A Summer Refresher

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I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I am a terrible bartender. Even when I follow cocktail recipes, they turn out horrible. My husband says it’s only because I pick out terrible recipes, but I’m not completely sure that’s the problem. But I have given up on trying to make drinks containing herbaceous liqueurs, like Saint Germain, Pernod, Chartreuse, and Galliano. I guess I’m not hip enough to enjoy those flavors!

During the summer months, I make a lot of sangria, and I’m actually pretty good at sangria. Or, at least I think I am. When my older daughter is at my house, she always needs to “fix” it. And she always makes it better. Must be something about that summer she lived in Spain…


Because I don’t love strong alcohol flavor, I don’t ever use brandy in sangria, which is traditional. I like to use sweet wines instead.

I’ve mentioned Quady Vineyards in a post before, because they make fabulous moscatos. I am aware that sweet wines are not terribly popular. In fact, they’re probably drunk by white Zinfandel fans. But their moscatos are superb!

I used an orange moscato, called Electra, in my Strawberry Tiramisu recently, and for the sangria I made today, shown above, I used Quady’s Red Electra. (The sangria turned out fabulous!)

On the Quady Winery website, they write that Red Electra was “first released in 1993, is garnet red, tastes of succulent cherry, berry, and peach, and has a slight sparkle. Try it with all kinds of desserts and cheeses including chocolate bon-bons, truffles, spiced holiday cookies, vanilla, and fruit. Red Electra is made by combining Orange and Black Muscat grapes, and fermenting them very slowly at a low temperature so they keep their delicious flavors. That’s why Red Electra tastes like a bowl full of cherries.

Just to make sure it would work well in the sangria, my husband and I taste-tested the Red Electra. It was like nectar of the gods.
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Then I had an idea. I poured some Red Electra in a bigger glass and added some Fresca, which I had on hand because I always use it in sangria. Typically I don’t create cocktails, and it’s not surprising that my alcoholic “invention” consists of only two ingredients. But it got me thinking. Besides Fresca, what would Red Electra be like paired with Champagne, or Prosecco? I had some experimentation ahead of me!!!

So here’s my offering for a refreshing summer drink. I suggest three varieties depending if you like sweeter, less sweet, or unsweet. You could even add sparkling or soda water for two more varieties. I’m just so creative!!!

Red Electra Sparkler

3 ounces Quady Red Electra, chilled
4 ounces Prosecco, chilled, or
4 ounces Champagne, chilled, or
4 ounces Fresca, chilled

On the day this cocktail was “created” daughter happened to be visiting, and we did the taste test together. We began with 3 ounces of Red Electra, and added equal amounts of Prosecco, Fresca, and Champagne.


The drinks were on the sweet side with this ratio.

So that’s when we came up with the ratio of 3 ounces of Red Electra to 4 ounces of mixer. Plus, we added ice. Even though all of the above ingredients were fully chilled, the drinks needed ice for them to stay cold and refreshing.
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We both picked our favorite combination, and it was the Prosecco version. The Fresca version was good, but it was “sweet” and still tasted like Fresca. The Champagne variety was good, but the Champagne seemed to disappear in the drink.

The Prosecco and Red Electra was a perfect match!


It was also the most refreshing – even without ice!

We made this cocktail on the first day of summer, and it topped out at 99 degrees that day!
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I’m stocking up on Red Electra. It is quite versatile!

Berry Bramble

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I’ve just recently come across the name “bramble” which I thought to be some kind of berry-producing prickly shrub, but it’s also the name of a gin-based cocktail! Since I happen to love gin, and have had the pleasure of being introduced to a new French variety, I thought it was a perfect time to try out a bramble myself! Really, any excuse for a cocktail will do, but specifically for the purpose of research and testing? Absolutely!

Here’s the new gin from France that my friend introduced me to, after sampling it at a tasting in NYC. It’s called G’Vine. I know, that doesn’t sound very French. I’m not even sure how to pronounce it. But it’s fabulous, with floral and citrus tones to its flavor. It’s referred to as “botanical.”
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I’ve had this gin with both tonic and soda water and it’s really delightful, but for my first bramble I decided to pair it with sloe gin. I just recently discovered that sloe gin is made from sloe berries! See, that’s why I read food blogs!

And for the berry part of the bramble, I chose blackberries, because they’re really perfect at the stores right now. Nice and sweet.

