blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora

blood orange white wine cocktails with campari + thyme

There is nothing like the vibrant color, sweet burst of flavor, and juicy texture that an orange can deliver in the middle of winter, especially on those cold, grey days like the one we had here in Denver yesterday. I only made it outside once yesterday and just for a moment. I fully understand the necessity of this darker season as a time for inner growth and renewal within nature. Even though my backyard garden looks dead, brown, and crusty right now, there is actually life flowing within the roots of those perennial plants underneath the snow. They’re anticipating spring’s arrival, and they’re getting ready for it.

Steve and I have already started planning what we’re going to plant in the garden this spring. I’ve even ordered some seeds to start indoors in a few weeks. And I can’t wait for that first crocus to pop through the leaves, followed closely by the daffodils and tulips. We have been faithfully watering the spots where we planted tulip bulbs this past fall, along the circular walkway we recently built in the front yard. In our minds, spring has already sprung. Simply imagining the new growth puts a smile on our faces and a lilt in our steps.

I recently read that with respect to taking vacations, the act of anticipating the getaway is just as exciting as actually going on the vacation. The happiness factor is equal. One thing that Steve and I are trying to do more frequently is plan little getaways. Having something fun to look forward to is bringing the two of us closer as a couple and keeping us motivated through the tough or dull times.

blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora

So, we booked a trip to Arizona last week!

I figured we had to put this resolution into play. I’ve never been to the desert southwest before, and we live so close by. Tickets were super cheap. I also have an excellent tour guide, since Steve used to live in Arizona for a while. He already has a few hikes chosen for us in the Sedona area. I know it’s the middle of winter, but I am hoping for a lot of sun and warmer temperatures at this lower latitude.

We picked a few days on the vacation calendar that would be quiet at the restaurant, just after Valentine’s weekend and just before the two-week craze of Denver Restaurant Week. We’ll be saving money since Steve’s brother has a place in Scotsdale, so lodging won’t be an issue. And his condo sports a large kitchen, so we can save money and cook in, if we want. I am sure we will hit up a couple of spots, since the food scene is so exciting there. In fact, we have already decided to go to dinner at FnB. Apparently, the chef and co-owner, Charleen Badman, is known as the “veggie whisperer.” I’m sold! Her seasonally driven menu boasts local vegetable varieties, along with a wine list that features some of Arizona’s best local wines.

I can’t wait!!

blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora

So, if you know of any not-to-be-missed spots in either Sedona or Scotsdale, please, fill me in!

I’d like to think that peak citrus season was perfectly timed to bring us that much-needed pop of color and flavor in the middle of winter. I’ve relished that refreshing, fragrant spray of zest every time I’ve peeled a blood orange this week. I think I’ve gone through nearly 50. I’ve made a few cocktails, of course, added a couple to my morning juice, and tossed wedges in a few salads already. I even have a batch of blood orange popsicles in the freezer this very moment that have a little Aperol and gin in them! I’m posting the recipe in a couple of days, but I’ve already set aside some extra juice just so that I can make another batch. Priorities, you know?

So, this recipe is actually a twist one that Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi sent me and created for the Super Bowl. Although I’m not the biggest football fan, I will show up and support Denver, since they’ve had such a stellar season. And I’ll definitely support them with this cocktail! Despite its light, pinkish color, this drink leans toward the bitter and herbaceous side, with the sweetness of the blood orange juice balanced by the bitter notes of the Campari. I made a thyme simple syrup and added it to the mix, along with a big splash of Pinot Grigio. This particular cocktail is light and sessionable, while remaining both complex and full of flavor.

And this cocktail isn’t heavy on the alcohol content. Think of it as a much more interesting and delicious white wine spritzer.

blood orange white wine cocktails with campari + thyme | the blood orange bronco

  • 6 ounces Pinot Grigio {I used Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi}
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce thyme simple syrup
  • 2 ounces soda water, to taste
  • sprigs of thyme, for garnish
  1. In a mixing tin, combine the Pinot Grigio, blood orange juice, Campari, and thyme simple syrup. Add ice and shake well to chill.
  2. Strain into two cocktail glasses or flutes filled with fresh ice.
  3. Top with soda water and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.
  • This recipe yields two cocktails or one large version.
  • To make the thyme simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup sugar and heat in a saucepan over medium heat, until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from heat and place a few sprigs of thyme in the syrup mixture and let steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain off the solids and let cool before serving. Mixture will keep refrigerated for up to a month.

blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora

This may be the least expensive wine I’ve mentioned here on this blog, but I am always searching for a great value, and I always try to keep an open mind. Generally speaking, I tend to find more great-tasting, inexpensive white wines, than I do red wines. Why is this? One of the reasons is that the oak barrels, in which most red wines are aged, are very costly. This, of course, affects the base price of the wine, as most white wines are aged in reusable stainless steel tanks. I also find that at around the $7-and-under price point, the un-oaked versions of white wine tend to taste better than their oakier companions do. Many cheap white wines substitute oak chips for barrel-aging, resulting in a wine with a less than cohesive or balanced flavor profile.

