5 Steps to THE GREAT PUMPKIN BEER Tasting Party

With Halloween being on a Monday this year, I couldn’t help but think of a way to enjoy the season with a good group of my friends without the mayhem of a full blown Halloween costume party. While I always love a good party, I wanted to find a way to gather friends but take the stress of party planning down a notch. Good news is that I found just the thing and I’m here for you! Think of it this way – everyone is talking about PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) season, but I say move over PSL – there’s Pumpkin Beer to enjoy! I know you’ve seen the amazing selection of bottles with orange and fall-hued labels calling from the shelves at BevMo and Costco – Pumpkin beers are out in force! To host this fun night in, all you need is a variety of seasonal brews, some festive snacks and good company! So grab your favorite beer drinking friends and some Pumpkin brews and host a fun tasting party with these easy tips. Here is how to throw a bewitching beer bash.

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STEP ONE :: Set the Scene
Have some fun and enjoy a little seasonal DIY’ing to set the scene for your party. A beer-tasting table should be minimal frills and all fun, so think of this like a visit to a local pub with a bit of personal flair. A rustic wood table topped with a simple burlap runner lays the foundation, while the pumpkin beer bottles and food double as both refreshments and centerpieces. Add a few mini pumpkins, some fall-inspired picks and you’re good to go.

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STEP TWO :: Everything (and everyone) in place
Give everyone a reason to join the table by adding your guests’ names above each place setting. This personalized touch can help you mix up the crowd by dictating seat assignments while also providing a nice take-away gift at the end of the evening. Set casual quilted mason jars at each place setting to keep the vibe easy going. You can use either the 8 oz. size or the 4 oz. sized jars for this event. With the holidays coming up we’ll be providing lots of ways to reuse either size for homemade holiday gifts so pick a size you’re comfortable using and it will work great.

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STEP THREE :: Tap into fall-inspired brews

gidgetpumpkinbeergroup3gidgetpumpkinbeergroup2Since this party is all about the beer, make sure to have some fun and gather at least six or up to eight pumpkin beer varieties. I found that to ensure your guests have fun experimenting with different styles of pumpkin beers I wanted to represent the broad spectrum of lagers, ales, ciders and stouts. The world of beer is booming and most large scale beer companies and micro brewers alike are brewing seasonal beer, you don’t have to understand the difference between a bock and a pale ale in order to throw a great pumpkin beer party. I asked the staff at BevMo and our local Whole Foods Market to give me a variety of beers and they came through with flying colors! Even our local Costco supplied 3 of the amazing beers shown here. What you’re looking for are beers that range in color and variety so have some fun with the selection process and your guests will follow. One essential rule of thumb: beer should be served cold, so keep them in the fridge until ready for tasting.

STEP FOUR :: Get ready to load your plate after some tasting!
Now that your beer menu is ready to go, you need to focus on some simple appetizers to serve to keep your guests from getting too hungry (or a little too tipsy!) during your event. Standard issue snack for beer tasting would of course be pretzels for starters. You can buy pretzel sticks, pretzel twists and even pretzel buns if you want to get fancy. Keep in mind that mustard will impact the flavor of the beer, so keep it simple with your pretzel of choice to keep your guest’s palate clear.

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STEP FIVE ::  Pumpkin beer party time – document the fun!
Now that the party is set and the fun is ready to begin, it’s important to help guests document their thoughts and preferences by providing them with a place to write their tasting notes. I just loved these paper place settings which allow guest to pick the top 4 beers they want to try and write in the name for themselves. I found mine here: http://www.hesterandcook.com/products/KP225 . I worked with TheGoodStuff to create this awesome beer tasting template which is available for download HERE, or simply provide guests with a cute mini notebook for them to use to write down thoughts on each beer. After the party is over, guests can take home their notebook as a fun (and useful!) favor along with their nameplate.

To get the party and the conversation moving, encourage your guests to sample multiple types of beer, starting on the lighter end with pilsners or blonde ales, move up in intensity with some heavier beer with the darker porters and stouts. This can be a fun experience for you and your guests but it’s always helpful for you as a host to encourage a discussion with your guests after tasting each beer to help them reflect on how the beer feels while drinking it and what flavors are pronounced. 

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To help them along, here are some easy suggestions you can provide to direct the conversation and help your guests have a little direction for the tasting:

  1. Look at the beer and describe its color, head (the foam at the top), and consistency. Make a note of this on your placemat or notepad.
  2. Swirl your beer in the glass – this isn’t just for wine tasting! Ask them to pay attention to the aromas that drift from the glass.
  3. Smell the beer. Have them take a couple of quick sniffs with mouth closed, then open. Reflect on the beer’s aroma – make sure they write this down!
  4. Slowly taste each beer by taking a sip and letting the beer sit in their mouth. Note the beer’s body and overall taste, and breathe out during the tasting process. Try sipping the beer again after it’s warmed up a little to note any taste or aroma differences.

