Booze for Thought: Dessert Vodkas

It’s completely normal to spend a decent part of a Sunday afternoon in the liquor store, wandering dreamily down the aisles, considering every bottle that catches a glint of sunlight and tosses a come hither look my way…right?

Some would say I’m like a kid in a candy store. They really don’t know how right they are…

The number of whipped cream, marshmallow, caramel, bubblegum and s’mores flavored bottles there are in existence is pretty amazing. Dessert vodkas have been steadily increasing their shelf space since Pinnacle was introduced to the market in 2009. I never paid them much attention especially after seeing quite a few of these sweet spirits crust over on the bar shelves where I used to work — where one bottle lived for over a year—but after seeing the shelves today, I’m wondering why are there so many?

There’s something inherently wrong about infusing liquor with children’s snack flavors. Artificial flavoring (because there is definitely not a piece of cookie dough infusing flavor in those blue bottles), and steering under-agers to drink aside, I worry about any drink that doesn’t taste like alcohol is involved. These types of liquors will almost always be mixed with a concoction of juices or soda and before you know it, heywhahappened?! you’re wasted. The hangover to follow might make you wish for death. There’s just no reason to do that.

More importantly than that is that the experience of the flavors is removed. There’s no texture battle between the layers of sweet pastry and rich frosting. There’s no fruit filling or little bits of wax from birthday candles that burned too long. You don’t get to search out the perfect stick to roast that marshmallow or try to avoid hitting anyone when it bursts into flames and you’re trying to put it out in the most laughable way possible. You didn’t have to stick your thumb in half the contents of Russell Stover’s Holiday Pack to find what you were looking for.

Oh, and remember this scene? It’s exactly why I won’t walk down the liquid dessert path. Thanks for the warning, Willy…

There’s something to be said for simple pleasures. Creating a memory around a set of flavors instead of forgetting everything because of them seems like the better route. Expect to see me cook with some of these puppies — can’t tell me salted caramel won’t make a killer icing — but I’m not sure they’ll ever see my cocktail shaker.

I do love my sweets though but for me Frangelico, Domaine de Canton and Limoncello are just enough…

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It’s Pumpkin Season…

There is a time and place for every beer. Like seasonal produce, beers appear as the weather changes to match up with the early sunsets, hay rides and naked tree branches that come every fall. But let’s face it: even with fantastic Oktoberfest specials, Harvest ales, and ESBs (Extra Special Bitters)—we all know its pumpkin season.

Breads, pies, cakes, cookies, candles, seeds, soups—you name it. For the next few months, everything will be inundated with the sweet, orange richness of everyone’s favorite squash. With spices like ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice dancing through the fall brews in different proportions, pumpkin beers replace dessert with the liquid version of pumpkin pie.

After some kick-ass pumpkin pancakes, I developed a taste for pumpkin in the morning. Naturally, I want my pumpkin (beer) for breakfast. Starting a day off with the best fall has to offer helps ward away the 9-5 blues.

Breakfast beer poses significant issues for most—especially on weekdays when getting to work sober is more than a bit important. There’s something about having an adult beverage before heading out in the AM that is (understandably) socially unacceptable. Though I’m not sure many people could tell the difference between my beer buzz and my coffee buzz, I’m not looking to find out any time soon. But–of course there is a but–if beer is added to a recipe that’s cooked, it will lose most of its punch.

Most pumpkin beers will range from 4-7% ABV (Check out Beer Advocate for some great notes on loads of Pumpkin Beers), and when simmered for 30 minutes, according to this 2003 study by the USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory, only 35% of the alcohol will remain. So even with a stronger beer as an ingredient, that’s nowhere near enough to do any real damage.

I sat down with a pumpkin bottle and a can of pumpkin puree for about an hour to chat about how they could help me have a lovely, pumpkin filled breakfast experience. My beer of choice was the Schlafly Pumpkin Ale for its sweetness and well-rounded spice without going overboard on the nutmeg like some others. It’s a great representative of what a pumpkin beer should taste like. The canned pumpkin puree was there for moral support—in case the pumpkin flavor got lost in the mix.

