If you're anywhere in the Northeast right now, you know — it's a big bowl of soup and hot cup of something to drink kind of day. But if you've had to deal with any of the stress and reprecussions that several feet of out-of-your-control snow brings, chances are you're looking for something with a little more kick than your regular hot beverage has to offer.
To that end, we've collected some helpful hints for you to keep in mind when crafting that perfect winter weather cocktail.
Simmer for flavor
Simmering liquors like brandy, rum, and whiskey, intensifies their flavors and aromas — just be careful not to let them reach a boil.
Make like a cappuccino and steam!
To create his Applejack Chai Tea cocktail, Hotel Griffou co-owner and mixologist, Johnny Swet, approaches the drink as if it were a cappuccino, choosing to steam it. Using this technique gets the cocktail to the right temperature without having to water it down.
The method can also be used to heat the glass before adding the drink, as is done for Five Leaves' Farmer's Daughter cocktail.
Black tea is best
A helpful tip for hot toddy drinkers: If you're going to be spiking your tea with a spirit, best opt for a powerful, black variety like Ceylon or Darjeeling. Lighter teas can be too easily overwhelmed by the liquor and other ingredients.
Make it a freshly brewed pot
For those fans of the ever-popular Irish Coffee, remember that freshly-brewed coffee will provide a better flavor. Also keep in mind that strong, bold roasts will give the drink more depth and stand up better to the alcohol.
Top spirited coffee companions
Looking for the best spirits to add to make your coffee adults-only? Think nutty flavors (like Frangelico or Amaretto), creamy textures (like Bailey's Irish Cream), or something to provide a touch of sweetness (like Butterscotch Schnapps). Of course, you can't go wrong a simple whiskey.
Spices for mulled wine: whole or ground?
Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, vanilla bean — you've gathered all the spices you need to fix yourself a hot cup of mulled wine, but one question remains. To grind the spices, or not? Don't worry, there's no wrong answer here. If you're using ground spices, heat the wine then add them so that they dissolve. If you prefer whole spices, a better technique is to boil them for a few minutes in a little bit of water with sugar, then add the wine.
The right wine for mulling
Choosing the right wine to drink with dinner can be difficult in and of itself, so we can understand the stress in picking the best one to use in a warm cocktail like mulled wine. Here's the short and simple answer: Pick a bold, full-bodied red. And if you're going to opt for a fortified wine, like port, just remember to cut down the amount of sugar you use in the recipe.
Picking appropriate glassware
If you happen to have a Irish Coffee glass in your collection — great, use that. If not, any heat-tempered glass or mug with a handle will do. And don't think you can't use a wine glass — we're not saying to use your best crystal, of course, but the stem serves a similar function to the handle of a mug.
Tips and Tricks for Cooking With Lentils
The lentil is native to Southwest Asia and is probably the oldest cultivated legume. Today, most lentils come from India, Canada, and Turkey. The lentil is a humble little legume that packs a punch in both flavor and nutrients, plus they're easy on the budget. Nutrition-wise, lentils are loaded with fiber and protein. With 12 grams of protein in 1/2 cup, lentils are an excellent meat replacement when combined with a whole grain item. Lentils are also high in folic acid (folate), potassium, and iron. As for versatility, lentils may be used in dishes, from omelets and salads to soups and rice dishes.
Tips and Tricks for Making Smoothies, No Recipes Required
This is a guide to help you whiz up the most delicious possible smoothies in your blender, even without using recipes. We'll talk favorite ingredients, all-important smoothie texture, add-ins for protein and sweetness, and tips for getting the most out of your equipment. We'll discuss regular fruit-based and other sweet smoothies as well as savory smoothies, and we'll answer lots of questions about how to make those ubiquitous, sometimes hazardous-looking green smoothies work for you.
Flavor Tips: Fruit and Other Sweet Smoothies
Let's start with some good news. If you can think of a baked dessert, an ice cream flavor, a milkshake, juice, or lemonade flavor, a coffee or tea drink, or any little sweet nothing that you like, you can make it into a smoothie. And you can make it into a reasonably or even very good-for-you smoothie with some thoughtful substitutions. Instead of creams, think yogurt, or cashews blended with water. Instead of sugar or caramel, think dates (and check the section on sweetening below). Instead of sweetened bar chocolate, try raw cacao powder.
You can add interest with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and allspice, just as you would in a baked recipe. but in much smaller quantities.
Great Sweet Smoothie Ingredients
- Liquids: Water, dairy or non-dairy milks*, coffee, brewed teas and tisanes, kefir, coconut water, coconut milk with the fat skimmed (so it doesn't coagulate when cold), fresh juices that you've just made, lemonade
- Fruits: Berries, cherries, bananas, melons, mangoes, peaches, nectarines, apricots, cooked pumpkin and other winter squash
- Herbs and Spices: Vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cardamom, anise, mint, basil, cilantro
*If you have a high-speed blender, a great substitute for nut milk is 1/4 cup of raw nuts and 1 to 2 cups of water. If you have a regular blender, a tablespoon of nut butter per cup of water works too.
