Author Archives: saramackay23

The Paloma & A Cocktail Class


I spent a couple cocktail hours making palomas a few different ways…I can confidently tell you, this is THE ONE! Turns out, skip the fresh grapefruit juice, grapefruit soda is where it’s at! This recipe is based on the ingredients used at Hotel Madrid in Milwaukee. Good luck not making it a double header, even at brunch. Been there, done that!img_2931The two keys here are the grapefruit soda and the Tajin seasoned rim. You can find both of these at any Mexican grocery store. Tajin is a mix of sea salt, mild chilies and lime. Don’t skip this!! It will make you pucker a tiny bit until that grapefruit soda hits your tongue. And it will make your mouth water for that next sip! You’ll use Tajin for other things, I promise. Corn on the cob? Dead. img_2925My two favorite and IMO essential cocktail tools are a strong citrus juicer and this mini measuring cup. Game changing. (Bookmark that measuring cup for later…it appears to be experiencing quarantine pricing…)img_2928The “Cocktail Class”: In spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I made cocktail kits with the Paloma ingredients to drop off at my friends’ houses for our virtual happy hour. I even found these mini Tajin seasonings on amazon – how cute are they?!

I included a “side beer” because A) It’s Wisconsin and Quarantine Times and you should have a beer while you’re making your cocktail…and B) I work for MolsonCoors now and SOL is one of my brands! Gotta #rep ;)

Step 1: Crack open your SOL.img_2954Step 2: Season your rim.img_2956Step 3: Stir together the tequila, grapefruit soda, and lime juice. Add ice.img_2959Step 4: Salud!img_2960Fair warning, these go down FAST. Despite the 2:1 ratio, you hardly taste the tequila…

The Paloma

Makes 1 cocktail


  • 2 oz blanco tequila (1/4 cup)
  • 4 oz grapefruit soda (1/2 cup)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Tajin seasoning for the rim


Run a cut (already juiced is easiest) lime along the rim of your glass and then dip it in the Tajin seasoning to create the seasoned rim. Pour the grapefruit soda, lime juice, and tequila into the glass. Stir and add ice.

It’s easy to multiply and make a pitcher, if your quarantine party is more than 1 :)

That Quarantine Life


THIRTY-THREE and corona-free today! Well, 100% sure it’s my birthday. Hopefully COVID-19 free. In my self-quarantine, I made myself a Lizzo birthday cake! Positive thoughts and my favorite mocha icebox cake! If you want a slice, message me for take-out :) I’ve actually never heard from so many people on my birthday before – really feeling all that “stuck at home, nothing to do” love! Thank you friends!Cake inspired by Joy the Baker’s @DrakeOnCake. Just as it sounds: Drake lyrics frosted on cakes. It kills me.

While we’ve all got a little extra time on our hands, a few things to check-out:

What to Read: Daisy Jones & the Six is my absolute favorite book of the last year. It reads like a VH1 Behind the Music documentary, bouncing back and forth between the bandmates, who recount the rise and fall of their band in the 70’s. All the sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll chaos you’re imagining. It’s magic. It’s LOL funny. I can’t wait for the TV series on Amazon!

Also, on a serious note, read this respiratory therapist’s description of the lung failure he’s witnessed with corona patients, including young adults. It reaffirms your decision to stay home!

What to Netflix: Tiger King is absolutely wild. You couldn’t make these people up if you tried. It’s a documentary, but feels mythic. My mind is blown.

What to Make: Cookie Dough Energy Bites for quarantine snacking. Made a batch last week!

What to Give: If you live in Milwaukee and love to dine out, consider donating to S.O.S (Save our Spots), a fundraiser created by C.J. Krawczyk to support our local restaurants. He’s featured in the Journal Sentinel and has started distributing the collected money directly to restaurant owners.

What to Rock: Justin Bieber – Acoustic Intentions – Here’s to hoping Summerfest goes on as planned this June or I miss the chance to dance with the crop-topped teens to Sorry…Also, Chris Stapleton, if you’re reading this, I’ll wear a hazmat suit to hear you sing Tennessee Whiskey live again. Dead serious.

Stay healthy, friends!!

Christmas Cocktail Competition 2019


After getting 2nd place 4 of the last 6 cocktail competitions, I finally made a first place cocktail! It was a tie for first, but still redeeming after all these years :) Despite 28 cocktails already in the books, our 7th annual competition somehow still brought 5 new cocktails and a few surprises…

Scottish Dancer: My mom had been taunting that her presentation was already selected months before she actually picked the “cocktail”. She’s the first to enter with a fully edible offering, glass included! We were all frightened when we saw Jameson, Bailey’s and Melon Liquor on the counter, but it ended up tasting good enough for a second shot.

Blood Orange Bourbon: Em shook-up freshly squeezed blood orange juice, triple sec and bourbon for a gorgeous seasonal take on a bourbon cocktail.

Jalapeño Mojito: Mike played-off his recent trip to Cuba with a little rum and a little heat!

