Firecracker Moonshine Jell-O Shots

Layered Jell-O shots.  Party like it's 1847!

Layered Jell-O shots. Party like it’s 1847!

July 24th:  Pioneer Day.  It’s a Utah state holiday commemorating the triumphant arrival of Brigham Young and his band of pioneers to the Salt Lake valley on July 24, 1847.  After he declared “This is the right place,” floods of Mormon emigrants and immigrants followed him to Utah.   Most Utah towns of any size (except for the Independent Republic of Park City, but that’s another topic altogether…) host parades and associated “family-friendly” festivals.  The Salt Lake City parade is the biggest community event of the year.  Last year, lawmakers extended the period during which residents shoot aerial fireworks so that citizens could blow shit up from the  4th to the 24th of July without interruption.  Folks who celebrate Pioneer Day host parties that fall into two camps directly divided by modern religious affiliation, rather than pioneer ancestry:  Pioneers vs. “Pie and Beers.” Makes me want a good, stiff drink.  Or some Jell-O shots. That’s right, Pie & Beer Camp: We are making Freaking Moonshine Jell-O Shots.  With PopRocks on top!

The verdict:  Pretty damn good

The verdict: Pretty damn good

I made the ones photographed here for a July 4th party hosted by Lemon Drop and IPA (a.k.a. Hoss on Hops).  They were a freaking HIT.  Half I made without alcohol; those were topped with cherries (to make sure the kiddos, pregnant women, recovering alcoholics, and Mormons didn’t get the boozy ones by accident).   Half were made using 80 proof white corn whiskey (commercially available “moonshine”) instead of the frat party favorite Everclear.   I left those unadorned until just before serving, then I scattered about ¼ teaspoon of Pop Rocks (yes! The exploding in your mouth candy!) on each shot.  The combination of the whiff of Moonshine with the sweet gumminess of the Jell-O was perfectly balanced by the acoustic and sensory bang of the Pop Rocks.  And nobody died from combining Pop Rocks and alcohol, so take that, urban mythologists. As a basis for this recipe, and for help figuring out how to make the “white” layer, I turned to a Wiki-how tutorial on making Patriots football Jell-o shots.  Of course, you can substitute any colors/flavors you want, and you can always use plain old vodka if you don’t have corn liquor on hand. This recipe makes about 35 shots, depending upon what kind of containers you use and how full you fill them.

Layered Moonshine Jell-O shots

1 – 3 oz. box blue Jell-O

2 packets plain gelatin

1 can (1 cup) sweetened condensed milk

1 – 3 oz. box red Jell-O 3 cups boiling water (divided use)

2 ½  cups clear relatively flavorless liquor (corn whiskey or vodka)

3-4 packages Cherry or Watermelon (red) Pop Rocks

To assemble your shots: Place 35 small plastic cups on a large rimmed sheet tray.  Lightly spray all of the cups with flavorless cooking spray to reduce sticking.

Blue layer

Blue layer

For the blue layer:  combine blue Jell-O with 1 cup boiling water; stir until completely dissolved.  Let cool slightly (otherwise your liquor will evaporate from the heat- we don’t want that!!).  Add the liquor, and pour equally into small cups.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set.

For the white layer:  sprinkle gelatin packets over 1 ½ cups water just off the boil; whisk quickly to dissolve completely.  Keep whisking and add the condensed milk and ½ cup liquor.   After it’s all combined, pour gently over the blue layer 2/3 the way up the cup.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set.

White layer

White layer

For the red layer:  combine red Jell-O with 1 cup boiling water; stir until completely dissolved.  Let cool slightly.  Add the liquor, and pour equally into small cups.  Add fruit to top at this point, if desired.  Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or until set. For the PopRocks Firecracker finale!  As you are serving the Jell-O shots, have guest sprinkle about ¼ tsp. Rop Rocks on their Jell-O shot.

Everything was a little blurry by this time, including this shot

Everything was a little blurry by this time, including this shot


Cherry-Basil Syrup for Cocktails

There’s nothing quite like the tart juicy burst of a sweet, musky—and the best are almost over-ripe—cherry bursting on my tongue.  Each bite followed by the quick rip-pull of the stem from between the teeth and a never-graceful pucker to release the pit.  Fresh cherries piled in a bowl of ice are the perfect snack for a blazing mid-summer afternoon.

Leifheit didn't pay us to use this pitter.  We just think it's wonderful.

Leifheit didn’t pay us to use this pitter. We just think it’s wonderful.

Cherries have been starring in quite a few dishes in my kitchen already this summer.   My neighbor has three ancient sour-cherry trees in her yard; one day last summer we picked 16 pounds (yes, pounds!) of fruit from her trees, fighting off the birds as we went.   After my boys spent a half-hour using one-at-a-time pitters that fell apart after 50 cherries, I purchased a Leifheit Cherry Stoner.  Those clever Germans know what they are doing in the cherry processing department:  we pitted the entire mess in a little over an hour.  Best $29.95 I’ve ever spent on a plastic kitchen appliance that Alton Brown would no-doubt classify as a “uni-tasker.”

