Dallas didn’t get too cold (yet) this year, but on the days it has, I found myself craving something warm and boozy. Once I had gotten past my hot toddies and it was too late in the day for an Irish Coffee, I turned to hot chocolate cocktails!
I put together a few different spirited options for y’all … from the traditionally spiked vodka, then went to tequila and scotch options. Because it’s always fun to try something different, right?
PEPPERMINT WHITE CHOCOLATE (VODKA)
½ C Absolut Elyx vodka
½ C white chocolate chips
1½ C milk*
¼ C sweetened condensed milk
1 t vanilla extract or vanilla paste
whipped cream (if desired)
Add chocolate and milks to a medium saucepan and summer, stirring constantly, until chips are melted. Once melted, remove from heat and add vodka. Top with whipped cream and peppermint pieces, if desired.
SPICY HOT CHOCOLATE (TEQUILA)
3 oz Patrón Tequila (more if desired)
3 C milk*
3 T cocoa powder
3 T tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch of sea salt
¼ t cinnamon
¼ t cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients (except for tequila) to a saucepan and whisk until combined. Heat on low until it’s slightly boiling, then remove from the stove. Add tequila, then pour into mugs and top as desired. (I added cinnamon marshmallows and a pinch of cayenne pepper on top.)
HIGHLAND HOT CHOCOLATE (SCOTCH)
3 oz Highland Park Magnus Scotch whisky (more if desired)
3 C milk*
3 T cocoa powder
3 T tbsp granulated sugar
1 t Sugar in the Raw (or any coarse brown sugar)
Pinch of sea salt
Combine all ingredients (except for whisky) to a saucepan and whisk until combined. Heat on low until it’s slightly boiling, then remove from the stove. Add whisky, then pour into mugs and top as desired.
… you can also whip up my famous HAUTE CHOCOLATE and add whatever spirit sounds good to you.
¼ C cocoa powder
½ C hot water
20 oz semi-sweet chocolate
10 C whole milk
2½ C heavy cream
12 oz can evaporated milk
¼ t salt
Either in a crock pot or a large pot, whisk cocoa powder with hot water until mixed. Add in chocolate, milk, heavy cream, evaporated milk, and pinch of salt. If using a crock pot, cook for at least 2 hours on high OR low for 4 hours and stir occasionally. Keep on warm to serve. If using a pot on the stove, heat for about 15 minutes on medium and stir often. Then, keep on simmer and continue to stir occasionally. Makes about 20 servings.
*the higher the fat content of the milk you use, the richer your drink will be
I absolutely love to entertain. But, it seems my generation has lost the desire (and, honestly, the aptitude) to do so, and I find myself being one of the only shows in town to roll our the red carpet and don an apron and sparkles to make a fun evening for friends, neighbors and family. And the holiday season is no exception. That said, every year for the past seven, I’ve gotten a motley crew of friends together to share some holiday spirit(s) and entertain ourselves with a slightly outlandish white elephant exchange. (Exchange rules are listed below!)
Every year the party gets a little bigger, but some of the cast of characters remain the same, as do some of my favorite (and my guests’ favorite) recipes. The staples for years have been my bourbon meatballs (I’m asked for the recipe so often that I put it on a letter board this year!), sausage cheeseballs, Neiman Marcus Dip, and my Cool Weather Punch. I also always am sure to keep plenty of cheese on the table for easy snacks. All of these recipes are below!
My main bar (usually set up in my kitchen) always has at least one batched drink—usually my cool weather punch, base liquors (bourbon and rye whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila, scotch, etc.), a bottle of bitters, simple syrup, mixers, and citrus. I also ice down bottles of beer, cider, and splits of sparkling wine and leave them on my porch. Needless to say, no one ever has to look too hard for booze at my parties. I was once told by my badass boss, Flip, “No one cares about much at a party if there’s plenty to drink and great music playing.” … it stuck with me, so I sweat the details a little less now.
