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Archive for Cocktails & Spirits

PRODUCT: Pineapple Coconut Smirnoff Vodka For A Low-Cal Piña Colada

Great flavor with fewer calories: Pineapple
Coconut vodka from Smirnoff Sorbet Light.
Photo courtesy Smirnoff.


The Smirnoff Sorbet Light vodka line is targeted to women who enjoy a regular cocktail, and would like to shave a few calories from each drink.

The reduced calories are achieved by lowering the proof of the alcohol: The Sorbet Light line is 60 proof/30% ABV* while original Smirnoff (and most vodka) is 80 proof/40% ABV.

We like a good flavored vodka: It’s like a cocktail without the extra calories. When we tasted new Sorbet Light Pineapple Coconut, it reminded us of one of our favorite drinks—the Piña Colada—without the extra calories of pineapple juice and coconut cream.

Through the miracle of noncaloric flavor infusions, a shot of the vodka has all the satisfaction of fresh juicy pineapple combined with the luscious coconut. It’s not creamy, but to us, that doesn’t matter. It’s the pineapple-coconut flavor we crave.

*ABV is Alcohol By Volume. Double the ABV to get the proof of any alcoholic beverage.


If you want to “stretch out” the calories, add coconut water like Zico—60 calories for 11 ounces, 30 calories for half of that in your cocktail.

You can mix up any number of cocktails. Here are some from Smirnoff. All of the recipes are under 150 calories.



Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.5 ounces Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pineapple Coconut
  • 2 ounces fresh orange juice
  • 2 ounces club soda
  • Glassware: rocks glass

    1. FILL a highball glass with ice; add remaining ingredients.

    2. STIR and garnish with an orange half wheel.



    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pineapple Coconut
  • 2 ounces coconut water
  • 1 ounces pomegranate juice
  • Garnish: lime wheel or pineapple wedge
  • Glassware: Martini glass

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice, shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

    2. GARNISH and serve.



    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.5 ounces Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pineapple
  • 2 ounces coconut water
  • Glassware: Martini glass

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice, shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

    2. GARNISH with an edible flower or a pineapple chunk.


    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.5 ounces Smirnoff Sorbet Light Pineapple
  • 1.5 ounces Crystal Light lemonade (4 ounces
    water to one packet)
  • 1.5 ounces mango juice
  • Glassware: Martini glass

    1. COMBINE all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice, shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

    2. GARNISH with a mango slice.


    The “Blank Slate”: a low calorie riff on the Piña Colada. Photo courtesy Smirnoff.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Bitters

    The familiar bottle of Angostura Bitters.
    Photo courtesy C.L. World Brands.


    You’ve probably heard of Angostura Aromatic Bitters, but do you know what bitters are?


    According to Wikipedia, the origins of bitters can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians, who infused medicinal herbs in jars of wine. In the Middle Ages, the availability of distilled alcohol for the base led to much more concentrated preparations.

    But fast forward to the cocktail. By 1806, American publications referenced the popularity of a new alcoholic drink, the “cocktail…a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”

    Bitters are used in the Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Whiskey Sour, among other cocktails. We enjoy them every day in a mocktail: a glass of club soda with lime. It has all the satisfaction of a cocktail, without the alcohol.

    Bitters fell out of favor along with classic cocktails in the 1960s and 1970s. They were were supplanted by wine, which became the alcohol of favor following the growth and promotion of California wines. But a few years ago, as cocktail culture became stylish again, there evolved a comeback in bitters.

    Like alcohol itself, bitters began as medicinal tonics; today they are still used as digestifs (drinks consumed at the end of a meal, in order to aid digestion). Each producer had a “secret formula” of herbs, fruits, roots and spices, distilled in a base liquor. The flavor is bitter or bittersweet flavor and the aroma is pronounced; hence the term “aromatic bitters.”

    The flavor of bitters is highly concentrated, and just a few dashes are enough to flavor foods and beverage. Beyond drinks, you’ll find them as an ingredient in fruit pies, marinades, seafood recipes, soups, salad dressings and so forth.


