Mixing Margaritas

watermelon margarita

Margaritas are my favorite summer cocktail. There seems to be an explosion of flavored margaritas that take a basic lime margarita recipe and put a spin on it. I have been mixing a few, and while none have lived up to the success of the Cherry Margarita, they come close. Over the 4th of July weekend, we served a watermelon margarita (on leftover May Day coasters). I made them ahead of time and stored them in a giant Mason jar. The jar needed a little shake to mix the cocktail before each serving because the watermelon separates a little while sitting. Aside from that, the overall verdict is that the drink is very tasty.

Ingredients

  • 1 c. simple syrup
  • 2 c. watermelon cubes (or enough to fill the blender)
  • 1/2 c. fresh lime juice (or more to taste)
  • 3/4 c. tequila
  • 1/4 triple sec
  • crushed ice
  • lime wedges for garnish

watermelon margarita blender

Directions

  • In a blender, puree watermelon until liquified. Pour watermelon juice through a fine mesh sieve into a pitcher– or Mason jar. Push on the solid watermelon parts with a spatula to get all of the watermelon juice into the pitcher. Discard the “solid” watermelon stuff. You should have about 1 c. watermelon juice.
  • Add simple syrup, lime juice, tequila, and triple sec to the watermelon juice and stir.
  • Serve over crushed ice with a lime wedge.

watermelong margarita juices

Notes

  • To make simple syrup, Put equal parts water and sugar in a pot and heat on the stove until sugar is dissolved. Swirl the mixture a few times while heating. Remove from heat and let cool. If you only need a few cocktails, mix 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. If you are mixing cocktails for a large group, double or triple. Leftover simple syrup can be kept in a container with a lid in the refrigerator for a long time.
  • To make any fruit flavored margarita, mix equal parts fresh fruit juice, simple syrup, and liquor (like 1 cup of each).  Add half the measurement of fresh lime juice (or to taste). Serve over crushed ice or blend with ice to make a frozen version.

watermelon margarita closeMargaritas travel well. Look what TheSwimFriend brought to our final swim meet last night! What are other good “To Go” cocktails in hot, humid, muggy  weather?

margaritas to go

Houseguests– Day 5

strawberry peach sparkler with garnish

I think things are going well considering there are 10 people sleeping in my house. Everyone has made it to the beach and/or pool every day. Kids are going to bed at roughly the correct bedtimes, and I have not had to visit the grocery store more than once a day.

Current damages are minimal. Only 4 of Mr. Star Wars’ Lego men have missing hands; about a dozen have rearranged body parts. I don’t think the toddler ate the hands, but it is a possibility. Miss Priss slammed her foot in the car door while we were loading up the crew, and one niece got sick resulting in a late night visit to the 24-hour pharmacy.

Even though we have not had any major catastrophes or arguments, it was time for an adult beverage. Aunt B and I scrolled through my Yummy Drinks Pinterest Board for inspiration and created a Strawberry Peach Vodka Sparkler last night. We highly recommend.

Is this a normal coping strategy when family visits? Can anyone else relate?

Ingredients

  • 12 strawberries (~10 for the fruit vodka and extra for garnish)
  • 1 peach
  • 2 c. vodka
  • 1 c. simple syrup (see the notes)
  • 1 c. fresh lemon juice
  • Prosecco (or other sparkling wine)
  • fresh mint for garnish

strawberry peach sparkler ingredients

Directions

  • Cut 10 strawberries into bite sizes and place in a pitcher. Cut the peach into bite sizes and add to the pitcher. Pour vodka over the fruit and let steep in the refrigerator 3+ hours.
  • Make simple syrup and let cool (see notes below).
  • After the vodka finishes steeping, strain the fruit from the vodka.
  • Mix equal parts fruit vodka, simple syrup, and lemon juice. I mixed 1 cup each of fruit vodka, simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice, which yielded about 4 cocktails. You can double or triple (or reduce) as needed.
  • Fill a glass about 2/3 full with crushed ice. Pour the drink mix over the ice; top with a splash of Prosecco (~2 oz.).
  • Garnish with a mint sprig and a slice of strawberry and serve.

