One Perfect Sangria

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A couple of Fridays ago, my daughter Ally and I spent a nice late afternoon at Balboa Park.  We went to the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center to see “Cosmic Collisions” at the Imax theater.  It was about 3:45pm when the film was over and, unbeknownst to us, all of the museums in the park close at 4:00, so we didn’t really have time to do much else.  But what we did discover is that after the museums close, most of the crowds leave and the Park is quiet and peaceful, with just a few neighborhood people jogging, walking their dogs & kids and pushing strollers. We sat by the Lilly Pond and listened to a classical guitarist play.  It was lovely.

me & Al

Ally and me

We ended the day with a visit to nearby Spanish restaurant for their Tapas Happy Hour.  It was a wonderful ending to what was already a wonderful day. The tapas were great and so, of course, was the sangria. (Did I mention that I love sangria?)  But all it did was whet my appetite for sangria and a few nights later, I had the hankering to make some. I had a recipe that someone had given me years and years ago.  It was copied from an old Spanish cookbook.  But I couldn’t find it.  So I went to my “go to” source Smitten Kitchen.  Of course she had a recipe.  In fact, she had a post called “two classic sangrias”.  I sort of pulled ingredients from both and merged them into what I believe to be one perfect sangria.

One Perfect Sangria

adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s “two classic sangrias”


1 bottle dry red wine (Spanish preferred, a garnacha is good, but whatever red wine is your favorite)

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup brandy

1/4 cup Triple Sec or other orange liqueur (I used Cointreau…whoa!)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

12 ounces sparkling fruit soda (I used a can of Hansen’s Natural grapefruit, but orange or lime or lemon would be good too)

1 each orange, lemon and lime, washed and then sliced thinly

Combination of any other fruit you have on hand, washed and chopped into smallish chunks (I used a green apple, a red pear, a few strawberries and a few blueberries because that’s what I had in the fridge)


In a large pitcher, mix the wine, sugar, brandy, liqueur and orange juice.  Add the fruit and let sit in the fridge until needed.  Right before serving, stir in the sparkling soda.  Fill glasses with ice and pour sangria over. Use a slotted spoon to retrieve some of the fruit from the pitcher and spoon some into each glass.


Cilantro Limoncello Margarita

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Yes, I’ll get to the recipe for that delicious, frosty, amazing looking margarita in a minute, but first, the history of how it came to be.

One of our very favorite places on earth to go is La Villa del Valle in the Baja Mexico Wine Country.  What?  Baja Wine Country?  Sí.  Yessiree.  The Guadalupe Valley, just a bit northeast of Ensenada (only about an hour and a half drive from San Diego.)

Tony read an article about La Villa del Valle (back then known as Las Brisas, but apparently that big resort in Acapulco didn’t want to share the name) in LA Times Magazine back in 2006.  I’m going to let you look for yourself (links below), but after that first visit, we were absolutely hooked.  The Villa is so gorgeous, luxurious and comfortable and well appointed.  Deluxe.  It’s described as “Mexitteranean”-inspired. And, honest, if someone were to drug me, blindfold me, put me in a helicopter and drop me there, I’d swear I was in Tuscany.  Vineyards, organic gardens, swimming pool, gorgeous local artwork…I could go on and on.



And Phil and Eileen Gregory, the proprietor/hosts are gracious and interesting and so hospitable and just fun to be around.

We’ve been probably ten times since the first visit in 2006.  Of course, there were a couple years recently that we were a little nervous to drive down there, and sadly didn’t visit, but have been back twice in the last year and a half.  It’s even more amazing than ever.  Phil has a full blown winery now and they’ve even added a gourmet restaurant on the property.



We were so happy to be back and they were thrilled to have us.  And we will return.  Soon.  And often.

The original LA Times Magazine article here.

Ville del Valle website here.

Okay, so now for the recipe.  In that original article, Phil and Eileen were hosting a beautiful “Mexitteranean” cocktail party and one of the recipes they shared was for this Cilantro Margarita.  It’s a frozen version of the cocktail and calls for limoncello instead of Sweet & Sour, a little cilantro and the glass is rimmed with salt & cayenne pepper.  And it carries quite a punch.  We’ve made dozens of blenders full over the years.

Make a batch for yourself.  It may just inspire you to pay Phil and Eileen a visit.  And when you do, tell them the Brusers sent you.

Cilantro Limoncello Margarita

(Adapted slightly from La Villa del Valle)

Serves 1


1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

2 ounces tequila

1-1/2 ounces limoncello

1/2 ounce water

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 ounce simple syrup (or agave syrup)

1 cup ice


Mix the salt and cayenne in a shallow plate or dish.  Rub the lime around the rim of each glass and dip into the mixture.

Blend the rest of the ingredients in a blender until the ice is crushed.  Freeze for 30 minutes, or until slushy.

