As most of you faithful readers know, I love cooking with booze. Using beer, wine or spirits is a great way to infuse flavor and amp up a dish. Whether it’s used for deglazing in a simple pan sauce or for a low and slow braise, alcohol can add a myraid of flavors to a dish (as long as you’re not using bottom shelf swill).
Need a refreshing treat for the warmer days to come? Go with a granita. Granita is a semi-frozen, Sicilian specialty that is served both as dessert and as a palate cleanser between meal courses. Essentially, is is made up of sugar, water, flavorings and, in this case, booze, and is very similar to Italian Ice.
Granita one of my go-to desserts because it’s incredibly easy to make and requires no special equipment to prepare. A baking dish, a fork and a freezer — that’s it. Seriously, this recipe is hard to screw up. Granita does require a few hours to prepare, but your freezer does most of the work. I’ll usually prepare this the night before I serve it so that it’s icy, but not too hardened from being in the freezer for more than a day.
As for flavoring it, you can use just about any liquid as the base: fruit and citrus juices, alcohol (in moderation), coconut milk, zest, herbs, etc. If you can dream it up, then you can probably mix and freeze it. The mix must be sweetened with a liquid sweetener, so a simple syrup (sugar dissolved in an equal amount of water; see recipe below) is most often seen used to make this, as well as honey and agave nectar.
For this iteration, I flavored my granita with grapefruit, lemon and bubbly. Even though I call this a “Champagne” granita, you can certainly use cheap sparkling wine. Keep in mind that if you use a sweeter sparkling wine (like Asti), you’ll probably want to add less simple syrup. Also, be sure that your juice ratio is greater than the amount of wine and sugar combined. Alcohol and sugar inhibits some of the freezing process, so a mixture with too much of either will result in a watery, slushier granita. If you opt for hard liquor, don’t use more than a few ounces.
So when the mercury starts to rise, whip up this cold Italian treat to impress your guests (or to keep all to yourself).
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While many consider the wine spritzer to be a throwback drink (made popular in the ’70s and ’80s), it seems that lately the spritzer has been making its way back onto the trendy cocktail scene.
The spritzer of days gone by was typically two parts white wine to one part club soda. (Can you say “boring”?) But today’s mixologists are giving them modern, grown-up twists by mixing them with top-shelf sparkling wine, Champagne, fresh fruits and exotic liqueurs.
So, the next time you have guests over or throw a cocktail party, mix up some of these nouveau spritzers for refreshing alternatives to the typical liquor-mixer cocktails and throwback white wine spritzers.