My 5 Favorite Spirits for Fall

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I don’t know what it is but as soon as the weather starts to change I develop an absolute aversion to refreshing, effervescent drinks and immediately crave moodier, more direct cocktails, made with warming fall spirits. The five spirits below are the ones I turn to when I want to forgo the spritzy G&Ts and tequila cocktails of summertime and craft a more seasonally appropriate tipple.

Old Tom and Barrel-Rested Gin. As a surprise to absolutely no one, my favorite spirit to drink when temps start to drop is still gin, just different styles! Old Tom Gin, often thought of as the bridge spirit between malty, sweet Genever and crisp, clean London Dry, is a super approachable style of gin that is either a. post-sweetened and/or b. stored for some amount of time in new or used barrels. Several American distillers have also been releasing barrel rested gins, forgoing the somewhat difficult marketing issue of calling them Old Tom gins, seeing as not very many people know what Old Tom Gin is. My favorites from this category are Ransom Old Tom and Spirit Works Barrel Rested Gin. Once you’re familiar with “Barrel Rested” or “Barrel Finished” Gin, I guarantee you’ll start seeing them everywhere!

Peated Bourbon. Bourbon is a go-to any time of year but when the temps drop and there’s a chill in the air, I like to switch it up to something a bit smokier. Peated Bourbon refers to a Bourbon that has a peated malt – heavy mash bill. Meaning in addition to corn, they’ve added some percentage of peated malted barley into their mash and fermentation. The addition of peated malt gives the finished whiskey a bit more richness and smokey flavor than what you would normally find in a textbook Bourbon. King’s County in Brooklyn makes a great version that’s lightly smoky without being over-powering. Aged for at least one year and incorporating just 15% peated malt, it’s a beautiful entry point into the world of peated whiskeys and Scotch whiskeys.

Mezcal. Mezcal is an incredibly complex spirit with strong similarities to Scotch in its smoky qualities. A cousin to Tequila, this agave spirit is made from fermented agave that has been charred, roasted and smoked, as opposed to just roasted or steamed, as is customary for Tequila. The more aggressive cooking methods applied to the agave give the spirit tons of smokey character, making it an incredible addition to cocktails. Enjoying Mezcal straight is very similar to enjoying Scotch straight, in that (in my opinion) – working up to the keyword here – enjoying the experience is somewhat of an acquired taste. Nonetheless, once you get used to Mezcal, you’ll never go back. It has an incredibly rich sense of terroir, more so than any other spirit, which makes you’ll taste wildly varying differences between Mezcals from distillers and producers, just based the region the agave was grown in. Check out my guide to Mezcal here – Part 1 & Part 2.

Sloe Gin. Sloe Gin is another one of those niche styles of gin I turn to when the leaves change! You can read more about sloe gin here, but it’s basically a gin that has been steeped with sloe berries and then post-sweetened, technically making it a liqueur. Don’t let the “liqueur” label scare you, as the natural tartness of the sloe berries negates any cloying sweetness. Enjoy it neat, in a cocktail, as a substitute for sweet vermouth, or even warm! as they do in Scotland. My favorites are Plymouth, Spirit Works, Greenhook, and Boodles.

Spiced Rum. Spiced rum is perhaps the most obvious spirit for the cooler, festive months and I’m happy to say that there are several high-quality, craft options hitting the market these days. Two, in fact, can be found right here in San Diego! Malahat Spiced Rum is an absolutely delicious concoction of warm spices and Liberty Call is made with lots of cinnamon and clove. I like to enjoy Spiced Rum in big batch cocktails, as the spiciness and gentle sweetness are crowdpleasers, making them great for gatherings.

 

What are your favorite fall spirits? Let me know in the comments below! // Top image via.