Pour into a glass.  Add a couple of whole sprigs of cilantro to garnish.  Serve. 

Classic Champagne Cocktail

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The Champagne Cocktail. So elegant.  Doesn’t it just bring to mind Great Gatsby (or, to be more current, Boardwalk Empire)?

We were in a gourmet dinner club thing a few years ago (a really fun one, I might add, with a bunch of very talented cooks and super creative themes!)  One of the couples chose “1920’s Speakeasy”.  It was fun researching to figure out what to make.  Tony & I were in charge of a salad.  And with each course, we all also had to bring an accompanying cocktail or beverage.  We made a Crab Louis Salad.  It was so fricking delicious…we used some of Tony’s homemade pickled asparagus and fresh Dungeness crab.  And, of course, a Classic Champagne Cocktail.  lt was very popular among the “Flapper set” in the 1920’s, served in those flat-bottomed “coupe” champagne glasses, not the tulip ones we have now.  It just so happens that when Tony & I got married, the crystal we registered for, by Sasaki, included coupe champagne glasses.  They are gorgeous and we rarely get to use them.

Don’t you think a champagne cocktail (or two) would be such a classy and elegant addition to your New Year’s Eve celebration? I’m sure F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nucky Thompson would think so.

Classic Champagne Cocktail


Champagne (or sparkling wine)

Sugar cubes


Angostura Bitters

Lemon (for lemon peel twist garnish)


Drop sugar cube in glass; splash with cognac and bitters; top with champagne or sparkling wine.  Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.


I dreamt about this cocktail last night.  Really.  I’m not kidding. You see, I have all these pomegranate seeds and a couple of whole pomegranates in my kitchen right now.  One of my coworkers has a tree and keeps bringing them to share.  They are so beautiful and so delicious, but now I’m left trying to think of things to make with them.  (You’ll get the Oatmeal/Pomegranate/White Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe soon.)

Of course, I couldn’t stop thinking about this whole cocktail idea at work today.  We’ve already done a Pomerita, but I wanted to do something a little different. I thought about a Cosmo.  And then I remembered seeing Cranberry-Pomegranate juice at the grocery store.  Voilá!  The Cranegranatini is invented.  (Oh yes, and this is all taking place while I’m at work…yikes).

So I text Tony and ask him if he could please pick up some Cranberry-Pomegranate juice.  He doesn’t even ask why.  He just does it.  And then I get home from work and I tell him about the Cranegranatini.  We even have some cranberries in the freezer!  An hour later, he’s shaking one up.  That’s just one of the reasons I love him so much.

It was absolutely delightfully fantastic and it will be the perfect “signature cocktail” for Thanksgiving!  We’re going to make them.  And I think you should too!



Makes two cocktails

2 oz. vodka

2 oz. Cranberry-Pomegranate juice

1/2 oz. Cointreau or triple sec

1/2 oz. fresh lime juice

Sugar (for rimming glass…I actually used Maple Sugar from Trader Joe’s)

Lime twist, fresh cranberries and fresh pomegranate seeds (for garnish)


Pour a couple of tablespoons sugar onto a small plate.  Rub the cut half of a lime around the rim of your glass and dip that into the sugar mixture.

Combine vodka, Cranberry-Pomegranate juice, Cointreau and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice.  Shake until chilled and strain into a martini glass.

Garnish with lime twist, a couple of fresh cranberries and a few pomegranate seeds.

Sukkah-rita (aka Pomegranate Margarita)

We had a Mexican-themed dinner with friends for Sukkot the other night (we renamed the holiday Mexukkot…lol) and I needed a signature cocktail to serve.  I wanted to do something a little different than just your regular margarita.  Years ago I printed out a recipe for a drink called a “Pomerita” (a margarita made with pomegranate juice), that we’ve made many, many times.  Perfect.  Pomegranates are one of the Seven Species of Israel (remember the Seven Species Salad???).  My mixologist husband Tony adapted the recipe a bit and came up with what we are now calling a Sukkah-rita!  Que bueno.  L’chaim!



(for each drink)

1-1/2 ounces very good quality tequila

1/2 ounce Cointreau

3-1/2 ounces pomegranate juice

juice of one lime

1/2 ounce agave syrup

For garnish – sugar, lime, pomegranate seeds


Pour a couple of tablespoons sugar onto a small plate.  If you want to be really fancy, zest the peel from one lime and mix with the sugar.

Rub the cut half of a lime around the rim of your glass and dip that into the sugar mixture.  Fill your glass with ice.

Add all other ingredients to a cocktail shaker.  Add enough ice to fill the shaker about three-quarters full and give it a good shake.  Once you’ve given it a good Tom Cruise (or, in this case, Tony Bruser) style hippy, hippy shake, strain it into your ice-filled glass.

Garnish with a lime peel twist and a few pomegranate seeds.