When you are looking to add wine to a cocktail, you don’t need to purchase the priciest one you come across, but you also don’t want to skimp on flavor or quality. The major flavor players in this cocktail are strong, and the wine component is simply there for a little fruit and acidity. This particular Pinot Grigio makes for a refreshing, simple sipper, a stellar cooking wine, and an excellent mixer in a cocktail. Robert Mondavi winery also sponsors the summer concert series at our restaurant. They also sponsor my end-of-the-shift sips after those crazy-busy Fridays. So, big thanks to them!

woodbridge by robert mondavi, pinot grigio, california, 2014

  • on the eyes  –  brilliant, very pale straw.
  • on the nose  –  bright citrus aromas, white flowers, honeydew, white peach.
  • on the palate  –  crisp with medium acidity and flavors that confirm the aromas.
  • on the table  –  pairs perfectly with a citrus salad, poached halibut, or oysters.
  • on the shelf  –  around $6.
  • on the ears  –  paired with Phantogram’s “Fall in Love” from their 2014 album, Voices. I love just about every track on this particular album, and if you ever get a chance to see them live, do it. This track is pop-laced but still gritty, driven by Sarah Barthel’s classic, breathy vocals.

blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & floraDo you use wine as a cocktail component? I’ve personally had a lot of fun incorporating it into cocktails lately. Wine is already a complex drink, with acidity, rich fruit flavors, and great aromatics. Using wine as a cocktail mixer helps to keep the alcohol level lower than the boozier spirits, like bourbon or gin.

I’ll be back in a couple of days with those blood orange popsicles and a blood orange sorbet cocktail. Until then, GO, BRONCOS!!



blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora DSC_4364 blood orange wine cocktails with campari + thyme | holly & flora



smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & flora

smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes | diy spiced pear liqueur

Hello and happy 2016!!

It’s been a minute. I can safely say that I’ve started and backspaced this post well over five times now. I have had the biggest case of writer’s block and lack of motivation these past few weeks, both here and in other projects. Am I alone here?? Nothing seems to be flowing or resonating within me, and despite my strong desire for change and my sketched-out plans for the year, I can’t even manage to get out of bed without a straight, ten-hour stretch of deep sleep.

I can feel my sister rising up in fury down in Florida right now. She is a new mom, who is happy when she gets a solid, consecutive four hours of sleep. Granted, we live different lives and are in different phases in our lives, but right now, I’m so tired that I could easily sleep for 14 hours straight. I’ve done it. I did it last night. And although it sounds decadent, it’s quite depressing to wake up with only four hours of daylight left with which to work, especially when you were so pumped about the promise of this new year.

I’m seriously grateful that we are slowly inching toward sunnier days, but part of me questions why I fight so hard against the urge to slow down, rest, and recharge?

smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & flora smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & flora

Maybe I’m not in tune with my body. Perhaps I abused it in the hurry and bustle of the holiday season and overrode its warnings. As I’ve taken these past few weeks to sleep more, journal about the changes I’d like to see in my life, make time to meditate in silence, and simply stretch my tight muscles, I’m redirecting my intentions.

I want to direct my energy toward being more present, more grateful, more persistent, and, as it’s becoming more apparent to me, more rested.

So, I’m allowing myself to wake up a little later, I’m upping my vitamin D intake {thanks for the tip, Joy and Melissa!}, I’m making it priority to be patient with myself, I’m simplifying, and I’m taking time out to connect with the loved ones I might have overlooked, when times were too busy.

I briefly mentioned this feeling of tiredness and lack of motivation on Instagram the other day, and with resounding agreement, so many of my friends told similar stories and shared almost identical scenarios. How are you accommodating your need to pause and reset, despite the urge to plan, change, and grow?

