Category Archives: alcohol

Limey Mojito Spritzer


Here’s a twist on good old fashioned lemonade. Just add a lime instead! While I find limes considerably more difficult to juice than lemons, the results are so worth it so be sure to use fresh limes. The combination of lime juice, mint, and sparkling water is reminiscent of mojitos, which are my favorite adult summer beverage. Sometimes I’ll add the rum and other times I’ll leave it other. Whichever version you choose, pour yourself a tall drink, sit back, relax, and enjoy these hot lazy summer days.


1 cup water

1 cup superfine sugar

1 1/2 liters Pellagrino or other sparkling water

1 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

1/2 cup light rum (optional)

In a small saucepan, bring the water and superfine sugar to a boil. Boil 3 minutes then remove from the heat. Allow to cool.
Using a wooden spoon, muddle the mint leaves in the bottom of a glass pitcher. Add the simple syrup and lime juice and stir to combine.
Pour in the sparkling water and rum, if using.
Serve in chilled glasses over ice.

Red Wine Sangria


I drink wine year around.  As a rule I prefer red to white any day but depending on the meal a rich red or a crisp white is the perfect accompaniment to food.  During the cooler months a warm and spicy gluhwein hits the spot.  Gluhwein, or mulled wine, is a staple at Christmas markets throughout Europe and as I’ve discovered, each county–or region for that matter–puts their own twist on this winter staple.  Some may be spicier and others may be sweeter.  Regardless of the ingredients, each cup is sure to please.  However, hot wine doesn’t excite me during the summer months.  Hot weather calls for something lighter and cooler so for this wine drinker, that means sangria.  As my recent trip to Spain showed me, there are just as many varieties of sangria as there are gluhwein.  Within the greater Madrid area alone I sampled sangria that was sweet or spicy or sometimes both.  And this was just the versions made with red wine.

I’ve long had a favorite sangria recipe.  My red wine version includes oranges, lemons, and limes making for a citrus filled and refreshing drink. (Be on the lookout for my white wine version later this summer!)  This recipe calls for a single liter of red wine but the recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, or more depending upon the size of your crowd.  Any dry red wine works for this recipe.  If you like it, use it.  For larger quantities I used to use Trader Joe’s infamous “Two Buck Chuck” since it was drinkable without being too expensive.  (Save your really good wine for drinking as is).  Back in our Norfolk, Virginia days I would mix up a cooler full of sangria for our annual Belvedere block party.  As the summer wore on I’d make up the same amount to enjoy during our long lazy weekends on our boat.  Regardless of the quantity you make, the longer it sits the stronger it becomes.  You can easily dilute it by adding more juice or ice.  However you make it or where ever you drink it, it is sure to refresh.  To me, sangria is the ultimate summer drink.


1 liter dry red wine

1/4 cup (or more) white sugar, depending on taste

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/2 cup Triple Sec or other orange liqueur

1 orange

1 lemon

1 lime

ice cubes

  • Thoroughly scrub the rinds of the fruit to remove any waxes.  Thinly slice the fruit taking care to remove any seeds.
  • Place the fruit in a large pitcher.  Add the sugar and using a wooden spoon, muddle to combine the sugar and fruit.
  • Pour the wine, juice, and liqueur over the fruit; stir to combine.
  • Let the sangria sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  • Before serving, add ice to the pitcher.

Serves 4


Chocolate Chip Dutch Baby With Coffee Bananas


Breakfast on weekday mornings usually involves coffee on the run.  Since breakfast really is my favorite meal of the day I try to make something special for those weekend mornings when we are home and have the time to eat a leisurely meal.  Because it is the first meal of the day and I’m not fully functional until the first cup of coffee has kicked it, whatever I make needs to be relatively easy and quick; I don’t do multi bowl recipes first thing in the morning.

This dish, adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, is essentially a giant popover doctored up with chocolate chips and bananas. It reminds me of the German pancakes my mom used to make when I was growing up.  For a simpler presentation you can omit the chocolate chips and top the pancake with fresh berries once it comes out of the oven.  I’ve used strawberries, blueberries, and peaches when they are in season.  When fresh berries aren’t available, bananas work nicely with the addition of coffee liqueur kicking the dish up a notch.  Because it is breakfast, after all, I forgo the whipped cream but add it and this pancake could easily be served as dessert at the end of a dinner.


3/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons butter, divided 

1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

2 large firm bananas, sliced into coins

1/2 cup coffee-flavored liqueur (I like Lilly brand)

Whipped cream (if desired)

  • Preheat oven to 450°.
  • Place a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in a 450° oven for 15 minutes.
  • Combine first 5 ingredients, stirring with a whisk until smooth.
  • Melt 1 tablespoon butter in preheated pan until browned, swirling to evenly coat pan.
  • Add batter; sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until puffed and browned.
  • Cut banana halves into coins. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bananas; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Add liqueur; simmer 1 minute.
  • Serve with Dutch baby; top with whipped cream if desired.

