Is it possible to avoid sugar in cocktails without sacrificing the balance and flavor? Coming from a fan of sugar AND cocktails, the short answer is…YES.
Sugar! As a hippy kid who wasn’t allowed to have much of it, I worshipped at the altar of the candy aisle at the corner 7-11; At friends’ houses growing up, I gave into the siren song of cookie jars brimming with freshly baked goods. I’ve been seduced by sugar-filled sweeties for most of my life, but, luckily, I’ve found balance along the way. I no longer stockpile Nerds and Hot Tamales at the bottom of my backpack. My dependence on the sweet stuff now looks like a dark chocolate bar in the freezer that gets broken off in baby increments throughout the week….and the occasional cocktail, of course!
If you are a regular follower of this here blog, you’ve probably noticed that I often write about the importance of balance in a cocktail and that sweetness is a key component when countering the acidic parts of a drink. But when it comes to creating original cocktails, I try to use refined sugar sparingly, often substituting maple syrup or alternative sweeteners instead.
I’ve also found that over time my palate tends to err in favor of drier concoctions. The one thing I regularly stay away from is fake sugar and diet foods – mostly because they often don’t taste as good as the real stuff!
As a drinks blogger and recipe creator, yumminess will always be the priority! But for those trying to avoid sugar altogether AND imbibe in boozy deliciousness, what are you to do?
Leave it to the folks at Reed’s – the company behind the most popular all-natural craft ginger beer in the country – to create a product that is sugar free, has the familiar Jamaican-inspired ginger-y kick they are known for, and, most importantly, is delicious!
With the continued interest in eliminating sugar and the popularity of ketogenic-style diets, Reed’s has developed their first product with a proprietary all-natural sweetener that has zero-sugar and zero-calories – Reed’s Zero Sugar Ginger Beer. I’m ALWAYS skeptical of these types of things, but I’m honestly blown away by how good this new product tastes, and how versatile it is in cocktails. Plus, because it is made with fresh organic ginger, I can feel even better about it! My inner hippy kid is satisfied in all the ways!
Speaking of cocktails…one of the first drinks I thought of to make this with was a twist on a spicy ginger margarita. It IS the middle of August, after all, and margarita season is still in full swing!
The generous addition of Reed’s Zero Sugar Ginger Beer adds a refreshing effervescence and real ginger spice to this recipe. I’ve also replaced the traditional sugary sweet orange liqueur with orange extract for that necessary orange flavor. I made sure to keep plenty of lime juice for brightness and used a quality tequila, of course. The extra zing in this drink is a dash of habanero bitters!
Easy, refreshing, delicious AND won’t put you in a sugar coma? Make it 2! Look out for this new and exciting new launch coming to a store near you.
INSTRUCTIONS In an ice-filled shaker add tequila, lime juice, orange extract and bitters. Shake until well chilled. Strain into an ice filled margarita glass with a half salted rim. Top with Reed’s Zero Sugar Ginger Beer.
This post was sponsored (and powered!) by Reed’s Ginger Beer. As always, all opinions are my own.
Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur was created five years ago in Australia by distiller Philip Moore and coffee-enthusiast and designer, Tom Baker. A first of its kind, Mr Black is a coffee liqueur made with single origin cold brew coffee and Australian wheat vodka. Utilizing cold extraction, and using a slow-drip method, the resulting liqueur has half the sugar and 10 times the coffee of traditional coffee liqueurs. It is truly a cold brew spirit for coffee purists.
The brand has been embraced by the international cocktail community and is already the number one selling Australian craft sprit in the US since they launched in NY last year. I was at the official LA launch a few months back and had the chance to interview co-founder Tom Baker and Mr Black’s Global Coffee Ambassador, Martin Hudak for this week’s podcast episode.
This week’s cocktail recipe is the Cold Fashioned:
Cold Fashioned 1.5 oz Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur 1 oz Rye Whiskey Dash Orange Bitters Orange Twist – garnish
Stir with ice. Serve in rocks glass. Orange twist garnish.
