[ Herbal Happy Hour - 2020 ] ~ from HERBCo
[ Find an old forgotten favorite or inspiration ] ~ from HERBCo
Winter months mean busy days and early evenings. This year when darkness falls or when the weekend arrives be sure to find time to relax with family and friends. Try celebrating this festive season by indulging in some liquid refreshment laced with herbs and spices. Each December, before the dawn of each New Year, we like to compile a list of libations laced with herbs and spices, often along a certain theme.
We aim to add some interest to your indulgences and to inspire some creativity in making your own cocktail concoctions. This year we bring you Homemade Holiday Hooch where you can discover some tidbits about more about American prohibition and how folks found refreshment during it.

Moderation is advised, but all-out bravery to make your own custom cocktails is highly suggested.

2020 — Homemade Holiday Hooch

[ Herbal Happy Hour 2020 - Homemade Holiday Hooch ] ~ from HERBCo

holiday hooch

Bootleg-style booze without the bathtub
As we say goodbye to 2020 (thank goodness!), it might be tempting to reminisce about holiday celebrations of the past when family and friends gathered close without being separated by layers of cloth and six feet. No doubt this year’s celebrations will be small and subdued, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t be of good cheer. Our grandparents and great grandparents experienced similar trying times, whether due to economic depression, pandemic or prohibition, and they persisted by sticking to the basics and practicing self-reliance – with a little help from bathtub gin.

Fortunately, you won’t have to resort to an “alky cooker” (copper still) or keep a supply of corn sugar and yeast on hand to make flavorful (and safe) wintery spirits at home for enjoying over ice or mixing into cocktails. We offer recipes for basic, botanical-inspired, bootleg-style booze without the bathtub and some more about how the Volstead Act affected Amercian’s drinking in 1920 in our Homemade Holiday Hooch newsletter.

Gingered Gin
Juniper is the traditional flavoring for gin, but this version calls for ginger for a bright, citrusy flavor. The accompaniment of cardamom and allspice lend depth and warmth.

Gather these spices: cardamom, crystallized ginger, and allspice berries

Fireball Whiskey
This will remind you of the fireball candies from your childhood. Perfect for a chilly winter night!

Gather these spices: cinnamon sticks, and crushed chili pepper flakes

Woodland Vodka
For this recipe, you’ll need to forage for a fresh sprig of conifer from the great outdoors. Be sure it is taken from an untreated tree a safe distance away from a roadway to avoid pollutants. Also be sure to harvest from spruce (pine) or fir trees, as these are the only edible conifers. Note, too, that both spruce and fir provide a citrusy favor, but spruce is a bit resinous and fir is slightly bitter.

Gather these spices: juniper berries, orange peel, coriander seeds, anise seeds, pink peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves

Bodalicious Brandy
The name says it all! Bold and flavorful, this infused bourbon is wonderful served “neat,” on the rocks, or mixed with soda.

[ Herbal Happy Hour 2020 - Homemade Holiday Hooch Herbs + Spices ] ~ from HERBCo

juniper berry
[ juniper berry in bulk ]

cinnamon sticks
[ cinnamon sticks in bulk ]

crystallized ginger
[ crystallized ginger in bulk ]

pink peppercorn
[ pink peppercorn in bulk ]

chili pepper
[ chili pepper in bulk ]

[ allspice in bulk ]

2019 — Medieval Mixology

[ Herbal Happy Hour 2019 - Medieval Mixology ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

medieval mixology

Mixology from the Middle Ages
If you enjoy mulled cider, wine or “liquid bread” (beer), you have the Medieval monk to thank for the existence of these liquid refreshments. Not only did monks maintain the monastery gardens from which herbs were harvested in the making of such spirits, but many were also master distillers. While people no longer depend on booze as a primary source of nutrition and hydration at a time when drinking water was risky, many of the concoctions of old are still — to coin a 14th century turn of phrase — wetting our whistles today. Among them: ale, beer, mead, wine, cider, Posset (eggnog), aquae vitae (brandy) and sack, the forerunner of modern sherry.