The Moonwalk: The head bartender of the The Savoy Hotel’s American Bar in London made this cocktail for the astronauts, Neil, Buzz, and Michael, when they returned from their Apollo 11 moonwalk. It’s sentimental because my family visited the American Bar this year and timely because it’s the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s trip to the moon. This champagne cocktail with grapefruit juice, orange liquor and rose water is considered a nod to the astronauts drink in space, Tang!

Bourbon Blitz: No fancy backstory or presentation, just a hot buttered bourbon and cider cocktail that will warm you right up! It’s satisfyingly savory from the butter and sweet from the cider. I’m calling it the blitz because just one sneaks up on you real fast!

The competition is always tough, especially when the bartenders dress in-theme…

Want to warm-up with your own hot buttered bourbon and cider? Here’s my winning recipe :)

Bourbon Blitz

  • 2 cups cider
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 10 whole cloves
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • Optional garnishes: apples slices, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg

Bring cider, water, sugar and spices to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and let steep covered for 15 minutes.

Return to heat and stir in butter until melted. Remove from heat and stir in bourbon and lemon juice.

Strain into glasses. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or apple slice and freshly grated nutmeg.

Makes 4 cocktails.

Looking for more inspiration? Cocktails of Christmas’ Passed:

Christmas Cocktail Competition 2018


Closing in on the holiday season mainly means one thing in the MacKay household: our annual cocktail competition is near! We are currently preparing for the 7th season, but in the meantime, here’s how 2018’s match-up went down…

The full line-up is always a highly-anticipated night-of surprise, as we don’t even share the spirit of choice ahead of time. Somehow, everyone still ends up going a very different direction:img_7162.jpgJudging is not for the faint of heart. It takes a born and bred Wisconsinite to persevere and accurately assess each cocktail.IMG_7134Hands down, the most impressive cocktail goes to the Midnight in Manhattan. Not only did my dad introduce his drink with a limerick, he also smoked the glasses! He soaked cedar planks in orange blossom water overnight, started little fires in the planks, and then set the glasses on top to capture that smokey orange essence. It was the perfect winter cocktail: bourbon, sweet vermouth, bourbon barrel maple syrup and bitters (garnished with cloves and luxardo cherries). 

“I have the perfect drink for when the weather gets nippy

Don’t drink too much, though, it might make you a bit tippy

It’s as smooth as satin

It’s called the Midnight in Manhattan

Straight from the trails in Natchez, Mississippi”

IMG_7161My mom re-created the Southern Limerick, a cocktail we loved at The Pinewood Social, one of our favorite bars in Nashville. A warm, creamy, boozy drink made of whiskey, coffee, simple syrup and Meletti Amaro Liquer, topped with whipping cream and bitters. This was my fav of the night! (Note that skeptical side eye from Michael!) 

I didn’t lose from lack of trying. I soaked pears in vodka for weeks leading up to the competition! 

However, despite my effort and art deco presentation, my Spiced Pear Martini didn’t cut it for placing on the podium.img_7117.jpgEmily’s White Christmas Martini was the prettiest drink that night! She shook up Vanilla Vodka, Rum Chata, Milk & Honey Cream Liqueur and Half & Half. Bonus points for the throwback rock candy on top!IMG_7130Michael won ANOTHER title with his Limoncello Martini. He spent 10 weeks making his own Limoncello with lemons, vodka and simple syrup. Stirred that night with Limonata and a candied lemon peel. Congratulations, bro!img_7121.jpgClearly, we don’t take this competition lightly. In fact, I already feel behind for not having selected my cocktail entry for the 2019 games! Suggestions welcome :)

Looking for more inspiration? Cocktails of Christmas’ Passed:

A Weekend in Austin


Austin is spunky and alive, but in a laid-back, southern charming kind-of way. It’s fast-moving and cutting edge, but casual and relaxed. Hustle and bustle, but sip your sweet tea slow. It’s hipster and bougie in the same breath. I totally dig the mixed-energy vibe! You mostly forget you’re in Texas until the bartender asks what can I get “ya’ll” to drink in that sweet southern accent. This city, where you can sit outside listening to live music every night and eat every meal wrapped in a homemade tortilla, has got this whole living thing just right. All I needed was a cowboy hat with a big grin and a two-step to sweep me off my feet and miss that flight back to Milwaukee. I can handle the heat!Austin SkylineThe creativity is tucked into every block, jumping out as you walk, bike, or scooter by, and secretly revealing itself to the treasure-hunting Instagramers searching the nooks and crannies (guilty). Every direction you turn is colorful and expressive.IMG_8327

I savored a Jo’s Coffee Oatmilk Cookie Latte four mornings in a row and it was life. I also took this photo w/ double espresso and no shame:

The food truck hype is real. No restaurants required. Some of my favs: Veracruz for the best breakfast tacos on pillow-y homemade tortillas, East Side King for a Japanese-style fried chicken sandwich, Via 313 for Detroit-style pizza (apparently Detroit has a style and it definitely rocks).

