“Healthy” Weeknight Cocktail #1: Cucumber Kale Vodka Spritz

Distillerista-Healthy-Green-Juice-Cocktail-3 { Anthro Tumblers  | Elizabeth and James top }

With the new year comes an inevitable wave of resolutions: exercise more, eat cleaner, give the drinking a rest… we’ve heard e’m all, right? While I’d love to think I can finally tackle ALL those cliché healthy lifestyle choices now that the holidays have past, it’s just not realistic to cut out drinking entirely. Besides the fact that enjoying a well made cocktail is one of my most beloved pleasures, I’m currently in the middle of R&D for my distillery‘s first two flagship products. One of which is a New Western-style Gin and requires endless tweaks to the botanical makeup. Simply put, my team and I’ve been tasting a looooot of gin lately. But what I can do is make healthier choices when I do choose to partake. And that, my friends, is the inspiration behind a new slew of cocktail posts this month. For the next few weeks I’ll be posting “healthy,” – even borderline nutritious! – cocktail recipes for when 5 o’clock hits and you don’t want to completely cancel out those hours you’ve been putting in at the gym.

First up is a fizzy and refreshing Cucumber Kale Vodka Spritz. It calls for California’s favorite health trend – green juice! Feel free to use homemade or store bought, just be sure to watch out for sugar content. Some of my favorites are from Moon Juice (LA) Pressed Juicery (multiple locations, I’d suggest Greens 1.5) or Juice Saves here in SD. It’s no secret vodka is the most calorie-friendly spirit, plus I wanted the green juice to really shine and the neutral canvas vodka provides allows for that. If you’re using a super intense green juice (no apple or citrus), you may want to add a dash of honey simple syrup and/or a squeeze of lemon to keep your cocktail hour from feeling like a cleanse. 😉

Cucumber Kale Vodka Spritz. Makes 1 drink.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small seedless (Persian) cucumber
  • 1. 5 oz. good quality vodka
  • 1 oz. raw honey simple syrup, optional
  • 6 oz. your favorite green juice – preferably a blend of greens, cucumber and lemon
  • Sparkling water to top

Directions:

  1. Slice cucumber into four wedges, lengthwise. Reserve one wedge for garnish and chop the remaining three wedges into one-inch pieces.
  2. Muddle cucumber pieces in the bottom of a cocktail shaker until pulpy and juice begins to accumulate.
  3. Add vodka, green juice,  simple syrup if desired and a handful of ice.
  4. Shake for 10-15 seconds and strain into a tumbler filled with fresh ice. Top with sparkling water.
  5. Garnish with reserved cucumber spear and enjoy!

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{ All Photos by Krisnoff }

 You might also like: My Top 5 Vodkas // A Jazzed-Up Vodka Soda

Rick Bayless’ Ancho Chile Old Fashioned

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I should preface this post with full disclosure, I’m a HUGE Rick Bayless fan. Any time I’m in Chicago a stop at one of his Frontera eateries is an absolute must. In fact, I must tell you that on a recent trip I was introduced – by some dear friends and fellow fans – to the pure. addictive. crack. that is the Ahogada Torta, a juicy carnitas sandwich served in a pool of spicy tomato and chile de árbol broth! Aaaaaand I digress. This blog is about craft liquor and cocktails, dammit!

As delicious and addictive as Bayless’ Mexican fare may be, the margarita and cocktail recipes from his book FRONTERA: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks may just give his food a run for it’s money. Chock full of unique margarita variations and riffs on classic cocktails, – often retooled with agave spirits, chiles, etc. – FRONTERA is a treat for any Bayless fan. Or really anyone who isn’t afraid to dress up a classic marg! The days have been chilly and overcast here in El Niño land so this spicy Tequila Old Fashioned felt like the perfect warm-me-up nightcap. Here’s how to make it…

Tequila Old Fashioned. Adapted from FRONTERA: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks by Rick Bayless and Deann Groen Bayless. Makes 1 drink.

