Easy, boozy, cocktail cherries!

Easy, boozy, cocktail cherries!

Easy, boozy, cocktail cherries!

Cherries are abundant this year, and there’s nothing better than transforming them into a batch of boozy, sweet, cocktail cherries. Not only can you garnish your drinks with these beauties, the syrup used to store then in makes a fabulous addition to summer sippers and punches that cool you off when the temperature soars.

Homemade cherry pitter!

Homemade cherry pitter!

Without a proper pitter this can be challenging, but, with a little research I made a cherry pitter from an old fork and went to town on a giant bowl of fruit last week to fire up a batch of my favorite recipe. This pitter is simple to make, cheap, and it works! Find an old flimsy fork (the inexpensive type work best), bend the two outer tines down and create two little hooks with the inner ones and your set! Insert hook on bottom of fruit sliding up till you reach top of pit and gently pull out pit. Work over a bowl to catch any juices that may seep out.

Once you finish pitting the cherries the rest of the process is a piece of cake! This easy recipe will have you turning your nose up at ordinary maraschino cherries. Why settle for less than the best when you can make these with so little effort?

Boozy cocktail cherries


1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 inch piece orange zest

1 pound sweet cherries, pitted

1 cup of maraschino liqueur  ( I use Luxardo, but any of these will work)

Place sugar, water, lemon juice, zest and cinnamon in large sauce pot and simmer on medium heat till stirring occasionally. Let liquid come to a slow boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Slowly add cherries to pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add maraschino liqueur. Let mixture come to room temperature uncovered. Transfer to sterile container and store in refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Boozy beauties!

Boozy beauties!

Use these in any sour, punch, juice based cocktail or to top a bowl of chocolate ice cream. Just don’t pop them in your kid’s Shirley Temple, remember, they’re for adults only!



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Killer Cucumber Cooler; The ultimate Summer cocktail for refreshment

Refreshingly delicious

Refreshingly delicious

I’ve been playing around with flavors for summer simple syrups using veggies and herbs. Cucumber syrup whether infused with herbal notes or on its own has come out as the clear winner for refreshment again and again! It can be mixed with citrus and sparkling wine, used as base in non alcoholic lemonade or mixed with white liquors such as Corn Whiskey, Vodka and Gin for a killer cocktail. One of my favorite syrup variations includes cucumber with the addition of fresh basil, it adds a beautiful aroma and subtle flavor that is simply delicious.

Thinking of spirits to mix with this magic elixir I experimented with my favorite Gin, G’Vine Florisian, a French offering made from  the subtle and rare green grape flower and neutral spirits distilled from grapes, G’Vine is delicate and floral, light and smooth, and is very mixable. It’s the Gin that changed the way I thought about Gin, often too strongly flavored for me.

With the dog days of summer on the way you may want to keep this special syrup on hand at all times. Mix up a pitcher of my cocktail, sit by the pool, on the roof or head for the beach and relax!


Florisian Cucumber Cooler

1 oz G’vine Florisian Gin

2 oz Cucumber Basil Syrup

1 oz fresh lime juice

Splash St Germain liquor

Blanc de Blanc Sparkling Wine

Seltzer or Club Soda

Build over ice in shaker and strain into chilled wine glass filled with ice. Top with equal parts club soda and Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. I like Veuve Ambal sparkling but you may use any dry sparkler. Enjoy!

Cucumber  basil syrup


1 cup sugar

1 cup water

4 shredded Persian cucumbers

12 basil leaves cut in thin strips

Heat sugar and water in saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Heat till boiling and mixture turns clear. Add cucumber and basil and remove from heat. Stir to incorporate solids into syrup. Cover and let mixture come to room temp and refrigerate for 4 hours. Strain solids from liquid, make sure to press liquid from cucumbers. Will keep up to two weeks in fridge.


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Île de la Beauté Rosé, Dom. Fazi, 2013; A refreshing Summer steal from Corsica

A Summer steal under $10

A Summer steal under $10

Admittedly I’ve tasted very little Corsican wine, but, by chance my favorite go to refresher of last summer and this season both hail from this island in the Mediterranean Sea, to the west of Italy and to the southeast of the French mainland. Corsica is known for its rugged, steep terrain, savage beauty, ancient winemaking history and an assortment of native grapes including Sciaccarellu, a thick-skinned gem used to make meaty, peppery, reds and an aromatic, herbal rose that pairs well with many summer starters.

My current favorite summer sipper,  Domaine Fazi, IGP Ile de la Beute (translation, Island of Beauty!) Corsican Rose is made from a combination of Sciaccarellu – 35%; Merlot – 30%; Grenache – 25%, and  Cinsault -10%, all vinified separately using cold liquid stabilization and cool fermentation to preserve the unique flavors and aromas of the grapes. A truly magical mix of fruit that creates a simply delicious wine for under $10! With just a whisper of herbal spice, ripe berries and a long, balanced finish this relatively low alcohol (11.5%) wine is one to have on hand all season. This wine is just GOOD! Try it with everything from tapas to simple grilled dishes or with my tasty turkey burger below. I suggest ordering a case as at this price its sure to go fast. Available at Astor Wines, $9.96


Mediterranean Turkey Burger

The best turkey burger you'll ever eat!

