Butter Beer Review

A while back I had the fun of offering virgin shooters at a community teen dance. One of the drinks offered was a virgin apple pie shooter which I originally came up with back in the Fall of 2014, and which you can find the recipe for here. Not knowing how much of any one drink would be ordered – I made a huge batch of the butterscotch syrup required to make the drink. I found the recipe for butterscotch from a blog by TreasuresBrenda where she tested a number of Butter Beer recipes. You can find her blog post here.

As my eldest daughter and my neice are huge fans of Hairy Potter (oh and so am I) I decided to see what our family thought of these recipes that Brenda posted on her blog. The first recipe she created had a rockin’ version of butterscotch syrup and a couple option for how to mix the drink up.Our family tried each option to see if we agreed with Brenda.

The first option was to make the drink with vanilla ice-cream, butterscotch syrup and ginger ale. Our thoughts? Too much foam not enough flavour. Second option was to replace the ginger ale with cream soda. This was horrible – especially in colour since we are not able to get clear or brown cream soda and the flavour was too sweet. Similarly making the drink with syrup and cream soda (no ice-cream) was also an utter fail. Mixing butterscotch with ginger ale was the best of the options in this batch and my kids enjoyed this option, but the “beer” seemed more like a light ale and in my opinion needed something. Brenda also found that this wasn’t quite right yet…

The second recipe was a video she had a link to by working class foodie the link to that recipe is here. This recipe is more complicated to make and we didn’t find the recipe notably better than the first option. Back to the internet!

Wizardingworldpark.com had a handful of recipes – many using pre made butterscotch syrups, toppings and butterscotch chips. Really, chips? meh! There was only one recipe that was interesting: Recipe #2 on the list suggests adding cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg with butter and sugar and then mixing with icecream and refreezing. To serve it’s a float of buttery ice-cream and cream soda. If the soda is hot, it will melt the butter, but if it’s cool? Butter lumps?  While the idea is interesting, I would like to try this by making a butterscotch syrup out of the butter and sugar, adding the spices and then mixing with the iced cream, to see if that lets the drink be served cold more readily.

Recipe #1 from this blog is the recipe from the Youtube video I referred to earlier.  Hmm.

So I went back to the first recipe that my kids loved and decided to find a way to make this one work. Since I was looking for a darker beer – I simply added 1/3 pepsi (or cola) to 2/3 ginger ale and topped with the required 2 tablespoons (or so) of home made butterscotch. Voila! A dark beer that has a strong butterscotch flavour, still has some kick and isn’t deathly sweet. I tried this on my niece – and her friend. The verdict – yum, can I have some more?

Cranberry Drink Reviews

Festive Cranberry Drinks for the holidays.

Festive Cranberry Drinks for the holidays. From left to right: Hot Buttered Cranberry Punch, Hot Buttered Rum Mix in cranberry juice, Cranberry Spritzer and Berry Little Mocktail.

Cranberries are a common ingredient around Christmas, and cranberry punch is something I remember being offered at many a family gathering. There is something festive about imbibing red tart beverages in punch glasses or for super special occasions even the kids got to sip out of wine glasses filled with sparkling cranberry juice.

In looking up virgin cranberry drinks, I found a plethora of recipes calling for a blend of orange and cranberry juice, a pairing that is tasty and often used. So this christmas I wanted to try something new, something that changed up the family cranberry drink and found some interesting options online.

Cranberry Spritzer Review

Martha Stewart pairs white cranberry juice with blackberry purée to create a cranberry spritzer that is dark and elegant.

I was curious as to why this drink uses white cranberry juice. According to LiveStrong.com white cranberry juice is less tart in taste.

We tried this recipe and found it light and just slightly sweet. The cranberry is more subtle than expected, coming in as the undertone of the drink, while the blackberry purée adds the colour and was the first flavour I noticed (this may be because the puree has a tendency to float a bit on the drink). The addition of sparkling water (or we used soda water) made the drink just slightly bubbly, but not like pop.

