Foraged Foods Part 2

Who doesn’t love free? The beauty of foraged foods – foods you pick that grow wild that is – is the fact that it costs only your time. OK, I realize that time is money, and that my recipes require things you can’t forage to compete them (as club soda is definitely not something that grows in the wild) but come on people! Free food? I’m on board.

In my area there are soo many cool things you can eat growing outside in the woods. Last issue I spoke of Rose Hips. Today it’s crab apples. These are common all across North America and Asia and Europe and there a sooo many varieties! Crab apples are basically small apples, anything under 2 inches. Some are sweeter than others, some are more ornamental but they all have a 5 star middle just like their bigger sibling. Weird fact? Crab apples are part of the rose family (ok it’s a big family along with pears, plums, cherries, peaches, raspberries, and strawberries to list a few).

Crab apples, like rose hips, have vitamin C in them but not half as much per 100 grams. What they mostly have is a very powerful flavour which can be used to create amazing jelly, jam, apple butter or… yup drinks!

One of my very good friends is a champion Apple liqueur maker. She packs jars with halved crab apples, sugar and vodka and lets them sit for a couple weeks, turning the jars every few day. But this is not something that you can substitute water for and have any success at all – just a lot of brown apples in some horrible tasting liquid. Juicing the apples is an option – if the apples are juicy enough and big enough, but if you want red sweet apple tasting liquid you gotta cook it out of them. And then let it drip and drip and never squeeze or you’ll get cloudy liquid.

Remember time is money? Well this whole process is slow and painstaking. My hubby and I went out and picked friends trees for 4 hours until we had two full bins of apples. Then we washed all the bugs off and started the process of cooking them all down. Days, yep days, later we had apple flavoured liquid ready for turning into cordial. Add sugar, cook to dissolve and bottle for winter.

How do make this at home? Here is the final perfected recipe.

Crab Apple Cordial

  •  1 kg crabapples (flowers & stem removed)
  • about 3 cups sugar

Wash then cut the flower end off the apples. Fill a pot with the apples and add enough water just to almost cover them. The apples should not be floating. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for around 15 minutes without stirring.

Strain the apples, without smashing them, through a double layer of muslin (or a cotton pillow case). Let the apples sit for about 3 hours so that all the juice passes through. Set the pulp aside for another recipe.

Measure the liquid and write down the amount. Return the apple liquid to the cleaned out pot and boil rapidly for half hour. Skim off any scum that comes to the surface, then stir in 1 cup sugar for every cup on liquid from your initial measurement. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes or until the sugar until dissolves. Pour the syrup into sterilized bottles, ready to serve. The cordial will keep for up to three months, stored in the fridge. 

This makes a great drink. 1 part cordial, one part club soda, a splash of lemon or lime juice and lots of ice. Enjoy!

Just like the rose hips from my previous post, crab apples are sweeter after the first frost. So if you are living somewhere where it hasn’t started snowing and/or freezing every night (so south of me), Happy Foraging!

Utter Fail!

Last valentines day I went crazy with drink making – and this year when I tried to be creative my efforts failed miserably. Utter fail as my kids would say.

Hypothesis 1: Ground up and disolved cinnamon hearts will create non alcholic “fireball”. Hypothesis 2: Non alchoholic Fireball would work for a virgin cinnamon apple mojito.

I had found a neat mojito on TimesofIndia that I wanted to try for valentines day. Simple right? Mix up some apple juice, lime pop, mint and cinnamon. Should be doable. NOPE.

First,  I wanted red -so instead of a cinnamon stick, and since it was valentines I grinded down cinnamon hearts and made them into a “fireball” like syrup. But I love cinnamon hearts and had eaten half of them before getting around to making the drink, so while the syrup was red and tasted like cinnamon, it didn’t have much kick.

Second, I didn’t have the fresh mint required. In an attempt to make-do I used mint extract to make my mojito mint syrup. Big mistake!

