Tag Archives: summer beverages

A Sustainable Wedding (and the recipe for Maple Mint Tea)

17 Aug

There is something profoundly sensible about a sustainable wedding celebration. After all, the idea that this unit of two (or in this case, three!) is meant to be self-sustaining, sustain each other, create a balanced environment where each member thrives…well, the symbolism is fairly obvious.

So when my dear friend Hatti, my classmate in my first year of college at The New School for Social Research in NYC (yes, I was always this bloody liberal and lefty, those of you who are familiar with the institution) and the first vegetarian-by-choice I had ever met, and Chris Moratz, inventor and climber and ceramics wonder, decided to get married, a sustainable wedding was in the works. We’re talking no waste, totally local, even the music was self-generated. It was glorious.

Stone Church

They live with Hatti’s daughter, Emma, in Gardiner, NY, near New Paltz, where the climbing is outstanding and the local agriculture is strong.

The view from the churchyard

Chris is German, so while the couple had married in a civil ceremony last year, they didn’t do the church wedding and the celebration until later, something done by many cultures around the world. They spent this past year doing all the house projects that needed doing in order to host the party at home.

The Stone Church up in the mountains in Cragsmoor was the ceremony site (Leandro and I were so very pleased with ourselves – not only did we get there without help from the GPS – Cragsmoor’s zipcode couldn’t be found! What is this? Brigadoon? — but we actually got there on time!)

Emma and Leandro

Yes, they really rode miles and miles home!

The party followed, later in the afternoon, once the happy couple had bicycled their way home (in 90 degree heat, mind you….I suppose it is zero emissions, but sweet Jesus, I couldn’t sustain that!).

The Party set up

The yard was quilted in tables and chairs and the odd tent, with local flowers in jam jars on every one. Folks arrived, many bringing local beers and wines, or food they had made at home. The buffet table was a massive spread of chicken and sausage from Old Ford Farm, vegetable and egg dishes from local farms (Oh My God, the coleslaw from Evolutionary Organics in New Paltz – coleslaw? yes, coleslaw – I had to pile my plate with it a couple of times, I kid you not). I don’t have too many of my own photos, because I was in charge of getting pictures onto Hatti’s camera while they mingled!

Lemon Raspberry Wedding Cake by Jennifer Vehaba

The lemon raspberry wedding cake was made by the caterer, Jennifer Vehaba, with ingredients from Wild Hive Farm, Clinton Corners, and again, Old Ford Farm, and it was just gorgeous all around.

It seems that every other person in their families and among their friends is some sort of a musician, so the jams sprang up all over the yard…

A note on the waste stream…all the plates and glasses were real, there was just one bag of trash at the end (and there were something like 150 people eating and drinking all night!), there was a bin for recyclables and another for food waste that the chickens would dispatch with.

The tea kept well overnight outside in this container!

The one recipe I came away with was for the astonishingly refreshing maple mint tea that Hatti and Chris invented. I must have drunk a gallon of it on my own, so I got the recipe and here it is, first as Hatti told me and then slightly more formalized.

“When I make the maple mint tea; I dry the leaves from the garden and then I make tea with boiling water and let it cool and I put in about a cup of maple syrup per gallon.”

Maple Mint Tea (remember that inspiration for drinking sangría out of jam jars? This was it)

Maple Mint Tea (Hatti Langsford and Chris Moratz)

1 Gallon peppermint/mint tea

1 Cup maple syrup

When the tea has cooled, add maple syrup. Mix well. Serve chilled over ice, and garnish with mint leaves, if you are so inclined.

Hatti and Chris’ tea was still delicious the next day, after spending a very warm day and night outside in a beverage cooler, so it’s safe to say that a smaller household amount will keep in the fridge a day or two. If it lasts that long!

A Sangría Celebration (Three Varieties, One Delightful Party)

8 Aug

Robert Frost once said “Good fences make good neighbors.” He was absolutely correct; the better defined the boundaries, the easier it is to get along.

However, there are times when border crossings become extremely attractive and even critical to survival – such as when you’re home alone with a toddler during a hurricane, or when it’s been sweltering hot for days and on the other side of the fence there is a sparkling pool.

Fortunately for me and Leandro, our next-door neighbors have come through in the clutch on just such occasions. We spent a hurricane with them as well as a couple of heat wave days and not only were they lifesavers, but they were totally fun.

So it was time to show our appreciation. And what better way than to pass several gallons of several varieties of refreshing home-made sangría over the fence for an impromptu sangría-tasting pool party?

We did just that a couple of days ago, serving the sangría in honking big pickle jars (I was inspired to use them by a recent wedding in New Paltz that I’ll be blogging about soon, but the observant reader will quickly surmise that I have a lot of empty pickling jars because I haven’t been on the Ball about preserving and pickling this year…).

Each of the following three varieties had its fans among the tasters. My personal fave was the Pimm’s blend (Hail Brittannia), Allen and Lynne liked the tartness of the cranberry blend and Alyssa and Barbara demolished the white wine and Limoncello. Big plus about neighborly imbibing? No driving involved!

