GRAPEFRUIT-POMEGRANATE MARGI for Cinco de Mayo

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Let’s start things off with one cocktailing fact—Cinco de Mayo is all about the margarita. Yes, of course there’s the line up of delicious Mexican beers such as Tecate, Dos Equis or Modelo if you’re so inclined. But for me, this is a holiday that brings my cocktail shaker and a bottle of Tequila out, ready celebrate.

Outside of my cocktailing world there are a few more facts about Cinco de Mayo you should know. Such as the fact that it is a holiday commemorating the date of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). It is not, as most people think, to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day which is celebrated on September 16th. Here in the United States, Cinco de Mayo is widely interpreted as a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, where revelers mark the occasion with parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing and traditional foods such as tacos and mole poblano.

But let’s get back to the tequila …

Choosing the right tequila can be confusing to many. Should you spend a bunch of money and get a high-end tequila like Patron or go for your standard issue Cuervo Gold? Truthfully, it all comes down to personal taste (and budget!) but armed with a little tequila knowledge you can head into that tequila aisle with confidence.

Tequila is made from the agave plant. Often mistakenly referred to as a cactus, this succulent plant is native to the dry climates in Mexico. There are many varieties of agave, but distillers use only the superior quality blue agave to make tequila. A blue agave plant can reach eight feet tall and generally matures when it’s around six years old. Interestingly, the region where the blue agave grows has an impact on it’s flavor profile. Higher elevation clay soil sites tend to have plants that produce fruity, delicate and floral drinks. Plans grown in the lowlands or valleys with volcanic soil provide a spicy, earthier flavor.

Now let’s get back to that MARGARITA …

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For me, May 5th is a day unlike any other when it comes to enjoying a salt-rimmed glass filled with citrus juice and one of the aforementioned tequilas. This is THE day to mix a Margarita for me, so I’m here to share one of my favorite recipes that have made many a friend fall in love with tequila. Trust me, you’ll love this and so will all your fellow Cinco de Mayo revelers!

GIDGET’S GRAPEFRUIT-POMEGRANATE MARGARITA

There’s just something refreshing about drinking a margarita that doesn’t include that tart lemon/lime flavoring. This version mellows things out a bit by highlighting the delicious flavors of grapefruit with a touch of pomegranate. I used Resposado tequila to complement the flavors, but a Blanco tequila is amazing with this cocktail as well.

TOOLS :: Cocktail shaker, wire strainer, citrus juicer
GLASS :: Old Fashioned
EXTRAS :: Kosher salt, grapefruit wedge for garnish
SERVINGS :: 4 cocktails
INGREDIENTS ::
6 oz. Hornitos Resposado tequila
1.5 oz. Cointreau or Patron Citron liqueur
1.5 oz. Pama pomegranate liqueur
1 oz. POM pomegranate juice
Fresh squeezed juice from one pink grapefruit (~4 oz.)
1 Tbsp frozen limeade concentrate
Lots of ice!

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HOW TO MAKE IT ::
Cut grapefruit in half. Twist glass rims on open side of grapefruit to moisten and dip in kosher salt. Set aside.  Juice grapefruit, strain through wire strainer into cocktail shaker. Add ice to shaker and add remaining ingredients.  Shake well to combine ingredients – at least one minute.  Add ice to glasses and garnish with grapefruit wedge. Divide shaker contents into cocktail glasses.

I personally find the bars and restaurants way too crowded on Cinco de Mayo, so I prefer to drink these margaritas in my own home rather than pay the exorbitant cost for watered versions elsewhere. So gather a few friends and celebrate Cinco de Mayo the right way – with plenty of delicious margaritas. Cheers!

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3 SUMMERTIME LEMONADE RECIPES

Lemonade is the perfect combination of sweet and tart, making it just the right refreshment to reach for when you’re looking to quench your thirst. There’s just nothing better than taking that first big swig of ice cold lemonade when you’re outside enjoying a hot day. But classic lemonade — a simple combination of lemon juice, sugar, and water — is really just the starting point for so many exciting summer lemonade recipes.

I realize that sometimes simple is perfect. I love a three-ingredient recipe myself, but when you’re ready to add a little flair and have a few friends over to celebrate all that beautiful sunshine, adding a boozy element to that simple lemonade makes things much more fun!

So why go for plain lemonade when you can add a few simple ingredients and take that classic lemonade up a notch? I’ve come up with a few quick summer lemonade recipes that still provide the cooling refreshment of lemonade while surprising your guests with a beautiful burst of flavor.

Let’s get things started for all you DIYers out there. Here’s the recipe for a classic lemonade to use as a base for the following cocktail and mocktail or to simply enjoy on its own.

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GIDGET’S CLASSIC LEMONADE
Making a batch of lemonade is just the thing for adding the perfect level of summer to picnics and backyard BBQs alike. Having a pitcher on hand in the fridge means that fresh lemony flavor is just a glass away, so mix up a batch of this classic lemonade and get ready for some summer drinks.

INGREDIENTS ::
Note: The bonus of making your own lemonade is you can control the level of sweetness — or tartness — by adding more lemons or sugar to your liking.

