Cranberry-Basil Margarita with Homegrown Citrus & Herbs

December 8th, 2017 § 4 comments § permalink


Cranberry-Basil Margarita

Tis the season for entertaining, and for many of us, that means welcoming guests with refreshing, festive cocktails. At the moment, I’m planning a Winter Solstice get-together for family. This will be more of a roam-about the room and chat party than a sit-down dinner, so I’m dreaming up tasty libations to set out in punch bowls and pitchers, or perhaps even prepare —at least in part— a day in advance. I’ve been trying out a few different twists on favorite cocktail recipes and this fresh take on a classic Margarita definitely fits the bill.Don’t you just love cranberries? They glow like ruby beads and they’re so willing to wait around in the fridge! As a life-long New Englander, I always make my own cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, and an extra batch or two for using on sandwiches, later. While they are in season, I pick up a few extra bags of fresh cranberries whenever I’m at the market. I freeze what I can’t use and thaw them when I need some bright color in the dead of winter.Calamondin Orange in the Kitchen

I’ve always used cranberries in baked goods and savory sauces, but more recently, I’ve been experimenting with them in cocktails. Cranberry juice is one of the most popular mixers, so why not put the whole fruit in your drink? Cranberries combine well with so many things. Citrus —especially oranges and limes— is an obvious choice, but the tart flavor and bright red color of cranberries practically begs for fresh, green herbs as well. Hello windowsill herb garden and potted citrus trees, what do you have on offer today? Basil? Ripe calamondin oranges? OK, lets play.First, I make up a basic cranberry sauce, aka cranberry “jam”, (see recipe, below). This tart, multi-use condiment will keep well, covered in the fridge, for a few days. Obviously, cranberry sauce is great on sandwiches, but it’s also delicious when swirled into plain, Greek yogurt or dabbed atop warm oatmeal with cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup. But wait! Don’t eat it all! You’re gonna love using this jam in cocktails —especially this Cranberry-Basil Margarita!

Cranberry-Basil Margarita

Single recipe serves 1, Pitcher recipe serves 8

Ingredients

Cranberry Sauce

1       12 oz. package of fresh or frozen cranberries

1       cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

½     cup sugar (add more for sweet-tooths, up to 1 cup, to taste)

1        tbs fresh orange zest (optional)

Sugar-Salt 

¼       cup kosher salt

¼       cup granulated sugar

Single Cocktail 

sugar-salt mixture for rimming glass (recipe above)

1       calamondin orange or lime wedge

2       fresh basil leaves

1 ½  ounces blanco tequila (100% blue agave)

¾     ounce fresh squeezed calamondin orange or lime juice

½     ounce orange liquor, such as Cointreau, or triple sec

1       ounce cranberry sauce (recipe above)

½     ounce agave syrup (or simple syrup), or ¾ ounce, for sweeter taste

¾     cup of ice cubes (about 6-8 cubes, plus more for glass)

Pitcher of Margaritas 

sugar-salt mixture for rimming glasses (recipe above)

16     fresh basil leaves

½     cup agave syrup (or simple syrup), or ¾ cup for sweeter taste

1       cup cranberry sauce (recipe above)

4       calamondin oranges or 1 lime, cut into wedges

¾     cup fresh calamondin orange or lime juice

½     cup orange liquor, such as Cointreau, or triple sec

1 ½  cups blanco tequila (100% blue agave)

6       cups ice cubes, plus more for glasses

Directions 

For Cranberry Sauce

Heat a cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice and stir in ½-¾ cup of sugar on medium-high. When the mixture begins to boil, stir in 12 oz. of cranberries. Continue stirring and allow the mixture to bubble for a minute or two. Lower the heat and simmer for 5-8 minutes. When cranberries begin to pop and juice starts to foam, turn off the heat and crush the berries with a potato masher. The sauce should be chunky, with bits of fruit and some whole berries. Consistency will become more jam-like as it cools. Cover and refrigerate (up to 3 days), until ready for use.

