Culinary creations in a glass

* A version of the following article was first published in Saturday’s on-line edition of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Cilantro, Peach, Cucumber and Lime

Cilantro, Peach, Cucumber and Lime

Back in the 1980’s vodka took its first small step into the world of flavored spirits. With the American launch of Absolut Peppar, the world of Bloody Mary’s and indeed vodka would never be the same. Today, flavored vodkas are everywhere and being made by almost everyone who distills vodka. A stroll down the vodka aisle shows just how much the category has grown from the pepper or citrus-based beginnings to the threshold-pushing flavors of bacon, bubble gum and even birthday cake.

Muddling through the bizarre efforts of some vodka distillers can be formidable, so recently I sat down at the Grill At Highlands Row to talk turkey (did I just create a new flavor) with Chad Barger, general manager at the Grill. Along with bartender Laura Musgrave, we wanted to examine some of the more culinary-driven flavored vodkas and see just what creative and enjoyable mixed drinks we could invent.

A few years ago the Sazerac Company (purveyors of outstanding Bourbon) launched an organic vodka with unusual flavors of cucumber and lime called Rain. Musgrave, who has been with the Grill At Highlands Row since it opened in 2010, took the Rain Vodka and quickly focused in on a mojito influence with the mixing of muddled mint, lime and simple syrup to the already cucumber enhanced vodka. The result was a savory, balanced cocktail with an air of freshness to it.

With Musgrave’s creation, dubbed the Muddler in the Rain, she was able to walk the fine line of the citrus influence. Too much would have overshadowed the cucumber and not enough would have meant loosing that crispness and thus balance of the drink.

With the Nielsen ratings showing that premium vodkas were up over 33% last year, it was no surprise when the trendsetters at Absolut rolled out a new premium vodka in 2013. Little did anyone know; however, that the line extension would include the popular herb of cilantro.

Cilantro is one of the few things that my wife and I disagree on. You either love it or hate it for its floral, herbaceous nature. And obviously Absolut was thinking of culinary-influenced mix drinks when they created this herb-guided vodka. So, I was enthusiastic when Barger and Musgrave collaborated to concoct two killer cocktails with this uniquely flavored spirit.

The first creation was a mix of the Absolut Cilantro and Lime with some ginger beer, lemon and lime juice. For all of those who enjoy a nice pre-dinner cocktail to stimulate the appetite, this “Appetizer Cocktail” is just for you. The piquancy of the ginger plays out nicely to the late arriving but appetite-building cilantro.

Second, they fashioned a full-circle tribute to the whole reason Absolut introduced its first pepper-flavored vodka 27 years ago, the iconic cocktail – the Bloody Mary. With the Absolut Cilantro and Lime being mixed with Musgrave’s zinged up rendition of Zing Zang Bloody Mary Mix, they added a garnish of in-house jalapeño stuffed olives. It’s the perfect prelude to some shrimp and grits for Sunday brunch.

Finally, as a lover of all things Italian I was eager to sample a third flavored vodka invention, the “Epic Bellini.” A natural twist on the Italian Bellini, it is a simple mix of prosecco and Knoxville’s newest vodka brand, Epic. Wonderfully aromatic and true to its fruit source, the Epic Peach flavor offers a jazzed up version of the classic Venetian cocktail with a garnish of blood orange.

Straight off the shelf, flavored vodkas may not be for everyone. But with the proper mixology and some professional advice culinary delights can be a sip away.

All over but the drinking

Louisa's Limoncello

Finally it’s complete. And man is it good!

My good friend Lou, swung by this week so that we could finish up our month long project of making limoncello. The second part of the project involved a little stirring of the high proof alcohol that for the past four weeks had played host to a lemon tree full of zest. The aroma was strong but fresh and clean.

After making and cooling a simple syrup of water and sugar, we added it to the lemon zest/alcohol mix and set it aside for one more night. The next day I bottled about three liters worth of limoncello using some of the old labels and bottles from the last go-around as well as a few new ones. The color is just as amazing and tempting as the pic above. And the taste? Let’s just say, the Neapolitans have nothing on us.