  • 1-1/2 cups freshly-squeezed lemon juice (from about 12+ lemons, I prefer Meyer lemons)
  • 1-3/4 cups sugar
  • 8 cups water
  • Lemon slices to garnish

HOW TO MAKE IT ::

  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup of water.
  2. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Cool mixture to room temperature.
  4. In pitcher, stir together cooled syrup, lemon juice, and remaining 7 cups of water.
  5. Before serving, add lemon to garnish and plenty of ice.

A SUNSHINE DAY LEMONADE COCKTAIL

It's a SUNSHINE DAY!

It’s a SUNSHINE DAY!

There’s nothing like lemonade in the middle of the day or to kickstart your early evening dinner party with friends. A sweet and sour classic lemonade is mighty tasty indeed and while it’s is great on its own, a little jigger or two of flavor-enhancing liquor certainly doesn’t hurt (and gets your party rolling). This sophisticated cocktail owes its flavor pop to a combo of elderflower liquor and Italian limoncello. Bellissimo!

TOOLS :: Cocktail shaker, jigger
GLASS :: Stemless champagne flute or stemless wine glass
EXTRAS :: Lemon twist
SERVINGS ::  2 cocktails

INGREDIENTS :: 

  • 4 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces classic lemonade (above) or fresh, purchased lemonade
  • 2 ounces St. Germain elderflower liquor
  • 1 ounces Limoncello
  • Club soda
  • Optional: Juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon

HOW TO MAKE IT ::

  1. Fill each glass to the top with ice and add lemon twist.
  2. In ice-filled cocktail shaker, add remaining ingredients except club soda.
  3. Shake well to mix all ingredients and distribute between glasses.
  4. Top with club soda and stir to combine.

I LOVE BLUEBERRIES! MOCKTAIL

Here’s a non-alcoholic twist on the classic lemonade that will make the non-drinkers at your party feel loved. It’s time to build a drink that looks just as beautiful and specially prepared as its boozy counterpart. Made with an easy blueberry simple syrup, this summer lemonade recipe brings tangy, sweet, and refreshing together in a trifecta of summer wonder. The perfect way to cool yourself down on a hot day!

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TOOLS ::  Saucepan, fine wire sieve, jigger
GLASS :: Collins or highball
EXTRAS :: Lemon wheels and blueberries for garnish
SERVINGS :: 4 cocktails

INGREDIENTS :: 

  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup classic lemonade (above) or fresh, purchased lemonade
  • 1 can of San Pellegrino Limonata sparkling lemon beverage
  • Lots of ice!
  • Lemons cut into wheels

HOW TO MAKE IT ::
Blueberry Simple Syrup 

  1. Combine first three ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium until sugar dissolves.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce heat.
  3. Simmer until blueberries have broken down, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Strain blueberries through a fine wire sieve to remove solids.
  5. Set syrup aside and let cool. Keep any leftover syrup chilled in your refrigerator for up to one month. 

Blueberry Lemonade 

  1. Fill each glass halfway with ice and add lemon wheels. Once lemons are inserted, fill rest of the glass with ice.
  2. Add 1 ounce of blueberry syrup to each glass.
  3. Add lemonade or lemon juice to within 1 1/2-2 inches from the top of each glass.
  4. Top with San Pellegrino Limonata sparking lemon (or club soda or lemon-flavored sparkling water).
  5. Stir to combine and garnish with blueberries.

Spike it! This cocktail would pair wonderfully with either some citrus vodka or gin, so if you want to turn up the fun a little on this recipe, simply add 1 1/2 oz of either spirit after you add the blueberry syrup!

 

TIPSY ARNOLD PALMER ~ A SUMMERTIME CLASSIC

Have you ever noticed that as soon as summer hits, most things in life become less complicated? Life in the summer simply slows down a bit. Meals during the summer equate to anything quick on the BBQ, grilled veggies and a salad. Summer simplicity even takes over my wardrobe. I just reach for that light and flowing summer dress, slip on my jazzy sandals and I’m out the door, ready for the day.

Even when our family schedule boasts errands and to-do lists, there’s always an undercurrent of an upcoming vacation to calm me, or the promise of summer evenings that go on forever that beckon me back into that slower summertime pace.

For those uncomplicated summer get-togethers and impromptu afternoons on the front porch watching the sunset, I’ve got a drink for you that partners well with the effortless mood of the season. Enter the Arnold Palmer, a classic cocktail made by combining equal parts of tea and lemonade with ice.

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While I think we can safely say that the combination of lemon and tea have been enjoyed for centuries, it was golfing great Arnold Palmer who made the mixture famous during the 1960s and we’ve been enjoying his namesake ever since. When you think about it, there’s nothing better to quench your thirst and cool you down more than either ice tea or lemonade so combining the two is sheer genius!

Even though it’s tough to enhance a true classic like iced tea or the Arnold Palmer, I’m going to add a little booze to the mix for a truly delicious — and simple — summer cocktail that you can have at the ready to enjoy on one of those awesome summer evenings.

