Five Cocktails to Get You Through a California “Winter”

Drink.
Spirit. 
Brew. 
Booze. 
Refreshment. 
Libation.
Cocktail. 
Intoxicant. 
Mixer.
Hooch.
Moonshine.
Elixir. 
Cure. 
Savior. 
Courage. 
Alcohol - the respected and highly valued liquid that’s been giving us hangovers since the dawn of mankind. I’m currently drinking the classic Gin & Tonic, but you, you may be leaning more toward a frothy Piña Colada, a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio, or the distinct taste of a lukewarm Natty Ice, half-filled at the bottom of the game winning cup in beer pong. No matter the choice, the curious nectar that has been banned, worshipped, and brewed in back alley bathtubs is good in my eyes. So, cheers to you and yours, and enjoy these five cocktail recipes that I’ve added a little RG spin to - hopefully they get you through this brutal California "winter."

The Cersei Lannister

Inspired by the unusual rainy weather we’ve been experiencing here in Southern California, this cocktail is meant to warm your cold, cold heart. Or, you know, to spice up the usual glass of “insert any red wine varietal here” that you have every night, and to be super cozy by the fire. Makes one serving. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. Red Wine - any will do. You’re pretty much making a mulled wine here, so don’t throw the big bucks at this bottle. I prefer a slightly tarter, fruitier wine for this, like a Beaujolais, as you’ll be adding some sweeter components. 
  • 1 oz. Brandy - again, any will do. I used St. Rémy VSOP. 
  • ½ oz. Orange Juice
  • 2 oz. Apple Cider
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks (one for recipe, one for garnish)
  • 5 Cloves (whole)
  • 1 Anise (whole star-shaped thing) 

What to do:

  • Throw everything except the Orange Juice and Apple Cider into a small pot, stir, and bring to a simmer. 
  • Cut the heat and add the Orange Juice and Apple Cider. 
  • Strain and pour into a mug or a glass that can handle heat. 
  • Garnish with cinnamon stick

This also works well in large batches. Do the maths to make it big, then follow the same instructions. I believe in you. You can do it. 

 

Snoop Juice

Not gonna lie, this is gin and juice. I added some mint. Next version I’ll work on adding some “hemp” infused simple syrup, but I’ve got to wait for California to make it official official before doing that. Cool lesson though - when in doubt, add mint. Works for a lot of things, not just cocktails. Bad breath? Add mint. Bland Chocolate Chip Ice Cream? Add mint. See what I mean?

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Gin - I used Tanqueray, but any gin will do. 
  • 2 oz. Orange Juice
  • 5 Mint Leaves
  • A few more mint leaves for garnish

What do do:

  • Put mint leaves in a drink shaker and muddle them until fragrant. 
  • Add some ice, gin, and orange juice. 
  • Shake it a lot. This is best done to any and all Snoop songs - dealer’s choice. 
  • Pour and serve in martini-ish glass and garnish with mint. 
  • Continue to listen to Snoop
 

The Dude Abides

Another hot one for those cold nights that seem to keep creeping up on us. This is a take on a White Russian, except, well, it’s hot. I think The Dude would abide, but hey, that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. Coffee - if you’re like me, you always have extra coffee in the morning, which is great  for this cocktail. No, I’m not saying I make this in the morning and head to work. But I am saying that I do this on a Saturday and Sunday. Or, anytime during the week once I’m home from work, you animals. 
  • 2 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 2 oz. Vodka
  • 2 oz. Kahlua
  • Optional - whip cream on top. Honestly, this makes it, especially if you have your own nitrous oxide whip creamer that you can add heavy cream and brandy to to make this extra sweet and boozy. 

What to do:

  • Add everything to a pot and bring to light boil. 
  • Remove from heat and serve in a giant mug of coziness.
  • Add that whip cream, duderino. 
 

Parks and Rec

I couldn’t just make a Ron Swanson (any reasonably aged brown liquor in a glass) and consider it a cocktail worthy of this post. So I decided to add some other awesome ingredients and call it a Parks and Rec, first, because I love that show, and second, because you can make bigger batches of this and take it on the go for some good wholesome outdoor day drinking. Baba Booey. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Bourbon (from Indiana, if possible, because Pawnee, duh)
  • 4 tsps. ginger-pear simple syrup (litrally, the recipe is below)
  • ½ oz. lemon juice
  • 5 small pear slices (like the size of a quarter) for muddling
  • 3 small, peeled ginger slices (same as your quarter like pear slices) for muddling
  • 1 thin pear slice for garnish
  • Lemon twist for garnish

What to do:

  • Add the simple syrup to a drink shaker. 
  • Add the ginger and pear slices that are for muddling and muddle away. 
  • Add ice to shaker
  • Add bourbon and lemon juice and shake vigorously
  • Pour and serve in a bucket glass over ice
  • Garnish with pear and lemon twist, because TREAT YO SELF.
 