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5 Quintessential San Diego Date Night Ideas

Distillerista-Date-Night-Ideas-3{ can’t go wrong with fish tacos & rosé}

Blue Water Fish Tacos by the bay… Make like a local and call ahead to place your to-go taco order at Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill. Grab a bottle of rosé at Pali or Vino Carta en route to swoop your tacos (skip the line and walk straight up to the register if you called ahead!), then head to either Spanish Landing or Cancer Survivor’s Park along the Bay. Plenty of benches and picnic tables make for a sweet, low-key dinner al fresco. Pro-tip: time it right so the sun is setting as you’re polishing off the last bites!

Distillerista-Date-Night-Ideas-1{ my go-to poke order: half white rice, half greens, salmon, creamy spicy sauce, furikake, scallions & jalapeños! }

Poke @ Kate Sessions… Head to Pacific Beach for one of two favorite poke spots: Poke Chop (Shout out to Whitney for the rec! We’re obsessed!) or Good Time Poke. Grab a couple bowls to go and drive up the hill to perhaps my favorite spot in all of San Diego, Kate Sessions Park! The views of downtown and Mission Bay are breathtaking and the serene, sloping lawn provides plenty of space to camp out on a blanket. Pro-tip: don’t forget to pack that 6-pack of your favorite craft beer.

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{ throw it on the grill and you’re done: flat iron for two, sweet peppers and broccolini }

Tour Specialty Produce & cook a meal at home… I kid you not when I say I want my ashes spread at Specialty Produce. This place turns me into a kid in a candy store! Specialty Produce is a massive wholesale produce supplier for San Diego county’s restaurant scene but is open to the public as well. Walk in during their public hours, sign in, grab some gloves and produce bags and ask one of the plentiful and friendly staff for a tour of the different rooms, walk-ins, and aisles. They carry all the basics you find at the grocery store (both conventional and organic/farmer’s market) plus tons of not-so-basic ingredients like carrots, cauliflower, beets, and peppers in every color of the rainbow. And that’s just a scratch on the surface. You name it, they have it! Take advantage of their vast selection and grab those exotic ingredients called for in that recipe you’ve had bookmarked forever.

_MGM8189{ mix like the pros after a cocktail making class! // photo cred :) }

Cocktail Making Class + East Village Cocktail Crawl… If you’re a cocktail enthusiast or budding mixologist, head to downtown distillery  You & Yours Distilling Co. for a cocktail making class (offered on the third Wednesday of every month, from 6:30 to 8 pm). Attendees will learn how to measure, shake, stir and pour drinks as well as have the opportunity to make and enjoy two cocktails, all while learning a brief history of the drinks being made. Once you’ve mastered the tricks of the trade, pop around the neighborhood for a few of my favorite cocktails!

Stand Up Paddle Board & Brunch… Though technically a better day date idea, if you’re looking for something a little more active, rent paddle boards at my favorite rental shop and cruise around the Americas Cup Harbor. I prefer this spot for SUP because it’s nice and quiet, usually pretty flat and there’s so much to see! I love looking at all the boats and paddling out of the harbor and around to Shoreline Park where you can post up at the small sandy beach in front of Humphreys for a breather. After your morning paddle, grab brunch (and perhaps bottomless mimosas?) at Jimmy’s Famous Tavern next door.

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How to Throw a DIY Gin & Tonic Party

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Guys, I’m so excited about today’s post. Aside from being my 100th (!!!) post since starting Distillerista, this is an idea I’ve wanted to feature on the blog for. EVER. While it might not be particularly monumental, it happens to be my idea of a picture-perfect (i.e. low-key) entertaining situation and let me tell you why… because A. I love any excuse to just set out a bunch of stuff and let my friends take care of themselves and B. I LOVE a good G&T. A gin & tonic is crisp, refreshing, classy af and virtually fool-proof to put together, making it the ideal cocktail for a DIY bar setup.

A little background on my love for the G&T: “gin and tonic, extra lime” quickly became my go-to order when I first fell in love with gin a few years ago. I’m so fond of the juniper-laden goodness that I’ve graduated to ordering a more streamlined (& low-sugar) version: gin & soda with a splash of tonic to let the gin shine through a bit more. But #adulting aside, any way you make a G&T, they’re always sure to please. There’s just something about those crisp little bubbles and fragrant botanicals together as one, #amirite?

