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This post is part of a partnership with Maille. All opinions are my own. You can learn more about my favorite brand of mustard here.

The holidays and holiday festivities are right around the corner, which for me means two things: cocktails and hors d’oeuvres! One of my favorite things about this time of year is creating the drinks and small bites that my family enjoys when we all get together. We spend the holidays traveling between my parents’ home and my in-laws, so rather than putting together main dishes, I’m usually in charge of the appetizers and apéritifs.

Interestingly, these drink and hors d’oeuvres pairings that I make for special occasions are one of the main things that first spurred my interest in cocktail crafting. It’s something I really enjoy doing and while I do try to start planning long in advance, with our schedule that’s not always possible. So these days I’m focusing on creating very tasty, gourmet bites that are also quick and easy (I do have a toddler after all!).

This year I wanted to make something that would pair well with a spritz style cocktail, with sweet, tart, and savory flavors. I immediately thought of cranberries, maybe some smoked cheese, and a quality mustard. I have been obsessed with Maille mustards since my husband first brought home their Old Style grainy mustard a few years ago. It’s seriously the only brand of mustard we buy now, and I went with the fabulously smooth Maille Dijon Originale for these apple, caramelized onion and smoked gouda canapés, baked and topped with a savory and sweet-tart cranberry and mustard sauce.

There’s something so satisfying about the combination of spicy, creamy mustard with sweet and sour cranberries. The complementary, contrasting flavors excite the taste buds, making you want to taste it over and over again. This recipe makes 20, so you might want to make a double batch if you’re having friends over. :) I wanted to add another level of flavor to the tasting experience by pairing this sweet and savory bite with a bubbly, bittersweet cocktail. Campari is the ultimate bittersweet liqueur, and when combined with fresh cranberry syrup and prosecco, nothing could feel more festive. These sparkling, bright red cocktails and toasty hors d’oeuvres studded with bright red cranberries are sure to help get your next holiday party started, or even just warm up a Friday night at home.

Apple, Onion, & Gouda Canapés
with Cranberry & Mustard Sauce

Yield: 20 canapés
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Canapés:

  • 5 slices of white sandwich bread

  • ¾ cup peeled, finely diced apple

  • ½ cup finely diced yellow or sweet onion

  • ½ cup grated smoked gouda

  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tbsp Maille Dijon Originale Mustard

  • 1 tbsp sour cream

  • Pinch of salt

For the Cranberry Syrup:

  • 1 cup fresh cranberries

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 cup water

  • For the Cranberry & Mustard Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp Maille Dijon Originale Mustard

  • 4 tbsp cranberry syrup

  • Reserved cranberries

Instructions:

  1. Preheat to 400° F.

  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper

  3. Finely dice onion and apple.

  4. Heat olive oil in a small skillet, add diced onion, and saute on low until onions are caramelized, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool.

  5. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, combine the Cranberry Syrup ingredients and simmer just until the fruit begins to breakdown, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain through a mesh strainer. Do not press on solids. Reserving solids to top canapés. Leftover syrup can be kept in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

  6. Using a cookie cutter or canapé cutter, cut 4 rounds from each slice of bread, 20 total.

  7. In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix caramelized onion, apple, gouda, mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream, and a pinch of salt.

  8. Top each bread round with about 2 tsp of mixture.

  9. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the tops and bottoms are both lightly browned.

  10. While canapés are baking, whisk together Cranberry & Mustard Sauce ingredients.

  11. Allow canapés to cool for a few minutes, then drizzle sauce on top of each and stud with a cranberry reserved from the syrup.

Cranberry Campari Spritz

Recipe makes 1 cocktail.
Prep time: < 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz Campari

  • .50 oz cranberry syrup*

  • 4 oz prosecco

  • 1 oz club soda

Instructions:

  1. Fill a small wine glass with ice.

  2. Pour Campari and cranberry syrup over ice.

  3. Top with prosecco and soda, stir gently

  4. Garnish with fresh cranberries and edible flowers, if desired.

What are you serving this holiday season? Tag me @moodymixologist on Instagram in all your holiday cocktail and hors d’oeuvre recipes!

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This post is part of a partnership with Mountain Rose Herbs. All opinions are my own. You can learn more about my favorite purveyor of organic herbs & spices here.

Not only is today Friday, but it also happens to be one of the best days of the year - International Gin & Tonic Day!

I absolutely love a fresh, bubbly gin & tonic and wouldn’t miss the opportunity to fully immerse myself in this holiday. Today I’m serving up crisp G&Ts garnished with juniper, pomegranate, and rosemary along side a batch of fresh Juniper Lime Cookies. I used organic juniper berries and lime peel powder from Mountain Rose Herbs, and whipped up an easy juniper cream & lime glaze to intensify those delicious, iconic flavors in the cookies. I garnished both the cocktails and cookies with a bit of rosemary to lend that fresh, woodsy aroma that’s so comforting this time of year.