    Angostura, the best-known brand, was invented in 1824 by a German physician, Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert, in Angostura, Venezuela. He created a blend of tropical herbs and plants as a remedy for a variety of illnesses, especially sea sickness and stomach maladies.

    He subsequently formed the House of Angostura, and sailors were major customers. The oversized label, which covers the entire body of the bottle, is said to be a mistake—someone ordered the wrong size and no one took responsibility to correct it (hmm…some things never change).

    Today the brand is produced in Trinidad by CL World Brands.

    To us, the flavor is ginger-like: We call our club soda-Angostura drink “unsweetened ginger ale” (although ginger is also an edible root, it is no relation to gentian). The trick is to add enough bitters, until the drink becomes a deep rosy color. Keep tasting until you find your preferred intensity.
    *Gentian is made from the root of a flowering plant. More information.


    Peychaud’s Bitters, another 19th century brand, was developed by a New Orleans apothecary, Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a Creole from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) who settled in New Orleans in 1795. It became well known for its use in the Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans (a combination of Cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe and bitters, which originated before the Civil War and was named after the brand of Cognac used in it).

    The gentian*-based bitters, comparable to Angostura bitters, but with a lighter body, sweeter taste and more floral aroma.

    Most American bitters producers went out of business during Prohibition; Peychaud’s is one of only two companies that managed to survive, according to the company. If you can’t find it locally, you can buy it online. Today it’s produced in Kentucky, by The Sazerac Company.


    A popular style of bitters that emerged from the early “cocktail era” were Orange bitters, typically made from the rinds of Seville oranges plus spices. Orange bitters are commonly called for in older cocktail recipes and delicious in modern drinks. The style can range from dryly aromatic to fruity; Regan’s Orange Bitters (see below) were developed by a mixologist who wanted his own version of perfection.


    Peychaud’s Bitters. Photo courtesy The Sazerac Company.

    But orange is just the beginning. We gave up counting the different flavors of bitters on alone, which offers dozens of brands. Just a sampling:

  • Amargo Chuncho Bitters, made in Peru from a blend of more than 30 barks, flowers, herbs, peels and roots from the Peruvian forest, is the “official bitters” for the Pisco Sour.
  • Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters is a distillation of chocolate, cinnamon and other spices that pairs well with rum and tequila drinks. Founded in San Francisco in 2007, the company now produces in New Orleans. The company also makes Hopped Grapefruit, Burlesque Bitters (hibiscus, açai, quassia), ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters (clove, allspice, cinnamon, citrus) and Boston “Bittahs” (citrus and chamomile).
  • Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Aphrodite Bitters are crafted in Scotland from chocolate, cacao nibs, ginger root, red chile, Arabica coffee and ginseng. The company also makes Boker’s Bitters, created in 1828 by Johann Gottlieb Boker, and reformulated it for modern drinks in 2009. It’s made with seven botanicals including cardamom, catechu, mallow flowers, orange peel and quassia bark; and Dr. Heather Duncan’s Christmas Cocktail Bitters, with a nose of freshly baked gingerbread, clove and spiced fruit.
  • El Guapo Bitters are made with chicory and pecans and recommended for Bourbon, dark rum and Tiki-style drinks.
  • Fee Brothers makes bitters in Grapefruit, Lemon, Mint, Old Fashioned Aromatic (Angostura-type bitters), Orange and Peach that can get a sampler of all flavors; as well as individual bottles in those flavors plus Aztec Chocolate, Black Walnut, Cranberry, Plum and Rhubarb, among others. The family-owned company, based in Rochester, New York, has been around since 1863.
  • Regan’s Orange Bitters were developed in 2005 by Gary Regan, a mixologist and columnist who wanted a better orange bitters than what he found in the market.
  • Scrappy’s Bitters are made in aromatic, celery, lavender and orange, plus cardamom bitters for toddy drinks.
  • Woodford Reserve Spiced Cherry Bourbon Barrel Aged Cocktail Bitters, made from gentian root, cherry and spices, are barrel-aged in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels. Get some for your favorite Bourbon fans.
    So don’t be shy: Buy bitters and see where they take you.

