Limoncello

_MG_6673Ahh, fall. As I've said many a time before, I love summer. But there is definitely something about crisp nights, warm cappuccinos in the morning and changing leaves that you can't help but love. But since I'm not quite ready to let go of summer yet, I wanted to share a recipe for limoncello in case you are in need of a refreshing digestivo on these still-warm days. If you haven't had limoncello before, it's basically sweetened, lemon-infused alcohol, usually drunk ice-cold after meals to aid digestion. You can also use it in cocktails, if you wish, or add some seltzer to dilute it a bit._MG_6670 _MG_6669The recipe itself couldn't be easier, but does take some time: I let the lemon peels soak for a full month for maximum lemon flavor (since, as you may know, I love anything lemon) and used the least amount of sugar recommended.  We've been enjoying this all summer, and it's a great thing to bring out at parties – or to give as (eek!) holiday gifts (not that I'm thinking about that yet.)

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On a more serious note: though I did not live in New York City 13 years ago, over the past four years this city has continued to amaze, inspire, and astonish me every single day. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to live here, and to get to know the varied–and incredibly resilient–people who call New York their home. Thoughts go out to anyone who was affected by what happened on that terrible day.

Limoncello (recipe from The Kitchn)

10 lemons, washed and dried (it's best to use organic since you will only be using the peels) 1 750-ml bottle vodka (100-proof preferred, or 80-proof) 1 cup sugar

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peels from all the lemons. Try to remove only the outer yellow skin and as little of the pith as possible. Trim away any large pieces of pith with a paring knife, but don't worry about trimming every last scrap.

Transfer the lemon peels to a 1-quart jar and cover with vodka. Screw on the lid.  Let the vodka and lemon peels infuse somewhere out of the way and out of direct sunlight for at least 4 days and up to one month. The longer you let the vodka infuse, the more lemony your limoncello.

After your vodka has infused for the length of time you choose, line a strainer with a large coffee filter and set it over a 4-cup measuring cup. Strain the infused vodka through the filter. You may need to stir the vodka in the strainer if the flow stops.

Prepare a simple syrup of 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar — bring the water to a simmer and stir in the sugar to dissolve; allow to cool. Mix with vodka, and you have limoncello! Store in the freezer for up to one year.

Classic Manhattan

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 11.47.04 AMWhen I turned 21 and started going to bars, I never knew what kind of drink to order. I'm pretty sure there was a period of time where I drank exclusively flavored vodka and soda (I've tried to block it out of my memory) or I would panic and just order a beer. Gradually, I started to try new things and moved from whiskey sours to Sidecars to Old-Fashioneds, and now, I'm currently in a Manhattan phase (can you tell that I'm a whiskey fan?) and when I was home in December, this was the cocktail of choice once 6 o'clock rolled around. If you can't tell by the bar cart, I do love a good cocktail – and to me, a well-shaken Manhattan is pretty much the perfect winter drink: strong enough to warm you up, but with only a few ingredients and easy enough to make in minutes. Manhattan (adapted from Food & Wine)

2 oz whiskey

1 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (the classic proportion is 1 oz, but I like mine just a little sweeter)

2 dashes bitters (Angostura is recommended, but I have been loving the Cherry-Vanilla Bitters I got from my sisters as a birthday present!)

1 brandied cherry

Add first three ingredients to a cocktail shaker, then add ice. Cover and shake well for 10-12 seconds, until very cold. Strain into a coupe glass, then garnish with cherry.

On Bar Carts

mg_4698About a year ago, I was obsessed with getting a bar cart. It probably came from reading too many home design blogs and watching Mad Men, but I couldn't get the idea out of my mind. I scoured Craigslist for months, but since I didn't really want to spend more than $50 on a cart, that limited my options. After what seemed like ages of looking, almost ready to throw in the towel and give up the search, Ari found one at the 6th Avenue Flea Market for a mere $20. Naturally, I was overjoyed and couldn't wait to get it home and move all of the bottles of liquor out of the closet. I don't drink cocktails all that often, but when I do, I at least want them to look pretty. _MG_4701 Keep reading for a few styling tips and a roundup of bar carts!

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bar carts1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8

Styling:

  • I like arranging alcohol by height so that you can best see each label.
  • Add other cocktail-related items, such as shakers, fun straws, and books to mix up the visual impact.
  • If you don't have room for a bar cart (or don't want one), another great option is to create a bar area by putting all of your bottles on a tray and displaying them on a bookshelf or countertop.
  • I like to keep my glassware on the bottom shelf altogether, but if you have particularly pretty glasses that you want to display, put them out with the bottles.
  • A bar is something that can be built up over time -- don't feel like you need to go out and buy 20 different kinds of alcohol at once. I have been adding to this collection for a couple of years, and you can start with just a bottle of clear alcohol (such as vodka or gin), one bottle of dark (such as bourbon or whiskey), and some bitters (essential for Manhattans, Old-Fashioneds, etc.). If you have the money or inclination, you can also add something a little more unexpected -- such as St. Germain or Aperol, both of which can be used in a number of different cocktails.
  • Other things to have on hand, especially for parties: lemons, limes, club soda, tonic, vermouth, and of course, plenty of ice.