But I knew I had really made the grade when the college kids started sending instagrams of their drinks to their friends from their smart phones! A couple of said friends actually turned up at the house, having abandoned their barstools where they were actually spending their own money on sangría that was apparently not as good….

Red Wine and Pimm’s Sangría (a salute to Team GB and the London Olympics)

3 Litres light-bodied red wine (12 cups or 3 quarts) such as Pinot Noir or Chianti

7 Tbs mango orange juice

3-6 Tbs Pimm’s or orange flavored liquer like Grand Marnier

3 Tbs sugar

Mixed sliced fruit: apples, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, oranges, lemons

½ -1 Cup ginger ale or seltzer

In a large bowl or two pitchers, mix wine, juice, Pimms and sugar. Add fruit and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  When ready to serve, top with ginger ale or seltzer, or let each individual top off their cup with their choice of fizzy drink. Use loads of ice!!!


Red Wine and Brandy Sangría (tart!)

1.5 litres red wine such as Pinot Noir or Chianti

4 Tbs cranberry juice

3 Tbs brandy or orange-flavored liquer

2 Tbs fresh-squeezed orange juice

1 Tbs sugar

Orange and lemon slices

¼-1/2 Cup ginger ale or seltzer

Mix everything except the orange and lemon slices and fizzy drink in a large bowl or pitcher. Add fruit, refrigerate for several hours or overnight. When ready to serve, top with ginger ale or seltzer, or let each individual top off their cup with their choice of fizzy drink. Use loads of ice…in the glasses.


Fruity White Wine and Limoncello Sangría

2.5-3 Litres dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc (I can’t drink Pinot Grigio because of headaches, but if you like it, it would work here)

4 Tbs Limoncello/limoncini

6 Tbs orange mango juice

Sliced peaches, nectarines, strawberries, apples, oranges, lemons

¼-1/2 Cup ginger ale or seltzer

Mix everything except the fruit slices and fizzy drink in a large bowl or pitcher. Add fruit, refrigerate for several hours or overnight. When ready to serve, top with ginger ale or seltzer, or let each individual top off their cup with their choice of fizzy drink. Pour over ice!

Mojitos: Celebrating, Cuban-style

4 May

There’s been so much good stuff going on in my world over the last two months that I have been too busy to stop to celebrate any of it!

Aside from my culinary dictionary finally being available to the public, I ran some successful events at the community college where I teach, delivered the keynote address at the annual gala of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese Metro NYC chapter, attended the national TESOL (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages) conference in Philadelphia with some of my wonderful colleagues (and without my son for three nights – a monumental event for which I have to thank my parents!), attended the Small Farms Summit here on Long Island, planted a garden in the brand-new raised boxes that my dad and his friend built and…even got a hair cut and color (which alone would be cause for celebration, given how I was feeling about my hair). I have even managed to drop enough weight to be back into all my clothes (I was very cavalier about the figure this winter, but have since reined it in). 

Things have slowed down a bit now, so last weekend it was time to catch my breath with a celebratory cocktail. Or two. At the same time, I realized that the mint was up in the garden. Put these two elements together, and the only logical conclusion was to bust out the rum and make a mojito! Or two.

A mojito is really a Cuban drink — and I have been fortunate enough to have had quite a few of them in Cuba itself, including one memorable evening on the patio of the Hotel Nacional in Havana, listening to Compay Segundo in one of his last live performances, sharing a honking big Churchill-size Cohiba cigar and some Havana Club silver rum in very good company, and feeling almost sheepish about how much fun it was to live like Hemingway for a bit. I believe my divorce papers were getting signed at the time too, in some other country, so you can imagine my satisfaction at spending that moment in fabulous and exotic circumstances far-far away from what’s-his-name.

In my world, mojitos are liquid triumph.

For rum I now use Don Q Cristal from Puerto Rico, my preferred white rum for mixed drinks. You will want a rum with a very clean, crispness. As it turns out, my mint was a bit more toothpaste-spearminty than I usually like, but the result was exceedingly refreshing.

As with any traditional recipe, I expect to hear from many folks saying that this is not at all the way to make an authentic mojito. And as with any traditional recipe, I will answer that there are as many ways to make it as there are bartenders in the world. But of course, I would love to hear your suggestions!

Thanks to Ashley for being my partner in crime on this one, and for taking the notes while I did the mixing. The recipe has quite a bit of editorializing, most (but not all) came from her!


3 tsp sugar

16-20 large mint leaves

2 big, fat Tbs white rum (Don Q Cristal is a personal favorite)

½ Tbs lime

Seltzer/club soda

Muddle (mush up, but don’t pound) sugar and mint in a mortar and pestle or in two glasses (Ashley says: don’t muddle the mint too much or else the mint particles go up your straw. And into your mouth. And then your drink sucks.)

Fill two glasses with ice (highball, lowball, it’s up to you). Divide rum between the two glasses. Pour lime juice over rum and shake a bit to cover. Add sugar-mint muddle, if it wasn’t in the glasses already, and stir gently.

Remember that you are supposed to add club soda/seltzer. Open bottle over sink (because since you forgot about it, you didn’t refrigerate it, so the seltzer is warm and apt to fizz all over). Pour ¼ cup seltzer atop each glass and serve. Salud!

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