Summer Cocktail Series: Vanilla Bean Hibiscus Cooler Recipe

Friends have been getting together at cocktail parties for a long, long time, so just about everyone welcomes a new twist. How about leaving the juice, syrups and flavorings in the cupboard and passing a tray of your very own, homemade Vanilla Bean Hibiscus Coolers.  We learned how from food stylist George Dolese who created this recipe for a recent shoot.


Vanilla Bean Hibiscus Cooler

Serves 4


½ cup dried hibiscus flowers

2 vanilla beans

½ cup vanilla bean syrup 

2 limes, thinly sliced

fresh mint leaves

4 split vanilla beans for garnish

tequila, mescal or rum (optional)


Place the dried hibiscus flowers in a large heatproof bowl. Bring the water to a boil and pour over the flowers. Steep for 20 minutes. Strain into a glass pitcher and sweeten to taste with the vanilla bean syrup. Chill in the refrigerator before serving. Serve over ice, garnished with a few lime slices, mint leaves and a vanilla bean. If desired, spike with a shot of tequila, mescal, or rum.



Vanilla Bean Syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

2 vanilla beans


Add the sugar and water to a small saucepan. Split the vanilla beans down the center and scrape out the black seeds with the tip of a sharp knife. Add the seeds and pods to the saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar has dissolved completely and mixture has come to a boil, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before pouring into a sealable glass container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe Courtesy of George Dolese

Szechuan Beef Stir Fry Recipe

If you asked art directors and photographers to name the foods that are hardest to capture, meats would make just about everyone’s list. Fortunately, here in the Bay Area we have many exceptional food stylists, trained professionals who combine a thorough knowledge of food with gifted artistry in the kitchen. My job is often to select the right stylist for the job. Here are some photos of beef that were styled beautifully. 

Szechuan Beef Stir-Fry

Total Recipe Time: 15 Minutes

Makes 4 Servings

  • 2 beef Ranch Steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (about 8 ounces each)
  • 1 package (10 ounces) fresh vegetable stir-fry blend
  • 3 tablesspoons water
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup prepared sesame-ginger stir-fry sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups hot cooked rice or brown rice, prepared without butter or salt
  • 1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts



1. Combine vegetables and water in large nonstick skillet; cover and cook over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove and drain vegetables. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile cut beef steaks into 1/4-inch thick strips

3. Heat same skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1/2 of beef and 1/2 of garlic; stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until outside surface of beef is no longer pink. Remove from skillet; keep warm. Repeat with remaining beef and garlic.

4. Return all beef and vegetables to skillet. Add stir-fry sauce and red pepper; cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until heated through. Spoon over rice. Sprinkle with peanuts.

Recipe courtesy of National Cattlemen's Beef Association