Guilt Free Cocktail: Limoncello Mint Sorbet

The beginning of the school year historically seems to bring out the humidity in Iowa weather.  This week is projected to be no exception.  This time of the year is perfect for a cool cocktail, and one with guilt free properties is especially delightful.  Fresh fruit adds a seasonal touch to this refreshing drink.

Limoncello Mint Sorbet

2  cups water

1 1/3 cups sugar

1/2 cup limoncello

1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 large lemons)

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

2 cups blackberries

Lemon slices (optional)

* Combine first 3 ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; add lemon juice and mint. Cover and chill.

*Strain juice mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Pour mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer; freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spoon sorbet into a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze 1 hour or until firm. Serve with blackberries; garnish with lemon slices, if desired.

* If you don’t want to use the limoncello, you can substitute 1/2 cup of prepared lemonade.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION:  184 CALORIES, 0.2 G FAT, 0.6 G PROTEIN, 34.3 G CARBS, 2 G FIBER

Birthday Cake Martini

In honor of a dear friend’s birthday, I would like to share this decadent recipe for a lovely birthday cake martini.  What better way is there to feel like a kid again than to drink a cocktail with sprinkles on the rim, especially when those sprinkles fall into the drink and make whimsical, colorful swirls?

Birthday Cake Martini

3 ounces fluffed marshmallow vodka

1 ounce cream of coconut (be sure to stir well before using!)

2 ounces Amaretto

3 ounces Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur

Honey

Sprinkles (nonpareils work well)

In a shaker, combine vodka, coconut, Amaretto and White Chocolate Liqueur. Add ice and shake. Use honey to rim the glass with sprinkles.  Cheers to birthday celebrations!

 

 

 

Minhas Distillery

Minhas Distillery is located in Monroe, Wisconsin.  After touring their brewery, we went across the street to check out the distillery.  The two college aged gentlemen working the tasting room gave us information about their products and suggested some combinations for their liquor, all of which involved the sodas produced and sold by the company.  I must say they had some fabulous homemade root beer.

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Although we had had our fill of tours for the day, we still “officially” did the tour so that we could partake in the opportunity to try all of the liquor they had to offer and go home with a gift pack that included a bottle of their vodka and a glass.

The tour was filled with some interesting information about the industry.  One of the original owners of the facility was thought to have been kidnapped by Al Capone.  I love finding out little pieces of history like that!  Especially since Al Capone has historical ties to our area as well.

The owner of the distillery is the father of the brother/sister duo that own the brewery.  The family is based in Canada, but purchased so much product from this facility that they eventually bought it outright. From the distillery tasting room, you can see the house that they bought across the street for their once a month visits.

It is interesting to me to learn more about how challenging it can be to be able to sell alcohol in different states and countries.  They had gorgeous empty bottles of the tequila they produce in Canada on display as a chandelier, but they are unable to sell in in the United States for legal reasons.  The same was the case for their Irish Cream.  I was disappointed because I wanted to try both of these products.

Celebrity Wine, Beer & Spirits

Is it just me or does it seem like every time I turn around I see a new wine, beer or spirit produced by a celebrity?  Maybe I am just jealous of them because they have such a high disposable income that they can simply do this as a side investment for fun, while many average citizens (myself included!) would love the opportunity to devout their whole career to running their own business in the wine, beer or spirits industry with the luxury of basically unlimited funds.

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Now, it is pervasive everywhere you look.  Even in television shows.  I remember being flabbergasted when I located a bottle of Avion tequila in a liquor store while looking for margarita ingredients. I thought it was a fake tequila concocted purely for the show Entourage. I had no idea it was an actual spirit. It was like life imitating art.  On the show, one character was trying to use his celebrity buddy to market the tequila.  I ended up purchasing a bottle simply because they had a smaller size that was half the price of the other good tequilas (and it ended up being a solid choice).  Well played, Turtle. Well played.  Your marketing and celebrity status got my attention.

Sean Combs has Ciroc vodka. Rapper Xzibits now has a line of tequila called Bonita. George Clooney and Randy Gerber are launching a tequila named Casamigos. The Grateful Dead and Pearl Jam are crafting beers with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. Kenny Chesney is launching a rum called Blue Chair Bay.

In the wine industry, I am assuming that Francis Ford Coppola was probably one of the first to dip his toes in the water back in the 70s.  Now Drew Barrymore has a line of wines, along with Fergie’s line titled Ferguson Crest, Richard Gere’s Tuscan label, Mike Ditka’s line (Mike Ditka?!?), Keyshawn Johnson’s line, and Tyler Florence has wines under Mondavi.  I am certain there are many more celebrity wines out there that I have never even seen.

I have no doubt that some of these celebrity offerings are actually decent wine, beer and spirits.  But the industry is starting to remind me of the perfume/cologne industry where anyone with money can develop their own brand. Now it is hard to even find a perfume or cologne display that isn’t dominated by celebrity options.

