Hannah Drake

Entertaining

Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies

EntertainingHannah DrakeComment

I’m so glad I remembered these cookies last year! I first made them years ago totally forgot about them in all of my pumpkin craze. I’m not sure what sparked my memory, but I had my mom include a box of instant apple cider mix in my autumn care package (I say that like it’s a regular thing…nope, I just need one in the autumn!) along with a carton of Trader Joe’s chewy caramels, which are THE BEST. (For this recipe, I cut each caramel in half while still wrapped.)

I love making homemade apple cider when the weather starts to turn. It’s become one of my regular autumn activities. I mean, all those apples from the apple orchard aren’t going to eat themselves! We’ve turned warm apple cider into a delicious seasonal cocktail. But I’d actually pair these cookies with pumpkin juice (a la Harry Potter). Though, whatever your preference is, these are a fantastic autumn treat and they’ll definitely earn you some points with whomever you share them.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 10 packets instant apple cider

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 eggs, room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 24-30 chewy caramels

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (This is necessary for any caramel that might leak out.)

In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt cinnamon, and apple cider powder.

With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar, until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and mix to combine.

Slowly add flour mixture to butter/egg mixture. Mix until just combined.

Scoop out 2 Tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball.

Flatten the ball of dough slightly in the palm of your hand. Press the unwrapped caramel into the middle of your dough and seal the dough around it, covering it completely. Shape it back into a ball.

Place on parchment or baking match covered cookie sheets about 3 inches apart.

Bake 11-14 minutes, or until very lightly browned around the edges. They may not look quite done in the centre, but you want a chewy centre.

Allow the cookies to cool on the parchment or mat (slide it off of the tray, if needed) so the caramel is hardened and the cookie will not fall apart when you pick it up. You’ll know it’s ready when you can twist the cookie off the parchment or mat and it comes off clean. Allow them to finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Once the cookies are done, carefully slide the parchment off of the baking sheet right out onto the counter.

I was seriously impressed with how they turned out and I have to say they’re probably the prettiest cookies I’ve ever made. So of course I had to do a little photo shoot with them (last year). Sadly, I’m somehow missing 100ish photos from my hard drive that include my cookie photoshoot, so I had to scour my blog and social media for any photos that I had already shared before deleting them.

For another apple cider baked treat, try these apple cider donuts, which use actual apple cider, which might be easier to find—and certainly easier to make!

Two Tropical Cocktails

EntertainingHannah DrakeComment

I’m doubling up this month with TWO tropical cocktails. It’s funny, we’ve been talking more about doing all-inclusive tropical holidays in recent months and that’s totally what these types of cocktails remind me of. But the weather has turned a bit lately and it’s already starting to cool off while the rain picks up. Granted, it has still been in the (low) 70’s, but this week I don’t think has broken out of the 60’s yet. Needless to say, these drinks would have been better suited for that one day last month when it was nearly 100. Still, I had to make good use of these cups that are actually vases from the dollar spot at Target.

And no, even though it might look like this post is sponsored by Malibu Rum, I assure you it is not. I’m not that big time. I just chose to use it for both recipes.

PIÑA COLADA

  • 2 oz coconut rum

  • 4 1/2 oz pineapple juice

  • 2 oz coconut cream or coconut milk

  • ice

  • pineapple wedge, to garnish

DIRECTIONS

In a blender, mix coconut rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and ice until blended and smooth. Poor into a tiki mug or poco grande. Garnish with fresh pineapple wedges (and a paper umbrella, if you so choose).

MAI TAI

  • 1 1/2 oz coconut rum or white rum

  • 1 oz dark rum

  • 1/2 oz Cointreau

  • 1 1/2 oz pineapple juice

  • 1 1/2 oz orange juice

  • 1/2 oz lime juice

  • 1/4 oz grenadine

  • pineapple wedge and maraschino cherries, to garnish

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for 20-30 seconds until well mixed and chilled. Strain into a tiki mug or highball glass. Garnish with fresh pineapple wedges and maraschino cherries (and a paper umbrella, if you so choose).

A BRIEF HISTORY OF PIÑA COLADAS

The name piña colada quite literally means "strained pineapple”, a reference to the pineapple juice used in the cocktail. The earliest known story of the drink dates back to the 19th century and a Puerto Rican pirate, Roberto Cofresí, though the recipe was lost after his death in 1825. 125 years later in 1950, the New York Times mentioned “Cuba's piña colada”. The Caribe Hilton Hotel in Puerto Rico claims the drink was created there in 1954 by a bartender and 50 years later, the hotel was presented with a proclamation by the Governor celebrating its anniversary. Elsewhere in Puerto Rico, a restaurant called Barrachina claims a Spanish bartender invented it in 1963. Any way you slice it, Puerto Rico gets the credit and the island named the piña colada its official drink in 1978. And I bet you can’t think about piña coladas without singing the song to yourself. (If you weren’t before, you are now!)

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MAI TAIS

Like many cocktails, the origin of the Mai Tai is a little unclear. It’s most commonly credited to Victor J. Bergeron, who claimed to have invented it in 1944 at Trader Vic’s in Oakland, California. However, Donn Beach, “the founder of tiki culture” who is credited with opening the first tiki bar during the 1930’s in Hollywood, says Bergeron’s Mai Tai was based on his own Q.B. Cooler cocktail from 1933. The name was allegedly taken from maita'i, the Tahitian word for "good" or "excellence". It is traditionally garnished with mint leaves and a lime wedge.

