Category Archives: vodka

green garden bloody marys with tomatillos + late-season tomatoes | bittersweet seasons of change | holly & flora

cilantro-salted tomatillo green bloody marys | bittersweet seasons of change

I love the challenge of taking any vegetable in my garden – at any stage in its life cycle – and turning it into a cocktail. The abundant amount of sunny, 75-degree days kept me donning shorts, pouring the rosé, and harvesting all of the kale, chard, herbs, edible flowers, tomatoes, and tomatillos my garden would spit out, well into mid-November. We have had the most record-breaking, unseasonably warm weather this past month.

Before I share this {very} late fall recipe, I have to say a few things.

From putting in well over 55 hours each week at the restaurant, to observing the backlash of the recent election, to pursuing creative opportunities on the side, some of which I can’t even share with you yet, I have felt devoid of creativity and inspiration. I’ve had great difficulty writing and pouring creativity into this space here. Even when I do get strokes of genius or breaths of innovation, I’m all-too-tired to put action to paper, recipe, or photo. It’s been quite the challenging year for many of us, I feel.

For both me and Steve, we can safely say that 2016 has been the “Year of Change and Secrets.” That’s actually a soft and easy way of describing it. There have been countless highs and lows. Steve and I got engaged, which was wonderful, albeit stressful with respect to timing. We’ve gone through three different executive chefs at work, finally ending up with one of our former, beloved executive sous chefs at the helm. We’ve also lost two of our long-term managers and haven’t realllllly replaced them, so our workload has been more intense.

green garden bloody marys with tomatillos + late-season tomatoes | bittersweet seasons of change | holly & flora green garden bloody marys with tomatillos + late-season tomatoes | bittersweet seasons of change | holly & flora green garden bloody marys with tomatillos + late-season tomatoes | bittersweet seasons of change | holly & flora

And then there’s our side project, which we’ve been working on since April. Keeping it under wraps has been just as exhausting {and thrilling!} as all of the hours before and after work spent quietly building it. Once I can talk about it all, I’ll feel justified in my actions or, in some cases, the lack of them. For now, I simply seek out those moments, where I feel revitalized and recharged. It’s all I can do. I find them when I go for a long run, when I take a lengthy late-night drive, when I sit still in the darkness before the sun rises, and when I stay up late and watch the moon crest above my head.

Okay, I’ll be honest.

I don’t do all of the things I listed above every time I’m stressed. I want to do them, but many nights, it just doesn’t turn out like that. Take two nights ago, for example. I finished off a bottle of bubbles, impulsively booked two nights at a B&B I’d been dying to sneak away to, baked and consumed an entire pan of brownies, signed up for a marathon, and watched almost every Nora Ephron movie ever made. The next day suuuuuuuuuucked, and of course, I was needed at the restaurant to help Steve because he was having complications with his recent hand surgery.

And I couldn’t make it to the B&B.

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

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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summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora

summertime vespers with strawberry, rhubarb + fennel | loud flavors, loud voices


Because it’s summer. Because the air is heavy with heat and nostalgia.
Because this is what we have to keep remembering, the way our bodies
know the waves, the amphibian inside us unafraid of going under,
of what ripples beneath the surface. Because waiting on the dock
for the signal to jump is like thinking someone else is responsible. Because
there is no one else responsible. Because despite the current,
it is possible to swim against it, or even stand, inverted, balancing
on a slippery mulch of murk and mud, and stay perfectly still.
Because when the world tips from view, we have to do everything we can
to tip it back.

— Maya Stein, “The Amphibian Inside Us”


This poem founds its way to my inbox this week. I subscribe to a series, “10-Line Tuesdays“, curated by poet, Maya Stein. Her weekly words always stir something deep within my sub-consciousness, evoking undulating layers of emotions. This week’s beautiful lines struck a chord and prompted me to share my thoughts on the current events that have been filling our feeds, provoking our thoughts, and, for some, motivating us to stand up, speak out, and ask questions.

