Vanilla Pear Sour

This festive seasonal cocktail was absolutely fabulous. My husband and I enjoyed it prior to our quiet Thanksgiving feast this year.

This recipe was adapted from Jamie Oliver via francoiselaprune.com. I poached thin slices of pear so that I could use them as a garnish. I may poach even larger slices next time. We preferred it with a little bit less alcohol so I noted a range in the recipe below.

The delicious pear syrup can be made in advance, making this perfect for Thanksgiving or a party. We used the leftover syrup to make more cocktails! 😉 It could also be drizzled over ice cream.

Yield: Makes one drink (plus additional Vanilla Pear Syrup)

For the Vanilla Pear Syrup: (makes enough syrup for approximately 10 drinks)

  • 1 Bartlett pear, cut in half or quartered, cored, & cut into thin slices
  • 200 g (7.1 ounces, 1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 200 ml (7 ounces, scant 1 cup) water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

For the Cocktail:

  • 30ml (1 ounce, 2 T) Vanilla Pear Syrup
  • 30ml (1 ounce, 2 T) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 44 to 50ml (1.5 to 1.75 ounces) vodka
  • ice cubes
  • poached pear slices, for garnish
  1. Add the pear slices, sugar, water, vanilla seeds with vanilla bean pod to a small saucepan. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Let the poaching liquid infuse and cool down for another 30 minutes.
  3. Strain through a fine wire mesh strainer, reserving the poached pear slices for garnish. Keep pear syrup in a jar in the refrigerator; it will keep for 5 days.
  4. Combine the lemon juice, vodka and 30ml of the vanilla pear syrup into a cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass with ice.
  5. Garnish with a thin pear slice (or two).

Note: This cocktail was also wonderful with Meyer lemon juice. (I used the juice of my very first lemon from my Meyer lemon tree!) 🙂

Cucumber, Basil & Lime Gimlet

This refreshing summer cocktail was another way to use my beautiful basil and special homegrown cucumbers from a friend. There is still time to enjoy one! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from liquor.com. It is an adaptation of a classic gin gimlet which is composed of gin, lime juice and simple syrup.

Yield: One cocktail

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka or gin
  • 2 1/4-inch slices cucumber, peeled
  • 2 fresh basil leaves. plus more for garnish
  • 1 ounce lemonade
  • 1/4 to 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste
  1. Muddle the basil and cucumber in a shaker.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and ice and shake.
  3. Strain into a rocks glass over ice.
  4. Garnish with a basil leaf. Serve.

Rigatoni with Easy Vodka Sauce

Pasta is definitely my go-to for quick weeknight dishes. Maybe too often! Vodka sauce is one of our absolute favorites, so this vegetarian, quick version was irresistible. I’ve already made it twice. 😉

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. On one occasion, I added mushrooms to mimic the amazing version served at Tony’s Di Napoli in NYC. I added more garlic and used mezzi rigatoni as well. Great.

Yield: Serves 4

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 5 oz white mushrooms, sliced, optional
  • 4 oz Parmesan cheese, about 1/2 cup, finely grated
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 4.5-oz tube double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb rigatoni or mezzi rigatoni
  • basil leaves, for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. (I used a large, shallow, enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Add the onion and garlic, stirring constantly, just until the onion is starting to brown around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. *If incorporating the mushrooms, add after the onions have cooked for 2 minutes.*
  4. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes and stir to coat onion. Cook, stirring often, until paste is deep red and starting to brown and stick to the bottom of the pot, about 4 to 7 minutes.
  5. Add vodka to deglaze the pan, scraping up browned bits; reduce the heat to low.
  6. Using a heatproof measuring glass, scoop out about 1/4 cup boiling pasta water from the pot. Add heavy cream to the water. (This brings up the temperature of the cream so it won’t break when you add it to the pot.)
  7. Stirring constantly, gradually pour cream mixture into the onion mixture and cook, stirring, until a smooth sauce forms. Remove from heat.
  8. Cook pasta in the pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. About 1 minute before pasta is done, scoop out 1 cup of pasta cooking liquid.
  9. Return the pot with sauce to low heat.
  10. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the pasta to the sauce pot.
  11. Stir in 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid, then gradually add half of the Parmesan, stirring constantly to melt. The pasta should be coated with a smooth, glossy sauce.
  12. Season with salt; add more pasta cooking liquid if sauce is too thick.
  13. Top with basil and remaining Parmesan and drizzle with a little oil, as desired.