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Now that you have a party plan on how to gather friends and partake in the amazing seasonal beers for fall, we hope that you’ll follow our lead and raise a glass to the season! I had a blast tasting all of these beers and encourage you to gather up your friends to do the same.

GIDGET’S PUMPKIN MARTINI

We’ve accepted the fact that fall is here and are ready to cozy up with warm sweaters and festive cocktails. But we aren’t suggesting you only sip Irish coffees for the next three months. This season brings a new roster of autumn-appropriate cocktails for your sipping pleasure.

This drink’s wonder-ingredient is Spicy Pumpkin Infused Vodka which takes a bit of time but is well worth the effort. The great news is that once you’ve made a batch you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor with this season-worthy martini. You can also include the recipe with a beautifully packaged bottle of the infused vodka as a hostess gift as you enter into this party season.  Either way, ENJOY!

GIDGET’S PUMPKIN MARTINI

pumpkin-martini

Anything pumpkin makes us happy this time of year, so we wanted to create a cocktail that was the best of these flavors without being overly sweet.

TOOLS :: Cocktail shaker, strainer, 2 small plates
GLASS ::  Martini or Coupe
EXTRAS :: Granulated sugar with Pumpkin Pie Spice for glass rim
SERVINGS :: 2 cocktails

INGREDIENTS :: 
4 oz. Pumpkin Spice Vodka Infusion
2 oz. Captain Morgans Original Spiced Rum (dark)
1 oz. Disaronno liqueur
1 oz. Christian Brothers Honey Brandy
1 oz. Half and Half
2 heaping teaspoons of Pumpkin Butter

HOW TO MAKE IT ::
On a small plate, mix together three teaspoons of granulated sugar and three shakes of pumpkin spice. On second small plate add five tablespoons water. Dip glass rims into water briefly then dip into sugar mixture to rim glasses in pumpkin sugar. Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake well and use a fine wire strainer to double strain the mixture into cocktail glasses.

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FALL INSPIRED SPIRIT INFUSIONS ~ SPICY PUMPKIN VODKA

Oh, how I love the fall season! Now is the time to step away from the lemons and limes of summer and head into the cozy cocktails and flavors of autumn with these spirit infusions.

This is the second of three recipes that will have you enjoying the season’s best: warm vanilla, inviting pumpkin and even savory smoky bacon. If you like the creativity of cooking and combining flavors–and, like us, you mix a few cocktails now and again – then infusions are a great place to play around and have fun personalizing your home bar.

SPICY PUMPKIN VODKA

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A lot of spirit infusions start with vodka. This spirit is an ideal base for liqueurs because it’s colorless and flavorless, making it the perfect start for absorbing your flavors.

TOOLS ::
Large glass container with sealed lid, ice cream scooper, vegetable peeler, foil-lined baking sheet and cheesecloth

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INGREDIENTS :: pumpkin-step-2
2 cups raw sugar or kabocha pumpkin
3+ cups vodka (we used Kirkland Signature Vodka from Costco and for the price it works great)
1/2 cup brown sugar
Pumpkin pie spice
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
2 whole vanilla beans
4 large pieces of candied ginger, cut in half

HOW TO MAKE IT ::
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut pumpkin in half and using ice cream scooper, scrape away all seeds until clean. Using vegetable peeler, peel away all skin from the pumpkin. Cut into 1/4” chunks and place onto foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle all pieces with brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Bake until just tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Place cooled pumpkin, cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans (do not cut beans as they will overpower the other flavors) and candied ginger into glass container. Pour vodka over all ingredients and seal. Let infusion sit at room temperature in a dark space for 10 to14 days, shaking mixture gently every day to combine flavors. Strain infused vodka through cheesecloth to capture all ingredients and funnel final produce back into vodka bottle.

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Spirit infusions are very simple. You soak ingredients in a base alcohol until you like the taste. Sounds fun and easy, right? Infusions require a waiting time to properly yield the best results and most robust flavors. Get these infusions started now and your patience will pay off in a few weeks.

The key to all infusions will be to choose a decent quality brand for your base spirit. There’s no need to break the bank for a premium variety, but avoid the cheapest ones because no amount of spice will take away the harshness of cheap alcohol. So get in your kitchen and have fun adding a twist to fall’s scrumptious flavors.

