Author Archives: adventuresandalcohol

Easter Sunrise

Saturday, 5 April, I finished my work at the factory early and, always being one to maximize an opportunity, decided to drive to the fabulous barrier islands of coastal Carolina known as the Outer Banks. The reason was simple, no need for fancy qualifications here, I wanted to take in a sunrise on the beach. So, hotel livin’ for the week, I borrowed the pullout bed covers and a pillow and took off for the coast!

I’ve heard that Wilson and the surrounding environs were at one point called the “Tobacco Capitol of the World,” and driving through the countryside, it was immediately apparent as to why. The land is vivid with color and the soil rich and dark. Things just grow here. I’ve included a picture below.

Coastal Carolina Farmland near Wilson, NC

Coastal Carolina farmland near Wilson, NC

Growing up in Indiana, surrounded by fields of corn and soybean for as far as the eye could see, I felt strangely at home while driving through this area. At once being reminded, based on local utilization of tree lines for wind breaks, of many a road trip north or south on I-65. Except for the hills (which reminded me of Wisconsin) and soil differences, I almost thought I was back home. It was interesting to say the least.

My intermediary destination was US-64 east which from Wilson gave me two options: Take the boring I-95 north and then east OR the more interesting, predominantly North Carolina backroad way to US-64. Choosing the latter, I profited immensely, as I’ve described above. No need to quote Frost but, when given a choice, take the more interesting if you have the time. Slow down. Be here now. Take it all in. Be part of something instead of just causally viewing the blur.

Headed to US64

Headed to US-64

After the back road experience, US-64 was almost a little bit too much civilization for me. It wasn’t the speed limit of 70, it wasn’t the nice roads, it was just the immediacy with which one could recognize the commercialism of the area. After driving for an hour and a half or so, I came upon an area of large, well-organized 60ft x 30ft buildings. I later found out that the buildings are for raising and then processing pigs. I also found out that the eastern region of North Carolina produces more pig products than anywhere else in the region. I used to be vegan. Well, I tried it for about six months. So, seeing the grand scale of this commercial processing operation was kind of disgusting. They just live their lives in these buildings and then eventually, they’re slaughtered. I doubt they ever really get to experience walking around in the pasture. It really makes you stop and think.

Not long after this US-64 went down to two lanes, letting me know that the ocean was less than an hour away. It was quite a scene really! As the sun was going down, everything gained a lovely shade of orange and red; the fiery orange glow of the western sky, coupled with great music, and the smell of Spring all around me, forever imprinted a memory into my brain. Not only that, the full moon coming up over the horizon, as large as I’ve ever seen it, let me know that I made a wise decision to drive out to the coast.

Sunset on 4 April

Sunset on 4 April

As the sun finally set, and twilight faded into darkness, I began to smell salinity in the air. A giddy air came over me. Ten years prior, several friends and I piled into my mother’s minivan and drove from Cookeville, TN, all the way to Nags Head, NC, for 1 week of fun on the beach. Ten years!. An entire decade had passed since I’d last seen the coast of North Carolina. That’s crazy! How much had I changed since then? A whole lot actually.

At 20 years old, life is pretty damn simple. Go to school, get good grades, and learn as much as possible so you can eventually get a coveted thing called a job to support yourself. Daily thoughts being occupied only really with school and what I wanted to do on the weekend. This, as most things in life I took for granted. Me being too absorbed in the day-to-day to really step back and give myself some perspective. That’s the beauty of aging, I had perspective now. Several things being obvious. At 20, besides being more physically fit and capable (read: less bio mechanical issues), able to eat anything I wanted without worry, I was still as headstrong as I am now, just more ignorant. Knowledge is power, and it’s most powerful when you know least. Certainly was easier too. I laughed a little bit at realizing that I still, at 29 years old don’t really have a clue what I want out of life…although I have several good ideas.

Perhaps this is why people go visit childhood places. Being able to touch the past helps us realize potential directions for the future. These tangible experiences ground us and allow ourselves to center. As if by going to these places we can correct any wrongs that may exist, or may have happened there. Although we know that’s not the case.

I thought of this and many other things as I searched within for some direction as the trees faded away and, while crossing a very long bridge to Roanoke Island, was left staring at a lovely moonlit setting. The light of the moonlight reflecting off the intertidal waters, glistened with every passing wave. I thought at once to DeBussey’s Claire de lune and how nice, although cliché, it would be to have that playing while driving over the causeway, looking out over this setting. Vast emptiness reminding me of several painted scenes from the Hudson River school.

