Cranberry Spice Cocktails, a Birthday and a SALE!

Cranberry spice cocktail – great for the Holidays (and any other time of the year).

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

Hello everyone! Thank you so much for stopping by. Of course, I always love having you here but I especially love that you came by today because today is a very special day for me: It’s The Spice Train’s second birthday!

I am so excited to look back over the past two years and see how far this project has come. And it’s all thanks to you my readers, you are the ones who are making this adventure so much fun for me and keep me going, thank you so much for that!

To celebrate I’m having a sale for my ebook Food Photography Behind the Scenes – Bright Food, Dark Shadows. Starting today and for the next 30 days you can get the book 30 percent off when you enter TSTBirthday into the discount code field during the checkout process. Enjoy the book!

Ebook Sale

And now on to the other important part of the celebration: cranberry spice cocktails. Yum! I adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit but added a few spices and streamlined the procedure a bit.

Here’s how it goes: you infuse a simple syrup with orange zest, cinnamon, clove, cardamom and cranberries. Then you chill the mix, add apple cranberry juice, lemon juice and rum. Then you pour it over crushed ice and drink it (warning: it’s quite potent).

This cocktail is one of the best I’ve ever had, juicy, exciting and full of flavor. I love it. Very appropriate any time of the year but especially in the fall (and, of course, perfect also for the Holiday season, if you care to think that far ahead). :)

–nicole x

Cranberry Spice Cocktails
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drinks
Serves: 5
Ingredients:
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
  • ½ cup frozen cranberries
  • 14 tablespoons light rum
  • 6 tablespoons apple cranberry juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • mint as garnish
Instructions:
  1. Add sugar, water, cinnamon, orange zest, cloves and cardamom to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the cranberries and simmer until they start to pop.
  3. Turn the heat off and let the mix cool to room temperature.
  4. Take out the cinnamon stick and fish out the cloves and the large pieces of the cardamom pods.
  5. Fill the mix into a jar, add ½ cup rum, cover and chill in the fridge.
  6. Strain the mix and reserve the cranberries.
  7. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons of rum, the apple cranberry juice and the lemon juice.
  8. Serve over crushed ice and decorate with the reserved cranberries and mint leaves. (You can eat the cranberries if you'd like).
Notes:

Food Photography and Styling: I used my Crate & Barrel prosecco glasses here and sat them on a dark blue tile in front of a black foam board for this shot. Looking at the surface of the drinks I realize I could have been more careful with the food styling and could have arranged the topping in a less accidental way but on the other hand I actually like the casual and realistic look of the drinks, what do you think? As usual, I lit the photo with my strobe.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/8, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight.

This entry was posted in Drinks.

Green Tea with Mint

If you, like me, drink green tea but find it a tad on the bland side of the taste spectrum, this is the solution. You just add a few fresh mint leaves into the tea, let it steep, then strain them out. Incredibly simple but incredibly effective. The mint adds the freshness that the tea by itself is missing and that makes all the difference. Try it next time you make a green tea!

Green Tea with Mint Leaves

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

Green Tea with Mint
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drink
Ingredients:
  • green tea
  • 10 - 20 fresh mint leaves per cup
Instructions:
  1. Prepare the tea with hot water and add the mint leaves.
  2. Let the tea steep to desired intensity.
  3. Strain the mint leaves out.

Food Photography and Styling: I was going through some of the corners of my prop closet recently and found a lot of stuff I hadn’t used in a long time, including a dark brown serving tray I got years ago from The World Market. The tray is made of small twigs in a wooden frame and rather than using it as a tray I put it up on its side and used it as a backdrop that looked like a window with blinds (at least to me). Just another reminder to always keep an open mind with props, who says they have to be used in the way the manufacturer intended! I set the tea glasses on my other dark wooden tray and lit this photo from the side 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.

Irish Hazelnut Cream

Irish Hazelnut Cream

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

If at any point during the Christmas season you feel the need to get hammered I suggest this Irish hazelnut cream drink that I found on Food & Wine’s website. It consists of Frangelico (which is a hazelnut liqueur), Irish whiskey, whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg. I changed the proportions a bit to make it more hazelnutty and left out the ice (because I don’t like cream and ice together). Be sure to put a good amount of nutmeg on top, in my opinion it’s the nutmeg that makes this drink. Also, be sure to appoint a designated driver before going to town with this stuff.

Irish Hazelnut Cream
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
  • 2 ounces Irish whiskey
  • 2 ounces Frangelico
  • whipped cream
  • freshly grated nutmeg
Instructions:
  1. Combine whiskey and Frangelico, mix, then divide between two glasses.
  2. Pipe whipped cream on top and finish with nutmeg.

Food Photography and Styling: Well, this drink should be consumed in small quantities so I chose these tiny glasses that I recently found in an antique store. I went for a more elegant rather than rustic feeling this time and used my silver tray and some ironed fabric rather than distressed wood and rusty metal. I piped the cream with my big 9P tip until I got some nice moguls that looked like snow (after all this is a winter drink). I found it impossible to get the whipped cream onto the liquid in a straight layer but I thought its lopsidedness actually looked inviting and natural. As usual, I used a strobe to sidelight the set.
 
