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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

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Archive for Cocktails & Spirits

TIP OF THE DAY: Lavender For Summer

Today is the first day of summer. When we think of summer, we think of lavender.

Lavender is a flowering plant, a genus of 39 species that originated in the Mediterranean, northern and eastern Africa and southwest Asia, including India. The most widely cultivated species is English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia. Though not native to England it has long been the preferred variety grown there.

As noted in Wikipedia, the names “English lavender,” “French lavender” and “Spanish lavender” are “imprecisely applied.”

The word lavender may be derived from Latin livere, “blueish.”

It is grown as an ornamental flower, and also as a culinary ingredient. The oil is used to scent beauty and household products. Medicinally, it was used as a disinfectant and antiseptic by ancient herbalists. It became a cosmetic herb and a tonic due to its popularity with the English royalty.

The different lavender types vary in the potency and flavor of the flowers and oils. English lavender is the sweetest and the most commonly used.

If you look for lavender recipes, you’ll find almost every food embellished with lavender. We can’t possibly narrow the selection, so look for what you like.

What we will do is tell you how to infuse lavender in alcohol and simple syrup, and make lavender cocktails.



Lavender makes a summer soft drink or cocktail. Photo courtesy DrySparkling.



When lavender buds are steeped in alcohol, the essential oils are extracted from the flowers and infused into the alcohol.

Add sprigs of to a bottle of gin, vodka or tequila, let it infuse in a warm, dark place for a week or two, then put the bottle in the freezer so it will be chilled and ready for summer drinks.

Note that you need organic lavender: You don’t want pesticides in your food.

Our favorite is lavender-infused gin. Lavender is a great match with the botanicals in the gin.

Lavender is a great pairing with lemon, so don’t hesitate to add lavender to a bottle of lemon vodka. of gin and lavender make an absolutely fabulous gin and tonic! A sprig of lavender in a martini with a twist of lemon is another intriguing synergy.



Dry Sparking is a delicious soft drink or mixer. It’s a non-alcoholic pairing for cheese, grilled fish, hazelnuts, pork tenderloin, salted caramel and tiramisu. Photo courtesy Dry Sparkling.



Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce lavender simple syrup
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • Garnish: lavender sprig

    1. COMBINE the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

    2. SHAKE well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the lavender sprig.

    Infuse lavender buds in this simple syrup recipe. Use 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds per each cup of water.


    Put a lavender rim on any cold or hot beverage where you’d like the extra flavor. Try it with iced tea!


  • 4 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
  • 3 cups sugar

    1. PLACE the lavender and sugar in a food processor and pulse to mix evenly. Flecks of lavender should be evenly distributed throughout the sugar.

    2. MAKE the rim by dipping the glass rim in water, about 3/8″ deep. Twist the glass in a dish of lavender sugar to make the sugar rim.

    3. STORE unused sugar in an airtight jar, out of direct light.

    We’ve enjoyed lots of lavender products, including:

  • Lavender cheese
  • Lavender chocolate bars
  • Lavender honey
  • Lavender marshmallows
  • Lavender salt caramels
  • Lavender tea
  • Lavender white hot chocolate
  • Lavender lemonade
  • Lavender iced tea
  • Lavender scones
  • Lavender whipped cream
  • Lavender water
  • Blackerry Lavender Fizz


    TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Cream Liqueur

    Introduced in 1974, Baileys Irish Cream was the first cream liqueur on the market. Rich and, of course, creamy, it was a hit, and created the category of cream liqueur.

    Dozens of cream liqueurs have debuted since, from the familiar (chocolate, coffee, maple) to the exotic (amarula, the fruit of the African marula tree).

    A new contender is SomruS, which tastes like vanilla liqueur with exotic notes. It is made from “pure Wisconsin dairy cream and hand-crafted Caribbean rum mixed with the flavors of cardamom, saffron, almonds, pistachios and rose.”

    SomruS is called “The Original Indian Cream Liqueur” by its producer, bringing “the flavors, history and culture of the Indian sub-continent.”

    It is manufactured in the U.S. by SomPriya Fine Spirits of Chicago.

    Introduced last October, SomruS quickly racked up some prestigious citations, including Cream Liqueur of the Year from New York International Spirits Competition and a place on the Top 50 Spirits List of the Wine Enthusiast.



    The bottle is fashioned after an ancient Indian decanter. Photo courtesy SomruS.


    The website says that it was created to complement Indian cuisine and represent “the vibrant culture that encompasses some one-fifth of the world’s population.”

