Sparkling Cider Mocktails

 *republishing this today ’cause cheers even if you don’t drink beers! Amiright?
Apples are our ingredient of the season. Check out our complete archive of apple drinks, recipes, and crafts.

If your holiday dinners are anything like ours, there will be at least one bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling cider or grape juice on the buffet. We may have outgrown the kids’ table, but we haven’t outgrown the kids’ bubbly. This year we suggest adding a bit of grown-up flavor to your juice in the form of cranberry and ginger-rosemary simple syrups, creating mocktails worthy of the adult table… of course, we won’t bat an eyelash if you add a touch of your favorite vodka or gin too!

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Each of these drinks gets their flavor from Martinelli’s Organic Sparkling Cider and an infused simple syrup. We’re sure your holiday menu is already full, so we purposefully kept these mocktails simple to make using ingredients that we always have on hand for Thanksgiving. As such, there’s no need to add an extra item to the mile-long grocery list, and if you’re short on time, you can assign the syrup-making to the first guest to walk through the door.

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 Rosemary-Ginger Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 4-5 1/4 inch slices fresh ginger
  • Place all ingredients in a sauce pot, bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 1-2 minutes until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Strain the rosemary and ginger from the syrup once it cools.

Cranberry Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • Place all ingredients in a sauce pot, bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 1-2 minutes until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Strain the rosemary and ginger from the syrup once it cools.
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Time to Mix!

The Martinelli’s on its own is too sweet for my taste and adding these simple syrups would create a drink that would make my teeth hurt, so I always start by cutting the cider 50-50 with seltzer water. I would suggest you do that, or, if you’re the drinking type, take our suggestion and add vodka.

  • 1 part sparkling cider
  • 1 part seltzer water
  • 1 Tbsp simple syrup
  • rosemary, fresh cranberries, and crystallized ginger for garnish

Place all ingredients except the garnish in your glass and  give it a gentle stir.

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I think my favorite part is coming up with the garnishes! Is professional garnish-er a job? If so, I’m available for your next party. A note about buying the ginger: I never keep crystallized ginger on hand, because it always seems to dry out and get hard before I have a chance to use it. Instead, I buy only what I need for any recipe from the bulk foods section of the grocery store. On this particular day I only bought 8 or 9 pieces; considering my love for buying in bulk, this seems silly, but it’s always so nice having fresh and soft crystallized ginger for a recipe.

In the ginger-rosemary drink I used a sprig of rosemary. It matched the flavor of the drink, and the green and gold combination looked beautiful. My rosemary stems were a bit flimsy, but if your rosemary stems are firm, use them to skewer some of the cranberries and ginger.

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For the cranberry drink I put a couple of cranberries and a piece of crystallized ginger on a toothpick. Even though there’s no ginger in the drink, the sparkling gold candy looked so pretty on top of the red berries. Don’t you think?

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Of course, even if you don’t have time to mix up these syrups, just adding a bit of garnish to your sparkling cider will make every feel special! Especially if you add something like the sprig of rosemary ~ each time your guests take a sip of cider they’ll get an added bonus with the rosemary aroma.

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DIY Edible Gifts

Do you need a reminder that the holidays are right around the corner? We don’t! WE CAN’T WAIT. too much?

Today we’ve rounded up a few ideas that make perfect edible DIY gifts. There’s a range of options on this list, from nuts in solid and liquid form to citrus peels and marshmallow. Some take a bit more preparation than others (some are so easy you’ll have all of your teacher gifts done in an afternoon). But I may be a bit biased when I say that possibly the best gift on this list is the one that takes the longest to make.

And, as we all know, the best part about giving receiving an edible gift is that you don’t have to remember to put out that neon light up statue of Mt. Rushmore every time Aunt Peggy comes to visit. So get on with it.

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Spiced Mixed Nuts : a truly perfect blend of sweet and spicy. These are super easy to make with basic ingredients (think nuts, honey, cayenne pepper). Just make sure you share more than you eat!

