Drynuary for Hungry Again

Pomegranate Mocktail

This January, I tried something that I haven't done since I was pregnant with my last baby. A month of sobriety. It's known as Drynuary, but let's just call this my Month of Drinking Club Soda.

Why Drynuary?

Drynuary is the practice of pledging to abstain from alcohol for the entire month of January. It is a trend started in Great Britain, but is growing in popularity here in the states. Most people use it as a sort of secular Lent ritual, fasting from booze for a month to re-set the body and mind and to give your poor liver a rest after the non-stop partying of November and December. And although most people won't admit it, it's also a way to gut-check your dependence on alcohol.

I decided to try Drynuary after reading an article in Slate just after New Year. The writer told of his own journey over the last eight years, using the annual January abstinence to clear his mind and body. Something about it struck me at the time. After three months of socializing and parties, it sounded like a challenge that I should take. It was a few days after celebrating New Year's Eve and I was figuratively feeling the hangover of too much food and drink during the holidays. Drinking was feeling more like a habit and less like a pleasure. I was ready for a break. I wasn't even sure I was going to make it through to the end of the month, to be honest.   

So, how was not drinking for a month?

Actually, not bad at all. I replaced the nightly glass of wine with club soda and lime. I also drank more herbal tea before bedtime. I drank lots of variations of sparkly water on the weekends. Club soda with blood orange. Club soda with lime and orange bitters. Club soda with pomegranate juice. Club soda with club soda. I stayed very hydrated this month.

Going booze-free for a month was painless on most weekdays. It was easy to give up my nightly glass (or two) of wine or beer with dinner. It got a bit harder on the weekend nights though, when I was socializing with my friends. When you're around other people who are drinking and having a good time, you can feel the tug of longing for a cocktail or a couple of glasses of wine. Everyone, of course, was very supportive of my sobriety. I don't think my presence slowed anyone else down, and I got offers of cups of tea and club soda to keep me happy. After the first couple of weekends, I honestly didn't miss my cocktails all that much.

And what positives came out of a month of not drinking? Thrillingly, I lost weight. I guess those glasses of empty calories really do add up. I also just felt lighter and more clear-headed. Our restaurant bills were a lot smaller this month, especially since Tim tried to hold down his drinking this month in solidarity with me. I also have left behind that feeling of antsiness when cocktail hour rolled around each night. Booze. Eh…I can take it or leave it.

But that's not to say that I've stopped drinking for good. This year, February 1st falls on a Sunday… Super Bowl Sunday. So, I plan on breaking my booze fast by having a few beers to celebrate. It should be interesting to see how my body reacts to alcohol after a month away from drinking. Going forward, I'll continue to have my Friday Cocktails, my social hours with my friends and the occasional celebratory glasses of wine. Just…not so much (or at all) during the middle of the week. So, here's to more mindful and moderate drinking for the rest of the year. Cheers!

And here's a mocktail to keep you more festive during your own sobriety…

Pomegranate Mocktail

8 oz. Club Soda or sparkling water
2 oz. pomegranate juice (like Pom)
the juice of one lime
2 dashes of orange bitters

Pour all ingredients over ice. Mix and enjoy!

PomegranateMocktail2 Drynuary for Hungry Again

Pomegranate Mocktail for Drynuary

 

Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Sliced Fruit for Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Of all the things that are great about the fall (and there are so many), the beginning of the holiday season and all the food and drink that is to be had certainly tops my list. One of our fall rituals is our annual block party/pig roast. We have a potluck afternoon buffet and it is a great opportunity to pull out my fall spices and fruit to make a crowd-pleasing alcoholic punch. This year, I had pears, apples, citrus, apple cider, cinnamon and a newly-made cranberry shrub to work with. I wanted to make something like a sangria, with the lovely pieces of fresh fruit, but using a stronger liquor instead of wine. So, I used Laird's Apple Brandy and Rye as my alcohol base to make a Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch. It was a big hit!

Even if it's just a chance to pull out your mother's punch bowl, party punches are a great way to make a batch of drinks ahead of time so that you are not stuck behind the bar mixing cocktails all night. You can make a punch early in the day, which gives it time for all the spice and fruit flavors to really come out…and helps you manage your party-planning time.

