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.
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.
October 19, 2012
This is quite a continental moment here on the Spiked Punch. First, tonight, like I usually do on the continent, I ate too much. Then, to combat my over-indulging, I had a healthy dose of Elisir di Salvia, a digestif I made from a recipe taken out of a simply-named book, Tisane, Liquori and Grappe. I have no idea who it’s by, but it’s from the Demera Company and is Italian (which means I translated the recipe. Yeah, I do everything for you. But you deserve it). I picked it up in a little tucked away bookstore in Sansepolcro’s historic center, called Arca Dei Libri. Nice place, really. Only blocks from the can’t-miss-it restaurant Fiorintino. Anywho, Elisir di Salvia is a curious mix of stuff, and the taste reflects it: herb and spice sweetness at the beginning, mellowing Marsala middle, totally different backend flavor and kick. At first, I wasn’t sold, but now I think it’s a weird kind of genius drink. And yes, I felt better after having it after eating too much. Oh, when in the jar cooling its heels, it looks like this:
Elisir di Salvia
1 liter Marsala
1 cup fresh sage leaves
1 orange rind
2 cups high proof vodka or grain alcohol
1/2 cup warm water
1.6 cups sugar
1. Add the Marsala, sage, and orange to an airtight glass container airtight. Let sit for 10 days to two weeks. Shake at least once a day.
2. Dissolve the sugar in the water to make a syrup, let cool, and then add it and the vodka.
3. After 24 hours of rest (or a week, if you’re lazy like me), filter and transfer to a glass bottle. Take 1 shot from the liqueur in all cases of difficult digestion.
November 16, 2011
Earlier this week (see below) I talked about building a better Gin and Tonic (though the world didn’t beat a path to my door–yet) for pal Erika’s birthday. But we didn’t solely serve G&Ts at the birthday party, though they were quite fantastic. We also whipped out a new-old drink, or old-new, in honor of the occasion. See, I had some homemade blackberry liqueur around that was begging to be consumed in something bubbly and some nice recently-released local vodka begging for the same. I couldn’t resist the call, and so fashioned a drink based on one created for another pal, Rebecca (a recipe for The Rebecca, the drink, can be found in either Good Spirits or Champagne Cocktails, both of which I hope you have, cause we’re pals, right?). The Erikecca combines the two ingredients touched on above, Skip Rock vodka–a smooth, berry-friendly, potato vodka made in Snohomish, WA–and blackberry liqueur with a demi sec sparkling wine to lovely, and tasty, effect. It’s a drink worthy of a serious birthday celebration, or any old celebration. And, as some philosophers say it’s right to celebrate every day, that means you should have this drink every day. At least that makes sense to me.
1-1/2 ounces Skip Rock vodka
1-1/2 ounces blackberry liqueur
Chilled demi sec sparkling wine
Frozen blackberry, for garnish
Ice cube (if needed)
1. Add the vodka and the blackberry liqueur to a flute glass. Stir once or twice.
2. Fill the glass about three-quarters full with sparkling wine–carefully, though, so it doesn’t bubble over. Stir again, carefully, briefly, to introduce the vodka and the liqueur into the bubbly.
3. Garnish with the blackberry by dropping it into the glass. If your sparkling wine isn’t good and chilled, feel okay about adding one ice cube to keep this cool.
A Note: Not sure about making blackberry liqueur? Luckily, there’s a great recipe for one, called Always Bet on Blackberries, in Luscious Liqueurs. And yep, I’ve managed to link to three books in one post. Amazing.
