October 1, 2021
It was, say two months ago, basil season (I take it to be late August, though your basil-ing may vary), which is a fragrant green season indeed. Usually, one thinks: basil, an herb, used in cooking, see pesto, etc. However, I (and maybe others, too) also think: basil, an herb, used in making liqueurs and other drinkables, see Basil Grappa, etc. I first made Basil Grappa way back in the halcyon days of writing a book called Luscious Liqueurs (I originally saw the idea in a small Italian language pamphlet of liqueurs, and then tweaked it up a tiny bit), and it’s featured in said book, and I’ve been making it fairly regularly ever since – including this very year! It’s a straightforward recipe, just basil, grappa, simple syrup, and a little lemon juice for balance, and one that’s a little less sweet than some liqueurs. Why? Cause while I love the basil, I still wanted to let the grappa shine through, and not have its grappa-ness (that lovely grape-ness, vineyard-ness, and wine’s-older-brother-ness) completely smoothed away. This liqueur is, for those grappa neophytes, an easy path into the world of grappa by the way, grappa being a spirit that is mostly misunderstood here in the US, but one also that has many varieties (as many as wine itself, I suppose). While not always super available here (if you are US-based, that is), I’m finding more grappas around, but if you can’t track down a bottle, hound your local liquor store until they bring some in!
Basil Grappa Liqueur
1-1/2 cups fresh basil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3 cups grappa
1/2 cup simple syrup
1. Add the basil and lemon juice to a large glass container. Using a muddler or wooden spoon, muddle them together cozily.
2. Add the grappa to the container, and stir well. Put it in a cool dry place, and let everything get acquainted for two weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Add the simple syrup to the container, stir, and put back in that cool, dry place, once again, swirling.
4. Strain the Basil Grappa. I’d suggest once through a fine mesh strainer, then through cheesecloth – into a glass bottle, or a number of small bottles if you’d like to share (sharing is nice)!
February 12, 2021
Here’s something that may have confused you for years (heck, it confused me – maybe still does): citrus fruits, those sunny suntime suntreats, are often associated with gloomy old greytime cloudypants winter months. Weird, right? I suppose (this is how I’m telling it to myself at least, and, I guess, you) that it’s because said citrus fruit delivers said sunshine within these wintery grey months, a juicy daydream of the beach when the rain or snow or ice is descending from unfriendly skies. Why this fruity ramble? Well, as an intro way of saying that recently I felt the need to make a little Mandarino, the mandarin orange liqueur, to bring said sun beams into my glass and my dreary days, and, well, let me assure you that it did just that! I was hulu-ing and be-shorted in no time. I first made this, my version of Mandarino, way back for Luscious Liqueurs, and you can sip it solo, on ice, or as the orange component in a Margarita or other cocktail, any time of the year. Though maybe it’s best in winter.
6 Mandarin oranges
2 cups vodka
2 cups simple syrup
1. Wash, dry, and peel the oranges and 1/2 of the lemon, working to not end up with any of the white pith (if the Mandarin peels just slip off, as they often do, then scrap any excess pith off the inner sides with a paring knife). Put the peels in a glass container that gets cozy with its lid (meaning, the lid fits well). Use the fruit for juicing or cooking or just eating.
2. Add the vodka, stir a little, and seal. Place the container in a cool, dry spot away from the sun. Let it relax for two weeks, swirling every 3 or 4 days.
3. Add the simple syrup, stir well, and reseal. Leave the Mandarino to get pretty for two more weeks, stopping by to swirl every 3 or 4 days.
4. Strain the liqueur through double sheets of cheesecloth into a pitcher or other easy pouring vessel. Strain again through 2 new sheets of cheesecloth into bottles or jars, or one larger bottle or jar.
March 10, 2017
This favorite of mine recently popped up in conversation with a pal-of-mine (about orange things, funny enough), and it reminded me just how much I like it. Like it? I love it! It’s a wonderfully-balanced mix – if I can say so without sounding too full-of-myself, since I created it – with some ingredients that you don’t naturally think would go together in dark rum and Campari. But thanks to the edge-smoothing triple sec (I’d say go with homemade, if you can – there’s a recipe in Luscious Liqueurs) and the peacemaker, Perychaud’s bitters, everything plays nice. It’s always tasty fun to re-discover an old liquid friend. And this is one of my besties.
The Crimson Slippers, from Dark Spirits
2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce Campari
1/2 ounce triple sec
Dash of Peychaud’s bitters
Lime slice for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the rum, Campari, triple sec, and bitters. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass.
3. Squeeze the lime slice over the glass and drop it in without any mystery.
September 23, 2016
Many many many years ago (I can’t remember when, it was so dratted long ago), wife Nat talked me into buying a white currant tree (plant? small tree? shrub? I’m not sure which to go with) when we were at a garden store in Portland. We drove it back up to Seattle, put it in the side garden, and there it stayed, seen by few (as the side garden’s facing the alley), but a nice little plant, getting a stitch bigger every year in a slow-and-steady manner. It gave us a few stray white currants, then a few more, then a few more, then this year a solid harvest. Eating them isn’t for everyone – not a ton of fruit, a little bittery – but I like them fairly well. But I liked them even more when we decided to pick ‘em all and make a liqueur. It started like this:
with a harvest of currants in a big glass jar. Then time, spirit, sugar, and water took over (and some serious filtering), and we ended here:
At first, I wasn’t sure how it was going to come together. Mid-way, still wasn’t. But once all was strained and such, the end result is tip top – a little citrus, light, a little grape-y, and a small small bitter nudge. Delicious stuff, especially served up cold. I wish I had twice as much. C’mon little currant plant! I’m excited to try it in some cocktails, too. I know white currants aren’t just everywhere, but if you happen to be near a plant with some, harvest those up, and try them in the below.