The introduction of bitters — aromatic herbs, roots, seeds and flowers infused in a combination of water and alcohol — allowed for more variety of concoctions and paved the way for modern pharmacognosy. The alcohol component acted as a solvent and a preservative, a significant advancement that extended the shelf-life of Renaissance-era tonics and digestifs. The addition of bitters to wine and brandy eventually gave rise to the modern cocktail, and many of the old recipes live on today.

Here’s a preview of the recipes we’ve gathered, read more about medieval mixology.

Plague Water (modern version)
Alcohol was consumed in liberal quantities when available — up to a gallon per person each day! — but more for medicinal purposes than recreational. In this case, to ward off bubonic plague. Plague water was a cordial made from a blend of wine and various botanicals.

Saffron Bitters
Certain medieval concoctions were formulated to ease morning-after woes. Loosely based on the like-cures-like theory in that partaking of the dog (booze) that sunk its “teeth” into you would fix a hangover. One popular such concoction was Saffron Bitters.

Medieval Mint Syrup
Mint-infused syrup has its origins in Morocco, where mint is without a doubt still the most consumed herb today. We offer a modern, simplified version.

Irish Milk Punch
Although they may not have been aware of it at the time, the juice of citrus fruits in the beverage helped sailors to keep scurvy at bay, while the addition of herbs and spices contributed to its revitalizing properties.

[ Herbal Happy Hour 2019 - Medieval Mixology ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

[ sage ]

[ cloves ]

[ ginger ]

[ gentian ]

2018 — All That Glitters

[ Herbal Happy Hour 2018 - All That Glitters ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

all that glitters

Effervescent libations with more glitter than gold
The old adage tells us that all that glitters isn’t gold. But the opposite is also true – all that is gold does not always glitter. Think of an antique store or your grandmother’s attic. The most precious of items are often more like rusty gold, but the memories attached to them make them sparkle nonetheless. In keeping with that sentiment, we’ve put together a few simple effervescent libations to help make your festive gatherings shine this holiday season.

Homemade Ginger Ale
Perfect for children and for mixing adult beverages, this classic beverage is so simple to make you’ll wonder why you ever purchased it from a store. The flavor is much nicer too – clean, mellow and smooth.
view the recipe >

Can't Beet This Cocktail
This refreshing cocktail features fresh beet, apple and ginger, topped off with tequila and a dash of chipotle. This recipe serves four, so double up for a crowd.
view the recipe >

Berry Gin Fizz
This recipe makes 10 tumblers, but if your gathering is smaller just refrigerate the fruit puree for later use and adjust the amounts for the remaining ingredients accordingly.
view the recipe >

Strawberry Basil Cocktail
This refreshing drink combines basil and strawberries with a touch of balsamic sweetness from agave nectar. Eliminate the vodka and you've got a nice "mocktail" for those who don't imbibe. This recipe is for an individual serving, so adjust accordingly for a crowd.
view the recipe >

An expanded account of our glittering inspiration can be found in our newsletter: All That Glitters.

[ Herbal Happy Hour 2018 - All That Glitters ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

[ mint ]

[ ginger ]

[ rosemary ]

[ basil ]

[ cilantro ]

[ cardamom ]

2017 — Literary Libations

[ Herbal Happy Hour: 2017 - Winter Wonderland ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

winter wonderland

...Ain't it thrilling?
The winter season tends to bring people together, even long after the halls are decked and the New Year rung in. Whether you’re gathering with friends and family to celebrate the anticipated return of the sun, or to rejoice in a winter wedding, good food and drink are essential. Here, we offer a few twists on the traditional cocktail to make the most of your event.

