August 4th, 2010
I can count on one hand the number of times Brian and I have gone out to dinner alone since Jonathan was born almost two years ago (where has my baby gone?). I know, I know, everyone says you need to be sure to get out alone with your spouse after having a child, and really, they’re right.
But here’s the thing. Aside from our traveling propensities, we’re really homebodies. Brian gardens (the sunflowers are blooming, the hops vines are over six feet now, and there is a freshly delivered pile of wood in my side yard destined for some new venture) in his free time, and I cook. Most of the time, we just enjoy doing our thing.
It’s not that we don’t like going out. We do. It’s just that we happen to live in an area that is sparse on unique, fun, non-chain restaurants. So, whenever we talk about going out, it usually ends up with us ordering sushi to-go from the decent spot not too far away (since we didn’t plan ahead and get a babysitter), or more usually, we stay home altogether and make homemade pizza that beats anything we could get eating out anyhow (I am so modest, no?).
Well, a couple of weeks ago we broke the norm. We happened to be up in the Washington D.C. area alone, together, with the rare opportunity to revisit one of our old haunts. Brian and I met in D.C. some seven plus(!) years ago now, and during our rather short courtship, we both gained at least five pounds eating out since we both had roommates, and the only way to be “alone”, was to go out. Funny how the table has turned!
Needless to say it was wonderful having a night to ourselves, eating great food someone else prepared, and revisiting sentimental memories. As it so happened as I was looking over the menu, I got fixated on a certain mixed drink. I actually do not remember the name, but no matter, the concept was simple: lightly sweetened lemonade mixed with fresh blackberries and blackberry stoli vodka.
I am not a mixed drink person. My drink of choice is red wine and usually when I try a mixed drink I am put off by the sweetness. But something about this blackberry lemonade concoction was calling my name – the waiter said he was “sure” I would love it, and if I didn’t, he vowed to bring me something different – how could I refuse?
Oh, I am so glad I didn’t – and I hope you will be too, since I haven’t been able to get it off my mind since, and have concocted this homemade version with just a couple of adjustments – I decided to use limes instead of lemons, and to make it sparkle. I love sparkle! (you can make your own carbonated anything – I’ve just discovered this – exciting!)
I made the alcohol optional so it could be an anytime drink, and finally, I tried it with muddled lavender (surprise, surprise), basil, mint, and fresh ginger (all testing completed sans vodka!). They were all interesting and alluring in their own way, but my favorites were the ginger, then plain, then the mint. I can’t believe I didn’t like the lavender best, but I have to say – the addition of fresh ginger added an aromatic spicy heat that was really quite extraordinary.
I added ice at first to try to pretty up these pictures, but I really don’t like ice in my drinks – especially in this kind of a drink where the potency of flavors is so important and I don’t want them watered down. So I took it out, on second thought.
All in all, the whole thing is pretty special, and I find it very satisfying to have made my own sparkling soda. I guess it’s good to break out of routine occasionally and experience a new thing or two!
Sparkling blackberry limeade
7 1/2 cups water
1 cup superfine sugar
6 medium juicy limes, juiced
1/8 teaspoon of active dry yeast
1 quart blackberries (4 cups)
2-3 tablespoons sugar (less for sweet berries, more for tart berries)
fresh ginger or mint (optional)
Stoli blakberi vodka (optional)
1-2 limes for serving, sliced thin
Begin this recipe at least 48 hours before planning to serve. Combine the juice from the limes, water, 1 cup superfine sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon yeast in a large plastic (not glass, as you may need to release gases as it carbonates) jug. Close container and swirl to begin dissolving the sugar. Any undissolved sugar will dissolve on its own through the carbonation process. Set the container/jug out at room temperature for 48 hours and then place in the fridge to cool before drinking.
Crush the blackberries with the 2-3 tablespoons of sugar, leaving some berry pieces still intact. Grate a couple of grates of fresh ginger into a glass or muddle 3-4 mint leaves (if using) into 1 1/2 ounces of blakberi vodka (if using) and place a slice or two of lime in each glass. Serve chilled with or without ice (I prefer without) using one part blackberry syrup to two parts sparkling limeade. If serving as a cocktail, begin with 1/3 cup limeade to 1/4 cup crushed berry syrup, and adjust to taste.