Check out our other Fall Inspired infusions – Bacon Infused Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Vodka for more infusing fun!

 

 

CELEBRATE the 4th WITH A WATERMELON MARGARITA

Across the US today, Americans will celebrate the 240th anniversary of our country’s independence with parades, fireworks, rodeos and concerts. The 4th of July festivities often include picnics and parties, complete with that summer party staple ~ the watermelon. What is it about those juicy slices of watermelon that scream SUMMER?! I love it! But that’s not all. I love that you can use it in a cocktail too. This WATERMELON MARGARITA is fun to make and bursting with all the fantastic flavor of summer a watermelon has to offer. Add a little tequila, an orange and you’re off to 4th of July greatness! Can’t ya just taste it?!

Cheers to America!

WATERMELON MARGARITA

Make the watermelon juice ahead of time to speed up production ~ trust us...you'll want more than one!

Make the watermelon juice ahead of time to speed up production ~ trust us…you’ll want more than one!

TOOLS :: Shaker, blender or muddler
GLASS :: Highball
EXTRAS ::  Kosher salt to rim glass, straw
SERVINGS :: 2 cocktails

INGREDIENTS ::
*  3 c. diced watermelon, juiced and strained {see below}
*  4 oz. silver Tequila {we like the lighter flavor of a silver with the watermelon}
*  5 oz. fresh watermelon juice
*  ½ fresh orange, juiced
* 1 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
* 1 heaping tbsp. of Minute Maid LIMEADE frozen concentrate

HOW TO MAKE IT ::
Salt rims of glasses with some Kosher (or margarita) salt.
Fill each glass to the top with ice.
In an ice filled cocktail shaker, add all liquid ingredients and shake it like you mean it! You need to really blend those ingredients together, so shake for about a minute.
Strain cocktail into ice-filled glasses

To make the watermelon juice: Place diced watermelon in blender and juice until all chunks are gone. Strain through a fine wire mesh strainer to capture all pulp. Discard pulp. If you don’t have a blender, you can always muddle your watermelon in a shaker and strain. Works just as well!

REFRESHING CUCUMBER COCKTAIL ~ THE ROYAL KEW

Garden-to-glass ~ The Royal Kew

Garden-to-glass ~ The Royal Kew

Ok, so here’s the deal: Cocktail-friendly plants can be grown in your garden, and with backyard entertaining just a few months ahead of us, this is the time of year to take full advantage of that bounty. If you’re still in the planning stages of your garden, there are a plethora of plants and herbs to consider in your planting plan to bring that garden freshness right into your summer cocktails!

Doesn’t this make gardening seem all the more exciting? You can venture into your garden and encounter a seasonal array of cocktail mixers and garnishes to create a whole new farm-to-glass revolution of your own right in your backyard. There are lots of herbs — think basil and mint — that go beyond simple salad enhancers and add a whole new level to your cocktail. Flowers such as a simple sprig of lavender can elevate your garnish game. Then you have the wonderful world of citrus with lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges. The possibilities are endless! And let’s not forget vegetables — they’re right there just waiting to be infused or muddled as the star attraction of your next cocktail party.

So where to start? I’ve got a delicious cocktail that comes straight out of the garden to get you headed in the right direction. The balance and garden power of this cucumber cocktail comes from the refreshing flavor of cucumbers, the delicate and oh-so-delicious floral sweetness of St. Germain (made from Elderflowers), and fresh lime juice. Muddle in aromatic spearmint and add botanical-rich gin as your base spirit and you’re on your way to garden-fresh greatness.

It’s true, this cocktail includes a vegetable, an herb, a flower-based liquor, and citrus, so it’s pretty much the ultimate garden cocktail, wouldn’t you say? While you may not have the exact ingredients growing quite yet, get those seed packets ready because after one sip of this libation you’re going to want these ingredients at your fingertips all summer long!

PREP YOUR GARDEN

Outside of planting a lime tree (which I highly recommend — I love my Tahitian lime tree!), there are two plants for you to add to your garden this summer to fuel making this cocktail all season: Cucumber and spearmint.

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Few foods are as cool as a cucumber. These low-calorie veggies contain many nutritional benefits, including hydrating properties and valuable nutrients. Cucumbers are a great addition to your garden and belong to the same botanical family as melons (including watermelon and cantaloupe). In order to get your garden ready for this cocktail, make sure you’re planting slicing cucumbers vs.pickling cucumbers, which are generally smaller and have thinner skins.

