Category Archives: cocktails

Letters & Libations: Mr. Zip Cocktail

mr. zip cocktail, letters & libations, gimlet, gin cocktailHe’s always “on thyme!”

This is the cocktail we served at the Letters & Libations birthday party. I think it was a hit, based on the amount of gin consumed at the party. (We only served this cocktail and also beer and wine.) Naoto is the kind of bartender who tops off your cocktail when you’re not looking, though. The Mr. Zip is a simple gin gimlet, with a bit of a twist. We swapped out the lime juice for lemon and we added a hint of thyme to the simple syrup.

Thyme Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

Handful of fresh thyme sprigs

In a pan on the stove, dissolve sugar in water. Once sugar is completely dissolved, remove from heat and add thyme sprigs. Steep for 30 minutes and strain into a container. Chill before using. The simple syrup will last up to a week in the refrigerator. This makes enough syrup for five cocktails. (You can adjust the amounts based on the size of your party, but the basic recipe is the same: equal parts sugar and water, and a handful of thyme.)

Mr. Zip Cocktail

2 oz gin

3/4 oz thyme simple syrup

3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake, shake, shake. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme. Enjoy with friends, preferably while writing letters.

 

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Letters & Libations Stationery

letters & libations stationery, donovan beeson, letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayAs I mentioned the other day, Naoto had special Letters & Libations stationery made especially for the party. He knew that Donovan sometimes makes special stationery for the Letter Writers Alliance letter writing socials so he commissioned her to draw something that incorporated letter writing and cocktails. He met with Donovan to chat about the plan and she came up with a few designs. Because he knew I would probably want to use the stationery beyond the party, he let me choose which one I liked best. letters & libations stationery, donovan beeson, letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayThis was the winner…a perfect cocktail coupe with a stack of mail ready to go. I love that the top letter has a little paper airplane on it and it’s addressed to me from the LWA. (But that detail is small enough so others could use the stationery without it being weird.) Donovan formatted the image so two sheets of stationery fit on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper. Naoto had them printed at the UPS store, where fifty copies cost $5. (He brought his own paper, Superfine White from Paper Source from my stash at home. I love Superfine papers…almost anything–fountain pens, gel pens, felt pens, pencils–writes nicely on it.)

I now have a nice leftover stash of my own personal stationery and the ability to print more. I’m so excited to write some letters on it this week! (By the way, I’m staying on top of my letter writing this week…how about you?)

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A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery

A Cocktail Story at ch distilleryFor the second year in a row, Naoto and I went to CH Distillery in the West Loop for their Christmas pop-up, A Cocktail Story. I love a good theme party, so it’s right up my alley–all of the food and cocktails are based on the holiday classic, A Christmas StoryA Cocktail Story at ch distilleryI wish I’d taken pictures of the menu, because I can’t remember the witty names of our cocktails, but we started with bourbon (Naoto’s was a version of an Old Fashioned and mine was similar to a Manhattan) and moved onto tasty rosemary gin cocktails.  We ate classic snacks like deviled eggs, cheese balls, and fried rice (keeping with the movie’s Chinese Christmas dinner theme.) A Cocktail Story at ch distillery, eggnogFor me, the best part of the whole experience was Eddie’s Frozen Eggnog. (Eddie = Clark’s cousin in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.) It is so deliciously decadent. I’ve been thinking about it since I tried it last yearA Cocktail Story at ch distillery, eggnogCheers to the holidays once again!

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Cocktail Perfected: The Rosemary Gimlet

rosemary gimlet, Hasegawa Happy Hour, cocktail hour, summer cocktailsWe don’t have any ripe tomatoes in Plot 6 yet but our herbs are flourishing like crazy. So far, I’ve made Greek orzo salad with our parsley, a round of pesto with our basil, and a cocktail with the rosemary.

I haven’t made a classic gimlet in a long time, and I thought rosemary would be a nice addition and what do you know? Someone‘s already done it! I love the balance of herbal and tart with a hint sweetness (though mostly herbal.) Rosemary used to remind me of fall, Thanksgiving turkey, roasted potatoes…but in a cocktail, it’s very fresh and summery.

Rosemary Simple Syrup

Make this ahead of time so you have time to chill it before making the cocktails.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

~2 Tablespoons of rosemary, roughly chopped (Or for a lighter rosemary flavor, just add 2-3 stalks of whole rosemary into the sugar/water mixture.)

Add ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and let sit until cool. Strain into a jar and refrigerate. This makes enough for 4+ cocktails.

The Rosemary Gimlet 

2 oz gin

3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

3/4 oz rosemary simple syrup

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until very chilled and pour into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary. Enjoy on the lanai on a hot summer night!

