Hannah Drake

Entertaining

Cupid's Sparkling Gin Cocktail

EntertainingHannah DrakeComment

I’m not sure if I ever set any goals or intentions in 2019, but as it turns out I want to take my cocktail game for the next level. So my unofficial goal for the year is to learn more about mixology—how to make awesome cocktails and how to do it correctly. I’ve also decided to bring you all along on this journey with an informal Cocktail of the Month post throughout the year. I want to share drinks I’ve made and enjoyed. Drinks that are seasonal and festive. I want to find out why certain drinks are called certain things and why certain drinks go in certain glasses. All that fun stuff. And I promise I’ll share it with you. I’ll even do my best to share mocktail alternatives. I might be making up a drink completely. I might be inspired by a cocktail I had out one evening. I might adapt other recipes I found online. I’m always up for suggestions and any inspiration you want to send my way!

Without further adieu, here’s our first drink, adapted from Style Me Pretty. I thought it would be perfect to share ahead of Valentine’s Day. So you know what we’ll be drinking on Thursday.

CUPID’S SPARKLING COCKTAIL

  • 2 ounces gin

  • 1 ounce elder flower liqueur (St. Germain)

  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice

  • muddled strawberries

  • rosé sparkling wine

DIRECTIONS

In a cocktail shaker, add ice and chopped strawberries. Muddle.

Add gin, elder flower liqueur, and lemon juice. Shake until chilled.

Strain into a low ball glass filled with ice and top with sparkling wine.

Garnish with strawberries.

If you’re not a fan of gin, you can switch it out for vodka instead.

ALL ABOUT MUDDLED FRUIT & HERBS

I’ve seen a lot of cocktail recipes lately that include muddled fresh fruit. So why muddle fruit instead of just garnishing with it? It’s simple. Muddling releases better and deeper flavours. You can also muddle fresh herbs, but you have to be more gentle with mint and basil so as to not release a bitter flavour, whereas you can use more pressure for firmer herbs like rosemary.

WHY YOU SHOULD SHAKE THIS COCKTAIL

Cocktails that include complex flavours that need to be fully integrated into the drink should be shaken. So cocktails that have fruit juice, creamy liqueurs, simple syrup, sour mix, eggs, dairy, or another thick ingredient need to be shaken. It will be cloudy at first, but it will settle. This method does incorporate water into the drink, however, but it actually creates a well-balanced cocktail that allows for all the flavours to be present. Some say that gin (and whiskey) cocktails shouldn’t be shaken because it “bruises” the spirit, but apparently that’s up for debate.

HOW TO SERVE THIS COCKTAIL

With this drink having muddled fruit, it should be served in a low ball glass (or a rocks glass) that has a solid base. If you don’t have a cocktail mixer, you can muddle the strawberries directly in the glass. These glasses usually hold about 6 to 8 ounces of liquid, which is perfect for a cocktail that doesn’t have a large amount of non-alcoholic mixer.

CUPID’S SPARKLING MOCKTAIL

  • 1 ounce elder flower cordial

  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice

  • muddled strawberries

  • rosé sparkling cider

DIRECTIONS

In a cocktail shaker, add ice and chopped strawberries. Muddle.

Add elder flower cordial and lemon juice. Shake until chilled.

Strain into a low ball glass filled with ice and top with sparkling cider.

Garnish with strawberries.

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5 Things You Need for an Award-Winning Oscars Party

EntertainingHannah DrakeComment

Last week I mentioned that I love throwing theme parties, like an Oscars party. My mom and I hosted three Oscars parties, in 2013, 2014, and 2015, but I haven’t had one since. It doesn’t make sense while living in England since the show would start in the middle of the night, but it’s still fun to think about.

The 91st Academy Awards airs on Sunday, February 24, 2019. This year there are eight Best Picture nominees (Black Panther, BlackKklansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star is Born, Vice), with The Favourite and Roma tied for the most nominations at 10. After the Kevin Hart drama late last year, there is no host for the first time in 30 years after there was no host for the 61st Academy Awards in 1989. Last year, the Academy announced a new category, Best Popular Film, but it didn’t go over well, so they pulled the category and said they would take time to reassess the addition, continuing instead with the same 24 categories.

