Christmas Cocktails: Sweet and Savory

Merry Christmas everyone! While it's hard to believe Christmas is already here, this time of year is my absolute favorite. What's better than time spent with friends and family, sharing meals and listening to cheerful music?! Nothing, I tell you.

I have been seeing lots of posts about various Christmas cocktails and felt like I should get on that train! My creative side was sparked when my cousin mentioned trying to make a cranberry sparkling drink, and I was even more inspired when my aunt sent me a huge box of delicious citrus from Florida. I knew I wanted to make more than one recipe, so I went with one sweet(er) and one savory version. Fair warning, these syrups need lots of time to cool fully so make sure you prepare them in advance!


Also, I know it's a little late in the game, but these simple syrups, especially the cranberry version, would make a great hostess gift for any holiday party. Get a cute little bottle like this one (the 8.5 oz one is perfect!), fill 'er up, and attach this recipe (or other recipe ideas!) as a tag. 

Cranberry-Orange Spritz

This sparkling cocktail is made from a simple syrup of, you guessed it, cranberries and orange zest! It produces a syrup that is a beautiful, vibrant, light red color that's perfect for Christmas. If you like sweeter drinks, this syrup is right up your alley.

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Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping cup of fresh cranberries
  • 1 tsp orange zest

Cranberry-Orange Spritz

  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • Top off the champagne flute with a bottle of brut bubbles (Cava works great!)
  • Add some cranberries and an orange slice for garnish!

Combine the water, sugar, and cranberries in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Once boiling, stir mixture until sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, turn down heat to where it's a heavy simmer or low boil for 2-3 minutes. This is when I added the orange zest. You'll hear the cranberries pop, which is what we want! After the 2-3 minutes, remove the pan from heat and let it cool for another 10-15 minutes or so with the berries. Pour the syrup through a strainer into the bottle and let it cool fully in the fridge. Syrup should be good in your fridge for about a month.

The beautiful thing about this sparkling cocktail is you can adjust the ingredients as you see fit! I suggest the mixture above, but if you want it a little less sweet or a little sweeter, you can pour the syrup accordingly. Enjoy!

Grapefruit-Rosemary Spritz

Now onto the savory syrup. Don't get me wrong, there is PLENTY of sugar in this one too, but the rosemary really gives it that savory flavor, which is perfect for this winter season.

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Rosemary Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 big sprig of rosemary

Grapefruit-Rosemary Spritz

  • 1/2 oz rosemary simple syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
  • Top off the flute with a bottle of brut bubbles

Combine the water, sugar, and rosemary sprig in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir mixture until sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove the pan from heat and let the rosemary steep for 5 minutes. Remove the sprig and let the syrup cool until it can be poured into a bottle. Once in the bottle, let the syrup cool fully in the fridge. Mixture should be good in your fridge for about a month. To enjoy the cocktail, combine the ingredients for the spritz above and enjoy!

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Wine Cocktail: Blackberry Lime Rickey

Kevin and I have a new tradition with our neighbors where we have cocktails on their porch and let the dogs run around their backyard on Sunday evenings. It's a great way to relax, enjoy the outdoors, and wear out the pups before a new week starts. They supplied the first two rounds, so I knew it was time for us to step up to the plate and bring over a tasty concoction. I came across this recipe in Wine Enthusiast when I was at the pool last Saturday and thought it was the perfect summer cocktail! Citrus and fresh blackberries... what could say summer more? 

Blackberry Lime Rickey

  • 2 oz. vodka, we use Tito's
  • 3-5 blackberries, depending on size (I used 5 of the ones in the photo above)
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • Sweetener to taste - I used 1 tsp of light agave nectar
  • Prosecco to top off the glass

Muddle the blackberries in a shaker. Add in the vodka, lime juice, sweetener, and ice. Shake, shake, shake! Return the cocktail to a glass and top it off with Prosecco! Easy, peasy!

If you don't have a muddler, I'm sure there is something in your kitchen drawers that will work. However, I will say that having a real muddler makes it SO much easier. We purchased this one on our second taste test of the cocktail and it made crushing the blackberries a breeze!

Fiesta Time: What to drink this Cinco de Mayo

Fiesta time, cha-cha-cha! Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo! In the United States, I feel like this holiday is an excuse to eat your weight in chips and guacamole and cheers with a margarita. Nothing wrong with that! Being from Texas, I love Tex-Mex food and I personally think I make the best margarita around, so I'm looking forward to celebrating. And just in time for the holiday, here are two drink options for you to feel festive!

Classic Fresh Margarita

I know this is a wine blog, but I can't help it. This margarita recipe is the BEST, so it is totally worth sharing! If you like margaritas with fresh ingredients, you'll love this recipe, and it's SO simple to make for one (or multiples!). Disclaimer: I found this recipe out on the internet somewhere several years ago and have been making it ever since. I apologize to whoever published it, I want to give you credit, but I honestly can't remember where it came from since Kevin and I have it memorized.

For one serving, you will need the following:

  • 2 oz tequila - We stock Hornitos Plata in our bar, but feel free to use your favorite!
  • 1.5 oz lime juice - Usually about 1-2 limes, depending on ripeness.
  • 1 oz orange juice - Do yourself a favor, and just buy it from your grocery store. Fresh squeezed is the best, but something like Tropicana works great, too!
  • Agave nectar to taste - I usually start with 1/2 tsp and work my way up from there.

The recipe is THAT SIMPLE, y'all. Pour all of the ingredients into a shaker, shake away, and then pour over ice. Yum!