Ingredients:

  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 1 oz 100% blue agave Añejo Tequila (I used Casamigos Reposado because I had it on hand)
  • 1 oz good quality Bourbon
  • 3 dashes orange bitters (I used Hella Bitters‘ citrus bitters)
  • .25 oz agave or rich (2:1) simple syrup (I used raw honey)
  • 6-10 ice cubes

Directions:

  1. Cut a piece of chile roughly 1 x 2 inches. Muddle in the bottom of a cocktail shaker or mixing glass until aromatic.
  2. Pour in the tequila, bourbon, bitters and agave. Add ice and stir for 10 seconds.
  3. Strain into a 10 oz. rocks glass. Let chile float on top as garnish.

Ancho1{ The Lineup: Ancho Chiles, Tequila, Orange Bitters and Bourbon}

Ancho-Old-Fashioned-Distillerista-2{ One thing I love about FRONTERA is each cocktail includes recipes for one drink and a larger batch. SO handy. }

Distillerista-Ancho-Old-Fashioned-Cocktail{ Crate & Barrel Stainless Steel Muddler | NY Rocks Glass }

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{ All photos above by Megan Burgess }

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{ P.S. The Ahogada Torta at XOCO River North!!! 😉 *THANKS TEAM P* }

You might also like: Sparkling Peach Margaritas & Distillerista Guide to Baja & Valle de Guadalupe

Join Distillerista for a Holiday Happy Hour!

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Calling all San Diego friends: We’re co-hosting a Holiday Happy Hour with Vocabulary Boutique this Friday, December 18th! Please join us for shopping discounts and specialty cocktails crafted by yours truly featuring local San Diego spirits. Enjoy a festive drink, finish up that last bit of holiday shopping and support local entrepreneurs – what could be better?! Hope to see you there!

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Holiday Happy Hour Details:

When: Friday December 18th 5:30-7pm

Where: Vocabulary Boutique – 414 West Cedar Street San Diego, CA 92101 – in the heart of Little Italy!

What: Festive Distillerista Craft Cocktails & Shopping Discounts!

Distillerista Holiday Gift Guide 2015

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I love skimming through the gift guides featured in/on my favorite magazines and blogs during the holiday season. I almost always find the perfect thing for that someone – or myself! – amongst the glossy and carefully curated lists of ideas. Considering gift giving for most can be excruciatingly difficult – myself included – I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring this season and feature a few of my favorite things. While I usually prefer to give simple but thoughtful homemade gifts like infused vodkas, liqueurs or baked treats, I can’t imagine any of my loved ones being mad at one of these gems showing up in his or her stocking this year. Enjoy!

1. Carry On Champagne Cocktail Kit. The latest in a series of DIY craft cocktail kits for the frequent flier. By W & P Design. Also available: Moscow Mule, Old Fashioned and Gin & Tonic. $24 each.

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2. Jonathan Adler Bourbon Pop Candle. The gorgeous reusable bronze vase/tumbler is worth the price alone, not to mention the rich and moody scent! Also available: Vodka & Champagne. $42 each.

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3. The prettiest Apple, Plum and Cinnamon Cordial from the UK’s Belvoir Fruit Farms. Makes a stunning Hot Toddy when paired with red wine, whiskey or rum. You’re welcome. $15.

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4. The cutest Animal Shot Glass Set that made this year’s list of Oprah’s favorite things. $50 for a s/o 5.

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5. Have you been naughty or nice? Keep ’em guessing with this sweet Moscow Mule Simple Syrup Duo, $26.

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6. An Imbibe Magazine Subscription. For the booze nerd in your life. $20.

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7. The PERFECT Manhattan Cocktail Cherries. By Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. $16.

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8. St. George Spirits Gin Gift Set. Enjoy a tasting flight of St. George’s three signature gins. Throw in a 4-pack of Fever Tree Tonic and you’ve got the perfect hostess gift. $32.