Onward Lemon Soldiers

Onward Lemon Soldiers

Besides sharing and enjoying the final product with friends, the only task left to do is give the limoncello a label name. My last batch was named in tribute to my grandparents. This year we have narrowed down the label name to the following and would appreciate your input:

(1) Distillato Clandestino (Moonshine)
(2) Chiaro di Luna (Moonshine)
(3) Contrabbando di Italiano (Italian Contraband)
(4) Boot Hooch (cheap liquor from that country shaped like a boot)

Spanish Week starts April 1st

Sinfonia, Laya and Finca La Mata

Sinfonia, Laya and Finca La Mata

During the week of April 1st through the 7th, “What’s in the Bottle” will be featuring seven different wines from España. Here’s a chance to pick up a few insider selections on great Spanish values! And you’ll get to read up on what the Mayor of Rocky Hill has to say about Cava. Spanish week starts Monday!

Flashback: The United Front of Merlot

FLASHBACK: * This article is a re-print from a two-part series written for a retail newsletter back in the Spring of 2009. I thought it was appropriate since it’s about time for the Merlot Kings to initiate a second round of resurrection. Or for those who were in denial about Merlot last time to adopt the same approach mistake about Pinot Noir.

All is quiet on the Merlot front.

All is quiet on the Merlot front.

Across our domestic wine scene, there’s a united front building up in support of reinventing Merlot. Since the movie Sideways came out, I’ve seen more and more consumers make the switch from Merlot to Pinot Noir. So, it was only a matter of time before growers in Napa and Sonoma were going to have to get a game plan together and try to stop the bleeding.

Similarly, “new red wine drinkers” are now starting out with Pinot Noir as opposed to the old go to, Merlot. Retail teams in various markets seemed to follow the trend as well and started recommending more and more Pinot Noir just as mid-price and high-end Merlot bottles worked on their dust tan.

So, what’s a Merlot producer to do? Well for starters, like a lot of declining businesses, they were seemingly in denial at first. Then, when many vintners started throwing down Pinot Noir vines and buying up fruit sources across the West Coast, France and even Northern Italy, the “old schoolers” in Napa and Sonoma knew that Pinot Noir was here to stay. After realization set in, the long time Merlot Kings worked on holding the line on price and trying to gobble up as many high ratings and reviews as they could. Inevitably though, the writers and critics followed the popular trend to Pinot Noir as well and started to share in the love, the press and the trend.

The next wave of counter attacks came in March, when both a popular national newspaper and an independent wine periodical ran somewhat similar slants calling for the revival of Merlot.

First, The Wall Street Journal ran a wine article on Merlot being on the comeback trail. Co-writers, Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher of the WSJ pointed the finger at greedy wine producers, over planting and over production. They then went on to list their suggestions for value-oriented Merlots, including Blackstone. Some retailers got excited about promoting Blackstone Merlot, again, and bought into the united front. After all, who would doubt or question such a reputable news source.

The second round was fired off that same month when the normally connoisseurs at Connoisseurs’ Guide ran an exposé demanding in very adult-to-child like condescension that “the temptation to treat Merlot as a less than serious version of Cabernet Sauvignon needs to stop, and it needs to stop now.” They too blamed the decline on over planting, poor climatic choices, high demand perceptions and of course what’s his name from Sideways.

CG (Connoisseurs’ Guide) gives out ratings based on a 100-point scale and signifies anything over a 90 rating as a Two Star Wine on a Three Star scale. So after they reviewed 72 Merlots for their latest issue, what did we learn? According to their scores 11 out of the 72 wines reviewed got a Two Star rating. That means 15% of the Merlots they reviewed were higher then a 90 and considered “distinctive.” What the untrained eye doesn’t see is that only 2 of those “distinctive’ Merlots were under $42 (ouch!) And on average those reviewed higher than a 90 would cost you $61.82 plus tax. Thanks but no thanks. For that kind of money, I’d rather buy two or three Pinot Noirs.

Milbrandt Cabernet & brisket revisited

My muse's musical brisket and braised carrots.

My muse’s musical brisket and braised carrots.

Back in the fall, my muse made an outstanding brisket with braised carrots. So savory and rich, her brisket is usually a cool weather staple. But I was craving a last bite of winter fare and she surprised me one night, a la an unexpected rendezvous with brisket.

With the arrival of the vernal equinox, we’re finding our tastes making the natural and expected migration towards white and rosé wines. So having one last supper of hearty meals (like brisket) meant a last chance at a thicker, more engaging red to join in the mealtime regalia.

