portrait of a cocktail // mai tai

Aloha to the Mai Tai! I’ve been lounging around the sunny sands of Waikiki these days and there’s just no other cocktail that sums up Hawaiian spirit quite like the Mai Tai. There are tons of variations out there, but today I’m sharing a clean and simple version. This one is all about the subtle flavors: two liqueurs back-up and mellow out a punch of gold rum. A little amaretto provides this perfect nutty flavor, and Contreau lends a citrus twist. Then, the flavor really gets layered on with fresh papaya and lime. (Did you know that papaya and lime were just made for each other? They pair so well — papaya is super creamy, while lime has a bit of zip.)

Lots claim to be the inventor of the Mai Tai, but I’ve got it narrowed to two dudes with tiki bars in California around the 1930’s. Back then tiki bars were all the rage. Personally, I think they deserve a comeback! Both Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber have stakes in the Mai Tai creation, and it remains a mystery to this day as to who the originator was.

portrait of a cocktail // mai taiIngredients for one:

  • 1/8 cup chopped papaya, plus more for garnish
  • 1 shot Gold Rum
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz amaretto
  • 1/2 oz Contrequ
  • 1/4 oz brown sugar simple syrup
  • sugarcane
  • lime for garnish

For the brown sugar simple syrup, combine equal parts brown sugar and water in a sauce pan. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Stir occasionally until dissolved.

If you can get your hands on some sugarcane, do it! It makes the perfect muddler for drinks that lend themselves to a little extra sweetness. I was able to find mine in Honolulu’s Chinatown. Granted, sugarcane grows wild over here, but it’s a fun adventure to hunt down this ingredient. If you can’t find it, no worries, your drink will still be delicious!

portrait of a cocktail // mai taiBefore you start mixing the cocktail, prep the garnish. Use a toothpick or pieces of sugarcane to skewer combinations of lime and fruit squares.

At the bottom of a glass add the chopped fruit. I chose papaya because it’s absolutely amazing and pairs perfectly with lime. Get fancy with mangos, dragon fruit, or pineapple… or keep things simple with bananas and oranges. Just make sure it’s mashable.

portrait of a cocktail // mai taiMuddle the fruit at the bottom of a glass with the sugarcane. In a cocktail shaker full of ice add the booze, lime juice and brown sugar simple syrup. Give it a good shake and pour over the papaya, then stir it all together. Add some ice and top with garnish.

portrait of a cocktail // mai taiCin cin!


PS – More cocktails here!

Photography by Eva Burns for Jojotastic.

portrait of a cocktail // watermelon basil gimlet

For me, sipping a Watermelon Basil Gimlet is the epitome of summer. The Gimlet has a long, seaworthy past. Leave it to the Brits to come up with another winning lime and gin combo. During the 19th century, The Royal British Navy started mixing the newly invented Rose’s Lime Cordial with gin to help fight scurvy. Today I mix Gimlets to beat the summer heat.

I found this cocktail a few summers ago in Martha Stewart Living, and since then have adapted it to be my all time favorite and go to summer cocktail. I literally countdown the days until it’s watermelon and basil season for this exact purpose.

portrait of a cocktail // watermelon basil gimlet


  • seedless watermelon
  • 4 basil leaves
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 shot gin
  • tonic (my favorite is Fever Tree Mediterranean)

portrait of a cocktail // watermelon basil gimlet
The best part about this cocktail are the watermelon ice cubes. Cut the watermelon into about 1 inch cubes and freeze. After about an hour in the freezer they are ready to serve. I usually cut one whole watermelon and freeze a ton of cubes at once so I have them on hand whenever I want (read: need) a cocktail.

portrait of a cocktail // watermelon basil gimlet
Mix together lime juice and sugar in the bottom of a glass. Gently rip up the basil leaves and toss them in, too. Muddle all three ingredients together. Stir in gin. Toss in a few watermelon cubes and top with tonic. Give it another light stir to combine all elements.

I hope you savor this all summer long!

Cin cin!

PS – More cocktails here!
Photography by Eva Burns for Jojotastic.

portrait of a cocktail // earl greyhound

The Earl Greyhound is the perfect summer brunch mixer. The original Greyhound cocktail dates back to the Prohibition era, and involved grapefruit jelly (no, thank you!). Our version today mixes in aromatic and citrusy Earl Grey tea. This softens the edge on the vodka and gives the drink a more refreshing breakfast appeal. The tea is brought into the cocktail from two different angles: by infusing the vodka and making ice cubes from the tea itself. I’m a huge fan of Earl Grey tea, so I love this strong approach, but feel free to experiment!

portrait of a cocktail // earl greyhound


  • Earl Grey tea
  • Vodka
  • limes
  • grapefruit soda

Infusing alcohol always sounds super fancy, but it’s actually the easiest (and tastiest) trick. For this recipe, the ratio is 1 cup of vodka to 1 tea bag. Then, let the tea bag sit for about 30 minutes.