Chocolate Chip Irish Cream Pound Cake

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day here is an easy cake courtesy of Cooking Light Magazine that combines chocolate with Irish Cream liqueur.  This cake is moist and dense and the Irish Cream adds a surprising hint of flavor for those who aren’t expecting it.  The cake is easy to make and I’ve served it as a dessert to end a formal dinner, with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream on the side, but it is just as good with a cup of coffee for an afternoon snack or as a decadent breakfast treat.
People unfamiliar with Cooking Light might think it is odd that a healthy cooking magazine would include dessert recipes.  Filled with recipes ranging from soups and salads to entrees and yes desserts, this magazine proves that desserts don’t have to be off-limits when eating healthy and with a few simple tweaks of ingredients, can be a part of a healthy diet.  If you haven’t checked out the magazine, do so either in print or on-line.  Every issue is filled with tasty healthier recipes, many of which have become mainstays in my own kitchen.

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate mini chips

1 teaspoon cake flour

2 3/4 cups cake flour (about 11 ounces)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup fat-free cream cheese, softened

10 tablespoon butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3/4 cup Irish cream liqueur

Baking spray with flour

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

  • Preheat oven to 325°.
  • Combine chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon flour in a small bowl; toss.
  • Lightly spoon 2 3/4 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Place cream cheese and butter in a bowl; beat with a mixer at high-speed to blend. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla; beat until blended.
  • Add eggs, 1 at a time; beat well after each addition. Beat on high-speed 1 minute.
  • With mixer on low, add flour mixture and liqueur alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat well after each addition.
  • Fold in chocolate chips.
  • Pour batter into a 12-cup Bundt pan coated with baking spray. Bake at 325° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Sift powdered sugar over cake.

Boozy Hot Chocolate (Three Ways)


This very adult hot cocoa doesn’t even resemble the watery version made with powder and adorned with dehydrated marshmallows that I drank as a child.  This is rich and creamy with a little kick of your choice.  A little goes a long way;  especially if you make it with whole milk.  So sit back, relax, and enjoy your cup on a cold winter afternoon.

You can add whichever liqueur strikes your fancy.  I experimented with Grand Marnier, Frangelico, and a Lilly coffee liqueur.  Each was different but all three were good and we couldn’t decided which one we preferred.



Serves 2

2 cups 2 percent milk (or whole if your feeling indulgent)

3 1/2 ounces good quality dark chocolate

4 teaspoons dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons liqueur of your choice

Whipped cream

Garnishes as desired (orange zest, whole coffee beans, cocoa powder, etc)

1)  Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Add to a medium sized saucepan with the brown sugar and


2)  Stirring frequently, warm over medium low heat.

3)  Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of the liqueur of your choice in the bottom of each mug.  Ladle in the cocoa

     and stir to combine.

4)  Top with a dollop of whipped cream and garnish, if desired.  I used orange zest for the Grand

      Marnier version, a coffee bean for the coffee version, and a dusting of Dutch processed cocoa for

      the Frangelico version.

Drink and enjoy!

Slivovitz (Plum Brandy)


Earlier this fall I came across a recipe for plum brandy in the Food Section of the Washington Post.  With only five simple ingredients, the recipe promised to produce a traditional Eastern European plum brandy. The kicker?  It had to sit for ninety days before it was ready to drink. Because plums happened to be plentiful here in Albania, decided to give this recipe a try.  For the first two weeks the brandy in the making did require minimal daily attention.  After that I put my jars on a shelf in the pantry and forgot about them.

Shortly after Christmas I dug them out and we sampled the results. Thanks in part to the inclusion of cinnamon sticks, the deep purple drink tasted like a boozy red hot candy.  Personally I found the brandy to be a bit too strong for my liking. Glenn, however, is a fan.


2 1/2 pounds purple plums
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 1-inch pieces lemon peel
4 cups vodka or Everclear grain alcohol; I used the Everclear
1)  Use a sharp paring knife to pierce the fruit through to the pit, cutting each plum 3 or 4 times and examining each one
      to make sure it’s perfect. (Bruised fruit ferments too quickly.)
2)   Pack the fruit into the jar(s) and add the sugar, cinnamon stick and lemon peel. Pour in enough vodka or grain
       alcohol to cover the plums, and cap the jar securely.
3)  Every day for 2 weeks, invert the jar. It’s a good idea to place the jar in a bowl, to contain any leakage, then pour the
      contents of the bowl back into the jar. At the end of 2 weeks, the sugar will have dissolved.
4)  Place the jar in a closet or other dark space for 90 days.
5)  Strain the finished slivovitz through a coffee filter and transfer it to a storage container or gift bottles.
Step One; Day One
Day Three
Three months later and ready to drink
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