The Friday Tipple: Back to School Shandy

Back to School Shandy

Our nest has emptied, Boozers. As the fledgling stood uncertainly on the edge, we gave a mighty shove right between the shoulder blades, calling behind the offspring’s flapping wings: “For God’s sake, if you must drink beer, at least make it good beer!”. Because there’s really nothing sadder than social media pictures of overeager freshmen clutching cans of Coors Light.

And so now it’s cocktails à deux, as these wayward parental units sit back and contemplate life without PTA meetings, smelly sports equipment, and teen angst. Taking it slowly as we ease into the unknown, we’re starting off with a classic shandy, with a bit of a twist: beer cubes. As our loyal Boozers know, we have a long love affair with cubes of all sorts, as they help change the character of a drink while they melt and meld. Cubes also have the added benefit of looking somewhat innocent at the start, slowly becoming more devious as time goes on — not unlike the fledgling now flapping off into the sunset.

Back to School Shandy

A sparkling lemonade creates the base for this little Tipple, which you can make yourself by making a strong lemonade and then topping it off with seltzer water. We actually used a tasty bottled variety called Spindrift, which was lightly sweet, somewhat tart, and filled with a bubbly effervescence — rather like the offspring.

5 ounces chilled sparkling lemonade
1 ounce limoncello (we like our local Don Ciccio & Figli)
3 – 4 beer cubes (recipe below)

Put all ingredients into a tall glass (or a classic red Solo cup, if you want to relive your college days), stir briskly, garnish with a slice of lemon, and enjoy.

Beer Cubes:

12-ounce can or bottle of beer (for God’s sake, make it good — we used Shift Lager this time)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup citrus juice (we used both orange and lime)

Put all ingredients into a bowl, whisk together, and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid, about 4 or 5 hours.

 

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The Garden Tipple: Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch

Midsummer Night's Beer Punch

We have had a most rare vision, dear Boozers. Sunlight slanting low and golden across quiet orderly rows of tomatoes, beans, and peppers, suddenly distorted by the higgledy-piggledy madness of raspberry canes, climbing every which way in tangled curls of green and crimson. Warmed by the late-day sunshine, the scent is intoxicating and you find your fingers and lips stained with their sweetness. Such is a midsummer night, when inhibitions are thrown out into the soft breeze and a magical stillness settles into a contented soul.

Midsummer is an important time in many cultures, as the longest day of the year arrives with great fanfare, only to be immediately followed by gradually shortening days that herald the inevitable coming of winter. Fueled by a sense of urgency, we feel the need to gather our friends and dance with abandon in the open air, surrounded by barbecues and beer cans as we chase our dreams through the shadows. We like to celebrate such folly with our Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch, a heady blend of raspberry-infused gin, limoncello-spiked lemonade, and crisp summer ale. Consider yourself forewarned: though she be but little, she is fierce.

Midsummer Night’s Beer Punch

Here in the U.S., we tend to come just a bit late to the party by celebrating midsummer on the Fourth of July, and this punch is just right for a crowd. The trick is to try to keep everything well-chilled until just before serving — go rustic by mixing the lemonade and gin together in a large mason jar, then add a couple of cold beers to the jar as your guests begin to arrive. To keep it extra cold, try throwing in a few beer cubes.

2 cups chilled lemonade with 3/4 cup limoncello added (we like our local Don Ciccio & Figli limoncello)

1 cup chilled gin infused with raspberries and lemongrass (recipe here)

3 chilled beers (we used a summery ale by our local DC Brau)

Several slices of fresh orange and lemon

Using a punch bowl or a large mason jar, add all ingredients and stir together well. Serve immediately and replenish as necessary. Garnish with fresh lemongrass stalks if you have it.

 

The Friday Tipple: La Primavera

La Primavera

We’re back on the spring bandwagon, Boozers. It keeps creeping ever closer, little by little, and we’re not about to argue. Flowers are blossoming, bees are buzzing, and the farmers markets are starting to feature fresh vegetables that did not grow under the ground — not that we don’t enjoy a good root vegetable as much as the next person. What we’re crushing on this week are those little darlings of spring, fresh sweet peas.

Before you recoil in horror, let us say that these are not cafeteria peas, cooked down to mush with a color that can only be described as, well, pea green. These are those charmingly cherubic spheres that are the brightest hue of spring green, like a new blade of grass and just as sweet. And, yes, they make a lovely cocktail. We know it’s hard to fathom, but open your minds, just like you are opening your windows to a soft spring breeze — if you must drink your vegetables, then this is surely the way to do it.

