Category Archives: Drinks


I learned an important lesson the time Linda and I made lemoncello last summer, and the lesson is: don’t make it using Everclear, you will regret it.

Fast forward to my birthday this past September, to me finding a jar of lemoncello in the back of the freezer at some advanced point in the evening, trying to force feed everyone shots of it but being mostly refused so drinking a lot of that jar by myself in the kitchen, probably dancing to Billie Jean, which I insisted be played over and over.  I felt surprisingly great the next day, credited mostly to the sheer volume of dirt pudding I consumed after everyone left.  (I asked for dirt pudding instead of a cake, I recommend it.  Also, yes, for my 27th birthday I asked for dirt pudding, with flowers stuck into it.  What of it.)

The point is, make your lemon-orange-lime-grapefruitcello with vodka, not Everclear.  This time I used Svedka, which I thought was a nice compromise between the 5 O’Clock I considered buying, and the Absolut I thought I should buy.  I also did take the time to really scrape the pith off the peels with a sharp paring knife, which was time consuming and not that fun, but worthwhile because the orangecello is FANTASTIC.  It’s sweet and fresh tasting, with no underlying bitterness.  It’s also beautiful, as you will see in a moment.  I used Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe, because even though I think her boobs are worryingly close to her face, she does seem to know a thing or two about Italian food.

Orangecello, from Giada De Laurentiis

1 750 ml bottle of vodka, I used Svedka, I figure any kind will do.

1 bag organic Navel oranges, Giada says only 7 oranges, I used 12 or so.

2 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 1-quart mason jars

For the infusion:  Peel the oranges using a vegetable peeler, into broad, long strips.  The bigger the pieces, the easier it’ll be to scrape the pith off, so don’t worry too much about trying not to get any pith, just do big fat strips.

naked oranges are weird

When your oranges are all undressed, take a sharp paring knife and holding each strip with one hand, scrape the white pith off the underside of each.  This will take a long time and about 1/4 of the way through, you’ll ask yourself “is this ABSOLUTELY necessary?”  Yes, it is.  Power through, and be thorough, your orangecello will taste bitter if you leave the pith.

this picture occurred right after i sprayed orange oil in my eye from scraping too vigorously.

Put half the peels into each of the jars, then cover with half the vodka.  Shake every day or so.  Giada says to let it sit for 4 days,  but I let mine sit for about 2 weeks.  I think as long as it’s at least a week or so, it’s fine.  After the two weeks, open the jars and fish out the peels with a pair of tongs, discard the peels.  In a sauce pan on medium heat, bring the water and sugar to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, take the syrup off the heat and let it cool to room temperature.  Pour half the syrup into each jar, it will EXACTLY fill each of the jars.  Give one jar to a friend, put one in your freezer and enjoy liberally.

holding shot glasses lets you imagine you're a giant.

– Cat



Filed under Drinks, Recipes

Summer Cocktails

After a long day at work, I was ready for a cocktail. Since it was approximately 95 degrees, I thought some fresh fruit would be a nice addition. So after a trip to the grocery store, and the liquor store….this is what I came up with:

1. Pimm’s No. 1 Cup

This is a classic cocktail, I can take no credit for it. Pimm’s is actually a gin based liquor but for those of you non gin drinkers (like myself) it doesn’t taste like your classic green bottle gin. This is a special blend of spices that, rumor has it, only two people in the world know. Cool, crisp, citrus-herbal tangy deliciousness.

1 1/2 oz Pimm’s No. 1 Cup

cucumber slices

lemon slices

Lemon-Lime soda (or ginger-ale, or lemonade)

Muddle two slices of lemon and two slices of cucumber in the bottom of a glass, add ice and Pimm’s, top with Sprite.

2. Cantaloupe Cooler

This one actually is my own creation- don’t give me too much credit, it’s not horribly creative, but it is good! This is the time of year where cantaloupes (and all melons) are coming into season. I, for one, am excited. So excited I added some vodka:

1 1/2 oz vodka

1/2 cup cantaloupe puree


soda water or sprite

salt/sugar mix

Start by pureeing the cantaloupe. I started with 1/2 which was enough for 4 drinks. I cubed and and pureed it in my food processor until it was smooth. Mix equal parts of kosher salt and sugar on a small plate, for rimming the glass. Slide a wedge of lime around the rim to moisten (never use water for this, it just melts whatever you are rimming the glass with) I thought the sugar/salt was genius, since salt is said to bring out the sweetness in cantaloupe, but feel free to just use sugar. Once you have rimmed the glass fill with ice, vodka, and 1/2 cup cantaloupe puree. Top with soda or sprite and a squeeze of lime. Stir to mix. This could also be served shaken and up.

3. Raspberry Jalapeño Mash

MMMmm I loved this one, but I also love the mix of spicy, sweet, tangy. This one is not for those who are afraid of spice (the boyfriend wasn’t a huge fan of this one, which meant I had to drink two…which will also explain the picture quality…) You can dial up or down the spice depending on how many jalapeño slices you add but I would urge you not to seed them. Without the heat, (which comes mostly from the seeds) the drink doesn’t really work.