Flavor: Green Smoothies
Love 'em or leave 'em, green smoothies are definitely a thing right now. And they're a thing that can taste pretty grotesque or actually really delicious, depending on how much you know. I'll address the critical question of texture a bit later for now, let's tackle taste.
There are two approaches to green smoothies. One is to hide some greens in an otherwise sweet smoothie. Spinach works great here, since the taste is easily overridden with other flavors. The other approach is to embrace the greenness and balance the flavors as you would with a juice. Choose a sweet or savory approach (for savory, skip the fruit and add a pinch of salt or even a splash of soy sauce, if you're into it). Then think of ingredients that would make a good salad or soup, and they'll probably taste pretty good together. Savory green smoothies are a great place to experiment with leafy herbs.
As we mentioned last week in our collection of tips and tricks for making juice, the color of our food and drinks affects how they taste to us. Smart ingredient combinations—ones that don't produce grey or brown drinks—go a long way toward making good smoothies. I once made a "green" smoothie that turned out essentially black. A word of advice based on that experience: No.
Great Green Smoothie Ingredients
- Liquids: Water, green tea, coconut water, fresh juices that you've just made
- Fruits: Apples, pears, pineapples, light-colored melons, peaches, nectarines, grapes
- Greens: Cucumber, kale, spinach, lettuce, chard, arugula, mustard greens, beet greens, dandelion, sorrel
- Herbs: Basil, cilantro, mint, chervil, ginger, dill, chives, garlic, marjoram, parsley, thyme, tarragon
How to Improve Your Smoothie Texture
A good fruit smoothie has a satisfying, creamy chill but isn't noticeably icy. It should be able to maintain its texture and emulsification as it warms up a bit so you don't have to inhale it in the first eight seconds. And if you let it, it should be able to trick you into thinking you're drinking a luscious dessert. A good green smoothie should be absolutely, perfectly smooth, with a bit of heft from higher-fat ingredients. Here are my top tips for achieving that level of smoothie bliss.
Blending up some ice cubes with your ingredients is okay in a pinch but can make it hard to get a good consistency going, so if you can freeze some of your smoothie ingredients ahead of time, you should. I'd estimate that the best consistency for a fruit smoothie usually comes from using two-thirds frozen ingredients where possible. Individual blender mileage will vary, so play around to see what works best.
For the most part, fruit is a freezing no-brainer. Peeled whole or sliced bananas, berries and cherries, sliced stone fruits, tropical fruits, grapes, and many other fruits freeze beautifully and still blend up well in a regular blender as long as you've cut them small and added enough liquid. High-speed blenders can handle large pieces of frozen fruit without much trouble as long as there's some liquid to get them started.
Depending on the strength of your blender, it can also be worth freezing a portion of the liquid ingredients. Nut milks, yogurt, coffee (with or without milk added), and even juices can be frozen in ice cube trays and added directly to the blender. Some of these may get a little icy, but but if there's a choice between adding frozen juice cubes and regular water-based ice cubes to a recipe, it's worth freezing the juice so as not to dilute the flavor.
Ingredients to Add for Better Texture
Nut Butters: Nothing takes a sweet smoothie from creaminess zero to hero as easily as a tablespoon or two of peanut, almond, or other nut or seed butter of your choice.
Avocado: is a second contender for most magical purveyor of creaminess to smoothies, and it's by far the best choice for green smoothies. You can even add half an avocado at the last minute to fix the texture of a smoothie that just isn't working out the way you'd hoped. It mellows flavors, too. Don't be afraid to try the avocado trick with fruit smoothies, too.
Cooked Oatmeal: In both sweet and savory smoothies, a few tablespoons of cooked oatmeal works wonders for adding creamy texture. I discovered this almost by accident, and it's one of the best tricks I know.
Greek Yogurt: In just about all smoothie types, a little Greek yogurt fills out texture beautifully.
Coconut Oil: In green smoothies where your ingredients aren't too cold, a tablespoon or two of virgin coconut oil adds good creaminess and a nice coconut flavor to the mix.
Sweeteners: The Mighty Medjool Date, the Insanely Ripe Banana, and more.
As far as I'm concerned, the queen of smoothie sweeteners is the Medjool date. It's super-sweet and caramel-like, and I've yet to find a smoothie in need of sweetness whose flavors were incompatible with the queen's.
If you're working with a high-speed blender—our reviews of the best ones are here—just remove the pit and drop in the whole date, no questions asked. Otherwise, it pays to know your blender. Some regular blenders can handle a chopped date just fine, but others will never get it completely smooth. If yours falls into the latter category, try soaking a finely chopped date in a little warm water or a bit of the liquid called for in the smoothie recipe, then blending it into a loose date paste before adding the rest of the smoothie ingredients.