Milbrant Traditions

Milbrant Traditions

Long time readers know that I champion some of the super valued wines that Washington State continually puts out. So I wasn’t surprised when I tried a sample of the Milbrandt Traditions Cabernet from Columbia Valley, Washington.

Its cedar nose and aromatic display of eucalyptus and mint were almost intoxicating. The Traditions promptly offers an immediate gratification of rich and dense dark berry fruit. Its delicious offering of black cherry and currant fruit camps down in the mid-palate and acts like it isn’t going anywhere fast.

What I like most about this (“drinks like a $30”) Washington State Cabernet is that it’s under $15. Damn! This is one to buy by a buggy full.

Your steak, hamburger, barbeque chicken, crawfish, pizza, err brisket will thank you. Once again Washington State brings the heat and Milbrandt makes other similarly priced Cabs taste like Milquetoast.

The Last of a Vintage

Vintage Vincent

Vintage Vincent

To all the home-vintners and garage juice makers who will never be discovered for their exploratory contributions to the world of wine, may each consecutive vintage be your best. And a special shout-out for my great Uncle Skip (whose last vintage you see here); may the afterworld offer fields of elderberries and all the tomato vines a man could harvest.

You can learn more about the resurgent craft and the skinny on who turned it into something bigger at these links: RECIPE and TOMATO WINE

Mizz Jackson comes to dinner

Mizz Jackson came to dinner the other night, and she brought some nasty wines. Nasty Good Wines!

Mmmm Hmmm!

Mmmm Hmmm!

Yes I know… I risk dating myself with the weedy, lame musical reference… carbon dating.

My wife’s good friend joined us for dinner with the challenging assignment of pairing a wine with risotto that’s been prepared with parmesano, lemon zest and mint. It would have been a simple task had the risotto not included the grilled Southern shrimp and a small cap of homemade pickled red onions. And before I go any further I need to fess up that the recipe came from my old college roommate and owner of Café Roma in Cleveland, Chef Shannon. He is living proof that you can trust a skinny chef.

So with this daunting endeavor in mind, Mizz Jackson arrives with…CHOICES! Amen to that! Because after all, the thought process goes something like this: peas and rice probably a dry white, cheesy risotto needs something to balance… err maybe cut through the creamy texture, the host really likes Italian red wines, seafood normally equates to white but it’s been grilled and no telling what seasonings have been added, pickled red onions… man you’ve got me there, I better just bring some… choices.

Excellent choice Mizz Jackson!

Round Pond Estate 2011 Rutherford - Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Round Pond Estate 2011 Rutherford – Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Our token white was the 2011 Round Pond Sauvignon Blanc with Rutherford, Napa Valley. Citrusy aromas and a straightforward flavor profile framed a balanced fruit-driven sauvignon blanc, that’s not overly acidic. Quite simply, it’s a good match for unpretentious food and wine pairing.

The compulsory (keep the host/ cook happy) Italian red was an awfully generous gesture- the Fanti Rosso di Montalcino, Toscana. I’ve tried Fanti’s dessert wine – Vin Santo recently, but it’s been a good decade since I took a bite out of one of their elegant dinner reds. Fanti Rosso The Rosso di Montalcino poured into the glass with the customary brickish red that many wines from the area are known for. The surprise was seeing this wonderful orange and vibrant halo encapsulating the wine. Aromas of licorice and leather catered well to the crushed red cherries and Luden-like nostalgia of the Fanti’s essence.

The often overlooked, Santa Ynez Valley represented a third level of diversity in our wine line-up. Andrew Murray’s 2011 Tous Les Jour Santa Ynez Syrah carted out scents that were reminiscent of a late autumn hike through a well-trodden forest trail.

All day...any day.

All day…any day.

As it tries to be coy with this almost dismissive spice note, it holds absolutely nothing back in an all out barrage of blueberry flavor. Lots of wineries and wine labels talk about having or displaying the really elusive blueberry flavor in wine. But the Andrew Murray Tous Les Jour Syrah is one of only a handful of wines that actually delivers. It reminds me of the deep, rich and decadent blueberry pies my great Aunt Susie use to make while visiting her farm as a boy. With such explosive flavor, the Syrah is a blueberry lover’s dream.

Mizz Jackson agreed. And although dinner was fantastic, the wines were a showstopper.