Whether you’re throwing a #GalentinesDay party for your pals, planning an upcoming bridal shower or bachelorette party, or just want an excuse to round up the #squad, a DIY G&T bar is pure, easy fun.

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Here’s how to set up a DIY Gin & Tonic Bar…

Glassware – Keep in mind your glasses don’t all need to match. Just make sure they’re clean and free of cracks or chips. Double old fashioned glasses, mason jars, hi-balls, rocks, juice and water glasses are all fair game.

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Ice – “Invest” in a pretty ice bucket. Retailers like Target often have cute and affordable options. A small scoop, pair of tongs or large serving spoon is appreciated for hands-free scooping.

Paper straws – Love these hearts, this floral print or the classic striped.

Garnishes Include classics like lemon and lime wheels, as well as lots of fresh mint. Encourage guests to give the mint a little smack in the palm of his or her hand and place in the glass first. Then garnish with a bit more on top of the drink. Other garnish ideas to include: citrus peels (fresh or candied!), edible flowers and cracked juniper berries.

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Cocktail napkins – These are too cute, these are v. on theme or perhaps something more simple.

Jiggers – Set out a jigger or 1.5 oz shot glass measure on the bar so that the gin doesn’t flow too quickly ;).

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Selection of gin – The idea is to have a good mix (3-4x) of different styles of gin, however it’s not exactly cost effective to go out and buy a bunch of niche spirits just for a casual get together. I totally get it. If you’re willing and able, consider offering your guests 1. a classic London Dry gin, 2. a more modern Western or American style gin, 3. a Sloe gin and 4. an Old Tom gin. Alternatively, ask a few close friends to cohost/contribute a bottle of a certain style and you’re sure to have a diverse spread! Scroll down for deets on the gins included in this photo set and a list of my favorites in each category mentioned above at the end of this post.

Selection of tonic – Mix it up! Include a classic brand like Schweppes or Canada Dry, a “light” or sugar-free version, as well as a pricier premium tonic. Then if the budget allows, add in one or two flavored tonics for some added fun like aromatic, bitter lemon, or grapefruit. Include some soda or sparkling water too just incase anyone is seriously quinine-averse. Flavored Lacroix’s are also a great addition. My favorite brands are East Imperial, Fever Tree, Llanllyr Source and Q.

{ Tonics seen in photoset: East Imperial Grapefruit Tonic, East Imperial Yuzu Tonic, Q Tonic, Llanllyr Source Bitter Lemon (lemon flavored tonic water) and Llanllyr Tonic Water. My favorite brands are East Imperial, Fever Tree, Llanllyr Source and Q. }

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DIY-G&T-Bar-Distillerista-10 DIY-G&T-Bar-Distillerista-1 DIY-G&T-Bar-Distillerista-11 DIY-G&T-Bar-Distillerista-12 DIY-G&T-Bar-Distillerista-13 { East Imperial Grapefruit Tonic }

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{ Gins seen in photoset: Hendrick’s, St. George Dry Rye, Krobar Botanical Brandy, Woody Creek Gin, Plymouth Sloe Gin }

Other favorites… Tanqueray No. 10, St. George Botanivore, Aviation; Ransom Old Tom, Spirit Works’ Barreled Gin, Sloe Gin & Barreled Sloe Gin, Death’s Door, Distillery No. 209.

Photos by Caroline Potter.

