Make It: Limoncello Part Two

It’s been two weeks and it’s time for part two of making Limoncello.

First, take out that bag of lemon juice that’s been in the freezer. This was from the 4 lemons you zested two weeks ago… What? You forgot and threw them away? Fine, go squeeze 4 lemons and come back here.

Next thing you need to do is strain out the lemon zest that you’ve been shaking around everyday. You’ve been doing that, right? Good.

Depending on which way you went, you may have to strain twice. Since I used a combination of fine zest and strips of lemon peel, I had to do it twice. First strain went into a large pyrex measuring glass using a fine mesh strainer. I pushed down a bit on the zest to try and release as much liquid as possible. Then I decided to switch jars I was using, mainly because I could use this giant jar for another project (coming soon!). The second strain I used an extra-fine mesh strainer to make sure I got most of the floaty bits. While you’re doing this you should go ahead and start making the simple syrup.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Combine water and sugar in a sauce pan and put over low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. You might want to gently swish the pan around at first just to help with the dissolving. Then take the pan off the heat and allow to cool completely. Once cool, combine the simple syrup and lemon juice and pour into the vodka mixture. Now cover it tightly and let it sit for 6 weeks in a cool, dark place. In 6 weeks come back here for the exciting conclusion!

No wait! Come back all the time for drink recipes!

Yet another creation that looks like a big jar of pee...

Springtime Gin Fizz

Admit it. You love smelling your fingers after you’ve gone and picked some herbs.

Ok, well I do. Last year we finally got around to redoing our front ‘yard’ that was admittedly turning into an eyesore for the neighborhood. One tree was dead. There was a bush that was trying to kill itself from lack of water. And tall phallic things were shooting out of some leafy succulents. It was scary looking. With the help of a friend of mine who moonlights doing landscape design, we finally got our shit together. Now the front of our house looks presentable, and is flanked by two lavender bushes and rosemary crawling all over the bottom half of it. It smells lovely walking by it.

We use rosemary a lot since we’ve put those in. And as soon as we planted it last year I went out and made a rosemary gin fizz that was made from the simple syrup in this recipe. At least two of my friends have received this syrup as part of a gift over the last year. And now I’ve come full circle and I’m not about to give the same rosemary syrup as a gift. And as spring approaches I thought I’d add some floral notes to this syrup and then combine it with some bright citrus to tide me over until the weather stops doing things like have the sun out shining for the first couple hours of the day and then have temperatures PLUNGE and clouds come rushing in. Sigh. And I want to move to Portland… Hrmm.

So I tinkered with the rosemary and lavender outside and made them into a simple syrup. Found here. And then decided on making a Springtime Gin Fizz.

2-1/2 oz Gin (I used Hendrick’s to add a touch more floral note to the drink)
1 oz Meyer Lemon Juice
1 oz Rosemary Lavender Simple Syrup
Club Soda

Spring of rosemary for garnish (optional- you may find this too overpowering in your glass. If so, toss it and enjoy the drink as is.)

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Pour gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in. Mix with a bar spoon and top off with club soda. Garnish if you like.

Keep in mind that the simple syrup here is not a typical ratio and will not produce very sweet results. The meyer lemon juice here makes up for that. However, if you are using regular lemons, you will need to taste and adjust according to your desire of sugar. And the lavender? Very subtle. Don’t worry, it’s not going to smell like your Grandmother’s purse. The lavender creates some soft floral nose that I feel works well with the Hendricks. Fizzy springtime in a cup.

 

Squeeze Those Lemons

For a couple weeks now I have been racking my brain trying to come up with ideas on how to use all these lemons I have. And keep getting. Then the other night while I was cutting open a lemon to use for a drink and having to dirty up a knife, and a cutting board, and my fingers… I thought how much simpler this would be to just have a large amount of the freshly squeezed stuff on hand. Duh.