This must be how the seeds and bulbs feel right now, nestled underneath the cold, dark soil, blanketed by the heavy, dense snow. But those seeds don’t freak out and rush to the surface of the soil and try to sprout prematurely. Instead, they build up their reserves, waiting for the right timing to release those first, bright, green sprouts into the warm, spring sunshine.

So, you ask, how has 2016 been so far for me? I’m learning to develop my potential energy. I’m learning to rest and recharge. It’s proving to be quite the challenge, but I know it’s what’s right.

the beauty of trees:
naked silhouettes, stark, raw
stillness manifests

via the Daily Sacred Act, MoonDance Botanicals of Denver

winter garden | holly & flora winter garden | holly & flora winter garden | holly & flora

I recently visited Randolph’s Gastro Restaurant & Bar at the Warwick Hotel, in the Uptown neighborhood, one of my favorite Denver locales. Along with a few media representatives, I tasted through their newly redesigned menu and drink list, which features cocktails named after the titles of formerly banned books. They completely scored when they hired their food and beverage director, Joseph Owen, and lead bartender, James Black.

James, formerly of the famed speakeasy, Green Russell, demonstrated how to make a few classic cocktails and concoctions of his own. Armed with mixing tins, jiggers, a bar spoon, and a few choice ingredients, we discussed cocktail-making basics, while he shared some key techniques and a few of his favorite recipes.

smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & flora smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & flora smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & flora

I first became infatuated with Scotch, when I visited Scotland nearly ten years ago. The aromas, textures, and flavors can vary so much, simply based upon where the whisky is made and aged. It’s so fascinating to really taste the impact a place has upon a product. Some of my favorite Scotch whiskys are made in Speyside, a small, northerly pocket just above the Highland region, where the whiskys are oftentimes classified as grassy and light or rich and sweet. Many of my favorite Scotch whiskys, like Dalwhinnie and Balvenie, come from this region.

I paired Glenfiddich’s 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch with the components of this cocktail. The inherent subtle oak and notes of fresh pear work perfectly with the vanilla pear liqueur, bright lemon, and fresh ginger. It couldn’t be a better match of flavors. This particular Scotch is aged in American oak and sherry casks for at least 12 years and boasts a long, smooth, mellow finish.

It’s superb as a solo sipper but works seamlessly here in this wintry drink.

smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & flora

My favorite cocktail we made that evening at Randolph’s was the “Brave New World”, a Scotch-based tipple that derives its inspiration from Aldous Huxley’s namesake book. It is smoky and savory, with bright, supportive notes of ginger, pear, and lemon. I took inspiration from this well-balanced drink and made a pear liqueur of my own and added a sage simple syrup, along with a cozy dash of allspice dram.

smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes | a scotch cocktail

  • 2 ounces Scotch {I used Glenfiddich 12 Year Old}
  • 1 ounce spiced vanilla pear liqueur {see recipe below}
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce sage simple syrup {see recipe below}
  • 1/4 ounce allspice dram
  • ginger beer, to taste
  • pear slices, for garnish
  1. In a mixing tin, combine the Scotch, vanilla pear liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and allspice dram.
  2. Add ice and shake well.
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass filled with fresh ice.
  4. Finish with ginger beer, to taste.
  5. Garnish with pear slices.

smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & flora

Sometimes, the best creative endeavors arise because you find yourself with a product or ingredient you don’t know what to do with. My friend, Paula, recently gave me a bottle of CapRock Pear Eau de Vie {brandy} that she hadn’t used in months. I don’t frequently keep a stash of eau de vie in the house, so I found it a fun challenge to make something delicious with it.

This particular eau de vie is made from organic Green Bartlett pears, sourced from Ela Family Farms out on the western slope of Colorado. The spirit itself is clear and crisp, hovering around 40% ABV, and it is profoundly aromatic. You can almost feel the ripe pear skins in the texture of the spirit.

