Glacier Melt

Glacier Melt: a new name for a wicked drink - served over crushed ice for a wonderful new virgin flavour.

Glacier Melt: a new name for a wicked drink – served over crushed ice for a wonderful new virgin flavour.

In looking up drinks to try using the bitters that I had procured in my trip to Vancouver, BC, and while I was in still in holiday mode, I was cruising the internet looking at recipes and came across an drink made with orange juice, orange bitters and curacao along with both dry and sweet vermouth and gin. Being in full holiday mode and awaiting the arrival of Christmas, my brain translated the drink as Santa’s Whiskers – Curled and I thought, what a fun thing to try as a virgin make-over during the holiday!

Turns out I was experiencing a dyslexic moment, as the true name of the drink is Satan’s Whiskers – Curled. Oops.

Not to be daunted by misspelling, I gamely converted the drink into a virgin creation substituting curaçao for curaçao syrup which I had picked up (but is also simple enough to make with some orange rinds, simple syrup and blue food colouring), white grape juice for the dry vermouth and a blend of apple juice, lemon juice and water for the sweet vermouth. The idea for the substitution was based on cooking substitutions for alcohol which if you are interested you can find here.

The result was a fun blue drink, with a nice flavour complex and no name! Without the 2 oz of alcohol, the drink is not as “wicked” as the original and needed a name that fit the new flavour of the beverage.

Glacier Melt

  • 1 oz juniper and lemon tea (see below)
  • 1 oz Apple Lemon Blend (see below)
  • 1 oz white grape juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1 oz curaçao syrup (or for do it yourself check here)
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Blend all ingredients in a mixer with ice and shake well. Strain into a old-fashioned glass and serve with a twist of orange. Or serve over shaved ice in a tall glass for an elegant and modern look.

My Thoughts:

This drink received positive reviews from young and old while we were on holidays. Everyone found the beverage tasty and commented on the nice blend of flavours. The addition of the Juniper tea enhances the drink flavour, however the cinnamon was the prevalent flavour and I may reduce the cinnamon by half or less (break the stick into a smaller bit). Depending on what tea you choose to use this drink will vary slightly in flavour.

This drink really relies on the blend of flavours, I tried it again later but didn’t have any white grape juice available, the mix didn’t have as much power and presence.

If you wish to keep this drink less complex, omit the tea. The drink will change in flavour only slightly, but who’s to know but you?

Kid-o-metre 5/5 This drink was enjoyed by my daughters and the adults.
Taste: 4.4/5  This drink can be made with or without the juniper tea, and either way it’s enjoyable.. just different.
Simplicity: 3/5 If you can find curaçao it is slightly easier, but making the juniper tea increases the difficulty of this drink.
Ingredient finding: 2/5 juniper berries, specialty tea and specialty syrups… all need to be shipped in or pick them up on a trip to a specialty store.

Gin Flavouring – Juniper Tea Recipe

To replace gin I wanted a infusion or tea that included a blend of flavours. Gin is normally predominantly juniper, but includes such botanicals as orange and lemon peel, cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, angelica and coriander among others. According to there are usually from six to ten flavouring agents (or botanicals) in the gin making process. So for a replacement I chose a tea, and instead of a simple juniper berry tea I chose a tea from DavidsTea called Detox which has juniper, lemongrass, ginger in it’s flavour profile and added about 2 Tbsp juniper berries, cinnamon and a few cardamon pods to the mix.


3 tsp juniper/lemongrass based tea (detox or other variety)
2 Tbps juniper berries (dried)
4 cardamon pods
1-1/2 cinnamon stick

Brew all ingredients for half hour in hot water, strain and cool. Store until needed.

Apple Lemon Blend

Knowing someone who knew the taste of vermouth is very helpful in making a replacement. The description of what to replace sweet vermouth from the website mentioned above include apple juice or a blend of lemon juice and water. I worked out a recipe that my taste tester says is very “vermouthy”.


6 oz apple juice
2 oz water
1 oz fresh lemon juice

Blend ingredients and chill until needed.

I am a big fan of this virgin version of the drink and look forward to serving this to friends in the future. How does it compare to the original Satan’s Whiskers? Mild, very mild, I would guess.

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 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.

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


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.

  • 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

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!

Virgin Manhattan Review

Virgin Manhattans. Left to right: Sophisticated Smoked Manhttan, Tasty & Tart Manhattan.