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Last Minute Stocking Stuffer Idea

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Let’s be honest, no one ever objects to alcohol as a gift. And that’s why stuffing your loved ones’ stockings with little 50 mL bottles of spirits is a slam dunk last minute gift idea if I’ve ever heard one! Attn: procrastination-inclined late shoppers, make a quick trip to your local Bevmo or liquor store and grab a bunch of mini airplane-szed (50 mL) bottles. I like to get a mix of no-brainer choices (vodka, tequila, Bourbon, cocktail bitters) and so-bad-they’re-awesome choices. Examples of the latter category would include Jack Daniels Honey, Fireball, flavored vodkas, and coconut rum. It’s all about options 😉

In addition to being a cute and easy stocking stuffer idea, my mom actually does this for my brother and I and our significant others every Christmas. Now that I have my own stockings to fill, I secretly look forward to carrying on this sweet, simple tradition! I hope it becomes one of yours too. <3

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DIY Cocktail Kits

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I was inspired by my blogger crush, Claire Thomas, to gift DIY cocktail kits this year. After watching this YT video of her DIY Old Fashioned Kit, I couldn’t help but recreate the idea at home with my own cocktail ingredients. The idea was so up my alley, I wanted to kick myself for not thinking of it first! I always have random batches of syrups and little R&D infusion projects laying around, so these were a cinch to put together when I needed a last minute gift last week. To put together your own DIY cocktail kits, here’s a rough idea list of things you’ll need…

  • decorative straw, mesh or wire basket
  • a cloth napkin, cute kitchen towel or raffia to act a base layer in the bottom of the basket
  • 2-3 mini (50 mL) bottles of liquor or a mason jar of a homemade infused spirit (see ideas here, here and here)
  • a cocktail syrup, purchased or homemade (equal parts sugar and water, simmered until dissolved)
  • a small bottle of your favorite mixer, i.e. tonic, soda, ginger beer
  • a whole lemon, lime or orange
  • cute paper straws
  • twine, sticky labels and/or gift tags to label ingredients
  • festive card, to write the cocktail recipe inside

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Here’s what I included in my basket last week: rosemary mint honey simple syrup (recipe below), a mason jar of the first official batch of You & Yours‘ flagship gin, East Imperial soda water, a lemon, three paper straws in a holiday color palette and the following recipe written inside a cute card…

Lemon + Winter Herb Gin Spritz: Shake 2 oz gin, 1 oz rosemary syrup and 1 oz lemon juice with ice, strain over fresh ice and top with 2 oz. soda water. Garnish with a lemon wedge and enjoy!

For the rosemary mint simple syrup… combine 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup honey and 1 cup water in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add five sprigs of rosemary and a generous handful of fresh mint. Simmer until fully dissolved and let cool completely off the heat. Strain into a sealable container.

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Other ideas of things to include in the cocktail kits…

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Happy gifting! Let me know what ingredients you’d include in your DIY Cocktail Kits in the comments below :)

{ Photos by Lindsey Marie }

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DIY Hazelnut Liqueur

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Some of my favorite things to gift during the holidays are homemade syrups, condiments, spice blends and infused spirits. They’re inexpensive and fun to make and the thought and effort go a long way. As a Frangelico addict, this hazelnut-infused liqueur might be my favorite of all the infusions I’ve DIY’d thus far and is so, so easy to make. If you still have a few folks to cross off your Christmas list, this sweet gift is sure to please anyone who enjoys a good craft cocktail… a.k.a. almost everyone? I also love the idea of making a big batch and divvying it up into mini bottles to give away as favors after a holiday party or open house.

DIY Hazelnut Liqueur. Recipe adapted from this one here.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole hazelnuts
  • 2 cups neutral spirit of choice i.e. vodkawhite rumbrandy or Everclear
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • optional add ins: orange peel, split vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, coffee beans, cacao nibs

Directions:

