Thursday, October 15, 2015

Adventures with alcohol

Lately, I’ve been frequenting the liquor store. Which is kind of odd since I’m basically a teetotaler sort who has even lately discovered that even white wine makes me feel like I’m having a heart attack. But my assorted Quests for New-ness have brought me to the liquor store … often.

It started with a recipe I wanted to try for salmon and it called for ½ cup bourbon. So first I had to Google bourbon to see if I could just use plain old whisky (which I discovered in Googling is different from whiskey-with-an-e). I have lots of plain old whisky because my only foray into hard liquor is our annual party now dubbed the Whisky Sour Party and featuring the most amazing tasting drink.

The bottom line, bourbon has its own taste. Since I didn’t know what bourbon tasted like – but because I cook like a chemist and measure out ingredients exactly – I had to stick with the recipe – no deviations.

I asked the guy at the counter where bourbon was, but those were giant-size bottles. I explained to him that I only needed a half-cup, and he pointed out the cute little baby bottles behind him. Then he checked my I.D.
The salmon was so good that I returned about a month later and asked for the little bottle of bourbon. I wasn’t sure what size I’d gotten last time. “This one,” said the guy, “I remember you.”

I really like that salmon. So about another month later, I was back. This time, I thought I should buy more bourbon because it would be cheaper in quantity. I splurged for the 200 ml size. My liquor guy was not so impressed with my level of splurge.
A little back story here: when I first moved to Alaska 30 years ago, I did all the Alaskan things right off the bat: stocked up on halibut, skied Tincan with skins, and picked high-bush cranberries for cranberry liqueur. My friend Sharon gave me a recipe that called for gin, and I made a whole lot. Which I still have. I rediscovered it after 25 years and it tasted way better.
Anyhow, this year, my raspberry bushes were so prolific that I thought I’d experiment with raspberry liqueur. I had an old recipe that called for a fifth of Everclear. So I headed back to my liquor guy, but there was a new guy at the counter. He pointed me to the Everclear. There were two size bottles: 750 ml and 1.75 liters. “Which of these sizes is called a fifth?” I asked. A customer pointed, and I made my purchase.
In the parking lot, I ran into Pam. “Hey, how ya’ doin’?” she called out. Then, “Oh, I see you’re doing real well.” It turned into one of those special Alaska moments, discussing liqueur recipes in a parking lot with a fifth of Everclear in your hand.

A few weeks ago, I had been looking for a little rubber seal thing that had melted (or dissolved?) on the top of the bottle I once made raspberry vinegar in. I needed to fix that so I could use the bottle for my new liqueur. My quest led me to Arctic Brewing Supply, an incredibly interesting little store with all sorts of little bottles. I got my rubber seal, but now it’s those cute little bottles that I’m going to fill with raspberry liqueur.

Got the raspberries, got the Everclear, got the little bottle supplier. But now I have three recipes for raspberry liqueur, and they’re all different. Some have the raspberries sit for 24 hours by themselves, some have them sit in the Everclear for 3-4 weeks, some for two weeks. Some add more sugar than water, some the other way around. Some filter again after adding the sugar, some not. One adds cinnamon, orange peel, and vanilla bean (really?).

Anyone care to share a tried-and-true recipe? (Oh, wow, will this make us like Julie and Julia?!?)


  1. I'm a star!!!
    Best of luck on the liqueur! I forgot to mention that once I got to taste some raspberry liqueur that had aged and aged -- and it was amazing. So hold onto enough to taste test a few years in the future.

  2. Salmon with bourbon? Sounds yummy. That's a recipe to share.

    1. I did! Click on the word recipe at the start of that paragraph, and it will take you to the recipe. Enjoy!


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