I’ll Drink to That: Lemon Edition


The last time I saw an old-fashioned lemonade stand was actually just a couple months back during the local Parade of Homes. An enterprising youngster in one of the more developed neighborhoods was selling bottles of water as well as lemonade to thirsty parade-goers.


Lemonade is one of those perfect hot-weather drinks, doing well on it’s own whether left sweet and tart or combined with other fruits (strawberry, for instance) or even herbs (rosemary and basil both go very well in lemonade). Mix it with iced tea and you have an Arnold Palmer, and if the tea is Earl Grey then you can have your own version of the Earl of Sandwich’s Earl Grey Lemonade. And if you mix lemonade with beer, you end up with something called a Shandy.

Shandy is a bit of a thing these days and my friends farther to the north tell me Del’s is the brand to drink. I came across the Leinenkugel Summer Shandy first, though, and decided to give it a try. Now, the first time I tried it I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I didn’t hate it, either. I suppose it was a disconnect since I didn’t know what to expect and whatever I did expect this wasn’t it. The second time I tried it, that puzzling first taste over with, I actually enjoyed it more.

Now, considering it’s been three weeks and I haven’t finished the 6-pack, you can probably guess it’s not my favorite beverage ever, but then beer isn’t at the top of my spirits list anyway, so I suppose it’s following along with that.

Speaking of lemonade, though, I stumbled upon Pellegrino’s Limonata the other week while shopping and I thought it was more like the slightly-flavored fizzy water like the Perrier versions, so picked up a 6-pack for something a little different. Obviously I didn’t pay too much attention to the label as this is actually a sparkling lemonade and I’m in love. There was a grapefruit version next to it and I’m sure that’ll be among the next grocery run, but for now I’m rationing out the Limonata so I don’t over-indulge.

Of course, for true indulgence, I go straight to the freezer to pull out a bottle of limoncello. When we were at Disney for our honeymoon I didn’t do much day-drinking though the thought was there. One of our last afternoons, though, I purchased a limoncello from the cart in EPCOT’s Italy pavilion and it so refreshing. Having made my own limoncello I think I appreciate it a tiny bit more that I used to, but since I don’t usually have a surfeit of lemons, I’ll leave it to the masters once our homebrew batch is expended. (Unless we decide to plant a lemon tree, here–that might change things a bit!)

What about you–are you a fan of lemon in the heat of summer? Do you like yours sweet over ice, mixed with something else, or as far away as possible?

AlcoHOLidays | National Lemon Cupcake Day | Lemon Cupcake Martini


Lemon Tree loaded down with fruit

Lemon tree very pretty
And the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon
Is impossible to eat

—chorus from Lemon Tree, as sung by Peter, Paul, & Mary

Of course there are plenty of people who love the tart pucker-power of fresh lemons. There are probably just as many, though, that enjoy this yellow citrus in sweeter ways, like lemon curd or, in honor of the December 15th “holiday”, lemon cupcakes.

Lemon Cupcake Martini

This is totally one of those made-up holidays–not by me, but by someone who shouted loud enough at some point to make it onto a variety of daily holiday sites. And, hey, why not? Now, you might think it’s odd to have a lemon-related in the middle of December, but as my neighbor’s tree up there exhibits, now is the time for lemons galore. [Seriously, that tree is totally out of control–my friend said on Sunday she feels like she needs to click it to harvest (Farmville joke).] You could also look at it as a palate cleanser sort of holiday before the peppermints and eggnogs totally take over the rest of the month.

Either way, in honor of National* Lemon Cupcake Day, I have tried to distill the essence of a heavenly lemon cupcake into liquid form. It’s good now, and it’s probably just as tasty in the heat of summer when a plain ol’ lemonade just isn’t gonna cut it.

Lemon Cupcake Martini

1 1/2 oz Whipped Cream Vodka
1 oz Limoncello
3/4 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Butterscotch Schnapps

Combine all ingredients in a shaker glass half-full of ice and shake until cold and frothy. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish at will.

Now, I opted to go with a small sprig of mint floating on the top of the cocktail. After making basil chicken last night, a sprig of basil would also lend a lovely scent to the presentation along with the pop of color. You can, of course, go with a lemon twist but it’s sort of dull, don’t you think? Unless you decide to candy some lemon peel and let a looooong strip hang in a curl off the side of the glass. Now that would be festive.