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Spearmint is a pleasantly aromatic herb packed with numerous health benefiting vitamins, antioxidants, and phyto-nutrients. Often overlooked due to its more famous garden cousin mint, spearmint brings a subtle hint of flavor to cocktails where mint packs a real punch. Give this herb a try and you’ll be thrilled with the results. 

 

GIN FOR THE WIN!

I know there are many of you out there who thought, “Oh no, it’s made with gin? I don’t like gin!” Well, it’s time you gave gin a chance.

From a garden freshness standpoint, you can’t get a spirit any closer to the delicious herbs of our world than with gin. While the origins of the clear liquor are often questioned, someone most likely in Holland or Belgium began to infuse alcohol with juniper berries and a variety of other botanicals way back in the Middle Ages. (Think of this spirit as the first flavored vodka!) Gin is still made this way today and each brand has its own recipe and techniques for infusion.

While all gin has some juniper flavor, the other botanicals highlighted in gins today can include a wide array of herbs, vegetables, flowers, fruits, spices, and even tea. So please check out the wide flavor range of gins available now at shops like BevMo and give gin a chance to blow you away with it’s refreshing and summer-sunshine-and-herbs-in-a-glass flavor.

CUCUMBER COCKTAIL RECIPE

National Geographic’s list of the Top Ten Most Beautiful Gardens named the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew as number two in the list. With over 326 acres and 100 world-class attractions created over the past 250 years, what’s not to love about Kew Gardens in Surrey, England?

And since it’s Great Britain who singlehandedly made gin famous over the years with their world-class London Dry Gin, I thought it only fitting to give a shout out to our gin-imbibing partners across the pond.

GidgetGardenCocktail2THE ROYAL KEW

TOOLS :: Mixing glass, muddler, cocktail shaker, metal mesh cocktail strainer
GLASS :: Chilled Coupe
EXTRAS ::  Cucumbers for garnish — make spears, wheels, wafers, or spirals
SERVINGS :: 2 cocktails

INGREDIENTS ::

  • 2 ounces St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
  • 10-12 chunks peeled English cucumber
  • 10-12 spearmint leaves
  • 4 ounces gin
  • 2 ounces fresh lime juice

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HOW TO MAKE IT ::
In a mixing glass, add cucumber, mint and St. Germain. Using your muddler, gently massage the cucumber and mint — you aren’t trying to pulverize them, you’re muddling to extract juice from the cucumbers and essential oils from spearmint leaves. Go easy!

Add gin and lime juice into a cocktail shaker, then add in muddled ingredients from the mixing glass. Add ice and shake vigorously.

Using metal mesh strainer, double strain into chilled coupe and garnish with cucumber.

EXPAND YOUR GARDEN ~ AND YOUR COCKTAIL MENU!

For a look back at other cocktails that can utilize the herbs, fruits, and flowers from your garden (or local farmers market), take a peek at a few of my other garden-fresh recipes. As if you weren’t excited enough to get started gardening!

  • Blueberry Basil Cocktails: These two cocktails – The ZIGGY and The VIOLET BEAUREGARDE use a basil and fresh blueberry simple syrup (and it’s simple to make!) to get you started on a cocktail journey you won’t regret.
  • BACKYARD MOJO :  I created this cocktail to celebrate the minty goodness of a mojito and added garden fresh strawberries and lemons for a new twist on the classic.

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!

PUMPKIN SHANDY

Sometimes nothing beats an ice cold beer served in a chilled glass. Pumpkin Ales are original American style ales that are often released as seasonal fall beers by many breweries. There’s no doubt that fall is the season for pumpkin flavors and we’re thrilled to bring you a drink that turns the tastes of the season into a delicious shandy. Traditionally made with lemon and beer, this fantastic twist on the classic shandy was designed by Kyle Ford, Cointreau’s master mixologist. You’ll love how the citrus flavor plays so well with the spicy pumpkin ale.

For other Pumpkin Ale inspired cocktails, check out the article I wrote for TheGoodStuff for some recipes.

Pumpkin Shandy

TOOLS :: Cocktail shaker, strainer
GLASS ::  Old Fashioned/Highball
EXTRAS :: thin slice of orange + fresh grated nutmeg for garnish
SERVINGS :: 2 cocktails
INGREDIENTS ::

  • 2 oz. Cointreau
  • 2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of Pumpkin Butter (we love Trader Joe’s version)
  • 8-10 oz. Pumpkin Ale

DIRECTIONS ::
In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, add Cointreau, lemon juice and Pumpkin Butter. Shake well and use a fine wire strainer to double strain the mixture evenly between two cocktail glasses. Top each with beer. Stir to combine and garnish with orange slice and grated nutmeg.