The barbeque is no joke. I’m not a BBQ person in the slightest, but when in Austin…That beef brisket may have been one of my bigger surprises in life. Yes, that was me, Sara MacKay, fighting your fork for that last bite of melt-in-your-mouth meat. (La Barbeque, Salt Lick)Salt Lick, TexasMy favorite bar (ever) lives in East Austin: Whisler’s. It’s rustic, cozy, slightly quirky and medieval romantic. The stone walls are covered in antlers, mirrors, and empty wooden frames and reach up to a high castle-like ceiling. The entire space is illuminated only by candlelight and chandeliers once the sun goes down. The cocktails are fresh, inventive and strong, just how I like them. I’d be a regular on that canvas covered bar chair!

Imagine two full blocks with old quaint houses converted into bars with magical backyard patios centered around cute wooden stages. Live music, Twinkle Lights, Food Trucks. It exists: Rainey Street. And it is SO COOL! (Favs: Craft Pride for local beer, Half Step for fresh cocktails)

The Continental Club has been around since the 1950’s and is still happenin’. You feed off the vibes of the artists playing in front of that glitzy red tinsel backdrop and expect to walk outside afterwards to a row of pastel Cadillacs lined up out front.img_8384img_8383 I love cruising the Lady Bird Trail. It extends for miles along the Colorado River with great views of the city skyline. The warm breeze in your hair and the shade from the Texas heat makes everything feel peaceful and right.img_8238img_8386Let’s all go to Austin and revel in the good music, food and drinks. We’ll smile and be kind and vote for Willie because life can’t get better than this :)3e908dd6-6f08-4a3d-97af-eca08fac97ce

Christmas Cocktail Competition


Every year around this time, my family gets in the holiday spirit with a little cocktail competition – everyone makes a drink and we anonymously vote on the best one. It’s friendly, but don’t be fooled, we take our cocktails pretty seriously. No one is making Jack and Cokes around here…We keep our recipes secret, not even sharing the chosen liquor, until unveiling the line-up the night of the competition:This is a bit extreme, but I’m a bit Type A, so we even had official voting cards last year:Rob Roy: The winning drink! My dad won the competition with this STRONG Scotch cocktail. It’s basically a Manhattan made with Scotch. He played the crowd well, catering to the MacKay’s Scottish heritage!Beergarita: My mom says she under-performed and wishes I’d leave it out from the list…but I’m a tequila lover and still thought this was a fun drink!French 75: The epitome of champagne cocktails! It was created in a New York bar in Paris during World War I and was said to have such a kick that it felt like getting shelled by a French 75mm field gun.Buttery Nipple: This was the first time someone made a SHOT! My sister wasn’t going to enter last year, but on the day of competition, inspiration struck!Clover Club: I took my chances with a gin drink…and secured 2nd place for the 5th time! One of these years…The raspberries make it a bit fruity, but the vermouth and egg white keeps it tart and dry. This cocktail is named after the Clover Club, a gentlemen’s club in Philadelphia founded in the 1880’s, whose membership was made up of the intellectual elite of the time.Clover Club

Serves 1


  • 1.5 oz gin (Plymouth recommended)
  • 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz raspberry simple syrup*
  • 1/2 oz egg white (about half the white of 1 egg)


Pour everything into a cocktail shaker and shake first without ice for 20 seconds to emulsify the egg white. Then, add ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a glass. (For presentation points, spear some raspberries on a pick to lay across the rim of the glass.)

*To make the raspberry simple syrup: In a saucepan, smash 1 cup of berries into 2 cups sugar with the back of a spoon. Then, add 1 cup water and heat on low until the sugar is dissolved (don’t let it boil). Let the syrup stand for 20 minutes before straining. Make this ahead of time so that it has time to cool. It will last 2 weeks in the refrigerator. OR muddle 5 raspberries in 1/2 oz of plain simple syrup.

Source: The Craft Cocktail Party

Looking for more inspiration? Cocktails of Christmas’ Passed:

Happy Holidays Everyone! Cheers!

Almond Butter Chicken Salad


I’ve got the PSL of fall salads for you right here! It’s completely basic, but the surprise twist of almond butter instead of mayo is so good!  It’s rich and savory, crunchy, a tiny bit sweet, and a little tangy too. Doesn’t that sound exciting to eat?? (*Pumpkin Spice Latte if you were going to google, Mom…)

Chop everything up – the chicken, celery, apples and almonds:IMG_6814Whisk together the dressing in the bowl first, then dump everything else in:It’s that simple! Stick it on a salad or in a sandwich, whatever makes you happy…IMG_6813

Almond Butter Chicken Salad

Salad Ingredients:

  • 3 cups chicken, shredded or cubed
  • 1 cup diced apples (or halved red grapes)
  • 1.5 cups diced celery
  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons almond butter
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a medium to large bowl.

Add all of the chopped salad ingredients to that bowl and toss to combine until everything is coated in dressing.

Serve on a bed of arugula, in lettuce cups, on sandwich bread, or however you’d like to eat it! Save any leftovers in the fridge for several days.