Category Archives: recipes

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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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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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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the tropicante | margarita of the year

Between packing up our old house and making small moves out to our new spot on the western slope of Colorado, Steve and I have barely had time to fix dinner, let alone relax and enjoy it together. Last night was different, however. Steve fired up the grill, despite the falling snow outside, and served up some Coho salmon, alongside a few handfuls of blanched spring peas and sautéed green onions.

I garnished every, last bite of salmon with fresh avocado, since we’ve had a lot of it on hand this past week. It has made appearances on sourdough avocado toast, layered between salsa and corn chips, piled on by the spoonful, and even muddled up in a few cocktails. Have you ever tried adding avocado to a drink? If you have enjoyed any egg whites-based cocktails, then you understand the delicious role that texture plays and the sometimes surprising ingredients that make it happen. Adding avocado does the very same thing an egg white does – it adds a rich, silky mouthfeel and integrates a variety of flavors together.

I find it perfectly timed that I get to share an avocado-based cocktail with you that’s in the running for Patrón’s 2017 “Margarita of the Year.” It’s one of seven artisanal, creative spins on the versatile, classic cocktail, crafted by top-notch bartenders around the world. One of those bartenders in the running is Denver’s own Alex Kady of 12 @ Madison and Star Bar. His Tropicante Margarita is a whipped combination of reposado tequila, mango liqueur, citrus, and avocado. It’s also the perfect brunch cocktail to complement your go-to avo toast. I might have done just that. On a Wednesday.

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