Black Widow Cocktail

martini_Halloween_01
Photography by Allyson Regan

It’s almost the weekend, and its almost the weekend before Halloween so you know what that means.  I’ll be sipping this concoction from the comfort of my home and avoiding all of the ‘adults’ out and about partying this weekend.  But if you’re hosting a shin-dig or looking to celebrate with some boo-ze try this cocktail!  It’s super simple and so good and doesn’t have to be enjoyed just around Halloween.

martini_Halloween_05
Photography by Allyson Regan

 

Black Widow Cocktail

3 pints of blackberries

1/2 cup water

1//4 cup sugar

Vodka

Ice

Extra blackberries for garnish

Begin by placing the blackberries and water in a blender.  Blend well and strain.  Add the blackberry juice and sugar and bring to a simmer.  Cook until the sugar dissolves.  For each drink, combine 6 ounces of blackberry syrup, 2 ounces of vodka, and ice in a glass.  Stir well.  Garnish with fresh berries.

 

martini_Halloween_02
Photography by Allyson Regan

You could get even spookier by adding a cube of dry ice to the glass before serving!  So sinister!  Note that if you are using dry ice to take the proper precautions.   As always, have a safe and spooky Halloween!

martini_Halloween_04
Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheers!

 

 

Autumn Sangria

sangria_AutumnRed-4
Photography by Allyson Regan

The temperatures have finally dropped and it finally feels like fall! I love fall! Until the first snow lands, of course.  Not that I need an excuse to make a pitcher of sangria, but this Autumn Sangria is the perfect thing to sip on during these colorful and brisk fall months.  Also, isn’t the word autumn fabulous? And you can describe autumn things by using an even better word, autumnal!

sangria_AutumnRed-1
Photography by Allyson Regan

This recipe came about, not from necessity, but from an idea to make our favorite sangria taste seasonal.  My sister, Ally, and I love to visit Rockwell Republic in downtown Grand Rapids not only for their fantastic sushi and happy hour deals, but also for their mixed sangria.  I’m not sure exactly what their recipe is, but this tastes similar, with a fall twist.

sangria_AutumnRed-2
Photography by Allyson Regan

Autumn Sangria

1 cup Crown Royal Apple

1 cup pomegranate juice

1 cup red wine (use dry or sweet depending on your taste)

1 cup crisp, dry white wine (this helps the apple flavor pop)

1 cinnamon stick

1 each honey-crisp apple, nectarine, plum, pear

1/2 cup apple juice

1 bottle prosecco or champagne

sangria_AutumnRed-11
Photography by Allyson Regan

In a large pitcher, combine the crown, juices, and wines.  Heat the cinnamon stick over heat until fragrant and add in.  Feel free to cut the fruit however you like to munch on it, but I sliced them super thin on a mandolin which helped the fruit to absorb the flavors faster.  Add the fruit and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Fill with several ice cubes and top with a bottle of bubbly!  Serve with your favorite friends around a cozy bonfire.

sangria_AutumnRed-9
Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheers!

My New Wine Obsession

You guys.  I’m definitely a wine-o, and sometimes going to the same store to get wine just gets old.  I also have this weird thing where I love the subscription box idea.  I’ve done other wine boxes, a snack box, workout clothing box, grocery box, and even a coffee box and I just love the simplicity of a monthly delivery of my favorite things!  I always want to be as transparent as possible on my little corner of the internet, so I want to be clear that I’m not being compensated by anyone to write this blog post.  I just really like this product and want to share the products I love!

wine_review-2
Photography by Allyson Regan

So let’s talk about how it works!  Click on this link, Bright Cellars, which will direct you to the companies website.  From there, you take a flavor profile quiz which is super easy and takes less than 5 minutes.  Your personal wine concierge then creates your box which contains 4 wines.  If you’ve tried other wine boxes like this one, please comment below and let me know if I should try them!  One of the reasons I love this box is that the customer service is really great and quick with their responses.  My wine concierge emails me minutes after I review my wines and uses that information to create a better box for me the following month.  Pictured above is the first box I received, and I loved 2 out of the four wines!  The other two wines were still good, and while it was really fun to try these new wines, I learned that I wouldn’t want to buy them again.

