manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora

manhattan | a first-time visit, a classic cocktail + an eponymous book

It’s been nearly three weeks since our visit to New York City, and I can still hear the bustling sounds in my head. It was my very first visit, and it proved quite the adventure-filled, three-day escape. Steve and I had already made plans to see our friend Andy’s art show in Chelsea at the end of September, but the stars truly aligned when the dates for the Saveur Blog Awards ceremony were announced. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We immediately booked our tickets, plotted an easy departure from the restaurant’s responsibilities, and started researching places to stay and see and dine.

I had ideas of what New York would feel like, but experiencing it, firsthand, blew my mind. I’m still processing all that we packed in. Instead of staying at a swank hotel in the city, we opted for a cozy Airbnb in the Prospect Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. I’ll share the details of our digs and dines in an upcoming post, along with all of the activities we enjoyed with the fellow blog award nominees and the Saveur team. For now, I’ll post a few captures from the first day we were there. A day filled with walking the streets of Brooklyn over to Manhattan, the best way to see the city, in my opinion.

And you know I can’t resist the chance to share with you a few riffs on the city’s most famous classic cocktail, the Manhattan. If you’re thirsty for a good story, read on. Heck, if you’re just plain thirsty, read on. I’ve got you covered here.

manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora manhattan | a visit, a cocktail + a book | holly & flora

There’s nothing like experiencing the city on foot and by subway. Even after walking a couple of blocks from our neighborhood, we felt the pulse of city drawing us in. I quickly realized that there’s really not a leisurely pace; you have to jump into the groove and ride it. That, or get out of the way.

We started our exploration in the Prospect Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. A few blocks into our walk, we scouted a couple of pizza joints and grabbed a few slices. I paired mine with a red Gatorade, because travel dehydration. What’s the actual flavor profile of “red drink”, let alone the actual ingredients? I didn’t want to think about it. The streets were hot, and the air was thick with humidity that rivaled that of my home state of Florida. I needed serious quenching.

Fueled by syrupy Gatorade and cheesy pizza, we braved the streets, eking out as much as we possibly could over the next few hours.

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snap pea-infused gin cocktails with basil, cucumber + mint | holly & flora

snap pea-infused gin cocktails with basil, cucumber + mint | making adjustments + slowing down

I stood outside in my garden, atop the raised kale and Swiss chard bed, and pressed my cracked phone up to my face, eagerly asking, “Are you outside yet? Is it cloud-covered there? Can you see it, too?” It was just after 8:00PM last Friday night, and my mother and I were standing outside in our respective time zones, which differed by two hours, watching the full, Harvest Moon rise.

“My” moon was full and golden, bloated and sated with possibility, swelling with pride, as it slowly emerged from the east, over the neighboring trees. Back home in Florida, “hers” stood prominently overhead, appearing a little smaller due to its rise, less distorted by the horizon, yet regally shining its sun-reflected light on her driveway, awash on her face.

We marveled at the fact that both of us were observing the very same event, at the very same time, each witnessing differing perspectives. It made the world feel just a little smaller. We stood in silence for a moment and then said our slow goodbyes. I ended the call and sat down on the cedar beams of the raised garden. At first, all was quiet and rather hazy, but as I settled in, the stars came out of hiding, the early evening bats frenetically fluttered above, and the crickets restarted their unified song.

The evening was alive, and, at long last, so was my mind.

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spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | holly & flora #mocktails #shrubs

spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | “tiki on the wagon” | scenes from #bossbabefestMSP

It’s pretty much a “yes” for me, if someone invites me over for a cocktail party, but when a group of over 50 bloggers gets together to celebrate the peak of summer and toast its bounty, I’m ALL IN. This is year two of #DRINKTHESUMMER, a virtual sipping soirΓ©e, hosting by Sherrie of With Food + Love, and I’m bringing a Tiki-inspired, sparkling pineapple shrub mocktail to the party.