Notes

  • The color of the fruit leeches out while sitting in the vodka, so it is not very pretty to leave the soaked fruit in your cocktail, but you certainly can.
  • We think the strawberries and peach could be replaced with different berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries) but have not tested our theory yet.
  • To make simple syrup, Put equal parts water and sugar in a pot and heat on the stove until sugar is dissolved. Swirl the mixture a few times while heating. Remove from heat and let cool. If you only need a few cocktails, mix 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. If you are mixing cocktails for a large group, double or triple. Leftover simple syrup can be kept in a container with a lid in the refrigerator for a long time.

strawberry peach sparkler

Sangria in the Summer

sangria pitcher

Fruity, refreshing cocktails go so well with many of my summer activities like sitting around for extended hours at the pool or watching kids ride bikes up and down the street. We also live in a beach town so that contributes to the summer cocktail vibe.

I rarely drink wine, but I will drink sangria. To kick off the summer season, I made a pitcher of sangria. My recipe has the fruit steep in rum for several hours before adding the wine, but I have seen recipes that use brandy and/or triple sec.

Ingredients

  • 1 orange
  • 1-2 lemons
  • 1-2 limes
  • 1 1/2 c. light rum
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine
  • 1 c. orange juice
  • club soda

sangria fruit slices

Directions

  • Chill fruit, rum, wine, orange juice, and club soda.
  • Slice the lemon, lime, and orange into thin rounds and place in a large glass pitcher.
  • Add the sugar and rum and stir until sugar starts to dissolve. Chill in refrigerator 2+ hours.

sangria rum and sugar

  • Crush the rum soaked fruit slightly with something like a wooden spoon and stir in wine and orange juice.
  • When ready to serve, pour over ice leaving a little room at the top for a splash of club soda. Make sure to top with a few fruit slices.

sangria servingNotes

  • Since I don’t know how to pick out good wines, this is a good recipe for me because it is perfectly acceptable to use cheap red wine a la the sale aisle at the grocery store. Most recipes recommend Rioja, Pinot Noir, or Beaujolais.
  • Try to remove seeds from the fruit slices before adding to the pitcher.
  • Sangria is easy to serve from those party beverage dispensers with a spigot, and it transports well in go-cups.

sangria go cup

Deal Me In

a hand of cards

I know it may seem like I am not getting much accomplished now that I am on summer vacation, but I must be doing something because I am exhausted at the end of the day. Aside from the Cocktail Testing, my kids and I figured out that Cups Trick Thing, we go to swim practice in the mornings, and I unloaded the dishwasher and folded a load of laundry.

I have also been playing a lot of cards with my kids. My parents visited and kicked off this latest activity. We mainly play Crazy 8s, Solitaire, and War. I was “over listening” to Mr. Star Wars talk to himself during a recent game of solitaire, and it dawned on me how many skills are wrapped up in a card game.

** If you are unfamiliar with the rules of play, click here for Crazy 8sSolitaire, and War.

solitaire with kids

Grouping, Sorting, and Matching

  • In order to play card games, the player has to be able to identify and/or separate the suits and the numbers. In Crazy 8s, the player can switch between the suit and the number at each turn. Deciding if you want to use a matching suit or a matching number requires a little bit of strategy (see predicting and strategy below). Kids have to be able to group and sort like items. When a kid plays cards, he is practicing basic math skills and symbol recognition that is helpful for early readers.
  • The cards that the player holds in his hand can be grouped by like numbers and like suits (and then sub-grouped by numerical order). This reinforces organization and sorting.  

