Midnight Mai Tai

I mean, what better way to celebrate a Friday the 13th in October?

This Midnight Mai Tai features a spooky twist on the classic tiki drink with the addition of activated charcoal.

If you know me, you know I’m not the superstitious type, but when a Friday the 13th also happens to fall within the spookiest month of the year, I feel it’s only appropriate that we celebrate with a dark-as-night Midnight Mai Tai. You feel me?


But before we get to the recipe, I want to take a minute to send out thoughts and prayers to all my dear friends in Napa and Sonoma Counties who have been quite literally living in their own type of apocalypse this past week.

As you may know, I lived in Napa for three years before moving to Santa Barbara, and I can say with confidence that I made the best group of friends and had the strongest sense of community living there than any other city I’ve lived in in my life. It’s a small town with a big reputation, but everyone supports each other and lifts each other up.

While most of my friends are currently safe, I am sad to say that my dear friends from college lost their home in Santa Rosa. They’re estimating that their house burned down only 10 minutes after they were able to get out with what mattered most – themselves and their three little boys.

We also have a good friend who is a firefighter up there, taking on the daunting task of getting these fires under control, and we are praying for his safety and courage every day.

It’s a very sad time for many who I still call my closest friends, and I feel helpless being so far away and somewhat limited in what I can do, seeing as we could be welcoming our baby girl into the world any day now. Nevertheless, we’re finding ways to help, and if you’re interested in doing so as well, please feel free to reach out and I will steer you in the right direction.

A Midnight Mai Tai is the perfect spooky cocktail to kick off the weekend.

With all that being said, I’m sharing this Midnight Mai Tai recipe with the hopes of providing a small bit of fun distraction amongst a barrage of unsettling news. It’s also my hope that, by the time Halloween rolls around, my friends’ worlds will have returned (as much as possible) to normal and they’ll be ready to enjoy a festive cocktail or two.

Activated charcoal has become one of my new favorite ingredients, especially during the month of October when inky black foods are hip and on-trend, for quite some time now. In fact, last October I shared this recipe for a Total Eclipse cocktail, which is still one of my favorites today. I also have a fun dessert to share with you later this month that gets a Halloween-esque hue from the popular new superfood. How fun is that?

So this year for my annual activated charcoal cocktail, I decided to put a spooky spin on the classic Mai Tai. I love a good Mai Tai, and it is certainly my drink of choice whenever I’m in Hawaii or visiting another tropical locale. That being said, I didn’t want to mess with the classic recipe too much.

Midnight Mai Tais use activated charcoal to give them their inky black color, perfect for Halloween!

In this Midnight Mai Tai recipe, you’ll find the requisite rum, orange curacao, lime juice and orgeat, but then you’ll add just a smidge of activated charcoal (which you can easily find on Amazon) to give it that jet-black color that makes it so fun.

So no, this isn’t a complicated recipe, but right now I think it’s just what we need to kick off what will hopefully be a relaxing weekend. We’re hoping to hit up our local Harbor & Seafood Festival and maybe a pumpkin patch to get in the Halloween spirit before baby comes. We’re trying to get in as much quality time as possible before we’re a busy family of three!

Midnight Mai Tais are the perfect cocktail for Halloween!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend as well and, remember, if you’re looking for ways to help those affected by the fires up north in Wine Country, leave me a comment below!

A Midnight Mai Tai is the perfect spooky cocktail to kick off the weekend.
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Midnight Mai Tai
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This spooky take on the classic tiki drink uses activated charcoal to achieve a rich, inky black color. The perfect cocktail for Halloween!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 cocktail
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 3/4 ounce orange curacao
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce orgeat
  • 1/4 teaspoon activated charcoal
  • Pineapple wedge and cocktail umbrella, to garnish
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake to combine. 

  2. Strain ingredients into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. 

  3. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and cocktail umbrella and enjoy!

Midnight Mai Tai | CaliGirlCooking.com

Apple Cinnamon “Faux-mosa”

Because when one can’t enjoy a mimosa, you might as well enjoy a fall-themed “faux-mosa!”

These Apple Cinnamon "Faux-mosas" are the perfect mocktail for fall.

Yes, I’m counting down the days until I can consume the real deal again, but until then I’ll have to say I’ve been pretty darn good at coming up with tasty alternatives – like this Apple Cinnamon “Faux-mosa!”


It may be because this season is always met with so much anticipation, but it seems like every year once September or October rolls around I get the urge to make some sort of fall-themed mimosa. In fact, this exact same week last year I made this delicious Harvest Mimosa featuring pear, apple AND brandy, and you can bet it’s one of the first things on my list to make once Baby D arrives in just a few short weeks!

