Homemade is better - well, in most things that is. I'm talking about homemade cordials and liqueurs. One of the things I love about making my own is that I can control the alcohol, sugar levels as well as flavoring. Plus it's crazy easy! For example - many liqueurs call for vanilla, and I'm in love with Ronald Reginald's Melipone Mexican Vanilla, which I swear by and use for anything that calls for vanilla. Bonus: it pairs beautifully with coffee for those in love with Kahlua.
In most cases, making your own flavored liqueurs is a lot less expensive, unless your focus is on high alcohol percentages, which you totally can do. I'm guessing it depends on what you plan to use it for - sipping straight? Get the higher quality. The brand names you get in the store usually have lower percentages, not to mention they are often mixed into cocktails with alcohol that do have a higher percentage. That said, you do you boo. I'm not here to judge.
Every year, I stock my crisper drawer with GLBC's Christmas Ale, (yes, I'm one of those people - if that's your pet peeve, I do save the other crisper drawer for actual vegetables), and for years would also stock my liquor cabinet with Kahlua to make a taste beer cocktail which I call the Twisted Christmas Ale.... Then one year when the budget was tight, I did what I always do when that happens; I make it myself. Then, I learned really fast that mine had way more flavor and generally tasted better than what I was buying. Below, I've gathered a few favorites to make - they do make great little gifts - just be sure to keep some for yourself!
2-3 c Freshly Brewed Strong, Hot Coffee
2-3 c Rum
2-4 c Sugar
1-2 T Vanilla Extract, or a Vanilla Bean, cut lengthwise.
Mix sugar and coffee together; if using vanilla bean, add while the coffee is still hot - it will release more flavor. Let the mix cool and add rum and vanilla extract (if using instead of vanilla bean). Vanilla extract can lose flavor with heat. Taste-test and adjust any ingredients if needed. Store in a cool place for 3 or 4 weeks, (if you can wait that long). If using a vanilla bean, leave it in the mixture for how ever many weeks you can wait to enjoy.
2 c Water
2 c Sugar
1/2 c Brown Sugar
2 c Vodka
2 T Almond Extract
1 T Vanilla Extract
In a pan, combine water and sugars, dissolve sugars and bring to a boil, then remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, add vodka and extracts. Store in a cool dark place.
Raspberry (or Blackberry) Liqueur
3 c Vodka
2 c Fresh (or Frozen) Raspberries or Blackberries
2 c Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean (cut lengthwise and divided) or, 1 T Vanilla Extract.
Add vanilla bean, (or extract divided equally), berries and sugar (divided equally) between 2 quart jars, then fill jars with vodka. Shake to combine and to help dissolve sugar. Place in the fridge, and shake a couple of times a day for at least a week.
This weekend most of us will celebrate Halloween!! The height of the most wonderful time of the year is finally here!! Whether you're having over a couple of friends or a crowd this weekend, here's a few tips and tricks to get your cocktails looking dark and scary. And I'm not even asking for any candy!
Make it GROSS! (EW!)
The easiest way to make Halloween cocktails scary is to make the drink itself appear gross. There are so many options! Bloody Brain Shooters, Zombie Brain Shots and of course the Brain Hemorrhage Shooter. Add extra red to any drink for a bloody effect by using corn syrup tinted with red food coloring, (or strawberry syrup, but it will be thinner than the corn syrup), on the inside of the glass, or as a rim for the glass - you've got to let some of it run down the sides for a true blood effect. You can also use grenadine and red sugar to rim a glass, and if your recipe calls for grenadine, put it into a syringe with the drink as the cocktail stirrer. To make eyeball garnishes, use canned lychees and add a half blueberry to the center with a dab of red gel food coloring. For extra ews, hold it all together with a skewer. An eyeball garnish for a bloody mary, use a radish, add a stuffed, (or a plain), green olive to the center. Make ice cubes with candy spiders and bugs in the center and use gummy worms too. Also, you can decorate a highball or beer glass with gauze for a mummy koozie.
To blacken cocktails, you can use activated charcoal, however, it settles at the bottom of the glass and might even interfere with some medications according to The Spruce Eats. They suggest a basic food coloring formula or even using black rice to create black vodka.
Sparkle & Shine!!
Make it GLOW!
For glow in the dark cocktails, the key ingredient doesn't go in your drink - it's making sure you have black lights. You can enhance the effects and guarantee that glow by using any energy drink containing vitamin B, Mountain Dew, tonic water, or tonic water ice cubes or any of the list of ingredients that ThoughCo suggests. They also mention the type of glass/cup you use, and though they suggest using a glow stick as a cocktail server, I wouldn't - it would be really bad if it leaked.