This week’s Bit by a Fox Podcast is a fun one! On a recent visit to New York City, I met up with my friend Kristen Meinzer. Kristen is an award-winning podcast host & producer – she’s hosted three successful podcasts, including By The Book, along with Moth Storyslam winner Jolenta Greenberg and When Meghan Met Harry, along with MTVUK host James Barr. She is ALSO the author of the upcoming book So You Want to Start a Podcast which goes on sale next Tuesday August 6th. Sooooo, when Kristen asks if you want to record in Stitcher’s fancy af podcast studio in midtown Manhattan and talk about drinking alone in your underwear? YOU SAY YES.
Päntsdrunk is a way of life. It’s a philosophy. It’s the Finnish approach to relaxation and contentment. Essentially, Päntsdrunk is the Finnish concept of drinking alone in your underwear. The book Päntsdrunk, written by Miska Rantanen, was published last year and was a huge hit. Kristen and her podcast co-host Jolenta lived the Pantsdrunk life for 2 weeks for their hit show By The Book and according to Kristen, it may not have brought on the contentment she was promised. As a professional drinks expert, in this episode, I helped her break down exactly what it means to be Päntsdrunk, and why it may not resonate with everyone.
This week’s cocktail is a combo of Kristen’s favorite drink as well as the Päntsdrunk drink of choice in Finland – beer.
Blended Beer Margaritas for a Pitcher that’ll serve 6-8 (you can always freeze the rest for later) 12 oz can frozen limeade 12 oz Blanco Tequila 1 bottle beer – light lager or pilsner ice
In a blender, combine all ingredients and fill with ice. Blend on low until working up in speed, careful not to go too high because of the beer. Blend until smooth. Add salt to glass and serve!
It seems like people in the drinks industry, me included, have been singing the praises of wine based aperitifs for a number of years now. Bartenders and hard core cocktail nerds have been serving up and sipping on various amari and fortified wines since the craft cocktail resurgence this past decade.
It’s an incredibly versatile cocktail ingredient, pairs well with food and is a lovely low ABV option to have it on its own. But it’s taken the average consumer a hot second to wrap their palates around this product that’s not quite wine…not quite spirit. The spritz craze has helped to change all that, and new kid on the block Lo-Fi Aperitifs are HERE FOR IT.
Founded in 2016 in San Francisco as a collab between the world’s largest family owned winery, E&J Gallo and designer and drinks industry veteran, Steven Grasse – creator of Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry Rum – Lo-Fi’s roots have some serious gravitas behind it. Not to mention, the bottles are major eye candy.
But what about what’s INSIDE those swoon-worthy bottles? While Lo-Fi Aperitifs has been testing out the market since their launch in 2016 in northern California and the east coast, they only recently officially launched in Los Angeles, and I was able to try all three of their products – a Dry Vermouth, a Sweet Vermouth and a wine based Gentian Amaro. I was blown away by how delicious each of these was on its own and immediately inspired to work them into cocktails.
Vermouth has gotten a bad wrap for too long. Those dusty bottles in the back bar that turned when you weren’t paying attention? Recent history, folks! I’ve seen the future of vermouth and Lo-Fi is doing some magical things with the category.
There are two vermouths in Lo-Fi’s product line, both are incredible on their own, and I HAVE to emphasize that, but I also love playing with them in simple cocktails where they really shine. I’ve always been a fan of a 50/50 martini with an aperitif that can stand up to a quality gin. The Lo-Fi Martini is no exception.
Lo-Fi’s Dry Vermouth skews slightly sweeter with tons of citrus, a touch of elderflower and anise and subtle spice. It pairs well with a London-style dry gin and a lemon twist. For this iteration, I thought I’d bring out the savory aspects a bit more by adding a green olive garnish.
LO-FI MARTINI 1 1/2 oz London Dry Gin 1 1/2 oz Lo-Fi Dry Vermouth dash of aromatic bitters
Stir ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with green olives.
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite from the three Lo-Fi products, but I have to say their Sweet Vermouth has got to be one of the most delicious fortified wines I’ve ever had.
The flavor profile is surprisingly complex and easy drinking at the same time. Cocoa, orange peel, cinnamon, and stone fruit – namely apricot – are just some of the many nuanced flavors that come through.
With its wine roots, and the incredibly bright stone fruit coming through, I thought of pairing it with brandy right away. A splash of tonic makes for a refreshing sipper that doesn’t mask the beautiful fruit and spice flavors.