Bar professional after bar professional keeps stressing how important it is to have fresh squeezed juices on hand for drinks. But really, citrus season lasts only so long. And I do not have a food service truck arriving at my back door daily with crates of produce to use. So for those of us who are more than likely at our house mixing drinks, when it is that time of the year for citrus, squeeze the crap out of those lemons, and limes, and if you want to then some oranges too. Measure them out, pour into ziplock bags and freeze them. Bam. Juice when you need it. Now, I am still for using the alive lemon when on hand. But I like the idea of having a nice big stash on hand too.

I just finished zesting some lemons for the limoncello recipe and was annoyed at the fact that the recipe I had on hand said to wait a couple weeks and use new lemons. Why? Go ahead and juice the lemons you just used, label the bag and stick it in the freezer. Then you just need to defrost the bag maybe the night before you know you will need to use the juice. No waste. I hate wasting food and you should too. 

Make It: Limoncello Part One

I thought I had cut most of the lemons off my mother-in-law’s lemon tree (bush?) a couple weeks ago.. but we were back down to visit and I find myself trekking back from Orange County with two shopping bags full. One can only make so much lemon curd before you’ve gained 10 pounds and your mouth is burning from acid overload.. So I got a jar of them preserving with some salt.. and I thought I’d try my hand at making some Limoncello too. Apparently it takes some time though, so this is definitely a project. With deadlines! (I made some notes on my phone calendar to remind me when to do things like strain and bottle.)  But hopefully by the time this is done I will want lemons again.

Part One:
Slightly adapted from: Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects

1-1/2 Cups 100 Proof Vodka (I am using Stolichnaya here because that is what I found at Bevmo that was a high enough proof vodka. You want a high proof since you will be cutting it later with juice and simple syrup)
Zest of 4-5 Meyer Lemons (save the lemons! juice them up, seal in a ziplock and freeze it!)

First, the recipe specifically calls out not to use Meyer lemons in the book. However since that is all I have I will just have to try it and see what happens. If it produces a mellower, sweeter Limoncello, so be it.

Anyways, throughly clean a jar and tight fitting lid with soap and warm water, dry it, and pour in the vodka. I wasn’t sure if the recipe meant FINE zest of lemons, or large sections of zest of lemons. So I did both. The original recipe points out that you don’t want to have much of the white pith on there and if you use a microplane zester, you probably won’t have that problem. However, if you try to get clever and attempt to zest off large sections of skin with a paring knife, like I first tried, you will probably end up with a considerable amount of pith and a sore wrist. If you are a seasoned professional in the art of zesting and you’re rolling your eyes at my inability to do this, then please proceed with your amazing knife skills. I found it easiest to just zest right over the mouth of the jar and periodically tap the microplane against it releasing any build up of the zest. I also tried the paring knife trick over the jar as well, in case any lemon juice got loose.

Then all you have to do is seal up your jar, swish the vodka around to collect any bits of zest that didn’t make it down to the liquid and wait two weeks. Yes, two weeks. And you need to shake it up every day too. I told you this was a project. Since I’ve been reading the Joy of Mixology one of the tips Gary Regan has in his section on infused liquids is to keep it somewhere you will see it everyday. That way when you walk by it you can shake it up and move on. Oh, and please keep it out of direct sunlight and not in a place that will get too warm.

Look for part two….in two weeks.

Electric Sidecar

A couple months ago my husband went to this reading an author was giving, and I guess to make things more interesting they also had a white elephant gift exchange (that’s the only reason I could think of for holding one). You all know what a white elephant gift exchange is right? That’s when people bring really stupid gifts and then exchange them.. trying to be ironic, or hip or something. Anyways, he came home with this bottle of liquor that was all in Japanese and what he claimed was “like Jägermeister”. But from Japan. The box looked like something from a 70’s dollar store and that alone kept me from even opening and smelling it for this whole time. Until now. Maybe because it’s become a staple on the shelf in the kitchen that I have found myself warming up to it. Oh good morning weird unknown Japanese liquor. No, I don’t think I will try you today. Maybe tomorrow.

