Summer Sippers, starting with the basics…

Trio of cocktails

Alright, so here we are, on the verge of the unofficial start to summer, Memorial Day weekend.  What do you have planned?  Picnics?  Fishing?  Spending time with those who’ve served and honoring those who can’t be here with us?  Oh yes, that’s what I am planning too!

Will there be some cocktails in your weekend plans?  I know there will be in mine 🙂  And so we begin post number ONE, #summersippers!  Over the next fifteen weeks (if I say it out loud here, I’m obligated, right?) I will share one cocktail post a week..each week, highlighting a different liquor and a few different varieties of cocktails you can make with that liquor.  I am going to get help from some of my amazing Minnesota food blogger friends along the way, so don’t think these are going to be your run-of-the-mill cocktails, I plan to share unique twists on the basics!

So, let’s start today with basic bar set-up.  First, an explanation taken from the Huffington Post Taste blog, of basic alcohol terminology:

Two terms are often confused: liquor (lik-er) and liqueur (li-kur). Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know:

Liquors are hard alcohols, a.k.a. spirits, such as gin, vodka, whiskey, or brandy. They are distilled from grains, fruits or vegetables and contain no sugar.

Liqueurs are alcohols flavored with herbs, fruits, nuts and/or spices and have sugar added. A liqueur can be enjoyed sipped as an aperitif (pre-dinner drink) or digestif (post-dinner drink) or mixed to make cocktails.

Bitters are a very concentrated form of liqueur (yet they don’t taste sweet, but rather bitter as their name suggests) used in small amounts (a few dashes is all you need) in drinks and cocktails.

Mixers are non-alcoholic additions in mixed drinks and cocktails. They include sodas, such as tonic water, seltzer, lemon-lime soda, and juices such as cranberry, orange, lemon and lime.

Syrups are used to sweeten drinks and cocktails. The classic type is a simple syrup, made from equal amounts sugar and water heated to a simmer and then chilled. Simple syrups can further be infused with fruits, herbs or spices or they can be made from alternative sweeteners like honey or agave syrup.

I’ve linked to this particular blog post because it gives more great info on what to stock your bar with if you want to make what type of drinks etc.

Next week I think I will talk about Mixers, bitters, syrups, fancy cubes etc.  So we move from the basics, to bases and then we’ll get into the good stuff!

Alright, so your opinion of what to have on hand might be different from mine and that’s perfectly okay!  I am just giving you a basic list of what a home bar might have.

Basic booze set-up

My booze list:  Vodka, Gin, Rum, Whiskey and/or Bourbon, Brandy, Tequila…I like Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau and I like to have Bailey’s and/or Kahlua on hand for bedtime/bonfire sippies or adding to coffee on a Sunday morning!  Of course within each of these categories you’ll have MANY different varieties of that particular alcohol.  For example, Smirnoff Vodka has 33, yes, 33 different flavors of Vodka.  This number doesn’t even include the mixers, pre-made cocktails, malt beverages etc. they produce.  They even have a new line called “Sorbets- without the spoon”.  Check it out here.  I will admit to having a bottle (almost empty) of BACARDI Limón in my cupboard.  But, sadly, I don’t drink enough cocktails (one of the reasons I am doing this post series!) to remember why I bought it and how I drank it! 🙂

Wine & beer opener, jiggerStir sticks & umbrellas

zester, strainer & juicerfun straws

Now let’s talk a bit about bar tools & equipment.  Pictured above, are a few basic ideas of what to start with.  Most of these items are fairly inexpensive to pick up.  I use my zester for cooking all the time so that was probably the most expensive item of the lot.  And don’t give me a hard time for all the colorful straws, stir sticks and yes, drink umbrellas!  My kids love them!  (oh ok, so do I!)

Variety of wine glasses

So, you can probably tell that we mostly drink wine, right? 🙂  Glassware can be a bit tricky and at the same time, you could just use the same type of glass for all of your cocktails!  There is no right or wrong way, it’s your house!  We have white & red wine glasses.  We have stemmed & stemless.  When I was a kid, I would tag along with my grandparents to flea markets & garage sales.  I started collecting mason jars (the large kind I used for flower vases over the years) and match books (don’t ask) and since then have been using smaller mason jars for drinking glasses over the years and now they are actually in style to use as a drinking glass!  Ball even just came out with a retro line of jars in a beautiful blue color.  I gotta get me some of those!

Beer mug & pint glass

Over the years my hubby has collected beer glasses, so we have LOTS of that style beer glass.  Last year, when I was posting about my Beer for a Year (see previous posts) win from Summit Brewery, I picked up these two from their store at the brewery.  I love the mug, but oddly enough, it holds more than just one beer!  So yeah, I guess I have to drink two then, right?

Margarita & Daiquiri glasses

A few years back, my husband and I were on a Margarita kick and I decided I HAD to get traditional glasses to use.  Let me just say, they are adorable, but they are hard to drink out of!  You really have to be quite sober so you don’t spill it on yourself.  And, uh…you are drinking right?  Get where I am going with that?!  🙂  Anyhoo, the other glass pictured is from a set an awesome friend just gave me and could be used for margaritas, daiquiri’s, iced tea and as you’ll see in a later post…sangria!!

Martini glass

So….I had to go buy this gorgeous Martini glass, cause, big surprise, I am not a Martini drinker!  But, I am going to try a few fun things over the course of this series, so we’ll see if that statement remains the same at the end of all this!