La Primavera

We created this recipe for Don Ciccio & Figli, an absolutely wonderful distiller of seriously hand-made Italian liqueurs in Washington, DC. Each flavor is like a jewel-toned work of art; this particular drink features limoncello, and a good limoncello should be a clear lemon-yellow color (not day-glo yellow, which likely means artificial colors have been added) and you should be overwhelmed with the scent of fresh lemons when you open the bottle — if it smells like Country Time Lemonade, then something has gone seriously wrong.

1 ounce fresh pea juice
2 ounces limoncello
1 ounce gin (we always use Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin; please support your local distiller)
chilled club soda (optional — see below)

Make the fresh pea juice: take 1/2 cup clean peas (you can use frozen peas if fresh are not available, just defrost them first) and put them in a blender with 1/2 cup water. Purée thoroughly, then strain completely so that you have just a clear green liquid. Can be refrigerated for up to two days.

Place first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake thoroughly. At this point, you have two options: strain into a cosmopolitan glass and drink it as is, or pour into a tall glass filled with ice and top with chilled club soda. It’s preferable to garnish with early spring strawberries, sweet cherry tomatoes, or a few fresh pea shoots, but a lemon wedge will do just as well.

 

The Friday Tipple: Brighter Than Sunshine

Brighter Than Sunshine

We’re waving the white flag, Boozers. Faced with another frigid day on a dreary winter landscape, we’re dreaming of summer and sunshine, even as we know we’ll regret those dreams on a muggy August midnight. No matter, as we cry “Uncle” repeatedly… Whither are thou, o Persephone, goddess of spring?

While we generally embrace the locavore mindset, even we have to give in every so often and search for products that can only be found in some far-off clime in that other hemisphere, where they are reveling in the glories of summer as we shiver here in the frozen north. And so we gravitated toward a box of luscious ruby-red raspberries, beckoning to us with their plump cheeriness, sweetly tart and sparking long-ago memories of rustling barefoot through the raspberry canes in the mid-summer sunshine, fingers and lips stained red with their juice, an Aqualung tune providing a wistfully appropriate soundtrack.

To those weighed down by a long winter, we present you with Brighter Than Sunshine. You deserve it.

Brighter Than Sunshine

We are so desperate for a shot of sunshine that we won’t waste time by waxing poetic any longer. Stop on the way home tonight for a box of raspberries, a couple of lemons, club soda, gin and limoncello, and you’ll be good to go.

2 ounces gin (yes, vodka is fine too. We just happen to like Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin. A lot.)

1 ounce limoncello (we use our local Don Ciccio and Figli)

1 tablespoon simple syrup

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

6 fresh raspberries

chilled club soda

sugared lemon wheel for garnish

Place raspberries in the bottom of a tall glass and lightly crush with a bar spoon. Add simple syrup, lemon juice, and gin and stir together; top with several ice cubes and fill glass with club soda, stirring to combine. Pour limoncello over the top and garnish with sugared lemon wheel. Serve immediately.

 

 

The Friday Tipple: Sick Day

Sick Day

We’re a bit under the weather, Boozers. You may be as well, it being that time of year when we find ourselves trapped indoors together, the air visibly ping-ponging with rogue germs. If it’s too late to strap on a face mask, then there’s not much to do but wrap your sorry self up in that old flannel bathrobe and call in sick.

The problem, of course, is when there’s that meeting you just can’t miss, or the deadline that can’t be pushed back one more time. Sometimes the lure of a year-end bonus far outweighs a little physical discomfort. As our loyal Boozers know, we adore the restorative properties of a hot toddy, but we were perplexed as to how to partake of such a cup of comfort within the office environs.

Luckily, we were rescued by none other than Woody Harrelson, the poster child of slackerdom, who, in a recent interview, noted that putting a teabag in a cup is a clever disguise for its actual contents. Duly noted, Mr. Harrelson, and we’ll put that advice to good use in the Sick Day, where Earl Grey tea-infused vodka and actual chamomile tea come together to perk you up just long enough to get you through until quittin’ time.

Sick Day

Earl Grey tea makes an excellent infusion with vodka — and it couldn’t be simpler. We took a bottle of our favorite Boyd & Blair Vodka and stuffed a few tea bags in the neck, allowing the strings to dangle out of the top so we could more easily remove the tea bags later. Then we just set it aside for a few days, until it reached the strength we wanted, and pulled the bags out. You’ll notice that the tannins in the tea make for a lovely silky mouthfeel.

2 ounces Earl Grey tea-infused vodka, at room temperature or slightly warm

2 ounces hot water fresh from the tea kettle

1 ounce mandarinetto (limoncello will also work – we enjoy Don Ciccio & Figli)

1 chamomile tea bag

Combine the vodka and hot water in a tea cup, then float the mandarinetto over the top. Add the chamomile tea bag and allow to steep for a few minutes, then drink up.

