Cider House Yules

Author: Kirsten K., Cold Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Holidays

Cider House YulesThe members of my family are not big drinkers, so our holiday table is always strewn with a selection of non-alcoholic beverages. Primary among these is sparkling apple cider, which is why, on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago, I decided to purchase a bottle of their Chowning’s Tavern Mulled Sparkling Cider to try at Christmastime. It is, without question, the most festive and flavorful sparkling cider I’ve ever tasted!

The Williamsburg Marketplace also offers a traditional Virginia Sparkling Cider, but I like to order the mulled version for the holidays. Infused with spices like cinnamon and cloves, each sweet sip encapsulates the season with the nostalgic flavors of an old-fashioned Christmas. Adults and children alike will enjoy a cold, crisp glass amidst the warmth of holiday gatherings with family and friends. Serve it at your own seasonal get togethers, or give it as a host/hostess gift in place of the usual bottle of wine.

Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia, and it makes a golden, delicious cider, so please stop to pick up a bottle—or a crate—on your annual flight next week, because I’ve been extra nice this year. Thanks a bushel!

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Chowning’s Tavern Mulled Sparkling Cider

 

I was dismayed this year to see that the Williamsburg Marketplace is not offering single bottles of the mulled cider for sale on its website. Since I don’t need a full case of 12 bottles, I contacted their customer service department and was told that single bottles are still available and can be ordered over the phone at (800) 446-9240 (Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST). Alternately, single bottles of the Virginia Sparkling Cider and Mulled Sparkling Cider can be purchased year-round from the Williamsburg Craft House by calling (757) 220-7747.

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Raspberry Lemonade. Like, Totally.

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Food & Drink, Nostalgia, Recipes
Raspberry Lemonade 1

Raspberry Lemonade

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. The summers in the valley were so hot. Like, totally. But for a kid in the late ’70s and early ’80s, they were also magic. Our house was the one where all the neighborhood kids gathered. Sometimes it was for a game of TV tag, other times it was to trade baseball cards or run through the sprinklers. We could stay out until the streetlights came on—a wild pack riding skateboards—or go to the liquor store to buy as many Watermelon Stix as we could with the change from the bottom of our Moms’ purses. The days were long and time was abundant and the break from school felt like forever.

When I think back on that time, it’s the delicious smells of summer I remember most—fresh cut grass, the strong piney scent of the juniper bushes we built our forts in, and the lemons, big as softballs, in my next door neighbor’s yard.

Our neighbors had three lemon trees in their backyard, with a swing set right in back of them. I spent a lot of time there with Claire, who was the same age as me. We would swing for hours and sing oldies, but goodies, that we learned from playing our parents’ records. I learned what the “F” word meant, sitting on one of the swings, and we laughed uncomfortably at the Wacky Pack cards given to us by boys. The smell of the lemon blossoms would fill our noses with the fragrance of sun and citrus and we would try to touch the leaves of the trees with our feet while singing “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to,” the swing set squeaking in time, “You would cry too, if it happened to you.”

Raspberry Lemonade 2Every couple of days, we’d pick a bunch of lemons and make lemonade to sell at our sidewalk stand. We never really sold much lemonade, but I loved the ritual of making it—picking the lemons, washing them, cutting them, juicing them, adding water, the whooshing sound of the sugar being poured into the pitcher, the few drops of red food coloring to make it pink, stirring it and, of course, drinking it. When you’re a kid, you take everything for granted, but it was never lost on me that the taste of that lemonade on a valley-hot summer day was perfection.

I recently moved back to the San Fernando Valley. Feeling wistful for those days, I went on a lemonade-making binge. Lavender lemonade, watermelon lemonade, cucumber lemonade…they were all great, but my favorite was raspberry lemonade. Simple, naturally pink. And if a splash of gin found its way into my glass, awesome!

I still love the smell of fresh lemons from a backyard tree and I still suck in my breath with delight when the sugar whooshes into the pitcher—and it still tastes exactly like it did when I was a kid. I wish I had a swing set in my back yard. I do have that Lesley Gore record, though. I think I might put it on, maybe even say the “F” word, and think more about those magical hot summer days. Like, totally.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Raspberry Lemonade

¾ cup fresh or thawed frozen raspberries
9 cups of water
2 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 12 lemons)
2 cups superfine sugar

Purée the raspberries in a blender and strain through a fine sieve into a pitcher. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together until the sugar dissolves, enjoying the whooshing sound the sugar makes as it’s poured into the pitcher. Serve over ice. Taste summer.

Respect Your Elderflowers

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Food & Drink, Spirits
Respect Your Elderflowers 1

Belvoir Elderflower Pressé – 100% Good!

