Elevating a cheesy cocktail to something delicious

Party like it’s 1976….yes please.

During the 1970’s, for the first time since perhaps the end of prohibition, a growing social scene was centered around famous nightclubs and a new type of place called discos. They were chic, exciting places to go. Pretty colors, exotic flavors and obscure liquors prevailed in the cocktails served.

Upon reviewing several cocktail guides from the 1970’s, I found the following trends; Apricot flavored anything was good with any type of liquor, Asian themed cocktail names were plentiful, Dubonnet and Galliano were staples in any bar, Creme de anything was used repeatedly.

Could these trends which seem as weird as loving harvest gold and avocado green kitchens ever come back? Yes, of course.

Disco cocktails are back and are better than ever.

 

I found this trend hard to embrace. My recollection of the seventies are as skewed because I was just a child. But I remember my parents heading out to a nightclub in polyester disco shirts and tiered ruffle dresses, it seemed very glamorous.

I searched for stereotypical 1970’s cocktails and then figured out how to upgrade them for today’s world. I tried to use fresh ingredients and no bottled mixes or artificial flavors. There were many drinks that were screaming for an upgrade to 2016; the Harvey Wallbanger, Long Island Iced Tea, Pink Lady, Golden Cadillac and the list could go on and on.

I chose to upgrade the Grasshopper and Tequila Sunrise. I did not deviate from the original recipes. I just made sure I used fresh ingredients.

For the Grasshopper, I made both the Creme de Menthe and the Creme de Cacao myself. They’re actually very simple to make.

For the Creme de Menthe, I took twelve ounces of Vodka and poured it into a large mouthed glass jar with a lid. I added mint leaves to it and let it steep for three days. Then I strained it and added ten ounces of  mint simple syrup to it.

The simple syrup is easily made heating one cup of Florida Cane Sugar with one cup of water over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add some mint leaves to the simple syrup and let it cool before adding it to your mint infused vodka. 

If you want a bright green color, you can add a couple drops of green vegetable based food coloring drops.

The Creme de Cacao is made in a similar manner. You take twelve ounces of vodka and grate three ounces of pure cacao (or use cacao nibs) into it. Use a large mouth glass jar with a lid. Add a vanilla bean and let all the ingredients steep for a week. Strain the mixture through a coffee filter and mix with ten ounces of simple syrup.

By using Florida cane sugar, fresh mint, pure cacao and vanilla bean both liqueurs have a super fresh taste and the individual flavors really shine through. I also bought my orange juice freshly bottled from a local grove, the flavor is much more intense.

For the Tequila Sunrise, I used an Añejo Tequila. This is tequila that has been aged for one year. It darkens the tequila to an amber color and produces a smoother, richer and more complex taste.

I also used my homemade grenadine recipe found in my Everyday Exotic Cocktails; Florida Edition currently available for sale on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Everyday-Exotic-Cocktails-Florida-cocktails/dp/1974619079/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1532612962&sr=8-1&keywords=everyday+exotic+cocktails or my new book Everyday Exotic Cocktails; Country Chic Edition https://www.amazon.com/Everyday-Exotic-Cocktails-Country-Chic/dp/1985022982/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1532612962&sr=8-3&keywords=everyday+exotic+cocktails

 

So put your velour robe on, do the hustle with your better half and party like it’s 1976!

Grasshopper

1 oz. Fresh Cream
1 oz. Creme de Menthe
1 oz. Creme de Cacao

Add all three ingredients into an ice filled cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a chilled glass. A martini or cocktail glass works best. Garnish with mint leaf and grated cacao.

 

Tequila Sunrise

2 oz. Añejo Tequila
Fresh Florida Orange Juice
2 Dashes Grenadine

Pour tequila into ice filled highball glass. Top with Orange Juice and stir. Add Grenadine and let it settle to bottom of the glass, do not stir again. Garnish with an orange slice.

Let’s Set Up A Vacation Bar!

Going on vacation does not always mean staying in a swank hotel with a fabulous bar in the lobby. Many times a vacation means staying in condo, house or apartment.

If you find yourself staying someplace other than a hotel but still want quality cocktails during your stay, a little preplanning will be necessary. I recently stayed in a vacation condo and found a way to make a variety of great, fresh cocktails to enjoy.

In my preplanning phase, I decided on four different cocktails that I would make while vacationing. The cocktails all shared some key ingredients to make my shopping easier.