Roanoke Island passed by relatively quickly since my thoughts at this point, given the relatively late hour of 9 PM, during a low season, we’re focused on where I could find dinner. Being near the coast, I naturally wanted seafood. The fresher the better. Crossing another smaller causeway I found myself in Nags Head where, driving north on NC-12, I located an open restaurant that, according to Urban Spoon, had decent fare.

Dinner was light, a dozen raw oysters, Carolina style clam chowder, a small seafood salad, washed down with some water. Not bad, but not really that good either. Moyenne. I built it up in my head too much so naturally, I was somewhat disappointed. Rookie move. After dinner, while sipping water, I gently prodded locals as to the best area for me to sleep in my car, with the least possible chance of getting robbed, or worse. They recommended some hotel parking lot, can’t remember which, and noting that, I left in search of beach access. Hunger satiated, I had to see the ocean before sleeping.

So I headed south on NC-12. Destination, unknown! Figured I’d find it when I found it, you know? Eventually off to my right I noticed the light of the Bodie Island Lighthouse. At which point I knew I had entered the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This was where I’d take in the ocean. And, what I scene it was!

Moonlight over Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Moonlight over Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Not too shabby, huh? Definitely a good end to the day.

Leaving the beach, I thought about sleeping in this access point. But it was a bit too dark, and frequented by too many potential problems for me to stay here. So, given the proximity, I went over to check out Bodie.

Man, the place was dead! Huge parking lot, and not a soul around! This is where I would sleep! Getting out to adjust the car for sleeping, I was met again by the brisk night air. I’d reason that it was 2°C. I was glad I decided to wear pants instead of shorts and had a hoodie, in addition to the bedspread. I knew immediately that I was in for a long night. This was reinforced by the height difference between the fold-down seats and the trunk floor of my Hyundai Sonata. Comfort was not going to be found tonight as I tried to get a bit of REM.

I was awake, but asleep, and much of the in-between, for almost the entire night. Readjusting as necessary to find some semblance of sleep-ability. Knowing then that the next time I rented a car from National, I’d fold down the seats first and check sleep-ability, to allow for the potential of more brilliant ideas like this one.

Just before dawn, and shivering, I glanced over at my phone. It confirmed my suspicions. It was 5 AM and dawn was not going to be here for an hour and a half. Being a practical person, I no longer tried my hand at this game called sleep and perused the Internet to pass the time. All the while being comforted by the gentle flash of light from Bodie.

Predawn came, and with it a very nice scene. The multi hued sky silhouetting the lighthouse and a few trees against it. I took in the scene for a few minutes before taking a photo. I used to love taking pictures, and I still do, but I hesitate nowadays because I don’t want the pursuit of a good photo distracting me from imprinting the setting. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised an iPhone could get this.

Bodie Island Lighthouse in pre-dawn light

Bodie Island Lighthouse in pre-dawn light

I crossed over NC-12 to the beach access point and did my best to stay warm for the 30 minutes or so before dawn. This, is why I was here! I definitely was not going to miss it. I snapped several pictures and played around with some of the iPhone filters, the results are below

Sunrise is almost here!

Sunrise is almost here!

Had to show a black & white. I'm quite impressed by my the abilities of my iPhone 5.

Had to show a black & white. I’m quite impressed by my the abilities of my iPhone 5.

And when dawn finally came I was ready! Although my iPhone did not do this scene justice.

Easter Sunrise!

Easter Sunrise!

After this a race began. I had one hour to drive nearly the length of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to catch the 8 AM ferry to Ocracoke. If I missed it, I’d have to kill an hour before catching the next one. This wouldn’t have been too big of an issue but I had another ferry to catch from Ocracoke to Swan Quarter later that day. This, was the all important ferry that would save me 2 hours of driving and ferry commuting back up the seashore and over to the mainland. I couldn’t be late!

Given the remoteness of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore it’s incredibly easy to speed. Going along and all of a sudden your at 80! Yeah, that easy. The time crunch didn’t help. Here’s a picture to show the remoteness.

Desolation and isolation.

Desolation and isolation.

And here’s another showing a crazy flock of birds going over a bridge. There must’ve been over 5,000!

