Friday Cocktail: Summer Shrub

A shrub? Yes. Well, no, not if you’re thinking about the garden variety, but definitely yes if you are thinking about a delicious, summery syrup that will keep in your fridge well into the fall, then the answer is definitely yes.

What is a shrub exactly? Well at it’s most simple it’s a sort of drinking vinegar. While that doesn’t sound terribly appetising, bear with me because it’s actually delicious. Using vinegar to preserve fruit has a long history, but it became especially popular in colonial America, making drinks with or without alcohol. And it’s exactly this ability to enjoy with or without alcohol that makes them so nice in the summer– they are super refreshing and full of flavour!

The prep work is wonderfully simple, but there is some waiting involved. Patience is definitely not a virtue that I have been particularly blessed with, but if I can wait two days for this, you can too. If you were to google ‘shrub’ lots of different recipes and combinations will come up, ranging from one with a single fruit, or multiple. The idea for this recipe comes from Renegade Kitchen and uses plums (one of my favourite summer fruits) and basil (one of my favourite herbs). Besides these two things you’ll also need some sugar, plain granulated works great, and apple cider vinegar (yay probiotics!).

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I definitely recommend using a granulated sugar rather than something liquid like agave or maple syrup since the friction will be your friend here. A lot of recipes call for white wine or golden balsamic vinegar, but I like apple cider here because it adds some good-for-you fermentation and hints at the flavour of kombucha.

Ingredients:

• 4-6 plums (your favourite kind), pitted and quartered

• large bunch basil, roughly chopped or torn

• 1c sugar

• 2c apple cider vinegar

Directions: 

  1. In a large bowl combine the plums, basil, and sugar. Use your hands (or a wooden spoon) to really coat the fruit with the sugar. Set this in the fridge at least overnight, stirring once or twice in between.
  2. The next day, strain this mixture through a fine mesh strainer (or a clean pair of stockings). There should be a lot of liquid around the fruit, but be sure to press/squeeze any excess out of the plums. Discard any solids
  3. Combine the strained juice with the vinegar and stir gently to combine. Decant into a glass container of your choice and leave in a cool place on your counter overnight.
  4. It will be ready to try the next day, but the longer it sits the more the flavours develop, and the more the vinegar mellows.

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A really lovely and refreshing way to enjoy this is to add a bit to the bottom of a collins glass, add some ice, and top with sparkling water or club soda. It’s a lot more interesting than soft drinks, and is a great way to enjoy a cocktail without any alcohol. An added bonus is the gorgeous pink colour from the skins of the plums.

For an more ‘adult’ version of the above, add a shot of your favourite gin, and a lemon twist for garnish.

I’m definitely excited to use this once the temperature begins to dip again as well– I think something like whiskey or bourbon combined with the summery plum and basil could be really interesting, so check back in a few months to find out.

If you liked this recipe and want some more inspiration, the New York Times has a great article on shrubs here.

Cheers!

 

The Pause That Became a Long Break

Those of you who check this site regularly may have noticed a lull during the past few weeks, which I am happy to report is coming to an end. I’ve been back in the states visiting my family and doing research for my dissertation, which has left me with little time for creating and positing new content. I’d initially planned this to be just a few days of a pause in new content, but it snowballed into something much longer. But I’m back and ready to get back to work, so get excited for some fun new reads and of course some new Friday Cocktails! I may need a bit of readjusting– so please bear with me as my brain gets back into blog-mode!

I’m researching methods of display and was lucky enough to spend the better part of the past two weeks at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. It’s a huge collection, and by the end of it I was definitely experiencing a bit of museum fatigue. Not familiar with this? It when you’ve spent several hours in an museum and your legs are tired, your feet and lower back are a bit sore, and you desperately need some water (and maybe a glass of wine) and a full meal. Six days in a row and I was beginning to lose my ability to talk to people normally. Although now that I’m a bit removed, the whole thing seems much easier and I’d be up for round two!

I was able to find some time to spend with friends and family while home, including a short trip to Nashville for a good friend’s bachelorette party. It was definitely a bit strange to be back in the city for the first time since moving away last year, but I had such a blast celebrating with her and seeing so many friends. I’m super excited to head back in early September for her wedding.