The ratio is the same for making the ice cubes, too: 1 cup of bowling water to 1 tea bag, but only steep for 5 minutes. Then transfer to an ice cube tray. (I love my new teeny tiny ice cube tray!)

portrait of a cocktail // earl greyhound

To mix this cocktail, fill a lowball glass with the Earl Grey tea ice cubes, then add a 1.5-2 shots of Earl Grey vodka (depending on how frisky you’re feeling). Squeeze in the juice from of a lime, then top with grapefruit soda. Garnish with a lime slice. Probably best served with Deviled Eggs!

portrait of a cocktail // earl greyhound

Cin cin!

PS – More cocktail recipes here!

portrait of a cocktail // sea foam margarita

Let’s celebrate Cinco de Mayo the right way. With a Margarita (or two), of course. However, this is not your typical Margarita. Instead of salting the rim, we are making sea foam. Imagine being able to imbibe fresh frothy sea surf. Well… now you can. If mermaids drank Margaritas, this is how they would do it.

Legend has it, the Margarita was invented by the lavish Texas socialite Margaret Sames. Ms. Sames threw some pretty swanky parties at her vacation home in Acapulco, Mexico. During her 1948 Christmas soirée the genius woman came up with the proportions for the Margarita, after she hopped behind the bar. Naturally she named it after herself with a little Spanish flair. The addition of sea foam is not only magical, but delicately delicious; and comes to us from DC’s Oyamel Cocina Mexicana.

portrait of a cocktail // sea foam margarita

Ingredients for two:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz orange liqueur
  • 3 oz tequila
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon soy lecithin
  • ice

portrait of a cocktail // sea foam margarita

In a mixing bowl combine only 1/4 cup of lime juice, water, salt and soy lecithin. Using egg beaters or electric hand mixer, start to make some froth. I used the egg beaters for about 60 seconds. You’re not going try to make the entire mixture into foam right away. Just beat it until you have a enough foam to skim off the top and add to your cocktail. Set aside until your drinks are mixed.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the other 1/4 cup of lime juice, orange liqueur and tequila. Shake, shake, shake! Pour into two glasses, and top with sea foam. Olé!

portrait of a cocktail // sea foam margarita

Cin cin!

P.S. More cocktail recipes here!

portrait of a cocktail // bombay government punch

This is not your grandmother’s punch. Bombay Government Punch is a deliciously fierce elixir concocted by the English Governor of Bombay, Sir John Gayer, back in 1694. Throw out your notions of dowdy pink punch, and usher in a rich and complex cocktail, that just happens to be served in a huge bowl.

I know, I know. This might not be the prettiest punch to look at. (I happen to enjoy its beautiful amber glow.) But I promise everyone who sips this for the first time says the exact same thing, with the exact same wide-eyed expression. Whoa! This is delicious! And then they guzzle it. There are so many layers of flavor to this punch, it’s impossible to not go back for more.

Did you know that making punch is a bit of a science experiment? A true punch follows the proper proportions. For example, our punch here is based on the oldest and most classic ratio: 1 sour (lime juice), 2 sweet (mandarin orange syrup), 3 strong (the booze), and 4 weak (black tea). Once you have this ratio down, you can make any quantity of punch, like maybe just cocktails for two, or you can start to sub out the different elements. Instead of lime juice you could use lemon, instead of black tea, try green. The possibilities are endless!

portrait of a cocktail // bombay government punch

There are a lot of steps to this punch, but in the end it’s so worth it. Instead of having to mix drinks on the spot for guests, everyone can just help themselves. The ice block is beautiful and, as it melts, the mandarin slices begin to garnish the drink.

Ingredients for punch:

  • 13 oz lime juice (about 13 limes)
  • 3 cups mandarin orange syrup (directions below)
  • 1 bottle dark rum (750 ml bottle)
  • 1/2 bottle VSOP cognac (750 ml bottle)
  • 6 1/2 cups water
  • 3 black tea bags
  • 20 dashes of orange bitters
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 ice block (directions below)

Boil 6 1/5 cups of water. Once boiling, turn off heat and steep 3 tea bags for 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes, remove tea bags and let tea cool to room temperature. Combine cooled tea and syrup in punch bowl with lime juice, rum and cognac. Add bitters and sprinkle in cinnamon. Give it a strong stir to make sure the cinnamon doesn’t clump. Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour, but no longer than a day if you’ve prepped ahead of time. About 30 minutes before serving remove punch from your fridge and add the ice block. This last step is important. The punch is much better once the ice has melted a little bit.

portrait of a cocktail // bombay government punch

Ingredients for mandarin orange syrup:

  • 3 cups demerara or turbinada sugar (This is real brown sugar and can be found at just about any grocery store.)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 5 mandarins, thinly sliced

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat. Watch the pot closely, once it reaches a simmer remove from heat. Stir occasionally to make sure all the sugar is dissolved and to help release juice and oils from the mandarins. Let syrup cool completely.