Another great sweetening method for smoothies with bananas in them is simply to use really, really ripe bananas. This sounds sort of ridiculous but is actually an important part of my smoothie-making regime. Once every couple of months I'll buy a large quantity of bananas and let them ripen almost to oblivion, which is the perfect point of sweetness. Then I'll peel them and freeze them whole or halved in zip-top bags.
I don't typically sweeten smoothies outside of these methods, but if you want to, liquid sweeteners are your friends and will help you avoid a gritty texture. Try maple syrup if you think it will add a complementary flavor, honey, agave if you're into that, or even simple syrup.
Other Smoothie Add-Ins
There's a wide array of purported superfood and other just plain delicious ingredients to add to your smoothies. Some of my favorites are ground flax seed, chia seeds, maca, raw cacao, and matcha.
Then, of course, there's protein powder. Protein powders are a tricky business, varying tremendously in terms of ingredient quality, taste, and texture. I stayed away from them for years but ultimately discovered a pea protein and a brown rice protein that meet my needs on all of those fronts on days when I want a little extra staying power in my smoothies. If you find a product that meets your nutritional goals and doesn't have a discernible taste or chalky texture, protein powders can be added to most smoothies without too much tinkering. You may find you need a bit of extra liquid to absorb the powder and that it's better to drink those smoothies relatively quickly after blending.
A Word on Equipment: Regular vs. High-Speed Blenders
Like ovens, regular blenders— these are our favorites under $200—vary widely and each have their own personality and abilities. Some blend dates and even greens pretty well, and some, like my old (fairly pricey) one, just make a chopped salad instead of a green smoothie and then look you in the eye like everything's fine.
Lots of folks seem to want to hop on the high-speed (Vitamix, Blendtec, etc.) bandwagon but aren't sure it's worth the hefty price. I've had one for a couple of years now with no regrets except that once it scared the bejeezus out of my two-year-old neighbor, and I didn't see her out on the balcony again for several days. I use my blender almost daily, at least as much for salad dressings, sauces, and soups as for smoothies. In my case green smoothies were a no-go with a regular blender, but even for fruit smoothies I think the high-speed gives a better result since it can handle a higher ratio of frozen fruit to liquid.
Whether or not to buy a high-speed blender is really a personal decision, dictated as much by your cooking patterns as by your smoothie-making ones. Rather than give generic advice, I'm happy to answer any specific questions on this topic (and most others) in the comments.
Happy blending, folks. Hope this post helps you find your own freestyle liquid groove.
How Do Bartenders Remember Hundreds of Cocktail Recipes?
We asked some of the country’s top bartenders about how they keep all those drinks straight.
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast
About a decade ago, bartender Brad Farran moved to Brooklyn to help open Clover Club, Julie Reiner’s groundbreaking cocktail lounge. Among his first tasks: memorize a long list of cocktail recipes. “I made myself flashcards,” he says. “I would study them every day, have my roommate quiz me, and read them on the subway.”
And he mastered them…right up until opening night. “It didn’t amount to a hill of beans the first time I had three tickets up with two different drinks on each,” he says. “I was immediately in the weeds.”
Memory happens naturally memorization does not. Memorizing something is work, straight up. Sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn’t. So bartenders have to tweak the process and try different routes to find methods that work for them. “Over time, it got easier as I figured out how to build drinks on a structural level, how to balance them,” Farran says. “This made it easier to keep things straight in my head.”
While many of our everyday tasks once were dependent on memorization—think dialing a phone, driving to a friend’s house, or remembering to meet a lunch date—these have more or less been given over to a constellation of gadgets. Bartenders, however, don’t have the luxury of outsourcing. Constantly checking a smartphone (or even a less obtrusive smartwatch) to recall the ingredients and measurements in a complicated drink breaks the rhythm behind the bar. And it looks unprofessional—guests will assume you’re texting and just ignoring them. Frequent checking of recipes also slows performance, which means fewer drinks per shift, which means fewer tips.
“If you have to pause to look up a spec or flip through Evernote, that’s seconds wasted,” says Anu Apte-Elford, who helped put Seattle on the cocktail map when she took over the Rob Roy bar in 2009. “Those seconds add up to minutes, and those minutes could add up to hours. Think of all the tips you’re losing by not getting drinks out fast. It’s your money and your time.”
At the same time, mixology has gleefully plunged into the thickets of bewildering complexity. Not only do today’s bartenders have to remember which brands of which spirits go in which cocktail, but now there’s a dash of this house-made tincture, two dashes of that obscure bitters and a rinse of some inscrutable liqueur.
So bartenders more than ever need to master the art of memorization, much as their 19 th century forebears did. Knowing dozens of classic and house recipes are just a start add to that tally maybe a dozen new drinks with each quarterly menu change.