 

If all of this hadn’t kept me busy enough my first week back in London featured a interview for an internship (which I got!), and a few days at the Henley Royal Regatta, one of which included a very early morning to watch by boyfriend row. It was definitely a very fun week, but I am extremely happy to have a bit of a lull and a good excuse to spend some quiet time in the library.

 

London Staycation

Last week I turned in my last essays for my MA, which means now all that’s left to do is my dissertation. No pressure. Before fully diving in I wanted to take a few days to just relax and recharge so I took last week as a mini-break, which worked out wonderfully as it was an especially sunny and warm one. The rest of this post will detail some of the things I did,  which also happen to be fun things to do generally if you find yourself with some time to spend in London.

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To kick-off this mini vacation week, Cameron and I headed to one of our favourite cocktail bars, the Portobello Star (located on the famous Portobello Road). Besides toasting the end of classes, we had a bit extra to celebrate as Cameron got a job! The Portobello Star is a bit small, but if you can grab a table it’s a wonderful place to linger. They have a fantastic cocktail menu, and a sort of speakeasy vibe that’s great for catching up with a friend, or having a date night, though the later it gets the more it fills up, so try to get there early.

I’d been wanting to rent a paddleboat on the Serpentine in Hyde Park for ages, and since Friday was such a gorgeous day we decided to finally give it a go. We brought a small picnic (and some  rosé) and paddled our way into the centre of the lake to relax and enjoy the day. While it was definitely tempting to stay our all day, our hour was up before we knew it and it was time to head back to shore. It’s definitely something I would do again, either with Cameron, or with friends–there are enough seats for 4-5 people  at least.Be warned though, that if yo go the paddleboat route that shorts/trousers are optimal, and taller people may feel a bit cramped.

On Saturday night I went to see the new ballet of Frankenstein at the Royal Opera House with a friend. There was a special student initiative, which meant that our 5th row tickets were only £25 each, and that there were some really fun talks and events before the performance. My friend and I arrived in just enough time to grab a glass of wine and a table to watch a pre-show performance in Paul Hamlyn Hall, which set the mood for the main event. The ballet was amazing, and even though it was quite long (with two intermissions), we were on the edge of our seats the whole time. If you can get a ticket I definitely recommend going to see it– it’s a familiar story with a bit of everything from romance, to a few pyrotechnics, and of course tragedy, while also absolutely gorgeous.

I definitely feel like I’ve made the most of my mini vacation, and am a bit surprised to say that I’m excited to get to work on my dissertation. I’m sure I’ll manage to make some time  for fun through the rest of the summer though.

Friday Cocktail: The Breakfast Martini

Breakfast and martinis? I know, this sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, but stay with me because I promise it’s worth it.

I’d heard of this recipe a while ago, and had completely forgotten about it until recently when Cameron and I were at one of our favourite cocktail bars (The Portobello Star) when I saw it at the back of their drink menu and decided to finally give it a try.

One of my favourite things to use in cocktails in jam because it’s such a fantastic shortcut. I’ve posted several cocktail using it as a shortcut (including the clover club and the cherry old fashioned), but when I was doing a bit of research around the Breakfast Martini I found out one of the creator’s (Salvatore Calabrese) was similarly inspired– there’s an earlier version of this drink that appears in the Savoy cocktail book.

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Here is the recipe for Calabrese’s version, which I’ve amended slightly:

Ingredients

• 1 tsp orange marmalade (thinly sliced is best)

• 2oz gin

• 1 tbs leon juice

• 1/2 oz cointreau

Directions

  1. Add marmalade and gin in the base of a cocktail shaker
  2. Add lemon, cointreau, and ice, then shake thoroughly to combine
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an orange wheel (or with a small piece of toast for effect)

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I love the combination of citrus and gin, and this is an especially lovely one. While the original recipe calls for triple sec, you could also use cointreau like I did,  as either will produce a similar result. The lemon is nice because it cuts through the sweetness and makes for a well-balanced drink.

While I certainly don’t recommend these for actual breakfast,  brunch with friends may be another story. But even at a more normal cocktail hour these are just as good.

Cheers!

 

 

 

My Week in Review

Exactly one week ago was my twenty-fourth birthday! It’s unbelievable how time flies, especially this past week– full of work, celebration, and a fantastic visit from a college friend. If you follow the blog regularly you may have noticed the lull, but this week things are all set to be back on track. Including a new Friday Cocktail at the end of the week.