For Sugar-Salt

Combine sugar and salt in a small container with lid. Shake and pour onto a small plate (be sure to choose one wide enough to fit the overturned rim of your cocktail glass).

For Single Margaritas (up to two servings will fit in a standard sized cocktail shaker)

Moisten the rim of an Old Fashioned or Margarita glass with the citrus wedge (a wide-mouth, stemless wineglass will also work). Turn the rim down on the plate of sugar-salt and give it a slight twist while digging into the mixture.

In the bottom of a standard-size cocktail shaker, crush the basil leaves with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon. When coarsely mashed, add the tequila, citrus juice, orange liquor/triple sec, cranberry ‘jam’ and the agave syrup. Stir. Add ice. Cover and shake for at least 30 seconds. For a rustic cocktail, pour (or, for a more refined cocktail, strain), into the sugar-salt crusted glass and serve immediately with a citrus wedge garnish and/or sprig of fresh basil.

For Pitcher of Margaritas

In the bottom of a large pitcher, crush basil leaves with muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, until coarsely mashed. Add tequila, citrus juice, orange liquor/triple sec, cranberry ‘jam’ and agave syrup. I like to throw in a few decorative wedges of citrus when using a glass pitcher. Cover the pitcher and refrigerate at least 2 hours or until well chilled.

When ready to serve, pour the sugar-salt mixture on a small plate. Rub the rims of 2 Old Fashioned glasses with a citrus wedge (a classic margarita glass or stemless wine glass will also work, in a pinch); dip and twist the rims in sugar/salt mixture.

Stir the pitcher of margarita mix. Fill a cocktail shaker ½ full with ice and pour in 1 cup (plus) of the margarita mixture. Be sure a bit of muddled basil gets in! Shake until chilled and pour (unstrained for a rustic drink or strained for a more refined cocktail) into two of the sugar-salt crusted glasses. Garnish with a citrus wedge and basil leaf. Repeat for remaining guests or servings.

C  H  E  E  R  S   !  ! 


Article & Photography copyright Michaela Harlow at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Celebrating the Winter Solstice: Welcome the Season with a Sparkling Ode to Krampus…

December 21st, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

The Ode to Krampus

As the final hours of Autumn slip away with the low sun, and Winter arrives in her frosty chariot, I’ll be celebrating the Solstice this evening with friends and family. Marking the Winter Solstice is one of my favorite holiday traditions. And this year, while searching for a special cocktail to serve at a holiday party, my very resourceful friend Mel happened to send me a fabulous list of libations from the New York Times Online. Jackpot!

Being an Alpine-kind-of gal, the very first recipe on the list immediately caught my eye (although Mel and I both agreed that the name didn’t do it justice, so I immediately re-named it The Krampus). This pine and elderflower-essence-infused, sparkling drink honors Krampus: a mythical, demon-like, pagan character from familiar childhood tales. According to Alpine legend, St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) travels with the rusty-chain laden Krampus from house to house, warning and punishing bad children (sound familiar?). Krampus is one of those hold-over pagan elements —much like the decorative evergreen tree, yule log, and other little bits of holiday cheer— that accompany Christmas. I think this Alpine-influenced story and recipe make a particularly appropriate cocktail to celebrate the longest night of they year, don’t you? Have you been naughty or nice? I think a visit from Krampus would be exciting either way!

Krampus and Nikolaus Visiting Children in Austria (image: Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, one of the main ingredients —pine liqueur— proved impossible to locate on short notice, (though it can be found online and in specialty liquor stores). However, I did find a good piney substitute —rosemary liqueur— to use in its stead. And with a sprig of fresh white pine (Pinus strobus) tucked into the glass, this drink is tasty, fragrant, horticultural and festive.

Enjoy the Winter Solstice, and the stark, white beauty of this spectacular season. Cheers!

