AlcoHOLidays | Brazilian Independence Day | The Samba


Greetings and Salutations! Welcome to our next cocktail series, aptly titled AlcoHOLidays.

See what I did there? Of course you do! After all, you’re incredibly intelligent (I mean, you must be, you read this blog!) and it’s too early to be that far into your cups already, right?

So for this series we’ll be taking a look at holidays from all over, looking into the history a bit for each, and then sharing a drink recipe in honor of the most festive occasion. And if we manage to learn a little something in the process, expand our celebratory horizons if you will, then so be it!


First up on our calendar–this is just so convenient, I tell ya–is Brazilian Independence Day, today, September 7, and today we get a two-for: I’ll be reviewing a new-to-me sparkling wine (from Brazil, natch) and making a cocktail with it, too.

Independence from What?

Or, should I say, who?

Way back in 1500, Portuguese explorers landed on the coast of what is now Brazil and claimed it for their own. Which, you know, probably didn’t go over all that well with the many indigenous tribes already there, but exploration is not for the faint of heart. Or the overly polite. At least not when expansion is the plan.

The Samba, made with Carnaval Sparkling Moscato, in honor of Brazilian Independence Day

After some political machinations in the interest of Brazil becoming it’s own country (no longer part of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves), in 1822 Prince Pedro was named Emperor Pedro I–breaking with the monarchy, but not too much. Dad (King João VI) wasn’t too pleased by this, as is to be expected, and the Independence wars continued through November 1823.

Even still, Independence Day is celebrated on September 7th as that is when Pedro reportedly declared

Hail to the independence, to freedom and to the separation of Brazil.
For my blood, my honor, my God, I swear to give Brazil freedom.
Independence or death!

And We’ll Drink to That!

Like we needed an excuse…

Today’s cocktail comes to us courtesy of Carnaval Brazilian Sparkling Wine.

The Samba

2 Strawberries, hulled (or 1 oz strawberry puree)
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1 oz Cachaςa*
2 oz Carnaval Sparkling Moscato
Strawberries for garnish

Muddle the strawberries in a mixing glass with the simple syrup and lemon juice. Add in ice and cachaÏ‚a, and shake until you’ve got the rhythm down. Stir in the Sparkling Moscato just until chilled and then strain into a champagne flute. Garnish with a spare strawberry.

*CachaÏ‚a is rum, but distinctly Brazilian. While all rum is made from sugar cane, Caribbean rums are made from what’s leftover after the sugar production process. CachaÏ‚a, on the other hand, is the only rum made from fresh sugar cane juice, giving it a decidedly different profile from it’s rummy brethren.

First let’s talk about the Carnaval Sparkling Moscato on it’s own. It comes in both red and white, with the red more a pink–how appropriate that we were just doing rosés last month, right? We opened the red for this cocktail and it’s light, fruity nose matches quite well with it’s soft pink color. Having been tricked before, though, I was trying not to expect any particular flavor from the wine before tasting it and was rewarded with a lightly sweet, fruity sparkling wine. I have no complaints about this wine and think it would make a wonderful celebratory tipple on it’s own.

But in this drink, what do I think? My first thought was strawberry daiquiri–but better. The cachaÏ‚a over the usual rum gives it a somewhat brighter flavor and, along with that little bit of lemon juice, keeps the drink from being syrupy sweet. I used the muddled strawberry method and really like that it turned a very light pink and had a few tiny bits of berry floating around on the bubbles even after being strained. This is something we’d definitely make again.

And what will we be celebrating next week? You’ll just have to come back and find out!



I was provided samples of Carnaval Sparkling Moscato for purposes of review. All opinions are my own. Historical information on Brazilian Independence Day was paraphrased from the wikipedia entry on the subject.

A Tasty Experiment of Strawberry Proportions


I don’t usually post recipes, here, but today I’m making an exception. Strawberries have started to appear in stores and, while it’s still early in the season, the temptation is there to make something of them. This recipe would be a nice in-between step between now and when spring and summer shortcakes come around.


Hidden Strawberry Cake

Hidden Strawberry Cake

Company was coming for dinner and we’d picked up some early-season (but so fresh you could smell their sweetness as you walked past the flats) strawberries with a vague plan that they would comprise dessert.

