Category Archives: tequila

mint cucumber + smoky jalapeño margaritas | celebrating kristy gardner’s new book, “cooking with cocktails”

Apparently, it is National Margarita Day today, a celebration of all-things-tequila, salt-laced, and citrus-y. I’m also celebrating the book release of one of my favorite food bloggers and friends, Kristy Gardner, of She Eats. Her new book, Cooking with Cocktails, is dedicated to the both the cocktail-imbibing cook and the food-loving beverage connoisseur. Its beautiful pages are filled with 100 boozy recipes, each crafted with wine, beer, or spirits. I’d can safely say that she wrote this book with me in mind.

I have been patiently awaiting the publication of Kristy’s book ever since I helped her test a few recipes for it this past spring. When she asked me to be a part of her virtual book release tour, I didn’t hesitate for a minute. Since the date of my post along the tour fortuitously fell upon National Margarita Day, I knew that I had to share Kristy’s recipe for “Mint Cucumber + Smoky Jalapeño Margaritas” with you.

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dsc_3937For those of you new to Kristy Gardner, I’ll give an introduction. She is a writer, photographer, and self-professed “bourbonator” from Vancouver, British Columbia. Bourbon is her jam. She also does a little acting and owns a branding agency called, Peppercorn Creative. The two of us bonded over the subject of cocktails {our first love} from the start about four years ago, and we regularly send each other lengthy emails and care packages filled with culinary treats {our second love, essentially}.

I trust Kristy’s drink-making skills implicitly. In fact, the very first recipe of Kristy’s that I tried was her version of Bourbon-Soaked Cherries. Since then, I’ve made iterations of my own and put them atop ice cream, stuffed them inside galettes and hand pies, and eaten them straight out of the jar. This particular recipe that I’m sharing with you is the perfect combination of flavors. As much as I love a simple lime-centric margarita, this smoky, savory, and slightly vegetal version might be my new favorite.

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the north fork iced tea | a college classic grows up

Last night, I celebrated Halloween just the way I wanted to: quietly and cozily. The stars had aligned, and it was the first of four consecutive days away from the restaurant for me. We have been going through another managerial transition lately, which has entailed a little stress, so all I wished for was peace and quiet. It sounds kind of Grinch-y, but I turned off all the lights in the house, cracked a bottle of Chablis, cozied up down in the basement, lit some incense, and caught up on a couple of movies.

A big batch of brownies would have really topped it all off. Steve could’ve been there, too. We rarely share evenings off together, so those that we do share are cherished. I was super excited when he arrived home early from work last night, after a “painfully boring” holiday shift. The owner closed the restaurant an hour early, since only 80 people came in for dinner on a night that usually draws close to 200 or more guests. We’ll take every moment to hang outside of work together that we can.

Over the past few months, we have been able to sneak away for two days at a time and visit new-to-us parts of Colorado. We’ve gotten up at the crack of dawn, made the four-hour trek over the Continental Divide, and soaked in as many sights as possible, before driving back to Denver to work the next shift at the restaurant. We’ve gotten very good at maximizing our 48-hour mini-vacays, and we have especially fallen in love with the enchanting town of Paonia, a farming and former coal-mining town, which boasts just a little over 1,500 people. Multiple organic farms and wineries dot the bucolic landscape, shadowed by Mount Lamborn and Landsend Peak, within the Gunnison National Forest.

the north fork iced tea | a college classic grows up | holly & flora the north fork iced tea | a college classic grows up | holly & flora the north fork iced tea | a college classic grows up | holly & flora

the north fork iced tea | a college classic grows up | holly & floraOur last visit there together a couple weeks ago was beautiful. It’s my favorite time of year to drive up through the mountains. We stayed two nights at Agape Farm and Retreat just outside of Paonia. This bed and breakfast is nestled in the middle of an organic farm with access to a pine forest, an award-winning Pinot Gris vineyard, an heirloom apple orchard, and a vibrant, organic vegetable garden. The hosts, Nancy and her son, Nick, were the most gracious and accommodating. I seriously experienced the most peaceful night’s rest I’d had in years.

