Summer Cocktail Series: Let your cocktails be the guide!

As George was preparing cocktails and appetizers for a recent exploratory shoot, he reminded us that a good way to decide what to serve is to keep these concepts in mind:  Appetizers that lean to the sweet side should be paired with drinks that have no sugar or very little, like martinis and gin tonics. Cheesy, rich appetizers work well with champagne cocktails.  Appetizers that are salty, spicy or full of flavor (Asian, Latin, fusion) can go with more complex mixed drinks, such as margaritas, Manhattans, mojitos and and those mixologist drinks we see on menus these days.

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