I also wanted to keep it within a reasonable budget. I choose four different drinks using two types of rum but you can choose any type of liquor and make it work also.

I created a shopping list of ingredients I would need to purchase. Each recipe contained items that would be easily obtained at the local grocery store. I tried to incorporate as much fresh fruit as possible.

I printed my shopping list, a recipe sheet and even made a cute little menu for my traveling companion to ‘order’ cocktails from while we lounged away the day by the pool relaxing. The menu was a fun touch that made every cocktail seem special.

I knew the condo I was headed to had no barware. I had to bring the tools I wanted to use. I kept things to a minimum as I had to fit it in my luggage.

I decided I could get by with a cocktail shaker, strainer, lime squeezer, muddler and jigger.

Once we arrived at the condo, I headed out to the liquor store and grocery store to procure all my items.

I bought mid-priced rums at the liquor store that I knew had good flavor and quality. If you’re not sure what constitutes a good brand when buying liquor, stick with a choice in a glass bottle and somewhere in the middle shelf space.

At the grocery store, I obtained the ingredients on my list; limes, cream of coconut, a fresh coconut, bitters, pineapple juice, fresh mint and sugar to make simple syrup.

I also bought two bags of ice because I knew the small ice-maker in our vacation condo would not be able to keep up with demand once I started mixing cocktails.

Back at the condo, I boiled a cup of water, added a cup of sugar, stirred it until dissolved and set it aside to cool. Simple syrup is actually really simple to make!

Within two hours of landing, my vacation home bar was set up and ready to serve. I handed my homemade menu to my traveling companion and took my first cocktail order.

I’m happy to share a few recipes from my lovely vacation cocktail menu. They are simple and easy to make where ever you find your self in the world.

Frozen Coconut Lime Daiquiri (serves 2-4)
8 oz. cream of coconut
2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
4 oz. coconut rum
20 oz. ice

Add all ingredients into a blender. Set on high and blend for 25-30 seconds or until well blended. Pour into glasses or a Thai Coconut, garnish with toasted coconut flakes and a lime wheel. Enjoy.

 

 

Planter’s Punch
3 oz. dark rum
3/4 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker then add ice. Shake well and strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wedge and mint.

 

Vacation Punch
2 oz. coconut rum
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1 oz. lime juice
3 oz. pineapple juice

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Add ice and shake well. Pour unstrained into a glass. Garnish with mint. Top with 1/2 ounce of dark rum if desired.

Cocktail Inspiration

There are times when it is hard to find inspiration to create new cocktails. After recently finishing two books with a total of 102 original recipes, I found myself lacking the creativity and inspiration to create something new for an upcoming newspaper article I write on a regular basis.

 

My cocktail mind was dry, my home bar with its’ hundred plus choices of liquors was not doing it for me.

I wondered where I could find just a touch of inspiration. Sadly, most of the bars near my house catered to thirsty bikers and fishermen looking for a cold beer. Several restaurants nearby had dismal cocktail menus stuck firmly in the neon soaked 1990’s with nary a fresh ingredient. Other local establishments stocked 41 flavors of flavored vodka and no fresh juices or ingredients.

I flipped through my antique cocktail books from the thirties and forties. Many times I’ll stumble on a vintage recipe with a flavor profile I can update to suit tastes today. But after flipping through several books, I found nothing.

I stepped away from the books, social media and my own home bar. I took a cocktail break. I sipped fresh water, picked fresh fruit from my yard, cooked new recipes I had saved for months.  I focused of cooking beautiful roast meats and tasty chicken dishes. I perfected my homemade almond flour dough pizza recipe.

I drank wine. Good wine, boxed wine, fizzy wine – no pressure, no ingredients to worry about. Just pour and sip, it was so easy.

I did not make one cocktail.

I spent a lot of time in my kitchen, cleaning my fridge of syrups & infusions previously made but never used or finished.  I cleaned the cocktail slate to start fresh just like the first day of school.

After taking a month long break, I now feel like I have my mojo back. Recipes and new takes on standard cocktails are brimming from my mind.
All of them embrace the Everyday Exotic ethos – easy, simple ingredients that create fresh, tasty and exotic cocktails.

My first two books Everyday Exotic Cocktails Florida Edition and Country Chic Editions can be found on both Etsy and amazon.com. Both have fantastic pictures and easy to follow recipes.