  1. Toast your hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet in a 275-degree oven for 10-12 minutes until fragrant
  2. Let nuts cool slightly and transfer onto a kitchen towel
  3. Double the kitchen towel over the nuts and roll back and forth until skins are removed (this step is optional… removing the skins will result in a clear liqueur, but I actually prefer a creamy, opaque appearance in my final product, as seen in these photos).
  4. Transfer skinned hazelnuts to a chopping board or food processor and give them a rough chop to increase surface area. The more finely chopped the nuts, the quicker they will infuse.
  5. Combine the neutral spirit and nuts in a large sealable jar or container, or split into two 1 liter mason jars. Let infuse in a cool dry place for 1-2 weeks. If adding any optional ingredients, like the orange peel or cinnamon stick, add those ingredients after the hazelnuts have infused on their own for 1 week.
  6. Strain and discard solids using a few squares of cheesecloth draped over a fine mesh sieve.
  7. In a small sauce pan over medium low heat combine honey, sugar and water to make a syrup. Turn off the heat once the sugars are dissolved and let cool.
  8. Combine the infused spirits with the syrup and shake well to combine. Store finished liqueur in the fridge for up to one month.

**Obviously Christmas is less than a week away, so feel free to gift the liqueur with the hazelnuts still infusing inside the jar or container. The recipient will be able to instantly recognize what’s inside! Include a small card with finishing directions (shake often, discard solids after XX date, add syrup and refrigerate for up to one month) along with the premade syrup and a couple squares of cheesecloth so they can strain out the nuts easily. Secure a cute bow around the jars or containers and – voila! – an easy, inexpensive DIY gift with endless applications!**

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A few of my favorite ways to use Hazelnut Liqueur…

  • Shake with equal parts lime juice for a chocolate cake-like nightcap (sounds weird but trust me, it’s delicious)
  • Splash into glasses of Prosecco and garnish with a lemon twist
  • Combine one shot of espresso with 1 oz. of hazelnut liqueur and top with a scoop of hazelnut or vanilla gelato for a hazelnut affogato – the perfect end to a holiday dinner party
  • Splash into your morning coffee over the holiday break for a little extra pick-me-up 😉
  • Add 1 oz. hazelnut liqueur to your favorite Old Fashioned recipe for a wintery take on the classic whiskey cocktail
  • Use in place of the coffee liqueur in my Dirty Chai Hot Toddies!

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Happy gifting! What other ways would you use this hazelnut liqueur? Let me know in the comments below.

{ STUNNING photos by the lovely & talented Lindsey Marie }

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Fall-Inspired Spiced Mango Ginger Punch

img_2497Did you know mangos have two seasons? The first peaks as spring turns to summer and the second as fall gives way to winter, overlapping to provide an almost year-round season for delicious, juicy mangos! I was completely unaware of this delightful fact when searching the interwebs for inspiration regarding two lonely mangos past their prime in the back of my fridge. As soon as I realized mangos weren’t just for summer poolside rum-soaked applications, I couldn’t wait to create a more fall-inspired cocktail.

With Thanksgiving just next week (!!), I also thought it’d be wise to batch this festive cocktail out for all your group drinking needs. Below are recipes for both one drink and ten. Note: the recipes have slight variations in order to make the batched version more hostess-friendly. As I alluded to in Tuesday’s post, I’ve been on the hunt for high-quality mixers for You & Yours‘ debut cocktail program and am #obsessed with East Imperial Mombasa Ginger Beer at the moment. You can buy a 24-pack here (they will not go to waste, trust me!), but feel free to use your favorite ginger beer.

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Recipe for 1 drink.

Ingredients:

  • 1. 5 oz aged or spiced rum
  • 2 oz. mango juice, puree or nectar (this can be store bought; *recipe for homemade to follow)
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. brown sugar simple syrup, *recipe to follow
  • ginger beer to top
  • 2 T coconut or raw cane sugar for sugar rim, optional
  • mango (fresh, dried or candied!) chunk or slice for garnish, optional

Directions:

  1. Pour brown sugar into a small shallow bowl and use a lemon wedge to wet the rim of a collins/highball glass or other tumbler. Gently dip the rim of the glass in the sugar and fill with fresh ice. Set aside.
  2. Combine rum, mango puree, lemon juice and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice.
  3. Shake for 10 seconds and strain into sugar rimmed glass. Top with ginger beer.
  4. Garnish as desired and enjoy!

