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This post is part of a partnership with Gran Gala. All opinions are my own. You can learn more about my preferred orange liqueur here.

It’s finally here - the first official day of Spring! Winter always seems to drag on and on here in New Hampshire, but lately these longer days make it feel like warm spring breezes are just around the corner.

I’m welcoming the new season with plenty of fresh and fruity cocktails, and today I’m sharing two recipes I’ve created with Gran Gala Orange Liqueur. I’ve loved Gran Gala for years, long before I ever knew how to make a proper cocktail. Years ago, I used to make a frozen blender cocktail with strawberries, Gran Gala and tequila that wasn’t too shabby, and looking back, it was sort of a strawberry margarita. The quality of the orange flavor vastly improved my improvised cocktails at the time, and as my interest in craft cocktails has grown, I’ve continued to stock a bottle in my home bar.

If you’re not familiar, Gran Gala is made with Italian VSOP brandy, giving it a depth of flavor and smoothness not found in your average triple sec liqueur. One of the very fundamentals of creating a good cocktail is quality of ingredients, and the orange liqueur category is definitely one where quality is immediately noticeable in the flavor of the final drink. Whether you’re making a simple sour or a complex tiki drink, I highly recommend keeping a quality bottle of orange liqueur on hand. You can really taste the difference!

The first cocktail I’m sharing is a riff on the classic Corpse Reviver No.2. The Corpse Reviver No.2 is a perfectly balanced blend of gin, orange liqueur, lemon juice and the white aperitif wine, Lillet Blanc. It’s great any time of year, but I’ve put a warm weather spin on things by muddling some fresh raspberries and swapping out Lillet Blanc for Lillet Rose, a blush-hued aperitif wine made from red and white Bordeaux wines, herbs and fruit. I’ve used Gran Gala in place of a basic triple sec liqueur, adding richness with its brandy base. This Spring Reviver is fresh, fruity, sweet and tart - the perfect thing to sip on in the garden in the late afternoon. Ahh, I can’t wait to enjoy happy hour outside again!

Next up is a simple, fairly low-ABV cocktail that’s perfectly suited to a Sunday brunch on a warm spring day. This Italian-themed bubbly drink features Prosecco, Gran Gala, fresh pink grapefruit juice, and apricot brandy. The bright, crisp flavors of citrus and apricot blend beautifully with bubbles and taste like an afternoon in the Mediterranean. Always working on my citrus garnish game these days, I saw this cocktail as an excellent opportunity to try out a new grapefruit peel leaf design. For more citrus carved garnishes, check out some of my latest posts over on Instagram.

What are your favorite Spring cockfails?

Spring Reviver

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz London dry gin

  • 1 oz Gran Gala Orange Liqueur

  • 1 oz Lillet Rose

  • 1 oz lemon juice

  • 4 raspberries

  • .25 oz simple syrup (if necessary, to taste)*

Instructions: Muddle raspberries in a cocktail shaker. Add remaining ingredients and plenty of ice and shake until chilled. Fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a raspberry.

*Raspberries can be a bit tart and I found the cocktail to be more balanced with the addition of a quarter ounce of simple syrup. If your raspberries are perfectly ripe and sweet, feel free to omit the syrup.

Italian Lover

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz freshly squeezed and strained pink grapefruit juice

  • .5 oz Gran Gala Orange Liqueur

  • .25 oz apricot brandy

  • Brut Prosecco

Instructions: Add first three ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Fine strain into a champagne flute and top with chilled Prosecco. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.

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It’s a brand new year and that means two things: setting new goals and getting back on track with old ones! One of my goals this year is to return to the healthy eating habits I strayed from during my pregnancy (morning sickness put me on a carb heavy diet). After my daughter was born, it was just too easy to continue eating quick and less than nutritious meals on a regular basis. After a long day, and especially with a new baby, easy wins. Now that Isla is a toddler, easy is still winning on most nights. So that’s why my New Year’s eating plan is made up of delicious, fresh, and very healthy meals that are also super quick and easy!

I really enjoy eating and drinking seasonally, so this time of year I’m all about hearty root vegetables, savory, roasted flavors, and sweet-tart fruits like pomegranates and perfectly ripe citrus. This Winter Buddha Bowl with Honey Dijon Dressing is all of those things, and packs a ton of nutrition into a quick, easy, and also very easy-to-enjoy weeknight dinner. The perfect pair for this feast of winter flavors is my light, crisp Grapefruit & Pomegranate Sour, a great lunch or dinner time cocktail with vodka, grapefruit, lemon, and a honey pomegranate syrup.