Headed south on 12! Thousands of birds!

Headed south on NC-12! Thousands of birds!

I made the ferry with 10 minutes to spare and the 1 hour voyage went by pretty quickly. I took a much needed nap and woke up refreshed and delighted to explore Ocracoke. The island is 12 miles long and quite narrow in spots, with a small village at the south end. The village is usually swarming with tourists during the Summer high season but this being Easter Sunday, the town was quite dead. That, coupled with my 9:40 AM arrival served to my detriment. I had shivered all night and hadn’t any food since my small dinner the previous night and was starving. I didn’t find any place open but I did find a coffee shop. And hey, a decent espresso can take the edge off of a lot of things. Eventually I found a restaurant and had breakfast, and afterword took a walkabout the town.

I’m a fan of lighthouses so naturally I had to see the Ocracoke lighthouse (it’s the smallest of all those on the Outer Banks). See the picture below.

Ocracoke Lighthouse

Ocracoke Lighthouse

I really picked a bad time to visit the island since 80% of the stores/artisan places were closed. But on the bright side, it was really nice to take an hour walk in the Spring sunshine. After the walk I made my way to the ferry terminal only to find out that the ticket I purchased that morning over the Internet was actually for the next day’s ferry. So I had to put on the charm to get the officer to get me onto the last ferry to Swan Quarter. Actually, I got the last spot. Lucky day indeed!

I passed the 2 hour 40 minute ferry voyage by reading and figuring out where I wanted to eat dinner in Greenville, NC. I found a Bonefish Grill with decent reviews. I knew then that I had found the dinner spot. The drive from the ferry terminal to Greenville was uneventful. As before, speeding is incredibly easy on these remote backroads. And luckily I was with a fast group of cars!

Ferry nearing Swan Quarter, NC. Stay behind the nets!

Ferry nearing Swan Quarter, NC. Stay behind the nets!

Tree-lined road shortly after departing the ferry terminal. Almost reminds me of the sycamore-lined roads near Lyon, France.

Tree-lined road shortly after departing the ferry terminal. Almost reminds me of the sycamore-lined roads near Lyon, France.

Coastal Carolina is fertile!

Coastal Carolina is fertile!

Dinner was spot on and I endeared myself to the bartenders. I encouraged one to seriously consider home infusions of alcohol and the other, pretty cute actually, seemed to very much enjoy talking with me. I’ll definitely go back to Greenville for dinner!


Life is really what we make of it. You can choose to get out and live life, putting yourself into less-than-ideal situations for absolutely worth it moments OR you can do the opposite, staying in your comfortable bubble, forever maintaining the status quo.

Throw away your television, fears, and worries, and get out and live! Your life depends on it!

– Brett

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Airplane Conversations

Today I left Raleigh, headed for Nashville, for a few days at home before the upcoming shutdown at our plant. I almost missed my flight actually, because the watch I was wearing was set to the wrong time zone. This realization set in motion a race across the city, in the rain, and caused me to just make it to the airport in time for boarding. Only to find out that the flight had been delayed a bit and that I was in fact, totally fine. I laughed to myself at the irony and my fortunate stroke of luck. I met up with my colleague and my recounting of this to him caused a bit of a chuckle, which was fine because the world could use a little bit more laughter and humor. Anyways the point of the story is below…

After choosing to sit emergency exit row, because that’s the spot where you get the most legroom in exchange for a little responsibility. I met a man, Frank, who, sitting across the aisle looked like a nice person to chat with. He asked me if I’d ever been to Montana, and was thrilled when I said yes. So we chatted all about the West and how awesome the states of Montana, Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming are. He works in radio, and had covered those areas, so naturally he’d been to all those places.

After this gregarious chat, he asked me if I liked to read. “Of course I like to read,” so he then asked me if I have ever read the Bible. I’m an atheist. I don’t prescribe to any religion. It doesn’t mean I have a problem with religion, it simply means I don’t value it in my life. So…”No, I’ve never read the Bible.”

My bright and happy demeanor showed him that he hadn’t offended me by asking so he said, “Oh, you know there are a lot of good stories in there!” So he began to share several of them with me: David vs Goliath, Noah, Jesus healing people and about the “New Testament.”