This summer we’re using both farm-stand purchased sweet cherries and sour cherries.  We’re making the usual cherry preserves, cherry jam, and cherry-rhubarb chutney.  But every year I also put up several cherry applications specific to cocktail making:  Cherry Heering (which we made in a previous post), Cherry Bounce (the Appalachian infusion of one part cherries in two parts white corn or bourbon whiskey), and I make cherry syrups and shrubs, which are classic Southern cocktail mixers.  Although I use basil in this recipe, a plain cherry syrup is just as delightful and a bit more flexible for general cocktail use.

Cherry, Basil & Pink Peppercorn Syrup.

Cherry, Basil & Pink Peppercorn Syrup.

Cherry-Basil & Pink Peppercorn Syrup 

This jewel-toned syrup is gorgeous mixed into Manhattans, or used instead of simple syrup to jazz up clear soda-based simple cocktails in the gin and vodka varieties.  See recipes, below.

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

2 cups cherries, pitted and rough-chopped

1 handful of basil leaves

1 tsp. pink peppercorns

Over medium heat, bring all ingredients to a low simmer, stirring continuously to dissolve the sugar.  Once the mixture comes to a light simmer, reduce heat to the lowest setting and let barely simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  Rest for at least one and up to three hours to let flavors meld.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large non-reactive (ceramic or glass) container.  Do not be tempted to press down on the solids or scrape the bottom of the strainer — this will give you a cloudy (although still delicious) syrup!  Just let gravity do its work.  Store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

Basil-Cherry Bellini.  Yum!

Basil-Cherry Bellini. Yum!

Basil-Cherry Bellini

1 oz. Cherry-Basil Pink Peppercorn Syrup, strained

3 oz. chilled Prosecco

Pour cherry syrup into a chilled champagne or coupe glass.  Slowly add the Prosecco (take your time, this will fizz a lot!).  Garnish with a small basil leaf or two.  Gorgeous!

Mint Chocolate Julep Ice Cream

The last time I posted homemade ice cream photos on Instagram, my dear high school friend Boulevardier (she’s a Louisville gal, through and through!) wrote “@abourbongal – I’m challenging you to create a mint julep ice cream!”
Done and done, girlfriend! Here’s this week’s H.O.A.G.Y (Help Out A Gal/Guy, Yeah?).
This is another ice cream recipe I developed using the Ben & Jerry’s home ice cream prep method. It is SO refreshing and light. Well, the flavors are light anyway. There are about a million yummy fat grams in it. And the bourbon, and sugar. And the chocolate… Mmmmm

Mint Chocolate Julep Ice Cream.  So refreshing!

Mint Chocolate Julep Ice Cream. So refreshing!

Mint Chocolate Julep Ice Cream

2 large very fresh eggs
¾ cup sugar
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ tsp. peppermint extract
2 Tbs. bourbon
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (or yummy with small chunks or shaved dark chocolate)
Mint sprigs for garnish

Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes); whisk in the sugar a little at a time and continue blending until completely combined (about 1 minute more). With the mixer on low speed, pour in the cream and half-and-half, increase speed to medium and pour in the peppermint extract and bourbon; whisk for another minute.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions.

After the ice cream stiffens (about 2 minutes before it is done), add the chocolate, then continue freezing until the ice cream is ready.

Garnish each serving with a little sprig of mint.

A Very Patriotic Gimlet

My high school buddy Cuba Libre posted on Facebook today

“Anyone know any noteworthy red, white, and blue gin cocktails?”
Sounds like another H.O.A.G.Y. (Help Out a Gal/Guy, Yeah?) to me!
Cucmber-Honeydew Gin Gimlet.  Plymouth Gin didn't pay me to use their booze.  I just think it's really tasty.

Cucmber-Honeydew Gin Gimlet. Plymouth Gin didn’t pay me to use their booze. I just think it’s really tasty.

Here’s a slightly sweeter and lighter (alcohol-wise) version of a classic cucumber gimlet.  Add a skewer of fresh cherries–beautiful and in season right now!– a honeydew ball, and a couple of blueberries and your cocktail is officially All-American.

Enjoy your 4th, and stay safe, y’all.
Cucumber-Honeydew Gin Gimlet
In a cocktail shaker muddle:
1/2 (about 1/2 cup) small sliced cocktail cucumber (or the same amount of a regular cucumber, peeled).  Really crush the hell out of it.
Add 1 oz. strained honeydew melon puree,
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice,
1/2 tsp. agave syrup,
2 oz. gin,
and a handful of ice.
Shake like crazy, and strain into an elegant glass.  Add your red-white (well, pale green)-and blue garnish.