Recipe for homemade mango puree: In a blender combine 1 peeled, chopped mango (or 1 cup frozen mango, thawed) and a splash or two of water. Blend on high until completely smooth, 1 minute or more. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate until ready to use, up to one day.

Recipe for brown sugar simple syrup: In a small sauce pan, combine one cup each brown sugar and water and simmer over medium-low heat until completely dissolved. Let cool and store any leftovers in a sealed jar or container for up to one month.

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Recipe & Directions for batched version (10-12 drinks).

In a large drink dispenser or punch bowl, combine 1 750 mL bottle dark or spiced rum, 1 quart (32 oz) mango nectar, 1 cup (16 oz) brown sugar simple syrup, 1 cup lemon juice and 2 cups ginger beer. Give it a good stir and adjust the sugar syrup and lemon juice to taste if needed. Pro tip: If using a punch bowl, freeze lemon slices in water in a bundt pan and use as one giant ice cube! When the ice melts and the lemon slices float it will be beautiful.

Shopping list for batched version:

  • One 750 mL bottle of your favorite aged or spiced rum; San Diegans – check out Malahat or Liberty Call
  • One quart mango juice, nectar or puree; a mango juice blend or mango lemonade would also work just fine!
  • 6-8 lemons or 8 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • One quart of your favorite ginger beer (be sure to use ginger beer, as ginger ale will likely make the drink too sweet)

pantry items: brown sugar, raw sugar or coconut sugar

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{ Photos by Caroline Potter }

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My New Favorite Cocktail Ingredient

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With construction at the distillery space well under way (follow me on Snap to see some behind the scenes progress! @laurakj11), we’ve finally begun recipe testing for our debut cocktail menu! Being the Distillerista that I am, I’ve always known that my place of business would never be the type of establishment to serve generic mixers out of a gun.  That in mind, I went to town sourcing specialty tonics and sodas for our cocktail program. Enter East Imperial. East Imperial is a New Zealand-based company specializing in super high quality and super low sugar mixers. I like to think of them as the hipper, southern hemisphere version of Fever Tree.

The guys at East Imperial were kind enough to send us a sampling of each of their products and although my love for their ginger beer knows no bounds, it’s this Yuzu Tonic that has me most excited! If you’re not familiar with yuzu, it’s a north-Asian citrus fruit that tastes like a cross between a mandarin and a Meyer lemon. This yuzu-flavored tonic water is both the perfect subtle twist on my usual G&T and a necessary exclamation point to this yuzu-based cocktail I created for a competition recently. The yuzu flavor is true as can be, not at all artificial, and subtle enough to compliment but not overwhelm premium spirits. If you’re looking to delight and impress your holiday guests this season, pick up a twenty-four-pack here (Trust me, they’ll go fast!).

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Six Tips for Incorporating Cocktails into Your Wedding

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I recently had the honor of contributing to Exquisite Weddings Magazine’s Fall/Winter 2016 issue – I wrote about my favorite ways to incorporate craft spirits and cocktails into your wedding celebrations. Although the finished piece only ended up including a few small blurbs (see article above), I wanted to share the entirety of the tips here. Wedding season might be coming to coming to a close but that can only mean one thing: engagement season is right around the corner! Send these tips to a bride- or groom-to-be and you’ll be one happy guest. 😉

1. Choose a cocktail with significance.

Not surprisingly, I’m a big fan of featuring signature cocktails at your wedding. They provide a little something extra, compared to just beer and wine, and are a great way to placate the liquor-loving crowd without blowing your budget on a full bar. Having said that, I feel strongly that the cocktail(s) chosen should mean something to the bride and groom. Don’t just go with the trend of the moment – I can’t tell you how many weddings I’ve been to where the same tired version of a Moscow Mule was being served, much to my judgy chagrin. If your favorite cocktail truly is a Mule then, by all means, serve them (extra points for then offering the – engraved perhaps?! – copper mugs as favors). But what I really find special is when the bride and groom feature something with a story. Perhaps the drink your fiancé made you when you had dinner at his/her place the first time or, the cocktail you shared on your first weekend away together.