You can find the recipe here.

My Thoughts:

I picked up a pint of rather expensive blackberries to make the purée, and cut the recipe in half to make the purée stretch further ( it would have made about 6 drinks at full size). The process of creating the purée wasn’t difficult but did create a lot of waste (seeds and pulp). This is definitely a special occasion drink, and not a cheap choice especially in winter when berries are not in season.

Hot Buttered Cranberry Punch

Last Christmas I received a gift of hot buttered rum mix which we enjoyed with the accompanying rum, and for those who didn’t drink we made up an apple juice version of the drink so they could enjoy the hot spiced beverage with the rest of us. Because the drink is strong, the mix lasted me almost all year.

In looking for interesting cranberry recipes, I came across this hot buttered cranberry option that uses a similar spice combination, and mixes this with cranberry jelly and pineapple juice. I was intrigued. Unlike the buttered rum recipe the spices, sugar and juices are heated for two hours to blend the spices then served with a pat of butter floating on the hot drink. You can find the recipe here.

Hot Buttered Rum Mix in Cranberry Juice

I decided to mix up a batch of the original hot buttered rum mix and compare the flavour by adding a tablespoon of this to some hot cranberry and pineapple juice. The recipe for the hot buttered rum  mix can be found here.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 4 cups cranberry juice
  • 3 tbsp hot buttered rum mix (recipe here)

Procedure:

Heat juice in sauce pan until steaming, add rum mix either to full amount or by tsp to each cup as you serve. Stir and enjoy.

My Thoughts:

The mix of cranberry jelly, pineapple juice and spices simmered for a couple hours created a very thick tasting drink, rich but without the brightness I expected from the juice. Perhaps the heating over time has something to do with that, but the result is far from the hot buttered rum that I enjoyed last Christmas.

In comparison, using hot buttered rum mix stirred into heated cranberry and pineapple juice (1:1),came much closer to the taste I remembered, the drink was flavourful and bright with a hint of tartness. This was the drink that my family preferred of the two hot buttered recipes, and in my opinion the two hours of mulling was not worth the wait.

Berry Little Mocktail

Lastly for this christmas I wanted to try a virgin take on another Martha Stewart recipe, this one that originally calls for grapefruit vodka and champagne, black currant juice along with red cranberry juice. I had originally started to make this recipe back at thanksgiving, getting my cranberry garnishes all ready, but was unable to find black currant juice locally.

As a small Christmas miracle black currant juice, or concentrate showed up in our store, and I could try out my experiment. Since vodka has no flavour, I simply substituted ruby red grapefruit juice for that element, and used club soda for the sparkle and fizz instead of champagne. I could have used sprite or gingerale but didn’t want to add any other flavours that were not in the original to get the closest to Martha’s recipe. You can find the original here.

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 oz grapefruit juice
  • 2 oz club soda
  • 1 oz red cranberry juice
  • 1 oz black currant concentrate
Procedure:

In saucepan on medium heat dissolve sugar in water. Add berries and simmer 5 minutes until softened and skins split. Drain, discarding liquid and freeze berries for at least two hours.

Chill juices. Mix juices in cocktail shaker and pour into tall glass. Add soda water and garnish with a cocktail stick strung with candied cranberries.

My Thoughts:

I found that this recipe was pretty mild and that the black current juice didn’t really lend much to the table when diluted according to the label. So I tried it again, but with the black currant concentrate (I used Ribena) undiluted and the result was a more interesting and created a better blend of berry flavours. Without the kick of the alcohol this drink is still pretty mild.  I would like to revisit this again when I can get a hold of some grapefruit or citrus bitters, as I think it may add just that necessary touch to refine the virgin option of this drink.

That being said, my kids enjoyed the drink and my eldest daughter asked if she could finish up the glass.

Ratings for the virgin attempt to make this drink? See below!

Kid-o-metre 5/5
Taste: 3/5 Mild flavour, needs something to add kick.
Simplicity: 5/5
Ingredient finding: 5/5 all ingredients locally available at this time of year!