“In all frankness, it’s my job, and I don’t consider memorizing 100 recipes any great feat,” says Audrey Saunders, who opened New York’s pioneering Pegu Club in 2005 and helped train dozens of bartenders, many of whom have gone on to open notable bars themselves. “In the same way a pianist is required to memorize notes and music, a mathematician equations, a scientist formulae, or an actor a script, it’s simply what we do,” she says. “There are no shortcuts. We signed on for the task when we signed up for the job.”
But how do they exactly do it? I spoke with a dozen bartenders who had a century’s worth of experience between them, and asked how they achieved the Odyssean feat of decanting an ocean of drinks into their heads.
No two approached the process exactly alike but I did find some common threads, which might be simplified and summarized as: rote, reason, and riffing.
“The main thing I did was make flashcards and study them incessantly,” says Joaquin Simo, alum of Death & Co. and proprietor of Pouring Ribbons in New York. “Sitting on the subway. I’d always be flipping flashcards.”
Flashcards are cutting-edge 19th century technology—they were initially called “reading cards” and popularized thanks to an influential 1805 book on education. But they worked then and they work now. If there was a agreement among bartenders, it was the usefulness of flashcards—most seemed to have employed them at one point in their career or another.
Not only are they handy, portable tools that never threaten to shut down after dropping to one percent power, but even the act of creating them is a plus.
Jackson Cannon, owner and bar director of the famed Hawthorne in Boston, says there are multiple benefits. “It’s as much writing the drinks down as it is quizzing yourself,” he says. “Note cards remain an essential way to practice new information, and I actually require new staff to do it.”
Several others focused not just on words and measurements when memorizing, but also tried to picture their actions making the drink. “Imagine yourself going through the motions, reaching for the bitters, the bottles, the glassware, etcetera, while reciting the recipe,” says bartender and consultant Franky Marshall with Modern Bartender in New York, and an alum of Clover Club and Dead Rabbit. “I find visualizing helps to reinforce the actions once you’re actually making the drink.” (This technique of visualization is often employed by athletes, race car drivers and jockeys.)
Committing each element to memory is daunting, but as Farran discovered, understanding how these fragments work together from a broader, theoretical perspective can make memorization less daunting. Instead of memorizing hundreds of individual notes, you’re essentially recalling dozens of chords.
Several bartenders mentioned Gary Regan’s Joy of Mixology and its taxonomic approach to “families” of mixed drinks as a helpful memory aid. If you master the basics—how much spirit to how much modifier and sweetener for a handful of drink families—then you can focus on the specific ingredients, and turn to the “family” ratios for measures. For instance, sours, including the Margarita or Daiquiri, are generally two parts liquor, one part citrus and one part sweet.
Still, some drinks break from these standard formulas, or they include an ingredient that resists lodging in the mind. “The basics are straightforward,” says Geoff Wilson, an alum of The Violet Hour in Chicago and currently with Urban Farmer in Portland, Ore. “It’s the outlier ingredients that can be trouble—like crème de cacao.” Then it’s often back to rote memorization.
Or drawing on other mnemonic tricks. Anyone who has taken high school science remembers mnemonic devices like “Roy G. Biv” to recall the colors of the spectrum. Some use these for drinks that won’t stick—Apte-Elford says one nemesis of hers was the Corpse Reviver #2, for which she had a lot of requests but trouble recalling. “Finally I just started saying GLLCA—pronouncing it GLICKA in my head—and for that helped me remember: gin, lemon, Lillet, Cointreau, absinthe.”
Several bartenders mentioned that they remembered many drinks in their repertoire basically as riffs on another—instead of remembering abstract formulas, they master a few common drinks and then add and subtract ingredients to those to remember others.
“One advantage to working under Phil Ward [alum of Death and Co. and Mayahuel in New York] is that he was the ultimate Mr. Potato Head bartender,” says Simo, explaining that Ward often swapped key ingredients to craft something new. “Like, it’s a Little Italy but with this instead of that. There were a lot of similar builds where you were making substitutions.”
Legendary bartender and author Dale DeGroff, who’s widely credited for kicking of the craft cocktail boom in the 1990s from his perch at New York’s Rainbow Room, agrees that this approach can be helpful in mastering a long list. “The French 75 is easy because it’s a Tom Collins, but with Champagne instead of club soda—and lose the cherry and orange slice. The Sidecar is a sour, and then the Between the Sheets is a Sidecar with a split-base spirit—Cognac and rum.”
It’s not just the mustache wax and shirt garters—bartenders live in the past in other ways. At work they live in an oral rather than a written culture (nevermind digital), and memorization has always been essential in verbal societies.
And the more you do it, the better you get at it—ideally, the cocktail recipes become ingrained, like family. “It reminds me of the same fear non-actors have about acting,” says DeGroff. “You don’t memorize the lines. You play the scene, listening and reacting, and the lines just come. The emotion and the situation make the lines inevitable, in a way.”
