Dear Jackie: 01

Hi All,

It’s 14 East’s Jackie back again, and I am so excited to publish my first column. This week’s issue covers tips on spicing up your Zoom backgrounds and, because this week is 14 East’s food issue, some DePaul-inspired cocktails that you can make at home.

Have another question or idea you want me to cover? Send me a letter through this form. If this is our first time meeting, hello! I’m happy that you found my column and invite you to read this letter I wrote to everyone introducing myself a bit better.


I asked around on staff for ideas of topics to cover and was presented with a request for cheap, easy tips to dress up a Zoom background. With the holidays almost upon us, I thought I might go a step further and share how you can not only spice up your Zooming space but also decorate for the season.

First, I would like to share a video I found from the YouTube channel Farmhouse Vernacular. In it, Paige, who runs the channel, shares some of her insight into how basic glass containers, vases, baskets and candlesticks bought from your local thrift store can be easily adapted for the seasons.

For example, jars lined up atop a dresser can be filled with ornaments for Christmas or Reese’s Pieces for Halloween, giving a completely different look, with little effort or cost. Using candlesticks, black candles can give a spooky feel, while pastels brighten up the look for spring. Nestle in some small holiday decorations like pumpkins or silk flowers to enhance the look.

I like Paige’s tips because the reuse of the basic elements like the glass containers, candlesticks and baskets all year round means I don’t have to find space in my apartment to store bulky pieces of seasonal decor. I can simply swap out a few little details in the set-up and come up with an entirely new look with items that take up less space than a shoebox.


Another easy addition to change up your background might come in the form of a temporary wall decoration. Tapestries, DIY wreaths or photos hung with command strips are all easy and apartment or dorm room friendly options. If you’re feeling extra crafty, take a trip to the dollar store to stock up on some cheap stick-and-peel wallpaper – it’s landlord friendly and an unexpected way to completely change the feel of a room on a budget, too.


If you’re like me, you may be looking for some fun, safe and creative ways to relieve stress and celebrate right now. So, in honor of 14 East’s Food Issue II, I’ve pulled together some DePaul-inspired cocktail recipes for you to try at home. If you do happen to try one of these at home, tag me at #14EastJackie and tell me your favorite!

Recipe no. 1

This bright red cocktail is a crowd-pleaser that is the perfect drink to warm you up in the coming colder months. The ginger and bourbon feel reminiscent of the changing of the seasons in Chicago, and the cranberry not only gives it a great pop of color but also brings a bit of festivity to the drink.

The Recipe:

1 1/2 oz. bourbon (I used Ezra Brooks)

1 oz. cranberry juice

1/2 oz. lemon juice

3/4 oz. grenadine

Chilled Ginger Beer to taste

Non-alcoholic version:

2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or non-alcoholic bourbon, like Kentucky 74

2 oz. cranberry juice

1/2 oz lemon juice

3-5 drops red food coloring

Chilled Ginger beer to taste


Pour all into a cocktail mixer with ice and shake until cold. I served mine with blueberries for a pop of DePaul blue.

Recipe no. 2

This version of the 14 East cocktail mixes gin, Blue Curacao, St-Germain liqueur and Jeppson’s Malört to create a bright blue drink with a martini-like taste. The bitterness of the Malört leaves a Chicago-centric bite that mixes with the Curacao and the St-Germain to create a sweet, sour and crisp flavor palette. Garnish with a maraschino cherry for a hint of DePaul red alongside the blue.

The Recipe:

1 oz. gin (I used New Amsterdam Stratusphere)

1 oz. Blue Curacao

3/4 oz. St-Germain liqueur (any other elderflower liqueur will do just as fine)

1/4 oz. Malört (omit for a sweeter flavor)

Non-alcoholic version: 

1 oz. juniper syrup (get a recipe for it here)

1 oz. lemon juice

1 oz. simple syrup flavored with a few drops of orange flower water (get simple syrup recipe here)

3-5 drops blue food coloring


Pour all into a cocktail mixer with ice and shake until cold. Serve with a maraschino cherry for garnish.

Recipe no. 3

I wouldn’t have thought to mix bourbon with red wine, but I have Tasting Table to thank for this drink’s inspiration. Any red wine will do. The sweeter the wine, the sweeter the drink, and vice versa. However, I found out the hard way that the brighter red the wine the better. Mine came out more purplish than the typical DePaul red thanks in no small part to my using of a deep red wine. Throw a blueberry or two on top to complete the school colors and enjoy.

The Recipe:

1 oz. bourbon (I used Ezra Brooks)

3 oz. your preferred red wine (I used one from Field House)

3/4 oz. lemon juice

1/2 oz. simple syrup (optional)

Non-alcoholic recipe

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 oz. grape juice

3/4 oz. lemon juice

1/2 simple syrup (optional)


Pour all into a cocktail mixer with ice and shake until cold. Garnish with a blueberry.


As always, my inbox is always open for anyone in need of advice of any sort. You can reach me by filling out this form or learn more about my column here.

I hope you all have a safe, fun weekend and hope to speak with you all again real soon!





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If you are a DePaul student are experiencing substance misuse, the university’s Office of Health Promotion and Wellness has a variety of educational programs and support groups.


Header image by Phoebe Nerem