Making Spirits Bright

IMG_6337So, a couple of friends have suggested I should collect my thoughts about my food and drink creations all in one place. So I’m starting here. My foodie/spirits enthusiast days go something like this: Wake up. Make French press coffee for partner. Make Yorkshire Gold tea for myself, milk, two sugars. Complain that dark, robust tea stains my teeth (how do the Brits deal with this?! Cosmetic dentistry is ‘spensie). Feel bad that I need two sugars. Make homemade lunches for two kids, consisting of grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, or turkey roll-ups (or recently, inspired by another mom, a cheese plate of Brie and Carr’s water crackers for my daughter, with a side of cornichons), some dry savory snack, and some piece of fruit that will oxidize and then go uneaten by children, then eaten later that night by me after I have a drink because #foodwasteguilt.

Go to the Dodge Y. Stop at Trader Joe’s because it’s there, because it’s familiar, and because the coffee samples are always fresh and I like the soundtrack. And because I like grocery shopping every day or every other day, buying only what we need, supplementing regularly with fresh fruit. A dear friend urges me to join her as a member of the Park Slope Food Co-Op, but it’s too far away, I would need to drive to shop, and my dirty little secret is that I actually like the culture of Trader Joe’s, even if the bagged produce drives me banaynays. Always bring own canvas bags. Fill out raffle ticket, even though I never win. Will. Never. Win! Carry bags home, complain about the weight. En route, if it’s after 12, maybe stop by Brooklyn Wine Exchange to see what new thing they’re promoting in the window.

Evenings I try to cook most nights, planning a meal that’s simple enough that my kids will eat it, healthy enough that I’ll eat it, and has enough flavor/texture variety that Ingrid will like it too. The concept is simple, plain, clean cooking with mostly olive oil, garlic, lemon juice/zest, salt, pepper, butter, fish sauce, hot sauce. Greens. Raw vegetables. Lean proteins. A few frozen foods mixed in, and yes, I feel bad about it, but MOZZARELLA STICKS!

And then, DRINKS. Unfortunately for my acid reflux, I like all of them. Gin, bourbon, rum, beer, wine, Champagne. Equal opportunity imbiber. I like simple sipping drinks garnished with a large cube and some fresh herb like thyme or a little twist of lemon, not too sweet. Manhattans, martinis, old-fashioneds, gimlets, what have you.

This holiday season, when appearing on the Domino contribs page, I was asked what my favorite winter treat is: I harked back to a time about 10 years ago when Ingrid and I visited Blue Hill Stone Barns in the fall, sidled (saddled?) up to the bar, and the bartender asked if we wanted to try a spirit she had been infusing. Who could resist a house-infused spirit at Blue Hill Stone Barns? The air was crisp, the fire was crackling, the space is beautiful, we didn’t have kids yet so #peace. The spirit was vodka infused with honey and oats. Shaken over ice and poured into a martini glass, I had found a toothsome, milky, nutty, slightly sweet but less sweet than you would image, gorgeous elixir. We asked for the recipe, she gave it. I went home and started making the vodka as Christmas presents for my extended family. I’m not sure any of them liked it, but I did, and I liked making it even more. So fast forward ten years, and I cited this recipe again to Domino—and then revisited making it again, with different types of vodka, different ratios of oats and honey. I batched it in huge mixing bowls. Always be steeping became my motto this past December, to the annoyance of my partner and my children. Why are there always gigantic bowls of booze with oats and honey in them, everyone would ask as they fumbled around the fridge just to find a condiment. Because infused spirits are fun, I would grumble, taking more empty bottles out to the recycling. I bottled 14 containers of vodka, hand delivering all of them. I don’t know if anyone liked them, but I keep infusing because I myself love it so.

I moved on next to gin. My friend Ian who is a professional cook and food person told me making gin is super easy and fun. He was right. I’ve again tried a bunch of different formulas. Here’s my latest recipe:

To a few cups of vodka, add:
Tbsp juniper berries
Tsp coriander seeds
2 cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
Tsp fennel seeds
1 cinnamon stick
Handful of black peppercorns
Slice of lemon peel.
Let steep for 18-24 hours, taste, strain.
Bottle, give to friends, mix with a teensy bit of vermouth, enjoy up or on rocks. With a side of mozzarella sticks. CHEERS.


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