Category Archives: Beverages

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails

I never know what to post the week of Thanksgiving, but I think going with something easy that you can make anytime between now and the New Year is a good place to start.

This Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup certainly fits that bill, clocking in with almost no active work, but plenty of vibrant color and sweet-tart flavor. It starts the way all simple syrups do: with sugar and water. While the classic proportion is 1:1, I upped the water here to accommodate the cranberries’ natural thickening agent (pectin)—we’re after syrup here, not jelly!

The berries, water and sugar are simmered together for just ten minutes, until the fruit begins to burst. Once that happens, remove the pot from the heat and use a fork or potato masher to mash all the berries into the liquid. Resist the urge to strain your syrup right away, instead letting the mashed berries hang out in it while it’s cooling. This imbues the syrup with plenty of tart cranberry flavor and vivid color. Once the half hour is up, strain and cool your syrup, then use it however you like. I bet a little over ice cream would be a treat, but I am focusing on mocktails today.

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails​

Let’s talk about these Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails. With their ruby color and booze-free fizz, these are a perfect beverage for any end-of-year occasion. They’re not terribly sugary, and taste intentional and not like an afterthought or just a virgin version of some classic cocktail. They taste like they have some intention behind them, if you will—they’re complete on their own.

The list of ingredients for Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails is blessedly short, and besides the homemade Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup, everything is readily available at the grocery store.

The recipe is simple: 1 part Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup, 2 parts ginger beer, 2 parts seltzer, 1/2 part fresh lime juice. I’ve written the recipe in “parts” rather than specific volumes so that you can make enough for two or for a crowd without doing too much math. Simply stir the ingredients together and serve over ice with cranberries and lime wedges for garnish. So cute, right? Wait til you try one—so good.

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails​

My absolute favorite thing about these mocktails? They’re not too sweet. There is some sweetness, of course, from the syrup and zippy ginger beer, but it’s balanced by the lime juice and diluted with seltzer in the best possible way. They taste like they were made for grown-ups because they were. How refreshing.

Cranberry Simple Syrup & Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails​

I’m taking the rest of this week off to spend time with my family. I’ll be back next week with new Christmas recipes. Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers.

Fresh Cranberry Simple Syrup
makes about 2 cups

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 10-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked through

Add all ingredients to a small pot. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes or until berries have burst. Skim off and discard any foam that accumulates. Remove pot from heat, then mash burst berries with a potato masher or fork. Let berries sit in syrup for 30 minutes.

Place a sieve over a large mixing bowl. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to press the syrup through the sieve. Discard the the leftover fruit solids or use for another purpose.

Transfer syrup to a container with a lid. Let cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.
Sparkling Cranberry Ginger Mocktails

1 part cranberry syrup
2 parts ginger beer
2 parts seltzer
1/2 part lime juice
ice
fresh cranberries, for garnish (optional)
lime wedges, for garnish (optional)

I measured in tablespoons for each glass, but feel free to use a larger units of measure to make a pitcher of mocktails.

In a liquid measuring cup or other vessel, stir together cranberry syrup, ginger beer, seltzer and lime juice.

Add ice to glasses. Pour mocktail mixture over the top and garnish with cranberries and lime, if desired. Serve immediately.

Espresso Milkshakes

Espresso Milkshakes

I moved away from my hometown of Fort Worth, Texas, half my lifetime ago at 18. First it was to Sherman, Texas, where I went to college, and then straight to New York, where I’ve been for almost 14 years. The longest period of time I’ve spent “at home” in all those intervening years was three weeks between Christmas and a mid-January family wedding in 2017. While I will never (could never!) sever ties with the land of my birth, it’s always evident during my visits that it’s moved on just fine without me.

Espresso Milkshakes

In a lot of ways, it’s great. I don’t see the day-to-day, but I always show up to some new something. There’s excellent vintage shopping now. Magnolia is hoppin’. Many of my very favorite people (and one perfect miniature schnauzer) are there and keep me apprised of everything important. But for all the new stuff happening, old things have to change.

Espresso Milkshakes

Take the demise of my former favorite coffee shop, Four Star Coffee Bar, for instance. It was tucked into a strip mall on the west side until shortly after I moved to New York. I don’t remember exactly when it closed for good, but I do remember the last coffee I had there in August of 2007 and a whole lot of Saturday nights spent there with friends, listening to someone’s terrible ex-boyfriend play bad music and sipping espresso milkshakes. They were nothing more than shots of espresso and vanilla ice cream whirled together—basically smooth affogatos—but I think about them all the time. They’ve been on my to-make list for years! All it took was walking by the old storefront with my little sister a few weeks ago to finally get me to pull my blender off the shelf and get to it.