Peppermint Fizz Review

Peppemint Fizz. A blast from my past repertoire of recipes from years back.

Peppemint Fizz. A blast from my past repertoire of recipes from years back.

Like Ebneezer Scrooge, this Christmas I was reminded back to my past, maybe not by a magical being but definitely to show me something I had forgotten. When I first was interested in the idea of non alcoholic drinks, I did most of my searching through recipe books, and wrote my favourite ideas on index cards which I kept and remembered (sort of). So after some searching I was able to find a recipe that I remembered fondly from my youth: Peppermint Fizz, a Christmas drink using crushed candy canes as the flavouring.

I have no idea where this recipe came from, as I wasn’t big on documenting my sources back then. When I look up the drink online, I come up with a strawberry shortcake character, and a drink that is brandy, peppermint schnapps and lemon juice which isn’t even close to the recipe on my index card. So this Christmas Season, why not review a blast from the past and move the first of my index card recipes into todays world of the web!

This is a great recipe to make with the candy canes Santa brought this year.

Ingredients:
  • peppermint candy crushed
  • 250 ml whipping cream
  • 2-3 large bottles Gingerale or 7-up
Procedure:

Whip cream to a custard consistency and fold in crushed candy. Freeze in ice cube trays. To serve place an mint cream ice cube into a tall glass or wine glass and fill with chilled pop. Stir slightly and serve with a pretty spoon, straw or candy cane to mix drink with.

My Thoughts:

This recipe is for a crowd, or for the whole 12 days of Christmas if you, like scrooge, don’t like to share. When I first remembered this recipe I made a small batch but was in a hurry and didn’t freeze the cream and candy into cubes, instead adding a dollop of whipped cream to the top of a glass of gingerale. The result was not the same, I recommend giving the cream and candy time to meld flavours and the frozen cubes slow the fizz process down, requiring more stirring, and we all found that similar to a float, we could add more pop and keep enjoying the drink.

If you want to make many drinks keep your peppermint cubes to about 2 tbsp of mix, the cubes will blend better with the gingerale and while seconds with the same peppermint cube may not be possible, the initial drink will be delightfully pepperminty.

I served this to some guests who dropped by and got positive reviews from everyone. This is a great thing to have for just that purpose, and I plan on keeping some of these cubes in the freezer this holiday to offer visitors. Merry Christmas!

Kid-o-metre 5/5
Taste: 5/5
Simplicity: 5/5   three ingredient and some patience. That’s it!!
Ingredient finding: 4/5 seasonal only, even up in Santa’s part of the world candy canes are only available at Christmas!

Old fashioned Home Made Eggnog Review

Homemade Eggnog

Homemade Eggnog  Testing. Left to right back row: recipes from Instructables.com, Spice and Foodie & About Food. Front row: recipes from All Recipes.com and A Sweet Pea Chef

My husband tells the story of his childhood in Saskatchewan, where at Christmas powdered eggnog mix was available. He recalls that when made up into a drink the stuff was terrible, but alone on a spoon, as a kid this stuff was heaven.

At Christmas eggnog comes along side the milk and cream in the dairy section, while quantities last, but the drink isn’t really very real tasting. So this year, for the holidays, our family decided to do a comparison of some recipes for home made eggnog from scratch.

The Competitors

I chose recipes using different techniques to see which our family and friends preferred. Three with the basics: egg, cream, milk, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. And two with additional extras.

1. About Food offers a recipe for a cooked eggnog using whipped cream as the frothiness. The recipe says it takes 65 minutes but the actual requirement is to let the custard chill for at least 4 hours, so I would say make it the day before. I found this recipe the most time consuming of the bunch.

2. Spice and Foodie has a recipe called Hubby’s Old Fashion Eggnog that is made cold and then chilled. This is by far the easiest recipe, also the thinnest as it doesn’t use whipped cream, egg meringue or custard for thickener.