On my birthday last week I managed to squeeze in a few hours at the British Museum, plus lunch with Cameron in the middle of an otherwise busy day. I picked the British Museum both because it’s just a short walk to campus, and because I love the many historical objects found there, from the Egyptian mummies and hieroglyphs to the famous (or infamous) Parthenon marbles, which happened to be the focus of my trip there last week.

For dinner we booked a table at Andrew Edmunds in Soho (reservations are key if you decide to go), which was wonderfully cosy and one of the best meals I’ve had, birthday dinner or otherwise. From the handwritten menu, to the close proximity to other tables, it very much feels like your at a friend’s house, or at least a lovely distant relative. There’s a great wine list and our server made some excellent recommendations on the menu that really made the whole night a wonderful start to a new year.

Later in the week a close friend of mine from college came for a long-weekend visit, and we spend the few days catching up, wandering around London, and having (probably too many) glasses of wine/cocktails. We went to Borough Market, walked through Kensington and Hyde Park, explored a few of my favourite spots, and relaxed in some of our favourite pubs. There were a few places we’d been wanting to try, and having a guest gave us the extra push to finally stop by. Trailer Happiness, which is a wonderfully kitschy tiki-style cocktail bar just down the road from us, has some fantastic cocktails and is definitely going to make it onto our regular ‘rotation’. Pix, a Spanish-style tapas restaurant had some amazing food, a fun, relaxed atmosphere, and was the perfect spot for dinner on the last night of my friend’s visit.

While this week is decidedly less busy than the last, it will be full of lots of reading and writing for my dissertation proposal due at the start of next week. What’s the topic? I’m still refining it, but something involving ways of display, the curiosity cabinet, and a modern collection.

It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To

It feels like yesterday I was thinking how quickly January flew by, and now it’s suddenly March- my favourite month! My birthday is in exactly one week (I turn twenty-four), which means I will be one year closer to the quarter-century mark! Luckily it also means that spring is just around the corner (hopefully), and I am definitely ready for longer days and more sunshine.

Growing up I loved my birthday, which I am lucky enough to share with International Women’s Day, but something happened when I reached 16– I started a strange ‘tradition’ of crying at some point during the day, which both my family and friends find incredibly strange. Even I think it seems silly, but every year no matter how much I try not to, I shed at least a few tears. Sometimes it’s made sense– like my last birthday at home before heading to college, but theres nothing inherently sad about turning twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, and so on. Last year I thought I’d finally broken the pattern, only to be surprised by tears rolling down my cheeks as I began to fall asleep.

Then again, maybe it’s okay to cry on your birthday, and no, not just because of the song, but because birthdays represent not just the passing of time in a very personal way, but make us think about the fact that time is finite. Maybe crying is my way of saying goodbye to the past year, of acknowledging that something is ending so that something new can begin? Or maybe I’m thinking about this way too much, and should be thinking about what sort of cake I’d like for breakfast instead?

Although most people made their resolutions two months ago (and may or may not be falling off the wagon) I am just making mine now. Rather than New Year’s Resolutions, I like the idea of ‘Birthday Resolutions’ which I have always found much easier to stick to, and which feel a bit more personal.  This year, I have three:

  1. To stop apologising. Not if I’ve really done something wrong, obviously, but to stop apologising for things that aren’t my fault, but rather using it as a filler or a way of minimising- think sorry to bother you when an excuse me would work just as well. (Full disclosure, I was inspired by The Guilty Feminist podcast on this one, which is definitely worth a listen, though beware of bursting out in laughter on the tube)
  2. To be nicer to myself. The lovely saying of “don’t say it to yourself in you wouldn’t say it to your best friend” is definitely something I can use quite a bit of work on. I am definitely my own worst critic, so hopefully being nicer to myself will help me to become more confident and proud of my achievements.
  3. To be more present. I am terribly, terribly addicted to technology, so this is by far  one of the more difficult challenges I’ve given myself, but I think also one of the most important. I don’t want my entire life to be mediated through my cell phone– when I talk to my family and friends (even via video-chat) I want to really be there and listen, rather than thinking about my list of things to do.  When I go to a new place, or see a really beautiful or amazing thing I want my first thought to be “what an amazing experience,” not “hold on, let me take a photo for Instagram/snapchat”

 

So, for my last week of twenty-three I will be practicing the above three things, but also just trying to enjoy the passing of time and the adventures each day brings. And thinking about what type of cake I’d like for breakfast on the day, of course.

