Friday Cocktail: The Gin and Tonic

When setting out to do this week’s Friday Cocktail I knew that it would be quite familiar to most, if not everyone. That being said, there are bad  gin and tonics and good ones, and I hope to set you on the right path to a good one.

As you may have guessed from yesterday’s post things in my new home are busy, but not in a way I find particularly bad. It’ exciting to explore around London, and to get to know our neighbourhood in between reading for classes. It was on a trip around the neighbourhood that Cameron and I stopped into one of the two wine/liquor stores nearest to us that will probably become our “regular” spot.

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When we saw the bottle of Aviation gin we were intrigued. Not only was the idea of purchasing an American-distilled gin while living in London vaguely amusing, its description as “an adventurous blend of spices from around the world” was intriguing. Before making the actual cocktail I tried the tiniest sip to see what exactly those spices were. As it turns out they are a unique blend of juniper, cardamom, coriander, lavender, anise, sasparilla and orange peel; while you can definitely taste the cardamom (in fact it was the first thing I noticed) and juniper, the other spices and herbs definitely take a back seat. That being said, this is definitely not a classic gin, and there are plenty of people who probably would not like it at all, but I do, at least for a gin and tonic.

Anyway, the point of my long description is that the type of gin used in a gin and tonic is of vital importance to how the drink will turn out, as is the tonic you use. Fever Tree is fantastic, but you could use a few different kinds as long as you promise to never, ever, ever, use diet tonic water. The artificial sweetener mixed with the quinine is, in my opinion, a terrible combination.

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Our flat didn’t have very good cocktail glasses, so we picked these up from Zara Home

The limes are the easy part as you don’t even need to juice them, so definitely go for the whole lime to cut into wedges.

Ingredients: 

• 1.5 oz of your favourite gin

• lime wedge

• tonic water

Directions: 

1. Pour gin into a cocktail glass with some ice

2. Squeeze lime wedge over the gin/ice (you could also do this last)

3. Top with tonic to taste, garnish with a lime wedge if desired, and enjoy!

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Pre-tonic

If you don’t have a favourite gin, or don’t like gin at all (as I used to) I recommend doing a bit of research and finding a blend that is not quite so heavy on the juniper, or even infusing your own gin to control the spices used. It sounds difficult, but I promise it isn’t- I got Cameron a small kit last Christmas and it was incredibly simple, and had a really good result.

An Afternoon Exploring the London Design Festival

So I know I haven’t been very good about posting for the past week and half, but this is my attempt to fall back into a routine and proper schedule. Cameron and I moved into our permanent flat on Friday morning, and spent the weekend doing the decidedly un-exciting, but necessary task of making it feel like home– getting sheets, towels, groceries, and finally getting internet today!

On Monday we had our first day of classes, which was exciting, if only slightly intimidating as I had no idea what to expect. Fortunately everything went well, and we each feel really good both about our courses, and our classmates. One of the most fun things so far has been getting to know everyone, as almost all of us come from different academic backgrounds, and there are numerous countries represented.

On Monday afternoon when we finished class for the day Cameron and I thought it would be fun to go explore some of the London Design Festival housed in the Somerset House (conveniently located on the edge of the King’s campus). There are a variety of installations ranging form conceptual to practical, and even a virtual reality experience, which we have an appointment for on Friday.

Before you even enter Somerset House you pass through what is usually a fountain space, but is instead the temporary home an installation by Marc Quinn called Frozen Waves, Broken Sublimes. The installation features four sculptures that enlarge objects you would find on the beach into monumental scale. They are both beautiful and whimsical, interacting with both the space and the viewer, inviting closer inspection from every angle.

There was also a series of interactive exhibits presented by Twitter, and although don’t have a twitter account, they were interesting and insightful nonetheless. In one project a typewriter ticked away as it composed the world longest collaborative book, composed of tweets by real people in real time. Another flashed trending words on a large projection, showing which words are used most frequently, and the number of times, as hashtags. One particularly innovative one involved a therapeutic experience  aimed at hospital patients, projecting a large, soothing image onto the ceiling along with sound as the viewer relaxed on a large cushion in a pleasantly warm room. The image could be changed via tweet, but I was happy to experience the waterfalls and beach scenes chosen by patients in the preliminary project.

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On the more utilitarian side, a company called Punkt aims to help people distance themselves from they phones and open up channels for actual conversation and interaction. Their device is basically an analog phone that functions only for calls and text messages. Because of its simplicity of use it is made of durable materials with a simple user interface. As someone who is far too connected to the various apps on my phone this prospect if both liberating and terrifying. I’ve lost my phone before and quickly spiralled into an anxious state- worrying that something horrible would happen and I would have no way of getting in touch with anyone. Yes, I realise this is a problem, and as much as I see the value of a simpler phone interface, it terrifies me to be so disconnected.

This weekend we plan to do a bit of relaxing! As we are officially settled in Notting Hill we may explore Portobello market to have a break from schoolwork, but I am definitely looking forward to having a bit of time to just breathe.