I used oil to roast the chickpeas and veggies, but it’s also possible to make this recipe without it if you’re avoiding oil. Simply steam the potatoes and carrots for a few minutes (just until tender) and then toss with seasonings before popping them in the oven. You’ll want to shorten the cook time a bit, as they will only take 20-30 minutes once steamed.

I went with some beautiful organic tender young carrots for this recipe, but you can certainly substitute bagged baby carrots for convenience. Cut them in half lengthwise to ensure they cook quickly. For the seasoning, I chose a simple combination of rosemary and garlic which I associate with cozy winter evenings and pairs wonderfully with the Maille Honey Dijon in the dressing. However, this meal is still pretty delicious even if seasoned only with salt and pepper, thanks to the dressing.

The dressing is the key to a fabulous Buddha Bowl, and this one is my favorite for winter bowls. A common issue with the usual tahini-heavy Buddha Bowl dressings is that they tend to be kind bland and one note. That is not the case with this blend of honey mustard, tahini, and lemon, which is savory, nutty, earthy, tangy, and a tiny bit sweet (in my opinion - perfection!) I used Maille Honey Dijon for this, and I don’t recommend substituting other much sweeter and less flavorful mustards for this sauce. Quality is key, and trust me, if you pick up a jar of this stuff you won’t want another mustard ever again.

Winter Buddha Bowl with Honey Dijon Dressing

Author: Amy Traynor / MoodyMixologist.com

Yield: 2-3 bowls

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35-45 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Bowl:

  • 1 can (15.5 oz) chickpeas

  • 1 lb tender young carrots

  • 1 large sweet potato

  • 1 ½ tsp dried rosemary

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • Salt and pepper

  • 2+ cups baby spinach

  • 2+ cups arugula

  • 1 pink grapefruit

  • ½ pomegranate

For the Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp Maille Honey Dijon

  • 2 tbsp tahini

  • Juice of ½ a lemon

  • 1 tbsp water

  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

Instructions:

  1. Preheat to 400°.

  2. Drain, rinse and pat the chickpeas dry. Peel and trim the carrots. Peel the sweet potato and cut into cubes, about 1”.

  3. In a medium sized mixing bowl, toss chickpeas, carrots, and sweet potatoes with oil, garlic, and rosemary. Transfer to a large sheet pan and spread out evenly in a single layer. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper.

  4. Roast for 35-45 minutes until carrots and potato are tender, and chickpeas are crispy and slightly browned.

  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.

  6. Cut the grapefruit into thin slices and trim the peel. Gently squeeze the pomegranate half over a small bowl to catch the arils. Remove any pieces of rind.

  7. Once the chickpeas and vegetables are cooked, fill the bottom of 2 large dinner bowls with a handful each of baby spinach and arugula. Top each bowl with roasted chickpeas and vegetables and a few slices of grapefruit. Sprinkle on pomegranate arils and drizzle with dressing. Serve immediately.

Grapefruit & Pomegranate Sour

Yield: 1 cocktail

Prep Time: <5 minutes

Ingredients:

For the cocktail:

  • 1.5 oz vodka

  • 1 oz freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice

  • .5 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • .5 oz honey pomegranate syrup*

For the honey pomegranate syrup:

  • ½ cup hot water

  • ½ cup honey

  • ½ cup pomegranate juice

For the garnish:

  • Grapefruit slice

  • Sprig of fresh rosemary

Instructions:

  1. To make the syrup, add the water and honey to a mason jar and stir until honey dissolves. Add pomegranate juice and stir to combine.

  2. Add all cocktail ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a double rocks glass filled with with a grapefruit slice and pebble ice (or you can crack regular ice cubes into smaller chunks for the same effect). Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Year’s Supply of Maille Giveaway!
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Yeah, I’ll admit it. I’m one of those people. It’s Thanksgiving and I think I have allllll this time to prepare for the holidays. ‘I’m going to get everything done in advance this year’, I tell myself. And then just as soon as I’m really getting in the holiday spirit and working on all kinds of fun Christmas cocktail and hors d’oeuvre ideas - BAM, it’s suddenly a week away and I’ve barely even begun my shopping.

If you’re a last minute shopper like me, and have a cocktail lover or home bartender in your life, I’ve got you covered with this list of my top holiday gift picks for 2018. I can’t guarantee that every item on this list will make it in time for Christmas (and one is a local purchase only), but if you’re like me, chances are your loved ones have come to expect at least one package that contains only packing peanuts and a printed picture of the item that’s on its way… :)

  1. Wintersmiths IC-S Ice Chest
    This is hands down my favorite find of the year, and a beautifully simple and space saving way to make crystal clear ice in large cubes or balls. It’s on sale right now on Amazon, so even if it’s just for you, now’s the time to pick one up!