Red Rudolph
This colorful cordial gets its spicy punch from a combination of vodka, Cointreau, cranberry and allspice dram, a liquor made from allspice berries. It’s easy and much more economical to make your own allspice dram, as well as more convenient, since, unlike Rudolph’s nose, it can be difficult to find.
view the recipe >

Golden Gingered Whiskey
With honey sweet and smoky notes in the mix, this cocktail warms and goes down smooth. For best flavor and color, use a good quality blended scotch whiskey.
view the recipe >

Spiced Sparkling Wine
Simple and elegant, this classy beverage is easy to serve to large groups and is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Use a dry sparkling wine for this drink or, if you prefer, a dry golden champagne. A sprig of fresh rosemary adds a festive touch.
view the recipe >

Spiced Apple Cider
Spiked with brandy and laced with ginger and allspice berries, this classic winter drink is a party favorite. Be sure to set aside some “virgin” cider aside for the kids, perhaps identified by the addition of a candy cane in each mug instead of a cinnamon stick. For a smaller crowd, reduce the recipe by half.
view the recipe >

Here are two support formula to make some ingredients for the recipes above:
Allspice Dram
Ginger Syrup

2016 — Literary Libations

[ Herbal Happy Hour: 2016 - Literary Libations ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

literary libations

Dorothy Parker:
The Collected Dorothy Parker

the monterey bay martini
Our version of the herbal martini calls for dry gin infused with Cinnamon Apricot Tisane herbal tea blend, which features cinnamon chips, marigold flowers and dried apricot.
view the recipe >

William Shakespeare:
A Midsummer Night's Dream

sweet dreams
This fruity, colorful cocktail, inspired by “Shakespeare, Not Stirred,” is spirited enough to promote sweet dreams but, with moderation, you won’t end up away with the fairies (too tipsy to stay awake at the party).
view the recipe >

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

homes & watson party punch
Holmes may have commented on this crowd-pleasing punch with “It’s elementary” because it is simple and sweet, but he would not have said so to his sidekick. “Elementary, my dear Watson” doesn’t appear in any stories that feature Sherlock Holmes.
view the recipe >

Edward Albee:
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

homes & watson party punch
George reminisces that in their younger days Martha was fond of “real ladylike little drinkies,” before her taste ran to “rubbing alcohol.” One of her favorites was the Brandy Alexander, a drink so smooth that John Lennon compared it to a milkshake.
view the recipe >

Truman Capote:
Breakfast at Tiffany's

homes & watson party punch
No other boozy beverage described in this novella received so much attention as this version of the martini. We’ve modified the recipe just a bit, giving it a blush of pink and the subtle sweetness of elderflower..
view the recipe >

An expanded offering of our inspirations can be found in our newsletter: Literary Libations.

[ Herbal Happy Hour: 2016 - Literary Libations ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

These recipes call for some herbal tea infusions. We use the herbal blends below but many others are also worth exploring.

dream tea

[ avena dream tea ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company


[ cinnamon apricot tisane ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company


[ cranberry orange tisane ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company

2015 — Party Flavors

[ Herbal Happy Hour: 2015 - Party Flavors ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

party flavors

spotted salty dog
Fresh grapefruit juice and vodka combine to make a cocktail known as The Greyhound. With sea salt hugging the rim, it becomes a Salty Dog. This version is spiced up with the addition of a simple syrup made from cracked black pepper.
view the recipe >

apricot sage bourbon cocktail
This recipe was developed by Kristine Lassor Hopkins of Maker's Mark. As she puts it, "the sage adds an incredible earthy element to this slightly dry cocktail," while apricot jam and lemon add brightness.
view the recipe >

brandy alexander
This classic cocktail is a spin-off of The Alexander, which featured gin. Because of its smoothness, it is sometimes referred to as a Milk Shake.
view the recipe >

hurricane punch
Every party needs punch! This beverage was first served in the 1930s in New Orleans and is still popular on Bourbon Street today. It is traditionally made with passion fruit syrup, but grenadine may be used instead.
view the recipe >

gather some herbs & spices for your concoctions...