Now, I should say that this recipe isn’t a carbon copy of the original. For one thing, I don’t have an espresso machine, and for another, I’m basing this recipe entirely on a 14 year old memory. Still, the combination of dissolved instant espresso and vanilla ice cream is pretty dang good. These shakes are cold, smooth and creamy with plenty of espresso flavor, even if you use decaf.

Espresso Milkshakes
Espresso Milkshakes

I suppose you could class these up by buying/using an espresso machine to pull shots or alternatively, going to a coffee shop, getting espresso to-go, coming home, letting it cool and then blitzing it with ice cream…but that seems like a lot of work for something that can be made just as well with some stuff in a jar and warm tap water. Plus, if you make these the easy way at home, I can guarantee you won’t have to listen to anyone’s ex-boyfriend’s terrible band for even a second.

Sometimes change is a good thing.

Espresso Milkshakes
Espresso Milkshakes
makes 1 large or 2 small milkshakes

1 tablespoon instant espresso granules (decaf is fine)
1 tablespoon warm tap water
1 pint (2 cups) vanilla ice cream
4 tablespoons milk of choice (I used whole)
whipped cream, for garnish (optional)
chocolate covered espresso beans, for garnish (optional)

In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together espresso granules and water until granules are dissolved. Combine espresso mixture, ice cream and milk in a high-powered blender. Blitz until smooth. If needed, add more milk by the tablespoon until the desired consistency is reached. Pour into glasses and garnish with whipped cream and/or chocolate-covered espresso beans, if desired. Serve immediately.
Espresso Milkshakes
Espresso Milkshakes
Espresso Milkshakes

Ginger Limeade

Ginger LimeadeIt feels weird to be posting Fourth of July recipes because of literally everything, but I’m doing it anyway. I mean, none of them are red, white and blue…this year.Ginger LimeadeGinger Limeade is a perfect summery option for this weekend or any weekend. Crisp and light with a zippy ginger finish, Ginger Limeade would be a great addition to your (socially distanced) Fourth of July. It’s simple to make and a bit more sophisticated than your average non-alcoholic summertime beverage. I love a spicy sip.Ginger LimeadeGinger LimeadeGinger LimeadeGinger LimeadeGinger Limeade starts with a homemade ginger simple syrup. It’s as easy as combining sugar, water and sliced fresh ginger in a 1:1:1 ratio, simmering it and letting it steep until completely cool. You can use this syrup to make homemade ginger sodas, put it in milkshakes, or liven up some iced tea.Ginger LimeadeGinger LimeadeToday we’re combining the syrup with an equal part (1 1/3 cup) of fresh lime juice and a few cups of cold water, then pouring it over ice and floating lime slices on top. Yum!Ginger LimeadeAs with most beverages, Ginger Limeade is easily customizable. I think the 1:1 ginger syrup to lime juice ratio allows both to shine, but feel free to adjust them up or down to your preference. If you want to jazz it up, use sparkling water instead of still.

Oh, and I haven’t tried it myself, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if you reduce the water to 1 1/2 cups, this mix would probably make for great popsicles! If you give this a shot, please let me know how it works.Ginger LimeadeGinger Limeade is the sort of thing you can sip during a cocktail hour, have by the pool, or pour into a large mason jar and take to the beach. Not to be Debbie Downer, but keep in mind that lime juice can burn your skin when exposed to sun. Yes, really.

I guess I just like to live on the edge.Ginger Limeade

Ginger Limeade
makes about 6 cups

Ginger Syrup:
1 5-7-inch piece fresh ginger
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water

For Limeade:
1 batch ginger syrup
1 1/3 cups fresh lime juice
3-4 cups cold water

For serving:
ice
lime slices or wedges

On a cutting board, scrape the edge of a spoon across the ginger to peel. Discard peelings. Slice ginger as thinly as possible—you should have about 1 cup slices.

Combine ginger, sugar and water in a small pot. Bring to a simmer over medium-low and then let cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Cool the syrup with the ginger pieces. Once cool, strain ginger pieces out, pressing them to remove as much syrup as possible. You should have 1 1/4-1 1/3 cup ginger syrup. Discard ginger pieces or use for another purpose.

Make limeade. Combine ginger syrup and lime juice in the bottom of a large pitcher. Stir together, then add 3 cups of cold water. Stir again, taste, and add more water if desired.

Add ice cubes to a few glasses. Pour ginger limeade over ice and garnish with lime slices or wedges, if desired.

