Tag Archives: refreshing

Local Edition: The Minnesota Mischief

Before I get to the meaning of the title of this post, let’s talk for a minute about Fresca.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, Fresca is a diet grapefruit soda. It only comes in diet. There is no “regular” Fresca. The first time I ever had a Fresca was the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, when I went to a two-month math camp (yes, math camp, we can discuss that later) at my mom’s alma mater, Mt. Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Massachusetts. What can I say, Fresca was not really a thing in California. The girls in the program from New England and the South were appalled that I had never had one, insisting that it was the BEST soda ever. I liked the grapefruity-ness, but was never all that fond of the fake sugar flavor of diet sodas. This has relevance, I swear.

Ok, so this past weekend we were at a wedding in Minnesota. Apparently the groom is obsessed with Fresca, a fact which I had hitherto been unaware of, but he’s from Boston area, so I guess it makes sense. In any case, there was a lot of it around. They even put cans of it in the welcome gift bags. The rehearsal dinner was at an amazing place called Architectural Antiques in Minneapolis, which you should definitely check out if you’re ever in the area. Aside from the crazy-amazing decor that included a huge ceramic Jesus, an entire wall of antique doorknobs, and a 70s jukebox, one of the great things about the venue is that they let you bring your own food and drinks in. There were four kinds of amazing home-brewed beer (made by the bride’s dad), red and white wine, and non-alcoholic beverages, including…you guessed it.

Right about now, you’re probably saying, “Wait a minute! This is a cocktail blog, not a beer and wine blog! I am confused. And offended.” Probably that’s not at all what you’re saying to yourself, but there is cocktail recipe coming. The wedding party took turns bartending at this shindig, and at one point when I walked up to the bar, I was asked if I wanted to try some “sangria.” My husband, who had been standing there for a while and seen how the drink was made, shook his head emphatically at me, as if to say, “You really really don’t want it,” so naturally I said, “Sure!” The recipe is very simple:

1 part white wine (preferably something crisp and citrusy, like Sauvignon Blanc)

1 part red wine (something lighter like a Pinot Noir is best)

1 part Fresca (Sprite/7up is a good alternative if you don’t like the diet soda taste)

Bartender Eric pouring "sangria." The home-brew beer menu can be seen in the background.

Bartender Eric pouring “sangria.” The home-brew beer menu can be seen in the background.

Always hold the product you're selling close to your face. I learned that in an acting class.

Always hold the product you’re selling close to your face. I learned that in an acting class.

Surprisingly, it was actually pretty good. It was light and refreshing, but I still don’t love that diet soda taste. I’ll likely swap out the Fresca for Sprite if make this at home…sorry Matt. Since it was a spontaneously created cocktail (I think credit goes both to Eric and Emily), we had to give it a name. It had to include “Minnesota,” as a tribute to the wedding locale, and we liked the idea of alliteration. A number of suggestions were thrown out such as “Minnesota Mayhem,” or “Minnesota Mishap.” That second one was from my husband, who remained unimpressed by the concoction. Eventually we settled on the “Minnesota Mischief.” I think this would make a great punch for parties. You could make it by the pitcher and spruce it up with some fruit slices floated on top. Happy mixing!

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Wedding Cocktails!

As I mentioned in the previous post, I got recently got married. It was a lot of work, but totally worth it. Me being me, I wouldn’t throw any kind of party without a signature cocktail, or in this case, two. We knew we wanted a bourbon cocktail and a champagne cocktail.

The bourbon cocktail was fairly easy to decide on. After test-driving a couple different recipes, we settled on the Lady Shirley, with some slight modification, because, well, I just can’t ever seem to follow a recipe exactly. The recipe I found online gives you a pretty sweet little cocktail, which might be perfect for some, but here in the Savage-Liszanckie household we like our bourbon cocktails a little stronger. My recipe was more like: 2oz bourbon, 1/2oz grenadine, 1oz lemon juice (or about half a lemon if you’re squeezing them fresh), top with soda water.

We served them in mason jars. They were delicious.

We served them in mason jars. They were delicious.

The champagne cocktail took a little more experimentation to settle upon. Luckily we have plenty of willing guinea-pigs…er, friends, who very patiently drank the cocktails and gave me their opinions. Tough job, I know. What we ended up with was the Feathers McGraw, named after our favorite Wallace and Gromit character. The inspiration for this cocktail came from Martha Stewart, but of course I made a few changes. First, I made a mint-infused simple syrup. For the cocktail recipe, I upped the amount of Campari and Champagne, and lowered the amount of grapefruit juice and simple syrup. What can I say, Martha’s recipe just wasn’t boozy enough for me. Recipe for this one: 1oz Campari, 1/2oz mint simple syrup, fill glass 3/4 full with champagne (approx 4oz), top with a splash or two of grapefruit juice. The result is something like a grapefruit-y mimosa with a boozy Campari kick. Delicious!

The original Feathers McGraw. Ours was just a tasty tribute.

The original Feathers McGraw. Ours was just a tasty tribute.

The great thing about both these cocktails is that you can easily make them by the pitcher for a party…or a wedding. Just keep the proportions the same and increase by the number of cocktails you want to make. I promise, your guests will be impressed. Happy mixing!