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/10, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.

This entry was posted in Drinks.

Spiced Eggnog

Spiced Eggnog with Whipped Cream

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

Our evenings are getting mighty cold up here in the mountains which means it’s time for eggnog! I actually used to not like this sweet, custardy drink but I discovered recently that that was only because I had never had the homemade version. The difference between store-bought and home-cooked eggnog is enormous and it’s really delicious if you make it yourself. It’s also very quick and easy to prepare so I highly recommend you leave the tasteless stuff at the store and cook up your own. Enjoy!

Spiced Eggnog
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups milk
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (plus more for garnish)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup rum
  • whipped cream (optional)
Instructions:
  1. Heat the milk to a low simmer in a saucepan.
  2. While the milk is heating up, whisk sugar, spice and egg yolks until they are lighter in color and texture than they were when you started.
  3. Take about ¼ cup of the hot milk and quickly whisk it into the sugar/egg mix.
  4. Repeat previous step two more times.
  5. Transfer the milk/egg mix into the saucepan.
  6. Stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, bring the custard to a low simmer and keep simmering until it is thick enough to just coat the back of the spoon.
  7. Let the custard cool completely.
  8. Stir in the cream and the rum.
  9. Serve cold, with whipped cream and pumpkin spice sprinkled on top.

Food Photography and Styling: In the name of efficiency I reused the set I had up for my spiced hot chocolate a while ago. I placed my wooden spice box in the back along with a nutmeg, a cinnamon stick and some sprinkled pumpkin spice to tell the viewer that these spices are part of the drink. To keep the whipped cream from looking too bright I sprinkled some pumpkin spice over it.
 
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.

Spiced Irish Coffee

Spiced Irish Coffee

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

I don’t particularly care for actual pumpkin but I’ve become a huge fan of pumpkin spice (or, more accurately, pumpkin pie spice) ever since I started using it last year. It is such a versatile spice blend that goes with almost everything. Here I whipped a bit of it into the cream that tops this Irish coffee. It turned out to be absolutely delicious, the spice added an unmistakable and wonderfully comforting fall flavor to the coffee and whiskey drink.

Spiced Irish Coffee
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drink
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
For the pumpkin spice whipped cream:
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice*
For the Irish coffee:
  • 1½ cups freshly brewed hot coffee
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons whiskey
Instructions:
For the pumpkin spice whipped cream:
  1. Whip all ingredients to stiff peaks.
For the Irish coffee:
  1. Divide all ingredients between two glasses.
  2. Pipe the whipped cream onto each drink.
  3. Sprinkle with pumpkin spice.
Notes:
*Make sure you use very finely powdered pumpkin spice for this, otherwise you will end up with tiny pieces of spice in your whipped cream that will drive you nuts.

Food Photography and Styling: I was going for a warm, cozy fall feeling and chose low-angle light, warm, brown colors and some wrinkled fall leaves for that. (By the way, the leaves I use in my photos are several years old, I just store them in a ziploc bag. (This may not be possible if you live in a humid climate, I’m not sure)).
I piped with my 1M tip, sprinkled pumpkin spice on the cream through a fine-meshed sieve (I like to use a tea ball like this one) and then hurried up to take the shot before the cream had sunk too much.
 
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.

Spiced Hot Chocolate

Spice Hot Chocolate

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

I made some pumpkin spice ganache this weekend, had some left over and decided to turn it into a pumpkin-spiced hot chocolate. It took only a few minutes to make and turned out great. Delicious chocolate flavor with just the right amount of spices (pumpkin spice, by the way, is a mix of cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, ginger, clove and allspice). Hope you give it a try, if you do, let me know what you think!

Spiced Hot Chocolate
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Drink
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped*
  • 1 ounce milk chocolate, finely chopped*
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (plus extra for garnish)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • whipped cream (optional)
Instructions:
  1. Put chocolate and spice into a heatproof bowl.
  2. Heat the cream in a saucepan and bring to a full boil.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate/spice mix and let it sit for 1 minute.
  4. Stir the mix until smooth.
  5. Divide the ganache between two 8-ounce cups.
  6. Heat up the milk, pour 1 cup of hot milk into each cup and stir well.
  7. Pipe whipped cream on the drinks and sprinkle with pumpkin spice.
Notes:
*Don't use chocolate morsels; morsels have stabilizers in them that actually prevent them from melting.

Food Photography and Styling: Since this is a recipe for hot chocolate and not for whipped cream I used a glass rather than a cup, so that you could actually see the drink. I also wanted to show the spice in some fashion and thought back and forth as to how to do that. Putting a tipped-over jar of it in the background was one option I pondered but in the end I settled on placing a spice box in the background. I put a few nutmegs into one of the box compartments and sprinkled some cinnamon bark on the wood surface (nutmeg and cinnamon are part of pumpkin spice so that altogether made sense). I piped the whipped cream with my 1M tip and sprinkled pumpkin spice (through a little fine mesh strainer) over it to keep it from looking too naked and to create a focal point.

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.