I’m going to sing the praises of some unusual libations here. First is the Cucumber Basil Martini that I had on vacay at the Talkative Pig on Cape Cod. Made with vodka, muddled cucumber and fresh basil, and the fennel based liqueur Finocchietto, it was the perfect pre-dinner cocktail devoid of cloying sweetness.
To educate, Finocchietto has a bold, bright fennel flavor, one that’s light and balanced, rather than the aggressive anise hit that spirits can bring. It reminded us how fresh and vibrant fennel can be. According to history, Roman gladiators flavored their food with Finocchietto, believing it to be a source of strength. It is a fine savory digestif and a cooking staple in many Neapolitan kitchens today.
Problem is, no liquor store in the great state of PA carries it—it has to be special ordered according to one state store manager. And he told me it would not come in in time for our house party only days away. Bumhead 😦 I’ll continue to be a liqueur sleuth until I score…
But here’s where I CRUSHED it—almost. Ever hear of Hpnotiq? It’s a refreshing blend of premium French vodka, exotic fruit juices and a touch of cognac. Sounds very adult-like, right? Well I had a full, unopened bottle of Hpnotiq and decided to make a Blue Crush for the house drink. All I needed was lemonade and blueberry vodka.
Simple enough mission. Just send The Hubs to the liquor store where they sell every fruit-flavored vodka imaginable, plus oddities like cucumber and basil, and peanut to name a few. But no friggin’ blueberry! Are you kidding me? After some discussion via our mobiles, we decided to go with Blue Raspberry vodka, at least it contained the word “blue” and was made from berries.
Blue Crush Cocktail
- 4 oz. Hpnotiq
- 2 oz. Premium blueberry vodka
- Splash of lemonade in each glass
Shake hpnotiq and blueberry vodka with ice and strain over ice in a rocks glass. Add lemonade to taste. Garnish with fresh blueberries and mint.
To dress up this wonton woman of a drink, we added a spear of the largest, sweetest blueberries we’ve ever been fortunate to get our hands on; and a sprig of fresh chocolate mint snipped directly from our herb garden. Now she was ready to get the party started!
This next drink involves blood orange, and you know how I have a fetish for those. (It’s in writing under the Food Fetish tab.) While at the aforementioned liquor store, The Hubs eyeballed some Effen Blood Orange Vodka (gotta love that name!) and remembered a drink we imbibed while on another vacation in the Poconos in early July—the Blood Orange Aperol Spritzer.
If you’re not familiar with Aperol, it is an Italian aperitif with the flavor and aroma of orange so the blood oranges go perfectly in this cocktail. It has a nice blend of bitterness and sweetness—again, very adult-like. Our version, tastes like a creamsicle without any cream. It’s best garnished with a sprig of fresh rosemary and a slice of blood orange. Problem is, blood oranges are only available in the late fall/early winter months around here. I guess you could use a slice of navel orange or tangerine in a pinch.
Apparently there are numerous versions in concocting this libation. Several use Prosecco instead of club soda, and/or orange juice in place of the blood orange vodka. But once we had a taste of that EFFEN vodka, there was no turning back…
Blood Orange Aperol Spritzer
- 4 oz. Premium Blood Orange Vodka, such as Effen
- 2 oz. Aperol Liqueur
- Splash of club soda in each glass
- Rosemary sprig and blood orange slice for garnish
In a shaker, shake vodka and aperol with ice and strain over ice in an 8-oz. glass. Add club soda to taste. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprig and blood orange slice.