Well, I am still not sure what part of the process was not a mistake to be honest. Turns out that candy cinnamon syrup plus peppermint created a drink that tasted like colgate mixed with soda water. – YUCK! I didn’t even try it on anyone – it was that horrible, a complete and utter fail.

However, a true scientist doesn’t give up when the hypothesis proves false. We go back and try something else, a different combo, a different proceedure.

Someday, when mint, cinnamon hearts are both available in a store I am frequenting, I will pick them both up and try this again – to test to see if real mint plus candy cinnamon syrup also is grose. And if it is, well I may have to go to real cinnamon syrup and give up the hope of a red drink – and hey by the time this is perfected it may be a great easter drink, or summer, or fall.

Never give up, never give in, but most importantly never drink colgate!

Rockin Raspberry Lemonade

Raspberry Lemonade. Don't let the pretty pink colour fool yah...It's got a kick!

Raspberry Lemonade. Don’t let the pretty pink colour fool you…It’s got a kick!

Summer has come to an end and the kids are back in school. The campers are being washed up and winterized, yards are being cleaned up and gardens harvested. Yesterday we had one last weiner roast in our back yard to celebrate the Labour Day weekend and sat around a camp fire until bedtime. Wood fires are not just a summer thing up north, though. Once the weather cools many up homes in our community supplement gas heat with wood heat.

I recently read about the power outage that lasted three days for some in the Lower Mainland of BC, it was a friend of my parents who became the last family to regain power on Wednesday afternoon. Being a Scout leader and general contractor, and basically a totally prepared guy, this family didn’t suffer from the loss of electricity much. You can find the full story in the Vancouver Sun here.

Up north power outages are pretty common place, and while we have never gone three days, we have learned that things like wood heat, generators and lots of flashlights & candles is a must especially in the winter when going without heat isn’t an option. So what to drink when working up a sweat chopping wood or doing fall chores?

Recently I posted about my eldest daughter’s over the top lemonade stand success and offered a hint about her special lemonade option for those who were willing to pay the extra. We had named the lemonades simply Traditional and Raspberry but I quickly renamed the latter “Rockin’ Raspberry Lemonade”.

At first our clients were hesitant to spend the extra $3 bucks for the upgrade. “Why so expensive?” they would ask. “Ah but you see, we use real raspberries for the flavour, not some synthetic syrup!” I would respond. I had one gal decide to give it a try and buy one for her partner, 10 minutes later she came back for three more. “I sucked that back in about 2 minutes” she said, as she happily ordered more for herself and her friends.

So how do you make raspberry lemonade that people will deem worth every penny? Here is the secret recipe – or successful experiment.

  • 2 oz lemon juice (bottled)
  • 1/4 cup berry sugar
  • 1/4 cup frozen red raspberries (I used presents choice brand)
  • 1/2 oz grenadine
  • 1 oz blue raspberry martini mix/syrup (yes we did use a bit of the “synthetic stuff too”)
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 cup cold water

muddle lemon juice, berry sugar and frozen raspberries in bottom of 32 oz ziploc twist and lock container or boston cocktail shaker (this is too much drink to use a small standard cocktail shaker).  Add grenadine, raspberry mix. Fill half full with ice and then add 1 cup water (or enough to cover ice). Seal and shake, shake, shake! Pour through a cocktail strainer (to strain out some of the seeds) into a 16 oz cup half filled with ice. Top with water if needed and garnish with 4 or 5 frozen berries. Add a straw and serve with a smile.

My Thoughts

At our fundraiser lemonade stand 1 in every 4 chose the raspberry option. The fresh tart raspberries gave the drink a really nice kick and were balanced perfectly with the added sweetness of the syrups. We found we needed very little grenadine —just enough to balance the blue colour of the other syrup— as the flavour would overpower the berries. When making this using a red shot glass we filled the bottom 1/4 with the grenadine and then topped it with blue raspberry syrup in order to make sure we wouldn’t over measure the grenadine.