So here’s the deal with this Apple Cinnamon “Faux-mosa”: My primary complaint about most virgin mimosa recipes is they either taste (a) too sweet from an overload of juices (both sparkling and still) or (b) the sweetness problem is overcompensated by using club soda to add bubbles, but then the drink tastes incredibly watered down.

Well, I’m proud to say this Apple Cinnamon “Faux-mosa” solves both those problems!

An Apple Cinnamon "Faux-mosa" with tons of flavor - and perfectly acceptable for breakfast!

It took a bit of trial and error, but I tasted through a couple of brands of sparkling apple cider and found one that isn’t too sweet. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t write down the brand and discarded the bottle, but I highly suggest you make your own decision on this anyhow as the perfect “faux-mosa” is largely a matter of personal taste anyway.

You’ll also be adding some still apple cider on top of the sparkling apple juice, which tends to be a bit more concentrated. Plus, if you get your hands on a high-quality brand such as Trader Joe’s Honeycrisp Apple Cider, you’ll get tons more flavor in every sip.

Finally, an Apple Cinnamon “Faux-mosa” just wouldn’t be a “faux-mosa” without a hint of orange juice. I mean, we need to make this drink acceptable for breakfast, don’t we?

Looking for a festive fall-themed nonalcoholic drink? These Apple Cinnamon "Faux-mosas" are the answer!

I don’t know what your plans are for this weekend, but we have some big ones (shhhh….it’s a surprise – I’ll fill you all in on Monday!) so some Apple Cinnamon “Faux-mosas” are definitely in my very near future.

Cheers to a relaxing weekend that I hope is filled with all the fall-themed things!

These Apple Cinnamon "Faux-mosas" are the perfect mocktail for fall.
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Apple Cinnamon "Faux-mosa"
Prep Time
5 mins
 

This virgin take on the mimosa features tons of apple-cinnamon flavor - perfect for kids, drinkers and non-drinkers alike!

Servings: 1 drink
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces sparkling apple cider
  • 2 ounces apple cider
  • 1/2 ounce fresh orange juice
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Apple slice, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Pour both apple ciders and orange juice into a champagne flute. Top with a dash of cinnamon and garnish with an apple slice.

From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider

We’re not going to miss out on any of the fall foods this year!

From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider is the perfect drink to take us into fall!

With all of the excitement of pumpkin spice season, I feel like we often forget some of the other amazing produce that really shines this time of year. Yes, squash are plentiful, but let’s not forget about persimmons, pomegranates, Brussels sprouts and, of course APPLES!


Since I feel it’s just a tad too early for all the pumpkin (but don’t worry, it’s coming soon!) I wanted to take advantage of what I feel is a true September fruit and share this delish From-Scratch Slow Cooked Spiced Apple Cider today!

To be honest, I’d never ventured into the homemade apple cider realm before, but since I’m firmly on the wagon this September, I decided now was a better time than any to try my hand at a tasty non-alcoholic sipper. I love a good apple cider (and, let’s be real, I love it even more when I can spike it with some bourbon), but sometimes the store-bought stuff can get a bit too sweet for me.

A warm glass of From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider is all you need on a cool fall day.

In fact, ever since I’ve been pregnant, I’ve noticed I’m much more sensitive to overly sugary drinks. If I have more than one glass of juice or other sweetened beverage, I get a massive headache not unlike you’d get from an actual alcohol hangover. I guess that goes to show that my body doesn’t like too much of anything! Balance my friends, balance.

As I was browsing through homemade apple cider recipes online, I came across a bunch of variations and ultimately decided on a combination that I felt would be uniquely “me.” While I omitted any sort of added sugar (maple syrup, brown sugar, honey, etc.) that other recipes included, I also included what could be called the “secret ingredient” in my homemade boilo hot toddy I make every winter – caraway seeds! Of course, that would be in addition to the requisite cinnamon sticks and cloves. The result was so deliciously spiced and NOT overly sweet, I immediately fell in love!

So here’s the deal on this super-easy From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider:

I used Gala apples because I felt they have a good balance of sweetness and acidity, but you could really use any variety you prefer. If you like things more sour, go for the green apples. If you like things more mellow, go for the red ones, or try a combination of a few different varieties to get a truly unique flavor.

An orange is added for a little extra dimension, and of course the whole spices mentioned above – caraway seeds, cinnamon sticks and cloves. The chunks don’t matter because we’re straining it all out in the end anyhow.