Berry Bramble
to make 2 drinks

8-10 fresh blackberries
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 ounces G’Vine gin
1 ounce sloe gin
Fresca or soda water, chilled

Firstly, place the berries in a small bowl. Muddle or fork them into mushiness, along with the sugar.

I then divided the mushed up blackberries in two glasses, and added a couple of whole blackberries as well. It just makes the cocktail that much healthier!

Then add the gin and sloe gin.

Lastly, add the Fresca. If you’re not familiar with Fresca, you should be. It’s a grapefruit based soda and provides much more flavor than just adding sparkling water or soda. Plus it’s super fizzy. It had those blackberries bouncing around so much that sometimes they were out of focus in the photos!
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Mint would be a good addition, but I don’t like getting chopped mint in my teeth, so I just left it sitting there looking pretty!

If you want to learn about G’Vine, check it out here on this crazy website!

verdict: I must say this was a very successful experiment. This brand of gin made it even better, but regular gin would certainly work just as well. The sloe gin added a lot as well, but certainly creme de cassis or Chambord could be substituted. As for the berry aspect, I think this drink would be wonderful with just about any ripe berry!

Grapefruited Pisco

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I’ve always been intrigued by the well-known South American drink known as the Pisco Sour. In fact, I’m wondering what took me so long to finally try it.

With spring well on the way, I decided it was time. So I went to my favorite booze monger and asked for a bottle. What he sold me is called Capel, which is from Chile. Chilean piscos are supposedly sweeter than Peruvian piscos. So adjustments must be made in the recipes.

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If I’d actually read about what Pisco is, I probably wouldn’t have bothered trying it. Or, at least, I would have asked my blogger friend Sally from Bewitching Kitchen about Pisco, since she’s from South America. But I wasn’t smart enough to do that. I’m very impulsive, really.

If I’d googled Pisco, I would have learned that it’s distilled from wine made from specific grapes, originally those inferior in quality. It then becomes a very strong brandy. Grappa is a common substitute for Pisco. Have you ever tried grappa? I felt obliged once to try it after it was given to us at an Italian restaurant, and I thought my head would explode. And that was from one sip.

So being obliged to also try Pisco by itself, just to check out the flavor so I can share the information, I tried one sip. It was probably half a teaspoon. I could have lit my whole head on fire. Well, next time I’ll do a little research first. But I was still determined to try a pisco sour, my version with the addition of fresh grapefruit juice. It sounded good in theory.

If you check on Bar None Drinks, you can find two different versions of a pisco sour. One is pisco along with lime juice and sugar, which is very similar to a margarita. The other is the same thing but with egg white included, and sometimes with a dash of bitters. I liked the egg white idea, so I came up with the following recipe.

Keep in mind that I’ve admitted before that as much as I like cocktails, I don’t like them strong, and I’m a terrible bartender. My husband enjoys my mixology experiments, because he gets to drink all of my mistakes.

Also keep in mind that some of the photos show a very pink drink, and others a more yellow version. That’s because my first round was terribly bitter to me (not my husband) and so I added Grenadine to the second batch. I preferred the sweeter, pinker version. Here it is.

Grapefruited Pisco Sour
Makes 2 drinks

2 small grapefruits
4 ounces Capel Pisco, chilled
2 ounces sweetened lime juice*
1 ounce Grenadine, Amarena cherry juice, or juice from the pictured Maraschino cherry jar
1 egg white

Juice the two grapefruits.
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Measure 6 ounces and place the juice in a blender jar. Add the the remaining ingredients.
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Blend until smooth and foamy.
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Pour into two glasses and serve.

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The above photo shows how pink the drink is with the added grenadine.

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The above drinks are without the grenadine.

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I served the drinks with skewered Luxardo cherries, Italian maraschino cherries that are like candy they’re so good.
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I was surprised at how fast the liquid and foam separated. The drink is definitely prettier blended.
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* I used sweetened lime juice in place of lime juice and simple syrup

verdict: I have mixed feelings about this drink. Although it was legally spring on the day I made these, it was cold. Perhaps if the weather had been warmer they would have been more refreshing and appreciated by myself. I actually just finished skyping with my London daughter minutes ago, and she’s had pisco sours (of course) and she never thought they were strong at all. And she’s more of a wine drinker like myself. So I might keep experimenting. If you like drinking rubbing alcohol, this stuff is for you!

