Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Espresso Milkshake with Coffee Liqueur

Why I love it: This drink has all my favorite dessert flavors packed into one jar: vanilla, chocolate, pumpkin spice, espresso and coffee liqueur. It’s easy to make and quite refreshing on a warm summer day.

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Espresso Milkshake with Coffee Liqueur

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Happy milkshake season! Nothing better than sitting outside after (or before) dinner and sip a cool, refreshing milkshake on a warm summer day, is there? Personally, I love a drink that surprises me with something different in every sip, which is why I only blended ice cream and milk together here but added all remaining components separately.

It’s a French vanilla ice cream mix that is layered with pumpkin spice chocolate ganache, a fresh shot of espresso and a shot (or more) of coffee liqueur. When you take a sip (or spoonful) you may get vanilla or espresso or chocolate or a pocket of liqueur, it’s a surprise every time. The pumpkin spice flavor (a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, ginger and mace) is subtle but gives the shake a nice complexity.

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Espresso Milkshake with Coffee Liqueur
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drink
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
  • ½ cup milk
  • 10 ounces French vanilla ice cream
  • pumpkin spice ganache (recipe here)
  • 2 shots of espresso
  • 2 shots of coffee liqueur (I used Kapali)
  • whipped cream (optional)
  • cocoa powder
Instructions:
  1. Add milk and ice cream to a blender (or food processor if you don't have a blender) and blend.
  2. Layer ice cream/milk, ganache, espresso and liqueur into two 8-ounce glasses.
  3. Top with whipped cream, if using.
  4. Dust with cocoa powder.
  5. Serve immediately.

Food Photography and Styling: I went back to my tried and trusted bright food, dark shadows lighting setup for this shot and I think that worked well for the drink. To imply action I stuck a straw in the drink (it’s a paper straw I bought from Jo-Ann some time ago) and to tell the reader that there is pumpkin spice in the shake I put some of the individual spices in the composition as well. I tried to add props in the background (like a milk bottle) but they just distracted from the drink and I ended up liking the shot best without them.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

This entry was posted in Drinks.

Bee’s Knees Cocktail

Why I love it: This cocktail tastes phenomenal and is just a simple mix of only three ingredients that (I’m guessing) most of us always have in the house: gin, lemon and honey.

Bees Knees Cocktail

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Meet my new favorite gin cocktail, the Bee’s Knees. I was introduced to it during a super fun distillery tour Dan and I went on a few weeks ago. (At the Dancing Pines Distillery in Loveland. It’s a wonderful place, if you ever get the chance I highly recommend you visit).

We love to go on distillery tours, it’s always so inspiring to see and feel the love and passion that goes into these operations. And, of course, it’s equally fun to taste the product. After the tour we sat outside in the sun and enjoyed a Bee’s Knees cocktail and loved it. It’s a mix of gin, fresh lemon juice and honey that tastes sweet, sour, ginny and incredibly fresh, intense, pure and natural. Nothing against gin and tonics, I certainly like them too, but lemon juice and honey have a definite edge over the taste of quinine.

So where is the spice in this recipe, you ask? Well, there isn’t any (unless you count the botanicals that went into the gin). Normally that would rule it out for The Spice Train but I think this drink is so awesome that I felt compelled to share it with you here. :) 

Bee's Knees Cocktail
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 6 tablespoons ice-cold gin (I keep the bottle in the freezer)
  • 5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • lemon twists as garnish
Instructions:
  1. Combine all ingredients and let them sit for 10 minutes to start letting the honey dissolve.
  2. Stir to get all the honey dissolved.
  3. Divide between two glasses and serve with lemon twists.

Food Photography and Styling: This is a very simple cocktail and to reflect that I kept the photo very simple as well. I lit the drink from the back to get a reflection on the surface that made it look shiny, alive and inviting. (As always, I used my strobe to light the set). I needed something to focus my lens on and the lemon twist was the perfect (and really only) candidate for that but I had to meddle with it. I put a fake acrylic ice cube in the glass to prop up the lemon twist so that it would poke through the surface. Now that you know that you can probably see the cube, can you?

I put the gin bottle in the back for two reasons: 1) to give the photo a bit more atmosphere and 2) to imply that there is a lot of alcohol in this drink. (Not quite as much as is in the bottle but quite a bit).