As far as the process goes, our use of the slow cooker means things couldn’t be easier. We simply throw all of the ingredients in together with some high-quality H2O, set it and forget it. I cooked mine on low for 7 hours, but the other great thing about this recipe is it won’t really hurt to leave it in there a little bit longer. Basically, we can start the slow cooker before bed and wake up to delicious hot apple cider, or we can get everything organized in the morning and have a huge batch of apple cider ready to be spiked up a bit for an after-dinner drink 😉

From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider is garnished with fresh apple slices and whole cinnamon sticks.

And if you happen to like your cider a bit on the sweeter side, simply add some maple syrup or honey to taste after you strain all the solids out after the cooking process is done.

Bet you didn’t think a tasty batch of From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider was that easy to whip up, did you?

Delicious From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider ready to be consumed with or without bourbon.

Happy Friday, friends! I hope you have a great weekend! Xx

From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider is the perfect drink to take us into fall!
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From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
7 hr
Total Time
7 hr 5 mins
 

A not-too-sweet homemade version of a favorite fall drink, full of mouthwatering spices and fresh apple flavor and ready in just a few hours.

Course: Drinks
Servings: 6 servings
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 8-10 medium Gala apples, cored and sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 orange, cut into wedges
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 3 whole cinnamon sticks, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 10 cups filtered water
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 7 hours.

  2. Strain solids from mixture using a sieve (or cheesecloth) and into a large pitcher. Add more sliced apples and cinnamon sticks. Serve warm (and add bourbon if you want to booze it up!)

From-Scratch Slow Cooker Spiced Apple Cider | CaliGirlCooking.com

Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers

Our answer to the sweltering long weekend ahead right here.

These Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers are incredibly refreshing and can be made into a cocktail or mocktail!

Hi! How are you all doing? Are you sweating it out in the heat like we are here in California or getting drenched by the record rains we’re having in other parts of the country? My thoughts are with all those affected by Hurricane Harvey and I pray that you find yourselves safe and dry very soon. I’m amazed by the outpouring of love and support I’ve seen for Texas coming in from all over the world, and it makes me happy to see that there can be such kindness and humanity in today’s otherwise crazy world.


Whether you’re doing your best to get in some sort of body of water (and out of the heat) or avoid any sort of water altogether because you’ve seen way too much of it this past week, these Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers are for you. They’re refreshing and hydrating for those of us who need relief from the heat, and they’re healthy and uplifting for those of us who need a welcome respite from the rain and bad weather.

I talked the other week about how some of my OG flavor combinations (think your favorite Lip Smackers from when you were, like, eight) have been guiding recent mocktails I’ve created. First there was this Kiwi Coconut Cooler initially inspired by my one-time strawberry-kiwi obsession, and now we’re bringing back the cucumber-melon combo with these Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers!

An overhead shot of super refreshing Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers. Perfect for the end of summer!

I guess you could also say my recent mocktail creations have been guided by whatever fruits I can make fresh juice out of without a juicer, since at the moment we don’t have the luxury of enough space to fit a fancy juicer (or any other appliance, for that matter) in our tiny little kitchen. For that reason, easily puree-able fruits with minimal seeds have been my go-to in this time of non-alcoholic need 😛

To get started making these Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers, you’ll first want to get a hold of some of the finest cantaloupe and seedless watermelon available. You won’t need the whole fruits to make the two servings this recipe yields, but I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding a way to eat up any leftovers.

You’ll also want to track down some nice, crispy cucumbers. These add such a refreshing kick to the drink that if you close your eyes while you’re sipping you might just think you’re enjoying a relaxing spa day.

A Mixed Melon Cucumber Cooler is the perfect way to kick off a long, sunny weekend.

Simply toss these three ingredients together in a blender, along with a fresh squeeze of lime to give it some tang, and give it a nice whir to make your juice. It will turn out a little on the thicker side (like a purée), but have no fear because we’re going to top our mocktails off with a nice little splash of sparkling water. If you’re looking for even more flavor, you could even use a lightly flavored sparkling water such as La Croix or Spindrift. Creative license is yours!

And since we only add a touch of cucumber to the juice (compared to how much watermelon and cantaloupe we’re using) we add some fresh cucumber slices to our glasses to further enhance that spa-like flavor.

Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers are hydrating and refreshing. Add some vodka or gin for an extra kick!

Oh, and I almost forgot. If you’re still on the booze train, add some gin or vodka to your Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers to really knock it out of the park this weekend!

These Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers are incredibly refreshing and can be made into a cocktail or mocktail!
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Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers
Prep Time
10 mins
 

The perfect, refreshing warm weather mocktail - loads of fresh melon punctuated by a hint of cucumber. Add vodka or gin to make it boozy!