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Hazelnut Liqueur : give this and you will be loved by all. Especially if you pass along a few key serving suggestions, such as mixing a shot into a cup of hot chocolate or a vanilla milkshake. BUT start making this one ASAP, because you need about three weeks of steeping time.

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Marshmallows! : There are so many perks to making your own marshmallows. You can personalize the color and flavor. Cut them out with cute cookie cutter shapes. Pair them with hot co for a real treat. And we aren’t kidding when we claim that these are easy to make.

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Candied Citrus Rinds : Again, another super easy treat. I added chocolate to these, but you can totally skip that. And as a bonus – we shared our orange marshmallows at the bottom of that post.

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Use this post as an excuse to get a jump start on the eating, drinking, and merriment! xo

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Bloody Mary Basics

live seasoned crab bloody mary-1It’s summer vacation! At least for the Schu family, it is. We’re all gathered here on Saxis Island, Virginia for a few good beach weeks. Besides a good book on the screen porch, we start our morning with a big bloody mary. A couple years back we featured a rosemary vodka & herb bloody mary, but if that sounds like too much work (though it’s not!) we have a few bloody mary basics to elevate your morning booze game.

The best bloody marys are flavorful, cold, and topped with an amazing garnish. Over the years, I’ve mostly stopped making bloody mary mix from scratch. Instead, I spend my time jazzing up the pre-made mix, my favorite is Zing Zang, and prepping garnishes to really elevate the flavors. Start by stashing your bloody mary mix in the fridge overnight. When morning comes, brew a pot of coffee and then get to work.

Mix up the following spices then rim each glass by running a lemon or lime along the edge before dipping it into the spice mixture.

  • 1 tablespoon of celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Add 6-8oz of bloody mary mix and a shot (or two) of vodka to each glass. Then add a dash or a shake of the following, leaving out whatever doesn’t suit you. Give each glass a good stir and add a few ice cubes.

  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Clam juice
  • Pickle juice
  • Hot sauce (I use whatever is on hand, but Tapito is a great choice)
  • Horseradish
  • Ground pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Old Bay
  • Celery salt

Now it’s garnish time and really, here’s your opportunity to play it low-key, pile it on, or experiment with something over the top. Here are a few garnish suggestions, but don’t feel pressured to do it all, coming up with your own unique combo is the way to go.

  • Celery stick
  • Pickle
  • Bacon
  • Pickled okra, green beans or some other veggie
  • Olives
  • Mozzarella balls
  • Fried soft shell crab

Whaddaya say? Bloody marys with brunch this weekend? Stir one up for us too, we’ll be hanging out on the porch!

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Midsummer Mojito

Apparently, I was indulging in the bounty of the season around the same time last year and put together this Midsummer Magic post full of other berry delicious treats. I’m seasonally predictable like that. And if you like mojitos, we also have watermelon and rhubarb variations!

There comes a certain point every summer when the mint makes itself known in our garden. It grows like crazy, and we’re treated to its sweet and refreshing smell every time we walk among it.

This is the point when I make the switch from my nightly G&T to mojitos! There’s no better sensory experience than picking the mint, smashing it with some brown sugar, squeezing the lime juice, giving it all a stir, and then taking a big sip.

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Last week while I was picking mint, the boys were picking raspberries. We brought our bounty (or what was left, in the case of the berries) into the kitchen, and I was making my drink while unpacking our farm share. Inside the box was a fresh cucumber.

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Ginger & Pomegranate Punch

I made this punch last weekend for a cookbook club meeting (more on that soon!). I’m not normally a punch-maker and was a little bit nervous putting it together, but it ended up being amazing! I think it was all due to the ginger beer… If this is any testament to the punch’s deliciousness, it was the first thing to go at my little cocktail bar that night. This recipe is our party gift to you at the beginning of what’s sure to be a long, fun, and punchy (ha!) holiday season.

