Kumbocha Gin Rickey Cocktail

Happy New Year everyone! I can’t think of any better way to start this blog’s new year than to post….a celebratory cocktail!

Kombucha Cocktail on CaretoPair.com

My great friend Kristi, author of the Paleo Blog South of Vanilla, asked me to do a collaboration post with her on a Kombucha cocktail. So what in the world is Kombucha? When I visited her in DC last winter, it seemed to be all the rage. In short, it is fermented tea. Its very common to make your own using proprietary yeast (much like you would to make your own beer), but you can also buy various flavors of Kombucha at specialty grocery stores (I found the one I used for this cocktail at target–GT’s Organic Raw Synergy “Trilogy” Kombucha. For more information on Kombucha, head over to South of Vanilla to see Kristi’s part of this post!

Kombucha Cocktail on CaretoPair.com

The Cocktail

The Gin Rickey is a classic cocktail originally created with bourbon, but became very popular when it was perfected by gin. It is simply made with gin, lime, and seltzer water. For the purposes of this cocktail, I subbed the Kombucha (which is carbonated, by the way) for the seltzer water and added simple syrup for a little sweetness. This in turn made a beautiful colored drink with great fruity flavor from the Kombucha.

A few notes:

  • I used the “trilogy” flavor of the GT’s Kombucha, but I think you could really use any flavored Kombucha you find. Just ask yourself if the Kombucha you’ve picked would go good with a squeeze of lime. If the answer is yes, use it in this cocktail!
  • If you’re new to making cocktails, this is a very easy one to start out with. Simply shake all ingredients besides the Kombucha in a cocktail strainer (go buy one if you don’t have one) and strain into an ice-filled tall glass like the one in the picture below. The Kombucha is used as a “float”, which means you pour it on last on top of the other ingredients. This is what makes the cocktail two-toned and so pretty. Feel free to stir the drink to incorporate the flavors after you’ve admired the pretty colors.

Kombucha Gin Rickey | CaretoPair.com

Kumbocha Gin Rickey
Recipe type: Gin Cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 drink
  • 2 oz gin (we used Tanqueray)
  • juice of ½ lime
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz Kombucha (use as needed)
  • basil sprig (for garnish)
  1. Combine gin, lime juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain over ice-filled high-ball or collins glass.
  2. Top with Kombucha. Garnish with a sprig of basil.


Dani’s Picks for Celebrating NYE with Champagne

What Champagne to drink on NYE |CaretoPair.com

Ah, Champagne. We drink it at weddings, we drink it at birthdays. We drink it at graduations, we drink it on holidays. We drink it at restaurants and nightclubs, swanky bars, and cocktail parties. Whenever there’s a reason to celebrate, you can be sure Champagne will show up to the party.

There really isn’t any myth to why we drink bubbles while we’re celebrating. Sparkling wine has more than a hundred years on soda pop, and although beer is our other BFF in the carbonated world, back in the day, the elite wouldn’t dare associate with it. With the help of the Noveau-Riche generation in the late 1800s and some great advertisements associating champagne with the high life, society has recognized Champagne as the drink of celebrations ever since.

NYE Champagne |CaretoPair.com

For my drink-loving readers who may not know too much about Champagne, this is the one thing you should take away from this post: Not all sparkling wines are “Champagne”. Champagne is a region in France and the most famous in the world for sparkling wines. Thanks to the demand of their wines around the world, Champagne prices are much higher than those, say, made in America, Italy, or Australia. However, their prices are definitely worth it–there is nothing in the world like Champagne, and if you’re celebrating….anything…I definitely advocate paying the extra few bucks. (Champagne generally has a more bready, toasty character than most other sparkling wines of the world.)

Check out these pretty glasses from Perrier-Jouet. I’ve got about a hundred of them for some reason (available in gift packs around the holidays):

NYE Champagne |CaretoPair.com

Anyway, I’ve been very lucky to taste some of the famous Champagne houses side-by-side blindly in the past, thus truly distinguishing my favorites. And although through in those tastings I realized I don’t really care for the lightly-flavored Dom Perignon but am absolutely crazy about Krug, there was not one Champagne that I did not like. Here are my suggestions if you’re looking to celebrate the new year with Champagne but have no idea what to get!