  2. Kuma Turmeric Liqueur
    Ok, so this one isn’t available for purchase online yet, but if you live in Washington state, it’s available at all Haggen stores for your last minute local shopping. This stuff is absolutely delicious, really versatile, and makes for a perfect, unique gift for the hard to shop for mixologist in your life.

  3. The Flavor Bible
    This book is such a great resource, and so much fun to flip through when you want a little inspiration. If you know someone who loves crafting their own cocktails, coming up with fun flavor pairings, or cooking, this is the book for them.

  4. Bouvery Chocolate Vodka
    Love chocolate? Also love booze? This is the ultimate chocolate liqueur, tasting just like decadent melted dark chocolate. After tasting this, there’s no going back to creme de cacao.

  5. OXO Steel Angled Measuring Jigger
    This thing is just SO handy! It has .25 oz, .5 oz, 1 oz, 1.5 oz and 2 oz pour lines on the inside and a convenient spout to avoid spills. It’s a daily driver for me and a great stocking stuffer.

  6. OXO Good Grips Y Peeler
    If there’s one thing every home bartender really needs, it’s a good Y peeler! Don’t garnish without it. Another great little stocking stuffer.

  7. .45 Copper Bullet Cup by Neptune Glassworks
    How cool is this glass? It’s no secret that I am glassware-obsessed, but I was completely smitten when I was introduced to the gorgeous glassware by Neptune Glassworks. If you know someone who has every type of cocktail glass imaginable, this is the place to get them something very unique and special that they’re not going to find anywhere else.

  8. Sertodo Copper Hand-Hammered Boston Shaker Set
    Ok, time to get real - this is what I want for Christmas! I’ve been eyeballing the beautiful Sertodo Copper shakers on Instagram for some time, and I think it might be time to treat myself.

  9. Apologue Persimmon Bittersweet Liqueur
    When I first tried this wonderful elixir, it was love at first sip. Made with a blend of botanicals that includes persimmon, hibiscus, bitter orange, cinchona, gentian, and rhubarb, it’s a delicious and unique alternative to more mainstream bitter liqueurs. Also gets major points for having eye-candy packaging.

  10. Viski Professional Bar Tool Canvas Roll Up
    Here’s another great option for the home bartender who has everything! This canvas roll up is the perfect way to store and carry all your tools to your next holiday cocktail party.

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Chances are, when you think of a Screwdriver, you think of...well, a pretty uninspired cocktail. Perhaps one of the least loved and universally unappealing of the two-ingredient cocktail recipes, the Screwdriver is a simple combination of vodka and orange juice. Sharply acidic while still tasting quite bland, there’s admittedly not much to love.

I guess it’s the unlovable nature of the Screwdriver and it’s incredibly simple template that drew me to try to re-imagine it in clarified form. Plus, I really wanted to see if it would turn out completely clear. :)

So how do you make a Screwdriver…good?

One of the problems with the traditional Screwdriver recipe is the use of bottled orange juice, so the first thing I wanted to do was freshly squeeze some really tasty oranges. Bottled citrus juice just doesn’t taste like fresh, and it can have an unpleasant acidity and watered-down flavor.

Satsuma mandarins are in season at the moment, and they are incredibly sweet, juicy and FLAVORFUL, so I knew they’d be the perfect addition to a citrusy cocktail that needs some oomph. Satsumas are common in grocery stores between Thanksgiving and the New Year, and you’ll immediately recognize them by their still-attached, lush green leaves. The leaves are left on when they’re picked because attempting to pluck the fruits from their stems can tear the super soft skin. But that super soft, loose skin also happens to make them a breeze to peel.

Freshly squeezed juices are your friend

After tasting some juice combos, I decided on a blend of about 2 parts Valencia orange juice and 1 part Satsuma mandarin juice. To balance the levels of acidity and sweetness, I added some lemon juice and simple syrup to round things out. It’s important to always remember when taste-testing a cocktail at room temp that it will taste sweeter than once it’s chilled. Another important consideration when it comes to milk-clarification cocktails is that the end result will be much less acidic-tasting than what you start with. So I made sure to add enough lemon juice to perk things up, knowing the flavors would be toned down by the clarification process.