We made these for my younger daughters birthday this August to see how a younger crowd enjoys them. Seven out of Eight loved it. Is it manly enough for a lumberjack? Well I haven’t a true lumberjack in the family, but my wood chopping man loves them.

Not Your Ordinary Lemonade Stand


Hand Made Lemonade – because summer doesn’t have to end with Labour Day.

My husband is riding on the Tour de North Cycle tour with Cops for Cancer in BC this year. This is a momentous task  —over 800km in 7 days— which means that he is cycling 100 km a week to prepare. Another part of his preparation is to fundraise with the proceeds going to Camp Goodtime and cancer research. The reason for this inspired adventure is our daughter, Zoe, who at the age of 6 found out that she had ovarian cancer. Zoe has been cancer free for 5 years now, and she is very excited about the fundraising campaign to help other children.

So, this year a week before our music festival —Grizfest— she asked her dad if she could run a lemonade stand at the event as a fundraiser. They proceeded to send a letter to the committee asking if they could have permission and then informing me of the plan. OH DEAR! Lemonade at an event is still food, and thus needs a food safety plan, a food safe person on site, a food permit, and nothing can be made in our own home.

Plus they (the father daughter team) wanted to do more than simply mix lemon flavoured powder with water and serve it up  à la normal lemonade stand for a child. No, they’ve been watching their mom and her experiments and fancy drinks. So they wanted to do it up grand! Yup, with lemon juice, sugar syrup and individually made drinks for customers using my fancy shakers. So mom (that’s me!) got involved and we all sat down and came up with a compromise that would provide the customer with individual hand made lemonade while working within a food safe setting that would let our plan get passed by the health inspector. Some compromise was necessary, and some testing ensued to find the perfect balance between sweet and sour, but in the end we came up with a recipe for handmade lemonade using ingredients we could purchase at the grocery store —so no making ingredients at home— and could be replicated in a field under a tent with no electricity or running water.

Zoe was thrilled as she was given permission by the health inspector to proceed and could even mix the drinks herself, and we raised $450 for Cops for Cancer and sold out of our stock. We even threw in a second “high end” choice and added Raspberry Lemonade with real (frozen) red raspberries muddled into the mix.

The How to

So if you ever want to make handmade lemonade with your kids and let them have a go at helping out here is the how to list.

  1. The Ingredients: First things first – without making anything at home, what ingredients can we mix together cheaply to make a fantastic lemonade? With the ideal sweetening agent (sugar syrup) not being available to purchase I suggested using berry sugar which is finer than granulated, and hopefully would dissolve in the water with some shaking. Lo and behold, it was a success! The second concern was the element of practicality – fresh squeezed lemon juice was not going to work as there was too much waste and slowed the process,  so we settled on bottled lemon juice (but the good stuff: Real Lemon brand). After that it was just a matter of adjusting the amount of each along with the water and ice to get the perfect balance between sweet and tangy. We added a wedge of lemon for garnish, a straw and were ready for mass production.
  2. A food permit. Your local health inspector will have a list of what is required to get the go ahead. Basics normally include having food safe or someone with food safe on premise, creating a food safety plan, and having the appropriate working environment. As home kitchens are not food safe for selling stuff for profit I would recommend keeping this to a front yard endeavour and you won’t need to worry about a permit.
  3. A work station. Even a front yard space needs somewhere for the “vendor” to sell their wares. For us we used a first up tent just to keep it contained,  but the more important part was a plastic portable table to work on and coolers to hold the ingredients. If you use the hand made approach hands get sticky. I really liked the hand washing station recommended by our health inspector and plan on using that for our camping trips from now on. All that is required is a small bench/stool, a bucket, a roll of paper towel, pump hand soap and a coleman (or other brand) 5 gallon water carrier. Fill the water carrier with hot water from your sink, prop it on it’s side on the bench, put a bucket under to catch the dirty water and stick the towels and soap on the bench beside it. Instant running water and hand washing station!
  4. The tools. To make individual recipes we wanted to measure our ingredients like a pro as we mixed them, so jiggers or something that could measure ounces was required. I settled on the 2 oz red disposable shot cups that were chap and plentiful for the liquid ingredients, and some plastic measuring cups for the dry ingredients. Another compromise was our shakers: in our testing phase we realized quickly that the standard martini shaker wasn’t going to be roomy enough to adequately mix the volume of ingredients we were serving. (Did I mention our cup size was the big red solo cup?) The other challenge was that our sweetener needed to dissolve. This meant that there was a whole lot of shakin goin’ on! The solution: Ziplock twist and lock 32 oz round storage containers, which were perfect for this, lots of room and no spilling as you shake. My husband picked up “The Mason Shaker” for me as a bonus, it’s size is ideal for larger drinks and it worked beautifully. Along with that we used a cocktail strainer, standard cocktail shaker base (for measuring ice & water) a knife and cutting board to slice up fresh lemons for garnish and squeeze bottles to make pouring lemon juice simpler.

