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Limoncello

Photo by Mattia Luigi Nappi (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur produced mainly in Southern Italy and served as an after dinner/dessert drink. It is served chilled in small glasses (a shot glass will work if you don't have apertif glasses).

Limoncello is easy to make, but takes a while - up to 90 days. Have patience and you'll get a delicious dessert cocktail that also can be drizzled over vanilla ice cream to change things up.

Preparation

Wash the lemons to remove any dirt, then carefully zest each lemon, being careful not to get any of the white pith underneath the peel. The pith is bitter, so take your time to get just the zest. I recommend a good quality zester. Put the zest in a 1-gallong glass jar with sealable lid. Add the vodka, then set aside in a cool dry place (not refrigerated, and out of direct sunlight). Let sit for 45 days. Some recipes for "quick" limoncello say you can let it sit 1 week, but the longer you let it sit, the better the results. Put it aside and set an alarm on your calendar 45 days ahead.

At the 45 day mark, it's time to make the simple syrup. Heat the sugar and water in a pot and bring to a slow boil for 5 minutes. Let cool completely. Once the syrup is cooled to room temperature, add to the lemon/vodka mixture. Stir, seal, and let sit another 45 days.

After the 2nd 45 days, it's time to strain. This part is time consuming, but not difficult. Take your time and you'll be fine. Do a first pass with a fine-mesh strainer, straining into a second 1-gallon glass jar. Discard the zest that collects in the strainer. I use a mesh coffee filter as a strainer, and it works great. After straining out bulk of the zest, do a second pass, but this time add a #4 paper coffee filter to the strainer. This part will go slow, because you can only add a little liquid at a time and it takes a while to work itself through the paper filter. Be patient and add a little bit at a time.

Once strained, pour into bottles and store in the freezer. If you're going to be giving some away as gifts, look for nice glass bottles.

Serve chilled, directly from the refridgerator or freezer.

Ingredients

  • 2 750ml bottles of vodka (or grain alcohol such as Everclear)
  • Zest of 17-20 organic lemons (Sorrento lemons if available)
  • 3.5 cups organic cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)
  • 5 cups spring water

Jamaican Rum Punch

Photo by flickr user soursop555

Rum Punch is a staple in Jamaica, and is the perfect summertime drink. Everywhere you go, you'll find rum punch. There are seemingly endless variations on this classic Jamaican drink, but this recipe is the most basic. This is closest to what I had most often in Jamaica, although I also tried more advanced variations, which I'll mention at the end of the recipe.

Preparation

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher or punch bowl. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve over ice.

Rum Notes: Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum is the best selling rum in Jamaica. While not as popular in the US, it's what you'll find in over 90% of all Rum Punch recipes in Jamaica. Be careful, though: it's very strong.

You can find Wray & Nephew at Beverages & More, among other places. If you can't find Wray & Nephew locally, and don't want to order online, you could substitute one of the lighter Jamaican rum's from Appleton Estates. Appleton Estates is the second oldest Rum producer in the world. I'd recommend either the Special Gold, or the VX.

Variations

There are many variations on this drink, but I think most of them originated in places other than Jamaica. One popular method is to substitude fruit juice for the water. I've seen people use pineapple juice, orange juice, peach juice, and more. Personally, I think it makes the drink too sweet, but feel free to experiment.

Another optional variation (often done in Jamaica) is to add whole pimiento (allspice), nutmeg, or cloves. You'll want to remove them before serving, so putting them in a tea bag or cheesecloth will help.

Optionally, add slices of fresh fruit.

One last word on ingredients: a traditional Jamaican flavored syrup is Anchor Cherry Syrup, which can be found online. Great if you can find it, but feel free to substitute grenadine or similar.

Ingredients

  • 1 part sour (ex: lime juice)
  • 2 parts sweet (ex: grenadine)
  • 3 parts strong (rum)
  • 4 parts weak (ex: water)

Ramos Gin Fizz

Photo by flickr user sifu_renka

A Ramos Fizz is a variation on the traditional Gin Fizz, and is a staple at our annual family gathering. They're particularly good during breakfast or brunch, but can be enjoyed any time.

Preparation

Blend all ingredients (except club soda) well, until frothy. Add club soda at the end to give it fizz.

Serves 4-6 per batch.

Ingredients

  • 3 shots gin
  • 1 shot lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 2 heaping spoons powdered sugar
  • 2 shots half & half
  • 3 egg whites
  • Cracked ice (fill blender just short of half full)
  • 3-4 shots club soda

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