2. Cocktail kits as favors.

Another cocktail-inspired idea I love is putting together or purchasing cocktail kits for your wedding favors. My Youtube crush Claire Thomas (of The Kitchy Kitchen) really set the bar with this idea. She and her now husband made their own bitters (!!!) then included little bottles of them in a mini cocktail kit, along with the rest of the ingredients to mix up an Old Fashioned (her favorite drink) for each guest to take home. Talk about a meaningful, intentional and totally useful wedding favor. If that seems like a bit more effort than you’re willing to put in for wedding favors, bid guests adieu with W&P Design’s Carry-On cocktail kits for the plane ride home!

3. Take Champagne to the next level.

One way to easily incorporate cocktails into your wedding is with a champagne toast. Champagne cocktails are easy and affordable to throw together for a crowd (just sparkling wine and your favorite liqueur or juice) while being elegant and celebratory at the same time. Or perhaps consider greeting guests after the ceremony with a simple champagne cocktail (sugar cube + dash of bitters + bubbles) instead of plain Brut.

4. Feature both light and dark spirits in contrasting applications.

If featuring more than one signature cocktail, try to choose one that calls for a clear liquor and one aged liquor to give all imbibers an option. I.e. my two favorites – a fresh gin gimlet and a Bourbon boulevardier – create a nice contrast. The gimlet is light and refreshing while the boulevardier is more direct and warming.  

5. Call in the experts.

There are some fabulous cocktail-centric caterers out there these days. Work with companies like Barçon or Snake Oil to create a unique, custom cocktail (or two!) and offer hand lettered recipe cards with your names and the date of your wedding for a special touch. Guests can then think of the happy couple when they recreate the drink at home!

6. Add a little touch of home.

Craft distilleries are popping up everywhere – did you know that there’s now a craft distillery in every state? If your wedding celebration is far from home, incorporate spirits from a distillery in your hometown or state as a little nod to your provenance. Some of my favorite California distillers are St. George Spirits in Alameda, Spirit Works in Sebastopol, Green Bar Distillery in LA and Malahat Spirit Co. here in San Diego. Each has a wide range of spirits to choose from. Alternatively, offer an airplane-sized or other small format bottle (250 or 375 mL) of a local spirit as wedding favors if you’re having a destination wedding in a locale where there exist popular local craft distilleries.

 

Looking for more entertaining tips? I shared how to throw a craft spirits-inspired football brunch here

 

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The 12 Best Store Bought Cocktail Mixers

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I love whipping up my own syrups and infusions at home but occasionally I want a cocktail mixer that’s already done for me, ready to go. This mostly happens when I’m either a. traveling or b. mixing cocktails for a big group of people. Say we’re staying at an Airbnb for a few days – I’d much rather buy something fun and pre-made than bring along honey, sugar, herbs, etc. etc. for a homemade syrup or mixer. And when I know I’ve got a large group coming over, pre-made mixes are my best friend (just don’t tell my friends! 😉 ). There are so many high quality cocktail mixers, syrups, cordials and the like out there now days, it seems criminal that I haven’t written a post on my favorites until now. Below you’ll find all of my favorite cocktail mixers that you can find right at your local grocer or liquor store. Or via my favorite way of procuring items I probably don’t need but nonetheless want, Amazon!

1. Favorite Soda Water | Boylan Heritage Club Soda

This is the clean, crisp soda water I reach for again and again. It also happens to have super sleek, minimalist packaging thanks to the geniuses at W&P Design. Win-win!

2. Favorite Tonic Water | Fever Tree Naturally Light Indian Tonic Water

I love a splash tonic water to finish a gin or tequila cocktail but I just hate the high sugar content. This “naturally light” tonic from Fever Tree has half the sugar of other brands yet still maintains that quintessential quinine punchiness.