First Week in London

We’ve been in London for just about a week now, which is rather unbelievable. We spent our first few days walking around quite a bit, which turned out to be a fantastic way to minimize any jet lag. It’s been somewhat strange, but almost entirely wonderful.

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Snapchat pre-flight

While searching for a flat we decided to use Airbnb to stay somewhere more residential– the idea being that we would get to know the area a lot better, and that we would have access to a kitchen so we wouldn’t have to go out for meals multiple times a day for over a week. This turned out to be a fantastic decision! We have loved exploring Notting Hill and Kensington, so much so that this past weekend when we were on the search for a flat of our own, our favorite happened to be just a few streets over from where we are staying now!

This past Saturday Cameron and I spent the whole day searching for a flat, which was a lot of fun, if somewhat tiring. After looking over our options we decided to use the London Relocation Services, as they are extremely thorough, and try to have you moved in as soon as possible. The company specializes in helping professionals and students who are moving to London from abroad, who aren’t sure how to navigate the housing market. Our search began at 9:15am, and didn’t wrap up until just after 4:00pm, during which we managed to look at 18 different flats in several areas across London including Marylebone, Islington, Notting Hill, and Maida Vale. it was definitely a long day, but we finished with about four properties we really liked, including one that was absolutely fantastic. One of the most surprising things was how quickly the market moves; in some cases flats were taken within an hour of us seeing them, so I was really happy to have someone navigate! Luckily, we managed to secure our favorite property, and aim to move in by the end of this week.

In addition to searching for a new home, and exploring our new neighborhood, I’ve begun the induction for my masters program at Kings College. The day before my induction Cameron and I mapped our route to school and tested how long it would take. Afterwards we explored around Covent Garden, as I was dying to see the installation by Charles Pétillon.

So far I have successfully navigated the route to school without any help (from an app or Cameron)!  Although courses don’t begin until Monday, I already have a preliminary group assignment, which has actually been a great way to get back into the mindset of having homework to do, and has allowed me to get to know some of the other students in my program. Everyone I’ve met so far has been really nice, and its been interesting learning about everyone’s different areas of interest.

So far one of my favorite places we’ve explored is Kensington Gardens. It’s absolutely gigantic, and there are loads of spots where I feel like I’m out of the city all together, so I’m excited to go for a run and explore a bit more. We’ve also looked around Holland Park a bit, and looked around a few of the different gardens there.

One of the must fun things we’ve done was going to dinner with some friends of mine, Maddy and Manda, who I’ve known since high school. Maddy has been London for the past year getting her MA and was about to go home, and Manda has just arrived to get her MBA. I’m quite happy to have someone in the city who I’ve known for so long! We met in Kensington and went to the Churchill Arms for a drink before heading to dinner at Tem Tép Vietnamese Kitchen. Maddy recommended the Hue Vermicelli soup, which was so amazing that I can’t wait to go back!

The next few days will be just as full, as Cameron and I have a lot to do before we move into our new flat at the end of the week!

Friday Cocktail: MIA

With all of the combination of packing, moving to a new city, and staying in a temporary accommodation, I just didn’t have time to write cocktail post this week. I suggest picking up a good bottle of wine, maybe a nice rosé to toast the end of summer, and having a quiet night in– that’s what I will be doing! 🙂

Next week I plan to be back on schedule, and promise to post an update of the big move, and all of the things we’ve been up to in London.

I hope I didn’t disappoint anyone, but if I did I’m sorry, and hope you check back next week, or check out some of my older posts here.

Have a great weekend!

-Chloe

Favorite Fall Footwear

The end is near! Well actually, I suppose it would be more accurate to say the beginning. The time has finally come (tomorrow!) for Cameron and I to move to London. It’s crazy, and exciting, and so many thing all at once. After so many months of planning, and thinking about where we’ll live, what courses to take, etc. its been a bit of a challenge to say things like “this week” rather than “next year”.

By some miracle I’ve managed to fit nearly everything I need into two suitcases and a carry-on bag. My larger suitcase is roughly ten pounds over the weight limit, but I’ve decided to just pay the fee, as its full of things I will actually use and need, and shipping would be even more expensive.

This past weekend my mom took me shopping for some last minute necessities at King of Prussia with my godmother. Without revealing too much, I will say that the past week  has been extremely stressful, and the tension so high at times that it was practically a physical presence. Needless to say, it was nice to take a bit of breather, and to spend some time with my mom before I leave tomorrow.

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While we were shopping I found a few great pairs of boots that I couldn’t quite decide between. The sales associate offered a pair of socks to help me get a better feel. I was initially expecting one of those thin shoe liners, but when I was handed a great pair of mostly cotton socks that were thin but warm, I just had to get a pair as well. In fact, I ended up getting three pairs- one in each color. I have a few pairs of Falke tights that have been my absolute favorites, but hadn’t tried their socks. Well I am definitely sold, and will probably be replacing all of my socks in the near future.

