"Summer has finally arrived in New York City, and there is no better season to find fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs overflowing from farmer’s market stalls. Vivid contrasting colors and a mélange of aromas, from aromatic basil and sage, to last seasons apples, to fresh baked bread, intermingle and delight, enticing you at every turn."

While I’ve worked with spirits brands and as a cocktail instructor for the past few years, my background is firmly rooted in restaurants, and it shows in my drinks. I love culinary inspired cocktails and mocktails, so you’ll see me sourcing top quality ingredients, and building a drink around one or two fruits, vegetables, or herbs; adding spirit, spice, sweet, citrus, and texture where necessary to supplement those original ingredients. 
I also try to source sustainable and minimally processed ingredients whenever possible. Ten years ago almost everyone I knew used sour mix and sodas from the gun, filled with high fructose corn syrup and added flavoring and coloring agents, and thankfully we have marked progress since then.
 In my mind, juices should always be super fresh, and produce should be local if at all possible.  I’m not a nut about always making ‘healthy’ cocktails, but I do want to know and approve of all ingredients that go into each drink I make.  In the sweetener department I avoid products with even a short list of ingredients and preservatives. I like to use products that are simple and only one or two ingredients, and if they need dilution or other flavors added, I do that myself à la minute.  

I developed the following cocktails for SHUGA! Organic Cane Syrups and Sweeteners, with the contingency that I would not endorse the products if I didn’t truly like them. I was pleased to find that the flavor profiles of both Hey SHUGA! Organic Cane Syrup and Lil SHUGA!- a blend of Organic Cane Syrup and Stevia Leaf extracts, were excellent. Hey SHUGA! has a hint of subtle bubblegum on the nose (as is common with liquid cane syrups), but with a warm honeyed palate.  There are 20 calories and 5g of sugar per teaspoon (comparable to honey and agave syrup.) 

Lil SHUGA! has the addition of Stevia Leaf extracts, which increases the perceived sweetness, enabling the use of less sweetener in relation to other components, and thus allowing for fewer calories from sugar in your recipes. Lil SHUGA! has 10 calories per teaspoon, and 3g of sugar. The flavor and aroma are soft, with a molasses nose, and an intense lingering sweetness.

The Drinks
NOW! On to the part you've been waiting for... the drinks! Many of you know that I've been making a lot of mocktails recently, and I'm happy to say that these drinks are delicious with or without alcohol (just add water in the place of alcohol and you'll get the proper dilution.)

For the first one, the Easy Breezy Pank Drank I went for a simple champagne cocktail, with strawberries, Lil SHUGA!, fresh lime juice, and champagne... (with optional Angostura bitters and mint as a garnish.) What can I say, pink bubbles are hard not to like;) I'm putting two recipes below for a single serving with Angostura and mint, as seen at the image at the top of the blog, and a large format pitcher version without garnish that makes 48 oz, or 9 servings.

For my second recipe, The BK Bramble, I got a little more involved and did a twist on Dick Bradsell's Bramble, using Brooklyn Gin (a local, 80 proof, citrus driven gin), Hey SHUGA! Organic Cane Syrup, fresh lemon juice, fresh blackberries instead of Creme de Mure, and a couple of thin slices of ginger for additional backbone and depth of flavor. I thought it would be fun to photograph each step as I went, so I hope you enjoy!!