Category Archives: cocktails

winter persimmon margaritas | making self-care a priority

How much healthier could I be in six months, if I made self-care a priority today?

That’s the question that’s been on my mind the past several days, but before diving into that topic, I wish you all a happy 2018! I seriously can’t believe that we’re already two weeks into the new year. Our Christmas tree is still up, and we are still nightly turning on the outdoor lights that span our rooftop and front porch. We technically haven’t even had our traditional holiday dinner, so we’re keeping it festive until we do. Hopefully, we’ll enjoy that before April.

How was your NYE celebration? Did you pop something fun? What intentions and goals do you have? I’m still fleshing out my ideas and strategies for 2018. I’m never actually “on time” for traditional resolution-making, but it is one of my favorite things to do. List-making and planners and all.

If I were to ask my mom what one of my biggest personal challenges has been, she wouldn’t even hesitate: prioritizing. I tend to fervently say yes to an interesting project or agree to meet someone else’s needs without fully filtering the pros and cons. I want to please. Others. I over-commit, and even though I might deliver, I pay a harsh cost. My physical health suffers, my relationships wilt, and my sanity takes an unfortunate and uncomfortable ride in the backseat.

When I was little, my mom would drive me and my sister down to Arcadia, Florida to visit our grandparents over Christmas. It was an hour-and-a-half ride through twelve small towns. I still have their order memorized. Before we’d pile in our brown Corolla, my mom, adjusting her glasses, would raise her eyebrows, give us the stern eye, and tilt her head, “Girls, go to the bathroom before we leave.” When I’d protest that I didn’t need to go, she’d insist and quickly respond, “Preventive maintenance!”

I think I hear her words anytime I’m gearing up for a long road trip. Preventive maintenance. She didn’t want to stop along the way and slow us down. When I didn’t adhere to her advice, I paid for it with childlike embarrassment, as there weren’t many bathroom stops along the country roads we took.

I’ve struggled to write this post for nearly three weeks now. Just before Christmas, I started experiencing severe stomach pain. It was so crippling that I stayed in bed for nearly three days straight. I googled every symptom I was experiencing and gave myself a pretty solid WebMD diagnosis of either an ulcer or a possible hernia or even, perhaps, gallstones.

I still have yet to see a specialist, but my symptoms have slightly lessened in severity, mostly due to some lifestyle changes. It was ones of the worst holiday seasons I’ve ever experienced, and I’d planned it out to be the most sparkly BEST. This was the first year that both Steve and I were no longer working in the service industry. We didn’t have to pop bottles for 700 people or clean up puke in a bathroom or wait until 3:00AM for the last guest to leave the restaurant to finally drag our beleaguered selves back home.

Despite the scenario I described above, this year’s experience was still worse than any of the holidays spent at the restaurant. And I can say that it was partially a result of not adhering to my mom’s simple advice. I hadn’t adequately prepared. I’d run myself into the ground. I’d pushed myself too far, and as soon as my body had the chance to relax, it decided to shut down and cry for mercy. And, go figure, I was actually mad at my own body for that cry, even though some unwanted and inconveniently timed rest was what I truly needed.

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the ginger apple swizzle | a low-sugar, sherry cocktail

Crisp apples, roasted nuts, spicy ginger, herbaceous rosemary.

Those are some of my favorite flavors of the fall and winter seasons, and they all magically meld together just perfectly, somehow. I have definitely been on a kick with creating all-cocktails-apple lately, and this particular recipe incorporates all of these components in bubbly, festive fashion.

In an effort to cut back on my sugar intake, I’ve been playing around with low-sugar or sugar-free cocktails, focusing on the natural vibrancy of fruits and herbs. The catalyst for this quest occurred earlier this month when Steve and I baked and devoured a batch of oatmeal cookies in one sitting. I kept rationalizing that they were healthy-ish. That they could be dinner. One cookie led to 15 cookies.

Then there was the night that very same week that we baked and ate an entire pumpkin pie.

After dinner.

That was the tipping point.

That pumpkin pie was truly delicious, and I reveled in the decadence of eating the whole thing. Of course, Steve contributed his fair share of slices, too. I’m laughing about it now, but I also knew at that point that I had to slow it down with the sweets. When I craft cocktails, some kind of sweetening agent is almost inevitable, and I normally use a simple syrup to bring sweetness to the drink. Sweetness is necessary to bring balance to a cocktail, especially when there is a strong acidic or bitter note.

And a balanced drink is a good drink.

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persimmon gingersnap flips | a california state of mind

I guess you could say that I finally caught my breath. Just a breath. And it’s totally worth celebrating. It’s taken me nearly two months. Last Friday, I sneaked away for a couple of days and escaped to sunny Newport Beach with my friend, Kelly Pfeiffer. She was there to shoot some recipe videos. I was there to get out of my head and let my thoughts wander.

