Gin Coconut Cooler

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It took me 14 years of living in New England, but I finally made it to Portland. The word all over Boston was that this city had an impressive food and drink scene. I'd heard restaurants named over and over again by friends within the hospitality industry. Now, people who live in Boston traditionally fall into two categories: those who head up to Maine, and those who go down to the Cape. We fall into the latter group, and it's almost impossible to get us to take any trips from April through November. Which only gives us the winter months to get away. Towards the end of last year, I told Eric I couldn't take it any longer. We had to go.  

During our time in Portland, we stayed at the Press Hotel, a charming property centrally located within walking distance to many great restaurants, bars, and shops. Our first stop was at Eventide, a seafood-extravaganza that made this pescatarian very happy. From there we got drinks at the Portland Hunt & Alpine Club and Blyth and Burrows, which are just a few blocks away from each other (and only a couple minutes from where we stayed). Dinner was even more convenient: at Union Restaurant, on the ground level of the Press. After dinner, we walked briskly through the 19-degree air to the other side of town for some drinks at Bearded Lady's Jewel Box, a bar so charming I wish I could've bottled it up and taken the whole vibe home. The night ended around the corner at Chaval, a Spanish-themed restaurant and bar. Too full to get more than some tapas, we ordered the boquerones and a cocktail and were perfectly content. That was just our first night. The rest of the weekend was spent doing more of the same: trying bites at different spots, meeting chefs, bartenders and distillers along the way. By the end, we felt like we were a part of the community (which shows just how warm and welcoming everyone is). There will undoubtedly be a return trip, and I don't expect it'll take us as long to get back up. 

Activities like our trip to Portland are what get us through the winter months. I'm always trying to plan things for the weekends. Shows to see, restaurants to check out, friends to brunch with. It's the only way we can deal with the snow and cold. Another thing that helps me forget about the dreary weather is festive cocktails. These usually involves lots of lime and herbs (typically, mint). I know some folks (including my wonderful husband) who have major issues with cilantro, but I can't get enough of it in drinks. The fragrant citrus notes pair beautifully with the botanicals of a dry gin. A little heat (and a slight tingly/numbing effect) is provided from the Sichuan peppercorn syrup, but the creamy coconut milk keeps it mellow.

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Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food
Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food

Gin Coconut Cooler
Yield: 1 drink
Tools: cocktail shakermuddlercocktail strainer
Glassware: Rocks glass

1 oz Sichuan peppercorn simple syrup (see recipe below)
1.25 oz lime juice
6-8 cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
2 oz gin
.5 oz green chartreuse
1 oz full-fat coconut milk

Add lime juice, cilantro, and simple syrup to cocktail shaker. Muddle cilantro. Add gin, green chartreuse, and coconut milk, along with 3-4 ice cubes, and shake for 15 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass. Fill glass to the top with crushed ice. Garnish with cilantro.

Sichuan Peppercorn Simple Syrup
Yield: 1 cup
Tools: saucepan, strainer

3  tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar

In a small pot, bring water to a boil. Add Sichuan peppercorns to the pot, turn off heat, and cover with a lid. Let steep for 30 minutes. Strain Sichuan peppercorns from the pot, reserving liquid. Put the liquid back in the pan, along with the sugar. Set over medium-high heat. Whisk until sugar has dissolved. Take off heat. Let the syrup cool completely before using. Store in a container in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Gin Coconut Cooler from A Thought For Food

Classic Manhattan

Classic Manhattan Cocktail Recipe -
Classic Manhattan Cocktail Recipe -

There are few things I find more satisfying during these cold months than sipping a Manhattan. It's my go-to winter drink, which means we always have a bottle of Blanton's and sweet vermouth on hand. Traditionally, rye whiskey is used, but I prefer the sweetness of bourbon over the spicy notes in rye (with that said, I was recently introduced to Basil Hayden's Dark Rye, which is blended with port, and I've become a big fan).  If you've never made a Manhattan before, it's a good drink to learn (and it's easy to remember): 2 parts whiskey to 1 part sweet vermouth (often this is 2 oz and 1 oz, but if you're having a rough day, a larger pour may be necessary), a few dashes of Angostura bitters, all of which is stirred in a glass with ice and strained into a coupe. While the spirits are the most important ingredients here, we can't forget about the garnish. Now, it may be easier and cheaper to get your hands on some of those bright red maraschino cherries you used to have in your Shirley Temples when you were a kid, but please... please... invest in the good stuff (Luxardo are available at most liquor stores or online). Yes, it's $20 for a container, but when you're only having one per drink, a jar goes a long way. Believe me, it's worth the extra money.  

Classic Manhattan Cocktail Recipe -
Classic Manhattan Cocktail Recipe -

Yield: 1 drink
Tools: Mixing glass, cocktail strainer
Glassware: 3.5 oz coupe

2 oz Rye whiskey or Bourbon
1 oz sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Maraschino cherry, garnish (Luxardo is recommended)

Add 3-4 ice cubes to mixing glass. Add whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters and stir for 20 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with cherry. 


Mezcal Paloma

The majority of the time, I'm the one who prepares dinner.  It makes sense. I'm home before Eric, I can often get to the store... plus, I enjoy doing it. It's not that he can't cook or that he's not good at it (he's actually very good), it's just become a task that I've taken over. But why not find some time to cook together? The idea has been lingering in my mind ever since I read Ashley's Date Night In, a cookbook featuring recipes and stories from the evenings she and her husband spend preparing dishes. I found the whole thing truly inspiring and at one point even suggested it... but over a year went by gone and we never followed through. A few weeks ago, however, after a particularly hectic week, Eric suggested that we spend our Saturday night at home. The lightbulb flickered on. "Hey, we have all of these cookbooks around. Why don't we make something from one of them?" We pulled out a recent addition to our collection that features authentic Chinese recipes, made a list, went to the store, and cooked up a storm. The food was incredible. Probably the best we've ever made. And we did it together (all while sipping on palomas). This past weekend we did it again, this time going in a more Mediterranean direction: braised octopus, roasted eggplant, whipped goat cheese, and homemade pita (that evening we went with martinis).

The paloma, featured here, is an easy, refreshing drink. Typically it includes tequila, but I like the slightly smoky notes the mezcal provides. A simpler version of the recipe can be made by using grapefruit soda instead of the fresh grapefruit juice, sugar and soda water, but if you have grapefruits on hand, I prefer this method. 


Highball or rocks glass

1 drink

Kosher salt
1 lime wedge
1/4 ounce lime juice
2 ounces grapefruit juice
2 ounces mezcal (or tequila)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ounces soda water
1 grapefruit wedge, for garnish

1. To rim the glass, pour salt onto a plate. Rub the rim of the glass with the lime wedge and then dip the rim into the salt, spin slowly until rim is lightly coated in salt.

2. Pour lime juice, grapefruit juice, mezcal and sugar into a glass. Using a spoon, stir until sugar has dissolved. Fill glass with ice cubes and top with soda water.