Sparkling Nectarine & Honey Cocktail

This simple sparkling drink is a very light and refreshing end of summer cocktail. It can easily be diluted with club soda or seltzer, to taste.

The recipe was adapted from drinkoftheweek.com. I used a white nectarine and lemon seltzer instead of club soda. The original recipe also suggests using plums, peaches, cherries, or apricots instead of nectarines.

Yield: One drink

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz honey syrup (half honey, half warm water)(I used Italian Melata di Bosca honey)
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 nectarine, sliced, plus more for garnish
  • club soda or lemon seltzer
  • fresh mint, for garnish, optional
  1. Muddle the nectarine slices in the honey syrup.
  2. Add the vodka and lemon juice and stir.
  3. Top with ice and club soda or seltzer.
  4. Garnish with nectarine slices and/or mint, as desired.

Strawberry-Basil Martini

This was the first thing we made with our freshly picked Long Island strawberries. In fact, I enjoyed it the day that we picked them. 🙂 It was jammy and absolutely fabulous.

The recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by José Zepeda. The sweetness can be easily adjusted by decreasing the amount of agave or simple syrup. It was a warm evening, so we served it over ice. Perfect.

Yield: 1 drink

  1. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the strawberries with the basil leaves and simple syrup or agave nectar.
  2. Add ice and the remaining ingredients and shake well.
  3. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with strawberry slices and basil, as desired.

Meyer Lemon Martini

Every year I say that I am going to make something with Meyer lemons but always seem to miss them. I am happy to report that I was able to get them this year and put them to good use. 🙂

This recipe for this bright and fresh cocktail was adapted from Food Network.com, contributed by Scott Leibfreid. I’m a lightweight, so I drank mine over ice. It was simple, perfect, and minimally sweet.

Yield: 1 cocktail

  • 2 ounces vodka (I used lemon vodka)
  • 1 ounce Meyer lemon juice
  • granulated sugar on a small plate to coat the rim of the glass
  • 1-2 Meyer lemon slices, for garnish
  1. In a martini shaker, combine all ingredients except the lemon slices and sugar with a generous amount of ice.
  2. Shake vigorously for a few seconds.
  3. Rub the rim of the glass with a lemon slice and coat with sugar.
  4. Strain the libation from the ice into a martini glass.
  5. Serve over ice and garnish with a lemon slice, as desired.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Speaking of strawberry cocktails… the added bonus of this amazing fresh strawberry ice cream is that the sweetened vodka-based macerating liquid makes a wonderful base for a celebratory summer cocktail. Nice! 🙂

The texture and color of this ice cream was absolutely incredible. It was the perfect use for my precious, freshly-picked strawberries. The ice cream recipe is from Martha Stewart Living; I included a recipe for the bonus cocktail below.

For the Ice Cream:

Yield: 1 1/2 quarts

  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved (about 3 cups), plus 8 ounces more, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup more for macerating
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup vodka or silver tequila
  1. In a blender or Vitamix, puree halved strawberries with lemon juice and salt. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. (You should have 1 1/2 cups of puree; reserve any excess for another use.)
  2. Combine milk, cream, 2/3 cup sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes.
  3. Strain mixture into a bowl set in an ice bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in strawberry puree. Refrigerate, covered, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  5. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and vodka. Add chopped strawberries and macerate at room temperature at least 2 hours, or in the refrigerator, covered, up to 12 hours.
  6. Process puree mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When it has the texture of soft serve, drain macerated berries (reserving syrup for another use) and fold into ice cream.
  7. Transfer to a loaf pan and freeze, wrapped in plastic, at least 4 hours and up to 1 week.
  8. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

For the Bonus Cocktail:

Yield: 1 cocktail

  • fresh juice from 1/4 large lime
  • 3 oz strawberry-vodka-sugar macerating syrup
  • tonic (for a sweeter cocktail) or seltzer (less sweet), as desired
  1. Combine lime juice and macerated strawberry syrup in a glass.
  2. Fill with ice and top with tonic or seltzer, as desired.

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