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Tour De New York

The cocktail shaker in our apartment has bee less active this summer due to some extensive traveling (all domestic, rather than exotic I’m afraid). I did manage to finally get my hands on some lavender to make a simple syrup. The recipe and drink suggestions will follow shortly. While in New York last week, my fiance and I were treated to a tour of the Big Apple’s finest cocktail establishments, courtesy of our friend Ryan. As everyone knows, the key to a woman’s heart is a fancy cocktail (or maybe that’s just me), and these places definitely won me over.

First stop was the hotel bar at the Crosby Street Hotel, which had the most artistic decor of the evening, with a wall of lamps made out of telephones.

Hello? Is anybody there?

I had a lemongrass-pear bellini, which was nice enough, but I definitely had drink envy of Sarah’s mojito. Ryan ordered a tequila-based cocktail called “Peppers and Peach,” which looked amazing, but spicy drinks are not my thing. Nor is tequila really.  Too many shots of Jose Cuervo in college, I guess. The most interesting drink in this bar was Justin’s “Kentucky Julius,” which consisted of Buffalo Trace bourbon, Liquor 43, orange juice, egg white, cinnamon simple, Lagunitas IPA, nutmeg, with the Lagunitas IPA served as a shot inside the empty egg shell floating on top of the glass like a little boat. Unfortunately, the egg whites prevented me from trying it, but he assured me it was damn tasty.

Not our actual cocktails. We drank them too fast to get photos.

Next stop was the The Bourgeois Pig, famous for its plushy chaise lounges and champagne punch. I ordered the Bergamont Toddy, which had Earl Grey-infused Lillet Blanc, lemon, and honey. All I can say is that my next infusion will be vodka with Earl Grey tea in an attempt to recreate this cocktail at home. Our friends ordered one of the champagne punch bowls. I think it had blackberries in it? In any case, it was delicious, but dangerous. The menus says it serves 2-4, but if two people finished it off by themselves, it might not be pretty. It arrived in a giant metal bowl with a giant round ice cube floating in the middle and some dainty Victorian crystal mugs with which to scoop the punch out of the bowl.

This is not one of my friends, nor is this our actual punch bowl. The lighting was too dim for photos. Or maybe we just forgot. In any case, ours looked just like this one, if you substitute a smiling redhead for the smiling blonde girl.

Even with four of us helping, we closed down the bar and stumbled out of there. Not content to let the night end, however, because damnit, this is New York! Bars here close at 4am, and it was only a mere 2:30. So what if it was a Wednesday night, there had to be something open. Luckily Ryan was captaining the ship and lead us to a place called Employees Only, which will be reviewed in another post because, well, this one is already too long. I also realized that I skipped one from the beginning of the night. Until next time, dear readers.

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Cocktail Hour at Home

My bourbon infusion was ready to go, so I decided to invite my lovely friend Brynn over for dinner and cocktails. Before we get into the drink recipes, let’s talk about the infusion by itself. How much do I love grapefruit? So much that I would write an ode to it, if I were any good at writing odes. The substitution of grapefruit zest for lemon and orange was a stroke of pure genius. The citrus did kind of overwhelm the vanilla, though, which was barely detectable. Next time I’d go with two vanilla beans instead of one. Still, it was quite nice, and could easily be a stand alone drink, chilled and served up. But where’s the fun in that?

No, my friends, the fun is all in the mixing, so on we go to the cocktails. The first concoction is something I’ve been making in various configurations for a while now, so it deserves a name. I hereby dub thee “The Savage Refresher.” Doesn’t that sound like something you want to drink?

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It consists of: bourbon (this time I used the infusion, but it’s also delicious with regular bourbon), muddled mint, bitters, and freshly squeezed grapefruit. You can add a little sugar or simple syrup if you like your drinks on the sweet side of tart. Muddle a handful of mint, sugar (if you want), 10ish drops of bitters, and a little ice in a shaker. Add 2 oz of bourbon (depending on how strong you like it), half a grapefruit (squeezed), and some more ice. Shake and serve up in a cocktail glass of your choosing.

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I squeeze the grapefruit by hand, but what I really want is a dedicated grapefruit squeezer like this one. Also, despite our arsenal of bar tools, we still don’t have a muddler at home, which makes me sad. Now you know what to get me for my birthday, right?

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The Savage Refreshers went perfectly with our dinner…I threw some mint in the salad too. Yummy!

Then it was on to post dinner conversation and round two. If you’re as obsessed with Mad Men as I am, you’ve probably had a hankering for an Old Fashioned sometime in the last few months. If you’re a purist, like Don Draper, here is a recipe for the classic Old Fashioned, complements of Esquire magazine. Most bars these days make it with and orange slice and a maraschino cherry, but apparently that’s a recent edition. Fascinating!

Seeing as how I’m all grapefruit obsessed at the moment, I use a grapefruit slice instead of the now-traditional orange slice, a smidge of grenadine, and regular sugar, because really, who has sugar cubes and maraschino cherries at home?

How to make a Grapefruit Old Fashioned: In a cocktail shaker, muddle a large slice of grapefruit, a teaspoon-ish of sugar, a dash or two of grenadine (one cherry’s worth if you can figure that out), and 3-4 dashes of bitters. Once that has been muddled, you add 2 oz or so of bourbon and shake. I like to top it off with another squeeze of grapefruit, but that’s just me. Traditionally, you’d serve this in a rocks glass over ice. What can I say, I’ve never been all that traditional.

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The photo may not look all that impressive, but trust me, they’re delicious. This cocktail makes a frequent appearance in our house. Typically while we’re watching Mad Men. In our fedoras.

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