He very much enjoyed chatting about the Bible and the lessons and stories contained within it. So I didn’t mind if he continued talking about it. Having never heard the stories really spoken about, it never occurred to me how ridiculous some of them are. And you can immediately tell the mysticism and the ignorance of the time and age of when these came about. And even he, a fully functioning, and mentally capable person appeared to honestly believe this. Especially this “ark” business. Really? 2 of every animal on earth in a ship? That’s crazy! How do reasonable people believe this and other stories within these religious books?!

Religion provides people with answers to questions and provides them a network of other, like-minded individuals, in a safe and inviting place to gather, talk, and learn. At most it provides a community and on this, I think, is the reason most people are members of places of worship. But why don’t they question these crazy stories?!

I was not going to interrupt or challenge Frank as he told these stories to me from across the aisle. It brought him joy, his storytelling method wasn’t offensive, and it made the 1 hour 40 minute flight pass quickly. Win-win!

He really meant well by telling me about the bible and I could see that he sincerely hoped I would get curious about reading it since its in every hotel I stay in. But, I won’t read this book.


When I was younger, I was always sad to find out that people I became friends with were religious (Christian mainly). I’ve had many bad experiences from very devote, very fervent believers of Christianity. So, hearing them tell me of their religion of choice (if it was Christian) caused some mild sadness like “dang it/ (small sigh) damn” variety, since I would then assume they were close minded and unchangeable, the antithesis of liberal.

I realize now that I was in fact the ignorant one and this former position prevented me from seeing anything other than my assumption. It was completely self-affirming and totally biasing my confirmation. I’m still working on this and occasionally, I catch myself thinking this way upon first meeting people. Hey, the first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is one!

But this doesn’t change the ridiculous nature of religious stories, especially if they are taken as fact. Maybe that’s what scares and upsets me about meeting religious people. I assume they can’t be reasonable. I know this isn’t true. Humans are complicated creatures and many opposing views are held together in concert. Or maybe it’s that they can justify terrible things because “God said so.” I’m pretty damn intelligent and I really need to figure out how to explain this, not only to myself, but to others.

This is also another reason I have this blog. So I can document my growth and development as a human being and also, to potentially benefit others with my insights.

Will it change the world? Who knows?! But I can tell you right now, I feel better now that I’ve gotten this out.

Brett

Taking Stock (& Happy Birthday)

I’m starting to realize that my ability to affect change in the world is entirely dependent on capitalizing my skill sets, most of those being my energy, passion, genuine zest for life, with the ability to solve complex problems quickly. The flipside of this being my perseverance (the piss and vinegar if you will) to push through obstacles and take down my desired fruits from the tree of opportunity, when the aforementioned skills aren’t profiting me. This became apparent on my recent trip to Atlanta to take the DELF A2 at the Alliance Française…

It’s not often that I go to Atlanta, the “New York” of The South, the city upon which all others are judged in this region. I used to go frequently between 2004-2008 for raves at Opera and Wet Bar, so I’m familiar with enough with Midtown by night. But, this time, arriving in the afternoon of 23 March 2015, it was like seeing the city for the first time and the grandiosity of the area was inspiring. Which is just what I needed to smooth my nerves out before the exam. That evening, after studying several hours, I needed to take a walk to find some food and clear my head so I walked to the testing location at the corner of 14th and Peachtree, about 7 blocks or so from my hotel.

Navigating Atlanta streets are nowhere near as simple as GPS devices make it out to be. I can’t tell you the number of times that I made a wrong turn and got caught on one-way streets which forced me onto the interstate and then, 5 miles down the road later I was able to correct, and come back for another go. I didn’t want to repeat this bit of history the following morning of my exam.

Well, during the walk I passed by a place called Café Intermezzo, which upon first glance, looks like the combination of a Parisian and Viennese Café. I made a mental note to check this place out on the walk back. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of this place, but let me tell you, it’s awesome! I ended up having a Greek-style salad with a negroni, and had a glass of Chartreuse Vert for dessert. The latter, after having lived in Grenoble, France, is my favorite way to end a dinner, especially with good conversation.

As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed a girl (later found out she is a musician) talking to the server. She saw my glance, and we struck up a conversation. After speaking for several minutes, she joined me at my table to continue the conversation. We talked about many things and she told me several of her life experiences. One of them was how she tried to kill herself during a dark time in her life and how it obviously had failed since we were talking. I then told her that she had only one direction left to go, up. She looked at me cynically so I had to explain to her:

As your world was burning around you, the flames getting more and more intense, you saw only one way out, death, and after your attempt failed and you lay there stunned, crushed, and in disbelief of your unfortunate stroke of luck, the wind changed and you saw an opening in the flames and thus a path to salvation from your dark pit of despair.

