This time last year we were in a small town just outside Boston celebrating Thanksgiving with our American friends. It was Rich’s first Thanksgiving and Calum’s second. We ate too much food and probably drunk a bit too much but it was a wonderful day, and we wish we could back again this year. Thanksgiving is a great American tradition and it is something we miss out on in the UK.
What is all about anyway?
We’ve probably all seen thanksgiving celebrated on American tv shows or in movies, Friends particularly comes to mind, but what it is and how is it celebrated?
Thanksgiving is the on the 4th Thursday of November. The Festival dates from 1621, when a group of pilgrims in New England shared a feast with the local native tribe that had helped them with their harvest. The holiday was officially recognised in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln and the date finally settled on by President Franklin D Roosevelt.
The secular nature means that more Americans celebrate Thanksgiving than any other holiday. It is time for family and friends to come together to celebrate. Although plenty of shops sell cards and decorations it is nowhere near as commercial as Christmas. The main event is the meal, Roast Turkey with all the trimmings, followed by pumpkin pie.
Other features of thanksgiving include the annual Macy’s Parade in New York City, (American) football games and the black friday sales.
Can we celebrate in the UK?
Closer to home we have tended to celebrate harvest festival, we hosted a harvest dinner earlier this year. Having said that there is nothing to stop you, and it seems more and more Brits are embracing the holiday as this recent article in the Waitrose Weekend suggests. We love the celebration so this is something we can get completely on board with.
This year we look back fondly on our trip to last year. Not quiet as much excess this year; we are just having some pizza, beer and a slice of Calum’s Pumpkin pie. Whatever you are doing this Thanksgiving, we hope you have a great time and don’t eat too much!
We are now in the middle of autumn and we have been experiencing some unusual weather. However, we have also had some of the most sunning sunsets! The deep reds across the sky have been enough to stop us from what we are doing to sit and watch the colours change and the sun sets. On a recent trip out we were reminded of Harvest Festivals and we came across this cocktail that would make a great and seasonal Cocktail of the Week, Harvest Sky.
Traditionally harvest marked the end of the growing season and there was a social side to the harvest that usually culminated with parties and gatherings once all the hard work had been completed. Once the gathering of the food had been completed, things turned to post harvest to store and preserve the summer fruits and veg for the winter and maximising the shelf life. Many of these traditions still continue today with, particularly in religious services, but there are also many farmers who still make the most of the end of the harvest with a beer or cider!
For this weeks cocktail, you will need;
- 1 measure vodka
- 1 measure of chambord
- 2 measures of cranberry juice.
- Pumpkin spice sugar to rim the glass.
To make the pumpkin spice sugar add some pearl sugar to one table spoon of pumpkin spice in an airtight container. Shake it well and leave for 24 hours. For the cocktail, add the vodka, chambord and cranberry juice to a cocktail shaker with ice and mix well. Take two small plates, add a small amount of water to one and pour the sugar to the other one. Take your glass and dip the rim into the water and then into the sugar, turning the glass until the rim is covered in sugar. Turn the glass up and carefully add the cocktail. There you have this weeks cocktail, the Harvest Sky.
The cocktail has a wonderfully spicy flavour that comes from the pumpkin spice that works really well with the chambord. It is a great drink to sip as you watch the magnificent sunsets we are having.
Halloween music can be a bit tricky, everything ends up being a bit camp, which depending on what type of party you are hosting might not work. We had a think about this and spent dome time putting together our Halloween Jazz Playlist. To put this list together we looked through the classic standards, pulling out the best and diving a bit deeper to discover some quirkier, spooky tunes to add a bit of fun into the mix. If you are having a more sophisticated Halloween soiree this might be, right up your street? Get your costume on, grab a spooky cocktail and enjoy our Halloween Jazz Playlist here.
With Halloween creeping ever closer, the ghoulish activities start to take over. We have pulled out the ‘BOO’ candleholder and our pumpkin is going to be carved this weekend. We have also started to stock up on the treats for any trick or treating monsters that might appear at our door! Any excuse for a party also means a need for a cocktail. With that in mind, we decided to try our hand at making our own Halloween themed cocktail. For our creation, this week’s cocktail is the ‘Purple Monster’.