1 1/2 oz vodka (or white rum would work)

3 slices of jalapeño

4 raspberries

2 tsp agave nectar (or honey)

Lemon-Lime soda

Muddle the slices of jalapeño and raspberries in the bottom of a glass. Add agave nectar, then ice, vodka, and Sprite. Stir to mix.

it got dark, sorry.

A few notes:

I put 1 1/2 oz of liquor in all of these cocktails because it’s the standard pour. But lets be honest, like most bars, my  pour was closer to 2 oz. Somewhere less than 1/2 full once you’ve added ice, and you should be good.

Don’t have a muddler? Use the end of a wooden spoon. Another note on muddling: when you muddle things like vegetables or fruits- go to town, muddle the crap out of them to release the juice and the flavors. However, when you muddle things like herbs be more gentle, you want to bruise them to release the oils, not mutilate them. I also think muddled drinks are best served with straws so you can continue to poke and mix at the delicious things on the bottom of the glass.



Filed under Drinks, Recipes

Out and about in Portland, plus at home cocktails

Cocktails.  Ah, cocktails.  Portland is a hipster cocktail city.  Somebody is always trying to “house infuse” some vodka with some new and exciting ingredient – spicy things look to be popular currently, now that bacon has started settling down.   Thai chilis, peppercorns, chipotles, whatever.  You can’t throw a bike lock in the air around here without hitting someone holding a drink with some crazy infused liquor in it.  Some of these are done exceedingly well (see Genie’s jalapeno vodka Bloody Mary) and some not so well (see the Maiden’s Trunk Monkey, with chili infused vodka, pineapple, cherry and lime juices – it’s really confusing).  The point is- everyone’s trying to set themselves apart with interesting, inventive cocktails, and mostly I’ve been finding them unimpressive, until recently. Linda and I went on a date to the Observatory on Friday night, a very cute, very well reviewed place in SE Portland.  The food was delicious – we shared pate, Linda had snapper with discs of sauteed potatoes and wilted arugula, I had sirloin, with pasta in garlic cream sauce with mushrooms and snap peas, everyone was happy.  The cocktails, though, were the real standout.  I thought I took pictures of all three- but evidently not, and excuse the quality, I took them on my magic phone.

The first:  the Capricorn, featuring fresh strawberry puree, vodka and peppercorn infused simple syrup, with a salted and crushed pink peppercorn-ed rim.  The peppercorn syrup was enough to lend a little heat to the drink, but the sweet, strawberry-ness of it married really well with the heat.  The salt and crushed pink peppercorns on the rim was inspired, the salt stopped the drink from being too sweet, and the pink peppercorns made it all the more attractive.  It’s just very well thought out.  Nothing overdone, no flavors in competition with the others, just gorgeous, boozy harmony.

i drank some before i remembered about the picture

Linda had the Tom Kah, featuring Thai bird chili infused vodka (see?), cilantro and lemongrass simple syrup, coconut cream and lime juice.  This is the restaurant’s most popular drink- from our table I could see about 10 people drinking it, and it’s easy to see why- the thing is genius.  Original, Thai flavored (Portland loves Thai food), including a spicy vodka.  Again, though, it was really well thought out.  You could taste each individual ingredient, but nothing was dominant.  The lemongrass and very light cilantro flavor of the syrup balanced nicely with the heat from the chili vodka, and the rich sweetness of the coconut cream made a nice pair with the acidic, tart lime juice.

i thought about fighting her for this, but decided against it.

My other drink, the one I forgot to take a picture of, was called the Pear Rosemary Martini, and included gin, pear brandy and rosemary simple syrup.  Elegant, beautiful, amazing.  I thought the pear flavor would get lost in the gin, and rosemary, being a pretty potent herb, but it was more of a pear flavor supported by the rosemary than anything.  It was pale and pearl colored, unadorned but for a floating sprig of rosemary.

There were myriad other cocktails to choose from, it was a feat to decide on the two I had.  There was an interesting cherry infused bourbon cocktail (if I drank bourbon, which I don’t), a sort of standard lemon and lavender cocktail that still looked tasty, and a variety of others that are very likely as perfect and well thought out as the ones I did have.

This experience inspired Linda and I to make a fancy at home cocktail the next day, as we already had most of the ingredients.  Adapted from Bon Apetit – the Leland Palmer:

Honey syrup, 1/2 c honey, 1/2 c boiling water – exactly like simple syrup, a 1:1 ratio, let it cool before using

2 cups fresh brewed jasmine tea – we used 3 tea bags, it was too many, use 1 or maybe 2

3/4 cup gin

3/4 cup limoncello

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice

top with club soda

Make these- prepare to be drunk really fast, they taste like jasmine-y, citrus-y candy.

– Cat


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