[ Herbal Happy Hour: 2015 - Party Flavors ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

black peppercorn
[ black peppercorn ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company

fresh sage
[ fresh sage ]

[ nutmeg ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company

fresh basil
[ fresh basil ]

2014 — Running with Rum

[ Herbal Happy Hour: 2014 - Running with Rum ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

running with rum

ginger beer & rum punch
Although the beverage is popular, the term "ginger beer" is a bit of a misnomer. Originally, this 18th century alcoholic fermentation was produced from ginger, sugar and a starter culture made from a fungus known as the ginger beer plant. With few exceptions, most of the ginger beers found in stores today are actually carbonated soft drinks.
view the recipe >

jamaican sorrel rum punch
Islanders love a festive punch, especially if it’s infused with rum. This classic beverage is made the color of crimson by native hibiscus flowers, known locally as sorrel or flor de Jamaica. Because this traditional punch is served throughout the Caribbean and Latin America during the winter holiday season, it’s also known as Jamaican Christmas Punch.
view the recipe >

tea & whiskey punch
It’s anyone’s guess how tea and whiskey came to be partners in the punch bowl, although there are plenty of lively stories that tell of the necessity of imbibing both beverages to keep warm while out at sea. This variation has a Caribbean piratical flavor to it with a splash of rum and citrus.
view the recipe >

smuggler's coffee
The name for this double-rum coffee honors those responsible for giving coffee to the world, such as the Dutch traders who first smuggled a coffee plant into Europe in the mid-16th century. Later, French Captain Gabriel De Clieu, would be the first to successfully transport a coffee plant seedling across the Atlantic and into Martinique in 1723, an endeavor that launched 18 million coffee trees and an entire industry in a span of just 50 years.
view the recipe >

gather some herbs & spices for your concoctions...

2013 — Mulling it Over

[ Herbal Happy Hour: 2013 - Mulling it Over ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

pour and ponder

mulled wine
Simmer some mulled wine to treat your senses on a raw winter day. Sip while curled up with a book and blanket or while chatting by the fire with friends. Either way you'll feel the warmth of its cinnamon and cloves in your toes. This recipe comes from The Flourishing Foodie who calls Mulled Wine "grown up hot chocolate". Yes, indeed.
view the recipe >

winter sun cocktail
Some citrus sunshine—clementines and cayenne hint at the heat of summer. Enjoy the special treat of this in-season citrus during the harsh blowing winds of winter. From Two Tarts.
view the recipe >

spiced manhattan cocktail
A variation on the classic with cinnamon, cloves, cayenne and a sprinkle of fresh-grated nutmeg. Sommer from A Spicy Perspective begs forgiveness for mixing Cognac vs bourbon in her Manhattan, she felt the bourbon a bit to harsh. Try her Spiced Manhattan Cocktail for yourself and judge.
view the recipe >

pumpkin pie martini
Just in case you haven't had your fill of holiday desserts we offer up this find. Made with Pumpkin Pie Spice, you can make this drink to enjoy the seasonal seasoning favorite one more time in 2013. This Pumpkin Pie Martini is from Pass the Sushi but there are many variations worth considering.
view the recipe >

gather some herbs & spices for your concoctions...

2012 — Mulling it Over

[ Herbal Happy Hour: 2012 - Simple Salutations ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

speaking of easy

margaritas with chili pepper salt
The kick from the chili pepper salt on the rim of the glass will have everyone cheering "Olé!"

spiced pumpkin vodka
Spicy and warm, this vodka will become a seasonal favorite. Makes a great gift too.

homemade vanilla schnapps
This traditional liquor couldn't be easier to make! This is another recipe that lends itself to gifting.

hibiscus ginger punch
This tame punch is tasty on its own, but it's even better paired with the vodka you've made from the first recipe! Try it with a splash of coconut water or milk and serve over ice.

gather some herbs & spices for your concoctions...