The piece of fabric underneath the glass is one of those 99–cent pieces from Jo-Ann that I cut into a little square. It gave the drink a little more class than a paper napkin or the naked table surface would have done. (Plus, I didn’t have a paper napkin on hand). 

 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/4, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

This entry was posted in Drinks.

Chai Latte Dry Spice Mix

Why I love it: This chai latte dry spice mix takes only a few minutes to make and doesn’t require any grinding of spices. Because all ingredients are dried the mix can be kept in a jar in the cabinet and is ready for use with a simple tea strainer anytime.

Chai Latte Drink

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Dry Chai Spice Mix

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

I love a good chai latte. In fact, I never even sit down at my desk in the morning any more without one in my hand; the drink gives me comfort and makes me feel ready to face the day. In case you’re not familiar with it, what we call chai latte here in the U.S. is a hot, slightly sweet drink that consists of milk and black tea flavored with a combination of spices (I use cardamom, clove, black peppercorns, ginger and cinnamon).

It’s very simple to make fresh at home and there are actually a number of different ways to do it. You can make an “instant” version – a powder of ground spices, dried milk and sugar that you stir into hot water or milk. Alternatively you can make a chai concentrate by infusing brewed tea with your mix of spices and keep that in the fridge until you’re ready to use it and then just heat it with milk.

What I do is this: I buy all my chai spices dried (but not powdered), add loose black tea to them and keep that mix in a jar in the cabinet. It keeps for a long time and when I’m ready for a chai latte I steam milk and submerge the spice/tea mix in a tea strainer in it. (If you don’t have a steamer you can certainly heat the milk in the microwave or on the stove top but I personally like the taste of steamed milk in this drink). To sweeten I use honey, it complements the warm flavors wonderfully.

Chai Latte Dry Spice Mix
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drink
Ingredients:
  • 20 whole green cardamom pods
  • 14 whole cloves
  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1½ tablespoons dried cracked ginger
  • 1½ tablespoons cinnamon chips
  • 2 tablespoons loose black tea
Instructions:
  1. Add all spices to a mortar and crush very lightly with a pestle.
  2. Mix the crushed spices with the tea.
  3. Store the mix in an airtight container.
  4. To make a chai latte, add about 1 tablespoon of the mix to a tea strainer, then steam* 6 ounces of milk, drop the tea strainer into it and let it steep.
  5. Sweeten to taste with honey.
Notes:
*You can also just heat the milk on the stove top or in the microwave.

Food Photography and Styling: While delicious, this drink is a bit on the boring side as far as looks go. Its only interesting feature is the foam surface and to make that surface look nice and sparkly I lit the drink from the back. I didn’t hold my steam wand perfectly in the milk as I steamed it and that’s how I ended up with these huge bubbles you can see. But the thing is, I thought they added character so I was actually quite happy with them (even though I know a professional barista would probably scoff at them). Since the drink is brownish in color I picked a dark blue surface and dish for contrast and since the recipe is not just for the drink but also for the spice/tea mix I photographed it separately in a tea strainer to properly show the reader what it looks like.

Chai Latte Dry Spice Mix
This entry was posted in Drinks.

Bourbon Milk Punch

If you’ve never had a milk punch I urge you to make one, it’s an absolutely awesome dessert cocktail made with Bourbon or brandy, milk and/or cream, vanilla extract, sugar and a smidgen of nutmeg. It may look like a winter drink but it’s actually great any time of the year!

Bourbon Milk Punch

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Apparently the milk punch has been around for centuries but it is new to me, I came across it for the first time a few weeks ago. Being a big cream and (more recently) also Bourbon fan I had to try it and, unsurprisingly, I loved it. It’s creamy (yeah), sweet (yeah), boozy (yeah) and thanks to the ice it’s quite refreshing at the same time.

Bourbon Milk Punch
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 1
Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon cream
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ tablespoons simple syrup
  • 2½ tablespoons Bourbon
  • pinch of grated nutmeg
Instructions:
  1. Mix milk, cream, vanilla and syrup together.
  2. Mix in the Bourbon, then pour into a glass, sprinkle with nutmeg and serve with 2 ice cubes.

