christmas drinks

Home-made (almost) Amaretto

I can't imagine anyone in the world not liking Amaretto ... and whilst it's not exactly the same as that gorgeous Disaronno - it IS super-easy to make a good home-made version.

It makes a great gift too - when I've given it as a present in the past, I've bought a couple of little pretty vintage glasses on eBay to go with it.

All you need is to make a simple sugar syrup by putting into a pan:

200g white sugar

100g demerara sugar

200ml (plus a splash) of water

Very slowly bring it the boil, stirring now and then to dissolve the sugar - when it's come to the boil and the sugar has dissolved, immediately remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Pour half a bottle (37.5 cl) decent vodka into a big jug and when cool add the sugar syrup and stir.

Then add:

4-5 teaspoons natural almond essence

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

Rachel Redlaw Amaretto
Rachel Redlaw Amaretto
Rachel Redlaw Amaretto

Stir, taste, adjust if necessary ... and that's it! 

Just pour into a bottle and it's ready to drink. 

This today happily made a full bottle plus a small glass for the 'chef' :) 


Swedish glögg (mulled wine)

Now, I don't like traditional mulled wine.

I don't know what it is but it's too rich for me, just too much and makes me feel a bit dizzy, hot and not great.

But give me Swedish glögg and I'm happy.

THIS is how mulled wine should be!

Absolutely delicious, it's easy to make and easy to drink ... AND it keeps for a few weeks so makes a brilliant present too.

Or you could just keep it in the cupboard and warm a little glass every night of course ...

Rachel Redlaw Swedish glogg mulled wine

Ideally you want to infuse the vodka mixture for a day or so, so do leave enough time (although it'll still be delicious to be honest if you have to make it all in the same day!).

OK, to make a bottle (and a bit) you'll need

1/2 cup vodka

2 or 3 cassia bark or cinnamon sticks

a piece of fresh ginger, peeled

about 1 tsp cardamom pods

The peel of a lime (try to peel in thin strips, without any of the white)

The peel of an orange (again try not to have the white bits)

1 bottle of light, easy-drinking, red wine

1 cup of caster sugar (but normal granulated is fine if you don't have it)

1 vanilla pod (optional)

raisons and whole almonds, to serve

Put the vodka in a bowl with the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and citrus peels, cover and leave in the fridge for anywhere from a few hours to a day or two to infuse the flavours.

When you're ready to make the glögg, put the vodka mixture into a big saucepan with a bottle of red wine, the sugar and the vanilla pod (if using). Use a nice, light easy-drinking red - nothing too heavy. My favourite right now is 'Yellow Tail - jammy red roo' which is perfect.

Heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and bring to almost boiling - but don't actually let it boil.

Strain into a jug.

Rachel Redlaw Swedish glogg mulled wine
Rachel Redlaw Swedish glogg mulled wine
Rachel Redlaw Swedish glogg mulled wine

To serve, add a few raisons and almonds into glasses or cups and pour the hot glögg over.

Or you can pour it into a bottle and keep in a dark cupboard where it'll be good for a few weeks - just gently heat (and don't boil) before serving.

with bottle.JPG
Rachel Redlaw Swedish glogg mulled wine

I really hope you try this - it's a delicious drink! (And a great, home-made gift too).


Homemade limoncello

I love yellow.  I love sunshine.  I love lemons. 

And yes, I love limoncello, that glorious Italian digestif that transports me to the lemon groves of Sicily (where, actually I haven't yet ever been, although I definitely plan to and it's where my friend Valentina is from).

OK then, so it transports me to somewhere sunny (since I don't know Sicily) where I can smell citrus and trees and hot earth and salty breezes, and feel the sun soaking into my skin like pure life force. Somewhere like that.

Yet it's winter, in fact the first frost of winter today.  And that, dear friends, is the power of limoncello. 

It's delicious, it's bottled sunshine - and it's easy to make.  It needs three weeks from putting the vodka and lemon peel together until it's ready-to-drink, so if we start it now, it'll be ready in time for some Christmas parties and for giving as (very welcome) gifts.