I will admit that I’ve been pretty limited in my vodka drinking, so I went out and chose a fresh new-to-me bottle of Chopin potato vodka from Poland. It’s a gorgeous, frosted bottle with lovely script, and tastes quite smooth to me. I am always looking to expand my booze horizons - have a favorite vodka brand? Let me know!

What exactly is milk clarification anyway?

I talked in depth about the milk clarification process in a recent post, you can read all about it here. The idea is that by adding milk and an acidic ingredient (like citrus) together, the milk will curdle, and the liquid will separate. You can then strain the liquid through the curds and produce an miraculously smooth, clear cocktail. Does it taste milky? In my opinion, no, but I have only clarified eight or so cocktails so far, so I’m by no means an expert. I think a milky flavor might be imparted if a higher concentration of milk was added to the mix, but I’ve used relatively small amounts. Like I talk about in the previous clarification post, it seems that a ratio of 1 parts whole milk to 5 parts acidic cocktail does the trick.

Strain through two layers = clearer cocktail

One important lesson I learned from this most recent clarification process is that straining through two layers of paper coffee filter seems to make for a much clearer end product - with only one straining. However, it also means waiting FOREVER for the liquid to strain. A tiny batch with less than 10 total oz might not take too long, but this batch (enough for three or four total drinks) ended up taking about FOUR HOURS ugh. The minutes ticked by like hours while I watched the late afternoon sun disappearing over the horizon. When you only shoot with daylight, everyday is a race against the clock this time of year!

Yes, it takes forever. But it tastes like sunbeams and summer days. So there’s that.

Although it took forever to strain, the end result was the clearest clarified cocktail I’ve been able to produce yet, and it is the most magical thing to take a sip of a crystal clear liquid that tastes like rays of sunshine and perfectly ripened citrus! Seriously worth both the time and the effort.

I really enjoyed this little riff on a classic Screwdriver. A few tweaks and a little patience led to a completely elevated drinking experience, with vastly improved flavors, texture, and visual appeal. A great thing about clarified cocktails is that they will keep in the fridge for months, so I’m saving the rest of my clarified Screwdriver batch for a rainy (or more likely, snowy, day). Enjoyed this cocktail recipe? Next up I’m tackling a Clarified Rum & Coke! :D

Milk-Clarified Satsuma Screwdriver

Makes: 3-4 cocktails
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz high quality vodka (I used Chopin)

  • 6 oz freshly squeezed Valencia orange juice

  • 3 oz freshly squeezed Satsuma mandarin juice (another variety of mandarin juice will work, just adjust the amount of simple syrup to taste)

  • 2 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1.5 oz simple syrup (to taste, depends on sweetness of citrus)

  • 4 oz whole milk

Instructions:

  1. Add all ingredients EXCEPT MILK to a large jar or mixing glass and stir well.

  2. Taste test to make sure that the cocktail is both sweet enough and acidic enough. The clarification process will subdue the acidic flavors quite a bit, so I like to make it a little more tart than I think I want it. Adjust the amount of simple syrup as needed based on your citrus juices. Satsuma mandarins are very consistent in quality, but other mandarins varieties can vary widely. Make a quick batch of simple syrup by combining 1/2 cup of white sugar with 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan over medium low heat and stirring until the sugar dissolves. Let cool and store any leftovers in a sealed jar or bottle in the fridge for up to two weeks.

  3. In a separate large jar or bottle, add the whole milk.

  4. Pour your cocktail INTO the milk (not the other way around). Gently stir.

  5. Allow the mixture to rest for at least two hours (or overnight if you’re good at planning ahead) in the fridge.

  6. Using two paper coffee filters (doubled up), strain the curdled mixture into a clean glass jar or bottle. This will take some time - be patient, it’s worth it! Don’t attempt to speed things up by pressing on the curds, you will not get a perfectly clear result if you disturb the curds.

  7. Once strained, if it still looks a bit cloudy, you can strain a second time, but I didn’t find that I needed to. The second strain will go considerably quicker. Spoon a small amount of the curd mixture into a fresh doubled-up paper coffee filter and pour the liquid through.

  8. Serve your finished cocktails over plenty of ice and garnish with orange or mandarin wedges. Alternatively, you can add water to the finished batch, to taste (for dilution) and serve it up in a cocktail glass, or, if the cocktail hasn’t been chilled, you can simply stir it with plenty of ice in a mixing glass and strain into a cocktail glass. Rocks glass pictured by The Elan Collective.

  9. Store any leftovers in a sealed glass jar or bottle in the fridge. It will keep for months.

Have you made a clarified cocktail? Tag me in your recipes on Instagram @moodymixologist!