LO-FI SWEET BRANDY TONIC 2 oz Lo-Fi Sweet Vermouth 1 oz Brandy Splash Tonic (to taste) Lemon Twist
Build in rocks glass with ice. Garnish with lemon twist.
Oh! Did someone mention a spritz earlier?!
Like everyone on the planet who likes deliciously refreshing beverages, Lo-Fi has recognized the popularity of the spritz cocktail. They have realized its potential, and with their incredibly quaffable Gentian Amaro, they are taking it to the next level.
At 40-proof, their amaro packs more of a punch than some of the traditional liqueurs used to make a spritz. The bitterness is also beautifully balanced by ginger, sweet citrus and exotic flowers. Like all of Lo-Fi’s products, it is incredibly luscious and easy to drink.
All three of these drinks are perfect for the sweltering summer months, but the spritz is especially made for this kind of weather. Now that you’ve gotten to know a bit about Lo-Fi, you have no excuse. Pick up a few of those photogenic bottles, make your new favorite thirst quencher, and spread the word – National Spritz Day is gonna be a thing!
LO-FI SPRITZ 3 oz Sparkling Wine 2 oz Lo-Fi Gentian Amaro 1 oz Soda Orange Slice Garnish
Build in wine glass over ice. Garnish with orange slice.
This post was sponsored by Lo-Fi Aperitifs. As always, all opinions are my own!
Two weeks ago on the Bit by a Fox Podcast we did a deep dive into Japanese rice wine, Sake and this week’s show is a great follow up to that episode – we dive into Japanese spirit, Shochu.
Like Sake, Shochu is native to Japan, has a long and storied history over centuries, and uses koji, the same fermentation starter or mold that is used to make miso or soy sauce. But unlike sake, Shochu is a distilled spirit, is made from everything from sweet potatoes to barley to black sugarcane and, it outsells sake by 50%. It is also the national spirit of Japan but is still fairly unknown in the states.
Paul Nakayama wants to change all that. He and his wife recently started the small brand Nankai Shochu, inspired by a fateful night on their honeymoon in Japan a few years prior. I interviewed Paul at David Chang’s first west coast restaurant – at downtown LA’s majordomo – which turned out to be an important place when Nankai Shochu first launched.
This week’s cocktail recipe is the Yuzu Pop aka Nankai Mule.
Yuzu Pop 2 oz Nankai Shochu 4 oz Ginger Beer Splash Yuzu Juice
In a rocks filled highball glass, add all ingredients and stir.
This week’s guest on the Bit by a Fox Podcast, is Tim Sullivan, an unlikely expert and educator of the Japanese rice wine, sake. After devoting the last decade to this versatile beverage and learning the hands on craft of sake brewing in Japan, Tim is now one of the top sake experts in the US, a national sake educator, and a Global Brand Ambassador of Hakkaisan Sake Brewery based in Niigata, Japan.
In this episode, Tim breaks down the fundamentals of Sake, explains why sake rice is so special, what makes it the most versatile food pairing beverage in the world, and how the process behind making it is most similar to brewing beer.
Over the course of the interview at Downtown LA’s Exchange Restaurant in the Freehand Hotel, I tried two exciting bottles from Hakkaisan Brewery that everyone should know about – Hakkaisan Clear Sparkling “AWA” – made using a secondary in-bottle fermentation…
…and a sake that has been aged for three years buried deep in the snow. The Junmai Ginjo Genshu Sake is matured and chilled by tons of actual snow stored in an insulated room, called a “Yukimuro”.
We may have had a bit of an unusually late start here in Los Angeles, but there’s no mistaking it now – we are in the serious throes of Summer. You know what that means…it’s officially MARGARITA SEASON.
I mean, it’s always margarita season in America where this universally beloved drink remains the most popular cocktail for like 20 years in a row. There’s actually been studies done that reveal people will rationalize spending more money on a margarita than other drinks. She’s popular AND worth it!
How do you make this beauty queen of cocktails even better?! By deepening the flavor profile and increasing the antioxidant intake by like 1000 percent with the addition of Argentine Yerba Mate tea. This margarita got an Argentinian upgrade and her new name is Mate-rita!