Virgin Manhattans. Left to right: Sophisticated Smoked Manhttan, Tasty & Tart Manhattan.

Now that I have a selection of bitters for use in drinks, I figured the first thing to do is determine how to use them in the most well know of drinks: a Manhattan.

Manhattans are made with bourbon or whiskey, sweet vermouth and orange bitters.
For the non-alcoholic choice, most sites give a juice based recipe for a virgin manhattan calling for cranberry, orange, cherry and lemon juice with orange bitters, which remind me a lot of a fruit punch. Since all the recipes had the same proportions I am using the recipe from
The challenge for the Manhattan virgin cocktail is coming up with something to replace the whiskey or bourbon. If you google the taste of bourbon you find descriptions like “smoky, burnt toast, molasses” used to describe the taste, along with the flavour of cherry or cherry coke. Ok well sounds like marvellous stuff!
Continuing the research I came across which suggested a different take, using smoked tea and pomegranate juice to create a new experience using the idea of a smoky flavour from the original recipe. Ok sounds intriguing, and definitely not like fruit punch. But which is the preferred option? Time for some scientific taste testing – preferably on more than my little family of four. Well good thing I was visiting extended family!!

Virgin Manhattan – Tart and Tasty

This is the most commonly found recipe for a Virgin Manhattan. See the full recipe here.
Each element of this drink lends to a tart bright flavour creating a juice based beverage that has a slight kick and is slightly astringent. The drink is pleasant, however the prevailing flavours are citrus and cranberry and the cherry flavour seems lost in the mix. To me this drinks seemed like a poncy cranberry juice – lovely for breakfast but not something I would offer as an alternative to alcoholic beverages at a party.
Since the recipe calls for so little cherry juice (1/2 tsp) I am not sure what that element brings to the table. This is normally not something I have access to in Tumbler Ridge, and would have to choose to use either maraschino cherry juice (which cocktail:uk suggests), home-made cherry juice from frozen dark cherries or omit it all together.  As I was down in the “big city” I commissioned my husband to find said beverage, and was surprised and amazed at the price (so was mom). I have trouble justifying $8/bottle for a half teaspoon of something, and am now endeavouring to find out what else I can use this super expensive juice for, as I can’t justify pouring glasses of this as a straight beverage.
Our Thoughts:
In order to determine scientifically what the cherry juice adds to the drink, I remade this recipe in triplicate: one without the juice, one with maraschino cherry syrup and one as directed; and retested the results. The cherry juice added colour to the drink making it darker, but did it add any discernible taste? According to my kids: Nope! The more discerning palates notices a nicer taste in the black cherry juice version – so we determined that the cost may be worth it if serving this drink to adults.
Kid-o-metre 4.5/5 Either with or without the cherry juice, the kids rated this drink highly.
Taste: 3.5/5  What’s with the .5 right? well it’s the result of science man.
Simplicity: 5/5 A no brainer…unless you have to make your own bitters.
Ingredient finding: 3/5 two ingredients that are “ship in only” for our small town.

Virgin Manhattan – Smoky and Strong

The second version I found online at required some more challenging ingredients: Lapsang Souchong smoked black tea, a second black decaf tea, and pomegranate juice along with orange bitters and simple syrup and vanilla. I chose a rooibos de province from DavidsTea, since it’s fruity flavour would blend well with the pomegranate juice, and brewed up the two teas for the drink as per the instructions (2 bags tea per 6 oz boiled water).
This drink did not go over well with the adults in our family the first time I made it. Me own mum likened the drink to musty mattresses, dad said it reminded him of burned food while camping, my husband took two sips and simply refused to drink the rest. I made the tea separately, about a week later, and realized that my original tea brew was stronger than it should have been, and over steeped. The recipe indicated using two bags of tea for 6 oz boiled water, I used loose tea and used 2 tsp per 6 oz of boiled water. It is possible that this smoked tea is stronger than a bag version, and that overstepping created a more acidic and bitter flavour. My tea loving father tried the tea plain from the first batch, made a face and stated it tasted like medicine. My tea loving niece tried the tea from the second batch, and finished the glass, enjoying the taste. I tried both and the first attempt was indeed an epic fail.
The purpose of the smoked tea was to add the smokiness of the bourbon, but I have been told that bourbon isn’t smoky, it is sweet. The second batch of tea was indeed more tea like and had a hint of sweetness but the tea was made with only the regular amount called for (not double strength) which in this case was 1 1/4 tsp per 240 ml.
I would recommend the following tweak:
  • 1 1/4 tsp Lapsang Souchong smoked black tea steeped for 3 minutes in 60z boiled water.
  • 2 tsp decaf black tea (rooibos or other) steeped for up to 6 minutes in 6 oz boiled water.
  • 1 1/2 oz pomegranate juice
  • 4 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 tsp simple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • (cherry for garnish)
Steep both teas as directed. Mix juice bitters, syrup and vanilla with 1 1/2 oz black tea only. Taste the drink, and ad the smoky tea in small increments (up to 1 1/2 oz) to get just the right amount of smokiness without overpowering the drink – similar to bitters, the flavour is very powerful. We found that 1/2 -1 tsp was enough to lend the smoky flavour and maintain the sweetness and fruity flavour of the drink with the original over steeped double strength tea. When remade with the regular strength tea….
Our Thoughts:

This drink, once perfected to a mild smoky taste was surprisingly easy to serve to both kids and adults. One adult still found the smoky flavour too much, but both kids rated this favourably and my youngest said it tasted like sour key candies. Compared to the first drink, due to the broad spectrum of opinions this drink rates lower. The original recipe calls this a Sophisticated Manhattan – which indicates that not every palate will appreciate this drink.

Kid-o-metre 5/5 kids loved it once the smoky flavour was reduced. Who would have thunk it!
Taste: 3.4/5  Slightly less preferred than the popular and common drink recipe.
Simplicity: 2/5 Bitters (bottled or DIY), special tea brews (2 of them), and simple syrup needed.
Ingredient finding: 2/5 the majority of these ingredients are not easily acquired in Tumbler Ridge.

Would I make either of these regularly? Probalby not. Neither feels worth the time or cost to make, and I would definitely not bother serving either to guests. The first drink is simply not impressive or noteworthy, the second with the recommended adjustment is a nice drink – however pomegranate juice is simply to0 difficult to get in little northern communities.

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 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.

Pumpkin Pie Drinks

Pumpkin Pie Drinks. The favourite of the bunch: Pumpkin Pie Punch.

Pumpkin Pie Drinks. The favourite of the bunch: Pumpkin Pie Punch.

Jack-o’lanterns are as traditional in our home at Halloween as candy and costumes. The kids and I sit around on newspaper scooping seeds and guts, drawing designs and then I dutifully do the cutting so that my two kids save their fingers from injury. We’ve made up to four pumpkins some years, each one created by and reflecting the personality of the designer, often fun and silly, sometimes animals, and the first years more like a Picasso or modern art piece as I try to make sense of the scribbles and swirls that are supposed to represent eyes and mouth, ears and nose and sometimes hair. But it’s about expression, and the sky is the limit.

On halloween night while all the kids are out gathering an abundance of tummy aching, mind buzzing, mess creating candies from neighbours and friends here is a beautiful quiet drink to calm the mind and soul: Pumpkin Pie Punch

In order to come up with the best recipe, sans alcohol, I went first to see what people are mixing up. The common theme was to use pumpkin puree, vanilla (by way of vanilla vodka), simple syrup and whipped cream. Other additions included using a cream liqueur along with whipped cream. Pumpkin Lattes blend similar ingredients (pumpkin puree, milk, sweetener, vanilla) with pumpkin pie spice and coffee. Lattes are served hot and often recommend straining the pulp as part of the process.

So what to do? We tested four combinations.

The first was the most simple, designed to taste close to a pumpkin martini or a drink called the Smashing Pumkin. Both these can be found here. True to the technique of a latte I mixed pumpkin juice (strained puree) with half and half cream in a 3:1 ratio, splashed in some simple syrup for sweetness and a drop or two of pure vanilla extract. Like a cocktail, I shook this with ice and served it over more ice. One child liked it, but it was super mild and milky. Not really something great when the alcohol is removed.

Second test: add pumpkin pie spices, brown sugar and make something incorporating the pulp – thick and sweet. This was declared “like drinking pumpkin pie” and claimed as a contender. Ok. If it is gonna be like pie, it aught to have whipping cream on top and a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg. Yummy!