    FOOD 101: WHAT’S A DASH?

    Recipes often call for a “dash” of bitters. According to Scrappy’s, 6-8 drops equals 1 dash.



    TIP OF THE DAY: 11 Exciting Bloody Mary Garnishes

    New Year’s Day is also National Bloody Mary Day. So today’s tip is: Find a new garnish for your Bloody Marys, and change it up every year.

    A celery stalk garnish and optional lemon or lime wheel was de rigeur 20th century. Savvy hosts replaced them with a fennel stalk for the new millennium (there’s a word you haven’t heard in a while!).

    But that was 14 years ago! So here are 10 groups to consider for your “signature garnish.” You can mix and match them as you wish. And yes, you can even match them with a celery stalk and any form of lemon or lime.

    Creative types can get out the vegetable cutters and transform cucumbers, carrots, jalapeños, etc. into edible sculptures.


  • “Antipasto” Pick: an assortment of goodies such as cheese cube, cocktail onion, deli meat cube, grape tomato, pickle, pickled garlic, shrimp or your favorite ingredients
  • The Bacon-Jerky Group: bacon strips, your favorite jerky or a “BLT” (grape tomatoes and bacon on a pick with a curly lettuce leaf replacing the celery)
  • The Citrus Group: curly lemon or lime peel, blood orange wheel, grapefruit wedge, any exotic citrus from the farmers market

    A modern and easy Bloody Mary garnish: a gherkin and pepperoncini on a pick with a salt and pepper rim. Photo courtesy AGWA.

  • The Fresh Vegetable Group: cherry tomato/grape tomato (chose yellow for contrast), cucumber slice, green onion/scallion, snow pea, zucchini spear/slice
  • The Herbs Group: basil leaves, cilantro sprig, dill sprig, parsley sprig, rosemary sprig

    Bloody Mary “salad”: cherry tomato, celery,
    cucumber, dilly bean, lime wheel olive. Photo
    courtesy Arch Rock Fish Restaurant | Santa

  • The Fruit Group: apple wedge, melon balls, pineapple spear
  • The Olive Group: stuffed olives (cheese, chili, pimiento, etc.), mixed pitted olives
  • The Pickle Group: dill spear (the whole spear or cut into chunks on a pick), gherkins,
  • The Pickled Vegetables Group: asparagus, carrot, dilly bean, okra, peppadew
  • The Seafood Group: crab leg meat, cooked shrimp,
  • The Seasoned Rim Group: cracked pepper, seasoned salt (buy it or make your own, including a salt-and-pepper rim of coarse sea salt and cracked pepper)

  • Bloody Mary History
  • Bloody Mary Recipes: the classics plus Danish, Mexican Scottish, Russian and Spanish Marys



    TIP OF THE DAY: Red & Green Champagne Cocktails

    If your Christmas cocktail of choice is a fizzy one, you don’t need to spring for costly Champagne. Consider more affordable bubblies:

  • Asti Spumante and Prosecco from Italy
  • Cava from Spain
  • Crémant from France
  • Espumante from Portugal
  • Sekt from Germany
  • Sparklers from Austria, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.S. and other countries
    You can also serve red bubblies such as Italian Brachetto and Lambrusco or sparkling Shiraz.

    All can be made with ginger ale cocktail for non-drinkers and kids.

    For Christmas, the two sparkling cocktails below have a red or red and green color palate. Both are named for great Italian artists:


    What’s more Christmassy than a sparkling red cocktail? Photo of the Rossini Cocktail courtesy Chandon USA.


