Tag Archives: cocktail party

step 5 serve

Make a Sweet & Tart Shrub, an Old-Fashioned Drink with a Funny Name

In the beverage world, shrubs are for drinking, not landscaping. Once commonplace during colonial times, shrubs have come back to American mixology with a vengeance. Simply a combination of ripe fruit, sugar and vinegar, modern shrubs are essentially brightly-flavored drinks for grownups. They slake thirst on a balmy afternoon, and while they can be mixed into cocktails, a simple virgin shrub over ice is utterly refreshing and satisfying.

Crafting shrubs originated as a way to utilize surplus seasonal fruit crops in the days before refrigeration or canning. Fruit and sugar were fermented together to make a slightly sour drink. The common technique now is to skip the fermentation and instead add vinegar to extend the shrub’s keeping quality, as well as add an appealing zip.

step 1 mulberries

Have an abundance of fruits or berries? Time to make shrubs!

Most any fruit can be made into a shrub, but it’s easiest to use berries or orchard fruits. Here’s a very basic step-by-step to have you shrubbing in no time. And the best part? It requires very little hands-on work.

Step One: Select and Prepare the Fruit

Here we’re using a mix of sweet strawberries and slightly tart wild mulberries. Rinse off the berries. If you’re using larger fruits such as peaches, cut them into smaller chunks. The fun of shrubs is their flexibility: you can easily use the fruit you have on hand. Our strawberries were still edible, but getting on the squishy side. Fortunately, a shrub is a perfect final destination for such close-to-the-edge fruit.

step 1 strawberries

Strawberries are an excellent fruit for making shrubs.

Step Two: Toss with Sugar

The amount of sugar you’ll need depends on how much fruit you are using, and how sweet that fruit is. The basic ratio for making shrubs, by volume, is one part fruit to one part sugar. That is, if you have two cups of fruit, you’ll need to add two cups of sugar. Feel free to adjust the quantities to fit your preference. For a more straightforward flavor that lets the fruit be the star, use granulated sugar.

step 2 mix with sugar

The basic fruit-to-sugar ratio is 1-to-1, but feel free to adjust.

Toss the fruit with the sugar, put it in a stainless steel or glass container, and cover it. At this point you can refrigerate the fruit overnight or let it sit out at room temperature for a few hours to macerate. You’ll know it’s ready when all of the sugar is dissolved and the fruit is slouchy and soft. If the sugar is not fully dissolved, just give it a stir and let it macerate for another few hours, or up to another full day.

step 2 macerated fruit ready to strain

Let your fruit absorb all the sugar before proceeding to the next step.

Step Three: Strain

Strain the liquid from the fruit. In the photo we’re using a fancy food mill, but a fine-mesh sieve or a simple plastic colander lined with cheesecloth set over a bowl will work just as well. Press down on the fruit to release as much of the liquid as you can. It will be sticky and a little syrupy. Some fruits give off more liquid than others, so your yield here could vary quite a bit.

step 3 strain

Strain your fruit using a food mill, sieve or colander.

Step Four: Add the Vinegar

You don’t want to be using harsh-tasting, distilled white vinegar in a shrub. Softer, less acidic vinegars like champagne vinegar, rice wine vinegar or most any fruit vinegar work well. Though a lot of recipes and procedures call for one part sugar to one part fruit to one part vinegar, we find that the amount of vinegar required can vary greatly. It’s wise to be conservative when adding the vinegar by using only a little at first, and then increasing the amount to taste. We got about three cups of syrup from our macerated fruit, and to that we needed to add only half a cup of white wine vinegar to get the right combination of sweet and tart flavors.

step 4 add vinegar

For best results, choose a champagne, rice wine or fruit-based vinegar.

Step Five: Chill and Serve

Your shrub will be very intense and possibly a little harsh when you taste it right away. No worries: think of it as a concentrate, or a base to be diluted. We like to let ours mellow in the fridge overnight so all of the flavors can settle in and blend. Your final result should be puckery and jammy.

The following day, taste and make any adjustments necessary by adding more vinegar or sugar. To serve, pour over cracked ice and add a little water or soda water. That’s it!

step 5 serve more

Pour over ice, dilute and enjoy!

Step Six: Get Creative

There are a ton of shrub recipes out there that you can follow if this general method is too loosey-goosey for you. There are also many cocktails you can dream up to use with your finished shrub syrup (including one laced with moonshine, a cousin of the kombucha-based booch ’n’ hooch). You can find plenty of shrub recipes on Serious Eats, or in the book Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times. As summer progresses, you can experiment with cherries, apricots, plums or even pineapples. Whatever the case, once you taste the vivid flavors of a homemade shrub, we’re sure you’ll never go back to boring sugary fruit drinks again.

by Sara Bir

Bloglovin
IMG_3304

Discover Aperitifs, the Summertime Answer to Cocktails

The calendar doesn’t agree, but according to the unseasonably early heat wave last week here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, summer has arrived. With our deck furniture recently hosed off and a our café glasses brought out from storage, we were prepared to cool off with a relaxing aperitif on the porch.