2014-10-28-by-eye-for-detail-002-2Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

While this is called a smoothie, it doesn’t use ice cream, crushed ice or yogurt. The thickness comes in the pumpkin puree and the whipping cream.

  • 2 tbsp Pumpkin Pie Puree (recipe below)
  • 2 tsp simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
  • 1 oz whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream
  • ground cinnamon or nutmeg

Mix first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well. Strain into a espresso cup and top with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of spice of your choice. Serve.

My Thoughts:

I loved this, and I wasn’t expecting to. The idea of drinking pumpkin puree cold seemed odd, not sure why after tasting it, since the taste and texture of this was delightful. Kids liked the drink, but it didn’t rate as the favourite for either of them. Second place for one daughter (the eldest) and hubby, didn’t rate for the youngest, and rated first for my choice.

Pumpkin Pie Puree

2 cups water
3 cups fresh pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice


When making fresh pumpkin puree, cut your pumpkin up into chunks and toss it into a large pot with plenty of water. Boil until tender and let cool. Peel the skins off the pieces and toss the pulp into a blender. Process until finely pureed. Measure out 3 cups for the puree next step and save the rest for other pumpkin needs (soup, cake, muffins, pies).

Next return the three cups puree to the pot, add remaining ingredients and cook until brown and bubbling (about 5-10 minutes). Remove from heat. Divide this batch in half. Use the full puree as is for Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, or strain a portion (about half) to make Pumpkin Pie Punch. (see below)

Pumpkin Pie Punch

Naming this next drinks was a challenge. What do you call a drink with no bubbles, no alcohol or no bitters? Well since pumpkin is a fruit (yep!) let’s call it a punch. This drink is very similar to the smoothie, but in order to try to remove the thickness added by the puree, I strained it and used just the liquid. The thicker pulp is destined for muffins later this week when my daughter and I work on some baking together.

  • 3 oz pumpkin spice juice (Pumpkin Pie Puree strained)
  • 1 oz whipping cream
  • 2 tsp simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice. Strain over ice into a old fashioned glass and serve.

My Thoughts:

The flavour of this drink is similar to the smoothie but the pumpkin is less distinct. The spices come across more strongly in this, as does the sweetness. I can see serving this with a cinnamon stick for a garnish (should have thought of that when I was shooting the picture) to dress it up, or serving it hot like the latte – for those who don’t like coffee.

My youngest preferred this option the best as did my husband. The other two family members gave it a second place. Of all the drinks this had the best overall rating.

The last drink we tried was a slush version of the smoothie. Because the flavours are very mild, this simply diluted the flavour and dulled the senses with the cold to the point where the drink failed to impress any of us. In fact it didn’t get consumed at all. So much for that idea! And why make things colder than they need to be at halloween, poor kids are out in the cold up here in the north, fighting snow and slush to knock on doors and say trick or treat!

If you see my kids – a black cat with silver ears and a purple caped action figure – ask them how they like being test subjects for their mom’s wild drink inventions. To the rest of you… Happy Halloween!

Wicked Witch of the West Martini

Wicked Witch of the West Martini

Wicked Witch of the West Martini

I have been watching season three of Once Upon a Time and been considering the newly introduced character from Oz – the green with envy Wicked Witch of the West.

So I wondered, what about a drink named after this infamous witch? It would have to be green of course, and have a hint of brown sugar. So, on a quest to see what can be created, I headed first to the internet to see what has been created.

Turns out the only drink I could find with this name is a lemon vodka drink made for chugging at a frat party. Not even green, huh.

So off to the kitchen in search of green drink potential and my eye landed on my bag of fresh green apples. Ok, sour is good. The witch definitely had a sour personality. And brown sugar goes with apples. Throw in some lime… maybe some green mint…

It’s got potential.

Wicked Witch of the West Martini

The foundation of this sweet and sour drink is apple sour made with tart green apples, but with a twist of mint and lime thrown in.


Rim a martini glass with apple juice and brown sugar. Pour into bottom licorice syrup. Mix brown sugar syrup, mint syrup and apple mint sour in a cocktail shaker with ice. With a straw or small dropper, carefully add up to 5 drops of concentrated chlorophyll. Watch that you are using just enough to colour the drink a deeper shade of green, this stuff is strong! Shake again, strain into glass and serve.

