I’m freshly back from a wonderful trip to Cuba. While I didn’t discover many amazing foodie delights to share with you, the food I experienced in Cuba was fresh and plentiful, but a bit on the plain side. I did however get a chance to cement my love of mojitos, which I’m fairly sure will be my drink of choice this summer. I also discovered a Cuban cocktail new to me, the Canchánchara at a beach party just outside of Trinidad. The beach party was fabulous complete with bonfire, Cuban band, sun setting into the ocean and the cocktails flowing.
My highlights from Cuba include the proud and passionate people, the amazing architecture – either crumbling or painstakingly restored, the music and salsa dancing.
Rum is cheap and plentiful in Cuba, and forms the basis for most Cuban cocktails. It is made with sugar cane or small guavas, ranging from white rums through to darker aged rums. Havana Club is the brand most easily obtained outside of Cuba, but Barcardi also originated in Cuba. This cocktail relies on a balance between sweet from the honey, sour from the lemon and a healthy kick from the rum. Lime and lemongrass can also be used instead of or as well as the lemon. Feel free to play with the ratios until you get a balance that is right for you. In the spirit of the margarita, and because of the heat in Cuba, you could also add a pinch of salt to replace some of the salts lost through sweating.
What I was cooking this time last year: Seasame Shortbread
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 shots of white rum
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Soda water or sparkling mineral water
- Add the honey, rum and lemon juice to a glass. Stir to combine.
- Add ice and fill the glass with sparkling water. Stir. Enjoy.
What is your favourite summer cocktail recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
While most of us are still getting over our overindulgent Christmas celebrations, it is time to start thinking about celebrating New Years Eve. New Years Eve tends to be a time for reflecting back on the past year (2012 was quite a roller coaster ride for me with a few lows but plenty of highs), remembering everything I have to be grateful for and looking forward to what lies ahead. For me, it also tends to be a time shared with friends, while Christmas is focused around spending quality time with family.
To help get you in a celebratory mood, I wanted to share this cocktail recipe with you. Nothing says celebration quite like the sound of a champagne cork popping (or in Australia, locally produced sparkling wine). For a delicious, affordable Australian sparkling wine, I recommend Yellowglen Cremant.
This drink combines the fizz of sparkling wine with the summer flavours of mint and passionfruit. I normally use Lemoncello, an Italian lemon liquor in this recipe, but my favourite local bottle shop Kemneys was all out, so I improvised and used Cointreau instead. You could use any citrus flavoured liquor you have available.
Wishing you a happy and healthy new year.
- 125mls ruby red grapefruit (zest before juicing, if you want to include zest in your recipe)
- 125mls Cointreau, Lemoncello or citrus liquor
- 5 passionfruit
- 20 mint leaves
- Sparkling wine or champagne
- Zest the grapefruit if you are adding zest to your recipe for extra citrus tang
- Juice the grapefruit, and add 125mls to a container with the zest
- Cut the passionfruit in half, and scrape the seeds and juice into the container
- Add the Cointreau or Lemoncello
- Finely chop the mint and add to the punch mix
- Stir your punch mix to combine, then freeze. Because of the high alcohol content the punch mix won’t freeze firm and you will end up with a slushy icy mix.
- When ready to serve, spoon a generous amount of your icy punch mix into a champagne glass, and top with sparking wine or champagne. Your sparkling punch cocktail is ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite New Years Eve ritual? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
As Christmas gets closer, I wanted to share with you a cocktail recipe that I think looks very festive with red and green colours. I can’t claim the Japanese Slipper cocktail recipe as my own, but I am borrowing it to include in my post today.
I used maraschino cherries or glace cherries, and managed to track down ones with the stems still intact. The stems make it easier to fish the cherry out of the bottom of your cocktail glass to eat when you have finished your drink. I don’t normally like maraschino cherries, but there is something kitch and appropriate about their bright red colour and candy like taste in this drink.
I’ve given quantities for one drink, but you can of course scale depending on how many you are catering for.
If limes are hard to come by or expensive, you could substitute lemon juice, or use half lemon and half lime juice.
- 1 maraschino cherry with stem
- 30mls lime juice
- 30mls Midori melon liqueur
- 30mls Cointreau liqueur
- Add a cherry to the bottom of your serving glass, I like to use a martini glass, but you could use a champagne glass or whatever else you think will look good.
- Fill up your cocktail shaker with ice
- Add the lime juice, Midori and Cointreau to the cocktail shaker
- Shake until everything is combined and chilled
- Strain your cocktail into the glass, keeping the ice out of your drink. Your cocktail is ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite Christmas cocktail? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
There is currently an ice-rink set up right on the sand at Bondi Beach, as part of the Bondi Winter Magic Festival. It is a very bizarre sight to see waves crashing behind the ice-rink. I really like the market stalls that accompany the rink, they remind me of European style Christmas markets, selling mulled wine and other treats to warm up the crowds. The thought of mulled wine inspired me to share this recipe with you for Winter Punch.
In the recipe I suggest you use calvados, which is an apple brandy. If you don’t have any calvados available you could use brandy or cognac or even try experimenting with the addition of some frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur. You could of course also make a non-alcoholic version and skip the alcohol altogether.
A fabulous ingredient in this recipe that deserves special mention is quince paste, sometimes referred to as quince cheese. Quince paste is also sold in tins labeled as dulce de membrillo. I find a tin of dulce de membrillo better value than the tiny tubs quince paste. You might be able to track down a tin (there are a few different brands) in your gourmet greengrocer or deli, quite often in the jam section. Once you open the tin, transfer the dulce de membrillo or quince paste to a plastic container and store in the fridge, it keeps well as it is a type of jam. I recommend using a wedge of quince paste on your cheese board – it works especially well served with a triple cream brie.
* This recipe was inspired by a Hot Apple Punch recipe by Louise Mackaness that appeared in a Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.
- 2 large oranges, zested and juiced
- 8 whole cloves
- 1 litre cloudy apple juice
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
- 100g quince paste
- 4 nips (30ml) of calvados, or other liquor, if using
- Add the orange juice, zest, cloves, apple juice, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, vanilla and quince paste to a saucepan. Heat over gentle heat, stirring until the quince paste dissolves.
- Once the paste is dissolved and the punch is warmed through, strain to remove the cloves, zest and cinnamon [keep the cinnamon sticks] and transfer the punch to 4 mugs.
- Add a nip of calvados or other liquor to each mug, if using.
- Add a cinnamon stick to each mug as a stirrer. Your punch is ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite warm winter drink? Has this post inspired any new ideas?