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9. Festive & seasonal Mulberry Gin. So much better than just giving a bottle of wine plus, THAT LABEL THO! $27.

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10. Elegant Blush Stone Coasters with an on-trend brass stripe. $39 for a s/o 4.

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P.S. Be sure to check out my favorite fall bar accessories for more great gift-giving ideas! Happy Holidays!

Top background image via.

Three Big Batch Cocktails to Please ALL the Relatives

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{ All photos by Megan Burgess }

Umm, real question: How is Thanksgiving only two days away? If you’re anything like me you still haven’t been to the market, nor are you particularly sold on what to make! We’re having Thanksgiving with some family friends this year and I’m in charge of the stuffing and the cocktails (typical). Lucky for me, I’ve at least got the drinks on lock and you can too! Below are three of my favorite big batch cocktail recipes. Scroll down for simple to make, crowd-pleasing batched drinks for a group that will surely get the conversation flowing this holiday!

Gin-Punch-Distillerista-Pour{ Fresh, Herbaceous Gin Punch }

1. Grapefruit Lavender Gin Punch. Guys. This is the definition of crowd-pleasers. I’ve made this drink for so many parties and get-togethers now, I can’t keep track. It gets tons of compliments and we ALWAYS run out so I’ll casually suggest double batching. If you’re guests appreciate pretty drinks and/or you’re fortunate enough to spend the holiday in a mild climate, this is the Thanksgiving drink for your crew. P.S. Swap half the lavender for rosemary to create a more seasonally-appropriate version. Your craft cocktail snob cousin will surely approve.

2. Luke’s Bourbon Cocktail. This is one of those drinks that’s just a leeeetle bit dangerous. The cider and citrus juices create an oh-so-easy to drink cocktail but beware, the Bourbon comes back to bite! Make this if you want to get Grandma a little tipsy. Also, the fall spices make for a balanced, fall-appropriate treat. Even your “I-only-drink-IPAs” brother will love this one.

Tray of Cocktails{ Big Batch Bourbon Cocktails }

3. Red Sangria. We all know Pinot Noir is a textbook wine pairing for turkey. Spice it up a little with some fresh winter citrus, cranberry or raspberry liqueur and sparkling water. It’s a great way to stretch a buck and who doesn’t like sippin’ on a little Sangria?! Just make sure Mom and the aunties don’t drink it all.

Distillerista-Sangria-Recipe{ Red Sangria }

As a holiday bonus, here are a few more of my favorite Thanksgiving-appropriate cocktails from around the web!

The Harvest Sparkle | Fed + Fit

Pear Rosemary Cocktails | Colorful Eats

Spiced Pear Mule | The Kitchy Kitchen

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Into It… Fall Bar Accessories

 

Fall-Bar-Accessories-Distillerista{ Image via }

It’s well known I have a bit of bar cart obsession and with fall finally here, I’m feeling a revamp. Here are eight chic bar accessories updates I’m currently coveting.

Fall-Bar-Accessories-Distillerista-1{ 1. Gilded Plume Bottle Opener | $7, Anthro ON SALE! }

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{ 2. The coolest knotted branch bar tool set | $78, Anthro }

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{ Nifty acacia wood Orb Bar Tool Set | $1-10, Crate & Barrel ON SALE! }

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{ Kitchy but cute “May You Never…” Shot Glasses (S/o 4) | $29, Pigment }

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{ A copper-topped Bitters Bottle would be the perfect vessel for homemade syrups | $35, Pigment }

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{ Love my Mason Shaker but this Copper Cocktail Shaker is on point | $25, Crate & Barrel }

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{ Gorgeous vintage Jadeite Cocktail Tumblers (S/o 4) | $50, One Kings Lane }

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{ The prettiest Metallic Lace Cocktail Glasses (S/o 4) | $29, One Kings Lane }

Hope you enjoyed this round up! What are your favorite spots to look for new barware? Tell me in the comments below!