3. Instructables.com gives a recipe that combines yolks with milk and spice (booze is optional so we omitted it), and then folds this into beaten egg whites to create a whipped thick nog. The egg whites give a fluffy texture, and add the thickness.

4. All recipes.com used two additional ingredients: condensed milk and salt in an uncooked version of eggnog. This one uses whipped cream for thickening.

and lastly

5. A Sweet Pea Chef adds cloves and cinnamon to the mix in a cooked eggnog recipe. This is the thickest recipe of the bunch, and the most cooked. The addition of the other spices does change the final flavour.

Our Thoughts:

Eggnogs are supposed to be thick. But how thick? The cooked eggnogs create a custard that becomes the thickening factor. I found that the Sweet Pea Chef recipe(#5)  almost too thick, while the Spice and Foodie recipe (#2) could have used some thickening.

As far as taste – the most nutmeg flavour was in the Spice and Foodie recipe (#2) calls for a full teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg in it’s recipe. The only other recipe asking for the same amount was the Sweet Pea Chef recipe (#5), but there two other spices blend for the flavour profile.

The cooked About Food recipe had a cooked egg flavour reminiscent of tapioca pudding. The nutmeg taste is enhanced with the addition of the recommended garnish, but personally I would recommend doubling the amount in the recipe as well. Others who sampled this found this was their preferred option, saying that for those who do not normally like eggnog, this is the better one. That must be so, because my eggnog hating daughter loved this recipe.

We found the Sweet Pea Chef recipe also very cooked in flavour, and the no one preferred this choice. My husband said the combination of spices remind him of pumpkin pie and that this could be very good mixed with something. My friends suggested it would be excellent on Christmas deserts. For a drink, we gave it a couple days and tried it again, diluted with milk (half and half, or just a bit less milk if we wanted it richer). The flavours had blended and the drink was much more eggnog like.

When it comes to simplicity the Spice and Foodie (#2) recipe wins, but for flavour and thickness the competition is between AboutFood’s recipe (#1), Instructables recipe (#3) and AllRecipes.com (#4). While I liked the cooked version, as a eggnog fan the recipe #3 wins out for thickness and flavour. The addition of egg white meringue makes this recipe very frothy, light and flavourful, while adding whipped cream in recipe #1 and #4 increases the richness tasted in the beverage and competes with the flavour of the nog. Interestingly, the meringue thickened recipe (#3) has the most whipping cream in the recipe of all the five tested! Guess that goes to show what whipped egg whites can do.

_MG_9621The Verdict

The winner of the tasting challenge was #1 with the most votes. The cooked quality was great for all ages, and the taste is preferred by even non eggnog fans.

Second and third go to Instructable.com and Spice and Foodie, each having advantages over the others.

If I was to host a party and look for a recipe to serve, I would go with the recipe from Instructables.com, which is fairly simple to make doesn’t require cooking and cooling, or tempering over time, and has the great frothy look from the meringue.

For giving as gifts? I would choose the safest approach and go with the winner. And for home, just to have and enjoy any time? The Spice and Foodie recipe since it requires little time and no additional ingredients. That being said, I would probably pick up a whipping cream bomb and add a dollop of whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg to the glass and then Cheers and Happy Holidays!

 

Black forest Magic Tea Review

Black Forest Magic Tea. Add a bit of sweetness and it's  delicious.

Black Forest Magic Tea. Add a bit of sweetness and it’s delicious.

The Black Forest is in wooded mountain range  Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. In history this area was known for it’s mines, hardwood and clocks and chocolate.

While the clocks are still known today for their precision, it’s the Black Forest Cake invented in these mountains by Josef Keller, that is most famous. The blend of chocolate, cream and cherries with Kirshwasser gives the cake it’s name: Schwatzwalder Kirschtorte. According to the Kitchen Project the cake features one of the area’s main crops: cherries, in both the use of the fruit and the Kirsh a double distilled alcohol produced from cherries.

Cocktails, hot chocolates, shakes, martinis and shooters have all been inspired by this cake, some using the original concept of cream, cherry liqueur and chocolate and other blending other ingredients into the mix or choosing alternative takes on each. Most of these use some form of liqueur in the mix.