Easy Party Drink Basics
Most cocktail drinks consist of four basic parts. Whether you are making margaritas, martinis, daiquiris, or other popular cocktails and mixed drinks, each element makes a different contribution to a drink&aposs flavor. Basic cocktail components:
- Basesਊre the spirits, or liquor, in a mixed drink. Common cocktail bases include bourbon, vodka, gin, brandy, rum, and tequila.
- Modifiers (or mixers) will enhance your party drink without overpowering it. Popular mixers include vermouth, tonic, club soda, mild or sweet fruit juices, sparkling wines, and soft drinks.
- Accentsਊre strongly flavored ingredients. Common party cocktail accents are lemon, lime, bitters, grenadine, and complex liqueurs.
- Garnishes add color, flair, and a bit of flavor to cocktails. Olives, cherries, and citrus curls or wedges are a few traditional cocktail garnishes.
Basic cocktail recipe:
- 2 parts of any base (spirit)
- 1 part modifier or mixer, such as fruit juice
- 1 part accent, such as a flavored liqueur or simple syrup
In general, the base is the first ingredient placed in a glass, shaker, or pitcher. Add the modifiers, accents, and ice to the container shake or stir as the drink recipe requires. Add garnishes to the finished cocktail just before serving.
13 Beautiful Cocktail Recipe Books
Warm weather is fast approaching, making it a great time to perfect your seasonal cocktails. Break out your shaker and jigger because you’re going to need them: These beautiful cocktail recipe books are sure to yield equally beautiful drinks.
1. SPRITZ $11
Few things are more refreshing on a hot day than a bubbly cocktail. This book is dedicated to one of Italy’s favorite aperitivo drinks: the Spritz. The beautiful tome explores the history of the classic cocktail and provides 50 different recipes for drinks and snacks to try at home. Each recipes sits beside a full color photograph and elegantly chosen typography.
2. THE PDT COCKTAIL BOOK $15
Please Don’t Tell is a popular New York speakeasy known for its creative cocktails. Mixologist and PDT operator Jim Meehan shares some of his favorite recipes and bar secrets in this book, which features more than 304 cocktail recipes—featuring vibrantly colored illustrations by Chris Gall— as well as tips and tricks of the trade.
3. THE DEAD RABBIT DRINKS MANUAL $16
Here's another quality New York City cocktail lounge with a beautiful recipe book. Founder Sean Muldoon and bar manager Jack McGarry tell some of the bar's tales and outline its recipes for its cocktails, each of which is accompanied by a detailed history of the drink as well as stunning photographs.
4. THE CRAFT COCKTAIL PARTY $17
Author Julie Reiner is often credited with helping revive craft cocktails. She co-owns a selection of cocktail bars in New York and was named one of 2014's Top 10 Mixologists by Food & Wine. With credentials like these, it's no surprise that this is one serious recipe book. With plenty of full color photographs, the tome is perfect as a coffee table book when you’re not referencing it.
5. THE COCKTAIL CHRONICLES $17
If books authored by professional mixologists intimidate you, this guide—written by Imbibe! editor Paul Clarke—might be a better fit. This book provides simple recipes that are easily replicated, and small, charming illustrations of tools and drinks are tucked into the columns to keep things interesting.
6. PARIS COCKTAILS $13
Save money on airfare by creating lovely Parisian cocktails right in your own living room. This extensive guide comes with more than 100 recipes inspired by the French capital. Along with recipes, the book also gives tips for how to throw swanky Parisian-themed parties and provides reviews of Paris and American bars. The whole thing is housed in a beautiful red book with a martini glass cut-out showing a map of Paris.
7. AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO COCKTAILS $14
Illustrator Elizabeth Graeber brings Orr Shtuhl's cocktail recipes to life with playful illustrations of penguins, foxes, and more. Each recipe comes with an adorable cartoon for example, the Sidecar recipe comes with a drawing of a man in a sidecar while the recipe for Blood and Sand has a picador and bull.
8. COCKTAILS OF THE MOVIES $13
Enjoy a White Russian like The Dude or sip on a Champagne Cup like M. Gustave with this helpful guide to cinematic cocktails. Each recipe comes with a history of the drink, some context from the movie, and a full-page illustration of the character who drank it.
9. THE BARTENDER’S GUIDE $40
Fall back on an old classic with this reprint of an 1862 cocktail guide, which is considered the first serious American recipe book on cocktails and punches. The reprint from Cocktail Kings comes with a beautiful green hardcover.
10. BEACHBUM BERRY’S POTIONS OF THE CARIBBEAN $27
Jeff “Beachbum” Berry provides some insight into some tropical drinks that capture the tiki bar aesthetic. There are 77 vintage Caribbean drink recipes inside, alongside stories of the people who created, served, and enjoyed the drinks. The fun recipe book is filled with colorful layouts, vintage illustrations, and rare historical photos.