Time to think pink – with these hand picked selections

* A version of this column originally ran in Saturday’s online edition of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Get ready! They’re going to be here before you know it; the annual and swift invasion of fresh French rosé wines will touchdown in the East Tennessee marketplace in early April and won’t let up until mid summer. So it’s time to shake off those rainy winter blues and to start to think – pink.

Over the past few years, importers like Robert Kacher, Fran Kysela and Dan Kravitz of Hand Picked Selections have done a remarkable job at bringing reliable, high quality rosé wines to the US. With the rosé portfolio of Hand Picked Selections fetching wines from France that are incredible and rousing, this year is no exception. Here are five Hand Picked choices worth asking for at your neighborhood shop this spring.

The Four Rosemen of Notre Dame

The Four Rosemen of Notre Dame

Finding value in a wine category where prices tend to inch up every year can be formidable. For this very reason, I wanted to seek out at least one French rosé that is both under $15 and still rocking and rolling. That quest led to the discovery of the $13 Le Cirque Rosé. The indulgent and tempting fruit-laden essence of Le Cirque matches its grape make up of being half Grenache and nearly as much Mourvèdre. A unique hint of clove as well as a lively cotton candy color would seem intriguing enough. But throw in a melon patch of summer time flavors and suddenly it’s like having an amusement park in your glass.

Although the previous vintage may have been a little uninspiring, I’m a big fan of the 2012 Domaine de Malavieille Charmille Rosé. Organic conscious wine drinkers will appreciate the extra effort by the winery to attain its biodynamic certification. A dry, Syrah-based wine with richer than normal rosé-like flavors, the Charmille pairs up well with some garden ripe strawberries and a slice of shortcake. In fact, it’s one of those wines with a long and winding, if not meandering, finish that ends right at the point where you find your lips meeting glass for yet another sip.

If you don’t mind paying a little more, then you won’t be able to get enough of the 2012 Chateau de Lancyre Rose from the Languedoc. With spicy notes and a gulp full of tangerine and grapefruit, this wine has been one my favorite rosés for the past few years. A classic blend of Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault, Lancyre is a clean representation of all that is good and fresh in the world or French rosé wines.

Finally, lovers of the bone-dry and mineral style rosé won’t be disappointed with either release of the 2012 Commanderie de la Bargemone or the 2012 Château du Donjon Minervois rosé wines. With cheery cherry, strawberry and quince notes both of these wines make it easy to think pink as the new batch of springtime rosés roll into town.

What to pair: Verdicchio and Tuscan Seafood Stew

Open wide!

Open wide!

That is one scrumptious looking spoonful of good eats!

Last weekend, I finally got around to making my own version of a Tuscan seafood stew that I’d put off for too long. Slow cooked, and by that I mean sslloooooww cooked, this zesty Italian recipe included lots of basil and tomatoes and oregano along with a sea-worthy cornucopia (think hugh conch shell) of all that mother ocean has to offer- calamari, clams, a school of your favorite finned creature – with shrimp and scallops added late. This recipe is the sea’s mighty bounty simmered long and delicately, with the bright sweetness and acidity of good tomatoes all in one bowl.

Verdicchio - dry white from the Marche.

Verdicchio – dry white from the Marche.

One of Italy’s old-school and often dismissed white wines is Verdicchio. Typically, mineral-laden and singularly focused, Verdicchio’s simplicity is a natural pairing for a lighter stew that is both fish based and tomato influenced. The 2010 Azienda Santa Barbara Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is an exceptional representation of the varietal. That extra year or two of age has given it a truly golden color. And although most wine drinkers don’t equate aging and Verdicchio, the lush mouthfeel and soft rolling stone fruit flavors are beautiful balancers that allow the wine (as well as the stew) to shine through.

Kale Chips and Beer

Kale chips dressed and ready to go

Kale chips dressed and ready to go

Kale chips are quickly becoming one of the healthiest snack fads. Easy to make, nutritious and quite tasty, the finished product has the texture of popcorn with the crunch of a classic American chip.

Lightly coated in olive oil and tossed with your favorite single season, the kale is then baked for about ten minutes at 350 degrees. The trick is to make sure the kale pieces are de-stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces and not touching on the cookie sheet before you pop them in the oven. That way they’ll firm up properly and result in this hard to believe crunchiness.

The finished snack... ready to eat

The finished snack… ready to eat

The best I’ve made so far is olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano. Don’t skimp on the cheese. Get the king of parmesan and not the sand that comes out of that plastic shaker. Other good single seasonings include smoked paprika, garlic or just a dash of sea salt.