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CH Distillery’s A Cocktail Story

A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016

This may be my favorite Christmas adventure of the year! I love a good theme party, so when I read about CH Distillery’s A Christmas Story themed pop up, I jumped at the chance to take Naoto on a little Christmas date. He’s never seen the movie, but he enjoyed the cocktails anyway. Here are a few pictures from our night out…from appetizers to the best eggnog I’ve ever had. A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016 A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016 A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016 A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016 A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016 A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016 A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016 A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016 A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016 A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016 A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016 A Cocktail Story at CH Distillery 2016

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Rio Olympics Party 

Olympics Party Rio 2016, viewing area decorations, flag bannerIt’s Olympics time again! Last Friday I hosted a few friends for an Opening Ceremonies viewing party. Just like in 2014 and in 2012, I made a few decorations to get into the Olympics spirit. I had my flag banner left over from last time. (Yes, I saved it. No regrets.) This time, I added some tissue poufs in Olympics colors and a little torch. tissue and paper olympic torch, Olympics decorationsI may have taken a few laps around the apartment with the torch before I sat it by the TV. (I got the idea here in case you want to make one of your own. I used super sticky tape instead of pins and it’s still holding quite nicely.)Olympic rings fruit platterKaren and I chopped up fruit to make up the easiest Olympic centerpiece ever. BrigadeirosI made sausage, beans, and rice and brigadeiros, little chocolatey truffles made with condensed milk.  (They are so easy to make! I highly recommend them as an easy treat while you watch swimming or gymnastics!) Olympics party food spread, Rio 2016Karen made Brazilian cheese bread and Jackie made little shrimp and mango tostadas and James made two kinds of guacamole. We had quite a feast! CaipirinhaAnd of course we had to drink caipirinhas, the National Drink of Brazil. They were delicious (topped off with a bit of sparkling water to dilute the booze just a little bit!)

I had so much fun getting the party ready and of course so much fun celebrating with friends. We tested each other’s geography skills and did our own commentary about the uniforms and cheered extra hard for the countries with small delegations. Go athletes!

 

 

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Hasegawa Tanabata 2016

Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations dayLast month, we had a few friends over to celebrate Tanabata, a Japanese festival celebrated on July 7th. (We held our party the weekend after.) The celebration revolves around an old Chinese legend.

Orihime, daughter of Tentei (the Sky King,) had a lover, Hikoboshi, who lived on the other side of the Amanogawa (the Milky Way.) Orihime and Hikoboshi were both hardworking gods. She was a weaver and he was a cow herder. But once they got married, they became lazy which upset the Sky King so he separated them with the Amanogawa. Orihime was so devastated that her father promised her she could be reunited with Hikoboshi, but only on the seventh day of the seventh month and only if she and Hikoboshi worked very hard. But because the lovers were separated by the river, magpies had to build a bridge so they could meet. Tanabata is the celebration of the lovers crossing the Milky Way to meet each other again.

Tanabata festivals are held all over Japan, sometimes on July 7th and sometimes in August (for those keeping with an older calendar system.) Modern day festivals include fireworks and bright, colorful decorations. (I love these pictures! #decorationgoals) Festival-goers also write wishes on pretty paper strips and tie them to bamboo branches in hopes their wishes will come true. Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami prepI wasn’t planning to celebrate Tanabata, but once I read more about it, I couldn’t wait to have an excuse to invite a couple of friends over for a little mid-summer celebration. I did some research and found a few easy decorations to make. I spent a morning folding a few traditional Tanabata ornaments to hang on the lanai. Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami fan Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami bamboo leavesI folded fans and lanterns and made a trail of bamboo leaves (the green one…please excuse my imperfect folds!) and cut a little blue net (which is so simple but turns out so neat looking!)Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations nightI also used this printable and cut strips so we could each write down our wishes. I tied the strips to my basil plant, the most bamboo-like plant on the lanai.
Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, somenI made a yuzu cocktail and Naoto made edamame and somenHasegawa Tanabata 2016, Naoto eating somen(Naoto was the only one who ate his noodles with a fork.) Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami prepAnd Presley even got into the action, tearing up one of the decorations and chasing it around the apartment all day. (How could I be mad with that sweet, innocent face looking up at me?)

I’m already thinking of Hasegawa Tanabata 2017. I have a Tanabata Pinterest board going so I can keep all of the origami instructions and ideas together until next year. I think I may need to start folding now, right?

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Ginger Raspberry Bellini

Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, sparkling rosé ginger raspberry belliniWe really enjoyed the cocktail at Jackie’s tea. It was fresh, and ginger-y, and bubbly and the perfect color for a plaid celebration that happened to occur on Valentine’s weekend.