No time to infuse the vodka? No problem. Simply steep an Earl Grey tea bag in two ounces of boiling water for two minutes. Then add vodka and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

 

The Friday Tipple: Birthday Cake Shot

birthday-cake-shot

Happy birthday, Boozers! Well, maybe it’s not your birthday yet, but we have a birthday here at Good Booze this weekend, so we’re taking the opportunity to start early. We are often asked by our loyal Boozers what our most popular recipe is and the Birthday Cake Shot is far and away the most-trolled item on our site. And why not? You may enjoy a little special libation on your own birthday, and we couldn’t agree more. The Birthday Cake Shooter is a bit of a legend, as it’s purported to taste like a birthday cake — so we had to track it down and see what all the fuss was about.

The basic recipe calls for either citrus or vanilla vodka, paired with Frangelico and a sugar-coated lemon slice on the side. However, with apologies to Frangelico, we find it a bit too sweet, so we went for Nocello instead — an Italian walnut liqueur that is slightly more subtle. And, while there are plenty of vanilla vodkas on the market, it’s a breeze to infuse your own, and, because it’s our birthday, we wanted a really good vodka, not just some run-of-the-mill variety, so we infused a tasty Boyd & Blair Vodka.

This year, for a bit of a twist, we decided to try another version of the shot by replacing the vanilla vodka with Don Ciccio & Figli limoncello — a personal favorite — and found that this combination is also a winner. Not only that, it makes us feel somehow Italian and impossibly cool, which is exactly how you want to feel on your birthday. Buon Compleanno!

Birthday Cake Shot

While we’re not quite sure that the Birthday Cake Shot tastes exactly like a slice of birthday cake, it is certainly a tasty little morsel that may help distract you from your advancing age. Just don’t forget to blow out the candle first. 

1 ounce Vanilla Vodka (instructions below) or Limoncello

1 ounce Nocello liqueur

1 lemon slice, coated in sugar

Shake vodka or limoncello and Nocello in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a shot glass, with the lemon on the side. Shoot down the Birthday Cake, then suck on the lemon. Yum.

How to infuse vodka with vanilla:

It’s embarrassingly easy. Put a cup of vodka in a mason jar. Add a vanilla bean that has been split down the center. Let sit in a cool dark place for a few days, remove the vanilla bean, and enjoy.

The Friday Tipple: Back to School Shandy

Back to School Shandy

Our nest has emptied, Boozers. As the fledgling stood uncertainly on the edge, we gave a mighty shove right between the shoulder blades, calling behind the offspring’s flapping wings: “For God’s sake, if you must drink beer, at least make it good beer!”. Because there’s really nothing sadder than social media pictures of overeager freshmen clutching cans of Coors Light.

And so now it’s cocktails à deux, as these wayward parental units sit back and contemplate life without PTA meetings, smelly sports equipment, and teen angst. Taking it slowly as we ease into the unknown, we’re starting off with a classic shandy, with a bit of a twist: beer cubes. As our loyal Boozers know, we have a long love affair with cubes of all sorts, as they help change the character of a drink while they melt and meld. Cubes also have the added benefit of looking somewhat innocent at the start, slowly becoming more devious as time goes on — not unlike the fledgling now flapping off into the sunset.

Back to School Shandy

A sparkling lemonade creates the base for this little Tipple, which you can make yourself by making a strong lemonade and then topping it off with seltzer water. We actually used a tasty bottled variety called Spindrift, which was lightly sweet, somewhat tart, and filled with a bubbly effervescence — rather like the offspring.

5 ounces chilled sparkling lemonade
1 ounce limoncello (we like our local Don Ciccio & Figli)
3 – 4 beer cubes (recipe below)

Put all ingredients into a tall glass (or a classic red Solo cup, if you want to relive your college days), stir briskly, garnish with a slice of lemon, and enjoy.

Beer Cubes:

12-ounce can or bottle of beer (for God’s sake, make it good — we used Shift Lager this time)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup citrus juice (we used both orange and lime)

Put all ingredients into a bowl, whisk together, and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze until solid, about 4 or 5 hours.

The Friday Tipple: Garden Party Punch

Garden Party Punch

We’re a bit punchy, Boozers. What with a coming increase in weddings for all, we think making drinks for a crowd may become a fixture for summertime brides and grooms, and this makes us want to whip up a bowl of punch. Punch can be a terrible throwback of sickly-sweet sherbet floating in a sea of ginger ale spiked with cheap champagne, but it need not be so. A good punch can be the centerpiece of a celebratory garden party, brimming over with fresh flavors and enough liquor to loosen up Uncle Frank when the band strikes up to play.

Our Garden Party Punch is a play on a classic gin and tonic, amped up with limoncello. By freezing the tonic water into a mold, you create a nice way to chill the punch, but it also serves to subtly alter the flavor as it melts and quietly dilute what is, admittedly, a strong brew – which you’ll be grateful for as the evening wears on. Cheers!