Chris Morton of the Bearden Beer Market recommends an easy-drinking pilsner that won’t overshadow the kale, like Finch’s from Chicago or even the very hot-selling Bitburger Pilsner. Best of all, kale chips appealing duet of being healthy and tasting good, leaves a little extra wiggle room for that extra beer.

Three wine categories to avoid in 2013

* A version of this column originally ran in the Saturday on-line edition of the Knoxville News Sentinel.

It’s easy to tell a consumer what the good wines are from year to year. The more difficult, or truthful, aspect is telling them which wines or at least which wine categories to avoid completely. Getting that extra special, insider information usually requires building up a respectable relationship with your favorite wine merchant. And that can take time, especially if your favorite store has a lot of turnover.

Like any year, there will be some hits and some misses. But based on personal experience these are three wine categories that I’d be hesitant to embrace this year, along with a little rationalization as to why.

First, inexpensive and domestic red blends have been hot for over two years now. Everybody, and by that I mean every supplier, has gotten in on the trend of putting out a cheap, but quite enjoyable red blend. Originally, this was done because a lot of wine producers had some quality, left over juice. Now that most have depleted their extra baggage, they’re left to sourcing cheap wine from wherever they can find it. This typically means a lower quality of wine that is often reflected in the taste.

Wine Cave

Have you ever wondered why a certain red blend just seems to get lighter and lighter or sweeter and sweeter from one vintage to the next? Often the answer is money. It costs more to produce quality wine, but many wineries know that they won’t be able to sell as much from one year to the next if they raise their prices. And if they’re out of the good, leftover juice, then they have to resort to finding a cheaper and lower-grade supply line. After putting out a great value their first vintage, many producers (of the trendy red blend) will assume they have you hooked on their brand and not necessarily maintain the quality into the second or third vintages.

Second, sidestep the cheap Pinot Noir shelf. Since the movie Sideways came out, vineyards in California have ripped up more vines and replanted them with more Pinot Noir grapes than most of us have ripped up and replaced our new year’s resolutions. That means the bottle of cheap Pinot Noir is being filled with juice from vineyards that aren’t very mature. It’s kind of like asking a newborn to recite the alphabet…backwards.

Third, oaky-style Chardonnays have started to take a backstage to the trendy, un-oaked version. Some aficionados argue that this is happening because American tastes are changing. However, the argument could be made that the movement is actually driven by costs. The production of oak barrels and subsequent aging in them is quite expensive, so wineries could be looking for ways to cut back.

Over the years, they have used the insertion of oak staves into the grape juice to impart the creamier textures and buttery nuances that oaky style Chardonnay lovers prefer. And in more recent years, they have used a “dusting” of oak in the Chardonnay to accomplish the same goal. That being said, it may be best to avoid oaky-style Chardonnays under $10.

Once again the reason is simply a matter of dollars or in the sometimes smelly case of wine, scents.

Wine of the Sea

maredevinasLast Sunday, I returned from a mini vacation to Louisville. The home of legendary horse racing, the greatest boxer of all time and some renowned bat making, also had a few wine shops that were swinging away. It wasn’t soon after returning home with some mixed cases of first time wines, that I discovered a favorite new everyday white wine. The 2011 Mar de Viñas Albariño (Rias Baixas, Spain) proves that you can find a varietally correct Albariño without having to overpay.

St George

The Mar de Viñas cost me about $14, much less than comparable ones inching toward the $20 range, but had just as much depth of flavor and enjoyable fruit. Green apple aromas were followed by a flavor profile of tropical influences like bananas, kiwi and guava.

Great with your favorite sea offering, the Mar de Viñas’ freshness and vibrancy are evidence of its versatility and also acted as an inspiration for a little beach time getaway. For more on Albariño, check out my column from last year; All About Albariño.

Burns Night 2013

Great job editing! Must have been the scotch.

Great job editing! Must have been the scotch.

This January we celebrated our fifth annual Burns Night Supper. Named for Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns, the dinner is celebrated every year on the late poet’s January 25th birthday. Although there are slight variations on the evening’s itinerary, the gist of it involves a traditional meal (and scotch), some background on the old bard (more scotch), readings of his work (as well as some personal venting or ribbing) and two signature toasts. RobertBurns.org and Scotland.org have two of the better sites for replicating your own tribute to Burns and all things Scottish.

