Category Archives: Playing with Cocktails

Recipes and history of mixed drinks. Where I play with my food.

Atelier Lime Sorbet

It’s the tail-end of summer and we’ve cursed the sweat and the funk everytime we’ve opened the car door, right?

I’ve mostly gotten acclimated to not having air conditioning here in France. I kinda prefer it (I can hear the collective gasp from all of my Texas friends right now), I have fewer sinus headaches and mold and mildew are not a problem. However, the southwest of France experienced a heatwave in August that saw the thermometer reach above 40° (104°F) and everyone was hiding out in the climitized grocery stores during the day. And like most of the civilized world, we purchased excessive amounts of ice cream that half melted on the way home.

One flavor we decided to test was citron vert (lime) sorbet. The packaging boasted all-natural flavors with morsels of lime peel. They weren’t kidding! I don’t know how anyone could eat this straight because it has a serious pucker factor. I mean, the acid hurt my teeth it was so intense. So I used it to make cocktails instead!


We recently picked up a pack of Limonade Mascaret while visiting Brasserie Mascaret and a bottle was chillin’ in the frigo. This artisnal lemonade is all natural and has a light, refreshing flavor.

In champagne trumpet glass:

*Two scoops lime sorbet

*One ounce Grand Marnier Orange Liqueur

*Fill with Limonade Mascaret.

The finished product was still tart, but quenching with a margarita vibe. I’ll do this one again.


The Cuba Libre is my go-to in dive bars and merits its own blog post. It’s so much more than a simple rum & cola when you add the lime juice, so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to use up this citron vert sorbet.

In a tall collins glass:

*Two scoops lime sorbet

*1 1/2 ounces aged rum (don’t you dare use white rum)

*Fill with Coca-Cola.

I could drink this year round. I immediately went to to replace my copy of Hemmingway’s Islands in the Stream and introduce Yannick to Le vieil homme et la mer.


During the Sex and the City heydays, I rolled my eyes everytime a Charlotte wannabe came to me with the ingredient list for the Cosmoplitan. Eventually, the popularity of this cocktail died off (much like the careers of those four ladies), but since lime juice is a component in this vodka based drink, I decided to revive the recipe.  I skipped the vodka for this one because I didn’t feel that it added anything flavorwise and would’ve been alcohol-overkill on a hot day.

In a goblet (because I don’t have martini glasses):

*Two scoops lime sorbet

*1 1/2 ounces Grand Marnier

*Fill with cranberry juice.

This ended up being the sweetest of my three experiments. Not cloyingly sweet, but my gosh, have you ever noticed how much sugar there is in industrial cranberry juice? The sorbet and juice balanced each other out (what we’re always looking for) and the orange liqueur added some roundness. BTW I tried coming up with a creative name for this cocktail, but failed. Any suggestions?

So, I was able to finish up that sorbet (substitute lime sherbet, if you like, but know it will be more creamy and sweeter) and beat the heat. In three months, we’ll all be whining about forgetting to wear a scarf and gloves and I’ll think fondly of remaking these chilly cocktails!

Du Jardin

I’ve successfully grown one whole cucumber in my garden this year.

Well, there were more than that, but our dog, Roxiegirl, has a vegetable addiction. One summer, we left her overnight and this is what happened to my broccoli plants.

Before Roxie found my broccoli.
Before Roxie found my broccoli…
…and after she found my broccoli.

Anyway, I snatched the one cucumber she was kind enough to leave on the vine and harvested some basil leaves for this summery, garden cocktail.

DU JARDIN [from the garden]

In a glass:

  • One inch grated cucumber
  • 4-5 leaves basil, rinsed

Muddle to release the basil oils

  • One and a half ounces Martini Bianco

Fill with tonic water and ice cubes.

Garnish with a cucumber slice.