Kelly finished her shots, thanks to the talented hand of Haley Davis of Brewing Happiness. She truly works magic with the lens, and she’s just plain awesome to be around. We all laughed together at our antics between frames, we devoured every one of Kelly’s creations {a perk of on-site recipe shoots!}, and I took the opportunity to pair and share some wine with them.

The proverbial monkey is at least taking a break off of my back, and I feel somewhat recharged.

I brought a copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, along with me. It’s an intimate glimpse into Elizabeth’s journey through creativity, and through anecdotal stories, Elizabeth shares her tips on lively creatively beyond fear. I’d read it before, but I knew it needed a revisit, since I’d felt so drained and lethargic with respect to anything creative. I seem to flip through its pages whenever I’m on a trip, especially a trip that I’ve declared as a catalyst for change.

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apple cider buck spritz | scenes from the grape harvest

Seasonal fruits yield seasonal cocktails, of course, but I don’t see why the season has to dictate cocktail styles so much. I’m still enjoying white wine with dinner, crisp rosés that I happen to score, and frozen cocktails and sorbets, filled with pears or apples. Things you’d mostly associate with warmer weather. I gave one of my favorite summer staples, the spritz, a fall twist. It’s versatile enough to enjoy on its own or in a punch bowl with a fruit-studded ice mold.

Herbal, spicy, bitter notes balanced with a finish of crisp and dry, bubbly apple cider.

How could anyone say no to this?

I know it’s been a few months, but I do have an excuse for my absence in the form of a beautiful story I’d love to share with you: our very first grape harvest. The bird netting is almost put away, the temperatures have dropped, the days are growing shorter, and fall projects have commenced here on the vineyard. Mirroring nature’s slower, autumnal dance, we’ve all lessened our pace, thankfully, and taken our first, albeit abbreviated, breaths of relief.

Most importantly, the last of the grapes have been picked, sold, and sent away. We made sure to save a few hundred pounds, however, so that we could give a go at making our own wine this inaugural harvest season. It’s been quite the learning curve, and no matter how many times you’ve interned or volunteered at a winery, it’s a completely different experience when the grapes and resulting wine are your own.

There are some days, in the middle of summer’s hectic, frenetic season and even now, that we just don’t leave the property. It can be a good or bad thing. Solitude is refreshing and rejuvenating for me, as an extroverted introvert, but it can also be downright isolating. Our team of four regularly escapes to our favorite watering hole, the tasting room at Big B’s Delicious Orchards, just a couple of miles down the road. The farm store and café both boast fare organically grown and raised on their property. There’s even a u-pick garden and a space to camp with a spectacular view of Mount Lamborn in the near distance.

Their ciders are some of the best I’ve ever tried. Head cider-maker, Shawn Larson, orchestrates a perfect balance with his various ciders: sweet and savory, crisp and visceral, fruity and just-enough bitter. My favorite has always been his Orchard Original, a dry, almost sparkling wine-like hard cider. The other one to try right now is his limited edition Ciaison Grand Cru Hard Cider, crafted with Winesap apples from here in the West Elks, tart orange peel, and coriander seeds, fermented in French oak Chardonnay barrels.

It would actually go perfectly here in this cocktail, too. Continue reading

the alpine margarita | settling into mountain life

I owe you all and myself a proper catch-up post here. That’ll have to wait, but I’ll give you a little peek into what’s been going on. So much has changed over the past three months, since we’ve transitioned from city life to farmer life. Out of all the questions I’m asked, I hear this one most frequently, “What is the biggest thing you didn’t expect when you moved to the country and began growing grapes?” Sure, the exhaustive work is challenging, the learning curve to become a successful grape-grower is a constant struggle, but the real challenge is weed control.

We are shifting the vineyard’s practices and employing organic and sustainable methods, so applying commercial herbicides or pesticides is not in our playbook. We’ve been doing a lot of hand-pulling and weed-eating, instead. There are weeding attachments for tractors, but we’ve been trying to save money on extra expenses. Instead, we’ve been doing the work ourselves. I have the callouses to prove it.

We are in the dead heat of summer, as many of you are, and seeking a cool respite from the sun’s pounding rays is always on our minds. Weeding in the stark sunlight is brutal. So, of course it was the perfect time for our swamp cooler to call it quits last week. It sputters out water and particulates and barely chills the air down to 80 degrees. I’m seriously considering crashing a local hotel pool or even trying to sneak into one of the fancy mountain pools sometime this weekend.

I’m desperate.

There is something so magical when you pair margaritas with a hot day. It’s like the two were meant for each other. Our vineyard is located just over a mile above sea level and gets more sunshine annually than Florida, the so-called “Sunshine State.” In fact, the mesa we’re farming on is aptly named, “Sunshine Mesa.” To beat the heat we’ve been experiencing, we’ve been making tequila-based cocktails on repeat over the last few weeks. This simple riff on the classic margarita takes a nod from the alpine area I live in and mixes it perfectly with freshly squeezed lime and orange liqueur.

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