Anthony's First Burns Night

Our previous four Burns Night Suppers varied in size from a humble group of 7 to a rowdy mob of 19 just last year. This January we settled into a comfortable table of eleven that included my son Anthony Joseph. This is Anthony decked out in his tartan shirt and enjoying his first Burns Night Supper at the ripe age of seven months. He had to skip the haggis, and actually everything else, but was allowed to guzzle some milk and chow down on some delicious applesauce.

The haggis arrived ready to cook from the Caledonian Kitchen. After five years of doing this, we highly recommend them for all your Scottish supplies and we highly recommend steaming the haggis as opposed to other cooking methods.

The Haggis

When we hosted out first Burns Night Supper back in 2009, we were adamant about keeping with tradition. But this year we decided to mix up the menu a little, while still trying to honor some of those Scottish roots. Besides the obligatory haggis and HP sauce, the menu included a lamb stew puff pastry pie with some Indian influenced rice and spicy vegetables.

Burns Night Supper

And although we didn’t have cousin Brucie’s irrestible Scottish eggs as an appetizer, we did manage to round up some killer desserts including a Tipsy Laird Trifle and heavenly sweet Banoffee Pie.

Banoffee Pie

Special thanks to Mama Desai who traveled 400 miles in the blistery blizzard for her fifth Burns Night and for taking these pics, as well as Sweet Bonnie Mary for the skeetch, Gerry for the best damn Irish bread ever, the Gang of two for the Indian influence and Kritti for some spot on B-A-N-A-N-A meet toffee – pie. That pie was bananas!

Burns Night Table

Man Salad Part Duex

ManSaladPartDuex

Here it is! Protein meet Mr. Green! You pick the lettuce, green or mix of your choice then..

Top with a pinch or two of goat cheese, bacon that isn’t obnoxiously over-smoked, fresh avocado wedges, beautifully rare- aged beef, and a sliced (picture evident) perfectly boiled egg. Finish with a drizzle of blue cheese or green goddess dressing and you have a killer, filler of a dinner.

Here’s the tricky part! What wine do you pair with a steak salad?

With most everyday, run-of-the-mill green salads the answer would revolve around a white wine. But with some big steak and fatty pork, things get a little tougher. You don’t want a huge beastly, tannic red like Cabernet or Syrah because the flavors of the greens and avocados will disappear. And the typical white isn’t going to stand up to all that heavy meat and protein.

Otello Nero di Lambrusco

The answer lies in this little beauty from the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna… the Otello Nero di Lambrusco. I had this captivating and exquisite wine in Parma about nine months before my son was born. Try not to think of 1970′s American-preferred jug Lambrusco. Although there is a little sweetness to the Otello, it has enough tannic structure and dry finish to play along with both the greens and the beef in this salad. And unlike its namesake, the Otello doesn’t have your typical wicked operatic ending.

If you can’t find a drier-style Lambrusco your next best bet may be an Italian Dolcetto.

Limoncello with the Mayor of Rocky Hill

Zen and the Art of ZestingThis past Tuesday, I got together with an old colleague for my third attempt at limoncello. What I discovered between round one and round two made a world of difference in the final product. First, don’t use any pure grain alcohol (PGA) or Golden Grain when concocting this homemade hooch. Instead, opt for a 100 proof vodka (Smirnoff blue label works well) and be thankful you paid a little more. Likewise, spring for some organic lemons. You’ll have no nuance of a chemical component in the final product since the lemons (and thus skins) aren’t treated with mouth-numbing carcinogens.

Lou & Lemons

My second experience in making limoncello also taught me to use big, fat lemons. Handling and zesting the little guys can get tricky and it’s hard enough just to keep the white pith from the lemon zest. My friend, Lou “the Mayor of Rocky Hills” demonstrates the perfectly zested lemon. Here is just another instance in which that Fine Italian Hand comes in… well… handy.

There are a hundred recipes on line for limoncello and most are fairly similar. Using only four ingredients (vodka, lemons, sugar and water) means these little tips will be the difference between good limoncello and furniture cleaner.

After the zesting is complete, the vodka is poured over top then sealed and stored for anywhere from two to four weeks. Ours is resting in this airtight plastic gallon drum, where we will revisit it in March for step two which involves the addition of some simple syrup and a little more Italian patience.

Basking