My Thoughts:

The added mint gives a nice hint along with the lime to the apple beverage. The juice is tart, but not too. I felt that a splash of mint syrup was required to up the green and the sweetness, since too much brown sugar syrup would darken the drink. The drink needed just a hint more dark green though. So I decide to think outside the box and add just a tiny bit (and that’s the key) of liquid concentrated chlorophyll. This took me dripping tiny drops from the end of a straw as my bottle was happy to drip huge drops into the drink, overpowering the more delicate flavours with the health products flavour and over darkening the drink.

With the blend of flavours, and when the licorice is swirled in the drink has a unique blend of apple, mint and licorice that is appealing — if you like licorice. This could be made without the black to create a nice mint apple drink, but I found it tasted too much like a health juice and not enough like a martini.

Kid-o-metre 1/5 not a hit – kids don’t like licorice and flavour is too complex for them
Taste: 3/5 hubby and I enjoyed it. Would love more input from what other think… please try it and comment!
Simplicity: 1/5 Four of five ingredients requires creating yourself. Skill and precision necessary for layering.
Ingredient finding: 3/5 Chlorophyl not available here, had to get it out of town. Fresh mint only available in summer/fall, luckily I had some left in my fridge.

Apple Mint Sour

2 apples
10 fresh mint leaves
2 oz lime juice
1 oz lemon juice
3 oz water plus 8 oz water

Throw all ingredient except water into a blender and pulse slowly increasing the speed until pulped into mush. Strain over wire double strainer using water to rinse out the remaining apple pulp. Push to squeeze out juice with the back of a spoon. When all juice is strained out, return pulp to pot with second amount water. Heat for 5 minutes then strain again and discard pulp. Store juice in airtight container for 1 week. Makes about 4 cups juice.

This was a fun creative process, I hope you enjoyed it and would love to hear what your thoughts are on any of these inventions I’ve brewed up. With Halloween only a few day away, there are two drinks left to try. Stay tuned and happy brewing!

Italian (or not) Cream Soda


Whether or not they're truly Italian, these drinks are a big hit with all ages.

Whether or not they’re truly Italian, these drinks are a big hit with all ages.

If you were to google Italian Cream Soda recipes you would come up with a wealth of ideas based on the concept of mixing purchased flavoured syrups, soda water ice and cream in a glass in a way that lets the syrup sink, the cream float and the drink look five kinds of cool. Because these flavoured syrups work well in flavoured coffees, teas and cocoas, milkshakes, lemonades and cocktails as well as sodas; Italian Sodas and Italian Cream Sodas are often served in trendy coffee shops.

Interestingly enough in researching about Italian Sodas, the origins are not, well, purely Italian.

According to Quattro Formaggi and Other Disgraces on the Menu a site focussing on “food known as Italian food and the food of Italy”, Italian sodas (made with syrups and soda water) and Italian Cream Sodas may or may not have originated in Italy. According to the site “In Sicily, a traditional soft drink is made by adding fruit syrups (e.g.: lemon, orange, mandarin, chinotto) to sparkling or seltz water.”  and fruit syrups were also used over shaved ice or added to iced water in Italy to make a drink called granita. According to wikipedia “An example of an alternative to Italian soda that is really from Italy is the chinotto, a carbonated drink made from the juice of a native Italian citrus fruit called the myrtle-leaved orange or myrtifolia.[1]” 

Some sites suggest that Italian Sodas originated when two italian immigrants introduced flavoured syrups in 1925, in San Francisco, by adding their syrups to soda water. Other site such as Art of Drink suggest that American companies were already doing this. Wikipedia also suggests that cream sodas were made as early as 1852; and that a patent for cream soda-water was granted in the USA in 1865 to Alexander C. Howell, and in Canada a patent for Ice-Cream Soda was granted in 1886 to James William Black. You can check out more details of these patents here if you are interested.

One thing for sure is that mixing soda water and flavoured syrups has been around for over a century. And mixing cream into the drink, either known as the “Italian Cream-soda” or “French Soda” or “Cremosa” is not an Italian concept but still a good idea that has become poplar in North America.

So back to the research and into the lab – ok the kitchen but lab sounds cooler.

Going back to the original idea of “sodas” – as a drink mixed from home made syrups and club soda – I am taken by the idea. This is something that can be created – using easy to find ingredients available at any grocery store and I can control the sugar and preservatives. And what happens if the syrup is replaced by concentrated juices?