    The one problem we have is with the marketing. Calling it the “Nectar of the Gods” is a bad call of the over-enthusiastic and under-informed.

    The nectar of the gods, as most of us learned in grade school, is mead—an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water. In ancient times, it was consumed throughout Europe, Africa and Asia (and by all the Greek gods).

    We would also argue that “the original Indian cream liquer” is Voyant Chai, introduced ten years ago and also made in the USA. What’s more Indian than chai?

    Are we too nitpicky, or simply focused on accuracy?



    Drizzle cream liqueur over a dish of ice cream. Photo courtesy SomruS.



    That doesn’t take away from the fact that SomruS is delicious, rich and nuanced. It’s a versatile liqueur for:

  • Straight sipping
  • Cocktails (there are many on the SomruS Pinterest stream)
  • Coffee, hot or iced
  • Tea, ditto
  • In dessert recipes: puddings, cream pies and tarts
  • As a topping for ice cream
  • In homemade vanilla ice cream
  • To flavor whipped cream (instead of vanilla extract)
  • In cake icing
  • In an adult milkshake
  • As an alcoholic alternative to pancake and waffle syrup
    It’s a handsome gift option, too.


    Check out the SomruS website. If you can’t find it locally, SomruS is available for online orders from, which ships to 46 states and overseas. The suggested retail price is $24.99 for a 750ml bottle.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Bloody Mary Garnishes & A Bloody Mary Cart


    Who can resist a BLT Bloody Mary, garnished with lettuce, tomato and a crisp bacon strip? This one is from Morton’s Grille.


    If Dad’s drink is a Bloody Mary, try something exciting for Father’s Day. You can use different spirits and mixes, but the easiest way to wow everyone is with a Bloody Mary cart or table, that lets each guest customize the garnishes. You need a bartender, but with everything set up, a college student can be a cost-effective solution.

    Vodka is traditional, but these days Bloody Marys are being crafted with spicy vodkas, botanical-forward gins, whiskey, tequila and even aquavit. Sochu, a neutral grain spirt like vodka, has half the proof of American spirits and is a great solution to keep the crowd sober, longer.

    Everybody has a Bloody Mary mix solution, but could yours be better? For prepared mixes, we like Demetri’s and Master Of Mixes, Freshies, Mixerz and a few others. Look at the ingredients label and avoid anything with corn syrup or other sweetener.

    Our own homemade mix has lots of horseradish, Worstershire sauce and fresh-squeezed lime juice; and for the hot sauce we use smoky chipotle from Cholula or Tabasco.

    You can also add favorite and trending ingredients to a mix. Stonewall Kitchen has Cucumber Dill and Peppadew Sriracha.


    We’d rather use the cucumber, dill and peppadew as a garnish.

    The easiest way to make a Bloody Mary stand out with a memorable garnish. You may have seen photos of everything from charcuterie skewers and pepperoni straws to hot wings and an entire slice of pizza (hmmm). You don’t have to go that far, but you still need to do better than the venerable 20th century celery stick. You can use celery, but as of three garnish items.

    Here’s a list of options for your Bloody Mary cart. Use at least two, and preferably three.

    For skewers, get a supply of inexpensive picks like these four-inch bamboo knot picks.


  • Bacon strip
  • Cheese cubes (we love blue cheese)
  • Crab claw
  • Ham cubes
  • Salami or sausage slices
  • Shrimp
  • Turkey cubes



  • Asparagus spear, steamed or pickled
  • Beets (baby beets, beet cubes or slices, pickled beets)
  • Celery or fennel stalk (in combination with other garnishes)
  • Cucumber spear or wheel
  • Fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, parsley
  • Grape or cherry tomato
  • Green onion (scallion)
  • Ramps and fiddleheads (spring season)
  • Sugar snap peas

  • Cocktail onions
  • Cornichons
  • Olives: try a pick with three different types
  • Pickles: dill spear, gherkin, sweet slices
  • Pickled vegetables: carrots, cherry peppers, dilly beans,
    jalapeños, okra, peppadew (you can stuff it with cheese),


    A Bloody Mary made with Aquavit and Swedish garnishes: beets, dill, cucumber. Photo courtesy Aquavit Restaurant | NYC.


