Classic Mint Julep Recipe

Mint Julep Recipe

The 145th running of the Kentucky Derby takes place this weekend. A quintessential Southern tradition and the unofficial start to summer, the derby has always been one of my favorite excuses to throw a party. After all, what’s not to love about getting gussied up, noshing on fun bites, and drinking classic cocktails?!

No Kentucky Derby party would be complete without a classic mint julep! A splash of simple syrup and a whole lot of Kentucky bourbon makes for one sinfully sweet sip. I first posted Becky Stayner’s recipe a few years ago, and I couldn’t resist posting it again as we gear up for this weekend’s run for the roses. Who is your money on?!

Classic Mint Julep by Becky Stayner
serves 1

You will need:
– Crushed ice
– 2 oz. good Bourbon
– 1 oz. simple syrup
– 6 leaves of fresh mint + fresh mint for garnish

To prepare:

Make the simple syrup by bringing one cup of water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in one cup of sugar until it dissolves. Once it’s chilled, stir in mint leaves to steep overnight (a trick from Becky). Put crushed ice, bourbon, and mint leaf simple syrup in a julep cup. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Don’t crush the leaves! Be gentle…after all, this is a Southern drink.

xx Annette

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Our fall workshop instructors are amazing

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I’m so excited about our La Fortezza fall workshop instructors roster. It just keeps getting better and better, I swear!

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Starting in September, I will be guiding a slow food experience The Lunigiana Slow Food Experience~ September 4th-9th. I am so excited to make this food forward retreat the most exciting foodies’ retreat yet. Harvest in our vineyard, make handmade pasta, meet all my foodie friends, make tomato sauce, jams, and pickled vegetables from our kitchen garden. Relax, do yoga, and enjoy all that the Italian countryside has to offer; we will pamper you and you will leave refreshed, rested and inspired.

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September 11th- 16th Antiques and Merchants of Italy-  You know how much I love cooking, but right up there is shopping. Since living in Italy, I have loved attending monthly antique fairs, and perusing the local flea markets, and shopping with local bespoke artisans in nearby towns. I’m so happy Antiques Expert Lisa Burnett of Inner Pieces Inc. will be lending her expertise. Lisa and I have been friends for 20 years, and she’s my go to person if I am buying antique pieces. She will be my co-leader and guide to all things vintage, antique and stylish. We will shop private vendors, my go to flea markets, and we will take you shopping in various towns that feature store after store of art, handmade clothing and accessories. Of course there will be beautiful food and wine, and lots of Aperol Spritzes, Lisa’s favorite cocktail. Join us and shop ’til you drop!

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October 9-14th Lifestyle Photography Workshop~ William Abranowicz, world renowned lifestyle and interiors photographer, with beautiful coffee table books to his credit like his latest book America Originals . He will work with students as a group each morning with one on one instruction throughout each day.  Participants will be taught to simplify the technical aspects of photography, understand light and composition to create well executed, emotionally impactful images, and to edit to form a concise visual articulation of what we see and hope to say. This is a once in a lifetime experience. Honestly I can hardly believe he said yes when I asked him to come teach at La Fortezza. Bill is a gentleman and a scholar – spending days with him creating will be an amazing experience. Spots are limited, so grab your spot before they are all gone. I am beyond thrilled to welcome Bill and all attendees to this special creative retreat.

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October 16th-21st Her Dark Materials Old Masters Still Life Photography Workshop~ I have been obsessed with “her dark materials” unique photography for years. I literally am bringing her to La Fortezza to watch her work. Her sense of composition is like nothing I have ever seen. True that Old Masters still life photography is all over the place, but Ros’s approach is both gorgeous and leaves me breathless. I told her that if no one signs up for her workshop I will be the only student, so I don’t care if anyone shows up I selfishly want her to myself… Ros Atkinkson, the photographer behind @her_dark_materials and a still life and food photographer who has achieved international recognition for her Old Masters style set ups and lighting will take students through the process of creating an Old Masters scene. Learn as she teaches you how to choose the right camera setting, capture the light in the best possible way and style using props and local produce. You’ll be guided in how to capture the scene, from tiniest details to the whole frame while using camera settings to maximize the use of light and shadow. I am SO excited to welcome Ros to La Fortezza this year…I am hoping it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and she comes year after year.

xx Annette

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Fall 2019 La Fortezza Workshops Launch

I am beyond excited to announce our roster of fall 2019 La Fortezza workshops in Italy. I have really listened to the feedback of past workshop attendees, and I think that fall simply put, “nails it.”

We have a variety of workshops that speak to everyone. There will be food-forward workshops, shopping excursion workshops and photography workshops with incredible talents and professionals. We want to make our workshops the best they can be, so thank you to all who participated last year and gave us such great advice.

Ready to see what’s in store?