My Champagne Suggestions:

  • Nicolas Feuillatte—my go-to Champagne, and my favorite to share with friends ($36.99 totalwine.com)
  • Pommery Brut Royal ($44.99 totalwine.com)
  • Taittinger La Francais Brut ($39.99 totalwine.com)
  • Perrier Jouet Grand Brut—another one of my favorites for the price ($37.99 totalwine.com)
  • Billecart Salmon Brut Rose—my favorite Rose under $100 ($84.99 total wine)
  • Krug Brut NV—my absolute favorite (non-vintage) bottle! ($180 totalwine.com)
  • Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque—beautiful bottle/presentation, makes a great hostess gift ($160 totalwine.com)
  • Veuve Clicquot La Grand Dame—my favorite “elegant-style” Champagne. Skip the yellow-label Veuve and splurge on this one. ($149.97 totalwine.com)

My Non-Champagne Picks:

Don’t feel like paying Champagne prices? No one said you can’t drink other Sparkling Wines on New Years!

  • Roederer Estate Brut $19.99 totalwine,com
  • Mumm Napa Brut Prestige $16.97 totalwine.com
  • Domaine Carneros Brut $22.99 totalwine.com
  • La Marca Prosecco $13.49 totalwine.com
  • Any fully sparkling Asti (Moscato grape) for those of you with sweet-tooths!

New Year Champagnes | CaretoPair.com

Finally, if you’re looking at your bottle of Champagne but don’t understand some of the lingo on it, here’s a cheat sheet:

Champagne Terms

  • Brut—Dry (meaning not sweet) (most common style)
  • Extra Brut—Even more dry than Brut, meaning even less sugar is in the final mix (for purposes of your taste buds, there is very little difference between Brut and Extra Brut)
  • Extra Dry—a bit sweeter than the brut style, but for purposes of your taste buds, there is very little difference (isn’t that confusing?)
  • Demi-Sec—relatively sweet style of Champagne
  • Sec—although this literally means “dry” in French, it refers to a sweeter style in Champagne
  • Doux—sweet, dessert style Champagne (very rare to find today)
  • Blanc de Blancs—Champagne made with 100% white grapes, which are almost always Chardonnay
  • Blanc de Noirs—Champagne made with 100% red grapes, either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. Although it is made with red grapes, the juice is still white! (so don’t let that confuse you)
  • NV—Non-vintage, which is the majority of all bottles (Champagnes use blends of wine from different years in their signature “house” style)
  • Methode Traditional—the traditional method of making champagne or sparkling wine. All wines from Champagne must be made in the method traditional.

Happy New Years everyone and thanks for reading! I’m looking forward to a lot of blog progress in 2015! :) Please post any questions you may have about sparkling wine in the comments of this post, and I’ll be sure to answer them!

Have a Merry Christmas with Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Buttered Rum | CaretoPair.com

Hot Butt Rum, Hot Butt Rum, na-na-na-na na-na-na-na Hot Butt Rum.

That is the tune of that Andrew sings every time he makes me Hot Buttered Rum, replacing the lyrics of “Hot Cross Buns”. He actually does this quite frequently, replacing lyrics to songs, especially around Christmas time. His favorite one (and secretly mine too) is replacing “kids jingle-belling and Dani Grams yelling” during the “most wonderful time of the year” song.  I gotta love our relationship. :)

Here in Las Vegas, we have to force ourselves into the holidays spirit. For those of us used to crappy, cold weather and dreary days around Christmas time, its difficult even after 10 years to adjust to the endless sunny days, palm trees, cacti, and warm daytime temperatures of the desert.

Hot Buttered Rum perfect for Holiday Sippers |CaretoPair.com

Despite having gotten our Christmas tree in t-shirts this year, our holiday season has been merry and bright thanks to one seasonally special drink: hot buttered rum. An irresistible cocktail with a funny name, this has been Andrew’s and my favorite holiday drink for the last few years. This is the go-to holiday concoction if you’re looking for something sweet and warming but don’t want the heaviness you’d get from creamy drinks like eggnog or baileys.

Hot Buttered Rum |CaretoPair.com

No matter how hot it may still be outside, a glass of hot buttered rum makes me want to snuggle in front of the (dvd) fireplace with the illusion that its snowy and cold out. And it’s a great one for your holiday guests—who doesn’t like butter, and who doesn’t like rum? You may get the occasional friend or family member who will look at you when you offer one with the look on their face like “butter in a cocktail??” You may even be thinking that right now. But trust me, this cocktail will be the hit while you’re decorating, while you’re eating cookies, while you’re opening presents…the opportunities are endless!