On a trip to England in 2002, I was swooning over one of the magnificent gardens in Cornwall when I stopped by a concession stand for a drink and purchased a bottle of something I’d never encountered before: elderflower pressé. I was instantly smitten with its light, floral flavor that had the refreshing astringency of citrus. Although I saw this delightful beverage in several places over the course of my trip, I searched in vain for a bottle once I’d returned home to the United States.

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photo credit: Mika McDonald

Elderflowers bloom in lacy clusters of white or pale cream blossoms and have traditionally been used in Central and Eastern Europe to flavor regional desserts and drinks. Pressé is a French word meaning “squeezed.” The elderflowers are steeped, then pressed to extract as much of the flavor as possible. Most bottled pressé drinks I’ve seen on the market are carbonated and are often labeled as “sparkling pressé”. Translation: elderflower pressé = pressed elderflower soda.

Respect Your Elderflowers 3Years after my trip, I was thrilled to discover Belvoir Elderflower Pressé for sale at my local World Market. From that day forward, I routinely had a bottle chilling in my fridge. I began to take it for granted until one day when I couldn’t find it on the shelf and learned that the store was no longer going to carry it. Fortunately, my devastation was short-lived. A friend discovered that IKEA carries its own version of Elderflower Drink Concentrate (Dryck Fläder to you Swedes) that, when mixed with sparkling water, tasted virtually identical to the pressé I knew and loved—at a fraction of the price.Respect Your Elderflowers 4

In the midst of all this, the holy grail of elderflower beverages made its debut. In 2007, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur descended from heaven on a cloud of tiny white flowers for the delectation of humankind. I’m not sure what we did to deserve it, but to say that this liqueur is swoon-worthy would be an understatement. From its sweet, nectar-like flavor to the gorgeous packaging that evokes the decadent height of the Roaring Twenties, this product is truly in a class by itself. It can be enjoyed straight from the bottle, but we at The Swoon Society love adding it to a flute of sparkling wine (Kirsti prefers Gruet Extra Dry to balance the sweetness of the liqueur, but if you have a sweet tooth like me, try Gruet Demi Sec).

Respect Your Elderflowers 5Recently, I’ve seen Belvoir Elderflower Lemonade on the shelves of World Market, but I prefer the flexibility and price of the elderflower concentrate (Belvoir also makes an Elderflower Cordial, which is the same as concentrate). In addition to making elderflower soda, it can be used as an ingredient in cocktails and a sweetener for lemonade, or just mixed with plain water for a light thirst quencher.

Now that the elderflower seems here to stay, I no longer worry about being able to find it, but I also make sure to savor it and never again take it for granted. The blossoms only appear for a few weeks in late spring and must be harvested at that time to last the rest of the year, so take a lesson from me and respect your elderflowers!


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Belvoir Elderflower Pressé
Belvoir Elderflower Cordial
IKEA Elderflower Drink Concentrate
St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Gruet Extra Dry Sparkling Wine
Gruet Demi Sec Sparkling Wine

 

Belvoir Elderflower Pressé (marketed as Lemonade in the U.S.) and Cordial can be found at World Market, some British import shops, and online at Amazon. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur can be purchased at BevMo. Gruet Extra Dry and Demi Sec are available at many specialty wine shops and liquor stores.

 

White Rose Iced Tea

Author: Kirsti Kay, Cold Drinks, Drinks, Entertaining, Food & Drink, Recipes

White Rose 1One thing you will soon learn about us over at The Swoon Society is that we love any food or drink involving floral notes. There is something so lovely about a cupcake with rose frosting or a cocktail with violet liqueur. Some people don’t like eating or drinking things that taste like flowers, and some extracts or liqueurs can be too cloying or sweet, but when the stars are aligned and the flavor is just right…man, it’s magical.

One of my quick, non-alcoholic, go-to party drinks is iced tea made with Numi White Rose tea. It’s organic and light and definitely not too sweet. People are always curious about it and when they taste it, they kind of go crazy. Even guys like it. It’s very refreshing and turns a ho-hum beverage into something people talk about and, well, swoon over.White Rose 2

WHITE ROSE ICED TEA

3 Numi White Rose tea bags
2 cups boiling hot water
1 quart cold water
Handful of bruised mint leaves
2 Tbsp agave or sugar (optional)
Ice
Organic rose petals and mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Place the tea bags in the 2 cups of boiling water and let steep for about 7 minutes. Let cool. Pour tea into a pitcher and add the cold water, mint and agave, if using. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours or more. Pour into glasses with ice and serve with extra mint leaves and organic rose petals for garnish. Serves 6.

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Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Numi Organic White Rose Tea

 

Numi Tea is also available at many grocery and specialty stores, including Whole Foods, Sprouts and World Market.