I went to Florida and had a cocktail. Well, actually I had a whole lot more than a cocktail. I had a most inspiring, educational, fun, and tasty culinary adventure. It was two days filled with all things Florida strawberry. The experience is one I treasure and will never forget. I was inspired in many ways and one of them was to make a Strawberry Whiskey Sour. More on that later. For now, a little about the trip. Wait, a lot about the trip. It’s a long post so if you are looking for the recipe then scroll, scroll, and keep on scrolling down and you will get to it eventually.
The tour kicked off in a wonderful way. First stop was a visit to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association headquarters. We were warmly welcomed by Jammer (their official mascot), Sue Harrell, Director of Marketing aka Strawberry Sue, and Kenneth Parker, Executive Director. We learned about the association and how they started with a handful of famers to become “partners in research, promotion and member/community service”. They have grown so much since forming in 1982 and now support over 11,000 acres of strawberries.
Then came a magic moment. They opened the door and let us go pick strawberries in their field behind the office. I had to hold myself back from running. Seriously. All I needed was to make a fool of myself tripping over something and falling face first into the mud. However, face first into a big, plump, sweet, juicy strawberry would be a happy accident. Anyway, I safely walked to the plants and savored every glorious moment of picking, eating, and being out in nature. Then it was time to move on to the next stop.
Strawberry fields forever. It kept going through my mind as we were driving to Mike Lott Family Farm. There were strawberry fields on both sides of the road for miles and miles and miles. We arrived to be welcomed by Mike Lott on his gorgeous 42 acre spread. We learned about growing strawberries and all the care given to them from seed to harvest. Then another magic moment. More strawberry picking! Or rather as I call it, playing in strawberry heaven.
Onward to a lunch break. We stopped at Olde Town Pizzeria for a generous selection of pizzas along with a strawberry salad. Refueled and rested, we headed on to Astin Strawberry Exchange. We learned how strawberries are handled after they leave the field. Oh, did you know strawberries are only touched once? It’s true. They are placed in the carton in the field. The cartons are transported immediately to facilities like Astin to be chilled, placed in cardboard flats, and shipped out.
Next up was a festival. Rather the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds and headquarters. What a dedicated group of individuals who put on this annual event. They strive to make it fun, safe, family-friendly, and a phenomenal value. Besides, it has to be good. It’s celebrating glorious Florida strawberries!
A stop for more education. We went to the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research & Education Center. We had a fascinating overview of strawberry breeding. They are developing new varieties of strawberries for better berries in lots of ways. Their latest variety, invented by Dr. Vance Whitaker, is Sweet Sensation™ and you should ask for it at your local store.
It was time for some luxury. We checked in to the fabulous Epicurean Hotel. They greeted us with champagne with strawberries and French macarons. A gal could get used to such things. The rooms are superb! And so is every single inch of the hotel and grounds. We had few moments to take in luxury and then go out for dinner at Cask Social. The good food, drinks, and fun kept right on going. What a day!
Five minutes later it was the next morning. Or it felt that way. I slept so hard and so well in that luxurious Epicurean bed. I was excited for the day ahead. Our sessions were held in the beautiful Epicurean Theatre. We had a cooking demonstration by Jeff Cline, Executive Chef at Birchwood. Kita Roberts of Pass the Sushi and Girl Carnivore gave us valuable food photography insights in her session.
Of course it was time to eat again. We walked to Ava for a magnificent brunch feast. It was a good thing because next up was a Mixology session by Roger McQueen, Elevage Bar Supervisor. This is where the inkling of my cocktail inspiration happened. He demonstrated how to make simple cocktails with few and fresh ingredients. It was refreshing to learn about cocktails without 15 different expensive and hard to find components. He made four cocktails and we had the best time tasting all of them.
Instagram is a hot topic these days. Jimmy Fashner shared with us tools and techniques for creating an online presence with Instagram. With 67k followers, he knows what it takes. See for yourself by following him, ayce09 on Instagram.
It was time for a cocktail. Oh yes! Sure we had sipped and tasted a few earlier. This was a relaxing gathering at Edge Rooftop Bar to enjoy a beverage and a beautiful sunset. (Photo courtesy Isabel Laessig aka Family Foodie and founder of the Sunday Supper Movement and Food Wine Conference).
Edge made two signature drinks: Spicy Strawberry Margarita and Strawberry Sage Whiskey Sour. Now you see where the full inspiration for my recipe happened. Only mine is without sage. Why? Because I made it for my husband and he does not like sage. Whiskey Sour was his drink of choice long ago. I thought a blast from the past with a touch of strawberry would be a nice surprise.
Onward to the big chat. What chat? It’s the weekly #SundaySupper twitter chat every Sunday at 7pm Eastern Time. And was it ever big! The live event reached 8 million followers with 77 million impressions. Celebrations were in order. We certainly celebrated over our actual Sunday Supper at the Epicurean. To top off the evening and end the tour in style, we went across the street for a special treat at Bern’s Steakhouse Harry Waugh Dessert Room.
What was the best strawberry tip I learned? Don’t rinse them until you are ready to use or eat them. Oh, and rinse them with the tops on so water doesn’t get inside. Strawberries absorb water fast and you do not want the flavor diluted. You want berries in Strawberry Risotto or Sparkling Strawberry Salad to be bursting with flavor.
Now, finally, you have reached the Strawberry Whiskey Sour recipe. Thank you for taking the time to read through my adventure. Big thanks to the Sunday Supper Movement and Florida Strawberry Growers Association for inviting me on the tour.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Peeled zest from 3 lemons
- Peeled zest from 3 limes
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup fresh lime juice
- 1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped (save a few for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 ounces whiskey (bourbon recommended)
- 2 ounces sour mix
- 1 ounce strawberry purée
- Add water and sugar to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until sugar dissolves.
- Remove from heat and add lemon and lime zests. Cool to room temperature.
- Add lemon and lime juices. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Cover mix and chill thoroughly.
- Stir together strawberries and granulated sugar in a bowl. Chill for at least 2 hours.
- Place strawberries and juice in a blender. Blend until completely puréed. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove as many seeds as possible. You may have to push purée through the sieve using a spoon or rubber spatula.
- Add whiskey, sour mix, and strawberry purée to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
- Shake well and strain into a rocks glass filled with ice.
- Garnish with fresh strawberry, lemon slices, and/or lime slices.
- Keep both leftover sour mix and strawberry purée chilled in sealed containers. Use sour mix within 7 days. Use purée within 3 days (great in smoothies).
PS. This is not a sponsored post. I was under no obligation to write a review or recap of the tour. This is my thank you for an incredible weekend and culinary adventure.