Ok so what is the perfect recipe? Well that normally depends on how sweet or sour you like your lemonade but here is a way to have both options.

Hand Made Lemonade (Traditional)

  • 2 oz bottled lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup berry sugar
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 cup water (approx.)
  • 1/8 wedge lemon (or 1/4 if you prefer)

Measure and pour lemon juice and sugar into a ziplock or mason shaker. Measure ice to fill half of the bottom of a standard martini shaker (a plastic 2 cup shaker/measuring cup works well too) and add water to just cover the ice. Pour this into the larger shaker, seal and shake shake shake!

Here is the choice part: if you prefer a more tart lemonade strain the lemonade over fresh ice half filling a 16 oz cup and top with water if needed. If you prefer a sweeter lemonade pour the entire contents of shaker (ice and all) into the 16 oz cup and top with water if needed. What’s the diff? There will be some undissolved sugar clinging to the ice in the shaker giving the second option a sweeter flavour. Either way top with a wedge of lemon squeezed and then dropped into the cup, add a straw and smile at your new happy customer as you pass the drink to them.

Their Thoughts

Sold Out!! We ran the lemonade stand for two days – each day for 5 hours and had many return customers. In total we used 6 bottles of lemon juice, 5 bags of berry sugar, 16 bags of ice and 1 1/2 bags of lemons. I figure we served 125 lemonades over the two day period.

This project was designed for my 12 year old and she can now replicate it at home with ease. For a younger age group I would recommend adult supervision just to avoid too much “wasted” ingredients due to spillage and to control the number of times they forget not to lick their fingers!

Happy Labour Day!

Valentine’s Mocktails Review

Four very different valentines cocktails to consider for your sweethearts. From left to right: Mexican Chocolate Mocktail, Sweet Apple, Brazilian Strawberry Limeade & Hibiscus

Four very different Valentines cocktails to consider serving  your sweethearts this year. From left to right: Mexican Chocolate Mocktail, Red  Apple Delight, Brazilian Strawberry Limeade & Hibiscus Mocktail.

When I think about some of my most special Valentine’s Day memories they are with family. Going back as far as my childhood, I remember special valentines breakfasts where my mom made a special meal complete with strawberries, fancy pancakes and a chocolate. Dinner often had a little treat for each of us kids, and a card from my parents to each other that once read created a sentimental look in their eyes that us kids at the time didn’t understand.

At the time for us kids, Valentines was about getting  (or not getting) cards at school, and about chocolate and candy hearts, then later as a teen about who would (or would not) dance with you at the Valentine’s dance. And now as a parent and wife, I have come full circle and Valentine’s Day is again about family, sharing a special meal with them and a sentimental card with my spouse.