With the realization that we had a winner of drink on our hands, I knew that I wanted to share it on the blog, but forgot to take any beautifully staged drink shots, instead, we have some after-party empties. #oops

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The ingredients for this bad boy couldn’t be simpler : ginger beer, pomegranate juice, and mango nectar. The ginger beer provides a ginger flavor (obvs), but I really like it because it also adds a fiery warmth to the drink that you aren’t going to get with ginger ale. Don’t accept any ale substitutes. The pomegranate juice provides the punch’s tart flavor and the mango juice its sweetness.

I used 25 oz of ginger beer, 8 oz of pomegranate juice, and about 12 oz of mango nectar. After you put that all together, you can give it a taste and adjust things to your preference.

Originally I was going to spike this with light rum, but then decided against it since we were going to have some non and light drinkers in the group. Instead, everyone had the option to add whatever alcohol they would like (we had rum, gin, vodka, and SNAP available). I loved it with rum and stuck with that for my two glasses, but I know a lot of other guests were excited by the ginger-snap description of SNAP and ended up enjoying that paired with the punch.

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Since I was serving this for an October event, I used it as an excuse to experiment with dried ice for the first time! My goal was to serve the punch in a pumpkin with dry ice creating a smoke or haze that would flow out and around the punch bowl. I would give the final result a C+. The punch in the pumpkin looked super seasonal at the drink station (I even kept the pumpkin top and it made a cute lid on the punch before party time), but I couldn’t get the volume of smoke that I was looking for. Maybe you’ll have better luck.

Here’s what I did : I cut the top off of an extra-large pumpkin and cleaned out the insides. Then I carved out the insides slightly until I was able to fit a metal* bowl down inside the bottom of the pumpkin, BUT I tried to not carve too much of the top rim of the pumpkin away so that my glass “punch” bowl could rest on the pumpkin and not sit down in the metal bowl. I think the following two pictures will help to illustrate the set-up.

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At party time, I placed the dry ice in the lower metal bowl and poured some water over it to get it smoking, then I placed the glass punch bowl on top for serving. While the ice would smoke some, it would also peter out fairly quickly. We would pour more water over it, causing another big release of smoke, but again, it was quickly exhausted…. maybe I just needed more dry ice in the lower bowl? While it wasn’t a dramatic success this time, everyone loved that we gave it a shot, and I’m still game to do a few more dry ice experiments.

*Metal is essential here since the dry ice gets so cold that it could shatter glass bowls (I even worry about pyrex because there have been some issues with lower quality pyrex being manufactured in recent years).

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See what I mean? It’s an ehh, on the scale of awesome, but hopefully I’ll have my dry ice game down by the time the boys are teenagers (gotta impress them with something).

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Midsummer Magic

It’s the middle of summer, food is at its freshest, and the livin’ is easy, or at least it should be.

There’s nothing we love more at this time of year than the intense flavors and colors of fresh fruits, and there’s no easier way to enjoy them than to just throw them in whatever you’re making. Need some ideas? That’s why we’re here.

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Last week I put some fresh raspberries and cherries in my mojito – smashing them up just a bit in the bottom of the glass before adding the rest of the ingredients.

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Serve cubed watermelon with mint for a refreshing treat on a hot day. If you like that combo, you’ll love our watermelon mojitos!

And if your garden’s still overflowing with mint, make some aqua frescas.

Add fresh figs and blueberries to your mocktails (or cocktails!).

Throw watermelon and blueberries in your smoothies with a tea-based twist.

What about watermelon in your gazpacho?!

Any ripe berry would go well in these yogurt-based popsicles. These lemon pops are another refreshing option.

Yesterday Alex asked to bake a cake (nothing makes my heart melt faster than his request to do something in the kitchen!). He wanted a cake with “a blue middle and red paint on the frosting”. I let him add some food coloring to our batter, but then transformed his idea for red paint into a splattering of berries and their juices across the top. This is a basic yellow cake with our favorite coconut milk buttercream (scroll down).