Counting, Ascending and Descending Order

  • The goal of many card games is to gather cards in numerical order. In Solitaire, the whole point is to create a stack of cards that count down and also move them to the ace piles and count up. In the descending order piles, you have the added skill of a red/black alternating pattern. The player also needs to know which number is next and anticipate that card appearing. If your child’s teacher mentioned extra practice with ordering numbers, play a few games of solitaire with him/her.
  • Players have to remember that a jack is lower than a queen, which is lower than the king. Depending on the game, the ace can change from less than the 2 to greater than the king. Kids translate the value of the face cards into a number value for ordering. Mentally renaming the card’s worth requires a multi-step thought process (i.e. critical thinking).
  • In the game of War, you have to know the difference between greater than, less than, and equal in order to play. How many homework assignments have you seen that practice this skill?

Predicting and Strategy

  • To win a game, there is a little strategy and a little luck involved. In Crazy 8s, you often hold cards in your hand that give you the option of putting down a matching number card OR a matching suit card– or you might even be able to play a crazy 8. Which do you choose? Well, if you are Miss Priss, you announce that you could do either (giving away what is in her hand), and you think through which one is the better choice based on what MIGHT be in the opponent’s hand. This is great processing on her part. She is not throwing down any old thing but is thinking about the alternative scenarios, the pros and cons of choices she makes, and the various outcomes of each choice.
  • The same thinking process occurs in Solitaire. Mr. Star Wars always points out when he has two choices for his next move like if he needs a black 5, and he has one on the top of a stack of unturned cards and one in the group of 3 cards he has in his hand. Which option is better? Being able to anticipate results and seeing ahead down a few paths is a great skill to practice. Children need to see the direct results of choices they make. On a small scale, a game of cards illustrates cause and effect well.

Taking Turns

  • Sometimes you have to wait for your turn especially if the other player is contemplating his move. It might require some patience. Taking turns involves a specific order of back and forth (just like a conversation). One person makes a move, the other person responds, the first person reacts to the second person’s action. It is important to learn how to take a turn, wait, assess, and respond. 

The Suits

  • The red cards are pretty easy to identify. Most kids know the diamond and heart shapes. In order to distinguish the black suits, we say that the spades (another word for a little shovel) look like a shovel. The club looks like a clover and both of those words start with the letter “c”. 

I caught TheRoomDad teaching the kids 5 Card Poker. Miss Priss told me that she doesn’t really know the rules, but she knows if she can get a group of cards in number order, that is good. If she can get a group of cards with the same number, that is good. If she doesn’t know what to do, she just keeps all of her highest cards. I have to say, I am fairly impressed with her strategy and have no doubt she would beat me in a game of poker.

Summer Cocktail Series

watermelon vodka slushie

After I posted the Blackberry Vodka Lemonade last week, I decided to run a series this summer testing fruity cocktails. I am on summer vacation, and my productivity levels go in the toilet unless I have some goals. This seemed like a worthwhile project, and I already had the Pinterest board for drinks that look refreshing. Last night I tweaked a recipe for a watermelon cocktail. Overall, I like tart, citrus drinks better (like a margarita), but this cocktail was pretty good.

Watermelon Vodka Slushie

Ingredients

  • ~1 1/2 c. watermelon, cut into small chunks
  • ~1 1/2 c. vodka
  • ~ 2 c. cranberry juice
  • Sprite, 7up, or gingerale
  • crushed ice

watermelon vodka

Directions

  • Add watermelon chunks to vodka and let it steep for about an hour. After about an hour, blend the vodka and watermelon until it is a slushie consistency. I used an immersion blender, but you could use a regular blender.
  • Add equal parts cranberry to the vodka mixture. I had ~2 c. watermelon vodka and added 2 c. cranberry.
  • Fill glass with crushed ice. Pour watermelon vodka cranberry mixture over ice. Fill about 2/3 full.
  • Add a splash of Sprite, 7up, or gingerale on top.

watermelon vodka mixHere are options I am considering for next weekend. Anyone have any opinions?

  • Cherry Margarita
  • Raspberry Lemon Drop
  • something called a Paradise