Celebrating a new book with the Redeeming Spirits cocktail

photo credit: Andrea Meyers

photo credit: Andrea Meyers

My always-inspiring friend Monica Bhide has a new book out, The Devil in Us. Although Monica usually writes thoughtful musings about food and her Indian heritage (with good reason, her work frequently is featured in the annual “Best Food Writing” compilations), this is her fiction debut, a collection of short stories.

I was honored when Monica asked me to create a spicy cocktail to celebrate the new book — and here it is, perfect for sipping while you read. There’s a non-alcoholic version too, at Monica’s request. Enjoy!

Redeeming Spirits 

A variation on the classic Moscow Mule, this drink is powered by the heat of pepper-infused vodka. Choose a good commercial brand (I like Oola, from Washington State), or marinate a sliced fresh jalapeno in one cup of unflavored vodka for a couple of hours. Note – a traditional Mule uses ginger beer; here the sweetness of ginger ale should help balance out the jalapeno spice.

1 1/2 ounces chile pepper-infused vodka

1/2 ounce lime juice (about half a lime)

4 ounces ginger ale

Jalapeno slice (to garnish)

In a tall glass, pour in the vodka and squeeze the lime wedges into the glass. Drop the wedges into the glass, and add a scoop of ice. Add ginger ale to fill the glass and stir.



4-6 ounces spicy ginger beer

1/2 ounce lime juice (about half a lime)

In a tall glass, pour in the ginger beer and squeeze the lime wedges into the glass. Drop the wedges into the glass. Scoop in ice and stir to chill.

Behind the book – my guest post on Life of Spice

I admit it:  When Monica Bhide asked me to write for her lovely “Life of Spice” blog about how I came up for the idea for Cocktails for a Crowd, I considered fibbing. 

“I could always spin some thirsty story about how I threw a party, and…”

“Well, I guess I could throw together something about how I was inspired by bartenders, and…”

Although there would have been elements of truth to both (hey, I said fibbing, not outright lying!) instead I opted to tell the truth. Here’s how I came up with the idea for the book, as posted on Monica’s blog. I guarantee, it’s not the pretty story you expect.

My guest post on A Life of Spice

It’s always a good day when I get to talk with Monica Bhide — food writer, author, spice expert, inspiring writing instructor, cocktail contest conspirator, friend.

Monica is particularly skilled at persuading others to tell their stories (check out her book of interviews with exceptional women). And her question to me was:  How did I –a journalist of the booze– come to write a book about food & finance & history?

Here’s the answer – my guest blog post for Monica’s popular site, A Life of Spice.

Spicy cocktail contest finalists

Did you enter the “build us a spicy cocktail” contest? In case you missed all the excitement, spice goddess Monica Bhide is hosting this contest to find the best original spicy cocktail — and I have the pleasure of judging the entries. So over the weekend, I made (and drank!) the three finalist cocktails. Here they are:

Poddy Toddy, submitted by Lamb’s Munchings & Musings

1/4 cup shots boiling water
4 whole cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 teaspoon honey
1 thai chili, cut in half lengthwise through the stem
2 shots brandy
whipped cream
ground cardamom (optional)

Steep cardamom pods in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Strain, and stir honey into water, add the chili halves, and reheat water until hot or boiling.

Remove chili halves and reserve. Add brandy. Divide liquid between two mugs. Top each with a dollop of whipped cream, a very light dusting of ground cardamom atop the cream, and hang half a chili from the side of each mug.

Panaka Punch, submitted by Panfusine

1 oz chilled Lemon flavored Vodka
2 oz Domain de Canton Ginger liqueur
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered dry ginger
2-3 pods Cardamom (seeds lightly crushed)
1/2 a lime ( juice squeezed )
3 ounces chilled sparkling water or lime flavored seltzer

Muddle the brown sugar, cardamom seeds, ginger powder and lime juice till the sugar dissolves. add the vodka, and ginger liqueur along with the seltzer/sparkling water. Strain into glasses (rimmed with sugar if desired) & serve chilled.

Saffron Mojito, submitted by nitu didi

To make 1 cup of saffron syrup, boil 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water for about 6 minutes and add a pinch saffron to the sugar water mixture.

30 ml of white rum

60 ml of saffron sugar syrup
a few mint leaves
20 ml of lime juice
lots of crushed ice

In a fancy glass crush the mint leaves with the back of the spoon to emit their flavor. Add the rum, sugar syrup and the lime juice and taste. You can always make it sweeter, more sour or even more potent!!! add the crushed ice and give it a stir!!!!!!!!!!

and the winner is…..? 

Build us a spicy cocktail!

A photo Monica snapped of SOME of the prize booty.

Want to win a copy of Spice & Ice, plus an amazing passel of cocktail-worthy goodies?  Strut your stuff by creating your own original spicy cocktail!  All the details are posted here.

Spice goddess Monica Bhide is hosting the contest – if you’re not already familiar with her, let me tell you, the woman is a walking spice encyclopedia. Among her many accomplishments, she’s the author of the fab ” iSpice” app as well as Modern Spice, a mouthwatering book focused on Indian cooking.  Clearly we share a love of bold flavors in food and drink.

