Mixology Monday: Pomegranate Star Sour


mxmologoWhat better way to start the week than with a twist on a classic. This month’s Mixology Monday theme (hosted by Andrea of Ginhound) is Sours, that class of drinks that is simply a spirit, a sour, and sugar. Usually the sour is citrus–it’s quite effective as far as sours go–but I had the better part of a bottle of pomegranate juice cooling its heels in my fridge and while some might describe pomegranate as tart, I’d say it does a good job of sour on its own.

So what to pair with it? Since the unsweetened pomegranate juice packs some serious pucker-power, I wanted to offset it with sweet without being too obvious about it. Enter Honey Bourbon, which does a wonderful job of being sweet and smokey all at once, without overpowering anything. Plus it’s a nod to the most celebrated version of this drink: the whiskey sour; there’s something to be said for keeping tradition alive and all that.

Now, you could say the bourbon would take care of the sugar aspect as well, but a 2-ingredient cocktail isn’t my preferred method. For the sugar element I pulled another staple in our fridge: the star anise sugar syrup that does so very well in my non-alcoholic punches.

Pomegranate Star Sour

Pomegranate Star Sour

Pomegranate Star Sour

1 1/2 oz Honey Bourbon
1 oz Pomegranate Juice
3/4 oz Star Anise Simple Syrup*

Combine ingredients over ice and shake. Strain into a chilled low ball glass (or, if you really want to step it up, an actual sour glass) and garnish with a twist of lemon and a spare anise star.

I admit, I prefer my drinks sweet, but mixing up a sour reminds me of the night I drove down to the coast to here a local band play. It was a questionable decision, at best, to go to an unknown bar alone, a good hour’s drive from home. A barefoot local sent me a drink, the bartender who delivered it cautioned me that while he was harmless that maybe it was better to sit at the bar rather than the corner of the room I’d chosen for the best view of the band. Some guys on a bachelor party outing also invited me out to their condo for an after party, and while they also seemed harmless enough, I stayed through the band’s final set, nursed my amaretto sour, and made it home without any additional adventures.

*For the Star Anise Simple Syrup, make a 1:1 simple syrup and simmer a couple of star anise pods in it for at least 5 minutes. I like to leave the pods in the mixture while storing it in the fridge to make sure the flavor doesn’t dull. Goes especially well with a glass of ginger beer.

The Cocktail To Be Named Later

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Because the name is, so far, totally eluding me.

Which is sorta weird because the names are usually what come to me first on a project like this, and help guide the rest of the components. I suppose I’m putting a wee bit of pressure on myself with this one and that’s why it’s taken me this long to get this far with the cocktail inspiration.

Enough navel gazing! What (as-yet-unnamed) cocktail will we be serving to our guests and what bit of bubbly did we decide on???

Our mystery bubbles | personal photo

Our mystery bubbles | personal photo

A mixture of pomegranate juice  and dark chocolate vodka topped off by the Barefoot Moscato Spumante Champagne!

The pomegranate is from my original cocktail, and the chocolate–well, who really says no to chocolate? Not the Road Trips! We both prefer the sweeter, dessert-y-er cocktails for general consumption, so including chocolate was a good, safe (tasty!) call. The Barefoot Moscato was the only one of the three that really let the other flavors come through, and it’s rather gentle price-point certainly doesn’t hurt.

I hadn’t intended on having such a strong base-spirit getting into the mix to compete with the wine, but my first version with Godiva liqueur didn’t go so well.

Did anyone else notice the switch Godiva made a little while back? It used to be the color and consistency of, say, Kahlua, but now it’s more a creme liqueur. And let me tell you, creme liqueurs do not like to play nice with fruit juices. There is a cocktail (well, it’s more of a shot, I think) that takes “advantage” of this sort of curdling effect so liqueurs have with other liquids (it’s called a Cement Mixer for gross and obvious reasons–ick) but it’s not very appetizing if you ask me. So my second option was a flavored vodka I had on hand and it paired surprisingly well with the champagne* and juice.

After a quick check with the venue that we could have the bartenders top off our prepared mixture of pomegranate and chocolate with the bubbly, rather than serving it all pre-mixed from a beverage dispenser as originally planned (and thus keeping as much of the effervescence as possible), we’re good to go with whatever we end up calling this.