Right around the same time I scored the eau de vie, I noticed a pear liqueur recipe Mason Shaker had posted on their Steller Stories feed. I made a few changes to the ingredient list, but I closely followed their directions. This pear liqueur has been one of my favorite additions to my winter cocktails this season. It’s so bright, cozy, and versatile.

spiced vanilla pear liqueur

  • 8 ounces pear brandy {I used CapRock Organic Pear Eau de Vie}
  • 4 ounces cane sugar simple syrup
  • 1 pear, peeled and sliced into eighths
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced in half
  1. In a clean pint-sized mason jar, combine the brandy, simple syrup {see notes below}, pear slices, cinnamon stick, star anise pod, cloves, and halved vanilla bean.
  2. Cover tightly and give the jar a good shake.
  3. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for a day and check back for potency and balance.
  4. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, lined with cheesecloth.
  5. Store in a clean jar in the refrigerator.
  • To make the simple syrup, heat 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup cane sugar over medium heat, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • The spiced vanilla pear liqueur will keep, refrigerated, up to three months.

smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & flora

You can definitely substitute plain simple syrup for this recipe, but I loved the dimension that sage brought to this cocktail recipe. Infused simple syrups are exactly that: simple to make. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I love using them to bring certain flavors, especially herbal notes, to my cocktail recipes.

sage simple syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1 sprig sage leaves
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the water and cane sugar.
  2. Over medium heat, stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Remove from heat, toss in the sprig of sage, stir, and let steep for 15 minutes or until cool.
  4. Strain off the solids and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & flora smoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & florasmoky + spiced pear ginger fizzes {how to make pear liqueur} | holly & flora

Wishing you all the happiest of weekends and continued determination for a stellar year ahead, I’m closing this excessively long post with a promise to allow myself to receive the gift of REST.

I’m taking the lead from my garden, which is fast asleep right now, storing up its reserves for its debut in early March. Anticipation is invigorating in itself! Cheers to honoring ourselves and our needs, truly listening, and making more Scotch cocktails!!


Nothing in nature blooms all year.

Be patient with yourself.

— via my friend, Becca, of the Dabblist

winter garden | holly & flora winter garden | holly & flora winter garden | holly & flora winter garden | holly & flora





tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & flora

tart cranberry gin sparklers | fiercely ringing in the new year

Happy New Year’s Evel!!

Can you even believe the year is almost over? As I type, I’m feeling like a well-worn mix tape comprised of half a French press of coffee, two glasses of Lucien Albrecht brut rosé, several glasses of water, two plays of BØRNS’ Dopamine, thoughts of a hot shower, and a slight dread of this evening’s activities. This past year has been a great one, albeit one of highs and lows, interspersed with periods of mayhem and moments of peace. In one breath, I say I’d have it no other way, and in the very next, I dream of a deprivation tank.

C’est la vie!

I’m not quite ready just yet to craft an introspective tirade or a hopeful, inspired declaration for 2016. That will most likely happen this weekend. For now, I still have a writing assignment to finish, a suit to press, and four hours of sleep to catch before the craziest shift of the year. We have nearly 700 reservations on the books, and the last thing I want to do is pop bottles for a roomful of tipsy people. From the way I’m talking, it sounds like I am bereft of life and energy, but, in fact, I’m bursting from the seams and ready to tackle the next project. I just need a few days to reset, to recharge, to freaking sleep.

And then, it’s GO!!

tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & flora tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & floraI am reeling on one of the happiest weeks I’ve ever experienced. My best friend, my sister, delivered her first child, a sweet and perfect little girl last Monday, on the winter solstice. Little Adriana Giselle arrived three weeks early. Although I was beyond happy that my sister fared so well and that her daughter was given a clean bill of health, I was bummed because I’d planned on traveling to Florida just after the mayhem of the NYE celebration here at work.

I had it perfectly sketched out. I’d ring in the new year, toast Steve with a glass of Bollinger in the wine cellar, go home around 3:00AM, and draw plans for the upcoming months. Then I’d get a few days to relax and catch up, before flying down to Florida to meet my new niece. I’m laughing at myself right now. How can we even begin to plan things out so perfectly? Seriously. So many other factors are involved, so it is nearly futile to make concrete steps so far out.

And it’s silly that I even tried to plan my life around my sister’s due date, which shifted dramatically this past month. My sister is currently going through many changes, changes that dwarf my own set of circumstances. All of this is a lesson, to me, in letting go. In planning. In leaving room for the what-ifs, the unknowns, the unexpected.

All of this unknown can be quite the stress factor, but at the same time, if you really release it all, basking in the uncertain can be quite comforting. If we can’t do anything about our circumstances beyond doing our best, then why worry at all? Easy to say, right?

I’m closing this eve of New Year’s Eve and trying my hardest to let it all go. I’ve done my best, with the resources I have been given, that I’ve cultivated, and I’m sleeping in peace and filled with hope for the next steps.