Has anyone tried any of these (or other) celebrity owned wine, beer and spirits?  I have tried the Avion and Coppola wine, but other than that I have pretty much steered clear of these offerings.

Brewery Tours

When I first started this blog, I made a few goals for myself.  One of the goals I set was to travel to a new winery, brewery or distillery every month. I enlisted the help of my brother, asking him if he would be willing to spend his much coveted weekends with me on the pursuit of good, local beer. (And by local, I mean anything in Iowa or a connecting state!) Thankfully, he is willing to make the sacrifice and we have planned an outing this weekend to two breweries and a distillery in Wisconsin.

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My brother and I had plans to go to New Glarus Brewery on the last weekend in April, so when a group of guests that I was working with at the winery last weekend started talking about New Glarus, I asked if they had any advice.  They were a wealth of knowledge about other places to visit and quickly our trip to one brewery turned into a day including two breweries, a distillery and a tavern/cheese shop.  I could not be more excited!  (And I’m thinking I should win some sort of ‘Sister of the Year’ award for this deal.)

Maybe it is the teacher in me, so used to planning field trips and preparing for the unexpected, but I always feel the need to research where we are going ahead of time to have an idea of what to expect.  That night after work I went home and looked up Minhas Brewery, Minhas Distillery and Baumgartener’s Cheese Shop and Tavern.  I will give a full report on the beers and spirits after visiting, but I wanted to share a few of the things I am excited about before the visit to see if they live up to my expectations.

New Glarus Brewery

Spotted Cow at the New Glarus Brewery is by far their most popular brew in the area, but I look forward to trying the other types of beer they produce.  There are six beers available year round, seasonal beers to compliment the time of year and they always have a few surprises up their sleeves to keep things interesting.  I am most curious about their Thumbprint Series, in which they let their brewmaster loose to create whatever his adventurous heart desires.

Minhas Brewery

The tour at Minhas Brewery looks fantastic! After touring the facilities, you can hang out in their Lazy Mutt Lounge and enjoy bottomless beer samples of their brews.  Considering the crowd that may be joining my brother and I, Minhas may want to rethink this policy before the weekend.  They also send you off with a “Thank You” pack full of bottles of their beer, root beer and a souvenir glass. For the mere $10 you spend on the tour, I think that is quite the deal!

Minhas Distillery

Located conveniently across the street from the brewery, the Minhas Distillery also provides a tour of their facilities.  Their spirits selection includes gin, three types of rum, rye whisky, tequila, vodka and irish cream.  What I am most looking forward to, though, is their horchata rum.  I did not find any information about it online, but the couple I spoke with at the winery said it was fabulous and leaps and bounds above RumChata, which has become popular in this area.

Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern

You can not visit Wisconsin without stopping for cheese!  Thankfully I got the inside scoop about a fabulous little cheese store and tavern a block away from the distillery called Baumgartner’s.  Apparently they have the second best chili (only after your mother’s) and a cheese sandwich that is a must try item.  They feature locally brewed beers on tap to compliment their food.  What can be better than a quaint, local tavern after a day of tasting locally brewed beers and spirits?  I can’t think of anything, either.

Needless to say, I am counting down the days to the weekend!

Guild of Sommeliers

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I recently signed up for the Guild of Sommeliers. I received an e-mail from them after signing up for a course through The Master Court of Sommeliers. I had already looked into their organization, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to sign up.  The Guild of Sommeliers strives to provide wine education, enrichment and healthy debate among members while maintaining the chief values of the profession: integrity, humility, and hospitality toward all.

Described as America’s premiere association of working sommeliers and wine professionals, it offers many opportunities to further educate myself in the wine, beer and spirits industry.  Some of these include educational tools, a compendium, featured articles, podcasts and interviews, discussion forums, maps and job postings.

I look forward to taking some time to peruse their website and using this information to help guide my continuing education in the field!

Red Wine Sangria

In an effort to will summer to appear quicker, I am organizing all of my summer recipes.  Last year I brought this to our family’s Father’s Day celebration, which included my parents, brother, both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and significant others.  All in all, there were well over fifty people that showed up at my parents house for a lovely afternoon playing games, eating and drinking.  This cocktail was a hit! I can’t wait to make it again this summer. (And I have plenty of peach schnapps left since this recipe is the only thing I use it in!)

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Red Wine Sangria

1 bottle of red, fruity wine (I find that the inexpensive varieties work well for sangria)

2 cups of vodka (more/less to taste or for potency)

1 cup of peach schnapps

2 cups of orange juice

2 oranges, sliced

2 limes, sliced

2 lemons, sliced

3 cups of grapes

Any other fruit you would like to include (peaches & apples work well)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large pitcher, mashing some of the fruit to release juices. Feel free to adjust the amounts of ingredients to suit your tastes. The key is to have a cocktail you enjoy! If you love raspberries, throw them in.  If you don’t want a drink that is as strong, cut out the vodka. Experiment to find your perfect combination/recipe.