  • Citrus: lemon or lime wedge or wheel
  • Seasoned salt rim: cracked pepper and sea salt, McCormick, Morton’s, homemade (try curry and garlic)

    Here are some of the garnishes we’ve skewered together:

  • Beets, dill, cucumber
  • BLT (see top photo)
  • Cherry tomato, cucumber slice, cherry pepper
  • Cornichon, peppadew, pepperoncini, cocktail onion
  • Cucumber and pickle
  • Grape tomato, olive, cheese cube, cocktail onion
  • Ham, cheese, olive, pickle
  • Olive, pepperoncini, gherkin
  • Olive, cornichon, cocktail onion
  • Red and yellow grape tomatoes, sweet pickle slice
  • Shrimp, sausage cube, cocktail onion, gherkin

    Have your Bloody Mary mix pre-mixed with extra in the fridge. Keep it in a bucket of ice on the cart, and have lots of ice for drinks.

    Consider offering two spirits, such as vodka and the lower-proof sochu, or vodka and gin. A Bloody Mary with gin is called a Red Snapper.

    Place all the garnishes in bowls, grouped as we have above.

    It’s a nice idea to rent highball glasses if you don’t have enough. Glass is so much nicer for this concept than plastic party tumblers. BUT check out these reusable plastic highball glasses.

    Make it easy for the bartender and the guest by creating a large sign that lists the garnishes. It makes it quicker for guests to decide what they want from each group.

    Enjoy the party!



    RECIPE: Gin Milkshake


    It’s not so innocent. Photo courtesy Butter & Scotch | Brooklyn.


    Saturday, June 13th is World Gin Day. Celebrate by making a gin milkshake: gin, vermouth and ice cream!

    If the concept sounds strange to you, think of all the sweet drinks made with heavy cream, from Brandy Alexander to Irish Coffee to White Russian. This recipe simply uses “frozen cream.”

    Not a gin lover? Substitute rum, tequila or vodka.

    This recipe is by Allison Kave from Butter & Scotch in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. She calls it a Bloodhound Shake, and makes it with Carounn gin, a small-batch Scottish gin made with foraged Celtic botanicals.
    Ingredients Per Serving

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 1 scoop strawberry ice cream
  • Garnishes: whipped cream, strawberry slice

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a blender and mix until blended.

    2. POUR into a parfait glass or a pint glass. Top with whipped cream and a slice of fresh strawberry.

    If you like the gin milkshake, check out these ice cream floats with liqueur.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Gin Cocktails For Father’s Day


    A gimlet: gin, lime juice and sugar. Photo courtesy


    How about a gin cocktail party for Father’s Day? You can serve your guests the five classic gin cocktails: Gimlet, Gin Fizz, Gin & Tonic, Gin Rickey and Martini. For a mocktail, a pitcher of limeade does nicely (a few dashes of bitters makes the limeade more cocktail-like).

    We love the idea of a tasting of the classics; but if you’d rather have modern gin cocktails, here are recipes for a Gin Mojito, Red Snapper (Bloody Mary) and Watermelon Martini

    You can have a bartender prepare the drinks to order, or make them in bulk in advance and serve them in pitchers (self-service). Provide shot glasses (plastic ones are fine) for tasting all, and full-size glasses for one’s favorite cocktail.

    Recipes vary widely—it’s easy to change proportions, switch lemon juice for lime juice, switch the garnish, etc. There are several styles of gin. Most recipes use London Dry Gin, but if you have something else, use it. If you have a favorite recipe for any of the drinks below, by all means use it!


    A gimlet is a tool for drilling small holes; the name was also used figuratively to describe something as sharp or piercing. The word “gimlet” for a cocktail was first used around 1928—perhaps for its effects on the drinker.

    According to Wikipedia, another theory is that the drink was named after British Royal Navy Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette KCB (who served 1879 to 1913). Gimlette allegedly introduced the drink as a means of inducing his messmates to drink lime juice as an anti-scurvy medication.
    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots (or parts) gin
  • 3/4 shot fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 shot simple syrup
  • Ice
  • Garnish: cucumber wedge or lime wheel

    Shake all ingredients with ice until ice cold. Strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with lime peel.

    A fizz is a variation of a sour, a family of cocktails that uses lemon or lime juice. The fizz adds carbonated water (soda water). The first printed reference to a “fiz” appears in the 1887 edition of Jerry Thomas’ Bartender’s Guide. It became very popular starting at the turn of the 20th century.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots gin
  • 1/2 shot fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 shot simple syrup or 1/2 teaspoon superfine sugar
  • Soda water
  • Lemon wedge for garnish

    Shake with ice and strain first 3 ingredients into a highball glass. Top off with soda water and stir lightly. Garnish with lemon wedge.