3. Favorite Ginger Beer | East Imperial Mombasa Ginger Beer

This is – no joke – the best ginger beer I’ve ever tasted. Not sure if it’s just me, but I find most widely available ginger beers either way too sweet or way too spicy. This East Imperial is the Goldilocks of ginger beers. Tons of fresh, true ginger flavor without being too spicy plus the perfect amount of sweetness. And the best part? That spicy ginger heat lingers just long enough to make you want the next sip.

4. Favorite Margarita Mix | Tres Agaves Organic Margarita Mix

This has been my go-to marg mix for years. I can usually find it at Costco (always a plus) and I love that it uses all natural and organic ingredients. It’s not too sweet and doesn’t have that awful artificial taste that most margarita mixes suffer from.

5. Favorite Bloody Mary Mix | Powell & Mahoney Bloody Mary Mix

I’m not a huge Bloody Mary drinker but this mix is a real crowd pleaser. It provides a great canvas for adding your own personal twist with hot sauces or other ingredients but is also robust enough on it’s own.

6. Favorite Flavored Simple Syrup | Royal Rose Lavender Lemon Simple Syrup

The syrup I make most at home is lavender honey simple syrup, (You may remember seeing me call for it here and here!) but I’m well aware that most folks don’t have the time or the desire to go out and buy culinary lavender to make their own. That’s precisely why I love that I can recommend this brand of syrups for those who’d rather buy something than make it themselves. Royal Rose has tons of incredible flavors beyond the lavender I’ve linked to above and all are made in super small batches. Their Rose is another favorite of mine.

7. Favorite Mixer for Whiskey Cocktails | White Whale Auntie’s Old Fashioned Bold Mixer

Made with youngberries, pear and rosemary, this is an epic ready-to-drink twist on an Old Fashioned. Might want to buy two.

8. Favorite Big Batch Cocktail Starter | American Juice Company Lady Lychee Cocktail Blend

Developed originally for Michelin Starred chefs, this high end cocktail mixer is comprised of strawberries, lychees and rose petals. Simply combine a bottle of this with approx. 750 mL of your preferred spirit and top with soda water for a quick and insanely impressive big batch cocktail!

9. Favorite Shrub | Pok Pok Som Thai Basil Drinking Vinegar

Have you eaten at Pok Pok?! If you haven’t, I recommend you get your ass to Portland, Los Angeles or NYC and do so IMMEDIATELY. Chef Andy Ricker’s authentic af northern Thai food is the stuff of dreams and his cocktail programs are equally as impressive. The fact that his drinking vinegars, or shrubs as they’re also called, are available for at-home consumption is an absolute Christmas miracle.

10. Favorite Elevated Tonic | Jack Rudy Elderflower Tonic Syrup

When you’re looking for a little something extra in your next G&T, look no further. This elderflower tonic syrup is gorgeous and floral without being too cloying. Just mix gin (or vodka) with this elderflower tonic syrup and sparkling water and you’ve got an upscale cocktail worthy of the fanciest dinner party.

11. Favorite “Instant Craft Cocktail” Mixer | Belvoir Elderflower and Rose Lemonade

This beautiful rose and elderflower lemonade from the UK’s Belvoir fruit farms is a serious workhorse. All you have to do is add a jigger of your spirit of choice and Boom! – you instantly have a craft cocktail bar worthy libation at your finger tips.

12. Favorite Wildcard Cocktail Ingredient | Liber & Co. Pineapple Gum Syrup

If you’re a fan of the Tiki movement or Tiki-esque cocktails in general, this is the thing for you! This tropical fruit laden cocktail syrup (it’s 60% fresh pineapple juice!) is a must for mixing up island-inspired classics like a Jungle Bird or putting a fresh spin on Margaritas.

{ What are your favorite store bought cocktail mixers? I’d love to hear. Top image via. }

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