Tag Archives: cocktails

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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chai pomegranate whiskey spritz | on winter survival

Happy new year!!

I know we are a solid five weeks into 2021. I can still celebrate. 😏 We took down our Christmas tree only six days ago, I just finished writing out my goals for the year, and I’m still sending out HNY cards into February. I honestly don’t know where the last few weeks went, so I’ll blame my tardiness on the haze that was the month of January. I think we can all agree that the month was, for lack of a better descriptor, weird.

With the darker days thankfully growing longer and brighter, I have been embracing all-things-cozy to keep me grounded and positive. It’s been rainy, snowy, and muddy here at the vineyard, so we have had to postpone outdoor projects and either remain glued to our computers or work on finalizing the blends for our 2020 wines. To keep my spirits high, I’ve been making time for muddy walks with the dog, cooking with my husband, giving the house a deep clean, and whipping up some new cocktail recipes.

This Chai Pomegranate Whiskey Spritz was one of my favorites that I made in January, and it features an easy-to-make chai syrup that works well with wintry drinks. The cocktail is rich and savory, with bright, pomegranate notes, and it finishes with a dry, refreshing pop of bubbly.

I’m also sharing the recipe for another cocktail that uses this chai simple syrup, the Rum Reviver, a rum-forward cocktail, which first appeared in the fall 2020 issue of Spoke + Blossom magazine. Both of these cocktails require low-maintenance prep and yield high-impact reward.

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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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