My third book, The Hele Lau Cocktail Recipe Book can only be obtained ‘speakeasy style.’ A visit to a certain bar and a certain code phrase is required to obtain this book.

Cheers!

Infused heat

Tequila and heat are a match made in heaven. The spicy margarita is the most common way we see the flavors of tequila and spice married. It works quite well. Refreshing and tart, the sharp bite of tequila matches the kick of pepper heat.

But there is more to ‘hot cocktails’ than just a spicy margarita. A great way to get spice into your cocktails is to infuse your liquor. Infusing sounds difficult but is actually just steeping flavors into liquor.

Infusing tequila is easy, it just requires a day or so to steep then you’ll be ready to mix some heat soaked drinks.

You can infuse a bottle of tequila with your choice of peppers. Feeling brave? Go with the heat master, jalapeño. Feeling meek? Serrano peppers will give you a slight warmth but no burn.

To infuse a 750 ml bottle of tequila, simply take two jalapeño peppers and slice them in half. You can leave the seeds in for an extra kick or scrape them out to reduce the heat factor slightly.

Add the halved peppers and bottle of blanco tequila to a large mouth glass jar. Seal the lid and give the mixture a couple of shakes. Let the peppers infuse in the tequila for 24-48 hours.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth back into the tequila bottle. Be sure to label the bottle as ‘pepper infused tequila’ so you don’t mix it up with your low test tequila.

This pepper infused tequila can be used to make a delicious spicy margarita. You can also use the pepper infused tequila in a Bloody Mary instead of vodka.

Another awesome recipe is using carrot juice and pepper infused tequila in a cocktail. The carrot juice works well to absorb the spiciness of the jalapeño.

The result is a spicy, sweet, beautifully colored drink perfect to serve with Sunday brunch.

Jackrabbit Quick, left. Not Just Another Tequila Sunrise, right.

Jackrabbit Quick
2 oz. pepper infused tequila
1 1/2 oz. carrot juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1/2 oz. lime juice
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker then add ice. Shake well and strain into a rocks glass. Add ice to fill. Garnish with grape tomatoes and cilantro.

A spicy margarita tempered with a bit of sweetness makes a great cocktail to pair with tacos. Its simple to make with the pepper infused tequila and a sweeter liqueur instead of the standard triple sec. This combination produces a spicy but mellow flavor.

I like to sprinkle a ground sea salt on top of the cocktail instead of salting the rim. It’s a neater presentation and balances the cocktail better than huge chunks of salt that may or may not get into your drink.

Spicy Margarita Especial
2 1/2 oz. pepper infused tequila
1/2 oz. agave
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. Elderflower liqueur

Add all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Garish with two slices of jalapeño and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Another creative use of tequila and spice is a take on the old favorite, the Tequila Sunrise. Popular in the 1970s, this cocktail gets a bad rap. It was made badly with low quality ingredients by many bartenders.

But I have elevated the drink and revived it with fresh flavors and changed the base juice to create a spicy sweet sipper that stuns in the glass.

Not Just Another Tequila Sunrise
2 1/2 oz. pepper infused tequila
1/2 oz. hibiscus syrup
3/4 oz. lime juice
1 oz. cold pressed pineapple juice

Add the tequila, hibiscus syrup and lime juice into a cocktail shaker then add ice. Shake well and strain into a tall ice filled glass. Top by pouring the cold pressed pineapple juice very slowly into the glass. Garnish with a whole pepper.

If you can’t find hibiscus syrup in your local grocery or speciality market, it is very simple to make your own.

Simple boil one cup of sugar with one cup of water in a pot. Remove from heat. Add one cup of dried hibiscus and let steep for thirty minutes. Strain into a glass bottle. Add an ounce of vodka to prolong the shelf life. The syrup will keep in the fridge for up to one month.

Chartreuse – the other green fairy.

Absinthe has long been known as the ‘green fairy’ due to its’ hallucinogenic effects caused by versions made in the 1800’s. The botanical based liqueur used to be made with wormwood which in large quantities could have caused the odd behavior.

But mainly is was the liqueur’s high alcohol content of 110 to 144 proof that most likely caused the weird behaviors it is legendary for.

But we’re not here today to talk about absinthe. There is another kinder, gentler ‘green fairy’ in the liquor world.

