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Sparkling Mint Lemonade

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A few months ago, completely sick of buying fresh herbs at the grocery store, I decided to take matters into my own hands and grow my own herbs. Now, that may sound like something relatively easy for the average person, as dirt, sun, and plants are all you need. Easier said than done when you live in an apartment with very little natural light and no outside space (besides a small front stoop).

After evaluating my options I decided to go with a pot hanging from the railing in front of my apartment entrance. So I headed to the nearest hardware store to get myself a planter, dirt, and herbs. I had a list of about 20 herbs I might want, but the selection was a bit lacking so I ended up settling on mint, basil, rosemary, sage, chives, thyme, and oregano.

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Sadly the size of the planter isn’t very conducive to growing huge plants. I won’t be plucking cup after cup of basil to make copious amounts of pesto but for the most part it has been fulfilling my needs. I ended up being rather impressed by the fact that I was able to harvest almost a cup of mint.

While lemonade is the quintessential summer beverage, every now and then I think it needs a bit more flavor. The addition of any kind of berry is highly recommended and while I’ve enjoyed both rosemary as well as basil lemonade, the addition of mint is incredibly refreshing and most certainly my favorite. Swapping still water for sparkling also makes this a bit more festive and if you feel compelled to add a bit of vodka, I most certainly wouldn’t judge (and would most likely encourage it).

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Sparkling Mint Lemonade

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh mint, ripped into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 cups plain, unflavored sparkling water
  • Vodka (optional)
  • Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Add 1 cup water, and torn mint leaves into a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, add sugar, and cook for a few seconds until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and leave at room temperature until cooled and basil has infused the simple syrup.

Strain mint syrup through a fine mesh sieve into a large pitcher. Add fresh lemon juice and sparkling water. Pour in as much vodka as desired. Enjoy!

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Five-Spice Simple Syrup & My Favorite Coffee Cocktail

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As far as weather goes, this time of the year is certainly… uhhhh….. the most interesting. Here in Seattle I’ve seen the weather go from a heavy downpour to blue skies and sunny then to a light drizzle during the past 30 minutes. And by the time I finish writing this post I’m sure the weather will have drastically changed at least once or twice more. C’est la vie.

While such sporadic, unpredictable, rainy, and dreary weather can make spending time outdoors rather complicated (definitely won’t be going on a picnic or hike anytime soon), I like the fact that I can still enjoy something dear to my heart: coffee based drinks. While I’ve been known to enjoy Spanish and Irish Coffees all year round, there’s just something odd about ordering a piping hot coffee cocktail when it’s 85 degrees outside (which, for Seattle, is crazy hot). I try to eat and drink according to the season, which is why I have no qualms with a bit more rain, as I can continue to enjoy hot, boozy, coffee drinks.

My new favorite coffee drink is so incredibly easy to make. It’s a spiced simple syrup, rum, and coffee. The spiced simple syrup is fast and easy to make and can be used in a ton of different drinks. Once made it will last up to a month in the refrigerator.

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Five-Spice Simple Syrup

Adapted from Imbibe Magazine

  •  5 whole star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns (I couldn’t easily find these so used black peppercorns and found they worked just fine)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar

Place star anise, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and peppercorns in a ziplock bag. Seal bag and smash (I did this by hitting the bag with a rolling pin several times). Crushing the spices helps release some of the flavor. Heat a medium sized pot over medium heat (make sure the pot is completely dry). Add spices and heat, allowing them to toast (this also brings out flavor). Once they become incredibly aromatic (this won’t take long, minutes at the very most), add sugar and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool in the pot until room temperature. Strain through a very fine mesh sieve.  Store in refrigerator for up to a month.

Air-runn’s Favorite Coffee

  • 1/2 ounce Five-Spice Simple Syrup
  • 1 1/2 ounces dark rum
  • 1 cup pipping hot coffee (I prefer an Americano—2 shots of espresso and roughly 1/2-3/4 cup water depending on how strong you prefer)

Mix together all ingredients in a coffee mug and enjoy!

Is this delicious topped with whipped cream? Why yes, it is. Is it good with a splash of Irish Cream? Yup! Feel free to add either but I definitely enjoyed the taste of this without… sometimes simple is better.

It’s Friday! Time for a Moscow Mule (with homemade ginger ale)

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I don’t know about y’all but I’m happy it’s Friday. It’s been a long, stressful week for me and I could use a good cocktail. My week has been packed with having lunch at various Seattle restaurants for Dine Around Seattle, searching store after store for birthday gifts, and of course, applying for and being rejected from jobs. Woe is me.

I love me a good Moscow Mule (vodka, ginger ale or ginger beer, and lime). While you can’t go wrong with anything that has vodka and is served in a really cool copper mug, the ginger ale/beer is what can really make or break the drink.

There are some really good gingery drink options available at specialty stores but I figured I’d give it a shot and try and make my own ginger ale. Can’t be that hard, right? I lucked out and found this pretty simple and delicious recipe, courtesy of Jean-Georges Vongerichten (from his book, Cooking At Home With a Four Star Chef).

Homemade Ginger Ale

  • 1 pound fresh ginger, unpeeled and cut into small dice
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 2 small fresh chilis, stems removed (I used Fresnos)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • Club soda
  • Lime wedges

I really like the warmth and spice of ginger so I was pretty intrigued by the addition of chilis (although who knows, maybe all ginger ale has chili peppers in it?) and I’ve never made anything with lemon grass before. In fact, I didn’t really even know what lemon grass looked like. Does it look like grass? Eh, kinda since it is green. Lemongrass vaguely resembles a large scallion or a small leek. If you’re worried about finding lemongrass, don’t worry. I found it at my local grocery store. The hardest part about this recipe was actually figuring out what lemongrass was.

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All you do is chop up the ginger, lemongrass, and chilis then pulse in a food processor. Then you mix it in a big ol’ pot with the sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Then simmer for 15 minutes. I’m sure the label I missed on a piece of ginger (one of 5 labels on the same piece) gave it some extra flavor.

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Doesn’t it look appetizing? No? Just looks gross? That’s okay. It will taste good. Image

If you decide to make your own ginger ale, I hope you like ginger, because it will make the entire kitchen (and in my case, entire apartment) smell like ginger.

After you’ve simmered you’ll let the mixture cool, strain it, and refrigerate it. Apparently this can be stored in the fridge for weeks but it’s so awesome you’ll probably consume it all within a few days.

If you want to drink this sans alcohol, mix ¼ a cup of the ginger syrup with club soda in a glass full of ice. Garnish with wedges of lime. Unless I’m drinking something with alcohol or coffee, I only drink water. However, this was really good on its own and doesn’t even warrant the addition of booze. Best of all, it’s really appropriate to drink all year. It’s really light, crisp, and refreshing on a summer night, but the warmth and spice make it comforting on a fall evening.

Moscow Mule

  • ¼ cup ginger reduction
  • ¼ cup vodka (or more…)
  • Club soda
  • Ice
  • Lime

Fill a glass (or preferably, a copper mug) with ice. Add first two ingredients then fill up with club soda. Lastly, spritz in some fresh lime.

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