January 14, 2022
Way back last year (haha, I kid, I kid – I mean, it was last year, but solely weeks ago, not months) right before Christmas I had a recipe for a delicious (said humbly) Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur. It was so delicious (said, again, humbly, or ‘umbly, if you’re feeling like Uriah Heep in David Copperfield), and a hit around the holiday fires, that I had to make another one to satisfy all the requests. But instead of making another batch of the same version, because where would be the fun in that?, I decided to tweak the recipe, and then tweak a little more, to move into new territory. It is the new year! Though, admittedly, my tweaks did make this almost more winter-holiday-y, which leads to the name Holly Jolly. See, I went with a few winter-y spices (cinnamon, ginger), and also changed the base to vodka slightly infused with mandarin orange zest and juice (mandarins seem a little winter holiday-y to me, too). But it’s still lush and lovely and velvety and creamy, just veering off in the flavor hints. A hit, me thinks (humbly, of course).
Holly Jolly Homemade Cream Liqueur
1-2/3 cups vodka
Peel (pithless as possible) and juice from 1 mandarin orange
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tablespoons chocolate syrup
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1. Add the vodka and mandarin peel and juice to a good-sized glass container with a lid. Let sit in a cool, dry spot at least a week, swirling occasionally.
2. Strain the combo from Step 1 through cheesecloth into a pitcher, and then pour the mandarin-bit-less vodka into a blender (or just strain straight into the blender, but do make sure you get the bits strained out).
3. Add all the other ingredients to the blender. Blend well. Pour the mixture (using a funnel if needed) into a large (at least 1-1/2 liters) or a number of small bottles or jars. Seal, and put into the refrigerator. Consume within two weeks.
December 23, 2021
Here we are, Christmas Eve Eve, and if you’ve been putting off your holiday gift buying, well, I’ve been there (this is all if you’re someone who celebrates this particular winter holiday). I am, however, this time, here to help. Because, the best gifts – or at least near the top of the list – are homemade liqueurs that you’ve made yourself with care and love and give to someone. I can hear you saying, “wait, A.J., don’t homemade liqueurs take time to make and to get all the goodness good?” and you, friend, are right, in the main. However! There are a few delicious delights in Luscious Liqueurs (the book I wrote of homemade liqueurs, if that doesn’t sound too haughty), not a lot, not even a handful, that are meant to made right before consuming. Meaning, you can make them today, and gift them tomorrow or the next day. One of them is the very recipe below, for homemade Irish Cream Liqueur, a recipe that I first got the bones of from old pal Tara. It’s good to have old pals! And this recipe – again, if it doesn’t sound too haughty – beats the virtual pants off any big brand Irish Cream Liqueur. So, whip (or blend) it up, put on a nice label and bow, remind the gift-receiver to keep it in the fridge, and bask in the glow of their thanks and praise for your tasteful present. Then maybe they’ll give you a sip.
Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur, from Luscious Liqueurs
Serves 4 to 6
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
1-2/3 cups Irish whiskey
1 teaspoon instant coffee (see Note below)
2 Tablespoon chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1. Add all of the ingredients in any order you want to a sturdy blender. Blend on a medium setting for a full minute, making sure that everything is completely combined.
2. Pour the mixture (using a funnel if needed) into a large (at least 1-1/2 liters) or a number of small bottles or jars. Seal, and put into the refrigerator before gifting.
A Note: Last time I made this, I used coffee itself instead of the grounds (it was Bustelo, if you know that lovely stuff), and it worked a treat. You be you.
December 10, 2021
Hey hey howdy-o holidays (the winter variety) are nearly upon us, and for reasons known only to the back part of my brain (and it ain’t talking) I tend to smoothly smooth my way into sweeter, creamier drinks about now. Well, maybe I can come up with some reasons. First, they tend to match all those Christmas-and-other-winter-holiday desserts perfectly. Second, on the creamy-side, these drinks often look like little winter-snow-wonderlands, at least those in dreams (and dreams are free, as the song says). Third, hmm, I get cold and drinking a lot of Alexanders and their brethren helps insult me. Does that work? The Silk Stocking definitely works as a holiday treat in the set up I’ve just set up. It’s an Alexander relation indeed, though slightly different. Well, one big difference: tequila instead of gin! That’s big. Then, the ratios in the recipe I use are slightly different than the classic Alexander’s (which is, of course, the king of dessert drinks), and I like them here cause that slightly smoky tequila-ness is allowed to shine, and allowed to mingle more firmly with the chocolate-y crème de cacao, while still having the cream to dress things up like a nice holiday suit (one snow white). A little cinnamon on top, and, delicious is unwrapped like a favorite present with each sip. Yummski.
The Silk Stocking
1-1/2 ounces tequila blanco
1-1/2 ounces crème de cacao
1 ounce heavy cream
Grated or ground cinnamon, for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the three holiday liquid pals. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a dusting of cinnamon.