A fun twist I add each year is having a “make your own” bar of some sort. This year it was a hot chocolate bar that was a HIT. The base hot chocolate I made (if I do say so myself) was incredible. So good, in fact, that I may have to make it a new staple. The recipe is below, but the fun part was outfitting the table with plenty of goodies to add so each person’s drink was different. Giving guests plenty of options for creativity is key, but make sure to have things that just make sense. My favorite of the boozy additions was the Smirnoff Peppermint Twist vodka, which made for the perfect peppermint hot chocolate!!! (I may or may not have moved the rest of the bottle beside the stove … just in case I get a craving.) I also ordered plain coffee cups with sleeves so people could write their names on their cups. (And you also know who doesn’t throw their cup away. ?)
While I learned how to entertain from the best (my mother threw some of the most amazing events when I was a child and I was always in awe of her ability to make everything from scratch and entertain everyone at the same time), I have found, much to my chagrin, that I can’t do it all. My wonderful mother always makes an item or two for the table, and I sometimes go for items I can pick up to save a little of my sanity. I love getting cupcakes from Trailercakes, cake balls from Savor Pâtisserie, and this year I went with some of the absolutely adorable iced and Linzer cookies from La Madeleine. Store bought doesn’t have to mean throwing in the towel!
While I’m sad paper invitations for informal events have gone by the wayside, I’ve found a decent replacement is Paperless Post. It gives a nice user experience, is relatively inexpensive (check RetailMeNot for coupons to purchase credits), and it allows you to track RSVPs. There are also some damn cute designs to use!
For entertainment, I make sure to have music playing (as mentioned above) and I’ll put a Christmas movie on TV on mute for a little extra texture. I’ve been compiling a Christmas party playlist for years with some slightly unconventional holiday songs. Find it on Spotify and give it a listen.
I hope that my party lives on, though every year it seems to get harder to find a date to make it work. The gift of hospitality is so important, and I hope you’ll join me in trying to keep it alive!
1 pound frozen meatballs (I prefer Trader Joe’s brand)
½ cup ketchup
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup bourbon whiskey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Mix all ingredients except meatballs in a bowl. Pour over the meatballs in a crock pot. Heat on high for about an hour (then turn to warm) or low for at least three hours.
SAUSAGE CHEESEBALLS 2 cups Bisquick
1 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound hot or medium ground sausage
1/4 cup water
Mix all ingredients together with your hands. Ball up a heaping tablespoon of the mixture and place it on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 22-25 minutes at 350º.
COOL WEATHER PUNCH
1 part white rum
1 part ginger ale
1 part apple cider (non-alcoholic)
a heavy dash of cinnamon
Combine all ingredients, stir. Garnish with a thin slice of apple and cinnamon stick if desired. This recipe can also be served warm.
NEIMAN MARCUS DIP 5 green onions, chopped
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup mayonnaise
1 cup Greek yogurt
6+ slices of crispy cooked bacon
½ cup slivered almonds
Combine all ingredients and chill for at least two hours. Serve with Ritz crackers.
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup hot water
20 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
10 cups whole milk
2½ cups heavy cream
12 ounce can evaporated milk
¼ teaspoon salt
topping ideas: marshmallows, chocolate shavings, soft peppermint sticks, peppermint snow, sea salt, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, cookie sticks (like Pirouettes), whipped cream (homemade if possible), toffee crumbles
boozy additions: Smirnoff Peppermint Vodka, Disaronno, Irish cream, hazelnut liqueur, coffee liqueur
Either in a crock pot or a large pot, whisk cocoa powder with hot water until mixed. Add in chocolate, milk, heavy cream, evaporated milk, and pinch of salt.
If using a crock pot, cook for 4 hours on high OR low for 6 hours and stir occasionally. Keep on warm to serve.
If using a pot on the stove, heat for about 15 minutes on medium and stir often. Then, keep on simmer and continue to stir occasionally. Makes about 20 servings.