How to Make the Perfect Gin & Tonic

There are a lot of opinions out there about what makes the perfect gin and tonic, but I think everyone can agree that you need to begin with a quality gin and a quality tonic water or tonic syrup. Like any cocktail, it will only be as good as the sum of its parts, and poor quality ingredients can ruin the entire experience.

Cheap tonic waters made with corn syrup are often overly sweet, which not only kills the crisp + refreshing vibe, but can throw the cocktail off balance, making it just not taste very good. A gin & tonic is a great example of a cocktail that balances the flavor of the spirit with bitter, sweet, and sour flavors. To create harmony, it’s important to not have any one taste category dominating the drink. Think of the last time you had a poorly made drink at a bar. What was so bad about it? Most likely it was either too strong or too sweet.

When building our gin and tonic, we want to first avoid these two issues by making sure we have a good-tasting gin, a well-made tonic water and a balanced ratio of these two primary ingredients. I like to use 2 oz of gin to about 5-6 oz tonic water (1:3 ratio). Next, and also super important is citrus! I love a classic gin and tonic with lime, and I make sure to choose ripe, fresh limes every time. A good lime should feel heavy in your hand, have fairly smooth skin, and give a little when you squeeze it. If it’s hard as rock or has very lumpy or patchy skin, it’s not going to give you the best tasting (or very much) juice. I choose an average sized lime and squeeze half of its juice into my gin and tonics, but you can use less if you prefer.

The next component of a perfect G&T is ice. As always, ice is critical to a good cocktail experience. Good quality ice (made with good-tasting water) is key, and use a copious amount of it! I like to fill my glass completely, and then build the cocktail over the ice, sometimes adding even more ice so that it’s super-chilled.

The final factor is glassware. I think it goes without saying that I have a thing for glassware, but it really does make a difference. Different folks prefer different styles of glassware for their gin & tonics, but I’m partial to balloon-shaped glasses or wide, rounded tumblers or stemless wine glasses because they allow you to take in the aroma of the gin and fully experience it while sipping. My husband is partial to a nice tall Collins glass, and I know some people who prefer a simple rocks glass. There’s no right or wrong answer here - it’s just worth considering, and trying a few different styles of glass to see what you like best, and what makes for the best experience for YOU. There’s a lot of elitist info out there regarding cocktail recipes, formulas, and rules, but ultimately, we all have different tastes, and the only thing that matters is that it’s YOUR perfect gin & tonic. I hope these pointers will help you to hone in on what that means for you!

Cocktail-inspired cookies are my new obsession - so expect to see some more of these recipes as the holidays approach. I show my love through baked goods, what can I say? I worked on this cookie recipe for a while to arrive at a flavor and consistency I liked best. These are quite junipery, which I love, but if you prefer a more subtle flavor, omit the juniper powder from the cookies and just go with the juniper-infused cream glaze. Now, on to the recipes!

What are you doing to celebrate today? Tag me @moodymixologist in your G&T day photos!

Perfect Gin & Tonic Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz quality gin (I used Bombay Sapphire)

  • ½ a ripe lime’s juice

  • 5-6 oz quality tonic water

  • Plenty of ice

Instructions:

  1. Fill a tall glass or balloon glass with ice.

  2. Squeeze in half of a lime’s juice

  3. Pour in 2 oz of gin and top with tonic.

  4. Stir well, and top with more ice if needed.

  5. Garnish with a slice of lime, or to your taste (I use fresh rosemary, pomegranate arils, and juniper berries for a fresh, colorful, and woodsy sipper).

Juniper Lime Cookies

Yield: About 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (300g) all purpose flour

  • 1 cup (200g) butter

  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar

  • 1 egg

  • 1 tbsp juniper berries

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp lime peel powder

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the juniper berries into a powder.

  3. Mix dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

  4. Add wet ingredients and mix until incorporated. I don’t have a stand mixer and typically just mix my dough by hand.

  5. Shape dough into balls about 1 1/2 inches. Place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets.

  6. Bake 15-20 minutes or until edges start to brown. Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before glazing.

Juniper & Lime Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups confectioners sugar

  • 1 tbsp lime juice

  • ¾ cup juniper-infused cream*

  • Fresh rosemary (optional)

    Place sugar in a large bowl. Mix in lime juice and as much juniper-infused cream is needed to reach desired consistency. Spread onto cooled cookies. Top each cookie with a piece of rosemary, if desired.

*Juniper-Infused Cream

Ingredients:

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat on medium-low heat, stirring frequently until it begins to bubble. Simmer 5 minutes on low heat, stirring  then remove from heat, cover and chill in the fridge overnight (or for at least several hours). In the morning, strain out berries and use in glaze recipe.

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Today is officially the first day of Fall and what better way to ring in a new season than with festive seasonal cocktails! There’s something for everyone, from roasted pumpkin Bloody Marys to apple cinnamon Negronis and everything in between.