11. HICKORY DAIQUIRI DOCK $13
For new parents: Unwind with a cocktail made after the kids are asleep. Each of the 20 recipes comes with a little nursery rhyme and an adorable ‘50s-style illustration by Eda Kaban. The clever book comes with board pages, so it can discreetly hide amongst your children’s books.
12. A VISUAL GUIDE TO DRINK $19
Pop Chart Lab, known for their highly detailed posters and glassware, also has a book. This visual guide offers infographics, maps, charts, and recipes laid out in perfectly structured formats. Drinking has never been so organized!
13. TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD $9
This literary cocktail recipe book is perfect for any bookworm. It offers 65 different drink recipes with punny names like “Romeo and Julep” and “A Rum of One’s Own.” Each recipe is nicely paired with commentary about the history of the book being used as inspiration. Along with drinks, the book also details various bar snacks and drinking games to go along with your cocktails. Best of all, there are impressive illustrations throughout the book by Lauren Mortimer.
5 Tips for Making the Best Blender Drinks
Hot enough for you? With scorching temperatures across the country, it’s time to pull out the blender and fix frosty cocktails. To help you chill down quickly, we got tropical-mixology expert Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, author of five books on tiki drinks, history and culture, to share some of his secrets for making frozen concoctions, along with two of his own original recipes.
Blend with Finesse
To make an adult slushie like the Piña Colada, you’ll need a lot of ice and to blend for a while. But you can also flash-blend by using less ice and pulsing just long enough to aerate the liquid. “You’ll get a really nice frothy head,” says Berry.
Ice Matters—a Lot
“The worst sin is just filling the blender with ice without regard to how much other ingredients are in there,” says Berry. Generally, you want twice as much ice as everything else.
Ice shape is also very important, since oversized cubes “will kill your blender.” So, when flash-blending, go with crushed ice that will break up easily. For thicker cocktails, use small cubes or chips, which pulverize into slush.
Fresh Is Best
Just like when shaking a classic, you should avoid canned and frozen ingredients. “In a bad blender drink, you’ll just get freezer burn,” says Berry. He loves using fresh pineapple—you can even substitute it for juice—but most any fruit will work. However, steer clear of raspberries: “The tiny seeds get stuck in your teeth.”
Don't Splurge on a Blender
Unless you’re opening a bar, “you should not be spending a fortune on a blender,” says Berry, who has been using the same machine for 25 years. “It’s the regular Osterizer you can get at Target.” No matter what model you own, you should always run it on the highest-speed setting when fixing cocktails.
Garnish with Flair
Sure, you can use a piece of the fruit featured in a slushy recipe as a garnish: “It harmonizes with the drink and gives you an added aroma,” Berry says. But to be more creative, he likes a floating, flaming lime shell. Scrape the pulp out of a juiced lime half and add some toasted bread. Douse with lemon extract and set alight. Just don’t forget to have a fire extinguisher handy.
Herbal Cocktail Ingredients
There are nearly endless combinations for herbal cocktails based on what you have on hand and which flavors appeal to you most. Before I dive into specific cocktail recipes, here are some tips and tricks that will help you formulate your own herbal cocktail recipes using ingredients from your own garden and apothecary.
Many traditional cocktail recipes call for simple syrup, which is a 50/50 ratio of white sugar and water stirred together over low heat until they form a sweet syrup. You can add an herbal element to your simple syrup by tossing in a handful of fresh or dried leaves, flowers, or buds to your finished syrup, removing from heat, covering, and letting steep for 15 to 20 minutes before straining.
For a healthier version, consider replacing half of the white sugar with honey, so you’re working with ½ part sugar, ½ part honey, and 1 part water. If you go this route, be careful to not overheat your syrup as many of the beneficial compounds in raw honey are lost at higher temperatures.
To cut out the white sugar altogether, you can make a simple herb-infused honey. Herbal honeys are delicious added to cocktails, tea, sparkling water, salad dressings, desserts, and many other recipes. For step-by-step instructions, see How to Make and Use Rose-Infused Honey .
Herbalists and bartenders alike are familiar with bitters because of their wonderfully stimulating effect on the digestive system and the way they add depth and complexity to a cocktail. Bitters are a traditional ingredient in old-fashions, Manhattans, and mai tais.
One of most popular brands of store-bought bitters is Angostura . This brand was founded by a German-Venezuelan physician in 1824, and the bitters were originally intended as a medical formula to help alleviate his patients’ stomach troubles. The doctor’s three sons eventually reframed the bitter tincture as a cocktail ingredient and named the company after their father’s hometown of Angostura, Venezuela. What a fun example of a family’s herbal recipe becoming a long-lasting staple in homes, bars, and restaurants worldwide!