It’s called Chartreuse, it is a herbal liqueur made in France by monks. The recipe is over 400 years old. Made up of a blend of over a hundred different herbs, spices and flowers. The actual recipe is a closely guarded secret.

Sometimes called bartender’s ketchup because of Chartreuse’s ability to marry well with just about every other spirit. It is available in both green and yellow formulas.

The green version is a higher proof and the yellow is a touch sweeter with a honey note to it. Both are excellent choices to have behind your home bar. I highly recommend stocking at least one bottle to elevate your regular line-up of cocktail recipes.

Chartreuse is also an excellent sipper just plain with some ice. You can also add it to your favorite bourbon. Try experimenting by adding it to the usual vodka and soda most people use as their go-to cocktail order.

The two recipes I’ve shared are super simple, so flavorful and beautiful to serve. So enjoy experimenting with new flavors and try this fun little ‘green fairy’ that’s much more mellow and versatile than absinthe.

Chartreuse Daiquiri. Photo by Christina Jordan

Chartreuse Daiquiri                                                            
1 oz. Rhum Agricole
1 oz. Chartreuse
3/4 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup

Add all into a cocktail shaker then add ice. Shake well and strain into a coupe or small glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

 

 

 

Chartreuse Mule. Photo by Pro-Stock Studio

Chartreuse Mule
2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. Chartreuse
1/4 oz. simple syrup
3/4 oz. lemon juice
Club Soda

Add vodka, Chartreuse, simple syrup and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker then add ice. Shake well and strain into an ice filled mug or glass. Only fill three quarters of the way up, leave room to top with Club Soda. Garnish with orange peel, peppercorns and lime.

Who doesn’t love a frozen cocktail?

I pose this question to people all the time. Everyone does! We need frozen cocktails, especially here in Florida. We have a constant desire to keep cool about ten months of the year. A frozen cocktail instantly sends you into cool down mode. You may get the dreaded brain freeze but it’s worth it if the drink lowers your core temperature a couple degrees.

What about finding better frozen cocktails than what they are serving at your local chain restaurant? It’s not always easy. I make a lot of frozen cocktails at home. I have found, making them at home, is your best way to  a quality frozen drink without any weird color dyes or super sugary ingredients.

It’s fun to try new flavor combinations. I limit the amount of sugar and maximize the amount of fresh fruit I incorporate into the drink.

I’m happy to share three fantastically fresh recipes for frozen cocktails. Enjoy!

Añejo Banana Daiquiri                                       

              
2 1/2 oz. Brugal Añejo Rum
1 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1 1/4 oz. simple syrup
1 frozen sliced banana
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
8-10 oz. ice

Add all ingredients into blender. Set on high and blend until completely combined. Pour into a large glass. Garnish with a lime wheel, sprinkle of cinnamon and a drink umbrella.

Frozen Mango Margarita
1 cup chopped frozen mango
3 oz. tequila
1 1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. triple sec
1 1/2 oz. agave nectar
dash of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper                                      
6-8 oz. ice

Add all ingredients into a blender.
Blend on high until well combined.
Pour into a large glass and garnish
with a lime wheel and sprinkle of
cayenne pepper.

Frozen Mango Daiquiri (serves 2)
1 cup chopped mango
5 oz. white rum
2 oz. fresh lime juice
2 oz. honey mix
10-12 oz. ice

Add all ingredients into a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Pour into large glasses. Garnish with a fresh mango slice.

**Honey mix is very easy to make. Just take equal amounts of honey and warm water and shake in a bottle until it is combined. Will keep in your fridge for two weeks. **

Getting what you want.

The title may not sound like a typical cocktail related blog post. It can apply to more than just ordering cocktails. In life, we like to get exactly what we want. But aren’t there times when being demanding and getting exactly what you want ends up being very unfulfilling?

I know when I go out to a bar or restaurant and order a cocktail, I have certain expectations about what I’m going to get.

I have assessed the establishment, perused the drink menu, judged the liquor selection behind the bar, given the bartender working the once over and then decided what to order.

I know I have to be flexible about what I expect depending on where I am. This flexibility in getting what I want saves me from being disappointed when ordering a drink.

If I see a wall of flavored vodka, a lonely bottle of Bacardi rum and a few random bourbons and whiskeys, chances are I’ll play it safe and just order a Jameson on the rocks. It’s a safe sipper for me and usually stocked behind the bar. I would not order a complicated drink or even a gin martini. The result just would not be satisfactory.