Alright. Let’s quit this deep train of thought and have a bubbly, pink cocktail; shall we?!


tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & flora tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & flora tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & floraI’m all about the dry, bubbly rosé, whether I crack it for a ball-dropping celebration or for a happy dance that there’s a second season on the books coming up for Dare Devil on Netflix. Those little rewards call for sweet celebrations.

This tart and effervescent cocktail sports a base of St. George Spirits “Terroir” Gin. It was the very first gin I couldn’t get over. It seriously shifted my love of gin to a deeper, richer level. Wow. Maybe this is the rosé talking, but if I haven’t edited this sentence by the time this post goes live in the morning, then it’s definitely true love.

The piney, aromatic notes of sage, laurel, and citrus are perfect pairings with tart cranberry and the crisp, fruity brut rosé. It’s the fitting sip to the toast in the new year and to that crazy, exciting unknown. I added a little freshly juiced lemon to brighten the red fruit notes, and the bubbles complete the picture.

Add a spring of rosemary, and it’s over from there. Deep sighs and smiles.

tart cranberry gin sparkler

  1. In a mixing tin, build the gin, cranberry simple, and lemon juice.
  2. Add ice and shake vigorously.
  3. Strain into a Champagne flute and slowly top with the brut rosé.
  4. Garnish with cranberries on a skewer and a sprig of freshly clipped rosemary.
  5. Bring it, 2016!!

cranberry simple syrup

  • 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 ounces fresh cranberries
  1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water.
  2. Bring to a boil, add the cranberries, and reduce heat to a slow simmer.
  3. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries just start to pop.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool completely, smashing a few cranberries to disperse both color and flavor to the simple syrup.
  5. Strain off the solids and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & flora tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & flora tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & flora

I originally thought about crafting a gin cocktail, combined with pear simple syrup, and Cava. I just love that flavor combination. Instead, I opted upon a punchy, bright pink cocktail, since I had a lot of cranberries on hand in my fridge. It’s the tail-end of the holiday season, and I figured I should stretch out as much festivity as I possibly could.

This particular brut rosé has been a favorite of mine for several years. You can especially find amazing values in cremants {sparkling wines} from other regions in France, other than Champagne, such as Alsace and Bourgogne. They are made in the same style as the versions from Champagne but lacking the pricier tag. This one is consistently delicious, year after year. And it’s comfortably priced at or under $20.

More, please. Yes, please. Keep it coming, please.

lucien albrecht, cremant d’alsace, brut rosé, mv

  • on the eyes  –  pale, copper-tinted pink, with persistent bubbles.
  • on the nose  –  bright red fruits, boasting aromas of strawberry and raspberry, faint toasty aroma of toast and burnt orange peel.
  • on the palate  –  dry, with bright acidity, confirmation of red fruits, dried apricot, brioche, and a long, toasty finish and creamy mouth-feel.
  • on the table  –  perfect all by itself or with butternut and apple soup, grilled cheese, or peach caprese salad.
  • on the shelf  –  around $20.
  • on the ears  –  paired with BØRNS “The Emotion” from their album, Dopamine. I think that the bubbles travel at the same speed as this beautiful, poetic, emotion-filled song’s pace. I’ve loved this album ever since I first discovered it over at Yossy Arefi’s blog. Parts of the song hint to me of Björk’s vocal stretch, with an ethereal lilt and, at the same time, a heaviness of words. Love this so much. It’s been on repeat an embarrassing number of times this week.

tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & flora tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & flora

Cheers to the unwritten future, to the glowing silver lining, to the lines we draw, which connect the dots we’ve dreamed about in our minds. I’m so excited for 2016. Every step I take reminds me that we can truly create our destinies, to an extent. I’d rather die trying and digging deeper than coasting through and simply hoping hard with one eye open.

How are you forging the upcoming year? What goals and crazy thoughts do you have racing through your mind right now? And how are you going to keep the momentum going? That’s one thing I have difficulty with keeping at a constant pace.

Many hugs, warm thoughts, and MUCH gratitude,


tart cranberry gin sparklers | holly & flora

apple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & flora

a honeycrisp, pimm’s + old tom gin cocktail | making cozy a priority

It still feels like it should be mid-November to me. In my mind, Thanksgiving happened just a week ago, and I have this false notion that I still have a few more weeks left until Christmas. Just this evening, I counted out the remaining days on one hand, and it hit me that the holiday is less than a week away. We still haven’t put up a tree or made a wreath for our front door, two traditions we thoroughly enjoy doing, and I still have yet to wrap and mail my family’s gifts. They’ll simply have to arrive late this year. And we’ll have to roll without a tree.

