Friday Happy Hour: Moonshine (aka Unaged Whiskey Cocktail)

A couple of weeks ago, we received a question from reader Jane B.: There’s been an flooding of moonshine on the market these days and I’m wondering what kind of cocktail can you make with moonshine? Any ideas would be welcomed.

I love this question! Because there are two ways of answering it: the really easy, short way, where I get right to the point and talk about a fun cocktail. And the much longer way, where I get to talk about all sorts of interesting things, like barrel aging and Prohibition and chemistry and history and stock car racing. So get set. – Andrew

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Ok. To get right to the point for everyone who’s just interested in our recipes and Nole’s beautiful photos: if you see moonshine for sale in a store, you’re seeing a marketing gimmick. Some folks are trying to pass of regular unaged whiskey as moonshine. It’s not moonshine. It’s unaged whiskey. Moonshine is, more or less, privately distilled illegal spirits. It might be distilled from corn or sugar or wood pulp. It might be 80 proof or it might be 180 proof. It might be mostly ethanol, which you can drink, or it might be full of methanol, which could blind you. You might be able to buy it, in an actual mason jar of course, if you know a guy who knows a guy whose cousin knows a guy who makes moonshine. You can’t buy it in a store. But unaged whiskey marketed as moonshine is trendy. It’s forbidden. It’s Americana. It’s cool.

And that’s ok. There are some great unaged whiskeys for sale today. And unaged whiskey, also called white whiskey or white dog whiskey, can stand on its own as a spirit, though a very different beast from an aged bourbon or rye whiskey. Unaged whiskeys carry lots of raw flavors, like sweet corn and fruity notes, the sort of flavors you might expect form a silver Tequila, without the agave’s sour finish. I love the way white whiskey pairs with apertif wines, so here’s my contribution:

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Illustration by Nicole Miazgowicsz for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Ghost in the Graveyard

2 oz Unaged Corn Whiskey
3/4 oz Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz Dry Curacao
1/4 oz Maraschino Liqueur
2 Dashes Orange Bitters

Combine the whiskey, vermouth, curacao, and liqueur with ice and stir well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and top with the bitters. Garnish with a lemon twist and enjoy.

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Didn’t I say this was the short version? Yeah. The Ghost in the Graveyard will look like a Martini but taste completely different: sweet and fruity from the corn, with its rougher edges mellowed by the vermouth, and finishing with the citrusy and nutty notes of the liqueurs and a bit of the whiskey’s alcoholic heat. Served ice cold, it’s  actually quite apt for summer, both refreshing and full of sweet summer corn notes. It’s deeply satisfying and one of the recipes I’m prouder of.

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Like an unaged silver or blanco Tequila, a white whiskey is full of alcohol heat and sharp, rough edges – so try pairing two ounces of white whiskey with an ounce of triple sec and 3/4 ounce lime juice to make something like a whiskey Margarita. White whiskey also pairs really well with apple cider and with ginger beer. It’s versatile, but don’t think of it like a rich, oaky bourbon or a deep, spicy rye.

Want to know more about white whiskey and the history of moonshine? Keep reading!

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The Beginning of Oh So Beautiful Paper

As some of you may have seen on Instagram, I celebrated my fourth anniversary of self-employment yesterday. When I first started Oh So Beautiful Paper, I couldn’t really share anything about my profession at the time – and nearly six years into blogging I still haven’t written this story down. So today I finally decided to get my act together and share the story of how Oh So Beautiful Paper came to be!

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Cake topper by AHeirloom

Most people assume that I have a design background that led me to start blogging about paper. And while I definitely grew up surrounded by art and design, my professional background is actually in the field of international diplomacy! When I first started blogging in 2008, I was working as a civil servant (aka U.S.-based diplomat) at the U.S. Department of State, in the Bureau of African Affairs. Not exactly a direct correlation to paper and design.