Course: Drinks
Servings: 2 drinks
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 cups cubed seedless watermelon
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed cantaloupe
  • 3 inch piece of cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks, plus extra slices for garnish
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Club soda
Instructions
  1. Combine watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber and lime juice in a blender and pulse until a thick juice forms. 

  2. Fill two glasses with ice and divide the juice evenly among the two glasses. 

  3. Top each glass with sparkling water and slide a few extra cucumber slices down the inside of the glass for added flavor. Enjoy!

Mixed Melon Cucumber Coolers | CaliGirlCooking.com

Kiwi Coconut Cooler

Hooraaaay for Fridaaaay!

This Kiwi Coconut Cooler is the perfect, refreshing mocktail with a fun hit of color!

And for delicious kiwi-flavored beverages like this Kiwi Coconut Cooler. In fact, if you take nothing else away from this post today, I hope it’s that kiwi purėe is a fantastic, highly underutilized addition to any cocktail or mocktail. Talk about drinking the rainbow!


I’m not going to lie, sometimes it’s a little tricky to continue coming up with fun, new, innovative drink recipes every week, especially when I’m on the no-drinking train (just a few more months!) But if nothing else, I’ve learned that there are almost just as many options for nonalcoholic drinks as there are alcoholic ones, and it’s been pretty darn fun to get creative and see what I can come up with.

My inspiration for a kiwi-based drink initially came from those OG Snapple juices (do they even exist anymore?) I haven’t seen one in ages, but for some reason I kept thinking about the strawberry-kiwi flavored one and whether or not I could make a more natural, less artificially-sweetened version from fresh fruits.

So, I set out to make a kiwi-strawberry mocktail, but once I took inventory of everything I had on hand in my kitchen to make a delicious beverage, I realized I had pulled out a bunch more tropical, coconut-y flavors. Plus, I didn’t want to mess up the color of that vibrant green purėe by trying to muddle in some fresh strawberries. I knew that clear, only slightly cloudy coconut water and milky orgeat would do the trick for not only preserving that bright green color but perhaps even magnifying it. And hey, the taste combo isn’t bad either!

A Kiwi Coconut Cooler is the perfect special, healthy drink for any night of the week.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t own a juicer, so I have to get creative when I’m mixing up my own fresh fruit juices. For the kiwis, I found that my immersion blender did just the trick to get a nice, juicy purėe that would be easily sippable. I had initially thought I would need to strain out the seeds and other pulp, but everything broke down beautifully and I decided there was something kinda fun about those little black flecks suspended in the drink.

Aside from a boatload of fresh kiwis, the only ingredients you’ll need in order to have a Kiwi Coconut Cooler in your hand in no time are the aforementioned coconut water and orgeat, plus a splash of club soda. Oh, and I couldn’t leave out the strawberries completely, so I threw some on for garnish.

If you’ve had a long week and are currently fortunate enough to partake in boozy beverages, I highly recommend the addition of some white rum to this already tropical-vibe inspiring drink. It’ll get you in summer weekend relaxation mode in no time at all and itching to jump in the pool.

As for my weekend, my mom is coming to town to celebrate my niece’s birthday, and we’ve got a Saturday girls’ brunch date planned which I’m pretty darn excited for. Other than that, we’ll just be continuing to get our house organized and finding places for all of the things we’re acquiring for baby. I can’t believe my due date is just nine weeks away! Nesting mode has finally set in and I’m excited for my travel schedule to die down a bit so I can focus on really getting ready and finding some time to RELAX and enjoy these last few weeks of us being a family of two (well, three with our fur baby.)

Kiwi Coconut Coolers are a fun treat for kids and adults alike!

What are your plans for the weekend? Hoping they involve a Kiwi Coconut Cooler or two!

This Kiwi Coconut Cooler is the perfect, refreshing mocktail with a fun hit of color!
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Kiwi Coconut Cooler
Prep Time
10 mins
 

A vibrant, refreshing cocktail featuring fresh kiwi puree and hydrating coconut water - it tastes just like the tropics! Add rum to make it boozy 😉

Course: Drinks
Servings: 2 cocktails
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 6 kiwis, peeled and purėed with an immersion blender to make about 10 ounces juice
  • 2 ounces orgeat
  • 4 ounces coconut water
  • Club soda, to top
  • Kiwi wheel and fresh strawberry, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Divide kiwi purėe evenly between two tallboy glasses. Add 1 ounce orgeat and 2 ounces coconut water to each glass and stir. 

  2. Fill each glass to the top with ice, then top up with a splash of club soda. 

  3. Garnish each glass with a kiwi slice and strawberry to serve.

Kiwi Coconut Cooler | CaliGirlCooking.com