So as a mocktail enthusiast – I wanted to share some special Valentine’s drinks this year as part of our Valentine’s Day celebrations. The web is full of great pink, red and chocolate Valentine’s Mocktail ideas so we decide to try a few this Valentines weekend.

2015-02-13-by-eye-for-detail-005Hibiscus Mocktini

At Christmas I treated myself to a couple of Herbal Blossom Teas by Epicure that I hoped to try out in mixed drinks. One in particular called Scarlet O included rose petals, hibiscus and elderflowers – three ingredients that are hard to find up north. I also picked up rose water and hibiscus water on my trip to Vancouver – and so this recipe by jumped out at me when I was surfing the web. You can find the full recipe here and my adaptation below. The recipe serves 6.

Our Thoughts:

This is not a very sweet drink and resulted in mixed reviews from my family. The colour and presentation are fantastic and the drink has a very interesting flavour complex. But, my two girls found it needed additional sweetener and more ginger ale than the recommended amount, and even with a shot of grenadine and added ginger ale only one of the two (the youngest interestingly enough) finished her drink. All four of us found the drink tasted more like tea than a cocktail, and this drink rated the lowest for the majority of our family. Would it work for an adult party? Perhaps, with a twist of pineapple juice thrown in. I would also consider trying this with Dark Gingerale to see if the flavour blend works better. Having no Red Zinger in town though, I am not sure what a different Hibiscus Tea would do to the drink.

Kid-o-metre 1/5 Not enjoyed without adding extra sugar and pop, then only moderately.
Taste: 3/5  Very unique a flavour and for a sophisticated palate.
Simplicity: 5/5 Nothing hard in this from a mixologist perspective. Don’t even need a cocktail shaker!
Ingredient finding: 3/5 Red Zinger was not available, an alternative is thanks to a local home businesses – remaining ingredients easy to find.

2015-02-13-by-eye-for-detail-002Red Apple Delight

This recipe by SoberJulie looked like a elegant sparkling apple juice coloured by a touch of grenadine. I was intrigued by the addition of sweet lime juice suggested and decided to give it a try at our family Valentines dinner. You can find her recipe here. The basic ingredients are also below. This make 4 servings.

  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 3/4 cups sweet lime juice
  • 4 tsp grenadine syrup
  • 1/4 cup carbonated water
  • 1 cup crushed ice
Our Thoughts:

This drink reminded me too much of Sunripe Apple Lime blend – while the presentation was elegant the drink itself could have used more fizz than it called for. That begin said, my youngest chose this as her second favourite drink of the four we tried over the evening.

Kid-o-metre 3/5 Kids had mixed feelings about it. One didn’t finish her glass and said it was too lime tasting for her.
Taste: 2/5  Isn’t really special enough and too much like something out of a carton.
Simplicity: 5/5 Very easy to make. The garnish is a little tricky, but by the third one I had mastered it.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 All ingredients used to be easy to get locally, however my store has stopped carrying grenadine… sigh!

The next two recipes were from a list of 6 truly inspiring Valentines Mocktail ideas by One Good Thing by Jillee who had come up with amazing recipes including exotic ingredients like pomegranate juice, papaya nectar, blood orange juice as well as more common (but hard to find in my town) ingredients like white grape juice and colourful sorbets. I wish I could try all her ideas, but am settling on two – the first one using strawberries and lime and the last using chocolate.

2015-02-13-by-eye-for-detail-003Brazilian Strawberry Limeade

This recipe is similar to something I had thought of while considering how to incorporate strawberries and cream into a drink. Jillee uses a combination of simple syrup laced with lime, strawberry puree and sweetened condensed milk to create a pink tinted creamy mixture. You can find her recipe here and the ingredients you will need are listed below. This drink makes a full pitcher (about 2 litres) ready to serve to 8 to 10 guests depending on size of glass.