But a vague plan only gets you to a few hours before dinner. What to do with them?

Sure, there’s the usual pie, shortcake or cobbler but I wanted something more cake-like.

For Christmas Eve I’d made the Caramel Apple Cake from Food Network Magazine, which was similar in concept to a pineapple upside-down cake and we really enjoyed the combo of dense cake and moist fruit. To make a strawberry-friendly version, I headed to Joy of Cooking for a basic Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe (skipping the streusel) and added in a layer of strawberries between each half of the dough.

The addition of the strawberries and the change in baking pan from the original recipe meant it took twice as long for the cake to bake. And I worried that skipping the streusel topping would result in a blah cake.

Thankfully, our guest proclaimed it a very successful experiment.


Hidden Strawberry Cake

(adapted from Joy of Cooking)

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs, beaten

Strawberry Filling

1 pint fresh strawberries
1-2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar

Strawberry Topping

1 pint fresh strawberries
2 Tbsp demerara sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare an 8-inch square pan.

In a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light-colored and fluffy.

Meanwhile, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl and stir until combined.

In a small bowl combine the Greek-style yogurt and vanilla.

Scrape down the mixing bowl and then, on low, add the dry and wet ingredients in batches to the creamed butter and sugar: 1/3 dry, 1/2 wet, 1/3 dry, last of the wet, last of the dry. Scrape down the bowl and mix in the beaten eggs.

Stem, hull and slice 1 pint of the strawberries for the filling.

Spread half the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. Scatter the sliced strawberries in an even layer over the batter, sprinkling with cinnamon and brown sugar. Carefully spread the remaining batter over the top of the strawberry layer.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, the edges pull away from the sides of the pan and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

While the cake bakes, take the remaining pint of strawberries and stem, hull and slice them. Place them in a bowl with the demerara sugar (or other raw sugar), cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until you’re ready to serve the cake.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then unmold to a serving plate to cool completely.

When ready to serve, top each slice with some of the sugared strawberries.


The strawberry layer does sink a bit, instead of staying firmly in the center but the flavor is just fine regardless of the shift. The hint of cinnamon is just enough to spice the whole cake and the extra strawberries on top (along with the juices the sugar helps draw out) add a touch of moisture to the top of the cake. If anything, a little freshly whipped cream might also be added, but it’s certainly not necessary to enjoy the cake as-is.

Shortcake… or is it?


It was Mom’s birthday this weekend and she put in a double request for dessert: something with strawberry and chocolate and a chocolate pecan pie. So I suggested a chocolate angel food cake layered with cream and strawberries.

Like a shortcake, right?

Not really. This has been bugging me for a few weeks, now, after having seen an “expert” reply to this:

Q. Are strawberry shortcake and angel food cake the same

A. The cake is the same but the way you eat them are completely different.

Shortcakes versus Foam Cakes

Classic Strawberry Shortcake

Classic Strawberry Shortcake

A short cake is actually more like a biscuit or scone and takes it’s name from the “shortening” of the gluten from the solid fat (butter or vegetable shortening–no that name is not a coincidence) being cut in to the dry ingredients. Short cakes also use baking soda or powder for leavening.

Angle food cakes, on the other hand, are foam cakes, use absolutely no fat whatsoever and very little flour, for that matter. What gives them their lift and structure is the protein from the beaten egg whites that make up the majority of their volume.

Those little golden twinkie-textured things near the fruit in the produce section? Those are usually sponge cakes. Unlike foam cakes they often use outside leavening agents while still depending on the air beaten into the eggs (whether whole or separately and then combined).

So what is that shortcake-like dessert made with a split angel food cake, berries and cream?

A really yummy dessert. You could, I suppose, call it a torte after the process of splitting and filling the layers (commonly known as torting) though a traditional (German) torte is dense from the use of ground nuts instead of flour (though there are exceptions to every rule). But calling it a cake (even a strawberry cake) is really the safest bet out there.

Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Strawberries

Back to Mom’s birthday cake.

When in need of a fool-proof cake recipe, there’s one place I can turn: Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Cake Bible. Of course she has a chocolate angel food cake recipe and, of course, the instructions are incredibly detailed. It’s really tough to mess up one of her recipes unless you take a short cut somewhere.