I’ve selected some of my favorite brands to feature in this collection of recipes, and added some fall flavors and custom cocktail syrups to spice things up. Please don’t feel intimidated by the DIY ingredients! These three syrups are all incredibly quick and easy to make. I will be compiling a general how-to guide to syrup making soon, but the gist of most recipes, including the ones below is: add equal parts water, sugar and flavor (fruit, vegetable, etc.) to a saucepan and simmer for about five minutes. Let cool and strain. That’s about it. Nothing to be afraid of here. Just delicious, autumnal flavors to help you live your best life when you’re not downing pumpkin spice lattes.

1. Bloody Pumpkin

My first pick is a Sunday brunch favorite with a twist - the Bloody Pumpkin, a roasted pumpkin Bloody Mary made with bourbon and Cocktail Artist Bloody Mary mix. This mixer is really tasty, very well seasoned, and super affordable. If you’re looking to add some fall flair to your go-to hangover cure, this is the Bloody Mary for you. It does require a little bit of time to roast and puree the pumpkin, but don’t you want to have a reason to go pumpkin picking and roast up some pepitas or bake a pumpkin pie? Think of all the memories you’ll make that you can immediately erase by enjoying a few of these bad boys. ;)

Fill a mini pumpkin with seeds removed (or a tall glass) halfway with ice. Add all ingredients and stir well to chill. Add more ice and garnish with a slice of pumpkin waffle, if you’re feeling fancy.

*Roasted Pumpkin & Carrot Puree

Ingredients:

  • 1 small pie pumpkin (1 cup of roasted pumpkin)

  • ½ cup carrot juice (I bought a bottle of organic carrot juice at Trader Joes)

  • Ginger powder

  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

Preheat to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Wash pie pumpkin and cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits and cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges. Brush the flesh with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes. Let cool, then remove the skin. Add about 1 cup of pumpkin flesh, .5 cup of carrot juice, and a pinch of ginger powder to a blender and blend on high until smooth.

2. First Frost

Next up is a little sipper I threw together one night when I was looking for something herbal and interesting that would work with an apple syrup. I had created a few different apple based cocktail syrups but the apple cinnamon combined with rum and green Chartreuse was a solid WIN. A cocktail with this much alcohol shouldn’t be quite so easy to throw back, so enjoy with caution. This is best enjoyed sitting by a fire on a rainy November day.

  • 1.5 oz Cruzan Aged White Rum

  • 1 oz lime juice

  • .5 oz Chartreuse (green)

  • .5 oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth

  • .5 oz apple cinnamon syrup*

*Apple Cinnamon Syrup

Combine ½ cup sugar with ½ cup water, 1 large washed and chopped granny smith apple, and 1 cinnamon stick. Heat over medium heat until boiling, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the apple just begins to break down. Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool, then strain into a clean glass jar and store in the refrigerator.

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with an apple rose. Pro tip: apple (and other fruit and vegetable) roses are super easy to make if you soften the fruit slices by quickly microwaving them (30 seconds or less). Let them cool enough to handle and then roll into a rose. Secure with a cocktail pick.

3. Bitter Apple

Perhaps my favorite Negroni riff to date, this little number is apple forward and pleasingly bitter. Significantly less bracing than a traditional Negroni, this variation has just enough Suze to wake up your tastebuds. If you prefer a more bitter flavor, up the Suze to .75 oz and decrease the apple cinnamon syrup to .25 oz.

  • 1.5 oz Laird’s Applejack

  • 1 oz Cocchi Americano

  • .5 oz Suze

  • .5 oz apple cinnamon syrup (see above for recipe)

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with plenty of ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice (or one large clear Wintersmith cube), express a lemon peel, and garnish with an apple fan.

4. Ultimate Boozy Hot Cocoa

Bouvery CV chocolate liqueur is one of my very favorite finds of 2018. This luxurious dark chocolate liqueur is not like anything else I’ve had before and it looks and pours like melted dark chocolate!! For the perfect spiked hot cocoa to warm you up at the end of a long day, simply stir a couple of ounces of Bouvery CV into a cup of warm milk. Pretty sure I found a cure for Seasonal Affective Disorder…

Heat milk in a small saucepan. Once heated, stir in Bouvery CV and pour into a large mug. Top with freshly made lavender whipped cream*, organic cacao powder, and edible flowers, if desired.

*Lavender Whipped Cream

  1. Create a lavender simple syrup by heating ½ cup of sugar with ½ cup of water and ½ cup of dried organic lavender buds. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool, and then strain into a clean glass jar for storage in the refrigerator. Chill for at least 2 hours.

  2. To make the whipped cream, add 1 cup of chilled heavy cream and 1 oz of chilled lavender syrup to a medium sized stainless steel mixing bowl and mix on high for about 1-2 minutes or until medium peaks begin to form. Don’t over mix - it will become lavender butter! For best results, chill your bowl and metal whisks ahead of time so that the whipped cream is very cold when mixed. It will come together more quickly and be more a bit more firm.