I think the bustle has really gotten to me. I had two missions at the store last night: grab a bag of ice and pick up some candied ginger. An easy task. I found the ginger and asked for a bag of ice to be added to my order. Done. I paid for both, neglected to go and pick up the bag of ice, and walked directly to my car. This is the same brain that forgot about a pan of cookies I was baking about a week ago, and when the timer sounded, I simply turned it off and entirely forgot why I set the timer in the first place. Those cookies were black hockey pucks, when I remembered them about 45 minutes later.

Perhaps I’m losing it, but most likely I’m just cultivating a case mindlessness, an unhealthy dose of multitasking, which is the exact opposite of being present, intentional, and mindful. I’m ready for some kind of intervention.

apple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & floraapple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & flora

I feel I’ve joked before about Fred Armisen’s character on the show, Portlandia, when he experiences the “MiND-Fi Fail,” and his brain overloads and crashes. Basically, he is stuck in a distracting and relentless technology loop. That’s where I am right about now. Amidst the overload of activities, emotions, and demands, I need to remember the people and things that matter most to me. And although the happenings this month have been rather non-traditional, and it hasn’t really felt like Christmas to me, I’m still doing my best to savor the moments that make me smile.

I can still choose joy in the holiday rush, in the quiet, snowy evenings, in the indulgent and excessive consumption of sugar cookies and baked goods, and in reading the cards from faraway friends and family members, many with whom I haven’t connected in months.

And I can just be.

If you’ve ever worked within the restaurant industry during the month of December, you know how insanely busy it can be. Right there in the company of festive, happy diners are the sour, angry, and bitter guests that demand the very same service and smiles you are digging deeply to deliver. I’ve come home depleted and drained almost every evening, ears ringing from the party-goers, music, and frenetic energy of the kitchen. If I hear the phrase, “Hands, please!!” yelled one more time, I think I might crack.

My December rituals are keeping me more sane than I would be, however, had I not taken the time to make them happen. A glass of wine, some deep breaths, a little incense, a few cozy candles, Christmas music in the background. It takes a while to unwind, but my rest is deeper, when I take these small measures for peace.

apple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & flora apple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & floraapple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & flora

I’ve been making this cocktail on the regular over the past couple of weeks. It’s the epitome of cozy, a feeling I fiercely cultivate in my life, especially during this crazy month. We’re still finding ripe honeycrisp apples, and their sweet flavors pair well with the barrel-aged Old Tom Gin, bright ginger liqueur, and warm notes of cinnamon in this particular concoction.

Is Old Tom Gin something you regularly incorporate into your cocktails? Have you ever even tried it? Imbibe wrote an informative piece on what Old Tom Gin actually is and how it’s currently seeing a comeback. I have only recently begun to mix with it. I usually go for an Old Tom and tonic for a bitter and slightly spicy sip, but I am loving it in fall cocktails.

The cocktail’s name is yet another reference to a Portlandia episode, where the mayor goes missing. The entire city seems doomed because of his absence, but all ends well. In fact, the mayor was simply up for something new and joined a ragae band. It’s a pretty ridiculous episode, but I admire the mayor’s decision to up and leave his demanding job and follow his passion.

“the mayor is missing” | a honeycrisp, pimm’s + old tom gin cocktail

  1. In a mixing tin, muddle the cubed honeycrisp apple until thoroughly juiced.
  2. Add ice, gin, ginger liqueur, Pimm’s, lemon juice, and honey-cinnamon simple syrup. Shake well.
  3. Double-strain into a cocktail glass, filled with fresh ice.
  4. Garnish with a couple of dashes of orange bitters, a star anise, cinnamon stick, and a sliced apple “fan.”

apple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & flora apple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & flora apple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & flora apple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & flora

I might have one or two more holiday posts in me before the new year, but I’ll be taking a short break in January to visit my sister in Florida. I’m going to be an AUNTIE! She is the one, who should be getting the pat on the back, though, for this is her first, and the journey has been a little rocky at times. She is on the road to a healthy delivery and welcoming a sweet, little girl come the 11th. I can’t wait!