If you’re prepping for a party in a couple of weeks, here are five things to consider:

FESTIVE INVITATIONS

For the second year, I created an invitation to look like an event ticket. You can also find a lot of beautiful invitations on Etsy if you’re not up for creating your own. Sending invitations sets the tone for your glamorous evening and makes it feel more special than a Facebook invite or a group text would. I think I sent our’s via email though.

AN INSPIRED MENU

We got the idea for the party as a whole from a family friend who mentioned she had always wanted to do it with a menu made up of items inspired from the Best Picture nominees. With the expansion of the Best Picture category in 2009 from five nominees to ten nominees, and later to “three to ten” nominees in 2011, that meant for quite an expansive and eclectic menu! We tried to have somewhat of a balance in terms of having a main and a dessert, with some sides and snacks in between. Over the three years we did it, these were our menus:

It was always fun to come up with the menu item from movies, but sometimes it could get challenging. Like what do you eat for Gravity, which (IIRC) doesn’t include any notable food scenes. Sometimes it’s easy because food plays a prominent role in the film. Either way, you can count on none of the foods “going together”. Just don’t forget the bubbly!

If we were hosting a party this year, this is what our menu might look like:

It’s Hollywood’s biggest night, so you definitely don’t want to skimp on the decor. It’s all about glitz and glam!

Over the three years, we also stocked up on a number of decorations, including some fabric to act as our red carpet. I found a ton of pictures on my old blog, but you’ll have to excuse the quality of my photos from five years ago. Here’s what we did:

  • Festive garlands: I found an Academy Awards printable with the circle icons of a tux, red dress, camera, and Oscar statue and turned it into a garland. I also found a tassel garland on Etsy.

  • Photo booth props: In our third year, we got some photo booth props from Etsy that really could be used for anything. We were just missing a good photo booth backdrop!

  • Treats: I found Oscar statue chocolates on Etsy.

  • Awards: I found an Oscar statue on the Hollywood Mega Store.

  • Red Carpet: My mom picked up some red fabric at a fabric store and we simply pinned it to the carpet just inside the door. I think it snowed heavily all three years we did it (or at least the first two), so there was no way we would put anything outside.

  • Other decor: For the second year, we got a dozen gold balloons to hang over the food. I wrote up some Oscars fun facts to hang from each of the balloons. Even with helium, I ended up taping the balloons to the ceiling, so what’s the point in paying for the helium? One year, we also had an infographic with all the dresses worn by actresses the year they won Best Actress. That was pretty cool!

Etsy is hands down the best place to get all your decorations. You can find a lot of generic stuff at party or craft stores, but if you’re looking for specific things, look no further than Etsy. Just make sure to get on there soon so everything comes before the 24th!

FUN GAMES, CONTESTS, OR COMPETITIONS

Let’s be real here, the current format of the ceremony can d r a g. It’s hard to keep your attention for so long, especially if you’re only invested in a number of categories. To make it more fun, especially for people who are less enthusiastic to sit through the party, it’s great to fill the evening with different games or competitions. Even if you’re all super interested in the whole ceremony, you still have to pass the time during commercial breaks.

Every year we’ve done a ballot contest. You can find some really nice single-page ballot printables on Etsy to have for all the guests to fill out at the beginning of the evening. It’s fun just to guess who’s going to win, but even more fun if there’s a prize up for grabs for the most correct answers! The third year, we had a giant ballot up on the wall for someone to update as the awards went out, just in case people were out of the room when the winners were announced. We also did a $2 buy in for the ballot competition so the winner took home the pot. (The above is not for this year, but as the ceremony gets closer, a lot of publications will have printable ballots available free as well.)

We’ve done other games like acceptance speech mad libs and one here where we had an infographic with icons for the Best Picture winners dating back to the 1st ceremony. We had an alphabetical list of all the winners so guests could guess which was which during the commercial breaks.

