Many months ago we asked for our readers to guess the location of a photo we took in Kauai. The winner would get a cocktail named after them. The winner was our friend Viveka from My Guilty Pleasures, a blog about life with all it’s humor, delights, food and travel. It is also a blog about friendship. Viveka seems to collect friends, both in the physical and virtual world, at a very steady clip. She has a big, warm, generous heart.
Viveka is also patient. Because once she won our little contest, we knew we had to use a special homemade ingredient in her cocktail; limoncello. The only problem was that limoncello, while easy to make, takes a while. Like a few months. But we warned Viveka of the impending wait. And then we waited. And waited. But finally the wait is over.
Limoncello is basically a liqueur of lemon zest (with as little white pith as possible) soaked in grain alcohol (or strong vodka), strained and then sweetened with sugar syrup. You get a sweet, lemony liqueur without any sour notes. It’s good stuff. While you can make limoncello in just a few days, an infusion of 30-45 days is generally considered the best method. The you need to strain and filter the zest from the very-strong booze and add some simple syrup to get to about 60 proof and age it again for another 45 days (most people shorten this step). But since we are making cocktails, we took a slightly different path.
Our one issue with limoncello in cocktails is that it is a bit sweet and not strong enough to lead a cocktail. It is good as an accent, but we thought it could fully replace gin or vodka if our limoncello was stronger and dryer. So rather than use a mix of 50% or more simple syrup, we went with about 35-40% syrup. And since we were using 135 proof Everclear as our base, we ended up at about 90-100 proof. The limoncello is a bit strong on its own, but has the juice to carry a cocktail and gives a slight warming feel as you drink it. Not too hot or boozy, but you know it’s there.
And that was exactly what we wanted for our special cocktail. Our friend Viveka is not a fan of dark booze like rum or whiskey, so we wanted to use a “clear” booze. We do enough gin drinks around here, so that was out. And since Viveka is from Scandinavia, we figured she knows her vodka. Boozy limoncello seemed liked a good fit. And we even had a recipe in mind.
The Viveka combines, boozy limoncello, Cointreau, lemon juice and muddled raspberries (or raspberry syrup, if you must). The drink is a riff on the 1934 Cosmopolitan (an older, lesser-known- but IMHO better- version of the Cosmo), with the boozy limoncello replacing gin and fresh raspberries rather than syrup. (If using lower-proof limoncello, just add 1/2 oz. good vodka and a touch more lemon juice). What you get is a bright lemon sip that isn’t particularly sour, mixed with sweet orange and raspberry notes that almost seem to dance around. On the finish you get a nice warm kick from the limoncello. This drink has a warm heart, just like Viveka…..Here you go Wivi!