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I’m hoping to have a wintry punch for you the next time I’m here in this space. If I don’t follow through, perhaps I have gone missing, myself, for good reason. Hopefully, I will have picked up my piano practice and be performing in a four-piece band in a faraway city, or maybe I’ll be on an island learning to basket-weave, or perhaps I’ll be locked away in the local library finishing one of the many books I’ve started and then neglected! I’d take any of those! I’d even take a nap at this point and be quite content.



apple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & flora apple + old tom gin cocktails | holly & flora


the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks

the clover club cocktail | how to make sugared cranberries + your own grenadine

Have you ever juiced a pomegranate? I hadn’t until about a week ago. I’ll come across some unique, detailed technique from time to time and think, “Now, I’ve got to try that.” I might not even have an end result in mind, but I’ll feel an overwhelming need to learn some obscure and interesting skill that might prove completely unnecessary. I had already purchased a couple of pomegranates, and they were sitting on my kitchen counter, almost staring back at me, probing me with a challenging smirk, as if to say, “I dare you to do something with us.”

The thing is, I hadn’t even purchased a pomegranate until a week ago, let alone seed one. Even the thought of seeding the strange fruit kept me procrastinating the task. I finally gave in. After watching a few videos and reading a couple of how-tos, I accepted the challenge. I’ll admit that purchasing pomegranate juice is a convenient treat, but the bright, potent flavors I got from juicing my own won me over. In this case, learning a particular new skill was totally worth the effort.

After my triumphant, juicing feat, I reckoned that I should do something with all that juice. Sure, I could drink it all up, but I wanted to make something delicious with the pretty, magenta-hued liquid. So, I made those pomegranates proud and whipped up some homemade grenadine and added a little to one of my favorite classic cocktails, the Clover Club.

You’ll pat yourself on the back for this one. ;-)

DSC_1943the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks

The Clover Club cocktail is one of dreamy texture, with bright and refreshing acidity, complemented by a subtle, tart sweetness. Traditionally, this classic cocktail, which made its debut in the early 1900s, is comprised of gin, raspberry syrup, lemon juice, and an egg white. I subbed the raspberry syrup with grenadine and added a little dry vermouth to give the drink a bright, floral lift.

The first recipe follows the classic recipe pretty well, but I strayed a little with the second one. Since cranberries are in season, I muddled a few, along with the gin and lemon juice. I balanced out the tartness of the cranberries with some of DRAM Apothecary’s Juniper Rose, a thick, syrup with rosy floral and alpine notes that pairs magically with gin. Either recipe evokes the brighter, refreshing, and citrus-driven aspects of the winter season.

the clover club cocktail | winter remix

  • 2 ounces gin {I used Leopold Bros.}
  • 1/4 ounce dry vermouth {I used La Quintinye Vermouth Royal Blanc}
  • 3/4 ounce spiced grenadine {recipe to follow}
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 egg white {organic, free-range, and very fresh}
  • sugared cranberries for garnish {recipe to follow}
  1. Fill a mixing tin with the gin, vermouth, grenadine, lemon juice, and egg white. Shake well and hard for 30 seconds. Do this without adding any ice. This is called a “dry shake” and is necessary to produce a rich, frothy, undiluted texture. Don’t be tempted to add ice and skip this important step.
  2. Add ice to the mixing tin and shake vigorously for another 30 seconds.
  3. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with sugared cranberries.

the rosy outlook |a juniper rose + cranberry clover club

  1. In a mixing tin, muddle the cranberries well.
  2. Add the gin, Juniper Rose syrup, lemon juice, orange bitters, and egg white to the tin and dry shake hard for 30 seconds.
  3. Add ice to the mixing tin and shake vigorously for another 30 seconds.
  4. Double-strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with sugared cranberries.
  • Double-straining is essential for muddled cocktails, when the goal is a clean and particulate-free cocktail. Simply strain the cocktail using a hawthorn strainer into an intermediate glass and then strain the contents into the chilled coupe, using a julep strainer. This extra step might sound tedious, but the end result is a better texture.

the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks

The classic Clover Club is garnished with raspberries, but I felt that sugared cranberries would make a lovely, festive substitution. I took notes from Love & Olive Oil’s DIY on sugaring cranberries, made a couple of modifications, and they turned out perfectly.

