Category Archives: gin

spicy cucamelon cocktails | why culinary treats are the best travel souvenirs

First of all, happy almost-end-of-summer!! I’m excited to share the story behind this spicy cucamelon cocktail that I created after returning from a trip to NYC, where I toured and savored its verdant famers markets. I’m definitely reveling in these final days of summer and doing my best to capture their vibrancy by making jams, jellies, relishes, chutneys, and, of course, cocktails.

This particular trip to New York City in the fall of 2019 just might be my favorite culinary trip I’ve taken. Yes, I’ve had some incredible food-and-wine-centric trips throughout my wine career. Traveling to historic places like Burgundy, France; visiting the Vinho Verde region in Portugal; exploring the Piemonte, home to Barolo and Barbaresco, in Italy; and touring the vineyards in Ribero del Duero y Rueda in Spain were all career and personal highlights for me.

None of these trips, however, compared to traveling to New York City two years ago with several of my favorite chef and sommelier friends within the culinary industry. There is nothing like rolling out of bed (maybe a little hungover?) and exploring the city’s various farmers markets to source produce, flowers, or meat that will be served at a dinner later that evening, with the very chefs, who will be cooking the dishes.

In 2019, my husband and I were chosen, along with our industry friend and colleague, Jen Mattioni, to be the beverage component of the Colorado FIVE, a group of five talented chefs, who are changing the face and direction of the Colorado culinary scene. I’ve shared one of the epic dinners we’ve thrown in another post, to reference the kind of scale and pomp these dinners have. Throughout the summer season, each of the five chefs within the Colorado FIVE team hosts a five-course dinner at his or her respective restaurant, we pair the drinks, and we all raise money for charity.

The year culminates at a dinner that we host at the James Beard House in New York City.

Yes, that James Beard.

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the peach blossom | a cocktail inspired by a flower farm tour at deer tree farm

I’m not that good at self-care lately. I’m just being honest. This year has beaten me up, but there hasn’t been time to recuperate. Perhaps I should rephrase that – I haven’t taken the time to recuperate. There is always time for what you deem important.

I came in a little early this evening to share this post and recipe I shot and created earlier this week. Today was exceptionally smoky and hot. Here in Colorado, there are four wildfires burning, two of which are relatively close by. I’ve been working outdoors in 97ºF weather, while wearing an N95 mask to keep my lungs protected. I could have finished weeding two more rows of Riesling, but I opted to take a late-afternoon bath and pour myself a little sip of wine from said Riesling.

It was a priority shift.

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I haven’t checked in here in a while, and I could share some war stories from the past few months. I think we call could do that, given the unrest, the tumult, and the uncertainty this year has gifted us. I use that word intentionally – gifted. While the process is is beleaguering, going through periods of unrest, tumult, and uncertainty can be poignant periods of growth, if we are willing to embrace it.

Right now, I’m crying mercy. And choosing to share something beautiful. I hope I can embrace what I need to learn, but I seriously want some reprieve. So, I took that late-afternoon tub bath. I took my medicine.

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negroni d’pampe | on that extra slice of cake, making room for beauty + the war on bunnies

I woke up this cloudy morning to the loveliest of sounds, a sound I hadn’t heard here in nearly two months. Slow, steady, peaceful rain, falling outside my open window. And the SMELL!! Isn’t it wonderful? That moisture-filled aroma of damp earth is both calming and invigorating all at once. I snoozed my alarm another 30 minutes and closed my eyes just to lull myself back asleep to this beautiful scene.

As someone who works the land, I view every moment of daylight as an opportunity to get work done. I can’t prune vines or thin shoots in the dark, so each moment of sunshine counts. Whenever I’m forced indoors, which is a rare event, I seize that moment of fortuity to either relax or sleep in or get caught up on postponed computer demands. Today, I chose to catch a few extra minutes of rest, lounge over breakfast on the front porch, and get after a blog post. Writing – and sleeping in – are two things I’ve missed this season.

No guilt on taking this one day to indulge just a little.

I know I’ve referenced a lot about self-care this year, and it’s a concept you’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about in the media, as well. It’s something I’ve been working through and promising myself to integrate into my daily thoughts and routine. I find it so easy to just throw myself out of bed, slap on sunscreen, don my sunglasses, and get after the day’s chores, but that’s so unfulfilling. And it leaves me tired, feeling like a robot moving through the motions.