As a resident recipe creator for Argentine Yerba Mate, y’all know by now my obsession with using Argentine Yerba Mate as a cocktail ingredient. I especially love it with tequila and it seems to work really well in sour drinks. The tea-like flavors really benefit from the citrus and agave. And that’s before mentioning any of the many health benefits – Argentine Yerba Mate has more antioxidants than green tea, it’s packed with vitamins, reduces inflammation, and even helps to protect your heart. Oh! And it has a slight caffeine boost that gives this Mate-rita that extra energizing zing!
Mate-rita – 8 servings 2 cups Blanco Tequila 1/2 cup Orange Liqueur 1 cup lime juice 1 cup pre-sweetened Argentine Yerba Matetea*
Add all ingredients to a pitcher and fill with ice. Serve in margarita glasses rimmed with salt. Garnish with a thin lime wheel.
* Steep one cup of Argentine Yerba Mate and strain. Add preferred sweetener ( I like agave nectar with this drink) to steeped Yerba Mate liquid, and set aside to cool.
You can find Argentine Yerba Mate brands in specialty tea stores and in select Whole Foods Markets across the U.S. You can also purchase on Amazon.com.
We had the opportunity to dine in the middle of vineyards, hang with winemakers and taste some of the best wines being made in this country.
It felt incredibly special and it totally was, but these magical experiences are fairly accessible to just about anyone interested in learning more about the region…
No one knows this better than long-time Sonoma resident, Beth Costa, Executive Director and host of Wine Road – a website and award-winning podcast devoted to the all things Northern Sonoma wine country.
We spoke about what makes this region so unique, and what Beth’s perfect Sonoma day looks like.
English sparkling wine is suddenly all the rage with wine experts and enthusiasts alike. But it’s been bubbling up for the last 30-40 years, spearheaded by the leading English sparkler (and apparently the royal family’s fave), Chapel Down.
I recently sat down with head wine maker Josh Donaghay-Spire while he was in town, and we chatted about the exciting category of English sparkling wine.
This week’s cocktail recipe is an English winemaker’s twist on the classic French 75…
English 75 1.5 oz of London Dry Gin .5 oz lemon juice .5 oz simple syrup Chapel Down Brut
Shake the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup over ice. Strain into a chilled flute or coupe glass, and top with Chapel Down Brut.
A few summers back – an especially scorching one from what I remember – a pink frothy frozen libation swept the country and, seemingly overnight, every restaurant and bar had their own version of blush colored concoctions to please the masses.
With the rising temps, the feverish interest in all things rosé, and the perfect portmanteau of frozen + rosé, the stars aligned and Froséwas born.
Three years later, the trend seems to have slightlychilled (sorry!). The interest has dipped partly because people were finding out that many of these frozen versions of wine cocktails contained far more sugar than expected. As many of us know, massive amounts of sugar combined with wine and hard alcohol results in a superslushiesized hangover the next day. Talk about brain freeze!
The beautiful thing about this adultslurpee, however, is it doesn’t even need all that sugar. I mean, it has blended fresh fruit and juice in it, so you can practically treat it like a smoothie…with wine! I really took that idea to heart and even added a powerful boost of Argentine Yerba Matetea for my version of Yerba MateFrosé. Welcome to your summer future, guys.
For this recipe, I created a simple yerba mate tea syrup for that bit of sweetness and earthy depth of flavor.
We’re on the other side of Memorial Day weekend, June 8 is National Rosé Day, and there is no better time than the present to ready those blenders, chill TF out of your favorite dry rosé, and commit this recipe to memory for all of your al fresco fetes!
Yerba MateFrosé 1 Bottle Full-bodied Dry Rosé Wine 1/4 cup Argentine Yerba Mate Simple Syrup* 2 cups Frozen Strawberries 2 oz Fresh Lemon Juice 1 cup Ice Pour bottle of Rosé Wine into ice cube trays and freeze 6-12 hours. Once frozen, combine rosé cubes in a blender with the simple syrup, strawberries, lemon juice, and about a cup of ice. Blend until it is a smooth,slushielike consistency. Serve with fresh, edible flowers.
* Steep one cup of Argentine Yerba Mate and strain. Add steeped Yerba Mate liquid to a small saucepan with one cup sugar. At medium-high heat, whisk until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 2 months. (good for about two batches of Yerba MateFrosé)
You can find Argentine Yerba Mate brands in specialty tea stores and in select Whole Foods Markets across the U.S. You can also purchase Argentine Yerba Mate on Amazon.com.