Pinus strobus -Eastern White Pine

Winter’s Stark, White Beauty

Ode to Krampus

(From the New York Times “For Every Holiday Party, the Right Drink”… with a teensy tweak)

Ingredients: Makes One Cocktail (multiply for a party)

3                ounces of dry white wine

1/2            ounce dry vermouth

1/2            ounce elderflower liqueur

1/4            ounce pine liqueur (or sub rosemary liqueur)

1                ounce club soda

1                ounce dry, sparkling wine (a brut prosecco is perfect)

1                slice grapefruit peel garnish

1                sprig fresh eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)

Here’s the mix…

Add ice to a large cocktail glass and combine the wine, vermouth and liqueur. Stir and top off with the prosecco and club soda. Twist a grapefruit peel over the cocktail and stick it in the side of the glass. Garnish with a small sprig of white pine.

Cheers !

From Winter’s Dusk

To Winter’s Dawn…

May You Find Beauty and Happiness in this Sparkling Season. Happy Holidays!

You may also enjoy the Persephone. Click here or on the image below for story and recipe from last Winter…

The Persephone

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Article and Photos ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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A Beautiful and Symbolic Cocktail to Celebrate the Winter Solstice and Enjoy Throughout the Holiday Season…

December 20th, 2009 § 10 comments § permalink

The Persephone – or Lava Lamp by Maria Hunt…

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My, oh my – where has the year gone? Here we are on the eve of the Winter Solstice, with 2010 right around the corner. I don’t know about you, but for me this year has been a complete whirl-wind. Looking back at the months gone by, I am truly grateful to have so many wonderful, familiar people in my life and so many beautiful new faces and memories. It’s been a tough year for many, with lost jobs and personal struggles, but there have been many joyful moments and happy occasions as well. This year has been a particularly special one for my family, as my delightfully sweet nephew Morgan arrived this past August. There is much to celebrate! I am also thankful to have all of you in my life. Your wonderful comments and lovely emails have brightened my life and propelled me forward. I thank you from the deepest part of my heart. And in this season of celebratory giving, I have a special little gift in mind to share with all of you…

I have to tell you that I have been barely able to contain myself for the past few weeks, eagerly anticipating the moment when I would share this special Winter Solstice cocktail. Yes I know, I am as silly as a little kid – it’s true. But this really is the perfect drink to celebrate the season. Why, why, why – You ask? Well, it’s because this champagne cocktail contains three seeds from the pomegranate, the mythical fruit of Greek legend, explaining the seasons. But before I get into the story, let me tell you the most exciting thing about this drink: when pomegranate seeds are dropped into a glass of champagne and pomegranate liqueur, they become suspended by bubbles rising in the sparkling wine. They float up and down; lifting, dipping and swaying, as if dancing to music. How festive is that? I love watching the ruby red seeds float around like lively party-goers in my champagne flute, and I know you are going to get a kick out of it too. Of course you know this drink deserves center stage at your next holiday party.

I had a champagne-pomegranate seed cocktail a long time ago, and when I saw it, I dubbed it The Persephone. I still can’t believe that I forgot all about it until I recently discovered a new spin on the recipe in Maria Hunt’s fantastic cocktail book, The Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion. Maria adds pomegranate liqueur instead of juice to the basic recipe and she calls this drink The Lava Lamp – (it’s fanatastic, as are all of her recipes, and it does bear a striking resemblance to that retro-fab design). But for the holidays, I prefer to go back to my old moniker, The Persephone, (I sure hope Maria won’t mind), and here’s why…

(*if you are as impatient as I am, you can scroll down to the recipe below and come back for the story later…)

According to Greek myth, Winter is explained by the grieving of Demeter, goddess of earth, fertility and the seasons. Many, many years ago, Demeter lived an idyllic life with her beautiful daughter Persephone, child of her union with the highest god, Zeus. Their days were spent tending to earth’s fertility, and their long, lovely evenings were passed enjoying the harvest and song. Then, one day Persephone went out into the fields to pick flowers with a group of nymphs. Suddenly, the earth cracked open, hissing and shaking them to the ground. Hades, god of the underworld, had been observing Persephone from the shadows, and in a moment of jealous desire, he reached out and dragged her beneath the soil into his kingdom of death – claiming her as his bride. Unaware that her child was abducted, (swept beneath the earth by Hades), Demeter desperately wandered the forests and fields for months. While searching for her beloved daughter, the goddess of fertility unintentionally allowed the earth go to waste. Finally Helios, the sun god, found the courage to tell Demeter that he saw her daughter taken – snatched by the dark king of the underworld.

