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CranberryThe holidays offer endless possibilities for gelatin molds – think eggnog, pumpkin, apple cider, and cranberries. Cranberries? Yes please! Delightful and tart, I associate cranberries with turkey and cosmopolitans. This boozy gelatin, based on the classic cosmo, combines 100% cranberry juice with my favorite holiday flavors – ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. And booze. If you’re inclined to mix drinks at home, the ginger-spice simple syrup transforms cocktails into dazzling little liquid celebrations.

Recipe for ginger-spice simple syrup*

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 small whole nutmeg

Combine water with sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat and add ginger, cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning, strain the syrup and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Should last a few months.

*Recipe adapted from here (epicurious.com)

Cranberry Ginger-Spice Martini (recipe for 3.5 cups)

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming)
  • 3/4 cup cranberry juice (I use 100% cranberry juice, but if using a blend with added sugar, consider adjusting the sugar)
  • 1 cup ginger-spice simple syrup
  • ½ cup vodka (better vodka equals better gelatin mold!)
  • ¼ cup triple sec (I used my new favorite Paula’s Texas Orange Premium Liqueur)

Put 1 cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top of the water. Set bowl aside.

Put cranberry juice in small sauce pan, and put on medium heat. Upon almost boiling, remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in ginger-spice syrup and alcohol. Pour mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set.

Top layer (optional)

Since I had this seasonal gelatin mold to play with, I added a creamy top layer. Here’s what I used:

  • 1 packet gelatin
  • 1 cup water (½ cup for blooming gelatin, ½ cup for boiling)
  • ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk

Put ½ cup of water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Set bowl aside. Bring ½ cup water to boil and remove from heat. Pour hot water over bloomed gelatin, stir until fully dissolved. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Pour mixture into mold and put in refrigerator. Once creamy layer is almost set, pour in cranberry mixture.

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(Repost from October 2010)

Like many pop-culture junkies of my generation, I never get tired of watching “The Big Lebowski.” The 1998 Ethan and Joel Coen film has spawned multiple books, an annual festival, academic works, and even a religion called “dudeism.” The main character in the movie (“The Dude”) drinks White Russians, so when I made this White Russian gelatin mold for our friend Lynn’s birthday, the name seemed obvious.

White Russians consist of coffee-flavored liqueur, vodka, and cream. To create this gelatin mold, I used my basic panna cotta recipe (minus vanilla bean) and added vodka and Kahlúa. I also created a version with sweetened condensed milk (see below). Personally, I preferred the less sweet panna cotta version, but several of my friends liked the sweetened condensed milk more. Both versions tasted like a White Russian ordered at a bar.

The molds seen here are especially fantastic. I purchased the star mold at my favorite Austin vintage store (Room Service Vintage), and my friend Christie purchased the flower mold at a Tulsa estate sale.

Recipe (panna cotta version) approx 3 cups

  • 1 packet Knox gelatin
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup Kahlúa
  • ½ cup vodka

Sprinkle the packet of gelatin on top of ¼ cup milk. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a small saucepan heat up cream and sugar (do not boil). Once sugar dissolves, pour cream over the bloomed gelatin and milk. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in Kahlúa and vodka, and spoon into mold(s). Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Recipe (sweetened condensed milk version) 5.25 cups

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming)
  • ¾ cup water (for heating)
  • 1 cup vodka
  • ½ cup Kahlúa
  • 2 cups sweetened condensed milk

Sprinkle the gelatin on top of 1 cup of water. Set aside for 5 minutes. In a small saucepan heat up ¾ cup of water and vodka (do not boil). Once heated, pour water and vodka over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in sweetened condensed milk and Kahlúa, and spoon into mold(s). Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

In the two years since starting this blog, I’ve felt ridiculous guilt for not appeasing my beer-drinking friends. At every party I bring a boozy gelatin mold to, some bearded dude asks the inevitable – where’s the beer?

Being a beer liker (not a beer lover), I couldn’t begin to imagine a beer gelatin mold. My limited beer appreciation involves the following: (a) Budweiser, which my parents let the adolescent me drink on special occasions, (b) Guinness, which I drank a lot of in the late 90’s to impress an Irish-phile I was unrequitedly in love with; and my favorite, (c) Austin local brew Fireman’s #4, which I gift to beer-loving friends and order at every Alamo Drafthouse movie I see.