Cranberry shrub and Cinnamon syrup

For this recipe, you will need to do a couple of things ahead of time – the cranberry shrub and the cinnamon syrup. I would suggest doing this early in the week and having it ready to go in the fridge the day of the party.

Cinnamon Syrup recipe

If you haven't done so yet, early in the day, make your cinnamon syrup. In a saucepan, add 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 cinnamon sticks. On a medium low heat, bring the water and sugar up to a gentle simmer. As soon as the sugar melts, cut the heat and let it cool. Place into an airtight container and refrigerate until use. 

Cranberry Shrub

Last week, I wrote an extensive post on how to make your own fruit shrub syrup. A shrub is basically fresh seasonal fruit and spices, macerating in a simple syrup with vinegar. The fruit and spices impart their flavors and color into the vinegar/sugar syrup, making a sweet and sour mixer to add to your cocktails or non-alcoholic drinks. You can go here to get the recipe for Cranberry Shrub.

CranberryShrubGlass Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

A glass of Cranberry Shrub

Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

1 cup Apple Brandy (Laird's)
1 1/2 cups rye whiskey
1 cup Cranberry Shrub (or, substitute 1/2 cup cranberry juice & 1/2 cup simple syrup)
1/4 cup cinnamon syrup (1/2 cup sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
1 cup fresh apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon cloves
5 whole star anise
1 pear, 1 apple and 1 orange
1 medium size pitcher or punch bowl

SlicedPears Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Slicing pears for Fall Spice Apple Cranberry Punch

Juice your lemons until you have 1/2 cup of juice. Place juice into your pitcher. Slice your pear, apple and orange into thin slices or small chunks, whichever you prefer. Place the slices into the pitcher with the lemon juice. Stir to coat the fruit with the lemon juice to prevent the fruit slices from browning.

AppleBrandy Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Laird's Apple Brandy & Cranberry Shrub for Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Measure out and add the rest of the ingredients: Apple Brandy, Rye, cranberry shrub, apple cider, cinnamon syrup and spices. Mix and taste. If it is too alcoholic or too tart, add more cider or more cinnamon syrup. Place the pitcher into the fridge to chill and let the flavors come together.

Serve cold in highball glasses with ice or straight up. Be sure and add pieces of fruit to each glass for the full, beautiful fall fruit effect. You can also serve in a taller glass and add club soda or sparkling water if you want to lighten the mix.  Cheers!

AppleSpicePunchPitcher Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

A Pitcher of Fall Spice Apple Cranberry Punch

 

AppleSpicePunch Fall Spice Apple Brandy Punch

Fall Spice Apple BrandyPunch

 

How to make a shrub syrup

Cranberry Shrub Syrup

If you are into making cocktails at home, you have probably tried and mastered some of the classics-the Margarita, the Martini, the Manhattan. But if you've stretched your mixology skills beyond that, you've, no doubt, played around with various mixers to add depth and flavor to your cocktail creations. Luckily, there is now an amazing variety of fruit and spice-infused syrups, bitters and shrubs that can be found at any good liquor store or specialty food shop. What is a shrub, you say? Am I referring to a leafy bush? No. A shrub is a fruit-infused vinegar syrup. You may think adding vinegar to any drink would be odd, but the complex, fruity acidity of a shrub syrup adds a brightness and depth that is surprising and very pleasing.

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Tiki classic – The Zombie cocktail

The Zombie Cocktail

In the great pantheon of classic tiki cocktails, the Zombie has to be one of the best. The Zombie Cocktail is a blend of rums, citrus, pineapple and spice. Invented by Don the Beachcomber, or Donn Beach as he was legally known, in 1934, the Zombie helped to kick off the tiki cocktail craze.. A former bootlegger, Don opened a Polynesian restaurant in Los Angeles in 1937, the Zombie was one of his first signature cocktails. As Jeff Berry recounts in his book “Beachbum Berry Remixed”, Don concocted the recipe for a customer who came in looking for a hangover cure. The story goes that after Don served him this pick-me-up, the customer said “I felt like the living dead–it made a zombie out of me.” Thus, the Zombie Cocktail was born. 