5. Fig & Cardamom Paloma

I love hard seltzer in the summertime - there’s nothing lighter or more refreshing to sip on poolside. Even if you’re like me and that pool is of the pink plastic variety with a naked toddler splashing in it. I enjoy tall, refreshing cocktails year round, so hard seltzer isn’t just a summertime ingredient for me. I love the unusual flavors PRESS seltzer makes, and their Grapefruit & Cardamom inspired me to make an autumnal Paloma with a fig & cardamom syrup. This pale pink beauty is the perfect cocktail to help ease that seasonal transition from poolside to fireside.

*Fig & Cardamom Syrup

Combine ½ cup sugar with ½ cup water, 3 green cardamom pods, and about 8 washed and chopped fresh black mission figs. Heat over medium heat until boiling, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the figs begin to break down. Allow the syrup to cool and then strain into a clean glass jar and store in the refrigerator. Note: if you remove it from the heat as soon as the figs begin to break down, it will be a bit easier to strain. If you would like a particle-free syrup, strain through cheesecloth.

Add first three ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a wine glass filled with ice (or two large clear ice spheres, thanks to Wintersmith), and top with PRESS Grapefruit & Cardamom. Stir gently and garnish with a fig and seasonal edible flower (goldenrod pictured).


6. Autumn in the City

What could be better than a perfectly chilled Manhattan to warm you up on a cool October evening? I used both rye and applejack in this autumnal Manhattan variation, with a dash of Free Pour Jenny’s fabulous Solstice bitters for a hint of spice. These handcrafted bitters from the Yukon Territory in Northern Canada are made with a delicious blend of spices and bittering agents that includes cranberry, cinnamon, clove, and star anise.

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with plenty of ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a cherry and an edible flower, if desired.

I couldn’t resist shooting this gorgeous frosted bottle on a glowing white background


7. Pear & Ginger Pisco Sour

My newest booze discovery is Catan Pisco! This woman-owned brand was founded by Chilean-American Catalina Gaete and just launched in Chicago this past summer with a mission of bringing pisco to a wider audience in the US. I love that Catan’s vineyard in Ovalle, Chile is fair trade and organic, and you can really taste the quality in this fruit-forward, handcrafted spirit. It’s a shame that pisco doesn’t get more love from the craft cocktail community. It’s really wonderful to mix with and works well in a variety of cocktails, from botanical-based to spirit forward. Help spread the good word and welcome fall with this Pear & Ginger Pisco Sour!

  • 2 oz Catan Pisco

  • .75 oz lime juice

  • .5 oz ginger honey syrup*

  • ½ a bosc pear, seeded and chopped

Muddle pear in a shaker with lime juice. Add remaining ingredients and ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a pear slice, lime rosette and candied ginger.

*Ginger Honey Syrup

Combine ½ cup of water, ¼ cup of wildflower honey, ¼ cup white sugar, and two pieces of fresh ginger (each about the size of your thumb) to a small saucepan and heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, strain into a clean glass jar for storage in the refrigerator.

8. Garden of Eden

No list of cocktails would be complete for me without a gin-based one! I use gin A LOT and really enjoy trying new varieties, from tried and true London Drys to new American styles - I love it all. I’ve been playing with recipes involving apple, lemon, and rose for a little while now and I think I’ve finally created one that’s just right. This lightly spiced apple cocktail features the bright, sweet flavor of unfiltered honeycrisp apple juice to celebrate some of fall’s best fruit.

Garden of Eden

  • 2 oz St. George Botanivore Gin

  • 2 oz unfiltered honeycrisp apple juice (available at Whole Foods)

  • .5 oz lemon juice

  • .25 oz orgeat (I used Liber & Co)

  • 2 dashes cardamom bitters

  • 5 drops rosewater

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of apple and an edible flower, if desired.

Disclosure: This post contains sponsored content. All opinions and content are my own.

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Hosta blossoms

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of edible flowers. A large percentage of the cocktails I share everyday on Instagram feature floral garnishes, and I’m moderately obsessed with wandering around in the field behind our house looking for things I can eat, turn into a syrup, or use as a garnish. There’s just something so naturally appealing about flowers. They can transform a tasty but visually lacking drink into a masterpiece, take a cake from boring to extraordinary, or add unique, delicate, vegetal flavors to a weeknight dinner.

With the last few weeks of summer closing in, I was inspired to assemble a collection of some of the easy-to-identify edible flowers and plants from around my yard and create a cocktail inspired by all of this summer’s foraging. Below you'll find a list of common edible flowers that make for gorgeous garnishes. Some you can find in your backyard, others are easy to find in stores or online.

Fleabane

In addition to being top notch garnishes, wild edibles make a lovely addition to salads, soups, crudite or charcuterie platters. I gathered a basketful, gave them a thorough shake (to remove any lurking little creatures), a good rinse, and a gentle pat dry, and served them as a topping for a large garden salad with an oxymel-based dressing.