 Merry Christmas! I hope this cocktail enhances all the cheer in your home for the holidays!

Hot Buttered Rum
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 Cups light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • Pinch salt
  • Dark rum (we use spiced rum)
  • Boiling water
  1. In a bowl, cream together first 5 ingredients.
  2. Spoon a heaping Tablespoon of the mixture into a holiday mug.
  3. pour about 2 ½ ounces of rum into the mug
  4. Top with boiling water (I microwave mine to save even more time!)
  5. Refrigerate the remaining sugar mixture and save for the next time you or a guest wants a holiday cocktail!
  6. Optional: if you want to be extra fancy, top your hot buttered rum with whipped cream and dust with nutmeg.

Beef Stew Simmered in Smoked Porter

When you think of stew, do you think of cold weather? More importantly, do you think of beer? Haha. Well you should if you don’t!

This stew is the bee’s knees (what does that even mean?). I will admit that prior to this recipe, I wasn’t the biggest fan of stew. Andrew changed that with this recipe. What kind of a stew wouldn’t be good that’s simmered with an entire 22oz bottle of beer? Better yet, a SMOKED PORTER?


Beef Stew and Smoked Porter | CaretoPair.com

Ohhhh yeah…this dish may not be much to look at, but it completely changed my mind about stew! It is simmered for about 3 hours, and in that time, the smoked flavors from the beer meld with the veggies and beef in perfect harmony. While writing this post, Andrew told me that the original version of this recipe actually only calls for a porter, not necessarily a smoked porter. Which means my fiance is a genius for using the Alaskan Smoked Porter. In contrast to a regular porter, the smoked porter adds a deeper flavor; an extra meatiness, a heartiness that actually gives the stew substance. Its not just meat and potatoes anymore, its a smoky, peppery meal that gets better with every bite (and even better the day after–if you have any leftovers).

Beef Stew Simmered in Smoked Porter |CaretoPair.com

The Beer

Alaskan Smoked Porter is a seasonal release from the Alaskan Brewing Company (you guessed it…in Alaska!). Every year they bottle the beer, they mark the vintage on it–when breweries display the year like this, it usually means the beer is meant for aging (or just ages well. Drink that beer as soon as you want). Being a beer with a lot of powerful smokiness, the porter ages well. Holding a bottle for a few years will mellow those flavors out and create a different drinking experience than just drinking it as soon as it becomes available. If you’ve never had smoked beer, it kind of tastes the way it sounds…smokey. But don’t worry, it doesn’t straight up taste like a campfire. Its a meaty beer with flavors of black pepper, chocolate, and bacon. There’s a hidden sweetness in the beer too, kind of reminiscent of maple syrup. Just think about what these flavors do to the stew!

If you want to try this beer with something other than this stew, it pairs excellently with other meals with strong flavors. Think grilled or smoked meats or anything with bacon–the smokiness in the beer will just add to the smokiness of those foods. If you’re afraid to try a smoked beer, then cooking with it is a great option since it will cook down and mellow out. There are other beer options to pair with this stew as well if you really don’t like the sound of a smoked porter. Andrew opened up a belgian dubbel with it on our “leftovers” night. It was sweeter and fruitier than the smoked ale, which contrasted with the flavors in the dish in a good way.

Beef Stew with Alaskan Smoked Porter | CaretoPair.com


Beef Stew Simmered in Smoked Porter
Recipe type: Stew
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 2½ pounds beef for stewing
  • 1 22oz bottle of Alaskan Smoked Porter (or 2 12oz bottles of any other porter beer)
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 oz water
  • 2 cans beef broth
  • 1 8oz can tomato paste
  • ¼ Cup flour
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 4 red potatoes, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp pepper
  1. Heat oil and butter in a large stew pot. When hot, sear the stew meat on all sides until brown.
  2. Remove meat from pot (leave butter, oil and drippings). Add the onion and cook until caramelized. Mix in the flour.
  3. Add the beef broth, beer, tomato paste, 8 oz of water, salt and pepper and return the beef to the pot. Stir well and bring to a boil.
  4. Simmer the stew for three hours.
  5. When the meat is tender after 3 hours, add the celery, carrots and potatoes. Simmer an additional 1½ hours. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.