So, I’m slowing down, even when it’s hard. And I’m intentionally embracing beauty in the little things, like thrifted glassware {these cocktail glasses were $2 apiece at the Habitat for Humanity Restore!}, earlier mornings, and lazier Sundays. Another thing that I did this year, since we don’t have time for a serious garden, is sign up for a flower CSA. Each week, I already have to drive our recyclables to the recycling center, so I brightened up the chore by swinging by Zephyros Flower Farm and collecting a bouquet for the week. This past week’s assortment of blooms was a showstopper {isn’t that yellow and black lily INSANE!?}, and I knew I had to match it with a cocktail.

I’ve also tried being more conscious to get up earlier in the mornings, so that I can take time to stretch or write or read. Or make that second round of French press and just breathe before the day’s pulse starts to dictate my steps. It’s my moment of quiet, where I can call the shots and start my day with peace and intention. Are you the same way?

As the clouds gathered in the late afternoon yesterday, I gave our potted plants on the porch a little water and then gathered the essentials for a riff on one of my favorite classic cocktails, a summer-influenced Negroni — citrusy gin, gentian-forward Suze, and a favorite, new indulgence of mine, Vin d’Pampe Vermouth Rosé. It’s a brightened up, punchy-hued, citrus-floral version of the bitter, rich classic.

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the grassed word | celery cordial + lemongrass gin

If you follow a few cocktail-centric Instagram accounts, you’ve most likely seen several riffs on the classic cocktail, The Last Word, popping up in your feed this week. That’s because Mike Yoshioka, a cocktail enthusiast based in Los Angeles, CA created a global online event that celebrates the beloved cocktail.

The event, aptly named We Have the Last Word, encourages Instagrammers to replicate the original recipe or create an iteration on the classic. It is an event that inspires you to dig deep into your creativity. It truly and deliciously brings cocktail enthusiasts and creators together. The Last Word is one of my favorite cocktails both to make and enjoy, especially over the summer months, so I knew I had to come up with something fun as a contribution.


“What was truly inspiring was how the cocktail community came together. New relationships were formed. People started to bond. They began to inspire one another, sharing information, collaborating on projects, and supporting and encouraging one another. They showed that the world is indeed much smaller when we can come together and unite. Even if it is just over a cocktail.”

— Mike Yoshioka of mmydrinks, via a recent post in Difford’s Guide


The original specs on the cocktail call for equal parts gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and freshly squeezed lime juice. It’s light, refreshing, and a perfectly balanced amalgam of sweet, herbaceous, and acidic notes. I decided to do something creatively challenging for my contribution to this event that celebrates one of my favorite liqueurs, Chartreuse, and bring in some early summer flavors to the mix — celery, lemongrass, and cucumber.

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sparkling spiced blackberry negronis | adding flavor with fruits + infusions

Writing this post has gotten me excited about planning our new garden this spring. I’ve missed all of the fruits, vegetables, and herbs growing just outside my backdoor. Granted, we have some amazing farms out here on the western slope, so I haven’t gone without, but there’s nothing like tending and growing your own. Cocktail gardens included.

This past fall, we tilled up the yard around our house, and we ordered some no-mow, low-water grass seed to fill in the almost dust-bowl-like terrain we’ve got going on now. I’ve got a couple of “wish list” plants bookmarked over at High Country Gardens, and those, along with some seeds I’ve either saved or been gifted, are going to colorfully make their way into our lives in a few months. I can’t wait!

Let’s talk about naturally adding flavor in cocktails for a moment.

Did you make any resolutions to eat healthier or drink less? Or maybe your goal is to make healthier versions of your favorite cocktails? This line of thought is on the radar of many home bartenders {myself included} and mixologists around the country. In fact, the appearance of healthier cocktails is one of the projected trends for 2018, according to publications like Supercall and Industry Juice. I’m definitely excited to make and drink more juice- or kombucha-based cocktails and see more low-ABV or alcohol-free drinks available whenever I go out.

I’ve always been a proponent for cocktails flavored with fresh fruits and vegetables, infusions, and less sugar — or even none at all. Drinks simply taste better, when they’re made with fresh ingredients. Think about those florescent-hued, cloyingly sweet drinks you’ve had before. They might be pretty, but their headache is never worth any temporary “enjoyment.”

Two of my personal favorite ways to add flavor to cocktails without adding extra, unwanted sugar is by using fresh fruits and vegetables and by making infusions. I’ve also been enjoying adding Zevia’s stevia-based mixers to my drinks, like the Ginger Apple Swizzle from a few posts back. This sparkling spiced blackberry Negroni gets its flavor from fresh blackberries and Zevia blackberry sparkling water. I’m happy to share another cocktail that’s on the lighter but more flavorful side with you.

Any way I can add flavor without the calories or unwanted chemical substitutes, I’m in.

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