Metaphors and allusions aside, she immediately understood what I meant and internalized my story. We talked about society, it’s perceptions, the judgmental nature of people, and how everyone tries to label and place everything into organized little boxes, more for their benefit and comfort and less for those being classified and catalogued. And the simple truth of this is, that for those of us being classified and catalogued, we are only affected if we allow ourselves to be. As the night went on, I had to get back to the hotel for a proper sleep before my exam. I told her this and then offered her 4 bits of advice in parting, writing each into her notebook (she’s a musician after all). I’ve included a picture below (my penmanship could have been much better):

Note to her

It’s funny. I’m no fatalist, but I just get this feeling that I was meant to meet this person. Not so much as in the “Oh my god it’s a girl I want to marry!” kind of way, but as in a person who was privately searching for answers, some known, some unknown, and found them in my willingness to listen and objectively respond. I should’ve figured that this would happen over dinner as I had previously met another person while at the hotel, having a pre-dinner beer.

The bartender, whose name I won’t say, hailed from Norway but, there was no way to tell from her accent. She spoke perfect American English. It was incredible. Anyway, she came to Atlanta for university and now, MBA in hand, works for a technology company close to the hotel. Given her personality, energy, and insights, it was quite evident that she is an entrepreneur. She left her home in Norway for the United States, because her dreams and aspirations and desires are much larger than what Norway could offer. She said the people there are too comfortable meaning: with the beautiful scenery, proximity to nature, beaches, and with the sea so approachable, it’s easy for natives to be content with their location. Don’t misunderstand, she loves Oslo as much as the next native, she just wants more out of life.

I’m exactly the same, just coming from a different country. And up to that moment, I hadn’t figured out a good way of explaining myself to my Nashville and Tennessee friends about why I had to get out of the state. I want more out of life than Nashville can offer, which really seems to upset a lot of people. I’ve always found that so confusing. Why should my wants and aspirations affect your life in any way shape or form? Simply wanting what a place can’t offer isn’t crazy! What’s crazy is getting upset in the first place about the fact that somebody finds a place of habitation much better or worse than someone else. Those are your thoughts, person, not mine. Chill out!

Positivity, love of yourself (not vanity), and drive are 3 of our greatest weapons against the naysayers of life. They are the enemy of negativity. I’m so happy that my year is ending like this! I will definitely let this view, and the realizations from my experience in Atlanta, propel me into my 29th year of life, on the morrow.

Onward and upward!

Brett

First-Time Discrimination

Today I was blatantly discriminated against by a lady in Wilson, NC (I’m here for work) because I was reading a book called “Beer School” (all about how brooklyn brewery started and lessons learned). This lady did not imbibe and thought it wrong that I was considering starting a liqueur company because “aren’t there enough drunk people? Why do you want to make more alcohol?” I would reason to bet her religious beliefs say alcohol is wrong and she felt the need to completely ignore me when I wished her a good day as I walked away.

I feel a bit sad for her since her world view only allows her to accept what is comfortable and label things that are outside of that as different, immoral, and wrong. Differences are what make us stronger and labeling, judging, and disrespecting me because of my interests is just sad. Why not ask me why I have these interests instead of just immediately writing me off as immoral or wrong.

Alcohol is neutral. It doesn’t pick a side and only harms people who make poor decisions after consuming it. People make choices and they have the right to do that. Just because you don’t agree with it doesn’t mean it should be outrightly prohibited, hidden, and made a taboo.

Riding in a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor Airplane

Today was an incredible day! Not only did I find out I’ll be hired by a great company (too remain nameless for those who don’t know me) but I began the day with a morning flight in a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor airplane! Check out the pictures below, its a real beauty; a flying piece of history!

Check out this 85 year old plane!

Check out this 85 year old plane!

As a mechanical engineer I found it quite interesting that the wing and tail aileron cables, controlled by foot pedals in the cabin, were exposed, running from the nose to the wing, and from the wing to the tail! Check out the below picture. A pilot of the era had to watch our for flying birds/geese with malicious intent who happened to carry knives! Otherwise the plane could go down in flames!!! Luckily on this morning’s flight malicious fowl weren’t in the area!

