Paloma with Rosemary Simple Syrup

rosemary paloma tequila cocktail recipe

It’s just not time for “pumpkin” everything yet. I like Dunkin’ Donuts’ pumpkin-flavored coffee and Southern Tier’s Pumking beer as much as the next person, but we all know fall doesn’t technically start until September 23. Therefore, I’m milking this whole summer cocktail thing for another glorious 11 days.

If you like grapefruit cocktails, you’re probably familiar with the Paloma. The most simple versions mix grapefruit-flavored soda with tequila, served over ice. I recently made the drink with tequila and Q Grapefruit (think a much less sugary, more tart version of San Pellegrino soda), and it turned out pretty refreshing. To take it a step further, I used fresh grapefruit juice (white, in this case) and sweetened it with homemade rosemary simple syrup. I followed the Kitchn’s recipe for the SS, which pretty much involves bringing sugar, water, and rosemary sprigs to a boil, setting the mixture aside to cool, and straining it. It’s so easy, yet it elevates a homemade cocktail tenfold and makes your kitchen smell prettay, prettay delicious. Give it a try!

rosemary paloma cocktail recipe

Rosemary Paloma

  • 2 oz. blanco tequila
  • 3 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1–1.5 tablespoons rosemary simple syrup (recipe from the Kitchn)
  • Club soda
  • Coarse salt, lime wedge, and rosemary sprig for garnish

Moisten the rim of a highball glass with a lime wedge and twist it in coarse salt. Fill the glass with ice. In a shaker filled with ice, combine the tequila, grapefruit juice, and simple syrup. Shake until chilled and and pour into the highball glass. Top off with club soda, and garnish with a lime wedge and a rosemary sprig.

rosemary paloma tequila cocktail recipe

Cheers! And may we all enjoy this last week of summer without hearing the phrase “Pumpkin Spice Latte” 8,000 times.

Classic Cocktails: the Aviation

aviation cocktails of all colors

From left: Kitchen Riffs, PopSugar, iFanboy, Hungry AgainLiquor.com, Food52

Let’s talk about Aviations. Ever had one? The first time I came across the classic drink was at a work happy hour. My cocktail-loving friend ordered one, and it was beautiful—a pale sky blue so light it looked almost white. The second one? Not so much. It was a violet that bordered on radioactive. At the time, I was amazed that the two cocktails could go by the same name, let alone taste remotely alike.

Crème de Violette is the ingredient that gives the the cocktail its blueish-purple hue, but it turns out that the liqueur isn’t necessarily required to make an Aviation. In fact, Harry Craddock omitted it when he published a version of the Aviation in the now-famous Savoy Cocktail Book (1930). Leave it out if you like, but I like my Aviations a little floral. And purply.

If you order an the drink out at a cocktail bar, there’s no telling whether it’ll be ghost white or Barney purple (hence the wide spectrum of hues above), unless you know the proportions that your bartender is using. After making a few of my own Aviations, it became clear that a little bit of Crème de Violette goes a long way. Sure, the sweet floral liqueur has a prominent flavor, but it’s the super saturated color that can turn a drink from pale blue to dark violet with just an extra eighth of an ounce.

aviation cocktail recipe with luxardo, gin, and creme de violette

I finally settled on a recipe I like, thanks in part to this video found on Gothamist, which instructs you to “wash the glass” with a dash of violet liqueur. That’s in contrast to most recipes, which call for all of the components to be shaken together.

Creme de violette aviation cocktail recipe
Crème de Violette before the other components are added
The building instructions from the Gothamist video and a slightly adapted version of the recipe from Aviation American Gin make for, in my opinion, a pretty tasty version of the Aviation. (Plus, it doesn’t look nuclear.)

Aviation

Adapted from Aviation American Gin

  • 1 teaspoon Crème de Violette
  • 1.5 oz. dry gin
  • 3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur

Add the Crème de Violette and swirl to coat the glass. In an ice-filled shaker, add the gin, lemon juice, and maraschino liqueur. Shake until chilled, and pour the contents into the glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry or a lemon twist, whichever you prefer. I omitted the simple syrup that the original recipe calls for—the Luxardo maraschino is plenty sweet.

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Cheers, and good luck! Because if you end up making this cocktail, it’s probably all you will crave for the next several months.