About a year ago, my bearded friend Kerim mentioned how he enjoys an occasional Shandy, and I finally had an idea for a beer gelatin mold. Interestingly, the word Shandy can mean many different cocktails, but usually refers to mixing beer with something sweet. The first time I heard the word Shandy was at Dim Sum with my dear friend Bindiya. For Bindiya, a South Asian raised in Singapore/London and now residing in Texas, a Shandy consists of a light beer combined with equal parts Sprite. Now I love my dear friend like a sister, but I personally couldn’t imagine a less appetizing cocktail.  However, when my friend Kerim mentioned a Shandy as beer combined with lemonade, a light went off in my head. Hence, the Shandy gelatin mold was born.

It took several trials to perfect this recipe. Due to the high carbonation of beer, it was difficult to find a balance that kept the effervescence but still held shape. See the picture at the left – this is what happens when you attempt to float cherries in a high-carbonation gelatin. As my high school friend Kelli said, it looked like brains.

So several trials later, I finally created a solid Shandy gelatin mold for my good friend Matt’s birthday. I’m very happy with this recipe, seen here with candied lemons. I hope you can enjoy it as well.

Recipe for 5 cups

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming gelatin)
  • ¾ cup water (for syrup)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup strained lemon juice, with zest reserved
  • 2 cups wheat beer (I used Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat)

Put 1 cup of cold water in a large bowl and sprinkle 3 packets of gelatin on top of the water.  Set bowl aside.

Put remaining water and sugar and in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lemon zest. Cover and let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lemon syrup, and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in strained lemon juice and beer. Spoon mixture into mold(s), and put in refrigerator until set (at least 4 hours).

To remove gelatin, put mold(s) into a bowl or sink full of warm water for a few seconds. After removing from water, gently shake the mold side to side. When the gelatin jiggles away from the edges of the mold, put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process or run a knife around the edge. Be careful not to melt the mold in the process.

“Have a drink. It’ll make me look younger.” — Roger Sterling, Season 4, Episode 5: “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword”

Roger Sterling, the king of self-indulgence, has the best one-liners on Mad Men. Expertly portrayed by silver fox John Slattery, Roger exudes entitlement and superficiality, but with just the right amount of self-awareness to make him occasionally endearing. Very occasionally. In honor of Roger and his beloved vodka, I present the Greyhound – the fantastic combination of grapefruit juice and vodka. This gelatin was sweet, tart, and boozy –  a hit my Mad Men party.

As I write this, I’m still reeling over episode 11: “The Other Woman.” I could write volumes about my reaction to the situation Joan was put in. For now, I’ll say that Roger disappointingly agrees to LITERALLY pimp out Joan at the expense of her value as a human being. As Roger once said to Joan, she’ll never be a Jackie, only a Marilyn. Meaning in the eyes of Roger (and many men), Joan will only be a sex object. Like a beautiful and impractical car – the intelligent and competent Joan is an object to be experienced and owned. Bad Roger! BAD!

I’m really struggling to get past my anger at the fictional Roger. He is fictional, right? Fictional means NOT REAL. But I guess that’s the power of story telling. Good stories, at the end of the day, teach us something about our world and ourselves. What I learned from Joan’s predicament is too personal to share here, but I assure you my friends will receive an earful. Isn’t that the brilliance of good story telling? God, how I love it.

 Recipe for 3.5 cups

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ¾ cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, strained to remove pulp
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup vodka

Put ½ cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle 2 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside.

Put strained grapefruit juice and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil for 10-minutes. Boiling is very important – fresh grapefruit juice has enzymes that will prevent gelatin from setting. Add juice/sugar to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in vodka. Spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

To remove gelatin, put mold(s) into a bowl or sink full of warm water for a few seconds. After removing from water, gently shake the mold side to side. When the gelatin jiggles away from the edges of the mold, put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process or run a knife around the edge. Be careful not to melt the mold in the process.

Joan, in all her fantastic competence and intelligence, is one of the few characters on Mad Men I actually like. Mad Men characters are generally fascinating and dynamic, but rarely likable. Really, how likable is sexism, racism, infidelity, self-absorption, lying, denial, and substance abuse?

Joan has been guilty of all of those things, but in Joan we witness an inner strength and tenacity that other characters lack. Because of that strength, and because Joan is good at everything she does, we watch her grow and change in positive ways. Hurray for leaving her doofus rapist husband! Hurray for recognizing that, while she loves her son, she also loves her job! Hurray for changing her mind on her, “marriage is everything and the end goal of all women” attitude! Hurray for seeing Roger as the man-child he is!

Unlike Don, Betty, and Roger, Joan doesn’t have a signature cocktail. I resigned myself to the task of re-watching previous seasons to see what she orders, then Episode 4: Mystery Date aired. During the dinner scene when Joan realizes what a doofus her idiot husband is, she orders a gin fizz. Hence, the Joan Holloway gelatin mold is a gin fizz with candied lemons. And it tastes lovely – I enjoyed eating the candied lemons suspended in the gelatin, but it’s optional.