Garden Party Punch

Ingredients are key to this libation – look for a flavorful and good quality tonic water, such as Fentiman’s or a classic Schweppes, and a simple clean limoncello; we’re fortunate to have an excellent local variety, Don Ciccio & Figli, but check your area for craft limoncello – or make it yourself for a personal touch. Chilling all the ingredients beforehand insures that the tonic mold won’t melt too quickly.

For the punch:

1 bottle chilled gin (go for something with an herbaceous bite, like Catoctin Creek)
8 ounces chilled limoncello
1 quart chilled club soda (have an extra chilled quart on hand to adjust flavor)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup lavender honey
handful clean mint leaves
One lemon, thinly sliced

Mix together club soda, lemon juice, honey, and mint – put back in soda bottle, cap tightly, and chill for one hour. After an hour, put all ingredients in a punch bowl, stir well, add frozen tonic mold and garnish with lemon slices. Serve immediately.

Frozen tonic mold:

1 quart tonic water
1/4 cup lemon juice
Several fresh mint leaves

Put all ingredients in a small bundt cake mold and freeze solid overnight. Unmold just before serving by dipping the mold in a bowl of hot tap water.

The Friday Tipple: Calendula Cure-All

Calendula Cure-All

We’re broke, Boozers. And by broke, we mean broken, literally. Using a cocktail shaker with one hand is no easy trick, we can assure you, so we’ve had to reconsider the options for making a tasty cocktail – purely for medicinal purposes, of course. Time for apothecary cocktails – in bulk.

Apothecary cocktails are based on the herbal concoctions popular at one time in the 19th century. Purported to cure everything from baldness to cancer, these bottled wonders generally proved to be little more than alcohol and a few herbs and sugar – basically, bottled cocktails. Poured over ice, they might’ve been a perfect sipper to enjoy on the porch at the end of a weary day.

Our Calendula Cure-All will certainly provide relief for whatever ails you. Chock full of anti-inflammatories from calendula and mint, and antibacterial properties from juniper berries, which are used liberally in the making of gin, we feel certain that this is one bottle of medicine that you will always want to keep on hand… just in case of emergency, of course.

Calendula Cure-All

Marigolds, also known as calendula, are a common flower in most gardens, making them a perfect ingredient for use in cocktails. Both the leaves and the flowers can be used, dried or fresh, and the petals impart a lovely saffron color. This Cure-All can be made in advance, bottled, and refrigerated for up two weeks, allowing you to pour yourself a tot whenever you feel a bit weak.

1 cup fresh marigold flower heads
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
Quarter cup fresh marigold leaves
2 cups white wine (try a nice local Chardonnay)
3/4 cup gin (we like Catoctin Creek)
1/2 cup limoncello (our favorite is Don Ciccio & Figgli)
1/8 cup lavender honey

Put all ingredients into an empty wine bottle and mix thoroughly. Cork and place in refrigerator to chill for two hours before serving. May be served over ice with a garnish of fresh lemon.

The Friday Tipple: Sorrento Spring Crush

Sorry to Spring Crush

We’re crushing, Boozers. Daffodils are gaily poking up through the snow and the March winds are carrying the swallows back to their roosts. Spring is in the air and we are ready to welcome it with open arms.

Our thoughts have turned to limoncello in our perennial late winter search for sunshine — when limoncello is done right, it has a bright tartness layered with rich caramel undertones. When it’s done wrong, it tastes like liquid saccharin dusted with powdered lemon. Limoncello aficionados prefer this liqueur only when made with Sorrento lemons, but many good limoncellos are made with more common varieties. It’s quite easy to make at home and many small distilleries are popping up around the country, so check your local area. Our Sorrento Spring Crush is an herbaceous love letter to spring: how do we love thee, let us count the ways…

Sorrento Spring Crush

We love the flavor combination of anise and lemon, especially in the springtime, when we turn our faces up to capture the fleeting warmth of weak sunshine. Hyssop is an herb that can often be found growing wild in spring but also can be found dried for tea consumption. It has a light licorice flavor and can be used as the base for a simple syrup, or reduced into a concentrate as we have done here to add a warm herbal undertone.

3 ounces chilled prosecco

1.5 ounces chilled limoncello (we are fortunate to have gorgeous Don Ciccio & Figli Limoncello in our local area — be jealous)

1 tablespoon reduced hyssop tea (brew a cup and simmer over a low flame until reduced by half, then cool completely)

lemon wedge

fresh fennel fronds

Put lemon wedge and fennel fronds in the base of a large wine glass and muddle thoroughly. Add a few ice cubes, hyssop tea, limoncello, and prosecco, and stir vigorously. Garnish with additional fennel and serve immediately.