A Note: My guess is there are a few Silk Stocking cocktails around – it’s such a delightful and frisky name. But this particular lineup matches it best. In my humble opinion, as they say, of course.
January 29, 2021
Decided to end the month with one more non-alcoholic delight, in honor of those taking part in the now-annual booze-skipping known as dry January. This drink’ll be like the dessert at the end of the month’s n/a meal, as it’s a rich charmingly chocolate treat, one that has enough tang to balance all that lush loveliness out. In a way, it’s based on the canonical creamy cocktail classic (a favorite of mine!) called the Alexander, which also features a trio in equal parts, one of which there and here is cream. In the Alexander, the other two are gin and cream de cacao, whereas here we have orange juice and chocolate syrup. It’s a drink that demands some good solid shaking to get the combination mix level you want, and to keep that sweetness smooth and make the mix mighty fine.
The End Most Sweet
1 ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
1 ounce heavy cream
1 ounce chocolate syrup
Peppermint stick, for garnish (optional)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add our three sweet and friendly ingredients. Shake very well, quickly.
2. Strain (though a fine strainer if you’re worried about pulp) into a cocktail glass, and garnish with the peppermint stick, if you want. I go a little back-and-forth, as sometimes that hit of peppermint is perfect, and some days I’m just not feeling it. You see how you feel, and go forth sweetly.
April 12, 2019
Here’s something that’ll be no surprise to you, pal (as you’ve read this blog for years and years, and know me so well, and all that): I’m not opposed to a good dessert drink. Actually, I’m a dessert drink proponent, and feel that in our modern must-be-brown-and-bitter (I like brown and bitter, too, by the by) culture, sometimes people frown at slightly creamier and sweeter sippers – but not me! Anyway, the king of the dessert drinks, and an overall classic since 1916, is the Alexander, and I’m a big fan of its perfectly-balanced balance. I’ll have one fairly regularly (like, every six months or some such), but recently I was craving one and realized – GASP! – I was out of crème de cacao! What’s a boy to do? Well, I’m not one to sit around and not have a drink at all just being due to one missing ingredient. Instead of making sorrows, I make solutions! And really bad sayings, hahaha. In this case, my solution was subbing in another component that has the crème de cacao’s sweetness and flavor to the drink – though a different flavor as instead of chocolate, see, I went nutty, with Dumante Verdenoce pistachio liqueur. Really! Made with care in Italy using Sicilian pistachios, it’s a lush sipper and goes perfectly with gin and cream here. Perfectly I say! The combo retains the original’s smooth velvety-ness, with the gin accents and now some nutty nuttiness. Lovely! Especially when topped with a shake of cinnamon sugar, which I did!
1 ounce gin
1 ounce heavy cream
1 ounce Dumante Verdenoce pistachio liqueur
Shake of cinnamon sugar
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add our trio (gin, cream, liqueur). Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Give a little shake of cinnamon sugar over the drink. Yum it up.
November 9, 2018
I’m just gonna quote one of my favorite headnotes here (I know, I know, vulgar to quote myself, but what the heck), from Good Spirits:
“It’s as if I never left. In a canoe. On the longest river in Europe, the Volga. Ice in every direction. Bears and bear-like animals along the banks. A storm railing against that canoe for every one of the 2,300 miles. Crazy birds circling, waiting for the canoe crash to pick the remains clean from splinters. Water splashing over the sides like a curse. And then the sturgeon with their beady eyes tracing my progress from the deep pockets. The banks birthing jagged rock after jagged rock, taunting me with possible capsize after capsize. But did I worry? No sir, and no ma’am. I poured a Volga and sat backed and smiled. If you’re every stuck on a long river, I suggest doing the same.”
This is made even better if you use Sidetrack Distillery’s Cassis, which is tarty, fruity, and awesome-y.
2 ounces vodka
3/4 ounce cream de cassis
1/2 ounce heavy cream
Two raspberries for garnish
1. Fill a cocktail shaker half way with ice cubes. Add the vodka, cassis, and cream. Shake well.
2. Add the two raspberries to a cocktail glass. Strain the mix into the glass. Za vashe zdorov’ye!
May 3, 2013
Some days, I want to drink a drink with banana in it (rare days, but sure). Some days, I also want to wear a bowler hat, walk around the house saying “pip, pip” and talking in perhaps the worst English accent of all time. Some days, I also like to have a bit of gin. Some days, I’ve been known to don spats. Some days, I’ll read Agatha Christie until my eyes get tired. Some days, I do every single one of the aforementioned things at the same time. On those days, I’ve probably had more than one Silver Jubilee (using this recipe from Ginger Bliss and the Violet Fizz).
2 ounces gin
1 ounce crème de banana
1/2 ounce heavy cream
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the gin, crème de banana, and heavy cream. Shake well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. If you’re having one of those days, garnish with a piece of dark chocolate and a thick banana round.