Stone Groove

I’m not sure if I have this authority, but I am going to use AU & Co.’s blog name for a cocktail I just made up (patent pending). The light, flirty color of the Stone Groove cocktail, would look at home in the hand of any badass babe wearing the Joanne. This cocktail is made from home-grown products, just like every piece in the AU collection. Go on, get a little taste of AU!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 oz. Vodka
  • 2 oz. Grapefruit juice
  • 3 tsp. Grapefruit-rosemary simple syrup (recipe below)
  • 2 Rosemary stems (1 for muddling, 1 for garnish)
  • 3 Grapefruit twists (for muddling)

What to do:

  • Add simple syrup, rosemary (for muddling), and grapefruit twists (for muddling) into drink shaker and muddle. 
  • Add ice, vodka, and grapefruit juice and shake vigorously. 
  • Pour and strain into bucket glass over ice (definitely strain, the rosemary breaks up and you won’t want those little chunkies in there).
 

Simple Syrups

The “Parks and Rec” and “A Stone Groove” cocktails are a little more labor intensive to make because of the infused simple syrups. Don’t worry it’s called simple syrup because it’s...simple. 

To make simple syrup, you just need equal parts regular, granulated cane sugar and water. For example, one cup of sugar with one cup of water. That’s it. Now, this doesn’t make 2 cups of syrup - the sugar dissolves, so it turns out to be about a cup and a half total. I didn’t need that much for my recipe, so I used 4 oz mason jars, and filled them about ¾ of the way with sugar and water - equal parts. 

What to do for basic Simple Syrup:

  • Combine the sugar and water in a pot at medium-low heat (don’t boil).
  • Stir until sugar is dissolved and water is clear and thicker (like a syrup...see what I did there?)
  • Put in container and let refrigerate until cool.

This is simple syrup in it’s basic form. You can make this and keep it refrigerated in a mason jar or other airtight container for about two weeks.

What to do for infused Simple Syrup:

  • Same as above, but add the ingredients that you want to infuse to the pot, and stir for 2-3 more minutes. Again, don’t boil. 
  • Put in container and let refrigerate until cool. Leave the ingredients in while it cools and remains in the fridge - it will continue to add flavor. 

For Grapefruit-rosemary simple syrup:

  • You guessed it - toss it in. Be sure to use just grapefruit peel, and not the juice. 

For Ginger-pear Simple Syrup:

  • Yes - sliced pear and peeled fresh ginger.

Hope you all enjoy the banter and cocktails, and remember, drink responsibly. 

Vibe on, 

RG

LA’s EAT Show - A Celebration of Culinary Excellence

One of the reasons that Orange County is the gem that it is, and why I find myself living here (even though I once scoffed at the thought in my angst-ridden young twenties), is it’s location. I know, I know, seems obvious - famous Southern California, no need for explanation when multiple beaches are a stone’s throw away. I’m referring to location in the sense that we are in close proximity to two very distinct, major cities: Los Angeles and San Diego. Living here, we have the opportunity to drive a little over an hour either North or South to explore cities that are unique travel destinations for people around the world, all in just one day. The events, sights, history, and culture of both cities are in Orange County’s backyard, making it a little sliver of quiet paradise.

 I was recently reminded of the geographical benefits of living in Orange County when I had the opportunity to attend the first annual EAT Show in Los Angeles, an event with over fifty restaurants and food industry establishments. After a quick drive up, my cousin and culinary partner in crime, Allison, and I entered the Reef, a space designed for hosting creative events, like fashion shows and media productions. It’s a cool place, with lots of slick polished concrete, and the EAT show was being held on the second floor. We were escorted to the elevator by men dressed in nice suits. Shit, we are underdressed, we thought aloud in the privacy of our elevator, which is something we both have a fear of. We were wrong of course, as plenty of people were wearing similar attire, which makes sense - it’s called the EAT show. We were all there to chow down, and in order to do this properly, you’ve got to be comfortable, like Joey wearing Phoebe’s maternity pants in one of the Friends Thanksgiving episodes comfortable.

After checking-in and receiving our VIP swag bags (couldn’t resist the temptation of a mysterious swap bag when purchasing tickets), we headed straight to the open bar. Yes, that’s right, OPEN BAR. The hired bar for the event was Mr. Bartender, an LA based crew of talented mixologists that creates custom cocktails for events. Dressed in casual suits sans jacket, bowties, suspenders, and sleeves rolled up, the team emanated a relaxed, party-is-well-on-it’s-way atmosphere. In short, very cool vibes surrounding the bar, which we frequented. They created five cocktails for the show, and since it’s a foodie event, the cocktails had to bring it - and they did. Of the five (yes, we tried them all - sharing of course) the “Pop Up Punch” stood out as an original, one of a kind, libation. With a title playing on the event itself, and the addition of gin, raspberry, and citrus juices shaken, poured over ice, and topped with a float of champagne then garnished with a sprig of fresh thyme, we were in a daze of tasty wonder, ready for more.