You'll need:

Rachel Redlaw limoncello

6-8 (depending on size and how you feel that day) unwaxed, organic lemons

I am specifiying unwaxed and organic as due to the amount of time the peel steeps, any nasties in it will also transfer to your drink.  To be entirely honest, I once made it with the only lemons available and that definitely weren't organic, and I'm still here to tell the tale, but it's just common sense to get the most natural, beautiful ones you can find).

A bottle of vodka

Sugar for the sugar syrup - but we don't need that until two weeks' time, so I'll come back and add that bit and update the photos then.

For now, all you do is start by washing the lemons, rinsing them and drying them.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello lemons

Then using a vegetable peeler or small sharp knife (or both) peel off the rind as very very thinly as you can.  The white pith has a bitter flavour and whilst it's going to be impossible not to have any of it at all (so don't obsess), it is important to be as careful about avoiding it as you can.

So, very finely peel 6-8 lemons - I did seven - and pop the bits of peel into a jar or bottle.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello
Rachel Redlaw limoncello

Top almost to the top with vodka (we need room for a cup of sugar syrup in a couple of weeks), seal tightly and put away somewhere cool and dark for a couple of weeks or so.

Update: three weeks' later ...  although two weeks would have been enough. 

OK, so right at the very last stage I went a bit loopy and made this much much harder for myself than need be!

What SHOULD have happened is that I should have made a couple of cups of sugar syrup.  Two cups sugar and two cups water, brought together very slowly in a saucepan, simmered for 2-3 minutes and then left to cool.

You strain the peel from your liqueur then add about half the quantity of sugar syrup and taste, and add more as necessary until it's the right sweetness for you.  Easy!

But what I did, was assume I had enough sugar syrup in the fridge as I'd made vodka sours this week for a supperclub.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello
Rachel Redlaw limoncello

There was nowhere near enough and my drink was horribly bitter.

And then, to make it even harder, I decided I couldn't be bothered to make up 'proper' sugar syrup, so I just put boiling water into half a cup of sugar and stirred til dissolved.  

Rachel Redlaw limoncello

When cool, I added this to my lemon liqueur and ... it was still bitter.  So I made another cup of my 'cheat's syrup' and added half of it.  

My limoncello tastes absolutely fine, despite all this messing around, if not the very best version I've ever made!

Leave it for 24 hours to settle and then keep in the fridge until needed.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello

At least it looks pretty ... and I hope you make it the easy way, not the totally-round-the-houses-way and that you like it! 

Would love to see what you make - do share.

Easiest apple schnapps

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

Please do put a penny in the old man's hat

If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do

If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you!

And while the geese get fat, I start making Christmas drinks ... the sloe gin is already underway but there are still some sloes in the hedgerows.  

Rachel Redlaw sloes

This picture is from last weekend so do go foraging and see if you can find some.  Sloe gin makes such a great twist on a kir royale - just put a little in a champagne flute and top with your choice of fizz. 

I also picked up some apples when I was in the countryside at the weekend and made some super-simple apple schnapps when I got home. 

Rachel Redlaw apple schnapps

This really couldn't be easier - just core and then chop up a couple of big apples (cookers or eaters, both work, just give a different flavour).

Pop all the little bits of apple into jars or bottles then add a tablespoon or so of sugar syrup.  

Don't be put off by making a sugar syrup as it's really easy and only takes minutes (well, you do then need to allow it time to cool of course).  

I've usually got some in the fridge in case an urgent need (yes, need) for vodka sours arises (sugar syrup method in the vodka sours recipe).

Rachel Redlaw apple schnapps

To be honest, for the apple schapps, you could mix a tablespoon of boiling water with a tablespoon of sugar and use that, it'll be absolutely fine.

Then top up with vodka and that's it! Do make sure the vodka completely covers the pieces of apple as they're going to go a bit brown anyway (and that's fine) but if some are above the surface and poking into the air they are REALLY going to go brown. (Still fine - just when you notice it, cover them with vodka - and yes I'm talking to myself here!).

Leave for a few weeks in a cool dark place and turn occasionally. Strain before pouring back into nice bottles to serve or give as presents.

Rachel Redlaw apple schnapps

I'll be back to share the finished article nearer Christmas ... this is a lovely drink to serve very chilled in small glasses.