Oxymels are a delicious way to preserve the flavors of summer and create herbal infusions to use in cocktails, salad dressings, as herbal medicine, or with diluted with sparkling water like a shrub. An oxymel, meaning ‘acid + honey’, is just that - a mixture of equal parts honey and vinegar. I like to use local wildflower honey and organic apple cider vinegar. You can combine both ingredients in a jar, shake it well, and enjoy as is, or you can add herbs or other botanicals and let it sit for a few weeks to make an infusion. My current favorite oxymel to make is elderberry, which is both delicious and good for you! Elderberry has long been known for its antiviral properties, making it a powerful ally during cold and flu season.

In today's garden-fresh cocktail recipe, I've use a touch of rosemary & thyme infused oxymel combined with blueberry syrup, Standard Wormwood Distillery's Wormwood gin, lime juice, and an absinthe rinse. This complex, herbal gin sour is garnished with a miniature garden of tiny edibles (from left to right: Queen Anne's lace leaf, yellow hawkweed, red clover (back), fleabane daisy, oregano leaf, purple basil blossom.)

Garden Variety Gin Sour

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Wormwood Gin (Standard Wormwood Distillery)
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • .75 oz blueberry syrup (equal parts water, sugar, and ripe blueberries)
  • .25 oz rosemary & thyme infused oxymel
  • 1 egg white
  • Absinthe rinse

Instructions:

Add less than a 1/4 ounce of absinthe to a chilled cocktail glass and swirl to coat. Discard absinthe. Shake remaining ingredients hard without ice for about 1 minute. Add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into absinthe-rinsed cocktail glass and garnish with tiny edible flowers and herbs.

Below I've started a list of some of the edible flowers and plants I'm familiar with. This list is by no means exhaustive, and mainly focuses on what's readily available to me or native to New England. I will add to the list as I come across new flowers and I'll update with more photos as I have the opportunity to shoot them! 

If you're looking to purchase edible flowers, I have come across a few sites and the one that seems to have the best selection is Gourmet Sweet Botanicals. I haven't bought from them yet, but when I run out of plants to forage around the yard, I will give them a shot and post an update here.

A List of Edible Flowers to Elevate your Garnish Game

IMPORTANT: Never eat a plant or flower if you cannot identify it with absolute certainty. Many flowers are toxic and may look like those that are edible. Use common sense and if in doubt, don't eat it! Flowers from florists or grocery stores have been treated with pesticides and should not be eaten unless labeled as edible.

New England Aster

Aster, New England: Symphyotrichum novae angliae. Both the leaves and flowers are edible.

Baby's Breath

Baby’s breath: Gypsophila sp. Clusters of tiny white flowers. Slightly sweet flavor.

Bee Balm

Bee balm: Monarda didyma. Bright pink to purple colored blossoms. Also called Bergamot because of the scent and flavor resemblance to the citrus fruit of the same name. Red blossoms have a minty flavor.

Bluets (white flowers)

Bluets: Houstonia coerulea. Tiny blue to white flowers with four petals. Very mild vegetal flavor.

Borage: Borago officinalis. Beautiful blue blossoms with a mild cucumber flavor.

Calendula: Calendula officinalis. Also called Marigold. Orange to yellow colored blossoms. Flavor can range but is somewhat characteristic of saffron.

Carnation

Carnation: Dianthus caryophyllus. Carnations are a species of Dianthus. Wide variety of colors. Petals have sweet to spicy flavor. Cut the white base of the petals off to avoid bitter flavors. One of the ingredients in the mysterious Chartreuse secret recipe!

Chamomile: Matricaria recutita. Slightly bitter, sweet, earthy, somewhat floral flavor.

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum: Chrysanthemum coronarium. A wide variety of colors. Slightly bitter, vegetal flavor. Use petals only.

Columbine: Aquilegia canadensis (red) and aquilegia caerulea (Colorado blue) ONLY. Flowers only. 

Dried cornflower petals

Cornflower: Centaurea cynaus. Also called Bachelor’s Button. Bright blue blossoms with clove flavor.

Dandelion: Taraxacum officinalis. Fluffy, yellow flowers. Honey flavor when flowers are small and young.

Yellow Daylilies

Daylily: Hemerocallis. Orange and yellow, six petaled blooms. Slightly sweet, lettuce-like flavor. Use caution as true LILIES are not safe to eat. 

Dianthus (Bridal white star)

Dianthus: Wide range of colors and varieties. Consume petals only. 

Evening Primrose

Evening primrose: Oenothera biennis. Also called Sundrop. Beautiful yellow, four petaled blossoms. Slightly sweet flavor.

Fleabane (tall daisy-like flower) and oregano blossoms

Fleabane: Erigeron annuus. Tiny white, daisy-like flowers with many spiky white petals. Mild, vegetal flavor.

Forsythia

Forsythia: Forsythia x intermedia. Clusters of small, bright yellow, four petaled flowers. Blooms early in spring. Honey-like to green in flavor.

Apple blossom

Fruit blossoms (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cherry, apple, pear): Many are edible, in moderation. Research individual varieties for more information.