Our thirsts quenched, we formed our plan of attack, which was easy to do, as the coordinators of the EAT Show truly had the attendees in mind when planning the event. Only 1,000 people were admitted to each session (lunch and dinner - we chose lunch) making the vast space of the second floor give you enough room to breathe while enjoying the food. This was also awesome because we never waited for more than three minutes at any location, allowing for maximum food intake. Food vendors lined the outskirts of the room, and long, family style tables and the bar were located in the middle. Your “ticket” was a miniature monopoly board game, where vendors were arranged much like Park Place or the Boardwalk - each section contained four different vendors. We decided to just head around counter-clockwise (with trips to the bar in between).

With over fifty eateries involved in the event, it would be naive for me to expect you to patiently read my thoughts regarding each one. So, I’ve listed my top three that absolutely crushed the small-bites event. Coincidentally, these three killer places were located in the same “monopoly block,” and were the first stop on our list.

First up is Swami’s: A Sandwich Experience, which clearly put dedicated care into not just the delicious tostadita they prepared, but into the entire display of their table and booth space as well. The display was unique; with a clean-cut, black cloth backdrop and handmade wooden and aluminum Swami’s lettering, we felt like we were in a genuine space, and not just one of the plebes at a 1,000 person event. Fresh cut flowers adorned the daffodil-yellow square tiles they used to form a hardtop for their table, making it one-of-a-kind at the show - sincerely, their booth owned it. From what I have learned about Swami’s, the food truck has become a staple in Los Angeles’s mobile eatery scene, challenging other trucks’ culinary prowess, like Kogi Beef and The Grilled Cheese Truck. After tasting the braised lamb and pork tostadita, you can clearly see why Swami’s has become an LA essential. Chef Ramanathan “Ram” Swaminathan makes everything from scratch, and on the truck, everything is made to order - no substitutions. I greatly appreciate the “no substitutions” movement; trust the chef - they put a lot of thought into every ingredient and flavor profile that goes into a dish. So, once I heard that Swami’s did this, I knew it was the real deal. Now, back to what matters: the tostadita. The chile-braised lamb and pork tostadita ended up being the perfect bite at the show. Starting out, you get the traditional chile and cumin seasoning that you’d expect (and hope for) in the latin-inspired dish. However, the addition of the mint to compliment the depth of the lamb and the saltiness of the fresh, homemade queso fresco was, unearthly. It almost took us a moment to figure out what it was we were eating, which seems like an odd statement, I know, but that is what I loved about it - the taste demanded that our tastebuds think, but then quickly reminded them of familiar home-cooked Sunday meals after being away for a while. That, and the artful smear of chipotle crema and hibiscus pickled shallots that topped the tostadita were enough for us to call it a day. We had already won.

Next up is Restauration, located in Long Beach on 4th Street’s “Retro Row,” whose EAT Show table design definitely complimented the joint’s title, a combination of “restaurant” and “restoration.”  With a teak wood and burlap feel at their station, it’s no doubt that Restauration takes pride in it’s locally sourced and responsibly grown ingredients (something AU & Co. appreciates and promotes with their use of homegrown and deadstock fabrics). The dish: crispy pan fried pork belly, pinenut cassoulet, and white bean puree, topped with a pinch of microgreens. The pork belly, oh my God, the pork belly - it was cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of crisp to provide that bacon consistency that everyone loves,  but also melt in your mouth tender, like it had been slow roasted for hours. Mixed with the pinenut and subtle white bean flavors, this dish had the elements of salty and creamy that need to happen on the daily in my life (heart attacks aside, I’d still probably be really happy if that happened). Keep an eye out for a future AU&co blog post about Restauration, because if this dish relays what the rest of the menu contains, I’m down. I don’t have a photo for this dish, unfortunately, but this is for the best due to the fact that every time I saw it I might have a sensory overload.

Lastly, we have Westlake Village’s Aroha, owned by New Zealand’s own Chef Gwithyen Thomas, which specializes in his native country's cuisine. Now, arriving to Thomas’s table, Allison and I thought that perhaps we weren’t at the right spot. We checked our monopoly maps - we were indeed in the right place, but it seemed...wrong. This table was not up to the standard that Swami’s or Restauration had set. There was no decoration, no thoughtfully placed flair to enhance the eater’s experience, which is something I absolutely appreciate. There were long, rectangular, styrofoam coolers. That’s it. We were about to move on, when a head popped up from behind the coolers. It was Thomas, and he was sitting in a chair, shucking clams with a long, serrated knife. Not just any clams, though, he calmly explained in his accent. These were Cloudy Bay Clams from New Zealand, that had been harvested from the ocean only two days before, and shipped express for the event - just as he does for Aroha, daily. The clams were served cold in the shell, partially cooked, with absolutely no seasoning, no lemon - nothing. I can’t have clams any other way, ever again. They were so fresh - so, so very fresh. I didn’t think that clams could ever taste that way. I will be venturing to Aroha for clams soon, and you better believe I will be trying many more of Thomas’s dishes - stay tuned.

Although I may never know what crack-infused ingredient Swami’s puts in their braised lamb, or how Mr. Bartender creates silky and smooth cocktails, I do know this: EAT Show nailed it their first go-around, and I will definitely be attending next year, cocktail and swag bag in hand.

Vibe on, 

RG