TIPSY ARNOLD PALMER

Get started by making your Arnold Palmer base of tea and lemonade. Once you’ve got these key ingredients made and chilling in the fridge, simply grab a glass, add a little booze and you’re ready any time for celebrating or just satisfying that summertime thirst. Besides, I think spiked tea is the best tea of all!

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TOOLS ::  Saucepan for boiling, measuring cups, pitcher for chilling and muddler
GLASS ::  Mason jar in any size
EXTRAS :: Oranges, lemons (make wheels, wedges, or spirals) and mint for garnish
SERVINGS ::  1 pitcher

INGREDIENTS ::
Iced tea
6 cups water
8 bags of black tea
1/2 cup sweetening agent (honey, turbinado sugar, crystals, or granulated sugar)

Lemonade
The bonus of making your own lemonade is you can control the level of sweetness — or tartness — by adding more lemons or sugar to your liking. If you’re short on time and just want to get your party started, a good quality pre-made lemonade is perfect!
For all you DIY’ers out there, check out our Classic Gidget+LaRue Lemonade, check out our recipe HERE.

For each cocktail
1.5 ounces Wild Turkey American Honey Bourbon

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HOW TO MAKE IT ::
Iced tea
 – Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
– Remove from heat, add tea bags and let steep for 5-10 minutes.
– Remove tea bags and add sweetening agent of your choice, stirring until dissolved.
– Taste for your desired level of sweetness, adding sweetener until you’re happy with the       flavor and set aside.

Tipsy Arnold Palmer
 – In a pitcher, combine equal parts of sweetened tea and lemonade and let chill for at least 1 hour or refrigerate overnight. Stir again before serving.
– Garnish pitcher with citrus slices.
– Place a few slices of lemon and orange in bottom of each cocktail glass and muddle gently to release flavors of citrus.
– Add bourbon and fill glass to top with ice.
– Fill glass with Arnold Palmer tea/lemonade mixture and give it a good stir.
– Garnish with mint and additional citrus.

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TIP :: The “Vodka Hack”

If you aren’t willing to dive into the sweet deliciousness that is Wild Turkey American Honey Bourbon (even though I really think you should try this!), you can always keep your tipsy Arnold Palmer more on the lemony side of things by using only lemons and Citrus Vodka instead of the oranges and bourbon.

This version keeps the flavor very refreshing and you’ll be amazed at how you can’t even tell you’re drinking spiked tea!

TIP #2 :: The “Life is Busy Hack”

While making fresh lemonade and black iced tea will make this cocktail epic, sometimes we need to embrace the simplicity of summer and cut some corners to keep life easy.

I found Arizona Sweet Tea in jugs at the dollar store nearby and when added to some store-bought lemonade, it did the trick in a pinch.

The mixture will certainly be sweeter than making your own tea and lemonade, but you can balance that out with fresh lemons and oranges muddled into the drink or added to your chilled pitcher.

FOR THE LOVE OF CANDY ~ SKITTLES VODKA IN 5 STEPS

As the weather starts to tease us with spring flowers and warm sunshine, I decided to create a tasty Easter brunch cocktail for you. While the kids have their baskets in hand, searching frantically for colorful Easter eggs hidden between blades of grass and the occasional flower pot, it’s cocktail time for the grown-ups! Where there’s Easter brunch, there are delicious beverages that abound…and we’re not just talking about bubbly Mimosas. This year for your Easter brunch, we’ve decided to take it up a notch on the fun meter and let’s just say there’s candy involved. Add a little vodka and what we have is the perfect brunch cocktail bar – a self-serve Skittles Vodka station! With a little planning ahead, Skittles Vodka brings all the colors of Spring right to your table.

TASTE THE RAINBOW – 5 STEPS to SKITTLES VODKA
When you think of Easter treats, it’s classic candies that often come to mind, like chocolate bunnies or Peeps. For the adults at your celebration, a brightly hued cocktail could also be considered a special treat and nothing beats a frozen bottle of Skittle-fruit-infused vodka. You’ll need to plan 2 days in advance to make your Skittles Vodka, but with only 2 ingredients and a little patience, you will be thrilled with the results. Let’s get started!

TOOLS ::
5 – 8.5 oz glass bottles or flasks with seals – I found mine at The Container Store online
5 cups for separating each Skittle color
Small funnel
Cone coffee filters – 10-20 filters depending on how much you want to strain
Mason jars for straining

INGREDIENTS ::
1.75L bottle Vodka – you don’t need the most expensive vodka, but stay away from the cheap ones
2 large bags of Skittles

STEP ONE

STEP ONE

STEP ONE :: Prep and Organize
Organizing your table with all tools and ingredients ahead of time is essential. Make sure you’ve pre-washed all your bottles or flasks ahead of time. You may want to cover the area in paper because things can get a little sticky. Be sure everything you need is right at hand and things will go quickly.

STEP TWO

STEP TWO

STEP TWO :: Separate your Skittle Flavors
Pour all your Skittles onto the table and start separating them into individual colors. Place each color into it’s own container to keep them from rolling all over the place. You’ll need about 50-60 Skittles per 8.5 oz. bottle.

