Hey, look at that – Halloween is just days away! You know what Halloween means, right? Beyond candy stomach aches for kids, dentists cackling with joy, neat decorations, music that goes bump in the night, and Indian food (at my house, at least), that is? That’s right, it’s Warlock time. The Warlock is of course a non-spooky drink of brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters that when consumed turns one into an unworldly sorcerer. Check out the below video for proof, or I’ll come haunt you!
Well, it’s nearly Halloween, and that means it’s time for one of the traditions here at Spiked Punch, the one where I drink a Warlock cocktail and turn into a zombie magician of sorts. Oh, the Warlock is a good drink, too, well worthy of your spooky celebrations, with brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters. I can’t wait to drink it, consequences be darned. You should take the same stance this October.
This is the day before Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, everybody make a Warlock, drink it down till the neighbors gonna die of delight; it’s your drink, everybody scream, on the day before Halloween.
Okay, as you know, every year near Halloween I do three things – sing the above song, have a Warlock (made with brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters), and turn into a zombie magician. This year is no different.
The Princess (created by my wife, Princess Nat) is one of my favorite summer drinks. It clicks all the hot weather boxes: super easy to make, super refreshing, super tasty. Just super. I suggest having one right now, if your locale has temperatures that have risen above, say, 75. Make a bunch, have some friends over, and kick up yer summertime heels. Just don’t forget the suntan lotion. Oh, wait, one thing! Originally, and usually, the Princess has raspberries, but as you’ll see in the below picture, today I’m making it with blueberries. Because they looked better than the raspberries! Hence the Princess B moniker. You can go either way and be assured of loving this drink. Trust me, friends, trust me.
1-1/2 ounces limoncello
5 or 6 fresh blueberries
Chilled club soda
1. Fill a Collins glass (or another glass – don’t sweat about it, just adjust the amount of limoncello if needed. You’ll know) three quarters full with ice cubes. Add the limoncello.
2. Fill the glass to about a half-inch from the top with the club soda. Add the fresh blueberries. Stir slowly, but with purpose. Don’t be afraid (actually you’re encouraged) to bust up the berries a little. You want to stir until every ingredient is well combined.
In an earlier post, I talked about football, football season, and having better drinks at your football parties. My suggestion there was that you call an audible over your past party selections and serve an Audible cocktail. It’s a good plan. However, the Audible (drink) is a strong mix, and after a couple, you may need to go on the defensive, so you make it until the end of the fourth quarter, and overtime, perhaps. With that in mind, at some point when the emotion is high, move to The Defensive Formation, which will refresh and perhaps balance things out. It still has a strong kick, but it’s mellowed some — but it could still hit the game-winning field goal from 45 out as time ticks down. Don’t think that it can’t.
Though this is Halloween week, making it the ideal time of year for a ghoulishly good (gawd, it’s fun to get yr Halloween speak on) mix like the Warlock, it really brings a magical charm to any evening. Well, any evening that you’re feeling like a yummily mystical mixture of brandy, Strega, limoncello, orange juice, and Peychaud’s bitters (which should really be any evening, now that I think about it). Click on through to the below video and learn the exact tricks to making it, but be warned!!! It can change you into a conjuring zombie. But now you know.
I spent a few hours straining and straining liqueurs yesterday (in anticipation of the liqueurs book release–hey, there’s my first book plug. I’m shameless), which is always a good time. Especially because tasting them is an important part of the process. The ones I worked on started with limoncello, the sun king of liqueurs, and a favorite, and really the main impetus behind my whole crazy homemade liqueur obsession. It began when my wife Natalie and I went to Italy for the first time and had a lot of limoncello, both house-made and store bought, and fell in love with its strong-but-pleasant lemon-ness. Then, on returning home, we found that the available limoncellos here didn’t have the same backbone, and tended to be overly sweet. So, we thought, why not make our own? It’s devilishly simple, and allows a lot more control. We loved constructing it (and sipping it, ice cold, and pouring it into drinks) so much that we ended up throwing together a gigantic batch before our wedding, so we could give little bottles to everyone in attendance and spread the love around. You can see the lemons close up in the below photo–don’t they look a little tipsy?
Hanging out in grain alcohol (which is a must to reach that desired strength) for a month tends to induce tipsiness even among lemonkind, I suppose. The limoncello goes well solo, when ice cold, but is dreamy as well with club soda, and, in certain situations, when combined with other ingredients.
Millifiori (or, a million flowers) is another Italian-inspired liqueur, one that’s very herbally and spicy. In the close-up shot here, it may look like it contains worms, but have no fear worm champions–no worms were used in the making of this liqueur–it does have a little lemon zest in it, cozying up with a host of other items (including coriander, mint, cardamom, cloves, mace, marjoram, thyme), with an end result that’s very layered, and which has a number of flavorful notes coming through during a single sip.
It’s one to use carefully if experimenting with it cocktails and other drinks (I’m experimenting now, and hope to have a good recipe using it later in the blog).
Oh, the final liqueur I was working on today is fennel-based, and a completely new recipe for me (nice and simple, solely fennel, the liquor, and simple syrup). From my first tastings, it seems to have a good balance of sweet and fennel (let’s hope I didn’t go overboard on the sweet. It’s a dangerous road). We’ll see how it plays out.
Here’s the recipe for the limoncello, nice and delicious.
1 liter grain alcohol
3 cups simple syrup
1. Peel the lemons, working to leave the white pith with the lemon, and not taking it with the peels. Add the peels to a large, glass, container that is at least 2 liters in size and that has a good lid.
2. Add the grain alcohol to the glass container and then secure the lid. Place it on a cool and dry and secure shelf, away from the sun. Let it sit for two weeks.
3. Once the two weeks have passed, add the 3 cups simple syrup. Stir, lid, and let sit two more weeks.
4. After the waiting is over, strain the mix through double sheets of cheesecloth into a pitcher or other container.
5. Then, using new sheets of cheesecloth, strain the limoncello into bottles or jars.
The Man Behind the Evening's PlansA.J. Rathbun is a freelance food and entertainment writer, poet and author, a frequent guest on the Everyday Food program (Martha Stewart Living/Sirius satellite radio), and is a contributor to culinary & entertainment magazines such as Every Day with Rachael Ray, The Food Network Magazine, Real Simple, Wine Enthusiast, and many others. Of course, there's so much more to it than that...Read More