I don’t have live television here at the house, so I learned about the recent shootings last week and the ensuing reactions, via Twitter. As I scrolled through videos, comments, and photos, tears fell. I stopped my current task of chopping strawberries, prep-work for this very blog post. Everything I was doing that moment seemed trite and forced.

I was speechless. Speechless to the point of lying low on social media for nearly five days. Speechless to the point of taking a four-hour road trip out to the western slope of Colorado, with no radio, no cell reception, no television, no discussion.

Just silence.

summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & florasummer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora

Sometimes, silence is just what we need to contemplate, to sift through our emotions and thoughts and rage. Despite its important role, silence cannot perpetuate change. It’s ultimately ineffective in the long-run, a dead-end street. Once I got back home on Tuesday, I spent the afternoon at a coffee shop, catching up on some reading and emails. Somehow, it’s so much less distracting there. I read through bravely written essays, comments online, and posts from some of my fellow bloggers, who used their platform of influence to speak up. To Em, Lily, and the many others who have opened their hearts this past week, thank you for leading the discussion.

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how to make bloody mary mix | holly & flora

how to make bloody mary mix | my farm-to-glass trip to red gold tomatoes

I’m sitting at my desk, looking at my weather app and realizing the sunny, sixty-five degree weather we’ve enjoyed over the past three days is about to disappear come Thursday. Just in time for Thanksgiving. And just in time for our heater to break down. My boyfriend’s been tweaking with our house’s antiquated electrical wiring, and I think something must have gone amok. I’ve got my space heater cranking, and I am wearing fingerless gloves, as I type.

I suppose worse things could happen, right?

Steve and I have been putting the finishing touches on our kitchen this past week, hence the electrical tweaking. We finally chose some lighting above the peninsula, and we just installed some recessed dimmer lights and a couple of spotlights above the sink, counters, and stove. I’m laughing because it’s taken us nearly two years to agree on the style of exposed shelves we wanted to span the white glass back-splash. My parents might say we are procrastinators, but I like to describe ourselves as “discerning and particular”. It just sounds better.

This little snap of warm weather enticingly brought me back summer in my mind, and I craved my summer treat staples, especially a juicy, ripe, red tomato. Not to be found. I even toyed around with the idea of making freezer pops. There’s one thing, however, I love to make in the dead of winter, and that’s a spicy Bloody Mary, made with tomatoes we preserved from our summer garden.

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the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora

the apricot stinger cocktail | hello, spring

I won’t apologize for my excitement that spring is finally here. All I see are sunny days ahead on my weather app, and I am taking full advantage of this string of good luck. Like March, April is oftentimes a volatile month here in Colorado, where you’ll be wearing flops and shorts at noon and donning a full-on winter coat and battling an onslaught of wet snow by sunset. Here’s hoping for the best.

Our garden is overflowing with tulips, daffodils, crocuses, miniature irises, and crabapple blossoms. Even our mosses and creeping thyme plants are greening out and filling in the gaps on our flagstone path. This is such a beautiful time of year. Bulbs are waking from their winter dormancy, and grasses are hastily shooting up to meet the sun’s warmth. This well-rehearsed symphony of color and fragrance is a fleeting performance, however. Sure, summer is beautiful and bountiful, but there is something special about this time of transformation from winter’s dull, brown landscape to the vibrant, bright-green newness of spring. The season is simply invigorating and holds such promise for life and change and progress.

Change is in the air!


“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”

– Robert Frost


I am taking every moment possible to note the changes happening in our garden. I love sitting outside, underneath our crabapple tree, my favorite spot, with a cup of coffee and just listening to the growth. It is almost audible at times, and the energy is palpable. I find myself planning for the summer’s crops and dreaming up ways to preserve them later on, when I should be just soaking up this beautiful and short metamorphic season.

So, I couldn’t resist photographing this cocktail outside in the garden. Parts of the garden have yet to wake up, but this little, shady corner feels like another world.

the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora


“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.”