Basil 95 // Vocabulary Boutique

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{ La Fete Flutes | $20 each, 10% off for a set of 6 }

We’ve had quite a few things to celebrate as of late (my Artisan Spirit Mag feature, finally naming the distillery! & our first two test batches of gin turned out really really well) so it’s only appropriate that we wrap up a couple of successful weeks by sharing our second collaboration with Vocabulary Boutique: a simple champagne cocktail I’ve coined the Basil 95, paired perfectly with chic, gilded stemless champagne flutes.

Champagne cocktails are the easiest things to make and deliver major wow factor with seriously minimal effort. Anytime a cork is popped and a glass is topped off with bubbles, you know good times are in order. This recipe in particular is a cinch to make and even easier to drink. Basil-infused honey simple syrup and Cava – dry Spanish sparkling wine – create the perfect celebratory cocktail. But the best thing about this recipe is that it can be easily adapted to any season or occasion. Just swap out the basil for another herb or flavor vehicle (orange peel! ginger root! loose leaf tea!) and you’ve got a festive and customizable drink for a crowd.

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Basil 95 Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch basil honey simple syrup (*recipe to follow)
  • 1 bottle Cava or your favorite dry sparkling wine
  • fresh basil leaves to garnish

Directions:

  1. Make basil honey simple syrup.
  2. Fill each glass with .5 oz simple syrup or more, to taste.
  3. Top carefully with sparkling wine, allowing time for bubbles to subside and topping off again.
  4. Garnish each glass with a basil leaf.

*Basil honey simple syrup: Combine 1 cup raw local honey and 1 cup water in a small sauce pan and stir over medium low heat until honey fully dissolves. Remove from heat and add a handful of fresh basil. Let basil steep as the syrup cools. Once completely cool strain into glass jar or bottle and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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Pro-tip: tilt the glass and pour the sparkling wine so that the stream of liquid hits the angled edge of the glass, just below the lip and not the bottom of the glass. This keeps the bubbles in check and helps prevent the wine from bubbling over.

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Aren’t these gilded stemless champagne flutes the sweetest?! A set of 2 or 4 would make the perfect hostess gift this holiday season.

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Incase you missed it: our first Vocabulary collaboration, the Gold Rush (above photo, left)

Basil-95-Distillerista-5{ All photos by Krisnoff Photography }

Want to see more of Vocabulary Boutique? Check out the boutique blog here!

To purchase any of the items you see in this post please email Cecelia at VocabularyBoutique@gmail.com

{Classy} Long Island Iced Tea + Craft Cocktails Book Review

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When I think of a Long Island Iced Tea I’m immediately reminded of my senior year of high school and our spring break trip to Cabo. Ten or so friends and I were somehow allowed to run loose in Cabo for a week with questionably minimal adult supervision #ThanksMom. There were several Long Islands involved over the course of said week, as well as the infamous blue-hued drink that goes by the acronym AMF. It’s safe to say my present day drinking habits have matured a bit and I definitely wouldn’t associated the Long Island Iced Tea with upscale craft cocktail culture. Craft Cocktails – a popular cocktail recipe book/collaboration by a handful of ultra-talented bartenders  – has in fact managed to change that with author Brian Van Flandern’s grown up version, aptly named “Drink Responsibly.”

The book was a sweet gift from a friend and while it’s a gorgeous piece of eye candy, the drinks are pretty complex and require several ingredients each. Most of which I either don’t necessarily keep on hand all the time or wouldn’t be down to splurge on an entire bottle of just for one cocktail. Funny enough, this version of a Long Island was the only drink in the book I had all the components for.

Basically a gussied-up version of a Long Island Iced Tea but slightly less alcoholic, the Drink Responsibly is more balanced than it’s rowdy cousin and yet still packs a punch. Like I mentioned, it incurs a long list of ingredients so make sure you have a well stocked bar before attempting this project of a cocktail. Makes 1 drink.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz Grand Marnier or your favorite orange liqueur
  • 1/2 oz Ketel One or your favorite vodka
  • 1/4 oz Tanqueray No. 10 or your favorite gin
  • 1/4 oz Don Julio Blanco or your favorite tequila
  • 1/4 oz Oronoco or your favorite rum
  • 1 oz Gus Dry Cola (I substituted with Live Soda)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients except soda in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass.
  2. Add ice and shake vigorously.
  3. Strain into a highball filled with fresh ice, top with soda and garnish with a lemon wedge. Enjoy!