Let sit for 8 to 36 hours.  The longer it sits, the fruitier the sangria will be and the more alcoholic the fruit pieces will become. Serve over ice.

My Go-To Drinks

I have a very unsophisticated palate, but I have been enjoying beer, spirits and wine for awhile and I know what I enjoy. I am curious to see if my tastes will change as I become more knowledgable about alcohol and try a plethora of new products.

One of my favorite times of the year is the holiday season.  I love a good drink and the holidays seem to bring about more than a few opportunities to have a social cocktail.  For me, the holiday season starts with my birthday, which is typically celebrated about a week before Thanksgiving, and lasts well into the new year.  You may notice a few seasonal drinks on my list of favorites below because of my affinity for the holidays.

Bailey’s Irish Cream

Such a lovely holiday treat!  I even bought an ice mold tray that will make ice shot glasses, perfect for the Bailey’s.

Schlafly’s Pumpkin Ale

I am quite particular about pumpkin ale.  This St. Louis brewery is phenomenal and their seasonal pumpkin ale is the best I have ever tasted.  I never seem to get enough of it before it is off the shelves.

Ketel One Vodka

I was not always particular about what kind of vodka I drank.  In college, the five dollar bottle was economical and got the job done for tailgating purposes.  Now that I have a more discerning palette and suffer from hangovers more easily, I prefer to spend a bit more money for the smooth taste and ability to function the next day.  I recommend putting this bottle in the freezer for an even smoother effect.

Avion Tequila

As with the vodka, I am willing to pay for the smoother tequila.  I did not even realize that Avion was an actual brand;  I simply thought it was concocted for the show Entourage.  When I saw the perfect smaller sized bottle for my margarita needs, I snapped a bottle up to check it out.  I was impressed.  Well played, Turtle.  Well played.

** Need a perfect margarita recipe?  Check this one out:  Margarita Recipe

Captain Morgan

Does it mean I am an alcoholic if the Friday night bartender at the nearest watering hole to my work place knows exactly what to pour me when I walk in after a long work week?  I didn’t think so.

Captain Morgan and Diet Dr. Pepper is my go-to after work drink on a Friday night.  I have converted more people than you would think to mixing this spiced rum with Diet Dr. Pepper.

X Rated Fusion 

When I want a girly drink, I turn to this pretty pink liquor.  Mixed with a cheap bottle of champagne, this mango, blood orange and passion fruit infused vodka makes an excellent girls night in cocktail.

Cavit Pinot Grigio

A lovely pinot grigio to have with a plate of cheese or chicken dish.  It is very drinkable and reasonably priced, which is important for a simple wine with your meal.

Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir

For me, this is the perfect inexpensive light bodied dry red to enjoy with a nice Italian meal.  Cheers to comfort food and table wine!

Fresh Homemade Margaritas

Sometimes in the middle of a cold, blustery day, the thought of a lovely, refreshing margarita instantly transforms me south of the border.  This summer I felt it was my obligation to find the perfect homemade margarita recipe.  In the name of science, I performed many experiments to find what I felt was the perfect combination and only recently stumbled upon the magic, secret ingredient.

If you are in need of an instant reminder of summer, mix up some margaritas and grab the chips and salsa!

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Fresh Homemade Margaritas


1 cup tequila (100% agave tequila labeled white, silver or blanco)

6 fresh limes

2 fresh oranges

¼ cup agave nectar

1 can of light beer

Sea salt

Fill a large pitcher up with ice.  Pour in the tequila. Squeeze in the juice of the limes and oranges. Add the agave nectar and can of beer.  Stir briskly until mixed well.  Salt the rim of your margarita glass, pour yourself a generous portion and enjoy!

Personal Preferences:

*I recommend Avion, Hornitos or Patron.  Good tequila makes a world of difference, in my opinion.

*Room temperature citrus is easier to juice, so I recommend taking it out of the fridge an hour ahead of time.

*The measurements do not have to be exact.  Change to match your own personal taste preference.

It is baffling how a can of beer transformed every other variation of the recipe I had tried.  It cut the sourness of the lime perfectly and gave the margarita a bit of refreshing carbonation that balanced the drink well.  I would have never tried it unless heavily persuaded.

Goals

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Welcome to my journey of alcohol enlightenment!  This website is a culmination of multiple passions that I possess: creative writing, continuing education, alcohol consumption and delicious meals.  My goal is to eventually become a certified sommelier.  This website was initially born out of the desire to have documentation of the interesting things I am learning.  It will also be a valuable resource when I have a particular vintage or brew that I vaguely remember, but can’t quite place. I will simply be able to jump online and look it up in my own personal wine, beer and spirits encyclopedia.  I never would have imagined that my life’s opus would revolve around alcohol.  But I love that it does.

Part of continuously educating myself on the wine, beer and spirits industry will involve tasting a plethora of new alcohols.  Rough job description, right?  One goal I have for myself is to travel to one local winery, brewery or distillery each month and write about my experience.  I will also try one new wine, beer or spirit each week and document my thoughts.