THE WHITE ELEPHANT EXCHANGE
Over the years, we’ve fine tuned the exchange … and we’ve seen gifts anywhere from booze (so much booze) and live lobsters to unicorn Snuggies and phallic paraphernalia.
– All attendees are asked to bring a gift with certain specifications. Some people choose themes like booze or food, but I keep it open. This year the price cap was $35.
– Everyone gets a number. (I usually just count the number of people participating and write them on little bits of paper and allow people to draw out of a bowl.)
– The person with 1 begins and opens a gift. Then, go through the numbers consecutively, and each person has the choice to either open a new gift or steal a gift that is already open.
– Continue until all the gifts have been opened.
– After this is done, the last person who has the chance to steal or open is able to steal ANYONE’S GIFT, whether it’s frozen or not.
– Each gift can be stolen twice. (Meaning, the third person who has in his hands is the final owner.) Anyone whose gift is stolen cannot steal the same gift back immediately; they must wait for their number to come back up.
– Encourage everyone at the beginning to nice. Some people think that their gifts are clever and other may think they’re stupid, so encourage people to be kind.
Since it’s a bit north, Scotland has shorter days in the winter; and the Winter Solstice, which we saw on December 21, is the shortest day of the year. With so much darkness, I’m sure it makes one want to cozy up next to a fire with a drink that will warm you from the inside. Scandinavians call this feeling “hygge”, which is their concept of coziness.
I’ve been a little of a Scandinavian fanatic this winter because, for some reason, I decided to reimagine my holiday decor. I went from over-the-top “Christmas threw up in here” to minimal with hints of gold and plenty of live garland. (And don’t get me started on live garland. My poor Roomba is exhausted from picking up after it.) What I loved about their holiday decor is that it’s simple and SHOULD feel cold, but it all felt cozy. I wanted to harness that feeling, but it’s hard to do when it’s 70º in the afternoon in December. So, when it finally dipped below 35º this week, I jumped on the chance to cozy up with a traditional Scandinavian warm cocktail to go with my decor.
I was excited to try my first glögg, which is a kind of mulled wine—warmed wine with spices—and curl up on a 33º night … because that’s what we in Texas call “cold”. Instead of the traditional base alcohol, wine, I opted for whisky and used a recipe from Highland Park Whisky that features its newest expression, Magnus.
The drink did its job. It warmed me up and gave me a just the right amount of alcohol to lull me into a bit of a daze. I’ll just say that I ended up taking an unexpected nap, but it was the best hour I’ve seen (or not seen, as it were) in months.
MARTIN’S GLÖGG (recipe by Highland Park Brand Ambassador, Martin Markvardsen)
1 bottle of Highland Park Magnus
1/4 cup simple syrup
2 lemons, juiced
Warm up the whiskey, then add the simple syrup, lemon, and ginger. Right before boiling, turn down to simmer and add the rest of the spices and ingredients. Allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes on low. Strain and serve warm with an apple slice garnish and a cinnamon stick.
I recently had the privilege of attending a Grey Goose mixology class at Texas de Brazil in my fair city of Fort Worth. It was a night full of great cocktails that was enjoyed alongside other cocktail enthusiast and, lucky for us, a really elegant spirit.
Grey Goose uses fresh, French ingredients and is distilled only once using a continuous column distillation process; this single distillation process ensures the profile of the wheat remains in the vodka. Grey Goose uses wheat from three farming cooperatives in the Picardy region of France. Fun fact: the grade of wheat Grey Goose uses is called “Blé Panifiable Supérieur”, it is the same grade used in high end french bread and pastries.
This class was all about staple summer cocktails. I knew I was in for a treat when the table was set with a plate of fresh fruit and a bottle of Grey Goose. (Susie’s attitude has always been “good + good = really good”. And this qualified) The first cocktail that we mixed was the Le Grand Fizz—one of the easiest cocktails to mix, and so refreshing. I decided to keep this one on-hand for my next pool day.