With the crops going to ruin, and an earth trapped in endless winter, Zeus finally stepped in and demanded that Hades return Persephone to her mother. Hades agreed to return her, but with the stipulation that she must fast, along with the suffering earth, during her time in the underworld. Persephone dutifully abided by the rules, in spite of the great temptations placed before her by devious Hades. However, just before she is to be released, Persephone is tricked into eating a handful of pomegranate seeds by the crafty Hades. After starving for months in the underworld, the beautiful, plump fruit proved irresistible. Persephone let three pomegranate seeds pass her lips.

When our ill-fated heroine finally returned to her mother, there was a small catch. On the longest, darkest night of every year, The Winter Solstice, Persephone returns to her Hades in the underworld, where she remains for three months, (one for each seed), until she is allowed to return to her mother on the Vernal Equinox – Spring. Every year when Persephone departs, Demeter goes into mourning. The leaves begin to fall from the trees in late autumn as her melancholy mood returns. Then, when her daughter inevitably departs, the earth turns cold and dormant until Persephone returns again…

Juicy, Ruby-Red Pomegranate Seeds…

The Pomegranate, (Punica granatum), also known as the Chinese apple or the “many-grained apple”, is believed to have evolved in the Middle East, near modern Iran. Some believe that this, not the common apple, is the fabled fruit of The Garden of Eden. The pomegranate has been cultivated by mankind since the very beginning of recorded history. In the United States, pomegranates were introduced to California by Spanish settlers in the late 1700’s. Today the pomegranate tree is grown throughout the world in dry, warm climates similar to the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions where it was originally found. In the U.S. it is commonly raised in California, Arizona and other southwestern states.

If you have never tried this fruit, you don’t know what you are missing! Pomegranates are delicious, and they are used in many dishes and drinks in cultures throughout the world. The juice of the pomegranate is high in vitamins and anti-oxidant properties, and it can be enjoyed fresh or cooked to create delicious sauces. Seeds of the pomegranate, encased in waxy chambers of pith, can be eaten straight from the fruit, tossed in salads, or used in a wide variety of recipes…

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The Persephone

From Maria Hunt’s Lava Lamp recipe found in : The Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion

Ingredients to make one Persephone/Lava Lamp cocktail

1 ounce of pomegranate liqueur or 3 tablespoons of pomegranate juice

3 pomegranate seeds (fewer for optimists or more if you are pessimistic)

5 ounces of brut champagne or dry, sparking wine*

A tall champagne flute

Follow instructions below…

Three Symbolic Pomegranate Seeds, Placed in a Tall Champagne Flute…

To make this delicious and festive cocktail, begin by selecting a dark red pomegranate, (Punica granatum) from the market, (deep red, leathery skin is an indicator of ripeness). Tear open the leathery skin and remove the juicy red seeds from the pith. Opening the pomegranate may require a bit of effort. This is a fun-messy job, so get near a sink and towels – it helps to begin with a sharp knife. Once you get through the tough skin, simply rip the shell open.

Drop three seeds into the bottom of a tall champagne flute. Add 1 ounce of pomegranate liqueur or 3 tablespoons of pure pomegranate juice. Fill the glass with 5 ounces of dry, sparkling wine or brut champagne.

Enjoy watching as the pomegranate seeds rise and fall delightfully in the bubbles !

* Let youngsters, and those unable to drink alcoholic beverages, in on the fun by using non-alcoholic, sparkling white grape juice or any other bubbly substitute…

Happy Holidays Everyone – Cheers  !

When sparkling wine is added to the flute, the pomegranate seeds are lifted by the bubbles, rising and falling in the glass – Magic !

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardner’s Eden. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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