Well now the day has come. But first, obviously, I had to look it up on the internet and figure out what the hell it was first. Oh, it’s called Denki Bran. And this article I found in The Japan Times Online sums it up as a “blend of brandy, gin, wine, vermouth, curacao and herbs”. Dang. That’s a lot of crap in there already.

Seeing that brandy made the first in the list of ingredients… well, this list. And also according to the article, Bran is Japanese for Brandy? (In the 5 minutes I spent looking around the internet I couldn’t confirm this so I’ll just be lazy for now and assume the person is probably correct) I wanted to use this in place of a Brandy base. After looking around for some ideas I landed on the Sidecar. And trying to be really clever with naming a drink, and that denki is Japanese for electricity, I have named this the Electric Sidecar.

1-1/2 oz Denki Bran
3/4 oz of Triple Sec
1 oz of Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice (I used Meyer Lemons since I have bags of them hanging around the house right now)
granulated sugar for sugared-rim garnish

Shake all of the ingredients in a shaker with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass with sugared rim.

This took a couple passes and ultimately I had to decrease the triple sec and up the lemon juice. Perhaps because the meyer lemon juice is sweet as it is, the drink needed to have the sweet of the triple sec toned down. The Denki Bran has some anise flavor, some citrus notes but also at the same time is sharp and woodsy. Maybe because it’s packed with so many ingredients. The biting medicinal taste of the liquor all but disappears when mixed here, adding some savory notes to the intense citrus in the drink.

Alright, my copy of the Joy of Mixology arrived in the mail. I’m going to go bury myself in that for a couple days and come back with some fizzy drinks and a bunch of recipes on how to use up bags of lemons that are crowding your kitchen counters.

Mixology Monday: Some Like It Hot- Hot Buttered Warm Up Drink!

Hot alcoholic drinks bring me back to being sick as a kid and having a dad who was extraordinarily inept when it came to dealing with these things. I guess he was just doing what his mom did to him when he was sick and a kid.. passing down old world traditions of giving hot whiskey and honey to a coughing child. Occasionally I still will mix one up when the temperature in L.A. drops down below 50, which it has been doing lately. Waking up the other morning and looking out to see a palm tree in the foreground and a snow covered mountain in the background made me take a second glance. And then a third. And then I broke out the camera and emailed a photo to my parents back east to prove we do have weather out here. Oh but you came here for a drink recipe! Let’s talk about that!

This post is my entry into this month’s Mixology Monday. It’s my first, which may not be so shocking since there are only a handful of posts on this here site (the blog may be new, but my interest in cocktails goes back a-ways). And it is hosted over at The Backyard Bartender. Hosted virtually. The drink is a Hot Buttered Warm Up. It doesn’t really indicated anything about the drink except there may be some butter in it and it’s hot. Part of the titling is that warm drinks go down easy and after several I can’t remember what they’re really called and default to calling them ‘Warm Ups’. Cause they do that to you.

1 T of Cardamom, Vanilla, and Muscovado Sugar Compound Butter (recipe is in this post)
1 bay leaf
5 oz of strong black tea (I used PG Tips)
2 oz of bourbon
1/2 oz of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz of amaretto
lemon peel for garnish

Drop the tablespoon of butter mixture into your serving cup (a glass coffee mug, regular coffee mug.. something that can take some heat). Meanwhile, make the tea: pour boiling water over one tea bag and the bay leaf in a separate mug (you could quadruple this recipe and make a whole pot of tea if you were serving for company. It would probably make you feel better than having to waste two coffee mugs on this.). Let sit and brew for 6 minutes. Strain the tea onto your butter mixture, you want to use anywhere between 5 to 6 ounces of tea here (one small coffee mug is about right- but since mugs vary greatly in size and capacity, you might want to measure it all out ahead of time). Add the bourbon and lemon juice. Stir to combine the mixture (and break up the butter a bit if it’s been hanging out in the fridge until now). Float the amaretto on top and garnish with the lemon peel.