Fortunately for herbalists, bitters are surprisingly easy to make at home and often call for common ingredients, like dandelion ( Taraxacum officinale ) root and citrus peel. To make your own herbal bitters, see A Summer Bitters Recipe , featuring dandelion root, gentian ( Gentiana lutea ) root, and licorice ( Glycerrhiza glabra ) root, or Dark and Stormy Mushroom Bitters Recipe with a spicy, chocolatey taste that would blend beautifully with autumn or winter cocktails.
Cocktails, along with mocktails, teas, and spritzers, offer a creative and delicious way to consume tinctures, especially if you want to mask their taste behind something sweet, citrusy, or herbaceous. You can either add a dropperful or two of your favorite tincture directly to your cocktail, or you can create a custom blend with 1 part tincture(s) and 1 part honey to store in the fridge and add to drinks at your leisure. (Our recipe for the Nightcap Tonic, below, is an example of this.)
Keep in mind that an average cocktail recipe calls for between 1.5 and 2 ounces of alcohol, whereas a typical tincture dosage is 1 to 2 dropperfuls per serving (roughly ¼ teaspoon altogether). So your cocktail will not be composed entirely of tinctures, but rather a dropperful or two of your favorite tincture (or tincture blend) combined with your base alcohol of choice.
If you have access to fresh herbs, then you’d do well to acquaint yourself with the act of “muddling.” This phrase is popular among bartenders, and it means smashing your fruit or herbs in the bottom of your cocktail glass to release the juices and aromatics. If you’re muddling fruit, then you can get fairly aggressive and really smash them up. When muddling herbs, however, use a lighter finesse. Your goal is not to smash the herbs, but rather to gently release the aromatic properties into the drink. This is a wonderful technique to utilize in your herbal kitchen, and you can enhance even the simplest sparkling water with the addition of muddled herbs.
Fresh herbs and flowers, including peppermint ( Mentha x piperita ), rosemary ( Rosmarinus officinalis ), lavender (Lavandula spp.), and borage ( Borago officinalis ) also make whimsical garnishes. (For inspiration, see our post 9 Edible Flowers and How to Use Them .)
For an extra special, crowd-pleasing move, freeze your herbs or edible flowers into floral ice cubes !
As you can see, an herbalist’s apothecary is already filled with ingredients that blend effortlessly into healthy, seasonal cocktails. In the recipes that follow, you’ll see a number of these techniques and ingredients used as simple modifications of traditional cocktails.
Franklin Rose Mojito
Fresh peppermint ( Mentha × piperita ) and mojitos go hand-in-hand. Mojitos originated in Havana, Cuba, and they traditionally include white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water, and mint. The following recipe is from the best-selling book, Fancy AF Cocktails , written by mixologist, TV personality and Herbal Academy student, Ariana Madix , and it features rose-infused sugar for an extra special, herbal twist. Yield: 1 short glass.
Fresh rose petals from 6-8 organic, unsprayed roses
2 cups white sugar
1 pint-sized glass jar with lid
¾ oz lime juice
4-5 fresh mint sprigs ( Mentha x piperita )
1 tablespoon rose-infused sugar
Crushed ice for serving
2 ounces aged rum
2 dashes bitters for garnish
- To make the rose-infused sugar, pour 1 inch of sugar into the bottom of a sterilized, dry glass jar. Add one thin layer of rose petals, then add another inch of sugar. Continue layering rose petals and sugar until the jar is nearly full. Cap, let infuse for 2-3 weeks out of direct sunlight before straining the rose petals from the sugar.
- To make the cocktail, muddle the lime juice, mint sprigs, and rose-infused sugar in the bottom of a short glass.
- Fill the remainder of the glass with crushed ice.
- Add the rum and stir.
- Add 2 dashes of bitters for a final garnish.
Fire Cider Bloody Mary
Fire Cider is an easy-to-make, immune-boosting tonic that many herbalists already have on hand. The spicy blend of peppers, horseradish, onion, garlic, black pepper, and vinegar blend beautifully with tomato juice for a quick, herbal Bloody Mary. If alcohol isn’t your thing, then simply omit the vodka from this recipe! Yield: 1 tall glass.
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
1 cup crushed ice
4 ounces organic tomato juice
2 ounces vodka
2 ounces fire cider
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch ground black pepper
Celery stalk, green olives, or parsley sprig for garnish (optional)
- Pour celery salt onto a small plate.
- Rub the juicy side of the lemon wedge along the lip of a tall glass.
- Roll the outer edge of the glass in celery salt until fully coated.
- Fill glass with ice and set aside.
- In a cocktail shaker, combine tomato juice, vodka, fire cider, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper.
- Shake to combine, then pour over ice.
- Garnish with celery stalk, green olives, and/or parsley. Enjoy!
Chamomile and Elderflower Iced Toddy
The apple-like, floral nature of gentle chamomile ( Matricaria chamomilla or Anthemis nobilis) flowers blend beautifully with the oak undertones of aged whisky. This surprisingly lovely combination is further enhanced with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, a whimsical addition to any herbalist’s bar. Add a drizzle of honey, and you’re drinking a delightfully herbal, iced version of a classic hot toddy. Yield: 1 short class.