The pineapple juice could be omitted, I suppose, but it makes for a slightly more balanced drink. Even with it the drink is very potent, so sip it slowly and savor it or you’ll find yourself under the table instead of dancing upon it.

Not that lemon cupcakes inspire table-dancing. Necessarily.



*Fun fact time, while there are federal holidays and observances, there’s really no such thing as a true “national” holiday as each state has dominion over its holiday calendar. National this-or-that Day just sounds better, so that’s what people call them.

AlcoHOLidays | Repeal Day | Good Clean Fun


Good Clean Fun cocktail for Repeal Day, December 5

From 1920 to 1933, the United States was technically dry, minus a few loopholes and a helluva lot of bootleggers.

See, the temperance movement thought that many of society’s ills would be cured if drinking were just outlawed. And even though President Wilson tried to veto it, Congress used their 2/3 vote to overrule him and they signed the 18th Amendment into existence, banning the sale, importation, or exportation of intoxicating spirits throughout the country. For the curious the intoxicating spirit threshold was .5% alcohol.

Now, the funny thing about number 18 was that it didn’t make consuming alcohol illegal, just the making, buying, and selling. So folks in the know stocked up big-time before the Volstead Act took effect on January 16, 1920. And even the making of spirits wasn’t completed forbidden–individuals could brew fruit-based wines and ciders for personal consumption and vineyards took to selling grape concentrates to facilitate just those measures with packaging that told folks exactly what not to do if they didn’t want their reconstituted grape juice to ferment. Wink wink.

Of course the hope that banning alcohol would immediately dissuade folks towards drinking backfired spectacularly. To many the law made absolutely no sense and it ruined a lot of faith in both the government and the police forces tasked with enforcing the new law. And then there was the not-so-small matter of the government losing out on all that taxable revenue now that all sales were under the table.

It took 13 years for folks to see the light. Thirteen years of bootleggers, speakeasies, and increased crime rates (instead of the hoped-for lessening). Prohibition was repealed on December 5, 1933, by the ratification of the 21st Amendment.

Good Clean Fun

1 sugar cube
Angostura Bitters
1 3/4 oz Gin
3/4 oz Limoncello
strips of citrus zest for garnish

Drip enough drops of the bitters onto the sugar cube to “soak” it and place it in the bottom of a low-ball or small cocktail glass. Combine the gin and limoncello over ice and stir until thoroughly chilled (10 to 15 turns should do it). Strain the chilled alcohol over the  sugar cube and add a couple strips of citrus zest to the drink, swirling it to start the sugar dissolving.

Soaking a sugar cube in bitters is a long-standing tradition of blending the savory and the sweet in drinks. And while cocktails were around two decades before the U.S. tried their little “Noble Experiment”, the trend to drink good alcohol neat was problematic when you were dealing with the low-quality and sometimes dangerous concoctions that served for spirits in speakeasies, hence the many mixers of Prohibition-era cocktials.

The term bathtub gin refers to grain alcohol flavored with various items (like juniper) and topped off with water from the bathtub spigot (as the bottles were apparently too tall to fit easily under the kitchen faucet)–so the story goes. In this cocktail I use gin as an homage to those dark days but pick a good one. Limoncello, while not tied to Prohibition per se, appealed to me in the vein of making lemonade out of lemons. Limoncello make take longer (though not 13 years, thank goodness), but it’s certainly tasty.

We all know full well that drinking without discretion or moderation can lead to some very bad things. Anything from bad choices of who to go home with to DUI-accidents to diseases of various sorts can befall someone who drinks too much or too often (or both). But a well-made cocktail really is, in my opinion, good clean fun.


Cosmic Cocktails | Gemini | Twist of Fate


Gemini's Twist of Fate cocktail

Depending on which lore you go with, the story of the Gemini is either based on the Greek twins Castor and Pollus or the Babylonian friends Gilgamesh and Enkidu–either way, you’re dealing with a mortal and an immortal, a pair of like-minded souls.

All mutable signs (signs that cover a change of seasons–in the case of Gemini from Spring to Summer) represent at least a little duality or element of change.

For The Twins, a common name for Gemini, the idea is very much in there being two, together, and sharing of their twin-ness. Gemini are adept at communication and learning, love to people watch, talk to new people and really listen if there’s half a chance of coming across an interesting stranger, but they also play peace-maker or go-between a lot.