They didn’t say much.

In the end, it came down to me diving into the can of pumpkin, while drinking the beer—same mouthful, very strange—but I came up with this little beauty: an homage to the jars found lining the “shelves” at farmers markets that are increasingly populating the streets of Philadelphia. Was there a sale on street permits, or what?

Schlafly Pumpkin Beer Butter

…your toast will never be the same

  • 1 Can Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie mix…there is a difference)
  • 1 C Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
  • 1 C White Sugar
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 2-3 dashes cayenne pepper

Combine pumpkin, beer, sugar and spices in a saucepan and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes –the mixture will be thickened in the end. Be sure to stir frequently.

Chill in the refrigerator before serving. Great on toast when you’re running out the door and (almost) late for work every day!

Bloody Genius, BloodyMary!

Even though I was the kid who rinsed off hot wings (yes, in the sink), I find myself loving spice lately. There’s just something really cleansing about the eye watering, nose running and deep belly fire that’s better than Bikram in August for a good full body rinse.

Spice helps raises metabolism, rids the body of toxins, clears out sinuses, and lowers blood pressure among other things. The fact that we inadvertently take in all kinds of toxins on a daily basis is a good reason to get rid of a few here and there.  Spicy foods like hot peppers actually help to dilate (open up) blood vessels and increase blood flow. Better blood flow = less crap. Less crap, happier body.

After a long, fuzzy weekend of purposeful toxin guzzling, I need as much blood flow as possible.

While the truly perfect solution has always involved chewing (read: cheese omelet with mustard, greasy hash browns and dry wheat toast and about 2 gallons of water), sometimes food is not quite what I’m looking for…and not yet what I’m able to manage. To make sitting upright possible, spicy drinks are the secret. They help to hydrate, satiate and get me firing on all cylinders again. If the burning in my stomach can distract from the burning behind my eyes — even better.

The Bloody Mary is the answer.

I hate to admit that I had my first Bloody Mary about a month ago. I wish I knew about this for most of my 20’s as I suffered through many long days of brain-dead zombie-time. I probably deserved that suffering though. Builds character says my dad.

Life is a learning process.

A lot of seasoned vets will tell you extra horse-radish is the way to go—but after seeing horse-radish nearly kill a woman on “1,000 Ways to Die”, I just can’t take the chance any more. After developing what seems like an immunity to the attempts of Tabasco, I knew shit was about to get real. It was time to play with fire.

I’d love to take credit for this gem—but it was Matt who decided to shove 3 of his home-grown what-do-I-do-with-them-now? jalapeños into a bottle of Absolut at the beginning of the summer. The heat emanating from this bottle is the only reason it’s been living here for more than a few weeks.

If it’s survived this long, it might really know something I don’t know…

If you’ve got a long weekend ahead, run out and grab these ingredients–it’ll save your life come Sunday. Promise.

Bloody Genius, Mary!

  • 3/4 C Tomato Juice
  • 1/4 C Jalapeño Infused Vodka*
  • 1 t horse-radish
  • 1/2 t lemon juice
  • 1/8 t Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/8 t Steak Sauce (A-1)
  • 1/8 t Tabasco Sauce
  • 1/8 t Sriracha sauce
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedge, lime wedge, Hot Pepper Pickled Asparagus** spears to garnish & take the place of celery as a stirrer

*Quick note on infusing vodka: it’s very easy! You don’t need to use a whole bottle if you don’t want that much jalapeño vodka. Slice up peppers and soak. It will get stronger the longer it sits. 24 hrs. will suffice.

**Quicker note on the Hot Pepper Pickled Asparagus: I used a variation on the recipe found on Food In Jars. Even though she has a great recipe for pickled asparagus, I like the “quick pickle” version. And these are ridiculously good.

So you’ll need to prep those two things in advance if possible. Consider it pre-gaming.

Combine all other ingredients over ice, garnish with lemon, lime and asparagus spears and you’re cured!