Apple Snap Cocktails

Apple Snap Cocktails (4)

Apple Snap Cocktails (4)

It’s time for a new go-to cocktail.  This summer’s negroni and sangria indulgences are long past me.  I’m looking for an Autumn cocktail that feels ample and cozy… but nothing like mulled wine or syrupy sweet pear drinks.

Has there ever been a tasty mulled wine?  I think no.

Apple Snap Cocktails

I wanted to combine the sweetness of fruit with the spiciness of the season.  Apple juice.  Fresh pressed and unfiltered.  Bourbon, naturally.  Lime and bubble water.  But spiiiiice! Needed and necessary.

Have you heard of Art In The Age?  They make the most lovely, unique organic spirits.  My favorite this season is SNAP, inspired by old school Pennsylvania Dutch ginger snaps.  Yessss, right?

SNAP is made from a neutral alcohol, molasses, ginger, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, tea, and sugar.  So so good!  Pairs perfectly with bourbon (yes!) and fresh apple.  I’ll be sipping on this SNAP all winter and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep a bottle or two around for hostess gifts.  It’s a treat.

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Beer Brownies

Beer Brownies

Beer Brownies

I have a soft spot for brownies.  Well… actually, don’t we all?

Brownies were the first thing I learned how to bake in the kitchen.  My parents kept the flour, sugar, and those gnarly bars of unsweetened chocolate in a little cabinet just within reach of my little 8 year-old body.  It only took me one nibble of the unsweetened chocolate to figure out that it was not at all suitable for sneak-snacking… but the box of unsweetened chocolate had step-by-step instructions on how to turn the dark blocks into something entirely delicious, aka BROWNIES!

In our house filled with whole wheat fig bars and date rolls, I felt like a wizard… like an actual wizard… because I could make brownies.

Beer Brownies

I still feel like a wizard.  I mean… brownies are magic! Dense, moist, waaay chocolate-y, chewy at the edges, earnest, and everything!

There are so many great Fall cookbooks hitting the shelves this year!  I need to make us a list.  There’s just too much good!

One of the books I’ve been looking forward to most is The Kitchy Kitchen by Claire Thomas.  Claire is the beauty and brains behind the blog The Kitchy Kitchen and she’s turned all of her amazing food-brain-thoughts into a lovely cookbook!  Among the goodness in this book (it has an amazing soup chapter) are these BEER BROWNIES!

Think about it.  Dark stout beer with all of its earthy bitterness + dark chocolate with all of its deep sweet fruit undertones.  This is a very good marriage.  Right on, Claire!

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Sunset Happy Hour Cocktails

sunset cocktail trio

sunset cocktail trio

I knew New Orleans would feel different from my little beach bungalow in Venice, California.  That’s why you move across the country, right?

I knew the air would be thicker in New Orleans,  I figured the walls would be older, the people more talkative, the fried chicken more readily devoured.  The Mississippi is much more brown than the dull grey/green tones of the Pacific Ocean.  The cobble stone streets in my neighborhood are like a vortex you can fall into if you’re not diligent… like quicksand.  It’s different from the sandy beach and paved bike paths of California.

I sometimes feel like I’m underwater, without the water.  Does that make sense? It must have something to do with the fact that I’m hanging out below sea level.  It’s a real feeling.

Louisiana sunset


The sunsets though… the sunsets in Louisiana have a really familiar quality.  They have the same dusty pink, brilliant orange, and stunning blue.  It feels very similar to the sunsets     I’d watch sitting in the sand in California.

Lately I’ve wanted my cocktails to match my sunset.  It’s my little way of creating a Pinterest-worthy moment  (just a moment) out of my day.. when the brilliant orange of my cocktail resembles the brilliant orange of the setting sun.  That moment of synergy feels really good.

As the days get warmer I find myself wanting to drink ALL the drinks.  It’s so hot and humid, I’m a bottomless pit of fresh juice.