Even though I’ve spied a few, fallen yellow leaves in the backyard and have been enjoying the recent cooler mornings, I’m holding onto summer, as much as I possibly can. Especially the seasonal cocktails, fruit-packed popsicles, and salads on repeat. Our tomatoes are chiming in with me, since many of them on the vine are still green. It seems we’re all trying to soak up a little extra sunshine and warmth.

I’ll take all that I can get.

spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | holly & flora #mocktails #shrubs spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | holly & flora #mocktails #shrubsLast week, I led my first cocktail workshop at my favorite kitchenware shop here in Denver, Hazel & Dewey. I was excitedly nervous, and, of course, had a ton of last-minute, loose ends to tie the day-of, but it went well and actually ended up selling out at 20 attendees! My sister-in-law showed up with an entire pack of her girlfriends, and a couple of my fellow blogger friends came out for the night, as well.

The hit of the night was the Pimm’s Cup we all made with seasonal fruit shrubs. Most of the attendees hadn’t tasted a shrub before, so it was an eye-opening experience for them to try these tart, concentrated, fruit-based “drinking vinegars.” I’ve talked about shrubs here on the site before, so if you need an introduction to one of my favorite cocktail additions, this post is a great place to start.

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white wine slushies with peaches, mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora

white wine slushies with peaches, mate gin + blackberry liqueur | summer nostalgia + a big thanks

Gripping the handlebars of my bicycle with sweaty palms, I looked over my shoulders to see my little sister pedaling away, quickly gaining speed on me. I hunched over and pedaled with all of my nine-year-old might, heading into the hazy, mid-August sunshine, with the whipping sound of my bike streamers snapping through the warm air. Over the bumpy, tree-shaded trails, through the drainage ditch, and back home across our lawn, we raced home, slamming our bikes to the ground, collapsing onto the grass in laughter.

Sweet, summertime memories like this one make me smile. Wherever we lived, my sister and I, along with our neighborhood friends, would always find a way to build a tree house or a makeshift clubhouse on an empty, hidden lot. We’d carve out bike trails, construct drawbridges, and make trap doors. Every unwanted scrap had the potential to become a part of the world we were constructing. We’d require passwords and hold secret meetings. We’d even make club newsletters, pieced together with tape, typewritten words, and magazine clippings, duplicated on my dad’s copy machine.

I’m dating myself right now, but I feel so lucky to have been a child of the β€˜80s.

white wine slushies with mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora white wine slushies with mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora white wine slushies with mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora

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palisade peach, basil + tarragon spritzes | rituals | holly & flora

palisade peach, basil + tarragon spritzes | rituals

I don’t get up at a regular time in the mornings, even though I know it’s good for me. My restaurant-dictated schedule is consistently up-and-down, so when faced with either getting up at a predictable hour or sleeping in to get my full eight hours, I’ll take the eight hours, please.

Right now, I’m typing on my laptop, sitting outside in the backyard with Steve, my cats, a bowl of sliced peaches, and my coffee. An entire French press’ worth, in fact. I only have a couple of hours until I drive to work, and I’m soaking in the peace. After tonight, we’ll only have three more Friday nights left {out of nine} in our summer concert series at the restaurant.

I’m dancing inside.

palisade peach + tarragon spritzes | rituals | holly & flora

palisade peach + tarragon spritzes | rituals | holly & floraI always joke that I’ll document an entire Friday night there from beginning to end on Snapchat, but I end up getting too busy. Plus, it’s just too, plain raw. And I would probably get into trouble. I still might do it, though. It would definitely be entertaining, nonetheless! Except for the part, where they find me cowering over in the corner of the wine cellar, rocking back and forth.

These nights are such a strain on everyone – the wait staff, the chefs, the valets, the hosts, even the guests. We’re cranking out 600 entrΓ©es in the same kitchen that normally serves 300, and everyone expects the same fine dining experience. I’ve mentioned it before, but we expand the patio, doubling its size, and nearly all of South Denver comes out to dance. It starts out calm, classy, and fun, but around 7:00, all kinds of crazy starts to happen.
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