Favourite lemon cocktail sours / virgin mocktail style

Well, the strange thing at my recent Tiniest Thai supperclub ... the vodka lemon sours went down as if they had no booze in them (er, they really did) and the virgin version ... everyone commented that it didn't taste any different to a 'normal' ie with alcohol cocktail!

I think it's the lovely super citrus lemon flavour that both masks the vodka if you're making that version, and yet gives the mocktail a cleanness and clarity of taste you often don't get with overly sweet fruit versions of other cocktails.

These are really simple and very delicious - and absolutely not an inferior version at all.

You do need to make a simple sugar syrup, but don't be put off by this, it really IS simple (and will keep in the fridge for ages once you've made a bottle).

Make the sugar syrup in advance as it needs to be completely cooled down - just put one cup of sugar and one cup of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil on the lowest heat possible.  Then boil for a couple of minutes, remove from the heat, cool then bottle or put into a jar and store in the fridge.

And then to make two virgin lemon sours I just put in the blender:

a big handful of ice cubes

four shots of coconut water

two shots of freshly squeezed lemon juice

one shot of sugar syrup

one egg white (optional) 

And blend! 

Taste and add another shot of sugar syrup if you prefer it sweeter - just stir in or give it another quick blast.

The best mocktail I've made yet - do try it!

Delicious, different & easy NYE cocktail party ideas

I have SO many recipes and ideas for things that are easy and delicious to make for a party that I thought it would be useful to do a quick round-up now just ahead of New Year's Eve.

These are not only easy and delicious but will be something a little bit different to normal canape fare - and I also believe that by this stage in festive proceedings, most people are more than ready for some fresh flavours and spice after a few days of rich - but bland - food.

Here's two of my favourite cocktail recipes: 

Lemon prosecco punch and lemon vodka sours (yes I like lemon and citrus flavours!).

And my very favourite snack to have ready and warm when guests arrive is spicy cashew nuts.

Raachel Redlaw spicy cashew nuts

Really easy to prepare ahead - chop and slice everything and then just fry before serving warm - is this larb gai.  It's a spicy warm salad and if you serve small portions in little gem lettuce leaf 'cups' it's a fresh and different canape.

A really nice veggie version are these mango, chilli and lime cups.  Just make sure to only prepare an hour before serving so they don't go mushy! 

Rachel Redlaw larb gai spicy salad
Rachel Redlaw mango salad

These pork and prawn balls are a guaranteed winner! Serve just two on a cocktail stick and with a dipping sauce - honestly, everyone loves them! 

Rachel Redlaw pork and prawn balls
Rachel Redlaw cucumber dipping sauce

No Name are delicious vegetable fritters - make ahead of time and then just fry before serving with a sweet chilli sauce

Rachel Redlaw No Name vegetable fritters

And I love chicken or pork stir fried with garlic and served (again) on little lettuce leaves.  Really tasty and different! 

Rachel Redlaw pad gratiem

Oops! Can't believe I nearly forgot these pork and prawn sesame toasts! Classic - and easy to prepare ahead and then fry just before serving with a little soy sauce for dipping.

Another winner! 

Rachel Redlaw pork and prawn sesame toasts

And to end ... how about these little balls of deliciousness, pimped up however takes your fancy?!

Rachel Redlaw bits of deliciousness

But the main thing is to host a party with love and spirit - so I'm sure your guests (and you) will have a great time no matter if you just put out bowls of crisps!

If you do try any of my recipes, I'd love to hear if you and your guests liked them so please comment below or come over and chat at my FB page.


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.

Sloe gin

I love this time of year.

Autumn. Fall.  Call it what you will.  

Rachel Walder autumn Fall sloe gin

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness indeed (the photo is my local park this week). I love crisp mornings, sunny days and cosy evenings.

And I love making preserves, pickles and infusions that will see us through winter. 

It's the perfect time to go looking in the hedgerows for sloes - they're a bit early this year so now is probably about as late as you can leave it.  I'm lucky - my dad has sloes growing in the field and picked and sent me a box of them in the post ... 

So now's the time to the sloe gin started ready for Christmas.

If you make it now, it'll be good at Christmas. If you can wait, it'll be even better next year.  And even better the year after.

So simple to make - do give it a try if you can get hold of some sloes.

Rachel Walder sloe gin

All you need are the sloes, a bottle of gin and caster sugar.

First ... make yourself a G&T. Why not?


Then, using the point of a small knife, or a pin, prick each sloe a few times (unless it's so juicy it's already burst, as a few of mine have).

Rachel Walder sloe gin

Get a bottle or a jar to house the sloe gin until it's ready to strain and put into pretty bottles.  I used to have a huge jar that looked great, but have no idea where it's gone so today am using an old vodka bottle and a jar. 

Put in a layer of sloes and cover with a layer of caster sugar.

Keep layering until the bottle's full / the sloes are finished.

Rachel Walder sloe gin
Rachel Walder sloe gin

Then pour in the gin, leaving time for it to bubble through the sloes and sugar before pouring in more.

Just leave in a cool-ish and dark-ish place until Christmas, turning and tipping every few days - or whenever you remember - so over the next few weeks the sugar completely dissolves.

Rachel Walder sloe gin

When it's ready, I'll be back here to change that header picture to the beautiful ruby-coloured finished product! 


Tiniest-Thai-tradition: lemon vodka sours

Let's kick off the weekend with a cocktail!  These vodka sours aren't Thai at all but they do go exceptionally well with these lovely spicy cashews  - plus they're just delicious and very very simple.

You'll need a blender and you do need to make a sugar syrup first but do not be put off please!  

The sugar syrup is super easy to make and it'll keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

Make the sugar syrup in advance as it needs to be completely cooled down - just put one cup of sugar and one cup of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil on the lowest heat possible.  Then boil for three or four minutes, remove from the heat, cool then bottle or put into a jar and store in the fridge.

To make vodka sours for two you just tip into a blender:

A handful of ice cubes

Four shots of vodka

Two shots of freshly squeezed lemon juice

One shot of sugar syrup

One egg white

Then blend! Blend until the ice is totally crushed and everything is frothy and delicious. Then serve with a strip of lemon zest if liked - it just adds a bit of interest as otherwise the drink is very white looking.

Simple and absolutely my favourite drink (of the moment).

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder vodka sours

Let me know if you like them too!