Oh the possibilities for recipes. has a huge list of Italian Soda recipes based on their syrups. Since I have orange flavoured syrup of my own on hand I check out their Orange Cream Soda recipe. With this recipe, as in most of their recipes, they recommend about 2 tbsp (1 oz) syrup to 1 cup of soda water. If making a cream soda add “a touch of cream”.

Going further, other recipes have increased the concentration of syrup, suggesting 3 tbsp (1.5 oz)  per half cup soda or 6 tbsp (3 oz) per cup in a website Butter With a Side of Bread, or at Brown Eyed Baker. Other sites like and Hersheys suggest  3 tbsp (3/4 oz) syrup to 1 cup soda water.

Our best bites has a great step by step explanation on how to mix the drink. The secret is to add the syrup, then the ice. Top with soda water and then a splash of cream. The ice keeps the mixture more separated, in theory.

Ok time to test drinks.

Cinnamon Orange Cream Soda


2014-10-17-by-eye-for-detail-014Adding the idea of juices to the concept. I came up with this dazzling creation.


Pour cinnamon syrup, then orange juice and simple syrup into bottom of collins or shake glass (it should layer somewhat). Add ice to fill about 3/4 glass. Add 8 oz club soda and a splash of cream. Serve with straw and mix before drinking.

My Thoughts:

When I was a small child orange juice was my comfort food/drink. If my mom was already in the room, I couldn’t call “mommy” and realized that at some level. So I cried “orange juice”. To this day, OJ is one of my favourite drinks. Add a splash of cinnamon, a dash or milk and OH MOMMY!

The whipping cream is heavy enough that it floats beautifully on the drink, slowly mixing in to give a nice effect. The cinnamon syrup sinks and shows up at the bottom and the ice does the trick of keeping the layers separated when adding the soda water. Seems Our Best Bites was right!

What did my family think? It rated one of the better choices (with or without cream) for each of our family members.

Kid-o-metre 5/5 Both kids loved this
Taste: 5/5  Flavours work in perfect proportion
Simplicity: 4/5  Two recipes to make, one that takes a little time.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 It’s all in town baby!

Black Forest Cream Soda



Pour chocolate, cherry juice and simple syrup into bottom of collins glass. Add ice to fill about 3/4 glass. Add 8 oz club soda and a splash of cream. Serve with straw and mix before drinking.

My Thoughts:

This is a balancing act between the cherry and chocolate flavour. Depending on the concentration of cherry juice, you may need to tweak this slightly. I made cherry juice out of 1 bag frozen dark sweet cherries and 1 cup water (recipe below) which made a rich dark juice.

My youngest daughter didn’t like this when she tried it. She declared she doesn’t like black forest cake. So we told her it was chocolate cherry soda. She tried it again, and loved it. What’s with that?? Tried this both with and without the cream, we think the Italian soda (no cream) may have the edge over the Italian Cream Soda or French Soda version.

Kid-o-metre 3/5 one of two kids likes this in my family
Taste: 3/5 good when you get the right balance
Simplicity: 3/5 While drinking chocolate is easy to whip up, having all the ingredients made and at hand takes time.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 all available within town – small town that is!

 Cherry Juice Recipe

1 bag (600 grams) frozen dark sweet cherries (I used president’s choice brand)
2 cups water – divided
1/2 cup sugar

Simmer cherries in 1 cup water for 15 minutes, strain using fine mesh strainer reserving liquid. Return cherries to pot and add remaining water. Simmer another 15 minute, allow to cool. Pour cherries, with the water they were cooked in, into blender and blend until liquified. Strain pulp reserving liquid. Discard pulp.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to liquid from both batches and return to heat. Heat just until sugar is dissolved and remove from heat. Cool and store or freeze in 2 oz portions (ice cubes) if you wish the juice to last more than 2 weeks.

 Cherry Jubilee Cream Soda



Pour juice and syrups into bottom of glass (collins for full portions or champagne glass for two smaller servings). Add ice to fill about 3/4 glass. Add 8 oz club soda and a splash of cream. Serve with straw and mix before drinking.

My Thoughts:

I served this in half portions in champagne flutes for added elegance and looks beautiful when cream is added.  When I first made this I used half and half cream which is normally recommended for Italian cream soda recipes online. The cream quickly mixed into the drink. Using whipping cream slows this process creating beautiful lines of white descending into the red of the juice – just the way it should look.