STEP THREE

STEP THREE

STEP THREE :: Add Skittles and Vodka to Bottles
Place each color of Skittles into it’s own bottle. Using the small funnel, pour vodka into each bottle, within about a half inch or more from the top. You want to leave a little room at the top so don’t fill it all the way.  You should now have 5 bottles with Skittles soaking in the bottom. Give each bottle a good shake and you’ll see the color quickly present itself. You’ll let these bottles sit overnight for the best flavor infusion. Every few hours, make sure to give each bottle a really good shake to help the Skittles dissolve. I shook mine about 4-5 times each to really activate that color and flavor.

STEP FOUR

STEP FOUR

STEP FOUR :: Straining
Here’s where you’re going to need the most time and patience. Your Skittles infusion will now have a bunch of white gunk floating at the top of the bottle from the inside of the Skittles. We need to strain this out, so grab your Mason jar or other cup along with the coffee filters. Fit the coffee filter onto the jar and wrap excess filter around edge to secure. Pour fluid from each color into a jar, through the filter. You’ll have to wait as the infusion soaks through, then pour another bit in until all the liquid has been filtered. If the filter clogs with the white gunk, use a spoon to scrape it away or simply change the filter to a new one (that’s what I did). You can filter out the white Skittles gunk twice if you’d like it to be more clear and if you have the time, I recommend this. Now you’ve got 5 bottles of Skittles infused vodka!

STEP FIVE :: Freeze and Serve
First things first – get those bottles in the freezer! You’ll want to chill these until you’re ready to serve and since vodka doesn’t freeze, you’re fine placing directly in the freezer. Now it’s time to set up your Easter Skittles Vodka Bar. Since the sweetness of the Skittles vodka carries quite a powerful flavor punch, the best way to serve this cocktail – and stay oh-so calorie conscience – is to simply add Club Soda!

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Set the scene for your self-serve bar with a shot glass (for measuring a shot of vodka per drink), a bin of ice, plenty of tall glasses and some Club Soda and you’re ready to go. Guests will love picking their favorite Skittles flavor for their cocktail and trust me…they’ll be coming back for more taste testing as the Easter festivities continue!

BONUS ROUND!
If you’re not hosting an Easter brunch yourself, Skittles Vodka makes a great hostess gift! Simply add a nice hang tag (we got these from The Container Store) with a personalize note and your hostess will be thrilled at your thoughtfulness.

The perfect hostess gift!

The perfect hostess gift!

Get your bunny ears and Easter bonnets ready, as Easter is fast approaching! If you’re ready to put in about 2 days of planning and preparation, you can “wow!” your family and friends with this colorful and tasty treat. So between the egg hunts and filling all those Easter baskets for the kids, it’s important to remember to have some adult treats, too — cocktails included!

MY GOODNESS, MY GUINNESS – AN IRISH MILKSHAKE!

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, I can’t help but mentally flip through visions of the many quintessential St. Patrick’s Day icons. Think Leprechauns and corned beef and cabbage served on menus throughout town. Think mugs of green beer and shots of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey along with “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirt-clad friends. Yes, March is here and it’s time to celebrate all things green, Irish and festive so we’re presenting a drink you’ll soon add to your annual St. Patty’s Day party line-up – a Guinness Stout Milkshake. The best-known of Irish beers, Guinness is a dry stout beer that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness in 1759 at St. James Gate, Dublin. And while there are stories and even books written about how to properly enjoy a Guinness (including the science of perfecting the perfect pour into a pint glass!), we’ve found a way to build on this beauty of a beer by making it into a milkshake worthy of even the King of all Leprechauns! Enter Jameson’s Irish Whiskey and some chocolate ice cream and this beloved Irish beer enters a whole new level of St. Patrick’s Day greatness. This milkshake is easy to construct with only 3 ingredients, it’s delicious and as soon as you make it for your friends everyone will be asking for the recipe!

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GUINNESS STOUT MILKSHAKE

TOOLS :: Blender
GLASS :: Pint glass
EXTRAS :: Canned whip cream and dark chocolate syrup for garnish
SERVINGS :: 2 milkshakes
INGREDIENTS::
4 cups Chocolate (or vanilla) ice cream
2 shots Jameson’s Irish Whiskey
1 bottle Guinness Irish Stout

HOW TO MAKE IT :: Add all ingredients to blender in the order listed above. Blend until smooth. Pour contents into pint glasses. Garnish with swirl of whipped cream and ribbon of chocolate syrup.

As you and your friends happily sip away at this delicious Irish treat, you can impress your friends further by explaining to them that not only is Guinness beer famous worldwide (it’s served in 150 countries), but it’s also the reason the Guinness Book of World Records exists! The idea for a “book of records” began in the early 1950s when Sir Hugh Beaver, the Managing Director for the Guinness Brewery created the very first book and provided it as an advertising promotional item to pubs that served Guinness beer! The first edition of the book even carried the historic “Guinness Irish Harp” logo on its cover, much like every bottle of Guinness displays to this day.

So feel free to proudly sport that “Kiss Me, I’m Irish!” t-shirt this year and impress your friends with a little Guinness Stout history and an amazing Irish Milkshake that will make you re-think ever reaching for another green beer on St. Pat’s Day!