Orthogonal view of this plane! Check out the cabling from the nose, through the wing, all the way to the tail!

Orthogonal view of this plane! Check out the cabling from the nose, through the wing, all the way to the tail!

Close-up of the aileron cabling.

Close-up of the aileron cabling.

Once the plane was moved out of the hangar and onto the tarmac, me and other paying participants bordered the plane! I took a seat directly behind the pilot, right next to the left engine. I wish I’d brought earplugs as the engine was incredibly loud! The pilot fired up all three engines and we sat for a couple of minutes on the tarmac to let the engines warm up before he taxied the plane down the approach runway. Once we made the turn onto the north-south runway, he gave it full throttle, inducing quite a vibration into the cabin as the engines accelerated to full speed, and we took off!

Pre-takeoff photo

Pre-takeoff photo

In the air over Lebanon, TN!

In the air over Lebanon, TN, Interstate 40 below.

Flying over Lebanon, TN, US 231 below.

Flying over Lebanon, TN, US 231 below.

It was incredible to experience flight as it had been during the Golden Age! I met several wonderful people that helped make this event possible and also a gentleman gave me his card in case I ever wanted to go flying again. After jumping out a plane 3 weeks prior and now this, the flying bug has definitely bitten me! I’m going to take him up on his offer soon. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get a pilots license!

Spring Infusions 2014: Basil-Infused Limoncello

I love lemonade. Especially when its lemonade infused with herbs, namely basil, tarragon, or rosemary. This is actually quite easy. You simply make lemonade as you normally would but instead of using plain simple syrup you add herb-infused simple syrup. Pretty simple really. So, working off that idea, I thought, “Why not make a limoncello infused with basil?” So, with this idea in mind I set off to make what should be my all-time favorite Spring sipping beverage.

Basil-Infused Limoncello:

  • 1x 750 ml bottle of Skyy Vodka
  • 1x 32 oz mason jar
  • 5 organic lemons
  • 1x vegetable peeler
  • 1 cup simple syrup
  • 8-10 leaves of organic basil

Using a vegetable peeler, carefully remove the peels from the lemon without removing any of the white pith, which will impart a very bitter, astringent flavor to your infusion (Picture 1). Place lemon peels into the 32 oz mason jar, fill with vodka, and infuse for 1-4 weeks (or until desired lemon flavor is reached). After desired lemon flavor has been reached, strain and filter the infusion into a clean bottle and set aside. Now its time to make the basil-infused simple syrup! In a small pot, add 1/2 cup of sugar to at least 1/2 cup of water and mix over medium-high heat until all the sugar has dissolved. At this point, add the basil leaves and stir until all leaves have been covered with the syrup (Picture 2). Remove from heat and let stand for at least 30 minutes (or until desired basil flavor has been reached). After which strain the simple syrup into a large bottle containing the lemon infusion (Picture 3, 4) and vigorously shake for 10 seconds. This will help distribute the syrup mixture into the infusion. Let the mixture rest for 1 week in a cool, dark place before tasting. The end result (Picture 5) will be 30% abv and an absolute delight to sip on any Spring day!

Use a peeler to carefully remove the lemon peels.

Use a peeler to carefully remove the lemon peels.

Basil infusing into the simple syrup before being taken off the stove.

Basil infusing into the simple syrup before being taken off the stove.

Strain the simple syrup then add to the lemon infusion.

Strain the simple syrup then add to the lemon infusion.

Pouring the syrup into the lemon infusion.

Pouring the syrup into the lemon infusion.

Look at that beautiful bottle of limoncello!

Look at that beautiful bottle of limoncello!

UPDATE: 2 JUNE 2014

I tasted the limoncello and was disappointed in the flavor profile. It tastes strongly of lemon (as it should) but there is no presence of basil at all! This means that I either used poor quality basil leaves (I got them from a local supermarket) or that infusing them into the simple syrup just doesn’t work for the flavor strength I need. The next time I attempt this recipe, I will infuse the basil directly into the lemon infusion before adding the simple syrup, and remove the basil once it is to my tastes. As for the simple syrup amount, this version of limoncello is lightly sweet, but could use a bit more sweetness to be similar to the more traditional limoncellos which toe the line of sweet-but-not-too-sweet. However, this could also be due to mouthfeel and a glycerin addition may round out the body and provide the mouthfeel that I want.