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frozen peach + chambord mezcal margaritas | #margaritaweek

Ever since Steve and I got back from our quick trip to Sonoma earlier this week, it has been rather challenging to get back into a regular groove. Getting away and escaping the routine – even if it was only for three days – was exactly what we needed. Warm, sun-filled afternoons; brisk, starlit evenings; local, spring produce; walks in the vineyards at Peter Michael Winery; and too much wine for our own good. I can only imagine what an entire week out there would do for my soul! I just might not come back home.

Along with eight other sommeliers from across the world, Steve and I were invited to attend Peter Michael Winery‘s annual Sommelier Summit. This particular year was exceptionally special, however. Wine Spectator recently declared PMW’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Au Paradis, “Wine of the Year.” The excitement there was, as you would expect, palpable and contagious. I’ll definitely share more about this memorable trip in an upcoming post.

We managed to find some time for relaxation, while we were there, despite the packed schedule of tastings and lectures. Making a couple of visits to our favorite Healdsburg watering hole, Spoonbar, was non-negotiable. One of the things I love most about this bar is that they choose a spirit for the season and create myriad twists and iterations using it. Gin is their current obsession, and there are nearly ten different gin-based cocktails on the list, all crafted with spring flowers, fresh herbs, ripe fruits, and just-picked vegetables.

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rosemary paloma cocktails with grapefruit sea salt rims | a cookbook + rosé winner

The past few weeks have been a series of highs and lows. I must be in dire need of a lesson in “going with the flow” because that’s precisely what I haven’t been doing! I’ll start with the most exciting of news: Steve and I are getting married! Our conversation kind of went like this: “I’m asking you to marry me because you’re my favorite!” “And I’m saying yes because you’re MY favorite!” I think that being together ten years let’s me know I’m ready for that step. I knew he had something in the works for a while, but I really did not expect it to happen last week over our quick getaway to Arizona.

We’d both been extra busy the few days leading up to our departure, so I truly didn’t see it coming. As I was sitting on the plane, I saw a text from one of my dear friends. It was simply five ring emojis, followed by the monkey emoji with its eyes covered. I laughed so hard and told her that I doubted it would happen. The only things both Steve and I wanted to do was forget about the mess we left in our house, sleep all day, maybe sit by a pool, and not see anyone we knew for a solid three days.

Some of those wishes came true, but sleep wasn’t one of them. Leading up to the trip, we had both shared a few, consecutive, ten-hour shifts at the restaurant, leaving our minds harried and our eyes laden with dark circles. I had been recipe-testing blender cocktails all week for an upcoming series at the Kitchn, and the sound of the Vitamix motor was ringing in my ear. Needless to say, I left the kitchen in a state of stickiness, along with a stack of cocktail-covered glassware.

We hit the airport last Sunday without getting any sleep the night before. What an excellent way to start a proposal weekend, right!??

rosemary palomas with grapefruit salt rims | holly & flora rosemary palomas with grapefruit salt rims | holly & flora

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citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas

Lies, I’ll tell you! I’m looking outside my studio window at the peacefully falling snow. We were bracing ourselves here in Denver for well over a foot of snow, and all we received was a scant eight inches. I was actually looking forward to a serious dumping of the stuff. I want to be snowed in, denied from even getting into my car. I want a work-free day, complete with movies, cozy blankets, lots of baking, and no obligations. I suppose I still need the electricity and the water to work, so nothing too drastic.

I always associate ice-cold, salt-rimmed margaritas with balmy, summer days, but all of my citrus surplus has pushed my creativity to serious lengths. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve made orange marmalade, blood orange and bourbon cocktails, and even some Campari-spiked orange sherbet, so tangerine margaritas were only a natural progression.

citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas | holly & flora

You know how you just want to pour yourself a cocktail, shut out all of the busyness, and enjoy the peace around you? That is how I am feeling morning, except I can’t enjoy a wintry cocktail {or any  kind of cocktail, for that matter}. I am working this evening, and there are well over 500 reservations on the books; that’s about three times our normal count for a Sunday. So, I’ll be heavily hitting the coffee, instead. Sigh.