Geranium: Pelargonium. Scented geraniums are edible and taste like their individual scent variety.

Goldenrod (left) and Moonbeam Coreopsis 

Goldenrod: Solidago cnadensis. Long clusters of tiny, bright yellow flowers. All aerial parts of the plant can be eaten.

Orange Hawkweed

Hawkweed (yellow and orange): Hieracium. Related to dandelions. Also called “devil’s paintbrush”. Bright yellow or orange fluffy blossoms. 

Herb blossoms (basil, thyme, mint, oregano, sage): Research individual varieties for more information.

Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Blossoms range from white to deep red. Sweet, tart, acidic flavor. 

Hosta blossoms

Hosta: All varieties cultivated in the United States are edible. Colors range from white to purple. Mild, vegetal, slightly bitter flavor.

Kousa dogwood blossom

Kousa dogwood: Cornus kousa. ONLY this variety of dogwood has edible flowers and berries. White, rigid flowers with four petals.

Lavender

Lavender: Lavandula angustifolia. Pretty, tall purple flowers. Clean, sweet, floral flavor.

Lilac

Lilac: Syringa vulgaris. Large clusters of pale purple or white blossoms. Strong floral scent and flavor.

Magnolia: Magnolia grandiflora. Intense flavor comparable to scent. Best pickled.

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This post is part of a partnership with Mountain Rose Herbs. All opinions are my own. You can learn more about my favorite purveyor of organic herbs & spices here.

The angle of the afternoon sun has shifted, bright red leaves dot the maple trees out back, and even though it’s 80 degrees, the first whisper of fall is in the air.

Every year at this time, I remember being a kid, dreading going back to school when it seemed that summer was at its very best. I have a lot of memories, even in college, of being inside some academic building and gazing out the window at one of those spectacular September afternoons. The sky turns a deep azure blue and the sun is like gold on every glossy leaf, some red, some yellow, but most still green with that late summer warmth. Now that my school days are long behind me and I have the privilege of working for myself, I love being able to take an afternoon here and there to take Isla outside and do nothing but enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons. There’s something so special about the autumn and all the warm and comforting flavors it ushers in.

For many people, it doesn’t get more fall-flavored than pumpkin spice, but for me it’s all about chai! One of my favorite chai teas is Mountain Rose Herbs’ Organic Turmeric Chai, which is a beautiful loose tea blend with whole green cardamom pods, cloves, ground turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, black pepper, and a bit of cayenne for a little kick. It’s caffeine free, which is nice if you avoid caffeine, and also makes it a wonderful bedtime tea (mmmm Golden Milk!). And if you’re like me, it means it’s perfect for sipping day or night - especially in a cozy riff on a Hot Buttered Rum!

A classic Hot Buttered Rum consists of hot water, butter, sugar, spices, and a nice long pour of dark rum, making it the ideal way to warm up and chill out after a long, cold day. Often, it’s suggested to make a batch of “batter” with the butter, sugar, and spices to keep in the fridge so that it’s easier to make a few drinks when the mood strikes. I got to thinking, I could simplify (and spice up) things even more by making a syrup with my Turmeric Chai tea to replace both the sugar and the spices - a Turmeric Chai Hot Buttered Rum? Yes please!

Now that apples are coming into season, I’ve been wanting to bake an apple tart, and after making this turmeric chai tea syrup, I thought how beautiful it would be to add turmeric to my apple tart for a gorgeous golden hue. I used a beloved Ina Garten tart recipe as my starting point and added turmeric and chai spices to the apple mixture, then glazed the finished tart with a blend of apricot jam and the tea syrup. The result was a gorgeous golden chai apple tart, the perfect accompaniment to my Turmeric Chai Hot Buttered Rum.

I recently made a cocktail involving almond-infused rum (see recipe over on Instagram). Once I strained the almonds out of the rum, I didn't want them to go to waste, so I made a very lazy version of orgeat (almond syrup). This left me with some chopped, rum-flavored candied almonds, so I kept them to sprinkle onto something like ice cream, or this spiced apple tart! If you have some spent orgeat almonds, great, but if not, regular old chopped almonds are fine. 

If you want to make both the tart and the Hot Buttered Rum, I recommend starting with the pastry dough since it needs to chill in the fridge for at least an hour. While the dough is chilling, you can make the Turmeric Chai tea syrup and prepare the apple filling. Don’t be intimidated by the pastry dough. It’s actually incredibly quick and easy to make! I simply mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl, added the cold butter (diced into small pieces) and cold water, and quickly worked the dough with my hands just until combined. This is a simple and easy tart recipe that could be adapted to work with any seasonal fruit and spices (ooh pear tart, anyone?) so use it as a guide and have fun!

Turmeric Chai Tea Syrup

Ingredients:

Instructions:

In a small saucepan, heat sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Add Turmeric Chai Tea and stir well. Turn heat down to medium-low and let simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and allow syrup to cool. Once cool, strain using a fine mesh strainer into a clean, dry jar for storage in the fridge.