Rabbit, rabbit!

 

Friday Cocktail: The Clover Club

I’ve been wanting to try this cocktail for a while– mostly because it always looks so pretty, but also because it’s a definite classic, and I happen to love raspberry. The colour is just the right shade of pink, and reminds me of all the flowers that are suddenly blooming across London.

Unlike last week’s Friday Cocktail, this requires no preliminary prep work. The original recipe calls for a raspberry simple syrup, but I thought I would try it subbing a bar spoon of good raspberry jam and was thrilled with the results. The colour is a bit different than if you were to use raspberry syrup, but besides that there is really no difference.

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Maybe things have felt so busy because reading week is coming up, and everything is a a surge before the calm. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been frantically trying to settle on a topic for my dissertation, with a research proposal deadline looming, and just can’t seem to find something that I’m really interested in, and also happens to be feasible. Either way, I am thrilled to have a bit of a break, especially since Cameron and I will be taking a short trip to The Hague next week.

Since this week has been full-tilt, I had a bit of help from Cameron with photos, even though I did manage to find the time to do the actual testing of the drink.

Fair warning– this cocktail calls for an egg white. It doesn’t really do anything to the taste, but does give the drink a smooth texture and a little bit of froth at the top. If you  add the egg  white I definitely recommend using one from local as possible, free range hens. If you just feel  a bit weird about it, then definitely omit the egg white. The texture of the final drink will be a bit different but will still taste delicious.

Ingredients:

• 1.5 ox gin

• .5 oz cointreau (or lemon juice)

• bar spoon of raspberry jam (you could use raspberry simple syrup here, but this is so much easier)

• 1 egg white

Directions: 

  1. combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
  2. shake vigorously to combine (probably a bit longer than you think it needs)
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass and enjoy. (You could vanish with a fresh raspberry or two, or an orange peel if you’d like)

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Cheers to the weekend!

Friday Cocktail: The Bitter Darling

I suppose this week’s cocktail is continuing the Valentine’s Day theme I’ve had so far this month, though admittedly in a rather different direction. I like the humour of having this drink around such a sugary-sweet romantic holiday. Though honestly I’m not sure if the name suits it- spicy sweet kick of ginger is warming and quickens the pulse enough to be exciting. Maybe the ‘Drunk in Love’ would be more appropriate– I’ll let you be the judge.

The drink really isn’t all that bitter, but you can and should play with the proportions to suit it to your tastes. I’ve experimented a bit with the amount of ginger syrup used, and have found that a touch more than the recipe calls for is quite nice.

 

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I used Demerara sugar, which is why my ginger syrup is so dark 

You can make the ginger syrup pretty easily by combining 1 to 1/4 c ginger (peeled, and cut into thin matchsticks) with 1c water and 1c sugar into a medium sized saucepan. Heat over medium until it just starts to boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes until the ginger flavour has steeped into the syrup, and the consistency is a bit like maple syrup. Strain into a clean jar, and let cool. You can save the ginger and make candied ginger (it’s surprisingly easy!) with this recipe from Alton Brown– it’s great as a garnish, or just for eating. I love ginger if my stomach is a bit upset.

Back to the cocktail though…

It would be just the thing to sip in bed with Netflix, binge-watching  The Unbreakable Kimmy Shmidt or 30 Rock, for cocktails with friends, or even date night with your s/o if you’re into celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Ingredients:

• 2oz whiskey

• 1oz juice from a freshly -squeezed clementine

• 1/2 ginger syrup

• Angostura bitters, to taste (I used 5-7)

Directions:

• combine ingredients in a shaker with ice

• shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with the peel of a clementine (or the candied ginger you made!)

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Cheers, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Perfect Blend of Sweet and Savoury

In case you hadn’t heard, Valentine’s day is on Sunday this year, which makes brunch the prefect way to celebrate whether you’re having a day with friends, your partner, or celebrating on your own (self-love totally counts on Valentine’s day!).