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I loooove a Paloma. Summer, winter - no matter what time of year, I can sit down and enjoy that blissful combination of grapefruit and tequila (or mezcal). Is it any wonder it’s Mexico’s favorite cocktail?

Now that we’re getting into solid winter citrus season, I thought I’d share a fun Paloma variation to make with all those gorgeous juicy pink grapefruits. The jasmine green tea syrup adds depth and a gentle floral + grassy flavor. The muddled raspberries add a lovely pink color and emphasize the delicious sweet-tart flavor of the grapefruit juice. If you prefer mezcal, you can substitute it for tequila, but the smokiness may overpower the subtle jasmine green tea flavors. I’d recommend going with 1.5 oz tequila to .5 oz mezcal to maintain balance.

I made a rose petal + Himalayan salt rim because it’s fantastic and I always have a bag of organic dried rose buds on hand (you can get them here), but it’s an optional addition. If you decide to skip the rim, add a tiny dash of salt to the shaker when you’re making the cocktail to brighten up and enhance all the flavors.

What are your favorite grapefruit & winter citrus cocktails? Tag me in your faves over on Instagram @moodymixologist!

Raspberry Jasmine Green Tea Paloma

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz tequila blanco

  • 2 oz freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice

  • 1 oz jasmine green tea syrup*

  • 1/2 oz lime juice

  • 3 raspberries

  • Club soda

  • Pink rose salt** (optional, for rim)

Instructions:

*Jasmine Green Tea Syrup: combine 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of water in a small sauce pan over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, reduce heat to low and add two jasmine green tea bags. Allow tea to steep in the syrup for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove tea bags and pour syrup into a clean glass jar for storage in the fridge.

**Pink Rose Salt: Grind 6 organic dried rose buds (petals only) in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. You can actually just crumble them with your fingers if you don’t mind it containing larger pieces. Add 2 tbsp of coarse Himalayan pink salt and mix well.

  1. Slice two wedges of grapefruit and reserve one for garnish. Use the other to coat the exterior rim of a double rocks glass and then roll the rim in the Pink Rose Salt mixture (optional). Fill glass with ice.

  2. Muddle raspberries in the bottle of a cocktail shaker. Add remaining ingredients and ice and shake until chilled.

  3. Fine strain into double rocks glass and top with club soda (you could also use a grapefruit flavored seltzer water!) Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

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I have been wanting to make a milk-clarified cocktail for ages, and I finally sat down and did some research on the subject. If you’re not familiar, milk clarification is a technique used to render cocktails (typically punches) beautifully clear that was super popular back in the 1700s and 1800s. Back in the day, the end goal was less about pretty clear cocktails and more about softening the flavor of the booze and making a batched cocktail that would keep for a long time.

Clarification starts with separation

The clarification process works because acids (such as citrus juices) in the cocktail lower the pH of the milk and cause the proteins to curdle and coagulate. Once the liquid is strained through those little curds, the resulting beverage is silky smooth and crystal clear! It’s like magic.It’s not magic though, just science! If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a great article over on Cook’s Illustrated.

How to clarify a cocktail with milk

So here’s a basic rundown of the process for creating a milk-clarified cocktail. Step one: create a delicious cocktail that includes acidic ingredients such as lemon or lime juice, or use a classic recipe such as the OG, Mary Rockett’s Milk Punch. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was a milk punch drinker? You can find his famous recipe here.

You can batch the cocktail so there’s plenty of leftovers, or you can make just one serving, it all depends on how motivated you’re feeling. I’ve actually been experimenting with individual serves because I want to try pretty much everything under the sun in clarified form at the moment. There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer (let me know if you find one) about what the milk to cocktail ratio should be, although it seems that 1:5 is about right. For individual serves, just go with 1 oz milk and that should be enough. What is certain is that different milks (cow, goat, camel, etc.) will produce different results/flavors. I have read that whole milk is the best place to start, so that’s what I’ve used in my recipes so far. Let me just put out there that the second I find some camel milk, I will be creating clarified camel milk punch immediately.