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Summer, and particularly July, is such a special time of year for us, and nothing tastes more like summer than perfectly ripe fruit; it’s pure midsummer magic. If you can get your hands on some, especially if you have the chance to get out there and pick berries, do two things : 1. eat as much as you can while picking, and 2. do something creative and special with the leftovers. You won’t regret it! xo

 

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Thirsty Thursday!

Vanilla is our ingredient of the season. So far we’ve made some vanilla-infused vodka (great for milkshakes!), a double vanilla cake, and a savory roasted chicken with vanilla bean.

Hey there, it’s almost the weekend!… and maybe you live somewhere that will actually feel spring-like on this last weekend in March? Our forecast was looking good, but now it’s taken a turn towards cold. So I’ll likely make one (or two) of these, curl up by the fire, and pretend that the snow has melted away.

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Both of the ideas are variations on traditional drinks. We just substituted plain vodka for our (super-simple) homemade vanilla vodka and made another tweak here or there.

This recipe for vanilla-infused vodka includes lime zest. I knew that I didn’t want to limit my bottle of vodka to recipes where I wanted both the vanilla and lime flavors, so I skipped the lime, but both of today’s drinks include lime, and it really is a great pairing. So much so that it’s worth considering keeping a bottle of vanilla-lime vodka on the shelf.

Vanilla Mule

Just a simple twist on the traditional Moscow Mule. Mix together ginger beer, vanilla vodka, and a splash of lime juice. So simple and so delicious!

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Vodka Tonic

This second drink is just a touch more exotic than your typical vodka tonic in that we add a splash of lime shrub. We make a vodka tonic with the vanilla vodka, add about a tablespoon of lime shrub, and then a spray of fresh lime juice if you have it.

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 yum & yum

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Cold Brew Coffee

live seasoned spring 16 cold brew coffee-1 copy The necessity of coffee is fitting for a Monday post, yeah? Brewing your coffee at home is one of the easiest ways to save money each week. I’m so used to it that buying a cup of coffee is a luxury to me and one I really enjoy, which wouldn’t be the case if I was waiting in line day after day at the coffee shop. During the winter, I usually brew a small pot in a french press or opt for the single cup pour over method, but once March rolls around it’s cold brewed coffee all. the. way. Once I discovered this method there was no turning back.

Why cold brew coffee?

  • Extremely easy to make. The directions are straight forward and there’s no fancy equipment necessary.
  • It saves time. It’s brewed in a larger concentrated batch, so you make it once for the week, not every morning.
  • It tastes better. The acidity of cold brew coffee is lower because the grounds are never subjected to boiling water, which makes the chemical profile quite different than that of a conventionally brewed pot of coffee. Lower acidity makes for a smoother taste and naturally sweeter taste and in turn is less harsh on your tummy.
  • It’s never watery. Besides the acidity issues that arise with hot coffee and rapidly cooling hot coffee with ice cubes (iced coffee), you’ll never drink a watery cup of iced coffee again. Watery diluted coffee is awful. Less caffeine and less taste – who want’s that?
  • More caffeine per cup. Cold brew coffee has a higher bean to water ratio and a longer brew time, which means it contains more caffeine. I think of cold brew coffee as a concentrate and I often add water, but more on that below.

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Malted Egg Milkshakes with Vanilla Vodka

Vanilla is our ingredient of the season. We’re looking forward to a few months of both sweet and savory dishes using vanilla. Plus, we’re a huge fan of milkshakes, so if you like today’s post, you may want to check out our matcha tea milkshake and hazelnut liqueur shake!

I made a bottle of vanilla vodka last week, as you’ll see below, it’s super easy to do, and it’s even better than the store-bought vanilla varieties because this is made with 100% real vanilla, nothing artificial here… and then we added candy-coated malted eggs.

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Truth be told, vanilla vodka has never been on my radar, but since I’ve experimented with making the tea infused and rosemary infused vodkas, vanilla and vodka seemed like an obvious pairing. It wasn’t until after I made it that I wondered what to do with it. Calder said “throw it away”. Thanks. Then I did a Google search and came upon a comment board where multiple people recommended giving it away. What’s wrong with everyone?

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