Aperitifs are a category of drinks as well as a tradition throughout the Mediterranean, yes, but they’re also a state of mind. “L’apéritif is both a beverage and a social activity,” writes author Georgeanne Brennan in her book Aperitif: Stylish Drinks & Recipes for the Cocktail Hour. “The beverages are rarely strong spirits and the accompanying food never satiates, as the purpose is to pique the appetite.” Unlike the offerings seen in the America’s currently booming cocktail scene, aperitifs are light on the booze, usually only contain a few simple components and are intended to stimulate the palate rather than bludgeon it. In fact, aperitifs don’t even need to contain alcohol  a simple lemonade (or citron pressé, in fancy French terms) could count. It’s all about context.

IMG_3308

Summertime refreshment and boho chic jewelry? Yes, please!

Aperitifs are all about transitioning from the busiest part of the day to the more relaxed, carefree time after the workday ends. Add some sun, casual company and a salty snack or two, and you have an occasion to reconnect with friends and enjoy the pleasures of the season. Sometimes, though, savoring an aperitif solo is also enjoyable. It’s the time you take for yourself to assess how the day went and what the remainder of the day holds…or to simply sit and think about nothing at all.

Your house aperitif could be anything from a glass of white or rosé wine, to a booch ‘n’ hooch, to a cooling beer cocktail…or our all-time favorite, Lillet Blanc. In France, aromatized and fortified wines served deeply chilled are common aperitifs, and the Bordeaux-produced Lillet (established in 1872) is a classic. It’s a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignoin Blanc wines flavored with orange and lemon brandies and a hint of quinine. It’s sweet and citrusy, but not cloying.

IMG_3306

A delicious drink and fabulous jewelry are a beautiful solution to a hot summer day.

The manufacturer recommends serving it straight, very cold, but we prefer it over lots of cracked ice and garnished with an orange slice to accentuate its sunny appeal. Another popular variation cuts the Lillet Blanc with club soda or sparkling water and lime.

If you’d like a little nibble with your aperitif, think light and crunchy. Salted almonds, a fresh crudite platter, marinated mushrooms, black and green olives, spicy popcorn, or hard or soft cheeses with crackers are easy to throw together and won’t spoil your dinner — unless you’re content to make the whole aperitif experience your evening meal. In which case, snack away!

IMG_3307

This breezy take on the traditional cocktail hour is gloriously light and refreshing.

Now that warm (or hot) weather is here, you don’t have to stick with the heavy-handed cocktail hour with its heavy appetizers and palate-wrecking liquors. An aperitif allows you to add some levity to your summer days. It’s a ritual that may sound frivolous at first, but you’ll soon find it’s the stuff of life, setting the tone for all that follows.

by Sara Bir

 

Bloglovin
AMR_5014crop2

Throw Your Own Fabulous Sparkly Ladies’ Night Party

“What night is your Mom Prom party, again?” my husband asked as the countdown to Sparkly Ladies’ Night 2014 whittled down to single digits. “No, no, it’s not Mom Prom,” I replied. “You don’t have to be a mom to go. And Sparkly Ladies’ Night is a zillion times better than prom. Prom is for kids. It’s a letdown. This is fabulous.” We laugh. We hug each other. We make new friends. We cut loose. We indulge in wearing shiny, outlandish outfits. We strut our stuff in front of an appreciative audience: each other. We dance without reserve. We’re not there to impress anyone but ourselves.

AMR_5132

The concept is infectious. To combat the late-winter blahs, you can pull together your own Sparkly Ladies’ Night and glam it up; since the concept itself is the hook, you can make it as big or as intimate as you like.

The original Sparkly Ladies’ Night evolved organically. What started as a dinner date for eight close friends in the quiet town of Marietta, Ohio grew into a blowout celebration that marked its fourth year last December. It’s the brainchild of fashion and graphic designer Nikki Butler, who dreamt it up as an excuse to don the glittery clothes she never had a decent reason to wear. They booked a table at a local restaurant, with a casual yet luxe atmosphere. Butler wore jeans, a sequin top, and a fur coat, and some fabulous jewelry.

AMR_5056

Sparkly Ladies’ Night, the brainchild of Nikki Butler (far right), has evolved into a celebration of friendship, empowerment, and fun.

It’s the ultimate girls’ night out, and unlike a bachelorette party, there’s no agenda, no rights of passage; the focus is about the group itself. At our Sparkly Ladies’ Night 2014, there were straight women and gay women, mothers of five and women who are glad not to be parents. There were curvy women and thin women, women in their 60s attending with their grown daughters.

AMR_5185

Sparkly Ladies’ Night is a time to be outrageous and candid.

To make the annual party more of an occasion, Butler rented out an event space, booked a DJ and a bartender, and incorporated the talents of some of her gifted friends and women entrepreneurs—a floral designer who provided stunning arrangements, a pastry chef who shared beautiful and delicious desserts,  and a portrait photographer who captured the festivities for posterity

AMR_4980

Such a fabulous gathering deserves delicious treats.