Incredible Egg Whites

Incredible Expanding Egg Whites

The one thing I didn’t have was cream of tartar but I opted to just go without–it adds stability and helps you to form stiff peaks of the egg white but with my stand mixer I wasn’t too worried about that. The 2 cups of egg whites (from 16 large eggs) quickly grew to fill the 4.5 quart bowl. It’s a good thing to have a separate, larger bowl to do the folding of the scant dry ingredients in with the very stiff egg whites.

We also ran into a slight problem with the cooling step–it seems my angel food pan was made differently than most and the opening of the center tube was not large enough to fit over the neck of the wine bottle, as suggested, or anything else that we could find. Until, that is, Todd spied the lighthouse decoration in our bathroom–between the dowel-rod point on top and the upper cabinets to keep it from wobbling we managed to keep the finished cake from deflating too very much while it cooled the required 1 1/2 hours. Pans with the little arms on top can also serve this same purpose, sans lighthouse.

I had planned to use whipped cream in the layers, along with macerated (sliced and sugared) strawberries and fudge sauce but the 16 egg yolks were just screaming to be made into a batch of Deluxe Pastry Cream (all yolks instead of half yolks, half whole eggs). Granted, it yielded over 2 quarts of pastry cream and it took a little more time than the whipped cream would have, but the finished dessert was that much creamier for the extra effort.

Speaking of which….

The Interior Layers

The Interior Layers

I split the angel food cake into three layers and topped the bottom and middle layers with pastry cream, strawberries and drizzles of chocolate. The top layer, once in place, got pastry cream and chocolate drizzle and the 6 whole strawberries I’d saved out of the quart before slicing the rest. The finished cake tipped a little in towards the center but benefited from a 2 hour rest during which the pastry cream seeped into the cake and turned the airy layers into creamy ones.

And Mom loved it, which would have made it right even if it’d been technically wrong.

Chocolate Angel Food with Strawberries

the Finished Chocolate Angel Food Cake with Strawberries

50 Shots of America–Louisiana


Yes, I know, I’m skipping over 4 states in the whole date-of-statehood-order but I have a really good reason:

First, today is my birthday and if you can’t bend (your own) rules on your birthday, what’s the point?

Second, it’s also Louisiana‘s anniversary of statehood. So happy birthday to both of us!

And, in case you missed the memo, I spent the first 6 years of my life in and around Ponchatoula, LA, before I was rudely dragged to Florida to live out what seems to be the rest of my days. Seriously, all I remember about that trip was laying down in the back seat, as furious as a 6-year-old can be, absolutely insulted that we were moving so far away from all of our family.

Louisiana and me? We go way back. So that’s why I’m bending the rules. I promise I will go back and give the 4 states we just leap-frogged their Friday in the sun and delicious cocktails.

My grandfather on my father’s side was an honest-to-goodness hobo during the war. Long after that he built my grandmother her dream home and it’s the home I remember most from my childhood since we lived there, too, for a while. I’m still a little irked that my uncle sold it out of the family more than a decade ago. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a farmer and grew prize-winning strawberries and assorted veggies. It’s his strawberries I remember best, which he made into strawberry freezer jam and made his own strawberry wine, and the annual Strawberry Festival held every April (and still going strong) in our little town.

And, oh, the daiquiris! Obviously I do not remember these so much from my childhood, at least not directly! Not the classic lime daiquiris,but thick, frosty frozen daiquiris absolutely chock-a-block with strawberries. Oh, so good.

Chocolate Covered Daiquiri

1 medium strawberry, hulled and quartered
1 tsp superfine sugar
3/4 oz light rum
1/2 oz strawberry schnapps
1/2 oz chocolate liqueur

Muddle the strawberry, sugar and rum in a sturdy mixing glass until the berries are thoroughly mashed. Add the schnapps and liqueur and top with plenty of ice. Shake it like a last booze run before the storm comes in and strain it into a chilled cordial glass.

This is not too sweet, not too chocolatey, it’s just enough. And if you have trouble tracking down superfine sugar just buzz some regular granulated sugar in a food processor or spice grinder for a bit.