sugared cranberries

  • 6 ounces fresh cranberries {1/2 a typical bag}
  • 1 cup, plus 1/2 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup water
  1. Wash cranberries and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, make a simple syrup by bringing 1 cup water and 1 cup of the sugar to a simmer, just long enough to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Pour the simple syrup into a bowl, allow the simple syrup to return to room temperature, and add the cranberries.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, gently place the cranberries on a cake cooling rack. I don’t have one, so I used my food dehydrator trays and placed foil underneath to keep it as clean as possible.
  6. Allow the cranberries to dry for about 45 minutes. They should feel slightly sticky to the touch but be free of any liquid remains.
  7. Fill a small bowl with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and gently roll cranberries, a few at a time, through the sugar, until all sides are covered.
  8. Set the cranberries on a baking sheet and store at room temperature.
  • Truth be told, I forgot about my cranberries in the fridge, and they hung out there for two days. All was well. As you can see from one of the above photos, I wanted to initially use both cranberries and blackberries for varied color and texture. The blackberries proved themselves too juicy for this recipe, and the dusted sugar dissolved. They were less than photogenic, but they were a tasty treat!!
  • TIP – – – If you’re using the sugared crans for cocktail garnishes, pre-skewer them just after dusting them with sugar. If you wait too long, they will harden, and the sugar will fleck off easily. Store your pre-made garnishes in a bowl, loosely stacked on each other or, preferably, stored side-by-side.

the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks

When I skimmed the pages of Maggie Battista‘s new book, Food Gift Love, her homemade grenadine immediately called my name. I love a good Clover Club, when it’s crafted with homemade grenadine, and you’ve never experienced a more delicious Tequila Sunrise, when you forgo the syrupy, artificially colored crap for the good stuff. Even your Shirley Temples will thank you for taking the extra time to make your own grenadine.

If you didn’t know already, true grenadine is simply pomegranate syrup. I don’t know when the commercially available formula first arrived on the drink scene, but that hot pink, cloyingly sweet stuff doesn’t belong on any bartender’s shelf. Say no to the fake coloring and the heavy dose of high fructose corn syrup and make your own.

For this recipe, which is inspired by Maggie’s recipe, I juiced one pomegranate, which yielded just the right amount of juice, just about one cup. I referenced Tori Avey‘s method on seeding and juicing the tropical fruit, here. I followed her directions for “method two” and juiced the seeds in my Vitamix. Removing the seeds from the fruit was actually quite therapeutic. Pairing the process with a few minutes of Elf and a mug of hot cocoa made the time pass quickly.

And if you don’t want to get down and dirty and seed your own, be sure to purchase 100% pomegranate juice. Any added sugar will affect the flavor profile of this recipe.

the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks

spiced grenadine | a winterized riff

  • 1 cup pomegranate juice, preferably freshly juiced
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  1. Fill a small saucepan with the pomegranate juice, cane sugar, pomegranate molasses, cinnamon stick, and cloves.
  2. Heat over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Remove from heat and let the cinnamon and cloves steep for about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the cinnamon stick and cloves from the mixture and add the lemon juice and almond extract.
  5. Stir, pour into a decorative container, and store in the refrigerator.
  • This grenadine will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
  • You can optionally add a little pomegranate molasses to boost the color and intensity of the grenadine. I added about an ounce to my finished grenadine.

the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks DSC_2142

If you’re still trying to find the perfect holiday gift for a food-loving friend or family member, I suggest Maggie’s book as a thoughtful option. I actually met Maggie in person, back in October and was over-the-moon impressed with her blog and her online storefront, which features small-batch, unique, homemade gifts and pantry items. It’s so beautifully curated and thoughtfully sourced. When I heard she was releasing a book on food gifts, I had to get myself a copy.

I’m making and gifting some of her delicious grenadine, chocolate hazelnut spread, toasty granola, and herb-infused sea salt this Christmas. That is, if I don’t end up eating it all up, before I send it out! I’ve been know to do that.

the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks

I hope you’re enjoying your Friday evening! I’ll be soaking up the solitude and enjoying yet another Friday night away from the restaurant’s craziness. Is it weird that I’m super stoked to clean up the kitchen, send a few emails, do a little online shopping, and paint my nails for once?

For those of you celebrating Hanukkah, I wish you the happiest! And for those of you scrambling to get those last-minute Christmas gifts, I wish you good luck. I’m giggling at what one of my regulars told me last night: he and his best friend share a tradition, where they go out for a sushi lunch on the day before Christmas, order up some Champagne to catch a little buzz, and hit the stores running. He argued that shopping drunk is the best way to go – no worries about the cost, no second-guessing the gifts, and no stress about the crowds.

I’m shaking my head because if I did that, I’d rack up a serious bill that I couldn’t afford, and my regrets on my purchases would far outweigh the hangover the next day. I’ll stick to a sober, online-purchasing experience, myself!



resources for this post

the clover club cocktail | how to make your own grenadine | holly & flora #cocktails #drinks