Add the booze to the milk, not the milk to the booze

Another factor that seems to make a difference is that the cocktail be added to the milk and not other way around. It effects the forming of the curds and supposedly will produce better, larger curds this way. The reason we want better curds is because the curds are the key to clarity! When straining the curdled mixture, the cheesecloth or coffee filter will prevent solids from dripping into the liquid, but it is the curds that actually do the heavy lifting when it comes to filtering out all that cloudiness. Not enough curds = not entirely clear liquid. My first experiments produced incredibly clear results from super dark and murky liquid, but my second two attempts weren’t as great, and the only real difference was the amount of time I let the mixture set before straining. The first ones sat for over two hours, the second for only about one hour. I’ve read that some folks say to even let the mixture sit overnight before straining, but the one batch I did let sit overnight looked just as clear to me as the one that sat for two hours. Another factor is to gently stir the mixture after the cocktail has been added to the milk. This will evenly distribute things and ensure complete curdling. Now that you’ve combined your cocktail with your milk, gently stirred, and let sit for at least two hours, it’s time to strain it!

Watch and wait. And wait some more.

Apparently using cheesecloth will produce more rapid results, but I opted for coffee filters since I always have a box sitting around for straining various infusions. I’ll be honest, it seemed like it took FOREVER. I used a mason jar, a coffee filter, and the ring of the mason jar lid to secure the filter in place. I poured as much of the mixture as I could into the filter and then walked away to let it slowly drip. I’d come back and check every now and then and pour more into the filter until the jar with the mixture was empty and let the filter and the curds work their magic. Once it’s all passed through, strain the liquid one more time. To do this, I actually took a scoop of the remaining curds from the first filter and placed it into the second filter. This way, the liquid passed through curds a second time and not just the thin paper coffee filter. I want to say it took about an hour and half total for both strainings for this very small batch (two serving) recipe.

Don’t forget about dilution.

I will probably continue to double strain, but so far I haven’t noticed a huge difference between how clear the drink looks after the first and the second straining. Another factor to keep in mind when creating your own recipe - dilution. Depending on how you will serve your cocktail (over ice? Up? Topped with soda water?), you’ll probably want to add a bit of water to account for the lost dilution from not being shaken or stirred. I decided to wait until my cocktail was clarified and then taste test until it was right. I ended up adding 1 oz to the final drink, so ½ oz of water per serving. The drink was then served on ice, allowing for a little more dilution.

Gin, hibiscus, caramelized banana, grapefruit, lemon

Sounds like a pretty crazy assortment of ingredients, huh? The inspiration here started with the gin I wanted to use, Koval Dry Gin. Koval Dry Gin is small batch and organic, two of my favorite things. I really like this gin, as it’s very crisp and pine-y, but also slightly unusual. When I was looking up tasting notes to try to describe what it was I was picking up on, I found this Difford’s Guide article which remarks, “Occasionally, juniper presents itself as overripe banana in a gin, with the more usual resinous pine notes present but subdued. This is one such gin. It also has distinctive lavender notes.” YES, bananas, that’s it!! Sounds insane, but there is a very subtle banana flavor to this gin, as well as very fresh pine and slightly floral lavender notes. Immediately my mind started running through all of the possibilities for a unique, tropical, clarified gin cocktail! I ended up making a caramelized banana syrup (if you could call it that). It was super dark and viscous - basically a caramelized banana puree. I used a really special sugar, Circa estate-grown blonde sugar from Panana and it tasted DIVINE on its own (I’ll talk more about this incredible sugar in some upcoming recipes.) I was so curious to see how this super dark brown, lumpy syrup, combined with pink grapefruit juice, meyer lemon juice, hibiscus syrup and gin would look once clarified. The original cocktail was a deep brown red, but after adding it to the milk, the curds that floated up were a bright red, giving me some idea of what was to come.

I can’t express how wild it is to take a sip of something pink-ish and crystal clear, and taste so many flavors, including those caramelized bananas! You can be sure I will be continuing my experiments with milk clarification in all kinds of unexpected cocktails. Now that I have a sense of what I’m doing, I’ll include some in-process photos in the next post to better illustrate things - up next: a clarified Screwdriver.

Milk-Clarified Hibiscus, Caramelized Banana, & Grapefruit Gin Cocktail

Yield: 2 servings
Prep time: <5 minutes
Total time: about 3.5 hours

Ingredients:

For the cocktail:

  • 4 oz Koval Dry Gin

  • 3 oz meyer lemon juice

  • 1 oz caramelized banana syrup

  • 1 oz hibiscus syrup

  • 1 oz pink grapefruit juice

  • +1 or more oz water

For clarification:

  • 2 oz whole milk

Instructions:

Caramelized Banana Syrup: Heat one chopped ripe banana in a small saucepan with ½ cup of Circa Blonde sugar and a small pad of butter. Stir constantly for about five minutes over medium heat, or until the sugar begins to caramelize. Add ½ cup of water and stir well. Cook for another five minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool at least one hour. Pour into a jar for storage in the fridge.