Kid-o-metre 4/5 Both kids liked this but it was not the preferred choice of the three.
Taste: 4/5 Lovely, but when I wasn’t looking my husband added chocolate!
Simplicity: 4/5 Two special ingredients to make up, again once prep is done it’s a cinch.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 No problem

In chatting with my hubby, who has never been a carbonated drink fan, he regularly ordered Italian Cream Soda’s when out with his buddies back in Vancouver, BC. His reason? The cream mellows out the carbonation making the drink enjoyable.

With both my kids and my hubby fans of this concept, I can see that we continue to experiment with flavours in the future, and as long as no more are called after a hated desert, I am betting of further sighs of happiness from my family.

Prep Day – Part Two

Flavouring drinks with fruit, spices or herbs is a process of patience. A friend of mine living in the lower mainland is huge into infusions, posting his creations on Facebook. Fruit infused water is becoming all the rage, with special bottles and pitchers for the task. Mixologist and bartenders often use a simple syrup in recipes – infused with herbs and spices or fruit – along side the more potent flavoured spirit.

Naturally, without the option of flavoured spirits, the job of creating flavoured syrups or liquids becomes more essential in a virgin drink. This has led me on a mission of creating simple syrups flavoured with all kinds of things from coffee to orange zest and from chai tea spices to apples. If you choose to try some of your own creations, Serious Eats will give loads of hints on how to infuse spirits, Toned and Fit gives some great tips on what and how to infuse fruits into water, and gives a list of recipes for simple syrup infusions using heat, or go to Carey’s Reclaiming Provincial blog to see how she uses a cold infusion method to make strong bright fruit and herb syrups.

From what I have read, the pros of doing these infusions yourself is more natural flavours, more options than you would find in your local stores and the cost is much less. All you need is sugar, a pot, knife, grater, peeler, fine wire mesh strainer and storage containers. Seems like mason jars are the best bet – less costly and don’t absorb flavour. But they lack a bit of elegance. Buying bottles however adds to the cost and from my experience the cooler the bottle the more it costs. So what are your alternatives? Muddle and strain. Faster, simpler, but not the same. Nope.

So I am embarking on yet another infusion experiment, working on the list from part one.

Apple Jack Syrup Infusion

First up is Apple Jack or Apple Brandy. Turns out this is pretty easy to make, but normally takes about three weeks to infuse the apples into the brandy and wine. Since I wasn’t using brandy, I made a simple syrup instead, and added a dash of brandy extract at the end to give it it’s aged flavour. I found the concept for DIY applejack from and altered the recipe as follows:

  • 2 cups green apples, peeled and chopped really thin
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cup sugar
Dissolve sugar in water, add apples and simmer until tender about 10 minutes. Apples should become translucent. Add cinnamon and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into mason jar, add 2 tablespoons brandy extract and let cool completely before sealing and storing. Let sit overnight or as long as you want in fridge.
My thoughts:
This recipe is super sweet without the alcohol, practically syrup you could put on your pancakes! So it will require a little tweaking, or adding something to cut the sweetness in the cocktail it includes. Most likely club soda or tonic water.

 All Spice Dram Infusion

Next, I researched what is All spice Dram. Serious Eats to the rescue! Turns out it’s rum based, no problem, just pull out the imitation rum and omit the rum. Here is what I did:

  • 2 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup all spice berries*
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons imitation rum.
*NOTE: If you don’t have whole all spice berries, this is essential. I originally tried this with ground, bound in cheesecloth, but the spices didn’t infuse into the water.
Boil water and spices and simmer 10 minutes. Let steep half hour. Strain and add sugar. Heat to dissolve sugar, remove from heat and add rum extract. Cool and store in fridge until needed.
My thoughts:

While this doesn’t have the kick from the booze, it has a lot of flavour from the spice, and in most cases the recipes is calling for a few drops – so the booze isn’t the essential part. By infusing the spices like a tea before putting in the sugar, I got a nice concentrated taste to the syrup and probably would not even bother with the rum extract in the future.