SPOOKY COCKTAILS FOR YOUR HALLOWEEN MONSTER MASH

Ghosts, goblins, witches, and werewolves — Halloween is filled with plenty of spooky and bewitching spectacles to make the evening a thrilling event. It’s also a treat to hang out with friends and have a ghoulishly delightful time engaging in a little cocktail mischief. If you’re planning a wicked Halloween party the following cocktails are sure to create an unforgettable All Hallow’s Eve event. No matter what your Halloween guests’ favorite poison is, I’ve got you covered with these cocktails — all guaranteed to raise spirits at your monster mash.

If you’d like a full list of my Top 10 Spooky Cocktails (including the two I created below), visit the article I wrote for TheGoodStuff for the full list of recipes.

R.I.P ‘RITA

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Get in the Halloween spirit with this lo-cal twist on a margarita. A dash of red food coloring gives the glass an eerie twist.

TOOLS :: Cocktail shaker, 1 small plate
GLASS ::  Martini
SERVINGS ::  2 cocktail
INGREDIENTS ::

  • 3 ounces TY KU citrus liqueur
  • 1 ounces silver tequila
  • 1/2 ounce agave nectar
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
    Glass rim

    • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
    • 3 Tablespoons corn syrup (I used Karo)
    • Red food coloring

HOW TO MAKE IT ::
On a small plate, mix together granulated sugar, corn syrup, and 5-7 drops of red food coloring. Mix to combine and add more food coloring to get desired results. Dip glass rims into mixture briefly and hold glass horizontally to let excess syrup drip off rim. Place rimmed glasses in freezer until ready for use.
Combine remaining ingredients ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake well and strain into rimmed cocktail glass

THE DEVIL’S CHOICE

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What would Halloween be without a devilish twist? This wondrous, blood-red cocktail comes with a haunting punch of two kinds of rum and delicious pomegranate juice. Hell won’t freeze over if you make this your cocktail of choice!

TOOLS :: Cocktail shaker, 1 small plate
GLASS :: Old Fashioned
SERVINGS :: 2 cocktails
INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 ounces light rum
  • 4 ounces pomegranate juice
  • 2 ounces simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce dark rum per cocktail
  • Cranberries for spooky eyeball garnish
  • Black sanding sugar (I found mine at Williams Sonoma)
  • Lime wedge

HOW TO MAKE IT ::
Pour 4 Tablespoons black sanding sugar on a small plate. Rub a lime wedge around the rim of each glass, then dip into sanding sugar. Add ice to glasses. Combine first 4 ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake well and strain into rimmed glasses, leaving space at the top. Gently pour 1 oz. of dark rum onto each cocktail so it floats on top.

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
GidgetEndlessSummer 2
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!

CHOCOLATE MARTINI ~ WITHOUT THE CHOCOLATE

Conversation hearts, truffles galore and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates — these are the symbols of Valentine’s Day for many lovers around the world. So chocolate lovers, rejoice! The partnership of spirits and chocolate is a match made in heaven, and we’re here to help you create a divine chocolate cocktail for that special someone in your life.

We’ve decided to take Cupid’s happy day to a new level with a list of oh-so-tempting chocolate martinis to help you take full advantage of Valentine’s Day. Grab a friend, a loved one or both, and celebrate St. Valentine with one (or more) of these delicious concoctions.

Gidget+LaRue created this exclusive cocktail for our online magazine partner, TheGoodStuff, to prove that a martini doesn’t need chocolate syrup to be yummy! This martini’s chocolate flavor comes across subtly at the end of each tasty sip. Sweet cherries, smooth vanilla and a pop of chocolate make for a delicious combination that’s sure to please.

The perfect twist on a chocolate martini

The perfect twist on a chocolate martini

FORGET ME NOT

TOOLS :: Shaker, muddler, barspoon
GLASS ::  Martini or Coupe – chilled
EXTRAS :: Cherries for garnish {we recommend Toschi’s Black Sour Cherries}
SERVINGS :: 2 cocktails

INGREDIENTS :: 
6 oz. Vodka
1 ½  oz. vanilla simple syrup or use Torani’s vanilla syrup
6 black cherries
3-4 barspoons of cherry juice
Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters

HOW TO MAKE IT ::
Place vanilla syrup, cherries and cherry juice into shaker (no ice). Gently muddle the cherries enough to break cherries into bits and release flavor. Add Vodka and ice to shaker and shake it. You should shake for at least 20 seconds. Strain contents into chilled glass. Top each cocktail with two drops of bit

For a full list of 9 different chocolate cocktails to get your Valentines Day visit our article HERE.