We have been making cocktails each week for six months now and hopefully something has started to rub off on our own skills in cocktail making. Here’s hoping our researching, mixing and sampling will pay off! Additionally, looking in the drinks cabinet we found some of the lesser-used bottles and tried to find a cocktail to make use of them. I am not entirely sure what we will be making from the Amarula, but the rest are suitably coloured to make something interesting! We found a few cocktails that used the ingredients we have, but none that we wanted to try leading us to give our own mix a go. Based on our knowledge of colours we started out to make a purple drink.
For this week’s cocktail, you will need;
- One measure of curacao
- One measure of spiced rum
- One measure of cranberry juice
- ½ measure of pineapple juice
Add the curacao, rum, cranberry and pineapple juice to a shaker filled with ice and shake well. Add some ice to a glass and pour the mix in. Nothing fancy to creating this week’s cocktail the Purple Monster.
The drink gives a suitable purple/black colour for a Halloween themed cocktail. The fruit flavours from the cranberry, pineapple and curacao do come through with the rum giving a pleasant kick. Sadly not a classic like the many we have tried, but with a bit of tweaking, we might have something!
As halloween draws closer, we decided that it would be time to investigate some spooky themed cocktails. As the books don’t seem to have many, we turned to the net and found a huge range of cocktails that were a variation of a basic. Most had something to make them looks spooky and needed dry ice or something similar. We did come across a few that we wanted to try and have a suitable connection to Halloween. Our first offering for our Halloween themed cocktail of the week is the devilish El Diablo.
The El Diablo cocktail first appeared on the scene in 1946 and appeared in the ‘Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink’ and was named the Mexican El Diablo. The book comes from the restaurant chain that was started in the 1930s as a Polynesian themed restaurant that is still going today. The restaurant has a pedigree of cocktail creation and the founder is credited as one of the possible creators of the Mai Tai.
For this weeks cocktail, you will need;
- Two measure tequila
- One measure creme de cassis
- One measure lime juice
- Ginger beer
- Lime for garnish
To create the drink, add some ice to the cocktail shaker and add the tequila, creme de cassis and the lime juice. Shake to chill the mix and pour into a glass. Fill the rest of the glass with the ginger beer. Once you add the garnish you will have the El Diablo.
The cocktail has a great halloween look and our gothic style goblets add to the theatrical nature of halloween. The ingredients work well and would make a great signature drink for a themed party. Though be careful, the ginger beer hides the alcohol and you could find your self blaming the devil for drinking too much! Maybe, that could be why the drink is called El Diablo.
As Autumn continues we are enjoying the best that the season has to offer. Rummaging through our drinks cabinet we found the key ingredients for this week’s cocktail, The Bramble.
The Bramble is a newcomer to the cocktail scene having been first created in 1984 by Dick Bradsell, who was credited with changing the face of the scene in the 80s. The drink is based on the gin fizz (a new one to try in future!). It is described as a spring drink, but with the blackberry used in it, if feels more like an autumnal one to us.
For this week’s cocktail, you will need:
- 2 measures of gin
- 1 measure of lemon juice
- 1 measure of sugar syrup
- 1 measure of creme du mure (blackberry liqueur)
- Lemon slice and blackberry to garnish
- Crushed ice
To make the drink, add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Once mixed, fill a glass of choice with the crushed ice and pour over the cocktail. Add the lemon and blackberry and there you have this week’s cocktail, The Bramble.
The drink resembles a slushy but is still an enjoyable drink to have on an early autumnal day. Do you have a favourite autumn cocktail, let us know it the comments?
Time for Harvest Festival
Now we are into October and the weather has turned we start thinking about cosier parties inside the cottage. The past weekend we had an autumn harvest dinner for a group of friends to celebrate the season. Harvest Festival is the traditional British celebration around this time of year, it is the less well know cousin of the American Thanksgiving. We both have memories of our churches harvest festival celebrations from when we were little, and many churches continue to celebrate. We though this is a perfect excuse for a party (we don’t need much encouragement).
To us, autumn decorations for can only mean one thing, pumpkins! We used this Mottled Rose Gold Pumpkin Battery Light from Lights4fun to create a table centre. Fresh pumpkins are now in the supermarket so it was easy to pick up a couple of small ones, along with a mini variety known as munchkin pumpkins. In addition to this, we mixed in some ornamental squash and gourds we picked up on a recent trip to Garsons farm shop in Esher. We found a mix of different colours and shapes to compliment the pumpkins.