    The world’s favorite gin drink was born in colonial India, when the British troops took daily doses of quinine water (tonic water) to ward off malaria. Someone suggested mixing it with gin to make it more palatable, and the Gin and Tonic became the iconic drink of the British Empire.

    Ingredients Per Cocktail

  • 2 shots gin
  • Tonic water
  • Ice cubes

    Add the gin and ice to highball glass; top off with tonic water. Garnish with a lime wedge.

    The rickey was created with bourbon in the 1880s, at Shoomaker’s bar in Washington, D.C. The story is that it was a collaboration between bartender George A. Williamson and a good customer, Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey.



    A classic G&T with a (non-traditional) sprig of fresh thyme. Photo courtesy Q Tonic.


    In the bar for his morning glass of bourbon and Apollinaris sparkling mineral water, with lump ice, history was changed when one day, half a lime was squeezed into, then dropped into, the glass. The guess is that the lime was the bartender’s twist. Colonel Rickey may have preferred bourbon, but the cocktail became a worldwide sensation a decade later when gin was substituted to create the Gin Rickey. It’s similar to a Gin Fizz, but it uses London Dry Gin and lime juice, and less (or no) sugar.


  • 1.25 shots gin
  • 1/2 fresh lime, juiced
  • Optional: splash of simple syrup
  • 1 ounce soda water
  • Garnish: lime wedge
  • Ice cubes

    Fill a highball glass with ice. Squeeze the lime into the glass, getting as much juice out of it as you can. Add the gin, simple syrup and the lime shell. Top off with soda water.

    Is there a drink with as many variations as a Martini? The original may have been made in San Francisco in 1850 by bar owner Jerry Thomas. A stronger claim comes from Here’s the scoop. The first reference to a vodka Martini in the U.S. occurs in 1951 in a cocktail recipe book, Bottoms Up, by Ted Saucier. The drink took off when James Bond ordered his vodka Martini “shaken, not stirred.”


  • 3 shots gin
  • 1/4 shot dry vermouth (for a dry Martini)
  • 1-2 green olives, depending on size

    Shake the vodka and vermouth with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with the olives.



    GIFT: Premium Spirits For Father’s Day

    For Father’s Day, here are some spirits that will light up Father’s Day for that special Dad who loves tequila or vodka.

    Casa Herradura has two superior expressions for the tequila lover:


    Herradura Selección Suprema is the highest grade tequila from Casa Herradura. Aged for more than 49 months in American oak barrels, it has a very dark copper hue, paired with an intense aroma of brown spice and floral notes.

    This is an enormously complex, world-class sipping tequila for the connoisseur. The suggested retail price is $350 for a 750ml bottle. Pricey, yes; but for tequila lovers, it should be a memorable experience.

    At a more affordable price is Herradura’s limited edition Colección de la Casa, Reserva 2014 – Scotch Cask Finish Reposado.



    The greatest tequila in the world? Photo courtesy Casa Herradura.


    It undergoes a double maturation process after resting in two different types of oak casks: American oak and single malt Scotch casks. This creates a totally new flavor profile for fine tequila. The suggested retail price is $89.99.

    For more information visit



    A different vodka experience. Photo courtesy Tito’s.



    Tito’s Handmade Vodka is one of the fastest-growing craft spirits, and it’s gluten-free (made from 100% corn mash). Wine Enthusiast magazine scored it higher than Belvedere, Grey Goose and Ketel One.

    It’s made in small batches (microdistilled) in an old fashioned pot still by Tito Beveridge (that’s his actual name), a geologist who first made it for Christmas gifts. Friends encouraged him to go commercial.

    His boot-strapped brew won the double gold medal at the World Spirits Competition and put Tito’s on the map.

    We found it online for prices ranging from $17.99 to $32.99. Here’s a store locator on the company website.




    PRODUCT: Sandra Lee Cocktail Time Margaritas

    You could bring a bottle of wine as a house gift, or you could bring a bottle of ready-to-drink Margaritas.

    We really enjoyed the new Sandra Lee Cocktail Time Margaritas, in Key Lime or Strawberry. We’ll be buying more to bring to our Memorial Day hostess—and to enjoy ourselves, at home.

    The ready-mixed Margaritas taste like freshly-made, top-self drinks. A blend of premium blue agave silver tequila and triple sec liqueur, infused with real Key limes or strawberries, these open-and-pour Margaritas hit the spot with us.