Hibiscus Syrup: Heat 3 tbsp of dried hibiscus petals (or 3 hibiscus tea bags) with ½ cup of white sugar and ½ cup of water for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain into a jar for storage in the fridge.

  1. Combine all cocktail ingredients and stir to incorporate.

  2. Use a fine mesh strainer to strain out any chunks of banana and pour cocktail mixture into a mason jar.

  3. In a separate jar, add whole milk. Pour cocktail mixture into milk and give it a gentle stir.

  4. Cover and let sit for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

  5. Using cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter, carefully strain the liquid into a clean jar. You can place the filter into a mason jar and use the ring from the lid to secure the filter in place before starting to pour the liquid. Allow the mix to strain without touching or pressing on the curds. Once the liquid has passed completely through the filter, repeat the process a second time.

  6. Add water to the finished cocktail to taste, at least 1 oz. Store any leftover cocktail in a sealed jar or bottle in the fridge. Serve over ice and garnish with a dainty pink edible flower. Glassware is Libbey Signature Kentfield Chisel Rocks Glass.

Have you made a milk punch or other milk-clarified cocktail? Tell me what your process was! As always, tag me in cocktail pics on Instagram @moodymixologist!


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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.

It’s December, the most festive month of the year! With all of the shopping, events, and travel this time of year, my favorite holiday party recipes are ones that are delicious and fun, but also really quick and easy. And it definitely doesn’t hurt if they’re Instagram-able!

I’ve been wanting to create a savory small bite to pair with classic martinis for a while, and those cute organic, pre-cooked baby beets at the grocery store got me thinking. After a few different attempts that were overly complicated and not particularly delish, I arrived at this simple, elegant, and tasty hors d’oeuvre with baby beets, crème fraîche, fennel, walnuts, and my all time favorite mustard, Maille Old Style. I have a bit of an obsession with this mustard, and it’s the only one my daughter has ever had (she loves a charcuterie plate just as much as mommy). These little bites might look involved, but they’re actually super simple, and require only about 10 minutes to prepare!

Want to make perfect martinis to accompany your festive hors d’oeuvres? Fixing great martinis is also really simple! Although popular culture might have you think otherwise, martinis are best stirred, rather than shaken, as they typically contain only a spirit + vermouth. A ratio of 4 parts London Dry gin to 1 part quality dry vermouth, stirred with ice for about 30 seconds, makes for the perfect martini, in my opinion. Martinis can be easily batched for get togethers, and you can even get creative and set out a garnish bar with lemon twists, olives, or cornichons for your guests to choose from.

These hors d’oeuvres are incredibly quick to make if you can find pre-cooked baby beets, which are often readily available in the natural foods or organic section of the grocery store. If not, simply wash and trim a few beets and steam them until tender. It’s then very easy to remove their skin and slice them thinly.

Shaved fennel is delicious and lends a gentle anise flavor. When I first started experimenting with fennel, I had no idea how to use it, let alone how to prepare it, so for convenience I’ve included photos showing how to trim the bulb, remove the core, and shave it using a vegetable peeler. Larger slices are great if cooked, but can be too tough to eat raw, so shaving it is a great way to enjoy it fresh. Reserve any leftovers for a fresh fennel salad, it makes a fabulous side dish!

Beetroot, Mustard & Fennel Hors D’oeuvres

Yield: 24 hors d’oeuvres
Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 24 whole wheat crackers

  • 3 cooked baby beets (often available packaged in the natural foods section of grocery stores)

  • 1 small fennel

  • ¼ cup crème fraîche

  • ¼ cup Maille Old Style Mustard

  • ⅛ cup crushed walnuts

Instructions:

  1. If you are not able to find pre-cooked baby beets, remove stems and greens from three small beets. Wash and then steam beets for about 30 minutes or until tender, then peel.

  2. Using a sharp knife, slice beets thinly, about 8-10 slices per beet, and set aside.

  3. Wash a fennel bulb and pat dry. Remove stalks and reserve fronds. (Stalks can be frozen for later use in a broth or cooked along side dishes like fish.)

  4. Cut the fennel bulb in half and remove core. Using a vegetable peeler, shave thin slices from the bulb and set aside.

  5. Place walnuts in a small bag and use a rolling pin to crush into small pieces. In a small bowl, combine Maille Old Style Mustard with crushed walnuts and mix well.