  • The great 19th century Italian composer Gioachino Rossini, author of “The Barber of Seville” and other memorable music
  • Tiziano Vecelli (Titian), the greatest Venetian painter of the sixteenth century and the father of modern painting

    Ingredients For 4 Cocktails

  • 6 ounces strawberry purée
  • Chilled Prosecco or other sparkler
  • Champagne flutes
  • Garnish: whole strawberry or blackberry (not frozen)* or three green grapes on a toothpick
    *Ideally the strawberry leaves will be green and perky. If the leaves are wilted, remove them and optionally combine the strawberry with a mint leaf on a cocktail pick or colored toothpick.


    The Tiziano Cocktail has a bonus treat:
    frozen grapes. Photo courtesy Harvard
    Common Presss.



    Ingredients For 4 Cocktails

  • 6 ounces white grape juice (not grape juice cocktail)
  • Chilled Prosecco or other sparkler
  • Frozen green and/or red grapes
  • Champagne flutes

    1. Add three or four frozen grapes to each flute glass.

    2. Pour 1½ ounces of grape juice into each flute.

    3. Fill the glasses almost to the top with Prosecco. Serve.

    This deep red cocktail is one of our favorites at any time of the year.


  • Creme de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur
  • Sparkling wine

    1. ADD cassis to taste to the bottom of the flute or tulip Champagne glass.

    2. GENTLY POUR the sparkling wine down the side of the glass. Stirring breaks the bubbles, so the better option is not to stir (if you must, stir once, very gently).


    Each is more delicious than the next. Check out the easy recipes.



    RECIPE: Spiced Cranberry Cocktail

    Still looking for the killer Christmas cocktail?

    Try this spiced Cranberry Cocktail from

    The special difference is simple syrup infused with allspice, cloves, fresh ginger, cinnamon and fresh cranberries; then blend with vodka and a splash of club soda. The cranberries and mint leaf are a perfect holiday garnish.

    The simple syrup can be made in advance (just simmer in a saucepan) and stored in the fridge.


    Ingredients For Simple Syrup

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 12 whole allspice berries
  • 12 whole cloves

    The cocktail that shouts “Christmas!” Photo courtesy

  • 1 to 1-1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries
    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1 ounce cranberry syrup
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces club soda
  • Optional: 1/2 ounce triple sec or other orange liqueur
  • Ice
  • Garnish: uncooked whole cranberries and mint leaves

    1. MAKE simple syrup. Inspect your spices to be sure they are fresh. Allspice that’s been on your shelf for years won’t pack much of a punch.

    2. COMBINE water, sugar, allspice, cloves, ginger and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. When the sugar has dissolved, add the cranberries. Bring to a boil and boil until the cranberries pop, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep for one hour. Then strain mixture through a fine sieve, gently pressing with the back of a rubber spatula or wood spoon to extract the juices. Cool and refrigerate until ready to make drink.

    3. COMBINE the cranberry syrup, optional triple sec and vodka in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Fill a rocks glass with ice and strain the contents of the cocktail shaker into the glass. Top with club soda. Garnish and serve.

    Here’s the full recipe with step-by-step photos.

    Find more of our favorite cocktail recipes.



    RECIPE: Cranberry Infused Vodka

    Your own holiday bottling of cranberry
    infused vodka. Photo courtesy Prairie


    Make cranberry vodka to bring as a house gift or place on your own bar. It will be ready in three to four days.

    It’s easy to craft your own cranberry vodka infusion. Instead of vodka, you can use silver tequila, genever, Plymouth gin or a London gin with a low level of aromatics.

    This recipe is courtesy Prairie Organic Spirits, which makes both organic gin and vodka (including cucumber-infused vodka) in Minnesota.

    The vodka is handcrafted with single vintage organic corn. The line is certified organic by the USDA, which ensures that no genetically modified seeds, chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides are used. The price: just $19.99 for a 750 ml bottle.