But I should back up a bit. I was raised by two artistic parents: my dad worked as an advertising copywriter for most of his career, but now works as a semi-retired freelance photographer. My mom also worked in advertising (her job involved media buying) before switching to a different career in the late 1980s, but she’s also a talented painter and interior designer. I grew up in a very artistic environment, surrounded by art supplies and attending summer art camps. In high school, I took my first photography class and decided that I wanted to become a magazine photographer. But after a semester in college I quickly decided that I didn’t enjoy art school (Emily’s post from a couple of weeks ago will give you a pretty good idea of why it didn’t work out). So I took a few random elective classes… and switched majors to International Relations. It seems like such a random choice, but I was really, really good at my chosen field. It just felt like the right fit.

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My time at the State Department began with an internship during my last undergraduate semester in the spring of 2003, and my office hired me permanently at the end of my internship. I was all of 22, but working in a position normally reserved for mid-level employees in their 30s: it was an overwhelming introduction to the world of international diplomacy! For the next few years, I worked in the Office of East African Affairs with responsibility for Somalia and Djibouti (both located in the Horn of Africa).

It’s hard to explain what my job actually entailed, but my work involved everything from writing briefing memos for senior officials to preparing internal budget proposals and documents, and from collecting study materials for U.S. ambassadorial nominees to writing U.N. Security Council resolutions. Some of the tasks were mundane, and some of them – like traveling overseas – were really amazing. I was lucky enough to visit several European capitals and almost every country in East Africa – Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Somaliland, and Djibouti – and I even lived in Nairobi, Kenya for about a month on a special assignment. In 2009, I transferred to the Office of West African Affairs, working primarily on Liberia and Ghana.

I learned a lot during those years. I learned how to prioritize urgent tasks and objectives. I learned how to distill a complex set of issues into a two-page memo. I learned a lot of other things that are harder to put into words. At the State Department, most people rotate to a new position every 2-3 years, so I worked with and for a lot of different people over the course of my seven years there. I learned what it means to be a good boss, a good manager – and sadly what it means to be a bad boss and mismanage an entire office. I saw people around me sacrifice their personal lives for their careers, and I learned that I didn’t want that for myself. I learned what it meant to burn out. I learned that a fulfilling career – and a fulfilling life – can mean a lot of different things to different people.

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Print by Alli Coate

Everything changed when Andrew and I got married in 2008. I discovered wedding and lifestyle blogs (yay!), and I fell in love with the world of wedding invitations during our 9-month engagement. After our wedding, Andrew encouraged me to start blogging as a creative outlet, and Oh So Beautiful Paper was born a few weeks later! My original goal was simply to showcase amazing wedding invitation design and connect couples with the designer that suits their personal style. I never intended for blogging to replace my career at the State Department, but the blog slowly grew and evolved into something more than a hobby.

Coincidentally, Oh So Beautiful Paper was growing at the same time that I was becoming increasingly disenchanted with my office job. I attended the very first Alt Summit in 2010, and one of my most vivid memories from the entire conference was listening to Maxwell from Apartment Therapy during the keynote session. Maxwell talked about his own decision to take Apartment Therapy full time: how it felt like jumping off a cliff, but also that he had to put in full time effort to see full time rewards. In April 2010, after a year under one particularly awful boss (which in turn was after two years under an equally terrible boss in another office), I made the scariest decision of my life: I gave notice at a stable, salaried job to pursue Oh So Beautiful Paper full time. I gave myself six months to make things work – and here I am four years later!

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Quote by Our Wild Abandon via Artifact Uprising

I’m proud of a lot of the things that I accomplished during my years at the State Department, and I have a lot of regrets about things that I didn’t accomplish or that didn’t go the way I wished they had. I’ve been away long enough that I can forget most of the bad experiences and just hold on to the fond experiences and memories, and I’m so happy to have those stories to tell Sophie someday. But nothing compares to the satisfaction of running my own business, even if it can be super scary and ridiculously exhausting most of the time, and I still don’t know that I’ve reached a level that I would define as successful. I’ve made so many wonderful friends through this amazing community, and I’d never trade that for a million years.