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CELEBRATE SUPER BOWL 50 SAN FRANCISCO STYLE!

Looking for a big game cocktail to serve at your Super Bowl party? The San Francisco Bay Area is host to this epic 50 year NFL celebration, so we thought we’d take some inspiration from the City by the Bay and it’s storied cocktail history to bring you a local cocktail that everyone will love! The city’s Barbary Coast played host to many a gold miner looking to strike it rich during the Gold Rush in the mid-1800’s and bartenders in the area used the exotic ingredients coming into San Francisco’s port to invent new drinks. There are at least 5 cocktails known to have been invented in San Francisco Bay Area bars.

The list of cocktails reads much like a favorite bar menu and includes such classics as the Martini (invented in Martinez, north of San Francisco), Pisco Punch and the ever-famous Mai Tai. It’s true! This legend of a cocktail was created by Victor Bergeron, aka Trader Vic. Trader Vic’s original bar was in Oakland, a Bay Area city. And when it comes right down to it, who doesn’t love a Mai Tai?! This cocktail is so darn tasty and is the perfect crowd pleaser for a party like the Super Bowl. To play up the 50-year NFL celebration we’re going to add a touch of gold and twist the name a bit, but the deliciousness of this drink will not disappoint.

You'll score extra points with your guests when you serve up this cocktail!

You’ll score extra points with your guests when you serve up this cocktail!

THE EXTRA POINT
No paper umbrellas or tiki mugs needed here – go simple with some mint and a glittering gold rim for the perfect Super Bowl 50 party drink.

TOOLS :: Cocktail shaker
GLASS :: Collins
EXTRAS :: Gold sanding sugar, lime wheel and mint for garnish
SERVINGS :: 2 cocktails
INGREDIENTS ::

  • 2 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 4 oz. Aged Rum or Dark Rum
  • 1 oz. Orgeat syrup (otherwise known as Almond syrup ~ Torani’s is great)
  • 1 oz. Orange Curacao
  • 1/2 oz. Simple Syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
  • Lots of ice!

HOW TO MAKE IT :: Add ice to shaker. Add all liquid ingredients. Shake it like you mean it! You need to really blend those ingredients together, so shake for about a minute. Pour shaker contents into cocktail glass without straining. Garnish with lime wheel and mint sprig.

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Start making a little party history for yourself and serve this pitcher-style with a line up of pre-garnished glasses and you’ll be “cheering” all the way into the 4th quarter! Simply multiply the ingredients for the number of guests you’ll be serving, keep the mixture chilled until needed and place the ice in a bucket next to your glasses. Guests can make their own cocktails and you can enjoy the game.

If you’re in charge of hosting a SB50 viewing party this year and need some amazing food, check out our TheGoodStuff article HERE. We collaborated with TheGoodStuff to create a cocktail party worthy of this big event so check it out because we’ve got your menu all planned out for you!

LAST MINUTE HALLOWEEN PARTY MENU – PUMPKIN BEER

Too busy to worry about mixers and fancy garnishes for your Halloween libation menu? Save time and stay oh-so trendy by embracing the wide range of Pumpkin Craft Beer available this season. Keep it simple because sometimes nothing beats an ice cold beer served in a chilled glass and with a quick shopping spree to your local store you’ll find plenty to choose from. Released as seasonal fall beers by many breweries, there’s quite a selection of Pumpkin Beer {from ales, to IPAs to stouts} that all taste amazing and easily fit into your Halloween theme. Grab several varieties to provide your guests the chance to dip into the craft beer phenomenon while keeping things simple for your hostess duties. Packed with pumpkin pie spices like ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves, Pumpkin Beers are typically mild, with little to no bitterness so they are destined to please both craft beer aficionados and newcomers alike.DSC_0287

Ice-up the inside of a pumpkin for a little extra Halloween flare!

Ice-up the inside of a pumpkin for a little extra Halloween flare!

LABOR DAY PARTY IDEA ~ THROW AN END OF SUMMER BASH!

I have mixed emotions about the end of summer. While I’m going to miss the warm nights and long days with family and friends, I do look forward to the Labor Day holiday as a time to transition into that fall state of mind. Although I’m not quite ready to turn in my summer sandals for tall black boots, I am ready to embrace the last weeks of summer the right way by launching into the Labor Day holiday and throwing an End of Summer cocktail party!

With delicious food, refreshing drinks, and good company, everyone loves a great party. But how do you make sure your end of summer cocktail party is truly great? I think throwing a picnic-style party extends the casual feeling of summer for all your guests. From there you’ll need a fantastic cocktail (or three!), some entertainment to keep your guests mingling and amused, and one final surprise to send them all home smiling. Check out the article we wrote for TheGoodStuff to see how to easy it can be!

As always, we think it’s fun to start off with the cocktail menu, so here’s a great way for you to have a little fun pumping up the patriotic theme for the Labor Day holiday. Everyone loves a good cocktail, and what a better way to get your party started then by offering them three delicious drinks to choose from?

Mason jar cocktails in red, white & blue? 'Merica!

