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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Light Bloody Mary for a New Day

Here at Jonny Sparks Lounge we are relaunching this blog with a third Bloody Mary post. What better way to greet a new day?

Our goal this time around was to marry the intense flavor of the Balsamic Basil version and the fresh taste of the Pickled Garden variety. To do this we simplified the ingredient list and mixed up a splendid Light Bloody Mary.

Raise your glass on this Thanksgiving holiday - or any relaxed morning - and enjoy this new drink from Jonny Sparks Lounge.

Ingredients to make 2 servings:

1 cup Spicy V8 juice
3 ounces good vodka
2 tablespoons of pickle juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
Juice from half a lemon (about 2 ounces)
Garnish (your choice of pickles, celery, olives)

Directions :

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass and stir.
Pour over ice and add garnish.
Enjoy responsibly!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Is That You Santa Claus?

Hi Everyone!  Merry Christmas Eve to you all.  No it's not Santa...Jonny Sparks Lounge is back for at least one holiday post. Yes we've been super busy with things other than writing about food and drinks. But since we didn't stop eating or drinking, we have plenty to catch up on with you!

Let's start with a newer product that just recently hit our radar. Rum Chata has been running an eye-catching advertising campaign accompanied by amazing sounding cocktail recipes, so we decided that a long holiday called for a taste test.

Rum Chata is a creamy liquor made with Caribbean rum and "real dairy cream" according to the label. Not that I doubt the label, just stating the ingredients verbatim. It is sweet with cinnamon notes, making it perfect for cake and cookie flavored drinks. Picture here is a twist on their Tiramisu Martini. We substituted Jonny Sparks' own espresso-infused vanilla vodka for the espresso vodka called for in the recipe - we'll give you that recipe in a future post. 

For now, suffice to say that we'll be leaving this out for Santa along with some snickerdoodles. Better hope he stops at our place last or your presents may be delayed! Cheers to you and yours. Here's the link and the recipe:

3 ounces RumChata
1.5 ounces espresso vodka
Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass.
Sprinkle with shaved chocolate (or cocoa powder as we did)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bloody Marys - Why Mess with Success?

Starting the weekend mornings off in our sleek new kitchen is a recipe for a success.  Another successful recipe is our Balsamic Basil Bloody Mary.  So why mess with success?  Because sometimes you achieve another success!  Today we say cheers to a couple of dear friends who are to be wed later today, and we salute them with the Pickled Garden Bloody Mary.

Not everyone will have pickled okra in their refrigerator, but we had a bumper crop of okra and pickled two large containers for just such a purpose as this.  The smaller okra tastes better, but the longer ones do double-duty as a swizzle stick in this recipe.  It is very flavorful but not too spicy, especially if you omit the hot sauce.  For those who appreciate the heat, just add more hot sauce. See?  Simply adjust for success!  Enjoy!

Pickled Garden Bloody Mary

Ingredients to make Six Servings:

4 cups of Spicy V8 juice
2 cups of good vodka (we like Chopin for small batches or Smirnoff for big parties)
3 Tbsp Worcestershire
5 tsp horseradish
2 1/2 tsp finely grated shallots
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp pickle juice (use dill or the juice from your pickled veggies)
2 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce (we like Cholula)
3/4 tsp celery seeds
2 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp kosher or ground sea salt
grated zest and juice from 1 lemon and 1 lime
6 pickled okra pods
12 cocktail onions
6 large olives

  1. Combine V8, vodka, Worcestershire, horseradis, shallots, garlic, pickle juice, hot sauce, celery seeds, pepper, salt and lemon and lime juice and zest in a large pitcher and stir well.  Chill in the fridge until cold.
  2. Fill six rocks glasses with ice.  Make six skewers with 1 olive, 2 onions, and 1 okra pod on each and place one skewer in each glass.
  3. Pour chilled cocktails into each glass and enjoy.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Beginnings - Brunch in a New Space

To begin the "post kitchen renovation" era, we will focus on another fabulous beginning - brunch. Those who did not get to personally witness the 1970's throwback that was our previous kitchen, replete with wood paneling wainscoting and drop ceiling, they will still appreciate the renovation. We've attached a couple of pictures of the new kitchen to entice you to call us for a visit.

Finally we have gas range  - with a built in griddle!  We've been using the griddle every weekend to make French Toast.  Playing with the traditional recipe a bit, today we serve up French Toast a la San Francisco.  It features thickly cut sourdough bread and a lot of vanilla and maple syrup in the batter to balance the sour of the bread dough.  Enjoy!