  • Whole fresh cranberries
  • Whole cloves
  • Vodka


    1. POUR 1/3 of the vodka into a pitcher or a measuring cup with a spout and set aside.

    2. FILL the empty bottle space with cranberries and cloves.

    3. TOP OFF the bottle with the reserved vodka and tightly securing the cap.

    4. STORE in the fridge or in dark, cool space for three to four days. Then, it’s ready to serve.

    How about:

  • Espresso-Cinnamon for Valentine’s Day
  • Jalapeño-Horseradish-Garlic for Cinco de Mayo
  • Honeycrisp Apple for Mother’s Day
  • Lemon Lime for Spring
  • Orange-Tangerine for Winter
  • Strawberry Basil for Summer

    It’s easy to infuse vodka: Just add simple ingredient to the bottle. Photo courtesy Prairie Organic Spirits.


    Download the pdfs at



    GIFT: Jose Cuervo Cinge, Yummy Cinnamon Tequila

    Mmm, mmm, good. Photo courtesy Jose


    Jose Cuervo Cinge, also known as Jose Cuervo Especial Cinnamon (that’s sure to be confusing, but why ask why), is a new expression that’s not even on the website yet.

    It is, however, in the stores—and that’s a good thing.

    The new flavored tequila is a cinnamon-infused, 70 proof version of Cuervo Especial Silver. There are other “natural flavors,” but if they told us they’d have to kill us.

    Cinge means “sting” and the ads we’ve seen show a menacing scorpion (is there any other kind?) crawling across a bar toward a shot of tequila.

    But the experience is more “Cosmopolitan” magazine than “American Cowboy.” There’s a soft but vibrant cinnamon nose and flavor. It’s not a burning cinnamon experience like Red Hots candy.

    Yet the brand’s copy calls it “a spicy and fiery shot of cinnamon.” Hmmm; perhaps our bottle was from a different batch.


    Our Cinge was seductive, and we love it. For $16.99 a bottle, OMG: Last-minute gift problems solved!

    We received a bottle from Jose Cuervo along with some cocktail recipes, but it’s heaven just drinking Cinge straight.

    Or add it to cider, coffee, tea or a toddy—there’s no need to drag out the cocktail shaker.
    Find more of our favorite spirits and lots of cocktail recipes.



    RECIPE: Holiday Sorbet Cocktail

    We spent much of the weekend enjoying limited-edition, seasonal batch flavors from Ciao Bella Gelato: Cranberry Prosecco Sorbet, Montebianco Gelato and Pumpkin Sea Salt Caramel Gelato.

    Cranberry Prosecco Gelato. No matter how stuffed you may be from a big holiday dinner, there’s always room for sorbet. Ciao Bella’s Cranberry Prosecco Sorbet marries sweet-tart cranberry sorbet with a hint of Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine.

    Colorful and delicious by itself, it creates an easy cocktail—apéritif or dessert—when scooped into a glass of Prosecco or other sparkling wine. A great idea for Christmas or New Year’s Eve. It can be made as a mocktail for non-drinkers.

    Montebianco Gelato. Montebianco, or Mont Blanc, is a famous European dessert made with puréed, sweetened chestnuts, whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Ciao Bella’s Montebianco Gelato is a luscious chestnut cream with organic dark chocolate chunks and a bit of rum extract. If you’re an ice cream lover who’s dreaming of a white Christmas, this could be it.

    Pumpkin Sea Salt Caramel Gelato. What a great way to enhance delicious pumpkin gelato! Made with real pumpkin purée and a hint of cinnamon, the thick swirls of sea salt caramel make it the best pumpkin ice cream you could wish for. While you can still get pumpkin ice cream, pick up a pint.


    Make a sparkling cranberry sorbet cocktail. Photo by Lognetics | Fotolia.

    The flavors are all natural and the milk for the gelato is rBST-free.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 mall scoops cranberry sorbet
  • 6 ounces Prosecco or other sparkling wine; sparkling Italian soda (like San Pellegrino) for mocktail
  • Optional garnish: cocktail pick or toothpick threaded with mint leaves and fresh cranberries—or—lime curl
  • Optional garnish: sparkling sugar rim (green, red or white)

    1. SOFTEN sorbet at room temperature for 5-7 minutes. Add optional sugar rim to a Champagne glass.

    2. PLACE 2 small scoops of sorbet in the bottom of the glass.

    3. TOP with Prosecco or soda, garnish and serve.


    Enjoy limited edition seasonal flavors while
    you can. Photo courtesy Ciao Bella Gelato.