– Heraclitus


So, I have to say that photographing this white, frothy cocktail was rather tricky. Have you had the same challenge? It is almost like the tiny, pale bubbles got lost in their brightness, and I was unable to capture the dimension of the cocktail. It washed out. I think it is good to stretch your photography skills and place yourself in different lighting situations, but it is frustrating, all at the same time.

I’ve also had difficulty photographing other similar subjects, like ice cream, and making them “pop” in a low-light situation. Do you have any tips for a lighting and texture situation like this? The subject is in focus, since you can see the gold rim of the cocktail coupe in detail, but getting those fine bubbles to show up was challenging. I finally threw in the towel and did the best with the knowledge I had and the variables I was presented.

the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora

The flavor profile in this cocktail is straight-up creamsicle. The rich, frothy influence of the whipped egg whites pairs perfectly with the lemon juice, apricot liqueur, and the subtle notes of honey in the vodka. Usually, I am not a flavored vodka gal, but I am in love with Spring44’s Gin, so I had to give their honey vodka a go. Spring44’s award-winning Honey Vodka is handcrafted in Colorado and uses Rocky Mountain artesian spring water in its distillation process. The result is a pure, clean, clear spirit, made without any additives whatsoever. This aromatic, floral vodka boasts bright notes of lavender, rich honey, vanilla, and toasted nuts. And it is also great served by itself, on the rocks.

I’ve long been a fan of Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot Liqueur. This liqueur marries perfectly with bourbon and paired magically {I know I overuse that adjective, but it completely applies here} with Teeling small-batch whiskey and steeped black tea in another cocktail I recently made, the Irish Breakfast. Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot has just the right amount of sweetness, without being cloyingly so. Its eau-de-vie base shines through and imparts a richness that complements the vibrant, fresh fruit component. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the notes of honey in the vodka. Like springtime in a glass. A frothy, rich, meringue-like expression of spring.

the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora

I actually hadn’t tried an egg white-based cocktail until about 2011. I know. I was late to the party. What do egg whites do to an already delicious cocktail? Think about a lemon meringue pie. It is tart, sweet, and silky in texture. Integrating perfectly whipped egg whites into a cocktail results in a cohesive, balanced, velvety drink.

And there is no need to worry about any food illness issues. If you source organic, pastured, fresh eggs, preferably from a local source, you’ll be guaranteed a safe product.


the apricot stinger


  1. In a mixing tin, combine the vodka, apricot liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white. Without adding any ice, “dry shake” for at least one minute. Don’t cheat.
  2. After the minute has passed, add ice and continue shaking for at least another minute. This is the “wet shake” stage. Shaking for two minutes is optimal. You jest, but the froth you’ll get from this vigorous shaking is remarkable. Texture is what you’re after in this recipe.
  3. Strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a lemon peel, mint sprig, or an edible flower {note: my miniature daffodils in the photos are not tasty and were only present for decoration, since my violas hadn’t bloomed quite yet}.
  • Always choose fresh, organic, pastured eggs.
  • The cooler the egg, the easier it is to separate the white from the yolk.
  • The easiest way to separate the white from the yolk is to simply crack the shell and pass the yolk from one half of the shell to the other. You may also crack the whole egg over a slotted spoon or a julep strainer. Just do this over a bowl or directly into the cocktail tin.
  • Don’t overlook the dry shaking step. Shaking the ingredients without the presence of ice lets the mixture emulsify and bond together. If you want to speed up or accentuate the process, you can add the spring from a Hawthorne shaker or a blender ball {whisking ball} to the tin.
  • Don’t slack on shaking the cocktail, once you’ve added the ice. This last step slightly dilutes the cocktail and chills it down, without destroying the fine mousse you developed during the dry shake.

the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & floraSo, yeah, spring. I’m seriously having a little trouble jumping right in with gusto, as far as my personal life is concerned. I can’t seem to find my writing groove, and I have fallen off the running wagon and haven’t trained in over a week. Did I mention that I am registered for a half marathon in a little over a month? Eek.