  • 4 smooth, thin-skinned limes, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 6 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 pound strawberries, pureed
  • Ice
  • Light corn syrup (optional)
  • Red sugar (optional)
  • sliced strawberries and limes for garnish
Our Thoughts:

This drink rated in the top two for the majority of our family. The blend of fresh lime juice, strawberry puree and condensed milk is very sweet and natural tasting and I was amazed at how sweet the drink was considering that the sugar syrup is very light (1:6) and the only other sugar is in the condensed milk (6 tbsp in an entire batch).

I used fresh strawberries for this recipe (about 400 grams) and blended them with half the sugar syrup after blending (then straining) the limes with the other half. The original recipe calls for pureed berries – and having no pre-pureed strawberries I improvised. This may have mixed the drink more effectively – and also added more sweetness from the strawberries since they were almost liquified in the blender.

I would serve this at any Valentine’s Day party – and happily pay for this drink in a bar if it was available.

Kid-o-metre 4.5/5 Kids enjoyed it, but it was not the first choice for either, but both finished their glass!
Taste: 4.5/5  Fantastic! Truly worth the work and cost of ingredients and it’s a huge party sized batch.
Simplicity: 3/5 There is some time required to make this drink, and a blender is an absolute necessity. (Sorry Mom!)
Ingredient finding: 5/5 All ingredients for this were readily available at my local store in my little town.

Mexican Chocolate Mocktail

2015-02-13-by-eye-for-detail-004Chocolate is a must at Valentine’s Day as is cinnamon. Infact if I had to choose, I would pick the cinnamon hearts over a box of chocolate any day. So when I read the ingredients for this Mocktail on Jillee’s website, that she adapted from by adding a red sugared rim, I had to try the recipe out. I would have liked to adapt it slightly myself – by adding crushed cinnamon hearts instead of red coloured sugar – but cinnamon hearts are not available this year locally. The ingredients are below, and you can check out the links to see the full instructions.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
2 cups almond milk, chilled
  • 4 glasses
  • Light corn syrup (optional)
  • Red sugar (optional)
Our Thoughts:

Wow! I am not a huge chocolate milk fan, but the cinnamon, cocoa and almond milk make this drink an absolute dream. This drink rated equal to the last recipe in our home. The recipe makes a perfect four servings and there was not a drop left in any glass. I would still love to try this with crushed cinnamon hearts – sigh. Maybe next year!

Kid-o-metre 4.5/5 Kids chose this as first and second choice of the four drinks.
Taste: 4.5/5  Like I say… Wow! This does require almond milk – which isn’t cheap, but well worth the investment.
Simplicity: 5/5 This is very easy to make. Requires some time for cooling of the ingredients, but no special tools.
Ingredient finding: 5/5 All easily found locally.

I would love to create something new, and may spend a little time on Valentine’s Day coming up with my own creation, but while Valentine’s is about love – and I love mixology – it’s about relationships. So my goal for the day is to spend as much time with those I love as I can, being a mom and a wife and a friend.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A Bitter Story

Bitters and infusions.

Bitters and infusions, having bottles is so nice. Left to Right: Orange, Angostura & Aztec Chocolate Bitters, Hibiscus and Lavender Water. Far Right: Experimenting with Infusions – Grapefruit.

Living in a small town limits the drink recipes that can be created somewhat as the selection available to a admixture drink mixer is limited. While many items can be made with a bit (or a lot) of work if the basic ingredients are available this is not true of every item used in cocktails and some of the basic items are worth considering a trip to the big city or the shipping to have them sent to you.

