mon…it’s not that hard

20 (or so) rose petals

You can make Rose Syrup the same way you make simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water), but first, flavor the water by adding rose petals and simmering for about an hour.

If your sweetie has a sweet tooth, try this Deep Chocolate Cocktail. It’s a wonderful dessert drink to sip by the fireplace this Valentine’s Day.

Deep Chocolate:

1 ½ oz. Leblon Cachaça
½ oz. Jago Cream Liqueur
½ oz. Navan Vanilla Liqueur
4 oz. Chocolate
Whipped cream

Mix all ingredients in a tall handled glass. Pour and thoroughly stir in the hot chocolate mixture. Top with whipped cream and white chocolate shavings.

Keeping with the chocolate theme, the Chocolate Temptress is the perfect cocktail if you’re Valentine is looking to try something new.

Chocolate Temptress:

2 ½ oz. Chocolate flavored vodka
½ oz. Absinthe Mata Hari
½ oz. Simple Syrup
Crushed chocolate cookie for rim
Star anise float for garnish

Rim a cocktail glass with crushed chocolate cookie crumbs. Combine vodka, Absinthe Mata Hari, and simple syrup in an ice-filled shaker. Shake thoroughly and strain into the prepared cocktail glass. Float the star anise on top.

If you can’t afford the rock, you can at least fix up a properly-titled cocktail—the Ruby Diamond.
Ruby Diamond: (photo above)

2 oz. Leblon Cachaça
2 oz. Lychee puree
½ oz. lime juice
Dash simple syrup
1 tbsp pomegranate seeds
6 mint leaves

Muddle mint and pomegranate in a shaker. Shake with remaining ingredients. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

And if your boy/girlfriend wasn’t kind enough to wait until after Valentine’s Day to call it off, make yourself a Broken Heart Martini. You can enjoy it curled up at home with a good book, or out with your friends, because there’s no rule that says you have to have a Valentine!

Broken Heart Martini:

2 ½ oz. OVAL Vodka
½ oz. Hiram Walker Crème de Cacao
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 slice orange
1 tsp sugar

Rim a cocktail glass with cocoa powder. Stir together the OVAL vodka, sugar, and Hiram Walker Crème de Cacao with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into the prepared glass and garnish with an orange slice.

*Photo of the Chocolate Temptress photo is from the fabulous Cheri of The Intoxicologist. Go check her out!