Ingredients for ice block:

  • water
  • 7 mandarins, thinly sliced
  • loaf pan

Place 1 layer of mandarin slices at the bottom of the loaf pan and enough water to just cover the slices. Place in the freezer about 2 hours, then add another layer of slices and water. Let this layer freeze for 2 hours. Repeat these steps until the loaf pan is full. I recommend doing this the day before so that it has all night to set and freeze. To remove the ice block from the pan turn it upside in your sink and run hot water over the pan until you hear the block fall out.

portrait of a cocktail // bombay government punch

Cin cin!

P.S. More cocktail recipes!


Since spring is (hopefully!) just around the corner, I thought I would present you with a trio of herb simple syrups. We’ve got basil, rosemary and thyme, but feel free to use your favorite herb instead. Simple syrup is one of my favorite ways to add a little sweetness to any cocktail. Better yet though is flavoring the simple syrup. It can take your cocktail to the next level!

The ingredients listed are merely suggestions. This is an opportunity to experiment! Use your favorite herb and mix it with your own sugar-to-water ratio. The standard simple syrup ratio is equal parts water and sugar. However, you can adjust this according to how sweet you want it.


Today I’ve paired these simple syrups with muddled berries and a squeeze of citrus. But again, don’t hesitate to experiment with the combinations and other cocktails.

Rosemary + Strawberry + Grapefruit
Basil + Blackberry + Lemon
Thyme + Raspberry + Orange

Ingredients for 3 simple syrups:

  • 3/4 cups water (divided into 1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 cups sugar (divided into 1/4 cups)
  • 3 rosemary sprigs
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 2 bunches of thyme (about twice as much as pictured)

Ingredients for cocktails:

  • Gin
  • Tonic
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries

For Garnish:

  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Thyme


To make the simple syrup, coarsely chop the herb you plan on using. Combine water, sugar and herb in a sauce pan. Stirring frequently over medium heat bring to a simmer, then turn heat off. While stirring bruise herbs to help release more essential oils and get a stronger flavor. You can stop stirring when you turn off the stove. Let the mixture cool completely. Lastly, strain the syrup.

To make one of the cocktails, muddle a few berries in the bottom of a glass with 1 teaspoon of herb simple syrup. Add a shot of gin. Throw in a few ice cubes, top with tonic, and give it a gentle stir. Garnish with a citrus wedge and herb sprig.


Chin Chin!

P.S. More cocktail recipes!


Shaken, not stirred.

In honor of St. Valentine, the Pink Vesper is inspired by one of history’s sexiest characters – James Bond. Mr. Bond invented the Vesper Martini during a heated game of poker, and named the concoction after his first true love. On the surface Martinis seem simple, but there’s a science to making them. I promise, we’ll cover that in another post. Technically this cocktail isn’t a Martini at all because I’ve added delicious cherry and lemon juices. The addition of these and the removal of gin not only makes it more palatable, but gives the drink a beautiful rosy glow. This cocktail is the perfect combination of bright and tart flavors of fruit, a hint of sweetness from Lillet, with a subtle backdrop of vodka. It’s incredibly easy to make. So go ahead and whip one up for your special Valentine.


Ingredients for two:

  • 3 shots vodka
  • 2 shots cherry juice (just use the juice from jar of cherries)
  • 1 shot lemon juice (about one lemon)
  • 1 shot Lillet
  • 6 dark cherries
  • 2 cocktail picks (super cute ones found here)
  • 2 low ball glasses (similar found here)
  • cocktail shaker and ice (love this shaker)


Fill cocktail shaker with ice. Add juices, vodka and Lillet. Shake it up! Pour into 2 glasses and garnish with 3 cherries on each cocktail pick.

Take a sip and let the romance begin!


A note on the cherries… I love the Dark Morello Cherries from Trader Joe’s. What you don’t want are Maraschino Cherries (they usually look, taste and smell like plastic). Just make sure whatever you get is not loaded with sugar, and your cocktail will turn out great.

Chin Chin!

Ps – more cocktail recipes!

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