One of my most missed ingredients is bitters. Virgin drinks are mostly juice, syrup or pop based. This leads to many being sweet and if one blends too many sweet items together – well it becomes unpalatable. One can use infusions – tea like creations made with water and flavouring agents without the sugar, to help cut the sweetness and I continue to experiment with teas and fruit, but sometimes one needs a strong concentrated hit to enhance or add interest to a drink without adding volume.
Bitters in cocktails play the role of seasonings in food, adding an element of interest but also toning down the sweetness in the drink and bringing the more subtle flavours to the front. (For the non-virgin drink makers bitters are a must in old-fashioned or manhattan cocktails.)
There are loads of great websites that teach how to make your own bitters, which I used when first starting out in October – creating a bitters from thyme and grapefruit appropriate for the apple cocktails I was creating. Lately I have found that bitters are not a one fits all ingredient, and that a selection of flavours is necessary to expand my drink making options.
Most bitters recipes call for grain alcohol and a selection of herbs, spices and botanicals. If you are interested in making your own, it looks like you can order a “build your own custom bitters kit” through Etsy and then use one of the great online sites to make your own.
Some suggested sites to check out are listed at the end of this blog but three types of bitters stood out as must haves for me in 2015: Orange, Chocolate and Angostura Bitters.

Orange Bitters

Orange Bitters are a bit more complex than simply infusing orange rind in liquor. The orange bitters recipe from is fairly straight forward, and most ingredients can be found in your grocery store: Orange peel, fennel, coriander, cardamon all are pretty accessible. Gentian extract is more challenging to come by. I found the product at Mountain Rose Herbs and on but have been deliberating about dealing with shipping costs for the one, and as a Canadian am not privy to purchasing from the other.

Chocolate Bitters

Chocolate Bitters according to the recipe on is fairly complex with 14 ingredients. Wow! Adventuers in cooking hot chocolate bitters recipe calls for extracts – which are fairly hard to find in small towns such as mine. After my experience making my own cacao syrup with mixed results,I have been hoping for a true chocolate flavour to add to drinks and trying to decide how to best go about this.

Angostura Bitters

According to Angostura Bitters calls for 13 ingredients. HooBoy! That 7 dollar prepared bottle is looking like a really good idea about now, if it were not for the extravagant shipping! Fortunately that is not the end of the (Bitter) Story.
This year, Christmas holidays included a trip to big city (Vancouver) and led to a fruitful shopping extrusion to Gourmet Warehouse where I picked up these three bitters as well as some other additions (floral flavoured waters) to my drink making kit. So, while at some point I will experiment again with making my own bitters and infusions (which from all research can often be far nicer)… for the time being I am going to explore what can be done with these fabulous additions and take some of the guess work out of virgin recipe making.
Make your own bitters online instruction sites:

Blackberry Peppercorn Lemonade Review

Black Pepper Syrup gives quite a kick to this virgin cocktail.

Black Pepper Syrup gives quite a kick to this virgin cocktail.

In creating drinks without the kick of alcoholic beverages, finding alternate ingredients to add the interest becomes part of the fun and challenge for mixologists.

Black pepper syrup is an intriguing idea – sweet but with a heat and a hint of acidy and a brilliant flavour complex. There are many recipes online for this syrup, generally recommending a combination of cracked and whole peppercorns along with water and sugar. The cracked peppercorns deliver more heat, while the whole fruit provides a more mellow and rich flavour complex. In drink mixing this syrup often is paired with grapefruit, citrus and/or berries, are added to martinis for added heat.

(If you are interested in the recipe for the syrup I will be using check my blog here where I use it in a snake venom shooter I created over halloween.)

When looking up virgin drinks, I found two that paired blackberries with peppercorn syrup and added lemon to round out the flavours. Our family tested both.

Black and Blue Lemonade

This first recipe from FoodRepublic has all the makings of a great summer drink. The combination of black pepper syrup, fresh berries, lemons and a hint of basil for additional interest are all seasonal —especially up north — and more likely to be found in the summer months. The drink calls for muddling fresh basil, blackberries in the syrup and adding to a combination of 2 parts lemon juice to 1 part soda water. This drink is a very fresh and bright tasting with a serious kick from the lemons and peppercorns. You can find the recipe here.