Current Currant Liqueur
2 very full cups white currants
2-1/2 cups vodka
1 cup simple syrup
1. Add the currants to a large glass container with a good lid. Muddle slightly. Add the vodka, stir, and put that lid on it. Store in a cool dark place away from the sun. Let sit two weeks, swirling occasionally.
2. Open it back up, add the simple syrup, and stir well. Place it back in the cool dark place, and let sit two more weeks, swirling occasionally.
3. Strain – I went once through a decent fine strainer to get the fruit out, and then through cheesecloth to add more clarity. You might need a third straining, too.
December 11, 2015
Ho, ho, ho! This is what Santa drinks to stay warm as he’s delivering the gifts to all you (of age) boys and girls out there. At least the ones that have been good all year. And it’s also a drink that I created for a happening holiday hoe-down at the zesty Zinc recently. If you don’t know (well, why dontcha, first?), Zinc is an art, design, and interiors store in Edmonds, WA, perhaps the finest art, design, and interiors store anywhere ever. EVER! It has (as they say), an eclectically-curated selection that’s truly one-of-kind, and is the best stop if you need gifts. Then, you can also be like Santa, delivering great gifts while having one of these (as long as you aren’t delivering gifts in your car, of course. Don’t be silly.)
Speaking of gifts, I made this the first time with The London No. 1 gin, a small batch beaut made in the heart of London with 12 botanicals, a list including things like juniper (natch), and orange peel, to other more off-the-beaten-gin-path items like bergamot and cassia. All of which means a very individual gin, with layers of flavor. You may want that as a gift for yourself.
Sleigh Bells Ring
1-1/2 ounces The London No. 1 gin
1 ounce Strawberry Gold liqueur (See Note 1 below, and this is from Luscious Liqueurs)
1/2 ounce Red Hembarig (See Note 2 below)
2 dashes Fee Brothers cranberry bitters
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything but the reindeer. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Ho, ho, ho indeed!
Note 1: You should really pick up Luscious Liqueurs, but if you don’t have time today, here’s the recipe for Strawberry Gold, making about two pints. Gently wash 3-1/2 cups fresh strawberries and dry them on towels. When dry, remove the stems from the strawberries (I cut off the top of the strawberries, stems and all, due to the flesh around the stems being often not as sweet as the rest of the strawberry), and any blemished spots. Coarsely chop the strawberries and then add them (you should have 3-1/2 cups here) to a large glass container with a tight-fitting lid. Add 3 cups vodka to the container and stir well. Seal and place in a cool, dry spot, away from the sun. Let it sit, whirling the strawberries around the jar every 3-1/2 days. Add 1-3/4 cups simple syrup and 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla, stir and reseal. Return it to its spot. Let it sit for two more weeks, whirling the contents every other day. Filter the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Strain through double sheets of cheesecloth into a pitcher, jar, or other easy-pouring vessel. Strain again through 2 new layers of cheesecloth into bottles or jars that have good lids (or one large one).
Note 2: Red Hembarig is a raspberry-vinegar syrup that made people very happy in the past. And it will now make you happy, too. To make it, start by briefly muddling two cups raspberries in a bowl, then add 1-1/4 cups apple cider vinegar and stir briefly. Let it sit overnight. Then add the raspberry-vinegar combo plus 2 cups sugar and 1/2 cups water to a saucepan. Heat to a simmer and then let simmer for 10 minutes. Take the mix off the heat and let it cool completely in the pan. Once cooled, place it in a refrigerator and let it sit overnight. Then strain the Red Hembarig through a fine strainer. Keep it in the fridge.
June 10, 2014
Hello friends! Come have a couple free drinks made by me on June 14th, from 4 – 7 pm. What, you say, free drinks? Yes, I’m hosting a cocktail party at the awesome Zinc Art + Interiors,102 3rd Ave South, Edmonds, WA, on the 14th. I’ll be serving two drinks from
Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz, the award-winning Persephone’s Elixiar and the classic Lucien Gaudin – and I’ll be making the latter with the amazing Alpinist gin from the fine folks at the Seattle Distilling Company! I’ll also have two homemade liqueurs from Luscious Liqueurs for you to sample and they’ll be a few tasty treats from Party Snacks. All three books will be on sale alongside the finest art and interiors in the region! If you haven’t been to Zinc (which is packed with swell stuff and run by swell people) this is the perfect chance to go. If you need a drink, this is the perfect time to have one! See you there.
December 14, 2012
As the holidays approach like a sleigh driven by a tipsy elf, I find it’s good to have A: an easy-but-tasty homemade present ready to whip together as needed for a last minute gift and B: a delicious crafted and crafty sipper to whip together as needed for offices parties, friend parties, family parties, and tête-à-tête parties. This recipe for Chocolate Cream Liqueur, from Luscious Liqueurs, hits both A and B in the above equation, is memorable enough to make year after year, and doesn’t take more time than wrapping most gifts. So, as usual, I suggest giving the gift of booze this year – and homemade booze adds an even special-er touch.
Chocolate Cream Liqueur
Makes 2-1/2 pints
2 cups dark rum
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1. Put all of the ingredients in order (you want the rum to take the first plunge, to convince the other ingredients everything is okay) to a sturdy blender. Blend on high for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth and well-combined.
2. Pour the liqueur into 1 large bottle or a number of small bottles or jars with tight-fitting lids. Seal and refrigerate. You can serve this right away, and please consume within 2 weeks.
A Note: I suggest shaking the bottle in a serious manner before serving (unless you’re serving right after making it) to assure that no settling has occurred.