One of the wines in particular stood out to me and I will definitely be ordering another bottle.  It is the 2017 Zweigelt from Herz & Heim Vineyards.  This grape varietal is from Austria, and this particular vintage has notes of warm baking spices, dark berry flavors, and medium bodied.  I enjoyed this wine with a really great grilled steak and late summer vegetables, which paired really nicely.  It’s currently sold out, but I hope it comes back soon!

wine_review-5

So if you’d like to give this a try, click the link here, and you’ll receive two free bottles on your first box! This is a $30 credit, which is like getting 4 bottles of wine for $30.  The only thing that is a bit of a hassle with this box, is that you need to have someone with a valid ID over 21 to sign for the box upon delivery.  If I know that I won’t be home to receive the box, I usually just call FedEx after it has shipped and ask them to hold it at my nearest Walgreens which I can then pick up at anytime!

Once I open up the bottles from my second box I just received, I’ll post again about my favorites!  Feel free to leave a comment about your experiences with wine boxes like this or any other great subscription box.

Cheers!

Lemonade: For When Life Gives You Lemons

With summer winding down, I’m trying to recap all of my favorite summer recipes.  One that I love, especially when it’s hot outside, is fresh lemonade.  It’s super simple and is a lot better for you than store-bought.  If you want to get into the nitty gritty of what’s really in your lemonade and how terrible it is for you, read it here.  It’s disgusting.  While I know that you can’t possibly make everything from scratch, this is super simple and easy and you can control the sweetness and flavor.

lemonade-2
Photography by Allyson Regan

 

Making your own lemonade is a great way to control the amount of sugar your family is consuming.  You can even change the type of sugar you use.  The sweetener in this recipe is known as simple syrup which is also a common ingredient in a lot of mixed drinks.  You can purchase simple syrup in any grocery store, but please don’t.  You are over-paying for sugar and water, and probably some kind of preservative.  Simple syrup is equal parts water and sugar, brought to a simmer over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  You can use granulated sugar or coconut sugar or raw sugar, or what ever you’d like.

lemonade-3
Photography by Allyson Regan

Lemonade

6 lemons

1 1/4 cup simple syrup

5 1/2 cups water

Juice the lemons, taking care to strain well.  Six lemons should yield around 1 cup of juice.  If you use bought lemon juice, you might need more simple syrup.  Combine the lemon juice, simple syrup, and water in a large pitcher.  This should yield about 7 cups of lemonade, which is quite a bit, but you can mix it with iced tea arnold-style or add vodka happy hour-style.  Add plenty of ice and enjoy!

lemonade-4
Photography by Allyson Regan

Blackberry Cucumber French 75

042918-40
Photography by Allyson Regan

Trust me, I know this sounds weird but it’s an excellent combination.  The cucumber lends a fresh lightness to the blackberry and the gin just kicks it up a notch.  There are a couple ways you can play this.  The first time I made this drink, I sliced the cucumber thinly and added it to the glass that already had a couple blackberries muddled.  Then I added the gin and topped it off with bubbly.  If you are making this for a crowd, try the recipe below!

042918-35
Photography by Allyson Regan

As you all know, the bubbly pictured above is one of my go tos, and it’s easy on the wallet.  French 75’s are one of my very favorite drinks.  Traditionally, it contains gin, simple syrup, lemon, and bubbly.  Gin has that herbaceous quality that lends itself well to this version.

042918-36
Photography by Allyson Regan

Cucumber-Blackberry French 75

1 pint blackberries

1/2 cup simple syrup

1 english cucumber

1 lemon, zested

bubbly (prosecco or champange)

gin

Combine the blackberries, lemon zest, and simple syrup in a blender, saving a few for garnish.  Strain well and reserve.  Using a peeler, peel the cucumber into strips or slice thinly on a bias.  Pour a tablespoon of blackberry-simple syrup into each glass.  Add the cucumber garnish to the bottom of each glass.  Add 1 ounce of gin and top with bubbly.  Be careful not to pour too quickly because the bubbly will bubble more than usual because of the blackberry and cucumber.  Also, it will help the bubbly to float, making an appealing look in the glass.

042918-38
Photography by Allyson Regan

Cheers!

Mimosas: Otherwise It Would Just Be Juice

It’s only Tuesday, but I can’t be the only one dreaming about the weekend.  Brunch is a good idea year-round, but summer is almost begging us to invite our friends over, make some delicious food, and pop some bottles.

042918-43
Photography by Allyson Regan

Now, I’m sure that if you’re reading this, you know how to make a good mimosa.  Or you know how to drink good mimosas.  But I have some tips and tricks for making a great mimosa bar, and a fantastic mimosa.

042918-55
Photography by Allyson Regan

Now, most importantly, you will need decent bubbly.  Choose from prosecco, Champagne, sparkling wine, or anything with actual bubbles and alcohol.  My go-to is prosecco, especially since I tend to drink dryer wines.  If you have buckets of cash lying around, empty them out and buy yourself some fancy Champagne from Champagne!  My favorite brand of prosecco is Freixenet, however I also like the Belletti Brand shown below and both options are very affordable.  Keep in mind that the juices will add sweetness and you don’t want the finished beverage to be too sweet.