Black Pepper Lemonade

Dole foods promotes their frozen products with a lemonade using frozen blackberries. This is a great option for a drink that can be made all season. The recipe is simple, also using fresh lemon juice, black pepper syrup and blackberries muddled in a glass, strained and poured over ice. This is in my opinion more of a martini as the drink is left concentrated, but they recommend serving it over ice, which will help to dilute the taste. As an added interest, the recipe calls for a salt and pepper rimmer. You can find the entire recipe with the syrup they used, the rimmer and the drink here.
My Thoughts:
My family found the Black Pepper Lemonade sweeter and more flavourful than the the more earthy Black and Blue Lemonade. However the pepper is very prominent and we cut the recipe by half for the kids. The Salt & Pepper Rimmer was not popular amongst the younger crowd either, but as someone who adores peppercorn encrusted steak and tenderloin, the addition made the drink all that more spectacular. On a hot summer day though, I can see choosing the more subtle, tart and complex flavour of the Black and Blue Lemonade to quench my thirst, the brightness of the fresh ingredients and the fizz of the soda are a combination that is hard to resist.
At the end of the day our family voted. Black Pepper Lemonade came out victorious.
Kid-o-metre 5/5
Taste: 4/5 
preferred the non fizzy drink
Simplicity: 4/4 
for the Black Pepper Lemonade which was simpler to create
Ingredient finding: 3/5 
Blackberries (fresh and frozen) and basil are not commonly found all year locally.


Happy Thanksgiving to my Southern Neighbours!

Up North we are bundled up, shovelling snow and wishing to be in warmer places today, perhaps on vacation, perhaps just curled up by a fire. Christmas is coming, black friday approaches and holiday plans are afoot.

Today is Thanksgiving in the USA, celebrated along with much football watching, with family and friends. So if this is your time to celebrate, and your looking for something to serve your designated drivers, young family members or yourselves as you enjoy each other’s company and watch the games, check out my posts from October with lots of great Thanksgiving drink ideas.

Looking for something made from apples this Thanksgiving? click here and here for six apple drink recipes from sparklers to shooters that anyone can enjoy.

How about pears? Click here for two “pear-fect” virgin recipes.

Love Pumpkin? So do I. Click here are two recipes that our family tested and enjoyed.

So whether you are rooting for the Eagles or Cowboys in the 2:30 game or the Seahawks or 49ers in the evening game, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And be warm, safe and happy!


To me the idea of drinking anything is primarily because it tastes good. Growing up I was taught to be aware of the side effects of alcohol, but it was the taste of some drinks – or perhaps, as I look back, the strength – that made me choose to avoid alcoholic beverages. As an adult now, with kids of my own, I hope that they will make wise decisions around alcohol. And there are many choices now, the corner coffee shop offers flavours, hot and cold coffees, lattes;  the local grocery store offers non-alcoholic wines and beers; and the internet is full of recipes and ideas that are appropriate for any age.

Non-alcoholic beverages don’t have to be childish, we’ve come a long way from a choice of a Shirley Temple, Roy Rogers or a virgin daiquiri. In the last 20 years I have been interested in the idea of great tasting drinks that adults can enjoy without loosing out on the flavour. I would go on a hunt for an unusual drink for a Christmas Party or to sit back on the porch with, find things I liked, some I didn’t, make alterations to the recipe, get feedback from family and friends… and then forget about it.

In 2009 Julie & Julia was released in theatres, and a few years ago I watched the movie with my parents while visiting. The idea of one woman blogging her experience with another person’s recipes inspired me.

I love research, experimenting with tastes & textures, coming up with alternates for the usual.

I hope to document the original sources so you can go back and find where I first found the recipes, what my thoughts are on the recipe, how easy it is to find the ingredients, what alternates there are if the recipe was originally alcohol dependent, and how it rates on a Kid-O-Metre.

Will I do a recipe a day? Nope, can’t make that promise. But I will try to make it fun to read, show you lots of pretty pictures, and give you some inspiration to try something yum.