Next, we made a Caipiroska, which is a twist on a traditional Brazilian cocktail, the Caipirinha. The best part about this cocktail is that you can use a lime or muddle whatever fruit you like. The name loosely translates to “Little Countryside”. Mix in whatever fruit you have on hand and you are good to go! I loved pineapple in mine, which drove home the summer feel.
Le Grand Fizz 1 1/2 parts Grey Goose vodka
1 part St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
1/2 part fresh squeezed lime
2 parts chilled soda water
3 wedges of fresh lime
Build in an over-sized cabernet wine glass with ice. Add Grey Goose and St. Germain. Squeeze fresh lime and discard. Top with chilled soda water. Stir and garnish with fresh lime wedges.
Caipiroska 2 parts Grey Goose vodka
2 tsp. Demerara Brown Sugar
Fruit of your choice
Quarter the lime and muddle with sugar in the base of a Boston shaker glass. Add Grey Goose vodka, then cubed ice and shake. Empty all contents into a rocks glass without straining.
Who wants to spend a long time mixing a cocktail and delay pool time? (My hand is not up … is yours?) Try out one of these simple, yet delicious, Grey Goose cocktails, and even batch them out if you’re feeling bold … you won’t be disappointed!
Gin is a delightfully refreshing spirit, and this summer I decided I wanted to find some new favorite gin cocktail recipes. While I love a Ramos Gin Fizz in the summer, they’re incredibly involved (think a minimum of a minute and a half of just shaking … and shaking … and shaking a tin) and they require fresh ingredients like egg white and heavy cream that I don’t usually have on-hand. (I hardly have butter anymore since I travel so often!)
That said, the recipes I’ve now fallen in love with are not only simple to shake up, but don’t require any super perishable ingredients. Shake these goodies up this summer with some Seersucker Southern Style Gin (because it’s a delicious citrus-forward gin with adorable branding) and let me know how they come out!
This simple cocktail uses whole cherries, which brings back amazing memories of summers when I was young when we’d pick and eat cherries right from the tree. This one requires a blender to create a cherry syrup, but you can use frozen cherries if you’d like a shortcut!
Cherry-Lime Gin Rickey
½ cup Seersucker Southern Style Gin
12 dashes of Angostura Bitters
2-3 tablespoons simple syrup
1 cup pitted sweet cherries, fresh or frozen, pitted
⅓ cup lime juice
2 cups soda
In a blender, puree cherries and lime juice. Then add the soda, gin, and bitters, followed by the simple syrup to taste. Blend lightly to combine, then pour into a fresh glass, garnish with a lime wheel and a cherry. (Makes four cocktails.)
This is a delightful summer brunch cocktail. With light and bright ingredients, it is simple and tastes absolutely amazing.
2 oz Seersucker Southern Style Gin
2 oz pomegranate juice
½ oz elderflower cordial
Squeeze of lemon juice
Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a glass over fresh ice. Add a splash of sparkling wine on top, then garnish the drink with a couple pomegranate seeds (if you have them) and a slice of lemon.
Another of my usual summer go-to cocktails is a simple Italian classic, the Negroni. I thought changing it up a bit would be just the ticket, so I infused my gin with watermelon, changed to dry vermouth (to combat the sweetness of the watermelon and lime), and added just a bit of lime to brighten it up. Watch the video I did with Dinner Reinvented for further commentary!
Watermelon Negroni 1 oz watermelon-infused Seersucker Southern Gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz dry vermouth (a Negroni traditionally uses sweet vermouth)
Splash lime juice
Cut up a small watermelon and add flesh to 750mL of gin in an airtight container. Leave in the refrigerator for 4-6 days, tasting along the way.
Combine ingredients with ice in a mixing glass, stir, then strain into a fresh glass. Garnish with a watermelon spear.
World Cucumber Day is June 14! Of course, I’m going to celebrate by putting cucumber in something boozy. And, as of late, frozen. (Because, Texas.)