Classy-Long-Island-Distillerista{ My lineup: Cointreau, Tanqueray No. 10, Casamigos, Hangar 1, Live Soda Cola & Flor de Cana }

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{ All photos by Megan Burgess }

Artisan Spirit Feature + Distillery Name Unveil

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Artisan Spirit Magazine‘s fall issue has arrived and it includes a timely and relevant article, How To Get Into Distilling Without Having to Own the Joint, featuring yours truly! Click here to flip through the digital issue and head to page 101 for the full story.

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Spoiler alert! We’ve officially given our upcoming operation a name: YOU & YOURS DISTILLING CO. I’ll be unveiling the logo and other creative, plus the inspiration behind the moniker soon so stay tuned!

Thanks a million, zillion times to the wonderful Jeanne Runkle for including me in this piece! Check out more of her work here and here.

Gold Rush // Vocabulary Boutique

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My first part time job in college was at one of my favorite neighborhood shops: Vocabulary Boutique. Located in Little Italy, Vocabulary offers mens and women’s apparel, stationary, gifts, baby things and home decor, (including these adorable gold tumblers!). It’s literally a one-stop shop for everything, including both a last minute gift and a new outfit you need for that party. Although I no longer work for owner and proprietor Cecelia Church, she’s become a dear friend over the years. We’ve been planning a few blog collaborations ever since I launched Distillerista so stay tuned for more posts like this one where we pair some of Vocabulary’s gorgeous barware with a cocktail recipe. And be sure to scroll down to the end of the post to learn more about Cecelia and Vocabulary Boutique!

Gold-Rush-Distillerista-6{ Gold Leaf Tumblers | $18 each }

On a recent trip to visit Cecelia at Vocabulary, I couldn’t get over these gorgeous tumblers with a textured gold band around the bottom. They seemed like just the perfect vessel for a lazy but elevated late-night whiskey cocktail and this Gold Rush certainly fits the bill. On weeknights when we want a pick-me-up, Luke makes a double batch of these after dinner. They’re so easy and quick to prepare, making them the ideal nightcap to accompany our recent Narcos binges.

Gold-Rush-Distillerista-1{ Locally Made Hexagon Bamboo Cutting Board | $34 }

Makes 1 drink | Inspired by an old Seven Grand cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz your favorite Bourbon
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp raw local honey, or to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a shaker and dry shake (no ice) for a good 30 seconds until the honey incorporates thoroughly. It helps if all ingredients are at room temp.
  2. Add ice and shake for an additional 15-20 seconds or until the entire outside of the shaker is cold to the touch.
  3. Strain into a DOF or rocks glass – whiskey cube optional – and enjoy!

Gold-Rush-Distillerista-Insta Gold-Rush-Distillerista-5 Gold-Rush-Distillerista-4  { Sugar Paper “Cheers” Coasters | $36 for a set of 10 }

Cecelia’s background is in theatre set design so it should come as no surprise that her store is decorated and merchandised immaculately. Every time I walk in she’s added yet another sweet, special touch. With new arrivals arriving almost daily, it’s my favorite place in San Diego to find unique pieces I won’t see half my friends wearing and conversation-starting pieces for my home. If you’re a San Diego resident and haven’t checked out Vocabulary yet, please do! I dare you to leave empty-handed. To purchase any of the items featured in this post email Cecelia at VocabularyBoutique@gmail.com. 

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{ All photos by Krisnoff Padua }

P.S. Check out Vocabulary Boutique’s blog, The Blah Blah Blah for more photos and inspiration!