Which leads me to our first bit of signage created for the wedding:

painting in progress | personal image

painting in progress | personal image

I used one of our engagement pictures for a reference and drew up this little framed sign with the vines reminiscent of the ones on our StD cards (they’ll keep showing up as the DIYs continue). Since I haven’t decided what size frame/mat I want to use, I decided to scan it and paint it digitally that way I can re-size it at will. (Traditional watercolors really don’t scan well, in my experience.) Not to mention digital painting let’s me get away with NOT erasing all my sketch lines–bonus!

Okay, let’s hear it! Got any suggestions for a name for this sweet and sparkly concoction? I really want to use the word Sparkler or Sparkling in the name, it’s coming up with what to pair with it that has me stumped.

*small-c, following the old rules that sparkling wines made in the style of French region of Champagne could still claim that title, even though the practice is otherwise prohibited these days; Barefoot was apparently grandfathered-in. There’s your spirited (!) trivia of the day.

MCC: Pomegranate Khabisa


It’s the last Thursday of the month which means another foray into the realm of Medieval food!


Once again we took a recipe from the Anonymous Andalusian cookbook, this time a sweet treat of pomegranate.


Pomegranate Khabisa

Pomegranate Khabisa

Khabisa with Pomegranate

“Take half a ratl of sugar and put it in a metal or earthenware pot and pour in three ratls of juice of sweet pomegranates [rumman sufri; probably tart pomegranates were more common in cooking] and half a uqiya of rosewater, with a penetrating smell. Boil it gently and after two boilings, add half a mudd of semolina and boil it until the semolina is cooked. Throw in the weight of a quarter dirham of ground and sifted saffron, and three uqiyas of almonds. Put it in a disk and sprinkle over it the like of pounded sugar, and make balls [literally, hazelnuts] of this.”

Andalusian Measurements:
ratl = a pound; in school I learned little phrase “a pint is a pound, the whole world round” which means you can use a volumetric pint of water for recipes that call for equal weights of flour and water and whatever else (very common in baking ratios). Since pomegranate juice isn’t incredibly dense, we’re using a volumetric pint for the ratls of juice–if it were a heavier liquid (like cream or buttermilk), you’d want to actually weigh the liquid
uqiya = approx. 1.3 oz
mudd = 16 cups; it’s actually 4 Liters, if you want to be exact; if you’ve ever used a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, though, you know that 4 cups is roughly equivalent to a Liter
dirham = roughly a teaspoon

As written, this makes a pretty big batch of pomegranate treats. A slightly more manageable quantity can be made by the recipe below:

Pomegranate Khabisa

¼ cup + 1 Tbsp granulated sugar, plus additional for rolling
1 pint pomegranate juice
¼ oz rosewater
1 ½ cups semolina flour
¼ cup chopped almonds
pinch saffron

  1. Combine the sugar, juice and rosewater in a saucepan and bring to a boil. A non-stick pot is especially helpful and the final product is pretty sticky.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients and then add them to the liquid, bringing to a boil again.
  3. Stirring constantly, continue to cook the mixture until very thick–like a thick oatmeal, this won’t take long at all.
  4. Scoop out small amounts of the mixture, roll into balls and then roll in granulated sugar. Place on a platter or inside little truffle or mini-muffin cups  and serve.

Steps to make Khabisa

As simple as boil, cook, scoop and roll.

Depending on the brand of pomegranate juice you use will determine the finished color of the khabisa. I’ve made it before with the popular grocery store brand that comes in the double sphere bottle and it’s come out much more vibrant than this batch, which was made with an organic pomegranate juice and ended up more a deep plum color.

Kept in an airtight container these will keep for a week, at least (if they last that long). We love the chewy, sweet treats with just a bit of crunch from the nuts (we subbed cashews–not correct for the time period but preferred in this house). And if you can stand to leave some for the next day, the rosewater becomes just a little more prominent and adds a nice dimension to the dish.


Did you give this month’s dish a try? Link up in the comments!

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A Blast From Our Blueberry-Tinged Past


Welcome back for our second installment in the Alphatinis series. This week B is for Blueberry, but a little blueberry should never be left in the cold (vodka) on his own.


Blueberry Pomegranate Martini
A couple years back, Todd and I attended a local fundraiser and sampled an amazing Blueberry Pomegranate cocktail. It was so good that we decided to try our hand at recreating it at home–the first of many such experiences, some of which will find their way into this series (indeed, could even be considered the inspiration for it).

Trying to find a recipe online yielded the most likely answer: that the restaurant serving the drink was probably using a mix. Still, we had to give it a try and after 5 versions and some tweaking here and there, we hit upon the best possible combination of vodka and juices to match what we’d had that night. And I tucked the recipe away in that year’s little red notebook for future use.