I chose to work with Hendrick’s Gin for these recipes because the spirit already has a delightful cucumber note. (After macerating and distilling most of the botanicals with the alcohol, rose and cucumber essences are added.) And they get a kick out of cucumbers. They even have a cucumber blimp.
I wanted to try something a little different to add a peppery note to a Cucumber Collins (which is delicious, but not complex enough), so I added a little watercress. Watercress is incredibly inexpensive and also makes for a fun garnish.
Cucumber Watercress Collins
2oz Hendrick’s Gin
1oz fresh lime juice
0.75oz simple syrup
5 cucumber slices
Muddle lime, syrup, cucumbers, and about 10 watercress leaves in a cocktail tin. Add the gin and ice, then shake until well chilled. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice, then top with club soda. Garnish with a small bunch of watercress leaves.
Special thanks to Feo Forte from Rapscallion for the help workshopping this cocktail!
As you may have noticed lately, I’ve been a little obsessed with alcoholic popsicles. I’ve gotten a little bit of a wild hair to add a kick to things that aren’t meant to be boozy. Go ahead … call me an anarchist.
Combine liquid ingredients and stir. Place a few slices of cucumber in each popsicle mold, then pour liquid over. Add sticks, then freeze overnight or for at least eight hours.
Not in the mood to make your own drinks? Stop into your favorite drinking establishment this evening and see if they’re offering a special cucumber drink to celebrate the day.
DALLASITES: There are quite a few local establishments that will be offering special Hendrick’s options to celebrate. Maybe I’ll see you there! (Visit District 30, Rapscallion, Dish, The Fairmount, Public School 214, The Standard Pour, Dragonfly at Hotel Zaza, Parliament, Bowen House, The Mitchell, Stock & Barrel, Boulevardier, and The Londoner locations in Colleyville and Addison for features and/or specials tonight!)
Now, a little on the Negroni: it’s a classic Italian cocktail that has been around since the early 1900s that is made with equal parts gin, Campari, and red vermouth with an orange peel garnish, served on the rocks. Campari is a bright red, bitter, Italian liqueur that gives this drink its unique flavor profile. The Negroni is considered an apéritif, which the Italians will sip before a meal to prepare their stomachs.
I know that we’ve all had a traditional Negroni or two this week, so to stir things up a little, I tried my hand at Strawberry Negroni Popsicles for a pool party yesterday! These pops are as easy to make as they could be and are a perfect way to cool down in this oppressive heat.
STRAWBERRY NEGRONI POPSICLES
1 1/2 lb strawberries, hulled
6 T turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
2.5 T Seersucker Gin
2.5 T Campari
2.5 T Sweet Vermouth
1 T Orange Flower Water
Combine hulled strawberries and sugar in a blender, let them sit for 10-20min, then blend until smooth. Add other ingredients and blend for another 20 seconds. Freeze in popsicle molds for at least 8 hours.
Summer is coming … and it’s going to be a rough one, so being poolside with a cocktail and something cold is going to be the way to cope. Since all day pool parties aren’t always conducive to mass amounts of liquor, I figured out a little less aggressive way to up my booze intake … and get some extra vitamin C while I’m at it–Orange Cava Popsicles.
Made with a few simple ingredients, the easy to make popsicles are a perfectly refreshing poolside treat. Just freeze overnight and, voila, a boozy treat to cool you off … and they look pretty damn cool, too.
Orange Cava Popsicles
1 cup Segura Viudas Brut Cava
1.5 cups orange juice
0.5 cups water
3 tablespoons agave syrup (or other flavored syrup to your liking)
Combine liquid ingredients and mix until the syrup is dissolved. Place an orange slice in each popsicle mold, then fill with the mixed liquid leaving a little room for expansion from freezing. Depending on your molds, either place sticks in the molds immediately, then freeze overnight, or let freeze for one hour before placing the sticks.
If you want to go full-tilt basic, grab some fresh juice (or some extra cava) and drop your popsicle in. The drink will change with every sip since the popsicle will gradually melt into it!