Claret Cup

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Recently I was talking to my husband and mentioned that I thought it was silly for food bloggers to post about smoothies. I mean, you really don’t need a recipe for a smoothie, and besides – it’s just a drink.

And then he reminded me that I post cocktails on my blog. Touché! But, in my defense – they’re cocktails. They’re important. We don’t drink smoothies when it’s five o’clock somewhere.

So this recipe is for a cocktail called a Claret Cup I’m using from this Gourmet compendium cookbook.
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I googled the name claret cup because I had a feeling it was a very old-fashioned drink, and indeed it is. It was fashionable in England in the 1800’s, in fact. Furthermore, according to this fabulous website, called The Art of Drink, there is a “striking resemblance” to Pimm’s Cup, which I made here on my blog.

The drink eventually made it to the U.S., then died down in popularity. Maybe I’ll start a new trend?

The recipe in the Best of Gourmet cookbook calls for 2 bottles of wine. Specifically, claret. Since I was only making the drink for two, I opted for 2 cups of wine, and adjusted the recipe accordingly. I hope. Unfortunately, unless I make the punch for a crowd, I’ll never quite know what it’s supposed to taste like.

I chose a Shiraz, but tasted it on its own and was not impressed. If you don’t like inferior wine, don’t buy this Layer Cake Shiraz.

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Claret Cup

2 cups red wine, preferably from the Bordeaux region of France
1 1/2 ounces orange liqueur
1 1/2 ounces crème de cassis
1 ounce ruby port (the original recipe listed tawny port)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sweetened lime juice, purchased
Bubbly water

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In a small pitcher, pour in the red wine. Then add the orange liqueur and crème de cassis. Measure the port and add that to the wine mixture.
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Then stir in the lemon juice and sweetened lime juice. Stir and taste. You could always add some superfine sugar if you think it’s not sweet enough, or a little more port.

Pour some into and glass and top with bubbly water of your choice. San Pellegrino comes to mind, but I used bubbly water made from my Sodastream machine. I used about 2/3 wine mixture and 1/3 bubbly water.
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Serve with a slice of lemon.
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Alternatively, chill the wine mixture and the bubbly water first, and then serve cold, or forget the bubbly water and just serve this over ice. It would be very refreshing this way.

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verdict: This claret cup is very different in flavor from a Pimm’s cup, but there are some sweet and fruity similarities. Using this recipe exactly, I thought it came out really well – more like a sangria – because it’s essentially sweetened wine. You could really play with the liqueurs and make it more raspberry using Chambord, or make it more orange using Grand Marnier or another orange liqueur. But this drink is good. I seriously wouldn’t make it as a punch, just because of the spillage potential of this really red drink!

Gingerbread Liqueur

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Well, it is that time of year after all. With pumpkins, cranberries and sugar plums dancing in my head. So many fabulous flavors to enjoy during the holidays. Eggnog is another favorite of mine. Less favorite is gingerbread. I don’t dislike it, it’s just not part of the top ten on my holiday favorite foods and flavors.

However, I happened to have come across a gingerbread liqueur from a blog last year, and I’ve been saving it until now. For once, I actually know from whose blog this recipe came – it’s from Boozed and Infused!

As always, since you’d have to point a gun at me to follow a recipe to the letter, I changed things up slightly. I just can’t help myself.

So here’s what I did; you can check out the original recipe on Alicia’s blog!

Gingerbread Liqueur

1 large piece of ginger, enough to provide about 1/2 cup diced ginger
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
6 whole allspice, broken
5 cloves
Good sprinkle fresh nutmeg
1/4 cup molasses
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup coffee-infused vodka
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup spiced rum

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Trim the ginger of its peel. Finely chop the ginger.
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In a microwaveable bowl, add the ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg.
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Then pour in the molasses and add the brown sugar. Give it a stir, then heat in the microwave for just a minute.
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I would have actually added all of the just-used ingredients to a mini blender and emulsified them, but my stupid Magic Bullet wasn’t working properly. It should still work out just fine, however. Although the liqueur might have been “done” after only one week instead of two…

Make sure the sugar has completely dissolved. Let the mixture cool somewhat, then add the vodka, brandy, and rum.
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Stir well, then pour into a pint jar and seal. Store in a dark place for two weeks.

Verdict? Tomorrow!