On a whim, and perhaps fueled by a nice dinner on a balmy Friday after a long work week, my husband volunteered us to host a young couple’s wedding shower in April.
When I overcame my surprise, I realized this was a good thing. It won’t be a typical shower. It will involve a casual potluck for our Tuesday night dinner group – no pastel tissue paper, no games, no need to dress up – heck no need for shoes, unless we feel like it.
The Tuesday night gang is way, way older than the bride and groom, but we’ve watched her grow up at the dinner table and been charmed by her intended, so we want to take the weekly dinner to another level.
For 11 years, our rag-tag group has met at a local restaurant every Tuesday. Sometimes we have four people, sometimes we have 15. It all depends on schedules, illnesses, family dramas or extra hours at work.
A group of fantastic cooks, we know our way around a potluck, so there’s no worry there. The party can spill from the house to the patio, so the Love Shack can accommodate the crowd. Since it will be late April and we hope the weather will cooperate, I want to offer something special. And by special I mean a not-too-sweet cocktail or alcoholic punch.
I love alcoholic punch. I really do. I’m just sorry it seems to have gone out of style. Because, what’s better than plunging an ice-cold silver dipper into a frosty concoction that will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck? Sure, sure, we’ll have beer for a couple of the guys who would rather walk down an asphalt drive on their bare knees than sip a cocktail.
But the rest of us? Well, the possibilities are endless. I started flipping through the pages and pages of delightful cocktail recipes I’ve saved over the years. The Charleston Artillary Punch packs too much of a whallop for this crowd and some the others sound way too cloying. But I have narrowed it down to a couple of finalists. Heck, it’s spring. Maybe we’ll serve both. After all, love and the promise of a bright future is in the air. We should kick up our heels – even on a school night.
Arnold Palmer’s Driver
Yep, I was inspired by a friend’s weekend Facebook post of her making homemade limoncello – a lemon liqueur that tastes like sunshine in a glass. It must steep for a week, then age for a month, so I’ve got time to make it work. But, just in case I procrastinate too long, I can pick up a bottle of limoncello from the ABC store.
To make limoncello:
2 pounds organic lemons
4 cups vodka
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
Using a zester or a sharp paring knife, peel just the yellow rind off the lemons. Combine the peels and vodka in a large glass jar or bowl with a lid and let steep for one week at room temperature.
Bring the water and sugar to a boil and stir just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Add to the vodka mixture. Strain the mixture into clean, sterilized bottles with tight-fitting lids or corks and store in a dark, dry place for one month.
To make the drivers:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 quart unsweetened ice tea
1 cup limoncello
1 cup of lemon flavored rum
Bring the sugar and water to a boil and stir just until sugar melts. Cool to room temperature. (You can make it ahead and refrigerate it for two-three days.) Combine the ingredients in a punch bowl, and add ice. Drinks can be garnished with a lemon wedge and mint sprig.
Frozen Margarita Punch
2 12-oz. cans frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
1 1/2 quarts water
1 1/2 cups orange liqueur
1 1/2 cups tequila
1 2-liter bottle of lemon-lime soda
Makes about one gallon of punch.
Combine the limeade, water, liqueur and tequila in a large glass container with a lid. Freeze at least 8 hours. Stir the mixture at least twice during the freezing process.
20 minutes before serving, remove the mixture from the freezer, break into chunks and place in punch bowl. Add soda and stir gently to make a slushy mixture.