Some bars make delicious variations of classic cocktails. Like at a local bar near me, they make a fantastic Maple Syrup Old Fashioned. I tried several other cocktails on their menu before hitting upon this one and now it’s a favorite.

If I’m at a chain restaurant and the drink menu consists of brightly colored, sugar filled  margaritas served in fish bowls, I’ll probably just order a beer.

If I see local spirits or locally sourced ingredients featured on a drink menu, I’ll order that cocktail. It’s something I may never get to taste again. While on vacation in Hawaii, a bar we visited featured a Frozen Coconut Mojito. It had locally grown coconuts, fresh mint and a Hawaiian rum that they infused with coconut. This was once of the best frozen drinks I’ve ever tasted.

The same can’t be said for the Blue Hawaii pictured next to the Frozen Coconut Mojito. It was sugary and very disappointing.

When I’m sitting at a well stocked bar with unusual liquor choices, a bartender who is attentive and may even suggest a favorite off the menu then I’ll be adventurous. Chances are I’ll be pleasantly surprised by the cocktail set in front of me.

The one thing that I never do is dictate step by step instructions for how I want a cocktail made. It comes across as pretentious and rude.

Recently on social media, a discussion was started by a person who had a business card printed with an exact drink recipe he likes. He hands this card to bartenders when ordering. He does not bother trying to explain what he wants because as he stated, “they’ll just screw it up or come back and ask again.”

This guy must be hated by so many bars and bartenders. I understand that he is spending his hard earned money on a cocktail and likes what he likes but seriously it just seems so…… I’m not even sure what word to use…..jerky seems the kindest word to use.

The bar may not stock the exact brands he’s requesting. The bartender may be able to make an awesome riff on the cocktail he likes.

Or here’s a novel idea, try something new and save your favorite drink for when you’re at home with all the ingredients you need and can make it yourself.

While I understand being particular, I think there’s too many outstanding cocktails to always drink the same exact thing. As with life, it pays to mix it up a bit and try something new.

We all think we know what we want, but sometimes when presented with an alternate choice, we realize the thing we thought we wanted, was not it at all. Wow – that’s a pretty complicated theory just for a drink choice. But it’s true and it applies to life also. So throw away that dopey card and get crazy!

My favorite drink is the Mai Tai.  I specifically like the version Trader Vic invented in 1944. Do I order this when out? Not usually, I’d be disappointed nine times out of ten. The only place where I’m consistently satisfied with their Mai Tai is at The Mai Kai in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It is a landmark Polynesian restaurant and bar in business since 1956. The bartenders there know what they’re doing and don’t need me handing them a little card to tell them how to make anything.

I order a Mai Tai many times when I see one on a menu elsewhere. I like to see how other bartenders put their twist on this iconic cocktail. Sometimes I’ll even ask for a specific rum in the cocktail if I see it sitting on the shelf. But I’ve never given exact instructions on how I want it made.

I’ve drank some horrific Mai Tai’s and some surprisingly awesome Mai Tai’s. That’s all part of the fun. So loosen up, and order a cocktail.

Everyday Exotic Cocktails wishes you a very Merry Christmas!

Wishing all my readers a very happy and exotic holiday!

Looking back on 2017, I have so many happy memories and milestones. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my readers.

 

Everyday Exotic Cocktails is a labor of love. I’ve worked hard to present you with exotic, easy to make cocktails. I’m thrilled to share my tips, tricks and recipes for all the great cocktails I create.

I love connecting with readers who want to entertain at home and make delicious, craft quality cocktails using ingredients easily found in their local grocery and liquor stores.

I try to limit the ingredients to six or less. I’ve read cocktail recipes for years and got tired of thinking that looks like an awesome cocktail but I need three different weird liqueurs, syrups, bitters, etc. that can only be ordered from an expensive speciality website.

I have so many recipes, new books and new events to share in 2018. See you next year and remember to be exotic everyday!

Best Wishes,
Christina

The ultimate holiday cocktail is not Egg Nog, it’s Coquito

Need a break from busy holiday preparations? Looking for a nice strong cocktail to get you through a holiday party? Want to celebrate the holidays with something tropical?

I live in Florida, so the last question is one posed to me many times by friends and readers of my column. But I’m sure my frozen friends up north have the same tropical cravings when there’s two feet of snow on the ground.