Mason jar cocktails in red, white & blue? ‘Merica!

Pre-mix each cocktail and place them in Mason jars (you can use the 8-ounce size) so have time to enjoy mingling with your guests. With a simple, hand-drawn sign, a stack of lime wedges, and a bucket of ice you’re ready to celebrate in red, white, and blue style! Your guests simply grab a jar with their libation of choice, remove the cap, and add some ice and a lime wedge. Voila, cocktails are served!

Recipes below and ingredients listed are per cocktail.

Red Cosmo

  • 2 ounces citrus vodka (regular vodka works fine, too)
  • 1 ounce Cointreau or Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 1/2 ounces cranberry juice

White Gin & Tonic

  • 2 ounces quality gin
  • 5 ounces tonic (I love Schweppes or Fever Tree)
  • Juice from one wedge of fresh lime

Blue Margarita

  • 3 ounces silver tequila
  • 1 ounce blue Curaçao
  • 1 1/2 ounces fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau or Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup

As the carefree days and warm nights of summer come to a close, let everyone enter into fall with wonderful memories of an afternoon spent with friends enjoying the warmer weather and a few cocktails. There will be smiles all around!

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BUILD YOUR OWN BLOODY MARY BAR

We love a cocktail party and quite frankly Bloody Mary’s are one of our favorite classic cocktails. So why not marry the two? You see, not only do we love Bloody Mary’s because you get away with drinking an amazing cocktail during the daylight hours (no judging here), but we also love that you can add all kinds of delicious, savory and salty mini-appetizers right into your drink! Since Bloody Mary’s provide the perfect opportunity to host a brunch cocktail party, we thought it time to provide a DIY bar with all the key ingredients for you to enjoy this true classic and show off your hostess skills.  Behold: the Bloody Mary Bar.

The secret to a great Bloody Mary Bar is having a lot of options for your guests to choose from. We’ve compiled a list of ingredients we think are essential (and a lot of fun) to setting up the perfect bar. Since everyone likes their brunch cocktail a little differently, you can pick and choose your favorite ingredients to customize your bar to reflect your own personal style.

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Juice
A prepared tomato juice makes it simple to serve Bloody Mary’s to a crowd. We think it’s important to choose a quality juice with good ingredients like real tomatoes, horseradish and spices for the best flavor. If you’re feeling adventurous enough to mix the Bloody Mary juice from scratch, you’ll need a few essentials like lemon and lime juice, horseradish, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix everything together in a pitcher, and keep it simple; a basic mix makes an ideal starting point for guests, who can add their favorite flavorings from your bar. We provided one basic version and another pre-spiced version for that extra kick! Since juice is a major part of any Bloody Mary Bar, feel free to play around with V8, Clamato juice (using Clamato makes this a Bloody Caesar!) or other tomato-based concoctions.

Booze
BloodyMaryBoozeMost people instantly think Vodka when they order a Bloody Mary. While this traditional take on this cocktail is fine, don’t rule out other liquors to experiment with. First on the list: Tequila! This version is called a Bloody Maria and it’s delicious. The benefit of building your own bar is that you can put out any base spirit you’d like. Got Gin? Gin works great with Bloody Mary’s. Hot Pepper Vodka? Try it! Think of it as science with tomato juice! Bar set-up tip: be sure to put a shot glass next to each bottle you choose.

Glass Rimming Spices
Everyone knows you need ground pepper on hand for your Bloody Mary Bar, but there is a world of wonderful spices just waiting to perk up your cocktail. Many people love adding Celery Salt to their BM, and we’ve fallen in love with rimming our glass with Old Bay Seasoning which adds a spicy yet smoky touch to every sip. If you want to go classic, make sure to plate up some kosher salt so those salt crystals are nice and chunky.

Spice-It-Up Sauces
A group of delicious hot sauces at the end of your Bloody Mary Bar is a way to help guests enjoy adding that final personal accent on their creation. A group of sauces that range from mild to fiery hot gives everyone the chance to experiment and build a cocktail that meets their spicy preference. Tabasco is an all-time favorite and Worcestershire sauce is simply a must have. From there you can have fun adding any hot sauce that suits your fancy.

Fresh Veggies & Citrus
We’ve seen every vegetable under the sun in a Bloody Mary Bar, but we think Bloody Mary’s simply need a little citrus. It’s an essential element that adds the right balance to the drink. We think the more the merrier (pun intended!) so be sure to have lots of lovely lemon and lime wedges on hand for that essential zing! Another classic and essential Bloody Mary element is the celery stick. Not only do they look beautiful grouped together on your bar, but they provide each cocktail with a fresh swizzle stick! Carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes and cucumber wheels are other great additions.

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Pickled Goodies
Take a peek at the photos above for a few ideas on how to stock your BMB with some fun pickled and marinated garnishes that will bring any cocktail to life. Classic items start with cocktail olives and onions, then expand into other varieties like pepperoncinis, roasted peppers, pickled asparagus or even pickled green beans. Let your imagination run free on items in this category because almost anything pickled – we love pickled ochre for example – will work with your Bloody Mary.