I Walked With a Zombie 4 Tiki classic   The Zombie cocktail

“I Walked with a Zombie” movie poster

Finding the Original Zombie Cocktail recipe

There are numerous versions of the Zombie cocktail recipe. Because Don the Beachcomber was super secretive about the recipe, many other bartenders had to recreate their own versions. It was not until Jeff Berry (or Beachbum Berry) began research into Don's original notes and interviews with his former staff that he was able to piece together Don's original recipe. If you are interested in all things tiki, you HAVE to check out Beachbum Berry's books and website. He is the master!

ZombieCocktailIngredients Tiki classic   The Zombie cocktail

Ingredients for the classic tiki Zombie Cocktail

The Original Zombie Cocktail

by Don the Beachcomber, circa 1934
from the collected tiki recipes in “Beachbum Berry Remixed” by Jeff Berry

3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. Don's mix*
1/2 oz Falernum
1 1/2 oz. gold Puerto Rican rum
1 1/2 oz. aged Jamaican rum (such as Appleton V/X or Extra)
1 oz. 151-proof Demerara rum
dash Angostura bitters
6 drops Pernod
1 teaspoon grenadine
3/4 cup crushed ice

Put everything in a blender. Blend just until mixed (5 seconds). Pour into tall decorative glass. Add ice cubes to fill and garnish with mint sprig.

And here's my version….

Zombie Cocktail (Kathy Marker version)

1 oz fresh lime juice 
2 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. Falernum
1/2 oz. simple syrup
1 1/2 oz. dark Jamaican rum
1 oz. Demerara rum
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Place all the ingredients with 1 cup crushed ice into a cocktail shaker. Shake until cold. Pour into a tall glass (a tiki glass if you have it!). Garnish with pineapple and cherry. 

Cheers!

 

Ruby Red Martini

Ruby Red Martini

Even as the summer feels like it's winding down, it is hot as heck outside here in Atlanta. The Friday night cocktails have to still be something cool and refreshing. This week, I'll pour a mix of Campari, vodka and Ruby Red grapefruit juice – the Ruby Red Martini. My friend Megan makes Ruby Reds, which she pours over ice in a highball, at many of her get togethers and I really love them. Since I can't find her recipe, I'm improvising tonight and turning her highball cocktail ingredients into a martini

Campari – embrace the bitterness

Campari is a bitter Italian liqueur, served as an aperitif and featured classically in the Negroni or with a little soda. It has a beautiful deep red color. As I've gotten older, I've come to love the bitterness of Campari. It's a grown-up liquor for grown-up tastes. It's meant to be sipped and savored on a hot day.

Although the ingredients of Campari are a trade secret, it has strong citrus and herbal overtones. This makes it pair well with grapefruit and lime. 

RubyRedIngredients Ruby Red Martini

Ruby Red Martini ingredients – Campari, vodka and Ruby Red Grapefruit juice

Ruby Red Martini

1 1/2 oz. Campari
1 oz. vodka – you can use Ruby Red vodka for a more intense grapefruit flavor
2 oz. fresh-squeezed Ruby Red grapefruit juice

Pour all the ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain the cocktail into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an lime twist. Cheers!

RubyRedMartini Ruby Red Martini

Ruby Red Martini cocktail with Campari, vodka and Ruby Red Grapefruit juice

Piccalilli Pepper Relish

Canned PiccalilliRelish

There is an American tradition of pickling and canning that goes back to the early settler days. Because of the seasonal uncertainty of food sources and the lack of refrigeration, it was really important to extend the bounty of the summer and fall harvests by putting up and preserving meats and vegetables. Pickling and brining foods provided special relishes, chutneys and sauces to liven up the monotony of winter meals. In the South, that meant chow-chow, a relish made of cabbage, onions, green tomatoes and cucumbers. In the North and Midwest, that meant chutneys and piccalilli, a sweet pepper relish that was a mix of pepper and green tomatoes derived from the English version of Piccalilli, which was a variation on an Indian Pickle.

Today, Piccalilli Pepper Relish is still a great way to use up all those sweet and hot peppers that start overflowing in July and August. It has a sweet and sour tanginess that is great as a condiment for pork roast or fried chicken, or greens. Like any good relish, you can also put it on hot dogs and in deviled eggs. You can really use it as a table condiment the same way you use salsa or ketchup.