September 16, 2011
I feel somewhat bad (I mean, not all-the-way bad, as if I’d spilled a Shoreditch Sombrero cocktail, but still sorta bad) cause I don’t have a super accurate and detailed recipe for today’s What I’m Drinking. Usually, I try to give you (and I do mean you) the opportunity to drink along with me by providing said recipe, but as this drink came about somewhat randomly I somewhat forgot to write down the measurements of what’s in it in a precise and helpful manner. Heck, I didn’t even come up with a snazzy name, and I pride myself, darnit, on the snappy-ness of my drink names (maybe I should have gone with Lant? Lavmi? Mive? LMG? Moving Lavender Gogh?). I suppose there’s still time. With all that said, here are the basics. I took a bunch of fresh lavender from the garden (the lavender was really the impetus for this liqueury drink, cause we have a lovely lavender plant), the flowers of course, about two cups, and added it to a sturdy glass container with about a cup and half fresh mint (we’ve also been lucky in the mint department this year), muddled them up a bit, then added a 750 milliliter bottle of grappa that I wasn’t sure I’d be sipping, stirred, and sealed:
I let that kick its heels for a couple weeks in my cool and dry storage room, stopping by to chat it up and swirl it around every day or so. Then I added (if memory serves) about a cup-and-a-quarter’s worth of simple syrup. I didn’t want it to be as sweetened as most liqueurs, but wanted to take the edge off the grappa a bit. You dig me? Then back down to that cool, dry spot away from the sun for a few weeks. Then I strained it a couple times through cheese cloth (those lavender pips can be tricky), bottled it, and Nat took this lovely pic:
It has a slightly floral taste, underlined with the mint and some other herbaceous-ness, but enough of a kick that it won’t be called a sissy anytime soon. I’ve been sipping it solo the last few nights but am tempted to try mixing it up with some flavorful gin or other choice items. Its flavor is singular enough that it may be tough to find the right match, but I’m game (as long as I don’t get away from the sipping solo, too, that is). If anything works out nicely, I’ll report back, okay?
July 19, 2011
Spent an afternoon on pal Jeremy Holt’s (he’s the co-author of Double Take, the finest book ever about serving vegetarians and meat-eaters together, as you may or may not know, and a virtuoso chef and cocktail- and booze-maker) back deck recently, reveling in one of the few sunshine-y summer days we’ve had so far here in Seattle. And naturally, as it was summer, he brought out some of his homemade limeoncello for us to sip. See, I think of limeoncello as the sun-god of liqueurs, and think some chilled limeoncello when there’s sun out is wonderful thing. Jeremy’s recent batch was perfect, lemon-y with a kick and a smidge of sweetness. I don’t think it was exactly as the recipe in Luscious Liqueurs, but if you want to make your own, the recipe in that book will get you there. The limeoncello we had went down easy and was a good combo with a few cold PBRs:
and was fantastic with a few fresh blueberries:
Here’s hoping we get at least a few more worthy summer days—and that Jeremy doesn’t run out of limeoncello.
April 21, 2009
Buon giorno pals (or buona serra, depending on what time of day your blog reading takes place). As anyone who read this blog post knows, I was recently in Italy for a couple weeks with wife Nat and some pals, and while there I had some, well, absolutely positively fantastico eats and drinks. And, lucky for you, I took pictures (and Nat took some, too), so you can experience the experience a little (and maybe plan a trip of your own). I’m going to do two things to relay trip gastronomic and alcoholic information in a more friendly fashion. First, I’m gonna break it up into three posts (or maybe more, but at least three): Bologna, Florence, and the countryside (which for the purposes of me in Italy is the Upper Tiber Valley area that covers a bit of southeast Tuscany and northwest Umbria). Second, I’m going to attempt to be a little less wordy, though I know, know, know (like a chant, that is) it goes against my personal wordy grain. But hey, what the heck.