We found the recipe on Driscoll’s website and god only knows how they got theirs so perfectly red…but, our pale version was delicious enough that we hardly noticed. We used a bottle of Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Rosé ($12 at your friendly Trader Joes) and it was really delicious, but if rosé isn’t your thing, I think the ginger and raspberry are powerful enough that you’ll get the same idea with any sparkling wine.

It’s so much easier to make the liqueur mix in batches, so I’ve adjusted the original recipe to serve 4.

Ginger Raspberry Bellini

(makes 4 cocktails)

4 oz ginger liqueur

2 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed!)

2 oz simple syrup

16 fresh raspberries

bottle of sparkling rosé or sparkling wine of your choice

4 raspberries and 4 pieces of candied ginger for garnish

Add ginger liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and raspberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle the raspberries into the liquid. Add ice and shake until fully chilled. Strain mixture into each cocktail glass, about 2 oz per glass. (It’s ok to eyeball.) Top each glass with about 3 oz of sparkling rosé and garnish with a raspberry and candied ginger on a cocktail pick. Toast your friend going on an amazing adventure.

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A Moveable Feast & Hemingway’s Daiquiri 

For book club this month, we read A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in Oak Park and our book group originated in Oak Park. Would you believe we’ve never read him? I added A Moveable Feast to our list over a year ago and no one seemed into it. When the Paris attacks happened and all of Paris turned to the old Hemingway title for comfort, I suggested we finally read it.  I think (almost) everyone is glad we did.

I appreciate the book as a peek into an artist’s life in 1920s Paris. I love the interactions between the famous writers. I love the descriptions of the food and the cafes and the seasons in Paris. It is insane to imagine how much they were drinking at the time. And I know we have to take it all with a grain of salt, as the book is a memoir, written years later from Hemingway’s notebooks and published posthumously by his fourth wife, but that doesn’t change the enjoyment I got from the book as a piece of work.

Here are some of my favorite passages.

On eating and drinking (also longest sentence ever!) :

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

Regarding his writing process:

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry, You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

The seasons in Paris:

You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.

Regarding Katherine Mansfield:

I had been told Katherine Mansfield was a good short-story writer, even a great short-story writer, but trying to read her after Chekhov was like hearing the carefully artificial tales of a young old-maid compared to those of an articulate and knowing physician who was a good and simple writer. Mansfield was like near-beer. It was better to drink water.

And, the saddest line of the book…about his first wife:

When I saw my wife again standing by the tracks as the train came in by the piled logs at the station, I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.

After I read the book I celebrated with a Hemingway Daiquiri. I love this cocktail and the fact that it’s about as far away from the daiquiris I enjoyed in college that you could get.

Hemingway Daiquiri

2 oz light rum

1/2 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until fully chilled and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Toast to all of those drunk writers, to Paris in the 1920s, and to Paris today.

 

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Book Club Christmas Tea 2015

book club christmas tea 2015One last thing about the holidays…

Last month, Peggy hosted our third annual Book Club Christmas Tea. As usual, it was a festive event with everyone contributing something tasty. I made this Japanese egg salad, which was delicious. (I take no credit…it’s just a good recipe!) I am not a fan of curry usually, but I really did love this egg salad.Book Club Christmas Tea 2015 3In addition to the egg salad, we had ham salad, cucumber sandwiches, and chicken salad served in little bread boats, lemon cranberry scones and English toffee scones served with lemon curd, cream and cranberry butter, grape salad, toffee pudding, plum cake, and Christmas cookies. (I think that’s everything!)Book Club Christmas Tea 2015 4, cranberry pepper shrub with proseccoI also made this shrub to serve with prosecco. I’d never made a shrub before, so I was a little bit worried, but it turned out really tasty. (Though next time I will crush the peppercorns a bit more because it was lacking the peppery bite.)Book Club Christmas Tea, placecards, Yellow Owl Workshop Placecard stampAnd, because I think every party needs a little paper element, I made these simple place cards out of some red cardstock, my Yellow Owl Workshop stamp embossed in white, and some Jolee’s holly stickersBook Club Christmas Tea 2015 2Peggy’s tables were delightfully decorated, as always. img_7308img_7304We read The Bird’s Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin. It was a perfect read for December when everyone is busy. (Last year, we attempted an Austen novel and hardly anyone finished.) Most of us finished it in one relaxing afternoon while sitting by our trees. And though it was only eighty pages and maybe more of a tale for children, we found so much to talk about, even comparing it to The Dead. I recommend it if you’re looking for a sweet tale to read this December.

So much work goes into planning this thing–especially by Peggy since she decorates, sets the tables, and cleans up after we all leave!–but it is so worth it. We are already talking about things to add for next Christmas!

(And with that, I think I may be done talking about the holidays…for now!)

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