 

Boozy Grapefruit and Lillet Popsicles

boozy grapefruit lillet popsicles

Let me start by saying that yes—I do realize that these popsicles slightly resemble… weiners. That was not the intention, but it happened. The silver lining is that they’re also delicious, plus they’d probably make a great treat for a bachelorette party. (Feel free to insert all the innuendos your heart desires, but I’m going to stop comparing these ice pops to a pale male anatomy part starting now.)

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After an attempt to make Aviation popsicles with some overly slushie, albeit delicious, results (too much alcohol to freeze!), I decided to go for a less boozy variation. These Campari Citrus Pops from the Kitchn caught my eye last month, and I took their cue with the proportions. But instead of bitter Campari, I subbed in one of my favorite aperitifs, Lillet Blanc.

lillet blanc

The lillet has a lower ABV than Campari, so I figured these popsicles would freeze just fine—and they did! These turned out perfectly tart like I like, but you can always add in a little more simple syrup if you prefer a sweeter popsicle.

Boozy Grapefruit and Lillet Popsicles

Adapted/inspired by the Kitchn. Makes four twin pops or eight small single pops.

  • 6 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • 2 cups fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2/3 cup simple syrup

Mix all the ingredients together, and pour them into your popsicle molds. Freeze overnight and enjoy! I kept the grapefruit pulp in because I like a little bite of fresh fruit in my popsicles. And yes, I bite my popsicles because they taste better that way, duh!

boozy grapefruit lillet popsicles wpid-20140723_124844.jpg

These separating Tovolo twin pops were the best thing I could find at the Grand Avenue Bed Bed and Beyond. I would’ve preferred a single larger mold, but these force you to be nice and share, or you can be like me and shamelessly devour the whole twin pop in 30 seconds.

Beware, the alcohol makes these popsicles a little softer than your standard sugar ice pop, but you shouldn’t have a hard time finishing it before it starts dripping. If all else fails, you can always invest in the Ice Cream Glove, one of many genius ideas straight from the brain of Ali G.

Ruby Red Grapefruit Beergarita

grapefruit beergarita recipe

 Vacation brain.

Heard of it? I feel like I’ve been suffering from some serious vacation brain ever since I came back from a glorious week of relaxation in Florida, followed by a fantastical three-day Beyoncé-themed bachelorette party in Nashvegas.

Needless to say, it’s been a little painful getting into the swing of my everyday office life. To ease the burden of entering back into normalcy, I’ve been making what I like to call Summer Break Cocktails. My current obsession: the beergarita.

grapefruit beergarita recipe with Corona

If you like a super-sweet frozen margarita/beergarita, then by all means pick up one of those delicious concentrate cans that you pop into the blender—that’s all I was drinking on vacation. This particular beergarita is a less sweet, on-the-rocks version, which I think makes for a more refreshing summertime drink.

grapefruit and lime beergarita recipe

 

Grapefruit Beergarita

Makes two servings

  • Juice from one large ruby red grapefruit
  • Juice from one lime
  • 4 oz. blanco tequila
  • 1 oz. orange liqueur (I used Cointreau)
  • 12 oz. bottle of Corona (or similar)
  • 1–2 tablespoons of sugar (to taste)
  • Optional: kosher salt and chopped rosemary for the rim

If you like a salted rim, combine chopped rosemary and kosher salt on a plate.

rosemary salt rim beergarita recipe

Moisten the rim of a mason jar with a lime, dip in the salt mixture, and set aside to dry. Combine the grapefruit juice (I kept the pulp) and lime juice, and stir in the sugar until it’s dissolved. In a cocktail shaker filled with a handful of small ice cubes, combine the juice mixture, tequila, and Cointreau, and shake until chilled. Pour the contents (including the ice) into the mason jar, and top off with cold beer.

grapefruit beergarita recipe

Side note: these pics were taken on an enormous floral Pendelton beach towel—an Easter gift from my mom that I’m a littttle too excited about Anywho, you could always omit the beer and serve this in a martini or margarita glass.

grapefruit margarita recipe

Enjoy! What’s your favorite beer cocktail?

Phony ‘Groni with Luxardo Bitter

Luxardo Bitter Negroni recipe

Faux Negroni? Doppelgröni? Call this frankensteined cocktail whatever you like, except a “Negroni.” Apparently, one without Campari just isn’t a Negroni—the bitter aperitif is essential to the drink.