Meats & Fish
This is where you can get a little adventurous with your Bloody Mary Bar garnishes. Bacon swizzles are all the rage right now along with pepperoni sticks. We think any way to add bacon to a cocktail is worth trying, so we sprinkled ours with some brown sugar before grilling and highly recommend the combination. For the Bloody Maria, sliced chorizo sausage is a perfect compliment to the tequila. From there you can add in rolled proscuitto, boiled shrimp and steamed oysters to give your BMB the full gambit of protein and flavor.

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FINISHING TOUCHES – Now that you’ve got your shopping list of ingredients lined up, there are a few other things to consider to make your Bloody Mary Bar absolutely top notch fabulous!

Signage
Let’s face it – not everyone knows how to mix a good cocktail. Providing a little direction so guests can easily mix their own cocktail keeps the conversation entertaining and helps guide even a rookie mixologist. We used an old frame and a water-based paint marker to help our guests follow the Bloody Mary making process and the sign became the backdrop for our table so it doubled as decoration! 

Glassware
To serve your cocktails, you don’t need to set the bar up with fancy large glasses that require a lot of juice and ice to fill them. In fact, given how much people will enjoy making their Bloody Mary’s and adding all those custom garnishes, you might consider a glass that’s no bigger than an Old Fashioned. It’s the perfect size and everyone will want to come back for seconds so this controls portion sizes.

Gidget_BloodyMary_Garnish2Serving Containers
When it comes to providing vessels for your pickled goodies and veggies, think mid-size containers. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on containers for your Bloody Mary Bar, but unifying them with a color or shape helps to showcase the ingredients. Have some fun thinking outside the box and get creative with your containers. We hit up our local thrift store and found these glass containers for a dollar a piece and they worked great!

Ice
You’re going to need quite a bit of ice for all those cocktails your guests will be making! Set up a fancy ice bucket and ice scooper next to your glassware for a special touch. Be ready to keep an eye on the ice and keep it filled at all times. We recommend a few extra bags of ice in your freezer for quick and easy refills.

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Bloody Mary’s are a classic cocktail meant to be enjoyed at a brunch with friends, but who wants to worry about making cocktail after cocktail when each one requires a bit of tinkering to satisfy the flavor preference of each guest? Solve this conundrum without running yourself ragged and still make sure everyone gets a drink they’ll love! Follow the guidelines above and build a memorable Bloody Mary Bar. Your friends will have a blast mixing and customizing their cocktails and they’ll have you to thank!

REFRESHING + DELICIOUS WATERMELON COCKTAIL

Today is National Watermelon Day! It’s true — there’s a day dedicated to celebrating the amazing qualities of this luscious summer fruit. What is it about watermelon that makes it simultaneously cooling, refreshing and thirst-quenching all at the same time? We just love it!

There’s something about this wonderfully juicy fruit that seems to conjure up memories of backyard BBQs and picnics in the park. With these joyous feelings surrounding this summer fruit, we decided it was time to dream up a new watermelon cocktail recipe. Now you can shake up a few drinks, get your summer smile on and create a few more happy (watermelon) memories.

Juicy sweet and irresistibly fresh, watermelon juice is like pouring summer into a glass. This easy seasonal sipper features fresh-muddled watermelon combined with Limoncello, fresh lemons, vodka, and a hint of orange to provide a concoction ideal for sipping your way through a summer afternoon.

Watermelon Cocktails are like summer in a frosted glass!

Watermelon Cocktails are like summer in a frosted glass!

GIDGET’S WATERMELON COOLER

TOOLS: Cocktail shaker, muddler, fine mesh sieve
GLASS: Collins
EXTRAS: Watermelon ball and lemon wheel for garnish
SERVINGS: 2 cocktails

INGREDIENTS

4 oz. vodka
4 oz. fresh watermelon juice
1 3/4 oz. Limoncello
1 3/4 oz. Grand Marnier
Juice from 1 lemon (in a pinch for fresh lemons? You can sub a good scoop of frozen lemonade concentrate)

HOW TO MAKE IT:

Cut about 1 cup of fresh watermelon into chunks and place into cocktail shaker. Using muddler, press to make juice. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a cup, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Once juice is made, assemble all ingredients into an ice-filled shaker. Shake it like you mean it, then strain into ice-filled glasses. Garnish, serve and enjoy!

COCKTAILS FOR A CROWD ~ A SANGRIA ADVENTURE!

Ahhh it’s finally time…summertime is right around the corner and the entertaining season is upon us. What a better way to spend some time soaking up that extra Vitamin D than to gather with friends and family outdoors and throw a party? As the days get warmer and the sun burns brighter, nothing welcomes the season like an ice-cold cocktail, but serving cocktails to a crowd can burden you with mixing cocktails vs. mingling with guests. So we have the perfect crowd-pleasing—and summer loving—cocktail plan. SANGRIA!

Sangria is the Spanish name for a sugar-sweetened wine and fruit cocktail. Rumored to be first introduced to the US at the 1964 World’s Fair, Sangrias are a seasonal favorite for spring and summer, which is why they are a great choice for outdoor grilling and parties.
The fun part about Sangria is that there are endless combinations of wine and fruit for you to choose from. Feel like peaches? There’s a Sangria for that! How about apples + oranges and a little lemon? There’s a Sangria for that, too!