The trick to bubbling, foggy potion cocktails is of course dry ice. Just be careful handling it, (like, don't handle it ever - always use a utensil with it). For individual drinks - you don't need much at all. Check out the video below for safety tips. Here are a few places that sell dry ice.
Our cocktail honors Friday the 13th and Halloween, we’re not going to have another one of these in October until 2028… so, I went dark - literally - with the Blackberry Death cocktail
Sugarcane actually dates back to ancient times, with the earliest discovery of sugarcane through Alexander the Great as he made his way through Asia and Africa. Fast forward to the discovery of Barbados, and its perfect climate for sugarcane, they started fermenting sugarcane's by-product molasses - but it didn’t exactly taste great… In the mid 1600’s they called it “kill devil.” It was also an answer to the colonists of New England’s desire for alcohol - they had tried to make alcohol from pretty much everything around them with little success and rum came to the rescue. The taste improved greatly by the early 1700's and we’ve been enjoying it's gloriousness since. Rum was actually the drink of choice of the founding fathers' and our new country's drink of choice.
As for Chambord, it technically launched in the 1980’s - that said, it’s based on a French recipe from the 1600’s from the Chateau Chambord - and was reportedly enjoyed by royalty, specifically, King Louis the XIV, but let’s not focus on what ended up happening to him…
2 oz Dark Rum
1 1/2 oz Chambord
1 1/2 oz Blackberry Juice (or Pomegranate)
2 Dashes of Bitters
Add Rum, Chambord, Juice and bitters to a shaker with ice; shake until well chilled and strain into a glass over ice. Top with Club Soda and enjoy - preferably away from mirrors or under ladders…
One of the essentials of fall is apple cider, and when the temperature dips, hot mulled cider really hits the spot - especially when there’s a shot of bourbon involved.
The apple is so iconic to American culture, that it’s crazy to think that the apple as we know it is not native here. The only native apple trees to the Americas were sour crab apples. Settlers from England brought apples with them, and struggled to get the first orchards started - in fact - they had to ship more bees to the colonies for proper pollination. The origins of the apple (and cider) date back to ancient Egypt, like 1300 BC. Back then, all cider was alcoholic because of the fermentation process and lack of ability to preserve foods. Like most alcoholic beverages, cider was a happy accident, then was replicated. The apple spread from Egypt to Rome and continued throughout Europe, then of course made its way to the new world. For centuries, cider was actually the preferred drink, even more so than beer as it had a lower alcohol content since throughout most of history water was not safe to consume. It was only in the 20th century that beer and stronger spirits became more popular, (prohibition was partly to blame. What were they thinking?!?)
Today, thanks to refrigeration and modern preservation, cider no longer has to be alcoholic, and the recipe for this week’s cocktail calls for plain old cider from the produce section. You can also leave the bourbon out for the kiddos, or instead of adding the bourbon all at once to the recipe, add a shot to the glass/mug before serving.
Bourbon Mulled Cider
1/2 Gallon Fresh Apple Cider
1/4 c Mulling Spices
8-12 oz Bourbon (I used Knob Creek Smoked Maple)
1/2 an Orange, in slices Apple Slices (optional)
Pour cider into a stock pot, (or crock pot), add mulling spices, orange slices and bourbon (if not adding separately to glasses later). Heat on low (turn on high if using the crockpot). Simmer for about 30-40 minutes to infuse flavors. Serve warm, garnish with cinnamon sticks and orange/apple slices and indulge in your warm cuppa happy.
This week our cocktail is a weird one. It's the Dirty Pasta Water Martini... but hear me out. My first reaction was Ew(!) then WHY?! But after reading about it, the science makes sense - pasta water is considered liquid gold in cooking for a reason; it adds a velvety smooth texture to sauces, and the silky mouthfeel is the point of this odd concoction. Being someone who loves the science and chemistry of cooking, I was now intrigued. If you like a classic or dirty martini - you'll most likely enjoy this oddball drink.
It’s truly just the name “Dirty Pasta Water” that’s off putting, because yes, of course I tried it, and as promised, it had a silky feel, and I do like a good classic martini. The recipe is (if you dare). They really should rename it something more appealing, like the Silk Martini… or Velvet Gin Martini. Not long after trying this, I had a regular dirty martini - but something was missing. It just wasn't as good. I added pasta water and viola! It was delish. It really does enhance the flavor and texture...I think I'm hooked.
Dirty Pasta Water Martini
1/3 oz Dirty Pasta Water, cooled to room temp and strained (straining is a very important step)
2 oz Gin
Splash of Dry Vermouth
1/3 oz Olive Brine
Olives or Cocktail Onions for garnish
Pour pasta water, gin, vermouth and olive brine in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a martini glass with your favorite olives or cocktail onions. After you try this, you just might be ruined for a plain classic martini...