When I was thinking about some of my favourite breakfast/brunch items, baked goods were definitely at the top. I have a serious sweet tooth, but often want something a little bit savoury in the morning as well, otherwise I feel like I’m having dessert. Scones are a particular favourite of mine not only because they are delicious, but because they are so easy to make. In fact, recipes often explicitly tell you not to mix the batter for very long, or you will have dry, overly-hard scones, perfect for someone who has very little patience like me. Stumbling across this recipe from The Minimalist Baker, I knew I had found the perfect recipe for a fun, relaxed brunch.

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I was a little war of the rosemary-blueberry mix at first, but deduced to give it a try anyway, and was pleasantly surprised. It’s definitely an unexpected flavour, but strikes a really nice balance between sweet and savoury, with the rosemary giving them a herby, grounding flavour– sort of the prefect combination for the end of winter and beginning of spring. It may even replace blueberry-ginger as my favourite flavour combo! The recipe originally calls for frozen blueberries, but I was lucky to find some really delicious fresh ones at the market, so subbed them in instead, adding a few extra because why not?

Another thing these scones have going for them is that they just so happen to be vegan. You could, of course, sub the flax egg for a chia egg, or other egg substitute, but I think these are pretty perfect as they are. I did need to add a bit more flour than the recipe called for, probably because I didn’t use spelt flour, which would have soaked up a bit more of the moisture, so be aware when you’re mixing and adjust accordingly.

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Ingredients:

• 1 flax egg (or one real egg, if you’re into that kind of thing)

• 1/4 c almond milk (unsweetened)

• 2 & 1/4c flour

• 1tbs baking powder

• 1/4 sugar

• 1/2tsp sea salt (finely ground)

• 1 tbs fresh rosemary, chopped (don’t sub for dried)

• 6 tbs room tempt. coconut oil (not liquid)

• 1/3 c plus 1 handful blueberries

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F, mix dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, rosemary)
  2. mix wet ingredients in a smaller bowl (flax egg, almond milk)
  3. add coconut oil to dry ingredients as use a fork (or pastry cutter) to combine until it looks a bit like sand
  4. slowly add the wet ingredients, stir until just combined, then gently stir in the blueberries
  5. turn out onto a lightly floured surface, form into a 1-inch high disk, cut into wedges. (You could also make this recipe even simpler by making drop scones instead)
  6. sprinkle the tops with a little bit of sugar, then place on a baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes

(click here for the original recipe)

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How are you celebrating Valentine’s day? Let me know in the comments!

 

Friday Cocktail: Cherry Old Fashioned

Some weeks I’m more on top of things than others, and this week is thankfully one of them. I’d originally planned a totally different cocktail for this week, but was so excited about this one I just had to share it.

 

Not only is it especially simple to make, the combination of bourbon and cherry is one of my favourites, and makes me think of spring (fitting since on Groundhog’s day they predicted Spring was on its way!). Preserved fruit and veggies in the form of jams, marmalades, and pickles, is one the best parts of winter. They’re a bit like little hints of warmer months that brighten up a meal. While I was picking up a loaf of our favourite sourdough bread early this week at our favourite place (Gail’s), I decided to try some of their cherry jam as well. Gorgeously syrupy with large cherries hiding at the bottom, my first thought was that it would be lovely in a cocktail.

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My hunch was right- skimming a bit off of the top to replace the sugar resulted in an old fashioned that was wonderfully balanced, with just enough cherry to be a surprise, but not too much to be overly-sweet– the bourbon and tart cherries becoming better than the sum of their parts. If you don’t live near a Gail’s (I’m sorry), try to find a really good dark cherry jam and thin slightly with a bit of water or bourbon before using, or sub Luxardo maraschino cherries and halve the amount used.

Ingredients:

• 3/4oz bourbon

•1/4 oz sweet vermouth

• 2 dashes angostura bitters

• 1/4-1/2 tsp runny jam

Directions: 

  1. combine ingredients in a mixing glass, stir to dissolve the jam
  2. add ice and stir again to chill
  3. strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel, or a cherry

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I think the slightly red colour makes it a prefect cocktail for Valentine’s day as well.

Cheers!