Better yet, Sangrias are meant to be made ahead of time, saving you prep time on party day. To get you started, we’ve created a simple and light white wine Sangria, with some ideas for fun presentation.

Let’s get this party started!

DECORATIVE ICE

Sangria is made in batches so you need a lot of ice to cool the large volume of liquid. To add in a fun and functional element to your Sangria, consider putting a little time into making a decorative ice mold to keep things stylish and cool! We love Tovolo’s Sphere Ice Molds as the perfect accent to your Sangria. Adding citrus pieces to the slow melting 2.5” sphere brings out the added flavor of your cocktail as it melts. With just three easy steps you’re on your way to beautiful ice!

Gidget_Ice1Step One:

Select the fruit you’ll use in your Sangria. Lemons and oranges are great choices, as are a few limes. Slice your citrus fruit thinly and set aside. Try a citrus peeler for a long strand of lemon or orange.

Gidget_Ice2Step Two:

Arrange fruit inside of the mold. You can wedge pieces into the mold or curl the citrus strand and place into sphere. Slowly pour water into mold up to the fill line and cover. Freeze overnight.

 

 

Gidget_Ice3Step Three:

Run molds under warm water to release and place into bowl. Keep in freezer until ready to add to your Sangria.

 

 

 

ENDLESS SUMMER SANGRIA
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Now that you’ve got your ice made, this Sangria is ideal for a crowd and makes for a delicious and memorable party drink. For our wine we went with a Sauvignon Blanc, a wine often described as crisp, elegant, and fresh. Add a little brandy and other summer-loving fruits and your guests will polish off every last drop. Cheers to an Endless Summer!

TOOLS :: Pitcher, large stirring spoon, strainer + punch bowl or beverage dispenser
GLASS :: Highball
EXTRAS :: large ice cubes {they minimize melting} and fruit for garnish
SERVINGS :: 15-20 cocktails

INGREDIENTS
1.5L bottle Sauvignon Blanc
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. Brandy {We used Christian Brothers Honey Brandy}
1/2 c. Triple Sec
1/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice {Meyer lemons}
1-2 thinly sliced apples
1-2 thinly sliced oranges
1 thinly sliced lemon
1 1/2 c. Club Soda

Pour wine and sugar into pitcher and stir to combine until sugar dissolves. Add Brandy, Triple Sec and fruit juices and stir to combine. Add apples and oranges only and chill mixture overnight. Make garnishes and set aside. Just before serving, add lemons and club soda, stirring to combine mixture. Pour mixture and fruit into ice-filled beverage dispenser. Provide ice and glasses. Stir Sangria every hour to ensure flavors combine.

Your fancy-schmancy ice spheres look just amazing as they chill your Endless Summer Sangria!

Your fancy-schmancy ice spheres look just amazing as they chill your Endless Summer Sangria!

OLD HOLLYWOOD COCKTAILS FOR YOUR OSCAR PARTY

From red carpet interviews and designer ball gowns to acceptance speeches and parties, the Academy Awards are hard to resist watching. And we’ve found that the best way to enjoy the show is with a bunch of friends and, of course, a delicious cocktail in hand.

While any good cocktail will do, we’ve discovered a number of recipes that are inspired by classic movie stars. We’ve done some research on the Golden Age of Hollywood and its classic cocktails. Who knew the French 75 played a role in Casablanca?! This year, elevate your Oscars viewing party by mixing up one of these delicious old Hollywood cocktails and raise a glass to all the nominees — and Neil Patrick Harris! Lights, camera, cheers!

With such glamour and history, we think the best salute to 87 years of the Academy warrants an elegant martini bar for your awards party. With recipe cards and the simplest of ingredients, your guests will be shaking & stirring their way into Hollywood’s Golden Age in no time. To learn all about the movies in which these delish martinis played a starring role, and for more cocktail + movie trivia, visit our latest article HERE.

With just a few simple ingredients and some instruction signs your guests will be mixing and shaking away!

With just a few simple ingredients and some instruction signs your guests will be mixing and shaking away!

For all Martinis:
Tools: Cocktail shaker, ice, strainer & garnishes. Recipe cards for instructions (optional)

Gibson Martini

  • 2 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • Splash of dry vermouth (use the bottle’s cap, fill halfway and add)
  • Cocktail onion

Shake with ice and strain into glass. Garnish with pearl onion.

Classic Martini

  • 2-1/2 oz. Vodka
  • Splash of dry vermouth (use the bottle’s cap, fill halfway and add)
  • Twist of lemon rind

Shake with ice and strain into glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Dirty Martini

  • 2 oz. Vodka
  • Splash of dry vermouth  {use the bottle’s cap, fill halfway and add}
  • 1/2 oz. olive juice from jar
  • 1-3 green cocktail olives

Shake with ice and strain into glass. Garnish with two olives.

Here’s a printable PDF of the martini signs. We backed them with black glittery paper found at the craft store to give them a bit more ‘umph’!

OscarMartiniBarSigns