    We prefer the classic (Key Lime) to the Strawberry, but if you want a strawberry Margarita, Ms. Lee’s is delicious.

    The cocktails, which are 13% ABV/26 proof, have fewer than 150 calories per 4-ounce serving.

    The suggested retail price is $15.99 per 750ml bottle. Learn more at



    A great-tasting Margarita, poured straight from the bottle. Photo courtesy Diageo.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Pair Saké With Cheese


    Buy the cheese, open the saké. Photo courtesy


    Recently, we were invited to a cheese and saké tasting at the French Cheese Board in New York City. Think you should sip saké only with Japanese food? Think again.

    While it doesn’t seem intuitive, the the traditional Japanese drink, brewed by fermenting rice, has a broad range of flavors and styles that pairs with various foods. Like wine, it’s a global beverage.

    Saké is made from four ingredients: rice, water, yeast and koji, an enzyme. Saké is fermented and brewed like beer, but served like wine. It is also characterized as a wine because of its alcohol content is similar.

    Think of saké as you’d think of white wine. A bolder saké can stand up to spicy cuisine, like Indian food. It can also pair well with French dishes. A milder sake is better with delicate flavors like sushi and sashimi.

    Now for the cheeses: Another reason saké pairs well with cheese is that both contain lactic acid. Most aged cheeses go better with bolder sakés, fresh cheeses (like chèvre) with milder ones. With aged cheeses, we personally like:


  • Genshu saké, a style that’s stronger because it is not diluted with water.
  • Nigori saké, cloudy because it is roughly filtered old-style, which leaves microscopic particles of rice in the liquid. We also like its hint of sweetness with stronger cheeses.
    As with white wine, serve saké semi-chilled, around 60°F.

    The journey to knowledge includes trying what you can get, and seeing how you like it. That goes with both sakés and cheeses.


    Your favorites! We’re serving saké and cheese today, for Mother’s Day, with Truffle Tremor, a truffle cheese; Point Reyes Blue Cheese; Red Hawk, a strong, Muenster*-style cheese from Cowgirl Creamery; and a Brie. The first three cheeses are from Marin County, north of San Francisco; Brie is imported from France.

    If you want to see what pairings others have done, check out the website, written by a sommelier who recommends his top three cheese pairings with particular sakés; and look for similar content online.

    If you’re not sure about taking this on by yourself, ask your local cheese store to set up a tasting. Here’s a report from CurdNerds on a tasting at Murray’s Cheese in New York City.

    More to discover:

  • Sake 101, an overview
  • Saké terms, a glossary
    *That’s Alsatian Muenster, not the mild American “munster.”



    RECIPE: Mother’s Day Martini

    Make a special Martini for Mom with this recipe from Grey Goose. It’s all in the garnish: microgreens and a caperberry instead of the usual olive or twist.

    Here, the conventional olive or lemon twist is replaced with with microgreens and a large, stemmed caper berry: arty and pretty.

    Use your favorite Martini recipe or this one:


    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2½ parts vodka
  • ½ part dry vermouth
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • Garnishes: caper berry, amaranth and shiso microgreens
    (or substitutes)


    Make it pretty for Mother’s Day. Photo courtesy Gresy Goose.



    1. COMBINE ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a Martini glass.

    2. GARNISH and serve.



    COCKTAIL: Coffee & Cream (& Tequila)

    Love coffee, tequila and heat? Here’s a cocktail called The Spicy Bee, from Patrón Spirits. It uses Patrón XO Cafe Dark, a rich coffee liqueur with a tequila base. If you want to use what you have, feel free to substitute, e.g., tequila and Kahlúa.


    Ingredient For 1 Drink

  • 1 ounce Patrón XO Cafe Dark
  • ½ ounce Mike’s Hot Honey*
  • ½ ounce heavy cream
  • Garnish: crushed red pepper
    *Mike’s Hot Honey infuses honey with hot chiles and a splash of vinegar. You can buy it or infuse your own. It’s delicious in/with barbecue sauces, biscuits, cheeses, fruits, glazes, salad dressing, in a cup of tea, even as an ice cream topping.



    A Spicy Bee, for lovers of coffee, tequila and heat. Photo courtesy Patrón.



    1. COMBINE the coffee liqueur and honey, shake, and strain into a chilled glass.

    2. SHAKE the heavy cream and layer on top of the cocktail.

    3. GARNISH with a dollop of crushed red pepper in the glass.



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