Anyone anywhere could throw a Sparkly Ladies’ Night. You either get it or you don’t. Obviously my husband doesn’t, but this night is not about the guys, anyway. For those of you who do get it, here’s what you need to know:

AMR_4994

Pick a date that’s in the middle of an uneventful stretch of time. If you live in a cold climate, icky winter months are perfect. That’s when you need sparkle the most.  Oscar night is an ideal opportunity for styling your own brand of Hollywood shine.

AMR_5120

Invite people you love to be around. Ask your friends to do the same. The beauty of the concept is that its scope can be as intimate or grand as you want it to be.

Choose your spot. If you have a small group, make reservations at a local ‘fancy’ restaurant. If your group is larger, consider renting a venue. Remember that spending part of the evening in the public eye actually adds to the fun!

AMR_5055

Hype it up. Throw a clothing swap party a month or so in advance. Have event pages on social media platforms and post sparkly inspiration (for example, “Keep Calm and Sparkle On” memes or pictures of your sparkly style inspirations).

AMR_5104

Get your outfit together. Go grand with a fabulous new sequin gown or simply raid your closet and glam up your old favorites. A pair of shiny tights, a statement necklace and a stack of crystal bangles gives your standby little black dress a whole new spin.

AMR_5090

Take photos galore. And look at them later on when you need a lift.  Our 2014 Sparkly Ladies’ Night included a “selfie suite”—a corner of our party room with a silver backdrop where we could pose for impromptu group photos.

Nikki Butler overcame a difficult period in her life where she kept herself hid away. Now she has a successful career and a confidence that’s catching. It’s reflected in her Sparkly Ladies’ Night hashtag, #sparkleeveryday. “Sparkle,” she says, “comes from the inside.” But some outside sparkle certainly does not hurt.

by Sara Bir

Bloglovin

Planning Ahead for Your Holiday Party Style

Holiday Party

The work party, the family gatherings, the cozy hours spent with friends. Before you haul out your tinsel and boughs of holly, take a step back and do the one thing that will secure your sanity though the holiday season: get your fashion plan together. If you have your holiday style sketched out ahead of time for all the parties and gatherings planned between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy those special moments that much more.

We’ve pulled together our favorite celebratory accessories for three popular holiday events. By adding new jewelry, you can mix and match winter wardrobe essentials that are already in your closet to easily build new and eye-catching outfits for every occasion.

We’ve focused on three events you could expect to attend during the holiday season: a semi-formal work party, dressy cocktails with friends, and casual family get-togethers. Finding spectacular jewelry to rock at these events is a great gift for yourself. The newfound baubles you select for the season will be perfectly fashionable all year long.

Work Party

Remember Day to Night Barbie from the 1980s? A force to be reckoned with in the office, this Barbie had a pink power suit with a pencil skirt that reversed to reveal a magenta tulle number for her hot night out with Ken. You don’t need to sport Barbie’s metallic tank top under your blazer, but her desk-to-party strategy is certainly a smart one. Pack some bright jewelry and killer shoes in your tote to instantly transform your office looks from business as usual to smart and dazzling. Our sapphire snowflake pendant necklace pairs nicely with solid turtlenecks or blouses, and its dramatic glamour adds refined pizzazz to professional attire. Alternatively, our pearl and silver bangle stack brings bold elegance to nearly any blazer or sweater. From there, all you need is a swift swap from practical footwear to platform heels or structured metallic boots to complete the workday to soiree transformation.

Work Party

Bring glitz to your work party with this glamorously festive sapphire snowflake necklace.

Work Party - Pearl Bangle

Transform your look from workday to holiday soiree with this stunning faux pearl and silver tone bangle stack.

Friendly Cocktails

Though the mood may be casual, an evening with friends is a great chance to pump up the glamor, let loose and really shine. Our color craze collar necklace is just playful enough to bring a touch of the unexpected to any cocktail party. For a different look, match our multi-cut pave crystal earrings and our crystal-encrusted stretch link bracelet with a lux satin or dupioni silk ensemble. You can’t go wrong dressing up a basic shift in a shimmery fabric with fabulously fun accessories.This spectacularly colorful kaleidoscope necklace is perfect for a casual holiday cocktail party.

Party with Friends

This spectacularly colorful kaleidoscope necklace is perfect for a casual holiday cocktail party.

Cocktail Bracelet

A wintry evening spent with friends is made even merrier with this pave link stretch bracelet.

Cocktail Earrings

Treat yourself for the holiday season with these party-ready crystal drop earrings.

Family Get Together

To relax and unwind with family, long pendants are a great alternative to statement necklaces. This smoky blue crystal and gold-tone tassel necklace and earring set would pair perfectly with a cozy turtleneck sweater and jeans. For a trendy geometric look, our green cascade drop earrings make a statement without being overly formal.  To convert an everyday outfit into something special for your holiday gathering, incorporate a faux fur vest or layer on a draping wrap cardigan.

Family Get Together

Glam up your family gathering with this stunning crystal fringe necklace.

family get together earrings

These seasonally on point geometric earrings will look great for the holidays as well as year-round.

What’s the secret to shining brightly through the holiday season? Just a bit of planning. Pick out the perfect party baubles now and you will sail through the madness of the holidays with plenty of time and energy to spend on spoiling the ones you love.

by Sara Bir

Bloglovin