Monday, May 18, 2015

OMG a Recipe: Happy Hour at Home and Bringing WineSpritzersBack

*Cue JT, boogieing across the screen, doing some kind of The Robot-type dance move* "I'm bringin' WineSpritzersBack... Them other drinks just don't know how to act..." Okay, so maybe Justin Timberlake didn't show up to my sunny patio happy hour, but let's be honest, with this great weather and perfect setting, HE TOTALLY WOULD HAVE. With summertime practically here (Hello, Memorial Day weekend!), it's not wrong to start enjoying the great outdoors, even if it's as simple as having cocktails and snacks in your very own backyard.

The most exclusive happy hour in town -- YOUR BACKYARD - Photo by Wasabi Prime

As a blogger, I periodically have the pleasure of previewing new cookbooks before they're out, sample new products, and trying out culinary gadgets. A fabulous perk. But I don't always accept the offers if it's not something I would use. I was flattered to hear from one of my favorite online shops, UncommonGoods -- they liked my blog, and they had some cool wine gadgets for me to check out. I've been a customer of UncommonGoods for many years -- it's been my go-to for unique birthday/holiday gifts for over a decade, just because they have such cool freakin' stuff! I like giving things with a story, and they're like your favorite boutique shop, full of hand-crafted items by artists and designers, and most of the pieces are made in the USA. I don't think that Chia Pet you've been trying to foist on others for the last two Xmases can make the same claim. I've had artist friends compete in UncommonGoods' Design Challenges, where creations are submitted for community critiques as well as a chance to become a product on their virtual shelves. And they're a small, indie business that truly gives a hoot -- they donate $1 with every purchase to one of several non-profits, which include advocate groups for the environment, women's rights, and literacy/education for children and families.

My, Pup - Photo by Wasabi Prime
They also support a cause that's true to my heart: Happy Hour at Home. Yeah, I don't think that's going to get any charitable foundation status anytime soon, but it's totally where things are for me at the moment, since we got our sweet new fuzzy addition, Miss BK/Bua Kao/The Beeks. She's a sweet pup that appreciates her people being close, and we're still getting her adjusted and settled, and frankly, I want to take advantage of the fact that we have a kick-ass big yard and sunny days ahead! So I put together a little Happy Hour at Home to both savor the remains of a very nice day, and put these wine gadgets to the test!

Chilling and aerating at the same time, and a bar tool to make MacGyver so jelly - Photos by Wasabi Prime
First off - Wine Spritzers. They're not as horrible as they seemed in the 70s. You don't have to wear a caftan (but they are quite comfy), and they can actually taste good. The spritzers, not the caftan. One of the reasons spritzers are so great in the summer is that they're refreshing watered-down cocktails -- when it's hot, you don't want the Booze Sweats! I'll include my recipe at the end of the post, but I was able to put together a lovely Lambrusco wine spritzer, with a bit of mint simple syrup (made from our garden mint), a fresh squeeze of orange juice thanks to what is truly The Ultimate Cocktail Bar Tool, some seltzer, and a hefty pour of a well-chilled, bubbly sweet red wine. I know -- chiled bubbly red?? If you've never heard of Lambrusco, get thee a case or three for the summer -- it's like the BEST warm weather red to enjoy with your favorite grilled foods, even pizza. Sweet with a hint of oaky bitterness, armed with the chill and effervescence to cut through something as rich as a hot dog or hamburger. Also, very easy to work with as a spritzer that's basically like a sangria. The cocktail bar tool is super handy for picnics or parties on-the-go, given its multi-tasking abilities to open wine/beer bottles, measure out drink ingredients, give citrus a quick squeeze, and even a zester to garnish your creation. Take THAT, MacGyver!

Another funky gadget I especially liked was the Corkcicle Air, a funky wine aerator/chiller with a quick-freeze gel inside its dagger-like icicle shape. It didn't take long to freeze solid, maybe 30 minutes, and I popped it into a non-chilled bottle of wine. There's a hollow spout towards the upper part, where the wine pours through, so liquid further chills as it passes through part of the icicle, and aerates as it pours into the glass. It dropped the wine temperature down to a pleasant chill, maintaining its cool for a spell -- much like The Fonz. They should have called it The Fonzcicle

Bring the party outside - and watch BK practice her Parkour - Photos by Wasabi Prime
A wine can also be easily aerated when it's poured into aerating wine glasses, which have a cool pattern of optic ribs, helping to agitate the wine as it's poured/swirled, no need to wait for wine to breathe.  Less necessary for a mixed drink, sure, but awfully handy for summer picnics or meals enjoyed outside, when you don't want to haul out a separate decanter. Along with other fun wine glass designs and styles, UncommonGoods has two versions of these aerated wine glasses, one with a stem, one stemless -- for summer, I prefer the stemless -- made with a good, sturdy glass and a low center of gravity. Picnic-Perfect. Actually, all three of these items, the  aerating glasses, Corkcicle Air, and the cocktail tool, are like a picnic trifecta with their multitasking abilities and ease of transport.

Wine (bottle) and cheese party! - Photo by Wasabi Prime
But it's Happy Hour at Home. Make it special. Entice your friends to come to your house, tell them to ignore the clutter inside, and appreciate the al fresco delights of the patio. Pretty platters you've been wanting an excuse to use, an artful scatter of fruits or vegetables, even a quickly made centerpiece of flowers cut from your own garden -- a little bit of effort can make for a very pleasant tablescape. And YES, I SAID TABLESCAPE. Since it's wine-themed, why not set out a serving platter made out of a recycled wine bottle?  Clever, no? You don't realize how ideally shaped a wine bottle is for servingware, at least once it's melted flat. I can totally see myself serving fancy chocolates on this with glasses of port when the chilly weather returns.

Cheers to wine-inspired soaps - Photo by Wasabi Prime
And don't forget party favors! Or just indulging yourself. We got into handmade soaps last Christmas, when the Mister started making beer soap -- hop cone-infused soaps that very much smelled like beer. And they were so good on the skin! I loved these pretty wine-themed handmade soaps, made by a gal in Georgia. She uses fragrance notes familiar to popular wine varieties like chardonnay or pinot noir, and blends them into the soap -- like the essence of the wine. The soaps are beautiful -- sherbet-like swirls and even a bit of metallic-flecked bling on the edges. For special gatherings and people I haven't seen in a while, it's nice to give them a little something. These soaps would be perfect, separated and packaged up in some tissue paper, with some nice chocolate. Little indulgences, things to make a space special, much like a decked-out Happy Hour at Home, are the perfect pick-me-up during a busy week, when you're too tired to go out, or just can't go out because of kids or dogs. Or both.
But on to business -- a very easy, delicious wine spritzer that will totally make you 1970s Suburban Housewife/Mom Drunk:

3 oz chilled Lambrusco
2 oz seltzer water
1 oz mint simple syrup (fresh mint steeped in simple syrup, then strained)
1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice (or any sweet fruit juice of your choice)

Combine the Lambrusco, orange juice, and simple syrup in a glass, and top with seltzer and a sprig of mint for garnish. Allow the liquids to combine and get yo summer drank on. 

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