Food Photography and Styling:I went to Floor & Decor the other day and got myself a second marble tile so now I can use one as a surface and the other as the backdrop at the same time and that’s what I did here. The marble cream colors and overall elegance worked well in combination with this drink (in my opinion). I thought about how to convey through the photo what the main ingredients of this recipe are. The dairy is clearly visible in the drink, the nutmeg I placed in the composition (both whole and a few sprinkles of grated nutmeg as well) but the Bourbon was very tricky. I tried to set a decanter filled with Bourbon in the background but its color drew too much attention away from the drink so I resorted to plan b, which was to simply write the recipe name on the photo.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/4, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

This entry was posted in Drinks.

Pomegranate Rosemary Royale – The Ultimate Winter Drink

Pomegranate Rosemary Royale

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

I came across the perfect winter drink the other day and because it is so perfect I feel compelled to share it with you. It’s the Pomegranate Rosemary Royale by Cooking Light, a mix of pomegranate juice, rosemary-infused simple syrup and champagne. What makes this cocktail perfect for a snowy winter evening is the pine tree-like flavor of the rosemary syrup in combination with the juicy and fruity pomegranate. To me, it tastes like a winter wonderland – fantastic. If you want to you can garnish the drink with a sprig of fresh rosemary and then the red and green color scheme makes it perfect for Christmas.

Pomegranate Rosemary Royale – The Ultimate Winter Drink
 
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ cup pomegranate juice
  • 2 cups Champagne
Instructions:
  1. Hop on over to Cooking Light for directions.

Food Photography and Styling: The wet surface in this photo is quite authentic; I poured and emptied the glass a dozen or so times and not once did I not spill a bunch of champagne all over the place…but in the end, I actually quite liked the messiness.

As for the invisible champagne bottle: I hadn’t actually planned for it to disappear in this shot; initially I had wanted to use a gray background that would have kept the black bottle visible but I ended up not liking the look of the gray at all and used black instead. I’m not crazy about vanishing items in a food photo but since the opening of the bottle was still clearly legible I thought it turned out all right. Definitely not my favorite shot, but all right. What do you think? Are you unsettled by the lack of a bottle? Did you have a split second of trouble figuring out what was going on in this shot? (It’s impossible for me to look at it with a fresh perspective because after all I know where I held the bottle, so I would love to hear what your first impression was). As always, I used my strobe to light the set.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

This entry was posted in Drinks.

Ginger Bramble New Year’s Cocktail

Ginger Bramble Cocktail Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Happy December! The year is gonna be over in just a few more weeks and I’ve got a New Year’s cocktail for you to celebrate in style. It’s a variation of the bramble – a drink made with gin, lemon juice, blackberries, creme de mure (a blackberry liqueur) and simple syrup. In my version I skipped the blackberry liqueur and infused the simple syrup with fresh ginger. I actually did a side-by-side comparison between regular simple syrup and the ginger simple syrup and while the ginger does not come through very strongly as ginger flavor it does very much smoothen the drink and it makes it much less harsh. I liked it a lot.

As you can see I cooled the drink with dry ice in the top photo for extra effect but you can use regular ice as well, it’s still quite pretty.

Ginger Bramble Cocktail Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Ginger Bramble
 
If you're using dry ice please use proper precautions: Do not touch the dry ice with your bare hands and do not drink any dry ice cubes. This great webpage has detailed instructions as to how to handle dry ice: Betty Crocker | How to Use Dry Ice
Author:
Recipe type: Drink
Ingredients:
For the ginger simple syrup:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 one-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
For each cocktail:
  • 1 shot gin
  • ½ shot ginger simple syrup
  • 5 fresh or frozen blackberries
  • a few drops lemon juice
  • ice or dry ice
Instructions:
For the ginger simple syrup:
  1. Add sugar, water and ginger to a saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.
  3. Let cool, then strain into a glass container and cover.
  4. You can keep the syrup in the fridge for up to one week.
For the cocktail:
  1. Add gin, syrup, fruit and lemon juice into each glass. (Add lemon juice to taste).
  2. Add a few ice cubes or a small piece of dry ice.