We’ve talked about Juicing here before, but I totally understand that not all of us have the space, funds, or desire to have a fancy juicer in our kitchen cupboards.  It felt like a definite splurge item to me in terms of both funds and space.  I get it.

I keep a few Evolution Fresh Juices on hand because Evolution Fresh does all of the hard work of cold-pressing for us! Their juices are fresh and bright and sooooo perfect sunset inspired cocktails!  No big fancy juicer required.

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Fresh Juice and Sweet Tea Shot Bites

Ginger Lemonade Shot Bites / joy the baker

Fruit Juice Shot Bites / joy the baker

My mom taught me the valuable lesson of never taking candy from a stranger.  I’m pretty sure she never said anything about taking Jell-O shots from a stranger.  Technicality?

I should preface this introduction by saying… don’t be like me.

A few weekends back I was celebrating Jazz Fest with some friends.  There’s a certain spirit here in New Orleans that I’ve never encountered anywhere else. As we left the all day music festival… dusty, sun-tired, and thirsty, we found ourselves smack-dab in the center of an epic neighborhood block party.  Backyard gates were open to reveal full bands playing to the street, people set up folding tables with steaming crock pots selling gumbo, grills racked with meats for sale or not sale, and…. in the midst of the happy chaos… a girl in a neon wig selling Jell-O shots off of a simple plastic tray.

I was like a moth to the flame.  Again… don’t be like me.

It took a whole 2.2 seconds of deliberation before one of my fine friends offered up dollars for the little novelty shots… from a stranger… in the streets.

It was good.  It was green.  It was Jell-O.  The moment felt exactly as it should, so right with a splash of reckless.

My block party Jell-O shot got me thinking about how I could fancy up Jell-O + vodka.  Oh the possibilities!

Would it be too soon to say I’ve found my new calling?  How about… I’ve found my Memorial Day Weekend calling:  super couture Jell-O shots, sans jello, added cucumber and gin.


fancy juice and tea shot bites / joy the baker

Notice that I’m calling these treats Shot Bites and not Jell-O Shots.

While they are small and jiggly and boozy, they are made from unflavored gelatin and not Jello-O brand stuffs.  Using unflavored gelatin give us some breathing room to create flavor combinations that move beyond the Jell-O box.  We really need to move beyond beyond beyond the Jell-O Box.

We’re talking about fresh cucumber juice, lots of lime juice, fresh ginger, strawberry puree from sweet strawberries… we’re going all out!

For these four recipes I used a few different ice cube trays:  

Hexagon Ice Cube Set.

Heart-Shaped Ice.

The Perfect Cube.

You might also consider mini disposable cups, or a mini muffin tin.  Choose your path.

Everything I learned about fancy Shot Bites I learned from The Kitchn.

Here are the basics:

Fresh Juice and Sweet Tea Shot Bite Math

1 cup liquor + 1 cup non-alcoholic liquid + 2 envelopes (5 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin

Let’s talk about this math.  This formula represents the maximum amount of alcohol we can use to create these shot bites.  Any more alcohol will mess with the gelatin and our Shot Bites won’t set up properly.  Heed the math.  For each of these recipes, I used about 3/4 cup alcohol because I tend to like a less boozy bite (aka college was ten years ago).  We can just replace any of the missing alcohol with whatever non-alcoholic liquid we’re using. On that note, you could leave out the alcohol completely to make these bites family-friendly.  Remember, 2 cups total liquid meets 2 envelopes of gelatin.  With that math, you can make so many delicious things!

Sweet Tea, Bourbon, and Lemonade Shot Bites // joy the baker

First up!

Sweet Tea.  Ginger Lemonade.  Bourbon!

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Classic Mint Juleps

classic mint juleps

classic mint juleps

Let’s throw the best Kentucky Derby Party around!  This… coming from a California girl curiously living in the Deep South.

In my mind, throwing the best Derby Party has everything to do with buying all of the mint and all of the bourbon.  With those two staples… everything else will fall into place.  This… coming from the California girl (who really likes bourbon).