Being an air sign, Geminis exhibit a bit of free spiritedness, relish spontaneity, and have a youthfulness that lasts throughout their lives. They love being in the know (which can lead to them being gossips), and can hold their own in any conversation. Many actors and actresses are Geminis, well suited by their desire to never be just 1 sort of person, and a career in journalism suits a Gemini quite well, too.

My mother is, in many ways, a typical Gemini. (Though the claims to be a “cusp” since she’s near the end of the sign, which would be fine if the concept of cusps had any real standing, astrologically–if you don’t fit your sun-sign profile, check your chart for “the rest of the story,” namely your Ascendant. Frankly I think it’s just her Geminian habit of not wanting to be pinned down exerting itself.)

This also explains why we butted heads more than the usual mother-daughter kerfuffles. I remember one summer, she had come to pick me up from Auburn (I was there for a Rotary Model UN) and on the way home she wanted to stop and do all these little road-side adventures (very Gemini) and all I wanted to do was get home, already (stubborn Taurus)! When I do road trips? Even my side-trips are planned.

But back to the Gemini.

Every sign has it’s “good” days and “bad.” On a good day the Gemini is flexible and go-with-the-flow personified. On a bad day? They are flighty and inconsistent. On a good day the don’t pin me down mantra contributes to an independent spirit, and on a bad day it shows up as disloyal or unfaithful. On a good day they’ll listen to your woes and offer sage counsel, on the other hand they can just as easily tell the stories of others–sometimes in painful or embarrassing detail–in the name of “communication.”

This sign is also associates with the color yellow, and the flavor of aniseed (as well as caraway and marjoram). And while true Geminis would bristle at being tied down to just one signature drink, I present this sunny-hued libation in their honor.

Twist of Fate

2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Galliano
.5 oz Limoncello
garnish with a red licorice whip

Combine the Galliano, limoncello and pineapple juice in a shaker over ice and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a red licorice whip, just to be contrary.

The flavor of the Gemini cocktail is a study in sameness and contrast. The pineapple enhances the sweetness of the limoncello while the notes of anise from the Galliano pick up the tart, and yet together they make a most brilliant yellow cocktail. Still, for those not sure about a licorice-flavored cocktail, be a bit adventurous and give this one a whirl as this really is a well-balanced drink and no single note stands out over the others. In fact, each sip is a slightly different blend, kind of like the Gemini from day to day.

She Was Afraid to Come out With the Vodka…


Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Martini

She was afraid to come out with the Vodka
She was as nervous as she could be
She was afraid to come out with the Vodka
She was afraid that somebody would see

Two three four tell the people what she bore

It was an Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Martini
That she served for the first time today
An Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Martini
So with the Vodka, she wanted to stay

This song has been dancing around my head for more than a week–the moment I realized this week’s letter-inspiration was Y, yellow was the first thought and this song arrived right on it’s heels.

I thought about filking the entire song but even I’m not that obsessed!

At any rate, it was the inspiration for this week’s cocktail and the polka dots made me think back to an early Character Cocktail: the Miracle Mocktail. It was based on the idea of Bubble–aka Boba–Tea, right down to the tapioca pearls. Perfect polka dots! And what is the yummiest yellow spirit around? Limoncello, of course.

Since I still had a bounty of tapioca pearls in the cabinet, this time I decided to tint them with molasses instead of black food coloring (blech!). While very tasty, they are definitely more brown than black, but I don’t see that as a true problem, all things considered. Black tapioca pearls are available online and from specialty shops, if you’d rather not bother tinting them yourself, and instructions for preparing them (via Bubble Tea Supply) are pretty simple.

The biggest quandary I had was deciding whether to give it such a long name or not!

Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Martini

1 oz Vodka
1 oz Limoncello
3/4 oz Green Tea
1/2 oz Peach Schnapps
garnish: 1 Tbsp prepared tapioca pearls

Spoon the tapioca pearls into the bottom of a cocktail glass. Combine vodka, limoncello, green tea and schnapps over ice and shake like a bikini top on a water slide and strain into the waiting pearls. Watch them dance around a bit, then sip.

The green tea is a further nod to the Bubble Tea inspiration, but the peach schnapps were just for taste. The peach and lemon are such a good mix; this drink is divine. And there’s no need to sweeten the tea or to use my beloved vanilla vodka–that would just be sugar-overload!