Like I mentioned above, spring is such a fleeting moment of intense growth. I feel invigorated from the life and movement of the season, but it is almost overwhelming, when I try to actually put my dreams and aspirations to work. Despite this busy season, and my laundry list of aspirations, it is important to slow down and seriously enjoy the changes that are happening. They don’t happen overnight in nature, so why should I place the same pressure upon myself?

My aunt told me a story over the weekend that helped place all of this into proper perspective. She likened our experiences in life to a ride on a train. If we hustle along, only thinking about our destination, crossing off our to-dos, never slowing down, we make it to the end, and it’s done. We have met the end of our life and haven’t even enjoyed the stops along the way. Seriously, what is the rush? Why can’t we just pause and let ourselves enjoy the path we’re on, instead of trampling the flowers and ignoring the potential friends along the way?

the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & floraI am definitely not alone in the quest for the perfect, frothy, egg white-based cocktail. If you are ever in New York, I hear that the Alabaster Crowley cocktail, an egg white-based cocktail that mashes up Old Tom Gin and Amaro Montenegro, at the Garret is pretty much earth-shaking. My friend, Renée, just took the plunge and moved to NYC to work as a fashion assistant. Apparently, this particular cocktail is so good, she’s ordered it in succession. Here are a few unique recipes to try, along with a couple of classics.


other egg white-based cocktails to try


  • The Clover Club, a classic, citrus-y, gin-based fizz, accentuated with raspberry jam, via Oh So Beautiful Paper
  • Rhubarb and Rose Ramos Gin Fizz, this twist on the classic calls for rhubarb syrup and rose water, brightening up this creamy, gin-based cocktail, by way of Food 52
  • White Lady, a classic cocktail, featured in the 1930s classic, Savoy Cocktail Book, which features dry gin, lemon juice, Cointreau, and, of course, egg whites, found on PUNCH
  • Cotogna’s Aperol Fizz, showcases one of my favorite spirits, Aperol, and adds a creamier twist to the classic Aperol Spritz, via Serious Eats
  • Meyer Lemon Gin Fizz, a simple cocktail that lets seasonally available Meyer lemons take center stage, via Spirited Alchemy

the apricot stinger cocktail | holly & flora


“Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”

– W. Somerset Maugham


There is no doubt that I will make that last cocktail on the list, the Meyer Lemon Gin Fizz, when my Meyer lemons ripen. I mentioned in an earlier post that I had about 13 little lemons ripening on my dwarf Meyer lemon tree, which I over-wintered this past cold season. During the first five years of a Meyer lemon tree’s life, it is very unlikely that fruit will actually set. I am surprised that I have three, rather large, yellowing Meyer lemons! I am beyond excited! I don’t care if I get only one out of the deal. Whatever I make with that one, perfect lemon will be decadent. IMG_2940 IMG_2938

I’m closing with some photos I took, while prepping the garden soil this past week. As far as the garden edibles go, mint, tarragon, chives, thyme, and sorrel have all made their perennial appearances over the past few days. We even discovered some potatoes from this past fall that were absolutely delicious and sweet. The onions we planted last summer were ready, as well.

My friend, Ashlae, recently dropped by for breakfast and helped sow the early-spring seeds with me. She is my local supplier of vanilla crack, better known to all as the Real Deal vanilla extract. She is also a pretty fun person to hang around. We have both agreed that we are grandmas, since we cherish being at home, enjoy good books, dabble in the DIY department, and enjoy getting our hands dirty and gardening. I’m proud of the label. I think we ended up talking way more than we did actually planting. We managed to plant buttercrunch lettuce in succession, and we sowed several varieties of Swiss chard, some kale, and a few rows of beets.

The buttercrunch lettuce is already popping up!

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“If nothing lasts, then everything has meaning. If everything dies, that means we actually live.”

– Chris Matakas


So, which egg white-based cocktails have you made? Do you have any other recipes where honey vodka would be a great component? Also, if you have any advice on photographing ice cream or other frothy-textured foods, lay it on me!

Cheers to a wonderful rest-of-the-week! And happy spring cocktail-making!

XO,

Jayme

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