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Archive for the ‘Cocktails.’ Category

Cucumber-infused vodka.

By the time I realize that I want some cucumber vodka for a crisp spring cocktail, I’m already knee-deep into the season, with the gardens and lawns begging for attention. Distracted, I succumb to the calling, but not without casing a wistful glance about, wishing I’d been better prepared.

When rubber hits the road, I manage to make do with muddling up some cucumber slices in a cocktail shaker. Not a bad substitute. But I always feel a twinge of regret for not having planned accordingly for what has become an annual celebration of the Vernal Equinox.

Not this year, kids! Here it is, cucumber vodka! And it’s not a recipe, really; just a happy marriage of two ingredients, and the gentle passing of time.

IMG_0545Wash, peel and slice 3 cucumbers, and divide between 2 quart-sized Ball or Mason jars. Fill with vodka to cover the veggies, screw on lids, and tuck away in your fridge for a week or two. Give your infusion a (little!) taste after a week. Mark it on the calendar, although you will no doubt be disinclined to forget.

Now, a quick note about the vodka: you don’t have to use top of the line liquor, here. But for God’s sake, don’t buy the cheap stuff. You really will want to drink this when all’s said and done, and if you use a poor quality vodka, I assure you, you’ll regret it.

Once the vodka is sufficiently cucumber-y, strain it through a few layers of cheesecloth and decant into a clever little bottle. Although this infusion will be shelf-stable, keep it chilled and ready for a cocktail.

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Last fall, my husband and I went to brunch at Amada, a Spanish restaurant in the Olde City section of Philadelphia. I’ve never been much of a fan of sangria — too sweet, too fruity, too ‘something’ — but I figured, if anyone could get it right locally, this place could. And WOW did they ring the bell with this one! I loved it so much that I brought my younger daughter here for drinks (sangria, of course!) for her 21st birthday. AND I got the recipe. SCORE!

But wait! There’s more!

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To make the infusion:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • about 20 leaves fresh sage, roughly chopped

Cook sugar and water over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a simmer and add the sage leaves, stirring it into the sugar water. Cook a few minutes longer and turn off the heat. Allow the leaves to steep until the syrup cools a bit. Strain out sage leaves and decant into a container to place in the refrigerator. Add a shot of vodka to help preserve the syrup.

OK, now what to do with it? Here’s what! My ‘take’ on a lovely elixir — ‘Belladonna’ — once served at The Columbus Inn in Wilmington, Delaware…

Combine all ingredients (except seltzer) into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously until well chilled. Pour in highball glass filled with ice; garnish with lemon twist.

She’s deadly. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Makes one cocktail.

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Yesterday, after attending the Philadelphia Flower Show, my husband took me to Parc, a French bistro in¬†Rittenhouse Square, for a wonderful lunch. On the menu was a cocktail called ‘Basilic’ (pron. baz-ill-LEEK!) with the noted ingredients: Smirnoff Citrus, elderflower liqueur, basil, and cucumber.

A childhood friend, Ramona, introduced me to a very similar cocktail several years ago. Accompanying the recipe, she included this observation: “this is what ‘green’ tastes like”. And so it was that I fell in love with St. Germain:¬†a delightfully floral, herbal liqueur made from alpine elderberry flowers hand-plucked, tucked into burlap sacks, and brought down from the mountains by bicycle. As you can imagine, only a limited number of bottles are prepared each year.

But I digress.

But wait! There’s more!

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Pepper-infused vodka.

This morning (yes, this morning), I was thinking I’d like to start writing about my adventures with cocktail hour. Wasn’t sure where to begin, when I was greeted this afternoon by an email from an old friend to whom I’d given some of my spicy pepper-infused vodka when he was here for dinner not long ago. If I do say so myself, I was very pleased with the result: it was a bit like being maced by the police, but you could taste the actual peppers involved (so it was not just a painful experience; there was pleasure there as well).

But wait! There’s more!

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