Recipe for 5.25 cups

Candied Lemons (optional), I used the slices of three lemons, and this recipe from Real Simple magazine

  • 3 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming)
  • ½ cup water (for boiling)
  • ¾ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • ½ cup lemon juice, strained, with zest reserved
  • 1 ¾ cups gin
  • 1 cup club soda
  • Candied lemon slices (optional)

Put 1 cup of water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 3 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside. Put ½ cup water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lemon zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lemon syrup, and return to saucepan. Reheat the syrup, and pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in gin and club soda.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the candied lemons. Place candied lemons into mixture, and the mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

To remove gelatin, put mold into a bowl or sink full of warm water for a few seconds. After removing from water, gently shake the mold side to side. When the gelatin jiggles away from the edges of the mold, put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process or run a knife around the edge. Be careful not to melt the mold in the process.

Oh Betty! So beautiful, so miserable, so much denial. Is she likable? Not really. Is she a good mother? Hell no. She lacks Joan’s competence and Peggy’s ambition, so why of all the wonderfully crafted and acted women on Mad Men do I adore Betty the most?

I adore Betty because we witness her struggle to find herself. Cold, lost, and tenaciously flawed, much like my own mother, Betty struggles in the dichotomy of what she was told would make her happy (housewife/mother/arm candy) and what might actually give her fulfillment. Tragically, unlike Joan or Peggy, Betty is too far removed from her emotional self to know what she wants.

So where does that leave Betty now? Apparently eating away her misery – losing the beauty she learned to depend on. Oh Betty! What will happen to you? Will you discover what brings you joy? Will you develop compassion for your children? Will your world expand from the frozen, self-absorbed universe you’ve trapped yourself in? Wait, am I still talking about Betty?

Anyway, in honor of my favorite dysfunctional mother on television (Lucille Bluth comes in a close second), I offer Betty’s favorite cocktail (the vodka gimlet) in gelatinous form. Tart, sweet, and fruity, this gelatin was a hit at my Mad Men cocktail gelatin party.

Recipe for 3.5 cups

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming)
  • ¾ water
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of two limes (approx. 1/2 cup) with zest reserved
  • 1 ½ cup vodka

Put ½ cup of water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside. Put water, sugar, and lime juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lime zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lime syrup, and return to saucepan. Reheat the syrup, and pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in vodka.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the strawberries. Stir in (or place) strawberries into mixture, and the mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

To remove gelatin, put mold into a bowl or sink full of warm water for a few seconds. After removing from water, gently shake the mold side to side. When the gelatin jiggles away from the edges of the mold, put plate on top of mold and flip over. If gelatin does not come out, try repeating the process or run a knife around the edge. Be careful not to melt the mold in the process.

The agonizing wait is over! In honor of Mad Men returning this Sunday, here’s a repost of my Don Draper gelatin mold. More Mad Men inspired recipes to come!

See this mold featured on Delicious Links at Apartment Therapy The Kitchn.

I’m a huge fan of the show Mad Men. Not only do I adore the show’s style, acting, and social commentary, I’m fascinated by the cocktail-centric world it depicts. In honor of Mad Men’s 4th season premier, I created the Don Draper gelatin mold.

The Don Draper is based on an old-fashioned, a cocktail consisting of bourbon (Don preferred Canadian Club whisky), sugar, water, dash of bitters, twist of lemon (or orange), and a cherry. It was a challenge to convert an old-fashioned into a gelatin mold, but I think I’m finally figuring out the magic cocktail-to-gelatin formula.

Recipe for 3.5 cups

  • 2 packets knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming)
  • ¾ water
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of one lemon (approx. ¼ cup) with zest reserved
  • 1 ¾ cup bourbon
  • 6 dashes of aromatic bitters, or to taste
  • 1 cup strained maraschino cherries

Put ½ cup of water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside. Put water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lemon zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lemon syrup, and return to saucepan. Reheat the syrup, and pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in bourbon and bitters. Note: if bourbon is cold, it will reduce the amount of time needed before adding cherries.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the cherries. Stir in cherries and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

A few weeks ago my friend Lynda requested a special recipe for her grandmother’s 100th birthday – a vodka tonic. According to Lynda, her grandmother credits her longevity to the daily consumption of this classic cocktail. How great is that?! I credit my occasional poor decision making and sluggish weekend mornings to cocktail consumption. Lynda made this recipe for her grandmother’s 100th birthday party, and it was a hit. I couldn’t be more honored.