Ginger limeade is best the day it’s made, but keeps in the refrigerator for a few days.Ginger LimeadeGinger Limeade

Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}

Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Hello! I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. I’m still in D.C., but am looking forward to getting back to NYC to put my Christmas tree up and really get into the swing of holiday baking—look out for my first Christmas cookies of the season next Wednesday!Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Today’s recipe is hardly a recipe at all. When I was visiting my friend, Tad, in San Francisco last month, we stopped for an ice cream cone at The Castro Fountain. While I was waiting for my order, I spotted a sign for Hot Butterscotch. I initially assumed they meant the sauce, but on further inspection, I saw it was a beverage akin to Hot Chocolate. But, you know, with butterscotch. I decided then and there that I would figure out a Hot Butterscotch recipe by Thanksgiving, and lo and behold, here it is. Rocket science, this is not, but those Castro Fountain guys are on to something!Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Simply whisk a cup of butterscotch and some vanilla into a quart of whole milk. Heat that to a simmer, divide it among a few mugs, and top ‘em off with whipped cream, marshmallows and a drizzle of butterscotch. That’s it!Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}Hot Butterscotch is creamy and comforting with plenty of buttery brown sugar and vanilla flavor. I like it as written, but if you want something a little more decadent, feel free to swap half & half or heavy cream for some of the milk.Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}No matter how you mix it up, this is the perfect low-maintenance treat to make this Thanksgiving weekend. You could even give jars of homemade butterscotch as food gifts and attach a label with the recipe. But then again, I may be getting ahead of myself.

Have a great weekend, y’all!Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}

Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}
makes 4-6 servings

1 cup prepared butterscotch sauce
1 quart whole milk (or a mix of whole milk and half & half or heavy cream)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For serving:
whipped cream
miniature marshmallows
butterscotch sauce, for drizzling

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine butterscotch, whole milk, and vanilla. Set over medium heat. Continue to whisk near-constantly (to prevent scorching) until mixture is steaming and bubbles are forming at the edges. Do not boil. Remove from heat.

Ladle mixture into mugs. Top with whipped cream, miniature marshmallows, and/or a drizzle of butterscotch sauce, if desired. Serve immediately.Hot Butterscotch {Seasonal Beverage}

Caramelized Banana Milkshakes

Caramelized Banana MilkshakesThis post really couldn’t come at a better time: New York weather has officially crossed over into the “totally disgusting” zone. Blazing hot, humid AF—you get the picture. There will be no baking in my Brooklyn kitchen until Monday, at the very least.

I love my apartment—love it!—but its one major drawback is that the kitchen is both windowless and un-air-conditioned. There is no amount or configuration of tiny Costco tower fans that can counteract the all-consuming heat of a 350F oven on a sticky 99F NYC day. Believe me, I’ve tried them all.Caramelized Banana MilkshakesSo, let’s skip the oven this weekend and make milkshakes instead. Caramelized Banana Milkshakes, to be specific.Caramelized Banana MilkshakesCaramelized Banana MilkshakesCaramelized Banana MilkshakesSure, they require five minutes of stove time to caramelize the bananas, but that small amount of cooking will be totally worth it when you’re blitzing up frosty, brown sugar & banana milkshakes.Caramelized Banana MilkshakesWe’re talking pure banana flavor here, unencumbered by cinnamon or anything else. You may, of course, add a pinch of whatever you like, but don’t go too crazy. Simplicity is the name of the game.Caramelized Banana MilkshakesThis recipe is a breeze: three steps, four ingredients (six, if you count the recommended whipped cream and drizzle of caramel or butterscotch). The hardest part is waiting for the bananas to cool so that they don’t melt your ice cream. After that, it’s just a blitz in the blender and deciding which of your dwindling stash of paper straws you’re going to use today.

Oh, and parking yourself directly in front of your air conditioner until the heatwave is over, but you already knew that.Caramelized Banana Milkshakes

Caramelized Banana Milkshakes
makes about 2-3 small milkshakes

3 medium bananas, very ripe
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 pint (2 cups) vanilla ice cream

For Garnish (optional):
caramel or butterscotch sauce
whipped cream

Peel bananas and slice into 1-inch chunks.

Combine butter and brown sugar in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until butter is melted and pan is hot. Carefully add banana slices and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Combine bananas and ice cream in a high-powered blender. Blitz until smooth. Pour into glasses and garnish with caramel/butterscotch sauce and/or whipped cream, if desired. Serve immediately.Caramelized Banana MilkshakesCaramelized Banana Milkshakes