Turmeric Chai Hot Buttered Rum

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp / 1.5 oz Turmeric Chai Tea syrup
  • 3 oz aged rum (I used Barbancourt Rhum 3 star)

Instructions:

In a small saucepan, add water, butter, and syrup and heat over medium heat while whisking to combine. Once combined and simmering, remove from heat and add rum. Stir, then divide into two heat-safe mugs. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and seasonal edible flowers, if desired.

Golden Spiced Apple Tart

Adapted from the recipe: French Apple Tart by Ina Garten

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 sticks cold unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • .5 tsp salt
  • .5 cup ice cold water

For the filling:

  • 4 granny smith apples
  • Golden Chai Spice blend*, to taste
  • Half a lemon’s juice
  • .5 cup sugar
  • .5 stick unsalted butter, cold, diced
  • Approximately .5 cup chopped almonds (rum-infused or spent orgeat almonds recommended!)

*Golden Chai Spice blend:

  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • .5 tsp ground cardamom
  • .5 tsp ground cloves

For the glaze:

  • .25 cup apricot jam
  • .25 cup Turmeric Chai Tea syrup
  • 2 tbsp / 1.5 oz aged rum (I used Barbancourt Rhum 3 star)

Instructions:

For the pastry: If you have a food processor, add flour, salt and sugar and pulse a few times to combine. Add COLD butter and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. With the processor running, add ice water and blend just until the mixture begins to come together. Dump onto a floured surface and knead into a ball. If you don’t have a food processor, small dice the cold butter, mix dry ingredients, and then simply use your hands to quickly combine all ingredients and knead the dough into a ball. I used the manual method and it came out great. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. While dough is chilling, put together apple mixture (see below). Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Roll out dough, aiming for about 10” x 14” and trim edges.

For the filling: Peel apples and cut in half through the stems. Remove stems and cores using a melon baller, if you have one. Slice crosswise into approximately ¼ inch thick slices and place in a large mixing bowl. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the apple slices and use large spoon or spatula to coat the apples. In a small bowl or ramekin, combine the Golden Chai Spice blend and sprinkle into apples, stirring to fully coat the apples. Cover the rolled out and trimmed pastry dough with apple slices diagonally - or however you prefer, covering the dough completely with one layer of slightly overlapping slices. Sprinkle sugar over the top, and then dot with diced butter. It will seem like a lot of sugar, but don’t worry, it won't be too sweet! It caramelizes the apples and balances their tartness. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Rotate the pan once during baking. When you remove the pan to rotate it halfway through baking, sprinkle on the rum-infused or spent orgeat almonds before placing back in the oven.

For the glaze: Once the tart has finished baking, gently heat the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan (I used the same pan I made the tea syrup in), while whisking. Once combined, use a pastry brush to gently brush the glaze over the tart. Let tart sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. I decorated my tart with yellow chrysanthemum flowers, but that's completely optional.

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Photo by Jess Larson

In this new series, Meet the Mixologist, I'm interviewing some of my favorite mixologists of Instagram to find out where they find inspiration, how they got their start, and what advice they'd offer to someone just developing an interest in craft cocktails. 

Today I'm sitting down with Dan Magro, author of Suck it Up: Extraordinary Cocktails for Everyday People, a book I own and love! Dan is a perpetual source of inspiration to me, as he mixes up deliciously unexpected cocktails with ingredients like oyster mushrooms and chili and burnt marshmallow infused Campari. I am constantly in awe of his brilliant flavor combinations and out of the box infusions. One of the things I love the most about Dan is his ability to create exceptional cocktails that are also accessible. No matter your skill level or familiarity with spirits, he has something for you, with well-crafted, balanced recipes that are easy to understand and recreate. Before this mixology thing became my passion, I often felt intimidated and overwhelmed by the idea of mixing classic cocktails, and I wish I'd had Dan's book when I started my journey.

This little number is "Rose Dew", one of my favorite recipes from Dan's book!

GIVEAWAY! Want to win a copy of Suck it Up: Extraordinary Cocktails for Everyday People! Head over to Instagram for all the details. Giveaway ends 08/12/18 at 11:59pm PST.

Dan, how did you become the incredible mixologist that you are today?

Well, thanks for the compliment. I don't know if I'd consider myself incredible, LOL? I think we all have a story (and I speak to mine at greater length in my book) about how we came to know booze. The condensed version: I've always had a flair for the dramatic, and really enjoyed playing with different flavors. Fast forward a few years in gorgeous Southern California, learning about farm-to-table movements, fresh ingredients, seasonal flavors, and I thought, why can't we put this same care into our cocktails? I'd never tended bar professionally, and thanks to books like Death & Co I got the confidence to know I *could* and got the basics and balance down. I have a background in film (I've made a few movies, like real ones and done a lot of TV stuff) so once Instagram came out I felt like I had an avenue to merge my side hobby (creative cocktailing) with a visual medium. I mean my work is NO WHERE near the standards of accounts like yours where literally every photo is a breathtaking masterpiece. But I was so grateful to find this community of professionals, amateurs and everything in between, and meet people like you that are constantly keeping me on my toes and making sure I'm creating unique, cutting edge content. It's been a dream.
 