^^Oh, look!^^An amateur video of me making a mess!^^

Its freshness is perfect for a hot, late afternoon aperitif and invigorates the palate for the upcoming dinner. The crispness of the cucumber mingles with the savory basil and the bitter citrus & vanilla notes of the Martini Bianco vermouth rounds it out.

In the States, we would never think to use a vermouth as the base of the cocktail. Before I moved to Europe, if someone had suggested drinking a straight vermouth, I would have gagged a little. On one of my visits home I was relieving a buffalo wings craving and asked for a Rosso vermouth on ice. It took the bartender and the bar manager and the general manager about twenty minutes to figure out how to charge me for it because it’s never more than a garnish in most American cocktails.6a00e553b3da20883401b7c7915b89970b

Vermouth is a fortified wine – a wine base that has been (with endless proprietary blends)  flavored with fruits, herbs, or spices (aka botanicals) and then distilled and sweetened. Since the wine has gone through a distillation process, it stops evolving, allowing it to be kept for longer periods of time.

It’s a shame that it’s almost always found on the bottom shelf in the gin section. Thanks to Bond, James Bond the martini drinkers in America seem to be the only ones buying it and just the extra-dry versions. A touch is poured into a glass, swished around, and then dumped out adding a hint of the herbal flavors to the vodka or gin. The original purpose of this spirit was to make a medicinal tonic more palatable – that whole “spoon full of sugar” concept. The various botanicals that flavor the spirit were prescribed by European doctors to calm the ailments of their patients.

If you hesitate to purchase a bottle of vermouth because you know it’ll collect dust in the back of the cabinet, fear not! Many brands sell 375ml sizes. Be aware, though, the smaller the bottle, the less value for your money. A regular 750ml bottle is not going to be expensive and there are endless ways you can use it – add a splash to your next pasta sauce, your tomatoes du jardin will thank you.



Tournevis Cassis

Evidemment, je suis la responsable de l’heure de l’apéritif chez nous. Hier soir, quand j’ai demandé à Monsieur ce qu’il voudrait, il me dit une vodka orange .  En Amérique, nous appelons ce cocktail un Screwdriver (tournevis).  C’est le cocktail le plus feignant. Il faut même pas une pensée pour mixer vodka et jus d’orange sauf si l’on veut y ajouter des glaçons. Il ennuie les barmans dans le monde entier.

Je voulais respecter son envie, mais j’ai décidé de l’améliorer a ma façon. J’ai donc créé le




Une poignée de glaçons

Une ounce (30ml) vodka

Une demi-ounce (15ml) cassis liqueur

Ajouter tous les ingrédients dans un blender et pulser jusqu’à obtenir une consistance mousseuse.  Verser dans un grand verre et servir.

Tu vois? Simple mais mieux!



Obviously, I’m in charge of the cocktail hour at our house. Last night when I asked Monsieur what he would like, he told me that he was in the mood for a vodka / orange juice.
A screwdriver: the cop-out of the mixed drink world. There is absolutely no thought needed to combine vodka and orange juice except to determine whether or not there will be ice cubes. It bores the heck out of bartenders the world over.
I wanted to respect his preference, but I decided to spruce it up a bit, so I created the
Tournevis [pronounced tour.nah.veese] is the French word for screwdriver. Cassis [Kah.seese] is a black currant berry.


Handful ice cubes

1 ounce vodka

1/2 ounce cassis liqueur

8 ounces orange juice

In a blender add all of the ingredients and pulse until a froth develops. Pour into a tall rocks glass and serve.

You see? Simple, but better!


La Margarita- “that frozen concoction that helps me hang on”

There are almost as many variations of margarita recipes as there are stories of her origin, but a few components are requisite; citrus and tequila sweetened with orange flavor and served icy cold.