- Bring water to boil in a small saucepan or kettle. Remove from heat, then pour water over dried chamomile flowers in a heat-proof container. Cover and steep for 5 minutes before straining.
- Add honey to warm chamomile tea and stir until fully dissolved.
- In a cocktail shaker, combine sweetened chamomile tea, whiskey, St. Germain, and ice. Shake until well combined and chilled.
- Pour the contents from the cocktail shaker into the cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh chamomile flowers, elderflowers, or a floating lemon slice (optional).
Tulsi Lime Margarita
Tulsi, also known as holy basil (Ocimum sanctum ) leaf and lime juice are an incredibly refreshing combination for hot summer days. Because lime juice is a traditional ingredient in margaritas, this cocktail comes together beautifully with the addition of high-quality tequila. Yield: 1 short glass.
Tulsi Simple Syrup
½ cup honey
½ cup white sugar
1 cup water
1 cup fresh (1/2 cup dried) tulsi ( Ocimum sanctum , synonym O. tenuiflorum ) aerial part
1 tablespoon salt
1 lime, quartered
2 sprigs fresh tulsi ( Ocimum sanctum , synonym O. tenuiflorum ) aerial part
2 tablespoons tulsi simple syrup
4 tablespoons lime juice
2 ounces tequila
- To make the simple syrup, combine honey, sugar, and water in a small saucepan and heat at a low temperature, stirring constantly until the sugar and honey have completely dissolved in the water.
- Remove from heat, stir in the tulsi leaves, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes before straining. This syrup will keep for about 2 weeks when stored in the refrigerator.
- While the syrup is infusing, pour salt onto a small plate.
- Rub the juicy side of the lime wedge along the lip of a short glass.
- Roll the outer edge of the glass in salt until fully coated.
- Muddle the fresh tulsi sprigs in the bottom of your salt-rimmed glass. (This step is optional and you can skip it if you don’t have fresh tulsi. However, it really helps bring the tulsi flavor alive.)
- Fill glass with ice and set aside.
- To make the margarita, combine 2 tablespoons of the tulsi simple syrup with lime juice and tequila in a cocktail shaker.
- Shake until well combined, then pour into glass with muddled tulsi, ice, and salted rim.
Tinctures blend beautifully into cocktails and have nearly endless combinations. This Nightcap Tonic combines a few sleepy-time tinctures, including hops, passionflower, and valerian, with honey and brandy for an easy-to-make cocktail intended to help you drift to sleep. Yield: 1 sipping glass.
4 ounces organic honey
1 ounce hops ( Humulus lupulus ) tincture
1 ounce passionflower ( Passiflora incarnata ) tincture
1 ounce valerian ( Valeriana officinalis ) tincture
1 ounce chamomile ( Matricaria recutita ) tincture
1 ounce brandy
- To make the NightCap syrup, combine honey and tinctures in a double-boiler over very low heat. Stir constantly until well blended and then immediately remove from heat. Be careful that your temperature does not get too high because high heat will negatively affect the quality of your honey and your tinctures. Pour into an 8 oz glass jar, cap, label, and store in the fridge for up to 2 months.
- To make your NightCap Tonic, combine 1 ounce of brandy with 1 teaspoon of NightCap syrup. Stir until well combined, and sip slowly as you blissfully drift asleep.
(Note: A nightcap is not a substitute for healthy sleeping habits. If you experience insomnia or persistent trouble sleeping, see 5 Herbal Insomnia Options for Better Sleep and 5 Lifestyle Hacks for Sound Sleep for more information.)
Orange Blossom Aperitif
Aperitifs are traditionally served before meals to help stimulate the appetite and prepare the stomach for the upcoming meal. This Orange Blossom Aperitif recipe is a super simple, effervescent way to consume bitters, and it’s inspired by the classic Italian Aperol Spritz . Yield: 1 wine glass.
- Add orange blossom water, bitters, prosecco and sparkling water to a wine glass with ice. Stir until well combined
- Garnish with an orange wheel.
- 1 whole lime (cut into 8 wedges)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (optional)
- 1.5 oz rum
- lime sparkling water (I prefer Key Lime LaCroix for this one)
- 10 mint leaves (fresh)
- 2 slices jalapeño (fresh)
Prepare your Spicy Jalapeño Mojito
- In your tall glass, add the limes, mint leaves, and jalapeño slices. until the mint, limes, and jalapeños are bruised and the oils/juices are released.
- Add the rum.
- Stir to combine.
- Fill the glass with ice.
- Fill the rest of the space with your Lime Sparkling Water.
- Garnish with a mint leaf, lime slice, and/or jalapeño slice.
- Enjoy Responsibly!