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The boots I eventually chose are a shorter ankle boot from Aquatalia (pictured above). I love the shoe itself, and am even more excited about the fact that they are weatherproof! It’s extremely rare to find a comfortable, functional shoe that is also attractive and stylish, and I’m so happy I finally did. The only hard part was finding a spot for them in my suitcase! They will be perfect for the fall/winter, and especially the damp weather I’m in for in London.

Friday Cocktail: Vodka Gimlet

This week’s post is short and sweet, just like the featured cocktail.It also happens to be my last before Cameron and I move! I’ve been consumed with packing, running last minute errands, and spending time with family and friends, but am unbelievably excited to go.

For last week’s jalapeño margaritas I got quite a surplus of limes, and so have been brainstorming what do do with all of them. I finally settled on a gimlet, although with vodka instead of the traditional gin.

My first interaction with a gimlet was when I was in high school. No, it wasn’t the alcoholic version, but rather the Philosophy gimlet-scented body wash, which is no longer available unfortunately. I loved the citrusy-herbal scent, and the subtle shimmer that made the bottle, and my skin, glisten. When I encountered the cocktail for the first time I liked it just as much.

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They are great with gin, but using vodka lets the lime really come through– its a bit like an adult limeade, but with a bit of a kick.

Ingredients:

• 2oz vodka (or gin)

• 1/2oz-3/4oz lime juice (fresh is best!)

• 1/4-1/2oz simple syrup

Directions:

  1. Add ingredients into a shaker, top with ice, and shake vigorously.
  2. Strain into a highball glass, garnish with a lime wedge, and enjoy

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It’s a lovely, summery drink, but I’m also happy to enjoy these year-round, and hope you do, too! I’m excited for this next week and all of the excitement it will bring– wish me luck!

Birthday Beignets

Tuesday was Cameron’s 25th birthday, and we have a bit of a tradition of making beignets for celebratory occasions– birthdays, holidays, etc. They make the morning, and really the whole day, just a bit more special. If you want to go all out, you could even enjoy these with a glass of champagne or a mimosa and fell incredibly decadent.

This recipe is pretty straightforward, but I definitely recommend prepping all of your ingredients first, so you can add everything easily in sequence. Also be aware that you will want to make the dough for these the night before so they have plenty of time to rise overnight (if you don’t want to wait overnight, just be sure to let them sit for 6-8 hours to rise properly).

Once they’re ready and you’ve rolled them out you can use a fun cookie cutter (I used a dinosaur!) if you’d like to make them a bit more festive, but I would definitely avoid anything with small detailed shapes as they may cook unevenly.

I’ve tested a few recipes over the last few years, and this one is definitely my favorite, although I’ve made a few changes over time. I’ve also halved the original recipe, so what’s described below make plenty of beignets for 3-4 people.

Ingredients:

• 1/2 c warm, wrist temperature water

• 1/8c sugar of your choice

• 1/2 tbs active dry yeast

• 1 egg replacement

• 1 tbs vegan butter, plus 1tbs coconut oil melted

• 1/4c nondairy milk (I recommend coconut or almond)

• 1/4 tsp salt

• 2-2.5c all purpose flour

• Oil for frying

• Powdered sugar

Cut dough before frying

Cut dough before frying

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl dissolve the sugar in the warm water, then stir in the yeast with a wooden spoon. Let sit for about five minutes for the yeast to activate.
  2. Add nondairy milk, earth balance/coconut oil, salt ,and egg replacer, whisking well to combine.
  3. Slowly add the flour, mixing well with a wooden spoon as you go. Once it’s somewhat sticky and hard to mix, knead for a few minutes until its smoothed out and a bit elastic, shaping it into a ball.
  4. Remove the dough, lightly coat the bowl with oil, then replace the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 6-8 hours.
  5. Once it’s risen, knead briefly and roll out on a well-floured surface. I like to flip it over after each roll to keep it from sticking. Aim for about 1/4in thick dough once rolled out completely.
  6. Cut dough into strips about 1-1.5in wide, then cut again tomato either rectangles or triangles. I try to cut my rectangles no smaller than about 1in on the shorter side, and 1.5-2 in on the longer sides, but it’s totally up to you. Just ensure they are mostly uniform so they cook evenly.
  7. Heat oil to 360°F, and once hot, gently place in a few pieces of dough at a time, turning as needed, until they are golden on all sides.
  8. Once you remove the beignets from the hot oil, place them on a plate with about 2-3 paper towels to remove a bit of excess oil, then place in a bowl of powdered sugar and toss/stir to coat.
  9. Once you have friend all of your dough, I like to go back over the pile of beignets with  a generous sprinkle of powdered sugar. A tea strainer works quite well to evenly disperse, but you could also use a fine mesh sieve.
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The finished beignets!

These are a bit time intensive, but I promise they’re worth it– if anything, the amount of work involved will keep you from making these every weekend! After enjoying these Cameron and I usually like to go for a walk, or do something relatively active, as all of that sugar needs to go somewhere!

Do you have a favorite recipe that you use for celebrations/holidays? Let me know in the comments!