Strawberry Sparkling Sangria

For those out there who may want to change things up from a classic margarita, this is a great alternative. Berries and peaches are coming into season, so now is a great time to celebrate spring and Cinco de Mayo all in one! It's sweeter than my margarita recipe, but super tasty with spring fruit flavors! 

Strawberry Sangria 1

For about 4 servings (give or take), you will need:

For the strawberry simple syrup:

  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

For the sangria:

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 ripe peach
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup strawberry simple syrup
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 bottle of sparkling brut rosé

1. Make the strawberry simple syrup.

For this simple syrup, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, gently stir until the sugar dissolves and then add in the strawberries. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the strawberries look like they've lost their color. Strain the simple syrup into another container and throw the strawberry bits away. Let the syrup cool fully (took about an hour in the fridge). 

Strawberry Sangria 2

2. Dice the peach and add the berries to the pitcher. Pour brandy and cooled simple syrup over the fruit. Stir well! Let this mixture marinate for a while, at least an hour.

Strawberry Sangria 3

3. I'd use a stemless wine glass or a double old-fashioned glass for this cocktail. I found that the sangria tasted best when I poured the sparkling wine directly into the glass as opposed to including it in the pitcher. Also, in my opinion, the perfect ratio of sangria mix to wine for a serving is 1/3 mix, 2/3 sparkling wine. Feel free to adjust to your taste, and be sure to put some of the fruit in the glass! 

Strawberry Sangria 4

I hope that you all enjoy yourselves (and be safe!) this Cinco de Mayo.

Wine Cocktail: Sparkling Spiced Apple Cider

It's finally starting to feel like fall in North Carolina, and I could NOT be happier. Leaves are changing, pumpkins are everywhere, and the air is starting to feel crisp. What else is so popular in fall? Apples! Apple cider, apple pie, apple cinnamon candles. I love it all. To be honest with you, I am not a fan of pumpkin flavored things (GASP! I know) so I am happy to have another flavor option during this time of year.

In honor of the season, I thought I should create a wine cocktail using some fresh apple cider. I was inspired by this recipe over at Dishing Up the Dirt but made a few tweaks as I did some trial runs. The recipe is so simple and is basically fall in a glass. 

Sparkling Spiced Apple Cider Recipe:

Serving Size: 1 cocktail

  • 1 oz. Apple Brandy
  • 1 to 2 oz. Cider & Spice
  • Top off your glass with Dry Sparkling Wine

It is really THAT easy! A few notes on the ingredients above...

  • My ABC Store didn't have a normal sized bottle of apple brandy, and I was too lazy to go check other stores. Luckily, they had airplane bottle sizes and it worked great! I found that each bottle had enough to make two cocktails.
  • I first made the recipe with fresh apple cider, and I thought it tasted too much like a jolly rancher. I wanted some spice in there! That's when I went with the Cider & Spice that I found at Whole Foods (also saw it at my local chain grocery store). You could always mull your own spiced cider if you want to be fancy. I was lazy (again) and just bought the jarred stuff. Delicious! I liked 2 oz of it, but Kevin preferred 1 oz. Depends if you want the primary flavor to be the spiced cider or the bubbly! 
  • Any dry bubbly will work, so get what's on sale! I went with my go-to... Rondel Brut Cava from Total Wine. Can't be the price!

In all seriousness, this cocktail is the epitome of fall in my opinion. Enjoy this cocktail while carving pumpkins (be careful with those mini-saws!) or while you're snuggled up near the first fire of season! 



Wine Cocktail: Frosé Forever

I guess you can say summer is basically over if you look at a calendar. Kids are back in school and Labor Day is quickly approaching. Despite this, it definitely still feels like summer outside. I don't know about where you live, but here in Charlotte, it feels like 100 degrees every day. Because of that, it's still fun to make it seem like summer! Grill those hamburgers, eat that corn on the cob, wear those white jeans, and drink summery drinks! This frozen rosé drink, aka frosé, that I came across on Basil and Bubbly seemed like the perfect way to toast to the "end" of summer! The best part? It couldn't be any easier to make!

This frozen glass of goodness has four components: rosé (obviously), strawberry simple syrup, lemon juice, and water. Yep, that's it! Here's how you go about making it:

1. Freeze the wine in advance.

The first, and most important step, is to freeze the wine. I chose the Les Vignes des Precheurs 2015 rosé  I had on hand from Total Wine. If possible, choose a darker rosé. I froze my wine for about 5 hours and it was good, but if you have the time, I highly suggest more. Say 6 or 7 hours. I poured the whole bottle wine into a 9x13" Pyrex dish and stuck it straight in the freezer.

2. Make your strawberry simple syrup.

I taught you how to make simple syrup originally in this post, but in case you forgot, boil 1/2 cup of water with 1/2 cup of sugar until sugar is completely dissolved. It won't take but a second for that to happen once the water is boiling! I hulled and quartered half a container of strawberries and plopped them in after the sugar had dissolved. Remove from heat. Let the strawberries impart their heavenly flavor on the syrup for a while. I ran some errands while this was happening, so I let it sit for about an hour. I'd say wait at least 30 minutes for good flavor. Note: you will NOT use the whole amount you made, so save the leftovers for Round 2!

3. Squeeze 2.5 oz of fresh lemon juice and get 1 cup of ice.

Simple enough.

4. Put everything into a blender and blend until smooth.

Frozen wine, 3 oz. simple syrup, 2.5 oz. of lemon juice, and 1 cup of ice. Blend. 

5. Drink and enjoy while jamming out to this gem by Ben Rector.

There you have it. The perfect addition to your next weekend. For better photos of the end product (the glass unfortunately fogged and I didn't like the light inside), be sure to check out my inspiration -- Marianne over at Basil and Bubbly (and Bon Appetit).