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In the Spirit: Boozy Gifts for your Loved Ones!

Boozy Gifts for your Loved Ones!

The holidays are shaping up to be very different this year.  Stores will be open but most of us will be spending more time shopping from the comfort of our computer desk.  The pandemic has also left us with less disposable income forcing gift givers to get more creative and thrifty for the upcoming season.  There are many cute handcrafted gifts which can be made, however, you have also googled ‘pinterest fails’ and do not want to end up in the search yourself.  What you could make at home is a gift your adult friends and relatives would thoroughly enjoy, wrapped up in a pretty bottle.  Here are three options for boozy gifts for you to assemble yourself the few weeks prior to the holidays.

Eggnogg on shelves is a sign of the season.

Eggnog on shelves is a sign of the season. The time is brief, but the taste and memories that go along with it makes many smile.  It has the flavors of the holidays; rich and creamy, full of spices and warms the body and soul.  At a glance, it seems very complicated to make, but aside from having to separate several eggs, the instructions are easy to follow. The most important part of the process for making it bottle stable is pasteurizing your eggs and separating the yolks from the whites but at the end it becomes smooth sailing and you can use the leftover whites to make meringue or angel food cake to bring along with your bottled gifts.

Egg Nog Recipe:

  • 12 egg yolks, 2 cups white sugar, 1 cup heavy cream, 1L bourbon, 1 cup brandy, 1/2 cup dark rum
  • Whip yolks and sugar until about double in size and a pale yellow color
  • Add in remainder of the ingredients to mix
  • Bottle and rest for at least a month and up to a year
  • Top with fresh grated nutmeg to serve

There are a few different processes to pasteurizing your own eggs. The easiest is to place eggs that have been sitting for 30 min at room temperature in a pot of water that has been  at a constant 140° and leave them in the water for three minutes. This will kill all the bacteria that may be sitting on the eggs and make them safe for raw drinking and aging without turning them into soft boiled eggs.

The included recipe adds the traditional spirits of cognac, bourbon and dark rum to a concoction full of spices. It makes enough for 10 375mL bottles allowing you to spread the love to many in up to an hour of tinkering in the kitchen. The bottles are age-able up to a year, with a few weeks or more being ideal to meld the flavors together.

Move away from the English tradition with Coquito.

For someone looking to move away from the English tradition is a similar drink called Coquito.  Coquito is a Spanish-Puerto Rican drink based off of eggnog but with coconut cream replacing the milk and silver rum as the base spirit.  There are many variations of coquito as the previous generations have concluded their ancestor’s recipe is the best so finding your favorite may be a process of trial and error. However, there are worse experiments than tasting batches of a creamy, spiced, boozy drink.  The bottle will also go bad a little faster than eggnog but still lasts 4-6 months and is good to go after a few weeks allowing you to give cute little wrapped bottles out for the holidays.

Coquito Recipe:

  • 4oz raisins, 1 cup dark rum, 1 cup cognac, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1-14oz can sweetened condensed milk, 1-15oz can Coco Lopez cream of coconut, 1-13.5oz can coconut milk, 4oz evaporated milk, 1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla extract
  • Soak raisins in alcohol and cinnamon sticks for 1 hour
  • Remove raisins and cinnamon and set aside
  • Puree the remainder of the ingredients with alcohol
  • Bottle with some of the raisins and cinnamon sticks

The last boozy gift is… limoncello

The last boozy gift that we cannot end this discussion without talking about is limoncello.  If you have an aversion to cream or eggs, or just don’t like the idea of drinking raw eggs aged for months (although it is very safe, easy and rarely a cause of foodborne illnesses); limoncello is the way to go.  Limoncello is a creation from the Amalfi Coast of Italy and has a history that is documented to be just over a century old.  The cloudy looking yellow spirit does all but glow in your glass and is the perfect finish to any meal year-round and lasts as long as there is spirit in the bottle.

To make your own you will want to find ripe yellow lemons with little to no green on them.  The lemons need to be rinsed and scrubbed to remove the pesticides that may linger. The peeling needs to be meticulous so as not to get much of the white pith into the batch.  If there is a little remaining it will not bitter the batch but this is the only part of the recipe that takes the most hands-on time.  The second key to making a great batch of limoncello is to use grain alcohol.

By taking any of the three recipes in this article you could be creative, thrifty and unique this holiday season.

The concluded product will be diluted before gifting however the use of the grain alcohol as opposed to a vodka or other neutral spirit pulls the color and flavor out of the peels more efficiently without imparting any additional flavors to the base, while keeping the ABV (alcohol by volume) around 25%, a little lower proof than you favorite spirit.  You will need five days to allow the alcohol to absorb all the lemon oils before straining it and mixing it with the simple syrup.  When the alcohol mixes with the sugar solution it will become a lower proof and sweeten up to your liking. 

The drink is then ready to be bottled and given out right away but as many things, the limoncello flavors get more integrated with age so try not to make this a last-minute gift and make it in the first few weeks of December.  Use the last-minute shopping to find a pretty ribbon and gift tag to add to the bottles.

Limoncello Recipe:

  • 18 lemons, 1L grain alcohol, 2 quarts simple syrup (1 to 1 sugar to water), dash salt
  • Peel 18 lemons
  • Soak peels for up to a week in the grain alcohol
  • Drain alcohol and mix with dash salt and simple syrup
  • Bottle and rest

By taking any of the three recipes in this article you could be creative, thrifty and unique this holiday season.  Your gift recipients will thank you for warming their hearts and helping them get through the cold mountain nights with a boozy bottle.

– Ginger LaSalle, Hashtag Lewisburg City Paper. November 2020. Follow Ginger at Winescapes Consulting and Education. She is a beverage consultant and trainer. Shaping beverage programs across Western Mass.

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