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Caipirinha – celebrating the World Cup with Brazil’s national drink

Celebrating the 2014 World Cup with a Caipirinha, the official cocktail of Brazil

We are now into Week Two of this year's World Cup, hosted by Brazil. Maybe, like most Americans, you just aren't into it. Personally, I'm excited by the non-stop world-class soccer that is being played over the next few weeks. All that national pride! All that amazing play! All those hot players! And USA winning their first game!!! I think the best way to celebrate this year's World Cup in Brazil is to sip the official cocktail of Brazil – the Caipirinha.

Cachaça – the most popular spirit of Brazil

Similar to the mojito or the margarita, the caipirinha reigns supreme in Brazil. Like the margarita, the caipirinha is a lime sour – mixing spirits with sugar and lime juice. What sets it apart is the main ingredient - cachaça – a distilled spirit that is similar to rum. Unlike rum, which is distilled from cane sugar molasses, cachaça is distilled from fermented cane sugar syrup. Made almost exclusively in Brazil, it is now readily available in the U.S. I always use the light cachaça, even though it does come in a dark, aged version as well.

Cachaca Caipirinha   celebrating the World Cup with Brazils national drink

Cachaça – the most popular spirit in Brazil

Caipirinha recipe

1 1/2 ounces Cachaça (Brazilian rum)
2 tsp. simple syrup (or 2 teaspoons of brown sugar)
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
Club Soda

Drop the lime wedges into the bottom of a tall cocktail glass. Crush the limes against the bottom of the glass with a muddler or a sturdy wooden spoon to release all of their juices and the oil from the lime peels. Add the simple syrup (or brown sugar) and cachaça. Muddle again to mix with the lime. Add ice and stir to mix. It's ready to serve! 

I actually like to top mine off with sparkling water or Club Soda, to give it more fizz. That's not really “official” but I do think that it makes it more refreshing.

If you're not sure how to SAY Caipirinha (it IS a Portuguese word), just click on this helpful YouTube video.

How to Pronounce Caipirinha

Saúde (or Cheers)!!

TwoCaiparihnas Caipirinha   celebrating the World Cup with Brazils national drink

Caipirinhas – the official cocktail of Brazil

 

Tofu Crab Cakes recipe

Tofu "Crab" Cakes

It's summer and some of the classic tastes of the season derive from our memories of trips to the beach. Fried clams, fresh oysters, shrimp boils, lobster rolls. Seafood evokes the smell of the ocean and the feel of the sun on your face. One such summer treat is the crab cake. Crab cakes are rich and tasty, with the spiciness of Old Bay giving them that traditional American seafood flavor. But have you noticed that crab meat is pricey? Very pricey. At $30 a pound, it is a seldom-made special treat at our house (think 4th of July dinner).  On the other hand, a 1-lb. block of tofu only costs $1.50 and can take on all the tastes that make crab cakes so delicious – onion, celery, garlic, parsley, lemon and Old Bay Seasoning. So, for our family, I make a delicious meat-free substitute for crab cakes many times a year – Tofu Crab Cakes (of Tofu “Crab” Cakes).

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Mai Tai cocktail – the classic Tiki drink

Mai Tai cocktail on the front porch

It's Memorial Day weekend – the official start to summer. Time to put away the dark whiskeys and brandies and pull out the lighter liquors and start pouring the fruity drinks. In that spirit, why don't you get out the rum and try a classic summer fruity drink. My weekend is starting with the drink that ruled over the Tiki lounges of the 50′s and 60′s – the Mai Tai cocktail.

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Making Hot Cross Buns at home – an Easter tradition

Hot Cross Buns

If you ever had to learn to play the recorder in elementary school, you probably learned the song “Hot Cross Buns”. “One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny.” You know the one. If you’ve never actually eaten a hot cross bun, they are a delicious, sweet yeast roll, made with currants, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, then marked with a cross of icing to celebrate Easter. Making and eating hot cross buns for Good Friday is an English tradition going back to the Tudors, after the small spiced cakes were outlawed for most of the year, excepting Easter week.  We carry on this tradition at my house and you can too. Here is a step-by-step guide on making hot cross buns at home. At the end of this post, I've also included instructions on how to make hot cross buns ahead of time, in case you are pressed for time during the holidays.

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