Cordial glasses

My husband loves his nighttime “sippies” (don’t get mad at me honey…) so we have always had plenty of snifters, cordials glasses etc.  You can use they glasses for brandy, cognac, even shots.

Rocks & Highball glasses

Above are just a few basic drink glass sizes (there’s the mason jar!)  that you can use to make your basic cocktails.  I am sure you have something in your cupboard that would work.

Additional bar stuff...

In addition, you might want to have a few miscellaneous items as shown in the picture above.  We always have Kosher Salt on hand for cooking; you’ll need this for rimming your glasses for Margaritas.  Lemons, limes, oranges and other fruits (we’ll talk more about that next post) are good to keep on hand.  Bitters, again, we’ll talk about this, but many basic cocktails call for this, so pick up yourself a small bottle to keep on hand.  And for fun, colored sugars are great to use when rimming the glass for some specialized drinks.  More on that as we move along.

Below I’ve listed a couple of great links I didn’t include above.  A delicious foodie-friend of mine, Joy Summers (of City Pages blog & other fame) put together this great list of the top ten Craft Cocktail bars in the Twin Cities for my Minnesota followers.  And the last link is one I found from Martha Stewart and in addition to basic bar set-up, she gives a breakdown of different liquors/liqueurs and cocktails you can create from each.

Top 10 Craft Cocktail bars in the Twin Cities

The Basics on home bar set-up, from Martha Stewart

So friends, I hope you enjoy a long, relaxing weekend and thanks for beginning this #summersippers cocktail journey with me!

Cheers, Shawn

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Summer of Salads, let’s talk potato…

Happy Memorial Day 2013

Well hello there!

Okay, so this is post number ONE in our #summerofsalads posts and I really had a hard time allowing myself to start with potato salads!  I wanted to ease you in, start off by talking about the different kinds of greens available and then move on to dressings…but, Memorial Day is coming this weekend and when I think of Memorial Day eats, I think of BBQ & potato salads!  I’m saving coleslaw for the 4th of July 🙂

So, the objective of these posts this summer, is to inspire you with different takes on salads.  So, instead of your basic potato salad, made with mayo, mustard, eggs etc. I am giving you a few twists on that.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love me some traditional potato salad!  When I was a little girl, my Grandmother would make potato salad, putting HUGE pieces of raw onion in it.  (okay maybe they weren’t that big, but to a punk kid that didn’t like onions back then, they were!) I told her that once and she would make a little for me, without onions.  She also did that with chocolate chip cookies sans nuts, fudge the same.  That woman spoiled me for sure.

Anyway, back to this post!  Today I am making you Tarragon Potato Salad.  We pretty much just stumbled on this salad one day, looking for ways to use up our gigantic Tarragon plant in the garden.  We make pork chops quite often with Tarragon & mustard & garlic, so this salad is pretty much all that, minus the pig of course.

Tarragon Potato Salad, #summerofsalads

Tarragon Potato Salad:

potatoes (use whatever type you’d like & one potato for each person you are feeding-I used six small-medium sized russets)

Fresh Tarragon

Fresh Chives and/or onions

mayo (I used 1 cup)

Dijon & whole grain mustards (I used 1 T. of each)

apple cider vinegar (I used 2 tablespoons)

sugar, salt, pepper, a bit of garlic (to your taste…)

Begin by washing up your potatoes and then boiling them until fork tender.  Let cool & remove skins from potatoes.

Whole Grain Mustard

In a separate bowl, mix together your apple cider vinegar, sugar, mayo & Dijon mustard.  Taste to be sure you have a balance of sweet, sour etc.

Fresh ChivesFresh Tarragon

Chop up your fresh herbs.  It’s really important for this recipe that you use fresh Tarragon, so if you don’t have it, look in the produce section at the grocery store.  And if you live close to me, you are always welcome to some of mine!

Herbs mixed in...

Then mix in the herbs to your potato salad dressing and taste again.  Adjust seasonings as you prefer.  Then mix in your potatoes, carefully not to crush them in the process.  Put this in the fridge to chill out and let the flavors get all groovy together!  Enjoy with your favorite BBQ grub!

As I did a little research for this post, I came across the following unique “potato” salads I wanted to share with you!

Warm Bacon Potato Salad – via Steamy Kitchen.  Don’t know where I first saw this recipe, but when I got a look at the picture, I knew I HAD to make it!  You had me at Bacon…and warm…

Sweet Potato Salad  – via The Loveless Cafe.  I am SO glad I found this website!  OMG, wait till you see some of the other recipes they have!  Can you say Bacon Pralines?  Or Carrot Puddin’ or Chow Chow Deviled Eggs….check them out!

Sour Cream-Dill Potato Salad – via Cooking Light.  I’m not usually one for Cooking Light recipes (because this girl likes her fat!) but I do love me a sour cream & onion potato chip so I thought this sounded intriguing!  I haven’t made it yet, so if you do, let me know how you like it!

Grilled Southwestern Potato Salad – via Fine Cooking.  I love this salad because you grill all the veggies first and then make the salad.  It has corn, chiles, red onions, peppers, and some crisp bacon. Yes more bacon. YUM!

Potato Salad with fresh stir-ins –  via Recipe.com.  Now this idea is great!  It’s kinda like a potato salad bar, if you will.  Make your basic base potato salad (with or without mayo/mustard) and then set out different “stir-in” that your guests can add.  This post gives you some ideas but you could really go crazy with this idea!

Wishing you & yours a wonderful & relaxing Memorial Day weekend!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s first #summersippers cocktail post & next week we’ll talk salad basics!

Cheers, Shawn