Coquito is the answer to your holiday cocktail dreams. It originates from Puerto Rico and is traditionally served anytime from Thanksgiving until mid-January. Coquito literally translates to ‘little coconut.’ And a little taste of coconut is exactly what you’ll get in this yummy but potent drink.

People make comparisons between Egg Nog and Coquito. I think Coquito is very different from the same old nog we’ve been drinking for years.

Coquito is served cold and frothy. It contains coconut milk and rum among other ingredients. These two main flavors, along with the cold temperature it is served at, make it perfect for a warm Florida holiday.

I like to premix several bottles of Coquito to serve at parties. Then I don’t have to be behind the bar mixing drinks all night. I set up a cute little self serve bar and leave my guests to fill their glasses and garnish the drink themselves.

There are so many different recipes for Coquito. Some use raw eggs, much like traditional egg nog. I’ve chosen to share a version that does not use raw egg. It’s still delicious and easy to make.

So let’s sip some Coquito and have a happy exotic holiday!

Everyday Exotic Coquito

1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 14 oz. can coconut milk
1 15 oz. can coconut cream
3 cups silver Puerto Rican Rum
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Mix all in a large container, mixing and shaking well. Decant into empty 750 ml liquor bottles and place in the fridge for at least two hours before serving. Shake bottle well just before serving.

A beautifully simple cocktail

The island of Martinique is still in hurricane recovery mode from Hurricane Maria which ravaged the island back in September. Rhum Agricole is produced solely in Martinique. In honor of this beautiful island, I committed to making ‘Ti Punch as much as possible.

‘Ti Punch is Martinique’s national drink and a huge part of their daily social life. It is served in cafes and bars all over the island. Everyone has their own method of enjoying it.  The ingredients are served separately table side and the drinker is left to create the drink themselves. Some like more lime, less sugar. Others enjoy a touch more sugar and a heavier pour on the rum. Don’t we all love a heavier pour on the rum?

It is a beautifully simple cocktail using just a few ingredients. You could compare it in preparation to an Old Fashioned and in a glass, it closely resembles a daiquiri. However, tastewise it is neither.

A ‘Ti Punch cocktail’s strength is the floral, funky, earthiness of its sugar cane taste. Rhum Agricole is made from fresh sugar cane juice while other types of rum are made mostly from molasses. Along with the second ingredient in this cocktail, Sirrop de Cane – which translates to sugar cane juice, the mighty cane is definitely the star of this drink.

I don’t always have an easy time finding Sirrop de Cane locally so I substitute other types of sugar products. I’ve used raw sugar, raw liquid sugar, Hawaiian sugar and for the recipe I’m sharing today, I used a vanilla simple syrup.

While not a traditional ‘Ti Punch, ‘Ti Punch avec vanille, is still simple and delightful. I love the vanilla flavor that melds with the grassy almost sweet notes of the Rhum Agricole. Don’t be afraid, it’s not too much sweetness, the lime juice adds tartness and the squeezed lime wedges add a touch of sour to the glass.

‘Ti Punch is also traditionally stirred using a swizzle stick or Le Bois LéLé. Fear not if you don’t have one, you can just stir it with a lowly bar spoon or even a teaspoon.

A ‘Ti Punch must be made with Rhum Agricole, no other type of rum is acceptable.

Rhum Agricoles are widely available at most liquor stores in varying price levels. Sample as many as you can,  each has a unique often funky flavor. It took me a while to find my favorite and of course it was one of the more expensive choices. But I think it’s totally worth it.

‘Ti Punch avec Vanille

Ti’ Punch avec Vanille

2 wedges of lime
3/4 oz. vanilla simple syrup
2 oz. Rhum Agricole
Ice

Add ice to a rocks glass. Squeeze the two lime wedges into the glass and drop the used wedges into the glass. Add the simple syrup and rum. Stir briefly with a swizzle stick. Garnish with a vanilla bean. Enjoy and remember to be exotic everyday!

Berry Bourbon Cooler

When entertaining, are you looking for a brightly colored cocktail to dazzle your guests? Would you like to achieve that without using something full of artificial color and ingredients?

If you’ve ever read the ingredient list on a bottle of Grenadine, the first item listed will invariably be the dreaded high fructose corn syrup, followed by water then several chemicals and dyes. Lastly it will say artificial flavors.