I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Monica on this giveaway. Wait until you see the incredible box of goodies she’s put together: spices from Williams-Sonoma and MySpiceSage, Bar Keep Bitters ( love those Baked Apple Bitters), a cocktail shaker from Perfect Puree of Napa Valley, and a LOT more. No wonder Monica says this is her biggest contest EVER!

One more detail: I will make (and drink) the top 3 finalist cocktails, and will be posting those finalist recipes on this site. But only one winner gets the grand prize box (…AND publication on both Monica’s site and mine…AND of course, bragging rights)!

Deadline to submit is Sept. 30.  Click here to check out all the contest details and view the giveaway prize!

Spice & Ice virtual cocktail party, part 1

Welcome to the party!

I’ve invited a dynamic group of bloggers, cocktailians, food/drink writers, and authors to make a drink from Spice & Ice and “bring it to the party” on their respective blogs, and mine.  Credit for this idea goes to Modern Spice author Monica Bhide, who held her own “virtual potluck” a few months back (and who will be one of the party guests here as well). 

Check back over the next couple of weeks as party-goers share their stories and photos. I’ve also encouraged everyone to tweak recipes as they see fit.  Meet the first group below — and I encourage you to click through to read the full posts on the individual sites — such wonderful stories!  So pour yourself a drink, and join the party…

Fall Spice Cordial:  “So, how does it taste? Intriguing and delightful! The acidity of the orange tempers the sweet caramel notes of the bourbon; and the hint of chipotle provides a rather addictive bit of warmth on the finish. Simply put, it makes you want to take another sip – and that’s the sure sign of a well-crafted cocktail. I loved it and you will too!” Diva on a Diet / Beach Eats    

Dragonfire Cocktail:  “For over a week I was surrounded by dragons. My neighborhood, on the edges of NYC’s Chinatown, was in the midst of Chinese New Year celebrations. …So it was only natural that for the virtual cocktail party I’d make the Dragonfire Cocktail. 

The verdict: Hot stuff, but not overly so. This is a potent drink, yet it was smooth to drink… I enjoyed the lingering taste of jalapeno, lime and orange. The copious amounts (for me) of tequila acted as a potent sleeping elixir. Even if a real dragon had passed by my window that night, I’m certain I wouldn’t have heard it.”  –The Busy Hedonist 

Sparkling Ginger Daisy:   “The drink is not-too-sweet, with a lovely bite. The unexpected pairing of gin and ginger works beautifully and the grenadine adds colour to an otherwise pale beverage. I’m not usually a champagne girl, but the added fizz is perfect in this cocktail. I can see Sparkling Ginger Daisies becoming a summertime drink I could like a little too much.”  – Charmian Christie

Red Dawn:  “This drink is not your mother’s Bloody Mary… The Red Dawn cocktail gives you the familiar flavor profile that you love in a Bloody Mary and it’s frightfully easy to make. One ingredient that pulls it all together is Harissa.  Harissa is a Moroccan chili paste whose components easily replace the traditional tabasco, lemon juice, worcestershire, and celery salt combination that is normally found in a Bloody Mary. 

But please do not take my word for it.  You’ve got to try this drink for yourself.”  —Heather Jones, Project Foodie

A little news, and an invitation

I know, I’ve been awfully quiet over here for about a week or so. Lots going on behind the scenes, as usual.

First – I’m now blogging about wine over at Serious Eats. You can view my first two posts, on unusual white wine varietals, and the great wine bargain that is sherry.  No, I haven’t given up on the wonderful world of cocktails and spirits, but I’m viewing this as a great opportunity to learn more about wine.  Unfortunately, a weekly commitment to the Serious Grape column means I have a bit less time to blog over here.

Second – To show how much I have not given up on cockails, especially spicy ones, I’m organizing a virtual Spice & Ice cocktail party!  Keep an eye out for bloggers who will be making drinks from the book, and reporting back their experiences on their respective blogs, some with photos or videos. I have to credit my friend Monica Bhide with conceiving the idea of a “virtual potluck” to promote her fabulous Indian cookbook Modern Spice.  And this will have a few fun twists unique to the cocktail universe….

I already have quite a few cocktailians, food writers, authors, bloggers, and others involved in the event, but there are still some spots open.  If you’d like to get involved email me (Kara DOT Newman AT yahoo DOT com) – the more the merrier!

Spice & Ice in The Washington Post!

If you haven’t already seen WaPo’s regular “iSpice” blog, penned by the lovely and talented Monica Bhide, you’re going to want to check it out. Each week, Monica writes about a different spice and how to use it to best advantage. This week, she’s focusing on cloves, and includes the Aperol Spice cocktail from Spice & Ice as a great example of how to showcase cloves in cocktails.

She made a great choice – the Aperol Spice is one of my favorite cocktails in the book.

The Aperol Spice

The Aperol Spice

 I love the rosy color, the sweet-bitter flavor, and the way mixing up a batch of cinnamon-clove syrup perfumes my entire apartment. Click here to read the article and get the drink recipe! 

(warning: WaPo includes calorie counts and other nutritional info with all their recipes, including this one. you may want to look away…)

Photo credit: Monica Bhide