French Toast a la San Francisco


2/3 cup whole milk (we use goat for additional sweetness)
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons of maple syrup, plus additional to top the finished toast with
1 tablespoon of vanilla - yup - a tablespoon
5 - 6 slices of thick cut sourdough bread
butter for cooking and to top the finished toast with


  1. Whisk together the milk, eggs, maple syrup and vanilla.
  2. Heat a griddle or pan and melt butter to coat the cooking surface.
  3. When the griddle is hot and the butter is melted, turn a slice of bread in the egg mixture until saturated but not falling apart.
  4. Place soaked bread on the skillet and repeat above step until the skillet is filled.
  5. Cook until each slice is golden brown underneath, then flip and continue cooking so both sides are golden and just starting to crisp.
  6. Serve topped with additional butter, syrup, or powdered sugar - or an egg over easy as I like it and photographed it here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Egg-cellent dinner

eggs in spicy tomato sauceOur faithful lounge regulars have come to expect the unexpected at Jonny Sparks Lounge.  We've written about beer for breakfast and treated readers to sundown uses for orange juice.  And today we bring you eggs for dinner.   This lovely and spicy dish is called Sakshuka...not to be confused with Shakezula, the mic ruler, for all of you Aqua Teen Hunger Force fans.  Shakshuka is basically eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce.  It is fairly simple with a broad taste profile.  Sweet peppers, tomatoes and onions, garlic for depth, cumin for spice, jalapeno peppers for heat all served under eggs to complete the meal.  This recipe comes to us courtesy of Redbook.

It's only a ten minute prep and pretty simple cooking process.  So give this one a try and enjoy an egg-ceptional meal for dinner.


2 Tbsp olive oil
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 large jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
6 - 8 large eggs


  1. Heat oil in a deep skillet over medium heat.  We used our favorite cast iron pan.  Add red and jalapeño peppers, onion, garlic, cumin and half of the salt to the pan.  Cook stirring occasionally, until veggies are soft - about 7 minutes.  Stir in tomato past until combined, about one minute.
  2. Add canned tomatoes and their liquid plus 1/2 cup of water.  Bring to a slow boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 12 minutes, stirring occasionally until sauce has thickened.  
  3. With the back of a large spoon, make even indentations in the sauce for the eggs.  Crack an egg into each indentation.  Cover skillet and cook 8 minutes.  Do not stir.  The egg whites will set and the yolks can be cooked to your desired firmness.  At 8 minutes ours were fully cooked and not runny at all.  
  4. Sprinkle with remaining salt and serve by the spoonful with warm pita bread.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Orange you thirsty?

With spring in the air and kitchen renovations on my mind, I am stepping back into active blog duty. It is party season and there is much to celebrate at Jonny Sparks Lounge.

We've been busy brewing beer, cooking up new recipes, mixing cocktails and planning a long overdue down-to-the-studs kitchen remodeling project. And it all kicks off now with orangecello.

About six weeks back, while celebrating a very special occasion at JSL, I juiced navel and blood oranges for some fresh breakfast beverages. Then I took the rinds, being sure not to get any pith, and soaked them in a bottle of vodka. You can see the recipe we used under the limoncello postings - 750 ml of vodka with 3 pounds of lemons (or oranges) zested and steeped together for six weeks.

Today we added the simple syrup of 750 ml of water and 3 cups of sugar, and returned the liquid to a dark cabinet to steep some more. By the time the renovation is done we will be ready to pour the sweet citrus liqueur and share with lounge regulars.

Be sure to make your reservation now for the reopening bash! While the kitchen is closed during the renovation we will be sharing restaurant experiences.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Breakfast Beer Bonanza

I was talking to a friend at the gym recently - gotta burn off all those calories somehow! - and we were talking about breakfast beer.  This friend is not a beer neophyte, but he had never heard of breakfast beer.  So allow us here at Jonny Sparks Lounge to share the joyful genre that we have named breakfast beer.   
We recently Tweeted about Rouge Ale's collaboration with Voodoo Donuts, "Bacon Maple Ale."  The bacon and maple flavors made this, in our opinion, a viable breakfast beer. The intense smoky flavor was novel at the start, but the novelty wore off and the smoke proved to be too much for my palate.  
There are, however, many wonderful coffee and/or chocolate beers that serve well as brunch accompaniments   One such beer is featured today...Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout.  Pictured here next to our trust Nespresso coffee machine, the brew comes from a California brewer and their neighboring coffee shop. 
This particular coffee stout has the really nice depth of flavor you would expect from a coffee-infused stout. Their website states that it is, "made with boatloads of roasted coffee."  The beer is presumably a milk stout, hence the cappuccino name. It has a really smooth and full taste, without any bitterness at all despite the "boatloads" of coffee.