This chemical concoction should taste tart and sweet but mostly tastes synthetic. Some cocktail lovers use a mixture of a popular pomegranate juice mixed with a simple syrup to make their own version of Grenadine.

I wanted a tart & sweet syrup that I could make from scratch. I started with fresh strawberries. They pair well with just about every type of spirit. They also match well with a variety of herbs. I came up with a Summer Strawberry Basil Liqueur that can be used in the Bourbon cocktail recipe below or added to wine, club soda, sangria or even a margarita. In a margarita you can substitute this liqueur for the triple sec.

The more I tasted this liqueur, the more ideas I came up with of cocktails it could be added to; mojito, Tom Collins, even that 1990’s favorite the Cosmo. Best of all, this syrup is made using five ingredients.

Summer Strawberry Basil Liqueur

8 oz. Fresh Strawberries
1 1/2 Cups Vodka
4 Basil Leaves
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Pure Florida Cane Sugar

First, cut the strawberries into halves and remove the stems. Add the berries and the fresh basil leaves into a sealable glass jar. Pour in one and a half cups of Vodka and seal the jar. Give it a good shake.
Let the mixture steep for two days at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. At the end of the two days, your strawberries should be almost white. Strain the liquid into a clean measuring cup using a fine mesh strainer. Set this liquid aside.
In a pot, heat one cup water and one cup sugar on medium heat and bring to a boil for five minutes. Remove the sugar syrup from the heat and let cool.
Once the syrup is cool combine it with your strained strawberry liquid. Seal this liqueur in a glass bottle and shake well to fully mix. Let it rest for a day in the fridge before serving. Keep refrigerated between uses and it will last for up to a month.

Now your have this beautiful Strawberry Liqueur and need a cocktail to utilize it in. Bourbon is the perfect match.

Berry Bourbon Cooler

2 Tablespoons Pure Florida Cane Sugar
5 Fresh Raspberries
4 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
3 oz. Bourbon
1 oz. Strawberry Basil Liqueur
1 oz. Lemon Juice

Muddle the sugar, raspberries and bitters in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the bourbon, liqueur and lemon juice. Add a generous helping of ice to the shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with mint, fresh raspberries and lemon peel.

Your guests will be ravished by the color but stunned when they taste all the fresh ingredients you’ve used. Cheers to drinking better!

Spiced & Spiked Vanilla Frappé

There are times when a trip to your local coffee house just won’t cut it. Maybe you’re craving a coffee drink and an alcoholic cocktail at the same time. Your local coffee house can’t accommodate you with both. What to do?

Make your own yummy coffee cocktail at home. It can be done easily in the comfort of your own kitchen. Heck, you can even make it in your pajamas!

Everyday Exotic Spiced and Spiked Vanilla Frappé

2 oz. Vodka
2 oz. cold milk
3/4 cup vanilla ice cream
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 oz. cold brew coffee
whipped cream/additional ice cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
gingerbread cookie

Add vodka, cold milk, ice cream and allspice into a blender. Pulse until blended and pour into a tall glass. Top with two ounces of coffee. Top with an additional scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and a gingerbread cookie.

Three Berry Moscow Mule

My latest recipe is a variation of the classic Moscow Mule. I love ginger beer and Fever-Tree is my absolute favorite. http://www.fever-tree.com/ginger-beer I love the glass bottles and the spicy ginger zing. I used to buy other brands of ginger beer in two liter bottles but they always went flat before I used them up. I threw away more ginger beer than I used. Once my local grocery store started carrying Fever-Tree that was all I bought.

My other advice is to make sure you use fresh squeezed lime juice. Don’t try to spike my cocktail with what is in those little plastic lime bottles. It’s full of adulterated chemicals, I don’t want that in my food or my cocktails. I always keep limes in my fridge. If they don’t get used quickly then I squeeze them and freeze them in ice cube trays. Once the cubes are frozen, I transfer them to a freezer bag and keep on hand to use in cooking.

Vodka is not my favorite liquor. I rarely use it in cocktails with the exception of a Cosmo (we’ll get into the awesomeness of the cosmo in another post, but it was and still is one of my favorite things to drink.) I don’t buy super expensive vodka. I have found several great mid priced choices that have a clean flavor and are under twenty-five dollars a bottle.

So we’ve covered all three ingredients in a traditional Moscow Mule. I’ve added frozen berries to my variation. I buy a frozen three berry mix of strawberry, blackberry and raspberry that my local grocery store carries in the freezer case.