The best turkey burger you’ll ever eat!

Makes 4 burgers

1 pound ground Turkey

1/4 cup finely chopped Kalamata olives

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1/4 cup chopped red pepper

2 med shallot finely chopped

1 teaspoon course grind pepper

1 teaspoon sumac spice,

1 teaspoon lemon zest

For garnish- 1 cup sautéed spinach, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper

1 cup Mt. Vikos Feta cheese, crumbled and drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sriracha sauce to tast

e Lightly mix all spices and chopped veggies into ground turkey. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Form into burgers and cook on lightly oiled preheated grill, about 5 minutes for first side, flip and top with feta, cook additional 5 minutes. Do not push down on patty while cooking as you want a juicy burger! Place on warm toasted roll with sautéed spinach, Sriracha sauce and tomato. Pour some rose and enjoy!

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Aper-Fino Cocktail; A refreshing start to Summer sipping

A refreshing start to summer!

A refreshing start to summer!

Two of my favorite Summer sippers are Aperol, a slightly sweet and bitter apéritif and Fino Sherry, a dry, crisp, yeasty treat. What better way to maximize on my love for both than combining them in a delicious cocktail. Both are relatively low in alcohol so the addition of a local vodka adds just enough kick without packing too much of a punch. This is a perfect way to start your evening or enjoyed poolside!


1.5 oz. Aperol

1 oz. Lustau Fino Sherry

1/2 oz. Tuthilltown Indigenous Wheat Vodka

1 oz. Fresh squeezed lemon juice

Dash orange bitters

Dash rhubarb syrup, Morris Kitchen  or recipe here. This is also wonderful added to sparkling wine!

splash club soda

Fresh orange peel for garnish

Add Aperol, Sherry, lemon juice, Vodka, bitters, rhubarb syrup to shaker filled with ice. Shake till outside of shaker becomes frosty and strain into chilled stem glass. Add splash club soda to taste and garnish with fresh orange twist



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Strange fruit; Narince, an indigenous Turkish delight


I’ve written about Vinkara Winery in the past, they happen to be my favorite producer of Turkish wines available in the US. Distribution is growing on the East coast as Fine Terroir Selections LLC, based in Ct. has taken on a number of Vinkara’s best wines. While I’ve always been a fan of Vinkara’s Kalecik Karasi (a juicy red full of sour cherry, red currant and stoney minerality), their Narince was something I’d never tried.

Narince (pronounced Nah-rin-djeh) means “delicately” in Turkish. Grown mainly in the Anatolia region with most plantings in Tokat and along Yeşilırmak (river), Narince’s large, plump, oval grapes produce highly aromatic wines, full of lush scents of apricot, orange and fruit blossom.  The best examples are capable of aging due to its high acidity and balance that can be achieved in stellar vintages.

ImageWhile both Narince’s from Vinkara are delicious wines filled with flavors of ripe fresh apricot, white peach and orange blossom I prefer the 2012 for its fresh, clean finish. Fans of Chardonnay will love the 2011 Narince Reserve,which has a fuller, heavier mouth feel with a touch of spicy flavor, due to a 14 month stint in oak followed by further aging in bottle. To pair I suggest Turkish dolmas, a dish made from the prized leaves of Narince, rolled and stuffed with a mixture of rice, flavored with olive oil, lemon and spices.

Check out Vinkara on Facebook for news and availability in US

Stuffed Dolmas

Stuffed Dolmas

Dolma recipe

Serves 8 people.
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp. pine nuts

1 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. fresh chopped mint leaves

2 tbsp. fresh chopped dill weed
1 tbsp. ground sumac
2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 8-oz jar grape leaves
Garnish- Chopped preserved lemons, crumbled feta if desired

In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add onions & garlic. Sweat the onions & garlic until tender, then add the mushrooms and sauté until browned. Add the rice, stock and enough hot water to cover. Cover the saucepan and simmer over low heat until the rice is half-cooked, about 15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, carefully remove the grape leaves from the jar without ripping them. Drain the liquid and rinse the leaves in warm water and set in a colander to drain. Trim off any stems.

When the rice is ready, stir in all the other ingredients and mix well. Allow the mixture to cool enough so that it can be handled with bare hands. Take one grape leaf and place it smooth side down, vein sides up. Place about 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon (depending on how big the leaf is) of rice mix at the bottom of the leaf. Fold the sides and then roll the leaf from bottom to top. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Place a steaming rack in a large pot and arrange the dolmas on the steamer. It is OK to stack them. Place enough water at the bottom of the pot to almost reach the bottom layer of dolmas. Cover and simmer over low heat for 35 to 45 minutes, or until rice is totally cooked.

Remove and place on a serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with chopped preserved lemon and feta.




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