“The Cocktail Formerly Known As” by Dan Magro // Image via @danmagro


You're so modest. Your recipes are legendary! What inspires you?

Honestly, and this is gonna sound so cheesy, but energy. Vibes, feels, sensations. They all contribute to life's moments in some way. We have emotions, they connect to holidays, or celebrations, and what do we do during these things? We drink. I love pairing the perfect moment, temping the room, to discover that perfect cocktail. It's such a win for me when the drink fits so naturally into the scene, there's no question as to why it's there – it's MEANT to be there. So to do that, find those moments, I listen to music, I'll people watch, I'll stroll the seasonal sections of my farmer's market. Maybe I see someone wearing a color and think - WOW that hue needs to be in liquid form, how do I do this? I try to avoid chemicals, artificiality, and "flavored" things in my drinks that just scream fake! Sometimes the challenge for me is how to execute something reminiscent of a processed junk food, or artificial flavor in it's natural, "healthier" form.

I love it, I feel the same way about energy and recreating feelings via drinks. A great cocktail is an experience. What’s your favorite spirit?

Tequila tequila tequila. I was a basic vodka drinker for the longest time, before I actually sat down and learned about spirits. Don't get me wrong I still love me some Tito's but it all changed for me when I went to Tequila, Jalisco in Mexico last year. I toured a distillery and went into the agave fields. I spoke with jimadors and learned how they maintain and then harvest the agave piñas (even got to chop one up myself). These are people who's families have been tending to these fields for generations, it was truly remarkable. How they meticulously trim the edges so that the plant naturally pumps all it's resources, growing into the heart. Trimming as they go, and then ultimately harvesting for roasting, etc. It also doesn't hurt to be so close to Mexico and live in a city with such a large Mexican cultural imprint.

Image via @danmagro

That sounds like an incredible experience! I've yet to travel to Mexico but I am a huge tequila fan as well. Do you have any advice for someone just developing an interest in craft cocktails?

"Take chances, make mistakes, get messy." Missy Frizzle (she says it best). Don't be afraid to fail. Have fun and don't take yourself too seriously.

Superb advice! What’s your current cocktail of the moment?
I've been trying so many fun things, but I've been experimenting with nostalgic flavor pairings via infusions. I know this contradicts a little what I said above about artificial flavors, but I've been infusing cereals into base spirits. Coco pebbles into bourbon, fruity pebbles into mezcal, frosted flakes into vodka, crazy things. They're working out surprisingly well and I'm learning that a simple pour on the rocks, with a dash of a bitter to embellish the flavor notes, and you have the simplest, most delicious sipper. I know that's not a complicated cocktail (some might argue it isn't even a cocktail) but it's fun and I'm into it at the moment. I'm also telling myself since I strain the cereal out post infusion it's less bad for you, but that's probably a load of BS haha!
 

"Kiwi Matcha Limeade" by Dan Magro // Image via @danmagro

Those all sound delicious, I am all for wild infusions. And I'd say that's definitely a cocktail. Coco Pebbles Old Fashioned? Yes please. What was your first drink?

Ever? Probably my grandfather passing off a glass of neat vodka as "water" to my 4-year-old self, which didn't end well LOL. When I turned 21 I went through an extra dirty, extra olive martini phase. So basically olive juice...eyeroll. The cocktail that was a game changer for me was one I had at Laurel Hardware in LA. It had a buzz button plant (Acmella oleracea) garnish. It's from Brazil and when you bite it, part of your mouth goes numb, and your lips tingle - seriously LOL. I think they use them medicinally in some parts – and I know they have to be foraged, like you would get oysters – so really over the top care into what went into every aspect of their cocktails. When you drank the drink pre-nibble it was great. When you drank it post nibble it was even better, almost a whole new cocktail. It made me curious and I started exploring.

Ditto on the olive juice martini phase! I haven't had a buzz button cocktail yet, but I was looking into ordering some. I love the idea of a cocktail that changes over time. What’s next for you?

Oh god, do I even know? Writing the book took a lot out of me. It's exceeded my expectations performance wise, and the feedback has been so very positive, so I guess I'll have to start book two? I'm thinking about something more of a hybrid with humorous short stories, and then also cocktail recipes that align? My brand is raw, funny, sassy, yet approachable, and I want to try and maintain that balance. Additionally, I'm still very much at work in media, and am still professionally making videos for the internet, so keep your eyes peeled for some fun content coming you way soon!

Thanks so much Dan, can't wait to see what you come up with next!

Don't forget to follow Dan on Instagram for daily cocktail inspo! You can learn more about him at danmagro.com and his book Suck it Up: Extraordinary Cocktails for Everyday People is available via Amazon.

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