  6. Arrange crackers on a platter and top each with a dollop of crème fraîche (about ½ tsp), one thin beet slice, about ¼ tsp of the walnut mustard mixture, and a curl of shaved fennel. Top each with a fennel frond. Serve immediately. (Leftover shaved fennel works beautifully in a salad with arugula, lemon and olive oil and can be topped with any extra beet slices or walnuts!)

The Perfect Martini

Ingredients:

Recipe makes 1 serving
Prep time: < 5 minutes

  • 2 oz London Dry gin

  • .5 oz Dry vermouth

Instructions:

  1. Add ingredients to a mixing glass with plenty of ice.

  2. Stir for about 30 seconds, or until thoroughly chilled

  3. Use a julep strainer to strain into a chilled martini glass

  4. Garnish with olives, or as desired. Serve immediately.


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For some reason the moments when I’m first falling asleep or just coming to in the morning are when I tend to have sudden flashes of insight or inspiration. It’s kind of like I do my best thinking when I’m sleeping. The other day as I was waking up to a pitch black morning (thanks daylight savings), I had a vision of a frosty pale purple coconut cocktail with violet liqueur and berries. Doesn’t that just sound dreamy? This is literally the stuff my dreams are made of.

Fast forward a day or two and I found some great looking organic cherries at the store, which is pretty unusual for this time of year. After flipping through The Flavor Bible for some cherry flavor pairing inspiration, cherry + coconut caught my eye, and I remembered my dreamy violet and coconut cocktail. I decided to make a cherry and green cardamom syrup and see how that would jive with coconut milk, violet liqueur, and a little citrus.

The result wasn’t really anything like my original vision, but it was delicious! I thought that the cherry syrup would contribute more to the overall color of the drink, but it didn’t seem to effect the bluish color of the violet liqueur at all. I wonder if cooking the cherry syrup for longer would produce a deeper color? Let me know if you try it!

There’s something very satisfying to me about a cocktail that is at once sweet, tart, and creamy, and lately I keep coming back to this style of drink, especially as an after dinner, dessert-style drink.

Beyond the botanicals, I wanted to use a spirit that was fresh, floral, and unique, so I chose Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin. If you haven’t had it before, it’s not quite like any other gin. It’s not the most juniper-forward gin, but it is crisp and FULL of flavor, most notably cucumber, lavender, sage, and lemon. My dad turned me on to it, and it’s become one of our favorites to enjoy in non-traditional martinis when we get together. This recipe is also really tasty with a more traditional gin, but I recommend substituting with another floral gin like Nolet’s or Hendrick’s if you don’t have Uncle Val’s on hand.

This might not be the most seasonal winter cocktail, but if you’re looking for something special to treat yourself to this weekend, pick up some Uncle Val’s and dust off that violet liqueur!

If you make this or any of my recipes, tag me on Instagram @moodymixologist!

Cherry Violet Coconut Gin Cooler

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Uncle Val’s Botanical Gin

  • 1.5 oz coconut milk

  • .5 oz The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur

  • .5 oz cherry + green cardamom syrup

  • .5 oz lime juice

Instructions:

  1. To make the cherry + green cardamom syrup, add a 1/2 cup of washed, halved and pitted cherries with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of water, and 4 slightly crushed green cardamom pods to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or just until the fruit begins to break down. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool, strain into a clean glass jar and store leftovers in the fridge.

  2. Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until chilled.

  3. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice and top with more crushed ice.

  4. Garnish with frozen berries and a cherry on top, or as desired.


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If you haven’t tried cheese cream coffee or tea yet, let me be the one to tell you you’re really missing out! Check out my original post about cheese tea here. The cream cheese-based whipped topping works on a variety of hot and cold beverages, but I think this creamy, salted pillow of love adds something really magical to a decadently sweet iced coffee cocktail.

Taking this cheese cream cold brew to the next level is Torani Caramel Sauce. Anyone who loves coffee drinks knows Torani syrups (they’ve been around for over 90 years), but they also make some incredible sauces that are perfect for making two of my favorite things - decadent drinks and desserts! Without further ado, here’s a rum + coffee cocktail to brighten these shorter days.

Boozy Salted Caramel Cheese Cream Cold Brew

Ingredients:

In a tall glass, add first two ingredients and stir until caramel sauce is completely dissolved. Fill the glass with ice, add cold brew, and top with a float of cheese cream. Drizzle with more caramel sauce and sprinkle with a dash of sea salt.

*Salted Caramel Cheese Cream

Ingredients:

Instructions: Add all ingredients to a small mixing bowl and whip until smooth using an immersion blender. Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Have you made cheese cream tea or coffee? What did you think?

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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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