    Use Nutella and pizzelles (Italian waffle cookies) to make a most delicious ice cream sandwich.


  • 1 package pizzelles
  • 1 jar Nutella
  • 1 14-ounce container Ciao Bella Montebianco gelato
  • Optional: melted chocolate for dip

    1. SOFTEN gelato at room temperature for 5 minutes. Lay the bottom pizzelles on a cookie sheet, 2 per sandwich.]

    2. SPREAD Nutella on the bottom pizzelles and top with 1-2 scoops of Montebianco gelato. Add the top pizzelle and press down slightly to seal.

    3. DIP half of the sandwich in the optional melted chocolate.

    3. PLACE sandwiches in the freezer to harden until ready to serve.




    RECIPE: Eggnog “Martini”

    The Eggnog “Martini” in sunny Napa Valley. Photo courtesy Boon Fly Café | Carneros Inn.


    Can you call any a cocktail poured into a Martini glass a Martini?

    Of course not; otherwise you’d call a Cosmopolitan a Cranberry Lime Martini with triple sec substituting for vermouth.

    The Martini is a cocktail made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. The first recipe for a vodka Martini appears in 1951, but didn’t gain world notice until the publication of the second James Bond novel, Live and Let Die, in 1962 (Bond’s cocktail of choice was a vodka martini, “shaken not stirred”).

    Why a vodka Martini? Two good guesses are that a bartender made it for a customer who didn’t like gin; or that a vodka distributor created and promoted it to move more vodka—also a clear spirit but without the aromatic gin ingredients.


    If you want to make a cocktail with rum, tequila or whiskey, call it something other than a Martini.

    Here’s more Martini history.

    But even if they don’t know the rules, the folks at Boon Fly Café at the The Carneros Inn in sunny Napa Valley are pleasing customers with Eggnog “Martinis.”

    All you need is eggnog, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and a Martini glass.



    Ingredients For One Drink

  • 1 ounce of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
  • 3 ounces eggnog
  • Garnish: Dash of nutmeg or cinnamon

    1. SHAKE rum and eggnog with ice and strain into a Martini glass.

    2. GARNISH and serve.

    Candy Cane Martini

    Cranberry Martini

    Ginger Martini

    Pomegranate Martini


    Captain Morgan, ready to pour rum into his eggnog. Image courtesy Diageo.




    RECIPE: Dirty Santa Coffee Cocktail

    What happens when you mix hot coffee, milk, bourbon and Marshmallow Fluff? You get The Dirty Santa cocktail (hey, we don’t name them!).

    Given the number of people who love a good cup of coffee, this could be a holiday hit.

    The drink is on the menu of Joe and Misses Doe, a casual restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village.


    Ingredients Per Drink

  • Strong coffee
  • 1.5 ounces whole milk (or substitute)
  • .5 ounce simple syrup (recipe)
  • Marhmallow Fluff or other marshmallow creme
  • 1.5 ounces bourbon

    The Dirty Santa served in a trendy, pint-size drinking jar. Libbey sells a dozen for just $16.50.


    1. FILL a microwaveable safe mug 3/4 of the way with coffee. Add milk, and syrup.

    2. COVER the whole top of the mug with Fluff to seal in the liquid.

    3. MICROWAVE for 2 minutes.

    4. POKE a hole in fluff and pour in bourbon.

    We have a responsibility to maintain the accuracy of the English language, even if few other people seem to care about it. So Joe: It’s not Misses Doe, it’s Missus Doe.

    Misses are what happens when you fail to hit the ball, or overlook opportunities.

    Missus, or the missus, is the informal term of address for a wife.

    Teaching moment: Don’t carve anything in stone until you check a dictionary. is an easy click away.



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