Food Photography and Styling: This was my very first time using dry ice and I have to say it’s quite difficult to handle. I didn’t want the drink to look like a dramatically bubbling cauldron a la Halloween and Harry Potter, instead I was just looking for a bit of extravagance. After a few tries I figured out that it’s best (for the purpose of taking a photograph) to smash the dry ice into a powder and spoon the powder onto the drink rather than plopping chunks of it into the liquid. I took a number of exposures and chose this one because I liked how the vapor beside the glass formed a connection between the blackberry dish on the table and the glass. (Since it was difficult to see the blackberries in the glass I set a few onto the small dish in the back to tell the viewer that that’s what was swimming in the drink). As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I used my strobe to light the set.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 200. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

Ginger Bramble Cocktail
This entry was posted in Drinks.

White Russian with Chai Spice-Infused Cream

White Russian with Chai Spice Infused Cream Recipe

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

Cream is one of my favorite ingredients of all time so it’s probably no surprise that White Russians rank high on my list of favorite cocktails. Vodka, coffee liqueur and heavy cream – a brilliant invention. How could that possibly be improved upon, you probably ask. Well, I think I found a way. I infused my heavy cream with chai spices: fresh ginger, black peppercorns, a stick of cinnamon, a few cloves and a few cardamom pods. I simply added the spices to a cup of cold heavy cream, then let the mix sit in the fridge overnight and fished out the spices the next morning. The result was a delicious, perfect complement to the coffee liqueur and vodka. Cheers!

White Russian with Chai Spice Infused Cream
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 4
Ingredients:
For the chai spice cream:
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 whole cloves
  • one 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper corns, lightly crushed
  • 5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
For the drink:
  • 1 cup coffee liqueur (I used Kapali)
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 cup chai spice cream
  • ice cubes
Instructions:
For the chai spice cream:
  1. Add all ingredients to a bowl, cover and keep in the fridge for about 12 hours or overnight.
  2. Strain out the spices.
For the drink:
  1. Add a few ice cubes to each glass.
  2. Add equal parts of vodka, coffee liqueur and chai spice cream to each glass.

Food Photography and Styling: Since the cream was the important part in this recipe I wanted to draw proper attention to it and I thought pouring it would be the best way to do that. I looked at every single pouring prop I have and this small glass was pretty much the only one that fit with the the size of the drink glass and the overall style and atmosphere of the shot. I didn’t manage to hold it far enough at its end so I had to clone out my fingers around the side of the glass. I took a few more shots with the drink centered in the frame but in the end I liked the look of the ice cubes and the swirling liquids best in the photo you see here. As usual I used my strobe to light the set.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/4, 1/125 sec., ISO 50. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

This entry was posted in Drinks.

Bailey’s Irish Coffee with Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream

This delicious dessert drink has it all: Irish whiskey, hot coffee, Bailey’s, pumpkin spice and cream. I mean, what else is there, really. Not much, am I right?

Baileys Irish Coffee with Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream Fall Drink

To license this image please contact me at nicole@thespicetrain.com.

I posted a recipe for Irish coffee topped with pumpkin spice-flavored whipped cream around the same time last year but the addition of Bailey’s makes this drink here even better, in my opinion. I got the idea to add both whiskey and Bailey’s from one of my favorite coffee shops (Bittersweet), which serves their Irish coffees that way. Add the pumpkin spice whipped cream and you’ve got the quintessential fall comfort drink.

Note that I tailored this recipe to very small glasses (only 3 tablespoons of liquid per person) and I liked it that way as a dessert drink but of course it doesn’t hurt to serve large glasses either. The proportions are easy to remember: 1 part whiskey, 2 parts Bailey’s, 3 parts coffee. Cheers!

Bailey's Irish Coffee with Pumpkin Spice Whipped Cream
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 4
Ingredients:
For the whipped cream:
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
For the coffee:
  • 1 ounce Irish whiskey
  • 2 ounces Bailey's
  • 3 ounces fresh, very hot coffee
Instructions:
For the whipped cream:
  1. Whip all ingredients to stiff peaks.
For the coffee:
  1. Divide all ingredients between 4 small glasses.
  2. Top with the whipped cream.

Food Photography and Styling: I used the piece of slate that I recently found in our shed (the same one I used as my background here) and I really liked how that turned out, I especially liked the color combination of the pale blue surface with the pale brown coffees. The background is a brown/blue slate tile (the same one I showed you here). To emphasize the focus on the front glass and to break up the surface a bit I set the glass on a metal coaster and, as I am sure you guessed, I lit this photo with my strobe.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

This entry was posted in Drinks.