In an attempt to try something new, I added candied limes to Grandma’s Vodka Tonic. This recipe for candied lemons from Real Simple magazine inspired me. Unfortunately the results were mixed: Boiling limes turns them brown (not very pretty), but they tasted sweet and limey! Oh, lemons can easily substitute limes in this recipe.

Recipe for 7 cups

  • 4 packets Knox gelatin
  • ¾ cup water (for blooming gelatin)
  • ½ cup water (for syrup)
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime (approx. 1/4 cup) with zest reserved
  • 1 ½ cups tonic water
  • 2 cups vodka
  • Berries of choice, or candied limes

Put ¾ cup of cold water in a large bowl and sprinkle 4 packets of gelatin on top of the water.  Set bowl aside.

Put remaining water and sugar and in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lime zest. Cover and let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lime syrup, and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in lime juice, vodka, and tonic.

Put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the berries. (Length of time varies.) Stir in berries (or whatever you’re using) and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

Before starting my mixology self-education, I associated drinks with “sour” in the name as an efficient way to get sorority girls drunk. I have since learned that not all drinks with sour in the name need to contain cheap booze and dreadful sour mix. Done well, sours offer the delightful combination of booze, sugar, and citrus. One of my favorite cocktails, the bramble, is a basic gin sour with a shot of blackberry liqueur. Hence, a good whiskey sour is made of decent whiskey or bourbon (2 ounces), fresh squeezed lemon juice (1 ounce) and simple syrup (1/2 ounce).

Just a warning to boozy gelatin fans: This recipe is not for the meek. It is strong, strong stuff. I made it for my friend Dave’s birthday party, and even that bourbon-loving crowd commented on the boozy strength.  Consider using shot-sized molds, or cutting the gelatin into tiny squares. Also, to cut down on the sharp boozy taste, substitute some water for the alcohol, or use a higher quality whiskey. A smooth whiskey results in a smooth gelatin mold.

Whiskey Sour (3.5 cups)

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • ½ cup water (for blooming)
  • ¾ water
  • ½ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of one lemon (approx. ¼ cup) with zest reserved
  • 1 ¾ cup bourbon

Put ½ cup of water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top.  Set bowl aside. Put water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add lemon zest. Let stew for 10-minutes. Strain the lemon syrup, and return to saucepan. Reheat the syrup, and pour over the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in bourbon. Spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours. Serve with maraschino cherries.

If you want to put cherries in the mold, put mixture in refrigerator (or freezer) until thickened to a soft gel consistency. It should be easy to stir but thick enough to suspend the cherries. Stir in cherries and spoon mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.

The holidays offer endless possibilities for gelatin molds – think eggnog, pumpkin, apple cider, and cranberries. Cranberries? Yes please! Delightful and tart, I associate cranberries with turkey and cosmopolitans. This boozy gelatin, based on the classic cosmo, combines 100% cranberry juice with my favorite holiday flavors – ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. And booze. If you’re inclined to mix drinks at home, the ginger-spice simple syrup transforms cocktails into dazzling little liquid celebrations.

Recipe for ginger-spice simple syrup*

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh ginger
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 small whole nutmeg

Combine water with sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. When sugar dissolves, remove from heat and add ginger, cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg. Cover pan and let sit overnight. In the morning, strain the syrup and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Should last a few months.

*Recipe adapted from here (epicurious.com)

Cranberry Ginger-Spice Martini (recipe for 3.5 cups)

  • 2 packets Knox gelatin
  • 1 cup water (for blooming)
  • 3/4 cup cranberry juice (I use 100% cranberry juice, but if using a blend with added sugar, consider adjusting the sugar)
  • 1 cup ginger-spice simple syrup
  • ½ cup vodka (better vodka equals better gelatin mold!)
  • ¼ cup triple sec (I used my new favorite Paula’s Texas Orange Premium Liqueur)

Put 1 cup of cold water in a medium bowl and sprinkle the 2 packets of gelatin on top of the water. Set bowl aside.

Put cranberry juice in small sauce pan, and put on medium heat. Upon almost boiling, remove from heat and add to the bloomed gelatin. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir in ginger-spice syrup and alcohol. Pour mixture into mold(s). Put in refrigerator until set.

Top layer (optional)

Since I had this seasonal gelatin mold to play with, I added a creamy top layer. Here’s what I used:

  • 1 packet gelatin
  • 1 cup water (½ cup for blooming gelatin, ½ cup for boiling)
  • ¾ cup sweetened condensed milk

Put ½ cup of water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Set bowl aside. Bring ½ cup water to boil and remove from heat. Pour hot water over bloomed gelatin, stir until fully dissolved. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Pour mixture into mold and put in refrigerator. Once creamy layer is almost set, pour in cranberry mixture.

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