A big hat is important.  A television that plays the races is pretty essential.  Red roses are a nice touch.  Fried chicken will keep the masses contented.  A Derby Pie (totally in our near future) is above and beyond, and totally major.

All of the bourbon, though.  First we’re really going to need all of the bourbon.

Classic Mint Juleps

Adorning our bourbon is also pretty important.

Silver Mint Julep cups are classic.  I have friends so serious about the Kentucky Derby, they bring their very own Julep Cups to Derby parties (ahem Ms. Whitney).

 I went with a more colorful Julep cup.  This… coming from the girl from California.  These floral enamel tumblers from MacKenzie Childs are full of charm.

Horse racing cocktail spears found here!

Classic Mint Juleps

With all the bourbon and all the mint, here we are… OFF TO THE RACES!

(I had to.)

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The Old-Fashioned

the old fashioned

the old fashioned

I learned how to drink alcohol between the ages of 21 and 25.

Learning how to drink is an exercise in irony.  It’s like you have to learn how not to drink in order to learn how to properly drink.

The lessons learned are often far too numerous and embarrassing to acknowledge.

Stay away from that dark rum.     You didn’t need to drink whatever was in the paper bag.     Any booze made in a bathtub is really really really not a good idea.     A shot on the way home from the bar is 100% foolish.     Every drink in Vegas will somehow multiply itself by WAY TOO MANY!    Tequila… ugh.     Cheap gin is downright criminal.     Dropping a shot into any other drink and consuming it quickly should be reserved for sushi karaoke bars, or better yet… NEVER.     Don’t Jagermeister anything.    You are not Tyra Banks in Coyote Ugly before she went to law school.      Vodka is not spicy water.

The lessons really are too many  to chronicle.  I mean…

I found my drink by figuring out what wasn’t my drink, a feat I hope you all approach gingerly. My drink order:  A Maker’s Mark Manhattan, up, with two cherries.  Gah… just to think of 21-year-old me ordering that drink makes me roll my eyes.  I was going for sophistication, poise, edge, knowledge, with a touch of sweetness.  Also… gag me with a spoon.  Right?  I think mostly I was trying to seem cool enough not to get carded.

These days, anyone that cards me is an angel sent from heaven.  Literally?  My drink of choice currently: an Old Fashioned, no cherry, extra twist and what kind of Rye Whiskey do you like best, bartender?  It’s simple and classic and admits defeat when it comes to proper rye whiskey knowledge.  I think it might also betray my Mad Men fan girl tendencies but I’m ok with that.

Here’s how!

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Pimm’s Cup Cocktail

pimms cup cocktail

Pimm's Cup Cocktail

Spring is teasing us.

It feels like the sun is juuuust about ready to creep out and stay.  Well… it feels that way up until the time the rain pours down.

Despite Spring’s indecision, I happen to think it’s time for a Spring cocktail!

joy the baker + napoleon house

napoleon house

napoleon house 1

I ventured out into the French Quarter on a particularly sunny afternoon just after a rainstorm.  It’s just a short walk from my front door to the Napoleon House, a building build 200 years ago.  It’s first tenant, Nicholas Girod, was the mayor of New Orleans in the early 1800’s.  In 1821, Girod offered his beautiful home up to Napoleon who was living in exile.  Nice, right?  Napoleon couldn’t make it… he died first.

Even though Napoleon never stepped foot in this house, the name stuck and now the Napoleon House is a restaurant and bar filled with history and old smarmy (I mean that in a good way) waiters.

Pimm's Cup Cocktail

The Napoleon House is known for their Pimm’s Cup Cocktails.  Because I’m a girl who likes extra cucumber slices and a good dose of ginger ale, there’s no reason I can’t recreate these at home!  And so it is.