Walnut Infusion Experiment

Remember those roasting nuts in the oven? They were to try to create a walnut flavoured syrup – which will either rock or be terrible I figure. Verdicts still out, as I wait for this to infuse. What I have done is find out how to infuse walnuts in oil, and then transfer that concept to syrup. Original recipe from Process is to boil the nuts, stain the liquid, roast the nuts, smash them and then infuse them. As nuts are oil based this may or may not work with syrup but I couldn’t see wanting oil for a cocktail or mixed drinks. What did I do to alter the recipe? Well…

  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar

Drop nuts in boiling water and boil for 3 minutes. Strain reserving liquid. Spread nuts onto a baking sheet and roast at 350 F for 15 minutes (until golden brown). Remove from oven, cool, place in a ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin. Pour into mason jar or other 500 mL container. Meanwhile, add sugar to reserved liquid and heat to dissolve sugar completely. Pour over nuts, let cool and store. How long? Not sure, but I am giving it 2 days and then will test to see if this was a great idea or a complete failure.

Next up: Juicing with no blender. In order to get the kick in an apple drink, and without investing in a juicer, I looked up how to juice with my blender. Turns out it’s not that hard. I found the instructions for juicing on chalkboard The equipment is simple: a good blender, a fine wire mesh strainer, a wooden spoon & a bowl to catch the juice.

Apple Sour Recipe

In order to make a decent apple juice, that has a kick, juice your own apples. I purchased granny smith, but any super tart apple would do the trick, as long as they are juicy ones. The goal? To create something similar to Sourpuss Liquor.
4 green tart apples
2 oz lemon juice (bottled is fine for this)

Quarter the apples, with skins on, cut out the cores and chop into thumb size bits. Fill blender with apples and add lemon juice. Don’t forget this step! Lemon juice BEFORE blending makes sure that the apples don’t brown.

Start blender on lowest setting, chop by pulsing until apples are finely chopped. Turn to next setting and blend until the apples are moving freely through the blades without help. Increase speed and continue until you get to top speed and the apples are pulp.

Pour apples into strainer over the bowl, and use the back of your wooden spoon to push and squeeze all juice out of the pulp. The juice will be a nice green colour.

My thoughts:

I decided to take the remaining pulp add just enough water to cover (about 1 cup) and bring to a simmer on medium low, this way I got a little more flavour out of the apples, and more of the sour out of the skins. Once the apples pulp had lost the green tint (about 10 minutes) I removed from heat and poured again into my strainer. I tried this liquid, found it lacked the sweetness of the first batch, but had a nice kick, so I simply poured the second press in with the first and sealed up the juice for later. Since the juice is fresh, it won’t last long and needs to be refrigerated.

Next blog: the drink mixing!

Prep Day – Part one

Up north the gardening is done, the leaves are flying off the trees, and the nights are crisp if not getting cold. Fall was in the air last night, literally leaves blowing everywhere and rain, lots of rain. So I thought, what perfect weather to warm up in the kitchen with pots on the stove and nuts roasting in the oven.

While some drinks can be made with simple ingredients, or items easily found at the store, when it comes to alternates to the boozy options sometimes it takes a bit of work, research and … time.

Yup, lots of time.

Today was prep day.  The theme for this Thanksgiving weekend is fall beverages celebrating apples, pears, walnuts and fresh herbs still available at this time of year.

Ingredients purchased for this set of trials included:

Apple (Granny Smith apples, unsweetened apple sauce, fresh apple cider, apple juice);
Pear (fresh pears, canned pears and frozen pears in syrup),
Citrus (oranges and orange juice concentrate, bottled lemon juice and lemons);
Herbs and spices (fresh rosemary, fresh mint,  cinnamon, ginger, all spice);
club soda, sugar, coffee and cream.

The Prep List:

  • Applejack or Apple Brandy
  • All Spice Dram
  • Apple Sour
  • Walnut flavoured …syrup

When researching fall drink ideas, there are just tons out there on the net. This year, with the focus on apples and pears, I kept to a simple list of drinks that used common ingredients to see which I could alter to be virgin and still work. Here is my list.

Thanksgiving Drink Menu:

  • Fall Apple Martini experiment
  • The Apple-disiac experiment
  • The Spiced Pear Collins Experiment
  • Apple Ginger Sparkler
  • Herb’s Harvest Experiment
  • Apple Blow Fizz Experiment
  • Pear Ginger Fizz
  • Apple and herb virgin martinis

Stay tuned for the results!