Our Harvest Table
When we were laying our harvest table we added in some eucalyptus foliage from the garden to create a base, and placed this on a plan linen table runner with some decorative autumn maple leaves for colour. We then arranged the pumpkins, squashes and gourds and twisted in some micro fairy lights, again from lights4fun to give some warmth and interest.
A great night
We finished laying the table, put on our Autumn Jazz playlist and opened some English sparkling wine. It was a great evening celebrating with our friends. Calum cooked pumpkin soup (obviously) followed by a lovely roast pork followed by a delicious orange ginger and treacle pudding.
What do you think?
What do you think of our Harvest Table? Do you celebrate at this time of year and if so how do you go about it? let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you.
After making a pumpkin cake using our Nordic Ware bundt tin we found ourselves sitting with a few teaspoons of pumpkin purée. Rather than waste it, we decided to create a cocktail using it. There are very few pumpkin flavoured ones, but did take inspiration from Serious Eats and came up with our own Pumpkin Cocktail.
The pumpkin is ubiquitous with Autumn. It has received a massive push in the last few years thanks to a certain coffee based drink! None the less, it is a great ingredient to use for many things. Calum has been known to make a pumpkin and chilli ravioli in addition to the pumpkin cakes and soups. We also like to carve our pumpkins for Halloween, so keep an eye out for efforts in the next few weeks! We may find a need to try a different pumpkin cocktail when we do!
For this week’s cocktail, you will need;
- 2 tsp Pumpkin purée
- 1 measure Vanilla vodka
- 1 measure Pressed apple juice
- Ginger beer
Take the pumpkin purée, vanilla vodka and the pressed apple juice and pour into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake the mix well before pouring the mix into a tall glass with some ice. Fill the glass with the ginger beer. Add a straw and there you have our pumpkin cocktail.
The drink has a lovely smooth taste and certainly would be a hit and any Halloween or autumnal party! It even has Rich’s Mum’s seal of approval!
What are Smores?
Smores! They are a bit of an alien concept to us Brits, but in America, a childhood isn’t complete without smores being made at a campfire, sleepover or on a random Wednesday during school holidays. On a trip to America a few years ago, we stayed at the Green Mountain Inn in Vermont who offered a smores pack to use around their fire, which is when it became clear to us that they are very much acceptable for adults to enjoy!
Give them a go
The idea for smores came up again when we went camping recently. As newbies to the whole smores thing, we knew the basics were graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate. As we don’t have graham crackers in the UK, we substituted this with our equivalent of digestive biscuits. Also, off the shelf marshmallows come in two sizes, mini and giant! No in-between sizes! We went for giant as toasting six – seven mini ones seemed complicated. The chocolate was easy. A classic dairy milk bar.
I can’t say our first attempt went to plan! Toasting the giant marshmallow and getting the chocolate melted was not easy. Needless to say, we each had a strategy that seemed to get the essence of a smore, a gooey, chocolate mess stuck between two biscuits rather than an enjoyable snack. Some further conversation went on to discuss options on the perfect smore. Combinations of mini digestives, chocolate digestives, reasonably sized marshmallows, peanut butter and Nutella were mentioned as good combinations. Also, the best method of cooking, campfire, oven or grill? As we were full from the attempts to make smores, we decided we would try again another day.
Our second visit to smores we tried multiple combinations with Nutella, peanut butter, chocolate and plain digestives. Our best attempt at a gooey filled smore was the Nutella, peanut butter and marshmallow heated under the grill. The Digestive biscuits work well but we think we’ll need to find graham crackers to compare with the original!
What do you think?
Have you tried smores, if not will you give them a go! Do you think these are a good American import to our shores or far too sickly sweet for you? Let us know in the comments, also let us know if you have any tips or recipes to make our smores even better.
Whenever we host a party we always spend time before hand trying to make sure the music is just right! Sometimes you can find the perfect playlist but sometimes you need to make your own. This is what we have done here, we have gone through our favourite jazz artists to create a nostalgic and sentimental playlist perfect for a cosy autumn soiree. Put on some candles, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy! You can follow this Autumn Jazz Playlist on Spotify here