You see, each February, almost all of Denver’s restaurants host “Restaurant Week.” For the guests, it is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the cuisine of their favorite dining spots or restaurants they’ve always wanted to visit, at an incredibly discounted price. For the employees of the restaurants, however, the hours are longer, the workload is heavier, the tickets are decreased by about half the normal price, and the guest-count more than triples. It is exhausting.

So, instead of having one of these right now, I’ll most likely make one for myself later on this evening. And it will be delicious.

citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas | holly & flora citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas | holly & flora citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas | holly & flora

I absolutely love classic margaritas. Who doesn’t? They are the perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty, and citrus. I also love creating twists on the original recipe and mixing mine with different fruit juices and various liqueurs. This past week, I bought a large bag of organic tangerines, juiced them, and made the most refreshing citrus margaritas.

For a unique garnish, I made citrus salt for the rims of the cocktail glasses. I crushed up some navel oranges I had dehydrated several weeks ago and added some sea salt to the mix. I was super pleased with the results, and I plan doing the same thing with dehydrated limes and lemons. The best part about this added special touch is that it is so simple to make. You just need a few hours to dry the fruit.


how to make citrus salt


  1. Slice the oranges about 1/4 of an inch thick and remove their seeds.
  2. Arrange slices on the trays of a food dehydrator and set the temperature to 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Allow the slices to dehydrate for 6-12 hours or until crisp and brittle.
  4. Store them in an airtight container, away from direct sunlight, until you’re ready to use them.
  5. For the citrus salt, coarsely grind the centers of the oranges, removing the tough rims. I used my Le Creuset mortar and pestle, one of my favorite and most-used kitchen splurges, but you could also pulse in a food processor. I saved the tough rims for a future salt scrub project!
  6. Add an equal amount of sea salt, or a little less, depending upon your taste.
  7. Store the citrus salt in an airtight container.

citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas | holly & flora citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas | holly & floracitrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas | holly & flora


citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas


  1. Juice the tangerines and lime{s}. Don’t settle for the bland, bottled, pasteurized stuff.
  2. Sprinkle the citrus salt on a plate. Run a  lime wedge along the rim of the cocktail glass and carefully press the edge of the glass into the citrus salt.
  3. Carefully fill the cocktail glass with fresh ice.
  4. Fill a cocktail mixing glass with ice and add the tequila, blood orange liqueur, the juices, and, optionally, the agave nectar.
  5. Shake the mixture well, strain, and pour into the prepared glass.
  6. Garnish with a lime {or tangerine} wedge or wheel.
  • Always choose organic citrus and thoroughly scrub the exteriors, even if you are simply juicing the fruit. Again, take the time and “effort” to juice fresh fruit. The flavor is incomparable.
  • The Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur tastes delicious and gives this cocktail great balance; however, if you are unable to find this, feel free to substitute another orange liqueur.

citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas | holly & flora citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas | holly & flora citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas | holly & flora citrus salt-rimmed tangerine margaritas | holly & flora

Did you know that today is actually National Margarita Day? Well, go out and get some tangerines and limes and do some celebrating! 😉 It’s a great excuse to rebel against the chilly, snowy weather 0r celebrate the warm, sunny weather you are experiencing. And if you need any further inspiration, check out this beautiful blood orange margarita at Design Love Fest, this Meyer lemon margarita by White on Rice Couple, or this gorgeous French Kiss margarita over at Bakers Royale.

Cheers to us all enjoying a happy Sunday and to my surviving the night. Steve just came back from running errands {thank you!} and said the roads were terrible. Luckily, we live less than five minutes from work, so our commute will be painful but quick. I’m already anticipating coming home to a cozy house and settling in with a movie tonight. And maybe a margarita.

XO,

Jayme

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