I first learned of Campari at about 16, when I was reading the Gossip Girl YA book series well before Blake Lively ruined it for me on TV. In the books, these Upper East Side high school WASPs drank Campari on the rocks. Naturally, I assumed the drink was some sort of sweet, fruity concoction, probably because all I’d tasted at the time was Watermelon Pucker and Malibu Coconut Rum.

Negroni recipe with Luxardo Bitter

Eventually I learned that Campari is a bitter liqueur, but I was still surprised by its intense taste the first time I had a Negroni. It took me a couple tries to warm up to the flavor of the drink, but now I crave ’em. Unfortunately I don’t have any Campari in my bar yet, so when I saw Luxardo Bitter on sale at Binny’s Beverage Depot, I snagged it up. (Apparently $9.99 is an insanely low price.) I’d heard it was a good introduction to bitter aperitifs, and god knows I can’t pass up a 50% sale on booze.

Here’s the recipe for the slightly controversial drink. Admittedly, it isn’t quite as punchy as a standard Negroni, but it still tasted great and quenched my craving for a bitter pre-dinner cocktail.

Luxardo Bitter Negroni recipe

Phony ‘Groni

  • 1.5 oz. dry gin
  • 1.5 oz. Luxardo Bitter
  • 1.5 oz. sweet vermouth (I used Dolin)
  • Splash of soda (optional)
  • Slice of orange peel for garnish

Fill a lowball glass with ice. Pour the gin, Luxardo Bitter, and sweet vermouth into the glass and gently stir to mix. I added a splash of soda, but that part’s up to you. Add a slice of orange peel for garnish.

Enjoy! Have you used Luxardo Bitter before?

mint-infused cocktail recipes

Make Mint Simple Syrup, and Then Make These 3 Cocktails

It’s confession time.

I’m becoming somewhat of a cocktail fiend, and up until last week, I had never made simple syrup. What was I waiting for?! Not only is it pretty damned easy to make, you can also infuse it with nearly anything your heart desires: berries, herbs, spices, tears—you name it.

After a slight mishap with some blackberry-basil simple syrup (I used too much basil and it smelled like Fruity Pebbles pesto), I decided to go with a simpler infusion: mint. I used raw cane sugar, so the color of this simple syrup isn’t the most appealing, but I swear it’s delicious.

make your own mint simple syrup

I (mostly) followed a recipe from The Hungry Mouse, which goes something like this:

Mint Simple Syrup

  • Chop up roughly 1 cup of mint leaves and transfer them to a heat-resistant container.
  • Bring 1 cup of cold water and 1 cup of sugar to a boil, whisking occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove pot from heat when the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Pour the sugar over the chopped mint, and cover with foil or plastic wrap. The steam helps to infuse the mint flavor and fragrance into the syrup.
  • When it’s cooled, pour the mixture over a strainer (I used cheesecloth), making sure to press or squeeze the mint to extract every ounce of flavor.
  • Store in an airtight container in your fridge, where it’ll last for up to three weeks.

And now for the best part: mixing up your drinks. Try these three mint-infused spring and summer favorites to get your creative cocktail juices flowing.

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Mint Julep

  • 1 tablespoon mint simple syrup
  • 2 oz. Kentucky bourbon
  • Crushed ice
  • Mint for garnish

Pour the simple syrup and bourbon in a glass, then top with a hefty amount of crushed ice. Add a sprig of mint for garnish. Oh, and if you have a silver mint julep cup, obviously use that.

This one’s a little time-sensitive, what with Derby Day being this Saturday, but this potent drink is great all summer long thanks to the refreshing mint and generous amount of crushed ice. Lots of recipes call for you to muddle mint leaves with sugar, but this one is actually the official recipe of the Derby. (Minus the Early Times). It’s best consumed when wearing a giant floppy hat and screaming obscenities at the TV for 2.5 minutes straight.

mojito recipe with mint simple syrup

Mojito

  • 2–3 teaspoons mint simple syrup
  • 1.5 oz. white rum
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Club soda
  • Ice

In a tall glass, combine the simple syrup, rum, and fresh lime juice. Fill the glass with ice (preferably crushed) and top with club soda. You can garnish this however you’d like; I usually use a slice of lime and some extra mint leaves for an added burst of freshness with each sip.

watermelon mint agua fresca with vodka recipe

Watermelon Agua Fresca with Vodka

(Makes about 5 servings)