A frozen 'Margartia Traditional' at Mi Tierra. San Antonio, Texas
A frozen ‘Margartia Traditional’ at Mi Tierra. San Antonio, Texas

For some a margarita can be delivered in a fish-bowl sized glass with an inverted Corona cerveza peeking out from above the rim and have any number of fruit flavor additives. Nothing wrong with that, but if you can draw your attention away from the chips and salsa, take a look at the bar. If you don’t see bottles of liquor lining the shelves, your sugary cocktail was made with beer or cheap white wine . Restaurants will do this when they don’t have a liquor license. Fine. So what? They can be delicious too, but it irks me when they are called margaritas because they are not.

My first ever margarita was at the famous Arthuro’s in Nuevo Progresso, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Fresh Rio Grande Valley lime juice with tequila puro and a splash of orange liqueur would be served in a rocks glass while you waited for your Arthuro’s plate… or the cabrito… or the quail…or…. Anyway, it spoiled me and made me a purist. Life is too short to drink bad tequila more than once.

The key ingredient is, of course, tequila. Listen, People, get the 100% agave tequila. You’re going to pay for it at the cash register or lying on the bathroom floor at 3am, so just buck it up and buy the real stuff and avoid the pain of mixo brands.

Tequila comes from the agave plant grown in Jalisco, Mexico. It goes by other names when grown and produced in other regions, but let’s stick to the ‘champagne of agave spirits’ for now. The time the spirit is aged defines its category:

Tequila Blanco-Plata-Silver: The purest form of agave distillate is left to settle in stainless steel tanks for up to 4 weeks. It should be clear and colorless and will be the most intense.

Tequila Reposado: Wood barrels (generally American or French oak) are used to impart body and flavor. The spirit rests in the barrel for 2 months to 11 months and will exhibit a golden hue. The palate will be a balance of the agave’s sweetness and flavors from the wood.

Tequila Añejo: Minimum time in barrels (less than 600 liters) is one year. A majority of what we find on the commercial market is 18 months to 30 months. The hue deepens to an amber color and the flavors become much more complex.

If I’m sipping (no, I do not do “shots”), I’m going to prefer a Reposado or an Añejo, but I find it excessive for mixing.

My favorite-for-the-money sipping Reposado.
My favorite-for-the-money sipping Reposado.

Ingredient Numero Dos is citrus juice. Classically, fresh-squeezed lime is the way to go, but some prefer the softer lemon juice (although that is technically a tequila sour). The difficulty arrives when making large batches or when there is a shortage of fresh citrus. In times of ‘citrus crisis’ allowances may be made for mixes. Try to find the most natural possible with the least amount of sugar derivitives.

Speaking of sweetness… if you prefer a mouth-puckering beverage, stop here, but a little balance goes a long way. Some choose to sweeten their juice with sugar or agave nectar while others add to the complexity of the drink with an orange flavor. We can achieve this flavor two ways: triple-sec or orange liqueur. The difference is drastic:

Triple-sec is no longer what it once was. Once upon a time it was a distillate made from the peels of bitter oranges. That is very rare to find now unless you happen to be on the island of Curaçao, but you’re not so what you pick up from the bottom shelf at the liquor store is likely a low-grade molasses distillate with artificial flavoring. Orange liqueur, on the other hand, is orange fruit macerated in a distillate base and then often barrel aged for smoothness. These are going to add a little more to your cocktail (and a little more to the budget to be honest).

Salt or sugar rimmed, fresh strawberries or peach syrup, frozen or on the rocks – your variations are kinda endless as long as you keep the basics. !Salud!

Sara’s Go-To Margarita Recipe:

2 ounces 100% Agave Tequila Blanco

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Run your used lime along the rim of your glass and gently roll the rim in a mixture of 50% sugar, 50% salt.

Fill a cocktail shaker 2/3 with ice and add the tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur.

Shake well and strain into the rimmed glass. Garnish with two serrano-stuffed olives. Pair with Jimmy Buffett’s “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” album. (I don’t own the rights [MCA 1977], but I am a parrothead!)

Sara's 'Go-To Margarita'
Sara’s ‘Go-To Margarita’