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September 4th – 9th

First off is my Preserving Italy Workshop. We will dive deep into the region I call home, the Lunigiana. I feel passionate about sharing this unknown, and in some cases untouched, region. The people of this region work the land, live off the land and truly live seasonally. I like to say that I learned about the seasons here since we live season to season year after year.

The food artisans, the farmers, the vintners, the cheese makers and the fresh olive oil producers are a way of life. It’s the most authentic life I’ve known. We will be cooking throughout our workshop with Chef Philip and with locals too. I will share it all with you at our beautiful location, La Fortezza, overlooking mountains, vineyards and villages. I am thrilled to show you my secret Italy.

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September 11th – 16th

This one is all about shopping. If you follow me on Instagram , then you know how much I love shopping flea markets in Italy. How would you like to come along and shop with me? This workshop is geared toward the flea market shopper although shopping at this retreat will be peppered with plenty of artisan finds including handmade handbags and bespoke seaside markets.

Coming along to lend her expertise is professional picker and antiques expert Lisa Burnett of Inner Pieces. She will be leading the group and sharing her incredible eye with all of us. This is the perfect girlfriend retreat because of course there will be cooking classes and great food, lots of wine and Aperol Spritzes, Lisa’s favorite Italian Cocktail, and a little yoga as well. I cannot wait. These spots will be snatched-up fast, so don’t think about it; just do it!

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October 9th – 15th

I can’t believe he said ‘yes” when I asked him, but one of my all time favorite photographers is coming to teach lifestyle photography at La Fortezza. I think I jumped up and down for 10 minutes when he agreed. William Abranowicz is an icon in the photography world with many books under his belt. He has shot for every single magazine in the world. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I cannot tell you how much you will learn seeing the world through your lens with Bill as your instructor. He will be able to work with you one on one since the class is small. Imagine working with a world class photographer! Well my friends, you no longer have to imagine it. Just grab your place, and you can. I am beyond excited that we will be hosting Bill. This workshop will sell out fast, so don’t hesitate come to Italy and up your photography game. This is a “pinch me” experience, believe me!

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October 16th – 21st

Ros Atkinkson, Her_Dark_Materials on Instagram, will host our final workshop of the season. I invited Ros and selfishly told her I don’t care if it’s just she and I because I want to learn from her, and I want to walk around in her brain (I know I sound obsessed…and I am). Her still life photography moves me because the emotion and incredibly complex composition makes my heart sing. I was so pleased when she agreed to come and teach at La Fortezza. Apologies for all of the gushing, but I have a serious girl crush on Ros.

Come play with us! If you’re a fan of composition, food styling, photography or beauty in the highest form, please join us. Like I said, I’m happy if you can join us, and fine if you don’t because sharing Ros and her talent is going to be tough for me. There will be plenty of food, and wine and inspiration.

Who’s joining the fun in fall 2019? Book your spot today! 

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Coffee Table books: Style and Content

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I have the biggest stack of coffee table books on my studio coffee table. Everyone that passes it says, “WOW that’s a lot of books. You must love coffee table books!” Truth is, I do love all sorts of books including coffee table books, but the books in the studio are used for styling. Back in the day, I was only styling interiors for magazines, companies, and designers, so I needed lots of books as props.

I love decorative books for style and content. I only buy books that look great on the outside but also have some great inspiration on the inside. The list below are some of my absolute favorites. In fact, here are my 10 choices to start your own collection of coffee table books. Books are always a great investment. Spice up your coffee table with these gorgeous books:

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1. American Originals- William Abramowicz 

* Note Bill will be with us in Italy leading his own photography workshop October 9-14th at La Fortezza Workshops

2. The House that Pinterest Built- Diane Keaton

3. The Selby- Todd Selby

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4. Wabi Inspirations – Alex Vervoordt

5. House- Diane Keaton

6. Francois Halard

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7. The Wes Anderson Collection

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8. May I Come In?: Discovering the World in Other People’s Houses – Wendy Goodman

9. Simplicity- Nancy Braithwaite

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Watermelon Spritzer:: Let’s drink to spring!

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Let’s get ready for spring! Keith Robinson’s spring feature in Atlanta Magazine’s Home has the most delicious batched cocktail recipe, the watermelon spritzer. It’s perfect for spring and summer. Try it this weekend, and let me know what you think!

Thanks Keith!

Watermelon Spritzer
Serves 12

You will need:
– 6 cups watermelon juice
– 1 cups fresh lime juice
– 1 cups mint simple syrup
– 1 bottle white Bordeaux or white burgundy wine
– 1/2 bottle club soda
– Fresh mint, lime slices as garnish

To prepare:
In a pitcher combine all the ingredients and ice and stir. To serve add fresh mint and slice of lime as garnish to each glass.

Photo: The Raftermen

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