Okay, enough sap! I’ll stop there, and thank you for reading this ridiculously long post!

Happy Weekend!

Happy Friday everyone! And what a week! Sophie has been experiencing some separation anxiety at night, making bedtime a wee bit difficult in our house these days. Sigh. This too shall pass, I hope. Yesterday I took a quick up-and-down trip to New York City for a meeting – I love traveling by train and I’m so glad we live close enough to make these kinds of trips feasible! This weekend we’re hoping to take Sophie to the National Zoo to say goodbye to the Invertebrate Exhibit. We’re so sad that it’s closing! But in the meantime…

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The beautiful Union Station // Photo by me via Instagram

…a few links for your weekend:

This week on Oh So Beautiful Paper:

Check back soon for this week’s cocktail! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week! xoxo

Friday Happy Hour: The Last Ship Home

Two years ago (!), Nole and I spent a fantastic week in St. Lucia, a tiny and gorgeous Caribbean country. I, of course, tried the local drinks, and they were as you might expect: full of rum and pineapple and coconut. Tropical. But I also noticed something interesting in between cups of rum punch –advertisements all over the country for Campari, the bitter Italian amaro that’s key to cocktails like the Negroni. This made no sense to me. Why would the people of a Caribbean island – with all that rum and lime and pineapple, rich spices and coconut – drink bitter, bitter Campari? So I asked a bartender and he told me that St. Lucians loved Campari, on the rocks or with soda water, just like in Italy. Go figure. So I wanted to give something an experiment, to balance the touristy fantasy of the ideal Caribbean drink with the reality of what St. Lucians actually drink. And I think I came up with something pretty interesting and pretty good: The Last Ship Home. – Andrew

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Illustration by Shauna Lynn for Oh So Beautiful Paper

The Last Ship Home

1 1/2 oz Aged Rum
1/4 oz Cachaca
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 oz Velvet Falernum
1 oz Pineapple-Mango Syrup
1 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Orgeat Syrup

Combine all of the ingredients and shake well with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with tropical fruit. Enjoy!

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There’s a lot going on in this recipe, but it works: smooth and tangy, sweet and sour, sweet and bitter, with tropical spiciness but also amaro herbal notes. I won’t lie: if you don’t have all of these ingredients at home, you can still make a really interesting bitter Daiquiri with rum, lime, sugar, and Campari. But if you do have all these handy, give it a try: it’s enormously complicated but somehow all works together, balancing the richly sweet tropical flavors with a classic bitter Italian aperitif.

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Weird. But good.

Don’t forget to let us know if you try any of our recipes. And if you do make one at home, you can use #osbphappyhour to share photos of these (or your own creations) on Instagram.

Photo Credits: Nole Garey for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Rustic Market-Inspired Fabric Wedding Invitations

I’m completely smitten with the idea of fabric wedding invitations, whether printed on vintage handkerchiefs or swatches of linen or muslin. But vintage-inspired miniature grain sacks? Such a great idea! Inspired by farmer’s markets, these fabric invitations from Erin at Lucky Luxe are paired with letterpress printed enclosure cards – all tucked perfectly into the invitation itself!

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From ErinWe recently finished up my favorite invitation suite of all time — it’s called Market. From the rolling hills of California to the lavender fields of Provence, Market is the quintessential wedding invitation for an elegant rustic wedding in the countryside. Inspired by French grain sacks and fresh picked farmer’s market herbs, enclosure cards tuck inside our 100% cotton miniature grain sack invitations which are handprinted and available with or without vintage red stripes.

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Thanks Erin!

Lucky Luxe is a member of the Designer Rolodex – you can see more of their beautiful work right here or visit the real invi­ta­tions gallery for more wedding invitation ideas!

Photo Credits: Lucky Luxe