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Bonkers Awesome Grapefruit Cucumber Cocktails

bonkers awesome cocktail

Bonkers Awesome Grapefruit Cucumber Gin Cocktails

Tracy and I are friends because in 2009 we caught each other rolling our eyes at the same thing.  At some point during one of the first BlogHer FoodBlog Conferences Rocco DiSpirito was trying to sell us on the merits of frozen risotto reheated into an almost glue-like paste.  Rocco was wearing one of those Madonna style Vogue microphones and jogging through the labyrinth of tables being his own frozen risotto hype man.  Oh Rocco.  Thank you for your enthusiasm for frozen risotto, it was bologna but you made two people friends for life.

I caught Tracy rolling her eyes at Rocco’s fist pump just as I was equally disturbed.

In my memory she says something like, “Want to grab a drink at the bar?” and I respond with a “Race you to the escalator!”. Friends for life!

While my kitchen life is haphazardly piled high, operating near chaos, Tracy’s organization situation is ship-shape.  We’re incredibly different. Tracy is organized, loves even numbers, and wears black and white.  I’m disorganized, don’t even want to talk about numbers, and dress like Punky Brewster.

Tracy came down from San Francisco to Los Angeles to help me organize my life.  She is the only one I’d feel safe revealing the madness of my medicine cabinet to. Good grief.  She only judged me a little.  Also… I embraced big hair (don’t care).  Welcome to the latest Bonkers Awesome episode on ulive!

Bonkers Awesome Grapfruit Cucumber Gin Cocktails

It’s the weekend!  Let’s consider a cocktail.  Maybe it’ll inspire you to clean a bookshelf, too!  Everyone should have a Tracy in their life.  Oh man… for real.

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Cucumber Gin Salt and Pepper Cups


I’ve been thinking about your weekend.

I actually started thinking about your weekend last Monday… that’s how I operate.


I was thinking that these Cucumber Gin Salt and Pepper Cups would be an amazing addition to your sleeping in, late breakfasting, and shoe shopping.  That’s totally your weekend right?  Stress-free and shoppy?  I know… me neither.  But at least we can make the weekend gin-y and super fresh!

Happy Weekend to you!

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Watermelon Strawberry Citrus Sangria


There is a thing in the world… it’s called Really Bad Sangria.  This is not that.

Really Bad Sangria is a mixture of  cheap red wine (not cool, but not a crime), sliced oranges (fairly benign), and grapes (questionable, but tolerable).  The combination of bad wine and boring fruit… that’s Really Bad Sangria.

Let’s talk about Really Good Sangria!

Really Good Sangria is pink.  Really Good Sangria contains fruit that feels like a treat!  See: watermelon and fresh strawberries.  Really Good Sangria is layered with wine, and vodka, and lemon or orange liquor.  Really Good Sangria is REALLY GOOD!  This is that.


It’s the weekend!  Get at that melon!

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Clementine and Red Wine Spritzers


It’s amazing where you can find a brief vacation when there’s not actually time to get away.

Mostly all you need is a brightly colored Mexican cloth and a sunset colored cocktail.


I’m aaallll sorts of ready to let these summer days wash over me, but my reality is much more indoor work style than outdoor beach style.  Is this your reality too?  It’s cool.  It’s totally cool.  We have wine, fancy fruit soda, warm air, late sunsets, and a few good friends to share it all with.  We won’t need much more.

Can we talk about this crazy awesome spritzer combination?  Clementine aaannnddd red wine!?  It’s unexpected.  It’s a high-five.  Trust me on this one!

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Carrot Orange Ginger Bourbon Cocktail


Let’s have a Happy Hour cocktail and then walk down the street for hot dogs.  I mean it… let’s get outta here.


Before we hit the streets in search of a hot dog dinner adventure, let’s talk about a home Happy Hour situation.

This bright orange cocktail is electric!  There are two stars of this Home Happy Hour Show:  fresh carrot juice and tasty tasty bourbon.

I know.  You might think that carrot juice has no place in a cocktail.  But!  We’re making this at home, and we can turn our trendy juice cleanse into a re-tox cocktail if we wanna (and we definitely wanna).  Duh.