It would also be fun to create a short trivia game (ask one or two questions per break) or a bingo game for acceptances speeches with squares like:

  • Thanks God

  • Gets political

  • Talks about representation

  • Forgets to thank someone, tacks them on to the end

  • Isn’t prepared/didn’t think they’d win

  • Talks about the other nominees

  • Mentions Meryl Streep (maybe not super likely this year since she isn’t nominated, surprisingly)

  • Trips on their way up (oh hey, JLaw)

  • Says hi to someone watching at home/tells their kids to go to bed

RED CARPET OUTFITS

If you really want to go big, you should have a cocktail or black tie party. Maybe have people walk the red carpet and ask them who they’re wearing. Maybe have all the guests vote for the Best Dressed and give a prize to the winner. One year my sister re-wore all of her high school dance and bridesmaid dresses. She might have had more wardrobe changes than Anne Hathaway did the year she hosted!

If dressing up isn’t your thing, but watching the Red Carpet coverage is, you could have each of the guests create their own Best and Worst Dressed lists. (That’s my Best Dressed List from three years ago.)

This post contains affiliate links, so I may make a commission off any purchase you make through the link. Thank you for supporting my blog!

What I'm Baking This Holiday Season

EntertainingHannah DrakeComment

It’s no secret I love baking, but that love knows no limits during the holiday season. I really enjoy sharing my baking with friends, family, and neighbours. Here’s what I’m including in my gift tins for our neighbours again this year:

What I'm Baking This Holiday Season - Gingerbread

Gingerbread

I never know what to call this because it’s more cakey than it is bready.

My favourite way to enjoy gingerbread is warm with a side of peppermint ice cream. Peppermint ice cream isn't available here in the UK, which is a shame because it's a Larson family staple at Christmastime!

What I'm Baking This Holiday Season - Candy Coated Pretzels

Candy Coated Pretzels

If you can boil water, you can make these. I melted a whole bag of Wilton's candy melts in a double boiler, dipped the pretzels, tapped off the excess, and let them dry on parchment paper. I enlisted Luke's help to smash up some candy canes so I could top them off with red sprinkles and bits of peppermint. They turned out delicious! A whole bag of candy melts covered about 80 pretzels.

What I'm Baking This Holiday Season - Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies

I've been searching for years for a good sugar cookie recipe that will not only taste good, but keep the shape after being baked. Sally's Baking Addiction, my favourite online source for baking recipes, to the rescue! She'll walk you through the recipe and the technique, explaining why each step is important to producing the perfect cut out sugar cookies. I also used the royal icing recipe she included, piping it from a bottle, not a bag. I'm really happy with how they turned out. They kept their shape, I was able to line and then flood the cookies while icing, and the icing hardened so they were stackable and not sticky.

What I'm Baking This Holiday Season - Molasses Cookies

Molasses Cookies

I’ve seen—and tried—a number of ginger or molasses cookies, but I liked the way these spread and flatten better than another tasty recipe I’ve tried. After over baking the first 8 cookies by about 1-2 minutes, the rest turned out perfect. They're soft and chewy, but still have a nice "crust" on the outside.

What I'm Baking This Holiday Season - Cardamom Sugar Cookies

Cardamom Sugar Cookies

My sister made these a few years ago, I think for a Christmas cookie exchange party, and I've wanted to make them ever since. I couldn't find any ground cardamom at the shop, so I ended up getting pods and once again enlisted Luke for his smashing skills. He broke open the pods, separated out the seeds, and then ground them. It took about 15 pods per 1 teaspoon and it wasn't ground as finely as store-bought probably would have been, but apparently grinding your own makes for a better flavor. I adjusted the glaze recipe a bit, using about 1 cup of powdered sugar with the same amount of water to make it stiffer and I just drizzled it on top instead of icing them properly.

I'm always looking to branch out, so if you have any holiday favourites, post a link to the recipe in the comments below!