So, to start, Bologna. Also known as Bologna la grassa, or Bologna the fat, due to its traditional place as a food center in Italy (if not the food center). We showed up and instantly loved it, with its arcades (nice to walk under when it’s raining), and red-hued architecture, and churches, and markets, and, especially with its food and drinks. We had our favorite meal of this trip while there, at a restaurant called De Cesari, at Via de’ Carbonesi, 8. Family owned and around for over 100 years, it’s a lovely little spot. All the produce comes from the family farm, and they even make their own wine. On the drink side we started with prosecco, then had the house lambrusco, which was full-bodied and lightly frizzante.On the food side, it was Sformatino con Formaggio al Tartufo (for A.J.–though we shared) and Crostata di Zucca (for Natalie). The sformatino was a light, cheesylicious pair of soufflé-esque creations topped with truffles (the sformatino was a little more dense, in the best way, than a regular soufflé, and so intense in taste):
and the crostata was a savory pumpkin pie that was out-of-this-world. Creamy but lush and full of flavor:
For our main courses, I had the Ravioli di Zucca, which was homemade ravioli stuffed with pumpkin. Fairly unadorned (just a brush of olive oil and freshly grated pecorino), this is, to me, pasta at its best–because the taste of the pasta is good enough to be allowed to strut its stuff, and then the stuffing busts through:
Nat had the Tortelloni di Ricotta al Burro Fuso e Parmigiano, which was also scrumptious, like bundles of cheesy joy wrapped in perfectly made and cooked pasta. But, as good was the pasta was, we definitely couldn’t stop there (we’re long-haul eaters), and so ordered up the cheese place, which boasted six different goat cheeses of varying strength and flavors, served alongside a fig compote that was figgy sweet with that thickness all jams strive for–a combination splendid enough to drive eaters mad with joy:
And then, to add to our little culinary heaven, we had the chocolate tort. Now, if we would have ended it all then, and called it a night, this would still be one of my favorite meals on the trip (and perhaps of all time).
But we asked friendly waiter Gaetano for limoncello and amaro, to aid the digestion (a healthy practice I tend to practice), and when he reported that they were out of limoncello, he offered us some of the house digestif. You know (if you know me at all) that the phrase “house digestif” drives me mad, mad, mad with happiness I tell you. It came out in a bottle that had a block of ice frozen around it, and in the ice were fruits, flowers, herbs, and such. Amazing! But the digestif itself was even better, a blueberry-infused grappa, with strong berry overtones and that grappa kick and personality underneath (and served with, catch this, chocolate covered orange peels, mini biscotti, and raisins). If you go to Bologna and don’t visit De Cesari, well, you have only yourself to blame. Get on a plane. Go there now.
And then for your next meal, stop by the charming Osteria La Mura, at Vicolo del Falcone, 13/A (which is right across from the hotel we stayed at and heartily recommend, San Mamolo), owned by Peppino, who is welcoming, affable, witty, and happy to pour you a Strega when you wander in at 1 am:
The nicest guy in Bologna, I believe. We had lunch at La Mura (the day after the late-night Strega), and it was as tasty as Peppino is friendly. We started with Caprese salads, and the fresh bufala mozzarella was rich and creamy and cuddled up with pals tomato, basil, olive oil, and pepper:
Then, we dove into plates of Gnocchetti Sardi al Cavofiore, which is a bit hard to describe but luscious to eat: like a gratin of mini gnocchi, finely chopped cauliflower, herbs, and cheese, with a touch of crisp on the top edges:
And if that wasn’t a grand enough way to start the day (remember, the night before, 1 am, Strega, equals sleeping late), Peppino brought us out his trio of house digestifs: plum, orange, and basil. In beautiful little bottles, and bursting with fresh fruit and herb flavors (again with a touch of ka-pow due to the grappa undertones, which also add a bit more flavor, too), these helped give us the jump start we needed:
Just thinking about those meals makes me want to grab a taxi, race to the airport, scrounge a ticket to Bologna, and pray I can get in to each restaurant without a reservation. We had other good meals, snacks, and drinks, in Bologna, as well, but since this post is longer than Sookie’s tail already, I’m going to rest on the above laurels. Oh, with two more quick shout outs. We stopped multiple times at Pasticceria D’azeglio, on Via Massimo Dazeglio, which was right around the corner from our hotel (there are two versions, and I suggest the smaller one), for bubbly spritzes (prosecco and Aperol and an orange slice) in the afternoons (accompanied by a mini-buffet of snacks the bartenders would always whip out). I with no reservations recommend this afternoon practice no matter where you are:
And, finally, a sort-of fist-shaking-while-laughing nod to the cozy and hippish Rosa Rosae, Via Clavature, 18/b, where we ordered spritzes but got espressos, which we then drank out of honor (I mean, they made them for us). And now Nat has the espresso monkey firmly attached to her back:
Ciao bellas, until Italy-on-the-road-take-two.