Three Berry Moscow Mule

2 oz. vodka
1 oz. lime juice
2 tablespoons frozen mixed berries
4 oz. ginger beer

Muddle berries in a cocktail shaker and set aside. Fill a mug three quarters full with crushed ice. Add vodka, lime juice, muddled berries and ginger beer to mug. Stir with a bar spoon. Garnish with a three berry sword, lime slice and mint.

Enjoy!

Everyday Exotic Cocktails available now https://www.amazon.com/Everyday-Exotic-Cocktails-Florida-Christina/dp/1389799441/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507581502&sr=8-1&keywords=everyday+exotic+cocktails

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Don’t feel like talking like a pirate today? Me either, I have no aptitude for talking like a pirate. I know the key phrases; arrrgg matey, shiver me timbers, walk the plank but my ability ends there.

While I’m not a pirate expert, I do know a little bit about rum and pirates loved their rum. While sailing the open seas, clean drinkable water was always in short supply. Pirate’s drank more rum than water. Pirates were also susceptible to a vitamin c deficiency  due to a lack of availability to citrus fruit in their diet. This resulted in many cases of scurvy while on long voyages looking for ships to plunder or treasure to bury.

From this convoluted reasoning, I’ve come up with an original recipe called Scurvy Prevention to honor Talk Like a Pirate Day. The cocktail is a wonderful mix of white rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, a touch of falernum and topped with overproof rum. I’d like to think if a pirate did order a cocktail this might be one he’d like.

So drink rum cocktails, it fights scurvy and boosts morale.

Scurvy Prevention

2 oz. white rum
1 oz. overproof rum
3/4 oz. orange juice
1/2 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. vanilla simple syrup
1/2 oz. falernum

Combine all ingredients except the overproof rum in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into an ice filled glass. Top with a float of overproof rum. Garnish with an orange peel and mint sprig.

Gin and Tonic, simple end of summer sipper

It’s the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend. Growing up in the northeast, this holiday signaled the end of summer. Now that I live in Florida, I know summer does not end in early September but in my reminiscing mind it does end this weekend.

All summer long I’ve mixed up some fabulous cocktails; the Paloma, frozen daiquiris, margaritas, gin shandies, Mai Tais and a host of others. My mixing arms are worn out. I want to make something this weekend that requires minimal work and delivers maximum flavor. The classic gin and tonic meets these requirements.

I’m a long time gin lover, even before it was cool to like gin. Now gin is in fashion again and distillers are making some awesome gins with very unique flavor profiles.

A refreshing classic, the gin and tonic, at The Hele Lau Home Bar

Citrus based gins are one of my very favorites. Brooklyn Gin is one of my all time favorites. It is still a juniper based gin but has added citrus peels to give it a crisp, sweet citrus burst. They boast hand peeled and hand cracked juniper berries. While this may seem a bit pretentious and maybe a touch too cool for me, the end result is a superior product. You can check out their website at http://www.brooklyngin.com/?age-verified=89da977172

Another of my favorite gins is St. Augustine New World Gin. Distilled in St. Augustine, Florida. The citrus flavor is dominant but there are fascinating spice notes. The distillery offers free tours and they have an attached restaurant, the Ice Plant Bar with amazing food choices to pair with your cocktail. Check out their website http://staugustinedistillery.com

Today, my gin of choice is Boodles. It’s a proper British gin and has a herbal mellow flavor.  This gin was the liquor of choice for my favorite literary character, Travis McGee of the Travis McGee series written my John D. MacDonald. He lives on a house boat in Ft.Lauderdale and romances many a lovely lady on his boat named the Busted Flush. He preferred Boodles on the rocks.

http://www.boodlesgin.com

http://dos.myflorida.com/cultural/programs/florida-artists-hall-of-fame/john-d-macdonald/

Another ingredient I like to utilize for a G&T is Original Strong Tonic made by Strong Tonic, LLC  http://www.strongtonic.com   Their syrup blends the traditional tonic flavor with a sweet zing using all natural ingredients. It truly takes your G&T to another level. Their website lists some great recipes to try out on a day when I’m feeling more ambitious.

Lazy days call for lazy cocktails and this weekend, I’ve decided the G&T will be my end of summer cocktail. Enjoy and be exotic everyday!