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Raspberry Rose Fizz

raspberry rose fizz

Welcome Friday!  It’s time for Mother’s Day cocktail inspiration!

It’s been a stunning week of color and brunch-fun with HonestlyYUM.

We’ve made Lavender Blackberry Scones, Baked Egg Tartlets, a pretty DIY Dessert Stands, a gorgeous (if I do say so myself) White Chocolate Rose Cake, and today… today is pink cocktail day!

Todd, the cocktail mind behind HonestlyYUM, whipped up (literallly) these incredible Raspberry Rose Fizzes.  Fresh raspberries, fragrant rose, and frothy egg whites for added class.  This is just beyond!  Find the recipe here!

raspberry rose fizz

raspberry rose fizz

images by HonestlyYUM

Mother's Day Inspiration

We had such a wonderful time putting together these pretties for you this week!  I hope you’ve found some inspiration to treat your mama right.  In the very least, get a card.  Mamas have an abnormal amount of love for cards.

Thank you to HonestlyYUM + Love and CupcakesTwig and Twine + Dish Wish

Thank YOU for being here/being awesome.  You are appreciated.

Shrimp + Grits + Cocktail


shrimp + grits

This isn’t my first rodeo.  I’ve been down this shrimp and grits road before… and I’ve taken you with me.  My last encounter with a warm dish of creamy grits and spicy shrimp was served to a gentleman whose only remark was that I had failed to remove the tails from the shrimp before serving them to him.  Really, dude?  Really!?  So ended that short relationship (not really… but sort of… FOR REAL).

I needed a redo.  Not for flavor’s sake, just for my own self… and because I totally just wanted a giant bowl of this madness.

New dating rule #37:  I graciously and happily remove a cooked shrimp tail for every car door that is graciously opened for me.  Respect, yo!

ps.  I don’t actually have thirty-seven dating rules.  I do, however, have two giant bowls of lunch.  Who’s counting (I am).

shrimp + grits + cocktail

I made these Shrimp + Grits with my friend Jonathan.  I bought the shrimp, he crashed my house with beer, cucumber, and lime… and we shot pictures on the floor by my front door (see Instagram) (we’re really fancy).

Jonathan made a bonkers cocktail to pair with the Shrimp + Grits… a Cucumber Blonde Bloody Mary.  It’s fizzy and refreshing.  It’s takes the tomato thickness out of the traditional Bloody Mary and makes this cocktail truly gulp-able.  In addition to being an awesome bringer-of-cocktails-to-my-house, Jonathan is also an incredible photographer, baker… and he’s obsessed with my cat.  All the things I look for in a friend.

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Happy Hour Hot Fudge Milkshake


happy hour HOT FUDGE milkshake

My very first job was in an ice cream shop.  That means between the ages of fifteen and seventeen I smelled like a waffle cone and had between three and seven sprinkles scattered throughout my hair at any given moment.  Summers were long and hot, but if you made nice with the boys that worked in the pizza place next door you either had a make-out partner for the deep freezer, or someone to trade you obscene amounts of pizza for obscene amounts of ice cream.  I opted for the later exchange… mostly because I was awkward and didn’t really have a choice.

Everyday on my ice cream lunch break I would make myself a giant milkshake and head outside the ice cream shop to sit on a sunny stoop.  These were the days before cellphones (… I know, BONKERS), so I’d watch people mill about and think about what the future held for me.  I’d daydream about being a writer, or being a backup dancer for Mariah Carey, or devise ways to find Jared Leto and make him fall in love with me.

The milkshake was my super indulgent escape.

The backup dancing didn’t pan out, and I couldn’t find Jared Leto… but all’s well that ends well.

I sure do know how to plan an afternoon escape.  Nowadays we call it Happy Hour.

This Happy Hour Hot Fudge Milkshake is steeped in a rich tradition of indulgence.  What does that mean?  It means that I’ve paired my deep love of milkshake with my fondness of rich dark chocolate… I’m talking about the fancy stuff.  Throw in a shot of bourbon and this Happy Hour escape is just beyond.