Spring Infusions 2014: Chocolate Delights

I’ve been a bit busy these past few weeks and haven’t had time to update my blog. Now that the semester has ended I finally have more time to devote to creating infusions. This blog will cover the progress of my chocolate experiments whereas the others in this series will serve to document other Spring-only infusions such as culinary-herb liqueurs and a variety of fruit infusions. For those people more interested in the latter styles, stay tuned!

 

Single-source chocolate shells. They smell incredible!

 

Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Olive and Sinclair, a local Nashville chocolatier where, after talking with one of the sales staff, I managed to get 2 lbs of single-source chocolate shells, with an open-door policy to get more as needed! I’m excited for two reasons: 1) I can now use the shells to impart a chocolate character to my 10 month old Cherry Schnapps and 2) I can can now make a variety of chocolate liqueurs!

Chocolate Cherry Schnapps (PGA):

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures for this infusion process but, don’t fret, its very, very easy! In fact, all you’ll need is the following:

  • 1x 1.75L bottle of Everclear or your preferred PGA
  • 1x large jar (I use a large pickle jar)
  • 1-3 lbs of Bing cherries, washed and de-stemmed
  • 1/2 cup of high quality chocolate shells
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 cup simple syrup

Fill the jar 2/3 of the way full with the cherries, fill with Everclear and infuse for 3 months in a cool, dark location such as a closet. After 3 months, strain the infusion, then add the chocolate shells and infuse for 24 hours (or until desired chocolate flavor is reached).  Strain and filter the infusion then add the filtered water and simple syrup. Let the infusion sit for 1 week before sampling. This process should give you a roughly 35-40% ABV infusion and each additional cup of filtered water or simple syrup will drop the ABV by 3.5%. This infusion will throw sediment and if you would prefer a clear product, I would recommend using a small auto-siphon to prevent the transfer of sediment into the end container.

NOTE: Everclear and other PGA products tend to be very harsh tasting even when infused due to lack of filtering during distillation. This may differ from brand to brand but if you can look past the “heat” of the PGA the flavor is quite nice. This is likely tempered with additional simple syrup/filtered water. If you would prefer a less “hot” product, I would recommend the following recipe below.

Chocolate Cherry Schnapps (Vodka):

  • 1x 1.75L bottle of Skyy vodka
  • 1x large jar (I use a large pickle jar)
  • 1-3 lbs of Bing cherries, washed and de-stemmed
  • 1/2 cup of high quality chocolate shells
  • 1 cup simple syrup or filtered water (optional)

Fill the jar 2/3 of the way full with the cherries, fill with vodka and infuse for 1-3 month in a cool, dark location such as a closet. After 1-3 months, strain the infusion, then add the chocolate shells and infuse for 24 hours (or until desired chocolate flavor is reached).  Strain and filter the infusion then add the simple syrup/filtered water. Let the infusion sit for 1 week before sampling. This process should give you a roughly 20-25% ABV infusion, depending on whether you add simple syrup or water, and each additional cup of syrup/water will drop the ABV by 2.4%. This infusion will throw sediment and if you would prefer a clear product, I would recommend using a small auto-siphon to prevent the transfer of sediment into the end container.

NOTE: I prefer this recipe since it tends to produce quite clean flavors of both the chocolate and cherries without any burn from the alcohol.

Chocolate Schnapps:

  • 1x 750ml bottle of Skyy vodka
  • 1x 32oz ball jar
  • 1/3 cup of chocolate shells
  • 1 cup simple syrup (optional)

Fill the jar with vodka, add the chocolate shells and infuse for 1-5 days in a cool, dark location such as a closet. Strain and filter the infusion then add the simple syrup. Let the infusion sit for 1 week before sampling. This process should give you a roughly 30-40% ABV infusion, depending on whether you add simple syrup. This infusion will throw sediment and if you would prefer a clear product, I would recommend using a small auto-siphon to prevent the transfer of sediment into the end container.

NOTE: This recipe is a work in progress and is subject to change in the coming days/weeks as I make tasting notes. Additions like nutmeg, clove, vanilla and other spices, will intensify the chocolate flavor and add complexity to the flavor profile. Orange zest would also make a great addition.