It’s wonderful living in the future!

Blueberry Pomtini

2 oz Blueberry Juice
1 oz Pomegranate Juice
1 oz Vodka
1 oz Simple Syrup
Garnish: Fresh Blueberries

Combine all liquid ingredients over ice and shake like a brisk breeze is blowing through your arms, right into that chilly mixing glass. (Make sure to get a good seal on that Boston shaker–this mix will stain for sure!) Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a skewer of fresh blueberries.

A sweet, generous cocktail, the Blueberry Pomtini is one you can enjoy as a quick drink or sip over the course of an evening without a lot of alcohol going to your head. Earlier version were based on a simple 2:1 martini ratio (not smooth at all) and even one a la a Cosmopolitan (the triple sec–this was before I was using strictly Cointreau–overpowered everything, as it’s wont to do). And without the sugar syrup the juice and vodka alone were much too tart.

That testing, however, was before we discovered our fondness for vanilla vodka (the brand we’re loving right now? 360 Madagascar Vanilla) so tonight I trotted out that little red notebook and gave the old favorite a run with our new favorite just to see how it fared. While the vanilla version was quite tasty–the vanilla lends a certain warmth to the drink–it did overshadow the delicate blueberry flavor more than we would have wanted. Ergo, we present it as originally concocted.

Now, for this past Halloween I made a version of this as a punch, Blue Blood Punch to be specific. Combining large containers of Cran-Pomegranate and Cran-Blueberry Juices with a 2-liter of Ginger Ale in a punch bowl or (in our case) 3-gallon drink dispenser with ice makes a very good punch for the masses. And for those who wish a little more bite to their drink could go inside to the bar and add a splash of spirits.


Every Friday we’ll be wending our way through the new Alphatini series. Discouraged by 2 sweets to start? Well, if you’ll hang with us through the C-tini to come next week, I promise a different twist is coming when we get to the big D!

50 Shots of America–Alaska


East Meets EastI think it’s safe to say that more people know more about Alaska these days (thanks to shows like Ice Road Truckers, Gold Rush Alaska and, of course, the Palin family escapades in and out of the political arena) than they ever did when all we had was Northern Exposure, Jack London and the Iditarod to shape our opinions of the 49th state.

Back in Middle School (you may know of it as Junior High), we had a transfer student from Alaska and the one thing I remember her saying, difference-wise between there and here was that she was shocked at the number of single-story houses, here. Apparently two-story was the norm in her Alaskan town and the cost of living was much lower. Whether that was truly the case (we’re talking about the observations of 13-year-olds, here) it certainly isn’t now. But it’s what sticks as my co-earliest memory of the state.

It’s pair is one is one of the very (very) few things I retained from any sort of American History class–that the territory (purchased from Russia in 1867 at pennies per acre) was known, colloquially, as Seward’s Folly. Of course, once gold was discovered in Alaska (the big Klondike rush in 1896), the tune changed dramatically, though it wasn’t until January 3, 1959, that the Land of the Midnight Sun achieved statehood.

East Meets East

1 0z Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Pomegranate Juice
3/4 oz Sake
Crushed Ice

Combine the vodka, juice and sake over ice in a mixing glass. Shake vigorously, until the mixture resembles the icy tundra. Fill a small, chilled glass 3/4 full of crushed ice. Strain the cocktail over the fresh ice.

Why the 2 batches of ice? If you shake a drink with crushed ice, the amount of water you’re adding (i.e. dilution) will be greater and the ice will be “tired” when it’s time to sip your drink. If you don’t have an ice crusher, skip the blender and put some cubes in a clean flour-sack towel and beat it with your muddler or a rolling pin until the ice reaches the level of crush you desire.

This drink is a little larger than some of the “shots” I’ve featured in this series, but for the biggest state in the nation it seemed appropriate. Due to said size and the eastward spread of the Aleutian Islands, it’s both the westernmost and easternmost state in the United States. Obviously it’s also the northernmost state. The flavor influence of the drink is a nod to the early Russian settlers as well as the Japanese that occupied the aforementioned Aleutian Islands during WWII.

The pomegranate, though, was pure fancy on my part. The long stretches of darkness and light (polar night and midnight sun, respectively) that Alaska encounters made me think of the myth of Persephone and the pomegranate seeds. It adds color, flavor and balance to the vodka and sake mix.