Even though you have sugar and vanilla in the butter, it mellows out here and is not very sweet. That said, if you love your drinks sweet I’d adjust the butter mixture to your own tastes. This was perfect for me. Originally I had this without the lemon juice but once I tasted the drink it was screaming for some acid. I particularly wanted to use bourbon in this, but next time I might try it with some dark rum to see where that goes (my never ending quest to become pals with rum). If the temperature stay the same around here you might see some more hot drinks coming soon.

***The inspiration behind this was in part me marrying into a half-Indian family last year and eating much more cardamom. I learned that I like it, and there’s a whole new world of bizarre flavor combinations that I want to make into drinks thanks to them. This is one of them. The other part is that hot whiskey is the only cure I can think of when I look outside and there are palm trees and snow.

Garnishes Up In My Face, and Vamping Up a French 75

Giant Beautiful Garnish

Recently my husband and I took a trip to Vegas for a couple of days. Unfortunately the morning of I had come down with a horrible bout of food poisoning. We ended up canceling all of our dinner plans, but kept the cocktail tastings since that was about all I could take. We visited the bar at Postrio at the Venetian, had a beautiful drink with Hendrick’s Gin and Grapefruit juice (I wish I could tell you all the ingredients; hell, I wish I remembered them so I could make this at home). The garnish was this large section of grapefruit. It really looked… beautiful. But it was pretty clumsy to drink. I love a garnish that adds to the drink, but if you’re concerned with it falling off, or on your face, while you’re trying to drink, then what’s the point? We ran into a similar problem at a Champagne bar at the Palazzo. The lemon twist was HUGE. I had to take it off to drink out of the flute… otherwise it might have come tumbling out. Not to make this a downer post, but the champagne cocktail itself was a one note drink. Which made me think about what I’d want in one. And hence a post about drinks with Champagne (or, Prosecco since that’s all that I have on hand).

 

Well. Damn, I still have that container of orange simple syrup lurking in my fridge. And well, I’d love to riff on the French 75 I had at that champagne bar. How could a drink made with lemon juice and gin.. have no flavor?

 

I have a tiny bit of Citadelle Gin that I should use up. Do you ever have a bottle that has been hanging around for awhile, and not because you don’t like it.. you just have a tiny bit left and cannot throw it out? Welcome to my world. I cannot waste things, like food. I cry if I find a half dead head of lettuce in the fridge and I have to throw it out. And I also have on hand is some brand X prosecco(it’s really not that great of a prosecco here and you would laugh at how much I bought it for. So really, any dry bubbly will work here) that is going into a risotto recipe after this. But on to the drink recipe…

 

2 oz Citadelle Gin (this boasts 19 different ingredients and since it had both orange and lemon peel on this list I figured this would work fine)
1-1/2 ounce Meyer lemon juice
1 oz orange simple syrup
prosecco to top it off with

 

Shake the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup in a shaker filled with ice. Strain into a highball glass. Top it off with prosecco. I would suggest not filling the glass all the way to the top with prosecco as you will drown out the other flavors (and possibly have it fizz all over you and the floor).

 

I upped the lemon juice by a here for some more zing in the drink and to balance out the very dry prosecco. The orange simple syrup added just a hint of sweet orange flavor. The gin is a bit buried in this drink. And honestly, for all its boasting of ingredients I couldn’t really distinguish them all when tasting it by itself, so mixing it in here just added one more level of flavor. Oh, and due to some camera difficulties and white balance, the full glass is not shown here due to it looking like a big ol’ glass of pee. It was starting to go flat and I wasn’t about to waste it.

 

So, comparing this drink with the French 75 I had in Vegas… well, for starters you can taste the citrus, and there is not a hint of bitterness. It is sweet and sour and light. And I think I’ll have another.