HOW TO SERVE THESE COCKTAILS

If you want to fully embrace Donn Beach’s tiki culture, by all means, pick up some tiki mugs or turn tiki vases into mugs. (My guess is the inside of the mugs would have fewer crevasses than the vases and therefore be easier to wash. However, you can go the more traditional route.

Piña Coladas are traditionally served in a poco grande, or what I’ve always heard referred to as a daiquiri glass. The big bowl bottom is perfect for frozen drinks and the small, flared opening is perfect for a tropical fruit garnish.

Mai Tais are traditionally served in a highball glass. With so many ingredients, the volume of the liquid starts to add up, so you’ll want a 12 to 16 ounce glass. Of course in a glass, unlike a tiki mug, you’ll be able to see the colours in the cocktail as well.

When my sister and I were younger, every year around Christmastime my mom would take us to Denver to see a show and we would go out to this Chinese restaurant near the theatre beforehand. She would let us order virgin cocktails and I think we almost always got daiquiris or Piña Coladas.

VIRGIN PIÑA COLADA

  • 2 oz coconut water

  • 4 1/2 oz pineapple juice

  • 2 oz coconut cream or coconut milk

  • ice

  • pineapple wedge, to garnish

DIRECTIONS

In a blender, mix coconut water, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and ice until blended and smooth. Poor into a tiki mug or poco grande. Garnish with fresh pineapple wedges (and a paper umbrella, if you so choose).

VIRGIN MAI TAI

  • 1 1/2 oz water

  • 2 oz pineapple juice

  • 2 oz orange juice

  • 1/2 oz lime juice

  • 1/4 oz grenadine

  • pineapple wedge and maraschino cherries, to garnish

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for 20-30 seconds until well mixed and chilled. Strain into a tiki mug or highball glass. Garnish with fresh pineapple wedges and maraschino cherries (and a paper umbrella, if you so choose).

Shop our bar favourites below:

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5 Simple Syrups You Need in Your Home Bar

EntertainingHannah DrakeComment

I started exploring the wonderful world of simple syrups last fall to up my beverage game (and impress our guests). It’s a really…simple way to take your cocktails to the next level. They’re easy to make and they keep well in your refrigerator. Once you have the basics, you can do pretty much anything! (Including doubling or halving the recipe to meet your needs.) So let’s get to the five key syrups (IMO) that you need for your home bar so you can make delicious seasonal drinks all year round.

And remember: the beauty of simple syrups is that they’re great in any drink, it doesn’t have to be alcoholic.

LAVENDER SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1 cup cool water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 Tablespoons lavender buds

Add the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 7 minutes. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, strain, then chill for 1 hour before using. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 1 month.

Variants: blackberry lavender simple syrup (add 1 cup fresh blackberries) or lavender thyme simple syrup (add 1 bunch fresh thyme)

Try it in a Gin & Tonic or a Gimlet for a refreshing summer cocktail. For a non-alcoholic drink, add 1 Tbsp to lemonade.

ROSEMARY SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1 cup cool water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Add the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 7 minutes. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, strain, then chill for 1 hour before using. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 1 month.

Try it in a Gimlet or a cranberry sour.

APPLE CINNAMON SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1 cup cool water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 apple (any kind), sliced

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 3 cinnamon sticks

Add the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 7 minutes. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, strain, then chill for 1 hour before using. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 1 month.

Note: If using ground cinnamon, it will settle. Shake well before using it to mix the cinnamon through.

Add it to your gin & tonic for a delicious autumnal drink.

CRANBERRY SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1 cup cool water

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 1/4 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)

Add the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 7 minutes. (Do not allow the berries to burst.) Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, strain, then chill for 1 hour before using. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 1 month.

Try it in a Moscow Mule for a cocktail perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

GINGERBREAD SIMPLE SYRUP

  • 1 cup cool water

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup molasses (treacle)

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger or 2 ounces (225 grams) fresh ginger, peeled & diced

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon or 4 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 teaspoon cloves or 12 whole cloves

Add the ingredients to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then chill for 1 hour before using. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 1 month.

Note: This syrup will be dark and thicker than normal simple syrup because of the added molasses and it will settle over time. Shake well before using it to mix the molasses and ground spices through. Using fresh ginger may result in a different taste than ground ginger.

Try it in a Kentucky Mule (bourbon & ginger beer) for a festive cocktail you can drink throughout the holidays. It’s also unbelievably good in a cup of hot chocolate!

Earlier this moth, I attempted to freeze a simple syrup to free up space in the fridge and kind of just to see if it works. I poured it into an ice cube tray and after a few days, it was a really soft solid. Almost like jelly. They came out in one piece (but didn’t pop out like normal ice cubes), so I was able to put them into a bag to keep in the freezer. But then they just kind of turned into a solid mushy thing. I can just scoop it out when I need some, but it’s not as clean and simple as I imagined.

If you want more, check out my Cardamom Coconut Gin Fizz post for the cardamom simple syrup recipe or my Red, White, & Blue Raspberry Lemonade for the raspberry simple syrup recipe.

Shop some of our bar favourites below. We use the 250ml glass bottles (with the cork) to store our simple syrups when we’re entertaining. (It doesn’t quite hold a full batch if using 1 cup of both water and sugar.) The pourers fit perfectly in the top which saves us from a sticky mess. To store in the fridge, we keep them in mason jars. I recommend using both because it’s messy to pour from the mason jars, but they do seal it a lot better and keep it fresher longer.

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!