Monday, October 1, 2012

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Nearly a Liter of Lemon Drops

While I take great pleasure in some agressive and obscure cocktails with the occasional outré ingredient, not all of my friends do. In fact, most of them don't give a damn about absinthe, moonshine, homemade bitters, or the latest alpine liqueur. For them, a Jack & Coke, a SoCo on ice, or just a splash of bourbon is fine.

Sure, I'd like it if people — especially people I care about — developed more sophisticated tastes in mixed drinks, but more importantly, I want friends to enjoy themselves at my house. I want each of them to have a drink he or she wants and likes. Foisting baroque cocktails on them with ingredients they're not going to be able to find on the liquor store shelf (and which they don't really want) just isn't being a good host.

One group of friends in particular likes lemon drops. Likes? Strike that. These guys will destroy shot after shot of the sweet-tart vodka drink. So for them, I keep a liter bottle pre-batched in the freezer. Hey, it's cheaper than good whiskey and faster than making cocktails à la minute. More importantly, the guys love it. It's not a sure thing that it will be there, but three times out of five, if you pop open our freezer door, a frosted bottle of slushy yellow liqueur sits on the bottom shelf, ready to be doled out in shotglasses. Not quite as thick or sweet as homemade limoncello, but the same general idea.
Nearly a Liter of Lemon Drops
18 oz/530ml lemon/citrus flavored vodka
9 oz /270ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 oz/120ml simple syrup (I use 2:1) 
Shake, strain, into a one-liter bottle, and store in the freezer. Serve in shot glasses, sugar-rimmed or not, according to your taste. 
Right out of the freezer, the mixture will contain lots of ice shards which quickly melt. It's up to you whether to take this one slushy or wait a few moments and down it once it smoothes out. In The Jox of Mixology (Clarkson Potter, 2003), Gaz Regan suggests swapping triple sec for the syrup for "more depth and character." I myself have been known to spike the liter of lemon drops with a teaspoon (5ml) of Angostura bitters which, to my mind, have an affinity for lemon.

Goes well with: 
  • Victoria Moore's 2009 book How to Drink. In it, she writes a number of sensible things. One in particular seems apropos: “It’s often said that life’s too short to drink bad wine, but I’d go further. Life’s also too short to drink good wine, or anything else for that matter, if it’s not what you feel like at the time. There’s no point in popping the cork on a bottle of vintage champagne if you really hanker after a squat tumbler of rough red wine.” 


DJ HawaiianShirt said...

I'm going to assume you use store-bought vodka, or do you infuse your own? If bought, what brand?

Matthew Rowley said...

Yes. Yes, let's assume I used store-bought vodka. Plain vodka is as close as we come in spirits to a commodity; the bad is horrible and the good is decent, but the bulk of it shows little differentiation; one brand is as good as another as long as you don't use the very bottom-shelf stuff.

That having been said, flavored vodkas do show some differences and can reveal the skill of the maker. For this, I use either Absolut Citron (the stuff goes on sale all the time and it's not hard to score a 750ml for $15 if you're patient). Smirnoff Citrus Twist can be had even cheaper (1.75L usually runs around $20 in California) and is just fine for this recipe. Skyy would be acceptable, but I'd avoid Svedka; it's pretty harsh stuff.

The Lemon Drop is an odd drink; you can see a family resemblance to daiquiris (swap out the lemon with lime, switch the vodka to rum, and...oh, hey) and to margaritas (as the triple sec swap Regan suggests). Infuse lemon peel in the vodka to extract those wonderful oils and you do indeed wander into limoncello territory. It just doesn't have the cache of any of these. Ah, well.