Tag Archives: cocktails

Jen Mattioni of Q House garnishing her Five-Spice Old Fashioneds.

five-spice old fashioned | knapp ranch dinner with the colorado FIVE

Just over two weeks ago, Steve and I helped host and orchestrate a dinner at the most epic location. Expansive hillside views, lush and abundant wildflowers, and cool and fresh mountain air, alongside a culinary team of which dreams are made. Hosted by Chef Bryan Redniss of The Rose, in Edwards, Colorado, this Japanese kaiseki-style dinner was a bucket list event not only for us, who helped produce, execute, and capture the dinner, but also for the 80 people who were lucky enough to snag a seat before the experience sold out.

That evening was one of those moments that doesn’t come along very often, where you look around and take notice of what’s actually happening – you truly can’t imagine someplace else that you’d rather be. It felt like it may have been the highlight of the Colorado food scene this year. The scenery was so beautiful that photos can’t even capture the magnitude of the  S P A C E  there at Knapp Ranch. For the design enthusiasts and foodies out there, this property is owned and curated by the former owner of Architectural Digest and Bon Appétit magazines, Bud Knapp. I had the pleasure of meeting him and touring his home and expansive gardens at his ranch that sit at 9,000 feet above sea level.

I am sharing one of my favorite cocktails that evening from my friend and fellow Colorado FIVE beverage team member, Jen Mattioni, owner of Q House in Denver. She crafted this bright, savory, spiced version of the classic Old Fashioned cocktail for the appetizer course at the Knapp Ranch dinner and paired it alongside savory bites like Duane Walker of Morin Restaurant‘s panko-fried confit chicken thighs with black garlic, sweet chili fish caramel, spicy mustard, foie gras aioli, and furikake.

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bittersweet blood orange + bourbon punch | how to make stevia simple syrup for cocktails

I’m posting this just after savoring scarfing over half of a rosemary and caramel dark chocolate bar that I picked up at Meat + Cheese in Aspen on Monday. I don’t know how it’s lasted that long. I also kinda claimed it from Steve. It was technically my birthday chocolate, and I was seriously craving something sweet. I’d already downed the last two handfuls of dark chocolate chips from their mason jar home, so I was on the hunt, and did I ever SCORE.

This is the bar I’m referencing, and it was pure magic. I recently derailed from my resolve to limit sugar in my diet. I will add that it has been a lot of fun doing so. Case in point? This gorgeous cake was breakfast and lunch on Wednesday. My friend Hannah of Blue Sky Bakery here in Paonia whipped up this seven-layer chocolate and hazelnut dream-of-a-cake that I’ll have to request again next year. Hannah, put that on your calendar. 😉

One of my birthday resolutions, however, is to recommit to keeping sugar out of my daily consumption routine. I was on a good track earlier this year and even humorously shared my battle with sugar with you in December here in this post. Basically, if I could eat cake everyday, I would. Hannah’s chocolate cake, along with a glass of Schramsberg brut rosé and a bowl of peppered, Parmesan-dusted, truffle oil-doused popcorn, IF we’re being specific.

So far, in my series of recipes made with stevia-sweetened Zevia mixers, I’ve shared a sparkling spiced blackberry Negroni and a Tiki-inspired ginger apple swizzle. Since blood oranges are quickly making their exit from our local produce department, I’ve not only been stockpiling them to peel and eat, but I’ve also been crafting some blood orange-centric cocktails here at the house lately.

This large-format recipe calls for blood oranges, bourbon, Campari, and Zevia ginger ale. The secret ingredient, however, is a homemade rosemary-infused stevia simple syrup that’s the perfect consistency for blending into drinks. The resulting recipe a bittersweet punch that’s easy to assemble and stellar as both a party pitcher or a single-serving cocktail.

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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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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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