  • Quarter of a large watermelon, seeded and cubed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Mint simple syrup, to taste (I used about 3 tablespoons)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 5 oz. vodka
  • Lime slices and mint leaves

In a blender, puree the watermelon and water. You can leave it as it is for a pulpier drink, or you can strain it through cheesecloth for a thinner, more juice-like consistency. In a glass pitcher/large container, combine the puree with the lime juice and simple syrup, tasting as you go to determine your preferred level of sweetness. Then add the vodka (this part is also to taste). Fill serving glasses with ice, dropping a lime slice and a few mint leaves into each one. Pour the agua fresca over the top and serve.

watermelon agua fresca with vodka recipe

I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to enjoy these refreshing cocktails on the roof after work. Happy sipping!

guava mojito recipe

Guava Mojito Recipe

The mojito might be the most polarizing drink on the Internet. Stirred, shaken, or just plain poured? Simple syrup or sugar? And then, what kind of sugar—coarse or confectioners’? Is it okay to add a flavor?

So. Many. Questions.

Maybe one day I’ll subscribe to the whole “there’s a right and a wrong way to make a cocktail” mantra, but for now, I’m going with what tastes good. And if there’s one tasty cocktail that I’ve been jonesing for to remind me that summer still exists, it’s the mojito. More specifically, the delicious fresh guava mojito at Paladar Cuban Restaurant and Rum Bar in Logan Square. It was really love at first sip with that cocktail, and I’ve been unable to order anything else with my cuban sandwich ever since.

guava mojito recipe

To make my own version, I had every intention of buying a whole guava and trying to puree it in my blender. Unfortunately, Mariano’s produce department forsook me and I was forced to buy bottled guava nectar. The brand I bought, Hero, turned out to be pretty delicious, plus it doesn’t have any pesky high-fructose corn syrup.

guava mojito ingredients

I used Cruzan white rum, because apparently white rum is the one absolutely necessary component to a mojito—the brown stuff just won’t do. Feel free to play around with the proportions of this recipe or swap out the guava nectar for another juice.

Guava Mojito

  • 10 fresh mint leaves
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cane sugar (to taste)
  • 3 oz. guava nectar
  • 1.5 oz. light rum
  • Crushed ice
  • Soda water

In a tall glass, gently muddle together the mint, lime juice, and sugar until very fragrant. If you’re like me and don’t have a muddler handy, the back of a wooden spoon works just fine. Add a generous amount of crushed ice, then top with the rum and guava nectar. You can adjust the amount of sugar or guava nectar depending on your desired sweetness. Fill the glass to the top with soda water, and give it a quick stir. It might not be traditional or “right,” but hopefully it’ll be tasty and refreshing!

guava mojito recipe

Have you made mojitos at home before? Any tried-and-true tips or tricks?

James Bond vesper martini

James Bond Got It Right with the Vesper Martini

Shaken, not stirred.”

We all know this is how Bond likes his martinis. But in Casino Royale (the movie and the book), we learned just exactly what makes 007’s cocktail so singular.

James Bond drinking a vesper
Jimmy sippin’ on a Vesper (image: cinefantastiqueonline.com)

In this clip, Bond orders a drink that’s three measures Gordon’s gin, one measure vodka, half a measure Kina Lillet, and a thin slice of lemon peel for garnish. Lillet doesn’t make Kina anymore, but Lillet Blanc—aka white Lillet—is Kina rebranded into a similar formula.

I’ve had this version of the Vesper before, and it’s strong, yet dangerously drinkable. The vodka you use should be smooth—you don’t want its “flavor” to overpower the drink. I usually add a little bit more Lillet than what’s called for, and sometimes even a squirt of fresh lemon juice if I’m in the mood.

At least that’s the recipe I was planning on sharing before I stumbled onto Q Lemon: lemon-flavored tonic water that’s light, tart, and subtly sweet. Its the perfect complement to the Vesper’s components, plus who doesn’t like a few bubbles in their glass?

ketel one, boodles gin, Q lemon, Lillet Blanc

The Bubbly Vesper
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 1/2 oz. dry gin
  • 3/4 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • 3/4 oz. Q Lemon
  • Lemon peel

007 Bubbly Vesper Martini

Shake the vodka, gin, and Lillet over ice until chilled. Strain into a martini glass and top with chilled Q Lemon. Garnish with a lemon peel. Tastes best when gambling for millions in your best cocktail attire.