Ah!  If I could only tell my fifteen year old self what I know now…

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Lime Cordial, Three Ways

Lime Cordial, three ways.

Home is where the desk is.  Home is where the dirty dishes are.  Home is where the paper straws, cookbook collection, and to-be-folded laundry is.

It’s good to be home from New Orleans.  It’s good to be home knowing that I cleaned my desk before I left… I sometimes surprise myself.

lime cordial inspiration

I picked up this Gourmet Special Edition Pasta Magazine at the airport in New Orleans because I wanted to fill my brain with pasta carbs on my journey home.  I thought it would inspire me to make copious amounts of ravioli upon my return.  I think reading this magazine on the plane inspired my seatmate’s hungry belly (I could feel you reading over my shoulder, sir) and inspired me to, strangely enough, make Lime Cordials.

This could be a clear sign that I’ve eaten too much jambalaya and crawfish.

Lime Cordial, three ways.

Limes will be my restart.  I’ll be back on the pasta and beignet train shortly.

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Hot Buttered Rum and Cider


Welcome to the one time of year when it’s totally acceptable (encouraged even) that we coat our throats with a hearty dose of booze and butter.  That’s right, my friends… it’s totally time to drink butter.  Call your mom, call your friends, text your ex-boyfriend from three ex-boyfriends ago (awesome excuse), and let everyone know that it’s time to get on this drinkable butter bandwagon.  Hallelujah, this is fun/dangerous/delicious/ridiculous/whaaaat!?

This post is brought to you by:  there’s a bottle of spiced rum ‘decorating’ my desk (and something must be done about it).

rum and such

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Irish Coffee



I thought I might offer you just a bit of inspiration.  It’s warm and brown.  It’s sweet and creamy.

I’ve always overlooked this cocktail for things with fancy cubed ice, grapefruit infusions, and handmade bitters… but the simplicity of this cocktail is no joke!  It needs no muss or fuss.  It needs no fancy mustached man in a vest and spectacles to make it for you.  This can happen right at home on your tiny kitchen counter, and can be enjoyed on your couch while you question your sanity in watching moooore  reruns of Jersey Shore.

I’m not implying that you have a tiny kitchen counter, that you’re crazy, or that you’re watching the Jersey Shore.  Um… I’m clearly just talking about myself. Not proud.  Just real.

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Spiced Almond Steamer



Not everything requires a bowl, a mixer, whisk, and measuring spoons.

Sometimes the most delicious comforts come out of milk, spice, and heat.

I’ve been keeping it pretty simple in the kitchen lately.  You know… trying to treat my body right, and such.  I’m also trying to stay far far away from the Winter cold that’s ruining the world as of late (that was totally dramatic).

cookies and friends

Here’s the plan:

Heat about 2 cups of almond milk in a small saucepan.  If it’s unsweetened almond milk… you might want to add a touch of honey.  If it’s already sweetened… no need.

Add about 1/8 teaspoon of ground cardamom and a good sprinkling of fresh ground nutmeg to the heating milk.  Also add the scrapings of half a vanilla bean… heck, throw the pod in too.  If you don’t have vanilla beans on hand, no worries (!) just throw in a dash of pure vanilla extract.  If you want to add a bit of bourbon… I won’t tell a soul.

Heat until steaming hot.

Serve hot with cookies from your favorite bakery.  Enjoy while reading a cookbook studded with Polaroids of your friends as bookmarks.  (Suggestions… no biggie.)

Rosemary Lime Cocktail



Can we just call it cocktail time?  Let’s just take a minute and take in a cocktail.

I’ve got too many Post-It notes with too many tasks on them.

I’ve got too much hairspray in my hair, and not enough butter in my fridge.

There’s clothes that need putting away, and cats that need brushing.   There’s just days and days full of full.

You know?  Of course you know.  Of course you do.

Let’s just take a quick minute and call it cocktail time.  Please and thank you.

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