The label states that this ale is brewed with Sebastopol's Own Hard Core Coffee.  I don't know that coffee shop,
probably because I live in Philly and not in California, but I know this particular combination of coffee and ale makes for one delicious and very smooth beer that is easy to drink.  At 9.2% alcohol by volume, it is not an easy beer to get over early in the day, so we recommend pairing it with a hearty breakfast sandwich or other filling brunch item - or else the length of your day may be predicated upon the length of the resulting beer nap.
Remember though, breakfast beer, like orange juice, is not just for breakfast anymore.  Try out Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout anytime of day for a smooth and flavorful beer experience. Stay tuned for more beer updates, breakfast favorites, and the occasional combination of the two. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pistachio Vanilla Bean Cookies

Delicious cookies and Santa - a match made famous in American folklore.  So what should you serve the jolly guy this year?  Our vote here at Jonny Sparks Lounge goes to these pistachio vanilla bean cookies.

We put these cookies on our Thanksgiving dessert buffet, and folks have been thanking us for sharing them ever since.  We've received enough requests for the recipe that I decided to interrupt the regularly scheduled postings long enough to share it with all of you.

This roll style cookie sets up crumbly and firm, and cooks up short, sweet and savory with enough heft to transport well so you can take it to your cookie exchange or holiday party.

Prep time is pretty quick, but allow at least two hours for the dough to set up in the fridge before cutting and baking.  One recommendation for the vanilla beans - we've been on a vanilla bean kick here for about a year.  Our favorite beans are sweetly fragrant Madagascar vanilla beans, which can usually be found at Whole Foods alongside beans from Zimbabwe and Uganda.


1 cup butter - softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped pistachios
6 oz white chocolate
2 tsp shortening (like Butter Flavored Crisco)


  1. Beat the butter with an electric mixer or in a stand mixer for about 30 seconds on medium-high.  Add sugar, vanilla extract, and salt.  Beat together until combined, scraping the sides to mix well.  
  2. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise.  Use the tip of the knife to scrape the seeds from the bean halves and scoop them into the butter mixer.  Beat until combined.
  3. Add in flour.  Continue to blend until combined.  If the dough starts to get crumbly, then use a wooden spoon to gently mix/squoosh in the rest of the flour.  Continue to stir to add the pistachio nuts.
  4. Divide the dough in half.  Shape each half into a 1-1/2 inch thick log about 7 inches long. Wrap each log in wax paper and chill 2 hours or up to 2 days.
  5. When the dough is ready to cut, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Cut the chilled dough log into slices about 1/4 inch thick.  Place the slices about an inch apart on the prepared cookie trays.  Bake about 10 minutes, just until firm and browned on the bottoms.  Cool on a tray while you prepare the chocolate glaze.
  6. In a heavy saucepan, combine white chocolate and shortening.  Heat and stir over low heat until melted.  Dip each cookie part way into the chocolate and cool on waxed paper, or roll into reserved chopped pistachios before cooling.
These cookies are divine on their own, but dipping them in white chocolate sends the savory cookie over the moon with a sweet bite.  If you're truly nuts about nuts, then roll the chocolate side in pistachios - lovely and delicious.  Enjoy!  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sometimes It's Just Lemons

You know the adage...when life hands you lemons...blah, blah, blah.  During this joyous season of winter mirth, I thought I'd bring everyone some summer fun for just a moment.  Allow me to recap our "All Good Things In Time" posting from Memorial Day.

The homemade limoncello was simply divine when we uncorked it at Labor Day.  But when it's warm outside and everything is sunlit and the shadows are long, what isn't divine?  Now that we are inching up on the longest night of the year, and potentially our last night on Earth if you believe the ancient Mayan calendar, I thought I'd revisit some of my favorite things from 2012.

So on this December eve, I ventured down to the wine cellar - OK, it's just a basement - to retrieve the JSL Especial Limoncello.  I wondered if it would still taste divine on this dark, chilly night.  Yes, it did!  Our experimental first batch is lightly fragrant and flavorful with just the right amount of tart and bite from the combination of preserved-at-the-peak-of-ripeness lemons and smooth, five-times-distilled vodka.

You can count on us to make another batch next year, if the world is still here.  Until then, call me to schedule your tasting of the 2012 batch while there is still some left in the bottle.  And standby for our End of the World party menu along with a few more favorites from 2012.  Cheers!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sweet sixteen

Every year the month of December brings the week-plus long celebration of my birthday, gifts for every occasion, and Firestone Walker Brewery's annual blend.

We like to continue to age these blends like fine wine. So tune back in for the cage match between Firestone 14, 15 and 16. But for now - enjoy XVI with us!

These blends are best tasted at room temp so the complexities rise to the top. This sweet sixteen is indeed sweet and a bit oat-y. It is as smooth as a fine Bordeaux but tops out at about 40% stout for a lot of toasty, chocolate bottom notes.

It is plenty light so don't be intimidated to Grab one if you can - or call Jonny Sparks Lounge to reserve a glass. Cheers and happy holiday toasting season!