042918-47.jpg
Photography by Allyson Regan

Next, you’ll need fruit/mix-ins and juices.  My go-to choices include fresh berries, pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, and the classic orange juice.  Fresh fruit is always a good choice, as is citrus segments.  Think raspberries, blackberries, pomegranate seeds, strawberries, cranberries, currants, grapefruit, orange, blood orange.  Now, you can go crazy with juices.  I usually have orange juice, pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, mango juice, pineapple juice and anything else you can think of juicing.  The best part about parties with mimosa bars, is that everyone gets to make the exact drink they want, and they can also try new combinations!

042918-53 (1)
Photography by Allyson Regan

Ratios are also very important when discussing mimosas.  I generally stick to a 1:3 juice to bubbly ratio.  My guests have never complained.  Also, the order in which you add the items to the glass is important.  You want to add the juice first, then when you add the bubbly, it will mix together nicely.  If you add the fruit before the bubbly, it will cause an absurd amount of excess bubbles to form, so its better to garnish afterwards.  You don’t want to run out of anything, so 3 juice options should be enough, and buy enough bubbly knowing that you will get about 6 mimosas per bottle.

042918-50
Photography by Allyson Regan

So dust off your champagne flutes, call your friends, and stock your fridge!  Also, I’m now available for left-handed modeling gigs.

Cheers!

042918-45 (1).jpg
Photography by Allyson Regan (who loves mimosas BTW)

Bloody Mary Bar DIY

042918-13
Photography by Allyson Regan

I’m at a stage in my life where brunch is the best way to kickstart my weekends.  And I hope I never grow out of this stage.  Come on, lunch food combined with breakfast food?  Mimosas?  Bloody Mary bars?  Not to mention the whole sleeping in and then most likely napping after the delicious meal.

One of my favorite things is to host brunch at my house.  It’s so simple and makes brunch that much better because its less expensive, you can have exactly what you want, and you can wear yoga pants.  Win, win, win.

Whenever I host brunch, I love to set up a bloody mary bar.  It’s super simple and your guests will love it!  It’s easy to customize to you and your guests tastes, but I’m going to outline just a few must haves and some creative ingredients.

042918-4
Photography by Allyson Regan

First things first, you’ll need vodka.  Well, you don’t need vodka, this is your bloody bar, so there are no rules/judgements here.  But I would recommend vodka.  My go-to vodka is Titos, I just think it has a really basic but smooth flavor that makes it ideal for bloody marys.  But I also like Svedka vodka and New Amsterdam.  And most of the other kinds.  Okay all the other kinds.

042918-8
Photography by Allyson Regan

Next is the tomato component.  You can definitely make your own mix, or just put out really good tomato juice.  For ease on my wallet and space on the bar, I usually just put out a couple kinds of mix instead.  My favorite mix is McClure’s bloody mary mix.  They make delicious pickles, so it’s no surprise that their mix is delicious as well.  Other mix ins that I include are several kinds of hot sauce (Frank’s, Tabasco, etc.), steak sauce (A1 or we brought back this delicious sauce from our recent trip to Costa Rica called Lizano and it’s like a spicy steak sauce), and if your crowd is really adventurous you can put out beef stock (to make the classic Bloody Bull) or beet juice for an extra healthy effect.

042918-7
Photography by Allyson Regan

The best part of any bloody mary is assembling your own stirrer.  My brother-in-law likes to use this skewer as an appetizer which isn’t the worst idea he’s ever had.  I found these thin skewers in different sizes at Meijer, but I’ve also seen them at Target.  Meats and cheeses always go over well, and celery sticks are classic.  I just cubed up some local Michigan cheese, and I got delicious ‘meat sticks’ from our local butcher called Sobie Meats.  You can use salamis or sausages as well.  To add something healthy, I added dill sprigs, fresh cucumbers, mini bell peppers, jalapeños, and olives.  Some other crowd favorites are candied bacon, regular bacon, mini cheeseburgers, etc.  But I don’t have time for that.

042918-6
Photography by Allyson Regan

For the ease of your guests, you can use large ice cubes and place them into glasses just before your guests arrive.  This way you don’t have to man-handle their ice cubes when they are itching for a drink in their hands.  All that’s left is to enjoy!

042918-9
If you haven’t realized it yet, Allyson Regan is an amazing photographer.