Mother Earth Living posts a Black Forest Magic iced Tea that blends cocoa powder, cinnamon and tea in an infusion that is blended with cherry juice and served cold over ice. I tried the recipe and found it very interesting but not sweet enough for my tastes. Without a superfine strainer or specialty tea bags I found that the ground ingredients remained in the water, reducing the clarity of the drink.

This is definitely a tea though, with the dominant flavour coming from the tea leaves. So since I like tea with milk and sugar, and since Black Forest Cake calls for whipped cream, I added a splash of milk and an oz of simple syrup to each glass and stirred. The result was an iced tea latte with the original flavour complex of the black forest tea, with a note of creamy sweetness. Yum.

What did my kids think? They were also not big fans of the original drinks, but with sugar the kids enjoyed the flavour.

Kid-o-metre 5/5 kids loved this!
Taste: 2/5 needed the sweetness
Simplicity: 2/5 needs specialty equipment to keep the tea clear.
Ingredient finding: 3/5 in Tumbler Ridge – I had to be creative with the cherry juice.

Sangrita Review

Sangrita - a spicy virgin accompaniment that often goes with tequila to cleans the palate.

Sangrita – a spicy virgin accompaniment that often goes with tequila to cleans the palate. To the right – Virgin Spicy Lime shooter.

In looking for spicy alternatives to a virgin caesar I came across this recipe at Liquor.com. Sangrita is normally served as a spicy accompaniment to tequila, as a chaser to cleanse the palate after the shot of strong liquor. The drink itself is non alcoholic and blends the flavours of grapefruit, tomato, orange and lime juice with a bite of spice.

We decided to try it out, well the adults of the family did. For fun we decided to make a shot of a lime based sour mix with a hint of cayenne and honey, just to get some of the experience of mixing two drinks on the palate one after another.

What did we think of the drink?

With only two testers willing to try it, my results are pretty skewed. If I had made this for my niece she would have been all over it. However, with my husband not liking spicy drinks, the ratings dropped. From my perspective, I didn’t over do the spice in the drink or let it sit so long that it got too intense. This was fine for me, and I like the fact that one has control over the intensity of the spice simply by how long the drink infuses.

Kid-o-metre 0/5 
Taste: 3/5 
Husband not a fan because of the spice. 
Simplicity: 5/5
no special ingredients to prepare.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 
all available locally

Virgin Spicy Lime Shooter

If you decide to make up the shooter for the fun here is my recipe.

  • Half lime juiced
  • 1/2 oz lime cordial
  • 1/2 oz honey syrup (1 part honey to 1 part hot water)
  • pinch of cayenne (to taste)

Squeeze a half lime into a cocktail mixer, add remaining ingredients. Shake with ice and pour into shot glass.

The Elixir Review

Rosemary Citrus Spritzer

Rosemary Citrus Spritzer

When I first started working on virgin drinks, at the beginning of the summer, I made a bunch of drinks that existed online, to see what had been done, what I liked, and what concepts were out there. I found a site called The Kitchn where they discussed three amazing non alcoholic drinks served at a restaurant in New York called  Eleven Madison Park.

Now I am on the other side of the continent from New York, and much more north y’know. So of the three drinks, only one used ingredients that I could find in my local store – or heck anywhere close by for that matter. This drink was called the Elixir.

Using my pre-created syrups, some fresh mint from a friends garden and one additional syrup that I made for the drink, I whipped up a batch and served it to my family. Kids, adults, the whole lot of us all loved it without exception.

Here is the link to the recipe for Elixir. Thank you to Sam Lipp of Eleven Madison Park’s who shared these creations with The Kitchn’s team who shared it with the world.

Go check it out for yourself here!

Kid-o-metre 5/5
Taste: 5/5  This guy is a pro y’know
Simplicity: 4/5  Two syrups to make, but not hard to whip up.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 Even up north we can enjoy this New York taste.